December 2007

The back treatment visit was interesting, to say the least. My back has been great for a whole week. Julie started the drive home, got part way and was starting to drift off a bit, so handed over the wheel and laid her seat back for a bit of a rest. She woke up an hour later as we pulled into Canberra. Her sciatica is better, but the pinched nerve area is very painful.

Along the way, we took a photo entitled, “What’s wrong with this photo?” Let me know how you go. Unfortunately for Aussies who have never been to the US, sorry, you’re at a disadvantage.

Correct answer(s):
It’s part of a US chain purporting to be genuine Australian food, but it’s really “just another food chain”.
One of their landmark offerings is a “Bloomin’ Onion”, which is a large onion split out into the shape of a flower, then deep fried.
Most of the waiters are Mexican.
It’s IN AUSTRALIA! This picture was taken in Campbelltown, NSW.

The Springsure Guest House contract folded. The daily costs of the business associated with the property were just too high. Instead, we have contracted for 2 chalets in the Golden Door Health Resort in the Gold Coast Hinterland.

Wow, the garden just came into its own. Along with the strawberries that I’ve been picking, the tomatoes are coming along nicely and we have discovered that the apple tree out the front is in fact triple grafted, not sure what the base is (possibly Golden or Red Delicious), but it has Granny Smith and (I think) Jonathon grafted on. Then today when we were preparing the weekly roast for lunch meat, we figured we would need some herbs (or erbs as I am frequently informed). As Julie reached for the spice rack, I reminded her that we have fresh ones in the garden. So the roast ended up with Rosemary, Marjoram and Thyme. Hmm, sounds like a song coming on!

Now that we have pulled the Christmas presents out of the cupboard and spread them across the spare bed, (and discovered that we have waaaaay to many), I’m starting to anticipate heading off and seeing the rellies again. We fly to Sydney on Fri 21 for another back treatment for Julie in the afternoon, followed by one for me with Steve Lockhart, the originator of the treatment program, on Saturday, then take an Air Canada flight to Vancouver on Sunday, arriving there before we leave! Then collect a hire car (very cheap, thanks to April’s hound-dog Internet sniffing) and head on over the border.

I’ve asked the Universe for a very brief White Christmas, so that I can see one, but we don’t have the severe weather and traffic conditions to go with it. We’re staying at the Extended Stay America in Everett (thanks again to April), so we will be close to her and also on the right side of town to get to Mum & Dad’s place.

My new camera arrived, free, courtesy of lots of credit card reward points. It’s a Sony CyberShot DSC-H7S, with 15X optical zoom and 8 Megapixels, and very light! I’ve had fun with it and turned in some magic shots without really trying.

We’ve had a VERY interesting weekend. We went with Julie’s work people to the National Zoo for a ZooVenture Tour, which includes hand feeding some of the animals. Both of us got to feed the bear and the lion, and Julie had a snake around her shoulders. Unfortunately, the 140 photos I took with the new camera all vanished into a “file error” on the new Memory Stick card. Very disappointing, but better sooner rather than later, I guess. Then we went off to the Canberra Yacht Club for lunch. What should have been a simple set menu lunch turned into a 3 hour marathon of lousy service. WE (i.e. Julie) were NOT amused! Then we headed off to Bob & Jen’s place for a BBQ, and Bob mentioned that there is a pattern of bad service that goes around the 4 clubs owned by the Southern Cross Club – must be a crappy chef or careless crew, or something. We ended up staying the night with Bob & Jen, because we were both a little …..

OK, so we got up next morning, had a couple cups of coffee, went off to do a bit of shopping and put petrol in the car, went to start the car at the servo and the bloody thing wouldn’t start. So I backed it down out of the driveway, parked on the street and called the NRMA. Turns out it was just the battery, which being about 4 years old, just decided it was “time”. I said to the Patrolman, “Well it is winter, after all” and he said, “It’s summer, actually”, so I had to explain that we are gearing up to go to Seattle and I must be getting winterised already! My dear wife brought me some (more) coffee and breakfast, so we just enjoyed the company while we waited. Actually, it was raining at the time, so I wasn’t far wrong. Come to think of it, it’s been tropical instead of dry here this summer, with the humidity building up during the day towards a thunderstorm in the late afternoon. Weird.

And a special thanks to our neighbour, Lily, and her father Tim, for looking after the place and promising to visit the puppies in their kennel, while we are gone.

Friday: The motel looks out over the Parramatta Ryde Golf Course and of course the golfers were out there early. Also out early were the Rainbow Lorikeets feasting on the nectar of the bottlebrush bushes. Another lesson for Julie about planting trees and bushes that actually attract the native birds.

We’ve both had our backs worked over. Julie was quite sore last night in the area that took quite a bit of pummelling. The concrete bed didn’t help either. Mine felt like it was broken after Steve had finished with it, but it warmed up and feels great! We’ve checked out the David Jones Food Hall (expensive), the Queen Victoria Building (nice tree!).

and Market City (crowded as always), and now we’re sitting here enjoying the ambiance of an authentic Irish pub in Sydney. Yes, a pint of Guinness, of course. And it’s very nice to observe that Julie seems to have gotten over her propensity to party on. She’ll be happy to leave when the noise gets too much in here.

So, Sunday morning dawns bright and clear, not a cloud in the sky.

