Emails to Back Home
Every few months or so I would send out big long emails to people on my mailing list. You can read all ten of them below.
February 3rd, 2002 from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
I'm in Malasyia right now at some posh hotel. The airline puts you up here when your layover is over 8 hours. Very warm, I'm in shorts. I broke my all time awake record, 41 hours. Leaving for Melbourne in about 4 hours. Things are giong pretty good. Couldn't get everything into my bike box due to weight reasons, so I had to put a few things into this lame white box. Got sick of that box and stuffed everything into this stuff sack I had. Better to walk through airports looking homeless than to walk through one with a strange white box.
I gotta get scooting, talk to you all tomorrow.
February 9th, 2002 from Melbourne, Victoria
I finally made it to Melbourne and am just now getting caught up with things. I actually haven't spent a lot of time in the net cafes (really!), so only a few of you have heard from me. I was going to hold off sending out a big email until I had my journal/pictures website running, but it looks like that is going to take longer than I planned...so I figured I'd better email all of you before you thought I dropped off the earth or something. I woke up this morning and realized I've been here almost a week. Time flies here also.
You will probably have to read the website when I get that going for more juicy details, but for now I'll give a quick summary. I arrived in Melbourne and it was a little colder and cloudy...just like Portland! I made it through immigration and customs ok, found an empty corner of the airport and put my bike together. It took a few hours to get the bike together since one of my shifters decided to break and I had to put on my new chain and whatnot. The ride from the airport to downtown Melbourne was complete hell. I pretty much took any road without traffic that headed south. People don't really "drive" here, they just turn push the gas pedal all the way down and turn the steering wheel at random intervals and somehow they make it to their destination. Needless to say, I spent a lot of time riding on sidewalks like I was a little kid again. One I got out of suburbia, it wasn't so bad.
Melbourne is kind of an interesting place. I'm staying at a pretty nice guest house in the St. Kilda area of Melbourne. The neighborhood is both upscale and seedy at the same time. Little old ladies carry their groceries down the same street hookers use. I swear that Grey Street looks a lot like the deck of an aircraft carrier in Top Gun, rather than F-14s...it is a constant barrage of beat up cars swooping in to pick up/drop off the women. People also seem a little less reservered also. Just today I was riding down the bikepath near the beach and passed a couple looking like they were trying out for a Jerry Springer guest spot or something. Nobody even turned their heads. Or the mom that was helping her child pee in the bushes. The other night I went out and had a beer with some people from the hostel, walking back up the street there was a couple going at it in a car right near the bar. Guess they couldn't wait to get home.
They have good coffee here, just not in large portions. People here actually sit and enjoy an 8 oz cup of coffee, then go about their day. Quite a contrast from my usual 24 oz of coffee that I carry around with me for hours on end. Maybe it is a sign that I need to drink less coffee.
For those of you wondering about the time difference. From Portland, I am 18 hours ahead. Easiest way to figure this is that I'm 5 hours back and a day ahead. This also means that I can see the future since I'm 18 hours ahead of you all. (e.g. Kevin will be riding his bike up Division St. in a few hours, and he will nearly hit a parked car when he turns to look at a girl walking down the street)
I've been doing a lot of exploring around the city and going out with people from the guest house. Went to the beach the other day (yes mom, I wore sunscreen). It was a nice break from the cloudy weather. There are a lot of cool people here at the house. Mostly Canadians and English. A guy in my room is from Liverpool and we've talked a lot. He said he used to be in a metal band called "Mortis", but then one day metal just dropped off the radar in England, so they changed into an indie-rock band instead. He said that he's only been to the states once, and he discovered that Liverpool wasn't the roughest/most dangerous place on Earth as he thought...it was Detroit!
Went out last night to this bar/venue that is so big, 3 bands play at the same time. Downstairs was a band doing 70's classic rock covers, playing to a bunch of people in their 40's and 50's. Upstairs was some band of 18-year olds playing music to a younger crowd, and in another room, playing their final show after 8 years together, were the Fuck Fucks. They kind of played a bunch of novelty songs and the crowd was a diverse mix of people. The band was all dressed up in drag and the lead singer was naked. Hmm, don't see that in Portland.
I'm going to Tasmania on Wednesday. (everyone here calls it Tas or Tazzy...havne't heard one person call it by its full name). It is a 15 hour ferry ride, you sleep in either a dorm room or regular room and they feed you dinner. The Bass Strait (between Tasmania and Australia) is supposed to be one of the roughest bit of seas in the world. I'm anxious to get out of the city. Melbourne has kind of been a continuation of Portland in that it is still a city and I'm still running around town getting crap for my bike trip. Almost done though....
Hopefully soon I'll be able to have the website up and running so you can see some photos. I can't find anyplace to plug my laptop directly into the net, so I have to write something tha works on my laptop that I can move over on a floppy disk (what a pain).
The only photo I have online right now is the one on the front page of the clock site. About 3 weeks ago a couple guys, Steve and Ross, wrote me from Melbourne asking me to swing by their office and get a clock picture of them and go get a beer later. A few days ago I went downtown and found their office. They were pretty happy to see me and really excited when they saw that I had the actual cardboard clock that is in a lot of the clock photos. We took a couple pictures outside and then Steve invited me to a friends house who was having a dinner party. It was a good dinner and I met a lot of people there. Steve and his girlfriend are pretty cool, we talked a lot about music and bands we had seen. Steve is a little older than me so it was interesting to see an Australian perspective of being into music. I rode back to St. Kilda along the beach bikepath in the warm rain, listening to Jane's Addiction version of "Nausea"..banging out the riff on my handlebars. By far one of the best bike rides I've had in a long time.
I gotta get to getting, hopefully by the end of next week or so I'll have the website up and running with pictures. There are only a few places to get on the net in Tasmania, but you'll hear from me at some point. Once I have the website going and my email announcement thingy running, you'll get updates from me on a more regular basis.
March 30th, 2002 from Hobart, Tasmania
Those of you I missed the first time around for update #1...sorry. I'm slowly but surely getting the state.or.us -> .au (Oregon to Australia) trasition done. I've had everyone's email addresses scatter amongst two email accounts, napkins, scraps of paper, and so on...so some of you got missed (or are still being missed and just don't know it yet). Please let me know if you hear of someone that I missed.
First off, a couple quick pictures:
- Me at the bottom of Tasmania: (with the very southern tip in the background)
- Gladstone, Tasmania
(my best business-speak)
I saw this and thought maybe the town was trying to micro-manage its resources and save money by combining municipal services of similar nature:
I decided I wanted to try and get to the very bottom tip of Tasmania. Of course there had to be a couple delays along the way. I left from Hobart and camped out that night. The whole ride on the southern penninsula is very nice. Not a lot of traffic and many produce stands on the side of the road where you just throw your money into a jar. I camped that night in a picnic shelter near the roadside. It looked like it was going to storm, so sleeping on a picnic table under a shelter seemed a whole lot drier than my tent. Sure enough, tons of lightning and thunder came about. It was kinda cool sitting under that shelter with the huge storm out there and knowing I wasn't stuck in it.
I got up the early the next day so I could get all the way to the end of the road, where the 4 mile trail to the South Cape starts from. It was a pretty hot day and I stopped around 1pm for a quick drink of water. A guy was working on an addition to his house nearby. He saw me and walked over and we started talking. I asked him if I could get some extra water from him just to be on the safe side. He said sure and I went into his yard. We talked for awhile and eventually his wife came home. We talked some more and a guy from across the road came over with a full beer and said that it was "that time." They invited me to their garden for some homemade cider. Well, to show you how hard it is to stay on any kind of schedule down here....six hours later I found myself drunk and throwing a stick to their very overweight dog named Ted. They told me I could just stay over and have dinner and leave in the morning, so I did that. The next day I reached Lune River, which is pretty much where the southern pavement ends in Australia. My rear tire went flat...so I fixed it. I rode a little while longer (nearly 10 seconds), and it went flat again, then I realized that the sidewall was blown out of the tire. I put on my emergency (and skinnier) tire, which wasn't really suitable for a rough road. To make a long story short, I broke my all time record with SIX flat tires in one day. Sometime after I just finished fixing flat #5 and talking out loud to the bike "you'd better behave you little stinker" (well, close to that), a hippie couple walked right beside me and caught me talking to the bike. He didn't laugh at me for talking to the bike, he just looked a little jealous thinking I was on better drugs than he was.
The southern tip of Tasmania was really stormy, I could see why so many ships crashed there. The waves were some of the scariest I've seen. I wanted to go to the very southern tip of Tasmania (you can see it in the background of the photo), but that whole area is covered with very thick brush about neck high. Reaching the very southern point would require an IMAX film crew and John Krackenhouer to write the sordid details of your 1 mile trek.
The next day I was in a strong headwind and decided to stop about 50k south of Hobart, rather than pushing on into dark. I stayed at this stinky hostel that a lot of fruit pickers stayed at. I think it used to be a smoky insurance office in its glory days. The guy that ran it asked me what kind of work I did and whatnot. Turns out he was having problems with some horse racing program he had and needed the code tweaked but didn't know how. I spent about 30 minutes with it and got it to do what he wanted...he said the room was on him. He was pretty excited about the changes...since it would save him about 2 hours a week. It is kind of funny how everything kind of works out like that.
I'm like so way a lot closer to having my travel website up and running. I've had to spend entire days coding to get it so I can easily update it from anywhere. I thought I'd be able to just plug in my laptop and blast everything up to the site...but that hasn't happened....so I'm having to set up this whole complicated system instead. When everything is done though, it will be really easy for me to create "day entries" on the site and upload them. That said, I hope to have the website up and going pretty soon (shh, I know I said that last time also). It will be pretty cool when it is done and have about 1300 photos for you to look at when you should be working instead.
I'm finally starting to get settled into things here. Tossing out the crap I don't need, buying more crap I do need, figuring out the best place to store stuff so I don't have to spend 30 minutes looking for it every time. Haven't really lost any weight. They have these good cookies down here called Tim Tams. They call them biscuits down here too. Crackers seem to be called biscuits also. I don't know what they call biscuits. I've already started using new synonyms without knowing it. You hang around with the UK people too long (hi rob!) and you preface things with "bloody" without thinking about it. College is "uni". A wrench is a spanner. Sex is a root. A truck is a ute. (this took me a long time to get), and I've started calling any of my possessions that are causing me problems (broken zipper, disk I/O error, etc.) a "dodgy bastard". Oh, and down here, never name your kid Randy.
Damn possums are screwing with my tent right now.
People down here are into politics just like they are in the US, except they have all their own problems to deal with, I haven't heard much about internal US problems down here except for Enron and the White house. A lot of people have said that I've been the first American they've met since September 11th. Most just wanted to know about how things were in the States nowdays.
