Time for that Disney experience... But just to make it interesting, we're going to visit some other things
as well, including an RV roadtrip. We'll add to this page as we get a chance, or update it when we get back.
Late night packing the last of our stuff after getting home from Glendas mums birthday dinner in the city. Our friend Karen arrived to
take us to the airport and we bundled our luggage in her car. Slight detour on the way when the on-ramp to the Bolte
Bridge was closed so we took the Ring Road right around. Had a good run until the actual airport where it was quite busy.
Checked our luggage and had a snack before boarding our plane. Uneventful flight to Auckland although the boys (all
off them) thought the in-seat entertainment was great. Lots of movies, TV shows and even games to play. Glenda was
spotted giving Tetris a workout. Flight must have been late arriving as we had to rush to the next one that was already calling
for final boarding. They made us go through security again which made our transit even longer. Along with a few other passengers
off the same flight we were ushered onto the plane and we took off. We all managed various amounts of sleep during the night
and landed at SFO (San Francisco airport) pretty much on time. Disembarked, grabed our luggage and got though customs without
losing Corey to the authorities (i.e. importing dangerous goods!). Took our shuttle to our hotel and checked in.
We decided to go sight-seeing straight away to we wandered down past Union Square to where the cable cars depart. The queue
to get on was huge so we caught a taxi to go to Fishermans Wharf. Half way there we decided to divert via Lombard Street, the funny street that wiggles
it's way down the hill. Our taxi driver was up to the task and quickly dodged and weaved though traffic to get us into the queue of cars
making their way down the street. Corey was making 'brmm brmm' noises hoping to go fast though the curves, however
a combination of the tight bends and heavy traffic had us decending at a crawl. Still good fun however. Next stop was
Fishermans Wharf where we wandered around looking at various things. We found our way into an old 'penny arcade' and
had a go of some of the old machines. Nige had a go of one of his old favourites and knocked off the high score to the boys
amazement. Most of the machines were a quarter (25 cents) but we blew though $5 very quickly. Next stop was the seals at Pier 39
which were sunny themselves just like in the guide books. Very chilly breeze so we grabbed small hot chocolates (i.e Mega large
sized at home.. $2.85+ so pretty good value) before booking a tour to Alcatraz for the next day. Caught a mini-bus back to the hotel.
Decided to go and attempt to buy a phone and found a Verizon store where we picked up the cheapest phone available. There was
a busker in the street playing a drum kit which sounded good when we were trying to find the phone shop but he'd
stopped playing when we came out. Stopped for a chat and he said that the police had asked him to take a break as
someone had complained about how loud it was. They told him they'd be going off-shift in half an hour so that was his queue
to start up again. It was loud, maybe the buildings were holding the sound in. We hung around
until he played again. He drew quite a crowd with many people (mainly weirdos) dancing in the street. We threw him a few $ and went and grabbed
some tea. Back to the hotel and to some much needed sleep.
Late night packing the last of our stuff after getting home from Glendas mums birthday dinner in the city. Our friend Karen arrived to take us to the airport and we bundled our luggage in her car. Slight detour on the way when the on-ramp to the Bolte Bridge was closed so we took the Ring Road right around. Had a good run until the actual airport where it was quite busy. Checked our luggage and had a snack before boarding our plane. Uneventful flight to Auckland although the boys (all off them) thought the in-seat entertainment was great. Lots of movies, TV shows and even games to play. Glenda was spotted giving Tetris a workout. Flight must have been late arriving as we had to rush to the next one that was already calling for final boarding. They made us go through security again which made our transit even longer. Along with a few other passengers off the same flight we were ushered onto the plane and we took off. We all managed various amounts of sleep during the night and landed at SFO (San Francisco airport) pretty much on time. Disembarked, grabed our luggage and got though customs without losing Corey to the authorities (i.e. importing dangerous goods!). Took our shuttle to our hotel and checked in.
We decided to go sight-seeing straight away to we wandered down past Union Square to where the cable cars depart. The queue to get on was huge so we caught a taxi to go to Fishermans Wharf. Half way there we decided to divert via Lombard Street, the funny street that wiggles it's way down the hill. Our taxi driver was up to the task and quickly dodged and weaved though traffic to get us into the queue of cars making their way down the street. Corey was making 'brmm brmm' noises hoping to go fast though the curves, however a combination of the tight bends and heavy traffic had us decending at a crawl. Still good fun however. Next stop was Fishermans Wharf where we wandered around looking at various things. We found our way into an old 'penny arcade' and had a go of some of the old machines. Nige had a go of one of his old favourites and knocked off the high score to the boys amazement. Most of the machines were a quarter (25 cents) but we blew though $5 very quickly. Next stop was the seals at Pier 39 which were sunny themselves just like in the guide books. Very chilly breeze so we grabbed small hot chocolates (i.e Mega large sized at home.. $2.85+ so pretty good value) before booking a tour to Alcatraz for the next day. Caught a mini-bus back to the hotel.
Decided to go and attempt to buy a phone and found a Verizon store where we picked up the cheapest phone available. There was a busker in the street playing a drum kit which sounded good when we were trying to find the phone shop but he'd stopped playing when we came out. Stopped for a chat and he said that the police had asked him to take a break as someone had complained about how loud it was. They told him they'd be going off-shift in half an hour so that was his queue to start up again. It was loud, maybe the buildings were holding the sound in. We hung around until he played again. He drew quite a crowd with many people (mainly weirdos) dancing in the street. We threw him a few $ and went and grabbed some tea. Back to the hotel and to some much needed sleep.
