A trip to Australia has been in the works for a long time. There was no shortage of reasons to undertake such an expedition: sun, surf, meat pies, FARMER'S UNION ICED COFFEE, long-unseen family... The one thing missing was a reason with a specific date. Enter Wren's hand-drawn wedding invitation.

When it turned out that Sarah and Andre had simultaneous spring breaks (for the first time in ten years) that lined up with the wedding, it was decided that fate had intervened and tickets were booked.

The route, as is often the case in such adventures, was convoluted: drive to Montreal, fly to Chicago, fly to Los Angeles, fly to Melbourne, shuttle to Bargain Car Rental, come close to hitting cars that appear to be driving on the wrong side of the road, get used to driving on the the wrong side of the road, drive to Anglesea. All told, thirty-six hours. We thought it best to leave our young child stateside with Pops and Oma.

A (not so) magnificent beard on a plane.

We almost missed our connection in Chicago. Not because we were dilly-dallying in this brontosaurus's rib-cage, but because dumb old Andre got the boarding and departure times mixed up. Two overpriced ($12 each!) last-minute beers were hastily chugged and our heroes scurried on to their second flight of the day.

A jittery ride down the O'Hare runway...

...and they're off!

Looking out the window as the plane was parking in LA, Andre noticed that they had arrived at Gate 83. "Piece of cake," he thought, noting that their next flight was slated to depart from Gate 79. But 79 was missing. It was also missing from the next concourse. And the next, and the next. A "final boarding call for all passengers on United Airlines flight 0098 to Melbourne" prompted an acceleration to a flat-out sprint.

Winded, our heroes settled in to long winter's nap aboard a fancy new 787 (pictured above with cheeky new United safety video).

And then, after a bit of finagling with shuttle buses, credit cards, and steering column levers: Australia!

Despite her growing hunger, Sarah approved a brief side-trip to have a peek at the famous Bell's Beach. Most of the surfers pictured would likely have complained that the waves were too small. But given the average size of the swell rolling through Potsdam, NY, Andre was pretty stoked.

To combat the looming menace jet-lag, we strategized to stay up until normal-person bedtime. Eating food, drinking drinks, and exploring Anglesea took the place of naps.

And look! Anglesea has an IGA! Just like Potsdam! (Plus liquor!)

Gum trees. Glorious gum trees!

Sarah poses. First on the world's smallest dock...

...then on the beach!

After one circuit through the town, there were still many hours to go before normal-person bedtime. We hopped in the car and drove down the coast.

First stop: Roadknight Beach, where the swell shrunk and wrapped around a pointy peninsula to face a light offshore breeze ("offshore" being a fortuitously relative term).

The point itself, was comprised of a number of intricate (sandstone?) structures, looking more like sand-castle drip towers than actual rocks.

There were a couple people out, but for the most part the diffraction of the swell brought the waves down to an unsurfable stature.

More dramatic drip towers...

...with a bikini-bottomed Sarah standing happily among them.

Everywhere we go, the local plover population seems to be pretty distressed. First the delicious piping plovers on Long Island, then the noisy snowy plovers in Goleta, and now the runty hooded plover. Call me insensitive, but maybe we should just take a hint and let fate take its course with these beach-hogging little bastards.

(I'm kidding, of course. I would never eat one of these little guys!)

Venturing further down the coast, Split Point Lighthouse at Aireys Inlet.

(Note the hovering drone and its earthbound pilot.)

Looking right up the sumbitch.

This, Sarah says, is her favorite type of view. Not a lot of sweeping coastal vistas where we live!

(The pattern of human tracks on the beach is really interesting. Everyone, it seems, mills about when they first get down there. Then they all take a slightly different course across the wide part of the beach.)

Same tower, different angle. (Too photogenic to resist!)

A salty haze shrouds the Otways.

Supermom Sarah, who had been casting wistful glances at the many (MANY) happy Aussie toddlers we'd seen on the many (MANY) perfect beaches and playgrounds, sits down for delicious dinner at the newly-opened Uber Mama restaurant in Anglesea.

Consumed: a jug(+) of local pale ale, basket of flathead and chips, Mediterranean dip trio, and lamb skewers with cucumber sauce.

Day 2:

On our way to collect groceries, we took a detour through the wetlands upriver from the bridge in Anglesea. Sarah leads the way through shrubs and trees that were surely teeming with vicious deadly beasties.

