Global pandemic (still)…
Drove cross country in a Sprinter van with two toddlers.
Living in New Hampshire again!
Wishing you all a happy and healthy 2022!
Global pandemic (still)…
Drove cross country in a Sprinter van with two toddlers.
Living in New Hampshire again!
Wishing you all a happy and healthy 2022!
Global pandemic. Had a new baby. That about sums it up!
Life has been wonderful and busy! We’re excited to get out on two wheels again, even if only for a few more miles… I’ll just leave this video here. May you all have a brighter 2021!
This year is going to be a little different. That’s an understatement.
For the first time since 2012, I’m breaking tradition on my annual year-in-review blog post. Instead, as I sit without internet through an overnight flight on a plane headed for Hong Kong, I’m documenting my day. With a kiddo at home, the days are long, but the years are short…
Wrapped snug under the covers, my brain is at rest. With my wife by my side, I’m fast asleep.
Eyes pop open for a minute and I’m reminded that I forgot to send an important email. Someone will be unhappy when the sun comes up. Oh well, the urge to sleep is too powerful. There’s always tomorrow. Roll over, clear throat, close eyes, rest brain.
There’s an echo of cries and whimpers coming over the monitor on the nightstand and through the wall that separates our bedrooms. What time is it??? I peek at the clock on top of the dresser. No… Baby… It’s too early, please don’t wake up… We’ve tried it all. Later bedtimes, earlier bedtimes, more and less milk before bed, higher and lower thermostat settings. For whatever reason, when the body wants to wake up, there’s no holding it back.
Praise Jesus, thank you Allah, hallelujah Tom Cruise, Zeus, Captain Planet, and the Flying Spaghetti Monster. I’ll take whatever miracle that comes my way, for his crying has stopped and he’s fallen back asleep! At least for now, my eyes can rest a little longer.
Already? How can that be? It felt like just a moment ago. There’s no fire drill this time. The beast has awoken and he’s out for blood, err…… milk. The folklore of waking up to gentle babbling are only a fairytale it seems. Fortunately, my wife is amazing. With a smile on her face and in her heart, she gracefully climbs out of bed and walks into the other room. The crying stops abruptly and I know he’s feeding. Yawn, stretch, rub eyes, sigh, reach for iPhone. There’s a laundry list of notifications on the lock screen. Although I’ve been asleep, my colleagues in China have been hard at work. They’re about to call it a night but before they do, we message back and forth on WeChat, the popular Chinese Facebook-like messaging app. There is some important information they need to shared before they rest their heads and I have only this short window of time where my morning overlaps with their evening.
I hear a soft, pleasant voice as she greats him. Relaxed for the moment, she reads him a book. I can just about hear them through the wall. Back to my phone, I’m halfway through the messages.
“It’s going to be bright” she says as they walk into the hallway and then turn on the bathroom light. She’s reading him another book, while he sits (or attempts to break free from sitting) on a little plastic training potty. I swipe over to another app to check the news headlines. Moments later, “You made a poopy” she exclaims and I can imagine the pride beaming from his face. “It’s time to wash our hands now.” And then, “OK, let’s go see Daddy.”
I quickly put my phone back on the nightstand as the bedroom light flicks on. Learning again about his morning’s bowel movement, I’m greeted with big smiles from my two loves. He and I snuggle in bed for a minute while she prepares his clean diaper and clothes. The snuggles never last long. Now that he’s mobile, snuggling seems to have fallen out of favor. Keeping him entertained, I stand him up on my chest and let him Hop On Pop. Giggles and smiles. Giggles and smiles… It’s fun for all of us, but he throws his head back and promptly reminds us about what he’s really looking for. That liquid gold.
We’ve transitioned away from bottles, except for the first land last feedings of the day. By now, he’s capable of slurping from a sippy cup. But it’s early. Mom and dad need a few minutes to wake up too. So he lounges quietly on the living room floor, chugging on a giant bottle of milk that’s been fitted with a nipple designed for premature newborns. The flow rate from its tiny hole gives us those previous few moments we need to make our own bowls of cereal, download emails, empty our bladders, and let the brains get fully warmed up.
Triaging my emails, I flag the urgent ones and squeeze in a few last minute WeChat messages with my China team.
BURP! Wow, that must have been a good bottle! Now with a full stomach, he has a happy heart, and he’s ready to explore the living room full of toys that Mom rearranged last night. I hop off the computer and we play together while Mom does her morning pumping. Pushing cars around the room, trying to open all the dresser drawers, carrying shoes around the house (sometimes by hand and other times by mouth), picking up lint from the floor, toppling over a stack of books and reading each of them for 3 seconds, and waddling in and out of kitchen while pulling pans out of the cupboards. I pick him up to fly him around the room as if he were an airplane, and finally coming in for an upside-down landing on the soft play mat. “He just ate!” I’m reminded by my lovely wife. I know, and maybe he’ll spit up, but it’s just too much fun flipping him head over heals. He loves it.
Work mode. I’m pumping through my emails and sending updates to my customers with the information they need to start their day a little later this morning. I’m in the zone, but can’t help glance over to see him showing off his newly acquired dancing skills. That happy feet shuffle is just so cute.
The urgent work is done and the sun is peeking through the morning fog. We head out for a stroller cruise through the neighborhood and give Mom a moment of peace so she can get in her daily workout. When he was young, we stuck to the quiet streets so he could nap. These days he’s awake when we walk and quickly bores of the side streets. So we head to the main road. With all the commuters buzzing by in their cars, he watches Silicon Valley come to life. Meanwhile, I take in a podcast in between answering text messages from my customers who are eager to start their day. We swing by the local grocery store and pickup a few items. There’s always at least one person who smiles at the sight of him. They’ll stop for a moment to admire the cuteness and ask how old she is. “11 months,” I say without correcting the gender. I can’t blame them. The hand-me-down pink stroller doesn’t help much.
