Tuesday 16th February 2016

Up at O Dark 45 this morning to get myself ready to head to Raleigh to begin my big drive. It was dark and quiet in Orange County and after staying at the Sketchiest hotel I have stayed at in years (this is what I get for being cheap) I headed onto the freeway and to the airport. I dropped off the car at SNA and had to hunt around to find the drop box, but eventually found it.

It was quiet in the terminal as I entered and found check in quick enough. I had to wait a little bit to finally see someone but was checked in and had my boarding passes soon enough and my bag (with priority sticker) on it’s way into the bowels of John Wayne Airport. The TSA today was funny as everyone was walking straight past an open checkpoint to another one. I was so confused, but hey… whatever. No line is no line! I was through security pretty quickly and spent more time putting my stuff back together than I did getting it all out and through security.

Once through I walked through the terminal a bit before heading up to the Admirals Club when it opened. This was going to be my first time flying American properly and I had scammed access via a status match with Air Berlin. I had mainly done that so that I had access to lounges on my way to Australia. The lounge opened up at 530am and with that I had somewhere to grab a coffee and use the restroom, away from the gate lice. I headed down to the gate early and this was my first mistake. When I got down there I realised that everyone was down there as well… but something was up.

The gate staff were not making any announcements about their boarding process or anything. They were calling people up at random, but not saying anything else. My thoughts was that it was connecting flights internationally and they were checking passports etc, but not sure. Then boarding time passed, and nothing. Delay was about to strike, I positioned myself in such a way that I could get to the club quickly if I had to. When the announcement was made that there would be a delay I was halfway to the club and barely heard the reason. A dead battery? Really AA? Lame!

I was the first person into the club and the line formed after me and I was quickly helped. I was told to just sit tight if I wanted to keep my first class seat (I sure as hell did!) and that they would protect me on the next available flight from DFW to Raleigh. This was one of these moments that helped for sure, but I was just frustrated! I was protected but it meant waiting around for several hours and told that there was nothing else at all. Changing airports was not really an option since it would get me there way to late tonight. I came back to the desk after a little while to get a seat assigned and all that was left was Aisles 🙁 ugh. But i guess with a night flight that will be ok.

I sat around in the club just chilling out, trying to relax. I fixed up my travel plans for that day, reaching out and letting people know about the delay (was meeting someone at Dallas and seeing a friend in RDU). I changed around the pick up time for my car hire tonight and also let the hotel know I was coming in late… *sigh*. About an hour before the new flight time was meant to depart, I headed up to check if it was still going on time and tried to entertain myself somehow.

After walking around the terminal a bit, I returned to the gate in the hope we would get more information. Nothing. They made one announcement to say that the battery was “on site” however there was not a single person moving around the aircraft to do anything. It was hard to know what was going on when no one was saying anything! So rather than head back to the club, I stuck around the gate area and just waited it out. I was quite bored just standing around but I figured if I left something was going to change and I would miss it.

So the 9:30am departure became 10am, the 10am became 10:15. It just kept dragging on and on without any word. The battery did show up at the aircraft around 10am and it was installed pretty quickly. About 10 minutes later boarding was called and the bum rush for the gate began!

American Airlines – AA1627
Orange County to Dallas Ft Worth
0645-1155
Boeing 737-800 (N928NN)
First Class – Seat 4A

Boarding: 1012 (Gate 7)
Push Back: 1100
Take off Roll: 1111 (Runway 20R)
Top of Descent: 1510
Touch Down: 1534 (Runway 36L)
Shut Down: 1545 (Gate A14)

First Class was called and it seemed everyone was in First Class because they rushed the boarding area. I scooted around the side and did my best “Screw you I am boarding when I want” look, cutting in front of someone else (who turns out was not in first class). I was going to milk every last bit of this points redemption to RDU today.

I finally got a good look at our aircraft when I boarded and was happy to see the Boeing Sky Interior. That meant that I could actually charge my phone as well because the seats would have power, however no seat back tv, just wifi to your own device. Eh whatever! I took my seat by the window and got myself situated. Boarding followed after that and it was an utter mess with people everywhere. They wanted us on and seated as quickly as possible, even though we were just going to sit there.

We sat and waited onboard while the rest of economy boarded and I joked online if I was going to get a Pre Departure beverage. Well moments after I made that joke, I was offered a water or an orange juice. Now that is the cheats way out of it for American, but it was better than nothing right? Water it is today! I sat back while the flight attendants shuffled around the galley, drinking coffee doing nothing.

We finally heard from the cockpit saying that they were waiting for us to be fully gassed up before we could do anything else and that meant we waited some more. I had a prediction with a fellow passenger we wouldn’t leave until 11am and I looked like that was going to be spot on. I sat back, texting my wife, joking with friends and just trying to relax and enjoy myself. Even leaving at 11am I would still have plenty of time in DFW.

