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New Zealand Trip Day 29 – Aussie Bonus Round

Twenty-eight days of getting up when we’ve felt like it. You know the vacation is over when you have to set an alarm at 4:20am in order to get the airport in time to go home. Thanks to the restrictions of traveling on frequent flyer miles we were stuck with an abysmal schedule for the flight home. There had been no flights available from Auckland to L.A., but when we booked the trip there was a flight from Sydney, Australia to L.A. That meant we had to BUY tickets from Auckland to Sydney and get there early enough to catch the flight to L.A.

How would you like to get home? Oh, I don’t know. How about we fly 3 1/2 hours, mostly in the wrong direction so we can turn a miserable 12 hour flight into a more miserable, err… lovely 14 hour flight. But let’s make sure we have to get up reeeeally early to make it all work. We got to the Auckland Airport at 5am.

It was the best we could do.

We had a great flight on Air New Zealand to Sydney. I go to watch Crazy Heart on the personal entertainment system and they served a decent breakfast.

Thus begins the six hour layover in Australia. But there is a method to our madness. To maximize our productivity we booked a gig with my band: Jonny and the Abos. (More on that later).

What would you do with six hours in Sydney if you’d never been to Australia, let alone Sydney. That was the question Brenda and I faced.

It was too early to check in our bags for the flight to L.A. and we sure as heck didn’t want to haul them around with us, so the first order of business was to find a safe place to stow our bags. That only took $28 to solve. Then we had to find transportation into the city from the airport. Fortunately there’s the AirportLink – train service and only 18 minutes to Circular Quay. All it takes is money. Wait a second! How much time do we have? Playing it safe, about 90 minutes in town? The meter on this little sojourn is going to run at more than a dollar a minute. Ouch!

Ah, who cares. When will we ever get a chance to do this? Who knows? What else is money good for anyway?

On to the train we go. We got to the quay early, before it was awash with tourists. The bad weather that had been chasing us the who trip was getting closer. Huge rainclouds boiled and darkened the skies and for this I have to apologize for the gloomy light in the photos, but again – we were doing our best.

Here is a photo of me with the famous Sydney Harbour Bridge in the background.

Here is another photo of me with the famous Sydney Opera House in the background.

As far as I could tell the only purpose of this place was for getting your photo taken in front of it. Does anything else happen here?

Here’s Brenda getting her photo taken with the Sydney Opera House.

And another of me getting even closer to the building. I was later able to pet the Sydney Opera House.

Here is further evidence that the primary purpose of this building is to get your photo taken in front of it.

We take things to a higher level! This is a photo of me taking a photo of people at the Sydney Opera House.

Then it just gets silly. Here I wear the Sydney Opera House as if it’s a Conquistador Helmet.

The Royal Botanical Gardens  are next to the Sydney Opera House. In the gardens is the Government House which used to be the New South Wales Governor’s house. It was completed in 1845, but is closed on Mondays for touring.

There was this cool tree visible through the carriage way at the Government House, so it got photographed.

The big treat for us at the Royal Botanic Gardens is a flock of Cockatoos we happened upon. This one flew by just to check US out. I liked the pretty yellow on the underside of their wings.

They are tame enough that we were able to walk up to the flock and get good photos.

As we got close two of the cockatoos began to perform the opening to “The Bugs Bunny Show” singing:

Overture, curtain, lights,
This is it, the night of nights
No more rehearsing and nursing  a part
We know every part by heart

They were a little off key, but I freaked out anyway. Too bad we didn’t have a video camera to capture it.

Brenda got this joker looking at us in a banana tree.

It started to rain and time to get back to the quay. This bird was nosing around for insects:

And here we have the Butler Bird:

There was just enough time for me to make it to my gig as leader of Jonny and the Abos. By this time a decent crowd of tourists had gathered at the quay:

We like to end our numbers with a little flourish:

Having WOWED our audience it was time to catch the train back to the airport and back to home:

Luck was certainly running out. We boarded the United Airlines flight from Sydney to L.A. In the past I always figured one airline was like another but here I learned otherwise. I’m just going to say it, “Compared to Air New Zealand, United Airlines totally sucks.” There wasn’t any empty seat on the fight. There wasn’t any personal entertainment system. We all had to watch the same movies at the same time. Most of the movies I’d seen on the flight over. The breakfast was inedible – and it’s really hard to screw up breakfast, you know? We were seated in the back row again off to the side where there were only two seats, not three so at least it was only Brenda and me there. Well, that’s true except every two hours when the movie ended and everybody got up at the same time to use the toilets, so there was a line running by our seats and the situation was made worse when one of the bathrooms broke down and was closed. It was a long sleepless flight.

On the landing, being in the back, we got to listen to two of the flight attendants gab loudly about their pathetic lack of success in romance. Dudes, not professional.

Upon landing in L.A. we had a nine hour layover to look forward to. Nine hours after already having been up all day. There was a chance we could get on as standby on an earlier flight that’d cut seven hours off that tally. Knowing our luck was failing, and having just got up a jam-packed airplane, we were not optimistic.

It took two and half hours to get through customs and back through security into the terminal for our flight home. Ridiculously understaffed at each station. The TSA line to get into the terminal was serviced by one man who had zero sense of urgency. All of us miserable travelers stood outside on an overpass, huddled behind posts to avoid the piercing cold wind in the unmoving queue. Every fifteen minutes a TSA lady would walk the line, asking if anybody had a flight in forty-five minutes. These folks were pulled out of line and serviced elsewhere. I got the distinct impression we were doomed to stand in that line until we were forty-five minutes before our flight.

But as we slowly inched to the front of the, when we were next, another worker came on shift to open another station and we were through.

Then one final burst of luck. We made the standby flight. We’d get home hours earlier. I was so tired that I fell asleep sitting upright in my chair on the flight home. That NEVER happens.

Our friend Mary picked us up at the airport. I never had got used to getting into the car on the other side and yet it felt weird getting into the car on the American side. I guess it’s kind of like when you wear a hat all day that you no longer feel the hat, but then when you take the hat off it still feels like you’re wearing a hat.

Thanks to Mary’s great service we got home around 5pm. That was 31 hours after we had arrived at Auckland Airport. Ugh.

Claire Cat was rapt to see us. I caught a second wind and tried to stay up and go to bed at a reasonable hour to adjust to the time change.

I came down with a cold at 8pm.

But if there is one last image that could sum up all of the emotions and experiences of the trip (if it were possible) it would be this video clip of Brenda and Jean:

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