I'm dreaming of a white Christmas 
Just like the ones I used to know,
- Irving Berlin, via Bing Crosby 1942

Day One Hundred Ninety December 25th 

Santa found us!  He ate our cookies, drank some milk, answered our letters and left all kinds of gifts!  Adele got her cross on a silver chain and a wolf plush.  Vince got his remote control motorcycle, mom her wallet and dad his surf shirt.  We made it until 7a before Vince bounded in to our room: he was beyond excited, wide-eyed and full of wonder.  Adele was a close second right behind him. 

It seems the thing to do here on Christmas Day is to go swimming and hang out at the beach.  With opposite seasons from home and record snow falling on the high Sierras, it all takes some getting used to.  Mammoth is getting more snow than we can imagine yet the temp here is bordering on one hundred.  

The beach is great fun.  We spend the morning playing in the waves, eat fish and chips “take away” at the main food stand for lunch, head back for more wave time in the afternoon and then finally head home for burgers and corn on the cob as our Christmas feast.  
Late in the day the winds pick up and the kite sailors and wind surfers come out in full force. We watch another sunset and head off to bed, exhausted from the sand and surf.  Unfortunately the kids are having all sorts of issues going to sleep lately and the eight o’clock bedtime slips to well past eleven.  All this change and excitement does take its toll.

Day One Hundred and Ninety One December 26th 

Another day, another city, another aquarium.  We are  aquarium experts.  As a family I would wager to say that we have been to more aquariums than any other.  Name a city and chances are really good we have seen the marine life they have to offer.

The best ones have a unique local perspective.  With proximity to key whale migration routes, great white sharks up and down the coast, uber dangerous jellies, all kinds stingrays, deadly sea creatures, salt crocs, and the like, this one has to be seen.  It is small but packed with fun stuff.  

The highlight is a moving glass tube that you stand in and it runs in a circle though a giant saltwater tank filled with all kinds of sea life. It is great fun standing under sharks and rays. 

We learn not to pickup seashells since they may contain crabs that will inject venom into your finger and do serious damage.  Apparently the box jellies can come close to killing you if you end up like Dore in the Nemo movie and “go messing with the jellies”.  Thrill issues, dude, some serious thrill issues.

Vince is sick on the way back so he stays home with Teri while Adele and I spend the rest of the afternoon at the beach catching waves.  It’s just another lazy day in Perth.

Day One Hundred and Ninety Tow December 27th 

Each territory here in Australia has its own museum.  The one up in Darwin was excellent so we head to downtown Perth with high expectations.  

Downtown Perth is empty.  I can’t tell if it is just because we are here during the holiday season or if it is always this way but the place is really, really empty.  It is kind of weird, like they built all these building and no one came.  Back home cities like New York or Chicago might empty out a bit in the summer but there are still plenty of people left behind.  Here you can walk right down the middle of the streets and no one would notice.  

We have the museum to ourselves.  It’s a nice one with a bunch of stuff on the Aborigines, a great gem and rock section, a few dinosaurs and some space objects.  Apparently Australia gets hit by a lot of space debris.  Luckily it falls into the middle and no one notices.  With so few people and so much space chances are good it will land with out incident.  

For lunch we end up in a hamburger place, one of the few things open, sitting in the heat and trying to figure out where everyone is.  Since this is the only place open, everyone I there so it takes some time to get our burgers and fries.   The kids are increasing picky eaters and feeding Vince has become a chore.  We struggle for a while then give up and head back home.  On the way we stop by blockbuster for a movie.   

Adele and I planned to go to the beach until we hear on the radio that they have closed the beach due to the sighting three sharks about thirty meters off shore.  How crazy is that?  The beach is closed.  You would think that everyone would go home and consider them selves lucky but the ones they interview on the radio say they are all going to wait around until the ban is lifted.  These Australians are very tough people.  “Ok, mate, just wait a pinch till the shaaaak, swims away then, it’s a big ocean mate, no worries, back in the swim in no time.”  Falling for this logic I suggest we head down and wait it out.    The family looks at me like I have lost my mind, which may be true, in this unrelenting one hundred and five degree heat.

I have started training again and this afternoon Vince and I get into our running gear and “run” to the local park and do our push ups and sit ups together.  He may the most enthusiastic training partner I have ever had.  It’s not lost on me that in a flash I will be struggling to keep up with him.

Day One Hundred and Ninety Three December 28th 

The shark thing is bumming us out so we head back in to Perth to spend the day at Kings Park away from the sharks and safe on land or as safe as you can be here with all of the spiders, snakes and the lot.  

It is a nice city park.  There is a ring road around the outside and an incredible play area for families with kids.  They have all sorts of climbing things, great lawns, trees to lounge under, fountains, barbeques, all of it in full use with folks out enjoying the day. Again I don’t know why this sort of thing isn’t available in the States.  I think it is that we are nowhere near as sociable as the Aussies.  There seems to be more time spent here hanging out with larger groups.  It seems more communal on some level.  That and the place is spotless, back home it would be littered with McDonalds wrappers and Big Gulp cups.

