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28 October 2018

So You Want to Come to Vietnam and Ride a Motorbike? Part 2 — Reality

If you haven't read Part 1, it's here.

From yesterday's news:

"Road crashes are a leading cause of deaths in Vietnam, killing almost one person every hour. More than 9,000 traffic accidents occurred in the first half of this year, killing nearly 4,100 people and injuring over 7,000, according to the National Traffic Safety Committee."

Click here: Fatal mishaps prompt Vietnamese province to curb traffic violations by foreigners

An average of ONE TRAFFIC DEATH IN VIETNAM EVERY HOUR!!! 






They're not all foreigners, of course. The great majority are locals. Do you want to take the chance you're one?


Did you notice that the locals are often more interested in gawking and taking photos than helping?

If you don't have a motorcycle license and a bit of experience, DO NOT ride a motorcycle in Vietnam.

Period.

Full stop.

Yes, riding through the country on two wheels is, by far, the BEST way to see Vietnam. It is probably a once-in-a-lifetime trip, so do it right.

If you want to ride a motorbike here,

1) Take a motorcycle safety class and get your license.
2) Buy a motorcycle and get at least a couple thousand road miles under your belt.
3) Take an off-road riding class.
4) Ride Forest Service roads and a few dirt trails. Get comfortable with your rear wheel sliding out.
5) Bring your helmet, armored jacket, and sturdy ankle-protecting boots, and come ride Vietnam.

Stay safe.



25 October 2018

The Ease of Switching to Medicare — Part 2

If you've not yet read "Part 1", it's here...

Uh, yeah. It wasn't over...

This morning, 8 hours after I posted Part 1, I went to MyMedicare.gov to sign up for an on-line account. They won't let me.

They say they can't match the information I gave them. That's probably because they require a five-digit zip code and mine is six, FFS! Yes, I tried using only the first five—no joy. I also tried 00000 because when I called Medicare to get help, they said they don't have a zip code for me, though they do have the rest of my address.

That didn't work, either.

Now I'm on hold waiting to talk with someone at Social Security. Five minutes after they told me the wait would be "one hour and a half" on hold, the computer said, "We regret you've waited so long..." LMAO

Thinking about the fact that Social Security writes "over 50 million" benefit checks every month to retirees, severely disabled, and others, I'm wondering how many people die each day while waiting on hold to talk with them.

For those who survive, how much productivity is lost while untold hundreds wait 90 minutes to talk to someone who may not even be able to help them? In previous calls, I've been asked if I want someone to call me back when it's my turn. That would allow me to do a bit more sandblasting or pack for my upcoming trip or take a shower. No such courtesy this time.

29 minutes down, 61 to go... give-or-take.

UNBELIEVABLE!

After 1 hour, 31 minutes, 16 seconds, my call was FINALLY picked up. And the person on the other end of the line COULDN'T FUCKING HEAR ME EVEN THOUGH I WAS YELLING after the third time she said she couldn't hear me. The computer at the beginning could hear me just fine, so WTF? It was probably due to my call being via Skype; unfortunately the best way I've found to call outside of Vietnam.

The pain and frustration of this was apparently insufficient, because I called back immediately, jumped through all of the pre-qualifying hoops, and was told my "estimated wait time is 35 minutes." Could be worse, right?

So... the agent could hear me this time and added my proper postal code. The number they were using was the "Consular Code" 962 that identifies me as closest to the Consulate in Saigon. As if that's going to help Vietnam Post find me!

In 24-48 hours, the MyMedicare site should have the changed data and let me register.

Now the bad news... until I turn 66, Social Security claws back $1 for every $2 I make over $17,040 in addition to SSI AND I still get to pay taxes on both the SSI and other incomes. What a crock of shit! How do they expect people to "live" just on SSI? Thank you Congress, you privileged assholes who have no fucking clue what it's like to survive in the real world. Example: The wife of soon to be ex-Senator Ted Cruz (Vampire—Texas) works for Goldman-Sachs (the firm that's directly responsible for EVERY economic crash for over 100 years) and pulls down about $500,000 per annum PLUS bonuses. Ted, the most hated-by-his-peers man in Congress, makes $174,000. She recently complained that at over $700,000 a year they can't afford to buy a second home anytime soon. Boo-fucking-hoo.

What's that say for those of us who make less than $35,000 a year? Note that Vampire Ted and his wife only pay FICA on about 17% of their income, while the rest of us pay it on 100% of our income. They're also at the forefront of the attempts by the Radical Right to either get rid of or privatize Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, etc.

QUIT CALLING THESE PROGRAMS "entitlements"! I paid into them for over 45 years and it'll be at least 6 years before I get back the money I lent the government. They are INSURANCE programs. Either learn how insurance works or STFU.

