RCA Studio B, Ryman, a Smash Hit but no Line Dancing in Nashville.

On our last day in New York we picked up our rental car for the next part of our trip. A little shock was in store for us, we knew about the cost of the one way rental (pick NY drop off LA) and accepted that. However, neither of us were aware we may be charged a pricey sum for an auto toll tag in the car. No information existed on the company’s website that we rented the car through either. It listed all sorts of other things but not the toll tag – the previous car we rented from another company didn’t charge, or ask if we wanted, any toll tag. We’ve hired cars in US for long drives and never been charged for tolls in advance like this. It’s a rort, another way to fleece unsuspecting foreign drivers. Of course it was easy to find articles on this practise after the event, which I did, and found car rental companies charge this at different daily rates but their desk staff don’t ask you if you would like to opt out. I found an article on line when Ty showed me the updated contract and the charge that Dollar Car Rental company applied. This article, although helpful, was too late for us. Lesson learned and anyone reading this thinking about a long drive through several States of US in a hire car should ask the question of their car rental company and then do as the article suggested – purchase your own tag when you arrive in the States. Given the small number of toll roads we travelled on we would have saved several hundred dollars having our own tag.

Anyway, that’s my lesson for the day! Much more fun things to talk about than Dollar Rental Car.

The drive from New York to Nashville was just over 13 hours drive so we decide to do it in two stints…Ty would have driven straight through in a day but I wasn’t sharing the driving……when I’d say I’ll do some driving to give you a break….I’d receive the same reply ‘ “I find driving relaxing so you just sit back and watch the scenery” so I am the fidgety passenger/photographer on our trip. I’ve become quite adept at taking photos without blur at 60 or more mph (yes, mph not kph for my Aus/Europe readers).

After driving 8 hours we turned off the Interstate to find accommodation in a town called Roanoke/Hollis. Nowadays we will look for a Hampton Inn when taking an overnight break. Why? Not because other brands are not up to standard (most are) but we know what to expect from the Hampton Inns. Settled into our room it was time to find somewhere for dinner. This town was quite large which meant we had a number of options. We drove around the main street to find something that interested us and we came across a seafood restaurant…..the Harbor Inn. The place was very busy which, to me, is always a good sign. The waitress gave us the menus which had a large number of choices. As always I wanted a small meal, I don’t eat much, so I thought the fish with shrimp would be a good choice. Ty ordered the same. This dish turned out not to be a good choice…..the plate was overflowing and the shrimp was piled high! The fish and the shrimp were both very good but so much of it….we should’ve shared. In fact four of us could have shared one plate. Also on our plate we’re a couple of items they called ‘hush puppies’. Ty really liked them, I reserve my decision.

We asked the waitress why they’re called ‘hush puppies’ and an elderly gentleman at the table in front turned to face us and explained why. Below is his explanation:

” Many years ago Southern women cooked outside where the hunting dogs sat, so they rolled up cornmeal, fried it then threw it to the hunting dogs to keep them quite whilst they cooked”. He didn’t tell me how these ‘hush puppies’ transitioned to become a side dish for humans. Personally, to me, they looked like little frankfurts in shape (not colour) or the little packages of drugs couriers tend to swallow…..you know…the ones they show on those customs airport shows!

Anyway, time to move on….I won’t mention the interesting people having dinner in the restaurant or some different styles of dress…only to say. In my opinion, knee length multi coloured striped socks don’t look good with sandals and shorts on a very thin 60 something waitress.

Before reaching Nashville we needed fuel so we turned off the Interstate and drove into town called Bristol. The were signs welcoming the motor vehicle enthusiasts. I asked Ty what this was about and he looked at the signs and banners then said ‘Bristol Motor Speedway must be on this weekend’. He was more than a little disappointed because if he had known we would have added this to our trip. I had told him to check if any speedways were on through our trip….he hadn’t and we already had tickets to the NFL.

We arrived at the Clarion Hotel Nashville a couple of hours before the NFL pre season game between Tennessee Titans and the New England Patriots. Not enough time to unpack and go across to The Broadway. It had been tough trying to decide the best accommodation for us in Nashville. There are any number of hotels to choose from but we had a few factors to consider: cleanliness, ambiance, price of accommodation, cost of parking for 4 nights, being too close to Broadway would be too noisy – till at least 2am, ability to walk back to hotel when shuttle ceases daily operation and reviews. We’ve stayed in Nashville previously and chose a hotel close to Grand Ole Opry…even though it offered a shuttle service to the main streets of Nashville we found it quite restrictive and the hotel was too far from the ‘action’.

The Clarion is across the river from the ‘action’ but not far enough to be hard to get to. The hotel appeared to be quite new, the rooms were a very good size, staff fabulous and the bar area was a great place to meet fellow travellers. A very bright, airy hotel. The hotel is 10-15 minutes walk to the Titans Stadium…so very popular for game days!

Ty likes baseball (Yankees) and NFL games so, a couple of months ago, I checked to see if any games were on anywhere we would be…..found a pre season night game between Titans and Patriots for the day we arrived in Nashville. I’d seen a few snippets of NFL games and didn’t understand it at all but, couldn’t work out why the teams moved their players on and off the field throughout the game! I had heard of the Patriots and Tom Brady. So we booked tickets for the game and were very happy when we found we didn’t have to drive and find parking to the match.

Before the match we had a drink at the hotel bar and met Patriot supporters and Titans supporters…all seemed to agree the Patriots would win. They did and, do I know more about NFL now? Yes, I do …. they have an offence and defence section and specialists too. By the last quarter I had a handle on the game! Of course, people did say the pre season games are not the best to see how the game is played or the most exciting…but it probably helped me understand the game. I prefer baseball..it’s faster. A fast game is a good game as far as I’m concerned. I did enjoy the night even though we had the sun blazing on us for the first hour and a half……there was so much entertainment going on at every break….hard to keep track.

It was amusing and interesting to find that many groups of people go to the game but don’t go into the game……confused? Well, let me explain……along the way to the stadium from our hotel we saw groups of people in fenced of areas, on vacant pieces of land, setting up their barbecue or meat smoker, some had a television set, a gazebo and all had chairs. Many were wearing their team colours, had NFL flags flying and cars decorated. They were having a night at the game outside the game in the main stadium….it was an amazing site and fascinating that people would travel to Nashville to watch their team play on a television set 250 metres from the main stadium…not all groups had a television so I guess they were listening to it on radio or the stadium commentary.

