Monday, June 28, 2010

Mr and Mrs Swan

Mr and Mrs Swan again
Originally uploaded by jsarcadia

Met Diane today

I've known Diane for a few years now on the internet, Shirl has known her for much longer. So today we drove over to Holly, a town near Flint, Michigan, and actually met the lady. Cool dude she is.
There's a lot of stuff going on that Diane has to deal with and, gee, I admire her positive attitude and down to earthiness. There's a lady with her head screwed on the right way!
Glad to have met you Diane, shine on! :)

Currently sitting in Barnes and Noble using their free wifi. Finally got some pics uploaded to flickr - been trying for three days and it was driving me nutso! I've got so many photos already, it's hard to choose what to post. I hope the folks at home are getting to see them.
The swan shots are my favourite pics so far. So lucky to spot them as they were mostly hidden behind a stand of small trees along a river bank.


Sunday, June 27, 2010

Main Street, Mackinaw Island

Main Street
Originally uploaded by jsarcadia

Mackinac bridge, lit up.

Mackinac bridge
Originally uploaded by jsarcadia

Mackinac Bridge

Mackinac Bridge
Originally uploaded by jsarcadia

Mackinac Bridge, from the ferry.

That bridge again
Originally uploaded by jsarcadia

The Great Lakes

Shirl took me on a tour of the Great Lakes, Wed – Sat.
We drove to Mackinac City, right up the top of the Michigan “mitten”. The main attraction there is the Mackinac Bridge, the 6th largest suspension bridge in the world. Impressive piece of engineering! It crosses the Mackinac Strait from the mainland to Mackinaw Island and is the dividing line between Lake Michigan and Lake Huron.
NB: Mackinac is the French name for the area (based I think, on the original tribe's name for the island). Mackinaw is the English version.
We had dinner in a bar and grill place on the main street – pretty nice piece of fish. I struck up a conversation with a guy who's father now lives in NSW somewhere. He also knew of an Australian who isn't Steve Irwin! (Chad somebody, a motocross rider.)
Shirl and I wandered down to the lake shore to photograph the bridge at sunset. Sunset wasn't much but I think I got one or two shots of the bridge with its lights on that aren't too bad.
Can't remember now which motel we stayed in, nor did I remember to get my bottle of Absolut out of the fridge in the morning. If that's all that goes wrong on this trip then I'm laughing.
We caught the ferry to Mackinaw Island. The ferry sailed right under the bridge and I was lucky enough to get a shot dead centre underneath. Shooting was tough as the ferry bounced around a fair bit!! The trip takes about 15 minutes.
Mackinaw island is quite amazing. There are only 3 motorised vehicles there – a fire engine, an ambulance and a cop car. All transport around the island is by foot, bicycle or horse-drawn vehicle.
The main street is one of the prettiest streets I've ever seen. It's full of tourist shops (of course), eateries and fudge shops – not much else. But it looks gorgeous.
We had lunch and then took a guided tour of the island – horse-drawn of course! Shirl was quite taken with Kevin the horse. Our guide, James, was a very personable young fella. The local population numbers about 500 and he told us how the island's school was hoping there'd be both a boy and a girl graduating this year so they could have a prom.
The island management has tried to keep the buildings, etc., as historically accurate as possible – except for a few minor details like electricity and the like. Lots and lots of interesting things to look at. The whole place is clean and bright and just a treat to wander round.
There's a fort on the hill, built by the British to defend the Straits. The “soldiers” put on a mock court-martial. Cheesy but not horrendously so. I had a look inside the old schoolroom in the fort. Primitive!
The Grand Hotel is a later addition to the island but built in a style that blends in with the rest of the island. You can't miss it though, it's huge!! Rooms start at about $350-$400 a night. Not a place for the plebs! The bridal suite will set you back $3900 a night with a minimum of one week's stay required if you want to book it. It doesn't even have a view of the lake!
Anyway, we wandered about till about 5.30 then caught the ferry back to the mainland. The wind had picked up a bit by then and it was a very bouncy ride back! Fortunately we weren't on the side that got drenched by spray. Suggestion: when it's windy, grab a seat downstairs.
From there we drove to Potoskey and stayed overnight there.
We drove down to Silver Lake, Shirl's favourite of the lakes. Along the way we stopped in at Bay Harbour, where the rich and famous play. I saw a guy driving a replica of the Batmobile around. No kidding, it looked just like the real thing. Next stop was Horton Bay, the haunt of Earnest Hemingway. The general store there is worth the visit alone. Walking inside was like stepping back into the past. Very cool. Then on to Charlevoix, another town along the coast (west side of Michigan, east side of the lake). Big beach and a red lighthouse. Shirl took me down a road in the town where there are the cutest little stone houses. Almost like Hobbit houses, or gnome homes.
From there we hit Silver Lake. A very family friendly place. The only place with a liquor licence is 3 miles out of town. No glass of wine with dinner that night! A go-kart place across the road from the motel was noisy and didn't close till 11pm. Fun for kids. We stayed at the Silver Sands motel but I wasn't impressed – too many things didn't work, especially wifi in the room.
Somewhere along the way we also managed to fit in a visit to Shirl's brother's place in East Jordan. He and his wife have just returned from a year's teaching in Ethiopia.
Shirl gave me a quick tour of the lake area – big sand dunes on one side of it. Checked out another lighthouse, the tallest in Michigan I think. Then it was time to hit the road for home as we were expected at Shirl's brother's (a different brother this time) for his daughter's open house graduation party. Met the family but will have a better chance to chat with them when they come out here tomorrow afternoon.

