A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: Taqui

Cape Town

On our way home.....

We left JFK airport at 10.30 pm for the beginning of our trip to South Africa. And arrived at Frankfurt at 11 am on the 24th October. There we had a 10 hour layover which was not the best! Flight to Johannesburg, connection 3 hours later, and we eventually arrived in Cape Town at 2pm on the 25th.

It was wonderful to find Carmen waiting for us at the airport. It had been too long since we last saw each other. The grandchildren were still at school, so we collected them on our way back to her house. It was wonderful to receive all the hugs and love from Leah and Ryan. On our bed at their home, we were greeted with welcome cards, poems, homemade bookmark....so sweet.

Wonderful Cape Town King Protea

In the evening Andrew’s wife Debbie arrived with Megan and Amy (Andrew was in Jhb on business). More hugs and kisses and cards, letters and gifts. Knowing Amy, I was afraid of putting my hand into the gift bag which she presented me, thinking there may be a spider or something in there! It is so lovely to know that our grandchildren love us so much. When Carmen’s husband Vaughn arrived, we all had a wonderful family dinner.

The next morning we went to breakfast with Carmen and then out to Fish Hoek to collect Beulah, Charl's mum, and took her out to lunch. She was so happy to see her son as it had been eighteen months since last they had seen each other.

Leah and I spent the evening organising Halloween packets of sweets for the Halloween function which was held in the estate where they live. Again, such fun to be doing something together with a grandchild.

The following morning, we woke to a beautiful Cape Town day. So Carmen, Charl and I, together with Carmen's two dogs, had a lovely 6km walk through the green belt. The mountain looked so majestic and all the Fynbos was waiting to greet us.

One evening Carmen, Debbie and I went to the Clay Cafe at Springfield school for a pottery evening. We each had a large piece of clay, shaped into a platter, in front of us and then we had a choice of many stamps and tools, with which we decorated the platters. Such a fun evening, what a super birthday present for me from the two families. Very special evening, that's for sure. Meanwhile the boys were having a whiskey tasting evening in Andrew's man cave. It was such fun for Charl and I to be spending special times with our children.

Our first week-end in Cape Town, we had hired two cottages, outside of the city, so that we could get away as a family and have good quality time together. We all looked forward to our weekend away to Piekernierskloof Mountain Lodge, which was about a two hour drive from Cape Town. We had two awesome days and nights with the families. This was a very special time spent with our offspring, their partners and the four grandkids. We chose to have the grandkids stay in our cottage and the adult children had a cottage to themselves so they could catch up on much needed sleep and relaxation. We loved having the children, listening to their chat, watching how well the four got on together etc.

The Grandies fooling around at Piekernierskloof

The following week was spent trying to see as many friends as possible over coffee or dinner or drinks and the other main objective was to see as much of Beulah as we could. The two weeks we had allocated to Cape Town was very short, but at the end of 3.5 months we felt we needed to get back home to Noosa. But it did make it difficult to fit in all the visiting and partying!

A group of us at Cape Point Vineyards - including Taqui's brother Allan and sister in-law Elspeth

It was also super to be able to see Leah and Ryan as they left for school, when they came home from school and sport, collecting them and being a part of their daily lives. Games to play, stories to listen to, watching them do their homework, antics to watch, dog walking together, very special times indeed.

With Halloween there was great excitement in the house. Charl painted Ryan's face, turning him into The Joker and Leah had a mask and cloak which turned her into a skeleton. There was heaps of fun on the estate with many excited children all collecting their lollies.

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Ryan looking mean as The Joker and Leah as a Skeleton

Carmen and I managed to fit in our usual 'mom daughter morning of shopping' - always good to shop together and fun. This was also the day that we moved from the Barkhuizen residence to the Gold residence. And it was really special to see the new house that Andrew and Debbie had moved into.

The view from Andrew & Debbie's house - high on the slopes of Table Mountain

Megan and Amy were excited that Marney and Pops were moving in for a week. We had the opportunity of climbing up into their tree house, swinging on the swing, playing 'shop, shop' in the well-equipped playroom as well as good family times together. We attended Megan's sports day at school, I got to lift them to and from school, meet the teachers, saw the classrooms and the years’ work they had done.

Megan in her running race

We watched Amy studying a butterfly through a magnifying glass, Megan writing and making cards; them running around the garden.....seeing the schoolwork brought home. By now you realise that we miss our grandchildren so much and absolutely enjoyed all the time we could, together.

I had my first try on a Segway at Andrew and Debbie’s house, quite fun, and I didn’t even fall off! Met the tiny tortoise, was introduced to the two hamsters and we walked up hill and down dale to see the local horses.

Carmen turned 40 during our visit and she organised a lunch for a group of her girl friends. In true Carmen style, she started with something a little different, an ice breaker, for those who did not know each other. We were split into groups of four and sent out on a treasure hunt. It was such fun, knocking on doors asking if we could climb into the dog kennel to have a photo taken; asking for things on our list of treasure requirements such as a button, chopsticks or being photographed in impossibly small spaces. It certainly was a good ice breaker.

The mural on the wall at Carmen's party - depicting her upcoming trip to New York. Her friend Ilza is so talented

Lunch began at around 12.30 and it was a wonderful spread, some lovely speeches and super to see the friends I know from her school and university days, as well as new ones who have come into her life. As the day became evening some of the husbands joined in, more wine and champagne flowed and eventually we finished up around 10.00pm. I think she enjoyed her special day!

Carmen after a bit of make-up from Leah

Charl and Carmen

The 3 generations of girls - Carmen,Taqui, Leah

We continued through our second week, enjoying times with the grandchildren, soaking up the good weather and enjoying the vibe of the city of Cape Town. It has a unique 'beat' found nowhere else.

We were lucky enough to share Carmen's actual birthday with her by having a breakfast together and in the evening the six of us adults went out as a family; very special.

