Yesterday, my first day out, I bicycled at least 160 k, with baggage, and a climb, all while at a latitude about 10° above the equator.

I spent the next day not moving. Doing absolutely nothing. Then it was time to move on.

I set my alarm for 5:30 a.m., so that I could catch breakfast as soon as the restaurant opened, then be on the road by 6:15 a.m.. It didn't work out that way, though. Noises penetrated my sleep long before the alarm went off. First it was those damned truck horns. Awhile later a pair of dogs. Sometime after that a church bell got stuck in the "on" position. It still was so dark I couldn't read my travel clock. Eventually the alarm went, and I elected to ignore it. I went down to breakfast at 6:30, checked out, and was on the road at 7:25. My map indicated that today's ride was 118 clicks, and I'd heard that the last ten qualified as a real climb. The ride was pleasant -- rolling hills, cooler (well -- maybe 80-85 degrees -- but that's still ten degrees cooler than two days ago) and misty.

Around midmorning I was running low on water and started keeping my eyes out for a stall with the ubiquitous 1.5 ltr bottles. An hour went by and I didn't see any. I was out of water now and, while not thirsty, I was trying to be disciplined and drink lots of water. I slowed down at the next set of roadside structures, pulled over at a stall, and held my empty bottle, tapping it and scanning the shop's offerings. The proprietor shook his head, and gestured to a shop across the street. I biked over there, and after tapping my water bottle, was directed to a third shop front, that also didn't have water. As a few people started gathering, a weather-beaten old man came from the house next door, and asked, "Can I help you?" in perfect English. Startled, I explained that I was looking for water. He offered a well behind the house, but also mentioned that there was a town about 12 kilometers down the road. I complimented his excellent English, and he explained that he had worked with the Americans years ago. When the North Vietnamese came, he was sent away, for 10 years. He went on to explain that he had had good friends in Texas and California, but he didn't know where they were anymore. I thanked him for his help, and bicycled away. It was sad. I had read that many of the cyclo drivers in Saigon had similar backgrounds, but somehow it hit more out here in a small community. Over the next few weeks, I would meet more Vietnamese who had been on "the wrong side." Life was hard for them. They and their family members were denied the better jobs, and -- logically, I guess -- there were no military pensions. Twenty years after the war, families identified as having been pro-South Vietnam were still paying the price.

The rest of the day was uneventful, and I made it to Dalat just after four o'clock.

 
 
The morning fog soon burned off.
 
But it was still cooler than back in Saigon...
 
Almost everything was spread on the roadside to dry...
 
including incense sticks!
 
 
 
 
  Next: Dalat and the Ride to Phan Rang  
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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