How many states?

Even though we didn’t stay in all of these states, we did cross the borders (and got photos of most!)

California (I can’t believe we missed California!!)
(okay, so we cheated with that one. We kind of missed the shot:)
New Mexico
Georgia (taken out the back window as we were leaving Georgia!
North Carolina
We miss the last few as we were on the train!!
New Jersey
New York
So there you have it. 18 states. We probably visited more states than a lot of Americans ever have, but not as many as, well… some other people.
Since September only has 30 days (I had to check), that just about wraps up another NaBloPoMo for me. I think you’ve all figured out by now that we had a fantastic time, and we wouldn’t have changed a thing. We got to do everything we wanted to do, and more. We got to try Junior Mints, grits, milk duds, s’mores, Hersheys chocolate, American coffee with free refills, an American McDonald’s cheeseburger, ribs, crawfish, Po’boys, a meatball sub, beef jerky, a bagel in New York, a giant pretzel, NY style pizza, Cracker Barrell, Burger King, Wendy’s, and sweet potato fries. Next time we go back we’ll have to grab some Taco Bell and IHop!
But it wasn’t all about the food! We had good conversations with interesting people we met along the way, we got to drive a brand new awesome sexy car, we caught up with my dear friend Kimberley and BJ on the lakes, we pretended we knew famous people at ComicCon and we met some family in San Diego. America is full of diversity – both in their culture from west to east and north to south, and the constantly-changing landscapes. Hubs and I took some magical photos that we can’t wait to put up in our home, and we’ll hold on to these memories for a lifetime.

Day 29 – Say goodbye to Hollywood. Say goodbye, my baby.

Friday 24th July, 2009 until Sunday 26th July, 2009

San Diego to Los Angeles by train – 120 miles
Los Angeles to Brisbane by plane – 7183 miles

I LOVE the lines in this song that say
Life is a series of hellos and goodbyes
I’m afraid it’s time for goodbye again

I remember feeling this way when I was travelling around the UK and Europe. I was constantly meeting people, only to have to say goodbye indefinitely. That’s how I felt about America. I loved it SO MUCH and I really would have loved another month over there (or 2 or 3) but I know we’ll get back there some day.

Anyway, back to our last day! The adventures aren’t finished yet!

Charlene took us down to the “drug store” as we had decided to buy our duty free booze there. We got a 1.75L bottle of Bombay Sapphire Gin for $30USD!!! BARGAIN!!! And we got 750ml bottles of Bacardi, Lemon Smirnoff and Raspberry Smirnoff for $10USD each. Crazy! We headed back for some brekky and a final pack to fit in the booze, and a final weigh-in. 1 bag was 50lb (22.6kg) and the other was 60lb (27.2kg) so we were luckily under the 30kg each weight limit.

Charlene was keen to show us around a bit in the morning and we were lucky enough to be able to push our train trip back to 3pm instead of 1pm. This was great as it meant we didn’t have to wait around at the other end (LA) and amuse ourselve. Charlene took us to the Cabrillo National Monument lookout and there was a beautiful view of the bay, the ocean, and the city.

Charlene and Wifey enjoying the view. (I forgot to bring in a photo of the city view, OKAY?)

There is a US Navy port as well as a Marine Corps in San Diego, so it is a very military city. And we were in for a real treat, seeing:

A battleship…
…a submarine (I’d never seen one in action before!)
…AND a fighter jet! (or whatever it is!)

The trifecta! It was really cool! Hubs and I really like San Diego – we reckon out of all the places we visited, that would be the city we could happily live in.
And then it was time to say goodbye to Charlene. Thanks so much for showing us such a great time! We look forward to visiting again one day.
We jumped on the train and it was the start of our journey home. And what a beautiful start it was! It was the most stunning, scenic train trip I’ve ever taken – right on the shoreline!
I kept interrupting Hubs saying “ooooh look at thaaaaaat!” until he finally put his comic book down and just relaxed and enjoyed the view with me. It really was an amazing end to what was a brilliant trip and I would recommend the train to anyone!
We arrived at Union Station in LA and waited for our shuttle to the airport which was late but I’d booked a super early one so it was no big deal. We got our last look at LA and that was fine by us. Got to LAX and if I haven’t already said it, V AUSTRALIA ROCKS!! They checked us in (we were about 4 hours early) and it was smoooooooth sailing! Oh, but then we had to go through dumb security again but we were on the home stretch so it didn’t phase Hubs so much this time.
The flight left on time (11pm) and since it was an overnight flight, I actually slept for about half of it. We skipped Saturday cos, you know, Saturday the 25th of July is like SO overrated, and arrived in Brisbane 5am Sunday morning. Ma picked us up and we waited for the family to arrived! Had a lovely morning tea (as usual) and told some stories, before getting on our 1pm flight back home.
I seem to have run out of days! I wonder what tomorrow will bring…. 🙂

