Australia, Random Rambles, USA
Comments 24

A Place in the Sun/Footprints in the Snow

Somewhere over the mid-Pacific I swapped my camo hunting cap (found dangling on a tree in Pennsylvania while hiking the A.T.) for a beanie, arranged my flimsy, handkerchief-sized blankie and folded myself into an approximation of sleep.

I always book a window seat when I can to avoid contact with fellow passengers, and refrain from bathroom trips if possible, a challenge that passes the time while building self-control and Olympic-standard bladder endurance. I managed 12 hours on this trip, I’m proud to say. Just limit your free drinks to a single gin and tonic and try not to look at the ocean.


Bramble Bay at sunset, seen from Shorncliffe — this is what I left behind.

The lights came on an eternity later. Dawn, clear skies, waves, roads and — way too suddenly — tarmac. Los Angeles Airport: excluding war zones, possibly the worst place in the world. And my QANTAS dream ride was over; the unpleasantness that is flying United kicks in right there in the chaotic check-in.


Sadly abandoned after years of good service: my battered Scarpas, from the days when I still hiked in boots. I replaced them with a lovely almost-new pair I inherited from an uncle who died a few years back — perfect in my new environment.

Self-check-in immediately self-destructed. My return flights were confusing the computers, so the harried attendant swiftly erased them, which was disconcerting. “You’re all set, sir.” Oh, er, okay… Then my flight to Chicago a few hours later was cancelled without warning, announcement, apology or explanation.


In olden times, this record by the Gun Club was what they often call a Seminal Influence on the swamp-rock/grunge scene we Brisbane rockers inhabited. While packing up over 3 weeks in Brisbane, I attempted to play all of the scant 120 vinyl LPs that have survived decades of moves & purges. I got through about 100.

Dread jolting me from a queasy doze, I joined a stagnant trickle of 150 or so disgruntled passengers, the anti-United discontent building with each minute, and reached a counter an hour later to be informed by a pathologically detached humanoid that my only option was a US Airways flight to Philadelphia at 10:15 that night.

“You mean I’ll have to sit here in this airport for another 10 hours?”

“Sure looks that way,” the face of United muttered at her screen. I surrendered, borrowed a phone — would you believe it, from a Korean? — and called Kate with the news.

“See you at 8:20 in the morning, babe. I mean, hopefully.” The original plan was 9:20 that night.


This wasn’t even all of it.

Flying: hell with complimentary peanuts.


Closest thing to a green space at LAX

"Non-working" should be LAX's official slogan.

“Non-working” should be LAX’s official slogan.

Well, I made it, obviously, and fried as I was, dormant excitement finally emerged on the last leg as we glided over the snowy farmland of Upstate New York — the other obvious benefit of the window seat. Home, sweet home.


Beauty & the Beard

Three beautiful things were waiting for me at Albany: a thrilled Kate, and my two duffel bags, which had miraculously survived the reroutes and confusion and were arguably in better shape than I was. And here I am, sitting on the carpet with a 16-year-old cat…

Moe quickly claimed my drifter's kit as his new bed.

Moe quickly claimed my drifter’s kit as his new bed. a quiet house, Kate and her girls having departed for their respective schools.


Back to the Blue House


The New Hood


They actually ENJOY this stuff! They do it VOLUNTARILY!


Sunshine Cravings


We make a great team: Kate shovels the snow & I photograph her.

My tasks today are:

  • Finish this long-overdue post
  • Start work on transforming the rubble of my personal effects (most of them are yet to arrive) into a comfortable and usable workspace for writing, doing photos, and drinking beer with Kate once the kids are in bed at night
  • Attempt my first cup of Black Death with our new Mr Coffee machine, and…
  • Make my first expedition on foot to town and Panera, our favourite local bakery/cafe, where I hope to meet Kate after her school is out.

Family dinner last Sunday


Our fave breakfast diner


With the twins at Panera as violence erupts


Big dreams for the backyard come Spring…

Did I mention cold? It’s routinely minus 10 or 11 Celsius here in the daytime — not very long ago I was revelling in daily temps in the mid-30s. The first casualty has been the photography. Kate and I attempted a walk round the block on a sunny morning recently that I had to curtail as my fingers hurt too much. With the Raynaud’s thing, the simple action of removing or replacing a lens cap is a challenge. Changing settings is torture.

Photo-strolls lately see me darting outdoors dressed like an Eskimo, firing off a few shots and quickly retreating to the gas fire, slapping life back into my throbbing digits.I checked the weather app after this routine last night and it was MINUS 17C.


Somehow I made it back to the house alive.


Backyard rabbit tracks




The Photographer’s Tracks. Hypothermia was plainly setting in.

Can life really thrive in such conditions? I’ll let you know.


Rowdy dinners are rendered tolerable with the addition of good, cheap beer.

