Drive Carefully

My driving license validity runs out at the beginning of June. Since I am now over 70, I have to go through geriatric driving training, vision testing and a supervised drive before they will re-issue my license. I am fairly intimidated as if I blow this, they will take my license away and it is impossible to live in Okinawa without a car. My future on this magic island depends on my performance.

Everything is in Japanese and I enlist the help of the wonderful Nicole san.

Thanks Nicole! She is a lot of fun.

Nicole is a freelance interpretor/translator. Hire her!

We go through a very strict eyesight test.  I worry as I don’t, despite Nicole’s best efforts, know really what I am supposed to do on some of the exercises. We troop out to pay for the training.

The receipt

We are shown movies that are admirable. They underline the dangers of driving a car but in particular the dangers of old people driving a car. Much statistical evidence of the sharp drop off after 70 of vision, reaction speed and decision making. Help!

We sit at the back.

It is pouring with rain as we drive around the special test course. Fairly anxious as there are many Japanese driving protocols that are new to me. Many thanks to Danielle Ellerby from OIST who coached me beforehand. Anyway congratulations Okinawan Police on the training – thought provoking.

The course manual. Notice ultra serious Japanese approach.

I pass!

Now to get my new license, more vision tests, a photo, my name is called and I am presented with a new license! Hooray! I am good until 2027 and God knows where I will be then.

Geriatic driver.
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Golden Wedding

50 years ago today Okinawa reverted, strange term meaning became part of again, to Japan. Since the 2nd World War Okinawa had been an US colony. The dollar was the currency and cars drove on the right. The Okinawans, after recovering from the awfulness of the Battle of Okinawa, became increasingly angry at the US occupation.

Huge bases were established on the island and most remain today.  The prefecture is home to 70% of the total acreage exclusively used by U.S. military installations in Japan despite being only about 0.6% of the country’s total area. 

Anyway, today there is a ceremony to mark the 50th anniversary of the reversion to Japan. Kishida san, Prime Minister, and a slew of notables will attend. It takes place in the Convention Center, which is a skip and a hop from my place. I drive down to check on the boat as it has been raining ferociously, as usual. There are security people everywhere.

Troop carrier outside the Marina.

I believe that Okinawa is hoping for some announcement on base reduction. I doubt it.

Protesters start to assemble.

It is raining.

A protesting Intermediate Egret shelters from the rain.

On a lighter note, the wonderful Hamada san gives me a bottle od Champagne for my birthday. Go to her shop :わいんや目福口福/@26.2914852,127.7750482,17z/data=!4m5!3m4!1s0x0:0x934452cbee9f1490!8m2!3d26.291485!4d127.777237

God bless Okinawa.

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Not Much Really

It is the rainy season in Okinawa. The weather has been very dull. I bumble around.

The boat engine still will not start despite Kiyuna san efforts. He is in no way downhearted, gently eliminating each possible cause of the problem one by one. There is no rush as the weather is awful.

Kiyuna san wires up my spare battery in er series wit the main one. He also replaces all the battery leads.

I do little jobs.

Four coats of varnish on the tiller.

I clean the lamps

One of the good things about the rainy season is the sudden explosion of blooms on the I-Ju trees.

The hills are alive with the sound of I-Ju

I pick up a friend from the airport and swing by the stinking pond so beloved by birds.

Black Faced Spoonbill

Two more

Guess what

Red and Green Shanks

After the excitement of the Mexico adventure, life seems very slow.

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Take the Money and Run

So, back in Okinawa I go through the backlog of mail that arrived during my 6 month hiatus. With invaluable help from friends, I understand that the majority of the mail offers free old people health help. There are offers of Covid boosters, flu shots, colon cancer fun and a lung injection that I do not understand but Arisa says I should get.


Most important, is an offer of 100,000 yen from the the Ginowan Town Hall. This is because I must be very poor as I do not have an income that enters into a tax category. I feel guilty. I have plenty of money and go to the Town Hall to suggest they give it to folks who do not.

They say,”Take the money and run!”


In deepest Mexico, it became clear that my creaking Nikon d300 is not up to the job. She has been a wonderful camera but you know.

Poor old thing. Does anyone want it?

With a big lens, auto focus is very important and my dear old, old d300 is very slow and has a great affinity to branch rather than bird. She is also falling apart.

I buy a second hand d500, the best birding camera in the world, from EBay for almost the same price as the gift from Ginowan. This cannot be ethical but take the money and run.

Newish camera with grimy old lens that I will clean..

It is a wonderful camera and I spend hours on YouTube trying to work out how to use it. It has abilities beyond my comprehension.

I take my first bird photo today.

Chinese Bulbul. Lots of fun ahead.

Diego, Okinawa Prefectural Flower, is in bloom.There is tons of it; apparently bad news.


I am gently oiling the teak trim on the boat.

This is a much better option than varnish that burns off very quickly

I have plenty of time as the engine will not start.

