Last Stop Sydney

Day 363 Tue 04/09/2013
Diving with Astrid

Astrid & I at Gordon's Bay
“I arrived in Sydney at 6AM.  I took the bus down to Bondi Beach.  Astrid was waiting for me at her house.  We were going diving today.  We took the bus up the hill to the Bondi Dive Shop to get gear & tanks.  I called us a cab to get us from the dive shop to Gordon’s Bay.  We hauled the gear down to the water’s edge via the boat ramp.  Astrid hauled more gear than she should have.  She is Danish tough
 We went over a dive plan & geared up.  Then we did our pre-dive checks. Astrid found a stick to use with her GoPro camera.  Well done.  I just watched the videos on her lappie, & they are great.  We saw many stingrays.  In about 12 meters of water we came across this very ugly (beautiful) red fish (Britt from DSS later told me this is a red scorpion fish).  As we were filming a cuttlefish fluttering through the water Astrid spotted a white nudibranch.  She has gotten very good at finding small flat worms & nudibranches since Airlie Beach. 
After about 50 minutes of bottom time we decided to start heading for shallow water.  Once we were in 15 feet of water I could see the rainstorm happening above us.  The water droplets hitting the surface created an eerie pattern.  We would be exiting the water in the pouring rain.  Astrid about froze once out of the water.  She quickly hid behind a towel & ditched her wetsuit creating a bit of a show for some passing workers.
Astrid & I had Moo Gourmet Burgers for lunch.
Back at her house I saw Fabian (Brazil) & Matteo (Italy).  When Budz (Keegan) came home they all grilled dinner.  They gals threw a mess of veggies onto the grill as well.  Thanks for the meal guys!”

            The house was always cooking food for me.  Thank you so much for allowing me to stay & eat with you guys.  Some of these days here in Bondi were slightly difficult for me financially & emotionally.  Sometimes I had nowhere to go & you all had a place for me to sleep, food to eat & most importantly someone to talk to.  I can sleep anywhere.  I can eat bread & Vegemite.  I cannot go day after day without sharing smiles with people.  The Danish ladies were ALWAYS smiling.  Well, if one was ill the other two picked up slack.  J  Rarely were all three not smiling, laughing, cooking, hi-fiving or goofing off.  They loved the beach too.  The guys at the house were always friendly to me as well.  Thanks to all of you for allowing me to spend time with you.  These were some good times.  <3

Astrid in Gordon's Bay

What's going on over there?

             Side Note:  I just remembered our cab ride back to the dive shop was very funny.  Our driver was from Pakistan.  He was an older guy, & had said he had moved here 30 something years ago with his wife.  Well they have just been informed here in the last few days that for some reason their wedding papers are incorrect.  They were never officially married.  He was joking like he was considering being a bachelor again.  He was so funny asking Astrid if she thought he could find a younger wife. 

At the girl's house

Day 364 Wed 04/10/2013
Danish Accent

“Three Free Trees,” Astrid says.
I have not mentioned I slept VERY little on the flight over from Perth, WA.  It was a midnight flight.  The flight was only 3 hours in duration, but there is a 3 hour time change.  So I went diving yesterday on 3 hours sleep (assuming I slept any on the flight).  I did not have a window seat (to lean on for sleeping).  My ear plugs & blinders didn’t even seem to help.
Ceci & Mie... Always SMILING!
I caught up today though.  I slept until 12:30PM.  I disassembled my bike today, & took a bus to the bike shop.  People on the bus thought my bike was broken.  I really need to find another duffle bag to hold my SCUBA gear.  There is a very nice one at the Bondi Dive Shop for $250.  There was another surfy looking gear bag at the Billabong Surf Shop.  I liked it too, but it cost $200.  In trying to decide if I could afford either bag I ran across a forest green bag in the trash walking back to the girl’s house.  SCORE!  Remember, I had trashed Daniel’s old soccer bag in Newcastle to board the train, & wouldn’t you know I’d find a replacement here in Bondi?  Unreal.  It’ll fly.
Astrid & Ceci with lucky me
I go to meet Astrid at the beach.  She is sitting with an Asian man who is talking her head off.  Forget this.  I headed for the water.  Sorry babe, you are on your own.  He did take a very funny picture of me though (the man was very kind, but he was talking kinda crazy).
Astrid, Mie & Ceci made Vietnamese rice wraps for dinner tonight.  They were so good.  The girls are so much fun (I had never seen wraps like these, they were completely see through).  These girls cut up 24/7.
Hahn Solo & Han Solo!
My bags got packed & weighed for flights.  I check my flights one last time.  The computer informs me YOUR FLIGHT IS IN 10 HOURS.  Oh crap!  My bike will not be ready.  I swore from the beginning my flight was at night.  Wait, in the USA my flight is at night.  I have somehow looked at something incorrectly.  I am going to miss my flight.  Peter & Mel fix the issue in minutes.  Pete did say my odds of flying standby are best tomorrow.  Oh well, I cannot make the Thursday flight.  I will try Friday.  Thanks for making me feel a little less dumb, Peter (I’m not sure how you made me not blame myself, but I wrote this so I must feel a little better about the situation).”

