With Blackjack and Hookers "I'm going to write my own blog. With blackjack. And hookers."

22Aug/120

Tragedy!

It's now been pretty much a week since we arrived in Hawaii; how the hell did that happen? Seriously? I know time always goes extra quickly when you're enjoying yourself, but it doesn't seem possible for it to have disappeared that quickly. On the other hand, I guess I can look back and count up an awful lot of awesome, so it's not like the time has been wasted.

I am nonetheless sad to be leaving. It's a tragedy. It really, really is.

Tonight, we pack everything up and get ready to head in to stage two of the holiday: Seattle. I am both enormously excited and quietly apprehensive about this - we're going to be staying with, and spending time with, people I have known for a long time, but never met before. The potential for awful is there, but the potential for awesome is definitely greater. It should be good.

And Kona? What have we done since I wrote last? Well!

We shopped on our first night, which meant we had enough supplies on hand to cook breakfast at home again. Thus, we were ready to go out and explore Kona pretty early - certainly long before we needed to be there for our pre-planned submarine tour. The Atlantis Submarine company does underwater tours in a specially designed submarine; there's a lot to see beneath the water in Kona, and we saw an impressive amount of it from 100ft below the water. Taking photos was pretty difficult, and even the ones we did get were pretty bleached of colour given the depth-- but the video is representative.

It was pretty epic.

But since we were so early, we had to stop and fill in some time, which we did via coffee and ice cream, never mind that it was about 10am. Kona coffee is a definite improvement over previous attempts at coffee; they actually do a decent espresso, at least in some places. The ice cream was also impressively tasty.

After the submarine, we headed up to the Kona Brewing Company so that Rohan could try what beers he had not yet had of theirs-- plus lunch. It was pleasant in the shade, and the food was good, even if they did not serve cocktails. (Sadface: who doesn't serve cocktails?) The walk back to our condo was less nice-- it's a bit over a mile each way, and when the sun is high and the humidity is likewise... well. After that, even Rohan wanted to get into the pool.

That was yesterday. The pool was followed by dinner (and cocktails), and eventually bed. Today? Well - we ate out, this morning, and had eggs and coffee (and an apple and cinnamon bagel for me; yay!) at a little place right on the water. Our plan had been to hit the pool again afterwards, but it was full of kids, and we demurred. Instead, there was a coffee plantation to visit. Kona coffee has a great reputation, and after seeing the process they go through to pick the beans (which are, of course, not beans at all), I can see why. Plus, it tastes really good. It was amazingly cool up in the hills: 69 degrees, according to the thermometer in my car, compared to 84 down by the coast. We had intended to try and find a beach afterwards, but you really need to know where you're going to find beaches around here; there just aren't that many of them. Fail.

We swam in the pool, instead.

And now, here we are. Fed, with a load of laundry on in preparation for packing, and the last of our groceries being worked through despite the extreme feeding.

Hawaii has been awesome. We've already talked about whether we'd like to come back, and where to - and the answer is definitely yes. Kona has been a nice middle point between touristy and not really touristy; there's loads of great food, and plenty of stuff to do (including a lot we didn't have time for), but it's still relaxed and now glitzy and plasticy the way Waikiki was. The weather has been perfect.

And the cocktails have been cheap.

What more can I ask?

Filed under: Travel, USA: 2012 No Comments
20Aug/120

Helicopter Hijinks

Dedicated to Amy, who was impatient for it.

To be honest, I don't think there really were any hijinks, today, but there definitely were helicopters. Or, at least, one helicopter. With us in it.

Rainbow Falls

Rainbow Falls

For the second morning in a row, Rohan cooked breakfast for us (yay!), so that we could get out the door quickly-- our first stop was Rainbow Falls. Sadly, we saw no rainbows in the falls, but apparently it only happens in very precise conditions, and clearly we just weren't that lucky. The falls were still pretty though!

Hello, Turtle

Hello, Turtle

Our helicopter tour wasn't booked in until much later, though, so even after visiting the falls we had plenty of time. We packed up our room (having a car makes things much easier in that sense: dump it all in and don't worry about it) and then went for a drive. We'd intended to visit the Tsunami Museum in Hilo, but that (along with almost everything else) was closed, it being Sunday, so we ventured further afield, and ended up at a local beach. Aside from being a really love spot, it had one definite distinction: we saw turtles. In the wild. Swimming. I hadn't expected to be that lucky, but it was honestly amazing. There were three or four of them, and they were thoroughly enjoying themselves.

