25 March 2012

Farewell Gil ol' buddy

Last night saw the occurrence of an extremely tragic event, we said goodbye to Gilbert the Gulfstream (and yes there were tears, but I'm not saying whose).

Over the last not quite 365 days, he wasn't just our mode of transport and home, Gil was the third member of this little adventure of ours.

And on that note, we'd like to share a little tribute to our partner in crime.

All the best old man, you know it wouldn't have been the same without you.

21 February 2012

Everything really is bigger in Texas

When we were leaving Florida, we spotted this guy who we thought had all possible land based transport options covered:
In case it's not clear from the above photo, that's a motorbike in between the RV and car:
But then (in national park in Texas I might add) we spotted this guy: 
Very handy for covering that other essential holiday pursuit .... hauling a container of merchandise for Wal-mart. 
Yes, that is indeed a semi with bike mounted on the front, towing a "fifth wheel" as they are called over here, with a jeep in the middle. And before you suggest that the owner uses this semi in his occupation, please note the writing on the door:
Mounted on the back of the fifth wheel was a pair of bicycles and a full size ladder which we later learnt was to climb onto the roof and set up an array of solar panels.

We also saw this model of motor home (or bus as we like to call them) in a campground the other day (these next two are images I've borrowed from here, in the event you wish to acquire one all of your very own):
What's so special about that you ask? Well it's a Roof Patio 390! And we'll admit, we're just a little bit envious.

19 February 2012

Must remember to pay closer attention to weather warnings in future

On our way from Florida to New Orleans, we decided to spend the night in Mobile, Alabama as it was conveniently located and there was something appealing about staying in a place pronounced Mo-beel.  One night became two when we woke in the morning to rather ominous skies, and spending the day "at home" proved to be one of our more sensible decisions. The morning progressed, the rain got steadily heavier and the wind more violent as we caught up on email etc and Gil sprung a new leak forcing Brad to make a mad dash outside with paper towel and duct tape while I mopped up inside with a real towel.  Shortly after we heard a siren and a spot of Googling revealed it was in fact a tornado alert and one had touched down just a few blocks from us.      

At our campground in New Orleans, Louisiana, we met a couple from the UK spending 9 weeks travelling in a camper van.  They were the first couple we've met under 30 during our trip (truthfully, they're probably the first couple we've met who haven't been old enough to be our parents, but that's a minor technicality) proving that life on the road is not just for the retired as we'd though.  A fun and rather boozy night was spent with them on Bourbon Street, I provided slightly more entertainment than I wish to recall and shall not be divulging further details of my downfall.  However, I did wake up the following morning with an assortment of unaccounted for bruises and Brad with these:
(that "fish bowl" once contained alcohol)
Bourbon Street itself was lacking the style/class we expected and was far more seedy and drunken (no, it wasn't just us) with a much older crowd than you'd normally see getting gross at bars.  Frenchmen Street where we ventured after I'd got over my hangover a few days later was much closer to our expectations.  

Here are some my favourite photos from the French Quarter.  

Mardi Gras was a week or so after we visited

We hear street preaching is hard work

15 February 2012

Average time to probable death: five years

The title of this update was Brad's exact words on returning to the car after a solo trip to the supermarket shortly after we arrived in Florida. I'd like to give the situation the benefit of the doubt and suggest it was pension day, but I'm not sure. 

Why then did we go on to spend over a month in Florida, for the most part engaging in unremarkable activities such as reading books on hiking the Appalachian Trail (don't worry, I've got no plans to do that at this time) and all of Jane Austen's works for me and apocalypse/dimensional travel/espionage books for Brad (actually I'm not really sure what he's been reading, but I'm pretty sure it wasn't Jane Austen)?

1. It was warm;
2. The sun was out;
3. Winter had quickly descended further north; and last but certainly not least
4. The small matter of a Delta IV rocket launch scheduled for 19 January 2012 (in case you've missed it, like all good boffins, Brad likes space and stuff). 

In pictures, here are some of the slighly remarkable things we got up to in Florida.