The ride across on the Spirit of Tasmania ferry was pretty calm, the same can't be said for the people at the dinner buffet. When you book a trip on the ferry, you get a place to stay (hostel room with 40 other snoring people if you go the cheap route), a buffet dinner and a buffet breakfast. I talked to a guy a few days later who came across on the same ferry and he told me he had his heart set on this rasberry cheesecake. When he went to get a slice, a woman cut in front of him and shoveled the last 4 slices of the cheesecake onto her plate. He said that was the first time he thought about starting a fight with a woman. There is another (much smaller) boat called the Devil Cat that takes only 6 hours to cross. I met this guy who came across on it. He said they don't run the boat when the swells are above 4 meters high (12 feet or so for you non base 10 measurement system people). When he came across they were at 3.9 meters. He said just about everyone on the boat was losing their last breakfast,lunch, and dinner for the past month. Blech.
It is taking me ahwile to get used to biking a lot shorter distances. My biggest day was about 60 miles. There is so much to see here that it doesn't feel right to spend all day biking and blowing past everything. I decided I wanted to go up to Flinders Island so I could get pictures of a confluence that had not been done yet. (check it out, http://www.confluence.org, click on Australia->Tasmania, then in the intersection in the upper right corner on the island). I'm glad that got me up there, because I had a great time on Flinders Island. You'll have to wait for the website for all the stories there, but it is a small island of about 1000 people. Everyone is so nice. A guy I met there Wayne (who was on the front of the humanclock site holding a jar of Vegemite) said that when you drive everyone will wave to you...figuring that even if they don't know you, they will probably know you in another week or two.
I'm leaving Hobart in a day or two, then going to wind my way up the west coast back to Devonport, then back to Melbourne. From Melbourne I'll be able to send up all 70 megs of travel and clock photos I've piled up and get the travel website online.
Oh yeah, I found out that they did a piece on the clock site on BBC radio, got a ton of bloody email after that one. Speaking of which, check out the front page of the clock site, I ran into a survey crew on this backround in way southern Tasmania. I also have a good one of Wayne & Lisa's baby wombat Lana that will be up there shortly.
I'll leave you with a few things I've noticed lately:
- The trolleys (shopping carts) down here are different than in the US. They have four free-floating casters instead of two. They are a major pain to try and push in a given direction. It is rather amusing to each lunch outside a grocery store and watch people try and push their carts over an inclined parking lot to their cars. They all have to get on the downhill side of the cart and do this sideways shuffle. So if you want to make some money, get a bunch of carts and send them down here.
- saw a bumper sticker that read "Watch my ass, not hers"
- A guy on the Ferry to Tasmania said that there are basically two beers in Tasmania. Boags and Cascade. Boags is brewed in Launceston, and Cascade is brewed in Hobart. People have a strong loyality to their hometown beer. I found this to be true in that you can easily tell if you are closer to Launceston or Hobart simply by observing the roadside litter. I saw empty cans of Boags until I was about 150km from Hobart, to which I started seeing nothing but littered cans of Cascade.
- I was having coffee at a cafe in Devonport and this guy saw that I was bike touring. He told me all about Tasmania and how he was leading a nature hike for a group of people later that night. I hadn't eaten all morning and was feeling dizzy, so I was half listening to him as I was shoveling food into my mouth. He eventually said that he didn't have to lead the nature hike till 7:00pm, so he was going to go home and watch a couple of pornos and relax beforehand. Boy...I gotta get to Launceston before dark...see ya!
- I'm told that Australians shorten a lot of their words, such as "Uni" is short for University...our equivelant of College. The only word that isn't shortened and is probably the longest in the Australian vocabulary is Corrugated Iron. Speaking of which....
- Being sarcastic here, but this is worth pointing out. Most of the roofs here are corrugated metal. Rain gutters are attached to the roof and the downspouts run into a large tank. Guess what they do with the water?..they drink it! Even more remarkable is that they tend to keep on living afterwards. If you did this in the US you would be drinking water plus a zillion other chemicals such as polyunsaturatedtetramonofemaleinXisnamedExene.
- Girls, if you want to refer to any of your ex-boyfriends as being a moron, you can call them a "nob". (doesn't apply to guys named Mike or Craig or Peter or Kevin or Chris or Jeff)
- I get the impression down here that many of the male farmers would gladly change their son's name to "Lumpy Buttcheeks" if they could get their hands on a F-350 truck. I've heard from a couple different people that they can only get the Ford F-150 truck, which is pretty wimpy by US standards...something that a white collar farmer would drive.
- They charge for Tomato Sauce (ketchup, catsup) down here. If you are from Australia and reading this, you can open up any refrigerator in the United States and in the door you will find these little packets of tomato sauce dating back to 1979. Take-away shops in the States give you 10 times the amount you can use.
- (this was really random) Out in the the boonies north of Launceston, I stopped to ask a guy walking his dog where the camping ground was....and ended up having a 20 minute dicussion on how he wrote an assembler for a DEC PDP-11 mainframe way back when.
- I've gotten more mileage (or is that kilometerage) out of Chuck Barnes' guy-in-the-bigfoot-costume-scaring-kids-on-a-nature-walk-and-the-kids-yell-"get him!" story than you can shake a stick at.
- I know some of you were worried, especially Bollino, but I can still have chips and salsa down here, but it is a bit more ghetto. Chips are usually Doritos and the salsa is Frito Lay, but at least I can still get my "thinking food".
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:
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.
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:
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:
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.
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.
September 8th, 2003 from Katherine, Northen Territory
For those of you short on time, this email contains no stories about encounters with naked women, three legitimite contextual uses of the "f-word", and a crazy story about me working in a roadhouse, so read on...
The website is now nearly up to date again. Since I don't have decent net access anymore due to leaving the East Coast, I now have to package up my outgoing email and website updates into a file and burn them to CD, then mail the disc to Steve in Melbourne (everyone thank Steve!), then Steve uploads it to the server and the server does the rest. (this is what I set up during those 14 hour days when I was in Sydney). The travel site is still at:
Oh yeah, I'm going to extend the Vegemite Sandwich contest on the humanclock.com site. I didn't mention that last time, but I'm running a photo contest on the humanclock.com site, 1st prize is a Vegemite sandwich.
Well, now it has only been about 2.5 months since you all last heard from me, quite an improvement from the three month span between updates #2 and #3. In Katherine, Northern Territory right now and have biked about 6,000 miles since I started. For the last three weeks I've been in the middle of nowhere basically working my way across the top part of Australia, right under the Gulf of Carpentaria. The Gulf is basically that big inlet that sticks into the top of Australia. The road is pretty lonely, only a few tiny towns and a handful of roadhouses. About 500 miles of the road was dirt, some of it very rough at times...I even had to get off the bike and push for awhile. I went from seeing 15 cars a minute on the East coast to about 15 cars a day. These last three weeks have been a good experince though, ran out of food a couple times, the rough road rattled the bike apart, got really dirty, and drank beer with the Aboriginals sitting on the hood of their car in the middle of nowhere. Most of the Aboriginals started knowing me and I'd hear a "Craig!" as they'd go driving by.
Since the last update I biked all the way up the East Coast to Cooktown, which is pretty far up the Cape York Penninsula. From there I started making my way west, leaving the East Coast behind. I'm kind of glad to be leaving the east coast since I was getting a bit burnt out on it. The East Coast of Australia is pretty much where most of the population is. The East Coast has a lot of cool things to see, but it also has tons of suburbs, K-Marts, McDonalds, etc. Some places I really liked, such as Bellingen. Other places, such as the Gold Coast, could be described as Henry Rollins once wrote, "where the people look like they all took the Pepsi Challenge seriously." Anyways, I'm glad to report that the outback part of Australia is exactly how I pictured it to be. Days riding a lonely highway in the bush, maybe coming to a roadhouse or small town once every day or two, nights camping off the road in the bush under the stars. It has taken me a little while to get used to the changes in the maps out here. On the east coast, if the town name was in boldface, it meant it the town was of decent size and you could get just about anything you need there. Out here, if the town/area is in boldface, it means you can get at least gas and a beer. I now have about 10,000 flies riding along with me now also. I bought a headnet in Normanton, best $4.71 I ever spent. The flies crawl everywhere, sometimes I can be riding along and watch them walk over the rim of my sunglasses even.
On a side note, despite the vast amount of food I've been eating, I'm in pretty good shape and could probably leave Kevin in the dust for the first time in my life. heh.
So much good stuff and bad stuff has happened that I can't really cram it all into one place (i.e. in this email)...so you are going to have to poke around the website a little. Been meeting a lot of good people that have invited me to stay with them. Met a guy named Duncan on the bike touring list and stayed with him and Alison and Claude (their kitty) for a weekend, we ate great Thai food...three times even. (Thanks again you two!). Stayed with Simona in Brisbane (hi!), she showed me around Brisbane...although I spent a lot of time on her Veranda...my favorite veranda in Australia I think, At Val and Mike's in Bowen (hi!) we watched the first episode of the Osbournes to see what all the fuss was about, plus Val told me about the time she went to use the toilet and there was a 10 foot python in it. Thanks again to Peter in Cairns who let me do fun things like sleep in his guest room for a week, play in his pool, drink his beer, and break his drill bits.
People down here know a lot about the US. A lot more than I thought at least. I've had conversations with people down here that I never expected. I feel like I could be in the middle of nowhere and ask the first person I see what room the outdoor books are in at Powells bookstore in Portland, OR, USA are and they would say "red". I was at a roadhouse in the middle of nowhere the other day and a guy told me he had a friend in Grant's Pass, Oregon.
- I'm a certified open water scuba diver now. Went diving out on the reef and took a bunch of pictures. I gotta keep this email a little short so it doesn't turn into a book, but it is on the website between August 4th and August 9th. It was a lot of fun and a big highlight of the trip so far.
- one of the best things that has happened is the Palmer River Roadhouse. It is located on the inland highway on the way to Cooktown, in way NE Australia. I was out riding the highway and had gone about 60mi / 100k or so. It was 5pm and I was probably going to stop soon and camp in the bush. A car pulls up next to me while I'm riding and one of the guys says: "Hey, if ya make it up to the Palmer River Roadhouse tonight we'll have a beer waiting for ya". I asked how far it was and they said about 40mi /76k or so. I did some math in my head and said "hmmm, ok, I'll be there by 8:00pm". I got a huge burst of energy and really put the hammer down and pedaled like a madman. They didn't tell me about the two significan hills I had to climb on the way to the roadhouse, so that slowed me down a bit. It was great riding in the middle of the night on this lonely highway. Sometimes though I'd be riding with my headlamp and see a pair of blue eyes right in front of me. I'd slam on the brakes and hear a cow go running off. (this is unfenced grazing land). After doing 165k (about 100 miles) I rolled into the Roadhouse around 8:30pm. Had it not been for the hill I probably would have made it there on time. The two guys, Keith and Kevin were in the process of buying the roadhouse from this guy named Louie. Louie had built the place himself and ran it for the last 24 years. Kevin told me that they were having this big party on Saturday night and I should stick around. About 150 of the locals from the surrounding area were coming. Considering this was the middle of nowhere, that is saying a lot.