Even living in Vietnam, without SSI checks every month, I'd be hurtin' for certain.

Oh, yeah. I'm also paying for Medicare every month, just like everyone else who is covered.


24 October 2018

The Ease of Switching to Medicare

That it's a government-run program under the regime of the Perpetually Lying/ Ignorant/Nationalist/Fake Self-made Billionaire/Hate-Monger/Racist/Misogynist/ Xenophobe/Fake Christian/Born-between-third-base-and-home-plate-and-thinks-he-hit-a-homer President Bone Spurs, should have warned me it was going to be a cluster-fuck... and I guess in some ways it did.

Since my birthday is in November and this is the year I complete my 65th lap around the sun, I theoretically get to partake in Medicare starting 01 November. Like a good German, I called Medicare three months prior to sign up. They told me that since I am already collecting the money I paid over 45 years of working back from Social Security that I would be automatically enrolled in Medicare. They also told me that they would send my Medicare card—necessary to show all providers if you want coverage—months before that 01 November beginning date and that it would be sent to me here at my home in Vietnam, since that's the address Social Security has for me.

They lied.

Go figure...

I am going to the US next week for a couple weeks of facilitation the first two weeks of November. As soon as I knew about the work, I called and made a few doctors' appointments. Since I'm unsure how much I'll have to pay out-of-pocket under Medicare, I did what I could to schedule everything for the week of 29 October. As of now, there is only one scheduled after my Medicare benefits kick in, though that may change.

I called Medicare last week to ask why I'd not yet received my card. Their computers were down, so the woman who answered my call told me to call back.

I just got off the phone with Medicare. They told me:

1) My card has NOT YET BEEN MAILED (so much for "months before").
2) They can NOT give me my Medicare number over the phone.
3) I need my Medicare number to get a provider to talk with or look at me.
4) They can only mail a card to the address (Vietnam) Social Security has for me.
5) If I go to the Social Security office after I arrive in the US, they can probably give me a letter verifying my Medicare coverage.

Notes:
    a) On a good day, a visit to the Olympia Social Security office will burn only 3 hours.
    b) They can PROBABLY give me the letter, so I might waste 3 hours for nothing.

So-o-o

I took a chance and called Social Security with the hope that MAYBE someone there could give me my Medicare number over the phone.

*The phones open for business at 7 a.m. in each time zone.
*I called FROM VIETNAM at 6:50 a.m PST, hoping they wouldn't put me in the Pacific Time Zone.
*They did.
*I called back at 7:02 a.m. PST and was told that all agents are busy and if I give them a call-back number, I don't have to wait on hold.
*Cool!
*I gave them my US number and was told I'd get a call back in ONE HOUR AND 15 MINUTES!!!
*Only 2 minutes after the phone lines open and they're already backed up 38x that long??? How does that happen?

So I went on-line to "My Social Security" hoping there'd be something there that could help me.

AND THERE WAS!

I was able to print out a "Benefits Letter" that includes my coverage starting in November AND my Medicare number.

That letter is now printed out and already in the folder of paperwork I'm taking to the US.

I'm most likely good-to-go.

My penultimate question to the Medicare person was... "Why did they not yet send my Medicare card?"

The answer was that they have to mail out new cards to EVERYONE because they are no longer using Social Security numbers as Medicare numbers.

My last question was, "Why didn't they put new Medicare customers at the front of the queue because we don't have an old card to use?"

The answer was, "I don't know."

I'm thinking no one who's still there under Der Fuehrer is bright enough to figure out a way to do that.

Or maybe they saw my Twitter account?



11 October 2018

So You Want to Come to Vietnam and Ride a Motorbike? Part 1 — The Basics

I just read about a kid (I'm guessing early- to mid-20's from the "before" photo) who had a bad motorbike accident here in Vietnam and his family's trying to raise money on a crowdfunding site to pay for his medical bills.

I'm sorry he had a bad accident, BUT NOT enough to reward his irresponsible stupidity. Anyone who rides a motorbike in Vietnam without proper licensing AND insurance is just asking for trouble.

Anyone who rides a motorbike anywhere outside his/her own country without emergency evacuation insurance is just plain stupid.

Sure, we all think "it won't happen to me" until it does.

DO NOT come to Vietnam or anywhere to ride a motorbike without:
1) Previous motorcycle riding experience (as the operator)
2) Proper medical evacuation insurance (I highly recommend Global Rescue)
3) Valid medical insurance that covers you HERE
4) A valid driver's license AND International Driving Permit
5) A good, solid, full face helmet with DOT or ECE rating
6) Common fucking sense

The last one was added after I read about a guy who crashed while taking a selfie WHILE RIDING FAST.

