Wednesday, December 31, 2014


The clock has ticked past 12, it's now the final
day of 2014. Just another day really.

Tonight Sam and I remembered, quietly and sadly friends who have died this year. 
It has been a tough year I have spent the past week just hanging out at home with Sam 
and the kids but in the back of my mind I worry about friends who are alone. This year we have seen too many unnecessary deaths! 

3 lost to suicide (all unrelated) and the tragic loss of two more beautiful children whose lives were cut short.

I know so many lonely people, so many people who are under pressure and too often alone, they suffer from loneliness but often they keep their despair to themselves.
When I look back over the years I have lost way too many friends to this thing! Something is wrong! Something is broken that so many would think there's no other choice but to take this most drastic step.

I don't know what I can say really, except acknowledge their passing and remember that our time here is short and soon we will all be dust.
We will all pass and before long forgotten. It's no great matter once we're gone. But while we live maybe there's room for just a little more kindness.
Candles still burning for Jenny and the kids. Morning after memorial on Rapid Creek.

In June this year news spread of a shocking incident which took place on a friends property in Jingili. The death of Jenny and her two children left our community numb and confused. Our hearts were broken to learn what had happened. The final report stated it was double murder suicide. How do we deal with such a tragedy? Can we ever understand the effect this has had on the families of those two children? I have thought of them over the Christmas period and pray they get some respite from their suffering. For the care of children it is right to ask ourselves what more could I have done!
A couple of days after the incident an impromptu memorial was organized by close friends and held on the bank of Rapid Creek. I am sure I'm not the only one who felt ambivalent about the situation. I was angry and sad, rage swelled in me to think a parent could do this to her children, yet it happens a lot. Pain! Too much pain. By the end of the service had resolved a lot of my outrage and could only think to care for so many lonely people, I had no idea at that time I would loose two more friends just 5 months later.

I left the memorial alone, without talking to anyone but returned the next morning before dawn. 3 candles were still burning. I sat by the river and watched the sun rise. Around me life went on as usual. People jogging, cycling, walking their dogs. Over night the tide continued it's rhythm, I threw some left over flowers into the creek, the creek continued to flow and carried the petals out to sea.

Stay - Leonardo's Bride

"...And I say to mankind, Be not curious about God,
  For I who am curious about each am not curious about God,
  (No array of terms can say how much I am at peace about God and
      about death.)

  I hear and behold God in every object, yet understand God not in the least,
  Nor do I understand who there can be more wonderful than myself.

  Why should I wish to see God better than this day?
  I see something of God each hour of the twenty-four, and each moment then,
  In the faces of men and women I see God, and in my own face in the glass,
  I find letters from God dropt in the street, and every one is sign'd
  by God's name,
  And I leave them where they are, for I know that wheresoe'er I go,
  Others will punctually come for ever and ever.

  And as to you Death, and you bitter hug of mortality, it is idle to
  try to alarm me..." 

 - (Walt Whitman. from Song of Myself of the book Leaves of Grass)

Your hearts were torn in life, may God bless you as you rest.
Tonight we'll light 5 candles.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Christmas day. Darwin

Merry Christmas

Darwin Christmas sky. NT

May God bless you and keep you safe

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Pedaling the dream

Sometimes I get into arguments... my wife reminds me not to get stirred up and importantly, not to cause unnecessary discomfort to others. In frustration, when I used to argue a lot, she would say to me "Do you want to be right? Or do you want to be happy?". I get it I really do get why sometimes it is more important to keep the peace rather than be guided by my pride deeper into a battle of wills with everyone around me. But what about when the argument is not to impose my own opinion on others but to find out. What is the truth?

What if the question became: "Do you want the truth? Or do you want to be happy?"
I'm sure from time to time most of us would prefer to continue believing a beautiful lie than face the ugly truth but does that make the foundation for a whole way of life? Is it even possible to go through life ignoring truth in favor of illusion?

I've just watched a surprising film which, without completely phsycho analizing the situation, takes a look at how Lance Armstrong (The cyclist) managed to deceive cycling fans around the world by claiming not to have used any performance enhancing drugs or blood doping etc... in order to win 7 Tour de France cycle races. He became a national hero in the USA and a champion for people throughout the world who have suffered from cancer. A Hero! I think that word explains a lot. What is a hero? Who makes heroes? Could he have deceived the world if we hadn't actually wanted to be deceived?

The film didn't set out to destroy him, his reputation is already in tatters, but it did provide some insight into just how easily people can be fooled into believing something if they really want to believe it, regardless of the facts.

