Monday, 13 June 2016

Back Home and In Transit

Monday 31st May to Saturday 11th June 2016

We landed about 6:45am and were pretty tired but not overly so.

One of the good things about landing in Birmingham or Manchester or , well just about anywhere other than Heathrow, is that it is far quicker to get through Border Control (immigrations, Passport Control – all of that stuff), simply because there are fewer and smaller planes arriving there.

We were through very quickly, got the cases, quick shuttle to Birmingham International Station, train back to Rugby and then a taxi to Barby Marina – we were back on the boat by 8:30am.
We had decided to leave the boat at Barby because we knew people who were moored here; we met people over the last few months who had good things to say about it (despite other things we had heard from a few years ago) and the storage mooring only cost £100 for the month.
I have to say that coming back here and not having any problems, we were very happy and will certainly use Barby again.

We didn’t want to waste any time and wanted to be under way quickly, so after watering up we were heading out by 10am towards Rugby, where we needed to restock a ravenous fridge and freezer.
Diane also needed to head down to Watford for a doctors appointment and her prescription drug replenishment.
This time allowed us the chance to reconnect with the boat – we are sure that she must have missed us but she seemed gald to have us back and we were glad to be back with her.

Having taken up most of the week with all of this, it was time to get some cruising underway and some miles behind us - our mission before we returned was to go south towards the Thames to meet up with Sue and Andy (Festina Lente) and also with Bev and Roly (Klara) – later on we would be caught by Dot and Gordon (Ewn Ha Cul).
We managed to take a new circular walk from Bridge 98 into Braunston, taking
in some different views...

...with more livestock...

...and different buildings

Having traversed the Oxford (South) Canal just the once prior to this, we were interested to see some other locations that we only had a brief chance to see last year, to spend less time in those places that we had seen in detail – our eye was on the end of the journey, not so much on the transition.
Passing Napton, it was a big misty making it just a bit harder to see the Windmill
This is a lovely canal – very rural in its content and very varied in its coverage – I need my internet and there are too many areas where it was less than sufficient, so a few longer days of cruising ensued whilst we found it.
Yep, that's where we are

As I said some lovely rural scenes

And old buildings

You deserve another photo of this folly

These guys were off to the pub for a Sunday lunch - they fancied the roast beef
One place on our list to look at more closely was Cropedy – we had only the chance to pass through last year – something to do with music festival – this year it was much less busy.
Although the internet signals were acceptable (on the low side), Diane was seeking TV reception to be able to complete the viewing of the French Open, to wit, seeing if Murray could manage another major – alas, there was no TV reception, but we found a pub which very kindly switched on the TV and we could see the match – we started as the only viewers but once people found out it was on, the bar area was a bit of a standing room-only affair as they abandoned the sunny beer garden.
This one is for Sue (No Problem XL) - by Somerton Deep Lock
We got a bit of maintenance in - Diane has managed to sand and prime the gunwhales
Further along we had an overnight in Banbury and also in Thrupp – alas, there was no Maffi Oxford there, and we were the poorer for the lack of his charm and company.
After the painting, came the cutting and polishing - here
is the end result of her efforts - Ferndale is looking pretty
good again.
After that it was a normal day of cruising and we were out onto the Thames and the wide open waters and the depth as well was a welcome change and all of us – Diane, me and Ferndale were enjoying the freedom.

The only negative about this last part was the inconsiderate moorers around Duke’s Lock – moored in places that make it damn near impossible to get through – glad to see that the Oxford Council and CaRT are trying to do something to move them along.
It really is becoming a safety issue and these people do not see it – they concern themselves with what suits them and have a flagrant disregard and disrespect of other waterway users.

There – that was the rant!!

We carried on for a few miles before finally settling on a place to moor which was above Pinkhill Lock and just alongside the Farmoor Reservoir.

It is so peaceful and lovely here with barely a sound – well, except for the guy on the tractor who was mowing the grass on the incline up to the reservoir itself – but after he finished at about 9pm, it was peaceful and quiet.
One for our daughter Sam - there is a boat here for you!

And one for Dot - hey that can cover both my favourite mother-in-law and our
lovely friend Dorothea

I see that another football competition has started and the plans of domination by the English side have taken a bit of a dent; the upside, of course, is that Wales are on top of the group.

I think that there has become a consistency in our tendencies for a drink - here
at The Boathouse in Braunston... at the Boat Inn in Thrupp

59 Miles, 43 Locks, 5 Lift Bridges
YTD:  262 Miles (422 km) , 205 Locks, 4 Tunnels, 5 Lift Bridges, 3 Swing Bridges
Total: 4057 Miles (6529 km), 2904 Locks, 116 Tunnels, 50 Lift Bridges, 170 Swing Bridges

Friday, 10 June 2016

Diane does Dallas

Thursday 26th May to Sunday 29th May 2016

Having been to Dallas before we knew a bit more of what to do – first up catch the blue bus to the hire car centre and within 20 minutes of walking out of the arrival area we were driving off out of the garage and onto the freeway.
Our last trip was a bit disastrous, we ended up heading towards Fort Worth – this time with maps at hand we arrived at the hotel within 30 minutes – almost downtown Dallas.

We managed to settle in and have a bit of a relaxation before heading across the road for a bite to eat – the problem with so much air travel is that the diet takes a back seat to convenience and that cannot be good.
All we needed was a lovely serving of potato and cream soup and a toasted cheese sandwich – probably not on the higher part of the list of most nutritious of meals but it hit the spot.
Diane managed a couple of pancakes as well – she seems to be enjoying the American diet.

