Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Let me give you a little history of the two men whose pictures I will post and trip I will be writing about in this article. Also a little bit about me, the author.



These two pics are of  Jim Mahon, a 17-year-old Marine shipped out to Vietnam in the late 60’s. Yes, I said 17! Not old enough to drink or vote, but old enough to risk dying for his country. I don’t have exact dates, and Jim does not like to talk about it much, but I also joined the Marine Corps May 5, 1969, not long after he did and spent my first leave visiting him in the hospital in Bremerton Washington. He did not look good. He had been blown up by a booby trap, a high explosive device near Danang in the bush! He died twice in the field, but due to a Corpsman’s superhuman efforts was delivered alive ta a hospital and his life was saved. He looked like the victim of multiple shark attacks when I first saw him. Scared me half to death! He eventually, as many other wounds were attempting to heal, lost a right leg that just could not be saved even though valiant efforts were made to do so over many years! I myself served four years in the Corps, did two tours, parts of both were in Danang. However I was an avionics tech working on computer warfare birds, so never left the safety of the airbase at Danang. It was, however, not called Rocket City during that time for no reason! I was inaugurated within my first half hour in the country! I was a Sgt and NCOIC of crews running missions out of Danang and repairing aircraft in Cubi Point in the Philippines. I practically lived on a C-130 Hercules. But I digress.

After a period of adjustment, my lifelong friend Jim, we met freshman year of high school gearing up for football, basically became a professional student after he recovered from his injuries! He has multiple degrees, can teach, owns his own gym, worked with PTSD vets for the VA, and is my hero! He is in Nam looking into teaching English classes as I am writing this. While in college he met Sonny Dee Dam in the early 1980’s, a man born and raised in Vietnam.  He and Jim became close friends and roommates, both going to Boise State in Idaho. During that period of time Jim, always curious about the place he had fought and been wounded but knew so little about wanted to go back and start exploring! Sonny could not go at that time but told Jim his family would sponsor him so off he went.  So here is Jim, still suffering and torn up from wounds received fighting in Nam, going through all kinds of red tape trying to get into a country we did not then officially recognize! Vietnam had no U.S. Embassy back then, so he had to go through our Embassy in Thailand. He was successful after years of work and several trips! He was able to to get Sonny’s sister and children to the States, which was one of the tasks he intended to accomplish when he started his first trips back to Vietnam. He subsequently married the sister, who shall remain nameless for now. They subsequently divorced years later as Jim’s wanderlust and desire to travel was not a desire she shared. I believe they are still friends! During the time he was sharing a domicile with Sonny, his friend was a single parent, and Jim also single with twin boys to support. They shared good times, hard times, but this only strengthened their friendship. Sonny around 1990 moved to California to pursue his career and Jim had a new marriage and instant family, a new language to grasp, so they did not visit or talk much for a few years! After Jim became single again they reconnected. He now lives in Council Idaho with Jim when in the states and he and Jim are not in Vietnam.

This is a recent picture I took of Jim in my front yard. Just before we set off on our motorcycle trip through the Northwest. Jim and I have also shared some adventures over the years. We consider ourselves family and call each other brother! I am only one of many friends, but I consider him to be my best friend! As I said, my hero for many reasons. One of the most determined men I know!


Not long before this picture was taken Jim took another trip to Vietnam and the Danang area to see if he could visit places he had been, battles he fought in, bush he had traversed! Of course, it had changed so much over the years that nothing was recognizable, but still a cathartic adventure for him, in my opinion, anyway. One bridge he remembered as a one-lane wooden structure was now a four-lane concrete behemoth as one example! One of the things he mentioned stayed with me. When the people there found out his wounds were received fighting during the conflict, they treated him very well. He met no one holding a grudge, regardless of what side they were on. He had to get used to how things got done there, a kind of barter system with local authorities, but he navigated the whole thing with skill and good humor.

