Friday, 28 November 2008

22/11/2008 - 03/12/2008 Bahia De Concepcion - Cabo San Lucas - La Paz

22/12/2008 - The Germans, the Swiss and us, all drive to the Bahia De Concepcion, and what a beautiful spot it is. It has a Cantina set-up right on the beach behind us - it just keeps getting better. After we have all finished setting-up and getting organised we go over to the restaurant for some lunch and yes some drinks. Unfortunately, the chef advises us that their bar person has gone into town for supplies and wont be back until 2:00 so the Germans and the Swiss head on back to the campsite for a bite to eat. Dave and I decided that we weren't in any hurry so we had some lunch and waited for the Margaritas to arrive - Dave was happy they were serving beer. I would normally order a wine, but so far in Mexico it has been cheaper to order a Margarita (that's my story and I'm sticking to it). While we were there some of the local Americans were also involved in a Texas Hold 'Em tournament - what more could I ask for - so I was happy to sit there and watch them play and drink my Margarita. One of the locals also informed us that they were having a benefit that night with a band and a set menu - say no more we are in. So after I finish my Margarita we go home and let the others know and they are also going to join us, it ended up being a great night - I even got up on the dance floor - after several Margaritas - I think I'm starting to sound like a drunk. We also meet another couple Maureen and Carl who also joined us for dinner etc.

23/11/2008 - 24/11/2008 - We spend the next two nights in the Bahia De Concepcion. Unfortunately this time there were no Lobsters, but we did get lots of fresh prawns - the size of our King Prawns, fresh green and the heads had been removed for about $10 a kilo. We also ordered some scallops, these are much larger than ours and also a bit tougher, so I think we will stick to the prawns and lobsters for now - oh it's a hard life.