There were certain themes in George Orwell's book '1984' which have bitten deeply into me and won't let go! Whenever I sense an issue becoming a matter of 'popular opinion' I brace myself to be engulfed by psychic bubble of delusion. Opinions abound, uninformed opinions, affirmed by mass media and confirmed by one eyed reports narrowly channeled quoting limited sources, asserted portions of some half-baked notion. Brought to you on morning news TV but your opinion counts so your Tweets are entered into the mix! And the story always resolves to support the righteousness of the mob. Truth is not the objective, compliance as always, the primary directive, masses conforming to the approved narrative packaged and distributed through 1,000 news aggregates and passed off as fact. Simple and dramatic is the imperative, someone to condemn, someone to pity, someone to shame and despise... Us and them... If you ain't with us you're against us and on she rolls, The News. The clamor for approval and togetherness and "Are you Happy now?"

Truth? What is truth?

We are a herd animal, we naturally seek approval and acceptance of others. For our survival, social cohesion is undeniably important. Why would anyone choose to swim against the current? Under these conditions who would choose to oppose the herd? There are names for those who stupidly prefer to seek truth rather than acceptance. Heretic... Traitor... Fool etc...

But when she asks me "Do you want to be right? or do you want to be happy?" I have to bite my tongue, I keep my answer to myself! 

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Meditation: how to not

Too long between sit downs, cross legged at the gilded feet of a sculpted, iconic representation of the ideal reality of Gautama Buddha. (sitting in meditation pose) (I don't have a photo for you! Go search Google!)

So, after a couple of months of being too busy to attend, today finally everything slots into place perfectly, I'm free at just the right time and I head off to the temple for a two hour session... (Yep 2 hours! It's like a bloody marathon for me, after which I can be staggering out like a punch drunk boxer!). I drive into the parking lot and once again see only one other car. It belongs to Sensei.

Usually I'd just slope into the room drop my keys, wallet and phone in the bowl of worldly distractions, grunt my greetings, grab a cushion and join in wherever the group or Sensei is at... (If he's there on his own he could be already reaching for his own keys and wallet, hoping to go home and chill out in front of the Telly.) But I'd already seen the old guy just two days earlier and I'm starting to wonder if he's suspecting me of stalking or hero worship or some devious attempt to weasel my way into his favor. So I literally turned on my heals before I reached the door and got straight back into the car.

Now I had a few things I needed to do before going home so I set out to do something productive... Damn I'd rather listen to the Stones on the car stereo than be sitting cross legged detaching from the clumsy imitation of a bad Marx Brothers movie, my mental self commentary of who I think I am or waiting to find out who I truly am or, who am I?

I head off down McMillans Rd (one of our few major roads) not too sure where I'm going now, but the music is good! Volume UP! 'Sympathy for the Devil' pumping, see a hitch hiker who has just emerged from the Airport exit road, pull hard to the left open the door and now my course is set. Mitchel Street of course, that's where they always ask to go. That's where the hostels are at. Overpriced sweaty and crowded share rooms! Had a nice chat for 15 minutes, it's always a bit surreal meeting travelers who have just arrived and aren't really sure where they've landed or what's in store for them. Its an interesting way to escape the monotony of my own life and a good chance to court... chance? I didn't catch the fellas name. From Switzerland, speaks French, was here over 40 years ago... Usually the brief 15 minute ride is long enough to get a glimpse into a traveler's life, or itinerary... Of course the itinerary is only the story we carry around with us to avoid the panic of realizing we have absolutely no idea what may happen next! But... as Paul Kelly wrote and sings 'Every Fucking City'.

Now back to not meditating. I don't know why it takes me so long to tell a very simple story! OK here we are. What I did instead of meditating! I went for a drive, listened to loud Rock and Roll music, picked up a hitch hiker, grabbed a bottle of Pepsi Max and a pack of Salt and Vinegar chips, washed hand fulls of chips down with the Pepsi on my way to check out a video game shop! And that is how I do not meditate!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Travel! Again!

 Writing to you from some place I wasn't meant to be tonight... 

After just one week at home with the family and I found myself jumping on another plane! 
This time I was headed to Galiwin'ku, Elcho Island for jama (work). 
...Early morning rush to the airport, takeaway meal at the gate, door opens and we file out of the inefficient aircon and onto the tarmac. Back into the morning humidity and the scent of half baked av gas. 
Into the air again! 