We buttoned up at around 10:50 and pushed back right on 11am, as predicted. We had to hold on the taxiway a while, waiting for traffic. We were right on the runway threshold entrance so we could just hold in position until it was our turn. After a Southwest 737 departed we made our turn onto the active runway. We had to wait a little bit longer at the hold point for another Southwest 737 to land and then it was our turn.

I had heard so much about departing from SNA and their unique departure. Due to noise abatement they had strict rules on how and when you could depart Orange County. Firstly no jet movements before 7am in the morning. The line up to get underway at 7am in the morning was like 15 or 16 aircraft and they were backed up everywhere, all waiting. When it is your turn to depart, due to the short nature of the strip it is full throttle, balls to the wall. But once you are in the air the noise abatement comes back into play. SNA is surrounded on all directions by housing, so you can only climb at power till 5000 feet and then you must throttle back until you cross the coast. Once across the coast you can then throttle back up to climb power. When it was finally our turn, it was full throttle and then off we go!

We climbed but the level off and power down wasn’t as evident, so I was a little bit disappointed. I know that sounds stupid, but I wanted to hear the engines wind back down. Guess not! We kept climbing albeit a little bit slower and crossed the coast and it seemed we were going to do so at the same rate. Maybe we were light today and everything was offloaded to other flights? I know that this flight was non rev express with every man and their dog cleared onto the flight. So maybe that was it.

We turned back east and climbed over southern california. I could see down below us as we passed what looked like Ontario and kept tracking east over Palm Springs, Palm Desert and the Coachella valley. The sky was as blue as it could be and the contrast against the desert below was stunning. We kept cruising east and the pilot came on to tell us a little about the flight (flying East over the Texas Panhandle etc, flight time of 2h30 mins and an ETA on the ground that would give me 2.5 hours).

Drinks were delivered just after the speech and then once that was handled the flight attendant working the cabin decided to do service by cart. That was a little bit different for first class, but hey, whatever. Breakfast orders had been taken on the ground and I was thankful I did not pre select today, because otherwise I would have been boned. Originally I was going to go for a light breakfast of oatmeal, about the best idea after a weekend of indulgence. Thankfully I didn’t do this because I would have been disappointed when we had an almost lunch time departure. I went with the “Hot” option which was a Quiche of some kind with potatoes, fruit and a biscuit on the side. Pretty decent light lunch if you ask me (could have done with some vegies, but hey… whatever).

I consumed my “breakfast” fairly quickly because I was pretty hungry and it looked good. The taste was ok, so I was not going to complain. The biscuit was pretty decent for being in the air so that was good (no seconds offered although there was plenty spare… but be good malcolm!). We had a few lumpy bits somewhere about an hour into the flight (nothing serious) and I went back to working on my laptop on the trip report). After a while I decided to pack that in (I had plenty of time to write it) and catch up on some tv.

By the time i finished watching TV, my flight was about to begin descent so I packed up all my stuff, taking a little bit of compensation from the aircraft with me 😉 By the time that had done we were into our descent and my seat mate started packing up his stuff as well. Pretty soon we were on our way down into DFW. The landing was pretty picturesque on the way in and we did a downwind past the airport and over AT&T stadium (aka the new Texas Stadium) and the Baseball stadium for I think the Texas Rangers. Right next to that was also a theme park and it looked like I might have seen my first ever Six Flags (judging by the Batman and Superman logos I was assuming Six Flags over Texas?).

We landed and quickly got off the runway and onto one of the many taxiways at DFW. What I was now waiting on was getting to the gate, because at DFW, that could take a while. We took a little bit to get to the gate, but nothing over the top. The wait wasn’t horrendous till we had the jet bridge to the door and I was headed out of the plane, into the terminal. I was headed to the D Concourse as I had some time to kill and during my wait I was headed over to a meeting for a quick tour with a coworker. I won’t be specific, so let’s just say it was an eye opening experience.

I stopped by an Admirals Club to get my seat assignment fixed up and they did that, along with reprinting me a boarding pass. That was so easy and I headed over to the C Terminal where my flight was heading from. I camped out in the Admirals Club there (while also snagging myself an extra drink chit for a bottle of water… well 2 actually). I should have known to ask for them earlier! When it came time to head down to the gate, I packed up my stuff and headed out.

The admirals club sure left me a number of questions for someone i know who used to work in one. A number of questions regarding standards etc. But on the whole it was a fine way of just getting stuff done. I went down to the gate and tried to see if the gate staff could tell if my bag made the flight, the only thing left for me to worry about. Unlike other airlines they don’t seem to keep track of it through all stages…. *sigh*. I just waited around the gate area and eventually it became time (I will admit, I gate liced it).

