A Travellerspoint blog

Day 30

San Francisco

semi-overcast 8 °C

The day dawned for me with a look out across San Francisco Bay towards the airport where the constant arrival and departures of planes indicated that so many people in the world are setting off or returning from their adventures, some as part of a trip like I have been engaged in and some whose adventure at this stage is for work or some other reason. I am learning again that the whole of life is an adventure, no matter what we are doing and I need to treat it as such to get the full benefit of my living.
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What a day it was. I had light breakfast after last night’s huge feed at Max’s and repacked everything again. I would like to think that I am getting good at this but I think it is really just swapping things around a bit, however it makes me feel that I am doing it better than I was. I probably need to write a guide to packing for a ‘Bucket List’ trip and it would be to take only half the stuff you think you need, but I was traversing some varying weather and so I have an excuse for having too much.

The Airport shuttle to the Airport and then to negotiate the ‘BART’, the (Bay Area Rapid Transport) it is the underground into San Fran. That is quite efficient apart from the difficulty of getting a ticket out of a machine that does not seem to understand the simplicity of putting your money in and getting a little piece of paper out. I walked Market Street as that is the main drag and I was looking for the Big Red Bus but there were so many interesting things that it took a while. I covered a good deal of the Street from the Glen Park right down to the port buildings that were once the entry point for all people coming to San Fran by ship.
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Where I started the trek was in a not so affluent area and there were a many people who were not doing as successfully as they would like and then a bit closer to the bay where the well known stores have their presence, Bloomingdale’s, Nordstrom’s and Macey’s among them. I went on the Cable Tram last time I was here and so I did not feel the need to do it again but I had forgotten that when it reached Market Street it went onto a turntable to turn it around, but it was manual and a tram employee is there all day to manually push the thing around. I had a look at the Market at the end of Market Street that is the entry terminal for the city and it really had some nice shops and then others that were a little different.
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the great thing about travelling is always the people that you meet and I found this guy in Market Street with a stall giving people a taste of Chia tea with a North Melbourne scarf around his neck, so I had to ask what it was all about and he indicated that he bought it in Melbourne a few years back and he just liked wearing it.
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I walked all the way round from Pier 1 to pier 42 and had a little look around some of the more interesting ones and was amazed at the number of interesting and creative characters that were out there doing their thing, and then I found the Big Red Bus. It was not a holiday or a weekend and so for quite a few stops I was the only person on the top deck and possibly the reason was that it was really cold, not ‘St Petersburg cold’ but I only had a light jacket and it got worse when we crossed over the Golden Gate Bridge, however this is a spectacular city full of colour and energy and some of the buildings are beautiful. It seems a shame that there is a fault line running underneath the whole place.

The Capital Building is amazing and they tell me that there are over 600 dampers odd rubber shock absorbers underneath the main structure to protect it from a potential earthquake in the future. There are many houses built in the Queen Anne Style, and other styles that just seem to be out of picture books. The commentator on the bus’s recording said something about a trip to San Francisco is not complete unless you have visited this place and that place etc, etc: and I thought that in just a few hours I would be off to Hong Kong and I might never see this place again so I would have to settle for just a ‘half look’ at San Fran.
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Of course we drove across ‘The Bridge’ and I had done it before and it is spectacular but no more spectacular than Sydney Harbour Bridge but you do get a great view of the Bay and looking the other way the rugged coastline of the Pacific Ocean.
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Then it was time to head back and so on to the BART and chance to case out the International side of the Airport and then pick up the bags and get sorted out for the 15 hours to Hong Kong.
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Although my memories of San Fran are coloured somewhat because the last time I was here was before 9/11 and the day before that dastardly event I was touring the city and a few days later I was touring the surrounds with my good mate Steve so there was a tinge of sadness for me, however It was also in San Fran, or more precisely, San Hose that I encountered Starbucks for the first time and it was in this area of the world that, like so many people I re-evaluated what I was doing in my life and decided to become more involved in things that made a difference in the world, so I have very special memories of this place.

San Francisco is an exciting place with lots of things happening, with a totally different feel to Chicago and Austin. I was at the airport early and we took off on time as far as the schedule was concerned and on time for the conclusion of this adventure.

Was it worth it? This will be a question that will need to be answered from a number of different viewpoints. I desperately wanted to stand in Red Square in the middle of winter like Sean Connery in ‘The Russia House’, and all the other things hung off that but when I stood there it did not seem like the place I was familiar with from the movie, so I felt a little let down; however that was just the catalyst. The things that made this trip for me was catching up with old and new friends and as far as places St Petersburg was the highlight followed closely by all the other places that I visited; no exceptions. The world really is an amazing place and yes it is my world.

I was asked yesterday has this quelled my appetite for adventure. Yes and no; for the time being I am really over packing and doing the Belt, Braces and Belongings for the security check, and the 14 planes that I have been on in different places of the world, and the many officials who seemed to question my sanity when the look at my itinerary, there were others who question it also, but I am increasingly becoming aware that the whole adventure thing is not about where you are or even about what you are doing but how you think and how you relate to the adventure within.

