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Bienvenue a New Zealand

Kia ora! That’s “New Zealand” for hello – but it seems so much more. It’s said in one fell swoop like “keyora” ish. ANYWHO.

As of 5:30am New Zealand time, I was in New Zealand time. I’ll share all about that/this, but between my last post and this morning, it’s been a whole thing. In a good way.

So in my last post I told you all that I found out I officially had a flight to the New Zealand leg of my Antarctica journey and that flight was three days later, on Thursday. If you recall, I was in Ohio visiting with mom, dad, Scott and Baxter at the time. The trip was great, albeit quick. Nice to see the fam before shoving off. I got a number of things done like eating Donatos pizza, checking out the new location for Three Tigers Brewing (which looked amazing and I’m so excited for them) in the old fire station in my hometown, getting some random things like merino wool layers and work insoles since I’m going to be in freakin’ Antarctica in a few days…you know, the usual. I was able to do a mini Christmas (due to the aforementioned being in Antarctica thing…holy shit) and gifted the family with the retail section of Idaho Rocky Mountain Ranch, which was well received. Ended up not packing until Wednesday morning and then headed to the airport for the first two legs of my journey.

Started in Columbus at 4:10p EST. First leg of the flight was delayed, so I went to…Donatos pizza again and had a beer and a pizza and sat next two two great dudes named Bo and Gary. Gary was a construction contractor working on big things around the US and Bo was a retired military guy who picked up teaching and both were a great conversation. Bo said he was going to follow this blog – so I hope you did, Bo! Flight didn’t end up leaving for Vegas for a while, but that didn’t really affect me because my flight from Vegas to Burbank ended up getting delayed as well. Got to Vegas, donated $50 at the Wheel of Fortune slots (spoiler alert: not NEARLY as fun as winning money on the actual Wheel of Fortune game show), ate the hell out of a delicious and treacherously messy Jersey Mike’s sub, and was on my way to Burbank. Got into Burbank at I think 9:10 PST? What is time, anyway? And I picked up my bags – magically a couple of the first ones out! – and took an Uber over to my friend, Dick’s place.

For those of you who don’t know, Dick is my 90-year-old friend. I met him three years ago when I started tagging along with my then-girlfriend when she took his dog, Jonah, out. Dick was married to Sandy, who passed away unexpectedly during the pandemic, and at that point we started hanging out with Dick more. Over the last couple of years, I’ve developed an even better relationship with him. We’re email pen pals and I try to see him as much as I can. He’s also a night owl, just getting into his insomnia by around 10pm, so me arriving that late was welcome, not a hinderance. I told him about this blog so Dick, if you’re reading this, I subscribed you to get updates emailed to you.

Anyway, so I’m over at Dick’s place. He had emailed that he needed a haircut, and being his relatively somewhat kind of regular barber, I grabbed my shears and started it up. This time, I think he asked for the “George Clooney” (or was it the Bradley Cooper?) so I did my best. Basically he went from shaggy to boy band, but he said he was pleased with the haircut even though he didn’t look at it in the mirror, so I consider it a win. We were able to catch up for a while and he showed me the puzzle he was working on (the 1000 piece one I sent him of Sawtooth Lake!) was almost done and I was able to get some serious Jonah CUDDLE (not snuggle – there’s a difference) time in. By this time it was 11:15p PST and I was running on fumes so I called up an Uber and headed to Brian and Kassandra’s house.

Got there and Brian was still awake (Kassandra had an early morning where she had to go to a dumb work retreat so she was in bed) and he brought out a delicious beer as a welcome back surprise and we headed back to the guest house to chat. It’s so funny that literally 4 months ago I finished working on that guest house, and since then it’s really come to life. Brian and Kassandra added some color, and put some things on the wall and Kassandra has been making it her office / jam space (she’s an incredible percussionist) and sitting in there and talking to Brian over a beer, after a long day, was just a surreal feeling. I hadn’t actually had time to sleep in the space yet, so this would be my first night.

