Australia and Oceania, North America · 33 Days · 117 Moments · August 2018

2018 Helter Skelter USA 🇺🇸 & Canada 🇨🇦

14 September 2018

So with a delayed flight from Sydney it was late to bed, but bliss to be home again. Thus ends our American adventures. They weren't so bad so I'm sure we'll go back and have another look on another day.
The Redy2go shuttle from the airport to the city was a nightmare with an inexperienced driver who seemed lost most of the time, in heavy traffic, and whose language skills seemed limited to unintelligible grunts to describe the next destination. Wyndham as usual gave us a nice room on Level 16 and we had a day relaxing and doing the laundry! Both in bed and asleep by 1930 hrs but still shattered now as my body clock struggles to readjust.

12 September 2018

Flew to Los Angeles by Alaskan who are Qantas partners so booked the bags straight through to Sydney. Thus meant we had an easy stroll through multiple halls at LAX but now issues with customs or immigration so we were smiling. Very good flight with Qantas on one of the old 747s that are nearing the end of their working lives. As we departed ~1100pm we chased the night across the globe 🌎 and actually managed a reasonable sleep in Premium Economy. Arrived in Sydney about sunrise.
So, today is the end of the line. We fly to LAX by Alaskan airways then transfer on to Qantas and head for home. It is time to sleep in my own bed again. The lasting image of LA is the presence of gaming machines on the surface of the bars in the hotels, as well as in the flight terminals next to both baggage carousels and in the departure lounges! 😏 We didn't win we didn't lose we didn't gamble. But Vegas is such an interesting and strange city !

10 September 2018

Then we went down into the bowels of the dam to look at the power generation plants and methods for diverting the waters through and round the dam during the construction and for peak floods. All very interesting as an engineering work from nearly 80 years ago. It would still be a challenge to try to build it today. The bypass bridge built downstream is also amazing. Both would have been a great pleasure to have worked upon.
As part of our final day’s activities we went out to Lake Mead, the storage lake held up behind the Hoover Dam. It was a hot day so we kept on dancing around the boat outside trying to stay in the shade. Joined a boat trip out onto Lake Mead formed by the waters backed up behind the Hoover Dam. As we saw before, the water level is about 20m down which is as low as it has ever been since the original filling. But there is still plenty of depth remaining. We were traveling on a paddle steamer (although this one is really a sham and only has the rear paddles for looks) just like used to be used on the river in the past, years before the dam. Interesting to learn that Boulder City was established as the workers’ base for the families of construction workers but is now the only town in Nevada where gambling is not permitted. Smart folks there.

9 September 2018

This time staying at a hotel inside Caesars Palace and we have been lost in the gaming room twice already trying to find the entrance to the Nobu Hotel which is like a boutique hotel inside the bigger resort. This was possibly the best (biggest) bathroom of the trip, but curiously the first place that didn’t have coffee facilities in the room! Maybe to encourage us to come out and spend?
So, we started the long trek home today. Two flights - from Calgary to Vancouver and then on to Las Vegas. Getting out at Vegas was just like walking out of the Port Hedland airport into a wall of heat so was a major contrast to the past few weeks.
The day was grey and wet in Vancouver so it seems time to call it quits in Canada! Great rooster tails of water spraying up from the wheels of landing and departing planes. From the air, it was hard to distinguish the wet airstrip ends from what appeared to be wet lands beyond. 😐

8 September 2018

Half way through the farewell dinner the fire alarm comes on so we all evacuated the hotel. Something wrong in the elevators apparently so we are relegated to the service lifts. But was all for the best - the night was dragging on and many had early flights booked.
So the final stop on our tour (not the journey totally) was at the Heritage Centre which is a recreation of a number of phases of past life in Canada. Looking at the railway gear and the grain handling were the most interesting aspects but it was all great to see life in the past brought to life. And in terms of our guide, she was definitely a character who grew on us as the days went on. Happy Feather won't be forgotten easily.
After stopping at the Calgary Olympic Park for a photo of the group we headed into town and ALo and I elected to have lunch at the top of the Calgary Tower. Much better value than at Highlife 33 in Perth which had the same concept. Okay, it's Saturday midday, but quiet old Perth seems positively dynamic in comparison.
Stopped off at the Bow River Falls for a Banff farewell. We seem to have followed the Bow from the glacier to the lake to the river. Really pretty at all stages. And still pretty fast flowing.

