Josh Barnett/Nuggets' blog
Nuggets blog, because blogs are much more masculine than a diary!

Jan
23

Loved being in the place of movie stars...

I probably would be expected at this point of the trip to say that the time has flown and I’m surprised that it’s already time to come home. But it actually feels like an age since we were in Australia and I’m looking forward to getting home.
It’s probably majorly because we’re all so broke that we’re scraping up all the quarters and dimes in our wallets and bags to get some sort of dinner out of the hotel’s vending machine. But all things aside, I know I am looking forward to getting home.
We have been over here for a month though, so okay, I guess time has flown.
If this was a movie then this would be the point that a montage would start and some sort of emotional music plays. I’ll hit shuffle on the iPod and see what the soundtrack could be…….’Are You Sure You’re Alive’ by Birds of Tokyo. Wow, almost appropriate!
We’ve had a hell of a lot of experiences in America and memories that will last a life time. Myself I feel like I’ve learnt so much invaluable knowledge about this country and I can’t wait to share the stories with the family and friends back home.
Jason and I have been talking about doing this trip since we were in high school and both of us, (and Luke as well of course) will be talking about the shenanigans that occured for years to come.
Anyways enough with the sentimental bullshit (well until my conclusion) here’s what we got up to in LaLa land.
Well actually, starting back in Las Vegas. We picked up a hire car (a Dodge Nitro SUV, terrible car compared to the Jeep and Ford Explorer we had in Michigan and Baltimore) and headed west along the I-15 highway south west to Los Angeles.
It was about a three hour drive, nothing compared to the epic Detroit-to-New York drive we did a few weeks ago. Again Luke was happy to hand Jason and I the control of the ship.
After nothing but rocks, sand and cacti for a couple of hours, we crossed the Californian border and as we neared the city the traffic was getting a little heavier. This got a little frustrating as we were aiming to get to the Staples Centre in time for the Lakers basketball game.
We made it with plenty of time to spare though. For the 5th time this trip we watched an NBA game and for the 5th time the home team won. As a fan of underdog teams, I was hoping the visiting Oklahoma City Thunder would get up, but it was good to see Kobe Bryant showing why he’s one of the sport’s all time greats. The way that guy hits fade-away jump shots in crucial stages of games is just unhuman like. Jason even bought a pair of his Nike brand shoes, now he probably thinks he’ll b able to do the same kind of plays back home!
The next morning was pretty cruisey. A good sleep in was awesome after having barely any in Las Vegas. In the afternoon we headed down to Venice Beach to check out the famous walkway. Bloody hell is there some weird folks getting around in that part of town! We’ve become accustom to the homeless, but this place was just fruitcakes’r’us.
The beach itself was pretty cool though and being on the west coast it was awesome to see the sun set over the beach. Come to think of it, growing up on an Eastern coastline I’d never seen that before. Being just three blokes though, I was like a dog with a stick when I bought a cheap gridiron ball at a market store. After walking about a mile along the promenade looking at all the little shanty market store and being asked by attractive girls whether we’d like to try some medicinal marijuana (I wouldn’t touch the stuff even if the queen handed it to me though) we spent an hour throwing the ball around on the sand. Well Jason and I did, Luke dislocated his finger on about his fourth or fifth catch. Poor fella. He did however take the opportunity to take some pretty cool sunset shots with my camera while sitting out (see my Facey page).
The second day in LA we basically gathered up the rest of our accounts to check out Universal Studios in Hollywood. It was definitely money well spent, seeing the set of a few TV shows and movies was definitely essential. No sign of any celeb’s though, in fact we didn’t see one the whole time we were here. Actually Jason and I starting talking to some Aussie bloke running a tour bus on Hollywood Boulevard. He told us he was in Home and Away and made an appearance in season 4 of Lost. Jason and I had no clue who he was. He did however get me excited when he said he knew my teenage poster girl Tammin Sursok. I tried to hint to give me her address or phone number or something I could stalk her with. No luck.
Actually speaking of creepy celebrity women stalking, I was hoping to somehow come across Jennifer Anniston somewhere and try to work the Aussie charm. She’s had plenty of rough goes with blokes in the past and she’s at an age where her options for a husband are shrinking. Maybe she would like to try a Ashton Kutcher-like toy boy from Down Under? I did get as close as her front gate (stalked her address off Google!). I got Jason to snap a photo of me in her driveway and then jumped back in the car and drove off. Well, you had your chance Jenny!
After Universal Studios, that night Jason and I (Luke decided to stay in) had dinner at Hooters on Hollywood Boulevard. Man were the waitresses cute (it was only a quiet Wednesday night though) but they seemed to be immune to the awesome Aussie accents, damn it! Jason and I tried to throw in as many ‘cheers’ and ‘no worries’ as we could but being a tourist spot it seemed not to do much. Ah well at least the burger and wings were pretty good.
After a meal and striking out with girls in short shorts that are paid to make you feel special we decided that being in Hollywood we might as well check out a movie. We saw the Green Hornet starring (former Herb) Seth Rogan. Not a bad action-comedy flick and seeing it on an IMAX screen and in 3D was pretty awesome. The price of admission was still cheaper than Australian cinemas too.
That’s one great thing about this country, how cheap everything is. Perhaps salaries aren’t as high over here, but you have to love how everything just seems to be much lower priced in America. Fast-food, clothing, alcohol. In a way, the reason we’re all probably broke is because everything is so cheap. That may not make sense at first, but what I mean is everything was so much cheaper than at home that we thought we’d be able to go crazy without the accounts ever running out. If we didn’t have to pay shit loads on car hires, camera gear and repairs bills for Mexican theme park rides then they probably wouldn’t have. Ah well, lessons learnt. We’ve also had some freaking awesome experiences over here. A lot of them didn’t cost much money at all.
The next night Luke again decided to stay in the hotel room while Jason and I headed back out to Staples Center, this time to watch an NHL ice-hockey game. Los Angeles Kings were coincidently playing against Jason’s favourite city, Phoenix, too. We were intending to just purchase a couple of $20 plebe tickets and sit in the nosebleeds. But some old codger in a Kings jacket had two premium tickets he was giving away for $50 bucks a pop (they were worth well over $100). It was an offer to good to refuse and after he walked us in and gave us his information guide of the whole stadium (such a nice old bloke he was) we headed to our seats. Not bad at all! We were in-between the halfway line and the goal line and only about a dozen rows back. It was awesome being that close to a sport we’d never seen before and hockey is not like any sport I’ve ever seen live before. Even grass hockey.
Naturally one of my favourite movies growing up, the Mighty Ducks, was in the back of my head the whole time but the speed of the game is amazing. Interchanges are unlimited and they happen without stoppages. The occasional timeout stops play and the floor is then swept. To our amazement (and enjoyment!) the ice sweepers also happened to be the Kings’ cheer-girls. Not a bad cost saving move there by the financially struggling NHL! Anyway Jason was glad to see Phoenix win something again but we cheered on the only African-American in the game who was playing for LA. He only got limited minutes though, poor fella.
Our second last day in LA we spent about half the day driving on about a dozen different freaking Los Angeles highways (they are just insane!) looking for a Nike factory outlet Jason and I had spotted the night before.
After the hockey game, we thought it was too early to call it a night, especially in LaLa land. After seeing how awesome Wal-Marts are in Maryland, Baltimore, Denver and Phoenix (everything is just so cheap) we asked the Sat-Nav to track down the closest ones and we set off looking for them. Now every Wal-Mart we had been to was 24-hours so we assumed that the stores in one of the biggest cities in the world had to be as well. We went to three of them, all in different corners of Los Angeles and all of them were closed (it was about midnight-1am by this stage). The only success really was grabbing yet another a $5 meal box at Taco Bell. Oh and I did get to see just about every suburb in LA, I just have no idea which ones.
Anyway we did find that factory outlet and if my bank account was any fatter (even just a little) I would have ran an absolute muck in there. Billabong, Quicksilver, DC Shoes, Nike and even Guess (for mum) we among the stores. My wardrobe could do with a few more things (apart from t-shirts, but I still bought several of those over here) but perhaps it was better that I was restricted from spending.
As I write this we’re at the airport about to board VAustralia flight 002 back to Sydney and we’re all looking forward getting back to family, Herb and even Aussie food. Australia Day we’re hoping to consume a decent sized piece of Aussie cow hide on the barbeque!
But the 30 days we’ve had in this country have been incredible.
We stayed in 10 different cities and went to 10 different states (and Mexico).
Met dozens of awesome people, drunk dozens of bottles of alcohol.
Spent shit loads of money, but have a plethora of memories.
God bless America.