Brian asked if I wanted help pulling the bed out and I’m like, nah, I’ll just sleep on the couch as is. This was my same couch I’ve had since living in Ohio and it’s moved with me and moved with me and moved with me. Thanks to all the friends who’ve helped move it – most recently Alvin and Matt. It’s still in freakin’ great shape and I fell asleep exactly one beer after Brian and I finished our beer. Woke up early so I could have a coffee with Kassandra before she left and they surprised me with the coolest (warmest) Carhartt jacket for my trip. I’m going to get all the penguins to cozy up to me. After some great catching up with Kassandra, she had to leave and Brian and I did some brainstorming in the back house and then it was time for me to go through the stuff I have stored there and pack some more and repack. I was thankful that I remembered I had an actual suitcase because up to that point in my travel from Idaho, I had been stuffing and re-stuffing things into a ratty old cardboard box and it was very much on its last legs. Though I just realized this – this suitcase is a normal suitcase with wheels…and heavy suitcases with wheels aren’t necessarily conducive to rolling over rock and ice on Antarctica. That’ll be interesting!

During my day, I was greeted by three spirits. The GOAT of Travel Past, The GOAT of Music Present, and The GOAT of Alcohol Futures. First, Eric visited. I’ve known Eric since moving to LA in 2010 and he’s traveled the world. Next was Liam. Liam’s an amazing musician (Follow Yellowbirddd – my favorite is “Overcaffeinated”) and I’ve known him since I worked at The Greyhound in Highland Park. And the third was Alvin, whom I’ve ALSO known since The Greyhound. He’s working diligently to make sure the world is exposed to the best craft beer and alcohol known to man. I felt bad because I was stuffing things in bags and probably kind of distracted when each visited, but I think they understood. And now that I write that, I realize that Alvin didn’t even visit. Brian was able to find a little coverage from work so he could drive me to The Greyhound (Glendale) to have lunch with Alvin – who freakin’ offered to take me to the airport! LAX, no less…during rush hour. He’s a damn angel.

Sidebar: it’s 6:30am currently and I’m WIDE awake because time is imaginary so I wanted to pause and let you know that all of my posts sure as shit aren’t going to be this long. I’m just rambly and excited and my first cup of coffee has officially kicked in.

Lunch was great. Matt, the owner, was there and we all had a fun conversation full of questions and laughing and tasty food. Then Brian headed his way and Alvin and I scurried to the airport via the weirdest mishmosh of directions through the city imaginable and he dropped me off. What a great day.

Got to the airport and like the nerd I am, I had all of my travel-related paperwork printed out so when I got to the check in counter, they said that I only get one checked bag – that I’d have to pay for the second. Boom – paper confirming I’m with the US Antarctic Program and they have a deal with Air New Zealand that I can get two bags. Done. Well, did I fill out my New Zealand travel documentation, boom. Here you go. Hi ho, hi ho, it’s off to the plane I go. Security was straight forward except for getting stopped and patted down/swabbed/sniffed because when I go on long flights, I wear my knee braces and ankle braces. This is due to the fact that I always have flown Economy and I am not a petite person, so the chairs are usually too small and I don’t have any room to stretch out my legs. Because of that, I end up crossing my legs for hours at a time, or trying to stretch in the aisle. This time, for only about 100% of the time, the airline flight attendants were a little too fat for the chimney and they knocked into me literally every time they passed by. There’s only so tiny that I can get. So that was fun. All in all, the flight wasn’t bad especially considering the gargantuan human in front of me forced the seat to it’s full potential backwards, the two <5 children beside me were with wonderful parents and surprisingly not fussy, and instead of 13 hours the flight was just over 12. Got a couple naps. Couple meals. Watched several movies over people’s shoulders. Boom, welcome to rainy New Zealand.

Which brings us to the first part of this post. It’s 5:30am on October 1st. I believe it’s a full 17ish hours ahead of California, or something like that. What is time? I have until 12:40 for my connecting flight, so I had to go through passport/security/immigration. Had all of my paperwork – including the 12-month visitor visa that they allow people in the USAP to have (as opposed to the 3-month one people normally get) – and I got through with no issue. Then was BIOsecurity – asking about all the pests you’re bringing into their country. This is where I had to declare that I had hiking boots and poles and that I had been on a horseback ride a couple weeks ago and that I had electrolyte powder, etc. Got through that with minimal issue. Welcome to New Zealand.

