Kazza the Blank One

May 17, 2004

Sydney to Denver

Terminal at LAX - the plane we flew in on was the red Qantas one

A very long day or a couple of short days and a short night, depending on which way you look at it. Like, I haven't slept in 29 hours, make the day seem an eternity. Also like watching sunset at 4pm and sunrise at midnight, with breakfast at 1am. Which is the shortest night I've had in a long time.

The Qantas flight was great - we had a plane fitted with a screen in each chair and fifteen channels to choose from. I watched Cold Mountain (ok but really hard to hear), Paycheck (better than I thought it would be), and Return of the King. Tried to doze for a couple of hours but didn't succeed.

I remembered about three minutes after we'd taken off that I was going to see if I could borrow Jim's noise reducing headphones. Doh!! Would have made hearing the movies a whole lot easier.

Our welcome to America was with someone yelling at us not to take a photo of the plane we'd just gotten off (we'd taken photos of it in Sydney without any problems, go figure). Other than that, an incident free trip through customs and security. And the laptop still works!

I had the window seat from Sydney to LAX, so that Dad could have it for flying over the Rockies on the way to Denver. But after we got in the plane, about a minute before we were due to take off, I noticed both two back rows were empty, so I went and got my own window seat. I took the opposite side to the parents so we were sure to see both sides of the plane. Took a stack of photos, most of which you can't really see anything because it's so hazy, oh well.

After arriving in Denver (and finding the hotel has ethernet internet access woohoo! - albeit rather flaky - I have to reboot the machine every time it dies) we went on an unsuccessful mission to find more memory for my camera and a prepaid sim card for Luc's phone. We're going to try the department stores tomorrow.

Posted by kazza at 11:55 AM

May 18, 2004

Denver to.. er.. Denver

Rocky Mountains reflected over Bear Lake, Rocky Mountains National Park, Colorado

Well we didn't get very far today, even though we went a long way :)
The mission this morning was to find a mobile phone number, and some more memory for my camera. Both had potential to fail, but ultimately we succeeded. SMSed me little brother (it was 2am there) and he smsed me back straight away :) It was established that my credit card won't work here, probably because I have a nonstandard number, but it works fine at an ATM so I withdrew some cash. While wandering around town we took some photos of what could be the Civic Building or may have been the Mint, will have to check that up later.

Our next stop after checkout was to pick up the hire car. A few moments figuring out how to work the seat controls and we were off. In Boulder we stopped at a Target to get an esky, and by the time we'd finished it was somehow 12pm, so we decided to stop for lunch. So the whole morning gone and we'd gone about 20 miles.

The afternoon began in earnest, heading north to Estes Park and the Rocky Mountains National Park. After stopping at the visitors centre it was established that we should take the shuttle up to Bear Lake, which we did and it was very pretty. Then back down again and up another mountain road to Rainbow Curve which, at over 10560 feet is the highest I've ever been on the ground. With light failing, we decided to head to where we thought we'd be staying for the night. We missed a turnoff and head a bit of a way out of our way which didn't help (although we did drive through a very pretty canyon in the process) But by the time we reached Golden/Lakewood, we'd had enough (and trying to find a simple shopping centre accessible easily from the main road is next to impossible). We ended up pulling into what vaguely looked like shops and asking directions. After stopping into a "super" Target - the biggest single store I've ever seen, with 32 checkouts! - we asked and found there was actually an entire mall hidden behind the Target, so we had dinner there. We were all very tired by this point and decided to head back into Denver to find a Motel 6 for the night. Got here around 10:30pm, and we still haven't gotten out of Denver! Going to be a long day tomorrow!

Posted by kazza at 03:24 PM

May 19, 2004

Denver to Grand Junction

Spectacular rock formations in Colorado National Monument

OK so if I make it home alive and uninjured it'll be a miracle. We're all still getting left and right mixed up. My worst problem is drifting too far over in the lane - and we're all doing this - to align ourselves where we normally do in the lane means putting the car over the right hand line of the lane. The other problem is the blinker and wiper controls are reversed. I'm not having any problem with that, but Dad is constantly turning on the wipers when meaning to indicate. Mum is oversteering annoyingly; I shouldn't have shown her how to use the cruise control until she figures out how to use the car. Anyway.

So this morning we started late - Dad actually slept in which was a miracle. We jumped straight onto the I70 and headed west. Drove through some very pretty country, took a stack of photos through the car windows. We made a small detour on route 6 which took us up into some ski fields - Loveland ski resort, and Snake River ski resort. There was even one ski field that was open! I wanted to stop and do some skiing, but alas I was overruled. We also beat yesterday's altitude record - 11990' !

After lunch at subway , we continued on down the I70 and through a spectacular Glenwood Canyon, where the Colorado river, a trainline, and a split level four lane freeway all go down. Another big lot of photos from the car, and finally got to touch the Colorado River.

The last visit of the day was to Colorado National Monument which has a beautiful scenic drive round some amazing canyons. Unfortunately it was a bit overcast, so didn't get too many really good photos, but still took lots anyway :)

Decided to call it a day at Grand Junction, and had Denny's for dinner. We had to have Denny's - in 1983 when we went to America we had Denny's most nights, so we of course had to go back :)

The weather has been very hazy the last couple of days and tonight we found out a possible reason why - apparently there's been some big fires in Arizona. It's possible the smoke from them has been make everything hazy. Maybe.

Posted by kazza at 02:48 PM

May 22, 2004

Grand Junction to Moab

Looking down the Colorado River

Another ridiculously late night. I swear we are going to burn ourselves out this holiday. I'm going to need a holiday to recover from my holiday!

So the day began fairly early, and we drove across the border into Utah. Shortly over the border we turned south to head for Moab. A 50 mile trip took probably three hours to complete, by the time we'd stopped about fifty times (ok maybe about 15) to take photos of the gorge carved by the Colorado River down to Moab. We arrived in Moab for a very late lunch and checked into the local Motel 6, and had Wendy's for lunch (I would have preferred something else, but by that point I was absolutely starving and needed something simple.

Lunch out of the way we headed up to Arches National Park. Another spectacular national park and another fifty stop-get out of the car-take a photo-get back into the car-stops. By about 4:30 I'd completely had enough. The whole process of getting my bag and camera out of the car was too tiring for words. Not to mention the weather was quite overcast, so not the best for taking photos, so there was the possibility that we'd have to do the whole thing all over again the next day to come back and rephotograph everything (assuming we have some decent sunlight).

Another very late dinner, again at Denny's (it was close and easy). Now to download all my photos and check all my mail for the day...

Posted by kazza at 01:28 PM

Moab to Moab

Delicate Arch, Arches National Park, Utah

I think the above photo was the entire reason for our trip here. More later.

I am cut off from the world here - my mobile doesn't work, the internet doesn't work. I have gone two whole days without being contactable. I hope there's been no emergencies. Especially as I won't be connected again until *at least* tomorrow night, maybe longer. *twitches* with withdrawal.

So today was Canyonlands National Park and back to Arches National Park. Spent the entire morning and the beginning of the afternoon cruising up and down Canyonlands, stopping every five minutes (literally) to take photos. A bit after lunchtime (we didn't actually stop for lunch - we had a late lunch later on) the sun decided to come out, so we decided to return to Arches national park to rephotograph everything we took yesterday. But by the time we actually got away, got back into town to pick up some supplies (and lunch), we didn't get back to the park til about 4:30. Now sunset is at 8:30, but it still meant a mad dash to the things we wanted to see most before heading up to what Dad wanted to see most - the "Delicate Arch". The sun threatened to disappear again, and in fact was overcast the entire 40 minute walk up the rocks, but about 20 seconds before we arrived, the sun burst through the clouds and we were all able to get a stack of photos. This fact alone I'm sure made the whole trip worthwhile for Dad. I can't imagine what he'd have been like if we hadn't got good photos of it.

We didn't get back into town til after 9pm, so another very late night (11:20 as we speak). Getting really exhausted with these late nights and full on days. Was all I could do to demand that we stop for lunch - my parents were happy to go from 8am til 9pm with only snacks to keep them going! There was no way I was going to stand for that, and I warned them that I'd be dead if I didn't get anything in the meantime. So we got takeaways and ate them in the car on the way back up to Arches. yay.

/me falls asleep at the keyboard.. zzzzzzzzzzz
oh yeah, and I'm sunburnt. fraggle.

Posted by kazza at 01:30 PM

Moab to Blanding

Monument Valley, Arizona

Where to begin. Severe lack of sleep is catching up with me. Lack of sunlight is catching up with Dad. Combine to produce tension.

Today started as a perfectly cloudless day. Crystal clear blue sky as far as the eye could see (which in the valley in Moab wasn't a huge distance, but still). So we got ourselves ready and headed south.

Our first stop was Wilson Arch, which because it was on the east side of the road, was in shade. So we began a half hour hike around it, just to get a photo. My feet were still killing me from yesterday, so it was not pleasant at all. Fortunately we were able to get back through the arch, so didn't have to walk around it to get back. But still, it was probably an hour that we had stopped all up.

The next stop was a rock formation called Navajo Twin Rocks, or something. Pretty cool. Third stop was called Mexican Hat.

