Wednesday, January 18, 2012

One for the Books

Kreg and I have a saying about motorcycle trips, "that's one for the books". It isn't clear exactly when we started saying it, but it is fully incorporated into every trip.

The emotion behind the saying is hard to define, particularly because it changes depending on the situation.  When you venture off on two wheels, you have incredibly good situations and others not so great.  It isn't clear whether the books in question are record books, travel logs, proof of insanity, or memoirs.

After a late night we woke up early to head out and pick up the bikes.  We met our touring companions, Scott and Marley.  Scott is a TV and movie sound engineer from NYC, and Marley is his son who is taking a year off between high school and college.  Scott has been commuting in NYC on a BMW F650gs, and Marley hasn't really ridden much.  Ryan is a natural with anything motorized so, despite his relative lack of seat time he has solid bike skills.  We also got to meet our guide, Dan, who has been riding motorcycles for 25 years, since age 12.

After a tasty bowl of pho we packed up the bikes and headed out.  I was instantly in heaven.  Riding the Honda Baja is almost identical to riding "junior" the Suzuki that I rode with Kreg to West Virginia.  I say almost because junior was a lot less bouncy because he didn't have a completely blown rear shock.  I bounce like a hoopty everytime I hit a big bump.

We escaped the big city unscathed and headed for the countryside.  About 10 minutes outside Hanoi, Ryan got stuck on the big highway.  His shift lever was moving, but it wasn't actually changing gears and he was stuck in fourth.  Luckily there was a traffic jam due to a useless stoplight so we were huddled down on the shoulder waiting for a fix.

We only made it to the next town when the shift lever stuck again.  This time, Dan took the bike to a nearby motorcycle shop where they were able to work out a ginger repair.  Unfortunately the repair was incomplete and left Ryan without a first gear.  Given his skill he was able to compensate pretty well, until the bike started dying at speed.

It happened at least four times and was getting tiresome especially as the traffic was lightening and the countryside was becoming very pretty.  We finally pulled over and talked with the guide.  After checking for fuel, Dan went to work.  After what was probably two hours, but felt more like an eternity Dan had changed the spark plug, the ignition block, battery, and finally "fixed" the plug wire. At that point in time the bike still would not start, as a last ditch effort we tried to push start it and got it going again.  With nightfall upon us we were able to find a hotel in the next town, and Dan called Hanoi to order a replacement bike for Ryan.

After dinner at a local restaurant we crashed exhausted from the day.  It truly was "one for the books".

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