We arrive at the house and I stop Strava. My “workouts” these days are a bit more relaxed… He likes clicking the garage door opener and shuffling his plastic moto-tricycle around the driveway. His attention changes often. This morning he loved walking around the garage, driveway, yard, sidewalk, and even into the street with a full size broom. I tried to take it from him but he protested. Ok ok ok… You do you, little man.
Fitted with a fresh diaper, I lay him down in the crib. Actually, he’s great at falling asleep and he’s long since settled back into a nap routine after returning home from our vacation in Turkey where the jet lag took a toll on us all. A few tosses and turns, a little playing with his wubanub, but within a few minutes he’s peacefully asleep. With my hands free, I have time for a quick email check-in before hopping in the shower.
Back from her workout, I give my wife a kiss and head to the office.
Today starts with an in-person interview. Business is going well and with that comes more work. Recruiting to build the right team takes a surprising amount of time and energy. But a little extra effort now will pay dividends later.
Multitask. Meeting prep. Reports. Mentor. Email follow-ups. Troubleshoot. Lunch. Watch a few short video clips that my wife sent. She fed him some leftover borscht. Now he’s grinning ear to ear with his pearly white four-tooth smile surrounded by a face that is stained purplish-red. So cute.
Back to back to back customer meetings.
In the office again, hurrying to send a clear and concise update to my team in China and follow up on a few more emails that came in while I was in meetings.
On the phone with another interview candidate.
The once sleeping dragon is now awake! With my collages in China arriving at the office, I’m inundated with communication. Cogs are spinning in this business machine and there is plenty of oiling that needs to happen to keep it running smooth.
A moment to smile as a few more video clips come in. She did arts and crafts with him and then visited a playground in the park this afternoon. He walked around, waving at everyone he met. He climbed up the play structure, then turned around backwards to go down the slide with his feet first, without being prompted! So cute. Time for me to head home. My head is tired.
Whenever I walk in the door after a day at the office, I’m greeted with this crazy loud squeal of excitement that he somehow learned to do while breathing in. It’s so strange. And it’s the cutest thing in the world. I drop my backpack and get Daddy hugs. Then we chase each other around the living room. Now that he can walk, he never crawls, expect when I chase him on my hands and knees. It’s so much fun for the both of us. When I catch him, we roll around on the floor and he giggles from deep inside his belly. So cute. He’s a ball of energy and it’s amazing, but exhausting. I feel so fortunate to have an amazing wife who has seemingly endless love and patience in putting up with her son and her husband!
Mom reminds us to calm down while she prepares a few bowls of leftover creamy ham and potato soup that I made over the weekend. He sits in my lap and we read a book. He helps me flip the thick cardboard pages. We all enjoy a quick dinner at the table. “Brush teeth” she says, and he walks into the bathroom and climbs up the step-stool by the sink. First it’s Dad’s turn to brush for him, then we sing the ABCs while he brushes by himself (or chews on the toothbrush). “OK, 5 more seconds…. 1… 2…” he hands me the brush early and I pick him up.
The bath is drawn, his night time clothes are laid out and a bottle is made. Meanwhile, iMessages are zapping to and from China as we try to finalize a new contract. Mom is with him in the tub and I come in to hold the toy bag while we prompt him to help put away the foam letters and rubber duckies. I grab his towel and Mom places him on the edge of the tub. For weeks now, every time we take him out of the bath, he stands on one leg and lifts the other in the air. My baby flamingo. So strange. So cute.
A kiss goodnight and Mom takes him into his room for a story, a bottle, and a bedtime song. It’s the routine. Back in the living room, it looks like a hurricane came through. We put the room back together and wash the dishes. Mom is on the couch pumping out some more milk and I’m at the desk, working through the never-ending incoming emails.
With my China team on their lunch break, I have a moment to get caught up on serving my other customers – our app, SnapType, continues to grow. I still love being able to service this community and build this side-hustle. Though I wish I had more time to dedicate to the ambitious future plans we have for it.
Normally I would take this time to chill out for a few minutes, watch a couple of my favorite YouTube creators, scroll through social media, and unwind before bed. However, tonight the doorbell rings to signal that my ride to the airport is here. I kiss my wife goodbye and hop in the minivan. Double checking to make sure I have my passport, I then pull out my laptop and get back to drafting the day’s final emails.
The airport is pretty quiet this time of night so I quickly check in and head through security. “Excuse me sir, is this your bag?” Uh oh, I left a few bottles of liquid baby soap in my bag and they are larger than the TSA limit. It’s a gift for a colleague so I head back to the United counter and check a tiny box cardboard box. Back through security for a second time. Lucky there’s no one in the pre-check line.
A glass of water and a snack are consumed after a brief chit-chat with a customer who I bumped into at the Polaris lounge.
I take my seat on the plan and answer a final few WeChat messages before the doors close. There were so many things I didn’t have time to get to today. I meant to help my mom with her online banking, have a call with my Dad to learn how his doctor’s appointment went, give my sister feedback on her 401k questions, setup an appointment to upgrade to the new “REAL” driver’s licenses, review and pay the bill from the recent emergency room visit (why do babies always get sick in the night?), send a birthday card to a good friend, and start to tackle my annual Year-In-Review blog post. There never seems to be enough time in the day.
The plane takes off 20 minutes late. Rumbles of the engines and the gentle rocking of the plane make my eyelids heavy. I’ll be here for the next 13ish hours. Might as well catch a little shuteye while I can… The days are long, but the years are short.
There’s a good chance we didn’t catch up much this year. I’m sorry for that. But if you’ve made it this far, hit reply to the email, or post a comment on the blog. I’d love to hear from you! Wishing you all a happy and healthy new year as we head down the trail of life for a few more miles.
An exhausting and refreshing 5 month bicycle journey in 2017, I felt rejuvenated to get back into the swing of things at the office and tackle new challenges. 2018 was a busy year with work, but it was also packed with adventures near and far.
Every year I like to reflect on the past 12 months to see where I spent my time. 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012 were all memorable and I’m glad that I’ve taken the time to keep a log. It will be fun to look back in the years to come.
