Ramblings from a bloke with his head in the clouds, literally


Changes, History and a losing a life long friend.

After the big debacle of an event which I like to now call “the breaking of the classes” also known as expansion launch I have spent a bunch of time pondering my main character.
When I got to level 100 I felt very under whelmed by it. I was dying every few seconds, I didn’t seem to be able to do much damage and overall my much loved main character Hugebloke seemed very lack lustre.
I went through a process of re-glyphing, optimizing using websites and add-ons and double checking my rotations as all to no use. I finally come to the conclusion that my class was broken and I just simply would not enjoy playing that character anymore.
For the first time since launch day of burning crusade I was not enjoying playing my class and it hit me pretty hard. Within the first week of the Warlords dropping, I had come to the conclusion that I would have to mothball Hugebloke and move onto another character to find that enjoyment that I so much craved for.
The night I came to this conclusion, I was heartbroken. Now this is the bit were my crazy really starts to shine but here goes….

The one and only, my life long virtual buddy.

The one and only, my life long virtual buddy.

I felt like I was losing my best friend. A member of my family or perhaps even a small piece of myself. Pretty much every day for the better part of a touch over 8 years I have logged into the game and spent time doing what ever I do as Hugebloke. It became apparent the more I thought about what was going on that I have indeed developed this weird emotional attachment to my character and I’m actually ok with this. After all, Hugebloke really is/has become   like something out of one of my favourite movies. He has much become a “residual self image” or a digital representation of my physical self.  (5 points if you get the reference).

Now that may not make a lot of sense to others but if there is even one person out there that understands what I’m talking about then my job is done.
What I’m talking about is the projection of my physical self into the digital world. My character has taken on the personality traits that I have given him over the years. He has a circle of friends in server of people that know him and recognise him. They remember the dumb shit that I have done or the amusing antics that I have got up to. They remember the conversations and have entrusted my character with their most trusted secrets.
My character in a way really has taken on his own life. All be it controlled by me via a keyboard and mouse but you get where I’m going with this.

Hugebloke has become the representation of the adventure that I haven’t been able to go on in my real life. He is my escape into an alternate world that has sometimes been needed to get away from reality. When I battled crippling depression, Hugebloke was an acceptable way for me to still interact with other characters. I would forget that they were other people controlling the characters and would interact with them as the characters they were thus alleviating the stress of dealing with people. When I was injured and could barely walk let alone leave the house, I was still able to log in and go on these amazing adventures with my friends. I can log in and be the social butterfly chatting to everyone and anyone I come across or I can sit quietly on a lake and fish from a lake without saying a word to anyone. I took part in the million gnome march to protest warrior changes back in vanilla, I died amongst millions as Azeroth was infected with the blood plague and then again years later with the zombie plague. I defeated dragons, demonic night elves and possessed former paladins of the light and many more amazing memorable moments.
Hugebloke really was a means for me to experience all these adventures be it solo or with friends.
So the thought of putting him up on the shelf and moving onto another toon just broke me. All those adventures and friends, people recognizing me from prior guilds or that one dungeon run 5 years ago because I made such an impact. I was confused and hurt by these changes as it was the first time I have ever not felt like playing that character. I honestly felt lost and didn’t know if to start playing another toon or stop playing WoW all together. All the hours and achievements that I had spent or earnt. Would I have to start all again? Would I have to build new street cred on another toon? Would the game ever be the same again? Would I be the bitter old man and point blank refuse to start fresh, spending the rest of my days playing WoW on a cardboard box with a crayon drawing of a computer and my character in the main street of Stormwind?

I dont know who Sylvia is but im stealing her computer to play cardboard WoW.

I dont know who Sylvia is but im stealing her computer to play cardboard WoW.

I guess the point of this all is to say that it’s ok.
It’s ok to have an odd emotional link to your toon. Society might think your nuts but I don’t.

I understand what its like. While I know allot of you will be sitting back think…this dude either needs to cut back what he smoking or share that sh*t around. But I know there are a few people out there that share my feelings on this and understand what I’m talking about.

I think that is the real nuts and bolts of why I love world of Warcraft so much. The fact that I can get so into a character and feel so much pain at the thought of losing them.