Keith told me he had a computer he needed to get set up. I drank some beer with them and excusing myself to the bar floor where I had laid out my thermarest...I had biked a good distance and was a bit tired. I ended up deciding to stay and for the next couple of days, helped them out with the computer and unpacking things. They started calling me septic or Monica due to my American-ness. Next thing I knew I was in the kitchen cranking out food for everyone. I hadn't worked in a restaurant kitchen since 1993 when I had an Unbridled Desire to Create Happy Guests at the Red Robin. It was amazing how fast a lot of it came back....I was going 100 miles an hour (well, 62.23 km/hr...this is Australia) around the kitchen. At one point Kevin found me and asked if I could make 10 teas for them. I got all the teapots and stuff ready, then asked him how he wanted them served. He said "no...T's...T-bone steaks! What do you call them in the States?" "Steaks", I replied. Ended up being hamburgers and I cranked everything out myself. After everyone was done they all thanked me and said "pretty good for a yank!". The next night was the party. I could go on and on but needless to say, it was a lot of fun. When we were filling the ice chest with 35 cases of beer, Louie turned to me and said "This is how we party in Austrlia". I ended up falling asleep around 1am, I was too tired to continue on. A lot of people were still up, (and stayed up all night too). I woke up about 4am when the jukebox was playing pretty loud. The song that was playing was pretty catchy and had the chorus of "Am I ever going to see your face again?" Everyone in the bar would scream a response that I couldn't make out. I left the roadhouse on a Sunday morning, went up to the small town named Cooktown, then road this very challenging road through the rainforest back to Cairns. (that is a whole other story itself to say the least). (this is around July 25-28th on the website)
(A couple weeks later I found out my answer from Karen in Cairns (hi Karen!). The song is by this group called The Angels and dates back to the 70's. After the chorus line of "Am I ever going to see your face again?", everyone yells: "no way! get fucked! fuck off!" really loud. The next day after I found this out I found myself climbing incredibly large hills and I found myself saying this over and over the whole way up the hill, proved to be very entertaining) Judging from recent news, this little potty mouthed phrase is basically the current attitude amoung Australians when asked about helping out the USA with invading Iraq.
- when I got to Noosa (north of Brisbane on the wast coast) I stopped at an ATM. A guy on a bike asked me where I was going and he suggested going up Rainbow Beach. He said that you take a quick one minute ferry ride across a river, then bike to the beach. 4x4's drive up the beach at low tide, so I wouldn't have any problem biking up the beach. A 35 mile bike ride up the beach sounded like a lot better route than on some boring busy highway. I got a tide chart and biked to the beach. High tide was around 8pm and low tide was around 2am. The moon was full that night so I thought it would be fun to bike up the beach at night under the full moon. It was everything I thought it would be. After about 10 miles up the beach, I was getting really sleepy. I figured I probalby wouldn't get this chance again so I ended up riding till about 2:30am. The moon was right above me so it was cool to look down and watch the moon's reflection change in the sand and water beneath me. The next day I took it easy and went swimming. Met a couple high school kids backpacking on the beach and walked with them for an hour. Right before the town of Rainbow Beach, there are these rocks that you have to go around. The only way around them is at low tide. I was hurrying up the beach around 4pm because the high tide was starting to come in. About 1k from the rocks my rear tire exploded. By the time I fixed it more of the tide came in and by the time I was at the rocks, I was biking though 6 inches of water. I lucked out though (hence this is why it is a good thing, otherwise I'd file it under "really bad") because there was a stairway up the rocks. I lugged my bike up a zillion stairs and ended up on the end of town. This kept me from having to wait a few hours for the tide to go back down, since the waves were already crashing against the rocks. In the pub and visitor center they have these huge walls of photos, the "wall of shame" as they are called. It is nothing but photos of cars, 4x4s, and buses(!) all pressed up against the rocks with water flowing out the windows. Some of the pictures were of cars on the backs of tow trucks. The cars were so destroyed it looked like something you would see at an Auto Wrecking yard. (June 25-27th on the website)
- I paid a visit to the Australia Zoo, located in the small town of Beerwah, Queensland. Some of the locals refer to it as "Steve's place"...Steve Irwin of Crocodile Hunter fame. I didn't meet Mr. Crocodile Hunter himself, but I did get a clock picture with a 20 foot hiigh picture of him and a croc out by the roadside. It is a pretty nice zoo. (granted, the only other one I've been too is the Woodland Park zoo in Seattle. Yes, this is the infamous zoo where back in the 80's a radio DJ wanted a Jimi Hendrix memorial in Seattle, but the lame Seattle City Council or whatever ended up putting it at the zoo at the African Savanah exhibit...I don't miss living in Seattle at all). Anyway, there are a few signs signed "Steve & Teri" all around the zoo, either telling you not to by kangaroo/croc/etc products, or who their favorite Toyota dealership is. I took a lot of photos that day, so many that I had to stop and copy them to the laptop from the camera. The funny thing was is that I did this in the middle of the kangaroo area, this is a huge field that you can walk around in and there are kangaroos and wallabies (like a kangaroo, but smaller) hopping around. I have some good pictures on the site of me running the laptop and a kangaroo right next to me. A couple tourists asked if I was doing research...uh no. There was a big room of snakes, with one whole side that pretty much had the 10 most poisonous snakes in the world. There were huge pythons too. I overheard one guy ask one of the zoo workers what they fed the pythons. Since there were children present, the zoo guy whispered "goats". Yup, finally saw koalas. They kind of tuck themselves into the branches and sleep. I didn't hear any of them make noise though. My friend Jeff said that when he was down here he was watching a couple koalas once and one of them turned to the other and made the most horrible noises. I can't really describe the noise over email. The alligators and crocs were pretty cool. They weren't really moving around a lot, except for one that kept slapping the water. The zoo guy said that when the big ones slap the water, you can hear it clear over by the highway. It has something to do with getting out agression or sexual tension or something. I'm not the best zoo person. (June 24th on the website)
- celebrated my 29th birthday in the very industrial town of Gladstone. Got a hotel room, ate at a Chinese restaurant, and went and saw Star Wars episode II. It was pretty uneventuful though, I wished I could have been out in the desert or something. Made me long for the time I was on the PCT on my birthday. Or the time when I turned 17 and was working the night shift with my Dad at Yakima Pallet and Bin. We drove down the road during lunch and got a big pizza and ate it in the car...didn't want to take it back to the lunchroom otherwise everyone would want some)
- Been finding some good booty out on the road. No, get your head out of the gutter, booty as in treasure. So I'm out riding in the middle of nowhere thinking, "man...I should have bought some more duct tape at the rate this bike is falling apart. About five minutes later I find a roll of duct tape in the gutter. Good thing I found the tape because I biked a pretty rough gravel road for about 400 miles. My rear rack broke three different times. Each time I used the tape to make things all good again. The last time I broke was pretty bad though, so I had to make a splint for it using parts of my fender. Richard Dean Anderson would have been proud. The next day I'm listening to Prince's "Gett Off". It is a really catchy song about well....let's just sayu the song is definetly not about getting off the train. A couple minutes later there is this Australian girle magazine sitting right near the shoulder of the road. I picked it up hoping there would be some good thought provoking articles to read. I was a little disappointed since there were hardly any articles and just a lot of pictures. I did learn a new word for the next time I play scrabble, "Norgs" A few days after that I'm in probably the most remote place I've been so far, out on the Gulf Track. A car pulls up next to me and slows down. The guy gets out, looks at me and says "Fucking bloody hell!" He asked if I wanted a beer and I declined since it was a bit hot. He said he never expected to see someone out here on a push bike. (I was on a segment that was about 180 miles between roadhouses). He said that although he didn't expect to see me again, he and two other guys would be camping up on the Robinson river about 50k/30 miles away. I told him I'd be there if the road got better. The road had been a mess of rocks and six inch deep bulldust. It was really hard to ride through and I had to stop a few times and push because I couldn't ride. The road got better eventually and I reached the river around sunset. I walked up to where they were camped and said "hey...I made it, ok, I'll take you up on that beer now". They ended up inviting me to join them for dinner and we spent the rest of the night drinking beer and talking.
- my bike rim went bad in Cairns (after I fixed my front chainrings). So I got a new rear wheel built with a new hub. So a couple of days and 100k later I was out in the middle of nowhere on the Inland Highway up to Cooktown. All of the sudden the rear wheel freezes up and brings me to a halt. I had to tear the rear wheel apart right there. I was a bit perturbed since this was supposed to be a nice working hub. Right in the middle of working on the hub, four little old ladies pull up. They were out birdwatching. I had to go from extreme moody to happy Craig in about .5 seconds...then went back to moody after they left. The nuts/cones on the hub were 17mm and my wrench was only 15mm. Soo, I had to "convert" the bolts to 15mm by placing the wrench on the bold and hammer the wrench onto the bolt with my bike lock. This involved a lot of repeated hittings with the wrench and necessary use of foul language including the f,s, and d words. The hub was on one instance referred to another vulgar expression. This is the expression my Uncle from Pasco, Washington referrs to as "carnal knowledge of one's mother post-conception". Ended up having to fix it a couple more times before I got back to Cairns and had a new wheel built on a different hub.
- The bike has basically been falling apart for the last 1,500 miles or so. Seems like every day something new breaks or wears out. I've learn to just schedule my rest breaks around the time somehting breaks. Today it was a rear spoke breaking, yesterday it was two flat tires, day before it was the rear rack, etc. I've changed just about everything on the bike except for the seat and the frame. My shifter broke so I ended up going to a new sexier handlebar setup. (good thing I did two, because that 400 miles rough road would have been a lot worse with the other handlebars).
