So we’re packed, and ready, and I’m just waiting for the latest episode of GREY’S ANATOMY to download from my TiVo. Then it’s off to lunch and the airport.

I’m not as excited now. I’m all business. Between the two of us we’ve done a pretty good job of paring down our initial packing list and fitting the leftovers into two carry-ons and one checked bag (which will be used mostly to cart souvenirs and such on the way back).

Our flight is going to take about 31 hours total with the layovers and such, assuming that there are no delays. It’s been years since I flew to London, but even that was a long flight at about 8 hours. I’m not terribly comfortable with flying in my old age either, so this should be an interesting trip. I hope I can get to sleep on the plane.

Wellington, our destination, is located on Cook Strait, a channel that runs between the North Island and the South Island – the two main islands that make up New Zealand. Because of the way the islands are shaped and placed, and in part because of the beautiful mountain ranges that run down both of them, a natural wind tunnel is created in the strait. Wellington International Airport is on the edge of the wind tunnel. Here’s a short video of a few planes battling the cross-winds as they land. Fun, fun, fun!

See you on the flip-side!

Doing It With GUSTO!β„’

I know that a lot of you will be blind-sided by this revelation, but I think it’s only fair that you hear it from me… I’m a geek. Yes, I know, shocking, isn’t it? πŸ™‚

I’m also a bit obsessive (I’m fairly sure you all knew that one… uh-oh, someone fainted in the back! Too many shocking revelations, I guess…)


So yeah, obsessive. Just a wee bit. Natch as soon as the idea of traveling to Wellington presented itself I was all over the Internet trying to find out more and looking for things to do! I had a TON of trip-related bookmarks floating around on my computer, then one day I came across Gusto!β„’ and I haven’t looked back. Gusto! is a site where you can bring it all together — bookmark places that you intend to go, upload photos of your trip during and after, and you can even keep a trip blog there. (I prefer to write some of my posts off-line using Ecto, so I did not use Gusto! for this trip blog.)

The really kicker though is something that they call the “Gusto! Grabber.” You just add their little grabber tool to your bookmarks bar (works with most browsers) and whenever you come across something interesting you just hit that bookmark link and PRESTO! you get a pop-up window. Ok, that’s not the cool part. Wait for it…. wait for it… the Gusto! Grabber will create a Gusto! bookmark for the site, suck any image of your choice off of the page you’re viewing (this really helps jog your memory later), write little notes about why you want to go there, categorize it (eateries, lodging, LotR movie locations, etc.) and save it to Gusto!

I have a large-ish set of bookmarks HERE. These aren’t all places that we’re definitely going – we don’t have very much actually planned out for the trip – but it’s a good place for me to go for a little personalized inspiration when we’re looking for somewhere to go that day.

As of this writing, Gusto! still needs work. The blog system is a little wonky, and the photo organization is… well… you should probably use Flickr instead, let’s put it that way. But the Gusto! Grabber is definitely a winner. Bookmarks on steroids!

3 days, 9 hours, 11 minutes to go….


So here’s how it went down…

One night a couple of years ago while I was looking at photo sharing web sites I noticed this amazing photo of a fountain. The backlighting, the seagull landing, the perfect blue sky, and the water – so sharp it looked like it was moving – I had to pay my compliments to the photographer. That’s when I met Jim!

We started out just chatting about photography, but soon we discovered that we had similar tastes in music, books, and life in general.

Movies… not so much. πŸ™‚

At any rate, we became great friends. We’ve always said that we’d put each other up if we were ever “in the neighborhood” but being that he lives in Paradise (a.k.a. New Zealand) and I live in Grand Rapids (a.k.a. NOT Detroit!) it seemed unlikely that these offers would ever amount to much. They were sincere offers on both ends, but a travel distance of around 8,500 miles is nothing to sneeze at. We literally live on opposite sides of the planet!

Fast forward to July. My dad had just been through a near-death experience and I came to realize just how short life really is. I talked to my husband and then to Jim and we made arrangements to visit him in February – our first real vacation in seven years! February the perfect month — still brutally cold here in Grand Rapids but quite warm in New Zealand — and the best part is that the kids will have just gone back to school so the beaches will still be warm but a bit less crowded. Perfect!

I’ll be blogging here every so often up to the date of the trip, then daily (or more!) while we’re gone. If you know about RSS you can subscribe to this blog and get automatic updates. (And if you don’t know about RSS, EMAIL ME! It will change your life!) Oh yes, there will be trip photos in spades, so watch for that here as well.

Got a comment? Got a question? Want to yell at us for not smuggling you along in our luggage? That’s what the Comment link at the bottom of each post is for, so use it! πŸ™‚

Oh, and one note — you may be wondering why this isn’t all going on my regular blog. Well, I leave my blog address just about everywhere and I don’t really want to advertise to the general public that our house will be empty for two weeks, even if the neighbors WILL be watching it. Make sense?

6 days, 7 hours, and 55 minutes to take-off! But hey, who’s counting? πŸ™‚