Tuesday, June 30, 2009

In Which a Speedygoose is the Victor!

I was reading about the history of Niagara Falls and came across the story of the first men to organise a tourist stunt at the falls. This occurred in 1827. They decorated an old schooner like a pirate ship and sent it over the falls with a buffalo, two bears, two raccoons, a dog and a goose. Reportedly only the goose survived! It must have been a speedy goose even back then!
Last night at 12.30am after settling down to watch a re-run of a Sex and the City episode there was a sudden very loud fire alarm throughout the hotel which obviously wasn't going to stop so we pulled on some clothes and went outside as we had to wait for the fire engines to arrive to ensure everything was ok. It took quite some time for them to give the all-clear but finally they checked everywhere including the attached restaurant, found a set of keys to turn off the alarm and we were ok to go back to bed at 1.30am!
After brekkie this morning we set off on our next adventure heading towards Kingston Ontario. It was a drive of about 400km and we stopped at a few interesting little places on the way. The roads were in slightly better condition than on the other side of the border - not as many potholes! There were some interesting houses which looked like they had their basements dug out to provide extra space with windows making the houses look two storied from ground level. The landscape was also extremely green which is what we're finding everywhere, something to do with the changes in weather - lots of rain interspersed with bright sunshine. We have to always be prepared for sudden changes.
Another interesting little fact is that Canada uses celsius for temperature readings and the metric system for distances whereas in the USA they still measure in miles and fahrenheit. Petrol is very slightly more expensive in Canada but still only about $1 a litre.
One interesting place we stopped was Wellington. As we lived in Wellington, New Zealand for a large majority of our growing up years it was fascinating to find this little gem tucked away in Ontario. It was such a pretty place beside Lake Ontario and we even paddled in the clear water and a friendly lady took a photo of us with my camera.
At one town we had to cross the lake on the car ferry to reach the next town. That was fun. Tonight we have booked into a little hotel in Kingston and our plan tomorrow is to explore 1000 Islands which are purportedly very beautiful indeed.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Niagara Falls - Canada!

Today it rained and it rained and it RAINED! We parked nearer the Falls and went to stare in awe. In spite of the weather the Niagara Falls are just stunningly beautiful. After being awe-struck on the American side we walked across the bridge and crossed the border (passports stamped by customs) into Canada. That was so exciting! There we were completely blown away (the umbrella almost was too) by the sight of the unforgettable and breathtaking sights of the falls - oh wow!
I think Charles Dickons sums it up really well:
"Niagara was at once stamped upon my heart, an image of beauty; to remain there, changeless and indelible, until its pulses cease to beat forever."
There are three distinct falls: the Horseshoe Falls (crescent shaped) on the Canadian side; the American Falls and the Bridal Veil Falls on the American side. When we walked beside the Horseshoe Falls we became thoroughly soaked not just by the rain but by the spray which became quite heavy as we drew closer. It was quite noisy too and just so impressive.
(For some reason I can't download my photos tonight so will try again another day).
After walking back to USA we then drove back to Canada and tonight are staying in Ontario (I hear the thunder outside again). Tomorrow we'll head further into Canada. On our long trip yesterday we noticed how lush and green it is everywhere. We know why!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

On The Road Again!

Friday 26 June
We collected our hire car (this time a VW Jetta sedan with a huge boot) in the morning and left NY having re-booked our hotel (with a queen sized bed next time) for our return on 4 July to enjoy the celebrations in the city that night. Today we drove a couple of hours out of town to Woodbury Common factory outlets. There are hundreds of shops here but we only visited a very small number of them. While we were busy shopping the weather changed suddenly from bright hot sunshine to a severe thunderstorm with the temperature dropping considerably at the same time. Out came the spray jackets and umbrellas but we were drenched. The storm didn't look like easing in a hurry and we ended up staying in Middletown, about 20miles (30km) up the road, for the night. As we emerged from our car and headed towards the hotel entrance we spotted a strange little animal sheltering under the next car. We were told this was a woodchuck - so cute! I hope it found a safe warm spot for the night as it certainly wasn't there this morning when we left.

Saturday 27 June
Today we drove over 400miles (approx 600km) and have just arrived in Tonnamunda which is very close to the border of Canada and just a few miles from Niagara Falls which we will visit tomorrow. It's very exciting. We drove through parts of Pennsylvania today and through NY state which is very extensive indeed. Again the weather did strange things, hot and sunny one minute, cold and raining the next - no guarantees of staying one way or the other.