Jan
18

Las Vegas
We’ve left the lights of Las Vegas and checked into our final destination, Los Angeles.
Last night involved little sleep and today involved several hours of driving. So if this blog sounds like I’m a menstrual woman, that’s my excuse!
Every man and woman dreams of going to Las Vegas and when we left Australia a few weeks ago it was probably the city I was most looking forward to seeing. But under the circumstances the three of us are in, I feel like the two nights we spent there didn’t live up to what it could have been.
By circumstances I mean that all three of us are close to broke and all the airports, driving and packing and unpacking has us all exhausted as well. For the first time of this trip I feel like I want to go home.
Financially this trip has been ridiculous. I’ll admit that losing my camera took a big chunk out of my budget. But apart from a few gifts and nick-knacks, the odd beer and our meals, all I feel like we have been forking out fees and charges after we thought the whole trip was basically paid for. Hotels we’ve had to pay extra to get a spare fold-out bed (no hotel rooms in America have three beds apparently), car hire we’ve had to fork out fees (fuel surcharges and coverage for Jason and I to drive because we’re under 25) and the whole tipping thing. We should have learnt to go easy earlier on in the trip.
Now we’re in LA having to watch what we buy for lunch and dinner (we’ve spent way too much in diners and restaurants too) and we’re more than likely not going to be able to do anything like Disneyland or anything that will slightly hurt the wallet.
I have had an absolute blast over here though, but I just feel that the stuff up at the start of the trip (the camera story again) has made the back end of the trip suffer for me. We will get by and do a few things on the cheap anyway. It just makes me hungry to come back again next year. I would probably come when it’s at least spring and would look at actually being involved with the planning of the trip (Jason and Luke did a great job but it seems the agent has given us a few bum steers). I’d fly a lot less and drive a lot more.
Anyways I digress. Vegas was still freaking awesome, even if we didn’t quite let the dogs out as Alan from ‘the Hangover’ famously said.
That movie was constantly in the back of our minds the whole time, especially considering we were also staying in Caesars palace just like they did.
Las Vegas is a place like no other in the world. It just seems there that anything is fair game. Game being a key word. Pokies are everywhere. On the street, hell the first thing we saw when we walked off the plane was poker machines.
Despite my Rogers genes ready to unleash, I actually came out of the place with about as much money as I walked out with and gambled probably less than I have at casinos in Australia. Not a bad effort. My parents shall be relieved.
When I did play though I was getting a bit of success. Black Jack I cleaned up a couple times. I won around $200 on three occasions, losing about $100 in between. Card games are definitely the better option. The few dollars I put into machines were clearly pointless, though it was cool to see the high-tech games that they had in them. A bit of research to feed the old man for his club perhaps? But I’m certain he’ll disagree when he reads that.
We did more than just gambling somehow though in the two and a half days we had there. On the first night we went to a show across the road at the Planet Hollywood casino which wasn’t bad. It had a variety of acrobatic and comedy up-and-comers. Probably a better (and cheaper) option than going to see Cher who was playing in our hotel.
We also drank, not heavily. Just constantly. Jason and I basically had a beer or bourbon in our hand whenever we were awake (which was most of the time).
Walking the strip on the Saturday night and it was absolutely buzzing. It’s such a cool feeling being able to legally walk around with a beer in your hand. The place just feels like one big massive party.
The Sunday night was a little disappointing though. The following Monday was the Martin Luther King public holiday so Jason and I (Luke was crook again and hit the sack early) assumed that the Americans would be like us Aussies and see that as an opportunity to get shit-faced two nights in a row. Obviously that tradition isn’t shared. We were walking the strip at about 1am, which is usually when things get interesting back home, and it almost felt dead. Basically the only thing you could do was gamble.
I’ll admit that our intention that night was mainly to find a pair of girls to impress with our Aussie accents, but it seemed unless you forked out a large cover charge, all you’d find is middle-aged or typical American built girls. Sorry if that sounded a little superficial, but I’m young and stupid so I’m allowed to make that kind of statement.
Actually the age factor is something that is really annoying over here. Apart from us being asked for ID every time we go to enter a club, buy a drink or get chips at a table, the under-21 age thing is annoying because we’ve become the youngens again. Also 18-20 year-old girls usually are the ones that are still silly enough and have low expectations that I can impress them. Once they hit about 21 they expect things that I just can’t offer. Money being the main one, maturity another and probably other things that I’ll never publish on the internet.
So Vegas was a loss for us both (Luke’s off the market anyway) in that respect. With what the American diet has done to me, it’s probably going to take several visits to Mingara One Fitness to get some confidence back. Not that I have much anyway.
Anyway moving on to our final morning in Nevada, we picked up our hire car (a Dodge Nitro SUV this time) to head out Californy way.
We stopped by the retail outlets on the way out of town. All of us should have invested hundreds in that place as clothing was just ridiculously cheap, but we’re all too broke to be able to. I just got some essentials; two pairs of Levi Jeans for $50 (yes Mum, I actually bought some jeans like you told me to!), a pair of Nike dress shoes for $30 (black with an orange tick, they’re pretty awesome) and a $20 Quicksilver polo (I haven’t had a collared shirt the entire trip, man I’m a bogan).
As I write this we’ve just checked into our West Beverly Hills hotel after watching the Lakers play. I’ll do a LA write-up next though.
We’re now working out what we can do in the City of Angels on a devil’s budget. Sight seeing, stalk some celebrities, go for a swim at the beach or in the pool (despite being winter!) or maybe we should spend a day being like half the country and go around asking for spare-change. Seriously that is a big problem over here. That South Park episode is surprisingly accurate.
The adventure is almost over, now to just make the most of the time we have remaining.
I myself am really missing home and family. Speaking to them on Skype has made things a little easier.
See you all soon xoxo