Now that I’m 35, it’s been decided with Charlie (my friend of the same age), that we’re “almost 40.” Wow, that’s a crazy thought and a reminder that life is short and meant for living!
After some wonderful family time back in New Hampshire it was back to California. I was all by myself for a little while longer because Amber and my sister were on a Prius road trip from the east coast to west coast. My sister was starting a new job in northern California and Amber volunteers to drive cross country with her.
We had the privilege to host our first traveler of the year, a fellow cycle tourer (albeit the 1-wheeled kind), Ed Pratt, on his 3 year tour around the world. It felt good to repay some of the hospitality that was given to us on our trip. While at our house, he edited a video series from his in New Zealand. Check it out on his YouTube channel.
Since I moved to California in 2012, I’ve been flying to China every 6 to 8 weeks. With a 6 month hiatus, I was back on a flight across the pacific for the first China trip after our bicycle trip, and for the first trip of the new year. The timing was perfect and I was able to join the company’s annual holiday party. My colleagues were stunned to learn that in the USA, its not customary to create and perform a dance on stage during the holiday party…
However, this wasn’t an ordinary trip… I flew into Shanghai and then a few days later departed Shanghai on a flight to Germany. Another few days in Germany and then a flight to San Francisco. I had just flown around the world! That’s a first for me…
After the business meetings were over in Munich, I visited The Dachau concentration camp. Walking through the camp, where so many people were forced to suffer, was an intense experience. Although hard to fathom the atrocities, the site is now a beautiful memorial, museum, and reminder. Let us never forget…
I saw it every year… My favorite holiday in Chinese New Year! Because I work for a Chinese company, there’s always work to be done, even during US holidays. But during Chinese holidays, my email is quiet and I can enjoy a little peace. To celebrate, Amber and I flew to Colorado and spent the week visiting friends in Denver and Boulder, some whom I haven’t seen since I graduated college! It was wonderful to connect with so many friends and spend time in beautiful Colorado.
Remember those crazy suits from the above holiday party photo? Well… I took a few back to the USA. Charlie and I put them to good use during a morning bicycle ride.
Amber had a bit of an adventure herself this month too as she flew to Germany just a few weeks after I returned. A friend of ours had a business trip and Amber went along to help take care of the baby. I left a “love lock” on bridge and I gave Amber the key and directions on how to find it. She loved the scavenger hunt and the feeling of connection with me, despite being a third of the way around the world.
Family time. A fun weekend of hiking with my sister, Abby.
Kazuhiro is a young Japanese guy who is super friendly, humble and hardcore. The kid cycled from New York to San Francisco, by taking a northern route in the middle of winter! We hosted him at our house and I joined him for a few miles on the last day of his trip. Here we are taking tourist photos at the Facebook head quarters.
After our Japanese traveler left, we hosted an Italian moto traveler. Of course we had to try out the unicycle (that we purchased after hosting our Unicycle traveler in January). Fortunately, he didn’t have to test his health insurance coverage during his visit to California.
A month in motion… It started off with China Trip #2 and then a flight directly to Utah to join Amber at the American Occupational Therapy Association conference. We pitched our app, SnapType, at the inventors showcase (a.k.a. Shark Tank) and were wonderfully surprised to be the winners of the contest! The judges loved what we had already done with SnapType and for its future potential. This was a great accomplishment, especially for Amber to get the recognition and support from her fellow occupational therapists.
After the conference we spent a few days in the southern Utah deserts and national parks with our friends, David and Haley. We love them and had such a great time filled with scenic hikes, delicious meals, awkward photos, and belly laughs. Here we are twisting our way through an intricate slot canyon.
We drove back to Salt Lake City and I flew out that day for China Trip #3. But rather than share a photo from my time in China, enjoy this picture from a week later when a few of my Chinese colleagues came to California. I treated them to an authentic Mexican meal. This may be the best way to unite the citizens of the world… with an enormous plate of tacos!
And we welcomed the arrival of spring by celebrating the Hindu festival of Holi.
Hey, how about another trip to China? Sure… China Trip #4. I had a custom t-shirt made with a Mandarin phrase that rolls off the tongue – 帅老外 (Shuai Lao Wai). In English, it translates to “Handsome Foreigner” and my colleagues loved it. They deserved a good laugh.
Leaving China it was a bus ride to Hong Kong, then a flight to Los Angeles, then Phoenix, then Flagstaff, followed by a 2 mile walk to meet Amber who was sleeping in our tent at the Overland Expo. Jet lag was no match for the energy of being surrounded by thousands of overland travelers. We gave several presentations about our travels by bicycle, motorcycle, and 4×4. When not presenting, we were catching up with friends and checking out all the seriously cool overland rigs on display. Ideas were planted, and we’ll be looking forward to more overland travel in the years to come.
Back in California and back on the bicycles for a weekend of bicycle touring and camping! We rode our bikes to Half Moon Bay to wish our friends, Christian and Persephone, bon voyage as they move to Boston for a new adventure. After the BBQ, we setup camp at the hike-and-bike site at the State Park. In the morning a fellow cyclist had his bike stolen! He was in the showers when someone came over to the site and rode away on his bike. No one realized what had happened until it was too late. Amber set off on her bike to try and find the thief while I broke down camp (she’s the tough one, not me). Unfortunately, he was long gone by then and the harsh reality set in that this traveler, who was on his way from Seattle to San Diego, would have to find new wheels. It’s a sad reminder that you can’t be too cautious with your gear…
Our friend Andrew and his Dad were on their way from San Diego to Maine and made a stop in with us for the night. We love hosting travelers and seeing our hometown friends!
Amber’s favorite vegetable is the artichoke, so when the annual artichoke festival in Castroville came around, we knew we had to attend. Although we enjoyed spending time with our friends, John and Betsy, it turned out to be a bit of a bust, with a fairground full of vendors selling crummy imported trinkets. We reluctantly took a farm tour though and were glad we did because it ended up being extremely interesting. We learned about the different types of artichokes and they let us cut some of our own to take home.
