Almost Every Year

Almost every year, we come to Bethany Beach and spend a couple of weeks with the family.  Almost every year, there are new things about the house, the town, the beach and the cast of characters that make up our time together at the beach.

The Wilson family comes to the beach almost every year, except years when we go someplace else, such as Australia (last year) and England (various times, and planning for next year).  Every year we are here, the Vache’s of Washington State (my sister, bro-in-law, and nieces) are here, and the Greene’s of Florida (my parents).  More recently we have added the Sutton’s of Texas to the mix.  There have been many and various other cousins, McGrath’s of Missouri, long-time friends, girl friends and boy friends on and off over the years.

The time at the beach follows a predictable, comfortable and welcome routine.  We keep a storage locker with our beach chairs, umbrellas, and many other needed supplies in Millville.  When we arrive we unpack the storage locker, and move into our house.  It’s not our house, really, since we just rent it, but it’s our house since we’ve been renting it for about 15 years.  By the time we arrive my sister has stocked up at Sam’s or Costco, and we’re ready to go.

Tony brings a metal detector and has a lot of fun searching the beach for treasures.  Every once in a while he finds something.  This year he found a cell phone, among other things.  We answered one of the texts we read, and were able to reunite the phone with its grateful owner.  I was glad to wish the young man a happy birthday — it was his 18th.  Good stuff.  This year he got up at 5 a.m. every day to go metal detecting, and then takes all the chairs and umbrellas down to the beach.  Then he gets me up and we ride bikes for an hour.  It’s been good exploring the area that I know so well, but know so little!  I’ve spent years here, but have not ever explored the back roads and countryside as I have this year on a bicycle.

Almost every year we have a rainy day and head straight to the outlet malls for some of the great Delaware tax-free shopping.  This year was just a very short day, as we got to Rehoboth, the sun started coming out.  So just a few stores, and then back to the beach.  It wasn’t our best day, but certainly far from the worst.

Every year Bethany Beach puts on a 4th of July parade.  That will be tomorrow, of course, and just around 11:30 a.m. we will all go up to Ocean View Parkway and put our beach chairs up in front of someone’s house (don’t know who they are but we sit there every year).  The parade starts at the Christian Church and makes its way down to Ocean View parkway by about 12:30 or so, and then goes on and on and on and on… and on… and on…. made up of large groups of children on bikes, local beauty queens, local politicians, the Shriners in their  mini-corvettes, and many many other wacky and wonderful creatures.  It’s a great parade, and we are usually parched and sun-stroked by the time we make our way home, but it’s worth it for the fun of seeing a great small-town parade to celebrate our nation’s independence.

Every year Bethany Beach puts on a fireworks show, and almost every year it is fantastic!  One year it was entirely shrouded in clouds, and one year was rained out.  That year there was this guy who had a fireworks show of his own on the 5th of July and I kind of suspected that he had bought out the BB show for his private showing.  But then this year I heard that there was a big birthday party for some rich guy who had rented out a whole neighborhood that year… so I’m thinking it was his birthday celebration.  Nonetheless it was good entertainment for us since the 4th was just busted by rain.

Almost every year something changes about the beach, for better or worse.  Some years ago they built giant dunes to protect the town – that was a good change, but made a huge difference in the landscape of the beach.  Some of the old landmarks are now gone, replaced by new buildings — such as the old Blue Surf Motel — now the Blue Surf condos.  It’s an attractive building, and I’m very glad they replace the old Blue Surf in such a nice way.  There used to be an old bait and tackle shop called Harry’s on the corner across from the Christian church.  It burned down some years ago and was replaced by an ugly, garish, “pirate” mini-golf with a giant skeleton pirate that barfs water out of its mouth.  Ugh.  The bait and tackle shop was nothing special – I remember getting candy and comic books there, and it was the bus station, too.  But the replacement is not to be endured.  Another change is the replacement of the town’s parking meters with a pay-and-display format.  Not a bad thing, but they haven’t gotten around to taking the parking meter poles out of the ground.  So everywhere you look there are these poles sticking up out of the ground.  Tacky.

The one thing that never changes is how relaxed we feel when we get down to the beach, and plant ourselves in our beach chairs in the sun, pull out the trashy novel and lose ourselves in the lovely breeze and sunshine.  It’s heaven and there is no other place on earth that can quite compare to this.