American Airlines – AA1207
Dallas Ft Worth to Raleigh Durham
1820-2155
McDonnell Douglas MD82 (N466AA)
First Class – Seat 3F

Boarding: 1750 (Gate C15)
Push Back: 1813
Take Off Roll: 1830 (Runway 35L)
Top of Descent: 2100
Touch Down: 2139 (Runway 23R)
Shut Down: 2143 (Gate C23)

Boarding was called and I was one of the first people down into the Jet Bridge. Down at the aircraft they were still loading food so I wasn’t sure if we should be onboard or not. I still got on anyway when she said it was ok. I jumped into my seat and stashed my stuff as quickly as I could. I took the Bulkhead because it was the only window available, even though I don’t really like it sometimes (when the storage situation is dire).

Boarding filled the entire plane pretty quickly and the flight attendants did not do a PDB. Scratch all the good things I said about AA…. ever! Nah that is mean, but the FA today was already on my shit list. We ended up pushing back early and set up for a flight time of 2h 5mins giving us a good 30 minute of ground time in the schedule. That makes sense since DFW is the size of a state!

As we pushed back and lined up to leave the apron I realised that up front in the MD80 there is no real noise at all. It was just so quiet from the plane. What you did hear was stuff going on the in the cockpit, the flight attendants gossiping (we had someone non revving in the jump seat). The sunset out my window was fantastic though, just stunning! It made me think just why I fly all the time. Looking out at that sunset over a city below is what makes me happy (and why I want a window seat).

As we climbed out of DFW I settled in to watching out the window till the sun set then went back to watching TV on my tablet. I still had shows to watch and it was something to keep me going right? Service was slow tonight. Drink orders were taken before take off but no meal orders? Confused. Then when we got around to being in the air, drink & nuts came out before the hot towel? Again confused. Mind you none of this was rushed at all, it was slow. Really slow. With a flight time of 2 hours the FA didn’t seem to be in much of a hurry.

Dinner service finally started about an hour into a 2 hour flight (wierd especially when you need to have everything cleared by 30 minutes out) and she followed the old FEBO rules. I figured that would happen eventually & being at the front on an odd numbered flight, I was going to get whatever was left. Sigh. By the time I got my meal about 10 minutes later, I still had both choices & went with the Green Chilli Tamale over the chicken. However 5 minutes after I started eating we had to start packing up as we were heading into turbulence & they wanted everything sorted since when we came out of that we would be in descent. Start scoffing it down!

I packed up my stuff, and got the FA to put it up for me eventually & just sat back watching the descent out the window. I had no idea where I was or what was going on so I just relaxed. I finally saw what looked like an airport & we took a roundabout way to come onto finals.

We touched down very quietly up front but when we turned off those brakes groaned. At the gate it was worse :/ within a few minutes the were set at the gate and I was off the plane and through the terminal. Nice new modern looking terminal bug baggage claim felt like miles away from the gate. Add onto the fact that my bag was one of the last out and you can bet how tired & Cranky I was. O well off to get my car & some sleep.

Friday 12th February 2016

After getting my nice shiny new Nissan Maxima and hitting the 405 north towards LAX I was starting to get hungry. I wanted to head to a place that had come recommended to me by a friend. It was an old school restaurant, with the old neon style signs. But it was also a replica of the restaurant that was used for Pulp Fiction. They had all the same booths etc from the old Hawthorne Grill which has since closed. I am not sure if they are the same or both owned by the same people at one time, but Pann’s was pretty amazing on the inside.

I had my breakfast (which was really my lunch) and then found out that a friend was stuck at LAX for several hours. By the time we finally connected, she couldn’t leave the terminal, but if only I had of known! After a tasty filling meal, I was ready to get into the sun and get some spotting done. I was just going to hit up Imperial Hill for a little while and get some photos before I had to head out to Ontario. It was fun texting back and forth with my friend who was on the opposite side of the airport, showing her the planes on my side. After getting heaps of photos of stuff I wanted, there was an o shit moment. My camera batteries started to die.

This was expected because I had two batteries that had been heavily abused lately, so I knew they would be ending soon enough. But with two others spare I didn’t want to charge the ones in the camera up. So I left the battery charger in Seattle thinking I wouldn’t need it. Sadly I did not check the spare batteries status as for some reason they were dead too. Sigh. So now I had 4 dead batteries and no charger. I through in the towel for the day and headed towards Ontario (with a brief stop for some fresh donuts… what don’t judge me!).

Traffic in LA is notoriously bad, and today was no different. I left the LAX area around 1pm ish and hit the freeway towards Ontario around 1:45pm. I managed to reach Ontario at 4:15pm, around 2.5 hours after I left… sigh! I don’t mind spending 2.5 hours driving somewhere, but not doing 5mph stuck in traffic like that. It was horrific! It was only 60 miles, how could it be so hard! Ugh! Either way by the time I got there I was spent! I decided I needed to catch up on a few things and just chill out for a while.

I looked around online for a good hotel deal when we were planning this trip and about the best deal I could find was for the Aloft Hotel Rancho Cucamonga, it wasn’t a bad hotel. Basic rooms, yet still nice and trendy. Not bad to be honest for the price compared to what the other hotels were asking. The room was large enough and looked clean. The hotel had a decent gym, a pool and free parking. About all you could ask for right? I had some stuff I needed to do online (which I did) and headed out to grab some food. I found a place that I heard on the radio earlier that day, and it fit the bill. I had my first visit to Souplantation. It wasn’t bad but a little confusing, but it was tasty!

