February 2015

Journeying with My Father

In the midst of such dark and omnipresent stories from around the world, I want to share some very pleasant and uplifting thoughts.

Recently, on Veteran’s Day, I wrote about my father and the men he served with in Guadalcanal during WWII. Their unit was CASU 11, an acronym for Carrier Aircraft Service Unit. To my great surprise, not long after writing that article, I heard from a man whose father also served in the same unit. Not only that, he sent me pictures of my father and his buddies during their time overseas. I had met many of these men as seniors, but had never seen my father nor them as young men during their duty on the island. What a wonderful gift that brought tears to my eyes. This is one of the photos of my father.


Just recently I heard from another man whose father also served in CASU 11 during that time and he also had great information and photos to share. The three of us are now in contact and learning more about our father’s service and experiences. I know our fathers and their buddies would be very pleased.

If you read my last blog, you know my wife Trisha and I recently returned from a wonderful travel adventure to Australia. Every day, and more so when I’m given the chance to do something special such as traveling to a foreign land, I give thanks to my late father and mother for their efforts in providing for our family. My father worked both days and nights for thirteen years to establish his business. I was thirteen when we took our first vacation, a trip to my aunt’s house in the northwest. While in Australia, I wondered each day what my father would think about such an adventure, and I often silently thanked him for providing me the opportunity of education and confidence to pursue my dreams.

For those who travel, you know one of the best things about it is the opportunity to meet people from all over the world. This last trip was no exception and we met several wonderful folks. In one such instance, as my wife and I were walking around the Circle Quay toward the Sydney Opera House, we stopped to sit on a bench and take in the sights. In just a moment an Australian couple named Chris and Kathryn sat down next to us and a conversation ensued. They were a very charming and energetic couple and we seemed to have much in common. At one point, Chris began to tell us about his father. It was as if he was describing my father. He then expressed his gratitude for all his father had done to give him opportunity to live such a wonderful life. He was expressing the very thoughts I have always carried about my father.

As we said good-bye, we exchanged emails and learning about a poem Chris wrote about his father, I asked for permission to share it with the readers of my blog. He graciously accepted. I know many of you will appreciate and relate to his eloquent words.


Journeying with My Father


I wish my Father, now long gone, was on this journey with me,

to show him all the sights which I am privileged to see.

As a young man he departed his birth land, on a great adventure,

and settled here, as a dedicated Australian, until his life was over,

never, even after 41 years, returning to his town of origin,

nor fully exploring his adopted land within.


I feel sad for my Father because he missed the opportunity

to travel about, with his wife, in this contrasting country.

He saw only some parts of it before he settled down

to spend his life working hard for us, in a new hometown.

No matter how difficult it was to raise all his progeny,

this Dad kept striving to be better, so he could help his family.


My Father would love to see the crocodiles and birds,

describing them with his flourishing style and descriptive words.

He would explain to all of us, these wonderful sights we saw

because he would have read and learned of them some time before,

using his inquisitive mind that searched for what was good

until he knew what to say concisely, as only he could.


I would show my Father all the gaps and gorges

that are fractured by, then carry, the water of the rivers.

He would marvel at the coastline that is sculptured by the ocean,

and look across these seas to remember his immigration,

giving him closure to his wandering journey,

and allowing his curiosity to appreciate this country.


He searched for meaning, St Paul his favourite, by doing lots of reading,

and encapsulated what he learned in cryptic little sayings.

His best, I often heard, and one I try to live by too

was, “Duty before Pleasure,” which I agree is wise and true.

So to show my Dad these sights I’ve seen, and have him hear each sound

would help him be effusive to his children gathered round.


When I think it’s only me who is seeing all there is,

he would no doubt remind me with these wise words of his,

“I see with your eyes now because you are my son

who has done his duty, as I tried, and now our pleasure can come.

In your leisure I live my time afresh, seeing you as a man,

and I rest in peace journeying with you, as now I can.”


Chris T Relf


Back From Down Under 2

Three years ago with our good friends, my wife Trisha and I ventured down under. We flew from San Francisco to Auckland, New Zealand, rented a car and headed off for a week-long road trip experiencing the sights and culture of this picturesque country. At the end of the week we boarded a ship, visited other cities in NZ, and then sailed to Tasmania and Australia. When we arrived in Sydney we learned my mother had become ill and we returned home. Earlier this month, my wife and I flew back to Sydney to complete our adventure. For the benefit of those thinking of traveling to Australia, I thought I would share some of the highlights of our trip  and offer some recommendations.

Make sure you have a Visa. Having previously visited on a cruise ship, we forgot the cruise line had then arranged our Visas. In making our own arrangements this time, we neglected this important detail. While you can quickly acquire one via your smart phone, in my case they inexplicably imposed a 12-hour hold. It took some quick work by one of the airline customer relations people to help overcome this obstacle. The lesson here is, always check to see if the country you are visiting requires a Visa.