The tail leg of China Trip #5 was exhausting and wonderful. I managed a 20 hour layover in Japan on the way out. Rather than undertake the lengthy travel into downtown Tokyo, I stayed at a hotel just a few minutes from the airport and I spent a day walking around the small town of Narita. Wow, what a great decision that was! Narita has magnificent old temples, shrines and parks. Small ramen noodle restaurants are everywhere and the whole vibe was so pleasant. Hard to imagine that it’s just down the street from Japan’s busiest airport. The best bit? I loved this simple and inexpensive “bridge” that enables people to cross the river without stopping the flow of water. How ingenious!
After Japan, it was time to cross the international date line for a 10 hour layover in Honolulu, Hawaii. Making good use of my time, I walked from the airport to Pearl Harbor. This was a stark contrast in world history to where I was just hours ago.
Back at the airport and a short hop to the island of Kauai for a meet up with more of my family to celebrate my cousin’s wedding. We all had a wonderful time exploring the island. Congratulations Matt and Jess!
June also marked the start of high school summer vacation. Our 16 year old nephew, Justin, joined us in California for the summer. Excited to workout and make some money, he got what he asked for right away by being the hired muscle to move Amber’s gymnastics into a new building.
Since our friends Danny and Mckinsey moved to San Diego a few years back, we’ve missed hanging out with them and their family. So when they told us they were coming to Carmel, we jumped at the opportunity to have some fun with them. Here we are out on the lake in a pair of canoes.
China Trip #6 and a free Sunday. Bicycle riding with my colleagues! All was going well until the clamps on my folding bicycle let loose mid-ride and suddenly I lost all control of the steering! Oh China…
Overnight backpacking plans in the Sierra’s were shut down at the day before departure due to the California wildfires. Last minute, we changed our destination to an even more challenging route much closer to us. Justin and I hiked 18 miles of the Skyline-to-the-Sea trail in the Santa Cruz mountains. He did great. My old-man-knees eventually hobbled into the campground where we met up with Amber for a night of camping. We filmed the hike together and then later on Justin edited the footage into a video. Welcome to nature!
Another traveler to host! Issei is a classic rock loving college student from Japan, working his way down west coast of the USA. We indoctrinated him with a classic Californian meal.
Hot summer days and an offer from a colleague to go boating and tubing had us driving to the Sacramento Delta. We spent the day on the water getting whipped behind the speed boat. Simple pleasures.
With the end of the summer approaching, it was time for Justin to make his way back to New Hampshire and start his Junior year in high school. But before he left, we scheduled a tour of local colleges, Stanford and Santa Clara University. Teenagers love having their picture taken in public…
To celebrate our 3 year wedding anniversary, I had a painting commissioned by a talented artist and fellow bicycle traveler. She created the art while in Nepal and we had a friend of friend pick it up from her in New Delhi, India to hand carry it back to the USA – truly a world-gift! She makes beautiful watercolor paintings and the photos from their travels are really stunning. Take a look at their blog. We’ll cherish this painting at the memory of our Silk Road journey for years to come!
China Trip #7
A friends weekend of camping and mountain biking in Downieville, California was just what the doctor ordered after a hectic month of work!
The next weekend it was off to Mariposa, California for our annual pilgrimage to the Horizons Unlimited meetup. Time spent with fellow travelers, away from cell phone coverage, was quite refreshing. We gave several presentations and enjoyed soaking in presentations about Russia, Africa, and Alaska…
Our long time family cat (Fastball / Fatball) died this month. We were sad to see him go, but happy to have had nearly 17 years of fun memories together with him. He loved playing ruff and being spun in circles on the floor. I even taught him to reach up and give me a high five whenever he wanted to be let out of the house. He will be missed.
Celebrating my second favorite holiday of the year… Chinese Golden Week! My friend Salil and I headed back to South America for a week of motorcycle riding around Ecuador’s backroads. The guys at Freedom Bike Rental set us up with DR650s which were perfect for the remote dirt road riding we embarked on. I also had the opportunity to meet my niece for the first time! Amber’s sister lives down in Quito so it was a double-win.
Enjoy this video we created with highlights from our journey around Ecuador.
Flying (indirectly) from Quito to Shanghai for Trip #8 and a visit from Amber’s mom wrapped up October.
Forest fires were raging this month in Northern and Southern California. The devastation to those communities is hard to comprehend. Even though hundreds of miles away, the smoke created terrible air quality throughout the Bay Area. Thankfully, the day before Thanksgiving, rain fell to help tame the fires and clear the air just in time to enjoy a lovely west coast gathering with my sisters, Abby and Molly. We worked off the calories with a bicycle ride through the neighborhood.
As the end of the year rolled around, we were about to embark on our most remarkable and challenging adventure yet…
A week overdue, our son arrived happy and healthy, and we are in love! It’s been a hectic few days since. Day and night blend into one and we are seriously sleep deprived. But Amberlynn’s mother has been visiting for a few days and we are so thankful for her help. We really hit the jackpot – she’s been a labor and delivery nurse for 25+ years.
This will be a new stage of our lives, and we’re looking forward to the journey!
What went well in 2018?
What did not go well in 2018?
2018 was certainly a memorable year. Content from our twice-in-a-lifetime adventure, we didn’t undertake any grand travels, but we enjoyed the pregnancy progression. Nevertheless, we are already looking forward to the year ahead and to making memories with friends and family in 2019. I hope to put a few more miles (pun intended) onto the BMW R1150 RS motorcycle that I’m bike-sitting for a friend. The day job will be interesting as we continue to grow and diversify but hopefully engaging and rewarding as well with certainly more than a few trips to China. The future of SnapType is bright and we’re really excited to share the next generation with our users – we know they’re going to love it. Learning to be a father and spending time with my son are going to make 2019 wonderful, demanding, exhausting, and fulfilling.