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This is a picture of the 2017 trip last year taken with Sonny and Jim drinking coffee and relaxing in Ho Chi Minh City! [Saigon] Sonny has relatives there, and now that he is retired he spends part of every year in Vietnam, and Jim usually travels with him! The next several pictures are from that same trip, they have not given me the pics from the current trip, but I am told they are forthcoming! I am told if the teaching job in Nam comes through for Jim, they will spend six months there and six months in Council. Sonny says they started talking about these trips 30 years ago! The subjects in the following pictures are Jim Mahon, Sonny Dam, and Lan Thanh. At present Jim and Sonny are checking into the teaching gig and a permanent residence.

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A little sightseeing with Lan, Jim, and Sonny. Lan Thanh is Sonny’s girlfriend of several years. You will see her in most pics with Sonny and Jim.

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They all love to eat. These are all from the last trip in 2017.



This is a video of Jim cycling in Nam, I assume the video was taken by Sonny. this was a 23-mile ride on a hot day. And I complain about my daily treadmill walks! This is current, the video was sent on March 4, 2018. You can see why motorcycles and scooters are so popular. I should be getting more pics of Jim and Sonny’s current trip and will add them and post as soon as they send them.












A Reblog of A note from Abroad, my favorite travelers. I mainly did this reblog on this trip because I know a lot of teachers and thought they would like it.


Sunday, October 30th ~ Floreana Island, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador Day 5 ~ This was our last full day on the ship. Although I enjoyed Floreana, it was my least favorite of the islands we visited on our itinerary. Still a few fun memories, but not the WOW factor we experienced earlier.

via Galapagos Islands ~ Post Office Bay, Champion Islet, Cormorant Point (Floreana Island) — A Note From Abroad

A Reblog!


Another exciting chapter in the adventures of Tim and Joanne! 


Friday, October 28th ~ Tagus Cove, Urbina Bay, Isabela Island Day 3 ~ Before we take off on todays excursions, I wanted to share more information of what day-to-day life is like on board the Santa Cruz II. There are several primary large areas where meetings, or lectures, or meals can be served, the Panorama […]

via Galapagos Islands, Ecuador ~ Tagus Cove, Urbina Bay — A Note From Abroad


My friends have made it to the Galapagos Islands and the ship they will be calling home  during their trip through the islands. Their first day is chronicled here, enjoy!


Wednesday, October 26th ~ Galapagos Islands, Ecuador Day 1 – Getting off of the airplane I was already wondering where I was and what had happened. This surely was not the Island paradise I had envisioned. In fact far from it. Can’t say why I had envisioned lush and tropical, but the reality was hot, […]

via Galapagos Islands ~ From disillusion to wonderment all in a single day — A Note From Abroad

Tuesday, October 25th ~ Guayaquil, Ecuador Our Gate 1 tour officially begins today. For this portion there are just the four of us, Tim and I, Rica and her husband Fred. Our local guide, Fernando, picks us up at the hotel at 10:00 and we are off to see the city. First stop is Parque […]

via Guayaquil, Ecuador ~ City tour — A Note From Abroad

I travelled a lot from six to eleven, but not as a vacationing child of rich parents. So for this article, we will just leave that as a maybe blog down the line. For our purposes we will concentrate on my travels overseas courtesy of the Marine Air Wing commands. (By the way, all pictures are in Gallery format, so if you click on them they will enlarge and then you can arrow back and forth.)

My first stop after a year of boot camp, infantry training, Avionics school, and a short stint in a training squadron was landing on the Island of Okinawa. Now all of the marines I came over with were grunts, or infantry, with the exception of one other guy. They were all shipped out the next day, but they left me and this other guy, both of us to be assigned to an air wing somewhere, dangling for a week or so. This is where I met my best friend for my Japan deployment, he taught me how to play tennis, his name was Doc Holliday. To this day I do not know what his real first name was!

After a week and couple of days we both got orders to Iwakuni Japan. I was, at the time, a navigation computer tech, he worked in the photo lab of a different squadron. We kept in touch however. I eventually got myself transferred to his squadron by a lucky coincidence. They needed avionics techs on the flight line, and I wanted out of the windowless computer van that was my home 10 hours a day. I loved working on the actual aircraft. It was not long before I moved out of the barracks and into a small house with a couple of other Marines from my new squadron. This is where I met my other best friend, Neal Regan. We were not best friends yet, that did not happen until we went to the Philippines and Nam together.

