Ho Chi Minh Trail

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From around 1963 to 1973 the US waged a secret war in Laos. A large portion of that war was against the Ho Chi Minh Trail… or the “Trail”… or just the HCMT.

Even though I’ve been writing about the “Secret War” in Northern Laos, the biggest goal of this “Trail ride” is to see the Trail  up close and personal. So, I thought I should start writing a little about that.

Since my time there, I’ve had a growing desire to see The Trail for myself. Now I’m going to do it on a “trail bike”… on an on/off-road motorcycle. Check out the following video for a glimpse of what I’m talking about:

Ho CHi Minh Trail Ride.

Starting in the early 1960s and for over ten years, Americans waged war on the HCMT. It was mostly Continue reading

Silver Linings and Plan Update

Somewhere back in the beginning of my dreamin’-n-schemin’ for the Ho Chi Minh Trail Ride, I quoted General Dwight D. Eisenhower saying, “Plans are worthless, planning is everything.” Later, as President, Ike said, “In an emergency, the first thing to do is take all the plans off the top shelf and throw them out the window.”

Well… we have found ourselves in the middle of anemergency and the HCMTrial Ride plan is certainly out the window. So I begin toplan again. My current “planning” is for this coming November.

I’m the kind of guy that can find a silver lining in almosteverything. So it is in this case:

Silver Lining #1 – I checked today’s weather and it will be near 100 degrees(F) out on the HCMT. (102 in Vientiane). It would have been “toasty” in the days we would have been there this month. If the new plan takes us there in… say the middle of November, the highs will be in the mid 80s and lows in the mid 60s. November will be a much better time to ride.

April is the hottest time in Laos… especially this year.

Silver Lining #2 –  If we are there in November, it will be before the “slash & burn” season has begun. During slash & burn, most of the region is smokey and otherwise great photo-opps are just hazy grey. One of my goals is to get drone pics of all the areas of significance. November will be a much better time for that rather than this April. April is in the worst of the slash & burn season.

Silver Lining #3 –  Therewere a few guys wanting to go, but couldn’t go in April. Now, they may have achance to go.

Silver Lining #4 –  My schedule for April limited how much time I could spend in Laos. I was required to be back home by 15 April. That meant only 14 days of exploration. With November as the new target, the schedule can be extended and we may be able to go a few places that were omitted.

So… with all that said, here’s the new planning. Since November is the beginning of the “Dry Season” it makes sense to wait till then to go. Any attempt to go earlier would likely result in impassable places. Even late October might be ok, but for the Ho Chi Minh Trail during the Second Indochina War, not much started moving in October. Then, right at the first of November it was like the “Running of the Bulls” in Pamplona, Spain. But on the HCMT, it was the “Running of the Trucks.” Therefore, for the new plan, I’m picking mid-November for the “Running of the Great HCMTrail Ride.” (Yeah, yeah, I hear ya… it’s corny.)

Running of the bulls Great HCMTrail Ride begins in November.

Ummmm… actually, except for date changes, there’s not much to changing the plan. The itinerary will remain essentially the same. I may add in a few days. I really wanted to see and go through the Kong Lor Cave. That takes an full extra day but I think the experience will be worth it.

I also want to be able to go “off script” a bit. With acouple extra days we could make side trips and even venture into someunexplored areas. With that said, for now,  I’m adding 3 extra days to the “plan;” plus anotherday for the Kong Lor Cave.I’ve now picked November 16 as the day the HCMTrail Ride will begin.

I still plan to fly to Bangkokfirst. For me, November 10 is the new date to depart the US. With allthe travel and jet-lag, I’ll spend through  the 13th in Bangkok to recover. Then I’ll fly to Vientiane on the 14th.Allowing a day in Vientiane,we head out on the 16th.

None of this is cast in blood yet. Don Duval may want to suggest changes. But I’m not going to wait long to make new airline reservations. Tickets are as cheap now as they are ever going to be. The chart below shows examples of costs to Bangkok (BKK) from various airports in the US. Note that all prices shown are round-trip.

  • Los Angeles (LAX)– $589 (American Airlines)
  • Atlanta (ATL) – $1007 (Delta & Korean Air)
  • Chicago(ORD) – $607 (Delta & Korean Air)
  • New York (JFK) – $552 (Asiana Airlines)
  • New York (JFK) – $657 (Delta & Korean Air)
  • Boston(BOS) – $723 (Cathay Pacific)
  • Dallas – $760 (Delta & Korean Air)
  • San Francisco(SFO) – $606 (EVA Airways)
  • Miami (MIA) – $746 (Qatar Airways)
  • Fort Walton Beach (VPS) – $1067 (Puddle Jumpers-R-Us)

Of course you can fly straight into Vientiane for around $200 to $500 more. As one example, you can fly Chicago to Vientiane for $908. My price checks came from Expedia. You can check for yourself on your favorite site.

