Out of Toronto and into Chicago

Our final two days in Toronto were fairly low key. We’d planned to go to Arizona on Sunday to see the Grand Canyon (again), Antelope Canyon (again) and Sedona but with all the working that would involve, we’d cancelled. I’m glad we did. My knee puffed up after too much effort, going shapeless and pudgy, so much so that I worried I’d seriously done damage. The couch suited me fine…only when it didn’t.

Monday

Another day at home. Glen went out for lunch to meet a radiologist from back home who’s in Toronto on fellowship. I didn’t go but when lunchtime rolled around I dragged my feet out to the nearest place I could find – a sushi shop – only to discover Glen and Simon there too. Apparently, Glen and I don’t communicate enough. Anyway, I grabbed some takeaway and went back to the apartment. It seemed that that little jaunt was enough to cause some strain.

In the evening Glen went to collect Julian from the airport while I made dinner for us all. I burnt the broccoli and Brussel’s sprouts but the roast potatoes turned out nicely as did the pre-cooked roast chicken. Julian filled us in on his trip and then we watched Deadpool, before Glen and I headed off to sleep at Bec and Al’s. (The guest suite we’d used was not available any longer.)

Tuesday

We spent the morning at home, somehow getting into an argument over something that I can’t remember. We still went for lunch together though, with me stumbling to Spirits on the corner. The trip was slow and embarrassing but achievable. Lunch was stilted until we managed to work through our issues and then we’d tease each other about who was in the wrong (Glen) and who was awesome (me).

After lunch, Glen went to see yet more people at the hospital (it is a big hospital, three in fact), while I stayed at home. In the evening we went for dinner with Bec and Al, Pete and Royden, and Kevin and Adam at Barrio Coreano, a Korean-Mexican fusion place we’d been to a few times when we lived in Toronto.

We ordered too much, and left full, saying the first of conscious goodbyes (other goodbyes had been said without expecting they might be the last of this trip and thereby avoiding too much sadness). We farewelled Kevin and Adam at the restaurant, leaving before it got too teary, and then said more goodbyes in the elevator on our way back upstairs. We’ll see them in October in Geelong, which isn’t far away, so stop being maudlin about it, ok?

Wednesday

We had to get up the earliest we’d intentionally risen on this trip, the godawful hour of 6:30am. We went up to Julian’s, showered (it was much easier at his place because he didn’t have a shower/bath, just a shower and I could get into it without lifting my leg too far), finished off the packing and then Julian drove us to the airport. Another sad goodbye but again, we’re going to be seeing him soon. In September even!

We checked in then waited for a wheelchair to take us through the expedited lines of border control and security. As there was only about an hour until boarding, Glen suggested we skip the lounge and go straight to the gate, a suggestion I shot down in flames.

The lounge was fine. There wasn’t really much for breakfast, which was unfortunate as we hadn’t yet eaten, but we made do. We were collected an hour later and taken to the gate, then boarded our flight to Chicago. I’d booked business class and had nabbed the front seat on the left-side of the aisle, which was the best for my leg. Unfortunately Glen and I couldn’t sit next to each other.

We landed less than two hours later, met at the gate by another wheelchair and then taken through the airport to get our luggage and then a taxi. We’d had to get money out of the ATM for tips for the wheelchair driver. I really can’t stand this tipping culture in the USA, especially now that it’s so rare to carry cash. I felt bad asking for change from a $20 but honestly, a $20 tip would have been too much.

O’Hare airport is so far from the city that the taxi fare came to about $60. We arrived at Fairmont and checked in. The room that I thought had been complimentary, thanks to our membership, wasn’t. The only reason we’d chosen this hotel was because it would be free. Alas, no. The upside was that it was close enough to Millennium Park and the Art Institute that we could get to it with ease. They even loaned us a wheelchair.

We had lunch in the room which cost a fortune. The food was the price I’d expect for room service but there was a delivery fee, a 20% service fee (tip) and then tax. I think it came to $70, this for a salad, a burger and a ginger ale. I even gave him a tip in cash before I’d read the receipt.

After lunch, Glen wheeled me through Millennium Park, passing through Lurie Gardens, which I don’t remember going through before. It was in bloom though and spectacular. We then went into the Art Institute and Glen wheeled me around through a few of the exhibitions, stopping at old favourites from Georgia O’Keefe, Marc Chagall and Edward Hopper. One of the exhibitions was about a bust of Antinous, Hadrian’s young lover.

