On H2H’s fourth day, a 68km ride from Quán Lào to Tĩnh Gia, the sunny heat of the previous three days was replaced by dense overcast.
Much of the leg would be spent on National Highway 1, which stretches the length of the country and is notoriously dangerous.
I wasn’t looking forward to the hurtling, honking trucks and buses that populate the road, but at least the surface would be in mostly good condition.
We turned onto the highway at Thanh Hóa, and with a tailwind at our backs we blasted through the remaining 40km, arriving in Tĩnh Gia around mid-day.
This was easily one of the strangest stops of the ride, as we stayed at a hotel on a deserted strip of beach with several abandoned resorts and restaurants.
This place must have been popular at some point, but its best days are clearly behind it.
The following morning the hotel’s perverted, slightly insane owner, who was once caught watching pornography by a previous H2H team, joined us during our stretching routine.
Afterwards we set off on our longest ride yet – 92km to Đô Lương, the first 60 of which were back on Highway 1.
The cycling was smooth but dangerous, with idiotic tour bus and truck drivers overtaking other tour buses and trucks, often taking up the entire width of the road while honking wildly.
I just don’t understand how people can drive so stupidly; there seemed to be little concern for human life on their part.
We had lunch at a grimy restaurant with pigs in the bathroom before thankfully turning off the terrifying highway and onto QL7 to head back into the interior.
The ride on to Đô Lương, a small town without a paved main road, included plenty of ‘Hellos!’ from children along the way.
Eventually we pulled into our destination after another overcast, at times chilly day.
Few foreigners visit Đô Lươg, and when most of the team got street food at a corner market for dinner chaos ensued, as every vendor stuck their wares in our faces in the hope of making a sale.
The next day’s ride was 65km to Phổ Châu.
We had an amazing breakfast at a bánh mì cart run by a very friendly man who we tried to convince to move down to Hồ Chí Minh City so we could get more of his great sandwiches.
We cruised through some beautiful countryside before rejoining the fantastic Hồ Chí Minh Highway in Nghệ An province.
We were nearing the Laos border, and there was almost no traffic on the road except for an oddly large number of SUVs with military plates.
The rolling hills were mostly beautiful.
At one point we passed a sign telling us that we were riding along the Việt Nam-Japan Friendship Forest, which was, sadly, in the process of being completely deforested.
We rolled into the dusty town of Phổ Châu and began to relax.
We had covered well over 400km over the first six days, and everyone was sore and tired.
The ride was going well though, and with a short day seven ahead of us everyone was in good spirits.
By MICHAEL TATARSKI