Honeymoon Avgeekiness…. Pt 1

Since it is a Sunday night, time to share some avgeek porn. Lots of planes from the trip with some spotting in Vegas, Tucson and also LA.

I managed to get some avgeek time at the PIMA Air & Space Museum (and you can read about it here) but the first half of the trip the most spotting I got to do (apart from some while we waited for our helicopter flights) was in Las Vegas. My shots during our helicopter flight were pretty crap (Bernie can you teach me your tricks?) so all I have from Vegas is from when I first arrived where I had about 45 minutes or so getting some arrivals as the sun set.

From Honeymoon Spotting
From Honeymoon Spotting
From Honeymoon Spotting
From Honeymoon Spotting

Other than that, the best I got was in Tucson while parking the car at our hotel (which was right by the airport mind you) we managed to score a flight of Arizona Air National Guard F-16s doing circuits. But this is about the best of that set

From Honeymoon Spotting

More later in the week!!

Getting around to it

So, it has been about 2 weeks now since Heidi & I got back from Honeymoon and with all the craziness of Thanksgiving, then Heidi’s birthday, I finally get a chance to plonk myself in front of the computer to work on some photos.  So up first today are some of my shots from the Grand Canyon… just a couple

From Honeymoon
From Honeymoon
From Honeymoon
From Honeymoon

Happy Birthday to you!

Dearest Heidi

Today you turn a young 27 and it is not only the first birthday we celebrate as a married couple, but also the first birthday we celebrate together. Although I had an amazing birthday back in August when you suprised me with this:

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That card has even made several suprising trips to work:

From Life in Seattle 2014

But rest assured my love that your birthday today will be a special one. Let everyone please wish Heidi a very special happy birthday. I know that today has not been a great one for you (her car broke down, she had to work, had to go to Uni as well and has to do an assignment tonight) but I will do my best to make sure you have at least some specialness.

I

5 years have passed

It was 5 years ago today that I showed up early in the morning to a small non descript building in Brisbane. Down by the river, in a suburb full of rich residents & lots of up & coming restaurants. But that building and the people who worked there were the ones who changed my life.

5 years ago today I looked like this

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O how much has changed since then. Look at me now:

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Although I can’t say that I am 100% happy with the way I am today, I can say that I am happy the way I am overall. My life has changed a lot since that morning. I remember doing a 2km time trial to see my fitness level. A 2km walk took almost 30 minutes.  Now I can run 5km in less than that. A 2km run on average takes me 10-11 minutes!

I have many people to thank and they all know who they are and I have said it many times before. But this time of year truly makes me thankful for everything people have done for me in my life.

Being Thankful

As an Australian, one of the strangest holidays to me in the USA is Thanksgiving. A day that celebrates the Pilgrims coming to the USA and having a dinner with the indians that were later slaughtered… or something like that. But it is strange to me because it is celebrated in a time of year where there are already so many other big holidays or events (christmas, halloween, labor day, columbus day etc) and it feels like the time is just condensed with it. In reality the day is celebrated with copious amounts of food, football on the tv and for some people, lining up to shop till you drop (or in some cases start shopping super early).

But yesterday’s thanksgiving was a new experience for me. In the last couple of years, thanksgiving has just been a day off, sitting around watching tv, nothing special. However life is very different now, very very different. I have a wife and a new family and Thanksgiving for them is a very big deal. It was almost like the typical day, with plenty of food, plenty of family and football to finish off the day. But it was quite a bit more, I felt like I was truly part of the family. A lot of Heidi’s family said that they were happy to share the day with me, that they were thankful Heidi had found someone to love and cherish. I felt well and truly like part of the family and that was a big deal.

Although Thanksgiving isn’t a big deal with Australians, I guess I need to start thinking like an american for some things. Thanksgiving is so much about family, spending time with them or just seeing them. It isn’t about the food (although I will say that actually creating a dish to contribute feels much better than buying something, but that is something personal), it isn’t about the tv. It is more about spending time with my new family, getting to know them. I like the fact that everyone comes together to see each other, catch up, talk and spend time with one another. It is those kind of moments that I miss at times.