Day 28 – It’s ComicCon Time!

Thursday, 23rd July 2009.
Many miles on foot, walking around the San Diego ComicCon.

When I asked Hubs if he’d like to do a road trip across America, he wasn’t overly keen. It wasn’t on the top of his “to see” list, but he decided to broaden his horizons and agreed to the trip. So to get him excited, I asked if there was ANYthing in America he wanted to see. And he casually said that “I think the San Diego ComicCon is on over the summer.” So I looked it up straight away and it was the very first thing I booked. Hubs was happy.

It was on the 2nd last day of our trip and it was something Hubs was looking forward to from Day 1. I was to be his wing-man and his stand-in-line person (the things we do for love!) but I ended up having a great time too! We got up at 6:45am (being a nerd is hard work!) and Charlene fed us a lovely brekky of breakfast pockets and fresh fruit. A great way to start the day! She then dropped us off at the trolley stop and we noticed a few people dressed in costumes so we figured we were going the right way. And then we just followed the crowd. It was madness!! We were told where to line up and this line was, I’m not kidding, about a mile long, but it twisted and turned so much – out to the car park and marina and around a building and all the way back again – and it was constantly moving, that we didn’t even realise! There didn’t seem to be an end to it but we were just chatting with a few people in line and started taking some photos of the crazy people fans.

Hubs’ first point of call, and the one stand he REALLY wanted to see, was Penny Arcade. PA is a webcomic that Hubs has been reading for years and years and he really wanted to meet Mike Krahulik and Jerry Holkins, and his dream was soon realised:

Mike, Jerry, Hubs

Hubs was very excited but played it cool and, as it was still early, he got to chat with them for a while. They tried to do an Australian accent (not so good) and drew a couple of sketches for hubs in his book, as well as signed his poster. They were really cool guys and a lot of fun to talk to. As we were walking away, Hubs turns to me and says.
“Honey, I don’t understand. I can cut bodies open with a scalpel, I don’t flinch at giving a guy stitches, but you put me in front of these 2 guys, and I get nervous. WHAT’S WITH THAT!!”
I assured him that he did very well at keeping his cool and after that, he was like “well, I’m done! We can go home now!” Ha ha ha. More dorky photos needed to be taken baby!!

Is it just me, or does Darth Vader look like he’s about to boot scoot?
(This isn’t actually Hugh Jackman…)
(This may or may not actually be Johnny Depp!!)

Hubs and Wifey at ComicCon

Huuuuuuuhhbs, these bags are getting heeaaaaavyyyyyyyy. I need a coffeeeeeeee…
Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! (Coffee in a can??? Hell yeah!)
We popped back to see Mike and Jerry a bit later on and they had been talking about Hubs and how cool his dreads were and Mike had drawn a picture of Hubs!! How cooooooool! Hubs felt pretty special after that.
There was so much to see and do!
Even though it was crowded (about 20,000 people), it was all very well organised. We took heaps more photos but these were the highlights. We went to a few panel discussions as well which were cool. One of the guys who started TMNT was there and he was a good laugh. We also went to a panel with a writer (sorry, Hubs, forgot his name already) and he was really entertaining and informative too.
Anyway, it was kind of what I imagined it would be, but even better. Hubs had a fantastic time and it made the whole trip totally worth it! I’m so glad 🙂 We caught the trolley and Charlene picked us up at the other end, took us home, made us a G&T and served us dinner, and we went to bed exhausted. A great day!

Day 27 – As long as it makes a good story…

Wednesday, 22nd July 2009.

