Mahseer by Motorcycle: Dropping Bombs in Thailand

Posted on 2 CommentsPosted in Fishing, Traveling

This article by Rob about our motorcycle/fishing trip in Thailand last spring appeared in The Drake magazine.  Click here to see the story.

When I was a kid, I made my own fireworks out of cardboard, gunpowder, and a hefty amount of duct tape.  So when Bobby Kauktol told me that we’d be tossing cherry bombs at large mahseer on the River Yuam, I was feeling right at home.

Fishing hadn’t been a top priority on this trip to northern Thailand, as I carted my pregnant wife around 800 miles of serpentine roads on a rented Honda Phantom.  But one evening I spotted a small ad in the corner of our route map with the words “fly fishing” and a photo of a thirty-inch fish with large scales and a gummy mouth.  I asked my wife to saddle up.

Read the rest here.

Drake cover photo

Drake article pic

Riding the Mae Hong Son Loop with 2 1/2 in Thailand. On the Horizon Line Blog with Brianna Randall and Rob Roberts on motorcycle.

I Never Wanted A Crotch Rocket

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Mamalode, Outdoor Adventures, Pregnancy

My husband says that having a pregnant wife is like riding on the back of a motorcycle—you give up control, replace it with trust, and hold on for dear life. He told me that after I declared that riding on the back of our rented motorcycle for a week in northern Thailand was an exercise in letting go.

Let me be clear, here: I am not a motorcycle chick. I harbor no fantasies of riding crotch rockets around tight turns. I have been on the back of a bike only once before, during our honeymoon in Niue—a tiny island with one very flat road. Yet, somehow, it still seemed like a good idea to rent a bike for a week to see more remote reaches of Thailand. Keep reading by clicking here!

This story appears on my Mamalode monthly column. I earn a few dimes for each person that visits this online article, so click away!

Brianna Randall and Rob Roberts on motorcycle through Thailand's Mae Hong Son Loop. On the Horizon Line travel blog.

P:art Two – Riding With 2 1/2 on Thailand’s Mae Hong Son Loop

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Fishing, Outdoor Adventures, Videos

Here it is: the video for part two of our week-long motorcycle trip through northwest Thailand.  This one features fly fishing footage from our trip on the Yuam River, guided by NG River Guides (partly run by Montana Fly Company).  Check out the nice mahseer I caught.  It also shows tai chi in the park, daily snapshots, and some serious twists and turns on the road.  We rented the Honda Phantom for 500 baht/day (about $16) from Tony’s Big Bikes in Chiang Mai.

The video for part one is also below.  Stay tuned for Bri’s next Mamalode article on how it felt to ride on a motorcycle while four months pregnant.


Riding the Mae Hong Son Loop with 2 1/2 in Thailand. On the Horizon Line Blog with Brianna Randall and Rob Roberts on motorcycle.

Part One – Riding with 2 1/2 on Thailand’s Mae Hong Son Motorcycle Loop

Posted on 2 CommentsPosted in Outdoor Adventures, Traveling, Videos

Last week, we put the two-and-a-half of us, one small duffel and our beat-up Panamanian guitar on a motorcycle for a week-long road trip in Southeast Asia.  We were ready for smaller towns and some Thailand scenery.  The 800 kilometer Mae Hong Son motorcycle loop has over 2,000 turns.  Most of them are hairpin.  It climbs and then descends an astonishing 1,000 meters (3,000 feet) in 20 kilometers (12 miles) … several times.  We had planned to spend about five days on the road, but ended up riding for eight.

This video was made entirely on the iPhone using iMovie.  It features Bri as the star during the first half of our trip, which included visits to Buddhist temples, birding at the highest peak in Thailand, and playing guitar with locals in the street.

Stay tuned for Part Two in a few days. Also, watch for Bri’s post next month in Mamalode about riding on a motorcycle while pregnant.

February full moon in Whitianga, New Zealand. On the Horizon Line with Brianna Randall on the beach.

A Blood Red March Moon

Posted on 1 CommentPosted in Reflections on Life

The moon is my journal and my scrapbook, the keeper of my secrets. She silently, serenely observes the moments of my life, a sentinel and supporter during the passage of time. It gives me comfort and a feeling of rightness each month to look up and find her. To mark my benchmarks in her rotations. To exclaim in surprise when she’s round and luscious yet again.

Each full moon, I try to take a mental snapshot of where I was, what I was doing, how I was feeling. That way I can flip back through the months to remind myself of who I’ve been. I spend a few moments gazing at the moon’s pocked, glowing face, putting myself back in the space of her fullness 28 days before. Sometimes I go back further, as many moons as I can picture, to trace the recent journeys of my head and heart. Often, I try to remember the full moon one year before to compare the me of then with the me of now.

Take this recent full March moon, for instance. It rose over the crowded Sunday night market on Chiang Mai’s main street. She was blood red from the smoky Thai skies, complementing the riot of bright colors and sounds pulsing around us. A foreign, exotic moon, just like the country we were standing in. I took the snapshot to pull out later on.