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Up early this morning, time to take the shuttle across the bridge and start the bar crawl!! Weather forecast today is 99 degrees and high humidity….a day to drink lots of water!! First stop was Nudie’s Bar… I’m sure ‘it’s 5 o’clock somewhere’ (quoting Jimmy Buffet song line). We stepped in because the band sounded great from the street…..ok so what to drink. Most of the bars don’t serve wine and I really didn’t want a soft drink (Soda). ‘I’d like a vodka and soda please’ Ty ordered our drinks which duly arrived……not so sure about the vodka and tap water I received though! Yuk……

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Lunch at Margaritaville …. love the ambiance of these places and wherever we are, if there’s a Margaritaville I have to go. My favourite one is Montego Bay Jamaica…..great waterfront dining area…..if you’re in Jamaica drop in even if it’s just for a drink you won’t be disappointed. Just a bloody long name to have to write! Lunch over it’s time to walk the Broadway, stepped in to more of the bars to listen to the music, some places we just stood outside. Many have the bands playing in the window which is a great idea. They all play for tips…. after dinner we decided on Roberts Honky Tonk, one of the oldest bars in Nashville. Small, cramped bar with limited seating and just as limited standing room but the band was fabulous so we spent the rest of the night here. Which meant we missed the last shuttle although it was still extremely hot we walked back to the hotel. Could’ve taken an Uber for $7 but the 25 minute walk was very pleasant.

I was keen to try a few line dancing lessons whilst in Nashville and the Wildhorse Saloon was the place to go. They had line dancing between 12 and 2pm. However when we went there the saloon was closed for a private function…try again tomorrow.

Oh well, more bands to listen to in many bars and plenty of shops to check out.

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Bars aside Nashville also has an interesting music history so today we’re visiting Ryman Auditorium, Country Music Hall of Fame and RCA Studio B.

The Ryman Auditorium is still a working venue as well as an iconic museum. The Ryman contains a variety of artifacts, anecdotes and one of a kind exhibits. There is a recording booth available to record a song and you can have a photo taken on the stage. There is also a fabulous photo and print gallery. Backstage tours are also available, lots of insider stories too.

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Take a trip through Country Music history at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum and see exhibits of classic artists and current country music artists. See their stories, their instruments such as Hank Williams MARTIN guitar, Elvis’ custom Cadillac with gold accessories, scraps of paper the ideas of a song were scribbled from artists such as Kris Kristofferson. The museum has more than eight hundred stage costumes from various artists, six hundred instruments and other memorabilia important to the Country Music scene through inception to this day. The price of the ticket allows access for a visit over 2 days – which you will need.

 

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RCA Studio B opened in 1957 and is known as ‘the home of 1,000 hits. In the 1960’s this studio became important to the development of the production style and technique known as the Nashville Sound.   This style was characterised by background vocals and strings and revived the popularity of country music, which, in turn aided the reputation of Nashville as a centre for international recording.  The studio closed in 1977. Elvis Presley recorded more than 250 songs here, The Everly Brothers, Roy Orbison, Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton are just some of the names that have recorded in Studio B. The studio is made up of several parts, the smaller studio lined with rounded timbers was used for adding. Vocals or music tracks. The different timbers and their shapes helped with the acoustics.  The Studio is listed on the US Register of Historic Places.

RCA Studio B –  x marks the spot for the best acoustics  – all recording artists stood on this spot.

Ironically Studio B closed down the day after Elvis died….pure coincidence though – the Studio was scheduled for closure on 17th August 1977.

I also recorded a hit outside RCA Studio B – unfortunately not one that I wanted or anyone really wants to hear about! I hit the deck! We stepped outside into the car park and Ty was talking to another member of the tour group as I stood patiently by. When we started to walk towards the bus I hadn’t realised I was standing next to those small concrete barriers they have at each parking space. As I put my foot forward my sandal caught on the concrete barrier and I started to overbalance, I tried to regain my balance but only made it worse by trying to step to the side. Over I went crashing heavily to the concrete. I cut my toe on my right foot badly, skinned my left ankle, grazed my left leg just below the knee and a massive black bruise appeared on my left thigh. When I fell I landed on my left arm, thought I’d broken something, still holding my tote bag! So very lucky I didn’t hit my head on the concrete. Ty saw what was happening but couldn’t grab me in time and threw his camera away on the concrete so he could help me up. The tour guide said I fell so gracefully, like a ballerina…I certainly didn’t feel graceful and I’ve never done ballet so I can’t agree or disagree. It was similar to a line in the song ‘tie a yellow ribbon round the old oak tree’. Instead of the whole damn bus was cheering it was ‘the whole dam bus was watching’. How bloody embarrassing. I hadn’t had a drink so I can’t use that as an excuse! My followers and regular blog readers will know I seem to be accident prone when travelling….. I was trying to be so careful this trip but a lapse of checking what was next to me brought me down. Needless to say the damage to my arm was more severe than first thought but I didn’t want to waste time going to a hospital or doctors……getting a simple prescription took over 2 hours last time…imagine how long organising an X-ray would take……will just put up with it till I get home.

The tour guide and the security staff at the Country Hall of Fame Museum wanted to do first aid on my injuries, I was reluctant but they were insistent so around to their office in the bowels of the building we went. Apparently I was their first case requiring first aid..’did I need an ambulance to take you to the medical centre?” one lady asked. ‘No’ “I’ll be fine thanks” was my forceful reply. So there were 3 people all deciding what was best to do…luckily Ty took charge as they opened their first aid kits and let him decide what he should use on my wounds. They also gave us more band aids and antiseptic cream to take away. They were all very kind and we were most appreciate.

Once I was all patched up and Ty had given our details to the security and first aid persons we walked across the road and waited for the hop on hop off bus to continue our tour of Nashville. We’re on holiday we have to carry on with the tour and the trip. No time for sitting around feeling sorry for myself plus, as many of my readers know, I tend to be prone to a tumble or 2!!

We met a couple from Ohio at the hotel bar tonight. Jeff and Lisa we’re celebrating their wedding anniversary with a trip to Bristol Speedway and a few days in Nashville. Jeff was retired and Lisa worked in Child Protection Services.

We visited Honky Tonk Central, again on the look out for any line dancing…but regardless of all the things I’d read about these bars, there was no line dancing to be found anywhere! Honky Tonk Central has 3 levels with a band on each level….we checked out the level 1 and level 2 bands, they were ok, but level 3 band was much better. We went in and found ourselves a table with a balcony overlooking the street and enough space between us and the band we could still chat. During a break the singer came over to the balcony for a cigarette, he and Ty started chatting about music, one thing led to another, he told singer he was a drummer……so when singer went back to the stage he said to audience, ‘we have a drummer here from Australia and I’m asking him to come up and play with the band’.  Ty got to play drums with a band on a stage in Nashville. He was very chuffed.

There were more bars to visit so we said farewell to the band and moved on to Kid Rock’s Honky Tonk. Before we moved on the singer asked where we were off to next. ‘New Orleans’ was our reply….’be careful’ he said,’ there’s a few dodgy operators down there’. ‘We’re generally very careful’ was our reply.

