Almost back on track (and in the black moneywise), we revisited Dubai (left) in February. We stayed in the Bur Dubai area this time, near loads of cheap Indian vegetarian restaurants, which we greatly enjoyed.
At the end of April, I did what I did back in early 1993, and went to the States for a weekend of watching NHRA drag racing. This time I flew to Washington DC and drove down to a little south of Richmond, VA. See the photos on my drag racing page.
Then, at the beginning of June, we went out to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia, to visit Yukari's friends who are living out there. We spent lots of time in Chinatown, visited Malacca, and spent most of one afternoon queueing to get free tickets to ascend the new twin towers. We also managed a side-trip to the island of Lang Tengah off the East coast, where there was little to do apart from sunbathe, snorkel, and wander along the beach... so that's what we did! (right). I was very happy to see some harmless sharks while snorkelling this time.
With Yukari now doing the job of cabin crew, I went out on one of her flights to Madrid later in the month. I only stayed overnight, which gave me enough time to have some nice churros and coffee (con leche) for breakfast, and some tapas and beer later on.
A short weekend at Yukari's parents in Tokyo was the next trip (in July), during which we didn't do much, but I spent a great day among the bike shops of the Ueno district. After that, we did another trip with me as passenger and Yukari as operating cabin crew, this time out to Budapest in Hungary. We chose the weekend of the Hungarian Grand Prix to travel, so I managed to see Murray Walker (a famous British motorsport commentator) checking in for his flight, and sat next to Stephen Hendry (a snooker player), on the way back.
Towards the end of September, we spent a week in Cape Town, South Africa (left). We couldn't go up Table Mountain, as the cable car was being fixed, but we did visit the Kirstenbosch botanical gardens and Robben Island. We stayed right in the centre, in Greenmarket Square, and luckily the exchange rate made this an extremely cheap holiday. The photo is taken from Robben Island, with Table Mountain in the distance.
A month later, I spent a night in Copenhagen, Denmark, just long enough to see the Little Mermaid and sample the Carlsberg beer!
Luckily we spent a lot longer in Cancun, Mexico... This was a great relaxation holiday, spoiled only by the weather (rain) and the nagging of the people in the streets trying to sell tours and/or t-shirts. In the end we ignored the tour-sellers and made our own way by long distance bus to the archaeological site at Tulum (right), arriving early enough to avoid the masses being shepherded on guided tours. I also definitely enjoyed the experience of scrambled eggs mexican-style (i.e. spicy) in the mornings.
A late start to the travelling season (mainly due to me using up all my allocated days off the previous year) saw me on a day trip to Paris with my parents in late March. We made it to the top of the Eiffel tower before I returned by myself, leaving the folks to do their own thing for a few more days.
In May, I spent a very enjoyable (and hot) weekend with my chum Saul and his current wife Paola in Zürich. Never have I travelled on so many buses, trains and trams in one weekend, thanks to the efficient and integrated Swiss transport system! Then, also in May, an overnight stay in Bologna to sample Italian ice cream.
After so many short breaks, it was good to spend almost a whole week in Toronto. We also hired a car and drove down to Niagara Falls (see left) and Niagara On The Lake, taking in a few wine tastings at some of the local vineyards. In Toronto, we were pleased to find a branch of the vegetarian self service restaurant 'Le Commensal' (see Montréal entry in 1998), and had a few meals there. We also went up the CN Tower (inset, left).
A couple more short trips followed... another weekend in Zürich with Saul & Paola, and 24 hours in Oslo, to see some drag racing at Gardermoen raceway. The dragstrip is literally yards from the Oslo airport runway, but to get from the airport to the entrance gate took nearly an hour, involving a bus, a walk, and a lift in a BMW! See the photos on my drag racing page.
We chose Canada for the second time this year when we spent nearly two weeks in late August / early September in Vancouver. We hired a rent-a-wreck car and drove up to Whistler (right), and generally chilled out. Yukari was happy because there was so much Japanese food!
Then a trio of short trips... Overnight to Amsterdam in late September, a weekend in Larnaca (to help my parents celebrate their Wedding Anniversary) in late October, and a weekend in Amsterdam with work colleagues in early December!
The first trip of 2002 was to Washington DC over a weekend, to do some shopping (mainly to get car parts!). As expected, there were American flags everywhere, it being so soon after the events of September 11th 2001.
