The Great Ho Chi Minh Trail Ride – Gettin’ Ready

A few weeks ago, I mentioned I was going on another great adventure; the Ho Chi Minh Trail Ride. Now it’s getting “real,” and I’ve got to get ready. I leave for a few weeks on a dirt-bike through the jungles of Laos in just over a month.

Five years ago when I prepared for this trip, I took everything I could possibly need… tools, spare tire-tubes, and stuff like that. I even took a hammock with mosquito net, water purification stuff, and MREs. I prepared to walk out of the jungle if I had to. You see, I was going by myself and tried to cover every contingency.

The stuff I took in 2014. As you can see… I had everything and a partrige in a pear tree.

Looking back, I was nuts to plan on going by myself. As it turned out, I only made the Thailand part of the trip. I lost my wallet three weeks in and cut off the 3 weeks planned for Laos. With no money(cash), plastic lost (and canceled), and already a case of “Monkey Butt” from the three weeks on a Honda CRF250L. I decided the wise thing to do was cut the trip short.

I was glad I made that decision. At the same time, I was sad. I thought I would never see Laos beyond the glimpse I had from the Nakhom Phanom (NKP) side of the Mekong river. Now it’s five years later. Actually… it didn’t take long for the dreamin’-n-schemin’ about this trip to start. But there was a new woman in my life… who I married… and we had other places to go. So… I put aside any real plans.

A view of Laos accross the Mekong River from Nakhon Phanom

Still, a little voice in the back of my head kept talking to me. Finally, a few months ago, I started dreamin’-n-schemin’ again in “earnest.” It was time to put together a plan. It took a while, but that plan was finally done a few days ago… at least the “big” plan.

Now it’s time to get ready to go. I have to decide what to take and what to leave behind. This time I’m not going alone, so I don’t have to pack everything and a partridge in a pear tree. I want to travel as light as I can.

OK… anyone that knows me is now rolling on the floor laughing at my definition of “traveling light.”

Ordinarily, I have to take every kind of camera known to mankind; A Canon digital SLR with three lenses; a Video Camera, A GoPro with underwater housing, a pocket-sized digital camera, and my cell phone. Then there’s a pile of accessories and chargers for all this stuff. It all fits into a bag about the size of a small steamer trunk.

Next, I have to have all my computer stuff. I always take two laptops… one as a back-up. Along with that are spare batteries and all their charging “bricks.” I also add a tablet to the computer bag. I take the tablet so I can throw it in my backpack when I go exploring. Of course, I have a laptop in the backpack too. The tablet is a back-up. All the computer stuff fits in a roller-bag that just makes it as an airline carry-on. I would never check this since I don’t know how I would survive without all my computer stuff if an airline lost it.

Now, there’s my newest “must” take device… a Mavic Pro drone. This is actually one of the high-end, but small ones. (My wife is smart enough not to ask how much it cost.) There are also spare batteries, and charging stuff that must go with it. It all fits in a bag about the size of a loaf of bread… a 10-pound loaf of bread.

The last thing I take is the backpack itself. Everything I must-have goes into that. It’s a big backpack, but suitable as a carry-on. Into the bottom of it goes the drone. Then I put in two pairs of undies. I can live without a lot of stuff, but not without clean undies. Next comes three or four t-shirts, a pair of pants, lastly a toiletry bag full of everything I might need, and a partridge in a pear tree.

You get the idea. I’ll leave it to your imagination as to what goes into my suitcase(s)

For this trip… the Great Ho Chi Minh Trail Ride… I really do have to pack light. I mean, really light. Anything I take has to go with me as I ride a Honda CRF250L through the jungles of Laos. It has to be on my back or on the bike. And with a CRF250L, there can’t be too much of either.

Honda CRF250L

So… for the last few days, I’ve been considering what to take. Obviously, all my riding gear is a must. Except… I can’t take the gear I’ve been using for the last few years. You see, from helmet to boots, everything is “Red, White, and Blue.” Even though it’s not an American flag, the color scheme is obvious. I think that could cause problems in some. After all, we (the USA) dropped bombs on Laos for ten years.

