Creative Elements By Lucie | Travel
48
archive,category,category-travel,category-48,eltd-core-1.0.3,ajax_fade,page_not_loaded,,borderland-ver-1.9, vertical_menu_with_scroll,smooth_scroll,no_animation_on_touch,wpb-js-composer js-comp-ver-4.12,vc_responsive

Travel

#MTBLAO3 2018

October 2018

I have been extremely fortunate and have been granted this once in a lifetime opportunity to take my mountain bike to Laos, in a about a week or so, with an incredible group of people, I don’t even know yet. All this was put together and made possible by the original Bad Ass, Rebecca Rusch, 7-time world champion in multiple sports.

In 2015 she pedaled 1,200 miles of the Ho Chi Minh trail in search of the crash site that claimed the life of her father during the Vietnam War. This fueled the launch of an incredibly inspiring movie, Blood Road.

The Emmy Award-winning documentary of an ultra-endurance champion mountain biker’s quest through the jungles of Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam, covering the entire length of the Ho Chi Minh Trail. It was both a brutally demanding expedition and a journey of hope and discovery.

I have no idea yet, what all this will entail, other than I do know, it will be an experience and a test of a lifetime. I’m taking with me so many inspiring stories from all my family and friends, to get me through this. I believe we can break through any wall, and create a door to the other side. Although extremely challenging at times, also very rewarding on the other side. I wanted to take this opportunity and post this today, as we celebrate Thanksgiving. I am very thankful to be a part of this great country of USA. I am also very thankful for my Czech roots and upbringing. We are extremely fortunate to have the freedom to make choices – good or bad…. I’m very thankful for my family and friends. For those of you that have known, I am thankful for putting up with my crazy work hours, as I get ready for this adventure. And to Philip – thank you for helping me train for this. As much as I may have complained, I will be very thankful!

If you have time, please watch this movie – it is very inspiring! Visit Article 22 for some beautiful jewelry made from bombs. Sales from these items help the efforts in Laos to help clear the UXO’s. #MTBLao #BeGood

Oct 6th, 2018

It’s just another Saturday night, it’s late, about 10 or so, Philip and I are at the “Wheel House” (it’s a small home, that sits about 200 yards away from our local mountain bike trail, which also doubles as my office during the week).  We are both tired from the day of being on our mountain bikes. Saturday is typically a big ride day for us; we’re always training for some event or maybe more to be fit for the rest of our lives.  It should have been a big day for me, however, my friend Kathy Duryea (a local bad ass mountain biker), talked me into riding the trail today. It’s not what I had planned, but riding with her, is always a treat. She has been training to ride in Laos with a team of 15, led by the 7-time world champion Rebecca Rusch.  We chat about her training for this big event. I am in awe of what she is about to do. This will be a massive 500-mile and over 32,000 feet of climbing expedition. As we ride, I think to myself: “You could do this too. You too could train and do something amazing!”  After we finish the ride, we go back to my house (the “Wheel House”), we’re drinking our protein shakes and Kathy says to me:  “I received an email, and Rebecca is looking for 1 more rider, you should sign up!” My immediate response is: “You’re crazy! I don’t belong in that company!” After all, I had only been riding for not quite 5 years! These people are champions, skilled riders; they know what they’re doing.  And yet, I ask: “Really? You think I could do this?” “You’d do great! I know how strong you are, and you are stronger than you think!”, is Kathy’s answer. She tells me more and how to apply, and really encourages me to do so.  I said, I’d think about it. I say that a lot, and then don’t actually do it; I rarely put myself first, be a little selfish and do something amazing. I doubt myself, although, I have been an athlete for my entire life. I then decide that I will check out the website, as well as the application, after all, I’m a huge Rebecca Rusch fan. I have read her book, as well as watched her movie Blood Road, which inspired her to organize these yearly excursions with a handpicked team of 15.

I make a small dinner, pour each of us a glass of wine and instead of watching TV, I tell Philip, I have some things to take care of for work. We settle in, in front of our computers and both peck away at our keyboards. We chat here and there, he’s working on some work emails, and I am secretly filling out a very long application to possibly go to Laos. I ask him some weird questions/opinions of me, and I type away. He asks why I am asking, but I just dismiss his questions, like they’re nothing. Now, I’m done, I think about hitting the “delete” button, like it never happened. Then I think: “What if you could? What if you did? What if you actually finished this massively intimidating journey?” My application will probably never even be read; Kathy received that email a week ago, and it’s now only 6 weeks until the trip, I’m sure it’ll just be in the unread file. I proceed to search inside my soul, looking for the substance that one must have to be able to even entertain an idea like this, think of my son, who battles every day in his recovery, think of his uplifting letters, think of the regret I would have if I didn’t at least try…I then hit the “send” button! That in itself, is a huge accomplishment for me. I put me first, for once!  I say nothing to Philip…..

Although, I look for an email response daily, I keep quiet about this. I try really hard to not think about it, however, I do start increasing my riding time the very next week, just in case.  A trip like this takes a lot longer than 6 weeks to get ready for, but, it’s all I’ve got – I have to make the best of it. Week later on a Sunday night, I get a text, from a 208 area code. I know the area code is Idaho, because that’s where my daughter lives. It reads: “Hi Lucie… Rebecca Rusch here. I would love to chat with you about Laos when you have time.”  My heart starts racing and I quickly pick up the phone to call her. I don’t feel the need to rehears here, I can take a no straight on…She is surprised by my quick call back, but appreciates it. She proceeds to tell me that the spot has already been filled, but she believes I need to be on this trip and she will do everything she can to get me there. She asks me to hold on for another week. The trip is precisely organized for 15, there is only room for 15 on the bike rack, and there is only room for 15 in the travel van. Extra person means extra bike, extra gear, and extra space…. At this point, I have won the battle of trying, my application has been read, and whether or not I end up going is secondary right this minute. The fact that I applied, and someone actually read it, is a victory for me.  I proceed to call Philip to let him know that I’m running late, because I’ve just spent the last 30 minutes on the phone with the Queen of Pain herself. He is in disbelief, but excited for me. Before we hang up, he says… “Just in case – the training starts now!” By the time I get home, he has a training plan for me!

Next week goes by quickly, I’ve picked up my training even more (just in case), work is busy; I have said nothing to anyone yet. Friday comes and I’m running around trying to finish everything work related by 5PM.  My phone rings, it’s Rebecca and she says: “Happy Friday Lucie! You’re going to Laos!” I immediately break into a joyous scream!! We talk about the logistics of the trip and how difficult it was to create that extra space, but she really sensed I needed to be there.  Holy crap! This is happening – and Oh no.. this is actually happening! Now, I have to do it, I have to persevere, I have to succeed over my own insecurity!

