Day 126: Are these brakes really shot?


So what happens if you ride on bum brake pads? Photo: Pink

WE ARE an entire day behind schedule, but I'm feeling well rested after the 32 hours of sleep my system needed reboot after my first trip on magic mushrooms.

“You must have needed it,” Pink says, unperturbed about not getting to the capital yesterday.

It's not until we are packed up that I realize die case around attached to my necklace is empty. The die is missing. Sitting down on the bed, I try to remember the last place we used the die: Laos Valhalla, on the other side of the Nam Song River.

I've got a dozen or so dice with me on the trip, but the pearly, opaque die has become my go-to – I'm not leaving it behind.

“I think I can remember the back way to the bat cave,” I tell Pink, thinking I'll be smart and avoid the 10,000 kip (one dollar) toll to cross the nearby bridge.

We kick up clouds of dust as we rumble down a freshly crushed gravel road that Ts into Highway 13 south of Vang Vieng. At about the time I'm starting to worry that we're lost, we approach a split in the road that leads toward Nang Oua Kham Cave. Good, I know where we are.

Heading away from the cave, we make another right after working our way through some very deep, muddy puddles, and finding our way back to asphalt. We slow as a herd of soft-hided, brown leather cows disperse from the middle of the two-lane road.

Cruising down a rolling hill, I can feel the back brake on the bike go.

There's nothing there.

In general, the back brake's power on a motorcycle is significantly softer than the extraordinary mechanical force wielded by the front brake. However, right now, there is nothing. My big black boots keep pressing down on the brake pedal to see if I'm missing something or if it's really just given out on us.

It's really just given out on us.

Sigh, this isn't the best way to start a long day of driving.

Nuch, the owner of Laos Valhalla, is delighted to see us, or rather delighted to see Pink. They immediately start chatting like old friends. Pink asks about the die. Nuch hasn't seen it.

While Pink searches the cushions of the front deck for the decision maker, I get off the bike to check the brakes.

A large piece of bright, multi-colored fabric is jammed between the disk, brake pads and caliper. Some of the woven material pulls free, while the majority remains stuck.

The piece of cloth was deeply wedged into the caliper. Photos: Pink

“Do you have pliers or any tools?” I ask Nuch, not wanting to unpack everything from my pannier to access my tools.

A little old man who works for Nuch, or perhaps is Nuch's father, opens the eat of his scooter and pools out a set of tools – nothing fancy, but at least a starting point.

“Pink, come look at this,” I say, pointing to the fabric.

“Oh, that's from my scarf!”

And so it was.

Broiling in my riding gear, I attempt to dislodge the pieces of fabric with a pair of rusty pointy nose pliers. However, the majority of the piece of fabric ripped off of the scarf is gummy from misapplied chain lube and impossible to free from the caliper.

Sitting back down in the shade, I pull up YouTube – faithful YouTube – to see if it's possible to remove the caliper without having to do any serious mechanical work.

“Found it!” Pink calls out, holding the die aloft like Excalibur.

A couple screw later, the caliper comes free and the brake pads freely swing up and away from the disc.

With grit on my hands, I'm feeling like a proper man as I dislodge all the scarf from the bike. The brake pads look heavily worn, with the two little circles straight through the pad visible on one of them. A soft material, probably an adhesive of sort, sits in the same circles of the other one. Delicately, I make sure not to knock the pieces out of the brake pad.

So how do you know when your brake pads are shot? I have spare rear and front pads with me. Maybe I should change them now? Then again, do I really want to do all of this with a big ride looming ahead of me today? Not a chance.

I screw the caliper back on, letting the brake pads swing back into place.

By the time I'm scrubbing my hands, Nuch is wanting a picture of herself with Pink in front of the bat cave sign.

“She thinks I'm a Thai movie star. She kept telling me that she promised not to tell anyone who I really was,” Pink tells me when we're back on the road.

Not willing to waste any more time with back roads, we head straight to the toll bridge, hoping that we can get away crossing it from this side of the river without having to pay. We pass between the two deactivated American bombs that stands as sentinels on either side of the bridge and right by the boys collecting tolls.

Pink, who made me change shirts before getting back on the bike, since the other one was already soaked through with sweat, presses against me, her hands working my tight shoulders as we begin to cruise south.

As we weave through the cows, chickens, people and cars on the road that I'm becoming accustomed to appearing in front of us, the quality of the road becomes worse and worse the closer we get to Vientiane. On the outskirts, shops covered in a film of light brown dust offer motorbike parts and repairs. We stop to see if they have any chain cleaner. Rocinante's chain hasn't been properly cleaned since she got the new one.

They don't.

I note, for later, that there are a couple of places that could give the bike a wash, which is part of the plan while I'm in the capital. A good wash, then I'll snap some sexy picture of her to put online – got to sell that body. With the next roll being a throw up between Vietnam, Mongolia and Kenya, the little beast and I will have to part ways. Plus, the cash will help support Dice Travels for a few more months.

#Laos #DailyUpdate

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THE premise is simple: Allow die roles to determine the majority of decisions faced while motorbiking throughout the world with a limited budget for an entire year.      It’s 365 days of tempting fate, enticing serendipity and letting go of free will – if such things exist at all.

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