Brad at Astronaut School
Christmas in the Florida Keys
(how un White Christmassy of us)

Another successful Susanna-&-Gil turkey roast
(only minor surgery from Brad was required to fit it in the oven)

The Everglades

Just an alligator or two
(I think this bird is a touch overly ambitious)

Kayaking the crystal clear Rainbow River

Susanna meeting the second love of her life

For more of these photos click here and for video here

Brad convinced me I should give theme parks another try 
(on virtually the tamest ride at Universal Studios)

... and Brad on the wildest
(you probably can't tell from this photo, but he's in the front row seat closest to the camera)

Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB), Cape Canaveral 

Inside the VAB
(the photos don't do the size justice as everything is on size a huge scale ... that's a semi) 


Brad and a Saturn V
(Why are there so many spaceship photos?)

(finally we can leave Florida, but not before one more visit to the beach)

St Joseph's Peninsula, Florida Panhandle

19 December 2011

Gil's beginning to look a lot like Christmas....

In the absence of a real tree decorate your dashboard...
... and window dressings

Quite possibly the most tragic Christmas Tree in the world: 

Although, decorating it was somewhat like I imagine bedazzling to be. The candle was a gift from Brad's work Christmas dinner and smells like a Christmas tree, handy when your tree is foam and card and rhinestones.

18 December 2011

When in Washington...

In Washington (the DC variety) we checked out all the attractions one is supposed to check out when visiting "the nation's capitol".  

The reflecting pools didn't impress me all that much, this is why

I'm not exactly a space fan, but Brad is and we spent some time out the National Air and Space Museum (this may have been payback for those art galleries in New York). though it is growing on me, however after seeing the various actual space craft housed at the museum, I'm perplexed that anyone ever felt they were safe to travel in. Oh, and the Lunar Exploration Module looks almost exactly like a primary school cardboard box project. 

The good thing about this, is that if we ever have kids, and they build a space craft, so long as there is some gold cellophane or paper, and black cardboard involved, we won't have to lie to them when telling them how realistic it looks .  

Thanksgiving happened to fall whilst we were in Washington and in a moment of enthusiasm/insanity, I decided to honour the occasion, and roast turkey in Gil's lasagne dish sized gas oven, which I have since discovered also has an extremely hard time maintaining a constant temperature, (I also contemplated making cranberry sauce from fresh cranberries but Brad stepped in before the concept got much past contemplation). This roasting idea will be all the more amusing to anyone who knows about my previous attempts to cook a Sunday roast.  In case you missed this episode of my life, I couldn't cook a roast to save myself despite asking for advice from nearly every person I know, and failed on all attempts until giving up.  
Ingredients.  Did you really think I'd try cooking a whole turkey?  And before you ask about the cauliflower, if all else failed I've never screwed up cauliflower with cheese sauce.
Turkey under it's "foil tent" that the packet suggested covering it with, apparently the magic red button will pop up when it's done.  And yes the smallest piece I could find was dinner plate sized, far more than enough for two.
*Bing, done*  

I am pleased to report that there is still hope for Gil and I as a roast cooking duo and despite a few small timing issues, Thanksgiving dinner was a success.

17 December 2011

Seven things to make a city a success

(also known as Assorted Bits of Our Visit to New York)

1. A place to park your house within walking distance to public transport taking you to all the places you want to go in under 30 minutes is a must.  Surprisingly, there is actually a campground in New York, well actually a "car park" with power and water connections in Jersey City but who's being picky?

2. If you plan on doing anywhere near as much walking as we did, a good pair of shoes is almost as essential as a good spot to sleep.  Although a pair of flats may look a darn sight better than the other two pairs of shoes you own, they will not cut it.  Trust me, I know (Brad probably doesn't, but would seeing him in a pair of ballet flats be good for anyone?).  After our first day, I was feeling ever pebble, and may as well have been a barefoot cripple – oddly, it didn't occur to me to buy another pair of shoes.

