A Travellerspoint blog

April 2008

Kites, Kids and Beer and Bugs

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View Round the World Baby! on Dodgey's travel map.

Continuing with Pete and Mary's mega hospitality we went to Mexico for the best part of a week to somewhere known to the Americans as Rocky Point - it's actuall Puerto Penasco which translates to Rocky Port. It's about a four hour drive South from Phoenix.


The contrast when you hit Mexico is startling - same landscape, less money. The border crossing was entertaining - as we were walking to the duty-free shop we witnessed several US police chasing a Mexican lad who had jumped over the border fence. One of the coppers reached to draw his gun and I thought we'd be ringside for a shooting - they were the length of a small car park away - but the chap ran round and back into Mexico.

(there is a contrast for you, and yes, the one on the right is a runner, not scrap)

The beach house we stayed at was lovely and literally on the beach. We joined my cousin Bud there, with his wife Jenna and their little ones, Camden and Hazel (I kept calling him Cameron for the duration of our stay).

It's a very chilled place, apart from the constant stream of hawkers selling cigars, jewelry and hats - they are non-stop, and after a week they still tried to sell us cigars - at one point Bud said to one of them "do you really think any of us would start smoking since we came here?" :--)


My other Cousin, Max, came down too, with his wife Heather and their toddler. Max likes to windsurf and being American, his "surf van" is no ordinary surf van. None of this bashed up VW beetle nonsense! This thing has solar panels on the roof, electric awnings, 4x4, air powered diff locks, super stereo, kitchen, you name it. Quite a monster - I want one!


Bud and Max introduced me to kite flying - something I'd not seen on my horizon of things to get into - but I was hooked! - it's very relaxing and quite challenging at first. Mind you, I definately pissed off the family staying next to us. I was learning the ropes (haha!) and crashed a 6 foot kite at full speed about four feet from them while they were having lunch on the beach. The all stood up, glared at me, and went inside. Oops!

(Lift Off!!)

Bugs - did I mention bugs? yep - but not that kind of bug. The night we arrived in Mexico Kirstin was up all night puking. She was pretty rough the next day so Pete and I went to the chemist - it's weird going to the pharmacy with a doctor - he just told them what we needed. Kirstin was cured that day, then Heather went down with it, then Max, then Jenna. Seemed a virus was doing the rounds. Fortunately it was a 24 hour one.

I got ill too. Not the bug though. I got the "stupid ass" illness. Flying kites and fishing in the Mexican sun all day - yep - sun stroke. Doh! My face went purple.

I gave Pete and Bud lessons on how to play poker properly, then promptly won 60 bucks of them and Max :-)

I mentioned fishing - we tried a fair bit on the beach with little luck so we set off in Jason's truck (another monster!) - Jason is Bud's friend, he was down with his girlfriend Kate (who is, like, SO totally American!). We headed for a private beach we were most definately not supposed to be on. This involved driving down sandy tracks in the dunes and generally looking for unguarded points of entry. We made it on the beach and immediately sunk - right by the sea! - after much digging and tyre deflating we got out. I supervised of course - someone had to hold the beers.


The whole week was one hell of a laugh. Pete and Mary were on form as always, Bud is a star, and the little kids were adorable. I even read them their favourite interactive book at one stage - I soon discovered that kids don't want to read half a book (when you've had enough), they don't want to read it any other way than their way, and they already have read it a million times but still find it fascinating. Tiring but fun.


Food and beer was plentiful too - Bud is a top chef and that guy can BBQ steak like no other. I ate one and a half steaks in one sitting - and that's a lot for me!.


We are back in Phoenix now and are supposed to be going back stage to a big music festival this week courtesy of Jason who's pal is the organiser - should be a riot.

Posted by Dodgey 08:38 Archived in Mexico Comments (0)

Terrified Desert

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View Round the World Baby! on Dodgey's travel map.

