Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Top 10 Reasons Why Rhonda Should Not Cycle Tour

"It's not because I can't, it's because I don't want to."

A few years ago, when Doug asked Brent to ride from Vancouver to Calgary, Brent knew he couldn't do it, but he didn't want to tell Doug that. So, he set his mind to training, and he trained hard so that when Doug called back, he'd be able to say no - not because he couldn't, but because he choose not to. Then, when Doug called back, they ended up riding across Canada together.

When Brent asked me to cycle tour with him, I had been on a bicycle about ten times in the previous 25 years, so I trained and developed strength and skill. I've done the Golden Triangle - a challenging three-day supported tour in the Rocky Mountains, an easy overnight unsupported ride outside of Edmonton, and some punctuated touring in Australia, and now I am telling him no not because I can't, but because I choose not to.

Here, in honor of David Letterman, whose show I've never seen, is the Top 10 reasons why I shouldn't cycle tour.

10. Cycle touring is like hitting yourself on the head with a hammer - it feels so good when you stop

9. I don't have the photoshop skills to turn pavement into trees and cars into butterflies

8. 90% of drivers being alert and considerate doesn't give me good enough odds

7. I prefer my critters live and frolicking in the bush rather than flattened on the pavement

6. I don't have the physical mass to haul the gear up the hills far enough to make the next town

5. I can't let myself get too fast for Marg and Rhonda pace

4. Pine trees and moss are more pleasant than transport truck brake smell and exhaust fumes

3. Spandex is not my colour

2. It is not an advantage to be the smallest, slowest, squishiest object trying to travel in the same space with large, hard, fast objects

1. The smell of road kill hinders my appreciation for vegemite

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Unplanned Rest Day

"Unplanned Rest Day". It sounds so... restful. Pleasant. Unplanned it was. A day... sort of - it was about 24 hours long. Restful? Not really. Brent says you need to allow for a few Unplanned Rest Days in your tour schedule, but when we booked our bus from Marimbula to Sydney a couple days ago, we hadn't done that... Oops.

We cycled to Orbost in Gippsland (which we both love), and were planning out our next move. The next center with any services, Cann River, was about 80km down the road from Orbost. Theoretically, I can do 80km in a day, but I wasn't really comfortable with it, so we decided to give ourselves options - we'd stock up on provisions, and if necessary, camp somewhere on the side of the road halfway. We'd decide that morning if I was feeling up to an 80km haul, or if we'd try to stop halfway someplace.

Orbost was great - it's on the Snowy River. Yep... THE Snowy River. As we rode into town, we found the Caravan Park (Aussie for "Campground") right away and pulled in. The proprietor met us at the entrance and said that he could maybe give us a place to stay, but he'd have to figure out something on the "higher ground" as there were flood warnings for the Snowy and his park is low and right by the river. They were concerned about the lower parts of the park flooding. We got set up with a spot - right beside the clothesline beside the bathrooms (woo hoo) - and ventured into town. Bought the required provisions, and then made our way to the tavern where we decided to have dinner and beers before our next day(s) adventures.

The tavern was great, and the proprietor, Mick, gave a demonstration of sticking money to his ceiling. There's a fan that keeps the bills in place, and you wrap a bill in a coin, then throw it, hard, up at the ceiling. The bill is supposed to stay, and the coin falls back down. If you miss three times, you have to pitch in out of your pocket into a charity they support. Brent tried to film him doing this, and the call came out that to film, you have to contribute, so I went digging for an Aussie fin, while Brent produced a Canadian one. Mick was pretty sure the Canadian one wouldn't stick because it's made of paper - the Aussie ones are made of plastic, but he managed to stick both bills to the ceiling on his first tries. There was a bit of a crowd gathered around watching the whole thing unfold, and as it wrapped up, a woman approached us. She introduced herself as Chrissy and asked where we were headed. We told her of our tentative plans, and she INSISTED that we stop in Cabbage Tree Creek the next night and stay - it is halfway to Cann River. That sounded pretty good to me - problem solved. Chrissy chatted with us for a while and told us about her motor bike club and friends (she had four friends in tow). Chrissy was going to give us her phone number, but then said that it had trouble receiving calls, and what we should do instead was to go to town, stop at the General Store and talk to Jo and Pete - the proprietors - and get them to contact her for us.

