Rob and Noela

We love to see new things and places Small town America is our current favourite but it will not end there. Whether we travel by Harley or car we just want to take it all in. We look forward to you following our travels.
Living in: Brisbane City, Australia
  • Day31

    Epilogue, Forestlake QLD

    July 15 in the United States

    This trip was 12 months in the planning and from the outset we had an idea of what we wanted to see. This trip was originally going to be on bikes but with Harley dumping rentals and giving the job to Eagle Rider the prices went through the roof. We decided that we would hire a car and share the cost and spend the savings on other things.
    Accommodation: Our original plan was to wing it and find places on the fly, but it appeared that this ould not work so we advance booked a number of towns. Next trip this will need review, our timing coincided with summer break and as a result the prices were higher and vacancy availability low. That said we only had one day where we had to try several options.

    Parks Pass: The America the Beautiful pass was our saviour and the US$80 investment saved us a fortune literally. We estimate that each park would have cost US$ 15 to 20 per person to enter and we did 10 Parks and in the Tetons we entered it 3 times. It also allowed us entry into the Maritime exhibit in San Francisco so overall, we saved around $900. These are available in the US Forestry offices which are numerous.
    Car Rental: We hired from Thrifty, our ride was a current model Jeep Cherokee. It had all the bells and whistles including GPS. It was a good combination of space for its size and suited 4 people well. We still would have preferred bikes. Fuel averaged at less than $50 per day.
    Food: American food used to be inexpensive, not so anymore however it is plentiful and sharing a meal is a real option and Noela and I did that most nights and many lunches. Be ready for sweet and savory mixed together. There are plenty of options for salads and vege you just have to ask. If you like chips (hot variety) then ask for fries as chips are bags of crisps.
    Cash vs Cards: We took both a pre-loaded travel card as well as cash with a backup travel card. Cash was used sparingly, and the travel card worked well with no outlets knocking back our Qantas Travel card. Current exchange rate means that you are going to lose 30% on conversion and credit cards will attract an international transaction fee in addition to the FX hit.
    Tipping: Everyone wants a tip, some do not deserve it and you need to use your discretion on how much. Some add the tip to the bill. In a number of cases we removed it and did not tip. We figured if we are not going back bad luck. But generally, we tipped from 10 to 15%.
    National Parks: Absolutely stunning, the USA have stunning parks and they are well set out with information centres, and interpretive centres provided to give visitors a great understanding of what the will see. Make sure you take the time to visit these.
    Tours: We used the Red bus tours in Seattle, they were rubbish. The Big Bus company in San Francisco was just so much better. It pays to shop around and go with the biggest and best. There is a reason that they are the biggest. Eco Tours in Jackson were brilliant and whilst wildlife eluded us we learned heaps from them. It really pays to do your research into tours and activities and decide whether you do your own thing.
    Luggage: we travelled with around a week’s worth of clothes and found laundromats plentiful cheap and quick so washing was a once a week ritual.
    Overall the trip was a great success and for two couples to travel in one car and share so much time together we had very few moments of disagreement etc. We put this down to the planning and understanding what we all wanted to see, and if there were other things to do we were all happy to go separate ways and meet up at days end. The result was that we all enjoyed each other’s company and therefor enjoyed the trip. So for now there is only one more thing to do and that is decide when and where we are going to next time……… you will have to wait and see.
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  • Day29

