Monday, October 5, 2009

Jue's last blog

There’s now less than 24 hours til we jet out from our base camp in Hawaii and head for the summit up Canberra way. It’s great to see that its bloody cold there – good times – but at least there’s been some rain.

So seeing as this is the last blog, the last hurrah, the final cut then I suppose it’s time for a bit of reminiscing –and that’s just what Lib and I have been doing. One good game we play towards the end of any holiday we’ve been on is to play “TOP FIVE!”... where the aim is to name as quickly the first five favourite things from the trip on any given topic like:


1. Glacier

2. Zion

3. Arches

4. Crater Lake

5. Grand Canyon

Or something unexpected like:


1. Seattle

2. Monterey

3. Los Angeles

4. Ouray

5. Cabo San Lucas

Its gets a little difficult when you get to things like restaurants, as we tend to forget the names, but MEALS WE’VE EATEN stand out:

1. Szechuan eggplant with beef in San Francisco

2. 2 dollar soft tacos in Cambria

3. Bakery breakfast in the market in Seattle

4. Sandwiches by a stream in the heart of the desert country in southern Utah

5. Instant porridge under the redwoods in Humbolt State Park

Or SONGS that have had an impact while travelling:

1. Music (was my first love) by John Miles. The girls loved having their dolls do CrAZy dancing along with this one. I don’t even know WHERE I got this song from...

2. Your Love by the Outfield – the girls love to sing along, constatntly asking what the lyrics mean... I DON’T KNOW!

3. Shock the monkey by Peter Gabriel – the girls loved this one too... “Why does he shock the monkey?”

4. Slave to love by Bryan Ferry, for some reason we drove around a whole day in Monterey just listening to this. Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmore adds a lot to this song.

5. Flesh for Fantasy by Billy Idol... it was ALWAYS on the 80’s channels.

Sometimes you can’t even make it to five, like FAVOURITE FAST FOOD JOINTS YOU CAN’T FIND IN AUSTRALIA:

1. Jack in the Box

2. Arby’s

3. ...ummm... Cinnabon?

Or of you choose more than five it would seem self indulgent, like BLOGS:

1. Canon City Storms

2. Something more sinister

3. Dekka’s Long awaited Disneyland post

4. Comments... and on the road

5. Ricky Ponting you bloody RIPPA

6. Crunchy Granola

Oops – see – self indulgent...

But what this trip has really been about is memories, and the fact Lib and I now have this wonderful stack of memories of the girls at this age... they’ve been wonderful to travel with, great troopers all the way, and have helped us to really appreciate what we’re seeing in this amazing country. We can’t wait to come back – it really is that good...

And let’s not forget you guys dear readers. Those of you who’ve dropped by. We appreciate the fact you’ve checked up on us, and have read our little bits of prose more than you can imagine. A special HUGE thanks to those of you who have encouraged us by leaving comments and observations, it’s so nice to know that at least SOME people are out there reading up on us (though of course being the artists that we are we don’t blog for that reason – we’re artists dammit!).

On that note we’d like to say thanks. Thanks so much for putting up with us, reading along with us, chiming in to let us know you’re there. We’re looking forward to getting home and catching up with you all again.

So until we see you all again in the flesh, farewell, and thanks for tagging along with us, it’s meant the world to us... well... maybe thats overstating it... it’s meant the United States to us.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

We will find you acting on your best behaviour...

It’s not like we didn’t know it was coming... it’s not like it snuck up on us in the night or just dropped out of the blue. Still, it’s strange how you suddenly find yourself at the airport, bags in hand, shoes on the floor from the security scan, boarding passes lost, hopefully somewhere in a pocket or bag or kids shoe. Its madness, its chaotic, it’s just a terrible way to punctuate the end of era – it’d be so much nicer if you could just do it twice at the beginning of a holiday and then never do it again – just mosey on home as easy as you please with no stress, just pleasant memories...

Still, it IS an adventure, it’s exciting in a way I suppose, in an “I hope I don’t say something stupid and get hauled off to Guantanamo“ kind of way. It’s strange how the only time you REALLY think about saying something totally inappropriate is when it’ll get you in BIG trouble, like at a wedding, a funeral, a birth, or worse... when there’s the possibility of a rectal exam involved...

