I didn’t plan this trip, but it is the trip I have. One week into it I am learning to make it the trip that I want. I was supposed to be in Xinjiang, a wild and untamed region of China alone and contemplative among the great deserts, grasslands, and mountains of that vast region. It is a completely different trip than here in Thailand. I am in the heart of tourist country here, surrounded by hordes of hustling red faced farang (foreigners). Yikes, and away! There is no getting “lost” here. But it does have other good points. I am starting to find them as I adapt.
Adjustments are not always easy for me. When it comes to travel I adapt and adjust easily. I never feel out of place or overwhelmed. I move about in a new place with sure footed ease. When it comes to schedule changes that force me to alter my routine I adjust with all the elegance of a peg-legged man doing the limbo. It’s brutal. Take teaching at my school for example. For reasons I can’t fathom they adjust the class schedule twice each year by 30 minutes. First they make the lunch period longer and then shorter. It’s only 30 minutes but every time they change it I am lost for weeks. It’s the same with changing plans.
Let me be clear. When I realized that an unfortunate combination of shipping delays for my new wheels, a horrible energy sapping cold, and an aching hip that required 2 weeks of therapy would force me to postpone Xinjiang until another time I figured out a new plan very quickly. That wasn’t the problem. The problem was moving on mentally and emotionally from the first plan and accepting the second. Nobody sets out to win a silver medal. It is often met with initial disappointment, but in time the silver medal can be appreciated. So it is with my summer travel plans. I am living the silver medal. But I am coming to appreciate it.
The trip changed when I started thinking about what I was gaining instead of what I was losing. Once that transition happened the rest was elemental. Just look at the beautiful places I have been fortunate enough to visit in Chiang Mai. The cool things I have seen on the way to Doi Ithanon Park. The great people I have already met along the way. How could a person not be overjoyed with such experiences?
I always have an aha or wow moment in the first day or two of every bike trip I have taken. On this trip it happened 8 days into the vacation and three days into the road trip. I was cycling through the small town here at the park headquarters of Doi Ithanon. I was returning from the Ithanon Royal Garden.
Doi Ithanon Royal Garden is part of a project started by the King in 1979 to do research on different flowers and ornamental plants. After a delicious breakfast of Pad Thai I had spent a couple of hours there taking photos of flowers and Siribhume Waterfall. As I was cruising along in search of lunch, I had that moment where for no obvious reason a big smile crossed my face and I felt immersed in contentment. It is always a simple thing that brings it on. Usually it’s a nice scene or a moment of perfect riding. But today it was simply the fact that I felt like a bike bum wearing my swim shorts and flip flops, camera swinging from my neck as I rolled through town with rear cassette clicking.
So the trip I didn’t plan is slowly becoming the trip I want. For a few days I was damned curmudgeonly about it. Especially when I spent the entire second morning pushing my bike up impossibly steep hills. And with nary a decent view to make the effort worthwhile. But the bitter bastard within is fading back to the dark hole from which he crawled. The riding of the third morning when I raced down steep slopes having to use the brakes just to keep my speed in the 50’s on sharply bending curves more than made up for the total kick in the nether regions that was day 2.
I am sure that old grump will show his scowling mug again someday, but I doubt it will be on this journey. For it seems despite it being rainy season and the sky being mostly filled with grey, I have found my sunshine.