Sunday, June 14, 2009

Home in God's own

Just a little note following up and finishing off.
We're home. Jet lagged a tad, in bed at 7pm for about 3 nights in a row so far.
The bags are unpacked, the tidy house, not tidy, and the laundry full of washing to be done. Yes reality has hit and life is kinda back to normal. The Beckenham adventure is at an end.

Thanks for joining us.

Jane and family.

Monday, June 8, 2009


Back on the coast.
We left Pomona this a.m. with a quick-ish stop at San Dimas. What a little gem this outlying LA suburb is. It’s very old world in, with wide streets, houses with gardens, and the shops are quaint. A little bit of car part shopping – which proved successful and then we found the freeway heading south and drove to Santa Monica, basically we completed our journey as we’d driven through Santa Monica six weeks earlier. This time however, we found a carpark we didn’t need to pay $7.00 for and Neil and Anzhela went and dipped their toes into the Pacific – at least this side of the Pacific Ocean. It was a tad chilly!
The sand was perfectly white, perfectly groomed, with no seaweed or bits of rubbish. There were two big sand moving machines doing their thing, making it perfect for the rich and famous that live in the area.
Instead of going back along the freeway, we headed through sidestreets along the coast and drove through Venice beach, and South Venice. The beach was shrouded by tatty apartments and only by going through really narrow alleys could we get to it. However, it was a also a bit seedy so we decided to keep going. The south part of the beach however, was very very upmarket with exclusive homes and fancy apartments, and a boat marina that housed thousands of boats that much cost at least a couple of hundred thousand each!
We could see planes coming in to land above and so knew we were close to our motel 6 where our journey started what seems to be a life time ago! A quick flick on the freeway and hey presto we were back in town.
We’ve repacked, and repacked, and yes we’re overloaded, but hey it was fun getting to this stage. We’ve done a bit more trawling, looking for gifts and now, we’re ready and rearing to go again.
Time to go home.
So what do we think of this land?
Some thoughts from me, and sorry if they’re repeated from our journey blog.
This land is HUGE. HUGE. HUGE. It is only as you travel it that you realise the size, you realise the mass of land and population. But when it comes down to it, people are people and pretty much the same, we live, we breathe, we work and play and no matter what land we live in, we usually want the same things. Whereever we go, we’ve been welcomed.
LA roads need a bit of resurfacing.
Drivers need to slow down , learn to indicate, and not be so impatient at intersections.
You can eat well, and cheaply here, you just have to look. Also food is cheap, gas is cheap, people don’t really know how lucky they are!
Impressions from my 17 year old teen- Anzhela – Food servings are huge – too big. Clothes are cheap
Neil’s impressions – What you can actually buy off the shelf is awesome. Life is big, and fast.
Yana – Disneyland was cool.

And so that brings us to the night before we fly out. I hope you’ve enjoyed our journey. We have. We’ve got several thousand photos, have travelled just on 7000 miles! We made it!
Happy days everyone, come check me out on my web site...
Jane and family.

Sunday, June 7, 2009


One of the reasons for our big adventure is to see old cars! Weird I know, but we can’t help it, we’re addicted. Vintage, classic, rusty, or restored. And more particular, if it’s a Ford, well all the better.
Before dawn Neil drove a few miles up from our Motel 6 in Pomona, California to go to the Car Swap Meet at the LA showgrounds/Flexipark.
Firstly, there were more American classic and hot rods cars than you could count – and that was just in the carpark. They were for sale, some brought in on trailers – too lovely to drive – others too wrecked to drive. Some wanted totally unrealistic prices, others were okay when considering NZ versus US$ exchange rates. 2$:1$
Inside the grounds were what seemed like 10 miles of stalls, selling everything from old toys and skateboards to engine bits and bolts and panels.
Kiosks sold everything from hot dogs to beer, but the cost was OTT - $14.00 for a burger, fries and drink. Cheaper to starve.
It’s really hard to pinpoint one car that stood out, there were just sooo many, the size of the showgrounds big enough to hold a small plane landing strip in the middle.
The gages opened at 5a.m., Neil arrived at 5.30, and they shut again surprisingly early at mid-day. At the end he arrived back at the motel exhausted, feeling as if he had walked across the country.
One day to go! And then I can cuddle up with my dog....
Happy days
Jane and gang