All in all, an excellent tour of the lakes. It's a bit like being at the ocean because the lakes are so vast. No surf though, so better for general swimming. Thanks Shirl :)

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The view from the back door

Lazy days

Shirl has to work yesterday and today so that's given me a perfect opportunity to get over the travelling from Kansas-Chicago-Lansing. It's surprising how tiring it can be just sitting around on a train doing nothing :)
Spent yesterday just lazing around the farm. Such a pretty place! Took some photos and a few are posted on flickr. Didn't see any wildlife but did discover crops other than corn haha! Soy beans - probably Monsanto GM though so they don't really count ;)
Later in the evening Shirl let me drive her car down the road. On the wrong side. The actual driving was fine but I felt a bit strange having a door on my left side and the gear shift on my right. But I didn't mess up so it's all good. Met the neighbours (the wealthy neighbours!) who showed me around their huge garden. Ha, he has a toolshed that's bigger than most houses.
Today I'm sitting in a cafe somewhere in Lansing using their free wifi. Trying to find a flight to Boston that suits me and Shirl and Janet at the other end. Looks like I'll be in Boston for July 4th. Should be cool methinks.

Monday, June 21, 2010


After all these years I finally made it to Shirl's. Gorgeous little farm somewhere outside Grand Ledge, Michigan.
The train trip here was painless and relatively short - only 5 hours or so. The Michigan countryside that I saw through the window has a lot more trees than I've seen so far. I still can't get over how green this country is.
Nor can I get over how much corn is grown - it's everywhere! I've yet to see a different crop being grown.
We're going up to somewhere on one of the Great Lakes on Wednesday. There's a big bridge there apparently (so I'll take lots of photos for you GDA!).
Going out to take photos around the farm shortly but I probably won't be able to post any till I get somewhere with wifi access. Dial-up only here so I'm a bit limited in what I can do, internet-wise. Oh well, I'm sure I'll manage, seasoned traveller that I am now. Hahaha!
The farm makes me feel like I've stepped back in time a bit. It's very pretty though and I'm loving the peace and quiet too - especially after the noise of Chicago.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Been on the train for fifty years. I can't get off.

