Oct 23, 2019. Odometer ~3000miIe
In this post, I drop off my bike with friends in Bangkok and continue to Chicago to see my mother on her birthday. Then I will head home to San Francisco for a vacation from my vacation. This will include Thanksgiving at my sister’s place in Ashland Oregon.
I am catching up on a backlog here. Much to tell. Thank you for reading!
How the Network Functions
So here I am in Thailand, a place I have never been before. Yet, I am lucky enough to have a new friend who is willing to store my bike and panniers for a month. How does this happen? There is a network, at its core is Warmshowers.org, an organization for touring cyclists that need help from local cyclists, at no cost. Their motto is ‘Pay it Forward’.
I’ve been hosting in San Francisco for about seven years. I have met some amazing cyclists with valuable knowledge from all over the world.
In this case, Thomas who lives near Paris, France stayed at my place while he was circumnavigating the Pacific Ocean by bicycle about five years ago. So, he has valuable knowledge of touring in Asia. When I told him I was going to Bangkok and needed to find a place to store my bicycle, He put me in touch with KJ, a Biologist at Thammasat University just north of Bangkok. KJ is not a cyclist, but she said any friend of Thomas is a friend of mine. KJ, along with her colleague Pyaporn, came up with a secure spot.
Arrived in Bangkok
We made it! I landed in Bangkok and retrieved my bike from oversized baggage claim. There I met another cyclist from Sweden, claiming his bike. He had just ridden from Berlin to Istanbul by bike. We compared notes.
The thing I had of value was a better way to package the bike. Do not pull the fork out of the frame. Do not remove the wheels. Just pull the boom and seat, then smother the thing in bubble wrap and tape. It is so simple to reassemble. I would not have guessed that any airline would accept this. I have it on good authority that they do. This brilliant advice is thanks to Les CycloMigrateurs! My mentors.
My new Swedish friend had his bike in pieces in a cardboard box. His next stop was a bike shop that could help him put his bike together, as he was not carrying enough tools.
He had been to Bangkok before. He warned that I may like it here so much that I want to stay forever. He also said there is a lucrative industry in teaching English as a second language. One could make a good living here, though the competition for this is growing fast.
My plan was to find my way to KJ’s place in Thammasat University. This is about an hour north of Bangkok. I was easily able to get a cab large enough for my bicycle, that would take me there for less than 1000 Baht (~$30).
I also needed a place to assemble my bike and sleep. I had the taxi driver take me to a hotel near the University. The hotel room could serve both purposes. It is only after the taxi has left that I realize one flaw in my plan.
The hotel is on a major road. There are no secondary roads or streets that I can ride my bike to from this hotel. The issue is that although KJ’s place is only three kilometers from the hotel. I cannot ride the bike to her place.
We talk it through over the phone. Try to find a large taxi.
Steve Purcell once told me he could reassemble his P-38 from many tiny pieces in an Italian Cafe. I like a hotel room, because if you have to leave it in mid assembly, you can lock the whole mess in the room. No one interferes, nor is anyone offended by the chaos.
The next day KJ drove me back to Bangkok to catch my plane. We had a good discussion about life in academic research, and Thai culture. I have only begun to explore the culture here. KJ has traveled to Paris a few times. It was there that she met Thomas, a WarmShowers contact I met five years ago.
For instance the taxi fare to Thammasat University (a 60 km ride) is less than 1000 Baht (~35 USD). According to KJ, 1000 Baht is her budget for a week (not including rent).
Earlier, I had found a food court near the University. I ordered a plate of food for lunch. The woman there held up 4 fingers to indicate the price. I said aloud ‘400Baht?’. She laughed at me and said, ‘forty’. This ample lunch cost less than two US dollars. What is the word for inverse sticker shock? Also, she could have easily gotten 400 Baht without me even suspecting anything. The people have honor.
Inside the University every one speaks excellent English. Outside, this far from the city, English is rare. The good thing is the people are good natured and honorable. I wanted to reward good service to a parking lot attendant at the hotel. I held out a 500 Baht note ($15). He and another attendant stared at the note in disbelief. I read there body language as, ‘Sir we have no procedure to accept a gift of this size’. It felt really weird to put this note back in my pocket.
