Getting Older and Making the Best of It ...

Still pumped from yesterday’s exertions at the gym and anticipating that wonderful throbbing pain that follows a good workout after a long absence.  I found myself drawn by the clear skies and crisp morning air, to hit the trails on the mountain bike.

Past successes can embolden one.  Leading to the search for the boundaries and limitations of ones abilities.  Welcoming and even tempting ones fate.  Thus emboldened I set off with little thought or preparation.  A vague notion that there lie between the river and the mountains, an area of the valley yet to be explored.  No maps or Google Earth, just a sense that it was over there, somewhere.

Traversing our village, the rubber plantation and another village, I soon found myself on tarmac and making good time toward my jumping off point.  At speed the hum of fat nubby tires on asphalt or crunching over gravel, along with the cool breeze, is almost hypnotic.  Gears make maintaining cadence easy but the slower ascent of a gradient breaks the trance and forward momentum slows.  I guess one has to take the ups and downs in stride.

Stopping briefly at the construction site of a rather large western house that I have noticed on previous rides.  I heard my name, called out by a worker on the rooftop.  He had been part of our team of builders a few years back.  Enquiring about trails in the area, it turned out that the next soi on the left, was the jumping off point that I had hypothesized.

I was soon making time on a hard packed, gravelly surface.  Enjoying that familiar crunching sound.  It wasn’t long before being presented with choices of direction.  Even in a remote village, there are often small Thai signs pointing the way.  I found one that said the Ing River was 1.5 km down a path to the left.  That seemed a good choice, though I knew it could lead to a dead-end on the banks of the river.

Soon enough I found myself on the side of the river that forms sheer clifflike drops to the muddy waters below.  That outer side of a bend where the water undercuts and leads to calving reminiscent of glaciers.  The narrow trail seemed precariously close to the precipice but I continued on, being careful not to get too close or spend too much time taking in the view. 

Leaving the river, the trail took a turn for the worse.  Deeply rutted and overgrown, there was no visibility to speak of.  Offshoots were many but one tries to keep to the most trodden path, hoping for a break in the foliage or a slight crest, to get ones bearings.  All the while questioning the chances of backtracking to whence one came and whether this was all a big mistake.

Before long and to great relief, things opened up to an area crisscrossed by narrow cow trails.  Spotted in the distance, was a little ramshackle hut.  Approaching closer I noticed people inside, who despite being surprised, were friendly and helpful as they pointed me in the general direction of travel.  From the dark unseen recesses of the hut a female voice offered to show me the way if I were single.  I assured all, that I was dutifully fearful of my wife and didn’t think she would appreciate me taking up the offer.

Laughs were shared and the lone male understood that I was not looking for the easiest route, considering the direction from which I had stumbled upon them.  As usually happens, I finally came upon a familiar place.  This time, I was on the wrong side of a company gate, that had blocked my progress once before.  The guard let me out and seemed not too disturbed by the crazy farang dressed in black microfiber and spandex.  A little lighthearted conversation is usually all that is needed to put people at ease.

Less than three hours later I was safe at home, just in time to make my daily Skype call to Hawaii.  Today was a reminder of how important it is to speak Thai.  There were still moments, I have to admit, when I questioned what I was doing out there alone.  I find it is often those questioning moments that make life interesting and add to our pool of experience and self-knowledge.  So I guess that leaves me still searching for my limits, in my own age-appropriate manner.  I don’t much like getting older but I’m trying to make the best of it.