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The Downhill Slide…

Just a few more days until Lisa is home again.  It’s been seven weeks since she left for the states.  Bachelorhood can be tough; no kidding.  I got sick twice in the first two weeks that she was gone.   Blech.

 

Lisa and Aspen Grinning

Lisa and Aspen Grinning

But it’s the last lap, the stroke of midnight, the downhill slide…  She will fly in on Saturday, having been on the road for more than 24 hours by the time she arrives.  Come to think of it, she may not be fit to be around for a day or two…

 

She was able to see lots of friends and get lots of hugs, smiling till her cheeks hurt (as you can tell from the picture).  During her month in Texas, she got to attend our daughter Jessica’s graduation from Army Medic training in San Antonio on May 11th.  Then during her month in Colorado, she got to attend the graduation at the Air Force Academy on May 23rd.  She also managed to be there while two friends of ours, two young mothers gave birth.  Excellent timing.

 

While she was grinnin’ and huggin’, I was hanging on by my fingernails, surviving best I could.  As of today, all of her plants are still alive!  (thank you very much!)  I did have one set of visitors come for a few days to break the monotony of my bachelorhood.  Kris and Cori Niles came for a weekend visit as part of their six month journey through New Zealand, Australia, Africa and South America.  Awesome couple, awesome weekend.

 

Now I just have a few details to take care of before Lisa gets home;  groceries, laundry, cleaning, getting a perm for my chest hair…   It will be great to have her home again, and to quit trying to cook for one, although I’m not sure I would call it cooking…

Celebration!

Celebration!

 

Anyway, time to celebrate!!

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Fall in Alice Springs

It’s fall in central Australia, crisp and pleasant.  The temperature got down to 35 degrees last night, which is way chilly for this area.  Even in the middle of winter it doesn’t get below freezing very often.  And it looks like it will be a nice day, with blue skies and highs around 75.

Steve and Lisa in front of Nepenthe Winery

Steve and Lisa in front of Nepenthe Winery

On April 4th, Lisa and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary.  We can joke about the scars and the mileage (mostly the mileage), but I’m grateful that God said “That’s the girl I brought you over here to marry!” all those years ago.

Our trip to Perth in February had been our “real” anniversary trip, but we wanted to do something special to celebrate, so we took a short trip down to Adelaide on the south coast of Australia.  Adelaide is one of the closest cities to us, just a thousand miles away.  🙂

We had a gorgeous view from the balcony of our 10th floor hotel room at the Stamford Grande Hotel in Glenelg, with a beautiful beach to walk on.  Our first night there, we splurged on a wonderful seafood dinner in the hotel restaurant.  What can I say, it was “finger lickin’ good!”  (forgive me, Colonel Sanders)

Seafood Dinner at the Stamford Grand

Seafood Dinner at the Stamford Grand

While we were there, we did some shopping in the CBD (central business district) and explored the huge central market, took in a movie at a fancy theater where they serve you dinner during the movie, and went on a tour of the hills near Adelaide, including a couple of wineries and a German town named Hahndorf where we had a WONDERFUL German lunch.

Now I’m playing bachelor.  Lisa left just two and a half weeks ago for a two month trip to the states.  Her 94 year old aunt passed away, so Lisa headed back to be with family in Dallas and Waco.  On May 11th, Lisa and her sister Carla will be attending Jessica’s graduation from AIT (her Army Medic training) at Ft Sam Houston in San Antonio.  Just a couple of days after graduation, Jessica will be PCSing to Camp Vilseck, Germany which is home to the 2nd Cavalry Regiment (2CR), part of U.S. Army V Corps.  This seems to me to indicate an increased possibility of her deploying to Afghanistan.

View from 10th floor balcony of Stamford Grand Hotel

Sometime around May 15th or 16th, Lisa will head from Texas up to Colorado Springs, and will spend the rest of her “stateside” time there, returning to Australia on June 7th.  One of the highlights of her time in Colorado Springs will be attending the Air Force Academy graduation.  Will Coley, the first cadet that we sponsored, will be graduating this year.  Part of the festivities will be President Obama speaking, and an air show (which the Air Force knows how to do really well).

