Tag Archives: road trip

Hawaiian Road Trip, 2014

My bestie’s sister Janeen was tour organiser extraordinaire and had many activities planned for us all while were in Hawaii for my bestie’s wedding. A girl after my own heart, she wanted to see as much of the big island as she could, so I was happy to tag along with the family and other assorted American and Australian wedding guests.

On my first day we headed straight to Kona Brewing Company for a morning beer tasting. In Kona town we checked out Mokuaikaua Church, Hulihe’e Palace and the harbour. We also found pearls in oysters at a local jewellery shop and some cocktails in a bar with a sea view. For lunch, we went to for a real soft shell taco Mexican lunch- very tasty.

The next day, a van of 11 of us went on a road trip to Umauma Falls to go zip lining. I was excited for the road trip and the opportunity to see more of the island, but not so much the zip lining. While everyone was busy doing flips as they zipped along I was apparently gripping onto my line “like a koala bear.”

The green countryside, the river and the waterfalls were beautiful though, and worth my discomfort. I also enjoyed the less adrenalin pumping activity of walking across a suspension bridge to a viewpoint of the falls.

On the way back we stopped at Akaka Falls State Park for a pleasant stroll through the forest to one of the highest waterfalls in the world- Akaka Falls- that drops into a crater.

Back in the van, we drove on the Saddle Road from Hilo through the middle of the island in volcanic fog- a gentle reminder that we were living on an island with an active volcano. I had seen some amazing pictures of lava flowing into the sea at an art gallery in town and wish that I had more time to travel over to the other side of the island to see that.

We stopped an the infamous Fish & Hog café for dinner which had great American diner style food, including the biggest slice of lemon meringue pie I have ever seen in my life.

The day before the wedding Janeen and I donned our custom made bridesmaid t-shirts and took the bride for a manicure and pedicure in her matching bride t-shirt. In an impromptu hen’s night, we decided to go to the luau at King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel for a dinner and show with my bestie’s cousin Lyle as the honorary male bodyguard.

We got seashell necklaces, tried to dance the hula and twirl balls on string. Dinner was a traditional pig dug out if the underground oven and as much punch as you could drink. The show started with the shell trumpeter of the royal procession and there were dances from all the islands of the South Pacific including fire dancers. On the way back to the car we met a man with a macaw.

Related posts: Solo trip to Hawaii, 2014, USA, 1990, It’s a South Pacific Thing

Queenstown to Fox Glacier, 2012

Our first trip with our daughter was to New Zealand when she was 3 months old. I had not left the Sydney suburb in that we lived in since she was born, so I was thrust out of my comfort zone to take the trip, which was very much needed.

My parents were joining my husband, daughter and I on the trip as it was over the Christmas/New Year period and the aim was to reach my aunts place in Wellington for Christmas Day. We had rented two Jucy vans for the driving trip around the South Island and planned to stop at various holiday parks along the way.

Landing in Queenstown, a well-known skiing destination for Aussies who tired of the unpredictable snow in Thredbo, we checked into the holiday park under Bob’s Peak and headed straight for the Skyline cable car to the top.

The view of Queenstown Bay and Lake Wakatipu from the peak was fantastic. We could even see the snow capped Remarkables and our bright green and purple van in the holiday park. We stopped for a baby rest stop at the café at the top and took a tasty local ginger beer with the view.

That night, we went into town for dinner at a great Mexican restaurant. Being a little ski town, Queenstown reminded me of Whistler in Canada.

The next morning, the drive to Lake Wanaka was one of the most beautiful drives of the trip. Driving between the two lakes of Wanaka and Hawea was simply gorgeous and we stopped briefly at the flat Lake Wanaka.

Regular baby feeding led to frequent scenic stops to take in the sights, which was a good thing as it forced us to slow down and appreciate the countryside we were driving through.

We got a tip from a van of German blokes to see the Blue Pools, so we stopped for a midday Baby Bjorn walk in the forest over suspension bridges to pools that really were very blue.

We stayed a couple of nights in the very tiny one pub town of Fox Glacier for an enforced rest day in a very comfy holiday park with a large living area and kitchen for the playing of cards and cooking. The rain had prevented us from seeing the glacier on our first day, but it had been nice to take a break from driving anyway.