"What a maroon!"—Bugs Bunny

Re the International Driving Permit (IDP)... Vietnam recognizes ONLY IDPs issued by signers of a 1968 agreement. The IDP from most countries (including the US, the UK, and Australia) is recognized under an 1949 agreement. Vietnam does NOT recognize these.

That said, get one and carry it with you along with your home country driver's license WITH MOTORCYCLE ENDORSEMENT. If you get hurt in an accident, there's a strong chance your insurance will cover your injuries.

If you are injured in an accident and DO NOT have a valid motorcycle license, there's an excellent chance your insurance will NOT cover your medical bills. I've read on social media where people say they just told the insurance company they were walking and got hit by a motorbike, BUT that's fraud and a really, really bad idea.

Re the helmet... the laws of physics are the same in Vietnam as in your home country, though you couldn't tell it by looking at the backpackers I see weekly riding with the standard Vietnamese helmets. As I've written here before, 99+% of the helmets worn by native Vietnamese are designed only to keep the police from stopping and citing them. The idea that it should protect your brain carrier is completely lost. If you ride at home, you probably have a good helmet. Bring it. If you ride at home without a helmet or with a POS helmet, you deserve whatever happens to you—including having to re-learn the alphabet. Or worse.

Part 2 will cover the reality of riding here... and is a MUST READ.

Until then, be smart and stay safe.


27 August 2018

How do YOU answer a question in the negative?

As a native English-speaker living in a country with a tonal language, there are innumerable opportunities for misunderstanding, even with locals who speak pretty good English.

Small mistakes like, "We came here on a car" are easy to correctly understand. This does bring up, at least to me, the question of why is it we travel "in" a car, but "on" a bus when we are actually inside (in most cases) both of them?

One of the great opportunities I have for misunderstanding with many Vietnamese who speak English presents when I ask them a question in the negative. For example, "Are you sure you don't want to go?" Most Westerners answer "Yes" (I'm sure).

Every English-speaking Vietnamese I know answers, "No" (I don't want to go).

After almost four years here, I still have to pause after asking such a question to think about how their "yes" is my "no" and respond correctly. Most often, I immediately ask the question again in a different way: "You don't want to go?" which gives me a "Yes" (I don't want to go) and frequently a look questioning why I asked again. Somehow, this makes more sense to me: "Yes, I don't want to go." We westerners, would of course, answer, "No, I don't want to go."

Re-wiring my brain to "get it" on the first try is going to take a bit longer.

09 August 2018

Twitter is run by twits

Forget about the fact that Twitter is allowing Alex Jones to continue spewing his hatred, lies, and ridiculous conspiracy theories while Google, YouTube, iTunes, and Facebook have banned him...

Apparently CEO @Jack has also hired a bunch of twits to run his support department, too!

Tired of the BULLSHIT that is most of Facebook, I recently switched to using Twitter for my political opining and for some basic information. More detailed information is gleaned from a number of non-social media platforms.

I never actually sign out of Twitter, I just close the browser window. Yes, my laptop cameras are all covered with black electrical tape so if any of the sites I visit try to turn on the camera, they'll only see a black screen.

This morning, when I opened Safari (default browser for Macs), Twitter wanted me to sign in. Okay, no problem.

Uh, yes it is.

After putting in my email address and password, I get this screen:


WTF??? I did NOT sign up for secondary verification! Oh, well... once I sign in I can remove it.

So I waited...

And waited...

And waited...

So far, 10 hours later, no SMS with a six-digit code. No SMS messages AT ALL from Twitter. And yes, my phone number ends in 67. I even tried to log in with my phone number, but still got the same promise of a six-digit code.

Those who read this and know me are, most likely, thinking, "There's NO WAY he waited 10 hours before contacting Twitter Support!"

And you would be right. I waited all of 4 minutes before going to the "Support" page.


Scanning EVERYTHING, I found that the only real "support" you can get is IF YOU ARE ALREADY LOGGED IN. The only option open to me was to "Submit A Ticket" to "Report A Problem".


After completing the form and playing the Captcha game, I submitted the ticket.

Within 20 seconds, I got the following email. There's no need to read the whole thing, it's just more of the BS that's on the so-called "Support" page and of no use to someone who's NOT already logged in. Note the last paragraph; the one beginning with, "If you've tried the above options and still need help..."


YES, I STILL NEED HELP! So I "reply to this email for further assistance... from the email address associated with ... (my) Twitter account. Almost immediately, I get this:

I'm stuck in a flippin' loop!!!

Now I'm looking for the cameras from "Candid Camera". Then I remember that Alan Funt's been dead for decades and realize that I've been punked by an auto-responder and now one's even watching. F*CK!

What's worse, no actual person will ever see my dilemma.

