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Chapter 7: Shepardsville, General Patton’s tanks and my embassy…..Makers Mark.

Just so everyone is clear from the get go, I did not forget about this blog. Life has been exceedingly busy of late. But we are not here for excuses……were here for a story.

The NO counter will make sense by the end I swear.

The NO Counter: 0

So we pick up where we left off, with our two weary adventurers driving down yet another highway in their little death mobile. (For those of you late to the piece, the Chevy Avio)

We were destined for Shepardsville, a small town in the heart of bourbon country that would be our home for essentially 48 hours. We originally tried to find a place to stay in Bardstown. An even smaller town that was home to about 8 different distilleries, the bourbon museum and all kinds of fancy bourbon related affair.

To get to our destination our journey required us to visit past Fort Knox. Nothing overly exciting except as we drew closer to The fort we realised that not only was this place slightly bigger than the Fort Knox you always see criminals trying to break into in 80’s warner brother cartoons, It was home to (at time of visiting) the Army school of mobile armour and last but not least the home of General Patton’s Museum.

It took all of about 3 seconds for both of us to agree that if we were driving past it, we may as well stop in and see what old general Patton had to offer.   As we pulled into the car park not only were we greeted with the first Pontiac G8 I has seen in my journeys but also an array of out of commission tanks and artillery which included a trusty old Sherman tank.

As I started babbling with excitement about seeing a Sherman AND a VE commodore a loud thudding began. Neither of us could figure out where it was coming from until out of no were, from the far side of the base came a pair of Apache Longbow Helicopters. If I was wearing jocks I probably would have wet them as the trifecta was complete. Now in the space of 2 mins I had seen a commodore, a Sherman tanks and an apache longbow. Not a big deal to most but being that they are my favourite car, tank and helicopter in that order I was quite delighted. For a brief moment I stop and pondered if Nicolas cage was flying one and that they were making firebirds 2 but we had to move on into the museum. *For those who haven’t seen Firebirds…do so and prepare for awesome!

We made it inside and into Patton’s were we were greeted with basically everything America has either shot or shot at, been shot at or the likes. It was literally a museum of everything war related. Bravo Mr Patton, quite a nice collection you have their sir.

We had barely made it into a hall depicting a battlefield scene with some highly uneducated Germans and a tank in it, when a large buzzer sounded as we were told the place was closing. NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO you Bastards (The NO counter: 1).

We had just enough of a taste to want to see the rest, so we would have to amend our plans and come back tomorrow to see the rest. Before long we were back in the car park laughing at caravans for midgets. We all know how I feel about them, so we jumped in the death mobile n burned off.

Shepardsville was only about 20km or so from where we were and we seemed to have a new burst of energy. We were still chuckling about those crazy Germans and the midget caravan when we passed a sign saying Knobb creek gun range, Hope of the nation’s largest machine gun shoot and military gun show. Instantly I was depressed. Not only did the sign make me realise we were not in time for Americas biggest gun show, but I it also made me realise I had not planned enough time to go to Knobb Creek distillery. NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO. (The NO counter : 2)

Those crazy Germans.....

With me sitting shotgun, still cussing about missing out on stuff we pulled into Shepardsville. This place had that feel like Lynchburg that not only was everyone related but we could throw a rock clean over the town. And then we found our Days inn……. wtf? We pulled up to this place so slow if you were walking down the street you would have thought we were either trying to pimp Juzzy our or I was about to do a drive by. This place was a crack den. Literally. There were electrical wires hanging all over the place flapping in the breeze, the pool had no water in it, the Days inn sign was ¾ missing, the balcony has a dirty great big bow in the middle of it suggesting that if you dared lean on it, it would all collapse pulling half the second story with it.

With a look of panic hitting both our faces, I couldn’t help it.

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO………. This can’t be the place that the travel agent booked us. (The NO counter : 3). Before any of the local KKK staff members or whatever other incarnate of evil ran this shit hole could come out to greet us we got out of there.

We checked the address on the booking slip again and then ran it through Juzzy’s phone. We spied across the car park that there was another hotel and figured we would give it a shot. Turns out that was the place we had booked instead. The hotel was had booked had moved across the road and the demolition work on the original building hadn’t begun since it was vacated 3 years ago. As I wiped my brow in relief I realised that while we might have a nice shiny new hotel to stay in, due to some unforseen circumstance, there was now a building perfect for homeless crack head and the local triads to hold their finger chopping meetings literally across the road from us. Sadly we were too tired to care and went with our new mantra….could be worse.

We made our way to our room on the ground floor and proceeded to get comfy. I ventured off to spy my new surroundings and not only found that this place had a proper bar at the front of it, but the bar was chock full of all the people mentioned in the previous paragraphs. Oh well, between them and the abundance of somewhat redneck looking construction workers that were sharing our neighbouring rooms, life couldn’t really get much weirder. They had that look of evil to them and I started to panic that one of this mixed bunch would come barrelling into the wrong room and accuse us of sleeping with his one toothed girlfriend Darla and proceed to ass fuck us as punishment.

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO the locals were freaky enough to even freak me out (The NO counter : 4)

The death box, Redneck wagons and Crack hotel in the background.

Retreating into the safety of the room, it become the hour of the feeding. Without further delay we set off to sample the local cuisine. Being in Kentucky and all we nominated KFC and from our best guesses it was a short squirt down the road. Upon taking a wrong turn for about the 90 millionth time during this trip, we stumbled across a well know local institution. It was something that I had always wanted to try and would certainly be the envy of many for actually doing so.

WHITE CASTLE BITCHES!!!!!!!!!

As usual I started with a sample, just to get the hang of the menu. I messed up the drink again and got the large. Stupid me…..the cup was so big it was actually fit a souvenir t-shirt in it (as I found out later, hope you enjoyed your t-shirt kenwizzlington!). The sample turned into a second round, and the second round turned into a few more…….. I’ll let the photos tell the final count; all I can say in the meantime is that it was everything I thought it could be and more. I might have been a little over indulgent and felt a wee little bit crook, but hey, it’s not like I was going to be back any time soon so yeah I made a big  fat pig of myself.

We learnt pretty quickly why those greasy little morsels of flavour bombs were called sliders. Because they slide down so easily. Problem was they slide out so damn easily. I swear it only took 5 minutes and those little bastards were stinking up the car like you wouldn’t believe.

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO I wanted more sliders but didn’t want my car to smell anymore like burger farts (The NO counter: 5)

The "snack"

The result

 

So anyways……

We got up the next morning and made a bee line straight for Patton’s museum. We got to marvel in the sheer size of some of the most iconic machines of war from all conflicts of history. Sherman’s, Abrahams and even a T-72. We even got to laugh at those crazy Germans again. I learnt many things in my time wandering around the hallowed halls. 1) I would never be a tank driver cause I don’t fit in the damn things 2) Tanks are a hell of a lot bigger than most people would think and 3)If your close enough to read it, it must be a dud.

Before buying the obligatory hat, cap and shot glasses we bailed and made our way over to Makers Mark.

One big ass tank

Much like the Jack Daniels joint, Makers Mark was set upon green hilly pastures and quite little rivers running all over the place, the meeting point for the tour was the original homestead of Bill Samuels Snr. Modern, yet still well in touch with its beginnings. The one thing that stood out the most was the signs everywhere that basically encouraged you to take photos, touch things, pick things up, taste things and smell all the different aromas. The only thing I could smell was pee, because I dribbled a bit in sheer excitement.

From tasting the raw brewers stew in the vat rooms to nearly melting as we walked through the actual distilling room I was just in amazement. Were as the JD’s factory was dark and black timber and stooped in history and loyalty to it, The more time we spent at the Makers distillery you couldn’t help but notice how they had tried to stay true to their beginnings yet adjust to more modern times. Although there was a lot of timber around the place, it was all coloured in deep reds and black writing to fall in line with the Makers labelling schemes. The place felt truly alive with energy and everything in the place screamed out for you to touch it or taste it. It was a shame that the only thing we weren’t all9wed to taste was the new blend of bourbon that they were bottling. Makers’ 46 are still yet to be released here in Australia and I await its arrival eagerly. Makers have decided to put their second product on the market, and the 46 signifies the number of recipes they had to go through to find one that they thought would live up to their standards of perfection enough to share.

Black, Red and Wood...the Makers way.

We were taken to the barrel house were a fellow Ambassador not only got to see his barrel, but got to tap it and bottle it.  As their way of saying thanks for being and Ambassador for them, Makers have given me and four others a 250 litre Barrel with our name plaques on it. When it comes of age we will be invited back to tap the barrel, bottle it and hand label our own 50 litres to take home. That’s going to be an expensive exercise for me, but I have another 5 years to save for it so no biggie.

Sadly before too long, we walked through a tiny little door in the barrel house wall and emerged in the most awesome tasting and merchandise room I have ever seen. Before the tour ended completely the staff had one last little treat for us. We were all given 2 shot glasses and as the staff said their farewells and thanks for joining them we were asked to down them. One shot glass was fresh out the barrel Makers standard. The other shot glass contained Makers Julep. A mint flavoured bourbon, that although sounds totally gross, for those of us that lover bourbon, it was the best thing ever. They had chilled it down to the perfect temp and it went down so well that I went back and stole another 2 shots of it.

I went straight to the counter and asked the staff where I could get the julep. Apparently it’s made once a year for the Kentucky derby and is not sold anywhere outside the county so because of that they couldn’t sell me a bottle. NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO I want minty bourbon goodness! (The NO counter: 6)

I agreed that I would let them think about it while I went and dipped bottle of Makers in the wax solution to seal it. Even though I looked like a complete mental it was a well rad experience. Apparently they must have thought I was awesome at it or some shit as when I went to pay for it they sold me a bottle of the Julep with it. VICTORY IS MINE!

