Back on the Bike

Even after the inauspicious start to the motorbiking segment of our trip, the three of us decided to hang onto the two motorbikes for the duration of our stay in Chiang Mai.

Come Tuesday morning, all we needed was a map and some petrol, and we were off.  I tried not to look at the asphalt whizzing by under my feet as I clutched Jared with the fear of death.  Behind us, Megan casually drove one-handed, snapping photos of us with her free hand.

We stopped wherever we fancied, or whenever we saw giant buddhas, which was often.

The sun was shining, the sky was blue, and my right knee was, unbeknownst to me, un-sunscreened.  A fact that would become clear at the end of the day, as the burns merged with my wounds to create the World’s Most Beautiful Knee.

We drove east of Chiang Mai, stopping when the mood struck us to photograph brahma bulls, with their funny pinched backs, or rice paddies, stretched out towards the nearby mountains.  We owned the road, except for a few other riders and, oddly, a small parade float approaching from the opposite side.

Due to our massive breakfasts at the Secret Garden – we had been eating like hobbits, with breakfast and second breakfast – we weren’t hungry but thirsty in the late afternoon, and stopped for a drink at a shop down a side street.

I mistakenly chose an orange juice, while Jared got a water and Megan got a coke.  Megan was last to pay, and she caused some sort of commotion at the till.

“I’ve done something,” she murmured at us.  “They’re taking away my bottle.”

The man opened the coke bottle and took it away.

“They’re putting it in a bag,” Megan narrated.  “They’re inserting a straw.”

The man proudly presented Megan with coke-in-a-bag, complete with ice and straw.
Megan had already explained to us that you get a straw with every drink you buy, regardless of where you buy it – the petrol station, a roadside stand, a 7-11.  What none of us knew about, though, were the merits of coke-in-a-bag.

“Delicious,” she anounced.  The bag was passed around to universal assent.

We mounted the bikes and puttered away, back through Bo Sang.  I continued to clutch Jared’s waist, but dared to look at the passing scenery.

“She’s down,” Jared said.  “She’s gone down.”

My blood ran cold.  Megan had crashed.

10 meters away, I saw the carnage.  Megan, spilled across the road, camera banged up, bike askew, sunglasses missing a lens.

We pulled to a stop and jumped off the bike.
Megan stood shakily, dusting herself off, angry.

“It was that woman,” she said.  “That old woman in front of me turned left with no warning.  She had some sort of attachment cart on her bike filled with giant umbrellas.  I panicked.”

She was disgusted with herself.  “I can’t believe I crashed.  And we were only five minutes from home.”

“It was a good stack, though,” Jared said.  “Way better than Lauren’s.”

“Yeah, I thought it was pretty good,” she said.  “Sort of hurts, though.”

Megan had a gaping wound on the heel of her hand, as well as some bright red, weeping scrapes on her forearm and both knees.  Her thigh was black from the road.

Megan’s engine was flooded, so we waited a few minutes, admiring Megan’s brave battle scars.

She turned the key again and the engine roared to life.

“OK,” she said, fastening her helmet strap.  “Let’s go.”

I marveled at the fearlessness of my little sister, and held on tighter to my driver, watching as she perched upright on her bike, yellow helmet shining proudly in the afternoon sun.

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