All in all our time in Cape Town was most special, dividing our time between the two families and seeing the children go off to school, coming home from school, homework, extra murals, the fun they have, music they play and what it is like to see life through the eyes of a child. Carmen flew off to New York the day before we left to meet up with some school and uni buddies, to celebrate all of their 40th birthdays. They now live all over South Africa and the world. How lucky she is to have good friends from so long ago and still have good contact.

Our last morning breakfast with the Gold family before returning home started with panic stations. We awoke to the news that our flight to Johannesburg had been cancelled, meaning we could have an issue making our connection to the Qantas flight to Sydney. We cut our visit to Beulah short and hot footed to the airport. BA were great, they got us onto a plane immediately and we were soon in Johannesburg. However it ended up with a very long 11.5 hour wait in Johannesburg as there was a huge storm so the incoming Qantas plane was diverted to Durban before getting to Johannesburg 5.5 hours late for us to board. We had a good flight over to Sydney, then a little delay for all connecting passengers and finally on to Brisbane and the last leg home was the 1.5 hour the bus trip.

The reason for our delay in Johannesburg - a massive storm cell saw our plane diverted.

We were shattered, but very happy to be home and in our own beds again. Malcolm and Virginia had done a wonderful job looking after our house whilst we were away, so we were soon back into our routines of golf, gardening, swimming, kite-surfing, etc.

Well folks.....that's all from this travel blog.....it has been an amazing and unforgettable four months away with so many different experiences and we hope you have enjoyed our travels as much as we have. Thank you all for following us, your comments and concern; both on the blog and on email. With only five weeks to Christmas, we will be thinking of you all.

BTW – Chuck has left the building – Charl is back!!

Taqui and Charl

Posted by Taqui 21:37 Archived in South Africa Comments (0)

New York, New York,,,,,,,

I wanna wake up, In a city that doesn't sleep......

We were up early to get the bedding, towels etc., into the washer and drier and packed away. Then an eight mile drive to the storage centre to put the good ol gal to rest for a little while. The Beast was so good to us, we traversed north to south, east to west without ever a complaint from her, she needed new shoes, but every gal needs to stock up on a pair!

Then onto Phoenix airport to travel to NYC. It is amazing that this RV trip has ended so quickly, it seemed it had just begun. It has been a most wonderful experience. As many of you will know, it wasn't on my bucket list and I could have taken it or left it. However, I am so pleased that we experienced this lovely journey. It was wonderful quality one on one time for Charl and me. We saw so much, met lovely people and the Americans are extremely helpful. One only had to stand for a minute holding a map and we were asked 'may I help you?' There was one time when we were looking at the services board at a shopping centre and the next thing a chap stopped to ask if he could assist with what we wanted? We were actually looking for the restroom and he said 'I am not sure about that, but if you head to that Cafe over there (pointing in a direction), they will be sure to have one inside.'

Again we had a good Uber driver, from Central Asia. He had only been in the country for two months and he had taken English lessons during that time and his English was fine, actually excellent considering that we cannot speak one word of Chinese!

The three and a half hour trip on America Airlines was fine, albeit very cramped, a very full flight and it's been a very long while since we have flown where you get absolutely nothing in flight. There was complimentary water and soft drinks but nothing else. We had to purchase a snack dinner and even their widely advertised Wi-Fi, came at a cost. Thankfully I have a few good books on my iPad, so that kept me occupied.

We hailed an Uber at Newark airport, this time a very nice Indian chap. He was so thrilled to find a customer (Chuck) who happily engaged in talking all things cricket. This chap had been in NYC for 18 months but began in Kansas City where he lived previously. He happily pointed out the Empire State Building, told us we needed to leave a few hours in order to take our flight out, from JFK..'twaffic very bad an all'.... The Indians are always so funny because there is always a 'cousin' somewhere having a good experience. This chap had a cousin studying in Australia and another elsewhere, what a hoot.

Our hotel was situated just 30 paces from Time Square and as we neared, we passed all the neon signs on Broadway. Oh goodness me!! It was just after midnight and the place was full of people, so lit up it was like mid-day. A little surreal for this country bumpkin couple to take in!

Time Square

We arrived at the hotel, booked in and when we got to our room......a real bed! After 78 days in the RV, Chuck wouldn't have to climb over me to get out of bed and he could walk around the bed to get in. Another first in such a long time was ironed sheets. Oh the little home comforts are slowly returning.

We set out to see Gwyneth Paltrow and Demi Moore......Oh my word, this place is not for the feint hearted or those in a hurry, or those wanting to walk side by side, hand in hand.....it's just not possible!! We ventured out of our hotel on our first morning in search of breakfast. I had read that there was a good eating place just to the left of the hotel and there it was. Chuck queued for the food order whilst I went in search of a table. After juggling chairs around and finding a table at the far side of the cafe, we finally sat down together.

We had decided to take a hop on hop off bus in order to orientate ourselves with this enormous city and between us we chose the company to use, Gray Line City Sightseeing's Big Red Bus. As we neared the lady from whom we would purchase the ticket, at the bus stop, another vendor from another company approached us and then the two of them had a loud argument accusing each other of trying to 'steal their potential client'. Eventually I could take no more so I shouted at the chap, telling him that we were about to approach the lady from the Big Red Bus company, we had no intention of using his company and would he shut up and let us get on with our holiday. He apologized most profusely and moved on. Welcome to New York City people!!!

New York Skyline by day

And again at night

We enjoyed the bus, stopped at Pier 11 and boarded a ferry and then saw the Statue of Liberty which was lovely to see and disembarked in order to walk Brooklyn Bridge. We had a great walk over the bridge in 28 degree heat.

Brooklyn Bridge

We got back onto another bus after our walk, continued the trip back to where we had begun in the morning, it was now 5.55 p.m. and we immediately climbed onto the bus for the 6 p.m. night tour. It was lovely to see all the buildings so well lit up and the tour encompassed Brooklyn. Brooklyn was so quiet compared to Manhattan; it was like a ghost town.

