The idea was to put two editions of the Friendly Bay Islander out almost simultaneously.
The Purpose: To be able to take more than three weeks to visit the USA for a Christmas in New York experience and bring in a New Year in the most powerful city in the world: Washington DC
To achieve the task, Gerard and Glenda Thompson of the Friendly Bay Islander called on the expertise of island Mobile Travel expert, Amanda Seymour.
Amanda brought her travel talents to the islands about a year or so ago and we knew she had travelled to most of the places she has sent her many clients.
Our brief: to visit some of the most iconic sites and destinations in the USA and to 'pick the eyes' out out of America.
The destinations we chose to select started with Los Angeles primarily to see a concert - a Stevie Nicks concert with the new look Fleetwood Mac at the LA Forum and a host of bonuses.
Then a drive was required on the opposite side of the road to the Grand Canyon in Arizona via Las Vegas and Flagstaff - a climb to more than 7000 feet and a distance of over 500 miles or more than 800 kilometres (Sydney to Brisbane almost).
A wonderful life experience included a helicopter ride over the entire Grand Canyon and then it was back to Phoenix Arizona and a flight to San Francisco.
One of the great harbour cities of the world, the coup de gras was a two-way walk over the famous Gold Gate bridge; a surprise visit to the northern waterside period town of Sausalito; and some wonderful experiences on the San Francisco waterfront and the famous trolleys including some pre Christmas fun and essential visits to Macy's iconic stores!
A long flight across the US and a landing in New Jersey introduced us to New York for the first time and a hopeful White Christmas in The Big Apple!
Amanda had positioned our stay in the Paramount Hotel just metres from the centre of Times Square where we arrived at 1am and decided to get our first look at those famous 'lights' and iconic setting.
Here we discovered the great New York food carts and the best M&M advert we have seen so far and a surprise close up look at probably filmdom's most iconic car - an exact replica of the Back to the Future's DeLorean and a very similar 'Doc' lookalike.
Visits on cold days to the Statue of Liberty and a climb up the last four flights of stairs to the top of the Empire State Building were pretty special, but the highlight was the 9/11 memorial and museum. Breathtaking and sobering!
The highlight for what was to be a very special winter Christmas was a New Year's Eve visit to the Rockettes Christmas show at the Radio City Music Hall in 6th Avenue.
What a show and what a wonderful Nativity highlight in the most brilliant theatre we have ever seen.
It set the mood for a very different Christmas Day and lovely luncheon, even though traditional Christmas fare was almost impossible to find!
Overcoats, jackets, scarves, beanies were the order of the holiday - so different to our 30c Christmases we usually enjoy here in Australia.
We got to find out what a Christmas the 'other half' enjoy is all about.
It was then off to the last three stops and some of the most enjoyable and pleasant USA surprises!
They were to come in Boston, Niagara Falls and the capital of the Western World, Washington DC.
A four plus hour train ride to Boston was required and what a delight this cradle of the Union is.
Very historic and it was fun to attend a reenactment of the Boston Tea Party; the event that triggered the American Revolution.
But the real surprise was when we walked around a corner not far from our hotel (suitably rugged up) and there was the ‘real’ Cheers bar made so popular in the long-running television series.
It was great to see the entrance exactly as it was depicted in the TV series and what a welcome!
You receive a stick-on badge with EVERYBODY KNOWS YOUR NAME where you write YOUR NAME!
And what a welcome from bar manager Christine Kelly and a stint behind the bar for our visit!
A 13 hour train ride was next with Amtrak back to New York’s Pennsylvania Station, and then on another train for a mammoth journey the length of New York State to the top of America and the iconic Niagra Falls.
Arriving after midnight and accommodation only about 200 metres from the falls, it was wonderful to see under coloured lights at night!
The next day was even more stunning seeing all three fall in full flight.
It was also the first day we saw snow falling in the US! Not exactly a White Christmas, but pretty close!
A flight from Buffalo NY direct to Washington DC was the final stop on the US sojourn.
It was definitely the coup de gras of the entire trip.
The surprise tour of Capitol Hill was the highlight and so rewarding.
Washington is different to every other American City. No skyscrapers because no building is allowed to be higher than the ‘Freedom’ statue on top of the Capitol Hill dome!
The museums are brilliant, the memorials and monuments are outstanding with them lining The National Mall that stretches from Capitol Hill to the Lincoln Memorial with the Washington monument in between.
We found the Newseum outstanding seeing the history of the press in the US, along with the National art museum and the Space and Flight museum.
After a bit over three weeks, it was time to head back to Australia and 26 hours flying time via Seoul in Korea and then to Brisbane - 16 hours and then a further 10 hours!
And, there is no doubt about it, the modern aircraft is literally a ‘time machine!’
* by Gerard Thompson
• Glenda with Chris Kelly behind the bar at the ‘real’ Cheers bar in Boston