Engineering Experience

While the rest of America embarked on a long weekend of eating caveman-style and blowing s**t up, our little corner of it hopped on a motorcycle and headed back to Amed Beach.

Gone are the days when the obvious thing to do before a three-hour drive was to pull out a stack of maps and engineer the experience. That’s what Google Maps is for, right? The minimum-duration route from our house to Tradisi Beach Front Villas promises two hours and forty-seven minutes of curvy beach-front driving up the southeast coast of Bali. What’s not to love?

As it turns out: plenty. We did this a few weeks ago, and much of that drive is either through choked urban areas or up a divided highway packed with what look like green dump trucks, sound like angry dinosaurs, and drive like freaking maniacs. I didn’t dare do more than glance at the ocean, and by the time I hit my first mountain road I was two hours in and felt like I’d driven through an artillery barrage.

So this time I set a couple of waypoints along a route planned to optimize elevation over duration. My goal was to get out of the city as soon as possible and to avoid any road wide enough to pass two of those green monsters abreast. My N-Max has a quiet engine: for most of the trip, I wanted the loudest noise we heard to be the wind of our passage.

I got all of that! We took one of our regular routes to Ubud, which is pretty enough. At the outskirts of Ubud we turned east and dipped down through Gianyar, which MIGHT have felt like city driving if you’d never taken the southern route through Denpasar. And then we turned up a gang between two rice fields and left the twenty-first century behind.

We ascended mammoth lava flows, crossing deep chasms by way of increasingly rickety bridges, and skirted around the ankles of Agung, at about 10,000 ft the grand-daddy of Balinese volcanos. Triple-canopy jungle hid every detail of geography but slope, which was steep, always upward. At Agung’s four-o-clock we crossed a sharp ridge and emerged from the jungle into a manicured patchwork of high rice terraces, then followed their step-wise descent to the northeast coast below. A hard right turn and a short sprint along the coast brought us to our destination.

So. THAT was better! The drive was so spectacular we took the same route home on Sunday, and it was great fun because we saw everything again from the opposite side! But I also think I learned an important lesson.

As it turns out, the difference between a frightened belly full of road rage and a life-altering trip through the misty mountains is about ten minutes of drive time. Once you know THAT, the rest is just homework.

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  1. Brilliant. I enjoy your writing as much as the adventures you describe. You’re a great and willing storyteller.

  2. About to go on my longest bike trip. This post is one of my biggest motivators. I don’t think it will be as tough as this dinosaur like adventure.

  3. I’ve been to Bali numerous times – the first was on R&R from ‘Nam in ’74. The people are great and it became one of my “go to” spots when I lived in Shenzhen some years ago. Sounds like you’re having a good time, Jason – catch me up…why are you there? Business or pleasure?

    1. We moved here for three months back in December 2019 to give the “digital nomad” lifestyle a try, and were just extending for another three months when COVID hit. Took one look at the news from the CONUS & decided to stay. Turned out to be one of the best decisions I ever made! 🙂