Tuesday 27th June 2017

We woke up and got ourselves sorted in Palm Springs at a fairly reasonable 7am. We didn’t need to rush but we wanted to get on the road before any traffic and also before the heat obviously. We had picked up some breakfast supplies for me the night before, Heidi on the other hand wanted to enjoy her Sausage Gravy MRE, it even came with “artificial whitener”. Looked gross to me, but she was happy with it.

The roads were pretty clear as we drove out of PSP. We had tossed up between going via the Freeway or via Arizona but the freeways won out due to ease. Heidi took the first stint at the wheel as we headed out into the California interstates. We made a number of stops (hello Bathroom breaks, i should stop drinking so much coffee in the morning on road trips). We were originally planning on stopping for lunch around Barstow but we ended up making really good time, so did a driver swap there only. We headed out towards Las Vegas across the Mojave Desert.

We made such good time that we ended up in Vegas a good hour ahead of our time so we stopped just outside town to hit In N Out for lunch and work out final plans about how to drop bags etc. Sadly our hotel was on the opposite side to the self park area, so we had to do some to do a lot of back and forth to get into our rooms. Because we didn’t want to pay for Valet, since we received complimentary self parking, we had to drop our bags up at the North Valet first, then drive around to the Self Park then cross back over the hotel to check in. Silly but it was what we had to do.

After dropping the bags and parking the car (it was sure an adventure) we made a brief stop at the MLife desk on the way over to the Sky Suites check in. While checking in they gave us a brief run down of the amenities and the benefits of our stay. They handed us our keys to a 1 Bedroom Sky Suite with City View. That kind of made me sad for a second figuring we were looking back away from the Strip, however I was wrong. Our room on the 55th floor was massive and panoramic views of the strip and best of all, the airport. I could watch a lot fo movement on the Eastern Side of the airport through all of the GA areas. The suite was massive as well, almost as big as our house so we had plenty of space to move about.

We made plans to relax for part of the afternoon (I ran an errand down to Fry’s) and then we would have our progressive dinner along the strip. This is something we have done just about every trip since we first visited together. We would walk up to Harrah’s for a salad, explore some of the hotels along the way and then hop onto the other side of the strip, explore some more and have some pizza at Cosmopolitan at Secret Pizza. From there we would find some dessert depending on what we feel like, although this year, that would mean not leaving the building as Milkbar is now open. Everything was great and the we walked for hours on end. Pizza was tasty and Heidi’s first taste of Crack Pie and Cereal Milk Ice Cream made her night. We returned to our hotel for a relaxing night where Heidi gambled and I passed out.

Wednesday 28th June 2017

After a nice late sleep in, a gym session in the massive Aria gym and then it was time for breakfast. We were heading to the Aria buffet (it was comped thankfully) and they had changed the way they do things. They now did not have a breakfast and lunch on weekdays. They had 3 sittings still but it was breakfast till 9am, Brunch till 3pm and then Dinner from 3pm onwards. We managed to get into the restaurant just before Brunch started so the crowds were not there. But shortly afterwards the restaurant filled up. They had all of our usual favorites, plus a whole heap more! We were very happy full people by the time we waddled out.

Today was our relaxing day and Heidi had a spa treatment booked for the afternoon. Before catching up with a friend for a little bit, we headed out to the Airplane Shop where Heidi let me finally buy a model! I ended up getting the Salmon 30 Salmon in honor of Heidi’s Grandad. After seeing our friend I dropped Heidi back at Aria for her treatment and I went off plane spotting. I hit up a few different spots including Sunset drive and also the MGM parking lot. I didn’t get as many photos as I wanted as it was stupidly hot, along with their being numerous runway changes. I just got tired of the back and forth so went back to the hotel to enjoy the view of the airport from on high.

We had tickets (or so we thought) for Blue Man Group that night and we had a couple of different options for dinner but went for something that not many people would expect. I had never been to a Taco Bell before and Las Vegas is the home of the first ever Taco Bell Cantina. Their flagship store, it has a wedding chapel, the usual taco bell food and alcoholic slushies! I had no idea what to order, so Heidi helped me through it. What we had was suuuuuuuper tasty. I was happy as larry. Heidi had a Margarita slushy, I ended up with the Mountain Dew Baja Blast, which was pretty good.

After dinner we made our way over to the Luxor for the show and just as we parked we got a message saying our tickets fell through. Ugh. We frantically looked at options and in the end, went with a walk up ticket, the prices were not that bad. Heidi Loved Blue Man Group and I enjoyed the new show (different since the last time I saw it in 2012). We managed to get a photo with one of the Blue Men as we left. Back to the hotel to pass out as it was a late night.