When it’s all said and done, I’m looking forward to my wife being home.  By then it will be the middle of winter in Alice Springs, and we can relax for a while before we start getting ready for our next trip, which will be in late August to the Great Barrier Reef.  Come join us…

The Perth Adventure, Day Six

Friday, 10 Feb. 2012.  Day six of the Perth adventure.

steve with parrots

steve with parrots

Wednesday, we woke up in Pemberton.  After getting ourselves together, dealing with the somewhat aggressive wild parrots and ducks that wanted to be fed, and checking out of the caravan park, we drove out to “the Gloucester Tree” which is a very tall Karri tree (a type of eucalyptus that grows to exceptional heights) used as a fire lookout.  It has become famous because people are allowed to climb up to the fire lookout platform almost 200 feet up.  As you can imagine, it is quite a climb.  The “ladder” is actually rebar driven into the tree like spikes and sticking out about two feet.  Lisa and I both made the climb.  It was excellent!

Steve at Gloucester Tree

Steve at Gloucester Tree

On our way out of Pemberton, we stopped at Lost Lake Vineyards, and did a wine tasting.  It’s a family operation with mom and dad (who are fifty-ish) and daughter (mid-twenties).  We were the only customers, and had a wonderful time chatting with the mom about wine and about their lives there.  They have about 50 acres, and have been there for about five years, though the vineyard itself has been there for 23 years.  She said it takes about 20 years for the vines to mature to the point where you get the best grapes.

lisa on tree top walk

lisa on tree top walk

We drove a couple of hours south to Walpole, and started our time there by doing the “Tree Top Walk” which is somewhat similar to the Gloucester Tree.  It is a metal walkway about 140 feet high that goes for over a third of a mile through the forest so you can see what it’s like to walk amongst the treetops.  The forest is made up of very tall Karri and Tingle trees.

Thursday we left Walpole and drove an hour to Denmark, where we spent some time walking on the beach, and then did lunch and another wine tasting at a vineyard called “The Lake House”.  Beautiful place, catchy name…

We drove on from Denmark to Albany, a town of 36000 people with some spectacular rugged coastline.  Our site in the caravan park where we spent the night last night is just 100 meters from a beautiful beach.  We spent 45 minutes walking the beach and collecting shells before dinner, then grilled a couple of steaks.

The Lake House Vineyard

The Lake House Vineyard

This morning we drove around the beautiful headlands of King George Sound, went through he local museum, looked at a replica of the boat the brought the first white settlers to Albany (first white settlement in western Australia), ate lunch, and came back to the caravan park to rest, swim, read.  At 5:30 we did a two hour boat trip out on King George Sound.  There were only six of us passengers and we had a great time chatting with the crew.  Part of the time we used the motors and part of the time we used just the sail.

Tomorrow we relax before we head back to Perth.

Blessings.

The Perth Adventure

Tuesday morning, 7 Feb. 2012.  Day three of the Perth adventure.

 

We flew into Perth Saturday around noon and were met by our friends Phill and Caroline.  Lisa had never met them and I had not seen them since our shared trip to Haiti two years ago.  It was good to see them.  They live in an apartment about 150 meters from the beach, with a magnificent view (nothing between them and the water but grass and sand dunes).  We had lunch at a nice restaurant overlooking the water, took a walk on the beach, sat around talking, went out for pizza, sat around talking some more…

 

Dinner with Phill and Caroline

Dinner with Phill and Caroline

Sunday Lisa and I drove four hours south to the Margaret River wine region.  Our first stop was a large well known vineyard where a friend said we “HAD” to have lunch.  It was a beautiful setting overlooking a small lake, and the lunch was fabulous.  We did a short wine tasting, ordered some wine, then headed on to the town of Margaret River where we checked into the caravan park and set up “camp” with our Britz camper/van.  Dinner was PB&J sandwiches.