Jan
15

Denver and Phoenix.
I’ve coupled these two cities because A: we only spent two nights in each and B: We had little internet in Arizona so I didn’t get an opportunity to post up another blog. So I’m writing this as we head to Las Vegas.
Firstly Denver. Home to the Rocky Mountains but more importantly the Denver Nuggets NBA team!
There’s no denying that is the only reason we came to the Mile High City (fact: it’s a mile above Sea Level) was to see my Nuggets play against Jason’s Phoenix Suns. For those who don’t keep a watch of basketball scores, well just know it was a bloody good night for my team!
Denver as a city is quite beautiful, but boy is it cold. The first day felt colder than any day in any town we’ve had. As much as I love the basketball team, I was already looking forward to getting into a warmer climate of Arizona. But there was a big, big game to attend to first.
The Pepsi Centre (home stadium of the Nuggets) probably wasn’t as big or glamorous as the stadiums we’d been to in Orlando and Miami, but for obvious reasons it was my favourite night of the trip. So far.
The Nuggets did absolutely smash the Suns but I honestly wasn’t too concerned with the game’s result. Though I still didn’t let Jason forget the score for the next few days!
By the fourth quarter the Nuggets had an uncatchable lead of around 30 points and the stadium started to slowly empty. Our seats were located about 12 rows up from the Nuggets bench but for the last several minutes I sat in the front row, camera in hand, directly behind the players. Apart from my beloved Wests Tigers, this team would be my favourite sporting team in the world and to be just a few feet away from them was amazing.
Most of the stars like Carmello Anthony, Chauncey Billups and JR Smith were sitting there in front of me with the part-timers on court due to the large points lead. It was surreal seeing them jump to their feet, doing fist pumps and high fives as guard teammate Aaron Affallo absolutely shot the roof off. I uploaded the pic’s on my facey to give an indication of how close I was. What a night.
The next day in Denver was a quiet one. It was so freaking cold that we slept in to about midday. Well Luke and I did, I don’t think Jason is capable of sleeping past 7am.
The big fella and I did a bar crawl that night however, including stopping by a place called Herb’s. It actually was full of Herbs (only some readers will understand that reference, see the page called ‘Herb Spotting’ on Facebook for an explanation). There wasn’t much going on being a cold weeknight though.
But again Jason and I boarded a morning plane weary eyed, but this time he was too excited to care. We were heading to Phoenix. Home of the Suns, the basketball team Jason has supported since he was in Kindergarten.
There’s not really too much to report about Phoenix as a place, though the surrounding mountains and cacti made me feel like I was I Road Runner and Wile.E.Coyote cartoon. Just like Denver though, we came here for the basketball not the scenery.
Jason really was like a kid on Christmas at America West Arena (Suns home stadium). The merchandise store was his candy store.
The Suns were playing Portland Trailblazers. Not a bad matchup for me to see either with the ‘blazers having my former favourite Nuggets player Marcus Camby as well as Aussie Patrick Mills playing.
Unlike the two games in Florida and the one in Denver, this game went right down to the wire. The Suns held on because of some Steve Nash brilliance. Man that little Canadian can shoot (he’s actually 6’3’, but appears to be tiny out on the court).
Our seating location at the Phoenix game was right next to the Portland tunnel. After full-time I leant over the bars with all the other little kids hoping to get a slight tap from my man Marcus Camby. The kid in the row in front of us not only got a tap of him instead of me, Camby handed him his towel. Obviously being a Phoenix fan though, he turned around to us as if to say ‘do you want this?’ Hell yeah I do!
It seems sad that one of the best moments of my life was receiving a shitty towel with the sweat of a seven foot black man, but the sentimental value of it to me is unexplainable. Jason and Luke shook their heads at me as I walked out of the stadium with it hanging around my neck. I said to them about a dozen times, “I’ve got Marcus Camby’s f**king towel!”
It’s tucked into my bag safely and I’m thinking of not ever washing it and perhaps drying it out to use at Rugby. My lucky Camby towel. I am definitely a 22-year-old child. But who cares?
Perhaps I should wear the towel around my neck on the blackjack tables in Vegas (don’t worry old folks I won’t gamble too much!) for good luck? Actually financially all three of us could use a bit of a win. Odds are always with the house though.
Either way, we’re still having a blast. I’m missing family and home (and Australian fresh food!) a lot but really looking forward to the final week in Nevada and California.
We’re even staying in Caesars Palace. Hopefully it’s WiFi friendly, business! No the ‘Hangover’ quotes will not stop in Vegas!
Speak to you all after we make it out of their alive!