This is VERY frustrating, BUT not enough to get me to create a new account and start over.

Screw Twitter! I'm gonna go out and play.


Note: After 3 days, I finally got the six-digit code and was able to log in to my account. No explanation as to why things suddenly changed, though.



03 July 2018

Breakdown — Sept 2016

September 2016
I bought a Delorme (now Garmin) InReach Explorer

for 25% off at REI's 2016 Memorial Day sale and it was waiting for me in one of the dozens of boxes of things I'd ordered before arrival.

Soon after arriving back in Tacoma on my new-to-me R100GS, I activated it.

On September 1, I rode from Tacoma, WA toward Western Montana for an Airheads Tech Weekend where I'd learn to wrench on my beautiful bike. The InReach was in my jacket pocket.


A couple hours into the ride, the bike lost power. No sputter like when running out of gas, just died. After five minutes, it started up. Then, 20 miles further down the road it died; this time for good. Cayuse Pass (just west of Mount Rainier) was behind me and Yakima, WA was 45 miles in front of me.

This is the actual tracking map of my route provided by the InReach
The nearest cell service was about 10 miles out of Yakima... 35 miles ahead, so I turned off my phone to save the battery.

The roadside assistance included in my insurance policy has an 800 number—a land line—and land lines cannot (duh!) receive text messages. Using my InReach, I sent an email to my insurance agent explaining my situation, giving my GPS coordinates, and asking him to call roadside assistance for me. After 20 minutes, no reply, so I sent another email. I couldn't text him because I didn't have his cell phone number (I do now).

After another 30 minutes, I sent a text to my friend Liz asking her to call the agent and tell him to check his email. She texted back saying she'd talked with him and he would call RA for me. Soon after that I got an email saying that the flatbed was on the way. It arrived about 2.5 hours after my first email.


The tow truck driver said the insurance company would pay to tow me to Yakima or 50 miles in any direction. Since the choices were "farther from home" or "closer to home" and the only airhead mechanic I know is near Tacoma, I said, "Please take me to Tacoma." They figured the extra mileage and quoted me $480. Thankfully, they took AmEx cards and dropped me at Liz's driveway.

Needless to say, I missed the Tech Weekend. The culprit was a bad ignition, so I upgraded to an electronic ignition and had a new, higher capacity stator put in at the same time.

After this experience with the InReach, I sold both of my SPOT devices. SPOT only has pre-programmed message-out capacity and there's no way to receive a message. Sure, the SOS might work, but I'm not scrambling SAR for a mechanical problem. It's only InReach for me from now on and it is with me ALL the time because what if cell service goes down?

For those thinking you'd just wave down a passing car or fellow rider... good luck with that. I got two cars to stop--one eastbound and one westbound—explained my situation, and gave each a note:


Each driver said he'd call as soon as he got within range of cell service. According to Tad, neither one ever called. So much for the friendliness/helpfulness of Washington State drivers.

While waiting for the truck I was passed by at least 10 Harleys, two or three at a time. Are they afraid to ride solo? Only 2 waved as they went by and none even slowed down. The one dualsport who rode past did stop to see if I needed help, as did a state-owned truck the second time he came by. By then I'd received confirmation that the truck was on it's way, so I thanked them and let them continue their own trips.

Without the InReach, my wait would've been a LOT longer, especially if I'd been off the highway and down a side road somewhere without even the sparse traffic of Highway 410.

Others complain about the battery life and the small keyboard, though I can charge it on the bike if need-be and although the keyboard is a PITA and frustrating, it's better than no keyboard at all. If only it were possible to program it to accept a bluetooth keyboard I sometimes carry for my iPad.

I now travel with EXTRA trail mix or protein bars, spare fuel bottles, and more water than I think I'll need. It gets awfully hungry by the side of the road waiting for that flatbed... though now at least I know they're coming.


22 June 2018

Porn Blackmail

Got this email earlier this month (June 2018), and I still laugh when I think about it...

John Stilson <order@tattoometer.com>
XQS: [john@***.com] 05.06.2018 12:07:19 Your life can be destroyed

To: "John D. Pearce" <john@***.com
Тiсket Details: XQS-774-52663
Email: john@***.com
Camera ready, Notification: 05.06.2018 12:07:19
Status: Waiting for Reply 34xuMaJy2A8f89wZnBmMkE9HrT1Ky91Xu5_Priority: Normal

.....................................................................................................................................

What's up,

If u were more careful while playing with yourself, I wouldn't write dis message. I don't think that playing with yourself is really bad, but when all colleagues, relatives and friends get video of it- it is certainly for u.

I adjusted virus on a porn site which was visited by you. When the object tap on a play button, device starts recording the screen and all cameras on ur device starts working.

