Greetings from Hanoi after over 12 hours of not being on a motorcycle seat. My butt is slowly recovering, and needless to say, I now know what saddle sores are…. Despite the poetic nature of touring on motorcycles, there are a few downsides. Why did the chicken cross the road? To scare the heck out of the motorcycle driver! With most of the roads we were on, it was rare to see another vehicle. However, various road hazards to exist, among them various domesticated animals that fall into two categories:
1) I’m small, I’m fast, and I’m bored. Hey, let’s go cross the road in front of some motorcycles today! This time, we’ll try to wait till the last second, and one of us will go one way and the other will go the opposite way. This will ensure to confuse the driver into abrupt panic, and who knows? Maybe he’ll have something good in his bag that we can eat.
Hens and chicks are the specialists with this one, as the chicks just want to follow mama come hell or fast motorcycle, but I’d like to add that no animals were harmed in the research for this article. They all seemed to have a last second remorse at being a kamikaze, and have survived to test the next hapless traveler going through their neighborhood.
2) I’m big, I’m slow, and I’m lazy. This would include cows, water buffalo, and an occasional dog. The cows and buffalo only presented problems on blind corners, and thankfully never linger long there. However, they did manage to leave some things on the road to remember them by, which if they’re fresh, they make the road very slippery…. I don’t imagine a "Please curb your water buffalo" campaign would very successful, but it is always worth a try!
The dogs, on the other hand, have a terrible habit of sleeping on the road. And I know that one is supposed to "leave a sleeping dog lie," but jeesh, this was ridiculous. Most dogs manage to stay out of the way, and I only had one instance of a wheel chaser deciding to see how close it could come to my leg.
Ode to Minsk:
After six days of bonding with my steed, I have to say we had a love/hate relationship. The Russian made Minsk is a workhorse. It’s not pretty, but it is strong. 125cc two-stroke, it makes just enough power to get you to the top of the pass, but not a single horsepower more. The smoke from the oil is now a permanent fixture in my lungs and on my bags. I eventually got used to the sloppy gear box, and was happy just to get it into any gear, never mind the one I wanted. This was a perfect match for the narrow powerband of the two-stroke, and with a two-stroke off the powerband you are better off pedaling Flintstones style. The mirror was a joke, and though I panicked during the first hour or so, I eventually took up the strategy of everyone else in Vietnam: "Who cares what is behind me?" I learned to kick-start sitting on the bike, though I must say that I will never want to give up my electric start at home. I’ll never know how fast I was going or how far I went. Instruments must have been an option that year! I usually measured speed by the amount of insects I could catch with my teeth. One bug a minute was fairly normal, but if I cranked the throttle and held on, I could get up to at least 4-5 bugs a minute. In the end, it served me well. Between the three bikes, we had one broken chain (fixed by Dat, the multi-talented quad-lingual guide/negotiator/translator/mechanic), one flat tire, and three times of running out of gas, none of which happened t o my bike. And best of all, it never threw me off. I couldn’t ask for anything better.