A Travellerspoint blog

January 2008

Queenstown and the Milford Track

Hello everyone - Lynette, here. This is my first blog entry in awhile. Dave and I have been in Queenstown, New Zealand for over a week now. It is the adventure capital of the world here. This is where you can go bunge jumping in the morning and paragliding in the afternoon. Speed boating perhaps? Or maybe going down some rapids in a wet suit? The town sets on a beautiful lake that has mountains all around it. Dave and I are at a hostel directly across the street from the lake. The lake is crystal clear. Everything is so unpolluted in NZ. There are so few people here. We found out that New Zealand is roughly the size of England and has only 4 million people where as England has over 60 million people! We also found out that Austalia and New Zealand are rivals in everything. Wine, sports, general existing. It is a major sore spot for a New Zealander to move the the more modern Australia. The big competetive sports are Rugby and Cricket. The NZ rugby team is called the All Blacks. So, every where you look you see shirts, lunch boxes, flags, etc. that say All Blacks. Rugby is big down here - no joke. In Queenstown we took a gondola to the top of a mountain and ate lunch overlooking the city and all the mountains and the lake. The town itself is extremely easy to navigate and is full of tourist shops, restaurants, and bars. We also did a lot of hanging out lakeside and just staring at the lake and mountains behind it. It seems appropriate that in the adventure capital of the world Dave and I do the most adventurous thing we have every done which is the Milford Track.

The Milford Track is considered "The finest walk in the world." It is also something that we were told all New Zealanders try to do in their life time and I feel honored to be apart of such an authentic New Zealand experience. The track is a 5 day 4 night experience and there are two ways you can experience it. You can do it independently and carry all of your food and sleeping bag and sleep in huts that do not have showers or you can do the guided tour which is of course way more expensive but all of your food is provided and you sleep in a lodge in a warm clean bed and you have access to hot showers and running water. Since Dave and I have never done anything like this before - we opted for the cushy version. Which still involved us carrying a backpack with our clothes and such. To get to the starting point is an adventure in itself. It was a 2 hour bus ride to a lodge where we ate lunch and then went another 30 minutes to the boat launch. We then boarded a ferry boat which took us to the actual beginning of the walk. The ferry boat ride was well over an hour. Once we got to our starting point - we had a short (less than a mile) walk to our first lodge - Glade House. After a short break we went on a nature walk where the guides described the plant life, etc. and then took us to a flowing stream. Where we could actually drink directly out of! Both Dave and I just could not get over that you could drink directly from the stream. It was just like the olden days! Like we were Charles Ingalls filling up his canteen in Plum creek! It was cool.

The second day was the first major walking day. The just shy of 11 mile walk was relatively flat, except for the very end and easy to walk. Dave and I kept on stopping and going off the trail to see the various views that we ended up being the very last walkers to reach the stopping point. A 73 year old Japanese lady beat us to the end that day. We walked next to a crystal clear river. At some parts it was extremely deep and because it was clear it covered huge fallen trees and small hills! The views were spectacular. There were water falls, and green forest, and mossy rocks. Magical.

The third day was the toughest and on a clear day also supposed to have the lovelist view. Unfortunately we did not have a clear day. It was cold, windy, rainy with lots of cloud cover. This day was about a 12 mile walk and the first part involved about 4 miles of walking up a hill through what is called the Quinton Pass. This was tough - you were going over rocks and streams all on an incline. Our shoes and feet were completely soaked. Our rain gear was leaking - it was quite the experience. When we finally made it to the lunch spot. Everyone in the hut looked liked death warmed over. Everyone was exhaused and we all still had the descent yet to go, which we were told was actually harder than going up because it was so steep. Dave and I ate our soggy sandwiches and drank the hot Milo (hot chocolate) and then geared back up to head down the mountain. The weather was still pretty crappy but at one point there was a break in the cloud cover and Dave and I along with some other hikers got about a 5/10 minute view and it was magnificent. Waterfalls everywhere, huge mountains. It was so cool. Then the clouds came back and we headed back down the hill. Going down was definitely more hazardous. You had to traverse rocks and streams all while have the momentum of going down behind you. I still liked it better than going up though. I did twist make ankle several times and once (at the end of the trail) fell forward and ripped my pants and scrapped my knee. One woman that was part of our group actually fell during this part and broke her ankle in two parts. She had to be helicoptered off the trail using one of those lowered gurney things since the helicopter has no place to land.