The next morning, we got up and had a leisurely breakfast, found out about the flooding was less than expected, but it was enough to close the scenic route to Cabbage Tree Creek via Marlow. Dang. OK, so the scenic route would have been 50km, but the main highway was only 30, so we only had 30km to do that day, which left us with tonnes of time to hang out in Orbost before heading out. We poked around, checked out the flooding, including goes a short distance down the road to Marlow. Finally, at around 1:30, we left Orbost and started our journey to Cabbage Tree Creek. It was a good day riding... or, rather, as good a day as possible on highway. I made a decision that day and told Brent that I just didn't enjoy highway riding. I don't like the traffic whizzing by - I feel like I'm spending way too much of my time frightened. He was very good about that, and we'll explore options where we can keep touring together... "with modifications".

Anyway, along the route to Cabbage Tree Creek, we stopped at a rest stop for a snack, where we were briefly pummelled by a rain cloud that blew in, smacked us down, and then blew right back out as quickly as it had some. The rest of the trip to Cabbage Tree Creek was fine. When we got there, as instructed, we stopped at the General Store and talked with Jo. I introduced myself and said that Chrissy had said she could contact her for us. Jo's response: "Which Chrissy? John-Boy's Chrissy?"... uh-oh. I said "I don't know... the Chrissy that I met at the tavern in Orbost last night". Kind of an inauspicious start. Anyway, Jo gave us directions to "John-Boy's Chrissy's" place, which involved riding up a hill, around the community hall, and then following this secluded, wind-ey, ill-maintained road which had recently had a fire run through the surrounding forest. As Brent and I followed the secluded, wind-ey, ill-maintained road, I got cold feet. I thought, Chrissy had told us she would tell Jo to expect us, which she clearly hadn't done, and since we'd met her in a tavern, we thought perhaps she'd forgotten or changed her mind, or even extended the invitation to be "nice" without expecting us to take her up on it. So, before we reached the place, we turned around and re-traced our steps back to the General Store, discussing our options, including trying to find a place to pitch tent someplace in town where we "wouldn't annoy anyone".

Back at the General Store, Jo said there wasn't really anyplace around we could pitch tent, but then suggested that we could camp on a patch of land behind her store. There was no shower, but she did have an outdoor toilet which we could use. It sounded like heaven so I quickly accepted. As we were setting up the tent, it clouded over and started to rain. Just as we were finishing up and deciding how we were going to cook our fancy peas, couscous and pumpkin soup with spam dinner, Chrissy and her crew arrived and began waving us back up to the store. Her whole gang had come out for dinner. Jo had closed up shop early so that everyone could bring some alcohol for their dinner - Jo's place is unlicensed. We had a fantastic time visiting with Chrissy and crew, and had wonderful steak sandwiches from Jo rather than the concoction we'd planned for ourselves.

The rain rained on and on, and the gals pointed out that we had pitched out tent in the path of the overflow from the rainwater capture tank. Oops. Brent moved the tent over to a better spot, with some coaching from the gals. That night, we listened to the rain and wind tag team the tent. In the morning, I felt like we'd been bitch-slapped all night by a rain cloud, but my trusty McKinnon backpack tent held up well. The rain was not showing any signs of letting up, and riding the next 50km to Cann River sounded not only unpleasant, but possibly treacherous that day. We started discussing options and thought we might catch a bus from Cabbage Tree Creek to Cann River. I knew Countrylink would insist that the bikes had to be boxed, and we didn't happen to just have a couple of bike boxes laying around, so we crossed them off the list. I looked up the timetables for Premier, which we were going to use to get from Merimbula to Sydney in a few days. Their bus comes through Cabbage Treek Creek at 00:45. Brent suggested VLine, so I tried them, but they don't allow bikes on their coaches at all. We decided to wait 'til noon and see if a random generous stranger might stumble into the General Store and offer to give us a lift up the road, and barring that, we would book the 00:45 bus with Premier.

