Future Fare

At dinner, as the early evening light faded on our outside table last night, we were thinking how this anchorage with a porch doesn’t require many of the things that past winter’s coves have required. We don’t need to consider an anchor watch during squalls, we don’t have to raise the dinghy each night, no need to check the batteries to see if we need to run the engine to charge, making or collecting water, worry about dragging, or hope we can get a signal for packet email.

Like cruising, we’ll be in this spot for 90 days, we have to motor to town each day for provisions, each time we go to town we see something new and interesting, the foods are diverse and delicious, we exchange money at the local bank, look forward to email and news from friends and home, hanging out we learn about the people and community, even pick up a little of the language and customs, and best of all consider how lucky we are to be able to experience different cultures: some familiar, like the Tesco Shopping Center or the urban traffic, while others are more foreign, such as the neighborhood outdoor markets, family one-pot restaurants and cycling thru empty roads of rural rubber plantations.

Traveling, anchoring (such as it is), helps us better appreciate our culture, rule of law, privileged affluence compared to many in the world, and especially our home in Durango. It’s easy to think “they” could do things better, like palletize loads of sacks and boxes rather than hump each load on their backs from truck to truck or truck to loading dock, choose a better government (no, wait, we can all do better at that). Or not litter, or not drive on the wrong side of the road, or use a backhoe rather than 15 guys in a ditch, or…. or…. But sometimes we need to remember that the slower, harder and maybe idiotic way might actually make sense, providing more jobs like loaders, street sweepers and narcissistic faux-megalomaniac leaders.

We’ve come to enjoy some of the Activities of Daily Living (ADL’s) that our winter travels require. Hand washing your clothes daily, going shopping for food each day (no stove and tiny refrigerator), sweeping the leaves from the porches, sampling various Thai dishes, missing the news-cycles, visiting the banana lady, or buying a 20-liter water jug every few days. This slower, seemingly less “productive” pace, gives pause for more interactions and thought. Like “how many summers do we have left?”, or how long is four years, really?

Time goes real fast and is easy to forget. Having reached 70, that thought has brought on more concern for our twilight time table. It’s hit me harder than Stanna, since my folks never reached 80. And considering just how fast the last 10, 15 or even 20 years have gone, how should these next “summers” be spent? Some may remember that almost 10 years ago we were floating in our own aquarium diving for dollars.

In case you’re hoping for a revelation, “get your hopes up,” as cousin John taught us. There is currently no plan, not an inkling. Hope you’ll help figure this out with us. Not to mention hoping someone else figures out their plan and lets us in on it, too.

Subtle Christmas

In case you’re wondering how our xmas holiday was in this primarily Buddhist (and minority Muslim) country, it was subtle at best.  Not only did it come 14 hours earlier, when most readers were still working or shopping, it’s presence was not much varied from a normal day. Being a Sunday changed the pattern somewhat, but the bank was still open for exchanging money, some kids were at school for exams, the markets were flooded with routine shopping, and folks basically went about their daily weekend lives.

We’d hoped our favorite Panang Curry restaurant would be “business as usual” on Christmas Eve but, alas, they posted a sign, “Closed until Tuesday.” Odd, but we found a second-best choice for a xmas meal, the “Happy Steakhouse” whose beef we’ve only sampled once (or twice as my father used to say, “first and last time”). The YinDee restaurant has a 20-page menu with all manner of Thai and New Zealand dishes. Folks probably wondered why the Farangs were dressed up in their best outfits at mid-day  but the non-steak food is delicious, prepared and served with pride. Splurging on a $3 dish with fancy trimmings seems special for this occasion.

Sunday, when the West was sleeping and Santa was cruising, we took our morning bike ride (Stanna), did yoga  (tg) and prepared for the Sunday ride (tg) with the Trang Cycling Club.  Last Sunday’s ride was cancelled due to an all-day rain, so this one was more of a formality, to meet up with all the riders from last year’s rides, and insure invites to this year’s outings. January 7th is evidently at the next weekend ride to our favorite outlying island, Sukhorn.

Of the thirty-some riders that showed up, a few chose to take me to see the newest bike path thru the forest near the Botanical Gardens. Fortunately I’ve remembered each of their first names and it’s fun to hear them laugh at my Thai “baby talk.”

Normally Sunday is an all-day adventure ranging 100-plus kilometers, but this turned out to be more nature study than long distance.

The cadence on the newest red paver trail was so slow it was possible to video while riding.  [WordPress limits uploads so the video will be shown back home on request.] Several times we stopped to see plants like the insect-eating pods on vines or the giant prickly and supple ferns stocks they make Rattan chairs from.  All this played out like Charades, my guides using pigeon English, hand signs and me guessing words.

One remarkable thing about cycling with Thais is that there seem to be no barriers that they won’t broach when it comes to checking things out.  They’ll often chat up anyone to learn about what’s happening along the way or, as on this Sunday, go behind the fencing into a construction site to see first-hand the work zone.


Seems the last Governor of Trang Province, who we cycled with many times last year, wanted to leave a memory for Trang cyclists.  The Bike the Andaman park is about 30 days from completion and we got a first hand preview up close and personal.  Under the arch they are still fabricating a limestone cave, many of which are famous in the area.

The cycling community has grown significantly since we first came 6 years ago.  Saturday I rode 90 km with a group from a town outside Trang (think Bayfield – pop: 1800) and they fielded over 20 really good riders.  By the way, we’re on the Andaman Peninsula about 80 km (48 miles) wide and the pass, once an impenetrable jungle, separated the two provinces.

Last year we posted photos of the Andaman roadside park on the pass with it’s elephant sculptures  and historic road building plaques.



