Number 27 - See an Erupting Volcano

Climbing the final leg on foot, you feel a small rumble and then hear a tremendous roar as you climb, Yasur is greeting you. What a sight to behold.

Number 49 - See both Solar and Lunar eclipses

And while it was not total in Brisbane (83%), it was a strange thing watching it through the solar glasses seeing a massive slice of the sun missing.

Number 98 - Take part in a Demonstration

Remember, remember! The fifth of November. The Gunpowder treason and plot; I know of no reason why the Gunpowder treason should ever be forgot!

Number 11 - Storm Chase a Tornado*

Partial complete, but an amazing experience even as they were "Rain Wrapped". Huge epic storms with beautiful structure and powerful lightning.

Number 67 - Visit... The Grand Canyon

A lot of things that are "Must See" have a habit of being quite overrated, this is not one of those things. Truly epic in size and scale, the helicopter is a must.

Monday, 22 September 2014

Number 11: Storm Chase a Tornado

Partial Complete Attempt 12 May 2014 - 22 May 2014
Tempest Tours: Tour 3 - Base Camp: Oklahoma City

Heads up, this might be a long post.
 
Now with my love of the extremes of Mother Nature this was always going to be something I would do. Planning started well in advance, probably a good 18 months before the trip was actually set for, with looking at companies, watching flight prices and planning the entire trip to America. So flash forward and the trip was planned, you can read more of the general details here.

Fly to L.A., Fly to Vegas, Fly to Tucson and finally on to Oklahoma City. Finally I was there and ready. 


12 May 2014
So I headed to the base hotel from mine, and waited in the lobby and it wasn't long before you could start to tell who was also there for the same thing. With a few initial introductions done, we were all taken to a small conference room for official introductions and instructions. We met our tour director - William (Bill) Reid and drivers - Bob and Rook as well as all the other guests. 

With that we were into it, now the first few days were fairly quiet storm wise, however we still take in a number of sights, cities and towns such as:
  • Monument Rocks,
  • Joplin, MO - the site of the 2011 EF5 tornado, 
  • Walmart!
  • Gorgeous sunsets,
  • Awesome abandoned houses in the middle of nowhere, 
  • Cruising through the Rocky Mountains (complete with snow, which I didn't pack for),
  • Incredible scenery and beautiful country towns.
Monument Rocks


17 May 2014
Our first real day with a chance for some storms to pop, and we did get a little taste in eastern Colorado with a few good shots taken, but nothing too dramatic in the way of supercell storms. 



18 May 2014
Again a day where there was some slight chance of some cells developing, so early in the day we were playing the waiting game, visiting Lost Springs, Wyoming (Population: 7), some abandoned farm houses and general photography practise. 


Chilling reminder that people live with this threat
A cell really started to pop north of us, so that's where we went, but by the time we got their it was fading fast and the another one back south was going up, so back down we went only to catch the tail end. Although we did subsequently catch a nice night show.  

19 May 2014
Another day and now we were really getting into the thick of it. Lots of chances and lots of big beautiful storms that put on an impressive show in the Nebraska panhandle.








20 May 2014
This was the day with the second highest potential for storms for the entire trip, and it did not disappoint. Multiple supercells, impressive light shows, 2 inch hail and some great photo opportunities. The howl of the hail core as it approached was something I'll always remember. 





21 May 2014
This was the day, it started looking like a significant storm day 4-5 days in advance and the SPC (Storm prediction Center) had put up a small warning area showing 10% chance of tornadoes. The entire group was excited and eager to get going from our hotel in Ogallala, NE towards Denver/Fort Morgan, although it seemed like the entire chasing community had the same idea on the day.





Around 14:00 the SPC issued Mesoscale Discussion 640 advising of hail and tornado chances increased in the Denver metro area which aligned with out direction of travel a little two perfectly. The one thing you don't want during a chase is to be stuck in suburbia where the roads don't give you straight long paths to travel and instead give you short roads that curve around not giving you a lot of opportunities to chase.



We stopped for around 10-15 minutes in central Aurora, CO to watch what's called a "Tornadic Mesocyclone". When the tornado sirens started wailing, it became real and quite an eerie experience. It's a situation where it becomes real and you realise that people live here and have to live with this situation on a constant basis. Suddenly, instead of you crossing your fingers for a tornado to drop, you cross them and hope that if it does, it's not in the middle of suburbia.



We got a move on and headed out of the direct path of the storm to take in the size and scale of it, I must confess in my storm chasing experience I've never seen a storm with as much "Greenage" as I saw on this day.



News report from the day, confirming 6 tornadoes
22 May 2014
Our last real chase day, so we headed south through Colorado and into Texas where there was a slight chance of some type of activity. The landscape was much different through Texas, a lot more dry and dusty. The visibility was really low at a couple of points throughout this chase, although there was a pair of gustnadoes while exploring an old abandoned church and also a possible slight tornado (dust cloud leading up to a funnel cloud) however with visibility so low and dust everywhere it was difficult to confirm.



So all in all, I'm counting this as a partial complete as we didn't get that clearly identifiable tornado profile and that iconic shot. An incredible experience that I'll happily repeat to get the shot and to mark Number 11 as complete.

To Be Continued...



Monday, 15 September 2014

Number: 50 Write Your Name Over a Star on the Walk of Fame

Completed 26 April 2014
Chuck Norris - Hollywood Walk of Fame

The Hollywood Walk of Fame, icon of Hollywood and the entertainment industry in general... and I had to write my name over one. Now because that's technically vandalism and I'm not an American citizen I couldn't risk doing something (like getting a criminal record) as it would prevent me from completing other things from the list that need to be done in the US. 