I look forward to spending many more times in the future with my new family and much more time with Heidi. I do love the fact that I now have a new family here in the USA, so many more people in my life!

Honeymoon Photos!

Just a quick piece to say that my honeymoon photos are up (Heidi’s are probably going to end up on Facebook) but there are still a good lot of ones that I need to work on. With plenty of photos taken as usual, but not as many as in the past, there is still plenty of good stuff.

The Spotting photos still need to be worked on and there are a number of artistic ones I want to work on. But enjoy!

Honeymoon

Honeymoon – Final Day – Bye Bye Sunshine

I can’t believe this trip is almost over. Today is our final day and we fly home at 545pm this afternoon. Although I will be happy to be flying again, I am sad that it is all over and we have to go home :(  we both want to stay down here and keep having fun. The last few days have been a blast.

The time in Anaheim was great. Although we were not staying as close to Disneyland as we could have, it was still a good location. The Radisson Suites Buena Park was right next to Medieval Times (no we didn’t go) and surrounded by restaurants & shops. We were also about 500m to Knotts Berry Farm. Can’t complain about that right? The hotel wasn’t bad and had decent sized rooms. We really only stayed there to be close to Disneyland and it was only a 10 minute drive away.

Ahh Disneyland, what can I say about you. I had a blast acting like a 4 year old all day. We both got into the swing of things and at the suggestion of the ticket agent we went to guest services to get a celebration badge (we actually got 3 of them) and for the rest of the day we got many congratulations for our wedding. It was odd yet awesome. The rides were good and we didn’t have that much of a wait for anything. Longest wait for a ride was maybe 20 minutes if that. The longest wait we had all day was for Heidi to meet Thor. Yep, not even as long as for the mandatory Mickey visit (which was funny and a whole different story). Once we finally got into visit Thor, Heidi was star struck (and it wasn’t even the real Thor), she couldn’t speak.

Disneyland was fun but I am never going on Space Mountain again….. EVER! I just don’t like that ride, it is horrible! I would be ok with the roller coaster if it was light but in the dark my body (and mind) just couldn’t handle it. Not doing that again. O and I almost puked on the tea cups, so that was worth it!

We also headed down to Long Beach to catch up with a friend (hey Brett!) and also check out the Queen Mary. We didn’t do a tour as the prices are extortionate, but it was good to see the ship that my Grandfather came home on from Africa, during World War II. The boat is so small in comparison to others yet was one of the biggest of the time. I don’t know if that is a sad thing or a good thing.

We headed out to the Ontario (California) area so that we could spend some time with Heidi’s best friend Sylvia. It was good to catch up with her & finally meet her husband. I hear so much about them both so it was good to spend some time with them. We took some time out yesterday and headed to Santa Monica & Venice beaches. Santa Monica felt super touristy & posh and Venice was just weird. Although I don’t normally like touristy places all that much, I would take Santa Monica any day of the week. Venice was just an absolute clusterfuck. It was just amazing that people could live in that area with how bad the traffic, parking & overall stupidity of California drivers (that part deserves a post on its own).

We finished off our honeymoon by retracing the steps I took to head out to Vegas almost two weeks ago. Cruising down the 105 towards LAX really added to the fact that it was coming to an end. We had a good final couple of donuts, a last lunch at In n Out & then it was time to drop off the car.

Sitting here in Terminal 5 at LAX I am sad to be heading home. I wish we could keep going but it is back to reality.

Current Location: Gate 52A LAX Terminal 5
States Visited: 3
Miles Driven: 2000 miles
Slim Jims Eaten by Heidi: 8
Cookies Eaten by Mal: 38

Honeymoon Day 8 – A Graveyard of Sorts

Tucson was fun, much better than I thought it would be. Our time there was Heidi’s idea from the start and to be honest she handled it like a trooper. She treated her avgeek husband like you would expect in this situation. You let him go and say yes dear a lot.