Be prepared for the long flight. Some travelers we observe on long flights (Sydney is nearly 15 hours from the west coast), have way too much stuff with them. It’s a parade of neck rolls, back rolls, water bottles, etc. We try to keep it simple and orderly. All passengers are provided with pillows, blankets, headsets, and plenty to eat and drink. The one thing we do carry are noise canceling headsets. These cut out all engine and passenger noises. Just relax, watch a movie or two, and get some rest. Get up and stretch every so often and you’ll be fine. Some make such a big deal about the long flight, it’s almost as though they talk themselves into being miserable.

Sydney, Australia


Sydney is one of the most iconic cities of the world. For both citizens and travelers, one of the best things about this city is how easy it is to get around. There are taxis, buses, trains, and more types of ferries than you can imagine.

Hotel Recommendation:

Sydney Harbour Bed & Breakfast




–  Perfect Location at the top of The Rocks

– Quaint traditional brick building

– Very clean and well-appointed

– Great staff (Owners James and Linda are quite welcoming)

– Delicious breakfast

– Garden patio to enjoy breakfast and converse with fellow travelers

– Easily arranged car service to and from airport for a reasonable fee


–   No lift (but staff is always ready to carry your bags)

Things To Do:

It would be impossible to list everything of interest to do in Sydney.   There are parks, museums, art galleries, fine restaurants, wildlife areas, aquariums, etc. We tried to see as much as possible, but here are a few of our favorites:

The Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb

Trisha and John Parker Sydney Harbour Bridge

Trisha and John Parker
Sydney Harbour Bridge

Please understand, this adventure takes three hours and with the practice climb involves nearly 1,500 steps. We loved it and the view from the top of the bridge is so spectacular we could have stayed up there for hours.

Trisha and John Parker Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb

Trisha and John Parker
Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb


Sydney Opera House Tour

Perhaps the most recognized structure in the world, the Sydney Opera House is a true work of art. There are several tours and programs available. It’s not to be missed.

Trisha and John Parker Sydney Opera House

Trisha and John Parker
Sydney Opera House

Sydney Skywalk

The Sydney Skywalk takes you to the top of Sydney and the view in incomparable. The tower is the second tallest structure in the southern hemisphere. There is an observation level, and for a little more money you can go up another level and walk around the outside of the structure. Be prepared, two of the large areas you will walk on are glass. It’s quite a thrill.

Trisha and John Parker Sydney Skywalk

Trisha and John Parker
Sydney Skywalk

 The Sydney Harbours

While no visitor should miss the main harbour area of Sydney known as the Circle Quay surrounded by the bridge and opera house, we also spent time and enjoyed Darling Harbour. It’s filled with shops, restaurants, an IMAX theater, and much more. Don’t miss Saturday night with an outstanding fireworks display. I should also add the biggest surprise about Sydney is the great food. We never had a bad meal. Here is my wife Trisha enjoying some great treats at Darling Harbour.

Trisha Parker Darling Harbour

Trisha Parker
Darling Harbour

 Manly Beach

One of the most beautiful places to visit in the Sydney area is Manly Beach that is easily reached by ferry. On weekends, I suggest you take the Fast Ferry because locals will be using their yearly passes on the other ferries with their families and the lines are quite long.

Trisha and John Parke Manly Beach, Australia

Trisha and John Parke
Manly Beach, Australia

John Parker Manly Beach, Australia

John Parker
Manly Beach, Australia

After our stay in Sydney, we caught a flight to Cairns, Australia. It’s a very slow-paced area compared to Sydney and is the place where you can take boats out to The Great Barrier Reef. Our boat trip was two hours out to the reef but well worth it. My wife Trisha, an average swimmer at best, discovered a new passion – snorkeling. I couldn’t get her out of the water. It was just as magnificent as we had heard. Well worth your time for a visit.

Trisha and John Parker The Great Barrier Reef

Trisha and John Parker
The Great Barrier Reef

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Australia 2015 095

Australia 2015 097

From Cairns you can also enjoy their beautiful rainforest. We took the train through the mountains to Kuranda, enjoyed Barron Falls, met some fellow travelers, had some fun looking around, and took a gondola (the world’s second longest) back across and down the mountain.

Trisha and John Parker Barron Falls

Trisha and John Parker
Barron Falls

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John Parker Kuranda

John Parker

Trisha and John Parker Kuranda, Australia

Trisha and John Parker
Kuranda, Australia

We enjoyed our adventure, loved the people, and basically understand better why they say, “No worries.”

John Parker

John Parker