Kids Rock’s Honky Tonk was very busy but the music flowing onto the street was definitely not country…. I don’t know a lot about country music but as far as I’m aware Nirvana was not a country band…. we went in anyway. The band was made up of 2 twenty girls and 3 guys….all appeared to be early twenties. Occasionally someone in the audience would request a country song, if they knew it they’d play it. All the bands in the bars played for tips.

 

I wasn’t too fussed on the music at Kid Rock’s, I personally think, if Nashville is renowned for country music, the bands should play country music to keep that vibe going. The bathrooms did have great mirrors though, a guitar and drums graced the wall above the sinks.

Went to the Wildhorse saloon again in time for line dancing but, once again, they were closing early for a private function! I was not destined to try out what little line dancing skills I have in Nashville….very disappointing.

For a quiet meal in Nashville Demo’s is very good, large choice of menu items and pleasant wait staff. We ate there twice. Ty loved their spaghetti and meatballs. Their 7oz steak with an Idaho potato and sour cream wasn’t too bad either!

The weather for our stay in the Country Music Capital was hot, hot and hotter. High 90’s to 102 degrees f (high 30’s to 40s C).

We drove out of Nashville at 8.50 am heading for New Orleans…….

Yellowstone (or should that be Jellystone) via Badlands and Sturgis – Part two

There were two options to drive from Billings Montana to Yellowstone National Park….we opted for the scenic route over the Beartooth Mountains which are located in south central Montana and north west Wyoming. History books tell us the mountains are part of more than 382,023 hectares of the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness situated in 3 state forests. On our trek we’ll probably pass through all three, Custer, Shoshone and Gallatin at some stage of our journey.

Travelling over the mountains we drive through a number of, perhaps, outposts, is the right word…towns they weren’t, villages possibly. One such place was Busby which is located in Big Horn County Montana. Not a lot to see in Busby by way of shops, food outlets….the population is around 700. We came across Custer’s last camp and stand at Little Big Horn Battlefield. We thought we’d pop in and have a look at the memorial plaque, the park was due to close shortly so we would only be quick….however the fee to enter the park was $25 and we thought that was a bit much for a look at the monument. I understand the funds go to the upkeep of the memorials but preferred not to enter the park. We knew the story of Little Big Horn and the outcome….the Cheyenne, Arapaho and Lakota Indian tribes killed Custer, other members of his family and a large number of his soldiers.

We ventured over to cafe and gift shop instead and spent our money there instead.

Time to continue on up and over Beartooth Highway….. has been called the most beautiful drive in America. We joined Beartooth Highway at Red Lodge Montana…not far from Billings and we’d travel this road until we reached the entrance to Yellowstone National Park Silver Gate Montana.

This mountain range grew in front of us and seemingly reached the sky…snow covered peaks at its highest looked like icing dripping down a cake. The scenery was pine trees and a few towns or houses dotted here and then but as we climbed the road became very windy, lots of sharp turns and very dramatic drops below us. A little on the scary side when the drop was on the passenger side of the car. As usual I kept taking photos as the scenery changed from trees to sheer rock faces. The higher we climbed the closer those rock faces became. Ok, I need a break, getting a little nervous so time for a wee break. Luckily the next viewing point was just around the need lot of tight bends! Time to give my knuckles a break……

Even though we had climbed a long way and could see the snow not too far above us it wasn’t too cold up here. There were chipmunks scooting around, zipping in and out of the stone work, checking out the travellers to see who had food. We didn’t have food and when I tried to photograph one it came right up to my camera lens to see if it might contain food, sadly, he scooted off when it didn’t. Then I remembered the M&Ms my husband had in the car….they were peanuts but choc coated so I asked him to bite of the hard toffee shell and some chocolate and we’ll give the peanut to the chipmunk. I know, sounds gross to feed a used and mangled peanut to the poor thing but he wouldn’t mind and I didn’t have anything else to entice him to me for a better photo.

We put the slightly chewed, still covered in some chocolate, peanut down on the stone and waited. Sure enough a chipmunk scooted over to check it out but didn’t pick it up and continued on to other people. Disappointed I went to the restrooms because we didn’t have more time to waste on the chipmunk. The peanut was still there but as I stepped up into the car and closed the door I looked over where the peanut was and a group of men were laughing and taking photos up close of this chipmunk EATING OUR PEANUT!! How rude……

On the road again climbing higher as we twist and turn on this mountain. Suddenly we’re level with the top of the snow covered peaks……an incredible sight. There is a sign with the feet above sea level…..10,947 feet (3336.65metres). However, as we all know, what goes up must come down !

The downward journey was a little less dramatic – in scenery and in white knuckles.

Beartooth Highway is only open between May and October so if you want to do this magnificent drive don’t plan it in the winter months!

We arrived at the North eastern entrance outside Yellowstone National park at town of Silver Gate….GPS said we were 3 minutes from the park! Then we stopped, not because we wanted to, because of a long line of traffic. The hold up? An animal or slow traffic, no, a line marking truck repainting lines on the side of the road. Delayed our journey by 20 minutes. These guys could learn something from our road workers…..who complete line marking on NSW roads overnight when there is considerable less traffic.

Eventually we all drove on and we decided to drive to Mammoth Springs. Not too far along traffic on both sides of the road slowed again. Not more line marking, I said , as we crawled slowly along the mountain road. No road workers this time…a black bear was casually walking down the road seemingly oblivious to the traffic jam he was causing. What a beautiful sight and surprise….I suppose he was used to these mechanical monsters with humans hanging out the windows taking photos, invading his territory.

Our accommodation for 2 nights was in Island Park on the western fringe of Yellowstone and we had to check in before 7pm. So we chose our sightseeing to ensure we spent most of the day seeing sights heading towards the western edge. Yellowstone sits on top of a volcanic hotspot across 3 states….Idaho, Montana and Wyoming…most of the park is in Wyoming.

Old Faithful was our first stop….the most famous geyser in the park. For my English readers amongst you that’s not a geyser (man) as in some English TV shows but a “hot spring in which water intermittently boils sending a tall column of water and steam into the air” *. Old Faithful is the most famous geyser in the world and so named in 1870. It is very predictable and erupts every 90 minutes or so. Day to day the park lists the approximate times the geyser will erupt so they have long timber seats in sets of 3 behind each other in an arc. The seating area is situated a few hundred metres away to ensure no one gets burned by the boiling steam or water. Not like the early days when people would walk up very close the Old Faithful.

We found a seat and sat down, waited and watched the Old Faithful crater, waited and watched, more people filed in and found places to sit, we all waited and watched that mound and crater intently. Eventually a small pall of white steam made it’s way to the top…all quiet again, ‘no, wait, it’s going to blow’ someone in the crowd said. Another puff of steam then quiet again. This went on several times, the geysers over the back of Old Faithful were having a grand old time erupting continually, perhaps not as high as we expect Old Faithful to spew into the air but they were still impressive. Eventually a few smaller puffs of steam escaped from Old Faithful then what everyone was waiting for, the main eruption. It started off slowly then the steam and water reached higher, subsided, then up she came again a little higher and much more force this time. Hundreds of cameras were clicking in unison all hoping/trying to take that perfect photo of the old geyser. We were amongst them, of course.