We had breakfast in the general store, and Jo (and Pete, who is a minor player in this story because he's down with a back injury) said it was no problem to loiter on their front porch for the day while we waited for 00:45. The rain rained on, and we talked to a few random strangers, but none with the generosity, or the vehicle capacity, to drive us up the road. Around noon we caved and booked a ride on the Premier 00:45 coach. The rain rained on and we bought a couple of used books from Jo's used book bin. We had lunch in the general store and kept our post on the front porch (covered, of course). The rain rained on. We read the used books and did some Sudoku puzzles, and Brent did some journaling. Later in the afternoon, Edie from Wollongong, a random generous stranger, stumbled in with a bike rack and enough room for us, our bikes and our gear and offered to drive us to Cann River. We considered it, but given that the weather is not expected to let up, and we'd already booked Premier (and made tentative accommodation arrangements in Merimbula), and the weather was supposed to be nicer further north, we declined, but we did get her contact information to possibly visit in Wollongong. We had dinner in the General Store and Jo and Pete VERY GRACIOUSLY offered to let us stay inside the store after they closed at 20:00 to wait for the 00:45 bus. They closed up and went to bed, leaving us full run of their store and kitchen. They even brought us a couple of beanbag chairs to use so we'd be reasonably comfortable. We were REALLY lucky. Brent and I made a foot sandwich with the beanbags to try to warm our feet back up after been cold and wet for over 24 hours, and I slept for a bit with my head down on the table. Thankfully, the 00:45 showed up on time and didn't blow on past (which, apparently, has happened). We piled the bikes and junk on the bus and off we went to Merimbula.

Sadly, the 00:45 departing Cabbage Tree Creek arrives in Merimbula at 03:10. Guess what's open in Merimbula at 03:10? Right. At least it wasn't raining, and we used our map to find a park near the ocean/beach where we set up tent and slept until the sun came up at about 6:45.

The place we'd tentatively booked, Mermaid Holiday Units, was not able to accept us at 3:10 because the unit they had for us was still occupied, but luckily, the folks were out, and we were in at 9:00AM. Best. Shower. Ever. But... no longer in a sleeping kind of mood. That will just have to wait.

Next time I have an "Unplanned Rest Day", I might plan it a little better.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Close Encounters of the Wombat Kind (Critters of Tasmania)

I love critters and I was very excited about seeing some very odd critters while in Tasmania. I most wanted to see a Tasmanian Devil, an Echidna, and a Wombat. I'd read that Tasmanian Devils are endangered due to a transmittable face cancer, and knew that they would be scarce. I'd never even heard of an echidna until Brent mentioned them, and then once I'd seen some pics on google I knew I had to see one. We had also googled wombats and decided they were very cute critters - so cute that we wanted to bring one home and we would love it and pet it and we would call it George... until we discovered how LARGE these cute critters are.

Naturally, I expected to be greeted at the airport by an army of kangaroos and wallabys, but since Hobart is the most populous city in Tasmania, I was disappointed. We rode from Hobart to Richmond and then on to Triabunna seeing nary a live critter, although many many unfortunate road-killed wallabys and opossums.

We stopped for lunch after Richmond and while Brent was off... Brenting around somewhere... I did see quite a remarkable show. Where we'd stopped for lunch there were many horseflies which are just as vicious as the horseflies back home. One of the vile varmints was flying around me when it suddenly found itself trapped in a spider's web on the side of the picnic table. I watched as it struggled, tightening its own trap around itself. A relatively small spider walked down the web about half way, had a look, and then turned and went back up into its hidey-hole. I was disappointed at not seeing more action than that until I noticed that there were several teeny-tiny baby spiders coming down the web. As the struggles of the horsefly lessened, the baby spiders got bolder... many of them making their way closer and closer to the fly. As they approached, the fly would sometimes spring into a panic, struggling more. Occasionally, a baby spider would be flung off into the abyss, but it would always manage to leave a lifeline web trailing back up to the main web and it would crawl back up. It was absolutely fascinating to watch the advance of the baby spiders as they got bolder and the fly got weaker. Finally, they actually reached the fly and commenced their lunch. A very interesting bit of nature, and I was enthralled by the grizzly show.