Even after that, however, we had time to kill. We needed money, though, and I was interested in coffee of some kind, so we returned to Hilo to park and find such things. Sadly, the local supermarket did not have ATM facilities, and what they did have was a parking lot arranged the Australian way (as in, the in and out lanes were reversed from the American standard)... only really badly. It was, in short, an absolutely nightmare to get in and out of. On the plus side, we found a lovely little hole-in-the-wall joint a few blocks away that served Hilo Homemade Ice Cream. And coffee. End result? We both had a milkshake made with two shots of espresso, salted caramel ice cream, coffee ice cubs, and cream. It was genuinely amazing; one of the best things I've had this trip. Definitely the best coffee.

Volcano!

Finallystill rebuilding in some of these areas, and land is still on sale ($1500 an acre; any takers?).

More volcano!

More volcano!

There is something so eerie about looking at all that land. It stretches for mile after mile, as far as the eye can see - and all of it is completely useless, now. It'll take 200 years for the land to be useful again, unless people bring in their own topsoil and start from scratch. There are now flows all the time, depending on what gets backed up, and where it all comes out from. These volcanoes are not like the traditional explodey ones: everything just seeps out, bit by bit, until it reaches the sea. The last time I was in Hawaii, the current flow was dropping out into the sea; these ones haven't reached that far yet, though I suspect it won't take too much longer. If one headed in the right direction, it could cover Hilo entirely within a matter of days.

Lava flow

Lava Flow

On the flight from Honolulu to Hilo, I read an article about one of the last people who lived on the slopes that have now been completely decimated-- a guy called Jack. It turns out that our pilot was the one who finally evacuated him, and he spoke extensively about Jack and his doggedness, the way he stayed in his home (which survived initial flows) until it was absolutely not going to survive. I can't imagine losing my home like that, even with time to evacuate. On the plus side, losing your home to a volcano is generally not instant: you usually get some warning, and that means that although millions and millions of dollars of property have been destroyed in the past 20 years, no one has died. That's certainly an improvement over, for example, Australian bushfires.

Driving to Kona after that amazing trip was, understandably, a little less exciting. We hit rain part way through and had to battle that on and off the rest of the way. Kona is amazingly different to Hilo - startlingly so, maybe. It's commercial and touristy, though not in the same way that Honolulu is. It's not glitz and glitter and plastic: it's more real than that. But that doesn't mean it's not gaudy in its own way.

We're now safely ensconced in the condo that will be our home for the next three nights. The view is spectacular, and having a full kitchen (and laundry!) is definitely nice. I approve.

Filed under: Travel, USA: 2012 No Comments
19Aug/120

Crazy American Cars (and other things)

You'll all be glad to know, I'm sure, that I have successfully managed not to kill, maim, or otherwise cause injury to myself, Rohan or anyone else (or their property) since taking possession of a car. An American car. You know, the kind that drive on the opposite side of the road to the kind I'm used to. We did fail our first test, though: working out how to move the seat forward and back. It turns out there's a button, and it does it all automagically; I'm not used to that. I'm not used to a lot of things that this car has: headlights that go on automatically, remote locking that requires two pushes to unlock the passenger doors, and the list goes on. This car is full of fancy, and I'm not really sure I like it that much. But on the plus side, I am getting used to driving on the wrong side of the road, and gauging speed in miles. That's good, right?

A Fern!

We're currently in Hilo, which is one of the wettest places I've ever been, although it's mostly drizzled rather than actually rained. The humidity is astounding. So is the sound of the frogs, outside the window. Hilo is not really a tourist centre the way, for example, Waikiki is; the accommodation choices are limited. We're in a tidy little motel which has one definite advantage: cooking facilities. Specifically, it has a gas stove, and I am in love. After a number of disappointing breakfasts, Rohan made us eggs this morning, and they were wonderful.