The next 6 weeks are filled with training on the bike,  6 days/ week, lifting 2 x week, long nights purchasing the never ending list of must have gear items, staging the packing, portioning out food /nutrition intake for each day, and most importantly learning how to disassemble and reassemble the bike, numerous times… Kudos to Philip, the mechanical part of this was a nightmare for me, and I kicked and screamed, but he was patient, and stuck it out. Watching videos on the Vietnam War, learning about UXOs, scheduling doctor visits and the numerous and never ending vaccinations. All this of course, while running my business and being a mom. At times, I sit on the spin bike, and think, this hurts, I don’t like this anymore, I want to quit, but I grit my teeth, get mad at the situation and yell out: “C’mon, don’t be that wuss! Suck it up! When you’re in Laos, this will seem like paradise!” Throughout the 6 weeks I really tried to figure out why I was even going to Laos. I knew I needed something, something that would empower me, something more than just a weekend ride, completing a job, and definitively something that I have never done before. I wanted it to be difficult, and I wanted to conquer it. I wanted to push through walls and find the freedom of personal success on the other side. These kinds of epic journeys create grit, determination, failure and victory. I wanted all of that, I was hungry for it. As I rode for hours at a time, I thought about what my mantra should be. It really became very simple, I wanted to “surprise” myself, see if I can do something like this. And when I was there, I knew that I would have self-doubt, negative thoughts, and probably even days that I would want to quit, but I wanted to remember “There is always someone out there fighting a bigger battle!” After all, what I have decided to do was a choice. There are lots of people that do not have a choice and they keep fighting.  My oldest son is in recovery for drug addiction, and he has been an amazing amount of inspiration. His positive outlook and daily fight keep me going.  December 2nd finally came; Philip and I packed my bike, I carefully packed the few clothing items, lots of gear and nutrition for the 10-day journey, and Kathy and I boarded a plane to take us to Seoul and then off to Vientiane, Laos.  I wasn’t scared; after all, this wasn’t any different than when I boarded a plane at 15 years of age, to come to the US, from then Czechoslovakia, without knowing the language nor my dad and stepmom.  Look adversity in the eye, and do the best you can, overcome, persevere, grit it out.

#MTBLAO3

#AMAZINGRACETOLAO1

Sunday morning! 12/2

Get up and have coffee and water.. and of course biscotti! I sit there with Phil, and although we are bickering, it’s still going to be something I’m going to miss immensely! I love our mornings together. Always just a little bit of “our” time, before the world interrupts!

On our way to airport, we’re about 7 min late, but no big deal. Kathy is already at check in counter, so I join her. I spoke to Korean Air yesterday and specifically asked about checking our bags to Laos directly. She said.. no problem. However, apparently, since this Korean flight was operated by American..they do not have a contract with Jin Air to Laos, so we cannot check them all the way in. Now, the attendants are concerned about us making our connection. We will have to go to baggage claim, go through customs, then grab our bags and run and trey to find the Jin Air counter and re check back in. Hopefully not have to pay again for our bags!

They told us to get a hold of our travel agent, but she couldn’t do anything.. so.. we have to take that chance! We say good by to our bikes – sort of a sad moment!

The bikes are on their way!

They’re now on their own! We had to re pack our bags, as they were a pound and a half heavier.. I guess that’s a no go, so we put al the extras in the bike bags! They are now at close to 70lbs!

We say good buy to Philip and head to go through security, they turn us around and say.. we’re closing this one, go to another one! So we go there, say good bye again and they shuttle us through! No containers… just hurry and get through!

The adventure race has begun!

We’re sitting at the gate, getting hungry, so we get a pretzel, that we split, it took about 7 minutes.. Kathy says.. that’s the longest 7 minutes of my life!

Then we proceed to the charging station, because I need to charge my phone.. I completely forget why I’m there, and start fumbling with the over packed backpack! Finally, I find the charger, I start shoving it vertically to the 2 holes I see.. then I sat to Kathy.. hmm.. this is not working.. at which point she starts laughing uncontrollably and says.. that’s because that’s 2 USB ports next to one another! Dumb ass! We couldn’t stop laughing, tears pouring down our cheeks!

Then we hear some announcement. Well, that’s our flight! Shit, we almost missed it

Anyway. While at the gate, I chat with my kids, I always make sure I reach out prior to leaving somewhere. I get a lot of positive feedback from all of them (Jake, Casey & Cody) and a lot of love yous! Cody, my oldest, who’s also a huge inspiration for me to go on this trip, says: “mom, you gotta get through this and do it well! If I can do what I am doing, you can do this too!” He’s a recovering heroin addict.. and inspires me daily! I want all my kids to know, that anything is possible!

Casey calls, we have a lovely conversation.. at the end before she hangs up, she says: “mom, I want you to know, that I think this is really a cool thing your doing!” This meant the world to me!

Well.. now on the plane, on the very back in the middle seat! But, we’re laughing and having fun! What else can you do! They serve us food, fairly quickly, because it’s their midnight, so I’m sure they want us getting ready for the time change. We have a glass of wine and try to sleep. I think I was able to get 2 hours altogether. Better than nothing!

Have not had time to think about what’s coming up, and don’t really want to. It is what it is, nothing I can do now. Only, do the best I can!

So happy to have Kathy here!! She’s funny and always positive!

We’ve now had our 2nd round of food and no moving around! UGH!

We have 5 or 6 more hours to go.. maybe I’ll try to rest my eyes!

More later!

Arrived at Seoul!

We finally arrive in Seoul! Our baggage tags were priority, since we couldn’t check them in all the way through. Kathy and I find our way to the baggage claim, her bag is right there, as are our bike bags! Yay – victory! My Thule bag, is however not showing up! I had this inclination.. could it be because I left 4 tubes of CO2 cartridges in my camelback?? Well, we wait, and the last bag to surface is my bag. It has a big red tape on it with a locked box and it is making noises! I have to then step into a cubicle, to get it inspected. I show the attendant the cartridges and explain they are for a bicycle..she says.. ok! You can have them! I’m feeling victorious! We then have to to through customs and several

other lines. We finally find the elevator and take it upstairs to find the JinAir counter. To our dismay, it is all the way on the other side of the terminal. The bags are heavy, there are a lot of people, and we’re exhausted! We make it to the counter. The attendants look at our itineraries and can’t make sense of it. Then they finally tell us we have to pay again for our bags.. this time, it’s only $10!! Ok!! They check my bag in, and on to Kathy’s. Pretty soon there’s an announcement.. my bag needs to be inspected! Yep! Those damn cartridges! I have to go to a small room, to have them removed. She then proceeds to take my mini pump as well.. I’m like.. NO, NO!

Anyhow, we get our bike bags checked in and head to find the train station to take us to our terminal / gate. Finally get there, once we go down to our gate, we see some of the other people in our group. We get to meet Michael, Jen, Karen, and then Karen P and Leah, as well as Liz. So.. the 9 of us exchange our travel stories and pretty soon it’s time to board the plane.

Seoul Airport

We get on, exhausted!  We all fall asleep pretty immediately, still on the ground. Now, we’re in flight, with an hour to go! Have no idea what to imagine! This will be a complete surprise!

It is now 12:18 AM Seoul time, and about 9:18 DFW time – Monday AM.. it has been one LONG flight. We were up early on Sunday, so way past 24 hours and still about an hour to go to land. Then greetings, then hotel.. I’m hoping. I think I was able to sleep for a total of 3-4 hours… staring to get that feeling  of “being antsy”. We’re hungry and thirsty.. they are giving us small glasses of water and I just pulled out the stash of cliff bars!

Just really need to be done flying! Luckily, we’re all sitting together, Kathy, myself and Michael.

It’s finally time to land! 1:27AM Seoul time, and 11:25PM Vientiane time. Let the adventure begin!

Didn’t get to bed until 2AM. Absolutely wiped out! We got to meet up with Rebecca.. she went over some of the details, but honestly, it was too damn late and I barely remembered anything! She did say to meet for breakfast at 8! That meant 5 hours of sleep at best, since you also had to sort of pack for that day.. and figure things out. Our goal for the morning was breakfast, team meeting and build our bikes by noon! Then go and repack everything, and drop off your duffle, so it can be hauled off to the first destination and meet us.

We were successful in building the bikes, going to breakfast and lunch.. then some touring and then back to Don’s for a blessing and an amazing dinner!

We were able to get in a little bit of sightseeing with our new teammates! Photo Credit – Adventure Scout Media
Going away blessing dinner.
Rebecca tying on our good luck bracelets.