    End of the Road, Santa Monica CA

    July 13 in the United States

    San Francisco was just waking up when we departed for our drive to Santa Monica and LAX, it was early but the traffic was not yet heavy and allowed us to pick our way out of the city and find the Bay Bridge. Once on the bridge things really get moving and the speed of the local traffic is daunting when you are trying to find exits etc. Before we knew it we were going through Oakland the second San Francisco whilst staying focussed on remaining on the H 505 and ultimately the I5.
    Once on the I 5 the boredom sets in we had a 6 hour drive ahead through pretty uninteresting country. A stop for Fuel and then some breakfast punctuated the trip through fields of crops and orchards with the only change being the distant ranges. There was still a fair amount of traffic and as we approached the outskirts of LA this increased.
    We arrived in Santa Monica at about 12.30 so the plan was to explore the area, then have a late final lunch together, and then head to the airport. Carl and Paola set off to find Venice beach whilst Noela and I stayed around the Pier and watched buskers. Santa Monica was bustling with people everywhere a real contrast to the scene 4 years ago. The beach itself was packed with people with many enjoying the freezing cold Pacific Ocean.
    We met the guys at 3.15 and enjoyed a light taste of Mexican food at the restaurant on the end of the pier, last photos were taken, last T shirts purchased and we made our way back to the car to do our final pack, fuel the car and do a quick trip through Malibu. As we headed off the pier we notice the traffic coming back down the coast was crawling so we scrapped the Malibu idea, thank goodness we did. As soon as we turned, on to the freeway to LAX the traffic stopped and what should have been a 30 minute drive took 1.5 hours. We finally got to Thrifty to return the car at 6.50 their shuttle had us at the airport 10 minutes later.
    We departed late due to some peanut getting lost after he had checked in so they had to offload his luggage. He then showed up so they reloaded his luggage and we were off. With a late departure we arrived late into Sydney thus missing our original connection, Noela and I cleared customs and made our rebooked flight to Brisbane but Carl and Paola were further back in the line and did not get back to Brisbane until about 5.00PM, they were not happy.
    So now comes the photo editing and recalling of memories, and I will put together an epilogue of the good the bad and the ugly.
    Thanks for being part of the journey.
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  • Day28

    Tenderloin, CA

    July 12 in the United States

    Well the sand is rapidly running out of the trip hour glass. Our 3rd breakfast at our favourite Café and back to the Wharf, Carl and Paola headed to downtown and we explored the maritime wharf. This is full of old ships and boats that were interesting.
    We queued for ages for the cable car and finally got our ride back down to union square where we had lunch and people watched for an hour or so. We reluctantly queued again for the return trip and began the sad process of packing.
    San Francisco has been a really great place and there is still plenty that we have not yet seen.
    Tomorrow will be an early start, to drive to Santa Monica and then LAX for our 10.30pm flight home.
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  • Day27

    Jimmy Hendrix, Haight Ashury, CA

    July 11 in the United States

    After our second Breakfast at Chestnut Diner Noela and I walked from West to East up Lombard Street and down the Zig Zag on the western side, from there we went looking for an Italian Restaurant that we found 4 years ago. On that occasion we had decided to have a meal alone rather than have dinner with the 5 other couples that we were travelling with. Noela and I were sitting at a table for two when we saw the others coming up the road and they came to the very same Italian Restaurant. We ended up having a meal with them anyway.
    So, with Carl and Paola doing the night tour again we were intent on having that dinner for two. We located Piazza Pellegrini on Columbus Street and got talking to the owner and told him our story. He does not normally reserve tables but in our case he did. When we returned at about 7.30 there was our table with a big RESERVED on it. It was a great meal and awesome service.
    After finding our place we walked the Italian sector inside out and back to front and then waked to the downtown area. Here we picked up the Big Bus and headed to the Northern side of the GG bridge. The bus passes through the Haight Ashbury district that was the hippie epicentre in the 60s with Jimmy Hendrix, Janis Joplin and others featuring heavilly in the tour commentaries. We did the walk across the bridge which was now shrouded in the fog that rolls in across the bay. It was freezing and blowing a gale by it really is a must do. With the Bridge walked it was into the city for some shopping, back to the room for a shower and then to our dinner engagement.
    As it turned out Carl and Paola did not get to do the night tour as the ticket for the night tour is a 1 off only.
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  • Day26

    Big Bus Tour, Fishermans Wharf, CA

    July 10 in the United States

    The Lombard Inn was a good choice for its central location, 25 minutes walk to Fishermans Wharf and similar to the down town area, we did have a scare when on the first night the shower was ice cold with the same happening the next morning. They got the boiler fixed and it has been all good since then reducing the room rate for one day $50.00.
    Last time we were here we used the Big Bus Hop on and Hop off service, we did the same this time buying the deluxe package which gave us 48 hours and the night tour and the Sausalito tour as well. We reacquainted ourselves with the cities colourful past, and its different sectors. We took advantage of the Sausalito tour today the wealthiest part of SF, rents are up around $17,000 per month. Robin Williams lived just down the road at Tiberon, and everyone that we spoke to or heard from just gushed about the man he was and what he did for the homeless. San Francisco is the poorer for his loss.
    We returned to the North point of the Goldengate Bridge, Carl and Paola continued to the southside where they walked the bridge whilst Noela and I went back to Fisherman’s Wharf where we listened and watched the buskers, watched the seals on pier 39, and generally walked and took in the sights.
    We caught up with Carl and Paola at 5.45PM to do the Big Bus night tour over the Bay Bridge and other parts. We had an awesome guide Blake Klemett who absolutely had us entertained all trip. By the time we got off the bus it was freezing with the coastal wind coming in.
    We can thoroughly recommend the Big Bus tour service.
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  • Day25