Return to United States
While I was traveling through Europe, my brother Eric was engineering a birthday celebration at my mother’s place in Lafayette, Indiana (near Chicago). This required organizing a meeting near the Chicago airport, the 4 hour car trip to Lafayette with multiple cars and an Airbnb large enough for us all to crash at near Lafayette. Here we would prepare our special Groere Eten. A traditional Woudenberg meal only served at special gatherings.
I flew in from Thailand arriving a day early. This enabled me to get mostly in the local time zone before meeting the family. Carina and Mark organized the California contingent, consisting of Carina, Cherissa, Mark, and Arden. Rick and his son Toshi came in from the East Coast. Ruthe flew in from Oregon.
Assembling pretty late in the evening in Chicago, we descended upon a Eastern European restaraunt in Chicago which was in the process of shutting down the kitchen for the night. We looked sufficiently forlorn at the thought of finding someplace else to eat that the owner decided to make it work somehow.
My Granddaugher, Arden, just seven months old was the party animal. She can stay upbeat for a five hour flight from California, followed by a hard time at the car rental place, and still be the life at the party.
We made it down to Mom’s place the next day and prepared Groere Eten for the following day. This was a bit of a challenge in the primitive kitchen we had. Ruthe knows how to improvise. It work well.
Great grandmother Patty meets Arden for the first time.
Rick, Ruthe, and I also went through the remaining wall hanging’s and photographs from the mom’s farmhouse in Shadeland, Indiana. We divided it up and started the conservatory effort.
It was a successful journey. I flew home to California with my daughters and extended family. Ron Noack met us at the San Jose airport. We chatted a bit before Cherissa and I headed north.
It had been a long day for me and Cherissa offered that I crash at her place in Moss Beach, which I accepted. I found when we had arrived, that PG&E had shut down power in the region, in order to prevent more forest fires.
I left early the next morning. The power was still out in Moss Beach, but on in San Francisco
My main objectives for November were to organize, possible new team member, new equipment, vaccinations for travel to rural Asia, Clean out my apartment, Dentist Appointment, Resolve Health Insurance for Cherissa. You know, the daily grind, the stuff that doesn’t get done while you’re traveling. It piles up. But not so much that you don’t have time for some bike rides with old friends
It was good meeting up with the gang, and finding out what has happened since our last meeting. We meet once a week, the attendance is variable so there are always new old friends to catch up with. Jack Jones is an old favorite (sorry no picture this time).
I also shared a beer with Jim Kern and Eric Eisenbarth from the crazy as anything endurance cyclist group.
Out here on the west coast, we Woudenbergs like to assemble with my Sister and her husband Jim at their home in Ashland, Oregon. In preparation, Cherissa and I bake pies. This year her friend James helped out.
The pies get made a few days in advance. The plan is to start out early on Wednesday morning to beat the traffic out of the Bay Area. This part works. However well beyond the Bay Area, another delay awaits us.
While driving north in California, Mark and Carina point out that Interstate 5 is closed at the Oregon Border due to Blizzard Conditions and a backlog of stuck automobiles. We are several hours away from the border, but we decide to take an alternate route along the California Coast, then over Grants Pass. No telling whether this is the better choice, but at least it is not closed at the moment.
The new route will at least double our travel time. This is a real concern when carrying a baby along. I figure if things get tough we can stop in a motel for the night and get an early start the next morning.
It worked out fine for Arden. She didn’t mind it a bit. Her parents may have a different story to tell. In addition to the longer route, we also got delayed because of a jack knifed tractor trailer many miles ahead of us on Route 5. I think we were on the road for more than 12 hours.
Ruthe was happy to feed us when we got there. She knows how to layout the cornucopia of great stuff.
Next morning Ruthe and I honor our traditions but only do an abbreviated mountain bike ride this year. We found the fire road to be quite icy.
We got back early to see the Turkey go into the oven. It was a good Thanksgiving crowd with the Finnigans, the Noacks, the Woudenbergs and Jim of course. Nine people in all, and more than enough food as always. Followed by pie of many types then a sampling of some exquisite Scotch.