Archive for September, 2013

Charleville – Day 3

OK, you’re wondering what happened to Days 1 and 2. It’s only today I feel I’m back in Australia. You know you’re down under when you get to here … so I blog this on Day 3.

A small group of us from Oxley-Darra Uniting Church (Brisbane, Australia) have travelled to Charleville – approx 700 km west of Brisbane so as to connect with the work of Frontier Services in SW Qld, especially of Rev John Case and the Burke and Wills Patrol. John’s area is about 300,000 square km. Huge!


Nothing blogged on Days 1 and 2. Dale and I had no sooner arrived back in Australia than I and five other Oxley folk were OnBoard the ‘Westlander’ rail service to Charleville. I was pleasantly surprised with the efficiency & cleanliness of the train; though I must admit Amtrak’s Coast Starlight’s dining & viewing cars left QR’s service for dead overall. Mind you my sleeper on this trip was much better. We got into Charleville midday Friday.

Before long we were at the Bailey Bar Caravan Park. It’s a nice park – surprisingly green, landscaped and tree-ee.



I confessed to being still a bit jet lagged and sleep- deprived as we set out for a 3-hour walk around ‘downtown’ Charleville yesterday morning – but plenty of historical insight gained as we walked including a sight of part of Charleville’s levee banks for the Warrego River – a reminder of the floods that have prevailed in the course of the town’s history.




Yesterday’s highlight for me – and our first structured interface with local folk was a lovely visit to the home of local legend and real character, Dr Chester Wilson and his wife Loie – both Uniting Church folk. Chester entertained us with some of his distinctive folk singing while Loie, a devoted animal cater brought out two young kangaroos in her care. They won everyone’s hearts. Steph Rankin, Chester and I jammed for a while too – that was nice. I sensed they appreciated our visit. We were certainly blessed by them.




I’m just back from a visit with our whole group to Glenbrook Station, 40 km south of Charleville, where we shared in worship led by John Case and hosted by Rick & Jeannete Somerville. Lovely brother & sister in law. I preached – bit rusty & drew on NT Wright for insight but went well. Gayle & Steph Rankin and I were the musos. A really nice time bookended by morning tea and lunch. Nice to be on a property like this and hear of some of the challenges & realities first hand. I decided to go back into town with John; needed an extra hour down time. The rest have stayed on to check out the property.





Dale arrives by plane tomorrow morning – that’ll be nice. She’s been hosting some of her US family members on their first-ever visit to Australia.

A nice touch – they’re travelling through the outback for 4 weeks; as we spend time at Charkeville. Common ground is always nice.


the wedding, then homeward bound

Well, our time in North America is drawing to a close. In just over an hour, Dale’s Dad drives us about 80 Km NW to Cleveland Airport for the long trip home. We’ve been blessed to have experienced so many trips over the past 30 years to Fenstermaker Rd, Ohio.


It doesn’t ‘ make it any easier leaving, though. We’ve had 12 days here with Dad and of course his great friend (the cat) Tiger. They make great companions. I know Dale has loved catching up with her Dad.


It’s been an expected every-morning treat enjoying breakfast at Millers Family Restaurant 10 minutes away in Garrettsville. Two eggs over-easy, freshly-prepared hash browns, sausage patties, toast and bottomless coffee has been nice. Thanks Dad.

Yesterday was the wedding – Mark Pitts to Dale’s niece, Maria Bajzek – at a lovely reception centre in western Pennysylvania: Chapel Valley Estate. Beautifully manicured gardens and grounds.

I used an adapted version of the Uniting Church’s marriage service and was pleased to receive some nicely – affirming comments along the lines of the ceremony being longer (a plus) compared to the short-and-sweet services some had experienced. Dale offered a reading from 1 Corinthians 13; so nice for us to both be involved.

Both Maria and Mark looked fantastic and both glowed!



The reception went well – under a gazebo, with the food served buffet-style. The only downer was that it was quite cool – everyone had their coats & jackets on, that’s for sure. Interestingly all the speeches and the bridal waltz were all completed before we ate. Overall, a privilege to be involved!!


20130923-122053.jpg The reception had something a bit quirky – Mark & Maria are “ultimate frisbee” players – that’s how they met. Close on half the guests came from various ‘ultimate’ teams they’ve been part of. During the reception, each armed with frisbee, they gathered out in the open to toss up a frisbee.


Nice sunset as we drove home.


To the airport in 30 minutes. Two hour flight to Minneapolis – St Paul, three hour layover, 4 hour flight to Los Angeles, two & a half hours there, before 11.55 pm flight to Brisbane. We get in 7 pm Wednesday.

Thanks for reading … & God bless.


history … and things lovely


I’ve always loved history.

I remember myself at a  young age,  devouring every word on a children’s encyclopedia received in my late primary-school years; some years later pouring over ages in the multi-volumed Funk & Wagnalls (no, this is not a typo) encyclopedia set at home, and much more recently in this online Internet age, with just a few iPad taps getting the info I need from the sometimes unreliable Wikipedia.

i just love finding out about the movements, progress, changes, discoveries, associations and highlights of peoples’ lives – present and past; sometimes a long while past.

So, put my prove of history together with my love of musc and bibbidi, bobbidi, boo – what have you got? Something quite excellent when on day 6 of our downtime with Dale’s Dad and other family here near Garrettsville, NE Ohio, I’m able to have over three hours a Cleveland’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame & Museum -right on the banks of Lake Erie. I had been before, so I am privileged.


It’s a mammoth 7 level structure, which currently has a Rolling Stones exhibit taking up the top two levels.

