Update

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First of all — even before you read this blog — you should all see Angus’ blog about this brand new event, as well as backflow valves and also for more photos and some dire predictions (which basically equate to the fact that these flood events happen in groups.)

So once climate change is factored in — this is pretty much our future. Woah.

But these past few days were more about the wind and omnipresent rain for us. We felt it way worse than in 2011. In 2011 we had constant power, no serious winds, rain (without it being a deluge) and some internet capabilities.

We also had KARL! But where is he now?

This time around having no power was a real drag and the wind was scary. The water was also a massive concern. Both combined we had the potential for an even more epic film than a 50-strong Rapha crew could manage. Going outside at several points felt ridiculously dangerous and once I had taken a photo I dove back inside. And having all those big trees topple over within metres of our house was fucking dramatic.

In those conditions I took the refugee-chooks over to my sister’s house.

MY COMMUTE

So the flood peak of about 2 metres was the least of our worries. This morning I was expecting disruption — but not destruction.

I attempted to be at work by 9 but there was so much stuff to do to secure the house and chooks and cat and phoning trades cause we needed to clean up the fallen palms and because they were tangled up in garden lights — they were literally LIVE. The Energex crew last night virtually ordered us to get an electrician in to secure the zone.

So on my bike first drama of the day was pretty easy. I slid through only about 3 inches of water at Torwood, but then the lights were dead at the intersection with Milton Road. A bunch of cars were stuck there faced with having to find a break in traffic in one of the busiest roads in Brisbane. They looked like they had been there for hours.

“Stupid cars”, I thought.

DIRECTING TRAFFIC

I have become good at this situation. I did this routine yesterday and did something very similar back in 2011 (but that time helped by a muddy broom).

I jumped off my bike and determinedly put up my arms making a “STOP” motion in the most SERIOUS way possible and calmly walked into this massive intersection.

And you would be surprised how effective this was. The traffic were mesmerised by these actions and consequently stopped in both directions almost immediately like I was Crocodile Dundee doing his weird bull-horns hand sign on that buffalo.

So there were no horns, no agro — just a general peace and acceptance that I was in charge. The world was silent all of a sudden.

And they all waited patiently as I waved the cross-traffic from Torwood out and the Australia Post van attempting to turn right. And then I jumped back on my bike and completed my crossing and the racket that is “Milton Road” started up again.

THE RIVER

At the river, as expected, I was forced to turn around after my usual route to work along the river was blocked. I mostly tried this route just to inform the CBD BUG followers. So I went back through the University and over the Green Bridge — adding about 12ks to my journey — but I secretly loved it.

But then I noticed my Garmin was dead. It looks like it succumbed to that wet ride on Saturday. It is devastating. What will I do?

LUNCH

At lunch I walked across the Victoria Bridge and I have never seen so many people on it at this time of day. Everyone was taking photos and milling about looking a bit disappointed.

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THE RIDE HOME

The bike-paths were rotten with mud and I had to alter my usual route a few times to get home. But just quietly — the muggy 34 degree heat was more of an issue.

I picked up our cold stuff from my sister’s fridge and tried to interest her chooks in mealworms — but they were too afraid to notice.

Once back at home the chooks were very happy to see me. They hadn’t had their usual treats for two whole days and they went slightly nuts — crawling all over me. They are now back in their pen — it’s reasonably dry in there and they don’t seem to mind.

And just as a bonus — here’s Kara’s weekend. She is an old friend with chooks like us and a very similar old Queensland house and she has almost as good taste as us. Maybe. 🙂

What has just happened

Since last we conversed that massive storm of wind and rain and debris hit us and we lost power and then things started crashing over and all sorts of other drama ensued.

But these adventures began with me going for a walk at 8:30pm on Sunday evening. It was wet, windy and dark — but the rain was easing.

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At the river I noticed this pole and it’s banner blocking the bikeway — so I called it in to Council. It took 30 minutes to get through and sucked up a bunch of my phone’s power. And then Dee called me home because our home’s power had been cut. Back up from the river the world now was so dark and only cars had the power to look “epic”.

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But Paddington and Milton had power and it was only Auckenflower (and Bardon we learned later) had the power out. Back at home Dee had broken out the candles.