    Goldengate, San Francisco CA

    July 9 in the United States

    Well Red Bluff was one of those towns that Jason Aldean sings about, "Rearview Town", even the locals said to us why would you stay here. There had been a shooting just down the road from us with two police officers shot, they will be OK but the shooter died in when he crashed his car. All due to a random car check.

    We got away around 7.30 and headed down the US 5, 70 MPH and flat country so our eta to San Francisco was around midday. So what kept us occupied? several crop dusters, guessing what fruit was growing in the orchards you name it we played it.

    We decided to do a bay bridges tour on the way in so came in via San Pablo and this enabled us to take the North Western approach and visit the water side suburbs of Bellevue, Marin and Sausalito. We also visited San Quentin Prison which as we went to take pictures we were reminded by the guards that it is a live prison. Unfortunately the gift shop outside the gate was not open. Sausalito is a very hip place and we will go back to it on a Big red bus tour in the next day or two. We followed the coast road and came across Fort Baker at the North Eastern side of the Golden gate Bridge, wow what a stunning view, and it was here that a gun battery was set up to protect the inside of San Francisco bay in the early 1900s.

    We continued to the Western side of the bridge and a succession of lookouts where the views got better and better. We missed this 4 years ago as many people do. more gun emplacements an old radar installation and the Nike missile site. We saw harbour seals hauled out on the rocks and an amazing coastline. There are so many vantage points, the views are really captivating and it also make you think of the fate or survival of the escapee Frank Morris and his cohorts from Alcatraz prison.

    Finally we made our way across the Golden gate and into the city to find the Lombard inn. Chinatown was our destination for dinner thus ending a very busy day.
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  • Day24

    Lassen NP, Redbluff, CA

    July 8 in the United States

    Today marked our 10th National Park, it was not on the original plan but with Bob and Vicki recommending it we thought we had better have a look. For some reason we missed the border crossing into California and only knew we had when we got to the fruit check gates. So much for paying attention. Shortly after that we caught our first clear sight of yet another snow capped peak looming in the distance wow what a sight.

    Soon enough we turned off at Mt Shasta and headed for Lassen NP. It was certainly a beautiful drive and the park is spectacular. Time did not permit any walks and especially when we arrived at Lassen peak which demands a 4-5 round trip to the top. It was already getting late so the walk was out of the question. Noela found more snow to play in whilst we admired the spectacle.

    We started down the mountain from 8,500 feet and 53 degrees stopping at some various viewing areas and geo thermal mud holes and steam vents. Over the next hour we descended and finally reached Bed Bluff where the late afternoon temperature was 97 degrees.

    Laundry day today so we got that out of the way and headed of to Denny's for a quick bite. Tomorrow we head to San Francisco which pretty much marks our last leg of the trip so we need to make the most of our time there.
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  • Day23

    Tlalapauque to Klamath Falls, Sisters OR

    July 7 in the United States

    After a sleep in we are up and at em with another fantastic meal this Time breakfast. Vicki and Bob served us a great beak fast that left us not needing to eat until late in the day. Bob and Vicki have done an amazing job since we saw them last, in 2014 they were camped in a caravan/trailer with a cook house for food preparation and cooking. Four years later the home that they have built with all of the ditch digging for services and the fire mitigation work is absolutely astounding. We all congratulate them and are in awe of their efforts. The time had come to get on the road and as I do I found it very emotional but leave we must and so it was that we hit the road.

