May distance: 560
Kluang, Johor, Malaysia
Day 1, Vesak Day, 156 km. The last time the three of us had cycled together was in 2005, on the long ride straight up the middle of Peninsula Malaysia. Since then, the other two have cycled together the length of UK. Why did I get up before the crack of dawn to cycle with them today? Things are inverse; the small Asian dude has fat tyres, the big guys have thin road tyres. We stop by a little village to refuel. Like a tiny hamster, I have to keep eating. Big guys don't have to eat a lot. I hear that bears, unlike hamsters, can go without food for a long time :o The village is so small, there's only lontong to eat but the lack of variety is made up by the friendliness. Two villagers offer, unasked, directions to where we're going. Another takes a photo of us.
My front wheel springs a leak. It's not that I'm overweight! As the wheel sags, my spirit flags - the cumulative effect of sleep deficit and work excitement. Now, I have the added excitement of stopping every half hour to pump up my tyre. I cycle ahead; the longer I'm on the road, the more I'll have to pump my tyre. Once in a while, there are trees by the road. Where there are many trees, the air is discernably cooler. The weather blows hot and cold; the burning sun gives way to rain clouds. I ride at the edge of the clouds and soon I'm back in the sunlight. My pals, in the rear, stop and shelter from the lighting. At our destination, my room mate might be the sole American in Kluang, putting up at a hotel called the White House. But there's no shelter from the giggling girls who chatter and run along the corridor outside our room. The young and the restless ...
Day 2, Saturday, 149 km. Rolling on fat tyres takes far more physical energy than changing the tyres to slicks. But, the mental effort to change tyres exceeds the mental energy to ride on fat tyres. As I wonder on the oddness of it all, I notice the oddness of the things on the road. Sure, there's the usual roadkill: snakes, cats, birds. Then I see a chicken foot; it's a clean amputation. A few minutes later, I see another chicken foot. I don't stop to see if the chicken had two left feet, but it certainly left its feet behind. I also see two cushions and a pair of trousers.
As I cycle on, I so want to stop by a dentist and ask for novocain. For my butt. Would that numb my butt or would my legs go numb too? By now, the sun is burning and we stop almost every half hour to rehydrate. And, just like yesterday, the rains come in the afternoon. No need to rehydrate then, with water pouring from the sky and from below. Rain pours from above and rushes down the road. As cars pass, water roars from the right, wash over bicycle wheels, crash against the curb on the and meet the next surge of water from the right. As I ride the waves, I hope I won't sail over my handlebars.
Not that I have to worry for long, as the rain clouds don't seem to have an exit permit beyond Malaysia. They peter out near the border. Where a puncture awaits me. How do you fix a tyre when traffic is rushing past a metre away? A construction worker unchains the gate to a work site and lets me in. He barely speaks English but his kindness is eloquent enough. I can't find the source of the puncture but replace the inner tube anyway. I certainly don't want to cycle home in the dark. I make it home, whereupon the rear tyre deflates completely. I find a 1 cm wire embedded in the tyre.