I remembered back, as well. February: standing on the brisk southern beach of Whitianga on the Coromandel Peninsula, the golden moon rising out of the cold Pacific to light my solitary journey through New Zealand’s North Island. January: wading into a bathwater-warm sea to our dinghy off Fetoko, bioluminescence shooting from my feet as the crisp moon shone above. December: eating dinner with my sister aboard the sailboat, talking about the brand-new life in my womb as the moon and Orion competed for first place in a celestial beauty contest. One year ago: a full moon on the day we left our home, our friends, life as we knew it. The start of our journey west toward Pacific Islands, Polynesian cultures, sailing adventures, and expanding mental horizons.

I’ve been lucky, these past 12 moons. Privledged and proud to be exploring. But this blood red March moon reminded me to feel humble in the face of the unknown. Southeast Asia has been a tough transition for us. We moved rather abruptly from slow Pacific sailboats to fast-paced motorcycles in the world’s biggest cities. The last few weeks was an immersion back into “real life,” with its constant decisions, everyday struggles, and glaring realities. We certainly are not on a boat out at sea anymore, for better and for worse. It’s a transition that has been important, necessary and revealing. But it hasn’t been easy. This particular full moon was hard-earned, and it will stand out in my lunar life journal.

Click here to see more pictures from New Zealand (better late than never!)

Brianna's grandparents at their renewal of vows ceremony in San Diego.

Dreams of Grandpa on an Overnight Train from Bangkok

Posted on 4 CommentsPosted in Family and Friends, Reflections on Life

My grandpa loved trains. And by ‘love,’ I mean a borderline obsession. He grew up in Connecticut, raised by a florist and a Congregational minister in a pedigreed line that dated back to the original founders of New England, and of America. Grandpa became the sixth Congregational minister in that line.

But first, he grew up near the train, in a time when trains were still an elegant means of traversing the grand American continent. Frederick Bradley worked on his family’s flower farm, and looked forward to hearing the train’s whistle. To running alongside it, waving at the people inside, wondering where their journey would lead.

Grandpa told me plenty of stories about trains. As a child, I could hear the whistle, picture the dining car, watch the caboose fading away, feel the wonder of being carried to new horizons. Each Christmas for nearly forty years, my grandma would give her husband some type of train memorabilia: a model car, a painting, railroad tracks. They had a veritable fleet of electric train sets when I was a kid.

Each Christmas, Grandpa would make sure there was a six-foot-long train choo-chooing around the tree, complete with a model conductor, the dining car, fake smoke from the engine stack, and shiny red caboose. He loved to watch it go. So did I. Or maybe I simply got excited because Grandpa got so excited about the trains.

Now I’m on a real train. A train complete with a conductor, a dining car, a caboose, and people waving out the window as they journey to new horizons. I’ve been on trains before, although not often, and usually commuter trains that carry me from one big city to the next. Fancy and fast trains that don’t have the rocking rhythm of their more clunky ancestors.

train from bangkok to chiang mai brianna and rob on the horizon line travel blog

This train is in Thailand, and is neither fast nor fancy by modern standards. Yet it is still elegant. The railway from Bangkok to Chiang Mai was completed in 1921, and I can feel the history in this train car. The pair of facing seats neatly fold into sleeping berths. The ladder to the upper bunk doubles as the luggage storage. The doors between the train cars slide open and shut, and the step between them leaves you with a bubble of adrenaline as you step above the tracks. Polite Thai workers walk between the cars offering coffee, juice, beer, snacks. The bathrooms are shockingly spartan, but also efficient – a hole in the floor through the toilet, a shower hose and a sink to wash up.

You must talk to the people in your berth. You can’t fade away into a wifi world of virtual communication. I met two Germans, a Chinese Thai man, a French family. We muddle our way through various languages to learn a little about each other. Rob improbably strikes up a conversation in Malagasy with a woman from Madagascar, where he lived for two years.

Then it’s time to pull the curtains around each bunk. Lay under the blanket provided, and let the train rock you gently to sleep, lulled by the knowledge that you will wake up to a new landscape, with new opportunities just beyond the tracks.

I thought about my grandpa for most of the train ride, even in my train-rocked dreams. I miss him, and my grandmother who both died too young. I can hear their voices now, as if I could call them up from Chiang Mai to tell them about my journey. About their very first great-grandchild who is riding inside of me on this train.

“Brianna,” my grandma would say, in her warm but precise speech. “Do you really have enough clothes in that tiny bag of yours? ”

“Bri,” my grandpa would exclaim. “How are you? Where are you? Tell me about the train.” And so I did. In my dreams.

Brianna's grandparents at their renewal of vows ceremony in San Diego.

bright lights and big city - protests in bangkok thailand

One Minute in Bangkok

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Community and Culture, Traveling, Videos

River ferries, food stalls, woks, kids, temples, bright lights, fast motorcycles, foreign alphabets.  Bangkok has been a blur of activity and culture after the past year of our slow-paced South Pacific Ocean explorations.  I tried to catch the vibe of Bangkok in this 60 second video.  Check it out.

After a week in Thailand’s largest city, we’re heading north on the overnight sleeper train to Chiang Mai.  Looking forward to seeing the mountains again, and a few adventures out of the big city.  To see more photos from Bangkok, click this link to see our recent Thailand photo album.

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