25/11/2008 - 27/11/2008 - La Paz. We yet again say goodbye to our German and Swiss friends - and head off to find La Paz. On our way we stop at a small town called Ciudad Insurgentes were we stop to buy some fruit and veges. Of course it's around lunch time so armed with our English / Spanish dictionary in we go and I ask for a menu - guess what no menu. Okay, we can deal with this, so we ask for some Beef Tacos, the cook / waitress than comes back with a monologue in Spanish of which we can interpret nothing, we ask for fish tacos, still nothing, we ask for chicken tacos and still nothing. So we tell her to bring us two Tacos each - we got that part right. We both get our Tacos with several accompaniments and some sauce - of course I dip my finger in the sauce and that was enough for me - it was super hot - at least I'm learning - normally I would of just poured it all over the Tacos. The Tacos were really great so we order another one each. The only thing is that we really don't know what we've eaten. We think it was either donkey or goat. - but hey it was really tasty, cheap and we didn't get sick. At least now we can order some bottled water without an trouble - so I suppose we are progressing. So onto La Paz. We arrive at La Paz do a bit of grocery shopping and head into the park for the night. The next morning we are going to head off to book our ferry trip across to the mainland and pick up some fresh water. But as Dave is looking outside he sees a Ute with the Big 5 Gallon Purified Water, so over I go and wave them down, we bought 4 x 5 Gallon Bottles - great except they don't have a hose to help us get the water into Stubbie and they have let us know they will be back in 20 minutes to collect the empty bottles. So we realise that we don't have a spare piece of clean hose that we could use to siphon - so we going looking for funnel. We find our funnel it has the end piece the size of about a 1c piece - this is going to be fun. So of course I'm left holding the funnel into the water storage container as Dave begins to pour - yep after about 2 minutes, and 1/6 of the first bottle done I'm completely soaked (Dave has a few splashes on his feet), I would of loved to be able to take a picture of this it really was like something from 'Some Mothers Do Ave Him'. We do manage to get all the water out of their bottles and either in the tank or over me - before the gentlemen come back to pick up the empty bottles. As we are preparing to pack up and leave and a lady is walking over to us to ask a few questions and it was the lovely lady Gillian who we had met when we were travelling with Mum in California. It was really great to see her and her Rottweiler (Dolly) Gillian is a lovely lady from Canada who travels down to Mexico ever year. Gillian has been coming to Mexico for over 40 years and has even lived in Mexico City - so she speaks Spanish fluently. Dave has been having a few tooth aches lately, but has been taking some Penicillin and some pain killers, until he felt confident enough in a town to go see a dentist. When you ask a local which is the best dentist they say to find one with a young assistant so they don't have to stop for a rest when they are peddling the bike to keep the drill going. Well as luck would have it Gillian is going to the dentist today - so she phones the dentist and gets Dave an appointment at the same time. This has saved Dave the trouble of wandering past all of the dentists and looking for the youngest / fittest assistant. We decide to go out and have a look around and will meet Gillian at the Dentist (she has given us some directions). Unusual for Dave we are running late for the appointment so we drive Stubbie into town and start looking for a car park - well as you can imagine the streets are getting narrower and more congested - so we start to try and get out of the city - well like any city there are one way streets everywhere and over here they don't all have street signs. So yep here we are in La Paz in the middle of down town (we think) having no idea were to go and of course looking very inconspicuous. The deeper we got into down town the more we thought Stubbie was on her last trip because we didn't think we could back it up the busy streets. We eventually get to a car park. (A building that was flattened in the last big storm). We paid the attendant an extra $20 Pesos to make sure our vehicle wasn't dismantled by the time we got back and start heading in what we believe is the direction of the dentist. Well after a little while we stop and ask some one for help - we've done pretty well (really) we are only one block out. We finally make it to the dentist and Gillian advises that she gave us some wrong directions - nothing like some challenges to make the day a bit more stressful. Dave goes in to see the dentist and he discovers he needs root canal, so he has some work done and he also needs to come back in a few days for some more. At least we get a pleasant surprise when we go to pay the bill it is equivalent to about $240.oo AUD, we hope that we are not in for a rude shock when we go back next week. Apparently a lot of the Americans come down to Mexico to get all their dental work done. So after the dentist Gillian shows us to a great seafood restaurant, and I must say the oysters etc were just fabulous, not to mention the size and quality of the Margarita. So after today we have decided to stay in La Paz for one more night and head off to Cabo San Lucas in the morning - the party Capital of the Baja. It is also where a lot of the American Students come to spend their Schoolies week.
27/11/2008 - 30/11/2008 - Cabo San Lucas. As we are driving into the RV park in Cabo San Lucas one of the Americian campers - shouts out to Dave that we have just arrived in time for the Big Turkey Dinner to celebrate thanksgiving. So of course this would mean that I wouldn't have to cook tonight - we're in. So after we get set-up over we go to the restaurant / bar area and we also find out that they have specials going for drinks Margarita's $4.00 and 6 beers for $10.00. (I really don't know why there aren't more drinkers over here in Mexico - the alcohol is so cheap and good). Dave opts for the Pacifico Beer - he's decided that he has had enough Corona's and needs a change. So after a couple of drinks and our belly's full of delicious Turkey etc. (they really do know how to cook their Turkey's over here, the meat is just so tender and juicy - nearly as good as our Christmas Turkey - Sim and Karls) we decide to head on home - I haven't finished my last Margarita - no problem they say take it with you and bring the glass back tomorrow. So now it's about 9:00pm I'm sitting in bed trying to watch some TV and drinking the last of my Margarita - now I'm starting to think I have a problem.
Dave is really struggling with not be able to read a newspaper or watch the news or anything for that matter on TV. So tonight I find him watching the Simpsons in Spanish - he doesn't even watch / like the Simpsons at home, but he figures he has a chance of at least partially following the plot.
So we wake up the next morning and it's my birthday - so we are planning on heading into Downtown Cabo San Lucas for a look around. Of course I told The Big Fella - don't worry about any presents etc. Well of course I woke up to him singing me happy birthday and that was it - I don't know why he listens to me. He does happen to inform me that I have told him that my last 10 purchases of jewellery and clothes have been birthday presents - soooooooooo. Anyway Dave's Mum has given him a lovely card (before we left Brisbane) to give to me with some money - what a great present - now I can go and buy another silver pendant for my necklace - so a big thank you to you Nana. Dave also informed me that my mother had bought me a great jacket and a few birthday presents when she was over here - okay no more whinging that you didn't get me anything to open up on my birthday not even a card. So after some directions we head out to catch the local bus into Downtown - $0.70 per trip and they seem to run every 10-15 minutes. We arrive in town and it doesn't take me long to find the exact silver pendant of the Kokopeli. "The Kokopeli was the symbol of happiness, joy, and fertility. He would visit villages playing his flute, carrying seeds in his backpack (the "hump" he is pictured as having). Everyone would sing and dance through the night. Then, while the people slept, Kokopeli would roam the corn fields, playing his flute. The next morning the people would awake to find the corn almost full grown and Kokopeli gone, and many of the young women of the village pregnant. One legend has it that he is responsible for the end of winter and the coming of spring. When, the story goes, Kokopeli comes playing his flute, the sun comes out, the snow melts, the green grass grows, the birds begin to sing, and all the animals gather around to hear his songs."
I had been looking for a Sterling Silver pendant of the Kokopeli since New Mexico - so I'm very happy - of course Dave does need to put his hand in his pocket - so he lets me know that yes - this is also another birthday present. We wander around the Downtown area for awhile and then we head down to the harbour area. We've come here to look for the best deal to take a Panga (small boat) over to where you can snorkel with the Seals / Sea Lions - so after sussing this out we decided to have a small bite to eat at one of the nearby restaurants. We had some seafood Tacos and of course the Margaritas were two for one - so basically $2.50 each, oh and yes they are full strength. Dave keeps telling me that he is only drinking as a medicinal purpose to numb his tooth - yeah right. We have a great time just sitting back and watching everything happen around us. We eventually decide it's time to go home - so we look for a bus stop and within 10 minutes here comes our bus. On the way home in the bus we notice a Bull Fighting Ring - with something happening on tonight, Saturday and Sunday night - so of course we assume it's the Bull Fights. Mmm so what do we do - neither one of us is particularly keen to go, but we think it's something that you should probably see once in your life. So we head on home, have a little bit of a rest and then head on back over to the Bull Fighting Ring. Well when we get there we are told that it is more like a festival tonight and the Bull Fights are on Thursday nights. I must admit neither Dave or I were disappointed. The one good thing about this ring - did say that there was no blood shed - so I suppose that was one positive - we would of been cheering for the Bull of course. So we had another great day - thanks Big Head - I really did have an unforgettable and fantastic birthday. It really is a small world - a couple (Pat and Janine) have just pulled in behind us and Dave (the social butterfly) is out having a chat and asks them where they are from and they say a small town in BC, Canada - you probably wouldn't of heard it, Penticton. Can you believe it - they run a small B&B.
Today we head off to the Harbour - we have planned to go snorkeling and to swim with the Sea Lions - unfortunately the weather is a bit overcast and the wind has picked up a bit. Not to worry off we still go. We jump into a Panga (boat) and we head on out. We have a look around at the Arch, Lands End, where the Sea of Cortez and the Pacific Ocean meet, where the Sea Lions have made a home (unfortunately the currents seem a bit strong so no swimming with the Sea Lion today) and we head back into shore to Lovers Beach. The scenery is really a beautiful contrast the structure of the cliffs are like something that Dave and I have never seen. We pop on our snorkeling gear and off we head - not too much to see close to the main beach, so we head on around the cliffs to the main snorkeling spot and of course not before too long I get stung by some sort of marine stinger (like our blue bottles) we keep going and are rewarded by seeing some really colourful and large fish. They are extremely friendly and you feel like they are going to run into you (later we found out that people in the pangas come out here and just feed the fish). We see many species including the parrot fish, angel fish and many more. So on our way back to the beach I get stung yet again twice. The stingers didn't even touch the Big Fella. So after we get back to the marina, we are walking around and see a lion cub and tiger cub from the local animal refugee / zoo. The keepers are trying to raise enough money to build a wildlife refuge. The Tiger Cub was about 7 weeks old and the Lion Cub about 6 weeks old. They are only doing this for one week (for the sake of the animals) so of course, knowing that it was a donation to a good course, I had to get in there and get my picture taken with the Tiger Cub and after that cuddle / photo, go and pat the little Lion Club. This was really an awesome experience - thanks again Big Fella - he did say that my birthday was officially over NOW. We had a really wonderful day, so decided to head back to Stubbie. When we get to Stubbie we see a note on our door to say that Maureen and Karl a couple we met in Santispac are in the same RV park. So of course at around 5:30 it's happy hour and Maureen and Karl wander up and we invite our Penticton Friends over for a couple of drinks and a chat. It was another great night and we now have another couple of friends to catch up with in Penticton.