Actually, we've had impressively good food here all 'round. After two nights, we've had two excellent dinners (one Italian-esque, the other Mexican), both of which were definitely superior to what we had in Waikiki. I'm pleased and relieved by that, because I simply wasn't sure what to expect. Hilo is small, and rather more focused on locals than tourists, it seems, though there's still plenty to do and see.

Lava Tube

Lava Tube

After shopping and cooking this morning, we headed up towards Volcano National Park to see (guess what!) the volcano. Kilauea has been erupting continuously since 1983, and since that's longer than I've been alive, I find it pretty impressive. I have actually visited the park before, back in 2001, but I admit I found it significantly more interesting this time around. It's a little depressing in retrospect, remembering all the things I saw and did as a child or teenager, and realising how little I appreciated them. On the plus side, coming back here with Rohan was well worth it, and I clearly had enough positive recollections to make that happen - go me. These days, the actual lava flaws are mostly on private land which means it's not possible to get too close, but we're going on a helicopter trip tomorrow that should satisfy our desires to see it molten and hot. In the meantime, we saw an impressive amount of igneous rock, and that remained pretty awesome. Particular highlights were definitely the lava tube and desolation trail-- two completely different examples of what volcanic activity can do.

Desolation Trail

On our way back to Hilo (it's about a thirty minute trip), we stopped in at an Orchid showroom, which I mention mostly so that I can show off one of my photos. I have a thing about photographing flowers, ferns and other plants, especially with the aperture set so that I can make the flower itself in focus while the background is out of focus. It's a cheap trick to making something look interesting, but I can't help it: I just think it looks cool.

Orchids

Tomorrow, we say goodbye to Hilo and head towards Kona, where we have three nights in a condo right on the ocean. First, though, we have plans for waterfall viewing, and, oh yes, a trip in a helicopter. Life is so hard.

Filed under: Travel, USA: 2012 No Comments
18Aug/120

Honolulu in review

We've been in Honolulu for just of 48 hours, now, and we're off to the airport shortly to move on to our next stop. I'm glad we ended up having this particular leg: Honolulu has been fascinating.

We had originally intended to be up early on our first morning, working on the basis that we went to bed super early the night before. That... did not end up happening. Instead, we slept for nearly thirteen hours and didn't wake up until 9:30. That, plus our attempt to find somewhere decent for breakfast, meant we didn't get on our way to Pearl Harbor until about midday. Moreover, we caught a city bus rather than a shuttle, and that took well over an hour. End result: we had a lot less time than we'd intended. No matter. I have to say the city bus was actually worthwhile in that we saw quite a bit more of Honolulu than we would have otherwise.

The Bowfin

The USS Bowfin

Once we got there, for Rohan, the biggest thing was the Bowfin - a submarine. An look, even I found that reasonably cool. We debated after that over whether to do the memorial, or to look at some of the other museum type stuff. As it turned out, we were just in time to hop in to the 20 minute Pearl Harbor film and from that into the boat road to the memorial, despite not having picked up tickets before they ran out. I was last there 11 years ago, and remembered it as being worthwhile; my recollections were pretty much spot on. It's a really classy, well done memorial - striking, and not overdone. Even the film they show is (mostly) understated.

USS Arizona Memorial

It's eerie, though, watching the oil rise from to the surface and glisten in the sun. Seventy years on and it is still leaking out at a rate of 1-2 gallons a day. There are thousands and thousands of gallons left, but there's no way to now whether all of it will leak out - it could stop tomorrow. Or in years and years. I also really like that survivors are having their ashes placed inside the wreck, allowing them to rejoin their former shipmates all these years later. There are 13 still left; the youngest is 86.

I went for a swim when we got back to the hotel (it was lovely), before we headed out for dinner. On the first night, we went to The Cheesecake Factory, which was a weird experience for me. We don't really have family chain restaurants like that in Australia, so I haven't really been to any in 15 odd years. They haven't changed much, which made it feel even more familiar, even if I don't think we ever went to that particular chain. As expected, the food was ok but nothing special, and the portions were enormous. Big enough, in the end, that we could not fit in any cheesecake. After Pearl Harbor, we found a little Italian place, which was lovely.