            “Three Free Trees” is the tongue twister we have created for Astrid.  The Danish accent will not allow her to say “THREE”.  It is so adorable when she tries it.  Actually, it was so cute I videoed her practicing.  She might kill me if the video wound up on the blog, but she is tough.  I know she can handle it.  So maybe she will give me permission to do so.  It is a lovely video, & of course her & Mie are smiling the whole time.

Day 365 Thur 04/11/2013
Opera House & Thai Food

Astrid & I in front of
the Sydney Opera House
“So I have no flight home today.  It is moved until tomorrow Thanks to Peter.  So today I got to go surfing & sightseeing with Astrid.  My mind is elsewhere today.  I couldn’t surf for anything.  This was such a strange day for me.  It felt like I was supposed to be gone.   Astrid had some shoes top get fixed, so we took them to the cobbler.  I went to the POST & sent one last postcard to Kristen.  We went to the Sydney Opera House.  I had not been here yet.  It was fun.  The huge dome cones on the theatre center are not white.  They are surprisingly off white & made of small little shell-like pieces. 
We ran into Ceci on the bus.  I was able to eat one last meal with them at a Thai restaurant.  The food was very good.  I was able to pay for the meal to show the girls how much I appreciated everything they had done for me.  They took me in yet again here in Bondi.  I will miss them so much.  <3”

Me diving on the SS Yongala with Astrid
            Astrid, Mie & Ceci had taken me in up near the Yongala Shipwreck Dive Center once.  Here recently they have taken me in again here on Bondi Beach shores.  What a lucky man I have been.  Thank you for all the amazing times all along this east coast.  All three of you have been more than generous.  I never felt unwanted.  Well, only that first night on the Anaconda III when they tried to put me in your room.  Hahaha, you had met me for what 2 days & they just assumed I was with you three.  ;)  I was so fortunate to have met you three when I did.  I was so lucky to get Astrid as my dive buddy out there on the sea.  We were the only 2 single divers on the boat, so she was kind of forced into having to buddy up with me.  I love it!  Who would have thought the best dive buddy for you on the boat was the guy running on 30 minutes of sleep after the night I had?
            I wish all three of you the best, & I will see you in Denmark when I come to Europe.  Thank you so much for everything.  Love Always, Michael. 

Day 366 Fri 04/12/2013
Brian, Jade, & 2 Rowdies

“I took a 5AM wagon taxi from the girl’s house in Bondi to the Sydney International Airport.  John was my super nice Bondi born taxi driver.  I got to the airport so early there were no Delta staff in sight.  Check in starts 3 hours prior to departure.  I had 2 hours to kill.
I get checked in.  I was told to meet over near this snack machine an hour before the flight (approx 845AM).  There are TEN standby passengers.  They took none of us.  I had chatted up one guy as we waited to see what tomorrow looked like.  His name was Brian, & he was from New York City.  He was a Dr. & needed to get back before Monday.  He was on a 10 day holiday here.  He has offered to buy my ticket from me if I make the flight & not him.  I would take this deal for sure, but no dice.  We were all told it was a no go today.  We would need to come back tomorrow.  Have I mentioned there is one Delta flight per day leaving Sydney to LA?
Jade from Adelaide aka
my new travel mate
Brian goes & buys another ticket from another airline.  We meet Jade, from Adelaide, who is in the same situation as us.  Well, as me now.  He is also flying standby.  “Let’s go for a beer”, we decide.  It’s 9AM.  Oh man.
Brian would not let me buy anything.  VB Beers (Victorian Bitters) & he even bought me brekkie.  He had flown over on an impulse.  He wanted a quick little holiday, so he had been in Sydney for the past week living it up.