7 September 2018

For dinner, we caught the Banff Gondola to the top of Sulphur Mountain. Ian wandered around along a boardwalk to an old observation tower and on the way was lucky enough to spot a black bear. Dinner at the Northern Lights restaurant was good with chats with all the Aussies working on the mountain. Sadly, our run of clear weather seems to have expired and the smoke haze has come in from the south cutting the great visibility we have had this week.
Next stop was Lake Minnewanka which is actually a water storage reservoir. Possibly the most interesting aspect here (having had an overdose of beauty to date) was the colourfully decorated toilets.
We have encountered various animals and critters along the way, but not as many as we had hoped.
Started the day with a hike up Johnston Canyon. While the erosion principle stays the same, the bedded sandstone rock falls down when undercut rather than dissolving as for earlier canyons.

6 September 2018

Visited the Cave and Basin hot spring area which was one of the original frontier novelties that lead to the establishment of the Canadian national Park network that today is one of the most extensive in the world. The hot springs used to be scene for commercial bathing but seems to have finished. The springs flow out into an extensive wetland that encourages a wide variety of bird life as a result of the year round present of non-frozen water.
Then commuted down Highway 1 to Banff which is a bit like Whistler but without the car free design.
Thence to Lake Louise and the Fairmont Hotel. The amazing thing about today is the swarms of tourists and the difficulty of parking them all. Glad again we were not driving a car here. Used the same principle as for an Asian hotel and put on a brave face and walked through the hotel despite the warning signs. Pretty nice place but surely not worth the asking price of a room! 😛
It was a bit of a puzzle today as we headed off uphill to see a lake 😗 Moraine Lake is a big blue lake with a large pile of rocks and boulders left piled up at the downstream end which was the head of the glacier at some stage. We have been so lucky with the weather that the mountains were generally clear and there was little wind allowing great reflections. And it was not so cold! Our tour guide Happy Feather Andrea is as eccentric as you could ask, but she is growing on us day by day.

5 September 2018

Checked into the Mountain Lodge at Lake Louise for the night. Not quite the Fairmont but not bad accommodation.
Final stop was for wine, cheese and crackers by the wayside with views over Howes Pass which was another way identified through the mountains. You could almost see the Indian village on the flats below.
There is a curved skyway in the Grand Canyon and another one here. We have walked both but only this one allows patrons to take their cameras out. Both are geotechnically very interesting and an amazing engineering challenge to build. Sadly the glass floor is getting a bit scratched so the sensation of an open floor is getting lost here whereas at the Grand Canyon you have to wear shoe covers.
Stopped off at the Athabaska Glacier which is one of the major glaciers coming off the 300m thick ice platform that sits across the top of the mountains here. Ride up to the ice on a monster 6wheel 🚌 bus that seemed to be able to climb outrageously steep tracks.
Next stop was Sunwapta Falls which is another variation on the gorge cutting theme. It must have been a daunting experience for the early explorers in their rafts to suddenly come across one of these challenges.
Checked out of Jasper heading south towards Lake Louise. Stopped off to see the raging Athabasca Falls which are another case of water power carving through limestone and forming a canyon. Really neat early in the day with mist rising from the river and spray from the falls.
Stopped by the wayside to look at one of the various mountain passes that were ‘discovered’ by western explorers who were trying to open up the country for fur trapping and other forms of natural resource exploitation. David Thompson was one of the prime explorers and for more than 20 years he covered and mapped vast tracts of Canada using all sorts of simple survey tools. An extraordinary man.

4 September 2018

Final major activity for the day was a Raft ride down the Athabaska River for an hour or so. The raft operator was another comedian so it seems that to succeed in Canada guides cannot take themselves too seriously. Quite refreshing really. While only a Grade 2 rapid everyone had a great time.
Called into the Jasper Park Lodge for a sticky beak and ate our fruit for lunch on the lakeside lawns. Apparently this was where Harry went on his honeymoon.
Went for a walk along the Maligne Gorge to check out the karst cracks and the deeply incised river channels. Great development of lichen and mosses in the area because of the generally wet terrain. Apparently all the rivers and lakes are connected underground by various karstic channels.
Caught a tourist ferry down Maligne Lake to Spirit Island. The weather just got progressively better as the day went on with the clouds and smoke rolling away for fabulous visibility.