I hope that one day my son will look back on these writings and see that his old man was once a cool guy (with a little hair still left on top of his head). May he be inspired to embrace curiosity, seek out adventure, do good as he goes, connect with community, and be happy in life.
How was your 2018? Are you happier now than you were the same time last year? Have you made progress on your personal goals? What went well for you this year? What could have gone better? Send me an email or leave a comment below, I’d love to hear form you.
Wait… What? 2017 is already over?!?!
Every year I like to reflect on the past 12 months to see where I spent my time. 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012 were all amazing years. I am looking forward to looking back (huh?) on these reviews when I’m old and gray (ok, older and grayer).
As a child, I remember sitting in class at elementary school, looking up at the clock, watching the seconds hand tick so slow, wondering if this class would ever end. Fast forward to today, at age 34, and I wish I could slow down time. So much has happened in the past year. Incredible highs and devastating lows. It’s all going by so fast…
I use a Chrome extension that flashes my age every time I open up a new web browser tab. I use it to remind myself that it’s time to get living. I’ve watched it go from 31 to 32 to 33 and onto 34. I had plenty of fun times and satisfying accomplishments in all these years, but was always left wanting something more. 34 would be different…
If you’re reading this, you’re probably a close enough friend to know that 2017 was the year of my twice in a lifetime adventure. Although the year had a tough start, it was immensely memorable.
The first overseas flight of the year happened early (as seems to be the norm these days). China Trip #1. Considering it was the middle of winter, I crocheted a hat for my colleague’s new baby.
To celebrate Chinese New Year, and some down time at the office, my friend Salil and I flew to Colombia and went for a week long motorcycle ride around the country. After a 5 year gap, it felt great to be back in Colombia! I absolutely love this country. The people are genuinely friendly, the landscapes are gorgeous, the food is delicious, the lifestyle is inexpensive, the weather is perfect, and of course the moto riding is superb with terrific on and off road routes. It was my 5th trip to Colombia and I suspect I’ll have many more.
Just as I was returning home from Colombia, Amber was flying to Ecuador to visit her sister. The fun news is that I became an uncle (again)!
Then as Amber was returning from Ecuador, I was flying off to Asia for China Trip #2. I think we went over a month without seeing each other!
Not long after China, I flew back to NH to visit with family. My step father had been in the hospital for several months and it felt good visit with him and be in the presence of people I love.
We hosted a pair of Polish cyclists who have been pedaling around the world. Basking in their adventure, we cooked a big meal and shared travel stories. It was wonderful to spend time with travelers and remember how good it feels to be out on the road.
It was then time to rack up more frequent flyer miles and head out for China Trip #3.
El Burro, my trusty motorcycle for nearly a decade, with whom I travelled to South America, was put up for adoption. I simply wasn’t giving him the attention and adventure he deserved. Fortunately, a nice family took him in and they plan to explore Baja together. At ~70,000 miles, his bones ache a bit but he loves to get out there. I wish him and his new family all the best. Here’s a photo from our first ever overnight trip together. We were both so young…
It’s the 4th month so it must be time for China Trip #4.
I also celebrated my 34th birthday in one of the best ways possible, with a weeklong visit from my friends Ryan and Rachael! Escaping New England’s arctic climate, we explored San Francisco, rode ATVs like maniacs during a freak rain storm, ripped down Big Sur on Harleys, experienced the awesomeness of the Sea Otter Classic, and screamed our vocal cords to exhaustion with more than enough DMX karaoke. #ruffriders
We took a long ride up in the mountains to celebrate the wedding of our friends, Joel and Adela. It was a beautiful setting and a wonderful event.
Back at the airport again, for a trip to Austin, Texas for a weekend to celebrate my buddy John’s last days being a bachelor. Beer and boardgames ruled the weekend. I stayed an extra day and caught up with a few college friends I hadn’t seen in years. Good times.
Alright, alright… Time for China Trip #5.
This was a big month… It started off great with a long drive down to San Diego for a visit with our friends Danny and McKinsey (and their kids). They left the Bay Area last year and we’ve missed hanging out with them.
Sadly, on the drive back home from San Diego, we learned that my step father wasn’t going to recover. We hopped on a plane that night to arrive in Boston the next morning and said our goodbyes. It was heart breaking.
4 days later my sister got married. Everyone was a wreck, but we bit our lips as best we could and put on a smile. Hearts confused and overflowing with sadness and joy, family and friends came together to take part in the beautiful weekend planned by the couple. Congratulations Hannah and Josh.
I flew back to California for a couple of work meetings and then back to NH a few days later for the memorial service. As sad as it was, it was comforting to be with family and to hear from his friends. My sister spoke a beautiful tribute to him. We’ll always remember the good times.
Keeping strong, I left New Hampshire directly for China Trip #6.
Returning from China, it was a gift to have my mom visit us in California for a week. It’s something we planned a while back and we all agreed that it was a good decision to carry through with it. It was her first time visiting us since we moved here 5 years ago. We showed her all around and most importantly enjoyed time together.
The mountains came calling again and we headed to Lake Tahoe for the wedding of our friends John and Betsy. With an impressive backdrop, the two became husband and wife!
And now here’s where the story takes a twist… After months of planning, Amber and I took sabbaticals from our careers and set off on a grand adventure. Our plan – to bicycle the infamous Silk Road from China, through Central Asia and the Middle East. Not entirely sure what we were getting ourselves into, we turned our home over to my sister (Thanks, Abby!) and flew to Urumqi, the capital of China’s northwest Xin Jiang province.
We arrived safely in China with only one problem… Amber’s bike didn’t arrive! It took far too many phone calls, emails, and taxi rides to the airport, but eventually after 4 days, her bike arrived. Thanks to all my friends in China who helped translate and scream at the airline employees on our behalf!
