Saturday, June 09, 2007

The Big Holiday...... Day 19 (Last Day)

Up bright and early again. Breakfast matched the meal last night. Got away by 8.30.

Easy run home - Castlemaine, Ballarat, Terang and finally Warrnambool. Dropped Lorelle, Ben & Chloe off first. It was great to see how excited Ben & Chloe were to get home. Bit of shopping at Safeway, collect the mail and it was our turn.

Place looked a treat, thanks to the Baggs, our neighbours across the road. They were looking after the menagerie while we were away, and bugger me dead, Karen even mowed the lawns last weekend. Now that's dedication and service for you. They dropped in and we were able to give them some little presents as thanks. Didn't seem enough, really, but Karen was happy just to have been of help. And the girls, Madeline & Chelsea, evidently really applied themselves to the task. I think they've won over the hearts of Katodo, Maisie & Micki while we were away.

I guess that's it. A great holiday, enjoyed by everyone.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

The Big Holiday...... Day 18

Got away from the Motel (and Big Ram) bright and early. Actually, have done really well for the entire trip, getting on the road by about 8.30 am every morning.

Linked up with the Hume almost immediately, and from there it was a great run – 110 kph and divided highway most of the way.

Detoured to Wodonga for lunch and petrol. Found Red Rooster easily and at least they weren’t repainting this one and the toilets were working. Couldn’t locate a Shell so, with about 160 kms in the tank, pushed on to Wangaratta, where I know the location of the Shell service station.

Back to the Hume for some more 110 kph coasting and took the Bendigo turn-off just past Benalla. Easy run from there. No problems finding the Motel – Best Western Heritage, which we have stayed at before.

Nice room, two bedroom family unit. Booked into the restaurant for a birthday dinner and then just killing time until then. Wireless available, so that helps. Cold, but not as bad as Goulburn this morning, where it was ‘freezing the balls on the big ram’, if I can paraphrase the well known saying.

Last night of the trip. Had a "surprise" birthday party at the restaurant. Really great. Ben & Chloe (and, of course, Rob & Lorelle) really got into the swing of things, with a few decorations and they organised a 'birthday sparkler' with dessert. Would HIGHLY recommend the Heritage - staff are GREAT, and really related well with the kids, plus food the best of any motel we have stayed at this trip, at a reasonable cost. An easy run home tomorrow, so should get in early afternoon.

The Big Holiday...... Day 17

Well and truly got the Gold Coast behind us now – next stage is Taree to Goulburn, via Sydney.

Uneventful trip for the most part – that is until Sydney. Now, I’ve done this trip, through Sydney and on to the Hume a number of times. But this time, I wanted to go over the bridge. Successfully negotiated that bit but I’ve got to say the signposting in Sydney is a load of shit.

Combination of coin fed tolls and I don’t know how many e-tag tolls were required to negotiate the north to south journey. I guess I’ll know when the fines for non payment of tolls arrives in the mail, because I’ve got no idea where the tolls started and finished. A couple of wrong turns due mainly to the crap signage (you get a warning of where to go about the same time as you’ve got to be madly changing lanes to make the exits; and in medium traffic levels it means the turn is missed and you’re fucked). Did get introduced to a heap of tunnels as we were trying to get back on track.

Still, it did mean we got to go over the Anzac Bridge which was a treat in itself. Around the airport, same thing. Only this time it was much more difficult getting back on track. Followed my nose and figured if I got back to the Terminal area the sign posting should lead me back to the M5, or Hume Hwy (31) and ultimately on to Goulburn. This turned out to be the right tack and we were on the right way again.

Getting hungry by this stage and running short on petrol, so took the Campbelltown exit. Red Rooster first attempt, but stank to high heaven due to fresh paint and toilets not available, so on to Maccas. Then, searched in vain for a Shell, eventually tried a Mobil but the site was ‘shut down’. Across the road to a Caltex where you have to pay first before filling up – first experience of this. No big deal, just gave them my fleet card while I filled

Pretty good run from there. Sitting in motel now (Best Western A Trappers Inn), post dinner which was disappointing. Room however (2 bedroom) is excellent.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

The Big Holiday...... Day 16

Last morning at the San Simeon. Got everything into the car (boy you wouldn’t want to try to get anything else in the boot – reminds me of the last scene in the ‘Mr Creosote Man” Monty Python sketch). Tossed out a few foodstuffs, dropped off the keys and away we went.

Have decided to take the coastal route, through Sydney then link up with the Hume, finally cutting across to Bendigo and home from there.

Good trip all the way. Lunch at Coffs Harbour and on to Taree where we are availing ourselves of Best Western hospitality again. About 530 kms today, so tomorrow we plan an easy trip through Sydney (hopefully I can take the correct turn-offs to go over the Bridge) and then finishing at Goulburn which is already booked.