Statue of Liberty

By now our tummies were hungry and we went in search of a quick convenient meal. That ended up being a visit to Planet Hollywood. We didn't realize they were still operating; it was a good choice as the food was at our table within minutes of ordering and so were our cold beverages. We ended off the evening with a visit to Time Square; well we hardly had to go there, as our hotel was so close.

The weather forecast was for rain on our second day here, but we were lucky and although much cooler at 20 degrees C than our first day, of 28C, it was fine and a little overcast.

After hanging out with our pals, Harrison Ford and Calista Flockhart, we did the uptown tour, which encompassed Central Park, and Harlem. We hopped off at Central Park and walked and relaxed drinking in the peace and tranquillity and all the beautiful fall colours. Unfortunately the Guggenheim Museum was closed. We stopped at the lake and did some watching people. We love people watching!

Central Park - a beautiful oasis in a bustling city. And the fall colours to cap it off

For a large city, it is amazing that there is no smog here. We headed back to Time Square, just in time for us to line up for half price tickets to the theatre. Did I say half price?? Well $75 each was the half price; it had better be a good show!

As with our first night in NYC, we had been so busy sight-seeing during the day, we only had time to grab a quick bite to eat because we had tickets for the 7pm musical, Kinky Boots. This was a wonderful production, fun, good music and songs and a great laugh. The two main actors, Alan Mingo (drag queen) and Aaron Finley (the shoe factory owner) were fabulous. Alan, aka Lola, played two different personalities and was superb as both characters. Aaron had an amazing voice, the cast were good, a great choice of musical to see and enjoy.

Uh oh!! Next day we awoke to our first day of rain, since leaving Noosa on the 19th July, this was 93 days without rain, it had to happen at some stage! We took the opportunity to have a late breakfast, after which we took time to sort out a bit of housekeeping. We needed to book the shuttle for our departure out of JFK airport, on the 23rd, printed off our e-tickets and updated the blog. Then stood in the short queue for tickets to see Chicago on Broadway. It was a very good show, slick, good dancing but we both preferred Kinky Boots.

Time Square - and you can't get away from Donald and Hillary

Brrrr....woke to 8 C and it was a biting cold wind. After a late breakfast/brunch we headed to MOMA (Museum of Modern Art) by foot, it wasn't too long a walk. A street had been closed to traffic to accommodate a market so we had a look at the wares on the way. The museum was very busy, mostly foreign accents, French and German the dominant ones. Took ages here and then headed back to the hotel, to rest up our feet before heading out to dinner.

We had a booking at 44X, which was made Robert and Ellen Friedman. We met this couple on the cruise in July. At the time, we hit it off, they told us where and what to visit when in NYC and then they followed it up with an email asking if we would join them for dinner. Chuck and Robert had been in contact, as, when we were on the cruise, they were asking for advice on which South African game reserve to visit in 2017. Robert was planning a big birthday celebration at a game farm.

Brrrrr..... 7 C as we took our 15 minute stroll to dinner venue.....we met Robert and Ellen at the bar where we had a drink and then moved to our reserved table. The restaurant was packed and quite noisy, mostly filled with theatre goers. They soon left and it became less noisy and easier to converse. The food was lovely and we chatted away and the next thing it was time to say au revoir and head back to the hotel.

We took the subway to World Trade Centre

Our last day in the USA. ....Once again there was a big chill in the air as we left the hotel for breakfast. We decided to use the underground to get to The World Trade Centre. It was a poignant reminder of the tragedy that took place here, where the twin towers once stood. We stood looking at all the names engraved around the fountain of life and here and there a family member or a friend had placed a single white rose alongside a name. I felt so sorry for the families involved, none of whom will ever be the same again, after the loss of their beloved family member.

World Trade Center - a very sobering experience. New buildings and a memorial have been erected where the Twin Towers once stood

We composed ourselves and headed back to the hotel to pack up and get ready for our long trek to Cape Town. We will be in transit for about 38 hours......but well worth it, to see our families again. And guess what? Whoop, whoop, a LUCK – we were upgraded to Business Class for the leg to Frankfurt! Unfortunately this did not apply for the next leg to Cape Town!

Posted by Taqui 08:39 Archived in USA Comments (1)

Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon

The end of our RV fun, but the holiday continues!!

This was our longest drive in a while, 232 miles which with all the traffic etc, took us just over five hours. The landscape was unchanging, dry white sand very little half dead scrub and large chiselled mountains in the background.

As we crossed the border from California into Nevada, we immediately saw that we were in a tax wealthy state. The roads became smooth, although that was short lived and the rest area for drivers, was the best we had seen anywhere. Beautiful huge area with shade covers and picnic tables, all very smart looking indeed.

The other notable was miles and miles of solar panels, like a stretch of about 10 miles. Well they have SO much sunshine, they may as well make good use of it.

The phone was running hot with people calling to see if we had arrived into Las Vegas 'we want to buy it'; 'sell it to me'; be fair man, you only gave me 10 minutes to call back and then you tell me you have another coming to look at it'. Anyhow, there had been a very interested couple who, as it happened, were staying in an RV park next to ours. So they came to look and bought it, together with the scooter attachment for the RV. Whereas the other enquirers were more interested in the scooter only. Phew! One less chore before we put the RV into storage on the 18th.

Before arriving in Las Vegas, we had pre-booked a dinner and show. We had wanted to see David Copperfield, however he had no shows during our time of stay. Still wanting to see a ‘magic show’, we chose to see Mat Franco, performing at the Linq Hotel. He won America’s Got Talent last year, and was amazing. Oh what sleight of hand. It was fantastic to see these acts, all card related. He had a great personality and was able to get wonderful audience participation, all good fun and left us wondering how he did this or that trick.

The fountain at Ceasars Palace

Prior to the show we walked up and down 'The Strip'. Walked in awe around Caesars Palace, had our first spiral escalator experience, then into Hotel Bellagio, Flamingo etc. Inside Caesars Palace, we were surprised to see a Peter Lik Photo gallery. Of course we had to make a stop and admire, once again, this very talented photographer. For those reading this, who don't know about him; he was born in Melbourne and until recently had a gallery in Noosa. He now lives in Las Vegas. He recently made a world record by selling a photograph, for the most amount of money any photographer has sold for, a cool $6.5 million! Very talented indeed.

