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A Few Phalen Park Pictures…

Originally posted on More Photography On The Citadel:

Yesterday Vanna and I went to Phalen Park to scope out wedding locations (we also got shoes, but I’ll talk about that later). It was a successful trip, but I’m under strict instructions not to share the wedding spot on the blog. I am, however, allowed to upload some of the other pictures I took while we were walking around. So that’s something, right?

I’d say more about the weekend (we met with the photographer, the wedding spot, the aforementioned shoes etc), but it will have to wait as we’re leaving shortly to head home. We’ve enjoyed our time in the cities, but we had to get on the road north eventually. I’m not sure what our plans are, but it is possible that the next time we’re down here, it’s for the wedding. Less than 3 weeks!

Anyway, I best go. I’ll fill you in on the details later…

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I Took The Test And…

…I passed my theory! I now have a learner’s permit (though I prefer to call it a provisional license) and can legally drive in the US! Well, Minnesota. And Vanna (or someone with experience) has to be with me. But still…I can drive! Yeah! And in three months, I will be able to take the test to become an official driver…and that would mean I could drive alone and anywhere in the US! Yeah! Driving!

Here’s a picture of me outside Vanna’s grandparent’s house (in the cities) with my permit papers (it takes a few weeks for the actual card to arrive). Guess who drove us most of the way? That’s right…this guy! *points thumbs at chest*

Awkward picture number one…

Awkward picture number two…

Obviously, very pleased with that. Had to share with you all before we leave here to meet our photographer. Hopefully it’ll be a good chat, and we won’t get lost on the way trying to find the rendezvous point. I will let you know how it goes.

Oh, and last word on my bike; it is finally fixed. Quite an ordeal getting to that stage, mind, but we’re there. We had to visit the bike shop twice yesterday, and the first time we were there took over an hour.


Essentially we went back because the computer wasn’t working, and we wanted a return on the tyre that we didn’t need. The former took a while because they wanted to run tests on the computer (none of them worked), and the latter took even longer because they couldn’t find Vanna’s name in the system…a job made even harder by the fact they were seriously confused over what we wanted (charging us a second time for the tyre really threw them off), despite our repeated explanations.

I guess we wouldn’t have been that bothered by the delay if it wasn’t for the absolutely awful attitude (alliteration for emphasis) of the owner (the guy who messed up our order in the first place). He contradicted himself (said he wasn’t there, then he was), spoke poorly to us and to his staff, and generally just had an abysmal demeanor. Just appalling, really. If his staff hadn’t been so nice and apologetic about things (without him I think we would have fixed this issue in two visits, not four), I would have named and shamed the shop here. But they tried their best, so I’m not going to. Obviously we won’t be going back again, unless, of course, there is a change of ownership. Next time we’ll just go to Crosby; it’s further away, but we won’t have to deal with that guy.

At least everything is sorted now, so I’m grateful for that. Well, for the moment anyway; we still need to install the second computer (we determined the first one had a faulty cable) and, although they refunded us for the tyre, the money hasn’t gone through yet…so we may have to visit again if we don’t get that next week. Won’t that be fun?

But hey, we’re fine for this weekend. My bike is in the house, and we’re going to have a good few days in the cities. We can worry about them later.

Anyway, I should go. People (person) to see, places (place) to go. You know how it is.




More Bike Excitement

So we’re going to head back to the bike shop today…our third visit…because the computer Vanna bought for my bike won’t work. We’ve set it up correctly (not sure how we managed it; the instructions, which were all pictures and no words, weren’t great) but one part of the system isn’t registering for some reason.


Naturally we’re getting a little fed up with this bike business. We’re already annoyed with the store because they:

a) Didn’t enter us into the system properly. Had we not called them, my bike would have just sat there indefinitely.

b) The guy sold us the wrong tyre, so we had to pay extra (taking the total up to $58!) for that, which didn’t help our mood. I don’t think we should have to pay for their mistake (especially with point a) but whatever.

c) The tyre didn’t need to be replaced at all; the tubing was the problem, not the tyre. They essentially took advantage of our lack of knowledge. Not surprising, I know, but irritating nonetheless. What should have cost no more than $22 ($7 tubing, $15 installment) knocked us back for nearly $60. Quite a kicker when you’re on a tight budget.