We sat around and shared our stories, it was sooo moving! We tied these string bracelets around each other’s hands to bless this journey we are about to be on. Amazingly freeing! Someone else is always fighting a bigger battle!

Bikes are built and ready!

Now, we are back to the hotel room and took probably my last shower for the next two weeks.. and have to be ready to leave by 6AM sharp. It’s 10PM here, and I’m spent!

It’s also SUPER HOT AND HUMID!!!

12/5/18 Day 1

Well.. the day is finally here! Got up at 5, had a great night of 6 hrs of sleep.. which I realize now, will be a luxury! And I had AC and water.. again.. luxury!

Went downstairs to meet everyone to get into the van, which will take us 5 hours out to the jungle. We are to start the “ride” at the top of a 1700ft climb, then ride about 50K to get to our final destination. Just a warm up. After today, we ride only. We were reminded last night, how dangerous this could be. It was reiterated to be careful and take care. We will have no way to get to a hospital and getting hurt would stop the trip for everyone. It didn’t hit me until I heard that.. Greg, Rebecca’s husband even said, I’m a technical rider, however, I walked a ton.. any small mistake could prove to be disastrous in this situation for all of us.

That being said.. I’ll be more careful than trying to prove anything!

We’re off and the feelings I have are overwhelming! At the same point, I believe in my heart I will be ok! Perseverance! Dig deep! Surprise yourself!

Have been on the bus for about 2 hours now, stopped for breakfast, which is soup.. weird eating soup for breakfast, but it all tastes so good! Also had sweet corn milk – tasty! The dinner that Don’s wife and friend made for us for the blessing of this journey, was simply amazing!! This was truly flavortown!

Soup for breakfast – notice how red everyone’s soup is! We all added what we would later call “colonblow” (Lao chili paste)! Photo Credit Adventure Scout Media

Riding through the villages on the bus, you really get to see the countryside. This is really a 3rd world country.. very poor, very simple, yet very happy! But are they really? Do they know what’s behind those borders? Is it the communist government that’s trying to keep them there? Hmmm…

I’m sitting next to Bob, who is some sort of big wig at Specialized. He’s been telling us some amazing bike stories. Very interesting! Also here, is, Jeff and Merck.. the two guys that founded SRAM.. honestly, we’re in some “big” company!!

Well.. the roads were so bad, that they made the truck with the bikes pull over and Rebecca and Don made the decision that it would be better if we just ride our bikes up the climb. Change of plans! Get off, start packing, get your bike ready, put your nutrition together.. oh yeah.. and is only 100 degrees and we’re sweating our asses off!!

I have to admit, I felt like I was on information overload! And of course we’re running out of time! Put the lights on, because this will be a night ride! Having an OH SHIT moment! I don’t really do night rides, with cows all over the road and trucks with no traffic laws! Oh well.. just do it!

Anyhow, our little downhill ride turned into 70K with a climb instantly! All was good.. felt great to be on the bike, actually! We have a crew with us on motos, Don, the guide, Annemarie, the videographer, and another Moto, riding sweep. Rebecca, our 3 people in charge to keep up with the front, the middle and the back.

She makes smart and diligent decisions..and she’s right.. all the time 🙂

Before we started the climb.. there was a sign that read “steep incline ahead “.. no shit, just take a look at the mountains around, lol! Anyhow, she stopped me to tell me my seat was too low. Hmm.. ok! She told me that she’d raise it, otherwise I would fuck up my knees climbing! So she did, and it was good! Now, I feel like I need a dropper post on the descents.. should it get technical.

Chatting with Rebecca on the way to the top. Photo credit Adventure Scout Media

Anyway, didn’t think I would make it up the hill.. but did.. Surprise yourself! Felt good! Need more gears! Totally sold on the Eagle! Would be beneficial today and most definitely tomorrow.

The Dream Team! Photo credit Adventure Scout Media.
It was a beautiful sunset…..

Came back to this hotel / hostel type thing. The people are so amazingly nice! The place is primitive..but clean! We had dinner and then we had to take care of ourselves, wash our clothes, get ready for tomorrow. Pack nutrition, charge everything.. just a lot of stuff.. when you’re at a new place every night! Hopefully I’ll get the swing of things soon!

Tomorrow is apparently going to be one if our big days. Up early, ride to a cave, get on some boats that will take us 7K through the cave! She also said, prepare to get wet, as in soaked! Ok!! Then climb about 5000 feet.. no big deal, right!

Ok.. it’s 11 PM. Early start tomorrow! More later!

12/6/2018 Day 2

Well.. I got some sleep, but have been up Since 4:30. Just had great breakfast of eggs and toast, and even a French press coffee! I’m amazed at what all you have to do every morning and every night, to get ready, and get your gear ready. We’re about to head out, and this will be a long day! More later!

Well.. the day started magnificent! A short rollout to a 7K cave – Konglor. It was amazing. We loaded up with our bike and boat driver and put on our head lamp. This was a 7K under a mountain cave. This was truly incredible, I have never seen anything like it! 

Kathy on our way to enter the Konglor cave.
Emerging from the Konglor cave.

Once we resurfaced, we started our ride, it was an 84K ride with about 5000 feet of climbing.. not that big of a deal, but it was 100F, and humid and grades were about 20%. I was able to ride all of it, except for the very steepest part. It was long, dirty and hard! Then we summited and waited for the rest of the group to catch up. We luckily found 3 waterfalls along the way,  took our jerseys off, soaked our heads and cooled off.. it was really hot!!

Cooling off by the waterfalls.

Once the group got together, we started the jungle single track. It was a logging road, and road isn’t the proper word.. but neither is trail 🙂 it started great and flowy, with some awesome downhills..

We came upon a river crossing with one 2×12 getting us across.. well… our videographer, Anne Marie, who is a bad ass on the moto, went down in the river! She was ok, but stuck waist deep with a heavy bike.  Bunch of the guys helped her out, and then we decided to wait for the rest of the group. Once we started again, the trail got pretty difficult.. there were lots of hike a bikes, pushing bikes, etc. we were all in the same boat. I guess I must had the red mud get stuck in my cleat, and then pretty much couldn’t clip in for the rest of the ride on the left side. It was not pleasant, I stopped and had Andi, our bad ass mechanic, try to readjust them. That only worked for a bit. Anyway.. that took about 20 mins, but I could never catch up to the lead group at that point. I rode by myself in the jungle.. all was good, until we lost daylight..turned my light on, kept moving, and then I get to a 3 way stop, sort of thing. My battery on my garmin was dead, and I felt lost. I decided to wait and see if any of the motos with the rest of the riders would come up. Finally after about 30 mins, Annemarie shows up! I was thrilled. Because quite honestly.. I was getting really scared. But, she told me to go on, and she would wait and alert the others which way we went.. well.. the climbs were still getting steeper and the downhills were gnarly!!! At this point I couldn’t really see well, I had never been there and only riding with one foot-clipped in most times.. I ended up walking some of the stuff I couldn’t really see. Finally I decide to wait again, as I came up to another 3 way .. then couple of the riders came up a little later.. we we’re looking for tracks, but couldn’t see any.. one of the guys had their garmin still working, so we decided to follow him. The back part was so gnarly that we walked a ton of it.

Our videographer, Annemarie falling in the creek. Luckily, she and the camera were OK!