Old Faithful

Old Faithful spews between 3,700 gallons in a one and a half minute eruption to 8,400 gallons for 4.5 minutes and the water temperature is said to be around 95 degrees C (204 degrees F)**. The steam temperature has been measured at 177 degrees Celsius (350 degrees F). How crazy were those early pioneers to step up close to these geysers in ground that was more crust then solid earth. I’m sure there would have been many deaths when the geyser erupted.

After crossing this off the bucket list it was time for lunch and as we were inside the park – a very expensive lunch of 1 roll with ham, cheese and egg and a croissant with a bottle of water was almost $20 before tax was added. Exactly the reason we chose to stay outside the park, accommodation and food is quiet expensive. As this cafeteria was the only food place open it was crowded so we went to the car and ate our lunch.

Moving on to Mammoth Springs we totally underestimated the driving time to each section. Yellowstone is a massive park and the sights are not contained in one area….the roads are also mountain roads with many twists and turns. Of course with each turn there is another incredible view and slow traffic.

Arriving at Mammoth Springs there were cars going every which way trying to find a parking spot in the little village area, we decide to drive on over the hill and found a parking spot without too much waiting. The smell of sulphur was quite strongest we stepped out of the car. We were certainly getting our exercise today – a very long boardwalk wove it’s way around the hot springs. The colours of the Springs were quite incredible. These hot springs are different to the other thermal springs. This is due to these springs being of limestone rock making the dramatic formations. It has been said these formations resemble an inside out cave. We are constantly reminded to stay on the boardwalk and designated pathways due to the heat on the unstable ground….which looks like chalk. There are upper terraces and lower terraces and the boardwalk enables the visitor to move between the two easily. The hot springs are trailing down over the steps….like travertine steps leading to a spa. A beautiful and surprising sight.

As we walked back to the car a deer was on the hot, chalky ground foraging for food unperturbed by the heat under it’s feet. We assumed it had adapted to this harsh environment.

Next stop was the Prismatic Spring and surrounding geysers and springs. These springs had the brightest blue boiling water….so much steam though it made it hard to see the spring in it’s full glory. Each spring has a brown edge around it….this is a form of bacteria that lives within the hot spring. Once we knew this was bacteria and algae we looked more closely and you could make out the bacteria. Fascinating stuff!!

After viewing the Prismatic Spring and surrounds we wandered along another walkway to the paint pots and past scorched pine trees…..the walk is a loop and the landscapes are dramatic and different. The paint pots are so called because because the mud bubbles and plops due to gas rising to the surface, the pastel colours are made by iron oxide. Luckily when we were viewing them the paint pots were well behaved and didn’t blow their tops…when they do they can shoot as much as 4 metres in the air. Don’t think I’d like to be too close when that happens.

We continued our walk around the loop and found the strangest landscape I think I’ve ever seen. Small geysers spraying out steam and water very regularly surrounded by a background of stark, white, hot, chalky ground with dead trees that looked like they’d been turned to ash but, defiantly, still holding their shape.

Great Prismatic Geyser

Lower Geyser Basin

It was hard to move on – the sight had me mesmerised….only Ty telling me we have to make our way back to the car forced me away. I could’ve pulled up a chair (if there had been room) and sat there surveying the scenery for hours.

It was time to move on to Drifter Joes fishing lodge, Island Park, Idaho where we will spend the next 2 nights in a cabin. Our very little cabin as it turns out!

As it was getting close to our check in time and we were caught in roadworks and heavy traffic I thought it best to call the lodge to let them know we’ll be late. I tried a few times then realised we had no service on these mountains so had to keep checking for service. Finally contacted the lodge reception and told them ‘we have a booking however the trip out of Jellystone’ pause as I realise what I said..’ oh (laughing) ‘sorry Yellowstone, the traffic is very slow so we may be a little late’. He laughed and said ‘that’s what we call it too!’ How embarrassing….we hadn’t even seen Yogi and Boo Boo but we’d seen a few rangers!

If we’re out bush we may as well go the whole hog and stay in a bush cabin. The bedroom, wardrobe and kitchenette were in the one small room. I could reach the kitchen bench from the bed and the bathroom was ‘compact’. When I stepped into the shower and closed the curtain a good memory was helpful as the shower curtain shut out any possible light. I think we knew this was going to be an interesting place to stay…..it didn’t disappoint..lol. It was also on the main road and as luck would have it….we had a cabin close to the road….the trucks roared past in the early hours so we were up early on the 3rd morning for our drive back to Denver.

Decided to travel over the Tetons on the return journey….may as well travel as many winding mountain roads as possible this trip!! The Grand Teton Mountains are a desolate place, not many towns, petrol stations on this route. We thought we’d stop for breakfast on the way out of Island Park however we were on back roads and there were no off ramps with food and fuel. Continued on over the Tetons, travelling through several ski resorts, still nothing open. Then we arrived on the outskirts of Jackson. ‘This is a big town, we should find food options and fuel along this road” Ty said. So we didn’t go into Jackson itself but continued in the Highway. Not a good idea…still no food options and we would need fuel soon.

Finally, we came across a place on this pine tree laden mountain, a service station with a cafe. ‘We’ll pull in here and see what there is for breakfast, I’m starving’. Ty is always starving but it had been a long while since dinner the night before.

As we walked towards the door of the cafe I noticed a sing on the door NO RESTROOMS AVAILABLE. Great… Oh well at least we can get food and coffee. Yes, we could get coffee and not much else. So we settled on coffee and a slice of lemon cake and. Slice of chocolate cake…..a very healthy breakfast. Obviously truckies do not come this way very often. As we were leaving Ty said we should go to loo because we don’t know how long it will be before we come across another service station. I told him about the sign. He asked the woman who served us ‘Do you are restrooms here?’ ‘No, you’ll find restrooms about 20 mile further on’ she replied. I had noticed the door leading to the restrooms was roped off. Perhaps she didn’t want the trouble of cleaning them. Who knows!

As we were approaching our car with our nutritious breakfast a biker couple pulled in and she jumped off her bike and rushed to the door, stopped when she read the sign and came back to her partner, who, by now was chatting to Ty. She told him about the sign…we said it’s true…no toilets for travellers to use here they’re 10 miles down the road.

We ate our cake as we drove on……finally reaching a small town called Pinedale with restrooms available! I was washing my hands when a lady also at the basin asked if I was from around here. ‘No’ I replied. She continued to tell me she was from Oregon and was travelling back from Denver where she lived as a child. Then asked where I was from. ‘Australia’ I answered. ‘That’s a long ways’ was her reply.