The rest of the month, we cycled nearly 1,000 kilometers. Going south into the Tian Shan mountains before continuing west towards Kazakhstan, we experienced a side of China rarely seen by westerners. Even though I travel to eastern China all the time, this area had a completely different feel. We developed systems for cycling and living, learned to speak Uyghur (a local language used by the minority ethic group), ate some really delicious food and soaked in the scenery. Long days on the bike were a great time to mourn, reflect, and relax.
Leaving China behind we entered Central Asia and the former Soviet republics. The summer heat was in full force in Kazakhstan. With temperatures well over 100ºF and long distances between settlements and water sources, we tested our mental and physical strength.
Departing the Kazakh steppe, we entered Kyrgyzstan and cycled rolling hills with our new friends Pablo and Manon who helped us get comfortable with the art of stealth camping. During this time we explored, got lost, and finally relaxed into our journey. No rushing, just enjoying.
Climbing to heights over 14,000 feet, we crossed into Tajikistan and celebrated our 2 year wedding anniversary. We tested our lungs and spirits as we cycled and pushed the bikes up at high altitudes. Leaving the pavement behind we entered the Bartang Valley – the most wild of the cycling routes through the Pamir Mountains. During one stretch we went 4 days and 150 kilometers without seeing any local people. It was the best mountain biking I’ve ever done on a road bike… The ~300 miles of rugged dirt roads engulfed in towering mountains and steep gorges was one of the most incredible segments of our tour.
Immediately after entering Uzbekistan we had a tough time. Amber became seriously ill with a bladder infection, kidney infection and the passing of kidney stones. The quality of medical care was not what we’re accustomed to in the USA. Luckily, the people of Uzbekistan are incredibly hospitable and they helped us out at every turn. With medication and time to rest under the supervision of “Nurse Ben,” Amber was able to slowly recover. With time away from the bikes we travelled by train and were overcome with emotion during visits to the famous Silk Road cities of Samarkand and Bukhara.
As winter approached in Central Asia, and with politics blocking our overland travel, we took to the skies and flew to the Middle East. Lovely hosts made us feel at home and we loved the opportunity to experience a new culture. We came to love the early morning call to prayer, cold drinking water provided for free at all the mosques, and the stark desert landscapes. While Amber regained her strength, I suffered from intense back pain as we rode through the United Arab Emirates and the Sultanate of Oman.
Say it ain’t so! Our cycling journey came to an end. We totaled nearly 5,000 kilometers of riding during our 5 months of traveling. Amber kept the adventure alive by flying directly (ok, by way of 4 layovers and 40 hours of travel) to Ecuador for a visit with her sister. I on the other hand, returned to California and jumped right back into the working world. In less than a week I was already off on a flight to Hong Kong for China Trip #7 (not counting the trip to China for the start of our cycling).
Finally, it was time to head to New Hampshire to spend time with family during the holiday season. It was wonderful to see everyone after being away for 6 months!
What went well in 2017?
What did not go well in 2017?
2017 was certainly a memorable year for good and bad reasons. Nevertheless, I’m already looking forward to the year ahead and to making memories with friends and family in 2018. I’ll be on the look out for a new motorcycle. Work will be challenging but hopefully rewarding as well with certainly more than a few trips to China. There is also still a lot of growth opportunity for SnapType and I look forward to devoting more energy to seeing that through.
How was your 2017? Are you happier now than you were the same time last year? Have you made progress on your personal goals? What went well for you this year? What could have gone better?
Now you can track the daily ups and downs as we cycle the Silk Road by following our Strava feed. You’ll first have to ask to follow us…
Here’s a few of our big days…
We’re currently in Osh, Kyrgyzstan and will soon be headed into the Pamir mountains in Tajikistan. It won’t be long before we’re riding upwards of 4,000 meters (13,000 feet).
So if you’re curious to see how many miles (or kilometers) we’re riding each day, how much time we spend in the saddle, and how much climbing we’re doing, feel free to follow us on Strava.
Amberlynn and I have been pedaling our asses off and it’s been great! We landed in China on July 7 and waited in Ürümqi until our missing bike arrived; it was quite the fiasco! We pedaled west for a few days until my front hub blew up… It only took a day for a friendly local bike shop to order a new hub and rebuild my wheel. In the meantime, they entertained us and kept our faces stuffed with delicious watermelon!
Back on the bikes, we detoured a bit to get off the direct route and get into the mountains. This was suggested by almost every Chinese cyclist we met (and there were a bunch of them). They called it a “library road”. I’m not quite sure that Google got the translation exactly correct, but the idea of a quiet mountain road was clearly understood.
It took us 4 days of non-stop uphill climbing, and then a 10 mile ride in the back of a pickup truck to finally reach the 11,500 foot (3,500 meters) mountain pass. Amberlynn remarked that the truck ride was one of our “best decisions ever” and I think she was right.
We then enjoyed a nice coast downhill for several days until we leveled out around 3,000 feet (1,000 meters). After 9 continuous days of pedaling, with the final day being our longest to date – 72 miles (115km), we arrived in the regional town of Ili (also known as Yinning). With the bikes parked up in the hotel room, we enjoyed 2 well earned rest days where we pretty much just laid in bed all day. It was glorious!
Well, we didn’t lay in bed all day… In the evenings, we were treated to delicious dinners by locals. We also used the time to begin editing our video footage. We’ve been on the road for more than a month and have already published several episodes. Many more episodes will come as we continue our trip. We hope you enjoy them!
Here’s the link to subscribe to my YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/c/BenSlavin
If you want to start from the beginning – here’s your link: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLvqjG9opPVlbrdnJrnqp25jK6qokjWXZd
It’s possible that some of the earlier videos won’t play on mobile devices (due to copyright issues from the music we used). If that’s a problem, you can watch the videos on a desktop computer or on Facebook…
Here’s the link to follow us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AFewMoreMilesBlog/
It’s funny… I’m writing this as I sit on a plane flying east across the Pacific Ocean. In fact, this is the 6th time in the 6 months of this calendar year that I’ve made this roundtrip journey from the USA to China. Even though I’m quite accustomed to the trans-Pacific travel, there’s something a little unsettling about my next trip.