So by this time it was well after lunchtime, so we stopped in the one horse town of Mexican Hat and had some lunch in a diner. Finally got away from there, but as we were approaching Monument Valley, there were roadworks, and a stop-go man blocking our way (we saw the tail of the last stream of traffic driving up the hill in the near distance). So we sat and waited. And waited. And waited some more. And when we were done waiting we waited again. Half an hour we sat there. The parents were going out of their tree, watching as cloud and haze moved across the sky, and getting more and more frustrated that we weren't moving. When we finally did start moving (after all the incoming traffic had passed by us), they took us up the wrong side of the road - felt like being back home! - except they hadn't actually finished waiting for all the oncoming traffic to come through, and so the marker truck was sending everyone over to the *other* side of the road. It was too stupid for words. All I have to say is that American road workers are *simple* people.

So finally we escape and make it to Monument Valley. Now Dad had done some research into this, and found out that guided jeep tours should have cost us around $15 each, with driving your own car not recommended due to inferior road quality. OK so this was fine, but when we got there, they wanted to charge $123 for the three of us (a little less for a bit shorter tour). The parents decided this was a complete ripoff, and we'd try out the road for ourselves. So that's what we did, and I have to say, I'm *very* glad we did it ourselves. The road was perfectly fine for our Camry - even better quality than some other roads we've been on this trip. The self guided tour is very easy to follow, there are signs up at all the points of interest, and there's very little that you can only see on the guided tours. I think it's fair enough for the Indians to charge to give tours, but I think they're charging far too much, and it simply isn't worth it. My recommendation: drive yourself and save your money. Buy something in the gift shop or one of the roadside stalls instead.

Anyway by the time we got out of there it was getting rather late, so we decided to call it a night and get an early one. I for one am planning to be in bed by 9:30.

Now back to the internet situation. We spent two nights in Moab and I couldn't connect to the Maglobe local internet number, nor the toll free numbers. Now we are in Blanding, and I can't connect here either. So I tried the Grand Junction number which worked for me the other night and that worked perfectly first go. So the ISPs they have around here in hicksville must be pretty crappy. Unfortunately to call Grand Junction is going to cost something like a quarter a minute!! So I'll quickly connect and upload this blog and email people that I'm going to be out of range for a while. My mobile hasn't worked since we left the I-70. Someone in Moab last night was on his mobile, I was tempted to ask him what carrier he was with. Anyway, must upload stuff.

Posted by kazza at 01:32 PM

May 24, 2004

Blanding to Torrey

Sipapu Bridge, Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah

Still in Hicksville, er, Torrey tonight. Still no mobile and no local internet.

The day began depressingly. Dad decided 6:30 on a Saturday was a fine time to get up and start making noise. I am so sick of getting woken up early I cried. And was bitter about it for the rest of the morning. Decided I am going to do all the rigmarole of downloading my photos in the morning and they can wait for me to be ready for a change. I'll go to bed earlier than Dad and we'll see how we go.

So today. Our first stop was Natural Bridges National Monument. Three natural bridges and three solid hours of straight up and down hiking later. Almost five hours in the park essentially for three photos. Still, I guess it's good for the waistline - having an elevated heart rate for so long is sure to have burnt off some fat.

After that we drove round the back end of Glen Canyon dam, which was spectacular - beautiful canyon driving and wonderful lookouts, canyons that looked like slag heaps from mining and lunar landscapes. This is how road trips should be.

We think we saw a dead body this afternoon. There was a campervan stopped in the middle of the road, and we could see some legs sticking out of the drivers side door. We just thought it had broken down, and the dude was under the front, or under the steering wheel or something. But as we drove past we saw the guy's face was covered in blood. There was a park ranger that looked like he had been there a short while flagging us past. We figured he must of been dead because noone was giving him first aid. It was really strange because it wasn't a car accident, as there was no damage to his van. All we could think of was perhaps a road range incident, as he was stopped next to an intersection. It would also explain why he was partly out of his van. It was very disturbing. I've never seen a dead body before. Well I've seen bits of bodies in the uni's anatomy and pathology museums, but not a whole complete dead body that's only just died.

Then in the afternoon (late) we drove through Capitol Reef National Park, which was very pretty. Another natural arch and another hours hike later, and we finally decided to call it a night and drive onto Torrey. Found the last motel in town not booked out, and went to a restaurant up the road for dinner. I swear my parents are the stingiest people I know. Dad wanted to go to Subway rather than a real restaurant because it was cheaper! Sheesh! We spent about $2 each last night on dinner at Taco Bell, I told them I think we could afford some real food. Especially since I hadn't eaten anything since breakfast thirteen hours ago except Pringles, Snickers, and other such crap junk food. So in the end we decided to go to the restaurant, and had the house pot roast, which was just *divine*. I think they ended up undercharging us anyway.

For the people reading this, how are my photos turning out? I only have the laptop to look at them on, and can't really tell how they're turning out - is the colour saturation ok?

I don't know how normal this is, but there's an awful lot of tornados around at the moment. I know summer is tornado season here, but they're even in New York state! Is that normal? At the moment we're still south of all the rain in the north of the country, but we'll probably heading up into that area in the next few days. Maybe it'll have cleared itself out somewhat there by the time we get there... hopefully .. :)

Posted by kazza at 01:07 PM

Torrey to Vernal

On route 191 northbound through Utah

Well the day started so well, but by now has finished abysmally. There is still no mobile access (I had it very briefly when we crossed the I70 earlier today) and no local internet access. I'm beginning to think I'm never going to get onto the internet again this trip (until Rapid City at least) except in 25c/minute long distance motel rates.

So I went to bed early last night, around 10pm, and didn't get woken up til 7:30!! I was amazed. So the day already showed promise, and I was in a much better mood about life. Our first port of call was back to Capitol Reef National Park to explore the scenic drive we didn't see yesterday. What was meant to be a 20 mile scenic drive turned about to be a three hour venture, with an hour and a half long hike in the middle. So much for covering a lot of distance today. It's getting to be a case of one canyon looks pretty much like another, and we don't need to spend three hours confirming it. Didn't end up getting out of Torrey until after lunch. The car and everything inside also got covered in a fine layer of red dust from the dirt roads we drove up and down. I hope it doesn't get into the camera.

It's funny, we keep bumping into the same people on consecutive days. It's happened with three separate couples - we'll see them in one national park one day, and see them in another national park the next. Well I think it's funny anyway.

-- update --
just managed to connect on maglobe's toll free number, so I should be able to post tonight

Where was I? The afternoon. Driving. Headed north through the back roads of Utah. Didn't take too many photos, but there was some very pretty scenery. Also drove around a couple of rain storms, but somehow didn't get wet at all, go figure. Got to Vernal, checked into the Motel 6, and went for dinner at an all you can eat buffet that cost us $10 each. One of the biggest buffets I've ever seen, and even though it had a huge range of food, I guess you could describe it as all-american food, deep fried everything and fat dripping off the rest. Oh well, it's all good.

Had this bizarre dream last night that I had planned another trip to the USA with Pete (he was the guy I went on the last US trip with in 2000), except that it overlapped with my parents' trip, and so I was going to have to break off one to do the other. Then I woke up and was glad it was just a dream and that I wouldn't have to deal with that complication!

Decided lotus notes is too slow to use over a modem. I'll have to synchronise my mail file, but someone sent a 1 meg series of photos the day after I left, which will make it take forever. I'll synchronise when I have the cheap connection again - maybe in Rapid City.

Posted by kazza at 01:10 PM

May 25, 2004

Vernal to Rawlins

The Quarry - Dinosaur National Monument, Utah

Here we sit. Heading north from Vernal and once again we are sitting at a road block waiting. This time however I need to go to the toilet so sitting here is most unpleasant. The oncoming traffic is coming down the hill now, so we might get to move soon. Have just checked the road ahead for towns with local maglobe access, and the next three do, so should be right for tonight.....

Cut to tonight.

It's any wonder the USA has a major problem with obesity - we just had dinner at a little place called Cappy's, in Rawlins Wyoming, and just about everything on the menu was deep fried in some way or another. And many of the other clientelle were, shall we say, wide.

This morning we did the Utah dinosaur run - the Utah Field House of Natural History State Park Museum in Vernal, and the Dinosaur National Monument just out of town. The latter has a spectacular fossil display - they have built a building right around an entire rockface of dinosaur fossils. Definitely worth seeing if you're in the area. Wandered around the rest of the park taking up more of the day before finally getting out of Vernal late after lunch.

The drive north into Wyoming was very pretty, even saw some leftover snow that hasn't melted yet. Once we got into Wyoming though, the scenery disappeared and we were left with semi-arid plains. I have to say Wyoming has been a very boring state so far :) Decided to call it a night in Rawlins.

Posted by kazza at 02:37 PM

May 27, 2004

Rawlins to Custer

Bison close up

Another sucky start to the day. At 6:09 I stuck my head up to check the time. Dad saw me and decided it was time to get up and start rustling around. So I got six hours sleep last night. yay.

We didn't do anything this morning except drive - north to Casper, then east across the border into South Dakota. There was a brief stop off at a natural bridge in Douglas, Wyoming. Apparently it's the only natural bridge with a stream flowing under it in the USA. I also tried to get some photos of Pronged Antelope around Casper, but didn't succeed.

Once in South Dakota we headed north through the Wind Cave National Park. We didn't really know what was there, and when we stopped off at the visitors centre, they said we could join a tour of the caves that was just about to start. Apparently there's 111 miles of caves in the system. The tour explores just half a mile! The caves aren't spectacularly beautiful, but they do have an unusual formation called "boxwork" - which is formed when minerals seep into limestone and solidify harder than the original stone. Then when the stone is eaten away by water, the harder seams are left behind, leaving quite cool looking criss-crosses of stone.

