May 30, 2006 - Tuesday
Nan, TH to Chiang Mai, TH

For the past few days I've been doing a daily check of the rear tire. The centerline tread depth is holding steady but there's just not a lot left. Today showed a marked change - I have some cord showing in a couple spots. The tire won't make it through the trip. Time to take it easy and get to a tire shop. My plan, before the tire inspection was to wind my way towards Chiang Rai (northwest) but now I'll deviate to Chiang Mai (west, and I think the second largest city in Thailand).

Heading up the highway I missed my intended road - never noticed it where the map depicted it should be. No biggie - there's another not far up - they'll both get me going in the right direction. Finding the second road I made the turn to the west. Seeing a gent pushing a bike I did the routine with the fuel can but this time the response was "yes". He emptied the fuel can and offered to pay. I declined the offer and he said thanks and started the bike and headed off. I did the same and started to like the smaller two lane I was on.

Some winding up, over, or around hills. Farming country. Hand planted corn on the slopes of the cleared hillsides.

Before long I passed a sign saying there was a waterfall "5.750 meters" down the road to the right. It was a nice asphalt road, I had the time - why not. Noting the mileage on the GPS I kept poking down the lane. More rolling up, over and around. Vine foliage was creeping into the roadway making the narrow two lane more of a single lane - not that there was any traffic. The stated kilometers came and went and I gave it one more kilometer just to be sure. Halfway into this final 1000 I passed a village and the road turned to a rocky two-track. Just a little further.... Over that rise, around the bend.... Just maybe.... The valley was necking down and the slope to my right was close and steep, inviting and quite possibly hiding a waterfall.

I kept passing motorbikes that were parked alongside the road - common as the farmers park near their fields. When the road necked down to a single track path I called it quits. There was a "blue sign" (in Thai) a few kilometers back - maybe I should have turned down that way? Heading back one of the local guys came out to the road to assist in the search. We didn't get much accomplished but I was thankful he came out into the light drizzle anyway.

Down at the blue sign road I took the turn. This road went to gravel/rock fairly quickly and was headed into the wider valley - end of the search. I headed out, foiled by not knowing the language.

The two lane road to the west did its share of twisting into the hills. An enjoyable ride - good road, good scenery, little traffic.

Stopping on a downhill to put on the rain suit and have a snack two other bikes came up the hill. These folks must be travelers - they're on "normal to me" bikes. A V-Strom 1000 and a Harley-Davidson. They stop and we would end up spending most of the rest of the day together.

Andrew and Rob, who rode their bikes up from the Singapore? area, used to be neighbors but have since moved apart. Vacation available they hopped on their bikes and road up to Thailand. They were decently equipped with cameras - still and video (along with a bullet cam out the front of the V-Strom) - as well as bike-to-bike radios. We chatted for a bit, took some photos, and headed out. Stops for photos at most every good view - perfect. Their running speed was a bit higher than my intended with the tire going away (gone!) but when Andrew offered to film me for a stretch of road I figured the tire was only worn in the center - the edges would work nicely in a avid!

The road had some nice twists and after a few kilometers we pulled off. Rob kept up with his heavy cruiser and was soon to pull in after us. About here we found some fuel and went to make a jump to Chiang Mai. Mostly flatlands they were wicking it up to "normal" speeds of 90 and 100 kph. I wasn't quite comfortable with the rear tire so I waved them off and they went ahead. Should we meet up for dinner - great - if not - that's life.

A zig-zag on and off of a highway I was again headed up into the hills - Road 120. Construction is starting but it's open lane travel so far (good timing). I stopped several times as the views were grand - different from the farming areas that had hillsides shaved of vegetation. This must be a national preserve as the hills were uniform in their tree coverage. Seeing a vista point I pulled over - and there the two were - sitting down to some lunch.

I wanted to get into Chiang Mai more than I wanted to eat so I suited up again and headed out - figuring they'd be passing me before long. Right about 14 kilometers out of Chiang Mai they zipped past and I caught up and kept pace. We dropped into the city and paid for a Tuk Tuk driver to show us the way to a hotel / guest house. Done deal - the bikes parked just before the third rain shower of the day started.

A shower and then another Tuk Tuk ride (a first for me) to dinner. Good company with good food = a good time. They are early risers, and I'm not, so we bid farewells before heading to sleep. They plan a two or three day loop west of here before heading south to home. I'll see about the tire tomorrow and depending upon when I get out of Chiang Mai I'll decide where I'll end up - I'd like to get up to Chiang Rai.

Eda Polite

This is a stripped hillside - right up to the edge of the road. Not quite visible but it looks like a planted crop poking above the soil.

Shaved and planted hillside.

A bit closer...

The waterfall road????

Somewhere up to my right - there could well be a waterfall hidden in there.

Just a bit farther - and then I'll turn about.

Moving back - asphalt can be a nice thing.

Stopping to put on the rain suit and eat a snack.

And here come a couple travelers....

Andrew, left - V-Strom, Rob, right - Harley-Davidson

With views like these - we kept stopping for photos.

Two mirrors just seemed to be lined up.

You know me - always being stylish...

Which way to go? Left was the choice.

The side cases on Andrew's bike certainly do hang out there.

Heading up 120 - going to cross over the hills, drop down the other side and head into Chiang Mai.

Road survey marks. Construction is about to begin.

Cord showing - and now a centerline of tread is flaking off.

Clouds ringing some hills near Chiang Mai

Tuk Tuk Ride
MPG, 3.5 MB, 50 sec

So, what does a Tuk Tuk look like? Here's a shot from the 05-16 entry.

The crazy Tuk Tuk ride to the restaurant.

The driver had the stereo cranked.

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