Sunday, August 26, 2007

Home Again

Well, we made it home, flew home from San Francisco. The last day was pretty hectic, had to sell off the last of our stuff, gave a lot away, threw away too much for my liking - seemed like such a waste to me! Then we were boxing up the bikes, and getting the car organized to come back on the back of the truck. We were running a little late and the traffic was bad, so we were getting a little stressed. Ended up dropping Laurie and all of our bags off at the airport, and Alice, Julian and I went with David to drop the car off 15 miles away. The car yard people were great, but it took a lot longer than expected, and after an hour we were getting increasingly anxious calls from Laurie, who eventually sat with our bags for three hours. What a great kid!

Flight from San Fran took ages - we left at 10:45pm, and the flight was pretty uneventful. Unexpectedly, Julian traveled really well, and actually slept. Great for us in many ways, apart from the discomfort of perching on the 6 inches at the front of the seats that he left Alice and I. Laurie sat up all night watching movies and playing games, Alice slept a little but not much - Julian kicked her every time he rolled over. David and I dozed - sometimes!

As we got near JFK however, there was a summer fog, and the airport was closed. We circled for about an hour, then had to head off to Connecticut to refuel. Sat on the runway there for an hour or two, the crew passed out water and granola bars (first food for 10 hours!) then headed back to New York.

Anyway, great to sleep in our own beds last night, met two families who have moved into our street while we were away. Today we spent the time checking emails, doing some shopping (we are car-less for the next week or so) and catching up on unpacking, mail, and laundry. Emails from work, mail from the kids schools, and bills to pay, so reality is intruding at a rapid pace.

Thanks to all the people who have responded to our blog and kept in touch. Look forward to seeing all you Aussies in January. And all you yanks, we have a spare room in our house and lots of room in our hearts to see you when you come to visit

The Vealygoods!

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Six Degrees of Separation

Have run into a number of Aussies, including a couple from Ulladulla who have like a time share in an RV, and come over to the states every year, traveling around for about 8 weeks each time. Sounds like a great life! Another couple we met are on a round the world trip, and will be visiting us in New York next week as they pass through on the way to Europe.

We decided to head for Lake Tahoe, because it was only 4 hours out of our way, and we had been told it was beautiful. The KOA there is very pretty and was not affected by the fires which came through here a week or two ago. We got to talking to some English folk who parked their RV next to our tent, and found out they were from Sutton Coldfield in England, which is where my dad was born and grew up, and that the husband went to Bishop Vesey’s, which is Dad’s old school. Talk about a small world!


Yosemite was a bit of a disappointment – the beautiful waterfalls were not falling, as the rivers were too dry, and the water table is so low at the moment. The Village struck us as over the top – for a national park, there was an awful lot of commercial activity. But we found a beautiful swimming spot under the “Swinging bridge” were the kids had a great time in water that was close to freezing, and we ate lunch under the trees with all the squirrels – these ones had little white ruffs around their necks, very cute.

David had a good old chinwag with all the other fathers on the bridge while I supervised the kids in the water, and when we got together again told me he had gained directions to two sequoia groves on the road back towards our camp. So we dried the kids off, thawed them out, and headed off again.

We walked about a mile down a well defined track – Alice was very entertaining, counting steps, and marking off every 100 steps, then cheerfully informing those walking towards us “Only 365 steps to the car park!” Kept her occupied, and engaged in the walk.

When we got to the sequoia trees, they were AMAZING! So BIG, and beautiful. One had a tunnel carved through it, and people had carved their names on it, including dates that dated back to 1905. Of course, carving a bloody big tunnel through the middle of a tree had a detrimental affect on its health - the poor tree had died. Actually there were quite a few dead trees in the grove, but I guess with them being so old that is to be expected. We followed a trail with signs explaining various parts of the tree’s life cycle, and explaining the history of some of the downed trees – there was one which had fallen after a blizzard in 1985, which was hollowed out by a series of fires over its lifetime, eventually died, then remained standing for almost 100 years. When it fell, it remained essentially intact – the kids could walk on it, and climb in through the base, and walk (well, crawl really) almost the entire length. They were buzzed! But really, these trees are great. I hope they manage to preserve the groves, and that they continue to propagate and self seed.

Oh, and the way back? Well, Alice discovered that her downhill steps (down to the sequoias) were a little bit longer than her uphill steps (back to the car) and that some things are more effective as markers than others. She and Laurie happily walked the mile back to the car, finding all the markers, and counting steps all the way. Good day!

A week too far?

Did I mention we have had a few crises of late, seems someone is trying to tell us it is time to go home!