3 September 2018

Went for a nature ramble out around Pyramid Lake and met up with a couple of girls from National Parks who had some elk antler and mountain goat horn to check out. These guys must have neck muscles like you wouldn't believe. That is the elk and the goats, not the girls 😂
Arrived in Jasper for lunch. Nice town, not as in your face modern and affluent as Whistler, nor yet with the immediate mountains around, but I like it. Had another chilli but not claimed as being bison this time. They have one of the best catered laundromats that I have seen anywhere. Clearly designed with travellers in mind so including a coffee shop, 📺, work station bays, recharge points as well as a sea of machines! A goldmine!
Stopped off for coffee in Edson where we spent a little time in a museum where (sadly) there was an interesting range of stuffed animals from the area. Bears might be big, moose are bloody enormous! Not to mention the chipmunks Lucky enough to see a herd of white tailed elk by the side of the road coming in to Jasper but you can’t just stop in a bus like we might have done in the car!
So today we changed to something different. 😊 We climbed into a Gate1 tour bus and headed west towards Jasper. I was happy to give up our independence and personal choice for not having to drive to stay alive all the time. Not sure how the tour guide will run - she is definitely in the eccentric category 🤪

2 September 2018

Went to the Alberta Art Gallery and checked out some of the local impressionist painters and modern art. Following the recent trend, the building architecture itself seems more easy to appreciate.
Did a bit of a spin around Edmonton. It is set on the banks of a river and four bridges join what were historically twin cities. Modern Edmonton CBD seems to struggle with life and while today is Sunday it makes Perth seems absolutely vibrant. In contrast old Strathcona on the southern bank is more alive and seems a nicer place to be.
Finished my morning walk by meeting the bus crew for lunch at Situation Brewery which has a restaurant hanging off it. Rather similar in concept to Two Birds.
Once I had the car sorted I took off to look around Edmonton on foot, with the intent of meeting up with the bus crew for lunch somewhere. Central Edmonton CBD is scarily quiet and empty on a Sunday morning so no fighting with tourists here! Caught sight of the Provincial Seat of Government and then crossed over the Saskatchewan River and headed onto the leafy residential south bank.
Met up with the Avis lady and successfully reunited with my shoulder bag. Phew!! While it was all done in a nice Mall I didn't want to hang around too long there with all the homeless who seem to use the Mall as a keep warm gravity point.

1 September 2018

Found the hotel in Edmonton and unpacked the car. Driving in Canada is considerably easier than in the USA because of the generally lower speed limits and the lower traffic volumes. Or maybe I’m just getting used to being on the wrong side of the road? Then we negotiated our way through the maze that is the parking area for Avis in the city. Locked the car, dropped the key, then worked out that my shoulder bag was still in the car. S**t. Just as well that Avis opens tomorrow (even though it is a Sunday) and that our tour is just around Edmonton itself.
Moving on from Peyto Lake we turned East down a quiet two lane highway (the David Thompson Way) and gradually moved out of the mountains into Alberta and finally Edmonton. This was all fur trapping country in the past with a history of old trading posts and forts at what are still major road intersections.
Stopped off near Peyto Lake which has the reputation of being one of the most scenic spots in Banff NP. It is a glacial Lake with glacier, out wash moraine and lake all lined up. Just beautiful. Sadly ALo had failed to dress for the 7 degree conditions and was still frozen from her Bow Lake exposure so she elected to stay in the car to keep warm.
Heading north along the Range Road 170A with head twisting left and right, up and down to take in the peaks and lakes. Stopped for a bison chilli con carne at Bow Lake. Now that does warm up the cockles of your heart.
Followed the Trans Canada highway east from Golden with progressively more rugged and spectacular scenery along the way. Changing weather conditions along the way added to the beauty of the place.

31 August 2018

Headed up the Meadows in the Sky Parkway and went for a few short walks hunting for wild flowers (although we both really just wanted to see some form of wildlife in the distance.
The road here just leads from one Ooh 😮 to another Ahh with the Lakes, mountains, trees 🌲 and clouds ⛅️ combined to form a continued scenic wonderland.
Driving towards Revelstoke we stopped for lunch at a chateau by the lake. The water was mirror like and brought on a frenzy of reflection photos.
Shortly after leaving Kamloops we ran into a fire related road block which meant we added ~180 km of unplanned distance today which cut back what we could look at along the way.
Dinner tonight was Korean BBQ that we cooked at the table. Great meal made more interesting than normal for us by the use of an induction stove element mounted beneath the wooden table and cooking the meat even though the pan itself didn’t become hot to touch. Wonders of science!!
Time to move on, but first breakfast by Placid Lake which is also the train 🚂 stop in Whistler for the Rocky Mountaineer. We had met several Aussies who were on tours containing the train components. Our car trip seems to mirror aspects of the rail route but with more ups and downs than the train can manage.