The story goes that Antinous died when he was 20, having fallen overboard and drowned. Hadrian made the man a god then named a city after him, and his likeness was produced all over the Roman Empire. He must have been damn pretty (though I’m sure they had lots to talk about and it was a meeting of minds too). Anyway, the Art Institute had a piece of his likeness which matched another piece in an Italian gallery and they’ve done some investigation to say that they match, but the final joining hasn’t taken place. Anyway, interesting stuff.

After a couple of hours we decided we’d had enough of art and left the institute. Glen wanted to explore a bit more of the streets nearby but the bumps were making my leg sore so we went home through Millennium Park, happy to have been out of the room for about three hours.

Only it wasn’t three hours. Our clocks weren’t set correctly and the absolutely most we could have been out was two hours, possibly only 1.5. Nevertheless we were worn out. And in the evening we didn’t venture far for dinner, choosing to diner in the restaurant downstairs, being served massive Chicago portions which we, despite our guilt of such waste, couldn’t finish. Then it was back to the room for more Dickensian. Oh, how we drink from the fountain of excitement!

Karaoke, Toronto Islands and more

Being not able to get very far on my own or being able to handle the bumps and jolts of every sidewalk crack, Thursday and Friday were pretty quiet. This must be what it’s like for parents with children, having to choose carefully what you’re going to do, weighing up all the effort involved and knowing you can only do one or two things.

Thursday

Thursday I stayed in Julian’s apartment while Glen went off to the hospital to catch-up with people. Then he returned at lunch time and we went to Firkin on Bloor to meet Cam and Vincent for lunch. It rained while we were there, even then it wasn’t much.

We caught up, entranced at times by the National Spelling Bee which as screening on ESPN. It was, after all, a sports bar. We caught up on all the usual things, again getting the feeling that we were seeing them as per usual, that we had only seen them last week and not many months ago.

After lunch, Glen and I returned home. I think he had a nap while I sat on the couch. Glen found it much easier to give into jet lag than I, mostly because even if tired, I can go to bed and still lie there wide awake for hours. I can’t remember what I did. I probably watched tv.

In the evening we met up with Nathan, Tyler, Adam, Kevin and Julian for dinner at Salad King before heading to Bar+ for karaoke. We had two years to go to karaoke in Toronto, something we said we would do but never got around to. Well, we made up for it on Thursday night.

We took over a room that I’d booked for an hour and a half, thinking that would be long enough for seven people singing karaoke. However, when the time was up, we moved to a smaller room and saved there until half-past midnight. There were lots of drinks, yet even more songs.

I’d had my doubts, as I always do about karaoke, that people will feel comfortable about joining in and that everyone will get a turn, or, if they don’t want to hold the microphone, will at least not feel like they’re being shouted down. The evening worked out a treat though, singing many a power ballad including Let It Go from Frozen. (Of course, we had to sing it!)

I dare say we could have continued on for some time longer but common sense kicked in and we headed for our beds, getting in at around 1:30, our throats a little worse for wear but nevertheless happy with our many renditions.

Friday

Friday I spent most of the day inside again, seated on the couch, filling my time. Julian went to Mexico and we moved our stuff up to his place. Glen went off to the hospital and talked with more people about research projects and catching up on the goss. In the evening, Nathan came over for pizza and drinks and we whiled away a few hours in his company.

Saturday

We had planned to have a big gathering on Saturday, bringing together as many of the Torontians as we could, however, a poor showing on Facebook prompted us to cancel and go do our own thing. We came to the conclusion that one-on-one is probably better and we’d aim to do that next time.

Instead of sitting around at home for another day, and risking my sanity, Glen bit the bullet and drove Julian’s car in downtown Toronto. In the two years living in Toronto, I’d done most of the driving. Not that there’d been much in the city itself but in general I had taken the wheel (ha ha). Now, he was forced to do it. And he did really well. We went down to Harbourfront, parked the car and he wheeled me around.

The paths were so much smoother down here so it was much easier to be out and about without causing pain. There was meant to be a Barbadian festival on that weekend but it was still being set up at midday on Saturday so we didn’t see anything. We walked along the waterfront then finally saw the wave installation which I’d wanted to see when we were here last. It’s not as impressive as I was expecting, a series of wooden waves of different heights that have been fitted with railings to stop anyone on wheels from having a good time. Honestly, remove the railings!

We then decided we’d make the effort and go across to Toronto Islands. It was perfect weather and going back inside seemed like a sin. Glen wheeled me over to the harbour and we lined up for tickets. I asked for two but was rebuffed. Apparently, being in a wheelchair exempted me from paying anything. Works for us!

We caught the ferry across then headed to the beach where we sunbaked for a few hours. We had to revoke our Australian cards because we didn’t have any suncream. They didn’t even sell any on the island which seemed like a missed opportunity to me. After a couple of hours we knew we were burnt (though, for me, it only stayed red about a day and I’ve gone a light olive colour) and headed back to the ferry and then the car.

