Life is what happens when you've made other plans.

So we were driving to Broken Hill on Saturday. And the car was running beautifully. And there was virtually no traffic on the road. And we had plenty of water to drink, cookies to eat, music to listen to. And then the CD player just...stopped. One minute there was music, next minute there was silence, and the face of the stereo was totally blank.

So we fiddled with it a bit. Took the face off, whacked it, put it back on, and it worked again. And then it shut off again.

And then Darrin noticed that every time the music stopped, the speedometer started dropping too, and the fuel gauge started dropping, and so even though there was another car right in front of us going at about 100 kph, and we were pretty much matching their speed, our speedometer only said 80. And then the car starts shifting up & down between gears every 5-10 seconds.

So the next town is Cockburn (pronounced Co-burn). So we decided it would probably be a really good idea to stop and check out what was going on. Pulled off the main road and lost power completely. No lights, no power steering, nothing. We got out, Darrin checked things like the battery, cables, etc., but neither of us is really fluent in car mechanics so we're pretty much stuck. The nearest payphone is on the other end of the town, and even though it's not a big town, it's still a decent walk.

But of course the payphone isn't actually working when we get to it, so we go across the road to a petrol station/roadhouse, where they're JUST closing up, and the lady there lets Darrin use her phone to ring for help. So Barb & John (his mum & step-dad) drive out to give us a hand. We walk back to the car (after searching fruitlessly for a toilet) and...yep. The car started on the first try. And I actually ran up and KICKED it for being so snotty to us.

Anyway. We got back on the road, but we only got about 8-9 kilometres (about 5 miles) out of Cockburn before the car died again. Sat and waited for Barb & John to get there. Once they did, John had a look at things, and we tried a few things, and then he said "I think this is an RAA job." So we called the RAA (Royal Automobile Association of South Australia, same kind of organization as the AAA in the US) and they got the RAA guy in Broken Hill to come out with his truck and carry it to the service station just down the street from Barb & John. And we rode back with them. And of course since it's a long weekend, and Easter Monday is an official public holiday here, they won't look at it till Tuesday (tomorrow).

And we were pulling a trailer as well, but it would've cost us $2.20/kilometre to tow THAT (at 40 kilometres from Broken Hill...ouch), so John found a friend in Cockburn to look after it for us till we can get it back again.

We waited till 4:50 pm for the truck to get there. We had actually been running early until we had the car problem. It was looking like we'd get into Broken Hill about 3:30. Ha.

Yeah, so that's our weekend. How's yours been?

Kangaroo Island

Monday 5th July

I don't think we even slept late the day we left. Can't remember. All I know for sure is that it was HOURS till we needed to leave, and we were all packed boredom ensued.

We left the house around 2:30 pm to catch a 6:00 ferry. Stopped along the way a few times to take pictures of road signs (Darrin's new hobby) and a massive wind farm at Cape Jervis, where the ferry departs from. We actually arrived in Cape Jervis at about 4:30. We didn't need to be at the boat till 5:30. So boredom ensued AGAIN. But we stopped at a little general store and got some snacks & drinks.

We sat around in the car in the ferry lineup till the ferry arrived, then watched it dock. Considering all the boats I'd been on previously were a) canoes, b) a riverboat on the Mississippi 14 years ago, and c) a smallish ferry across the Murray river on my first visit to Adelaide, this boat was HUGE. Of course Darrin told me the Spirit of Tasmania (the ferry that sails from the mainland to Launceston) is four times the size, but it was big to me.

So then they started unloading, and there were lots of cars, and a trailer full of sheep to become people's dinners eventually. Passengers boarded on foot, while the drivers drove onto the boat and parked the cars. I went up the stairs to the top level. Darrin was just coming up on the other side, so we met up and went downstairs to the main lounge area, sat right in the front at the window, where we could see nothing much because it was getting dark by this time. And just before six, there were these loud metallic motor sounds coming from underneath us, and we were preparing to get underway.

I'd been told that this part of the water, the Backstairs Passage, was one of the roughest in the world. And I thought, pfft, I'll be okay, boats are boring, at least if the boat goes down I know how to swim (unlike if a plane goes down, I don't know how to fly). But it wasn't boring at all. I wish it HAD been boring. Luckily it's only a 45 minute trip. About halfway through, we decided to go outside to the back of the boat for some fresh air. And that was much better. Standing up does quite a bit of good for the equilibrium. And watching the water seemed to help a lot too. We could see the lights from Penneshaw if we stuck our heads around the side of the boat, otherwise we were just looking back at Cape Jervis, if there were any lights there at all (it's a pretty small town).