30 August 2018

Lillooet was an old gold mining centre that was at one stage the largest centre north from San Francisco and west from Boston. Nothing like that now! Originally the early explorers thought that this mighty river the Fraser was the Colombia, but no.
Heading away from Whistler towards Kamloops we passed plenty of pretty lakes, roadside flowers, and snow capped peaks along the way.
So gondola travelled back to the top of the Whistler gondola and strolled down to the chairlift to the top of Whistler. However by the time I started the ascent the clouds were closing in. Merde! A skywalk in the mist rather defeats the purpose of seeing what is below. Bloody cold up there so retreated back to the cafeteria for hot chocolate and a muffin. By now it was raining ☔️ all the way back down the gondola and it was a sodden walk back through the village to our hotel.
Jumped on the Peak2Peak gondola which is an extraordinary piece of engineering strung out between Whistler and Blackcomb. Weather was pretty good so strolled around one of the easy walks. Saw a Pica and the hoary Marmont. Looking across to the skywalk on Whistler it was open now open with people walking across.
Decided today that ALo would stay in the village because of the issues with her health at heights so I headed up on the Whistler gondola for the morning. Last night ALo had won a selfie stick so took that with me to see how Asian I can be with getting in the photos.

29 August 2018

Whistler townsite is very well laid out and has something to see or do (or eat) at every corner.
Visited the Audain Art Museum which houses a collection of First Nations art as well as an eclectic collection of mostly modern works (my favourite).
Arrived safely in Whistler and I have fallen in love with the place already. Wish that I had been brought up in a place like this rather than the flat earth that is my home in Australia. Went out on a degustation tour with a honeymoon couple visiting five separate locations with matching drinks. Very good evening. North America really seems to have latched onto the craft beer 🍻 movement and there appears to be several breweries just in town.
Headed off towards Whistler with the first stop to see the First Nations totem pole aggregation on Stanley Island. Stanley looks to be a northern temperate version of Kings Park with walkers, runners, and cyclists 🚴‍♀️ of all shapes and sizes doing laps
Picked up our Canadian rental car 🚙 a Nissan Rogue which I suspect has a different name in Australia. The Canadians have a very expensive car rental system. They also rent car out without cleaning it. A very light vacuum is all it gets.

27 August 2018

Caught the #44 bus across Vancouver and caught a ferry along False Creek to check out the residential side of the city. Most people seem to live in high rise apartments although the floating houses look fun too. Spent some time on Granfield Island in the markets before crossing back across the creek by ferry and strolling back to the hotel. Our initial jaundiced view of Vancouver when we arrived late was of homeless people on every corner but this view has softened as we walked around. Yes, there are quite a few homeless which I believe flocked here because of Vancouver's pleasant & mild climate. Beautiful & vibrant place but very expensive to live in. Had a quick look at Vancouver realestate and was shocked to find out what one need to get into one of the places in areas equivalent to Como. Definitely cannot afford to buy here even if we sell Como. Wouldn't mind retiring in Canada though. I guess we'll check somewhere else.
We were both absolutely knackered last night so struggled to wake up early this morning. Started the day with a very pleasant brunch at a Vietnamese Restaurant across the road from Ramada called Halong Bay. This has been one of the better meals on this trip. Headed down to Canada Place and checked out some of the places of interest along the waterfront. We also checked out the FlyOver Canada 4D experience. It shows how amazingly varied and beautiful this country is. Real pity we are not here for long enough to take it all in. Need to retire & spend a bit more time travelling within Canada.