Caught the cable car for the ride over to Fishermans Wharf. Corey had fun riding on the step. Hired some bikes to ride over the Golden Gate Bridge. Originally planned to catch a ferry back but decided to turn around and return the way we came. Had some lunch and made our way to Pier 33 to catch the ferry to Alcatraz to view the old prison. Was quite interesting and the talking tour was quite good. Everyone had a set of earphones with a device that played the story about various aspects of the prison. After returning back to the mainland, caught a tram back to the cable car station and rode home on that. This time we all had to stand on the step which kept Brendan happy. By the time we'd had some tea it was almost 12 hours since we'd left in the morning.
Slept in after the tiring previous day. Quickly got down to breakfast but had to wait 10 mins for a table so we went back to our room and packed up some things. Back to breakfast where we had the "American Breakfast". This consisted of eggs two ways, bacon or sausage, breakfast potatoes (fried chunks) and toast. Glenda had the lot but the boys told the waiter to hold the eggs. He wasn't convinced we knew what we wanted and after taking the order to the kitchen, came back to check with us again as the cooks also questioned it. It was quite nice but way too much for everyday. We finished our packing and caught a taxi to the car rental office. Did the paperwork and were on our way to Yosemite.
The navigator got us onto the freeway but the directions we were given were less than clear and we ended up taking an alternative route which we think was probably better. Lots of roadwork in the other direction so me might choose the other way back in a few days. The car was using more 'gas' than expected so we pulled into a town to refuel. That done, we continued on to Yosemite. Going into the park we saw our first snow. Stopped at several lookouts along the way and saw some deer and a woodpecker (this bird might have actually been a "Stellar Blue" but it looked very Woodpeckerish) as well. As it was almost 6pm we decided to find our accomodation and some dinner.
Today we toured various sights around Yosemite National Park. We started by walking to the base of Yosemite Falls then found our way to the parking lot to walk to Mirror Lake. Along the way we looked at Happy Islands, a series of islands joined by bridges in the middle of the Merced River. The water looks very clear where shallow but in the deeper pools very green. We then walked to Mirror Lake. Along the way we discovered we could have caught a bus that would have saved about a mile of walking. The last mile, after where the bus stop was, was uphill mostly but thankfully not to steep. It was also a paved road so easy going. After that we decended the hill and drove to Tunnel View which is a famous "vista point". From there you can see along the valley with Bridalveil Falls and Half Dome in the distance. A fellow named Ansel Adams (look him up Mark) took a famous photo from here in the 1930's (I think) so like many other photographerrs, we've taken one or two too!
That accomplished we started our return journey stopping at Bridalveil Falls to walk to the viewing area near the falls. There is a lot of spray from the falls and the sensible ones wear coats, which we did. Just before returning to our lodgings, we called in at the Ansel Adams Gallery for a look. Most of the stuff on sale are prints made by other people (Ansel died in the 80's) and the usual tourist shop stuff like mugs and postcards but there were a couple of originals, one was $45,000. Went back and dropped our stuff at our room then went for tea.
Time to leave the park and return to our digs at the Handlery in San Fran. Another trip to the Food Court for our breakfast then pack the car and hit the road. The weather had turned with clouds sweeping into the valley and a 20% chance of snow. It was such a contrast to the previous day. Stopped a couple of times to take pictures and drove back up to Tunnel View but visibility was down to about 50m and not much could be seen. As we drove out of the park visability was poor which made us slow down a bit. Near the top of the ranges we stopped for Corey to have a play in the snow. Drove the rest of the way home without incident although it did start raining. Dropped the car off and walked to our hotel.
Once booked into our room we went for a walk to recharge our phone, buy some B&W film and have a hot chocolate in Union Square. We went for a walk through Macy's and Tiffany & Co. Didn't buy anything in either store. Corey took a fancy to a hat which we bought him. Brendan wouldn't wear one. Next we had some tea in a place called Bangkok Noodle which was very nice.
Caught a plane from SF to LV and picked up our RV. After the introductory video and explanations, we found our way to the Circus Circus 'campground' which included driving down the Strip. That involved some interesting lane changes when we got in the wrong lane at a set of traffic lights. Checked in to the campground (99% concrete, 1% rock gardens) then went for a walk down 'The Strip'. Stopped and watched the pirate show at Treasure Island then went inside for the buffet tea. Was quite good and although we paced ourselves through to sweets, we stuffed ourselves silly. Was going to catch a taxi home but decided the walk would do us good.
Packed up and left Circus Circus. These motorhomes are not really suited to arriving with your travelling belongings in suitcases as there's no where to put them so each night we move our cases off one bed and in the morning then have to move them back again. It actually has quite a bit of storage space once you unpack everything although our cupboard doors are prone to opening on the slightist of corners, and when turning into a 'gas' station for the first time our plates sailed out onto the floor and most of them broke. After cleaning up the mess and filling up with petrol, we then continued out to Death Valley. Visited various spots including Zabriskie Point (scenic lookout), Badwater (85m below sea level) and Golden Canyon (eroded by water runoff), Drove on to Stovepipe Wells. Had a swim, went to dinner.
First stop for the day was the Sand Dunes just outside Stovepipe Wells. Walked far enough into them to know walking around the Saraha wouldn't be much fun. Saw a lizard so something's happy to live there. Next we stopped at a site that was a Borax factory. Mostly ruins but they had some of the wagon carts that used to be pulled by "20 mule trains" (apparently they rarely had 20 mules as they were too hard to handle). After that we headed for Boulder, stopping to make our lunch in the carpark of a large grocery chain. We had to buy groceries for the rest of our time RVing but decided to buy it in Boulder close to where ever we would stop for the night. Wrong move there as when we got to Boulder there wasn't any decent shops, just a little store that didn't look too good. We asked a few people in the street who told us there wasn't any of the big chains and the closet was 10 miles back in a suburb of Las Vegas. We found our way back there and lucked onto a Target where we bought amongst other things a toaster for $6.something. Can't complain about the price of that. The lady at the checkout directed us to a grocery store just down the road. Stocked up we headed for a RV park on the edge of Lake Mead. This meant we would be close to our next site of interest, the Hoover Dam.