And so we docked. And the drivers went down to the parking deck to get the cars. And the passengers walked out to the pickup area. And I waited there for Darrin to drive off and pick me up. We drove through most of the main streets of Penneshaw to get to the cottage we were staying in (which isn't a stretch; Penneshaw has only a handful of main streets anyway). We drove past a pizza shop, and past the penguin nesting area, and saw a penguin on the side of the road as we drove past. We found the cottage with little trouble (although there was some initial confusion as to which one we were supposed to be in - the owners have two, we were told the one, and ended up using the other). And as we started to unpack, I decided it was high time to check out the toilet/bathroom, and I shut the door behind me, and I realized...there was no toilet paper. Not one square to be found in the entire cottage. And I, of course, think there should still be SOMETHING open (since there always is in my experience, even if it's just a gas station). But apparently there isn't, because Penneshaw is only 300 people, and country towns generally close everything at 5. Okay, so we go to the pizza place to get some food, and ask if there's anything open where we can buy toilet paper. The girl at the counter says no, but she'll talk to her manager. A few minutes later she comes out with a paper bag containing a roll of toilet paper, which she sells us for $1.50 (or was it $2? Whatever). And we go back to the cottage, and eat, and test the toilet paper, and set up our laptops (we're geeks, okay?), and set up the DVD player, and watched Pirates of the Caribbean, and went to bed.

Tuesday 6th July

Even though we were on holiday, we couldn't manage to sleep past 9 am any morning. How very annoying.

We got up & had some hot chocolate that I'd brought along. Sat at our computers for a while, then went out to find some real food and some petrol. The petrol station didn't have anything grocery-ish, so we went around the corner to the IGA, which did. It's an island, and I knew the prices would be a bit more than on the mainland, but costs a LOT of money for three lamb chops. Also got some eggs, bacon, veggies, and some cashews. Went back to the cottage, made bacon & eggs for breakfast, then looked at the tourist guide book & the map to see what we wanted to do for the day. We decided we'd drive to American River & Kingscote (the other 2 major towns on the island). Got some pictures along the way. Climbed up to the top of Prospect Hill about 20 minutes from American River. The stairway is something like 500-600 steps, and the lookout is one of the highest points on the island. And the view is great, but my leg muscles hurt for the rest of the week. After this we drove into American River, got some drinks & food, and drove around the town. In one under-development part of town, we saw a group of wallabies (like kangaroos, only smaller) just sitting there on the side of the road. Pictures again. Then we hit the highway again to take us to Kingscote, but took a sidetrip on the way to A Maze 'n' Fun, where they have a hedge maze (they claim it's Australia's biggest), 9 hole miniature golf, a train that goes around the grounds, fishing, a gift shop, basically a lot of things little kids would like. We just did the golf & the maze, then went on to Kingscote. (Note: the 2 roads we took to and from the park were dirt roads. Most of the backroads on KI are dirt.) So we got to Kingscote and drove around for a bit, then down the road to Emu Bay, and back to Kingscote to see if we could find one of the Internet places that were in the tourist book. We found the library, which was free, but probably booked solid. And then we found the kiosk in the front of the Ozone Hotel, but it charged an arm & a leg. And the third place we never did find, because nothing of the layout of the town suggested "mall" to us (this is "mall" in the Australian sense of the word, like the Washington Mall, rather than Mall of America-type mall). So we headed back to Penneshaw, back to our cottage, and thought about tea. And promptly got back in the car to go to the petrol station, which had roasted chickens. Brought the chicken home, ate it, and watched CSI on TV. Went to bed.

Wednesday 7th July 2004

Today we just stayed in Penneshaw. Had sausages for breakfast, then in the afternoon decided to walk up to the post office/bank/Internet cafe and use a computer for a bit. Afterward we wandered down to the penguin area, where we walked through the paths & looked at the nests. I managed to just see a baby penguin in its nest, tried to get a picture, and you can JUST tell there's something in there. There were lots of paths in this area, so we took most of them. Stopped at lookouts to, um, look out. And take pictures. At one of these lookouts Darrin mentioned we hadn't seen any dolphins yet. Half a second later, he says "There's one now!" I thought he was joking. He wasn't. Kept seeing this fin come up above the water. Also saw seals/sea lions swimming around, and a double rainbow out to the east (a minute later we were getting wet). Wandered around some more, walked back to the cottage. Had those three lamb chops for tea, and watched Spaceballs & George of the Jungle. Went to bed.