In both cases, the service was far above what we'd get in an Australian restaurant. We don't have the tipping culture, which means there is no particular reason for servers to go above and beyond; As a result, water glasses don't get refilled and no one tends to check up on you. I still find it horrifying that people don't just get paid a proper wage to begin with, but I can see benefits with the system too. At the Italian restaurant, a woman at the table across from us basically threw a tantrum after her meal was accidentally missed in a group order. The staff did their very best to get it out as soon as possible, but even once she had it she bitched about it and refused to eat. I do understand being annoyed, but that just felt excessive, particularly when the staff promised it would be free. Meanwhile, when my cheesecake took a long time to come out, Rohan's scotch was also removed from our bill; we were pretty pleased with that. In short: we're getting used to tipping. I think.

Diamond Head Beach

Diamond Head Beach

This morning, we made sure to wake up earlier - in time for me to have a swim again. Our big plan was to try and climb Diamond Head, but that proved a little over ambitious. We satisfied ourselves with walking around the head towards the beach, which proved to be more than enough. It was stunningly beautiful, though, and a lovely change from how built up and commercial Waikiki itself is. By the time we made it back, though, we were exhausted... and more drinks were required. I haven't actually had a glass of wine yet - just cocktails. Lots of cocktails. I approve.

We're now sitting in the bar at Honolulu airport, about to head across to the Big Island. TSA proved to be much more helpful than the actual airline staff; so far so good.

Next up: Louise tries not to kill us both by driving on the wrong side of the road. And tomorrow? Volcano!

(PS: Louise did not drive on the wrong side of the road. Only the wrong side given what she's used to. No one died. More later.)

Filed under: Travel, USA: 2012 No Comments
16Aug/121

Zzzzzzzzzzzz

I am le sleepy.

In fact, I am completely and utterly exhausted, and I have no idea how I am going to manage to stay awake for another five hours in order to try and get my body clock synced up with my present location.

On the plus side, my present location is totally on the ocean side of the thirty-third floor in the Hilton Waikiki Beach, which means I have a spectacular view out over the ocean from my position on the bed. So in the end? I may be tired, but I am going to do my best not to complain too much. Things could certainly be a lot worse.

Our flight left at 7:40pm yesterday. Sadly, it was pretty full, and even more sadly it seemed as though a good number of people on the flight were on their way to a wedding, or some other group holiday. In short, there were some very loud and enthusiastic people who didn't exactly make me feel all that relaxed. We were on an older aircraft, the kind that doesn't even have individual screens in business class let alone in economy; I hadn't really intended to watch movies the whole way, but it would have been nice to watch something while I tried to drift off. In the end, I think I did get a few hours of sleep, but not all that many. Not enough, certainly.

We arrived in Honolulu soon after 9am local time, though it took us a good long while to actually get through customs and immigration, unsurprisingly. It was fascinating, really: we were asked all kinds of in-depth questions (where are you visting, how long in each place, are you meeting up with any friends, have you ever been to the US before, when was your last visit, etc, etc), but it didn't seem as though anyone's bags were getting checked for quarantine items. This means I have successfully brought Milo into the country (I didn't think this would be a problem, but since I had to declare I had chocolate...).

Waikiki Beach

Waikiki Beach

Needless to say, we arrived many hours before we could actually check in to our hotel. I booked our first two nights using Hotwire (and, ok, Hotwire Revealed), and scored a pretty good deal - not that that particularly helped us at the time! We dumped our bags and went for a walk, working on the basis that moving around would help us stay awake. Honolulu is fascinating, in a way. You go from these polished, super clean resort hotels to really grungy ones, just around the corner. There's an ABC store (and not the kind we're used to in Australia) on almost every corner. The water is blue and green and stunningly beautiful, but Waikiki Beach doesn't seem especially amazing to my eye.

Jellies

'Jellies', at the Honolulu Aquarium

Still, it was lovely and warm (for me; Rohan was a little less impressed), and after all those hours on a plane, it'd be hard not to enjoy the ability to just walk. We wandered down the beach for a ways, and then went to the aquarium. Probably the most interesting part of that was listening to a pair of British tourists bitching about the over-enthusiastic loudness of two children there with their parents. The kids certainly were noisy ("Dad, Dad, Dad, Dad, Dad, come look, come look, come look!"), but there's rolling your eyes at it and then there's... well, this. On the whole, it seemed as though most of the marine life they had at the aquarium was stuff we have in the Sydney Aquarium (which is, admittedly, both enormous and excellent)... actually, there are an enormous amount of similarities between plants and animals, it seems. I guess that's not all that surprising, but it was a pity not to see all that much that was truly unusual.