As always, your comments are welcome, but remember they are moderated and may not appear to the public for a few hours. If you are interested in going, then contact me directly. rdennard@memoriesofnakedfanny.com

HCMTrail Ride Still On

For anyone following this, I just wanted to give a quick update. As the heading says, as of 15 Mar, the ride is still on as scheduled. (Beware, the ides of March are upon us.) Nothing is going to change the plan unless some airline or government stops me from getting there.

I get email messages almost daily from the US embassies in Laos and Thailand warning about possible quarantine. HOWEVER, so far… both governments are only using “enhanced” screening at the airports. Anyone who arrives without a fever will be required to “self monitor” for 14 days. If you have a fever, you will be quarantined.

So… I am sequestering myself as of today. I can’t come down with the cootie bugs if I don’t get contact with cootie bugs. I’m not going out of the house until it’s time to get on the airplane.

So far, it does not seem like either the Thai or Laotian governments are going to close down the borders to foreign travellers. I am worried about some government (ours) in preventing me from coming back. For now, our government is only stopping foreign visitors from entering. I just hope it remains that way till I get back.

If, however, I get there and can’t come back for a while, Laos is the place to be. So far, no one there tested positive for the cootie bug. Laos hasn’t closed their borders, but that could happen. If I get stuck in Thailand, that would be ok too. If I had to self-quarantine there for 14 days, I would give them a massage parlor address for my self quarantine. After that, I would just rent a motorcycle and tour Thailand.

So, no matter what, I’m going if not prohibited. And no matter what, this will have a happy ending.

Follow the Great HCMTrail Ride

This post is to tell you how to follow along with the great HCMTrail Ride in “sorta real-time.” It’s sorta real-time because I don’t know how much I’ll be able to post while I’m in the jungles of Laos. I’m told there is reasonably good cell phone coverage throughout the country…  but I’m not sure there will be much at places like The Dogs Head, or the Chokes. So I’ll be posting when I can.

There are four main companies in Laos providing coverage. They sell sim cards with a data plan. But unlike most of the US unlimited data plans, their data plans are quantity restricted. So I’ll be getting buying a sim card that you get a specific amount of data. Then you refill the card as you go. I don’t know how well it will work out in “real-time,” but we’ll see.

I’m going to use a “multi-media” approach. I’ll be posting on YouTube, Facebook, and here on the website. Since I won’t have unlimited internet time, I won’t go around to the usual social media sites to notify everyone when I’ve posted something. So… if you want to follow along, you need to “subscribe” to the three places I’ll be posting.

I’m taking a GoPro and a drone for videos which I’ll post on YouTube. This will probably some of the best stuff from the HCMT. Go to YouTube to subscribe. When you get to YouTube, click on subscribe and the little bell that pops up next to it. You’ll get a notification every time I post a new video.

Click here to go to the Ho Chi Minh Trail Ride YouTube videos.
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Click on SUBSCRIBE and then the little bell that pops up

I’ll post pics and a little bit of story to telling you what’s going on the HCMTrailRide FaceBook page. Go there and click both the Follow and Like buttons so the Facebook stuff will pop up in your news feed.

Click here to go to the Ho Chi Minh Trail Ride FaceBook page
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Click Follow and Like to have the HCMTrail Ride show up in your news feed.
You can comment here too.

I’ll be posting the longer stories along with pics right here on this website. I intend to write about each day as I go along. I want to be sure to tell you about everything while it’s fresh in my mind. To get emails of each post, enter your email address it the little box under the top banner pic. Then click on subscribe.

I promise I won’t blast you with a bunch of junk mail or spam. You can always unsubscribe to any of the places you’ve subscribed to.

I have built-in lots of flexibility to the schedule. Except for the beginning and end dates, nothing is “cast in blood.” So… over the next few days (before I go), tell me what you want to see or know about. Leave me a note either on FaceBook or here.

Click here for the schedule

I also welcome your stories or comments about any of the places I’ll be going. I hope lots of folks will share stuff.  I’ll respond as I get a chance. If you’ve got a long story about a place I’m going, you are welcome to post it too. Keep in mind that this web site is moderated, so if you post a question, comment, or story here, it may not appear right away.

“Quickie” questions or comments will probably work best on FaceBook.

That’s all for now. I’ll “see ya” on “The Trail.”

Ann-Margret’s Gentlemen

Bob Hope and Ann-Margaret on stage Nakhon Phanom, Dec 1968
Photo courtesy of Sgt. William R. (Bill) Paddock, USAF

The following story was copied from Ann Margret’s official web site. It can be found many places on the internet. It has been verified as true by “Snopes” and others.

I do not know the woman who originaly wrote this, but from all of us who were there, Thank you.

Richard, (my husband), never really talked a lot about his time in Vietnam other than he had been shot by a sniper. However, he had a rather grainy, 8 x 10 black and white photo he had taken at a USO show of Ann-Margret with Bob Hope in the background that was one of his treasures.

A few years ago, Ann-Margret was doing a book signing at a local bookstore. Richard wanted to see if he could get her to sign the treasured photo so he Continue reading