I am Linda and along with my husband Richard and our dog Muffin we enjoy our summers on the UK's canal system

Monday 22 April 2024

The BIG One - Our Last Day, Trip Summary and Photos

Monday 8th April 

Our last day ☹️. We had breakfast in the hotel and then set off for Napa Valley. We weren’t heading anywhere in particular but I noticed that Oakville was about half way. That would do for coffee we thought, however there was nothing at Oakville!  

Our next goal was Antioch Bridge, a very steep bridge which I thought looked like fun!  We followed Google Maps until it took us to the gate of a gated community of a place called Blacknest!  The security guard said we were miles from the bridge ☹️. When I looked at Google, Blacknest is where it was set to. Goodness only knows how that happened. It was too late to do it so we headed for the airport. 

We found the rental car return car park easily. It’s a multi storey with different companies having different floors. We emptied the car and walked to the sky train which took us to our terminal. Easy peasy!

We checked in then sat down to wait for boarding. We had 4.5 hours to wait. I think of all the 8 check-ins we have done this had to be the easiest. I had checked in online - easy as they already had our details from the last flight so it was to a computer terminal which scanned the boarding cards and printed out the baggage tags. Tags put on then over to the bag drop where a guy just put the bags on the conveyor belt. Security was simple, no iPads out of bags and then we went straight into a scanner so there were no extra checks for my knees!  Only one complaint was that we had to take our shoes off!

We did have quite a long wait, but the plane was only about a third full and we actually left the gate about 5 minutes early.

Tuesday 9th April - Hayling Island

Neither Richard nor I slept at all, we both tried but to no avail.

We were a little later landing at Heathrow but we were super fast getting through border control and getting our luggage.  Our taxi driver was waiting for us and we were soon driving home.  All I wanted to do was sleep but our driver was very chatty but maybe it was just as well.

Victoria was waiting for us with a cup of tea when we arrived home, a lovely welcome.  We managed to keep going until 9pm when we gave in and went to bed.

Trip Summary

New Zealand mileage 3,423 miles

Tasmania mileage 888 miles

San Francisco mileage 457 miles

Milage in the air 27,462 miles

That makes a total of 32,230 miles, not taking into account the Uber trips!


Singapore - the view from our room on the 22nd floor

New Zealand, North Island - our first freedom camping spot

New Zealand, South Island - the helicopter ride to the Franz Josef Glacier, Milford Sound,          Doubtful Sound, the Catlin beaches, driving alongside Lake Pukaki towards Aoraki/Mount Cook

Tasmania - the wallabies at the campsite on our first night, the kangaroo we saw hopping across the road, the drive up to Strathgordon

Sydney - the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge

San Francisco - the sea lions and our Ford Mustang drive

General - meeting friends and family in Christchurch, Hobart and Sydney

Since being home I have been asked about my favourite thing and it has been very difficult to pick one thing however I have narrowed it down to two.  The first one was our drive along Lake Pukaki towards Aoraki/Mount Cook.  We turned a corner and there was this huge great mountain with snow on top looming up in front of us.  As we drove along, the mountain got bigger and bigger and more and more wondrous.  The second has to be the kangaroo that hopped across the road in front of us - it really was quite surreal.  We were told that it probably wasn’t a kangaroo but a very large wallaby but I’m pretty sure it was a kangaroo!!

Richard’s favourite was the helicopter ride up to Franz Josef Glacier.

Would we go back?  In a heartbeat but we won’t as sadly the flights were too long for us.  We spent 6 weeks in New Zealand and feel that we covered everything that we set out to do.  However, if you are thinking about going to New Zealand - just GO!

Here are a few of my favourite photos, well maybe more than a few!

Saturday 13 April 2024

The BIG One - San Francisco - Days 65, 66 and 67

 Friday 5th April - San Francisco

We both slept well though when I woke Richard at 8.30am he thought it was about 1am!  The bed was very comfortable and the pillows were amazing.

Our last hop on hop off bus today.  It went from just around the corner which was good.  We could see from our bedroom window that people were well wrapped up outside, so we did too and took woolly hats!  It was cold, I had four layers on!  We had been spoilt in the Southern Hemisphere, but at least we are getting ready for the UK’s cold weather.

The bus ride was very good.  I have to admit that when we drove into the city yesterday in the rain I was so disappointed in San Francisco, but today we drove round the nice parts and the sun was shining.  We saw the streets on hills, a cable car and even drove over the Golden Gate Bridge.  San Francisco had been on my bucket list since the flower power days some 50+ years ago.  I wasn’t a hippy I just loved the music!  We learnt a lot about the city and seemed to drive miles but, oh there are so many traffic lights!

We got off the bus at Pier 33 to take the ferry over to Alcatraz.  There was such a long queue of people but we all got on the boat.  To get up to the top of the island is a steep hill so we took the tram for old and disabled people - we decided that we came under both headings!  As we walked into the cell house I tripped over a mat that had been put down yesterday to absorb the rain.  I went down on my replaced knee and put my left hand out to stop myself falling.   A security person came over and called the medic!  There was nothing he could do though did know how to lift me up, Richard needs lessons!  My right knee was grazed and I had a bruise forming on my left hand.  The staff were very helpful and sent me up to the cells in the lift!!  The cell block was horrific.  The cells were tiny.  The bed went down at night and there was a loo, basin and a couple of shelves to put their meagre belongings on, and those were the good cells.  Isolation was doubly horrific as they were kept in the dark 24/7 and only let out once a week for exercise.  Can you imagine it?  I think I will have to watch the Bird Man of Alcatraz again now I have been there.  By the time we had finished the cell block I was beginning to stiffen up and my left shoulder and hip were really hurting.  We decided that my fall should be properly reported as I really didn’t know how I was going to be, so we called the medic again and he took details.  I was surprised that he hadn’t done that the first time seeing as how I tripped over their mat and knowing what the Americans are like with suing people!!  We took the tram back down to the quay and the ferry to the main land.  We got an Uber back to the hotel and I sat quietly with a couple of paracetamol.