Anyway.. I have to admit that this was the scariest thing I’ve ever done, I was literally praying I would get out of there alive. Lost, alone, in the jungle. I was so humbled, felt like I couldn’t do it, I was not a good enough rider.. all those terrible thoughts! Then I went back to basics… because I had to get out of there. Ass back on the downhills and spin my ass off on the uphills.. then I also thought.. this awful feeling I have , where I don’t think I can go on.. Cody fights every single moment of every day.. I started crying, but pushing along. I said to myself.. get over this, deal with it and keeping moving! You’re a wuss if you don’t.. then a few f words came out..

Well.. I made it out, but honestly with tears flowing down my cheeks. Not sure why, maybe happiness that I overcame it, maybe just because I just did something epic.. just emotional..

Anyway, we all met at the end of the downhill, we got back on the road and had another 14K to town.. great ride to town, they are typically, as they are down hill towards lights!

We had so much to get done, wash our bikes our clothes and get ready for dinner, charge what needs to be changed, etc!

Everyone was done in at dinner.. it was short and sweet! I had to meet up with our mechanic later, as I was having issues with pretty much everything.. she and I worked on my bike until midnight.. then off to bed. Got about 5 hours of sleep.. which is about all I get here on a good day!

All in all.. extremely humbling day! Personally.. the toughest day for sure!

12/7/18 Day 3

The day started as per the usual, just had a little more time on the morning!

We got in about 84KM today.. which is not a lot.. but when you factor in the conditions we are riding in… it’s pretty rough..

Taking a little break….

I’m hoping the go pro footage will show. Not sure, though, since a lot of times, you cannot see a foot in front of you! The dust is unreal! The roads are really not roads.. not sure what you’d call them in the US.. jeep roads?? It’s always nice to actually come up to a gravel road! And finally the last bit of paved road, always means we’re heading to the hotel. I have to say, the last two nights, the rooms have been luxurious compared to the city hotel and the first one we went to.. but I also know, this will change for the worse 🙂

The dust was unbelievable..although, the picture doesn’t do it justice, it was difficult to see and breathe…

Everyone is spent.. except for probably Rebecca!! She’s very informative and always willing to help! Picked up a lot of good tips!

Rebecca and her husband Greg.
Me, Rebecca and Kathy in our Team OA jerseys!

We went by the Ho Chi Minh trail today..and the craters are really there and a lot of them!

Anyhow, we made it to our hotel for the first time before sunset, so that was nice! We washed our bikes and then showered with our clothes! I don’t think some of these clothes will ever be the same!! We were all CAKED in mud!! The worst part of it is, that we’re ingesting it! 

The dust…
Finally reaching our destination.
The picture is worth a thousand words…

I am sometimes just riding wondering if I’m going to make it! Today was hard, although it was supposed to be a recovery day, but my legs are spent! Most of the ladies here are going through the same swollen feeling and Rebecca explained.. that this is normal when you’re doing this much! We are a little starving on the protein! We’re consuming so many carbs through all the drinks, the nutrition, the rice! I’m going to re think this.. I’m pretty much over the sugar taste. 

My legs are tired.. very tired! Tomorrow is a recovery day, only 40KM, as we’re going to visit the MAG site.. and I’m happy about that!

The bikes are washed, lubed, my stuff is charging and I have showered and washed all – well almost all, the dust off!

Looking forward to having dinner!

Dinner was awesome, and as per the usual, each one of us tells their high and low, have a few laughs.. and everyone just really wants to go to bed. We’re all done at the end of each day!

BTW – this is by far the hardest thing I’ve ever done!

12/8/18 Day 4

Today is going to be recovery. Roll out at 8, as we have a site visit with MAG. They’re the group that is in charge of detonating UXOs. That will take about a half a day, the 45K, the a couple of village visits, give out toys to the kids and get to our new destination. The MAG visit was really great. It was humbling to see the amount of bombs that were dropped – a plane load, every 8 minutes, for 9 years! Laos is the most bombed county per capita in the world. Going through the part of Ho Chi Minh trail was eery.. amazing amount of bomb craters, the villagers living in the area and planting rice fields right there are UXOs. The rice is their only survival! They take the chance.

The MAG site.

We were able to watch them detonate a couple of bombies, that was really unbelievable to “feel”. I can’t imagine what these people went through! No war is fun.. but sort of necessary..

The MAG employees at work identifying the UXOs.
The bomb craters.. grim reminders of the war.
We held hands in a square. The square represents the size of the land that the MAG group can clear with the purchase of one bracelet. This allows a family to farm rice.
Photo credit Adventure Scout Media

Anyhow, after that we went to a local village to give out some toys to the sweet kids, then off to get on with the ride.

Local kids fishing in a bomb crater.

I was getting sort of restless, as I just needed to spin out my legs. I had decided to stay back and just spin my legs out today. I did exactly that, and felt great! That’s not to say that my legs don’t hurt!!

On the way back, we stopped at a school and played soccer with some kids and then we came upon a village that was having a celebration.  That was unreal! They were dancing, the kids were dancing, playing the drums and making rice whiskey!  They were so happy to see us! And greeted us as we rode off. We didn’t even want to leave. 

Karen, one of our teammates, giving gifts to the local children.
Local Village gathering.

We arrived at the hotel before sunset, which was greatness! Watching the sunset with a beer!  We then quickly got the bikes washed, and got a shower ourselves, washed our clothes, and went to dinner!  At dinner, Rebecca told us about the next day’s ride. She said it would be our biggest day yet. 94K and 5000 feet of climbing! She also said it be a single track in the jungle and very beautiful! The last thing she said, though, was that she and another ride leader would make a decision at our only water stop for the day – 56K? That some people were going to ride the van back, while the lead group is to go on, and finish the ride, hopefully before dark! Yikes!! It’s a race! I was honestly sort of worried I would end up taking the van!! Anyway.. we finished dinner and then back to hotel and to sleep! That’s pretty much the routine every day!

Team dinner.

12/9/18 Day 5

The toughest day yet!  We rode about 10K and started at the jungle single track! That was epic! You’re riding the a very flowy trail, through the jungle, listening to the sounds of a jungle! It was amazing scenery, amazing downhills and epic climbs!! Ouch! I noticed about 20K into the ride that I had no brakes! The lever coming all the way back to the handle bar! Not a good situation.. I found Andi, our mechanic, and she did a temporary fix.. so I rolled with it. Well, that didn’t last long, so I tracked her down again and she took the wheel off and tried the work on the break, while the break pads had air to them. That seemed to work! I figured that would at least get me to the 56K spot, then I would ride the van. I was bummed, because I really wanted to do that ride and “surprise“ myself.. see if I can!

One of the many river crossings…
The bridges get washed out by the monsoons…

Anyway, the scenery got even more beautiful, it was hard to not stop and take pictures!!

There are a lot of bad asses on this trip, and my friend Kathy is one of them! I just watch them pedal up hill, like it’s nothing!!

Working our way on to another big climb.
Photo Credit Adventure Scout Media

Anyhow. We finally made it to the cut off. Rebecca had asked me if I was in or out.. I then asked Andi if the bike was going to make it.. she told me it should make it most of the way :).. so, I didn’t want to say no, so I said yes!

6 of us – riders- then went off with a few crew leaders.  So a total of 9. I kept up for some time, but then it got hillier.. I started to fall back, but was never going to quit. I knew I could finish.. just not at their speeds. Oh well, this was my race today, and all I wanted was to actually do it! Pretty soon Rebecca and her husband rode up behind me. We started chatting. I was a little embarrassed that I was slowing everyone down, but it was what it was. The three of us talked and talked, it was great and amazing! They helped me get to the top of the climb! Then just another 500 ft of climbing and 13k left! I made it!! I was crying tears of joy the last few K! So thrilled for me!! So glad I made the choice! Every time I was in pain, I would think of Cody, what he has to go through on daily basis! I was so stoked!! Anyhow, we came rolling in to the hotel, dirty as could be? And we beat the van in!! I gave Rebecca a great big hug, as well as Kathy for their encouragement!!

