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My USA Trip


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Hi All

I honestly had not really been looking forward to the trip, which I booked in December 2008. There were many times that I would happily have cancelled, especially in the last week before I had to go. Don’t ask me why, but my equilibrium was such that all I wanted to do was stay home. The Sunday before I left I even asked our Pastor to pray for me as I was filled with apprehension. Stupid I know, I should have been jumping for joy.

My flight left at 10.20 in the morning, so had to be at the airport by 8am, fortunately not a lot of people in the queue so got booked in fairly quickly. Went and had a drink with Lovell and bought myself some reading material. Lovell left and I started the process through passport control and immigration. When I got to the ….last gate….there she was in all her glory, the little itty bitty plane which is too big to park anywhere, except the last gate, so that it can stick out like a sore thumb…the glorious new Airbus A380!

We took off on time, and I was really pleasantly surprised, after all the hype from Qantas on the new aircraft, they were actually truthful. The seats were wider and there was more legroom, I was also lucky, although the aircraft was just about full, the seat next to me was empty. The on board entertainment was excellent. You could choose from about 100 movies, there must have been at least as many computer games, and of course, for a charge, you could sms and talk to the world from your seat. What I found really intriguing was the fact that for free you could sms between seats. Now imagine a guy travelling and seeing a lady he fancies, he could do some genuine seat stalking!!!

Well fourteen hours later we landed safely in Los Angeles at 8.20am, only to be confronted with a computer meltdown at passport control. Their main system was down, they were using a backup system and that was not fast at all, waited in the queue for about two hours. Then the fun and games began….officer feeds my passport through the scanner….then he starts looking puzzled, I had been expecting this…so funny me, I ask him if “I have a few questions to answer?†He says “yesâ€, “why is this the third passport with which you are entering the USA?†So it was please explain time, you see I had been there three times on a SA passport, four times on a NZ passport and now I am there on an Australian passport. Fortunately we all just had a good chuckle, and I was told they look forward to seeing what I arrive on next!

Made my way out of there to my bus, and took off for my hotel. Dorothy and I had decided to stay in LA for the night. I had also suggested that we each make our own way to the hotel, as she is not an early riser and was staying with her son in Orange county which is about 100klms south of the airport. For her to be there on time to pick me up would have meant that she would have to get up at around 5am, just not a happening thing for her. The hotel we chose was in Marina Del Rey, just north of the airport. Got there at around 11.30am. I headed straight for the shower, then sat back and watched some TV, trying my best not to fall asleep. Dorothy was meant to be there at midday, she eventually arrived at 3pm. Oh yes, the best part? Bloody damn Optus, my mobile phone provider, had stupidly switched off my international roaming, so my mobile phone was useless to me. I had not checked before I left, as I have been with them for the past ten years and have always had it switched on. When I renewed my contract in February some idiot had decided all of a sudden that I no longer needed it.

When Dorothy arrived we went to the beachfront area of Venice Bay and had some late lunch, early dinner. Saw the most beautiful, unusual tree. We then hit the shops in the Marina area near our hotel. By 9pm I was dead on my feet, but Dorothy wanted to watch TV. Stupid woman, has absolutely no thought for anyone else except herself. She watched TV until 1am, with me trying to snooze through it all. When she switched it off, I thought hurrah, sleep at last, but no, oh my goodness, can the woman snore!!! So just dosed between snores and got up at 6am feeling worse than before I went to bed. We left the hotel at around 9am to commence our drive to San Francisco.

We drove to SF all along the coast, what absolutely stunning views in places. The funniest I found though, at one stretch, there are motorhomes and caravans parked on the left side of the road, right next to the beach, they are not site seeing, they are actually camping, and it stretches for miles and miles, and absolutely no facilities, except what they have in their homes.

We then visited a small village which has been there forever, called Solvang, it was settled by the Danes/Dutch and everything is still like it was when the village was first built. Everything they have built since then matches, so it is pretty quaint.

