Friday, January 28, 2011

Nailing Down the Details

With the flight drop in locations set and the dates and times locked in,  the task of nailing down some details is now full on. Our first stop, Bangkok we arrive at 1:AM. This requires making certain someone will meet us and take us to our hotel.  Maps, coffee, internet searches, and reading reviews take up a shit load of time but when the opportunity arises, we get to pick the brains of a traveler that has "been there and done that". Last night Jack Webley and Mark Robinson from our lovely town of Bisbee backed up a semi-tractor trailer full of travel information and unloaded it with a forklift over a vegetarian mexican food dinner while washing it down with organic wines. Three hours of intensive training on Vietnam, Laos, India, Egypt, Kenya, Tanzania, and Rwanda. And that's not all folks...this morning in our electronic mailboxes came contacts for the Balkans, SE Asia, East Africa, and Iceland. This is a trove of great fodder to build our itinerary and rough out a route to see some amazing sites in this world of turmoil. Speaking of unrest, when we all got up to leave the Poca Restaurant (excellent food), local "Warm Hands" specialist, Nick Knight warned Sharon and I there were only a few remote locations in the world safe to travel at this time, a village in northern Norway and the Gulag tour in the former Soviet Republic. He's not too far off considering last night all outside communications have been cut off and troops deployed into the streets of Cairo. We'll let you know how it really is on May 17 when we fly into Egypt.

The adventure traveler's tools
Some other friends Chris Donaldson and Bill Durboraw from Tucson have shuttled us information on Nepal and got us in contact with Sherpa Sarkee to arrange a seven day trek into the Himalayas and visit some remote villages in the Ghorepani Poon Hill area. This should not be confused with our local Poon Tang terminology.

So now I've contacted about 98% of our monthly bill vendors to get set up with auto-pay procedures and met with my bank to clear all payments and charges out of the US. These tasks take a tremendous amount of patience and time but each and every person I contact to let them know why I'll setting up these accounts are truly amazed and drawn into our trip. It brings a childish smile to their faces knowing people are still willing to break away, flirt with danger, and seek adventure.

We are doing it our way but there are others use boat, motorcycle, bicycle (as Carl our son is currently doing), and RV. Last week Sharon and I received a call from our friends Chris and Bill happened to be visiting us in Bisbee but were staying at a near by RV park, telling us to come over to the park and talk with a German couple taking 5 years to drive around the world in their massive 4WD Volvo box truck converted into an RV. These are the big boys used to cross north Africa and more. Again they gave up working because they had enough to live on and now are seeking adventure where ever the tarmac, dirt roads, and sand dunes will take them. But why did they stop in Bisbee?...because their daughter visited here a couple times and said "You can't miss this town, it's just like being back in Europe and added it's unlike anywhere else."  Wow...why are we leaving?

Thank you...Jack and Mark.....Thank you...Chris & Bill....Thank You!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Done Deal

Last Thursday morning Sharon and I finalized the dates for each of the ten flight destinations around the world to which we will drop in and explore the cities and surrounding countrysides. We delayed purchasing our tickets for a number of reasons as little domestic and business explosions needed attending to before we felt confident to put down the non returnable cash for the tickets. So we got serious nailed down the dates and locations, jumped on our Vespa and scooted down Tombstone Canyon, winding through downtown Bisbee, and stepped into the One World Travel office to be greeted by the smiling Angelika Johnson. Angelika a strict no nonsense organizer, expects the same effort from her clients. I the master procrastinator, will never come close to her expectations but kindly addressed me with a concerning "It's been a couple weeks and I've been thinking of you." I tried to explain our reasons for the delay and handed her my print out of our itinerary wish list. She carefully reviewed this list, looked up to me and sternly asked in her faint German accent, "Is this it?...the final more changes?" As much as this sounds scrutinizing, she's  really telling me she cares about us making such a large purchase we need to be quite certain of what we plan. "It's as good as we can figure and we'll make it work and we'll have fun no matter what fate will bring us." I replied, adding  "That's just the way Sharon and I travel."

Are you sure this itinerary is correct and final?
Now it's packing time, visa acquisitions, note taking, and finishing up all the domestic details before we begin our first flight to go "Round the World" beginning February 16, 2011.

