Abilene to Los Angeles

usa-flight-2017-boys.pngDuration of this trip was from 28th November to 13th December so that we could take advantage of the boys’ early school break up to do one last overseas trip with them altogether

Leonie has been out for past month visiting her mother and took the opportunity to fly home with us. The purpose of this trip was to visit family in Abilene Texas so our grandsons could meet and reconnect with US family as well as experience a belated Thanksgiving dinner prepared by Leonie. We love our turkey day celebrations that is for sure!!

via Qantas QF7 (A380) Direct to Dallas great flight well looked after. Scott and Leonie were there to meet us. We picked up our Dodge Caravan hire car which was perfect for our needs.

Having previously had this type of vehicle in LA with four adults and two children on that occasion. So this time it was perfect for three teens and the grandparents (us) for our planned road trip to Los Angeles.

Beautiful West Texas Sunset
Headed West

In no time at all, we were away on our way to Abilene (2.5 hours west Dallas Fort Worth)

The first stop unanimously voted on as Cracker Barrell at Weatherford where we meet Scott and Leonie for dinner. Everything was up to its usual standard and the boys reminiscing about previous visits on their last trip.

After eight days in Abilene which included a couple days back up in Dallas/FortWorth where we did the JFK tour and visited the Fort Worth Stockyards before catching up with more family for dinner and movies.

A highlight of the stay in Abilene was the opportunity to watch a high school playoff game in the new Abilene Christian University (ACU) Stadium. It was amazing the Graham Steers were playing the Sweetwater Mustangs. Scott’s sister Stephanie teaches at Graham High and the rest of Scott’s family live in Graham, Texas so we happy to hop aboard the bandwagon and become steers supporters for the night.

Our Abilene stay included lots of good food at places like Perini ranch and BBQ brisket and a visit to Sonic which intrigued the boys no end having their orders served to the car window.

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A highlight was a visit to the Abilene Heritage centre which provided a fantastic insight to Abilene down through history, the boys loved this and spent hours exploring and watching the shows and reading stories.

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Soon it was time to hit the road towards Los Angeles taking in El Paso, White Sands National Monument the Santa Rosa Blue Hole and some of Route 66. It was pretty cold and miserable and wet when we set off but we made good time to be at the border for our first night. I always wanted to drive west of Abilene and keep going. Screen Shot 2018-07-18 at 11.11.53 am.png

Alberque was our next overnight stop where we ate at the Standard Diner before settling in for the night at another LaQuinta Hotel. These hotels are great budget rooms when traveling and the complimentary continental breakfasts come in handy as well.

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The next stop along the way was at the historic El Ranch Hotel the historic El Rancho Hotel provides a unique Southwest Experience in the midst of the American West.  The El Rancho Hotel is a pillar of the West and was the Home of the Movie Stars throughout the 1930s to 1940s who filmed Westerns in the area.

Back on the road to our last overnight stop at the La Quinta Inn & Suites Kingman Arizona before arriving in Los Angeles.Dinner was at yet another diner, this one had not changed a thing in 50 years, Rutherford’s 66 Diner  2011 E Andy Devine AveKingman. 

We hit the road early the next morning and ready ourselves to handle the LA traffic. As I have driven in LA peak hour(s) a number of times before we thought we endeavour to get there before the peak.

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We achieved this and had a good run into Hilton at Universal and checked in about 2pm.

Ian and I returned the car to the closest car hire which was at the Bob Hope airport. We took a taxi back to the Hilton and settled in for our final few days. It is always a relief to get rid of the car’s unscathed. The Hilton is the perfect location for everyone to do their own thing and for the boys to explore all that universal and the CityWalk where everyone could do their own thing. The grandparents could get a bit of a break and relax in the hotel before a full day at universal and our flight home.

We used a great car service Lansky Transfers (used previously when in LA) to collect us from the hotel and get us to LAX in plenty of time to check in and board QF12 for the flight home. Very reliable and no fuss, takes all the stress out of getting to the airport that is for sure.

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This trip goes down in the archives as another successful travel experience with the boys we love being able to broaden their horizons. We like to spend their inhertiance on having great adventures and experiences with us not on us after we are gone.