After the caves it was getting quite late, so we continued to drive north, stopping here and there to photograph all the wildlife - bison, mule deer and prairie dogs. We also saw elk, rabbits, a coyote and a turkey!

When we got to Custer it was 7pm, so we decided to call it a night and not go onto Rapid City. We stopped for dinner at a place called "Wrangler" (I think) and had bison! It tasted like meat :) Actually Mum and I shared it - and glad we did, the serving was huge, and we were both full. Dad couldn't finish his dinner. Oh well.

Went across the road and checked into a cheap motel. No phone though :( Next time the parents want a cheap motel I'm going to insist on a phone line. Custer doesn't have local maglobe internet access, and there's no mobile access either. Another night disconnected from the world. Still, it'll let me get an early night.

Posted by kazza at 11:57 AM

Custer to Rapid City

Mount Rushmore

I truly hate my father. I mean completely and utterly. He's the most pathetic person I know. People that know me know that I *never* swear. He made me swear today. Twice actually. The f-word. Forever after I'm going to have bitter memories of Crazy Horse memorial.

It was a pretty sucky day all round actually. It started by me only getting about 5 hours sleep. I woke up around a quarter to five then couldn't get back to sleep, and didn't want to get up and go to the loo or get a drink because I was worried about waking up dad, and then he'd get up and I'd *never* get back to sleep. I think I may have dozed off briefly, but not properly.

The weather was absolutely perfect this morning. Absolutely clear blue skies. So we thought we'd head out to Crazy Horse. Well the sun wasn't on it - it's angled for afternoon photos. So we went straight onto Mount Rushmore. On the way though I thought I'd lost the sun hood for my camera - I took it off yesterday in the caves, and thought I'd put it in my bag. I couldn't find it in there though so I was pretty upset about it. It would be just about impossible to replace while I was away - I'd have to order it from Sony most likley. So anyway, we got to Rushmore and it was fantastic. And the sky was absolutely perfect for photos. It was one of the things that I really wanted to see on this trip, and I'm so glad the conditions were good for it. So after almost two and a half hours there we went back to the car, and I searched through my suitcase and found the hood in the cable box I have for the camera and laptop. Major phew.

Pretty uneventful meander through some scenic roads and tunnels and lakes, and then the sky, and dad's mood, clouded over. I swear his mood is entirely dependant on how much cloud is in the sky.

So then Crazy Horse. Dad was pissed off with the world and went off in a huff. Mum eventually followed him into the orientation film, but I stayed outside, figuring I'd find them when it finished. I didn't. Even though we apparently were looking for each other we never saw each other. So they decided to go off on a little tour to get closer to the rock, and I was left for half an hour searching the building trying to find them. Of course I was pretty stressed out about the whole thing, and when they got back and I found out where they'd gone I was upset. So I'd missed both the film and the photo opportunity.

Things went downhill after that. I don't think I can even put into words how much of an idiot he is and how much I hate him. At least not in public anyway. Ended up cutting the day short and got to Rapid City and just checked into the motel at 5:30. Which suits me fine, as we could all do with an early night.

Oh yeah. American food sucks. My face is covered in zits from all the fat we've been eating. The thought of going out to find dinner tonight is not appealing, but I know if I don't get *something* to eat I'll wake up at 3am starving. Just what I need.

Posted by kazza at 12:00 PM

May 28, 2004

Rapid City to Gillette

Devil's Tower, Wyoming

Well I had hoped that Dad may have grown up a little overnight, but alas he was still just as childish and petulant this morning. *sigh*

After much stuffing around (by aforementioned father being childish) we finally headed east out to the Badlands. Quite a strange landscape, almost lunar, although with a lot more colour.

I had to laugh as we drove out there though - I must have seen about a hundred signs to Wall Drug. At least every half a mile between Rapid City and Wall there was a sign. I've never seen *anything* advertised so much by the roadside. Very strange indeed.

So we headed back to Rapid City for lunch, stopping in a rather huge mall. Here I thought I'd be able to get some of photos burnt to cd. But it turns out you can only burn on the average of 50 photos befure they start charging you excess cds. How ridiculous is that ?!? I had 688 megabytes of photos to burn but couldn't find anywhere to do it. Was rather peeved.

A bright note though was that I bought the new Harry Potter soundtrack to listen to in the car. The song "Double Trouble" has a whole new verse!! Wonder if I can find the mp3 of it...

So anyway, we headed west back into Wyoming and went up to the Devil's Tower. It is fantastic, you should go see it if you're anywhere near. Spent quite a long time there, walking all around it and watching all the climbers. We had really good weather for it too - we'd had good sunshine in the morning for the Badlands but then it had clouded over and it was actually raining outside of Rapid City. But then the sun came back again and it was beautiful again. Go figure.

As we were leaving Devil's Tower, the parents went to the gift shop, and as we were leaving we saw a tourist one hour photo place. So we wandered over and asked them if they burnt cds - and they did! It was a bit more expensive - $15, but she was quite happy to download the contents of both memory cards and burn them all to one cd. Actually she really didn't know her way around her computer, it was quite funny. But anyway, one cd down, about 20 to go :)

Another very late night tonight. Have stopped in Gillette and it's 11pm and I haven't downloaded my photos yet! Fraggle!

Oh if anyone ever goes to Mount Rushmore, can you see if they have rulers with photos on them? I have a collection of them, and I remembered today to look for them, but it was too late to see if Mount Rushmore had any.

Posted by kazza at 03:14 PM

May 29, 2004

Gillette to Cody

Bighorn Canyon, Montana

I tell you what, you wouldn't want to be superstitious today - it's day 13 of our trip, and we've just checked into room 113 of Super 8, Cody. heh.

Well the day started well for two reasons - firstly I was allowed to sleep in til just before seven. Not quite a full nights sleep, but certainly better than previous efforts. Then in the car we put on Harry Potter again and listened to it at a decent volume. We also had a very slow start to the morning, not leaving Gillette til nearly 10am.

I tried again, mostly unsuccessfully, to get photos of Pronghorn Antelope, but I think all I got were spots. Oh well. Spent most of the morning just driving, arriving in Lovell for a late lunch.

In the afternoon we stopped into the Little Bighorn visitors centre and ended up staying and watching this video called "Cloud" about this white horse in the Arrowhead Mountains. Not a very productive way to spend an hour, but it was a nice video and made for a relaxing interlude to the day. Then we actually went up into the canyon, which was quite spectacular, although the photographs will look rather boring as the weather was completely clouded over. Dad played the bighorn sheep and went around the side of a rather steep cliff to get a photo, while Mum and I watched on nervously.

Arrived into Cody around 6pm and checked in. The motel receptionist wasn't very friendly. It's funny staying in different places each night and seeing different styles of reception, and comparing one off another. Last night's girl was friendly and efficient. The one before that was slow and unfriendly, as was the one tonight. Silly really. Maybe I'm just getting critical in my old age. Oh wait, I always was critical.

Good news is I have local internet access here, although probably not for the next two nights.

Posted by kazza at 01:06 PM

May 31, 2004

Cody to West Yellowstone

Lower Falls on the Yellowstone River

I actually got up before the parents this morning! Only just though, I wanted to wash my hair.

From Cody we headed west up towards Yellowstone National Park. On the way we stopped at Buffalo Bill dam. The most amusing thing about it was they are literally on the dam, but they had no flushing toilets - because there was nowhere for them to put the sewage.

When we arrived at Yellowstone, there were signs up everywhere saying snow tyres or chains were required to enter the park on that road. Tense moment as we wondered what we'd do without them, but as it turns out, the car has snow tyres! Go figure. So what makes a snow tyre? We have no idea. But the good news is, we could enter the park. Sighs of relief breathed all around.

As we headed up into the park it started to rain and the visibility was terrible. We worried that the whole day would be like this. We watched the thermometer as the external temperature dropped and dropped and then we realised that the rain was actually snow! Now living in Sydney I rarely see snow - usually it's only when I go skiing that I ever see it. And I've only ever seen snow falling twice - once the last time we went to America in 1983, and again in 1997 in the Australian alps, but that was at night. Snow being a big novelty for me put me in a very good mood. We stopped a couple of times basically just to play with it! I don't remember ever playing with such fresh snow - it felt wonderful to touch.

We took a few photos of lakes, and plenty of photos of hot springs and geysers. We also climbed down 328 steps to get a good view of the "Lower Falls" of the Yellowstone River. And them climbed back up them again :)

We decided not to Old Faithful today, the weather was too unpredictable and it was getting late, so we left the park (after being held up in two separate traffic jams - one for people rubbernecking at bison, and the other because bison and the calves were wandering across the road), had dinner in West Yellowstone (Chinese again), and checked into the motel. My face got sunburnt today - which isn't supposed to happen with thick black clouds and snow! But the clouds were thinner for much of the day. Doh!

No local internet access here, and I couldn't be bothered dialling up tonight (it's Sunday in Sydney, noone will be online anyway), but may diallup tomorrow. We'll see. I'm planning to be asleep by 9:30.

Posted by kazza at 01:53 PM

West Yellowstone to West Yellowstone

Old Faithful geyser erupting

Another Yellowstone day today. This time the plan was to go straight to Old Faithful geyser (after we woke up to blinding sunlight and brilliant blue sky). We got a bit distracted though - firstly by baby bison, then a very pretty looking Midway Geyser Basin, and then by some elk just lazing on the side of the road.