We arrived back in Denver late in the evening. Met up with our friend, Stuart, the next day for lunch at Nick & Jim’s bbq. Both Ty and Stuart were amused when I ordered the potato with bacon and sour cream for my lunch, as usual I thought it would be small, but Idaho potatoes are giants and my lunch ended up a lot bigger then their bbq feast!! In the evening we had dinner with CA and Jerry. Great to spend time with good friends now it’s time to move on from Denver.

* Wikipedia dictionary

** Article by E Kwak- Heffernan July 19

Yellowstone (or should that be Jellystone) via Badlands and Sturgis Part One

First stop on this 5 day trip round trip from Denver was Mt Rushmore with an overnight stop at Rapid City. Our plan was not to leave Denver too early, however, Ty woke early and at 3.30 woke me to say let’s get up and go….I’m wide awake. ‘No’ was my reply, “I’m not getting up at 3.30 am go back to sleep”. At 4.00 am Ty nudged me again…”I’m still awake, we may as well get going”. I resisted till 4.30 am but by then I was also awake. I dragged myself out of bed, showered and packed my bag. We left the hotel at 5.20am.

By 6.30am we were very hungry and decided we’d stop for breakfast when we see a billboard with Denny’s listed. At least we would get a good breakfast for a reasonable price at Denny’s. Around 7 am, at exit 7, we were in luck and pulled into Denny’s car park in Cheyenne. Our breakfast of bacon, eggs, 2 pancakes and toast plus tea and coffee cost $25.57 including taxes! Have to say including taxes because everywhere in the US no matter what you purchase has tax added on to the advertised price. I prefer our model with the taxes included in the price you see…..much easier to budget.

Our stomachs now full it was time to get back on the road. The scenery varied from very flat lands with very few trees to forests of pine trees and other assorted trees.

Part way through our drive Ty needed a break from driving so he pulled off onto what we thought was a layby but was, in fact, another way back to the motorway. Just outside a place called Edgemont. We were far enough off the road so as not to cause any issues with other traffic. Ty took a wander up the road and I stayed by the car. Several cars went by us and then a motorcyclist on a red Harley flying the American Flag came our way and pulled up behind our car. Ty was still on his walk when the motorcyclist asked ‘Are you ok, do you need any help’. ‘No’ I replied and explained why we were parked here. He asked where we were going and I said ‘Rapid City, a look at the rally in Sturgis and Yellowstone before returning to Denver’. At that point Ty came back. The motorcyclist introduced himself as Brian and said he was from Colorado Springs. Further conversation around bikes had him mention he was a riding instructor in Colorado Springs. We said ‘One of our friends is also a riding instructor in Denver’.

We chatted a little more about Australia and our trip. Eventually it was time for both of us to move on. Before we parted company Brian told us to make sure we visit the The Badlands…..this was on my list however wasn’t sure we would fit it in. He said we must!!

We arrived at Mt Rushmore in the Black Hills of Sth Dakota mid morning, glad we did, it was already very busy although we managed to park in the underground car park in the cool.

A couple of flights of stairs and a short walk found us facing the massive rock carving that is Mt Rushmore. We were disappointed to find fencing with black plastic stretched across the closer viewing area for Abraham, George, Thomas and Teddy. This made it a little difficult to take selfies….well for some..namely us. We haven’t managed to master that ‘art’ yet and should probably give up trying! As happens when we visit most monuments or places of interest there is always someone who offers to take a photo or we take theirs and they reciprocate……no need for selfies really. On selfies, I’m always amazed how our millennials manage to take their selfies with brilliant smiles or trying to look seductively at their phone – I have enough trouble positioning the camera or phone on us and the background subject to even think about smiling, as for looking seductive……….. I’m happy to stay behind the camera or, if I have to, have someone else take a very unflattering photo of me.

Sturgis bike rally was on during our visit to this area, needless to say, the majority of visitors to the monument this morning were bikers. An interesting mix of individuals. The town of Keystone was on the way to Mt Rushmore and it looked like a beautiful little town with colourful buildings and old saloons but absolutely no parking available so we had to keep going.

After photographing the presidents from all angles it was time to visit the gift shop and make our usual purchases….fridge magnets, baseball cap, depending on price, and a patch. Don’t even ask what we do with them, the fact I’ve told you we purchase these items is more than enough information. Years ago the purchases from my travels were shot glasses…..not just one for me from the places I visited but one for several close friends as well. No wonder my luggage was always over the limit!! I gave up shot glass souvenirs when it became onerous trying to ensure they were packed securely for their trip back to Aus.

Arrived at our hotel in Rapid City to find we had been given an accessible room. I certainly didn’t book an accessible room but, well I’m sure I didn’t. When I checked in the man at the desk said ‘Ah yes, the accessible room’. He was talking to himself as he shuffled through the guest room documents so I didn’t reply. Ty was quite happy to have it when it looked like there was no lift in the 3 storey hotel. The room was very large and, as you’d expect, so was the bathroom. Although the bathroom was lacking shelf space but for one night perfectly adequate for us.

Took a drive to Sturgis this afternoon. The 79th Sturgis Bike Rally is on at the moment. The rally runs for 2 weeks in July/August each year. We had never seen so many bikes in one place in all our lives. There were also hundreds of bikers on the roads around the other towns we visited and the national monuments. I remarked to Ty ‘At least they’re out and about visiting other places not just sitting around drinking from morning till night’. Although I’m sure there would be many that go to catch up with mates and drink from morning to night…….whatever leads the masses of bikers to Sturgis it looks like a lot of fun. No colours are allowed which makes it even better for the casual motorbike enthusiast.

So many different types and colours of bikes, bikes with trailers attached, bikes packed up with luggage and the US flag flying on top. There was a multitude of trikes, ones with 2 front wheels such as can am spyder and the Harley with 2 back wheels. Ty commented that he had never seen so many trikes. We see an occasional one at home but nothing like the numbers in and around Sturgis

Homeowners had signs up renting rooms in their houses so we saw bikers sitting around in homeowners yards drink in hand having a good time. We were amused at other homeowners and family who had set up their camp chairs on their front lawns to watch the constant parade of bikes go through.

We found a parking spot and walked back to the main streets where the tents of food, bars, souvenirs, rally t shirts and leather goods were set up. The bars were teaming with people hanging over balconies, lots of rock music flowing from all the venues. A very interesting spectacle.

We also made an observation that the majority of bikers we saw or met along the way were in their 50’s or older!