We spent about two hours here, and then moved on, again, on the left of the road is ocean and on the right is straight up the mountain, and that was how it was for miles on end. Some absolutely gorgeous views. No photos here, as nothing I could take would do it justice.

At around 8pm we had arrived in Carmel (where Clint Eastwood lives and had been the Mayor, not sure if he still is.) We had dinner and then needed to find a hotel. Dorothy phoned hotels.com and they offered us a place in Monteray, a few miles down the road, at the Hyatt Regency Resort, and all I can say is WOW and again WOW, unfortunately my photos did not come out, but believe me it was WOW. When we got there I waited in the car with all the luggage and Dorothy went to book us in. We had booked a double room for the price of US$140 and when she told them she had her Australian friend with her and that it was my first trip up the coast, the guy at reception decided he could do better than a double room for us and gave us an entire one bedroomed suite, complete with two bathrooms, huge lounge and dining room and kitchen. The dining table seated eight, but the biggest joke is, there is absolutely no cutlery or crockery, except for the normal two glasses and two cups! It was great though, I slept in the bedroom and Dorothy slept in the lounge, where she could watch TV to her hearts content and I could sleep to my hearts content! In the morning we decided that we were not going to book out until midday, as we fancied these lush surroundings, definitely something we could easily become accustomed to!

We walked out of our suite at midday, packed the wagon and drove to reception to book out. Whilst Dorothy went in to hand in our keys and pay the bill, I waited in the car with the luggage. On the flight I had used some of that dryclean cream to sanitize my hands, never again, you should have seen how it dried out my skin, it was almost uncomfortable. So, anyway, I removed my rings, placed them in my lap and proceeded to cream up my hands. Dorothy returned and off we went.

Next we entered an area called Seventeen mile drive, paid $9-75 at the entry, in order to do the drive. It is a national park, but there are private homes in the park, unaffordable, but beautiful. At the first lookout point we stopped on the right hand side of the street, D just pulled off the road, she got out on the left and I slid off my seat on the right, into the bush. Rushed off to check the sites, it was pretty up and down, so I just stayed at the top and D went down to take some photos. I got one of the most beautiful dead tree.

D returned we got back in the car and off we went. A little further on was this house, built of actual stone, unfortunately I could only get a corner of it in the photo, too many trees around.

A little further on we stopped again, this time in the parking lot on the left hand side of the road, I was just going to wait for D to take her photos but she came back and said there were squirrels there, so of course, I had to go and take a photo, they are so tame and so cute.

We continued on to Monteray to find the library, so that we could get on the internet to make a booking for our hotel in SF. When this was done we headed off to the bathroom to refresh ourselves and of course, washed our hands. I suffered a heart attack when I washed my hands, yup, you guessed it, NO RINGS ON MY FINGERS!!!!! I was demented with worry, D kept on saying don't worry we will go back, I knew exactly where they had dropped. Remember at the hotel I placed them in my lap? Well it would be the first spot on seventeen mile drive where I got out on the bush side. She said they would probably still be there. I have never prayed so hard in my life, had no idea how I would tell Lovell that I had lost my rings, all six of them. This would probably be the most expensive holiday I had ever had in my life. Well we rushed off, and when we got to the entry gate, she stopped to ask the guard whether we would have to pay again, as we just wanted to go and see if my rings were still there. He told her to wait, headed back to his booth and came back with a piece of paper. He said that a gentleman had picked up some rings, he had kept them, but here was his name and phone number, we could call him to arrange collection. Phew, I could breath again, I was just hoping he had found them all. Well D just pulled off the road and called the guy, yes, he had them, all six of them. He and his wife had returned to the spot, as she had lost an earring, did not find that, but found all my rings instead. They were also heading to SF to see their son, so he gave D the address and they made arrangements for us to collect them that evening. I was laughing and crying at the same time, believe me, I have never been so worried in my whole life.

