US Government Shutdown (October 2013)

Posted Posted in Ramblin' On, Trips

From October 1 through 16, 2013, the United States federal government entered a shutdown and curtailed most routine operations after Congress failed to enact legislation appropriating funds for fiscal year 2014, or a continuing resolution for the interim authorization of appropriations for fiscal year 2014. Regular government operations resumed October 17 after an interim appropriations bill was signed into law.

And just like that our holiday took a dramatic turn for the worse.

This is why you shouldn’t rely on your Travel Agent

Once we understood the ramifications the government close down we immediately rang our Travel Agent back in Australia to resolve our accommodation for October 5 (we had planned to stay in the Grand Canyon National Park) and October 6 (staying in Phoenix).

We had rung our accommodation in the Grand Canyon and informed we could cancel and get a full refund or we could wait and see and if the close down wasn’t resolved, we would automatically receive a refund.

We also rang through to our San Diego accommodation and they informed us that we could extend our stay by 2 nights, but the accommodation provider would need to receive confirmation via our Travel Agent’s wholesale provider.

We explained all this to our Travel Agent, yet when we rang back the following day our Travel Agent informed us that everything was normal and to continue with our itinerary. I begged to differ and suggested that the Travel Agent might like to investigate a little deeper than they had.

By now it was Wednesday US time, but Thursday Australian time and time was running short to resolve our accommodation for October 5 and October 6. We had visions of sleeping two nights on the side of the road.

Fortunately when we rang back Thursday US time (Friday Australian time), our Travel Agent was able to confirm that we had an extra two nights accommodation in San Diego, and that depending on what (if any) refund received for the cancelled accommodation , there might be added costs to pay on our return to Australia.

We did receive confirmation that our Grand Canyon accommodation would be refunded, but no refund would be given by the accommodation provider in Phoenix.

Unfortunately, we can’t prove anything, but we suspect the reason for no refund forthcoming from the Phoenix accommodation provider is due to the short notice that was given by the Travel Agent’s wholesale provider.

We believe most accommodation providers offer a full refund less an administration fee provided at least 48 hours prior notice is given. If the Travel Agent’s wholesale provider had notified the Phoenix accommodation provider when we first contacted our Travel Agent we would have received almost a full refund.

However, as the accommodation wasn’t cancelled until Thursday US time, no refund would be considered.

Taking into account the many omissions and mistakes made by our Travel Agent we will in future attempt to make all our own arrangements and be in total control of our arrangements, and not rely on a Travel Agent .

Rant and whine over!

 

Vancouver (September 2013)

Posted Posted in Trips

This is the second leg of our four week holiday in the United States and Canada.

September 29

Grouse Mountain

Having settled into our accommodation our plan was to visit Grouse Mountain and experience the cable car ride to the top of the mountain. However, the further up the mountain we drove the more inclement the weather became.

Stanley Park & Lions Gate Bridge

Along the way we drove through Stanley Park and crossed the Lions Gate Bridge.

Capilano Suspension Bridge

By the time we got to the car park, the weather had well and truly set in and it was raining hard and there was no visibility to speak of. We had some cake and coffee at Starbucks before making our way down to the Capilano Suspension Bridge.

Unfortunately the weather hadn’t improved so we elected to return to our accommodation.

September 30

Today was a “ground-hog” day. Downtown the weather was OK, once again as we drove up to Grouse Mountain the weather turned nasty and again their was no visibility at the car park was again non-existent.

We walked the area around our accommodation and enjoyed a Chinese meal at a restaurant around the corner from our accommodation.

We would like to return to Vancouver (hopefully the weather will be better) and spend more than two days there.

Alaskan Cruise (September 2013)

Posted Posted in Trips

This is the first leg of our four week holiday in the United States and Canada.

September 20

Baggage Dramas

Our baggage made it in one piece to Los Angeles, but somehow between Los Angeles and Seattle the airline damaged four of our bags such that we needed to replace them. We purchased replacement bags at Target in Seattle. However had to replace two of the those bags damaged when we flew between Vancouver and Las Vegas.

