Posted by: glenswatman | April 11, 2007

200209 USA-Kan Ok Tex Aus-Qld

Sunday 1 September 2002  A final clear up before festering.
Monday 2 September  Labor Day holiday in America so we find Anthony City Lake is very busy.  Walk around the lake in search of a good spot.  It’s not a big lake but "T" shaped and takes a lot of walking round.  Pass a golf course, archery and shooting ranges where there is a big competition between Kansas and Oklahoma states.  Lots of holiday and permanent homes around the lake, some very big and attractive.  Get back to the van and meet the park maintenance man.  He tells us we are the first British to visit and is very chatty.  He fought in Vietnam and is quite well travelled.  He explains that most Americans are still shell shocked from September 11th and less sociable than usual.   As no one is camped on the west shore of the lake that is where we go, $4 (£2.80) basic site.  The water is quite murky having been stirred up by dozens of boats and jet ski’s but still great for cooling dips.  By nightfall we are the only ones left and it’s nice and peaceful.
Tuesday 3 September  It’s tempting to stay but there are a couple more places we would like to visit before getting back to Dallas.  We’re soon in OKLAHOMA (The sooner state) and the first town is Manchester.  Nothing like the English Manchester, it’s very small and the sun shines here!  Stop in the city of Enid to try (but fail) to get a postcard to send to my Mum Enid.  The lady at the tourist office tells us we can’t leave America without trying a Braum’s ice cream.  Well we want to leave so succumb to a half a gallon of home style vanilla $3.99 (£2.80).  Pretty good but no better than other quality brands we have tried and we really reckon we could have left without sampling it!  Pass lots of dead armadillos at the roadside.  It’s early evening before we reach Turner Falls believing you can camp for $10 (£7).  You can but have to pay an additional $7 (£4.90) per person in day fees.  It’s a pretty spot with 2 swimming holes, a waterfall and river but not that nice.  Wal Mart at Ardmore will do for us.
Wednesday 4 September  Just south of the city Lake Murray sounds good but turns out to be disappointing.  End up continuing into TEXAS and back to Grapevine to Silver Lake Campground $15 (£10) where we started.  On this trip we have driven 8800 miles and been to 16 American states and 2 Canadian Provinces.  Visited 16 National Park / Monuments in America.  Stayed at 13 different Wal Marts and 11 Lakes. Over the years we have been in 26 American states but would still like to come back to do the Los Angeles, San Diego, Yosemite loop.  Pats daughter Susan calls round to repay us the $390 (£260) we have spent on repairs.  She comments on how good the vehicles look.  Bill pops over from another site and says they have just had a party but have loads of food left over and would we like to join them.   It’s a family gathering for Don’s birthday and people have come from as far away as Washington DC.  Crappie fish cannot be bought in America so it’s the first we have tried.  They are a friendly and interesting crowd.  It’s nice to have started and finished our trip with the Texas hospitality.  On TV it’s the final of the first American Idol.  Simon brought the show idea over from England and it has been a phenomenal success here.  Will is a star guest but can’t have been impressed with Simon’s comment that the talent in America is much better than England – typical.  Kelly Carson from Fort Worth wins and for the rest of the evening news reports make it sound like a world event. 
Thursday 5 September  Visit the library and tie up a few loose ends.  Do a bit of washing and packing but find it too hot and humid to sit out.  After a poor summer Texas is now having a heat wave.  A storm is heading this way but not due until Sunday – glad we fly out on Saturday.  I had my hair cut short a few days ago so when I colour it (blonde) there’s a lot of dye left.  Steve game as ever uses the rest and ends up light brown with ginger highlights – well at least it has covered his few grey bits!  Can’t help but chuckle at all the fairy lights around the campground at night.  One tent has flashing ones all over the dome roof.
Friday 6 September  Bit more packing and cleaning up.  Tropical storm Fay is approaching Dallas with 60 mph winds, if winds reach 70 mph it becomes a hurricane. 