In a few days I will be back in Riverton and it is the absolute opposite to all of the places where I have been but there are adventures there, I have no doubt, awaiting my return, my hope is that I will be able to see them and to grasp hold of them for all the future days that are in store for me.

Posted by Fletch1 01.03.2012 17:29 Archived in USA Comments (1)

Day 29

To San Francisco

sunny 12 °C

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The day started as with so many recently and that was revolving around packing, but it was a very easy morning because I was with two great people who were just so supportive, and then it was off to the airport, which is quite special. It is different to any other Airport That I have been too in couple of areas in that there is often live music and this reflects that the city focus on the Arts and on the baggage carousel they have a few larger than life, very colourful guitars. Also; all the shopping and food outlets were started in Austin, so it is possibly the only airport in the world that does not have a Mc Donald’s outlet.
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It is just a commuter trip to San Francisco and so the plane was one of the smaller varieties with the smaller seats, and the guy next to me, whose wife and baby were at the front of the plane, had brought along his own food because this service did not provide anything. That’s OK, you might say but he had a big plastic bag with two full plates of food that he kept sharing with his wife and so there were regular trips to the other and of the plane. Now a few snacks is Ok but this guy had a full three course meal that was quite aromatic and when he swapped it his wife it was a Roast Pork dinner with gravy and the works. I had to chuckle to myself because at one stage it was nearly in my lap. Some people do things very differently.

I arrived at San Fran and they had a very efficient series of Hotel Shuttle services and so I arrived at the Holiday Inn Express in Burlinghame, just south of the Airport. The last time I was here was with my good friend Steve, and there was a little Jazz band playing as we arrived at the market in the main street and it was playing San Francisco Bay Blues, which I was tremendously impressed with. So it just goes to show many people have strange quirks with their eating and sometimes I have some strange quirks in what impresses me. We really are all the same.

After I unpacked ready to get ready for my trip back to Hong Kong, I went next door to Max’s for something to eat. It was a nice place with a good atmosphere, I had a steak that was really nice and they had some live music with a guy playing the piano and another guy who sang with him for a couple of numbers, but they were really good and just finished the day off nicely.
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Posted by Fletch1 28.02.2012 21:49 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Day 28

Austin Home of the Longhorns

sunny 18 °C

The first stop for today was a trip into the home of the Texas Longhorns. Sid and Bitsy were keen for me to be part of the ‘in crowd’ here in Austin and dress and look like a ‘Longhorn’.
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I knew that this was a great Football team and I knew that Sid and Bitsy were keen supporters so we had our picture taken with “Bevo’ the Longhorn bull which is the mascot and I learned that at every home match they have a real live huge Longhorn bull on site as the team mascot. I had my picture taken with Sid in front of a picture of the ground on play day and so I was well on the way to achieving the status of a ‘Longhorn’.

I was to learn that a true Longhorn was someone who was or had been a student of University of Texas and that all the sporting teams were part of the Longhorn tradition. However nothing could have prepared me for entry into the ‘Longhorn shop’.
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Sid told me later that my face showed stunned amazement as we walked in because there was everything that you could ever want there with a Longhorn logo on it. Some of the pictures will tell a very small part of the Longhorn brand but here I was in a store with three floors dedicated to Longhorn merchandise and all the books that the students would need for their studies at the University of Texas. I was supplied with hats and shirts to tell all who saw me that I am a 'Longhorn' and I was even given a longhorn badge for the back of the car. I am not sure what the gentle folk of Riverton are going to think about all this but it is an experience that just dazzled my senses. They raise in excess of $USD60 million just from merchandise and it is one of the most recognized brands in the country. I was told that on Game Day and during the Football season it is simply packed out.
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I am a very keen supporter of the Sydney Swans but my collection of memorabilia extends to a scarf and a beanie and what I experienced in the Longhorn Store put me to shame. There is always an energy and enthusiasm with Americans that I am jealous of and I tried to work out how and over how many years does it take to generate this passion for something. The marketing of the brand and what it represents would have been a huge undertaking and I see it here for all sorts of things from football to politics that makes our Australian culture so different in comparison.

We looked some more and I saw not only hundreds of T shirts and hats but there was even a sports jacket with the Longhorn Logo on the buttons and a large burnt orange Longhorn logo inside the coat. There were ties and shirts, casual and dress shoes, all the sports clothes that you could wave a stick at and balls and helmets, there was even a complete bedroom suite in the colours and even jackets and bibs for your favourite pooch. There were pens and books and long, tooled leather Texas Cowboy boots as well as branded sports shoes.
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I was impressed and so very happy to join in the enthusiasm that almost seems to just carry you along with it. It took me a while to get over all this and I am still not sure if I have.

