January 21, 2012–Headed to the tip of Vietnam–for the second time.
“On the mountain’s slope, I stopped for a photo beside an oil spot and shot a middle digit in the direction of Mordor. “Bring it on,” I yelled with a foul expletive passed in humor. My trail twisted beside puffs of cloud and shrank to a thin line below. Before me, it disappeared in fog. I dress again for the weather and then splattered into obscurity. The chipped lane emerged like a gateway to a lighter sky over the village of Tam Son. Sunshine beamed, and I rolled into a realm I had not imagined.”
“It felt like a nail drove into my knee each time it tapped the tank. A drizzle pittered on my path down the mountain. I passed my spot of oil but couldn’t take my hand from the grip to flip a digit to the west, though I sure thought about it. I felt that a battle existed between us, like the mountains and trails tested my spirit and those with me.
Cold rain shot through the glow of lamps and splattered on the streets of Ha Giang. The next day was the first day of the Tet holiday, and I needed to top off with fuel and buy some food. Walking into a store, I received a greeting from the pretty woman I’d locked eyes with on my first arrival. Her English was a flawless as her smile, and the fist thing she asked was if I needed to see a doctor. My lips flopped with a loss for words, and then I thanked her and assured her I would be fine. She asked if I worked in Ha Giang and I wondered if I should! Mai had studied in Hanoi, then returned to the family store. Unfortunately, wet leather and denim weighted on my pains, and I was not in a chatty mood. She wished me well and I hobbled back to the Fat Boy. Thankfully, my hotel had the only lift in the north of Vietnam; then I faced the task of removing the boot. I was tempted to cut it, but whimpered to save it.
I woke from a drug-induced sleep, and after a hop to the bathroom, I flopped back for a therapy session. Although painful, it did help a little. After a breakfast of hot chocolate, a granola bar, and painkillers, I put on flip-flops and hobbled into the middle of an empty street. Flags luffed in a breeze and a damp chill hung in a haze. “Deserted” defined the scene, with families huddled in their homes on the first day of Tet, and they’d taken their dogs with them. I laughed at myself as I limped through the eerie scene, like I was the last man standing after a nuclear fallout. One way from town led to Hanoi, a half-day ride, but what would I do there? Wallow in pain while I wished I was out here? My wounds were less than insignificant compared to the concerns of my friend, or the last pains suffered by those I rode for. They were simply pains apart from my purpose. I felt moments of wonder recalling the splendor of yesterday’s ride, and knew from experience I would look back with a laugh at my accident–what a tale it would be. I had vowed to carry the spirits over Vietnam. My route would pass within thirty miles of the lunar realm, and that excited me. If I didn’t wast time, I could finish the crown in two days. Plastic bags over my socks and foul words of encouragement helped slip the boot on.”