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Snotdragon and the mouse that roared.

Posted by on 06 Mar 2010 | Tagged as: Travelogue

From Thailand Tales from Thailand Escape.

I was standing on the side of the road with a baby under one arm, ‘shooting at rabbits’. This is a time that gives way to reflection for many of us. I was reflecting upon the slight differences between the cultures of California and the outer boondocks of northern Thailand. I was also mildly curious as to where the jeep had wandered off to. Not seriously concerned, but idly wondering.

Perhaps I should start at the beginning. We encountered a woman with a baby standing on the side of the road, trying to catch a ride. From what I was able to glean, the baby’s mother had decided to give birth to an appendix and the baby was handed over to a relative in the city. But the relative had got called to go in to work and had given the baby to a friend to take care of. In turn, this friend had given the baby to a woman who was going near to the baby’s mothers village where she would deliver it to relatives of the kid. At any rate, that was the story as I put it together over the half hour of explanations. Explanations that became increasing hard to hear as we had just fixed the jeep.

Right. Fixed the jeep. Fixing the jeep meant summoning the powers of the universe into a divine enclave something along the lines of the writers of a television sit com. Something else would have to break. That was the absolute order of things and the entire universe would get out of balance if it didn’t happen.

And so, right after we got off the paved roads the jeep started sounding a little nosier. As I grabbed 4 wheel drive to scale a series of cliffs, the inevitable ‘next thing to go fut’ made itself much more evident. I had been thinking about replacing the exhaust pipes ever since I got the jeep. I use the words exhaust pipes in the loosest possible sense. A series of pieces of plumbing scarred by countless welds, twists, tweaks and turns would better describe. As we topped a rise the morning sun revealed another describe. The shadow the jeep casts with its two massive mirrors resembles a mouse according to my wife. She then named the critter the diesel powered mouse. That seemed extremely appropo to me at that moment. Whereas your average vehicle makes some pretty horrible noises sans muffler, that is hospital zone whispers in comparison to an industrial diesel snorting its way up an assortment of 10 to 20 degree grades.

As we approached another village we had an ever growing agenda. The baby had a load in its shorts that was close to bluging down to its ankles and making it decidedly bottom heavy. I was reminded of those ‘weeble’ toys. We could probably have stood the baby on the floor of the jeep and he would have just rocked and swayed in place. Unfortunately, I was not similarly equipped and over the past hour my desperation to find a convenient tree was growing. As we the strange woman in the vehicle propriety demanded certain dues which left me with my eyes turning yellow. We also had to stop and ask for directions, as well as working something out to refill the bay’s tank.

I stopped on the road just outside of the village. The ladies left  the snotdragon, as I had named the juicy little tyke, in the jeep while they went to make inquiries. A number of thoughts passed through what functional parts that remained of my brain. I saw an elderly farmer ‘shooting rabbits’, the local euphemism for relieving oneself on the side of the road, and decided to join him. As the jeep was hot from pulling the several thousand feet of mountains I didn’t wish to shut it down and have it barf out the radiator water. Unfortunately it had no parking brake and the only way to keep it from wandering off on it’s own was to shut the engine down and leave it in gear. But the grade we were on was a gentle slope which terminated in a vast open area in the center of the village. I had played this buffet before and knew exactly how fast and far the jeep would go. Not wanting to take any chances I grabbed the baby and stuffed it under my arm as I went to answer the calls of nature.

I exchanged pleasantries with the farmer then wandered off in the direction the jeep had gone. The driverless vehicle hadn’t caused all that much of a commotion as far as I could tell, and, contrary to what would be expected in Middletown USA, it only made people chuckle as they strolled out of its way. As I caught up with it I idle wondered how the ladies were doing with getting directions. This was the worst and commonest nightmare of wandering the outer boondocks. We once were given the ultimate direction of ‘turn left after the big tree’ while in a forest surrounded by several thousand big trees and rutted dirt side road every few hundred feet. This was another cultural difference. In USA blood pressure would start climbing as desperation started setting in around hour four or five of being completely lost while in these parts the next wrong turn only adds to the mounting humor of the situation. No reason to be concerned, we almost always find our way out before nightfall.

