Auckland, New Zealand: First stop outside the borders of the US. 01/16/2020

Well it was a non-eventful, eventful day. Confusing, I know. The trip started out, oh, so casually from San Diego. We left bright and early as Kathy was a tad bit anxious about not being able to check onto the flight online. Since traffic wasn’t too bad and we ended up in LA about 2 hours earlier than necessary, a casual discussion ensued about what we should do in LA to fill the gap: Hollywood Walk of Fame, the beach, what sounds appealing? We instead opted to drop off the rental car early and head to the airport early to check-in for our flight, since we were unable to do it online. Phew! Our blessed St. Christopher’s medal worked as he smiled upon us. Our scheduled flight from LA to Houston was delayed by over an hour. Fortunately, there was an earlier flight to Houston that left in one hour, just barely enough time for the airline to rebook it for us. Had we waited to go to the airport by even 15 minutes, we would have missed the earlier flight. The later flight had only 20 minutes on the ground in Houston and we surely would have missed the connecting flight to New Zealand. Instead they got us on a flight leaving at 10:21 in the morning allowing us to board our flight on time.
We did have to spend several hours in Houston’s airport, but it wasn’t too bad since Dave had two passes to the United Sky Club. We relaxed (and snacked!) in the calm atmosphere before we boarded our long flight to New Zealand.

The flight was long and boring (did I mention it was long? Just in case, let me repeat it again: long and boring!) The seats were excellent, and the hospitality of the Air New Zealand crew was outstanding. Upon disembarking from the plane in Auckland, we zipped through customs meaning we were too early to pick up the rental car. We lollygagged around the airport where we had a lively discussion with some locals who gave us the rundown on the gangs of New Zealand. Totally different from the gangs of NY.

Finally, we were out on the road…not exactly lost, but not as efficient as we could have been. The stalwart GPS unit from Garmin that we have had for years gave up the ghost today. We got to see a lot of the local area as we looked for a store that sold the Garmin brand (since we have SD cards for all the other countries where we will be driving) Success!!! A mall had a store that had two units available. Of course, the Garmin was the much more expensive version. This GPS unit has Driver Assist which will nag Dave when he drives, so the burden on Kathy to remind him not to get to close to the curb or keep farther back from the car in front, will be lessened. (Driving on the wrong side of the car and the wrong side of the road needs getting some used to!) It also has a dash camera, hence the large cost.

Lunch was in the mall food court, but it was nothing like what I was used to. They did have the typical McDonald’s and Chinese food, but from there it was an eclectic blend of food from different countries. The most unique offering in my view: “barbeque spaghetti.” Nope I did not try it, instead choosing something a little safer.

Time to wind down for the day and relax. Stay tuned for some pictures!! Patti T, we will have some special just for you!!!

PS. By the way, Dave got an email alert that Saranac Lake was expecting a winter storm with 6-10” of snow coming, so he had to let Mark Yamrick know that it is 74 and sunny here in Auckland! The mall was having “back to school” sales! It is truly a topsy-turvy world.

Last full day in the USA 01/13/2020

Today was a day for saying goodbyes. A big hug for Jill and Shea, Kathy cried, Jill cried. The apple did not fall far from the tree.

Our next stop after breakfast and a shower is Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery where we honored the soldiers who gave so much. The lines of gravestones were a solemn reminder of how many sacrificed so much so that we can be free to travel the world. https://www.cem.va.gov/cems/nchp/ftrosecrans.asp

Next stop was Cabrillo National Monument honoring one of the first Europeans to step foot in California. The views were amazing!! They had a lighthouse!!!! Kathy is a sucker for lighthouses, so this made her day. We hiked around the monument and looked for whales and watched the boats float by below us. We then drove down to the tidepools where we saw an abundance of sea birds dodging the waves that tried to displace them from the rocks. https://www.nps.gov/cabr/index.htm

Last part of the day was spent walking Old Town San Diego where we had a lovely dinner before coming back to get settled in for the night.

We will catch up with y’all when we get settled In New Zealand.

Day 10—Wow in the double digits!!! 01/13/2020

A day at the zoo!!! No, we did not stay in the apartment with Jill and Shea!! San Diego Zoo was the next stop in our adventure. We walked for 5 hours, had over 14,000 steps with only 13 heart points. A fun day all around. We saw, lions, and tigers, and bears Oh My!!!! A lively conversation ensued about which animals we might see during our travels. We will let you know!!

Dinner was an amazing Mexican meal from Guadalajara Casa Restaurant, by far the best we have experienced. A drive thru Old Town to look at some of the architecture and then back to our lodgings.

