Posts Categorized: Travel

Manila is a circus.

Each man to his own, in his plight to run faster in his chosen hamster wheel, to excel at his own profession. Whether his trade may be architecture, banking, the arts, meaningless shenanigans, or dabbling in the compromise of emotions, we all are here to fight the good fight, and stand up for whatever it may be that eventually make us who we really are.

Greetings from the airport hallows of Saipan!

Such a small island.

Yet I would say it would deserve more than the 10 hours I spent here today, which is what happens with the ‘first-flight-in-last-flight-out’ procedure.

I’m mooching off the free WiFi here at the airport lounge, waiting for my flight to board. I am in dire need of a sedative to ease the pain in my stomach, which is probably a direct result of drinking for 9 hours non-stop yesterday with no decent meals in between. I feel like heaving my innards out into a cold and insensitive porcelain bowl.

Meanwhile, I have an hour to burn before my flight to Guam. And the beginnings of helping take over the world through the family empire will soon begin. Here we go, Batman.

What’s interesting are the small nuances of existing. All of these small elements that make up who you are, i.e.: cultural identity, gender roles, familial ties, notable life experiences… all of which inevitably shape who you are, what you think, what flavor you choose. And what’s wonderful is meeting and/or keeping in touch with old friends who have somehow shared the same experiences or have managed to choose their own path. We’ve come a long way, but the best thing is knowing that we’ll go even further.

$4 24-hour breakfast buffets are the shit. Seriously, what more do you need, aside from finding the perfect sidekick for all seasons? Refer to exhibit 1a. Life is good. And however it may turn out, remember that it’s always your fault.

Greetings from sunny Philippines!

I flew in earlier this morning. The latter part of the flight was spent chatting up a rather old gentleman from New York who was flying down to Mindanao for business. He was a banker, and financed infrastructure projects in the region. Very wise man, with lots of interesting things to say. He told stories of past presidents, of being 17 during World War II, of his 14 children, of being married for 60 years, of playing singles tennis three times a week (!). And in between the lines, of understanding what it means to be privileged and to accept the blessings of life.

And we never stop to think of it, but the decisions we make and the world we continue to change today, are the stories we will pass on to the next. Until then, it’s always a pleasant mystery what stories the next stranger on the plane will be willing to share.

So I guess the yearender story is long overdue. Original plans were to take Vanessa out to Death Valley two days after Christmas, with Nickel the boy wonder in tow. Fresh from the mechanic with a brand spanky new starter and solenoid, we had unwavering confidence that the veedub would roar into life bravely after each slumber, and putter along merrily into the depths of the desert. And for the first night, it did!

It is widely known that the design of the VW type-2 Bus is most conducive to fun paced slacking rather than picking up the slack against soccer moms with 205hp Porsche SUVs on the highway. So the Vanessa Adventure Team (Paul, Kat, Nickel) found themselves two hours late, with the waning winter sunlight, outside of the park and decided to camp it out at this place called Walker Pass. Elevation: 5,000 feet. Probably not a good idea, but for all not-so-good ideas, great adventures are to be made and unforgettable stories to be told!

Hunger was averted when we barely had enough propane/butane fuel to boil water just to make two cups of noodles. Not only due to the lack of fuel, but to the damn cold.
It was literally freezing! The morning after, we discover that our water turned into a solid block of ice. Nickel’s water bowl was frozen solid. All our knees were shakin’!

The pit toilets were quite interesting too. The mens pit toilet told stories of an unfortunate camper’s bout with explosive diarrhea. I was curious about the women’s toilet, which I would’ve used if it were marginally cleaner. No dinero – some (most probably heavy-set) lady missed the hole and landed a massive chunk of brownie the size of a bigmac right on the toilet hinge. I kid you not, but I reeked for a full 15 minutes after subjecting myself for a mere 15 seconds in that hellhole. Imagine what that would smell like in the heat of summer? Yumm.

The next morning, we packed our gear as fast as we could to get the hell out of there. And so Vanessa tried to wake up. And tried. And stopped trying.

We spend another half hour waiting for the sun to come out and took turns underneath the car poking fun at the starter and solenoid for it to magically cough up its troubles and grant our wishes. And, just like the randomness of winning the lottery, the engine roared into life! Crawl underneath the bus count = 1. Start the bus count = 1. As long as the crawl count was equal to, or less than the start count, we were good.