 

Monday we took our time getting going, then drove an hour south to the town of Augusta and the famous Cape Leeuwin lighthouse.  <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cape_Leeuwin_Lighthouse>  Amazing.  Built in 1895, it is still a fully working lighthouse today, and almost all the structure and equipment, including the giant double lense that sends out the light, are original and still in excellent working condition.  The only major change was switching to an electric motor and an electric lamp for the light source.  We ate a late lunch at a pub in Augusta and drove to Jewel Cave.  It is an amazing limestone cavern that goes on for over a mile (the tour only accesses less than half of it).  Then we drove to the beach at Prevelly to hang out and eventually watch the sun set over the Indian Ocean.  When it came right down to it, though, the sunset was blocked by clouds on the horizon.  Oh well, it was still beautiful.  Dinner was PB&J sandwiches again.  🙂

Cows as Art

Cows as Art

Where the Indian Ocean meets the Southern Ocean

Where the Indian Ocean meets the Southern Ocean

 

Today, Tuesday, we plan on touring another cave, maybe another winery, then heading southeast a few hours to the town of Pemberton <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pemberton,_Western_Australia&gt; and the giant forests, home of the Gloucester Tree, a climbable tree about 200 feet tall.  The forests around Pemberton are similar to the redwood forests of California, made up of karri, blue gum and pine.

 

Christmas and Bootcamp

First Christmas in Australia

Christmas 2011 in Australia

Our first Christmas in Australia was quiet and good, with perhaps more than the usual mixture of sadness, thinking of John whose birthday is 23 Dec. and missing being with Jessica (who just finished bootcamp last week), as well as missing all our friends and family who are thousands of miles away.  We were glad that Jessica was able to spend Christmas at my brother’s house north of Spokane, WA.  We had some friends over on Christmas day, and after a fine meal we played Apples to Apples until we couldn’t giggle anymore.

 

Jessica successfully graduated from Army Basic Combat Training last Thursday, not only surviving but excelling (IMHO).  PTL.  Aunt Carla was there with her, for which we were grateful, although we would have loved to have been there with her ourselves.  There were enough people from her battalion (regiment? brigade?) headed to medic training at Ft. Sam Houston in San Antonio that they used a chartered flight, so she arrived in San Antonio last Friday afternoon.  She starts her 16 weeks of medic training this coming Wednesday.

Jessica in ACUs

Jessica at the conclusion of Army basic training

 

Lisa left yesterday with a young lady I work with (Cynthia) for a week in Adelaide.  Cynthia is having knee surgery and needed someone with her for the recovery period after surgery.  Lisa is one of the few people here with the flexible schedule to be able to do that kind of stuff.  I believe they are both looking forward to the trip.  They’ll be back next Friday.

 

Prior to living in Colorado, I had always had a motorcycle license, but did not have one for the 19 years we were in Colorado.  I decided to go ahead and get one again, so I went down yesterday to the Motor Vehicle Registry (MVR) building, took their riding test in the parking lot and received my learners permit.  Fortunately, training wheels are not a requirement.  And, no, I’m not planning on buying a motorcycle quite yet, but I’m not totally ruling out getting a little dirt bike for the outback at some point.

 

Borrowing a surfing analogy, may you catch the wave of the Holy Spirit in 2012 and have the ride of a lifetime.

Dust Storms and Christmas

It was 105 degrees when I got home from work today.  Warm.  Good Christmas shopping weather.  How does that Christmas carol go?  “The weather outside is frightful, but my air conditioner is so delightful…”  The “let it snow” part works for me.  Jack Frost wears Bermuda shorts when he comes down here.

Red Dust Cloud

Red Dust Cloud

As another reminder we’re not anywhere near the north pole, a huge red dust storm blew through town yesterday afternoon.  It was very impressive, but not something most people would want to be outside for.