This time I didn't really want to go, I didn't want to fly again but after 10 minutes in the air looking over the wild NT coast and snaking rivers I let go of all the things I thought I could have been doing and settle into reading a a book, 'Homage to Catalonia' by George Orwell. (Orwell's personal account of his experiences in the Spanish Civil War)

The plan was to fly to Elcho on Friday, prepare for a meeting on Saturday, assist reps from various communities with transport, do all the other stuff that's my job throughout Saturday, be on hand for a special commissioning service on Sunday (Dogs body, you need it I get it sorta thing), fly home to Darwin Monday morning... Well that was how it was meant to go but of course there weren't any direct flights left to Darwin on Monday and I didn't want to spend another night away from the family so I managed to get onto one of the charters back to Gove where I could catch the 3:30 plane back to Darwin! Perfect plan, in theory!

What happened? The charter left late, flew around a thunder head or two and arrived just in time for me to bolt to the main terminal... I got a ride half way and would have just made it if my ticket was valid! Yep I was booked on the wrong day and if I had arrived just 15 minutes earlier I could have altered the ticket... but I didn't and so now here I am! Camping at Nhulunbuy for the night (In a luxury motel, thanks to my generous and forgiving employer). My late arrival was no one's fault but my own. It was pretty ambitious to think I could get anywhere on time at this time of year, besides the fact that the ticket was mucked up was entirely my fault!

Tons of mangoes still ripening on Galiwin'ku

About where I've been. Well I just had a great weekend in Galiwin'ku, everything went reasonably smoothly and I managed to be billeted in a house where I had my very own room! On Elcho there's a serious lack of housing and many houses are way overcrowded, but people make do the best they can. Still it adds to the pressure when some Balanda turns up looking for somewhere to sleep and I was grateful to have some privacy! I am truly grateful for my Fijian hosts who were so hospitable, by the time I had to leave this morning I was seriously wondering why I'd willingly leave!

Saturday meeting took up the whole day, I think we finished just  before 8pm which made it a 10 1/2 hour meeting if you subtract half an hour for lunch. On Friday night Elcho saw the first rain for the season. (A good omen)

 Rronang Yuranydjil and Djulunga (+ 1) Outside Galiwin'ku Church

Inside Galiwin'ku Church - Rejoicing and giving thanks. Vows made.
The church service on Sunday included a commissioning service for the Christian Educator for North East and West Arnhem. The service went for about 3 hours (there's a lot to get through following cultural protocols as well as regular church service, heaps of manikay and bungul (singing and dancing). I spent most of that time running around in the rain sorting out refreshments and playing bus driver.

So with all said and done, nearly everyone booked and headed back to their respective communities I thought I was home and hosed. But then chance stepped in and here I am! Writing a blog post from a motel room on the Gove peninsular! Couldn't be in a better place really except whenever I have this kind of freedom the devil wants to come out and play! Dangerous place for me to be! Cranky with myself for stuffing up, nowhere to go, a town full of booze in the middle of Prescribed Aboriginal Land and nothing much for me to do! I spent nearly an hour in the Supermarket battling demons! In the end I settled on a bottle of coke (No salt and vinegar chips... no booze) and, eventually some healthy food for dinner. (Oh and a copy of a film about Lance Armstrong, 'The Armstrong LIE'.

With time on my hands I'm struggling to do the right thing! At least I get points for healthy eating...

Tomorrow is another day!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

End of the day GVBR

Just had to post this considering it's been maybe 20 years since I was in Yackandandah.

Last time I visited Yack I think I was returning from a weekend on the Murray, either the Norton Owners rally at Tintaldra or one of those other rowdy affairs in Walwa, I can't remember exactly which. Motorcycle rallies in the 1990s really went off.... Well the Norton Owners Rally was always a bit more refined ;).

Anyway I dug up and scanned an old photo from the day. The image is of me standing beside the original Fat Boy and my 250 Virago outside the Yackandandah Motor Garage. I compared it with a photo I took while there two weeks ago and as you can see the paint has aged and the building is no longer being used as a service station, the bowser has been removed. Actually it's now an art gallery with the most amazing ironwork I've ever seen!