Glen wanted to go to North Standard, a clothing store on Queen St W where we’d bought singlets and other clothes from before. It was near our hairdresser’s so it was a bit comical to be walking backwards past his window. We waved to each other; he laughed.

North Standard had increased their range so Glen went crazy buying a lot of singlets. We should be well supplied now to last another year at least. (However, Glen is waiting for their Pride-themed one to come out soon so he can add to the collection.)

We then drove home, had a rest and then went to dinner at Ur and Israel’s with the rest of the gang for dinner. The food was great, the company even better. Again, that feeling of not having gone anywhere yet knowing we had, when greeting them at the door. Hadn’t we just seen them the other day? We stayed until around 11:30, not really talking about what had been going on in our lives, but just the general chat of friends, of things going on that we can all share in. Such an odd feeling, this disappearance of distance.

Sunday

Sunday morning Glen drove us to Rosewood on Dundas St for yum cha. Cam and Vincent met us there. Driving through the deserted Sunday morning streets surrounding Queens Park (Ontario’s parliament) was surreal.

Even though it’s a busy, crowded city, there was still this time of respite at 10am when the streets were nearly empty of traffic. It didn’t take us nearly as long to get to the restaurant as we expected and it was definitely less stressful.

Glen parked in front of a fire hydrant though luckily Cam came over and pointed it out to us so Glen moved the car. Yum cha was the usual affair it always is. We ordered a lot of food, this time the waitress even understanding – though, as always, surprised – when I requested boh-leh tea. We stuffed ourselves and continued our chats from the other day.

After this early lunch, Glen and I went home. I vetoed a visit to the AGO. Instead we went home and watched episodes of Dickensian, which I’d downloaded on Nikki’s recommendation, what with Orphan Black being unavailable on Canadian Netflix.

In the evening we went for dinner to Scaddabush with Bec and Al, again, nice to be out of the apartment after a moment of seclusion. Dinner was very nice, catching up on everything even better. We talked about their upcoming wedding in Geelong, and the economic state of Western Australia. You know, the usual things.

Afterwards we drove to Bang Bang to get ice-cream but the line outside was ridiculous so we kept driving, in the end foregoing ice-cream entirely and going home instead. I enjoyed being driven around Toronto streets, to farther reaches of the downtown core and seeing the light fade during this time of daylight savings. Again, it’s a city that slows on Sunday, not as much as Perth, but still a noticeable slowing as people prepare for the work week ahead. I just loved seeing the streets again.

From Suits on Sale to Suits of Armour

Even with all the sitting around and not doing very much, our trip to Toronto went quickly. And it’s not like we did very much at all, and I definitely had time to update this, but…well…I didn’t.

Tuesday

Last Tuesday we were meant to go hiking in Algonquin Provincial Park for the express purpose of seeing at least one moose. It would have been the perfect moose-sighting time as well. Bec and Al had had two sightings while there on the weekend, which, combined with their five moose sightings at the same time of year a couple of years ago, meant they’d seen seven. We’d yet to see one.

We toyed with the idea of going anyway, of me sitting in the back with my leg rested on a folded down car seat, but we decided against it. It’s a six-hour round-trip, followed with however long spent in the car with reduced visibility and no guarantee of seeing one from the road. We saved ourselves the trouble and went shopping instead.

Julian had hired a wheelchair with a raised leg so I didn’t have to perch on a crutch underneath my butt. Unfortunately, the footpaths in Toronto aren’t the greatest so there were plenty of bumps and jolts along the way – and that’s without leaving the condo block. We went for breakfast at Croissant Tree and then into Hudson’s Bay to buy more branded merchandise. We almost bought sheets but settled instead for another towel (why we only bought one I’m not sure) and some socks and a couple of mugs. Then I bought a suit.

Reasons for buying a suit:

  1. Glen decided to buy a shirt that wasn’t on sale and in his guilt acquiesced to me buying a suit that
  2. Was on sale and after trying it on
  3. Looked amazing on me.

I can’t wait to get to wear it properly.

After shopping we had intended to go to the bank to sort out our bank accounts but my knee had been jolted enough and was starting to hurt so Julian and I went home while Glen went back and forth to the bank.

A couple of months ago Glen noticed some fraudulent charges on our Canadian bank account. He rang them, they stopped his card, returned most of the charges and said he’d have to go into a branch to get a new card (and internet access to the account again). Apparently all these charges were attached to his Visa Debit Card…which hadn’t been used for at least ten months (if ever as I was the one who always got the cash out). Luckily, we were going to Canada so we could sort this out.