So… that means I had to get all new outer gear… helmet, jersey, and pants. It is all much more subdued. I also bought the most lightweight stuff I could find. Not only does it weigh less, it will be cooler. I’m not telling my wife how much I spent on the new gear on Amazon.

I spent way toooooo much time searching for all the right stuff to take on this adventure. I wanted to evaluate everything very carefully before plunking down my hard-earned money. I also wanted to be sure I could use this stuff on adventures for years to come… not just the Great Ho Chi Minh Trail Ride. If you’re interested in any of this, I’m putting links to everything I’ve bought so far. But… I want to warn you, shopping for fun stuff on Amazon is addictive.

All the riding gear I bought was “last year’s” stuff. I sure am glad young kids have to have the latest, greatest stuff for 2020. Heaven forbid they have to wear that “old” 2019 stuff. All the gear is first-class stuff but at closeout prices. Here are the links:

I put all this new stuff to the test… and I do mean test. Here’s the link to the full video: https://youtu.be/QvOhRpUXvpM

Next, I’m only taking my tiny camera stuff and no computers. But since I can’t download my pics and videos to my laptop or to the “Cloud,” that means I need more memory cards. So it was off to Amazon to order a bunch of SD cards.  They’re tiny, right?

32 GByte SD Cards: https://amzn.to/37wmsaI

Then I started thinking about mundane things. I mean… what if I’m out in the boonies and get a boo-boo? I’m not sure where I’ll be able to get Band-Aids, so that’s something I need to pack. And then what about stuff like aspirin? So how much of that stuff should I take?

I’ll also need to charge all the stuff I’m taking. But, how will I plug it in? In the big towns, that will be no problem. I ordered up one of those magic plugs that plug into everything and everything plugs into it… and, of course, a magic “any voltage” charger. This will be great in any adventure since it looks as if it will plug in anywhere in the world. Yeah… got it from Amazon.

By the way, in case you are wondering, I bought everything with my own money. That way I’m not obligated to say wonderful things about the stuff. I promise I will give you a full review telling the good, the bad, and the ugly for everything I’m telling about.

Damn! My backpack is getting full. I have a waist-pack. I guess I’ll take that too. Then I had to make another trip to Amazon. I decided I needed one of those “chest harness” thingies for my GoPro. That will be neat for videos when riding.

Let’s see… what else? Hummmm… while out on the Ho Chi Minh Trail, I don’t think I’ll be able to wash & dry clothes. And, since we’re sure to do some water crossings… there’s nothing worse than putting on wet, thick socks the next day. So I ordered up a couple pairs of riding socks. These are extra thick socks I wear for the motocross boots.

Amazingly enough, Amazon didn’t have exactly what I wanted. The ones I wear are from RockyMountain ATV/MC. These are full lenght “stockings” that come up high on my thigh. I wear this kind because on the knee braces I wear and they gover these “socks”. Click here to see what I’m talking about.

There are certain pieces of riding gear I simply won’t ride without: helmet, boots, and two knee braces. Not only are those expensive, if they get lost, then I won’t ride. As long as I get to Laos with those and the stuff in my new backpack (Amazon), I can ride. If I have to, I’ll jump into a river to wash everything else.

To be sure I have boots, I’m going to wear a pair of “Tactical Boots” I bought a while back. They are lightweight and comfortable enough to wear all the time. Everything else can fit in a carry-on size bag if it is just the right size. So, it was back to Amazon. There’s a bag that is precisely the right size for international carry-on: 22” x 9” x 14”.

While I was looking for the carry-on-bag, I got curious about the latest GoPros. My old “Hero 2” has served me well, but the new stuff has a lot more magic. Yeah… you guessed it…I had to order it.Shhhhh!!! Don’t tell my wife.

(If you watched the videos above, they were made with a combination of my Hero 2 and my new Hero 7 Black.)

GoPro https://amzn.to/2UZL0Gp

And… I decided I needed more memory for the GoPro. You saw that one coming, huh? Then there are other little things…I don’t want to forget those antiseptic wipes and anti-germ sprays. To keep from being eaten alive by mosquitoes and other tiny “creepy-crawlies,” I’ve got to take the all-important anti-bug spray.