I headed back briefly to the hotel with some supplies I had picked up to set up a little gift display for Heidi, and then headed off to get her dinner and pick her up. She asked me to get her a specific order and since it was around the corner from the airport, it was a given. It was ready right as she landed and then by the time I got to the airport, she was standing on the curb. Easy as pie and minutes later we were back at the hotel to sleep!

Saturday 13th February 2016

Today was not going to be a thoroughly eventful day. After a morning run, Heidi and I headed off to her friends place to hang out and chill for the day. Today wasn’t about doing anything other than relaxing and catching up. Heidi was excited to see her best friend and her two children. I was surprised when the oldest daughter actually didn’t try to hide from me so much and that was pretty good. At one point I was walking holding her hand, so that was pretty good!

We had to go to the mall to get some new swimwear (since I had left mine at home, again) and then we all came back to the hotel (well I had a nap before the others got there) and headed to the pool for a bit. By the time the sun went down and we hopped out, it was starting to get a bit chilly, so we warmed up and headed out for some all you can eat sushi!

The place was one that I found last time in Ontario and it was still there. It had a huge line and it was amazing! We may have waited a little while, but totally worth it! By the end of the day we were rested, relaxed and thoroughly full. Pretty awesome day if you ask me.

Sunday 14th February 2016

Waking up on my normal schedule this morning and off to the gym, then a quick breakfast before hitting the road with Heidi. We were off to Palm Desert today to catch up with Heidi’s grandparents who move down to the city for a couple of months a year during winter. It was my first time in the area and it was such a new experience for me. I was excited to go and visit the city that I had heard so much about, and finally give in to Heidi, who had wanted to go so much.

It is only about an hour or so drive out to Palm Desert and this was going to give us a good test of Russell, the Maxima (named of course after Russell Crowe’s character from Gladiator). The car handled it well, and easy as hell, comfortable drive! Pretty soon we were in Palm Desert meeting up with the Grandparents and getting shown around. We hit up the markets, Babes for some BBQ and then out to the Date Farm for a shake. We also got to see where the grandparents were staying, and if they stay there again next year, we might ourselves head down for a weekend to check it out!

We left Palm Desert mid afternoon, waving goodbye to the grandparents and still really relaxed. We headed back to Ontario to head to the movies on what was Valentine’s Day. We wanted to see Deadpool, since it’s a “Valentine’s Day movie”. HAH! Not really but it is a good justification right? Really loved the movie in a full theatre. Movie theatres in the USA feel so different. Way more people, more cinemas (this one had 22, the AMC next door had 30) and way crappier seats. Ehhh, whatever.

We finished off the night with some Sonic for dinner and some ice cream. Nice and relaxed!

Monday 15th February 2016

Today was the day Heidi was heading home and after another run and then packing everything up, we headed out to grab some breakfast. We went to a little dive place that had some good food, and it wasn’t far from the hotel. One thing I have a problem with though is choosing foods that I won’t be able to finish, like pancakes at dive places. I said I wanted a full stack, to which Heidi knowing something I didn’t somehow, asked me if i was sure. I said yes, but really I should have listened to the wife. They were HUGE!

I finished a good portion (with some help from Heidi) and took the rest with me. I dropped Heidi at the airport and soon had to head off towards Orange County. I wanted to get down there without hitting traffic. It was an easy drive following the freeways and I only had to leave the freeway once, but that was because the Sat Nav in the car locked up and I had to get off, park the car and turn it off. 3 minutes after leaving the freeway I was back on it. No big deal. Sadly though I was in Orange County super early without a camera to go spotting as originally planned. I headed to the hotel, but they didn’t have any rooms for me yet, so I just headed out to find something to do.

I did a dry run of dropping off the car so I knew what I was doing the next day, and then headed back to try and see if Best Buy had a charger. No dice on that, then I ended up heading out to have coffee with a friend from twitter. By the time I got back to the hotel, they had a room for me and I spent the afternoon doing some laundry and getting ready for my big road trip starting the next day!

I gassed the car up in the late afternoon when crowds would have died down at the local costco (just around the corner from the hotel) and then parked the car for the evening. Russell had been a good drive, good fuel economy, great looking, all the good bells and whistles. Heidi and I both agreed the car needed one or two things. 1. a Sunroof to really make it a good weather luxury car and 2. Memory Seat settings for the drivers. If only that could have worked, it would have been fantastic! But I was really happy with it either way!

I was planning on staying around the hotel that night for dinner, since It was going to be an early start for my morning flight to Dallas and on to Raleigh. The one kicker for flying east is you lose so much time that you just have to suck it up and take what you end up with. My 6:45am departure meant a 5pm arrival into Raleigh. Eh what can you do. That Hooters next door to the hotel looks ok enough, plus I haven’t eaten there in forever! Tomorrow the real adventure begins.