Here are my pictures taken this year.


The Best Part

Since we’ve been back from Australia, people have been interested in our experiences, and have asked us to share the best parts.  We spent almost 27 days in Australia, and visited four cities, and four country areas.  We had a fantastic time, overall, and there were only a few things that didn’t work well.

Here are some impressions.

Melbourne is a sophisticated, modern city, that feels very European.  We had no problem finding our way around.  We walked, and used the free “City Circle” tram.   The highlights of our time in Melbourne was our day out on the Great Ocean Road (see my earlier “Wild Ride” post), the visit to the Melbourne Museum (with Titanic exhibit), and the Queen Victoria Market.

McLaren Vale is a small region just outside of Adelaide, and home to over 70 wineries.  They not only grow grapes, but olives, almonds, fruit, and vegetables.  It sits in the middle of the Fleurieu Peninsula.  We drove all around, and visited Victor Harbor, saw the little penguins, and saw beautiful scenery.  We had a fantastic tour of several of the cellar doors, drank and bought lots of wine, and met some great folks along the way.  Our best dinner in the area was in The Barn, and stayed in a fantastic apartment.

Adelaide is a small city, reminds me a bit of Orlando in size, and has a traditional feel.  Kind of like a comfortable pair of slippers.  We stayed in North Adelaide, in an old gentleman’s residence (converted into separate apartments).  We took another wine tour, this time in the Barossa Valley.  We rented a car (much to Tony’s chagrin) and drove up into the Adelaide Hills and visited Cleland Wildlife Park and got to hold a Koala and feed Kangaroos and Wallabies.

Cairns, in Northern Queensland, is a small city about the size of Daytona Beach.  It’s OK, but the only reason to go there is to visit the Great Barrier Reef.  The day we went out on the reef was very rough and we didn’t get to see much.  But the real gem was our time at Cedar Park.  We drove up and up and up into the “tableland” and found Cedar Park at the end of a 6 kilometer dirt road.  What a fantastic place!  Wallabies and pademelons roam freely, there is a rainforest right outside the door, and two fabulous chefs cook the most delicious dinners in all Australia.  I would go back there in a heartbeat.  While there we also visited Kuranda, and took a cable car ride over the rainforest canopy, and enjoyed a quiet river cruise.  I would have liked at least one more day there.

Finally, we were bound for Sydney.  We met up with our family and spent four days in the Blue Mountains.  It was rainy the first day, but then it was beautiful, clear, and crisp.  We stayed in a fabulous house, 4 bedrooms and 2 baths, with a modern kitchen and a cosy gas fire.  It was chilly so we used up the gas…  oops!  We took a fabulous hike, we were part of the Katoomba Winter Magic Festival, and toured the famous Jenolan Caves.  The best part of the Blue Mountains is the scenery and no shortage of things to see and do.  Our time in the Blue Mountains was over too quickly.  We should have stayed there at least one more day.

We stayed a week in Sydney, which is a big, bustling city set on the famous harbor.  Sydney’s easy to get around, and has fantastic public transportation.  The CBD is walkable, and the old part of the city, The Rocks, is full of fun shopping, a weekend market, and great restaurants.  The Sydney Opera House is an icon, and it was so cool to actually see it in person.  The highlight of our Sydney visit was our bridge climb, and celebrating Carol’s birthday.  I never thought I could do the climb, but it was really easy, especially after our hike in the Blue Mountains.  It was pouring rain by the end of the climb, but we hardly noticed the cold and wet because the bridge climb provides all the wet weather gear and parkas.  We also visited Bondi Beach, the Sydney Aquarium, the Rocks Market, the Opera House, the Gardens, and Circular Quay.  Even with all the activities, we still didn’t have time to do all we wanted.  That means we have to go back!  Oh darn!

We thoroughly enjoyed our whole visit, and met lots of great people.  Australian people are friendly, easy-going, and cheerful.  There are exceptions, of course, but we only found a few.  We were there when Australia got its first woman Prime Minister.  That was cool.  Next time I hope to visit Western Australia and Northern Territory, and go back to McLaren Vale and Kuranda.  Well, I’ve already started saving!!