- I pulled into this caravan/rv park in the town of Sarina on the East Coast. All of the tent sites were full, but they did have a hostel room (where kitchen/bathroom/room are all shared) for a couple dollars more...so I took that. It seemed that I would have the whole place to myself which was nice. I was writing a website update around 8pm when two couples in their 60's show up. They looked around a bit and sighed, "well I guess this will do". Turns out every motel in town was booked up and this hostel room was the only thing left. They told me how they were just going to sleep in their car but decided to try the hostel. These people looked a little out of their element, much like someone who goes to McDonalds in a foreign country and stresses out that the McMenu isn't the McSame. I talked with them for awhile and then packed up the computer and went to bed. The next morning I got up early to do some more writing on the website and make breakfast. I'm typing away when I hear one of the women say "I can't find my watch....I had it yesterday and now I can't find it". They were looking around for awhile. Hostels are kinda known to be places where things can get stolen. (especially in the big cities). So, I'm sure when she couldn't find her watch that was one of the first things she started thinking. I could start to feel suspicion fall on me since of the five people in the hostel, I was the one that was the minority. They were all retired couples. I was the slightly unshaven one in wrinkled clothes. "You haven't seen a watch have you?" I said no and went back to typing away on the computer. The one couple and the husband were outside while the woman who lost her watch was inside the hostel with me. She did one last look around the hostel and right as she was leaving she walked past me and said to herself "well...I guess it is GONE then!". (gee, goodbye might have been nice). When I went to turn my key back in a half-hour later, the guy said.."you by chance didn't see a watch did you?" I said no. He paused a bit and just said "oh...no worries". It was pretty embarassing and really bent me out of shape, at least I don't have to go through it on a normal basis like some people.
- I didn't like the Sunshine Coast too much (beach area north of Brisbane)...everyone kept telling me how great it was, yet it was probably the worst experience of my trip down here. At times the mess of roads seemed like LA Lite. I got lost in a maze of housing developments and ended up having to bike for two hours at night on a crappy shoulderless road with a lot of traffic. I reached the tiny town of Bli Bli. To make a long story short, some jerk stole my AA battery charger. I couldn't find another one that was as good as the one I had (nicely designed, lightweight). Ended up getting another one shipped to my parents house and they mailed it to me in Cairns....that one worked for 30 minutes and quit working altogether. The one I have now literally cooks the batteries. Maybe Ms. "What comes around goes around" Karma will kick a dent in she shape of "CG" in the car door over whoever stole the charger.
- I was in a room with about 20 other people in it and they were all laughing at the TV. No, it wasn't The Simpsons, it was George Bush speaking about corporate responsiblity. You wouldn't believe how humiliating it is to be the only American in a room full of people laughing at your president.
- days can start out pretty crappy and end up good, or vice versa. I was kind of having a slow day and then it started raining on me. Ended up at this noisy hostel in Tully. Next thing I knew I'm in the bar next to the hostel with some other people from my room, drinking beer and involved in probably the most analytical 30 minute discussion of Guns and Roses' "Appetite for Destruction" that has ever taken place. What an odd world we live in.
Will write and update the travel site more frequently...promise!
talk to you all up the line...
p.s. Hold onto 16 as long as you can, cause changes come around real soon make us women and men.
January 15th, 2003 from Dennmark, Western Australia
ok, yadda yadda, it has been something like 4.5 months since I last wrote you all, which probably means that the New Kids on the Block fan club quarterly newsletter is more frequent than my Australia updates. (I'm only guessing at this, I'm not a closet NKOTB fan or anything. Jeff? Soren?)
I've been updating the travel site every month or so...so hopefully you've been able to see what I've been up to. I've been meaning to send out a summary email for a couple months now...but in keeping the travel and clock sites running, plus biking and having fun, it kept falling by the wayside. Speaking of the lunky.com travel site, there are still a few typos and errors. Thanks to Maree for finding one glaring mistake.
Regarding a sentence in the October 9th entry:
"Ran into a cop in his wife there."
"Ran into a cop and his wife there."
Had the former sentence been the correct one, the day would have been a bit more exciting.
I'm still trucking around Australia and am now in the nice little town of Denmark now. I took most of December off, hence that little orange line on the website didn't move much, but boy I sure had a lot of fun though. I'm about five days from crossing the sacred 10,000 mile mark, somewhere around the town of Esperance. Maybe I'll celebrate with an entire package of Tim Tam cookies or something. Below is kind of a rundown of the last four months. Despite many ordinary days, there has been a lot of crazy/fun stuff been going on too....far to much to put into one email or remember at the current movement.
The ride from up north near Darwin down to Perth was great. It was very hot during the day, up to 115f / 45c at times, but I just adjusted my riding schedule accordingly. Sometimes I would ride in the early morning, then find a drainage culvert under the road to spend the day in, then leave around 4pm and ride into the night. Some of the culverts were much nicer than many hotels I've paid money to stay in. (A hotel in Normanton comes to mind, where there was a sign above the common kitchen sink that read "please keep kitchen clean" and there was dried blood all over the white faucet knobs). Other times I would ride at night when it was cooler. At night traffic would consist of maybe one car or road train an hour, to which I'd just get off the road and wait for them to go by. I'd never ride on a highway at night on the east coast due to the traffic, but out in the bush it wasn't an issue. The only weird thing that happened while riding at night was when this car passed driving with no front tire, hitting every reflector post in it's path. Turns out it was these two skater kids who were trying to get back to a cattle station. They were basically driving without a front wheel! There is more about his on the travel site around mid October.
The past few months have been pretty good. Some days have special and unique, while other days are just "usual days at the office." The scenery has been pleasant to bike through. Nothing but scrub bushland as far as the eye can see. A car passing once every 20 minutes. A kangaroo hopping away from you, only to not entirely clear a fence and fall face first into the ground. The occasional town or roadhouse with the usual overpriced and unhealthy food (everything is fried). Drinking beer on the side of the road with a motorist.
Although lots of crazy things have happened, many days are uneventful. One day the most profound thing I thought of was realizing where Britney Spears got the name for her "NYLA" restaurant in New York. (In the bush it is much easier to get current tabloid news than real news it seems...I once paid $3.00 for a nine day old newspaper). Other days I ponder deeply trying to figure out just why I've been carrying a picture of Dick Cheney in my handlebar bag for the last 4,000 miles. Other days I'll pass the time by watching the gutter for interesting stuff, like Australian license plates, drivers licenses, credit cards, wrenches, makeshift tobacco water pipes, girlie magazines, toy action figures, etc.
Here is a (long) rundown of the more gooder things that have happened the past few months. All of this is detailed with photos on the lunky.com travel site:
I reached the large town of Katherine in the Northern Territory. Since I've left the east coast, a "large town" is one that is about 8,000 people. Funniest thing happened, I was standing on a corner by a gas station. A greyhound bus pulled up and people got off. A girl that got off the bus looked a lot like that girl from Tasmania. Turns out it was her and she had her bike with her too. Even weirder that she had a couple laptop batteries that fit an IBM Thinkpad Model 600e, and an underwater camera housing that fit my digital camera. She was biking up to Darwin, so I let her tag along with me.
When I updated the travel site in September 2002 and sent out the last update, that was a little "involved" in getting everything burned to CD. Anyway, the last update was a bit of a chore. I didn't know the cause at the time, but my computer kept overheating and crashing. Turns out it was a memory chip that had gone bad. Maree and I were in a coffee shop in Katherine. I was burning the travel site update to a CD to mail to Steve in Melbourne (where he sends it up to the website...net cafes are usually to slow to upload a 60meg file). The funny part is that we had to each hold a magazine and fan the heck out of the computer while it was writing everything to CD. We sat in the coffeeshop frantically fanning the heck out of the laptop like it was some Egyptian Goddess that demanded fanning and to be fed peeled grapes. Everyone was looking at us like we were nuts. If we stopped frantically fanning the computer, the computer would crash and I'd have to start the CD burning process all over. After the CD finished burning we stopped fanning the computer and it promptly crashed. Computer is all working happy now though.
Anyway, we went to Katherine Gorge and rented a kayak and paddled way up into the gorge and camped. It was kind of amazing how such a large gorge could exist out in the middle of all this flat bushland. A few days later we went though Litchfield National Park. There was a bit of craziness going on because a few days earlier there was some "armed gunman" loose in the area. He had tied a couple tourists to a tree, then there was this big massive manhunt for him. They caught him near Kakadu national a few days later. The sad thing is that the Darwin newspaper no longer had anything exciting to write about and had to go back to writing stories about two 6 year old kids entering someone's house and eating cookies when they weren't supposed to, and the police telling the kids to never do it again.
Litchfield NP was pretty cool. There are these tombstone looking termite mounds there. These things are pretty large, probably about 6 feet tall and three feet wide, and totally flat. They are constructed in such a way that the flat side faces east. This way the morning sun will heat up the mound in the morning, but as the sun gets higher and hotter, it shines down on the skinny part of the mound, thus the mound won't overheat. Ingenious little buggers those termites.
We reached Darwin on September 14th. Maree flew home a day later. Although I didn't realize this until about two weeks later, the northernmost point of my trip was a street named Dick Ward drive in a northern Darwin suburb. The only photo I have of the area is a couple blocks south at the intersection of Dick Ward Drive and Craig street. I'll deem this the "official" northernmost point of Australia for my trip. There wasn't much to ponder and reflect on the trip at that congested intersection, other than maybe wondering how many juvie kids go down the street snickering at/altering the signs.
I met up with a couple different guys who were riding around Australia and we rode together off and on for several weeks. One was an ex-goth turned ex-Internet guy now cyclist guy named Simon. He is riding all the way around Australia too. He is working in Perth for a few months and trying to persuade his old goth friends to get some exercise (and sunlight) and go for a bike ride with him down to the store to by cigarettes. The other is another guy from Melbourne named Grubby. (his last name is Grubb). Grubby has long dreadlocks "that are old enough to be in the second grade." Once we were at this roadhouse in the middle of nowhere, me on my laptop, Grubby on his pocket pc. Simon comes walking in with his pocketmail PC saying "cool, I got a bunch of email!" A table of three cute girls snicker at us. Suddenly I had flashbacks to 1986 at Franklin Junior High, asking Kevin in a crowded public hallway how where the wizard's key is at in King's Quest 3. (in case you were wondering, go into the wizard's bedroom and type "look on top of closet")
I was originally wanting to ride along the unpaved Gibb River Road in northwest Australia. I decided against it because it hadn't been graded in awhile and was considerably rough. Parts of my bike were held together with duct tape so I decided it would be better to take the (longer) paved road. In a way I'm glad I made this choice because I had a few memorable experiences along the way in the towns of Halls Creek and Fitzroy Crossing.
These two towns are despised by a lot of tourists. There really isn't much to see or do compared to the other towns. I ask them about their experiences in these towns and they turn up their noses for one reason or another. (although, I'd agree, $7.00Au for a bag of ice is pretty steep).