Well played Blizzard, well played.

Share your thoughts on this piece or ask me to cover another topic, id be happy to oblige.


My World of Warcraft.

My World of Warcraft.

I’ve been trying to find the time to put my jumbled rambling thoughts into line and into a post for a while now so here’s hoping this goes ok.

I began playing back in the early days and while I’ve had my spurts of time of here and there I have pretty much had a subscription running the entire time. I have spent hours upon hours dedicated to my characters in particular my main character Hugebloke the amazing dreanei shaman.
I have done nearly every quest in the game; I have seen the sites and done the raids. I’ve defeated bad guys atop temples and gone fishing in the most serene vistas I’ve ever seen. I’ve accomplished great feats and died doing the most ridiculously easy things you could imagine, but the fact is…there is always a reason to come back. The game has given me so much I decided it was time to figure out what it is that has kept me coming back. What has kept me so involved and interacted all these years.
At the height of this game in the Wrath expansion (woot woot) there was 12 million (give or take) active accounts. Now that is a metric shit load of people playing.  Imagine 12 million different personalities giving life to characters in the game and you begin to realize why the community is such a mixed melting pot.
As a simple example you will have the trolls, the comedic geniuses spamming trade chat with anal and chuck Norris jokes, the savvy business men trying to conquer the world via the auction house, tomorrows great leaders raid leading 10/25/40 other people to greatness, the dirty trollop shaking his or her money maker on the mailbox for gold, or that guy that just has to leeroy everything in sight.

The WoW community is literally made of up every type of person you can imagine and I think that’s half the reason that it works so well and I keep coming back.
After playing the game for a bit you will ignore the ones that annoying with their vile tongues and sense of entitlement (something I am seeing more and more of lately) and you will learn to really enjoy the company of those that you see eye to eye with.

When you spend so much time in a virtual world with people, you begin to learn more about them. It’s when you start know the person behind the character a bit more that you become attached to not only your character but theirs as well which in turn leads to friendships off screen.
I have met so many people from playing WoW it insane. Even if our interaction is via Skype, or vent or actually meeting some other players in person, it’s that level of interaction that keeps me coming back.
Now this isn’t going to be the case for everyone out there, but I know it’s the case for a lot of people.
The variety of people that I have met from the game is incredible. People that I would have not otherwise met because we simply don’t move in the same circles. Some of these people have turned out to be complete fucktards and then a very select few I consider so close and so amazing that they flew in from all over the country to be present at my wedding earlier this year and I consider them some of my closest long distance low maintenance friends.

Everyone has their own reasons for playing WoW, while most would just put it down to “I enjoy the game for …….reason” I think there is a lot more to it. I think deep down most people wouldn’t admit it but they play for the sense of community as well.  They long for that interaction with other people in the unique ways that WoW enables.

Ok so yeah its lead to a generation of keyboard warriors who literally think they are the greatest warrior in all the land and can flame and abuse anyone they like…..until mum tells them its dinner time and they have to go wash up. But it’s also been an outlet for so many via the community it provides.

wrath buddies

I have seen first-hand the variety and here are a few examples of different types of people and reasons:
The single mum who was abandoned by her former husband because their child was special needs. She used to have a night nurse for him 3 times a week so she could have some downtime from her near 24 hour constant care. She never liked to be too far away so playing wow enabled her to have interaction with other adults while still being at arm’s length should she need. She rarely did anything other than level and picks flowers and tells filthy inappropriate jokes in guild chat but that was her outlet.

The agoraphobic early 20s bloke that couldn’t leave his house at all. He was afraid of people and the outside world in a physical sense. He was the nicest lad I’ve ever met on vent and Wow provided him with a means to feel normal in mixing with others. While he couldn’t bring himself to go outside, WoW gave him a place to explore and be outside in a virtual sense.

The fresh retired cop who had no idea how to spend his days until he found WoW.
with a lot of time and nowhere to go in particular, the guild gave him a sense of belonging and something to do, he enjoyed being the old respected guy that everyone turned to because simply put, he had the time to learn the game in and out.