We passed through lots of interesting little towns and stopped at Corning where corningware and glass is made. It was a fascinating place with lots of gorgeous pieces of glass. We also detoured off the main road to investigate the car racing track at Watkins Glen. There's a Indies series race being held there next weekend and we spotted some racing cars doing some practice laps. However we were unable to go through the gates to have a close view.
Tomorrow will be exciting. We will see another beautiful wonder and will cross the border into another country!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Enjoying being New York tourists!

Central Park

Strawberry Fields in Central Park - "Imagine"

Tuesday 23 June
This morning we took the uptown bus tour. This included a tour through Harlem and past various sights of Central Park. The rain held off and the sun shone in patches and it was almost hot. Later we went on a 75min ferry trip, also part of our bulk tour tickets. This was a harbour cruise showing different aspects of NY sights from the water. We managed to catch a few good photos of the Statue of Liberty and the tall NY high-rise buildings and the contrasts of the very old and the very new. We were also shown Ground Zero from the water. We had glimpsed it from our downtown bus tour.

In the evening we walked to Little Italy for dinner in a lovely Italian restaurant. I had American white wine and Dave chose Italian white wine and to be perfectly honest they tasted very similar!

Wednesday 24 June
Today we caught a train to Battery Park where we took the ferry to Ellis Island (still part of our tour tickets) passing the Statue of Liberty and giving us great views on the way. Ellis Island Immigration Museum showed all the history of immigration to America from 1892 to 1954.
We spent some hours there but still could have seen more. It was fascinating. There were excerpts of people's experiences, fantastic photos and treasured items, clothing and bags that they brought over with them from their home countries. Over 5,000 immigrants passed through Ellis Island in a day. The museum gave a great insight into their experiences both on the long slow boat trip over and on their arrival on Ellis Island. Some of the dormitories showing their sleeping arrangements and the primitive conditions were pretty horrific. It also showed statistics of what happened afterwards and the procedures they had to follow before being permitted to stay in America. It really was a huge and fascinating museum.

The highlight of our day however was our meeting this evening with James who we met on facebook. He shares our surname spelt exactly the same way and we believe may be related to Mr B in the dim dark distant past. We met up with him at the Heartland Pub and had a meal together and really had a very pleasant evening. He was so interested in all the family history that Mr B has been pursuing and it was so amazing to meet up with him. He is such a lovely young man - surely he must be related!!

Thursday 25 June
Today was our last full day in NY - this time. However, we are returning on 4 July and will spend our last week here relaxing a bit more and also visiting a few more museums and spending more time in Central Park. The sun shone again today and it didn't rain at all. The temperature has risen to the low 30s and hopefully it will be even better when we return in 8 days. This morning we made the most of the weather and went for another run in Central Park. This time we went on the harder surface of the road. The road is divided into three lanes, one for the cars, one for the bikes and one for runners. It's great and so very pretty with all the lovely green grass and trees. It's just gorgeous out there. We ran to and from the hotel and the full loop of the park.

Total distance: 11km
We ran slowly (at least I certainly did) but I kept wanting to look at everything and take in the sights. There were quite a number of runners even for a Friday morning and lots of cyclists too. I really enjoyed it.
Later we took a bus to the fancy part of the city to look at the classier shops - soooo beautiful. I went inside and checked a few prices, some reduced by 80% but still expensive! One lovely Jimmy Choo bag was reduced by 50% from $1,650 to $825 (plus tax) - tempting!!!! Anyway, it was fun looking and we walked heaps today. In fact we've walked heaps every day - there's so much to see and do.

Tomorrow we are collecting a hire car (a Mazda 6 or similar this time) and driving north with the intention of visiting Niagara Falls and Pennsylvania among other places before returning to NY on 4 July to enjoy the fireworks!

Monday, June 22, 2009

The Real New York!

Couldn't resist snapping these geese in a shop window! Geese are all over the world (not just speedy ones)!

Thursday 18 June
The flight from LA was uneventful on Thursday apart from a little glitch checking in our luggage! I left Aussie with a bag weighing less than 18kg and this time it weighed in at 30kg - how on earth did that happen? I haven't even started on New York - oh dear me! Now apparently the weight wasn't the problem, it was the fact that each bag must not weigh more than 23kg as it's an OH&S issue with lifting them - a new rule. I swear they see us coming! Anyway they handed me one of those stripy little beach bag numbers and I proceeded to kneel down and redistribute luggage into backpacks and the little stripy bag until the checked-in bag weighed the right amount and we could go to the next procedure - the scanning station. Security is pretty tight in LA and it looks like we might need to buy an extra bag for our return. Apparently we can take extra hand luggage so that may have to happen or I may just not be able to shop in NY - ummmm?