30/11/2008 - 03/12/2008 - Los Barrilles. We say farewell to Cabo San Lucas and head on to Los Barriles. On our way we stop in to do some shopping. Dave has been reading on the Net that it is good to get some childrens book to read to assist in the learning of the Spanish language. Well in he goes and he comes out with a Pooh and Tigger book with an audio CD attached - what a bonus. Well we sit down together, put the CD on and open up the book. We realised that the only bit of the book we can understand is the title - so now we have to translate the book back to English. But you can imagine what it looks like to see the Big Fella sitting down, listening to Pooh and Tigger (in Spanish song) whilst attempting to read along - it really is a hilarous sight. The winds are still here so unfortunately no snorkeling boats are going out today or tomorrow, maybe Tuesday, we were hoping to get another day out in the Sea of Cortez and hopefully get to swim with the Sea Lions, but it's not looking good.

We have settled into Los Barilles. The RV park is terrific with Pool/Spa and a number of restaurants just outside the gate. The beach is just across the road and it is just a crystal blue carpet against the desert oasis of Los Barilles. Just when you think you are back in civilisation Mexico throws up another issue to contend with. So that everyone gets access to good water pressure you take it in turns of getting water. It goes off for two or three hours and then comes back on for a few hours - and so it goes.... throughout the day.
03/12/2008 - La Paz - Today we head back to La Paz for The Big Fella to have some more dental work - two fillings, root canal work and nearly $400 AUD later he is all done. Tomorrow we will be catching a ferry across to Mazatlan on the mainland - apparently it can take up to 18 hours.
We have set up Stubbie with her Christmas lights (Red Hot Chillies of course..), Bing Crosby on the stereo and it wouldn't be Christmas without the Elford Elves coming back for yet another performance this year.


Saturday, 22 November 2008

10/11/2008 - 21/11/2008 - San Diego - Baja, Mexico

13/11/2008 – 14/11/2208 San Diego. Our last full day in San Diego is spent going to Sea World – we buy a pass that allows entry for this trip and also for most of next year (for the same price as a one day pass). We didn’t understand why until we entered into the grounds – the place didn’t have many people inside for what one would expect at a Sea World. The main reason we have come to this Sea World is to see Shamu (the Killer Whales) – and let me say it was definitely worth the stop. To see these huge magnificent animals flying through the air was just awesome. With the crowds being so low we decided to shout ourselves lunch with Shamu. We had a great buffet lunch whilst learning and watching close up the trainers playing etc with the Killer Whales. After lunch we entered the Stadium to watch the fantastic show.

Another great moment of the day, for me (and one I will never forget) is that you can actually pat and feed the dolphins – to pat the dolphins was free (okay I might of knocked a few kids out of the way to get in) – but if you wanted to feed them you paid $6 for three fish – what a bargain… Another memory is how huge the Walrus was – I mean I knew they were big – but they are like the size of a huge Elephant only longer.

14/11/2008 – 20/11/2008 Baja Mexico: Tecate – Guerra Negro. Well we started our trip from San Diego somewhat intrepidly as we had caused ourselves some problems, we ended up buying too much insurance for the trip south – but with that sorted out we still hit the roads. In a nut shell American and Canadian insurance does not cover you whilst in Mexico. The Mexican government insists you have Mexican insurance – 3rd party liability is the minimum. You don’t have to have any insurance and I am sure the locals don’t, however the law in Mexico is Napoleonic law which is “YOU ARE GUILTY UNTIL YOU CAN PROVE YOUR INNOCENCE…” A car accident is a felony and you will go to jail if you are in the wrong and can’t pay. In fact you will be put in jail until they sort out who is in the wrong. (If you do have to go to jail overnight, you can rent a cop for $50 to stand outside your motel room for the night and he will take you back to the police station in the morning.) Having read all this we still decided to go.

Off to Tecate. We had been across the boarder to Tijuana many years back said that we would never cross there again. Tecate is a small boarder town crossing. We dumped all our perishable just before the border and proceeded to cross. We came up to the lights to what for a red or green and stared down at a young boy with a machine gun. The light turned to green and off we went. That was it we were in Mexico – no customs, no checking of our vehicle or documentation - nada. We were going to get our visa’s in Tecate however we couldn’t find a place to park stubbie so we went through. We had read that you could obtain your Visa at Ensenada. (3 Hours drive.) Off we drove down highway Mex 3 which is a two lane highway (one going each way) and the lanes are 9ft 6ins wide. Stubbie is 8ft 6ins wide without the big mirrors and they add another 2 feet. So we bent the left mirror in a bit and set off. All the prior reading, research we did started to make sense. ALTO (Stop) signs just popping up anywhere with no white line as to where to stop and in some cases a truck parked in front of the stop sign so only the locals know that it is there. The Stop signs are often place on the highways – letting the side Streets have priority. Then they have a TOPES (speed bump) or Velocity Reducers. What you get is about 15 severe speed bumps in a row followed by one large speed bump. These Topes are also on the highways to let you know if there is a dangerous corner (sometimes) or a place where a pedestrian might want to cross the road. They are designed to rip your suspension clean off your truck. The highway has a top speed of 80k/hr with most of it designated at either 60k/hr or 40k/hr. Needless to say if you meet an oncoming truck you need to basically stop. In some cases both us and the oncoming traffic have stopped so that we can figure out who will do the passing. The locals just ignore all speed signs however the Policia will stop foreigners as they can get some money in their pockets as they are not well paid.

Down the road we travelled. We found the immigration office and to our surprise they don’t speak English. My Mexican was limited to ordering chicken with a Corona and Lisa was white wine and pork. Lucky we had a trusty phrase book. After much gesturing and talking louder they managed to understand what we wanted. Some how we paid some extra money and they gave us 180 day visas – we had read that for Australians you would probably only be given 3 months. We think that they have mistaken us for Americians. We still need a vehicle permit before we hit the mainland. I’m sure that will be another experience.