26 August 2018

We then continued on to downtown Victoria which is the capital of the island. Very British in its look and feel and interestingly also has a real emphasis on garden plants in the streets and planters. Headed back to the ferry ⛴ at 17:15 and back to the hotel around 2130 so a long but pleasant day.
Did not get to Ramada until after 2AM. The train left on time in Seattle WA but had almost 2hr delay in arrival. Their were trains arriving Vancouver from all directions and skeleton Custom staff dealing with arrivals. At least the Canadian Customs allowed arriving passengers to wait on the train. So, not too bad but overly exhausted. We had a pre-booked tour which required us to be on the bus @ 8AM (so with very little sleep) to head over to Victoria Island. This placed us on the 10:00 ferry and by 12:00 we were at the world renowned Butchart Gardens. The magnificent garden were put together in an old quarry site and today is maintained by about 90 gardeners. Didn’t see a single weed out of place. Magical place to visit.

25 August 2018

Today, we are driving to Seattle to drop the car off and catch the 16:45 bus 🚌 to Vancouver. Checked out & left Oakridge at 0800 expecting a 5hr15min drive which should have allowed plenty of time for rest stops. Should have sufficient time to drop the car off in the centre of Seattle and get ourselves to the Amtrak Train Station to catch the bus. There were big delays along the road from Portland to Seattle and despite it being a Saturday afternoon, Seattle centre was bedlam with a combination of roadworks and one way streets. Alamo was closed when we finally arrived. So we unpacked, dropped the keys and ran. Our 2 hours buffer was swallowed up. Consequently, we had to buy another ticket to catch the next available transport - this time it's actually a train. Having recovered from the dummy spit, huff & puff etc., we sat down and noticed how beautiful the station building is. One of the prettiest station we have ever seen.
At 12PM, decided to have 30min stop for toilet break & leg stretch at the Mount St Helen’s Visitor’s centre. This was the volcanic eruption of 1980 when the side of the mountain blew out. Fascinating account and record of a geological disaster. Scary to think how quickly she has gone from earthquakes to cataclysmic eruption in a matter of 3 months. She has done some serious damage to a lot of properties & killed quite a number of people. It was horrifying to watch the film of the event. Hopefully, will not be here when she decides to blow her top again.

24 August 2018

The final stop of Jeanette's organised tour was dinner at an interesting old St Joseph's School building turned Brewery & Hotel in Bend. What an interesting place. It was a lovely finish to an otherwise pleasant day.
Next stop, the Crater Lake which I judge to be much larger than Vesuvius and maybe akin in size to Taupo or Santorini. Just a large gaping mouth 👄 which exploded last approximately 7500 years ago in human memory. It would have been a terrifying sight.
Next stop was the second highest waterfall in Oregon called Salt Creek Falls. Very nicely presented with well defined paths & safety barriers for tourist & locals alike. The surrounding Rockface shows the same bassalt lava flow structure as in the Devil's Postpile. A bit of landslide at the end of the viewing path just for interest.
Jeanette decided to play host & offered to show us a little bit of Oregon. We started at the historic covered bridge called The Office, which is reminiscent to the bridge shown on Madison County film. Solid construction internally but I can’t see why they needed to have the roof.

23 August 2018

This morning we are leaving Arcata travelling to Oakridge where we met up with ALo’s sister Jeanette for dinner. Part of the trip we crossed a ridge where we disappeared into the fog but later we were surrounded by smoke so really didn’t see the sun all day.I
This area is really all about the Redwoods and while not as big in the girth as the Sequoias the redwood are more common and also taller.
Headed back out of the Fern Canyon through the meadows pass the Elk Valley again and there they were a whole herd of elk. Then a bit farther down the road, a place called the Prairie Creek were three fine stags right by the road looking resplendent - so all pleased there.
Happily left Ramada Arcata and head out to our first planned stop a place called the Elk Valley expecting to see an elk or two but they seem to camouflage so well that didn't see any. We continued on to go for a stroll through the Fern Canyon which is a large gash in the scarp (there are other smaller gashes buti maybe not so easy to put people through without getting snotted by falling rocks). Really nice location with stream in the canyon floor and the walls covered with a range of different ferns (surprisingly 🙃).

22 August 2018

Not too much time to stop and sight see along the way because of the hospital break but stopped at one of the many chainsaw carvers stalls wayside. Very interesting display of wood work. Driven 608 km arriving Arcata @ 19:38. We stayed overnight in Ramada Arcata which turned out to be a very substandard accommodation. The worst accommodation we've had so far. It is in desperate need of overall upgrade. Ramada in Asia has a much better standard than this one.
Leaving the hospital we headed north over the Golden Gate Bridge. The poor old bridge is laden with walking and cycling tourists who are crossing and crissing from one bank to the other.
ALo discovered that her Aunt Leonora was in hospital unexpectedly, so our meeting venue changed to a hospital room. Pretty emotional as the two had not seen each other for about 30 years!

