Saturday, November 29, 2008

New Zealand, Part 2

This is the continuation of my New Zealand trip journal. Again, with apologies for the length.

We took Highway 6 inland towards Murchison, which follows along Buller Gorge. The weather started off sort of nasty, but turned much better as the day went on. Actually, by mid-morning, I might argue that the weather was in the running for Best Weather Ever. There was another swinging bridge, which again, made someone happy. It turns out, this is the longest swinging bridge in New Zealand. It was cool, as was the park on the other side, but this was our one requisite tourist trap on the trip.

Along the journey, we got to enjoy a completely blind, one lane road around a cliff. Don't stop or the rocks may fall on you. Or a car may hit you from either direction.

From Murchison, we turned south down Highway 65. Now, I didn't see all of New Zealand. I didn't see all of the south island. I didn't even see all of the north part of the south island. But if I had to pick one part to see again, I'd say it's Highway 65 and 7 between Murchison and Hamner Springs.

Did I mention there are playful sheep in New Zealand?

We cruised into Christchurch for the evening, where we took up lodging at the Windsor Hotel, which was a lovely bed and breakfast. Very efficient staff, free wireless, evening tea, 24 hour coffee/tea/cookies. We had a great room. It actually had a double and two twin beds, which was just enough for the two of us. We had a great view over the park out front. Each room comes with bathrobes for the guests. Breakfast was huge, essentially all you can eat, and made to order. In short, I would stay here again, and would recommend it to others. Dinner was at a lovely Indian restaurant, followed up by a wickedly overpriced beer at the local Irish pub. But, at least New Zealand beer is tasty, unlike Australian beer (generally).

The last day. A short day, since we had something like a 15:00 flight. We got up, I spent some time working (as I did on Monday, but really, who wants to hear about that?), we had our lovely breakfast, and went out for a brief stroll through Christchurch in the daylight. We checked out the cathedral in the town square, walked through some of the shopping districts, and made our way over to the English Garden. The garden was quite nice. It's not clear to me if we were early, late, or right on time for the major spring bloom, but I'd guess not right on time. Either way, lots of great flowers, and a really nicely laid out park. One could walk for a long time in the gardens and just soak in the ambiance. I dig.

Finally, off to the airport. Sometimes, I'm convinced that it's easier to fly on other airlines than on the one I work for. Both ways on this trip, we walked up to the ticket counter, and were given boarding passes. With seats. Not some silly DM card. It was fantastic. Return trip, slightly better than the outbound, only because we were on one of the recently retrofitted 320s with in seat Panasonic video. I could go on about how it has the same issues that ours has, but this isn't a blog about work. We had really good luck on Air Canada once upon a time, too. Oh, and did I mention full meal service on the flight back in part one? It's an airplane meal, but still.

In short, New Zealand was amazing. Go if you get the chance. I'm going back.

New Zealand, Part 1

I am, in a word, behind, when it comes to documenting our trip to New Zealand. I'll apologize for the length of this post in advance.

We went on Halloween weekend, which is not a big deal in Oz. It is becoming an excuse to party for the adults, but it's not like kids go out for candy. We flew out on Friday night on Air New Zealand from Melbourne to Christchurch. It was a nice flight - about three hours, and you get a meal service and drinks, easily equaling the service you would get on, say, UA SFO-FRA. Oh, and mints at the end of the flight.

Leaving Christchurch the next morning, the weather was lovely.

Then it became less lovely as we went across the mountains on Hwy 73.

Then it just turned to crap. Really heavy rain for most of the drive over Arthur's Pass. But, the scenery was still amazing.

It would seem, this is acceptable condition for a major state highway.

We wound up driving down to the town of Fox Glacier (oddly enough, this is where Fox Glacier is located) and staying at a backpackers in town. We got the last double, had dinner, and went to the local pub to watch the New Zealand All Blacks play the Australia Wallabies in what seemed to be a very important rugby match. We shared a table with a lovely British couple who helped explain to us what was going on. Oh, we also got to talk about the state of the world, travel, and cultural differences. It was pretty cool.

The weather turned lovely for our second full day in New Zealand. We went to Fox and Franz Josef glaciers and did a bit of hiking around.


Franz Josef

At Fox Glacier there is a swinging bridge that made someone happy.

Driving north back up highway 6, we ran across one of the more picturesque spots on the trip, complete with amazingly clear water.

We passed back through Greymouth, and went on to Punakaiki and the Pancake Rocks. The formations are amazing. I'm not sure the photos I got do them justice. It's also pretty cool to see the (still) angry Tasman sea crash into the formations. I read somewhere that some of the formations are starting to fall into the sea, which isn't surprising, I guess, if you think about it.

The coastline was really impressive between Greymouth and Westport. And, it would seem that New Zealand has penguins, too.

Upon arrival into Westport, we found a lovely dinner special at the local bar with a pretty good beef or pork roast plate. We then found a place to stay based on a recommendation from the bartender. It was a hotel in the most classic sense of the word. In both Australia and New Zealand (and perhaps in the US, I don't know) hotels used to be a place to eat, sleep, and drink, in any order you like. The Albion Hotel certainly fit the bill. It was essentially someone's house, with a bar attached to it. Common baths, small but clean rooms, an amazingly friendly hostess, and two old guys in the bar who were more than willing to chat about anything and everything. We made sure to have a couple of beers and talk about everything from the local economy, to 1940s aviation (one guy was a former pilot) to Obama (before the victory; they wanted Obama to win). Great folks, and a great experience. And a damn fair rate for the room, too.