Bit later getting out of the RV park than desired as we wanted to go to the Hoover Dam and take the Dam Tour which gets booked out quickly. Earliest tour we could get on was 2.5hrs away so we decided to jump on the Power Plant Tour which is quicker, cheaper, shorter and most important, we could jump straight in the queue.
Had to laugh at a few of the people taking the tour. First off the guy ushering us into a little theatre to watch an introductory video was asking everyone to keave the front row of seats for any elderly or mobility imparied. Knobhead #1 makes up a story about his eyesight is real bad so can they all sit in the front row. I had already observed his wife at the queue where they took our tickets holding up the line by giving all her groups (2 families I think) tickets to the ticket collector but her group wasn't anywhere to be seen. They all pushed ahead of others in the queue to catch up. Next another guy and his son jumped a railing so they could get to the elevator first. Ding.. first in, last out... loser! Anyway the tour was quite interesting and we got to stand in one of the diversion tunnels created to redirect the Colorado River while they built the dam. Next was one of the two power plant rooms. The guide explained various aspects about it all.
We drove on to Kingman where we picked up a section of the famous Route 66 highway. Saw a couple of interesting motels and petrol stations all working the R66 fame to their utmost. Went past the only General Store we saw when the navigator failed to give the driver sufficient warning to stop. Anyway once we got to Seligman there were lots of similar places to wander through. That however would have to wait until the next day as we had to find the RV park and have some tea. Once setup we had a kick of the footy. While we were doing that a lot of trains went past which we hoped would not run all night. A guy walked past and had a bit of a chat and we asked about the trains. He said the park shop had a key chain that said "I survived the night of 1000 trains" but we all slept soundly so it wasn't too bad.
Had a look at some of the Route 66 curio shops along the main street of Seligman. Eash shop had pretty much the same junk as the next inside and the exterior has a variety of memorabilia outside. Popular spot for the tourist buses to pull up.
Next we found the interstate in the direction of Flagstaff. Saw some signs about a place called Bearizonia, advertising (Black) Bears of course, so we decided to go and have a look. The first part of the park was a drive-thru arrangement with a variety of animals roaming in each area. The wolves were in a playful mood chasing each other around. They reminded us of our dogs. One decided to taste the bumper of the car in front of us. They had cattle grids separating each area and when we got to the bear section a man was standing there to explain the rules of windows up and don't get out. Meanwhile there were two bears about 20m away, not sure I'd be trusting a cattle grid to keep them away. After viewing the bears in the 'wild' we got to a walk around 'zoo' section which had 3 cubs in an enclosure. They were very playful, fighting each other until they decided it was time for a nap. They were very cute.
We then decided to go into Flagstaff before heading for the Grand Canyon to pick up some supplies. This meant we picked up Hwy 180 which was very rough. This combined with the wind and our RV's dodgy steering (about a 1/4 turn of play) made driving tiring. We got to Grand Canyon Village and tried to find a site in either of the two possible venues. Both were fully booked up so we booked into the Mather campground for the next night and drove back a few miles to Tusayan to a RV park there. They had room for us so we were happy.
Travelled back to Grand Canyon and stopped at Mather Point for the boys first look at the canyon. Wandered along the walking path taking photos. Caught one of the freebie buses to another area then decided to have some lunch then move our RV from the parking lot to our campsite. Jumped back on the shuttle bus to get to the start of one (Bright Angle Trail) of the trails that lead down into the canyon. It was like Bourke Street with lots of people doing the same. We had intended to walk down far enough to sit and soak in the serenity but that would have probably involved several hours walking so we took our pictures and headed back up. Maybe we are getting fitter but even us oldies weren't puffed out once we made it back up the trail.
Caught the shuttle back to camp so we could have an early tea then catch another shuttle out to a point recommended for sunset pictures. We experienced a decent sunset but the photographer of our little tour group would have loved to have his tripod handy. The shuttle came past again so we jumped aboard and went back to the RV.
Made an early start to see the canyon in the early light. Stopped at a few lookouts as we made our exit. We probably have enough photos now. Overnight we had a revision of our trek as we have found the motorhome is pretty slow and have decided not to go to Arches Nat Park but duck back to Bryce/Zion after travelling out to Monument Valley. Stopped at some dinosaur tracks and had a Indian guide take us around the site. It's their land so that was fine. Our guide was excited to see Corey's reddish hair and asked to rub it as it was considered good luck. Would have loved a picture of his face as I said that it was fine and she took the opportunity. There were dinosaur footprints everywhere and she pointed out various types. Our Mr Dinosaur (Corey) thought it was great.
We continued on to Monument Valley and organised a tour as the road which you can drive around was way to rough for our bucket of bolts. By chance our guide had a normal 4WD rather than the open jeeps that we saw most tours using. This was great as we had windows to keep the dust out. Our tour included being taken into some of the backcountry that the standard tour didn't go to and our guide pointed out lots of sites as we barrelled around sandy tracks. After that we waited around for sunset then headed up to the campground to wash the dirt off.
The early starts lasted one day and we were near last out of the park today. Drove further down the highway to see the iconic view regularly seen in movies but we don't think we found it. The road and rock outcrops looked similar but not quite the same. Did a u-turn and high tailed it to Page to see the Antelope Slot Canyons. Our timing was impeccable with the light steaming into the canyon just like in the brochure. As it was a windy day sand was falling in, it was an interesting experience trying to protect cameras whilst taking pics. Glenda decided to pocket her good camera away and use the waterproof one. It should be ok in sand too. There were a lot of people in there and most of it was single file. Our guide was pretty bossy and got everyone out of the way so we got our photo's.