Up at 4am to catch the 5am train from Topeka to Chicago. Actually, I stayed up all night. Stupid thing to do. I was kind of hoping Mary would sleep in and I'd be forced to stay another day.
I think I slept a bit on the train. Had the world's worst hot dog from the snack bar 'cos I missed the lunch calls. Not much to see while crossing Illinois except corn. And more corn.
Chicago is, of course, huge. My flickr friend Barbara met me at the station and then we walked miles to the other side to catch a suburban train to her place. I'm thankful she did as I might still be wandering around Union Station looking for a way out.
We had dinner at a Japanese restaurant - good food and the chef, who cooked at the table, was entertaining.
By the time we got back to Barbara's I was exhausted. And inexplicably teary. Barbara must think I'm a nutcase. And she'd probably be right.
Anyway, I'll be back on the train this afternoon. Chicago to East Lansing and my oldest internet friend - Shirl !!! Woohoo, after all these years it's finally going to happen.
Missing the Flynns.


Friday, June 18, 2010

Bye Kansas

I'm a bit sad about leaving such great, lovely people. Thanks Mary and Richard. It's been an excellent week :) Truly.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Buffalo !!!!

Buffalo !!!!
Originally uploaded by jsarcadia

Buffalo !!!

I've had the coolest day. Mary knows some people, Pat and his wife Carol, who have a buffalo ranch about 30 or 40 miles out of town. Pat had kindly said we could go visit and he'd show us some buffalo. What a great experience!
We had to sit on a tyre in the back of his ute (pickup truck) and he took us across the paddocks (fields) to where some buffalo were - females and calves. Bouncy ride!!!
The buffalo greeted us by pissing everywhere and grunting. Marking their territory I suppose. Smelly! Pat told us to stay in the ute - as if I had any intention of getting out!! Thems BIG animals.
Pat had some food treats that he threw on the ground and that kept the buffalo busy while Mary and I took photos. Some of them looked at us suspiciously but didn't get closer than about three feet away. Close enough!
Their hides looked rather raggedy because they moult during summer. Don't blame them, it was very hot out there.
Then we went off to another paddock where another female with calf chased us. She was mean. I think Pat was looking for the bulls but we didn't see any. Just as well I think as the females were big enough.
It was the coolest experience and I'm so glad I got to do it.

After that we headed to the Flint Hills - really pretty landscape. Reminded me a bit of Gippsland with the rolling hills (yes, there ARE hills in Kansas) and cows. Everything here is so green though, so that's different. I haven't seen so much green in a long, long time.
We stopped at Lake Waubansee for a short while. Pretty lake with the boat sheds all along its shoreline. Couple of kids were fishing not far from us. Took some more photos, of course.

Tomorrow is my last day here. Bummer. Having too much of a good time with some excellent people.

It was perfectly fine when we walked in


Started fine. Mary and I went off to a secondhand bookshop she knows - Lloyd Zimmer's - and we started browsing like good little bookophiles. Great little shop. Plenty of American stuff of course, but not much from elsewhere. The guy didn't know who Enid Blyton was, that surprised me. Mostly non-fiction too. I found one book on Australia. There may have been more but I saw only the one. Found a great little set of Shakespeare that I'm going to go back and buy and send back to Clare. Too much of a bargain to pass up. Lloyd gave us a DVD on the history of Topeka - I think Mary was secretly trying to buy it for me but got it for free. Of course, DVD players at home are set to a different region and won't play US discs, but I can watch it on the computer so it's all good.
We browsed for about half an hour and were about to leave (I wanted to check out some music shops) when the heavens opened and the winds blew.
We were trapped!
Of course, if you're going to be trapped then there's no better place than a bookshop. So we browsed some more.
Once the wind died down we made it to the car - which was right outside, but we still got soaked. So we came home.
Richard was watching The Book Of Eli (Denzel Washington) so I watched some of that. Kind of like a (much) more violent cross between The Postman and Mad Max. Richard liked it but it didn't really grab me.
Just for a change we had an early night. I think we needed it!!
Off to see some buffalo today. Should be fun.