We spent the last two nights in Tucson at the Country Inn & Suites by the airport. Why that one? Well we were using the mountain of Club Carlson points I have and the card offers the 2nd night free on a stay, so for very little we could get a free stay. It wasn’t bad but our check in was comically bad. 3 rooms till we got one that was acceptable. It was like Goldilocks, the first room had a broken shower curtain rod, the 2nd reeked of cigarettes (non smoking hotel as well) the third was just right (and by just right I mean we could live with it). Breakfast at the hotel was basic (but they couldn’t make oatmeal to save their lives) but tasty enough. Nothing really to complain about for the price we paid.

The main reason we went to Tucson was to visit The Boneyard. I will cover more in the airlinereporter pieces about them specifically but we had fun, PIMA was great and they had way more planes than I expected. It was heaps of fun and Heidi wasn’t totally bored.  Great spotting as A-10s were always climbing out of Davis Montham (even managed to see a couple of F-16s doing touch & go’s at the main Tucson airport).

Tucson was a good break for us. We could settle in for 2 nights and relax.  The weather was nice (70s during the day) and we thawed out after the Canyon & Sedona. We also caught up with some friends of Heidi’s (well her best friends in laws) for dinner. It was apparently the birth place of the Chimichanga although I was to scared to try one (who deep frys a burrito… Seriously!). We even found a really cool ice cream shop that had old school sundaes (although as usual I chose wrong & ended up with something smaller than I wanted… Typical).

We rolled out of Tucson early this morning as the sun rose. A lot of highway ahead of us as we cruise along I-10 heading to Anaheim. Tucson was a great stop & one that I enjoyed. We will probably go back some time, there is more I want to see around that area, a good way to escape I guess.

Current Location: I-10W, Mile Marker 70, La Paz County Arizona.
States Visited: 3
Miles Driven: 1369m
Slim Jims Eaten by Heidi: 5
Cookies eaten by Mal: 35

Honeymoon Day 6 – Being Shown the Kimpton Love

I hadn’t intended on giving Sedona it’s own post, it was an in between stop for us.  A stop for us to switch off and give us a break between the Grand Canyon & Tucson. We could have driven that in one day and perhaps had an extra night in the Canyon, but we didn’t. We decided to break it up & we could see more (plus this way we avoided Phoenix).  When we originally decided to stop in Sedona we wanted to try the Kimpton, to give them one last go at keeping out business. After the incidents on the starvation, I was a little dubious about what might happen. However that need not have happened.

We made good time into Sedona & Heidi was at the wheel the whole time. We stopped at the Oak Creek Vista trailhead for a quick lunch stop. Sadly the temperature wasn’t much better than the Canyon but it was still higher at least. The quick stop gave us a chance to stretch our legs and feed our stomachs (we had packed a lunch from the morning buffet).

We rolled into Sedona around 2pm and went to the hotel first, thinking we would have a room to go to. When the Amara told us that the room wasn’t quite ready, they would look after our stuff & give us a call once it was ready but it wouldn’t be to long. So we left our stuff & the car and hiked up the hill to town. We went for a walk wondering if this was going to be a moment of truth.

When we got the call to come back, we came back down the hill to the resort, checked in & headed for our room. We were on the far side of the resort (which isn’t all that big). Our room was at the end of the left wing, on the upper floor, it didn’t look all that big from the outside & I was wondering if the upgrade didn’t happen. Then we walked in. The room was huge, I wouldn’t call it a suite but it was awesome still.  More a junior suite with a large 2 person Jacuzzi tub in the bathroom. We were in the room mere moments till we saw the Amenity.

Kimpton hotels are pretty awesome to their elites. All their entry level members get free wifi & $10 worth of bar credit (at the bar or mini bar). But as an elite (which i am till the end of this year) you also get a tailored Amenity. They will put whatever you want in your room. Like nuts & diet coke, that’s what you get. Our last Kimpton Stay was a shock because we didn’t even get our Amenity, we got someone else’s. Not this time. We walked into this:

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The hotel knew we were on our honeymoon, we had told them in advance. We had tweeted how excited we were to be staying at a Kimpton, I guess they did some research on us. They had done it right, all our snacks wer packaged up like takeaway boxes like you might get on a flight. We even had bottles of water with our names on it. We were Muir Airlines!