We motored into Page which was just 10 mins away and did the usual, fill the RV's petrol tank ($3.73 gal) then ran out to Horseshoe Bend to have a look. Was pretty windy and no safety rails so stood well back from the edge. Now camped beside Lake Powell for the night.
Headed towards some more National Parks but saw a sign claiming real dinosaur exhibits so made a hasty left and pulled into the Big Water Information office. They did have real dinosaur bits and after buying a book for Corey we got talking to one of the rangers. He asked us if we had seen one on display near where we had stayed (we hadn't) as he had found it. He was very enthusiastic about dinosaurs, almost as much as Corey. He told us of a site in a town on the way back to Las Vegas with, he claimed, the best dinosaur tracks in North America so we've taken note and will call in on the way.
We got to Bryce Canyon just after midday and checked out the campgrounds. Picked a site and went for a drive. We went for a walk along the rim of the canyon then went to Bryce Point which was a magnificent view. Along the way we saw some deer, a squirel like thing and prarie dogs. Went and bought some wood so we could have a fire as there's rules about not collecting firewood in the National Park. As our wood was all big chunks we scouted around for some twigs and pine needles to use as kinderling. Corey decided to use a plastic bag to collect the pine needles in but was spotted but the campground manager and we got a telling off as well as Corey having to redistribute what he had collected back to the forest floor. We managed to coax enough coals out of our miserable fire to toast some marshmellows.
Corey woke up, looked out the window and exclaimed... there's snow outside! That got our attention. Yep, it had snowed overnight which helped explain why it had been so cold. We jumped up and got dressed for some snowplay. As it was still snowing and we didn't want to get stuck in the park we decided to make an immediate move. Once on the road it wasn't too bad as the heat in the road had melted the snow and there were no icy pathes so we decided to head up to Bryce Point. When we got there visibility was limited so we took a couple of pictures and threw a few more snowballs. After a quick petrol stop we headed down the road towards Zion National Park.
Entry into Zion from this direction was interesting as there's a 1 mile long tunnel that they have to stop traffic in one direction to allow RVs to be able to go down the middle of the road to avoid hitting the tunnel roof. This costs you $15 extra for the privilage. It is actually National Park Week here so all this week we haven't had to pay to get into these places. We managed to get through the tunnel and scored a park in the Vistitor Centre RV carpark. Had a quick lunch and jumped on a shuttle bus up into Zion Canyon. Did a walk along a path but there were lots of people so you spent most of the time dodging oncoming people. A quick note on this. We've decided this place has the most arrogant 'hikers' we've encounted. Many walk two or three abreast but don't change to single file or squeeze up to give you room to pass. Several times we held our line on our side of the path and the oncoming person has actually ran into us. Anyway, we caught the shuttle bus back to another spot where a path took us up away from the crowds and it was a much more enjoyable stroll. It went behind a waterfall which amused the boys. Once back at the bus stop we caught a shuttle back to the carpark and drove down to Springdale and an RV park.
The Easter Bunny had made a visit during the night, delivering us each a chocolate bunny. Packed up and said our good byes to David, Kathy, Oliva and Zac but not before giving Zac (and Oliva) a quick Auskick lesson. We took an extra footy incase we wanted to give one away to someone and Zac was thrilled. He actually took to Aussie Rules very well, showing better skill at kicking and handballing than some kids that I've seen go through several years of Auskick at home.
Pretty uneventful trip back to Las Vegas. We did try to go to the dinosaur tracks we were told about a few days earlier but it was closed on Sundays. Managed to get to Circus Circus RV park again although a missed turn meant be went the back way and it was actually quicker. The boys went for a swim and then had hair cuts. After tea we went downtown to Freemont Street to watch the 'Freemont Experience' lightshow. There we lots of street performers to keep everyone entertained, the boys were intrigued by a spray can artist. Just using spray cans, bit's of paper and the odd stencil he created some very detailed pictures. We watched three of the lightshows, each featured a different musical band. Was very good.
Had a sleep in then started cleaning the RV and organising stuff. Lots of stuff had decided to find new homes around the RV that had to be relocated back into suitcases and bags. Glenda did some washing then after lunch we went for a swim. Quick showers then we were off to see some of the strip hotel attractions. Caught the 'Duece' bus to our first stop at Planet Hollywood for some musical fountain. The fountain was average but the area it was in was rather cool. The roof had been painted like an early evening sky which along with the dim lighting made if feel like dusk. Was effective enough to fool Corey. We then wandered down to the Flamingo to have a look at the... Flamingos. Corey comes out with some classic comments at times, todays was "do they feed them" regarding the flamingos.
Next it was over to the Bellagio for their water fountain extravaganza. After that finished we went in for their buffet which was ranked high in buffet reviews. It was pretty good although more 'adult' (lots of seaford and sushi) options and not a chip in sight. Brendan was struggling to find something to eat. Corey is a little more adventureous and was nibbling this and that. We tried some Snow Crab since others were piling up plates of it but it was average at best. The lady kept refilling our drinks to (all) the boys pleasure and Glenda's disgust. Sweets for the boys was 3 courses of ice cream. We staggered out having eaten way too much and wandered down to the Mirage and it's volcano. We were a bit early but decided to sit and get ringside seats. This was our favourite 'show' although a couple of ducks flying to and fro must have been over it and paid it no attention.
Last stop for the night was the Venitian to have a look at the canals and Gondalas. No idea how much they charge but the gondala ride was going to be short as the 'canal' wasn't huge. Tried to catch the bus back but none were in sight so we legged it to arrive at the bus stop at the same time as the next bus arrived, so we wasted our money buying the all day ticket, but worked off some of that buffet tea.