We went out for dinner and on the way back I remembered we could need aeroguard for our visit to Yellowstone so we called into Walmart…..worker told us ‘aisle 5…if there’s any left’. Went to aisle 5….shelf was empty! I started to laugh at the thought of bikers buying up all the insect repellent to rub, spray or dab it in their face, around their nose and on their lips. Told Ty what I was thinking, he laughed as well. Bikers in US do not have to wear helmets, full face or just the helmet. Many of them also don’t have a bandana covering their mouth and nose. So the idea they would buy up all the repellent had me thinking about those pesky bugs that crash into our windscreen or attach themselves to the front fender. The movie Wild Hogs came to mind. If the insects are flying at a bikers’ face and he’s wearing insect repellent do the bugs scream/swear, put their brakes on and try to do a rapid back pedal mid air to fly around the bikers face? Would they have time or would they continue to fly into one or other orifice? The bugs hit the windscreen at speed and the thought of one splattering onto my face, in my mouth, up my nose or in an ear is cause enough for me not to be on a bike without a full helmet and visor on the bike…..in fact I’d also prefer a canopy on my bike as well! Better still I’ll stick to a car…

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With The Badlands now factored in we had a long day ahead of us tomorrow before we’d reach Billings.

We were up early so, after breakfast we packed the car and bid farewell to Rapid City and headed for the Badlands National Park in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Black Hills are so called because of the thickness of the tree population covering the hills making the hillside look black.

The Badlands or ‘mako spica’ meaning ‘land bad’ was named by the Lakota people. The land was deemed bad because of the lack of water, extreme temperatures in summer and winter and the rugged terrain. The 240,000 or so acres of desolation makes for a very beautiful, eerie landscape. No civilisation within the park at all….except for the visitors who are surprised by the different landscapes within the park. Amazing what volcanos have produced for our enjoyment!

The first section we visited was similar to the Grand Canyon except with mostly an ash coloured rock with some interesting rock formations. So I thought at this point ‘yes, it is striking for the consistent colours but I wasn’t in awe of the scene. We walked back to the car and drive further around and passed through high rock formations of either side of the car. These formations were a more rounded shape and had a little more ochre colour in them then the road climbed a little and we saw rock formations below us appeared to be multicoloured …. like a rainbow. I’ve not seen anything like this before. We stopped in several places to view this stunning scenery – so hard to drag our eyes away or to stop taking photos. At first you think your eyes are playing tricks or it’s the sun shining on the rocks changing the colours but they weren’t and it wasn’t.

Thank you Brian for being adamant we must not miss this park….so pleased we took your advice and we spent way too much time here because areas of the park were so different. However it’s not a place I’d like to find myself in the dead of night. They do have a camping ground for those RV travellers and other avid campers who fancy being totally off the grid when camping.

If you get a chance to visit this beautiful place you’ll be pleased you did.

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Sections of Badlands National Park

On the way back from The Badlands we decided to stop for lunch at Wall…..we didn’t need to think too much about where we should stop couldn’t miss this town! There were billboards advertising Wall drug store for miles before we got anywhere near the Badlands. Wall had everything, according to the billboards, from pharmacy products to food, shakes, souvenirs….you name it they had it! And they did…..Wall drug store was originally a drug store a hundred or so years ago but over time it had transformed into a number of different shops under ‘one roof’ owned by one family. This drug store stretched along one side of the Main Street….the ‘drugstore’ was so big and obviously so popular in this little town they needed a large car park at the back of the Main Street.

Wall was flooded with bikers, families on school holidays and RV travellers so there was no point looking for parking in the Main Street…..we went straight to the massive parking area behind the Main Street. This small town overflowed with people.

The eatery inside the ‘drug store’ was huge, it seated 530 people, with a wide range of food choices. We chose basic sandwiches, due to this options having no line up!

We needed to move on towards Billings and we still had Devils Tower to detour to. We didn’t spend too much time over lunch…places to be!

Devil’s Tower is America’s first national monument established in 1906 and stands at 265 metres from bottom to top. Some of the names the Native Americans call it are Bear’s Tipi or Home of the Bears or Tree Rock depending on the tribe.

Arriving at the Devil’s Tower Wyoming we came across more bike riders heading back towards Sturgis. We read the historical information about the rock formation then proceeded to cross the road to take photos. As we crossed a couple on a white Harley three wheeler, nice looking trike, pulled up to have a cigarette and take photos. We had a conversation with them and Ty explained I don’t like motor bikes and she said ‘ hop on and sit in my seat and see how comfortable it is’. ‘It’s easier being a passenger on a three wheeler than a motorbike plus we have lots more storage room” she continued. I dutifully sat in the passenger seat and I agreed it was comfortable to a degree…’not keen on the arms being back so far’ I commented. I get fidgety and uncomfortable in a car on a long trip so I couldn’t imagine taking a long ride on the back of one of these….perhaps a half hour or an hour would be ok. Plus I’d have helmet hair and my hair is thin enough without pressing it to my head.

Time to move on…..we pulled out of the layby and drove down the road – I put my camera away and looked up – a white bus was coming straight at us. Panic stations….Ty had turned immediate left instead of across the lane and left. Neither of us noticed until I saw the bus….there was no time to move to the right side of the road. Ty could only pull over to the left shoulder giving the bus room to go around us. This was an unusual mistake for Ty who has managed for years to drive on the opposite side of the road when we’re in US or Europe. Just one of those brief lapses we can have but I saw the bus and alerted Ty (loudly) and incident averted.

As we reached the Montana/Wyoming State Line there were more and more bikes zipping past us…..’where have they been’ I wondered aloud. A few miles after the state line we made a right turn and there were flashing lights – police cars – I turned to Ty to check the speed we were doing when I saw why the police were in the area. Across from the police cars was a bar Stoneville Saloon….a true Wild West saloon teeming with bikers and bikes…..damn worrying about our speed I missed a perfect photo opportunity. Isn’t that always the way? We couldn’t exactly make a u turn and go back with 6 or more police cars and sheriffs cars sitting around waiting for something to happen.

After an overnight stop in Billings we commenced the drive to our final destination on this little round trip from Denver – Yellowstone National Park.

End of Part One! Why? Because getting to the destination and the destination itself deserves it’s own part…..

Likes and dislikes for this trip will likely be on a special blog as part one and part two of this trip are lengthy!!

A Mile High with Slight Altitude Sickness

Another 5 weeks in the US and the first part is a 9 day round trip starting and ending in Denver.  The start of the trip was not the best…for a variety of reasons. We also don’t normally take internal flights in US but this year was an exception.  There is a lot to cover in these 5 weeks.

Unfortunately our flight was delayed in Sydney by an hour due to traffic congestion on the runway.  That, combined with what we knew would be a long entry process in Dallas, meant we would not make our connection to Denver.  Qantas staff rearranged our Dallas to Denver flight whilst we were in the air.  We now had a 5 hours layover in Dallas airport so instead of arriving in Denver at 3.50 pm we would now arrive around 9pm.