21 August 2018

Again, imagined that we would ride a cable car back to Union Square. But no, the tram come past full heading our way. We managed to get on one going back down to the wharf for the experience (if nothing else) with the intention of going to the terminal and catching one there. The queue is as bad there as this morning! Some tourists must have enormous patience. Not us. We went and caught #30 trolley bus 🚎 that took us right back to the Donatello!
Stopped off to see the most crooked street (not the crooked house) in the world 🌎 no doubt. Not sure whose idea it was to slow down traffic but it has now created a tourist nightmare with idiots standing across the road at the bottom and any idiot with a license and a passenger with a camera to record their passage down the road.
It was all happening at Pier 39. Barking sea lions, crowds of people- hard to see the difference sometimes. Wandered through the very good aquarium there before deciding to head back to the hotel.
Hopped onto a blue and go ferry ⛴ and made a circuit of the harbour which allowed us to see the City skyline, the Golden Gate Bridge (which seems to me to be a red colour?) and also Alcatraz island. Fortunately we escaped back to land to check out Pier 39.
Zigzagging our way through the streets we discovered that SF is a very hilly town! But with hills come great views and vistas.
Then we imagined that we would catch an iconic cable car to Fisherman’s Wharf but the queues waiting to jump on are simply ridiculous. Instead we elected to walk north from Union Square through Chinatown which is reputed to be the largest outside of Asia. Certainly plenty of feelings that you could be in old Hong Kong with the style and types of shops.
Everything in San Francisco seems to open late (10am) and close early (5pm) so it is a challenge to find enough time in the day to do enough! Started with a visit to the Museum of Modern Art and I still struggle to appreciate how IKEA furniture and coloured splash paintings count as real art.

20 August 2018

Once at the bottom of the Sierras (well the base of the Tioga Road) we walked in to see one of the few presently open areas of giant sequoia trees. It was all downhill for the walk in and ALo really struggled on the way out with the old altitude malaise of crushing head, crazy stomach, combined with smoked lungs. She was pretty knackered by the time we got back to the car, so skipped a flying visit to Yosemite for the relative pleasures of the flatter ground near San Francisco. Oh, while hard to see here because of the distance, we also saw our first bear.
The road across the Sierras traverses along a rolling valley floor and the main event was trying to avoid running over all the hikers on the Tuolumne Meadows. Then we started to get into the Yosemite style vast granite domes. Such a great road both to drive and to look out the window (but not at the same time)!
Left Lee Vining and took to the Tioga Pass road. This is a spectacular winding feat of engineering cut into the side of the mountains. The talus slopes are so long there seems to be no simple way of catching falling rocks. Then, once on the top, beautiful Lakes appear along the valley floor.
Heading for San Francisco today. First stop was at the Momo tufa lake which is one of the major stopover points for migrating birds 🐦 going from north to South America.

19 August 2018

June Lake and Mammoth Lake (which as a town appears not to have a lake) are pretty recreational towns that would do well for fishing, skiing, hiking and biking 🚵‍♀️. The sunset today is exaggeratedly good because of the smoke haze from nearby wild fires.
Dropped into the so-called earthquake fault gash but it turns out that it is a volcanism induced surface opening that looks to be a couple hundred metres long by 2 to 5 m wide and maybe 6 to 8m deep (now). Pretty interesting geologically! 😗
ALo suffering again from altitude affects so not feeling too flash. However we had tickets for the gondola to 11300ft so took the ride to the top. Tried to eat chicken noodle and coffee but no improvement so we abandoned the idea of a further walk and came back down to Mammoth Lakes level as quickly as possible. Mammoth mountain is clearly a magnet for mountain bike 🚵‍♀️ riders and must equally call to the skiers. But current plans are for construction of a zip line from 11300 ft to 7600ft in a single run! Pants shitting experience 🤪 potentially.
Drove up to Minaret Vista initially then caught the shuttle bus down into the San Joaquin River valley for a walk down to the Devil’s Postpiles. Tried to go on to the Rainbow Falls but ALo was really suffering from a combination of heat and altitude distress. Returned to the main lodge area for respite. Saw lots of cute chipmunks and what we interpreted to be woodpeckers.