Finished re-packing suitcases ready to return the RV. Did our final dumping, grey and black, then filled the propane so they couldn't hit us with any extra charges. Drove back to Cruise America dropping our doonas and pillows at a community assistance centre along the way. Taxi to the airport and checked our luggage. Slight delay when we had to move some stuff from one case to another due to a weight imbalance. Going through security we asked for a hand inspection of our film (120 roll film, so not the normal 35mm) and both the guy who did it and another knew what it was. Went and had our first junk food for about 2 weeks (Glenda found something else she reckoned was better for her) then boarded our plane for New York. Was late departing, late arriving, had a little rough weather but got there safe. Had a little trouble finding where to go to catch the shuttle to the hotel but eventually got there.
Up fairly early considering the late night. Quickish breakfast then caught the hotel shuttle back to the airport to pick up a hire car to drive to Niagara Falls. Decided to jump off the Interstate (freeway) for some lunch and to pick up some water from a supermarket (24 x 500ml bottles for $3.99). Getting back on was a challenge due to some roadworks and no signage. Ended up going further back along a minor road until we got an on ramp and were on our way. Decided to cut across country via secondary roads rather then follow the interstate all the way into Buffalo. Saw some interesting houses with America flags flying out front just like you see in movies. After another missed turn we completed the 418 odd miles into Niagra Falls and our hotel for the next couple of nights. Dumped our stuff and went for a look at the falls. Drove over to Goat Island and had a look. Looks like the Maid of the Mist boats may not have started doing tours (they have to wait until after any ice coming down the river is finished) but we'll have to check up on that tomorrow. We knew that might have been a problem but we'll just view the falls from any other available spots to keep us amused.
Had a great breakfast in the hotel which with our $20 room discount cost an extra $8.17. It was blowing a gale so we jumped in the car to go look at the falls but the parks authority had closed Goat Island so we wandered down where we could. Had the bright idea that we would walk across to the Canadian side but once we got there it was closed due to the high winds. Walked back to the hotel and after consulting the hire car agreement, jumped back in the car and drove across. Everyone had told us it was a much better view from Canada, and they were right. We wandered along taking our photos like everyone else. On the way back to the US side, we must have hit rush hour as there was a long queue of cars waiting however we picked the right lane and sailed through fairly quickly.
Decided to call a internet buddy of Nige's who lives near by to see if he was home. He got a surprise that we were here (we hadn't said we were coming as we didn't know our schedule) so we drove over to say hello. Had a quick chat as it was about dinner time then went to the casino for tea on Dave's recomendation. Stuffed ourselves silly again, it was real good with lots of choices. After that we went down to Goat Island to see the falls lit up by the lights. Decided to go back over to the Canadian side to get a look and some photos from that angle. Took a travel pillow along to act as a tripod which worked well. Drove back to the hotel, having been in Canada for about one hour.
Left Niagara Falls and drove a scenic way along side Lake Ontario. Eventually got back onto the New York Thruway which is the major interstate freeway from Buffalo to New York City. It's a toll road and if you use the whole thing (400 odd miles) is costs $10 or so. We got off to go for another drive through the countryside and it cost us $2.90. Bit cheaper than Citylink or Eastlink. Speaking of roads, generally they are terrible. Mr Obama should spend some defense $$$ on some tar. Thankfully the Thruway was in good nick and comfortable travelling. The speed limit is 65mph but most traffic, trucks included, travel a bit faster. On our second venture through the countryside Glenda was trying to take a photo of a red barn of a common style but every time we saw one there was no where to pull over as the road shoulder was both narrow and rough. She had to content herself with pictures of houses from the moving car. We drove around Utica for awhile trying to find somewhere to stay until we stopped in a MacDonalds carpark and using our computer with their WIFI found where the motels were located.
Had the freebie breakfast at the hotel which was better than expected. Cereal and toast were devoured and Corey & Brendan tried the microwave sausage patties. Corey didn't think much of it but Brendan went back for another. Finished our journey down the Thruway managing to get into the car rental return with minimal drama. Just had to give one 'thank you very much' sign to one taxi driver who dived up the inside of us as we were changing lanes to get to the right exit. Caught the AirTrain to the real train station then caught a real train into NYC Penn Station. Went to catch a cab and some unidentifable black town car pulled over and asked us where we wanted to go. Told him the street we wanted and he said $15, which sounded ok. He got us there safely although at times we were waiting to hear crunch as he pushed his way though the traffic including past NYPD vehicles.
Went for a walk in Central Park to watch humanity at lesuire. Such a marvelous park with lots going on. A man was creating huge bubbles using two sticks joined with rope and the boys had a go, eventually creating some monster bubbles. Went home via the supermarket to get some breakfast items. Next we went down the street to a pizza place for tea. Afterwards decided to walk down to the Nintendo store for a look. Only got there about 10mins before closing so will have to go back as the boys want to spend their US money there.
This is the first hotel/RV Park that doesn't have free internet. By placing the computer near the window there are a number of unsecured wireless networks within range so I'll attempt to use one of them. If you're reading this, it must have worked.
Had breakfast then started walking to the Empire State Building. Got down to the corner and there was some bike tour about to start. Several city blocks down 6th Avenue were full of cyclists. As we walked down the street they started to thin out but we had to get to the other side so made a dash and got across the street without being skittled. Decided to do the NYSkyride at the Empire State Building. Costs about $100 more than what the tickets to the observation deck is. First two stages are fairly lame, a little bit of an introduction to the ESB and some safety information. The last bit had us sitting on a moving platform while a screen displayed various views of NYC. Corey thought it was fun and laughed his head off. After that we went up to the 80th floor in the elevator then did the last 6 floors via the stairs as the queue to the elevators that take you up were quite long. Wandered around to each corner of the observation deck taking in the view. The highlight for Corey were all the yellow cabs at various intersections way below.
