Friday, 31 July 2009

24/07/2009 - 12/09/2009 Colorado - Los Angeles

24/07/2009 - Rapid City, Wyoming - Longmont, Colorado. After The Big Fella dragged me away from the Bears we started to make our way down to Colorado. On our way down we stopped at a little town called Lusk for a couple of nights. We left Lusk and headed for Wolford Mountain Reservoir to catch up with our friend Peter Kaiser (the Austrian we met earlier on in our travels).

26/07/2009 - 28/07/2009 - Wolford Mountain Reservoir. We decided to take the scenic route through the Rocky Mountains National Park and arrived at the Lake at around 6:30pm. When we arrived Peter had told us that there was no need for me to worry about dinner, he had already prepared a delicious pasta meal (you gotta love this guy). The remainder of the evening was spent chatting over a few drinks. The next morning, the Big Fella cooked us a great breakfast on the grill and Peter let us know that he had rented a boat, to take out on the lake, of course Peter had lined up a good deal with the Camp Host. He had all the fishing gear already lined up, so we finally jumped into the boat and headed out onto the lake. We were fishing for fresh water Salmon, and let me tell you we tried all sorts of bait, but unfortunately it didn't look like we were going to have fish for dinner. We decided to go for a cruise around the lake and stopped just off shore. When we had stopped we noticed a few yabbies in the water - so next minute Dave is hanging over the edge of the boat trying to catch them with the fishing net, and Peter and I are putting Ham (from our lunch) on our hooks, we gave up on worms and bait etc. After about an hour we had just over 20 and we decided that would be enough for an appetiser (plus we had to get the boat back). When we got back, I decided that it was time for a little rest, The Big Fella thought it was a good time to give the generator a little attention. When I woke up I noticed that the weather was turning a bit ugly and that the winds had picked up. Peter had been out chatting with the Camp Host and had just got up to pull his annexe down, and for some reason the Camp Host took off, but Dave and I didn't realise that he had left, so Peter was left trying to get the annexe down himself. Of course by the time Dave got over there to see if they needed a hand to put everything away - the annexe had already gone.
Peter cooked the yabbies in a garlic butter sauce, well Dave and I were happy, Peter is still undecided. Dave cooked a great steak on the grill and we had a couple of quiet drinks before we settled in for the evening. Peter had planned on riding his bike back to Longmont (about 30 minutes outside Denver) where he owns and runs a bakery where he sells his great breads at the Farmers Markets in Colorado. He has approx 13 people that work for him. He has bought a few Austrian students over to help out. However, the weather still wasn't looking good so he decided to hitch a ride back with us in Stubbie.

28/07/2009 - 19/08/2009. We had a nice drive back to Longmont and caught up with Peter's family and spent a lovely evening with Connie, of course Peter cooked us yet another delicious meal. (I can see now after only a few days, the effect of living this lifestyle with Peter is going to have on The Big Fella and me - we'll be lining up for carrots, celery sticks and water for breakfast, lunch and dinner when we leave). Dave is going to help out in the bakery tomorrow, so he needs to be up at around 5:00am - so needless to say we didn't have a late night, Dave had worked in a bakery in his younger days. The next morning Connie came by and picked me up and we went to the Bakery. The Big Fella had fitted right in and was working really hard, he had a lovely Mexican lady that was helping him out and telling him when he was doing it wrong - in her Spanglish, needless to say there was lot of pointing and showing, he was covered in flour from head to toe. The Big Fella finally arrived back to Stubbie around 3:00pm, I knew tomorrow wasn't going to be pretty when he struggled to climb the 3 stairs into Stubbie. He had a shower and tried to sit up and have a chat, but that only lasted about 30 minutes until he decided it was time to lie down and that's where he stayed, I even took his dinner into him in the bedroom. The next morning I woke up and started to get out of bed, when I heard Dave start to mumble something about getting him some pain killers, I don't even think his eyes had opened up.