Rebecca’s husband Greg, pedaling me home…
Water buffalos on the road.

We then washed bikes, took care of our gear, took showers and washed clothes, then off to dinner. Today was a happy day, the team really jelled today! It was a great feeling of togetherness! At dinner we did our highs and lows, the Rebecca always gives out an award event evening. I was the lucky one tonight. She told me how proud of me she was and how strong I really am.. just believe!  It was happy tears again! She gave me a big hug, and said how proud of me she was!

The rockstars – dirty, but made it!

Today was my personal victory…I won my own race 😉

Now… it’s way too late.. gotta get up early.. and do this all over again! Gladly!

12/10/18 Day 6

Day 6!! Here we go! 45K , 3500ft of climbing.. nothing but a thing!

Funny.. we all thought this was going to be a recovery day.. as soon as we turned into the 2nd K, we realized, there was never going to be a recovery day!! These hills are like walls.. I’m pretty sure that back home in Texas.. people would be hanging wall art on these things! They’re at least 20% grade. Every time you’d come around the corner, there would be another wall!!

Those hills – demoralizing!
Never ending beautiful jungle roads.

It’s almost demoralizing, because you cannot see the end. The only flats are false flats!  The reward for these hills, though, are amazing downhills.. but to be honest, your legs are shaking all the way down! I tried to bunny hop a rock, and realized that I got no air, because I got no more legs!

My legs are tired. Super tired.. Philip keeps asking me every day.. how are your legs? I’m wondering, is he looking for the answer to be “fresh”??? No.. more like rigor mortis !! My mental state is starting to deteriorate.. but, keep pushing on. It hurts with every pedal stroke, it hurts every time I walk, it hurts everywhere. My back muscles are in constant pain, from the heavy pack we carry, at least 25-30 lbs, depending upon if you’re carrying gifts or not.

Anyway… the scenery was amazing, true jungle! The giant palms, giant bamboo, and banana trees! I even took some bananas from the tree! They’re small and perfect jersey fit!

The beautiful jungle!

I stayed in middle and sometimes towards the back. I was completely ok with it. We had one of team members take a pretty big crash, so some of us stayed with him.. then we got lost, so we walked up and down the river with bikes on our backs.. then, we found some locals, and Tim, our guide, speaks fluent LAO, so we were able to get out. After that, one of the team mates has asthma, she was hyperventilating for a bit.. and I gladly hung out with her. It’s nice to ride with different people and learn about them, laugh with them and share our miseries! At that point, when you get so far behind.. you’re just riding your own race, and that’s ok! Our team is great, everyone has everyone’s back!

A true mobile office! We would meet locals on the trail, they were going from village to village, selling things.

We finally got to our meeting point with everyone, then it was just 12 more K.. and a few “little punches” as Rebecca calls them.. and then an amazing sunset downhill!! Awesomeness!

Some of these trails are logging roads. One of our teammates, thought he would help!

We got to the town, and went through the war museum! Very interesting!!! Then off to the guest house. They only had 7 rooms.. and we shared. Kathy and I bunked together.. while Rebecca and Greg slept on the patio in front of our room. Felt horrible, but she said.. “fuck it.. I sleep in the dirt all the time!” Alright then!

War museum – grim reminders….

We have a great time at dinners.. we laugh at anything anymore.. nothing surprises us anymore., we seem to be delirious!!

The local restaurant kitchens…. food was delicious, glad we all had been vaccinated!

Anyhow, off to bed and get ready for tomorrow! Good night, y’all!!

12/11/18 Day 7

We had French bread and peanut butter and jelly for breakfast! And eggs! The closest thing to a breakfast that I’m used to. Typically we are eating soup every morning. I’m missing having deserts here!  Last night Greg, Rebecca’s husband gave me a piece of amazing chocolate!! Yum!!

Some fun, before we’re about to roll out!
Team pic – photo credit Adventure Scout Media.

Ok, today – 65K, and 4500 ft of climbing! I no longer give a shit!

We roll out and go over some historical bridge. Rebecca tells us, the toughest climb is going to be in our first 10K or less.. no kidding!! We turn off the paved road onto a dirt road, make a few “small” climbs, then we look up. Everyone’s mouths are open.. holy shit! At some point they just don’t believe in switch backs here, they decided to just go straight up the mountain!! The damn thing is like 20% grade.. one of the guys, that used to live here says “it’s road grade”.. I’m like, really you’ve been saying that all along, let’s define road grade. We have road grade too in Europe.. it’s call Alp d’Huez! ;))

Anyhow.. we get to the top of the climb and get going. The trail falls into an amazing single track, flowy.. just bad ass! Someone at the top of the hill said this was day 7. I started thinking about that, and got sort of sad. This fun/hell/expedition will come to an end in 3 days!! How do I recreate the fun I had? How do I even explain it to people at home? They’ll never understand it, unless they’re here, living it. I cannot actually describe the feeling

Along the trail and the numerous river crossings, we see children playing, or making the best out of their situation…the simplicity! Kathy was able to capture this photo perfectly!
Kathy interacting with one of the loggers.
One of our teammates had a pretty rough fall. he gets cleaned up and presses on!
Rebecca interacting with the kids. The kids were the winners in this trip. They made your heart smile, and made everything ok! They gathered around us, as we would come into the villages.

We go through a bunch more climbs, some pretty technical, we walk some, ride some.. of course in between is this legit single track! I’m finally feeling in my element! Bike feels good under me, it’s squishy, it’s flowy! I’m in heaven!! At mile 42, we come upon these rapids and a village. We all take a break there, eat our lunch, dip our feet on the water. Feels amazing! The women of the village had looms, and brought these skirts that are hand made to us to buy. We all did, even the guys bought some for their wives. It was a great break! We give the children some gifts, play along with them.. it’s really neat!

We welcomed the break at the falls, as well as the cooling off in some clear water!
Andi, our mechanic, sharing some peanut butter with the local kids.
Rebecca enjoying herself with the locals! She truly has an amazing heart!
We bought some local woven art and wore the skirts to dinner that night! The locals were so happy to be able to sell these to us. Photo Credit Adventure Scout Media.

Then we still have 40 some K left.. we climb some more and flow on the downhills. Everyone has a smile on their faces! Greatness! Today was really a great day!

We came back, washed bikes, washed our clothes.. went to dinner and to bed! Tomorrow’s another early day and about 65K, 3800 ft of climbing. The body is an amazing thing!!

12/12/18 Day 8

Today is a big day, not necessarily in the distance and climb, but in the fact that we will be crossing “The Bamboo Bridge” from Rebecca’s movie. It gets washed out every year, and the villagers get together and rebuild it one day. Also, today, we will be riding to the town of Ta-Oy. It’s where Rebecca’s father was shot down, during the war. This will be an emotional journey.

I think it was 55K and 3500 ft of climbing.. not sure anymore, since I’ve given up looking at the profiles until we’re done or at the top of a giant hill, asking.. is this the biggest climb of the day?

Crossing the bamboo bridge. Photo credit Adventure Scout Media.
Perfect time for some pictures on the bamboo bridge!
Rebecca and I atop the bamboo bridge.

We rolled out and quickly got onto our dirt path.. which turned into an another amazing track!

The Scenery was truly beautiful!