We made it to Ensenada to a compounded campground for our first two nights. We hooked up with some great people, Steven and Susan who regularly come from California for vacations. We will never say again that the Americans don’t drink much. First of all Steven was an Irish / American and after several drinks in the afternoon and well into the evening, Steven and Susan offered to take us into town the next day. What an opportunity to good to miss – so of course we were in. Well at 11:00am the next day Susan comes over to tell us we will be heading into town at 12:00 noon but at 11:30am we were going to do shots of Tequila (Neither Dave or I like Tequila at the best of times - but hey - when in Rome). So after our Tequila shots we venture into town. First stop is Hussong’s (the oldest bar in Baja Mexico) and of course Steven orders four Margaritas. Okay – that’s enough alcohol without much food, if I don’t move soon – I’m not going to be able to. So we hit the Streets and do a bit of wandering and shopping. We decided that this would be a good place to buy some Penicillin and Amoxicillin – over here you don’t need a prescription for a lot of drugs. So after we end up down the end of the Street – we stop for … yep some more drinks. We finally stop in a Restaurant for our first taste of real Mexican food (and of course more drinks). Here I made the mistake of ordering a Mango Margarita – and boy was it sweet, I’ll stick to the more traditional Margaritas in future. I order the Enchiladas and Dave orders the Taco’s – my Enchiladas were okay – but Dave’s Taco’s were the best I’ve ever had. It appears that their Taco Shells are more like our Filo Pastries (only heavier) and they fry them in butter (not so healthy – but geez they tasted good). So after lunch we decide to head back to the camp grounds for a little party nap (I think I passed out). But after a couple of hours rest – we are back into it. We head up to the Restaurant / Bar area in the campground – and yes it’s time for more drinks and some light snacks – what a great day. We hope to keep in touch with Steve and Susan and hopefully meet up again either back in Australia or at one their homes either in California or Hawaii. So off to our next stop – San Quintin.

We arrive in San Quintin at our RV Park – which is in yet another great location, a little bit more difficult to get to, as poor Stubbie needs to go along a dirt washboard road. We are greeted by Felix the owner and muddle our way through booking two nights in his campground. The campground is on the beach – just behind some sand dunes. One of the first things we notice is the the vehicles on the beach. The vehicles that are on the beach aren’t all 4WD’s some are just normal sedans. The sand on the beach is light grey. As yet the water hasn’t been warm enough for either Dave or I to go swimming – but we are expecting it to get warmer as we go head further south. It is just great to be able to sit in front of Stubbie and watch the seals and dolphins at play. We spend two relaxing days here – detoxifying.

We have arrived at a place called Daggett’s Camp located at Bahia De Los Angeles which is situated on the Sea of Cortez where the desert meets the deep blue sea. It is just a spectacular arrangement of islands on a deep clear blue carpet. It is just absolutely beautiful. At a $100 peso a night (around AUD$10) you get a view that is out of this world, however there is no electricity, water, sewerage etc… Our first day here we catch up with a German couple (Helga and Helmuth) and a Swiss couple (Jonas and Sylvia). We invite them over for a drink and to say hello – well after our beer and wine are depleted it was time to say good night. They have both bought their campers over on the ferries from their homeland. One thing we are learning from people we speak to from Europe is that Stubbie will be too big to take to Europe. Actually now that we are here – probably a bit big for Mexico – given the width and conditions of the roads. The best thing about this campsite, apart from the view is the fishermen who come to your campsite just on dark to sell the lobsters they have just caught. Their lobsters are bigger than our biggest pot…. So we had to buy the smallest Lobster for less than $20 and really squeeze him in – minus a few of his claws and legs. We are surviving….
These lobsters are the biggest lobsters that I have ever seen – and boy they sure taste good.

So after a couple of nights at Daggetts we go over to our European friends to say goodbye and we find out that we are all heading to the same campground in San Ignacio. So we arrive at what we think is going to be a great site to get some water, empty our tanks have electricity and most importantly to have access to WIFI – our access to home. We do hate not having any access to the outside world – but I’m sure with all the lobster, corona and beaches we will get used to it. Well we arrive at the site “Rice and Beans RV resort” and we see our friends from Germany, who let us know that that the WIFI is not working and after looking around that was the only benefit to this campsite, the sites are not far from the highway and they are down in a ditch. After Helga (in German Spanish) and me (in English) try to ask the owner to let our friends from Switzerland know that we are moving on (to a B&B which he tells us may have WIFI) we get in our campers and head on. Well about 50 metres down the road we run into the Swiss couple who have already checked out the place and have found the best campsite to stay in – no WIFI, water, electricity or dumps – but definitely looks the best. Of course we now have a problem we have hardly any water in our tanks – we have plenty of bottled water for drinking. So we ask the owner of the new campsite if he knows where we can get some water and after Jonas having to help with the language barrier – in hops in Stubbie and directs us to his house where he passes Dave the hose over the fence. His name is Manuel (like from Faulty Towers) we ask how much for the water and he says it is free – we ask how much he pays for it and he says $100 peso a month (a little over AUS$10) – so we give Manuel $100 peso and he his very happy. Our Spanish is getting better we now know that the road sign “No Tire Basura” – does not mean no tyre service – it means No littering.

21/11/2008 - Mulege. Back on the road again to drive to Mulege - were we can get WIFI access. I left Dave alone for 5 minutes and he went and bought 3 loaves of bread. I thought he was doing really well - until I tried one of the breads and it was full of green chillies - the Big Fella thought he'd ordered one with cheese - back to the Spanish for Dummies CD for him.

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

19/10/2008 - 09/11/2008 - San Francisco - San Diego

19/10/2008 -San Francisco. Well after a couple of days of some long drives, we finally made it to San Francisco. The RV Park we are staying in is about 5 miles from the city, so it's in a great location, however the way we drove in, the neighbourhood isn't exactly inviting and I don't think Mum will be venturing too far from the gates. One of the benefits of this Park is it has transport direct into the city and is just across the road from the 49ers stadium unfortunately for us there is no game on whilst we are in San Francicso.

