my oh-so-normal life

Location: California, United States

There are no random acts. We are all connected. You can no more separate one life from another than you can separate a breeze from the wind. (the five people you meet in heaven)

Monday, July 31, 2006

Sydney, my love

Last year R went to Sydney and told me that I would love it. One thing I’ve learned is that I should always listen to R. He always turns out to be right. (Even if I don’t believe him at first.)

Sydney is fantastic. I love Sydney. I wouldn’t mind living there. The city itself is gorgeous, the weather was outstanding (even in winter), and the atmosphere vibrant. There are fantastic places to visit: The Opera House, The Rocks, Darling Harbour, Chinatown, and much more. It’s too bad that it’s so far away. Otherwise, I would be tempted to hop a flight right now.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

All Joking Aside, A Sobering Fact

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Aventuras en Melbourne
Part IX, Returning the Hired Car
Since our issues with a rental seemed to be never-ending, it’s only fitting that it was no picnic to take back the car. Does that surprise you? I know it shouldn’t have surprised us, but yet....

We took the right exit and searched the road for the correct number. We finally found it, but the rental agency was no longer at the address on the business card we had. We stopped at a hotel to use the pay phone. It was broken. When we asked if there were a phone we could use (and we offered to pay for the call), we were told there was nothing at the hotel and that we need to go to a milk bar down the road. Um, what’s a milk bar? As time ticked away, we drove down the street and saw a Mobile station. Hard left into the parking lot and quickly to the pay phone. We called the number on the card, a man answered, and I explained the situation. He figured out where we were (turned out to be just around the corner from the agency’s current location) and said that he driving and would come get us so that we could follow him back. It turned out to be our friend Mark. And the story has a happy ending: we made our plane.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Aventuras en Melbourne
Part VIII, Returning to the Hotel, a.k.a. Remembering How to Drive
Approaching Melbourne, we were not sure what exit to use to get back to the hotel. We had the complication of no toll pass for the day, so we were a bit worried about making a mistake. We took one of the first exits as we approached the city, but as we came to a light at the end of the exit, we had the further complication of a traffic light. Should we go left, right, or straight ahead? Little time to think, we ended up going straight ahead which turned out to be a dead end. Once turned around, we were back at the light, but now facing the opposite direction from where we were a few minutes prior. At this point, we knew that we didn’t want to go straight. We decided to turn right.


Driving for a couple seconds, So suddenly says, “Wait a minute. Are we driving on the wrong side of the road?” Well, yes, we were. On five lanes of divided highway, coming around a curve, we were on the wrong side of the divided highway. Luckily, I was in the far right lane and there was a sidewalk. We pulled up onto it just as the cars started coming around the bend. So said that God must have had his hand on our heads. Thank the lucky stars for that.
The irony is that we didn’t need this sign on The Great Ocean Road (where we found the sign), just in Melbourne’s CBD.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Aussie Road Signs

I guess there's vandalism everywhere....

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Aventuras en Melbourne
Part VII, The Twelve Apostles

Both So and I had seen photos of The Twelve Apostles which inspired our trip to The Great Ocean Road.
The Twelve Apostles is located near Port Campbell, the turning point to head back to Melbourne. As we headed past Apollo Bay, the weather turned bad and began to pour. Our luck was incredible as it stopped raining just as we were pulling into the parking lot. While it was cloudy, the landscape was simply stunning, you-can’t-believe-your-eyes-stunning. Our luck held as it only began to rain again as we were headed back to the car. Through the precipitation, we headed back to Melbourne.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Aventuras en Melbourne
Part VI, The Great Ocean Road Koala Hunt
The Great Ocean Road Adventure continues, past kilometer after kilometer of breathtaking scenery with the intent of... finding koalas.