What happened in my pants when i bought the Julep

Being that I could have spent the equivalent to the national income of a small country in that shop, we made a pretty hasty exit. We hadn’t even made it across the car park and had seen a sign for the Makers Mark traditional diner. Sold!

We got stuck in for some po-boys and frosty soft drinks before making our way back down the winding roads to Shepardsville, I can’t help but still to this day feel enlightened by visiting the Makers factory. I have such a better understanding of one of my favourites and too much higher level of appreciation for it. I now understand how footy fans feel visiting the MCG or religious zealots going to that cave thing that jeebus got stuck in.

We got back to the hotel and that now somewhat familiar feeling I had back in Canada returned. NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO I was actually going to miss this strange yet mystical place (The NO counter: 7)

As our time was over It didn’t take much to distract me. Both myself and Juzzlington were overcome with excitement at the concept of our toughest feat yet. For tomorrow we faced a NINE hours stint taking the death wagon to South Carolina via North Carolina and god knows were else.

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO 9 hours in that stupid little red piece of shit car!(The NO counter : 8)

For Tomorrow would be a day of Winding straight roads, Walmarts and dearest friends from times gone by.

Chapter 6: Nashville, Willy Nelson and the holy land…..Jack Daniels

Chapter 6:  Nashville, Willy Nelson and the holy land…..Jack Daniels

I was enjoying my sleep in my double queen bed. The alarm went off and before you know it I was up, showered, dressed and in the death mobile before the sun had properly risen.

That’s right folks, we were off again. This time, heading for Nashville. We really had no idea what we were going to do there other than use the city as a base point to get to the Promised Land.

So off we went, cruising the highways and marvelling at such wonders as the sheer volume of heavy hauling trucks, discount firework tents on the side of the road and the disturbingly high amount of massive churches along the road.

It wasn’t the longest drive we were going to have but it still sucked. The highways there are all just bleak multi-laned stretches where the country side doesn’t change a hell of a lot and every now and then a small supply stop appears. We took turns driving and whoever wasn’t was either playing with the camera or sleeping. That’s right fuckers, I slept in that car!

Anyways….

Gradually we started seeing more and more signs for Nashville and it was a much welcome sight to pull into the Maxwell house hotel. About that point I realised that we were staying at a hotel sponsored by a damn coffee company. At least it had that going for it.

The place was a lot more fancy than I had expected and we kind of felt out of place driving our little red Avio into the car park amongst 300c’s, F-trucks and a myriad of other expensive large cars.

It wasn’t until we walked inside that our fears were elevated as the place looked like a bombsite. They were in the process of replacing the carpet throughout so the ground floor was littered with furniture piled up and squashed together in clumps.

We checked in and made our way up to our room on the 7th floor, not too far from the top. Being the 9th floor. Oooooooh such luxury was unbefitting of us two Aussie yokels on a road trip. A nice room with a nice view allowed us to relax a bit after the long and somewhat boring drive.

our 7th floor in Nashville.......pimping it

We jumped on the laptop and spent a bit of time skyping people back home and sussing out what local attractions there were for us. It was about this time our plan of getting to a city and then finding 2135235235 things to do and widdling it down to the things we had time for was getting well-rehearsed. This afternoon’s treat would involve catching the hotel taxi to the centre of town to have a wander around and find what mischief we could.

We got dumped pretty much in the guts of Nashville on the main street. Another hot day and no idea where to go lead us to wander the streets up and down just being tourists. A fair way to spend the day. It was an interesting place to suss out, as every second building we passed was a pub. They looked hideous from the outside, dilapidated shitholes to be polite, but as we looked through the windows in side they were lavish and lush oasis’s of beer food and the all-important music. Literally every pub we walked past had a singer or whole band playing all kinds of different music. But none of them appealed to us enough to wander in. I think I heard everything from solid moshing speed metal to true home-grown hick bands with a wash board and banjo in our walks…..an amazing experience.

We eventually decided it was time for some din dins, and ended up heading to a larger more swish looking pub down the river end of the street called Big River Grille and Brewing works. I figured what the hell; they make beer and have food. Can’t be too bad.

I noticed as we walked in, they had a big sign on the door saying “no concealed firearms on premises”. Ok, so I’m allowed to have a firearm as long as everyone can see it? Wow, they really do things differently here.

Anyways, after trying some of the in house brews and having an epic feast we decided to call it as it was getting late and we had an early start the next day. So we called the hotel and ordered our pick up. Two smokes and a bit of a perve later, George was back in the hotel cab to pick us up.

The reason I remember his name was because he was a very memorable bloke. While driving us back to Maxwell house he was giving us a commentary about everything from the local women, the local Friday night cookouts at the church through to the flooding of recent times. We drove past a KFC and we were told about George loving the KFC seasoning. He began talking about when the flood had hit Nashville how the water was pretty high and nearly flooded out the KFC. He was telling us that when the flood hit, he was down at the KFC sandbagging the doors instead of being at home trying to protect that. I chuckled at the thought, this guy loves the colonel as much as I do…..to which he asked, what I found so funny about that?  He said to us, something along the lines of “Yall think that’s funny that the black man loves chicken that much don’t ya? Yall think cause I’m black I eat nothing but chicken? Mother fuckers, I like cat fish too” by this point myself and Juzzy were pissing ourselves laughing as he was clearly messing around with us and about a topic in a style I could muchly appreciate.

We retreated back to our room and cooled down as bit. That’s right, it still wasn’t much cooler.

After having a few night caps in the bar down stairs we called it a night so we could get up early.

The day had finally come. 1 of 3 reasons we had ventured through this part of the country was upon us. It seemed like an eternity travelling the winding back roads through the countryside to Lynchburg. The fact that we had to drive through places like “Columbia” and “Shelbyville” only made it more interesting.

So the moment had arrived, we pulled into the car park of the Jack Daniels Distillery. I had been a long time coming for Juzzy and rightly so it was like all his Christmases had come at once. We made short work of the car park and got inside to book our tour as quick as we could. With a bit of time to spare we had a chance to wander around the entry hall and take a bunch of photos. The tour began and after a short intro video with the rules etc., we were on our way around the distillery. Our tour guide was what one might deem “a bit of a redneck” with the trucker cap, the overalls and the oily rag hanging out the back pocket we made our way around the distillery. The thing I loved about the inner states and town, this guy represented. He was so down to earth and honest and although hard to understand at times just an all-round amusingly friendly bloke. If he wasn’t paying the piss out of himself he was filling our heads with knowledge he had gained from generations handing it down.

Chilling With Jack

Things like, it’s actually illegal in Lynchburg County to drink. Even at the Distillery. You can buy it but can’t drink it. The irony was amazing……

From the smoke yards to the barrel house and even in to the cave were Jack Daniels get their spring water we toured the whole place. I was truly a sense of achievement to come to the home of something that we had both enjoyed so much over the years. This was Juzzy’s Graceland. He knew all about the place and wouldn’t stop grinning from ear to ear as we wandered the grounds wishing that we were allowed to touch everything and sample all the brews. Just the design of the place was a marvel in itself. From the lush green surrounds with creeks running through out to the buildings that were not only rustic timber but decorated with the same stuff, it indeed gave the feeling that everything in that place had been formed out of a used Jack Daniels barrel at some stage.

All too soon the tour ended, and we made our way back to the staging area to sample some homemade ice lemonade (which was a blessing cause it was hot as all hell that day) and purchase some bottles. We stocked up, took our final salute to this marvellous establishment and headed into Lynchburg itself.

Only five hundred meters up the road we came to the town centre of Lynchburg. It was one of those places that had only about 400 people that lived in the town itself and as we soon discovered every one of those 400 people were on the oval setting up for foundation day. (I later found out it was the annual celebration of the founding of Lynchburg). We parked the death mobile and went to wander around and have a look. The centre of town sported a couple of banks, a couple of foodatoriums and the general population milling around doing their usual thing. It became apparent all too quick that the majority of the 400 people that lived there were related, as we noticed a fair few people did look like each other.

After stopping off to pick up a dated JD’s shot glass to commemorate our visit to the distillery (which Lia later shattered to my great unhappiness :P) we discovered the holy land. A building that was literally 3 stories high and just as long and dwarfed anything else in that town. It was the Jack Daniels merchandise store. Before Juzzy could spooge in jocks too much we made a bee line for it and began what ended up being a pretty well behaved spend up. Considering you could buy everything from Harleys and pool tables to the barrels themselves I think we did pretty good to leave with only a few small bits and pieces each.

With another quick lap of the square to again marvel at the inbred ways around those parts (but more so to get another soda) we packed our new found wares back into the death mobile and made our way back to Nashville. Now I can’t recall if we missed our turnoffs or what the fuck happened, but we somehow ended up in a different part of Nashville that we clearly hadn’t been in before.

With a quick gander at Google maps and our list of shit we wanted to do, it became all too clear of our next destination.

That’s right folks; we were bound for Willy Nelsons Museum. Everything awesome over the years has somehow involved Willy nelson and for me growing up in a household that regularly listened to his tunes, it seemed only right. Upon arriving there tho we realised, SCORE! The Willy Nelson museum was actually right next door to the Dukes of Hazard museum. I know right, almost too much awesome for one day. Turns out that the Willy Nelson museum actually sucked. It was basically one giant fricking souvenir shop and the highlight was me getting a chance to grab the boobs of a Dolly Parton cardboard cut-out for a photo and then leaving.

