Last night, my nephew Sam came over and slept on my couch. I asked him if he could drop me off early this morning at Salt Lake City airport. Since I’ll be away from home for a while, I didn’t want to keep my car out in the elements. The employee parking area at SLC isn’t covered parking. I pay them tons of money to park there, and I wish they would use some of that money to put a roof over our vehicles. Perhaps my money is helping to pay for the new airport that they’re building.

Sam has inspired me to set up a website that will display a ranking of how much I love each of my nephews and nieces. This way, they can compete for the top spot by doing things for me or buying me stuff. He is currently at the top of the list. I want to inspire/ challenge the other 24 to up their game to earn that number one spot. I would include all of my great-nephews and great-nieces, but they are too young and don’t yet have jobs to make money to buy me stuff.

The first leg of the journey was a flight from SLC to BWI. Tonight I’m back in Linthicum, Maryland. This is my old stomping grounds from the first three years that I was based at BWI. Many memories of living in downtown Baltimore and then having a crashpad here in Linthicum after moving to Kentucky. The best part of living in Maryland was the friends I made. Among them is my dear, sweet friend Monica.

Monica picked me up, and we just had a great meal together. She told me about the friends she’d kept in touch with- friends from “the old days.” While we talked, I realized that I had left Maryland for Kentucky more than ten years ago! I don’t even know where time has gone! The last time I was even with Monica was at least five years ago when our friend Arron was in town- I remember going to play games at Dave & Buster’s. As per usual, my time with Monica was so short. I had to be the party-pooper and get back to the hotel. I need rest- I haven’t slept very much for the last three nights. This is because I’m too excited- it’s been constant trips to the bathroom, you know when a little puppy gets so excited that it has to pee? That’s been my body all week. Finally, the day has come! It’s time to go on vacation!

Each time I prepare for a trip to Scotland, I have a friend or two who want to go with me. The first time this happened, I asked that friend what he wanted to see and do while there. I set up what I thought would be the perfect trip to Scotland, especially for someone who has never been there. Then that friend had a conflict and had to drop out of the trip. I still had a great trip but by myself. I’m not complaining, however. This same thing happened a second time with other friends. Just like last time, these friends had to drop out for one reason or another. I’ve learned that I need only to plan the perfect trip for myself. That way, if the others drop out, I still have an ideal trip for one. No regrets- over the years, I have gotten extremely good at traveling by myself (and I like it!).

I invited many friends/ coworkers to come with me. Most of them said they were interested, but the number quickly began to dwindle before I started booking. Of the twenty-one invited, two have made it to the deadline. My coworker Jonny will join me for the first few days, and my friend Alan wants to join me toward the end. I am surprised that more weren’t interested because this is a group of people who make their living by traveling. Most of them know how to make an international trip. Some, albeit, are new to the line of work/ lifestyle and aren’t getting paid very much yet, but It’s not like I planned this trip last week- I let them know about this as early as October.

Again, no big deal- it’s still going to be a fun time in Scotland! I have planned the perfect adventure. I am going to try to update this blog every day, internet connection permitting. You know there will be pictures of most of my food and, more than likely, a daily sleep report. I apologize in advance for any grammatical errors- these will be fixed at a future date. 

Here we go! when you thought I would sit still for a little while- Tomorrow is the beginning of Scotland 6!

Australia 2014: Part 1

<Ferny Grove, Australia | 04:57>

It took me about an hour to get through the international customs line. I was approached twice by a drug-sniffing dog and had to fight the urge to pet the thing. I had to nothing to declare, but several people asked in that hour. Truth: I wasn’t bringing any firearms, drugs, fruits or vegetables into Australia. Each time I answered these questions, I thought about the Hostess fruit pies in my checked luggage. I don’t think the fruit in those little pies count as actual fruit because of all the sugar that they’ve added- I’m going by nutritional value here.  

When I finally rounded the corner,  Arron was sitting in the lobby, and he immediately snapped my picture. Pretty sure I looked like I’d just been on a plane for 14 hours. It was so good to see him and give him a hug. As we approached his car in the parking garage, I automatically crossed over to the left side. He stopped to ask me if I was planning on driving. I told him no and then realized what I had done. We both got a chuckle. Yes, I know that they drive on the left side of the street here, but in my defense- I had just flown a very long flight with minimal sleep and at this point, I was mostly operating in zombie-mode.