I thought our last few days in the continental US would be spent like a man raging against the end of the day, flailing about in an energetic frenzy trying to cram as much in as possible... thankfully San Francisco is such an easy place to wind down in that we didn’t need to... it’s relaxing and rewarding and invigorating all at once... We took tea and dim sum in Chinatown... we tried shopping again in Union Square – but we’re still hopeless shoppers. We did the Alcatraz thing and visited the island. I thought it would be hopelessly touristy – but it’s a great visit... and the Audio tour as you walk through the old cell block is amazing; informative, moving, nostalgic, exciting and violent (shrapnel marks in the concrete from grenades used by Marines in the Battle of Alcatraz...)all in the right doses... The sun was out, the air crisp, the breeze light and refreshing.

On our last day we biked along the north shore towards the bridge and watched kites and windsurfers on the Bay. As evening fell we rode the cable car up the hill, past closed bakeries waiting for the early morning rush, past cozy front rooms, inviting lobbies, past corner groceries and small parks to a little pizza joint called Za and the BEST pizza we’d had in the states. I should have called this 'The Pizza Blog' as I’ve realized there’s more variety in pizza styles than hot dog styles and I actually enjoy pizza more – for shame!

After a great meal, we rode the cable car back down the hill, past views of distant lights, the fairly light strings of the bay bridge spanning the still quiet bay, views of lovely Coit tower and, with the wonderful smell of the smoking wooden brakes of the trolley... and that's it. And as they say in Madeline - There isn’t any more. Three months on the mainland was over just like that... except for the wonderful thrill of the airport run early the next morning.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Libby's last blog...

After leaving our ‘Home Sweet Home’ in the hills of the gold country we wind our way down towards the place where our 12 week, 10500 mile loop will be completed. Before we get there though, we have two days for a final Californian adventure. We explore sunny Sacramento where the highlight is paddling at a popular beach on the river hoping not to be an eye witness to some horrible accident. It is noisy, crazy and exciting. I guess being a 105F Saturday afternoon everyone and their dog/boat/jetski/beer/recklessness is drawn to the water. The best part of the city for the girls however was Fairytale Town.

We then zoomed our way to the coast, yet again, to peaceful Point Reyes. Here we were able to walk our way over the headland to a lighthouse which boasts its original ‘first order’ Fresnel lens. John Carpenter’s ‘The Fog’, one of the first scary movies I watched when I was younger, features this same lighthouse. Being here was far removed from seeing those dark images with the fresh sea air, sound of seals playing and the sea sparkling delighting our senses. I tried to contemplate what it must have been like in the past for those lighthouse keepers coping with such isolation and monotony...I couldn’t... so I just joined Lucy singing with the amazing acoustics in the solid buildings.

From there we made for our final chance to use our National Parks Access Pass. We wanted to hug the majestic Californian Redwoods one last time. At Muir Woods we sucked it all in, that longed for atmosphere we came from the other side of the world for. I was slow to walk out, dragging my hands along the thick ripples of bark on the trunks, keeping my eyes off the path for a possible last sighting of American wildlife.

Not long after, we approached Golden Gate Bridge. Our loop was completed. I thought about my past self and was briefly jealous. The last time I was here I had it all before me and now it is over – I could do it all again. I don’t want to replace the last few months of my life though. I’ve had an incredibly special time that I will have the memories of for the rest of my life. What bliss!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Hi there!

Things are starting to wind down here... In the last few days it’s become apparent that, while we came here for Summer, Summer doesn’t last forever.

The sun hangs in the sky with none of the menace it showed during those dog days when we would swelter our way across the deserts, watching the car’s thermometer show 110 on the clock... like the true artist she is Autumn is starting to weave her magic. Its still warm but the evenings grow cooler, there’s a chill in the morning and the unmistakable scent of fallen leaves and cut grass fills the air, flowing down from the wooded hills like water, pooling in the cool shadows. Its beautiful, but a reminder that we’re almost into the winter of our holiday too... we can count the days until we leave easily now, unlike when we started and they were just uncountable and it was unimaginable that we’d ever actually return home!

Yosemite was our last National Park – and while not my favourite – it was an amazing reminder of just how bloody grand this country can be, just what a show it can put on when it wants to. From the exit at about 10000 feet we slide back down the eastern slopes of the sierras, we can see the deserts again in the distance. Its much drier over this side of the mountains, and sagebrush creeps across the rolling hills to the horizon. As the sun begins to set we pass the old ghost town of Bodie, lonesome in the glow of magic hour, the wind whistling through its empty streets and the tall grass and abandoned mines...

