Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year

Happy New Year from Rob, Abi and Polly. May 2009 exceed your expectations.

What have we go to look forward to in 2009?
  • Bush leaving office
  • Spurs winning the Carling Cup
  • Obama taking over as President
  • Our vacation in Arizona
  • More amazing photographs
  • Our Phtography couse
  • My 41st birthday
  • .....too many things to mention.

Friday, December 26, 2008

My new toy...

.......a Nikon D90 I got this little bad boy for Christmas and it rocks. Details below. More photo's to come over the holidays.
  • 12.9 megapixel DX-format CMOS sensor (effective pixels: 12.3 million)
  • 3.0-inch 920,000 pixel (VGA x 3 colors) TFT-LCD (same as D3 and D300)
  • Live View with contrast-detect AF, face detection
  • Image sensor cleaning (sensor shake)
  • Illuminated focus points
  • Movie capture at up to 1280 x 720 (720p) 24 fps with mono sound
  • IS0 200-3200 range (100-6400 expanded)
  • 4.5 frames per second continuous shooting (buffer: 7 RAW, 25 JPEG fine, 100 JPEG Normal)
  • Expeed image processing engine
  • 3D tracking AF (11 point)
  • Short startup time, viewfinder blackout and shutter lag
  • Slightly improved viewfinder (96% frame coverage)
  • Extensive in-camera retouching including raw development and straightening
  • Improved user interface
  • Vignetting control in-camera
  • 72 thumbnail and calendar view in playback

Colour Popping

Just got a copy of Photoshop and I've been plaing around with it. Here's my first attempt at what is called colour popping. Changing the image to black and white and then using the history brusgh to bring the original image back in sections. This is Abi in Yellowstone this May.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

What I want for Christmas

I want a brand new house on an episode of Cribs
And a bathroom I can play baseball in
And a king size tub big enough for ten plus me

I'll need a
Credit card that's got no limit
And a big black jet with a bedroom in it
Gonna join the mile high club at thirty-seven thousand feet

I want a new tour bus full of old guitars
My star on Hollywood Boulevard
Somewhere between Cher and James Dean is fine for me

....When all I really want is a curry....

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Go Winnie

Winnie is about to be booked. Phoenix, April 2008. Details to be confirmed but I hope that Moab and Bryce will be on our list of places to visit. Along with Wupatki National Monument and Sunset Crater. We both love southern Utah and can't wait to get back there again. It's a fantastic place.

I've just been hooked up with another Apple TV which is now installed in our bedroom along with a very cute 19" lcd. Connected to our Mac media center we now have 1000 TV shows, 400+ Movies and 35+GB of music....all.....on...demand!!!! (the total rises daily).

I'm taking my first flight from T5 tomorrow. Only having been to arrivals for all of 5 minutes I'm looking forward to it. It's just a short flight to Munich , nothing too fancy. No other trips booked until mid January when we're off to Valencia for a photography course. Check out the Creative Escapes website for details.

Web Site of the month, CoolIris. Check it out, install the plugin and then go to Flickr or Google Images. It's AWESOME.

I'll leave you with this photo of a pueblo at Wupatki National Park, Arizona taken in April 2007.

Monday, November 10, 2008

It's me, yeah I cant get myself to go away

New playlist update. Dizzy has been dropped for Matchbox Twenty and 'Long Day'. Has to be my favourite track of the moment, a real Five Star effort. I'd also like to add 'Real World' (another MB20 track) and MC5 'Kick out the Jams'. Rock on!!!! Interesting type 'Worlds Best Lyric' into google and see who comes to the top of the list.

I've also found my next purchase - a Nikon D90....'I want one of those'. I handled one at a camera store recently and it felt fantastic. It felt.....right - that's the only way I can describe it. Perfect balance, comfortable - strange but it felt...well I'll revert to my original comment....it felt right. The camara fund sits at £200, only another £700 to go (if I want to 55 - 300 lens).

Take care and please, please listen to Matchbox Twenty - go out and get yourself a copy of 'Exile of Mainstream', sit back, have a beer and listen. Either that or 'Frank Sinatra Live at the Sands' another classic (although there is no way I can compare Mr Thomas to the Chairman of the Board.) While I'm on the subject of Frank, it was interesting to note that the press compared Barak Obamas style (dress) to Frank (& the Rat Pack) and JFK.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

My Playlist

Just found MyPlaylist.com and within seconds I'd created my own. Just click on the image on the right hand side to play some of my favorite songs. This is the english version of my playlist, Aussies just won't appreciate the quality music so I'll do something different for them later. Perhaps a few INXS tracks and the sound of sheep might do it.