Saturday 7 September  After using the campground laundry we are all cleaned and packed up ready to go.  We have to take the vehicles to Pat’s son Scott who lives in Fort Worth.  Scott takes us to Fort Worth station to catch the train but we find it only runs every 2 hours on a weekend and this would leave us tight on time.  Scott offers to drive us to the airport which gets us there very early at 1.30pm.  Trolleys cost $3 (£2.10) but as we are taking things to leave in Australia we have heaps of bags and need one.  After normal check in we have to take our bags to a special scanner (having removed all undeveloped films) before they will allow them to go further.  Not a great airport to hang around in until our 6.30pm flight.  As we hand in our boarding tickets we are informed that we have been specially selected for a full search (lucky us).  Along with an Aussie we have to go to a special area for a more thorough check.  Steve begins to panic when he see a chap wearing rubber gloves but fortunately they are for handling our shoes which we have to remove.  Before we board the American Airlines flight to Los Angeles we have to pick up a Bistro Bag.  It’s a tiny carrier containing 1 sandwich, a bag of baby carrots, packet of crisps and a biscuit.  That’s all the food we get on the 2 3/4 hour flight.  We land in Los Angeles at 7.15pm local time having put our watches back 2 hours.  It’s a short walk to connect with our International Quantas flight.  Another thorough security search with shoes off (bet they won’t want to do that after our next long flight) .  Take off at 9.10pm bound for Brisbane.  It’s the first time we have flown Quantas and we are very disappointed. No curved headrests or neck cushions, only central TV screens and terrible food. 
Sunday 8 September  Skip a day crossing the International Date Line
Monday 9 September  The lack of facilities is made up for when having asked for a pack of cards a friendly steward brings me 5 packs, a stack of pens, Quantas postcards and badges and a bag of chocolates.  Land in Auckland NEW ZEALAND 13 hours later at 5am and feel very glad to be able to take a shower.  The flight continues at 6.45am arriving 3 1/2 hours later in AUSTRALIA at Brisbane QUEENSLAND airport.  Think we are now 9 hours ahead of England but in reality not only do we not know what time of day it is we also don’t know what day of the week we are on!  It’s 8.30am and Margaret and Barry are waiting to meet us.  Fellow motorhomers from England we have agreed to buy a small camper from them (a shoebox on wheels!).  We go to Aspley Acres Caravan Park where we are booked onto an unpowered site $16 (£6).  Around $2.75 = £1.  They are staying in a cabin until their flight to New Zealand tomorrow.  They show us over the camper a 1988 Toyota Hi-Ace pop top.  It’s less than 5m long and very basic but clean, tidy and the engine sounds good.  We’ve agreed to buy it for £3040 and go together to the Internet cafe for us to transfer the funds to their account.  They are cycling in New Zealand so the price includes all the contents which is a bonus.  We immediately feel at home in Australia and begin to relax.  Steve takes an afternoon nap whilst I go with Margaret to the nearby shopping centre.  Buy a Vodaphone Sim card for $30 (£11) with $20 (£7) of free calls (Tel no 0415 744 340).  We can send text messages for 25c (9p), make calls to any type of phone anywhere in Australia for 1c per second and it won’t cost us anything to receive calls.  Join Margaret and Barry for an evening meal at Fasta Pasta before an early night.
Tuesday 10 September  Awake from about 2.30am and it’s many hours before we are serenaded by the Kookaburras.  Margaret and Barry decline our offer to run them to the airport so having seen them off in a taxi we head off North.  It’s going to take Steve time to adjust to a right hand drive manual vehicle but we have no problems getting to the Ettamogah Pub.  Our Kiwi friends Stronach and Judy are flying out of Brisbane and we meet them at 10.00am for a drink.  We plan to see them in New Zealand next year but it’s still nice to catch up on their news.  Continue to Tewantin and easily find Keith and Dianas new house.  We’re made very welcome and settle into the guest room.  Although their house is in a cul de sac near town they back onto woods and Kookaburras sit on the washing line.  We’ve lots to do in the camper and to start with Keith takes us into Noosa to register the change of ownership.  This costs 2% of the purchase price plus $16.50 (£6).  It dark at 6.30pm and by the time we have eaten and had a half an hour in the hot tub we’re ready for bed.  Can’t remember when we last slept together in a house in a double bed but it’s certainly nice.
Wednesday 11 September  Keith and Diana leave early followed shortly by us.  We want to replace the curtains in the van and cover the cushions.  There are great prices at the fabric centre but it’s still going to cost over $200 (£75) just for fabric.  We’re not sure whether we will settle in this small camper so feel reluctant to spend that much.  At the Salvation Army shop where Diana works we do rather better.  Leave with 2 large curtains which will make enough for the whole van, 1 duvet cover, 2 pillow cases, fabric for seat covers and net curtains to make fly screens all for only £28 (£10.50).  Pick up a number of other things around town and find prices still very reasonable.  Keith brings in fish and chips for tea which go down a treat.
Thursday 12 September  Join Diana for a further shopping trip.  In Australia the vehicle registration (rego) includes 3rd party insurance but we want comprehensive and get a 1 year policy for $356 (£140).  Do a basic grocery shop being careful only to buy small sizes of everything.  The camper layout is of two long benches at the back with a table between.  2 burner stove with grill under, a sink and a wardrobe all of which are very small.  Apart from the wardrobe the only storage is under the benches but I do get my priorities right and buy the tonic to go with the gin, soda for the whiskey and lots of Cadbury’s chocolate.  In the afternoon I begin the mammoth task of making the new curtains. 