Now and Then shot. That's what 20 years of weather can do

Sometimes I reminisce about those days when I zoomed around the country on a motorbike, there was such a feeling of freedom and power, it was really magic to cruise through the high country of Victoria and along the Murray Valley. These days though I'm really getting into riding my  bicycle and taking it all a bit slower. More natural, more sweat, more effort, less speed. Same country, different pace. I thought it fitting that the garage has done away with fosil fuels and been transformed into something more creative... I hope I have too.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Great Vic. A bike ride... Part VIII

Day 4 - 2nd December 

Bright - Moyhu

Last post for this ride I reckon! It's been nearly a week since I ended the ride and it's really becoming hazy in my mind.
Tuesday 2nd December.... 45th anniversary of my birth.
Packed up wet tent, had breakfast early, loaded gear in truck rolled out of Bright at 6:45, the air was cool, sky was blue through a veil of mist, road dry, skin tingling from the coolness. Perfect day for a ride.

The ride along the Great Alpine Rd to Myrtleford. The most beautiful scenery, riding through a valley full of old tobacco drying towers, hopps gardens, grapes and various other crops. 84 km of downhill cruising, you can peddle along at a comfortable speed of around 30km/h.
The camp at Bright

I stopped in Myrtleford for a breakfast birthday treat and a chat with some other riders then slowly made my way back into the growing throng of riders and was soon turning left into Snow Rd headed, in a round about way to Moyhu. The road continued downhill and the landscape and foliage began to change as we descended the hill. We arrived in Moyhu before lunch time. It was quite a contrast from soggy Bright. Dry yellow fields, a very small town nestled between the eucalyptus on the banks of the King River. I think we're still in wine country but the field we camped in was rutted from the hooves of cattle.
Moyhu camp, drying our wet gear out

Birthday treat

The people of the town had converted their local park into a kind of mini carnival ready for a street party to welcome the riders.  The streets were decorated with bikes of every kind and in all kinds of condition.

colourful decorated bike Moyhu

Frightening reminder
It was a very hot day so I shouted myself a sorbet icecream. Riding back into town I was told we can swim in the river, just a kilometer down the road. Fantastic! I get to cool off and don't need to cue for a cramped 2 minute shower!

King river swimming hole

I had some pretty good company for dinner, unfortunately I've forgotten my new friends names, A fella in his 50s along with his daughter and her fiance, we had a great chat for an hour or so before dinner then the crowds started to appear and I decided it was time to make room for people to sit and eat their dinner. It amazes me the people who do these rides! Families, people of all ages and ability, it's fantastic to be amongst so much good spirit, enthusiasm and zest for life. This had been a good day, right up until I finished my dinner.

After dinner I started to feel a bit off, the feeling became worse all evening until I couldn't bear it and went to the sick bay. I just wanted to vomit but couldn't.
At the sick bay I was treated for dehydration, they stuck a saline drip in my arm and jabbed me with anti nausea something or other. It didn't work and by 2am I was spewing my guts out in the middle of a paddock.
Didn't get much sleep all night but at least I got rid of the nausea.

Day 5 Moyhu - Mansfield

The longest ride on this trip, this day was scheduled to be the most challenging ride day. At first I thought there's no way I can ride. I had intended to sleep in and just ride the sag wagon all the way to Mansfield but something compelled me to pack up my gear and get going.
I left camp reasonably late and experienced what it's like to ride at the back with the stragglers and the goof offs. I say goof offs because there were quite a few school groups toward the back and they didn't show any of the discipline I'd become used to with the front riders. The boys were all over the road and there were a lot more people to contend with. People were riding at very different paces and there were so many of them that there was constant need to overtake, It was much harder to avoid collisions riding at the back.

I was feeling very weak but determined to go as far as I could... By morning tea time I was spent! I'd peddled just 24km and I felt like I was going to have a seizure! I'd reached my limit. I pulled up on a patch of grass and felt reasonably content that I'd given it my best. Most of the next 50 km would be up hill. I was in no condition to do that so I decided to end the ride there.

When the road headed uphill at the Mansfield - Whitfield Rd I sat comfortably in the 'Sag Wagon' (the bus used to ferry all the little engines that couldn't). While in the bus I broke into a fever and had the shakes. I dozed and woke and dozed and all the time we were climbing. As I looked out the window from time to time I could see exhausted riders pushing their bikes up the hill. When we reached the top of the hill there was a road block. That's when we heard the news that a rider had been killed. A man in his 60s had lost control and fallen in front of a truck. Very sad.

End of ride odometer reading

I spent the rest of the day in Mansfield staggering around with a fever, I tried setting up my camp when I eventually found my gear but was in such terrible shape I ended up back at the sick bay, sleeping on the sick bay floor, fever, headache, etc... Apparently it was a virus which was starting to spread through the camp.
My family had been calling and Mum and Dad decided they weren't going to let me spend the night shivering and sweating in my tent so they drove 2 hours to come and get me.... Can't say I was disappointed to have a bed to sleep in that night.

