Welcome to my latest, and hopefully my bestest blog.

My intent is to write about camping, overland, bushcraft, travel, 4WD vehicles, mountain climbing, clothing, gear, militaria, vintage stuff, food, drink…and etc. However, I may veer off course on occasion and write about something completely different.john.cleese1

So, check back occasionally for updates!

We in the USA are finally getting the Toyota we all want (except it’s a Ford!)

Yes, it looks almost exactly like a circa 2000 Toyota HiLux, is made in Hermosillo, Mexico, but it will actually be affordable (starting at under $20,000 USD!). And that’s what many of us have been wanting. It does seem lately as if Toyota and Ford have swapped roles, with Toyotas getting bigger and Fords getting smaller (not in all cases, of course, but in most) over the past 10 years or so. We even got a new Ford Bronco this year (competition for the Jeep Gladiator and the unobtainable in the USA Toyota 70 series?), which so far is getting positive reviews.

Read more about the new Ford compact pickup truck, codenamed P758, at Jalopnik: jalopnik.com/new-compact-ford-pickup-will-start-under-20-000-repor-1842219589

Scotch Whisky Salvaged From 80-Year-Old Shipwreck To Be Sold At Auction

by Brad Japhe (02 August 2020)

“It’s called sunken scotch. And it’s practically a category unto itself: whisky rescued from the cargoes of a wrecked ship, resting for untold periods of time below the tides. Every few years tales of brown spirit raised from these depths grab headlines, while the liquor itself fetches top dollar at auction. The latest example happens to be scotch salvaged from perhaps the most famous shipwreck of the modern era. And it’s expected to earn as much as $20,000 in an on-going auction now live, online.”

Read the rest of the article at Forbes: forbes.com/sites/bradjaphe/2020/08/02/scotch-whisky-salvaged-from-80-year-old-shipwreck-to-be-sold-at-auction

Poster for the 1949 film

The World’s Highest and Fastest Cell Service Could Have Geopolitical Implications

by Ari Schneider (29 July 2020)

“While most of China was quarantined and Mount Everest was closed to climbers due to COVID-19, a herd of nearly 50 yaks made their way up the snowy north slopes of the world’s highest mountain in temperatures that dipped below zero degrees Fahrenheit. On their backs were loads of equipment—metal beams, cables, and solar panels strapped down with cord—that would be used to build 5G antennas on rocky moraines scattered across the mountainside.”

Read the rest of the article at Slate: slate.com/technology/2020/07/mount-everest-5g-china-tibet-nepal-border

Mount Everest with cellphone reception bars.

Adventures with One of the Most Traveled Men on Earth

by Lew Toulmin

“Lew dashes off to Malaysia to try to solve the most famous disappearance on land in Southeast Asia. This was the disappearance in 1967 of Jim Thompson, the ‘Silk King
of Thailand,’ who went for a short afternoon walk in the high jungle of the Cameron Highlands of north central Malaysia, and was never seen again. The biggest land
search in Malaysian (and likely SE Asian) history failed to find a single trace. Lew analyzes the case from a scientific search and rescue point of view, the first time this has ever been done. This results in the first advances in the case in 48 years, with 25 possible causes for the disappearance whittled down by half, and a ‘road map‘ to a possible solution laid out. This massive report also contains comprehensive primary document annexes with extensive data, previous classified as ‘Secret,’ from the FBI, CIA, OSS, and US Department of State.”

Read more about it on Toulmin’s website: themosttraveled.com/new_land

Also, watch a video of Toulmin giving a talk about his research and travels at the International Spy Museum: youtube.com/watch?v=0ASjJgwDCBc

Jim Thompson in World War II

(I visited Jim Thompson’s house museum when I was working in Bangkok in the 1990s and it piqued my interest in the man. I guess for whatever reason I have an odd fascination for former special operations military people who disappear.)

One Year In Ice City: A Look Inside The World’s Largest Arctic Expedition

by Amanda Schupak (25 July 2020)

“From polar bears to a pandemic, a scientist shares what it was like to be part of MOSAiC, science’s most ambitious mission to the North Pole.”

Read the rest of the article at HuffPost’s This New World series: huffpost.com/entry/mosaic-worlds-largest-polar-expedition

Scientific teams drill into the ice to extract core samples on the afternoon of Dec. 15, 2019.

And read more about the overall expedition here: mosaic-expedition.org

WATCH out (Mk. 2): The very first known wristwatch

“It is ironic, moreover, that one of Breguet‘s most brilliant innovations, and indisputably one of his most useful – the wristwatch, no less – should have been completely ignored by his contemporaries. And yet there is documentary evidence to prove beyond any doubt that, in response to a commission from the Queen of Naples June 8th 1810, Breguet conceived and made the first wristwatch ever known, the Breguet watch number 2639.”

This watch is “missing,” as in, nobody currently knows its whereabouts. Breguet number 2639 hasn’t been seen since a descendant of the Queen of Naples sent it for service in 1855. I can’t even fathom how much the watch would be worth now.