Our next little glitch is our hotel room. It's a beautiful 'olde worlde' hotel - lovely decor etc but we have been given a twin room not a double one which means we have a large desk separating our narrow single beds and they do not have any spare double rooms so we're stuck with it. Of course, this could mean I gain extra sleep or something!!
Friday 19 June
When we arrived in New York it was raining which apparently it has been doing for some time. However this morning there was a patch of blue sky so we donned our running gear and crossed the road to investigate Central Park. Our hotel is situated on the west side of the park and just opposite it. It was so green, absolutely beautiful and a lovely place to run. We ran to the reservoir in the middle and ran round it twice before running back to the hotel. I noticed a couple of men with large brooms sweeping the puddles of water off the pathway. It seemed a bit of a thankless exercise but I for one appreciated the fact that it helped me avoid such wet shoes and splashes up my legs. No wonder it's so green in that park. There's also some lovely trees and lots of other little pathways and tracks to walk and run. It's very pretty and just as I imagined. We ran a total of 8km and I felt much better knowing that although I was sluggish I could at least still run the distance of the pending race on Sunday.

Later we bought $25 subway tickets which last a week and can be used on any train or bus. We caught a train to the East side of town to collect my race number, chip and t-shirt (yes, the entry included a t-shirt - yay) for Sunday then we browsed around that side of town for a while before catching another train to Times Square - oh wow! It is so fantastic there. People were sitting on plastic chairs in the square in the middle surrounded by high rise buildings, bright lights and a general buzz of excited noise. We bought half price tickets to go to a show that night and just took in the ambience and the wonderful feeling of really truly being part of all this excitement - New York, we have arrived!

In the evening we returned to Times Square to go to the live theatre and this time all the night lights were dazzling and oh, it was wonderful. We went to see The 39 Steps and it was so funny and very clever with only four actors performing a number of roles. We just loved it. Later we wandered through Times Square until it was very late before catching a train back to the hotel.

Saturday 20 June
This was a catch-up day in some ways. We caught up on a huge pile of washing and drying at the laundromat while it absolutely pelted down outside. Thank heavens we took our umbrellas and spray jackets! While our washing was doing itself in the machines we tried bagels for lunch at Zabars nearby. They were pretty tasty with smoked salmon and cream cheese and the coffee wasn't too bad. The only other place we have found half decent coffee is Starbucks but it does vary. Sometimes it's like dishwater! Other times it's not too bad.

Later we caught a bus to Soho - a really interesting place to browse. We spent ages there before catching the train back to our area and going to the Uno Grill for dinner. I had pasta in preparation for the run in the morning!

Sunday 21 June
Today was Fathers' Day in America which is why I had entered a FD Race in support of prostate cancer research. There were about 8000 entrants and we were sent to our appropriate "corales" ready for the start. I was in with the 3000 numbers. The rain held off for the morning although it had rained solidly all night and the ground was very wet. There were huge puddles to circumnavigate! I enjoyed the run, I was slow and the course was far more undulating than I expected but the atmosphere was great. There were a number of water stations and we ran with timing chips on our shoes. After crossing the finish line and having my chip removed, I followed everyone else to join the queus. First I queued for a bag of salty pretzels, then I queued for a banana, then I queued for the official photo and then joined another queue not realising for some time that it was full of men and then I realised I was queuing for a free prostate check. Oops - I left that queue quickly after that! I never did find the water queue. There was a barrel drawer later and a good band playing. It was great being part of a NY race even if I was damn slow. It was all about taking part as far as I was concerned and my entry fee did include a t-shirt which is exciting!