It was a route heavily paved with cobbles (rocks) – original to Ho Chi Minh trail. I loved them! They made the climbs more difficult, but somehow I loved it! The climbs were not impossible, so I just put in into the lowest of gear that I have and just pedaled., I felt great! There were some technical climbs, that I loved as well.. each rock garden that came up every few feet, was like a little accomplishment when done! I just said.. you got this to myself!

I wasn’t the fastest.. I never am, but steady, in the middle. I ride most of the ride on my own, with a few times I’m with a teammate or Rebecca or her husband Greg. As I somehow don’t fit into any of the 2-3 small pelotons we have. That being said.. I enjoy the peace! I try to take some videos, and narrate as I go along, though not sure if the video will pick it up.

We had a couple of long climbs, that I actually enjoyed.. slow and steady. The villages are always such an amazing cheer sections! They are so encouraging! And they always have smiles on their faces and they high give us! I mean c’mon! It’s like The Tour!! To them we are amazing! So.. I take that feeling with me through another climb and smile!

This route, just like yesterday’s also had some AMAZING downhills!! I feel free, fast and just loving life at that moment! I have a giant smile on my face.. yippee!!

We finally descend to Ta-Oy, it’s the city where Rebecca’s dad was shot down. We all feel the mood changing, to where we know, she’s coming home, her second home.  I’m very thankful she was willing to share that with us. We rolled into town and stopped at Mr. Ayer’s hut. He is the village chief, whose father buried Rebecca’s father. They greet each other and you can see on their faces, they are brother and sister! Incredible bond! We sat around in his hut in a circle and each one of us shared what we wanted to give to the house, and to our journey. It was really cool!!

Then we climbed down the ladder – stairs, to be surrounded by the village kids, we purchased some more local textiles. Feeling great!

Mr. Ayer – The Village Chief.
Rebecca and Mr. Ayer.
We all sat around Mr. Ayer’s home and toasted the spirits. Photo Credit Adventure Scout Media.

We then rolled on to the road and went to the guest house.

We get to stay here for 2 days, and to be honest, this is probably the dirties of accommodations we’ve had..  but hey! We have running water and a toilet. I’ve been sleeping on my mat and sleeping bag, in my cooling sheet. I don’t believe they clean these places.. so we’re careful!

Rice whiskey… anyone????

Anyhow, we head to dinner, share our stories, and head to bed! That’s it for every evening!

12/13/18 Day 9

It’s my name’s day!! St. Lucie day, the day of light! I will take this with me, to our hardest day yet! 85K and 5500 ft of climbing.  The profile shows 35-37% grades! This will be a lot of hike a bike.. but I want to do it, to be able to have that experience. As Philip said, pain is temporary, regret lasts forever!

This was to be our day.

So.. here we go, on the bus to our start point! More later!

Well.. we got off the bus.. quickly unloaded the bikes got our gear on, and off we went! 100 yards and bam, giant river crossing! All that our guide Don could say, was, “the river must have gone up!” Ok!! We start going through, it is a tough ordeal, scary, actually, as the current picks up over the rocks, we are thing high in water, underneath are extremely slippery rocks! People are falling and falling in, we are taking tiny steps, never actually lifting up our feet! I come to the middle of the current and start getting super dizzy, almost like my concussion feelings are back! I’m so dizzy now, that I really don’t know what to do. Luckily, I’m about 70% done with the crossing and one of our guides, Tim, comes to get me. I hand him my bike and shakily hold on to him! Holy shit! We cross the river and Leah, our teammate, who had fallen in twice comes up just in tears. I go over to hug her, we both cry.. this is not the way any of us wanted to start the biggest day yet!! Now we have to wait until everyone crosses, and the motos as well! It takes some time, as you can imagine! Once we get going again, about 100 yards.. starts the biggest climb! We are nowhere near warmed up!

This one was no joke.. We were tired, kept falling in the river, it was slippery, and on top of it we all seemed really hungry, as last night’s dinner wasn’t the greatest.

At breakfast, I was a little sketchy, and my friend Kathy, said.. “we’re going to ride together today”. I didn’t want her to do that, as she is a much better rider! However, I humbly accepted. I was so thankful!

After the first climb, our mechanic rides up and says.. you have no air in your rear shock! Well.. I felt like it was bottoming our yesterday.. but didn’t say anything! Anyhow, it was at 50, and needs to be at 150. She of course had a pump on her, so she aired it up! Yay, except, now, I’m way behind! And I have to make it up on the climb, dizzy as hell! All the negative thoughts come flooding my brain. I keep saying to myself, mind over matter, shit will happen, deal with it..

I really had a hard time focusing, my head was spinning from the river current, and we got into the canopy of the jungle, which made shadows. You had to climb  this giant mountain on a 6” rut either off camber on the side, or one in the middle.. it was wet, slippery.. either way, it was a bitch!! But Kathy stuck with me! She’s such an amazing rider.. and an amazing friend!

This was a very tough day! It tested me.. up and down! I rode most of it and walked a lot of it… I would clip in and at least ride 20 feet or more.. but I wanted to try! We finally get to the peak.. now comes the downhill! Great, except, I’m just not in the mojo! Not feeling it. I keep telling myself, stay lose and ass back! You got this! It’s a tricky, technical descent. The rocks are slippery, covered by leaves, and I’m having a hard time seeing which makes it difficult. Kathy rode behind me. I’m typically fine with downhills, and hated that feeling.. but I had to stop and collect myself. I was just plain emotional, maybe a little iffy, maybe even a little scared. I made it through tougher stuff than that, so not sure what was happening..

After that, we came up on Rebecca, and she was telling us a story of how when she trained for a 7 day event, her coach would tell her, just because you may be feeling great right now, keep eating, keep taking care of yourself, because the bad is right around the corner, as will be the next high. Whatever we’re feeling right now, is only temporary. I went with that! That was good enough!

Sometimes, there were bridges over the rivers, but our guide would have to negotiate how much money it would take for us to cross them.

We then descended just unbelievable downhill sections and climbed some more. But I was good! The mojo was back! I had been looking for a light at the end of a tunnel, all day.. I thought I had my lows, and oh boy, I had plenty to choose from today!! No problem at the dinner table! We then finally came out of the canopy of the jungle and into the village, where they were building a giant bridge to cross that river, we had to forge hours ago. The sun was just coming out of the clouds, it was gorgeous! We had to make a giant climb to get to the top of the village, but it was more sustained.. difficult, but doable..

We came up on the villagers and the kids, always such an inspiring sound to hear them cheer Saibadi!! Couple of the guys were already there, so we stopped as well. They were giving them food, we had on us. I decided to do the very same thing, I’d rather suffer, then see a child hungry. I took out the crackers they packed for us and the kids just swarmed around me. They stuck out their dirty little hands and begged for a cracker. I couldn’t get them out fast enough, and wanted to make sure everyone had one.. at the end, there were too many little hands, I ran out of crackers. I was sobbing!! I will never forget those little hands. That picture will never leave me.

I broke down, crying almost uncontrollably.. it was difficult! I got on my bike and we rode off. Horrible, empty feeling in my stomach.

Photo credit Adventure Scout Media.

We then climbed two more giant climbs out of the village.. at the top we came upon an incredible vista! The entire lush greens, jungle with a river flowing beneath it. Simply indescribable!

What started as a hairy kind of day, turned out beautiful! Photo credit Adventure Scout Media.

The descent was beyond EPIC!  I felt in awe of this. I was somehow rejuvenated, got my second wind and started to ride strong. I felt alive again! I finished the ride with the most beautiful views I’ve ever seen – or better yet… they were different than what I’ve ever seen. But most importantly, I finished the ride with my friend at my side! Thank you, Kathy! You were my special angel today!

