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Biking around Australia
Craig Update #3
(sent June 21st, 2002 from Brisbane, Queensland )

First of all, the travel website is online! But you gotta wade through this to find the link...:)

Hey all, I know I know, it's been awhile since you've heard from me. (nearly 1/4th of a year!...but that is only a day and a half on Mercury) No, I didn't get swallowed by some croc (I'm too far south), No, I didn't start mainlining Tim-Tam cookies and become an immobile mass. The fact of the matter is, it is getting kinda dark around 5:00pm and it is June. This cut down on the amount of free-non-biking time I've had. I'm finally getting some sort of a routine together. Get up around 4:30-6:00am, work on the somewhat closer to being done travel website and have coffee, then be on the road at 6-6:30am. The sun decides to wake up awhile later. I didn't want to send out an update until I had the travel site done. This way I'd start feeling guilty about not keeping in contact, thus forcing me to get the dang thing done. Oh, I'm still alive (hey, that sounds like it would make a good song)...so don't go thinking I've gone missing.

This trip has been a lot of fun and kind of a blur. Some events are so unique and special I wonder if they actually happened, and I have thought about them a lot since they occured. This is much like the time I came back from PSU late one night and discovered the two sexy neighbor girls and three of their cute friends all naked, taking Polariods of each other in the living room with the window shades up. Yes..this actually happened, my roommate at the time Matthew can confirm this. My friend Jeff can also confirm this since I called him the next week at 2am to tell him they were at it again, as per his request after the first incident took place. Too bad he went back to sleep rather than driving to 2026 SE Taylor St. Portland, OR USA. (if you are currently in the process of getting into your car or catching the next plane to Portland, OR...please note that this was 1998 and the girls have long since moved.)

So anyway, yay! After four months or travelling, I finished the travel site. I wrote a ton of code for the laptop so I can take pictures and get them up onto the travel and/or clock site really quickly now. Since I'm caught up with all these websites and such, I'm better about sending out emails to you all. When I was in Sydney, one of the things I did was write CAKE, which is the Mona Lisa of all offline email programs. This makes it really easy for me to write email/attach photos on my laptop and quickly send it out when I get to a net cafe via a floppy disk...since none of them let me plug the laptop directly into the Interent. (you'll have to find the picture on the website to learn what CAKE stands for)

Last time I only sent you a couple photos, now I'm sending you about 3,500 more than last time. (really!) The website mostly focuses on the photos. If a picture is worth 1,000 words, this saves me a lot of typing. On a related tangent...Maree in Bridport, Tasmania told me that she ran into one of the guys who worked on the small ferryboat I took to Flinders Island. She asked him if he had met me...he said he didn't know. Maree said, "he's kinda tall, probably wearing a Husker Du t-shirt and taking a lot of pictures of everything". The guy said, "oh, yeah, I remember him".

Anyway, about the website, if the day entries are not that long, it is probably because nothing really interesting happened that day. I've tried cutting out a lot of the "chaff writing" (boring details) and just focusing on the "wheat writing" (exciting events). Example:

Chaff writing:
I was getting a little hungry so I decided to get some food. It was 1:09 pm and I usually eat lunch around 11:31 am. I looked at the take away menu trying to figure out what I wanted. Granted I should know it by now, every take-away place in Australia has the exact same menu with the exact same food at the same exact prices. I decided to have a fish burger. I paid for it with a two dollar coin, two single dollar coins, and two twenty cent pieces. I handed the change to the person at the counter, they said "ta". I received my fish burger five minutes later and ate it. It had raw beets on it. I never have liked beets, but this time I really liked them. I threw the wrapper into the rubbish bin and wiped the grease from my hands onto my bike shorts.