Jade was flying to the good old USA for a completely unique reason.  He has met a girl on a dating website, & they have been communicating for 7 months vie emailing, texting, video chatting…  Katy lives in North Carolina!  He had initially widened his search criteria for the dating site strictly looking for a friend due to not finding any Aussie gals he got on with.  He had given up & figured he could just meet a friend overseas.  He didn’t want to do long distance.  Katy & he have gotten along so well he has decided to go meet her face to face.  He is so excited.  She is a Southern Belle for sure!
Brian’s flight leaves at 2PM, so he leaves us at noon to get through security.  Thank you so much for the food & drink Brian.  Hope all is well when you return.
Jade & I are still in the airport bar.  He decides to go have a talk with Katy & see what his options are.  He leaves his bags with me for a short spell.  As he leaves the two rowdiest Aussie blokes come in.  John & his mate Mark with their wives & 3 kids.  The men order beers 3 at a time.  They are so loud, very aggressive, proud, muscle bound, & crushing beers.  I overhear they have missed their flight as well.  The flight was cancelled I believe.  They are flying to Vegas for 10 days.  The trip is starting with them throwing beers everywhere.  They own concrete companies here in Oz.  They took a limo to the airport.  They refer to the wives as hired baby-sitters.  The wives don’t seem to care.  Their response is “we take care of the kids as long as we can shop the whole time.”  These two guys are loaded.  They just start sliding beers my way.  They don’t even ask me.
A rumor starts going around about a nuclear missile heading towards the west coast of the USA.  All flights to LA are delayed then cancelled.  “What’s the story, Yank?” they keep asking me as they order more beers for anyone within earshot.  They were full on at this point & too much for Jade, who has returned, & even I. 
I went down to immigration to ensure I am not staying here illegally.  I inform them of my issue with flying standby & not being able to get on the flight today.  With ZERO questions they extend my Visa for one month.  Unreal!  I almost left the airport again. Does this mean I have to prove I am trying to leave everyday once a day?  It didn’t matter.  I was already gone.  I had said so many goodbyes.  I couldn’t do that again.
Jade was going to get a hotel for the night.  He was nice enough to offer me the extra bed.  In return I would buy our dinner.  We had Thai, & the owner was super friendly.  The food was superb & very reasonable. 
Back at the hotel we found an AFL (Australian Rules Football) on TV.  A footie match is what they call it here.  The Fremantle Dockers were playing the Essendon Bombers.  Frio jumped ahead of the game big time early on.  Jade assured me there was a lot of game to be played.  He was right.  The game came down to the last play.  The score was something like 128-123.  Crazy!  He talked with Katie & we decorated my bike box.  He had noticed it at the airport.  He is now part of it.  For the past day I have passed time by writing all over the box.  Most of it contains quotes from friends & family.  There are some silly pictures on here too.
We laughed out loud at one point realizing how neither one of us wanted to be here at all.  He was going to see a hot lady friend, & I had not been home in over a year!  We still made the best of it & had a good time.  We were humbled & kinda sad though.”


Day 367 Sat 04/13/2013
Jade Flies

“Oh SNAP, they are taking 4 standby passengers today (we find this out after doing the usual check in then wait by the candy machine).  This is after telling us the flight is not only FULL but overbooked.  Jade got called!  Nice!  It was such a fast goodbye because he had to bust it to get through security & make it to the departure gate in time.  I was going to give him the flight if I got on.  His time is limited in the USA.  I forget how many days he had to spend over there.  I was in less of a hurry.  Don’t get me wrong, I cannot wait to see my family.  I’ve made it a year so another day or so isn’t going to kill me.