Ok, firstly, I’ve just noticed that the pics I’m uploading are showing low res on this blog yet I’m uploading at at least 1024x768 and there seems to be no clear link to our gallery, so here it is…


(update thanks to "sam I am" - I now know how to make the pictures larger! - let me know if it looks aweful - I think I can live with the odd text allignment if it means having pictures that are actually detailed) - p.s. I understand teh "wrapper" bit but not sure if I can be bothered to get the url for each one. We'll see)

The weather has turned from a little chilly at the cabin (it snowed) to baking hot. I’ve spent a little more time experimenting with the telescope. I think I’ve got the hang of it now. I found some different eye pieces so things actually look bigger than to the naked eye now – which is a relief. I got some good views of the moon. I tried to ram one of the digital cameras up against the eyepiece to take a photo but it’s way harder than you’d think. Here’s an attempt… Not amazing but it kind of worked!


Kirstin obviously started to feel like she was cooking at the homestead so she made and baked a pie. She didn’t check on it though.

(The four and twenty blackbirds are most definitely dead)

It was actually a bit of blonde day for her. I lay in the bath upstairs listening to Pete’s Electronic piano play classicals – it’s one of those real sounding pianos that you can hit a button and it plays itself. Kirstin shouted upstairs, “Is that you? I didn’t know you could play?!” haha. If that was me then I’m a virtuoso.

(yes, I’m a master)

Anyhows, after a few days lazing about we set off to see some sights. Our first destination was Sedona – about 1 hour away at the most. It’s famous for it’s red rock formations and ancient “native American” ruins. It’s a surreal place when you arrive. All the rocks are red, the soil is red, the houses are…. Red. You get the picture.


Sedona is famous for it’s new-age shops. Apparently the place is built on some kind of cosmic line – not my bag at all as you probably know. We had a peek in one of the mystic gem shops. What a load of cobblers! They had stones that “drain your negative energy”. Ok, fair enough. Then stones that enhance your “money making ability”..o…k… then stones that help you lose weight! – I guess you eat them and then there is no room for cakes. They even had a massive lump of petrified wood marked “very rare!” – very rare my ass – it was a huge rock! More on petrified wood later.

So we were presented with a choice of things to do. There are many 4x4 jeep tours that take you all over the region. Most of the tours seemed to promote themselves on the fact you go on a “wild 4x4 adventure” and show pictures of the jeeps clambering over rocks etc. We’ve both done lots of 4x4 action in the past (I used to compete off road with my older brother Steve) so we poo-poo’d that idea and went with the more cultural choice – the “Ancient Ruins” adventure. We knew we had picked the cultural choice when we were loaded into our jeep. There were just two other people with us – all the other destinations had a good 6 or more people in each jeep.

Our driver blasted down the road for a while and then we joined a dirt track for some time and arrived at the ruins. The scenery on the way was breathtaking. It’s a huge place.


Then we trotted off on a hike to the ruins proper. They were quite interesting to be fair, but not really what we expected. Just a few crumbling walls built under the cliff overhangs. There were a lot of interesting “petroglyphs” – mud drawing on the walls.




Our guide was amusing. He was clearly “winging it” a lot of the time, and when he asked, “so, what do you think these drawings mean?” – we thought, “great, he’ll tell us!”, but when we gave him our best guess he would reply, “maybe - you could be right, we don’t know actually”. Lmao. He tried, bless him.

( Is it me or does she look like she’s not paying attention?)

The couple in the jeep with us were from New Jersey. I don’t know if you watch the Sopranos, but that’s based in New Jersey, and I loved the accent.

Overall it was a great day out. The scenery was awe inspiring, and red. And the jeep was pink. They were called Pink Jeep tours after all..

(Our transport for the day)

(If I’d known you could rent one :--( )

After a day or two more chilling we then decided to head up to the Petrified Forest and the Painted Desert (a bit like Kirstin’s pie).

(Did I mention I’ve bought a polarizing filter for my camera?)