Town and Country

Where to start?  So much has happened since the last time I was able to write.  First of all it’s been hard even getting to my computer.  Most evenings I’m just so tired after a full day of activities and Amy is on the computer “Skyping” with her boyfriend, Alex.  I probably would have been too tired anyway, regardless.

We spent a great day in the rainforest after we went for a snorkeling trip on the Great Barrier Reef.  Amy spotted a platypus which is very rare and hard to spot…I saw the splash it made. Did I tell you that the resort we stayed in is owned by two Swiss chefs who cooked for us every night for dinner?  It was sooooo nice I can’t stop raving about the food.  I’m sure I put on several pounds.  That place was magic.  I don’t know if I mentioned walking out after dark into their front yard and seeing the starry night… we could see the Milky Way and I spotted the Southern Cross.  It was unforgettable.  I don’t think I have ever seen the sky that full of stars… we were so far out in the country there were no lights to compete.

There were also wallabies and pademelons all over the place and they would let you feed them (the chefs put out boxes of sliced sweet potatoes).  We found out they like cashew nuts, and one of them decided to check out our room as well.  That was fantastic!

We flew to Sydney and had one of those “airport” experiences when we flew out of Cairns.  There was a gate agent who insisted on sticking to the rules like glue and we had to check some bags that she wouldn’t let us carry on — cost us $30.  Ah well… once we got to Sydney we were picked up by my brother-in-law Peter, my sister-in-law Diane, and my niece Carol.  We drove up into the Blue Mountains.  We checked into a house that was in the little town of Katoomba.  It is a beautiful house, don’t know how old, but they have remodeled the interior very nicely and it’s quite comfortable.   We had four bedrooms, two full baths, kitchen, great room, and a sun porch.  Also the back was a huge garden, not as nice in the winter but must be fantastic in summer.  They also have a barbecue and a large outdoor seating area in the garden.  We didn’t make use of it since it’s winter here, but even so it was a nice touch.

Our first day was rainy so we made our way to Jenolan Caves.  We toured two of the caves (there are about a dozen) and had lunch in the hotel.  The hotel lunch was ok, the building is quite grand but it’s out of season so I’ll bet they’re just not making as much of an effort.  We hiked up and down several trails, and saw some beautiful scenery.  But wait, there’s more.

The next day was beautiful weather so we went for a “walk” as Pete called it.  Well… in my dictionary walk means having a nice stroll.  What we did was hike The National Pass.  Beautiful scenery, for sure.  Lovely wild and unspoiled Australian Gum (Eucalyptus) forest.  Even though the trails are groomed and well equipped with hand rails and such, it’s a challenging hike for those of us flat-landers from Florida who have no concept of walking up and down and up and down multiple stairs and inclines.  We hiked for more than two hours and were rewarded by some spectacular views.  By the time we were finished, I was flat out finished.  I didn’t think I would ever be able to walk another step.  I kept saying, “Keep on climbing, keep on climbing…”  We enjoyed a nice lunch in the “Conservation Hut” and then just a short walk (this time) back to the car.   Then we visited Echo Point and saw a rock formation called “The Three Sisters.” Very pretty, and then we drove a bit further over and went to Scenic World, which features two cable-car rides, and a steep railroad that takes people down into the valley much like the coal miners used to ride in the olden days.  They say it’s the steepest railway incline in the world.

On our third day we got to experience the “Winter Magic” Festival in Katoomba.  They had over 40,000 people come in from all over, special steam trains from Sydney came up, vendors lined the street, and they had an unique small-town parade in the afternoon.  Not sure why, but lots of people dressed in costumes.  I saw some very original and funny ones.  In the afternoon we went to the Zig-Zag Railway, which was an engineering marvel in it’s day.  It’s run now by volunteers who love working with old steam engines and trains.  I made dinner that night.  The other nights we went out.  One night we ate at the Swiss Cottage, and Amy and I shared Raclette and a chocolate fondue.  If you’re in the market for a business opportunity in Katoomba, the Swiss Cottage is for sale.  Any interest?

When it was time to leave, it was hard because that is such a nice area!