And I also need one of those magic charging battery packs about the size of a cell phone. And… Well, you get the idea. It’s a good thing I have Amazon prime.

If you don’t have Amazon Prime, click the link below to get 30 days free.

Try Amazon Prime 30-Day Free Trial

I’ve got a bit over a month before I leave. Every day I think of new stuff I’ve just “got to have.” I’m applying for a second mortgage on the house.

If you are still interested in going, you can still get in on the adventure of a lifetime. The round-trip cost of airline ticket prices to Southeast Asia is way down… as little as about $650 Los Angeles-Bangkok. Most major airports throughout the US are the same (JFK, O’Hare, etc.). But you need to be quick if you are going to go. Contact me right away. You can also get more information and details of the trip at:

Ho Chi Minh Trail Ride

A Tradition of Stealin’

If you’ve known me for more than a day, you know Baseball is in my blood. In case you don’t know if I get a boo-boo, I bleed Dodger Blue

A few days ago, there was a bunch of hoopla about the Houston Astros and Boston Red Sox stealing signs. I say to you, that’s just part of Baseball. Stay with me a few minutes here, and I’ll explain.

Stealin’ signs is part of the cat-n-mouse of Baseball. Teams and players have been doing it since day one. Abner Doubleday probably figured it would be there when he invented the game.

STOP THE PRESSES… STOP THE PRESSES!!!

Just as I was about to publish this op-ed, the news came out that the Houston Astros have been fined $5,000,000 by Major League Baseball… manager and general manager fired. Baseball will never be the same. News at 11… maybe

We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming.

Ole Abner knew that when the catcher wagged his a sign out to the pitcher, the runner(s) on base would try to figure out what that sign was. The runner wanted to signal back to their teammate what kind of pitch was about to be thrown… a fastball, curveball, screwball… or even a bean-ball.

I mean… this is as much a part of baseball as stealing bases and throwing spit-balls. It’s all part of the charm and tradition of the game.

Let’s take a step back from stealin’ pitch signs and look at all the other signs you see in a game. Sittin’ in the dugout, the manager performs all those quirky maneuvers to tell the third base coach what he wants the batter or runner to do… or not do.

For example, the manager touches his nose, then his chin, followed by his ear, and then grabs his crotch three times. That means nothing… it’s just a decoy… or maybe he just had an itch. But, if in full view of the television cameras, he does all those maneuvers and then scratches his butt twice, that means the batter is supposed to bunt.

Very funny bit… Sending signs… from A League of Their Own.

Following that, the third base coach has a whole different set of signs he sends to the batter… he adjusts his belt, sticks his finger in his ear, takes off his hat and rubs his head, and finally swats at a nonexistent bug flying around his head.

Then the batter steps up to the plate… but when the pitcher throws the ball, it’s nowhere near the plate, so the batter does nothing. And the whole thing starts again. You should see the gyrations managers, and base coaches go through for a hit-and-run play.

Of course, all this wagging, touching, scratching, and rubbing are in full view of the world… including the opposing team. And you can count on it… the opposing team is trying to figure out what all those signs mean too. You don’t hear anyone saying “ain’t it awful” to this stuff.

So, let’s get back to the catcher and pitcher. At the first-ever baseball game, when the catcher held up his arm waving, over his head that he wanted a curveball, ole Abner Doubleday was on second base. When Abner saw the signals, he hollered back to the batter, “He’s going to throw a curveball!” The batter hit a home-run.

After that, the catcher walked out to the pitcher and told him, “I’m going to show you 1 finger out in front of my crotch for a fastball, and two fingers for a curveball… got it?” Of course, Abner figured that out and started signaling back to the batter. And so it has gone for 181 years.

Now catchers have an elaborate set of signs intended to throw off the opposition. Catchers do more rubbin’, scratchin’, tappin’, and finger-wagging than the manager in the dugout and the third base coach combined.

Both sides know what’s going on. This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. These days, catchers try to combat sign stealing by changing their sign patterns between innings. Sometimes in the middle of the inning, the catcher will run out to the pitcher to change the sign pattern.