Well, as the trip progressed we eventually came up to an impressive count of 5, 5, when we were dealt with a joker card. In the outskirts of Zabriskie Point, the fuel pump started coughing up and the engine would wheeze like a suffocating fish before finally shuddering into a dead heap of metal. To make the long story short, we again played our chances fiddling with the innards and at least got the engine fired up, and running. The bus would randomly shudder through the rest of the abort journey back home, but the crew was all brave and ignored our worst-case-scenario fears of engine explosion and “by the way the fire extinguisher is expired” thoughts. What a day! Saga will be continued…

I’ve been on the road since Friday night, shuttling through different cities each day.

  • Saturday: Las Vegas, NV
    Touch-up of rental property with my brother-in-law, sister, and nieces. We brought Nickel with us, who apparently tinkled a bit on the carpet. Naughty dog!
  • Sunday: Big Bear, CA
    Went snowboarding with GP, and worked on my wipeout skills on my goofy footing. Tested the new gear I got at Skidazzle (board, boots, bindings). It might’ve been fatigue, but the board I thought was orange apparently turns pink under the sun. Hot!!!
  • Monday: Fremont, CA
    Took a morning Southwest flight up to see Kat, and headed to the Amtrak train station for the Coast Starlight Express train up to Oakland, and overnight (17 hours?) to Eugene.
  • Tuesday: Eugene, Oregon
    Met Kathy and Don, who graciously showed us the 1979 Volkswagen Transporter van we spotted on Craigslist. Body is really solid, a few minor issues but initial impressions were good and solid. Before they could even drop us off a Chinese restaurant to mull over the decision making, Kat and I jumped the gun and told them to head straight to the bank because their van was as good as sold! Took a break in a local pizza joint, and braved the 9 hour drive back down to NorCal. I must admit that it’s very weird to process the fact that I was 9 hours north of SF, when I normally take the 6 hour commute heading north towards SF. It must’ve been a pretty drive, but we were blanketed by darkness and the occasional fog around the mountains.
  • Wednesday: Fremont, CA
    Now I’m knee deep in researching about DMV red tape, and knick knacks to clean up and take care of for the van. First in order is to get registration, insurance, and tune-up the engine to pass emissions. CA law is the strictest on emissions, and is required for vehicles made after 1975. I need to find a mechanic!

And so here she is, ladies and gentlemen. You can be assured that we will have more pictures of her to come :)

YES!!

I’m up unnaturally early, since I passed out at the unheard of 2130 hours last night. I thoroughly wore myself out by completing the Vespa leg yesterday, and taking back the scooter from Fremont to Tarzana in one fell swoop – 400 miles in a straight shot running 9 hours. The route I took was straightforward along the 101, with a small bisection of CA-25 around Hollister and back on the 101 around San Miguel. All back in one piece!

The rear wheel is starting to square off again. I got the Continental Zippy 1’s after reading all the fanfare on the forums of Modern Vespa, but am not quite impressed how it handles the rain grooves on highways while carrying a load. It seems very skippy and squirrelly, but it could be that maybe I shouldn’t be on rain grooves in the first place ;)

It’s been 1,692 miles on the Vespa since I left my house more than a week ago. I want to blog about the specifics (routes taken, mileage between points, camping outtakes), but I need to go to bed. In a few hours, I hitch a ride via car with my brother and sister-in-law back to SoCal.

In the meantime, I’ve posted links to the photo albums below. I’ll probably include more detail of the trips in the following days. Until then, “tcheuss out!”

I’m back in one piece. Albeit, in San Francisco.

The best adventures that my life offers have been those planned in short notice, or best, the ones that are never planned at all. There remains an irresistible urge to beckon after a calling, a special kind of calling, that can only be found deep within yourself. The rest of the world may think you are crazy, some smirk in bemusement, whilst others shake their heads in worry. Yet at the end of the day, your life is only yours to live and to experience, and I feel that we owe it to ourselves to take that first step and turn wonder and curiosity into something more tangible. Something that you own. And the sense of accomplishment means more than simply reaching your destination, but being able to recount the validity of your experience by really understanding the journey, and each step that you took in order to reach where you are.

A silly red scooter, is only silly when you laugh at it from the other side. And not when you experience what it’s really like to get from point A, to point B.

More descriptive updates and pictures to follow. :)

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This is what I live for. Semblances of isolation. Adventure. A sense of taking control over my life, instead of rolling with life’s punches as everyone expects it to roll. It’s cliche, but it never really is about the destination – it’s how you take your strides, how you inevitably fall down, and how you manage to pick yourself up from your pieces and move on..