Peter and Elizabeth - RTW 2009-11 travel blog

The End of the Trail

Some ex-president or other

Big cat

More cool statues outside the Cowboy Hall of Fame


Cool Chihuly glass thingys

More impressive glass blowing

This thing was pretty tall!

The sun beginning to set over the Oklahoma City memorial

The seats, each one representing a person that died in the tragic...

The reflecting pool at the memorial

May 21, 2010

Today was another pesky travel day but our first of two flights was not until 3pm. Given we had to check out of our hotel at 10am we had a bit of time to waste. We had both got a bit behind with our travel journals so after a quick breakfast at the hotel and clearing our room, we headed across the road to Starbucks to make use of the free internet. All did not go to plan however as I thought I’d best check on the status of our British Airways flight for next week in light of the threatened strikes.

Unfortunately, our flight from Washington to London had been cancelled and we would have to re-book. I was really annoyed at having to do this and even more annoyed that BA did not have the courtesy to email me about this change. Were they hoping I’d forget I had a flight?! After an aborted attempt to call AA on Skype, I headed over the road to the post office to post our postcards and to use the payphone there. After a good 5 minutes on hold with AA, I was told that my ticket was not with them despite the fact I had paid them and they had issued the tickets. They told me Qantas had ticketed my flight and they gave me a new number to call. Despite not wanting to help me without a reference number, the lady at Qantas soon helped me after a barrage of security questions. I was grateful she was able to change our flights as it means we won’t lose significant time visiting my family which could quite easily have been the result of this. It is still silly that a ticket for a flight with BA that was paid for to AA had to be adjusted through Qantas – are you confused yet?! So now we have to fly from Dallas to Washington then change airports, fly to New York and then onto London, arriving about 6 hours later than scheduled.

By the time I had dealt with that we had little time left so we grabbed a quick bite to eat at Taco Bell and headed for the airport. The airport at Kona is all open air so we got to sit and sweat for a while waiting for our flight. The flight to Honolulu was short and sweet and I’ve been quite impressed with Hawaiian Airlines, even though our longest flight has only been about 30 minutes! At Honolulu we changed terminals and checked in for our flight to the mainland and to Dallas. It seems my conversation with Qantas earlier had messed with the AA system as they had two bookings for us on our flight. Well, better two than none, I suppose!

Once through the sweatbox which was supposedly the security area, we arrived faced by a Kona Brewery bar and we both decided to head straight in for a beer! The beer was just the refreshment we needed but the price was not so much. The beer here was over $7 each whereas we’d been paying around $5 for beer everywhere else in Hawai’i, across three different islands and various different towns. I know airports are always more expensive but I think nearly 50% more is taking the piss a little! The one advantage the bar had was being close enough to the Japanese Airlines lounge that I could pick up their wireless internet signal and was able to find out that there was a lounge we could use on our Priority Passes (for anyone who travels a lot, these are great – check them out!).

We headed to the Continental lounge where we had peace, quiet, free food and drink and, most importantly air-conditioning! The added bonus of a comfy seat meant we were both able to work on our travel journals and get a little closer to being caught up. It wasn’t that we hadn’t had some time to do our journals, it was more that we couldn’t be bothered and so let them slide for a while! Considering we’ve both been writing a daily journal since mid-June last year when we went to Alaska that is pretty good going that this is the first time we’d been more than about 2 or 3 days behind. After a couple of hours at Kona airport plus a couple at Honolulu I managed to get almost up to date and it is always a nice feeling of accomplishment when I get this crap out of the way so that you lot can read it!

We boarded our flight to Dallas on time and were amazed that the plane was even older and more rubbish than the Qantas one we’d flown into Honolulu on! The flight is over 7 hours but of course AA class it as a domestic flight, which of course it is, and so apply all their domestic flight rules which include $2 to buy a headset, no personal TV screens, $8 (yes, EIGHT DOLLARS) for a blanket and no free alcohol unlike all their other alliance partners. Even Qantas got us drunk and warm enough to fall asleep! This situation wasn’t helped by the sarcastic attitudes of the air stewardesses who made a lovely comment about how it also costs $5 to use the toilet given how we’d complained about the Arctic temperatures inside the cabin. I guess keeping the temperature sub-zero means some stupid saps will buy the $8 blankets. So, as you can see I’m not impressed and am really looking forward to our three flights with AA next week! Equally, I can’t sleep because I’m freezing, I have no TV to watch and in writing all of this I’ve just about exhausted my laptop battery. I foresee the next 5 hours staring at the back of the seat in front!