At the end of February, we spent a while in Valencia, Spain, where the weather was pleasant, the food good, and we even saw the Holy Grail. It's been in the Cathedral since March 14th 1437, and is currently on display in its Santo Cáliz chapel! Valencia was pretty un-touristy, which was good, but meant that the locals usually spoke no English (not that this stopped some of them talking to us at great length in Spanish...)
At the end of March I popped over to Tokyo (first time in a while), as Yukari was spending a week or so out there with her parents. We managed to get to Tokyo Disneyland at last! This was very familiar to me, as it's pretty much the same as the California Disneyland (but in Japanese).
Then, at the end of April, I gave my parents a little treat by taking them to New York for the weekend on Concorde. We flew out on Friday morning, arrived before we took off, spent a few days sightseeing (Empire State, Statue of Liberty, Central Park), then came back overnight Sunday on a 747.
It was back to the States for the third time this year in June, when we returned to Albuquerque at last, to visit our friends Len and Donna, plus new baby Angelina. We spent some time driving around (I hired a brand new Mustang), did some shopping (including some more bits for my car!), and even managed to see the new Spiderman movie. The photo is me in front of an old Cougar, somewhere near Route 66...
In October 2002 we took time off work to do some travelling around the South Western States of the USA. We arrived in L.A. on the 10th October, rented a car, drove round (2725 miles) in a clockwise loop through California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona,coming back to L.A. to drop the car off 20 days later. Here is my account:
After we had spent a night in Los Angeles, we picked up the rental car (a Mazda) and drove up the coast to Santa Monica, California, where we spent another 3 nights getting acclimatised as well as seeing some sights. I visited California Mustang and picked up some parts. There seemed to be loads of old Mustangs around Santa Monica, so it must be a good place to own one!
Next we hit the I-15 and blasted up to Las Vegas, Nevada, where we spent another 3 nights. We frittered away several nickels in the Casinos, experienced the Star Trek Experience at the Hilton, took in a 3D Imax film at the Luxor, and of course saw the free attractions (exploding volcano, pirate ships etc) along the strip.
Having had enough of the noisy, smoke-filled casinos, we again picked up the I-15 to Springdale, Utah at the entrance to Zion National Park. This was our first experience on this trip of truly staggering scenery, and we spent most of the next day in the park doing a couple of the easier trails, before setting off on scenic Highway 89 towards Panguitch, Utah. Here we stayed a night at the Lamplighter Inn, and also found it was definitely getting colder!
Next day, we found "scenic byway" 12, which took us past Bryce National Park, and some more amazing scenery. During a rest stop in Escalante, I bought some new jeans in a gas station that also sold farm supplies, hardware, and cowboy boots! We lodged in Torrey, Utah, which is pretty much in the middle of nowhere, but does have a nice new Days Inn. We then set off East on Highway 24 via Capitol Reef National Park, where we paused to do a scenic drive and see some petroglyphs, before hitting the I-70 which took us to Grand Junction, Colorado. By the way, the stretch of Highway 24 that goes NorthEast from Hanksville to the Interstate looks boring on the map and believe me, it is!
I had wanted to continue up to Denver & Boulder, but I figured that time constraints and the increasingly cold weather made it more sensible to start heading South. So, we took Highways 50 and 550 South. However, although the stretch of highway from Ouray to Durango looked short (and flat!) on the map, it actually includes the 11,000 foot high Red Mountain Pass and 10,900 foot Molas Divide, over which we had to drive! After what seemed like an eternity driving in darkness through snow-covered hills, we finally arrived in Durango, Colorado, where we spent the night.
