Archive for category Family

New Zealand Trip, Day 9: Rotorua

(Day 8 was really part of the Day 7 update.)

After resting up in Taupo, we headed to nearby Rotorua for some adventurous activities. More accurately, for the kids to participate in some adventurous activities as none of the adults were in the mood. First up was a giant, crane-lifted swing. Really, a tame version of a bungee jump.

Next up, a skydiving simulator. It was pretty cool and I was nearly tempted to give it a go myself.

Finally, a much recommended ride in what I can best describe as a gerbil ball. Per strong recommendations, the girls chose to do the version with water, which allowed them to slide around inside the ball rather than tumble.

After we were done in Rotorua, we headed to Thames for our final night before flying home. On the way, we noticed a waterfall in the distance and then came across a turnoff with a sign indicating a short drive to the waterfall site. It turns out it wasn’t the waterfall site itself, but rather a trailhead for a long hike to the waterfall. We decided to venture a ways down the trail despite not having the time or inclination for the entire hike. We hiked as far as a bridge over the downstream creek, which was a very nice spot.

Closest view we got, from the parking lot

View from the same spot; yay for zoom lens!

Unfortunately, McKenzie had a rough bout of what we expect was food poisoning that night right through to boarding our flight home. Thankfully, this hit at the end of our trip and she was vaguely okay on the plane other than basically not eating for probably a full day or more.

Good bye, New Zealand!


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New Zealand Trip, Day 7: Taupo

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect for, a “Hot Springs Waterpark and Spa”. As it turns out, what it was, was exactly what we needed: a break. The Waterpark portion was pretty much a single tube slide, though decently long and whindy, and a water playscape for younger kids. The attraction is that these, along with several pools and a dozen or so private pools, were all quite warm from the hot spring. Marci and I also each took advantage of the Spa for massages. Mine was only so-so, but still nice after all the driving.

I also took the opportunity of a clear not to try and get some shots of the southern night sky. Im not sure any of my shots ended up with the Southern Cross as opposed to one of the other nearby crosses (they look different in the photo). At least the Milky Way is visible:


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New Zealand Trip, Day 6: Wellington to Taupo

As I mentioned previously, this day began with another early morning start to ride a three hour ferry from Picton to Wellington. The ride was uneventful and was a nice change from driving. After that, though: more driving.

I wish I could say that the drive was as uneventful as the ferry ride. Alas:

Is this a Hot Wheels track?


"That's like 35 in Amerkin, right?"

I’m not sure the officer even understood what I was talking about when I lamented the lack of cruise control. Also, I’m completely unclear about what happens if I fail to pay this, not that there’s much chance of that.

Aside from this incident, it was actually a pleasant drive.

Days later, my father used this as a lesson for McKenzie about good intentions not being sufficient (I honestly wasn’t intending to drive that fast). This led to the discovery that she had no idea I’d gotten stopped and cited. She was awake and aware that I got out to take some pictures, but was so distracted by a book or something that she missed the entire exchange with the officer.

Gasp! Did you get a ticket, Daddy?!

In Taupo, we stayed at a hot springs resort, which was a nice, relaxing change from our hurried pace of the last several days. We stayed two nights, so more on that in the next update.

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New Zealand Trip, Day 5: Kaikoura

The primary activity for this day was a swim-with-the-dolphins excursion from Kaikoura, a couple of hours north of Christchurch.


Not surprisingly, this turned out to be Brittney’s favourite activity of the entire trip. (She’s also an Anglophile, thus the spelling, so she enjoyed the strong British influence in New Zealand.) McKenzie didn’t enjoy it as much, though her mother coaxed her back in after her first swim — there were five in total — and she seemed to adapt fairly well.

My experience, on the other hand, was a different story. After the second swim, I’d had enough. I’m not entirely sure what happened, but I think it was a combination of several factors. First, we were wearing wetsuits as the water was fairly cold and, in retrospect, I believe my jacket was too constrictive. Add to that the high buoyancy created by the wetsuit and my several attempts to dive down (one of the cited methods of attracting the interest of the dolphins) left me a bit out of sorts. Finally, following another cited method, I did a few spins while dolphins swam in circles around me. While this was cool, my tolerance for spinning has never been high and has been decreasing as I age. I sat out the rest of the swims, though I’m not sure that sitting on the boat was much better. Thankfully, I was able to keep my bucket, of which there were plenty, empty.

The rest of the day consisted primarily of completing our drive north to Picton in preparation for an early morning ferry ride back to New Zealand’s north island. We arrived after dark and I turned in the van and walked back to our hotel. What little of Picton I saw during my walk left me regretting that our early morning departure meant we wouldn’t see the charming harbor town at all during the daylight.