Jan
15

Cold. Freaking cold.
There was only one reason we went to the remote town of Garrett in the state of Maryland and that was to see Jason’s little bro Steve at his college and it was great to see the Cracker again.
We had about a three hour drive from Baltimore airport to Garrett and our weapon of choice for this mission was a massive Jeep SUV. Big enough to carry all our luggage, tough enough to handle the snow storms. I had a choice of a Nissan Navara or the Jeep but I didn’t fly all the way here to drive a Japanese car!
Being the only one amongst us over 25, Luke (aka ‘the Dolphpeace’) is the man that puts his name down on the car hires. For Jason and I to drive in most places we have to pay a fee. With predictions of heavy snow and Luke not being overly confident behind the wheel he gladly allowed me to take charge of the driving. He has the honour of being the first mate to ever ask me to be the driver! In fact he even told me that I wasn’t too bad of a steerer and that the rumours of me being a hoon must be exaggerated. See Nath, you’re just a pussy! (just joking Pony)
During our journey to Garrett we tuned into ESPN radio and during the broadcast we heard about a shooting that had taken place that morning in Tucson, Arizona. We’d b flying to that state just a few days later. Scary.
The closer we got to Garrett, the whiter it became. I’ll admit that my experience on icy roads is zero, but the Jeep was brilliant in the conditions. I was a little tempted to hit the TCS button though, just to make things interesting!
Although we’d only seen him just a few days earlier in New York, it was awesome to see Steve again. Sitting in his dorm with his fellow Aussie (Central Coaster as well) teammate and a couple of his friends, it was like we were back in Green Point like old times. Watching Will Ferrell movies, playing NBA on the PlayStation. Just like home. Only we couldn’t play cricket outside on the driveway, because it’s covered in snow.
The second night we even met his other teammates and they were some of the coolest blokes we’ve ever met. The African-Americans are hilarious and really easy to get along with. Despite all of us speaking English, there still was a bit of a language barrier but it was hilarious changing slangs and hearing them say ‘mate’ back to us.
I have even more respect for young Stevey after visiting him at his college. The Garrett area is so remote that there’s little entertainment and the temperature in winter means you basically stay indoors all the time. It’s easy to see how much Steve misses Australia but his basketball talents are too good for our small country. You’re doing bloody good Hayney, stick in there and we’ll see you back in Oz soon.
After trekking the few hour drive to Baltimore, we stayed there overnight before flying to Denver the next morning.
I finally get to see my Nuggets play live, freaking excited!

Jan
10

Cancun was the most relaxing place of the trip, needed more days there!