Base Camp in the cafe

I really felt alone as he grabbed his bags & ran to catch the flight.  My time will come soon hopefully.  I found a comfy seat, fired up my lappie, got on FaceBook, killed the pc, plugged it back in & started writing in here again.  I was about 2 weeks behind writing.
Julia called me around 1PM.  By 1:30PM I was starving for lunch.  I found a corner in the diner/bar with a couch, table, power outlet & a TV in sight.  This will be my base camp from here out.  The bar tender was cool.  He allowed me to bum it off to the side.  The place was never packed out.  I ordered water & a chicken risotto that was very tasty. 
I wrote in here some more, then watched a Nicholas Cage move called Bangkok Dangerous.  I don’t recommend it.  Actually it was pretty crap!  Don’t watch it.  J
I had to trade out my dull luggage trolly
for a more Aussie one :)
It’s now 7:45PM & I am jamming out to the Foo Fighters playing live at the T-Mobile Park during the latest album “Wasting Light”.  I have a Tuohey’s New (Aussie Beer) in front of me.  The bar tender says I am OK to stay here until 10PM.  I guess I will go relocate in 2 hours.  All good.
I had a good talk with Mom & Dad earlier.  If I’d have caught my flight yesterday I’d be home by now.  Hah!  That sucks.  I’m keeping my spirits up though.  I put my Lady Gaga shirt on for some extra “ZING” (What the hell does that even mean?)  It might be time to decorate the other side of my bike box once they kick me out of here.  I’m going to add some USA décor to it.  I need my old quote book.
I was just reminded by some note I found in my pocket about Jade & my bus ride back to the airport this morning from the hotel.  The Bee Gees song Stayin’ Alive came on the radio in the shuttle bus.  I began to sing it.  Jade chimed in as well.  These are the moments you have to create to travel like this.  We had a laugh.
When the Terrace Bar Bistro Café (aka Base Camp Sydney Airport) closed I had to go downstairs where I found a power outlet behind a pillar.  I put down my sleeping pad, watched PS I Love You & went to sleep.  Before the movie was over I was woken up & chased to the overnight sleeping area by a terror of a female airport security guard.  I didn’t realize I was sleeping in the wrong place.  I gladly began to gather my stray items & informed her she could “be much nicer about the situation” as I laughed.  “This IS me being nice,” she replied.  “Hah!  Bullshit.”  Oh I said that way too loud.  She heard me.  She obviously didn’t like her job (or me).  She escorted me to the overnight sleeping area (which was no different than where I was just near some elevators on the same hard floor.  I guess they wanted all the vagabonds in the same area so they could lock us in there & not have the airport looking like a homeless shelter).
I sat up my pad & laptop again up against a random wall.  There were many people in here like me.  Not too many of them had a pad & sleeping bag though.  Pro!  A South African lad saw my belt buckle & we started talking.  I finished my movie.  It was bad too (I must have been in a bad mood because I hear this is a good movie) & went to bed.”

            Jade, thanks for the company.  That first day went by so quickly because of our day adventure.  I hadn’t slept in a hotel bed in over a year I guess.  I know you are going to love the USA & your time with Katie.  I wish you all the best, mate.  I’ll hold down the Sydney airport without you until it is my turn to fly.  Cheers mate!

This is right before the security lady escorted me to the proper area to be a bum
Day 368 Sun 04/14/2013
Base Camp Sydney Airport

Up the down & down the up... I've always wanted to do
this.  I have the entire airport to myself!!!!!
“Other than having to wake up & grab my John Deer blanket at some point in the night due to a slight chill I feel like I slept very well.  I met Mike & Faye from Minnesota in the standby line today (Actually I met them in line yesterday for a brief moment).  There are 8 standby passengers today.  They took ZERO of us.  I met Jesse, from Alaska (Anchorage I think) & his Aussie girlfriend Shenade (not sure if that is a name I must have bombed this one).  Jesse is flying standby too.  He is leaving his Aussie lady & flying home.  These two are true hippies.  He really needs a shower.  I thought I was low on funds.  They went out of the airport for a bit to dumpster dive.  I have heard grocery stores throw out all kinds of good food.  I’m not opposed to doing the dumpster dive.
I am back in BASE CAMP for now.  I saw the bar tender from yesterday, John, out in the terminal area.  He had told me yesterday if I miss another flight he’s buying me a beer.  I didn’t really want a beer, but when he passed me out here he gave me a hand shake & said to come see him in an hour.  I enjoyed the beer & watched “Deep Blue”, a BBC documentary on the ocean.  Thanks mate!
For lunch I ate Vegemite & crackers (The bistro had little packets of Vegemite & peanut butter so I grabbed a handful of them to go with my store bought crackers).  Having this for lunch saved me $12-$20 for sure.  They had honey packets too.
Daniel, Mom & Dad called me today (They must think I am miserable being trapped in an airport, but it really isn’t that bad).  Patricia & Astrid called me yesterday.  I hadn’t been forgotten yet.  (I hated knowing I was only 30 minutes from Bondi Beach, but staying here in the airport.  If I didn’t have this bike box I could have easily hitched a ride back to the beach.  If I had the bike assembled I could have rode it back every morning after not getting on the flights.  That would mean I would have to say goodbye all over again every day I didn’t make a flight.  I chose to stay here.)
I watched “The Gods Must Be Crazy”.  Then I went for a shower.  (John allowed me to leave all of my gear at Base Camp & go shower.  Thanks for this mate.)  I had to use a t-shirt to dry off.  I ate the risotto again tonight.  This movie I’m watching makes me want to go back to Africa.  I met Michah in the overnight area who is also trying to get to LA tomorrow on standby.”