So after thinking about my plan of attack, I decided sticking a Gamble Agenda business card, with the number and my name on it to a star would class this as complete. 

My initial plan was after reviewing the list of names (http://projects.latimes.com/hollywood/star-walk/list/) was to target Matt Damon since I quite often get told I look like him, however once I got there his area was fenced off due to construction :(. 


Curse you construction work!!!!
Much Frustration, so I wandered up and down, taking the the (way to touristy) sights and searched for a new name worthy of the list. 


Hollywood, the capital of marketing?

It After checking my phone extensively at lunch while using the McDonalds free WiFi, I found a name that would be worthy... an icon of brute force, power and countless jokes involving how hard he was.

 




 Nothing more needs to be said, except maybe...



This website may soon be in memoriam.

Mark Number 50 as done.


Friday, 22 August 2014

Number 67: Visit...

Completed 30 April 2014
Update j: The Grand Canyon, Arizona

The Grand Canyon, a sight not uncommon to be included on bucket lists around the world. Coming in at one of the "7 Natural Wonders of the World", epic in size and scale.

So like as with everything else of my trip, initial step was planning and reviewing tour companies on sites like Tripadvisor, and cost was largely not an issue as it was something I was happy to pay for. I ended up deciding on Adventure Photo Tours (www.adventurephototours.com), as it seemed to be at least a bit more photographic orientated with their 6-1 tour including helicopter flight and landing on the base of the canyon.
 
It was going to be a full day with an early start and late finish, so after making sure batteries were charged, SD cards clear and all camera gear packed I was out the door to wait for pickup. 


First stop was the Hoover Dam which in my experience was a bit disappointing, however that may have just been the tour only allowed us to view from the one side and it wasn't the impressive picturesque side. Honestly, this was the reason I didn't do many "tours" while in America, because I like to see things at my own pace and explore. But still that was done and on to the next. 


After a long drive, though some very pretty country, the next stop, was the Joshua Tree National Forrest. We had a look around, took some photos before continuing on our way, although the single road to the canyon was undergoing some serious road works which lead to some significant delays. But we got there in the end. 

Now you start off at a base camp which has buses that travel around to a few lookout points, however we decided to take the helicopter flight first before visiting the lookouts and getting lunch. I have to say, I would have paid the entire days fee just for the helicopter flight itself. It was amazing and worth every cent. 




Flying over and through the canyon is something I will now recommend to anyone who is visiting it. When we landed on the base of the canyon, we were able to get out, walk around and snap some photos before getting back in and flying out. 


Next was a cruise around via the shuttle buses to two different lookout points and a silly little village that was a typical tourist trap, which no offence to the people that built it. I have no interest in that lame type of activity (although the food was amazing, granted). 




Unfortunately number 67 won't be marked as complete until all of the sites listed have been visited. 

Colosseum, Rome, Italy 
Uluru, Australia 
Machu Picchu, Peru 
The Pyramids at Giza, Egypt 
Christ the Redeemer, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil 
Sydney Harbour, Australia 
Taj Mahal, Delhi, India 
Great Barrier Reef, Australia 
Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco 
Grand Canyon, Arizona 
Angor Wat, Cambodia 
The Great Wall of China




Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Number 42: Hit Your Targets

Completed 1 May 2014
Beretta M9, Remington 788 .223 Sniper Rifle, FN P90 and Heckler & Koch MP5
The Gun Store, Las Vegas

So go shooting, number 42... what better place to do this than America and what better place in America than Las Vegas. Sin City, The Diamond in the Desert where the firearm laws are lax and pretty much anything you want to do is on the cards provided you can pay.

Now I initially when I started searching there wasn't actually too many websites/gun ranges that where around. But I found one that offered the setup and experience I was looking for, www.thegunstorelasvegas.com.




Browsing there website, I found the basic package I wanted, a simple "Pick 3". and went about selecting the weapons I wanted to fire. The original plan being the .223 Sniper Rifle, the Glock 17 Carbine and the Beretta M9.

So the day rolled around while I was on my 6 week USA trip and we caught the shuttle out to the shooting range. After we checked in, we were asked to pick our targets and weapons for the pick 3 package. I changed it up on advice that "You're only here once" and picked a full machine gun (MP5) along with the Beretta M9, the .223 rifle and the weapon from Stargate the FN P90.



Beretta M9
The first gun I have ever fired and really not as scary/loud as I thought it was going to be and far less kick. Although it should be a fairly easy to use weapon since it's used by the United States Navy, United States Army and the United States Air Force. My accuracy was terrible and my range instructor could not work out my camera for this first one, so no photos, sorry.

Remington 788 .223 Sniper Rifle
The bolt action on this one was a huge amount of fun and my accuracy was great, although granted the target was not nearly far enough away. But still a lot of fun, fire, up, back, forward, down, fire.




FN P90
Now this was my favorite weapon I got to fire, the gun they use in the majority of Stargate SG-1. It was great, lightweight, quiet, practically no kick and easy to hold, aim and fire. If earth ever got attacked by the Goa'uld this would be the weapon I would run for as well. Good choice Stargate command.




Heckler & Koch MP5
This was the full on machine gun I picked out of the line-up since it was one that was generally my favorite (apart from sniper) in games like Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six 3: Raven Shield which my mates and I used to play. As for the gun itself, ea sy to hold and lightweight, but the kick really did add up after more than 4-5 shots in a row. A strong up and to the right pull which you can see on the targets.





Overall, a great experience and worthy of being on the list. Something I will definitely look to do again in future.


Mark 42 as done.