Nauru Travel Diary

From Houston to Sydney 2013

From Houston

to Sydney



This trip diary is a bit different from any of the others on this website.  Rather than being the story of a round trip to this or that exotic destination, this is the tale of a long, circuitous, one-way trip from Houston (Texas, USA) to Sydney (Australia).

Having lived in Houston for the past couple of years, Dianne and I are returning to Australia to live.  During our time in Houston, we did not really have time for a decent holiday to see the country in which we were living.  Furthermore, given that our furniture and belongings are scheduled to take about 14 weeks to get to Sydney from Houston, and that we do not yet have a house available to move into when we arrive in Sydney, it seemed a good idea to use the time we had to spend some time together exploring some interesting parts of America before then stopping over at some intriguing places between the US and Australia.

This travel diary is the story of that six-week one-way trip across the world.

Our final week in Houston has been a hectic time of clearing out our home and getting everything loaded for the Big Move, as well as selling and giving away things that we were not taking with us and – much more enjoyably – spending some quality time with great friends we have made during our time in Houston.

We have spent the last six days in Houston staying with some wonderful friends who were Awty parents, theirs being just one of three similar offers we received from Awty parents to provide accommodation for us.  We visited and/or had meals with about 20 Awty parents during this past week, plus some senior staff and even one board member.  It was a busy but very encouraging, affirming and satisfying send-off from Houston.

One of the people we saw this week, a very long-term Houstonian resident who had moved to the US from another country, very kindly gave me a copy of a document called “Houston Etiquette” as a farewell gift, even though it is surely the type of information one should receive when arriving in a new city rather than when leaving.  It contained some helpful information, such as the following:

  1. 1.Always identify people in your yard before shooting at them.

  2. 2.It is considered poor taste to take a cooler to church.

  3. 3.If you have to vacuum the bed, it’s time to change the sheets.

  4. 4.Even if you’re certain that you are included in the will, it is still considered tacky to drive a U-Haul to the funeral home.

  5. 5.Avoid throwing bones and food scraps on the floor as the restaurant might not have dogs.

And so, with many happy memories, some great learning experiences and a real sense of anticipation for the new adventures that lie ahead, I set the alarm for 5 am this morning.  Sadly, I made the classic iPhone mistake of setting the alarm for a weekday when it was, in fact, Saturday morning.  Fortunately, Di’s in-built body-clock was functioning, albeit a trifle later than usual, and I was woken suddenly at 6:25 with the urgent information, and I quote her words precisely: “wake up, it’s 6:25!”.

I hate long goodbyes, and ours to our wonderful hosts this morning was certainly brief and hurried.  After saying our final farewells and expressing our gratitude, we drove to Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport to catch our 9 am flight to Denver, the first leg of a two flight itinerary that would take us to Glacier National Park in the far north of the northern state of Montana.  This was to be the first of several national parks that we plan to visit over the next few weeks.

Being early on a Saturday morning, Houston’s wide, efficient but hideously ugly freeways provided us with a fast journey to the airport. The airport check-in lines and security queues were far more congested than the freeways, but we still managed to reach our boarding gate two minutes before boarding began; a little frustrating I thought, as I could have enjoyed two minutes more sleep before getting out of bed.

The first leg of our journey today was in one of United Airlines new Boeing 787 aircraft.  These planes have developed a reputation for chronic delays and unreliability, but our flight was punctual, smooth and thoroughly enjoyable.  The large windows provided clear views of the photo-worthy terrain below, and I even managed to watch an informative and entertaining one and a half hour BBC documentary called “Y’all can go to hell; I’m going to Texas”.  Having lived in Texas for a few years now, I would classify the documentary as “extremely illuminating”.

After a three hour stopover in Denver’s huge airport, enjoying its floor-to-ceiling panoramic views of the passing aircraft, we boarded a much smaller plane for the second leg of today’s journey, a flight from Denver to Kalispell in a SkyWest Airlines Canadair CRJ-200.  This was a much less comfortable flight, with narrow, thinly padded seats that did not recline.  The reward was looking through the window as we approached Kalispell to see green fields, blue lakes and rivers and snow-capped mountains below us, and then stepping out into the clean, cool mountain air of Kalispell.

Kalispell City Airport is the nearest airfield to Glacier National Park, but getting to our accommodation in the park still required a drive of two hours - the third and final leg of today’s travelling.  We collected our rental car at the airport, a Chevrolet Impala, which handled the drive in reasonable comfort despite its somewhat truck-like driving position and overall feel.

Actually, our drive took much longer than two hours because we decided to stop so many times to admire the spectacular scenery of Glacier National Park.  The drive to our motel at Rising Sun climbed through an ascent of several thousand feet through classical glacial scenery of U-shaped valleys, cirques, arêtes, waterfalls, glacial lakes, and all the other features that seem to jump out from the pages of a well-written geography textbook.

We were surprised by the abundance of wildlife in the park.  We had heard a great deal about the bears (which we have not seen), but it was a delight to spot two white mountain goats in the wild, and only marginally less spectacularly, a large marmot.

I have shared a few photos of the park from today’s drive, but the light was fading and the clouds were closing in somewhat as we approached Rising Sun Inn, and so I am sure tomorrow’s images will show the stunning landscape much more effectively than these few preliminary “tasters”.

We reached our accommodation at a bit about 7:30 pm, and decided to have dinner straight away as our travels had not made orthodox dining very easy today.  After a leisurely dinner in the small restaurant next to the motel, we realised it was almost 9 pm, and yet the daylight was still abundant.  Indeed, I am finishing this blog at 10 pm at night (which is 11 pm in Houston where we woke this morning), and it is still quite light outside.

As I look out through the window of our motel unit, across the lake to the high mountains beyond, my mind is already spinning with the options for sightseeing that lie in store tomorrow - our first full day in Glacier National Park.

Day 1 - Houston to Glacier National Park


6 July 2013