He went to the bank, got a new card, came home, activated it…and found two more fraudulent charges on the account made that very day. He went back to the bank. Apparently it was my card. Why TD couldn’t tell us that to begin with, especially when they’d said it was Glen’s card is beyond me. I rang, cancelled the card (after a long and frustrating phone call) and that was the end of it. I went to the bank about a week later and got a new card.

Most of the rest of the afternoon was spent at Julian’s, however, we did venture down to the Eaton Centre to buy clothes from Abercrombie and Fitch, then look at the new TORONTO sign at Nathan Philips Square before getting a burger.

Again, Tuesday, and in fact our whole stay, was subjected to perfect weather, the kind of summer weather that made the long winter months in Toronto so joyous. It was weather you couldn’t help but feel happy about, with bright sunshine, clear skies, and warmth. Perth summer? Couldn’t care less. Toronto summer? Can’t get enough. Which made it all the more maddening that going outside was such a pain.

In the evening we went to The Carbon Bar with Julian, Pete and Royden, stuffing our faces on their tasting menu. Honestly, there was just way too much food. We didn’t take the wheelchair but instead I alternated between being carried on Glen’s back across the road, then side-stepping like a crab or walking backwards while dragging my bound leg. I looked like an idiot, then and every time since. Still I was able to get around, though doing so mostly caused my knee to swell afterwards and led to more pain.

Wednesday

One of the things I’d been looking forward to for this trip – apart from friends – was going to my hairdresser. As weird and “first world problems” as it sounds, when we returned to Perth this was one of the things that made coming back so hard. Yes, it’s ridiculous but I hadn’t warmed to a hairdresser like this since I was in high school. A couple of months back Glen and I made appointments with Steve and today was the day.

Pete drove us there and kept us company while Glen first and then me second had our hair done. Glen’s was pretty quick, mine took longer. I’d left it to grow for two months and it was already long in the front at that point. My fringe had now gotten down to my chin. Steve had plenty to work with and he didn’t disappoint. It’s now been tamed again, and much shorter (my fringe comes down to the bottom of my nose), and I feel better for it.

After the haircuts, Pete dropped us off for lunch with one of the radiologists that Glen worked with and then afterwards we caught a taxi back to the condo. Half the ride was spent trying to explain to the driver how I’d hurt my leg and where it had happened, despite giving him all this information within the first couple of minutes. He just wasn’t listening. Perhaps our accents were too strong. I eventually stopped trying and left Glen to deal with it. The benefit of sitting in the backseat is you can generally avoid this kind of crap.

The whole trip I’ve had people ask what happened to my leg and being the polite person I am, I respond, though my answers got shorter and shorter. I said to Glen that one time I’d say I got kicked by a horse. It seems that I had become public property and therefore free to talk about. Sure, people might be curious but screw your curiosity.

I imagine it would be similar for pregnant women who are obviously showing, strangers freely asking when they’re due or, worse still, putting their hands on their belly. People ask for their own sakes, not out of concern or to offer assistance. When one of the staff at the Art Institute of Chicago asked me about it, I think I responded in four words and turned away. Out of the other people in the elevator, he honed in on me.

To be honest, it’s even worse than the odd looks I was getting for walking backwards or sideways. At least they didn’t say anything. /endrant

In the evening, Julian, Glen, Kevin and I went to Medieval Times for their dinner and a show. It’s as corny as you’d expect. You’re seated around an arena where knights on horseback perfect feats of skill and act out a tournament to win the hand of the princess. We were seated in green section, and, because of the wheelchair, were on the top level next to the king and princess.

The knights “kill” each other off in their fight to marry the princess and then the bad guy comes in an the remaining knight kills him. With two swords if I remember rightly. Of course, if the six knights hadn’t been too busy killing or maiming one another, there’d be more of them to defeat the bad guy. Men!

The audience, made up mostly of school children, cheered and jeered, barracking for their chosen knight (we were assigned colours and then the knight with the corresponding coloured), ecstatic at the ritual slaughter going on before us. You could easily imagine them getting excited about really blood and real danger. I was more worried about the horses.

The food was better than expected. There were no utensils so we drank the soup out of our bowl and ate the chicken and potato with our fingers. The waitress (sorry, wench), when collecting our plates, poured the remains of the soup over me and disappeared. Julian hurried off to get club soda and all was well in the land.

Apart from all the school children, there was a retirement party taking place. The master of ceremonies read out a long list of welcomes to various schools (even one from Montreal), along with birthdays and anniversaries, and then a list of this retiring guy’s achievements and time with the company, much like a eulogy. I wondered if the guy had chosen this place for his final work hurrah or the company had done it for him.