20/10/2008 - We were all up early and ready for the 9:00 bus into the City. Our first stop was near Fisherman's Wharf Pier 39 were we headed straight to see the Sea Lions who have made themselves at home on several of the pontoons. We've booked ourselves into one of the Hop on Hop Off tours. We do find that these are really helpful to get the lay on the city and it gives us a good feel for what we would like to do with our time in the city.

Okay so after an exhausting morning, it's time for lunch, of course we head out to Fisherman's Wharf for some Clam Chowder, Seafood and a couple of glasses of wine. Lucky Mum and the Big Fella were with me because if they hadn't been, I would of settled in very nicely and probably spent most of the afternoon in the one restaurant. From here we just wandered around the Fisherman's Wharf area, before heading back to the RV Park.

21/10/2008 - Once again we were up and ready for the first bus. Dave and I spent the morning at Alcatraz, it was very eerie in some places especially the solitary confinement cells. They have a great Audio Tour which Dave and I both thoroughly enjoyed. So if you are in San Fran, I would say that Alcatraz is well worth the visit. Mum had spent the morning back on the Hop On Hop Off Bus so we met upwith her at 12:30 - yep just in time for some lunch. So once again we had another lovely feed of crabs and lobster on the Pier (not good for our Diets). After lunch The Big Fella and I caught the Bus over to the South Side of the Golden Gate, so we could walk over to the North Side and catch the Bus back. Wow, what spectacular views you can get looking back to San Fran from the city. Mum didn't join us (as we've heard a 100 times - she doesn't do walking unless it involves food or retail therapy) so we all met up again at Fisherman's Wharf. We had a small walk around and then off to the Cable Cars, this is obviously a huge Tourist Attraction has there was a line up that would take about 45 minutes, so we walked to the next stop and only had a 30 minute wait. Another thing off the list that Dave and I wanted to do in San Fran. We took the Cable Car to the top of Lombard St, which is known as being the crookedest / steepest Street in San Fran, but when you read the literature you find out that it is neither, but still a sight worthy of seeing. We jumped our first cable car with Mum getting inside and Dave and I rode the steps on the outside. (As you do...) So we were able to get Mum to walk down by telling her we were going for dinner. We stopped and asked a local for what Italian Restaurant he recommended (we were in the Italian District) and he gave us the name of one - so off we headed. When we first arrived at the Restaurant Mum and I headed straight for the Restrooms to freshen up. When we got back there was menus and water waiting for us. So of course after our lovely walk we were a bit thirsty - so we finished of the first bottle of water very quickly, the waitress (who was always hovering around, much to Dave's disgust) asked if we would like another bottle and of course I said yes (I didn't know that it was bottled still water (not the good old fashioned tap water) until Dave pointed it out to me - oh well how much can a bottle (not even a litre) cost. Well when we got the bill we found out $7.50 - I could of ordered a bottle of wine - last time I'm going to be good and order the water next time it's wine from the beginning. So after a lovely meal it was back onto the Cable Car to catch our bus home. I for one had a fantastic day and I realise that I could live in San Fran it has a spectacular harbour and great food.

22/10/2008 - Today we started our journey down the famous Highway 1, to the Santa Cruz area were we stayed the night in the State Park at Capitola on New Brighton State Beach. We arrived around 4:00pm so just in time for happy hour. So we've got ourselves all set-up, I've got my new bottle of wine out of the fridge, my glass and now Mum and I are trying to open the bottle - uh oh we broke the waiters friend (I normally have a spare (like any good drinker) - but this had got broken a few days earlier - and no not from overuse). So we have a dilemma - Mum to the rescue over to the next site with bottle of wine in hand. Of course she does the right thing and has a chat to the two gentlemen (who were both in wheelchairs) and comes back in about 10 minutes with an open bottle of wine - so after I stop hyperventilating, the glass is full. We are all sitting outside enjoying the park and the two gentlemen come wheeling over and introduce themselves (Russ and Nev and their dog Moby). Moby is a really lovely black Labrador, so I offer to take him for a walk. He his really powerful, I found out later that he frequently pulls Russ and Nev both at the one time in their wheelchairs. So being sociable we all have a few drinks, after about an hour Russ goes over and puts a chicken on for their dinner. So after about an hour after that we start cooking our meal as well (we do offer to cook dinner for them as well - but they insist they are going home soon to have their chicken) - well our dinner is all cooked and we are ready to eat, Mum just can't eat in front of them so gives them a small plate to share, well we've finished dinner and they still don't look like going back to their site for their chicken, so once again we offer to cook them something to eat and this time they say yes - by this time Russ and Nev have just about had as much as they can drink (apparently prior to coming over to us they had had several martinis) - so after a few subtle hints and Mum politely getting up and saying good night Russ and Nev still don't look like moving - so Dave and I say good night. It was a great night they were both very interesting men.

23/10/2008 - 25/10/2008 - We are all about to head out down the track to the beach but before we go we wander over to say goodbye to Russ and Nev. Once again I get to take Moby for a run, this time we go to the beach. So after giving Moby back to them and we say our goodbyes again, Dave and I go for a long walk down to the other end of the beach. We pass an RV park which is situated right on the beach, so we go to enquire about vacancies (it is another State Park). The process is that they have a lottery for any vacant sites (normally you need to book 48 hours prior) you need to be there before 12:00 noon to receive a token and then at 12:30 they do a draw. To cut a long story short we ended up being able to book in for two nights. So once again we are sitting outside enjoying our spectacular view and we meet our neighbor (Peter), so being polite we all have a drink together. Peter is from Austria and has just received his green card. We find out that he is currently a baker and was previously a chef (along with a number of other trades). So as the evening progresses we start thinking about dinner. Peter has previously made a tomato based pasta sauce and says that he has enough for all of us. So after Mum and I prepare some salads and pasta we settle down to a lovely meal. After the meal Peter brings out his Schnapps, Dave being polite obliges with Peter and they both have a few Schnapps - of course then Dave brings out his Bundy and they have a few of those and to finish the night off they end up polishing a bottle of red off before going to bed. Peter also owns a lovely golden retriever named Mozart - so yet again I seem to be given the job of dog walker - which I love. It was great to meet Peter he lives in Denver, Colorado and has offered for Dave and I to go and visit whenever we want - fantastic. Peter has also booked in for two nights so the next afternoon we all get together and Peter has offered to cook us Beef Strogonoff (you beauty). Dave hadn't surfaced too much today and eventually makes an appearance with a can of Coke. So after a lot more subdued night we all head off to bed. Peter is going to meet up with his Mum and her husband in a couple of days time - so he has a night or two spare and has decided that he will head off with us down Highway 1 to the Hearst Castle. This has been a fantastic spot to settle in for a couple of nights. The wildlife etc out in the water just off the beach was just wonderful, we saw many harbour seals, dolphins and the morning we left I even got to see a whale migrating South.