Aaaaaaah. Our last day in New York and boy was it a beautiful day. Still slightly hazey, but the sun was poking through the clouds every so often which was enough to get us excited. We were super-keen to get our caricature done, so we left all our packed-up stuff at the hostel and headed back to Central Park one last time. There really weren’t many people around, but we found a couple of guys who accosted us. We had seen them being done for $15 for 2 people in Times Square so that was our budget. We had our $15 for the picture, $12 for our shuttle to the airport and $5 for a snack later on.

One of the guys started harassing us and we asked how much and he said $60 and we were like “noooooo no no no no. That’s too much for our budget” and we started walking away and he said “well you tell me how much” so Hubs said “fifteen dollars” and he said “okay okay okay, morning special” (he was Chinese) and we were like “well we want a pencil drawing, not charcoal so we can roll it up” “yes yes no problem” and he took out a pencil and showed us. So we agreed.

He sat us down and got to work. He drew me first, then Hubs. It probably took about half an hour (maybe more?) and when he finished, he showed us.

We were really impressed! He finished it and signed it and then told us we needed to buy a cardboard and plastic frame for $15 so it wouldn’t smudge.

This is where it went bad.

We were like “no, that’s why we wanted pencil” and he acted all innocent, rubbing it a bit, showing us that it would come off if we didn’t buy the frame. We kept saying no and he said “$10” and we said no again and then he said “okay okay $5 for frame.” In the meantime, he had already sticky-taped it inside the frame so we didn’t have a lot of choice. So I handed over $20. $15 for the picture and $5 for the frame. He just looked at me.

This is where it got worse.

“What is this?”
“That’s $15 for the picture and…..”

Oh dear.

Hubs and Wifey just stared at him, and at each other in disbelief. This was not going to go well. We tried to reason with him that we said fifteen dollars, not fifty, and that’s why we were so surprised when he agreed to it. He started to get really agitated and was talking to the other portrait guy, telling him we were trying to rip him off and we were trying to explain that we HAD NO MONEY. Etc etc etc. It kind of fell on deaf ears. We really didn’t know what to do and we felt ill over it. It was just a MASSIVE miscommunication. We offered him another $10 and after a LOT of bitching, he came around.

It was really awful. We couldn’t work out who got ripped-off, but we figure we came out of the deal okay. We were a little stunned by the ordeal, but had to make the most of our last couple of hours, so we set out for the reservoir and took some fun photos on the way.

 Our reflections and shadows in one of the ponds.
Us looking at our GPS location in Central Park. Nerdy nerdy nerdy!!
Wifey at the reservoir. It’s really quite overwhelming!
Hubs and Wifey and Central Park.
You could spend a week exploring Central Park – going to the zoo, playing a game of golf, paddling on the lake, going on a horse and carriage or pedicab ride, playing baseball, rollerblading, walking or cycling the various paths, swimming in summer and ice skating in winter, going to the public theatre, rock climbing, having a coffee or meal, getting ripped-off by artists…. the list goes on. It’s a truly beautiful place and I’d LOVE to go back some time.
We needed to catch a shuttle out to JFK airport for our 3pm flight to San Diego so we jumped on the subway, caught a connecting subway, then got the New York equivalent to the “air train” for the last leg out to the airport. It was quite cheap – $12 for the both of us – and really a piece of cake. Actually checkin in at the airport, well, that wasn’t so straight forward.
Long story short – we lined up in the wrong line at first, then asked someone and they told us where to go. It was a self-check in and bag drop for American Airlines and there was NO order to it. There were no lines, just bunches of people standing around ticket machines. I checked myself in and it said I needed to pay extra for the bag and I was like “no way I checked when I booked them” and I called someone over and they said something along the lines of  “since you’re travelling international in the next few days, it should be all right.” Not really filling me with confidence lady. My boarding pass was printed, and now it was Hubs’ turn. Pretty much the same thing happened with his bags, but at the end, no boarding pass. Instead, just a piece of paper saying “present this voucher at the counter at the departure date. American flights are always overbooked, and this was NOT a good sign.
Then there were only 2 people checking the bags in for about, oh I don’t know… 50 people? Oh, and then one of them clocked off for her break, so a supervisor turned up, got annoyed, and opened a counter herself. There was no line so I think we pushed in (I didn’t care – it was getting close to our departure time) and, again, she was like “yeah, your bags should be fine.” So Hubs kissed his goodbye, not expecting to see it at the other end.
We got to the gate (through security where Hubs had to take his shoes off – not a happy Hubs) and thankfully we were issued with a boarding pass for Hubs, but we had to swap places with someone once we were on board so we could sit together. No probs in the end. I just couldn’t believe how disorganised the whole process was!! For such a huge, famous airport, it was terrible!
We arrive 45 min early, but thankfully Hubs’ Dad’s cousin Charlene was on the ball and had found out we’d be early so she was outside waiting for us. A very smooth transition, and the start of a brilliant couple of nights with Charlene.
Charlene’s daughter Therese, Hubs, Charlene, Wifey, Therese’s hubs Larry.
We felt at home instantly and staying with family ended up being one of the highlights of our trip for sure.

