Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Snowing In Scottsdale!

If it’s Wednesday it must be…”Where are we Pat?”
That’s the trouble when need to travel 2000-odd miles in a limited time; you are often not sure where you exactly are, so you can probably guess we have touched down on the US mainland and are currently in cowboy country in Scottsdale, Arizona, staying with our pal Vaughn, surrounded by cactus and desert.
Our route here, since I last wrote, has been varied and very interesting. After a week on the beautiful island of Maui we flew the 30-minutes to Honolulu and to its beach resort neighbour, Waikiki. But not before I had got my ukulele which I am really pleased with.
Pat & Monica enjoy the sunset on Maui

"I'm Leaning On A Lampost......"

Waikiki  was much more full on tourism with loads of Japanese and Chinese in evidence. That was a bit weird when, on entering the Pearl Island Commemorative site, crowds of Japanese were taking various tours. I wonder how they perceive it?
Despite it’s “in your face” reputation, I rather liked Waikiki. The beaches were crowded but everywhere is beautifully kept and very clean with flaming Wiki torches on every corner. 

Pat on the beach at Waikiki

Statue of "Duke", the man who popularised surfing in Waikiki

We only had two days there so we hired a car for the second day and drove right around the island. On the north shore the big breakers attract the surfing crowd but there was little surfing going on though the breakers were very impressive.

Pat in the Pearl Harbour site. The sunken Arizona is in the background

From Honolulu it was a five-hour flight with American to LA. A note to all travellers thinking of flying with American. If you travel tourist class they will not feed you. We did not know this and wondered why the passengers around us had bags of food with them. They were generous with the drinks though.
Got a good view of the Hollywood sign as we banked to land at LAX.
The man at Avis persuaded us to upgrade to a Ford C Max Hybrid. I had never driven a hybrid before. It’s quite good fun and the car has loads of buttons and electrickery to play with. Satellite radio and the thing that parks your car for you, hands free, though I am quite nervous about trying it out.  Anyway, it’s very comfortable, which it needs to be. From LA we took the coast road down to San Diego where we had two nights in a really nice hotel at Luna Point. On Sunday I insisted we drove over to Coronado Island so I could see the hotel on the cover of the Eagles classic album “Hotel California”. The beach in front of the hotel was also used in “Some Like It Hot” and Rick Moranis danced the Merengue on the deck there in the film “My Blue Heaven”.

Roger welcomes you to "Hotel California". What a lovely place!!!

On Monday we drove over into Arizona through the mountains and parked our car on the Mexican border for the night. From there we crossed the border by foot and took the short walk into San Luis Del Rio Colorado where Alex put us up for the night. The town was far more Mexican than we had thought. Alex was a great host and took us to Munchies, a local restaurant where we ate a plate of very spicy shrimps, washed down with a huge glass of Modelo dark beer – very good it was too. Getting into Mexico was no problem – getting back took us around 45 minutes going through US immigration.

Pat with Alex, our Couch Surfing friend down Mexico way

Yesterday we arrived in Scottsdale, on the outskirts of Phoenix, in the middle of the desert. Here we are with one of our oldest pals, Vaughan, who lives in Saskatoon, in Saskatchewan, and has this as a holiday home to get away from the freezing conditions they experience up there. He reminded us on arrival that we had known each other for 43 years. It rarely rains around here. I think it last rained before Christmas abut today it snowed – unbelievable and the traffic couldn’t cope. We saw two weather-related car smashes today, just driving around.
Vaughn is a great host and we are having a great time. He is also Captain of the Maricopa County Police,  which comes in very handy, if you get what I mean.

Vaughn flashes his law enforcement badge. I tried to get the cactus growing out of his head, but the bugger moved

Unbelievable... Snow in Arizona

Route 66 beckons this weekend and we staying with three other members of the Couchsurfing community along the way.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Aloha from Hawaii

Aloha, my friends, from slap in the middle of the Pacific, on the beautiful island of Maui, in the Hawaiian chain of islands.

Aloha, my friends

We have been here now a week after our two-month stay in New Zealand. I think we both had mixed feelings about leaving NZ. I had got to know Wellington (the coolest little capital in the world) reasonably well, and it was a great opportunity for us to spend some extended time with the kids and our granddaughter Livi, but it was time to go and there is always good old Skype to keep in touch.
Wellington, "The Coolest Little Capital In The World"
It may be relatively small, but there always seemed to something good going on in Wellington and the weekend before we left saw the city the host of a huge international rugby 7s tournament. Now, it is hardly a secret that all Kiwis are crazy about rugby, but for this tournament everybody, and I do mean everybody, reverts to fancy dress for the tournament. It was quite a sight to be by the waterfront in the city for the two days of the tournament as groups of Roman soldiers, boxes of matches, Super Marios, Fred Flinstones and NY cops sauntered by.

A group of Snow Whites get ready for the Rugby

Looking at the map it looks like an easy journey from New Zealand to Hawaii. Oh no. It’s four flights with long hours spent in between In n noisy department lounges, staring at departure boards. Luckily you cross the International Date Line and gain a day. The long Qantas flight to Honolulu from Sydney was interesting. There were no TV screens on the back of the seats, so no in-flight entertainment. It appears that Qantas are trialling giving every passenger their own I Pad, on which they can pick up hundreds of films and TV wirelessly, via a server on the plane.

Hawaii is everything you would expect. Temperatures range from about 73 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit all year round, and this being the US, that is how the temperatures are reported. I had forgotten that petrol was still sold in gallons and anything you buy in a supermarket is bought in pounds and ounces.

We have been staying in Maui, with Pats sister Monica and her husband Garry, who live on Vancouver Island. They have visited Maui several times, so we have been spoilt a bit as Garry drives us around the island. It rains a bit now and then, and it is warm rain, but never more than a few minutes and then the sun pops out again. Loud Hawaiian shirts are the regulation issue here and everybody greets you with an enthusiastic Aloha. Nearly everybody is American/Canadian, and I haven’t heard a British accent since we arrived.
Breakfast on the balcony
The sea is warm, the beaches are clean and fringed with palm trees, and the local beer is pretty good as well. The only thing I do not like is that nearly every restaurant or bar you go in insists on having at least seven big screens pumping out sports coverage.

I persuaded Pat that while we were here we should go to a Luau and we got a great deal on one of the four held most nights on the island. Following a pork buffet, cooked in a big pit, the hula dancers entertain the crowd with a wide ranging programme of music and dance, finishing with a fire dance. Pretty impressive stuff and a must for any Hawaiian visit.

It looks like I will buy my ukulele here in Lanaika on Maui. I can get more or less the same model in the UK, but with a hard carry case, tuner, spare strings etc it is cheaper to buy it here and its nice to know it came from Hawaii, even if it is probably made in China.
The beach, across the road at Ka'anapalii

Later this week we leave Maui and have two days on Oahu in Honolulu, on Waikiki Beach, beach before we head on to LA and start our road trip across California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.

For those interested we will be arriving back in the UK on Thursday 7th March and drive up to The Cat’s Whiskers the following weekend.

Hang Loose (it’s what they all say here…honest)