Leslie and I left Colorado Springs on April 3, a day earlier than we had planned. Our trip back to Fruita, Colorado included four mountain passes; Ute Pass, Wilkerson Pass, Hoosier Pass, and Vail Pass. The weather forecast called for heavy snowfall beginning the afternoon of April 3. We did not wish to end up stranded in a snow storm.
We were on the road by about 06:00. It was a cloudy, dreary day. Alma, Colorado is at the foot of the eastern side of Hoosier Pass. That is where we first encountered snow. It was not heavy, but it was snowing. The storm continued until we reached Breckenridge, Colorado. That town is at the foot of the western side of Hoosier Pass. The snow was never bad enough to impact the road conditions.
At Frisco, Colorado we merged onto Interstate 70 west, beginning our ascent of Vail Pass. We encountered a little bit of snow near the summit of Vail Pass; but, just as before, it was not bad enough to impact the road conditions.
We made it to Fruita with no problems. Later that evening, we discovered that the State closed many of the roads through the Rocky Mountains because of the heavy snow. We were glad to have made it through unscathed.
From many places in Fruita, one can see the Colorado National Monument. It is one of my favorite places to visit and photograph. I discovered there are some petroglyphs within the boundaries of the Monument. I tracked down the location, drove to the trailhead, and walked the very short distance to the petroglyphs. My disappointment was immense. I did find the rock and petroglyphs; unfortunately, vandals have chiseled names, initials, and drawings onto the rock surface. It was quite challenging to determine which were authentic petroglyphs. I did take some photographs; however, I have not included any here because I did not like them. On a side note, I did take some other pictures, such as a unique hole in the sandstone.
One morning I decided I wanted to find a road that leads up into the Book Cliffs. I remembered the way from a previous trip, but I did not remember how to get there. I took a stab at finding the road. Leslie and I ended up at the North Fruita Desert. Even though there were a lot of people camping in the area, it still had an empty feeling.
Since I could not find the road for which I was looking, we decided to go to the Colorado River. I selected the Kokopelli Trails area near Loma, Colorado.
Leslie and I walked a portion of the Kokopelli Trails. The sandstone formations there are stunning. While we were there, we saw dozens of people on mountain bikes. On the lower trail, I stood beside the path, waiting for a mountain biker to pass by. With so many cyclists around, we did not have to wait long.
One of the unique things we saw was a house carved into a sandstone cliff. It was unique; however, we both agreed there was no way we could live in such a home. We were sure the rooms at the back of the house would be quite claustrophobic.
One of the last things Leslie and I did before we returned to New Zealand, was a hike along the Canyon Rim Trail in the Colorado National Monument. The views were stunning. One of my most favorite views, although it was not on the trail, was that of the Balanced Rock. The Colorado National Monument is a must-see for anyone traveling to the Fruita/Grand Junction, Colorado area.
March 10 was an odd day because I arrived in Los Angeles before I left New Zealand. The International Dateline is an amazing imaginary line on the planet.
I am not much of one for numerology, but I found it unique that my flight was NZ6; it departed from gate 6, and my seat number was 6K.
The flight pushed back from the gate at 19:42 (on March 10), eight minutes early. Once we made our cruising altitude, the flight attendants began serving. The meal started with the following:
Prosciutto with radicchio salad, asparagus, grilled artichokes and blue cheese.
Roasted chicken breast with roasted cauliflower and currant couscous, green olive tapenade salsa and broccolini.
A selection of fine New Zealand cheese served with plum and tamarillo chutney and cracker selection.
After dinner, I settled in to watch a movie. I started with La La Land because of all the hype, but it did not last long. I could not get into the film. I switched to A Cat Named Bob, but I had the same result. I ended up watching The Rocky Horror Picture Show, a movie I have probably seen a dozen times.
Finished with the movie, I went to sleep with my other 28 roommates. It surprised me how bumpy the flight was, all through the night.
When I awoke, I asked for a cup of black coffee. It was very relaxing to drink my coffee while listening to Vivaldi. Then came breakfast:
Fresh fruit salad with a croissant.
Omelette filled with sun dried tomato and spinach mornay, roasted tomato and piccata ham.
I arrived at LAX at about noon (on March 10). That was nearly eight hours before I left New Zealand!
I checked into the Marriott Residence Inn on Century Boulevard. One thing I wanted to do was visit the In-N-Out Burger near LAX. Mr. Google was kind enough to let me know the restaurant was only about one mile from the hotel. I decided to walk.
In about 20 minutes, I was within a few hundred feet of the In-N-Out Burger. I stopped there because I was directly underneath the flight path for runway 24R at LAX. It was fascinating watching the planes overhead, seemingly so close that one could almost touch them. When I tired of that, I finished my walk to the restaurant.
