Saturday, April 25, 2020

A Texan in Tibet - Conditioning Update

I pushed my soul in a deep dark hole and then I followed it in
I watched myself crawling out as I was a-crawling in
I got up so tight I couldn't unwind
I saw so much I broke my mind
I just dropped in to see what condition my condition was in
- Mickey Newbury

If you've been reading along, you'll recall that I started conditioning for this trip back in December.  Even in February when it was looking like it might be canceled, I was determined to stick with my routine; not only as a hedged bet on the trip actually happening, but because I really needed to shape up.  Since December, I've dropped over thirty pounds, my clothes fit better, and I  have significantly increased energy.  Somehow, I've managed to do this while playing the quarantine game at home.  Having gym-quality elliptical climber and rowing machines really helps.  Having 200 acres of pasture and woods to wander doesn't hurt either.  I still row four miles mornings and climb three miles on my elliptical every Monday through Friday.  I have so many physically demanding chores to do around my property on weekends that I usually take those days off from structured exercise.  If the weather is crappy out, I will go up and knock off a few miles climbing while watching heavy metal concerts or military special ops documentaries on the big screen. 

I have continued to train with my oxygen deprivation mask and have gotten to the point where operating at less that 82% oxygen saturation feels normal.  My personal results from the anaerobic effect of these training sessions has me hooked to the point where I would train with the mask even without a high-altitude trip on my (potential) horizon.  Along with the exercise, I continue to eat a low-carb/keto-ish diet.  I say "ish" because I don't believe it's possible to eat 100% keto or to truly put one's body in a state of ketosis.  I've also refrained from alcohol completely until this last weekend when I gave in and enjoyed a frozen margarita.

Now I have an additional five months of conditioning time - assuming I really get to go in September.  I'm not holding my breath, but I am holding to my determination to continue to my physical improvement.  I can't allow myself to get undisciplined on the longshot that this trip actually happens and I find myself facing the physical challenges I endured in the Outback.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

A Texan in Tibet - The New Schedule

I was just days from my departure when I wrote this.  Now I am 144 days out.  Do the math and you will see I am now scheduled to depart DFW the evening of September 12 and arrive in Kathmandu at 2:00am on September 14th.  My return is scheduled for October 1st.  The eleven hour time difference puts me home on the same day as I depart.

There is some good news.  Both of my flights are still on Qatar Airways in business class seats, but now they are direct flights in and out of DFW Airport.  This eliminates almost 24 hours of connection time that I had in my original itinerary.  Truth be told, I would gladly endure those 24 hours - even in coach class - just to be taking this trip when it was scheduled.  But these are cards I've been dealt and I'm just happy to be back in the whatever extent that I actually am.  Now I have another 144 days to hope the world gets its shit together.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

A Texan in Tibet - Star Wars Episode IV

Some may remember that the story title for Star Wars Episode IV was "A New Hope".   Well, it appears that I have a narrow slither of hope that might actually allow me to realize this adventure.  This certainly won't happen in May as originally planned, but the last few weeks of September are looking promising from an air travel perspective and where in-country logistics are concerned.  September is after monsoon season, which is obviously a good thing.  My riding routes could be challenging because monsoon season really does a number on them.  Given the questionable state of the world today and projecting forward to September, who knows if maintenance on the more challenging mountain passes will have been completed - or even started.

I've confirmed that I can get a bike and the monasteries I was planning to use for accommodations have indicated that they believe they can host me by then, assuming Nepal opens its borders again.  Even though my departure wouldn't be for five months from this blog entry's date, many pieces will have to fall into place before I arrive.  It's not lost on me that that is asking for a great deal of coordination, cooperation, and progress from numerous and disparate global agencies.  I give it a 50-50 chance at best.

All of this of course, assumes the world (especially the third world) is open for business by then and I recognize that is a tall order.  But anyone who knows me knows I need something to look forward to.  In short, I gotta have hope.

When I last checked, China had canceled the Everest climbing season for all of 2020.  However, access to the base camp might be available if the Tibetan border is open.  Time will tell.  If the border is closed, I would defer to the alternate route I had previously described here.

My fingers are crossed!

Thursday, April 2, 2020

A Texan Stuck in Texas - Last Hopes Dashed

Quite frankly, I can't think of a better place to be "stuck".  Texas is generally a common sense state led by legislators who (for the most part) realize that we citizens know what's best for us and who govern accordingly.  Texas has a few liberal whackos who feel the need to try to control the masses, but I am fortunate to live out in the country where people are generally good to one another and common sense typically prevails in daily life.

That said, it's clear to me that this trip is a no go.  Qatar Airlines has canceled the overseas segments of my flights.  Nobody is getting into Nepal these days.  I receive daily U.S. State Department updates on the situation there and it is really bad.  Really sad, actually.  Hundreds of Americans have been stuck there unable to migrate to any other countries and there are no direct flights from the States.  Our government has begun flying Americans out and hopes to have everyone seeking to get home back in another week or so.  Those returning will face strictly-enforced quarantining upon stepping foot on American soil.

My departure is (was) scheduled for May 2nd...exactly one month from this typing.  I suppose it's possible that things could significantly improve in 30 days here in the States, but I'm not holding my breath (no pun intended).  Even if things improved here and our transportation and distribution systems are capable of leveraging those improvements, I don't see the rest of the world catching up; especially in the 3rd and 4th worlds.

I had a conversation with my in-country fixer and was offered a motorcycle in August or September.  Honestly, I don't think things will have improved over there even by then.  Businesses in the States can - and will - recover and resume reasonable operations almost immediately after citizens here are cut loose.  I don't believe businesses in Nepal are that resilient or that fortunate.  Furthermore, I don't see foreign governments allowing mass international travel into their borders; nor do I see the U.S. allowing just anyone (back) into the States.  I could be wrong if Wuhan flu testing becomes more widely available and the accuracy and timeliness of results improves.

So for now and most likely until next year, I will remain in the States (unless my work takes me to south America).  Make no mistake, I realize how fortunate I am in many respects.  I am gainfully employed. I have food, shelter, and toilet paper!  Most importantly, I am healthy!  In fact, I am in better shape than I have been in probably two years.  Despite it being clear to me that I wasn't going anywhere, I have continued the conditioning and eating regimen I started specifically for this trip.  I am still working out twice daily with my oxygen mask and am also walking miles each week.  I have dropped thirty pounds and am close to the condition I was in just prior to my Australia trip.  These results inspire me to continue the routine and approach the summer riding season with more vigor and enthusiasm.

Lastly, this trip has inspired me to write again and rest assured, I have a lot on my mind.  I'll do my best to empty my mind here.