The day was concluded by spending the evening relaxing with Jill and Shea as they had a 05:30 rendezvous with train heading to Eugene Oregon.

T-290 days and counting – San Diego, California, USA

U-turns seems to be the theme of California; could be the GPS, could be the GPS operator, could be California. The day started off well with a brisk workout and then off to brunch with Grandpa Jack. This led to our first U-turn: two streets named the same except one is East and one is West, and they don’t connect! A perfect way to confuse out of towners. A quick call to get some clarification and we finally arrived at our destination.
After brunch we headed down to the Mission of San Juan Capistrano where we toured the historic site, learned some new historical facts, and soaked in the warm sun!! A few hours later we were on the road to our next stop, San Diego.

A decision to drive the Pacific Coast Highway necessitated another U-turn when we were politely turned around by a State Park Ranger who informed us that we had met the terminus. We tried to figure out if we could continue forward, but Camp Pendleton stood in our way a few miles down the road. The ranger implied that the reception might not be as kindly. U-turn!

We finally arrived at our destination: a cute AirBnB in San Diego located close to amenities and restaurants – and a small wildlife refuge!. A stroll down to the local shopping areas for a dinner at Ike’s—Jill’s one “have to” place to have a bite to eat and then meandered back to the room. A casual night followed as we all caught up on some much needed rest.

January 10, 2020 Day 9 …..291 to go!!

Today was a great day. We didn’t end up in jail! Hooray!! Well, it wasn’t for a lack of trying, that’s for sure. Two attempts at trying to penetrate a naval weapons station was probably two times too many. In our quest to visit a National Wildlife Refuge, we followed our technology. Dave took quite the ribbing from Kathy and our daughter, Jill, and her husband, Shea (who we met up with at LAX) when he ignored Kathy’s smartphone directions and instead followed his GPS directions which advised him to turn right. When he made the turn and was faced with armed security at a military checkpoint, he quickly made a U-turn. After Kathy’s, “Ha! Ha!”, Dave dutifully followed her phone…to another armed entrance to the naval weapons station. Learning on the fly, Dave bypassed this checkpoint without having to make a second uhey. When a third attempt at finding the “public land” had them aiming again at the checkpoint, Dave noticed a sign at the checkpoint for the wildlife refuge. Never letting naval weapons stand in his way, Dave cheerfully approached the checkpoint and informed them that he intended to visit the refuge. “Not without an appointment and an escort you won’t!” informed the equally cheerful armed officer. So, since “U-turn” was the word of the day, Dave cranked the steering wheel around once again. Dave was disappointed that neither “badging his way in” nor a $5 bribe worked on this public servant. (Who puts a National Wildlife Refuge behind a military base???)
Deterred from visiting the Seal Beach National Wildlife Refuge, but not from visiting public lands, the group decided to head to Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. Following his trusty GPS, he arrived at another security checkpoint, but this one was not attended by armed police backed up by F-15’s. Once again Dave pointed out to the security guard that his trusty GPS, using official US Government satellites, was directing him to public lands through this community. The guard was amused but advised us this was not the way. I showed her the GPS unit showing a shortcut through her neighborhood. The slightly less amused guard gave us different directions. U-TURN!
After making yet another U-turn at Malibu City Hall (which the GPS was sure was sure was along a shortcut!), Dave used a map and we eventually made our way to some public lands for a hike up Backbone Ridge Trail.
The 1.5-hour drive to our hotel after the hike offered us some bonus driving time as the 405 doubled as a parking lot most of the way. So, 2.5 hours later we arrived. After settling in, we walked down the road a mile or so to a restaurant the concierge at the hotel recommended. Since we couldn’t find a table to sit down at, we U-turned on foot to a Chinese restaurant and had our fill.
Lively discussions on how to solve the world’s problems rounded out our day. At least it was a sunny, bright day with temps well above zero for a change!

Last day in SLC–Day 8

Last day in SLC was spent with family and friends. A lovely lunch with Mom and dinner with one of my oldest and dearest friends. Tomorrow, Friday, we head to the airport to begin the start of our world trip.

While I wouldn’t normally comment on our lodgings I have to say our room at our hotel in SLC was an experience. The room, handicapped accessible, had some interesting features. During the night if one of us gets up to go the bathroom the room senses it and turns on the bathroom light!!! Lesson learned the first night, shut the bathroom door or we are all awake!!! The shower wheelchair accessible is flat and water spreads from the shower to the toilet, necessitating towels everywhere after a shower.