Wednesday, June 16, 2010

A day in Topeka

Mary took me on a tour of Topeka yesterday - Capitol building, the high school, the old train station, the main post office (where she worked for a while) and a few other bits and bobs. Had lunch at Terry's Bar and Grill - hamburger and chips (not bad actually).
Cool day. I enjoyed being a tourist around town. Took a lot of photos, some are up on flickr.
Came home, had dinner and finished off the day watching It Might Get Loud. Doesn't get any better than that :)


Monday, June 14, 2010


I can't tell you how welcome I feel here. Truly too cool. Richard keeps quizzing me on things Australian and I'm slowly teaching him how to speak the language properly, haha.
We went for a drive to Kansas City and back today - the place is nowhere near as flat as I'd been led to believe. The roads go up and down quite a bit!! There was a nasty accident on the way back so we had to take a detour. Got a bit lost (and the natives were driving!) but it was kind of fun to see the back roads. Checked out the original Kansas capital when it was a territory - ie, before it became a proper state. Tiny little town and a big white box of a building. Took some pics will I'll probably post tomorrow.
The architecture here is really interesting. The high school looks amazing and I hope to get the chance to go back and take some photos. Same with the government building (the Capitol?) - looks impressive too. The houses are cool too - all sorts of shapes and sizes and I've seen plenty that I really like. Must take some pics.
Had my first American steak tonight. Huge (of course) but very nice. We ate in a steakhouse restaurant where they still allow smoking inside! Been a long while since I've seen that. It'll change in 2 weeks though when the No Smoking inside laws become statewide. No helmets required on bikes either (motorcycles and bicycles).
Anyway, Happy Camper over and out.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Been on the train for fifty years

Up at 3am, on the bus at 4 and on the train at 4.45am. There's no station at Williams Junction, the train just stops in the middle of nowhere. The trip went east (and a bit north I think) through Arizona, New Mexico, a bit of Colorado and Kansas. 24 hours later I arrived at Topeka where Mary was waiting to pick me up. She and her husband, Richard, are great and have made me feel so welcome. I'm a lucky girl :)
I'm pretty buggered after the train trip though so will sleep for a while today. It's raining anyway. Never seen so much rain as I have while traversing Kansas!
Bought some Indian jewellery at Albuquerque where the train stopped for about 40 minutes. Don't know how authentic it is, probably not very, but it looks cool.
Off to check photos from the trip. Later....

Friday, June 11, 2010

More Grand Canyon

Since I last posted I caught a shuttle bus to Yevapai point and got some more shots of the Canyon. I only had the baby camera today as the real one was packed away for transport back down here to Williams. I've had a quick look at the pics and they look fine. I could have used the 5D but it would have meant taking the big camera bag with me all day and the fuji option was too easy. The way this tour works is that I checked out of my room but my luggage was still there - they collect it and move it down to the hotel here - it was all waiting in my room when I arrived. I did carry the computer around all day so I could use it this morning, so the baby camera had to do.
The problem with the baby camera is that I can't really see what I'm looking at - the screen just goes black in any sort of sunlight. I think it did okay though.
Anyway, photos will be up on flickr later.

Kept running into the same American couple yesterday and today and we ended up having dinner together tonight. They did a helicopter trip over the Canyon today. Said it was awesome. The helicopter has a wide angle video camera which captures the canyon from side to side in one go and they bought a dvd of it.

Altitude is a strange thing. I've been fine when I'm moving - on the train, bus, walking - but when I stop it's like I'm on a boat. That vaguely "everything's spinning or rocking" sort of feeling - except with no alcohol involved. Quite weird. It doesn't last long fortunately.

I went into town here at Williams to get cigarettes. Wish I'd known where I was actally going 'cos I would have taken the camera. I was on Route 66. And I have no photo to prove it. Damn.
There was a huge street party going on with live music - thought about hanging round till I realised it was a bikie gathering. Harleys everywhere. Made a quick beeline back to the hotel.

Anyway, I have a wake-up call booked for 3am tomorrow so I can get up in time to catch the 4am bus to get me to the 4.30am train to Topeka, Kansas. Arriving Topeka 5.10am the next day, which I think is Sunday.
So, off to upload photos to flickr and then to bed...