Dad - I've got a few tracks for you. I managed to find the complete 'Sinatra at the Sands' mp3 which has to be one of my top 5 cd's. I finished a Sinatra Biography last week. This is a man who put so much thought into the music, presentation, arrangement and diction. There isn't anyone like this guy today and to throw that in the mix with Count Bassie is just out of this world.

To quote Mr Sinatra “You gotta love livin', baby, 'cause dyin' is a pain in the ass.”

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Gone but won't be forgotten

The annual Robert 'Birth Week' is over for another year :-( We had a fantastic time and can look back on our trip to Florida with fond memories. After going on more active holidays for the past few years it was great to be able to sit back and relax. We are both glad we extended our stay on Anna Maria Island and didn't got to Orlando. It's a fantastic place and from what I can see has one of the best public beaches in Florida (excluding the Pandhandle). Just a very quiet and relaxing place to stay and I would recommend it.

Subject to the impact of the credit crunch we plan to go back there next September for more of the same. 352 days and counting.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Spare me a dollar...?

Got up early this morning and had breakfast at the 'Rod & Reel Pier' at the northern tip of the island. Overlooking Tampa bay this is one of the islands treasures. A little restaurant on the end of a fishing pier serving simple, well presented food with a view to die for. A great way to spend an hour of the morning.

From there we went back to the beach at low tide in search of Sand Dollars. After 30 minutes I located a nearly complete specimen but that was all that was to be found. We'll try again tomorrow.

Now it's back to the pool for some serious R&R.

Paradise

I went to Google and found the following.

Relaxaton: a feeling of refreshing tranquility and an absence of tension or worry

It just about sums up Anna Maria Island. A haven from the stress and strains of life. We've found our own little paradise and we aren't going to share it with anyone. However, if you are interested you could do well to check out the realtor we used.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Sights from my Birth Week


Currently in Florida spending 10 days relaxing while I turn 40. A lot less stressful than I anticipated and I'm having a fantastic time. Anna Maria Island in just south of Tampa on the Gulf Coast. A delightful, laid back beach community where time slows down. We're enjoying it so much we've cancelled our trip to Orlando and plan to spend another 3 days here. Spent yesterday evening on the beach watching a fabulous sunset and I forgot to put a battery in my camera. We're going to try again tomorrow night.

More photos published on Flickr. Abi got a new camera today so we may be publishing some video clips tomorrow. We plan on seeing the sunrise and sunset. Hopefully we'll have some great photos to upload.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Was Detriot all about Motown?

Not according to a documentary I saw last night. Think Alice Cooper, Iggy Pop and MC5. Who I hear you ask? Just check out the video while I go off to iTunes or Amazon and order their CD.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Where is Australia

I've probably watched the Olympics for a total of 20 minutes. Not really my thing but I'm still very impressed with the UK's standing after 10 days. To top it all we're beating Russia and Australia. I heard that the Aussie minister of sport had bet our minister that whoever loses will wear the winners team colours. Looks like the Aussies are going to be seeing a lot of red, white and blue. Interesting interviews with some Aussies in London on Breakfast news this morning. One guy commented that the UK was only good at sports where they could sit down for long periods of time - sailing, rowing, cycling!!! I hate to break it to you mate but we've won the women's 400 meters and got a silver and gold in the long distance swimming event.

Roll on 2012!!!!! These athletes have put the Great back in Britain. Well done.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

I'm listening to.....

..........
  1. You Oughta Know (Acoustic) - Analis Morissette
  2. The Thrill Is Gone - BB King
  3. Good Grief - Foo Fighters
  4. Mystify - INXS
  5. I can change - John Legend
And not forgetting, the great Joe Bonamassa & the fantastic track 'Another Kind of Love'.

...and some bloody Aussie said I didn't have taste.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

I'll be here....

......for my 39th (*2) or 40th birthday. Longboat Key, Sarasota, Florida :-) Can't wait.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Arches NP Sundown C 016


Arches NP Sundown C 016, originally uploaded by JamesWatkins.

