Sitting in my own living room, on the couch is a funny feeling. The move went well (if you want to call 3 solid days of stress, fighting, time outs and heavy lifting, well) and we are not starting to settle into the house. Although I haven’t uploaded the photos from the move yet (there are so many I haven’t had time to do it) this is the first morning before work where I have spent more time relaxing than doing other tasks around the house.

Most of the time I have been around the house cleaning up, sorting things out, fixing up stuff strewed throughout the house. It is still a matter of unpacking things, but not to much is left now. We don’t have artwork on the walls yet (as Heidi wants to do some painting) but that won’t take long to put some up. We have a few rooms ready to go, the bedroom, office and gym are fairly done. The Kitchen is functional (even though we have no seats or a real kitchen table).

As we try to get ourselves settled, we will continue to do what we can. As we wait for some of our furniture to be delivered (waiting on the 2nd half of our living room set) and we fix things up around the house, I can’t wait for this all to sink in. We now own are our own home and although life is an ever changing thing, we at least have something constant.

Ugh, it has been a rough few weeks. As the trip to Australia gets closer and closer, normally I would be super excited for the trip. But right now I am feeling the opposite. Each day it gets closer I get excited that I will get to see my family, my friends and introduce everyone to Heidi. But then I get smacked with the feeling of homesickness. I want to see my friends and family so bad. It has been over 4 years since I have seen a lot of my friends and about 3 years since I have seen my own family (at least mum and dad, others longer).

I really shouldn’t be getting this feeling, my life is over here now and I love it. I don’t regret leaving but each and every time someone asks me how long I have been here in the USA, asking if I miss home, well that doesn’t help. I just want to see my friends, speak to them, hug them and I can’t 🙁

I know that things will be worse when I leave Brisbane as I will have the feeling that I don’t want to leave them but is it better to just suck it up and keep moving, or do I decide to just not do that to myself in the future? I know I can’t do that because I want Heidi to experience Australia, and all that it has to offer. But I also don’t want to put myself through so much pain every time.

Maybe it is just that time I need to suck it up and stay excited about the trip and not think about the other stuff. Still hurts though!

4 years ago today, I walked through the car park of an airport dragging the following with me

From Emigrating to the USA

I was setting off on an epic journey one that would change my life forever. Funnily enough thanks to the date line i would touch back down into Los Angeles still on the same day. My new life would begin early in the morning on the 2nd of May 2012. I cleared immigration and would begin a whole new journey. I was now a resident in the USA. It wasn’t permanent at that point, but it was for a few years at least.

So much has changed over the last few years, I have moved around a few times, changed jobs, met someone I love, got married, travelled, done some amazing things and it has only been 4 years! O how time has changed! I have so many new friends, friends who make me thankful for life each and every day. I walked away from my life back in Australia and left everyone behind. That was not easy but my new friends and family over here make it easier each day.

As the new year in this country begins, this one will be a blast. I start a whole new chapter with Heidi in the next few months with a new house, getting to introduce my family to my wife & her family. I am sure that as things in the new job get better and better, life will be a roller coaster.

Looking back over photos from that flight over to the USA and the first few weeks in the country was a blast this morning. However I did see one photo that made me think twice:

From Emigrating to the USA

This thing has been haunting me since the day I arrived in this country…… nemesis!!!

Heidi and I took a road trip on Saturday (mind you in an amazing rental.. but that is another story) and we are now the holders of authorised Nexus cards from the combined US Customs and Immigration Service and Canadian Border Patrol. For the low low price of $50 for 5 years (so really $10 a year) we get the fun of being able to quickly and easily go across the border between Canada and the USA.

Now we don’t often go up to Canada so why would we bother spending the $$$ to get quick access to the Northern part of the Commonwealth… ay? Well because for $50 you get Global Entry and also TSA Pre Check. Both of those things are the real reason to buy Nexus. Because Precheck is $85 and Global Entry is $100 so for half the price you get all three. WINNING!

