Sunday, September 28, 2008

Thailand to Singapore, via East Coast of Malaysia, Ride: Day 14

Solitude is strength; to depend on the presence of the crowd is weakness. The man who needs a mob to nerve him is much more alone than he imagines.
         (Paul Brunton)

The peaceful morning masks a night of turmoil and pain: the mushroom linguine carbonara I had for dinner contained too much purines, triggering a gout attack in my left knee at 3:40 AM. 'Hobbled out of bed, swallowed 500 mg of enteric-coated aspirin and 500 mg of paracetamol. At 5:04 AM, determining it to be a gout attack and not an overuse / overexertion injury, I took 500 mg of colchicine.

At 7 AM, I took 500 mg more of paracetamol and prepared a light breakfast of 3 salted biscuits and a cup of coffee. The resort offers a breakfast buffet for RM30 but I didn't have much of an appetite.

8:35 AM.
Despite the left hamstring still clicking, I deemed my body fit enough for the ride to Singapore.

Checked out at 8:48 AM.

Temperature  86° F (30° C)

I love the sign. Beautiful joke.

(Where's the humor? Do the ride and find out!)

There's a certain pleasurable sense of foreboding upon seeing such numbers.

9.11 km (5.7 miles) from Sebana Cove, I took my 3rd GU Energy Gel of the trip, to spare some glycogen for burning fats later in the day.

Just before the junction to Highway 89, but I am not taking the ferry to Changi today.

10:15 AM.
Petronas gas station outside Desaru. Had a 2nd breakfast of a chocolate bun, an iced-coffee, and a pack of Milo here.


Distance to Desaru from Sebana Cove

Cateye AT-100
Elevation climbed  370 feet (112.8 m)
1 hour 9 minutes 28 seconds
Average speed  13.2 mph (21.1 km/h)
Maximum speed  29.8 mph (47.7 km/h)
Distance  15.3 miles (24.5 km)
Temperature   95° F (35° C)

Despite the warmth (95° F / 35° C), it was drizzling rather heavily. Here, I found the complementary shower cap to be a rather nifty transparent rain cover for the handlebar bag.

Breakfast #2 done; drizzle stopped; road's dry; time to roll.

Junction with Highway 99. Took this turn under a year ago on the Sedili Mega Loop Ride.

The slight incline hints at what lies ahead.

58.28 km (36.4 miles) from Sebana Cove, I dodged a potentially nasty accident. There was a traffic jam; a female driver, checking her make up with the vanity mirror — not paying attention — only realized it at the last moment, served into the road shoulder to avoid rear-ending the car in front of her. When she got to the road shoulder, she realized that half of it was gravel. Not wanting the pebbles to scratch her precious paint job, she slammed on the brakes.

Suddenly, instead of a clear path before me, I faced a wall of steel less than 40 feet in front of me. On my right are other vehicles coming to a stop, a wall of moving steel and glass as well; on my left is another wall of mud and rocks — at 48+ km/h (30+ mph), on a 45 kg (99 lb) bike, I had nowhere to go. It's stop or splat.

Thank goodness I disregarded conventional advice and set my medium-profile cantilever brakes just a notch below maximum leverage a month ago.

Anger at the inattentive idiotic moronic dumbass driver for almost turning me into a human pretzel is better spent fueling the climbs up the hills ahead.

Upon reaching the junction before Kota Tinggi, where I had to made the decision whether to take the shorter route (bypassing the town completely), or go through town, I chose the latter. Having a BMI that dropped to 17.2 during the first 4 days of the tour, any opportunity to top up on food should be treasured.


Distance to Kota Tinggi from Sebana Cove

Cateye AT-100
Elevation climbed  1240 feet (378 m)
3 hours 13 minutes 3 seconds
Average speed  13 mph (20.8 km/h)
Maximum speed  31.8 mph (50.9 km/h)
Distance  41.9 miles (67.4 km)
Temperature   92° F (33.3° C)

Cateye Velo 5
Distance  67.57 km (42.23 miles)
Maximum speed  51.2 km/h

1:20 PM.
Ducked into Loong Foong Restoran, a dim sum shop, just in time to escape a heavy shower.

2:15 PM.
'Was about to set off when the rain lightened, but then it increased intensity again, becoming a monsoon deluge. So, I went back into Loong Foong Restoran and ordered a cup of kopi-O (coffee with sugar, no milk). I inquired about the best way to get out of Kota Tinggi. Through the course of the exchange, they were piqued by my adventures along the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia. When the rain let off again and it was time to go, they insisted that the coffee is on them. Maybe I should be a minstrel or something  :-D

Well, the downpour only eased off for a few minutes before coming back full force (and then some). In the limited visibility, I took a wrong turn and went onto Jalan Jaafar instead of the road out of town. There, deciding that though I'm not made of sugar, I'm not impervious to speeding trucks — with drivers half-blind in the rain — either, I ducked into a hawker center.

And ended up chatting with the owner of a Bak Kut Teh stall.

She showed me pictures of the devastating flood that hit the town on the 20th of December 2006. I found myself eating Bak Kut Teh — the spiciest kind, with loads of peppercorns, and she uses fiery chili padi rather than the regular, anemic red chilies, for the the thick, black soy dipping sauce — under the roar of a tin roof, rattling with the fury of a tropical monsoon; and flipping through photo albums of a place — where I am now sitting and eating — that was once under 15 feet (4.5 m) of water. Sometimes, getting lost is fun.

