We have successfully crossed the Pacific, reunited with our youngest child, burned through a week of Airbnb lodging, and successfully navigated across, over, and through Melbourne without wrecking our rental car.
That right there, my friends, is a great first week in a new country. But it gets better! Let me start from the beginning:
Day 1: March 01
Today, we put our RV, Hannah’s Honda CRV and our Ford F350 into storage. They join the “guest house”, the Trail Bay, outside of Yuma, Arizona. We are very fortunate to have this much space available to us in a single storage facility.
We picked up the rental car in Yuma last night, and this will take us to LAX for our flight tomorrow. We saved $400 on our flight purchase, as well as the cost of long term airport parking, by booking this one-way rental through Costco travel.
While working at Amazon in Fernley NV during Peak 2014, we met a lovely couple named Dan and Marlene. I tell you this now because we were lucky enough to visit with them and tour their RV lot home in Indio on our way towards Los Angeles. They have a beautiful set up, and we were able to visit for a couple of hours. This didn’t make up for bailing on them this past Peak (we were supposed to join them in Campbellsville, KY), but it was a treat!
With our flight not leaving until 10:15 pm on March 02, we head to the Hyatt Ontario for a night. My mom was nice enough to arrange this stay for us with her Hyatt points, and we really appreciate it! The room is a suite, and feels larger than our RV!
Day 2: March 02
We still have a good amount of time to kill before we catch our flight, so we sleep in and make a quick return to Costco before heading to Venice Beach. Because, why not? We walk the beach for a while, and it just don’t really do much for us. The boardwalk is quite dirty, and nothing about the beach or area is very inviting.
Looking for a place to grab a bite to eat, we see that there is a Café Gratitude in the area. This is a vegan chain that had an outlet in San Rafael years ago that we would treat ourselves to when in the area for soccer. They are known for being accommodating of special dietary requests, and they offered a vegan-no oil option for David. The meal price was pretty high, but we guess this is just getting us primed for vacation expenses.
Once at the airport, we had a very smooth transition of rental car return, luggage check (one bag each, thank you very much!) and then we watch our plane join us at the gate.
Day 3: March 04
Where did March 03 go? Well, during that 16 or so hour flight, we crossed the International Date Line, so March 03 just didn’t happen for us this year. What did happen? A few movies: The Danish Girl, The Big Short, and part of Carol. Also, a vegan dinner, snack, breakfast, exit row seats in the middle of the plane that allowed us to stand at our seats and stretch, and the friendliest flight crew I have ever experienced. It was a pleasure to fly Qantas.
Upon landing, we had a bit of trouble getting our rental car. The reservation was through Hotwire, with Alamo. But once at the rental car center at the airport, Alamo was nowhere to be found. When we asked the desk attendant at Hertz, they said that we needed to take a shuttle to an offsite rental area. The man at the shuttle stop told us to take the Black Van. The driver of the Black Van phone his office to double check that they serviced Alamo, and they told him, “Yes”. So, a 15 minute ride later, we stood in an office that had no Alamo signage, and a person behind a desk who stated that no, they don’t actually handle Alamo, but that they could give us a car at the going rate. Thanks, but no. So, a shuttle ride back to the airport, and another request at another rental car agency, and they suggested “Redspot” inside the parking garage. And there, behind all of the rental car pickups, was a tiny building with the Alamo signage.
Seems like all of those episodes of “Amazing Race” have not made me any more aware of particular traveling pitfalls. But I digress. A show of hands for those of you who knew that rental cars in Australia have a $4,000 deductible – payable immediately – upon incident or if any ding, scratch, damage is discovered upon return. I didn’t think so. Just to let you know, I will have major anxiety the entire week I have this car! As if having to drive on the other side of the road, from the other side of the car isn’t bad enough. My biggest hurdle, truth be told, is to not turn on the windshield wiper every time I mean to use the turn indicator. Nothing says, “rookie” like the wipers going off as one goes to make a right hand turn on a beautiful sunny day!