Day 26 – Culture Vultures

Tuesday 21st July, 2009

A rainy New York day. A few miles on foot.

Well, we planned it perfectly. The day we do all the outdoor sightseeing, it’s beautiful and sunny. The day we decide to go to the museums…. not so much… Perfecto! I had to take photos of the New York streets because they were just… so… NEW YORK!

I wanted to go to the American Museum of Natural History, and Hubs was keen to check out The Met. We walked in the rain and when we arrived at MY museum, the most glorious sign was posted outside:

The exhibit was froggin’ awesome!!

The whole museum was pretty outstanding. I took quite a few photos (even though I thought it was REALLY dodgy that you were allowed to!) but the frog exhibit was my favourite by far. I’m hoping to put all the photos together to make my own 2010 calendar!
I walked through Central Park to meet Hubs at the designated time and place and it was completely deserted. This was a little weird compared to the other days, but it was so peaceful and I got to see the park in a very tranquil state.

We walked down

(one of the two. I can’t remember which!) on our way to the subway to get to Grand Central Station and boy was it pretty!
(shocking video sorry, but you get to see Hubs taking a photo or 2!! 🙂
It really was very impressive and a nice way to spend some of our rainy day. We left in search of food and ended up at Wendy’s which was a bit like a heart-attack in a burger. Plus a bit of a rip-off – $15USD for 2 burgers and a shake. Hmmmm….
Now I wouldn’t say I was being obsessive about it (Hubs would), but I REALLY wanted to get an I(heart)NY t-shirt and I’d promised my friend Andrea I’d get one for her too. So I’d been looking since we’d arrived and they were selling boys shirts for something ridiculous like 4 for $10USD but I wanted a cut little female shirt which…. well…. let’s just say I got a teensy bit ripped off. But you know, when in Rome! And I LOVE my I(heart)NY shirt! Yay!
We were keen to get a portrait or caricature done but the weather was so bad that no one was out and about, so we decided to try again tomorrow before we took our flight to San Diego. We had to do some packing and a few other bits and pieces so we decided to leave the rain behind and head back to the hostel with a bottle of wine (or maybe 2).
Here’s Hubs helping me pack

During our mammoth pack, a couple of German guys staying in our room came in and we had a little chat to them which was cool. We also introduced them to The Cat Empire and Hilltop Hoods and they seemed to like them both (or they were just being polite. Whatevs. (that was for YOU Hubs! Do you still have the teenagers on the line, wanting their lingo back?? HA!))
It was our last night in NYC and we really did have such a great time. It was also getting very close to the end of our trip so we were savouring every moment.

Day 25 – And the best thing about New York City is…

Monday 20th July, 2009

An amazing day – one of my favourites of the whole trip. So strap yourself in for a plethora of photos!

Caught a direct subway and jumped on the free

 to see the
and saw another
 on the way back!
We then grabbed a
 but soon realised
We then walked down
and saw the

 After that, it was time to walk over the
and take some fun photos!
oooooooh artistic!
It was VERY cool…
We then treated ourselves to
before checking this place out. Home of 18 miles of books. Brilliant!
We then accidentally found this building
which was super exciting cos I had NO idea where to look for it!
Next on the agenda was
and the view on a beautiful clear day? Breathtaking.
(VIEW from the Empire State Building)
 When I looked this way, I had this song in my head.
And then when I looked this way, I had THIS song in my head!
It was spectacular! We got sucked in to hiring an audio tour and it was totally worth it.
We then treated ourselves to ANOTHER
cos it was just soooo gooood (and cheap too!)
We decided the best way to spend the night would be with
(grape juice*)

and a little friend**
Say cheeeeeeeeese pizza!
A brilliant day and the best…. night…. ever!