Grubby and I were in the caravan park of Halls Creek in early October. Halls Creek is kind of a run down Aboriginal town with not much going on except for the occasional riot or two. In 1996, there was a riot with all the trimmings in that a couple buildings got smashed and burnt to the ground. The town is a bit run down, the only really nice place was the motel/resort. The resort basically had two areas, the white area and the non-white area. A lot of the bars/resorts in the Northern Territory and Western Australia have strict dress codes (nice neat clean attire...no singlets, thongs, sandals)...you can figure that one out. Anyway, Grubby and I were getting ready to cook dinner at our campsite when this guy stammered up to us and started talking. He was pretty drunk and had a case of beer in tow with him. He sat down and offered us a beer. He was horribly racist on one hand, but of high entertainment value and endless beer supply on the other...so we talked to him for about an hour. After an hour of listening to him talk and Grubby and I drinking eight of his beers...he stammered off. We figured that if Grubby had offered the guy a cigarette, we could have at least drunk our way though another four beers. That is one thing I've liked about this trip, a day can be uneventful and then all of the sudden something odd happens.
A few days after Halls Creek, Grubby and I were about 20 clicks east of the town of Fitzroy Crossing. The back of the map described Fitzroy Crossing as "a once-sleepy hamlet". Were were biking along and saw a bunch of Aboriginals sitting out by the road drinking beer. They yelled "hello" and Grubb and I turned off the road and pedalled over to them. We talked and talked for about an hour. They said that there was a large Aboriginal festival going in in FC and we should go. Footy (I think it is an Australian game like rugby with rules I don't totally understand...like scoring a "try") in the afternoons and bands playing at night. Sounded like a good time. One of the guys asked if I had a camera and we took a bunch of pictures that I later mailed to one of the women, Maxine. So we rolled into FC and went to the main grocery store. The store and parking lot were busy, a lot of people had driving from all over to come to the festival. Grubb and I sat down in the parking lot to eat. This very drunk Aboriginal guy came up to me and sat down. He asked where I was from. "America, wow!", he said. This guy, Grubb and I all sat there on the parking barricade kind of watching all the people go by. All of the sudden the Aboriginal guy next to me said (in the most perfect Texan John Wayneish drawl) "Hawy thyere gawd dammit!" I laughed and turned to him and said "man, that was pretty good!". He laughed and I spent the next 15 minutes teaching him proper American uses of the word "dude."
The festival was a lot of fun. There was probably about 1,000 people there, mostly Aboriginals from all the surrounding areas. The bands were mostly Aboriginal playing classic rock covers. Grubby was quite distraught that he danced to Bryan Adams' "Summer of 69" and actually enjoyed himself. At one point there were three women in their 50's dancing with me. One woman would tug my sleeve and I would face her, then another would tug my sleeve and so on. The band Fitzroy Express closed the night. They played originals and covers and were pretty good...the town seemed very proud of them and rightfully so. We watched the footy the next day and went to see the bands again the next night. That night wasn't as hoppin' but I got to witness something I'll probably never again see in my entire life: hearing covers of Bryan Adams' "Summer of 69" played by two different bands in the same night. The first band , Crossways (?) played the song....then about two bands later, another band Cold Metal (?) played the same song also. Even more synchronous was that they both got the lyrics wrong in the same spot. (it was Jody that got married, Jimmy was the one who quit.)
So we get back to the Caravan park and there are some people camped next to us. We start talking to them. I'm talking to this one guy and he said, "yeah...I have an ex-rock star brother living in Boston." The gears in my head started whirring on defunct Boston bands and I figured it was either one of the guys from Mission of Burma, the Pixies, or one of the guys from the 1981 incarnation of Aerosmith.
"Ever hear of Extreme?....Nuno Bentoncourt", he said. "Wow, cool!" was my response.
From a historical perspective I found this significant. Remember in high school that acoustic ditty "More than Words"? You know, the one you slow danced to in 1991, holding your one special true love (who now has 14 kids and the last time you saw her was on Jerry Springer). Yup, that is the band and I met his brother in a one-horse town of Western Australia. Remember, you can't make things new just by saying "I love you". Word.
I reached Broome around mid October. I spent about 10 days in Broome. It is a nice town, except for the fact that the airport runway is right in line with downtown, I found that a bit unnerving.
From there I headed on south through the big empty areas near the Great Sandy Desert, riding at night and sleeping in the road culverts during the day. The motorists were all pretty helpful. I received a lot of free cokes and beer from passing motorists. One night when I was riding I met a guy who ran a taxi service. I asked him what time the roadhouse closed, he said around 9pm. I figured I'd be there by 8:30pm. Around 8pm and I'm riding. A pair of oncoming headlights pops up and comes to a stop near me. The driver is holding something out the window, turns out it was the taxi driver holding me a toasted sandwich. He bought it for me in case I didn't make it to the roadhouse before they closed. What a nice guy. (This isn't limited to the outback, matter of fact just the other day I was biking up a hill and when I reached the top, three kids aged 8-10 were standing there holding a can of beer for me)
The next real big town was Port Hedland, who Maree's brother describes as the "8th wonder of the world...the only place in the world where a hole exists above ground". It wasn't that bad, but everything has a nice red tint due to the iron processing plant nearby. After Port Hedland the headwinds really picked up and it made for slow going. One day I sprinted really hard and got above 10mph. The wind never really stopped on the west coast until I reached Perth. One day the headwind was so bad I hardly got anywhere. Two cute traveler girls stopped and talked to me, driving off a couple minutes later. I was still in a bit of a foul mood after that. I figured it was time to call it a day when even two cute 20-something backpacker girls couldn't lighten my mood.
I stopped in Exmouth and went scuba diving. That was quite and experience. There is this large pier there that the US navy built. The diving under the pier is supposed to be one of the best spots in Australia. It was like swimming in a large fish tank. All kinds of fish I can't identify, but I did see a few reef sharks sleeping on the bottom...those are pretty easy to spot. Met some people in Exmouth that I had a good time with. One of the nights we ended up renting a TV and VCR along with a bunch of movies. Ate popcorn and watched the movies under the stars.
From there I continued south through the outback. I was going to take a day of in the town of Carnarvon, but the hostel I was staying at sucked, so I decided to spent the day by myself out in the bush. I loved camping out in the outback, so spending a half day doing nothing in the middle of nowhere seemed idea. Nestled in the bush I sat, the place I chose seemed to have a bad juju to it though. Before I even put down my tarp I saw a giant spider sitting on a web near me. There were thorns everywhere, which in turn deflated both tires and later my thermarest mattress. Ants kept crawling on me, they were everywhere. I put some water on the ground away from me and that seemed to distract them. Darkness rolls around, and I'm clacking out a few emails on the laptop. I'm sitting with the computer between my legs and my feet on both sides of the computer. So here I am happily listening to a faint AM radio station out in the bush, writing a few friends on the PC. My feet were going a bit numb from the position I was sitting in. I felt ants crawling up my leg and brushed them off without looking (this was getting to be routine, like batting away flies). Awhile later I felt more ants on my right foot, so I brushed the buggers off. A few seconds later I felt them again, this time I looked down and it wasn't ants crawling over my foot, it was a snake! Since parts of Australia have 5 of the 10 most poisounous snakes in the world, you can expect my reaction. I jerked my foot back and the snake plopped onto my blue tarp. I grabbed the camera and got a couple pictures. It eventually took off, never to be seen again. I think I found it in a book a few days later and it was classified as "venomous, but considered harmless", whatever that means. Other people have told me it was a something like a Poison Death Banshee Miserable Death Snake or something like that, so I dunno.
It is still kind of hard to plan out where I'm going to be when. I was planning on reaching Perth around December 4th or so. Ever since the Aboriginal Festival in Fitzroy Crossing a couple months ago, things have been a bit quiet on the fun and random things happening front. At one point north of Perth I took a rough/sandy 4x4 road that stuck to the coast, rather than going all the way back inland, then back out again. This would probably save a day, but the net result is that it took me about four days longer to get to Perth! The night before I went down the 4x4 road, I camped next to a brick BBQ at a picnic area, right near a "no camping" sign. The wind was blowing hard (and cold) so I could have cared less at that point. The next morning I headed down the dirt track. It was a nice change of scenery...just a rough road cutting its way though the brush along the coast. At a couple spots on the road are these shack settlements. They are basically squatters cabins that have been erected by people way back when. The government keeps threatening to tear them down but haven't. I reached this one small settlement named Grey. I took the sandy road to the beach, then walked up the beach a bit. Although I had only gone 10km that day, I stopped to eat a quick lunch and walk around a bit. I ran into this guy named Dave who was getting ready to take his kayak out on the water. We talked awhile and he invited me up to their shack for a beer. There were three people staying there with more showing up in the coming days. To make a long story short I ended up staying at the shack for five days! It is all detailed on the travel site the first week of December. It was a nice experience biking along expecting to be in a big city in a couple days, only to have plans change for the better. Went snorkeling, flew a big kite, played chess, drank beer, told my usual jokes, swapped stories, watched picnic-table sized stingrays swim by my feet, saw the eclipse, ate cookies, rode around in the boat to pick up the craypots (rock lobster traps), went fishing, sat outside the tin shack overlooking the sunsets on the ocean. I noticed that the shack next door had the words "Love Shack" painted on the front. I couldn't get on top to see if the tin roof was rusted or not. It was a very relaxing and memorable five days. The next day I pushed south down the sandy road. The road was getting better and I thought the last 5km to town was going to be a breeze, it wasn't. The last 3km of the road was over all these sand dunes, and the wind felt like it was blowing 100 miles an hour. (or 162km/hr for you metric fans). I had to push my bike and close my eyes as I pushed the bike across the sand. Made it the little town of Lancelin though and spent the next 30 minutes getting sand out of my eyes with q-tips.
Spent three weeks with friends of Hiram's from Alaska: Sam, Nadia, their 15 month old daughter Aurora, and dogs Denali and Zelda. We had a lot of fun together and I house-sat for them over New Years. I met up with Dave and his family over Christmas. It was nice, but it honestly didn't totally feel like Christmas simply for the fact that I spent a warm Christmas morning on a sunny beach swimming in the warm ocean, rather than standing in 3 feet of snow in Yakima on Christmas. Not that I'm complaining though, I had a great time. (Thanks again Dave!) Spent New Years with Dave at his friend Pete's house. They were throwing a James Bond themed party....had a lot of fun there. All in all it was a good three weeks off the bike.