Urgh. Understandably, we’re reluctant to go see them again. Vanna plans to complain about the unnecessary tyre purchase (we have the old tyre in the back of the car and there is clearly nothing wrong with it), so we’ll see what happens there. I’m not optimistic we’ll get anything back, but thinking positively, at least we have a spare tyre for any future emergencies. We’d rather have the money but eh, could be worse, right?


Mind you, there’s a good chance I won’t see Vanna rage at the bike shop people because, depending on the time, I might be taking my driving theory test while she goes to get the computer fixed. I had planned to take it sooner (ie yesterday or Wednesday) but there wasn’t a convenient time (we would have had to wait in Brainerd for four hours or waste gas doing an extra trip) so it had to wait until today. Probably a good thing as it gave me more time to revise a few things. I’m confident that I’ll pass, but I want to go into the test with everything fresh on my mind. I’m not American, after all, so everything is still relatively new to me.

Providing all goes well, I’ll be the designated driver for Saturday’s trip to the cities. It’s wedding business mostly; we’re meeting our official photographer at 1pm, and afterwards Vanna is going to show me the spot in the park that we have reserved for the ceremony. I haven’t seen it yet, and I’m going to pictures so we can plan out how we want things to go (there is a statue we want to block out, for example; how best to do that?). I’ll try to upload the pictures here, but I’m already running out of room on morephotographyonthecitadel, so no promises. I should really just buy more space but eh…too much work.

Um, what else? Well, while we’re in the cities we hope to go shoe shopping. Both of us need shoes for the wedding, but I can’t say I’m excited to look for a pair. I don’t like shopping (any type, unless Xbox related) at the best of times, but a dual shoe shopping trip? It wouldn’t be so bad if it was just me; it’ll take less than thirty minutes to find a suitable pair of shoes for me, but Vanna needs shoes too? Oh now we’re looking at five hours. I’ll get hot and uncomfortable, Vanna will feel like I’m rushing her and get frustrated…yeah, we love each other very much, but shopping is definitely not something we do well together. There’ll be petty arguments and dry looks all afternoon. I can’t wait.


But other than the weekend trip and my bike issues, there isn’t a lot going on at the moment. We’ve been watching Hemlock Grove…that’s been okay, I suppose. Hopefully I’ll get some bike rides in soon too, weather permitting (rainy today). Otherwise I’m just adjusting to life in America. I’m eager to resume my book – possible now my laptop is active again – and look for work; I won’t be able to apply for a while, but it couldn’t hurt to see what’s available.


I Got My Laptop Back!

Okay, technically my laptop didn’t go anywhere (I just couldn’t charge it as I didn’t have the adapter plug), but hey, I’m back on my laptop! The plugs (I got 3 of them) arrived yesterday afternoon (ahead of schedule) and I’m very happy that I can use my Acer again. I was going to use my camera to take a picture of me writing this blog post on my laptop, but I thought the blogception of that photo would be just too mind-blowing for you to handle. And I forgot my camera. That kinda kiboshed that idea. So uh, just pretend I took a picture and I’m really happy in it.

Not only do I have my laptop back, I also have my bike. Well, almost have it; we need to pick it up first. I suspect it was ready yesterday (they didn’t exactly sound organized on the phone) but I’m not going to complain because it is fixed and that is all that matters. The next few days are supposed to be perfect for cycling (sunny but not too hot or humid) too, so today is the perfect time to collect it. As Vanna is off, we might even go cycling together. Maybe this time I won’t knock her off her bike (I’m not entirely sure if I blogged about this incident but my brief search through the archives didn’t find it; just know it was an accident and nobody was really hurt) and we’ll have a fun ride. Who knows?

In other news, I plan to take my driving theory test either this afternoon or tomorrow morning. If I pass then I’ll get my driver’s permit, which means I’ll be able to drive providing Vanna is in the vehicle with me. Given her general reluctance to drive and my eagerness to take the wheel, we’re both pretty keen for me to take the test sooner rather than later, especially as we’re heading into the cities this weekend.

