Sunday, December 1, 2013

After 100 Days on the Road, I Share With You 10 Little Secrets About Me

After 100 days on the road, the smile just keeps getting bigger!

I’ve been on the road riding for 100 days today!  That’s a lot of time on my own, and let me tell you, I’ve gotten to know myself pretty well.  Here are some of the little things that I’ve discovered about myself, or little quarks that I have to own up to!

Sometimes I struggle to get going in the morning. Good thing I wear a helmet.  As my nephew says, "My hair had a party last night!"

1.  It’s a struggle to make it on the road before 8, or even 8:30.  Before I started the Loong Way Home, my alarm went off at 5:50 am and in ten minutes tops I had my swim suit on under my work clothes, and I was out the door to the pool to swim 3,000 meters at 6:15, before heading up to school.  On the days I didn’t swim, I was out on the streets of Barcelona, running a 10 kilometer circuit with the streets to myself.  Now, my alarm goes off in the morning at 6:30 and I sit in bed for a good 10 minutes reading the emails that came in during the night from back home.  I eventually get out of bed, get dressed, tidy up, and organize my bags (a ritual in itself). If it's a fast day, I’m ready to ride by 8, 9 am if I'm feeling sluggish.  I try to eat breakfast 20 kilometers into the morning, or else it could easily become 10am before I start pedaling. 

2. I take really loong hot water showers (in hotels only).  Again, before this trip, I was a quick shower person, in and out, dressed and ready to go in 10 minutes.  Now, after ten minutes, I’m only half way through my shower.  I can stand under the hot water until my skin starts to shrivel and become prune like.  I know,...this is awful for the environment and a huge waste of water, but you can’t imagine how nice a warm shower is at the end of the day!  It is a simple amenity but a huge incentive after 100 kilometers of pedaling. I love being clean at the end of the day.  In Vietnam, I have to be a bit more cautious, as the hot water usually runs out after about 10 minutes.  Don’t worry, I don’t do this when I’m at other people’s homes, just hotels!

Fruit stands are everywhere, some are very specialized.  Four different types of mandarins and orangges.
3.  I crave an ungodly amount of fruit.  I don’t know why it is, but my body craves fruit, especially in the morning.  But not just an apple, or banana,….We are talking a kilo of mandarins, an entire pineapple, or bunches of grapes.  In fact, I’m capable of eating a kilo of mandarins in 10 minutes tops!  In order to control this, I buy half a kilo, so I don’t look so absurd.  I’ve been lucky to hit mandarin season just about everywhere I’ve been on my trip, starting in Croatia.  They run anywhere from 60 cents to 1,50 euro.  At that price they are hard to give up.  Of course I love trying out new fruits, especially over here in Aisa.  There are many whose English name remains a mystery!

4. My competitive spirit kicks in on short uphill climbs with trucks approaching.  Okay, I admit, I’m a bit competitive, even when bike touring.  I usually find myself racing huge trucks up hills?  When I hear a truck approaching from behind as I start a climb, it motivates me to kick it into gear and start pedaling harder and faster up the hill.  I don’t want to breathe in all the exhaust of the truck (although I do wear a mask), I can’t stand the noise when they pass, and it also makes the ride more entertaining!  If I can beat the truck up the hill, then I can cruise down without having to worrying if it is going to brake and it is much more pleasant.  I’d be lying if I told you the trucks were oblivious to the competition….when they eventually catch up, they honk and wave, some even salute me which I find so funny!  

Lots of stuff drying today. This was the last time i saw my sports bra on the back of my bike, sniff......

