Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Australia Day 'Bunch Run'

Here's my account of my first ever 'Bunch Ride'... I love cycling but have become somewhat unfit due to the fact that the only exercise I get is a 10 km each way daily commute. If I pushed it 10km might build some muscle and stamina but the truth is I don't ride fast... I just cruise along and let the efficiency of bicycle design carry me to work each day. (Bikes are very energy efficient you know.)

So anyway about a week ago we got a brochure in the mail advising of all the great things there will be to do on the Australia Day (Invasion Day) holiday. One of them was this thing called a 'Bunch Run', I had no idea what a Bunch Run was but my wife read the brochure and said "Oh... but you're so into bikes I thought you'd know... It's a bike ride with a 'bunch' of other cyclists." "Ohhh" says I. My brain starts ticking over... tick-tick-tick- - - - Clunk.... (She's saying I can go!) "Are you saying I can go?" I ask hopefully. "Yes" she replies... "Hmmm OK" I say. ("COOL COOOL COOL", I think)

I've never been on a Bunch Ride before, besides a couple of rides around Darwin Harbour, organised with some friends. This will be great! I find out some more about the ride. Starting 6:00am (No problem, I'm an early riser), finish 8:15am (Great it won't eat into family time or cause resentment at home). Must wear helmet and have lights.... (Can do) Road bikes strongly recommended... (I love my road bike... It's about 20 years old and I can't bear to part with it but it's got terminally flat tires and I haven't ridden it in a few years... I'll fix it it'll be fine!) This is going to happen!

By last night I'd prepared the bike... (wish I knew how to true a wheel), sorted out my cycling clothes, this time I'll even wear shoes! Packed a spare tube, and stuck water in the fridge. I set the alarm on my mobile phone and went to bed ready to rise at 5:00am.

January 26th Australia Day
This morning I woke to the sound of birds tweeting and the dim light of dawn angling through a gap in the curtains... I burst out of bed and checked the time... 6:28am! Damn! I can't believe it! I slept in! I jumped in a luke warm shower for about 30 seconds, (the water's never cold at this time of year), sculled some apple juice, grabbed my drink bottle and dived into my shorts and special, fancy style proper cycling shirt I found at an opp shop for $1. I put on shoes and even socks, ran out the door and was peddling furiously down the hill by 6:35.

I'd seen the Darwin Cycling club several times, they always ride on McMillans Rd and disappear somewhere around the Thorac Cemetery... I'll catch them out there... By the time I'd cycled 5km I was exhausted... My heart pouding, legs burning, I was panting heavily and my balls were aching from the strain of trying to ride hard against the wind or up any inclines... (we don't have hills). I rode past the cemetery to the end of the road where I thought they might be comming back from. There was no sign. They must have taken another rout! As I headed back toward McMillans Rd I saw a rider headed for the Stuart Highway so I took off after him... Legs aching, heart pounding, breath gasping, balls tied in knots and groin chafing... There were no others to be seen so I slowed down as I rode along the SH bike path to Palmerston and ate the banana I'd brought for energy. I rolled on a little way further... Still no Bunch. I decided it must be getting late now so turned around and headed back to town. I came to a cross road which offered two routs that would both get me back to where I was going... There I met a lady who was headed toward Casuarina from Palmerston (a 20km ride), she knew about the Bunch Rides but hadn't seen them today. She suggested maybe I should just go for a ride instead.
"Yes" I said through gritted teeth as I tried to decide which way to take back into town so I could at least join the group for breakfast.

After much hesitation I decided to ride back along the Stuart Highway, I rode into a head wind the whole way... demoralized but philosophical. I laughed to myself about the error and resolved that maybe these group things aren't for me. I am a loner, what business do I have riding around with a bunch of hard core road racing, licra clad speed addicted sports fiends? I'm no athlete... I am a Wanderer, a romantic drifter, a slow cycling officianado! Where's the space for dreaming when you're crammed into a tight pack of sweating, speeding cyclists fixated on the rear wheel of the bike in front of me? What wonder is there in cycling with your head down and your arse up? What do you see from that position? ...My shoulders were by now aching! (Not used to supporting more than a coffee cup for the past 10 years or so!)

I finally made it back to the finish line at Myndil Beach at 8:00am (quite by chance, I thought it was much later) where there were 100s of people covered in Australian flags who'd just done the Australia Day Fun Run/Walk. I waited till about 8:20 but there was not another cyclist to be seen!