Time taken: 48mins
Distance: 5miles
Place in age group: 16th out of 46 women
Place overall: 3090

In the afternoon we decided to go on The Sex and The City Tour. It was such fun. I think Dave surprised himself and actually enjoyed it thoroughly. It was really fantastic and our tour guide was a hoot. The first thing we had to do on the count of 3 was to all say "f***"! That was to relax us. She took us to lots of places we would never have seen otherwise including the real Magnolia Bakery (we found a different one the other day) and a sex shop full of interesting items!! We spent time with a girl from London who showed us photos on her camera of places she's been including the Niagara Falls. They look spectacular so I think we're going there after we leave here. She also told us about a great Diner where there was fantastic entertainment so after the 3.5hour tour we headed for the Ellen Stardust Diner which was in Broadway. We had burgers and they were yummy but it was the entertainment that made the evening. All the waiters and waitresses were wannabe Broadway stars and they sang Broadway numbers taking turns to wait on tables or sing. They were seriously talented and it was just like being entertained by the real stars. I'm sure they sang just as well. They were dressed the part and it was heaps of fun.
Monday 22 June
We're really enjoying NY and all the hive of activity. Today we went up the Empire State Building - wow! My camera is working overtime! We zoomed up 80 floors then caught another lift to go up 6 more floors. The view was just fabulous - something like a major legoland! We could pick out so many landmarks.

We also did a tour on one of those 'hop on, hop off' buses. We were on top of course and when it started raining we were all provided with attractive plastic raincoats!! We were taken to lots of interesting spots. Our tickets include a night tour and a boat tour and a few other tours and museums which we'll do over the next few days. This is full-on but so amazing.

This evening we went to a restaurant recommended in our Guide Book. It was definitely worth a visit - just fabulous. The service was great and the food and wine superb. Unfortunately I decided to have a coffee afterwards - bit of a mistake as it spoilt a beautiful meal. I should know by now that you have to be very lucky to get a good coffee here although I've had more luck in NY than other States! It was a good day - so much to see and take in and so many memories to take home.

A Few Piccies of the Grand Canyon

As requested by Giorgio here are just a few piccies of the Grand Canyon but they definitely don't do it justice. The deer was obviously outside the barriers!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Route 66 and The Grand Canyon!

Sunday 15 June continued
Route 66 has been a bit of a theme over the last few days - it runs from Chicago to LA and is the classic road, the Mother Road, for migration to the west, as featured in the John Steinbeck novel The Grapes of Wrath'. In the 60s there was TV show called Route 66 that some oldies may vaguely remember!! The road passes through various small towns, most with their cafes and gas stations and memorabilia of the 50s and 60s - and some classic cars scattered around - Studebakers, Edsels, Packards, Nashes, even an Oldsmobile Toronado, all classic lost causes in American motoring history. Once the new Interstate 40 highway was built many of the towns were bypassed, and fell into decay - but there has been a revival of interest in the old Route 66 in recent years and selling the memorabilia is all that seems to keep some places going. And of course we bought the t-shirt!
After Hackberry the countryside was almost green in parts. Sometimes we saw long freight trains passing in the distance and I counted 142 carriages with 4 locomotives on one train with most carriages having 2 containers!

We entered the Grand Canyon National Park at a cost of $25 for the vehicle. We did not even realise its magnitude until we stepped out of the car and through the fence and then - wow - what can I say, talk about gobsmacked. It is just spectacular. In fact this is when adjectives fail me, it was awesome in the true sense of the world. It is impossible to truly describe the beauty and magnificence of this fabulous rocky splendour. It is one of the seven wonders of the world and I can see why. You stand and stare and feel so small and insignificant against its enormity. We walked 4km along the South Rim trail taking lots of photos and stopping and staring at each viewpoint. It is 2500m at the rim and then there is a vertical drop of nearly 2000m to the canyon floor. We were just a step or two away from the edge. The temperature was mild in the low 20s compared to 40 a few hundred km away in Vegas but it was still quite warm enough for t-shirts and shorts. Some of the people walking made us wonder a litte, for example one lady was pushing her poodle in a baby stroller along the track!

It was a fabulous experience altogether and after enjoying lunch there we drove to the Imax Theatre to watch a movie of the history of the Grand Canyon which made you feel like you were actually inside the Canyon itself - fantastic.
We had a wonderful day and then drove back along Route 66 with the roof down and the wind blowing us away, to Kingman where we stopped for the night in a little motel.

Tuesday 16 June
Today was Mr B's birthday and we woke to rain! After breakfast we visited the Kingman Museum. It was full of the history of Route 66 with old cars on display and lots of photos and memorabilia everywhere. It was really interesting. There was also a fantastic souvenir shop which was well worth a perusal! We drove back along Route 66 and stopped at a car lot with hundreds of old 50s and 60s cars for sale - some in good condition and some real old rust buckets which I assume people buy for parts? We continued on some very steep windy roads with fantastic views and stopped at Oatman which was originally an old goldmining town. We walked through the town among the Burros (donkeys) and trying to avoid stepping on their droppings. We saw one baby Burro only two days old and not yet able to stand - so cute.

