We ended up spending two nights in Phong Nha. With Maeve and Helena due to leave at around 5 am the morning after we visited duck stop, we did what any responsible adults would do. We drank beers until about 4:30 am.
Sitting around a fire pit, we talked about duck stop, road trips through Australia, friendship and just about anything in between. Sitting here, I am reminded of why I so badly wanted to catch up with Maeve again. She is one of those people you just want to be near. Her talent and creativity make me want to paint and write, her energy is infectious. We drunkenly gush about how wonderful we all think the others are. When we say our goodbyes, we promise one another that when I get to Australia I will come and find her. Our goodbye is sweet because I know without a doubt that I will.
The next day we are so exhausted – okay, hungover – that we decide not to ride.
On the 22th of January we leave Phong Nha for Hue. 208 kilometers and another one of my favorite rides. You’ll notice that what all of my favorite rides have in common are a lot of mishaps and setbacks. They are messy days that we somehow powered through anyway because as you’ve read before, that’s just what we do.
It had been a few days of drizzling rain and today was no different. We kept an eye on the weather forecast and though it changed here and there, the conclusion was that no matter what time we left, we would eventually be hitting the rain. We make sure we have our ponchos at the ready, and Clay comes up with his own genius idea. He wraps his feet in plastic bags before putting them into his shoes. This will keep the water out, yes it will. Spoiler alert: it most definitely will not.
The ride starts out well enough. The drizzle isn’t enough to actually make riding unpleasant. We ride and take breaks, I listen to music, it’s an ordinary day. But then the rain starts to pick up. I notice the water soaking through my jeans and my leather gloves changing color as they too soak through. We stop so that we can all put on our ponchos.
We don’t talk much. It’s cold and we are wet and hungry. Once we’re all bundled up in our ponchos, we soldier on. We stop for pho and as it warms me from the inside out, I dread getting back on the bike and into the cold. My feet and fingers are so cold that they hurt.
My sneakers are little swimming pools and I am envious of Clay’s plastic-ensconced-feet until he tells us: “actually, the bags seems to be holding all the water in, so my feet are basically floating.” I’m putting my flimsy pink poncho back on while he says it and that’s when it hits me. It hits me how hilarious this actually is. Three goons on bikes, covered in plastic ponchos, one with trash bags on his feet. For as miserable as it is, it also begins to feel incredibly funny.
Our final stop is a short one. Just long enough to miserably smoke a cigarette and book three private rooms for the night. So far we’ve shared rooms, but on a day like today, all of us are aching to have some private space.
We arrive in Hue and drag our miserable waterlogged selves and our miserable waterlogged bags into the lobby. When it turns out that one of our bookings did not go through, I am in such a truly foul mood that it takes all I have not to yell at the kind, smiling lady at the counter. She feeds us fruit and warm tea and once we’ve scarfed it down she comes up to me and says “you feel better?”
I want to say: I’ll feel better once I’m not soaked from head to toe, but yes thank you, you are an angel and I’m sorry I am a grumpy drowned rat.
Instead I say: “yes, thank you very much.”
And then I skulk upstairs and drape my wet, smelly clothes all over my clean, warm hotel room. I am ready to shower and meet the guys for some much deserved whiskey.