Our next step after Triabunna was to take the ferry over to Maria Island (Maria pronounced Ma-rye-ah, not like we would have expected). Brent had read a blog from some campers bemoaning their time on Maria who had been ousted from their tent and treed by a band of vicious emus. So, of course, we thought we had to go to Maria to get treed by emus. Unfortunately, we learned after we got there that the emus on the island were extinct. But, we were greeted by an enthusiastic gang fight between two groups of Tasmanian Native Hens, and shortly after by some Cape Barren Geese. These birds are amazing and hilarious. They look sort of like dinosaurs with their sturdy heads, legs and feet. Their legs and feet look like they're wearing red leg-warmers and black wellies. The best thing about them is their sound... they make a grunting sound like pigs. I really enjoyed lying in our tent in the morning listen to the kookaburra's insane laughter from one side and the grunting geese from the other side.

We still hadn't seen any live marsupials about, so we asked Donna-Lea, the Maria Island National Park warden, who recommended taking our flashlights out after dark and walk up the hill by the camp site. After nightfall we set out, and I spotted what looked like a critter not far from our tent. The critter was basically rock-shaped, though, so I chalked it up to my overactive imagination until the rock started tottering away. It was a wombat... about the size of a large cat. We pursued the wombat around the camp site for a few minutes trying to get a good photo until we decided we'd traumatized it enough and set off up the hill. Along the way we saw lots and lots of the critters we'd been wishing for. A large group of wallabys on the grassy side, and lots and lots of... um... something-or-others on the tree side. The something-or-others turned out to be opossums. Australian opossums are WAY cuter than North American opossums with their big bushy tails. We thought they were cats a couple of times - they were the right size, moved very similarly, and had big fluffy tails. When we'd get a decent look, though, the body and face shape were just slightly "wrong".

Being experienced campers from North America, we weren't sure what to do with our food and other aromatic items over night. We asked about hanging stuff from a tree like we might do back home, but we were told that wasn't necessary. We could just keep the stuff inside our tent with us as the critters generally weren't bold enough to try to get into the tent for it. It's generally the opossums you have to protect your stuff from, and I was thankful to Lana for the tip about tying your boots together to prevent an opossum taking off with one for a good chew.

Across the island I also enjoyed hearing cicadas, which I loved in Atlanta as well. We saw some bats and tadpoles. I liked the little flounder-like dudes who skittered along in the sand on the beach in Swansea, and the little crab dudes who made the little rings of sand on the beach where they dug their little holes to sit in. As Brent and I were exploring the beach, we'd left the bikes tied up back at the parking lot and returned to discover that Brent's bicycle was an ant magnet. We did our best to rid the bicycle of ants before we continued on, but there were probably several hundred ants still on the bike (and on Brent) for the next day or so. Thankfully they weren't a biting variety of ants. While we were on Maria, I saw my first Huntsman spider, which I wish I'd known was harmless before I saw him. He was an impressive 3" or so across, and sitting on my panier. After we took several photos of him, we tried to get him to move off my panier, but the more I tried to encourage him to leave (with a stick), the more he tried to hide in a crevice of the panier. Finally we got rid of him, and we've seen a couple more since then. They don't even bother me now that I know they won't kill me. Our final stop in Tasmania was Devonport, where we were scheduled to take the Spirit of Tasmania ferry over to the mainland. A highlight in Devonport for us was the red-breasted cockatoos that were EVERYWHERE. On the grass... flying around... sitting on the power lines. I also enjoyed the Masked Lapwings around Devonport which have hilarious yellow faces and black caps which look like 1970's style toupees.

Unfortunately, the Tasmanian Devil and Echidna completely eluded us while on Tasmania. I guess we'll just have to come back and try again.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Eating My Way Across Tasmania

One of the first things that I picked up from Brent when we met was something that he'd picked up from a girl that he went to high school with. She said that her mom said that the Chinese say that every time you eat a new food you add 144 days to your life.