We quickly made our way next door and took a self-guided tour of everything the Dukes had to offer. Amongst all the memorabilia and scale electric sets they actually had the original cars featured in the series. A small flashback to another of my childhood shows. Alright you got me, it kind of sucked too. The main highlight of that place was getting a photo with a restored General Lee, and then going in the Pub next door for a beer.

Now this place was cool. Not only was the bar chick real friendly, but the place was made out of timber cladding from top to bottom. The catch being, there was not a blank bit of timber in the joint. Apparently we had stumbled into the busiest musical pub in town. Every pillar, every slat, every toothpick in the place had been autographed by the musicians that had played in the place. Some had gone on to become megastars; some had failed and returned to being a janitor or whatever. But it was definitely cool to sit, drink a beer, eat the greasiest potato skins on record and read some of the messages left for people like me.

The writing is on the wall....literally.

A few beers later and the heat were beginning to take its toll. Before I knew it we were back in the hotel sending emails and dozing off between random episodes of man vs food and CSI.

I awoke some time before midnight with one of those appetites that would suit me well at the watermark in my stretchy pants. Juzzy was content to chill in the room, so I ventured down stairs to find some foods. I found the hotel bar that was all but deserted except for the lonely looking singer with her guitar and the chick behind the bar. I put away a burger in a tidy time and proceeded to watch the NBA highlights while talking with both the bar chick and the singer. Apparently open mic night wasn’t going to be too busy tonight. After getting in an argument with the bar chick that I could mix drinks by colour not ingredient something very strange happened. I got complete and utterly shit faced off something other than bourbon. I mean, I was messed up Vegas styles of everything from fruity coladas to triple doubles of 3 different whiskeys. Now in my usual drunken state as anyone knows I’ll talk to a brick wall if it looks like it can hold up its end of the conversation. And somewhere in the piece we had been joined by some business looking dude in a suit who was quick to join in the mix and match game of who could get the most fucked up the quickest that me and the singer chick were playing. Before you know it, she was singing, he was playing her guitar, the bar chick was deciding what song to play and I was trying my best to keep up on the piano. That’s right! ME! Playing the piano in public!!!!! That right there is your indication of how messed up I was. The only thing I remember was playing some Greenday song, belting out my own drunken rendition of on the road again (GO WILLY NELSON!) and trying to teach these musically gifted strangers how to play classic Australian tunes such as INXS, chisel and of course the obligatory farnzy songs. I do recall abusing them because they didn’t know the words to you’re the voice too…

At around 4am much to our dismay, the bar had to close up. Sadly I bid my new spastically drunk musical mates of the last 5 hours a farewell and made my way back to the room were I woke Juzzy with my drunken stumbling antics of tripping over everything in the room before going ass up and passing out.

Sadly I don’t have any photos of the people that I spent such an amusing time with, and I don’t even remember their names. But to me, that night was a true testament to just how musical Nashville was. It showed me just how much everyone in that city is affected by music, how everyone deep down is a fan of Willy nelson and how you can mix by colour and get some awesome tasting drinks.

General Lee instead of the Avio????

I didn’t really plan it too well as after breakfast at 8am we were due to be on the road again. We were due to head for another critical part of our journey. Being I am an ambassador for Makers Mark bourbon it wouldn’t be right to not visit my embassy. It was after breakfast at 8am that we were back in the death mobile and heading for Shepardsville, General Patton’s Tanks and My embassy….Makers Mark.

Chapter 5: Memphis, Humidity and all things Elvis

So here we are again. Sorry for the delay. Between life being life and having little to no motivation for almost anything lately this blog is one thing that has been neglected. I hated that I didn’t have the effort in me to get on with it, but I also knew the time would come were I would feel compelled to just sit back and smash some out……so here we are kids. Sit down in your nice comfy bean bags, grab a mug of warm and get your read on for what is affectionately known as,

Chapter 5: Memphis, Humidity and all things Elvis.

So after the debacle with the weather in the Houston layover we were pleased to board our connecting flight to Memphis. Well, we were. Now as some of you may know I have a pennant fear of flying so it wasn’t very comforting to board a plane that was literally 1 row on the left and 2 rows wide on the right. There wasn’t much room to move, and it didn’t take long for the hostess to move me to a slightly more accommodating seat. The catch being from my new seat I had a clear view out the window over the wing and out beyond. This sounds great however it didn’t take long to realize that our plane was indeed a bit of mystery. The whole reason we had been delayed was due to technical issues with the original, and now here we were sitting on this thing that had been located and deemed suitable. I wish I had a picture of it but don’t. From my vantage point over the wing I noticed that the wing itself did not have one matching panel on it. It quite literally looked like someone had worked out our first plane was broken and had gone out to the scrap yard and rustled up enough parts to make a replacement plane.

So naturally my fear of flying was being fed by the fact that we were about to travel on something that looked like it came of that foxtel show “junkyard wars”.  Being our second flight on continental airlines I was not overly surprised that with the heat they offered up drinks soon after takeoff. There is nothing like being handed a container that your apple juice comes in while you’re in hospital with the straw stuck idly through the lid and told to enjoy. No frills airline? Got that right.

Anyways, enough about that.

We landed thankfully in one piece and made our way out to the car rental spot. I should have been suss from the get go as it was so damn humid on the walk through the car park. The guy at the counter happily took our booking and divulged the information that no matter how moist the air gets it will never rain in Memphis at the moment. I had no idea what the hell that meant and had to clarify. He explained happily that while the humidity counter said 98% it would never rain as it’s so damn hot the rain evaporates before it gets to the ground. Great, Another few days of melting to my underwear.

While he was processing our booking he began to laugh quite heartily which was odd as neither me nor Juzzy had said anything. We signed everything, grabbed our keys and left for the car park. It became pretty obvious within about 30 seconds why this guy was pissing himself laughing. The car that we had just booked and paid for was a delightful little red Chevy Avio. Now for those of you not very car minded, think of a Holden Barina, change the badges to Chev and then make the car a wee bit smaller. This bloke must have found it amusing that I was about to spend the next 9 days with my knees around my ears tucked up in this little box.

After compacting myself in and setting up the GPS we headed off for the La Quinta Inn suites. A fancy looking place that we were quite surprised by. They messed up our booking and instead of a double queen room gave us 2 double queen rooms. Naturally I took advantage of this and pushed my beds together and made a double king sized bed of sorts. How nice it was to go from sleeping on a couch for the last week to sleeping in this little lap of luxury. By the time we got there and got setup we were basically to knackered to do anything. Between the ungodly houred drive in Canada and all the flights and running around, to finally be in Memphis and sweating like crazy neither of us had the energy to do anything. Which was a bit of a bummer cause with how warm it was the onsite pool did look amazingly inviting and the stories that I had heard about Biel ST sounded awesome.

After collapsing through either dehydration or exhaustion, the next day began pretty simply. Breakfast and the decision of where and what to do. Now that was pretty simple really as it had been the thought of going to Memphis for one main reason. ELVIS. I know I know, how touristy. But seriously, being a fan of the king all my life, I couldn’t pass up the chance and we made that our battle plan for the day. Go out to Graceland for a bit and then see what else we could come up with for the rest of the day.

Soon as we stepped outside we knew were up for another hard day as the humidity seemed even infinity fold. The second we stepped outside, you just kind of started dripping like you had just got out of the shower. It was insane and being from Adelaide something I wasn’t really used to.

We jumped in the death box Avio and headed off. Now forgive me for saying this but damn…..Memphis is a mess. Driving around and getting ourselves over to Graceland was interesting but depressing at the same time. I was a taste of what the place was really like. Driving around the streets we got to see dereliction at its finest. So many run down, abandoned and just waiting to collapse buildings covered in graffiti gave the place a sense of character but at the same time it was kind of heartbreaking to see how whole neighborhoods were essentially lying in tatters. I don’t know why this is the case but it was kind of nuts. Even just while sitting at the lights and looking around we saw Memphis fire department tending to a homeless man in a park, while being watched by a massive group of this guys fellow street dwellers.

It really put it into perspective that there were a lot of problems going on around these parts. Now I know this was only one or two neighborhoods but it made quite the impression. Especially when we finally found Elvis Presley boulevard (home to Graceland) and you could see quite clearly that all the money was spent n this one road and its surrounds. I know the king is a big draw card for Memphis, clearly. But it was almost like that was the only part of the city that mattered to anyone. While the surrounding neighbor hoods looked like something out of a post apocalyptic futuristic vampire n zombie movie, here was the boulevard with its fresh painted sign posts and neatly manicured grass all leading to Graceland. As much as I love Elvis, this kind of made me a little sick and both myself and Juz were a little taken back by it.

Rundown Memphis

We parked and made our way into the Graceland museum park after a quick stop to have a few photos with some of the pickup trucks in the parking lot. Just had to be done.  We shelled out and made our way into the place and decided to start at the Auto hall. It was kind of weird knowing that every car and bike in the place had once been owned and used by Elvis and here they all were lovingly kept and restored in this hall for the world to see. Each display had little plaques to tell you when he got the car or bike and what he mainly used it for, who he gifted it to or how it came to be in the museum. The famous Pink Cadillac that he bought for his mum was backed by a video of home footage of him with his mother in the car. It made the experience all the more surreal to be standing next to the car.

