Sunday, September 5

Am I the only one who’s never heard of Sturgis?

The first (or was it the second?) week in August, my friends Amanda and Jeff were in Aberdeen, SD for work. Amanda has always wanted to see Mount Rushmore, so even though Aberdeen is a six-hour drive from Rapid City, she and Jeff were planning to make the drive over the weekend. They invited me to meet up with them, so I took a Saturday morning flight to Rapid City.

Jeff and Amanda picked me up from the airport and our adventure began. What I didn’t realize is that our vacation coincided with Sturgis – only the nation’s largest motorcycle rally. When my brother, Roger, heard that I was going, he was so jealous:
Roger: “You’re going to Sturgis?”
Me: “Um, no, we’re going to Rapid City.” (thinking “what is he talking about?”)
Roger: “Yeah, but for Sturgis?”
Me: “No, we’re going to Mount Rushmore and stuff.” (thinking “why else would you go to South Dakota?”)
Seriously, I have never seen so many bikers in my life. Pictures can’t even do it justice. Everywhere we went there were bikers – bikes in the parking lot, bikes on the road, and bikers at the tourist attractions. We heard on the radio that they were expecting some ridiculous number of people… like 800,000. Which doubled the population of the entire state. Crazy.

Anyway, we went from the airport to the Badlands, which was an amazing sight.

From there we went to our hotel in Deadwood… a hotel filled with, yup, you guessed it, bikers.

On Sunday, we drove to Mount Rushmore. I especially liked the sign that read, “North by Northwest was filmed here.” I kept thinking – well, duh. If you’ve seen “North by Northwest” that was a given. If you haven’t, then the sign would mean nothing to you. Mount Rushmore was quite impressive – and big! On the airplane to Rapid City, the pilot had announced at one point that you could see Mount Rushmore out of the left-side of the plane. I was, of course, on the right side. Well, the lady sitting in front of me and to the left looked out her window and said, “I expected it to be bigger. It’s pretty small.” Ah, I chuckled, but refrained from comment. The gentleman in front of me didn’t: “Well, you ARE in an airplane. It’s much bigger when you’re on the ground.” Silly lady.

What did we do on Monday? We ate breakfast at Perkin’s (which we did every morning) along with dozens and dozens of bikers. Then we went to the Deadwood cemetery where Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane are buried. I loved it. Then we drove to Devil’s Tower in Wyoming. That was also quite impressive. And, yes, each stop was FILLED with bikers. Then Amanda dropped Jeff and I off at the airport – she had to go back to Aberdeen.

Super short weekend, but packed with fun.

Tuesday, August 24

Oh Canada, eh?

For my birthday in July, a bunch of girls from work (OK, every female in the training department) went to Vancouver, BC to celebrate. Let me tell you, I LOVE an international flight that is less than two hours long.

Lisa arranged for us to stay in a house, rather than a hotel. As we arrived at the house from the airport (we rented a large SUV… large enough for all five of us), we were all a little nervous. The GPS announced that we had arrived as we pulled in front of a house that, let’s just say wasn’t what we were hoping for. I really wish someone had taken pictures. Fortunately, it wasn’t the house – this was (and it was really cute):

The house had two bedrooms, a pullout couch, and two bathrooms. We didn’t do to badly leaving the house on time with five females sharing two bathrooms.

We arrived on a Thursday evening. We didn’t do much, however, we found the BEST Greek restaurant ever. It was yummy.

Friday… let’s see, what did we do on Friday? Oh yeah. We drove to Granville Island and went to the big market over there. Had doughnuts for breakfast (with chocolate milk, of course). So healthy, I know. Then I think we just spent the day walking around Vancouver. We walked to Chinatown, saw a drug deal going down on Hastings Street, ate yummy dim sum, went up the Vancouver Lookout, then went to see Inception (great movie, by the way). Now, every time we drove from our house to Vancouver, we had to drive down Hastings Street – what a unique experience, let me say. And actually a little sad…

Steam Clock in Gastown

Granville Market

Dim Sum

On Saturday we drove to Lynn Canyon and walked across the suspension bridge. We ended up doing a little hiking, which was really awesome to do in my flip-flops – but it was a gorgeous area. We then drove to the Capilano suspension bridge, but decided that since it cost money (Lynn Canyon was free), we’d skip it. We then took the gondola up Grouse Mountain, where we had lunch and also some awesome views of Vancouver. That night we grilled steak and shrimp for my “birthday” dinner. That was one advantage of staying at a house – we got to cook at least one meal (but really, when I’m on vacation, do I want to be cooking?).

Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge

Grouse Mountain

Sunday was fantastic. We drove up the Sea to Sky highway on our way to Whistler. There were several scenic pullouts (including one fantastic waterfall). But our real goal was Whistler where I had arranged for us to go ziplining. Only Allison had ever been ziplining before, so we were all a little nervous. In fact, Amanda said something along the lines of “you get me in to the craziest crap.” But it was SOOOO much fun. I highly recommend it (and I will be doing it again).

Horseshoe Bay

Sea To Sky Highway

Shannon Falls

Monday morning started really early. We took the ferry from Vancouver to Victoria. Once in Victoria we went to Butchart Gardens (really, one of the most beautiful gardens in the world). While at the Gardens, we had an afternoon tea. Even though four out of the five of us aren’t tea drinkers (three of us had herbal tea), it was REALLY good, and it was just something we really needed to do. After the gardens, we went to visit a couple of other castles (Hatley Castle and Craigdarroch Castle – we didn’t go in to either, though). In addition to all that fun, Allison mistook a seagull for a bald eagle, and Lisa thought a deer was a goat.

Tuesday afternoon was our flight home, so we decided to take it easy. We went back to Granville, had doughnuts for breakfast again, and did some shopping. Then we just went back to the house to relax until we drove to the airport. My silly mistake of the day was that I thought that Brg. was an abbreviation for Brigadier instead of Bridge. Must be all of that Doctor Who.

We didn’t do to badly for five alpha-females. No huge fights, no tears, maybe a little bit of frustration and annoyance, but everyone had a really good time. Whew!

Sunday, August 22

80 is the new 60

I know, I’m really behind in blogging, but I’ll try to make it up to you (if you care).

In June, my mom celebrated her 80th birthday. So, to honor her, on June 26th we had a huge family reunion/open house. Of course, when you get a family together, there is always drama, right? We didn’t disappoint.

We scheduled a family dinner from 2:00 – 4:00, then an open house from 6:00 – 8:00. My brother the chef was not only in charge of the food for the dinner, but for the open house as well. As it turned out, my nephew had his Salt Lake wedding reception the night before, and my brother catered it, so we were able to use the fruit and veggies for both events. My sister-in-law’s sister-in-law (confusing enough for you?) was awesome enough to provide tablecloths, and my sister-in-law’s sister let us use the left over brownies and mini-cheesecakes. Unfortunately, I hadn’t planned on these goodies, so I had already ordered 4 cakes from Costco (and we all know how large cakes from Costco are) – one for the family dinner, three for the open house. Needless to say, we had almost all of the cakes left over.

My brother got up late on the 26th, so he had to recruit me to come help with the food preparation – thank goodness we were able to use the kitchen where he works in Orem. OK, did I mention that the family dinner was supposed to start at 2:00? Well, my brother and I arrived with the food AT 2:00 – I was still in shorts and a T-shirt, not to mention the fact that I was all sweaty from the food prep. Luckily, my mom hadn’t even arrived yet, so…

Roger and I went home where I took the fastest shower in history, and got ready. Of course we were taking pictures, so, of course, I look gross – but what are you doing to do?

So, I think the dinner finally started at 3-ish. We had the open house at the clubhouse of a housing community where my cousin lives. My sister decided that in the two hours between the dinner and the open house, family could swim at the clubhouse, or come to mom’s house (which lead to hiring cleaners to come clean the house). Since we were running on Blomquist-standard time, we didn’t have two hours between the dinner and the open house; we barely had enough time to clean up from the dinner and get ready for guest by 6:00.

All in all, it was a success! Lots of people came, and I think my mom really enjoyed it.

Wednesday, May 12

Just a slight miscalculation

In all of my research on what to do/see in New Zealand, Milford Sound kept coming up as one of the top places to visit. When I was in New Zealand last year I really wanted to get to Milford Sound, but could never fit it in. So, last Friday I finally bit the bullet and flew from Wellington (North Island) to Queenstown (South Island). To be precise, I flew from Wellington to Christchurch to Queenstown, but that's just semantics. There had been a lot of flooding in Queenstown the previous week, so I was a little nervous that I wouldn't be able to go, but I emailed the hotel and the tour company (yes, I did another tour) and I was quite pleased to learn that things were still running. I didn't even care that the weather forecast called for rain, I just wanted to be there.