By the time actually got to Old Faithful, it had completely clouded over and was even snowing a bit. So when it erupted half an hour later the photos were pretty awful - white water and steam against a white sky background. I did manage to get a very cool mpg though as it was just starting to erupt.

After the eruption we wandered around the rest of the hot springs and geysers in the area, but it was very cold, and I'd left the rest of my cold weather gear in the motel. In the end we decided to leave, but I wanted to grab some food first. So we did that, but then it was almost time for the next eruption, and wonder of wonders, there was actually some blue sky and sunlight! Not a lot, but it did make photos of the second eruption a bit nicer.

So then we then wandered anticlockwise around the park, through patches of snow and sunlight. Eventually we ended up in Mammoth Hot Springs, with some very pretty and intricate terraces and springs. Definately worth seeing.

And then back to the motel via an Italian place in town for dinner.

I was planning to be in bed by 9:30 last night, but Dad left this documentary on the Discovery Channel on, and Mum and I were stuck watching it long after Dad went to sleep. But it turned out to be a 2 hour documentary that finished at 11pm!! Not happy Jan! *Need* to get to sleep earlier than that tonight!!

Posted by kazza at 01:56 PM

June 01, 2004

West Yellowstone to Idaho Falls

Grand Teton mountains over Jenny Lake

Day three at Yellowstone National Park. Beginning at some cute mud *blips*, and take three at Old Faithful, with the best weather for it yet. Then a rerun of West Thumb geyser area before heading south into Grand Teton National Park. Amusing name - apparently the three main mountains were originally called Les Trois Teton - meaning Three Breasts in French. So now the park appears to be called Big Breasts. Yay. :)

The Grand Teton range is spectacular. A lovely river valley ends all down one side with a steep range of mountains that towers something like 5000 feet over the valley. It's really best in the morning though, so our afternoon photos weren't great.

My parents are totally crazy. Every time we pull out of a lookout stop or whatever, they complain bitterly if anyone gets in front of them - especially the big RVs (motorhomes). I just don't get it. We're stopping every five minutes anyway and so are they, yet they will still complain about it and even try to get past them. Pretty tragic really.

We then pushed onto Idaho Falls and arrived at 8:30, after driving through some very pretty countrysides and forests. One thing about Yellowstone is that the whole western side of the park was devastated by a bushfire in 1988, and while there are now small trees growing up, there is still miles and miles of dead trees marring the landscape. Driving over the border between Wyoming and Idaho was through the Targhee National Forest which was just gorgeous, and probably what Yellowstone should have looked like.

After dinner and suddenly it's 10pm !? How did that happen?

Posted by kazza at 02:50 PM

June 02, 2004

Idaho Falls to Missoula

Indian Tunnel - lava tunnel in Craters of the Moon National Monument

The motel room is so big it echos! Truly frightening. And it was cheaper than we've normally been paying. Pity it's 10:30pm and we won't be up at all to enjoy it, as we only just checked in and it's bed time...

So today. Over 400 miles of driving, a trip record.

We started in Idaho Falls and went down to the Snake River to look at the dual level river with a weir running on a diagonal the whole way down. Very unusual and quite pretty.

The only thing we stopped for today was the Craters of the Moon National Monument. It was amazing! I didn't think there'd be much there, and it was certainly off the tourist beaten track. But you can walk out on 2000-year old (recent) lava flows and climb cinder cones and climb down into lava tunnels. The textures and colours in the rocks was totally incredible. I'm so glad we went.

Aside from that all we did was drive today. But we were on pretty roads rather than the main thoroughfares, so it was really interesting. It's how I imagined USA road trips should be - driving through canyons and forests and beautiful logging villages and over mountains and across endless plains. Today had everything, it was great! We also crossed the 45 degrees north parallel, the furthest north any of us have ever been.

The only problem was it was all very long and we were all very tired by the end of it. 10pm and it was still light though, very strange.

I'm going to download my photos tomorrow so I'm not up too much later than Dad, otherwise he'll wake me up too early. Instead he can wait for me while I catch up on all that I need to do :) So expect a photo of the day tomorrow morning.

Posted by kazza at 03:06 PM

June 03, 2004

Missoula to Kalispell

Garden Wall over McDonald Creek - I think!

Another very early morning after a very late night.

A fairly simple, but very long day. Drove a couple of hours north to a little place called Kalispell, past a huge lake called Flathead Lake. I wonder if they have any flathead fish there...

Checked in early to the motel then went across the road to a camera store that burns images to cd. Unlike the "big name" stores, they don't have a limit to the number of images you can put onto a cd. The only limit is that it'll only burn one memory card. So I'll fill up the three 512mb memory cards I have and burn them for $5 each. It actually works out cheaper than burning a full 700mb for $10.

After lunch we headed up to the Glacier National Park. Another very pretty national park with lots of lakes and mountains and snow. Took quite a few photos, but not a ridiculous number. I have this sneaking suspicion that when we get to Canada we're going to be thinking "yep, that's another mountain" or "yep, that's another lake".

I now have 25 out of the 50 state quarters which I'm collecting. Unfortunately tomorrow we head into Canada for two weeks which is going to interrupt collecting somewhat :( Maybe I'll have to get them on ebay or something.

The other thing I found today was a kilo of Jelly Bellys for $12US. How good value is that? In Australia you'd pay a minimum of $25AUD per kilo I reckon. Bought a pack, if I see them again I may stock up.

Anyways, gotsta start sorting photos onto memory cards, and no local internet tonight.

Disaster!! Just accidently formatted today's photos. Not happy Jan!!!!!

Not such a disaster. Using a piece of software Tim from work bought last year to recover images.. not sure it's getting everything, but certainly a decent majority. I can breathe again. And spend hours sorting out which pic is which.

Posted by kazza at 03:04 PM

June 04, 2004

Kalispell to Canmore

Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, taken from the back seat through the front windscreen of the car

OK the great photo disaster. Well it didn't turn out to be a complete disaster, but I did lose some of the morning's photos :( What happened was that I was trying to organise my photos onto compact flash cards to get burnt to cd. So I'd put one of he cards into the camera, but I forgot to flick the switch from Memory Stick to Compact Flash, and formatted the day's photos. I didn't actually realise I'd done it until I went to download them and found an empty card. So I downloaded a utility that Tim from work had bought last year and used it to recover a pretty good percentage of the photos. I'm going to have to buy him some Guiness when I get home. The photos I lost include the ones of Flathead Lake (which weren't very good anyway), a huge metal bald eagle statue (the parents have photos of that), signs to the entrance to Glacier National Park (I've been collecting entrance sign photos), an Idaho number plate (I've been collecting pics of number plates of states we've been to - I could probably have gotten the majority of all the states just in Utah alone!), and some nice photos of the mountains over Lake McDonald in Glacier National Park.

So this morning, the first stop was to burn 1.5gb of photos to cd at a local camera/photo shop. Took about 3/4 hour. Unfortunately it was a proprietary burner system, and it renamed all my files and date/time stamps, and nuked the directory structure. Oh well, hopefully it's just a backup .. The cd I sent home last week arrive, so I sent three more home today.

Today was a very quiet photo day - I only took 35 photos, and one was for Theme Thursday!

We crossed the border into Canada early this afternoon. For the first time this trip I felt like I was going to a foreign country. I guess because I've been to the States a couple of times before and see so much of American culture on tv it doesn't feel like a strange place to come. But Canada was an unknown quantity. Would I be able to get money? What would be the electricity situation? What about road rules? Can you turn right on red after stopping like in the states? How accessable would public toilets be? Would my mobile work? Would be able to get internet access easily? It didn't take long to confirm that Canada is strange. We went into a department store to see if we could find an ATM, and on the way out, Mum got bailed up for having a backpack on. Apparently they don't let you take backpacks into department stores. Instead you have to leave them in lockers outside - which of course you have to pay for. How ridiculous is that?!? I aint leaving my backpack anywhere - not with my camera and laptop in it. So I guess one of us will be waiting in the car whenever we go shopping.

So this afternoon we began our Canadian National Park bash. An annual park pass for the family was $89. We started in Kootenay National Park. We didn't take many photos as much of the snow has already melted, making the mountains not very photogenic. Also a big bushfire took out about a 1/3 of the park last year leaving lots of dead trees. Then on into Banff National Park. Again there was not much snow left and so we didn't stop very often. Eventually we checked into a motel - actually a ski lodge - in Canmore and wandered off to dinner - ribs and lasagna yumm. We only ordered two dishes for three people and still came away with a huge bowl of leftovers.

Internet from here is going to cost me $7.99US/hour - ouch! Can anyone suggest a simple, cheap, prepaid dialup account for Canada? MaGlobe is ok but it's going to be a bit expensive here :(

Posted by kazza at 02:40 PM

June 06, 2004

Canmore to Canmore

Reflections over Johnson Lake

Day one of our Banff National Park explorations. Beginning with Lake Minnewanka. Unfortunate name. Guess it's Indian or something. By the lake we saw a veritable flock of female bighorn sheep. I suppose there must have been a male around somewhere but I didn't see him - probably because at the time we thought they were goats! Then we spent some time photographing reflections of mountains in lakes.

Stopped in Banff township to take a photo down main street, then headed up to the Sulphur Mountain gondola, where for $21.50 you can take a ride to the top. Well worth it though, the views are spectacular, and we had great weather for it, if a little hazy.