We wind our way all the way to the end for an over look of the city and the harbor.  The area at the point is a large grassy knoll shaded by big old growth trees.  The grass is like a golf coarse fairway and we end up napping on the ground for an hour or so enjoying the sea breeze.  

When we re-group from our naps we head back to the house to change and try the beach.  The winds are blowing unbelievably hard.  To my dismay the kids want to try and swim so we leave Teri and head to the waters edge next to the only other people on the entire stretch of beach.  It is much too rough.  

In retreat we find a playground and spend sometime on the swings and climbing ropes to try and burn off some energy before bedtime.

Day One Hundred and Ninety Four December 29th 

Rottsnest Island. 
“One of the highlights of a visit to Perth.”  
“A must do experience!” 
“Beautiful and Amazing!”  
A total waste of time and money!! 
A huge disappointment!!! 

Do not go to Rottsnest Island.  Everything about it was a waste of time and energy.  The ferry ride from Fremantle was over crowded, the town over run with people, the prices outrageous (two Subway veggie delights and four drinks for $50US), I had to carry Vince almost 2K to the beach, the one that was tiny and crammed with people, the water park for Adele for half and hour cost $25US, it was over a hundred degrees and the place has this weird vibe to it.  I am not kidding, don’t go, you will be disappointed no matter where you’re from or what your perspective.

When we get home after a long day I get to go for a run.  Finally after a few weeks back in the saddle my legs and lungs have returned and I can go for an hour or so without keeling over.  It goes fast I tell you.  After running the LA Marathon in March and going long through June it is shocking how fast the distance goes out from under you.  Six months of travel takes its toll.  After dinner we wind down the day watching Notting Hill, probably my favorite Julia Roberts movie of all time.  Luckily Teri bought it for me so I can have Julia sign a copy next time I see her.  
Day One Hundred and Ninety Five December 30th 

Today we return to the city we sailed from yesterday to explore an area called Fremantle.  We are in search of the Little Creatures Brewery for lunch and an Aboriginal art gallery that comes highly recommended.  Both are worth the time it takes to find parking. 

Little Creatures is rocking.  There must be two hundred tables set in a huge warehouse right on the water.  It bet there are five or six hundred people here. The place is a working brewery so it smells of hops and grains.  Big aluminum vats hover over everyone.  

It feels like one big party.  Kids are running around, they have a big sandbox set up with digging toys to keep them busy while the parents belly up for a few pints.  Table competition is fierce and Teri manages to muscle out some others but it costs us a round to suggest they hold “no worries”.  

As you would expect the food is marginal at best, but the beer is cold and fresh and the atmosphere begs you to sit around and stay a while.  Many of the people seem to be regulars and the tourist trade seems to be minimal.

From there we walk across the park to find the gallery.  It has incredible works by artists from all over Australia.  We spend a bit of time looking through the enormous volume of works but end up empty handed.  It is hard to find a piece that we both agree on.  It’s also tough with the kids who are rapidly losing control so we end up moving on earlier than we would like.  

Looking at all of the work reminds me that there really aren’t “original” people in many other places.  The American Indians are probably the closest thing I know of.  Europe and Asia seems to have been conquered and then settled by people from other places.  Maybe Africa and the Middle East have initial starting points.  I make a note to check on the migration patterns of early man.  I ask you, would that be something that would have even occurred to me six months ago? I think not.

Day One Hundred and Ninety Six New Years eve

Adele: Where’s Mom.
Dad: She’s on the phone.
Adele:  With her sidekick?
Dad with raised eyebrows: Err, yes, with her sidekick, she needs to check in for the New Year.

Apparently 2011 is to be excellent.  Teri’s sidekick (also know as a clairvoyant I believe) has only positive things to stay about our journey and the pending stay in NZ.  How she can tell over phone lines and across how ever many thousands of miles is not for me to question.  After all she is the one that predicted much of what has happen this past year.  If even half of the stuff comes through it will be another incredible time.

Teri takes the kids to the zoo and I spend the day writing up notes for the past few weeks.  It’s funny.  Even though we feel we have moved into slow motion and are generally rested and relaxed compared to the last few months, the journal notes show that we still manage to do something almost every day.  Under “normal” circumstances we would be burnt out from all of the activity.  

Somewhere along the line Adele loses a tooth.  It’s been on the cusp for a few days: I am glad that it finally decided to come out on its own.  We were close to tying a string around it and giving a good pull. Actually I think Vince was the one pulling for that, the rest of us showed more restraint.  

There is much discussion on the ability of the tooth fairy to find us here in Australia.  The kids are concerned that she may not know where we are or how to find us. Always willing to give it a try we seal the tooth in an envelope and hide it under Adele’s pillow.  Now only time will tell.

New Years eve comes early over here.  We are in one of the first time zones that welcomes in the New Year.  At home we usually spend the evening watching the balls drop around the world then waiting first for Times Square and finally for LA.  Here they don’t have any coverage because we are so early in the cycle.  We all make it to 9p hoping they will cover the fireworks in Sydney on one of the national channels but they don’t and it comes and goes with out much fanfare.  

Shortly thereafter we all head off to bed hoping the tooth fairy can find her way.

Happy New Year from the other side of the world…

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