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Magallanes, Torres del Paine, and Patagonia

I will write up a full post once I get home since this is going up from airport in Santiago but in short, for my first time in Patagonia this was amazing experience. The park is beautiful and awe inspiring, the people I met on the way were all very interesting, the food and accommodation all get high praise and the guides we had were among the best I have experienced world wide.

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IMG_8685 Day 1 Ecocamp and Cuernos






IMG_8807 French Valley










IMG_9011 Largo Grey and Grey Glacier




IMG_9062 Views of the park and back to camp







IMG_9159 Ascension Valley and Torres







IMG_9316 Sunrise, sunset, and some penguins since if they are around I have to go see them.

All in all the photos came out okay for another trip across the globe with just a phone for a camera. I have a couple flights to look through them more carefully and see what I want to post and think of the right way to describe this magnificent place. Thinking about coming back in January but would have to make it to Antartica, guess I need to plan a bit more. Also, if anyone knows of any great books about Patagonia I have been looking for my next read and already read Chatwin’s book. I enjoyed it but didn’t really get the meaning and really want to understand more about this part of the world.

Signing off for now ending my first and definitely not last trip almost as far south as a person can go.

Brief swing through Argentina

The Carnival crowds were collapsing around the hotel in Copacabana beach as I left. Place was an absolute zoo and the streets were all backing up, granted I was still early to the airport just in time for a flight delay pushing my departure until well after midnight.

The transit to El Calafate was a bit brutal and I think my biggest miss was thinking I couldn’t sit down to a steak dinner in Buenos Aires at 3am. As I was arriving at the domestic airport I saw a number of places that looked good that were clearly still serving.

After a run along a beautiful boardwalk was a visit to Los Glaciares National Park which was really neat. As well done as any in the US and likely deals with just as many visitors.

Would likely say glaciers are like life ever moving and making noise then sudden significant changes, a feat of Mother Nature shown in so many different ways.

Below are some pictures since they are certainly better than any words.











Seeing the Perito Moreno Glacier as my introduction to Patagonia was amazing, beautiful country and just a taste of what was to come next after crossing into Chile below the southern ice fields.

30 Hours in Rio de Janeiro

On my way to Patagonia I figured was a good stop to see Rio. First time in Brasil and is a wonderful place, friendly people, beautiful weather and scenery and spirit like no other place. As I write I’m waiting for a lift back to the airport and the Carnival street parties are on full swing with drums everywhere and traffic ground to a halt. I came to see the parades and they were so worth it even if I caught the preliminary and not the largest of them. I did see last nights winner who will go again Sunday for the primary event. I also got to see famous beaches, Christ the Redeemer, Sugar Loaf, and some street parties so all in all not bad for a long day.

Having seen so many marathon signs saying “worst parade ever” this just made me think wow this is the best parade ever and that is all that went through my head as I watched the floats and all the dancing. Thinking about the spring celebration that is held before lent in so many places I wondered what some of the differences were? Venice, New Orleans, Sydney, Munich, the celebration is held in so many countries and all are so different. In Germany it’s starkbierziet with strong beers before the fast, in New Orleans Mardi Gras is debauchery, in Italy the celebration and the beautiful masks.

Here to me it’s all about the dance and the energy. Despite my concerns that South America is usually disorganized and chaotic this is anything but. The parades at the Sambadoromo are organized and amazing. The coordination it must take for the thousands of people in each samba school is phenomenal, hundreds of drummers, dancers of every stripe. I would include singers but the crowd fulfills that roll more than the floats often times which is what makes the energy so cool. I understand each Samba school has between 3000 and 5000 people making this the largest show on earth. People in the stands are all singing and dancing the night away in revelry from young to old alike.

This spirit and passion is something akin to the most intense sports fans at the biggest match of their season. The pictures cannot do justice to this place and these people but want to post a few before I leave for the next place.




















Yes there is a man in the mouth of the monster over the kettle ……

And on to beaches and tourism.









Departing shortly after a bit more dancing in the street.

Not bad for 30 hours…..

Life at a frenetic pace and traveling solo

I’ve been away a bit recently and sometimes feel the constant rushing is catching up, but then cannot seem to unwind and relax. After a fast weekend of races and fun in Dallas still managed a few hours in Vegas before heading to work in San Diego. For most I imagine this would be a bad way to start a week of meetings and a big work function, for me worked quite well despite the breakneck pace.