We never realised that one can still smoke inside casinos, and some folk were making the most of it. Twice we saw men with enormous cigars in their mouths and people walking the streets with alcohol in their hands, all unusual to see these days. We took a stroll down 'off the strip' and again, it being Halloween, the decor was prevalent, there were some interesting, scary, mannequins about.

Cigar man

Mannequin "Off The Strip" - look at the beautiful fall colours

Thereafter we had dinner at a Mexican Restaurant, we had both been hankering after Mexican food and we were not disappointed.

High Roller - Big Wheel at Linq takes a half hour to go round

We got talking to a local, in fact the security man at our RV park, as we were interested to know what, besides the Casinos and live shows, happens in Las Vegas. Apparently, nothing. Quite amazing watching so many people gamble. Okay, I won't lie, we too were led into temptation, but just a few $'s on one arm bandit machines. Our money remained there, we didn't win a cent! 'The Strip' area has a different mayor and different rules to the rest of Las Vegas, hence the drinking in streets. Also one can only hail a taxi or get an Uber, within an hotel area, not from the street.

We left Las Vegas at our intended 9a.m. and began the journey to Williams, in Arizona. We had only travelled about 25 miles when we saw the Hoover Dam sign. We knew the dam was in the area, but quite frankly, although we had noted it as a 'to see' we thought it would be too long a drive out of Vegas. We didn’t realize it would be only a short diversion off our intended route.

We went through a major security check, Chuck was asked to open all external hatches and they were inspected, whilst I had to open the bathroom door, for another officer to check nothing or nobody suspicious was in there. It's ok.....I got my other lover to hop out of a window and he popped back in when nobody was looking. We were given the thumbs up sign and about a mile on, found a parking spot. This was one impressive sight to see!

Hoover Dam - the white area shows where the water can get up to when full. It has not been there since 1986

We were no sooner across the border and into the Arizona area and it was quite notable. The mountains were huge, chocolate brown and it was extremely arid. I could visualize cowboy movies being shot in the area and the theme song from The Good the Bad and the Ugly was playing in my head.

About 50 miles before we arrived into Williams, the terrain once again changed and we saw huge boulders and pillar like rock structures, quite spectacular, followed by green shrubs.

Well to my utter amazement the biggest surprise of all, was arriving into Williams and seeing 'fall colours'. Both Chuck and I thought we were heading for desert like area, but Lo and behold, trees turning colour! The RV Park was a large one, alongside the Grand Canyon Railway & Hotel. This RV site was chosen by Chuck, for the railway next door, on which we had pre-booked a trip to get us into the south rim of the Grand Canyon, on Saturday.

At last I can see Fall colours

But let me not rush ahead, first things first. The next morning (Friday) we had a helicopter trip booked so that we could see both the north and south rims of the canyon.......

Williams Arizona, at 6, 765 feet above sea level....brrrr chilly here!! We had to move indoors for our sundowners as it was too chilly outside.

Our first night in Williams Chuck and I both woke up cold in the night. We got colder and grabbed the beach towels to put over the doona. That helped a little. We had a spare doona but that was packed in my suitcase (helped with storage as it freed up cupboard space) in the large external hatch and neither of us was game to go outside. We both slept badly as we never warmed up. When we rose and finally braved the cold, our clothes were icy and I checked the temperature, it was one degree Celcius!!!! We honestly thought we were coming to heat, and this was a huge shock to our systems.

If you have been following our story all the way, by now you have probably thought to yourselves 'wow things are going pretty cruisy for them'. Things kind of fell apart on the morning of the helicopter ride! We decided to let the old Beast (RV), not Chuck, have a well-earned rest from the asphalt and hired a car. However this is a one horse town and that horse died.....

Chuck was collected by a driver, taken to the one and only rental car place and he had to sign the papers etc. Time was marching on as we had a 60 mile drive to Tusayan, where the airport was located, for us to take the helicopter ride. The first car assigned to Chuck was not ready and the second car assigned had not yet arrived at the depot. Eventually he was given a six seater which was originally meant for someone else. I realised something was up when it took him so long. So I got things packed and ready at the RV and was ready to hop into the car when Chuck arrived back. Well.....he had steam coming out of his ears and was in a total panic as we now only had 45 minutes to get to the airport. Anyhow, deep breaths and a little low flying in the rental car, and we managed to arrive at the airport and did not miss our flight.

Our Helicopter flight over the Grand Canyon

Oh wow!!! The views were absolutely stunning from up in the air, looking down into this huge Grand Canyon. No wonder it is called Grand. We saw both the south and north rims - just amazing. We never realised just how vast it was. This was truly a magnificent experience and although I was quite nervous of the helicopter experience, (we did do a helicopter flight in Broome in 2010), my nerves were soon settled once at the canyon. Our female pilot, Chelsea was very good with her narration also.

The Grand Canyon from the air - just awesome!

Even Chuck was mesmarised

In the afternoon, we took a walk around the town of Williams, well not really a 'one horse town' it was a town of selling Route 66 souvenirs. We chatted for ages to a lovely salesman at one of the stores and also to a couple who were traveling from Canada. We found a place to stop and have a beer, only problem was that the 'musician/singer' could not sing for his life, so we decided to head back home and have our sundowner in our peaceful surrounds.

Williams AZ - on the original Route 66

The following morning began with a cowboy show at the bleachers (arena) which was a good laugh. It certainly was fall and the leaves were falling off the trees, as this was all happening.

The Cowboy Show - I think they would have Photo-shopped the cars out, in a professional pic!

We took the steam train from the Williams Railway Hotel to the south rim of the Grand Canyon. The trip was 65 miles and took 2 hours and 15 minutes to reach the station at the canyon. There were various classes of travel, but because we had left our booking late, we could only go there on 'Coach class' and return 'Pullman class'. As it happened the bookings were great - we had comfort on the way out and fun on the way back!