Doc and I spent our time in Japan travelling. I was licensed to drive pretty much any tractor, jeep or 6×6 truck the squadron had. They also got me a license to drive outside the gate in Japan proper, so I bought a car. I don’t even recall the model; I just know it had a two-stroke motorcycle engine for power. It was a little miniature station wagon. Had to fuel up with mix gas, which back then was available at all gas stations. Ecologists would be aghast now! I was the only person in the squadron, enlisted or officer to have a license and car that was legal outside the base. Made me a popular guy. Mostly picking up officers wives at the airport in Hiroshima. They would even give me time off work to go and pick them up. They had some kind of agreement the officers wives could get a three month visa. We enlisted didn’t rate diddly.

This car allowed Doc and I to explore the country around Iwakuni and travel to places like Hiroshima regularly, and basically just get lost on a duty free weekend. We both had critical MOS so did not get assigned but the minimum duty required. (MOS is a job designator)

We made friends with a farmer by scrounging up a pump from the base, rigging up a transformer to make it work on his electrical grid and installing it at his water supply. He was a rice farmer packing water by hand. He spoke no English; we spoke basically no Japanese beyond hello, goodbye, excuse me, and thank you! The only other word I knew at the time was koko, which would get a taxi to stop and let you out! It means “here”. He had a niece that spoke English and he would invite her whenever he had us for dinner. Dinner was usually rice, fish, and a lot of Sake! At first we had stopped and proceeded to help him haul water. He had a fit. But we refused to go away, and when we installed the pump, well we were family! He turned us on to a little sandy beach we could pitch a tent next to a stream that had fish in it. I don’t know what kind of fish they were, they resembled perch. Cooked up well and had very little fishy taste to them. We fished by sitting legs spread in the shallows at the downstream end of a pool while someone else went to the upstream end and started slapping the surface vigorously and wading towards us. Fish would appear between our legs and we would scoop them up and throw them onto the bank.

About this time, Reagan and I had just made L/Cpl and got orders to the Philippines and then missions run out of Danang Vietnam. It turned out that we were both scheduled to go home, there were no NCO’s trained in our particular MOS, so they meritoriously promoted us to Corporal to extend for a second tour, which we did. They then bribed us again with meritorious promotion to Sgt if we would extend again. Best thing that had ever happened to either one of us! We were inseparable as much as possible, watched each others backs! We ran missions out of Danang, but due to reasons I will not go into now; we fixed the aircraft in the Philippines. Broke our little hearts.

When I was in Cubi Point in the Philippines I rented and lived in a three-bedroom house, one bath, complete kitchen. It came with a live in maid, gardener, and security. There were three of us sharing rent, Regan being one of the others. All included with groceries, I spent forty dollars a month. We lived in one of the nicer areas of Olongapo. Normal housing had no running water or toilet facilities. Were one or two rooms mostly, apartment houses were a little nicer, but had community bathrooms, but no bathing facilities. Our maid, unknown to us for a while, slept in a big round chair in the living room. She would stay in the kitchen until we all went to sleep before bedding down, and up and cooking by the time we got up! We increased the food allowance to include her and gave her a raise when we discovered this. We had no place to put her, so we just left the sleeping arrangement as it was. She was around 16, I think. We all treated her with respect, she was not flirted with nor were any remarks made. I had friends with morals, so did not have to police their actions. She cried when Regan and I had to rotate back to Japan and home. We tried to find good people to take our place with her employment guaranteed. It was all we could do. We were never able to find out who her parents were, or even if she had any. So back to Japan, everyone we knew was gone, then back to the world, that is what we called the U.S..

Had some leave in Australia, short hops and stays in China, S. Korea, and a few over nights in Europe, but very short, so I might include them in another blog, but I have let this one run to long as it is!