To warm us up, we drove East on Highway 160 to spend a night at The Spa in Pagosa Springs, where we had some hot mineral baths. Next we took Highway 84 down to Santa Fe and then the I-25 to Albuquerque, New Mexico. This interstate gave us our first taste of a traffic jam for a long time! We spent some time with our friends in Albuquerque, then set off West on the I-40 to Gallup, NM and then further West to Flagstaff, Arizona. From Albuquerque West, we were running parallel to the historic Route 66, so most places we stopped had Route 66 memorabilia. We stopped briefly in Winslow, Arizona... you know:
Well, I'm a standing on a corner
in Winslow, Arizona
and such a fine sight to see
It's a girl, my Lord, in a flatbed Ford
slowin' down to take a look at me
Anyhow, from Flagstaff, we set off to view the Grand Canyon, however the weather became somewhat inclement (OK, it started snowing!), so we drove 60 miles South to Williams, AZ, home of much Route 66 history, where we spent the night before returning to the Grand Canyon in more favourable weather so that we could actually see it!After the canyon-viewing, we continued West on I-40, then branched down Highway 95 to get to Lake Havasu, AZ, the town where they imported and rebuilt the old London Bridge in the '60s. Next day, we headed further South along the Arizona-California border on the Highway 95, to hit the I-10 and start heading West again into sunny California. Having completely failed to find anywhere to stay in the Palm Springs area (which seems to close its doors after 8pm), we kept going until we reached Banning, California, which did at least have motels.
We were now definitely back in a big city, as we experienced traffic, five-lane highways and numerous shopping malls as we approached the West coast. We took time out to do some final bits of shopping (I visited Larry's Mustang in Fullerton) and sightseeing (the Queen Mary in Long Beach), before our final night, spent in a motel in Redondo Beach on the Pacific Coast Highway. Next morning, we headed back up to LAX International, where we dropped the rather tired-looking car off and basically hung around the Tom Bradley International Terminal most of the day until our flight back to London.
The final trip I made in 2002 was to Tampa, Florida to help my neighbour Ken race his dragbike at the nearby Bradenton Motorsports Park. It rained a lot.
The first 2003 trip was to Miami in Florida, where we visited Miami Beach, the Kennedy Space Centre, the Everglades, and the Florida Keys. We actually saw quite a few alligators! Some shopping was also done.
The next two trips were to Los Angeles, the first by myself, to pick up some shopping (tools, car bits, etc.), the second with Yukari. Both times I went to the Pomona Swapmeet, which is a huge Sunday morning gathering of people selling cars and car-related items in the searing heat of Pomona!
Then in mid-September, we went out for a weekend visit to Zurich, to see my friend Saul, his wife Paola, and their new baby son, Daniel. Then it was more swapmeet / shopping action in the USA, when we went to the Hershey swapmeet after driving from Philadelphia (stopping at a couple of Mustang shops on the way, of course). The pic on the left is of Yukari outside CJ Pony Parts in Harrisburg PA.
November saw us in Alicante in Spain, spending a week eating tapas and taking it easy. It wasn't quite as warm as we hoped, but we still spent some time on the beach!
Then, I'm afraid, another trip to an auto swapmeet in the States. This time it was the Columbus, Ohio swapmeet, so we flew to Chicago and drove an 800-odd mile round trip to get to the meet. Lots of driving for one weekend!. Finally for 2003 I had a couple of days in Tokyo (actually Narita) for Yukari's brother's wedding just before Christmas.
We started 2004 off with a February trip to Zurich, to catch up with our friends out there and relax a bit. At about the same time that Yukari started her new longhaul cabin crew job, I flew out (the opposite direction to her!) to Los Angeles again, to get my regular Pomona Swapmeet fix.
Then in April, the long-planned Mustang 40th Anniversary happened in Nashville, so we flew out to Chicago, intending to catch a flight to Memphis the same night. American Airlines had other plans, and cancelled our flight, so we spent an extra night in Chicago. When we eventually got to Mephis, we stayed on Elvis Presley Boulevard and did the Graceland tour before heading off in our rented Mustang to Nashville for the 40th anniversary celebration. It was absolutely awesome, more Mustangs gathered in one place than I've ever seen before! However, we had more problems flying back to Chicago, as it was apparently the end of something called Spring Break, so we spent an extra day in Nashville (mainly at the airport) before we flew back to Chicago and then home. The photos are me in the Nashville SuperSpeedway grandstand (right) and Yukari next to the Mustangs Plus "Little Red" golf cart (left).
The next time we went away together was a long weekend in Las Vegas via Los Angeles, in July / August. Among other things, we drove out to see the Hoover Dam, but it was really too hot to be outdoors too long! Then it was the USA yet again, when I flew out to Philadelphia on the way to the Carlisle Fall swapmeet at the end of September.
The final trip of 2004 was to Narita, Japan again, to see in the New Year with Yukari and her parents.
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© Andy Holten 2005