We got to Sydney and found our accommodations in The Rocks area.  This is the old, historic part of Sydney, with lots of hilly streets and little lanes and alleyways.  The houses are older and there are no high-rises.  There is an arts & crafts market every weekend…and lots of good restaurants and cafes.  It’s also close to the harbor bridge and Circular Quay with the Sydney Opera House.  So the accommodation had a lot of promise and potential.  Well… as I said, there always has to be something funny.  The house was a narrow row house that had been remodeled in an…let’s say… interesting style.  Every wall downstairs was painted black.  The kitchen was all stainless steel.  Ultra modern… lean on furnishings in the downstairs.  The upstairs had three bedrooms, all furnished with basic Ikea furniture.  The floors were the original hardwood and there were some area rugs.  The bathroom was tiny.  There was no vanity, just a bowl sink.  The shower was huge, but if I had designed it I would have made a smaller shower and put in a decent vanity with some shelves.

Anyway, the first night there was pretty comfortable, but we noticed a few cockroaches in the place, and I figured it was par for the course in an older building in the city.  Then on the second night when we came home there were cockroaches everywhere, upstairs, downstairs, in the dining room, everywhere.  It was disgusting.  We packed up and left immediately… I was so grossed out.  We ended up in the same hotel suites property we used in Melbourne, which has a beautiful view of Darling Harbor and the Harbor Bridge, and it’s still in the Rocks area.  We have to fight to get our money back from the first place, because they are trying to deny there were any roaches or there was anything wrong.  We’ll see about that!  Never mind that the place had no freezer (fridge with no freezer???) and the dishwasher didn’t work and that the laundry was wet after being in the dryer for 2 hours.  It’s always something!!

We’ve been in Sydney and have seen and done so many things that have been fun, and have had such a good time that even a cockroach-infested apartment couldn’t put a damper on things!!

The highlights:

  • We climbed the Sydney Harbor Bridge.  Easy as compared to our hike in the Blue Mountains.  But we did it in the pouring rain.  That made things interesting.
  • Sydney Aquarium and the Tower (not as good as the one in Melbourne, but impressive nonetheless).
  • Sydney Opera House — Impressive on the outside, but I was not as impressed with the interiors.
  • Shopping and Restaurants — some good some not so good.  Prices are high.  Love the wine.
  • Bondi Beach — rainy day, but still an impressive beach.  Lots of nice real estate to see along the way.
  • Whale Watching — fantastic and saw several whales on their way north.

We are looking forward to our last day tomorrow.  Pete, Diane and Carol will come into town and we’ll visit the famous Rocks Market, and have a farewell lunch.  Then Amy and I will hit the cheesy souvenir shops to see what fun things we can find to bring home.  I already have some great souvenirs, but it will be fun to see what else we can find.

I have posted more pictures, but only up through our time in the Blue Mountains so far.  I’ll try and put up more tonight, but it’s not always easy to get on my computer. 😉

Reef and Rainforest

Just a quick word today that we have spent two lovely days in Northern Queensland, in the Wet Tropical Rainforest area of Kuranda.  Our resort is Cedar Park Rainforest Resort about which I will rave on and on about later.  They are absolutely one of the best experiences of my life, and I’m only sorry that my finances and other obligations (like work and family) won’t allow me to stay longer.  As I said, I’ll fill you in on lots more details about that in my next post.

We spent a nice (if not a bit choppy) day out on the Great Barrier Reef, and I can say that I’ve had better snorkeling in the Caribbean but that might be because the conditions were so rough, it made the visibility very bad.  But you take the bad with the good when it comes to weather conditions.

The rainforest day made up for it in spades.

Anyway it’s late and I’m tired and we’re getting ready to leave to go to Sydney and the Blue Mountains.  It does not look like we will have Internet at our house, so we may not be back totally online until later.

Wallabies, Koalas, and Kangaroos, Oh My!

Yesterday (Friday) we had another wine tour, this time in the Barossa Valley.  Our driver and guide, Tracy, picked us up at our “Manor House” in Adelaide, and drove us up to the Barossa Valley, where we picked up one other couple. We all got along very well. They were a young couple from Brisbane.  All the way up to the Barossa, Tracy was telling us all about Adelaide, and the area we were going to visit. She asked us what kinds of wine we liked, and what sort of other activities we might like. We didn’t have any idea and left ourselves in her capable hands.