We went to the pub for dinner for a change of scenery and my dad’s short order cooking cuisine of garlic and chilli. The next day, it was still raining, but we figured we had come this far, so braved the rain in pairs to walk to see the glacier anyway, leaving my daughter behind in the car.

On the drive up to the glacier, I was amazed by how much the glacier had receded in the last 30, and even 10 years. We passed a few flowing waterfalls on the walk up and it was a lot dirtier and rockier than I thought it would be. It was very foggy at the glacier itself, so much so that I had condensation spots on my camera.

Related posts: Australia vs New Zealand, New Zealand, 2004, The New Amazing Race Australia

It’s an American Thing

My favorite city in America is San Francisco with its Golden Gate Bridge. I can image myself living in one of the city’s terraces on a steep hill. A New York loft in Soho comes in a close second, just a short subway ride from Central Park.

And then there is Las Vegas, where you can see the whole world in one place, San Diego where you can see all the animals in the whole world in one place and Los Angeles where you can see all the stars in the whole world in one place.

One of my favorite trips in America was a Californian road trip along Route 66 and Big Sur- seeing the natural beauty of Joshua Tree National Park and the Grand Canyon plus the man made mansion Hearst Castle along the way. California just has so much to offer. There are ghost towns in the desert, seals on the coast and redwoods in Yosemite.

My bestie is from the tiny town of Stuart, Nebraska- a four-hour drive through cornfields from Omaha. I was lucky enough to be included in their annual 4th July celebrations and it was really something special to be welcomed as one of the family.

Of course, my love affair with American culture started early on with Snow White and a trip to Disneyland. I always wondered what it would be like to go to a real American high school like in Buffy, or a real American college like in Beverly Hills 90210 or go to a football game with real American cheerleaders like in Hellcats.

Anne Rice and Twilight peaked my interest in visiting the Deep South and Washington State. The Vampire Diaries and The Originals have made me want to visit Georgia and New Orleans. Gilmore Girls makes me want to go to New England and let’s not forget Sex and the City for New York inspiration, cosmopolitan style.

Which brings me to shopping of course. You can get anything you want at ridiculously low prices compared to Australia, which probably explains why most of us shop online these days.

There is the tasty simplicity of the classic American diner, the best Mexican food and margarita’s outside of Mexico and buffalo ribs smoked the right way. If you have room for desert, there is jello pie, smores and Twizzlers.

The country is so varied, that I can see why you may never want to leave. If you want mountains, you can go to Colorado, if you want water parks, you go to Florida, if you want a history lesson, you go to Washington DC.

I would love to visit a plantation in Louisiana, party for a night in Miami and drift up the coast of Oregon. It would be great to stay in a Boston brownstone, a Chicago skyscraper or a Hampton’s mansion.

The people are friendly, welcoming and enthusiastic about their country. Yes, America has a bit of something for everyone, and I guess that’s what makes the country so great in the first place.

Related posts: It’s a Canadian Thing, San Francisco, 2007- Part 1: Falling in love again, Las Vegas, 2007, USA Road tip, 2007Disneyland, 2007, Los Angeles, 2007New York, 2005, Part 2: Sex and the City Style, TV replays and movie marathons, USA, 1990

USA Road trip, 2007: Part 2

I’d only heard of the town of Barstow in a Sheryl Crow song, so was surprised to find that it was a town of bail bondsman and cheap motels. Even the local gas station attendant didn’t know where the centre of town was! I guess it was a song about Leaving Las Vegas; and Las Vegas it most definitely was not. We found a deserted cheap Mexican restaurant, had a huge burrito and retired early.

The next day, my husband-to-be (HTB) and I drove through the Napa Valley, clearly in the off season as none of the vineyards were open for business. We bunny hopped up Big Sur in a storm to avoid possible falling rocks and got the most crazy brooding photo of Point Sur.  I braved the weather to see a beach full of Elephant seals and stop at Pigeon Point Lighthouse.

Hearst Castle was my absolute favourite part of the road trip. We saw zebra’s grazing on our approach to the mansion, had a hot cup of seafood chowder and took the first timers tour out of the 6 different ones that are offered.

Starting at the gorgeous blue Neptune pool on the terrace, the guide took us to Casa del Mar guest house where I was quite taken with a painting of French princess. The Casa Grande (main house) was decorated for Christmas with a tree made entirely of red Poinsettia plants in the main hall. We continued on through the refectory, the dining room and the after dinner room. There was a private cinema and the indoor Roman pool which I wanted for my own.