The amenities were spot on for us. Cookies, Fruit, Diet Coke & Water. Add on some Prosecco to celebrate our wedding & that would have been amazing on its own. The staff even wrote us a little note to say that they appreciated our stay, the kicker is what was on the TV, us. We were on TV, the TV in our room. What the hell. I remember stammering to Heidi “look at the TV”. The hotel had downloaded the YouTube video of our wedding and was playing it via a USB stick in our room.

It isn’t that often that you get to see a bug moment of your life in a hotel room in a state several hours flight time away from home. They had really done it, pretty much Kimpton had our loyalty now, one small gesture like that will keep us staying (though inner circle probably will slip). The Amara as a whole was a great hotel. Nicely furnished, not to large of a resort but not to small either, a good mix of both. The staff were great and really helped us enjoy our one night in town.

Although we didn’t do much, we still had a great time. We did go for a little explore through the trails around Sedona (and by explore I mean getting lost on some trails for an hour or so). Sedona overall is a great town, somewhere we would like to come back to spend a few days in the future. But if your thinking of going, go to the Amara, you won’t regret it, we didn’t.

Current Location: Exit 175, I-10E Arizona.
States Visited: 3
Miles Driven: 1005m
Slim Jims eaten by Heidi: 3 

Honeymoon Day 5 – From Desert Heat to Canyon Cold

After we rolled out of Vegas at 6am Saturday morning we were heading East towards Arizona. Retracing some steps I took the very first time I visited the USA though this time I was at the controls and not trying to sleep off any hangovers. The drive was stunning as the sun started rising over the mountains.

We made a pit stop in Kingman AZ for breakfast. Quick stop at the Dunkin for coffee & a bagel and back on the road we go with Heidi at the wheel.   Another pit stop in William AZ for a walk, a snack & some beverages & then North towards the Canyon. The road was easy going & our first real road day together on this trip. We were aiming to be in Grand Canyon Village by 1300 at the latest as we had a helicopter flight booked. I had applied for an industry stand by rate for one of the longer flights and it was a deal for $35pp.

We made it into town around 12 so went for a walk, grabbed some lunch & tried to check in but they wouldn’t let us. Not a big deal. We headed off to the airport for our flight. This was Heidi’s 2nd helicopter flight in as many days & she was still super excited.  I thin I have created a monster. I am going to say that the best way to get a perspective on just how vast the Canyon is you need to see it from the air.  No real commentary from our pilot bug a good flight. I was in the back with Heidi next to me on the window. Didn’t worry me at all, we only paid 1/10th the price others did.

After our flight we headed into the National Park (here’s a tip, purchase your pass at the Imax Theatre, same price, no lines & no wait at the park entrance)  and headed for the rim. Originally we were going to head to the rim around the main visitors center for sunset, however there was massive crowds, way over the top. We decided to go East towards Desert View & the sunset point out there, it would be less crowded (it was). The winds were up and the temperature had dropped dramatically. In Vegas it was in the 70s during the day, at the Canyon it was high 30s plus windchill. Ugh. We had an early night with Mexican food & TV in bed.

Woke up the next morning to a snow & ice layer on the ground. A temperature of high 20s was a rude shock. Not something you want to deal with when you are meant to be out hiking. We revised our plans after recovering from a rude awakening by the fire alarms going off at 5am (joy) and decided to just stick to the rim walk for a few kms, mainly for safety & keeping our bodies in one piece.

The Canyon walk was good & worth the hour or so we took to stroll along. At one point we came across an entire flock of Mule Deer, just wandering along as though we didn’t exist. Still really beautiful & Heidi had a blast running about amongst nature. We finished our Rim Walk by the fire thawing out at Bright Angel Lodge before Hopping the shuttle back to our car.

The Canyon is ever as beautiful as I remember it, the colors at sunset were stunning. Although we didn’t come prepared for temperatures at that level (my hands froze solid at one point & I went through considerable pain as they thawed out) we still enjoyed the time we had there. Right now we cruise out of the park headed for Sedona & our most expensive night on this trip, but hopefully the one that is going to be the most relaxing & luxurious.

Current Location: State Route 64 between Tusayan & William AZ
States Visited: 3
Miles Traveled: 777m
Slim Jims Eaten by Heidi: 3