Eventually Dave and I made it to our next lodge and after a short break walked the 1.5 hours to see Sutherland Falls. The 5th largest waterfall in the world. It wasn't wide at all but extremely tall. Then we hiked back to our lodge and took very long hot showers and rested are very sore legs, feet, and backs. The fourth day was the longest trek of the days with over 13 miles of walking. The terrain was by no means smooth as the second day, but it wasn't as crazy as the third either. But, when you are sore anything is a challenge. We made it though!!! We weren't last either - although we took our time. Lots of people on the hike were speedsters. I'm not sure why you would want to go so fast but lots of people did. In fact, our entire group set a trail record. We were the fastest group to ever do the Milford Track.

We definitely had a major sense of accomplishment when we finished. Especially because there were hardships - the weather being the main factor. It was rainy on and off on this day of walking also but not as cloudy so we were able to see lots of views. There was this awesome waterfall that is used in a lot of New Zealand adds on the track. We stopped and stared at that for awhile. There was also this rock that you could climb underneath and stand up inside. The water over the many years had hollowed out the center. At the end we took a short boat ride to the town of Milford (extremely tiny) and stayed at Mitre Peak lodge. We had a nice dinner and they gave a certificates of completition along with a group photo. There were 49 people who started the walk. There were a lot more Americans than I expected - over 12 of us. The other big group was the Japanese. Then a good hand full of Austalians, New Zealanders, and one lonely Canadian. The next day we went on a boat cruise of the Milford Sound area and then on out to the Tasman sea. The only thing under New Zealand is Antartica which was great to think about when out at sea. After the boat tour we had a 5 and half hour bus ride back to Queenstown. Dave and I were beat so we laid around a bit and then had the best hamburger I have every had in my entire life. Everyone must swear that if you every come to Queenstown you visit Fergburger and have one. They are the most delicious culinary burger experience known to man kind. I am not exegerating either my friends.

That is it from Queenstown. We move on to Rotorua tomorrow which is considered a must see experience in New Zealand.

Take Care all - Lynette

Posted by schuckley 16:02 Comments (0)

Milford Track - Photos - New Zealand

We just got back yesterday from our 5 day hike of the Milford Track in New Zealand. We will do a blog entry with a written explanation of the hike but here are some photos.

Before we left for the hike we took the gondola ride in Queenstown. Here I am at the top. My niece Sofie may recognize this thing I'm holding. She made it and gave it to me before we left so I thought I'd take it around the world with us and get some photos of it in some amazing places.
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This is the view going up the gondola
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Couldn't believe this tree. Wow.
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Here's Lynette as we are about to get on the two and a half hour bus ride to the ferry for our Milford Track hike.
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This is us on the ferry ride. It took us to our first lodging of the hike.
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Our first lodge, the Glade House.
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You can actually drink from the rivers here! The water is so clear and pure, from the melting snow in the mountains above.
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About to begin the first day of actually hiking, or as they call it here "tramping"
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Lots of great swing bridges along the way.
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Lots of amazing waterfalls.
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Second day of hiking was very wet and cold. Here's Lynette about to enjoy a warm hot chocolate, or as they call it here "Milo" at our lunch stop.
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Lots of wet hikers trying to get warm in the lunch hut.
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Sutherland Falls, the 5th highest falls in the world.
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We saw some amazing birds including this kind, the Weka, which can not fly.