After lunch we went to the biggest camera store in the world, B&H Photo and Video. Wandered around and bought some things. Would have liked to buy a heap of film as it's much cheaper. Next we split up, Glenda and the boys stopped at Nintendo World and Nigel went to MOMA (Museum Of Modern Art). While Nintendo World lived up to expectations, MOMA was a bit of a let down as the photography section was closed for renovations.
For tea we went to a nice restaurant so Nige could have a steak for his birthday. Afterwards we wandered through a few gift shops then went back to our hotel.
Had an issue with our seats for our flights from Florida to Hawaii and after one fruitless phone conversation with customer service we decided to go to the airline office. The lady there sorted it out somewhat so it was worth the time. We then headed for Battery Park and the ferry to the Statue of Liberty. Bought tickets and got in the line which was huge. Saw some others with tickets similar to ours asking an attendent questions then heading off towards the front of the queue so went and asked what the go was. For some reason our tickets were 'reserved' entry and we were directed to another line where we basically got straight into the security check area and then on the next ferry, avoiding a 90min wait. Apparently the line can be up to 4hrs at busy times.
It was a pretty dull day so the statue wasn't looking to flash, the gold trimming barely showing a glimmer. We did learn that it isn't solid, but made of panels that fit over a frame. Grabbed a hot chocolate from the cafe and caught the next ferry back to Manhattan. Didn't get off at Ellis Island as the side trip to the airline office had put us behind schedule. We walked up to the NYSE, learning along the way that Osama bin Laden had been killed. Our next stop was Ground Zero so that was a bit erie. Viewed the World Trade Center site where the memorial and associated buildings are under construction.
Caught the subway back to Times Square were we browsed through the Toys R Us shop. This was huge and had a very realistic T-Rex you could have your photo taken with. Had dinner at Planet Hollywood waiting for sunset to view the billboards around the 'square'. Last stop intended for the night was back to NintendoWorld but it was closed when we got there. Went home and packed our cases ready for our move to Florida.
Got up to get ready for the ride to the airport only to be rang to say the shuttle was here and waiting. My reply was 'tell him he's almost an hour early and we'll be down ASAP'. Finished getting ready and went down to find the shuttle bus had gone. Glenda ran the company and they dispatched another bus only for the correct guy to turn up and the one due to go to JFK also returned. One guy thought we were going to JFK when we were going to Newark and he had another lady who needed to go to JFK. In the end they sorted it out and we made it to the airport with ample time.
Got to Orlando and picked up our rental car after upgrading to a larger one that could hold our luggage. Drove down to Homestead on our way to Key West.
Drove down to Key West mainly to drive along the bridge in the True Lies movie. After doing a lap of Key West itself we decided to have a swim then drive back toward Homestead. Stopped at a different motel than the previous night and we had a swim in the pool.
Didn't get to far today. Up early for breakfast to make a quick get-away but when arriving, Nige said he felt ill. He went to lie down but hadn't improved and had severe pain in his lower back. Decided to go to a local hospital and was admitted. Several hours later and $8500 lighter (after a $1500 travellers discount... a CT scan was billed as over $7K), we left with Nige having been diagnosed as having passed a kidney stone. Some drugs and a perscription for some good pain killers we were on our way to the Everglades in search of a Gator or two. Went for a walk along a trail and saw heaps. Saw a turtle laying eggs beside the path which went back into the water only for the Ravens to un-earth the eggs and take off with any they could grab. Next was a Rattlesnake crossing the road, then some Vultures sitting in a tree. Started driving north and found a hotel in South Miami.
Woke up to heavy rain. Florida is in a drought so it was welcome. After a while it abated so we packed the car and headed for one of the many Airboat rides offered on the edge of the Everglades. The rain had stopped when we got there and after being told that due to the water levels being so low that they could only go up and down the main channel, we paid our $79 and waited to board an airboat. The $79 only got us on the mass production airboat ride rather than the ones you see on TV which seat about 6 people. Ours was about 50 and although powered by a big V8, was slower than one overweight Gator. The 'pilot' gave us a talk on the Everglades which was somewhat interesting then we motored back. We then watched a show with some larger gators. This was great and made up for the dull airboat ride somewhat. The guy doing the talk was very funny and got in the cage with the gators. They were well trained, responding to their names. The boys held a little gator at the end.
Next stop was the Clyde Butcher Gallery located at Big Cypress. Clyde is a B&W photographer and has some impressive prints. We then drove to our accommodation in Orlando to prepare for the Disney parks.
Spent the day at Epcot. Was in the park before the official opening and didn't leave untill after the 9pm fireworks display. One of the rides had two intense levels and we sampled the easy version first. The boys wanted to try the harder version so we grabbed a FastPass (this lets you come back at a specified time and jump the queue) for it. Came back and took the hard version. The boys loved it, us parents, not so much. Another highlight was the Test Track ride. This is supposed to replicate testing a car and finishes with a high speed circuit of a banked track. Did various other rides and shows during the day and waited for the fireworks show. The boys enjoyed it and getting out wasn't the hassel we were led to believe. Would have be home in 15mins if we didn't decide to go looking for a bank to withdraw some cash. Couldn't find one but eventually found a supermarket with one we could use.
Hollywood Studios was the park of choice today. Bit slow getting there so we grabbed a FastPass to the Toy Story Mania ride that Corey wanted to go on. That was going to be after lunch so we went to the Rock 'n Rollers rollercoaster. This is rated as the hairest coaster at Florida so some of us were aprehensive. Turned out to be ok, so we ran around and went on it again. Saw some shows and then returned for the Toy Story Mania. One member of the family who shall remain unidentified, decided to sit this one out while the others took it on. Those riders decided the wimp would have been ok with it as it wasn't as bad as thought. We watched a couple of the shows that show how movies are made then headed home for a swim. For tea we went to the Rainforest Cafe which was fun.