We headed straight off for SF, only about 80 miles but it took us three hours, as we headed straight into their Friday afternoon parking lot. We eventually got to the son's address and Bruce (my hero) came down to return my rings to me. He still joked with me and said that after he had picked them up and got back into his car, he told his wife that they now had enough money to go on that world cruise that she always wanted to try. He refused to accept any kind of reward, just gave me his name and address and asked me to send them a Christmas Card. I decided that when I returned to Aus I would buy his wife some Opal earrings and send them to Bruce to say thank you.

I could breathe again, so we headed off to our hotel in the central city. Lovely hotel and a lovely room. We headed out immediately to go and find something to eat, but on our walk we went past the SF tram, you know the one you always see in the movies, the old brown one that heads up and down that steep hill?.

Next day we went on the cruise to the old Alcatraz prison island, most interesting, I of course, loved the ruined parts more than the parts still standing. Whilst D went on the whole tour, far too many steps for me, I took some photos.

Got back to our hotel at around 4pm, just freshened up and headed straight out again. Off to see the shops, as they only close at around 10pm on a Saturday. We did a spot of shopping, went and got some dinner and headed back, we were bone tired. The Sunday morning we left SF to head up to Florence. As we left SF we drove over the SF bridge, one of my had to do things.

The drive up the coast was beautiful, but then again, if you have done the Garden Route in the Cape and the Great Ocean Road in Victoria, then quite frankly you have been spoilt. So I did not take too many pictures on this part, in any case, nothing I could take would do it justice. We were going to stay over somewhere the Sunday night, but after getting dinner and crossing over into Oregon, D phoned her hubby and he said we were about three hours away from home. As it was 8pm we decided we were going to carry on driving, and sleep at home that night, which is what we did. Arrived there safe and sound at around 11.15pm.

The following morning I was up early, WOW, what a view! The house is pretty old, they have done quite a lot of renovations, so it is nice and airy, lots of skylights, huge big picture windows and a lovely deck to sit on and view the lake.

They also have a jetboat in the boatshed, with a sailboat, and plenty of rowing boats, for those that wish to spend time on the water. Every summer the family gets together at the lake, it must be quite awesome. D and D spend the summers here in Florence Oregon and the winters at their home in Las Vegas. Dan took me for a few drives, but the most interesting of this was the sand dunes that they have around Florence.

Dan was only there for the first week, then he headed off to Mexico where he had a dentist appointment. It is too expensive to have their teeth fixed in the USA so they go to Mexico to have it done at a tenth of the price.

D and I lazed about, shopped a little, chatted a little, visited with friends a little, shopped a little, lazed about a little, and then shopped a little. She read and I watched HGTV, a house hunting, redoing, selling TV program. Got some wonderful ideas and really enjoyed it. You can have a look at www.hgtv.com

On Monday the 25th we headed for Portland, to spend two nights there, as I was flying out of Portland on the Wednesday. What a beautiful city, I would not mind living there. We were in a hotel close to the airport. On the Monday afternoon, we shopped a bit on our way to Portland, and in the evening we headed out to a "bikers bar, with D's friend, for dinner. What a lovely place and what lovely bikers, had a good dinner and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. After dinner we went on the scenic tour, saw all the waterfalls, and the rose gardens, up and down the hills, very hilly city, beautiful homes, very old and Victorian, just my style, really a lovely city. The Tuesday we went shopping, after all, we were in the capital city of Oregon, lots of shops and lots to buy. I must admit, all I wanted to do was to go to a DSW, that is a shoe store warehouse, but what I call a real shoe store, big and beautiful!

There were a few things that D was looking for, so we shopped mostly for her. I was well behaved this trip, came back with about five tops, one skirt, four pairs of shoes, a quilted embroidered cover for my bed with pillowcases and of course, lots of collars and toys for the pussycats.

On the Tuesday evening I went to dinner with Johan and Louisa, the SAUSA hosts for Portland. (Janneman on the website) They picked me up at my hotel at 6pm and dropped me off again at around 11pm. We had a lovely dinner and chatted about all and sundry. We were so at home with each other, you would swear we were old family friends, not that we just met that evening. They eventually left me at llpm, as kids and work awaited them the next day, but I am sure we could have chatted all night. What really lovely welcoming people....thank you!