Current Location: La Quinta John Wayne Airport – Costa Mesa, CA.
States Visited: 1
Miles Driven: 424
Cheapest Gas – Costco Costa Mesa – $2.18pg

Friday 12th February 2016

It was a very early start this morning after very little sleep as I worked last night. It is never a good thing waking up at 2:30am and having to head to the airport, even worse when you got home at 10pm the night before from the exact same place. This time though I was not returning to work but for fun!

The commute was filled with rain but I coped and the next thing I know I was at the lot waiting for a shuttle to the terminal area. There were a lot of people on the bus this morning and I was thankful for the free parking (even if it meant screwing around for extra time). I was glad I allowed myself extra time when I got to the terminal as even though it was before 4am, this place was packed! Hello Holiday Travel!

I jumped in the line for Southwest as this was my first flight with them in a while and it was painless. I didn’t have to wait long and I had myself checked in. I was filled in that it was a full flight and in fact oversold, so try not to miss your boarding group advice was given. Headed to security next and noticed that it was an absolute zoo with hundreds of people at each checkpoint and it was not going to be a good day. It was before 4am and it already looked bad! I used my old Premium Card trick and was through soon enough. Turns out they opened the checkpoint early because it was so busy.

By the time i got myself back together and ready to move on, it was almost 35 mins till my flight so decided to just head to the gate. With free wifi it meant i could do some work. The WiFi connection at the airport is spotty at best. For instance I could remote home to my computer without a problem, yet connecting to wordpress… no dice! Volunteers for a bump were called but only the offer of a 3 hour delay, via San Jose and a $300 voucher. Pass. I got what work I needed done and within about 10 minutes of finishing, people were called up to the queues.

Southwest Airlines – WN776
Seattle Tacoma to Orange County
0540-0840
Boeing 737-700 (N7746C)
Economy Class – Seat 2A – Boarding Position A53

Boarding: 0511 (Gate B14)
Push Back: 0536
Take off Roll: 0548 (Runway 16L)
Top of Descent: 0748
Touch Down: 0816 (Runway 20R)
Shut Down: 0819 (Gate 13)

We all lined up as instructed and a couple of first timers were struggling with kids not wanting to line up. Tough! I got through pretty quickly, but there was a long long line in the jetbridge. By the time I got onboard i saw a window open up front… in 2A. What the hell? The lady was camping the aisle and just staring people down. I asked if anyone was sitting there and she ignored me, so I did what I normally do. “Excuse me i’d like to get in there”. She moved but with a very sour look on her face. I took the window, got myself settled and waited as the mass of humanity boarded and took every single seat, including the middle. O lady on the aisle, she stashed her bags under the middle seat, even refused to move them. Poor middle seat lady 🙁

We pushed back and headed for the runway in the rain and dark. Nothing much to see apart from rain, rain and more rain. Boring! I turned on my tablet and some videos and just watched them pretty much the whole way to SNA. I occasionally watched the sun out the window as it rose into the sky, and when drinks were offered, I took a coffee and a can of water (and even got a coffee refil). It was not a fancy flight but at 5:40am in the morning, I couldn’t care less to be honest.

I managed to get through 3 videos and then as the last one finished, we hit top of descent. Perfect timing as we skirted down the Los Angeles Coast line, past Long beach and turned towards Orange County. The landing had us come around from the coast over a lot of the suburbs (including Disneyland). We turned back towards the coast for landing and came down steep. REALLY steep. This strip was tiny and as soon as we crossed the fence and hit the lines, brakes came on hard and out came the thrust reversers and every piece of control surface to make some stopping power.

We turned and headed back to the terminal area and pulled in next to a large range of other Southwest Aircraft. We waited a few minutes for the jetbridge and then i was out of there fast. A lot of people were trying to swim upstream for their bags. Not a good idea. I got out into the terminal pretty easily and then tried to fix the first situation that needed addressing… a pit stop. None in site and before I knew it I was at the next gate and hadn’t gotten a photo of the plane. I kept going figuring the bags would be out soon. MISTAKE! Down to the baggage claim (via the first Bathroom i could find) and turns out that Southwest may not charge for bags, but they are the slowest ever.

I waited about 20 minutes or more for my bag and when it did finally come out, I grabbed it and headed to the National desk. It was located in the parking structure but on the basement level. Wierd! When I finally got over to the National Aisle, there seemed to be an executie aisle and not much else. There was a few cars there, very slim pickings but it was cycling fast. The one thing that annoyed me was that Alamo was sending their people over to get cars from the Aisle and so were National for non emerald aisle customers. Hell if you had a standard EA membership, you got to pick from the Exec. So unfair. I asked for a Mustang, none on site that day. So i was heading for a Challenger (per Heidi’s requet) when I spied a 2016 Maxima, one that was only a few weeks old if that. it had 600 miles on the clock and working Sat Nav…. SCORE!