Thanks to Target’s refund policy, we received a credit for the bags purchased in Seattle in Las Vegas and then hit the premium outlet store in Las Vegas and secured top quality baggage at half recommended retail price.

We made a claim with the airline for not taking proper care of our baggage and received a full refund for the new baggage that we had bought.

Seattle

Almost 24 hours after leaving Adelaide we arrived in Seattle, the time difference being 17 and a half hours, having transited through Sydney and Los Angeles. We flew with Qantas on the A380 Airbus. Given how squashed we were, the flight wasn’t too bad.

September 21

As we really only had a day in Seattle we spent most of our time in downtown Seattle. We had accommodation arranged at the Hyatt at Olive 8. The motel was ideally located as it was very central and we could walk to all the locations we visited.

Once we had replaced our luggage, we visited the Last Resort Fire Department Museum, the Klondike Gold Rush Museum, the Metropolitan Police Department Museum and the Pike Place Public Market area. In the evening we visited the Space Needle.

As we were walking to the Klondike Gold Rush Museum we passed McCoy’s Firehouse and decided it was a good place to have lunch at. Our waitress was fantastic and we even scored a couple of souvenir glasses which was really appreciated.

We did try to pack as much as we could in our short stay in Seattle.

This is the link to our Seattle photos.

September 22

At Sea

After another good nights sleep we gathered our luggage and booked travel to the cruise check-in point.

By 11.30am we were on board the Norwegian Pearl and eager to start our Alaskan cruise.

The ship departed Seattle at 4.00pm and we were on our way to Alaska!

The views departing Seattle harbour were wonderful with the iconic Space Needle in the background.

September 23

Due to rough weather the ship’s Captain decided to cruise through the inside channel, and not in the open sea. The views were wonderful and eventually the light faded and we retreated to our cabin.

Even within the channel the effects of the rough weather were being felt. We rocked and rolled a few times but by morning most of the inclement weather was behind us.

Our first port of call would be Juneau, the state capital of Alaska.

September 24

Juneau

We arrived in Juneau at 1.00pm and experienced seven hours in Juneau. We walked up and down the main street. It was interesting how the shops catered for cruise passengers. It seemed every shop we entered had an offer which we shouldn’t refuse. But refuse we did!

We took a ride on the Mt Roberts Tramway. At the top, we explored the Sky Bridge and Mountain House complex created by Goldbelt Incorporated, the local Native Corporation that owns and operates this attraction. We also visited the live bald eagle display.

We returned to the ship at 5.00pm.

September 25

Skagway

We arrived in Skagwag at 7.30am and had arranged to meet Howard Mallory for a tour up the Klondike Highway to Carcross, Canada. We were on the road by 8.00am and returned to the dock at 2.00pm.

It seemed that everywhere there was a photo opportunity. Whilst we expected to see abundant wildlife about, any wildlife we did see was way to far away to photograph.

The border crossing from the USA to Canada was uneventful, but the same could not be said for the border crossing from Canada back into the USA. The border security agent seemed overly vigilant in performing his duties, requiring us all to step out of the vehicle whilst he searched it for anything illegal.

The weather deteriorated on the way back due to low cloud and poor visibility, and we missed many a photo opportunities that we said we would photograph on our return to Skagway. Upon returning to Skagway we walked around town for an hour or two before returning to the ship.

The ship left Skagway at 8.00pm.

September 26

Glacier National Park

What a sight to behold – John  Hopkins Glacier in the Glacier National Park. We arrived at 10.00am or thereabouts and spent five hours at the lip of the glacier.

Words can not adequately describe the vistas of the mountains and the ice. As we entered the glacier, gradually larger and larger pieces of ice floated by the ship.

This was most definitely the highpoint of the cruise.

September 27

Ketchikan

We arrived in Ketchikan at 8.30am and by 9.00am we had our hire car, a Ford Focus. This was the first time that we experienced driving on the “wrong” side (for us) of the road.

We visited Totem Bight Historical State Park which was about 10 miles out-of-town. We walked through the park and viewed many a totem pole and the Clan House.