Friday 13 September  Our 27th wedding anniversary.  Continue refurbishing the van but take time out to sunbathe in the afternoon.  Evening out with Keith and Diana at the yacht club where the roast beef dinner is delicious.
Saturday 14 September  In the camper Steve paints the dingy brown ceiling white and I make progress with the upholstery.  Steve’s delighted to find lots of British sport on TV even if it means him staying up until midnight to watch the football.     
Sunday 15 September  Keith & Diana go to the beach whilst we return to the yacht club to meet Ken & Kay for lunch.  It’s great to see all the families in the park enjoying a BBQ whilst the kids paddle in the water or play on the beach.  Such a brilliant atmosphere.
Monday 16 September  Finish making blinds for the cab of the van.  Jenny & Malcolm arrive to visit Keith & Diana and we have a nice meal together and a spa.
Tuesday 17 September  It’s a beautiful day so Keith & Diana join us for a trip to Alexander Beach which has a nudist section.  A steady 20 minute walk through Noosa National Park then down onto the beautiful tree backed beach.  The sea is pleasantly warm and we have a good few hours for sun baking.
Wednesday 18 September   Problems first thing when we find we have a flat battery on the camper.  Steve tracks it down to the ignition which allows you to remove the keys whilst still in the "on" position.  Fortunately Keith has a battery charger.  Our friend Noel calls in en route from Hervey Bay to Brisbane and joins us all for lunch.  Drive out in the afternoon to check the battery and also pay for the van insurance.  Keith & Diana are out for the evening so we try out the van by cooking our first meal in it.  Curry goes down well and also reduces the "tent" smell we are getting from the canvas!
Thursday 19 September  Steve’s 48th birthday and his 3rd in Australia.  Receive a very funny card from David.  On the front it has a teacher asking the class how many "F"’s in present.  He opens the card and finds no "F" in present!  Finish the last bits and pieces on the van having learnt riveting and soldering skills into the bargain.  Keith & Diana’s friends Alan & Helen plus Jock join us for a sunbathing afternoon in the garden.  Evening meal at the Golf Club with 2 meals for $12 (£5.50) a good deal when the menu even includes T bone steak.
Friday 20 September  Head off towards Cooroy with goods views as we travel into the hills.  Aswelikeit is a naturist property run by Brian and Annette Claire Mullock and we are made most welcome.  $10 (£3.50) unpowered sites $15 (£5.50) with power.  They have a lovely swimming pool with hot tub area, spa, lots of games and places to go for strolls.  Tea and coffee are provided and we soon get to know fellow visitors Nola & Brian, Betty & Ted from Victoria, Harvey & Lauris from Queensland and Fred & Marjorie from Sydney who are today celebrating their 55th wedding anniversary.  Most people gather for afternoon tea at 3.00pm then again for 5.00pm Happy Hour.  Our downfall before in Australia this most enjoyable pastime induced us to drink and snack far too much.  Make use of the provided BBQ to cook our sausages before joining Brian & Nola in their A van for a game of Canasta 5.  This is definitely Australia Aswelikeit.
Saturday 21 September  The Victorians leave to be replaced by Peter & Maureen and Daryl & Denise from Queensland who have just come up for an overnighter.  Another beautiful hot sunny day.  I do some exercises in the pool and we also take a walk around the grounds so feel we have earned the snacks along with our Gin & Tonics but propose a new system of having our main meal and lunch time and not bothering in the evening if the snacks have filled us up.  Steve enjoys watching English football at midnight in the club house.
Sunday 22 September  Steve attempts a lie in which is not easy in a shoebox.  Talking of which we are almost a shoebox within a shoebox as that’s what we are using to store many of our things in the cupboards!  Think we will take up Claire’s suggestion and call it Billy (Box).  Fred & Marjorie leave but lots more people show up as day visitors for which they pay $5 (£1.80) each.  By happy hour there’s just ourselves and Hervey and Lauris left.  Evening soaking in the spa followed by a card session.
Monday 23 September  Cloudy morning inspires me to catch up on letter writing before the sun breaks through.  We’ve been having a slight smell of gas which Steve traces to the cooker and manages to fix.  Margaret & Barry had to have the gas system checked and certified in order to sell the vehicle so this is a bit of a worry.  Spend a quiet day by the pool to have our sunbathing curtailed by a hail storm.