Cognitive Overload

It’s certainly different waking up to chirping birds and colorful butterflies, not to mention the 74° morning temps. Everything is still very green and verdant as the rainy season is hanging on.  Birds and butterfly continue thru the day, geckos and crickets fill the night air with sounds when it’s dark.

Fortunately we’ve only missed one day of cycling due to the rain, and I’ll admit it was welcome because my ass wasn’t yet ready for an all-day ride. [Two days missed as of this morning] But I’m getting in the mileage, just not like the dry season.

Our unit this year is one the right with the red sarong on the chair.  We already posted our back door photo with the before and after flood waters.

One thing we’d like to note: The only time we get chop sticks in Thailand is when we order Baa-Me-Nam, a yellow noodle soup with several versions of pork balls and meat slices. It’s surprisingly hearty and filling. Cost is $1.05 with Chinese tea.



At least once a week we eat at this Thai couple’s food cart for lunch and order their very popular BaaMeNam.  They are part of the Trang Cycling community and often go on the overnight cycling trips to the islands with us. Mr. Wat is a competitive mountain bike racer at well over 100 kilos.  We only speak in laughs and show each other photos on our mobile devices.


Thai people often eat soup for breakfast or they can get Khoa-Man-Guy, a steamed white rice with several slices of boiled chicken on top.  For breakfast we prefer the yogurt and German Muesli we purchase by the kilo at the supermarket.

On rainy days I can always spend more time studying Thai.  Right now I’m trying to catch up to last year, remembering the 44 consonants and practicing the 24 vowels (which are diagrammatic marks before, above and below the consonants). I’ve never gotten very far into the vowels as that involves tones (low, high, neutral, rising and falling).  I can just barely read a word (a short word), because they don’t put any spaces between words – sosentencesrunwithoutbreak (the articles and prepositions are implied). The New York Times called it cognitive overload in a recent article on learning a second language, because native speakers speak at 250 WPM and non-natives struggle at 100-150 WPM.

ดูเหมือนว่าฝนกำลังจะตก  – “It looks like it’s going to rain” is an example. Then you need to parse the sentence when they speak/write, “looks like think rain ing will fall”. The experts say the best way to learn to speak Thai is to read it first.  See Dick Run is yet to happen.

7° 38′ 31.82″ N

map-to-equatorTrang’s latitude is just about equal to the southern-most tip of Panama and far closer to the equatorial latitude than the North Island of New Zealand.  Singapore, about 500+ miles to our south, is almost on the Equator. So in “cruising terms” this is the most tropical we’ve spent our snowbird winters. And of course we’re warm, plenty warm: 88° as I type with a high of 91° today.

Thailand, being a geological delta, is prone to flooding and this year was no exception.  The first Spring we tried to leave Trang, our train had to turn back due to flooding, and this year the trains couldn’t get south once again due to flooding.  Lucky for us we’d made flight reservations.  Our favorite home here in Trang had water up 20″ inside the buildings just after we left the first year.  Since then they’ve dug two large retention ponds which may have kept the waters from reaching our doorsteps this year.


We keep four bikes here, left with friends, and every year we have to retrieve them and figure out what may or may not have gone bad in our absence.  This year was no img_6730exception, flat or punctured tires is normal, but this year the Trek road bike with the most miles seems to have five broken spokes due to rusting. Plus, once we got the spare wheels on it seems that the “used” Craigslist shifters I brought last years didn’t want to downshift. By mid-week and lots of trips to various bike shops (pictured is a father and son shop), I’ve got a new set of Shimano Sora shifters installed for $79 (less than I paid for the used ones last year).  I’m aware Sora is inferior to Dura-Ace (which they don’t make in 9 speed anymore) but they work really well and are superior to what I had.

img_6733Not having ridden more than a spin bike for the last eight months (okay, two couple-hour Mtn bike rides), it has been a challenge getting back on the roads.  Fortunately the Fahsong guys I ride with early in the morning don’t speak much English so I can’t make any excuses.  And they don’t worry about “drops” so you’d best keep up.

My latest tech toy gives me a fun readout and lets me know why I can be “guilt-free” by 8 AM.  Seeing that Calorie count makes it hard to avoid the ice cream, but I need to shed the kilos I gained eating trail food, first.  Hope this looks healthy enough.




Time to Head South

img_6686Durango has only had one small snow storm this winter, but the cold temps have come as expected.  A couple mornings going to the gym the temps were in the low teens.  Purgatory, our local ski area, opened before Thanksgiving to skiing and mountain biking.  The former was marginal and the latter was very cold.  There’s almost no snow in town and streets are dry.  We’ve managed a few hikes in the low 30’s but it’s cold on the hands.


One of our final preparations for leaving was a unexpected iatrogenic boiler/hot water/furnace repair that took a day to restore hot water and five days to get the hydronic heat flowing again. No photos of us sitting at the kitchen counter in parkas unfortunately. This buck was not inhibited by our repairs in the boiler room under the condo, in fact the town is full of these guys hanging out for winter.

img_6707In the spirit of promoting lightweight travel here’s a series of photos for my snowbird adventure in Thailand.  21 pounds plus the clothes on my back. 8 of those pounds are bike components, such as saddle, 2 sets of pedals, pump, tools, lights and spares, packed into the Revelate seat pack.



We’ve got bikes and helmets left with friends in Thailand so lately there has not been a bike box to transport.

Electronics is the next burden to bare, but the only problem with that weight is forgetting something that you might need. Taking a look at the past year’s photo sure helps remembering. iPad, iPhone and MacBook aren’t shown.


And everyone is always curious about clothing for 3 or 4 months.  Traveling to warmer climes makes those choice much easier, the only difference being a lot of bike-specific wear. The third column is all for cycling, the rest is simple.