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Last stop – Christchurch, my home for 13 years. I knew it was going to be different; the earthquakes took care of that.

Anyway, took a bus up from Dunedin; that meant we had traveled by plane, train, bus, boat, taxi and private cars. The only thing missing was a horse. Arrived to a meal of goat stew (I am sure there is a more flattering name) put on by long-time friends Dave and Shona. Great night of conversation with them & their sons, Gavin and Evan.

First full day was spent in central Christchurch, or what you could see of it. After almost two years since the last big quake the city still looks like a war zone. When you see half of the Christchurch Cathedral gone, it reminds one of pictures of bombed-out cities in World War II.

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Christchurch Cathedral, November 2012

Heartbreaking for sure (the Bohemian ran out of words) but knowing Cantabrians, they will put it right in style.

From the central city, where they were tearing things down, to the Art Centre (the old University of Canterbury)  one immediately saw the difference as all of a sudden, renovations were in full swing. Very uplifting! We had lunch at a makeshift cafe’ across the street from the Art Centre, enjoying a panini and coffee, when I made the statement, “Those damn seagulls seem to have found a new place to bother people other than the Square.”Well, three seconds later, “”plop”” and a big white blob hit me square in the shoulder. Should keep my mouth shut.

A two hour wander through Hagley Park and the Christchurch Botanical Gardens seemed to be 10 years back in time: Mrs Bohemian and I could not see any evidence of the power of the earthquakes. We could only see the beauty of the rose garden and memories of weddings, concerts and leisurely walks through nature’s finest.

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Entrance to the Rose Garden in the Christchurch Botanical Gardens

One of the most enjoyable days we had was catching up with my nieces Jenny and Rose, both of whom overcame incredible odds to become mothers. You could see this in their faces, especially Rose, who was still pregnant at the time; she hadn’t yet had the true joy of motherhood (i.e. early morning, upset stomachs, etc.). But young Pippin has arrived and I am sure Lynda, the now three-time grandmother, is beaming. Oh yes, in order to see Rose, I had to get the courage up to revert to driving on the right-hand side of the road. Mission accomplished.

The rest of our time was spent catching up with old workmates Kelvin and Paul at the Boatshed Bar, a barbeque with the Clarke and Vuleta families, seeing the destruction caused by the ‘quake in Sumner, and a trip to my old haunt (ex-Merrin Street Tavern). By luck of the draw got to dine on domesticated venison and monkfish.

But, our journey had to end. Up at 6 am, fly to Auckland, long haul to Tahiti, even longer haul to Los Angeles. Both Mrs. Bohemian and I had really had enough by the time we got back to Denver, but at least we arrived to unseasonably warm weather.  So with our weary bodies, we got back to our quiet little lives, ready to plan the next excursion.

Home to New Zealand

Ah, New Zealand, Aotearoa, Land of the Long White Cloud. Land of the greatest rugby, the best beer, amazing wines, (check Black Mac and anything from Waipara) and, quite possibly, the most breathtaking scenery anywhere in the world.

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The Bohemian & Kees, Achilles Point, Auckland

First stop was Auckland, where we were graciously hosted by old friends Cheryl and Kees. This meeting with them was yet another in a long line of meetings stretching from Honolulu, Hawaii to Thurso, Scotland; from San Diego to Paris. And of course there were the afternoon visits to the casino in Surfer’s Paradise and Kees taking Kent to the red light district of Amsterdam (it was to check out the oldest pub in Amsterdam, honest).

We had a relaxing first night having dinner with Cheryl, Kees, their daughter Heidi, and her husband Steve. The next day saw us driving to St Heliers Bay, having morning coffee at Mission Bay and lunch at the Viaduct Basin. While having lunch, Kees checked the news and found out that Mount Tongariro had erupted on the North Island and airports were being closed. Luckily the cloud blew out to the east and didn’t affect our plans. To finish out the day we had an impromptu dining experience at a pub in Browns Bay consisting of mussels, ribs, and a spot of Pinot Noir. Mrs Bohemian did get in some shopping before flight time the next day, and Kees introduced us to Kathmandu thermal wear.

