my "Sunday in Sydney," I got up at 5 a.m. on Monday morning and drove over
to Sydney International Airport, where I said goodbye to the Toyota Camry, my
faithful companion during the last two months and 9,075 miles.
I got checked in at the airport, went through customs, and then at
a.m., I hopped on my Air Canada plane bound for North America.
After finding my seat, I settled back for what I hoped would be an
quite. The first problem was simply taking off. The plane pulled away from the gate at the Sydney airport and
then… stopped. For the next two
hours, we sat parked on the tarmac just a few yards from the terminal because of an equipment problem. To top
it off, the plane's air-conditioning didn't work, so it got a weeeee bit stuffy as we
sat there and watched 471 other planes take off. Fortunately, though, I
didn't have a screaming baby with a filled diaper sitting behind me and everyone
on the plane was patient and polite, so I
counted my blessings.
As the plane sat on the tarmac for the next few hours,
I got a nice tan on my left arm while reading the Air Canada magazine 14 times
and learning all about the fascinating city of Moose Jaw. After what
seemed an eternity (well o.k., half an eternity), they fixed the problem and the plane took off,
so I settled back in my seat once again.
going to land in Honolulu in about 8 hours and then continue on to Vancouver,
British Columbia, so I popped in a MP3 disc of Jann Arden, put on my headphones,
enjoyed the chicken dinner, and downed three small bottles of wine. Yeah,
I should've heeded that travel guru
Rick Steves' advice
drink on airplanes, but I was feeling pretty cheerful since
I was flying back to the U.S. after being gone for four months. A few hours later,
though, and somewhere over New Guinea, I started to feel kinda woozy and regretted downing that third Cabernet
-- yeah, I'm a lightweight.
I knew we were
going to land at Honolulu and refuel, I figured that I’d just stay on the
After the plane landed at Honolulu at 1 a.m., I learned that EVERYONE had to get off the plane and go through U.S. Customs. That included (and don't ask me why) those of us who were
staying on the plane and flying on to Vancouver, Canada. I had booked a good
window seat though, so I wasn’t too upset.
Here's John Denver
singing Back Home Again.
RealPlayer. If problems, see
I reboarded my plane in Honolulu an hour later and walked down the aisle, I
noticed that a cute blond woman was sitting in the
seat next to me. Hey, maybe this flight wouldn't be so bad after all.
Unfortunately though, as I quickly discovered, she was attached to a rather
large and hairy boyfriend -- at least, that's who I assumed was
sitting across the aisle from her, holding her hand.
Then to top it off, she tried the old "My boyfriend is sitting
across the aisle and would you mind switching seats with him so we can be
Being a single
traveler who enjoys window seats, I’ve had this stunt pulled on me several
times and sometimes I take pity. Not
this time, though, because I was tired. I
didn’t care how cute she was – I was going to enjoy my window seat all the
way to Vancouver, so politely told her "No," then curled up and went
landed in Vancouver at 9 a.m. the next morning and I stumbled
off the plane pretty bleary-eyed. Since the plane was 2 hours late leaving
Sydney, I had missed my connecting flight from Vancouver to Seattle but a
friendly Air Canada guy at the Vancouver check-in counter booked me on the next
flight to Seattle. After going through customs for a second time on this
trip ("No, I still don't have any weapons or drugs"), I hopped on a
puddle-jumper for a scenic flight from Vancouver to Seattle, waited in the SeaTac Airport for a
few hours, then got on a bus for Bellingham.
I stumbled into my Dad's house that afternoon after 26
hours of traveling… and then, because of the International Date Line, I got to
enjoy April 8 all over again.
the plane trip really wasn't that bad and I was glad to get back to the U.S.
Next time I go to Australia, though, I'm definitely booking a direct
flight. And I won't drink three bottles of wine, even if they are free.
left: Saying goodbye to my faithful friend at the Sydney
Airport. The Camry has been my companion for 9,075 miles around Australia.
center: The International Terminal at the Sydney Airport.
right: Ready for takeoff...
left: ... and still ready. This was my view for 2 hours while they fixed the
problem. I got a nice tan, though.
center: So long, Australia...
right: ... and hello, snowy North America. Brrrr, no more
shorts, I guess.
left: My truck is still in one piece after enduring a rainy
right: Dinnertime with Dad and Doti.
The Dogs Out?
was planning to spend a couple of weeks here in Bellingham with my Dad and
my sister Doti as I got ready for a 3-month trip around the U.S. this spring and
summer (May, June, July). However,
things have been really nuts since I got back.
because during the past month I've been preoccupied with, of all things, two
annoying dogs. As I learned when I got back to Bellingham, my Dad has had
a lot of trouble with his new neighbor, a rather nasty woman who moved up here a
few months ago from California with her two small, irritating dogs that enjoy
barking at all hours of the day and night.
When I left in December for my overseas trip, Dad and Doti were doing
just fine. When I got back in
April, however, they were really frazzled and seemed ready to throw in the
towel, sell the house, and move to someplace quiet.
If you’ve ever seen the episode of “Seinfeld” where Elaine is
tormented by a small barking dog, you’ll get the picture. Where are Kramer and Newman when I need them??
