Down Under with Ron & Sallie
When I finally logged onto the network, I started reading all the e-mails, but I didn't see anything that was abnormal. I did see an e-mail from the Vice President Service/Americas (Sue Bailey), but passed over it thinking it was just a corporate communication of some sort.
I finally opened the e-mail from Sue and started reading, "Congratulations Ron, you and your spouse have been selected to attend the 2000 Olympics in Sidney Australia." I almost passed out. I reread the e-mail making sure my eyes were not playing tricks on me, and sure enough, Sallie and I were on our way to Australia.
Sallie was on her way to work, so I called her on the cell phone. When she answered she sounded disturbed that I called her. It turned out she was still in the garage talking to her manager on the cell phone. So I walked out to the garage and handed her a copy of the e-mail and walked back into my radio room. About 30 seconds later, all I could hear was a scream coming from the garage. She was more surprised than I was. Sallie told her manager, and fortunately for Sallie, her manager said she could go. :) :) :)
Sallie and I had let our passports expire, so we went through the process of getting them renewed locally. I must say that dealing with the US State Department was a VERY pleasant experience. We made an appointment to process our renewal application, arrived at the appointed time, and the renewal was processed quickly and by very pleasant State Department employees. We were out in 15 minutes, passports being mailed to us the next day, but $175 lighter (worth every penny!).
We finally had everything together and departed Seattle on Wednesday, September 20, 2000 at 6 PM. A short flight and we were in Los Angeles, California waiting for the next leg of our trip. As we waited for the Qantas flight to Sydney Australia to start loading at midnight, we were getting more excited by the minute, but I think we had about 870 minutes (14.5 hours) to go before arriving in Sydney.
Finally aboard the aircraft and settled in, we wrapped ourselves in blankets and put on blinders and did our best to sleep for the next few hours.
We arrived in Sydney Friday morning at 0930 (September 22). Cleared immigration and waited for our luggage to arrive. After 30 minutes, all the bags were on the carousal, but one of Sallie's bags was missing.
We talked to a Qantas baggage representative, who took us over to the "missing luggage counter" and we filled out all the forms etc., and went outside to wait for the StorageTek bus to arrive.
We arrived at the hotel (Holiday Inn) in Coogee Beach about 11:00am. Coogee Beach is about 25 miles southeast of Sydney.
At the hotel, we were greeted by the Australian StorageTek crew, who helped us check in and then off to have breakfast with all the other StorageTek folks who were also awarded the trip.
Once breakfast was over, the local StorageTek people explained all the transportation options we had to and from the Olympics, and gave us our tickets to the events we had signed up to see. In addition, StorageTek gave both Sallie and I $500 Australian for expenses.
Sallie and I choose, swimming, gymnastics, diving, track and field, diving, one event per day while in Sydney. Our first event, swimming was at 7 PM Friday evening. So after eating, checking in, getting our stuff together, and calling the Australian Communications Authority (ACA) (We wanted to get our Aussie ham radio licenses), we decided to take the local public transportation (bus) to downtown Sydney and find the ACA.
We grabbed the city bus and off we went, not knowing where to get off the bus. So as we tried to find out were we were going and when to get off the bus, a friendly Aussie overheard us talking and said she would let us know when to get off and how to find the ACA.
We found the ACA and Sallie and I got our Australian Ham Radio Licenses, VK2NY for Ron, and VK2TLJ for Sallie. When we finished with the ACA, it was time to head out to Olympic park.
Part of having an Olympic event ticket is FREE transportation on the subway and trains in the Sydney area. So we went underground and found our way to the Central Train Station which would take us out to Olympic Park (Called Homebush Park).
At Central station, we were greeted by a huge crowd and thought it would take hours for us to arrive at Homebush Park. The Aussie's being very resourceful, had things very organized, and we were on the train in about 10 minutes and at Homebush Park in 20 minutes.
We were very impressed with how well organized everything was at Homebush Park. We went through security quickly and found our away around the grounds easily, due to well placed signs, and Aussie volunteers all over the place answering questions, giving directions, and being very friendly and helpful.
We found our way to the Aquatic Center for our first event, swimming. We had very good seats and found nothing to complain about, after all, this was once in a life time event for Sallie and I. The tickets we had for all the events were "A" tickets, ranging from $350 to $600 each (Australian).
When we returned to the hotel the first evening at the Olympics, Sallie's missing luggage was waiting for her in our room. Qantas Airlines did a wonderful job of finding and delivering Sallie's luggage.
For the next 5 days, we toured the Sydney area, watched the Olympics in person, eat at fabulous restaurants, met people from all over the world, and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. The Australians and New Zealander's are very friendly, warm and enjoyable people. Australia is truly a beautiful place.
Ron & Sallie