But it was still too early to go and get our room; what to do now? We ended up getting frozen yoghurt and eating it out on the beach, which was lovely. I really like the idea of selling yoghurt by weight: we filled the cup with what we wanted, to share, and didn't have to worry about it being less than a full cup. And yoghurt is awesome. Just, you know, FYI.

Yoghurt

Yoghurt (yum)

So we've wandered the streets, we've scoped out places we want to eat out, and now, finally, we're safely in our room. Showers are amazing things. So are clean clothes.

And so are stunning views out over the ocean - unexpected stunning views (honestly, I thought we'd get a city view room, the cheapest kind possible). We do have two double beds instead of a king sized one, but since I generally find that king sized beds are two doubles pushed together ANYWAY most of the time, I'm not fussed. Oh no, we'll have to get snuggly. How will we possibly cope?

Besides, after ten hours on a plane, it'll feel luxurious.

In five hours. When we can finally, reasonably, sleep.

Filed under: Travel, USA: 2012 1 Comment
15Aug/120

And we’re off

I am vastly amused: I am stealing wireless from the Qantas lounge, while at the airport, and they won't let me sync with my blog. I'm pretty sure that means they've blocked anything to do with 'hookers', and I suppose that is, in the end, fair enough. Nonetheless? It makes me laugh. Poor unloved blog.

In other news we are, of course, now at the airport and not so very far off boarding our flight to Honolulu. I'm FINALLY making use of the iPad I inherited from Rohan... the one that has been sitting unused and unloved on my desk for the past few months. I am currently playing the ultimate tech lover: I have, in my carry on luggage, an iPad, iPhone, MacBook Air, and a kindle. And that, aside from the usual money and passport type paraphernalia, is it. What more could I possibly need?

From the looks of it, we're more or less intending to drink our way to sleep on this flight. We needed to escape our upstairs neighbors' renovations earlier this afternoon, so we went to the pub (I would post the photo of the drink I had if only I had it on me - it was pretty epic). Then we both had a drink with our dinners (I had no idea there was a Crust Pizza at the airport, but I approve wholeheartedly; it was a vast improvement over what I'd anticipated we'd be eating), and now we're having another while we wait. No doubt there'll be another with whatever slop they offer us for 'dinner' after we board, too. That's when I intend to take half a sleeping pill and hopefully sleep most of the way to Honolulu.

Ten hours from now, we'll be very nearly in the USA. That's pretty awesome.

In the meantime, I suppose I should tether my phone or something so I can actually post this.

See you in in Hawaii!

Filed under: Travel, USA: 2012 No Comments
14Aug/122

Priorities and Panic Stations

I'm at that point in holiday preparedness where I feel completely and utterly disorganised, and hopelessly in over my head. Logically, I know everything is going to be fine: as long as I have money and my passport, I'll be fine, even if I forget everything else. Unfortunately, sometimes I'm not quite that good at being logical, and then I start to panic. Panic, for the record, does no one any good, whatsoever.

I've just now gone through and printed off all the confirmation emails from various accommodation and transit bookings. I checked us in for the flight tomorrow, too, and discovered that somehow we'd been allocated seats in completely different rows - and that enough people have been allocated seats now that the only way I could get us sitting next to each other was to put us in the middle. It's a two-three-two seat configuration, and getting one of the twos would have been ideal, but no. If we're really lucky, it won't be a full flight, but I'm not going to hold my breath on that.

I hate sitting in the middle of the plane.

On the plus side, at least I've started some packing now. As soon as the dryer finishes I have another load to do, and then tomorrow I'll do sheets and towels. I'm pretty sure there's nothing in the second load that actually needs to be packed, so hopefully I can finish up with clothes before bed tonight, and simply put everything else away before we leave tomorrow. Luckily, we have an evening flight, so I do have time to get things finished during the day.

I also need to go to the supermarket: visiting friends in the US requires purchasing of Tim Tams and other Australian goodies.

Things I have managed to do: load Kindle up with dozens (well, ok, more like a single dozen) of books, paint fingernails and toenails, print of reams of confirmations, find US sim card, pick which nail polish colours to take with me.