We stop for the night in a small town called Bridgeport – theres not much to it – but the motel is nice, the girls play on the grass amongst the fallen leaves and in the morning we find an excellent park to play in. The girls play hide and seek with us and then Lib and I try the local breakfast burrito with salsa verde (lovely!) and a cup of great coffee. We cross back into Nevada and explore the state capitol of Carson City – Mark twain worked here for a time, and in nearby Virginia city – honing his writing skills, its a nice stop, and I pretended to filibuster with the girls in the old assembly rooms of the Capitol building.

Lake Tahoe is next and a strange hotel RIGHT on the boarder with California – so of course its a casino – but a great big bustling one in the middle of, well, not much else... and mid-week it was as dead as a doornail – gambling is in NO WAY glamorous... the only people here were haggard looking stained t-shirt wearing slot jockeys hoping for that big break that will never come as they suck on a death stick and drink watered down beer... talk about glamorous... Lake Tahoe itself is BEAUTIFUL... the most amazing clear waters, bright sunshine, interesting nooks and crannies along its coastline, great walks and wonderful beaches... and its all inland! We hire a paddle boat with a top speed of about .2 knots and chug out onto the water – we can see down a long way... and it gets even deeper (abd colder) the further out you go... its so cold they occasionally bring up perfectly preserved cowboys who met misfortune over a century ago... poor buggers. We have a lovely paddle along the shore and then head north into the gold country for one of our last stops...

Downieville and Sierra City are two tiny little towns strung out 12 miles apart on a VERY quiet highway both with a population of about 300. Its like being in another world, we’re bunked down in a small cabin about half way between the two – surrounded by pines, steep hills, glacial lakes and the sound of the river running by outside... its wonderful... The girls and I play in the river all day building stepping stone bridges, playing with dolls and making up stories... we hire a rowboat and spin hopelessly on a small lake, watching bald eagles fly overhead, and fish hide in the shadows below us. The deli in Sierra makes AMAZING sandwiches (roast beef, pickles, Swiss cheese, crispy lettuce, red onion, mayo and mustard on a sourdough roll) and we eat them on the rocks below the cabin in the sun, sipping on orange juice or lemonade while the girls eat ice cream. Its quiet and relaxing – and I can see the trees across the river dropping yellowed leaves in the afternoon breeze... they twist and turn downstream, out of sight, towards the sea...

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Yosemite National Park

Yosemite...Yosemite...Is it worth all the hype Jue wonders. It certainly wasn’t back mid-year ’88 when there was so much hype and overcrowding that my parents and I were turned away at the gate. “How on earth can that happen? How can people who have travelled across the globe be turned away from a national park? Can’t we just have a peek?” Thankfully in recent years Mum and Dad finally returned and were welcomed in with such open arms that they now have a mug, a very often used and loved mug, to remember the joyful occasion. Now it is my turn. A turn only granted to me by the sheer dedication of my beloved Scarlett Johansson loving husband. It was midnight when he was sitting at the computer with sweaty palms, not for the above reason....hopefully, but for the 5 month advance release of Yosemite Valley campsites. His computer gamer quick hands made their deadly moves knocking out other contenders for North Pines... NO! Booked, booked, ALL BOOKED! “QUICK GO FOR LOWER PINES.” “NOOOOOOOOO!!!! ALL BOOKED!!!!! “GO FOR UPPER PINES! HURRY, HURRY.” Finally a massive release of tense breath. Site 67 Upper Pines campground was ours. He did it. He got me in.

Yosemite was worth all that hype. And it is for others too. This is a place where people come to get engaged, married and bring back their families year after year and spend several days rock climbing the SAME wall. I stood at the edge of Glacier Viewpoint and smiled. After everything we had already seen, not just here in the States but in all our travels, this was new. Like I did at all the great vistas we’d been to in the past months, I thought of those millions of years that took to make such a place, marvelled at its creation, and swelled with pride that its creator knows and loves me.

Yosemite was the grand finale of our time camping and visiting USA National Parks. As we packed up our lovely tent/home, carefully to avoid problems with customs, we thought of the places it had been and dreamed of the places it was yet to go. Jue drove out of the park entrance and I stared at the little wooden hut where the rangers guard the road. I couldn’t take my eyes off it, like the way you might not take your eye off a plane your loved one is leaving in. I kept looking at it till I could see it no more. Then I cried.