Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Albany-Tacoma / GUK

Previous posts on trip: Departure...Arrival...Day 2 ... Day 3 ... Day 4 ... Day 5 ...


After another delicious and delightfully presented breakfast (Ursula sets a high standard for hospitality which would be heaps of fun to try to return)
Breakfast at Ursula's
with a special treat courtesy of Stephen:

we were sad to say goodbye to Ursula who graciously drove us to Albany to catch the Amtrak to Tacoma.

We were very impressed with the uniformed guard and the business class service on Amtrak Cascades.

Rice for lunch on Amtrak Cascades

While the boys enjoyed the supplied power for their digital devices: Kakuro were my entertainment:

Another Kakuro solved

Uncle Karel picked us up at the station in Tacoma, showed us his work and introduced us to colleagues. Had a lovely chat while he drove us to check in at a hotel that appears to provide a beautiful accommodation (which struck me to be similar to Australia's Best Western and favoured of the military), and then to his home.

GUKs apartment building

Julie made lovely meal of cold meat subs with beautiful salads. Uncle Karel drove us to hotel and we agreed to meet for breakfast.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Oregon coast

Previous posts on trip: Departure...Arrival...Day 2 ... Day 3 ... Day 4

Tuesday: to the coast: Sean took us tidepooling, so we saw anemone, starfish, rockfish babies, seals.

Ran out of breath climbing up through Hobbit Walk, so stopped to photograph funghi.

Visited sealion caves

Seal colony

then an insect-eating plant.


Climbed sanddunes while Sean shopped at his favourite coin collection store.

Yes, our feet touch earth

Ant on ...what flower is this?

Into Florence


Tea at Waterfront Depot

Waterfront Depot

where I tried crab-encrusted halibut which Ursula said was disappointingly unlike the first she'd had there. The Calamari fingers were okay, but I forgot to salt them, and they were served with a tomato based sauce! Pomegranate cocktail was lovely. Boys had icecream from BJ's but after receiving a taste (the store offers) Ursula and I were unimpressed and avoided it. Regret to admit I slept much of the way back in the car.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Horses, wine and bicycles

Previous posts on trip: Departure...Arrival...Day 2 ... Day 3

Trip Photos at Flickr


Monday. The boys spent the day with Sean while I went with Ursula to observe her grad student's tests of horses. I was pleased to get a few cuddles, well... nuzzles. Not so pleased that night to realise I had let myself get sunburned. After observing the vet students Ursula and I went to Ankenny for winetasting and a spot of cheese (Ursula what was that cheese?) and crackers and grapes. Saw some birds, maybe osprey but only got photos of a fake one on a string.

After grocery shopping (I got to drive Ursula's cart back into store) and unpacking the boys played Bocce.

For tea: bbq, with grilled corn and a butter I squished together (didn't quite follow the recipe which I must get from Ursula), Chicken and garlic sausages, spicy coleslaw... (again must get recipe). Beautiful brownies for dessert.

Bicycles and Risk

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Snow kangaroo and frogs

Previous posts on trip: Departure...Arrival...Day 2

Trip Photos at Flickr

Though awake at 8am, by end of beautiful breakfast: seeded pancakes (pikelets) syrup, blueberry jam, rockmelon, Indonesian tea: we had a late departure for the next tour Ursula had planned.

We saw two squirrels on the way out of town. Unfortunately I am making these notes in retrospect and have forgotten some details.  We visited a lookout to Mt Washington; Suttle lake (apparently the Canadian goose and gosling are a common sight). Yummy memory = lunch: Ursula's beautiful turkey sandwiches with avocado, havarti cheese, lettuce, mayonnaise. Cherries. Nectarines, Chips, Ursula's mum's cake. Chips for the goose.
Took photos of feet in the water.

Aargh! I have forgotten to charge the camera - :( So frustrating - now I see it would have been worth having a second battery. Silly silly.