Wheat writing:
I had stopped in the middle of this dirt driveway which led up to a lone house up on the cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. I heard the roar of thunder and the sky opened up. I frowned at the thought of having to ride though the night in the middle of a thunderstorm looking for a place to camp. Just then, a car turned off the road and onto the dirt driveway, nearly hitting me. I moved out of the way so the car could go through. The car stopped and the driver rolled down the window. Inside the car were three beautiful girls in their mid 20's. The girl driving the car looked at me. "Wow! Looks like you've gotten yourself into a dodgy situation." The driver said "Hey, school just finished and the girls and I rented this beachouse up the road...you can stay with us! The only problem is that there is only one large bed, but I think we can all squeeze onto the bed, just like that picture on that Fleetwood Mac album. Awhile later I was inside the beachouse. I walked into the bathroom and discovered that the bathtub was filled to the top with jello. Just then one of the girls started to

So anyway, you can see the difference between wheat and chaff writing. (One of those stories is actually true, I kid you not. The fish burger actually had beets on it.)

This website was made entirely on the road. I wish I would have had it set up before the trip, but maybe it was better this way. I got a bunch of crazy ideas and put them on the site...some you have to look for. The travel website is at:

http://www.lunky.com

If you are wondering what "lunky" is. That is what my Dad called me as a kid (and sometimes now)

I also finished all the missing timeslots on the humanclock site when I was in Sydney. I probably could have finished it a lot sooner had I bothered to carry a list of missing times around with me, but oh well. There is a link on the travel site so you can just see the clock photos I've taken.

Though it took me two freakin' months and an extended lesson from Katrina in Melbourne, I can finally pronounce "Aluminum" and sound like everyone else down here. Altogether now:

AL-YOU-MIN-EE-YUM

You can call if 'al-foil' for short.

Riding is going pretty well. I've had time to actually LISTEN to some of the albums that I bought 6 years (no 7, wait, 9 years ago...damn) when I was working at the record store in Belingham. Some times I have to do stuff to keep my head from turning to mush. Long after thinking up funny stuff for the clock and trael sites and every problem in life is solved and my CD player batteries are dead (yes Teresa..there are three "ands", I don't wanna take the time to fix the last sentence), I have to start doing really odd things just to keep my motivation level up. One fun game is to take a 5 digit number and subtract some random number from it, do this until you reach zero. (only had to resort to playing this once fortunately). I met a guy who said he rode through the red center of Australia in a bus with a bingo card. It took him two solid days of looking out the window to fill up that bingo card, using the last two digits of the license plate from every car driving past.

Hmm, what else. I'm writing this sitting in a trailer park which is a stones throw from the Interstate, and there is a brightly lit up Subaru dealership across the highway. There are these two guys walking around outside the fence, looks like they are wanting to buy drugs and getting tired of waitin' for the man. "$26 in my hand..." (or $46.53 Australian dollars based on the current exchange rate). Oh, the two dealer kids just came...so all is well in the Coachstop Caravan park here in Maitland, New South Wales. And you thought Australia was just desert and cute kangaroos! I liked my campspot better last night. It was in the middle of a national park and it was quiet. The only downside was that I forgot to get gas to cook with. Whereas Neil Young burned his credit card for fuel, I had to resort to cooking my dinner with pages from a Lonely Planet guidebook. (which was a better use for the paper in some cases).

Carrying all this technical stuff is kind of cool and kinda sucks at the same time. On one had it is nice being able to take a zillion photos and put them up so you all can see, but it also sometimes makes me feel like mission control for NASA when things wrong. I woke up one morning and my GPS decided to clear itself and all of my mileage data. Carrying the computer, gps, camera, and 110 volts worth of batteries (really!) pretty much doubles the weight of my bike. (go look at the website now and stop laughing at me!)

(it is now awhile later as I write this...no longer at the crappy trailer park)
Here is kindofa rundown of a summary of what has been going on the last three months:

The last update I sent out was from Hobart, which is down near the bottom of Tasmania. After that I worked my way up the west coast of Tasmania. The mountains on the west coast of Tasmania are nice, but they still don't really compare to the Cascades in the Pacific Northwest. I crossed this saddle (King William) and when I rounded a corner a whole gorge opened up with a deep valley, I said "home!" There was also a mountain there called Mt. Arrowsmith. Much like the band of similar name, it didn't do much for me. (Let's also ignore the fact that I gave a speech in High School on said-described-band 11 years ago...) (Let's also ignore the fact that four years after the said-described-speech, my sister Teresa had the same teacher. When it came speech time for them he said, "Please keep it under 15 minutes, HER! (pointing to Teresa) brother broke the all time length for a speech and thus that is why this rule was created". My sister became totally embarassed and faked scurvy so she didn't have to go to school anymore.)