            I did go outside at the bistro for some sun today.  Jesse & his girlfriend joined me out there.  He was so funny when he just changed clothes right there on the spot in front of people trying to eat brekkie.  I think today was the day I also went up to the observation deck located just a story above the outside seating overlooking the tarmac & slept on a bench.  It was hot as hell up there but I figured I needed to sweat some.  Standing near Jesse I couldn’t smell bad regardless of my shower status & sweat buildup.  I’m not sure how we split up after they went dumpster diving.  They came back with some great looking food though.  Lots of it was prepackaged items like chips or twinkies.  If I wouldn’t have known where they got it I would have not thought twice about eating it.  I definitely ate everything they offered.  Thanks for sharing.

My last picture on the beaches of Australia (Bondi Beach)

Day 369 Mon 04/15/2013
”Passenger McNair”

Mike & Faye boarding our plane finally!!!!

“I woke up this morning with an Asian lady/girl tripping & landing right on top of me.  It was time to get up anyways.  I see Jesse, Michah from Chicago, Mike & Faye again at check in today.  This is our morning routine.  Everyone knows me now.  All of the Delta staff joke with me about living in the airport.  They say there is a movie with Tom Hanks called “Terminal” where he pretty much does the same thing.  I must see this movie!
They call up the standby ticket holders.  This is good.  This means they are taking at least one of us on.  Jesse gets called.  Michah gets called.  They call a couple more names.  Then they call “McNair”!  Woohoooooooo FINALLY (Oh my I tear just typing this).  I hi-5 everyone in my path to get to security.  I swear I think I heard people clapping, but maybe that is in my head thinking I am in a movie right now.  We all make the flight.  I see Jesse in an opposing security line waiting to scan through.  We are giving each other looks mouthing “HELL YEA BRO!”  Thumbs up.  It was like winning the lottery.  (I saw Mike & Faye in the airstairs walking out to board the plane.  I got a hi-5 from Mike & a hug from Faye.)  I was so happy we all made it.  I am so excited to get on this plane.  They served me chicken & a glass of red wine for lunch.  Heck yea.  I am watching hockey now.  It’s an HBO special following the Philadelphia Fliers & the New York Rangers.  This is one sport I missed in Australia.  Hockey!  Go Preds!”

This is me boarding the plane in Atlanta destination
Chattanooga.  This was the last picture I took.  I really
wish I had taken one more with my parents in the
Chattanooga airport.  I guess I have taken enough
pictures for this year.  Do I look happy to be getting
on this plane!  Thanks Tuttles for the ticket!!!!  <3
            This was the last thing I wrote in my journal from Oz.  I remember being in the LAX airport & people looking at me like I had never set foot in America before.  I think I must have an Aussie accent.  I guess it looked like I had fallen asleep on the beach in Oz for a year.  I have no idea if I made the first flight out from LA to Atlanta.  I then have no recollection of how I got to Chattanooga’s airport from Atlanta.  I just remember my parents being there in Chattanooga to get me.  To me it felt like I had been gone for only a week or two now.  Without their love & support the trip would have ended much sooner.  Other than a broken tooth I was still in one piece.  Thanks for everything Mom & Dad.  I love you & missed you both.  It’s good to be home!
            I had told Leah I had no idea how I was supposed to end this story.  She was firm when she told me “You don’t!  This can be the beginning.”