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We finally finished!
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What a great view we had from our hotel on the last night.
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Back in Queenstown last night we went to a local burger place called Fergburger which has the best burgers we've ever had. Here's Lynette snuggling up to one.
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Posted by schuckley 15:30 Archived in New Zealand Tagged backpacking Comments (6)

New Zealand Photos

Cool sculpted archway in downtown Auckland, NZ
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D is for Dave
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This is not Lynette or I. I just thought they were cool shots, one showing the city below. And with my fear of heights I can't believe anyone would do this!
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This tree in a park reminded me of the phone tower that was installed at Disney's Animal Kingdom and disguised as a tree. Only this one is real, so trees do really look like that!
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This is a shot of the back deck at our lodge on Waiheke island which is a 35 minute ferry ride from the coast of Auckland. We spent 4 nights there.
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What a beautiful place Waiheke was. This is one of the beautiful views of the many beaches. the flowers are amazing there.
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Here I am posing happy but really freaked about the idea of driving on the left side of the roads.
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The photos just don't do these locations justice. We took these while driving around the hills of Waiheke island. We stopped at a winery for lunch and had what was supposedly the Best Pizza in the World! It WAS pretty darn good.
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Waiheke is very hilly and there are these really windey tight foot paths that lead from the upper towns and main roads down to the beaches. Lynette is decending this one that took us on a short-cut through the woods to our lodge.
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It was amazing stepping off the plain to see this view. We had just landed in Queenstown on the South island of New Zealand where we are now. We will take off on our 5 day trek the day after tomorrow. We're really excited. I'm sure I'll have some amazing photos after that.
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Here is a shot of the lake which is right across from our hostel here in Queenstown. The air here is cool, and it also seems to be very crisp. It just smells and feels really clean. The water is so clear and blue. Its weird to see water like this amidst mountains rather than in a tropical setting.daves_013.jpg

Here's a photo of our amazing accomodations in the hostel in Queenstown. Just enough room to get around the twin beds. The bathroom is down the hall.
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Posted by schuckley 20:04 Comments (4)

More from New Zealand - by Dave

We have been on Waiheke island off the coast of New Zealand mainland for about 4 days. It is absolutely gorgeous here. The lodge we are staying in is very nice. It is a large house with a lot of shared areas so all the travelling people get to know eachother. There are some challenges with that that we are trying to get used to such as difficulty sleeping due to partying just outside our window. The heat does not help either. The first few nights were okay because it cooled off and there was a nice breeze but last night was stiflying. And of course there is no AC or fan.
We have been making most of our own meals in their kitchen with groceries from the local stores. That is challenging as well because of the lack of full supplies and decent cookware and utensils. The refrigerator is crap frankly, and full to capacity with everyones stuff. Our food is barely kept cold. And we are getting used to drinking warm Coke.

I have washed my socks and underwear in a sink for the first time on our trip. At the last hostel they had a washing machine but this one does not. That is something I'll have to get used to. The good side of our room being so hot is that my clothes hang dried in record time.

Yesterday we spent the day driving around other parts of the island. We drove through the beautifully rolling hills and got out of the car several times to check out the beautiful views down to the coastline beaches. The green hills agains the bright blue ocean was an overwhelming sight. Everywhere we looked around there seemed to be a beautiful painting just waiting to be created. There were sheep scattered across some of the hills that reminded me of the bugs bunny cartoons where the sheep dogs punch the time clock to watch over the flock. The wind blew the tall yellow grass like waves on the distant hills and it seemed that the surface of the hills were moving.

Driving on the left side of the road was really something to get used to. I was pretty freaked out about it and wasn't crazy about the idea, but knowing that it would be the only way to get around and see places outside the small town where we are staying it was a must. Only one time did I pull out of an intersection into the right lane and Lynette quickly shouted me back over to the left. Outside of town in the hills the roads get really steep, curvy and narrow. And in some places they become one lane dirt roads. Not one lane each side, just one lane total! And on curvy cliffside roads where you can't see traffic coming around the corner its pretty frightening. But fortunately we made it through alive.

