New Zealand: Introduction and Planning

Purple mountains light up at the dawn of a new trip. Those little black dots on the grass are sheep!

You can jump straight to Day One of the trip.

I am so thrilled to be sharing the recap of our recent trip to New Zealand!  This post will serve as an intro and talk you through the months of planning that we did.  If you are dreaming of  visiting New Zealand in the future,  I hope this information makes your planning quicker and easier.

Be sure to follow this blog as upcoming posts will walk you through each day of our trip with details and pictures.

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Robopocalypse by Daniel H. Wilson

Hey gang!  Here is a very quick review for your upcoming holiday trips.  I just finished listening to the fictional sci-fi book Robopocalypse by Daniel H. Wilson on audiobook.  It is well performed and I think it is a perfect match for travel – fast-paced, interesting, action-packed and exciting.  I liked it so much that I’ve added it to my recommended reading list in the sidebar.

The absolute worst part of it is the title.  It implies a run of the mill robots terrorize the world story, but in fact is filled with lots of creative ideas.  I noticed that the author has a Ph. D. in robotics and it shows with his command of the subject matter.  He does a good job of creating distinct characters and reasonable dialog but where this book really shines is the big picture concept and how it is realized.  Much like the appeal of the original Jurassic Park, it is the mental exercise of how robots might take over the world that makes this book shine.

With extremely visual scenes that fire the imagination and plenty of incredible action sequences, it is no wonder Steven Spielberg has been in talks to make a movie adaptation.  Any industrial designer would leap at the chance to realize this world and the creatures that inhabit it.

The laughable title caused me to pass this one by without a second glance when it initially came out.  Our local librarian actually suggested it to me along with Ready Player One (which I don’t believe is available on audiobook yet).  So read this book and support your local library!

Yosemite Trip – Part 1

***  Part 2 of 6 in the 2008 Yosemite Adventure.  Next week, we enter the park and you guys get to see some pix.  Thanks for bearing with me.  Believe it or not, I’m still sick! ***

Jump ahead a year and we were all geared up, packed up and ready to take to the skies. Melanie was determined that we’d stuff everything into our daypacks and carry them on with us. It was surprisingly easy to do this and we only needed one additional bookbag-sized pack between the two of us. It is absolutely true that the more you travel the less you take with you. Our previous Italy adventures had helped us pare things down.

The trip out was quite uneventful with the exception of a very brave bird in the Dallas airport and the car rental. The agent lied right to my face which momentarily upset me. “Have you rented from us before?” “I dunno. Not in several years if at all.” “Which of the three protection plans would you like?” “Do I have to get one of these?” “Yes, you must pick one.” “Ok, I’ll take this one.” “I’ll just need you to sign here.” “Wait. This is more expensive than the quote I got online.” “That’s because you selected the optional insurance.” “I already have my own insurance and I don’t want to pay this additional fee.” “Ok. Let me just reprint your rental agreement without the extra insurance.” I don’t mind the would-you-like-fries-with-that style sales tactics so much. I understand that they are a business trying to make money, but don’t tell me something that is blatantly not true to get a sale.

We got checked in to the room and went to a nearby restaurant (The Rusty Duck) for “linner” (3 hour time difference). After that we went to Old Towne or whatever they called the preserved portion of downtown Sacramento. The buildings were neat to look at for a little while but the shops were a waste. It was Panama City Beach – saltwater taffy, t-shirts, crush a penny, etc. I would definitely not recommend going here to anyone. Sacramento seems like a very nice place and there must be better stuff to do that this.

Fort Clinch

Toward the end of last year Melanie and I visited Fort Clinch.  I had heard the name in every Folio Weekly Ad (“From Fort Clinch to the Matanzas Bay”) and was curious to see what it was all about.  One Saturday morning we realized we were going to be right by the place when we went to watch an ocean-based triathlon so we took the opportunity to check it out.

Located at the absolute northeasternmost corner of Florida, Fort Clinch was built to protect the mouth of the St. Mary’s River and the port of Fernandina, FL.  It is one of the best preserved examples of Third System Fortifications in existence.  That means it has a two-walled construction with an outer brick wall and an inner earth wall.

Named in honor of General Duncan Lamont Clinch, work began on Fort Clinch in 1847.  Construction progressed slowly and by 1860 only two of the bastions and one third of the brick wall was completed.  Improving weapons technology began to make brick fortifications like this one obsolete, but construction continued until 1867 when the fort was nearly finished.  Fort Clinch was used off and on by the military until 1945 even though the State of Florida bought it and its surrounding property in 1935 eventually turning the site into a state park.


It was a really hot mid morning when we arrived.  The first stop was the air conditioned gift shop where we purchased tickets.  They sell some snacks, drinks and Fort Clinch doodads just like you’d expect.

From there we walked a moderately lengthy path to the sallie port (entrance/exit tunnel) complete with drawbridge.

Once inside we met a couple of period actors that explained what life was like for men and women (cooks and laundry) working at the fort during the Civil War.

Top of Wall Looking in to Fort

Walking around to the various buildings we could look inside some and actually enter others.  Each was outfitted with its Civil War era trappings.

View out the Fort from the Top of the Wall

The view from on top of the wall showed exactly why this was such a great spot for a defensive fortification.

We couldn’t have spent more than an hour or two here and I don’t remember it being very expensive, although you pay to get into the park and then again to visit the fort.  Overall, Melanie and I enjoyed ourselves and if you live in the Jacksonville area, I’d recommend a visit.  The fort is well maintained and every place we went was quiet and clean.

Busy Campground. Typical Campsite. Ok for RV's. Crappy for Tents. No Shade!

The remainder of the surrounding property has some very nice looking (and nearly empty) beaches, some hiking trails and a pier to fish from.  We drove over to the RV camping area which had a surprising number of occupants for a non-holiday time of year.  As you can see from the picture, it would be a fairly miserable place for tent camping though.  There was absolutely no shade to be found at this campground.

Fort Clinch State Park

2601 Atlantic Ave

Fernandian Beach, FL

(904) 277-7272