Home away from home. Random Moab photo on Flickr. Fantastic view with the Rockies in the background.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Mac is dead, long live the mac

My iMac died yesterday, the hard drive packed up and after several hours of trying to fix it I gave up. I've replaced the hard drive and sold the iMac to a friend and ordered a replacement. I now have a brand new Mac Mini with a matching Iomega hard drive. Ordered at 2:30 today I got a shipping notice at 5 and it's on it's way to me. Should have it on Monday.
The plan is to install, load my 600GB iTunes library and stream it to the TV via a DVI to HDMI cable. Media on demand!!!!! How cool is that.

Monday, June 23, 2008

We're back

Back from another trip but now it's going to be three months before we go away again. Had a fantastic time in Italy and can't wait to go again. Check out the photo's we've uploaded to Flickr

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Italy here we come.....

Seeing as England didn't qualify for Euro 2008 we've decided to adopt Italy as our home team and head off there to watch their next match :-) Seriously we are off to Lake Orta with friends for the weekend. Draw a line between Turin and Milan and then head north to the Italian Lakes - not that far from the Swiss Alps. It's a return trip - we were there last year for a wedding and we're back for the anniversary. Can't wait - Italian food, weather and footie. What more could you want.

Looking forward to spending time in the plaza drinking coffee (or something alcoholic) and watching the world go by.

Good luck Italy!!!!!!!!

Friday, June 06, 2008

Nearly finished

We're heading back to Denver in 30 minutes - the RV goes back and we've got the weekend to explore the city and shop. Fantastic vacation - can't wait for the next one.

See y'all back home....A & R x

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Top of the Onion

Had a slow start yesterday - due to me being too lazy to get up. Drove northeast and took on the Onion Creek Trail - Very easy but a fantastic view and we must have crossed the Onion creek 15 times :-) Starting off from the main road you drive towards a canyon, then into it before finally coming out on top of it.

From there we attempted the 'Top of the World' trail. Classed as a moderate trail it was tough going at first but we managed to get 3/4 of the way along it before having to return to Moab. Abi was a star and managed to negotiate some difficult sections.

The drive back to Moab was interesting - a storm was brewing to the South West and gusting winds nearly pushed us off the road several times. Still we managed to get back to Moab, dropped off the jeep and then headed to Eddie McStiffs for dinner. After polishing off a Prime Rib and a Rack of ribs, half a bottle of wine and a couple of Amber Ales we headed back to Winnie.

It's been raining all night and today doesn't look any better. Heading back to Denver tonight, it's nearly the end of the vacation :-( Staying at Gamblers Edge RV Resort before returning the RV tomorrow.

More updates later. In the meantime I've posted a video of yesterday exploits to YouTube, see the embedded video below (Muzza - it should be working now).


Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Pucker Pass!!!! Pucker up

Took on Hurrah Pass and got lost!!!! So we had to retrace our steps. I say we got lost, actually we couldn't find the second half of the route. Every track we took appeared to be blocked. Came back for a swim and then went to Arches park to check out their 4*4 routes but the park ranger advised us against it. Instead we too the Gemini Bridges route to Dead Horse Point and then Long Canyon back to Moab. Didn't see the natural bridges but had fun all the some. Some interesting points involving travel on three wheels - also very impressed with the jeeps clearance. We went over some big rocks and didn't ground the jeep. Fantastic views of Arches and the Canyonlands. Pictures posted to Flickr. More 4*4'ing tomorrow, we're going to try the Onion Creek Trail :-)

Short video of todays attempt. Dad - do you recognise the song. I remember listening to this in your car over 25+ years ago. Downloaded it a couple of weeks ago and I think the guy is great.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Off Road Again!!!!

Moab here we come

After a four hour drive from Springville UT we arrived in Moab. This has to be the coolest place in the US and a personal favorite. I advise everyone to come here once, take a trip to Dead Horse Point and just sit there for an hour to two. It beats the Grand Canyon hands down.

It's a little warmer here - for the metrically
challenged it was 39 degrees when we left Wyoming yesterday and this afternoon it was 94 degree's in Moab. I'm typing this on a park bench next to Winnie. I've got to go back in shortly and get some air con.

We're staying at the Canyonlands campground in the Centre of Moab. Great location - the town is within walking distance and the trails are not that far away. Walked into town to pick up some more t-shirts (love my Moab t-shirts) and then got our jeep. We've got a modified silver Wrangler Jeep - with a 3 inch lift and larger tires - sounds pretty cool if you ask me. Very strange to drive on the road but I'm told it handles well off piste :-) Can't wait. We are starting off our 4*4 adventure tomorrow morning with an easy trail - Hurrah Pass. From there we may try something a little more adventurous like the Shafer Trail, Gemini Bridges or Chicken Run.