Thursday 8th July 2004

We woke up to roaring waves & winds. And it was cold. Very cold. We stayed inside all day, reading & playing Warcraft. Even though we had the heater on max most of the day, it was still cold. Around teatime we were (obviously) getting hungry, so we got into the car & drove around to all FIVE of the restaurantish places in Penneshaw. Two were closed. One we'd already been to (the pizza place). One looked a bit too classy (and weird food) for us to enjoy. The last was the local pub. The pub won. We had pretty good rump steaks and veggies, and the price was good. Darrin even got a free second glass of Coke because he'd pointed out to the till guy he'd given us too much change. And so we went home feeling full, and watched the entire Back to the Future set before going to bed around 1 am. (Or was that Friday night? Can't remember, doesn't really matter I guess.)

Friday 9th July

We got up & had some breakfast, then decided to hit the road again to see the more unsettled parts of the island. Our first stop was Seal Bay, where we took a tour of sorts down to the beach where the sea lions live. Again, lots of pictures. And another rainbow. And the tour guide was pretty friendly and took pictures for people who wanted pictures of them and the sea lions (not that we were allowed to get close, but you can see them in the background of the one he took of us). We grabbed a couple bottles of water on our way out and headed toward the Kelly Hill caves, where we checked the times for the tours. One had just started, and the next wasn't for another hour or two, and we didn't feel like sitting around with nothing to do till then, so we wrote down the tour times and got back in the car, in case we still had time when we finished at Flinders Chase National Park. (We didn't make any of the cave tours; something to do next time.) So our next stop was the visitor centre at Flinders Chase, where we paid our fee and had some lunch. We got a picture of my sandwich too. And then we got in the car and drove (yes, drove through a national park, on a PAVED road) out to the southwest coast, where we saw even more things that warranted pictures: a lighthouse, a couple hundred New Zealand fur seals, Admirals Arch, and the Remarkable Rocks, which are really big rocks that have been worn down over time by wind, rain, the sea, and whatever other weather has been there. And they look funny. They've got shapes 'carved' into the rock. Just go look at the pictures, they're too hard to describe.

And then we got in the car and drove out of the park. And saw a mama kangaroo with her baby feeding on the side of the park road. I rolled down my window to get a picture of them, and the mama turned and looked at me as if she was posing for the shot (she was really hoping I'd feed her something). And not 100 metres down the road was another kangaroo, right in the middle of the road. And as Darrin rolled his window down, this male roo started sniffing like he was expecting food too.

And then we actually left the park, and went back toward Kingscote a different way than we'd come. And Darrin was talking about how the particular order of the shrubs & trees along the side of the road was something kangaroos would like, and that I should help him watch out for them bounding across the road. And just then we were rounding a corner in the road, and right there in front of us were three kangaroos hopping across the road. They made it to the other side of the road, and we kept going. On to Parndana, another small town of about 300, where we got petrol enough to get us back to Penneshaw (and partway back home the next day). And then on toward Kingscote, where we drove around looking for a place to eat. Nothing looked very interesting, so we went to the Ozone Hotel again, this time for food instead of internet. The food was good (although the sauce on my schnitzel was a little too tomato-ey for my taste). And back to the cottage at Penneshaw for our last night on the island.

Saturday 10th July

So we got up at some point in the morning and started packing. We'd left our suitcases in the second bedroom because the main bedroom was way too small for them and us to fit (i.e. about two feet from the bed to the wall, in any of the three directions). And we cleaned up the place, and put our trash in the bin outside, and sat around reading till it was time to load up the car. And so we loaded up the car. And drove out to the dock. And waited for them to let us on the boat. And got on the boat, and prepared for a rough ride (the weather wasn't as bad as Thursday, but not as good as Monday). We were sitting at one of the tables in the lounge, next to a window, playing cards, when we started to move. Up and down. Rock right, rock left. And over and over again. And my stomach was feeling funny every time I took my eyes off the water. (The captain, after we left the dock, said over the loudspeaker that we'd be taking a slightly different route to give us a "smoother ride" on account of the weather. This was met with laughter by just about everyone.) Didn't make for good game playing (I lost, but that's not entirely the fault of the boat). Once we finished the game I decided to go outside, even as cold & windy as it was. Figured the fresh air would be good. So we both started walking toward the back of the boat, and it was rocking so much I must've looked like a drunken sailor reaching for the wall and/or the seats every time I lost my balance. You'd think they'd have handrails along the wall for just this purpose. Anyway. I was hesitant to go up on the top level, after Darrin kept saying that the bottom level was the least rocky, but we went up anyway. And it wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it would be. It WAS cold, and it WAS windy, but I didn't really notice the cold (the wind I couldn't help noticing because it kept blowing my hair all over - including the braid that I'd just thrown back behind my head, which the wind was strong enough to blow BACK in front of my shoulder). And so Cape Jervis got closer, and the captain told the drivers to go to their cars. And the engines shut off, and we just drited the last bit, and I thought it was funny when I saw a speed limit sign on the jetty that said "4 knots."