At the tourist information center in Torquay, the employee helping us also indicated a place where we could see koalas. He told us where to leave The Great Ocean Road, that we needed to drive about 500 meters up the road, then he said, “Get out, look up, and be careful not to get hit by their droppings.” While So and I thought that we would be lucky to see a kangaroo, we thought that the koalas would be hanging off the trees. We drove, and drove, at about 5 km/hr. We finally spotted one koala. In about 45 minutes, we found a total of five, high up in the trees. Luckily, we didn’t encounter any droppings.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Aventuras en Melbourne
Part V, The Great Ocean Road Kangaroo Outing
So and I had both seen photos and thought that The Great Ocean Road looked spectacular. It is. It’s breathtaking and awe-inspiring, even in the if-y weather we had the day we drove from Melbourne to Port Campbell and back.
Once we got to Torquay, we stopped at a tourist information center. The older man assisting us seemed very knowledgeable and indicated great places to stop on the map he provided us. He asked, “Where are you from? Do you want to see kangaroos?” We unabashedly and enthusiastically said, “Yes!” He told us to drive to a golf course in Anglesea and that if we drove up alongside, we would see some kangaroos. He also added, “Take one home with you.” So and I both thought that we would be lucky to see a kangaroo. We were astounded not only by the number we saw but also by how close we were able to get to them. I later learned that while Australia’s population is approximately 10 million people, the kangaroo population is approximately 50 million. Hmmmmmm.
My dad always complains about Canada geese and the dropping they leave on boat docks and golf courses. I’m now sure he would not want to play on a golf course where kangaroos live....

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Aventuras en Melbourne
Part IV, Directions

There are always lots of jokes about getting directions. One of my favorites comes from a “Men’s Rules” mail that says, “Christopher Columbus didn’t need directions and neither do I.”
Well, So and I are much more practical minded. We found our way from the Yarra Valley to Berwick (pronounced Ber-ick) without a hitch. Only, I couldn’t remember how to get to M’s from there. We knew we needed directions. And we asked. And we asked. At the gas station. At another store. To some random guy pumping gas at yet another gas station. The last one was the straw that broke the camel’s back. He sent us 180 degrees in the wrong direction. Finally, I returned to a place where I knew M could give me directions from, Dan Murphy’s. Too bad we didn’t have time to go in. We were late but finally made it. That’ll teach me to ask directions from just anyone.

As a side note, M is a fantastic gourmet cook. Tea would be jealous.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Aventuras en Melbourne
Part III, The Yarra Valley
The adventure (belatedly) continues....
So and I headed up to the Yarra Valley, driving around Melbourne and up to the vineyards and gorgeous scenery.

We had decided to find a place for lunch once we’d arrived. As we drove kilometers through never-ending gorgeous scenery, we happened upon the Yarrawood Estate which offered lunch in their cafe. We tried several wines and ordered two meals (which we of course split so that we could taste everything!)

Fantastic food, wonderful wine, and with full stomachs we set off toward the town of Yea. We decided that we had to go there just for the name. A quaint little town, we got out and walked around a bit before heading back toward Melbourne.

One of the greatest things about having a rental car is that you can stop on the side of the road as often as you like to take photos. This is a big thing with me. As we were driving down toward Melbourne, the sun was setting, and the valley was gorgeous. I pulled over to take a few shots. When So opened the passenger door, she screamed and slammed it shut. She told me that there was an animal out there and she wasn’t sure if it were alive or dead. We both crawled out the driver-side door and looked. After determining that the animal was not breathing, we approached to find out that it had been hit by a car. It was our first look at a wombat, and the only one we saw in the wild. On that note, we left the Yarra Valley and headed back to M’s for dinner.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

T-shirts seen in Sydney
Tell your boobs to stop staring at my eyes.

F*** You. I have enough friends.

24 Hours in a Day.
24 Cans in a Case.

I am not an alcoholic.
Alcoholics go to meetings.

Jesus is coming. Look busy.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Aventuras en Melbourne
Part II, Hiring a Car

We wanted to see some of Melbourne’s outlying area and decided to hire a car for a couple of days. We booked online through expedia and secured a two-day rental with Advantage. We took a taxi to the airport and were dropped off at the rental car area; however, there was no Advantage. We hadn’t yet realized that the adventure was actually getting the car, not where we were going. We asked around, but no one had heard of Advantage. An exceptional employee at Thrifty looked up Advantage in the yellow pages, online, and tried to call. We couldn’t get through, but we now had an address and took a second taxi there. The address was for Atlas not Advantage. Strike two and we were left with the only option of returning to the airport where we found an internet access point but could not cancel the rental. We did find a local number and called to try to cancel the reservation but were told that it was use it or lose it so we consented to being picked up by the rental agency’s poor unsuspecting Mark. Close to half an hour later we were back near Atlas rental at Red Spot, the Australian contracting partner for Advantage. Mark had listened to us recount our morning’s adventures down to the last detail, including how we had no pen and had to write the rental agency number with lipstick. Poor Mark was ready to head for the pub once he’d finished with us and readily admitted it. Keys and map in hand, we hopped into the car and headed to wine country.