Twin Beds and Thin Walls [Love on the Road, Love on the Rocks]

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After the wedding, all we want to do is relax by the beach.

Here, excerpts from an entertaining piece by writer Rob Story which recounts his action-packed honeymoon throughout Asia—and some of its more memorable catastrophes. —CDB

We’re a funny couple to watch. She, all of five feet and 99 pounds, blithely swings her skis down steep mogul runs with apparent amnesty from the laws of gravity. Trying gamely to knit near misses and miraculous recoveries into a line that at least looks intentional, my 200-pound carcass hurtles down slopes with the subtlety and grace of the Hindenburg. She never, ever biffs on a mountain bike. Me, I’m attempting to become the first human to be constituted completely of scar tissue.

I guess the sea kayaking session in Thailand presented the most interesting realationship dynamics. When M’Lissa emerged wearing an XL life jacket on her petite frame, I said something along the lines of: “Whoa, looks like Tattoo got in Mr. Roarke’s closet again.” (It was quite a clever remark, as we were in a gorgeous marine national park dotted with all manner of Fantasy Islands, but she didn’t care for it. Apparently, California kids like M’Lissa frequently grow up in an environment polluted with sports and activity, suffering from dangerously low levels of TV exposure.)

Things only got worse on the water, because our vessels were tandem sea kayaks….

The concept sounds nice and romantic, but there’s a reason tandem bicycyles are called “divorce bikes” by people who’ve ridden them. Humans are not designed to execute synchronized movements with a partner who can’t see them yet sits in such uncomfortable proximity that the two can drip bodily fluids on each other. Not on bike or kayak, anyway. M’Lissa and I would put a few coordinated paddle strokes together, then I (manning the rear) would pause for a second to glance at the scenery, she’d turn around to investigate, and in no time our kayaking comrades would recede over the horizon and we’d argue until our kayak drifted sideways, just begging to be toppled by a rogue wave. Thank God the Gulf of Thailand has no surf bigger than six inches; otherwise, we might know firsthand that there’s only one “l” in “annulment.”

Some people questioned our selection of Asia. Some took the more direct route of laughing in our faces. We met two Australian girls, for instance, who couldn’t believe intelligent people would celebrate matrimony with a visit to Nepal. Americans, they snickered, must be too busy saving the world to know anything about it.

They had a point. On a trek, passion happens only if passion survives a gauntlet of enemies: Warnings against PDA that appear not only in guidebooks, but on menus. The necessity of wearing multiple layers of bulky clothes. Twin beds in every room, as if Rob and Laura Petry handled interior design for the whole country.  Plywood walls so thin you can clearly hear the next room’s struggles with high-altitude flatulence. Which isn’t exactly a turn-on, either.

Our trek came right after lots of beach time in Thailand. The sun there did new and enlightening things to our bodies. At one point, a brown suntan, a strip of redsunburn, and a white bikini line conspired to make my wife’s rear end look like Neapolitan ice cream. It melted away in Nepal, and I barely got to monitor it. This really frosted me, for posterior monitoring is a privilege to which a groom is rightfully entitled. The Subcontinent’s funny relationship with erotica only spiked the frustration. We had to be discreet to the point of suffering, while the elephant statues all sported major league lumber and every last bookstore sold The Kamasutra.

She did everything right on our honeymoon. From haggling merchants down to their break-even point to catching a wounded-duck frisbee throw when she was looking straight in the sun; from finding solid climbing handholds in invisible seams of rock to looking good in a swimsuit even while wearing clownish snorkeling fins. M’Lissa made friends with all kinds of people while her blockhead husband stayed mute. She has a natural grace around strangers that I could never match. I was having a hard enough time accepting that M’Lissa was a better athlete, and here she was proving that she was a better human being.

Only once did she falter where I perservered, and it’s an achievement my male ego will never let me forget. We were on the Thai island of Ko Samui, mountain biking past gentle waterfalls and palm trees sagging with coconuts. The path, though, was steeper than most skyscrapers. The tropical heat made our fingers as wrinkled as Robert Redford’s face. M’Lissa got cooked. She has an abnormally thick and lustrous head of hair,  which is fun when strangers touch it in the grocery store but not so fun in high heat, when she feels like she’s wearing a buffalo hide on her head.

Shortly after scarfing some rice at a mountaintop cookshack, we got lost. We’d barely begun our well-deserved descent, but M’Lissa had had enough. She couldn’t bear the sweat any longer, and hitched a ride down in an Israeli group’s crowded jeep. I was left to find the right trail and make the descent alone. I ended up finding the trail, a thrilling rollercoaster that deposited me right near our hotel. M’Lissa didn’t get home for another hour. She’d violated a hallowed mountain bike principle–always finish the ride–only to get lost with the Israelis and almost run out of gas. I’d ridden longer, faster, better. For one glorious evening, I reveled in my own smugness.

Of course, I took a clumsy biff on a motor scooter the very next day. On reflection, I should have seen the karmic significance of it all, should have opened my mind to the possibility that the gods of sport were taking me aside and saying, “Don’t get cocky, spaz boy.” At the time, though, I felt nothing. It was really hot out, and introspection, like polyester, fares poorly in the tropics.

The only Truth floating around was a small and obvious one. It revealed itself only after I picked up the scooter and dusted myself off, a maneuver that caused excruciating pain since the fall had turned my right palm into hamburger with nerve endings. M’Lissa came over to help, cradling my hand gently in hers as she adroitly picked the wound clean. I looked down at my new wife and saw the Truth. Which was this: It’s great to have a nimble, coordinated wife, whether you’re on a sport-nutty honeymoon or just have a bunch of gravel in your flesh.

— Former grade-school spelling-bee champ Rob Story is a Correspondent for Outside, Editor at Large for Powder and Bike, and writes about travel and adventure for a variety of halfway decent magazines. He’s the author of ‘Outside Adventure Travel: Mountain Biking.’

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