The night drew to a close and I was wheeled out through hordes of children, ready to shout at any who got to near, and then we were outside. We’ve been to Medieval Times now. It is done. Afterwards we stopped by Kevin’s place to check out his new apartment and then, eager for sleep in our still jet-lagged state, we went home.

Please, no more flights

We were collected just after 11 to board our flight from Hong Kong to LA. While I wouldn’t want the hassle of being in a brace again – or having any sort of injury while flying for that matter – being able to get through security and board the plane before everyone else has been great.

We settled in, I got comfortable, we took off, they served us food and then we went to sleep. The problem with taking the overnight flights is that you can’t get into the right sleeping pattern for Canada.

Leaving at midnight Hong Kong time means it’s midday in Toronto so if we stayed awake until, let’s say, 9pm Toronto time then went to sleep, that would leave us with about five hours to get some sleep. Really, that would be three what with being woken up for breakfast and then preparing for landing.

Screw that. We went to sleep and subsequently spent most of the flight unconscious. Woke up for breakfast (Glen cheerfully telling me he’d had duck noodles during the flight), watched more episodes of The Mindy Project and then it was time to land.

We were collected at the gate and wheeled through LAX, getting through border control with relative ease, and then taken to the other terminal after collecting and dropping off our luggage. Glen got our new boarding passes while I waited for a wheelchair with a bunch of other people. Glen came back saying we weren’t sitting with each other but at least the seats looked suitable.

Someone else collected us and took us through security. While Perth and Hong Kong were both fairly lax with patting me down, the US gave me a full over service. I had to stand, take out my crutches and pillows and submit to a full-on body search. It was not pleasant. From there we went to the Admiral’s Club lounge. It’s not the best but at least it was a nicer place to sit for a while. Then, when it closed, we were collected again and taken to the gate and boarded.

We had “First” class seats for this flight but really it’s more like Premium Economy in that you have wider seats and a bit more leg room. US Domestic Flights don’t go all out and Australia has a much better product.

I sat at the front, which allowed me to stick my leg out completely in front of me and into the aisle without obstructing anyone. The woman sitting next to me was an ObGyn from Virginia and we had a brief but interesting chat about US politics before the plane took off (about 15 minutes late) and we all tried to get some sleep (it was about 1am when we left).

I managed to sleep for about half the flight but the second half was uncomfortable. Being unable to keep my leg up meant I was putting pressure on it into the floor. I took painkillers but it didn’t go completely. Still, it could have been worse and eventually we landed.

We had a really tight turn around in Chicago of only an hour and as we took off late, we were worried we wouldn’t meet our connecting flight. If that had happened, I might have gone a bit crazy as by that stage I was thoroughly sick of being on planes and in airports.

Despite waiting on the jet bridge until everyone had got off before a wheelchair arrived, and a delay at the gate as to who was going to take me across the airport, we managed to get through about half of O’Hare Airport to our flight to Toronto. Even our luggage made it in time.

I’d been given seat 6A but when I got on the tiny, tiny plane it was obvious to see that sitting in that seat was not going to be possible. I thought I could just stick my leg in the aisle but the flight attendant said that wouldn’t be possible. Luckily, the person in 1A was late and they stopped her at the gate and swapped her seat.

I lowered myself in and stuck my leg out, as comfortable as I was ever going to be. If I hadn’t been able to move myself from the chair and across the platform, I don’t know what would have happened. The plane was so small!

After taking off, I inched my way down to the back of the plane to use the loo. I can’t lift my leg so I have to drag it behind me. I was walking along the aisle, gripping onto the overhead baggage area, much like you would if you were doing one of those high-ropes courses. Then when I got down to the end, the light in the toilet didn’t work so that meant sitting down and jamming myself into this confined space. I came out of it alright but it was another experience.

When we were coming into Toronto, I couldn’t see the CN Tower or any of the familiar skyline, but nevertheless a big smile broke across my face. I was in Toronto again and it was a beautiful day. Plus, we’d made it. Through nearly 45 hours of impeded travel, we’d gone halfway around the world.

Collected once more, we sailed through border control. The officer asked why we’d want to come back to Canada. “Because it’s awesome,” I said. We got through without trouble. Our luggage was waiting for us. Glen collected it and we were taken out to the passenger loading area where we waited for Julian.

He pulled up in his car, wheelchair in the back, gave us hugs and then we were on our way, zooming along the Gairdner and the 40-something to Downtown Toronto. It’s not a pretty city, by any stretch of the imagination. Steel-and-glass buildings everywhere, a bit rundown in places and the whole thing lacking in an overall vision of what the city should look like, but it felt good to see it again. It felt like we’d never left.