Brent has made it a habit to try different foods. He says that if someone considers it food somewhere, he'll try it. And then he "logs" his 144 days for the experience. I don't think he actually keeps a tally... it's just a game. I think. I am not quite that adventurous. I like food, but I am more of a "stick to what I know I like" kind of girl. Brent has expanded my horizons a bit... can you say 'durian'?

Brent and I are currently in the Backpacker hostel in Swansea, Tasmania. He is in the kitchen area whipping us up some wallaby sausages while I'm burning through out expensive internet minutes.

When we arrived in Australia, we began noticing right away all the crazy different foods to try, including the "Burger Rings" in the vending machine at the airport. At our first grocery stop, I buy us a "Cherry Ripe" bar. I do like chocolate bars, and I like cherries, so I figure this is a safe first step into the foods of Australia.

We stayed at a great cabin/bungalow in Richmond, and as we wiled away the evening of our first day's riding, contemplating the map and other visitor information, we broke out said "Cherry Ripe" bar. I enthusiastically bit off a big bite, only to discover that the non-advertised MAIN ingredient of a "Cherry Ripe" bar is shredded coconut. BLICK! I hate coconut. Brent graciously ate the whole remainder of the vile candy.

Over breakfast the next morning, we enjoyed a variety of breakfast foods and made ourselves some toast with the biscuits provided. In the basket of jams and other yummies to put on your toast, they had little packets of vegemite. I have heard for years about how horrible vegemite is from various friends, but I've also heard it's very salty. Perhaps I won't hate it as much as others... I do like my salt. I spread a little bit onto the corner of my biscuit and tasted it. It wasn't completely disgusting, and I could appreciate that it would be an acquired taste that I wouldn't bother acquiring, and if you grew up around the stuff, it would probably be enjoyable.

Later that day, as I struggled my way through the 60km from Richmond to Orford, I had the unpleasant experience of smelling several semi-fresh road-killed wallabies, brush-tail oppossums, and other unfortunate critters. Road kill is a distinctive and disgusting smell... something I won't forget and will avoid as much as possible in future. That night, as Brent and I lounged in the pub in Orford, a smell wafted in and we both immediately thought "road kill" until it dawned on us both that what we were smelling was actually vegemite. The two smells do share some similarities, forevermore ending my vegemite-eating career, if there had been any doubt.

Surely, it has to get better than this. I have nowhere to go but up after my Cherry Ripe and Vegemite introductions to Australian food.

So far along the way, we've logged:
- Jaffa ice cream: This is chocolate and orange mixed ice cream which looks sort of like tiger... except it's chocolate instead of licorice for the dark color. It's ok... I do prefer tiger, but for someone who doesn't like the black licorice, I bet this would be a real treat.
- A steak sandwich "with the lot": Brent didn't know what "with the lot" meant, but of course he ordered it. It turned out to be a steak sandwich with a thin steak, plus egg, bacon, cheese, pickled beet and cole slaw. I had definite steak sandwich envy as I watched him scarff this one.
- Salad: When you get a salad with your meal, the salad is often a leaf of lettuce, with cole slaw on top, then garnished with beets, tomatoes and cucumbers (and other stuff).
- Chicken schnitzel with pepper sauce: This was really really tasty, but it is the prime suspect as to what gave me the food poisoning
- Wasabi cheese: I like cheese, and I like wasabi, so I thought what the heck. It is ok... just ok. Sort of like velveeta with a bit of a horseradish kick to it.
- Crisps: We have, of course, had to try the burger rings and chicken chips that are common around here.
- Rice Bubbles: We haven't eaten any, because with the familiar picture of little bits of rice with Snap, Crackle and Pop nearby endorsing them, I know once I had my first taste of Rice Bubbles they would turn out to be plain ol' Rice Krispies. A rose by any other name...
- Bullets: A co-worker asked me to bring some of these back for him. I was prepared to say 'no' until he qualified saying that they are chocolate-covered black licorice. Of course I'll bring back THAT kind of bullets. One of these days I'll try some, too, but that is for another day.