The battle scene for the last 5 weeks. Welcome back to
& Doti soon told me the whole “dog situation.” Despite their
numerous pleas and kind requests, their new neighbor refused to do anything
about her barking dogs. The more Dad and Doti told me, the more ticked off
I got. But I don’t get mad, I get
even... and I got right to work. You
don't mess with an irritated Scorpio – especially if you have two annoying
little dogs! After some methods of retaliation that I
won’t mention (no, they don’t involve poisoned meat), I think things are
finally settling down. I actually
like dogs, but dogs with piercing barks that wake you up at 6 a.m. every morning
are not on my list of favorites.
the dog issue, as stupid as it sounds, has dominated my life since I got back
here six weeks ago (we Scorpios also tend to be obsessive), so I haven't posted any updates or
written much e-mail since returning. When I was planning my 18-month trip
last year, I really wasn't expecting to spend six weeks of that dealing with a
couple of irritating canines.
glad I came back to North America when I did, though, because in another month,
Dad and Doti might have been gone. I also had to pay my taxes before April
15th. For all of those
reasons, I'm glad I decided to cut my overseas trip short and get back to
America in April. Which leads
Much-Too-Brief Summary of My Trip Overseas
have a lot to say about my 4-month trip to New Zealand and Australia.
However, because of my limitations as a writer I'm sure I'll fail to
adequately describe it… but here goes:
my overseas trip went very well and I had a great time.
However, and unlike most people I know who've been to both countries, I
enjoyed Australia more than New Zealand.
What impressed me the most about both countries, other than cricket and
fish & chips, was how incredibly friendly and courteous everyone was.
Coming back to the U.S.
was a big shock for me, and after I got back, I felt like I was on another
planet at times. Were
Americans really this rude, violent, crass, and obnoxious when I left in
December? I always thought of
the U.S. as a pretty great country, but my smugness took a big hit because
Kiwis and Aussies are, quite frankly, much more pleasant than Americans.
I'm not criticizing Americans, necessarily, but after my experience
overseas, I think we could be a lot more polite and civilized. Yes,
I'm proud to be an American, but I also think we have a lot of work to
do... and please spare me the "Love It or Leave It" attitude.
What can I say about New
Zealand? Well, it's a wonderful country with lots of scenic diversity. Imagine
scrunching all 50 states into a country the size of Colorado and you’ll get
the idea. However, it rained a LOT when I was there, the roads are incredibly winding, and it was very crowded
just about everywhere I went. Take a tip from me –
never visit New Zealand during December or January without having reservations.
The next time I go, it'll be in November, February or March, and I think I'll
have a much better time because... well... it really is a nice country.
Above: Mt. Cook, the
tallest peak in New Zealand, with Lake Pukaki in the distance.
In terms of culture, climate, topography, vegetation, and just about
anything else you can imagine, New Zealand is like a combination of Oregon and
Hawaii. Those are two of my
favorite states, so it’s no wonder that I enjoyed New Zealand so much.
I’ll definitely go back some day.
for Australia, which is a lot different from New Zealand – although not as
different as either Kiwis or Aussies would like to believe. Frankly,
Australia isn't as interesting as New Zealand or America from a physical point
of view (I still think that America, with its stunning landscapes, is the most
interesting country in the world). While there are some places in
Australia that are incredibly beautiful, such as the Great Dividing Range, there
are also large stretches of Australia that I found pretty boring -- and this
coming from a person who enjoys long, tedious drives.
BUT... from a cultural perspective, I think Australia is tops. Aussies are a lot more courteous than Americans, they obey
the speed limits, they don’t have the pushy, “in-your-face” attitude that
unfortunately is becoming so common here in the U.S., and for the most part,
they’re really cheerful. I
can’t count the number of times that I walked into a restaurant, gas station
or motel – whether in downtown Sydney or in the Outback – and got a big
smile and a cheerful, “G’day!” (always pronounced "gudday," not "good day").
Like I say, coming back to the loud,
pushy, violent, in-your-face U.S. after spending four months in polite and
tranquil New Zealand and Australia has been a major cultural shock for me.
are some more accolades for Australia: Most of the cities and towns there are
a lot more interesting and vibrant than those in America, Aussies
more pride in their homes and businesses than Americans, the media there is more
intelligent and not nearly as obnoxious, there’s a lot less crime and violence
(due largely to more rigid gun control legislation – take the hint, America),
and there's an attitude of optimism that's refreshing.
In a single word, I’d say that Australia is much more “civilized”
than America. Americans, including
myself, could learn a lot from Aussies.
cultural idiosyncrasies in Australia were also refreshing.
I liked Vegemite, I loved Arnott's Farmbake Chocolate Chip Cookies,
Aussie music is great, and I wanted to marry any of the women on the Outback
television show, "McLeod's Daughters" (except for Tess, who's too prissy).
Yeah, I did miss America
while I was over there, especially its physical beauty, and I'd never want
to live anywhere else. However, now that I’m back in the U.S., I miss
Australia a lot, too. So
if you ever get a chance to visit Australia, definitely go. And even if you don’t get a chance, go anyway.
more of my thoughts, check out
My Impressions of Australia.
