Road Trip!

Alice and I made our way to Denver to spend some time with Kaitlin and Adam and to pick up the Holden Ute and drive it back to Seattle. We’d been looking forward to this – Alice mostly as she got to attend Kate’s Kindergarten class graduation and me mostly because I finally get to drive the Ute and take a special road trip.

We had fun hanging out with Adam and Kate. Denver always seems to have something happening. In this case it was the Chalk Art festival downtown. This was a much bigger event than I expected and some of the artwork was very impressive – even more so as they had to repair the works each afternoon following the inevitable rain shower and thunder storm.

I also managed to catch up a couple of former colleagues from myDIALS – always great to share stories and hear what people are up to now.

Catching up with Mark and Jeff from myDIALS

The Ute was ready and it truly was a very impressive job from Randy and John. Below are some before/after photos to show the amount of work that went into the conversion.

After a long weekend and a couple of quick runs to Wyoming and Rocky Mountain Park to ensure everything was working fine, Alice and I took off on our road trip.

The first stop was Albuquerque New Mexico, via Taos and Sante Fe. This is a nice drive and we stopped at Taos to enjoy lunch and check out a mission. Albuquerque is always fun and we stayed near old town so we could look around there. We also managed to have some great Mexican food and of course a good sampling of margaritas.

San Felipe de Neri Church in old town Albuquerque

From Albuquerque we traveled along the historic Route 66 across New Mexico and Arizona. I love the many stops and quaint / historic / weird artifacts that dot the landscape along the way. Alice got her wish to stay overnight in the Wigwam Motel. I’ve done this trip before and enjoy visiting Seligman, the birthplace of the Route 66 revival. Here we had breakfast at the Roadkill Cafe and was surprised to see both an Aussie flag and New Zealand flag taking pride of place (?) between the restrooms.

Aussie and New Zealand flags and some road signs – autographed!

We entered California and headed south to go through Joshua Tree National Park before staying in Palm Springs for a couple nights. It was hot here – above 100F – for early June. The air conditioning in the Ute worked like a charm and the temperature gauge never moved – thank you Randy! We stayed in a funky, historic hotel and enjoyed the pool, a local festival and the aerial tramway – it was 40F colder at the top than at the bottom, which was a great relief. At the hotel we were told we should smell the trees at the top and sure enough, they smelled like butterscotch.

Alice loved the Joshua trees
View from the top shows Palm Springs and the fault line

From Palm Springs we headed to the coast and up Highway 1 to San Simeon where we visited Hearst Castle. This is an amazing place full of artwork from all over the world, all with a rich history.

Hearst Castle is simply huge and amazing

Next up was continuing up Highway 1 and 101 along the coast through California and Oregon. This is a tremendous road, mostly two lanes, but a great driving experience with beautiful scenery. The Ute handled beautifully, and for the most part the slower drivers were very courteous and moved out of the way to let us pass.

Taking a break overlooking the Golden Gate

We spent the last night in Newport Oregon, and were entertained at dinner by a few sea lions who hadn’t yet departed to spend summer in San Francisco.

Pretty but sad as it’s our last day on the road

We finally made our way home to Seattle after a very satisfying road trip – the Ute ran flawlessly, we saw plenty of great sights, we stayed in nice places and we had several memorable meals.

Thanks again to John and Randy at Left Hand Utes for converting the Ute so well with such great attention to detail.

A Royal Scotland Adventure

Continuing on with our “gap year” of travel, Alice and I spent the last couple of weeks in Scotland. We started our adventure in Edinburgh with a couple of days to explore the tourist attractions along the Royal Mile including St Giles Cathedral, the Edinburgh Castle and Holyroodhouse Palace.

Alice in front of “her” Cathedral

We were most impressed with Edinburgh – clean, friendly people and heaps of history to explore and appreciate. Of course the icing for Alice was that JK Rowling wrote the first Harry Potter book here. We had to make the pilgrimage to Elephant House, where she spent a lot of time writing as well as Greyfriars Kirkyard where she took inspiration from a number of the gravestones for names of people in her books as well as Victoria Street which was the inspiration for Diagon Alley.