And I think I’m probably right when I say, catchers have decoy signs. Just when they think the opposing team has stolen the signs, they change them to mean the opposite thing. A team steals what they think is going to be a curveball, and they get a fastball.

One more thing… the news media has said there’s so much at stake today, and technology makes it different. I submit it doesn’t make it different. Do you think the 1988 Dodgers thought there was any less at stake during the World Series? I don’t think so. Yeah, the dollar value has changed, but so has the price of a loaf of bread. Stakes now are the same as it was back in Abner’s day when they first hollered, “Play Ball.”

Some of you may think, “Ain’t it awful,’ but consider this. If baseball wanted to keep managers, coaches, or catchers from getting their signs stolen, they would just put a buzzer in the pitcher’s ear. Managers and coaches would use radios to the batters. The catcher would have a button under his big toe to press… once for a fastball, and twice for a curveball. No one could see anything. Of course, they would probably use a scanner to pick up the signals out to the pitcher.

And about that technology thing… first, it was just eyeballs… then it was a spyglass, then it was binoculars, then it was a camera on top of the stadium in centerfield. One day I’m sure they will have satellites looking down at the catcher’s crotch. Yep… stealing signs will still be going on then too.

So get over it. It’s part of baseball. It always has been and always will be.

By the way… “There’s no cryin’ in baseball.”

As for me, I can’t wait till February 21 when the umpire hollars out…

PLAY BALL!

I welcome your and encourage your comments. All comments are moderated and will not immediately appear when you post them. All comments following the basic rules of civility will be posted within 24 hours in most cases.

Rude comments won’t see the light of day.

I Clicked on a Polical Ad – D’oh

Before I get to it… I need to tell you, this is not about politics. These days, there’s no faster way for a lifelong friend to “un-friend” you than to disagree with their politics. And… if you support the other side, it is as if you are going to vote for Beelzebub. You will be a pariah to them for the rest of eternity.

So… this is about the bottomless pit of political ads on Facebook.

Have you noticed the increase in political ads on Facebook? Yes, they are increasing everywhere, but now every time I go Into Facebook, there’s a political ad waiting for me. When I scroll down, it seems every other posting will be a political ad.

I was curious about all these ads, so I started poking around. I discovered something interesting. Each one of those ads has a little “i” somewhere in the upper right part. If you click on that little “i,” a pop-up will give you some information about the ad… who paid for it and stuff like that.

See the little ” i ” in the upper right hand part of the pic. (Click Here) Click that ” i ” only to see who paid for the add.
This one was paid for by a “committee” not Trunp’s campaign. This on is a “Political Action Committee” usually just called a PAC (pronounced “pack”).

If you click on “More About This Ad” at the bottom (red arrow in the pic above), another window will open up, telling you how much that person or organization has spent on the ad.

HOLLY S***!!!!! It is astonishing how much has been spent on Facebook alone. Since May 2018, this PAC has spent nearly $27 Million.. and in the last week, over HALF A MILLION. Imagine how much spending there is across all platforms.

No… I’m not picking on Trump. They’re all like this!

I’ve shown just one PAC for one candidate. Imagine how much is being spent by all the PACs and the candidates. I did some checking, and it will astonish you how much all the PACs are spending. Go ahead… check it out for yourself. Facebook is making Billions!

I propose a new law requiring 50% of the money spent on all campaign ads on Facebook to go to the Saint. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, the Salvation Army, the ALS Association (Lou Gehrig’s Disease), or other equally worthy charities. Think of the good it would do.

WARNING!

Don’t do what I did!!!!!!  Don’t click into any of those ads. I did. D’oh!!!!

You see, I saw an ad for Maxwell Schemdley. The ad: “Do you support Max YES – NO.”

VOTE FOR MAXWELL SCHMEDLEY

Well… I like ole Max, so I clicked “YES.”  D’oh!

Then a window popped up, “Take our survey,” so I clicked in… D’oh!!!!

The survey asked me what my main issues were and asked me for my email to complete the survey. So I filled in my email. D’oh!!!

After I checked the boxes for a few survey answers and clicked next, I was taken to a “Donate to Maxwell Schmedley” page. D’oh!