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The chooks were safely secured in our bathroom. I hauled them upstairs when downstairs turned into a river. They shat everywhere but at least they were safe seeing as their pen was a lake and the laundry where they had been housed before was within inches of being overwhelmed with water.

Just cause I was a bit toasty I put the candle in my bike’s water-bottle holder thinking it would be an awesome pic. Sadly it turned out a bit shit.

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CRASH and DRAMA

At 3am we both awoke with this massive BANG. We looked around but just thought it was a palm frond on the roof or something. I stayed awake and then noticed this bad-boy had collapsed at the back of the house. When daylight arrived I took this picture.

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The wind was still fucking insane. It felt unsafe just being outside for the 30 seconds it took to take the picture above and to assess the damage. The clump of palms was also attached to a garden light which was attached to the mains power — which in turn was attached to a power cord and this is a bit of a worry cause upon talking to the energex crew tonight — they think we need an electrician to clean stuff up before we get a arborist involved.

But across the road was another drama we missed cause the crash that broke our sleep was in fact a massive gum tree across the road keeling over — in just the same fashion as our palm-clump. That tree belonged to Lisa and she had had it assessed by arborists in the last few months and they had said it was healthy and safe.

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But the wind last night was incredible. I have never experienced anything like it. I think I am not alone in that assessment.

So I loved that tree. I loved the sound it made in the wind. But more on that later.

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Thinking the chooks needed some safety from the wet and wind we took them over to Paddington to chill with my sister’s ladies. They turned out to not be quite receptive to new company and that blackish hen in the centre went a bit nuts at Yoko (the white one) to assert her authority. Yoko did her best to defend herself but she was no match. Freddie tried her best to ignore everything. We then separated them and took them back home this afternoon once the weather was calmer.

Later we went for a walk and saw multiple news crews trying their best to exacerbate the seriousness of the situation — which wasn’t so bad — wearing goretex jackets in the 30 degree heat and full-sunshine. There was no rain at all today. Just a very few periods of sprinkles.

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At least Lofty looked natural.

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Sandbags at Rosalie

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Pumps pumping out stuff from under Rosalie Gourmet Markets.

Then I went down to the river on my bike. It looked fierce but the level was no where near as high as in 2011.

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AT HOME

Back home I made some Lego. It was some weird spaceship that is vaguely associated with the Star Wars universe. I built it up and it was fun seeing as there was no power and I am pretty useless at reading and then I left it on the doorstep of my nephew’s house. Apparently he had been very naughty that day and this gift was with-holded from him until he behaved. And luckily it was just the incentive and he turned into an angel, weathering his 20 minutes of “Time Out” until he could receive the reward.

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LISA’s TREE

So across the road and up a bit is Lisa’s house. In her yard were two big gum trees at least 20 metres high — each of them.

But at 3am one of them keeled over. The crash woke us up, and it seems, everyone else. We were oblivious, but it seems this is what transpired after. The neighbour whose house the tree fell upon went nuts and there was a massive one-way tirade at poor Lisa who had done her best to maintain the tree and assess that it was healthy etc.

I cannot help but side with her. It was a massive, beautiful tree and it was native and literally a hotel to a bunch of native animals. And this douchecanoe wanted it chopped down. And yes — it did fall down — but it took this incredible event and I just can’t help thinking people who are miserable to other people are just horribly miserable inside. Good luck tree-hating-douchecanoe.

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THIS EVENING

So I need to thank this bad-boy below. It is a no-battery, hand-powered torch that requires only a few spins of the handle to produce a pretty brilliant amount of light. It was a gift from some corporate supplier at work. It has lasted almost 7 years and is still lifting well above its weight. Well done little hand-powered-torch.

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Got to use the “bar-b-mate” tonight!

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Candles! I managed to seriously burn myself later. Ow.

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The Auchenflower Cafe was deserted and cleaned out of anything perishable, but offered free TV to our sans-power neighbourhood. Nice:

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This is the dude in the Wine store at Rosalie showing off a flood-map Premier Newman had drawn for the cameras. That’s his handwriting! TRUE STORY.

Then we saw Newman being all majestic just a bit up the road.

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As I was taking an instagram photo the camera guy told me I was making too much noise and to leave. I ignored him and took another bunch of photos just cause.

