Regular readers: Please note extra editorial note on day 520.
Christmas in the USA. For some reason it was a bit of a surreal experience. I mean, that’s where Christmas trees, gaudy Christmas lights, mass over-commercialization, Christmas itself originated, right? At least that was how I felt as we drove through the city on Christmas Eve.
On the radio, advertisers kindly reminded us that we should ‘Hurry In and Buy in Time For Christmas’, ‘Beat The Christmas Rush’, ‘No Knuckle Dusters Needed In Our Store – Great Bargains For Everyone!’. Yes, that last one was an actual line on a radio advertisement. This constant bombardment of media painted an image of Christmas as being nothing less than a mad rushing, bustling, stressful time.
My friends and hosts Rick and Robyn seemed to be above all the hype however, leaving their Christmas shopping more or less to the last minute, and seeming none the stressed out for it. They had set Christmas gift value limits on each other, so that neither would ‘out-gift’ each other. I got the best of both worlds, being able to accompany both Rick and Robyn on separate occasions on their Christmas shopping trips.
Robyn put her sales expertise to good use, eyeing out discounts and bargains to make the most of her limit. Rick, having traveled somewhat, casually insisted on getting a discount on almost everything he bought. Price matching, one dollar discounts on marked goods (he may as well have been carrying a microscope)…
The real winners today (after Jesus of course, without whom none of this would be happening – check out The Meeting House sermons on Christmas) were however the family. Rick’s father, step-mother and sister, Robyn’s sister and boyfriend, all came over for Christmas dinner. Robyn spent most of the afternoon in the kitchen preparing a massive feast while the rest of us lounged around an outside fire enjoying some wonderful homemade wine, made by Rick’s dad himself.
From left: Lauren, Ryleigh, Richard, Rick, Rob, Robyn
The dogs: Abbey, Jeff
I made a traditional New Zealand desert, a Pavlova. Exceedingly sweet, this meringue is a Christmas favourite for many New Zealanders. Many Australians would disagree, however do not be deceived! See this BBC online article about the division over this desert’s origins.
I must say a very big thank you to a certain 14degrees Blog reader, Carlos Fernandez. I met Carlos in Key Largo in Florida, and he has very kindly supplied me with a few things on my gear Wish List. At great timing, a new tent arrived just before Christmas. Lightweight and small, the tent is going to be a great asset to my journey. Thank you very much Carlos!
Also thanks to my parents for supplying an extra merino wool t-shirt, and thanks to Chris Mandick for supplying the US Adventure Cycle Association cycle route maps I needed for traveling west across the US.
And a last note, if you are enjoying my panorama photos, take some time to check out Daniel Lang’s website. He is cycling around the world, and is currently in Australia, arriving there a few weeks ago after cycling all the way from Germany to Beijing, China. A great inspiration to my own travels, it looks as though he has just enjoyed a nice Christmas there in Australia. He has great photos!