I hit the streets towards LAX and some shenanigans!

Miles Driven: 0
States Visited: 1

Well this will be a little different for a trip report for me in a little while. I am going to try to update on a daily/bi daily timeframe. I am about to set foot on what some would think would be a stupid trip. I have a goal to visit all 50 states in the USA and over the last few years i have slowly ticked off quite a few. As they dwindle down it gets a little harder each time. These days I am down to single digits and it makes it difficult to get them. They are kind of spread out and they are also the states that are not that interesting to me. I like to think of them as the flyover states. So i tried to look for a way to get as many of them as possible. I also promised a friend I would come visit him out in Raleigh in 2016, so a plan started to happen.

Originally I was going to fly into Raleigh and take my time driving up to Cincinatti. Why? Well Cincinnati’s airport is in Kentucky, one of the states I have not been to. Then add on the fact that between Raleigh and Cincinatti is West Virginia, another states that I need and a plan was set. However when time came to book all this, i couldn’t get flights to work to get me home from Cincinatti, so I took the option of expanding out in a circle the drive. First it was the surrounding cities.. nothing. then i went out further, nothing. I stretched out to Chicago and it was bare. So I started to think, what if I took it and did something Crazy? I could add two more states by driving to Omaha in Nebraska (adding Iowa on the way). It was possible (not great, all day driving) but it could be done. It would be just me, 8 hours a day in a car but I could do it and get 4 states out of the way dropping me to 6! It was stupid, but why not!

I tagged on a trip to Southern California with the wife for Mid winter break and I added in some fun for myself in the process. Flights to SoCal were horrific (hello holidays) but I found cheap fares to Orange County. They also had availability for an AA F redemption to Raleigh, allowing me to add a new airport a new carrier (since I haven’t truly flown AA yet on RPT) and also a new aircraft, for me, the MD-80. Plans were in motion. I booked the car turn around from SNA and kept my eye on it for a while. By the time the trip came around I had all the hotels worked out and everything neatly in its place.

It would be a messy trip but this is what it would look like for me:

My trip to add 4 new states

My trip to add 4 new states

The big gap in the middle will be me in a car! Here I sit in SeaTac airport getting ready for the first segment So keep an eye on the website, my facebook/twitter and this is going to be interesting!

In 2015 Heidi and I spent a lot of time in rental cars, mainly because it was fun. It started way back at the start of the year when it was raining and ruined our plans for the day. We had a free day and within 20 minutes of getting up, we had a free day rental booked for the same day and off we went to pick it up. That tradition continued throughout the year and any time we wanted to go for a road trip somewhere for the day, we would grab a rental and get something fun, and new.

So let’s look back at those 12 rentals that I had during 2015 and figure out which one was best. (A side note that Heidi likes to name cars, so we kept the tradition going in naming the car after something that kind of fit. Our rental car during our honeymoon was called Spartan because it was a Chrysler 300. Like the movie…. 300 ;)… ok back to it).

First up was “Ghost” the 2014 Dodge Challenger

From Seattle Life 2015

Pretty decent car, Heidi’s first Challenger. I still think that if i had to get a 2 door coupe, this would be it. Prefer this over a Camaro or a Mustang.

Next up was a 2015 Chevrolet Tahoe, Heidi named it Crater (all my photos point to the name of Moby… but you know, go with the wife).

From Seattle Life 2015

Pretty good drive, fully loaded, but the gas tank on this thing was HUGE!

Next up was a 2015 Ford Explorer Limited… meet Clarke

From Seattle Life 2015

Named after one of the famous explorers in the PNW. Not a bad car at all, pretty comfy for 4 people.

Next up was Sled a 2014 Camaro

From Seattle Life 2015

The Camaro was not to bad, but it was basic basic and we had some problems with it because it was filthy!

Next up was another Challenger, this time a 2015 and we called it Gary (i don’t remember why).

From Vegas 2015

Pretty decent upgrades over the 2014, still love it!

Keeping up with the SUV theme for the year… take this new Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited. Because it was a Chereokee it got a slightly racist name of Kemosabie

From Seattle Life 2015

Pretty decent car, again fully loaded and comfortable to drive!

Then there was the Dodge Durango, I wanted to get one of these before it was finished.

From Dorkfest 2015

Because this one was rented on my own in LAX with my friends… no name. Still liked the car, it was fully loaded (including remote start).

When i headed out to Oklahoma I ended up with a 2015 Altima, it was not a bad car, but it was not really what I wanted. Again this time had problems, but National came through in the end.

From Oklahoma Trip

When we headed out to Spokane in Early October, we ended up with this guy…

From Spokane Trip

Meet Troy our new 2015 Chrysler 300. Not as loaded as others, but still pretty well set up. Enjoyed this car, well worth it!

One car I had been wanting to try all year was a GMC Acadia. I had turned down the chance to take one on our honeymoon and took the 300 instead. So we took Joan for our weekend roadtrip to Portland.