I didn't mind missing the final days ride so much but would have liked to see a bit more of Mansfield. This had been an amazing ride through beautiful country. The Great Vic Bike Ride was the most incredibly well organized event I've ever been to. I've never ridden in a large group before and the experience was a little overwhelming. All up I cycled 420 km. I'm glad I did it! But now I've got to go and take care of my sick kid!

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Great Vic. A bike ride... Part VII

Day 3 - 1st December 2014

Yackandandah - Bright

Got the routine down pat. Up super early (5:30am) Pack up sleeping gear, prepare bike for ride, eat breakfast early to avoid the crowd, pack up tent and stow gear in truck.... Start riding 6:45am!

Big ride today! There's a big lump of rock between Yackandandah and Bright and it ain't moving!

It was a hot day, good riding felt a lot stronger by now and was finally over my dehydration but tired from not enough sleep. The events of the various days rides are becoming foggy to me now but here's a few highlights.

Following the road from right to left. The uphill started just off screen and ended before the first white dot on the blue line.. The whole rest of the way was downhill! Sweeeet ride!

After a long and beautiful ride along the Kiewa Valey Highway we took a sharp right turn onto the infamous Tawonga Gap Road....!! Which makes a serious incline over the mountain range separating Bright from Mount Beauty. Up up up... we rode. A lot of people started walking outright at the beginning of the road. I dreaded the thought of giving up too soon so I shifted to a low gear and peddled on. No one was passing me and after about a km I stopped passing other riders, we just strained and pushed, heaving one rotation of the chain-ring after the next. Finally I stopped riding, pulled over and had a drink. After the first stop and as I became tireder the temptation to stop became greater until it seemed I was stopping for a rest every 500 metres... (I'm sure I was riding further than that but not much) oddly as frequently as I was stopping not many passed me. Everyone struggled on this hill! 

Going up? (7km climb - 20km descent)

Sweet cool water for your climb

Yep! I wore the cycle gear!
Toward the top of the hill a group of us stopped at Lawler Spring, where sweet fresh water flows from the ground. 

Musical encouragement

At the top of the hill we were met with a juice jug band and jelly beans! 

Google maps describes the site as German Town, Tawonga Gap Rd but there is no town, just a lookout. From that point on we had a 20km down hill ride all the way into Bright! Orright!

Bits of rim metal not a good look for downhill breaking!
Top speed riding down the hill 67.5 km/h. Coulda gone a lot faster but my breaks were dodgy and I'd only replaced the front ones back in Yack... so it so chances of a prang were pretty high at faster speed. Managed most 35 - 45 km/h corners at 50. A couple of riders came off on the downhill and the Police had to start regulating groups descending. I was lucky to have a free ride down and not have to follow a police bike.

Unloading semitrailer No.5

My tent before the rain

Taking refuge from the storm

Being among the first to leave camp in the morning and having made it to the top of the hill on reasonable time I made Bright fairly early, in time to unload the truck and set up camp before rain.

I watched people ride in the rain. Latecomers had to ride in the Hail.

On that night I was lucky enough to go to sleep in warm dry tent in the middle of a very damp paddock.

Great Vic. A bike ride... Part VI

Official Ride day 1. Sunday 30th November

Day 2.

Woke sometime around 5:30am to the sound of heavy machinery flashing lights and reverse beep-beep-beep of fork lifts... I fumble around with the zipper of my tent look out and find people are packing their gear and getting ready for their first day of riding.

Figuring it best to beat the crowd I packed my gear, loaded it into the nearest truck (5), and jumped in the breakfast line, it was about 6am. In the cue there were about 20 people ahead of me, but when I looked over my shoulder I could see a long line stretching well past my camp on the river bank and up the hill toward the main entry already well over a couple of hundred meters long. Phew! I'd made it just before the crowd. I thought to myself 'Man! I'd hate to be at the end of that cue!' But actually the cues move amazingly fast! At every meal there are at least 5 serving bays and each of those bays has about 5 people serving. So the line just keeps moving, people sit at one of a sea of tables to eat their breakfast, or Dinner and are replaced by the people coming behind them, pretty soon 4,000 people have been well fed. It really is an amazing sight.

