More riding, more seafood

IMG_5496It’s probably not fair to say we’ve been suffering thru the tail-end of the rainy season, because the temperatures are still in the mid-80’s and most of you are in the below freezing regions (except Deja Vu – where Helen and Joe are probably having similar temps but no rain).  However, this is the first of four trips to Thailand that we’ve seen more than a couple days rain in the entire visit and it’s probably rained 9 out of the last 12 days, albeit not all day but we’ve gotten soaked quite a number of times and I’ve ridden the loop more than once in the rain.  We’ve adapted to the wet weather, donned 60-cent rain ponchos and motored along, not quite as casual as the locals who ride their scooters with an umbrella (and note that like many motorcyclists she’s riding the wrong way down the street).

Rain at WassanaI’ve managed to ratchet up my mileage because most days it hasn’t started the deluges until after the pre-dawn rides. I did manage to bugger my deluxe LED strobing taillight with water and grit flushing up the USB charging port, but outside of stashing my iPhone in my frame pack the water isn’t that much of a bother.



Several of you know there’s been a big push to get me to speak Thai with my local friends now that I’ve come back for the fourth year.  Could be the hardest challenge ever for a dyslexic, phonetically-challenged 68-year-old who can’t remember a simple song or carry a tune.  To exacerbate the task I’m teaching my primary teacher, SunSurn, German for equal time.  So now when I’m muddled, can’t think and get tongue tied with a basic Thai alphabetic letter, what comes out is either a Spanish or German transliteration (more like bastardization) of the sound.  Begging to postpone the German until at least the 44 consonant alphabet sounds and glyphs are rooted falls on deaf ears.  Something about “leveling the playing fields” in the logic.

Finally got in a Sunday ride (previous Sunday was the Trang Mountain Bike Races where I only opted to ride VIP course and photobombed the Governor’s wife).  This Sunday’s adventure started out only by acting as a cycling marshall to a half-marathon running race.  The Cycling Club always rides forward, flanking and behind the runners on their road races IMG_0498since they always start in the dark when it’s cool running.  After about 4 km with the lead runners, I tried to shift into my lowest gear (larger rear sprocket) and my cable housing at the handle bars parted allowing four inches of raw shift cable to be exposed and consequently the rear derailleur to slide all the way into the spokes.  Fortunately the speed was minimal and no runners or cyclists were harmed in this fiasco.  I had to pull my headlight off to see the damage and unwind chain and derailleur from the spokes and between the gear cluster and hub.  It took removing the wheel and that’s when it became obvious that the dropout hanger was tweaked as well.  Good thing Strider riding for toddlers had come to Durango a couple years back, as that was the way I got back to the starting line.  Just like all my other good fortune here in Thailand, my cycling friends knew where to take the bike on a Sunday morning before 9 AM and get all the parts and tools for repair.  Of course it being Sunday I had to do the repairs myself.  The hardest part was getting the “noodled” aluminum hanger in a straight plane.

IMG_0512Even before I finished installing a new chain, other club members had called to say they were already on their way to Pak Meng at the beach and I should “catch-up”.  The beach is 24 miles from Trang so I guessed at some of the intersections and found them about 2/3’s of the way there.

Song2Unaware that they had longer plans than just the beach ride and back, I should have known that riding the half-marathon was only a warm-up.  We ended up doing the whole coastal loop after lunch and a stop at the National Park Beach. These are the rides I enjoy the most because they always take us to places we never expect, and even the mileage comes easily because we stop so often to eat.

IMG_0514After pointing to a cluster of ladies huddled under a shed roof along the coast, Tigersong signaled to turn around and we toured a shrimp sorting site.  20 ladies at two stainless counter-height tables were picking out smallest and largest shrimp and sliding the medium ones into laundry baskets.  Each basket was weighed and charted before being dumped into blue plastic 50-gallon drums with crushed ice.  Destination was 900 kilometers north at a Bangkok market place.