We drove past Laughlin which was very flat but surrounded by hills. It is set by the Colorado River and has a number of casinos trying to emulate Vegas in a very small way. It wasn't a very attractive town but we stopped to eat our sandwich beside the river. The river crosses from Arizona to Nevada.
We visited a Walmart in Bullhead City (because I have always wanted to look in a Walmart) - yes, it's big! Then back on the road using the highway as it was quicker. There were hundreds of huge trucks but fortunately most of them were going in the opposite direction. The road was now long and flat and we spotted heaps of goods trains in the distance. We visited a ghost town called Calico which was closed which was great as usually you have to pay to enter the town. We parked by the town and walked through looking at everything, taking lots of piccies and didn't have to go round any people as there was not a single soul there, just a few cats wandering about the empty streets. It was quite fun!

We stayed the night in Barstow in a Ramada Inn which was very nice and we ate at Sizzler over the road as Dave fancied a good steak. He had a huge and very tender porterhouse so he was a happy boy. I had salmon steak as I was missing my weekly fish meal! It was a good day but we were tired and slept well as we had covered quite a few miles.

Wednesday 17 June
We started the day by visiting the Barstow Mother Road Museum - another interesting little spot - more old cars, more memorabilia and old movies, magnets, postcards etc and loads of interesting little stories on the walls. We drove with the roof down whenever we left the highway but the noise is a bit much on the highway. We stopped at Pasadena for lunch (wasn't there a song about that place)? Then on to Santa Monica Pier where Route 66 ends. We walked along the pier and through Palisades Park then we drove to our hotel at LA Airport where we deposited our bags before Mr B returned our beautiful Mustang to Hertz. It has been lovely having the car this week. It ran smoothly on the highway although was a little cumbersome on the twisty roads. Petrol is really cheap here and it cost just over $30 to fill the car three times and $42 today because the tank was almost empty. Petrol costs $2.80 a gallon which is about 70cents a litre so the fact that the car only ran about 22miles to the gallon (or 14litres per 100km) didn't really matter at that price!
Tomorrow morning we fly to New York where we arrive after 5pm as we lose about 3 hours on the way! On Friday I plan to go for a run in Central Park. I've entered a NY Roadrunners' race on Sunday so I hope I can remember how to run! Still, it's all about being part of it and hopefully they'll give me a t-shirt!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Las Vegas - Nevada

New York New York Casino
Paris Casino toilets
Cafe Iles St Louis
Bellagio Casino at night
Our red Mustang beside Hoover Dam

On Wednesday 10 June we returned our hired Ford Focus and collected our red Mustang Convertible 2010 model. It's fabulous! It took about five hours to drive from LA to Las Vegas. The countryside varied from very flat and baron to undulating but there were no animals or greenery and only three official rest areas in a 400km stretch of road. The roads are in good condition but I do wonder how many accidents happen from drivers falling asleep. We had copious supplies of gummy worms (a disgusting variation of what we call snakes - sorry, but defnitely not 'yummy gummies' although they do have the same sugar effect to keep one awake)!

We arrived very late afternoon and checked in to the Stratosphere on The Strip. All the casinos double up as hotels and all have their own special attraction. Ours had a tower above the 108th floor where there was a magnificent view and four floors above that joy rides outside the tower - not for this wuss however - watching people's faces was enough for me!

On our first evening we walked along the Sunset Strip (always referred to as just The Strip) about 8km, checking out lots of casinos and their attractions on the way. Neither of us are gamblers - it's just all about the atmosphere and the free shows and sights and of course the people watching - wow! We took the bus back to our hotel in the early hours of the morning. This is the city that literally never sleeps.