May 22–29, 2010

We were so grateful when the plane finally touched down in Dallas and we got a chance to warm up. The plane was so cold that neither of us got any sleep but I almost felt like I was beyond needing any at that point. We were greeted by Elizabeth’s parents, Lynda and David, who had made an early trip down to Dallas to meet us and take us back to Sherman. We stopped for breakfast on the way as American Airlines had not fed us at all and before long we were back at the house.

Elizabeth and I decided not to sleep too much as we’d not sleep tonight and so she went out with her Dad to take care of some farm-related business and I hung out at the house and got our laundry done whilst trying to help Lynda prepare for the family get-together tonight.

In the evening all of Elizabeth’s relatives came over and we got to meet her sister Katie’s boyfriend (Andrew) for the first time. He was a really cool, friendly guy and seemed right at home with the Lewis family! It was also great fun to catch up with Elizabeth’s aunts, uncles and cousins again as we hadn’t seen many of them since the wedding and there have been two new additions to the family since then, too! Lynda had cooked a huge piece of beef brisket in barbeque sauce and with potato salad and loads of salsa, queso and jalapeno ranch we were certainly treated to some lovely food, along with good beer and great company! It is so nice to be somewhere we can get good home cooking and with a week here and a week with my mum cooking we’re going to be well indulged for home-cooked treats!

A lot of days in Sherman moulded into one as Elizabeth and I had to pack up a lot of our stuff that was messing up the house here and sort through some of the stuff we’d shipped from Bermuda as well as whilst we’ve been travelling. I won’t bore you with the details of our trips to Target to buy plastic containers or our drive to Plano to get some new clothes and boots from REI but I will tell you I probably need to extend our budget a bit in future to cover shopping excursions! I always feel bad when we go shopping too as I will buy new stuff and replace my clothes when I get fed up of them but Elizabeth hates shopping and therefore will hold onto her clothes until they are falling off her and replacement becomes a necessity! I’m sure there are lots of men out there who wish their other halves hated shopping so much!

Those shopping trips and packing took up almost all of Monday and Tuesday and we still weren’t close to being packed up. We ended up getting lots of other stuff done but I was wary we’d turned the front room of the house into a dumping ground for our stuff and didn’t like the feeling of being a problem to everyone else in the house.

On Wednesday we all took a trip out of Sherman and drove up to Oklahoma City. It is about a 2.5 to 3 hour drive to get there and we planned to leave mid-morning to reach the city by lunchtime. Lunch was not our first stop though as we made a small detour off the highway to drive along a magnetic road. The road apparently pulls your car along when you stop in the right place and after driving around a couple of times we eventually found the right spot and we found the car being pulled UP the hill. From a standing start we reached about 7 or 8 mph uphill which indicates a pretty strong force to lift an SUV with 6 adults in it to that speed! David and Andrew thought it was amazing but I got the impression everyone else in the car was less impressed. The driver, yours truly, stayed quiet and just drove where he was told!

After a quick stop at the petrol station for the toilet (where some local meth-heads with no teeth told Elizabeth she was looking beautiful today!), we headed for the Cowboy Hall of Fame. Now, I’m not really a huge fan of even cowboy movies and know little about the history but the museum was really cool. They had some amazing, huge sculptures there including one called “The End of the Trail” which depicts the end of the Indian way of life and the native culture. The building had a large window opposite the entrance with this large statue in front, lit by the natural light shining in. The rest of the museum was a large maze, with some really interesting stuff around every corner. The large conference hall had enormous paintings on each wall showing different scenes from cowboy country, including the Grand Canyon in Arizona.

The far end of the museum had displays on rodeos and had various cowboy paraphernalia, including four or five pieces originating from the Uruguayan gauchos we’d seen in Montevideo, and a huge map showing the cattle ranches all around America, including the Parker Ranch on Hawai’i. It is so cool when you visit places which have links to other places you’ve been as it really makes things feel more linked and certainly gives things a more global feeling.

We stopped at a cool little café for lunch and we all got really good, tasty, freshly made salads and sandwiches. I went for an Ahi tuna sandwich and it was nice and rare and had an amazing flavor. We’d had a lot of great food in the four previous days and Lynda had certainly excelled in her choice of lunch venue, too!