We were so happy to be doing Nexus and saving money, but what they don’t explain to you is that any time you need to make an update (address, jobs, updates to your passports etc) you need to go back to a Nexus enrollment center to do that. *sigh*. They won’t allow it to be just done online, you need to go back to the physical location. That would be ok if we lived closer, or if Boeing Field and more than 1 pair of officers (Nexus center staff work in pairs, 1 american & 1 Canadian.. ay). So we could wait all day and hope that we could get it done at Boeing Field, but there’s no guarantee for that. Instead we will need to drive up north to Blaine to get the paperwork done there, because they always have staff dedicated to changes.

But it is a small price to pay for being able to clear security quickly and easily, the way it used to be. If only you didn’t need to pay for this privilege, then it would be ok. But that is the world we live in today. Guess we could always go up to Vancouver for the day right?

Today is closing day!! All the paperwork has been signed, all the forms initialled, dated and then signed some more. It has taken us a couple of months, shorter than I expected, but we now are home owners (or as I like to call it, long term financially restricted.

The new house is pretty great, we are both very happy. I can’t wait to get in there (even though we have to wait a couple of months) but it will also mean a big part of my life continues on here. Living here in the USA is now a big part of my life, the longer I am here, the more I do over here, the less that keeps me wanting to return to Australia (although Trump as President could be one). Life over here is now normal for me, and each and every day I am away from Australia, the less I continue to miss it.

I do miss my family and friends, but I guess that is something that will never go away. Being separated from them gets a little bit easier, but there are always times where I get a little bit home sick. It is tough being an expat, even tougher being separated from your old life 100%. I guess only time can tell how long that will last.

While today is a day full of good news, it makes me think back to my old life, to the way things used to be. I am not sure if this is a new beginning, or an end.

Heidi and I have spent the last couple of months pretty busy. After I got back from my big trip we had to get serious on the house hunting front. We checked out houses as much as we could (most I did in one day i think was 5) and with the help of a good realtor (who was probably a saint after all the crap we put her through considering Heidi and I don’t have easy schedules to deal with) we finally found somewhere.

We failed our first offer and after finally finding somewhere else we liked, we got really aggressive. We had to be with the market the way it is right now. Although all we do now is go back and forth over paperwork, so much paperwork. Every day it feels like I need to submit something or find something to send in, lord knows how many trees we have killed so far, and will kill when we get to the closing part.

We won’t be moving in till the first start of june, which is fine because our lease is not up till that time anyway. Makes it easier on us and gives the current owners time to pack up slowly. It also gives us time to get stuff ready for the move, we can be packed up and ready to move in time. The move will be easy and the set up of the new house just as easy.

But it is exciting to be moving forward in life, settling down and starting a new chapter. The fun part is that I will be able to walk to work from now on (it will be quicker to walk than deal with driving) and Heidi will have a much shorter commute. Here is to being in debt for the rest of our lives!

So the trip is now over, and I have been back to work almost a full week now. It is a tough, tough feeling knowing that the trip is over and all the fun has stopped. All in all I got to knock off four new states (WV, NE, KY, IA), one new aircraft (MD-80), three new airports (OMA, RDU, SNA) and visited a whole lot of new cities.

The trip to me was a blast and brought back a lot of memories of driving in the car with Heidi for our road trips, both long and short. It makes me want to do the same thing again, but this time with Heidi, rather than spending all that time alone in the car myself. Speaking of which I have been asked a lot how it went and the answer to that question is fine. The drive was not that bad and I enjoyed it. The longest day was the first and that was mainly because the road did not allow a decent high speed. With the winding roads and the up and down through mountains, it kept the speed lower than the other days. But the two days in the car was not at all that horrible.

If you wanted to see what I looked at, feel free to check out one of these time lapses that I created:

Or you can just check out my photos, because hey who doesn’t like photos:

12 States in 7 Days

I had a blast on this trip and now that there is a big gap till I get to fly again (July for the big one) who knows what will change in the mean time. All I know right now is I have some time to work off all the crap I ate while I was away. Because hotel waffles are to good to avoid right?