Grand Canyon sunset

Grand Canyon sunset
Originally uploaded by jsarcadia

The Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon
Originally uploaded by jsarcadia

Grand Canyon

Is truly grand. Went back to get some sunset shots and am glad I did. The actual sunset area looked tiny - little patch of red over one section of the canyon rim. But, thinking about it, it was probably a huge area. There was a bit of cloud about so there was some great colour in the sky.
Missed sunrise at 5 this morning though, by about an hour, so stayed in bed and watched the opening game of the World Cup on TV instead.
It's now 10.30am here and I'm sitting in the hotel's main area uploading photos, checking email, etc. The train back to Williams Junction leaves at 3.30 this afternoon so I've got plenty of time to wander round for another look at the Canyon. Will try to get to an area I didn't see yesterday. They have free shuttle buses that take people to the main viewing areas so that's cool.
Saw some people riding the mules yesterday - they go right down to the bottom and stay overnight. If I had more time I might be tempted - although the temperatures down there are much hotter than at the top, so maybe I wouldn't be. It's actually a bit chilly today and all my keep warm clothes are packed away, waiting to be loaded on to the train. Might have to go buy a Grand Canyon top to keep warm in :)
Saw a deer and a squirrel yesterday - that's it for wildlife so far.
This afternoon I go back to Williams Junction for the night. Well, part of it anyway. I have to catch the bus at 4am to catch the train at 4.30am which will take me to Kansas and Mary.
Time to upload some more photos.

Goodbye California, Hello Arizona

I left Oceanside feeling a bit apprehensive about spending a day in Los Angeles. As it turned out, all I saw of LA was Union Station. I had about 3 hours to kill before catching the train to Arizona and wasn't sure if that was enough time to get anywhere interesting and then get back. Also, I couldn't find anywhere to leave my luggage. Union Station is quite impressive as far as railway stations go – huge, of course, but also quite stylish in an early 20th century way.
The Southwest Chief was scheduled to leave on time and it did. We took off just before 7pm and arrived at Williams, Arizona at about 4.30 in the morning. I had a young girl in the seat next to me and after a while I renamed her “Sleeps With Flailing Limbs”.
From Williams we were transferred by bus to a hotel in Williams Junction where we were given a few hours to freshen up and have breakfast. Great looking hotel and I'll be back there tomorrow night.

Grand Canyon.
The day started in earnest at 9am with a “cowboy show”. Slapstick and quite funny. Then we boarded the train to the Grand Canyon. The scenery on the way up wasn't much – scrub for the most part. I could see mountains in the distance, that was about all.
On board entertainment was provided by a singing cowboy. 'groan' He then asked everyone in the carriage where they were from and told stories for each answer about places he'd played in this town, that city, etc. He's never been to Australia so he didn't talk to me much. Just moved right on along.
The 'host' in our carriage then explained how the Canyon was 4 thousand and something years old. Created during the Flood that made Noah famous dontcha know. More internal groaning from me, especially when he engaged in earnest religious conversations with like-minded passengers. I stared resolutely out the window and kept my mouth firmly shut.
Anyway, we arrived at the Grand Canyon village just before noon and boarded our tour bus for an hour and a half's guided tour of a couple of good viewing spots. The tour guide/bus driver was informative but a bit officious about not letting people linger at the tour stops.
Ran into a couple of Aussies at one of the stops. That was cool. I think they're going back to Williams this afternoon though.

The Grand canyon – what can I say? Incredible. Breath taking. Awe inspiring. Hazy. Windy. It's a mile deep and between 4 and 18 miles wide, the average width is 10 miles I think. All carved out by one river – and it does look to be carved in places. I could see the Colorado River in a few spots and it looks totally inadequate for the task. Colorado means red colour in Spanish but today it is a blue-green colour. There needs to be stormy weather to get the red colour apparently.
I took a few photos (or several) and will go back for some sunset shots later.
There's plenty of equally spectacular landscape in Australia, especially up through the Centre, but nothing on this scale. You can't help but stand there and go “Wow!” Many times Wow. Awesome!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Stage 2

Off to LA today. Eek! Catching a train from LA to the Grand Canyon this evening.
Oceanside has been great and made it very easy to start the trip comfortably. But, I'm ready to move on now.

