Day 47: Ride with me
AFTER a restless night, I decided to gag the narrator in my head for the day. Instead, I'll share the long day in the saddle via video, which, if I am being honest, is the best way join me as I sweep through the empty mountain passes.
Nervously, I approach as the road takes a turn for the worse. What was once smooth pavement is now covered with more potholes than there are pimples on a oil teen's face. I check the map, still on the Song Yam Highway.
Past a section of intense road building, where the mountains' fresh wounds are still bleeding orange – the same color as peroxide on a cotton balls, the condition of the road improves dramatically.
A day ago, the roadside was speckled with small villages and plenty of farm land. Now, there are nearly no villages, only the occasional hut and planted plot of land – the rest is wild.
I have the road almost entirely to myself. A water buffalo with his wide flat horns, mulls me over as he slowly grinds some grass between his teeth, a wooden bell attached with a thick cord to his neck remaining silent.
A pack of motorcyclists on a tour give me a wave as they pass, heading the other direction. Oddly, I found very few bikers willing wave since I've been in the north. The sudden, generic friendliness makes me smile.
Past another police check point, maned by a soldier in camouflage carrying an assault rifle, I pill into a small collection of shakes. It's the closes thing to a town I've seen in the last three hours.
Since there's no menu and doesn't appear to be much of a selection of food, I order cow pad – fried rice – and sit down at a wooden table.
I'm a bit shocked as a I see a blond woman drive by on a scooter. That's right, Tinder, I think.
However, there is no reception.
My hands come together, and I find myself wondering if they miss each other since a smart phone turned up in my grip. In the vacuum created by a lack of technology, I sit and listen.
There is the sound of the woman beating eggs with a fork above the crackling, cheap oil in a wok.
Scanning the wall-less, wooden structure with a tin roof, I realize that not only is there no place for me to charge the drone battery, but there is no electricity at all. There are no sockets, no lights, no refrigerator.
When I order a water, the round-faced, Burmese-looking woman, walks to the next shack over to where a small refrigerator is running.
The sky threatens rain, sprinkling a little, but never unleashing on me. It's the best day of driving I've had since starting the trip.
Podcast after podcast from Ted Talks to Freakanomics fill my ears as I lean into turn after turn, feeling the bike and the dry road beneath it with growing confidence.
I know I should be more worried about what happens the border, but the reality of it is that I'm more worried about being behind with my blog than anything else.
A recent Skype conversation with my parents dipped into the standard existentialist bullshit of “what the hell am I doing this for” that everyone faces, dice or no dice.
Because the dice have yet to throw me off a cliff, I need to constantly remind myself that everything – timing, destination, mood, bowel movements – are all factors of the first roll: Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia or Malaysia.
The die has put me on a path, and continues to make adjustments as I go. I need to relax and stop worrying so deeply about whether or not it's entertaining.
I stumbled across Mae Lan Refugee camp on the day. Photo: Isaac Stone Simonelli