We have been told by many friends the drive down Highway 1 is just spectacular. Unfortunately for us we picked a rather bad day to do this drive, the fog / cloud was really thick and you could not see the coastline except for a couple of small breaks in the cloud, it was more like flying in an airplane and looking down onto the clouds. Of course, Mum was in the back panicking she absolutely hates driving around cliffs etc, so when we parked the first thing Mum did when she got out of Stubbie was to kiss the ground. We spent the night in another State Park close to Hearst Castle - unfortunately we have been boon docking for a few nights and we have run out of water, our grey tank is full, our LP gas is low and our black tank is nearly full. Which means no showers - lucky Peter is travelling with us and has plenty.

26/10/2008 - This morning we wake up and say good-bye to Peter - I'm sure we will get to see him again, either on our travels or back into Australia. So we drive up to the visitor centre for the Hearst Castle and book ourselves into the next available tour. The Hearst Castle is really something to see. Hearst Castle is the palatial estate built by newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst. Invitations to Hearst Castle were highly coveted during its heyday in the 1920s and '30s. The Hollywood and political elite often visited, usually flying into the estate's airfield or taking a private Hearst-owned train car from Los Angeles. Charlie Chaplin, Cary Grant, the Marx Brothers, Charles Lindbergh, Joan Crawford, Calvin Coolidge, William P. Clark, Franklin Roosevelt, and Winston Churchill were among Hearst's A-list guests. After visiting the Hearst Castle we drove a few miles back up Highway 1 to have lunch and to see all the Elephant Seals lining the beaches. So after lunch we start to our travels over to Las Vegas.

27/10/2008 - 30/10/2008. We spend the next few nights heading towards Las Vegas, doing a bit of shopping at the Outlet Stores on the way. Stopping for a few hours in Santa Barbara having some lunch, and a look around. Mum and I decided to spoil ourselves and shout ourselves a Manicure and Pedicure. After two hours and we pay the bill (I think we were ripped off - it was advertised as $45.00 for both, but then anything extra - like your legs being massaged - cost about $5.00 each (I thought the leg massage was included in the Pedicure) - oh well our nails are looking a lot better.

We also spend one night in the carpark at the first Casino in Nevada just over the California border, which is just like Heaven (for Mum and I anway) it has an Outlet Centre, a total of 3 Casinos and a Food Court.

30/10/2008 - 06/11/2008 . We have arrived in Las Vegas and I'm sure this will be a surprise to everyone, but our first night we don't even go out to gamble. The RV park we are staying at is at the back of Circus Circus. With a bus stop just outside where a bus goes up and down the Strip 24 hours a day. We catch up with Rob, Handbag, Narls and Macca for dinner on the 2nd November. Narls and Macca casually mention that the have a couple of friends who will be joining us for dinner - they have just got married and are on their honeymoon - their names Brownie and Kylie. Anyway as we are waiting just outside the restaurant for them to arrive Narls and Macca see them coming, I look at Brownie and think geez I've seen his face before (probably from Wynnum) and then we get introduced to them as Jonathon and Kylie - and the penny drops Jonathon Brown from the Brisbane Lions. It turned into a really great night with lots of laughs and a few drinks - a few too many for some. The rest of the week was spent shopping, drinking, eating and gambling. Dave and I went to see Zumanity an X rated Cirque De Sol performance - it was a great performance - not quiet as good as the other shows we have seen - but Dave and I had a great night - we tried to catch-up again with the crew but we didn't get to Treasurer Island until after 1:00 and we couldn't find them anywhere. We did have a couple of attempts to catch up with Handbag etc. but unfortunately we didn't get to see them again. From the last time we were in Las Vegas until now the Strip has really grown - Dave and I both agreed that it seems to be getting too big and losing some of its character. However, that doesn't mean that we all didn't have a good time. Leaving Las Vegas is rather sad as I know from here we are making our way to Los Angeles for Mum to catch her flight home - it's not going to be pretty at the airport. We did spend our first night out of Las Vegas in the same spot we stopped at on the way in - it's free and we are allowed to boondock and put our slides and jacks down - it has 3 casinos, shopping and food court - but we didn't get a chance to use any of these facilities this time.

07/11/2008 - Los Angeles - Well the day has finally arrived when Mum leaves us. I know that she is really looking forward to getting home to see Bob and all the family, but I also know that it is going to be really hard to say goodbye. We arrive into Los Angeles and set up Stubbie in a State Park the RV site is only about 3 miles away from the airport and right on the beach front - what a great find. The RV park has approx 50 sites and we were lucky enough to get the last site. Well we thought we were going to have a peaceful couple of days for about 5 minutes and then we heard all the jumbo jets flying over - I don't think Las Angeles airport ever closes down. We order a Taxi to take Mum to the airport (nearly everytime Mum and I have looked at each other today we nearly burst into tears) - it's not going to be pretty. We finally say goodbye to Mum - it really was very hard to say goodbye - and yes it was like the flood gates had opened up. The next day Dave and I decided to make use of the 90 mile bike path right on the beach. We decide that we will ride to Venice Beach - which is about 10 miles away (that's far enough for us). We stop at Venice Beach for a bite to eat and to watch the crowds. Venice Beach doesn't seem to have changed since last time we were here. The crowds are still the same - basically anything and anyone goes - so after a few laughs we decide to make the trek back home. We are riding along at great speed (well we think so) we have just got out of the main area and BANG Dave's bike chain breaks - we are about 8 miles from home - and even though Dave is a great handyman, without any tools it just can't be fixed. So we start our very slow journey back home pushing and walking. We eventually work out (the bike path has widened) that Dave can hold onto my shoulder and I can cycle - well after a couple of miles and a few comments from some of the Male Cyclists - Dave decides that it's his turn to cycle with me hanging onto him - I knew that sham would eventually get to him.