Over the next few weeks, we spent a lot of time with Peter, his family, the Austian students (who have come during their holidays to help out with the Bakery) and at the farmers markets (where Peter sells his bread). We got to know two of the students in particular - Bernie and Eva and they are great people - so hopefully our paths will cross again either in Austria or Australia. Eva was trying (oh so patiently to teach us some German - but she kept telling us we were sounding more like we were speaking Turkish). Of course trying to keep up with these students just led to a few headaches in the morning - but we had a lot of fun. I had to give the selling of the bread ago - so I end up doing three markets at Minturn - just outside Vale -and as sad as it sounds I actually had a good time, I even sold out. Dave decided that he only needed the one day in the bakehouse. Dave and I helped Peter with a few things that were going on. We would spend Friday's - Monday's up at the Wolford Mountain Reservoir. The market was on Saturday and then we had a few days relaxing around the Lake. Of course Peter cooked us some fantastic meals and we drank way to much - trying to keep up with the young Austrian students - so needless to say the clothes are now a bit tight - okay really tight. I know I did over 9 lbs (4 kilos) - after that I didn't hop on the scales - and I'm sure that Dave was right behind me.

It was sad to leave but we needed to get to LA to sell Stubbie so we can come back home. We had a lovely drive - the scenery really is quite breathtaking. Of course the route we took from Denver to LA - just happened to take us past Las Vegas, so of course we just happened to stop at Circus Circus for a couple of nights - needless to say we didn't have a win - but we did have a good time.

22/08/2009 - 03/09/2009. We arrived in LA and have set ourselves up in the Arbor Mobile Home Village at Long Beach, California and we have put Stubbie on the Internet for sale - so who knows how long we will be here. It has been good to be back in a routine of eating and NOT drinking as much. We've been here for over a week now and I've only had one glass of one - so hopefully the happy belly that I gained whilst with Peter and in Las Vegas will start to disappear. We've been trying to get Stubbie looking her best and sorting through our cupboards etc - I really don't know how I'm going to get everything home. Dave says he thinks he will be okay - so of course he is now looking at buying a set of Clubs.

01/09/2009 -Dave has got washing Stubbie down to a fine art - every time someone says that they are going to come and have a look at her - out he goes. We have been to a few movies - and thanks to Janice and Norm (with their tips) have got this public transport thing down pat.
We have met a couple of great guys - Randall (from Texas) and Doug (from Oklahoma) which are making our stay at Long Beach even more memorable.

All we need to do now is wait for the buyers......and of course Dave has new golf clubs being delivered.

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

14/07/2009 - 24/07/2009 - Glacier National Park, Montana - Mt Rushmore, South Dakota

15/07/2009 -Glacier National Park - Wow another spectacular National Park. Dave and I had decided that we would do the loop on the free Park Bus and then do a small 4 km Hike. Well as seems to be more the norm our plans changed. We were on the bus chatting to a really nice young couple (Mark and Mandi) who said they were going to do a 20 km Hike - apparently one of the best in the park. Our bus came to their stop, for the start of the hike, which was also where we needed to change buses. Well as we sat on our next bus we started chatting to the driver who said that he loves to go hiking and he stated that the hike that Mark and Mandi were going to do was also his favourite hike. So of course that got us both thinking and before we knew it we were on our way to a 20 km hike. The views were just magnificent, I felt like we were on top of the world, we were hiking more out in the open, so you could see down into the valleys - just spectacular scenery. Along the way we had managed to catch up with Mark and Mandi and we aslo had the opportunity to view some of the Big Horn Sheep (they really aren't too timid with us humans), squirrels, mountain goats and deer. The wild flowers were blossomming everywhere and were just gorgeious. The terrain was really diverse, one minute you are walking through the snow the next you are on rock. After about 15 km we reached the Chalet, this is were you can decide to either turn around and retrace your steps for 15 kms or you can hike for another 5 kms, downhill, and catch the bus back. Well needless to say that Dave and I, Mark and Mandi chose the 2nd option. At the Chalet we did stop and buy a nice cold drink. It was interesting to see that everying that is in this Chalet is bought in on Donkey - even gas. This was our first hike over about 8 km's and we knew we were going to be sore in the morning. Well for me that 5 km's going down hill was by far the hardest, I think the Big Fella also found this tough. It was really rugged and steep - to be honest at the end of the 5 km's, I still wasn't sure that we had made the right decision to go down rather than back. At the end of the 5 km's there was a really nice waterfall, which we all decided to stop, take our shoes off and let our feed soak up the cold refreshing water. We really enjoyed Glacier National Park.

15/07/2009 - The day after our hike was not pretty - it really looked like Dave and I were walking as if we had been on a horse for 20 days. ((We needed that walk in Calgary..) We looked like we had an A frame out in front of us- I wish we had. The worst thing was that we knew the next day was going to be worse - and ohh boy did we feel muscles that we never knew we had. We would struggle to get up and get going and then we would take a seat and after about 5 minutes we would start all over again. Day 3 we have a slight improvement. Day 4 and we are really starting to recover. All in all it was a really great hike and we would like to do many more - but I think we need to build up. Our fitness level was not too bad, but our muscles sure knew they had been for a bit of a workout.