The next stop was the city art museum and Lynda wanted to take us here to show us the Chihuly glass sculptures which took up about half of the top floor of the building. The amount and size of some of these sculptures was amazing and the detail almost unbelievable. I don’t really like some of the over-the-top, gaudy colours and designs but it is impossible not to appreciate the talent and effort that went into designing and creating these. We watched a short film showing some of them being made and I have to admit being a little surprised how little Mr. Chihuly did in the actual creation but how vocal he was in his direction! I guess not all artists have to sweat to get their names noticed.

The remaining artworks were interesting but nothing extraordinary but the special exhibit on the ground floor was really fun. It contained a whole array of costumes and articles from various films dating back to the days of silent films, including one of Charlie Chaplin’s hats. The display was supposed to demonstrate the design process in the costumes but only a handful of the actual articles were shown alongside the designers’ sketches, which seemed a bit strange. However, the variety and styles of costumes was excellent including the outfit worn by Christopher Reeve in Superman 2, the 70’s flares worn by Pierce Brosnan and Meryl Streep in Mamma Mia (which I haven’t seen and never will but the outfits were awesome!), a variety of Robert de Niro’s outfits from different films and even a couple of schoolchild outfits worn by a couple of the von Trapps!

We next visited the Oklahoma City Memorial Museum. This museum charts the tragic bombing of a federal building in the city by a young American. The story told how the bomb was planted in front of the building around 9am just as everyone was getting into work and had dropped their children off at the nursery. When the bomb exploded at 9.02am it destroyed the front of the main building and caused the floors to collapse on top of each other and many people were killed instantly in the blast, including a number of babies and infants in the 2nd floor crèche. The museum was really well done with some amazing, heart-wrenching video clips both from the day itself and of interviews conducted later with survivors and relatives of those affected. It was hard not to be upset about all the different scenes which unfolded that day but I believe this museum, along with the conviction and execution of the bomber, must really help the city to conquer their pain and to help them get on with their lives a little more. Unlike, say, 9/11 I can’t remember where I was when this incident occurred but I will surely never forget some of the pictures and images I saw at the museum.

After the museum we had a drive around, stopping at a large outdoor store for a look around and then onto the Bricktown Brewery, a place especially chosen by Lynda so Elizabeth and I could sample some more beer! The range of beers here was really good and enjoyable, as was the food we had with it. After so much good food over the last few days plus a lovely lunch, I don’t think any of us were really hungry but it was hard not to eat when the food is so good.

Finally, as the sun started to set we headed back to the Oklahoma City memorial to see it lit up in the twilight. The memorial contains one chair for each of the people that were killed and are arranged in nine rows, representing the nine floors of the building on which they died. It was so sad seeing the row of small chairs in the second row, indicating the children whose lives were tragically ended before they’d even begun. We asked the information office why they had chosen chairs and it had been something which the families felt best represented those killed – seeing that empty chair at home, at the dinner table or in the living room, where the loved one had previously sat. The memorial was a great memory to those people and an unfortunate, tragic reminder of what human beings can be capable of.

The drive back to Sherman seemed to take an age with plenty of roadworks along the way and reduced speed limits around every corner! We knew it would be a late one as we wanted to see the memorial after sunset so it was no surprise when we arrived back just before midnight and all hit our beds pretty quickly!

The next day we did a few more chores and errands including a trip to a notary so Elizabeth could do her waiver for her professional training. It seemed crazy to require a notary for such a thing but sometimes you can’t do anything but jump through those hoops!

In the evening we met Jennifer and David, Elizabeth’s cousin and her husband, for some drinks and dinner at a bar called Cellarmans. It was a great night and we all chatted about nothing-in-particular for a few hours. The local beer here is called Shiner and it is a really tasty beer and much too easy to drink sometimes!

On Friday morning, Katie and Andrew headed back home to North Carolina and Elizabeth and I ploughed on with our packing and boxing up. The front room still resembled a dumping ground so it was a relief to us both (and Lynda, too, I imagine) when we finally taped up the last box and got our suitcases ready to go again. It seemed like we hadn’t been here very long but we were already preparing to leave. The time has just flown by everywhere and it is now 11 months since we last finished work which is just crazy to think about.

On the Saturday morning we headed into Dallas to fly to London, having had our BA flight from Washington cancelled thanks to a cabin crew strike and so we decided to pay a bit more and go direct from Dallas. We stopped for a final lunch with Lynda and David at PF Changs and once again we had some great food and stuffed ourselves. I’m sure my mother will keep us well fed as well so we’ll have to start a strict diet when we hit South Africa!

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