Thursday 11 June
We drove our car with the top down to view Fremont Street where the casinos originally started then we drove along the Strip and to the Vegas Premium Outlets where we found a few great bargains. It was fun driving our fancy car with music blaring and roof down - we felt like we really fitted in! That evening we took the bus back along the Strip and had a very very late night (morning). Everwhere is so glitzy - music, dancing, bright lights - wow! We loved the piano bar in the Paris Vegas where they sang and played any requested song with money thrown on the piano. We also visited MGM casino where there were lions behind glass in a lion habitat where we had a great view of them. We had lots of fun and couldn't believe that it was 4am before we went to bed.
Friday 12 June
Needless to say all these late nights meant that half the mornings were wasted sleeping. We bought all-day bus tickets which were very economical and this meant we could bus to different spots and return whenever we liked as the tickets were valid for 24 hours. We checked out lots more casinos and free shows including a pirate boat show at Treasure Island casino (TI) with two boats, bautiful girls, pirates, fire etc. It was fun and very effective. That evening we had a beautiful meal in Paris Vegas - fillet mignon that melted in the mouth and creme brulee to die for. The bottle of champagne we drank with the meal just made it perfect. Then to top it off I had booked tickets for Cirque du Soleil at New York New York Casino where we saw Zumanity as an advance birthday treat for Dave - a very sensuous and amazing performance. There were lots of ropes, sheets, trapezes, acrobats and very skimpy costumes. We were very glad we were not sitting in the first few rows however as people were selected from the audience at random to take part in some 'interesting' maneuvres. It was altogether a great night.

Saturday 13 June
Today we decided to try to see all the things we hadn't already managed to see. Our first visit was to the top of our tower which was complementary for guests of the casino/hotel. The views were stunning. Next we took a bus right to the other end of the Strip and worked our way back going into all the casinos which had an attraction we hadn't yet seen. We visited the Venetian which was based on Venice with little canals and gondolas running under bridges and Italian shops and restaurants. Next on to Caesar's Palace which had amazing luxury shops and walkways and went for miles. From there to Mandalay Bay, then to Luxor where we caught a little train connecting to the next place Excalibur. Each of these casinos has its own uniqueness with fantastic architecture and each based on a different city in the world or on a different theme - very imaginative and exciting and all full of people. At the Imperial we visited a Classic Car Show where the majority of cars were for sale. There were purportedly 300 cars on display although we think there were probably a few less than that, perhaps they had been sold! It was great though with some gorgeous cars.

We had fun at the M&M store which had four floors of M&M related paraphenalia. We visited a huge Adidas store where I was in heaven! By this time hunger had set in and we just couldn't go past our Paris restaurant for a repeat performance of the night before. It lived up to its expectations and this time we included a beautiful cocktail - Marmosa du Soleil - just divine but I can't remember what was in it now - dammit!

To finish our evening we visited Circus Circus where we watched a couple of free circus performances - incredible balancing acts and a juggler who also bounced seven balls at once - phew - making them go round in circles - quite amazing.

Sunday 14 June
I know I haven't remembered to include everything we did or all the places we saw but suffice to say we had a ball and loved Vegas, the atmosphere and all the interesting sights and people. We even caught the bus one night with a bride in her long white wedding dress and red handbag along with her new husband in white pants and sleeveless vest, red shirt, red shoes and white cap. The bridesmaid had a short white dress and white extremely high shoes. There are wedding chapels in most of the casinos so that people can pay about $35 to have a quick wedding. We saw a few couples waiting their turn at various places and they were always dressed up in wedding outfits but there were rarely guests.

We left Vegas at about mid-day after stocking up on a few goodies from the supermarket including beautifully sweet strawberries to keep us going on the journey. Then we headed for Arizona. Today was the first time we experienced a real traffic jam. It was a very very slow drive as we neared Lake Mead due to construction where they are building roads near Hoover Dam. These roads and bridges commenced in 2003 and were supposed to be completed in 2008 but they have a lot still to do and obviously a Sunday is a good time for locals to visit Hoover Dam as an outing and thus the hold up. Hoover Dam was definitely impressive but we didn't stop there apart from taking a few photos. As we left that area the traffic eased and we had a much easier run. The road was steep and windy and the landscape was almost lunar - very barren - almost eerie. We stopped at Kingman on Route 66 for a quick look and plan to check out the museum on our return. We travelled along Route 66 after this and thoroughly enjoyed it. The countryside became very flat although there were hills in the distance. There were lots of interesting spots on the way, including the Hackberry General Store which was so cute. Everything is all set in the 50s and 60s with old original cars in the village streets outside the stores and so much to see.

