Sunday, May 5, 2013

Wrapping up H2H 2013

Fortunately, following the disaster in Lien Son, there were no further hiccups as we inexorably made our way to Saigon. I knew I would be stuck in rear van for the remainder thanks to my pulled quads, and I had resigned myself to that fact. This didn't make not riding any easier, but I had accepted that there was nothing I could do. At least on this day I would have some company, as Andrea wasn't riding since she was still feeling the impact of her accident.

The team rode 110km to Bao Loc, a town I had really enjoyed last year. The weather was great for much of the day.



Watching 'The Avengers' in black & white at a drink stop
Unfortunately a major storm rolled in shortly after we arrived, meaning we wouldn't be able to hang out around the town's lake. We did find some great bo kho and a cafe with awesome desserts, so at least the evening wasn't a total wash.

The next day was a 70km cycle to Dinh Quan, our last stop before the end. Shortly after departing Bao Loc we hit the huge downhill that drops you out of the Central Highlands and into true southern Vietnam. This would be the last of the good scenery, as these are the mountains that continue up into Da Lat. Once we hit the bottom we would almost be in the seemingly endless sprawl of Saigon. Everyone was excited for the big descent after all of the climbing we had done, but people were also a little nervous about the traffic. Minibuses going back and forth from Da Lat are notoriously insane, and no one wanted to be run off when there was no shoulder.

downhill stances
Here is the 16-minute downhill as seen from the GoPro attached to Andrea's helmet:


Everyone made it down safely and carried on towards Dinh Quan under the blazing late April sun. After a brief lunch stop we hit the town, which is little more than a stopover on QL20 in between Saigon and Da Lat. We did find a nice little cafe though and enjoyed a number of beers on our last night. It was hard to believe that there was just one day left - the last week or two of the ride had absolutely flown by, and we had mixed feelings about it ending. Yes, it would be nice to get back to the familiar (and hamburgers) in Saigon, but we had bonded as a team and there's something alluring about being on the road every day, exploring the unknown on a bicycle.

The next morning, after one last group stretch, the team headed out for the final 110km to Saigon. There wouldn't be any scenery worth looking at, there would only be thickening traffic as we neared the country's biggest, most chaotic city.

After a few hours of brutal heat (not for me in the air conditioned van, obviously) and relentless honking trucks and buses we convened at McSorley's, an Irish bar in District 2 for a beer before the final push into central Saigon. My friend Johnny was there on a motorbike and I hopped on the back with the camcorder to film the last moments of the journey (that will be shared later). We headed over the Saigon Bridge, past The Manor and Saigon Pearl in Binh Thanh District, and then over the canal to the entrance of the zoo, where we had a final regroup before riding down Le Duan to the front gates of the Reunification Palace. It was awesome watching the team celebrate their accomplishment, and seeing the reactions of confused drivers we passed. A raucous crowd awaited us at the Palace, and bedlam ensued. I was immediately handed a hamburger, a lemonade, and a beer, and the celebration began. Bewildered security guards looked on, and eventually people started filtering home. The ride was over.

Here is a GoPro video of our arrival, as filmed from the top of Emma's helmet:



Also, H2H is still fundraising until the end of May. We've raised roughly $35,000 so far, and any further donations would be massively appreciated. I am just $75 away from reaching personal goal of $2,000. If you'd like to donate please visit: https://www.firstgiving.com/fundraiser/michaeltatarski/h2h-charity-bike-ride-2013

Finally, I'd like to share one of my favorite videos from the ride - at the roller disco in Thanh My, Mike W. took part in what he thought was a dance-off with a shirtless construction worker. The ending was quite a surprise. As filmed by yours truly as I skated in circles around them.

2 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. What, after the guy kicked him? He apologized, it was all good.

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