The excellent thing about this place is that it’s far, far more than video screens, blaring music or memorablila, though it has all that. You have a chance to discover and learn what’s behind the music. One cannot go away from this place without gainING a healthy appreciation for the influences blues, gospel, country, folk, swing and so on have had on ‘rock’n’roll’.


I found the actual hall of fame quite moving – you walk in near-darkness a circular path; along the outer wall are the names and signatures of inductees over the last 25 or so years.  Just had to take James Taylor’s signature.


That’s rock and roll.

As far as history goes, this is my fIrst time back in the States since Dale’s Mom dIed in April 2011. It’s been great   spending time with Dale’s Dad, Herbert Butrick along with her eldest sister Diana and husband Tom.

On this 25 acre property there’s a huge almost – overgrown berry patch. This afternoon Dale and Dad picked about 10 ziplock bags full of tasty raspberries!


This is such a beautiful place – I’ve been catching  on plenty of sleep let me tell you, along with an American  egg, sausage and hash brown breakfast every morning (at Dale’s Dad’s insistence).

Been catching up on some reading too. Finished the Dan Brown novel; just started on Richard Rohr’s Falling Upward.

On our last full day in the USA (22 Sept) I’ll be officiating at the wedding of Dale’s niece Maria to Mark – at a lovely outdoor setting near Ellwood City in western Pennsylvania. This is quite a honour, though it’s made marriage prep interesting to say the least!  That happened at an extended session in a corner booth at a Panera Bread eatery in a busy shopping centre in Cranberry,  PA. Trouble is, it took me 45 anxious minutes – having dropped Dale & Dad off at – you guessed it: Wal Mart – for me (right hand side of road and all) to find the place. But I did, and I believe our time together was mutually productive. Bring on the wedding!

That will be a bit of history for me – conducting my fIrst o/s wedding.

Coast Starlight & San Francisco again

I last blogged just prior to our evening meal on the ‘Coast Starlight’ o/n train (for us) to Emeryville, just inland from San Francisco.

Prior to dinner we travelled through spectacular Oregon woodlands.

I’ve never used a sleeper on a rail- service before. In just over two weeks I’ll do it again, as a group from our church at Oxley head out to Charleville.

Anyhow, imagine a very confined space, in which two seats are converted to bunks. I took the top one, complete with protective strapping in case I rolled out! Getting up & down tested by long-limited athletic dexterity indeed. I did manage some sleep however, though Dale didn’t. Quite a challenge getting changed in an incredibly confined space the next morning. When I say incredibly I mean it.

We enjoyed a nice breakfast, disembarked at Emeryville, took the pre-booked bus to our downtown SF hotel, to find we couldn’t check I for another 3 hours. We were so tired! Took a taxi to Fisherman’s Wharf looking fruitlessly for a record shop. Back at hotel, finally checked in and slept for about 3 hours – really needed that!

Enjoyed dinner at a nearby Denny’s and were asleep by about 9; ready for another 3 am wakeup and then heading to Cleveland, Ohio – meeting up as much- anticipated with Dale’s Dad & her sister Diana.







Vancouver, farewell & ‘Coast Starlight’

Back on the land after a fantastic 7 days at sea on the ‘Celebrity Century’. I’ve never experienced anything quite like it. Wonderful sightseeing & shore stops, superb food & service, comfortable & well-appointed stateroom and great entertainment options. Now I understand totally why people rave about cruising!

Anyway, we disembarked onto shore at Canada Place, Vancouver around 9, went through immigration really quickly and before we knew it we were at some wonderful lodgings near Stanley Park organised by Dale’s sister, Diana.

We were soon picked up by our pre-booked Hop-On, Hop-off bus and we were off (several times actually) for the next 6 hours experiencing inner-city Vancouver.

Not hard to understand why Vancouver is so highly – regarded as a place to live. It’s wonderful harbour caps it off.

Two highlights of the day for me: Jeremy had suggested that we ‘do’ Granville Island in the morning & Stanley Park in the afternoon.

Granville Island was described to me as to Vancouver what South Bank is to Brisbane. Fair description; after lunch there (chicken pot pies for Dale & Glenn) we caught a tiny ferry across part of the harbour and re-caught the bus, hopping off at Stanley Park- a huge park … larger than NYC’s Central Park. Stanley Park was impressive indeed … so green … our horse-drawn carriage tour took us around just the Eastern part. Enough however to see some impressive totem poles, beautiful gardens & yes – Canadians playing cricket. Aaahhh!

Enjoyed dinner with Glenn & Jan at a nearby restaurant. This was a time of mixed emotions. Their youngest son Riley (working in Canada) drove many hours west to join us. Meanwhile it was our last time with wonderful friends Glenn & Jan. As of this morning we’ve headed off in different directions. It’s been great travelling once more with them.

A bit of a killer start. Awake at 3.30 , taxi to Vancouver bus station, 3 hour bus trip to Seattle before catching Amtrak’s 10 am service as far as San Francisco. We pre-booked a sleeper ‘roomette’. Didn’t take long to realize the ‘ette’!

Anyhow, I type this about 6 hours into our 22 hour journey. It’s been fun. Great being able to take in some wonderful NW United States scenery. Loved the (albeit foggy) Puget Sound & forest vistas of Washington State.

We’re currently travelling through grape-growing/wine-making country of Oregon. No surprise for Amtrak to offer a free wine& cheese-tasting session in the parlour car. That’s certainly kept me awake!

After a 5.20 dinner, we’ll turn it in nice and early. It’s been a VERY relaxing & scenic day – great way to take in the USA west coast countryside.









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