My Motorbike Is Not For Sale…YET!
Ryan I woke up feeling refreshed after the delicious meal we had the night before. We planned to take the long and more scenic route out of SaPa and back to Hanoi. I was hoping I could get a clear view of the mountains coming down out of SaPa that I missed the first time due to heavy rains. Well as luck would have it I was not going to be granted my wish. The rain, clouds and fog were dense from the get go.
I told myself to stay positive and hoped things would get better as we dropped lower on the mountain. The rain was light and I was thinking the sun might burn off the fog once the rain clouds moved on. It was slow going because our visibility was almost zero for the first couple hours of the drive. I would drive close to the edge of the mountain to peer over it, but the fog was impenetrable and there was nothing to see. We stopped for breakfast in a village at a crossroads and enjoyed a nice warm bowl of pho. I can always count on my best friend pho to keep my thoughts positive.
The pho’s positive thoughts worked! When we got back on our motorcycles after breakfast the skies had cleared up a little. We could see the road and mountains again. The scenery kept on par with the entire experience. I would speed ahead of Ryan as his bike was starting to get grumpy and find a place to take pictures while he caught up.
We ended up having to climb one more extremely steep mountain peak. The fog reappeared to turn the visibility somewhere in the range of zero to none. The road started to become covered in mud. We were taking it extra slow to be cautious and came around a bend to a complete stand still in traffic. Traffic? We saw vehicles maybe once every 20 minutes in this region of Vietnam. How could there be a line of traffic?
It turned out our breakfast pho may have saved our lives this day. A major mud slide had wiped across the road, took out the guard rail and left several feet of mud on what used to be the road. Mud and rock slides were a common site throughout my trip, but I could tell they were always days to months old and still not cleaned up. This one was fresh and construction crews had just arrived with a front-end loader to clear enough of the road so traffic could pass through.
That night we stayed at a homestay in Nghia Lo, which was only a day away from Hanoi. My mind started thinking about what to do when we got to Hanoi? I will have completed my dream of driving a big loop through Vietnam. I knew I was going back to Da Nang to teach English for a bit, but “did I need to take my motorcycle?” The thought of parting with her made me sad. So I compartmentalized those thoughts by drinking “bia hoi” with Ryan and our new local friend Thuan. We spent an entire evening conversing with Thuan through charades and using peanuts to drawl out something in which Ryan and I could never understand. Thuan basically fought us when we tried to pay for the beers so we gave him a hug and used our massive Vietnamese vocabulary to say “cảm ơn!” Vietnamese for thank you.
The next morning started off with a light rain, but Ryan and I pushed forward to Hanoi. His bike was acting up this morning. We just needed to limp it back to Hanoi where he could give it away as a part of his promise for receiving it for free. The roads were fun to drive on this day as the rain eventually cleared up. We missed a turn and to get back on track Google Maps led us on some backroads through a small mountain village.
Ryan’s bike finally had enough. Luck had it he broke down by the only mechanic (a family with 2 kids in a farm road shack) for miles. In 30 minutes they installed a new chain, sprocket and some other parts we weren’t familiar with. This was looking like an expensive fix. Just before they were finished putting the bike back together we realized we only had 300,000 Dong ($16) between the both of us. Thankfully the total cost was 270,000 Dong and we were back on the road after sharing some candy with the children. It's amazing how cheap it is for motorcycle maintenance in Vietnam.
We were out of money and crossed our fingers that nothing else would go wrong before we were back to a town large enough for an ATM. Ryan's bike was in good condition again and we made it all the way to Hanoi just in time for rush hour. Ugh, there is nothing worse than rush hour traffic in Hanoi. The emotional struggle and physical pain in my rear end after a day on the bike was real. I was beat down and came to the decision while sitting in traffic that it’s best to sell my beloved motorcycle. I slept on it for a night and when I woke up I still felt it was best thing to do.
I had put 5,000km or 3,200 miles on my bike in 50 days. I paid $450 for Who Dey (my motorcycles name) and I could get close to that much for her because she was still in great condition. I convinced myself I don’t need this bike while I’m living in Da Nang and that I can get an old retro Honda Cub. And now “My Motorbike is FOR Sale.” I texted my buddy Henry who I knew wanted this model bike and was living close to Hanoi. He agreed to buy it for $400. I probably could have got $450-500 if I played the internet game, but I felt like a friend would be a much better fit.
Henry came the next day to pick up the bike with his brother. When they drive off I feel a gut-wrenching sadness. “What did I do?” I sold my best friend in Vietnam. I feel like a sellout. I convince myself Who Dey went to a good owner. I didn't have much time before I needed to board an overnight train to Da Nang. Ryan was on the same train and headed to Ho Chi Minh City. I had an entire night on an outdated train to regret selling Who Dey, “yay” (the yay is sarcasm). The train arrives in Da Nang 16 hours later. I get off and in my foggy depression almost forget to stop by Ryan’s train car to say goodbye.
The feelings settle and I begin to feel at peace about selling Who Dey. I started thinking about how fortunate I was to seek out one of my dreams of riding a motorcycle through an entire country in which I didn't know the native language. It was an adventure most of the world will never be able to set out upon and I can say I did it. The whole reason I set my career aside to retire early was to gain and grow from experiences like this one. And that I know I have done.
I want to say thank you to everyone who has been following along so far during my journey. I hope I am able to inspire some of you to make a plan and follow one of your inner dreams. Life is really good and we only get to live it once so take some risks and pursue what your heart desires. There is too much negativity being spread on the news networks and social media. I hope my stories, photos and Instagram account bring some positivity to your lives. Cheers to the next adventure!
Here are some photos from the last leg of the trip..