Every day I picked up one or two more items I needed: travel-size toiletries, those Handiwipes that Robert had advised, sunscreen, deet, mosquito netting, mini-locks for my panniers, new sneakers, etc. Three items proved hard to get: the permethrin, a spare tire, and new cleats for my eleven-year-old riding shoes.

After I visited the largest camping stores in the city, with no success, someone suggested that permethrin might be illegal in California. Recommended by the C.D.C., yet illegal in California. I could believe it. I phoned my family in Delaware and asked them to take a look for the stuff, Fed-Exing it out if they found it. Score. Two days later I received two small spray cans. That weekend I treated the clothing I would be bringing.

My bicycle has 27" rims. That was common in '84, but apparently these days the 700 mm metric rim is much more common for street bikes. I had no problem finding two new tires to put on the bike, but I couldn't find a folding spare. Anywhere. My folding tire from 1984 became my backup again. Though used, it was in pretty good condition.

Finally, the cleats. I'm not sure that most tourers use them, but I did in '84, and I couldn't see why I wouldn't again. Granted, they're a pain to walk in, but my philosophy was, if they make biking any easier, I'm all for them. While the shoes themselves were still in fine condition, the cleats on the bottom were a bit worn. Once again I couldn't find replacement parts for my old equipment. A sympathetic bicycle mechanic loaned me a hacksaw blade to deepen the worn grip. That would have to do.

I laid out my latest acquisitions as I accumulated them. Acknowledging that I really didn't know what I was doing eleven years earlier, I even re-evaluated some of the items that traveled with me last time. The weight game is everything when bike-touring, and it felt great to shave off a few ounces before even beginning the trip.

I was leaving behind some hefty items from the last trip. No tarp (creatively tied to things to act as a tent); no sleeping bag; no foam sleeping pad. Instead, I added a sleep sack (basically a thin sheet sewed up in the shape of a sleeping bag), and a 6 oz. free-standing mosquito net, to cover the arms and face. I was definitely down a few pounds.

I traveled without a stove last time, so there was no change there.

I replaced one of my two regular water bottle racks with one of the new oversized racks that hold the 1.5 ltr. bottles that can be purchased everywhere these days. I also decided to carry water purification tablets, as a back-up.

I set aside my special bike-chain lubricant. I never should have taken that stupid container across Europe the last time. Motor oil's available everywhere.

I stared carefully at my clothing selection:



  • cleats
  • sneakers
  • gray calf socks (dirt doesn't show) (1 pair)
  • white socks (2 pair)
  • bicycling shorts (1 pair)
  • black rugby shorts
  • blue "stretch" shirt (tight shirts keep bugs from getting trapped!)
  • baggy trousers ("weight lifter" style should be cool)
  • helmet
  • undershorts (2 pair)
  • bicycling gloves
  • white, short-sleeved cotton "oxford" (light color should be cool)
  • sun glasses with strap
  • thin, beige, long-sleeved sweater
  • waterproof windbreaker


I thought about Robert's comment about not wanting to look too grimy in the cities, and added a third category to my clothing allocation: items for the first week, which I would leave in Saigon:

  • a pair of khakis, with belt
  • a third pair of undershorts
  • a second white, short-sleeved cotton shirt
Toiletries were adding up. I had the smallest size of everything, but it still was a lot:
  • a bar of hotel soap, in a plastic cassette case
  • a hotel shampoo, refilled to the brim
  • small brush
  • a sampler size of deodorant
  • sampler size of sunscreen
  • six mini-packets of tissue (toilet paper, when out of the city)
  • 30 individually-wrapped Handiwipes
  • a toothbrush
  • a sampler size toothpaste
  • a disposable razor
  • antibiotic pills
  • Lomotil pills
  • Pepto-Bismol tablets
  • aspirin
  • bandages and a roll of gauze - in case of accident
  • nail clipper - (seemed like a luxury, but five weeks is a long time)
  • one small piece of 'moleskin'
Tools also added up. The great news was figuring out that the very heavy pedal wrench that I had carried eleven years ago could be replaced by a 6" monkey wrench. This solution was assured to work, as long as I didn't over tighten the pedals when I reassembled the bike.

Other tools included a small pair of pliers, two Allen wrenches, a "Y" wrench, a patch kit, with two glue tubes, two tire irons, and a small role of strapping tape.

Spare parts included the old folding tire, two new tubes, two each of my different spoke lengths, both a brake cable and a derailleur cable, and some small nuts and bolts.

The pile in the bedroom corner grew. I had Lonely Planet's Vietnam guidebook, their phrase book, the map, two paperbacks, my diary, and two money belts -- my primary one with my passport, visa, airline ticket, and some travelers checks and cash, and a secondary one with my vaccination record, photocopies of my passport and visa, and the rest of the travelers checks and cash.

Then there was my camera. It's a good camera, but it's big. Very big. With the zoom on, it's got to be 10" long, and together with the wide-angle lens, it weighed in just under 6 lbs.

I had stapled a small sign on my bedroom wall, about the size of a post card. The sign had a space, then the words, "days til Vietnam". I had numbered about 30 Post-it notes, and placed the stack in front of the words. Every day I peeled off a number. It worked -- with the visible countdown I pushed to take care of all the necessary preparations.

On Sunday evening, January 31st, I drove to the airport with my boxed bike, and a second cardboard box holding three of my four panniers. The fourth pannier would be my carry-on bag. I checked in, four hours early, to get the best seat on the plane. I then drove home, to park the car, relax, and await the airport shuttle. I'd had my shots, overpaid my bills, and selected the items to bring on the trip pretty carefully. My one failure -- I'd never gotten around to working out properly. Oh well -- I was off!
I accumulated toiletries...
Collected spare tire, tubes and tools...
and assembled a collection of paperwork, including photos from America to share with people, plus a dummy moneybelt, complete with expired passport and some small bills...
I spread out all my gear for this photo.
  Next: Saigon  
2008-2014 by Bill Fridl  ( billfridl@gmail.com )
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