Speaking of Christmas, the town Christmas tree lighting will be tonight.  There will be an open air market on the pedestrian mall downtown, with bands playing and Christmas carolers singing.  The temperature will probably still be in the high 90’s, so I’m not expecting any sane person to dress up in a red fur coat and pretend to be Santa Clause.  He would have to use kangaroos instead of reindeer, of course.  On a personal note, we bought a small fake Christmas tree last weekend, and did what little decorating we plan on doing.  It’s kind of cute.

We have received some letters and phone calls from our daughter Jessica, who is two-thirds of the way through Army basic training at Ft. Jackson, SC.  She had the usual complaints about lack of sleep, no time to eat, blisters on her feet, the knot-heads who do something idiotic and get the whole company in trouble, but overall she is doing well.  She has her head on straight, and we are very proud of her.  She said she is doing especially well with her marksmanship and is going to be trying to qualify as “expert” on the gun range.

Jessica at Thanksgiving dinner

Jessica at Thanksgiving dinner

Jessica will be spending two weeks in Spokane, WA with my brother and his family for Christmas before finishing basic training, then heads in late January to San Antonio, TX for her tech school (medic training).  Lisa and I will be very sad not to see her at Christmas, but Lisa hopes to be at her graduation from tech school in Texas next May.

May the goodness of God’s heart melt yours this Christmas.

Boxes and Gorges

I’m sitting out on the patio with a cappuccino (with a little chocolate dust on top).  It’s about 7:00 AM on Saturday morning.  It’s very cloudy and was sprinkling a few minutes ago.  There’s a 60% chance of rain this weekend in Alice Springs.

Lisa with moving boxes

Lisa with moving boxes

Two weeks ago we received our shipment of household goods.  Lisa, being the organized person that she is, had the whole thing unpacked and “sorted out” within a few days.  My personal focus was the arrival of the golf clubs.  I paid for a limited membership at the golf club, and then went out and reminded myself just how bad a golfer I am.  The good news is that if I keep at it, I’m bound to improve.  In fact, lessons might be in order.

This past weekend, we checked out the Alice Springs Cinema, where we saw “The Three Musketeers” with friends.  Vey lite.  We also saw a movie at the Araluen Arts Centre, which does “artsy/fartsy” films once a week (“http://www.nt.gov.au/nreta/arts/ascp/araluen/whatson/cinema.html”) where we saw “Of Gods and Men”.  Vey heavy.

Jeremiah swimming with steve on far shore

Jeremiah swimming with steve on far shore

Our friends from IAC, Shari and Jeremiah Gallagher, were here visiting with us this week.  We showed them the exciting life of “the Red Centre”.  On day one, we hit the Telegraph Station and fed the wallabies at Heavitree Gap.  Day two was the travel day, with an hour and a half drive to Glen Helen Gorge (which included a swim), a visit to Ormiston Gorge, the Ochre Pits and Flynn’s grave.  Day three was the Desert Park, the Reptile Center, shopping and dinner at the Red Ochre Grill on the Todd Mall.  We know how to show folks a good time…   🙂   Hopefully, they enjoyed their time in the outback.  Be sure and ask them about their “cappuccino walks” on the golf course.

Rather than sending a mass email everytime we put a new photo album on Picasa, I’ll just put the link in a blog entry; two birds with one stone and all that…

Album: 07 Moving Day at the Stapps

Album: 08 Trip to Glen Helen Gorge

Well, I’ve moved inside now since it started sprinkling harder, and I’m on my second cappuccino, so it’s time to sign off and wish you God’s best and God’s presence, which are the same thing.  Blessings.

Small Cars and Big Rocks

Big Rock

We have wheels.  A week ago Lisa and I bought a small white 2005 Hyundai Getz with about 52K miles on it.  It’s not much bigger than a Geo Metro.  It is an automatic with plenty of spunk, and get’s about 33 mpg.