Julian had picked up a wheelchair with a leg support so I didn’t have to use the crutches to keep my leg up. Wonderful invention. We hung out at Julian’s for a while and then he went for a suit fitting, while Glen and I committed the cardinal sin of travelling: we had a nap.

Honestly, we could barely keep our eyes open, but 3-4 hours later we felt even worse and trying to wake up at that point was torture. Still, we rallied and then had the long discussion about what to have for dinner. Bec and Al and Pete and Royden were brought into the conversation so soon people arrived and it was just like old times, like we’d seen everyone only the week before.

They went off to get food from Oja while I stayed behind and watched The Money Pit. Al popped in and we caught up, then the food returned and before we knew it, it was 10pm. I’d forgotten that with daylight savings in full effect, it’s still light until at least 8, if not 9. How marvellous.

After everyone left, we finished the movie then moved down to the guest suite and climbed into bed. Getting proper sleep never looked so good.

We’ve had to modify plans for the rest of our trip, and I’m not all that keen on getting out and about, but will make myself or else I’ll spend ten days looking out Julian’s balcony at the Marriott building. I’m glad we’re here, even with all the hassle.

The Things We Do For The One We Love

On Wednesday, while cycling to work on wet paths, I took a 90° turn which ended with my bike going one way and me smashing my knees and hands on the ground. People stopped and helped me up. My bike was fine. I was less than fine. Luckily I’d been wearing full gloves so only had a minor graze on one palm, and had been wearing long pants so my knees were barely cut up. All the damage was on the inside.

Not wanting to cause a fuss and not able to see there might be another way of doing things at that moment, I hobbled back to Elizabeth Quay and caught the ferry across to South Perth. The skipper and a transport officer helped me out with a bit of first aid, and then when I got to the other side, I eventually got to walk. I then sat down and had a pack of frozen blueberries placed on my knee. I’d be fine, I thought. Up in no time. It’s just a bruise.

I called Glen who was working at the right hospital and he suggested I come in for an x-ray. This is a big deal for him as last time I thought I broke my finger (and had) he was less than enthusiastic. Lisa drove me to the hospital and then I was wheeled into emergency. X-rays later revealed no fractures to my hand (and I’m hoping that’s still the case considering how purple they now are) but three fractures in my right patella. With a flight to Canada booked for that Saturday, I was less than pleased with this diagnosis. Management? Keep it in a Richard Splint for 3-6 weeks, i.e. keep it straight.

Glen took me home, plonked me on the couch and went back to work. I then went to work cancelling portions of our upcoming trip. We were going to go to Arizona to see Antelope and Grand Canyons and go walking in Sedona. I cancelled the hotels and the car and the tours. We thought that, considering we were flying business class most of the way, that I’d be able to make this 45-hour journey, perhaps not in comfort but in some way that wouldn’t result in extra damage to my knee or me going insane. People have travelled with worse, I’m sure.

I spent three days on the couch, the pain gradually going down while maintaining the discomfort of keeping my leg straight. Each day I re-evaluated the trip. Could we actually do this? Was it even worth it? Glen looked positively stricken when, on Thursday evening, I said I’d cancel the trip. He was not a happy chappy, but, not wanting to ruin his holiday too, I said we’d see what it was like on Friday and Saturday.

Which reminded me of when I had my wisdom teeth out. Twenty-four hours after having them removed, Glen begged me to go to his radiology dinner. You’d think have gaping holes in your jaw would be enough to get you out of going to something like this. Still, I went, dosed up to the eyeballs on painkillers and sitting there squishing fish against the roof of my mouth because I couldn’t chew without wanting to punch myself. I made it through dessert before finally succumbing to the need to go home.

This trip is Wisdom Teeth 2.0.

Three days of sitting on the couch watching TV (when I should be writing and doing all sorts of other stuff) was actually recuperative. Not enough to have a fully healed leg but enough to be not all that unpleasant. Still, the impending 45-hour journey filled me with dread. Still, I agreed and so on Saturday we packed, prepared the house and then Dad drove us to the airport.

The Drunken Rockstar Treatment

When we arrived at the airport, Glen wheeled the luggage inside and went over to the counter to start checking us in. I slowly made my way over on crutches but must have looked awkward enough that a woman from Qatar came to my aid with a wheelchair. I sat on one of the crutches to form a leg support so it sticks out.

At the counter, staff began to gather, asking for a doctor’s note etc and then reorganising seats so Glen and I could sit together. We were separated at first but they said they’d ask the person who had the seat next to me if they’d mind moving. Very glad they did.

