Week 1 commencing 2nd June 2012 
It would be nice to say that I woke at dawn to commence our departure but most of you know how I am in the sleep department so I now report that I woke at around 3.30am after a mere two hours of sleep. It was just as well really because there was a long list of tasks which couldn't be done until almost the last minute. It filled in the time and actually I wasn't completely ready to leave until 8.30am just as our friend Keith Hopkins kindly arrived to transport us to Coffs Harbour Airport. Thanks again Keith.

We had a particularly fast flight to Sydney for reasons unknown but I hate those Dash-8 aircraft which Qantas Express use on that route, particularly their tiny overhead lockers. Still this flight was included in our Circle Pacific ticket at no extra cost and it would have been wasteful extravagance to fly with another airline under the circumstances. It rained all the way to Sydney and kept raining for the following 24 hours as well.

The Toyota Corolla we'd booked through Hertz had been upgraded to a brand new Camry at no extra charge which was pretty good value at $46 for a 24 hours rental, especially as this was subsequently reduced to $32 (long story). We quickly dumped our bags in the Mercure Airport Hotel and headed off to our favourite yum cha restaurant in Blakehurst. Now why would we eat there when we're going to Hong Kong next day....? Well because I really like yum cha and I can't get it where I live, is why. And I'm certainly not going to have a tantrum if forced....  to eat yum cha food two or three days running . After lunch we visited some of our family, returned to the hotel and turned in early. It had been a long and tiring day.


Lynn and I adore having Yum Cha whenever in Sydney


Unfortunately two lone diners can't order very many mini dishes.

Next morning I'm again awake between three and four.... it's par for the course. I'm standing at the 6th Floor window in our darkened hotel room looking down on a wet car park and across to the adjacent airport runways. It's pitch black except for a few amber coloured lights here and there, the rain is literally pelting down and it's all quite depressing. We have a good friend who loves travelling more than anyone else we know. She's been heard to say, "when I die I wish to be cremated and have my ashes sprinkled on the tarmac at Sydney Airport". Well my dear, if we had sprinkled you today you would have turned to mud in 5 seconds flat and dribbled into Cooks River Creek with all the industrial effluent. Just thank your lucky stars !!

Now on to Honkers
In due course we boarded an Airbus A380, definitely our favourite aircraft and what a relief after the Dash-8 !! Some 9 hours later we stepped off in Hong Kong after an absence of at least 25 years. We've opted for another airport hotel because we are really only here for a day (two nights) and we didn't fancy going downtown. It was great to just wheel our trolleys 200 metres past the Customs checkpoint and straight into our hotel lobby.

Increasing numbers of major hotel chains (especially in Asia) now have an Executive Floor incorporating a "Club Room" and free perks such as gratis in-room internet access, all day espresso coffee, sandwiches and cakes, free drinks and substantial hors d'ouvres for 2-3 hours each evening. We also get complimentary breakfasts, free downtown shuttle and lots of other little personal service benefits. We only latched onto this kind of setup about a year ago and whereas it used to be a pretty expensive option, nowadays some hotels have started to offer executive floor rooms for very little extra cost due to low occupancy rates since the GFC started to really bite. Nowadays it's WELL worth the moderate extra cost just for the free breakfast, free evening drinks and the chance to have quite a decent gratis "dinner" of hors d'ouvres in the Club Room. It's quite easy for a couple to save well in excess of $150 per day on food and drinks alone and this makes it a bargain opportunity, even without all the other little services which come with the deal. To cut to the bottom line, that's why we didn't need to move more than a few steps from our room to finish our day off with drinks, snacks and a pretty fair type of a meal all at the hotel's expense. In fact it was so good that one female executive club "member" got totally sloshed, staggered across the Club Room for another free scotch or whatever, then stumbled and fell into the middle of the buffet table. Thankfully we'd already finished eating and hopefully that lady will be too embarrassed to turn up again tomorrow night. I wouldn't count on it though !!


Our shuttle took us over this bridge on its way into Kowloon


High rise apartments everywhere! Shot this through bus window

Next day we decided to use our one and only opportunity to take the 75 minute free shuttle downtown into the centre of Kowloon. This journey was quite an eye opener. Hong Kong is now a mega-city of just over seven million people and still growing rapidly. It has wall to wall high rise apartment blocks as far as the eye can see. Talk about a rat's nest !! I've never considered an airport hotel as being a place of security and serenity but I can tell you that Lynn and I were well pleased to conclude our mini exploration of Hong Kong and return to our sanctuary beside the Hong Kong Airport runway !! However, thank goodness for the double (or was it triple) glazing they must have put into our hotel's windows.