Thursday 29th March 2017

We woke up early to eat breakfast before leaving the hotel. This time having breakfast at the Aria Cafe rather than the buffet as we didn’t want that kind of full belly. We were heading out early to meet our friend at the Red Rock Casino. After that we were heading out to the Red Rock area to enjoy the outdoors and do a small bit of hiking before the sun became way too much.

We saw a few different spots and Heidi was specific she didn’t want any busy hikes so we did part of the Ice Box canyon hike. As we left the park we were all sweaty and tired! Well worth the hike too. The views were stunning and it was so different to Joshua Tree. We returned to the hotel (after putting some gas in the car) and after showing our friend around the suite for a bit, we got ready to check out. Neither of us was that hungry so ended up just putting together a few bits and pieces for lunch.

We checked out of our hotel (after several back and forth trips across the hotel to the self parking lot) and headed over towards Downtown Las Vegas. We made a brief stop to get some souvenirs at the World’s Largest Gift Shop (which is sketchy yet hilarious at the same time), before heading to the Golden Nugget Hotel. Thankfully I had managed to get us VIP check in as the place was an absolute Zoo at check in. No staff to help out, the valet was a mess with cars and people everywhere and not a Bellman in sight to help with bags. I had to ask several people to figure out where VIP Check In even was. But soon enough we had keys and vague directions to our room.

We went out to explore the Downtown area for a bit and tried to figure out dinner. We found one place to try but it was small and we probably would need a back up. After a while in the heat I went back to the room and Heidi came back for a bit too before she headed off to get set up for Slotzilla. I got my large camera and decided to try and see if I could get photos of her. It wasn’t easy but I managed to get something resembling a photo, though it wasn’t very good quality.

After trying out our dinner place and seeing the wait for a table was over 90 minutes we decided to try out Hash House a Go Go in the Plaza Hotel. It was good and we both enjoyed our dinner. We went back to the hotel and picked up the car from the Valet (we wanted to move it from the main valet to the one closest to our room) and headed out to pick up some Ice Cream from a place I had been to in the past. It was still as tasty and sketchy as I remember it. But who cares it was delicious! We came back to the hotel and passed out!

Friday 30th June 2017

We woke up early with all intents of hitting the gym but just couldn’t roll out of bed. So we instead made our way to the buffet earlier than usual so that Heidi could still make it to the pool before we checked out. The buffet at the Golden Nugget was cheap ($14++) and with a 2 for 1 voucher made the value all the more better. It was a very good selection on offer with the requisite ice cream by the scoop and the thing that made it all the more amazing, real Krispy Kreme donuts! We filled up for sure and enjoyed our time this morning.

Heidi wanted to hit the pool so that she could ride the waterslide. The slide opened at 9am and Heidi was the third person down it. She wanted to do it as the slide goes through “The Tank” which is a large Aquarium Tank filled with fish and sharks. The slide goes straight through the middle, although Heidi says she couldn’t really see anything. After packing up and checking out, we hit the road out of Las Vegas, leaving it behind for another year.

Wednesday 21st June 2017

After collecting our luggage and making out way out of the station we headed to the street & the lick up points for ride share. We requested a ride and moments later we were being picked up. Off to the hotel we went.

Due to peak hour it took a while to get up to the hotel from Union Station but it was fine. We were dropped off in the driveway for our hotel, The Waldorf Astoria Chicago. The hotel was one of my work benefits so we had used it for 2 of our three nights. Check in was a breeze & within a few minutes we were on our way up to our suite. We had been upgraded to a Waldorf Suite on the top floor. The room was amazing, so much space. The view though was blocked by other buildings bit we could see glimpses of the lake.

After checking out the room and waiting a few minutes for our bags we got ourselves settled & then headed out to dinner. We decided to have some pizza the first night, so I let Heidi decide. She went with Giordanos which was only a short walk from the hotel. Sadly when we got there it was a 45 minute wait for tables & then it’s another 45-60 minutes for pizza. We waited it out and it was well worth the wait.

After waddling back to the hotel we crashed for the evening as it was getting late by that stage.

Thursday 22nd June 2017

After waking up & heading outside for a long morning walk along the lake, I had to meet a hotel rep in the morning so we took it easy to begin with. I headed down to Dunkin for some breakfast, Heidi had leftover pizza.

After getting to check out the hotel, including some amazing rooms like the Presidential Suite, we headed out for the day. We hopped the Red Line down to Millennium Park & checked out the sights. We took photos with The Bean & then worked our way down to the Buckingham Fountain. More walking as we made our way back through the city to Portillos for lunch.