Monday, June 7, 2010


I had intended to go to the Museum of Making Music in Carlsbad (the next town along) today - but, it's closed on Mondays. Inconsiderate of them really.
So, seeing as I was there before I discovered it was closed.... went to the place next door instead, Legoland.
Turned out to be an expensive day - $20 taxi fare to get there and $67 to get in!! I nearly baulked at that but I figured I was there and didn't really want to just turn round and go back to Oceanside. So I paid the $67 and in I went.
It was very entertaining actually. If I was 10 I would have had an absolute ball. And there were lots and lots of kids there. Must cost a fortune to take a family.
The place is divided into themed areas - animals, castle, pirates, duplo (for the real littleys), etc. The pirate area was awash with water haha. Kids loved it.
Miniland was the most impressive part for me - a whole bunch of mini cities, all made from Lego, representing various parts of the USA. Not having seen any of these places I can't vouch for the accuracy, but the detail is amazing. At one stage I thought I'd come across an areas set aside for overseas representations - Egypt, Paris, etc, but no..... Las Vegas casinos.
Washington DC had its own area, separated/cut off from the rest of "America" - not sure if that's some sort of deliberate political statement or not! Probably unintentional but.....
All up I spent about 4 hours wandering around. Caught a bus to Carlsbad railway station ($2) and then the Coaster train back to Oceanside (one stop, $5). Cheaper than another taxi but much longer timewise.
While at Oceanside I investigated trains to LA - $24 (or $26?) for a ticket to LA. Pricey but much cheaper than the $120 - $150 it would cost to get there by taxi.

Speaking of costs.....BANK FEES!!! It costs me $2plus to use local ATMs plus my bank charges me another $5 because it's not one of their ATMS. Bit unfair seeing as they don't have any over here!!!!
Can't really do anything about that but.... it sucks that each withdrawal is costing me an extra 7 or 8 dollars each time. I could pay for everything with the card instead of withdrawing cash but a lot of things seem to have 2 prices here - one for cash and an extra dollop on top for credit. Works out about the same I suppose. I prefer to use cash though as it's easier to keep track of how much I'm spending.

Anyway.... off to sort out photos and upload some to flickr.


Sunday, June 6, 2010


Italian restaurant at the harbour. Had dinner there last night and it was very good. Fettucine with seafood. Very yum.

Just to balance out today's lunch review :)

Sunday - Oceanside

Went down to the harbour for lunch today. Had a very ordinary seafood salad at Robin's Nest Cafe. It looked good but the shrimps and crab were very watery and, therefore, tasteless. Frozen, not fresh. Oh well.
Wandered around the marina and along the beach for a bit after lunch. Cool music outside a coffee shop - latiny jazzy sort of stuff. Nice guitar work. Saw some little squirrels along the rocks that line the marina walkway. They live in the rocks apparently. Their tails don't sit up along their backs like squirrels' tails are supposed to so I thought they were giant rats at first. But I was told they are squirrels so there you go.
Feel a bit blah after lunch so have come back to the motel.

Taxi driver today asked me if my accent was real or fake.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Thank you Sharon :)

Spent today with Sharon, smacss on flickr. She took me to Balboa Park in San Diego. What a place! I don't know how many acres the park covers but it's lots! There are something like 14 different museums plus craft shops, cafes and restaurants, plus a zoo. We only had a look at a couple of the museums - an art gallery, the photographic museum and the natural history museum. They all had great stuff. The photography museum had a display of some guy's 365 project. That was cool. There were a few photographs on display which led us both to say, "I could have taken that." :) Some fascinating stuff in the art gallery - the Russian display was particularly interesting. Most of the pieces were on wood and were all religious icon type of thing. Sharon has been to Russia so it was really good to hear her views on travel there. Guided tour is definitely the way to go!
Balboa Park was built in 1915 (I think) for an expo. I thought the architecture was really interesting. Most buildings are plain rendered concrete, but sort of sandstone coloured, and with Spanish style arches and walkways. Each building had some sort of intricate decoration around the doorways or over little towers, etc. I thought a couple of these decorated bits looked quite eastern in their influence - Cambodian or Indian mostly. Up close, they were definitely western in subject matter. Just an impression I got. Made me wish I'd taken the real camera.
We also wandered through the botanical house. Orchids aplenty!! Even saw a few tree ferns :)
Took too many plant pics and not enough of the architecture early on and then the baby camera's battery went flat. Note to self: buy several spare batteries for baby camera as they don't last long at all! That was the only disappointment of the day.
Sharon took the coast road back to Oceanside and so I got a quick look at Carlsbad and the other towns between San Diego and Oceanside.
Pics will be up on flickr later (when battery is charged and I can get them off the camera and into computer!).