From First Anniversary Roadtrip

The car wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t good. I just wasn’t all that thrilled with it compared to a Durango (same class).

Car #11 was Shiny, a new 2016 Ford Explorer.

From Seattle Life 2015

We took this out to the Tri Cities area and I was really happy with it. If I had the choice of an Explorer or an Acadia, the Explorer would win.

Our last car of the year was one that I didn’t really get to pick. When you pick up from a Downtown location, you often don’t get a choice and this is what we go.

From Seattle Life 2015

Meet Matthew the Lincoln MKX. Not a bad car, not fantastic either. Pretty basic for a “luxury” car maker.

All in all the years worth of cars was pretty good. I don’t think we will end up with the same amount of rentals this year, but the free days were fun. We paid for a couple of rentals, and got a few freebies as well. It sure was a lot of fun. Looking back, my favorite cars over 2015 would have to have been the Durango, the Jeep and the 300. I do still love Challengers and the one we had in Vegas confirmed that fact. But National has been good to me in 2015, let’s see what 2016 brings!

2015 was a very different year than expected.  There was a considerable amount of change and any goals I tried to accomplish were just not going to happen, so rather than look back on those goals, I am instead going to look back on the year as a whole.

2015 started off as a year of waiting.  The paperwork for our immigration applications were submitted just days before 2014 ended and so the year started with the feeling that the wait would never end.  Heidi and I celebrated our first year together and then the Patriots won the Superbowl, much to my wife’s (and most of Seattle’s) displeasure.  By the end of February I was looking for new work and spent a good month trying to get a job.  I took a temporary job doing hard labor but in a good position (on the ramp at the airport) but managed to secure myself a job that has lasted to date.  I travelled to Germany for a trip I have wanted to do for a number of years and spent time with an old friend.

As the year went on my travelling was slowing back down but Heidi and I still kept on going together.  We spent more time doing 1 day road trips, all over the place and enjoyed it immensely (mainly because we weren’t taking our cars).  But work continued on and on, I began working nights and that meant that Heidi and I would not see each other as often as we would like, something that continues to this day.  I got to do some travelling in towards the end of the year, but nothing as crazy as the old days.  Those crazy days of long mileage runs or frequent trips are history now.

Heidi has had a big year herself, as she spent a good number of months doing her student teaching all while working and going back and forth to uni at the same time.   Working three jobs at once essentially took their toll and she has had so many ups and downs I could hardly keep up.  We still love spending every minute together we can, but it hasn’t been easy at all.  We do our best and we keep on working things out, together.  We celebrated our first wedding anniversary this year, it was not really a big affair, but then that’s us, we aren’t really big on that kind of stuff for parties etc.

This year will see some more travelling on the books.  Since Heidi and I never really took a true vacation last year because of all the job changes, this will be good for both of us.  I can’t wait for Heidi to get down to Australia and spend some time with my friends and family.  But it will also mean a return to Singapore and Tokyo for me and some of the things I enjoy, the pointy end of planes!  I am sure the new year will bring on other advantages and changes, but here is to 2016……. Bring it on!

Well the year is almost over for real (my travel days are numbered this year a while back) and since everyone else is doing it, I might as well right! Not as much travel this year as last, but then it was a small year last year anyway. This year had some craziness back in the mix, purely because I could.

This is what my year looks like on a map

Not that big of a year of flying... but still plenty of fun.

Not that big of a year of flying… but still plenty of fun.

That is a total of 23418 miles. I wouldn’t even make silver on any one airline with that amount of flying… *sigh*. But hey… who cares right! Let’s break that down to some stats:

Total Miles: 23418
Total Flights: 16
Longest Flight: Seattle to Frankfurt – 5109 miles
Shortest Flight: Seattle to Spokane – 224 Miles
New Airports: 5 – Frankfurt, Newark, Tulsa, Oklahoma City, Spokane
New Airlines: Condor
New Aircraft: Boeing 787-9, Boeing 747-8i
Most Flown Airline: TIED! United – 6, Alaska Airlines – 6
Most Flown Aircraft: Boeing 737 (all variants) – 6

I managed to get one new state (Oklahoma) but no new countries in the mix (in fact the only time I visited another country was my trip to Frankfurt). I will have a separate post on all the driving we did this year, rating mine and Heidi’s favorite rental cars of 2015.

Next years travel will make for a much longer year for miles, purely because Heidi and I are travelling back to Australia and then up to Asia. But for the moment, there is still some craziness involved. If all goes to plan I should be able to knock my unvisited states to practically nothing.

Here is to a good travel year in 2016!

Christmas has always been important to me. As an Australian it is the big day at the end of the year, one to bring together all of the family. But here in the USA for some people it isn’t that important (religious differences have nothing to do with that statement of course), for some Thanksgiving is that day. That is how it is in Heidi’s family, so that is the day we need to be together. Christmas for her family is not that big of a deal. It is not a must do thing, but for me, it’s all I have.