Friday, June 5, 2009


IT NEVER RAINS IN CALIFORNIA... EXCEPT when we get there,...just a few spots, but the temperature has certainly dropped. Nothing like the high 90 deg F we were having a day ago.
Leaving Barstow, which was a surprising little town, we headed back up the Interstate 15 for a ghost town called Calico. This was a very rich silver mining town which although only boasts 9 residents now, was once a bustling town on the edge of the desert and hills. No water there, they even had to bring it in back in the olden days.
There was every store imaginable there, and though some were new/in an old fashioned way, there were original buildings, though the town did actually burn to the ground twice in it’s history. The shops like a candy store and a couple of restaurants are still active. Actually we had lunch there, it was so cool. Buckets of peanuts in their shell were on the table. We wondered where to put the shells, and the lady said just on the floor – adds to the saloon flavour! Fun! Then our drinks were served in preserving jars with lots of ice adding to the old town flavour. We took train ride around the township, took a stack of photos. The landscape as you can see again is so arid, the local Indians in days gone by came here to take the pigment from the soil which they used for dyes for their pottery.
By 1pm it was time to get moving and head back to L.A. Actually we’ve decided to only go as far as Pomona today – about 1 ½ hours away and will stay here for 3 nights...tomorrow Saturday the girls will go to a water park with neil and i’ll go SHOPPING on my own, then on Sunday Neil goes to the Ponoma car swap meet – for old cars.
Anzhela is happy she has bought her Guess brand bag at a Mall outlet we found quite by accident – or was that divine intervention? Neil brought a tool of some kind at Harbor Tools.
It’s Friday night rush hour in Southern California, and we’ve made it to the motel. Traffic heading out of town is thick and show, while we had a reasonably good run in, with only one report of an accident just near our freeway exit.
So... our time is nearly up...but not yet... still a few days to report.

Jane and gang
ps - even the local indian liked Pinkie!

Thursday, June 4, 2009


Forgot to add this bit in. We trawled Las Vegas Boulevard last night as darkness fell. The street didn’t quieten down. IT was busy, loud...and did I mention busy.
Some of the things we saw
Coca Cola shop – 2 floors just selling Coca Cola products
M&M store – exactly as above... America certainly knows how to market and merchandise.
MGM casino – rainforest restaurant and a lion enclosure within the casino, but the lions were out to dinner!
A walkway across the main street, cops riding bicycles, a roller coaster that goes around the casino in and outside at the same time. The Imperial Palace Cassino with a car show at the back with cars costing in excess of US$2 million. Coca cola bottle lift – four stories high, a casino in the shape of a pyramid, dancing fountains, the Eifel tower, noise, lights, more noise. And more pimps with cards of their girls! Very blatant!
Back at the motel... an airconditioner that sounded like a plane taking off, but we couldn’t turn it off because it was just too hot to sleep otherwise.
Hectic, but worth seeing because it is SO different from real life.

Leaving fantasyland

Did a bit of shopping in Vegas this a.m. – they’re experts at selling, believe me. However, things like t-shirts and extra suitcases were really cheap – does that tell you something!
Anyway, managed to get away about 9.30 with a bit of a false start as we kept missing turn off to get to the highway. However, we have become experts at following our noses and we finally got the right road heading towards Pahrump and the California border.
Vegas really is a town built out of nothing, rocks and desert. The surrounding landscape for miles is dry rugged rocky land. Our reason going to Pahrump was to visit the parents my good friend, author ND Hansen-Hill (who also writes as Melody Knight). We found our way there thanks to Google maps. What lovely people. We lunched with them at a casino in town which had a wonderful interior that reflected an old cowboy town. Beside the diners were the gamblers with their slot machines going ring ring. Every now and then an announce would come over stating that things like bingo was about to start, and special offers. A real eye opener for us greenhorns.
To get to Barstow where we have parked up for the night care of another Motel 6 – great places – clean, reliable and thoroughly recommended – we had to of course go via another car wreckers yard on the constant hunt for car parts. Plus we drove along the lower tip of Death Valley – certainly deserves its name. Nothing grows, the road goes for miles and miles and miles in a straight row. God help anyone who breaks down and has to walk!
But arriving at Barstow we were surprised it was so busy and in fact we go the only room left. Tomorrow we are back tracking about 5 miles to visit Calico Ghost town, then we head for pastures unknown at this time.
Do we go to San Diego and Sea World – where it’s $65 per person – say it quickly when you realise it is x2 for our NZ$ equivalent. Or do we got directly to Pomona, do not pass go, and do activities from there. We have to b e in Pomona on Sunday for a car swap meet – yes don’t laugh, cars, cars, cars, but while the hubby goes car part shopping the girls go....mall trawling! Or perhaps we’ll find an outlet mall!
So we’re nearing the end of our stay in the USA – only 5 nights to go. It’s been an amazing journey, this land is amazing, so vast, and i am in awe of the huge amount of energy it has taken to build this country up, the engineering involved. Well done America.
Happy days...and I wonder where we’ll end up tomorrow.