It’s so good to see my friend!

We drove to his house in Ferny Grove, which isn’t very far from downtown Brisbane. On the way, we stopped by the side of the road so that I could get a picture of the city. I’ve decided that Ferny Grove reminds me of a cross between rural Maryland and San Diego. It was a perfect day!

We got to the house and I met Brendan. Brendan has been my friend for a few years now, but he didn’t really know this because we actually hadn’t met yet… or talked… or interacted in any way, shape or form. Arron brought him to the states a few years ago, and I saw a few pictures that our friend Monica posted on Facebook. It’s true that I assume everybody is my friend until they prove to me that they don’t want to be. This makes for some amusing stories, for sure.

Arron and Brendan both had to go to work for awhile, and knew that I wanted to rest. They gave me directions to the local lightrail station and Arron and I planned to meet for lunch downtown. I tried to get a nap, but just couldn’t nod off. This was my first day in Australia and I really wanted to look around. I had envisioned riding a kangaroo, wrestling a wild dingo and making out with a koala and none of these things were going to happen if I was at the house taking a nap.

I hit the internet for few minutes, then I headed to the lightrail. On the train, I sat near the only other person in the car. I told her I was heading into the city, and asked her if I was on the right train. She told me I was, and asked me where I was from. We talked and talked and talked. She told me her name is Mariea (not ‘Maria’, but pronounced the same). She has lived in the Brisbane area for more than 40 years and one of her granddaughters has recently been hired as a flight attendant for Emirates. She was incredibly sweet!  

For lunch, Arron took me to a little Italian restaurant and taught me an important lesson-  even fast food is quite different than fast food in the states, in that it’s not really fast at all. We stood in line for almost a half an hour, just waiting for our turn to order.  When it was finally our turn, the meal was prepared right in front of us like a less-flashy Benihana style. The cook prepared the entire meal from scratch, other than having to kill the chicken or make the pasta by hand. It still took us about fifteen more minutes to get our plates. Fresh-made pesto is one of my new favorites!  

After lunch, we walked off our meals by going to three different museums. The first was a Douglas MacArthur museum. The timeline was post WWI, through WWII and in MacArthur’s office they still had his original desk and some of his original furniture.  

Next was the museum of Brisbane, which was (or maybe is) the city hall. This is a beautiful building that had a clock tower and was, from 1930 to 1964, the tallest building in Brisbane. We rode up in a very old elevator, that happens to be the only manually operated cage lift that is still working in all of Australia! The tour of the clock tower was free, and provided some remarkable views of the city! I learned that the tower was build in the 1920s, and the bells are still operated by the same electric motors that were installed when it was first erected.

We crossed the Brisbane river and headed over to the place of Brendan’s work. It is my understanding that Brendan is one of the guys who’s in charge of a huge drama festival for children that will be happening this summer. So far, I don’t quite understand what it is, but Brendan does and that’s what’s important. I had to snap a picture of the banner that was hanging on the performing arts center since Brendan is now “my people” and I’m always hoping for the best for my people.

We decided to go to one more museum while we were waiting for Brendan to be finished with work. This museum had three exhibits. The first was a bunch of animals that were all standing in white sand that surrounded some water. It was pretty cool. The second exhibit was a huge tree on its side. We figure they would have had to take out one of the nearby windows in order to get this massive tree into the room. It was huge and it’s branches touched both opposing walls.  

The third exhibit was my favorite. It was basically a bunch of wolves (or maybe they were coyotes?) that were jumping, flying and smashing into a clear wall. Art to me is either really, really stupid, or really, really cool. I’ll admit that I don’t understand a lot of art, but this was cool! The time it most likely took the artist to pose and suspend all these wolves in the air must have been months, at least.

Arron and I headed back over to the performing arts center and took a seat in an outdoor bistro and had a good chat. The best way I can describe this conversation is that we talked a lot about being happy. That’s really what I want in this life is to be truly happy. I’ve never had a tough time making the best of whatever my situation or circumstance has been, but I am a happy and positive person, for the most part. It was a good heart-to-heart. Arron has become a great friend! 

When Brendan finally finished up, we headed back to the house and ordered some Thai food for dinner. It was only about 19:00 and I felt that I really needed to get some sleep.