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Kayaking the Missouri River
August 12th, 2017 | View Post
As part of my adventure through Kansas City, Dave had organized a super badass trip to kayak down the Missouri River with me and our mutual friend, Dawn. He had actually done a shorter version of the trip before on a canoe with his brother and niece, but this particular trip was a three and a half hour tour in kayaks. While I wouldn't have thought it would be super difficult, I know that my arms and shoulders were sore for two days following and it definitely puts a toll on your back too, so it was a lot harder than I'd have thought.


From left to right: Dawn, Dave, me




The Missouri River is enormous for one; at certain places it has to be a few hundred yards wide. The trip started with the river moving pretty slow, but it would certainly pick up at various places. There are never really rapids in it, per se, but there are parts where it turns pretty hard and creates powerful eddies on the surface. One of those would eventually get me.

While the river itself is enough to contend with, there is also boat traffic as well as barge traffic. There are old graineries, strip mines, and power plants along the way, so it's very much setup to accommodate enormous commercial and industrial traffic.

When we were about two hours into the float I decided to tackle one of the “rapids”. Getting through the water itself was fine, but as I merged back towards the steady flow of the current, I wound up getting swept into a giant eddy. I didn't have any problem with it spinning me backwards and then twirling me around a little bit, but the force of it turned me so quickly that it threw off the balance of the kayak and eventually turned me over into the water. Both Dave and Dawn were too far downstream to immediately do anything about it. Of course I was also the only of us not to be wearing his life-jacket (it was extremely uncomfortable wearing it while also squeezed into the tiny compartment of the kayak).


Shortly after having tipped over twice in the kayak and now soaking wet (which felt pretty wonderful in the hot Missouri sun)




Given that I had our wallets, keys, and other valuables in my dry bag, my first priority was to make sure that didn't sink. It didn't, but I've never owned a dry bag before and so I wasn't sure if it would or not. Once I had that in my hand, I donned my life-jacket from within the water as I was being pulled downstream and started working to flip my kayak back over. I quickly succeeded and started to climb back into it. Unaware of just how much water it had taken on when it flipped, it immediately flipped over again given how unstable it was. It wasn't until that moment that I realized I had a real problem. I was stuck about 100 yards from the shore in a river swirling with eddies and unable to gain any control of my kayak. I finally managed to flip it over again, place all of my belongings inside of it, and very carefully balance myself on top of it while I slowly paddled orthogonal to the current towards the muddy shoreline. It wasn't over once I got there.

The shoreline was an almost immediate drop off and so it was not particularly easy to pull the boat onto the shore (though I was lucky this particular part of the river even had a shoreline at all). Once I eventually got it up there I had to flip it upside down and then lift it from side to side in order to evacuate all of the water from it. When I finally accomplished that, I fixed myself snugly inside of it from the shore and then started throwing my body weight forward to slowly push it back into the water (noting again that even a few feet from the shore was way over my head since it's a dredged river).

Thankfully Dawn had come back to ensure that I was okay while Dave was just too far downstream to fight the current. It was actually a lot more comfortable in the boat once I was soaking wet and when I eventually caught back up and re-formed our little kayak trio, we had a good laugh. At me, not with me.
My Retirement Video
August 7th, 2017 | View Post
Dave and I were messing around with his amazingly badass new drone in his backyard and happened to shoot this quick video. After adding some Simon and Garfunkle to it, I realized that it pretty perfectly encapsulated the beginning of my mid-life, pre-world-adventure retirement.

It may also resemble the ending of a Wes Anderson movie; unclear.



Round-the-World Map
August 6th, 2017 | View Post
I put together this little map of the trips that I'm planning to take over the next many months. If you click on the map and then view the original you'll be able to see some of the country and city labels that I've added.


A map of the world as I plan to travel it (full screen view).




The short of it is that the first phase of my trip involves a 6-week expedition to Southeast Asia. Specifically I am planning to visit Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, Cambodia, and Laos. I'd like to visit Malaysia and Burma too, but I'm not sure I'll have the time to do all of that. Upon returning home from that trip I will be departing for Barcelona Spain to join my dear friend Ben. He and I will be flying to Málaga, Spain and then driving to Gibraltar, sailing across the Straight of Gibraltar into Morocco, and then driving most of Morocco. I then fly from Marakesh to India, then from India to Nepal, and then hopefully will make a short stopover in Istanbul before returning home for the American holidays.

For the third phase of my trip I am planning a camper van tour of western and eastern Europe. For the fourth phase of my trip I will be doing the same kind of expedition throughout South America. The final expedition will involve a number of island nations that I have wanted to visit and with any luck will include cruises to both Alaska and Antarctica.

I think if I can pull all of that off within a year or so I will have pretty successfully seen the vast majority of the world, tasted the best of the world's cuisines, and made the most of my mid-life retirement.
Final Round of Shots
August 4th, 2017 | View Post
In preparation for my adventures around the world I unfortunately had to go back to the travel clinic to get my final round of shots. In addition to the typhoid vaccine that I have already been taking orally, I had to double up on the hepatitis-a and hepatitis-b vaccination.