Ursula wanted to show us the lava flows along a particular road - but that road was closed, so we ended up at ?was it? McArthur Ridge? - SNOW! - oh the conflict in my memory - excitement and joy about snow in summer - delight at just the right quantity: enough to make a snow kangaroo when challenged by Ursula and to have a snow ball fight with the boys; but also sympathy and guilt remembering Ursula silently struggling with her injured leg across the squelchy skiddy snow.

Drove back past ?- oh Ursula can you remind me of the name of the? Lake where we stopped to catch frogs. I caught two - ursula has photos. I'll post when I get copies.

We did end up seeing Lava flows and Ursula spotted one shaped like a squirrel.
The hour getting on we again changed plans, this time for tea to Mexican in Sweet Home at Los Dos Amigos. Huge plates, Grilled chicken, beans and mixed vegetables.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Good morning Oregon: Portland / Corvallis

I woke at 3:54 and 8 am to an odd purring/flickering sound that may have been associated with the airconditioning from the next room - perhaps paper stuck in the vent. Unfortunately Fish had woken 5am and was not able to get back to sleep.

Breakfast was good: scrambled eggs, bacon, fruit, yoghurt.
The lovely waitress kindly obtained tea for me, but the milk option (half and half) as on the plane was not very pleasant to me. Perhaps I should stick to herbal teas here.

We managed to be ready for when Ursula and Steven picked us up at hotel in a blue Prius.  Apparently this was funny for the boys – something to do with jokes by Jeff Denham. 

Steven drove us to Multnomah Falls.  I will upload photos of the waterfall, wildflowers, highway restoration, railway line at Flickr.

Oh drat I haven’t yet taken a photo of those interesting train cargo trucks with central support rail – what do they normally transport? Then we stopped at Vista House which now provides a history of the building of (?Oregon’s first) highway. The attendant told us that this rest spot was an afterthought and they just went overboard: pink limestone walls, marble floor, busts of Indians as ?cornices (is that the word I mean?).

For a late lunch at Pappa Haydn's Fish and I had some fancy sort of Tuna Salad (yes I wish I remember what specific kind) in which nicely herb-crusted slices of half-cooked tuna sat atop a bed of avocado with lettuce dressed with vinaigrette on the side – I quite enjoyed it, Fish found it strange but did eat it all; followed by delicious lemon and blueberry cheesecake. Cricket enjoyed his hamburger.

We enjoyed exploring Powell's bookstore in Portland and although I wished I had my wishlist with me, I couldn’t have bought more: just not enough room in our bags. I kept looking at the residences in that part of Portland with almost everyone of them having steep steps to a verandah of some sort at the front door, often balconies. The steps reminded me of the "stoop" described in a book I read as a child, probably by Scholastic, I think was called Amy and Laura.

During the drive to Corvallis when we weren’t unfortunately falling asleep I noted varieties of homes I don't see in Australia.

After a tour of Ursula's lovely home and garden, and chat over gin and tonic, I tried a fresh cherry - yum. I’ve always disliked cherries – based on the nasty things in cans of tropical fruit salad and fruitcake.  For tea: lasagna and salad: yum yum. Rhubarb and strawberry pie with cream and Rooibos red tea for dessert. Yum.  Drambuie.

Such a long day – we are very grateful for such generously kind hospitality.

Friday, June 25, 2010

America, here we are

We were very glad to arrive in LA.  There was a longish wait at immigration, but finally our finger  and thumbprints were taken, and there were no problem with ESTA visa waiver - we didn't even need the printout I had ready.   We had no problem getting our bags thanks to Fish: Cricket and I were walking around not seeing Cricket's bag but it was the first one Fish had collected so Fish was looking for his own bag. It was a longer line at customs although when we got to the point, the actual procedure to get through was very quick. Turned on phones and found we had local services, thank you AAPT.