Portillos is famous for its hot dogs & Italian beef. Since my allergy precludes me from eating Italian beef, I’ll stick to the hot dog. We got there & the waits were not to bad. We were smart & got a table first. I had forgotten how wierd the Chicago hot dog really is. It has so much stuff on it, you would think someone was drunk when they invented it. Still tastes good though. I surprised Heidi with a slice of their famous lemon cake which you can only get on rare occasions, luckily one of them was the day we visited. Heidi enjoyed her first try of a Chicago hot dog so that was good.

After lunch we went back out into the humidity & 90F weather. We walked back down to the river slowly before our 4pm cruise along the Chicago River. Time for the architecture cruise. I had done it when I first came & loved it. So much history & learning a lot about different styles of buildings. I thought Heidi might like it. Of course the minute we get on board the open top boat it begins to rain.

The cruise was great & I learned a few new things. Heidi did too after a while, to begin with it was a but too much information for her. But by the end of it we had both enjoyed it. After the cruise we walked along the riverfront for a bit, grabbed some dinner & hopped a train back to the hotel. We finished off a long day of walking by relaxing on the couch eating sandwiches from Hannah Bretzels, a flashy kind of subway that offered Pretzel Bread rolls. They were delicious!

Friday 23rd June 2017

Woke up at a normal time today & hit the hotels gym for a bit. After returning to the room & cleaning up it was time to pack up our stuff. We decided to leave our bags at the hotel & head out. We would come back later on & grab our stuff before heading to the other hotel.

We had breakfast at the Dunkin Donuts near us & then headed off to explore North of the river today. Started off with the water tower and then off along the waterfront to Lincoln Park. Heidi wanted to explore the park so off we went. She had earlier told me she didn’t want to see the zoo but the moment we got there she all of a sudden wanted to see the zoo. Sadly no time 😉

We took a long walk through the Lincoln Park neighborhood on our way to lunch. While not from Chicago, we wanted to give a sushi burrito a try. We found one at was once called Sumo Restaurant (since changed name) & it was delicious. I had the Angry Salmon & boy was it spicy,covered in cheeto dust too. After lunch Heidi & I walked back to the Red Line to jump a train over to the Magnificent Mile, for a donut, before returning to the hotel.

After collecting our bags & ordering a ride share, this is when things went awry. The driver that had been sent to us by the rideshare decided not to use the hotel driveway but instead park on the street out of view of us waiting on the driveway. The car looked run down & he had music blaring. Those two I can forgive, but the way he drove us to our other hotel was the killer. He ignored the directions on the app, he ran several red lights & stop signs too. A 35 minute rode took almost an hour. By the time I got to the hotel I was hot under the collar, literally too as it was stinking hot in that car.

We checked into our other hotel, the Sleep Inn Midway airport. A one night stay by the airport for our 6am flight the next day was all that needed. The room was booked as a name your own price on priceline & I got a relatively good deal. Although the hotel was basic it was pretty nice. We did get the typical priceline treatment of an accessible room. Not much in the way of options for food around the hotel but what they did have was a Lou Malnati’s close by. We choose to compare pizzas.

After an amazing dinner of deep dish we waddled back to the hotel to crash till the Weee hours of the morning.

Current Location: Country Inn & Suites Ontario Mills

This trip has been pretty amazing. I can’t believe how much work has gone into it over the last 12 months or so. The planning, the organizing and then in the last month or so the execution of it all. It was so much work, but yet it was totally worth it in the end.

The trip itself was over 22,000 miles (22675 to be exact) and there was both good and bad parts. The good far outweighed the bad. The delays, losing my stuff, all bad. But yet it is fairly small things that happened and are fairly meaningless in the overall scheme of things.

The good outweigh everything here and make this trip the fully memorable journey that it is. Heidi and I had a blast in so many places and it was so good introducing Heidi and her parents to what felt like my entire family. We shared so many good moments and enjoyed doing it.

All of the trip has been sorted out now, putting things away, working out what I brought back and what I didn’t. I have fixed up the majority of my photos (still have all the spotting photos to go) and they are now online at the following links:

Circling the Pacific
Circling the Pacific Pt 2

It is split up thanks to Picasa but otherwise everything is good to go! I loved every minute of this trip and can’t wait to go back to both Australia and Japan again!

Friday 29th July 2016

We began our journey back to the airport by first taking a Yamonote Line train back to Tokyo Station. It was a bad start as we went to an entry without escalators to the platform and then to make things worse than having to lug my suitcase up steps. We went to the wrong platform but didn’t work it out till almost to the top. Got ourselves back on the right platform and it was ok.

We made it to Tokyo Station and weaved our way down to the N’EX platforms and made it just in time for the 12:03pm train to depart right in front of us. Now we had a 30 minute wait till our scheduled train. We waited on the platform for a while and unfortunately seating was lacking so we had to stand. I ended up eating my Ekiben and repacked it all before we even boarded as I wanted to make sure I had it packed away securely.