5. I ride off every morning with my underwear drying off my rear pannier.  It’s a great way to always have two clean pair of underwear at the end of the day.  Every morning, before I depart, I wash my underwear and it dries in a couple of hours, blowing in the wind off the back of my bike.  Sometimes, I tuck it in so that it’s more discrete, like in Turkey, but to tell you the truth, I’ve seen tour cyclists with clothes pins and clothes attached to every free part of their frame possible, drying as they ride.   The other day, my clothes still hadn’t dried from the previous night and so I strapped them down to my back pannier.  Well, wouldn’t you know at one of the stops, I forgot to strap my sports bra down tightly and it flew off without me noticing.  I would have loved to see the look on the guys face who found it.  You can’t imagine how hard it is to find a sports bra in Vietnam; they just don’t exist.  Every time I make the bra gesture or show them mine, they bring me over to the section of really fancy bras.  How I wish it would had been my shirt that flew off, it would have been easier to replace!

6. I stay in Nha Nghis, otherwise know as hourly hotels here in Vietnam.  When I first I arrived to Vietnam, I was so thankful to learn the word Nha Nghi.  It is so much easier to recognize than the Chinese word for hotel.  They are quite basic hotels, a hard mattress, clean sheets and towels, and they always provide toiletries.  I’ve paid anywhere from 4 to 8 euro.  Almost every town has a Nha Nghi, which makes planning your daily route on a bike much easier.  In Hanoi, someone clued me in that they are typically knows as hourly hotels, but to tell you the truth, I’ve only experienced this once in all the Nha Nghis that I’ve been to (and had to wear ear plugs for part of the night).  If I were to use them on a hourly basis, the rates are as low as a euro an hour, what a deal! 

7. Anything over a euro fifty seems expensive!  It’s funny how you get used to cheap prices.  Here in Vietnam, the typical price for food items or a meal is between 10,000 and 50,000 VND (30 cents to a euro and a half)  Anything I want to buy that is more expensive than a euro and a half, well, I think about it….is it really worth it?  If this were spain, I’d say, “Wow, only a euro and a half, what a deal!”  The prices here are dirt cheap, a bowl of noodle soup for a euro, any soft drink 30 cents, a half liter of beer, 60 cents, it’s incredible.  If a hotel hits 8 euro for the night, that is expensive and I have high expectations for my room!  I live like a queen on 8 to 10 euro a day here!

8. I have worn a long sleeve shirt on my bike for a total of (maybe) an hour.  It’s winter here in N. Vietnam, and up until Sapa (the coldest location in Vietnam), the average temperature was 20 to 22 degrees Celsius.  I had seen it reach 28, and on the top of a few passes in the Ha Giang province, the temperatures dropped to 10.  However, pedaling my bike, I’m always hot!  The locals have taken out their down jackets for the winter along with their gloves and hats, and I’m in short sleeves and shorts.  In fact they usually point to my arms and make a face of feeling cold and I shake my head and make a pedaling gesture.  I have attempted to start my ride with my long sleeve shirt in the morning, but after 10 minutes, I warm right up and I have to take it off.  I can’t stand feeling hot! 

Notice the pink and purple flowers that match my two t-shirt colors-hey, it's the least I can do.....

9.  I really wear my facemask so that I can freely talk to myself and laugh without looking too ridiculous!  Okay, I probably still look ridiculous anyway, but at least this way, I don’t offend anyone!  What a great invention- yes for pollution too!  After 10 days the inside of the mask is looking really grey and dirty, makes me wonder how my lungs look…

One of my typical breakfasts: Soup annd rice crepes to dunk in the soup.  Throw in a little spice and lime and yummy!

10.  I’ve only been to three western restaurants since I set foot in Asia and all were with people who hosted me.   I have to admit, I don’t visit a lot of cities that have the option to go out to a western restaurant, but if I did, I’m not really tempted to eat there.  Why would I go for a pizza or hamburger in N. Vietnam, when I can eat delicious spring rolls, warm tasty soup, stir fry noodles, and rice prepared in a variety of forms!  Yum! I do love the Asian diet, except for the meat, which has become unappealing after seeing and hearing slaughtering out on the road.  A Vietnamese butcher consists of a wooden table with an umbrella covering and a bunch of meat hunks out all day on display.  No ice, no covers, and if the person is really keen on caring for their meat, they have constructed some sort of fly swatter contraption to keep little pests away.  Thanks, I’ll pass!

It's 3pm, some of that meat has been out since 8am.

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