The young girl that used WoW and our guild as a sense of escapism from reality. She was deeply depressed at not having achieved anything in life like the rest of her family, she suffered all kinds of medical issues because of it and her social life suffered. While she recovered we as a guild gave her safe place where she could speak her mind. She came with us on adventures and got that sense of achieving something from our raid progression, dinging achievements and getting her first legendary.

And scarily enough there is people like me.
I fit into a bunch of different categories. I have been that guy on nightshifts that had nothing to do but play wow and talk to people. I have been the guy that was deeply depressed and found my only success or sense of achievement at the time in smashing through a raid boss. I have been the guy too fucked up with a back injury I can barely scratch my own butt let alone go out and have a social life so I relied on wow to be my social interaction.

The fact of that matter is that everyone has their own reasons for playing but also playing their characters the way they do. But it’s the fact that we do it together that makes it so consuming.

Like I said, this won’t is the rule of thumb for everyone. But for a large proportion of people I believe this to be the case.  Especially when you get to the end of an expansion like we have recently and there is little left to do. It’s the people that you enjoy interacting with that make it so enticing to come back each day. You crave the interaction in whatever form for whatever reason. Even with the game being chock full of elitist assholes lately (whom I’m sure have their own reason for being like that, perhaps some power trip ego boost megalomaniac complex or something?) but those people don’t phase me too much anyways. Simply if you don’t get along with someone in the game it’s no big deal, you delete them of a friends list or don’t pug with them again and it’s no biggie. But if you find a good group or a good guild, and become invested in it then it can literally change your life.

These are that people that make you laugh, make your cry with happy n stupid, you achieve great feats with, you work with each other to solve the game problems and sometimes help each other through real life problems. You develop friendships and sometimes relationships, (I’ve lost track of how many people I’ve heard of hooking up or getting married from meeting some in game).

its not that i dont have a life, its that i have many.

its not that i dont have a life, its that i have many.

These people become the one you open up to about personal shit because it’s easier than doing it to someone face to face. They are the advice givers and the people that amaze you with just how stupid or hilarious they can be. They are the ones that you go on epic adventures together or just sit in the middle of trade district in storm wind doing absolutely nothing because your too busy talking in guild chat or laughing on vent. They are the people that help you beat Swifty’s ass and turn you into the greatest gladiator of the arena ever, or the people that you sit on Skype with until 4am because you simply can’t get enough of their “foreign” accents and hilarious jokes.
They become your family when sometimes your real family is lacking, your global friends and your team mates.
These are the things that make up the community I am a part of. These are the reason I keep coming back each day for hours on end.

It took me a bit to figure out and realistically I’m only scratching at the surface of a huge topic here.

It boils down to why wouldn’t I want to be a part of something that means too much to so many people in so many different ways? Yeah I get pissed off when people say to me it’s just a game. For me it’s my life.
It’s no different to a car enthusiast or a die-hard sports fan, an artist or model maker.
This is my hobby, this is my life…..this is my world of Warcraft.

30 Random facts about Me and World of Warcraft.

World of Warcraft Logo30 Warcraft Facts about me you didn’t know.

Someone sent me a 30 day challenge for world of Warcraft. I highly doubt I would be able to keep it up over 30 days so I’m going to cheat and put it into one epic post as best I can.

So here goes:

Your first character? 

My first character was Doggerus, a human rogue. I had never played this type of game at that time and really had no idea what the hell I was doing let alone about picking classes or races and the likes.


The biggest jerk you’ve dealt with (in game)? 
Not so much the single biggest, but the type of jerk….you know the one. Everyone knows the type. They are the type that used to pull the boss to wipe the raid after they had left group. The kind of player that sneaks in and ninjas your loot or kill before you have a chance to know what was happening. The kind of player that joins your guild, asks for help in a quest/gold/raid/achieve etc. and once getting it clears out the guild bank and abandons the guild.
Yeah, you know the type.


A class you’re awful at playing? 
Pretty much anything that isn’t my shammy. I can play them all, just not play them all well.


Your favourite zone (Classic, BC, WotLK & Cata)? 