The famous one of a kind Pink cadillac

Once being done in that hall we decided to brave the cue and the heat and took our place in the lineup for the bus across the road to Graceland. After what seemed forever we were finally standing in awe on the steps of one of the most iconic residences in the world. We were handed our little walkman style audio guide thing, explained the rules and set free to explore the former house of Elvis. What made this so surreal was the fact that after Elvis passed away, almost everything in the house remained untouched. They pretty much wrapped everything in plastic and left it that way. So you truly got a sense of this being his house. The audio guide regaled us with tails of what took place in each room and enlightened us to things like that fact that no one other than family has ever set foot in the upstairs of the house. Elvis considered the upstairs floors his personal sanctuary and as such to this day, no outsider has ever seen it. It was an amazing experience being there and I had to continuously force myself to not reach out and touch stuff. But being amongst all the personal belongings and everything being untouched, it really was just amazing. What got me about the house was the fact that every room had a very distinct theme. From the TV room with its distinct yellow, black and mirrored tiles to the Jungle room of bright green shag carpet and intricate wood work. It made it evident that Elvis had very distinct tastes for his home.

The yellow, black and mirrored tv room at Graceland

We made our way through the other quarters of the house into things like the office, the firing range, the sports hall and the stables. All of which had been now converted into memorabilia halls containing everything from guitars and costumes to platinum albums and personal photos All of which was donated by the family in order to keep his memory alive.

What got me about this place the most was nearing the end of our tour. I know that Graceland is a major tourist attraction but the amount of people pouring into this place was nuts. I mean literally a busload of about 30 odd people arrived ever 15 mins. So when we got out to the swimming pool and memorial garden the silence was a little creepy. From the halls where even though no one was talking to loud you just had that noise of people shuffling around, to get out to the memorial and you could have heard a mouse fart  10 blocks away. It was something I doubt ill experience again anytime soon.

For me being such a big fan, it was a truly amazing thing to be standing in front of the grave of Elvis, surrounded by the graves of those in his family that had now moved on to join him(where ever that may be)and the ever burning candle. Between the silence and the still nature of that single moment, even the heat didn’t seem to bother me too much. It was heartwarming to see the tributes that people had left near the grave and even more heartwarming to see that another Aussie had left their little memento, An Aussie flag sun visor. A nice reminder of home in this special place. I said my thanks to the king, threw a couple of coins into the pond and bid the King and his family farewell as we still had lots to do.

The final resting place of the King and his family.

Upon arriving back to the main compound, we set in for a couple of Sundays and sodas in the 60’s style diner before making our way over to the private jets. Both jets had the same treatment as the house. When Elvis passed, everything was put under plastic and still remains the same to this day. Even down to the bottles of Gatorade sitting behind the bar in the bigger of the two planes. As awesome as it was to see them, the Kings Decoration skills clearly went askew somewhere as the both planes left a bit to be desired. At one point the color schemes literally made me nauseous.

We did a quick bit of tourist shopping, with me picking up yet another baseball cap souvenir and decided that the heat was just a bit too much so it was time to call it a day. After stopping for some more photos with pickup trucks in the car park we made our way back to the hotel to clean up and hopefully cool down. The one big problem with this was that after a shower and a seat for a few mins, both myself and Juzzy realized that not only was it nearly dinner time and we had spent the entire day at Graceland, but both of us were to stuffed to really do anything else.

So it was decided, a quick spot of Taco bell for dinner and another early night as we had another early departure in store the next day. For tomorrow we would be leaving this strange but iconic city and heading for what I deemed Juzzy’s Promised Land.

Tomorrow we were headed for Nashville, Willy Nelson and the holy land…..Jack Daniels.

Part 4: Fairmont Hot springs, Weddings and Sunburn…..

So life’s been pretty busy of late and I feel bad for neglecting this little travel blog of mine, but that’s just how life has unfolded of late. So let’s get down to business ay?

Part 4: Fairmont Hot springs, Weddings and Sunburn…..

So the morning after the night before hit and before I really knew what was going on I was saddled up in the fusion with Juzzlington driving and the 3 retarded musketeers in the peanut gallery. A nice cool day and a spot of rain made the drive out of Banff a pretty relaxing way to recover. We stopped off at a little riverside park spot for smoke break and actually got a chance to catch up with Liam and his soon to be brother in law Trevor.  For such a place so close to the highway the water was as clear as I’ve ever seen and the silence was unreal. And surprisingly enough through the forest the whole thing was backed by a snow-capped mountain range. The place was insane.

Riverside Smoke Break

We jumped back in the cars and took to the road again, heading off we cruised our way through the hills, mountains and amazing countryside to get to Fairmont. It didn’t seem that long and we were arriving in the little town that would be home for the next 5 days.  We moved into the house and luck be have it I pulled couch duties in the lounge room on the top floor. It was a pretty damn comfy and big couch so I really don’t mind and was in throwing distance of the kitchen. All the more benefit to me. First order of business was to get some proper nosh for the 5 days. We headed into town and had our first meeting with Sobeys, the supermarket chain. Daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaam that place was huge. We stocked up, plenty of meats, plenty of snacks and more bottles of Yukon Jack.  The place was cheap so it was kind of hard not to. After settling in to suss out the star wars game on the WII and relax for a bit we headed over to Chelsey’s parents place to say hi n meet everyone. I thought we would have to go via river boat or husky sled or something but sadly we just had to walk about a km down the road. We arrived to be greeted as part of the family from Oz. An amazing little house backing onto one of the myriad of golf courses that makes up Fairmont Hot springs. The Grill was going with burgers and Dan was hard at work making them smell awesome. After a quick greeting I moved inside to meet Marlene and Aunty Mo and the rest of the family. This was going to be an awesome week. We got stuck into some burgers and some Yukon’s and caught up on the adventures. Got to know how surrogate host family and learnt the general lay of the land for our surroundings. After an interruption by a deer and its fawn cruising around in the backyard(which was literally the backyard) It wasn’t long before we were heading back to the house and settling in as to be prepared for the wedding the next day. Being in the state that I was I though bugger it and continued to drink. Somehow it came up in topic about shaving one’s head and I ended up parked in the bathroom with Rob shaving my head the first time since high school. According to some it looks like I joined the marines while I was overseas.

Banana Waffles and Maples syrup (of course) was the kick-start to the day and whiles some slept in and relaxed others pottered around and got ready for the day ahead. As we all started to muster the doorbell rang and our man Nate was soon amongst. A friend of Jonnos and Robs, the guy moved to Canada a whiles back and I hadn’t seen him since he was last in Adelaide. We had a quick drink to kick-start the shiznit and I, Rob, Josh n Nate made our way down to the Wasylyk’s house in the Narff mobile. There was a slightly disconcerting bit here about a crack in the windshield and a deer but that’s another story for another time. We bowled into the backyard to find everyone setting up and got told to come back in a bit because nothing was ready yet. So off to the Golf course clubhouse we went….naturally the only logical place we could get a cold beer without walking too far.

We settled in and just took in the view and the taste of ice cold beer. 1 turned into 2 and soon it was 3 then it was shit….were late for the wedding. We would have to be the only people in the world that can be 200 meters from the wedding and still be late. We grabbed our beers and headed for the wedding again, making a quiet but not unnoticed entry, josh got a telling to by Mo for bringing a beer.
We took our seats and soon it was kicking off. The main reason I had undergone this journey was upon me and it couldn’t have been more awesome. Liam and Chelsey got married in a little gazebo thing in her parents half backyard half course with baby deer’s running around in the background and a snow-capped mountain bordering an evergreen forest as a backdrop. The sun stayed out and in fact ended up getting pretty dang warm, but that just gave us more measure to hook into the cans. Before I could really get wrapped up in the awesome, Chelsey’s dog (I can’t remember his nameL) came in wearing a little tuxedo and a top hat playing the vital role as the ring bearer. Too cool for school I tells ya!

With much applause, smile and tears, Chelsey became Mrs Liam Schulze.

We had a bit of time to kill before the reception so it was back to the house for a few more beers and then off to the reception at 6 at the golf club.

The usual festivities began at the Golf club, much feasting, dancing, getting harassed by aunty Mo if your name is josh and drinking a plenty. The happy new couple ushered in their celebrations with their first dance to jack Johnson’s better together. A song that pulled the heart strings and made me think of home.

Liam and Chelseys Wedding

With things wrapping up we gathered the troops and headed back to the house to continue on the party and drink well into the night. There was a minor discrepancy with one of the local lads giving Josh a bit of a hard time, and my heart goes out to him the poor soul. Rob and I stayed out of view but could be seen by josh as this chap gave him a hard time about something at a toe to toe kind of distance. It settled down quickly but not before Rob took the liberty of explaining that were we come from we look after each other and he would have no hesitation in beating him, dragging him down stairs, kicking him out and then stealing his wallet. Much to my amusement the guys’ girlfriend thought it better to head home and get her boyfriend to safety before he got himself in trouble. It was a sad affair to tarnish the day to a certain extent but it solidified the fact that we would indeed have another amusing story to tell. Well into the wee hours I passed out on the couch as one does faded quietly into the next day.

We mustered in the morning, wait, and no, scratch that it was more like lunch and made our way back to the Wasylyk’s house to see how things were progressing. After partaking in some powerade, red bull and a hearty breakfast we decided that today wasn’t going to hold many activities wise. Things at the house were a little chaotic so a few of us decided to go on a bit of a scenic drive and see what we could find.

Over the other side of the lake, we stopped at a few look outs and took some photos of the surrounds. A couple of Bald Headed Eagles buzzed the tower…aka my head and we kind of just lapped up the serenity of the place. We moved to another spot further down the road and got a better look at the lake and railroad before we noticed we were being watched. Josh’s demonstration of eagle stance had clearly got their attention and the 2 in the tree sat and looked at us with amusement. I have to admit, when one of them took off and launched into flight along the edge of the cliff in front of us, it was a pretty awe inspiring scene. Those buggers are huge as well….