**squirrel was not part of the menu

Day 24 – I’m in a New York State of Mind

Sunday, 19th July 2009

A sunny day in NYC

We headed out around 9:30am, breakfast bagel in hand, and took a wonder down 8th Ave. We then headed east and hit Times Square. I loved the vibe and feel and atmosphere of New York – it’s busy but laid back.

We then walked up Broadway and stumbled upon a little festival where we bought home-made lemonade for $1 and I consulted the map to plan our next move…
Wifey looking like a daggy tourist
We wanted to see a Broadway show but our budget limited us to off-Broadway. So we bought 2 tickets to STOMP for that night and started to get VERY excited. We headed over to check out FAO Schwartz and our inner-children came out to play!
Biggest Gobstopper EVER! (Even bigger than this one!)

“You may be big, Lego Chewie, but I could take you to PIECES!”
“And helllloooooooooo Legoooooo Batman! Check out those leg-os!”
We then headed outside to take what I’m sure is a totally original photo. (It turns out that’s all that my apple was good for – it was rotten inside!!)
We then popped home to the hostel for a change of clothes and change of bag (this info becomes crucial later). Took the subway to 14th st and walked through Greenwich Village which was lovely and found an Irish pub (another one – but this one was the last) and ordered a couple of drinks. I ordered the house wine from the “specials” board for $4 and Hubs had a Magners. We ordered a burger to share and kicked back and relaxed in the sun.
And then I gasped and look at Hubs in horror.
“You left the tickets at home, didn’t you Wifey?”
“Yesssssssssssssssssssssssssss!!!!!” Strike 1.
“Dammit dammit dammit!” (I may be paraphrasing there.) I was SO MAD at myself as we didn’t have time to go back home to pick them up, but Hubs in his usual cool, calm and collected way suggested I give the theatre a call and see if I couldn’t work something out, as we remembered our seat numbers (thankfully!). Our meal came out and we shared it and asked for the bill and I was speechless when I saw the price of my “house wine”. $8.50. FOR A GLASS???? I asked the waitress about my $4 glass that I ordered and she said “oh, that’s only if you order it AT THE BAR.” Strike 2.
We high-tailed it down to the theatre and although I was frustrated with myself, I realised that it was very likely that they would let us in if we explained our story. They said we had to wait until the show was just about to start and if the seats were still free (which of course they would be) they would let us in. So we had half an hour to kill…
As we were taking these photos, a huge St Bernard walked past me and slobbered all over my leg. It was SO GROSS. Strike 3. Hubs said that since those 3 things had happened, they HAD to let us in to the show, so then I was glad the St Bernard used my leg as a napkin. And of course we got in to see the show.
It was amazing. If you ever get the chance to see it, you won’t be disappointed. We wandered back along 14th st and couldn’t stop exclaiming how good the show was, when we stumbled upon a shop named after Hubs!

What a coincidence! We took the subway back to Times Square and checked out the night scene. It was TOTALLY packed and absolutely buzzing!!
We strolled back to the hostel and collapsed into bed, eager to get some rest to prepare for another big day!

Day 23 – Start spreading the news

Saturday, 18th July 2009

Washington DC to New York City. 225 miles on a train.

As I mentioned, I thought our train left at 11am but when I got up at 8:40am I double-checked the ticket and it was for 10:20am. Oops. We (I) still had to pack everything!! So I babbled something to Hubs about making us peanut butter sandwiches and started throwing things in our bags. We got on a bus and thankfully there wasn’t much traffic, and we arrived at the station at 10am. Nice one! Jumped on the train no probs and even got a double seat that no one sat opposite us in. Score! I love travelling by train. It’s so relaxing and there’s so much to see! We went underground just outside of New York and didn’t resurface until we hit our hostel, so it really was amazing when we poked our heads out from underground!

Our hostel was not far from Central Park, so that was on our agenda for the afternoon after we’d checked in. It was everything I’d imagined, and more.