Christmas is a tough day though. It is the one day I miss home more than anything, because I can’t see my family. So it is the day that I want to be with my new family, to celebrate the one true holiday in my heart. This year was going to be even harder than normal, because I drew the short straw and had to work. When you work somewhere that is open 7 days a week, 365 days a year, someone has to work right? Well I did work and it was ok, but it didn’t make the day feel special. I didn’t want to even try as I had a shift that had me away from home most of the day. So Heidi and her parents decided to try and make what was left of my Christmas time special.

We had a brunch at her parents house yesterday (the 26th) and it was less like Boxing Day and more like Christmas Day. Which is funny because the tradition of boxing day is that the “servants” who had to work on Christmas day were allowed to have the next day off to celebrate with their families. Sound about right? So we traded gifts and had a fantastic time. Spent time as a family and after all the relaxing and enjoyment, we spent the afternoon watching a movie and tv. It was pretty much a good day!

I managed to get some very cool presents as well. Heidi’s cousin made us both some stockings for next year and they are pretty unique. Heidi’s has a Cat on it, mine has a Kangaroo. Heidi’s parents got us a waffle maker (now to figure out what this Chicken and Waffles thing is all about) and Heidi got me an amazing gift. She got me my spirit animal. A Raccoon!!! I have my own little Raccoon (hand puppet) and I have named him Cheese. Some Australian’s might get it, most American’s will not.

Although I had to work this year, Christmas was a pretty good day. I got to spend time with family, eat some foods (hello treats!) and enjoy giving gifts to the special people in my life.

Merry Christmas Y’all!

Ever had a moment where you see something, know something is wrong but your mind doesn’t quite work it out for a few seconds. You just stand there thinking “What is wrong”. Well that happened this morning. Heidi and I were heading out to see her folks and put our bikes in storage for the winter. As we came downstairs into the garage of our apartment complex all was ok. We were out on time, we had coffee in hand, had both been to the gym and were nice and relaxed. As I walked over to the truck though, it took a second for me to realize something was wrong. Heidi didn’t even see it but I knew straight away something was up. That something took a second or two to really sink in, but my bike was missing.

Earlier in the year, during spring when we took our bikes out of storage they had a nice new home. Thule make a fantastic bike carrier for the back of a truck. It is a secure mount that has locks so that the bikes are held in and only the person with a key can remove it, or so I thought. They didn’t touch Heidi’s bike they just took mine and it was clear gone from the rack. They had removed the entire mount from the truck and taken it along with the bike. They then decided that they needed the front wheel (as removing the front wheel is required to use the mount). So with a bolt cutter they cut clean through the chain that was used to lock the wheels to the truck and just slid it off, again leaving Heidi’s front wheel behind.

So the secure garage we park the truck in, really isn’t secure. They didn’t touch the truck, or damage it in any way, all they did was take my bike. We called the police immediately and they sent someone over to take down a police report. So that was done. I also called our insurance company, not sure if it would matter but I did make a claim so that if something does happen, if it can be covered in any way, i might get help in replacing it. The cop took down the details, but i knew the reality, I probably wasn’t going to get anything back, ever.

After doing what we needed to do today, we finally got back to the apartment and I notified them of the theft as well. They didn’t really seem to care at all. I will be surprised if they do anything, or say anything. A lot of people I am sure will say they are sorry, that they understand it must hurt. To be honest, I don’t know what I feel. It was a bike, it wasn’t as if it was something irreplaceable. Don’t get me wrong, this bike has a lot of sentimental value. It was my first EVER bike. The bike I learned to ride, the bike that I did my first Triathlon on. A Bike that I had used to go on rides with Heidi, while we were still dating (we took it across I-90 a couple of times, took it on the “Trail of Death” as I call it in Federal Way). So this bike did have a lot of big meaning in my heart, but not something I will lose sleep over I guess.

So to the person who has my bike (who I doubt will see this) enjoy it. It gave me a lot of pleasure, here’s hoping that you get what you want from it. If anyone does happen to see a White Hardtail Mountain Bike around Renton with Avanti Aggressor on it (A brand that you can’t find here in the USA). Tell the cops, please.

Ugh, an almost solid week of rain and the end of daylight savings means one thing, winter is coming. It’s

annoying but it is life.

Work will start slowing down which is fantastic, yet bad at the same time. All of Seattle will change as the trees start dropping leaves and disappearing entirely. The end if the year is busy with thanksgiving, then Heidi’s birthday and then Christmas shortly after. Struggle street

and yet not at the same time.  So much food, so much candy and baking too. I have much to do

this Christmas.

But it’s also a time i dislike not just because of the temperature. The fact I can’t go out and go for a run because it’s raining, or ride my bike because it’s raining (or too cold). It’s a crappy time if the year.  I guess it’s time to start running on the treadmill and sucking it up.

This post doesn’t have many special meaning just more of a whinge. At least it’s not pitch black out at 7am now. Thank god for small mercies.