Hard one as I have so many favourites.
Classic would be Elwynn. I just love Stormwind and the whole human starting zone. Stormwind really is an epic city

BC that’s easy…Nagrand. How can you not love it?
Wrath is a 2 way tie between Ice crown and storm peaks.
Cata I would have to say Uldam

And adding in for Pandas I would have to go with the valley.


Your favourite classic instance? 

Dead mines for sure. I had some epic moments in there back in the day.


Your favourite quest line?
After watching the anniversary special where Chris Metzen and the team explained the story behind the “A Tale of Valour” in Ice Crown, two days later I quested another toon through there. It took on a whole new meaning and changed my outlook on the game for ever. I still make sure that I take all my toons through that quest line.


Your favourite piece of lore? 

Pretty much anything to do with the Lich king story line. Just that simple.


PVE all the way.
Pvp annoys me and frustrates me to death and Rp I have never dabbled in even though I find it amazingly interesting.


Horde or Alliance (and why)? 

Alliance. Just cause. I dunno…..I think both factions have their merits and weaknesses.


Your favourite mount.

My x-53 touring rocket. Dunno why, I use it all the time tho. Considering how many mounts I have this is kind of weird…


Your favourite gear set. 

Tier 10 Frost witch on my shammy. First full set of armour I earn the hard way from my favourite story and favourite raid. Still wear it now thanks to transmogs


Your achievements (choose one character and link it). 


Your favourite Burning Crusade instance? 

I think it would have to be ramps. Spent so much time in there and never really got bored of it.


When did you start playing? 

About 6 months after the initial release of the game give or take.


Your favourite Wrath instance? 
Any of the ones that involved direct contact with Arthas. To me it helped the story line keep going and flowing and kept you in touch with the big bad ass of the expansion. Basically it just provoked more need to kick his ass as well.


What do you listen to while playing? 
I tend to watch a lot of movies or TV shows on the second monitor, especially while I farm. Lately I’ve been watching a lot of twitch feeds and making some amazing new friends though


Your favourite WoW related YouTube video? 

Leeroy Jenkins for sure.
That shit still cracks me up and I quite often Leeroy both in game and in real life.


Best and Worst thing about WoW? 
Best thing: the people that I have met and the friends I have made. Some who although I don’t see that often (either in game or in person) I still consider to be some of my closest and dearest friends. Hell, 3 of my best buds that I met in wow flew into town to attend my wedding.

the stigma that the game has. Like, when people find out you’re a WoW player they automatically hang shit on you, presume you’re a dungeon dwelling ubernerd and have no life. I hate that.


Favourite class and why?

My Shammy because it’s my main and I know how to play it. Lol

seriously though, I just dig the shamanistic class story and background.


How did you come up with your main’s name? 

On the character creation screen my Dreanei looked like he was huge and he was a bloke.
I am huge and I’m a bloke in real life too so it’s kind of made sense to me….Hugebloke


Your favourite battleground? 
Old school Alterac Valley. I’m talking the kind where you could log in and join an AV battle that had been going for 2 days already. You could play for 8 hours, go to sleep, get up go to work come home log into wow and re-join the same battle. And it would go on like that for like 8-9 days straight. That and I miss summoning the ancients too 😛


Your non-combat pets (choose one character and link it). 

Argent Squire. He so multi skilled and so cute with his little mini mount n stuff.

Argent Squire

The longest you’ve gone without playing? 

A few months during cata mainly cause I really didn’t enjoy cata at all.


Your favourite screenshot. 

 The sheer chaos and excitement on launch night. This time round it was pandas…..Opening night of Pandaria

Who do you play with? 

I do tend to fly solo for day to day stuff. If I’m not raiding current though I do enjoy hanging out and running 2 man versions of 10 man heroic raids with Wookiedin, the paladin owned by none other than Wookie of  http://www.worldofwookie.com fame


List your characters and their levels.

Hugebloke, Littlechicky, Briannabank, Ronjeremee, Zapstical, Kungfoopanda and Squidlipz are all level 90.
Then I have a splattering of different level characters that may one day get to 90 or maybe even 100 by then.


Your titles (choose one character). 
Bloodsail admiral Hugebloke is what I rock the most. It was a pig of an achieve to get and not many people are stupid enough to do it.