Cancun, Mexico
Short time down Mexico way, but boy was it sweet.
As soon as we arrived at the hotel in Cancun we knew it was going to be sweet with a little Mexican fella offering to fetch us Coronas while we waited in the line to check in. The hotel has several bars and restaurants and all of them are complimentary. Jason and I basically didn’t stop drinking or eating the entire two and a half days we were there.
The location in Cancun itself is absolutely amazing. Our room’s balcony overlooked the crystal blue beach with white sand. Now this is a freaking holiday.
By the time we checked in on the first day it was late afternoon. Jason and I by this time had also already consumed a few cups of Corona and a shot of tequila.
After hitting up the hotel’s tour guide Eduardo we booked two tours for the next days. A trip to Xplor for the next day and a night club crawl for the Friday night.
Xplor basically was a kind of theme park based around these amazing caves in the bush. They were filled with crystal clear and fresh water (though we all didn’t trust it enough to open our mouths under water) which you could swim, kayak and drive buggys through. The latter we started off with first and that was where Jason nearly killed me.
The cars were John Deere four-wheelers, like a big ride-on lawn mower. I was in my car ahead of Jason who had Luke in the passenger seat. Frustratingly we had people in front of us driving painfully slow through the bush tracks. These things only had several horsepower but I wanted to get my Colin McCrae-on in the dirt. I tried slowing almost to complete stops to let the people in front pull away to get out of their dust and to test out the handling but within a couple of corners we caught the back of them again. I tried get the thing a bit loose by yanking a bit of handbrake mid-corner but the piece of shit just didn’t have enough power to break traction, though Jason found out the brakes do however.
After letting the ahead cars get away again I flew around a downhill left-hander which turned into a rough and dusty concrete surface. Too my surprise it was the entry to the water caves and the cars had stopped. Hit the brake pedal, pulled up behind them with ease. I’m not sure what pedal Mackay hit though as he caught up to me. BANG! He slammed into the back of me with massive force (add his gigantic legs and that’s some serious physics right there!) and pushed my car up over a rock causing it to flip onto its side. Luckily it had a roll-cage and I just jumped out without a scratch. The car however not so much.
The back of it was pretty rooted and the park rangers that came after us told us that the steering was broken and we’d have to pay the damages. Well Jason would have to pay the damages. 4000 Pesos he had to fork out. About $300 US. An expensive start to the day but after sorting it out with the park manager we soldiered on to the other activities.
The swim and rafting through the caves was pretty amazing and they had a pretty sweet photo system setup which sensed your helmet number as you passed underneath and set the camera off (I purchased the pic’s at the end, they’re on my Facebook page).
The last thing to do at the park was the flying-foxes. The way it worked was that there were several towers across the complex with wires to each other and you’re hooked up via a harness and slide across about half-a-dozen of them before a water splash ending. Also got the photos from that on Facey, it was good fun.
The next day was a bit more relaxing, Jason and I basically spent the whole day by the pool and on the beach drinking Miami Vices (a mixture of strawberry and coconut daiquiris with a bit of some sort of white alcohol in them. They were brilliant). We also joined in games of water polo and volley ball. Jase and I were on opposite teams for both and in the polo we basically were nearly drowning each other trying to stop the other from scoring. Not that we’re competitive or anything! Jason ended up hitting a long-range game winner with me in his face. Smart arse. A French-Canadian lady (who was on my team and I gifted her several cherry pick passes which she bombed all of, get her a hockey stick perhaps?) said to us after the game said to us “you boys play very good ay, I’m guess that you are Russian?” “Ah no, we’re Australian,” we replied. You’re welcome Australia.
After an Italian feed that night, Jason and I (Luke was feeling a bit dodgy and pulled the pin) jumped on the bus and headed to the night spot where we would get VIP status (us and a thousand others) at three different clubs. For about 60 bucks each you get entry to the clubs as well as a Mexican bloke that fetches you free drinks all night. Awesome.
This part of Cancun was like a mini Las Vegas (well I haven’t been there yet) and Jase and I were blown away almost instantly.
The first stop was an outdoor bar which was a pretty sweet place to start the night. We were grouped with a couple of Americans from Washington who were top blokes, though they struggled to keep up the fluids like we Aussies. Jason had our little Mexican fella on the run all night fetching us bourbons and these Yanks were struggling after a couple of Coronas!
The second stop was a slightly bigger bar which we hang out on the balcony overlooking the lake and the concrete jungle of Cancun. We spent most of the hour or so there speaking to our new American mates about sport and other shit. Soon we moved on to the third club though, called Coco Bongo.
This joint was like nothing Jason and I have ever been to before. Rather than the usual room with techno shit music playing loudly and people popping pingas, this nightclub was like a dome with a circular stage in the middle. People were packed around the stage and up above it on a second level. For a couple hours straight there were amazing acrobatic shows with themes of musicians such as Elvis, Guns’n’Roses, ABBA and Madonna. Simply amazing.
Jason and I had to rush back to the hotel however, somehow hailing a cab while hammered, and then get into the shuttle bus to get a flight back to the US. We boarded the plane without any sleep and still very much intoxicated. We both can’t remember anything from that flight, we crashed basically as soon as we were seated and woke up on the Miami runway.
From Miami we flew up to Baltimore before picking up a hire car and driving about three hours to Steve’s (Jason’s brother) college town of Garrett.
In Mexico we had temp’s of about 28deg Celsius, in Maryland we’ve been suffering through about -10. A big change of environments!
I’ll recall our adventures from there next time. After that it’s on to Denver to see my Nuggets play Jason’s Phoenix Suns…let’s go Denver!
Peace out, miss you fam’s and friends!

Jan
07

Oh sun, how I missed you!
After being in freezing cold New York city for nearly a week, Miami was such a welcome relief. The average temp was about 26-27deg Celsius and it hung around that range into the night. Beautiful!
We stayed in South Beach Miami and the place reminded me of a Gold Coast except with a more Spanish domination compared to GC’s Asian infestation. English is almost a second language there though, Jason and whispered the Ron Burgandy quote “you know I don’t speak Spanish, in English please” about forty times in the three days we were there. Some of the Hispanic girls were pretty alright too. Except the fat ones.
The female part was a good change to New York too. Perhaps because girls are wearing less or it’s just a genetic thing. That’s another similarity to Queensland.
One other thing that got me aroused in Florida was picking up the hire car I booked. Long have I dreamed of driving a Ford Mustang and in Miami I booked a convertible for the two full days we were there. I didn’t get to do a full Wheels magazine type review of it but I did take note of what the Pony was like as I was the one that did all the driving. Being a six-cylinder and having a four-speed auto gearbox (which was absolutely hopeless) it was pretty gutless compared to new Commodores or Falcons. It handled okay but Americans love their cars soft and through the long bends on the hundreds of highway on and off ramps (yes, we did get a little lost in Orlando. Co-driver Jason blamed a shitty map!) it body rolled a fair bit but stuck to the road okay for a big roofless car with a solid rear axle. But I still thought it was bloody awesome getting around in it. Even though there’s about a million of them in Florida.
The roads are great in Florida as well. In the couple-hundred mile journey north from Miami to Orlando the freeways were perfectly smooth and the speed limit was about 75mph for most of the way. Though nobody in America sticks to it! I was basically doing about 130km/h on the highway and being overtaken still. Awesome.
The reason we went to Orlando by the way was to see our first NBA game but I’ll get to that soon. Being the man behind the wheel I decided to make a stop off at nearby Daytona, non-motorsport fans Jase and Luke weren’t excited about it as I was, but obliged anyway. Jason even got a photo in front of the raceway next to our Mustang. Maybe he’ll be a petrol head after all?
I didn’t actually get to see inside the circuit as we were struggling for time to get back to Orlando but I did check out the gift shop and bought a couple of gifts and even a pair of Dale Earnhardt Jnr training shorts cheap. Yeah, yeah, I know I’m a bogan.
Anyways from one American past time to another, seeing Dwight Howard and his Magic play against Golden State Warriors was a good start to the five NBA games we’re attending this trip. As you can see in my Facey album we were basically about 15m behind the backboard. I have to say that no sport that I have ever attended compares to an NBA game. The athletes are second to none but the Americans just know entertainment better than us. Even during the timeouts, something was happening on-court.
The next night it was even better. We went to American Airlines Arena in the city to watch the world’s best player, LeBron James play against Aussie Andrew Bogut’s Milwaukee Bucks. Again entertainment was just awesome and James and teammates Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh are great to watch.
I gave my Aussie support for Bogut from our nosebleed seats. I donned my #6 Bucks Guernsey and copped a lot of flak from the mad Miami fans. Every time he dropped a basket or made a rebound I yelled out in a think Aussie accent “nice one Andrew!” and that resulted in a few death stares but I enjoyed playing devil’s advocate. Bogsta had a solid game in a losing side at least.
Post-game Jason and I kicked on after game and walked around checking out South Beach’s bars. After having a couple of $1 beers at a small pub, we decided after noticing that the room was like a hot dog stand short of buns … if you catch my drift. This problem was soon fixed when we noticed a pack (or is it a swarm? A gaggle?) of young college girls about to walk past us and after saying three words (we’re from Australia) they literally jumped up and down like we just told them that little homo Justin Bieber was coming to town. They asked us to join them on their night out and again Jase and I answered questions about Kangaroos, Koalas and whether we had McDonalds in Australia yet. The theory that our accent kills it in America has definitely proven to be accurate. These girls were a little cluey however, as they didn’t believe Jason when he said he had a pet Joey named J-Lo (heerrrrherrr). But it is still amazing the reaction our words get over here. Never have Jason and I used the words ‘G’day’, ‘cheers’ and ‘bloody oath’ so much in our life, but hey if it works!
The next morning we dropped the Pony off at Miami airport and flew across to Cancun, Mexico. I’ll blog about there next time but I will say that our hotel room overlooks the beach and it’s all you can eat and all you can drink. A little Mexican bloke even fetched us Coronas while we waited to check in. Within minutes I used another Aussie phrase to describe the place … ‘get f…….!!!”