And it turned out those Kathmandu products were needed as our next stop was Dunedin, home of our extended family members June and Bill. What a contrast there is between Dunedin and Auckland. Temperatures were much lower, populations much, much lower, and Speights reigns as the king of beer down south. But the hospitality was just as good and the 4 or 5 days we were there we had a blast. We visited Larnach’s Castle, a true asset to Otago; we toured the Cadbury Factory and left loaded with chocolate. There was a backyard barbeque, drinks at cousin Vicki’s place with it’s spectacular view of the Otago coastline, and a drive up Baldwin St and back downnnnn, the steepest residential street in the world. Mrs Bohemian also got to try her hand at indoor bowls; I’m glad we quit when we did because she was catching up to me fast. Oh yes, I did get to watch the All Blacks live on TV; I do miss my New Zealand rugby.

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Mrs  Bohemian at Larnach’s Castle, Otago, New Zealand

And so it ended, and all too soon. After a quick visit to cousin Donna’s new place in Brighton, and a couple of short visits with the ever-busy Shiree, it was time to board the bus up to Christchurch. It was a great stay, but next time we go to Dunedin, it is going to be in February. What the natives in Dunedin call good weather leaves us heat-loving softies scratching our heads.

BACK TO THE ANTIPODES

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Bohemian & Samara           Reasons for going to Australia

Here we are in Australia, land of the best seafood in the world (check Moreton Bay bugs & barramundi), the best sports fans in the world, and it has the bonus of my daughter, Kari, and her family living there.

Of course, standing in line at the immigration desk of Coolangatta Airport, Mrs Bohemian says, “That guy looks like Bert.”

Says I, “Yeah, right.”

“No, it really looks like him.”

I glance over and, “…it is Bert!!!”

Bert and his wife, Diane, are some of our best friends from New Zealand, and what a chance meeting as they had just arrived as well.

The stop in “Oz” was mostly to catch up with Kari, her husband Mohamed, and the grand kids. And it wasn’t hard to focus on that. The little one, Samara, had a habit of charging into the bathroom in the middle of shower time, slamming the door shut, and announcing “It’s just me.!” You have to love it when you remember she was 1 lb 8 oz at birth. And how great it was to see the  princess, Amira, performing for us with the saxophone, and displaying her skill with her drama club? Priceless. Of course, we can’t forget Karim. He is the one who can beat the heck out of both of us at virtually every video game, and, trust me, he can wear you down with shopping for a birthday present.

So, what did Mrs Bohemian and I do  for tourist-type activities? Well, not a lot because there were more important things to do. But we did visit the Currumbin  Wildlife Sanctuary which has, among other things, the best predatory bird show I have seen. Have you ever had an eagle fly within six inches of your head? Or petted a kangaroo? Or seen a cassowary? Plus it was six hours of exercise and time with the kids.

Other than that, if it wasn’t enough, there was my daughter’s amazing coconut shrimp, toasting marshmallows over an open fire, and an afternoon with Mohamed’s family. Did find time to enjoy an occasional relaxing glass of shiraz on the patio.

Australia is such an amazing place, with amazing people. I have been there about a dozen times and never tire of the Australian attitude or their weather. Maybe my first tattoo will be a Southern Star. Then again, maybe not, Mrs Bohemian wouldn’t approve.

Stage One, Tahiti

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Le Meridien, Tahiti              The Bohemians in Moorea

Tahiti!!! Was two days enough? No.  Was it beautiful, exotic and relaxing? Most definitely yes. And we discovered it immediately after we woke up that first morning when we looked out of our window at Le Meridien to see a beautiful pool and, twenty yards beyond that, an inviting beach.

With only two full days to enjoy ourselves what could we do while keeping in mind relaxation is the reason behind most of our vacations? Well, we relaxed on the beach, did some shopping at a “centre commerciale” near the resort, wandered in Papeete to see the markets. Unfortunately, the markets were closing up when we arrived, but never fear, Mrs Bohemian found a nice shop where we purchased a beautiful black pearl. We did find time to catch the catamaran to Moorea, which was fun, but I did discover that if your are going to Moorea, you need a plan on what you are going to do. To the rescue comes Elizabeth, a taxi-driving native Moorean of Swiss descent. She took us to Maharepa (running commentary the whole trip) for a few hours of shopping, wandering around, and a tuna quiche for Mr Bohemian. We did stop at a resort hotel on the outskirts of Maharepa for an afternoon drink and discovered one of the local beers, Hinari, is quite good.

Highlights of our stay? Well, dinner at the Le Carre restaurant was one. Beautiful food, dining “en plein air” in one of the most serene settings you could imagine, and a great bottle of COTE DU RHONE. Of course, this happened one night after our reservation was washed out when a thunderstorm struck and flooded the restaurant. Perils of visiting during rainy season.  Then there was the crab making its way across the departure lounge at the airport on its way to who knows where. But most of all, it was the realization that here we were, in Tahiti, together, relaxing with a cappuccino or a glass of wine, and it doesn’t get any better than that.