Time for my wallaby sausages. Wish me luck!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Done In by the Tasmanian Highways

We, and our bicycles, arrived in Hobart, explored a little and stayed at the Brunswick Hotel (hostel). In the morning, we went for a walk and were very pleasantly surprised by how clean - disturbingly clean - the harbour there is.

Since we seemed to have no jet lag at all, we left Hobart a day early to begin our tour, and I was very grateful to discover that there is an Inter-City Cycleway that was supposed to connect Hobart to Richmond (and other points). We headed up the Inter-City Cycleway towards Richmond. Being that we needed to get used to doing everything on the "wrong" side of the road, starting out on a Cycleway was perfect. I felt happy and strong. The Cycleway, sadly, didn't last long and soon spit us out onto the highway to Richmond. I found the undulating hills to be very challenging while hauling the extra weight of the gear. I have two rear panniers, two front panniers, a back box, and a backpack. There was one very long hill to climb, which I did climb completely on-bike, but not without some serious whingeing. We made the 30km to Richmond and I was pretty happy to stop, wondering how I was going to make out with the ~70km/day Brent had planned for us.

Day 2 was very tough. We rode only 60km from Richmond to Orford. The pavement was quite rough asphalt, which slows me down even more than the hills, head winds, and extra weight. There were four long, sometimes steep, hills that I pushed the bike up, including Black Charlie's Opening and Bust-Me-Gall Hill. Good thing Brent is a patient (very patient) man. He stayed with me and encouraged me... and ultimately ended up insisting on taking some weight from me. The road was narrow, with poor shoulders and there was quite a bit of traffic, including many logging trucks which would fly by and create a bike-shuddering vaccuum in their wake. I was working hard at the cycling, and concentrating hard on staying on the shoulder and not weaving out onto the road. I knew I'd be very happy to reach the east coast, which was where the bulk of our fun was waiting for us, with a nice coastal route and less mountains.

In Orford the accommodations were very slim pickings and we ended up renting a $45 room with a shared bathroom down at the end of the building. The sink was plugged and half-full of rusty water and there was no shower, but I enjoyed very much chatting with Cindy from Papua New Guinea who was staying a couple doors down. It was in Orford where I first saw the southern hemisphere stars - they are SO bright and spectacular - WOW! And there were two "clouds" of stars. Brent and I had read in "Death from the Skies" (cheers, Haysn) that the Milky Way is in the process of absorbing two smaller galaxies and we wondered if that was what we were seeing.

Day 3 was an easy 10km ride to Triabunna where we caught the ferry over to Maria Island and then did a couple of hikes to Fossil Cliffs and Painted Cliffs. We camped at the Darlington site, and then on Day 4 we rode from Darlington down to French's Farm and back, which was a pleasant 20km round trip on a dirt (sometimes sandy) road before catching the ferry back to Triabunna.

Day 5... the moment of truth. We're finally at the east coast highway and heading up towards Swansea. Swansea was supposed to be an easy 50km up the road, with much less elevation gain and loss than previous days. In spite of having mild food poisoning the night before, I hoped that we would be able to overshoot Swansea, camping someplace north, so that we'd be on target to make our kilometers and be in Devonport in plenty of time for our ferry on Thursday.

The hills were, overall, shorter and less steep than Black Charlie's Opening and Bust-Me-Gall but they weren't exactly easy, either. The highest single climb was only about 100m, but we gained and lost so many meters throughout the day that I would guess, overall, it was probably 1000m or so gained and lost. Brent took the bag with our food and cooking gear (my heaviest) and I took his bag with his sleeping bag and liner. To my surprise, beyond our highest climb of 100m, there were two more very big, challenging hills - the Rocky Hills - that I ended up pushing up (even though I'd done the first 100m climb).

What finally broke me, though, was the road. It is a narrow, winding, two-lane highway with absolutely NO shoulder. No shoulder. The side of the road mostly came to an abrupt end, with a 4" drop-off into... whatever... sometimes a soft clay slope, sometimes a steep ditch of rocks and plants. The road itself barely has room for two vehicles to safely pass each other in opposite direction - there's no room for bikes in the mix. There were a lot less big trucks than before, but they were still prevalent, and the vehicle, caravan, and towed-boat traffic was relentless. Many of the drivers were quite cautious about going around us, but there were plenty who weren't, and there were several times when traffic met from both directions that I felt we'd narrowly escaped. I struggled to stay on the road, as far off to the side as possible without falling off the side drop-off into... whatever. It was frustrating, disheartening, and treacherous.