The Everywhere Man appeared!

On the way to the Canyon we had an hostess in our carriage. She was very good in pointing out all of interest along the way. The pine trees we saw, were Ponderosa Pines. If one scratches the bark, the scent given off smells like vanilla or butterscotch. Part of the county through which we travelled, was what they term 'open range' which means that if the train hits a head of cattle, the train company is liable for the loss of the stock and is charged $1500 per head. We actually witnessed the train stop, allow cattle to cross in front, and then we were on our way again. We also saw deer in the distance.

We arrived at the south rim, and had intended to take a shuttle bus around the canyon, but we decided to rather walk around part of the rim, and take in the beauty of this vast canyon and its different colours and stone formations. Chuck, (the not so happy walker), was quick to calculate that we walked 5 kms! We sat at an overhang and ate our lunch and so enjoyed one of the seven wonders of the world. It still doesn't seem real to me, that we have been and seen this, and in two different ways, from the air and at ground level.

We found some unsuspecting fellow to take a photo of us on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon

Pic of The Canyon taken from the South Rim

Once we had taken it all in, completed our walk and quiet time, we headed to Maswik Lodge for a well-deserved, thirst quenching, beer. And within no time, we had to board the train and head back to Williams. We had heaps of fun on the return journey, as there was a staged robbery. We passed cowboys in the fields, on horseback, the train slowed to a stop and the next thing, the cowboys were in our carriage 'robbing us'. They were followed shortly by the Sheriff and taken off the train. All very good fun. We had a different hostess in this carriage and she too was good fun. She handed out a general knowledge paper to those who wanted to participate in anagram fun and allowed the children to go up to her and use the microphone and tell jokes. All in all a great day out. We are so pleased that we ended on an absolute high note, one of the highlights of our trip.

Chuck being robbed

The drive south from Williams to Phoenix was easy with good scenery. We had green scrub and bushes with a few buttes around too. Sadly all river beds were bone dry. As we edged nearer to Phoenix, we began to see the tall Saguaro Cacti that one associates with Phoenix from the movies we have all seen.

Another extreme; we were cold in Williams, slept with two doona's over us, wore jackets to protect ourselves from the icy wind and here it was hot, around 35 degrees and absolutely dead still, not a breath of wind.

The RV Park we had intended to stay at was closed when we arrived, so we had to find another. Fortunately we found another eight or so miles up the road. Sometimes things happen for a reason. We were given a spot right next to the restrooms and laundry and this was a great position for us, as we had the laundry to do and also on the last day, we needed to have early access to the laundry, so that we could wash and pack away all the bedding, towels etc., just prior to putting the RV into storage. This was a great help for me, so that I didn't have a long way to go back and forth, checking if the washing and drying was complete. Also, when we checked into the park, Chuck asked the lady if he would be allowed to use some water so that he could wash the van, and she said 'yes'. Whereas we have not been allowed to use water anywhere else.

Now we had the hard work ahead of us......the RV needed to be washed and cleaned, fridge and deep freeze defrosted, cupboards emptied, our suitcases packed and the RV stored, before we could have more fun, as we leave Arizona behind and fly into NYC. Our magical 78 day carpet (RV) ride has come to an end. As they say in the movies....all good things have to end. But please don't leave us yet.....we still have New York City to cover and then Cape Town, which will mark the end of this most amazing holiday......

See you there folks!!

Posted by Taqui 14:22 Archived in USA Comments (1)

San Diego and Palm Springs

Time to turn North for a while

Not to sound like a stuck record, but another beautiful morning to wake to in Oceanside and time to inch our way further south, this time on to Mission Bay.

Before departing, Chuck decided to check the air pressure in the tyres and horror of horrors, the new tyre was sitting at 30 lbs less than the other tyres, which we set on 80lbs. So back to the tyre man to find out we had been hoodwinked! He had put on a passenger tyre and not a heavy duty tyre and looked most surprised. 'What, why no appy with one with les air?'. He gave us the address of his manager who was at a tyre place about 8 miles further south and off we went. The staff there was great, within no time the tyre was off; exchanged for a heavy duty tyre and we were on our way.

We needed a well-earned coffee, as well as needing to refill our large water container at Walmart. This is a great idea in the USA – you buy the 5 gallon container for $6.00 and then when needed, you can refill it at most Walmart stores for $1.75. Certainly a lot cheaper than the normal bottle water story. The shop we visited the previous day, did not have the dispenser for doing this refill. We were lucky to find both at the Forum and had a wander around the shops.

If only we had more baggage allowance - as it is such fun going to the shops right now. They have merchandise for Fall, Halloween and Christmas! I could have purchased so much for Christmas, but alas my suitcase was already heavy when we left Australia for our trip, so I dare not! The purchases which we made at the Salem outlet shops, my dear friend Trish, took back to Australia with her.

Sunset at the RV Park in San Diego

Anyhow back to our story.....we decided to keep going into San Diego, to see if we could sell the scooter – our time on the road is coming to an end and we doubt we will be using it in the next few stops. We found out no ways Jose! One cannot sell a vehicle in California, which has covered less than 7,500 miles and is registered in another state. This is to prevent purchasing vehicles in eg: Oregon, which has no sales tax, and then bringing it into California which has huge taxes. So we need to wait and hopefully have more luck in Nevada, or Arizona, where that restriction does not apply. We were lucky to have found parking directly outside of the scooter shop and within a tick we were on the freeway and into Mission Bay and parked and settled in at Mission Bay RV resort, San Diego

Halloween - The Pumpkins are out in full force in the Stores

In order to get to the city we took an Uber. How this Company makes a profit, we don't know. We had a ten minute drive, which cost the sum of $4.86 which was less expensive than two bus tickets would have cost us!