Glen then wheeled me up through to departures, with me holding onto our rolling carry-on and it trailing along behind us. We got through border control and then checked off at security screen. I got patted down, despite me telling them I could go through the metal detector. I’m glad they said no as it would have been a pain.

This whole not trying to make a fuss thing ends up making more fuss than not. I should just accept their help as they’ve done this a lot more than I have and we could all get through it a lot quicker without the discussion. Hard lesson to learn though.

We then went to the lounge and spent an hour there before someone came to collect me for boarding. We got taken straight through before everyone else and I settled into my seat in the first row. I then adjusted the seat to make sure I could actually be comfortable.

Even though we’re flying business, it’s not as comfortable in my situation as I would have hoped for. The footrest is a little too far forward so without extending the seat, I wasn’t able to elevate it easily and sit back in my chair. I rested my foot on the floor and then, following take off, adjusted everything to some level of comfort. There was a sweet spot eventually.

We had supper while I watched Pride and Prejudice and Zombies then went to sleep for a few hours, waking up to breakfast. Now that I’m less mobile, and will be for a while, I’m concerned I’m going to start stacking on the weight. I have little will power so it’s going to be tough.

When we landed there was a wheelchair waiting for me. We had a 17-hour delay (the airline had changed our flights a few weeks ago much to our horror) so there was a bit of a delay about what we were going to do for 17 hours. Originally we’d wanted to go look around Hong Kong but that was out. Glen suggested Disneyland, which was close, but we were both tired and we’d (finally) realised that I wasn’t as mobile as we’d hoped. Instead, we said we’d go to the Regal Airport Hotel and try to get a room.

Despite saying I could use my crutches, the guy pushing my wheelchair took us all the way through Immigration and then over the carpark to the hotel. I was so grateful as it was a hell of a long way. Unfortunately the hotel was fully booked until 12. I think I may have wanted to cry at that stage. We decided to sit at the lounge in the hotel for a little while. Glen looked for a nearby hotel, while I lurched to the loo.

When I came back I missed my crutch and had to catch myself on my bad knee, the shock and the fear that I’d done further damage to my knee, making me even less certain about what the hell we were doing. While it’s not too late to turn back, the hassle of doing so and the expense seemed even bigger than the unpleasantness of the travel ahead. People have done worse, I can survive this…but did we actually want to?

Hong Kong Layover

The nearest hotel, the Marriott, was also booked out. Instead, Glen went back to reception and put his name down for a room. We then sat in the lounge for a few hours. I asked Glen to check at 11 whether the room was available, and praise the Lord, one was. After limping across to reception, one of the staff noticed me and went to get a wheelchair then wheeled me up to our room and into it. Another lesson: ask for wheelchairs at every opportunity. I should know that most places will have one available.

We then showered and settled into bed. Room service came. The thought of going down to the food court below the hotel was too much. We then went to sleep and got about five hours shut-eye.  If we hadn’t got a room, I’m not sure what we would have done. We’ve still got another four and a half hours to go before the flight and even that seems long. But, on the bright side, we’ve had a bit of a rest in comfort and we’re a little more fortified for the rest of the journey. I’m just trying to not think of how many hours we have left.

We checked out at about 8pm and Glen wheeled me back over to the airport. He’s really been very helpful and even if we weren’t on this trip, I don’t know what I’d do without him. Showering seems to be the most difficult, but he’s also been my sherpa and carried me up and down the stairs at home. (Next house will have no stairs.)

We went up to the service counter, dropped me off, Glen returned the wheelchair and then another staff member pushed me all around the airport to get to the lounge. We went through security and border control down the air crew line so there was no waiting. If we hadn’t told them about me, this would have been so much harder.

Now we’re in the lounge. Glen’s brought my food. He’s had a shower. And we’re waiting for our driver to take me to the gate for our 14 hour flight to LA. And then to Chicago. And then finally to Toronto. Trying to keep my eye on the prize.

Photos from Tasmania

The Roadkill Capital of the World

One of my least loved things about this trip of Tasmania is the amount of roadkill we’ve seen. The roadsides have been absolutely littered with the struck (and in some cases scavenged) corpses of wallabies, bandicoots, possums and a few rabbits. We noticed it the first day we got here and every morning in particular there have been constant reminders of how close wildlife lives to human habitation here – and how often it’s killed for the misfortune.

Most of the wildlife we’ve seen this trip has been of the dead variety. This is probably because we haven’t been doing much driving at dusk and at night. When we returned from the Kermandie Hotel in Geeveston after dinner, we did see a living animal on the road. It was either a bandicoot or a potaroo. Glen was driving and doing so slowly enough to spot it and give it time to hop off the road. While it survived an encounter with us, I wonder how much longer it would survive if it likes to hang out on roads.