When we were planning this trip we were aware that the 2nd last Space Shuttle mission was due to launch before we got to Orlando. As that original date got closer we heard that the shuttle launch had been delayed a few times and was due to launch while we were here. Glenda and I had seen a shuttle launch in 1996 when it had been delayed to the day we arrived in Orlando when returning from England so we were excited that we and the boys might get to see this one. That was short lived when another delay was announced to after our stay here. We made enquiries to check the visitor center at the space station was still operating and drove out to go on one of the tours. The tour was great, the two hours going fast as we were shown various aspects of the facility including the shuttle on the launch pad. You couldn't actually see the orbiter (the Shuttle) as they cover it until the last possible moment to protect it but we had a good view of the booster rockets and fuel tank. While we were at one viewing area a crew turned up to set up some equipment ready for the launch which convinced our guide that Mission Command would announce the next planned launch time that day, which they did. Unfortunately for us we'll be gone.
The tour dropped us at a building that housed a Saturn V rocket, the type that sent the Apollo missions to the moon. This was a great display with a neat show re-enacting the moon landing. They had a small piece of moon rock you could touch, which we did. Hope the 1,000,000 people who've done it before us had washed their hands beforehand. Not as bad as kissing the Blarney Stone in Ireland though...
We made our way home, having tea then going for a swim in one of the 7 or so pools that this place has.
Today it was back into the mayhem of a Disney Park. This time it was Animal Kingdom. Following our book we went to the Kilimanjaro Safari and grabbed FastPasses then made our way to the Expedition Everest roller coaster, hoping the queue wasn't too bad. There was no queue so we all jumped on. I reckoned one go was enough but the boys went round, and round, and round again. Six times in fact. On the way back towards the safari we saw that the queue to the Kali River Rapids was short so we tried that out. Didn't get too wet so we ran around again.
The African Safari was ok, well organised but nothing more than you'd see at Werribee Open Range Zoo. We then went over to Dinoland but to Corey's disappointment the roller coaster was closed. We jumped on another ride called Dinosaur which broke down half way around. We were stuck for a five minutes or so before it started up again. The effects must have been pretty good because at one point Glenda grabbed my arm. Not sure what she thought I was going to do to the angry dinosaur lunging at out 'jeep'. We found our way to a show called 'It hard to be a bug' which is a 4D show. Some of the effects had the audience on the edge of their seats, then out of their seats when 'maggots and cockroachs' were told to leave the theater and you could feel them slivering under the seats.
We had picked up Fast Passes to the Kali River Rapids earlier so started wandering back to that. Stopped at the Everest roller coaster to check the wait time and since it was short, the boys rode it another 3 times before it was time to get over to the rafting. We went on that 3 times and got completely drenched.
Quick update for this day. Space Mountain was the thrill ride of choice, closly followed by the Speedway. The speedway is rather lame but whom am I to argue with the many adults that have a go by themselves. Thunder Mountain was deemed good, especially by me since you can see where you're going to go next. Splash Mountain was nice on the hot day we had. Brendan got soaked on our second ride and enjoyed it. Watched one of the parades but the boys were not willing to get on the street and bust a few moves, or join the conga line. Since Glenda was running around taking photos I had to look after then and couldn't join in either :-)
Didn't hang around for the fireworks. Left the park about 8pm and had tea then a swim in the pool.
Didn't get time to update yesterdays entry as today we went shopping... Don't think Corey wants to go shopping ever again. Not that we bought much, just 20 pairs of various shoes between us. Struck it lucky while standing in line in a Nike store with a lot of shoes under our arms when a lady in the queue behind us gave Glenda a 30% Family & Friends card. Saved us $250... we were so happy we went and bought more stuff at another Nike store. The guy in the 1st store kindly gave us the card back so we used it again for another $30 saving. Found our way to a scrapbooking shop and Glenda cleaned them out of some special mat and cutters for a machine she has. We also bought 2 duffle bags to carry it all in.
Bit hard to tell in the little pic above, but that's our new shoes (one of each pair) circling my old, worn out at DisneyWorld pair.
Just packing our bags for our move to Hawaii tomorrow. Should get a chance to update some of this and add some pictures to days without any.
Packed our new shoes into our new bags, along with all our other stuff and left the resort for the airport, but not before the boys had one last swim. As Glenda didn't want to pack many wet clothes, they had to go in their Speedo's. Not the preferred swimming atire apparently. However, it was that or no swim. Filled the car with petrol and drove in economy mode to the car return to ensure the gauge still looked like it was on full. Sailed through security, the boys are well adapted to taking their shoes off, sending their bags and bits through the scanner and picking it all up the other side. Next we had some lunch and it was time to board our flight.
Walked down to Waikiki for breakfast... Macca's watching the beach goings on. Walked back via the beach and then grabbed some lunch. Went back to the beach for a swim.
Packed up for our Island hop to Kona, the Big Island. Saw a guy that I thought looked like one of the UFC fighters and noticed many Hawaiians high fiving and fist bumping him. Decided it was him so after we got off the plane we asked him if he was who I thought he was and it was. 'BJ' Penn was happy to pose for a photo with the boys and chatted as we walked towards the baggage claim. He asked what we were doing in Hilo and when I said we were hoping to do some snorkeling he recommended a beach called Richardsons, so that where we headed after dropping our luggage at the hotel. Seems like a nice guy.
Due to the poor weather that they had had the previous few weeks, the locals were taking advantage of the nice day and were out picnicing in force. We lucked onto a parking spot and walked to Richardsons Beach to have a snorkel. Once in the water we floated around some rocks right near where about 30 odd peop0le were splashing about. After watching some fish we got a huge surprise when a Green Sea turtle swam right next to us (Brendan and Nige). We poked our heads up and called Glenda and Corey over. Another one turned up and they both munched away at the plant growth on the rocks. Unfortunately we didn't have our underwater camera with us. We went off to grab it but we didn't have it with us and by the time we'd worked that out, the turtles had moved on. We continued snorkeling for awhile, Glenda vacating the water after spotting what turned out to be an eel of some sort, not the sea snake she thought it was.