About halfway to Swansea, I called it quits in my head. I told Brent, as a head's up, that I wanted to discuss contingency plans because I was having a miserable time. Fighting to stay on the road and avoiding the traffic afforded me no time to even look around and enjoy what I was supposed to be here enjoying (and, frankly, there wasn't much in the way of views for at least the first half, as we had constant hills between us and the coast). When we arrived in Swansea, it was still fairly early in the day, but we knew that the riding was done for the day - I was done.

We booked into the Swansea Backpackers, which is run by a very nice lady named Sharon, who is also an avid cyclist. She said that she doesn't know why they promote Tasmania's highways as cycle tour routes - she feels they're very treacherous and dangerous, and advised that if we continued, we would not find shoulders further up either. She mostly cycles off-road. She said that some of Australia's states have great shoulders and they're wonderful for touring. Apparently, though, Tasmania, and the Great Coast Road (the other thing I was looking most forward to) are not. She says the Great Coast Road is very dangerous as well, with no shoulders and steep cliffs to fall off of. We won't be cycling that when we get to Melbourne either - we'll look for some other bike paths or safer roads and maybe try to get a vehicle for driving the Great Coast Road and have a look.

For now, we're staying in Swansea for a couple days, then taking the bus back to Hobart for one night. Hobart has some great parks and pathways to explore. We'll then take the bus up to Devonport for a day and a half and hopefully find some more great places to explore and cycle before taking the ferry over to Melbourne where we'll meet up with Brent's nieces. It's great to have options (and a VERY patient partner).

Friday, March 4, 2011

The Queen of the Long Weekend Meets the King of the Long-Term Adventure

I have always been a fan of traveling light. Keeping it simple. I like to be able to carry all my crap by myself in one trip. Backpacking is great. Car-camping with a tent, also great. Car-camping in Jumbo - Brent’s old camper van - superb. As far as I can remember, I’ve always been this way. I remember even, as a child, watching my mom pack in and out all the crap to the motorhome that we needed to go on our family camping trips, knowing that most of the crap she was packing was for the sake of her two children, and I remember thinking, gee, that doesn’t make me want very badly to have children. Look at all that crap you have to pack around.

I’ve also been the queen of the long-weekend get-away. I don’t recall ever taking more than ten days off for a vacation. The idea of a longer vacation is romantically appealing, but on my own, I’ve never made it happen. I’ve preferred the shorter get-aways that fit easily into my life and schedule, without disrupting things too much. Five days in New Orleans... road trip to Seattle... a week in Arizona. Brent, of course, is the king of the long-term adventure which can be savoured… like taking a half a year off to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro and then ride his bicycle across the country with Doug Bird.

Tonight, Brent and I are leaving for Australia, taking our bicycles and our panniers full of all the crap we’ll need for an entire month. The cycle touring part itself – Brent, me, our bicycles, and our panniers full of all the crap – will be an awesome adventure. What is less enjoyable (for me) is packing all that crap to the airport, making sure it gets on the airplane, making sure it makes all of its connecting flights and makes it (hopefully in the same number of pieces it left in) to its (our) final destination. Thank goodness Brent has done most of the work. He broke down our bicycles and put them in cardboard bicycle boxes, including assessing and mitigating weaknesses in the packing. He figured out how to pack and get the panniers and other crap all the way to Hobart (Tasmania) – our first stop - including all the rules for the airlines. He researched the allowed dimensions for luggage, and we’ve packed all that crap into moving boxes which will be discarded on the far end, to be (hopefully) replaced with boxes that we will find in Sydney for packing all the crap back… including the bicycles.

This vacation is, indeed, a departure for the light-traveling queen of the long weekend. Wish me luck as I savour the adventure!