3. Check out the tourist attractions, even if they seem a little cheesy you might be surprised and actually like them.  

In New York, one of these is a trip to the top of the Rockefeller Center (thanks for the recommendation Carrie), and as we visited in late afternoon, got the privilege of seeing the city go from daylight to dusk.  As this wasn't planned I didn't have my tripod, and set my camera up on top of a pillar to accommodate the reduced light.  A short time later, another person joined me on my pillar to do exactly the same thing.  I've got nothing against a spot of pillar sharing, but things started to get a little weird not long after.  On multiple occasions it seemed he was spending more time looking at my camera screen than his own, and his arm kept snuggling up next to mine as he tried to get exactly the same angle and framing as I was ... to the point where I had to get a small, gentle elbow out to eliminate the potential untimely demise of my camera.  When I swapped to delayed shutter release, his shutter release cable came out two seconds later, when I had enough photos and left, he came too, then realised we were getting in the elevator.  I probably should be flattered, but why does a person with a way better camera kit than mine need to copy my photos?
4. Ice hockey is awesome (and possibly addictive), dress warmly.  If attending a sporting event, abandon any intentions of barracking for the visiting team. You'll be in the extreme minority and it probably won't go down well with the locals.

5. Drag your husband around every room of every significant art gallery, he might get a bit bored, but rest assured when he's had enough he'll head outside to find a snack.  He may also surprise himself and like some of it too.

6. If a city is known for it's theatre scene, you should try and take in a performance. Because we don't plan anything more than five minutes in advance we hadn't pre-booked tickets.  Rumour has it that cheap tickets can be purchased on the day but as we found out, this is not always true for the most popular shows.  Brad was keen to see The Book of Mormon - The Musical but I wasn't so sure as it's written by the Southpark guys and most of the time their humour is a bit much for me. Given past experience with Brad and musicals, I knew going to see something in which he was interested was best for the happiness of all.  It's also won a bunch of Tony awards, so it can't be bad right?  On Monday, we found out it didn't show on Mondays.  On Tuesday we found out the cheapest available ticket was nearly $500 (ahem, the budget for being retired for a year doesn't stretch quite that far).  On Wednesday, we found out a lottery for the front row and a few seats in the boxes is held 2 hours before the show, we participated but didn't win.  On Thursday, we had dinner planned with friends, but were passing the theatre at lottery time, so thought we'd try again and to our complete surprise Brad's name got drawn.  Total cost for two front row centre seats:  $48, and the show was thoroughly enjoyable, although at times I didn't know whether to laugh or cringe.  

7. As much as we love each other's company (that's why we're married right?) sometimes the company of friends is nice and so we were delighted that a few were in town at the same time as us.  Checking out the night life is also significantly more entertaining with others however may lead to:
  • Frequenting bars entered via a pawn shop at the front, a well dressed lady kicking and screaming as she was literally carried out by bouncers, and a bar serving free champagne in the very opulent ladies bathroom. Conveniently they also had a comfy lounge in said bathroom for chatting whilst enjoying said champagne.  
  • Whiskey shots (don't typo that with the nearest vowel on the keyboard) followed by pickle juice may sound oh so wrong, but are oh so right. 
  • Bourbon from teacups, beer from coffee mugs and boys drinking pina coladas from pineapples.
  • A girl (and therefore the entire rest of the subway carriage) detailing to us her pick up routine – apparently you need to fake a trip.
  • And this grin from Brad when the beer he had ordered arrived in a full size champagne bottle and was served in a wine glass.
A special thank you to Carrie, the owner
of this photo, for letting us borrow it.

We also completed our international bagel-off in New York and the winner is New York's H&H Bagels for their perfectly flavoured dense and yeasty creations. The winning bagels were made all the yeastier (sweeter just doesn't work in our bagel book) by the epic adventure that was getting there. After walking the length of the High Line Trail then wandering Central Park with Carrie, finding the nearest location had closed (only after we got there) and multiple accidental (and lengthy) detours, the three of us arrived at the bakery which would shortly thereafter be pronounced the winner. Okay, in writing that doesn't sound quite so epic, but trust my tired feet, it was. One might argue the circumstances leading up to trying our first H&H bagel may have given an unfair advantage, BUT we took a some home for further testing and breakfast for the next few days did not disappoint.
In case you are wondering, H&H happens to be the bagel shop Seinfeld's Kramer was on strike from for 10 years. We also visited the soup man, he wasn't on duty, but the soup was great – take out came with bread, a spoon and napkins (all useful and generally expected) a Lindt ball (unexpected, but yum) and a banana (um, okay then).

True to previous form, this has been written well after the fact, I've given up on my good intentions. From here on in, all intentions shall be bad, very bad.