Another thing to know about Tasmania, there is this national park called Cradle Mountain and it lives in the northwest region of the state. Cradle Mountain is basically the Mao Tse Tung of Tasmania. You cannot go anywhere in Tasmania without seeing a picture of Dove Lake with Cradle Mountain in the background. You walk into a bathroom, and Cradle Mountain is on the wall (laminated and hung with push pins). You walk into your dorm room on the Spirit of Tasmania ferry and there is Cradle Mountain again on the wall. (this time in a beautiful metallic gold frame offset with a brown oval-cut mat). I'm suprised nobody is getting possessed and creating giant Cradle Mountain clay sculptures in their living room and waiting to be picked up by aliens. Anyway, I spent an entire day climbing up up and up. I made a side trip to Cradle Mountain and Dove Lake just to make sure I wasn't missing anything. The afformentioned Lonely Planet guidebook said it was "imperative" I go there and would be reported to the tourist police if I didn't. Sure enough, it was kind of as I thought, a pretty lake with a cliff in the backgroud on one side, and a giant parking lot with hordes of people on the other side. I took both non-cynical (mountain,lake) and cynical (mountain, lake, people, cars, parking lot, signs) pictures of the area. I got back to Devonport and that completed my circling of Tasmania. I spent a few more days in Tasmania waiting for the ferry and generating rumors (which a little bird caught wind of and took the Concorde to Portland with). (which all I'll say on the matter is that she is a nice girl, but can't pronounce "dollar" correctly. dole-ah)

Got back to Melbourne around April 12th, kind of hard to believe I had been gone for two months. I biked around like I actually knew the place. I had left a big duffel bag of stuff/crap at the hostel and I went to pick it up. The duffel bag made things interesting by the time I had it strapped on top of the mailing box, which was strapped to my messenger bag, which was strapped to the top of my rear rack. My bike kind of looked like the jalopy from the Grapes of Wrath, heck...it was nearly the same size. I rode the jalopy across Melbourne to the home of Steve (hi!) and Katrina (hi!). I met Steve through the Humanclock site. They fed me yummy food and I had vegemite toast with coffee every morning. I don't know what left a worse impression on Steve, either me making a disaster area of the guest room with my junk, or for the fact that I put peanut butter and vegemite on the same piece of toast and called it edible.

From there I started working my way east on a Sunday morning. By Monday afternoon I was finally out of the Melbourne-related sprawling generica. The next few days were pretty normal and uneventful. I turned north around Bairnsdale in the SE corner of Australia. From there it was up-down-up-down all the way to Canberra. The hills wear me down mentally more than physically. It is can be really hard to maintain a jovial mood when you've spent the last 3 hours in first gear at 4 miles an hour. Maybe I didn't need to bring 110 volts worth of batteries with me after all. It was still a "good tired" feeling at the end of every day though.