Your favourite and least-favourite boss? 
Arthas and Arthas.
He was a pig of thing to beat at the time, week after week of nothing but expensive repair bills but then that rare felt moment of pure elation and joy when he finally died for the first time…..never had that feeling since.


Something you worked really hard to get. 

What a long strange journey it’s been achievement was the first major achieve I ever got. I had a few smaller type ones but that was one that I decided I was going to get and set about doing the hard yards to get it. Doing all the reading and figuring out exactly what I needed to do and then actually doing it.
Took me exactly a year but god it felt good when I got it.


Your main (Armoury link & screenshot)?


Well that wraps that up.
I hope you have enjoyed learning a little more about me and my passion of Warcraft. If your utterly confused by all this and none of it makes any sense…I can send you a free trial of the game if you like! hahahahahha

If you are a fan of the game though, have a crack at doing the 30 Day WoW challenge. I would love to see some of the answers other people put to it!

Go on, you know you want to!

An overdue confession.

Bah, time to fess up….

As someone who has had many battles with depression over the majority of my adult life, even rather recently, the subject of Robin Williams’s death has been a touchy one for me.
It’s sad that it takes the passing of a celebrity of such calibre to bring depression to the attention of so many people.  But now it seems that at least a few more people are aware that it is an illness, it does have symptoms and it’s certainly not biased or overly selective in who it effects.

I’m genuinely feel sorry for people that say things like “it’s selfish” “it’s the cheat’s way out” “they didn’t consider their family or friends”. It shows that they really just don’t understand what happens to someone suffering.

As someone who has been there, I can only express that none of that even enters into your head when you are sitting at the bottom of despair. “Normal” emotions don’t surface at all and you certainly don’t think clearly. It’s not a quick fix and it can’t be simply gotten over or patched up. There is no such thing as a logical or normal way of thinking when you are fighting against a dark path.

The fact that Robin Williams spent his entire life being happy and making others laugh while suffering so badly behind closed doors that this was his only escape is a timely reminder that what you see on the outside of a person may be in stark contrast to what they are battling on the inside.

I know this for a fact as I have been hiding my battles for a while now, I have been the guy that puts on a persona just so everything appears normal…..

Just keep an eye out for your family and friends people.
Educate yourself and take note, you never know…….

here is a good place to start:


Chapter 8: Winding straight roads, Walmarts and Dearest Friends.

We left our humble hut in Shepardsville after a trip to Denny’s Diner and a near vomit inducing greasy breakfast and set out on the road in the death mobile once more.
Today was indeed the day we had feared for quite some time as it was the day we would be spending 9 hours in this little red box.

Our plan would see us journey the highways of Kentucky, Tennessee, and the bottom end of North Carolina eventually into South Carolina to a town called Spartanburg. Doesn’t sound too difficult….so we thought.

We set off down the highway on 3 and 4 lanes of one way bliss. Once we worked out that the speed limit was about 120km it didn’t seem that bad. Except for the fact that as soon as we left suburbia proper the natives decided that didn’t apply. While I was sitting on the 120, it seems that every man and his dog would blitz us by doing speeds far greater than that which was posted. Normally I would just dump the pedal and join the locals, but remember what we were driving folks. At that speed the poor little Avio was already revving its tits off and we were out of gears. I swear to this day had we pushed it much further than the 155 we hit at one point (going downhill) the damn thing would have gone in to dissipation mode and gradually disintegrated until we were left with all too familiar shape of a Flintstones car.

After the first two or three hours the boredom set it. No matter what satellite radio station we picked or how many strange cars we saw (first glimpse of Nissan cube) it was just one incredibly straight road. The strange part about it was that there was a definite bend in the road, but it was just such a minimal curve that you would barely notice. No matter how fast we went or how many rest stops we passed, the road just gradually bent for ever. Sometimes to the right, sometimes to the left. It was the windiest straight road I’ve ever been on and I hope to Christ I don’t have to journey it again anytime soon. The boredom got such that my fateful companion decided to photograph every truck coming in the opposite direction for 10 mins just to see how many there were. There are a lot of trucks in America it would seem. Put it this way. The clicking of the camera became so constant in those 10 mins I do recall threatening to pull the car over get out and break the antenna off and then use it to pierce the eye ball of he who was photographing every truck in the country. 120+ in 10 minutes going the other way for those of you playing at home.
Winding straight roads