I rode home... (exhausted)

Conclusion. I had been intrigued and excited by the idea of participating in a Bunch Ride before having attended one. Now that I've attended my first Bunch Ride, although not particularly taken by the competitive nature of the riding or the pressure it can put on participants, I feel I am now ready to go to the next stage. I would like to attend a larger Bunch Ride. It is my view that more participants would have created a much different dynamic, (even one other person would have been nice.) I am sure that some would argue that since I was the only cyclist attending this particular Bunch Ride, unless you count the lady I met on that corner... but we didn't really ride in the same direction so I guess I can't even count her, that it wasn't technically a Bunch Ride! But it was my first ever so cut me some slack OK!

Oh Yeh... Conclusion... Bunch Rides are probably OK if you're wanting to improve your fitness and ride with a 'Bunch', however I will have to reserve my opinion until I've had a little more experience... At least I didn't have to endure any overt Nationalistic flag waving or Oi Oi Oi crap on my ride.


Sunday, January 17, 2010

Gardening (for food) in the town

(Bundoora Park Community Garden, Bundoora, Victoria)

It's been great to see a revival and growth in Urban food production, which is apparrently becoming hugely popular in Australia, UK and the USA. To grow your own food is now considdered to be cool... (Common practice in most other places)
A couple of years ago I discovered the Life Island website after viewing an amazing video about the Manor Gardens in Hackney, UK. At the time they were fighting to protect their 100 year old garden allotments from being leveled to make way for a sporting complex for the Olympic games... Sadly they lost the battle and the whole site has since been completely cleared! But! I will be very difficult to rebuild the sense of community that appeared to have existed in that special place and I was really saddened when I learned about the garden's demise.

Somewhere in my trawling of the internet I discovered that there was a cookbook produced with photos of the people and their special places in the Manor Garden. The Book is called Moro East.
I managed to order a copy of it online and it was delivered toward the end of last year. It's a wonderful book full of very rustic recipies and images, the cover features some beautiful Islamic art.

(Moro East Cookbook by Sam and Sam Clark)

It may be idealism or escapism but this stuff really inspires me. The book is wonderful and I like just flicking through the pages.

Sliver Gardening

Back at home our little garden is providing shade and green where once there was only the blinding glare and heat of too much concrete ... We've eaten a delicious pumpkin, snake beans, heaps of basil and enjoyed Lemongrass tea. We only harvest food occasionally but the aesthetic value of a food garden makes enormous improvements to our peace of mind regardless of limmited crops.

Friday, January 08, 2010

The down side to travel

Oh boy! Yes there is a down side to travel! For one thing, when travelling by plane you should make sure you keep all your exess hand luggage to a minimum! Like if you've got your own hand luggage and both your kid's wardrobes squeezed into pint size cases to avoid paying for checked luggage and a sleeping child to get on and off the plane... You'd better get that book you're reading stashed back in your own bag long before the plane lands!
I can't believe I lost a library book on the plane!
It was a Quarterly essay I'd specifically asked the library to purchase, I was the first borrower and I left it on the plane! I realized as soon as I reached the gate but it was too late, by the time the hostess managed to check my seat it was gone!

That was the first thing.... There's more

These days I hardly ever drive, I've become quite comfortable riding my bike and would have gladly caught trains during the holiday but was talked into hiring a car!!! (Well not talked into it really but that other thing that happens to some married when the man has an idea and the woman has kind of a different idea and they really should discuss all the pros and cons of both ideas, but something happens between having the idea in the first place and that moment when the man finaly give up and does what he's told!)

So we're getting around pretty easily in our 4 door Toyota hatch-back, doing 101 things in the ample 15 hours of daylight that Vicoria provides at this time of year, and I'm trying to squeeze in a few extra curricular activities like visiting relatives who happen to live along the way. So I drop half the clan off in St Leonards to get an Ice Cream and zoom back to a cousins house to introduce them to my 2 year old, and wham! An unmarked Police Motorcycle gets me doing way too much speed in a stretch of road I was sure used to have a very different speed limit!
He asked me if I'd like to see the reading but I just grunted... "Nope... I believe you... You got me!"
What a bummer!

Then today when I'd barely recovered from the fact that I am broke and I owe the library a book + processing fees and trying to figure out if I'm pissed that I got a huge speeding fine or grateful that I didn't loose my drivers licence, I get a call from home....