In the parking lot, one must navigate through the endless stream of vehicles in the drive-through lane. Entering the In-N-Out Burger, I was instantly in a sea of people. I was soon able to discern there were three less than perfect lines leading to three cash registers. I began my wait about seven or eight people from a cash register. I used my time to review the surprisingly short and inexpensive menu. For example, for only $5.95, one could have a cheeseburger, French fries, and a drink. That was my meal of choice.
After ordering, the sea of people shifted a little to one side while everyone waited for their order. I found a small piece of real estate near the drink machines on which to stand. From that vantage point, I could see there were nearly as many employees behind the counter as people were waiting. The choreography was amazing as an endless stream of orders made their way through the galley and back to the front counter for distribution.
Soon, I heard my order number called. I picked up my order and walked out. There are several tables outside. I found an empty table on the south side that was directly adjacent to the flight path for runway 24R. I sat there enjoying my lunch, thrilled by each jet that flew by me. It reminded me of watching the planes landing at Princess Juliana International Airport in Sint Maarten (please see my St. Maarten post).
I walked back over to the flight path when I finished lunch, to watch a few more jets. That was when I saw an Emirates Airlines A380 fly overhead on final approach. For those that do not know, an Airbus A380 is a double-deck airplane, the largest passenger airplane in the world. Watching that lumbering beast approach, I found it hard to believe that nearly 1.5 million pounds (700 tons) of metal can fly. The plane appears as though it should fall out of the sky.
The second item on my to-do list for the day was to visit Venice Beach. I hailed a taxi and sat back for my $40 ride.
The taxi driver dropped me off at North Venice Beach Boulevard and Ocean Front Walk. I walked through the parking lot and across the beach. I stood there, watching the Pacific Ocean roll onto the beach.
Back on Ocean Front Walk, people were swarming and strolling along in both directions. Mostly food outlets and tourist shops populate Ocean Front Walk. I began my stroll heading north. I quickly noticed one additional type of shop, medicinal marijuana. Each medical marijuana shop had several people standing in front. As pedestrians stopped, the medical marijuana staff tried to determine what medical problems the pedestrian may have and if medical marijuana was the cure. As anyone who knows me might imagine, I kept walking.
Very shortly, I found myself standing near a garish orange building at Muscle Beach. There were a few weightlifters in the “weight pen.” I enjoyed seeing something I had heard about for so many years but never visited.
Near the “weight pen” were some benches. I sat on one of the seats and watched the other people on Ocean Front Walk. I captured photos of many of them.
A little farther along, I found Zoltar in front of some small shops. The fortune-telling Zoltar machine had a starring role in the film Big. It was a wish at Zoltar that turned a 12-year old boy into an adult, played by Tom Hanks. I do not know if this may have been “the” Zoltar, but I took a photo anyway.
There were many eclectic people on the Walk. I saw a man playing a grand piano. Hunching over the keyboard meant I never saw his face. His mopish hair also made it difficult to see his face. Not far from him, I saw a man on a tricycle decked out in full mountain-man buckskin; including a fox hat. I do not know how he stood that outfit. I thought it was entirely too hot to dress like that. He was talking with some men that appeared to want to film him for some film.
Ocean Front Walk is a pedestrian walkway. However, from time to time, a police car, a lifeguard car, or even a firetruck drove along the Walk.
By far, the oddest sight was the Venice Beach Freak Show. It is a greenish-gray building on the Walk. The signs on the building touted such things as “See the Freaks of Nature,” “Lady Twisto,” and “Giant Rat.” Sitting on the stairs to the Freak Show was a bearded lady. In front of her, on the sidewalk, was a little man. They both tried to get passersby interested in buying a ticket for the Freak Show. I opted out.
The last sight of the day was a man carrying a cross along the Walk. After seeing him, I found a taxi and rode back to the hotel.
I was at LAX early the next morning for my flight to Denver. The trip was uneventful. The plane went right by Grand Junction, my final destination. I found myself wishing I could get off right there. Regardless, it was on to Denver. As we flew, it was easy to see just how much snow was still in the Rocky Mountains.
At the Denver International Airport, I had time to kill before my final flight. I went into a restaurant overlooking the tarmac. I had some nachos and a beer, something that is very hard to find in Wellington, New Zealand (the nachos, not the beer).
After a one-hour flight, I had finally made it to Grand Junction. I had not seen Leslie since the first part of February. Even worse, I had not seen our son, Tyler, since December 2014. It was a great reunion.
Around 09:00, we stopped at McDonald’s for breakfast. Then it was off to Dunedin.
Instead of taking the faster route via Highway 1, we decided to take the scenic drive through the Catlins Forest Park. It was a good choice. The scenery was spectacularly beautiful.
