Adventure to the… Mailbox

I went to pick up the mail this morning. As I did I thought to myself, “Do you know where your mail has been?”

I mean… who has handled it. Perhaps I should ask how many people have handled it. I think it’s likely that it has been handled by twenty or thirty postal workers along the way. But… it is worse than that.

The envelopes in my mailbox have not been practicing social distancing from other envelopes. I dare say, they may have come in close contact with several thousand other envelopes. And none of them are using flap sanitizer. You know those flaps have to have been licked by… well I can’t imagine the horror of it all.

I peered down into my mailbox and saw a small mound of mail waiting for me. I started to reach in, but before I touched anything I pulled back my arm like I had discovered a rattlesnake ready to strike. I suddenly realized all of my mail has been contaminated by the dreaded Cootie Bugs.

What was I to do. I was expecting some important mail… money! (Actually a check from Carnival with my massive winnings from my last cruise… $11.73.) I wanted to get the mail out, but I also wanted to minimize my exposure to the Cootie Bugs. For a minute I contemplated all the risks. First, it was the mail itself. How would I handle it.

Then there was the mailbox. As the mail was slid into the deep, dark, cavernous recesses and corners of the mailbox, I’m sure the postal carrier (politically correct for mailman… ours is a man) must be covered in Cooties since he had been delivering thousands of Cootie covered pieces of mail. Therefore, the whole mailbox must be covered in Cooties.

After contemplating my dilemma, I realized I had just found a use for that closet full of 100,000 Walmart plastic grocery bags I had been saving. I would use those as “gloves” for my arms. I poked two holes in the bottom… one for one finger and one for my thumb. It would be no problem to decontaminate my finger and thumb… spray with anti-Cootie bug stuff and then wash my hands for three hours. So… I pulled the bag up over my left arm,  reached in, grabbed the mail, pulled it out and closed the mailbox with my right hand.

Doh… now my right hand had Cooties.

When I got back to the house, I opened the door… Doh… now the door-knob has Cooties. Once inside, I didn’t know what to do with the mail. I couldn’t put it down anywhere because I didn’t want the whole house to have Cooties. Finally I walked back into the spare bedroom and put the mail down on the nightstand. Fortunately, no one is using that bedroom.

I peeled off the Walmart bag, dipped it in a bucket of gasoline and torched it. Take that you Cootie Bugs! Then I proceeded to hose down everything I had touched with disinfectant. We hoarded 743 gallons of disinfectant when we got word the Cootie Bugs were coming. (We didn’t get to the TP till it was gone. I don’t think Walmart plastic bags will work well for that.)

Just to be sure I didn’t get any Cootie Bugs on me, I stripped off my cloths and burned them too. That was quite a show for the neighbors. Finally, I got in the shower and washed everything thoroughly. I sang “Happy Birthday” to myself four times for every part I washed… six times for a couple of parts.

Finally, it was time to plop down, turn on the TV and tune in my favorite sports show. Doh… replays of the first spring training game of 1984.

Just as I was about to doze off, there came a quick knock-knock-knock at the door. I opened the door, but there was no one there. Out of the corner my eye I saw the flash FedEx person making a mad-dash for the truck. I understood… they don’t want Cooties either.

There on the porch step was a box. I realized the box had not been practicing social distancing with other boxes. Out came the Walmart bags, and into the spare bedroom went the box. This box was covered with plastic wrap, so I put it in a separate area from the mail. I called the mail area the 24 hour area, and the plastic stuff the 72 hour area.

About that time, there was another knock at the door. It was the pizza delivery. The young girl held out the pizza with her bare hand, and held out something for me to sign with the other hand. I froze for a minute. Where could I put the pizza?… would the pizza itself be covered with Cooties? With my hand and arm still wrapped in the Walmart bag, I signed for the pizza and told her, “Enjoy the Pizza’s. It’s on me.”

I guess I just have to eat beans till tomorrow. The food pick-up I made two days ago is still in the back of the Magic Bus. That quarantine will be up in another 24 hours.

Of course this has been tongue-in-cheek… sorta. But I do want to thank all the people who are out there delivering stuff like the mail, packages, and food. You are the front-line troops in this war.

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

Magical Mystery Tour – Review

Finally… I’ve recovered and caught up on all the things I should have been doing while I was “playing hooky.” Now that I’ve paid for my sins, I can get this review out to you… and then start dreamin’-n-schemin’ on my next adventure.

Before I get going, I want to tell you I had tons of fun on this cruise. The big reason… nights in the piano bar (PB). In particular… Ben Gentry in the PB. I booked this cruise only because he was the PB entertainer, and this was my last chance to cruise with him for several months. If he hadn’t been in the PB, I wouldn’t have booked this cruise.

So… it was a blast! I wish I could have this much nighttime fun on every cruise. But… rather than just giving you glowing reports on the Piano Bar, as I always promise you, my posts will tell you of the “good, the bad, and the ugly.”

Since I’m writing this as a review rather than my usual day-by-day “live from,” I wasn’t sure how to proceed. I decided to break it up into three segments. I’ll let you decide what you want to read. I’ll give you a quick synopsis here, and you can click into the part for the details you want to read. Or perhaps you’ll just click “goodbye.” (Goodbye takes you to a Ben Gentry Youtube Video.)

Each part, except goodbye, links will open in a new tab.

So there you have it. Of course I will cruise with Carnival again. I already have the Piano Barbarians cruise booked for next January. I don’t care where the cruise is going because I’ll be with friends and the great PB entertainers. AND… I’m already eyeing my next cruise with Ben Gentry… I may not get off the ship on that one.

Magical Mystery Tour – The Good

Just in case you didn’t get here by clicking through the top-level “review,” I want to tell you how phenomenal the Piano Bar (PB) was.

The PB entertainer was Ben Gentry. He is recognized in the “Carnival PB world” as one of the premier entertainers. Sure, Carnival has many good entertainers, but most can’t do what Ben does. Somehow he makes friends with everyone who sits around his piano. It doesn’t matter how young or… ummmmm… not so young they are. A couple of songs after you sit down, you are his friend.

Oh the things Ben gets people to do… how does he do it? Standing room only.

Even more, after an evening with Ben, Continue reading

Magical Mystery Tour – The Ugly

Hummmm… I’m not sure there’s ever any ugly on a cruise. I mean… if your overall experience on a cruise, or any adventure, is good, then can anything really be ugly. And I did have a blast on this and all but one cruise I’ve ever been on. But, as always promised… here’s what I think is as close to ugly as it gets.

(Scroll to the bottom of the page for links to other parts of the review. )

Progreso

 I don’t understand why Continue reading