Anyway, hope you all had a happy Christmas, Boxing Day (December 26th) and a Happy New Year. Australia Day (Jan 26th) is coming up, I'm hoping to be at a random roadhouse out on the Nullabor plain for that. I'm planning on completing the lap around the continent in Melbourne, sometime toward the end of February. From there I will fly to New Zealand and spend a few months there. Even cooler is that MCQ and Mike Knutson are going to be in New Zealand when I get there. (looks like I'll miss you Melissa...I can't pedal fast enough!) I should be getting back to the US in July, around the time when I turn 30 and everyone and their brother are getting married (well not to their brother, you know what I mean).
p.s. Always have a camera handy, that way when a carload of Bunbury youths throw something at you, you can take pictures of them and give them to police, hopefully ruining their holiday. (or mommy takes away their Playstation privileges)
Update #5 Service Pack 1:
(historical note: about two minutes after I sent the above email, I realized I had placed all the recipients on the to: line instead of the bcc: line...hence this email)
If you reply to the last update I sent out, be sure you don't hit "reply
all" on your mail program when writing me back a big deep confessional email
message, otherwise everyone will know!
Everyone's email wasn't supposed to show up. (mostly to prevent the above
from happening). I rewrote some of the code on my mailer and forgot that it
works a little differently now. Doh!
January 24th, 2003 from Esperance, Western Australia
First of I'm sorry about all the snafus with the email list, obviously you all see the importance of not using "reply all". Several people were annoyed with all the extra email they were receving and I'm now trying to get all the damaged repaired. (though, thank you mucho Nadia...you are so sweet! Ain't she sweet? I wasn't keeping a journal during the time I was in Perth so I forgot a few important details, yikes. So consider her email part of Update #5)
I'm only checking my email every 7-10 days so I didn't find out about he out of control fire buring on this email list until a few days ago. I happened to pop into the nice little town of Hopetoun and decided to download my email so I could read it that evening. I did that and with the remaining time I started to read the lunky.com email I'd received. Well...as you know, there happened to be an email message from some (insert your favorite naughty noun here) who was offering "Life Coaching" along with an inspirational religious writing that looked like it was lifted from a poster with a picture of a guy free climbing up a vertical rock face. I do not know this individual personally, he was just someone who emailed me though the travel site saying he enjoyed the site and wanted to be on the email list. Sooo...since his phone number was on the email, I decided to call him up regardless of the time difference and give him some unsolicited life coaching of my own. From a third person point of view, it must have looked pretty funny to be in this tiny town with a dirty cyclist really losing it in a phone booth. As the X song goes...I gave him the once over twice. This guy didn't really think his message was considered "SPAM" because he thought you all might have had a genuine interest in his message. Yeah, but the people at http://www.totallyhotthreeheadednakedfarmgirlswhoteachlinearalgebra.com think the same thing also. Anyway, by the end of the two minute conversation I was really losing it and screaming into the phone at him. I felt totally used. I found it a bit funny that he uses a stolen email list to promote his religion and message. I think a couple of you on this list might have called him already, because he didn't seem that suprised to be hearing from me. (thanks if you did call him). I was irked for a good day and a half. The ride into Esperance was one of the worst of the trip. Rode for 8 straight hours into a nasty hea! dwind in a foul mood, and I had to eat was dry oatmeal and dehydrated peas. (and they weren't even premium name-brand ones either). I'm in Esperance now and have calmed down considerably. Leaving today for the big 1,000 mile push across the Nullabor. No towns, just glorified gas stations...been looking forward to it for a couple years now.
Ok, I'll end this with happy stuff. I passed the 10,000 mile mark the other day. I actually passed it a day earlier but didn't realize it since I was doing the km->mi conversion wrong. I celebrated at a small pub in Ongerup, Western Australia, population 120. Spent the night talking with some sheep shearers and had a grand old time.
Oh, and the Bunbury turds that threw something at me?..check out the bottom of this email. I got the last word in on that one...heh.
Again, sorry about all the mayhem on with this list...
I have investigated the complaint made by you concerning the object
thrown from Toyota Tarago ******. The driver at the time was a 17 year
old youth who is the son of the vehicle owner.
It would appear that it was one of his passengers that threw the object
from the car and it is unclear as to which of the 4 passengers was
responsible. The owner of the vehicle is most upset about this incident
and as a result he has taken the steps of not allowing his son to drive
the vehicle without an adult present until he proves himself and
associates more responsible. The driver has been warned re his
passenger conduct and driving.
I hope that this incident did not spoil your stay in Bunbury.
Senior Constable 6319
South West District Traffic Office
March 18th, 2002 from Melbourne, Victoria
Uh, I'm done. It was neat.
Steve (sitting across from me right now) says I've hit a post historical epoch. That is a little too much to think about now, so I'll hit the ice cream again instead.
I rolled into downtown Melbourne around 3pm on March 12th. Made my way down to Luna Park in St. Kilda where the "official" start of my trip began on February 13th, 2002. It was kind of funny biking on the same bike paths and seeing the same graffiti still there. Somewhere before the finish I passed a huge sign painted on a fence that read, "What's Next?" I found that a little unnerving. I pulled up to the big clown face (look on the front of the lunky.com site) and touched the gate..I was done. Ended up being about 12,600 mi/20,300km to go all the way round. It was a pretty uneventful ending actually. Not a bunch of crazy jumping up and down and whoohoos. I didn't say "yo Adrian I did it!" with a punched up face. I didn't high-five a bunch of people like cops do after a major drug bust on TV. No quiet moments reflection and new age thoughts. About the only thing I did contemplate there in front of the Luna Park clown was going back up to Fitzroy street and getting another piece of pizza. I did meet a few English people there and talked to them awhile. One guy asked me "What's Next?" I told him a sign just asked me that about three blocks ago.
To be honest, the Pacific Crest Trail finish in 1996 was a bit more interesting than this trip. This is when I finished and had to hitchhike to the next town. I got picked up by this guy who'd just gotten out of the joint after 9 months and kept going off about his ex-girlfriend breaking his heart and now there was all this "restraining order bullshit" on him now. None of that this time though, I just biked north to the cool town of Coburg to Steve and Katrina's house. Steve is the swell guy who was uploading my big travel site updates to the lunky.com site. I've been holed up here at their house for the last week.
I pretty much rode the last 10 days of the ride without any days off. I'd found out from Katrina that a Mr. Richard Buckner was playing two shows in Melbourne on the 13th and 14th. I figured this would be a nice way to end the trip. The Buckner shows were great and I talked with him for a while in his dressing room. In the dressing room I met a few prominent Australian Rock Stars there, but I can't remember their names. Richard spent half the show the first night doing a comedy routine...basically just a lot of interacting with the audience and going off about how incredibly attractive the stewardesses on Virgin Blue airlines are. (I'm flying to Hobart today...on Virgin Blue, heh). The next night I took the train into town and walked in the direction of the Rob Roy where the show was. Somehow I missed the street and ended up walking about two miles too far. Being male, I'm physically unable to ask for directions. On the way back to the Rob Roy (after asking directions) there was some sort of C.O.P.S. type thing happening at the housing project. A bunch of stuff was smashed on the ground, people screaming, and there were cops everywhere. I walked though the whole mess like nothing was going on...had to get to the show! I walked into the Rob Roy and someone grabbed me on the shoulder...it was Grubby who I biked with up north for a week or so! It was good to catch up and I ended up spending a couple days at his place. A couple days later we went to some war-themed party. I ended up falling asleep in the van out on the street. (Not from drinking too much, just from being too old and tired).
Here are some of the more interesting things that happened during the last 3,000km leg from Southwest Australia to Melbourne:
There is a long section of road across the bottom of Australia called the Nullabor. It is basically a section of road about 1,000 miles long with no towns in between, just a handful of gas stations. It has a fair amount of traffic (a car every 5 minutes or so), so although you are in the middle of nowhere, there are still plenty of people around. The worst thing about the Nullabor was the dreaded Nullabor Conversation. This occurs when you meet up with a motorist and they ask you stuff like "you biked the Nullabor?" I'd try and convince them that up north or heck, East Melbourne was by far more dangerous than then Nullabor but they wouldn't have it. I'd try and put it into some sort of logical perspective but I'd just get a dim "...but there are no towns, how do you eat?!" sorta thing in response.
Anyway, right after the last update I started biking east of Esperance. I took a quiet dirt road that cut northeast up to the Nullabor...thus saving about three days of riding on a highway. About 70km out of Esperance there was this little town of 100 people named Condingup. To make a long email short, I got kidnapped by this nice family with seven kids. I ended up spending three days with Kevin, his wife Louise, and a few of their kids. Kevin said his son Ben was going fishing tomorrow and I should go. At 4am the next morning someone was waking me up...it was Ben. We spent the morning out on the ocean and we caught a few fish...including a large squid. As they were hauling it into the boat it squirted a large quantity of ink everywhere, most of it missed me but it slimed Ben pretty good. Kevin and Louise had two young daughters about ages 5 and 7. I think I might have gotten on Lousie's bad side a little when I unleashed the sacred knowledge of the armpit fart to the little girls. The girls kept pestering me to teach them. To get back on mom's good side I told them I would, but they had to work out this monster long division problem first (which they didn't do...thus no teaching). Later on I might have lost points with mum again when the two little girls were running around house singing "Put me in a wheelchair, put me on a plane, hurry hurry hurry, before I go insane, I can't control my fingers I can't control my toes, oh oh oh oh oh". Now the girls can sing some Ramones songs along with Brittney Spears. Also at the house was their son Abe who was about 14 or so. He was a little quiet and didn't talk much. I noticed he had a guitar and we talked about music a little. When mom wasn't around I slipped him a CD I'd made for him containing a bunch of Husker Du songs. The next morning before I left I asked him if the CD worked ok in his CD player. He lit up and said, "Yeah!...it did....man....THE GUITAR!" heh, another convert.
Going across the Nullabor was uneventful story wise. The road was a bit unique though. There is one stretch of road where there are no curves for 90 miles! Another stretch was along the Great Australian Bight. This is where the coastline basically just drops off a cliff, 300 feet down to the ocean. It goes like this for a long long way. I was a bit worried I'd have High-5 kids songs stuck in my head after staying at Sam and Nadia's so long, but that didn't happen. There were a couple days though where I couldn't get that sappy Dan Fogelberg song out of my head, the one where he meets his old girlfriend in the frozen foods section of the grocery store and they end up trying to find a bar but everything was closed so they buy some beer and drink it in the car and she is married to an architect and she has seen him in the record stores and he must be doing well, then the snow turns to rain. sniff
Many of the roadhouses weren't that interesting except for the Balladonia roadhouse, which had part of Skylab in it. This is the area where Skylab crashed in 1979 and I got a nice beer cooler saying so. Jimmy Carter phoned the roadhouse in 1979 to apologize for the wreck. They also had a copy of the ticket they sent to NASA for littering.