    Our first stop was bend to visit Bend or Wildhorse HD for some tips they gave us last trip, whilst there we met another Aussie guy there who has called Bend home. We think he was pretty happy to have a chat in his lingo. From Bend we carried onto Crater Lake National Park, we missed this last time and all we have heard is of how fantastic it is Well the guys were right. After miles of travel we caught our first glimpse of this natural wonder. With a depth of 592 metres and visibility of 142 metres the water is the most brilliant blue. No photo truly captures what the eye does but it was unbelievable. We spent several hours there including lunch and a couple of items from the gift shop.

    It was getting late in the day but we kept finding new things to stop at, including Fort Klamath that was a military outpost that provided a resting place for pioneering settlers in the 1800s. It contained yet another great small museum and a great guide.

    Finally we made Klamath Falls (by the way there are no falls at Klamath Falls) and rooms at the Super 8 Motel. We stumbled upon the Klamath Basin Brewing Company where a great little blues quartet was playing in a beer garden. We enjoyed a great meal along with a cold beer or two.

    The big
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  • Day22

    Timberline Lodge, Mt Hood, OR

    July 6 in the United States

    In 1994 I was taken to the Timberline Lodge by a Cascade colleague, I slept all the way there and back but memory told me that it was a special place. So it was put on the agenda for this trip. We set off down highway 26 stopping at the rangers station on the way to find the zig zag track. With the information we needed we found the turnoff required and headed into the wild. At the end of this road we found the trail/track and set off on foot to see yet another beautiful stream and waterfall. The forest was amazingly fresh and quiet. We can see why the locals love their hiking, there is just so much of it, but with stories of bear and cougars inn the area we were certainly very alert.

    Back in the car we started the climb to Mt Hood and the famous timberline lodge. America was very lucky to have a very visionary and ecologically savvy president in Roosevelt all those years ago as it was he that created Timberline and so many National Parks to preserve the land and wildlife.
    Timberline is fantastic built of local timer the workmanship has stood the test of time and is a fantastic structure. when it was built it provided much needed economic and employment stimulus.

    Mt hood it’s self is a very accessible ski resort with all year round snow and is the summer training ground of the USA ski team.

    After Mt Hood we headed for Sisters Oregon via Warm Springs and Madras where we stopped for a sandwich lunch. our destination Sisters is the home of great friends Bob and Vicki Hunt. We were welcomed as usual with open arms. Carl and Paola set off to find accomodation for themselves as we were staying at “Tlalapaque” the Hunt high desert home. The views from the house are outstanding, Mount Jefferson, Mt Washington, the Sisters and Three fingered Jack all stand like sentinels in the distance. With dinner planned for 6.30 Carl and Paola dragged themselves back getting the last room in Bend, they thought they might have to sleep in the car.

    Bob and Vicki excelled with dinner, a home cooked barbecue, salad with all the trimmings. It was great conversation and company and the night ended all to early. Our travelling buddies headed to bend and we fell exhausted into bed.
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  • Day21

    Downtown, Portland OR

    July 5 in the United States

    Portland is a beautiful city and we spent today cramming as much in as possible. The public transport here is brilliant, we jumped onto the Tri-met Maxrail at 8.00am for 5$ a head ride all day for 24 hours. With a quick stop and a coffee at Pioneer Square we boarded the max rail again and wnt up to Washington Park the home of Portland Zoo, the Japanese Garden, International Rose garden, Vietnam Vets memorial, a memorial to the Holocaust Victims and more.
    I was first taken to the Rose garden in 1994 and have always wanted to come back. From the terminus of the Maxrail there is a free shuttle every 15 minutes that runs through Washington Park. We got off the shuttle at the Rose garden, the rose fragrance is amazing and there are literally thousands of roses planted here. The oldest being a rose bush grown from a cutting from a plant 1000 years old.
    From here we went our separate ways with Carl and Paola going to the Vietnam Memorial and the Zoo and us walking the streets and taking in Portland downtown. Noela picked up some good bargains. We really enjoyed all of the different parts of the city including some of the weird ssites like the blue guy below. Reports from Carl and Paola are that the zoo is fantastic, and Carl got to appease his bear appetite again.
    We regrouped at the motel at 4.30 and visited the Columbia river adjacent to the airport where there is a whole community living in houseboats on the river. Portland is truly a wonderful place but for now we are packed and ready for our gypsy train to move on. Tomorrow we move on to visit Mt Hood and Sisters Oregon and some very special friends.
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