Jane and gang

Wednesday, June 3, 2009


Gosh what a day of contrasts. We left Kingman this a.m. but first drove around the streets – Kingman is famous for being part of Route 66. Lots of antique shops, and an old Santa Fe steam train. Neil had taken an early morning walk and got to go into the Mohave museum wit h the cleaners!
We drove towards the Hover dam and realised we didn’t have much gas left, but still had time to stop and look at a car wreckers – read old cars – for sale! Petroled up, we arrived at the Damn. Oh my, what a huge example of the superb engineering we’ve seen in our travels. The temperature was in the mid 90s – read hot hot hot. We parked up and took a stack of photos. Cops had one car area roped off, a body in the dam! Apparently the temp here last July 4th was 130deg F.
They are building a new road/bridge which will basically go between mountains right beside the dam. Americans sure can do roads and bridges. I am in constant awe of this.
We arrived in Vegas, driving the freeway to the north and then had to back track along Las Vegas Boulevard to the hotel which is the south end of the strip. Although it was a bit of extra driving it was cool seeing all the casinos and the wedding chapels! Circus Circus, the Trump casino which is gold coated no less. The MGM Grand, the Eiffel Tower . I mean we’re just a couple of doors from there. We’re actually staying at the Travel lodge. Ok, but i think the Motel 6’s we’ve stayed at have been better quality, but this is nice and close.
We unpacked and started to roam the streets – along with the THOUSANDS of others. The strip is noisy, over crowded and it was mega hot! What shocked me was that part of it was the dirtiest street we have seen on our travels. Lots of litter – but i can also understand why. Along this part of the strip, hawkers were handing out cards – in fact these guys were basically pimping their women via these cards! It was quite shocking and was rather intimidating. We then went into the Planet Hollywood casino, but just to show the kids, it is next door to the Mile Mall – which it was. Lots of shops, some British stores which was a surprise too. Very touristy, some very expensive, but also some quite reasonable – they want you to keep your money for gambling.
We’d reached McDonalds and the sweat poured down my face. I’ve never drunk so much so fast! The pool at the hotel was a tad cold, but was oh so welcome. Neil went back to a casino which also housed a stack of old cars for sale – not our price range – they were in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions.
Once dinner has settled, we’re heading off to the New York New York casino which also has roller coaster going around it. Not for me, you understand, but the kids. I gave up on roller coasters after my close and intimate experience with Space Mountain at Disneyland.
And so that is it. We’ve experienced one of America’s wonders at the Hoover Dam and spent the rest of the day in another fantasyland.

Happy days
Jane and gang


Anzhela wanted to tittle this blog The bottomless pit...but the Canyon is not bottomless, but it is sure a LONG way down. Today was a bit of going down memory road for me. Thirty years of roads in fact. I first visited the Grand Canyon in November 1979. The road up from Flagstaff was pretty quick, lots of motor cycles on the road. The landscape close to the canyon was quite lush which surprised me, but as we arrived at the park – yes another $25 entry fee – we were all in awe at this wonder of the world. It is HUGE. And that is an understatement. At the first area there is a stone tower built in 1930 which is a viewing platform, plus the derigeur tourist gift shop. But really, all eyes are on the view. It goes straight down, and forever in each direction. I must admit, 30 years ago i was okay about sitting at the edge, but now, nope. No way. I didn’t really like being right beside the railings when it was about a mile or so to the bottom. The Colorado river winds through below but is dirty brown. At other view spots, it is more of the same.
But it is the colors that are awesome. Every autumn color you can think of, reds, browns, greys and everything in between. Some people were brave or perhaps stupid and had walked down several rocky outcrops away from the barriers. Absolutely b... nuts!
We ate up at the Canyon village, but wouldn’t recommend it again, food really just mediocre. If we had realised there were other options just outside the park, we would have waited.
Back onto highway 64 and then Interstate 40 heading west to Kingman. Interesting that the freeway signs give the miles to Los Angeles. This makes me realise our trip is nearly over... o nly 7 days to go. Time to go home. And yes, it is time, we’re all a bit tired and cranky.
But a surprising highlight came when we went off the freeway for a ‘restroom’ stop at Prescott. What a cute unexpected find. Cars... yes cars again... Old ones. We hadn’t realised we were also travelling along Route 66. Now for car nuts like us, this was a real treat. And the gas station we had stopped at had all this Route 66 memorabilia for sale. And yes, we indulged.
And now we’re at historical Kingman for the night. We’ve swum in the pool, relaxed.... until tomorrow at least.
Hoover dam and Las Vegas to come.

Happy days
Jane and gang

Do you want a hoodoo?