LoopThis “loop” ride was just over 70 miles and is a favorite because the middle leg is all along the Andaman coast IMG_0519line, ending in Kantang river port where we have to take a car ferry across before heading north back to Trang.

Of course, we had to knock down another meal, this time at the famous “soft noodle” seafood soup place, where they serve one of the more expensive soups we’ve encountered.  soup70 Baht ($2.10) gets you a very large bowl of soup with just about one of every sea creature available along the coast.  I could only identify two of the tasty marine life swimming in my bowl, but I’m sure I’ve now tried (or should say swallowed) all those available, regarded as delicacies and most likely featured in some of those highly popular reality TV shows.


When it rains….we eat

On a positive note, we’ve managed to get in every other day on the bikes, but the rainy season still persists.  Thankfully when we do ride it’s still 72° and only wet and gritty on the chains, and since we wash our lycra every day it doesn’t matter that it’s already wet when we get home.

LoopI discovered Stava on the iPhone tracks various segments of the route I generally ride each morning and now I’ve got a goal to beat.  Evidently I’m only 4th in the posted times on the big climb in the loop.  I never realized just how long (or short) the effort was when pumping up the 3-tiered roller.  9:05 is my time but I now need to work toward 8:01 posted by some unpronounceable local Thai. Nephew Christopher cautions me that Stava is responsible for a number of down-hill record breaking attempts. Good reminder.

IMG_0477The Fahsung (pre-dawn riders) have found out I like Grilled Pork Neck (Ko Mu Yang คอหมูย่าง) which is the specialty of the restaurant where we normally sup on our morning Dim Sum.

Now IMG_0479they’re stepping up the taste treats with hand stuffing the Mu Yang into Thai donuts and topping it off with chlli sauce.  All I can say is A Roi – delicious.IMG_0480

It’s a good thing I’m riding 20 miles to and 20 miles from this treat because it could probably give you a coronary just looking at the plate. IMG_0487

And just in case you worried we’re not eating right, here’s a typical dinner out in front of our hovel.

Soon we’ll be venturing a little farther afield, if the rains would stop.

tg photobombTrang had it’s first ever large scale mountain bike race, with 12 categories and over 300  riders last Sunday. I’m choosing NOT to compete so I can enjoy riding the entire winter rather than walking around with a sling or worse.  Fahsung rides are enough testosterone for me.  I did manage to PhotoBomb the Governor’s wife when she was riding the back of the VIP course.



Back on the bikes

IMG_0411We’re finally back on our bikes. It took a bit of time to get my old Trek road bike set up with a new handlebar and stem. I’d brought the new, stronger stem from the States but forgot that the original bars were thinner then the 31.8 millimeter bars the new stem required. Fortunately I was able to find a set of bars that were 44 mm by 31.8 mm thick and only had to pay 800 baht, about $24. Trek Stem It was really fun actually acquiring the bars. Sunsurn, my Thai friend, took me on the back of his scooter around to a number of local bike shops, trying to find a new set of bars. It was difficult because Thai folks are smaller and they use the 42 mm-width bars and I needed a 44. One tiny shop got on the phone and ordered a set of 44’s and they were courier’d over from another town in about two hours. Unbelievable.

Setting up the Trek was far easier than getting back in shape. I hadn’t really ridden a road bike since I finished Great Divide ride. I’d been spinning regularly but not on a road bike. IMG_0418The Thai guys that I ride with before dawn are a strong set of riders and they helped put me straight quickly. As I’ve said in the past Thai riders don’t rotate the lead, just wait till the front man dies and then they just carry on. And besides that they don’t wait at the top of the hill and regroup like we do in the States; it’s a sign of weakness.