We get packed up and on the road, in search of breakfast. But this is Sunday morning in Sydney, and I’m sure we could have found a trendy cafe down by the water somewhere, but not on Ring Road 3 heading for the airport. So it was back to Macca’s. And Julie actually caught herself calling it Macca’s instead of Mickey D’s. She’s definitely been in Aus too long!

We had a grand plan of “doing a Leon” (aka wonderful friend and Scout colleague Leon Tannahill) and volunteering for an upgrade. The counter person said, “You and everyone else”, so I guess it’s not such a big deal after all. Then he explained that the maximum weight of any bag on this flight is 25 Kg, and suggested that our “upgrade” would be that he wouldn’t charge us excess baggage. Which was rather nice of him, as I had been packing to the 32 Kg maximum on the LA or SF flights, and both of them were around the 29 Kg mark.

So here we are in a brand new Boeing 777 aircraft, and the entire entertainment system has just been rebooted to try to eliminate some of the bugs that have cropped up. Ah, the technology!

Arrived OK in Vancouver. The usual immigration line, then collected our luggage and walked straight through (yes, straight through) Customs. Took ages to find the car rental place first, then more time getting the car organised, so we put Julie behind the wheel to takes us across the border, as she was equally tired, but at least in her element of driving on the wrong side of the road.

Then the inevitable wait at the US border – about 30 minutes of inching forward.

Then we got pulled over to “go inside”, where we found out that because I don’t have a working visa, I needed to go through the ID process, fingerprints and all, for a stay not exceeding 3 months. All of this took even more time, so the planned breakfast stop at Bellingham ended up being the lunch stop. We finally got into Everett about 3:30, hitting the heavy traffic for about the last 5 miles. The carefully planned surprise decoration of the room was indeed a pleasant surprise.

Then we headed over to April’s place in the dark, and we were even more surprised to find that it was only 4 in the afternoon.

April took Julie shopping and was highly amused at her going nuts at the variety of stuff that she could get, not to mention the many goodies that she can’t get “back home”. Later on, she sat up reading and nibbling on crackers with Velveeta cheese (don’t ask).

And I can’t believe how quickly my right and left have been screwed while driving. April gave me directions to the local Credit Union branch. We found it eventually by accident, on the way back to her place, nowhere near where we were first going!

Back in the room later, Julie looked up to find me asleep in front of the new computer I was running up, so I figured it was crash time. Awake in the middle of the night, I heard a crash and scrape noise. looked out the window and saw a couple of guys throwing something into the back of their ute (oops, that’s an SUV). Thinks, hmm, that doesn’t look right, make a note to check that in the morning. Sure enough, when Julie went over there to get coffee, she found out that it was the phone box that had been stolen.

Today, she wanted to call her parents, but because they live about 15 miles down the road, in another area code, calling them is considered “long distance”, which costs only slightly less than an arm and a leg. So off she goes again to the shop to get a phone card, just so that she can call them for something less than $2 a minute.

Now here’s the kicker. Julie said I was right. Of course I should just leave that statement right there on its own, but that wouldn’t be fair, would it? She said she was surprised by discovering that the design of the toilets here are really quite different from the ones in Aus, as she was stumbling around in the dark patting the top of the cistern looking for a button, only to find the handle thingy on the side, and also that they hold way more water. Wow, she’s becoming more Aussified as time goes on!

We’ve just come back from spending Christmas Eve at April’s place, watching Duncan helping to unwrap the many presents. He’s warming to us very slowly.

Meanwhile, Weather Watcher on the laptop has been popping up with a severe weather warning, saying that there’s heap of cold air over the Cascades and a heap of moisture coming from the ocean, resulting in the potential for snow anywhere in lowland Western Washington. So, there we were, driving down to Mum & Dad’s place in north Seattle, and lo and behold, it starts snowing!

Then it just got heavier, and heavier, and then it really set in and started sticking. I’ve been grinning from ear to ear and as excited as a kid in a candy store. And I have photos to prove it.

As I write this, there’s a couple of inches on the ground. Must have been really good this year, huh? I got my wish, no more and no less – a dump of snow for a White Christmas, which then cleared away so that there were no traffic hassles getting home.

And a wonderful dinner and evening with the family topped it off.

Saturday: It has been a whirlwind of get-togethers with former colleagues, friends and various members of family, running up new computers to my own exacting standards, and shopping.

Last night, on the way to dinner out near the ocean at Ballard, we took a couple of wrong turns going down the hill from the Zoo area and really tested the capabilities of the GPS. There we were, in a tight little street, and we came upon a small roundabout. BOTH of us thought, OK we’ll go left, no hang on, that doesn’t look right either, we have to go the OTHER side. Taking it that way felt REALLY strange. We came here with a whole suitcase (plus a bit) full of presents and it looks like we will return with more than we brought. Yikes.

New Years Eve dawned early with a 3:30 am call from Brooke, who was most surprised that I was already asleep until I got her to realise that it really was that time where I am. Followed by the rash of text messages to bring in the New Year, which we have to wait for most of the day to get to. Strange.

The day ended with me joining Mike & Duncan at a Hockey game. The Everett Silvertips have only been in the Western Division for 5 years and have won 4 titles so far. Most of the players are from Canada and are hosted by local families. The Division goes right out to Oregon and Saskatchewan. And they won, too.

Julie went out for dinner with April and another friend. She’s come down with a cold too, so we’ll just sleep through the festivities.