The day before yesterday we were sitting on the beach when a woman came up to us and asked me if I could help her. Her 12 year old daughter had climbed around the cliff-side on the rocks along the beach and had gotten stuck beyond sight. Her younger brother had come back to get help. So he lead me back out around the jagged uneven rocks to find and help her. I was wearing my hiking shoes but it was still difficult navigating the rocks trying not to fall into the water. The boy was good at it but he was much younger and more agile. At one point I had to jump across about a 3 foot gap in the rocks where the water was washing in and out. I wasn't sure I would make it because I am not that good of a jumper, especially without getting a running start. But thank God I made it. Every time we rounded a bend I thought we'd be there but the boy kept leading me on. The boy said he heard her calling for help. I didn't hear her but we quickened our pace, making the climb that much more difficult. Being the pessimist I am, in the back of my mind I considered that this might be a huge ploy to get me out by myself to mug me. But I pushed the thoughts away. I was seriously scared and my adrenaline was pumping. I didn't know what type of position the girl was in. I imagined her hanging and slipping from her fingertips with her feet dangling over the water. When we finally got there it wasn't much better than that. Luckily she at least had a foot hold. A man was already there trying to climb to her. He was just wearing swimming trunks and flip flops. He had been out on a boat when his wife heard the faint cry for help so he swam over to help the girl. Unfortunately she had gotten up into a really precarious position and could not get down. And neither of us could reach her. Every time I tried to climb up I realized that it just wasn't going to happen. The rock face was too steep and smooth in some places and too loose in others. There were also really thorny shrubs that blocked the way and I got prickers in my hands and legs when I tried to pass. The girl was trembling with fear and fatigue. The man's wife on the boat had called for help and supposedly the rescue team was on the way but it seemed like an eternity passing and there was no sight of them. The girl was quickly getting too tired and we were seriously worried she'd give out and fall into the rough rocks about 30 feet below. Finally we heard a chopper in the distance. It came around and hovered for a while to assess the situation. It flew off to land on the beach which was out of sight to us. Lynette later told me that it landed on the beach and people went running for cover as the sand flew everywhere. One policeman got out and started around the rocks to us and the chopper flew off. When he got to us he was able to find a way over to the girl so that he could hold on to her so she wouldn't fall, but it was too difficult to get her back to safety. So we waited for the fire rescue team to arrive on land. They pulled up at the beach and several guys worked their way over to us. They climbed up to the girl and policeman and eventually worked out a strategy to get her down. Finally they gradually were able to climb back to the ledge where I had been standing and guided the girl to safety. Then it became kind of a surreal situation. I had just been in one of the most scarey situations in my life. I felt really physically and even more emotionally drained. I figured the rescue members might ask me some questions or maybe commend me for my "attempted" heroism. However, we all just stood around on this one big rock and they completely ignored me. As the still frightened girl was sitting there at their feet they made crass comments about how the chic in the bikini out on a boat was checking them out. I also expected to see a rescue boat come up to take us all back to the beach. But I was shocked when they asked the girl if she would rather have the boat come get them or if she'd be able to make the walk back along the rocks. I couldn't believe they were leaving this decision up to her. Of course she's going to say she can make it back, feeling awkward about causing more trouble for them by requesting a boat. After all the physical strain she'd been through I didn't think she should be made to navigate the rough cliff-side and waves. Not only was I worried about HER making it back, but I was worried about ME making it as well. I'd been looking forward to a boat ride back to the beach, but they all headed back on foot, and I behind them. The girl was fine, happy to be back in her mother's arms. I too finally made it back to a worried Lynette and I about had a nervous breakdown. It was not the relaxing day on the beach I was expecting but it was quite the story for the blog and for the future. It sounds unreal, but it did happen. Later Lynette and I were commenting on the chances that I would be here in New Zealand and on the beach at that moment. Pretty amazing.

Tomorrow we head back to the mainland and then on Friday we are off to Queenstown for our 5 day treck, and more adventures!

Hopefully I'll be able to find a place to upload more photos in the near future. I've got lots of good ones!

-dave

Posted by schuckley 14:57 Comments (3)

Aukland New Zealand - by Dave

(From Journal entry Jan. 11 2008)

We are now in Aukland New Zealand. We arrived last night. We didn't get too much of a good look at the city during our 35 minute bus ride to our stop because it was dark. Besides we were pretty tired and just focused on finding the hostel. Once we got off the bus we had to navigate through a few streets before we finally found it. Its right next to The White House Strip Club. But that shouldn't give you a bad image of the part of town its in. Its actually pretty nice. Our room is rather small. It reminds me of my college dorm only smaller. It does not have an air conditiner or even a fan so I am glad that it has been on the cool side. There is a TV but it only gets two channels. One had the New Zealand version of The Biggest Loser weight loss competition show and I forget what the other was. So I haven't been tempted to turn it back on. Aukland reminds me of San Francisco. There's a mixture of old and very new mondern architecture, there's a lot of harbor areas with lots of boats. And there's lots of hillsides jutting up with houses and apartments scattered across them.