The gateway to the Catlins is the town of Fortrose. We stopped at an information site in Fortrose. I picked up a tourist map. The map showed a route through the Catlins from Fortrose to Balclutha. When we got back in the vehicle, I thought it would be nice to skirt the coast as much as possible. I turned to the south out of Fortrose. Maybe one kilometer down the road, I saw a sign that indicated our new route included gravel roads. I knew that would do nothing but slow us down, so I returned to the main road.
We continued east. At one point, our GPS indicated a turn. I thought that turn was to the north. When I compared that direction to the tourist map, it did not seem to jive. I continued driving straight. Soon we went through the tiny berg of Niagara. Next, we drove through the small village of Waikawa. Shortly after Waikawa, the ocean appeared on our left. That seemed odd. If we were genuinely heading east in that part of the south island, the sea would be on our right. I realized we were lost as we drove by what I later identified as Porpoise Bay.
I finally decided to turn around and try to get us back on the correct route. On this trip through Waikawa, I saw the Waikawa District Museum and Information Centre. We stopped. Inside, I asked the woman at the small reception desk how to get back on track. She said I needed to backtrack and take the turn toward Balclutha…exactly what the GPS had initially indicated. I thanked her heartily for the information.
Since we were in the museum, we decided to take a quick walkthrough. It was swift because the museum is tiny. Despite that fact, it was an excellent museum, outlining the settlement of the area. For me, it had the feel of the Cripple Creek District Museum in Cripple Creek, Colorado.
After our diversion, it was back to the SUV and then back to the proper turn-off. It was at this point in the drive when we drove through a beautiful green portion of the rainforest of the Catlins. It was getting close to lunchtime. We decided we would stop for lunch in Papatowai. Shortly before the town, we stopped at the Florence Hill Lookout. The view of Tautuku Bay was amazing, a real postcard of New Zealand.
The idea to eat in Papatowai was ill-advised. It is one of those blink-and-you-missed-it towns. There was not a spot for lunch that we saw. That meant Owaka was our new destination for lunch. Owaka is a metropolis in comparison to Papatowai.
We happened to stop at the Lumberjack Café. Leslie and I opted for the soup of the day, vegetable soup. When it arrived, it was nothing like the vegetable soup I have eaten before. Instead of a clear broth and being able to see (and identify) various vegetables, this soup was a puree. Odd-looking when I was expecting the style to which I am accustomed, but it was amazingly flavorful. I loved every bite. Just around the corner from the café was a gift shop. After lunch, we stopped in to look around. It was a lovely shop, but none of us found anything exciting enough to make us part with any of our Kiwi dollars. Nearby was a public restroom. The side of the bathroom had numerous paua (abalone) shells in a sort of ocean wave style.
We still faced 110 kilometers (68 miles) drive to get to Dunedin. I would have like to have detoured to Kaka Point, but we were all ready to get to Dunedin. Kaka Point is named after the Kaka bird, a parrot native to New Zealand. I am sure the views were stunning.
We departed Nynäshamn, Sweden, on July 16, at about 20:00. The cruise schedule had us at sea all day on July 17, arriving in Copenhagen, Denmark at about 05:00 on July 18.
At various times throughout our cruise, Leslie took time to practice with about a dozen other passengers as the ship’s choir. All of the practice culminated with a performance on our last night at sea. When we arrived in the piazza area of the vessel, there was a string quartet playing. The same quartet played every evening.
When the quartet finished, a talent show began. The first act was two young gymnasts, a girl, and her brother. I believe they were Dutch. The emcee said the girl was aiming to perform at the 2020 Summer Olympics. She was good. Next was a young woman singer who had an absolutely beautiful voice. She reminded me of a singer one might hear in an animated Walt Disney movie. The final act was a brother and two sisters. The brother played the piano, and the sisters sang. They needed a bit more polish, but it was nice to see they at least tried.
Following the talent show was the choir which sang several songs from The Sound of Music. They sounded good, but of course, Leslie was the best!
After the concert, we, minus Lorraine, went to the dining room for dinner. Lorraine was not feeling well. During dinner, we heard the captain on the public address system announce we would pass under the Storebæltsbroen (Great Belt Bridge) at about 20:00. Sure enough, shortly before 20:00, we saw the bridge looming on the horizon. We watched the sight from our balcony. Below us, on one of the main decks, we saw several other passengers gathering to watch the passage and take photographs of the bridge. The bridge connects the Danish islands of Funen and Zealand. Zealand is the island on which we find Copenhagen. The span really was a fantastic sight.
We docked right on time. Once at the Marriott, Lorraine and Arlene waited for a room while Leslie and I walked to the tourist information center to get our Copenhagen tourist cards. The cards ended up not being worth the price only because we did not make much use of them. We ultimately used them for only one bus ride, one church, and one museum.
