I wanted to post about my rental bike after the first ride on it but I'm glad I didn't. The first ride on the rental was a rough one, the saddle was uncomfortable compared to the ones I usually ride, the pedals were big and flat and couldn't be taken off so I could put on the pedals that I had brought with me to allow me to click my mountain bike shoes in (brought them as well). The geometry wasn't so good for me and the bike was generally unresponsive compared to my sweet Ellsworth Truth. My Truth can tear up the gnarly singletrack in the Rockies like a fighter jet with afterburners kicked in. My rental bike, cannot. But after 100km's of riding in the rental bikes saddle, it's ok. I've grown fond of it in a "I love bikes" kind of way. It has taken me all over the place and shown me a lot of things that I wouldn't have seen by driving or walking. I can even forgive the saddle (well maybe not). I will be a little sad to give it up in 24 hours. I have had it for three days now and at $2.50 per day rental charge it was a cheap date. ;-)
The first day I got it, I waited until it cooled off and went for a ride after it got dark. Direction: Mui Ne village 15kms away. I only rode for 65mins, I actually rode past Mui Ne village until I got lost out in the dark and then just rode some more. Finally looking at my watch I knew it was time to turn back so I just reversed my route. It was a lot of fun. I hadn't ridden for just over a week (since we left Calgary) so my legs were feeling a bit soft from lack of riding but they were fully recovered from the hard workouts I was doing back home. Riding at sea level helped I think, as oxygen never seemed to be a problem. One thing is for sure, I knew I was going to be in trouble when I looked down at my heart rate monitor within 10mins of being on the bike to see my heart rate way over my lactate threshold level - hmmmmm, that might have had something to do with racing two young guys on a Xe Om scooter up a hill for several minutes. Their combined weight had the scooter maxed-out, which was good because I was maxed-out, I had no more gears left and I was up out of the saddle the whole time. Funnily enough my percieved level of exertion was only a 7 out of 10, guess I was feeling pretty good; the three of us nodded and laughed like fools the whole time we were racing. I actually got a handshake out of the passenger just before it flattened out at the top and they started to pull away. That evening I must have raced along in half a dozen packs of Xe Om's, I probably looked crazy in my bright yellow Castelli bike shirt, black bike shorts, a camelback, bike helmet and flashing led light in the mesh back. It didn't matter, everyone had a lot of fun with it judging by the smiles and thumbs up.
The next morning I was on the bike before 0630hrs heading back towards Mui Ne village again on a 90min ride. This time I knew the route and in the daytime the ride was completely different. I headed on past Mui Ne and past the Red Sand Dunes until I found a hill I could do repeats on. A much more sensible ride than the previous night's hammer-fest. It was interesting to watch the Vietnamese start their day, already things were starting to buzz but as I got closer to Mui Ne more and more people were walking out onto the street or sweeping their front steps or stretching or yawning. It was great to see the contrast between night and day. At night I had ridden through the village where locals were squatting down next to the road in the dark, gathered around charcoal burners or a communal meal. Their surprise to see a foreigner ride by at that time of night was interesting to observe. During the return leg of my ride I would pass the same groups and invariably I would get a smile or wave or nod, as recognition of my first passing. I should be careful and reinforce that I am not recommending riding the route that I did, during nighttime, particularly at the speed I was doing it. In my defense I will say I have pretty good reflexes and move pretty well on a bike, still, it was borderline foolish. Glad I did it though. ;-)
The next day I rode out to Phan Thiet City and back for just under an hour and this morning I rode back out to the Red Sand Dunes and back. It's good to be riding and I have to keep reminding myself that the Solo 24hrs of Adrenalin keeps getting closer and closer, so I need to ride more (maybe another night ride tonight, haha).
I got out to the Red Sand Dunes early enough to get some good light on the dunes and some cool shadows. I had pushed my bike up to the top of a large dune so it wouldn't "get borrowed" the bonus part was I got to ride it off the top of the dune and all the way back down to the highway. Fun!
I rode back into Mui Ne village and hung out at the Mui Ne Market to watch the daily life go by. The work that goes into getting ice to location becomes a bit clearer when you see it drive past you. Same with the fruit in the fruit salad, as I understand it farmer's make about 50 cents a day. Hmmmmm.
I had spied this little Banh Xeo stand a couple of days ago, it's only a minute away from Mui Ne village market. As I pedaled on by I decided to do a u-turn and grab a little red plastic seat. Great decision. I checked on the price for the Banh Xeo and was happy to hear 1000 Dong, that's .07 cents Cdn. I was now under the control of the Banh Xeo master. Through the universal travel sign language and some help from interested locals passing by, I learned the Banh Xeo Jedi Master had been in this same spot for 19 years. Perfect.
I was glad to see I didn't get any preferential treatment and had to sit on my chair for 10mins while she worked her way through the other locals sitting around. When my time came I was shown a bowl that got a wipe from a suspect rag and then a big laddle full of a sweetened Nuoc Mam concoction went into it. A pancake containing bean sprouts, pork and shrimp with shell on was deposited in my bowl with a Jedi-smile. After three pancakes I had to stop since the clock was running and I had to hammer it back to the hotel. Total cost, 3000 Dong. I gave her 5000 Dong and through a translation I was told to come back tomorrow morning but she's only there for three hours. I'm thinking about doing it. She was cool.