The ladies returned after a few minutes and I enjoyed a few more cultural differences. They had found a friendly household that had a hose. Just get the diaper off then sit the baby down on that flat rock and hose it off. They also hosed out and washed the diaper then exchanged it for a clean one from a woman who had been called to that house and us by coconut wireless. She was packing her own baby which she surrendered to us to watch while she nonchalantly dug out a boob and topped up our baby’s tank. Try finding that kind of service at your local gas station and convenience store.

The rest of the journey out was a bit anti climatic. We found the village with only three wrong turns and no more than an hour and a half of back tracking. The scenario of us bringing the long lost child home to its family was quite typical. An, ‘Oh, you got that kid I see’ reaction. Finally a girl of about 12 came out of a house and matter of factly relieved us of our charge and that was that. All that was left was to deliver the baby sitting woman to her own village a little distance off. A little distance being that village we can see, right over there in that valley, but never mind, she will walk. By road it would take over two hours.

And so all we had left to do was get the great thundering bellow monster down into the city and to a muffler shop. The entire exhaust pipe assembly had by then come completely loose and was dangling and dragging on the ground. I solved that issue by attaching our tow cable (push rope) to the remaining bits of pipe and a sturdy tree and ripping the entire mess out from under the vehicle. We made a few friends doing that, leaving a farmer couple and their kids in hysterics. We also left them with the remains of the exhaust pipes. I figured by the time we got out of the mountains they would have incorporated it into their irrigation system.

Thailand Garden Slowly Getting Weird

Posted by on 02 Sep 2009 | Tagged as: Travel Review, Travelogue

The weather is now completely nuts. We made it through August with about 30 inches less rain than normal. They have put out the irrigation pumps along the canals and rivers which are usually used for trying to raise bumper crops in the middle of summer around March and April. Thailand

I just sprayed inside the house with 10% sodium hypochlorite as Yunee is allergic to the various molds that grow around here. Outside I very selectively sprayed Round-Up<TM> in my ongoing efforts to kill off the mulberry tree roots. SAY! Maybe you could ask Johnny for me. How long will the roots of the mulberry continue to sprout shoots after the parent tree has died? How long can this thing go without photosynthesis?
By the way, don’t get glyphosate anywhere near poinsettias. I simply sprayed near it very carefully and it slowly curled up and died over a 1 month period.

Our garden is slowly … getting weird. I guess this is good. Our general plan is to fill the entire place chock full of tropical foliage, ignoring the fact that as Tarzan hacked his way through the undergrowth, said undergrowth is the ideal habitat for billions of mosquitoes and leeches. I heard a chain saw across the river the other day and went over to check it out. A couple of guys were sort of stealing the decorative trees planted in a now defunct housing project. They were a bit nervous, thinking I might call the village headman. Instead I chatted it up then talked them into digging me up four lovely baby trees and planting them in our yard. They have thick glossy dark leaves like a magnolia but are about a foot long. The guys wanted 200 baht for the job but they discovered that the trees root balls were massive and even as babies they weighed a ton. So I paid them 500.

Baby is presently getting the engine kill cable replaced. It broke and forced me to open the engine and move the level manually, or try killing it by putting my hand over the air intake and risk getting sucked in.

Yunee is very weird. She casually picks up a gigantic wolf or huntsman spider but goes berserk upon seeing a caterpillar or leech.
Out in the jeep we were showing a couple of tourists from America the local sights of Chiang Mai. As I drove down a highway Yunee mentioned it being a large one. She has a penchant for non-sequitur speech and leaving out details. As I asked, one of the ladies in the back did the typical to wit, “EEEEEEEEEEWWWWWWWWW!!!!” while the other gave an “EEEP” noise. Coming in from on the roof was a pretty hefty sparrassid (Huntsman spider). I was a tad busy trying to survive heavy traffic and over the inanity I asked if it had only six legs. We had a maimed visitor in our car port the past few nights and I was curious.

Yunee confirmed it was the extremity challenged one in question and began giving me a commentary as to it’s perambulations around the jeep with an ongoing background noise from the arachnophobes in back. It wandered about aimlessly for a bit before stopping on the front roll cage bar and appeared to be staring out the front window. I often wonder what spider vision is like. What could this fellow be looking at? What of the passing scenery was being handed to it’s brain?