09/11/2008 - 11/11/2008. Today we headed to San Diego - to try and get things sorted out for our trek to Mexico. We need to get insurance, vehicle permits, visas etc as well as doing some small repairs on Stubbie and a bit of shopping etc. Well Tim the Toolman (I know him as Dave) starts on fixing the TV - well we now need to go a do a bit more shopping for a few parts.
Look out Mexico here we come...

Monday, 6 October 2008

01/10/2008 - 17/10/2008 Texas - Arizona

01/10/2008 - Brisbane to Dallas - Well after nearly 3 months of being back home in Australia it was hard to believe that it was time to head back to Stubbie. It was really great to catch-up with a lot of our family and friends (however, we must apologise to our friends and family that we didn't get a chance to see, time just went way too fast).
Dave was a happy man when he found out that he was travelling in row 1. I was fairly happy as well, they had given Mum and I a Bulk Head row (which meant we had extra leg room). Well after we entered the plane and I gave The Big Fella a kiss goodbye at the front door; he proceeded to go up the front and Mum and I went down to the back of the plane, I was starting to wonder why we had only upgraded Dave (don't think that will happen again). One of the flight attendants made the long long trek down to Mum and I to say that they were going to upgrade me (unfortunately they weren't able to upgrade both of us). So I went up to the front with the Big Fella - had my lunch, ordered breakfast, watched a movie and then went back and let Mum have a turn (geez I'm a good daughter). Near the end of the flight once all the meals etc. had been served they let us all sit up the front for landing. So after we successfully negotiated Customs and Immigration (properly this time) we head on over to the Qantas Club for our flight to Dallas (here I learnt another lesson about travelling in the States). We are sitting in the Qantas Club and I'm keeping an eye on the Departures Board waiting for the status to change to Boarding. Well apparently they don't always change the status to Boarding at either the Gate or on the Departure Board. Yep, we watched our flight slowly pull away from the bridge. We did manage to catch the next flight - it was only one hour later.

So we got ourselves and our luggage out to Stubbie - we were feeling a bit anxious to see if she would start - but we should never have doubted her - first attempt she started roaring like a race car engine. We then headed off to buy a few essential groceries and then onto a really lovely RV Park in Dallas. The RV park was on a lake. At this lake they actually have like a huge carport shelter over the boats that are being stored in the berths.

02/10/2008 -04/10/2008 - Well after we all woke up Dave and I around noon and Mum around 3:00pm (she kept hiding under the blankets whenever Dave and I tried to get her up) there wasn't really a lot left of the day, so we just cleaned a few things up. That night we were all awake around 12:30am and didn't get back to sleep until after 3:00am - good old Jet Lag. On our way to Amarillo we stopped at a small town named Vernon - well this town was more like a ghost town. We arrived at Amarillo for Mum to do some retail therapy (she was starting to get the DT's 4 days without any shopping).

We went to a Texas Steakhouse for dinner, this is where Mum said that she like she was really in Texas. All the staff were wearing the Big Texas hats with the appropriate cowboy shirts etc. The dining room was decorated with all sorts of stuffed game animals. The Gift Shop actually had a live rattle snake - I wasn't going too close even though it was in a glass cage. At this restaurant if you can eat a 72oz steak and the four sides they give you - then it's free if not it costs you $50.
We then headed off to try and see a University Football Game - something that Dave and I have been looking forward to seeing. Well we needed to park Stubbie about a kilometre away from the Stadium - on our way to walking to the Stadium a very nice man stopped and gave us all a lift to just outside the gate (I still can't get over how helpful and polite the Americans have been). After settling it for about 10 minutes it starts raining and the wind gusts are really strong - at least half the crowd is packing up and leaving and as we didn't have any wet weather gear we left too (but not before we were looking like drowned rats). But after seeing the small amount of the game that we did (and the cheerleaders do a few flips) - we know we will definitely be going back to another game. All through the night the wind was howling and the rain didn't let up - so we woke up in the morning and decided to stay put for another night. As Mum and I were walking to the Office we passed a gentlemen who advised us that there was a small chance of a Tornado in the afternoon - oh great. Well the first thing Mum does is start looking for the Storm Shelter. Lucky for us that Tornado never made it to where we were staying.

05/10/2008 – 06/10/2006 – Roswell / Ruidiso. After we left Amarillo, Texas we headed to Roswell, New Mexico for our alien out of body experience. We arrive in Roswell right at lunch time, so we headed to the Red Lobster for a rather large meal. Even I couldn’t finish it all, but it was sure nice to get some fresh Lobster and Shrimp. When we drove into the centre of Roswell the first thing that we noticed was that all the lamp posts had an alien face painted on the globes, Mcdonald's was a space ship and the place was full of aliens. So we paid our money (1 adult, 2 x seniors, I’m loving this in many places their Seniors are 55 and over, so now Dave qualifies for some senior rates) and went into the Museum. It was really quite interesting reading about the events that have happened in Roswell. After Roswell we headed to Ruidiso.
Ruidiso is a small town at the bottom of a mountain range, from what we saw it is more like a skiing village set up mainly for the winter season. When we checked in we were told not to feed the deer as they were in their mating season, there were deer everywhere, just felt like being back at the Canyon House – I wasn’t game to try and hand feed these ones. During the nightwe got our first taste of winter with a sprinkling of snow on the hills.

07/10/2008 – 11/10 2008 – Albuquerque. Off to the balloon festival at Albuquerque. This is the most photographed event in the world and you could see why when we first arrived. We had booked a premium site to make sure we could reserve a place for Stubbie before we left for Australia. It was a good thing we did as there were 5,000 plus other RVs already settled in when we arrived. All the RVs were in three different areas and the RVs were parked Rally Style which is another way of saying we will park you all as close as possible. We got to know our neighbors very well as we could hold hands whist we were in our own beds. The good news was you had to be up at 5am any way so we all use to have afternoon nanny naps before happy hour and more balloon festivities. The balloon festival was truly sensational. We walked in an out of the balloons as they set up for flight. We were like little kids with big smiles and open mouths as we marveled at the sites. They allowed the public to be right amongst all the action. There were a number of take off and landing areas for the balloons with one of the fields right in front of Stubbie. The main field was about 500 meters away and it was the size of 5 football fields put together and it was wall to wall balloons. Make sure you go into the photo section of the blog to see all the different balloon photos.