One of the highlights of the trip so far was going up Mt. Koziosko on April 29th. Mt. Koziosko is the highest point in Australia and therefore one of the seven summits. (highest point on each continent). I biked about 25 miles that morning into the overpriced ski town of Jinjabyne. I left most of my stuff at the hostel and figured I spend the rest of the day and bike up to Koziosko. Altough the bike was mostly unloaded, it was still pretty tiring biking the 30 miles up 4000 feet of to the parking lot a few miles from the top of the mountain. I reached the parking lot around 3pm. The road to the top of the mountain was closed in the 70's, but the sign said it was about 12 miles round trip. I got pretty bummed because this was a few more miles than what it looked like on the map, so it would be dark by the time I'd get to the top. I had biked all that way only to have to turn around. I ate a late lunch in the parking lot and went and looked at the sign again, then realized bikes were allowed on the trail nearly to the top. I did the math in my head and got excited and decided to just go for it, knowing I'd make it to the top before sunset if I rode pretty hard, but I'd still have to bike the 30 miles back to the hostel in the dark. I took off up the road. An older guy walked past me and stopped and said something like "you're going to try and bike up there?". I didn't have time to stop and talk so I just yelled "or as far as I can get!" A couple who had just walked off the cover of last year's LL Bean catalog looked at me funny and the girl said "good luck" in a snooty tone. I smiled and chuckled at the fact that they probably bought their big puffy jackets because they were very expensive, rather than the fact that they were designed for someone living on Pluto. I made it to the top and got some excellent photos. (on the site on April 29th). I ended up riding down from the top all the way back to Jindabyne. It was also one of the best night rides I've ever had. I wasn't really worried about riding in the dark due to traffic, since there wasn't hardly any. I was more worried about hitting a kangaroo or wombat as I rode downhill. I kept the speed down and proceeded to sing every song by the Ramones I knew in order to scare away any animals. Evidently it worked, because a large wombat ran out onto the road and promptly turned around after he/she heard me singing about guys standing on the corner of 53rd and 3rd trying to turn a trick and never getting picked. (which on a side note, I heard that Dee Dee Ramone died awhile back, bummer)

I biked on through the capital of Australia, Canberra. It was starting to get cold at night since I'd wake up and there would be frost on my bike. I crawled through the mountains to Richmond, which is about 30 miles out of Sydney. I took the train into Sydney (and back out to the exact same spot I got on...so I wouldn't be skipping anything.) I didn't really want to have to spend two days biking rough suburbs with wild traffic. I was going to spend a couple days in Sydney but it ended up being two and a half weeks. The main two reasons was that net access was dirt cheap and I could get all my loose ends tied up with the clock,travel, etc website...and that Radio Birdman was playing a reunion show.

I met up with Jeff Axup from PSU who is now living in Sydney and stayed with him for a couple of nights (thanks again!). The rest of the time I spent at the Glebe Village Backpackers place a few miles from downtown Sydney. It was good staying there. There was breakfast of toast and coffee every morning and it was nice to socialize with people. Several people were staying there awhile so everyone kind of got to know each other. (and 97.93% of them are on the clock site now also). I spent several 14 hour days at the net cafe coding like a madman, only stopping to tinkle. One of the problems I was running into was taking clock pictures of people and it being a real pain in the butt to put them into the site. I have this all automated now so I can put them in really fast from anywhere. I also finished the travel site and got it all pretty looking. It was a very productive few days. It was pretty fun to sit in all the different cafes and bang out code with yummy desserts and food around. I got all the computer loose ends tied up and then found out that if I hung around a few more days, I could see Radio Birdman play one of six reunion shows they are doing in Australia. By luck the box office had nine tickets left when I checked, even though the show was sold out. Radio Birdman is this Australian garage-punk-pop band from the 70's. They broke up in the late 70's and went their separate ways. You couldn't get their albums in the US (at least without having to pay 40 dollars each). Last year Sub Pop released an essential Radio Birdman CD in the US. Every coffee shop or record store I would go into would be playing this CD. I've gotten pretty attached to their stuff. They have a line in a song about it being "40 below in Mid-December". I didn't think about it since it does get really cold in Decemeber. Then one day out riding I realized that in Australia, December is the middle of summer, thus it is really hot. So "40 below in Mid-December" is some sort of songwriter metaphory-thingy. I have more about the show on the travel site, but in short...when they came out on stage they looked so...old! Every picture I had seen of them was from the 70s when they looked very punk and soldiered. They still played a great show. One of their songs starts out the sounds of the ocean, then the singer says "hit it Steve!" and the guitarist tears into this guitar riff and the whole band soon follows him. Well, I started hearing the ocean sounds and when it got to the part for the guitar, I the whole entire crowd screamed "HIT IT STEVE!" Just that one little unexpected momement made the show for me. I even got the setlist after the show.