We decided that if we were going to get out and see Ayer’s Rock (the big tourist attraction in central Australia) anytime in the next six months, we should do it sooner rather than later due to the rising temperatures and increasing flies.  So, this past weekend, Lisa and I made our first big excursion outside of Alice Springs.  We paid our money and joined a three day tour to Ayer’s Rock (Uluru), the Olgas (Kata Tjuta) and King’s Canyon.

Ayer’s Rock (Uluru) is a sandstone monolith rising 1142 feet above the surrounding plain, and probably extends more than a mile below the surface.  The Olgas are a group of 36 large domed rock formations about 15 miles from Ayer’s Rock.  King’s Canyon is about a two hour drive from Ayer’s Rock and is a deep canyon with sheer walls that are close to 1000 feet high in places.

It was a good trip.  We did our traveling in style on a big, air conditioned tour bus.  Traveling with a tour group gave us a chance to make some new friends.  Ayer’s Rock and the Olgas were both pretty incredible, but my favorite part of the trip was the four mile hike around the rim of King’s Canyon.  Lisa and I were up and out the door at 5:30 AM for the hike.  The weather was cool and cloudy, with occasional sprinkles and a sometimes blustery wind.  The scenery was magnificent.  It was a great way to get familiar with the “red Centre” of Australia.

Golf balls, parrots, and tree trimmers

THUNK.
I was standing in the kitchen and turned to look out the window in time to see a golf ball rolling toward the back gate. Fortunately it hit the wall of the house, not the window. (Time will tell if the ‘hardened glass’ really stops errant balls from the 11th tee!) Since the embarrassed golfer declined to even look in the yard, I decided to keep it as a trophy to commemorate our first week in the Alice.
First trophy

First trophy

Parrot

Parrot

The parrots make much better music than golf balls, however. I love their chatter as they look for seed pods in the iron tree just outside our gate, or rather, what’s left of it after the landscape contractors finished trimming it and the eucalyptus (also known as a gum tree). The lesson I’ve learned in dealing with the housing office is to be careful what you ask for. They have been wonderfully responsive to all my little requests. I was afraid there wouldn’t be any tree left for the birds to enjoy! No worries on that count – we have all sorts of feathered friends visiting during the day: parrots, galahs, Australian magpie-larks, crested pigeons, doves, and a number of others I haven’t been able to identify.
Hard to believe it’s been exactly two weeks since we arrived. The town is starting to feel more familiar, as is driving on the left side of the road. I hear the Aussie accent in my head all the time, although I don’t think it’s coming out of my mouth … yet …
Tomorrow (Sunday) we’ll visit another church, hopefully with our new friends Benton and Christina. Looking forward to the time the Lord tells us where to settle in, but we are enjoying this time of transition.
Love to you all and many thanks for your love and friendship and for taking the time to read about our wanderings!
-Lisa

The Rain Came

We have completed our first week in Alice Springs.  One thing I noticed is more variety in the weather than I expected.  Thursday morning between 4:00 and 4:30 I heard some rumbling.  At first I thought “that sounds like thunder.”  Then I thought, “nahhh…  This is the desert; we won’t get any rain here until Thanksgiving.”  Oops.  It dumped on us.  Good thing my ever prepared wife provided me with an umbrella.  🙂  The last couple of mornings have been cool enough to want a coat.  Next weekend the forecast calls for highs in the 90s.  Variety is a good thing.

Last night we went downtown to buy groceries.  As we were walking back to the car, we stumbled across a parade starting down the pedestrian shopping area known as the Todd Mall.  What a hoot.  It was signifying the beginning of a week of cultural “artsy fartsy” stuff going on in town, and was very entertaining.  It included a brass band, dance groups, groups of children, characters in costumes, unicycles, stilts, etc.

We managed to get our Australian drivers licenses last week.  Today we head out to look at patio furniture, grills, TVs and maybe even cars if we have enough motivation.

Peace.

Steve and Lisa Overlooking Alice Springs

Steve and Lisa Overlooking Alice Springs