Just over the past week, we made yet another trip to my wife’s home in San Antonio, Zambales. We have a bunch of reasons on why we wanted to make the trip – for one, our kid turned two the past month and we thought it was a good reason to see the grandparents. Another is that we just seriously need a vacation – the initial plan was to see the Montales folk every quarter or so, but seeing as how I was very busy the past few months, I could not make the time.
In any event, we pushed through this time around and we got to enjoy a few days of being almost off the grid – almost because in as much as there is no cable tv and the place is far removed from Imperial Manila, they have a much faster internet connection there.
We left Thursday morning at Jojo’s Hour (0300) because it was going to be Aska’s coding day and that would’ve killed off almost a day worth of peace and quiet if I stayed in Manila. I really love traveling during those wee hours of the morning, and while it is dark and fairly “dangerous” with many drivers becoming sleepy at the wheel, drunk or both, I see the lessened vehicle volume to be all the advantage I could ever need. Driving at night also seems to lend well to me seeing as how I stay awake on most nights due to work.
This time around, we were traveling with my sister-in-law and she elected to sit out back beside our kid, while my wife rode shotgun. That was the plan – in practice, all three are peacefully asleep, leaving me and Aska mentally alone to enjoy the peace and serenity of the open road.
For some odd reason though, I chose to pass through San Fernando, Pampanga going to Zambales. Our normal route always made use of the SCTEX, but I thought that it would be early morning anyways and I wanted to shave off an estimated 30 kilometers off the trip distance and save some gas whilst maintaining my average speed.
Or so I thought.
The roads from San Fernando going to Dinalupihan are at times so bad that even the WRC will never have their cars pass through there. Some parts have been dug up and some are in the process of being dug up. Some of the more “exciting” parts had asphalt still remaining but had big patches missing from the road. I thought it would be a cool idea to keep the speed high and avoid the holes as much as I could. The yellow foglamps certainly helped picked out the bad parts from a distance, but on the most, I lost precious trip time going to Dinalupihan. From there, I took the SCTEX again because I was thinking that I would lose even more time going through the Olongapo – Bugallon Road.
SBMA is of course a breeze, but the roads outside of Olongapo and into Subic itself presented yet another challenge. A long stretch of road was being dug up and left only one lane of traffic on each side to traverse the muddy and bumpy way for a good kilometer or so. Past that point, it was smooth sailing going to San Antonio.
I didn’t get to do very much while at the house, and that was exactly the point! I was able to sleep at will, eat, and just laze around the place. Of course, I did take some photos, occasionally went online to check on things and continue my progress on Real Racing 3.
When evening fell on the quiet town, I stumbled upon a food stand that sold fairly passable Shawarma. It was good enough for me to keep coming back almost every evening and it gave me an opportunity to marvel at the fact that the town was so sleepy that past seven pm on any given night, the main plaza is almost devoid of people. I really like that kind of feel that you can walk outside, bump into almost no one and yet feel safe.
I also made good on a self made promise to get Aska some new clip on mirrors. The mirrors on her were already shaking pretty bad and close to just giving out on me. I had a spare set that I got from a friend of mine, but I’m keeping those as mementos since that friend is already deceased. The auto supply store, Rex’s, lies the next town over and that particular errand gave me time to drive out and relax some more while behind the wheel. Surprisingly, the mirrors were sold to me for about half the price since I last inquired about them back in March. Even then, the mirrors were still cheaper than can be had in Imperial Manila. It doesn’t help that many sellers have jacked up prices to almost ridiculous levels, saying that they’re the only ones selling the stuff and therefore giving them an unassailable excuse to mark up.
I plan on coming back to get more parts that I want, and check other places that may have other pieces of interest. I’d since put the mirrors on because I couldn’t wait to get back to Manila to do the job. One of the mirror base plates though was not angled correctly, but there was nothing some hammering could not fix. I’m glad to report that the mirrors are now very stable and do not shake with the wind while traveling at speed.
The cool evening breeze also allowed me to indulge with a flask of Johnny Walker Black, which as a friend of mine once told me, is noob level shit. But it’s my kind of shit and with some dark chocolate, it really is my shit. I was planning to get some pork to cook up a steak but laziness got the better of me. I also shared this relatively newfound thing with my sister-in-law, who thought it was weird but ok. I guess that’s really how it goes, and is an acquired taste given the Filipino context of drinking. I capped off each night with whiskey and listening to some jazz fusion.
Of course, I took the opportunity to hone my motorcycle skills by riding around some. I was supposed to get radiator coolant and went through a couple of stores within the towns closest to where we were. Not surprisingly, no one sold coolant there because everyone thought water by itself is great. Many people there and elsewhere in the Philippines don’t believe in using radiator coolant – maybe I can cover that on a future entry. I also had a funny run-in with some lawmen manning a checkpoint but they let me off easy after they found out I was too much of a klutz with a bike to do anything dangerous with it.
One thing I really regret on this trip was the fact that I left my D40 at home. See, this time around, I thought I’d travel light and wanted to depend on my Xperia XA1 Plus to do all the image capturing. It did its job really well, except it could not handle one thing – the night sky. On the third night, the sky cleared up so much that I saw the band of the Milky Way. No shit, I am not and cannot make it up. Of course, to the naked eye, it appears like nothing in photos you’d see. I very easily could’ve taken such images had I the camera with me. Next time, I won’t be so lazy as to actually leave a good camera behind. I marveled at the night sky as much as I could, or as I figured, until my neck hurt.
The drive home was fairly uneventful and with a heavy heart, we had to leave early Sunday morning. This time, I went through my normal route through SCTEX. Never mind the fact that it took an extra 30 kilometers to get home, but all of it was spent at speed so it wasn’t like I was losing time anyway. We are now stopping twice along NLEX because the kid has to eat, and we thought getting out to stretch would be nice. Previously, I had my wife and kid sleep and not stop because I wanted to spend as less time on the road as possible.
In all, Aska performed admirably during the trip. I didn’t spend much time beyond the speed limit though because the front wheel bearings now seem to need replacing. Since I replaced the bearings in the back, there was much less noise back there and I could now hear the whine of the front bearings. I knew I should’ve taken care of those previously, but I guess I’ll just do them sometime on at home since those don’t need special tools to take out and install.
Until the next trip then!