8 years ago, I set off on a grand adventure, to ride my motorcycle from my home in New Hampshire, to the southernmost city in the world – Ushuaia, Argentina. Many of my friends called it an opportunity of a lifetime, or a once in a lifetime adventure. Rather, I often romanticized about a life time of adventure.
But then life happened. I was nearly broke so I spent time working and making money. Coming back into the working world, I quickly advanced my career – enjoying the problem solving and critical thinking along the way. I moved to California, got married (yay!) and focused on my career for the next 5 years. The job is wonderful. I really do enjoy it. I had many small adventures during these years, but I often dreamed of another grand adventure.
Despite taking an 8 year gap, I’ll soon be on sabbatical and setting off on another once in a lifetime adventure. The term, twice in a lifetime adventure just doesn’t have the same ring to it…
I’m not the same person I was back in 2009 when I did my motorcycle trip. I have more wrinkles in my face and more aches in my joints. There is less hair on my head (and the hair that is there is a lot more gray) and I have a few extra pounds around my waist.
I was a 26 year old kid who had his whole life ahead of him. A bit naive, yet optimistic. There was less than 4 years of career under my belt. Nevertheless, there was a restlessness to step outside of my comfort zone and worry about the consequences later.
I’m 34 now. Perhaps considered by many to still be quite young. I suppose it’s all relative. I’m still restless, but my world is quite different now and this journey, while having the similarity of international overland travel, feels significantly different.
Despite the fact that my savings are an order of magnitude greater than what they were before, I’m more concerned about financial security. Maybe it’s because I’m in my mid-thirties and this is the time in life when ones career can take off and achieve the greatest earning potential. Or maybe it’s because Amberlynn and I plan to start a family in the near future. Or maybe it’s because that’s what older people do – worry about money.
On the one hand, my mother and father are reaching retirement and I see both the opportunities and challenges they face. On the other hand, the painfully fresh memory of my step-father’s passing is a sharp reminder that we’re only here on this earth for moment in time and despite our best attempts, we can’t for certain control our future. All that said, I realize that in the larger world view, I’m extremely fortunate.
But still, life is so busy these days. Work keeps my mind constantly occupied. Caring for family is an honor yet not without requiring significant energy. And worrying about the future is never far off.
Departing for South America had a surprisingly anticlimactic feeling. I rode out of my driveway on my motorcycle, visited friends along the way, and settled into life on the road under the comfort of familiar travel in the USA. This time however, we are flying across the globe, with little opportunity to purchase quality gear if there’s something we forget. On day one we’ll be thrust into a foreign culture unlike the Americas. Language will be changing often and the western way of life will be abruptly removed. It makes me chuckle to think about the Marco Polo airport in Venice. If only he had a plane…
Despite the exhaustion of flying to China once a month, I enjoy the time spent on the plane, disconnected from the world. No internet, no social media, no text messages, no phone calls. Just the time to myself, to pause, if only for a moment. I suspect that over the next several months, I’ll have a lot of time spent in my own head. Pedaling through the searing steppe, freezing mountain passes, torrential rain storms on the plains, and windy deserts; Slogging up relentless hill climbs, continuing on straight, flat roads for miles upon miles upon miles, and as I’m sure, several wonderfully idyllic back road downhills with the wind at my back.
I’m curious. Will I get bored with the space that I so desperately desire today? I recall feeling alone while battling the unforgiving Ruta 40 in Patagonia. In spite of that, the trip refreshed me; eager to get back home and connect with friends and family, and to devote newfound energy to my career.
Charles and I had many unforgettable times motorcycling together through Latin America. However, spending time with anyone 24/7 is a challenge. Ultimately we decided to part ways in southern Ecuador. We remain good friends but at that moment we needed a break from one another. I’m rather laid back, but at the same time I like to do things my way. Because of this, I can get annoyed easily, and similarly I can become quite annoying.
This time I’ll be traveling with my wife. That brings on an entirely new set of challenges and opportunities. Without the luxury of a motor on this trip, we’ll be more vulnerable and exhausted. Surely we’ll have incredible highs on this journey, but also challenging lows. How will we be able to care for ourselves and support one another? Time will tell.
There’s also concern for our safety. I’m not too worried about myself, but with my wife traveling along, I won’t be so eager to throw caution to the wind. Before setting off for South America I was warned about the danger, particularly in Mexico and Colombia. It’s interesting that those are the two countries I fell in love with the most. I’ve been back to each of them three more times since and contrary to what we see on TV, I feel very comfortable traveling there.
This time around I received the same words of caution from within my circles. I’m only traveling to the “good -stans” is what I tell my parents. And the there’s the term “Middle East” which sparks fear in most Americans. Modest countries like Oman are often lumped into the popular worldview with the instability in other countries of the region. Yet of course, it’s difficult to deflect all of these comments and what we see in the news. Even as a well traveled person, I can’t help but think of the risks and the fears. Even if they are overstated, they are still a possibility.
Nevertheless, we’re nervous. We’re nervous not for what lies ahead, but instead for what we leave behind; our friends and family as well as a conventional life of comfort and convenience. However, our excitement for all the new challenges and opportunities overshadows these fears. It won’t always be easy, but we think it will be worth it.
I’m not sure what the future holds, but I’ll try to enjoy the journey. And I hope you will too.
PS. It feels good to be writing again!
If you’re reading this, then you already know… My wife and I are
pregnant preparing for a cycling adventure!
In just over a week, Amberlynn and I will fly to Northwest China and pedal west along the legendary Silk Road through Central Asia.
Our rough plan is mapped out in the photo below. We’ll start in far west China, cut across a corner of Kazakhstan, meander through Kyrgyzstan, suffer and delight through the roof of the world on the Pamir Highway in Tajikistan, explore ancient cities and gorgeous architecture in Uzbekistan, potentially visit the mysterious country of Turkmenistan (if we can obtain visas). Sadly, as Americans we’ll have to bypass Iran. It’s very challenging to get a visa there. As our governments duke it out on the world’s stage, we’ll miss out on the infamous Iranian hospitality. Instead, we plan to hop on a plane and explore the Arabian Peninsula as the temperatures recede into the winter months. Tentatively we’ll fly into the modern United Arab Eremites before cycling through the less flashy Sultanate of Oman.
