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AsiaWheeling Rides Again

It was 10:00 am, and in a rare role reversal, Woody remained in bed as I paced on Steve’s balcony.  With phone in one hand, and MacBook Pro balanced on the air conditioning unit, I sipped on an open WiFi network while avoiding condensation drips raining from above.  That morning the dear parts from SpeedMatrix and My Bike Shop in Singapore had left Thai customs and headed toward Bangkok proper.

Logistically, the parts had to be delivered by Axial Express Courier’s Bangkok counterpart, received at ProBike, fitted to the Speed TR, tested, and packed up ready to go by 7:00 pm for the bus to the Lao border.  I was now at step one of this process.  Where were the parts now?  With the help of Google voice, I dialed Axial Express and chatted with the office manager-cum-client service agent, who provided the phone number of their Bangkok representative.

After a series of negotiations with multiple parties, ProBike would accept delivery of the package and front the money for the customs charges on the goods if I agreed to pay it.  The package was now scheduled to arrive at 2:00 pm, giving us a tight window for repairs.

With Woody still in the throes of a virus, we made our way to November, a nearby cafe that had been amenable to the construction of AsiaWheeling mobile offices.

When the time rolled around, I hopped in a taxi and headed for ProBike.

Wan, my contact at ProBike, was sitting at a desk behind the cashier, and stood up to greet me.  I began thanking her and commending ProBike for all their help.   She cut me off.

“First, bad news,”  she said.

I gulped.  “Show me.”

She held up a threaded bolt that joined the handlebar post to the fork.  Placing it in the fork, it was clearly too small.  Can we bend back the original fork?  Can we coat the bolt in metal? Rubber? Saran wrap?  Caulk?  None of these seemed ideal to either of us.

I sent Woody an SMS and he promptly replied with ideas for a stopgap solution, which it seemed we must implement.  We had spent too long in Bangkok and were beginning to go stir crazy.  A small piece of threaded metal wouldn’t get in our way.

“Can you check the warehouse for a larger part?” I asked Wan, and she agreed, making her way to the door as I poked around the shop floor looking for various metals and polymers to provide a sleeve for the bolt.

Magically, Wan arrived back smiling with a larger piece in hand.  She screwed it in, and voila, the parts joined perfectly.  Now we could get cracking on putting Humpty Dumpty back together.  The bike mechanic who had straightened Woody’s primary ring was assigned to this project, and he worked like the dickens.

I began filing a thin copper washer to widen its gauge as he began slicing the fork with a metal saw.  Measure twice, cut once, I thought. The adage, which my father had taught me in our backyard years ago, crept into my mind.  Next, I was swapping out the inner tubes and tire on the new hub and rim.  Finally, we were moving.

It was now approaching 5:00 pm and the final adjustments were being made to the Speed TR as we fastened the handle bars to the post and took her for a spin.  It was good as new, with a cobalt blue fork to remind me of the rebuilding.  With a few quick calculations, I paid Wan and thanked her and her team, and exited to return to Steve’s room (may his beard grow ever longer and his mind stay ever blissful) to report the success.

Starving, I went on a quick wheel through the back alleys of Lumpini, and grabbed a few baht worth of grilled meats and sticky rice, which I fastened to the bike’s handlebars.  It was 17:10, and we were set to leave at 18:00.  I raced back home.

Woody seemed on the mend, though his appitite had not yet returned, and we did a final scan of Steve’s room and laid a bar of Meiji chocolate on his pillow for good measure.  Strapping down and making the decision to hail a cab, we headed downstairs.

The first couple of cab drivers refused to battle the rush hour traffic for such a long ride, and we settled on one fellow with no meter but a will to negotiate pricing.  Forty five minutes of medium speed through Bangkok on elevated freeways proved stimulating enough, and we were dumped in front of the Mo Chit bus station.  It was packed.  It was Friday before the Thai New Year, Sangkran, and everyone was heading home to see grandma.

We promptly found our bus port by catching the eye of an attendant for Thai Ticket Major, the broker through which we had purchased the tickets, and were ushered to the platform.  Some real characters and some real chaos, but Woody and I both thought to ourselves: things would be ten times more hectic in India.  Thailand had become AsiaWheeling Lite, and we were excited to head north to Laos, land of secret wars, old growth rainforest, and packed-earth roads.

As Woody stood guard, I ventured to the restroom and to acquire something to quench my thirst.  No one, however, was selling our beloved Leo Beer.  No beer, it seemed, was being sold at all at the train station, because of the New Year holiday.  Smart for crowd control, I thought, but surely there must be loose data points to be exploited.  Slipping into a small bodega inside the station, I asked nicely and was granted a can of beer on the condition that I would hide it in my shirt during the sales process.   Giddy, I slipped back to the bus port, and tagged Woody for the bathroom.

After Woody returned and the bus arrived, we loaded our gear on and found ourselves in the two front seats of the bus.  Our knees were cramped, but that detail wouldn’t be enough to dampen our spirits as we slipped in ear plugs, tilted down our Panama hats, and settled into slumber.


Comments

  1. Dear Reader | April 29th, 2010 | 12:10 am

    Why oh why is Dog the Bounty being wikipedia-ed in the first image?? Hilarious!!

  2. Scott | April 29th, 2010 | 2:44 am

    Dear Reader,

    Glad that you caught that little easter egg. Simply doing a bit of background research, as Dog the Bounty hunter is the inspiration for the name “Project K9″
    http://asiawheeling.com/?p=2545

    Scott

  3. Dear Reader | April 29th, 2010 | 11:48 am

    Ah that’s right, I forgot.

  4. John Norton | April 29th, 2010 | 12:01 pm

    Great story.

  5. Joshtown | April 29th, 2010 | 12:58 pm

    Down to the wire! This is exactly the type of problem solving I look for in a bicycle travel blog.

  6. Woody | April 29th, 2010 | 10:15 pm

    @ Joshtown
    Thanks, old chap. We’ll keep trying to dish it up!

  7. Mark/Dad | May 2nd, 2010 | 2:33 pm

    I agree–definitely engaging; I had sworn to get back to work after reading the previous post, but couldn’t “put it down,” so to speak.

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