And speaking of vicious beasties... Some cockatoos running amok on a TV antenna.

Despite the purpose of our outing (to procure grub/grog and other sundries for breakfast), Sarah insisted on stopping for a coffee and a pastry. A bush-full of fat birds looked on as we enjoyed a white chocolate and raspberry muffin.

Another fat bird waiting for a handout.

After second breakfast, we hopped in the car once more and drove south toward Lorne. The Erskine Falls were our destination and, after at least one wrong turn, we arrived in an Australian rain forest.

There hadn't been much rain lately, but there was still a bit of water collected on the forest floor.

Tasteful graffiti at the top of a long staircase down to the bottom of Erskine Falls.

And then… THE FALLS! (Everyone agreed that Erskine Trickle would’ve been a more appropriate name.)

Sarah, heeding the many "DO NOT LEAVE VALUABLES IN CAR" signs, brought her purse as she decided to poke around further downstream to see if there was any more water coming over Straw Falls...

...there was not.

Water levels aside, the jungle was pretty lush.

Perhaps it was for the best, but we didn’t see a single dragaroo on the entire trip.

We did see this monster, though, perched on an awning in Lorne, near the noodle house where we lunched.

Getting a little nervous that their son might forget their faces, Andre and Sarah pose for a breakfast selfie to send to Otis.

And then, the wedding! One third of the reason for the trip (the other two being Trotters and a healthy appetite for adventure). A beautiful, if dangerous, ceremony: at one point toward the end, as the newlywed couple signed their certificate, a rogue wave came within inches of the unsuspecting band. The crowd went "wwwwwoooooOOOOOOOAAAAAAHHHH!!!!" and nobody was electrocuted.

The view from the reception. Magnificent.

Sarah broke a glass and we made lots of new friends.

Back at the groom’s house after the Anglesea Surf Lifesaving Club kicked us out, groomsman Sam dragged out his virtual reality rigs. He’d recently produced an immersive music-video for Run the Jewels and we all took turns getting intensely rapped at.

A couple of pooping roos on the lawn outside the office at the Big4 Holiday Park. (A pile of roo business betrayed their activities the next morning.)

In recent years, my policy on coastal excursions has been to not get my hopes up about surfing. So far this has paid off, and this trip was no exception. Following an exquisite brunch (again at Uber Mama, Sarah had dahl and Andre had a breakfast pizza), a few of the more beach-minded wedding-goers assembled a quiver and hit the waves. It was perfect. Well, maybe coulda been a bit bigger, but a gas was had nonetheless.

Here, Wren helms his magnificent camper van around the carpark at Roadknight. (Best part: The van didn't always turn off when you turned it off. It would just sit there sputtering for 10-60 seconds before wheezing to death like an exhausted cartoon horse.)

Sunday night, following one last wedding weekend event (a big family/friends BBQ), Sarah and Andre were confronted by a full battalion of nocturnal hoppers. This poor feller seemed pretty weighed down by various tracking devices and tags. Sarah hadn't realized how much roos use their tails for balance.

And this evil bastard didn’t seem too happy about the flash.

Reflected eucalypts.

Orange juice, pomegranate yogurt with muesli and fresh nectarines, and a cup of coffee, recently slammed by a pair of Tim Tams.

Phase two!

The plan had been to drive out to Mt. Gambier to visit Andre’s long-unseen host family in Mt. Gambier. The Trotters had other (better) plans for us though and despite their very busy schedules dropped everything and drove five hours out to Melbourne to pick us up! We were very gracious, "No worries!" we were assured.

At the Trotter homestead--a fine spread out in the country--a wallaby took its cue on our arrival and hopped into the front yard for pictures right about beer o’clock.

Looking down the road, out in front of the house.

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There are some pretty tremendous birds in Australia. At the holiday park in Anglesea I tried to record some magpies and kookaburras singing at the same time, but it started raining before I could get my phone out. Here instead is the throaty morning song of the some magpies with an occasional squawk from the Trotters' peacock Captain.

Some friendly cow neighbors across the road.

Cooper, the most recent addition to the Trotter menagerie, practiced catting in the garden as a proper Aussie breakie was prepared on the front-porch grill.

The aforementioned breakie. (I took a lot of meal pictures on this trip, huh?)

Marg and Darren treated Sarah and I to a full day of activities in and around Mt. Gambier. This included a meat-pie lunch, a tour of several local theaters, and an attempted tour of the newly founded jazz school.

