A Bump in the Road
April 15, 2018 § Leave a comment
By this point in the vacation I am starting to sleep better. It isn’t what I would like, but I did manage solid hours before the alarm awakened me on time at 4:30. I had saved some bananas from yesterdays breakfast, so I was good to go on the food front. I believe I even laid everything out the night before so I was ready as Eddie to go. Dressed and out the door, I was well within the time window necessary to catch the ride at 6.
Out to the street, as usual, I surprised the night watch dude, that I guess keeps an eye on the open entrance off the street to the resort. He is used to me now but notes my absence over the past couple of days. I bid him fare the well, and off to meet my cycling friends in Cheong Thele.
I am not sure if I mentioned this, but on the road between Karon, and Pa Tong, they are widening the highway on the Northbound side. Perhaps it is meant to give a little more inside room for the smaller vehicles, and the faster vehicles can get by easier. The Southbound lane through this stretch does open to two lanes, and it does seem to be scooters on the inside, vans on the outside. Just after the second hump hill, there the road descends somewhat quickly, so it is easy to pick up some speed. To my left is the open dirt of the new lane, all the way to the side of the road. There is no vegetation until the side of the road is encountered, but recall that it is 4:45 am and I can only see what is in front of me. Now, I have navigated this road twice before, and I have hit this section on the downhill that is kind of lumpy, but it never caused me any problems. This time, however a “bump” in the road ejected one of my precious water bottles. I was traveling at some speed, and I heard it hit the ground, and I also heard it (thought I did at least) skidding along the road next to me. I finally managed to come to a stop and dismounted and then turned the bike around so I could use the light to illuminate the area and find easily retrieve my bottle. Problem was, it was not so easy to find my bottle. I first walked all the way back to the bump that had dislodged it, and then even slower back to where I had stopped. All the way, I was rotating the handlebars back and forth to sweep the light across a greater area, and hopefully catch a glint off the bottle. To no avail. I walked further down the road and nothing.
The bottle is basically a cylinder and when it hits the ground it doesn’t start to roll at first. No, first it skids because the bottle has inertia, more importantly it has angular inertia, and what it takes for it to roll freely is not yet achieved, so it slides along the ground. This slide applies a force which starts to rotate the bottle, so that after 5 or 10 feet, now it is rotating along its axis. I said that I thought I could hear it skidding alongside my wheel for a bit, so the question was, what direction was it facing when it was free of my wheel, and that is the direction it would have rolled until it hit something or rolled into something and stopped. I could tell with my light that the opposite side of the road was high grass and a ditch, but I didn’t hear it roll that way. I was convinced it was on my side of the road. Using the light I determined that the new lane was dirt all the way to the side where they had dug a trench, and were setting forms for a concrete wall. The ditch of course! So, I detached the battery and light from the bike, so I could put the bike down, and then I could carry the light and investigate the trench. There were a lot of fairly large branches that had been thrown into the ditch. Not sure why, but they obscured my view, so one by one, I pulled them out and and threw them off the side of the road. There was nothing in the ditch. There were deeper holes, but they were narrow, and there weren’t many of them, and really, what could the chances be that my bottle found its way into one of them? Slim to none for sure. I couldn’t even see to the bottom of the holes anyway, so I wasn’t going to be able to just reach in and see.
Finally I said, “Forget about it”, and rode off. When the heat hit, I would simply stop more often at the 7-11s along the way. What I hadn’t noticed though was that searching for the bottle, I wasted a lot of time, and before I knew it, first light was appearing, and I wasn’t anywhere near the meetup location. I knew I wouldn’t make it, so I looked for an alternative around the steep hill between Pa Tong, and Kamala. I noticed on the map that there was a road that wound its way and hugged the coast all the way around the tip, and didn’t simply cut across the hill like the main road did. I found the road quite easily, but being a minor road, it had NO lighting at all, and I only got 1/3 of km into when the road angled up even steeper than the main road. So, I turned around, and headed back to my familiar route.
Knowing that I would not make the ride, I decided to take a detour and ride down to the beach at Kamala. The road I had traveled, was through the main part of town, out of sight of the beach, and we had heard that Kamala was a very quiet and quaint beach town, so I wanted to see for myself. The detour didn’t last long, 1/4 km down the road and I was at the beach, and even in the dim light I could tell that it was a quieter beach, and the town there was a lot less touristy. The businesses were just opening their doors to sweep out yesterdays dust, and people were milling about. None of the “street ladies” of Pa Tong around here. Just people prepping their retail establishments. Occasionally an orange clad monk would be seen walking along the road. The road I was on, wound through town and eventually intersected the road I was already familiar with. A left and I was on my way.
Now that I knew for sure I was on a solo ride, the question was “Where to go?” I was NOT going to the mainland, that much I knew, but there was a road (4027) that branches east off the main 402 just before the 402 veers West, and the 4027 cuts a large irregular square around a large hilly area that used to be known for the the wildlife that inhabited it. It’s a more remote and less developed area of Phuket, but the road looked good, and I did see cycling tracks on social fitness apps where many had ridden that way. The only issue I had was I would be traveling North on 402 which is a pretty busy road. To get the 4027, I would have get to the other side which would probably mean having to cross all that traffic in a hopeful lull when a turn-around opportunity arose. I am sure there would be one, its just would there be a lull that I could take advantage of. I didn’t feel really comfortable with the idea.
