Monday Mood - Road Trippin

Summer in New York City is stifling, sticky and sweaty. The city is incredible at night when there is a slight breeze whispering through the heat, but during the day, it can be oppressive. I'm not complaining or anything, just feeling ready to escape for a little bit...

I've been jealously eyeing and simultaneously swooning over some road trippers on Instagram over the past few weeks. Whether told by a full-time nomadic family or by a few girls on an artistic road trip, the stories of the road are beckoning. Hot tar stretching out as far as the eye can see, dusty side roads, bug-filled plains, misty mornings and clear mountain air. I'm itching to hit the road, but for now, this visual inspiration will have to suffice.

Tell me, who or what is inspiring you today?

Road Trippin road trip inspiration images on the road car camping wild free adventure

On the Road

If there isn't a market nearby, there is certainly a side-of-the-road cafe, complete with red plastic tables and hammocks. If we are riding in the hot afternoon, we stop to relax and drink ca phe da (iced coffee) before continuing on our way. 

When we have bike troubles on the road - we need a kick start or I somehow let my bike fall over - we don't need to look far for help. A very skilled and equally scrappy mechanic is surely nearby. Or a flip-flop wearing Vietnamese man will drive up on his scooter and stop to help out. I think they were born with the ability to quick-fix a motorbike.

The roads between the tourist cities are long and sometimes rough. We could spend one long day on HWY 1 and reach the next popular place by night, but instead we choose to spend three long days on the smaller, less hectic roads. We experience much more this way. Those little towns between the tourist spots are much more exciting and real than any beach town covered in Russian and English signage. 

Besides, it is always better to be on any road but HWY 1. I'll take dirt and hills over honking trucks and diesel fumes any day. The scenery off of HWY 1 is infinitely better, too. When you round a corner and suddenly the ocean is sparkling beside you, it's hard not to smile. When you go up a small hill and the agriculture turns into a heavily fogged jungle, it's scary but so awesome. A bit more frightening is the moment the pavement turns into sand and gravel (these small roads are constantly under construction it seems). I just hold on tight to my clutch and my handlebars and then celebrate when the pavement returns.

Still, the dirt, gravel, hairpin turns, and hilly terrain are much better than HWY 1 where buses honk in my ear as they whiz past. Going from pavement to gravel is much less frightening than dealing with trucks that come barreling towards my face as they pass the motorbikes on their own side of the road. The three day rides are totally worth not riding on that death trap.

Really, those long three day rides that make us so tired and so smelly are what allow us to actually see Vietnam. A lot of people live here and there are so many incredible sights to see. If you are into the great outdoors - whether your thing is the beach, the desert, the mountain, the river or the jungle - there's sure to be an eyeful of it right around the corner. Vietnam has incredible terrain, and seeing it from the back of a buzzing motorbike is exhilarating. You couldn't convince me to get on one more charter bus with overzealous honking and air conditioning ever again. 

On the road, it is hard not to stop every 15 minutes and pull out my camera. I've managed to capture a few moments for you, but I've taken so many more mental images that I hope will never leave me.

The Places Between the Places

When we set out in the morning we are sure that we'll make our next destination today. It's a good thing that Vietnam is so densely populated - otherwise our consistently bad sense of time would leave us stranded on most nights. As darkness falls and we are still 100+ kilometers from our intended destination, the glowing Nha Nghi signs save us again.

These little roadside guest houses are cheap and perfect for the weary traveler. We get a pleasant room and a hot shower, and in the morning we are back on the road after a quick stop at the local market for breakfast.

Every town that lines the road is much the same. They are no more than half an hour from each other and they all have at least one Nha Nghi, one place for pho, and one central market - that's all we really need anyway. As we drive through, the activity always centers around the markets. Fresh fruits and vegetables, vibrant flowers, dried goods, live fish and not so fresh looking meats are ubiquitous. Each town reliably sells bread, avocadoes, cilantro and tomatoes to satisfy our California style cravings.

At the markets, people are surprised to see us. They smile or scoff at us and the excited children always shout "Hello!" Some over charge us but others bestow us with gifts of limes and watermelons. Very few people here speak English, so we end up conversing in sign language mixed with our terrible Vietnamese. They love to listen to our attempts! When Jeremia expertly says "hen gap lai!" (see you later) it puts everyone in a fit of laughter. When we wander the markets at night, the middle aged men want to be photographed with Jeremia while the women reach out to pat my cheek and tug on my nose ring. At one sweet cafe, on Tet (Vietnamese New Year), I was even gifted with 30,000 Vietnamese Dong (a bit more than a dollar) as good luck money.