The tour on Saturday was fantastic! It started really early (they picked me up at my hotel at 6:45 a.m.), but was so worth it. As opposed to my Auckland tour where I was the only one, this tour bus was completely full. But I was so happy to be there, I didn't even mind. It was about a 3-4 hour drive from Queenstown to Milford Sound, but we made several stops along the way with some great photo opportunities.

The Chasm

Mirror Lake

The drive reminded me of driving the Seward Highway in Alaska. Our driver kept preparing us for the rainy/cloudy weather we'd have. However, when we came out of the Homer tunnel (linking us to Milford Sound), there was blue sky and sunshine. Woo Hoo! I then took at 2-hour boat tour of Milford Sound, and was just stunned. The 13-hour day was, again, totally worth it.

Bowen Falls

Up close & personal at Stirling Falls

Stirling Falls (508' - FYI Niagara Falls = 176')

Tasman Sea

On a little side note - tour guides are full of information, but do you ever wonder if they just say nonsense sometimes because they think they can? Because tourists wouldn't really know any different? Just something to think about.

Second side note. Look, coughing tourist next to me, I don't care how much money you've spent on a tour, or even on a vacation. If you are hacking up a lung, do NOT get in an enclosed vehicle with 50 other people who can't escape your germs spewing all over the place. Have some consideration for others and stay at the hotel. OK, rant done.

I had to fly back to Wellington on Sunday afternoon, so I had the day very tightly scheduled. I would get up, eat breakfast, take the Skyline Gondola up the mountain to get some great views of the town. Then, hurry back to the hotel, change into a skirt, take a taxi to Sacrament Meeting, taxi back to the hotel in time for a tour on the TSS Earnslaw (a 1912 vintage steamer) across Lake Wakatipu, come back, eat lunch, go to the airport. Well, it almost worked out that way. I miscalculated how long it would take to
a. walk to the gondola
b. ride the gondola up and down (and take pictures, of course)
c. walk back to the hotel
you get the picture.

Anyway, as I was riding the gondola down the mountain I realized that I would not have time to walk back to the hotel, instead I would have to find the nearest taxi I could and go to church in my jeans. But then I had the dilemma of where to find the nearest taxi. I think Heavenly Father was watching out for me because, just as I exited the gondola building, a taxi appeared (dropping off some tourists). Perfect. After they vacated the taxi, I jumped in and gave the driver the address I found on He wasn't familiar with the address, so he asked me where I was going... a Mormon church. He still had no idea, so he got on his radio and asked all his taxi driver friends if they knew where the Mormon church was. I heard someone say "the funeral home on Frankton Rd." I was sure they just didn't know what they were talking about. The driver joked around with me about going to church at a funeral home. He thought it was hilarious. Wouldn't you know it, they were right. Funeral home during the week, LDS chapel on Sunday.

So, if I thought the congregation in Sydney was small (what did I say? about 50 people?), then this was just tiny. There were, I kid you not, 16 people in Sacrament meeting. Three were visitors (myself and a couple from Australia) and two were missionaries. So, there went my plan of being inconspicuous (that and the fact I was wearing jeans and sneakers). It was a great meeting, though. The missionaries spoke. One poor missionary (from Utah) was talking about Job, and how Job was swallowed by a whale. The branch president tugged his jacket and explained that is was Jonah who was swallowed by the whale. Poor guy! The other elder was from the North Island. His talk was amazing. But seriously, in a congregation that small, how many times a year does one have to give a talk? Anywho, since it was Mother's Day, all the sisters in the congregation of a certain age (OK, there were two female teenagers, and then five older-than-teenagers) got a jar of jam and some chocolates. The sister from Australia didn't have any children, and I didn't, but hey, we got a delicious jar of jam... and did I mention chocolates?

View of Queenstown from the Skyline Gondola

Sandbags left over from the flooding

Lake Wakatipu

TSS Earnslaw

The boat ride across the lake was beautiful. I mentioned that the weather forecast called for rain, but the weather was gorgeous - it didn't rain one single drop! It was a perfect weekend. Ah, well, back to the real world of work, and work, and work...