There is another feature along the 402 which I haven’t mentioned yet, and maybe you have already thought of it. I have said many times that there are few traffic control measures along the road, so you may ask “How do pedestrians get across this highway?”. That would be a very good question. There are no crosswalks with Walk/Don’t Walk indicators. For pedestrians it is always Don’t Walk. So there are pedestrian bridges every 1/2 km or so, and I noticed as I was approaching one, that I was getting very near the 4027, so I decided to climb up and walk over the highway to the other side, and there I would ride my bicycle against traffic, like all the scooters I had spied, and at that moment, I understood their plight. For 200 meters, I stayed to the far right, and yielded to all oncoming scooters until I came to a 7-11 which was the intersection for the 4027. The 7-11 was well placed, because I felt it was time to get some water, as I was down to only one bottle, and I didn’t know the road ahead at all, so into the shop I went where a lovely young Thai woman greeted me “Sawatdee-kah”, I greeted her back “Sawatdee-Krap” and she then attempted a limited amount of communications in English. She was curious where I was going and where I was staying. I think my bill was less than 70 Baht for water, a banana (large), and the can of espresso cream drink.
I made it back in time before the breakfast buffet had concluded, though I didn’t have enough time to shower and clean up before going down. I grabbed what was becoming my go to wear for Thailand, my muslin shirt, and my red bathing trunks. With Teva sandals on my feet I fed myself, and tried to find out where everyone was. It was going to be an easy day I knew, I just wasn’t sure how far we would venture, if it all. It could be that we wouldn’t take in more than the poolside, and massage ladies in town.
My family found me as I was finishing my breakfast, and we discussed the day. I mentioned that I thought it would be a good idea to have a scooter for the next few days, so if anyone needed to get around, then we could save on taxi fares, though that logic only works if one or two of us needed to get somewhere. It seemed like a good idea that we agreed to, and I walked over around noon to get a unit. On the way I was getting hot, and an ice coffee from Starbucks sounded perfect, so I stopped in the only one in Kata Beach. Coming out, I had a brain fart and when I should have crossed the street and continued straight, I turned left and walked up a side street lost in my thoughts only to “awaken” at a point where I was closer to the high road, than to the low road. Away from Wi-Fi I have to rely on GPS and the “Here-We-Go” app to see where I am, but I was able to find the shop we had used before, at a cost of only more walking in the hot and humid weather. The proprietor recognized me (who wouldn’t recognize a 192cm bearded white American) and we transacted for 2 days, where I might keep it an extra day.
Concluded and with an extra helmet, I returned to the hotel, but first, first I wanted to go have another look see to find that damn water bottle. I rode out to that part of the highway, busier certainly than when I had come through that morning, but not active in the construction zone. Meaning, there wasn’t any work going on, so I thought perhaps the bottle would be undisturbed and undiscovered. I SHOULD be able to find it in full daylight. If you nodded your head in agreement, then you chose wrong, because even in full daylight I could not locate that damn bottle. I checked BOTH side of the road, many times, baking in the hot sun, and nary a scant bit of evidence could be discerned by my eyes. Quite frustrating really. As in the morning, I uttered “That’s it!” and back onto the scooter and back to the hotel I zoomed where I found everyone getting ice coffee at the coffee shop.
For some reason, Corinne reasoned that we should have 2 scooters, so that if we all wanted to go somewhere, then we had the means, but I think she really meant, that she wanted to explore, and she didn’t want hog the scooter I had rented all that time, so I put her on the back, and I drove her over to the place and she got her own scooter. Transaction finished we returned to the hotel and spent the day poolside drinking IPAs (Buy 3 get 1 free), and reading. Dipping into the water to cool off and following the shade cast by our umbrellas as the sun traversed the sky.
At some point the subject of dinner arose, and Alyson said there was a nice restaurant that we could walk to called “On the Rocks”. It was part of another hotel that was built literally on the rocks at the end of Kata Beach. Though it was walking distance, we took the scooters, Susan with me, and Alyson with Corinne. It wasn’t far, and we parked easily and walked along the pathways till we found the place. You had to know this place was there, because I didn’t see any signs by the road. The entrance was a good 200 to 300 meter stroll through the hotel/resort property. It felt very private. I had made a mistake when we left our hotel in that I left with only my sunglasses, so as the sun set and the light faded, here I was wearing sunglasses at the table. I took them off mostly, because I can read the menu better without them, but to see everything else clearly, I needed them.
As I write this now, more than a month after the actual event, I can’t say with certainty what we ordered for dinner. I feel like that at this point in our vacation, rich sumptuous meals were getting over the top, so I think we settled in for some drinks, some appetizers, and then not much more than that. More drinks, more appetizers, but no real entrees. That was just how we were flowing this evening. Afterwards, the girls, again, did their own thing, and Susan chose to walk back to the resort while I took the scooter back and parked it. We turned in after another day, and there were still a few days more ahead.