We asked a couple of people and found the domestic terminal (Alaska airlines) rather quickly and within walking distance. Used a machine outside the terminal to get boarding passes and start checkin of bags (feeling proud of myself for use of new-to-me technology). Completed checking inside then entered line for security passage to gates.  Long line.  We could have taken our little suitcases as well as our backpacks as carryon, saving $20 each but we knew this before we left and had brought toiletries which were not permitted in carryon. We were early for flight so after finding our gate we had tea at Burger King, having forgotten that American "large" meals would be too large. 

During the flight I tried Gogo internet which was free on Alaska airline at the moment, and had no problem connecting, but I was too tired to think of what to write where and to whom. It was also the wrong time of day to communicate with anyone.

There was hardly anyone at airport in Portland when we arrived (11:30pm)ish, so we followed signs nervously to baggage claim, which was right near the exit and friendly staff helped us find the taxi rank, as Sarah had told us the hotel did not have a shuttle (perhaps she meant at that time of night). I wasn't sure the taxi driver had understood which hotel to take us to, but he got us to the right one and my first tip was incidental as the $20 bill I had was a good tip over the cost of the fare.

The night superintendent at Hilton Garden Inn Portland Airport was a welcome and sympathetic sight.  There was some confusion over our rooms as he saw in the computer only a room with one bed and no spare, certainly not the connecting rooms Sarah had told us about.  He changed our room, then when we arrived at it he rang through to apologise for the confusion as he had found another booking under Cricket's name.  We ended up with a second room down the hall, a king bed for me and double each for the boys.  My key wouldn't work and on the way down to sort that a staff member was on his way up with a letter of apology for the confusion and vouchers for complimentary breakfast. After showers, a quick email to Ursula as I had forgotten to send her a text about our safe arrival and it was now too late at night, we tried to sleep.

America, here we come (playing Kenken)

This day was 34 hours long…(and this post has no photos, yet - but friends & family with Flickr accounts can see our departure photos in our Flickr set for the trip)

Up at 8am (Australian time), final packing, remembered I had not enrolled for course next semester, chatted with Ontario friend on MSN.

Toni took us to the Ballarat Station to catch the Ballarat Airport Shuttlebus, via Ballarat Books to pick up book for Cricket's course next semester. We were early to the station so we bought wedges and many packets of chewing gum at the cafeteria.

GUF called to check our departure time, and decided to meet us and wait with us even though we would be hanging around for three hours. Check in went smoothly although I felt a little nervous letting go of our bags which would be transferred to our international flights at Sydney. After a loo call we strolled to Subway for the boys' lunch, picked up Australian flags for Melissa’s children, then strolled back to McDonalds and caught GUF on the way - he knew where I would be.

Over lunch Cricket remembered he had not told Centrelink about his new course or going to US - okay we would phone it in.  On our way to the gate looking for a quiet place to phone we spotted strudels, so GUF bought the boys donuts, and then we spotted phones and an internet kiosk.

Unfortunately the reception over the airport’s Telstra booth was lousy so we called home again via Cricket’s phone, and while Div sought the appropriate number for Youth Allowance at Centrelink for us, we bought internet time but that was incredibly slow and we forgot Cricket's password anyway. With the number from Div and a typical (yet to see how expensive) period on hold, we managed to give relevant information over phone. Also called AAPT to confirm global roaming would be on both phones.

Finally we strolled to Gate 1 and GUF waited with us till our flight.  It was great to have his company. I began my pile of puzzles with Kenken - GUF helped me understand how they work.

We don’t recall anything about the domestic flight, but the transfer to international terminal was made easily with clear directions, streamlined check in and a shuttlebus. The international flight began well if a little cramped. There was a selection of free tv shows and movies, although I needed the attendant to press a few buttons to make mine work. Tea on the plane was ok. It was all but impossible to sleep. Long painful night. Trying not to think about return trip. Breakfast was not as nice as tea.

Was the 4x4 Kenken too easy for you? Try this one: