After an almost six hour flight to New York across Greenland and the Atlantic ocean we arrived at JFK airport. I must admit i was expecting the worst from immigration having had several grillings before. However perhaps arriving with a plane load of harmless Icelandic was the way to go as I have never had such a laidback entrance into the U.S. No sign of George Bush's ugly portrait thankfully we went straight through to get fingerprinted, photographed and stamped into the U.S. Interesting they use sniffer beagles like Sydney airport too. Not one question was asked on how long was our stay, where we were going...etc... very impressed.
Outside the airport were lines of yellow cabs and loud touts. We tried the hotel desk and a bored looking young man called a few overpriced hotels for us. New York is a bit of a rip off compared to other places in the U.S. US$170 got us a small nothing to write home about hotel room at JFK airport. Bundled into a free shuttle driven by our first New Yorker we stressed over whether he would require a tip. Seeing he had some one dollar notes on his dashboard we
decided it was customary to tip the driver. So I handed Nick a couple of ones in preparation, make him do it!
The hotel staff were quite friendly to their credit and once settled in a room they arranged a taxi to take us to a local mall for some dinner. It wasn't quite a legit taxi we think. Some bloke in a car dropped us off at the Bronx BBQ at the mall. We aren't going in there mate! Since it cost us $15 we didn't tip him.
It was late night shopping in NY and we were some of the only white people. Feeling slightly conspicuous but not stressing we found an Applebees to eat in. Note: American restaurants are all much the same. The menu consists of ribs, burgers, chicken, and some manner of cocktails and desserts. Nick almost went for the riblets, we had a chuckle over that. What part is the riblet? I struggled to find a meal that was not gigantic and went for a caesar salad half size. When it arrived it was normal size anyway. What is full size then? While waiting we observed a family of four devour large appetisers of
chicken wings etc.. then get served full size plates of fried chicken...etc... even the kids had plates bigger than Staten Island. I could only shake my head.
Our waitress was very friendly and even put a smiley face on the bill and asked a million times with genuine concern if everything was ok. So we tipped her 20 percent.
Getting back to the hotel was interesting. We asked the service desk to get us a taxi. Well when a guy walked up i thought please don't let that be him. It was. He led us to his car, not a taxi and his girlfriend also got in who he then bragged too about doing this taxi service, how it was a good deal. Leroy or whatever his name was tried to charge us $18 but Nick only paid him $15 and Leroy or whatever didn't seem to mind and gave him a prolonged black homey handshake which Nick found hilarious.
I was ready to leave New York already! Lucky we had some jetlag, being a few hours out of wack from the UK and we were up at 5am no problems. Crammed into a shuttle with some supersized Canadians
who drooled at the sight of a Burger King. Again the airport checkin/security was surprisingly not as bad as I remember. We had time for an OJ and a bagel before boarding the Delta flight from hell.
American airlines are typically bad. Aged not so attractive air hostesses, bad food, not complimentary headsets, clunky planes. Well this one didn't let us down. We got delayed on the plane taking off for an hour while the pilot told us one engine wasn't starting and they were trying some technique to juice it with power. Not really what you want to hear. Then he started the other engine out at the runway and we waited to take off. Then it was discovered the inflight entertainment system didn't work. They tried rebooting it several times without success. Which led to one of the most boring flights ever. Its amazing how much just one movie will break up a 5 hour flight. So without that we had books and mp3 players. By the end of it we were stircrazy to get off. The lack of decent food didn't help me any. Crackers is hardly a meal. I was faint with hunger after we got
our bags at Salt Lake city.
At the Budget car hire desk we had the first service encounter, one of many to come, where we had to repeat ourselves several times. Silly Aussie accents eh! You'd think we spoke chinese.
The hire girl seemed concerned we had only booked a compact sized car and almost had me convinced i needed to upgrade to a 4 x 4. She somehow added on some insurance which we don't usually get but i let it slide since the exchange rate is good for us and the conditions outside rivalled the winter Olympics!
On going to find our 'compact' car we laughed hard when we saw it was massive! Funny America. It was more than ample for our needs. Its engine growled with power and we had space for many more people if we wanted. Nick expertly and cautiously took to driving us out of SLC. He's a great driver overseas.
First we needed food. So we saw a Ruby Tuesdays and stopped. A guy was salting the carpark. It was snowing chunks. This restaurant served you guessed it ribs, burgers, chicken, salad bar... the usual. But the burgers were really good and
we enjoyed them and a Ruby T (iced tea) for me and a lemonade for Nick. Who learned if you order lemonade here you get the real stuff not sprite!
After lunch i tried to contact my penpal Jackie. We were heading towards her town Riverton in Wyoming.
The road conditions were pretty snowy and bad. After some texting we determined from Jackie, who is a reporter for KCWY, that the pass we needed to go over was under snow chain law. So with rapidly fading light we made the decision not to go to Riverton. After Nick made a quick stop through a starbucks drive through we headed onto the town of Pinedale and decided to stay there the night. Jackie was happy with this decision.