Without meaning to sound arrogant, I’m fairly confident about passing. I read the manual on Monday without any issues, and Vanna has always talked about the different rules on our drives out, so subconsciously I’ve taken a lot of that in over the years. Except for a few more technical points, I think I’m comfortable with the information. All the practice tests I’ve done online have had high enough scores, so yeah, I’m feeling good about it.

As the office is closed until 1 and we won’t be in town again until tonight, I might have to do it tomorrow. If so, I’ll let you know how it goes.

Wish me luck!


Haircut (and Garden) Pictures

Originally posted on More Photography On The Citadel:

So it still isn’t Wednesday. And I still haven’t heard back from the bike shop, but given how humid it is, I can’t say that I’m eager to start cycling again. Today is supposed to be nicer (it hit 98F yesterday, which was….fun) but I’ll reserve judgement for now. We had a bad storm last night (heavy wind, rain, thunder, lightening; all the good stuff) so the humidity hopefully should have broken. We’ll see.

Anyway, as I referred to yesterday, my plan to deal with the hot weather was to get a haircut. Long hair + scraggy beard was not the best of combinations when out and about in aforementioned 98F temperatures. So while we were in town Monday afternoon, we went to a hair salon and I got it all chopped off.

Well, not all of it…but nearly all of it. I’m pretty pleased with the results (best haircut experience…

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It’s So Humid!

Why isn’t it Wednesday yet? I feel this is a legitimate question (albeit one with a fairly straightforward ‘because it isn’t‘ answer). I want it to be Wednesday, so it should be Wednesday. That’s how the world should work, or at least that’s how it should work on this one occasion. I want it to be Wednesday because if it was Wednesday then my laptop cable would be here and I would be able to turn on my laptop again and be happy. But I can’t, as it isn’t Wednesday it is Monday, and my laptop cable doesn’t arrive until Wednesday, meaning I continue to be without my laptop for another two days. Two days! This displeases me, people. Consider me very displeased.

On a more positive note, we took my bike to the bike shop (obviously) on Saturday to get the tyre replaced. I have no idea when it will be fixed (a couple of days, the very unfriendly shop assistant told us), but at least I might get it before Wednesday, so that’s something. It cost $52 to sort out ($30 for tyre, $7 for tubing and $15 for service) which, in my eyes, is stupidly ridiculous, but there isn’t anything I can do about it. My fault, now I have to suffer the consequences. Mind you, you’d think that at that price, they’d at least be a little quicker replacing the tyre, wouldn’t you? They weren’t that busy. Urgh. I want my bike! And my laptop!

Remember how I said those mosquito bites were no big deal? Yeah, I lied; I’ve itched them like crazy ever since, and now I have big red marks on my legs. There is one on my ankle which is particularly bad, like to the point where it could be infected…yay, isn’t that great? The only consolation is the dozen on my back have gone. Here’s hoping the rest will follow suit. Soon. I tried wearing trousers to protect them (and because they look awful when I wear shorts), but it is way too hot here for trousers. Yesterday it was 88F (31C) and I had combats and thick socks on because I’m smart like that. Bites were covered, but so awful. Never again!

And today is somehow going to be hotter than that. Weather reports, along with giving us heat advisory warnings (never a good sign) state that it might hit 94F, which I don’t even want to contemplate in celcius. The humidity (84%) just makes it even more horrible. I can handle heat (sort of), but I can’t handle the sensation that I’m breathing through a hot piece of cloth. It is such an awful feeling, I can’t stand it. Can’t stand humidity, can’t stand hot air. But it is going to be like that all day. And the best part? We have to go out into that muggy nastiness this afternoon and run errands. Oh joy.

Obviously, I have to be prepared this time; shorts (yay, exposed mosquito bites), loose t-shirt and thin socks are a must if I’m going to survive. But further steps have to be taken as well. I think…I think, people, that I might have to get my hair cut.

…I know, I know. It is a drastic measure, but one I must take. As much as I like having long hair, it just isn’t suitable in these conditions. The beard too, is going to go. It is the only way to survive.

What style do I plan to get? No idea. Thankfully I have Vanna to dictate, because when I go into a hair salon I more or less shrug and ask for a shorter version of what I have as that is all I know. Maybe this time we’ll do things differently – maybe even pick a style that requires hair product – but the outcome has to be less hair on my head than I have now. I won’t make it otherwise.

