Prologue: Opportunity – the 2 - 5th of August, 2012 This ride was to be another long weekend, 4 day, twisty road quest from Bangkok – albeit with the added degree of difficulty of successful completion within the rainy season. As a result, we’d hoped for the best, but planned for the worst, and therefore kept the ride a low-key affair, to be confirmed as a goer on the actual morning of departure. Complexities kept to a minimum, and flexibility built into our daily destinations. So with the planning done and a brief but sincere prayer to the Touring Gods – I rest, and wait to see what the day ahead will bring… Day 1 At 5.45, the first rays of light confirm the possibility of great fortunes ahead – light clouds and a mostly clear day – we are “GO”! Wake up Pooch! A quick run for you, and off to the kennel for a couple of days holiday with other hairy inmates… be nice. Sniff… be back soon…. I check the battery on the Multi with a quick start up, and kill her again as she immediately booms to life. It’s amazing how long the battery stays strong by simply disconnecting the negative terminal while she’s not in use… I selfishly decide to set the clock while she’s running, and the extra 30 seconds this takes in warm up time attracts the wrath of a neighbor. The apartment building parking area is like a cave – the 1100cc L twin has a throbbing frequency to it that can be felt as much as heard. It’s already 7.45am – but a bit early for this particular kind of wake up call. She’s lucky (or I am) that the Monster with the fully open pipes and dry/open clutch is no longer in the stable…  Tiger and I meet up at Shell Sathorn – and there’s a short Triumph gathering – as another fellow is there with his nice Thruxton, and there’s also a Bonnie in tow. The fella’s are heading to Hua Hin. It’s about 8.10am but now – the latest we’ve ever left before – and overall there’s a sense of urgency – miles to cover, twisties to get to, traffic and possible weather to negotiate… We get out and onto Vipavadi Rangsit in pretty good time – but then the traffic heading out almost all the way to Ayuttaya is very heavy. Expected really – given it’s a Religious Long Weekend – but it reinforces the desire and feeling that we need to make good time to have a chance to get it done. So we just shift along at a steady pace all the way past Chai Badan – and fill at the PTT that’s about 60km the other side of there. A quick rest – Cappu, Snacko top off with the 95, clean visors, and next stop will be the restaurant in Khao Kho…weather still looking good! It’s at the next stop at Khao Kho that I start to realize I’m not really “touring fit”. Despite being a bit lighter and fitter than the least few tours I’d been on – it’d been 7 months since I last spent more than a days’ ride in the saddle – and possibly the traffic getting out of town has also caused a bit of pain…wrists, ****, back… Solution – harden the [email protected]#$ up – or in this case, get some Difelene (pill), Sara (pill), and Caffeine (wet pill). Simple lunch at Khao Kho – lovely views as usual. It’s so cool at Khao Kho – almost every time I’ve been there – it seems to be really pleasant all year round – very cool in the dry season – but soooo much cooler than the flats even in the warm seasons….lovely. I wonder what work I could do to live here…? Open a restaurant, noodles shop, accommodation of some sort….I think it’s already been done in spades….  We nick out onto the 12, – enjoy the last little blast east, then turn off north towards PHRK – with ominous black clouds approaching from the South East towards the 203 to Loei. We enter the 203, and smash it, as a few small drops of rain start to chase us down. No chance!  The road’s in good condition – little traffic – not too greasy…but last section coming in always looks to have more ripples and diesel/oil droppings than the rest…still a great run – full day ride – left at 8am – arrived at 5pm. Quick spruce up and twist arms to get a few Leos on the monk day – ironic later when I return to bkk – to shop at Tops, spend more than 2k, and be denied a six pack on a regular day of the week because it was outside hours. We eat around corner of the King’s Hotel at Baan Yai – plenty of locals about – good food – and cheap bill mainly because no booze involved. Another quiet one in Loei, a quick prayer to the touring weather Gods, and we hit the sack in anticipation of the next’s day’s ride – ideal destination is Nan. Day2. Clear skies and not a drop of rain all night! Yeehaaaa! We leave at 7.20 – straight up to the PTT near Phu Ruea, then on to Dan Sai – Nakhon Thai – the fast way to Nan. Normally, we’d take the super twisty wilderness run – but with weather a possibility, we decide to take the “faster/felxibility” route – and if time permits, we’ll hit more around Nan when we get there. Loei and Nan are both towns that one could spend more time in and around exploring anyway. As it turns out, the weather is great and despite the comparative boredom of the roads we take towards the notorious and perpetually under construction 11 highway near Uttaradit, we have a decent run and fill up again just shy of the start of the 11 run into Den Chai. Which as many of you will know by now, is completely finished – and is an absolutely mental strip of wide open tarmac – sometimes frequented by a truck or four – and the odd minivan or three which like to come to a complete stop behind trucks, before pulling out into the fast lane to crawl past. @#$%!!! Pin it by all means, but watch out… the beauty of the road is that most corners can be completely seen through, and pinned at the speed you feel safest at. It’s a buzz of a run. Then there’s the uncomfortably choppy stretch of cement road that becomes the 101 – which eventually also becomes a lovely road to take you into Nan. This road really hurts me - clutch hand in particular was feeling the pain. The pills helped – and it was time to suck it up and hit the twisties as hard as possible…. And since we had time, we did the secret strip of madness near Wiang Sa – out and back – just because we can – it was a bit more dirty than usual – the rains had drawn some dirt onto the shoulders – and also some grassy growths – making the choice of line through the corners a bit more restrictive – but only marginally less fun. That’s the challenge of road riding – the conditions are not always the same – and nor is the headspace – nor the traffic – nor the random little thing that might happened at the beginning or part way through a run – that shifts your headspace to make the run more challenging – or more exciting – depending on how you view it and deal with it. We’re into Nan as things are getting breezy, and a rain storm looks imminent – however we arrive dry – and it’s only as we head out looking for a refreshment and a snack that things get a bit wet. This is what happened to Da Dario’s… We finally find a nice little mum and dad store on the river, and settle into a couple of ales before the local constabulary decides to park out front. We guess someone complained. Nevermind. Who needs a hangover anyway? And we are heading back south again tomorrow – and again with the thoughts of weather and big traffic heading back to BKK on Sunday, we want to get quite a few miles done to make Sunday a leisurely punt back to the big Mango. A check of phone application weather forcasting (Nokia seems superior at this  - which is about the only they have happening these days) - shows morning showers for Nan – let’s see… Day3 Another clear morning! Holy Cow! We decide to target Petchabun – but also agree to play by ear – again – weather pending – let’s see how we go. Well, not far into the nice bits of the 101 – we get a light misty rain. It was forcast – and looks like it came through more strongly about a half hour before – as the road was wet enough to cause caution – but not wet enough to really get us wet. Apart from the perforated SIDI’s – which are great in the dry – but absolutely useless in the wet. I ride with feet up on frame sliders when I can to minimize the spray that seems to come directly from the front wheel to the boots. I’d call the road damp to wet – no standing water – and just a mild inconvenience. We need to cover about 15-20km like this – and stop for a morning noodles and a coffee. I also buy some lovely porky snacks and some nam prik to take back to BKK as a momento to be consumed over a Leo or two….We top off the tanks and then the ultra-mad fun of the 11 starts again. But this time, we know how good it’s gonna be, and we really enjoy it….  BTW, the Pirelli Rosso 2 are a great tyre, in my opinion. If you like to ride on “the pace” and don’t constantly accelerate like a lunatic in a straight line, they will serve you well for spirited riding – and sport touring. Remember, we need to cover around 400km to get to some real corners when we head north out of Bangkok – and that’s most of the touring I do. For fellas with twisties even closer – then they’ll serve you even better. I add a few PSI to the rear, and go easy in a straight line most of the time. Drop back to your normal pressures when it gets fun, and you will most likely not want for more grip, nor feel. I have around 7500 km on mine now, and will get another 1200 at least before they are completely toast, they have not squared significantly. We take a detour off to the side of the 11 heading south towards Phitsanolok – it’s not a bad little country type run – but some of the road is undergoing repair and is hardpacked clay – a bit slippery, but was not too bad. Overall the benefits of it outweighed the little bit of dirt – and would do it again as some variety from the 11. We pop out onto the 12 and head east across towards Lomsak – there’s a bit of traffic here, but not too bad –we are making good time and consider a stop at the packed out Café 12 – but decide to get more peace, tranquility and a coffee in Khao Kho again. The weather has been good to us – and we decide to make the most of the rest of the final day we have on the road – striking out through the Switzerland of Thailand – to the Khosit Hill Hotel – on the Bkk side of Petchabun. There were a few wild hogs parked out front, and a sportsbike or two was also seen –this nice Aprilia RSV Mille was in great condition and would have been a blast to ride through the 11…. The Khosit’s a bit out of town – and we explore some of the trophy cabinets in and around the lobby – have you ever seen such a collection??? We decide to go for a stroll and see what we can find – well, only 100 metres or so and we find this nice little restaurant – with icy cold, cheap beers – and also truly great Thai food. Same side of the road as the Khosit – and you’ll see this sign out the front…. Leo 59 The Khosit also has a great club out the back – which only opens around 10pm, if you’re up for it. We weren’t. They can also home deliver a massage for you. We were.  Day4 Not much to report – except again the weather Gods were smiling down on us – a lovely cool morning – making a pleasant, casual and uneventful run through to Chai Badan – and our final fill up before returning to Bangkok. There was a bit of traffic as usual around the final run into Vipavadi Rangsit – and the turnoff to Nakhon Nayok – also some near the airport – probably a bit more than on a normal Sunday at that time – but not too much more. We go our separate ways near ASOKE, and are both safely home by around noon. Epilogue… So – what was the theme and the morale of the story? Well, make sure you leave Bangkok as early as possible in and around long weekends – that part of day one was the most painful. And during the weather season, prudent planning and some flexibility is nice to have. It was a 1,900 km round trip. We absolutely lucked into the weather – but it was always going to be a tour that would “go” if the weather was a “go”. Having a smaller group to cater to always helps in circumstances when variables come into play. We’d kept an eye on reports in the north on the few days preceding our planned departure – and it was looking good. And indeed it was.