(From Journal entry Jan. 11 2008)

Yesterday we went to the sky tower. On travel shows and on postcards you always see these magnificent aerial views of cities, but whenyou go there you just end up walking around surrounded by buildings and you never get to see those great birds eye views. I wanted to go to the top to see the view of the city. That's obviously why they built the thing. The neat thing about this tower is that you can pay extra to walk around outside at the top. Of course you are attached by a cable. I am extremely afraid of heights so I was not about to do this. You can also pay more to actually jump off the tower. Not a bungie jump, just a controlled slide down some cables. We got to see a couple guys do that and it looked scarey as heck. I myself had trouble just walking around inside the viewing deck behind thick glass. I kept imagining the tower swaying and pictured what seemed like the tiny stick beneath us supporting the structure. I had to stay against the wall at the center of the room and could not go by the window. But at least I went up there.

Today we walked around Ponsonby which is an area of the city where there are a lot of quirky shops and cafes and bars. We happened upon a really beautiful park with amazing views. There were some spectacular and strange trees there. One looked like it came straight out of a Dr. Seuss book. Others had huge gnarley trunks with tons of smaller trunks twisting up around it. I imagined that they came from the swamp where Yoda lived. Later we stopped by the public library. Lynette stayed inside for a while and read while I sat outside and sketched some buildings and a dude sitting on a wall.

Here you don't call the restroom a restroom or a bathroom. Its just called the "toilet." Not very subtle. Their flushers are different. They have these two buttons either on the wall or on the tank each about two and half inches diameter. You push them to flush. I haven't yet figured out the difference between the two buttons. I think one is for a full powerful flush for doody and the other a short burst for pee pee. But I'll have to ask to be sure.

Lynette read somewhere that in New Zealand the thumbs up signal means "up yours." I never realized until we came here that I give the thumbs up signal a lot. A few times when I meant to compliment someone or thank them I actually was offending them. Since then I've tried to keep my hands behind my back when talking to people.

The cars run on the left side of the road here. Which has made for some close calls when crossing the street. At some of the intersections when the walk signal lights up you are actually clear to walk across all four street corners. And all vehicle traffic stops. You can even walk diagonally across the intersection. It just looks like a big mass of people going all over the place.

There's an internet cafe just around the corner where you can get 30 minutes for a dollar and there's internet access for a little more money here at the hostel so I've been able to do some blogging to pass the time. I don't know how often I'll be able to do it at later spots. Since I'm paying for access I don't waste time with proof reading so please pardon any errors.

I'll try to post photos from New Zealand sometime in the future.

Posted by schuckley 00:23 Comments (3)

Fiji photos

-17 °C

taking a stroll
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posing on the beach
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dave being friendly with Fijian dog
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lynette having a bite at the resort
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Posted by schuckley 00:11 Comments (0)

Fiji by Dave

Bula (Hello in Fijian)

(This is my journal entry from 1-9-08)

We are in Fiji, the first destination of our journey. We arrived here this morning at 5:30 AM Fiji time after a long 11 hour flight from LA. We were originally planned to arrive yesterday but when our first flight of Cleveland to Chicago was delayed, supposedly due to fog, and we realized we'd never make our connection in LA we decided to stay another day at my parent's in cleveland. the next day we arrived back at the cleveland airport to realize that the flight to chicago was delayed yet again. This time it was due to the fact that the president was there. Needless to say we were beyond upset. I went up to the ticket counter and asked the attendant about our situation. That turned out to be a great move because it turns out the plane that was about to pull out from the gate next to ours was going to DC where we'd be able to catch a connection to LA with enough time to make our flight to Fiji. So Lynette and I rushed to make in on board in time. The pilots could be heard over walkie talkie complaining about the hold up because they were ready to pull out. (Now they now how we felt.) Thankfully we made it on board in time and were on our way. We just kept our fingers crossed that nothing else would go wrong.