Moreover, soft makes a remote desktop supplied with key logger function from your device , so I could collect all contacts from your e-mail, messengers and other social networks. I've chosen dis e-mail because It's your working address, so you must read it.

I suppose that three hundred twenty usd is pretty enough for this little false. I made a split screen video(records from screen (interesting category ) and camera ooooooh... its funny AF)

So its your choice, if u want me to destroy ur disgrace use my bitсoin wаllеt address:  1FSyUevBKJxcjS1essoH8Skjh7MwDA2c4N
You have one day after opening my message, I put the special tracking pixel in it, so when you will open it I will know.If ya want me to show u the proofs, reply on this message and I will send my creation to five contacts that I've got from ur device.

P.S.. U can try to complain to police, but I don't think that they can help, the inquisition will last for several months- I'm from Ukraine - so I dgf LOL


The main reason I'm laughing is that I've NEVER visited a porn site on the Internet... or anywhere else. I saw about 4 minutes of a porn flick in the 70's and found it sophomoric and boring. I've never watched porn in any form since. Maybe because I'm NOT a watcher, I'm a do-er? Sitting and watching two (or more) people fuck is boring.

The secondary reason I'm laughing is that the cameras on my laptops are covered with black electrical tape, so even if someone does hack into my computer(s) and turn on the camera without me knowing, all they'll ever see is a black screen.

For those of you who do watch porn and get one of these emails, this one's probably bogus. Depending on your watching habits, the others may not be. Good luck figuring out which is which...

LMAO

12 June 2018

NEW (to me) Motorcycle and Road Trip — Aug 2016

August 2016

The US government forced me to leave ViLa at home in Dalat by denying La's visa application WITHOUT explanation after $180, three months, and a one-question interview.

Yes, they can do that. What they unfortunately don't understand is that NEITHER of us has any interest in living in the US—me because there are so many other places to live when you have White Privilege and a US passport; her because "it's too expensive" and she'd miss her family too much.


I flew to Saigon and then to the US, though only after promising Honey every 20 minutes when she asked, "Yes, con gái (daughter), Daddy will come back to Honey and Mommy."

To which she always replied, "Are you sure?"

"Yes, Honey, I'm sure."

I was, once again—if memory serves, this is number 10—going to meet and pick up my new ride and have some fun:

"She" is a 1989 BMW R100GS BumbleBee (note the paint scheme) and the best-fit-for-me bike I've ridden in the entire 3+ years since I bought my first. What a bike! Very comfortable to ride and in great shape. The R100GS is an "airhead", meaning the engine is air-cooled. It is also the original Adventure Bike and the grandpappy to the current very popular R1200GSA.

I bought the Bee from Dale in Spokane, Washington through an advertisement on ADVRider. He was the third owner and had most of the maintenance paperwork from Day One. Dale has another BMW and a sidecar rig and sold this beauty because he wasn't riding it anymore in favor of, mostly, the hack. He was very accommodating, to the point of holding the bike for me in his garage for four months until I could get back to the US after I sent him a $1000 non-refundable deposit. He met me at the Spokane airport; drove me to his home where he took the time to go over the bike completely with me; gave me a box of spare parts and special tools; and helped me box up and send the stuff I didn't need for the 1000+-mile road trip "home" to Tacoma.


Dale led me in his truck to a UPS store where I shipped the boxes and then to a DOT licensing office where I transferred Bee into my name and paid the taxes. That gave me a license plate and registration; the title came later in the mail.

Now that I'm the legal owner, I can head out of town and ride mostly south before turning west. I had a couple days to get to the Rally in the Gorge just outside of Hood River, Oregon, where I'd meet up with friend Rick and 100 or so other motorcycle enthusiasts for a weekend of camping, riding, talking, and learning.

The first night, I stopped at a campground near Lewiston, Idaho and ended up a few sites down from a Harley guy who wanted to know why I wasn't riding a Harley. Really??? Have you ever ridden anything else?

I wanted to answer, "Because I'm NOT a sheep (follower)!", thought I managed to hold my tongue for once and said, "Because I'm riding this beautiful classic BMW that can go anywhere I have the stones to take it." This is definitely a bike on which I will run out of talent LONG before I've reached its limits.

As is my habit, I took the scenic route,


avoiding highways and straight lines as best I could, and enjoyed every bit of it.





Those are actual full-size aluminum canoes in the sculpture
Eventually I pulled along side the Columbia Gorge

and, after one more photo stop to capture Mt. Hood,


turned into the Hood River Fairgrounds.





The Rally was a good weekend that would've been better had the food vendor honored their contract and showed up to do breakfasts. Instead, we got to ride 15 minutes into town for meals and then 15 minutes back for events. No dealbreaker, but a PITA. The organizers did manage decent dinners and one evening put together a pretty good dessert bar with peaches, ice cream, and assorted goodies.