I’m never able to get a photograph of the “Fahsung” predawn riding group because we start 5 AM and we finish at a local restaurant just as the light is coming up. I did take a panoramic photograph of the group at our Dim Sum style breakfast.  One ancedote from that dim sum breakfast that’s kind of amusing, is that once I had learned that they have hard-boiled eggs I’d been eating quite a number of those last year. Since I’ve been gone the group has now taking up eating hard-boiled eggs themselves in order to be stronger and keep up with me, they say.

IMG_0419Another funny anecdote about my Thai Fahsung guys is that they don’t pump their road bike tires up above 80 psi.  Mostly because they don’t have hand pumps that will go that high.  The guy in the photo, Go Rung, flatted and I gave him my extra tube (they often don’t carry tubes or pumps) and he set off with us again.  I never noticed him drop off once again, then he showed up in the back of a TukTuk at the restaurant with a second flat. I’ll have to get that TukTuk’s phone number for pre-dawn flats.  (The driver actually rides with us many days, fortunately for Go Rung, that day he was at home.)

Because we’ve come to Thailand several weeks earlier then in the past, we have hit a later then normal tail-end of the rainy season. So I have not been able to get as much cycling in as I would normally do in a week. This is beneficial because it’s given me a couple of one-day breaks between riding with the Fahsung group. To give you an idea what that ride is like: on Saturday, in the 36-mile ride I burned 1,904 calories according to my Garmin. In a 50-minute spin class I burn 525.

We also “borrowed” my Cannonade and Stanna’s Specialized mountain bikes back for the winter.  So we have three bikes now.  Three years ago Stanna gave her road bike to the Trang Cycling club.  She now wants to find a “lighter” road bike to use while we’re here since she’s noticing the heavier weight of the 25-year-old StumpJumper she brought over last year.


Eat, Nest, Sleep

IMG_0409Not quite the same theme as the best-seller Eat, Pray, Love, but we’ve modified the theme to our first week back in Thailand.  It’s taken us seven days to sample all the good foods we remember at the restaurants and markets we normally frequent, and nothing has changed.  Best of all, the Panang Curry is better than ever.  Hard to believe it took us 4 days to get to the Forest restaurant but nesting, rain and sleeping got in the way.  Nesting back in the exact same studio apartment was a welcome treat (there are only 8 units in our ground floor building and we’ve been in three different ones in four years).  IMG_0385We collected some of our meager household items (and bikes) from friend Sunsurn and set up the place just like we like it. [First photo is before we unpack.  Panorama is after.] Having a proper desk has always been a bonus for me since I spend considerable time at the computer studying, programing and writing.  Our 300 sqft tiled room with with bathroom and shower, plus 5’x7′ back porch (kitchen and laundry sink) and 13′ x 6′ front porch makes for a really nice set-up.  Big enough for all the necessities inside, like three bikes, yoga space and study area.  Great deal at $165 a month plus electricity, which runs us about $10 a month.

pano room

But I’ve already jumped too many meals ahead.  As many of you are familiar with that Rio Dulce tradition established by one of the cruisers as soon as she arrived in that famous watering hole, “The galley is closed.” So we’ve readily adapted to the Thai lifestyle of eating out (or at least not cooking for ourselves every day), for lunch and dinners. Thai’s generally eat a soup or soupy rice meal for breakfast and we’ve remained more western in the mornings, preferring Muesli and yogurt on our front porch.  In fact, any meals eaten at home are outside as the temps are always in the low 80’s and there are very few bugs until just after the sun goes down.

IMG_0406We’ll post way too many food photos over the next four months, however just a couple shots to remind you of some of our favorites like Panang Curry, Cashew Chicken, Green Papaya Salad, Pad Thai and we even sampled fresh Grouper caught by a Trang Cycle club member (3rd prize at 17 kilos [154′ depth on a hand line – for those curious].  Mu ping (from the market place), Gai Tang and Mu Tang (from the Chicken Lady) are three more favorites IMG_0429we’ve already enjoyed but don’t have photos yet. And popcorn and ice cream, plus a number of things we don’t even know the names of like Mr. Wat’s yellow noodle soup with pork balls.  I guess you’re getting the idea of why we like Thailand!

