I must say I was a little disappointed with the trip in the Big Plane
over the Big Pond. In an 747 that seats ten abreast, one of the center
section seats means you're about ten feet from the nearest window, and
what little I could see out the window to my left was mostly wing and
The plane took off Wednesday night around 11:00 p.m. After a chicken
dinner I actually slept quite well. Breakfast was served 10 hours into
the flight, a couple of hours before landing in Auckland, New Zealand.
Now that was an interesting landing. Since we crossed the International
Date Line in route, it was now Friday morning. The pilot made it more
interesting by yawing the plane hard once in each direction after
bouncing off the runway. I actually had to swallow breakfast again. I
can't image how much stress goes through the landing gear in a ship that
big with the plane going sideways, and I was wondering how many times
the fuselage would roll before disintegrating in a cloud of OmniSkore
equipment. But the pilot settled the plane down and a couple hours later
we were on our way to Melbourne...
|Bed & Breakfast on the
|The B&B has three
bedrooms, kitchen, and this.
|Breakfast Saturday morning.
|The view out the back yard.
...where there was no one waiting for us, so we wound up renting a
van and driving up to Corowa. Now I've heard they have a lot of sheep
down here, but I tell you it was like solid sheep farm between Melbourne
and Corowa. Didn't see any Wallabies or Koala bears though. We pulled
into town mid-afternoon, dumped the equipment off at the drop zone, and
checked into our lodging. Ooh, they are off to a good start with us
here. We're in a bed & breakfast on a sheep farm about five clicks
from the DZ, and it's a nice little place.
After claiming our bunks we headed to town for some dinner and brew.
Corowa is kind of a renovated old-west place, with several old hotels
with upper balconies for eating dinner and shooting at the pedestrians.
The Aussie culture seems to be the closest to American I've ever seen
outside of Texas (which is also very similar to American culture).
We were all sacked out by 8:00 p.m. (midnight by our internal clocks,
with a full day added for good measure) and slept 10+ hours, then chowed
down on some grub left by our nice farm host.
So now it's Saturday afternoon and we've been setting up omnigear all
day, things are looking real good. No Internet access yet but I hear
it's on the way. It's still hard for me to grasp the time difference
from home; we're seven time zones away from Arizona distance wise, but
17 hours ahead on the clock. So 3:00 p.m. Saturday here right now, that
makes it 11:00 p.m. Thursday back home. Amy did you record
"Friends" for me?
I am here to testify this morning that ounce for ounce, the world's
loudest creature is the macaw. At precisely 0600 one of them, parked in
a tree right outside my bedroom window, let loose a howl that rattled
the house from end to end. Thirty minutes later, with cup of instant
coffee in hand, I decided that this place is a birder's paradise.
Last night we stopped at the Retired Service League, a rather unique
place best described as a casino. They have several computers hooked up
to the Internet, and I managed to download my e-mail (although I
couldn't reply). We still don't have the Internet on the drop zone; they
hope to have it working tomorrow.
OmniSkore/Pegasus/Stylus/DZ-TV is 95% set up and ready. We've run
into many familiar faces around the DZ already, and we're still a few
days away from showtime. A great pre-start for what will hopefully be a
Back to our Bed & Breakfast lodge. The back yard spills down into
a "lagoon" (that's what it says on the little map of the
place) that runs into the Murray river a click or two away. The whole
area is covered with Eucalyptus trees, red gums, and name-an-Aussie-tree.
The name of the Bed & Breakfast farm is Mooratunka, which we
believe is aborigine for "Diddles With Sheep." The whole farm
is guarded by a single large ex-navy sheep dog named Snuffy.
Well, Mr. Murphy done crashed the party, our MX1 PAL video mixer
went Tango Uniform on us. Now we're scrambling around for another mixer,
we may have to take a road trip to Melbourne tomorrow.
Saturday, October 30
Many long days later, the party is over and the gear is packed. We
managed to get out and visit a couple of wineries yesterday afternoon
before the awards ceremony. Some really neat places to go around here.
The Pfieffer winery features
an old bridge over a river; they serve basket lunches here by
Lunch at the Cofield Winery
We liked the Pfeiffer wines
An almost-tame kookaburra...
...with our van in the
Monday, 7:00 p.m.
Some airline experiences are so bad, you just gotta share them with
We get on the big 747 out of Melbourne on time, and I breathe a quiet
sigh of relief that, even though I had failed to land a window seat, the
one next to me remains open as we pull away from the gate. I might
actually get me some shuteye between here and Los Angeles.
Shortly after the seatbelt light turns off, Charla motions to me from
her seat next to Ted and Lee a dozen rows forward. I return to my seat
moments later with a glass of Champagne, thank you very much melady.
As soon as I hear that the in-flight movie is "The Sixth
Sense" I scramble for the headphones. I enjoyed this movie in the
theatre, and had thought about seeing it again. Cool. I finish my bubbly
and order a Chardonnay from the beverage service and kick back to enjoy
...but a kid a row to the front and across the aisle has different
plans. About five years old and wearing a Bobby Goldsboro hairdo, he
decides that staring at me is going to be the primary part of his
in-flight entertainment package. His kid brother has already discovered,
to his great delight and to the horror of the flight crew, that one of
the little buttons next to your hand not only makes a neat dingdong
noise, but it makes a light flash on the ceiling by the television
screen and one of those people in a blue suit comes running to see what
is going on. So this goes on for the whole movie, kid #1 staring at me
while kid #2 pushes the dingdong button, and meanwhile the plane is
battling turbulence and the whole flight plan is falling well behind the
The movie and the turbulence come to an end and the flight crew
scrambles to get the meal out before the plane reaches Auckland. Just as
I take my first by of chicken pot pie, The Kid decides it's time to
start aksin' questions.
"Hey mister, is that any good?"
"Hey mister, what's that stuff on that pie?"
"Hey mister, what's that red stuff for?"
"Hey mister, can you talk?"
"Yes I can, but I am eating my dinner."
Just as I'm about done, he says
"Hey mister, what's your name?"
"My name is Tim." I pull out my book -- which happens to be
a Dirk Pitt adventure where some people are stranded on a raft between
Australia and New Zealand -- and hope that he gets the message. The raft
is adrift with a dozen crew and 150 prisoners bound for New South Wales
"Hey mister, what's that book about?"
It's about child-eating monsters, you little moron. "It's about
a hero and a girl." Of course, it's a Dirk Pitt novel. Jeez,
where's this kid's mother? Asleep, on the other side....
"Hey mister, my dad's been on an airplane more than 50
That does it. I pull out my USPA card and wave in front of him.
"That's nothing, kid. See this? I'm the Senior Vice Chief Executive
Officer of the United States Parachute Association, and I've jumped out
of these planes more times than your mommy's changed your brother's
diapers. And see this?" -- I pull out my backpack, a Javelin
replica just the right size for him -- "If you and your brother
don't keep still and quiet for the rest of your trip, I'm gonna strap
you into this here parachute and push you out that door over
there." mom notice nudge nudge wink