My second-hand-and-like-new Redverz Atacama tent

was a big hit with the crowd, in part because you can stand up inside it and because the center section is a "garage" for the motorcycle that doubles as a refuge from bad weather. Within a few minutes of his first sight of mine, friend Rick (at right in one and at left in another of the above photos) decided to 86 his "yoga tent", seen here on the left edge of the photo, as soon as he could find a second-hand Redverz. He called it the yoga tent because, he said, getting undressed/dressed was about equal to one yoga class.

I had a yellow Atacama that I'd shelved when I bought the green one and told him that if my friend Gee back in Vietnam didn't want yellow, it was his. I later found a green one for Gee, so Rick is now the proud owner of his dream tent. As are Gee and I.

One of the reasons I went to the rally was to ride Maryhill Loops Road—a private, gated road with an interesting history that is only open by appointment and payment of a sizable fee.


I'd driven it many years ago in the 2005 MINI Cooper Cabriolet I still miss and figured this would be my only chance ever to ride it on a motorcycle. If you ride, you can see why it is worth going out of your way for.

While riding Maryhill Loops Road was the most fun part of the rally, learning how to properly set up the bike's suspension was the best part of the rally. Jesse from Truitt Motorcycle Education helped us understand sag and the difference between static sag and free sag. Then he worked with us to set ours correctly. Doing so did make a noticeable difference in how the bike felt and responded on the road.

If you'd like a copy of Jesse's worksheet (he gave me verbal permission to share it), send me an email and I'll get a PDF copy to you.

After the rally, Rick and I rode down to the beautiful Timberline Lodge at Hood Mountain. Built in 1937 under FDR's Works Progress Administration (WPA), it is one of the National Park lodges designed by architect Gilbert Stanley Underwood. It was used as the model for the lodge in "The Shining" movie, though the movie was filmed on sets in England. More on its history is available here.

There was a wedding reception on the stone patio, so we were unable to go out there. The one lingering memory I have of the place is the very ripe-smelling backpackers congregated in the sitting area so that the wedding guests got to walk through them to get to the reception. Since we didn't have gas masks with us, our stay was relatively short.

Rick and I parted ways after the lodge—he went directly back to Seattle and I took the scenic route to Tacoma via Mount Saint Helens.


Mount Hood
Mount Saint Helens
Mount Saint Helens

I was headed to a special, rarely visited, Mount Saint Helens overlook when the new-to-me airhead carburetor starting pissing gas all over my left boot—at about the furthest north point on this route (blue line). I'd heard of this issue, though I'd hoped that when it happened, it would be somewhere closer to home base. When I removed the carb bowl, I saw the gasket was broken—and me without a spare.


I matched the cut gasket up with the bowl rim as best I could and reinstalled the bowl. It seemed to hold, BUT it was getting late and I was NOT in the mood for either wild camping or getting stranded without backup gas canisters (which I now carry everywhere), so I turned around and headed back south because the closest campground to the south was a LOT closer than any to the north.

Just about twilight I passed the Swift Forest Campground,


turned around, and went in. After paying for the site and setting up camp,

I put the bike in the "garage" because two sites down there were a couple pick-em-up trucks of unsavory-looking characters  who showed an unusual amount of interest in it. "Out of sight, out of mind" as someone once said.


I went to take a shower... and found only a bathroom. DAMN! When I went to the campground caretaker to ask where the showers and camp store were, he said with a straight face, "About 5 miles down the road at Eagle Cliff." WHAT??? He was less than thrilled with my suggestion that he disclose this when people arrived and paid the fee. I was pissed off that I'd have to sleep dirty. Hell, I shoulda wild camped.

I woke up early the next morning and hit the Eagle Cliff store where I was able to fill up the tank, take a shower, and grab a few things for "breakfast".


Clean, less hungry, and full of fuel, I headed up NFD-25—a tight two-lane road full of frost-heave that's closed in the winter and well worth the effort to get there. After a fun and challenging 45 miles, I made it to Randle, WA, almost due south of Mount Rainier. From there, it was a short hop to Tacoma and what passes for civilization. 


My next goal was to open the dozens of boxes

of things I'd ordered from Amazon, eBay, and advrider.com and that Liz very gratiously held for my arrival—things I can't buy in Vietnam and I'm going to take back with me in a month or two.

It's kinda like a self-funded Christmas.

Once the boxes are open and contents sorted, I'll head to Montana for an Airheads Workshop where I'll spend a weekend learning the intricacies and pitfalls of wrenching on the BumbleBee.

Or so I thought...