So on Day 1 we rode from Albury to Yackandandah via the Hume Dam!
This was my first experience of riding with a large group and I was quite excited. I pushed off with a group of young guys, one of whom was carrying some kind of sound system in his backpack so we had music... for a while. I soon discovered that people ride at very different pace and I tended to want to stay away from large clumps of riders so I tended to push forward to get away from the crowd, rather than dropping back. By the time we'd climbed a few small hills the field had spread out and I was in a comfortable riding space with some serious riders around me.

Crossing Hume Dam wall

 Fairly early on the ride we rolled down across the Hume Dam, which produced a kind of euphoric feeling of freedom and awe at the beauty of the country we were in.

Heading toward Yackandandah or 'Yack' as the locals call it we had a fair bit of up hill work to do, it was quite strenuous but the encouragement of other riders made it somehow easier to keep peddling (Or maybe that was competitive pride?), then amazingly several km before Yackandanda the road started to slope downwards and riders had a freewheeling free ride all the way into town! (Or quite a fast ride for those of us who preferred to keep our legs pumping!)

As we zoomed into Yackandandah we were greeted by a welcoming parade of locals who stayed (in the heat of the day) to welcome all riders over a period of about 4 hours! The town of Yackandandah was very welcoming. Cyclists mingled with locals and sat in the shade of the main street caffe's, museum, art gallery, grassy park and the pub, where live music was playing. The people at Yack were very welcoming and friendly, it was a great place to spend the day.

Yackandandah community welcoming party
Yackandandah Unicyclists.
 We had to wait a couple of hours for the camp to open, but when it did it was amazing! A duplication of what had been in Albury, a virtual portable village! Bike shop, food stalls, camping shop, first aid, etc... etc... and the giant marquee. It was a hot day and the sports field was in full sun but I was lucky to find a shady spot under at tree by the creek, where I spent the later hours of the day chilling out and cooling my heals.

Fresh water Spiny Tailed Crayfish

This ride is pretty amazing! All I need to do is peddle and put up my tent, everything else is totally catered for by the ride organizers! Just line up with your plate at dinner time and you get an awesome meal (wash your own plate), after dinner you can sit back and watch a movie on the giant outdoor screen or listen to live music, or just head into town and see what's going on in there.

Really loving this ride so far!

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Great Vic. A bike ride... Part V

Plans, Mice and Men!

To Melbourne on the plane:

No Problemo! One bag of carry on luggage. One bike stuffed into a cardboard box. My sister even came and picked me up from the airport, and gave me a bed for the night and even cooked me a delicious omelet in the morning. It was great to see her and my two nephews again.

Mulwala - 24km south of Moyhu (Sunday 30th Nov. - Wednesday 3rd Dec.)

Before I left Darwin I attended a talk by the author Arnold Zable who mentioned the two archetype story tellers (and so I presume 2 basic stories), one is the role of the great law/lore keepers which we have depended on throughout time to keep our aural history and record happenings in our society, maintain relations, family connections, interesting events, the law and what we call lore etc... the other which we are most familiar with these days is The Hero's Journey. Zabel told the story well, I'm not going to try and recount it for you but it was great to listen to... Fundamentally though my reason for mentioning this is that my posts lately have been around a journey... The Great Victorian Bike Ride 2014. Since the story is about my journey you won't find much in the way of heroics, but out of the two story modes I don't have many options.

A good story usually has a bit of drama. It's probably the drama which makes the difference between an ordinary travel log and an adventure story. Now I believe the great and Internationally infamous traveler Kris Larsen loathes to be called and adventurer, since that implies he is reckless and does not take precautions. I am not he, or like to him much at all, and if I had to live through his 'travels' my hair would have dropped out from fear, struggle or suffering (or before it even came to that fear of the struggle and suffering)! So I will take caution in the use of the word adventure, especially since this was a very well organized trip, but I must say.... as I began, like most road trips this one did not go exactly to plan.

The Journey

Change of plan: Instead of catching the train to Shepparton my parents decided to take a road trip with me to Yarrawongah / Mulwala which saved me 1 day of riding and gave us some time together.

Ride Day 1. 

Mulwala - Albury 99km

Route day one: I intended to ride through Victoria and to see Rutherglen but decided there wouldn't be time
Club Mulwala... It's huge.

Had breakfast at Club Mulwala (the most enormous RSL club I've ever, ever seen!) with Mum and Dad, then headed off on the NSW side of the border, following a cycle path along the lake through Kyffins Reserve where there was free camps right at the waters edge. (I'm still struggling with the idea that you can walk right into the rivers and lakes here with not a thought of crocodiles)

Me before the big ride. The bike is all painted up with anti fracking stuff... and #Freethechildren !