Priorities, man.

I also had a several hour long lunch with my mother today - something we don't often get to do! I'm really, really glad I took the whole of this week off, and not just from Wednesday on. If I hadn't had some time to decompress from work and try and get my head into the right space, I'd be completely lost at this point.

Or maybe I'd be running on adrenaline and actually doing better. Who can say?

(PS: I have also totally remembered to pack the cable for my camera for the first time ever. I may actually be able to post photos while I'm away! Gasp!)

Filed under: Travel, USA: 2012 2 Comments
11Aug/120

Sir David Attenborough

The first Sir David Attenborough documentary I remember sitting down to watch was The Private Life of Plants, which must have aired in Australia in 1996. It was soon after we moved back from the US, and I was still in the habit of sitting down in front of the TV with my parents some nights-- and it's the first time I remember being actually fascinated by a documentary like that.

I'm quite sure I had seen Attenborough before then; it wouldn't surprise me if part of the appeal of that particular series was, for me, the soothing, familiar nature of his voice. He quickly became 'that guy' (and to this day, it horrifies me that, in the US, his voice was replaced by Sigourney Weaver's for Planet Earth-- why would you do that? She's not a bad choice, but… She's not Attenborough. Can Americans seriously not cope with a non-American narrator?).

Having a natural history bent (something that would have been difficult to imagine in me when I was a child), Rohan and I watch a lot of documentaries. We're big fans of people like Brian Cox, and we're still slowly working our way through all of the Attenborough.

Needless to say, there was no way we were going to miss seeing him on stage in person, talking about his life. He's eighty-six years old: how much longer is he going to be around? I can't imagine we'll get another chance.

So we went.

Doing the kind of work he has always done, I certainly expected that he would be a good storyteller. After all, when you're dealing with animals in the wild you can't simply stick to a script - they don't always act the way you expect them to. You have to run with it. And after sixty years in television, he has an awful lot of stories to tell.

In other words: he was fabulous. The whole evening was fabulous.

He's funny, he's quick witted, and he clearly has at least some of the acting ability of his actor-brother. Obviously, some of what was talked about was prepared (last night was not the only talk he was doing), but it felt natural - like a real conversation and not a scripted one. They did a wonderful thing with questions in collecting them before the show and picking out a few good ones (thereby saving us all from the horror of stupid questions, questions that are actually just a soap box and not questions at all, and so on). He answered them without even needing to think, launching into another magnificent story about something fascinating.

He's doing amazingly well for eighty-six. He may not be going out into the middle of things the way he used to, but he's definitely not retired. It's obvious how much he loves what he does.

We should all be so lucky.

(I am very disappointed to see that Sir David's autobiography is not available in Kindle format. It is, however, available as an audiobook... yes, I think that's appropriate. Mine.)

10Aug/120

Freeeeeeeeeeee

I put up my out-of-office message at about 12:30 yesterday, and ducked out soon after that. I won't see my coworker until September 10th... and I won't see my boss until at least the end of October, because she's having spinal fusion surgery. I feel a little bad for my coworker, who is going to have to hold down the fort without both of us, but I'm not concerned about her ability to manage. She'll be fine.

I'd intended to stay at work longer, but I just couldn't make myself do it. Yesterday was a slog, and once I'd cleaned up my desk, done my timesheets, sent out instructions and talked people through things that might need doing while I"m gone… what else was there? I wasn't going to start anything new.

So it was an early start to my month of freedom, and I'm glad for it. The wind was incredible, yesterday, to the point where there were yachts beached sideways down at Manly, and bits of roof flying away. The long, windy road up through the national park that I have to take to leave my workplace was covered in branches and debris. I was actually a little worried about anything bigger coming down.

I spent most of the afternoon curled up in bed with my laptop, a good book, and the electric blanket on. I have no regrets.

Tonight, in what will count as an official start to my holidays I guess, we're off to see David Attenborough talk at the State Theatre. I've been looking forward to this for months: when we bought the tickets it was still a long, long way away, especially because I knew it coincided with holiday plans. This morning, Rohan and I will go up to our usual breakfast place and have our last meal there for four+ weeks.

Thinking of things in those terms is strange.