Exciting times! Most of the jetlag and disrupted sleep are hopefully behind me — this morning I made it to 5:00am before waking, the record so far — and the daily walks to town and caffeine are planned to give me a break from the laptop, a little exercise, and a jolt of cold air to override the urge to nap that is the insomniac’s curse, especially in heated rooms.


An abandoned soccer ball reminds me of Korea.


Birch bark

But I’m here for the long haul. 2014 will be a big year, with a mountain of legal stuff to dig through, lots of uncertainty and not much money or any prospects of making any. The savings once earmarked for a dream-walk through Europe (Geneva to the bottom of Portugal) — original reason for enduring two years in Korea — are now my survival fund for the year.

And it was hard leaving balmy Brisbane, my family and friends after a far-too-short three weeks. But for the last year our plan has been to live together here.


Widow-maker icicle on the front porch

And now we are.

~ And that’s all the Goat wrote


  1. How exciting to be starting a whole new chapter in your life! I have been woefully lax in my blog reading this month and have somehow managed to skip over all of Australia! Will work backwards and fix immediately, or as near to that as I can manage.

    • Thanks, Rachael — you managed a lot! I’m only just finding time to blog-brows again, myself, after a weirdly dis- and then re-orienting week of adjustment.

  2. Nice and very interesting post. I wasn’t able to comment a lot of times,because bit defender kept warning me and blocked me. I am now free to write my comment.
    Have a great 2014 with your family.

  3. Here’s to the coming year. Best of luck with this new phase! (I’ve just had to whizz through your last few posts. I’ve been out of blog-circulation for a while (my partner, Karen, has just had a hip replacement so there’s been -and still is- a lot of stuff to do)).

    Weird, new phases, aren’t they? One moment life’s one thing then, in the blink of an eye, it’s something else. On the odd occasion it happens I’ve found it weird the way a few silent moments can be a huge “tipping point”, separating a past from a future. No bangs, not even a whimper.

    Lucky to find that hat. You can tell the route of the Pennine Way over the moors round here by the trail of lost gloves and the like. Hats are a good find – half a pair of gloves is little use, but a hat…

    • I used to find all manner of things in Japan. My favourite trail finds in America have been bandanas and a Swiss army knife.

      A week in, I’m starting to find my feet here. Haven’t had any problems with the cold since those early issues, so I’m hoping those temps were indeed aberrations. Walked into town the other day, three miles or so, and it really helped with my orientation. Today I’m taking a gamble on a heavily forested ridge not too far away — on Google Earth it looks enormous.

      All the best with your wife’s health and beyond!

  4. Wow. It’s really happening! Looks great. Snow, cats and lovely people. What more could you want?!

    I hope it works out this year! Keep those hands rugged up, as I think you’re lacking Medicare over there 🙂

    • Thanks, Greg. One of the advantages of hanging onto my Australian citizenship will be cheap doctor’s visits on trips home! But I haven’t struggled with the cold since those early episodes, and have gone gloveless outdoors several times now.

    • Cheers, Yellowstone! Hoping I can come to love the snow the way you and most of the locals here do. Once I work out some local walking options I’ll embrace the stuff — starting today.

  5. Darius Russell says


    So happy you guys are finally together, and with such cute, sweet energy little girls, and a cat!!

    Be well & you and Kate keep each other’s hands and hearts warm, Goat!
    I think we can find work and a way here in the U.S. for a wonderful guy like you!
    Enjoy your love in America, Miss K!
    Welcome! …And Walk On!


  6. All the best Ian for your new life.

    Where there’s a will there’s a way so they say!
    Sorry I missed you in your all too short stay…

    • Thanks, Barb. Yes, sorry we never got a chance to catch up. Those three weeks were a strange blend of nostalgic wandering and frenzied activity!

    • I said to Kate, “Is it bad for the porch floorboards to be buried under snow for weeks?” She didn’t know. Today I commence shovelling, and will call it exercise.

  7. Best of luck in your new life!

    Ah, so your plan was Geneva to Portugal — I guessed as much. As you know, I’ve walked most of this camino and it’s fabulous. Perhaps you (both) will do it one day.

    • Yes, SW, I spent countless hours poring over maps and guidebooks before and soon after my arrival in Korea. Plan was to link Caminos and other trails and wander south through France to Nice with a bit of an Alpine diversion, then across to the Spanish border, up through the Pyrenean foothills, across the coastal Camino and down. The Portugal part was the most exciting as I was going inland near the Spanish border and bluffing my own route down.

      Maybe one day…

    • I suspect “bliss” might be overstating it, but definitely a satisfying compromise between the freedom of the road and the security of the home. As another example, today my designated chore is to walk to a cafe in town where they roast their own coffee to purchase a bag for our morning brew. A 5-mile journey — each way ;).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s