It was about this point that we decided a food break was needed. The thing you have to understand about this is the roadside villages. Spread out across the country literally on the side of the highways are these little villages that crop out every 60-70kms or so. You take the exit ramps off into these little main street bound collections of service stations and take away food. There are no houses or businesses otherwise. Just food and fuel that is, nothing more nothing less. On this occasion we had our first encounter with “Waffle House” and I should have been suss in the first place considering we were literally in the middle of bum fuck ville nowhere. As we walked into the joint the 2 chicks that worked there were already laughing as I smashed my head on the door on the way in.

We took a pew at the bar and ordered up some waffles. “Can I have 2 choc chip waffles and syrup please?” a fairly stock standard question given the locations. “Yall keep talking like that and you can have me too. I be done in half an hour” came the reply in that cliché redneck hillbilly I just fucked my daddy who’s actually my brother kind of way. Naturally I replied in only an appropriate manner.

” Fucking jackpot! Waffles and a wife for less than 10 bucks! ONLY IN AMERICA! I LOVE THIS COUNTRY!” After making generous chitchat predominantly revolving around our accent and where we were from while getting about 38 free refills we hit the road again. All too happy to leave my waffle serving prospective wives behind, it was merely five minutes down the road and I remembered why I was so happy to get out the car in the first place.

The highway rolled over the hills and plains like you would not believe. Occasionally tantalizing us with a sheer cliff, a river or a nice looking lake we carried on and covered the ground we needed.

By the late afternoon we were belting along through the bottom of North Carolina. Excited by the concept we were nearly there the drive didn’t seem too bad. At one point when there were some genuine twists and turns that would remind me of the old days of going up through devil’s elbow to the hills. While it was raining and very narrow, the only thing that bothered me was when passing a truck on the inside of a bend in the rain and looking out my window. The only thing I could see was the bolts on the hub of the wheel spinning in a sinister way. About that time I started freaking out because he might not realize the world’s smallest transformer was indeed next to him and if he changed lanes that single wheel (which was bigger than the car) would carve through us like a knife through butter. I spurred the beast and raised our speed to be free of the impending doom. Once we climbed the mountain and were back on straight roads my companion awoke from his slumber apparently blissfully unaware that we had nearly died, it had rained, that we had just climbed a mountain or that the road did actually bend and twist like it had. Must have been a good sleep….lol

Around 6 that night we pulled into our home for the night. A little best western joint we had booked a day or two earlier. It  apparently shared a car park with a waffle house so I was pretty intent on seeing if I could keep my waffle n wife strike ratio up. The whole reason for visit to Spartanburg was to keep a promise to one of my oldest and dearest friends and it wasn’t long before she arrived.

With introductions aside we set about catching up on the last nearly 12 years and I got see baby “Nubsy” for the first time. It was during this encounter that D taught us stupid skippies about a treat that we were initially horrified by the sound of. The idea was to pour maple syrup over our bacon next time we had it. Sounded gross to me but we were pretty keen to at least have a crack at it sometime soon.

Baby Nubsy

As it was getting late, D packed up and headed for home after we arranged to get together the next day and see some sites. I don’t think she was even out the car park before we had decided it was time to hit the waffle house. Luckily the people working here this time were not only less scary but they had 3 strips of bacon for only 1 buck!

You know in movies where people suddenly have that moment of realisation, or for those familiar with my other work “an epiphany shit”…this was one of those occasions. When I took that first bite of maple drowned bacon it was as if the heavens opened up and pure golden sunshine came pouring through. This was the beginning of a trend I still continue to this day. Bacon in our house is now accompanied by maple, if you don’t like maple then get the fuck out of my house and stop eating my bacon!

The day had taken its toll and it was clearly time to pass out. It wasn’t possible after being all goofed up on maple syrup, being in amazement at how I hadn’t realised this awesome combination before and the overwhelming happiness at seeing a long lost friend after so many years. So high class TV time it was. My love of ncis, pawn shop, repo-men and man vs food continues to this day. Bless you late night American TV.

