Sunday, February 10, 2008

It's kind of like riding a bike, but you don't have to pedal....

I must have had an obvious "What do I do now?" look on my face. He had given me the keys to a Baja 250 dirtbike. It was as I had guessed and dreaded just a bit: a manual.

The guy from Green Discovery, the people we were renting from, had just given me a ride from the office to the bus station (where the bike had arrived) on the back of his moto. He wasn't that familiar with the bike either, but after a few minutes got it started and pointed a few things out (gas tank here, brake here, lights there... the basics), and let me get on and try driving around the parking lot. Hilarity ensued. I kind of got the hang of it on the way back to the office, but there was no way to see what gear I was in and I didn't know how to get into neutral yet. Other than that, I was good to go.

The boss at Green Discovery had a few questions for me. "Do you know how to drive one of these?" "No." "Do you have driver's license?" "Yes." "For motorcycle?" "No." Probably for his own amusement, he gave me a quick lesson on it and sent me down the street. While I was practicing shifting, he told Emma it was probably impossible, which made Emma even more nervous about getting on. After packing up a few things to strap on, we shipped the rest of our stuff south to our destination Vientiene. After a little warming up, Emma started feeling a little more comfortoable and we went and checked out some sweet caves to the north.

It is a bike, after all, and riding a bike is just riding a bike, and we never went faster than I would be comfortable riding a regular bike. At first, Emma would pinch me if we went over 50km/hr. (I ended up realizing that she simply was very sensitive to the feeling of going fast, so if we had a headwind or I accelerated too much, her nervous sensors went off pretty early.) As for me, I was so nervously excited I would sometimes catch myself holding my breath. Yeah, I stalled a few times and wasn't the smoothest shifter around, but it was a great way to see the Laos countryside.

The way south from Luang Prabang was mountainous and had some real great road. Mountain passes that reminded me of riding in Spain, cool little thatched mountain villages in the middle of nowhere with awesome views, and smooth descents along ridges and mountainsides. We passed a few cyclists doing the route, and I felt a bit guilty for being motorized, but oh well - I knew how many kilojoules some of these passes would take, especially with all that stuff to carry around, and Emma would have def mutinied.

On one or two descents, I did get a little tired of the high pitched Honda motor, so I put it in neutral (which I had learned how to do at this point), turned it off, and we were in "stealth" mode; peacefully and smoothly descending the innumerable corners. A spoonful of nostalgia for me, but it felt good. As for Emma, I think she was just thankful she wasn't in a bus.


Peter Spiro said...

Where's the pics!

Some shades, that funky little beard and the hot biker chic on the back. It doesn't get much better than that.

plantnerd said...

totally awesome...