Monday, June 02, 2008

Sweet Home Utah!!!! :-)

Wyoming, Idaho and Utah. 450 miles and 9 hours driving. That's three western states - not your small east coast states. 450 miles of hard driving on Interstates, major routes and through mountain ranges - just me and my woman :-) Well I say me and my woman - she was asleep for a couple of hours. Can't take the pace.

At the present time we are in the East Bay RV Park just south of Salt Lake City in a town called Springville, UT. Finishing our trip with a visit to Moab tomorrow and some 4*4'ing!!!!!

Some thoughts on the trip so far - Idaho is well know for it's Potatoes and from what I've seen that's about it. Wyoming has to be twined with Wales - it's wet & very windy. Montana is fantastic and some parts of it remind me of Scotland. South Dakota is pretty cool too - seems to me it's the real wild west. Utah - well what can I say - I just loooove Utah although I15 through Salt Lake City is a bit of a mess. Let me rephrase that - I just loooove all of Utah below I70.

We both noticed that we've only be able to recycle our trash ONCE on this vacation. God help the world!!! I suppose when you're driving a 5.8 Litre pickup you dont really care. At least the Aussies with their Holdens recycle. Come on America get with the program!!! It's about time EVERYONE did their bit.

Check out this song by Kid Rock - All Summer Long. We've heard it a few times on our travels and it's a cracking tune. I'm going to dedicate this to all the redneck pickup truck drivers of the western US of A.





Saturday 31st - Pretty Lame

Took it easy today after out wildlife watching yesterday. Took the long loop round to Old Faithful and watched a couple of Geysers do their stuff then headed back for an early dinner, a movie and bed.

I have to say that Old Faithful was pretty lame compared to the Beehive Geyser we saw a little earlier in the day. The beehive only erupts twice a day and so we timed our arrival perfectly. The whole site is setup for tourists as it's the only predictable geyser in the park (hence the name). People just turn up, watch it do it's stuff and leave. There is quite a bit to see in the area but all the tour buses work on a schedule so they have to move on. Pretty sad really as there is so much more to see in park

Friday 30th - DO BEARS S**T IN THE WOODS?

Early start this morning - up at six. Abi had showered and make herself look gorgeous we were on the road at 8:30!!!!

After driving for 30 minutes we came across a lot of parked cars - usually a sign of something interesting so we stopped. We were in a small valley and up in the tree line was a Grizzly Bear - about 60 meters away. He was digging around the trees looking for ants/roots. We stayed there for 30 minutes and took around 170 photo's. Some of the more professional photographers had some serious equipment. If we ever do this again I need to invest in a longer telephoto lense. About 10 minutes up the road we spotted a Coyote. He was trotting alongside the road. He must have been 5 meters from us when he went past. We pulled over, took a few shots and then carried on to Mammoth.

As we arrived in Mammoth we came across an animal jam. Nobody was moving so I jumped out of the RV and went to see what was going on. We'd been driving down from the mountains and on one side of the road, down a sharp incline was a huge black bear. No more than 10 meters away. Fortunately he couldn't get up onto the road so I stayed and got some great shots. However, I had to jump back into the RV after a couple of minutes as the traffic started moving again. We arrived in Mammoth at 11:00 and headed straight for a diner - large cheeseburgers all round!!! I popped into the camping shop for some toilet roll and ended up buying a couple of t-shirts. Abi got chatting to the guy on the checkout and he gave us a tip on the location of a black bear and some cubs. 30 minutes later we realised that quite a few people knew about the bear. Standing on the hard shoulder we were able to watch a lovely black bear and her two cubs playing in the woods. One cub was black and the other was brown. The were climbing trees and walking along fallen trees. They must have been about 120 meters away so the shots aren't great but it was great to be able to watch them play.

We headed back to Mammoth, walked around the 'terraces'. Then we headed back to our camp stopping at Norris Geyers for an hour. When we were 10 minutes from home we spotted another group of parked cars so we stopped to investigate. About 300 meters away on bank was another Grizzly bear and her cub. Abi also spotted what we think was a beaver playing (most likely fishing) in a nearby river. We hung around there for an hour before heading back to camp.

What a great day - a total of 5 bears, 3 cubs, a coyote, a wolf, loads of bison, some deer, mountain goats and we think we saw a moose!!! Do bears s**t in the woods? I don't know but we both feel very lucky to have been able to see so much today. Just for the record we took a total of 863 photo's today. Aren't digital camera's fantastic......Night x

Thursday 29th - GODS COUNTRY?