It began wandering again, this time over to my side of the jeep. It wandered along some bracing to the main roll bar, came down the shoulder belt and perched on the head rest. From the sounds they were making the gals in back seemed to be giving serious thought to jumping out of a car going nearly 50 miles an hour rather than remain in the company of this terribly deadly vip… err, spider.

It then moved on down to perch on my right shoulder. The freak out from behind was predictable while Yunee started cracking up laughing. She informed the ladies that it won’t poop much. I caught on and got to laughing as well. Only two days earlier I had hosted a friends cockatoo on that shoulder and was loaded up with enough manure to start a sizable vegetable patch.

Not liking all my arm moving the pidey headed back up to the roll cage. It wandered about for a few more minutes just to make sure it had extracted the full freak out from the rear then went out and down the side of the jeep. Yunee was a bit freaked about that. It was in danger of getting blown off yet she knew if she tried to cajole it back into the jeep it would probably jump off. It eventually crawled under the jeep and vanished. At our next stop our guests seriously considered doing the same. Vanishing that is.

From: Thailand Escape

Rainmaking in Thailand

Posted by on 02 Sep 2009 | Tagged as: Travel Review, Travelogue

I made it rain last night, enough to get the ground wet but not really soak in. I used the combined process of thoroughly watering the garden and leaving the jeep outside all night. If this weird weather keeps up I will consider more drastic action: watering all day, leaving the jeep out with the top off, leaving clothes out on the line, and setting out a delicate project in the driveway that must be kept dry.Thailand
The hedge we planted, some 200+ 6 inch sprouts, has taken off. They are now about 2 feet tall and well established. The bougainvilea has finally got established. It took a year. The great master plan of all this is to establish privacy in the yard so Somchit and Yupin can sunbathe. That sounds like a bad idea to me and will require the formulation of sun tan lotion combined with mosquito repellent.
As for jeepy things, the engine kill cable broke the other day, our shopping day, which meant that everywhere we parked I had to open the hood and manually activate the kill lever. I took it to our mechanic and Yunee and I wandered around while he checked things out. We came back to find a large coil of greasy oily wire dangling from a hole in the dash board. We were instructed to pull on the wire to kill the engine and come back the next day for a more aesthetic and permanent repair. The next day they fitted a massive hood release cable in. That will add to any potential thiefs confusion as pulling the hood release will just cause the engine to die. We aren’t too worried about theft however, as, aside from my deliberately leaving the jeeps appearance as 1 grade above abandoned/derelict, we have the heavy log chain to lock the steering wheel and a concealed padlock that connects the three shift levers together, locking the transmissions into 4 wheel drive low. So the critter could still be stolen, but will only travel at 4 mph and no reverse gear. See Mr. Beans Vacation movie where he tries to steal a motorized bicycle. :)

I am slowly getting around to rewiring the jeep. After 45 years of half assing and splicing the wires it is a serious rats nest. What is slowing me down is the cost of copper wire here which is ridiculously expensive, and finding super solid reliable connectors so I don’t have the same problem you had with your van’s computer cable. I am considering soldering pig tails to all the plug on connections which report to heavy duty screw or bolt connectors.
I am also going to move all the guages up onto the bar above the windshield. What with jeeps being a tad odd configuration wise, it requires the driver to only move his/her eyes up 6 inches to see the gauges as opposed to where they presently are where you have to look down and to the right 2 feet. And I have a few innovations I still need to impliment on the jeep. One problem is the combination of the diesel engines braking ability and the new tremendously overpowered disc brakes, I can stop the vehicle without ever applying enough pedal pressure to activate the hydraulic brake switch. Thus I am searching for a vacuum switch that activates whenever the engine drops to an idle. In other words, whenever my foot isn’t on the throttle the brake lights come on. All in all, we are quite happy with the jeep. Taking everything into consideration, it’s carbon footprint is almost nonexistent, it is recycled many times over, it is economical, and it is around 1000% beyond the life expectancy of any new vehicle made today.

Visit: Thailand Escape

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