I really enjoyed today Sharon, thank you :-D

Friday, June 4, 2010

That was a dumb idea.

Stayed up till 2.30am last night and watched the Saints game on the internet. Slept till about 1 this afternoon so didn't make it to Carlsbad, or anywhere else.
I think I'm still on Melbourne time as I don't seem to be properly awake till about 4pm, which is 9am at home.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

What I've noticed so far....

Taxis turn up within 5 minutes of being called. If only that happened at home...
Ciggies and alcohol are much cheaper, even taking the exchange rate into account. Sweet :)
Water drains down the plug hole the other way.
Light switches are upside down - I keep turning lights on instead of off, and vice versa.
Power plugs/outlets at the wall have no on/off switch. That means there's power running all the time. Wastage.
Traffic! Never seen so many cars in my life - and they're all on the WRONG SIDE OF THE ROAD!!!!
TV - over 60 channels to choose from but less variety than the 5 channels (plus their digital spin offs) at home. All American stuff too. No British shows or Aussie shows or European shows that I've discovered so far. Each channel I've seen, so far, seems to repeat the same thing over and over.
I can't hear any birds in the morning.
Very few white people work in the service industries - the motel, bars, restaurants, etc.
People are very friendly.
I'm beginning to think that the friendliness of service workers is a thing learned by rote, however. "Have a nice day" "How's your drink?" "Do you need anything else?" etc etc etc. It's all to do with......

TIPS. At home we tip if the food/drinks/service/etc deserve it. It's not a given. If the service is shit then there's no tip. If the food's ordinary, there's no tip. Etc.
Not so here. The tip is actually a part of the person's income. It appears they rely on tips.
That's outrageous.
I've been getting my bills for stuff and they all have calculations at the bottom: 15% equals x, 18% equals y, 20% equals z. So you know how much to tip.

Why are these people not paid sufficient wages in the first place????

I have left tips though, and more than the minimum - except at Ruby's Diner. They didn't deserve it. My biggest tips have been to the taxi drivers because they're so quick to respond. They should all move to Melbourne :)

Oceanside day 3

Felt pretty fuzzy this morning – jet lag I suppose. So did nothing for the morning except check for emails from home (none!)(though there are some this evening. Phew!) and watch the golf channel. 60 odd channels on the TV and the only thing watchable was golf. Make of that what you will.
Felt better by mid-afternoon so caught a taxi into town ($8). Walked down the pier and had some pretty ordinary chicken at Ruby's Diner. It was like Kentucky Fried before it became KFC. Came with three dipping sauces: BBQ, which was good; honey & mustard, which was sweeter than I'm used to; and ranch, which was pretty yuck.
From there I went to the Sunset Market – street market they have every Thursday here. Pretty much like every other street market I've seen, except bigger. Lots of food and craft stalls. Saw a guy with no arms playing guitar with his feet. That was impressive!
Wandered the market for an hour or so but saw a stall selling Aussie grape juice and that made me go all homesick. So I found a bar, had a martini and caught a taxi back to the motel. Had a bit of a sook but I'm okay now. Bound to happen I suppose.
Found out I can watch the Saints on tonight – at 2.30am!!! So the plan is to get some early sleep and wake up to watch the match, then sleep again. Hahaha. Wish me luck.
Also found out today that Oceanside was originally a military town – there's a big marine base nearby apparently. Taxi driver (from Boston!) told me that it's only in the last 15 years or so that the town has been safe for families as it used to be just nightclubs and hard drinking marines and "vice". I'd never have guessed because it seems a really nice, peaceful place – a tourist place. It does, however, explain the navy ships I can see offshore and the constant toing and froing of helicopters throughout the day.
Might go to Carlsbad tomorrow - the next town down the coast. It has a music museum that looks interesting. And Legoland. Might be worth a look.
I'm meeting up with Sharon (smacss on flickr) on Saturday. That should be great.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Oceanside day 2