We were both cream crackered from yesterdays drive so we had a late start and didn't leave the campsite until 12. We headed down to Fishing Bridge Visitors Centre to get some advice and how best to spend the next three days. Here are some Yellowstone facts:

* Established in 1872 - the worlds first National Park.
* 2.2 Million acres (80% forest)
* Lowest point is 5,282 feet - The highest is 11, 358 feet
* 96% of the park is in Wyoming (3% Montana, 1% Idaho)

The park roads are in a figure eight - the upper and lower loops. About 140 miles in total. Plenty to see but a lot of driving too - all at an average speed of 25 - 30 mph. What I find interesting is that Yellowstone is actually one giant volcano crater which last 'blew' 640,000 years ago. Apparently it could blow again at any time.

We spent the day in Geyser County (or Geezer as Abi refers to it). We were going to see 'Old' Faithful' but there appears to be so much to see there that we've put it off until Saturday. We spent an hour at 'West Thumb' following the boardwalks around 15 - 20 springs, pools and geysers. Abi spotted several deer wandering around the tree line. We then headed north to the Fountain Paint Pot area. Not being a geologist the different features are beyond me - but it was very interesting all the same. Lots of pool bubbling away, some small geyser loads of steam. The steam was handy as it was freezing cold and raining for most of the day.

Got back to the campsite around 7 after driving though a snow storm, had dinner, loafed around for a while and then hit the sack. We've got an early start tomorrow (6am) as we're heading to the northern most part of the park to explore Mammoth Hot Springs.

Wednesday 28th - IT ALWAYS RAINS IN WYOMING

Long day of driving from Garryowen, MT to Yellowstone. Started the day at the Little Big Horn County Museum in nearby Harding. Fascinating museum which contains houses, public buildings and farming equipment collected from around the county. A lovely lady was manning the front desk and spent 30 minutes chatting to us.

After that we headed up I90, through Billings MT (our most northern point on the vacation) and then down towards Cody, WY (supposed home of Buffalo Bill). From there it was a 70 mile drive into Yellowstone. Fantastic scenery on the way in, lots of snow on the shoulders but no ice - which is always good when you're driving a 40 ton RV!!! We drove around Yellowstone lake stopping to look at a couple of vents on the shore. Loads of steam which seems very odd when the lake is frozen and there's snow everywhere. We arrived at our camp around 8pm, checked in and after a wildlife briefing proceeded to our pitch. As I said in an earlier post we're in bear country. All food has to be locked away, trash cans are covered and have chutes to keep the critters out and nothing, including dogs, must be left unattended. Unattended dogs are referred to as bear bait!!!! A grizzly was spotted in the camp a few weeks ago so I've got my eyes peeled.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Little Big Man

Visited Little Big Horn battlefield today (or 'Little Big Man' as Abi keeps calling it) - I've uploaded several photo's to Flickr. We started at a local museum and watched a presentation on a recent Archaeological dig which attempted to explain exactly what happened during Custer's Last Stand. It seems that Custer was a little too eager and took two companies of Cavalry ahead of the main group to capture (attack) the women and children who were fleeing an Indian camp on the Big Horn river. Realizing that the group was too large to successfully capture he retraced his route only to be attacked. The Indians weren't very happy and overwhelmed his position in minutes. We toured the battlefield for several hours in the freezing cold, returning to the RV to warm up. It's a shame about the weather but at least the rain held off for most of the day.

A quick joke for you......What do Osama bin Laden and Custer have in common? They both wondered where all the tomahawks were coming from.

We did the laundry today - not that interesting I know. However, it's a 50 second walk from our pitch and the guy next door drove his truck to the laundry!!!!!!!! I couldn't help but laugh. I mean it wasn't if he had a lot of laundry and he managed to walk to and from his truck.


Tomorrow we depart for Yellowstone. A four hour drive across Montana and then down into north west Wyoming. We're really looking forward to it. We're staying at Fishing Bridge RV Park - located in the centre of the park. Apparently it only accepts hard sided vehicles as it's on a bear migration route!!!! Should be interesting. No updates until we leave the park on Sunday as they don't have wireless access.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

I90!!!! Rain all the way

Drove from Custer, SD to Rapid City to visit the South Dakota Air and Space Museum. Interesting but very few exhibits. From there we headed north west to Spearfish, SD stopping at Walmart for supplies, then continued the journey to the 7th Ranch and RV Park in Garryowen, Montana our final destination. It was a looong journey in the rain on I90 through SW South Dakota and NE Wyoming. We didn't arrive until 9:30 and had time for a snack before bed. Tomorrow we're visiting the Little Big Horn batlefield and Big Horn County Museum.