Jan
05

Days 4-8
New York
Happy New Year!
It certainly was a weird feeling waking up on what was New Years Eve in New York City and realising that everyone at home had already stepped into 2011 and were no doubt off their chops in Aussie tradition.
Our New Years Eve wasn’t what we expected but we definitely brought a bit of Down Under to proceedings!
We knew we’d be hard pressed getting a good spot in Times Square for the ball drop if we didn’t leave early. So we just decided to grab a few coldies and fill the bathroom sink (no fridge in our NYC hotel) with ice. I cranked up the iTunes with a bit of Cold Chisel, Noiseworks, Choirboys and Daryl Braithewaite to make us feel a little bit more at home.
We then headed out into the below-freezing city (although we’ve become quite used to the cold now) and headed up the street. We weren’t anywhere near hammered, but pumped and ready to have a good time. Especially with Steve (Jason’s brother) with us after travelling up from his college in Maryland.
We soon found ourselves in a massive pile of people and the bright lights of Times Square were still a few footy fields away. So we conceded defeat after a couple of NYPD check points. Despite being a distance away from the action, the atmosphere was still pretty electric and we still could see the fireworks jump off the top of the building when we heard the crowd randomly begin the countdown. Shit, it was 2011 just like that.
We then decided to head to the adjacent corner shop, grab some booze and stroll around the city with the million others. Things were a lot more interesting however as we met two young girls who were up from Texas University. With our accents and dickhead personalities they were for some reason impressed. For about the three hours we stood in the streets before midnight we were comparing everything between Australia and America and teaching the girls everything about our country from our slang to Isaac DeGois.
They then became addicted to the Aussie Aussie Aussie chant and like an animal’s mating call it led to other Aussies around us yelling out back at us and raising their drinks. One nice lady from Bronte even called us “Aussies going wild in New York” and took a photo of us. Yep, we definitely did the country proud!
We continued the party out of the cold and in the hotel room where Steve whipped out a packet of Zoo Weekly playing cards and started a drinking game with the girls. Not sure who won, Jason was actually asking to be the one that had to throw down some Bud. He’s one thirsty fella.
Well that is pretty much all I can remember from NYE in NYC for now, so I’ll try and make a recount of the previous few days in the Big Apple.
Actually it started in Detroit, Michigan because John F Kennedy airport had become closed because one of the worst snow storms New York had ever seen. The American Airlines check-in chick in San Francisco told us that the earliest we could fly to NYC would be New Years Eve and no way were we going to let that happen. We asked her what’s the closest we could get to the North East of the US and we’ll drive the rest of the way. Detroit it was.
This would be a bit of setback time and money wise but I was pretty excited to see a few extra states, albeit through the windscreen of the car. Although being inside the car would be just fine. When we stepped into the Ford Explorer at dawn in Motor City the car said the temp outside was 18deg Fahrenheit. That’s about -7 Celsius.
I hadn’t seen snow since we went to Canberra in the sixth grade and the place was just covered in it. None of us had ever driven on the wrong side of the road (or on ice) before so things were a little nervous at first. Though seeing a squirrel run across the road up ahead, got us pretty excited.
Something that got me excited, yet Jason and Luke didn’t give two rats about, was driving past several Ford, GM and Chrysler factories. When we drove past a Chevrolet dealer lined up with Chevrolet Camaros, I nearly blew my load!
The drive to New York took us about 13 hours which included a few petrol and pee stops in Ohio and Pennsylvania. That also included two hours of traffic entering the city. Seeing the lit up skyline for the first time was just awesome. Driving in the place however wasn’t.
The place is an absolute shemozzle (the snow storm didn’t help) to get into and around in a car, so we were pretty keen to drop the Ford off at Avis and find our hotel.
Our hotel wasn’t bad, pretty good location. We were basically just about a kilometre from Times Square and just up the road from Madison Square Garden.
Basically for the next few days we spent all day walking up and down the streets, going into every single store which we could see NBA gear in. Naturally we tracked down the official NBA store which for us three b-ball lovers was like being in heaven. Three levels of merchandise. We even went back there a second time when Stevey arrived. Somehow though I only spent about 60 bucks in there, though that got me about 9 items such as Denver Nuggets PJs, thongs (or flip flops as they’re known here!), tattoos, backpack and other cheap pointless shit. Jason and I could have gone nuts in there but we both decided to hold back until we get to Phoenix and Denver respectively. Jason was a little dissapointed in the limited range of Suns gear there anyway.
Apart from awesome sports stores (though mostly filled with Yankees, Giants and Jets gear) NYC is definitely a girl’s place to be, shopping for clothes and shoes and all that crap is almost endless. I understand now what that woman that looks like a horse on Sex and the City was talking about. Not that I ever watched that show, but ah, you know what I mean. TV referrences were always in the back of my mind on this trip. In San Fran I couldn’t get the theme song of Full House out of my head and in New York I was hoping to bump into Rachel Green (Jennifer Anniston’s charecter in Friends).
For the few nights before NYE, we had a schooner of beer (well Luke downed Cointreau or some whimpy drink as he doesn’t like lagers) in various pubs. Most of them were Irish for some reason though. Speaking of beer here, I have noticed that the Americans like it flat and with no head. They also are obsessed with light beer. We didn’t care though, Jase and I drank whatever came out of the taps.