A long long long day – 13 hours on the road, and travelling further than we expected, partly our own decision, and partly coz we’re too cheap to stay at an expensive place!
Arriving in canyon country is something so different. We’d been driving along plains and seeing towering pinnacles of rock known as Hoodoos dotted along the landscape, superb views. Lower Utah is the birthplace of Butch Cassidy, lots of writings about him and his adventures.
The first park was Red Canyon and it justly deserves its name, the rocky terrain almost plum in some instances. This canyon is the precursor to Bryce Canyon, but no less wonderful. Supporting towering pinnacles of rock which almost look as if man has placed them there, but no, they’re nature made. Though there were 3 arches we drove through which man has dug through.
National Park entrances here charge $25.00 entrance. The entrance to Bryce Canyon was far quieter than going into Yellowstone. Our first stop was the visitor bureau and i must say the American’s do this well. There was a 22 minute movie which we arrived just in time to see which highlighted the history of the canyon, and of course the usual calendars etc for sale – I succumbed. Then off we drove t the first of several look outs.
It was magnificient. Because of how nature affects the area – i.e. very high temps, and very cold temps – even snow – the rock formations are like looking down on something from a sci – fi movie, these pinnacles reaching up from below us. Twisted rock and crevases were everywhere. It really looked like something out of a movie, you could imagine Will Smith flying his space machine thingy through all the nooks and crannies of the rock formations.
There was a park ranger giving a talk on geology, but we only heard the last few minutes of it. She was talking about storms and right on cue, the bulbous purple clouds above did their thing and let forth a fork lightening along with a thunder straight after. She had just told us that if you can’t count to 30 after the lightening, then you’re too close to it. Right through the park we noticed burnt trees and from what we understand these trees had been hit by lightening.
Well you can imagine the race to the car after that, and not just by us, but most of those around us hightailed back to the carpark. The rain was pretty heavy and the lightening spectacular and scary.
We did however, carry on driving around the park, but when one particular thunder struck as we were to exit our car, that canned that expedition!
From Bryce we headed south, having lunch at Orderville and then drove through the Navajo Indian reservation. Their land is huge, but totally barren, just nothing. Homes were quite poor, lots of craft stalls along the road side. Each house had another structure beside it, usually with a round roof. From the distance these buildings appeared to be round, but i couldn’t figure out what they were for – wondered if they were a modern version of those sweat tents I believed the Indian’s used.
A spectacular bridge – Navajo Bridge at Marble Canyon – again amazing me with the engineering across this land. But what we have noticed is that along many of the laybys (places to stop and take a look at the view) there were Indian craft stalls taklng up the parking space.
We had hoped to stop at Cameron which has a lovely viewing area right beside the motel. It is an area run by the local tribe – the motel and the tourist store – but there were only suites left at $150 p/night and if you figure out the exchange rate, then that was a no no no from us. Gray Mountain up the road about 11 miles offered a motel, but it also offered 2 cops outside with a guy in handcuffs so that again was a no no no from us. No other option, we had to hike it up the road another hour to Flagstaff. I was here 30 years ago – greatly changed – much bigger.
But we were pooped after our 13 hours on the road, hence no blogging done i’m trying to catch up.... more coming shortly.

Jane and gang

Sunday, May 31, 2009


What a day of contrasts. This country certainly has it all and of course it’s all BIG.
Leaving Boulder, Colorado a bit later this time as we had family over at our small cabin at Chautauqua – bagels and strawberries – all very civilised from our regular plastic bowls of cereal and a tub of yogurt. Once out of Boulder the countryside quickly became very similar to the green rolling pastures of New Zealand, but then it quickly changed again as we drove through massive canyons, with towering rock walls very close either side of us. It was truely spectacular and again were amazed at the engineering it has taken to put roads through some of this countryside. This four lane highway was divided in 2 – 2 lanes each way, but it was a bit like the Scottish song... you take the high road and i’ll take the low road... because our road was about 40 feet higher than the traffic going in the other direction, so in fact the road builders have built 2 highways. When we could see ahead often we could see that these roads were held up by huge pillars that had been driven into the rocky terrain. Actually that is another thing. I now know why the Rocky Mountains are called this. Because they are – incredibly so. The ground surface is very very rocky, at times you wonder how the vast forestation can in fact inhabit the same terrain because there seems to be no dirt/soil for it to grow in. But they do.
We counted the number of tunnels we went through -13 in all today. Some short, but several were at least a mile long. Imagine digging a tunnel through a mountain this long!
Once through the mountains the landscape again changed. I know i mention this quite a bit in the blog, but it is one thing that has been quite amazing for us throughout this journey.
The scenery became incredibly arid, a bit like NZ’s desert road. Huge plains, circled by mountains.
But it was the scenery as we drove right to the tip of Colorado and into Utah, that was the most stark. Moutnains, turrets of rock that appears like sandstone, grey and completely stark of any plant life. There were plains with strange mounds dotted across it, then these towering edifices of rock in the distance, their tops completely flat, but the hillsides streaked with what appeared to be almost rivulets of rock.
I think i mentioned yesterday about the storm we had just before the wedding started. Well it seems that weather is quite typical of the area and as we left Grand Junction, the storm clouds brewed. Huge bulbous clouds, almost dark purple in color. Thankfully they blew the other way and we never had to drive in the forked lightening that we experienced yesterday.
And so that is our journey so far. We have arrived at Green River, Utah, a kind of blink and you miss it place, but it is surprisingly busy and has quite a few hotel/motels. I think this is because it is on the brink of an area with several national parks. Tomorrow we drive south to Bryce Canyon and beyond....only 10 days and we head home.