So…that’s what is happening today. Hopefully it’ll go well and I’ll make it to tomorrow.

Wish me luck,





*future blog times*

So my laptop is dead. Well, for the foreseeable future anyway. The battery gave up the ghost shortly after I finished Thursday’s blog, and despite our best efforts, we haven’t been able to find the plug for the charger. No idea where the damned thing has went, but it has essentially disappeared. We no longer have it, and as a result, my laptop is out of action.


Finding a replacement isn’t easy either, because all the plugs in the shops up here convert US devices to UK outlets, not the other way around. Consequently we had to order the new adapter online from Amazon and that won’t arrive until next Wednesday because shipping takes forever here. Four more days without my laptop is far from ideal, but it is our only option. Sure, we could have the plug delivered sooner, but standard shipping already costs more than the item does. Getting it here for Monday would mean paying three times as much, which is just ridiculous. So I’ll just have to wait.

In the meantime, Vanna has kindly lent me her laptop. I’m grateful for it but it is rather…clunky. And slow. And heavy. I miss my Acer!

To make matters worse, my bike is out of action too. It was completely my fault, which makes it even more irritating. I won’t say how I did – it is rather embarrassing – but essentially I have blown out the back tyre. It is going to cost somewhere between $20/50 to replace, which is $20/50 too much because it shouldn’t have happened. It is an unnecessary fix and I’m really angry that we have to pay for something that was so avoidable. It is bad enough that I have to buy the replacement plug without having stupid bike issues.


On a happier note, we had a great time Thursday night. After a meal at Ya Betcha’s in Crosby (I had the BBQ burger, which is just the most delicious burger ever), we went to Koda’s house for some drinks around the fire. I had quite a lot of cider (it is getting more popular here!), which resulted in a rather rough feeling in the morning. The hangover wasn’t even the worse thing – though I can’t deny it was rather fierce – as I discovered I had about fifty mosquito bites on my body. The majority were on my back (they got through the thick shirt I was wearing, the gits) but I also have a couple dozen on my legs (so much for mosquito spray) and then a huge bite on my thumb. How great is that?


Thankfully they aren’t too itchy, otherwise I’d be in a lot of pain right now. Still, I’m not impressed. I’ve only been in the country for three days! At least give me a week, mosquitoes, before you start trying to suck my blood. Ugh!

So yeah, not having the greatest start to my time in the US. Hopefully today will be better.



Hello all,

I’m in the USA! Safe and sound in Pequot Lakes, Minnesota. A little muggy this morning (it is supposed to be nice this week, but the sun has yet to surface today) but I’m very happy to be here…especially after yesterday’s journey.

Oh man, it wasn’t fun at all. It took forever and was just…awful. Here, let me summarize it for you.

Newcastle to Amsterdam

Although we were at Newcastle airport before 4am, there was a lot of people around. Given that Newcastle isn’t exactly a busy place even at its most populous times, this was a little surprising, but thankfully not a problem; closer inspection showed the majority were going to be passengers on the dozen planes heading out to various European resort hotspots that morning, meaning I wouldn’t be sharing my journey with a horde of v-necked duty-free bag-carrying Geordies (not that I’m judging or anything).

As for my flight, that was on time, but to make things exciting, the check in desk for KLM/Air France announced there was a system failure and they couldn’t process us. Yay! After about fifteen minutes of standing around (perhaps more, I was too nervous to jot the times down), they finally sorted it out and I was able to drop off my two suitcases. Both were teetering very close to being over the limit (Big Blue was just 0.1kg under!) but they were accepted without any problem. I wasn’t charged for my second suitcase, which was nice. I don’t know why that was the case, but I’m grateful that I didn’t have to pay the £50 fee. That can go in the Xbox fund instead!

Or you know, pay for groceries or something.

Anyway, once I’d checked in my bags, it was time to proceed to departures. Understandably I won’t say too much about the goodbyes, but at least I didn’t have any hold ups going through security. On the other side I sat around until my gate was called, and once it was, I boarded the plane. Nothing special; the usual routine.