Throughout the tour Tracy was telling us all about the region, the wine growers and companies, and let us in on some insider information. Without her, we would never have learned so much about the area and its wine industry.  I must admit, the Barossa is much more commercial than McLaren Vale, more developed, and older.  McLaren Vale overall was more relaxed and casual.  Tracy told us about many wine-making families who have, over the years, disagreed and broken up, and then just moved down the road and opened up new wineries.  It’s a passion for some people.

Of course, Tony likes to drink beer, and does not drink wine. Being the good natured sort that he is, he went along on not one, but two wine tours with us.  This time, he was in luck; Tracy took us to two wineries that also have beer which was a big hit with him.

We also stopped at Maggie Beer’s (no beer) Farm Shop and a Cheese Shop. Next time we go I will ask to stop in Bethany, a little town with a Lutheran Church, and a winery.  I wonder if the people around here go back for seconds at communion.  Also I would request chocolate… I now know there are a few little shops that specialize in chocolate in the area.

Today, we had a leisurely morning, and we decided to drive up into the Adelaide Hills to visit the Cleland Wildlife Park and then visit the little German village of Hahndorf.  We had to talk Tony into it, because it meant he had to drive again, but finally he caved.  We rented a car and drove up to Mt. Lofty (700 meters) and had a great view of Adelaide right out to the sea.  Then just below Mt. Lofty is the Cleland Wildlife Park.  We chose to go there because they allow visitors to hold a Koala and have their photos taken.  We weren’t expecting much… but wow… you walk along these open pathways and there are dozens of Wallabies and Kangaroos just hanging around and you can go right up to them and pet them as they are all tame.  We bought little packets of food (grain pellets) to feed them and they just eat right out of your hand.  I think they look a lot like little deer in the head and face… so cute!!  There is a fence around the outer perimeter of the area, and a wild Kangaroo came up to the fence and looked so forlorn, like feed me, please… but when I went closer to the fence it hopped away…keeping its distance.

We saw these huge Wombats and many different birds, water birds, and finally the Koala… Kuddly and Kute.  Her name was Clover because she was found in a patch of clover after her mom was killed by a car.  😦  There were many Koala in captivity there because they were injured or orphaned.  There are many wild Koala in the area, and we heard one calling but didn’t see it.

Oh, and there were all these little critters running around, and I think they were some sort of roo… but they looked a bit like a rat… but they aren’t rats… they were cute but just skittered around and would also let you feed them.

We literally  had to scrape the roo poo off of our shoes after the day.  How many times can you say that has happened to you?

We had a little time to see Hahndorf, and we ran into our first rude Australian there.  I guess there had to be one.  It’s a cute little village, but pretty commercialized.

Back to Adelaide in time for a nice dinner and then packing.  Hopefully we get to Cairns with all bottles of Vino intact (thank you Australia, for not restricting liquids in carry-on luggage).  We are staying at another very unique resort, this time in a rainforest.

I’ll post more pictures tomorrow, right now it’s too late and I need to pack up the computer.

That’s it for now from the Southern Hemisphere!

Wine and Views

It’s one week today since we arrived in Australia.  We traveled to Adelaide, South Australia from Melbourne on Monday.  Then we rented a car and drove down to McLaren Vale.  I must say, it’s a very beautiful part of the world.  McLaren Vale is located in the Fleurieu Peninsula, which is hilly on the outer edges, near the sea and flatter and lower inland.  It must do something special with the climate, because it seems to be a fantastic place for growing grapes and making wine.

We stayed in some nice apartments right in the center of town.  Unfortunately, no Internet, and the data service for my iPhone is not working, so we were off the grid until now.

On Tuesday, we drove all around the peninsula, from McLaren Vale to Port Jervis (ferry to Kangaroo Island) and then on up to Victor Harbor.  Along the way we drove in and out of various places to see the ocean views, and we sighted wild Kangaroos just along the roads.  That’s a pretty big deal for us, as we don’t get to see Kangaroos just hanging around like they do here in Australia.

The scenery is beautiful, I could go on and on and on.  Once we made it down to Victor Harbor, we visited the South Australia Whale Center — they had no whale sightings that day; they had some the day before, but not luck for us that day.  Then we walked across the causeway to Granite Island.  We didn’t get to see the horse-drawn tram, as they were down for 3 weeks while making some repairs to the tracks.  Bummer.