----- More to come ------

Monday, May 26, 2008

The plains of America

Monday - I'm writing this on the picnic bench next to our RV while the laundry dries and Abi fake tans :-) (I'm sure she'd want y'all to know that). I'm surrounded by pine trees, tame rabbits and our fellow campers.
So what did we get up to yesterday? We'll we drove into Custer State Park and spent the afternoon watching the wildlife. It's a very small park in the heart of the Black Hills of Dakota. Regardless of what you see in the movies this is where the west was won - or should I say 'taken at gun point from the native Americans'. It's amazing how much damage the European settlers have done wherever they've been - America, South America, Australasia, Africa. The 'locals' had so much respect for the animals and environment - they understood that their survival depended on maintaining a very fine balance. The we come along, nearly wipe out most of the native species (including the locals) and took what we wanted. This wasn't the great voyage of discovery - it was as if a swam of locusts had descended. Just taking and not putting back.

The park is home to a herd of Buffalo - around 950 - 1400 dependi
ng on the time of year. We were hoping to see one or two and did when we arrived in the park but were we in for a surprise!!! After stopping for lunch we came to a plain and noticed a couple of cars parked up so we pulled off the road. Then round the corner came 100 - 200 buffalo, adults and calfs. We stood there for nearly an hour watching them go past - some of them just feet from our RV. It had to be the highlight of the trip so far. I've posted quite a few photo's on Flickr.

We stopped for tea and then headed north to Mount Rushmore. Here we have a perfectly good mountain and some 'patriot' came along and ruined it. I find it hard to understand why you would want to do something like that. Why not put up a statue in Washington DC, thats where the majority seem to be. Why go into the middle of nowhere and carve it up in the name of patriotism?!? Answers on a postcard please. It's very impressive although a lot smaller than I expected. The whole 'experience' is based upon America and how great it is. Lots of information about the presidents and 'America the great and beautiful'. The evening lighting ceremony started with a 30 minute presentation which was quite interesting. The national anthem was explained in detail and the ranger than sung a few verses - It's mainly about beating the c**p out of the British during the war of independence. They then followed this with a video about the four presidents carved into the rock after which everyone stood and sang the national anthem....'Oh say can you see.....!!!!!' Very patriotic and to be honest I enjoyed it - it's nice to have a sense of pride in your own country and not be afraid to stand up and say I'm an American. Finally the lights were switched on, the flag was bought down and we all left. (note: just realised I loaded the Mt. Rushmore photos onto my laptop and then deleted them...:-( I've grabbed a few off Flickr so not all is lost). All in all a fantastic day.

Today we're off to Ellsworth Air Force Base (home of the 29th Bomb Wing) to visit the South Dakota Air & Space Museum. It's a small detour and I'm sure Abi won't mind looking at planes for an hour or two. Interesting fact is that South Dakota (and some of the neighbouring states) are home to a considerable number of ballistic missiles. You can even visit a decommissioned minuteman missile silo. From there we head north west to Crow Agency, Montana to spend a couple of nights at Little Big Horn. We're staying at the 7th Ranch and RV Park right in the middle of the park. Looking forward to touring the battlefield and seeing Montana (another State!!!! YAY!!!).

More reports tomorrow :-) Take Care

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Where are we?

Saw this sign in Grand Lake and thought Muzza would appreciate it. People may need to know the state but can't they just assume everyone knows what country they're in? Or does this say something about the education system?

We have touchdown! Touchdown! Tornado is on the ground!

Friday - We strolled into Grand Lake and wandered around the town. Nothing much to report. A nice mountain town that caters for tourists. Abi picked up a couple of rings and a fantastic comforter (quilt for us brits). It's got bears, elk, moose and trees - looks a lot better than it sounds. After a few coffees and lunch we headed back to the park. We called Safeway to see if they'd found my sunglasses but no luck!!!! Some little oik has probably picked them up. Then it was dinner, a movie and early to bed as we had a lot of driving to do on Saturday.