Australian highway workers don't need a special place for resting!


Sign graffiti in downtown Hong Kong


A golden oldie. HK still has these cute old double decker trams


Very inviting menu.... but we decided to PASS on the fungus


This smooth talking lady conned us inside for a yum cha lunch


Hong Kong harbour - Home of a gazillion real estate developers

Well this concludes our short visit to Honkers. We're flying to San Francisco tomorrow with Cathay Pacific Airlines. We'll meet you there. Look for an oversized guy with bloodshot eyes accompanied by a beautiful wife.

Air Sickness Enroute to SFO
We walked across into Hong Kong Airport with heaps of time up our sleeves for our flight at 2.00pm. We were not expecting lunch to be served on our flight so had some soup and a sandwich in the Lounge. Well, it would be more accurate to say that we both had won ton soup but only I had the "Thai BBQ Pork" sandwich finger. And although I stripped off the lettuce (I never eat uncooked vegetables in Asia), it seems the pork must have been contaminated. About four hours into the flight I became extremely nauseous. I won't go into the details but the 12 hour flight seemed to take forever and I arrived in San Francisco in a shell shocked and totally empty condition, with very sore knees if you get my drift.

Check-in time was 3.00pm in our hotel down at Fisherman's Wharf but by switching to a Twin Double room instead of a King room we were able to gain access by noon. A nice afternoon sleep on a good soft (non Asian) mattress was fairly restorative.... so much so that by 7pm we were ready to hit the street and find some dinner. We climbed back into bed again around 10.30pm and fell immediately asleep. Unfortunately I snapped wide awake at 2.15am. I spent the rest of the night fixing some problems on my laptop. I sure hope I can settle down my sleeping pattern soon.

Crab, Crab and More Crab
As some of you know, I simply adore crab. It's close to being my favourite food. Well the US west coast abounds in Dungeness Crab and here along Fishermans Wharf it seems almost every restaurant specialised in serving Dungeness Crabs and other forms of local seafood. Well a few weeks ago I heard about the Franciscan Crab Restaurant and I booked us in for lunch today. It's conveniently located on Pier 41 (eh?), no more than 400 metres from our hotel and it  turned out to be a "right out of the 1940's restaurant" on the waterfront. We had a so-so meal but the crabs were over-cooked. Too bad.... we could have had a better meal at a cheaper price at one of the many other places that were only 50 metres away from the waterfront.


Fishermans Wharf is the ultimate location for Dungeness crab


We cruised past 200 metres of crab stalls and crab restaurants


A rather iconic view of San Francisco's Fisherrmans Wharf


Seals have taken over Pier 39 at Fishermans Wharf

Next day we took one of those "get on and hop off" double decker bus tours that are available in every major city throughout the world. We think they provide a good two to three hour overview of a city. An ideal quick orientation for short term visitors and they provide a chance to later re-visit places of particular interest. Our tour covered a large portion of the city and also took us across the Golden Gate Bridge into Marin County and back again. Of course we were on the open top deck and I managed to get a really good dose of sunburn and wind burn. Bummer!


The view from our table in the "Franciscan Crab Restaurant"


I think this was either City Hall or the Opera House. Help!!


Looking north to the Golden Gate from the top deck of our bus.


I'd love to drive around our supermarket's aisles on one of these

We "meet" the President
We started our bus tour in seats towards the rear of the bus but as other passengers left the bus along the way we gradually hopped our way by degrees towards the front of the top deck. By the time the tour was nearing completion we had managed to secure the front seat. We began to see police cars at every intersection and then finally we reached the harbour again and were made to stop and wait and wait and wait. Just ahead of us many police motor cyclists went whizzing by accompanied by many police cars as well. At first we thought it was to do with some crime or terrorist event but the the tour guide lifted his microphone and said, "sorry for the delay folks but I've just remembered that Obama is coming to town today". Well, eventually a fleet of limos flashed by and being in the front seat I was perfectly situated to get the shot of the century. Have you ever taken a photo of a stretch limo doing 80 kph using an inexpensive pocket sized camera? I guess it turned out pretty much like the one I have NOT displayed below.

Sausalito Bound
About 30 years ago Lynn and I spent an hour wandering around the tiny boutique village of Sausalito across San San Francisco Bay in Marin County. For nostalgia's sake we decided to take a 35 minute ferry ride to visit Sausalito for a stroll and a spot of lunch.