Granite Island is small but spectacular, and is home to the little penguins, also known as Fairy Penguins, and they are only found on the south coast of Australia.  They’re fairly rare, and I dare say they’re probably protected, but I would have to research that, I don’t remember them saying so.  We met with a tour guide just after dark and he walked us around to the nesting sites.  The male penguin prepares a cave, and tries to attract a female.  To prepare the cave, they use bits of grass and mulch to decorate the outside, like making a little patio.  Inside the cave they make a nest and line it with the little pinfeathers and down from their coats.  Soooooo soft… what girl could resist?

It’s late in the season so there aren’t that many around… the chicks have all left the nests and the males are just starting to scope out their territories.  But we did see a few and it was a very interesting time.

We ended up back in McLaren Vale around dinner time — Tony had to drive through rain the whole way back — but we had a great dinner at The Barn (verrry nice!) and then back to the apartment.  We were tired and happy to have had such a nice day out.  Amy said she calls it Boonie driving… but it was fun.

On Wednesday we were picked up by Greg of Wine Diva tours, in his Mercedes Mini-van.  Sooo posh.  We were driven around all day to visit various wineries, and taste and buy some great wine.  I had no idea that the wines in this region are soooo good.  It was really hard not to buy absolutely everything.  There were very few I didn’t really like.  But I did favor the Grenache and the Shiraz.  The tour was worth every penny because when we got back from dinner, it was lights out at 8:30 p.m.  Wanna guess why?  Ha ha … 🙂

Thursday morning came all too quickly and it was time to say goodbye to McLaren Vale and drive back up to Adelaide.  As I’ve said before, there always has to be something funny… so we arrived at Buxton Manor, early… but they let us in anyway.  Then after dropping our things we went to return the car.  We forgot about filling the gas tank, so we had to look around for a gas station.  It took us over an hour of circling around to finally find one, and then only after I ended up making a phone call for directions.  Then when we tried to get back to the car rental office, we had to circle around to get into their driveway, since there was an unexpected median that got in our way.  That was so funny.  It should have been 15-20 minutes top.

Once we were rid of the car, we found some lunch in a pub and walked over to Adelaide Central Market. Not as nice as Melbourne’s… but good in its own way.  Tony recognizes a few places here and there, from the days when he used to live here.  We found the free bus (not as good a deal as you think) and rode it back here to our manor house.  Amy thinks it’s spooky and she’s sleeping with the lights on.  Not just a light.  All the lights.  Overhead, lamps, everything.  I don’t feel anything in this house.  I’m sure there’s a lot of history here, but I don’t think spirits are active.  Wait ’till you see the pictures.

Tomorrow morning we’re getting picked up at 8:30 a.m. for another wine tour, this time in the Barossa Valley.  I’m definitely looking forward to it, but will pace myself a bit better this time!!  The hardest part, as I’ve said, is to refrain from buying everything in sight.

Anyway, I’m uploading some more pictures, but the speeds are pretty slow so it might take a while.  I’ll start some up before I go to bed and hopefully by morning they’ll be done.

That’s it from the Southern Hemisphere for now!  Hope you’re enjoying the news so far.  I’ll check in again soon!

Mr. Shane’s Wild Ride on The Great Ocean Road

There always has to be something funny.  It wouldn’t be a Wilson trip without it.  On Friday, we went on a tour of The Great Ocean Road (I’ll say GOR from now on).  But I should tell you a bit about Thursday, too… so we back up.

Thursday was the day we arrived in Melbourne.  It kind of took us a while to really figure out what day it was here.  We left LA on Tuesday the 1st… but somehow we missed out totally on Wednesday the 2nd… because when we arrived in Melbourne it was Thursday the 3rd.  That’s a bit strange… I guess those of you who’ve lived through it know what I mean.  If you haven’t, all I can say is it might be like when you’re dreaming…and you can’t remember where you left your clothes…oh wait…that’s another dream.  Well… you do kind of walk around in a bit of a daze, for sure.