17/07/2009 - We had finally recovered enough to drive into Yellowstone National Park - at this stage we had planned on going on a small hike. Unfortunately, our first impressions of the Park at the entrance and also at the visitors centre was not as good as we had received at all the other National Parks. It was extremely busy (Summer School Holidays) and the staff (rangers) were not as helpful or easy going as what we have experienced at other National Parks. This Park didn't seem to cater very well for RV'ers - which for being in the US is really something unusual. At the entrance Dave and I nearly turned around and left - but I really had to see Old Faithful and we knew that we would of regretted it later on. Of course after the visiting the Park - we knew that we had made the right decision not to turn around, however we didn't stay in the park and spent the day driving through it, admiring the scenery and the only time we parked Stubbie and got out was to either stop and have a cup of coffee or to view Old Faithful. We did get to stop many times along the way as people would stop wherever they were and have a look at the wild life - needless to say there were many traffic jams along the way - especially when there was a Grizzly Bear around, or a Bison that wouldn't get off the road and was oblivious to the traffice jam he was causing. We were fortuante enough to see some more great wildlife i.e. Grizzly Bear, Bison, Deers etc. Old Faithful must of been running on Elford time as it was late by a few minutes. We did get to experience something special at the Geysers according to one of the park rangers, he has never seen this) both Old Faithful and the Bee Hive Geysers went off at the same time. The Bee Hive being the larger of the two. Yet again we saw some fantastic and different scenery - mud pools, geysers etc. Part of the park reminded the Big Fella of New Zealand.

18/07/2009 - After leaving Yellowstone we drove on down to Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument (Custer's Last Stand) which memoralises a major battle fought between the Lakota, Northern Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians and the US Army - among the dead was George Custer. I really do learn something everyday. I had heard of Custer's last stand and I knew that the Indians had one, but I certainly didn't know the full story and I certainly wasn't aware that the Indians had guns. In summary it is afrave site for a bunch of dead indians and cowboys.

19/07/2009 - 23/07/2009 - We have decided that Rapid City is our next stop to try and get a few things sorted out.
Whilst I was doing the laundry, I was chatting to a lady from Saskatchewan, Canada who was here holidaying with her family and she said that today would be the first day that her boys have been swimming in an outdoor pool - they are 11 and 14. We are starting to advertise that Stubbie is for sale - which is a bit sad and I'm sure will even be sadder if we do sell her, with the way everything is over here we are not expecting this to be a quick process. We will wait until we arrive in LA (probably in a couple of weeks) to get serious about trying to sell her. However we thought we would test the waters.

24/07/2009 - Today we leave Rapid City behind and start making our way to Mount Rushmore. We had looked at the other attractions around the area, one in particular was the Bear Country USA Wildlife Park, we made the decision that we would give this a miss, but as we were driving past we saw all these Bear Cubs in their enclosure, which got us thinking - however, we pushed onto Mount Rushmore. Dave did say that he would turn around and go back if I changed by mind. We arrived at Mount Rushmore which was exactly what we had expected, we spent about 30 minutes wandering around and taking some pictures. Then Dave said to me that he really didn't mind turning around and going back to the Wildlife Park (it was only about 20 minutes) so of course I couldn't resist and we turned around (he really is starting to get to know me - and my love for the animals in particular the Bears).
Well I'm so glad that we turned around, it really turned out to be so much more than I expected, there were about 150 Black Bears and about 19 cubs in the Park. As we were driving through
the park we once again saw some more Bison (this is what I call the Elford animal - with its Big Head). After about 15 minutes of driving through the park we came to a complete stop - and then we saw why - there were Black Bears everywhere, walking in front of the cars, behind the cars, completely oblivous to everything else that was going on - I just couldn't even imagine seeing so many Bears in one spot - (Dave did comment that we went all the way to the Yukon and Alaska to see Bears), it was just awesome - I was like a kid in a candy shop, there was so much going on, I didn't know where to look.