11/10/2008 – The bad weather was beginning to settle in (there was snow on the mountains behind us), the balloon ascension had been cancelled so we decided to head into Old Town Albuquerque. We thought we have been getting good at packing everything up properly until when we were driving out one of the RV guides asked if we were going to watch TV – yep we had left the aerial up (again) but luckily no harm done.
Dave is excited we are going to the Atomic Bomb Musuem ……., Mum and I go in have a quick look around, watch part of one of the movies and decided we were having way too much fun – so we left the movie and decided to go and do the free walking tour offered by the Albuquerque Art and History Museum. This walk just happens to go past the jewelry stores where they sell all the Turquoise.

So after the tour Mum and I decided that it would be the right thing to do and go and help their economy. Instead of going back to the Balloon Park we decided to head on up to Santa Fe (the weather wasn’t getting any better, there were storms all around us). On our way to Santa Fe we stopped in this really beautiful little town called Madrid, which has some lovely little boutiques, jewelery shops and coffee shops. Well, Mum and I ended up buying some really lovely shirts from this little antique style boutique, whilst Dave is waiting in the coffee shop – oh well back to Stubbie and onto Santa Fe.

12/10/2008 – 13/10/2008 – Santa Fe. Okay it’s time for some serious retail therapy off to the Outlet Stores. Dave has decided that he needs to spend some quality time with himself and fix up a few things on Stubbie. So Mum and I grab a taxi (the driver give’s us a general history / geography lesson on Santa Fe, which is more than what we get back home) and off we go, well after a few hours and few bargains we decide to head back to the Big Fella (we thought he might have been missing us – but he lets us know that he was happy having some quiet time). Whilst in New Mexico we thought we better go to a Mexican restaurant for the night – once again Mum made mention that she once again felt that she was in New Mexico (for those of you who know my Mum this wont come as any surprise).
We have booked ourselves on a Horse Trail Ride in the Wild West Country. We arrive at the Ranch and are introduced to our horses – Mum has Dollar, Dave has RC and I’ve got Cowboy. Mum is a bit apprehensive and keeps threatening to chicken out – but as she is a trooper she gets on and off we go. The trail is rather quiet rocky and for the first hour we tend to stay on the Ranch and go over / around one of the mountains. Mum (and her body) has decided that one hour is enough and calls it quit. Dave and I soldier on for another hour. We go outside the Ranch and along the road to a old Western Movie set where the likes of John Wayne and Kevin Costner have shot some films. The Lead says that you normally get a horse with a personality that represents the rider. Mum’s horse Dollar wanted to stop and have little snacks all the time – just like Mum. My horse Cowboy didn’t want to stop as often, but when he did stop he wanted to eat a lot, and he also wouldn’t let Dave’s horse RC pass him no matter how hard Dave tried – so competitive (okay a bit like his rider). Dave’s horse RC was dithering at the back, taking it all in and pulling up the rear, and then once he found out that Cowboy wouldn’t let him pass, he kept trying to pass us – a bit like Dave always trying. It really was a great way to start the day. It had been awhile since either Dave or I had been on a horse but luckily for us some of what we had been taught came back to us – well we thought so anyway.

13/10/2008 – 14/10/2008 – Taos. On our way to Taos we have a quick stop at Chimayo to visit the El Santuario de Chimayo. This is a church that was built between 1813 – 1816 and is believed to have healing powers the US equivalent of Lourdes. So off we go say a few prayers and then back to Stubbie to Taos. The bad weather seems to be following us. The next morning we all woke up and got out of bed, very gingerly, as we were a bit wary to see if our bodies were going to talk to us – after our horse ride – but luckily for us all bits were in working order).

So we go to see the Taos Pueblo which is considered to be the oldest continuously inhabited community in the USA. When we arrive the rain is really starting to come down, so mum decides to stay in comfort and keep Stubbie company. Dave and I have decided that we have come this far, so we are going in. Well whilst we are waiting to purchase our tickets a few snow flakes start falling, so Dave and I have decided it is going to be a quick visit. We’ve had to make a few stops at Walmart etc to buy some extra blankets for Mum and a heated blanket for Dave and I. When we first arrived in Dallas, we were hot in our shorts, now we are cold in our tracksuits and gloves.

15/10/2008 – On our way to the Grand Canyon we stayed the night at the SKY City Casino at Acoma, which was a great little park at the back of the casino. For Mum and me it was just like being back at Wynnum with the Leagues club at the back door. So off we went to make our fame and fortune. Unfortunately it was a cold, cold night in the desert and when we got up in the morning we had no water. Our outside water pipe was frozen. When Dave went out side to see what could be done he noticed our sewerage pipe was also frozen. Nothing is worst than a frozen poo pipe. After flushing the pipes with hot water and making sure we got as much sun on all the pipes we managed to clear out pipes. What a relief…. Now it is off to the Grand Canyon.

16/10/2008 – Grand Canyon. We checked into the RV Park, which is the National Park right at the top of the Grand Canyon, within a 1km walk to the rim, or a two minute bus ride. I had read that if you are visiting the Grand Canyon it is best to see the Sunrise and the Sunset. So the alarm goes off at 5:30 and Dave and I are up getting ready. Well Mum has got up made a cup of tea and gone back to bed, she said she will see the Sunset. So off Dave and I go and we arrive with about 5 mins to spare. So we are standing there along with a hundred other people, the silence is just amazing, waiting for the Sun to Rise. Well the moment finally comes when you can start to see the tip of the Sun, it sure was worthwhile getting up to spectacular site. (Okay I probably owe Dave an apology; yes it is more than just another hole in the ground).

It’s great to have Mum travelling with us and sharing some of our experiences. Dave is a bit worried as we are certainly stopping more to do some retail therapy, Mum really can’t go to long without some shopping and of course I go with her and normally end up buying something, so Stubbie is getting more and more packed. I think Mum will be buying another suit case to get some of her gear home – so for those of you who thought you would be getting some presents think again, she has no room left to bring anything back, after she takes a few of my little bargains back with her.
PS..Help ...get me out of here ...these women are driving me crazy!!...!!