Anyway, we had a good time walking around Victoria Market, where they have a huge selection of fruits & vegetables, a sort of flea-market-like section, a hall with meats and fish, and a hall with deli and other delights, like Chocolate, etc.  We bought a couple bottles of wine from a merchant who sells bottles with nice screw-tops, filled with local wines, and when you finish the wine you can bring the bottle back (rinsed out) for a re-fill.  Great idea, and the wine was pretty good.  We bought a Victoria Shiraz and a Pinot Grigio.  They’re both good for my taste, and I’m no wine expert… but this is pretty good if you ask me.

After the market we found a grocery to stock up on other essentials for breakfasts to add to our market finds of fresh bacon, cheese, and fruit.  We found our way back to the hotel and had an early dinner at Young and Jackson’s, just a short walk from our hotel.

When we got back, it was only about 8:30 p.m. but everyone was completely bushed and we went to bed, but what a laugh… I was up at 2 a.m. thinking that it was time to get up for the day.  I forced myself to stay in bed ’till 5 a.m. If you know me well, you know that I don’t normally force myself to stay in BED at 5 a.m.  So you can stop laughing now.

We had to be up fairly early because we were being picked up for our Great Ocean Road Tour.  They were pretty much on time, and so were we, and we started off on our day with our driver Shane.  We were the last to be picked up, so we ended up in the back of the bus.  Again, for those of you who know me, ask how long it took me to ask to ride up front.  Not long.  And so I got to know our driver, Shane, pretty well throughout the 580-Kilometer ride (about 360  miles).

Shane had a lot to say for himself, and I must admit, that I started to think most of it was tall tales, but went along with it because I really wanted to see how far he would take it.  I will not bore you with the details of the Great Ocean Road.  It’s amazing scenery, and people are surfing in the ocean all over the place.  These Australians take their surfing seriously…but you should see the waves!  We were also treated to a Mooning when we were in the parking lot at Bell’s Beach when one of the surfers was changing into his wetsuit.  Moons over Miami, for sure!!!!  heheheheh  I didn’t think fast enough to grab my camera, LOL.

Shane had a schedule to keep if we were going to get to the end of the tour before dark, so he was really putting pedal to the metal at every opportunity.  By this time, of course, I had moved to the front of the bus or I would have lost it many times over.  On the way back to Melbourne we were to stop for dinner in a town called Colac.  About 5 minutes after hitting the road to Colac, a fog set in, and Shane was remarking that he had never seen such fog in all the years he had been driving in this area.  Oh great, I thought… I have the crazy driver, I’m sitting in front of a bus with about 1/4 inch of glass and steel in front of me, and we can’t see a thing after 100 yards.  I put my seatbelt on…no offense Shane…but it was insane, because the bus had no seat belts in the back.  To make matters worse, the road was full of dips and potholes which made it impossible for anyone in the back to actually stay in their seats.  OMG if I was in the back I can only say I would have begged for death.  As it was, there were several times during that drive to Colac that I was pretty sure that I was going to get that wish…but Shane turned out to be a skillful (or very lucky) driver and I’ve lived to tell the tale.  The other lucky thing is that it is winter, so not so much traffic out there in that area.

Shane told us that he was born and bred in the Northern Territories and he’s an aboriginal person, but he looked European to me.  What do I know?  He said he is active duty military but can’t tell me what branch.  He said he did missions that no one knows about.  I just said, Ok…. well I work on a secret project, too… and I can’t talk about it so I guess it’s possible…what do you think?  He told us such wonderful stories that it really felt like the drive just flew by… or maybe it  just felt like the bus was flying… which it was… but never mind, we are back safe and sound.

I had a blast, by the way… it was an experience I’ll never forget, and Shane is one of those people in life that we never forget either.

If you are ever in this part of the world, you really must get out to the GOR, it is amazing scenery and local history that is not to be missed.  It was worth every minute of the day spent.

I have to catch up now… that was yesterday and today we spent the day in Melbourne shopping, and we went up to the top of the Eureka Tower — 88 stories… but the weather was cloudy and by the time we finished our day out it was raining.  I think it still is…. luckily there are shops and restaurants in a mall very near to our hotel so we don’t have to get out in the rain too much.  Tony and Amy are flaked out on the couch sleeping as I write this… and it’s not even 7 p.m. yet.  I hope I can get them up to go out to dinner.  Anyway if I can’t I’ll just enjoy another glass of that Shiraz and relax.

I’m having a great time!

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