And so the boat part of the trip was over, and I went out to wait for Darrin at the passenger pickup area. And we were one of the last cars off the boat, so we got stuck behind about fifteen cars, all going back to Adelaide on the same road. At 20 kph UNDER the speed limit. But we made it home, and Biscuit was happy to see us. And we'll hopefully be going back there again someday, and I definitely recommend that anyone visiting Australia take a few days to explore Kangaroo Island, because it's pretty cool.

We're in Australia

(posted by both)

We're now in Melbourne waiting for our flight to Adelaide! Yay, all the big flights over, just a little one hour one to home :-)

(the previous was written by Darrin who was hogging the net terminal ;-)

Luckily the weather in Adelaide the next couple days is going to be nice (only about 70s during the day) so I won't get roasted the minute I step off the plane. But that'll just happen later I guess. ;-)

We're In New Zealand

Mel and I arrived safe and sound in New Zealand last night. We're taking it pretty easy, hired a car and are having a look around Auckland. Very relaxing time.

A list of stuff.

So here I am back in the USA, in good ol' Wisconsin, two days after the Packers beat the Vikings in the Metrodome. It snowed yesterday morning, and surprisingly stayed all day. But that's not the purpose of this entry; the purpose of this entry is to update what the hick I'm doing now that I'm back in America.

  1. I have a job. After filling out only TWO applications, I had ONE interview, and the next day they offered me work. Now don't get me wrong, I like Adelaide and quite enjoyed my four months there, but when a town of 13,000 people has more work prospects than a city of 1 million, there's something terribly wrong.

  2. Darrin (beldin) and I are engaged. We're getting married in January and I'm moving back to Adelaide. So those of you who've been holding your breath for that to happen, you can breathe again. And those of you who've been harassing me about getting married over the last several years can shut up now.

  3. The whole trip back was a pain in the butt. I got stuck with a window seat on the 14 hour flight, so I had to wait till the 2 people beside me woke up & moved before I could visit the lovely toilets in the back of the plane. And I'd had zero sleep for over 24 hours before that, so as much as I wanted to read, I couldn't because my eyes wouldn't focus on the words. So I resorted to watching movies, which were good movies as I mentioned previously, but I was way too tired to concentrate on Matrix Reloaded. And then when I got to LA, I went through immigration and had an agent who was a little uptight, but I got through, and I picked up my bags, and I went through the long line at customs, and I dropped my bags off just outside with the rest of the bags to be rechecked, and that was the last I saw of my laptop. So I've had to make copies of things and fill out paperwork and I'm keeping my fingers crossed that the airline actually pays me without a hassle. Anyway. I got out of customs and walked all the way from the international terminal to terminal 1, where America West flies from to change my last ticket. And when I told them so, they pretty much said "Huh?" and sent me to terminal 2, where I'd be flying from. And I checked in there, and that was that. No hassle, no extra ticket change fee. And it was 3 hours before the flight, and I was dead tired, so I found a bench to lie down on while I waited. But I couldn't fall asleep, which is probably a good thing, otherwise I might've missed my flight. But when I was sitting in the chair waiting for them to call my row, I was very nearly nodding off. And I think I actually slept a little on the plane, which is rare for me. And when we landed in Minneapolis, it was warm. 70 degrees when I was expecting under 50.

    Uh, what number was that, 3? Then the next one is 4.

  4. Because of the events in #3, I've ordered a brand spankin' new laptop from HP. The processor is 4 times as fast, it has 4 times the memory as what the old one had when I ordered it, the CD-ROM drive is 3 times as fast, and the hard drive is over 3 times bigger, all for $1000 LESS than I paid for the Dell three years ago.

  5. There were 3 deer in the field across the road the other day, most likely a doe with her half-grown twins.

  6. I'm gonna miss watching Gilmore Girls & Ed every week when I move to Adelaide in January.

  7. I'm broke. Send me money. ;-)

  8. Okay, I'm kidding about #7. Actually only half kidding. I AM broke.

'Cause I had my tray table up, and my seat back in the full upright position.