We boarded the train for our quick hour long ride out to the airport and unlike the train the night before, this one had free wifi! Made the ride a little bit less tiring. It flew by and before I knew it, we were at Narita Terminal 2-3 Station. Once we left the station Heidi and I got ourselves ready to disembark.

Once off the train and out of the station we made our way up to the check in counters for ANA First Class which is in the Z section. The “ANA Suite” check in was a very private, sectioned off area and while we waited for our staff member to check us in (it was kind of complicated with bags etc already through checked etc). From there it was through a private security channel and into the immigration area. Immigration was heaving and again took about 20 minutes or so to get through. We watched as a couple of Asiana staff paniced when people were still in line as they were trying to close the flight.

After clearing immigration we headed off to the ANA Suites Lounge (they don’t have suites, they just call it that) for an afternoon of plane spotting and relaxing. The lounge had fantastic views of the airport runways and a great relaxing atmosphere. Plenty of food choices and both buffet and cooked to order options. The first thing I did was get my stuff situated, camera set up and leave Heidi with the gear while I went off in search of my usual Tokyo spending habit…… Kit Kats!

I knew exactly where to go as there were two stores close by that always seem to have all the different varieties. Wasabi is always the hardest one to find and today was not my day. I did manage to get the usual Matcha and Sakura, I also managed to pick up some Strawberry and also some Hokkaido Melon (which I have never seen before). Decided against the big boxes of the Strawberry and Blueberry Cheesecake ones, due to space. They would have to wait until next time.

Back to the lounge to settle in with some Pork Cutlet curry and some treats. The desserts on offer were pretty delicious yet strange. I tried an Edamame cake thing that was delicious yet disturbing at the same time. Lots of good photos this afternoon with numerous Oneworld and Star Alliance liveries but the two big hits this afternoon were the BB-8 777-300ER (parked next to our gate) and a Pakistan International A310 (don’t see those very often). After a while we decided to head down a little early to get in some steps and stretch before we were stuck inside a tube for a while.

All Nippon Airways – NH8
Tokyo Narita to San Francisco
1710-1055
Boeing 777-300ER (JA783A)
First Class – Seat 1K

Boarding: 1636 (Gate 55)
Push Back: 1709
Take off Roll: 1731 (Runway 16R)
Top of Descent: 1020
Touch Down: 1046 (Runway 01R)
Shut Down: 1112 (Gate 94)

Plenty of gate lice today as the airport just seemed to attract them, however we hung back till we saw people approaching the First Class lane, then we hurried over to get our spot in line. You could spot the americans a mile away as they were the first ones in line at each lane, no matter how long they had to wait. All wanting to vie to get the most amount of overhead bin space.

We actually boarded a few minutes before the posted time (which is rare for Japan, as usually it is extremely punctual) and we were the 2nd and 3rd people into the Cabin. Lots of photos and greetings and Heidi was given a personal run through of the seat. The crew seemed to love Heidi on this trip (and so they should because who wouldn’t right?) and they spent a good 10 minutes showing her everything. I declined to be shown as I just watched along as Heidi got the royal treatment.

Everything was laid out at the seat waiting for us including a sweater, pyjamas, blanket, slippers, headphones and the piece de resistance, a Samsonite Amenity kit. Rimowa it is not, but damn sure it is good enough! I stashed it all away when I could and spent a good portion of time fighting off the cabin crew from unwrapping it all. We eventually pushed back and started the long way out to the active. I missed a picture of the traditional farewell bow from the ground crew (dammit) and got a few good shots of some of the Star Alliance aircraft spotted around T1.

We made it out to the end of Runway 16R and as we turned the GE90s powered up (I may have made a mess in my pants as usual when I hear that noise so close 😉 ) and towards the sky we went. The climb angle felt steeper up front and as usual with Narita departures, it was a little bit bumpy (though not the worst). Once the seatbelt sign went off, I jumped up to grab my stuff and stash a few things. Phone charge on, glasses and laptop out, shoes off and stashed. Time to settle!

I worked a bit on the trip report before the crew started the dinner service. The menu was presented and drink orders taken. Post Departure beverages were served with an amuse bouche of a few items. The menu looked good tonight and there was no way I was going to turn down the Japanese Menu. All 10 courses of it!

The meal began and it was all so good. Exactly as I remember having it in business a while back. The courses were so well plated, physically beautiful yet delicious at the same time. Course by Course kept on coming and a lot of them were served together at the same time. I ended up having some green tea with the latter courses and it complimented the food well. After all of that I was offered the choice of dessert and I selected both the japanese and one of the western options. The western option was a good cleanse but the japanese dessert was just simply amazing. A mixture of red bean and matcha… my two favorite things!