The reserve soon ended and I was cycling along Spring Drive which after Corowa became the Riverina Highway. There's a lot of wheat and sheep in this country. It's fairly dry but close to the rive so they have water for irrigation.

Basically after Corowa I had head winds most of the rest of the way to Howlong. Yes by the time I'd reached Howlong I was asking myself the same question!
It was about 1:30pm, I was dehydrated and tired, sculled a 750ml bottle of some fancy energy drink from the shop and pushed off into the wind and now hills to try and make Albury by 3pm.

Tough ride! Met up with Mum and Dad again at Wonga wetlands and they gave me a ride to the Base Camp for the GVBR2014.

Staggered into camp at around 3:30 and the sight nearly floored me! I can't remember having seen so many people in one place before and they were all there for the bike ride, the magnitude stunned me. What have I gotten myself into?

This is only a fraction of the tents on site in Albury. The camp went a lot further back than you can see here.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Great Vic. A bike ride... Part IV

Getting there and away... reality hits... and if only it were that easy

What ya don't know surely can't hurt you... But I had to go and read more of that email this morning and I came to the bit that said THIS! 'Limited V/Line transport to Albury'

Full message HERE
The bottom line, there's gonna be a lot of cyclists headed to Albury and the Railway isn't prepared to accommodate the influx of customers!
"If a V/Line conductor determines that there is not sufficient room to carry a bicycle on a V/Line train, it will not be able to be carried on that train" 

(Thanks for nothing V/Line! How I wish you could operate at the standard of British Rail back in 1955! See HERE for some pointers!)

I've had all day to think about it and I've decided that this situation could actually be an opportunity for me to make a longer trip. I've checked the maps and the railway timetables and there is another line through central Victoria to a town which is a rural hub for agriculture. Shepparton (or Shep as we like to call it). This appears to be the closest I can get to Albury by rail without boarding the Albury train. The problem is that Shepparton is about a 165km bicycle ride from Albury! That's more than I'm comfortable doing in a day so I've got some more planning to do.

Getting there and away. PLAN B.

Melbourne to Albury:

pt 1.  Catch train Melbourne - Shepparton.

Melb - Shep V/Rail about 2.5 hours

According to Google Maps the shortest distance from Shepparton to Albury is 163km with a few twists and turns along the way. That's too far so I've decided on another rout which is only about 10 km longer and will take me to some places I've never been before.
Here's the plan:

pt 2. Day 1. Ride Shepparton - Yarrawonga cross border into NSW and the tourist town of Mulwala

Approx 81km, estimated time 4 hours if I don't miss any back roads or short cuts. Find a free camp somewhere near the lake.

Shep - Mulwala cycling about 4.5 hours.

pt 3. Day 2. Ride Mulwala - Albury (via Rutherglen)

Approx 96km and about 5 hours straight pedaling if I don't get lost on any of those back roads I mentioned earlier. I'm thinking I'll give myself a whole day for this part of the journey as I'll be passing through some interesting country and may make some stops along the way.

Mulwala - Albury 5 hours, probably more it looks interesting
OK, I admit it, until now I've been treating the whole planning thing like a bit of a joke, but it's finally starting to dawn on me that if I don't do a bit of strategic planning I'm going to be standing at the station with my bike in pieces, none of the gear I need, no idea where to go next and probably (if past performance is an indication) no air in my tyres!

 Play around with the map if you'd like to find a better rout.

I suppose I should also be thinking about what time I roll into camp on Saturday. I'm sure there will be some important information about the actual ride that I'll need to hear.

Great Vic... A bike ride. Part III

Getting there and away


Darwin to Melbourne: 
Fly to Melbourne in a stinking fosil fuel burning airplane! Arrive very late at night. Hang out at airport for a while, put bike together then ride on to family. Spend a couple of days getting my gear together. Tubes, tools, torch, tent, that kind of stuff.

Melbourne to Albury: Catch train to Albury on Friday, enjoy a 3 or 4 hour train ride through scenic country Victoria, MAGIC! Arrive in Albury find somewhere to camp before the riders gather.

 Cycle Albury to Mansfield 4 days yeh!

Return Mansfield to Melbourne:
Catch 'organized transport' bus from Mansfield to Melbourne
Ride train or cycle Melbourne - Watsonia.

