Vietnam. A couple of years ago, when I first heard that some adventurous Americans were visiting as tourists, I was intrigued. If the borders were now open, I wanted to visit the country before it changed too much. Then Clinton suddenly lifted the American trade embargo. I couldn't procrastinate any longer. I rushed out and splurged $16 on a guidebook to Vietnam. I read the book, then reluctantly settled back into my routine. Jaunts to Asia just don't fit in with the life of a 35-year-old with a career as a product manager. Two weeks vacation just wasn't going to work if I wanted to really experience Vietnam.

Part of my problem was that I was spoiled. Back in 1984 I decided that I needed to see the Eastern Bloc, before it changed too much. I bought a bicycle and a book on bicycle repair. Then I quit my job, and bought a one-way ticket to Europe. A half year later I returned to the U.S., having made it from Sweden to Turkey. It had been the adventure of a lifetime.

Now my sense of adventure was kicking in again. What the heck -- could I bicycle Vietnam, if I could get the time off? This idea seemed so ridiculous -- that my interest in visiting Vietnam took a new life. I splurged $8 on a map of Vietnam, and pondered the impossible. I hadn't been a bicyclist before the '84 ride, but I'd pulled that one off. What was different now? Well, the good news was that I still had the bike, bike bags, tools, etc. The bad news was that the gear had been basically unused for ten years. I was also ten years older.

That weekend I biked down to the neighborhood bike store and asked the mechanic what he thought of my old 12-speed. I was particularly interested in upgrading to a triple crank set, to make hill-climbing easier, and he considered my request before advising me to simply buy a low-end mountain bike. This was tough. I was sort of attached to my old Univega. That bike and I had gone the distance once before, and I sort of hated to cast her aside. We got down to specifics. A triple crank set necessitated a new front derailleur, and, as long as we were at it, that rear derailleur was missing a small piece, and should probably be replaced, too. The chain was the original one, and a bit stretched, so a new chain was an option, and then it was always good to have equally worn (thus new) drive components, so we were now talking about a new rear cluster. The mechanic continued. My bottom bracket was beat, some of my rear spokes were a bit chewed up, and the headset was worn. The rear hub was iffy, too. His estimate: about $300. Once again, he suggested that I simply buy a low-end mountain bike. Putting emotion ahead of common sense, I poured $300 into a bike that had originally cost $299. While I still had no idea how I was going to get the time off, the investment in the bike was going to make it harder for me to back away from this "bicycling Vietnam" idea. By chance, another customer in the shop overheard me talking about bicycling Vietnam. He mentioned that he had seen an article on the subject in a bicycling magazine he had at home, and offered to send a copy to me. I was grateful for his offer. Specific information was what I needed now.
I was going through another of my "I'm bored" phases


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2008-2014 by Bill Fridl  ( )
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