It’s about a 3 hour drive, and to be honest, the drive was equally as interesting as the sights at the end. We spent a long time on the long straight roads that you see in the movies with the horizon melting into heat haze. With the roof down we zipped along soaking up the atmosphere. We even ended up accidentally doing a stretch of Route 66 which delighted Kirstin no end.



The petrified forest is essentially a desert with a collection of trees that got petrified (no surprises there!). They sat in ash and mineral soils and over 100000’s of years and absorbed all the elements, slowly turning to stone. To be honest, we expected to see upright stone trees, but of course they had fallen down millions of years ago. Fascinating to see, and the trail was an 18 mile drive through the landscape with various viewpoints and trails to walk along on the way.

(A petrified tree!)

Of course this stuff was everywhere, which is why I found it hilarious that the store in Sedona was describing it as very rare…


Of course we could not resist some “petrified gags”


(nope, the joke didn’t wear off for some time)

(me doing what I do a lot)

At one stage we reached the “crystal forest” – a very exciting prospect. When we reached the trail to it we were greeted with a sign explaining most of the crystals had been stolen by thoughtless visitors. Great. Still, it was a good walk.

We’d forgotten about the painted desert at this stage so when we happened upon it it was quite a shock. A colourful and huge landscape. Probably the highlight of the trip.


Everything here seems to be on a scale you can’t quote get your head around. Can’t wait for the Grand Canyon in a week or so.

Talking about large - I've had a little play with making panorama shots - this is one below of the painted desert from a different view point - it's rough and ready - clearly I need to set manual fixed exposures etc but it's kind of fun as it is - if you click on the picture it should start a 5mb download - then you can view it on your PC - be zure to zoom in and scroll around with your picture viewer....



Oh - we are on a Pulp Fiction mission - so far we have tried MacDonalds, KFC, and Wendy's (they do a burger called the "baconator!" - next up is Denny's, Jack In The Box, and iHop. Unfortunately we have not seen a "Big Cahoona" burger yet.

One more thing - boy does it get hot! we've been driving with the roof up, at 90 degrees and the aircon can't cope with the sun beating through the windscreen. We are told it gets to 122 degrees in Phoenix soon - yikes!

We are off to Mexico to the beach in 2 days time, for a week or so then , after San Fran and then some wine tasting in the Napa Valley we are going to Florida - Fort Lauderdale for a week to do the Keys, then we've rented a villa in Orlando and apart from the usual stuff we are going to see a space shuttle lauch!!!!

Posted by Dodgey 20:34 Archived in USA Comments (2)

Log Cabins & Skiing!

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View Round the World Baby! on Dodgey's travel map.

Been a while again! – We’ve been having a super-duper time.

After a few days at Pete and Mary’s we went up to their “cabin” at Stoneman Lake, Near Sedona – about a two hour drive up from Phoenix. What a setup! – I don’t think “cabin” is fair. They have a main house and then a secondary one which is the guest house. Everything is powered by solar via two huge panels in the garden that rotate automatically to follow the sun. It is tranquillity personified out there. Pete being Pete, they are hooked up with Satellite TV and surround sound etc which as you can imagine makes them the perfect retreat in my books :--)


(Where our power comes from)

The balcony view looks directly over the lake and the upward view is stars and more stars. I had a try of the telescope but couldn’t quite figure out what I was supposed to be looking at. I just saw the same stars, but a little bigger. It is great to look at the stars with no light pollution. None at all! – the cabins are in the middle of nowhere.

(View from the balcony)

Each morning was spent sitting round the outside fireplace having coffee. Usually at about 7am. It’s strange, both K and I are waking up at 7am since we arrived in Arizona. Can’t figure out why, maybe it’s the dry air? Who knows.



We generally spent the weekend relaxing and taking in the scenery – including a healthy walk round the lake. Oh yeah, we went skiing! – in Arizona! – it was surreal for sure. A 50 minute drive form the cabin and we were on the piste!