18 August 2018

The drive from Lone Pine 🌲 to June Lake accommodation was along 4-lane highway but minimal traffic and pretty uneventful. As we got closer to Mammoth 🐘 Lake area we finally started to see trees 🌲 and bush which is the first time since we left LA. Beautiful! 😃 The Heidelberg Inn is a great old log cabin style hotel that was the centre of the June Lake fashion set (film stars 🌟 here) during the 1930s but has lost a lot of it’s sheen now. Had dinner in the Tiger 🐅 Bar that also has its heritage back to the 1930s. Place was heaving but that might have been because there wasn’t a lot of other choice!! 😁 June Lake sits at ~7600ft so isn’t as hot as the desert towns but it is just high enough to start impacting ALo with altitude issues.
Kept heading west and covered some major mountain ⛰ passes with elevations of as much as 7500 ft. Driving today is so much easier despite the general 2-lane configuration but there were plenty of tourists around so that we did not feel isolated. So many European tourists around. Until we hit the Owen River valley things were pretty stark and interesting but once we got into the back of the mighty jagged Sierras it actually became green civilised and boring!!
Then drove to the bottom of the valley to Badwater and walked out onto the flats. In contrast to the Views it was 113 degrees F so we didn’t venture too far. At this point we were ~280ft below sea level. Continued on our way passing along the Artist 👩‍🎤 Pallet Drive for more views of the weird and wonderful colours that nature provides.
Headed west from Vegas towards Dante’s View which is a high ridge ~5000 ft above the valley floor. The river reminds me of the Fortescue River but again this part of the US trumps WA for shear size, absolute dryness and the shitty nature of the rock materials. Having the San Andreas Fault and it’s cohorts nearby may also make a difference. But the rocks are clearly exposed with almost no soil or vegetation cover and with a range of fantastic colours. Temperature up here was ~88degrees F which was very pleasant.
Our Vegas time has come to an end - at least this round. Packed and checked out of our spacious Planet Hollywood room. Found the car 🚙 still in the Car park but easier to find than to park because most of the self-parkers has gone. Packed and headed off towards Death Valley- but first ‘how to buy fuel?’ It seems that there is a real drive off problem so it is all prepay but this is not clearly advertised even when you ask the bowser attendant! 😖
Having slept well during the afternoon there was no way that I could drop off, so simply tried to relax and doze until the alarm.

17 August 2018

Starting to to get uncomfortably warm as the buses and crowds started to arrive so it was back into the chopper for the welcome ride home via a pass over The Strip. Back at PH hotel we both thought a nap was in order as we haven't really set into local time yet. I had intended to drive to see the Hoover Dam up close but by the time we both surfaced it was 1930 hrs so the ride around the country and our planned variety show booking were past events. 😕 But we are both feeling more adjusted - I think.
Back into the chopper and up to the canyon crest for several hours of walking around right to the gorge edge for a dose of awesome views. The safety manager in me says there should be a barrier but the realist says there is too much crest and too many idiots to make it worthwhile. It goes without saying that the canyon is deep and amazing and geologically wonderful but I think I prefer our Karijini gorges for their richer colour and variable vegetation. Maybe not so deep and not so much water but just as awesome to me.
The helicopter took us over the Hoover Dam and then to the base of the canyon where we were able to get out on the river. It is amazing to think how dry the area is generally but how much water is in the river and how fast it flows. However, water levels are well down over the past 20 years so we all have to hope that it continues to snow upstream to keep the feed going. It is also surprising that while the climate is generally similar to Perth and WA with the heat and dryness, our geology must encourage more vegetation growth because it really is harsh and dry here in comparison!
Up and into a limo at 0545. How's that? A limo? At 0545! 😃 Must be off to Prom night but no, this was just to get us to the helicopter to Grand Canyon!