Bald Headed Eagles keeping an eye on us.

After a couple of hours just cruising around sussing things out, we headed back to the house to settle in for the nights feast. I had quite the appropriate meal, a dinner plate sized steak, another dinner plate full of veggies n potatoes and a few glasses of Yukon.

I can’t remember how we spent the morning of the 4th day but a few of us decided to spend the arvo up in the actual Fairmont hot springs. Not far from our house was a natural hot spring that had been built up into a local swimming pool. A complete new experience to me, the water was being pumped straight from the spring into the pool. This place was truly amazing. Clear blue water and plenty of grass around, with the sun out the place was pretty busy. Again the whole thing sat on a backdrop of forest leading to snow-capped mountains. Now, different pools had different temperatures and we spent most of the day in the normally heated pool the biggest one. At some point I ventured off and tried the hotter pools which were basically the size of a small spa, that didn’t last real long either as the water was hot enough to cook a lobster. Funnily enough, that kind of what happened to me. Because I didn’t give much thought to it, being in the water all afternoon in the sun, lured into a false sense of security by the snow, I got cooked like a damn lobster. And I mean horridly…

Burnt Lobster Marine

Much to the amusement of Rob and Chelsey I was raw. It kind of stood out a ton more cause of my new militaristic hair cut as well but I don’t think I’ve been that burnt in a long long time. It was all good. By the time we got back, master chef in disguise rob had been hard at work and we settled in for our last group meal together on the balcony. Crazy roasted chicken, Yukon jacks, Caesars, smokes, a crazy view and a good time made a for a fitting end to this leg of our journey. We drank and talked our way into the night before packing up our gear for our early as hell start on the road back to Calgary. Sadly this would be the last time Juzzy and I would see the boys on this journey.

We arose at some entirely dirty hour and packed up our gear. That poor little fusion didn’t know what hit it. All 5 of us jammed our asses back into it and headed off for Banff to drop Rob, Josh and Kaos off and then myself and Juz had to continue on to Calgary for our next flight. Upon departure of Fairmont, the 3 in the back basically passed out and it was up to me and Josh to be on wildlife watch. Surprisingly considering the form we were in, we managed to spot a timber wolf just cruising the highway doing his own thing.

The perfect meal

Then it happened. We passed a parking bay and saw a big brown blob reading the information sign (I didn’t know bears could read). I yelled out bear!! Waking the 3 in the back seat and instantly convinced Juz to turn the car around so we could have a better look. We pulled into the parking bay just in time to see a brown bear waddling across the bridge. Apparently the water is too cold in summer even for bears. A couple of quick photos of basically a bears arse and we were back on way to Banff. We pulled up at the voyager Inn to the let the lads in the back out, took a group shot and bid our farewells. Safe journeys were wished to all and almost instantly we were on the road to Calgary.

Fairmont Hotsprings aka the lobster pot

It was strange feeling hitting the road again, not knowing what was ahead of us and what adventures were ahead but I didn’t have much time to think about it as I was too wrapped up at taking in the scenery that we had missed on the original drive to Banff on the midnight run. For a highway it was pretty damn amazing. The whole thing was surrounded by forests and crystal clear rivers and creeks. Sadly the only wildlife we encountered on the way back was more deer. Something that we had seen in abundance.

We checked the keys and GPS in at the car rental counter, boarded our flight and settled in for our flight. Take off was pretty straight forward and soon we were on our way to Houston. Somehow our flight got slowed down and we got to Houston late. We realised before we landed that we were going to have to do a mad bolt through an airport that we had never seen before. This was going to be fun. We landed, and almost instantly I could feel the heat. Still donning the jeans and hoody that I had on in Canada; I stripped off in the causeway and prepared to bolt through the airport. 15 mins later and a monorail ride later we literally ran into our terminal to find out that not only was It jam packed, our connecting flight that we bolted to catch was running late but the air con also didn’t work. I swear my balls melted to my jocks it was that hot in there…..but not to worry, only an hour to kill…FUCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCK!

At the time it sucked but soon enough we bored our next flight and were on our way. The next leg of our journey was nearly here. It was time to hit up Memphis, humidity and all things Elvis.

 until next time friends………

safe journeys

Being that google maps doesnt like me at the moment, heres a short video i made instead :)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hY7ER_agjqs

Part 3: Canada, Banff and all things Maple Syrup……………

After a bit of delay due to back problems, I have awoken!

Now I’ve done something i wouldn’t usually but I’m thinking about adding in as a minor feature to spice it up a little. I’ve included an interactive Google map. It’s only a small one here but if you click the link, street view the different places and you will get a pretty good idea of what I’ve been babbling about.

I have gotten up to a part that I have been really looking forward to writing so sorry if I harp on about this one a bit more than I should.

WARNING: WILL BE LENGHTY AS I LOVED THIS PLACE THROUGH N THROUGH!!!!!!

Part 3: Canada, Banff and all things Maple Syrup……………

So ill begin from the beginning of this adventure. As we flew into Calgary it was grey, cold and raining outside the plane. It was so cold the windows had snow flake crystal looking things on them. Apparently the decent was going to be fun, and we all know how much I hate landing after the Vegas incident. As soon as we started descending the turbulence style bouncing around began and my white knuckle grip on the seat handles began. It seemed to last for ever and it certainly didn’t help that Juzzy was egging on my nervousness by making quips about “this is the part where the plane falls out of the sky over the Rockies and we all die because of too much turbulence” etc.

I remember the change we saw from the clear blue skies and vastness of the desert had become cold dark grey clouds and I seriously began considering our decision to leave the warmth of Vegas to come to a Canadian “summer”. Funnily enough as soon as we got through the clouds, the sun came out and the sky cleared up. I had a video of the landing into to Calgary which I might end up posting at some stage so you can see the contrast, we shall see.

We made it into the airport in one piece and began taking a nice long walk through possibly the longest straightest airport I’ve ever seen. I did feel a certain sense of excitement as we went down the escalators to the ground floor and above us on the wall was the gigantic and somewhat oversized sign saying welcome to Canada.

By the time we got our luggage and found our way to the car rental counter it was already 1030 or around that mark. We decided to get an upgrade on the car which somehow landed us with a brand new ford fusion. White with lots of silver on it and four doors, it looked ok.

So here was the scenario. By the time we got on the road from the airport and got GPS all sorted it was pitch black outside. Understandably Juzzy was not overly comfortable first time behind the wheel which was on the wrong side of the car too. The first half hour of driving or so wasn’t that bad. We got pretty much straight onto the freeway, tuned in our satellite radio and just started cruising the freeway towards Banff.  After a bit we notice the lights started to get fewer and fewer between and we noticed more and more signs saying beware of moose and deer and bears and ice and cliffs. We certainly had the smorgasbord of shit to watch out for. As we climbed higher into the Canadian Rockies, the fun really started. It began raining. The rain was coming in from all directions and combined with the lack of lights we couldn’t see shit. I mean literally couldn’t see past the bonnet. We basically stuck to following cars in front of us because we could see where the road went by following their rear lights. Every now and then we got blitzed by a truck doing some insane speed. Obviously these guys could either see or knew where they were going. It’s pretty rare that I use the Jesus bar in a car but again I was hanging on for all dear life. I wasn’t such a big deal but like I said earlier, driving in a foreign country for the first time in a brand new car with the steering on the wrong side while you drive on the wrong side of the road through the Rockies in the rain at night with wildlife all around. Interesting stuff.

How it all began and nearly all ended.

We saw the sign to Banff and turned off, paid our park fares as Banff was inside a national park and proceeded into town.

We booked in to our new home for the next 2 nights, the Banff voyager inn and went straight to our room to pass out. By this stage it was well after midnight and after such a draining day we were ready to pass out. Not without a drink tho. We went down stairs to the bar and made ourselves at home. We met John the resident barman, got introduced to Yukon Jack( A Canadian version of American honey but 10000 times better) got hit with cheap Jack Daniels that were nice and strong and had a couple of English chicks telling us about their run in with a bear earlier in the day. I would have loved to stay and sample more wears but it was time for bed.

I awoke at some stupidly early hour and realised were I was. Canada was one of those places that I had really really been looking forward to seeing. So as soon as I realised that were I was, I jumped out of bed and went out on the balcony to suss out my surroundings. Daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaamn. As soon as I stepped outside the first thing I noticed was the chill. The fact I was wearing nothing but my trusty bonds didn’t help but it was nippy to say the least. But I didn’t care. The view that I had awoken to was unreal. Behind the houses across the street were evergreen forests that lead all the way back to the mountain that took over the majority of the scene. The mountain itself was being licked by clouds and covered in snow-caps and yet strangely the sun was slowly coming up. I might have got a bit excited and yelled out “good morning Canada” and to my surprise someone said it back. I quickly followed the sound of the voice and notice 3 sexy looking devils old enough to be my nannas doing their morning aerobics or whatever in the severely heated pool to which my balcony overlooked. I cut my loses and dived back inside to see if I could retrieve my shrunken testicles with a hot shower.

So without any clue what the hell we were going to do for the next 2 days we decided the best option would be to A) get some Canadian Cash and then B) hit the tourist centre. Upon cruising the main drag for the first time it became rather evident that Banff is indeed a tourist town. Every second shop there is a souvenir shop and every other shop is either take away or a bank….that sells souvenirs. We found a place to stash the car and hit up the ATM. Sounds stupid but it was nice to have some colourful money again. It made it easier to tell the difference between denominations and would hopefully prevent giving away the wrong notes when drunk because I couldn’t tell the difference.