One pretty heart-in-the-mouth moment was after Jason got the advice from someone in a Footlocker that they sell ‘Kobe Bryant’ Nikes in Harlem. He convinced the rest of us to catch the sub up there. I was shitting myself just quietly.

It was for good reason too. We walked about 200m from the train station and we extremely out of place. Screw your shoes Jase, we’re heading back tothe city.
As I finish this off we’re in Miami  where the average temp is in the mid-to-high 20s. After being in freezing temp’s for so long it was bloody awesome to get back to a warm climate. I literally changed into my Tigers training singo and shorts in the Miami Airport bathroom before we even picked up our baggage.
Will update next when we head even closer to the equator (even warmer hopefully!) in Cancun, Mexico. Looking forward to getting my colour back. Wearing thermals and jackets all the time and not seeing the sun has seen me go from looking like Lote Tuiquiri to being like Liam Fulton!
Missing everybody, hang in there mummy!

Dec
29

Days 2 and 3 San Francisco It’s only been two days in this country and already we’re exhausted, spending too much cash (mainly handing it to African American homeless blokes because they’re so cool!), had mishaps but overall … we’re still having a blast.

Right now I’m writing this at San Francisco International Airport waiting for our flight to Detroit. We were however meant to be flying to New York but the coldest winter in America since World War II (according to Jasonmackapedia!) has seen JFK shut down until new years eve. So we changed the flights to the closest we could to NY and that happened to be ‘Motor City.’ That does excite me a little.

Driving through the home of General Motors, Ford and Chrysler will be a good thing to tick off the bucket list, though being the north of the US it’s going to be freaking freezing. Luckily we’re sitting here prepared. Actually we’re in t-shirts and shorts. Thermals are at the ready though. San Francisco was pretty sweet for a city none of us really intended on visiting (the Colts NFL game in Oakland was the only reason). It reminds me a bit of Melbourne. A lot of shopping, cold winds, trams and really cultural. Well instead of cultural I’d actually say, um, fruity.

We headed up to Fort Mason to check out the Golden Gate bridge and Alcatraz. Was quite an effort to get up there but the dark coloured friend who noticed our green and gold clothing on the street while waiting to board a tram helped us find our way. Before demanding a few bucks. We’ve deadest handed over about 30 bucks each to homeless people in the few days we’ve been here. It’s a real problem on their streets, they’re absolutely everywhere. At least another old negro friend who started shining Jason’s shoes while rapping a poem was entertainment on the walk home one night.

I purchased an awesome 70-300mm lens for my DLSR for just 400 bucks in San Fran too. I’ve priced them at being around a grand back home. I was getting some killer shots with it but would you know it I actually lost the bloody camera! Luckily I had the shitty 45mm lens on it at the time and the 300-mil was in my bag but all my photos are gone as well. I seriously think there’s a wire in my brain that controls common sense that just isn’t right, FML!

Trying not to let that dampen the holiday. I was looking at upgrading the camera soon but the 4GB of photos on it were pretty priceless. Am contemplating getting a new DSLR body in NYC, the lens is pretty useless without it! My other money issue coming from my stupidity is being a sucker for the model cars over here. I’ve purchased five 1:18 scale muscle cars and while all up they only cost me about 60 bucks, it’s going to make luggage space a little tough for the rest of the trip, including the Nuggets paraphernalia that I know I won’t resist from buying in Denver!

Will have to keep an eye on the budget. The New York bums won’t be getting much more than a penny out of me! I’m finishing this off mid-flight to Detroit so will probably give my next update once we get to NYC. An epic road trip awaits us first however. Looking forward to the adventure and very much keen to see Stevey Mackay there. Jason obviously even more so. Will see you soon Hayney!

Missing everyone back home a lot and let’s go Aussies in the Ashes!

Dec
26

Literally like three kids at Christmas; Jason, Luke and I boarded the V Australia jet bound for Los Angeles. Thank Christ, the day has finally come!

I had my family farewell-party of seven there to see me off and it’s only now as I write this that I realise that that was the first Christmas ever that I actually had all four of my parents and three siblings together at the same time which was awesome.

Twas a short Christmas day (well in Australia anyway), but definitely the most significant of the 23 that I’ve lived through.

So after an emotional good-bye to the loved ones (it’s okay Mum, I’ll be home soon. With your discounted Guess bag as well xo), we jumped on the plane and plonked our arses into our pleb seats.

15 hours in-between two other fully grown blokes in about the space of the back seat of a Holden Commodore wasn’t the most pleasant experience. So the phrase ‘it’s not about the destination, but the journey getting there that counts’ Chappo, our high school English teacher, told us in this case was a load of shit.

The Virgin tele’s however were pretty impressive and made it a lot easier. Watched a couple of movies (Get Him to the Greek and Inception for those who like the Dale Kerrigan details) and a few TV shows (Modern Family, Family Guy and even V8 Supercars and NRL season highlights). I was also trying to get used to American time by staying awake until it was about midnight LA-time.

That plan went well and after knocking back a small bottle of Baileys (which I bought in duty free for seven bucks and smuggled aboard) and chucking the ear phones on with a bit of music, I dozed off. But then would you believe it, we hit turbulence. That wasn’t too bad, the g-forces of doing 1000km/h and moving up and down I could handle. But the toddler two rows in front of us (what a freaking cliché!) that went off like a crow on ecstasy kept me awake and brought out the Barnett frustration frown I’ve inherited (came with some looks and brains as well, so I’ll never knock your seed though Dad!) on my face.