Back to Banff for a bite to eat, and I bought a couple of cds - Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets soundtrack, and the Moulin Rouge soundtrack. Mum decided later in the afternoon that she liked the CoS one better than PoA - I guess it's because it's a little more inoffensive and it can all be classified as "background" music, as opposed to PoA which is a bit in your face with a couple of the tracks on it - especially the Knight Bus track!

Next was a walk up to see some waterfalls in Johnston Canyon before heading up to Lake Louise, which is as pretty as the postcards. The blue in the water is incredible. We even saw another avalanche there. Spent a good two hours there - walked the entire length of the lake to take a photo of the Chateau across it. We're going back again in the morning to photograph it the other way around.

The only other lake we saw today was the half empty Moraine Lake. It was still partly frozen which was bizarre. The coolest thing though were these ice crystals we found. There was this patch of snow on the ground near the shore of the lake, which looked just like any other patch of snow or ice. Except when we got closer we realised that it was entirely made up of vertical ice crystals - 10-15cm long, all packed together vertically. It was the strangest thing I've ever seen. We had no idea at all how they'd form like that. Anyone else have any ideas?

On the way back to the motel we went up Mt Norquay which is on the other side of Banff, and we saw all the bachelor bighorn sheep in a herd.

The only other excitement for the night was seeing Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, which was cool, but see my other post for that. It's now 1am as I had to drive myself all the way up from Canmore to Banff to see it - oops!

Posted by kazza at 12:13 AM

Canmore to Canmore, still

Lake Louise, Banff National Park

Have I ever mentioned how much I hate my father? His petulance lost me my camera's shade hood today. But back to that later.

I think I got about three hours sleep last night. Maybe more, but it certainly didn't feel like it.

Weather was cloudy but we went back to Lake Louise to try it in the morning. Not much improvement without blue sky. It clouded over considerably after that and all the way up the Icefields Parkway was grey. Actually closer to white. Was hard to see where the snow finished and the sky started.

On the way up we saw a family of very black bears - a mother and three cubs. Was pretty cool but we couldn't really stop - and by the time we had we couldn't see them anymore.

Then we went up to the Columbia Ice Field, or at least a glacier of it. For $29.95 inc tax you can go out onto the glacier in a big snowmobile thing. It was pretty cool.

After that decided it was a long way back to Canmore, so we left. Just as it started raining the whole way back. We saw a couple of grizzly bears, or at least their backs over a mound of earth by the side of the road. But then we saw the same mother and three cubs on the other side of the road. Even managed to get a couple of photos of them before they disappeared into the forest.

So by the time we got back to Banff I was busting to go to the loo. But Dad wanted to go see this cave in town. Fine. Except the place was closed and there was no open toilet. So Dad says to noone in particular "do you want to go and see the cave?" and I said "well let's get it over and done with cause I need to go to the loo". He took this to mean "no" and turned around and went back to the car. What a childish prat. So mum and I decided to say "screw it" to his immature behaviour and went up to try and find this cave anyway. We walked all around the place trying to find it and eventually realised that a barred off hole in the ground was actually the top entrance to the cave and to get inside you had to pay $4 and go through the visitors centre. Yay. Knowing that Dad was likely to be in a foul mood I decided to take a photo of it to prove that he really didn't miss anything. Except that in the process I accidently dropped the camera's shade hood. Now Murphy dictates that whatever can go wrong will, and of course of the whole amount of ground it could have fallen on, it happened to fall over where the hole was. So now it's probably gone forever. We'll probably drop in there when the place opens tomorrow morning, but I'm not holding out much hope. It's most likely been washed out into the river. Thoroughly depressed now. I'm so sick of Dad it's not funny. And we're exactly half way through our trip now. I suppose I can console myself that at the moment the weather is rainy and I'm not likely to be taking photos directly into the sunlight too much for a while anyway.

Posted by kazza at 12:33 PM

June 07, 2004

Canmore to Saskatchewan Crossing

Peyto Lake

Slowest photo day yet. Partly because I was too depressed to take photos after losing the shade hood of my camera (we went down into the cave when it opened but couldn't find it anywhere - it probably got washed out into the river), and partly because it rained most of the day.

Probably the highlight of the day was Peyto Lake - an impossibly blue lake, even under clouds.

Aside from that we made it all the way to Jasper, saw grey falls and grey lakes. I dozed most of the way up and down the Icefields Parkway. It's supposed to be one of the most beautiful roads in the world but I didn't really miss anything by sleeping through it - the mountains were in cloud most of the day.

Have had three of our last five meals at the same cafe in Saskatchewan Crossing. Yay.

Posted by kazza at 02:17 PM

June 09, 2004

Saskatchewan Crossing to Golden

Mum, me and Dad reflected on a metal ball at Lake Louise

Well the sun came out today on both my mood and the mountains.

It felt like a day of reruns. Peyto Lake for the second time, Bow Lake for the second or third time, Lake Louise for the third time. Same family of black bears for the third time, this time in full sunlight and noone else there to scare them away, so hopefully some good photos.

After doing Banff National Park to death we headed west through Yoho National Park. More mountains and more lakes.

I love the zoom on my camera. It's still not as good as Dad's detachable 300mm zoom lens (mine's only 200mm equivalent), but it's still a whole lot better than my last camera. I've gotten some great photos of birds and animals and even scenery with it.

Everywhere we've been in the past week has had promotions and banners for supporting the Calgary Flames hockey team. And tonight the final of the Stanley Cup is on, and we find ourselves watching it and rooting for Canada to win.. hehe.. it just finished.. Tampa Bay won it. Oh well :)

Having all sorts of trouble trying to get online tonight :( After figuring out that this motel uses 8 to get outside instead of 9 the modems won't handshake. May not get on tonight at all, blah.

Posted by kazza at 04:08 PM

Golden to Kamloops

Reveltoke Dam

Got a pretty decent nights sleep last night. This is after last night going to bed at 10:30 when it was still well and truly light outside. It was like a early-mid dusk lighting, totally weird. Mind you, we were about as west as you could get in the Mountain Time Zone, and nearly as far north. This morning we went back in time an hour and things are much more civilised tonight. It's 8:30, and while the sun hasn't set, it's pretty close to it.

I was reminded this morning of another reason I'm not doing a lot of driving (or navigating anymore). Dad somehow manages to find a reason to find someone else to blame and give him a good excuse to get into a stroppy mood. When Mum is driving, he'll get upset when she doesn't read his mind and know when stop when he wants to stop. When he is driving he'll ask "do you want to stop here?" and get grumpy if he doesn't get the answer he wants. Or he'll say to the navigator "which way do I go?" when not actually telling us where he wants to go and so we can't actually give him an answer. He did this to me in Banff the other day when I wasn't technically navigating, I just happened to be following the map in the back seat to see where we were, and he starts yelling at me to tell him which way to go, and I didn't even know where he *wanted* to go. So after that I resigned and now I just sit in the back seat and watch the scenery :)

So to today. The two national parks we drove through were Glacier National Park and Mount Revelstoke National Park. Glacier had a bunch of history on the trans-Canada railway, and even an old part of the track you could walk down and see the remains of an avalanche protection sheds. There was a memorial for about 50 railway workers that died in 1910 in an avalanche as they were trying to clear the track of snow from an earlier, smaller avalanche that had covered the track. The prettiest part of Revelstoke NP was the Giant Cedars Nature Trail, walking through a forest of big old cedars.

In the afternoon (after lunch at 2:30pm), I put a couple of memory cards in for cd burning, and we thought we'd have a look at the Revelstoke Dam while we were waiting. We ended up spending well over an hour there and went on their little tour. It's pretty sad now the security they have to use - no bags, cameras, or purses - all in response to 9/11. Before then you could wander through the place any way you pleased. The world certainly has changed.

Picked up my cds and then headed west. Drove by some very pretty lakes and rural areas before arriving in Kamloops after 8pm. Kamloops has cheap MaGlobe dialup here, so hopefully I can get onto it.


got on. Catching up with days of email, blah! :)

Posted by kazza at 04:15 PM

June 10, 2004

Kamloops to Vancouver

Train on one side, landslide shelters on the other, of the Thompson River, British Columbia

I stayed up far too late last night. The prospect of cheap internet was so enticing, and I hadn't had it for nearly a week, so I stayed up and caught up with all my email and blog reading (well most anyway :) ). So didn't get to bed til midnight, oops :)

Today was another driving day. The goal was Vancouver via a scenic route. And it took all day to get there! The drive down past the Thompson and Fraser rivers was interesting. Very arid for the most part along the Thompson river, and no rock - just big hills of sand and pebbles. The scary thing is that they built not one but two railways down the canyon - one on each side. It would have been like building a railway on the side of a sandhill. And it looks like they fight a constant battle to keep the track clear of pebbles and rocks. We were trying to find a spot where both tracks switch sides of the canyon at intersecting bridges, with a road bridge thrown in for good measure. We didn't find it though, but we think we know where we missed it.

We had a very late lunch (again), and as we were driving through Yale, a big cold front from the south east swept in over the mountains - the clouds coming over the tops of the hills looked fantastic.

We finally arrived in Vancouver, after dropping into a visitor information centre in Chilliwack, around 6pm. Currently eating tv dinners heated in the motel microwave and watching discovery channel :)

Posted by kazza at 01:49 PM

June 11, 2004

Vancouver to Vancouver

Canada Geese by Como Lake

Rainy days are expensive! Well they are when you go shopping half the day.