Friday 19th February 2016

After dropping the car back at the rental counter and waving goodbye to Horseman for the final time, I walked along the walkway into the Omaha terminal. It was time to head on home. Alaska has their check in at the opposite end of the airport to the Car Rental area (the southern end). It was an easy 2-3 minute walk past the counters for Southwest, United, past some baggage claims and the car rental counters.

Alaska’s check in area was covered in balloons in Green and Gold for some reason. I didn’t ask why at the time, but it was going to be my first attempt at the Self Tag facility, since that was the only choice. I started the process but it turns out the only record locater I had accessible was not the Alaska one, so the system crapped out on me. Thankfully they allow you to look up by name! The Omaha staff was right by my side to offer assistance and even put the bag tag on for me. They were fantastic and a special shot out to Gloria who was hilarious and very helpful.

After checking in and handing off my bag I headed upstairs to the departures level. I decided against purchasing steaks (sorry Heidi) and had a quick look around in the pre security area. There wasn’t much and there was signs saying there was more stuff after security, so I headed down. Didn’t have to wait long at all (this is Omaha after all) and soon enough was through security (after a pat down.. sigh).

There was some things after security, but not much. There was a bar with ramp views and power points so that was going to be good enough. I bought a bottle of water and camped out by the windows watching the few planes coming and going. The two hornets that flew past while I was on my way to the airport were parked on the far side and were joined later on by 4 more! Watching them do standard Navy approaches was fun and I managed to get a few half decent photos with my point and shoot. Soon enough the inbound aircraft showed up so it was time to pack up and head to the gate.

Alaska Airlines – AS3469
Omaha to Seattle Tacoma
Canadair – CRJ-700 (N216AG)
Economy Class – Seat 2A
Boarding: 1426 (Gate A9)
Push Back: 1450
Take off Roll: 1458 (Runway 32L)
Top of Descent: 1604
Touch Down: 1625 (Runway 16R)
Shut Down: 1630 (Gate C16)

While I waited at the gate for boarding to be called I had a chat with Gloria who remembered me by name from the check in area. The benefits of working at a small airport. I watched the staff in action with all the guests coming off the plane and they were fantastic. No wonder they get rave reviews here. Boarding was called and I had to wait to be the last group to board. Sadly without Alaska status it is how I have to deal with boarding. I made it on eventually to have to settle into my seat. That wasn’t easy as I was in 2A (not sure how I snagged that seat) and since it was a CRJ, there is no way to store my camera bag up top. The camera bag went under the seat in front (barely) and the backpack went up top. Which never works right? Because I want to access the stuff in my backpack and now I can’t? Sigh! I am going to be one those seat mates today it seems.

We sealed up tight not long after I boarded and pushed back early. Things work nice and easy when you fly an RJ and you work at an outstation. I should do this more often! We taxied away from the gate and headed for the runway. I did not realize there were multiple runways at Omaha and we had a bit of a longer taxi than I expected. The view out my window was not all that fantastic due to a very scratched and dirty window. I took what photos I could and would deal with whatever turned out later.

We climbed out and away from Omaha and left the Midwest behind. I wanted to sit back and catch up on some TV that I had brought with me and was yet to finish, and with the sun coming directly into my window, I had to drop the blind. The guy in the aisle didn’t mind about that, what he hated was my constant fidgeting of my feet. The camera bag wasn’t helping either of us, so when I got a chance, I asked the flight attendant if there was a place to store it. She offered up the closet where they store their bags (so much space available) and I accepted and thanked her profusely.

Now that I could actually move about a bit, I settled in to watch TV and read for the rest of the trip and with a flight time of 3.5 hours, it was not going to be all that comfortable. To be honest after spending 9 hours or more stuck in the driver’s seat of a car, even that was more comfortable than the cramped confines of the CRJ today. O well!

The flight went past ok, a couple of drink runs by the 2 flight attendants and a lot of time for them to stand around chatting in the galley and we hit descent about 35 minutes out of Seattle. I packed up my stuff and stashed it at my feet, deciding not to interrupt my seat mate again. We came out of the clouds from our descent over Totem Lake to the north of Kirkland and tracked for a South Flow landing. Coming in over downtown and the Museum of Flight, we were vectored in for a 16R landing. This would put us on at least a 5-10 minute taxi to the gate… on a good day.