While each drive has been distressing, on Easter Monday I realised I had an opportunity to get some photos that may come in handy for work. So, after spotting a dead wallaby, I pulled over and got out to take photos. Glen anxiously stood on the side of the road, keeping a watch for cars (the drivers here are pretty shit and don’t stay in their lanes…much like most Australian drivers), while I took photos of the deceased. I won’t know if they’re any good until I get home but I’m hoping there’s something useful that can help encourage people to slow down and watch for wildlife on the roads.

I also took the opportunity to pick and eat some wild blackberries that were growing on the side of the road.

Bruny Island

We drove to Kettering and then waited for the ferry to take us across to Bruny Island. The ride took 15 minutes and we arrived in good time, getting onto the island at 11:30am. We drove north to the lookout point, which wasn’t much to look at, and then headed south through the island.

Our first important stop was to get some oysters. Bruny Island is famous for its oysters and I’d been seeing oysters on the menu for days but had abstained from ordering. Today was the day. Glen hates them so I got a plate of six to myself. The disappeared down my gullet pretty quickly. They were tasty. I didn’t get food poisoning. We moved on.

Next was the Bruny Island Cheese Company for a cheese platter and a ploughman’s lunch, sitting outside and playing Exploding Kittens. The cheeses were all very “subtle” (which is to say there was barely any flavour at all). We ate them. They weren’t our favourite but it was a nice spot to stop for lunch.

We then drove to the isthmus, walked up the hill to the lookout point to for 360° views, and then down to the beach in the vain hope of seeing Little Penguins in the rookery. It was the middle of the day; the penguins were out at sea, eating. They’d return at night but we wouldn’t be there to see them.

With plenty of time to spare, we drove to the very southern tip of Bruny Island and checked out the lighthouse and the views. Along the way was more beautiful scenery than you could poke a sharp stick at. Mabel Bay was particularly stunning. It’s a shame the water is a little on the cold side.

Once at the lighthouse we went for a walk along the rocks. I saw a spotted lizard disappear. We left and drove back north. Again there are plenty of walks on Bruny Island, as there are on the mainland, but not much time to do them. This time around.

The Search for White Wallabies

It rained on our drive to Adventure Bay but stopped once we arrived at our accommodation. 43 Degrees is eco-based accommodation. We’re staying at the waterfront units at the southern end of Adventure Bay; there are two others at the northern end.

They’re Nissan hut style buildings, tastefully decorated with a kitchenette, two rooms, bathroom and a living area. There’s a deck outside overlooking the bay (which is where I’m typing this). It’s luxurious without being pretentious and is multiple steps up from where we were staying the night before.

We unloaded the car. I went for a walk down to the beach and put my feet in the clear and chilly water. There were lots of conical shells washing up on the shore. After I got back, the owner of the property arrived and welcomed me and talked to the couple who are staying next door. They asked about the white wallabies that live on the island and where to see them; I benefitted from their enquiries. Once they’d all gone, I grabbed Glen and we drove up the road to one of two locations where we could see these white wallabies.

We saw regular brown wallabies first, which suited me just fine. The couple from next door showed up. They didn’t stay long. With no white wallabies readily available they weren’t willing to wait and heading off to the other location (they saw them in the end). I looked around and saw a white mound in the distance. A white wallaby!

It was down towards another accommodation which said, at the entrance to the driveway, “guests only”. I defied them and walked down the driveway…but didn’t get too close to the wallaby (who was hanging out with a regular one) for fear that someone would come out and tell me to bugger off. I don’t know why I worry so much. I should have just gone closer.

Anyway, I saw it clear enough through my camera lens and then found another near a fence. Meanwhile, truckloads of regular wallabies are bounding by, no doubt wondering why these freaks are getting all the attention. I wondered why there’d be so many white wallabies around, considering it’s a genetic defect, but with few, if any, predators on the island, they’ve probably been breeding quite happily. I wonder if they’re easier to see on the road; they’re quite bright.

We’d stopped at the general store on the way in and discovered there is only one place to eat dinner on the whole island and that’s back the way we’d come. As there were cooking facilities at 43 Degrees, we bought some chicken and vegetables and other supplies and Glen cooked a barbecue. It did nicely.

After dinner I walked down to the jetty where a bunch of people were fishing. The sun was setting. The light was amazing. It was oh so beautiful. The fishers were pulling squid out of the bay, all of which were being scooped up and taken home for cooking. They inked a lot. I felt sorry for them.

We’re now settled in for the night. Wallabies are bounding out the back of the property. The TV is on. It’s getting dark. It’s a perfect night for our final evening in Tasmania.