After our slow trip through the Bear enclosure and a few more enclosures, we arrive at the car park, which now means that we get out and walk around Babyland - this is where all the Bear Cubs are living (now I'm even more excited, as Julia Roberts would say "I nearly peed my pants". These Bear Cubs were born in the Park in late January and stayed with their Mums for about 3 months. Just as Spring arrived and before the Bears were completely out of their hibernative state, the cubs were weaned from their mothers for their own safety. Apparently male bears will sometimes eat and kill the cubs. Well needless to say I could have stayed here all day and watched the bear cubs play, they really are just like puppies and kittens, and it was something I will never forget. Of course The Head did get me back for the Bison / Elford head comment – he did say that one day those little Bear Cubs might grow into their ears – like the Eames family should of.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

04/07/2009 - 13/07/2009 - Calgary, Alberta

04/07/2009 13/07/2009. We arrived in Calgary to have Stubbie outfitted with a new fuse box (which contains a small arsenal of relays and fuses) which was the permanent fix from our breakdown in the Yukon. It is time for the Calgary Stampede billed as the biggest outdoor Show on Earth. It was a good thing that we booked our RV park a couple of months in advance as Calgary was full of visitors from all over the world. So it's time to put on your ten gallon hat and a belt buckle the size of a dinner plate. (Riding boots are optional as real cowboys don't wear riding boots unless they are riding, as they are very uncomfortable.)

04/07/2009 - Calgary Stampede Day 1. At the campgrounds we were staying, they had buses organised to transport people to and from the Stampede Grounds. Our first day at the Stampede we spent having a look around, watching the cattle penning and a few other events, and of course we went to the Rodeo and the Chuck Wagon races. The ticket prices for the Rodeo and the Chuck Wagons ranged from around $12.00 to $140.00. Of course we knew if we purchased the expensive tickets that we wouldn't have any money left for food or drink. So of course we opted for the cheaper tickets and had a few beverages. One of the big surprises was that a. there was a Casino in the grounds and b. there was gambling happening in side show alley - what a bonus. Of course the winnings do go to charity so we did do the right thing and donated a few dollars. Australia was represented by an Australian marching band, a couple of cowboys plus yours truly.

Well one thing we have learnt is that we now understand why Pete's hockey team doesn't seem to be able to perform. We went to the famous Pengrowth Saddledome, home of the Calgary Flames and we as a non hockey nation could provide advice on how to improve their game. First thing they should do is get rid of all the horses and steer and then put some fresh ice down. Pete - You should probably show them how to put down some white ice as well. That brown stuff makes it a bit hard to pick up the puck. On another note we learnt in the following week - that Peter's latest scan was all clear - what fantastic news.

Even though we encountered a fair bit of rain we had a great night and caught the mid night bus home. Well this was another experience in itself. First of all we were heading down a road that had signs posted everywhere that there was a bridge up ahead with a height restriction of 8 feet, well I'm no expert but Stubbie is over 11 feet and I'm pretty sure that the bus we are travelling in is also well over 8 feet. The bus driver seemed completely oblivious to all the signs that we were passing. It wasn't long before we had reached that bridge and yes he did eventually stop about 20 metres prior to reaching it. Of course now we needed to reverse up and make a U Turn - unfortunately there was traffic everywhere, it was raining and the driver couldn't see out of his mirrors, so he asked someone to get out and help guide him around. Of course this job went to the Big Fella, at least the driver should be able to pick him out (what a great way to start his birthday). The bus is finally headed in the right direction and everyone yells out not to forget the guy outside. After a few more wrong turns and a very rough ride we eventually arrive at the campgrounds. The driver later tells us that it was his first night and for a metric country the height of the bridge was in feet which added to his confustion - Really.

My best description of the Stampede is to take the RNA show in Brisbane, add a big rodeo and Chuck Wagon racing each day, with the finals held on the last day. Also each night there is a fireworks display along with what they called the Big Show which had every child in Calgary in it, a bit like a combined Cirque De Soleil and an Eistefford. Included in side show alley you have many bands and performances i.e. high diving, extreme moto cross etc, plus the gambling. And of course there would be no Stampede without alcohol in copious amounts.

05/07/2009 - The Big Head's Birthday. Well the Big Fella's had breakfast in bed actually he's been in bed so long he also has lunch in bed. I've promised to take him to Red Lobster for dinner. So we have a few drinks and a few more and then I call a Taxi. We arrive at Red Lobster and take a seat at the bar, and of course we order another beverage. We are then escorted to our table and of course we order another drink - the Big Fella orders a Mango Cocktail - mmm that'll mix nicely with the beer he has been having. We have a great night and catch a Taxi home. I think it was just as well we got home at a reasonable hour, because we both started to get our hang over just as we were going to bed.