Passing Alcatraz Island on ferry to Sausalito


This old hippy could make his dog do almost anything... amazing


"Go to sleep Hans" and it darn well did!


Unfortunately the bar on this blimp was just beyond our reach.


We had lunch in this Sausalito building and lived to tell the tale


Back to San Francisco and some mechanised transport

The day had turned very warm and sunny but the tourist traffic was minimal in Sausalito. We strolled along the waterfront, had an inexpensive lunch in a Thai Restaurant, purchased ice cream cones and wandered back to the ferry wharf again. It was all quite pleasant for a couple of old fogies like us. We found a bench and watched the passing parade for an hour or so then joined a squillion cyclists boarding the ferry for the return journey to San Francisco. These men, women and children had rented bicycles at Fishermans Wharf, then ridden across the Golden Gate Bridge into Marin County then continued on down into Sausalito. After refreshment they then joined us on the 3.35pm ferry back to San Francisco. It looked like it was going to be totally chaotic but the ferry crew were past masters and organised everything quickly, smoothly and beautifully. We left the Sausalito jetty spot-on schedule.


Peter Morrison's one man magic show was worth every penny


Peter pulled lots of kids out of the audience to help with tricks

Off to the Theatre
Tonight we went to see a one man magic show in the somewhat seedy and dangerous Tenderloin district in San Francisco. We read about this show in Trip Advisor and booked tickets some months ago. The theatre only holds 35 people and it was a full house. The magician Peter Morrison was so amusing, extremely skilful and totally professional. We had a GREAT time. He even allowed the audience to take photos but we were 10 rows back in a darkened theatre so they came out pretty blurred.... sorry. Anyhow, if you are ever in San Francisco you MUST see this permanent one man performance which occurs every Thursday and Saturday at a cost of $45 per person.

A Wasted Day
We had to be at SFO Airport by 8am so we bounced out of bed early, packed up our embarrassingly large amount of equipment and personal effects, had some breakfast and caught the hotel's town car out to the airport. We're off to Salt Lake City in Utah but once again, we're forced to compromise flight arrangements so as to use One World Alliance partner, American Airlines. So instead of flying directly to SLC with say, Delta, we have to go via Los Angeles where we have a scheduled 1:40 hour wait.... theoretically. Unfortunately some kind of airline problem exactly doubled the waiting time at LAX. And to make things worse our onward flight to SLC is with American's little brother airline "American Eagle". It's kind of like the  equivalent of Qantas' little brother "Qantas Express". Such flights go out of a small nondescript terminal in LAX with no restaurants. They also use pretty small aircraft for the flight to Salt Lake City and carry no food on board. Lynn and I ended up sharing a bottle of Sprite and a bag of potato crisps from an Airport vending machine. What with the long flight delay and food deprivation, we were not exactly "happy little Vegemites" by the time we reached SLC.

We were expecting some dramas when it came to picking up a Jeep for our seven week drive around the Rocky Mountains. We'd opted for a small independent one city outfit called Rugged Rentals even though this name has some negative overtones for an Australian ear. Still, it's going to save us almost $2,000 provided things work out as planned These fears were unfounded however. Our Jeep Grand Cherokee has only 11,000 miles on the odometer, it seems very well maintained and the counter staff didn't try any of the sneaky, value adding little tricks one frequently encounters with Hertz, Avis, Budget etc, especially in the USA.

It was time to hook up our (usually) trusty GPS navigator which took us unerringly to a tiny flat we'd rented in a moderately down market suburb in Salt Lake City. We then ran the gamut of a very complicated instructional document which the owner had emailed to us so we could get into "Fort Knox".... or so it seemed. Codes and special instructions to drive a vehicle into the property, codes to open a locked box and extract a key, instructions about how to mount a plastic dangler that would avoid having our card towed away... and so on. Anyhow this little condo is pretty much what we expected and it will do us fine. Of course we were a little surprised to discover that a freight rail line ran by a mere 80 metres from our condo and an elevated freeway was only 100 metres away in the same direction!! Fortunately only about 10 very long trains went by daily but each one blew six to eight long blasts on its horn as it approached a level crossing at the end of our road. Funny how none of that was mentioned in the property's website or in any of the guest testimonials either .


Lynn loads the fruits of our first grocery purchases in the USA

Well here endeth the first week of our vacation.

We'll bring you up to date about other adventures in

Salt Lake City when we publish the webpage for

Week Two, probably about seven days from now.