After dinner the crew made up the seat into bed mode and I relaxed into the rest of the flight. I gave it 10 minutes or so of watching a movie before giving in to the sleep. I lay down on the bed and tried to take a nap. The seat was pretty comfy in bed mode with a thick mattress pad and a nice doona as well. The blanket was soft and comfy if you needed it. The pillows just were not big enough for my liking, but isn’t that always the problems on most flights. The rest of the seat was great there was ample storage and thankfully ANA had not removed the overhead bins.

I got just under 2 hours of sleep before it was getting pretty bumpy (although no seatbelt sign ever came on). So I went back to enjoying my movie as the sun came up outside. Time to start waking myself up as the time outside was similar to a time I would be getting up in the real world. This journey was slowly coming to an end and unfortunately I was getting a little bit sad 🙁

As one movie finished and another one started the smells of breakfast began to waft throughout the aircraft. Time to get myself slowly ready for the impending rush of people wanting to do things. The last part of the flight flew by. The crew offered breakfast items from the menu and also from the snack menu. I took a couple of different options that were mostly breakfasty since it was that time of the day. I did go against the grain and got a pork cutlet sandwich just because I wanted to try it. It was worth it though because it was delicious!

As we started descent the crew came by to give us a little gift full of lots of ANA star wars jet goodies including playing cards and some other random stuff. The cloud cover was pretty thick below until all of a sudden it cleared and we turned so that SFO was in a spot I couldn’t see… typical. After that we had to track almost down to San Jose before turning back North to line up for a landing. We thankfully did not come in on the same runway that Asiana crashed (they had a L landing we had a R) and we touched down nice and easy. Pretty good right?

We pulled off the active and headed towards the taxiway where we then parked for another 10 minutes or so waiting for our gate. It was United 747 central on the ramp as I saw at least 6 in all different states (at the gate, on the taxiway, being towed). By the time we hit the gate, they did not have us waiting long before the first class guests were ushered to the door. They held back Business class and made sure that we were first ones off the flight. That was nice of them. Heidi and I grabbed our gear and headed for immigration… it was good to be back home… kinda.

Thursday 28th July 2016

After taking the N’EX downtown to Tokyo Station we weaved our way through the maze and up to the Yamanote line to continue our journey. We only had to take the train 1 stop to Yurakucho and then walk around the corner to our hotel for the night, The Peninsula Tokyo. The check in process took a little bit of time because, you know, Japan but soon enough the staff member took us up to our room. We had been upgraded for our final night of the trip to an Executive Suite with a brilliant view of the Ginza area and the train lines below.

We didn’t stay in the room long, just enough time to change some shoes out and then it was off to find some dinner. It was pretty late, but a lot of places were still open and after wandering around for a while, we found one place that interested both of us. It was the kind of place that sells noodles and you buy the tickets (that is you pay) the vending machine. The ramen was fantastic and we both really enjoyed it. Pretty cheap too considering how expensive some things can be in Japan.

We wound back to the hotel via the convenience store for an ice cream and then back to the hotel for a good night’s sleep.

Friday 29th July 2016

Woke up kind of early this morning as I wanted to head out for a run before I had a breakfast meeting thing for “work”. The track around the Imperial Palace is meant to be 5km and I was determined to do it. I did not find a running map in the hotel the night before so figured I would wing it. Probably wasn’t my brightest idea because I blew through 5km and kept on going. I stopped about 5.5km because my knees were just done by that stage but I was nowhere near the hotel. I could see it, but it was ages away. So I had to walk back to the hotel from that point. I did over 7km so that should give you an indication of how far off the path I had gone…. Woops!

Back to the hotel for a cooling shower, packing of my bag and then a breakfast site inspection with the hotel rep. The rep turned out to be a bit of an avgeek so it went from a normal breakfast meeting time to something truly awesome. Got to see the conference room dedicated to the japanese aviation history. Similar to the Clipper Lounge in Hong Kong this conference room was full of memorabilia and was a great showcase for the hotel chains love of aviation.

After a great breakfast, Heidi and I headed off to Tokyo station to see if we could find some candy, and also grab some food for our train ride out to the airport. We could have gone just about anywhere in the city but decided to stay close because we didn’t want to get to in depth into the city and then not want to leave. We stopped to reserve our seats on the train and then wound our way through the 1st Avenue shopping mall to see if I could find some kit kats. Instead we found Heidi some goodies and lots of photo opportunities. Although I didn’t find any kit kats, we did manage to get our Ekiben (Train Bento) in the shape of a Shinkansen train. The food inside was of no great importance to me, I just wanted to the box itself We jumped back on the train to our hotel, so that we could pack up and head out to our last big flight of the trip. Time to head back to the USA.