Happy days
Jane and gang


Well, here we are, the actual purpose of our trip in the first place. To attend the wedding of Shannon and David – Neil’s nephew. We arrived in Boulder on Thursday a.m. after a quick drive down from Cheyenne Wyoming. Boulder and the environs are more green and rolling – though there is always the presence of the mountains in the distance. It’s a lush city, quite flat. A university town. I have been told that the average age of the population is between 28-32. Thursday we caught up with the relies, (relatives). We are staying right beneath the mountains which if you need to figure out the directions, they are in the west. Friday brought some sightseeing and going to a local hardware store - huge. But it was the rehearsal dinner on Friday night which brought us really into contact with the locals, and getting to know Americans on their own turf. These pre-wedding dinners are new to kiwis, not something we do before a wedding. There were 60 guests at the bride’s family home in Castle Rock an outer suburb/township outside the southern end of Denver. Yep more driving. Actually about 50 plus miles and through Denver on Friday rush hour, so that was an experience!!! Denver i believe has 2 million people so twice as many in rush hour as we experience back in Auckland. What should have taken about one hour took closer to 2 hours. But the Delay whanau (family) made us very welcome and everyone was interested in life down under. They were congratulating others on some sporting prowess, band the bride to be gratefully translated which sport was which to the clueless visitors.
Driving back was another experience! Fast and frantic and more freeways with no night lighting for part of the way. Eeek. But we made it safely.
Wedding day dawned beautifully hot and sunny – 76deg F. Teens got their nails done while I met up with American Palmist Myrna Goldbaum who I’ve known cyberly for some years. She’s a great lady, very talented and a prolific writer living about 20 minutes from Boulder. Sceptic Neil even had his palm read!
We looked at having some of our ‘shopping’ shipped home only to balk at the price – about $400 US which would make our ‘bargains’ absolutely NOT bargains. So that didn’t happen. We’ll just have to buy more suitcases. But you can be proud that we have kept the American economy buoyant during our visit here.
Then it was time to gussy ourselves up and head back down the freeway to the wedding. A huge castle /ranch called Cherokee Ranch Castle built in 1920 by a divorcee as her folly. But it did in fact become a successful ranch which she ran as a single woman. Wandering antelope welcomed us as we drove up the 2 mile long driveway. The castle has a splendid view across the mountains and of particular interest to our car nut friends...a view of Pikes Peak, all 14000 plus feet of it which was duly photographed.
Inside the castle is like a grand room, with an overly large Juliet balcony. The wedding ceremony was due to be outside but by 5pm the electric storms with rather grand fork lightening was in full swing and so we were all shuffled inside – actually i ran as it was b....freezing, and where might you ask was the lovely brown fluffy coat that i had lovingly packed and hauled thousands of miles for this particular occasion... right back at our cottage 50 miles away, that’s where!
Neil and the girls and about a million others piled up stairs to watch the wedding procession/service. The bride was lovely- beaded, strapless, dress and the bridesmaids in deep plum. The service was fun and relaxed...all that is until Anzhela my 17yo decided to faint upstairs! No one else knew what was going on, but the it did create some extra excitement. Boulder is very high altitude and if you don’t keep drinking you can get a bit lightheaded, so guess what happens!
Niblbes, chatting, dining and laughing at the jokes during the reception were great. There were little boxes of candies on the tables for the guests, none of the Americans of course knowing what the red and chocolate candies were – Jafas all the way from NZ. So there were definitely a few kiwi influences here. So too with the wedding cake. Banana cake for the bottom layer - courtesy of the NZ Edmonds Cook Book, then a chocolate layer followed by a vanilla layer.
A safe drive back and all tucked up in bed by midnight. We were so welcomed by everyone, the Americans making their new kiwi relations feel part of the family. Thank you. It was definitely great to see how others live and to realise, that hey really, there may be thousands of miles that separate us, but we’re all really just the same.

Happy days...and we’re on the road again.
Jane and family.

Thursday, May 28, 2009


Left Cheyenne Wyoming today and headed to Boulder, Colorado. But before we left, we chatted to a farmer and his wife from Nevada and he was able to clear up a few questions I had. All along the way we’ve noticed the lack of cows/sheep etc on the farmland. Where is it? They’ve been moved to higher ground so that the lower pastures have a chance to regrow. The farmer farms 750,000 acres (yep that much) which he rents off the government. On that land, because it is desert like, he only farms 500 cattle.
The drive to Boulder was quick – on the interstate. And the landscape again changed. We still have the mountains in the distance, but the land close by is lush. Industry seems to have changed too. Huge, huge IBM plant. It is like it’s own city, plus apparently Google has its office here in Boulder. The city is a university town and very green with tree line streets. We’ve met up with the relies and the couple about to tie the knot on Saturday. No nerves. All going to plan.
We’ve been to this HUGE – funny how everything in America is huge – hardware store. They sell everything.
We’re staying at a kind of cabin place called Chautauqua. There is a central building which is an historical landmark and then all these little cabins. They are set out in what is like a little village, with street names and numbers . The cabins are one bedroom, have a kitchen, bathroom, little lounge and a closed in porch and are well decorated and fitted out. Very cosy after cramped motel rooms for the last month.
Dinner with the family tonight, then our first experience at a wedding rehearsal dinner tomorrow and then the wedding on Saturday. It will be interesting to see how weddings differ from our NZ variety.
I’ll let you know.