- to be continued

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Manhattan Beach, Los Angeles

We managed to sleep through breakfast yesterday and decided to start our first full day in LA with a run. We had explored our local area after we arrived on Sunday and our first discovery was a running shop just a few blocks down the road and a triathlon shop over the road. Wow! We were told about a good route to run and this is what we did yesterday. We ran from our hotel to a disused railway where the surface is now tanbarked and after a few miles we came to a sidewalk by the beach which went for several miles. On our return trip Mr B went for a swim in his running shorts before we ran back to the hotel, a total of 15km, so it was a good run. We did however miscalculate the time of day and have sunburnt shoulders and necks! The weather is a bit deceptive as it doesn't feel too hot, in fact it has been quite windy and cool at times.
Later in the day we walked along the boardwalk by the famous Venice Beach and had lots of strange offers. I did end up buying a Hip Hop CD from a gorgeous young black man who was over the moon that his music was going all the way to Australia. He insisted on taking a photo of me holding his CD! I am so NOT into Hip Hop so I hope somebody else will benefit from it!
For dinner last night we went to Joe's Crab House and were supplied with paper aprons and the appropriate tools to eat a basket each of crabs' legs and made lots of yummy mess - lots of fun too!
Today we returned to the running shop where I bought the very latest touch screen garmin and Mr B will now inherit mine. It is so amazing and was so reasonably priced - I can't believe it. Later we drove to Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Rodeo Drive etc and we went on a guided tour of all the fancy homes of the stars - utterly mind boggling. The average house costs 20million dollars - far out!!
Next we visited the Cheesecake Factory to try some of their amazing cheesecake. Yes, I think another run is required (in fact several)! There is just one thing I still haven't found and that is good coffee - nowhere, just nowhere and I can't even find a decent cup of tea. In the hotel breakfast room they have flavoured coffee (disgusting) or herbal tea which is ok but I just want a nice ordinary cup of tea (there's no kettle in this room) or a good cup of coffee. So far I have had a bitter strong cup and a dishwater tasting cup. Hmmm, will keep my fingers crossed that I have more luck in Vegas where we drive tomorrow. We swap hire cars for our convertible Mustang in the morning. Woo hoo - how exciting! I believe the weather is very much hotter there so I may put away my jacket tomorrow.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

We're Leaving on a Jet Plane!

Since Monday training has been a bit erratic. I've been to the gym a few times and run a few times but nothing spectacular. I missed training on Thursday as we caught up with close friends for dinner instead. We left Canberra on the first flight this morning with no dramas and there's even room in my suitcase - a space to be filled (not by a human however)! We're now waiting for our next flight direct to LA where we arrive at 7am this morning - yes, we will have Sunday all over again! On the return flight however we will lose a day.
I will try to keep this reasonably up-to-date with my new cute little laptop. So far, so good. USA - we're on our way!

Monday, June 01, 2009

Winter has Begun!

6.15am - RPM at the gym
5.30pm - Run after work round Lake G and back to work.
Total distance: 8.15km
Time taken: 49:34
Average pace per km: 6:06
I was very glad to have a headlight with me as it was very dark indeed on the other side of the lake. In fact I was quite scared all alone out there. I kept imagining someone jumping out of the bushes. My imagination was definitely working overtime! I was very relieved when I returned to the lit side of the lake again.
Thursday - speedygeese training at Dickson Oval
Tonight at training on the cold exposed oval we ran a warm-up loop before our main set of 3 x 1km repeats in similar vein to last week. We didn't stay cold long once we set off. My times this week were slower than last week - oh dear, must be all that extra chocolate that I was still working off from the weekend! How long can I use that excuse?
My km times were 5:01, 5:05, 5:04
Total distance: 7:5km
We finished with a warm down loop and pleasant chat.
Sunday - Monthly Handicap Run
Location: West Stromlo
This was a very undulating (translate that as hilly) run on a very cold morning in Canberra. Of course I warmed up quickly and was comfortable running in a singlet as those hills were pretty tough although there were lots of downhills too.
Total distance: 7.5km
Time taken: 45:55
Average pace per km: 6:06
Handicap group: 21
Finishing Place: 68th (94 finishers)
Today - speedygeese at Parliament House
4.30pm - I made it to the early run before the main training session tonight to run with Ewen and Geoff down to the lake for an 8km loop.
5.30pm - We started again with the rest of the group and ran a couple of loops of PH before the main session on the grass in front of PH. Here we ran 8 x 400m fast with a 100m jog between. Our 400m was made up of running down one side of the grass rectangle across the rectangle and up the hill back to the start then a slow 100m to the next corner. This meant that we started at a different corner of the rectangle each time - challenging but fun and hard work after the hills yesterday and the 8km before the start!
Total distance for the evening: 16km