The Wednesday morning I packed my cases, had my last minute shower, we visited our last visit together, and then D took me to the airport to catch my flight from Portland to Los Angeles to get my connection to Melbourne. I was fortunate because they booked my two big suitcases all the way through from Portland direct to Melbourne. I just had my carry on case, which has wheels, and my handbag, so not a problem to lug those around. My flight took off at 17h10 and I arrived at LAX at 19h30. Fortunately I only had to walk to the terminal next door, not too far away. Booked in, got my boarding pass, and then went and had a leisurely dinner. After this I headed through customs and passport control to go and wait at the gate to board. Our aircraft left on time at 23h40 and I was on the Airbus again and was fortunate enough to have an empty seat next to me again. The flight to Melbourne is fifteen hours, an hour longer than the flight to LA.

Everything went smoothly, we were supposed to land at Melbourne at 08h10 and at 07h30 the captain told us he was diverting to Sydney, apparently there was too much fog at Melbourne airport. We landed at Sydney at 08h20 and were told that we would have to remain in the plane, they would just refuel and as soon as they got clearance, we would be off again. We were allowed to switch on our mobile phones and make our calls. They then decided to take one of the passengers off the plane, she had been ill during the flight, and of course they then had to find her luggage. Eventually.....we took off again at 10h45 and touched down at Melbourne airport at 11h45 to a tumultuous applause from all the passengers. Our fifteen hour non stop flight had now turned into a nineteen hour non stop flight. We were glad to be home. I just felt sorry for the passengers on our flight that were actually going to Sydney, they had to fly back there again.

I hit my bed that evening and slept for eleven hours straight, believe me, I needed it. Well guys that is my holiday saga, hope I have not bored you to tears.

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Hi Mara,

Great post. But is it possible to make your pictures smaller. Each one is nearly 2 megs and with 11 pictures totaling nearly 20 megs, this post took forever to load. Remember the poor people in RSA have 384 Kbps lines and to load your post would take an hour.

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We were so at home with each other, you would swear we were old family friends, not that we just met that evening. They eventually left me at llpm, as kids and work awaited them the next day, but I am sure we could have chatted all night.

Now ain't that the truth - said in my best American accent. We really were chatting away as if we've known each other since the Great Flood. Mara, it was lovely to meet you and it was only a pleasure for us to take you out to dinner. I hope we will meet again in future. :rolleyes:

PS. Isn't it wonderful that a forum like this can hook up people who live thousands of kilometers apart? Amazing!

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Thanx for sharing Mara. Sounds like a fantastic holiday - wish I could visit the States.

Have you told your sweetheart about losing your rings ??? You really were so lucky to get them all back. You must have been so relieved !

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Very enjoyable read, thanks Mara, sounds like you had a fab break.. I wish we would make an effort to meet up with fellow members on the forum as we have/am going through this whole process and have ssomething in common. My heart always warms when I meet x SA's or hear some 'huistaal. I was at the food court in North Sydeny a while ago and hard a lady in front of me speak in lekker Kaapse ingils ne, i nearly hugged the woman :rolleyes:

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My apologies, I have now made the photos smaller, so the message should load quicker....

I agree with meeting South Africans in other parts of the world... always a fun thing to do.

The holiday was a good rest, one that I definitely needed.... not much happening in Florence.... quiet days and quieter nights!

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Hi Mara,

Thanks for sharing your holiday and those beautiful photos with us, I was waiting patiently for your holiday post, sounds like you had a fabulous time.


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Thanks Mara

Your photo's are lovely- I do enjoy seeing parts of the world I haven't had a chance to visit.

I am so pleased you got your rings back too!

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Ah nice one!! I absolutely love the USA. Been there twice. I won't mind living there either. What surprises me is what a big country it really is. And there are so many things to do and to see. Mara, I got such a longing in me when I saw your pictures! Thanks for sharing!

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