Happy days
Jane and family

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


Remember all those cowboy movies we watched as kids, and TV programmes like Bonanza and The Virginian. Well today’s journey really brought those memories back.
We left Rawlins and headed east, but not before stopping by a parked up Union Pacific steam train for a photo opportunity. Also, parked up at a gas station was a double ended car, someone had cut two Cadillacs in half and then welded the 2 fronts together, steering wheels and all.
Long winding roads, going up to 8500 feet at one level, until finally the landscape changed from the barren plain to slightly more lush – only slightly – plus more of the wind farms, and oil rigs dotting the landscape. Wyoming is rich in oil, though with the downturn in the economy (despite teenage shoppers!) they were talking on the news tonight about oil workers being laid off.
Actually before i go any further, must tell you... it sure is a small world.... Would you believe it!
We met our relation’s neighbour over breakfast! We were in hick town Rawlins, Wyoming population about 5000 and were having breakfast (free danish and coffee at the Super 8 motel) and anyway, she says you’re a kiwi? Yes I say, then she tells us her hubby saw the news item about the tiger attack...well we got talking. they are from Mt Albert. What road... your road... what house... the one right next door to my daughter’s sister -- What a small world.
Anyway back to travels.... We stopped at Laramie about 1 hour from Cheyenne. Also a cowboy town, with a lovely historical area to wander around. Found a great book shop that has books all on the history of the area, even how things were cooked by those on the wagon trains.
Cheyenne too is full of history. We found the Nelson museum – full of military and cowboy and Indian artefacts. Plus stuffed animals of all kinds. It was a real treasure trove find.
Note to tourist bureau’s though. Please don’t forget your road signs. They put signs on the freeways, then as soon as you pull off the freeway, the signs and directions disappear. This is something we have come across frequently in our travels.
But on the other hand good directions from a worker at The Home Depot had us find the Safeway supermarket easily and hence the teens won’t starve. In Cheyenne, they celebrate their heritage and art at the same time, and have put these giant cowboy boots – about 8ft tall – around the town and they are decorated by local artisans. There are some lovely brick buildings, while the houses we noted as we drove around are replicas of many of the houses on this continent, those chocolate box houses. Very cute.
So that was today...onto a family wedding this weekend being celebrated in Boulder, Colorado.

Happy days
Jane and gang

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


This country is vast, the landscape offering us such a myriad of changes. Today as we left Ogden (quick apology here...Osmonds I realised were not from Ogden, but Provo Utah)..anyway we headed out on the freeway, winding through the hills to find ourselves in an enormous plain. You could see nothing for miles and miles except flat land. And some sort of ‘boxes’ and pipes that dotted the landscape the further east we drove. I think they were for either gas or military pipelines. There were long windbreaks along the sides of the motorways, i think to prevent erosion of the soil, which could possibly be verified as earlier when we stopped at Lyman I saw a pickup go past with a sign for Erosion Prevention. Lyman is a mining town of only 2000 people. The main employment is the mine where they mine for soda ash.
We had lunch there, and chatted to the local cop. He told us about the area and gave the girls both a police badge key ring.
We drove for hours on a long straight road. The number of trucks on the road is massive and constant We also these amazingly long trains. There were three, sometimes four engines and they hauled about 100 carriages, one we lost count at about 130 carriages. Each carriage had a container on it, and on top of that container, was a second container. Huge hauling.
We’ve stopped at Rawlins for the night after being on the move since 9a.m.
On the plains we had risen about 7000 feet high and at one stage so Neil tells me (i had snoozed for a moment) the road was at least 10 or more miles ahead and it simply disappeared into the horizon. There was also a wind farm. The rocky landscape had nature made turrets of red-brown rock and hillsides that just levelled off completely flat. So different from the towering snow-capped mountains of a few days ago.
Cheyenne tomorrow and then finally into Boulder where we stay for a few days attending Neil’s nephew’s wedding.
Happy days
Jane and family


Pinkie reporting here....
Monday here was Memorial day (think Anzac day dear Kiwis). Anyway the family decided to take me out of the case and give me some true American adventures today. Firstly, we drove all the way to Salt Lake City. Not far, but on that fast freeway again. Gosh those car whizz by. The idea was to go down by the lakeside and view it. We could have gone to Antelope Island which is situated in the lake and joined by a causeway, it’s a nature park. There was meant to be a visitor centre just off the freeway. Note to Utah road authorities. When your tourist brochure says to follow the signs, please remember to actually put the signs there. We came off the freeway and yep, you guessed it. No signs. Not very helpful to dumb tourists like my owners. We drove...and drove...and drove and silence reigned in the car, and a few expletives.
We found the island...but no other area to simply park and gaze wonderingly at the lake. So, frustrated, we hightailed it back the route we came.
My next adventure involved a man in reader, not a policeman. Neil’s driving is too perfect for any cop to haul us over. But we stopped at an aerospace museum. Lots of jet fighter and a model of the 1st plane flown by the Wright Brother, but what was interesting and scary at the same time were copies of atomic bombs dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima. The place was crowded with families on outings just like me for Memorial day.
We had a real American lunch at the museum, fresh hot dogs and Anzhela had her first sloppy joe, Ground beef all sloppy with sauce on a burger bun. And me... Pinkie...did they feed me? Oh no siree. Not even a crumb.
Dinosaurs were next on the agenda. The Eccles Dinosaur Park. Fossils over 350 million years old, and no that’s not Jane i’m talking about. Then out into the park with life size dinosaurs roaming in the bush, accompanied by real life sounds. And me... I had the photo shoot of a lifetime, posing with the dinosaurs.
Shopping came next – and yes it was another Wal-Mart. I think singlehandedly that these girls have reactivated the American economy. Good job!
Happy days

