Central Mountains: December 29, 2009

“South of A Luoi, I rode into the realm of 100 miles I’d missed on my trip to Nha Trang in August. Blue sky and warm temperatures graced its elevations, and I marveled at the expanse of desolation and devastation. Sunshine illuminated swaths of orange clay where landslides washed hundreds of acres of forest into gorges. Workers rebuilt embankments along a river where tree trunks poked from piles of debris against bridge pillars. A massive mix of earth and old growth dwarfed the equipment that removed it, and I said to myself, “I’ve got to see this wrath in action.”

January 30, 2010:

“I looked across a tidal current to the tip of Vietnam, a horizontal strip of land thirty-five miles wide to ten miles deep, without trails for Harley tracks. Hamlets, paddies, and fishing villages cut into its swamp, where people lived by simple means. How few had come to see it, I wondered, and had the war invaded its tranquility, too? Boils of water churned and merged across the massive flow, and within them, whirlpools swirled with a hypnotic attraction. I stared with mixed thoughts. I’ve had great adventures over years of travel, and now, I’ve laid solo tracks the length of Vietnam on a Harley Davidson. Not in my wildest dreams would I have considered that. Pride as an American to enjoy that opportunity was hidden in murky thought, as if the whirlpools pulled my soul into their spin. Humility lay over me, and thoughts I wanted to grasp were obscured from my understanding. Boils and swirls passed, and a boat motored in a world outside my thoughts. I stood confused on a threshold, like this adventure had chosen me, and it wasn’t over.”

February 4:

“Veterans returned to Vietnam for various reasons. Most, if not all, came with a heavy heart. I came for a job and found an opportunity to ride. But as I splurged with my free-spirited nature, my awareness grew to the loss on this land, even if fun and concerns for career issues overrode the depth of it. From my generation, 58,479 Americans and over 6,000 allies lost their lives on this land, and 1,636 Americans remain missing in action. The prospect for finding them diminishes each year. While I gazed across the beauty of the seaside, the delta, the Highlands, and the Central Mountains, I looked over the land many saw with their last breaths.”

“I had an opportunity to honor our veterans on the land they saw last, in a vicarious manner I hoped they would appreciate, or even expect from me. To visit one or two battlegrounds fell short of what I could do when the whole country had been a battleground, a country which had become a land of welcome and beauty–perhaps a land and people they would have enjoyed under different circumstances.

I would dedicate a ride across Vietnam to them.” “I would ride with a reckless abandon for a life they didn’t get to enjoy: a ride in the spirit of freedom.”

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