Read more about the watch at Breguet.com: breguet.com/en/history/inventions/first-wristwatch

And, read more about it in this article about a visit to the Breguet Museum: hodinkee.com/articles/breguet-museum

WATCH out (Mk. 1)

(This is the first post in a series about iconic watches and time keeping accessories.)

The subject of this post is the Tropic waterproof rubber watch band or strap, a strap first introduced in the 1960s for the diving community, as an adjustable and durable alternative to stainless steel (aka “Oyster“) or leather watch straps. The original Tropic watch band was made in Switzerland and was distributed in the USA by BestFit.shipping box

The original TROPIC Strap packaging and full product range as presented to retailers in the 1960s (from tropicstrap.com)

Likely the most “famous” wearing of this watch strap is on Marlon Brando‘s Rolex GMT-Master that he wore on the set of the 1979 Vietnam War film Apocalypse Now (a watch that he was compelled to modify prior to filming so as to make it look less like a Rolex by removing the bezel). His watch may have not originally sported a Tropic strap, likely a black leather one (probably a perforated leather “racing” watch band), but at its auction the watch had a Tropic strap on it.

Where can one obtain a Tropic or Tropic style strap today? The two best options, IMHO, are Cheap NATO Straps and tropicstrap.com

There are a few other versions being sold on Amazon and eBay, but the two companies above are known entities. I’m not sure about the availability of original 1960s/70s straps, but eBay and/or specialty watch and watch accessories sites would be the place to look.

For more information on the Brando watch:





Brooks Brothers is dead…long live Brooks Brothers!

July 12, 2020

“Only two years ago, America’s oldest clothing company was celebrating its glorious two centuries of existence. Here was a company that had outfitted some 40 American presidents, one that still made things to a high standard of quality while managing to pay thousands of Americans honorable wages. This was true not only of its manufacturing concerns but of its stores, in which bygone notions of decency and professionalism in what we now call ‘customer service’ were preserved as if in amber.”

Read more about the saga at The Week: theweek.com/articles/924830/sad-end-brooks-brothers

Yes, in case you hadn’t heard, the iconic American clothing brand Brooks Brothers recently filed for bankruptcy. I wasn’t necessarily a fan of their modern products and prices, but I have been known to enjoy some vintage BB clothing pieces when I find them. Never less, it is a tremendous loss to American heritage clothing.



Syrians Won’t Give Up on the Great Mosque of Aleppo

by Chris Ray (10 December 2019)

“On a bright spring day in April 2013, the minaret of one of the world’s most famous mosques came crashing to earth in the Syrian city of Aleppo. The sound was heard across the Old Quarter, even over the din of artillery and rattle of gunfire.

The Great Mosque of Aleppo had stood since the 12th century as a symbol of the city, on the site of an even older mosque from the Umayyad Caliphate. It had survived wars, fires, and earthquakes. Five times a day, for 919 years, the Muslim call to prayer had issued from the minaret, which overlooked a courtyard that covered almost an acre. The United Nations cultural agency, UNESCO, had pleaded for the mosque’s protection.

The precise cause of the collapse is not known, but the mosque had been seized by anti-government forces early that year, and it was in an area of heavy fighting. The regime of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad claimed that fighters from the Jabhat al-Nusra group, which was linked to al-Qaeda, had detonated explosives inside the minaret. Rebels claimed it was destroyed by tank fire from the Syrian Army.”

Read the rest of the article at Atlas Obscura: atlasobscura.com/articles/reconstruction-great-mosque-aleppo-syria

Architect Sakher Oulabi (left) and engineer Tamim Kasmo in the courtyard of Aleppo's Great Mosque.

Architect Sakher Oulabi (left) and engineer Tamim Kasmo in the courtyard of Aleppo’s Great Mosque (Photograph by Alex Ray).

A Frozen Graveyard: The Sad Tales of Antarctica’s Deaths

by Martha Henriques (11 June 2020)

“In the bleak, almost pristine land at the edge of the world, there are the frozen remains of human bodies – and each one tells a story of humanity’s relationship with this inhospitable continent.

Even with all our technology and knowledge of the dangers of Antarctica, it can remain deadly for anyone who goes there. Inland, temperatures can plummet to nearly -90C (-130F). In some places, winds can reach 200mph (322km/h). And the weather is not the only risk.

Many bodies of scientists and explorers who perished in this harsh place are beyond reach of retrieval. Some are discovered decades or more than a century later. But many that were lost will never be found, buried so deep in ice sheets or crevasses that they will never emerge – or they are headed out towards the sea within creeping glaciers and calving ice.”

Read the rest of the article at BBC: bbc.com/future/article/20180913-a-frozen-graveyard-the-sad-tales-of-antarcticas-deaths

Crevasses can be deadly; this vehicle in the 1950s had a lucky escape (Credit: Getty Images)