But that’s the INTERNATIONAL airport. Okay, gotta grab my bags and take a shuttle to the DOMESTIC airport because even though it’s a connecting flight to Christchurch from where I landed, in Auckland, it’s considered two separate trips. My bags were – AGAIN – magically a couple of the first ones I saw when I got to baggage claim. Grabbed one of the little rolley cart things, hoisted those puppies up there, and headed out to the check in counter again, where I re-checked my bags for my Christchurch flight. As a general observation, I honestly haven’t been the MOST impressed with the organization I’ve experienced around New Zealand travel. At LAX they were basically like “okay if you’re in the back of the plane, this row to that row, come on up” cue: mad dash to the lack of line / sales funnel with no rhyme or reason. In the plane. Hand-carrying a few dietary-restriction meals to this person and that person, then 20 minutes later start taking other meals to other passengers. At the airport check in, no real lines, a number of kiosks, no line past the kiosk just kind of makeshift I guess I’ll go here kinda thing. Second airport, get off the plane…I guess I’ll follow the flow of people to baggage? The first time I had any semblance of order was when I got to the bottom of the escalator, near baggage claim, where there was a small podium with the USAP logo and a very nice woman standing there with her red vest. I got my envelope and walked away – realizing I didn’t know anything that was happening…so I went back to the woman and was like, what do I do now? And she’s like, get your bags and wait there with the rest of them – she said it nicer. At that point, I realized that I was among 8 people who were also going to Antarctica. Met a guy who went for the first time last year. Met a woman who’s in her 19th season. Met another guy who’s in his 10th. Met a couple other first timers. They all have names. I haven’t remembered any but Tabby and Lisa yet.

We all get our bags and then herd to the Super Shuttles where we hoist our bags in the trailer and head to our respective hotels. I wish I had thought to pee prior to this. Shuttle was fine. Saw the hangar for the US Antarctic Program and a couple of buildings that look like they either are virtual tour spaces of Antarctica, or actually do tours down there or something? Got to our hotel and they were basically like, okay peace out. I checked in with the other two (of 8) who were at our hotel, and then was like…okay now what – to the guy who had been here last year. He’s like, well, you got the email about getting our clothes on the 4th, right? And I’m like, yeah, and he’s like, okay – well, that’s the next time we have to do something. Wait. So I have the next three days to dick around New Zealand? Holy shit.

Check into my room and it’s awesome. It has a bathroom and everything. Lol. Literally throw my stuff down, go downstairs and ask if there’s a place nearby for a beer, and I start walking. Sorry mom! Not using the buddy system yet. I walked up the street for a ways and saw a sign for a beer special so I went in there. It was like a tea room or something. I was definitely out of place. In a number of ways. Walked more, found a cool spot and had some food. Walked some more and found a mall that had a grocery store in it. It was just like a real mall with a grocery store in it! Will wonders never cease. Walked some more and found another place advertising craft beer. Had a beer then walked some more. By this time, the fact that it was 6pm New Zealand time and whoknowswhat time my body clock time, I headed back and told myself I’d take a little nap. Spoiler alert: it seems that the iphone alarm for a timer goes off after a certain amount of time because I slept HARD starting at 6:45pm and woke up, bright eyed and bushy-tailed at 3:45am. And here I sit, blogging to the ether.

BUT, good news: the restaurant opens in 2 minutes, so – mission accomplished? More to come. I’m also working on a photos page. When it’s done, it’ll be linked in posts and on the homepage menu. Subscribe on my homepage to be alerted when I post these rambling diatribes! Thanks for being interested 🙂

7 thoughts on “Bienvenue a New Zealand”

  1. Dude! I’m so psyched for you! Here’s to adventure and to living this tiny life to its fullest. Cheers!

  2. Sounds like a very complicated process getting there, but it seems that the organizers know what they’re doing. Exciting! Glad you’re there and have some met some of the group. Enjoy, and stay safe. LYB, Mom

  3. Thanks, Lyndsey! I appreciate the positive vibes and I’m actively working to live life to its fullest. I hope you’re doing the same!

  4. Thanks, mom! I’m enjoying and staying safe. I’ll write another post before I leave. I’m glad you found my blog! LYB.

  5. Again, wow! Sounds exhausting and exhilarating at the same time. I don’t remember you being so tall that airplane seats suck. I’m short, so, perspective.

  6. I’m 6’4″ so I don’t know that it’s only my height, but maybe plane seats are shrinking these days. 🙂

  7. Fun so far. You know that you and I are similar, in that we don’t like “messy, unplanned, random, fly-by-the-seat” type situations. It is wild to hear how this leg of the trip is forcing you to tolerate the unknown and to go with the flow (not our strong suits – lol). Eager to read the next post!

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