Feeling like a sloth when I have nothing going on requires me to stay “full on” whenever I can, then go narcoleptic when the downtime comes, case in point barely stayed awake through dinner on my current overnight flight. For some reason this seems like the best way to pack a full month into a week and I don’t understand why this shouldn’t be the norm for other people as well.

Everyone I know seems to enjoy downtime and many people tell me I should learn how to also stop and smell the roses but it has not worked for me so far. I feel like we could all throw out the TV and just see and experience as much of the world as possible. As someone who has been searching for new challenges for a long time I wonder what’s next? Is another Ironman in order or a mountain or two? IM not booked yet but Go Ruck Ascent is and lottery entry for a couple of our national parks for the summer should work. I will soon be down visiting Patagonia and hiking the W trek in Torres del Paines national park in Chile but what after that?

Sitting on my flight this evening waiting to take off for Rio the person next to me is also going to Carnival, spending a month in Rio compared to my 30+ hours, not sure if that’s just because vacation works differently in Canada or because they slow down more but that gives me pause to think if I’m doing something wrong. They were also surprised to hear I’m traveling solo. This is my forth or fifth multi country solo journey around the world and I think it is also likely my last one.

Guess I will see how it goes but there is something changing as I get older that makes seeing far away places a little less fun, not sharing the experience with family or friends makes for good stories but lacks shared experience.

Thinking about plans for the remainder of the year I need to focus on making sure other people come along on some of these poorly contrived adventures. I’ll start by recruiting for work on the house Maine, any takers for the 4th of July weekend? Let me know, lodging is free if you don’t mind working and we can spend evenings on the beach with a bonfire.

One more time solo is just getting started guess this isn’t a bad way to begin on the roof of my hotel over looking Copacabana beach. Seeing Rio is next.


Visiting the BRIC Countries

As I finalize the details of my up coming trip it makes me nervous to think I am trying to cram so much into such a short trip.  Guess this is sort of the status quo for how I have traveled but for this one it seems pretty aggressive even for me.  Guess the benefit to going solo is if something goes horribly sideways have only myself to blame and to solve any problem that may arise.

Brazil will be my first stop on this trip and will complete my tour of the developing BRIC countries.  Seeing Carnival will be amazing but I wonder if the severe drought plaguing Brazil will temper the atmosphere that is supposed to be so amazing.  All four BRICs will have been solo trips and the first three were all worth the challenge, whirlwind tour in India, wandering Beijing in China, and across most Russia by train. Just thinking back to some of these made me dig up some pictures from my visits to the other 3 so I went ahead and posted them below since they were all amazing experiences and never made my previous blog entries.

Couple days in India included my last long training run preceding my first marathon in 2010, I do not recommend running 20 miles in the crowded street of Delhi.

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Beijing was so amazing despite not much time there I was in awe of the Chinese heritage and history along with the beauty of the country side surrounding the city.


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Lake Baikal is the largest fresh water lake in the world

Lake Baikal is the largest fresh water lake in the world

After spending a week by train through China, Mongolia, and Siberia it was nice to reach suburban Moscow.

St Basil's Domes St Basil Justin in Front of St Basil Evening in Red Square

Getting pretty excited to head off again and will post pictures and stories of Patagonia soon.

Kikulu Crew 140

We hope you had a wonderful holiday season! Now that the new year is in full swing, it’s time to plan how you will give back in 2015.
Joining the Kikulu Crew140 is a great way to make an impact and start off your new year right. The Crew140 is a group of 140 individuals working together to support education for 140 children in rural Uganda through a recurring monthly donation of $20.00 that sponsors a primary or secondary school scholarship for one of these bright young minds. Consider the impact you can make:
  • Provides school fees, books and supplies to a child in one of the most resource starved parts of the world.
  • Enables a student to receive a quality education and build the foundation for a promising future.
  • Allows you to join the global community working together to ensure every child, across the globe, is in school.
We ask you to join us in the fight to support global education by joining Crew140 today, and share with friends and colleagues the opportunity to jump onboard and join the crew as well!
With deep gratitude,
The Kikulu Team
Gift a $20/Monthly Recurring Donation Today!

As some of you know I try and spend time giving back as often as I can and one of those ways is by serving non-profits both here in North Texas and abroad.  As part of that initiative I serve on the board for the Kikulu Foundation. Above is our first communication for the year seeking assistance in funding scholarships in Uganda, please take some time and consider what the impact of $20 a month is too you and what it could mean for a child who otherwise may not get the chance at receiving a quality education.  As we know, education and literacy are the paths to a better life, so please assist us if you can in providing some assistance those less fortunate than ourselves.