The Big Holiday...... Day 15

Last day on the Coast, so we need to pack and get everything ready tonight.

Used up as much of the brekky stuff as we could and then it was off shopping (Lorelle still looking for that elusive pair of size-5 shoes) then on to the Aquaduck and, if time, a trip on the monorail at Broadbeach.

Tried Australia Fair and Runaway Bay shopping centres but no shoes for love or money. Booked the Aquaduck 3 pm trip (just missed the 1.45) and wandered around for a while – some more shoe shops, but still no shoes.

Ben & Chloe loved the Aquaduck – the bouncy trip on land and then the watery cruise – especially the “high speed” water entry which caused a huge splash and bow wave. Both were given a chance to briefly “drive” the duck when it was in the water (for which they received their driver’s certificate) and they also bought an Aquaduck whistle – the blowing of which was immediately, and forever, banned from being used in the car (honk, honk, honk – you get the drift).

Got to Broadbeach just as it was getting dark and took a round trip on the monorail. Had a cabin just for the five of us so it was very comfortable and peaceful. Discovered that you get a good view of the Sandpiper tower from on the monorail – this, of course, has some sentimental meaning to us as we spent a week there when Adrian & Lorelle were pre-teens. Then, off back to the unit for tea and our final packing.

Top priority, of course, was one more visit to the hot spa pool. Been trying all week, but left still not getting Chloe to stand in the deepest part (which would just be over her waist).

Once everyone else was settled (including Lorelle, who of course, was completely inconsolable at her inability to purchase that “ultimate” size-5 prize), Rob and I adjourned to the balcony for one last time. Well, we had to – we still had two stubbies, one half-bottle of red and two bubblys that we had no room for on the trip back. So, in the interests of efficient packing, we stuck it out and “did our duty”.

The Big Holiday...... Day 14

Another rest day, especially after the big night last night.

Very little activity. Lorelle has a sore eye (who punched her last night, we wonder?). So it was Grandma, GP, Ben & Chloe off to the Currumbin Creek again. This time, near the mouth where there were small, or no waves, and lots of sandy stretches. Passed a market on the banks that looked interesting, but couldn’t get a parking spot anywhere nearby (we had originally thought about going to the Carrara Market today, but put that aside).

Spent a couple of hours on the beach. Lots of shells for Chloe and heaps of paddling for Ben. Would love to have had my fishing gear with me as not far out, quite large fish (bream or snapper) were leaping out of the water – a probable sign that something even bigger (maybe trevally or similar?) was on the prowl.

Back to the unit and spent an hour in the hot spa again, while Robbie went for a walk along the beach. Still can’t get Chloe to stand down on the deepest level (would be just over her waist in depth). Last chance tomorrow, but we don’t pressure her if she doesn’t want to.

Bit of light rain during this time, but that only made the spa that much more enjoyable.

That’s about it. Just a short report, but then we didn’t do a great deal today.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

The Big Holiday...... Day 13

Another intended ‘quiet’ day – to wind down from Dreamworld and to prepare for the
‘Big Visit’ of Brian & Marion tonight.

Vital supplies first – yes, this time, definitely grog; oh, and a few groceries as well. We were going to have a BBQ tonight but the women got their heads together and decided we’d try out the local delivery service and have Chinese.

After lunch, as explained in another post, I finally found signal so set about getting everything up to date. Ben & Chloe played on the lawn area while I got the computer work done and Rob took them for a walk along the beach. Chloe didn’t last long at that though, as she was still frightened of the waves.

When Ben & Rob got back, we had our first ‘domestic’ of the trip – can’t even remember what it was about, now (isn’t that always the way!!) and she threw some thongs (footwear type) and towels at me so I beat a hasty retreat back to the room. I can hear you all yelling in the background “Way to go, Robbie”.

Brian & Marion arrived about this time so it was all smiles and friendliness again to greet our visitors. The festivities started a bit earlier than usual as a result, so I knew we were in for a good (or is that, bad) night.

Anyway, in summary, it was a great night. The Chinese; from Tweed Heads Chinese, delivered by the Café on Wheels Delivery Service (07 5556-1067) was fantastic. Took a little while to arrive but it was hot and very appetising.

Not to put too fine a point on things, and from what I can remember, copious quantities of beer, red & midori were consumed. We wrapped up around 1 am and I can testify, because I am sitting here typing this out at 10 am after breakfast, shower, etc. that we have all pulled up pretty well.

As they say in the classics, “a good time was had by all”.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Signal - At LAST!!!!!

The whole time we've been on the Gold Coast, we have been struggling, trying to find signal. Found a couple of internet cafes - the closest didn't work very well and one that is perfect is a bit far away.