First, we had problems with the brakes in Arizona, coming down from the north rim of the Grand Canyon, down to the Colorado river, meaning we had to cut our Grand Canyon experience short by two days (but that got us to Las Vegas).

Then we started having trouble with the zips on our tent; they just don’t seem to mesh together anymore. So one door is totally out of commission, and the other has a safety pin in it, and we have to climb in over the broken part. Now we are rethinking the thing about bringing the tent back with us.

David backed into a pole in South Dakota, and a fire hydrant in Yosemite, so there are a couple of extra impressions in the car, that weren’t part of the original design.

Sunset Beach was a good one too – we set the tent up, then started off into town, without checking whether we had done the top box up. Just before we got on the freeway, we thought to check – of course it was open. Did a quick check, didn’t seem to be anything missing, but when we went to pack up the tent, we could not find the bag for the tent! Went back over our tracks, but too late, I think someone has a lovely North Face bag to go away with next time they are traveling.

And now, to top it off, despite being in beautiful Lake Tahoe (another unplanned stop, but we were close…) we have spent most of the day waiting for new tyres to be fitted on our car – we blew a tyre driving up to see this pretty little lake near Lake Tahoe itself. And when they were fitting the tires, they discovered the park brake was not releasing, so our back brake drums were worn – not enough to be a problem, but geeze! And THEN, while they were parking the car, (which had the tandem on it) they “forgot” that the tandem was on it, and drove under the under-cover car park, and took the back seat off the tandem, so we had to get that replaced as well!
Maybe we have been traveling a week too far?

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Disney Land

David took Laurie and Alice to Universal Studios while we were in LA – paid extra and did the VIP tour, got to see lots o interesting things on the back-lots, went into the props rooms, onto the sound stage, and saw various shows being taped. They had to leave by 8 and fight LA traffic so they got there by 11, and would not be home before 10 that night. So what else would a girl do, left alone in a RV park only 4 blocks from Disneyland, with an autistic child for company?

So Julian and I went to Disneyland on the tandem. Parked it in the bike rack at the entrance, bought our tickets from the guest services window, and went to City Hall to get our Special Guest Pass, which meant we could go through the exit for a number of attractions and rides, and not have to wait in line too much.

I had purposely done a few chores before taking him, knowing it was going to be a long day and that he may only have a few hours in him at Disney, and that I could be in trouble with him when we got home. So it was about 11 when we arrived, not too many people around still. First problem – finding a bathroom where I could take him – there was only one in the whole park which was not “male’ or “female”. We had to go to the first aide station where we could use the “family” bathroom. The women there were fabulous – very tolerant of Julian even when on our third visit he got a bit excited at the sight of the clock on the wall, and ran through the “ward” of resting folk bouncing his ball and squealing to get to it. They gave him candy and water, and welcomed us back the fourth and fifth time (of course, once he got candy for going to the bathroom, he was very keen to go back – often!)

Julian has never really clicked into Disney, but he sure clicked into DisneyLand! Movement, music, lights, colors, and because I was hoping to stay as long as possible, lots of treats, like the Doritos he is not allowed to have anymore because he makes such a mess with them. He took a liking to a couple of rides – like the monorail, the train, and the sky rocket thing, but did not like the roller coaster even though he asked to go on it twice. Hated it the first time and refused to get on it the second time.

End of the day, he did not want to go home – but at 8 we mounted our bike, and headed through the Maccas drive-through for dinner – then back to camp. Big crash in bed for both of us – and all tired the next day.

Highway 1 to Sunset Beach

Drove up Highway 1 from Morro Bay to Santa Cruz yesterday. Spectacular views of the Pacific, some literally under our wheels! The building of this highway was a huge engineering feat – in some places they have had to build bridges over gorges cutting way into the cliffs. Beautiful surf beaches, some of them completely deserted, due to the lack of accessibility. In other places, people were camped right on the beaches – seeing as we were booked into a State Beach Park that night we were a bit concerned about that. However when we arrived, Sunset Beach was a fair walking distance from our campground. It was freezing cold though – a week ago we were in Nevada and it was 116 when we arrived – last night as we were setting up it was in the low 60’s (below 20 for the metricated amongst us). So we were all digging into the travel bag with the thermals, jackets and hats in it, and searching for long pants and shoes and socks for the first time in 7 weeks. A bit of a shock to be out of our sandals.