Fair enough this poor kid was scarred, but he howled constantly for about an hour straight I reckon. All the mother would do was a whisper of ‘shhhh’ to it (yes, I meant to write ‘it’!). Yeah that will work lady! Seriously how come I can be fined for having a car that’s too loud for people surrounding me, yet this mother wouldn’t even use her hand as a muffler on her son? What a crock!

Anyway I digress and I have no doubt that my grandkid-craving mother is shaking her head as she reads this.

Eventually the plane did settle, the kid did shut the hell up and I did manage to get a few scattered series of small sleeps in before we touched down at LAX.

The shoulders and neck were aching, my feet were so swollen I could barely fit them in my shoes and I was probably a little dehydrated as well. But hell yeah, we’d made it.

Well after waiting for a couple hours in customs anyway. Not sure if it was the same scenario pre-9/11, but bloody hell is it a tedious process finally getting into this country.

Finger prints on a CSI-like gizmo, fill out another bloody form saying ‘no I’m not a terrorist’ and then getting the passport stamped by the portly, less than cheerful men in the Dept of Immigration uniforms (which ironically were mainly Hispanic and Asians).

Finally, finally, finally….I got to breathe in American air. It was pretty polluted and a little chilly, but it felt great to finally visit another continent.

Our connecting flight to San Francisco wasn’t for another 10 hours so we had a second Christmas Day to kill.

Somehow we were able to check in our bags early and we asked a taxi driver where we could get a beer (it was 10am locally, but we hadn’t been to bed yet) and watch the basketball. After each having a go at trying to get this ethnic cab steerer to understand us he suggested Santa Monica beach.

In typical Aussie fashion we said, ‘sounds good’ and we squished into the back of the yellow Ford Crown Victoria and headed for the freeways. Felt like it could of been Jimmy Johnson (that’s a NASCAR driver for those who don’t know), he bloody gunned it down the highway. But he still was being passed by other drivers as well!

However this freeway was five-lanes-wide, the road was perfectly smooth and the Californian motorists actually knew how to keep to the outside unless overtaking. So it wasn’t at all dangerous. Didn’t see one speed camera either. Take note, RTA!

Speaking of cars. With less than 24-hours of being in the country Jason and Luke probably are already annoyed at me getting a hard-on and pointing out every single American muscle car I see. But they knew to expect that. I have already spotted about six or seven new Ford Mustangs but no Camaros. But I did notice about a thousand Toyota Prius. Seems the Yanks really are buying into this ‘global-warming’ fad. Down in Tinsel Town anyway. Hopefully places like Arizona, Colorado, Florida and Nevada have some more red-blooded American V8s and less of these mile-per-gallon braggers.  Damn tree-huggers. The right side of the road switch is tripping me out as well. I’m looking forward to us getting behind the wheel of the Mustang in Miami and seeing what happens.

So anyway, back to my day’s recount. Santa Monica was a sweet place to hang out and the infamous pier with the mini theme park on it was pretty cool. We bought our first American take-away for lunch as well. Taco Bell.

I opted for a chicken burrito which was wrapped with mushed beans, cheese and god-knows what. It wasn’t too bad, but the nacho chips and cheese dipping source was a bit sickening.

Luckily I washed that makeshift cheese taste out of my mouth with a beer at a small sports bar we found nearby.

Was great chatting to a few locals at the bar while watching the NBA. I’m not going to make a judgement on a race after just one day in the country, but the stereotype of Americans being arrogant  is only half-true. They are absolutely wrapped up in their own world and their politicians are power hungry, but generally from what I’ve seen the people are friendly. A lot more serious than us Aussies, but still easy to communicate with. Actually my Pop’s advice that the African Americans are nicer than the Caucasians is definitely accurate. Probably should stop whispering to Jason how they looked like Morgan Freeman or Samuel L Jackson.

The old-timer we talked to was a great bloke and gave us a few good tips about the country. He even told us he’d been to Australia. In 1988! We naturally were comparing our two countries and this old fella somehow thought we hadn’t evolved in 22-years. He told us how he loved our ‘large phone booths’, really enjoyed Expo and didn’t mind drinking Fosters.

We let him know that yes we have ‘cell phones’ now, we were babies when Expo was on (I was born that year!) so we have no idea what it was and that not one person in Australia drinks Fosters. But was great fun ‘representing’ the country and learning America outside of movies and television.

As I finish this, it’s 2:30am in San Francisco and I’m sitting on my laptop in the hostel’s hallway. I’ve barely slept in the past 48-hours, but I’m still in journalist-mode and had to get the early news sent back home ASAP.

Plus I wanted to check in on the Ashes action we’re missing. Yes, well, nothing to write home about really is there? Perhaps that’s Karma for Jason and I yelling ‘go the Aussies!’ to a Pommy stranger wearing an English jersey in Santa Monica. His wife found us bogan’s funny at least.

It’s only been one day and somehow I’ve blurted out over 1400 words about my experience already. Looking forward to going to the NFL across in Oakland tomorrow and then heading to New York the day after.

If you are one of the ones who care about me that you actually read this whole ramble, then I’m missing you dearly.

Will update as soon as I can.

Dec
23

Well there’s just one more day of work at Fox Sports HQ before I head off on my first ever travels to another continent.

Bags are packed, Aussie dosh converted into green backs and my two travel companions are like three kids at Christmas, almost literally.

Jason my mate from back in school days, and Luke, Jason’s former house mate, sporting nut and an all-round top bloke will be the ones responsible for any of my actions and well being. Well I made it to 22, I had a good run!

On the day supposedly that bloke called Jebus celebrates his birthday, we plan to board the jet at Sydney airport and head off to Los Angeles. After nearly a full-day worth of flying we jump on another plane to head straight up to San Francisco. I really hope that the family from Full House still live there.

After two nights is CA, it’s then off to New York, New York where we’ll end the year in the city that never sleeps.

Will miss spending the holidays with family who I love so much, but ready for the best adventure of my life.

Bring it on!