Our stop that night was in Monterrey Bay where we saw sea lions and otters from the pier. It was a place I wished we had stayed longer on our trip.

We went to Santa Cruz, but it was the one week of the year that the boardwalk was closed. Instead we saw classic blue lifeguard towers, spotted fur seals and envied at the nice houses on Pacific Ave at Beach Hill. Dinner was at a restaurant on fisherman’s wharf from where we watched the sunset over Cowell beach.

Our last stop before hitting San Francisco was the Big Basin Redwoods State Park. We went to Redwood circle, Old circle, Chimney tree and Redwood burl. The tall trees, like the father and mother of the forest, reminded me of Yosemite and the squirrels looked quite at home here.

Related posts: Grand Canyon, 2007, Las Vegas, 2007, USA Road trip, 2007, Disneyland, 2007, Los Angeles, 2007, USA, 1990

USA Road trip, 2007

Who doesn’t love a road trip?

As my husband-to- be (HTB) and I rolled out of Anaheim in our hire car, we were about to embark on my favourite road trip to date.

We coasted along the Californian highway beside flat plains with white windmills surrounded by mountains.

Our aim for today was to visit Joshua Tree National Park. We stopped at a small information centre along the way to make sure we were going the right way. They were very friendly and helpful and we were able to find the entry gates to the park very easily after that.

At Key’s View it was actually snowing and we rugged up as we took in the sight of the Coachella Valley. We saw Pinto Mountain, Cap Rock and Skull Rock, which actually looked like a skull. There were also some very brave rock climbers in Hidden Valley.

There were many Joshua Trees of course and lots of varieties of cactus in the Cholla Cactus Garden, where we also spotted a coyote with her cubs.

Near sunset, we made it to Indian Cove and the fading light produced pretty colours on the surrounding rocks.

We stayed the night in a motel at Twenty Nine Palms. For dinner, we went to the local BBQ restaurant where I had the biggest jacket potato I have seen in my life and my HTB ordered half a rack of ribs which sure looked like half a cow. We couldn’t believe it when a man from a new army base came in and ordered two racks just for himself.

The next day we hit the famous Route 66 heading to Las Vegas. We were very excited to be on such an iconic road. This part was basically just two straight roads in the middle of nowhere with no petrol stations, so we were very surprised to see a man walking along the road with two shopping bags about halfway through the journey. Where did he shop when there were no shops to be seen? And where was he going?

We passed Bristol Dry Lake, Amboy Crater and crossed the Nevada Border.

Next stop Vegas Baby!

Related posts: Disneyland, 2007, Los Angeles, 2007, USA, 1990

Snowdon- an adventure, Part 1

This week’s guest post is from my cousin’s TW and Sean Mendis.

The story will unfold in three parts.

Outward Bound

The day for the long awaited trip to Snowdonia finally arrived. The Three Twenty Eight was fueled and ready. The oil had been checked and the tyres pumped. The ECM had been stroked lovingly and the injectors had received their French kiss. All nipples were greased and the flaps were set to thirty degrees!

We left Ennerdale at around two pm into glorious spring sunshine, Sean and I settling in comfortably to ‘The Eagles’. Mira had met us earlier in the day and had eased into the less than generous rear seat. The car was fairly laden and the rear suspension groaned in acknowledgement! I was glad for the extra horses I had got as a result of tuning the engine, but still, the Beemer pulled well and we soon forgot the extra weight.

We met up with Laila, Felicia and Michaela en route on the A40. They were also in a BMW, also laden to the gunnels. It was a mixed group: young and old, slim and not so slim, from a variety of ethnic backgrounds – I think we covered the entire spectrum. For in those two BMW’s charging up the motorway was a microcosm of life itself. We pitted at Warwick services near junction twelve for a welcome break. A splash and dash – a skinny latte, samosa and some fuel.

Two or so hours later, and past Shrewsbury, the roads beckoned. Despite outward appearances of not really caring, there was a lot of not-so-hidden competitiveness between the two cars and their owners. The red mist slowly descended over Laila as she tried to assert her dominance over the driving, her car and impress Felicia. I could see her banging the gear lever into third, her eyes wild and fingers tingling on the wheel as she tried to keep up with my ageing but well maintained Three Two Eight. Her newer Three Two Five was quick, being supercharged by girl power.