The ride itself was uneventful until we were landing in Amsterdam. There, the pilot hit the brakes a little harder than I’m used to, and my nap was rudely interrupted by the fear of impending doom. Yeah…that was fun…

Amsterdam to Minneapolis

After a brief wait in Schipol (went through security easily enough, nothing exciting happened there), I boarded my second, and final plane of the day. Eight hours was the scheduled journey time, and I’d be spending it in the central aisle, right in the middle of two other people.


Overall, the journey was okay. I watched films (Anchorman 2, Bad Words, Horrible Bosses) and a couple of T.V. shows (Arrested Development, How I Met Your Mother) to pass the time. Tried to avoid fizzy drinks so my stomach didn’t hurt, but I was still uncomfortable. We had four flight meals (well, food at four times) and each one seemed to include cheese. Even the sandwiches, you had the choice of Chicken + Cheese, or just Cheese on its own. What a great choice! You’d think they’d avoid lactose products for those who are intolerant, but no, they decided instead to have it part of every meal. As I was trying to keep my stomach happy, I didn’t eat much.

Once again, the most fun part of the flight was at the end. This time the landing didn’t induce hysteria (people applauded for some reason), but we were then left to wait on the plane for twenty minutes because they weren’t ready for us to board. Yay, restless fidgeting!

And because I was sitting at the back of the plane (seriously, like 4 rows from the end), I had to wait until literally (for once an accurate usage of this word) everybody got off. Woo!

Minneapolis Customs

It took me over an hour to reach the customs desk because the queue for non-US citizens was so damn long. Then once I was through that, I had to go into a room so that my papers could be checked. No questions or anything, but because there was only guy one working, and four people who were already in there before me, it took another hour until I could leave.


I think I’d been in the airport for nearly three hours by the time I was able to collect my suitcases (which made the journey undamaged; they lost the yellow straps but that was it) and reunite with Vanna. The guards were friendly enough and it was a relatively stress-free journey through their checks, but I wish they’d had another dozen about just to quicken things up. It was a lot of waiting and sitting around after an already full day of waiting and sitting around…not exactly what I wanted.

But it is over now, and I’m home again with my wife-to-be. That’s all that matters.

*insert a big smiley picture here; I can’t, so use your imagination*

So, what’s next on the agenda?

Well, at the moment, I’m sorting through my luggage while I wait for Vanna to come home for lunch. We had hoped to go to the beach, but it isn’t looking too great for that. We’ve got plans for tonight however; we’re meeting up with our mutual friend Koda before he is deployed again. Meal in Crosby, followed by some drinks at his…good way to spend a Thursday night, no?

Right, I should go and finish unpacking. I would have written more about the journey (talk about the films etc) in this post but the plug converter for my laptop has disappeared (I’m sure I left it here, but I’ve checked the usual places for it and found nothing) and my battery is just about dead. Not good at all. If I can’t find it in the next…thirty minutes, my laptop will be having an indefinite break until I can buy a new one. So if you don’t hear from me tomorrow, that’s why.


Only A Few Hours To Go…

12 hours. 12 hours and I’m gone.

Oh man. Nervous. Excited. Hungry. Everything really.

Almost ready to go. Suitcases are packed and locked. Both are just under the limit, but only because I made sacrifices; lovely soft red blanket was taken out of Black Suitcase, while our new gift towels had to be removed from Big Blue. Vanna isn’t happy to lose the towels, but the decision had to be made; it was either the towels or my clothes, and there was only one winner there. We’ll cope without for now (it’s not like I need a blanket in the summer is it?). We’ll get them sent to us soon enough anyway.

So…that’s the packing done. I did it early this afternoon, forgetting that I can’t go on my Xbox again this night because my headset, cables and hard drive are all in the suitcase. Whoops. Serves me right for trying to be clever, doesn’t it? Oh well, I guess I’ll be social instead! Woo…

Right then. I probably should go and make the most of my final hours with the family. Nothing special planned, but I don’t think there needs to be does there?

Uh, I’ll try to post a quick blog tomorrow to let you know that I’m okay. I’ll be in Minnesota around lunch time CST (6pm GMT) so if I do post, it’ll be around then. Failing that, you’ll hear something from me on Thursday. Providing my plane didn’t crash or I was rejected at customs, obviously. But hopefully neither of those two things won’t happen and everything will go through without a hitch. Travel details are below if you wish to track my progress across the Atlantic.