13th December Flew home on QF12 from LAX

What a wonderful (White) Christmas break in Texas



After a bit of a rocky start (Nan diagnosed with shingles not long after arriving) we have had a very restful and relaxing almost 3 weeks in Abilene Texas. Just as well as 13 days after arriving home we fly to South America as part of the MacWool

Wool growers tour to Chile and Argentina.  No time for jet lag as there are a couple trips in the car to far west in those 13 short days.

Back to the holiday, after things settle down with Nan, Mum Ian and Ian set of for a day in Fort Worth at the historic stockyard. Fort Worth is about 3 hours driving from Abilene so it was a pretty full day but we enjoy the history of this place.  Even the drive was good just to be on the road to somewhere.

Another highlight was a visit to Frontier Texas in Abilene, this was a very informative place and filled with loads of Texas history. Hard to believe that so many bison could be in one place and that man could almost wipe them out in such a short time. Although if the bison were still roaming in such numbers there would have been no grazing for cattle, can’t have everything

The weather in Texas had been so unseasonably warm for December we thought there was no hope of any of the white stuff, we were wrong.

Although not falling on Christmas Day it did snow a couple of days afterwards which was fun.  Two out our Three Christmas trips to Abilene there has been snow which is amazing as it doesn’t happen that often.

A little bit of the Marra in Texas

Christmas day was spent with family and the turkey was fantastic (Scott and Ian were in charge of the bird) while everyone else contributed to the rest of the great food we all got to share for Christmas dinner.

During our stay got to eat lots of BBQ (Sharon’s brisket is one of my favs) mexican this along with a fair few visits to Cracker Barrell we had our fill of delicious food. A highlight was BBQ at Hard 8 on our way to to the airport to fly home on New Years day.

A favourite of mine

With Leonie having a significant birthday between Christmas and New Year this was a perfect opportunity to have lunch as one of the best steakhouses in all of Texas (well my opinion anyway) – Perini Ranch (Grandma even got to meet founder Tom Perini whilst she was wandering the grounds)

It was wonderful that Leonie, Ian and their mum could be all in the same place for such celebration and given Nan is 88 now, not going to be too many more opportunities to have everyone at a significant family celebrations.

It was a great stay with family and worth it to see the snow and all

the effort that people go to to light up their homes, something is sometimes missing here.

The flight home was uneventful and a first for us we flew out of Dallas Love Field airport. This is a great little airport and we surprised as how good the facilities and service was, recommended.

Short post but as I mentioned the aim of the game was to catch up with family, rest and eat and we did all three very well.

Watch this space for the next installment – Chile here we come…

Christmas is Texas


Itchy feet again…

On this day 6 years ago we were in San Diego heading off for a day at Sea World, today we board QF7 to fly to Dallas before a couple hours in the car to Abilene for Christmas.  Ian’s sister Leonie has lived in USA for many years with her husband Scott. This is one last opportunity for Ian Leonie and their mother(88 years and vows this is the last trip ) to spend Christmas day together. 

Love there is a direct Qantas flight to Dallas, anyone flying to the states should consider Dallas as their entry point, much nicer than LA and a good hub for onward flights.

A little about Abilene ~ thanks to wikipedia

Abilene is a city in Taylor and Jones counties in west central Texas. The population was 117,063 according to the 2010 census making it the twenty-seventh most populous city in the state of Texas. It is the principal city of the Abilene Metropolitan Statistical Area, which had a 2011 estimated population of 166,416.[5] It is the county seat of Taylor County.[6]Dyess Air Force Base is located on the west side of the city.
Abilene is located off Interstate 20, between exits 279 on its western edge and 292 on the east. Abilene is 150 miles (240 km) west of Fort Worth, Texas. The city is looped by I-20 to the north, US 83/84 on the west, and Loop 322 to the east. A railroad divides the city down the center into north and south. The historic downtown area is on the north side of the railroad.
Established by cattlemen as a stock shipping point on the Texas and Pacific Railway in 1881, the city was named after Abilene, Kansas,[1][7] the original endpoint for the Chisholm Trail

A White Christmas

Although unlikely it does gets very cold and it is possible, what are the chances of striking it twice, the last Christmas we spent in Abilene was just that white. Fingers crossed!!!

We a planning a quiet break and staying close to home base most of the time so won’t be so many posts this trip, I will make up for that in late January when we head to South America, with a group woolgrowers and the MacWool team.




Our Last Week

We have arrived back in Abilene from our wonderful Aspen trip. We are spending this week enjoying the family and getting our gear sorted for the trip home. A few more gifts to secure then its back to Dallas to catch our flight home Saturday.