Having got the gang back together early the next morning, we really had nothing on the cards in particular to do or see so we decided to upon doing something that I had wanted to for years.

That’s right folks, I travelled all that way to go and shop at Walmart.
I did actually want to get some supplies so it kind of worked out kind of coincidentally. Before long we were walking through the doors of what I can only dub a small citadel. I mean I could literally get lost in this joint. The fact that we had to walk past the McDonalds, bank and hair dressers which weren’t part of the foyer-they were part of the store, I couldn’t see the back wall of the store when we were standing at the front. I had always heard that these joints were big but this was insane.
Think the similar look and feel as big w/target/Kmart or any of those stores but like infinity twelve of them put together under one roof.
I could have bought just about everything in the damn store, so before I bought a canoe because it was only 100 bucks the minders dragged me out of their with my needed supplies.
The adventure was set to continue though and we continued on little side trips to malls, lunch stops and of course the shock that was best buys.
 Being a gamer I had always heard about this joint so it was cool to visit one in the…um….flesh?
I got the shock of my life when we while wondering around the store and with a quick google check we worked out that if I was to buy a 60inch led from there, pack it, insure it, ship it home and convert it, it would still come out about $1100 cheaper than going to the stores at home and buying direct! This place was ridiculously cheap…I was learning to like shopping in America, something I couldn’t care less about at home.


Having eaten pretty much nothing but deep fried everything and icing sugared everything else for a few weeks now we were guided to a delightful little place called Golden Coral for dinner.
Imagine all the things you wanted to eat side by side along a nice long counter randomly splattered with bowls of different types of salad-ey type things. For two fifths of bugger all we got entry to all you can eat and bottomless drinks. What could possibly go wrong??
Don’t you worry, it’s me you’re talking about. There is always some kind of stupid thing involved.

My sidekick, our hosts and I were enjoying a nice bit of fresh tucker in a corner booth. Happily knocking off plate after plate and making a good name for the Aussie appetite.
About half way through the 6th or 7th plate is when it happened. The table across from us was vacant and it wasn’t long before a rather girthely gifted lass was seated there. She didn’t need a menu as she pronounced quite loudly that she knew already she was here for the buffet. I honestly though she was going to give me a run for my money in the packing it away race.
Un-known to this lady I secretly took it upon myself to have an eating competition and see who indeed had the stomach.
I had just returned to my table with plate number 7 or 8 and was busying hoeing into (I needed to keep the pace so she wouldn’t win the secret one sided competition) when she also returned.
Now keep in mind like I said she was a bit of a large lass. I mean, she could go a few winters and not be in trouble if you know what I’m saying. (Not nice I know but it was the obvious observation). Anyways, she came back to the table and plonked plate number 1 (8-1…take that random stranger!)Down. Because the seats didn’t move she had to somewhat suck in her stomach a bit to fit in between the bench and the table, which she somehow managed to do with a style and grace I wouldn’t have thought possible. Once seated comfortably, she let her stomach back out with a deep sigh. Only problem was, that her stomach spilled out onto the table in such a fashion that it sent her plate flying across the table and off the other side.
I’m not saying it was the cause, but I’m not saying it was not not the cause either, merely a coincidence that at the same moment her plate hit the ground I had a little bit of vom in my mouth.
With what I consider to be dirty tactics, she in a single moment wiped me out of the secret consumption race she never knew she was a part off.
I had plenty of time to bask in my disappointment as I left donations of recycled dinner in the garden bed outside while listening to my counterparts mock me for disappointing from.

 After letting the remaining food settle we spent the night and following morning catching up with  D and baby Nubsy. Meeting family and just enjoying not really having to be anywhere or do anything in particular for a bit. Its where i learnt to like the term “yall” and also learnt and understood the term “yallses” for the first time. I miss South Carolina for the little things.
Id really like to see this sign again soon!

Before I knew it our time had passed and snapped back into the swing of things when I found ourselves returning the rent a death box keys, grabbing a bite to eat and checking in for our flight to Miami-Florida.

Stay tuned for what shall be Chapter 9 – Flash floods, Vodka and V.I.P’s

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.


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!


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 🙂


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.


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.