Palo Duro Canyon State Park – A visit in pictures

Plenty of people who spend their whole life in Texas never get out to see it, I do not fall in this category thanks for my father taking us all over by car when we were very young.  The “grand canyon” of Texas is Palo Duro Canyon just south of Amarillo and well worth the drive.  I would highly encourage anyone with the time and the love of our beautiful state to visit, it is a toss up for me which is better, Palo Duro State Park or Big Bend National Park.  This weekend was Palo Duro and was a perfect weekend to visit the panhandle.

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Texas attempt at Red Rocks

Texas attempt at Red Rocks

The Texas Parks & Wildlife page is a great resource but I need to find some more reviews and information on what the various parks have to offer to pick the next break from mortgage land.

Too many stamps, Cheap Uber, WDW Marathon, National Championship

For this years international trip I am headed to Patagonia via Carnival in a few weeks.  As always I wait until time is short to work out the details which is always a bad idea but I will never learn.  The complexity of each trip is always a fun challenge to sort out so perhaps leaving inadequate time to sort out the details is is part of the fun of planning.  As I was gathering my visa documents for entry to Brazil I spent a few late night hours getting all the details together, only at the very last minute to read the requirements of my passport itself. I had read the check list offered at the Consulate of Brazil website at least 10 times and each time glossed over the sentence following good condition US Passport, where it says “with two blank visa/endorsement pages”.  Being a regular traveler and having immigration people just stamp wherever has left me without this requirement despite my passport being only halfway through its useful life.  In my opinion only having 20 pages for stamps/visas/endorsements does not seem adequate for a 10 year passport, if mine does not make it what about people who travel often?

Learning you have a passport problem when you are less than a month from departure is a bit terrifying knowing everything in the government is deeply bureaucratic and any urgency is ridiculously expensive. After some research and a few phone calls it was comforting to hear that there is a passport office in Dallas, granted you cannot call them directly or schedule an appointment while speaking to a person so they pass you off to the automated system.  So far things are looking positive, appointment the next day and not too excessive in the way of fees to have pages added to my passport, but guess I will see how it all works out in the morning.  To get normal processing for my Brazil visa via an expedited service, everything will have to come together tomorrow, this contingency is causing my blood pressure to rise since I have already committed to much of the trip via flights and lodging.  The last time I had to get some visa’a in short order, the people at AA Passports here in Dallas did a pretty good job so I am hoping for the same again this time and am not really considering driving to Houston on a work day as an alternative but guess thats better than losing the reservations. So in short I am really hoping for extra pages for more stamps, sort of like the mortgage lenders, pray for low rates which seems to be occurring now, so perhaps I can be as lucky as mortgage originators.

To shift to US travel thoughts, I have been a Uber user for about 3 years now and have never had a problem and after this weekend in Orlando am a bigger believer than ever.  In Orlando this weekend we stayed off the resort and so since I decided to run the marathon bandit had to figure out a way to get to the start line on time, which as it turns out at the Walt Disney Marathon is 5:30 am.  To assure I would arrive on time I scheduled a taxi pickup for the 7 mile trip.  This was just in case there was no Uber available when ready to leave the hotel at 3:30 in the morning.  Taxi: on time, $44 dollars one way.  After the marathon I figured I would either cab it or find an Uber, tried the Uber, no waiting and the trip cost was less than $13.00.  I am not sure how the union cab drivers in Florida can possibly get away with charging such an inflated rate.  Even with 26,000 runners the available transportation was quick and painless so if the cab drivers get themselves sorted out in the next year I would hope the consumer shows their might and just stops using cabs all together unless they come way down in price to align with Uber.

Some pics from Cape Canaveral, Walt Disney Marathon and the first NCAA Football National Championship


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Running Long Distance and thoughts on Mortgage Land

As anyone who follows this knows I am a long distance athlete, primarily a runner, hiker, but throw some triathlon in too for variety.  What this means to me is that I have mentally prepared myself to have my version of yoga/therapy/meditation be the time spent pounding the pavement swimming laps or enjoying nature.  I often times find it hard to get up the motivation to go out and every time I go out it seems like the first time I have run in my adult life, but despite these I still use activity for these sources of painful joy in life.