Great Vic... A bike ride. Part II

A few details about the Great Victorian Bike Ride 2014

(ha ha... blogging this was a good idea, now at least I'm bothering to read some of the details on the Bicycle Network website)

Where:      Albury to Lilydale
Duration:   9 days including two rest days (I'll only be riding 5 days... day one is a rest day... cool!)
Dates:        29 November 2014 - 7 December 2014
Distance:   520km (I'll do 334km Albury to Mansfield)

Towns the ride will pass through, Albury, Yackandandah, Bright, Myrtleford, Moyhu, Mansfield... There's more but I'm not going there so who cares! (Or check the route out HERE)

Terrain: A bit of unsealed road to negotiate and.... whoah! Holy crap! What the?! Hills! Bloody big ones! Oh yeh... 'The High Country'! Right, hills... We don't do hills here in Darwin. The elevation profile looks like I imagine my electrocardiogram will look when they've revived me after my first attempt to climb one!
This is an image of an ECG, it's not the actual Elevation map if you want that click HERE
I saw something in the email they sent me today about preparation, better go back and find out what I'm supposed to be doing.

OK there's a video and some basic advise HERE, on 'Final preparation tips'. (Final? Oh... whateva!) I'll summarize:

  • Something about next few weeks of training (too late mate, I only have one week!)... 
  • Ride multiple days in a row = Check! 
  • Don't have to ride long distances = Check! (top points on that one!)
  • More than three days per week / commute = Check!
  • Get used to being on the bike for several hours at a time. = (Well... Nahhh)
  • Get some experience in windy, rainy weather. = Huh? (We aint got none of that here yet.)
  • Wet weather gear.... = (in Darwin that means take your T-Shirt off and enjoy a warm shower... what's this joker talking about?)
  • Raincoat = (Is this guy a bit of a sook or what? Raincoat? What for?!)
  • Prepare for cold = (Huh?)
  • Nutrition, experiment with foods, energy etc.. = Check! Check! Double Check! (You got it brother! I'll get onto that right away... you can never be too prepared!)
  • Hone your descending skills = (descending? Oh yeh hills... Oh crap I'm going to need to fix my brakes!) 
  • Get your bike serviced before riding or make sure you check the cassette, chain, brakes, bottom bracket, tyres... = bla, blah blah blah... (OK, OK, I get it, I'll check my brakes, sheesh! bit fussy if you ask me!)

Damn it's past midnight! I thought this was going to be fun but it's shaping up to be a bunch of humbug!

Catch ya tomorrow, when I've had a chance to find out where they're hiding the fun on this little adventure.


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Great Vic... A bike ride. Part 1.

The Great Victorian Bike Ride:
Commences Albury, Victoria 29th November 2014.

I am booked to go!

I have a bike...

The bike I'll take to Melbourne, which I hope will be my transport on the Great Victorian Bike Ride
I haven’t been devoting much thought to it, or done any training or anything but it’s just occurred to me that in one week from today I’ll be headed to Melbourne to take part in The Great Victorian Bike Ride!  I’ve been receiving reminders and updates from the very organized ‘Bicycle Network’ but to be honest I’ve found it all a bit convoluted and, well, organized for my liking. However the fact remains that there are only 11 days until the big ride and I do intend to participate, so maybe now is the time to start thinking about it.
How surreal it is! This social bike ride is something I had wanted to do for years when I was younger but somehow my life took a turn in other directions and I found myself at motorbike rallies and falling asleep on bar stools instead…
Now, at the tender age of 45 and living at the other end of the continent (Island… whatever!), circumstances, finances and spousal consent have come into alignment and it is possible I may actually get to do this.
 A plan has emerged and my tickets are booked. After 30 years of thinking about it, I’m finally about to go and take part in this ridiculous journey. This self-confessed misanthrope, will join the travelling circus of social butterflies, lycra clad grandpas, cycle chic wannabes, excitable school kids, hormonal teens, trendy looking fitness freaks who don’t sweat and heaven knows who else this ride might attract. I’m imagining a disorganized throng being herded like sheep into conforming lines at amenities by perky marshals with whistles and wearing fluoro green vests. Grumpy tired riders fighting for a camp site and lining up for cold meals or standing in muddy paddocks waiting to use the amenities…. Maybe there will be sleet…? Possibly hail and wind. (They have those down in Victoria!)
What have I gone and signed up for?! God knows why I’m doing this but, next week there will be a gathering of 1,000s of cyclists, pedalling across the Victorian High Country and it’s looking very much like I will be amongst them.
I think I’ll post some of my preps, itinerary and details of my kit on here just for fun and if I get a chance I’ll do an update or at least some photos of the ride or something like that.