I escaped the clutches of Sydney around the end of May. I worked my way up the coast and mountains. Spent a nice three days in this town named Bellingen. I saw photos on the wall of the hostel of the guy that the movie "Shine" was based on...since he lives there. It was one of those places you get and you want to spend a few days. Had a couple days of riding in the rain. Stayed at a nice hostel in the woods in the middle of nowhere. It used to be a small schoolhouse around the turn of the century (the 19th-20th one) and it was now a hostel. I had it all to myself in the middle of a rainstorm...it was pretty nice. Byron Bay was nice, but very catered to the 18-30 year old travellers. At least there was a wide variety of food there.

I'm up in Brisbane right now. This morning I went and visited the high school which had painted a clock face on the side of their school for my humanclock website. I met Nick (hi Nick!) the art instructor who organized it and we talked awhile. It was pretty cool to see it up close. I had Nick take a 4:00 photo of myself in front of it. (it's on the lunky.com site under June 18th). I'm going to stay here a few days and then start heading north. I'm excited to get up into the tropics and later the desert. So far a lot of the terrain has been like the US and Canada. I'm starting to see many banana trees and sugarcane...so things are changing. Pretty soon I'm going to be wishing to see green farmlands again.


I can tell I've been gone from the US for awhile, I watched Almost Famous recently. At the end of the movie when the tour bus is driving down the desert highway in the US, my first thought was "woah, the bus is on the wrong side of the road!" I rode on the right hand side of the road for fun the other day and it seemed really weird. Parking the bike is still a problem. I still get off my bike on the left side (as I have been for the past 22 years), then have to do this pathetic shuffle around the back of the bike while holding onto the handlebars, then lean the bike up against something. Sometimes when parking and doing the shuffle my hands slip and the front wheel turns...then the whole works comes crashing down and colorful words enter my head (and leave via mouth if the cooast is clear).

I gotta wrap this up. The trip is going good. I'm glad to have all my loose ends tied up (no web projects or doing loose end stuff like my income tax from last year). I'm going to try and update the travel site every week or two and send out an update then. I create an entry every night, but uploading the whole works is a little iffy as to where and when I can do it. Hope all is well back home!

Ok, I can't end this just yet, the wierdest thing just happened after I finshed writing the text above. I was sitting in the little mall area getting ready to leave when this guy came up and started talking to me. His breath smell of booze and he was pretty unshaven. He seemed to be a little mentally unstable and just needed someone to talk to. Every time I would start to think he was a bit of a "nutter" (as they say down here), he would say something really profound about life. It ended up being a pretty much one sided conversation. He kept apologizing for talking to me for so long, hoping it wouldn't ruin my trip. 30 minutes later he still kept talking to me and standing closer to me to the point where I was feeling a little stressed. I started to push my bike towards the street and he said he'd walk with me up to the street. We got out there and said goodbye. I would turn to pedal off and he would yell "oh, wait!" and then give me another quick piece of advice. This happened about three or four times. Just then a huge fire engine came by with all of its lights on and sirens blaring. It was having a hard time getting through traffic so it was moving pretty slow. The engine was so loud I could hardly think, and its red and blue lights were lighting up the whole part of the dark street. I heard a "CRAIG!" off in the distance. I looked back and it was this guy running back towards me...bumping into shoppers the whole way. By this point the noisy fire engine is right next to me stuck in traffic on one side, and this guy Raymond is about two feet from me on my other side. The bright lights from the fire engine were lighting up Raymond's bearded face. I motioned for him to hold off saying anything until the fire truck went past since I could barely hear anything else due to the sirens. Raymond ignored my hand motions and screamed: "CRAIG! DON'T EVER, EVER!, BE AFRAID!" He turned and ran off. It was one of the few times where I've actually felt like I was in a movie.


Anyway...take care!
Craig

p.s. Congrats to Phoebe and Greg...first came love, then came marriage, then came a ride in a horse drawn carriage playing albums by the Zeroes.




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© 2002-2003 Daniel Craig Giffen

Daniel Craig Giffen
© 1973-2017 Larry and JoAnne Giffen






















since yer down here, remember that math is fun!...
990688 + 13853 = 1004541