The day of flights seems to blur together because it was such a long and stressful day. I don't remember much about our lay over in DC. LA I remember because of how badly organized and confusing the airport was. No directional signage whatsoever. We had to ask several people how to find the international terminal and our gate. I can't imagine how foreigners do it. I guess I'll find out when we are the foreigners in some non english speaking country.
We got there with over 2 hours before our next flight but ended up being crunched for time. Between running this way and that, waiting in lines for checkin and back check and security check, the shuttle to the gate, and navigating the crowds I was surprised we made our flight.

When we got to our plane that would take us across the pacific I was happy to find that it was one of those jumbo jets with 3 rows of seats rather than the 2 row kinds that I'd been on many times for our US flights. The one from DC to LA was too, but this was even the kind with a second floor. I wasn't even sure those really existed, as though they were just a thing made up to make airplane movies more exciting. But they are real and we even got to sit on the second floor. The flight didn't actually feel that long probably because I slept a lot on and off.

We finally arrived in Fiji. It was beautiful right off the bat. We got off the plane and walked along an elevated open air walkway into the airport. With gorgeous skies and mountain ranges all around. The car to pick us up for the hotel eventually arrived and we made our way to where we'd be staying for our night on the island. The drive was interesting. The two guys up front of the old van were friendly. They navigated the windey streets of the small neighborhoods and backroads well. Along the way they stopped once to get some hot bread, once for a bag of ice, and once to pick up some woman from the side of the road. Each time we stopped at the old buildings for one of their errands I thought, "I sure hope this isn't the place. It doesn't look like the pictures on the internet." The structures were old, rusting, dirty, falling apart, and hardly appeared to be structurally sound. hardly the Fiji getaway I imagined. Thankfully we drove on each time.

As we got deeper into the backroads they got muddier and bumpier, but the views got more spectacular. Amidst the gorgeous palm trees and fields of greenery, the mountains rose up in the distance over the plains of clear blue water. We finally arrived at our hotel which turned out, to me, to seem more of an oasis paradise, especially after our long journey. The front desk, dining area and bar are all under an open air roof structure. And above that can be seen big beautiful palm trees. Then the clear skies of intense blue and just a few billowy clouds. The small but sufficient pool is lined with recliners which are shaded by yet more sprawling palm trees. Our room is on the first floor and is small and quaint but just enough emenities for comfort. One of which being an air conditioner! The screened windows have no glass just wide wooden louvers to shut out the light. They don't shut out the pool and deck noise but we have ear plugs for that. There's live music playing here tonight that I plan to enjoy but you never know, jet lag might hit me and send me to the sack. All our meals will be taken here since its too far to go anywhere else, but that's okay because the food here is great. We've decided to just stay here for our 1 1/2 day stay instead of trying to run aournd and see all the sights. We've been doing enough running around for a while and we'll see plenty of sights later on our trip. This is a great place to just get some relaxation time and let the realization that we really did this sink in. Its hard to believe that after all the planning and excitement and thinking this trip would never come that its really begun and we are doing it.

(Please pardon any typing errors. We are paying for our internet time and I don't have time to do corrections.)

I'll post photos at a later date. - Stay tuned for more!

Posted by schuckley 12:21 Comments (0)

Photos from last days in Ohio before heading off

I thought I'd send some photos from our last days in Ohio before heading off on our round the world trip. Some are from our new Years party where we celebrated not only the new year but the beginning of our amazing journey. The other photos are from our stay at Lynette's family's farm in Bucyrus.

We are both so ready to get going on our trip. Its been a long time in the works and the excitement is building. We both have been having trouble sleeping due to the excitement and nerves.

-Dave

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pouring champagne to ring in the new year

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Dave and Lynette pose for pictures wearing their travel backpacks.

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dave and Lynette show off their fancy medical kit that they plan to take on their world travels. It even has a syringe for handy injections!

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Here Lynette and Dave toast to the new year by samplying some fine champagne.

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Here Dave is christening the map that the family will be following them along on by putting in the very first pins representing their stay in Ohio.

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Lynette and her dad get stuck in a ditch while on a joy ride.

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Lynette claims the snowy fields as her territory.

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Blair Witch Part II -Stranded in the snowy woods, Lynette and Dave fear for their lives.

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Dave takes time out of his hike in the blizzard to take some pictures for his adoring fans.

Posted by schuckley 13:11 Comments (0)

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