We hit up the info centre and armed with our map and some vague idea of what we were doing we hit up the towns mall for lunch. We popped into some kind of crazy cowboy store to suss out any jack Daniels gear and ended up staying for an hour just chatting shit to the guy who owned the place. He loved Australians and we loved his stories. Cool guy.

Walking up and down the main street gave me this weird feeling. I didn’t pay much attention to it and kept on. After the 2 shop we walked into it became apparent that they all sold maple syrup. The more shops we walked past, all you could smell was maple syrup. As it was cold outside but most of the shops had their doors open, their heaters would blow the smell of warm maple syrup out into the street. The whole town literally smelt like maple syrup. You couldn’t hate the place if you tried let alone get angry at anyone. That’s just the kind of effect it had on you. I swear if I got mowed down by a bus in Banff and the driver got out checking on me, instead of abusing him, id smile brush it off and ask if he wanted a hug or a waffle.

It’s just something you have to experience to truly understand. Who knows, maybe maple syrup is the key to ending world crisis. SWAT teams would offer chicken n maple glaze to end hostage negotiations, Riots would be quelled with the smell of waffles n maple blown from a fan on top of the emergency maple response unit, Japan would stop hunting whales because they suddenly realised that sushi n tofu actually would taste alright with maple syrup on it……….

Um…*cough*….….so anyways…….

After retrieving the car we headed through the back streets and found our way to a lookout on Buffalo Street that the chick in the tourist centre said to check out for sure. After plenty of dicking around and following a stupid GPS that took us all over the place we found it. We pulled into the car park and gently nestled the trusty fusion between tourist coaches and holiday campervans. I was thinking great here we go. Overcrowded and over rated shithole. I soon realised how far from the truth I was.

From our vantage point we had it all. White water, gentle rivers, evergreen forests, snow cap mountains, clear blue skies, a distant view of the Banff Gondola ride that we sadly never got to use and across the river a dirty great big German looking chateau thing that I later found out was actually a hotel. Now I wouldn’t usually do this but check this place out, no fucking around here and I imagine it wouldn’t be cheap but daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaam. http://www.fairmont.com/banffsprings/Photos/ I would love to see that place in the guts of winter. All covered in snow and such. Sitting quietly by the river for a few mins a funny feeling swept over me again. I didn’t really pay attention to it but I noticed it.

Kinda made me feel like i was in Germany, not Canada

We ended up taking a ton of photos from this look out because it was really the first stop we had to look around and really soak up the surrounds.  We jumped back in the car and headed off up tunnel mountain drive for some crazy cliff side driving action on a road that was not big enough for 2 cars properly. Thank Allah that we didn’t have that problem. That drive took us through a literal resort “suburb” I guess you could call it that kind of reminded me of a log cabin version of that joint that dirty dancing was set in. We found another look out and pulled up to explore and take some more photos. It was at this point that I accidently took the panoramic picture that now adorns the top of this very blog. Juzzy had wandered off down the goat trail somewhat and left me armed with the camera and complete and utter silence. I stopped for 2 seconds to really enjoy it and soak it in before realising that feeling was back yet again. Still not knowing what it was I brushed it off and we kept moving.

A bit further on down the same road we pulled into a proper tourist look out thingy where we saw more coaches etc. Figured that after the last time we saw the coaches they seemed to have found the magic so we followed suit and ended up making it no further that the info board that showed the 6 or 7 different trails we could go on. The reason for this was because when we got there we were the only ones in the area. Being all quiet and soaking it in, a few little friends decided to come out and play. This was my first encounter with a squirrel/chipmink. Damn these little buggers were entertaining to watch and I was spewing that I didn’t have any food to give them as that’s what it appeared they were looking for. We sat there for probably an hour or more taking literally hundreds of photos of them, just trying to get a good one. The result of this wouldn’t be known till we got back to the hotel. After a while too many people rocked up and all our little friends scattered and we decided fair play and it was time to move on.

Where the photography love began....

We continued on down the mountain drive and saw a deer grazing. It was almost like he knew what was going on too cause as we stopped the car and wound down the window he looked up and almost deer smiled with that deer face of his. As soon as we clicked a photo or 2 he got that look on his face as if to say “right that’s my job done” and wandered away looking for more foods.

We ended up Driving back through town and while still giggling at a “stop 3-way” sign ended up driving down the wrong side of the road into vermillion lakes where they had barricades with warning notes stating clearly that bears lived here and will apparently not be all friendly n stuff.

While we were out taking some photos we noticed it had got grey and dark all of a sudden. We sat by the edge of the lake literally just watching a storm roll through on the other side of it. Then out of nowhere it began. We got hit by the most awesome hail storm I have been in in a while. It was enough to stop us driving back into town so we just sat n rode it out.

We made it back to the hotel just in time for the rain properly set in, but that didn’t stop our efforts to get a decent feed. Across the car park there was a steak house that came pretty well recommended by some half pint local chick we met in the bar the first night. Steak? Sounded good to me. Bumpers Beef House was an amazing log house kinda joint that just had the craziest shit on the walls. I wanted to steal almost everything and bring it home with me. As soon as I walked into the place that feeling came back again. I brushed it off and headed up stairs to pull up a seat at the bar. The staff was awesome and the NBA finals were on so it won me over anyways. After an incident involving chicken schnitzels in a steak house I settled on maple glazed steak and veg with steak house chips. Omg omg omg omg. I wish I took a photo of it because it was beyond awesome. I’m yet to cook it but I will one day hopefully soon.

We went back to the hotel and made some Skype calls, Facebook updates and unloaded the cameras to which we discovered that our furry friends from earlier had indeed provided some amazing yet hard to catch photos. This was the point that I realised I had to get a camera once I got back.

It was time for a drink so we hit up the bar down stairs to see John. It had been a reasonable day for us so we didn’t stay too long. Downed a few Yukon’s and then hit the sack.

After a poor night of sleep again, presumably the jet lag still playing a bit of a part we slept in a bit late. We basically just took it easy for the day as the weather had pretty much turned to shit. Between photos, Facebook, Skype, phone calls home, trip planning for future stops we decided we needed the foods and to get out for a bit.

We again basically spent the day walking up and down the main street. Between buying souvenirs and exploring the little side streets and hidden little malls that lay around the place.

It really was quite the un-eventful day but I did however end up getting everyone a present from somewhere in that town. It just ended up that way.

Come dinner time we decided to have a crack at the hotel fare. I ordered onion soup and lasagne and John asked me twice if I was sure I wanted to order all that. I said to him both times, you’ve seen the size of me dude come on. For the second time in as many days I ate my words. That and the biggest meal I’d had in a while. I was in for a fight to finish this meal but after assuring John I could eat it, I was determined to not let the team down. A feat I was yet to repeat several times in the near future. i was soon was regretting the decision as I lay on the bed in the hotel room rolling around like a turtle upside down on its shell trying to get back the right way up. But determined to keep the partying spirit alive I battled on. I had to….it was Juzzy birthday.

We walked into town to suss out the local night life. That ended as quickly as it started, being that we couldn’t settle on any one place to drink and most places were either crazy jam packed or deserted n barren. Low and behold we ended up back at the voyager keeping John Company.

We began with a light round of Jack Daniels before I downed a shot of Yukon. After tasting it again, I decided that would be my drink for the evening and told john, in honour of Juzzy’s birthday “I’d like a double please”. As soon as he found this out he poured a jax for Juzzy that I’m pretty sure was a triple and put it on the house.

By this stage we had a fair deal going. $3 glasses, $3 dollar shots. We liked this guy so much we just kept paying with $5 and left the 2’s for him. You just couldn’t go wrong here. About this time the pint sized chick from the first night rocked up, smashed crab drunk, boyfriend in tow and parked her ass on the bar stool next to me.  Saying g’day, I realised that not only was she completely and utterly fucked up, but this was one funny chick. While john agreed to find the 3rd bottle of Yukon for the week, a feat which I apparently helped destroy 2 of, I went for a smoke.

Colourful compared to that American stuff

When I got back, I was greeted by another glass of Yukon waiting for me and this tiny chick asking me if I played rugby. Little did I know that Canadians are so passionate about rugby.  When I told her I didn’t, she got fired up because of my size. She told me about 30 times in 4 mins “I should play rugby cause Id destroy shit” ’I’d just run through stuff and destroy it” “You’d be the destroyer” “they would pay me to come and play and just destroy stuff”. I asked her if she played and she quiet animatedly replied that she does and she destroys stuff. Then she worked out that that would make her the mini-destroyer because I’m the destroyer.  Getting no support from Juzzy, John or this girl’s boyfriend, I rolled with it. Next thing I know even John was calling me the destroyer while lining up shots of jaeger for all of us and more double/triple jax from Juzzy.

This went on for quite a while and we kept throwing drinks down or “destroying them cause that’s what the destroyer does” until John decided it was time to go home. The little chick whose name will always be remembered as mini-destroyer and her boyfriend wobbled their way off. In my drunkenness I said my farewells and thanks to john for looking after us so well left him a tip that I thought suited and wobbled my way back to the room. Least I thought.

Come morning I woke in my bed, fully dressed in that paro’ed out position that is only worsened by the dribble clinging between your chin and the pillow. I had indeed passed out hard. Somehow I still had the sense to not only get Juzzy the bin and put it next to him just in case, but to take a photo of it as well. I prepared for the day ahead, packed my shit and headed down stairs to meet the rest of the lads for the trip to Fairmont hot springs.