Then it was time to board the Royal Scotsman train for a terrific 7 day trip around many locations across Scotland. This was a truly great experience with exemplary service, great food, wine and whiskey and very comfortable accommodation. We were piped on board by a piper (the first of a number of such experiences) and welcomed with champagne (again the first of many times we would be welcomed back to the train with an alcoholic beverage).

Piper welcoming us to the Royal Scotsman – our home for a week

Each day of the trip we had multiple excursions to visit historic sites, enjoy the tremendous Scottish scenery, learn more about Scotland and it’s people, and to simply “take the air”.

“Taking the air” with champagne of course!

We visited many castles and impressive homes including Mount Stuart (completely over the top with the carvings, paintings and decor), Ballindaloch, Inverlochy Castle (where multiple royal weddings have been held), Eilean Donan (one of the most authentic medieval castles and the location for a number of movies including ‘Highlander’), and Glamis Castle (the childhood home of the Queen Mother). Most impressively we were met and personally escorted by the Laird or Countess in multiple of these – very special indeed!

Inverlochy Castle
Mount Stuart – the following photos show the stunning interior
Ballindaloch where we were met by the Earl
Glamis Castle – probably our favorite!

On the train, we had some formal dinners as well as entertainment most evenings. Highland outfits were optional for the formal dinners, and while the French and English passengers dressed in kilts, I declined as I figured my legs weren’t made for such an outfit.

We also had a great visit to the Royal Yacht Britannia, which was very well done.

We also visited the Glen Ord distillery where we saw the process and sampled multiple whiskeys.

It was sad to say goodbye to the train, but eventually we had to and then we spent another few days in Edinburgh.

Saying goodbye to a great crew!

This time we stayed in the West End and enjoyed being a little further from the tourist throng around the Royal Mile but still with plenty of history, bars and restaurants within a short walk of our hotel. There was a great walk along the waters of Leith which was very tranquil in the midst of the city.

We also toured the old underground at Real Mary King’s Close and of course Alice had to do a Ghouls and Ghosts tour one night.

We truly enjoyed our time in Scotland and were very lucky with the weather for May – relatively warm and sunny most days. Now another adventure awaits!

Starting our Third-Phase Adventure

We have just arrived back in Seattle after the first of a number of adventures we’re taking this year as we transition from full-time employment (I refer to it as “graduating”) to something new when we move to Hawaii later this year – our “third-phase”. During this trip we also celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary which is a milestone in itself.

We chose a cruise on Wind Star, a sailing vessel that had about 130 guests and 100 crew, which is manageable and much more enjoyable for me than a large cruise ship. We started with a couple days in San Jose, Costa Rica before we joined the ship to sail to Panama, through the Panama Canal and then visit a number of the Caribbean islands before finishing with a couple days at a resort in Barbados.

This is Wind Star, which was our home for 18 days.

Alice was a huge fan of Captain Belinda who was the first female captain in the Windstar fleet, so of course we had to go to the bridge to meet her with the obligatory photo.

The Panama Canal was fascinating for me and it has a very interesting history. Seeing the magnitude of the project, you have to admire the ambition of first the French in starting the project and the tenacity and “get the job done” approach of the US to finish it. It also cost the lives of around 30,000 of the construction workers so it came at a very large cost.

We managed to visit some of the historic sites in San Jose and in Panama City including the original town that was destroyed by Captain Morgan and the old town, which is now a UNESCO heritage site and very well preserved.


We took a boat ride in the lake at Panama and got up close with some monkeys who were mostly interested in if we had any food.







We enjoyed our time in the Caribbean and it seemed each island was better than the last. We snorkeled, kayaked, hiked, took boat rides and generally had a great time mixed with some genuine attempts at complete relaxation along with great food and adult drinks.

The kayaking in Grenada was fascinating as we used a clear-bottom kayak and saw some great underwater sculptures.

We saw some fascinating sites including the various towns and small villages, the stone houses on Bequia and of course wonderful vistas with fabulous water colors of the ocean.

The vista from the hill at Mayreau, Grenadines

We saw some wonderful sunsets along the way…

I’m not sure how we are going to cope now with having to make our own meals and we will certainly miss afternoon tea with scones and sandwiches as we were spoiled on the ship and at the resort.