Husband and wife putting away the table I sat at for the last hour.

Leaving Kota Tinggi. Recognize the bridge and building from the lady's photo album? Check out smaller picture. Also, check out 0:16 of this video.

Yes, yes. Purple. I got it in 1991 from the wonderful folks at Bridgestone @ Far East Shopping Center, back when I was a wee innocent JC kid and thought that cycling along Bukit Timah Road was impossible, and round island (Singapore) rides were classified as suicide attempts by the traffic police. Look what they've done to me:  17 years on, I'm dressed like a mad man, smell worse, and tell tall tales in foreign countries for food and drink. Man, what they've done to me?  :-P

Boy (and coin phone) saying, "helo," at flooded Kampung Surau Kampung Batu 25, outside Kota Tinggi.

Lemang! I know it's hard work cooking this delicacy, but I still think I got ripped off @ RM8 a stick.

I bought 2 and lugged them 55+ km (34.4 miles) back to Singapore.

Weightweenie? Who sez aye a weightweenie?
Aye kills heem! Noh! Aye kills heem two times err!

The friendly truck driver's word of caution at Jemaluang was spot on: Ulu Tiram wasn't fun. 3 chaps followed me around in their car. When I turned into a gas station, they followed, parked and waited. So, I fiddled with my bike. This went on for 3 gas stations and 45 minutes. Finally, they gave up and drove off.

Umm... hello, whatever money I've left can't even fill up your gas tank, and you spent 45 minutes following and stalking me in your car. Let me take a wild guess, you underachieving bandits are named Moe, Curly, and Larry?

Cantabit vacuus coram latrone viator.

Maybe the lemang ran out and they wanted mine or something...


6:13 PM Sunday, 28th September 2008.

My first 1000 km (625 miles) unsupported solo road tour  :-D

6:50 PM. As I sat outside an Esso gas station, fresh sweat reviving old; coated in road grime, drenched by drizzle, showers, storms, and #@%&! road spray; and drinking iced-coffee and 100 Plus, a Singaporean-registered car roared up. Whilst their precious, pampered, domestic-maid-fed — spoonfed hand-fed — teens stay huddled behind locked doors, the wife frantically scanned around, as the middle-aged husband pumped gas into the vehicle at a speed that would make any pit crew envious. Then, darting back into the safety of their COE-entitled, ERP-equipped, GPS-guided, cell phone-enabled, DVD-capable, car, they sped off toward the cocooned safety of Singapore ala Back to the future...

         ...while I sat and played with the gas station's resident cat.

         It must be difficult, living in such fear.

Gas station toilet art.

I was so busy feeding the cat that I left the 3 maps I bought at the counter. Luckily I was only 3 km away when I discovered that.

Johor Bahru pavement + bike fully loaded with panniers = ultimate skills park.

The reception at Singapore Woodlands Immigration Checkpoint was far from endearing: I didn't expect to be questioned about what was I doing in Southern Thailand; why I made this trip without anyone ordering me to; how is it that I am doing this without any cause; or, if I considered how dangerous it is to travel alone through a foreign country.

Thanks for wasting an hour of my life.

Stay in your coop, gentlemen.

         Thank you, Michelle  :-)

         8:44 PM Sunday, 28th September 2008.

         JOANNE, IVY, CLOE: Where have you been???

         MICHELLE: Boy, do I have stories to tell you!


Cateye AT-100
Elevation climbed  2150 feet (655.5 m)
6 hours 8 minutes 35 seconds
Average speed  12.5 mph (20 km/h)
Maximum speed  31.8 mph (50.9 km/h)
Distance  76.9 miles (123 km)
Temperature   79° - 95° F (26.1° - 35° C)

Cateye Velo 5
Distance  123.93 km (77.46 miles)
Maximum speed  51.2 km/h
Cumulative distance  1021.6 km (638.5 miles)

Whatever you do.....Don't ever do it for anyone but yourself.
         (Peter Croft)


Anonymous said...

You lugged two bamboo sticks full of rice all the way back? o.O

Perhaps the immigration people are subconsciously afraid that acts like yours will upset their precious status quo. =D

Thanks for taking us on your adventure with you. It was great to read and dream of going on one too.

-ben said...

You lugged two bamboo sticks full of rice all the way back?

Now that you put it that way, I just realized how stereotypically "Asian" it is. Oh dear. Oh dear. This is bad. Stop laughing, Big Nick. I know you are reading this. :-P

Thanks for reading. It was really fun, but I won't do it during Ramadan again.


Degenerasian said...

Congrats on your journey.
You're an inspiration to us all.
I've added your story to my blog!

-ben said...

Thank you, you're too kind :-)

meng said...

hi ben, it is 1 am, but i tell myself tt i have to read thru all the entries before i even think abt sleeping. i picked up cycling recently (about 6 mths ago) and when i read ur piece on the feeling of impossibility of a round island trip when u were in jc, i thot, hey thats what im thinking now! i hope to be able to have the guts to do this in future.. if i ever did, i will tell people that i am inspired by a certain banzai ben

-ben said...


Thanks, meng.

Ride on!


banglacow said...

I would like to do a trip exactly like yours.

COuld i meet up with you?