The hip and shoulder seemed to respond to the paracetamol so we walked along to the Hard Rock Cafe.  We had lovely burgers and enjoyed the buzz of it.

As I write this at bedtime, my left hand is very painful and bruised, I just hope it’s not too bad in the morning.

Saturday 6th April - Valley Ford

I didn’t sleep very well, I think I was uncomfortable with my aches and pains. After breakfast we finished packing (we hadn’t actually unpacked) and sent the bags off with the Bell Boy to babysit. 

We walked along four blocks until we came to the cable car station, bought our tickets and waited. We were at a terminus and to turn the cars round they went in to a turntable and two men pushed it round. There was a great scrabble to sit outside but we were quite happy to sit inside. As we left the terminus it was straight up a steep hill and down another and some of the hills were very steep!  

We got off at the Cable Car Museum where we saw the sheaves (big wheels) pulling the endless cable round which pulled the cars up the hills. Richard was amazed at how it all worked!  In 1869, Andrew Smith Hallidie had the idea for a cable car system in San Francisco, reportedly after witnessing an accident in which a streetcar drawn by horses over wet cobblestones slid backwards, killing the horses.  Of the 23 cable car lines established between 1873 and 1890, only three remain. It is the world's last manually operated cable car system and is an icon of San Francisco. 

We had a coffee in a quirky cafe and then caught the next cable car downtown, mind you I don’t know how they know which way is ‘down’ town!!  We managed to get an outside seat. We got off at the terminus, joined the queue to return and headed off to Fisherman’s Wharf. We were surprised that they still allow people, including young children, to still hang on the outside. 

We had a beef sandwich for lunch at a well known bakery which wasn’t the best ☹️

Back to the hotel to pick up our bags and get the final Uber out to the airport to pick up our Ford Mustang. We just about managed to get all our bags in then set off north.  To top everything we got to drive across the Golden Gate!  

We went on the US1 which is, in fact, a very narrow windy road!  Up out of SF then down the other side. We stopped at Stinson Beach to go to the loo and put the top down on the car!!  The road got a little easier after Stinson but it was still quite windy. 

We turned inland and found our hotel for the night in a very small township called Valley Ford.  We ate in the bar downstairs and chatted to a guy from Portsmouth. 

Richard is loving the the throaty noise the car makes when he puts his foot down!

Sunday 7th April - Petaluma

I had terrible indigestion last night, it was painful.  The only way I could get comfortable was to sit up and by 2am it had gone off and I could lie down and go to sleep.

The hotel we were in was a bit strange.  They use a self check-in system where an envelope with your name on is left on the porch.  Inside is a letter with the code for the front door and the code for you room.  This morning there was no check-out, so we didn’t see anyone!  We did go to the bar last night but we don’t know if the three members of staff we saw were the owners or it, I doubt it as they were all quite young.

The only beverage we could have was coffee so we ended up with no drink and no breakfast!  However, across the road was a small town store that sold just about everything, which included bacon and egg burritos.  We bought one each (they were heated up for us), plus a bottle of Coke and two bananas and sat on a bench outside the store. My tummy still wasn’t right and I just couldn’t eat my burrito which was a real waste of food.

I drove for an hour or so along twisty roads until my poor left thumb became so painful, I had to give up. (I have a nice bruise at the base of my thumb now.)

We drove up to Point Arena Lighthouse.  We declined a tower trip as our knees just wouldn’t have stood it!  We were told to look for whales but didn’t see any.  There is a small museum which was interesting but I found the details of the 1906 earthquake most fascinating.  This was from the Keeper’s log.

“A heavy blow first struck the tower from the south.  The blow came quick and heavy, accompanied by a heavy report.  The tower quivered for a few seconds, went far over to the north, came back, and then swung north again, repeating this several times.   Immediately after came rapid and violent vibrations, rendering the tower apart, the sections grinding and grating upon each other; while the lens, reflector etc., in the lantern were shaken from their settings and fell in a shower upon the floor.”

It must have been a frightening occurrence.  The new lighthouse began operation on September 15th 1908.

Richard wanted a coffee so we stopped at a store on the roadside which, like this morning, sold everything plus fuel.  There was a advertisement board outside the store and my attention was drawn to one that said large black puppies for sale.  Mother was a German Shepherd x Rottweiler and father was a Blue Nose Pit Bull x Red Nose Pit Bull, the thought is horrifying!!

We put the car roof down on, put on our jackets and hats and continued.  I was so cold that I put the heater on 28 degrees and the heated seat on level 3.  I was toasty then!!

We drove to Mendocino, a pretty seaside town.  We were hungry and were looking for a cafe.  There seemed to be everything other than a cafe but we got to the end of the road, turned round and found one which was upstairs.  We sat out in the veranda and had fish and chips.  I was facing a lovely hillside and Richard the Pacific Ocean.  It was a lovely way to end our last day.  

I had booked us in to a proper hotel in Petaluma, a couple of hours from the airport.  However, we still have the car until 2.30pm tomorrow.