While we stood in the tourist information center, my name caught my eye; the Vice and Vesterbro Tour. Vesterbro is a district in Copenhagen. We all know what vice is, so maybe we will try that tour on our next visit to Copenhagen.
With our cards in hand, we decided we would do the Strøget (stroll). The Strøget is a mile-long pedestrian thoroughfare, encompassing the streets of Frederiksberggade, Nygade, Vimmelskaftet, Amagertorv, and Østergade. It winds from Town Hall Square to the Nyhavn area. Along the way, shopping is a mix of tourist shops and very high-end shops and boutiques. We did not buy anything.
On Strøget, the streets came to life as we walked along. The people made it a great walk. I enjoyed capturing photographs of many people as they walked together. Some that stand out in my mind is the couple walking two huge dogs; a young toddler running around; a woman pulling a sausage cart; a juggler; and a street performer.
About two-thirds of the way through the Strøget, we discovered the Royal Copenhagen building. That is the primary outlet for Royal Copenhagen china. We went into the store. Beautiful china was displayed everywhere. It was all lovely but incredibly expensive. The only thing I took from the building were some photographs.
The Strøget ultimately deposited us at the Kongens Nytorv Plaza. From there we walked the short distance to Nyhavn where we had lunch at a beautiful place, Nyhavns Frergekro. I tried a traditional Dutch open-faced sandwich known as Smørrebrød. It was roast beef with a remoulade sauce and gherkin pickles. I thought it tasted excellent. I also had the Nyhavn Dark Ale, which had a real smooth taste. Leslie ordered the Danish meatballs and some fried brie cheese.
When we finished lunch, we caught a bus, which took us near our hotel. We walked the last few blocks. All totaled, we put in about 3.5 miles that day.
Lorraine stayed in the room all day with Arlene. They were both getting sicker.
On this return trip to Copenhagen, I found it surprising once again how many swimmers, and sunbathers changed from clothing to swimwear and back again in public. I guess I am too shy to try such a stunt. Oh, and there is no way I am flexible enough to get dressed or undressed while covering up with a towel.
The next day, Lorraine and Arlene were to depart. Leslie stayed with them while I went on a walk. I wandered into the Christianshavn area. It is a small island. The canal scenes and the colorful buildings were striking.
I took some stairs to get up to the street level of the drawbridge which crossed over the canal. It was easy to see how much this city favors bicycles. On every set of public stairs, there was a steel track installed. The track was wide enough to allow for any size of a bicycle tire. It will enable a bicyclist to walk up the stairs while rolling the bicycle up or down alongside.
I ended up at the Our Savior Church. It dates from the 1680s, known for its massive spire with a winding staircase on the exterior. On a whim, I decided to go up. The climb inside the spire was impressive. One needed to be like a mountain goat to make it up some of the steeper sections. I did not count the stairs, but it had to be close to 200. Finally, one exits the interior stairs through a very narrow door. At that point, a narrow platform rings the spire. The views of Copenhagen were stunning.
On one side of the spire, copper-covered stairs began to ascend, winding around the spire to the very top. Supposedly, there are 150 steps there. Even though there is a sturdy railing, I had several mental battles about whether or not I should continue the assent or give in to my newfound fear of heights. Ultimately, I did not continue to the top.
Getting back down was also an adventure. The stairs accommodate two-way traffic, even though they are only wide enough for one person at many points. I felt like kissing the ground when I finally made it down.
Back at the hotel, we got Lorraine and Arlene a taxi for the airport. Once they were gone, Leslie and I took a cab to the Statens Museum for Kunst (National Gallery of Denmark). We had lunch when we arrived. Then we spent a couple of hours touring the museum. I saw several paintings by Edvard Munch, an artist I am familiar with, but I have never personally seen any of his works. I was also happy to see a couple of works from my favorite Spanish artist, Picasso.
We departed Copenhagen on July 20. At the Copenhagen airport, we decided to get a wheelchair for Leslie. Once we made it through security, we sat in a very comfortable waiting area set aside expressly for those passengers needing additional help. Everyone who helped us was extremely friendly.
When we arrived in Dubai, we also had a wheelchair waiting. However, they took us to the land-of-broken-people. It was not nearly as courteous or friendly as what we experienced in Copenhagen. Regardless, we only had a three-hour flight ahead of us.
As we approached Islamabad, it was cloudy and rainy. I do not believe Islamabad has a precision approach capability, so I began to get nervous as we circled. I was hoping we would not be diverted to Karachi or Lahore. I did not feel like dealing with that. However, nearly 30-minutes late, we landed in Islamabad. We were at home.