Thursday 28th July 2016

Woke up way too early this morning to make sure we had as much time as possible in the airport. Since Changi is sooooo huge and there is so much stuff to see we didn’t want to have to rush. Got some coffee from our butler (yes, I said butler) and saw a little nice presentation they had left for us on the balcony (some kissing swan towels). After paying our bill we headed off in an Uber to the airport. We were sad to be leaving the Raffles but super excited for the day ahead.

Back when Heidi and I first started dating we were planning a journey to Japan. Heidi & I were both planning on coming back from Tokyo in Suites and in fact I was considering proposing to Heidi onboard. Things changed when we actually got engaged and we had to cancel the trip (thanks immigration). So we were finally able to ensure that on this trip back from Australia, we were going to do suites.

We rolled into the Singapore Airlines First Class check in and their were porters and staff waiting for us at the driveway. The porters took our bags and the check in staff showed us through to a desk. We checked in and there was a lot of typing as it was a US flight, they had to make sure all the APIS data was intact (I tried doing it before we left, but it never stuck). So that took a little while and then it was out of check in and into the private immigration channel. A smile, no questions just stamp stamp stamp.. “Have a nice day” and that was it, we were out of Singapore.

Straight out of immigration and up the steps to the Lounge complex and into the Russian Doll of airport lounges. Heidi was asking us where the lounge was, and I explained it was a lounge within a lounge within a lounge. Off to the Private Room and time for some breakfast. We were escorted all the way in and showed to a table. Coffee and food ordered shortly after and you could also help yourself to a limited buffet. Not sure if the set up was as good as the First Class Lounge (you had to ask for most things that would have been self service) and there was very little in the way of liquid refreshment on show (so knowing what you could have was tough).

Heidi had a bowl of noodles, I went with Bacon and Eggs and Toast along with a bowl of cereal. Didn’t want to eat to much as we were going to eat well onboard. Our time in the Private Room was extremely relaxed and I enjoyed it all. The staff helped me organise some duty free onboard (they couldn’t make sure that we had it, but they did tell me how to make sure we got it onboard first.

We left the Private Room a little bit early to go and explore the airport a little and get rid of the last of our Singapore Dollars. We came across the butterfly lounge right by our gate, so that was awesome! Lots of free flying butterflies just floating around. We went through security at the gate (as it is designed in Singapore) and we found a spot in the boarding lounge. We had no real wait at security but didn’t look like we would have to wait long to get onto the aircraft.

Singapore Airlines – SQ12
Singapore to Tokyo Narita
0935-1730
Airbus A380-800 (9V-SKN)
Suites Class – Seat 2D

Boarding: 0850 (Gate B2)
Push Back: 0946
Take Off Roll: 1013 (Runway 20C)
Top of Descent: 1715
Touch Down: 1747 (Runway 16R)
Shut Down: 1755 (Gate 45)

Wheelchairs and kids were shown onto the aircraft (there was plenty of them) and then a few minutes later they called boarding for Suites Class guests. We were right next to the boarding lane and we were shown onboard shortly after. Down the jetbridge and then allowed into the first door. There was a staff member blocking the first door access and she let us through once she saw the gold boarding pass.

Once we stepped onboard we were shown to our seats by the first of our crew for today. He gave us a brief introduction to the suite and also took our Pre Departure beverage orders. Heidi went with the dom, i stayed with sparkling water for the moment. We went through so much fun taking photos of everything and just playing with all the nooks and crannies. The crew were great and they looked after us so well.

The stewardess on our side (green dress makes her a senior i think) had a familiar name. It was none other than Janesis who has been written about so much online. It was great to meet her and she really did look after us. She brought out menus and all the goodies for us like amenity kits (which I topped up from supplies in the lavatory) and pyjamas. We put in our orders for lunch and let them know we would delay our lunch till around 1ish singapore time as that would give us plenty of time to rest and catch up on life.

After we had a delayed push back thanks to a lack of refuelling trucks we finally hit the taxiway for the active runway. Bit of a long taxi and also a wait behind a number of aircraft for our turn to depart. Soon enough we were in the air and headed north towards Tokyo. We had a quick drink of Champagne each while we snacked on some Satay (Heidi went with Dom, I went with Krug). After that we watched as the two crew put our suites into bed mode. It was such an interesting process to watch.

Lying back in bed it allowed me to watch some tv in some privacy and write a bit of the trip report. We got to relax in total comfort before lunch. Once our lunch time rolled around it was time for the show to begin. We headed over to another seat and we had a couples dining experience. Heidi sat in the seat and I sat in the ottoman. The place was set and we started what was to be a 2 hour lunch. Course after Course kept on coming and it was delicious all the way.