So today started off cloudy with the threat of rain, so we decided to head downtown to have a look around the city. First we dropped the car off at a servo to have its oil changed, then we caught the sky train into town. First stop was "Gastown", the equivalent of the Rocks in Sydney. Took photos of a steam-powered clock.

Next stop was the Harbour Centre Lookout. I love going up towers. I have a thing for elevation. Took a stack of photos, even though the weather was closing in.

After lunch Mum wanted to go souvenir hunting for people, so I joined in and got a bunch of crappy type things. Souvenir hunting was long and hard on the feet. We headed back to pick up the car and go back to the motel.

While the mother type person was fiz-gigging around I went channel surfing, and eventually found the second half of a TNG episode. After watching fifteen minutes of it, the parents decide they are ready and it's time to go. I don't think so. They made me wait around for an hour, they could wait another 15 min for me. So that's what I did :) It was the one where some dude programmed himself into Data's brain and tried to take him over.

The mission was to find Como Lake. We drove around it at least twice before finally finding it. At first I thought it was cool because it had flocks of Canada Geese around it. But flocks of geese mean piles of goose poo. It was *everywhere* :( Spent five minutes just cleaning it out of the tread of my shoes *bleach*

After dinner (Denny's for the first time in ages), Dad wanted to buy chippies. So we went to the mall across the road. This was a mistake. First we went into wal-mart and spent ages wandering around, then into a bunch of other shops as well. Finally got out of there well over an hour after we went in. Dad was complaining about it, and I said, well what do you expect when you take us into a mall to buy a packet of chips ! :)

Posted by kazza at 03:34 PM

June 13, 2004

Vancouver to Some Place on Vancouver Island

A rose in Butchart Gardens

Well today began grey and unpromising. The weather forecast had rain for the next four days. So we decided to head over to Vancouver Island anyway and hope for the best.

To get to the island we took one of the BC Ferries ferries from south of Vancouver. We were a bit nervous about it though because maintenance workers have been threatening to go on strike. We may end up stranded on the island or have to get a US ferry back to the US mainland, which will be a pain, as we still have things to see in Canada. We'll see how we go.

So the ferry ride was pretty cool. Took an hour and a half, and we had lunch on board. Nothing particularly eventful happened, unless you count the sun starting to break through.

Highest on the priority list for the island was Butchart Gardens. Let me tell you, it's well worth the $19 entry fee (at least if you like flowers anyway :) ). The floral displays were phantasmagorical. We ended up spending nearly three hours there. Which was a good thing that we ended up deciding not to go on an organised tour - they only get one, maybe one and a half hours max there. I took I think over 100 photos! (I haven't downloaded them yet).

By then it was after 4pm, so we wandered down the east coast and ended up in Victoria eventually. We stopped in a pay-public car park while trying to organise where we were going to stay the night. After the parents had organised something, we thought we'd wander around the harbour for a bit. But the parking area was $1.50/hour to park there. I thought we should pay, but the parents didn't want to pay it, and decided that at 6:30 on a Friday night noone would be around to book them anyway. Well I said to them if we got a fine I was *not* paying it - they could by themselves. So we wandered off around the place. But when we got back, guess what, there was a fine (which had been put there about five minutes before we got back to the car). It was actually only $15, which is a lot better than I thought it would be, but the parents started blaming each other, which rather upset mum. sigh. Dinner was a bit strained of course though.

Finally arrived at the motel in the middle of nowhere around 9:30. My bed is a sofabed, but it is in a separate room to my parents, so depending on whether they come out to the kitchen in the morning, I may actually get a decent mornings sleep. We'll see though. The view from the motel is probably the best we've ever had - a glass sliding door view over the balcony to a bay and mountains. We've had mountain views before, but always over car parks or roads or other rooms. This is completely uninterrupted and private. Very cool.

No internet tonight though, as no phone in the room. Oh well.

ps, even though there was no phone in the room, I just found an RJ11 socket, and it was active! nyuk nyuk will upload a photo later

Posted by kazza at 01:12 AM

Malahat to Vancouver

The ferry we caught back to the mainland

This morning was the longest morning of the entire trip. After sleeping in a bit at the Ocean View Motel (not actually an ocean view, more like an inlet view, and after an odd night on a sofabed that wasn't exactly horizontal), we had no real destination in mind. It was very grey, and the weather forecast wasn't promising. We had a vague notion of going north, so that's where we headed. But when we were approaching Nanaimo Dad was pissed off the world badly and was in his usual stroppy "what do you want to do?" mode. I swear he is the most negative person I know. I can see where I get some of my negative traits from, he has them in the extreme, and it makes me want to improve myself to not be like that.

So the thought was to perhaps see a couple of lakes around Nanaimo, as the coastline didn't look very promising in the rain. One of them wasn't bad, but we had trouble with useless maps and Dad's bad mood, so the other couple we looked at were basically just a drive-by.

I was a bit sad that we didn't get to do some of the other things to do on the island. But of course Dad hates doing anything that "gives them money". Sheesh he'll spend a fortune on film processing and petrol, but not on anything that might vaguely resemble entertainment.

All that remained was to have lunch and catch the 3:00 ferry back to Vancouver. Once we had a purpose things improved a bit. The ferry trip was very grey and blustery. The arrival at Horseshoe Bay would have been beautiful on a clear day. It was still pretty spectacular, but just grey and dark grey.

The only other plan for the day was to drive around Stanley Park in Vancouver. The rain was heavier now, and there were a *lot* of people driving around the park, especially the western end, which appeared to be a short cut into the city. Also, the entire park has paid parking. You can't stop *anywhere* without having paid first. Bit ridiculous if you ask me. We still stopped at a few places, but it was very wet and grey. I navigated us back to the motel and am channel surfing while the parents are off getting us tv dinners for dinner. Just found Star Trek II woohoo :)

Posted by kazza at 02:05 PM

June 14, 2004

Vancouver to Lytton

Vancouver skyline from Stanley Park

The parents decided that we should head into town very early, do some sight-seeing, then come back out to go to church. Hrm. Early starts don't agree with me. So anyway. Mum drove, Dad navigated. Mum hit the kerb. Dad freaked and started stressing mum out. Mum freaked and refused to drive anymore. *sigh* So I ended up driving round Stanley Park. This time we paid for an hour of parking so we could stop wherever we liked. Replaced some of yesterday's rainy photos with some better ones. We even saw a few raccoons, which I don't think I've ever even *seen* before, let alone in the "wild". Then we headed up to the West Vancouver Presbyterian Church. The "sermon" barely mentioned the Bible at all. I've certainly been spoilt in the past 8 years with solid Bible-based teaching. It makes going to other churches a very strange experience. Like wishy-washy talks that don't explain the Bible at all.

I also decided today I am much happier driving in cities/traffic than at high speed on the open road. The parents are the opposite - they much prefer the open road to cities. Bizarre stuff. Guess it's what you're used to, I drive in traffic all the time.

After church we sat for a while trying to decide whether we'd go east or north to Whistler. Noone had much of an opinion so we sat for quite a while. Finally I said I had a vague interest in seeing Whistler, so that's where we went. The drive up was very pretty. Whistler itself is a cute town too, and huge, for a ski resort. The town planning leaves a lot to be desired though. There's no on-street parking and we drove around in circles for ages before finally finding a parking station, that didn't charge to park there! Miracle.

The only plan for the rest of the afternoon was to get to Lytton where we thought there might be the "triple bridge" - two railway bridges and a road bridge crossing a river. We didn't find it, and it was kinda strange coming into the same town that we were in a week ago, but from a different direction. Like a crossroads. We're going to have another go at finding the bridges tomorrow morning. Staying at a cute little motel, I think we're only one of a couple of people staying here - when we checked in, all but one of the keys were on their rings!

Four weeks down and two weeks to go. Getting there :)

Posted by kazza at 04:04 PM

June 15, 2004

Lytton to Osoyoos

Railway bridges over the Fraser River

Um what happened today? I woke up very early and couldn't get back to sleep. I think I got back to sleep briefly when the parents got up, so it was a bit of a slow start.

Oh yeah, the bridges. We were back at Lytton where we thought the "triple bridge" might be. We asked the motel people and they said, oh yes it's just down the road. After confirming with a Canadian National Railway worker, we headed down the road and found what they were talking about. It wasn't a triple bridge, it wasn't even a double bridge. What it was was two railway bridges just a bit upstream from each other, that when looked at at the right angle looked vaguely like two bridges crossing each other. We ended up waiting quite a while, but no trains came, just several track clearing machines.

After that I dozed. Eventually we came to a lake. Kelowna it was at. Took some photos. Did some more driving. Eventually came to Osoyoos. That's about as much energy as I have for an entry tonight. Sorry.

Probably back in the states tomorrow. Bye

Posted by kazza at 11:44 PM

June 16, 2004

Osoyoos to Wenatchee

Ross Dam, near Cascades National Park

Wow what a day. From being pissed at the parents to being searched at the US border to meeting a blogger from another country.

Well the parents thing is just the usual, they make me wait for an hour, but as soon as they're ready I can't keep them waiting or it's the end of the world. sigh.

