RDU to Sydney

Today is a massive travel day, as I'm flying from Raleigh to Sydney, Australia. I arrive at RDU airport about an hour and a half before my flight. The guy at Delta sticks me in the International line, which only has 5 people in it, but with only one agent, it takes 45min to get through the line. The agent also says they can't check my bag all the way through to Sydney. What? This means I must claim my bag at LAX and re-check in with Quantas. Great. At least I have a nice 4.5 hour layover to do it in...

Arrive in Atlanta on time at Terminal B, my connection is in Terminal E, off I go to the train and arrive at Terminal E with just enough time to grab a Starbuck's Chai and Pumpkin Scone (Mmmmmmmmmmmmmm Pumpkin Scone). Board my flight to LA, end up sitting next to an Australian lady traveling to Sydney herself, but she's lucky enough to be on an earlier flight out of LAX than me :( When we get airborne I decide to watch a Indy movie called "Little Manhattan". It's a cute NYC love story about an eleven year old boys first love. Features a lot of actors from "Sex and the City" and written and directed by a husband/wife team who wrote "Wimbeldon" and worked on "The Wonder Years". Unfortunately, on my row (and only my row) our video screens shut themselves off every 10 minutes or so. I suffer through and see about 3/4 of the movie. Definitely have to rent that one when I get home.

Arrive at LAX, go downstairs and get my bag from baggage claim, then walk over two terminals to re-check with Quantas. Again, the line has only a few people in it, but they are all checking 5 to 6 enormous bags each (I kid you not). I've been in two of the LONGEST short lines today. Finally get checked in, as I walk towards security I run into our rigger and a few others checking in. Get through security and grab some food at Chili's (I want my baby back, baby back...) and sit and wait my 3 or so hours till the flight. Other crew members stream in and sit down, we even spy Erik Estrada (PONCH!!!) in the magazine/gift shop. Finally board around 11:30pm PST, but end up sitting on the ground for over an hour (I doze off).

Decide to read for awhile when I wake up, the steward on the plane tries hard to get me to eat dinner (Chicken Curry, sorry Paige), but I've decided to never eat airplane food again, just the smell of it makes me sick. Eventually, surf the video offering and end up watching another Indy flick "The World's Fastest Indian", with Anthony Hopkins. It's the true life story of New Zealander Burt Munro, who spent years building a 1920 Indian motorcycle -- a bike which helped him set the land-speed world record at Utah's Bonneville Salt Flats in 1967. An amazing story, I end up watching it multiple times. Hopkins is masterful, and Paul Rodriguez makes a great cameo. If you haven't figured it out yet, I love movies and especially The Internet Movie Database. All in all, I manage to sneak in about 5 hours sleep on the plane.

We arrive in Sydney around 9:30am on Sunday (lost a day there somewhere, hope to get it back on the return). There is a long Q for Customs, and that eats up another 45 minutes or so, grab my bag and off to the bus that's meeting us and taking us to the hotel. Staying at the same hotel we stayed at here in March. So at least I know the neighborhood somewhat. Temperature is cooler than I expected, since it's Spring/Summer here, but when the sun comes out, it's refreshingly warm. Arrive at the hotel, quick shower and off to Route 66, the coolest clothing store in Australia (maybe the world). Beau tags along and buys a shirt, I don't see anything I can't live without, and walk away empty handed. Oh well, there's always the Melbourne branch...

Grab lunch at Wagamama's, an Asian chain, which is about the only thing open, as it's Sunday. Ramen is great. Heading back towards the hotel, we get a text from fellow crew members and meet them at another Wagamama's nearer the hotel and we're off to the Sydney Aquarium on the Monorail. The aquarium is huge and features numerous fish, crocodiles, penguins, and sharks (see picts at right). We spend a couple of hours there, then take a ferry to the Circularl Quay (Key), which is where the famous Sydney Opera House is. I get some good pictures of the Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge, which people are allowed to walk (climb) across the outer span (YIKES!). Everything is starting to close down around the harbour so we hit Starbuck's, where I get my much beloved Green Tea Frappuccino. Funny to see the Christmas drinks advertised here are Frappuccinos as opposed to the Lattes and other hot drinks in the States. Oh well, Christmas in summertime here.

After lingering outside at the Starbuck's for awhile, we walk back towards the hotel. On the way we decide we're hungry (it's after 9pm now) and walk over near Route 66, where I know there are a few restaurants open (I checked the times this afternoon). We decide on 'Green Chile's' for Thai, it's pretty good and extra spicy!! Afterwards, walk back through Hyde Park (where there are bats or flying foxes, etc. in the trees, you can hear them). Back in my room by 11pm and fading fast. Off to bed...

Las Vegas Billboard Music Awards

Didn't have time or the energy to write a day by day account of my time in Vegas this week, so how about a synopsis: I HATE VEGAS!!!

Fly out of RDU on Sunday the 4th, on America West Airlines, no less. There is a reason this airline went bankrupt, only one rung above SouthWorst in my opinion. Full flight to Phoenix, we arrive late, missing my connection. Luckily Phoenix and Las Vegas are both hubs for AW, so there are express flights every hour. Get on a much bigger plane to Vegas, and actually see my luggage go on the plane (wonders never cease).

Arrive in Vegas around 10pm, I was smart enough to call the car service that is picking me up and let them know I was on a different flight. Meet the driver and wait a very long time for my bag. Run into numerous fellow crew members, who arrive after me and grab their bags and are off to the hotel. Great. check into the MGM Grand, where we are playing, and join a few of the boys for some dinner. We can only find one of the ten or so restaurants in the casino/hotel still open. I thought Vegas was 24/7 like NYC?? Guess not. We eat and talk for a couple of hours, then up to the room for some sleep. Always fun finding your room here, as they have more than 5000 rooms.

Meet in the lobby on Monday at 11:45am to walk over to the attached arena where we will be playing the Billboard Music Awards. Got up early and took advantage of one of the casino's numerous Starbuck's, mmmmmmmm Chai Tea. Load in and then wait around for the promised lunch, which never appears, so we walk to the in house Emeril's restaurant and have lunch. Return to the gig later for set-up and camera blocking/rehearsal. Done late, and over to the food court (only thing open) for a Nathan's hot dog. Sit around with Beau and Geoff and talk for awhile, we decide to try and get some Blue Man Group tix for tomorrow night, since we'll be done earlly. As it is late I'm off to bed.

On Tuesday, do the Starbuck's thing again, then over to the arena for dress rehearsal. We are performing first, which is a plus, so we can make the Blue Man Group at 7pm. After rehearsal, we leave the MGM for the first time since Sunday, venturing next door for some Tex-Mex food. Back to the gig to get ready for a 5pm performance. At 5, the band is announced as 'Billboard's Band of the Year', nuff said. Song goes well, and we are loaded up and ready to go by 6pm. We cab it over to the Venetian for the Blue Man Group show. Beau bought us some choice seats online last night. My per diem for the trip out here, just covers the ticket cost. The show is amazing, very hard to put into words, part comedy, part music (lots of drumming), and part magic. I highly recommend seeing it. Maybe if I see more shows here, I'll start to like Vegas a little more.

Up super early on Wednesday, as I have a 5:30am lobby for a 7am flight. I won't get home till around 4pm. The airport is packed even at this early hour and I stand in line for security for 20min or so. Arrive home safe and sound, and on time!!

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