Monday, May 25, 2009


We are so pleased that we had fab weather going through Yellowstone National Park yesterday (Friday), because today we got all sorts. We decided on the spur of the moment to head south to Utah (Ogden north of Salt Lake City) instead of going across Wyoming.
Interesting thing about Wyoming. No one pays income tax! Wouldn’t that be cool. Can’t understand why all Americans haven’t moved then to Wyoming! Apparently the timber and oil industry is so rich in this state that the locals don’t need to pay tax. My kinda state.
The landscape was changing too today. We had enormous plains banked by more snow capped mountains. Though not as high as the one in Yellowstone. The lakes are huge. In NZ we think that Lake Taupo is huge – i mean it’ the biggest lake in the Southern Hemisphere. Well, readers, the USA has HUGE lakes, and not just one, but so far Montana and Wyoming have heaps of them. More snow, more plains, more mountains. But we also drove through tiny towns boasting their pioneer history in the way the buildings were designed to blend into the scenery and looking as if they have been there forever. Bear Lake, we stopped at for a moment because we spied a Ford Single Spinner (1949) in someone’s backyard. Neil went into to investigate and got chatting to the owner. He tells us he is going to restore it /or hot rod it one day. We’ve heard this from so many people. Their ‘one day’ dreams. But most cars are lying neglected along with several other. It seems like every ten year they buy a new one and just park up the old one in the paddock.
Bear Lake seemed to be a burgeoning resort town with clusters of modern day log cabins. This man pointed out the oldest house in the vicinity, it was made by hand in that the builder cut down the logs with an axe, shaped them all with the axe and cut all the tongue and groove timber with the axe. Truly a work of craftsmanship and still be standing today.
Torrential rain going through a gorge kept the speed limit down, i.e. 2 speed wipers couldn’t keep up. We have stopped at Ogden Utah, and yes I’m old enough to remember that this was the hometown of the Osmond (i.e. Donny Osmond), but not old enough to remember the dinosaur that we are going to see today – Eccles Dinosaur Park. Ogden is surprisingly quite big. Being in a Mormon state virtually nothing was open yesterday (Sunday) which is quite unusual for the USA.
Also heading into Salt Lake City to view the lake today too.
The sun is shining, hopefully the rain will stay away. The bottom of the state has been hit by a deluge of floods, so we will have to rethink our driving next week when we come back to Southern Utah after the wedding in Boulder.
Happy day everyone
Jane and family

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Landed in Utah

Just landede in Ogden Utah, totally unexpected. Hope everyone is enjoying the blog, would love to know it makes sense to you all?????


Yesterday we drove from Butte Montana, through Yellowstone National Park, The Grand Teton National Park and came to rest at Jackson, Wyoming.
What a day
8600 feet above sea level, huge snow drifts either side of the car that in fact were higher than the car, frozen lakes, and towering mountains that at times were completely circling us. Not only that but we watched Old Faithful blow – this geyser blow for between 30 and 100 minutes, and about 120 feet high, using about 8-10,000 gallons of water each time. It was fascinating to watch. We arrived about an hour before it blew, the crowd was small. But by the time it did its thing, there were well over 1000 people sitting on the boardwalk waiting for the ‘show’. It was well worth the wait.
The temperature was hot, the snow at our feet. Such a strange combination. Before we entered the park at the western entrance, we stopped and had lunch, walked around the town with its old world look. The girls and Neil went tot he Grissly Bear and Wolf exhibition. The staff come out and hide food for the bears which they then had to hunt for. Wolves have become a bit of a problem in the park again. Apparently t hey were reintroduced some years ago, but have bred well and now are coming out to hunt a bit.
Leaving the town we entered the park through gates – There were four lanes going in – paying $25 entrance. Took ages as each car got a ‘lecture’ about rules etc. But once in, we hadn’t gone more than a few miles when we were surrounded by Bison. They wandered everywhere, it was wonderful. At one time we had bison within 2-3 feet of the side of the car. They seemed such placid gentle creatures. There were elk and bisen grazing through the park. For me this was the highlight of my day.
Before we entered the park, we found ‘another’ car place. Just driving through Montana we came upon the ‘Montana Classic sales.’ It was kind of like a wreckers yard for old cars. Heaven for Neil. You name it, it was there.
We were on the road for 12 hours yesterday. A record for us. It was exhausting, but fabulous and a real day to remember. We arrived in Jackson exactly 12 hours after we had left Butte.
We are going to discover Jackson today. But first impressions is that it has kept the old buildings so that the town holds onto its heritage.
Right, back to snooze for a bit!
Catch you all tomorrow.
Jane and family


Pinkie has had an outing. Meant to tell you yesterday. Pinkie came with us to Deer Lodge when we visited the prison. She was arrested and put behind bars!