We started our day with once more, a hop on hop off 'trolley tour'. Basically we purchased a ticket each valued at $39 and this gave us a full day of hop on hop off. As we had done in San Francisco. We did the full two hour tour and thereafter, decided where we wanted to stop and explore. Funny thing here, in San Diego.......there were not enough hours in the day! We so enjoyed the enthusiasm of the drivers, each giving the history of the city as we toured round. We discovered that San Diego receives even less rain than Los Angeles, average of 10 inches (250mm) per year! The Uber driver told us 'man, even if it drizzles here, the drivers cannot cope'.

The Airport has only one runway.....amazing as every 90 seconds a plane lands and another takes off and boy, do they take off low! We thought we may have decapitations with the RV, you need to try standing in the flight path of these guys, and then you will know about potential decapitations!

We enjoyed the harbour/port area, Old Town, India Street of Little Italy and Gastown. Coronado was just stunning and the views as we went over the Coronado bridge were beautiful. Coronado is a city of its own, it has its own mayor etc. The stone sculptures on buildings in the Balboa Park area were so beautiful.

Stopped at a Pub on the Pier for a much needed drink - and took a Selfie

San Diego has it all, great climate, an annual average temperature of around 20, vibey, very orderly, clean, graffiti clear, and to my mind 'the city of beautiful sunsets'. Hard to believe that we were only 15 minutes from the border of Mexico. We had such a good laugh as one of the many drivers was saying to us ' if you cross the border to Mexico, do not take a hire car, you will return with no tyres and no mirrors.....oh well, who needs those to drive anyhow'. The driver was then asking where his passengers were from. One chap piped up saying 'I was listening with intent when you spoke about going into and out of Mexico and returning sans tyres and mirrors.....I remained quiet, but that is where I am from'. Big OOOps.... from Alex the driver and he was very compimentary, from there on, towards Mexicans and that person. Alex was amazing as he had pizazz and interacted so well with all of us, he was great.

An aside here, when we hailed our bus with Alex driving, the bus was full, so I said 'we are from Australia, surely there must be space and we don't have to wait 30 minutes for the next bus?' He let us on with open arms but then honed in on us. Asking us if Mel Gibson was Australian.....are we part of the Commonwealth etc. he also happened to mention Ugg boots and Chuck took great pleasure in educating him that they originated in Australia.

The famous "Kissing" Statue - this is the way Chuck greets me everyday!

The Star of India sailed during Abraham Lincoln's time, and still sails today

San Diego Bay

It's been quite a mission, (excuse the pun), for us to find propane of late. We tried at Huntington Beach and Oceanside, but to no avail. Each morning we turn on the gas for our morning cuppa, we hold our breaths and then.....Hooray, we still have propane (gas)!!! The park we stayed in at Mission Bay, had a chap who fills up gas in RV's, but only twice per week. So off we set to find somewhere we could get our propane refilled.

We stopped at Pacific Beach, but no joy there. Anyhow we had a lovely vista over the Pacific Beach, sat for a long while watching a very experienced kite surfer on a foil. We also watched about one hundred surfers bobbing up and down in the water, waiting for a wave.

Pacific beach

From here we drove to La Jolla (pronounced Lahoya) where we found a lovely coffee stop, in real cups for a change. Mostly the coffees have been served in take away paper cups or huge mugs. We realised we were just on the outskirts of La Jolla, so off we went deeper into La Jolla and on the way, I spotted a propane dispenser so we made a hasty stop and now we don't have to hold our breaths anymore, wondering if we will have gas for the stove!

La Jolla was very pretty, upmarket homes and shops, boutiques etc., and a beautiful bay to boot. All in all a lovely day of exploring the seaside.

Two interesting things about San Diego are that when certain parts of the city were built, they were purposely designed without any of the old alley ways which were used as service lanes, thus preventing people from loitering about. The other is that golf buggies are quite legal to drive around. They are registered just like a motor vehicle is and it was a common sight to see them on the roads, even with baby seats in them. There are also 'valet parking' signs all over, for drivers convenience.

Our last night in San Diego; boo hoo (boo for Halloween), 🎃 but boo hoo because we have enjoyed this place so much. We decided to take an Uber into Old Town and have dinner. Surprise, surprise....our driver was the first female Uber driver we have had, she was Roxy. She was brilliant, grew up in San Diego, she was a pretty blonde 25 year old very helpful lady and pointed us in the direction of where to eat. Roxy.....we chose your suggested Italian restaurant which was 'Bellisimo'. We had a lovely evening with pre dinner drink at a pub and then called for our Uber home. Another surprise.....this driver was another female, Erica. She also grew up in San Diego. Whereas Roxy was as white as the driven snow, Erica was as black as the ace of spades; both lovely ladies. Erica had a full time job, but drove an Uber, whilst her six year old daughter slept, so that Erica could afford to take her daughter to Disneyland for her next birthday. You rock Erica!!!

Sadly we had to leave this beautiful coastline and head for the desert.....we might have to trade the RV for a camel and don our keffiyehs.....watch out desert here we come!!!

A Selfie of us having drinks before Dinner

As we waved farewell to San Diego, it was not long before the ocean was behind us and the desert ahead of us. The drive took about three hours, using the Highway 215 and 15 most of the time. I still get anxious in these eight lane freeways, with traffic whizzing past at a rate of knots. Most of the drivers are great, well mannered, know how to merge etc. However as in all cities, you get one or two hoons who weave in and out or cross a solid white line at an exit, just to beat us.

We knew we had arrived in Palm Springs, when we popped over a hill and saw miles and miles of wind turbines, quite an amazing sight and of course they tell a story....a story of wind. We had heard about wind storms in this area and held thumbs that we would not experience any during our stay.

Picture above taken on an iPhone from moving car so not the best, but gives an idea

It had been difficult to find a place to stay, as a rock concert was taking place. Wish we had known about this beforehand. It was a 3 day event, and some of the artists performing were Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney, the Who, Neil Young and Pink Floyd's Roger Waters. Would have loved to attend. Apparently there were around 140,000 people there. After calling around, we had a place to park and a lovely resort it was too. Emerald Desert RV Resort. Andrew and Debbie also stayed here, whilst doing their trip, a year ago.
Oh goodness, the heat of the desert was quite apparent and within minutes, the RV's air conditioner was working hard and cooling us down.