Saturday morning we left the park at 8:45 hoping to head across the Rockies to Estes Park, up I25 to Wyoming and then north east towards Custer, South Dakota. It all went pear shaped about 2 minutes into the trip as the pass was closed. So we had to take a detour around the Rockies - which is pretty easy but makes a 7 hour journey more like 10 hours. Still we picked up some time and took I80 east as we crossed the state line into Wyoming. This is where our problems began - to cut a long story short I had an accident swerving to avoid a deer - I dented the bumper, ripped the cover of one of the storage compartments and cracked the body work. Problem is I now have a $750 insurance excess to pay as you can bet your bottom dollar that the rental company will charge me as much as possible. Still the RV is drivable - all lights are in one piece and we are fine.

From I80 (east) we took I25 north and entered the plains of Wyoming. A bit like Lincolnshire - flat and very open and the wind was going across the highway at a high rate of knots. As the RV appears to have been modeled on a house brick we were all over the place. And that's how it was for over 200 miles - fighting against the wind and trying to keep it in a straight line. Bloody hard work.

Approaching Newcastle, WY we were driving paralell to a hugh storm cloud. We stopped to take photos and then it started to rain. We got back in the cab and within seconds the heavans opened. I couldn't see a thing, the RV was weaving all over the road and sweat was pouring down my face. All I could think of was Helen Hunt in Twister (see video below). Rain was being forced in under the slide out and the bed above the cab. The cars in front of us slowed and put their hazards on. I didn't want to stop but we slowed down to 30 mph. After about 20 minutes we came out the other side much to our relief. We stopped in Newcastle for a coffee and then continued on to Custer (nothing to do with the Little Big Horn). We are safely camped at Beaver Lake Campground just outside Custer National Park and Mount Rushmore. The park has tame bunnies running around so Abi's a happy camper!!!

Note to parents: Everything is OK - the accident was very minor and the only damage done will be to my credit card. Really bad mobile phone reception so unable to text. Take care and we'll be back in one piece in a couple of weeks x!


Friday, May 23, 2008

Elk & Moose on the loose

Great start to the holiday so far. It appears we’ve a lost very expensive pair of sunglasses (while trying on an $18 hoodie) and one of our camera’s (somewhere between Heathrow & Denver Airports). Still, it’s not the end of the world. We’ll be ringing Safeway later today regarding the sunglasses and emailing British Airways to see if they can locate the camera. Although if BA can’t deliver passengers luggage or open a new airport terminal I’m not sure they’ll be able to find my camera.

We arrived at Road Bear HQ at 1pm after a morning hanging around in the airport hotel. Not having a vehicle really limits your options so we went down to breakfast twice and watched a movie. Road Bear’s depot is situated in Commerce City, a rather industrial looking place next to a huge Department of Defense Chemical Weapons facility. Not somewhere I’d want to relocate to. Loads of truck parks and heavy equipment depots. Abi was very exited to see lifting equipment and cherry pickers. I’m sure she’d have a field day out here.

Check in was simple although I really resented having to pay a $200 vehicle preparation fee. I detest fees and taxes. Include them in the price is what I say. Why should I have to pay a preparation fee? I mean, you don’t have to pay a preparation fee for a hotel do you? It doesn’t make sense. However, all that was forgotten when we were taken to our RV. What a difference from last year. We had a brand new 32ft C Class Winnebago (A real Minnie Winnie). If this baby hasn’t got it then it’s not worth having. Carpets, LCD TV, DVD player, surround sound, slide outs, blinds, awning, powered steps, fridge freezer, microwave, convection oven, central heating, air con, carpeted storage and a picnic table. Although I don’t think I could full time (RV expression for permanent travelers) in this it’s a home from home.

After signed my life away and had the 40-minute orientation we hit the road. I like to point out to all the readers that I drove first. I couldn’t let Abi drive like last year. Even though I was nervous about driving it all came flooding back and we were soon cruising down the highway. 3 miles later we stopped at Abi’s shopping mecca – a Wal-Mart Super Store. A huge warehouse where you can buy your groceries, get your oil changed and pick up some ammunition for your next hunting trip. 2 hours later we’d provisioned for the trip, had a McDonalds and were back on the road heading for our first stop, Grand Lake in the heart of the Rocky Mountains. We took I70 West from Denver before heading up Route 40 and climbing into the mountains. Lots of hairpin turns, and steep climbs. The sun was shining when we left Denver but worsened as we climbed into the mountains. Snow showers, rain and mist. The temperature dropped from 70 to 35 degrees in an hour. We stopped at Winter Park to try and buy a duvet but all we ended up with was peanut butter M&M’s and a couple of coffee’s. Leaving my sunglasses behind we traveled another 40 minutes up to the road to Grand Lake.