I have always wanted to go to New York. Don’t ask me why, it’s just one of those places that has always been a must-see for me. And it didn’t disappoint. Hubs wasn’t terribly keen on going to NY (actually, the whole trip was my idea and he just kind of went along with it, but within the first 4 days, he started a lot of his sentences with “On our next trip here, can we….” I KNEW he’d have a great time! Right, back to the story) but he was surprised at how much he liked it! Hooray!
We found this wonderful jazz trio and sat and listened for a while. The only thing missing was a glass of red wine.
It was a beautiful warm day so we just did a lot of walking around and oohing and aaahing. I felt really relaxed and had a dozen New York songs running around in my head. (“I’m gonna beee a paaart of it!”)
We came across this guy selling balloons. Would you buy a balloon for your child from him??
I don’t think so.
The park was just buzzing with life and entertainment. We came across these guys doing lots of silly tricks and fun stuff!
They finished off their show with this awesome flip!
We were very happy to be in Central Park.
“Have you ever been to Central Park? Mister yes I’ve been there in my heaaaaaaaart.”

(Do yourself a favour and have a listen.)

Some crazy entertainers
And beautiful sights to see
As I mentioned, it was a beautiful afternoon and EVERYone was out and about.
We headed towards town and found a quaint little restaurant and ordered a couple of beers and some dinner.(Hubs looks so tanned!!)

 I had a crab cake and Hubs had the ostrich burger. After another couple of beers + tax + tips we had had a $50USD meal. Again, not the best value (we weren’t that full) but we WERE in New York after all. Oh and they had paper table cloths! So Hubs got busy drawing our dream home that we’re going to build one day.

Afterwards we just headed back to the hostel to make some friends but there weren’t many people around so we just chilled out with whoever happened to pass through the common room. A great first day in New York City!

Day 22 – Free peanut butter, bread, and bed bugs

Friday 17th July, 2009.

A second day of sight-seeing in Washington DC.

Today we had a better start after a fairly good night sleep. The Hostel really was dirty and kinda gross, but what it lacked in cleanliness, it made up for in character. Oh, and free peanut butter and bread! We set out for Capitol Hill once more, and this time we were more prepared!

All the Museums and Monuments are free in Washington which really is wonderful, but they only give out a certain number of tickets each day, so we cued up for our tickets and really didn’t have to wait that long. We went on a guided tour that was really interesting and well presented. We then lined up to sit in the Gallery of the House and listened to a Bill being debated. They (opposition??) were proposing a $700million mustang conservation project. Mustang the animal, not the car, that is! It didn’t get passed.

We left and sought out a McDonalds to do our McDonalds taste comparison. I got a cheeseburger and Hubs got an Angus Burger that hadn’t been introduced in Australia at that stage. My cheeseburger tasted the same as back home, though, it seemed to have a bit more onion in it. It was goooooood! Hubs’ Angus Burger was pretty good too. An unexciting yet necessary experiment!

We had met a guy at the hostel named Aaron who is from Oregon and he was keen to come to a baseball game with us, so we set out to watch the Nationals take on the Chicago Cubs.

And here they are! It was awesome! They had the dinky organ music and everything!

Here’s us drinking the ridiculously over-priced beers out of aluminium pint tins. ($7USD each!!)

Luckily for us, Aaron was on a work junket and had a meal allowance, so he was quite happy to buy some beers and curry chips to share!

I decided to stick to my new love – Junior Mints. (Oh my goodness they’re SO GOOD!!!!!!! I still have a half-melted packet sitting in my cupboard!)

We were going for Washington and it was a really great game, but I think they lost pretty convincingly! Oh well. So much fun!

I think baseball in the US has gone the way cricket in Australia has. You used to be able to go to the cricket for $10-$15, sit in the sun and drink cheap beers and have a fairly cheap and entertaining day. Now with all the new fancy-pants stadiums and alcohol regulations, it can turn into a very expensive evening out. But we did have a great time with our new friend, and afterwards we headed back into town to grab a beer. This was easier said than done! After wandering around for about an hour and a half, we finally found a place (reminded me of the Belgian Beer Cafe in Brisbane) and had some fancy beers (I had raspberry! YUM!) and then went home.

I thought we had to catch an 11am train the next day, so I set my alarm for 8:30am. I should have double-checked the tickets. To be continued……