Some of the road names leading us in were
Gene Aultry drive, Bob Hope Road, Sonny Bono Drive, Frank Sinatra Drive. However ....Kalahari Drive led us to our camp for the night.

Once again no fires allowed, but they did have grills over at the clubhouse, so we were able to cook with gas. We'd forgotten how much quicker this method is, compared to waiting for the coals on the barbecue. We had the entire courtyard to ourselves and took advantage of the lovely area of the clubhouse, pool and surrounds.

We aimed quite early in the morning, for the Aerial Tramway (cable car), but stopped on the way, in downtown Palm Springs. We found a lovely courtyard area with shops, boutiques and cafe. This is a big 'rainbow nation' area and they have '90 Gays of summer' I read in a magazine! Palm Springs has one of the largest per capita gay populations in the US and the region has more gay-themed hotels and resorts than any other city in the world. I am sure our friends J & D reading this right now, will be booking their flights to PS! After relaxing in the shade whilst trying hard to spot hummingbirds, we continued on, in the direction of the aerial tramway.

Courtyard for Coffee

We had about a half hour drive to get to it. Once there, it was a very steep drive up to the parking area, which was already at a 1000 foot elevation. Once parked, a bus took us to the entrance of the cable car, which took us 8,516 feet up into the San Jacinto Mountains. This is apparently is the world’s largest revolving cable car. It takes 80 passengers and there are only two others, one in Switzerland and of course, and the other in Cape Town. It is the second steepest. Not only were the views across the desert amazing, but it was a wonderful reprieve from the heat. The temperature at the top was a cool 30 degrees Fahrenheit less, than down below. We lingered and lingered and enjoyed the cool air, sitting amongst the huge trees, listening to a Woodpecker pecking, taking in the nature around us, but eventually we had to make the descent. It was 18 C degrees on top of the mountain and 35 degrees C below. I had to convert Fahrenheit to Celsius but it should be more or less correct.

Some films and TV shot at the tramway were:
Mission Impossible
PS I love You
6 Million Dollar Man

The juxtaposition of the green trees at the summit and the harsh desert landscape below

The Aerial Tramway

We needed to fill the RV up with gas and stock up the fresh goods and head for our overnight stay at Indian Waters RV park.

There was an incident in Palm Springs the day before we arrived. Two policemen went to a house disturbance where there was a dispute and both officers were shot dead. The police woman had only recently gone back to work after giving birth to a baby girl......my heart breaks for that family/families affected and what they are and will be going through. I would like here, to praise our, (all nations), nursing staff, police officers, fire fighters, paramedics for their dedication in what they do for the safety of us. Thank You!!!

We have noticed that the further north or east we drive, the shorter the days have become.

We were chatting on our last evening here and, realised that we only had another eight days in the RV, before putting it in storage. Then five days in NYC before we see our beloved family in CT.

So much to see and do before then and the scooter to sell also. We placed an ad on Craig's list in Las Vegas and the phone has not stopped ringing! Let's hope we get a good clean sale, once we arrive in LV.

🎶🎶 Viva Las Vegas! .....🎶🎶
....and we were on our way to visit our friends, Steffi and Andre Agassi.....well we hope to spot them loitering around somewhere! Chuck has read his book, we have both watched them play tennis over the years, so we do know (of) them, nudge, nudge, wink, 😉 will check 'the strip' in Las Vegas and keep you posted.

Posted by Taqui 20:47 Archived in USA Comments (1)

Anaheim to San Diego

Californian Science Museum and Endeavour Space Shuttle

After a stroll around 'the right part' of Huntington Beach (we stayed in the wrong part), and we could definitely have enjoyed staying here, we then drove on to Anaheim. Because we were in holiday mode, we had not, as promised, changed our GPS from Gladys to Bruce and once again, she led us across the same paths, 'keep left, keep left', another extremely stressful journey. We will sort this one out once and for all, even if we revert to our Google maps on iPhone!! But I could toss the silly b...h out of the window!!!!
We arrived at our RV Park, no decapitations, no damage, other than to our stress levels, so all good. We had chosen this park as it was close to Disneyland and not too far a drive to the California Science Museum, both of which we wanted to visit.

In our previous post, we mentioned that we met up with our friend, Gaston. He was a mine of information and told us about the Endeavour exhibit at the California Science Museum. Well thanks to him, we made it happen!!

An iPhone pano of the Endeavour - the only way I could fit it all in!

We took an Uber to the California Science Museum, which was situated some 34 miles from the RV Park. On the way we had a new experience. We noticed a Sheriff's car whizz past on our left and then a little further up the freeway, he had his lights on and began 'sweeping the lanes' - all 7 of them, ahead of us. I thought okay he's smoking some of the good stuff from Venice Beach. No, he was in fact slowing down the traffic, because the freeway was too congested (hello......Sunday morning at 9.30.......could only happen in Los Angeles), it did the trick and we had a smooth ride in from there to the science museum.

California Science Museum

Oh what a great experience or rather, experiences, this museum was. We spent the entire day there. Chuck could not wipe the smile off his face and looked like a kid who had just walked into a candy store! He has always wanted to go and experience a trip into space. This was probably the closest he will get! He did the shuttle simulator and then we headed to see all about the space ship Endeavour.

Chuck about to board the Shuttle Simulator

They even had guys there who had worked on the Endeavour project (who are now redundant as the Shuttle program has been scrapped), to answer questions. Chuck had one on one conversations with one of the engineers for over half an hour! Nothing is hidden, and they are quite candid with their replies. Eg: He told him he was surprised that the Endeavour looked quite ‘basic’ – the engineer's reply was ‘yes, I agree with you, but basic works!’ Just great. They also have a huge amount of stuff from the first capsule into space (the one with the chimpanzee), and the Gemini capsules. If we thought the Endeavour was basic, then the Gemini stuff was just ancient! All analogue instruments, etc. No ways even Chuck would have gone into space in that!