05 June 2018

Fly 'n' Ride 'n' Fly — Sept 2016

I'm VERY behind in my blogging, so this is a post about events from 2016. There are two more posts coming "soon" from BEFORE this that are partially written, then a major life-changing event after this (on October 1, 2016) that is still unresolved as I write this in June 2018. My goal is to get caught up within the next few months; we shall see...

Mid-2016—Always on the lookout for motorcycles and motorcycle-related adventures, I was very interested in a trip report I saw on the advrider.com web site about a guy who'd taken a long weekend to ride vintage motorcycles in Eastern Pennsylvania, just outside Philly. It sounded interesting, so I looked him up on-line at www.retrotours.com.

There was one tour left for the year AND it would fit into my upcoming scheduled trip to the US, so I sent Victory-rider and best-friend-from-college Rich an email and asked, "Are you in?" He replied the next day in the affirmative, so we booked the "Redneck Gyro IV" from September 10-12, 2016: "Gather a group of 6 enthusiasts, put them on a half dozen Italian twin cylinder motorcycles of the 1970’s, and enjoy switching bikes and covering close to 1,000 miles in three days of riding from southeastern PA to the mountains of West-by-God Virginia and back."

Upon arrival in the US, I was picked up by my good friend Liz, who graciously allowed me to stay in her spare bedroom AND borrow one of her fleet of vehicles. THAT's a friend! About three weeks after arriving, I headed back to the airport for the flight to Pittsburgh, PA, Rich's life-long hometown.

Rather than have Liz do another Tacoma-SeaTac Airport round-trip, I had Capitol Aeroporter pick me up at the house. Usually I like to keep to myself on these shuttles, BUT there was a guy aboard who just had to keep asking questions. Something about him felt wrong, though as much as I wanted to tell him to fuck-off and mind his own business, I didn't. At first.

Twit: Where you headed?
Me: Pittsburgh.
Twit: For business?
Me: No.
Twit: Then why?
Me: To ride 40-year-old motorcycles through the hills of Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Maryland.
Twit: You ride?
Me: Yes ("Doh!" went unspoken)
Twit: Do they have helmet laws in Pennsylvania?
Me: I don't know. Anyone who rides without a helmet has no brain.
Twit: The government shouldn't be able to tell us whether to wear a helmet or not.
Me: Okay.
Twit: It's about personal responsibility.
Me: Really?
Twit: Yes!
Me: I'm assuming you don't wear a helmet?
Twit: I have to in Washington state.
Me: When you ride where there's no helmet law, do you wear a helmet?
Twit: Hell no!
Me: Since you say, "It's about personal responsibility", I'm sure you have a $10 million insurance policy, right?
Twit: Huh?
Me: Is that a no?
Twit: Yes. Why would I have $10 million insurance?
Me: You're young, do you have a family?
Twit: Yes.
Me: Since you're all about Personal Responsibility, I thought you'd actually be personally responsible for your actions. I guess you're just another right-winger who thinks others should be personally responsible, but not you.
Twit: What does that have to do with insurance? (This is when he earned the name, "Twit")
Me: When your head hits the ground and cracks open like a melon, you're gonna either need a LOT of expensive medical help or a funeral. Then your wife and kids probably won't have enough money to pay the rent or buy food. A $10 million insurance policy would ensure that I, everyone else in this van, and thousands of others won't have to waste our tax dollars supporting your family because you were Personally Responsible.
Twit: (crickets)
Me: (smile)

He didn't say another word the rest of the trip, though he did give me the finger as the van drove away after dropping him at the terminal curb... which I took to mean he knows he's a twit. I'm betting he happily voted for Dolt45 (Trump).

After an uneventful flight (the best kind), Rich picked me up at the airport and took me to his house. We had a nice dinner with Robin, his very nice girlfriend of whom I'd heard a lot over the years, but had never before met.


Two mornings later, we drove to the Steubenville, Ohio, FBO (small airport) where Rich keeps his single-engine plane. 




Once our luggage was on-board and Rich's pre-flight inspection complete, we rolled down the runway and into the air.

I LOVE FLYING in small planes and Rich is an excellent pilot! He started flying back in the 70's, I think while we were still in University, and it's obvious that he loves it.


We landed at a small FBO about 10 minutes from the Kennett Square, Pennsylvania home of Joel and Lynn Samick, the owners of Retro Tours. Once we were on the ground, we called Joel; he came by to pick us up and take us to the house where we settled in our assigned bedroom and met Chuck and Robert, two of the three other participants in the weekend's ride. We also got to check out Joel's workshop and stable of bikes.






Most of the bikes have a special "Antique" license plate no longer offered by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania

Joel is a former champion motorcycle racer and mechanic and maintains all of his bikes himself.