So after that it was time to cross the border back into the United States. Now we wanted to claim back the GST on our motel stays, and you have to do that at the border. But we weren't sure where to go, and mum was driving, and suddenly we realised we were across the border. Not knowing what to do or how to turn around, mum reversed *back* into Canada and stopped in a parking bay, that was obviously not really meant for people doing what we were doing. So, knowing that our behaviour had already looked suspicious, I stayed with the car while the parents went off to find the gst rebate centre. Ten to fifteen minutes went by. While I was waiting I got out of the car and took a photo of the pillar that marked the boundary between Canada and the US. I waited a while longer. Giving up, I left the car and went into the gst rebate centre to find the parents. Having finally finished up there, we got back into the car and drove across the border. Well apparently the US customs people were rather freaked out. They pulled us aside and we had to get out of the car and go into their office while they obviously ran checks on our ids, and they did a complete search of the car. I wasn't too worried, we hadn't done anything wrong, aside from getting confused, and we had nothing to hide. But the fact that we reversed back over the border, that I took a photo on government property, and that we had "abandoned" our car just made them a little freaked out. So I had no doubts that we'd get through. I did however feel somewhat rattled as we drove off afterwards. All that fuss because Mum missed a turn somewhere. What does worry me is what might happen if I ever come to the US again. Will there be a flag against my name forever saying I should be checked out thoroughly from now on? It's all right for the parents, they're not likely to be back again. Oh well, can't do anything about it now.

The only plan for the rest of the day was to drive up into the North Cascades National Park. We had a fantastic day for it, beautiful blue skies, snow on the mountains, lush green undergrowth on the sides of the hills. It was great.

On the way back we decided we'd probably be at Wenatchee for dinner/the night, so I gave Dave a call, and organised to meet up for dinner. Which we did. I was very excited about meeting him, he's the first blogger I've ever met (aside from people I already know in real life), and in another country, in the middle of nowheresville at that. We had dinner in a place run by a friend of his (I can't remember the name) and then chatted about the internet and blogging and travelling and all that sort of thing for a couple of hours. Thanks for dinner Dave, it was lovely to meet you :):)

Posted by kazza at 04:56 PM

June 18, 2004

Wenatchee to Mount Rainier

Mount Rainier, Washington

Very busy photo taking day today, although I didn't quite fill my 256mb memory stick. I also did a complete dump of the first 31 days of photos to Dave's computer which has relieved me immeasurably. Now even if the laptop *and* the external drive dies on the way home, I'll have an offsite backup, in another country at that :)

So this morning we started with the very cute towns of Cashmere and Leavenworth. Actually they took most of the morning. We didn't really get anywhere near Mt Rainier til well after lunch. Then it became a case of taking pictures of the mountain as we got closer and closer to it. It truly is a spectacular mountain.

It was 7pm by the time we made it to the visitors centre closest to the mountain on the south side, so we asked one of the ranger dudes where the nearest reasonable accommodation was, to which he said this place, the Paradise Inn, just next door. So the parents checked the price and decided to stay. It's quaint, in a no bathroom-no television-no phone line-no space-no decent blinds kind of a way. For over twice the price we're getting less than half of the services. All for a view of the back car park and a bit of snow. Still, we got to watch the sunset over the mountains, and we get to say it's the highest place we've ever spent a night (probably, I'd need to check that! :) ).

Since there is literally no room in this room, the parents are downstairs doing whatever it is they do at night, so at least I have the room to myself which is kinda nice. I'll just go download my photos and with any luck I'll be asleep by the time they get back. It's going to be a very early morning tomorrow - the sun is going to come straight in my window and the blinds are useless. Still, if I wake up early enough, maybe there won't be a queue for the shower - two showers for the whole floor, yay.....

Damn, the parents just got back. Oh well.

Posted by kazza at 03:14 PM

Mount Rainier to Kelso

Mount St Helens, Washington

I knew this morning would be an early one. Woke up at 5:30 and dozed til 6am, when I got up and managed to get the first shower of the day in the common showers. Got out the door by 7, although dad wanted to go trudging through the snow before we'd had breakfast, so of course I was starving, blah.

The mission of the today was Mount St Helens. Another spectacular mountain, and another "roll of film" expended on it ;) I would have loved to have gone on a helicopter tour, but it was $99 plus tax, and the parents weren't at all interested. In fact, it was a battle to get dad to pay the $3 each to see the Johnston Ridge visitors centre. I just don't get it - last night he was willing to pay $150+tax for a crappy hotel room, yet he was quibbling today over $3. Am I missing something here? sigh. The film at the visitors centre is worth seeing - if only for the ending where the curtain is lifted for a spectacular view of the mountain through the window. *Very* cool.

Have just arrived in Kelso for the night, about to head out to dinner.

Posted by kazza at 03:23 PM

June 19, 2004

Kelso to Medford

Crater Lake, Oregon

Our mission today was Crater Lake National Park. Dad being dad, we didn't get there til 5pm. OK so we had a 240 mile drive to the exit we needed, but that was on the I5 which only took us a couple of hours. I tried to get a photo of Mt Hood, it being the highest mountain in Oregon, but don't think I got anything more than haze.

After lunch, Dad wanted to see a few waterfalls. Two waterfalls and an hour and a half later... oops. Then a trip around diamond lake, which was pretty and all, but nothing overly exciting, and this took us a good hour as well.

So then finally Crater Lake National Park. This looks like you're just going up the side of a mountain, until you get to the top and it's like "aaaaaaaahhhhhhhhh". White snow, blue sky, black and brown mountains, and at the bottom a deep blue perfectly round lake. It was spectacular. Took a couple of hours to get a few miles down the western side, as we kept stopping to take photos :) The whole eastern side was closed by snow for another two weeks, which was probably a good thing, as it would have taken us hours longer to do the other side also.

On the way out we stopped at "Natural Bridge" which was actually a river flowing through part of an old lava tunnel, which was very cool. Then dad decided he wanted a photo from the other side, so another three quarters of an hour later we start heading for town. Didn't get to Medford til after 9pm, by which time we were all tired and hungry. So anyways, it's going to be a slow morning tomorrow as mum wants to do the washing, so I'll download my photos then.

So this morning when we hit Oregon, we hit our tenth state this trip - California, Colorado, Utah, Arizona, Wyoming, South Dakota, Montana, Idaho, Washington, Oregon. Plus two provinces in Canada :)

Check this out (I'll put this up with my photos eventually..)

create your own personalized map of the USA

Posted by kazza at 04:15 PM

June 20, 2004

Medford to Crescent City

Lady Bird Johnson Grove, Redwood National Park

Our only event of the day was the Redwood National Park in California. I was actually expecting the giant sequoias we saw last time, but it was actually just the Coast Redwoods, which are taller but not as bulky. Again took probably far too many photos. The day actually started out perfectly sunny, but as we got closer to the coast, the clouds descended to tree level and blotted out the sun. Because the light was so bad I don't know how well my photos turned out. The white balance was all wrong, unless I went into manual mode, and so then I had to guess shutter speeds and f stops. Of course the suggested settings are too slow for hand-held, so then I had the tripod out, but that was very fiddly as it's a pretty crappy tripod. So anyway. I'll just have to rely on my memories for the day I think :) Not to mention almost all the photos I have a vertical, which will be a lot of fun to rotate. Rota to the rescue methinks :) The clouds were so thick in places that they made the forest a very mystical place, it was very beautiful. Stopped in Crescent City for the night.

Sometimes we try and think of where certain places, like shopping or food, were. We've been out here 35 days and stayed, ate and shopped in a different place just about every meal. All the non-significant details blend together now. Silly really :)

Posted by kazza at 02:35 PM

June 21, 2004

Crescent City to Florence

Port Orford, Oregon

We didn't have a mission for today, it was just "North". We dropped into a little town called Brookings which had a Presbyterian Church. As luck would have it, the service was just about to start when we got there, so we stayed. It was an unusual service because the "Vacation Bible School" kids were there and the service was basically a revision of what the kids learnt and sang during the previous week. Which of course meant that all the other oldies there, and us, didn't know any of the songs. And there was no sermon, just a stack of readings and songs.

After the service the minister there told us that Brookings claim to fame was that it was the only place on the US mainland to be bombed by the Japanese during world war ii. He also told us to drop into a little town called Port Orford, as it's a port that isn't really a port at all, but a car park dry dock. When the fishing boats come into port, a crane hoists them out of the water and they're left on their trailers. It was very cool. We also saw some seals chasing schools of little fish, and seagulls getting the ones close to the surface. We had fish and chips from a little shop on the dock for lunch.

After lunch we wandered north, stopping for a rather spectacular bridge, and a pay-to-go-in natural sea cave, which had some Steller Sea Lions in it. Apparently it's the biggest natural sea cave in the world.

Then we crashed in Florence for an earlyish night.

Posted by kazza at 01:35 PM

June 22, 2004

Florence to Salem

Mount Jefferson over Lake Detroit

Today we all felt our travel weariness. We didn't have anything special we wanted to see, and no particular direction in mind.

Florence was still well and truly clouded over, so we decided to head inland and check out the Cascade Mountains where there was blue sky and sunshine. I didn't take any photos until well after lunch, as we didn't actually stop for anything worthwhile. We do think we saw a Bald Eagle though. It was standing atop a nest at the top of a pole in a rural area. We couldn't see its tail but was a dark coloured bird with a white head, so it definitely could have been. We'd like to think we saw one anyway :)

I'm definitely laked and waterfalled out. Dad has this obsession with lakes and waterfalls. If they're on the map he wants to see them. And even if they're not on the map and he sees signs he'll often want to pull in and have a look. The problem is that each one usually adds around half an hour to the day. Or takes it away rather. Now don't get me wrong, I like waterfalls and lakes, but unless they're really spectacular I'm pretty indifferent about them. I tend to prefer dams and bridges and mountains. Now mountains over lakes work for me, but really only if they're snow covered.