As we were driving to lunch at The Tavern we followed a Ford SUV, that was painted in the 'Longhorn' colors, and when we parked alongside it, we found that the driver was a friend of Sid and Bitsy and so I was introduced and I asked if I could take a picture of his 'Truck'; he was quite happy and guess what he was dressed in 'Longhorn Gear'.
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I have been impressed with the places that we have been to eat and I am also impressed with the quality of food, it is really excellent. The size of the serves are large and there is no such thing as a 'small' coffee of soft drink, but that is I suppose the diners choice. One also has to mention that fantastic service culture that I have experienced here, it is really just a pleasure to experience this level of service. We went to the Tavern which again, on Game Days, Sid tells me, would be packed and there would be a lot of different NFL games on all the different monitors around the place.
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What can I say after this experience I will have to be a 'Longhorn'
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It has been an honor to be with Sid and Bitsy in their home, but also to share the pride that they have in their community, which I guess what all this is about what the 'Longhorn' Culture represents. For me, it raises a lot of issues about what, this means for me and my involvement in all the communities that I am part of; not just where I live in Riverton but also all the groups that I am involved with. Thank you friends for this new injection of enthusiasm that in many ways can be an emotion that can change the world, or our little part of it.
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Then it was back home for a BBQ and a movie. Just simply a great day, and tomorrow; another new adventure.

Posted by Fletch1 27.02.2012 05:28 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Day 27

Austin

sunny 25 °C

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Austin is I have been told one of the friendliest cities in the States, and when I went to the Mall to get a battery for my watch, the Pakistani proprietor of the watch place heard my accent and asked if I follow the Cricket I said of course and we had a long discussion about Cricket and then he looked at me intently and said “Did you know that Austin is the friendliest city in America?” So I was able to respond ‘Yes! I have heard that’. Sid reckons that I would be the only person in the Mall who would have known when he started talking about Cricket. Then it was a little bit more shopping and we went to a healthy option diner called ‘Jason’s Deli’ that was really good and the food was fantastic.
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We found a Starbucks and I bought an ‘Austin Starbucks mug’, life is now complete!
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We then drove around the town for a bit and I never knew that Austin was on the famous Colorado River and it forms a central waterway through the city providing a very nice water playground type atmosphere. We drove past the Capital Building and it was spectacular; dressed in its Pink Texas Granite, when all the others that I had seen where stark white, but then we are in Texas and I understand that it is the only state that has permission to secede from the Union if it wants too and I almost heard echo’s of Western Australia and Scotland, but it is very unlikely to consider it seriously. It is also the only state where the State flag can fly at the same height as the Stars and Stripes. So it really is a quite special and different state to all the others. We drove past the home of the University of Texas Football Team, the Texas Longhorns and again I remembered the T shirt that Sid gave me one year at MDU and I had a picture taken with it at the Curdimuka outback ball one year. Memories seem to be abounding everywhere I go.
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This is the tag for all the sports from Austin University and their football franchise is one of the most lucrative in the realm of college football. They have recently added an end zone building to the ground and although not covered has possibly the largest replay screen in the states, possibly the world.
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We drove around the city and Sid and Bitsy should start a tourist business, as well as all the other things they are doing, because I am finding that there is so much to know about Austin that they couldn’t put it all into a brochure. Like all the food and coffee outlets at Austin Airport are all businesses that were started in Austin so it is possibly one of the few airports in America that does not have a Macca’s. There is so much more fascinating information that I almost want to come and live here, it is a sister city to Adelaide and I am waiting for the 'Mayoral Invitation' to a City Reception before I leave.
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We saw some great views of the city more of the history of things that are not necessarily recorded in history books and it was off to dinner at the Hula Hut. As you would expect it had the Hawaiian feel and the food was again very tasty and looked good on the plate. Then it was back home and a blob in front of the TV to watch a movie.
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Another great day and I am looking forward to tomorrow.

Posted by Fletch1 25.02.2012 08:36 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Day 26

To Austin

sunny 23 °C

We started the day with Breakfast at Macca’s and it was a bit different to the Aussie variety, but I guess that the calorie and nutritional content are the same. Then it was off to the Freeway to get to O’Hare airport where I was due to fly to Austin. It was a plane trip and being the 12th of this trip rated about in the middle so I was cool about that.
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I am still wearing my ‘Pea Coat’ that I really needed in Russia has become a burden in a sense, leaving all the cold behind, I no longer need it. Arriving in Austin I was met by Sid and Bitsy, my really good friends who supported Madison Down Under for 10 years, and who were constantly rated the among the best presenters, there they were and after a very warm welcome to ‘their town’ Sid said “You’re not going to need that coat here in Austin, my friend!” and he was dead right, the weather is beautiful and mild.

We then went back to their place and we were able to catch up on what was happening and where people were, we talked about fundraising, of course, a lot of other things. I am always impressed with the pride that they have in Texas and the 'Longhorns'. At one of the MDU's I received a Longhorn T shirt and wore it in Outback Australia on a trip that seems light years ago. I was able to get myself together after the flight and sort out where the clean stuff is, and it was out to at Sid and Bitsy's favourite Tex-Mex hole in the wall. They guided me through the intricacies of a strange menu and it was as promised tasty and delicious. Then back to their place for a bit of a sleep.
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It was a day of travelling, but it was so good to be with Sid and Bitsy who after working with them almost for ten years at MDU seem like part of my extended family, sharing memories of previous time, catching up on what is happening now and even thinking about the future was just really fantastic.

Posted by Fletch1 25.02.2012 08:12 Archived in USA Comments (0)

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