Crab appestiser followed by Cream of spinach, followed by a salad and then followed by the main course. I went with the Laksa as my main and it was such a great lunch. I didn’t need to add any further spiciness to it at all, it was pretty much perfect. After the main came the dessert course then cheese and fruit. Finally we were presented with a tray of chocolates accompanied by a hand created card celebrating our honeymoon. It was such a fantastic gesture. Janesess even made Heidi a hand made flower and gave us a card to post our photos on facebook and to write nice things about them (we were going to anyway).

After lunch we had about 90 minutes left in the flight and returned back to our double bed to relax a bit more. As we started to get closer and closer to descent it was time to get ourselves back into the groove of things and get back ready to hit the ground in Narita. I returned to the window seat and got everything into its place. We took a photo on the steps with the crew. I started to think back over all of the flights I have taken so far in my life and I have to say this is my favorite flight. The food, the service, the seat, it was all perfect. You can’t ask for better than that.

After all was said and done we started to approach Narita. The approach into Narita was pretty easy. We touched down around 25 minutes late and it was a great taxi to the gate. There was a great variety of aircraft and it was also the rush hour departure period. There was way to many 787s on the ground. I saw Air Canada, JAL and about a dozen ANA’s including one of the first two built (they have a special livery). We pulled into the gate and at that moment it was all over. We were standing in the boarding area of Main Level Door 1L as they waited for the jet bridge to connect and ok the doors to open. It hit us both at that moment it was time to leave.

We headed off the flight, away from the gate and into Narita Airport where we had to go what felt like the entirety of Terminal 1 to get to immigration. When we got there it was like hell had broken loose. The foreigners line was HUGE. It took us a good 30 minutes to get through the queue and then it was out to our bags which were already waiting for us. We were quickly able to clear customs and within 5 minutes of officially being in Japan we had tickets for the next N’EX to Tokyo Station.

Singapore has been a very different experience this time around to the previous time I was here. Last time I was here with Cat and we were determined to do a lot of stuff. We had 4 nights and we put them to good use. This time around it was 3 nights and we didn’t really do all that much. Our 3 nights really was 2 full days available to us and both of them had some time aside for me to “work” thanks to requirements of using our free stays.

Monday 25th July 2016

After getting the LimoTaxi into the city, we checked into the Fullerton Bay Hotel which was our home for the first two nights of our stay. The hotel is right down on the Marina Bay area and it was stunning. A small boutique style hotel that had a mix of history along with also modern contemporary. This was Heidi’s choice for a hotel and she picked really well.

After checking in we headed off to Orchard Road for some dinner (since a Food Court is an easy introduction to Singapore eating without going all out Hawker style. Grabbed some random foods, and an Ice Cream on the street (gotta love those Pandang Bread Ice Cream Sandwiches) and it was back to the hotel to pass out late.

Tuesday 26th July 2016

Woke up fairly average time today and decided to go for a run around the hotel area with a map provided. Managed to do what should have been 5km, but didn’t quite mark it as such so not sure what happened there. Good run in the morning as the sun came up but the humidity sure was a killer. After a long slow breakfast full of really good food and plenty of Kopi O, I had to do a bit of work for a while and by the time we finished it was almost lunch! We walked down into Chinatown heading to a Hawker Center. We were ok with directions as the Fullerton Bay provide you with a phone with local data capabilities and you can do stuff to your hearts content. We found the hawker center and a giant line that snaked across most of the length of the building. It was a line for one stall and it was probably 50 people or so. We weren’t sure what it was, but we got in it for a bit while we tried to figure out what else was there.

We ended up not going with the line (since we were hungry) and both grabbed some food and snagged a table by the open air part. It was raining at the time so some breeze was definitely welcome. After some food, we headed off to pick up some shopping and avoid the rain and then headed back to the hotel to relax. We scrapped our plans for the Botanic Gardens and decided to go crash out on the bed for a little break. After setting up a catch up with a friend we headed off to another food center this time out in Lavender and the place we were going to was actually one of two Hawker Stalls that have a Michelin Star (the other one turned out to be the one we were in line for at lunch!). We arrived at the Hawker stall around 530pm and we were sitting down to eat almost 2 hours later! It was worth the wait… the Pork Noodle dish was pretty amazing! A stop in Somerset for some ice cream waffles and then off the hotel for the Marina Bay Sands light show.

Wednesday 27th July 2016

A Bit of an earlier wake up today and a gym session instead of a run. Packing up and breakfast before grabbing an Uber over to our new hotel for the last night of our stay. I had redeemed a stay at the Raffles and I was looking forward to this. While the Raffles is not the most up to date, amazingly trendy hotel with all the bells and whistles, this hotel is about service, serenity and history. We arrived at the hotel and greeted by the Doorman (in full regalia) and personally escorted inside. This was the kind of arrival I like! We didn’t stick around long but got introduced to our butler and he helped set us up for a few things.