It’s a small resort with only 3 or 4 lifts and about 11 runs – plenty for one day. We of course are not travelling with out ski gear so we just wore our jeans, normal socks, and a sweat top. It was so sunny there was no need for ski gear – which kind of perplexed us all when we saw lots of people donned head to toe in winter gear, hats and all.

A bargain too - £10 for a lift pass and £10 for all the ski kit. It really was a fantastic day and really not something we thought we’d be doing again for a long while.

(Peter and Kirstin "Sunbathing")

Each day you discover Arizona is a unique place. Desert, Skiing, Guns. Did I mention guns? – in Arizona you can carry a CONCEALED weapon with a permit, and I’m told on good authority that any chump can get one. No matter if you can’t, you’ll be OK, you can carry any weapon/s you choose in your car, as long as they are in plain view. That’s right, not only can you wander round with a gun in your holster or glove box, or handbag, but if you can’t get that permit, you can load your parcel shelf with rifles. A good piece of advice here is not to get into arguments in your car – you never know, you might find a gun in your face! – Still – a technicality – so far we’ve found everyone to be really cool. Anyhow…

After the weekend we went back to Phoenix and then spent a couple of days chilling in preparation for the 6 hour drive to San Diego to meet Bud (my Cousin for those that don’t know). The thing is, we got thinking, we’ll be seeing Bud in Mexico soon and we are kinda beached-out, and we absolutely loved the cabin at Stoneman Lake, soooo… yep – we are back at the cabin now :--) - K and I are staying here for a week. We’ve stocked up on beer and food and movies and are having a bit of a Huckleberry Finn week. I’ve also liberated Pete of his mobile Internet adapter so I can stay online (and play poker :--) ). It’s so relaxing here it is untrue. Our daily routine consists of coffee on the veranda by the open fire, then maybe a mountain bike round the lake, then get the fire going in the lounge, cook lunch on the BBQ, and then retire to watch movies and play poker. It’s a pretty good life :--)

(I was there too - honest)

I’ve even researched how to build a proper fire :--) . I searched for it on the internet after some less than reliable fires in the lounge fireplace. I found a great article, it opens, “Most people pile on kindling so it’s so hot you can’t get near it, and when you can, it’s not hot enough to light the big logs, or they pile on loads of big logs early and have a fire that’s too hot to go near and lasts all of 10 minutes” – Yep! That’s me! – So I read on and I’ve got it sussed now… read on if you want to be enlightened! – You make sure you have a bed of ash already. Then you put one big log at the back, one big log at the front, then start the fire in the middle with kindling and small stuff. The logs at the front and back glow and keep the middle hot, and you just add one big log occasionally in the middle. When the front or back logs burn out, you pop them in the middle and replace them with new ones. It’s great! We now have fires that last all night and use only a handful of logs. Ahhh – ME MAN!

We are going to see the Grand Canyon, Sedona, and some Indian reserves from here during the week. It’s also saving us a fortune in accommodation and for that we are hugely grateful to Pete and Mary. It’s making the cost of America a little less hard a pill to swallow, that’s for sure.

When we get back to Phoenix in a week from now we are off to Mexico for a week with Pete and Mary, hooking up with Bud and family. Then after that, Vegas – hehe.

Posted by Dodgey 18:05 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Submarines Segways and Sword Swallowers

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View Round the World Baby! on Dodgey's travel map.

It’s been a bit of a giggle over the last 24 hours. We dived into Disney for our second day – it was a nice change – we were in no rush to do anything as we’d already done most of the rides so we just strolled around and did all the silly things, like going to the Princess’s castle (Kirstin insisted of course), walking round Tom Sawyer’s Island, catching a lake ferry and other frivolous stuff. We went in the park after 10am this time and it was rammed already. People watching was, as before, the main attraction.