Low compression

Kiyuna san reckons that there is a compression problem. He has ordered the parts needed so I might finally get out in the boat next week.

Jacko, Kiyuna san’s doggie.
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No Awa’ Tae Bide Awa’

12 hour flight from San Francisco to Narita, Tokyo. That’s where the trouble starts. Exhausted and hung over, we then spend 5 hours going through Covid procedures. We being Japanese citizens and permanent residents, no tourists nor strolling foreigners are allowed into Japan.

It is awful. We pass from desk to desk to have various forms stamped. We wait and then shuffle off to the next desk. We finally have PCR tests and wait for a long time for results. Everything is in Japanese as only Japanese are allowed in anyway. I am everlasting grateful to Taki san, who runs a diving business in Tokyo. He explains what is going on and generally holds my hand.

By the time I get through it all, I have missed my connecting flight to Okinawa from Haneda, another airport the other side of Tokyo and after much difficulty find a very expensive airport hotel. I am asleep about 3 minutes after I get into the room.

However, all bad things come to an end and the next morning I get an early bus across Tokyo to Haneda.

ANA, the world’s best airline, are wonderful and put me on the first flight to Okinawa.

Things immediately revert to Okinawa bliss. I phone the car rental guy,” Neil san, welcome back! Car ready in 30 minutes!”


Such a great car!

I drive to Ginowan Town Hall because my health insurance card is no longer valid.

Get your health insurance here.

A young lady employee sees me looking helpless, sits me down and 5 minutes later returns with card that gives me another year of free healthcare. Thank you. 15 minutes.

I fear no evil

Straight to my local clinic. 15 minutes wait and then I get chest Xray, ECG. blood test, urine test, examination by Nagasaki sensei. Next day I return for results. He tells me that I am as fit as dog apart from high uric acid because I drink too much. I have lost 18 kilos since my check up last year! God bless America.

I get pills to lower uric acid level. The whole deal costs me 2,600 Yen. Incredible!

Shoko san is the best!

I check on the boat.

She has waited patiently. Thanks Kiyuna san and Harry san for keeping an eye on her.

I bump into Kiyuna san. The Harley is back in business and he now has a puppy that lives in a bag slung over his chest.

Gey few like him

“10:00 tomorrow Neil san we will check engine and everything is working!” He is a good friend.

I have wonderful lunch with two dear friends and then go to the specs shop. I noticed on the long drive that my vision was blurred. They immediately organize for an English speaker to give me an eye test by video link to Tokyo.

Japan still wears masks even for video conferences.

Japan is incredible. Every thing is so easy even though I do not speak the language. All the above and much more took place during a 3 day span. Thank you.

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Well Done Truck!

So we did it!

I set off in early January with great trepidation; was the truck up to such an ambitious trip, was I up to it or were we both too shagged out? The truck has done 180,000 miles and I will be 70 in a month. 11,000 miles, 3 and a bit months living in a camper.

The Gods did not give in easily and the last day was probably the toughest, blizzard coming over the Sierras and very high winds. I was also sick with extreme stomach upset and had to stop several times to join the bears in the woods. Not fun.

It got much worse! I am surprised they did not close the road. Only chain equipped and obviously amazing trucks like mine were allowed to attempt the pass. Quite a few did not make it.

Anyway, I spend a few more days in Utah. So much scenery!

Just hanging around in the middle of nowhere.
Kodachrome NP
Early model 4 Wheel Camper
Hole in the Rock Road
Nevada, apart from Vegas and Reno, is a whole lot of nothing.
Hundreds of miles of nothing.

There are some old mining towns that are sort of hanging on.

The good old days.
Just passing by!
I’ll have a carrot juice, please.
Ely Nevada.
Make me feel good rock and roll bands.

I visit Bodie, a ghost town 8,000 ft up in the Sierras. Once upon a time, 10,000 people lived here, there were 60 saloons!

Vaut le detour.
Good place for a chat.
The town is kept in a state of arrested decay
Location, location!
Not Bodie but my room in San Francisco

So I am back in San Francisco but, like many others, homeless. The renovations to the apartment are far from finished. I guess I will light out to Japan.

What a trip!

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Sugar Pie

I am now very much west-side but before I forget, here are some of the ways that the womenfolk of the South and the Mid West addressed me.

Sugar Pie, Sugar, Sweetie, Honey, Honey Child, Baby, Sweetheart, My Lovely, Darlin, and many more. I mean this is before we had been formally introduced. I loved it! Thank you women of the South and Mid West.

After Mesa Verde, where I was stuck for a couple of days because of snow, I bumble around the Canyons of the Ancients National Monument.

There are hundreds Anastazi ruins. Maybe not as spectacular as Mesa Verde but remarkable because the huge numbers. Yep, that was some fine civilization.

I head off to The Needles NP. Is it necessary to go into the parks as the scenery everywhere is sensational?