The first order of business, however, was the maiden voyage of Dave’s work-in-progress motorbike. Dave's been building a bike from scratch (like, really from scratch! Machining his own parts, etc.) in the shed out back. After a couple quick laps, Dave came back and said it was very powerful yet. Seemed to be going heaps fast to us!

The whole Trotter family is deeply involved in the Mt. Gambier Motor Cycle Club, the only club in the Southern hemisphere, we were told, that owns its own track. They do everything from coaching, to scheduling, to racing, to track maintenance.

Master coach and rider Darren on bike 75...

...and son Dave advertising the upcoming Easter cup.

How are the pies? Well, they're not bad.

Actually, we did have pies (magnificent pies!) for lunch. But not here.

No trip to the Mount, it would seem, would be complete without a quick spelunk down the sinkhole in the center of the city.

If you weren’t paying attention, you could walk right past this large sinkhole and not even realize it!

Engraved delinquency...

...and aloe plants.

Divided sky.

Heading out of Mt. Gambier toward Narracoort for an afternoon tea meetup with David and his wife Hillary, we stopped several times. First we had a snack in Penola where Andre finally scratched an eighteen year itch and downed a whole carton of Farmer’s Union Iced Coffee...

...then to the Patrick of Coonawarra winery to sample some cabernet and cider as a surely venomous spider guarded the car...

...and then to a roadside sculpture garden celebrating the work of famed bush priest Julian Edmund Tenison-Woods.

Dig those eyebrows!

Apparently, there used to be a flock of peacocks, nine birds strong, hanging around the Trotter property. Captain here is all that remains of this once proud squad.

As usual, our trip was far too short in every regard except the amount of time we were spending away from our kid. Marg drove us to the Mt. Gambier airport and waited with us before we got on our flight back to Melbourne. Seeing the Trotters was one of the most special treats we've ever had on a trip. We all agreed to meet up again (in less than twenty years).

Green grass turned to brown...

..and Andre ate a complimentary Mento.

The Regional Express (ReX) jet landed some distance from the terminal in Melbourne, and Sarah and Andre delighted in the transportation-themed fabric that covered the chairs on the shuttle bus back to the main building.

And, for the final leg, twenty four hours in Melbourne! We had a couple hours to kill before meeting up with Wren and Allison, so we headed down Sydney St. in their Brunswick neighborhood in search of chicken shawarma (a rare delicacy in Potsdam).

Mission accomplished!

This smug magpie seemed to be enjoying a peanut. Upon reviewing this photograph, however, it became clear that the peanut was actually a grotesquely large grub of some sort.

Plenty of colorful graffiti in Melbourne!

And hello to you too, lucky cat!

After showing us their lovely little house and garden (dominated by many pepper plants and spices) Allison and Wren took us out for beers and tacos (REAL TACOS!) and more beers. As with every other part of this trip, we had an absolutely splendid time. Lingering in the back of our minds, though, was the realization that our all-too-short Oz-cursion was coming to a close. This graffito in the bathroom of Los Hermanos summarized our feelings succinctly.

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Epilogue:

The trip back was relatively uneventful, save for a number of unnecessarily confrontational passengers and crew members.

One guy turned around, smiled at me condescendingly, and say "You're pushing my chair pretty hard with your knees, don't you think?" I showed him that I wasn't even touching his chair and passed my hand between knees and chair to prove it.

Then, on the second flight, I was seated on the aisle outside of an elderly couple that woke me up to and got up to pee every twenty minutes. That would've been fine, except for when I decided to stay up until they got back instead of sitting back down. I was waiting in the aisle near a young mother who had previously been breastfeeding when another gentleman tried to push past with his own kid to the fully occupied bathrooms. He asked, "Are you waiting for the bathroom?" I looked at the queue that had materialized and then looked back at him and said "no." The young mother then looked up at me and asked indignantly, "You're just standing there?" (as if to imply, I think, that I was peeping on her feeding). "Ugh," I replied and took my seat.

One nice thing about the return flight: little bags of cookies and the satisfying sound of hundreds of people opening them in the dark at the same time.

Back in the States, we reunited with our son (who had had a delightful week with Pops and Oma). We gave him a gift from the Trotters: a sweet superhero robe with a mask/hood. He enjoyed it for a moment...

...then promptly disrobed and streaked around the house.