Above Right: Kids, don't try this at home. This is the famous
Aussie staple, Vegemite, smeared on a cracker, oops, I mean "biscuit"... no
wait, a "biscuit" is a cookie... The trick, as I learned from
Peter (see News: April 7, 2002), is to spread this salty concoction very THINLY. When applied
correctly, it's actually pretty good.
Above Left: Arnott's Farmbakes
are absolutely the world's best chocolate chip cookies. Too bad you can't get them in
the U.S. I ate about 15 bags of these in Australia and New Zealand. I’m
now on Arnott’s Christmas Card list.
be leaving Bellingham in late May for what is now going to be a 2-month trip
around the U.S. with destinations currently unknown; I’ll just play it by ear.
Yeah, I'll bring along my boomerang and hopefully I'll be able to throw
it by the time I get back in July. After
that, I hope to go back to work, but we’ll see. Certainly, the recession
should be over by then (see Why
I'm Responsible for the Current Recession).
not sure when I’ll be posting my next update, but it probably won’t be for
quite a while. Because of this
“dog thing”, I’m not going to have much time to work on my website while
I’m traveling around the U.S. during the next two months, but I’ll try. I hope to get down to Utah and Texas and take in the East
Coast, then swing through Colorado in July before heading back to the Northwest.
That’s the plan, anyway.
it's back to the dogs.
18, 2002 -- Part 1 (Port Orford, Oregon)
April 7, 2002
4, 2002 (Coffs Harbour, Australia)
1, 2002 (Hervey Bay, Australia)
28, 2002 (Airlie Beach, Australia)
25, 2002 (Port Douglas, Australia)
16, 2002 (Winton, Australia)
13, 2002 (Alice Springs, Australia)
11, 2002 (Ayers Rock, Australia)
8, 2002 (Coober Pedy, Australia)
5, 2002 (Port Augusta, Australia)
1, 2002 -- Part 2 (Robe, Australia)
1, 2002 -- Part 1 (Robe, Australia)
18, 2002 (Bega, Australia)
7, 2002 (Auckland, New Zealand)
2, 2002 -- Part 2 (Taupo, New Zealand)
2, 2002 -- Part 1 (Taupo, New Zealand)
25, 2002 (Hokitika, New Zealand)
20, 2002 (Geraldine, New Zealand)
16, 2002 (Te Anau, New Zealand)
12, 2002 -- Part 2 (Dunedin, New Zealand)
12, 2002 -- Part 1 (Dunedin, New Zealand)
1, 2002 -- Part 2 (Christchurch, New Zealand)
1, 2002 -- Part 1 (Christchurch, New Zealand)
24, 2001 (Wellington, New Zealand)
20, 2001 (Auckland, New Zealand)
16, 2001 (Auckland, New Zealand)
14, 2001 (Aitutaki, Cook Islands)
10, 2001 (Rarotonga, Cook Islands)
3, 2001 -- Part 2 (Bellingham, Washington)
3, 2001 -- Part 1 (Bellingham, Washington)
18, 2001 -- Part 3 (Bismarck, North Dakota)
18, 2001 -- Part 2 (Bismarck, North Dakota)
18, 2001 -- Part 1 (Bismarck, North Dakota)
6, 2001 (Fort Lincoln State Park, North Dakota)
30, 2001 -- Part 2 (Bismarck, North Dakota)
30, 2001 -- Part 1 (Bismarck, North Dakota)
September 15, 2001 (Bismarck, North Dakota)
30, 2001 (Webster, South Dakota)
18, 2001 (Watertown South Dakota)
17, 2001 (Walnut Grove, Minnesota)
14, 2001 (Minneapolis, Minnesota)
10, 2001 (Battle Creek, Michigan)
8, 2001 (12 Days in Syracuse: Part 2)
8, 2001 (12 Days in Syracuse: Part 1)
6, 2001 (Manlius, New York)
23, 2001 (Middleton, Massachusetts)
22, 2001 (Boston, Massachusetts)
20, 2001 (Pomfret, Connecticut)
18, 2001 (Denton, Maryland)
16, 2001 (Cumberland, Virginia)
14, 2001 (Roanoke, Virginia)
9, 2001 (Sevierville, Tennessee)
8, 2001 (Fontana Lake, North Carolina)
5, 2001 (Manchester, Tennessee)
30, 2001 (Hohenwald, Tennessee)
29, 2001 (Corinth, Mississippi)
27, 2001 (Natchez, Mississippi)
24, 2001 (Austin, Texas)
20, 2001 (Canyon de Chelly, Arizona)
18, 2001 (Clay Canyon, Utah)
15, 2001 -- Part 2 (Zion Nat'l Park, Utah)
15, 2001 -- Part 1 (Zion Nat'l Park, Utah)
14, 2001 (San Diego, California)
11, 2001 (San Jose, California)
2, 2001 (Bellingham, Washington)
19, 2001 (Hillsboro, Oregon)
30, 2001 (Hillsboro, Oregon)
19, 2001 (Bellingham, Washington)
5, 2001 (Bellingham, Washington)