We picked up our hire car at Denver airport, checked into our hotel in Cherry Creek, showered then found somewhere close to hotel to eat before falling into bed. I didn’t get much sleep on the 16 hour flight…I don’t sleep well in economy lol.  We’ve flown business class or premium economy for the past several years (mostly business class) and it’s very easy to get used to travelling that way.  I have decided (Ty agrees) this is the last economy flight overseas we will take. We will just have to be frugal in other ways to achieve this but achieve it we will!!

Our first day in Denver was spent meeting with friends, CA, Randy and his wife Sandy, for lunch and then shopping.  You all know I love my outlet shopping and CA also knows this.  We spent the afternoon at Castle Rock outlet centre.  I was, however, very careful to keep my hands in my pockets ….we had an internal flight to New York and our baggage allowance was 23 kgs …mine was 18kg leaving Aus.  I did very well….very proud of myself ….my purchases included a pair of Skechers and several items from the Jockey shop.

Saturday evening we had dinner with our other friends, Jackie and Chuck. So good to catch up with them.

The lovely CA picked us up again Sunday morning and we took a drive to Georgetown and Breckenridge.  Georgetown is 2,600 metres above sea level (8,530 feet) and this picturesque little town is in the Clear Creek valley.

This was a silver mining town and a camp was established in 1859.

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Today historic Georgetown is a popular tourist town…..in summer months!  Not sure I’d like to visit in the winter…it would be beautiful but so cold.

After an ice cream and a little bit of people watching it was time to move on the Breckenridge. A further 300 metres higher than Georgetown at 2,900 metres (9,600 ft) above sea level. Altitude sickness was starting to kick in, sore ears, very dry throat and nose, a slight headache and a feeling of pressure and a little short of breath.  The air was very dry.  It can take 2 or  3 days to adjust to the higher altitude in Colorado… I learnt on a previous trip when we travelled to Pike’s Peak that I can’t walk as fast as I normally do or I’ll run out of oxygen and fall over at these altitudes…..without partaking in a glass of wine.  Actually you also feel the effects of just one small glass of alcohol faster at this level too.

Back to Breckenridge…this town is a very busy ski resort in the winter. When our friend, Gorging Gonz, heard where we were he told us he learnt to ski here…..many years ago.

Not surprisingly there is an oxygen bar in Breckenridge – as I mentioned above the base elevation is 2,900 metres however there is a summit elevation of almost 4000 metres (13,000 ft). I should think the oxygen bar would be very popular.  If skiing isn’t enough thrill for you there is an Alpine Coaster ride.  It has 2,500 feet of track on which a 2 seater car twists and turns around the ski slopes and through the forest. It’s open all year round.

The town was extremely busy but luckily we didn’t need to find a restaurant for lunch just a vacant park bench which, surprisingly, we found quite easily. CA had come prepared with all sorts of food for a picnic. The simplest things in life often make the best memories and this was no exception.

Why was I affected by altitude sickness? Well, our little town sits on the edge of Lake Macquarie and is listed as being 5 metres (16.4 ft) above sea level so that could have something to do with it!!

After a walk around town and a visit to the souvenir shops it was time to take the drive back to Denver via a winding mountain road where we reached 3517 metres (11,539 feet) above sea level.

Dinner in Denver tonight with CA and Jerry before we start our round trip to Rapid City, Mt Rushmore, Billings, Yellowstone National Park….or should that be Jellystone?? and back to Denver.

The mountains surrounding Denver still had snow visible on their peaks. Colorado is such a State of extremes… I found it odd that the temperature was almost 37 degrees (98) in Denver and there was still snow on those mountains. It was quite a warm day in Breckenridge as well.

Breckenridge

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We had an early start this morning…Ty woke at 2.30am and couldn’t go back to sleep. Around 3.30 he suggested we should get up and get on the road. You can guess what my reaction was can’t you? We finally left the hotel at 5.20 am precisely.

 

For those readers that prefer to see likes/dislikes list here it is…..

What I liked:

  • Gina from Elite Private Transfers who transported us to our airport hotel
  • Qantas rep who redid our seat allocation for us and suggested seats in the centre where the exit rows were on either side. A little extra leg room
  • catching up with good friends in Denver over lunches and dinners
  • CA for chauffeuring us around – again
  • beautiful scenery around Colorado – snow on the tops of the mountains and high 90’s below
  • Applebee’s margaritas

 

What I didn’t like or found disappointing:

  • on printing our boarding passes at the airport we found our pre-booked seats had been changed and we were no longer sitting together
  • flight delays
  • didn’t receive our requested upgrade to either business or premium economy
  • the family behind us with 2 children under 7 who thought it was a fun game to play chasing through our seats…stepping on our feet or jumping over our legs. I eventually became the grumpy woman and told them to stop.
  • long delays getting through customs and immigration at US airports
  • being affected by altitude sickness….very annoying
  • getting up early for the drive to Mt Rushmore

 

 

 

 

 

Outa here, Goat Yoga and a Beer!

We’re off again on another exciting journey visiting a number of places we’ve not visited before with one exception. I am looking forward to exploring ancient sites and monuments, seeing very colourful buildings and many very old cars. Not so sure I’m looking forward to the food though. Hot, as in spicy, is not my flavour of choice, in fact, I’m not a fan at all so we’ll see how I manage.

‘Well, where are you going?’ you’re thinking. Hmm, I might just keep you in suspense a little longer…..

Yesterday was my birthday…ah, now, a lady doesn’t divulge her age…although ask my husband and he’ll eagerly impart that information, in fact, you don’t even need to ask he just tells anyone around whether they care or not. It’s interesting meeting his friends or work colleagues for the first time…they have advance knowledge of my age and more. I can tell by the way they look at me when I’m introduced! No amount of me telling him not to discuss my age helps, he ignores me using the excuse ‘you should be very proud of your age’ then ‘you certainly don’t look your age, darling’. So that’s supposed to make everything ok and curb my annoyance. It doesn’t.

Moving on, we don’t normally fly overseas on Saturdays as I much prefer Thursday or Friday flights because flying those days tend to extend the holiday a little – especially when you’re a full time worker. However, I didn’t want to be in the air on my birthday. This trip we’ve had to curb our spendings and be frugal. It’s the horrid ‘f’ word that has started to infiltrate my vocabulary on a regular basis. We also didn’t have enough frequent flyer points to upgrade…..I’d like to think you all feel sad for me…..but I doubt that.

After meeting Lord Lunchalot (regular readers will know him from previous blogs) for a late afternoon sitting of wines served with a cheese & fruit platter I met Ty for my birthday dinner at Cafe Sydney. A restaurant in Customs House with a direct view of the fabulous Sydney Harbour…well worth a visit for the view alone. After which Ty and I adjourned to our airport hotel – so much better and less stressful than being caught in Sydney airport traffic the next morning.