We feel very fortunate to have had such a wonderful holiday with so many highlights and great experiences.

We are now looking forward to heading home to see family and and catch up with friends. Oh I almost forgot… and get back to work.

House hunting is on the agenda as we have to find a new home in the first few weeks,  the owner of our unit wants to move back in at the end of our lease (got this news the day before we left home). We will stay in North Parramatta so unit hunting will begin day one.

Ian is keen to get back to work after his enforced three month layoff.  The rest has done him the world of good and he is really motivated about the future and looking forward to getting back in the game.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all those who have read and provided such great feedback on this blog. The main purpose of the blog is to record our holiday notes but it is fun to be able to share this with family, friends and anyone who is interested in my ramblings.

Until we hit the road again…..au revoir

Events from home we have to catch up on are included in this post……

If the weather is good

If the weather is good between Christmas and New Year we are thinking of flying to Cleveland. We will hire a car and drive to Washington DC via Mt Hope. We are considering this so we can visit a leather business that John (brother) is negotiating to buy a sewing machine from. The leather business is Weaver Leather and the surrounding parts look interesting. Weaver Leather is located in the scenic rolling hills of central Ohio and nestled in the heart of Amish country in Mt. Hope.  Apparently, it’s a beautiful drive, and not as difficult to get to as you might think. They encourage visitors and have a vast product showroom and museum as well. 





If the weather is not so good we will fly directly from Abilene to Washington DC.

What do the ballet and a trip to San Antonio have in common?



Answer: Things we are going to do while staying in Abilene

Just had a call from Leonie she is going to try and get tickets to the ballet in Abilene and organise a trip to San Antonio.

Ian has dipped out on the ballet but is looking forward to visiting San Antonio again. He says he and Scott will go to the pub while the ballet is on.

Things we will enjoying seeing in San Antonio are visiting the Alamo again and also seeing the riverwalk decorated in Christmas spirit.

I am still wearing some shoes (which I love and wear almost every day) that I purchased in the Rivercenter, hope I can get some more.

Bring it on less than three weeks to go before we fly out

A dream comes true…

This post is being written retrospectively as I did not begin recording my travel journeys until our United Kingdom and Europe trip in 2008. The story begins a long time before this trip when I had no money and no clue how I would ever realise the dream of the travel that I yearned for all my life. After settling into life in Sydney I was surprised to learn that Ian had never, in the 20 years that his sister lived in the US, visited her.

Family

A decision was quickly made to obtain passports and book our flight to spend our first of many future trips to visit with Scott and Leonie. Abilene was to become the base of all our US trips over the next 25 years

Our first trip

The details of this trip are only those from memory and photos captured to look back on for this eye-opening trip that only served to double my passion for travel especially overseas to new places.

The year was 1999 and the trip was too short from 14th to 30th November, little did we know more time is always needed

Flying out – with a bonus country

When beginning to planning this trip I had no idea that the first country I would visit outside Australia would be Japan. Albeit an overnight stay and a very simple meal costing 6300 Yen ($100 AUD) (a lot of money for basic dinner for two back then. We arrived at night and taxiing for at least 20 minutes to the gate at Narita was the biggest eye-opener of the many eye-opening things on this trip, so many gates and planes in one place. We had no trouble transiting to our hotel and settled in for the night next leg wasn’t due to fly out until 3pm so we had some time to explore around Narit a little, visited a supermarket (loved it and do it everywhere I go now)and were amazed at how clean and tidy everything was, even the train station. Cigarette vendor machines on every corner and not one single butt to be found not even on train tracks

It was long enough to whet the appetite for a definite return visit. As it turned out our cheapest option for flying was via Japan Airline (JAL) with the bonus of landing directly in Dallas ( Qantas opened a direct flight many many years later). Back on our JAL flight, the excitement was building for the main part of the trip we settled in and enjoyed the flight. From memory and looking back these flights were the longest of our lives only because we didn’t know what to expect. Every flight since feels shorter and easier, not much different from a quick drive to Bourke or beyond for the weekend. In fact, feel like I get more jet-lagged doing 11-12 hours in the car and back over a couple of days than any flight.

The flight was good and the food was excellent. With this, all being new to us the wine with dinner was a surprise and the many visits by the crew with snacks and drinks all through the flight were exciting mini-events for us that would go unnoticed by any seasoned traveller. There will be never another first flight with that wide-eyed amazement at every little detail.