As we’ve explained before, most Thai pick up their meals from street vendors or market places and carry prepared foods home to serve.  We do the same for most our dinners, preferring to grab something on our way home from shopping or visiting our friends, and eating luxuriously on our own front porch.  Unfortunately for us, good for the venders, the prices have gone up; we’re now spending almost $9 a day for food for two, however these are still super values everywhere we eat.

IMG_0426It seemed to take us a little longer to adjust to the jet lag and 14-hour time difference.  First several days we kept waking at 2 AM and nodding off by 7 PM.

This is also the first time we’ve experienced the tail end of the rainy season.  It’s rained four of the first 7 days, but the temps still aren’t below 72°.  Happy to be here and warm.

Pre-departure Hustle

IMG_0295Busy times this last week trying to get in a couple more hikes, dinners and good-byes, not to mention Thanksgiving and Christmas cooking and gifting. We often brag about “just having to turn the key in the condo lock” and we’re gone, but since we haven’t really thought about what we plan to do in Thailand, this last week has been a little more than just packing. Our time at home is always packed with things to do, repair, build, consult, and most importantly recreation and exercise, so we’ve not allowed much time to think about the winter plan.  Therefore we’re heading out for the winter with only Trang as a base location in mind.  Not to worry, we’ve got bikes and friends there already.

IMG_0319IMG_0337 - Version 2The 39th Thanksgiving at the St Paul Ski Lodge (unfortunately we’ve been absent more than a few these occasions during our cruising years) was just as wonderful as always.  IMG_0341The family has done some serious aging and expanding over those years and the younger majority is almost the same vintage as when Chris first started the tradition, however a few of us are still standing (albeit not necessarily skiing the “backyard” any longer).  Great to catch up with the ol’ guard and see the next generation taking over all the Turkey Ski traditions and adding a few of their own.






IMG_0352I always start early on packing because once friends realize we’re out-a-here sooner than later, there are a couple last-minute requests for tech support or project completions, which I can never turn down and am eager to resolve.  All summer Mike Taylor has been building a Man Cave, inspired in part by our sewing/equipment room. Thanks to IKEA and an online source for a Murphy Bed he was able to furnish it for half the price we did. I wasn’t sure we’d ever get around to adding the springs to the Murphy Bed, but he’s now finally finished, save a few picture hangings.  He and Ryler are now comfortably situated.


IMG_4682Mesa Verde Luminaria night is another early winter tradition we’ve come to enjoy.  No visit there has ever been the same.  The weather, atmosphere, temperatures or crowds always seem different and this was no exception.  Four couples ventured out IMG_0355in two vehicles and we supped from our tailgate, listened to music, and walked the luminaria pathways to once again see Spruce Tree House lit as it might have been in the 1100’s.


Not sure if we were the only people, standing around a tailgate dressed in layers upon layers of down, eating hors d’oeuvres, but we most definitely were the fullest and needed that hike down into the canyon to walk-off the feast of meats, cheeses, salads and deviled eggs.

We’ve heard many say “how can packing take so much time, you take very little”.  It’s just that we need to take the right “very little”, it’s a long way to get something you forgot. 2014 Thailand gear


Last year’s Excel worksheet makes the job much easier selecting clothing and gear.  Taking a photo each time is another technique I fall back on when the notes are unclear.  In addition to the cycling gear – saddle, pedals, pump, tools, gloves and helmet- I’m taking Packstwo new Gatorskin 700xc25 tires as they aren’t available in Trang.  Electronics are the biggest concern and at 6 1/2 pounds, weigh almost as much as my base weight of 8 3/4 pounds.  4 B+ shirts, 3 shorts and cycling lycra don’t weigh much, so it all fits into my Revelate seat bag and the tires, saddle and pump will go in the day pack with the electronics.