This was a wonderful adventure and a great way to start our “gap year”. I’m now looking forward to our next adventures starting with an upcoming road trip.

Changes and Celebrations

This week marked a special time in our lives. Thursday was Alice’s last day working as a therapist in the counseling practice and on the same time I turned in my company laptop, access card, credit card and parking pass. It was a little bit emotional for both as we move onto our next phase of life, which I’m referring to as having “graduated from full-time employment.


That evening we celebrated with some champagne, and just for grins watched an episode of “Miss Fisher” and a couple of “Bondi Rescue” to get an Aussie fix.


The celebration continued on Friday with a special “Pig Day Out” in Pike’s Place Market to celebrate the lunar new year and the year of the pig. The funniest activity was the pig races – I didn’t know they had racing pigs in Alaska. Of course as we are in Seattle, there was also a small protest about animal cruelty with signs such as “Race cars, not pigs”. I think they were serious but it seemed a little ridiculous to me as the pigs certainly seemed to know exactly what they were doing and well looked after with their own “star” trailer to hang out in.

On Saturday I took the Jag to Tacoma to attend “Caffeine and Gasoline” a monthly event for car enthusiasts held at Griot’s Garage. An wide range of vehicles attend from Lamborghinis, Ferraris, Cobras, older Amercian muscle cars and hot rods through to VW bugs and a couple of vintage vehicles. The theme for this month was Ferrari so there were quite a number there and they were given pride of place at the store entrance. Inside they had a Ferrari F1 car that had been raced by Niki Lauda – one of my heroes.

As they say, “if you’re there at 8 you’re late”, as they start to serve coffee and donuts at 8am. I’m amazed at how many people and cars attend and how they manage to have enough coffee and donuts to cater for everyone.

The next change comes on Monday when I take the Jag back to dealer as they want to buy it and the timing seems right given we start our major travel at the end of next week and pick up the Ute when we return. I keep repeating “old life, new life” to remind myself that change is a good thing!

Universal Celebrations

The birthday girls!

Each year, Kaitlin and Alice try to get together to celebrate their birthdays and sometimes I get to tag along. This year, they decided they wanted to celebrate at Harry Potter World / Universal Studios in California and both Adam and I went as well.

Adam and Kaitlin, happy to be in California in the sunshine
Part of the team!

We had a grand time and managed to hit all the major rides in the first day by using the Express pass to get to the front of the lines. When we returned later in the day, Adam and Kate dressed in the best Hogwarts outfits and brought their wands – they has must have looked authentic as Adam was asked if he worked there , which I think was the highlight of the trip for him!

The next day, we took a more leisurely approach and watched the shows and shopped.

We also met some characters who were available for photos.

Making more friends…

We also took the studio tour, something we had not done previously which was very worthwhile. And of course, we had to go to beer garden because we can’t get enough of that wonderful Duff!

What a whacky crew on the studio tour.

Thirty years ago today…

Our timing coincided with Alice and my 30 year wedding anniversary and it was both fun and appropriate that we celebrated with Adam and Kate. When we were married, after the celebration which came a little later, we had a “family-moon” with Grant and my parents at Disneyland.

As Alice and I had some extra time, we went to Catalina Island for a couple of days after Adam and Kate went back to Denver. We had a very relaxing time there and took in all the sites. It had been maybe 20 years since we had last visited and nothing seemed to have changed much and the island still has a very relaxed, cool vibe.

We visited the museum and also took a “behind the scenes” tour of the Casino which was very interesting. The building was very well done and amazing given how quickly it was built those many years ago.

The end of another wonderful “island” day.

Now it’s back to the reality of a colder, gray Seattle for a couple of weeks before we’re off on our next adventure.

Australia Day in Denver

Alice and I were fortunate enough to spend a long weekend in Denver catching up with Kaitlin and Adam. Saturday was Australia Day and we flew in just in time to make our way to the “Great Australian Bight”, an Australian cafe to have lunch with Kate and Adam. We had to indulge in pies, lamingtons, custard tarts, caramel slices and of course Aussie beer!

Nothing like a good meat pie and real Aussie beer!