(She insisted)

(I insisted)

We also went in the “Invention centre” which overall was pretty lame, except.. we happened across Segways! – you know – the two wheeled stand-up transport thingies. Always wanted a go on one so we queued and both had a zip round a course. They are wicked! Both K and I managed to handle them much better than the others we’d been watching – of course :--) – I so want one. We both do.


Space Mountain was also back online so we had a go on that – quite impressive, much like the Black Hole at Alton Towers. After that we had a walk around the history of Disney museum and it was then we realised why the rides seemed dated. The Matterhorn Bobsled, for example, was crated in 1957! It was the first steel railed rollercoaster in the world. Space Mountain is at least 20 years old too. Now it is all clear.

Done with Disney we went back to our pool and hot tub again and fell asleep in the sun. It’s nice to be back in dry heat rather than the sweltering humidity of Asia. Mind you – I underestimated the power of the sun, what with no insane humidity to warn me. I am now officially a redneck – I have a perfect red circle round where my t-shirt collar was. Bugger!

This morning we set off back towards Long Beach. They have the Queen Mary cruise ship docked there – you can walk around and look at all the Victorian rooms etc. It was $30 each and we decided it was too much to spend on something English! But.. they also have a Russian Scorpion submarine moored next to it which was far too good an opportunity to pass up. We had a good old poke around inside – quite interesting overall. “Go inside a submarine” – tick!

(My little submariner!)

After our sub-adventure we headed to Venice Beach, to the Ocean Drive Promenade. We’d read it was a freak show and by God it was! There is a line of “stalls” for a good mile, all of which are run by old hippies, beggars, alkies, stoners, nutters. The lot! We sat and had a beer and listened to a street band who, as far as I was concerned, had done well enough just to get up out of bed this morning. All the while they were playing a totally nuts woman was dancing with a shirt on her head. We’d spotted her earlier talking and laughing to herself. The music just sent her into orbit.

(she was totally, utterly barking mad)

The whole atmosphere of the promenade was one of old hippies and wasters, it was hilarious to watch and we loved the atmosphere. There were some great live show – you know, street performers – the highlight being a group of “African Americans” doing break dancing. These guys were nothing short of gymnasts, and their carefully practiced banter with the crowd was genuinely hysterical.

(A typical "band" on the promenade)

Kirst spotted a “Freak Show” and curiosity got the better of us, so we both shelled out 3 bucks and went in… to a room no larger than a pantry, lined with jars containing malformed animals, you can imagine, i.e. with their brains on the outside, two heads, three eyes etc etc. Mostly a humorous con :--) – the bigfoot footprint in plaster cast was a bit of a giveaway. As we were about to bail out, a shirtless guy in black and red striped pants came in. He looked somewhat like Iggy Pop. He announced that we should stick around if we wanted to see him perform “sick acts” on himself. There was no moving us now. We got the choice of seeing him swallow a sword (fairly common in LA if you get me) or stick a spike through his arm. We chose sword! – I checked it for authenticity and sure enough it was a bona-fide sword – he then wiped off my finger marks on the blade with an alcohol wipe – in his own words, “I don’t know where your hands had been and I don’t want them in my stomach”. Sure enough, he swallowed the lot!! – then pulled it out and showed us the stomach-slime on the blade. Whoa! “See man swallow sword two feet in front of you” – Check!

We strolled on and saw all sorts – one chap in a thong which had to be seen to be believed, lots of weird as hell tarot readers, nutty old men, “wizards”, skaters everywhere. It really had a true “Californian Beach” feeling to it. You could tell everyone had dropped out and all that mattered was the sun and the weed. Great place but we won’t be going back there at night.

We’ve now found a cheap motel right on the beach – Santa Monica Beach / Venice Beach – it’s fab – it’s completely retro “California” with a sun deck and lots of bleached blue wood. We are a couple of minutes from Santa Monica Pier and a few minutes from Ocean Drive Promenade – and we are right on Ocean Drive / Pacific Coast Highway – the road that runs all the way up the West Coast. Super location and relatively cheap. We love the atmosphere, - there is an old geezer in the room next door who sits there with his windows open smoking his cigars. He’s clearly been here a long time (family photos on his table etc) and the landlady is an old dear who’s very sweet. We are going to stay here tomorrow night too and spend tomorrow cycling along the beach… or perhaps… we’ve just found you can rent a Segway for 2 hours!!! Yay!