A few days after I left the Nullabor I was riding somewhere south of Ceduna. I noticed my front chainrings had a bit of a wobble to them so I hopped off the bike thinking the crank bolts came loose. Turns out it was a bit worse; the entire frame was broken at the cranks/bottom bracket. I was just glad it wasn't a flat tire. Using that same roll of duct tape I found in north Queensland, I taped up the frame and rode another 250 miles on it until I could get it welded.
And this held it for another 250 miles:
Had a nice couple of days off in the small town of Elliston on the Eyre Peninsula. I ate a nice dinner at the bakery and went over to the pub and had a beer. I was just getting ready to leave when a guy came up to me and asked me if that was me he saw a couple days ago in Smokey Bay. His name was "MV". The first thing I thought of was that his name was also the Unix command for moving/renaming a file. Everyone in the pub ended up buying me beer. MV kept introducing me as "Hey...I'd like you to meet George Bush's son Craig". Given the current state of affairs I kept having to go into damage control quite quickly. The next night I went over to a birthday party of a guy named Manny who worked at the bakery. Met all kinds of people at the party. About six of us ended up staying out on the front porch till 4am playing and singing songs. The songs were originals, and covers ranging from Nirvana to George Michael. Amazingly I still got on the road by noon and biked nearly a full day.
us all rocking out:
I was in Port Lincoln and just had gotten my bike frame welded. Went to the store and bought a 2 liter (0.5283441 gallons) of Orange Juice, drinking most of it in a few minutes. (This is significant...keep reading). Went and did some Internet and started biking back towards the center of town. Oh yeah, for those up you itemizing the music references in these emails, Port Lincoln contains a jewelry store named "Ween's Jewelry". I didn't know if I was going to stay in town or head out, but due to the large amount of Orange Juice I drank, I had to go tinkle (potty, take a leak/piss, #1, urinate, visit the dunny, etc.). I biked down to the Port area of town where the public toilets were. After I came out of the toilet there was a businessman running over towards me. He introduced himself as Kingsley. He said his wife Raelene was a "mad (fanatical) touring cyclist". I talked with him for about 14 seconds and he invited me over to their place to stay. I spent a few days at their house since it was raining. It was good to stay over at their place and discover new and exciting things. Raelene pointed out that with the Shimano Sandals create a nice map of Tasmania on your foot. Raelene and I both have the sandals:
Met up with Jens the German Guy in Adelaide. He was living in a house on the beach west near Adelaide. I had met Jens in May 2002 at the hostel in Sydney. In October 2002 I had missed Jens and his girlfriend by about two hours in Broome. Jens told me that they saw this cyclist camped by the side of the road, way out in the middle of nowhere. It turned out to be this Japanese kid about 20 who didn't speak a word of English. Apparently the Japanese kid confused by the whole situation, especially when Jens started to make hand motions about a piece of cardboard with numbers on it. You'll have to look on the news page of the clock site to see Jens; I don't have the travel site updated yet:
I haven't been keeping up with my email over the past couple of months, but plan on answering it in the coming week. Oh yeah, Internet on the Nullabor at the West/South Australian border was the modest price of AUD $24.00 an hour. Anyway, feel free to write, I'm not going to New Zealand until March 31st. I'll probably send out one or two updates from there and that will be it.
p.s. New term I learned. If you need to describe a friend's lackluster deadbeat loser boyfriend...you can refer to him has a "drop-kick boyrfriend".
p.s.s. In the town of Warrnambool, South Australia, there is a car wash named "Guns & Hoses". I only found out about it after I left town, argh.
April 18th, 2003 from Wanaka, New Zealand
Hello from Wanaka, New Zealand...
Just a quick note to let you all know I got the lunky.com travel site updated a few days ago with luscious pictures of New Zealand.
I stayed in Melbourne with Steve, Katrina, and their cat Rufus. It was nice staying at their house. They feed me yummy homeade food and shoed the boy with no shoes on his feet. (Jim S, this is a Steve Miller reference). I found a great Speak and Spell emulator and was having fun annoying Steve with it. He got me back by asking me if I'd ever heard that horrible 80's song "What about Me?" I think he won because that song still pops into my head every couple of days.
Steve and Katrina have all these wonderful books and I had a nice time reading and looking through them. Because they have so many, it is going to take them a long long time to find the thank you present I left stashed amoungst their books. Maybe they'll find it before their soon-to-be-born daughter is old enough to be saying stuff like "like, Dad, your music is like, so uncool!"
Lucky for Steve and Katrina though, I left a photo clue on the recently updated lunky.com travel site that might reduce their search time to a few minutes instead of a few years. (remember how busy I was the last couple days I was in Melbourne...cough cough)
I left Melbourne on March 31st. I was going to fly out that morning but got to the counter and realized I'd forgotten (93% my fault for forgetting) to pick up the tickets. I flew out that night instead and had to sleep in the Auckland, NZ airport instead. Rolled into Christchurch in the morning. Got out into the lobby and saw 100 pretty girls all craning their necks towards a tall guy with red hair holding a sign that read "Craig". Turns out it was the guy from the infamous 10:48pm picture on the humanclock.com site, my old roommate MCQ!
New Zealand is pretty nice. I saw more scenery change in four hours than I did in three months of outback Australia. Everyone here is really nice. Over the past month I've received a decent amount of NZ travel tips from people I'd met in Austrlia. Places to see, places to stay, and in one instance, specific names of girls to avoid. MCQ and I have spent the last week here in Wanaka. We've been at this little place called the Treehouse run by this funny artist guy named Robin. We've been doing odd jobs around here....changing the roof on the garage and ripping cabinents apart. I think MCQ and I are leaving today to head towards Doubtful sound and go sea kayaking. I've been leaving all the travel decisions to him. After a year of constantly planning stuff in Australia by myself, it is nice to have someone else make decisions for once.
Anyway, hope all is well with all of you. I'm still working my way though my email...so you should be hearing from me at some point.
September 7th, 2003 from Portland, Oregon, USA
Welcome to the last update/book of my 18 month long Australia to New Zealand to Los Angeles,CA to Portland,OR to Yakima,WA journey. Over the next few months I'll be adding stuff to the lunky.com site (like all of these updates) and things a giant word search puzzle consisting of every word on the travel site. (really!)
I was going to send this email out before I went to the Burning Man festival in Nevada last week, but obviously that didn't happen. You can see a couple pictures from Burning Man on the front of the clock site. It was quite an experience to say the least. When I was taking clock pictures, two different people came up to me who had seen the humanclock site, so that was kinda cool. Keeping with the naked women references in these updates, there was also a bike ride there of about 3000 women all riding topless in a huge procession. After about 35 minutes of watching boobs roll by me, I got so desensitized and frankly a little bored. (really!)
Here is kindofaquickrundown of what has been going on the last time since I emailed you all, (like four months ago!):
New Zealand highlights:
I think the last update left off when I was in Wanaka, and MCQ and I were headed to Doubtful Sound to do some sea kayaking. That was a lot of fun. There are plenty of picture on the lunky.com site around April 2003 if you want to check it out (http://www.lunky.com/viewday.php?l=4-26-2003&page=1) . Oh yeah, next time you see a wonderful picture of the New Zealand fjord land and imaging you were there instead of working, don't forget to imagine getting the crap bitten out of you by sand flies. Everywhere you go these little bugs descend on you, leave an itchy bite, and you find yourself waking up in the middle of the night scratching yourself crazy.
On the trip back north a few days later, probably one of the most so-cosmic-things-it-should-be-on-a-new-age-calendar things that has happened on this trip occurred at this point. We took a 100km gravel road on our way back to Queenstown. It was a nice ride back in the middle of nowhere. There was a crop dusting plane flying around, we'd wave and the plane would tip its wings back at us. The next day we were biking back towards Queenstown when we saw two bikers heading towards us. We ended up stopping to talk to them. They were a couple in their 50's. We said hello and MCQ started talking to the couple. I stood there looking at the guy. As soon as the guy opened his mouth I got this funny feeling. I interrupted their conversation and said "hey! were you biking down the coast of California around June 1997?" The guy looked at me with a blank stare and said "yeah....hmm, yeah, I was!" I said something like "yeah! I remember you because you asked my friend and I if we'd met a lot of loose women in the last town and your wife giggled when you said that." He just looked at me knowing that was probably something he said and shrugged, "wow, I'll be, man, I'm never going to say anything bad about anyone again." He took his glove off and shook my hand. We talked for a long while and made plans to run into each other again in South America in 2008. All in all it was kind of a weird experience for me. It was like having this bookmark into your past that you can look back to. Just meeting him again made me think of all the things running through my head back then (sex, music, computers), and all the things running though my head now (computers, sex, music). We reached Queenstown a bit later. We went out and hit the town. Tom Petty once wrote that "Even the losers, get lucky sometimes". Apparently he wasn't singing about MCQ and I, because despite us being losers, we didn't get lucky...although I did have fun getting a bunch of us to pogo on the dance floor when they played Nirvana. We blew off Queenstown and headed back to Wanaka for some real fun. MCQ and I rode back to Wanaka (a day's ride) separately. It was an amazing ride with an incredible sunset.( http://www.lunky.com/viewday.php?l=5-1-2003&page=2) (ok, there is another token New Zealand scenery reference for you, back to news...) I ended up riding in the dark all the way back to Wanaka
MCQ and I got back to Wanaka and went back to Robin's Treehouse. It was kinda cool to come back to someplace familiar. We went into all our usual routines. Wake up, make movies, go to the Hammer for lunch, make movies, do work around Robin's place, work on the clock site, eat dinner, Robin tells funny stories, lose at scrabble, gripe about the lack of girls, etc. After seeing all the fun MCQ and I were having with our digital cameras, Robin had bought one off of Ebay. Now all three of us were the Canon Nerds, running around taking pictures/movies of everything. We ended up with some really funny movies. MCQ's "3 minute Tango" one was by far the best of the lot. Robin is full of funny stories, from eating doughnuts with Jimmy Carter in the 70's in the mountains of Idaho, to getting arrested in Barcelona for juggling without a permit. (check out it out this nice article he wrote about the experience: http://www.juggling.org/jw/87/1/ramblas.html)
MCQ was wanting to get up to the North Island and I kind of wanted to stay put and work on the new clock site...since Robin's place was good for that sort of thing. MCQ headed out in early May and I ended up staying at the Treehouse till the end of May. It was good to just stay somewhere for awhile and exercise the other side of the brain for awhile...I got a lot done. I spent so long at the table working on the new humanclock.com site that I ended up sticking a sign on the wall reading "Daniel Craig Giffen memorial computing center".
So I biked up the west coast of the south island....