Okay…I suppose that’s it. Wish me luck!

See you on the other side,




Newcastle to Amsterdam, 6:05am (depart) – 8:30am (arrive)…Flight Number DL9299

Amsterdam to Minneapolis, 10:20am (depart) – 12:14pm (arrive)…Flight Number DL0259

It’s Nearly Time…

One more day, people, that’s all I have left in the UK. Okay, a bit of Wednesday too, but considering that I’ll be on a plane at 6am so I don’t think it really counts. The rest of this evening, Tuesday, and that’s it. 36 hours.

Wow. Doesn’t feel real. Mixed emotions about it all. Though I’m obviously excited to see Vanna, I’m nervous about the flight and customs. Feeling a little sad too. Saying goodbye to my dad (and Sue; also, who can’t forget Splat and Georgie?!) is going to be very hard, so I’m not looking forward to that. Or the security/possible interrogation that will follow (Amsterdam might have questions, but I can’t imagine getting straight through Minneapolis either). The goodbye bit is the worst bit though. I hate saying goodbye. No 3 month trip this time either; we’re talking years and years. Hard to imagine being away that long. Changing country is definitely something you do on a whim. Not only is there loads of paperwork involved, it can quickly overwhelm you mentally (and it will do; my advice is to find the love of your life in the same country…it’s much easier!). I don’t think I’ve ever been this stressed out before; even writing this paragraph has got my stomach churning. Nerve-wracking.

Anyway, enough of the slightly depressing musings; the aim of this post was to update you on my luggage situation (exciting I know), not to sound miserable about something that I am, honestly, very happy about (honestly!).

So, the last you’d heard about my travel preparations was that I was waiting (I won’t do the bad joke again) for my scales. I’d packed one suitcase, but I wasn’t going to finish filling my second case until I knew how heavy the first one was. That was over a week ago, and now I’m 36 hours away from leaving. What’s happened since the last update?

Well, I got my scales last Thursday. I was finally able to continue my packing. Here’s the story…in (poor quality) pictures!

My scales. I guess a fly hitched a lift while I took this picture.

Black Suitcase was fairly light at 13kg, but Big Blue was only just underweight; limit is 23kg (50lb) and it was 22kg. Time to reshuffle!

Good, my suit is still there.

Ugh, slight hiccup opening up suitcase 2: broken zip.

Vacuum bags are fun! My pillow didn’t go in easily however…

Black Suitcase has medium vacuum bags with t-shirts, while Big Blue has large vacuum bags full of heavy jeans and sweatshirts. To share the weight, I planned to switch a couple of these bags around…

But it didn’t really work. Hmm.

Fits now, but everything else doesn’t…

Okay, that works.

But that doesn’t. *sigh* Stupid pillow…

Okay, new plan: take another bag from Big Blue and put it here, then move the pillow…

…into Big Blue! Boom!

Finish with my suit, and I’m done (for the moment). But have my changes improved the weight?

Yes! Under 19kg!

8 pounds to play with! Exciting stuff, right?

Now time to weigh Black Suitcase. Helps if you zip it up first (though with vacuum bags you don’t ruin thirty minutes of strategic packing!)

What?! Oh, that’s pounds, not kilograms. Well underweight. Still, what does it say in kg?

15 Celsius? Why does my scale have an inbuilt thermometer?

Fahrenheit this time…super.

Finally. Wahey! Logic dictated it would be 3kg heavier, but best to check just in case.


And that’s that. Since I took those pictures (last Thursday…I would have uploaded them sooner but I had other, nicer photos to show you!), I’ve squeezed more stuff into them (at the expense of the pillow; sadly that won’t be coming with). Weights are still comfortable (both under 20kg), so there shouldn’t be any problems on that front. I’ve not finished packing yet mind; I have some clothes and cables to add tomorrow, but they should fit easily enough without adding too much to the scales. Then once I’ve done that…I’ll be ready to go.


36 hours, people. Oh man. Feeling nervous again. 36 hours!

Speak soon,





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