Mongolia
mongolia2

TALES FROM THE ROAD

My travel permits came today. I will soon leave for a month long return trip to Mongolia. This time I will travel from east to north-west, passing through the Great Gobi Desert as part of a camel caravan. The final destination being the Ural Mountains in Russia. When it’s time to depart, I will take a train to Vladivostok, and then a plane ride back to San Francisco. It will be a long and adventure filled journey with many unknown possibilities. Also made all the more exciting because I will primarily be traveling by sidecar motorcycle. I had it shipped to Shanghai just for this trip. This hack is rugged, made especially for the hazards of remote travel. Parts are easily modified just in case I need to make roadside repairs. I feel very confident in its reliability and my hardscrabble familiarity with the mechanics.

On my last visit to Mongolia, I promised to bring some vintage Warner Brothers cartoons when I returned. The village elder told me everyone loves these 1940-50 films, but can rarely obtain them. The three cartoons they do have, have been played so many times the VHS tape is almost completely worn out. I’m bringing a collection of 30 cartoons on 5 DVD’s, along with a new DVD player/projector. The kids especially, will love this gift. Their favorite cartoon is “Beep Beep the Roadrunner.” It’s a favorite because it’s universally easy to understand, with no spoken English used in the creation (just a few English signs). These 10 minute animations are really funny. Wiley Coyote reminds them of the wolves that occasionally raid their sheep and goat herds. The children laugh so hard they eventually collapse, squealing with delight. It’s extremely endearing! The adults are all grins too.

I’ve been mentally preparing myself for this trip. Some few have questioned whether it’s a good idea, at my age, to still take demanding trips like this. True, a younger man might have more endurance and be better prepared physically, but he also may be less capable intellectually and intuitively. Maturity provides a better skill set for the travails of international travel. People in non-English speaking countries are more accepting and trusting of white hair than the ruddy cheeks of youth. Our humanity is more obvious, and a certain amount of wisdom is a given. No Facebook style communications are these. They are stronger and genuine and come easier.

Click to watch video: Following in the Steppes of Genghis Khan.     

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As I've aged, I've become kinder and less critical of myself. I've become my own friend.

I’m more aware than ever that too many dear friends leave this world too soon; they were gone before understanding the great freedom that comes with aging. With freedom, comes choice.

Whose business is it, other than my own, if I choose to go to New York on the spur of a moment just to see a Broadway play; plant an avocado tree in the middle of an abandoned lot where the homeless gather on the poor side of town; ride a few more motorcycles despite serious injury as a young man; or travel to outer Mongolia just to fulfill a promise made to a new friend?

At my age, if I choose, I can dance all by myself to those wonderful tunes of the 60 & 70's, (something I seem to do more often). And if I, at the same time, wish to weep over a lost love, I will. Unashamedly!

I can walk the beach in a swim suit that is stretched over a bulging body, and will dive into the waves with abandon if I choose to, despite the pitying glances from the jet set. They, too, will get older. It will come sooner than they expect.

I know I am sometimes forgetful. But then again, some of life is just as well forgotten. And I eventually remember the important things.

Some of my travels have brought heartbreak when observing the inequalities of life. Sure, over the years my heart has been broken for other reasons too. How can your heart not break when you lose a loved one, or when a child suffers, or when somebody's beloved pet gets hit by a car? But broken hearts are what give us strength and understanding, generosity and compassion. A heart never broken is pristine and sterile and will never fully experience the joy and warmth that comes from unselfish giving, even when tendered by an imperfect love.

I am surely blessed to have lived long enough to have my hair turn white, and to have many smile lines and deep grooves etched into on my face from gregarious laughter.  So many have never laughed, and so many have died before their hair could turn white. With white hair comes less hurt and more love. For that reason alone I will never use Grecian Formula For Men on my thinning hair.

As I get older, it is easier to be positive. I care more about what other people think. I still question myself, but I've learned to accept guidance and counsel from others... and friendships are far more rewarding. I’m also very big on forgiveness. The reward? I collect twinkles in people’s eyes. Ah, the joy of those twinkles!

I like being older. It has relaxed me. While I would like to change some of my past decisions and rectify a few things done because of foolish reasoning, I do like the person I’ve become. While I am still here, I will not waste time lamenting what could have been, or worrying about what will be. And I shall eat dessert every single day (if I feel like it)...

 You know that amazing feeling you get when just before a trip you go to bed knowing your entire house and yard is clean?

Yah, neither do I!