And I have finally heard back from my travel agent in River Falls, and she tells me there's flights still available October 18th. So I'll be leaving the day before my visa expires, provided they're still available when I visit the airport ticket counter this week (which she said shouldn't be a problem). The whole process of changing my tickets is less than ideal. First of all, it'll cost me $125 at the Qantas desk (I'm not sure if that's in American or Australian dollars; I'd hope it's Australian because it costs less that way). And the only flight from Adelaide to Melbourne that day leaves at 6:05 am. Which means if I want to be at the airport the requisite 1 hour before departure, I'll have to get up by at least 4. And the flight to Melbourne arrives just over an hour later, which gives me nearly three hours before my next flight. True, this gives me plenty of time to find the gate, and use a REAL toilet, and get a drink & maybe a snack, and a Melbourne T-shirt or something, but when I'm done with that, what do I do? Hick, all that won't take more than an hour, 90 minutes at most. I guess I'll end up wandering around the terminal endlessly since I won't get a chance to move around much on the 14 hour flight.

And once I get off the plane in LA, at 7:30 am, after getting off the plane and through immigration, picking up my luggage, going through customs, and making the customs agent's eyes bug out by the dollar amount of chocolate listed on my customs form, all in terminal 4, THEN I have to get on another plane. But it's not that simple. Since my tickets were booked through America West, I then have to go to the America West ticket desk to get my last flight changed. Which means I'll probably have to lug my baggage on the bus around the terminals. So I'll go to terminal 1, which handles America West flights, to change my tickets (and possibly be charged another $100 for changing THAT ticket). And then, because my last flight isn't actually an America West flight, even though it's booked through them, then I have to drag all my stuff over to terminal 2, next door, to actually check in for my Northwest flight.

And have I mentioned that in doing all that, I'll probably miss out on the flight leaving at 8:50, because everything I have to do between after arrival will take longer than that? Assuming the flight actually arrives on time (most of my Qantas flights have arrived a little early though, so who knows), at 7:30, just getting off the plane takes about 10 minutes. Then another 10 to get through the immigration line, 5-10 more to pick up my luggage, 10-15 to go through the customs line, another 5 to get out to the front of the terminal to catch the bus (and who knows if the bus will be right there waiting when I get out there), then riding the bus to the appropriate terminal could be 10 minutes, getting the ticket changed at America West, checking in at terminal 2, going through security...yup, I just missed the 8:50 flight to Minneapolis. So that means I have to stick around there till 12:15 for the next one. Yippee. And terminal 2 at LAX is the most boring airport terminal I've ever seen. It's small, there's nothing there to do or explore, and the floor moves. I don't know if it's just the way the building is built or seismic activity, or the fact each time I'm there I've just gotten off a plane, but it moves, and I don't like it.

Okay. So now it's 12:15, I've gotten on the plane to Minneapolis, and my journey is almost over. And I land in Minneapolis at 5:15, and I grab my luggage, and (presumably) meet my parents there (and let my dad carry the suitcase 'cause it's so huge), and I step out the door into the parking ramp, and IT'S FREEZING! (note to Mom & Dad: please bring my winter coat if it's going to be under 50 degrees when you pick me up, or I may not be able to move further than the door. ;-)

And that's only the flight part of it. I visited a Telstra shop today to find out about getting my phone disconnected, and I can't schedule it ahead of time. I have to go see them the day I want it turned off, which will probably be the Thursday or Friday before I leave. Of course it all depends on when I'm able to move out of the flat. Time will tell...

And I started my Christmas shopping today too. Can't say what I bought, 'cause it's possible the recipient(s) of said gifts may read this.

And I wrote seven paragraphs in this entry, and started all but one with the word "and."

And every English teacher I've ever known would say not to start a sentence with "and," but I don't care. Part of writing well means knowing when you can get away with breaking the rules.

And that's all I have to say about that.

another trip to aussie land

I'm going to Australia again.

I read a page last fall about a program which allows Americans (and people from a few other countries) to work in Australia for up to 4 months. I thought it was a neat idea, but no way was I gonna apply to work there till I'd actually seen the country. And then I went in October to visit for 11 days, I liked it. And when I got back, it was cold, and my job sucked, and my 15-year-old dog had died while I was gone, and my car had a flat tire, and I wanted to go back. I did some math and figured out that I could indeed afford to go on this program if I really worked at it.

So I sent my application on a Friday in January, received an affirmative reply after the weekend was over, mailed in my visa application with supporting documents and my passport the first week of March, and received all my materials, including my passport with a big visa sticker on page 10 authorizing me to work from June 19, 2003 until October 19, 2003, two days ago. So everything's official now, except I still have to pay off a credit card and buy a few supplies for the trip (mostly stuff for my laptop, like a new CD-ROM drive, modem, and possibly a spare battery). Anyone interested in my itinerary can go look at it. All that's there right now is flight information. Probably won't be much more than that for quite a while, since I don't know where I'll be working or what hours or even what kind of job.

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