Now, on to Australia and the GRANDKIDS.

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To our Southern Hemisphere family and friends, no shrimp

on the barbie or Christmas dinner at the beach,

but we got our white Christmas. A Merry Christmas and

Happy New Year from the Bohemians.

On Our Way

DSCN0033Mr and Mrs Bohemian at LAX

   The day of departure has arrived for our Southern Hemisphere trek, and just in time as there is snow and ice on the ground here in Denver. Up at 5am, Super Shuttle arrived on time; what was better was that not only did we have to make only one stop after our pick up, but found out the flight was only half-full. Great for travelers, probably not so much for Southwest Airlines. Then to top it off, after our arrival in Los Angeles, we caught check-in for Air Tahiti Nui just before they took off for a break so we got rid of our luggage early.

   Enough time for a leisurely lunch and a visit to the Bob Hope USO (appropriate for Veterans Day). I tell you what, the USO does an amazing job for our troops, both active and retired. During my 22 years in the Navy I had experiences with USO’s in Chicago, San Francisco, Minneapolis, and elsewhere, and they have provided me with showers, a place to sleep, diapers for my daughter, and always, always donuts.

   Late afternoon saw us boarding our plane. I ended up sleeping for about 3 of the approximate 5 hours of flight time between Los Angeles and Papeete, and poor Mrs Bohemian, who can’t sleep on airplanes, had a seat in which the television didn’t work. Arrived in Papeete to the greetings from one singer and two ukelele players (it was late), and to 80 degrees of beautiful, balmy weather.  On to customs/immigration along with a huge film crew from the Amazing Race. But we had looked ahead and had a private shuttle waiting to take us to the Le Meridien resort.

   The room looked quite nice, even nicer after we found out the room key doubled as a light switch. One other thing we weren’t expecting: the alarm clock worked fine, but the alarm was something akin to white noise. Not sure what that was all about. Anyway, we were in Tahiti, tired, happy, and looking forward to the next couple of days.

Getting Along

I was thinking a bit on the subject of how the last 6 years of Congress and, more recently, the election campaign, seem to have an agenda of dividing the country into these groupings that apparently cannot exist on a cooperative basis. But wait a minute, that cannot be true otherwise the United States would have splintered long ago. Then I recalled my wedding to Mrs Bohemian and it struck me that maybe the running of our country should be a family affair.

At our wedding we had Roman Catholics, Evangelical Lutherans, Muslims, Jews, Southern Baptists, Mormons, and who knows what else, and guess what? They all got along. We had midwest conservatives, southern democrats, and swing state independents: all worked together to produce a wedding that celebrated not only marriage, but family. And while there were people from all over the U.S. and from Australia, every single one of the people there would, and have, helped out any one of us in time of need. They didn’t ignore the 47% who may have had a different lifestyle from themselves, or who may have made more money than the rest of us.

So, members of Congress, while you say right now that because this is a lame duck Congress that there might be a chance to push through legislation to avoid the “fiscal cliff”, that is not good enough. It should have started in 2008, or 2010, or prior to the elections this year. Take some lessons from those of us who have managed to get along with our lives despite having our differences in politics, or sport, or religion, or any number of things, and did so in a spirit of cooperation, friendship, and yes, even a little love.

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The True Amateurs Anthem

As anyone who knows me, I have been a sports junkie ever since the day my grandmother taught me the joys of listening to the Twins on KLPM radio. I played baseball all my youth (the league’s worst 3rd baseman in 1971), was a 145 pound defensive end in high school, won a bowling championship in Hawaii, and finished 10 minutes behind a pregnant Liz McColgan in a 10k run in Dundee, Scotland. And it all led to this….

FAR THE SUPERSTAR

O’ I have known the thrill of game

The curveball and the green to tame;

But yet I haven’t found my niche

In worlds that make the others rich.

 

I loved the diamond and dugout

But in the skill I did strike out.

And in the hoops was much the story

Lots of effort and little glory.

 

I played gridiron for three long years

Tho’ never heard those longed for cheers

For touchdown runs and opponents rocked,

Because of my ability my fame was blocked.

 

I tried the mile and wrestling mat;

Only defeats they did begat.

Yet never worry, there’s more to the story

Two to effort and nil to glory.