16 August 2018

Went to a comedy hypnosis show - pretty standard stuff and I still wonder how many salted ‘volunteers ‘ there are. There was a concerted rush to get to the stage so I didn’t need to push ALo’s hand up as a volunteer! The actual venue is a theatre inside a shopping centre with the look and ambience of an Arabian souk crossed with a sleazy strip joint. Interesting! 😬 Still able to eat in a mall after midnight so nothing like Perth! Myriad of hen`s parties around so the restaurant was filled with inebriated giggling women!
Set out to buy a US sim and came away with a US T-Mobile phone 📱 as the simplest workable solution. Headed back down The Strip fighting with the heaving crowds to check out the lights. We didn't walk all the way down the Strip, partially because of the way the pavements and crossings are organised. It's designed to force the crowd to walk through the next major resort gambling area. It is really sad that the US Gov't is feeding the society's social dysfunction. Hard not to notice some people's sad lives with their horrible gambling habits.
Surprisingly travelled through two smaller gambling towns before we got to Las Vegas. Checked into Planet Hollywood hotel. Self parking is miles away but still in the same general building! Let's hope we can find the car again when it is time to leave! 😀 Vegas is bright, glitzy and brash and everything seems big. We have already got lost inside the Casino which is designed like a maze to keep you in and gambling!
Chose to stop off at Calico Ghost 👻 town as the mid-journey break. This was an 1880s silver mine that rapidly ran out of economic ore. But the town was bought by the Knotts Berry farm owners who did it up and turned it over to the community. Pretty interesting little spot with lots of nick nack shops. ALo slipped on some loose gravel while walking around and twisted her ankle a little so have to hope that doesn't cause us issues later on. Driving on the wrong side of the road is not too bad so far but it is the 3 to 4 lanes of traffic with huge numbers of trucks all travelling at 70 mph plus which I find intimidating. Feel like we have seen more vehicles in one trip than we might see in a week in Perth.
ALo again didn’t sleep well so we were up and about early. We bit the bullet and headed off along the various freeways in early peak hour towards Las Vegas. We mostly had a good run although traffic inbound was another story. TomTom tried to make things as easy as possible but again the driver out manoeuvred the device and turned too early resulting in much knashing of teeth and driving around the suburbs unnecessarily!!

15 August 2018

Drove the 2 km to our initial hotel, grabbed some cardboard eggs, a waffle (fitting in to US cuisine) and Canadian bacon (which looks like ham) before retreating to our room and collapsing! Really not a bad place - located immediately behind a freeway and in ‘reach out and touch‘ positions for the landing planes. But quiet room, so all good.
So caught the rental car 🚗 shuttle to Alamo. LAX seems to have shuttles to go from terminal to terminal; to go to airport to hotels; and airport to rental stations. Few cars actually in the airport precinct just these random angular buses. We have a Hyundai Tucson for the first part of the journey- not sure about the lack of license plate at the front but they assure us all is well
Well, we arrived safely in Los Angeles after a pretty smooth flight upstairs on an A380. The Qantas flight crew were a mix of nationalities but were a fun and approachable bunch so we had fun. Didn’t really sleep however. LAX is a fascinating airport that only took 1.5hrs to get through customs and immigration. 🤨 While they do have electronic booths for passport checking, these only work after 8am when the supervisory staff comes in!! Prior to that it is shuffling along to the half dozen or so humans. But apart from the time involved it was basically painless.

15 August 2018

Had a liquid sleeping 😴 pill but ALo didn’t sleep- couldn’t get comfortable so hopefully she will drop off during the flight to LA.

14 August 2018

Headed on to the Dr Chau Chak Wing building at UTS designed by Frank Gehry who also designed the Guggenheim Museum in Bilboa, Spain that we visited a few years ago. Amazing detailed brick structure. Some engineering wonder!
As it turned out, ALo had never previously visited the Queen Victoria building near Town Hall. Loved the nineteenth century building details, the tiling, and the clocks. Walking into the QV Building is quite pleasing to one's visual senses what with the amazing arts and explosions of colour. But the thing that stands out is the overwhelming preponderance of Asian tourists and foreign workers who must be keeping business going there! Where would Australia's service industry be without the foreigners?
Had a deeply needed sleep 💤 then hopped up for a walk around the city. Sydney has done a fabulous job of maintaining the old frontages of the buildings so keeping the history with the modern growth. Pity Perth did not follow suit years ago.

13 August 2018

Despite what the first entry says, we flew out of Perth to Sydney today and actually managed to catch the flight which is much better than we did last time we went on holidays! Met Sam McKay in the lounge, also flying back to work in Sydney. Great to catch up after so long. So with my chair in the upright position, my table up, my seatbelt on and my electronic devices switched off - here we go!!