Went back to a place near our hotel we could see out the window. There was a platform that kids were jumping off into the sea. Corey and Brendan wanted to have a go so we went over and climbed up to the lower of the two sections. The boys (Dad included) jumped off then Corey decided to try the higher one. It was at least 5m high and after a few false starts, he leapt off to the cheers of the local lads. Brendan also had a go but Dad had gone and dried off, happy to let them have their fun.
Decided to go back to Richardsons beach for another snorkel before driving to see the volcano. When we got there a lady told us the lifeguard was closing the beach because there was a monk seal in the water where you entered the water. A guy who had been snorkeling swam in oblivious to the new beach go'er. The seal wasn't to pleased to see him and made lots of funny noises as he went past to get out of the water. The lifeguard had taped off the beach entry so we went about 50m away to another spot with easy access. Once again Brendan and I were drifting along when a Green Sea turtle decided to chew on the rocks just in front of us. This time we had the camera and attempted a few shots. Glenda and Corey came over for a look. Later on a guy told us there were other turtles sunning themselves on rocks just a little further along the rocks. They seem pretty common but to us it was exciting.
Drove up to the Volcano National Park to view some lava. Had a look at Kilauea Caldera and some steam vents along the way. There is a fairly strong smell of sulphur in the air and the boys weren't too keen on it. We drove on to see a lava tube and then down to where the lava covers the road. Poked around looking at the strange patterns and formations before driving back around to the other side of the most recent flow. Unfortunately there was no lava flowing at the moment (last flow was January) so there was nothing much to see other than many homes that look like the lava had flowed around them. They were fair wide spaced so the homes in between were probably 'eaten' by the lava. It was a bit like bushfire areas were one house is destroyed and another is spared. We did have a laugh at the many signs saying to 'keep out, private property'. No doubt having a backyard full of lava is not much fun and sightseers probably don't know when to stay away by themselves.
Travelled back to Honolulu today. Got to hotel to early to get into our room so left all the bags we could in their care and webt for lunchand some last minute shopping. Thought we hada couple of hours to fill in but that turned into about 5 as we scurried from shop to shop. After that we went for a swim, then a walk down the main street of Honolulu, finding a deserted Chinese restaurant. Was quite nice but no Redwood Gardens. Wandered back towards the hotel stopping for a Cold Stone ice cream along the way. Corey decided he was up to mediun sized one but it defeated him and Dad had to come to the rescue and finish it off.
Booked a convertable car for the day but to get a Mustang, the boys choice, we had to get there at opening which was 7am. We arrived at 6:55am and snagged a Mustang. Drove down the main Waikiki street past the beach before trying to find a road out of Honolulu but managed to do a loop back the same way we'd already been. Decided to try another road and were on our way to Hanauma Bay for a morning of snorkeling. This is a magic spot but ignorant tourists are causing grief, so much so that they make you watch a video outlining the do's and dont's about swimming and snorkeling over the reef. The video outlined the basic rules of no feeding animals (fish or birds) and not to touch the reef, especially not to walk on it. Headphones with translations in other languages were supplied for non english speakers. Didn't seem to sink in because everywhere you looked people were walking and sitting on the reef. It was low tide so the water was low and you needed to stick to the edges of the reef areas. The lifesavers present were using a bullhorn to tell people to get off but one guy needed a personal visit from the lifegaurd. The lifegaurd waded out and was rather grumpy when he finally got the mans attention and told him 'get off the goddam rocks'. The same guy was later seen to be doing the same thing again. We snorkeled around enjoying the variety of fish and corals.
We drove back towards Honolulu and stopped at Diamond Head. The hike up to the top was suggested to take between 1.5 and 2hrs. We raced up and down in under an hour but Brendan and I had sore legs, with Brendan still sore a day after getting home. We drove back to drop the car off, having some trouble finding a petrol station along the way. We went and had tea at the food court at the local shopping centre and bought a little rollon suitcase to replace a Auskick backpack we had been using. This allowed us to bring home some snorkelling gear we had bought and fit some other junk in easier.
Went to the airport and got given the full treatment going through the security check. Both Glenda and I got selected to go through the full body scan machine. Both passed through fine but then the lady doing my hand inspection of my film decided the machine had detected 'something'. My camera holds the film in things called 'film backs' which come off the camera and allow you to use a different film in each back you have (I carry two, one for B&W and one for colour slides). She wanted to send the film back through the scanning machine but I said is had film in it and that everywhere else had swabbed it just like the film themseleves. Another guy came over and said that I had to re-remove my shoes for them to be tested (they had already been through the scanner) and I had to have a pat down. While he did this another guy took the film back and I'm pretty sure put it through the scanner. The lady doing the check on the film had decided she need to swab the camera itself and afterwards had plonked it down on it's side resting on the winding handle which is a little bit delicate. I asked her to put it on it's base but she just ignored me. Upon inspecting it at home I at first thought they had forced the 'dark slide' which keeps the light out of it as it can now be pulled out when it shouldn't. I don't think it used to do that however I have developed the film that was in it and there's no sign of light getting in so I'm going to give then the benefit of doubt regarding breaking it. I am however going to write a 'nasty' email to their customer service highlighting their crap handling of something they have signs all over the place about (asking for hand inspections of film).
That concluded, we spent the last of our American money in the airport shops before boarding our plane for
home, via Auckland. Pretty uneventful flights and we managed a decent sleep. Our friend Karen picked us up and whisked
us home. Everything was in order and we started the fun job of unpacking.