Jane and family

Friday, May 22, 2009


We’re staying put today in that we don’t have to load up the car with the increasing luggage (Anzhela’s shopping is to blame). By 9am we headed out to Deer Lodge (a small town about ½ hour away) This small town is home to the county’s old prison which dates back to the late 1800s and was actively used until about 1960s and closed down after a riot. At one time it would hold up to 700 prisoners and there was also a small women’s prison adjacent. The earliest female prisioner to arrive at its doors was in 18****. It also houses a huge collection of vintage cars! Suprise! There are approximately 120 cars dating back to the horseless carriage and the early Model As and other brands. Interestingly, I saw poster that said in the 80 year car industry in the USA there have been over 18,000 different styles of cars manufactured.
The other small museum – which is a pioneer/mining museum was closed, so we ended up lunching in the supermarket carpark – not very classy I know. But Safeways the supermarket chain was having a $5.00 sale for 6 pieces of cooked chic ken. Only after we had eaten did we find out that there was a picnic area about 20 metres away! Actually that is one thing we haven’t seen a lot of. Just areas to pull off and eat on the roadside.
Next we drove back passed our motel and headed into the township of Butte. It is a mining town, originally gold, then silver and finally copper. Dotted all around the township are the gallus*** which designate where a mine was once active. There is a huge mining pit at the south end of the town which is no longer active and nor are the vast – almost a whole mountainside – of dig outs** where the ground has been excavated for minerals.
The township was surprising. It’s on a hillside. Surprising because I didn’t expect it because most of the towns we’ve been into so far have been flat. In its heyday the town boasted a population of 115,000, now it’s about 43,000. It looks a bit neglected, but is full of grand brick buildings and once grand houses which denotes is historical past. In its day it was the biggest town between Philadelphia and Seattle.
We then found the Mineral Museum which was a great find – and free- It is set within the Butte Tech buildings and is the place where they monitor earthquakes – the area has in the past had several quakes. The room was full of display cases of minerals, mostly from the area, or the USA, but some from as far away as Namibia. Also was a mini video on the history of mining in the area. Very insightful.
The temperature today is hitting the high 60s and it is very noticeable. We’ve had such vast differences – lowest of 38deg F to today’s of about 68deg F. All in the space of a couple of days. Actually we were talking to a couple this a.m. who were trying last night to get into their holiday home but had to turn back about 50 yards from it as there was too much snow!
The sky is pure blue and cloudless. I don’t think I have ever seen such big skies...but I think i’ve heard them call the state Big Sky Montana or something like this.
Right now, Neil and Anzhela are doing the underground tour of the mine, while Yana and I chicken out and stay atop.
Neil and Anzhela’s report on going into the mine
Cold, dark and damp. Underground Butte is riddled with tunnels, though they only went through 3. Saw lots of drilling equipment that was used for mining for copper. They had to wear helmets with little lights on. A railway line is used for the buckets which remove the rubble. They saw one of the only 15 ever made snowmobiles that were made by Ford Motor Company. The mines shafts went down about two thousand feet though they went down only about 30 feet below ground.
So it’s been a great day, very interesting and the Mineral Museum where Anzhela had at first declared she didn’t want to go in because it would be boring, finally admitted she was wrong!!!!
Onto Yellowstone next

Jane and family

Thursday, May 21, 2009


What an exciting day of contrasts
We left Coeur D’alene at 9am after trying to book motels for this coming weekend with not much luck – It’s Memorial day here on Monday so a long weekend. Everything is booked up in Yellowstone, so we may have to divert somewhat.
However, we’ve had a fab day. We had a steep climb out of CdA through more snow-capped mountains, houses dotted through the area where you wouldn’t believe people lived. I mean i couldn’t see where they would work, or could survive. But sure enough there were lots of small communities with just houses and not much else. We stopped to get gas at Alberton which boasted a road side sign announcing it had a bookstore with over 100,000 books – and it’s true!
A tiny house turned into a bookshop with barely room to move, but all categorised. Shelf after shelf. A definitely writers/reader’s paradise! But in fact i only left with one book – hard to believe.
Next we tried to find the ghost town down the highway, but couldn’t find it – reckon that’s why it’s a ghost town! Ha ha ha. But we stopped at Philipsburg. It’s an old mining town which is set against a hillside and is really cute. Locals have restored the buildings and recreated the town as a bit of a tourist stop. One store has been turned into a candy store and sells over 920 varieties of candy, plus 87 flavors of jelly beans, including NZ licorice all sorts. Kid’s heaven! We had lunch there in an old fashioned diner and then headed south. A small town which once boasted 1500 people and now has only 1000 but has 3 churches! The area around it was farm country backed by mountains, but once again for this kiwi, very few farm animals.
Leaving Philipsburg, we realised a few miles later we had missed the 2nd ghost town! - see it's a ghost - u can't see it! ha ha ha. Then we found something so unique for us - it was wonderful. Georgetown Lake - actually 2 lakes and for kiwis u can figure out the size - this wud have been as big as or nearly as Lake Taupo. But the exciting thing was it was still frozen over - i mean right across, only the first few feet at the edges were watery. We saw a few frozen dead fish, but beneath a piece of ice we chipped off were fish still doing their fishy thing - despite the thick crust of ice.
The landscape once through this area – which i think was named Glacier National Park, has changed considerably. Brown rolling hills, backed by mountains, trees dotting the hillsides, but nothing like earlier.
Now were in Butte, munching on our candy. We’re staying here a couple of days doing trips around the area, so should have lots more to tell you then.

Happy reading
Jane and gang