Not only is the air travel upsetting our diet but even on short trips we are feeling the tiredness setting in – just having to make sure that we are in time for the flight means that we arrive way too early.

Our first night in Dallas we be having dinner with Sara’s mum Dede and her husband Faan (an ex-South African, who at least knows about cricket), Sara’s uncles Dean and Jim – we have all met before and they are really great people and we desperately wanted to catch with them all again.
from left: Jim, Dean, Diane and Dede
We met at Dean and Jim’s and then drove over to the restaurant, Dunstan’s, which was a little way away – a lovely Italian place which served really great food.
We had a lovely evening which really was way too short but time constraints made it difficult to arrange to be able to get together and we were so pleased that they all found the time.

Friday was a bit of a free day for us, and so we enjoyed a bit of an extended sleep-in; but not too late to miss breakfast, which in most places (well, all places) is heavily on the American-style and we would be surprised if it wasn’t.
The weather overnight had been pretty grim – it had rained most of it and in the morning it was still coming down a bit; so we had no early plans to go out in it, although we thought that a visit to Fort Worth would be good – we had been before but wanted to see a bit more.
Diane also had more food on her mind and fancied a visit to a seafood restaurant that is a favourite of Sara’s as well as Dean’s and where we had been the last time in town.
It is called Lefty’s, apparently because when they first started up they used to buy the lobsters and crabs that only had one claw and weren’t good enough to sell for the big bucks – this kept their costs down and therefore their prices – so that they could build the business.
Ready for lunch at Lefty's...
Anyway, we had the lobster bisque as a starter (sensational, just like the last time) and then we tried different seafood pasta dishes – at the end of it we could hardly move with the quantity and it was all superb both for taste and price.

...and not disappointed either

The rain had stopped by the time we came out, so the drive to Fort Worth was in sunshine – we still managed to find traffic but also managed to find our way out of it. Fort Worth is about 50kms west of Dallas and still retains it’s cowboy image, so the place to visit are the historical Stockyards where there are plenty of cowboy themed places to spend your money as well as plenty of restaurants (mainly steakhouses) – after the lunch that we had just had, food was not on our mind, but seeing all of the places was.
Very much a bit of a tourist mecca, but you will see so many
people walking around in the full gear

Something that we would all recognise from watching TV in our
childhood - no sign of John Wayne at all

We also managed to see the cattle drive down the street – just for the tourists, these days – but it was along a street lined with parked cars and the guys in the saddles did a good job of preventing a stray longhorn veering and damaging any of the vehicles.
Just taking a stroll with the livestock...

...just down the main street - as you do

the quinessential Texas Longhorn

This is the start of the Memorial Day long weekend in America – a rememberance of fallen military personnel from all wars in which the US was involved – similar to our Anzac Day and on the same level of observance.
We have been impressed with the high regard in which all military personnel are held in America and acknowledgement of the service that they are asked to perform (whether they think it right or not, they do their duty).

Back to town and we encountered all of the people trying to make an early start for the weekend – so a little bit more traffic on the road.
With so many roads, flyover roads amd more, it should
have been less congested. This is one of the smaller
Saturday turned out to be the best day, by far. The sun was out early and it stayed out all day. We had plans and arrangements to catch up with Sara’s dad Mike – he is one hell of a nice guy (pretty much just like me!!).
Over a coffee, he mapped out the day that he had planned for us – it was a tour of the north section of greater Dallas – primarily around where he and the family had lived in the Dallas area.
So we saw the schools and house of Sara and the boys younger days – it is amazing that every decent sized high school starts with the football field and stadium and then decides on what else should go into building up a school – only kidding, but the football stadium holds 19,000 people every Friday night and cost $60 million – Football is big in Texas.
Mike is involved in commercial real estate so were visited a couple of things that he is doing at the moment – some great stuff happening there.
Mitch loves this place in Allen, Texas and with a name like that, why
wouldn't he. Anyway this is Mike with Diane

Diane has a fascination with American school buses and
when we saw some in the school parking lot - and open -
well she was like a kid in a candy shop

Got to sit in the driver's seat as well

Mike showed us around his local town centre of McKinney, which to me was exactly like we have seen on so many shows over the years of a medium sized town in America, not the big cities, but just like any town.
There was a large central area around the courthouse, which used to house the prison in the basement.
Lots of small businesses - this is the type of America that I would like to see more of and whilst they might appear all too similar, they have their on special characteristics - really loved being able to do what we did. 
Thanks Mike.
The central courthouse

Spotted this old ambulance - I recognise it from older TV shows, but these days
it is being used as a hearse

It must mean something different in America and is simply the name of a shop,
but could resist a bit of a chuckle at this sign

It is a great thing for us to be able to meet and enjoy the company of Sara’s whole family and to have them respond to us in the same manner – it is really like having another family – at least being part of another family and we are genuinely happy to see them all.
If you thought that the TV show Dallas wasn't filmed around here - WRONG!
Here is the front entrance ...

...and the long drive...

...and the homestead itself.

We had such a great 3 days in Dallas; we will be looking forward to the next time that we can visit there and hopefully being able to see them in either the UK or in Melbourne.

But it was time for us to say farewell to the US for this trip and fly back to the UK – if only at least for me to get back to work and pay off the credit card.
As we have done on the boat for so long, we looked at the weather reports for our last morning – Sunday – rain and very likely thunderstorms – don’t like the sound of that so best to get going early, return the car and sit it out.

It was not ridiculously early and we did decide to have breakfast at the airport and the plane was on time. The first flight was a quick 3-hour flight to Newark to then connect with the flight home (overnight) – the first was on time; the second left a little late but we arrived about 15 minutes early into Birmingham…just a little tired.