Even though we printed a map and directions to our Airbnb (click on the word for the link), we are lost. What should take 15 minutes takes us an hour. But, we have finally arrived, and the place is pretty close to “as advertised”. The bathroom is designer, and it includes a clothes washer, which will come in handy. There is a clothesline outside for drying. We take full advantage of the wifi, and see where the closest grocery and electronics stores are.
First off, we buy SIM cards for our phones. $60.00 AUD (Australian Dollar) = $44.27 US, and we both have 3 GB data and unlimited text and Aussie calls. Whew! Next, we head to JB HiFi for a GPS system. $149 AUD ($109.94 US) and we are now much more confident to move about! Yes, it is a crutch, but it was much easier to find than actual paper maps to purchase.
A few groceries from Woolworth’s (Woolie’s) and incredibly reasonably priced fresh produce from a market in the mall, and we are calling it a day!
Day 4 – March 05
David spent a great deal of time on a website before we left the US called Gumtree (oh, another link! Click on the word to go there!) looking at Campervans. Why? Well, it seems that many extended-stay tourists buy converted vans and use them to tour Australia. When they are finished with their tour, they sell it to the next “Backpackers”. This would enable us to have shelter and transportation in one, and is much more reasonable than the rental car and Airbnb splurge we are currently on. Today, we are looking at the first van for consideration. It is a bit more expensive than we would like, but gives us a good starting point.
The older man who is selling it has used it for 10 years to take his wife and grandkids off on weekend camping trips, but it is not outfitted to our liking. Now, we have a soccer match to attend.
It is the first match of Alamein Soccer Club in the PS4 NPLW, and after scoring 11 goals in the preseason, Hannah is looking forward to finally getting her Australia career officially going. And we are looking forward to seeing her play in person for the first time since the NCAA tournament in 2014.
The reunion with our youngest is sweet, and meeting her host family is also a treat. Hannah has a younger sister, Jess, and a younger brother, Lokie. Mom and Dad, Colleen and Alan, have given Hannah not only a home, but a support network. As for the match, it isn’t pretty. Alamein loses, and Hannah isn’t happy with her performance. She is so hard on herself! We take her grocery shopping as an excuse to hang out together, and then deposit her back with her Aussie family. And now, for a night-time drive home. Why did we choose lodging for two weeks that turns out to be over an hour away from Hannah’s house?
Day 5 – March 06
It’s all about the vans today. 4 appointments to view contenders, and we hope one of them will be a match. It doesn’t need to be a perfect match, just something that isn’t too rough or difficult to resell when we go to leave.
First, we meet two German guys at a park about 45 minutes away from us. Thank you, Navigator! Here is a picture of what they brought to us:
Alex and Sarah met us near a Costco. Since we arrived early, we decided to see the Melbourne version of our beloved Costco. Hey, they have the dates that are grown just outside of Yuma. They go for $7.99 US at home. Only $19.99 AUD/$15.00 US – That’s a healthy markup, but then again, it is a bit of a trip to get here! But this is my official Aussie Costco find:
Now, back to the van shopping! We watched this video (you got this, click on the word “video”) in the US, and so thought this would be a good van. The couple have spent the last seven months exploring Australia, and working on some of the farms. The van presented well, and is a contender!
We swing by Hannah’s and pick her up, then head back to our “house” for a 2 pm meeting with a sweet French couple. I didn’t take any pictures, but here is their ad: Antoine’s (yup – I am full of links!). It was the same type of van as the yellow one, but the kitchen set up made the back windows closed off when driving, which I did not like.
Our last appointment is at 4:00 pm along Prince Phillip Bay. We are going to see “Rusty”, so named because the ad states that the van has some rust issues. Let’s just say that this is the understatement of the week. While we are looking at this van, which is parked next to the owner’s house, her son is kicking a soccer ball which keeps hitting the side of the van! The cobwebs (inside and out), and the general feel (will it even start) makes this a 5 minute look and we are out of here!
Hannah has scoped a nice beach walk for us to do before we take her back home. Itis lovely to walk at Point Cook Coastal park:
Tonight, we will discuss the van situation. Have we seen enough? Do we need to keep looking? Do we need to travel to Syndey and see the greater selection there? What are the logistics of THAT? We have a lot to think about.
G’day from Down Under!