Taxi time today was fairly average and we pulled up at Gate C16 today. With a CRJ on the ramp at SeaTac it means that Horizon are looking after the plane and that means boarding onto the ramp. So much fun on a rainy Seattle day  O well could be worse. It could be pouring rain and blowing a gale. I was off the plane fairly rapidly and with most of my stuff in hand, I was on my way to the gate. Most people had to wait around for their gate checked bags, me I was heading into the terminal post haste. I stopped by work to check my roster for Sunday (making sure it had not changed) and then it was downstairs to get my bag.

My bag was trundling around the belt by the time I got there. It’s sad; because I wanted to get some extra points to help out with the fact my accounts were now all bone dry. It was off to the shuttle bus for me, ending this trip the same way it began. Now the problem was trying to remember where I left the truck.

Friday 19th February 2016

I awoke this morning on the final day of this adventure. I had slept pretty damn well so was thoroughly impressed by the Residence Inn. The hotel while not the flashiest I have stayed in hit the mark on all levels (apart from the gym, it just needed more equipment). The hotel was clean, comfortable, the staff were all great (especially the lady at breakfast). The rooms were large, spacious and had everything you could need and more (hello full kitchen!).

I had breakfast before heading off on the road again and decided to indulge a little this morning. A waffle with cream… why yes! The breakfast was tasty and with plenty of options it was so much better than just a bagel or cereal. It hit the spot and the coffee was good as well and made the start of my day really easy. Today’s drive was the easiest as well and if all went to plan, I could have some time to see a thing or two in Omaha before heading to the airport. I hit the road as the sun was rising spectacularly and managed to skirt the edge of downtown so didn’t have to deal with traffic.

I was on the I29 heading north to Iowa pretty easily and once I cleared the airport area the speed limit went up and I was fully enjoying cruise mode. Cruising along listening to my ipod (since SiriusXM decided to update the subscription yesterday and remove itself just miles from Kansas City). It was miles and miles of I29 this morning but it wasn’t boring at all. It was a lot of straight road but the scenery was very pretty in some places. Plus the signs kept me interested pretty much the whole way.

Time seemed to go past pretty fast, and before I knew it I was at the Iowa border, about an hour from Council Bluffs (which is just on the other side of the river to Omaha). I managed to get the Missouri sign (over my left shoulder) and the Iowa sign and then it was onwards into Iowa fully. Funnily enough the first town over the border into Iowa is called Hamburg, so that kept me chuckling for a little while (in a very bad german accent too). The only issue was the first rest stop in Iowa was over 35 miles into the state and since the last one was well over 100 miles previously, I needed to stop. Badly!

While at the rest stop I consolidated a bit of stuff and tried to figure out what to do as I was going to get into Omaha a bit early. I decided to go check out the Union Pacific Railway Museum (it was free) and it was in Council Bluffs, about 20 minutes away. I ended up sticking around for about an hour and had a bit of a tour from an old lady who volunteered. It was a bit creepy yet very endearing. After the museum I headed into town to grab some lunch. I found a place that looked ok online and was an old school looking diner. The food was pretty good and I finished off the trip with the same meal I started it with, Chicken Fried steak.

With lunch done, I headed off to fill up the car and drop Horseman off at the rental return. By the time I got back to the airport it had been a long trip, but totally worth it. Time to head home!!!

Current Location: Omaha Airport, Nebraska
Total States Visited: 12
New States Visited: 4 – Iowa, Nebraska, West Virginia, Kentucky
Miles Driven: 1715
Cheapest Gas Purchased – Kwik Stop Omaha – $1.49pg
Cheapest Gas Seen – Random Gas Station in Kansas City – $1.29pg

Tuesday 16th February 2016

After my bag finally showed up I headed out to where the Rental Car shuttles pick up from and I had to sprint for the shuttle as there was one pulling in right then. Not easy to run with a suitcase. camera bag and backpack. After one other person got on the shuttle we headed off to the National lot. I was meant to pick up my vehicle over 5 hours before and I was hopeful there would still be something good left. My coworker was adamant I needed something with 4WD/AWD for the drive since you know, snow. But only chance would tell me if I was going to get it.