Arriving in country number two – USA

It was so exciting coming off the plane at Dallas Fort Worth Airport (DWF) to see Scott and Leonie waiting to collect us for the two and bit hour drive to Abilene in West Texas. Everything was so new and we had that strange feeling of being on the wrong side of the road for the first time ever. Our eyes were on sticks looking at the roads the size of the buildings and how spread out everything was.

We stopped at our very first Cracker Barrel restaurant and enjoy our first taste of the many foods that are our first go-to every time we land. Gallons of coffee with Half and Half chicken fried steak but eggs in a basket and the bacon were the biggest hit of all and are still the first thing we have when we can get to a cracker barrel. The strip bacon and eggs cooked to perfection ruined me for life on our bacon. I now only buy strip bacon even here in Australia to this day.

Those first few days were a blur of probably jet-lagged but I don’t recall being jet-lagged. I remember mornings spent around the kitchen bench drinking coffee and evenings in the sitting room relaxing after another great meal somewhere. I think the food was the one thing we both loved so much right from the get-go. With everything new even a trip to Walmart was amazing we walked and walked around just looking at everything on offer is a one-stop-shop in our eyes. Everything is bigger in Texas!!!

The simplest memories come flooding back of Scott dropping us downtown Abilene where we wandered around and sat for what seemed like an hour watch a goods train go through the station, our first train with double containers and I am sure we lost count at over 100 wagons.

Las Vegas – Wow and wow again

We decided we wanted to do one other trip somewhere out of Texas so settled on Las Vegas and Leonie was able to join us for the 3-day trip. We planned to fly out of Dallas 3 days before Thanksgiving and return on Thanksgiving eve (poor Leonie what were we thinking, clearly not of her, having to prepare Thanksgiving lunch)

Nevertheless away we went with a plane change in Denver Colorado we were soon flying over the magnificent grand canyon and landing in Las Vegas. The first of countless trip over the next 20 odd years, seems we don’t have US trip that doesn’t begin or end with few days in Vegas and don’t even gamble, food and seeing the Casino and site.

We had booked into The Treasure Island Casino and were blown away by its size and opulence, then we walked outside and really saw a Casino… Paris Paris, Bellagio, and New York New York. The Venetian was almost completed.

We set out to walk the strip from one end to the other and back again (The Treasure Island at Southern end of Strip). We certainly bit off more than we could chew and were exhausted when we got back to the hotel. Dinner and bed what the best we could manage after that. The rest of the trip passed in a bit of a blur and the main takeaway for us was ‘we would be back. The casinos and their feature attractions got more amazing with each one from the lions at MGM, the huge fish tank behind the reception area, the roller coaster on the New York New York rooftop, not to mention the dancing fountain of the Bellagio.

Thanksgiving – It’s a big deal on the annual holiday calendar

Our first thanksgiving was in the traditional style and so much fun, the food was out of this world and just kept coming, I can’t remember if the family came over but I think they did and the first NFL game was on TV. American sport was something that I got the bug for at this time and this is passion has only increased over the years.

All too soon it is over

After a sigh of relief (for the cook) and the door closed on the last of the visitors we settled in for more catch-up and family time. We explored Abilene and had the opportunity to drive to Midland Texas where Matthew was leading the marching band in a high school football game. This was another eye-opener to the sheer size of the event and the logistics that go into each one of these games every week. Rows and rows of buses to transport the players, entourage and band members were incredible, we passed bus after bus on the way home but gee the hotdogs we the best I had ever eaten. We loved everything about getting to the game and can’t wait to get to more sporting events on the next trip(s).

Our final excursion for this trip was to drive the two and half hours to Dallas Fortworth and explore Grapevine Mills (mind blown at sheer size and number of shops under one roof), Billy Bobs Bar (Biggest Bar in Texas) it has a full-size rodeo arena inside as well as five different stages that all the great country stars perform on at one time or another

Looking back on the love of the food, the feel of Texas (just like Western NSW), and the warmth of the people, they loved to talk to us just to hear our twangy accents. Writing this as future Ange I can only say that boy we had no idea how big an impact this trip would be. It was life-changing for me and the dream to travel exploded into a full-blown passion that after many many trips to the USA as not waned one iota. We hadn’t even caught the Disney bug yet!

Just a few scanned photos from the trip – no digital then