I have to say, This shit is real, it will take you down, if you let it. We all go through our ups and downs, on different days. Persevere, open doors, surprise yourself!

Tomorrow is our last day riding. Rebecca extends the invitation to take us to her dad’s tree, where he was shot down. I’m sure this is an extremely emotional journey for her, and tomorrow will be a special day for her. I feel honored, humbled, appreciative, special and always welcomed in her company.

Good night!

12/14/18 Day 10

This is our last day! Sad and happy at the same time. I miss Philip and talking to the kids. I will however miss this amazing camaraderie we have built amongst ourselves. We have really become a great team. People from all different walks of life.. in a way. Everyone obviously well enough to do, in order to afford this trip, but everyone in search of something more in their lives. This trip has exceeded my expectations for sure. Well.. I’m not sure I actually had expectations, or if I did, they were not at all what happened here. We were strangers 10 days ago, today, we will finish as a family, everyone having each other’s back! We have all overcome our own obstacles, mechanicals, pain and suffering. However, every night, we laughed together!

We rode off into the hills of Ta Aoy, following Rebecca and Mr. Ayer to her father’s tree. We bushwhacked through the trail, went under barbed wire, and slowly descended to the creek bed. Walked through the creek, gingerly, as the rocks were slippery. Some of us found a bamboo stick to help us through the steep downhills. We finally come upon the crash site.. the tree. Once we all got there, Rebecca greeted us, and thanked us for being there with her to share her special moment. She went over to the tree, put her letter to her dad in the open cavity, and also added the Be Good bracelet she had been wearing this trip. It was very emotional. She had asked us the night before, to write a special note to our fathers, living or not, and /or say something to our families to the tree. We all took our turns, saying something special and then taking a shot of LAO CAO.. (LAO rocket fuel!!) I left a note for my dad, written in Czech, and I said a prayer for my kids, my family, Philip and I and his dad. I also thanked God, for keeping me safe through this journey. I couldn’t stop the tears from rolling! It has been a couple of very emotional days! Jeff Shupe, then gathered us and said a prayer for all of us. This was an incredible moment.

Kathy – my hero!
We hiked for about mile through the jungle to get to the crash site.
Rebecca and her father’s tree.
Rebecca and Greg.

After that, we left, and let Rebecca and Greg to have some private time at the site.

When they came back, we all got on our bikes and rode off.. starting with 2600 ft climb, of course! Beautiful vistas, beautiful ride! Once we summited, there was this amazing downhill!! I of course just pedaled off, hoping to crack some “Lucie “ speed record! Well.. that almost didn’t go well for me. Had a speed wobble at the bottom of the hill. I don’t think I’ve ever been that scarred in my life on a bike! Somehow, I tried to hold it together, slow down, and pull over. Ended up calling Philip, because I remember him saying something about that.. he said I was good to go, just slow down! After that, I just hung back and watched the other riders continue the descent.

Climbing.. always climbing 🙂
The ladies of the Dream Team! Photo Credit Adventure Scout Media.
The last Team Photo. Photo Credit Adventure Scout Media.
Me and Rebecca chatting about life during the last mile or so of the trip. Photo Credit Adventure Scout Media.

We made it about 45K, then the van met us, we unloaded our bikes onto the trailer, and climbed in the van to get some lunch. We are at this cute restaurant, shared everyone’s phone numbers and laughed!

Now, we’re on the van, heading to Pakse, to pack our bikes, shower, get organized, then the last team dinner.

We have just arrived in Pakse. Went and took all our bags into our room, and now down in the parking lot, with our bikes, waiting the arrival of our bike bags.

The ride on the bus was longer, we are all a bit delirious. The driver drove crazy like, we were singing and grabbing the seats in front of us in fear at times..but.. had fun! It is 6:30, dark, and we have to take the bikes apart.. hopefully I won’t lose any bike parts..yikes!

Wow! How quickly the last 10 days have gone!

What do I take from this trip?? Not sure, I didn’t know what I came here to find. I know I needed something.. something to do for me. Something to achieve, unplug, believe in myself..and let go of heavy baggage!

As I narrated on the trail on to the GoPro, I had my ups and downs.. it was how I was feeling at that moment! I’m not sure how to explain / describe this trip to anyone at home.. it’s just a feeling you get, when here. For me, I think I found my happy here, I haven’t laughed like this in so long. I have also cried the tears of letting go of baggage. I wanted to do this to surprise myself.. and that I have done. I have finished strong, with no regrets. I have crossed all bridges, all creek or river crossings. I have climbed climbs 10 days in a row, that I would have never attempted before. I have descended some gnarly downhills, trusting my own skills. I have done this, all by my little self, and proud to say so! I have accepted instruction and help at times from others. I have the ones back home, Philip, who helped me train for this, showed me with patience how to take a bike apart and put it back together. Not sure how he stayed that patient! I cannot wait to get home and get a hug from him, talk to my kids at home, put them on speaker when we’re eating dinner. I loved this experience, but I’m ready to come home. Ready to embrace new challenges, as I know they will be coming up. I have thought so much about Cody, about his struggles every day. He pushed me through some tough climbs, that’s for sure. I don’t give up, I’m stubborn, I will come out on top, no matter how ugly the process may be. I’m a survivor, I’m a winner of my own capabilities. I’m glad I did this, because pain is only temporary, but the regret of not doing this, would have haunted me forever. I will miss you, Laos!

To Rebecca, I thank you from the bottom of my heart, for giving me the chance to do this. To making that one extra space, which knowing now, was not easy! I wanted to make sure I didn’t let you down. I don’t think I have. You have become a confidant on this trip for me, someone I shared some secrets, many don’t know about. Thank you for entrusting me in this journey. I will never forget when you and Greg rode with me that one day! You never gave up on me, thank you! You both made me feel at home! You also made me feel strong.. and I really needed that.

I guess there’s an explanation of this trip.. it was Epic!!

12/15/18 Day 11

Waking up in Pakse. I hardly slept as I was getting a pretty bad cold, quickly turning into a sinus infection. All my energy level was completely gone. Not sure if it also had something to do with the mental aspect of actually knowing we were done, and the body was on shut down mode, but the headache and chest cold didn’t help!

We met at breakfast at 8, and took some final team photos. Then we set off to get massages, which were amazing! Then off to the market to find some souvenirs. We found nothing. The city was hot and filthy. I felt drained. In my mind I had already turned off the switch, it was over, and now, I just wanted to get home.  Our flight wasn’t leaving until 5:45 that evening. We went to lunch, then back to the hotel lobby, to wait until we could make our way to the airport. By “making our way” I’m not kidding! We loaded up half the bags and bike bags on the truck and trailer, and half of the group went ahead, by standing in between the bags on the trailer being pulled by a truck. Then Don, came back for the rest of us. The adventure goes on! This shit is real, I’m not making this up! Thrust me.. it’s been recorded on video!

Our shuttle to the airport!
On the trailer.. hanging on for dear life 🙂

Anyhow, we get to the small airport.. and it is very typical of a communist 3rd world country airport. You have no choices, no one communicates, everything is a secret..and plus, no one speaks English! Luckily, we had Tim, one of our guides, that spoke LAO with us to help us translate. We were about to get on a turbo prop peddle jumper.. ok.. that’s fine, but they are only going to take 2 bikes! Not 16.. but 2! Now what! The head honcho of the airport.. some lady, said she would let us know as we got closer to taking off, as to how many more bikes would fit. Holy crap! Everyone remained calm, but upset. We were about to leave our previous babies behind! It’s not just behind, we’ll send them on the next flight to your destination.. it’s behind, and somehow, we have to get them to Vientiane.. or ship them DHL.. who knew!