For Christmas I received a copy of a book by the comic, The Oatmeal, entitled The Terrible and Wonderful Reasons I run Long Distance.  The author brings a wonderful perspective to the sport of long distance running and I was reading through tears of laughter the whole time.

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My favorite quote from this book is really sums up my position on endurance sports, “Running is a form of practiced stoicism.  It means teaching your brain and body to be biomechanically comfortable in a state of disrepair”.  I plan on practicing this effort this weekend so will likely post on the results of my first “bandit” marathon next week.  I will also likely try and do some more barefoot running this year and break out my vibrams for some trail running. Since everyone already makes fun of them I poked around and found another comic I really enjoy, XKCD, take on toe shoes…

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During my workouts this week I have been mulling over the news and where I think we will come out economically this year.  Being in mortgage we are always advised to “pray for low rates” but having spent many years in distressed/default, specifically embroiled in subprime, I am hoping this year for a return of private money to the mortgage marketplace.  The subprime link above is to a slide presentation to explains the last mortgage crisis in a humorous and simple way that I believe was written by a professor that I took a secondary market course from years ago, thanks Jay still using it.

With quantitative easing coming to an end we will thankfully see the treasury balance sheet stop expanding with hundreds billions of dollars of mortgage loans and while this may be painful for the sector to absorb at first I am hoping that it combined with a rising of rates will encourage private money to come back into the market, this will likely start with subprime which I am in favor of since it is an underserved portion of the mortgage market and when written well can serve all parties from the consumer to the bank to the tax man.

With Ocwen announcing their exit from GSE servicing, the non-bank servicers will likely all snap up the best portions of the MSR product that Ocwen sells, allowing them the liquidity they need to payoff the various fines and regulatory fees they have incurred.  This move will either position them to be the best low cost third party servicer in the country or precede their ultimate fall from grace, I hope for the former but predict the later.  As for the rest of the non-banks I hope they can find the correct balance of GSE and private since that brings balance to the market.

For lending, I am guessing the 10 yr stays low but refinance remains the ghost of the QE past and worry a bit that the game of chicken being played with petroleum production could have pretty adverse effects on housing production.  While that seems a little counter intuitive, cheap oil will drive an economy only so far and at some point the Federal reserve will have to take the punch bowl away from the party.  So in short at the end of 2015 I am thinking, slight rate uptick on the 30 yr rate, call it average of 4.5%, inflation will remain low, say 1.6% which I think would be up from 2014’s 1.3, and only in Q3 and Q4 will we see any private money come back to mortgage.


Enough insomnia time for last run before the marathon out east this Sunday.



First Brew day 2015 – Chipotle Porter and French Saison

Waking up early for a cold January brew day was invigorating.  Despite the high wind which makes the burners less efficient, it was still a great way to start the brewing year. Think an addition to my goal list will he to more fully develop my brewing effort through better recipe and production tracking, as well as tasting notes and at least two or three competitions. Today was a cold weather brew day so had to add some wind protection and some extra insulation but I’m pretty excited about both the beers.

I realized I had not posted about brewing in quite awhile so figured was good time to post. I made two batches as it the best use brew day of time.

Chipotle Smoked Porter:
First batch was extract with steeped grains. This is the beer I have made most frequently and always comes out really well. The recipe bill I have settled on after many different combinations are a mix of American Smoked malt, black malt, crystal and chocolate malt, balanced against goldings, Brewers gold, and cascade hops, all brought together with a American Ale yeast and finished with a ten day “dry hop” with rehydrated chipotle peppers.

French American Saison:
The second batch was something new, I did well at Bluebonnet Brewoff a couple years ago with a French saison so I dug out the recipe for that but for a new twist I brewed my first whole hop batch with some hops my neighbors brother grew. I think he is a alternative farmer so I am not sure where he came up with Anheuser Busch prime heritage hops but the big bag was such a fun gift. Along with those hops and French saison yeast was a primarily Pilsner malt grain bill with a little wheat, little Munich. Then to try and fit the style a extra long mash and boil and will probably try to re-ferment it with an extra dose of yeast in secondary.

A few pictures of the day are below and now I just hope our Dallas Cowboys can get past this horrible first quarter.










Next post will likely be about the trip to Orlando with Emma and friends. Maybe a horrible choice but I found a bib for the sold out Disney World marathon next week so that will be my first big event for the