Back in May, through the random magic of twitter, I had coffee with a lovely woman who has traveled extensively. We’d met so that she could tell me about her experience hiking the Camino de Santiago, something I’d like to do one day.
When I mentioned that I had signed up to participate in the Rickshaw Run she laughed and said: “Like driving a rickshaw through India?”
“Yep,” I’d responded, “just like that.”
“I know someone who did that!” she exclaimed, clearly just as shocked by the coincidence as I was. “His name is Doughnut. I’ll put you in touch.”
Two weeks later I found myself sitting in a Portland bar with Doughnut, a man of about forty with a big bald head and a wild red beard, and his longtime friend and Rickshaw Run partner Mark. They had greeted me warmly and were entertaining and terrifying me in equal parts as they recounted their Rickshaw Run experiences.
Mark and Doughnut
“Do you have any mechanical skills?” Doughnut asked me.
“No,” I replied sheepishly, “I can’t even change the oil in my car.”
They gave each other a weary look.
“Well, our rickshaw broke down over sixty times,” they said, laughing in that way you do when recalling experiences that are funny after the fact. “We had to completely rebuild the carbonator on the side of the road.”
“And one time our fuel tank fell off,” said Mark, chuckling.
I scribbled BRING DUCT TAPE onto the paper I’d been taking notes on. Then Doughnut and Mark patiently relayed a list of tools they recommended we carry as I frantically wrote their suggestions into my notebook.
“Bring a wrench,” said Doughnut.
“Okay,” I replied. “What does a wrench look like?”
“Do you have anymore questions?” Doughnut asked. It was getting late and we were a couple of beers in. The more I drank the more convinced I became that I’d just gotten myself in way over my head.
“Did anyone die?” I asked, cringing in anticipation of the answer.
They thought on it for a minute before responding.
“No, no deaths,” said Mark, I felt myself relaxing. “But two teams flipped their rickshaws. There were a few broken bones.” The relief hadn’t lasted long.
“The hospitals in India are very good,” said Doughnut, trying to reassure me. “If you end up in one you’ll probably get good care.”
Back at home I relayed everything that Doughnut and Mark had told me about the Rickshaw Run to my husband.
“Maybe this isn’t such a good idea,” he said solemnly. “What in the world will you do if your fuel tank falls off? You don’t even know what a fuel tank looks like!”
“Fix it?” I shrugged my shoulders. “Doughnut and Mark said that the Indian people would never leave us stranded on the side of the road.”
“I don’t know…” he said, his voice trailing off. “It sounds kind of crazy to me.”
A few days later I emailed Doughnut and Mark to thank them for taking the time to share their experiences with me.
“It’s no problem at all,” Doughnut responded. “You’ll have a great time. It was one of the best adventures of my life.”
I’ve had a few months to think on it and I’ve decided to believe that Doughnut is right. One thing I’ve learned on my travels so far is that people are good, things often appear scarier than they are in real life, and that vehicles, even rickshaws I hope, keep running long after they should have tuckered out.
And that the best adventures are usually the crazy ones.
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