A day in Santa Cruz today – a pretty little town with a boardwalk along the coast – which we avoided like the plague. After a day at Universal and Disney we are a bit roller-coasted out, and we headed to some other grease pit for lunch. Spent some time looking for a place to discard Laurie’s bike – he did one too many jumps on it, and the derailer got stuck in the back wheel, causing both to come adrift. But Santa Cruz has a place called the Bike Church, where old bikes get reconditioned and passed onto less fortunate people, so Laurie’s bike (or parts of it) will end its days cruising the streets of Santa Cruz. I don’t know what he is going to ride for the next two weeks – I guess we can hire him a bike in Yosemite and San Francisco, but it sort of simplifies things for our final stop over.

The other thing we planned to do here has also not come to fruition – we were planning to hire surf boards for the kids and go surfing off the coast here, but there is a hurricane in Maui at the moment, and the surf here is a complete no-go. Flat as a pancake – very little wind, and glassy. Not likely to improve until the tail end of the hurricane hits them here in a few days; unfortunately we can’t wait that long. They will just have to wait until we get back to Aus, and hire boards in Ocean Grove.

So traveling again tomorrow – Julian has been very unsettled here in Sunset Beach, so we will be pleased to be on our way again. Only two (maybe three – depends if we follow our plan B and go to Tahoe) more set ups and we will be headed back to New York. Mind you, we are enjoying the benefits of being in Southern California’s market garden area – buying freshly picked fruit at the side of the road each night, and scoffing it for dinner and breakfast. Will miss that. But it will be nice to have our own shower again, and our own washing machine – tired of Laundromats!

Next stop – Yosemite…

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Morro Bay

A quick one from Morro Bay, north of LA - sitting in a car park, just had lunch at the "Fish, Steak and Grog" restaurant overlooking the harbor, entertained by seals and fishermen. LA was great, David took Alice and Laurie to Universal Studios, while I took J to Disneyland, all had a great time. Limited time here - stealing WiFi from someone, so will keep it short. Next stop Santa Cruz, then Yosemite and San Fran - cannot beleive it is almost over. Will catch you soon - the Vealygood WiFi theives

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Catching up

Haven't posted for a while, in case you were wondering we are still on the road, just that our roads have not passed through Internet country for a while.

After white water rafting in Moab, we had a day at Arches National Park, then headed for the Grand Canyon. We had the pleasure of viewing it from both the northern, and the southern side, and David and I got up one morning and saw the sun rise over the northern side - I think I remember reading that doing that is one of the things one should do before one dies, but as there are still a few more on our list, don't go writing us off yet.

Driving from the North to the South, one has to descend from 9,000 odd feet down to the Colorado River, then up again. As we went, David was concerned that the brakes were spongy, and by the time we got back up to the southern side, he was pretty worried. So we cut our stay in the Grand Canyon short (well, by this stage, Laurie was starting to call it the Big Hole, so full appreciation was being lost), and trotted across to Flagstaff Arizona to get them fixed. Of course, now we were a couple of days ahead of schedule, so to fill the time, we decided to go to Las Vegas.

Driving to Vegas from Flagstaff, we went up further into the mountains, and then descended to the desert. Drove over the Hoover Dam - very impressive. It got hotter. And hotter. We arrived in Vegas at about 7:30, by which time it had cooled to 46 Celsius (about 114 F). We drove around a fair bit, looking for a campground - checked out the phone book, and found one that had tents - all the rest had RV's but no tents. This one though was a complete dived - by this stage it was getting on for 9:30, still hot. So we headed out to Lake Meade, about 20 miles out of town, and set up in the dark. It was still 45 degrees. Sent the kids to bed, and tried to get them to sleep. Not surprisingly, they were complaining that they were hot! Next morning, woke up about 6:30, it was already 37 (close to 98). So it didn't cool down much - I thought it was supposed to cool down in the desert! Anyway, there were no showers at this state park we stayed at, but 8 miles down the road, we could have a shower - for $5 a head. Well, that was enough for us - we went and booked into a hotel!

Circus Circus is a "family oriented" hotel at the northern end of the Strip, in Vegas. It is huge - so big that it has its own rollercoaster, and amusement park, and circus acts running every 15 minutes from 11am to midnight. This in itself was enough to keep the kids amused, so we swam, showered, circused, and went for a walk to Hard Rock Cafe. A mile later, in the heat, we downed three quick beers, and had a meal. Then walked back to the strip, and caught the bus back to the hotel. Next morning, David and I went for a walk around the hotel, while we waited for the kids to wake up. No gambling, although we could have, and we also could have enjoyed a cocktail or two and two beers for the price of one. Why would you leave the hotel?

So now we are in LA - once again, very few tenting campgrounds, mostly RV's - David is just home from gathering food at the supermarket, and time to cook dinner, so will have to fill you in on LA at a later date.

Cheers - the Vealygoods