We get weak signal from the balcony on our unit, but e-mail is a problem, and you need to be a gymnast to get anything even remotely workable. Then, I had this bright idea - try from the roof where there is a spa/sauna setup. But couldn't get onto the roof area as maintenance was being carried out.

Another bright idea - why not try the picnic tables next to the pool area? EUREKA!!!!!!! 100% signal strength and e-mail works perfectly. So, I'm currently reasonably comfortable at a table in the BBQ area and punching out this drivel, uploading pictures, sending & receiving e-mails, etc

Aaaaaahhhhhh, the world is indeed, a truly wonderful place.

The Big Holiday...... Day 12

Our third BIG day – Dreamworld.

Organised accommodation for Brian & Marion tomorrow night at the motel down the road and then hit the M1 for an easy run to Dreamworld.

First stop, of course, was the smaller kid’s playground. Much better than Movie World – a lot more to select from. Aeroplane ride, small roller-coaster, merry-go-round, dodgem cars, blues skidoo spin and a play area with air canons. Whiled away a good hour here and then on for a bite to eat.

Food selection was a bit better than Sea World and Movie World, but there is one generalisation I would certainly make about these places. The choice and quality of food do not match the prices charged.

Had a look around from the vantage point of the Dreamworld railway which winds its way through most of the park. This then led us to Wiggles World. More smaller children’s play things and the Wiggles Red Car ride, which Rob, Lorelle, Ben & Chloe all enjoyed. Looked to be a more suitable eating place here as well, but too late. This area is next to Rivertown and when we went to look at the lake, were amazed to see lots of eels swimming around, and a couple of turtles as well.

From here we walked around to the Australian Wildlife Experience where there were snakes, lizards, koalas and kangaroos. On the exit from this area, two large salt water crocs were sunning themselves, one of them under apparent attack from a tiny water dragon lizard. Probably too small for the croc to consider as a food offering. We continued on to Rocky Hollow, where there is a log ride.

Surprisingly, Lorelle and Ben decided to give the log ride a go. While queuing it was obvious that we were going to get wet when the log plummeted down the final slope. Still, I was determined to film the experience, so sat up back and hoped for the best. The lead up to the “plunge” and other parts of the ride were a bit bumpy, noisy and dark and Ben got very concerned and wanted to stop. Of course, that wasn’t possible so Lorelle just comforted him as best she could until it was over. The final plunge did prove to be a “dampener” on all of us as the bow wave shot over the log. I think I managed to keep the video camera reasonably dry. Once this was over, a bit of the enjoyment and thrill of the water splashing all over us cheered Ben up a bit and he was managing a laugh by the time we got off – probably more relief than anything else, though.

We made our way back to the original play area to finish the day. Ben had another crack at the dodgems, this time by himself. He really drives these things very skilfully. Lorelle and Chloe must have had about twenty rides of the merry-go-round while Ben and I were in the ‘shoot-em-up’ play area. Ben nearly started World War III by trying to shoot everyone who came within range of his air canon. I was relegated to running around, keeping up his supply of ammunition.

Before leaving, I wanted to go on the Cyclone roller-coaster Just made it onto the last ride of the day. This is a great ride, not as many G forces as the Superman one at Movie World, but a lot more twisty and containing two loops where the car is upside down briefly. For sheer exhilaration, I would have to rate Superman as superior.

Then it was back along the M1 to Tugun and a nice, peaceful evening. I did pick Collingwood to beat Freo at least, so have started the round off well.

Some observations about the three parks we visited. Probably reasonable value given that pretty well all activities are included in the admission. Dreamworld has quite a few small coin-in-the-slot attractions and both Dreamworld and Movie World have arcade-style game areas which are also pay for play. I consider these all to be absolute rip-offs as the admission price is high enough that it could reasonably be expected to cover EVERYTHING. All parks are very commercialised but this should not be surprising as I guess retail sales would be an important part of their income stream. Food is over priced and poor in both quality and variety. All those zealots who like to get stuck into the fast-food industry should take a look at these places – of course, that would be outside their real agendas

The Big Holiday...... Day 11

After the big day at Movie World, another “designated” quiet day.

Off to a relaxed start with some shopping at the Centro Tweed Woollies to get provisions for a bbq lunch (no, no grog this time!). Back to the unit to put it all together and then it was just a very short trip to the Currumbin Creek for lunch and ‘as long as they like’ on the beach, with quiet, calm water all around.

Fired up the free gas barbie, and piled the lot on – prawns, Italian meatballs, lamb chops, fish pieces for Ben and, of course, sausages for Chloe. While this rather delectable feast was being prepared we came across some interesting bugs in the trees around the area.

I had planned this really well, buying just six, large prawns – one for Rob, two for Lorelle and three (of course) for me. When I had finished the cooking, all the food was taken to the table ready for eating. I figured that while I was cleaning the hotplate, I may as well eat one of ‘my’ prawns. As I was soon to discover, this was a very fortunate move.