I biked out to a settlement known as Okarito, which has a population around 30. The hostel is an old schoolhouse. I rolled in there and it turns out they were having a community potluck at the hostel. I got to meet all the locals. Got to talking with this one guy named Richard who ran the local kayak touring place. He needed some work done on his website. I ended up overhauling his website and stayed about 8 days at his place with his wife Edwina and their young'un Monty. It was kind of nice to be clacking away on the PC, the ocean crashing on the beach below, and the rain pouring down (without me in it). On the day I was going to leave a guy across the street named Mike popped his head into the house. "Oh, I heard from a little bird someone staying here is good with computers". So I spent a couple hours helping them set up some stuff. I ended up getting a free day trip up on the glacier the next day. The glacier trip was fun. One of the guides was an Orc in the first Lord of the Rings movie too....so I had to get him in a clock photo.
As I neared Nelson I started seeing giant clearcuts in the forest and it made me homesick for Washington and Oregon. I spent a good few days in Nelson at this backpackers called the Palace. Took a bunch of clock pictures there, lost a lot of games of chess. I told the guy running the place I'd come back there someday and be really good in chess, and just play games for a room.
I spent the last couple weeks in Wellington doing a whole lot of nothing. Even got my first membership to a Non-North-American video store. I turned 30 on July 2nd. Guess what I got for a present? The flu! I missed out on having a real celebration and seeing an all-girl band called The Coolies. They are a band that, er..my friend Jeff W. would call a "chicks with picks" band.
So a couple weeks later I find myself at the Auckland airport getting ready to get on the plane to LA. After going though piles of security I reached the spot where you board the plane. In that area was the most concentrated amount of Americans I have been around in nearly 17 months. Standing there observing the crowd, I thought, "wow! The stereotype is actually true, Americans are very loud and they all hi-five each other over the most uninteresting accomplishments/discoveries". (made up example: "woo! hoo! The toilet paper in the bathroom is 2-ply, put it here bro!")
Los Angeles - I arrived in LA about 7 hours before I left Auckland. Yep, you read that right. 12 hours later the plane landed at LAX, I was back in North America, it was hot. It was a bit tedious passing through immigration. It was super crowded and stuffy, the line was long. Eventually the line passed under an 8x10" picture of George Bush. I was put off a little at first, but hearing the sound of a couple kids making vomiting noises nearby put me at ease. Went though customs and out into the lobby, there was Sara! Sara as in Sara King, the girl from Portland who I haven't seen in about five years. I spent the night at her place with her husband Michael and their new daughter Riley. (side not to Wanda X of Perth, I'm getting better about mentioning people that I stay with!) We went and had Mexican food. The portions were of course about three times the size of anything in the southern hemisphere. I forgot what it was like to get something off the menu and not be able to finish everything. That night Sara and I got prettied up and went out to Beverly Hills. We paid a visit to a certain public toilet that George Michael got busted at a few years ago for being naughty. (you can see pictures at humanclock.com, but forget to type in that essential 12th letter of the alphabet...I have this site too so nobody tries setting up a porn site there). Anyway, Sara drove me down Sunset Strip, "River Phoenix died on the sidewalk there, John Belushi died there...." We went to some swanky hotel bar called the Standard. Sara got a yummy drink and I got a beer, only came to about $25 with tip! Sara had seen a bunch of famous people there, and I had the clock with me. I started taking clock pictures of Sara with the big cardboard sign. After a good five minutes I could tell everyone was DYING to figure out what the heck we were doing, but they were all asking like they could care less. Sara says it is an LA sorta thing. We ended up leaving and going to another bar. It was closed and it looks like it was some sort of private function or something. It was good having Sara around cause she could identify all the famous people I was walking past, totally oblivious. Here was saw the girl from Chasing Amy...Joey (something). Then in the bar there were a bunch of guys talking to this really pretty girl that I couldn't place. Sara said that it was Zooey (D-something) who played the older sister in Almost Famous. We cruised to another bar and saw Jaimie Foxx of In Living Color/etc fame. He was surrounded by about 10 heavy-set guys on cell phones looking like they went to the Puff Daddy school of entourage.
The next day I went with Sara and Riley to Santa Monica. They were at the YMCA, so I walked around the Wednesday farmers market for a little while. It is about three blocks that are closed off and people set up stalls in the street, it isn't really that big. I left about 10:00am and went back to the YMCA. The really creepy part is that about three hours later an guy drove his car though the market killing 10 people and injuring a bunch more. I still feel a bit weird about this how I was just there and that happens a little while later.
The next day Sara took me to the home of other friends....Phoebe, Greg, and Tristan. On the way there we stopped at a market, I brought my coffee mug. Get this, I asked the woman for coffee, she said, "Would you like room for cream?" "Yes..!" I said as I nearly burst into tears. I paid my dollar and had my 12oz of drip coffee. I hadn't been able to do this in 17 months. In Australia/NZ all they have is espresso type stuff, none of this "fill up your mug" sorta business.
Anyway, we ended up at Phoebe and Greg's place. I knew Phoebe from PSU and hadn't seen her since she and Greg got married. I hadn't met Greg before, but he is a nice guy. He has a record label called Bomp! (bomp.com) and he's been around the music block a few times. We all went out for Mexican food. You really can't get Mexican food in Australia/New Zealand, so I was wanting all I could get. We talked of humanclock commerative plates, computers, Australian Rock bands, and the manufacturing defects of Scotch recording tape made in the 70's. Phoebe and Greg drove me to the Bomp warehouse and I got a clock photo of them: (http://www.lunky.com/viewday.php?l=7-16-2003&page=2)
The next day they drove me to the Burbank airport where I flew to Portland. It took the security guy 30 minutes to open up both my bike box and suitcase looking at things. Funny thing about the suitcase, I paid $5.00 for it in NZ, but it took $10.00 of strapping tape to make sure it stayed shut! So I left LA, and no, I didn't buy a clock on Hollywood Blvd. they day I left. (that is a music reference a few of you might get).
Flying up to Portland was a bit of an experience. I really really really missed the mountains around the Pacific Northwest. I actually got a little bit teary when the 3 sisters and Mt. Hood came into view. Home! We flew right over Crater Lake and I thought of when I was there in 1996 on the PCT. Landed in Portland, my buddy Jeff picked me up and took me to friend and lunky.com reader Chris Thoman's house. Hopefully Chris' employer isn't on this email list, cause Chris told me he had actually read every single word on the lunky.com site and seen all 12,332 pictures! I couldn't tell him any stories since he had read them all, so I filled him in on a couple stories that weren't on the travel site for obvious reasons. Went and saw everyone at the bar for Bollio's 30th birthday party. A few days later I found myself up at Mt. Hood for he and Betsy's wedding. The wedding was splendid, everyone was shedding tears. Even me. At that point a CNN helicopter swarmed in and tons of paparazzi showed up, the headlines of all the major newspapers carried headlines of "Craig Giffen shows actual human emotion!" Seems the newspapers even interviewed ex-girlfriends for their take on the stunning fact that I actually showed some sort of physical emotion about something for once in my life.
My parents were going to come down and pick me up on a Thursday, so I got the bright idea that I would bike back to Yakima and surprise them a day early. I really missed the Cascade mountains and wanted to bike though them. Somehow biking the 230 miles from Portland to my parents house felt like a fitting end to the trip. I left Portland on a Tuesday. It was a bit strange to be riding on the right-hand side of the road again but I got used to it. I was standing outside a mini-mart in Castle Rock, WA (free tomato sauce/ketchup again!) and a huge Chevy K5 blazer pulled up. It was blaring that fist-pumping Toby Keith song I've read a lot about but had never actually heard until that point, so I got to hear that crass line about 'Cause we'll put a boot in your ass, It's the American way'. The song will probably continue to be popular provided someone else's son/daughter/brother/sister is wearing "the boot". In another sad reminder I was back in the USA, over the next 30 miles I saw more "No Trespassing" signs on this stretch of road than I did in 14,000 miles of Australia and New Zealand. (Ok, back to happy-fun email!)
The next day I biked a whopping 130 miles to my parents house. Although I was carrying a lot less weight than normal, it was the longest day of the entire trip! I rode over White Pass, past Dog lake where Dad, Grandpa and I always fished. I thought about the lake a few times on the trip and now I was standing in front of it. I arrived in Naches, WA. I biked up to my old high school to see if it would spark any cherished memories I might have forgotten, nope, it still sucked just as I remembered. I chuckled a bit at how funny it was that things are 100% different than they were back then.
Saw my Aunt Shirley who was house sitting my Grandma's house...she was surprised to see me. I made the 7 mile ride to my parents house and got there at dark. I turned up the road and made the last push uphill to my parent's house. I was worried my parents would be in bed, but the garage doors were open. I was so excited to be surprising my parents. I pulled up into the garage where my was doing some work. "Hi Dad!" He was scared at first cause he didn't expect to see a bike/person there, then he was shocked again when he realized it was me. Dad hasn't changed much (e.g. his circa 1988 in 2003 attire: http://www.lunky.com/temp/flamingfather.jpg) nor has his sense of humor. He had me sit outside on the deck and drink a beer/smoke a cigar. Then he got my mom to come out and look at stars. Mom came out and was really surprised to see me.
I ended the travel site with a picture of Dad and I drinking beer and smoking cigars on the deck, seems like a fitting end to the bike ride: http://www.lunky.com/files/photos/rdc640-561-img_6176.jpg
I've had the late/great Charlie Rich's "Feel like going home" stuck in my head for a few days now. I dunno what I'll be doing in the coming few months. Maybe I'll by a used car lot and not sell anything. Just so I can drive a different car each day depending on how I feel. (last two sentences stolen from a Tom Waits tune).
I've had a lot of really good memories from this trip. It was kind of a nice finish to have finished biking all the way around Australia, then find myself a day later having a beer with Richard Buckner backstage in his dressing room before a show, talking about Tasmania, and his jaw dropping after me telling him a story which is strangely absent from the lunky.com travel site. Other good memories were quite simple, such as someone slowing down to give me a beer, saying "thought you might need this", and then driving off.
Thanks to everyone who gave me food, a roof over my head, internet access so I could keep all these websites going, funny stories and mannerisms. (e.g. I have Maree's little wave now (move your hand side to side really fast)).
I don't really know how to end this though. A few years back Henry Rollins' published a book called "Get in the Van". It was basically his journals from 1981-1986, talking about touring with the mighty punk band Black Flag. He ends the book talking how a lot of bands these days will have a big hit record when they start out and fly between gigs and sleep in nice hotels, never getting beat up, having to push a van, or sleep on a cold floor. That is nice...he hates to think that they are missing out on a lot of fun too. That is kind of how this trip has been...some days were messed up due to a massive headwind or bike problems and I wasn't always happy, but in the end all I really remember are the good times.