Things did not look likely when we rolled up to the Emerald Aisle/Executive Aisle areas and it was minivan central. Need a minivan… they got it! There were no sedans at all! There were a couple of Challengers, a number of trucks and that was it. So I asked, and what was on the line was it. I explained the situation about the one way rental and he suggested to head up to the counter and ask as they often have a “Hot Line” for stuff that they reserve for one way rentals (ie stuff they want to get rid of). As I went over to the Emerald desk I spoke t the lady who went in and checked for me and then while I was waiting I was chatting to the original guy there and saw a Hemi Charger sitting on a line of cars. When the lady came back she said all the hot stuff had gone and all that was left was a row of upgrades. I asked about the Upgrade on the Hemi Charger and was told that had already been rented? Wierd. I went back to the line and the original guy tried to help me find the best I could get. He walked up to a Challenger with 4 miles on the clock. Yes that is right…. 4! SOLD!

I quickly threw my gear in the car and jumped in before someone else tried to steal it on me. Screw the AWD part. I took what I could 😉 I headed out of the airport towards a grocery store around the corner from the hotel and from there onto the hotel. By the time I got to the hotel it was approaching 11:30pm at night so my one night stay at the Millennium Durham was now becoming just a handful of hours. The hotel looked good from the outside, but the inside was pitiful. I thought that my stay at the hotel in Oklahoma was the worst I have had. This was borderline as bad, if not worse. It was pitiful! Thankfully the hotel is undergoing renovations (not soon enough) it is a disgrace to the Millennium brand! It would do for the night.

Wednesday 17th February 2016

I woke up after barely any sleep and skipped the gym for an extra bit of sleep. I packed up what stuff I had pulled out and got myself ready to get on the road. I had 530 miles to go today and it was not going to be easy. I had a quick breakfast (not the best, not the worst hotel breakfast) and hit the road just after 730am. My day was going to be lots and lots of road.

The plan was to go from Durham, North Carolina to Louisville, Kentucky. This would take me across North Carolina, into Virginia then West Virginia, clearing out my afternoon in Kentucky. It started off cold but not horribly so (around 32-34F) compared to what I expected. It was a little bit sunny as I left with the sun rising behind me for the first part of the morning. As I got through Virginia climbing over first the Blue Ridge Mountains and then into the Appalachians the snow started to fall. I was worried about it, but the Challenger (henceforth referred to as Horseman, because it was the best I could come up with that kind of referred to 4) handled it pretty well. I crossed into West Virginia mid morning and kept on pushing. I was aiming to get through the state after lunch and end up in Kentucky around 4:30-5:00pm. By the time i got past Charleston, WV I was starving! So I gave it a bit longer and stopped for lunch at a Cracker Barrel (first time visiting, wasn’t bad).

Horseman was getting pretty good gas mileage with the average of around 27mpg so I only had to fill up once and that was about 100 or so miles outside of Louisville. Rest stops were my go to place for stopping for a quick bathroom break and they were well signed (thankfully). I got into the habit of going in along the way and taking a photo of the “You are here” signs in each state. Fun! I also managed to get the “Welcome to ” signs to every state I visited.

I got into Louisville around 5:30pm right in the middle of peak hour traffic. 10 hours after leaving I was safe and sound at my hotel. I ended up hitting the gym straight away, because traffic was horrible, so get it out of the way then and there. The hotel was much better than last night and this time even though it was also under refurbishment it was almost complete. My room was I would say barely finished and it was immaculate. If this is what all the Country Inn and Suites are going to look like, I love it!

I finished off the night by heading over to Skyline Chilli, a mile or two from the hotel. Originally durning the planning of this trip I was heading to Cincinatti which is famous for its Chilli. It isn’t Chilli like most people think of it, it doesn’t have heat, it has spice that comes from Cinnamon and the likes. It is served on top of spaghetti and covered in cheese. I mean COVERED in cheese. It was pretty good, I ended up having it “5 Ways” which is a 3 Way (aka Basic Spaghetti, Chilli & Cheese) with both Onions and Beans. It was pretty good but could do with some heat to really set it off.