Looks like we may be getting “a” flight…
The bikes will have to stay behind for now…

The deal from the start was, that Anita, our travel agent told us about the 2 bike limit.. however, she said, someone would figure out whether or not we would have to bus the bikes back to Vientiane, and we would meet them there. I’m going to call that on Don, our guide. I believe, logistically, this could have been prevented and dealt with the day before.  Anyhow..but expect the unexpected! It’s like this whole trip, be prepared for anything.. all that was fun in the jungle. Well.. I can do anything, when it’s in my control.. this was not.

At the very last minute, prior to boarding (luckily, the plane was 45 minutes late), we had rolled our bike bags into a room at the airport. They are apparently going to put them on the AM flight, which has a larger aircraft.

We were then going to figure out on Vientiane, whether or not we were going to spend an extra day, pay to ship our bikes, pay for flight change fees.. we didn’t know.

Once we sort of let go of the bikes, we had to roll with it. It was what it was.. nothing could be done.  We laughed on the flight to Vientiane, how comical this was.

Once we landed, we could then get a hold of the travel agent ( it was 6AM back in the US then), and she would give us guidance as to what to do. Each one of us tried to come up with different solutions, but at the end, Rebecca, Greg and Chris were going to stay behind. They were going to wait for the cargo arrival of the bikes, then check them all into Boise, ID, then, ship them to us. The prices of changing our flights was going to be a lot of money.. so the decision was made. Rebecca remained extremely calm, taking care of the logistics.. after all, she is a professional bad ass at stuff like this!! The trip was not over, the adventure race still going on! It seemed funny, at times, because there really was nothing we could do. We waited the 4 hours, until we could board our flight to Seoul. We’re all tired, dirty, sweaty, disgusting! I spoke to Rebecca in the bathroom.. she felt really badly about this scenario, and felt responsible.. not her fault! I told her it was going to work out, one way or the other.

I’m on the plane now, and will have been up for almost 24 hours.. once we get to Seoul, we have another 12 hour layover. Then hopefully, finally getting on our flight to Dallas!

I have to say, the last 30 hours or so, have been very stressful, packing the bikes, hurrying to dinner, the logistics at Pakse..etc.. I’m a planner, and like to be organized, to a certain extent.. I had decided though, that once the bikes were going to stay in Pakse, I just wanted to get home.. safe and sound. The bike is a thing, a very expensive thing, but it’s replaceable. My life is not.

Anyway.. here we are, somewhere over south east Asia.. still on the course, race is not over yet 🙂

Landed in Seoul, South Korea. We made our way through the maze of gates, customs, to a lounge, where you could nap on cushions, etc. we are to stay here for 12 hours, until our flight departs. I am plain and simply exhausted. I cannot even describe the feeling, almost floating through air, unaware. However.. I am safe at the moment, and one more stage closer to home. We said good byes to the rest of the crew on Seoul, and now, it’s just me and Kathy and Tim. We all fly to Dallas.

This evening, we depart for DFW, on about a 13 hour flight. Although it was difficult to say good bye, I’m very ready to come home. I will truly miss this grout, the bond we had created. That being said, all good things must come to an end.. we all go back to our families, which is where we belong. We take away the depth of this trip, the humbling experiences, the inner victories, and we move on. Enjoy e very moment, as time on this earth is fleeting. I can only hope I am able to slow down, and smell and taste the time I have left here.

Finally….in Seoul, on our way to Dallas!

More later.. the Amazing Race is still on!

My take on the trip – after a few days back in Dallas…

To my family, friends and those of you that followed this amazing journey I was lucky enough to be a part of. 16 of us, plus the crew, came together on December the 3rd as complete strangers. We emerged from this journey 2 weeks later, as a family / lifelong friends. We all came from different walks of life, with different purposes, and most of us seeking something more in our lives, that money couldn’t buy. We took our mountain bikes half way around the world to Laos, with the mission to raise money and awareness for the UXOs – unexploded ordnance, that are still a haunting reminder of the Vietnam War.

I certainly knew this would be a trip of a lifetime. After all we were going with Rebecca Rusch, as a part of the #MTBLAO3 team she had selected. I knew it was going to be both physically and mentally challenging. What I didn’t know is the massive impact it had on me, as a person. Myself, I was a little scared (especially after I had read everyone’s bios), I had never done a multi day event like this, and I wanted to make sure I was not going to slow anyone down, or keep them waiting. After day 1 on our bikes, that feeling was slowly being erased from my mind, not because of my skill, but because of the people that were with me. I could not imagine a better group to be surrounded by. We quickly jelled as a team, which could not be broken. There was an incredible amount of support for one another, unity and never ending laughter. This truly was going to be an experience of a lifetime. Rebecca led this team to victory. Victory over our tired legs and tired minds. Victory through amazing history lessons, unexpected obstacles, river and bridge crossings, you name it.. we did it. Her amazingly calm, encouraging, and always-on point, yet bubbly personality is what kept it all together. We followed her instructions, and made it! She possesses incredible strength, which was able to shine through each one of us. She made us believe anything was possible through our commitment and strength. She is a ROCKSTAR, and yet, an incredible human being, that is very personable and full of personality and giddiness!

We rode through incredible scenic valleys, climbed never ending hills, gingerly rode around water filled bomb craters, and were always greeted by the most amazing smiles on the kids of the villages of Laos. I will never forget those smiles. It seemed like we were the Tour De Laos to them, high fiving us, cheering, and always happy! Those smiles made you forget any pain you may have been going through!

I struggle trying to describe this experience to anyone here, it’s not possible. You’d have to be there to feel and smell it, live it. I have made incredible bonds with the members of our team. I didn’t expect that at all. I’m struggling now, to integrate back into society here… not really sure what to think of it. I’m glad to be back to see my family and loved ones, but yet, I miss my teammates very much! We started a chat group right away, and thank the spirits for that! We touch base daily, at least for now, and I’m at peace, knowing they all feel the same way. What I will miss the most is the genuine laughter I was able to let out and enjoy. When you strip life to basics, which we had to in Laos, it’s amazing how truly connected you become to the people close to you. I miss you all!

What do I take from this trip?? Not sure, I didn’t know what I went there to find. I know I needed something.. something for me. Something to achieve, unplug, believe in myself..and let go of heavy baggage!

As I narrated on the trail on to the GoPro, I had my ups and downs.. it was how I was feeling at that moment! For me, I think I found my happy there, I haven’t laughed like this in so long. I have also cried the tears of letting go of baggage.

I wanted to do this to surprise myself.. and that I have done. I have finished strong, with no regrets. I have crossed all bridges, all creek or river crossings. I have climbed climbs 10 days in a row, that I would have never attempted before. I have descended some gnarly downhills, trusting my own skills. I have done this, all by my little self, and proud to say so! I have accepted instruction and help from others. I have the ones back home, Philip, who helped me train for this, showed me with patience how to take a bike apart and put it back together. Not sure how he stayed that patient!

I have come out of this stronger in so many ways. Ready to embrace new challenges, as I know they will be coming up. I have thought so much about Cody, about his struggles every day. He pushed me through some tough climbs, that’s for sure. I don’t give up, I’m stubborn, I will come out on top, no matter how ugly the process may be. I’m a survivor; I’m a winner of my own capabilities. I’m glad I did this, because pain is only temporary, but the regret of not doing this, would have haunted me forever. I will miss you, Laos!

Saibadee!
#BeGood
#JoinTheRusch
#MTBLAO

Laos…. our journey….privileged to have been a part of it.