Not being averse to childish pettiness, I too kept up the pressure, dropping the cogs and burying my right foot deep into the carpet. The motor obliged with only a slight pause before squatting purposefully onto its haunches and taking off like a wounded Cheetah. The Bavarian banshee was now emitting a deep guttural roar making the straight six sing and leaving the double Vanos chattering madly like a bunch of demented Welshman practicing close-harmony singing. I had no issues; I just wanted to win, plain and simple. I could imagine that Mira’s partly digested lunch was now in danger of re acquainting itself with her tonsils. The hard cornering, late braking and sudden acceleration that now was happening was taking its toll on her. Fearful of being either splattered, or an imminent and potentially very nasty brown moment on the Nappa leather seats, or possibly both I had to make a decision – fast. Given the options, we slowed to a more sedate pace giving Mira’s lunch and her frayed nerves a chance to calm. Although she said nothing she was grateful for the reprieve. The corners sighed “Araf” and the passengers sighed enough. Thence we ambled to our destination, Laila and I showing remarkable reserve in the face of inviting and beautifully tar macadam’d roads.

Evening Arrival

We finally arrived at our destination at dusk. Bryn Eglwys touts itself as a country hotel nestling in “one of the most enviable locations in the Snowdonia national park”. For the grandiose hyperbole you get a room at fifty quid a throw or more, and a mediocre breakfast – expensive for what is essentially a B&B.

The garrulous hostess, Lyn Lambert wasn’t there, perhaps fortunately. I had spoken to her some days before on the telephone, at some length, and after a few minutes of chat she “went into one” like I was an old friend. I had a dream of how the eventual meeting with her might have gone if we had met up………

“Hello, you must be the…”

“Yes I am Mrs. Lambert and I am the owner of the hotel. I hope your stay will be a pleasant one. I think we have the weather for it you know” she said cutting me off in mid sentence and with what I detected was a slight nod – the kind of nod that says “you’re going to get an extra herb sausage if you don’t watch out young man”. Or may be I was just reading too much into it.

I wasn’t averse to subtle innuendo myself, so I gave her one. “Will it be the full Monte breakfast tomorrow then Mrs. Jones…in bed…with some Welsh Rarebit…and the extra stuffed, herb crust sausage”?

“Oh anything you desire boys” she said in a wanton manner.

This was getting close to the bone and we had hardly passed the welcome mat. I decided I should not venture down this route of double entendre any further, so I whipped it out!

I snapped out of the dream and back to reality at hand. Her husband Kevin greeted us with pleasantries and answered all our requests patiently and with a dry sense of humor. He had the air of a military man, someone used to taking charge.

The Saracens Head

Having showered we met in the lobby and walked to the Saracens Head public House where we met Kevin and Sue who had both taken the day off and had made the trip up at a more leisurely pace.

We got a table quite late and we were all ravenous. The waiter was a young boy of no more than sixteen and appeared to have just started doing the job. Ordering the food was a protracted and drawn out affair, particularly for the vegetarians – Sean and Mira. They interrogated the waiter like a petty felon, although I hadn’t decided who was playing the good cop/bad cop part. “Was there garlic in the food, were the carrots organic and was the cabbage uprooted without suffering?” Dealing with a bunch of fussy Londoners was not what he was used to, particularly project managers. He had taken lessons from the Fawlty Towers school of waiting and was shaping up as a perfect Manuel.

Karen, the last of our party arrived in time for dessert and was very chatty. I guessed she was full of eagerness and possibly over-tiredness from the long, solitary trip up.

“Was their any Danish Blue?” she inquired,  expecting the answer “no”.

“Well we have some lovely Edam Miss” the waiter said, rather apologetically.

“No that’s fine, just some coffee please then” said Karen. ]

On the way back to the hotel we were accosted by an inebriated welsh choir on their way home and practicing their close harmony singing and sheep shagging techniques. “Men of Harlech tar tar tumpum…”, they roared. There was a booming baritone, a terrifying tenor and a squeaky ginger beer at the back who minced around with what I imagined was a nasty case of knob rot from a recent lost weekend.

Stay tuned next week for Part 2.