Back at the table, NO prawns left – bugger me dead, Chloe who wouldn’t normally touch such things, had eaten three of the little beggars. So much for my mislaid plans.

Spent a good couple of hours on the creek beach. Chloe really enjoyed it because there were no waves. Lots of paddling and skylarking, found some strange seeds, a crab and interesting patterns in the sand, made, I think, by sandworms.

Short trip back to the unit. Got hooked into an old spaghetti western (they have Foxtel) and didn’t get to bed until about 1 am. Lo and behold, Rob must have been lying in wait for me – no, not what you think – and she got me for the “pinch and a punch” for about the seventh month in a row. MUST do better next time.

The Big Holiday...... Day 10

Another big day – time for our trip to Movie World. Got away reasonably early, thanks to the fact that I was ripped out of bed at an ungodly hour, so was able to make brekky for Ben & Chloe and myself while the women showered.

First stop was the Tandy at Pacific Fair – the 1Gb XD card Lorelle had bought wouldn’t work in her camera (they worked fine in mine, so I didn’t care). Then it was off to Movie World.

Once we arrived, it was difficult to get to any of the attractions – so many shops in the way. Worked out some of the things we wanted to buy before we left and then tried the Hi-5 shop to get a DVD of Chloe dancing with the Hi-5 team. Unfortunately, she got a bit of stage fright, so that turned out to be a fizzer. Still, no cost as a result.

Then we hit the Looney Tunes park. There was a river tour, speedy Gonzales cars, tweety bird ride, a train and a rocket ship. The river tour really freaked out Chloe so that wasn’t a huge success. A lot of time was spent on the other rides; Chloe loved the train and Ben, the cars and the rocket ride. Must say, Movie World, at this stage was very disappointing – two of the rides were out of commission and the cars were only running at about half capacity. And, as we were to discover, there really wasn’t anything else for the younger kids.

Had a lunch break – food about the same standard and price as Sea World – expensive and not very nice. Caught the Grand Parade which Ben & Chloe enjoyed. Ben had his photo taken with a couple of Happy Feet penguins and then we started to head out.

Ben and I tried the Shreck 4-D movie on the way to exit. Special effects really great, but after about five minutes, Ben was feeling a bit queezy so we ducked down and made for the exit. He didn’t do too badly, because the effects were quite dazzling and unusual – too much for such a young mind, I guess. Definitely recommend it for older folk.

At this point I was longingly looking at the Superman roller-coaster so Rob & Lorelle put me under pressure by insisting we had time for me to try it. (I have previously been on the Lethal Weapon ride, so that didn’t really interest me.) A couple of false starts due to the requirement that you do not carry any loose items (including glasses) on the ride, and away I went. Lorelle on the ground with video camera, hopefully to catch the full glory of my momentous ride.

I should have known what to expect given all the warnings and precautions called for by the attendants. Then I was off. I’ve got to say this was the most exhilarating ride I have ever been on. If memory serves me correct, why it’s almost as good as sex, and just like sex, it was all over far too quickly. This ride, on its own is worth the entrance fee.

The drive home was rather placid in comparison. Ben & Chloe spent some time in the hot spa pool while the ladies organised their tea, etc. Now, I’m sitting here, typing this up, beer in hand – aaah, it’s a hard life, but someone’s gotta do it.

The Big Holiday...... Day 9

After the full-on day at Sea World, we have opted for a “quiet” day today. In fact our plan all along is to do the theme parks on alternate days, with a sort of rest day in between.

Dropped Lorelle off at Pacific Fair – a huge shopping centre on the Coast and then returned. She wanted to get into some of the big shops as she has trouble getting clothes to fit her tiny size in Warrnambool.

On the return trip I found an Internet Café that had wireless that worked really well. That’s why, at last, days 3 through 8 have finally seen the light of day. Got all my e-mails away which was a load off the mind. Didn’t put too many photos up because they were too large – took too long to upload, and Blogspot would only let me put one or two up for each day.

Rob & I then took Ben & Chloe back to the Tweed Centro centre to get some more vital supplies (grog – for Brian & Mazza’s visit on the week-end, of course) and more groceries. We also bought some cheap buckets and spades, which we will probably leave here when we go (space is at a premium in the old work car). Came back to discover that the dishwasher leaks a bit, prompting an unscheduled clean-up

While waiting for Lorelle to call, figured out how to reduce the size of the photos selected for the blog, with the limited software available on the laptop. So, next chance, I should be able to upload all the photos without too much trouble. She eventually ran out of money and gave us a call, so Chloe and I were off doing the chauffer bit.

Not much left to do for the day – think we have run out of time to try out the buckets & spades. Will probably continue the cards, which Lorelle is leading by about 200 points.