He runs Retro Tours with the help of his wife, Lynn, who's one hell of a great cook/hostess.
Rich, Lynn, and Chuck
Since the tours start EARLY in the morning and end in the late afternoon/evening a couple days later, Joel and Lynn offer a bed in their home AND a couple home-cooked meals that are NOT to be missed, for a mere $50 extra. If you take one of their tours, opt-in for this.

Lynn cooked an awesome dinner and we spent some time after talking about the next few days' ride, expectations, and preferences.
Chuck, Rich, and Robert--they're NOT upset, it was just bad timing on my part ;-)
Sleep was a bit difficult 'cause Rich SNORES... picture the cartoons where the character's snoring lifts the roof off the house and you'll be in the neighborhood (sorry, Rich).

As usual, I was the first one up the next morning, though it was very soon after that Lynn had coffee/tea available. Breakfast was as good as dinner and more than enough to keep us going until lunch, whenever that would be.

Next, it was out front to check out the bikes; all Italian and all from the 70's:
       1971 Moto Guzzi Ambassador 750
       1972 Laverda 750SF
       1974 Benelli Tornado 650
       1975 Ducati 860GT
       1979 Moto Guzzi V50
       1979 Moto Morini 500 Strada

I neglected to take individual photos of each of the bikes, so here are five of the six...



Joel does a great job keeping his stable in great running and cosmetic condition. Although they were each around 40-years-old, they ran as well as most modern bikes and better than some. He carries the spare parts that he's most likely to need and we never had an issue he couldn't solve virtually immediately.

Our route took us from Southeastern Pennsylvania (PA) to Maryland (MD), back to PA, back to MD, to West Virginia (WV), and back to PA on two-lane blacktop and through many small towns.


One of our stops was at an overlook that is definitely scenic


About halfway through the first day, the unfamiliar riding positions started my lower back complaining a bit. An hour later, it was BEGGING for relief. When I mentioned it to Joel at one of our fuel replenishment / bike swap stops—at each gas stop we rotated through the bikes so we each got to experience each bike—he suggested I use the rear pegs as my foot pegs. This worked VERY well and my lower back stopped bitching. Thanks, Joel!

We stayed both tour nights in the same rather large cabin with two levels, four or five bedrooms, depending on how you count them, and a hot tub on the deck. It was in a heavily wooded "gated development", but we didn't have to worry about the gate 'cause the bikes fit between the gate poles and the trees. There was enough elbow room between houses that we didn't hear a peep from any of our neighbors.

Rich's body was aching significantly more than mine, so he opted-out of Day 2's riding, which was to be a big loop. Not one to leave a friend "stranded", I opted to hang out with him and keep our travels down to running into town for lunch and picking up a few groceries needed for cooking my sweet potato hash for the group's Day 3 breakfast.

We missed the crash. Robert lost focus entering a curve and ended up under the guardrail, breaking both the Laverda and his leg. He was picked up by ambulance and taken to the nearest hospital (rural WV) where they determined his condition was beyond their scope of treatment. They then sent him by ambulance to a larger hospital in Morgantown, an hour or so away.

Taking care of the bike was a bigger challenge—it was both unrideable and hundreds of miles from home. Joel found a one-way rental truck and loaded in both the Laverda and his bike, while Chuck and Charles followed on their bikes. At this point, it was no longer a riding tour, but a "let's get the hell back to the cabin and figure out what happens tomorrow" slog. Joel called us and asked us to meet them in town for dinner and a discussion on the next day's logistics. The place he picked served massive sandwiches!


They also had an art print on the wall that I wanted to buy, though they refused to even consider its sale


To this day, I STILL want that print. (Edit: Thanks to Meredith for reading this and pointing out that the print is available on amazon.com. It's now on my Wish List for my next trip to the U.S.)

Rich was still hurting from the first day's ride, so he happily volunteered to drive the rental van and two bikes back to Joel's house while the rest of us took the normal Day 3 route back. It was the most scenic day and I wanted to stop numerous times to take photos, though Joel sets a pretty brisk pace, so I felt uncomfortable making unscheduled stops and holding everyone up—one of the many reasons I've only ever taken 3 group tours in my entire life. Joel told us we should each "ride your own ride", and for me that would include stopping numerous times to take in the scenery and snap a few photos. It just didn't feel comfortable causing the rest of the group to turn around more than once to see if I was okay. So I sucked it up and rode home hard.

Here is Joel's trip report for our adventure.

Photos of the Laverda after sliding under the guardrail:




After another great dinner and breakfast by Lynn, Rich and I flew over the beautiful Pennsylvania countryside back to Pittsburgh with a short detour to our alma mater, Bucknell. It's changed a LOT in the 40 years since we left and we felt like grandpas walking around campus; maybe 'cause we are old enough to be?










One last plug for Retro Tours