 

I enjoy a round of holes eighteen,

Tho’  my opponents have never seen

The pars and birdies go rolling in,

Or my ball straight at the pin.

 

Many an hour of throwing darts

To try and make the ranking charts;

Same old story in sports ‘boratory:

A ton of effort but still no glory.

 

Attempts to play the game of cricket;

Flat bat and slips were not the ticket.

Nor was soccer, the worldwide game,

Not even short-lived or local fame.

 

Bowling, chess and eight ball pool,

Only to learn the hard knocks school;

And to add to the inventory,

A gold for effort but nuts for glory.

 

Then to the distance running game

To try to turn my shame to fame.

A plodder I could be called best

Despite the sweat that drenched my vest.

 

Always team player, support to lend

Because on my skill they could not depend

To carry the squad on my shoulders

More like a sack of granite boulders.

 

So yet it goes: not fast enough,

Reactions slow, forms too rough,

The eyes not keen, too tall, too short

To make a mark in world of sport.

 

KK

Roamin’ Through Wyomin’

Road trips are part of the Bohemians lifestyle, and Wyoming has given us a lot of joy these past almost ten years. And sorry, national parks people, we haven’t made it to Yellowstone or Grand Teton during that time frame. But there is plenty of Wyoming to go around.

First and foremost in our mind is the breathtaking beauty of the Wind River Canyon; it was such a shock to our system coming off the high plains down into the gorge that we never got a picture to prove our point. But it was amazing, and then following the canyon one arrives at Thermopolis, the prettiest town/city in all of Wyoming. There is the rugged, almost unspoiled beauty of the Bighorn Mountains. It doesn’t last as long as, say, the Rocky Mountains, but try driving through them with a failing water pump. And if nature is your thing, try the area east of Kaycee; it appears Mother Nature won the battle between her and civilization, and it is truly the place where “…the deer and the antelope play.”

There are plenty of forts to visit under both state and national site banners. Fort Phil Kearny was an important post in the fight to control the Powder River area, and one can easily imagine a young cavalry officer charging out of the fort, over the hills, and into an ambush, which is exactly what happened to young Captain Fetterman. They named a fort after this young man, but what I noticed about Fort Fetterman was that it must have been fun getting water from the Platte River up there as the fort sits on a bluff. Going southeast from Douglas and Fort Fetterman you can arrive at Fort Laramie, certainly the most well-known of the Wyoming forts and the most well-preserved/reconstructed. Very well kept buildings, a general store with great root beer, and a peaceful, calming feel about the whole area.

We used to like to go up to Casper to see the Casper Rockies, a minor league baseball team, but they have now moved on to Grand Junction, Colorado. Too bad because it was a nice setting with great in-game events such as the Beer Batter, frozen t-shirt contests, and giveaways of pizza and bouquets of flowers. Seeing Devil’s Tower in the rain was an experience, especially as Mrs Bohemian talked me into walking around this natural wonder. Great places to stay in Wyoming also, especially the Hotel Irma in Cody. We drove up there for the sole purpose of spending the night in this historic hotel. There used to be places to avoid at all costs, such as rush hour traffic in Gillette (trust me, it was bad), but all in all there are a lot of things to see and do in this great state.

Mrs Bohemian at a wet Devil’s Tower

We do have to get up to see Teton and Yellowstone, but their size and scope lead that to individual blogs. Hope to be doing that soon.

Sports can make you laugh or make you cry. Consider the Colorado Rockies, who are having a terrible year. What makes it worse is that 8 of their last 10 losses have been by one run.

 

Mrs Bohemian bought me a new alarm clock for my retirement. It has three buttons: On, Off, and Go Back to Sleep.

 

Please, Mr Romney, don’t tell us again how you balanced the budget in Massachusetts; IT WAS THE LAW!!! And while on politics, maybe we should enact legislation that takes 10% of the money raised by politicians for their campaigns and donate it to Social Security. Solvency issue cleared up.

 

Really, really looking forward to our upcoming journey. Beach time in Tahiti, dark beer in New Zealand, and Moreton Bay bugs in Australia.

 

Since I’m hone so much now, I really have to watch it or Mrs Bohemian is going to erase all my Reckless Kelly music. She has already put a ban on the Guttersnipe song.

 

Acupuncture is great, especially for tendinitis.

 

Not too many people go running at noon around here; is it unhealthy or something? Maybe that is why all these organized runs start so damn early.

 

If I wasn’t retired, I wouldn’t be writing this. Have a great day.

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