Sure… I like Max, but I’m not ready to donate. So I clicked “back” to get out. Nothing worked. Finally, I entered $0.00 in the amount. Yeah… you guessed it… bells and whistles went off. A fire engine siren drove through my office… Neeee-Naaaaa-Neeeee-Naaaaa. Then a hand reached out of the monitor and slapped my wrist with a 12” wooden ruler.

I didn’t know what to do. So I figured since I do like Max, I would give a minuscule amount. I entered $0.25 in the little box for a custom amount. I really didn’t think it would work. I just wanted to work up from the bottom end. To my surprise, up popped a new window prompting me to enter my credit card information.

I filled in all the information and pressed enter. The screen started flashing green. A band in my office started playing Happy Days Are Here Again After a minute, another screen popped up with a “Thank you” and a “Press Here to Exit” button. I clicked on the button, and the donation page closed.

Now I get 173 emails every day asking me for another donation.

D’oh!

P.S. You couldn’t resisting clicking on “Happy Days Are Here Again” could you? D’oh!

New Year’s Resolutions

This year I’m breaking with a long-standing New Year’s tradition of mine. For years past, I had no resolution. I stopped because, like many of you, I broke the resolution faster than the 12 days of Christmas.

You know those kinds of resolutions I’m talking about. Like, “I won’t ogle women’s big boobs.” If you know me, then you know how that one went… ‘cause I’m just a guy.

Then there was the one where I resolved to only eat healthy stuff. Unfortunately, I was on a cruise over New Year’s. This one only lasted till I ordered Chocolate Melting Cake on New Year’s day. Hummm… did I say “unfortunately I was on a cruise?” I take that back. There’s never anything unfortunate about being on a cruise.

One year I did keep a resolution for at least a little while. I resolved not to make any political comments for the next year. It lasted almost all the way through January… till the Presidential Inauguration.

(DoD photo by Senior Master Sgt. Thomas Meneguin, U.S. Air Force/Released)

This year I’ve decided to give it a try again. But I have carefully selected resolutions I think I can stick to all year long.

2020 Resolution #1

I will not drink any more rot-gut tequila. All those “house” margaritas and unknown shots will be no more. No more Senior Gorditos or those $3.70 a bottle El Rancho. From now on, only the good stuff. As a minimum, it will be Patron… if they have it, I’ll order Don Julio.  And when I buy it for home, it will be Don Eduardo Anejo… mmmmmm mmmmm good.

Don Eduardo

2020 Resolution #2

I will donate more to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. For this, I am totally dedicated. I might succumb to rot-gut tequila, but this is one resolution I will keep. At Saint Jude, no child is denied treatment based on race, religion, or a family’s ability to pay, including travel, housing, and food. St. Jude also uses donations to fund research and innovative treatments for childhood illness and cancer.

CLICK HERE TO DONATE TO St. JUDE (you shouldn’t care, but just in case… it’s tax deductable.

OK… I wrote everything above here on New Year’s Eve. Then I started out the New Year with 2020 Resolution #1. This morning I’ve come up with one more resolution. I should be able to keep this one for at least most of next year…

2020 Resolution #3

I will not drink so much Don Julio tequila on New Year’s Eve in 2020.

Too much tequila

I wish a happy and prosperous New Year to everyone.

Call Me Scrooge… Please

Yes… it’s true. I consider myself to be on par with Ebenezer Scrooge. I’ll explain more in a minute, but first…

A couple of nights ago, I watched “A Christmas Carol” on TV. Of course, I’ve watched it a zillion times before… along with all the other classics including Miracle on 34th Street, It’s a Wonderful Life (still my favorite), and of course, The Wizard of Oz. I don’t know how the Wizard of Oz got to be a Christmas movie, but these days, it’s the only time of year it is shown.

This year, the original version of Miracle on 34th Street is “pay to view.” That’s a dirty rotten trick by the cable service here on Kokomo Island. This is certainly not in keeping with the Holiday spirit. So I say to them, Bah – Humbug!

Hummmm… the saying, “Bah – Humbug,” has become Continue reading