STOP PRESS: As I type this I’m listening to the news and they are talking about a Tornado in Northern Colorado/Southern Wyoming!!!!!! It seems someone was killed in their Motor Home!!!!! I think I’ll be paying more attention to the weather over the next few days.

So here we are out our first campsite, the aptly named Elk Creek Campground. Apparently Elks wander into the campsite. We’ve been told not to approach them, as they can be a bit temperamental – a bit like me then. Last year a guy was killed after his dog barked at one so I’ll have to keep Abi on a short leash :)

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Flight Update

Abi would like me to add that the flight itself went without incident, the staff were great and we arrived on time. We got chatting to the purser on the way over, very nice bloke. Just before we landed he asked if we needed any drinks for our RV trip and then proceeded to fill a carrier bag with miniatures. Fantastic - we now have plenty of Alcohol for the trip.

---- another update soon -----

BA 219 - 21/05/2008

As I stood up to check the departure board in the lounge I froze. Our flight was flashing in red with the words ‘LAST CALL’ next to it and I knew we were at least five minutes from the gate. We grabbed our things and ran. Problem is that when your other half is wearing heels it’s difficult to run faster than a jog, especially on a granite floor. I told Abi I’d run ahead and put my foot in the door. Dodging tourists and little kids, who seem to change direction without any thought for the 19 stone man trying to get past them, I managed to get to the gate with seconds to spare or so I was told.

As I arrived at the Gate breathless and sweating I met the dragon. I don’t know her name but lets call her the Dragon. Some very small, inadequate, ugly little bully who’s only pleasure is scaring the cr*p out of her passengers (or self loading freight as we are usually referred to). ‘Are you Mr W**de’ I was asked as I approached the gate. ‘Yes’ I replied trying to speak after running a few hundred meters and having difficulty breathing. ‘Are you Mr W**de’ I was asked again. ‘YES!!!!’ I replied. She launched into a tirade about being on time for flights, arriving early, the door may be closed and they’ll have to offload our luggage…blah, blah, blah. I told her that A) Check-in at the lounge had told us the flight was running at least 20 minutes late and B) The board when from ‘No Gate’ to ‘Last Call’ in seconds and C) The airport layout is appalling and I shouldn’t have to walk miles to the aircraft. She just repeated that the flight was on time and that I may not be able to board. Obviously the customer is always wrong and this little witch is always right. She picked up the phone, dialed a couple of numbers, didn’t actually speak to anyone and then told us we could go down to the gate. All an act of course – as she didn’t actually speak to anyone on the phone – it was just another way of winding us up. My problem is I can’t argue with her – if I raise my voice security will be called and I’ll be chucked out of the airport. As I ran down the jet way I could see they were still loading luggage and meals so they weren’t going to depart any time soon. In fact it was another 10 minutes before the backed off of the stand. What a horrible woman who’s only pleasure in life is winding up passengers. She needs to remember who pays her wages.

When I boarded I asked the dollies at the door if they were waiting for us. The first one said no and the second quickly said yes. Then the engineer guy told me that one of their systems had been showing the flight as late. So who was right?

----- More to come -----

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

A regular field of dreams

The first day is always a nightmare, especially when the locals try and help out.


Monday, May 19, 2008

Virtual Tours

RV season is nearly upon us - 2 days and the big bus rolls. Can't wait. Planning is done, parks booked, distances calculated and attractions goggled. At the moment we plan to travel 2,500 miles in 15 days!!!! Below is the 10 second overview.
  • Colorado - Rocky Mountain NP
  • SW Wyoming - Oregon Trail and Fort Laramie
  • Nebraska - Oregon Trail
  • South Dakota - Mount Rushmore and the 28th Bomb Wing (Ellsworth AFB)!!!!!
  • NW Wyoming - Sundance & the Devils Tower
  • Montana - Little Big Horn
  • NW Wyoming - Yellowstone NP & Grand Teton NP
  • Idaho - Road Trip (have to go through here and it's another state visited)
  • Utah - Moab, home of the Rubicon Jeep (I can't wait)
  • Denver - End of trip shopping expedition

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

COMING SOON

I've decided to start blogging again but limit the content to Travel and Photography. Blogging starts on the 1st April. Watch this space.