If any of you out there in cyber-land have any connections or suggestions regarding visiting any of the following countries let us know...I'll hand deliver a note to a friend or special someone if its all possible and put in a good word for you.


Monday, January 17, 2011

I Have a Dream

Today is the most significant holiday for US citizens even though it is thought of as a remembrance Dr. Martin Luther King and Black America. Now more than ever equality is being challenged not just by the black community but the Hispanic immigrants and the disenfranchised lower economic community. Fear and non equality are the kindling to confrontation and misunderstanding which fuels hatred. Arizona's SB1070 law revisits the embarrassing attitude generated by our state 20 years ago under the leadership of Arizona's governor Evan Mecham when he repealed Bruce Babbit's executive order honoring a day for MLK. History does repeat itself unfortunately.

Curious but well informed NFLD fisherman
Traveling to different countries you can't help become an ambassador to your country and your state. I have many stories both defending our country and offering apologies at times depending on my views of each topic discussed. US citizens exercise free speech without thinking twice. This isn't the case with many countries in our world.  As recently as last summer I was motorcycling along the western coast of Newfoundland when I pulled into a small cove where three fisherman were unloading their nets onto the shore. I dismounted, pulled my helmet off, opened my jacket to achieve a bit more friendly look instead of one resembling a space invader before I approached them. My riding buddy Chuck and I walked up and greeted these rough but kind appearing men and answered their first question. "We're from Arizona" and without much pause the next question was "What's with Arizona and that immigration law". I was shocked, rocked, and unbalanced by such an inquiry from a person in such a remote location. It was one of those moments where all I could offer was an apology.
Newfoundland fishing village

I traveled throughout Europe, Russia and the Middle East during the Nixon administration in the 70's and apologized many times again but now I can say on this great day remembering a great human rights leader who is the only leader given a holiday of recognition that wasn't a US president, we now have a great president that isn't white and when I embark on our journey, this time no apologies required.... except when asked where in the US I'm from, I'll just reply "Cochise County".

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Reason to Travel

Yesterday Sharon and I ventured into the Huachuca Mountains for a day hike to enjoy the sunshine and brisk winter air. After checking in at the Ramsey Canyon Preserve with the dour hosts that lost their personality somewhere along the way in their past seventy years, we began making our way up to Hamburg Overlook hovering at an elevation around 6200 ft. The climb was steady escalating to very steep with patches of icy snow upping the challenge to reach our snack stop. The trail was decorated with fallen leaves from massive overhanging trees and silhouettes from their branches.

We sat on the edge of the overlook and gazed peacefully at the snow dotted peaks and the shadows defining the deep canyons beneath us. The sun offered a welcoming warmth that made us both comment on just how lucky we were. Sharon added, can you stand doing this with me for five months solid traveling around the world? I cut her a confirming smile and realized the gift we are about to embark upon. Indeed money is an issue to take such a journey and many people we know could monetarily afford it but the commodity those same individuals can't afford is time. I have been told many times growing up (and I'm still growing) two things that money can't and time. I am thankful to have both.

Finishing our snacks and re-hydrating we were faced with the decision to return to the parking area via the same trail we ascended which would total three miles or go for a loop trail that would be 4.9 miles further. Both of us agreed that we had the time so let's go for the big loop considering this is part of the training we need to climb in the Himalayas and Kilimanjaro. The trail at first was a nice decent but soon the ingredients changed to increased elevations and long icy downhills so much so that we both found hiking sticks to assist our balance to prevent rapid sliding down the trail or off the trail.

With careful foot placements we eventually dropped to an elevation under the snow line and began a rapid pace to return to the car park before the sun dropped behind the peaks. We made good time but the trail seemed to continue on further than both of us expected and the signage on the trails were mostly gone or vandalized so we relied on the most worn paths for our method of direction. Finally we arrived out of the mountains and into the backyards of civilization and quickly realized our exit was a bit further north than we expected but time was on our side and our stamina prevailed but the last mile and a half back up the paved canyon road ran us both down to empty. When the doors of the car opened and we sat back with a sigh I know both of us felt that great feeling of achievement. Success  measured by accountants and the accumulation of things are fragile and temporary but the challenging  experience shared by a friend that creates a story that will live with you forever.