(Our sundeck at the beach motel)

Oh – a couple of random things..

1) We are finding the Americans to be amazingly polite, helpful and welcoming.
2) You need to spend a little time in each area to scratch under the surface. It’s very easy to drive down bland streets and think , “ok, lets move on”, but if you hang a round for a while you start to notice what the place has to offer and why it is so popular with the locals in the first place. It’s easy to let the touristy gloss cover up what lies beneath…..

Oooh! More! – it’s Monday now and we are in Phoenix Arizona with Uncle Pete and Mary (not Uncle Mary). On our last day in LA I ended up chatting to the old geezer in the motel I mentioned before. Weird – without provocation he kept going on about how his wife left him and how he likes Asian girls, and , “you can get them cheap in Thailand can’t you?”. Why oh why do they all seem to bring this up when you mention Thailand? Sigh. In Cambodia a chap leant over and said to me AND Kirstin, “do you know if there are any Girlie bars here?” – I mean, WTF!?! – why ask me when I’m with my wife for God’s sake? Odd. K says if it happens again she’s going to give them a piece of her mind. Not that she has much to spare this morning.. More on that in a mo…

(stupid China Airlines – their seating is for little people, plus, on top of that, it’s the first long haul flight we’ve been on with no screens behind the seats! Daft old projectors, and in my case, a small TV mounted above the aisle miles away with half the screen obscured by the overhead locker. If that wasn’t bad enough, when I tried to sleep I could see through my eyelids the flashing of the television – the television I couldn’t even watch! – I got creative though – no free eye masks here – I grabbed my pillow and removed the cover and put it on my head. Worked a treat. Me and K sat in different parts of the plane so we could have aisle seats each – leg room was a must have – even for just one leg – she came looking for me half way through the flight and couldn’t find me as I had a pillow case on my head – wish she got a picture)

Mary picked us up from PHX airport in the biggest truck known to man. I was in the passenger seat and was so far away I could have done with those coloured ping pong bats they use on the runway to talk semaphore with her.

Their pad is amazing. Breathtaking views over Phoenix and a very stylish house. We’ve been here about 24 hours now and I’ve already set up his wireless network, printer, and fixed his hifi :--)

(the view from the poolside)

(Mary with doggy)

(me & Pete)

Kirstin was more than excited to have female company again – so she got smashed with Mary. I sank a few beers and gins too – Pete bought the biggest bottle of gin I’ve ever seen. K fancied dancing so Pete drove us in his Roller down to a seedy blues bar and we continued getting thoroughly wasted. Mary danced with a bearded kind of wino looking bass player, Kirstin was stroking a big fat nerd’s beard, and then they both asked if they could sing with the band. Luckily they declined – phew.

I got chatting to the nerd about sci-fi movies and stuff – fortunately I have a good quality geek stripe in me so I was able to hold court well. He’s seen all the odd films I’ve seen but no one else has ever heard of. He’s going to sci-fi-con in August. I’d have LOVED to have seen that lol. Won’t be here then though – ahh well.

Looks like Pete has lined up lots of entertainment – we are off to the cabin for some r&r and some skiing later this week, then some other things which have escaped me right now. Also Bud has the use of a client’s mega-millions pad in San diego next week and we’ve been invited down so we may well do that.

(The sunsets here are something to behold)

We are also hatching a plan to camp (in a tent) our way round the national parks in the West – should be a ball and will save us a tonne of money.

K just got up – she had the hangover from hell (It’s ten past one now).

Speak soon!

Posted by Dodgey 08:24 Archived in USA Comments (0)

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