Eventually we returned to the car and drove in and around town for an hour or so, until it was time to return the hire car.

The ship departed Ketchikan at 1.30pm.

September 28

Victoria

We arrived in Victoria at 6.00pm for short five hour visit.

Whilst we die step off the ship and make it to the start of the pier, the weather wasn’t kind to us, it was raining, quite chilly and to put it simply – miserable. Rather than be out in such inclement weather, we returned to the ship and kept warm and dry on board.

The ship departed Victoria at midnight for the short journey over to Vancouver.

September 29

Vancouver

All to quickly our cruise was at an end.

We docked in Vancouver at 8.00am and had disembarked the ship by 8.30am. We took a short taxi ride to collect our hire car, a Toyota Rav 4, but the attendant showed up late, so it took a little longer than expected to collect the car.

We had accommodation booked at the Holiday Inn, and “Murphy’s Law” saw us go to the wrong Holiday Inn first. However, checking our quote and our accommodation vouchers, each was contradictory. Eventually we settled into the Downtown Holiday Inn, rather than the Broadway Holiday Inn which was a few miles further from the Holiday Inn we stayed at.

Interestingly, our shuttle to pick us up to take us to the airport also went to the wrong Holiday Inn first. Seems like this another stuff up by our Travel Agent!

 

Moorook Weekender (October 2007)

Posted Posted in Trips

After what seemed to be an eternity, we were finally able to hitch the caravan and have a weekend escape. However there were dramas before we left and whilst we were at Moorook.

Tow Rig Drama

At the end of August we upgraded our tow rig from a petrol driven Jackaroo (1994) to a diesel driven Jackaroo (1999). Having obtained a Vehicle Inspection Report which advised that the “vehicle appears to be in good condition for its age”, we proceeded to purchase the vehicle.

Since purchasing the vehicle we have spent in excess of $5,000 repairing the vehicle – obviously appearances can be deceiving! Repairs included replacing the alternator, replacing the turbo charger, replacing an oil pressure switch, replacing the fuel injectors, replacing the head gasket and numerous other relatively minor parts.

We received the call Thursday afternoon that the vehicle was ready to collect and drove to Adelaide to pick up the vehicle. Starting the vehicle was still very difficult and it was recommended not to drive back to Berri. The following morning we were advised that the vehicle was ready, to again be told when we had almost reached the dealership that there were more problems.

As we had planned our weekend escape we turned around and proceeded to drive back to Berri and use our Magna as the tow vehicle for our weekend escape.

Day 1 – Friday (26 October 2007)

Arriving back in Berri at approximately 2.00pm, we proceeded to hitch the caravan up. Whilst we had a towbar tongue it was not suitable for us to use the WDH and the anti-sway bar. We decided to continue as Moorook was only 30 kilometres away and we could travel at 60kph to limit sway.

We finally arrived at the Moorook Camping Area and paid our site fees ($10/day for a powered site) and set up the caravan and the annexe.

Day 2 – Saturday (27 October 2007)

Today was forecasted to be hot and windy with the temperature expected to reach 35 degrees. The forecasters were correct and throughout the day it became more and more windy. We walked around the Camping Area and generally relaxed throughout the day.

We invited some friends over and proceeded to have a BBQ. As we finished our BBQ the winds increased, dust was blowing in, and it just became to uncomfortable to sit outside. We packed and secured as much as we could and went to bed to ride out the storm. We were woken a number of times during the night by the wind and rain, but fortunately had no dramas.

Day 3 – Sunday (28 October 2007)

This morning was very calm after the storms from the night before and provided a good opportunity to take some photos before we packed up and returned home. We inspected the annexe and a it was dry we were able to pack it away. We left the Moorook Camping Area by 11.00am and arrived back home by 11.45am.

We thoroughly enjoyed our weekend escape and hope to experience more escapes in camping areas and national parks now that we are having a 100 amp hour battery fitted to the caravan.

Photo Album

These are some of the photos that we took over the weekend.