By the time I chatted with Heidi when she got home from work, I was out like a light! It had been a long day and I had to do it all over again the next.

Thursday 18th February 2016

Woke up and snuck into the gym about 15 minutes before it was meant to open. It was good to get a morning workout in before being stuck inside a car all day. Breakfast was quick (hello Hotel waffle) and then it was off to the car again. As I walked past reception they had cookies out already (evil bastards!). My coffee would have to do! I had to scrape down the windshield to get rid of all the ice. Thank god for hotel loyalty cards because without one I would have to resort to using my own credit card…. ugh no thanks!

Back on the road and this time the temperature was pretty cold, around 25F but it warmed up slowly as I moved on. The road was pretty busy as I crawled through Louisville morning traffic. At one point I was at a complete standstill just a mile or two from the border… UGH! The accident that was holding everything up got cleared and it was out and away. While yesterday’s drive was full of turns and mountain climbs hence pushing my 8 hour drive to 10 hours with stops. Today was going to be a lot of high speed open interstate over rolling plains. Average speed today was a good 70+.

Passed through Indiana and Illinois, managing to get the Welcome to signs at both as I came through. The Missouri sign though, well that I missed. I was originally going to head into Downtown St Louis for lunch but by the time I passed through at 10:30am (I gained an hour thanks to Central time), it was raining and too early, so I pushed on. I missed the Missouri sign thanks to being on a new piece of road that my GPS didn’t recognise but the signage clearly was correct. I was tempted to circle back around but thought better of it.

I took a quick lunch break in a waffle house about 45 minutes outside of St Louis. Refueled by some waffley goodness for the 2nd time today I was back on the road, headed west. Passing through Missouri was pretty uneventful apart from the wind. It picked up like crazy and at times I really had to hold onto Horseman as he slipped all over the place. The further I went west the further that temperature rised though topping out at 73F. Pretty good to almost triple the morning temperature!

The further west I went as well, the more the gas price dropped. I filled up about half way between lunch and my end destination and it was pretty cheap or so I thought. It kept getting cheaper the closer I got to Kansas City. I rolled into town past all the stadiums and into a very poor neighborhood. I wasn’t particularly impressed but it could be worse right? After 9 hours on the road, I was all set and in my hotel at the Residence Inn Kansas City Downtown by 3:45pm!

I took the afternoon off to sit on the couch of my room and enjoy some relaxation after concentrating for the last two days. Tomorrow’s drive into Omaha would not be as taxing with about 3-4 hours of driving. I would cross another 2 more states tomorrow that I needed off my list and then by dinner I would be home to see my wife. However dinner tonight I was looking around to find some good BBQ. I could walk down to one BBQ place or I could drive a mile or two over to what some people say is the best bbq in town. O it is in Kansas not Missouri? SOLD!

The restaurant was actually only about a 10 minute drive through suburban streets and really easy to find. It is still an active Gas Station and one part is the gas station, the other the BBQ restaurant. I had to line up and wait (as expected) but only had to wait 10-15 minutes at most to order. I ordered a lot (like usual) and it was all pretty good. I went with the brisket & pulled pork with some beans and some spicy slaw. The sausage was good too after a small taste so grabbed some of that as well. The main thing with Kansas City BBQ is it is all about the sauce and the sauce was gooooooood. It went down nicely with Diet Mountain Dew (it’s so rare to find at places out west why can’t we have it everywhere!!!!).

I returned to the hotel to finish off some stuff and get another good nights rest. One last stretch in the car in the morning and maybe, just maybe i can get in a little sightseeing in Omaha. Who knows!

Current Location: Residence Inn Kansas City Downtown/Union
Total States Visited: 10
New States Visited – 2/4 – West Virginia, Kentucky
Miles Driven: 1522
Cheapest Gas Purchased (Plus/Premium): $1.71pg – Pilot Boonsvile, MO
Cheapest Gas Seen (Regular): $1.29pg – Random Gas Station in Kansas City, MO