Up, up, up and away

59 km, 4h 30 min

Today’s ride included the hardest hills we have climbed so far. There was over 7 km of uphill, with 3 km involving grades above 15%. We spent much of the 3 km steep part pushing our bikes up the hill. Several pickup trucks passed us, but none stopped to offer a ride – we couldn’t blame them because if they stopped they might not have been able to get started again – it was that steep. At one point Becky was so dead that Scott offered to push her bike up few sections of hill (after pushing his up). On a few of the steeper pitches, Becky took Scott up on his offer!

When we arrived in Sinchai, the small town near the top, we planned to take a break and have lunch – we were not sure how much more climbing we would need to do on the other side of town. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find a place to eat in town. Feeling like true touring cyclists, we ended up snacking on some crackers and Coca Cola – we really feel like we have joined the serious cyclists club now.

Fortunately, the break and snack helped. We only had one steep pitch after our snack. Becky pushed her bike up it, but Scott managed to ride. With our crackers and Coke energy, we climbed the hill at twice the paces of our previous climb (4 km/hr rather than 2 km/hr), then it was all downhill from there. Yippee! On the way down we experienced some of the worst roads we’ve ridden in Thailand. There were places where the outside lane (our lane) was only just wide enough for the bike – it would not have allowed cars in both directions. The road had eroded away, but the lines remained as if the road where regular width. Many of the steep corners where so potholed that you had to ride out into the other lane – which ensured that our brakes got a workout on the way down. It certainly added some challenge and entertainment to the decent. We’re very thankful for our disc brakes though – no brake fade, although Becky burned her finger when she touched the disc to see if it was hot.

We stopped at a nice looking restaurant in Ban Yang for lunch, only to discover a group of Taiwanese journalists there. We had met the journalists on our way back to the Guesthouse after dinner in Arunothai, and they passed us on the road up in Sinchai. Upon arrival at the restaurant, they immediately greeted us, and the two photographers grabbed their cameras to snap a few shots. We wonder if we’ll end up in a newspaper in Taiwan? If we understand correctly, they’re here doing a documentary on the schools in this area of Northern Thailand. After the Maoist revolution, many Chinese fled to Burma and this part of Thailand, and it was also used as a base by the KMT (Kuomintang) resistance for many years.

The ride from Ban Yang to Fang was flat and fast, both on the minor roads and the highway. We were happy to arrive in time to find a nice hotel and have a two hour (!) massage before supper. We are staying at the Ueang Kham (UK) Hotel, which has downstairs fan rooms for 200 Baht, upstairs A/C rooms for 300 Baht, fan bungalows for 250 Baht, and A/C bungalows for 400 Baht. We opted for the A/C bungalow because Becky really wanted AC after four nights without it, and being able to put the bikes in the bungalow “mud room” was really a nice feature.

When we came into our hotel room, Scott noticed the following saying all over the sheets on the two beds:

Sometimes it seems
the stars shine brighter
when something wonderful
is achieved …

They’ll be
shining brighter
now for you

Clearly the universe thinks we did well today!

Road notes:
The 1340 was in very good condition from Arunothai to Sinchai, but when we turned off to the minor road toward Ban Yang, there were occasional stretches of potholes, and sections of road were quite narrow due to erosion. Nothing too challenging as long as we weren’t descending too fast. Very little traffic, and a pleasant ride except for the climbing! The 3001 heading north was in good repair with little traffic, and gently rolling hills. Turning onto the 1249, traffic increased but there was no shoulder, requiring a bit more alertness. On the 107, traffic was quite heavy, but we kept to the wide shoulder most of the time. No problems entering the road to avoid the occasional parked car or patch of gravel though.

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