Next morning it was a five minute walk to the terminal and the formalities of check in and customs was completed in less than 30 minutes. We now had plenty of shopping time and some price checking to do. Ted and dog, my travelling companions of 10 years, were lost in Amsterdam last year and it wasn’t till I saw a couple with their teddy companion that I realised how much I would miss them. I now have a new buddy called Gwandy joining me…

Time to board the plane, this time, first time in several years, we walk through business to our seats. One of the cabin crew is there to greet us. Very friendly, chatty woman. Ty mentioned we travelled business class on our previous US trip, so on and so forth, as he does, and she said ‘We’ll, I’m only here to help people find their seats after which I’m in business and first class so I’ll bring you up a couple of glasses of wine we serve in first class later in the flight and my name is Jules’. ‘What would you prefer…red, white or champagne’? That was very nice of her so I say Sauvignon Blanc please. Yes, I know, you thought I’d say champagne however Tattinger is ok but a little dry for my taste and I doubt they’d serve Moët Ice. We settled in and soon we were up and away……hmmm sounds like part of an old advert for TAA or Ansett. Oops, showing a hint of age here!!!

Lunch had been served and 2 hours later Jules came to us and whispered are you ready for a glass of wine? ‘That would be lovely’ I said, 10 minutes later we each received a glass of a Margaret River 2012 Sauvignon Blanc…..a very light wine. Very easy to drink! As we were leaving the plane Jules was at the exit and said ‘I came back a couple of hours later with more wine but you were both asleep’ ‘You should’ve tapped me or spoken to me because I wasn’t sleeping’ I replied. We probably didn’t need another glass of wine! Although I’m sure Lord Lunchalot would not have missed out….oh wait, how silly of me….he wouldn’t be seated in premium economy or economy.

Ok, where are we going? I think I gave it away a little in the first paragraph…

Dallas/Fort Worth again…..

Mexico City

Havana

Caribbean cruise visiting Montego Bay, Georgetown and Cozumel

Havana

Dallas/Fort Worth and home.

On this trip the only place we have visited before is Dallas/Fort Worth all other places are new to us….Cuba has been on my list for many years as has Montego Bay so I’m excited at visiting Havana, touring in an old convertible, possibly sitting at a rooftop bar taking a puff on a cigar whilst sipping a Cuban rum…..I don’t smoke but whilst in Cuba…… and I don’t drink Cuban rum however I’ve had a couple of Havana Club and cokes to ease me into the traditional drink.

Having to fly from US to Mexico before we’re able to fly to Cuba wasn’t a bother as we get to spend three days in Mexico City as a bonus with tours included.

Our flight was uneventful and we touched down in DFW 30 minutes early….

Getting through Fort Worth customs was tedious…

Since our previous visit DFW airport has put in electronic passport readers which should speed up the exit time, it does at home. However, almost every passenger on our plane, except for US citizens and a few others, was required to stand in line for a customs officer to speak to them even though we had all completed the electronic entry system. This included scanning fingers and thumb on our right hand. When our entry document printed out it had a big cross through the middle so we had to go to a customs officer. Not too much of an issue, we thought, except the A380 holds over 400 passengers and at least 300 were required to go to a customs officer and at this point in time there were 2 working. We noticed that they were asking people to scan their left had as well. We eventually moved to the front of the line and were requested to scan fingers/thumbs on both hands. That was it! A little strange why we were herded to the electronic booths if they knew they wouldn’t work for us…..no, I didn’t ask the customs officer as they’re pleasant but not open to those types of questions. Best just to move on. At least standing in the queue for over an hour and a half gave the baggage handlers time to get our luggage off which meant our luggage was happily doing circles on the carousel when we made it to the baggage hall.

The last process was to pick up the rental car and we’d be on our way.From the time we stepped off the plane till leaving the terminal to go to the car rental pick up took 2 hours. This topped Charles De Gaulle airport. We understand the strict security….however it didn’t appear to be because of security but technology not designed for international travellers.

As I mentioned above I’m practising a little frugality therefore we’re staying at the new Hampton Inn and Suites in Fort Worth with complimentary breakfast. It’s a relatively new hotel with spacious rooms and overall decor is very good. We generally find enough items in complimentary hotel breakfasts to sustain us till lunch.

Thank goodness our room was ready and after a hot shower and change of clothes we headed out for a very late lunch. We wandered around the downtown area and decided on Risky’s BBQ for lunch. Ty had the ribs and I the shrimp. The weather was hot and dry….just the way I like it. The prawns (shrimp) weren’t bad either!

Of course, Saturday night it was off to Billy Bob’s to listen to the house band and watch the rodeo. Before stepping in to Billy Bob’s we wandered around The Stockyards and came across the following sign….what is goat yoga? How do we know goats, like the little fellow in the picture, want to do yoga?

I had my first beer ever! As Billy Bob’s not serving wine my husband decided it was time I became his drinking buddy so he bought me a lime infused beer….no glass, no straw just the bottle. Ty’s reason for not bringing a glass was twofold – they only had plastic cups and other women were drinking out of the bottle. Due to thirst I drank three quarters of the bottle. After listening to the house band for a while we headed around to the rodeo ring to watch the 10pm bull riding event. Not sure why but I like the bull riding….

It was now 11pm and the last food we ate was around 4pm, as well as jet lag now creeping in it was also time to eat something. A Wendy’s salad would do so off we went in search of a Wendy’s on the way to our hotel. Unfortunately all the Wendy’s outlets were closed – In/Out burger was only place open… I was pleasantly surprised to find they peeled and cut the potatoes to make their own fries.

Sunday we went into Dallas Galleria for a few hours and had dinner at Applebee’s. I opted for a Margarita and requested it in a small cocktail glass, instead of the very large round glass they served them in. Glass duly arrived along with the full cocktail shaker – for US $8 I drank 3 Margaritas with probably a fourth still in the shaker……very good value!!

Monday we decided to take a drive to Austin and, on the way, visit a factory outlet near Georgetown. We stopped at the outlet first and I’m sure you can guess the rest. We were only 26 miles from Austin……could have been 100….we never made it those 26 miles. I’m sure someone must have written a country song about being 26 miles from Austin.

We also discovered the Water Garden Park not far from our hotel….it’s well worth a visit, it has beautiful gardens around serene water pools and an amazing waterfall which is the main feature. If you’re in the downtown area of Fort Worth make sure you visit it….take your lunch and sit amongst the water and the gardens.

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Ty had heard the Yankees were in town to play 3 games against the Texas Rangers. There just happened to be a Texas Rangers store downtown FW. Two tickets were purchased for the baseball Tuesday evening. Nine innings took around 4 hours including the breaks between. It was a warm night with a light breeze so not too bad really.

Ty wouldn’t let me finish this post without adding the score – rangers at home 6-4 over the Yankees….

Wednesday dinner will be in Mexico City.