If these places sound foreign, you’re not alone. Until we started researching the trip, my geographical knowledge about this part of the world was scarce. With ill-formed borders from the collapse of the Soviet Union, these countries are still young and redefining their identities.
It all seems so simple on Google Maps! In reality we’ll travel somewhere in the neighborhood of 5,000 miles over the course of 6 months.
We’ve been planning this trip for more than a year, yet inevitably there is so much to due as the starting line approaches. We’re down the wire with a little more than a week to go, it’s crunch time. As the calendar whisks the days away, we’re hurrying to make final preparations and say our farewells to friends and family. This isn’t goodbye, it’s simply au revoir.
So if you’d like, please feel welcome to follow along on our journey. We look forward to sharing stories, photos, and videos from the road. If you’d like to get emails on your inbox when a new blog post is published, you can sign up here for emails. If RSS is more your thing (it’s totally my thing), the RSS feed is here. You can also follow us on Facebook.
My apologies that this blog is really out of date (still detailing my motorcycle ride back in 2009). I’ll be updating it in due time. If I say I will l fix something, I will. There is no need to remind me every 6 months…
Let the adventure begin!
It all happened so fast… Last week I put El Burro up for adoption and this week he’s roaming new pastures with his new family.
I told myself I wouldn’t cry… As I rode to the loading dock a mile away, it hit me… This is the last adventure with my trusty steed. El Burro was adopted this morning by a nice father and son planning a ride through Baja. They will give him a new lease on life. Many more adventures await. Ride like the wind!
I told the new family that the original owner of the bike still keeps in touch when I share updates on this blog. (Hi Lee!) He loves knowing that his bike lives on. I will too. I’ve asked them to send photos and stories from their journey.
Here’s the add I posted online. It was fun to write it and I received so many emails from people saying they enjoyed the post. It will be great to immortalize it here on the blog.
— — — —
Are you fed up with your KTM or Ducati attracting all the ladies? Well, if you’re looking for a bike that deters women, I have just the bike for you!
El Burro is for sale. He’s certainly no prized race horse, but rather a working donkey who is a great companion.
Once heralded for his feats of riding to the southernmost city in the world (Ushuaia, Argentina), his wounds are reminders of adventures gone by. He’s now saddened by the neglect of his owner who is too busy to take him on wild journeys.
— — — —
We’ve had a good run together. I adopted him from his 2nd owner when he was just 7k miles. He underwent a heart transplant (top end) around 40k. Today he’s somewhere around 70k with more than a few gray hairs. He farts (backfires) way more than he should and his hearing is going so he talks far too loud (loose exhaust and no packing in the muffler). For the past few years, I haven’t had the time to give him the attention he deserves – sadly day rides and the odd weekend trip are all he gets these days. I hope some budding adventurer will be able to give him a new home and a new life.
— — — —
2001 Kawasaki KLR 650
~70k+ miles (after the spedo cable fell off the 3rd time, I quit replacing it. Odometer says ~33k)
40k maintenance: New piston and rings, rebored the cylinder.
Aluminum skid plate
Heated hand warmers
Done did the doohickey
Fat off road foot pegs
Rear brake master cylinder guard
Corbin seat (2nd best accessory)
$5 plastic inline fuel filter (best accessory)
SW-Motech side racks (with custom 4th mounting point for extra stability).
Micatech rear rack
Micatech side cases not included…
Engine guards with highway pegs (highway pegs not included, they fell off long ago)
Hand guards with bar-end protectors
Progressive front fork springs
PROTAPER handlebar with rad foam pad that says “PROTAPER” – adds 2.7 horsepower
Pre-routed spare throttle cables. (Despite replacing 3 clutch cables, the throttle cables just won’t quit)
Spare clutch cable
Half-used spare brake pads
K&N air filter (dirt from Death Valley included at no extra charge)
Fork brace (with 2 stripped bolts, so it looks cool but doesn’t do much aside from looking cool)
Large Wolfman tank bag with map pouch and KLR specific mount (this bag has been awesome)
Aftermarket muffler. It sounded great 60k miles ago!
Stock muffler also included (but not mounted)
Oversized front brake rotor
Headlight protector (protector fell off in Patagonia, dead bugs and industrial velcro squares are all that remain)
Tubes that never go flat (seriously, I’ve never had a flat tire on this bike… ever! That said, you should probably change the tubes…)
New stock rear turn signal (the original melted in Bolivia, some kind person on ADVrider sent me a new pair)
Custom rear shock flap to keep mud out (handmade from a great mechanic in Ecuador)
Stainless steel front brake cable (then again, I forget if that comes stock…)
Running (hey, that’s pretty good!)
New battery that sits on a battery tender
Drivetrain surprisingly ain’t too shabby.
A face that only a mother could love.
Backfires (often mistaken for a lawn mower).
Loose exhaust (I had the stock exhaust as well)
Kickstand switch sticks – need to use your hand to flick the switch
Lots of other little stuff…
50% tread left on the tires (50/50 trail/street tires)
Rear brake light doesn’t work (running light works just fine).
Speedometer doesn’t work. Don’t worry, you’ll never be riding too fast.
Odometer stuck at ~33k (it will be great for your resale value).
Headlight points to the sky (don’t ride at night…)
— — — —
Is this the bike for you? Probably not.
Is it a great bike? It once was.
Is it a gateway to adventure? Absolutely.
I hope someone out there can put it to good use!
Not looking to part it out, unless you buy everything except the mirrors.
Located near San Jose, California
Price: $2,200 cash or $2,100 and a whole bunch of beer
— — — —
And I used only the finest of photos in the add:
Ride like the wind…