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Nov 20, 2013

Top Gear in Việt Nam

Been hearing about the BBC show Top Gear and finally watched a couple of their YouTube videos tonight...

I'm still LAUGHING!

Check these out:

Top Gear Vietnam Motorcycle Challenge Part 1

Top Gear Vietnam Motorcycle Challenge Part 2

Once I get to HCMC and find a bike, I'm heading for the shop where James got his helmet to see if they'll make one for me. 

Nov 18, 2013

Catching up...

Just finishing up another birthday... that the high point was getting some work done on the four-plus hour flight to Philly for work tells you what kind of day it was. The good news is that now I've completed my 60th lap around the sun, I'm looking forward to the upcoming year and especially this trip! 

Since it's been a while since my last post, there are a few updates to the preparation... I leave in 11 days...

Yesterday found me at T-Mobile, where I bought an Android phone and signed up for their $50 per month unlimited text and data, plus 20 cents per call back to the US or anywhere. The phone also does Wi-Fi calling for free—without using Skype or similar programs.  They offer service in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand, so I'll be able to stay in contact a bit more than I'd thought... though I will most likely keep it turned off most of the time. It's about options...

Update on T-Mobile: They gave me a phone that doesn't f-ing work! After 35 minutes on the phone with "Tech Support", they decided that I have a bad SIM card... in a two-day old phone!!! Three days later, I received the new SIM card—and after another 40 minutes on the phone with Tech Support, they finally got it working. So far, I'm less than impressed with T-Mobile...

In addition to the SPOT Connect and associated Search & Rescue insurance coverage, I have a policy with Global Rescue that will get me back to the US (by air ambulance, if necessary), should I need it. As my good friend Nancy reminded me again on the phone tonight, this is a LOT more prep than I ever would've considered in my 20's... probably because I realize that I'm not bulletproof. Or is it that I'm no longer bulletproof?

Nope, never was. I have the scars and calcium deposits to prove it...

After enjoying a few YouTube videos others made on motorcycle adventures, I purchased a lightly-used Go Pro Hero 3 Black Edition camera on eBay and a few half-off accessories at a local motorcycle shop, including an extended-life battery. It does both HD video and stills; comes in a waterproof case; and mounts to the bike or helmet or just about anywhere. 

While reading a few trip blogs, I learned that, although many get by without one, it's best to have a Vietnamese driver's license. I bought a $10 ebook on maneuvering through the bureaucratic morass: Expats-Getting-Vietnamese-Motorcycle-Licence-ebook and before I got around to reading it, I read How to be legitimate in Vietnam by Chris at Flamingo Travel (chris@flamingotravel.vn). After a bit of correspondence about the license and various bikes, I sent him my documents yesterday. For $120, he'll have my Vietnam driver's license for me when I arrive. That's worth it to avoid the week of dealing with the bureaucracy, running around, and waiting I'd get to endure if I did it myself.

Chris will also get first shot at selling me a bike from his shop in Ho Chi Minh City. His main shop is in Hanoi, so if I am unable to find a suitable bike in HCMC, I now have another optiontake a one-way rental from HCMC to Hanoi where there is a much greater selection from Chris and many others.

If you decide to buy a bike anywhere, there's a site called Cycle Ergonomics that will show you how you'll sit on just about any bike there is. The good news is that it looks like I'll be able to get comfortable on either the Suzuki 125 or the Honda 110. I'd love to buy a 175 or a 250, but they're hard to come by and anything bigger than a 175 draws too much attention from the policeand may not be allowed back in-country.

This brings us to Space-saving Folding Techniques. It claims that rolled clothes take up less space than folded clothes. Although I've heard this before, I'm still not convinced. I do believe Adrienne, who told me last week that once you have everything set aside for your trip, take out half. Use the space to bring home clothes, artwork, and more. Sounds like a plan!

Nov 7, 2013

Health Care Update

Following up on the almost horror story of the rabies vaccine (see the October 22 post), I just now pulled the trigger on my coverage for the first year of the ACA (ObamaCare)... and it's NOT with Group Health Cooperative.

The "Multi-State Plan Premera Blue Cross Bronze 5250 HSA" plan gives me a deductible (and maximum out-of-pocket) of $5250 in place of my current $2500 deductible and $10,500 maximum o-o-p. It also allows me to get primary care under my plan and within my network out of state--which is important when you spend as much time as I do out of state and've been on over 60 airplanes in five of the past six years! This network also includes my world-class neurosurgeonno offense, Dr. W, but I hope I don't see you againwho is NOT in the GHC network.  AND, it allows me to keep using my HSA account and the $4300 per year in pre-tax dollars to pay for medical care.

Granted, my premiums are 50% higher than this year, but if that's the cost of opening up health care coverage to EVERYONE with no pre-existing conditions or lifetime caps, then sign me up and call me a Socialist. I'm also pretty sure that part of that increase is because in only 10 days I complete my 60th lap around the sun...

Who the hell starts riding a motorcycle at 59+ laps and goes on a solo 10-week ride across SE Asia at 60 laps?  

That would be me...

The next post will detail some of the new trip-related acquisitions. 

Until then, Namaste.

Nov 5, 2013

Quotes and Videos

As I prepare for departure in only 25 days, I'm checking and re-checking my lists, talking and emailing with people who've been to one or more of the five countries I'm planning to visit, and getting in a few last days of work...

I was also recently been reminded of two of my my long-time favorite quotations and came across (and up with) new-to-me quotes:  

     "If what you're doing doesn't scare you, you're not doing enough."
       —Tom Peters

     "No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence
       of the American people."HL Mencken 

     "If you go home with someone and they don't have books,
       don't fuck them."John Waters

     "If it all goes well, I'm brave and adventurous. 
       If it doesn't, I'm stoopid... or worse... is there 
       anything worse than stoopid?"—John P (me)


Here are a few very good Việt Nam road trip videos with great scenery that I came across in my trip research:

Đà Nẵng to Huế

Hai Van Pass 

Hà Nôi to Sa Pa (cow at 0:54)

I was already going from Hà Nôi to Sa Pa and Da Nang to Huế, and I may've missed the Hai Van Pass road if I hadn't found the videos. Now I'm thinking about getting a GoPro Hero3 video/still camera to mount on the handlebars.

Additional gear info coming... scored a great deal on the Schuberth helmet integrated communications system; more on dry bags; Kawasaki weighs in; video camera or no; and more.

As always, I love to hear from you with questions or comments.  Thanks to fellow Seattle HUBB members for your thoughts and contributions.  Sorry I'll be out-of-town for the get-together...