Look at how rough and ready the Endeavour is. As the engineer who worked on it told Chuck - "Basic works!"

We saw and experienced so much. The museum entry was free. The only costs were the extras, such as shuttle and flight simulators and the IMAX 3D movies. We saw Beautiful Planet in 3D, which was a wonderful experience. All in all a great science museum, wonderful exhibits and California can be proud, that is for certain. Once finished our experience, it was a quick tap on the iPhone and our Uber driver was with us within four minutes. We have so enjoyed using Uber during our travels. It saves us having to drive into the city, find parking for a huge vehicle and so convenient, efficient and well-priced for what one gets.

One of the interesting stats we learnt at the science museum was that California receives only 15 inches (about 380 mm) of rain per year. Given the annual fires they experience, one has to wonder what water they use to put them out.

The resort we chose to stay at, had a bus stop for transport to Disneyland. We were up early and transported into Disney for a day of fun. I had chosen three thrill rides for Charl to do and three more sedate rides for moi. We could not believe the queues when we arrived. Given this was 9.15 a.m. on a Monday and it was school term. Well, we discovered it was not only Rosh Hashanah, but some schools were having fall break. Oh dear, and we thought we had chosen a quiet day, being Monday! We managed to work our way through the quickest queues and it didn't take too long to enter.

The crowds inside Disneyland

It being October, the theme of the park was Halloween. Pumpkins were on display everywhere! Apparently Halloween is the only celebration which has not been high-jacked by some or other protest group. i.e. everybody celebrates, unlike Christmas which the Muslims don't, or Thanks Giving which others don't, etc, etc. So, they make the most of it, and celebrate for the whole month....

Pumpkins, pumpkins, pumpkins!!

We began with Pirates of Caribbean which was really good, the displays, as we went around water in boats were amazing, so very well done. Then we headed to Indiana Jones, but alas they were having technical issues and it was temporarily closed. I found an info desk as we could not find, on our map, which we picked up on entry, any of the rides for Charl? Oh no, they were in the other next door park! So no Big Dippers for Chuck! Well we had obviously booked for the wrong park, and had to make the most of the rides available to us. Chuck did the Matterhorn; a luge simulator which apparently was quite scary and also Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. We then headed back, as we had purchased fast passes, to do the Haunted Mansion, again, so very well done. They even had ginger aromas, when we saw a gingerbread house, cool! By this time Indiana Jones had been fixed, and whilst Chuck went on the scary rides, I people watched. It would have been so much fun to experience this with our grandchildren.

The Grandies would have loved the Castle Themes, etc.

Chuck enjoyed Mickey's car!

We did the Star Wars Galaxy ride, for which we were belted into our seats, felt the thrust, our seats pushed, pulled and turned, all whilst watching Star Wars in 3D. We enjoyed fantasyland as well, just checking out the gardens, and rides for the youngsters. And then, just as in the storybooks, the fun was all over and it was time to head back home.

We sat people watching whilst waiting for our return bus. There was a Halloween party due to take place in the evening, for which tickets were sold out months previously. It was so interesting watching people entering the park, in all their dress-up gear, young and old, quite fantastic. The other thing that amazed us was how many people collect Disney badges and have strings of them around their necks. And the other amazement; just how much food people consume, goodness, they were always stuffing their mouths with something. I overheard one kid say to his parents 'I need to eat, or else I may feel hungry'.

The folk really get into the atmosphere of the place. Many were dressed in costume or at least had Mickey ears.

We were both absolutely whacked and needed an early night after the day of walking and rides.

On to Crystal cove and beach time again. We drove to Crystal Cove State park, where we had called to book a spot. We were told to arrive and only then could they see if there was a spot available. We arrived to find there was only a non hook up site and not in the greatest spot, so we pushed on.

We had a lovely stop at Laguna Beach, sat at Heisler Park and overlooked the beach which had lots of interest, as it was curved and had cliffs, whereas the previous beaches had been miles of straight beach. Whilst sitting there, Chuck pointed out a hummingbird taking pollen from a Lantana bush, it was so cute, but you guessed it, by the time the camera was onto it, it had flown away. Man they are so elusive, tiny, quiet, and quick, I don't think I am ever going to get a pic.

There were some lovely upmarket shops in this village, art galleries and cafe's. We had a stroll along the boardwalk and made our decision to head for Oceanside, just north of Carlsbad.

Laguna Beach

In Oceanside we found an RV site and right next door, was a tyre shop, which we needed to visit. Chuck had noticed the right front tyre was wearing quicker than the left so we asked for the two be swapped over. 'No problems said the Mexican give me 40 minutes'. We used the time to walk downtown and along the beachfront, where we saw a huge family of squirrels, popping in and out of the rocks. Somebody had left a pile of fruit and they were having a fun time, eating the watermelon and whatever else was there.

Never seen squirrels on the beach before - looked something like Cape Dassies

We returned to the tyre shop over an hour later. Of course he had not yet looked at the tyres, but did so immediately, only to find the tyre was in fact damaged and needed to be replaced. It took a while to find the correct size of tyre, amongst the many piles outside on the tar. It was not too long a wait and the tyre was back on, wheels balanced and we could head back for a well-deserved cup of tea.

Next day we went to Carlsbad. Funny thing is that I associate this name with our travels to Austria and Germany and it seems odd to me, to find it here, in California. We needed to stock up on groceries, but then there was also a mall of outlet shops! After having a good look at all that was on offer and one pair of Nine West shoes later, we headed to Safeway and got our groceries and then onto Walmart, as they are the best stockists of RV goods (RV loo paper, loo sanitisers etc.,). We had managed to break two wine glasses and were able to replace them at Walmart also. No, we had not had a Greek glass throwing party, just wear and tear. Then onto the pretty beachfront. We passed by many pumpkin fields all with huge pumpkins waiting to have their faces cut out for Halloween.

Now onto our final destination heading south i.e. San Diego. After that we turn around and begin our journey north-east and onto the Grand Canyon.

Posted by Taqui 19:36 Archived in USA Comments (1)

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