Didn't do much this morning except watch the French Open on TV.
Walked into town for lunch. The street outside the motel goes straight to the beach where I had a look at the other side of the Pacific Ocean. Wasn't too impressed with the colour of the sand - a bit grey and dirty looking. Then I walked along The Strand to the pier. Had lunch at the Cabo Grill, a Mexican place. Shrimp (prawn) and crab burrito - not bad at all. Also had my first ever margherita. Tequila at lunchtime!!
Wandered about a bit more but bad sock placement has given me a blister on the ball of my foot. Ouch!
Caught a taxi back to the motel where I've had a bit of a snooze - internal time clock is still a bit out of whack I think.

Currently watching Fox News. Ahahahahahaha!

Everyone so far has been really friendly and helpful - even the 2 different lots of lads asking to buy a cigarette from me were friendly about it. Cigarettes, by the way, are half the price here that they are at home.
Oceanside is a pretty town - lots of palm trees along the streets. Seems easy enough to get around without getting too lost :)
There's a sunset market on Thursday which I think I might go to. Sounds cool.

Oh dear - just saw an ad that tells me that the use of asbestos is still not banned in the USA.
Ooh, the next ad has an Australian voice. 1800packrat - some sort of moving business. I recommend him hahaha.

Oh god, I have to turn this hannity guy off, he's a moron.


Tuesday, June 1, 2010

So, here I am

Safely ensconced in a motel in Oceanside, which is closer to San Diego than to LA central. Seems a pretty enough place so I'm not too bothered about it. Plus there's a train line close by so I can easily get to LA if I need to.

All in all it took almost 24 hours to get from home to the motel check-in. A fair bit of that time was spent standing in queues at Melbourne and LA airports.

The flight was drama free but quite uncomfortable. I didn't have an aisle seat and access to the aisle was limited due to Aisle Man sleeping most of the time. Man in front kept leaning his seat right back too, which further limited my space and movement. If I have any funds left at the end of this adventure I might upgrade to a better class to guarantee a bit of space.

LAX is enormous. I walked for miles before getting out of the place.

Taxi driver at LAX didn't know where Oceanside is so I ended up getting a shuttle bus to my motel. Pricey but it got me here. Best Western Oceanside Inn, Oceanside.

Watched a bit of French Open tennis and snoozed a bit once I got to my room. Have since ventured out to a supermarket, Ralphs, to get milk and a few other bits and pieces. They use that awful coffeemate powdered muck here to make white coffee, so I bought some proper milk. Alcohol at Ralphs is cheaper than the duty free price offered on the plane. No duty free shopping at LAX - maybe for departures there is, but nothing for arrivals. Strange.

I keep looking the wrong way to check for traffic when crossing the road. I'll just get used to checking things the wrong way round in time to go to England and have to switch back to doing things the right way round!!!
So much traffic here. Already seen one freeway pile up this morning.

Motel is comfy and has enough space for me. I have a little balcony, where I sit to have a smoke. Couldn't work out why the view didn't look 'foreign' until I realised..... the trees are all Eucalypts. Came all this way to see the same trees as in the backyard at home. Go figure :)

It's got dark here now so I think I'll just veg out for the rest of the night and venture out tomorrow after a decent sleep.
To paraphrase Pink Floyd, "I've got 76 channels of shit on my TV to choose from."

So far have taken no photographs. Hope to get some tomorrow. Might start with the Eucalypts :)

The bath tap is dripping. I can hear it without the TV on. Must get them to look at that as it'll drive me nuts. Saw more wastage today with a bunch of sprinklers being used on roadside grass. Don't know anyone at home who waters grass anymore.

So here I am. So far everything's cool, no dramas. Early night beckons and then I'll start venturing out tomorrow......