Afterwards we made our way to the Oxford hotel – started in 1891 and with a great bar that opened the day after the repeal of Prohibition in 1933. We enjoyed chilling in the lounge, particularly when they had the Bourbon tasting in the evenings.

On Monday we had planned to see my new vehicle and then go to the school where Kate teaches kindergarten, but a much larger snow storm than expected changed our plans. We still managed to make it to the school later that day and Alice had lots of fun telling the students about Hawaii, reading a book, delivering snacks and teaching them how to hula dance.

Yes, that’s hula dancing…

Fortunately we stayed over another day and with the snow finished and the sun shining, we made our way to Left Hand Utes to check on progress with the Holden Ute I bought in Melbourne and had shipped over for conversion to left hand drive and compliance with US regulations. This is quite an involved process that utilizes a US-compliant donor vehicle for the components – in our case a police pursuit vehicle from Louisville CO what had been crashed and written off by the police.

The Ute with engine, transmission etc all stripped out
All that remains of the donor vehicle after stripping it
Engine and transmission almost ready to be installed in the Ute
Ute interior still in right hand drive, but not for long…
Prep work done to remove left hand drive components from donor vehicle

I’m very excited by the work being done on my new Ute, and it seemed appropriate that we were looking at the progress so close to Australia Day. We’ll now start making arrangements for picking it up and driving it back to Seattle after we come back from our trip to Costa Rica, Panama and Barbados in early April – it should be very fun!

Mele Kalikimaka is the thing…

This Christmas we spent a couple of weeks in our Hawaii property enjoying the sun, sea and most importantly Kaitlin and Adam and Luke. Unfortunately we missed Grant who is currently deployed but he was certainly in our thoughts and we felt his spirit was with us.

The first of many sunsets to be enjoyed from our back yard

Of course when our wonderful children showed up at the airport, Alice was there to greet them in her usual regalia.

We spent a lot of time in and around the pool, but still managed to have many adventures.

Water played a large part in our fun times of course.

Ready to head out on the outrigger canoe from King Kamehemea’s bay.

We saw a lot of wildlife including many dolphins, which were very cool and put on quite a show for us.

We were also fortunate to see a few whales from a distance, including from our back yard.

Kayaking was also among our favorite early-morning activities.

We also had to try our hand at surfing, although it seemed I was more “wipe-out” than “hang-ten” although both Luke and Adam managed to get up a few times.

On Christmas eve we continued a tradition of eating out at a restaurant. This year we went to Jackie Rey’s Ohana Grill – which seemed appropriate as Ohana is Hawaiian for family.

Our family with the Hawaiian King Kamehameha and Queen in the background

We also went for a great helicopter ride over the Kilauea volcano – it is now much larger than when we took the same ride in February.

The devastation from the lava flows is very evident
Back from a wonderful sightseeing trip
Uncle Ski conducting a traditional Hawaiian house blessing

We followed the blessing with awa drinking, but of course making sure we first gave the spirits some.

It was a truly great time for us and we were all sad to depart our Hawaiian home. But we know we will return – Alice and I will move over in October and we’ve already decided our new tradition will be Christmas in Kona.

For now, we move on and Hau’oli Makahiki Hou to everyone!

Thanksgiving in Canada

Alice and I decided that rather than getting too caught up in Thanksgiving, we’d escape to a mini-vacation in Victoria, British Columbia.  We’ve gone to Victoria a couple of times previously and always enjoyed our stays there.  We took the Victoria Clipper up – a catamaran that runs at 30 knots which makes for a very pleasant 2 hours 45 minute journey and we love staying at the Fairmont Empress.

Empress at night

We splurged and take a harbor view Gold room which provides access to the lounge and a variety of food and drink throughout the day and evening.

 

Of course, you can’t go to the Empress and not partake in “High Tea”.  This is one of our favorite things to do and the spread never fails to satisfy, particularly with a glass of bubbly!

 

The town does a great job with their holiday lights and the government buildings look particularly impressive.

The ever-present totem pole in front of the BC government building

Alice also wanted to get into the holiday spirit so in addition to spending quite some time in a local holiday market (I figured out part way through that I would have enjoyed it better if I sampled each of the many craft wineries, distilleries and breweries represented there!), we also had to go to a ginger bread house display.