When I bought my coffee yesterday morning, the barista and I had a conversation about the fact that I never use a loyalty card; I admitted that I always forget about them. He picked up a new one and calmly marked off all the squares in one row, and then several in the next as well, meaning I have a free coffee waiting for me, and if I'm good at remembering, another one soon.

Except it won't be soon, because I won't be back for four weeks. This occurred to me only later, and I felt guilty. This guy remembers me and my order, says hello every time, and generally makes me feel like a regular (which I guess I am), and just did something really nice… and now I'm going to not show up for weeks and weeks. Whoops.

I now have a few days to get myself ready for this trip. I want to clean the house - it needs it, and there's nothing worse than coming home jet lagged and exhausted to a messy/dirty house. I also need to sort through all the bookings I've made and print things off. And make sure we have everything we need. And…

I know most of it won't take anywhere near as long as I feel like it will, and I'll have plenty of time, but I am unquestionably relieved to have a few days in which to get it done.

In the meantime, I have also made a number of purchases and had them shipped off to my friend Amy's place. I love free shipping. I love shopping on Amazon.

I am going to be so broke.

Filed under: Travel, USA: 2012, Work No Comments
6Aug/120

Counting down

This week is my last week of work before I get a whole four weeks off: I'm going on holidays.

It's actually a little hard to believe that it's nearly here. It was first talked about over a year ago, and at the time the whole point of the exercise was to have a meet up of a bunch of people I knew (to varying degrees) over the internet. Unsurprisingly, most of the people who initially joined in on the discussion forgot about it and moved on; realistically, the whole thing was originally discussed was never really going to happen.

But a core group of us - a group of actual friends rather than just acquaintances - kept talking about it. And once I signalled my actual intent to fly across the world for it, it became a reality. Suddenly, we were actually talking dates.

Of course, I was always going to take Rohan, and we were always going to do more than just meet up and hang out with my internet friends. Hawaii was suggested as a way to break up the flights, and since Rohan and I both enjoy things like submarines, stargazing, helicopters, and volcanoes, it seemed like an ideal choice. And then I stumbled upon the Coast Starlight, and since we almost certainly had to fly out of Los Angeles…

And so, an itinerary was formed.

A year ago, it seemed like a very distant possibility. Eight months ago it was a definite but still in the planning stages - and still a very long way away. And now, suddenly, it's my last week of work and it's only a little over a week until we leave.

No doubt the trip itself will go just as quickly.

We fly first to Honolulu, where we have two nights. From there, we fly to Hilo on the Big Island, where we'll be in an ideal location to see Mount Kilauea. We have two nights on that side of the island, during which time I will need to get used to driving on the wrong side of the road (please let it be an easy adjustment), before we drive across to the other side, for a further three nights in a beautiful condo.

After the third night, we pack up to leave paradise, and fly on to Seattle, where we'll meet up with a number of people I've known (to varying degrees) for well over a decade but never met. Since we'll be there at the appropriate time, we'll be attending PAX, amongst many other things. Rohan is also going to attend PAX Dev, and hopefully show off his in-process iOS game, thus making part of the trip a tax write-off. Win, win. We have about ten days there.

And then, yes, the train from Seattle all the way down to LA - a thirty-hour trip. We've booked a roomette, which means we get fold-down beds, but not a private bathroom (is a private bathroom and a little extra room worth several hundred dollars? Not to my mind, though we'll see if I feel the same way after thirty hours). Rohan's a train enthusiast and I'm a fan of anything that doesn't mean flying, so I think we're both pleased with that prospect.

We then have two nights in Los Angeles, which we largely tacked on because it seemed silly not to visit for a day or two if we have to travel through there anyway. We'll hopefully catch up with a few more internet friends (because that's the kind of people we are), and enjoy a real bed, before it's time to fly all the way back to Australia, arriving home on Saturday the 8th of September.

My intention is the blog relatively regularly while we're away, and to post photos as I go (this necessitates my remembering the cable for my camera this time, something I'm not holding my breath for since I've never, ever remembered it in the past); we'll see how I go.

In the meantime, I have four more days of work to get through. Four days in which to train my coworkers in my job. Four days to clean up all the loose ends.

Yikes.

Filed under: Travel, USA: 2012 No Comments