Having watched one too many of those movies such as Vacancy and Wolfcreek where a couple stops off the highway for the night in a small American town and ends up on the chopping block of some mutant freak we felt edgy. The first motel Nick pulled into had that feel to it. However the ones in Pinedale looked more inviting with xmas lights and a xmas pageant soon underway. We felt
quite welcomed by the owner.
He gave us a king room with a massive bed and it was warm and cosy. We were so tired! But we went out to watch the parade of local children, animals, trucks, blow up santas in the minus temperatures. We got some candy and hot chocolate freebies while I made Norman Bates jokes to Nick and stabbing charades.
I should explain the title of this entry. America is the land of the chipper person. Americans are all quite chipper in their attitudes and never seem to mind helping someone or having conversations with complete strangers. Whereas the British can be downright the opposite with bad customer service. Australians are just friendly but still a little reserved with strangers.
In the morning we woke early due to the jetlag. So we watched some cable tv while we waited for 8am to roll around when breakfast was served. One channel was just devoted to evangelists which was amusing for awhile. A few infomerical channels and lots of political chats. With next year being the year Bush finishes his term and the next candidates from what we can tell seem to be Hillary Clinton, a black man
called Obama (yes too similar to Osama) who Oprah Winfrey is plugging, and a Mormon (not popular here). So with those choices who can tell what will happen to America next year.
While de-snowing our windscreen a local cowboy asked me 'so where in Utah ya from?' I said actually we are from Australia. 'oh'. He could of just 'so y'all not from round here'.
Onto Jackson we went through a scenic pass of the Tetons. Teton meaning tits in French! Big Tetons, well you get the picture. It was very snowy but luckily our side of the road had been ploughed. And we made it to Jackson Hole. It was quite spread out as towns can be here. However we found the central park with its elk antler arches. The Dorothy girls were actually coming to meet us which was so nice of them to drive up from Riverton. We caught up with them around 1pm and had lunch at the Bunnery. Yummy sandwiches, chips and pickles! I'm pickle mad right now, no its not a craving. Anna looked the same to her disappointment, since i last saw her when she was about 15! Actually we all looked similar
Jackie and Cathy
Penpals since 16!
I think. I had spent a month in Alaska with them when I was 19 turning 20. And again visited them in Spokane about two years later. So it was great seeing them and one of Lee's children 14 mth old Emma.
We wandered around some shops in Jackson and did some shopping while catching up. Baby unit got another cute little cowboy top. Since it is visiting these places too!
In the afternoon we wanted a sugar rush and I remembered the Village Inn had good pie so off we went for pie and coffee. It was fun catching up and always fun discussing the differences between our countries.
With the light fading and the girls facing work tomorrow we went back and said our goodbyes.
Nick and I headed up to Teton Village past the town of Wilson. Only to find in Teton village a cowboy cafe called Nick Wilson's!!
Our hotel is lovely. Its the Teton Mountain Lodge and we have a studio with a fireplace, granite kitchen, dual shower. We got the porter, who we nicknamed Ethan, to bring our luggage up. I gave him a golden handshake of $5 which Nick said was really
funny because i laughed as i did it. Well its weird! We called him Ethan because he was creepy like the guy on Lost who was an outsider. He kept asking me if we were surfers.
Nick has gone out snowboarding today. He was a bit nervous which surprised me greatly as he usually is slightly on the cocky side when it comes to boarding. I went with him to hire gear and watched his first run down a green run. He looked great! Very impressed. I felt a bit teary though not being able to go with him. But oh well... the end product will be worth it, a healthy baby. And I did enquire at the hire shop as to what age children can start snowboarding. Age 3 apparently. So baby unit will be strapped onto skis in a few years time! While mum gets some runs in.
After Nick's snowboarding we relaxed by the fire and struggled to go out into the minus temperature to the Mangy Moose for dinner. It was our first experience of bad service here in the U.S. It felt like an English restaurant! Both getting rump and steak, it was
rather undercooked for my liking and overpriced. We had a better dinner at a suggestion of Ben Kupper, my friend Viola's American husband, who grew up in Jackson. He suggested Bubbas BBQ. It was decently priced and happened to be all you can eat ribs night. Gluttony. As it turned out i only needed the original plate to satisfy my hunger.
We visited the elk refuge in Jackson where thousands of elk migrate in the winter. It was like an open safari just drive through although all the animals except the bighorn sheep were way in the distance. Later we saw them by the road migrating, or becoming roadkill. No sign of bison unfortunately. The signs on the road were funny. 'That bull moose is some lady moose's beau'. 'Slow down'.
Later we went to the shops in Jackson for another look. An old woman asked us where we were from. I said Australia. Receiving a blank look I said Sydney, Australia. Nope. Still nothing. In the end I still don't think she knew where we were from as she was asking us what the snow was like where we live!
On the way back we visited the supermarket.
Always interesting in another country. I commented to Nick if i lived here I'd be fat too, there were so many treats to be had. We only walked out with a few extra purchases of raspberry pie, vanilla icecream and junior mints.
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