We headed off in another Uber to Gardens by the Bay to explore and this place was a mind blowing experience. It is the Most Expensive Garden in the world and it surely does show. The two conservatories were amazing and the Flower Dome was holding the annual Singapore Garden Show and Orchid Expo. The orchid’s were amazing but I loved the Cloud Forest more. It was like a giant rainforest in a dome including a big 7 story tall waterfall. We explored the outside of the gardens more and then slowly walked back to the Raffles for an afternoon of relaxation. We were going to hit the pool but it was baking hot so decided to instead explore around the hotel. Heidi and I got ready for High Tea in the Tiffin Room and after a quick bit of work we got down to business. The Business of pretending we were back in the colonial days. The Tea was fantastic and the food was to die for. The clotted cream on the scones was just amazing and some of the desserts were great. It was a great afternoon and although not cheap, we figured it was a great way to finish off our luxurious few days in Singapore.

Current Location – Raffles Hotel Singapore

I won’t do a full blow by blow for every waking minute over the last 5 nights but I will give you a basic breakdown of how each day went.

Wednesday 20th July 2016

After getting picked up at the airport by my folks and getting some of my first Aussie food for lunch in several years we had a nice afternoon stroll in the sun down to the shops. Heidi was getting her first experiences of Australian life and just how different things can be. We had a very calm evening and tried to just stay awake and that did not last long. We wanted to go to bed around a normal time, however by 7:45pm Heidi was passed out. I didn’t make it much longer as I was out by 8pm.

Thursday 21st July 2016

Hello Jetlag! Up at 3am and all over the shop before finally getting myself out of bed around 5am and catching up on emails and trip report stuff. After 6am I went for a run to see the sunrise and slowly but surely got myself going back to normal. We headed to the city around a reasonable time and Heidi’s first adventure on Brisbane public transport went off well. We did some walking through the city and caught up with some old work mates at my old work place. We walked around the city a lot and had some old favorites for lunch. So much had changed but so much was so familiar. We picked up our car (upgraded to a Holden Commodore SV6) and had a stop at Charlie’s Fruit Market (now open 24 hours a day!) for a treat at their “Raw Squeeze” bar. Pretty decent!

We had a bit of a rest before heading into DFO for a stop at the Crumpler Outlet (Heidi bought, I didn’t… for once) and then dinner on Racecourse Rd. Heidi had her first experience at Australian style pizza (she was mortified at how many toppings were ok on a pizza) and we picked up Heidi’s folks at the airport before heading home to sleep.

Friday 22nd July 2016

This morning we wanted to head out super early to Mt Cootha for a session with my old trainer. He really punished me this morning and I could tell it was not going to be an easy day. We got home and pretty much turned straight back around again after a quick bite and headed north to Australia Zoo. The day was spent exploring Australia Zoo and I had fun chasing Kangaroos around trying to get a selfie, while Heidi was super happy to just be sitting around with them and patting them. We had a Koala experience and got our photos taken while holding a big guy. He stank pretty bad! We finished off the afternoon back at Charlie’s for a snack before the bedlam of an evening dinner with 13 family in the house. Mum and Dad worked tirelessly to feed us Roast Lamb (god I miss it) and it was amazing!

Saturday 23rd July 2016

Woke up feeling like hell. My body hated me so much that the run I wanted to do down by the river turned into a walk instead. Today was the big day as we were having a cruise along the river with all of the family. We ran a few errands before we headed down to the cruise. There was 30 of my family onboard and everyone had a blast cruising down the river, having lunch and also meeting everyone else and catching up. There was family I had not seen since I was younger and some for several years. It was a great time. Had a few more hours to explore Brisbane and do some shopping before heading to dinner by the river with a group of friends. Finished the night wishing I didn’t have to say goodbye to my friends.

Sunday 24th July 2016

Woke up not so bad this morning, but today was designated rest day, so all good here! Headed to the airport to send off Heidi’s parents off on their Australian adventure and then we hit up the confectionary warehouse for some goodies. Caught up with a friend for a bit of morning tea and then off to see if we could get in Costco (we could). We had lunch by the bay in Redcliffe (yay Fish and Chips at Morgans) and then a bit of a walk as well so Heidi could stick her feet in the water. A fairly relaxed/busy afternoon getting stuff ready for our departure tomorrow before one last final catch up with some friends.

The time spent in Australia was amazing and I am so glad we came down. Heidi has had a blast and it has been fantastic catching up with friends and family. A lot of stuff has been talked about, but that is a whole other post on its own.

Current Location: Parents House – Brisbane, Australia – Countries Visited: 2

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