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New Zealand Trip, Day 4: Lake Tekapo, Christchurch

Our first day of driving began with picking up the first of our two car rentals, both of which ended up being Hyundai iMax minivans. Having been the sole driver for the trip, I was quite happy with the iMax, except for the lack of cruise control (more on that on day 6).
We drove from Queenstown to Lake Tekapo for a picnic lunch by the lake, complete with a bit of rock skipping.
After lunch, we finished the day’s driving in Christchurch. A late start to the day, unfortunately necessitated by the rental car pickup, precluded our planned visit to the Antarctic Research Center. In addition, the town center is still significantly closed from earthquake damage and, in particular, one of our anticipated sites, the Floral Clock, was not available.
The closed town center also resulted in a minor adventure when my Dad and I went out to refuel the van as we kept hitting closed roads when attempting to drive back to the hotel.

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New Zealand Trip, Day 3: Queenstown

20120316-113327.jpgOur third day begin with an early shuttle to the airport for an early flight from Auckland, on the north island, to Queenstown, on the south island.
A few hours later found us at our new hotel from where we walked down to the bay to find lunch before our Lord of the Rings tour began.


A view from our balcony


McKenzie by the bay

During our trip research, we found that a number of locations around the country offered LotR tours. We ended up selecting this one as it focused on impressive scenery used in the movies. We enjoyed the tour in general, but the highlight for the girls was when we stopped in the forest for hot chocolate and biscuits and they got to have a sword fight with “real” LotR swords!
After completing the tour, we rode the gondola up the mountain and the girls did a couple of runs down “The Luge”, which I can best describe as a cross between a bicycle and a sled.
Dinner in town and some grocery shopping for the next day’s picnic lunch completed our day’s activities.

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New Zealand Trip, Day 2: Auckland


Monument to Sir John Logan Campbell atop One Tree Hill

After a morning of packing and traveling to get back to Auckland and our hotel for the night, we went back into town for a delicious late lunch at The Zookeeper’s Son pub and then headed to the Stardome Observatory for a 180° video presentation of Auckland’s night sky. It would also have included an actual telescope viewing were it not for the complete cloud cover.
While waiting for the show, I hiked up One Tree Hill for some panoramic, if rainy, views of Auckland.
Back at the observatory, we ended up watching two shows. The first was “Bad Astronomy” based on the web site of the same name (via the book). I was somewhat underwhelmed by it, but I think the kids enjoyed it. The second show was actually an interactive presentation and I found it to be interesting and enjoyable; the kids slept. 🙂

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New Zealand Trip, Day 1: Waiheke Island

Technically, three days. The girls and I left Austin Thursday night and landed in Auckland at 10 AM on Saturday. Marci and my parents were already in Sydney and arrived in Auckland Friday evening.
Waiheke Island is a ferry ride from Auckland and Marci was kind enough to ride the ferry back over and spend more than an hour on a bus to meet us at the airport. The bus ride was a failed experiment, so we took a shuttle back to the ferry. Unfortunately, despite the driver’s confidence, we arrived at the ferry just moments too late and had to wait an extra hour.
The obvious use of an extra hour was to grab some lunch, particularly since they hadn’t had a chance to stock the cottage where we were staying. Silly me, I eschewed a quick lunch at Subway in favor of something more leisurely. It wasn’t long before we realized the error and switched our order to a To-Go order.


A view from the ferry


A Kiwi! (sculpture)

A ferry and taxi ride later and we where at a nice, quaint cottage, about half a mile up from a small beach. After a while, we walked down to the beach, where Marci and the girls played in the surf while my parents and I walked the rest of a mile into the small town center to do some shopping and find a spot for dinner. It was a fairly relaxing end to what, for half of us, was a very long day.


The view from our bedroom

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The Year Without Bluebonnets

We have a tradition. It’s a pretty common tradition around these parts. Each spring, we take pictures of the girls (and sometimes the whole family) sitting among bluebonnets. This started with our first daughter’s first spring in 1998, though I don’t have digital versions of those pictures (I made a deal with that same daughter to scan the photos, but she hasn’t gotten started yet). Likewise, I don’t have digital images from 1999 since we didn’t get a digital camera until that summer. I have a feeling that we may not have taken any that year. I haven’t gone through the old photos, but our second daughter was born that spring, too late for bluebonnets, so it’s quite possible that we didn’t get around to it.

This year, we didn’t take any bluebonnet photos. A poor bluebonnet showing (due to a dry season) and a busy schedule were the major causes, but it must be said that the girls and I went dress shopping (successfully) one Saturday with the intent to take some photos afterward. But it was getting a bit late and I decided to postpone. Oops.

In absence of a bluebonnet photo for 2011, I’ve decided to post a photo from each of the past 11 years (plus an extra from one year where I couldn’t choose just one).

In addition to observing the huge changes in the girls over the years, I also note the changes in both my photography style (which may not be as evident in these favorites I selected as it was in the full sets when I was reviewing them) and my cameras. These photos represent the five different digital cameras I’ve owned. The resolutions increase over time, naturally, and the file size (at full resolution) of the largest of these is 10 times that of the first image.



Spring Break Ski Trip

We spent Spring Break skiing Copper Mountain with Travis and his two sons. Despite some minor injuries, we had a great time. Read on for my summary, journal-style. Also, in case my account is too long and boring to get through, I’ll point out that there’s a pretty cool 90-second video at the end of the post. Read the rest of this entry »

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