It is everywhere.
Hooray Utah! I do not have to drink so much
Fake news

Needles National Park is sensational but suffers from the same dilemma as most parks in the USA. Better, cheaper, transport, more affluent people, Covid stimulated desire to get out of the house has provoked a massive increase in the number of visitors.

I get there at about 09:00 but the campsites are already full. Luckily I collide with Wendy, who is a Park Ranger. One of the park hosts has left for a couple of days and she gives me their site. Thank you Wendy!

She is the best

I have mentioned a few reasons for the increasingly popularity of National Parks but in addition, the parks are incredibly well run and the staff have the mixture of enthusiasm, helpfulness and evident enjoyment of their jobs, devoid of any sort of cynicism that other nations are unable to replicate.

Wendy makes sure that I am comfortably installed and takes so much time to suggest the best places and activities. There is no shortage.

The Needles
Choose your own name
My site. I stay 2 glorious days.
I cook on the campfire
Salad, peas and grilled elk!
Thousands of square miles to explore.
So much of this stuff.
So difficult to take a photo that captures the vastness of the country.
Driving into the Needles.
A lump of rock. Difficult to get the right feeling of size.

Anyway, Needles NP is an absolutely astonishing place and the people who work there are stars. Thank you.

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I have come through California, Arizona, New Mexico, lots of Mexico,Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama,Tennessee, North Carolina, Kentucky, Missouri, Arkansas, Kansas, a little bit of Oklahoma and Colorado.

I have seen hundreds of pro Trump posters and signs. The only Biden signs encourage you to have sex with him.

After so much country I am now in the back in the West!

My great problem is the furnace in the camper. It does not work. It annoys me as it is massively over engineered. It has a circuit board that could control a particle accelerator. Luckily I have a Mr Buddy heater, which always works. Light pilot light, turn on gas, boom it works.

Thank you

It is the way we are going, lots of electronic stuff that does not work.

I visit Mesa Verde.

Built AD 1100
Scarcely believable
Location, location.
Northern Flicker, I think, I have lost my bird book

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Bear Meat

How can those title words be pronounced so differently yet contain the same ae vowel core? English spelling is hard to follow.

Instead, I follow Highway 160 across the plains and finally into the Rockies.

Dodge City.

The plains are wonderful! Big. Hours and hours of driving. Occasional small town/gas station.

They claimed Santa Fe trail wagon ruts here. Could not see any

Check Engine.
Still flat

Eastern Colorado is just as flat as Kansas. I rub my eyes. Is that snow?

Click twice on photo to expand
So many churches
Frozen Lake!

What a good drive- over the Great Plains and then climb up into the Rockies!

I arrive at a camp site in Trinidad. It is late, I am exhausted. To stay you have to pre-register, create your identity, choose a site, pay with credit card.

I am very low, as is noticed by the wonderful Geoff and Kate who are camping nearby. Geoff takes my phone and with great courtesy and skill does the necessary for me to stay. I will be eternally grateful.

What a fantastic family!

Still on 160, I find a ranch where meat is sold.

Bear like stair, meat like feet.

I buy Elk, Venison and Goat.

Makes a change. Don’t think I am ready for Bear.

What next?

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Go West, Old Man!

The frequency of posts depends on the speed of available wifi. Uploading lots of photos is only bearable if there is a reasonably good signal. I have been sleeping in the camper a lot and so no posts. This means I have more or less forgotten what has happened to me by the time I get around to writing something. Sorry for cursory nature of this post. I can’t remember.

Vote Beshear

I am essentially following the route of the early European settlers. Through the Appalachian mountains, the woody hills of Kentucky into the beautiful country around the Missouri/Arkansas state line. Those settlers must have been staggered, coming from their cramped little European countries where all land had been grabbed thousands of years before. I potter along the smallest roads passing through beautiful farmland, crisscrossed with nice big rivers.

Lots of daffodils!

So much land! Help yourself guys, special offer this week. Poor Native Americans.

Dawn somewhere in Missouri. From my bed
Never been here before.
Beaver is surprised to see me
Downy Woodpecker
Blue Jay
Mr Northern Cardinal
His wife
Says it all really
Huge Beaver in Kansas
Red bellied Woodpecker. Rare
Same bird. Still rare.

I love Kansas. It is so flat, the skies are huge.

Big skies in. Kansas.
Chisholm Trail went through here.
Kansas Lunch

I end up in Medicine Lodge where there is only one motel. It has frontier style wifi.

I visit the Stockade, a reconstruction of the fort that was here in the early days.

My bedroom.
Yvonne is a rancher and also runs the museum in the stockade. She is lots of fun and very knowledgeable. Her Great grandfather took part in the land grabs in the Indian Territories, now Oklahoma. Thousands of people raced across the prairie grabbing land and putting it in supermarket trollies.

Yvonne gives me a wonderful book on the history of Medicine Lodge. It is mainly snippets from the local newspaper in the 1880s. It exudes enthusiasm, chaos, mixed with vitality and dry humor. Not so long ago. It has marked the people who are here now.

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