 

 

 

Not finished yet as we also went to a Christmas tree display in a shopping center, where I met an interesting bear.

 

 

 

I also thought it was interesting that they showed various cities where the British empire had expanded to including Brisbane, Australia – I felt right at home as I attended University there.

 

 

To cap off quite the tour of attractions, Alice insisted we visit Miniature World.  This actually turned out to be more interesting than I thought it would be as they had a wide variety of exhibits from medieval times through to Star Trek and many times in between including the American Civil War, both world wars and various depictions of pioneer times.

Alice checks out an exhibit in Miniature World

It was a great break for us and after another pleasant ride back on the Clipper and a schlep up the hill with our bags we were reunited with Josie the cat and glad to be home after an enjoyable time.

Moving Downtown

Well the time finally came for us to move off the dock.  We’ve had a wonderful four years there but now that we’re looking towards our move to Hawaii, we figured it would be fun to experience a different part of Seattle.  It is bitter-sweet to be leaving the dock as we had great neighbors and truly enjoyed the Fremont lifestyle as well as our relative peace and quiet in a large city.

 

We said our goodbyes to ‘Alice’ and the neighbors. We’ll certainly miss the fun times we’ve had with them.

 

 

 

We also sold the KatieG to our friends Kevin and Linda.

Kevin heading off in the KatieG

Our new apartment is right in the middle of the downtown action overlooking Pike Place Market and with fabulous views out over Puget Sound.

The view from our apartment is quite expansive

And is very pretty at night

Josie supervising the unpacking

 

Of course moving is never fun, but we’ve now finally unpacked all the boxes in the apartment, but haven’t really been game to tackle the spill-over boxes and other items now in the storage unit at the apartment complex.

 

 

As a reward for moving, we went to Tulalip casino for a night away and a concert by War.  Very fun!

 

 

We’re already enjoying being so close to the markets and took advantage of the really nice October weather (for Seattle) to have a light dinner on the rooftop terrace.

Alice on the terrace

Nothing quite like a Mai Tai in a tiki bar!

We’re now looking forward to trying out all the local bars, restaurants and coffee shops – given how many there are with a 3 or 4 block radius it may take us a while.  Alice went to Sacramento this weekend to spend some time with her sisters, and so I go a head start by making my way to the Lava Lounge – a little piece of Hawaii tiki-ness in Seattle.

 

Another Fabulous Wedding

After what seemed a long time from when it was first planned, Grant and Luke were married in Seattle over the weekend.  It was a very special occasion made even more so by the number of Aussies who made the journey over for the celebration.

Success! Marriage certificate in hand.

 

 

Grant and Luke came over early so they could get their marriage certificate sorted out.

 

 

Of course we also had to spend some time in Fremont Brewing – because beer matters!

Kate wearing the infamous “young Grant” t-shirt

The weekend started with a welcome party at the Mischief Distillery in Fremont (owned by our friends and neighbors Mike and Patti).  Alice made a nice speech explaining how she had behaved at the airport when she picked them up at the airport but of course she couldn’t maintain her good behavior all weekend.

So she proceeded to produce shirt with Grant’s baby photo, unveiled the “sponsor” of the event to be Bundaberg Rum (complete with flag) much to Grant’s dismay and then showed a photo-montage of both boys from their baby photos through to present day.

 

The weather on the wedding day was brilliant for Seattle in October – some clouds early followed by a clear sunny afternoon and evening making for a great atmosphere for the photo sessions.  The ceremony was very moving and the boys looked very happy.

 

We all scrubbed up nicely for the big event

Proud parents indeed!

Kate and I fuel up for a long day

 

 

 

 

 

 

Afterwards I had the pleasure of making a short speech and naturally, there was much merriment and of course dancing.

 

 

 

It was the Aussies who shut down the event even managing to extract some additional bottles of wine to be taken back to the hotel for an after party in the lobby.

 

Now the boys are enjoying a honeymoon at our Hawaii property.

All in all a truly great event and now it’s time for Alice and I to move house – more on that later.