06/07/2009 - Today we decided to catch the bus into down town and have a look around. We get into town and start having a look around, unfortunately it starts pouring with rain. So we keep indoors and have a look around at the shops, we purchase a new knapsack for the Big Fella - Happy Birthday. We have really come to appreciate the cheap rain coats that you can buy for around a $1.00. Calgary seems to have a nice down town area.

08/07/2009 - 09/07/2009. Yee Haw let the fun begin - the Howards have arrived. After we have a quick catch up over a beverage we decide to head into the Stampede. Of course about 2 minutes after we had entered the grounds the skies opened up and not only did the rain come down it was then followed by hail and then more hail, once again those rain coats came in handy. We went and saw some of the live stock (one of the horses was 19 hands tall - I must admit it was one of the largest horses I have ever seen), we watched a bit of the cutting and had a good look around. I'm not sure if Bobby and Brant, had got a lot of sleep while they were here, unfortunately for them the bed in Stubbie kept deflating. I woke up their first morning with us and looked at the bed there was hardly any air left in the mattress. Lucky for Bobbie that she is so light, that when Brant was in the bed, she hardly noticed that the mattress had deflated. Poor Brant didn't have a good nights sleep and the silly man didn't wake anyone to find out how to inflate the mattress (you only need to flick a switch at the back). The next day we headed back into the Stampede and went to the Rodeo. After the Rodeo we were able to catch-up with Jono and Jill for a few drinks, we then headed to the airport to pick up Lisa and Peter.

10/07/2009 - 11/07/2009. So the gangs all here. Lisa has been able to score some great tickets from her old boss for a Rodeo Session and also for a Chuck Wagon race. So whilst we try to find a car park, we drop Lisa and Peter off to go and get the tickets from her old boss. Well, not only has she been able to score some great tickets, she has also been able to score some great hats for us all, plus she has got us booked into the Dining Room for dinner - you gotta love this girl (Pete - you're not too bad either). So after we have a quick look around we go to find our seats, ohh did I mention they were in the Platinum section, we have a great time watching the Rodeo. After the Rodeo is finished, Lisa is also able to score us an entry into the back area, so we have a look around and we meet one of the Chuck Wagon Drivers (Wayne Knight) that Lisa's old work used to sponsor. From here it is off to the dining room for dinner. Well let me start off by saying that this was certainly not what I had expected. After we arrived and were seated ex-presidents came around to take our drink orders. From here we were told that it was a buffet style dinner service. Well this was certainly one of the best meals that Dave and I had had for a while, we were able to make a few trips and get our moneys worth - oh that's right we didn't have to pay for it - we had an absolutely fantastic day. The next day we have tickets for the Chucks, but first we need to do a bit more shopping, for Brant, he has his heart set on a vest that he saw at the Stampede a few days ago, but unfortunately we have shopped and shopped and we still haven't been able to find one in his size. So for a day there he was wearing one of Dave's Snow Boarding Jackets - it was only a little bit big - but hey he was warm, if not loaded down with the weight of it. Before we get to the Chuck's we meet up with Enid (a cousin of Bobby's) for a quick bite to eat and a catch-up, of course at Earl's - you may remember this is another one of Dave's favourite restaurants. I think it's more so because of the very attractive waitress's rather than the food, but hey I love the food so I'm happy. Unfortunately, Dave wasn't too happy this day, we were waited on by a male waiter (there was only a couple in the whole restaurant). We had another fantastic night at the Chuck Wagon races and we really enjoyed the Big Show afterwards. The next morning we have a big cook up breakfast before the Howard's and the Navin's head off (of course Pete has a doggy bag to go =The amount Pete eats should make him as big as Matt.....). As usual it was really great to spend some time with them all.

So to sum it all up when Lisa and Peter arrived we were treated like show royalty. Until they got here we had to slum it and mingle with the rest of the crowd eating corn dogs and bison burgers. The Corn Dogs are similar to our Dagwood Dogs - but the batter is much sweeter, I think the fact that I didn't like the sweetness in the batter saved me many a pound.
Once again we can blame Bobbie and Brant for our current weight problem. I put on 6lbs for the week and the big fella added another 10lbs. You would think that there is a limit to how much you can eat and drink for a week. We are happy to say that they are still intending to come to Australia early next year.

We did enjoy the whole week however we were running out of puff by the end.