As we got through checking out n met up with the others, hit up the restaurant for a big ass greasy breakfast I ran into John again.

He asked me how I pulled up this morning and I said I’d felt better. He then informed me that upon finding the tip that I left him he came chasing after me to give some of it back to find me struggling to get up the stairs let alone walk properly. He informed me that he assisted me back to my room and put the tip back in my pocket as it was just too much. I told him it was because of that exact kind of treatment that I wanted to leave him such a tip. Because I truly appreciated how much he had looked after us. A trait I learnt that not just john possessed but almost all the Canadians I met.

As Liam and his brother in law Trev rocked up, it was time to go and start the next part of our adventure.  We all piled into the cars and made our way out of town and back onto the freeway.

It was as I sat there nursing my hangover, watching the forests go by and Banff grow small in the distance that I realised what that funny feeling was id had the last few days.

How could you not like this place?

Id fallen in love with Canada. Sounds stupid but that’s about as close to it as I can explain. I’ve been all over the world and seen some amazing places but the streets of Banff and the people there were amazing. It was the first time I could genuinely see myself living somewhere else other than Adelaide. I loved everything about it, and no it had nothing to do with the maple syrup. Well, not a lot to do with it. I’ve never been to a place that I felt so at home and comfortable in, been in such amazement in the surroundings and truly silenced in the wonders of how much difference and beauty there can be in a small part of a country. The people are friendly; I understand the currency, signs, language and even their thermometers. They are friendly, genuine and honest people the likes of which are rarely seen elsewhere these days and I was realising as we drove off how much the place had impacted me in the last 2 days and just how much I was going to miss it.

Sounds kind of weird and feels funny writing it but I think it sums it up. I’ve been heard to say numerous times since returning. When or if Life gets boring here it will be time to head back to Canada, Banff and all things maple syrup.

Vegas part 2: An education in to Olde English n cheap beer.

So there we were relaxing in Vegas. The details of the next few days are pretty hazy so if I get anything wrong here don’t blame me…..blame the booze Cause there was plenty of it. But we will get to that in good time.

I’m pretty sure it was the morning of the 4 or 5th day on the strip. We hooked up with the rest of the crew in the lobby of the lux. Big Rob, one of my best mates since back when we were all pre-pubes n would get smashed on 2 longnecks. Josh a long time tripper and awesome dude who me n Rob went to school and who would later become my educator in all things vodka and lastly Kaos, a dude that I was unfamiliar with in previous organisational conversations with Rob but on siting realised I used to play ball with at the gardens back in the day and it was like long lost buds.

So there we were, the 5 of us readying up to party for the next 3 days. We still had a bunch of time before Liam and Chelsey were due to arrive. Now I can’t remember for the life of me which way this happened so I’ll tell it like I think it went :P

The whole purpose of being in Vegas was so we could catch Liam and Chelsey for their buck/hens night. All I remember is meeting up with them at miracle mile shops and having some foods. There were a few photos, a bit of looking in shops and planning for the bucks’ night events. We spent a bit of time patrolling the strip and sussing stuff out as a group and somewhere along the line lost josh and Kaos. After making it down past the Bellagio again we decided to cruise back as we were all pretty knackered. On the way back, Big Rob introduced me to Fat Burger. Another source of greasy greasy goodness that would later become somewhat of a staple diet in Miami. If you ever get the chance, seriously, try their burgers just once.  It’s about now I believe that most of the restaurants in America should just have the CPR machines attached to each table.

Fat Burger, Greasy but delicious...my heart hates me :(

We headed back out onto the strip and headed back to the lux with no sign of the other 2 anywhere.

By now it was late, I was tired and the Mexican flickers on the sidewalk were giving me the shits I was seriously considering a re-enactment of some of Hitler’s not so finer moments. Lacking any gas chambers or firing squads I had to opt for keeping my eyes firmly on the ground.

Some way ahead, a white arm came into my field of vision and a distinctly Australian accent told me to take the cards. As for the rest of the journey they had been mocha-chino or caramel coloured arms I kind of freaked out and had to look. I got to admit a few potty mouthed words escaped as I looked up and realised that the arm and accent indeed belonged to Josh. Having lost these 2 clowns earlier they decided to get some 40s and plan their next move which resulted in them wearing the bright neon t-shirt uniform of the flickers and working hard for their money.

I can’t begin to explain the lengths they had to go through to be allowed to do this job, but they wore those t-shirts with the fervour of a home team supporter at their grand final. Fucking clowns. Apparently not only did they get to keep the t-shirts as souvenirs they also made a whole 10bucks or so for a good couple of hours work.

The J & K working the strip, forgive the blurry....i was shitfaced :P

Somewhere in there between jetlag, an appalling night sleeps, a bought of getting really really home sick and probably more beers I ended up getting out of bed at some half assed hour after lunch.

The new day was to be Liam’s bucks’ night involving poker, beers, more poker, more beers and possibly some Vegas style boobies.

It all began with me stumbling out of bed, getting dressed and rolling my still half asleep ass onto a bus with the rest of the gang. Taking up position in my look out post on the 2nd floor of the double decker, we headed for old Vegas. Many people get confused by that. The Vegas strip that you see in movies and hear so much about is actually new Vegas, the tourist Vegas. Old Vegas is a short drive away right down the south end of the strip. And driving down there in the bus, you could tell pretty easy it was old Vegas. Between the intermittent bullet holes in the walls, the vacant lots and derelict buildings there were the casinos that made the place famous. The Sahara being the first one I recognised. I swear it hasn’t been updated since the day it was built.

Upon arriving Freemont St in the late arvo, it was decided that for breakfast we would hit up the liquor store n start the day off right. Big Rob came back with a suss looking can in a brown paper bag and told me to drink it quick cause the warmer it got, the worse it got. I cracked it, skulled about ¼ of then realised that I was drinking Olde English 800s.A near vile high percentage, highly potent malt liquor; this stuff was just plain rotten. But I had to get through the can as Josh told me on numerous occasions “it was good for my street cred”. As we cruised down Fremont St past classic casinos like the Golden Nugget and The Pioneer the boys regaled me with tales about their experiences with “o.e” 40s and just how bad it can mess you up.

Olde English Cans,slightly larger than a can of mother..

Put it this way, by the time I got to the other end of Fremont St and finished the can, I was messed up. A healthy was to start the day. We went into some crusty ass dinge hole casino that had a sign saying free beer. The bastards, their $5 marketing sign had indeed foiled my attempts to resist.

Next thing I know we were all sitting around pokie machines, some playing some not and being delighted in watching the goings on around us. It basically worked out that if you tipped the waitress a dollar, she would bring a round of beers for all of us. The beer was watered down horse piss. It was so bad that I would rather inject VB or 4X into my main vein hypodermically than drink this stuff on a regular basis. But for a buck for 5 of them…..it certainly suited the purpose.

Between some small and decent wins on the pokies throughout the group, Juzzy stopping to try a deep fried Twinkie, the smoking pregnant redneck waitress having a full on scrappy bitch fight with our waitress cause she was supposedly not sharing the tips and the allure of getting mardi gras style necklace beads every time we won I ended up pretty mashed.

The simple fact that our “favourite waitress who wasn’t sharing the tips” could come back with a tray of beers and give them to us by our names and ask us what Adelaide was like should have been the giveaway that she had perhaps frequented our group a  few too many times. But alas, it was too late for me. Roughly around this point, I was crabbed….smashed crabbed. I have little to no memory of what happened after that old school casino visit. But I will amuse you with the tales of what I do recall and keep in mind this is all effectively hypothetical.

There was a point where we were standing in Fremont St watching the light show across the ceiling and I remember looking up at it with so much amazement I could barely move. Well, that and I could barely move I was that drunk. As an indication of this I believe I burnt a hole in my t-shirt and burnt my neck with the cigarette that fell out of my mouth as I gawked upwards, but was too oblivious and unco-ordinated to do anything about it anyway.

I recall something to do with the world’s most expensive shot of tequila and a bunch of $1 dollar notes going missing. Don’t what that’s about tho, still trying to piece that together.

But my coup de gras, my outstanding achievement award, my Oscar winning performance was the bus ride back. Apparently we were to meet Liam and Chelsey and some others back in new Vegas in front of the hard rock casino to hook up for some poker. I never made it.

Crabbed and enjoying the Fremont St light show....i think

I was so fucked up from drinking Olde English and dollar-a-round beers that I couldn’t get off the bus. The rest of the lads tried to coerce me off the bus and to come with them but I couldn’t move.

I’m not sure what happened or how long I was on that bus, but I do remember being left on the bus. I remember doing a couple of laps on the Vegas metro strip bus, I working out that I was cruising down the strip and thusly breaking into a rendition of Easy E’s Boys in the hood.

I remember belting out at the top of my lungs “Cruising down the strip in my 6-4, Jacking the bitches, slapping the hoes”. I remember freaking out cause if people thought I fucking around I would get ghetto slapped or shot or something n then quietly doing another lap of the bus trying to muffle my giggles.

Easy E- Boyz in the hood

I’m not sure what the hell happened but somewhere along the line I got off the bus and with no clue how, made my way back to not only the right casino, but the right room. I don’t remember anything at all from the bus laps onwards other than waking up the next morning and realising that my head was indeed pounding like that clapping monkey you see in the Simpsons. I would never drink again…..

Rightly so I messed myself up and spent the majority of the day in bed. I missed out on going downtown again and going to some outlets and the like but Big Rob was nice enough to hook me up with some Nike Slip-ons that since getting have barely left my feet. I ventured out for some food but that was about it. Back to bed for me. Sadly that’s pretty much how I finished up Vegas. Come the morning last morning, we said our farewells to the boys and checked out. We would be seeing them again in 4 days’ time in Banff, but for now it was back to just me and the Juzzy making our nearly insignificant dent on the USA and Canada.

First bit bout the Vegas.

Ok, so it’s taken a bit to get this next chapter out, my apologies. It’s been a busy few weeks. Anyways….where did we leave off? LA airport that’s right.

We had parked out butts in front of our departure gate and the buzz was in the air. Not long now and we would be in Vegas, seeing what mischief we could get into. I got the munchies on pretty hard, as the flight over hadn’t had the most fulfilling meals on it so I went for a trundle round the departure lounge.  After failing miserably to find anything overly appealing I was heading back to the gate and got smashed into my some clown walking past. I turned around to give the guy a mouthful only to find it was Lucas. I’ve worked with Lucas off and on for the better part of nearly 8 years. I had now travelled half way around the world to run into people from Adelaide straight of the bat. Lucas and his mates ended up travelling on the same flight. Talk about rowdy. It was definitely cool to see him, but it was still a tad surreal to run into someone you know half way round the world in an LA airport.

Not long after and we were in the air again. I ended up getting jammed in the window seat next to some great big Texan war veteran. It was a nice flight from LA to Vegas. You could see the hills of Hollywood slowly change into the flat dry plains of Nevada. Flying over the literal desert of nothing and then all of a sudden out of nowhere this massive city pops up. The fasten seatbelts sign came on and down we went, towards the runway.  Problem was I swear the pilot forgot what he was doing. The way the plane landed with such a jolt it was like he was flying over the runway and suddenly remembered he was meant to be landing so just smashed down into the ground. Now as we all know I don’t like landing in airplanes. I don’t know what but that’s how it is. By the time the plane came to a stop in Vegas, I was white knuckling the arm rests. As soon as we could move I said to the big Texan “I don’t mean to be rude but you want to move pretty quick cause I just shit myself “I giggled as I said it, but he apparently took it seriously and bolted as much as he could to get away from me.

After a short sprint in a little mini bus thing, we checked into the Luxor hotel and made our way for our room. The Luxor is the big pyramid casino that beams light into the sky in a vain Egyptian looking attempt to send message to aliens in outer space and let them know that Vegas is indeed on the map and waiting for their arrival.

The Luxor at night

The room was simple but luxurious feeling at the same time, hard to explain. But they certainly followed through on the Egyptian theme. We had everything we needed including a view of the pool.

After dumping our bags and getting a quick suss of the room we decided to venture out and see what we could find. It didn’t take long and we were cruising down the strip. It was a pain in the ass to get around as almost every intersection there is no pedestrian crossings. There’s just too much traffic to contest with I guess, so they built bridges over every intersection. It became strangely comfy going up an escalator to cross the road.

Not far from the Luxor we found a little Mexican themed restaurant that made us our first dodgy decision. $30 for a yard glass margarita and $7 to refill. It was damn hot in Vegas and that thing had ice in it so that’s my justification.

Margarita yard glasses and vegas = messed up

We decided not to venture to far as both of us were pretty tired; half cut and were already getting annoyed by the flickers. Flickers are the guys and girls usually of Mexican descent working the strip in their brightly coloured t-shirts handing out what are effectively business cards for strippers and hookers.

They are in mass numbers all down the strip and pretty much force the cards on you, while making a flicking noise with the rest of the cards. I never got any good footage to show you but head over to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-i8gUnxKhgY&feature=related and you’ll get the idea pretty quick. Keep in mind these guys are literally every step of the strip. In one block there would average about 60 odd flickers and they stand both sides of the foot path so you have no choice but to walk down the middle of them, making it easier for them to throw cards at you from both sides. One thing I noticed is as soon as people get them, they drop them. The footpaths and streets are completely covered in discarded cards. I mean, the streets are so littered with these cards and they are so pressed into the asphalt that they are now part of the actual road.

The fact that we were in Vegas still hadn’t quite set in even by the time I was half way through my first tube and standing in front of a golden lion on the corner of the MGM casino. It’s hard to describe the feeling, not quite surreal but not quite not surreal as well. I think disbelief that I was actually in Vegas and on the first leg of 6 weeks of god knows what.

The tiredness soon took over, or maybe the sheer booze content of the yard glass and so we made our way back to the lux to settle in for a night of muggy air conditioning and our first foray into American hotel TV. At some stupid hour of the morning, my body hadn’t adjusted yet and I felt that familiar “hey its dinner time” calling from my stomach. Problem being it was 4 in the morning in Vegas.

I thought I’d go get some tucker and easy my stomach into the culture shock and time difference. Now at 4am in Adelaide when you leave the hotel chances are it’s going to be a ghost town. I for whatever reason was expecting the same. I thought there would be a handful of people in the casino as I made my way to the food hall. NOPE! It was like being at the big day out. People everywhere where gambling, eating, drunk, smoking, drooling over the cars you could win from jackpots and general Vegas life. It only took a sec to get used to but it was certainly an eye opener.

The next day was pretty straight forward. We got up early in the arvo and decided we’d get some tucker and just spend the arvo/night cruising the strip a bit further down. I wasn’t feeling the maccas vibe so I tried Nathaniel’s. Southern chicken, ranch fries with cheese and bacon topping with a large drink. Can you say HEART FAILURE! Nathaniel’s ended up being a once off for obvious reasons.

Nathaniel's -large heart faliure meal

Our adventures on the strip took us much further down this time. We found places like the coke shop (a multi-story store devoted to everything coca cola you can ever imagine), the M&Ms shop (omg omg omg omg), The Harley Davidson café and Diablo’s Cantina ,which has the most amazing smelling food coming from it but was waaaaaaaay to packed to even think about.

We ended up going into the Paris casino. Yeah yeah I know, I can hear you all say that goes against my firm believes against French people but let’s face it, they had the Eiffel tower as a look out and it was the only way we were going to get a sky high view of the strip. The inside of the casino was freaky. They had the roof painted as the sky and it was all brightly lit. The way the building motive worked around the edge of the roof it made you feel like you were indeed outside. We shelled out some coin and got up to the top of the Eiffel tower replica. DAMN! What a view. And by sheer luck by the time we got there it was just starting on sunset. An amazing time to be up there as you can see the strip slowly change from bustling city of tourists in the middle of the desert to bustling neon city lighting the sky filled with party goers, drunks and entertainers alike. I was funny but from the top of  the tower, you can really get the feel for how expansive Vegas is as a town, but then how factory pressed and surrounded by nothing it truly is. We made it down to the Bellagio in time for the water/light show spectacular which we ended up watching a couple of times.

After taking photos, posing with street buskers, Elvis, showgirls, and a guy dressed as a duck we decided on an early night as we had a big day planned for tomorrow. We had made it a fair way down the strip so it was natural we needed hydration. This time we picked the Excalibur casino.  A medieval themed camelot-esk casino that was nice enough to serve us Pina coladas in modern day chalices and cheap as shit vodka jelly shots. End result I don’t remember getting back to the casino or apparently stopping at Baskin and Robins for a super nut fudge Sunday with whipped cream and cherries. No wonder I felt a bit rough in the morning.

The Vegas Strip as night sets in - Photo taken by yours truly

Worst day to start off by feeling shit. We had nominated day 3 as the day to head out to east Vegas and visit The Gun Store. IF YOU’RE EVER IN VEGAS GO AND CHECK THIS PLACE OUT. Sorry for yelling but it’s true.

Check them out at http://www.thegunstorelasvegas.com we shot a coalition pack which was an M-16, an m9 pistol and an M249 LMG with holographic sights. I then shelled out some extra golds to shoot a .308 swat issued sniper rifle as well. Hot tip, if you’re ever firing a .308 rifle, make sure you brace it against your shoulder properly. I nearly blew mine off as I hadn’t braced all the way. The knock back was so bad my shoulder was bruised and sore for the rest of the trip. The noise was so big that people from the other end of the range came down to see what the hell I was firing.

I swear my nickers are still moist from this day at the range. Apparently i have a good eye for shooting as well. the rifle i got all center mass and one between the eyes, the saw i got all shots inside the target, the m9 i got all inside center mass bar 1 and m16 i got pretty much everything inside the target. When asked if i had shot before, i told them other than call of duty not really. The staff member then told me to definatley look into long rang shooting when i get home.

The ease that we fired these guns is crazy. You walk in, sign a waiver, select your guns, get your targets and ammo, pay, collect your earmuffs and goggles and off to the range with you.

The staff loads them, show you how to hold and fire them, hand them over and away you go.

There were 2 things that bothered me about this experience. Once we had collected our free t-shirts and targets, we decided to look next door in the actual shop. This is where I found a .50 cal machine gun. Brand new with a box of ammo for 10k cash.

Seriously, who needs a .50 cal in civilian life? No wonder there is problems in America. The guns laws are in insane!

But to make it worse, as we were leaving this little southern kid who would have been no more that 10 was standing at the counter picking out which guns he was going to fire. WTF! THIS IS A KID IN GUN SHOP!  Seriously? Fair enough people have the right to bear arms and whatever but why the fuck are you letting kids shoot machine guns?

We made a hasty retreat before the kid messed up and somehow managed to shoot us even tho we were in the car park and ended up sharing a cab back to the lux with a pair of poms who thought fosters was still the greatest Aussie beer ever!

We got back to the hotel and were still pumping from the fun we had. It made having a nanna nap hard so we ate, chilled, watched some TV and waited for the arrival of the rest of the gang. The fun has only just beginning.

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