She "Hey do you remember when we sold the car?"
Me "Ohh I dunno... why" (It's my usual response and usually correct... I rarely know or remember specific details like obscure dates or what day it is!)
She "Well something arrived in the mail today..."
Me (naively) "Derrr, ummm... What is it?" (half hoping it was some kind of award for being a nice guy or that Trek bike I've been waiting to win from Ride-to-Work day.... It wasn't)
She "A speeding fine!"
Me "Humphfffffffff.... fck, aow..... (Long pause for silent humiliation as sense of complete defeat and uselessness sets in....) hmf.... "

The 'offence' was committed back in September! We tried to recall when we'd sold the car, hoping that it was all a mistake and that I could gleefuly pass on the bad news to the new owners. Of course it was definitely me... again! I was really busy at work doing a spate of really long days, running people all over town in the little red buble with no airconditioning... So I was rushing and they got me! Damnit!
Why did they send this fine so long after the fact? Do fines get lonely and need to travel in pairs? Were they hanging on to it until it could do the most damage to my self esteme and my wallet? Was this some kind of punnishment for doing bad things in another state? (Victoria I mean) Why the hell are they sending me this now? It's cruel and wrong! Ohhh the shame... Ohhhh the annoyance! Ohhh the waste... Oh the money!

It's already been really difficult to go back to work, I've been wondering all sorts of crazy stuff like could I survive without going back at all? I've dragged my ungrateful ass through each day of this week and now this just had to happen to top it off. (Sorry work guys... it's nothing personal I'm just in a bit of a funk at the moment.)

I'd even put off buying some much needed mud guards that I'd been covetting for the past couple of months! I didn't buy them before we left because I had no extra money and we came back to the residual weather of a Tropical Low. I've been riding to work in torrential rain every day this week! (Actualy I really like it but could use a decent set of mud guards...) So thinks I, I shall part with the cash and get me a shiny new set of lovely Mudguards! I go to the only shop int town that stocks them and wouldn't you know it, they were closed for the week.
Now I find that I couldn't have afforded them anyway because I've effectively blown 4 months savings on speeding fines! I can't believe it! I usually drive so slow (the speed limit actually) that I have cars tailgating me all over Darwin yet in the 3 months that I've spent the least time behind the wheel I get busted for speeding twice!

"Waaaa Waaa!" Somebody call the Waaambulence!
RESOLUTION: Don't drive any more...

Thursday, January 07, 2010

A few moments around coastal Victoria

Although nearly a week has passed since we returned from ‘Down South’ I’ve got a bunch of pictures and memories I need to store so I thought I’d continue to share a bit of the story here.

We had some fantastic walks exploring the bush reserves and beaches around Western Port Bay but after just 2 great days it was time to return to Melbourne and Geelong to spend Christmas with Family.

On Boxing Day there was a special day with Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends! Of course we'd booked more than a month in advance so as not to miss out. My kids love Thomas and I think the romance of Steam Engines has rubbed off on us quasi adults too! I forgot to mention that just two hours after arriving in Melbourne we went to a miniature railway where we rode on small scale trains for the afternoon.

Miniature railway Eltham Victoria
(Eltham Miniature Railway)

Thomas and Friends
(Salty, Thomas and one of the Big green trains at Queensclif)

train @ Bellarine railway
(Green loco Queenscliff)

Thomas the Tank Engine
(Thomas The Tank Engine)
Just a couple of nights in Geelong and we were headed off down to the Otway ranges to stay in a cottage at a place called Barwon Downs. It was fantastic! So many native birds! While most of Victoria is still recovering from drought, the Otways remain lush and wet and full of life! It was so beautiful there amongst the eucalypts and the smells were out of this world! There's something special about the scent of wet eucalypts! Even the grass gave off a wonderful perfume!

Blue winged parot
(Blue-winged Parot aka Grass Parot, Barwon Downs)

Tiger snake
(Tiger Snake, Barwon Downs)

We had a ball there, just hanging out with the trees and the birds and horses, a chook and a few cows oh and on the last day... A LARGE TIGER SNAKE! There are some great bicycle tracks through the Otways including a mountain bike track that is apparently one of the worlds best!

Otway Fly
(Otway Fly)

Otway Fly
(Otway Fly)

Next time I hope we can cycle the Beechy Rail Trail.

After leaving Barwon Downs we headed back to Geelong and visited the National Wool Museum on our last day before coming back to Darwin. I really enjoyed the museum particularly the weaving looms and the old Factory workers cottage.

weavers house
(Weaver's cottage, National Wool Museum)

(Small weaving loom, National Wool Museum)

We experienced so many great things on this trip but right now I'm too tired to post about all that! Especially since our computer blew up while we were away and I am having a hell of a time downloading photos or even typing on an under powered make-do laptop that's running VISTA and keeps Blaaaagh!