Tuesday 24 September  Our early get away is foiled by a flat battery again.  After jump starting it we head off to Gympie to do some shopping.  Our friends Jenny & Tony had just bought "Natures Rest" when we were last here and have now developed it into a Naturist retreat – $14 (£5) unpowered site, $15 (£5.50) powered.   For $82,000 (£30,000) they got a 3 bedroom bungalow (fair size by British standards) and 1 1/4 acres of land, all just 3km from the main highway.  Having landscaped the gardens and converted an old garage into a recreation room it’s looking good.  They have even added a collie dog called Zac for company.  Before long Steve is helping Tony collecting plants and I’m sunbathing.  Evening spa on the terrace.
Wednesday 25 September  Relaxing day.
Thursday 26 September  Need jump starting again but hope that after todays long drive the battery will end up fully charged and solve that problem – wishful thinking.  Pause in Maryborough to visit the Gas company which did the check, he tests it and says that Steve’s repair is good and there are no other leaks.  Stop at a rest area just outside Bundaberg for lunch, it’s one of the few rest areas in Queensland where you are still permitted to camp.  There has been a big clamp down and in general unless the rest area is 100km from a town you can’t stay overnight.  Our friends Gerry and Anne are house sitting in Bundaberg but out until 5pm which gives us chance to do more shopping.  Need 2 mugs and side plates for the van but end up with a brand new 16 piece dinner service for just $7 (£2.50).  Lovely catching up with Gerry & Anne again, they are one of the few travelling couples of our age so we have lots in common and as travellers understand our needs and have us hooked up to power, shown the water hose, washing machine and bathroom almost before our wheels have stopped – brilliant.
Friday 27 September  The sun rises early here, as do the refuse collectors so by 6.30am I’m wide awake.  Steve’s resolution to get up early and go to bed earlier is just not happening but I leave him to lie in until 8.00am and he still complains!  Anne has been up since 5.30am and Gerry out to work at 7.30am to help Anne’s brother on the farm.  Anne & I go out shopping then stop for lunch at "Across the waves" where our 2 for 1 voucher feeds us both for just $6.60 (£2.40).  Gerry has returned home and he and Steve make do with a sandwich and don’t we know about it!  George & Marie and Anne’s sister Pauline join us for an evening BBQ.
Saturday 28 September  Whilst Steve goes out to the farm with Gerry I set about giving Billy a good coat of wax.  Although it’s 14 years old the bodywork is excellent with just a few small scratches.  It comes up great with the polish and I reckon with a bit more work he will be smart enough to be christened.  Billy does seem a very appropriate name for many reasons.  Billy (a.k.a. William) son of Charlie (Charles) – Billy as in Billy Can because it gets boiling hot inside –  Billy the Whiz because we have a sliding side door which is often referred to as a whiz bang.  Steve & Gerry return for lunch and are joined in the afternoon by Gerry’s son Heath, girlfriend Rachel and their friend Scott.  They’ve come to watch the Aussie Rules match on TV and then stay for an evening meal.  Steve alone watches the English football on TV at midnight.
Sunday 29 September  After a "Sunday dinner" at lunchtime we head to the beach and enjoy a couple of hours on Mon Repos where the sea is quite warm.  Stroll along the new promenade at Bargara before heading back.
Monday 30 September  Anne & Gerry have finished house sitting so we all head out in convoy to the farm.  Gerry driving their car and towing the caravan, me driving Billy and Steve driving the farm run-about car.  It’s not a farm as we would know one but a big bungalow on 2 acres with the land used as a base for the trucking company which Anne’s brother John runs.  Gerry arrives first and sets the caravan up at the top of the embankment.  We try to fit in behind but have trouble getting a level.  We are stood outside working out the lay of the land when Billy starts to roll backwards towards the bank, he must think he’s a Billy Cart.  I leap forward and grab the bull bar and Gerry & Steve quickly follow me but it still keeps moving.  Steve manages to climb into the cab and apply the brakes just as we reach the edge.  We’ve squashed a small tree and are inches away from loosing Billy but manage to hang on whilst Steve starts it up (luckily first time) and pulls forward.  Our hearts are pounding and we need several drinks to calm us down.   Re position Billy with enormous chocks under the wheels.  We’re planning on sorting out the van problems whilst here and Gerry has recommended Bill who arrives and soon finds out the we have a faulty alternator and also one which is not powerful enough to charge the vehicle and the leisure battery.  We agree that we will have a new and bigger alternator and he will come back tomorrow after Steve & Gerry have removed the old one.  Everyone gathers for the evening meal, John’s son Mark is there and labourer Bob.  Finish the evening off playing cards with Gerry & Anne. Don’t sleep too well with our minds going over just how close we came to loosing Billy (nearly ended up having the funeral before the christening)! 

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