This got so long, that I've broken it up into two parts. Enjoy!

Black Friday

America, what the hell? Was that cheap plastic crap at Walmart really worth trampling a grown man to death over? Shooting two people in a Toys R Us? America, for shame. You've turned into a bunch of savages.

I just hope this topic doesn't come up at dinner tonight. If it does, America, I'll go ahead and be embarrassed for you, since I doubt you would be for yourself.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Similarities and Differences

Melbourne is like San Francisco because it rains. It is different because it rains in the summer. And comes with lovely marble sized hail.

Melbourne is like San Francisco because they sell dog food. It is different because they sell it in the refrigerated section of the grocery store. And it looks like sausage. And I can't find ground sausage.

Melbourne is like San Francisco because there are emo kids. It is different because emo kids are made fun of in public.

Melbourne is like San Francisco because there are florists. It is different because a lot of the florists are open 24 hours a day. I presume this means there is a lot of explaining to do about why one might be coming home at 4:17 am.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

The States, Track, and Turkeys

It's been quite a while since I last posted. Let's see what's been going on...

I spent two weeks in the US. This trip was supposed to only be one week, but while I was in flight, my project was rescheduled. Then I got to make an unexpected trip to Gainesville, TX. to meet with a vendor. I was really hoping that the trip would have been a quick in and out, but that's how it goes. The up side is that I got to see a lot of friends, so that was good. I also made a few quick stops to cool places in the city, including

Sutro Heights Park

and Mt. Davidson park. Can anyone name the movie for which this cross may be remembered?

Then it was off to Texas. First, I was shocked how big DFW was, as well as how close security and baggage claim are to the gates. Once you're inside, it's reasonably good design. But Texas. The people were nice, but I'm fairly content to not go back. And everything is smothered in butter. Many of us actually felt sick from all the food we ate.

Fast forward to Saturday, and after a lengthy journey from Dallas (albiet, in first class from LAX-MEL) I found myself landing in Hurricane Melbourne, or something like it. A quick nap, and it's time to go to the UCI World Cup Track race right here in Melbourne at the Hisense Arena. It was the second session of the third and last day, but we did get to check out the sprint, madison, 500 TT, team persuit, and keirin. I had never been to a track race in person, so it was pretty great for me.

Fast forward to Tuesday, when I did my first group ride here, and my first one in... let's call it a long time. It was the typical weekly fast/intensity ride. Not too long, but we were doing 55 KPH. Predictably, I didn't make it all the way back in with the group. I'm going to say it's because I was on a cross bike, but it might have had something to do with fitness too. It felt good though... Hopefully I can keep it up, and even join the Thursday night climbing group?

Today is Thanksgiving day here in Oz. It's a nonevent here, even for the majority of the expats. Shannon and I were going to cook, but it's been delayed by a day so we can go out with some folks tonight. Also strange is that I have the day off and she does not. That's a bummer.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


Oh, burrito, how I have missed you.

Also, I love BevMo.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Travel Update

Greetings from the Air New Zealand Lounge in Sydney. My thoughts. The Melbourne Red Carpet Room doesn't hold a candle to the ANZ lounge in Sydney. While both have all you can drink, pour your own booze, wine, and beer, ANZ has free Wifi, curry dishes, chocolate moose (UPDATE: I was called out for spelling - that's mousse, most likely misspelled by excessive consumption), and seats worth sitting in. It also has a view, and it's big. It's rather nice. It's not Singapore Kris Silver lounge like I was lucky enough to see in ICN, but I'd freakin take it. Also, they are showing cricket, which I still think is strange.

I had first to SYD from MEL, which is no huge surprise I guess. I'm hoping for the upgrade from SYD to SFO. If I don't get it, I'm on the upper deck, by choice, which I'm rather excited about, because I'm a huge geek.

I wonder if any of my fellow plane geeks read this?


Off to SFO in the morning for a week's work. I'm looking forward to seeing friends and co-workers, as well as good beer and Mexican food.

Watch out, Mission.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Fwd: another reason not to move to oz

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: adam
Date: Fri, Nov 7, 2008 at 4:44 PM
Subject: another reason not to move to oz
To: brendan

again, be afraid.

Update - in case you missed the spider eating the bird up in Queensland:

Post Election Notes

In my lifetime, I've never had the chance to see a country so energized and optimistic as I did on Tuesday night. I really regret not still being in San Francisco to join the impromptu street party that broke out. Or, for that matter, the parties in Seattle, LA, NYC, Chicago, and I even heard, Raleigh. I'm sure there were many more. I've never seen one person bring so many people together in such a powerful way. I wonder if this is what it was like during the times of MLK and JFK?

Generally, I'm happy about how Tuesday went. My comments:

Things I liked:
Obama getting elected
California passing the high speed rail bond
North Carolina (finally) being decided for Obama
The global reaction to Obama being elected

Things I didn't like:
California passing Prop 8, making it illegal for same sex couples to marry (and other states following suit)
My Macbook battery suddenly dying Tuesday night (second time since I've had it, first was under warranty, less than 300 cycles...)

More good than bad, I guess. But what happens to all the marriages that have already been granted?

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Go Vote

I mean seriously. This may be the most important election in many of our lives. Go show the world that we aren't a bunch of apathetic people.

And happy birthday, Joey. I hope we have a great pres(id)ent for you.