Unlike the first time, this one really hurt. In order for them to use the two-in-one formula it's required that they inject an entire 1ml into the muscle tissue. Additionally, with my arms already being sore from the previous round of shots, well - it just hurt.


A little photo montage of the nurse giving me the final injections. You can see I'm not especially happy with the icepack on my right arm.




I whined a bit when the nurse was doing it and so she offered me an ice pack. If you find yourself getting these types of vaccinations and one is not offered to you, it does really help a lot and I would highly recommend it. To be clear, the needle didn't bother me in the slightest; the liquid formula seeping deep into my muscle tissue did hurt - a lot.
Getting my Thailand Tourist Visa
August 3rd, 2017 | View Post

A giant building in downtown Houston, TX that houses the Thailand Consulate (it's on the 20th floor)
Normally you aren't required to get a tourist visa to enter Thailand as an American, but because the length of my trip is going to be longer than the standard 30-day "on-arrival" visa, I figured I should check with the consulate; fortunately for me they have one in Houston (just a 5-hour round-trip from Austin) and this is what I learned:

Frustrating as it is to hear a non-binary answer when it comes to the laws of another country, the woman at the consulate (who was the nicest person ever by the way) told me that while I could always just get a flight out of Thailand (say to Vietnam) and then come back in thus renewing the visa, the officials "frown upon this". Again, that's a pretty ambiguous thing to hear. So it's not that they'll say no - necessarily, but rather that they frown upon you taking advantage of extending your 30-day window in Thailand simply by making what are called "visa runs".

She told me that the first time you come back into the country they won't have a problem with it, but if you do it two or three times that again, they will "frown upon it". After doing some research and consulting with friends who have regularly visited Thailand, all research pointed to the idea that it's entirely the discretion of the immigration officials. Meaning, if I took advantage of the system I could find myself stuck on the border between say Cambodia and Thailand unable to get back in. Naturally that's not a position I'd like to find myself in and so I got a tourist visa. It normally takes them three to five days to prepare, but since I drove in from out of town and am leaving this Sunday, they managed to do it in just a few hours for me.


My Kingdom of Thailand Visa in all of its glory!




Unfortunately the Houston consulate is only able to issue one-time-entry visas instead of the multi-visa that I would have been able to get in Washington, DC. Not AS ideal, but this should at least give me the flexibility to do what I need to. When I land, this visa will be used to illustrate that I can stay in the country long enough to catch my return flight six weeks later. When I eventually do travel outside of Thailand, I'll be able to come back in provided that my exit flight is within 30 days of my entry back into Thailand. So that would then be my first "on-arrival" visa. If I leave again and come back, I'll then be at that point whereby they could "frown upon" my entry, but provided I show that I'm flying out of Bangkok within a few days of coming back, I don't think it will be an issue.

The short of the story is that this should give me three entries into Thailand during my trip (inclusive of my initial landing) instead of just two.

The visa itself cost me $40.00 USD in cash, but I also had to spend about $10.00 getting my photos printed out and then another $15.00 in parking fees in the garage. Turns out they would have validated if I'd parked in THEIR garage, but I did not think to ask in advance. Still, $65.00 USD in total is a reasonable fee for peace of mind.


This is just a random sculpture that was outside of the Thai consulate office building.



Starting Price Sheet
July 30th, 2017 | View Post
In an effort to actually help other people plan their own travels around the world, I'd really like to do my best to keep up with the prices of various components. This is the first effort at that. World travel isn't nearly as expensive as people think it is, at least it doesn't have to be. Some of that is based on experience of knowing what needs to be booked in advance and what can be booked on the fly. The rest of it generally comes down to flexibility. If you only have a specific window for vacation or the like, it falls on the high season, and you're dead set on that specific location, then there's a good chance it's going to be pricier. On the other hand, if you can mitigate any of those factors then it can be much more affordable.

Travel Expenses

* One way train seat between Kansas City and Chicago (Amtrak): $61.20
* Round trip flight between Chicago O'Hare and Bangkok Suvarnabhumi (EVA Airlines): $679.26
* One way flight from Chicago Midway to Kansas City (Southwest Airlines): $78.98
* One way flight from Austin to Barcelona (Condor Airlines): $539.87

Total travel expenses: $1,359.31

Medical Expenses

* Base cost of travel clinic: $55.00
* Malarone (malaria prevention medication): $248.00
* Azithromycin (traveler's diarrhea medication): $4.50
* Doxycycline (leptospirosis prevention): $6.00

Total medical expenses: $313.50

Equipment Expenses

* Lonely Planet SE Asia: $20.18
* New baseball cap: $35.00
* Underwater case for iPhone: $6.99
* International travel plug adapter: $12.99
* Mosquito coils: $14.95
* Sport Chaco sandals: $104.00
* Microfiber quick-dry towel: $9.88
* Earth-pak dry-bag: $18.99

Total equipment expenses: $222.98

I'll create additional posts for price matches as I make my way.