Mt Hood ended up being too far away to get to today, so we wandered back to Salem for a Motel 6/Denny's kind of a night.

Posted by kazza at 03:13 PM

June 23, 2004

Salem to Seaside

Mt Hood over Trillium Lake

Another day, another mountain. Today, Mount Hood. Very cool mountain. So cool in fact that people were still skiing on it. I drooled. I'd love to have gone skiing on Mt Hood. Oh well.

On the way we stopped at a lake. And walked around it. And got bitten by mosquitos. The lake was actually more like a swamp. But anyway. There went an hour.

Spent quite a while around Mt Hood. We even took a ski chair lift up to 7016' although we didn't have time to spend any time there, as they were about to shut down the lift for the day. doh!

We did find a very pretty lake that we'd seen from the mountain, and several nice bridges over the Columbia River.

Have I ever mentioned how much I hate my father? He behaves like a spoilt three year old when he doesn't get his own way. This afternoon after seeing Mt Hood, we were approaching the Columbia River, and I said the Stonehenge Memorial was 40 miles upstream (we were heading downstream to Portland). That's all I said. So then Dad turns to Mum and says, well are we going? Mum was a bit indifferent so Dad threw a tantrum because we weren't giving him directions. ie, we were waiting for him to make the decision whether to go or not, but he wouldn't do it. Because he wouldn't tell us where we were going, we couldn't tell him which way to turn, so he chucked a wobbly. Tragic really.

We were originally heading Astoria via Portland, but only made it as far as Seaside. Watching the history channel and typing this up. Going to be rather a late night. Still, I should sleep well, considering I didn't get to sleep til well after 2am this morning. We shall see.

Posted by kazza at 03:47 PM

June 24, 2004

Seaside to Everett (Seattle)

Astoria Bridge over Columbia River, from Astoria Tower

Another day, another several hundred miles. Another day of dad behaving childishly (today's classic - getting stroppy with mum for not knowing how to find something that we didn't even know where it was to start with, but then refusing to actually do the driving or directing himself).

So we started the day by driving north to the south end of the Columbia River and wandering around the point and seeing where the Columbia met the Pacific Ocean. We saw a deer and two fawns which were *very* cute, but disappeared off the road before I got to take a photo of them. Then into Astoria where we drove around looking for viewpoints of the bridge over the Columbia. There was a good view of the whole area up the Astoria Column. We had the fun of the day at the column. Some kids were up there throwing balsa wood planes off the top of the tower and watching them glide to earth. One of them we thought was lost forever in the bush, but landed just near the base of the tower. Lots of fun :)

After lunch we drove across the bridge into Washington. Did a couple of "scenic" drives which weren't overly. Then made a run for Seattle. Decided to stay in Everett so we can be close to the Boeing factory in the morning. We'll see if we can get into an early tour...

Posted by kazza at 03:36 PM

June 25, 2004

Everett to Federal Way

International Fountain in front of Space Needle, Seattle

Sleepless in Seattle. That was last night. At 11:30pm the phone rang. Wrong number. At 3:30am the phone rang again. Probably the same prankster. I didn't have too much trouble getting back to sleep, but Mum freaked out the first time and couldn't get back to sleep the second. So when 6:30 came around we were all still very tired.

Still, the early start meant we got to the Boeing factory just after 8am, and got into the 9am tour. Very worth the $5 entry. Biggest building by volume in the world. And get to see them building the big jets up close. Very very cool. Pity you can't take *anything* into the place, especially not cameras. Blah.

After Boeing we checked out of the Everett motel and headed downtown. The only real item on the todo list was the Space Needle tower. $13 to go up, but a great view. We had a very grey day, so couldn't see Mt Rainier (apparently you can only see it 40-60 days of the year), but at least it hasn't rained :)

So afterwards we didn't really know what to do, so we stood around for a while, then caught a free shuttle bus into town, where we wandered around for an hour before coming back to the car. Tried to find a good vantage spot to see the city but couldn't find one really. So decided to head south and find somewhere to sleep. It was the longest evening of the entire trip. We have never had so much trouble finding a motel. It didn't help that we needed a laundry, it had to be big enough so we could stay two nights, and a fridge was preferable. We drove for what seemed like hours, but it was probably only one or two. Finally got here and it was such a relief.

Watching a very funny behind the scenes on the whole Survivor series.

Posted by kazza at 02:43 PM

June 26, 2004

Federal Way to Federal Way

Mountain wildflowers, Olympic National Park

Another very long day. We spent basically an entire morning in search of one photograph. The first thing I wanted to see was the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. It looks like they are actually building a second bridge alongside the old one. At any rate building cranes were in the way of a photo on one side, and rich people hogged the view on the other. So alas nothing good there. Then up the coast a bit, and down to Bainbridge Island, this time in search of a photo of Seattle from across the Puget Sound. Spent probably 1/2 to one hour searching tiny little streets for a glimpse of the city. But the entire coastline is taken up by rich people posting signs saying "this is my view, piss off". In the end we *finally* found a small beach with a view. Of course there was absolutely no parking anywhere along the beach, so in the end we stopped in someone's driveway, screw em.

Of course this took us way past lunch time and we were all very tired and stroppy. At this point I had thoughts of giving up for the day and just going back to the motel and crashing, as the weather was very grey anyway.

But we decided to press on to Olympic National Park, and I'm glad we did, as the Hurricane Ridge lookout we went to was well above the clouds and we had a spectacular view of the ranges. Not to mention meadows full of mountain summer wild flowers. It was just like a scene out of The Sound of Music really :)

We went a little further to see a lake and waterfall, but it was very grey still at sea level, so at 6:30 we decided to call it a day. Well, there was still three hours of driving ahead of us. The saddest thing was, all the clouds cleared for a brilliant sunset, and the photos of Seattle would have been so much nicer with the sun in the west, but we were *not* driving another 40 miles out of the way again.

So now we're fed and watered, and well and truly ready for our final night here. The plan is to see the Museum of Flight tomorrow, and then we fly out. See you all on the other side hopefully :)

Posted by kazza at 04:21 PM

June 28, 2004

Federal Way to Sydney

Concorde at the Museum of Flight

Or more to the point two days and a very long night. The stuff I did yesterday feels like about a week ago, even though I've only had two hours sleep in that time. So what happened yesterday?

ok well we started by going shopping. I wanted to find some cheap alcohol and Mum wanted to find some clothes/gifts/souvenirs. But alas the SeaTac Mall we went to was quite small and didn't have what we wanted, and we tried some other side malls too but still couldn't find anything. In the end we wasted an hour and a half for nothing.

The tragedy of the day was it was such a beautiful day that it seemed a shame to be inside. So the parents decided we should go down to the Puget Sound to have a look. We found a state park (that wanted $5 just to look at the parking lot), snuck in anyway, and said, yep, all very pretty but.. So that took up another hour or so.

The main destination of the day was actually the Museum of Flight. One of the coolest things was going inside a British Airways Concorde. They also had the first 747 ever built, the first big Air Force One jet, and a whole stack of planes including several that I have plastic models of. Could definitely have spent hours longer there but alas we only had three hours before we had to leave for the airport.

So the airport. The first thing we had to do was return the rental car. Well the parents spent the next three quarters of an hour arguing over the bill. Somewhere along the line we got hit with $200 of extra taxes which noone told us about. Blah.

Finally got the car paid for. Meandered up to checkin which was fairly routine. The Alaska Airlines flight from Seattle to LAX was very cool - we flew over many of the mountains we'd seen in the previous weeks driving around them. The sun set and we flew into LAX after dark, over the city lights which were phenomenal.

Spent the time between flights wandering the terminals (they took us on a bus ride on a grand tour of LAX by night, also very cool :) ), and spending money on books and incahol.

The Qantas jet had the new seating with the tvs in each seat so that was cool. I watched Strange Bedfellows (very aussie), Twisted (ok), and 50 First Dates (a bit schmaltzy but at least she didn't miraculously get her memory back at the end).

There was only one person in front of us in the plane, and she was in the ailse seat, so when the other two people didn't turn up, I asked her if I could have the window seat. So I managed to get window seat on all four legs of our holiday. It's amazing what you can get when you ask for it :) It also meant I had a free seat next to me which meant more space, and I could spend 14 hours away from the parents, instead of between them!

Sunrise was only just before we landed, but was very beautiful. We didn't get a great view of the city, just a distant one, and it was still too dark for any decent photos. But it was still very exciting to be home again.

Getting through duty free, immigration and customs took forever. OK so probably about an hour. So then we went out the front to wait for the parents' friend who was meant to be picking us up. Except he never showed. After half an hour Mum called his wife who said he had left an hour earlier than he should have. So I called Lizzi, who sent James in my car to pick us up. We packed four people, four suitcases and four smaller bags, plus six litres of alcohol into my little laser. It looked somewhat like a beached whale, and was just about hitting the rear tires when cornering. Dropped James off first, then I took the parents home, and finally got home myself around 11:15 am.

Spent the day catching up with stuff, email, ebay, shopping etc. Have had about two hours sleep in the past 42 hours, so I think I'll have an early night. It's 12:30am Seattle time, 5:35pm here, yet it feels so much later, as the sun set ages ago, certainly different to the other half of the world :)

Posted by kazza at 05:35 PM