I so, so wanted to say something but instead I tried to be decent and civilised.

On the way home we thought the power might be back. But even though it wasn’t we saw an Energex crew in our street (see below) and they were just clearing trees from powerlines so they could switch stuff back on. And then only 20 minutes later we had our power back. GLORY DAYS!

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Our very own personal flood

So we have our own personal flood, right underneath our house.

Here’s what it looks like:

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It’s the worse we’ve ever seen it — way worse than 2011, which is crazy, but quite explainable scientifically. Here is Dee being “epic”.

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And all that water had formed a river that led directly down into the neighbour’s yard. It was almost a torrent. We knew from flood maps that the underneath of our house was a natural watercourse. And we had been told that the fence had collapsed during the Gap Cyclone event back in 2008 — an amazing video you have to see (right to the end) in case you haven’t already.

I went next door at about 5pm to see how things were going on their side and they said it was the worst flooding they had seen. Worse even than 2011. I had to agree. I don’t remember anywhere near quite such a lake under our house. Indeed I almost crashed over just taking some trash down to the bin — the silt and the water combined to almost bring about my downfall — literally.

And here’s another view of that river:

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This is the big tree across the road. It is massive and so vocal in these events. It is quite amazing to watch in these events.Image

RESCUE

So the chook-shed Wintah and me made is now completely “inundated” as they say in the news. It has its own waterfall too (see below). It will take a week or so to dry out once this rain stops. We pre-emptively got the chooks out last night and put them to bed in the laundry. They seemed to embrace the 4 walls of the downstairs ‘sophistication’ and when I gave them a chance to wander this morning, they chose to stay. Admittedly it was pretty “epic” weather-wise outside.

But today the safety of the laundry looked to be seriously compromised. The floody water was literally lapping at the door so I put them in the cat-carrier and together with their feeder — I dragged them upstairs. Now they are spending the night in our bathroom. They seem to be OK with their new digs.

It is a bit heartbreaking having to introduce these very young chicks to a big bad world of epic weather events. They have had to deal with stupidly hot days, and now cyclonic wet-weather — and they are only 3 months old and have a brain about the size of a pea. Soz.Image

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CANCELATIONS

Above is a pic of us on our way to our brief appearance at Sarah’s birthday party in Paddington which pretty much no one else turned up to — apart from Crag who you can count on to turn up to a party in a zombie-apocolypse.

But it was epic weather and we only made it — briefly — just cause we could drive the 2 kms there and back.

So this is how BOM looked at 4am and it has only got worse since.Image

“Rapha-Epic” Wet Ride

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Rapha is a cycling clothing company famous for their “epic” films that seriously glorify cycling. Their videos typically feature mountains, empty highways, all the cool videography effects you can think of and huge vistas with a few dudes looking “epic” in pristine Rapha kit mashing away. Above is a few screen-grabs of one of their films.

[ASIDE — Dee just looked over my shoulder at the pic above and said, “when is Scott getting rid of that moustache?” “That’s not Scott!” LOL.]

Tom is our resident Rapha-guru. Personally I don’t mind Rapha — it’s simple and “classic”, but just quietly — sorry Tom — I feel it is a tiny bit bland for the outrageous prices they ask.   I am all over Cadance — that’s just how I roll.

Anyway — in case you are from anywhere other than here — Queensland is currently getting hammered by ex-cyclone Oswald. And its path is tracking straight down the coast and yesterday it started making itself known in the south-east.

So today we had this awesome adventure planned but we had to cancel. For me it was more the potential flooding on unknown roads out in the west than the bullshit-misery of riding in serious rain and wind.

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So it is actually a tradition here in Brisbane to ride up Nebo on Australia Day and it’s usually a nice day to ride with hundreds of other cyclists in a totally unorganised mass-ride.

So we defaulted to Nebo. See riding fast in wet weather means literally eating a LOT of road grime as you hug the wheel in front as it spews up everything on the road directly into your face. That Caloundra 200 last year left me with a full stomach without having to consume any food and a few pieces of grit in my eye for days later.

And up Nebo we went — protected from flooding, thinking the douche-bag motorbike riders would stay home (they did) and hopefully going slow enough that the rain wouldn’t bite into your face or needing to suck any wheels. It was me, Tom and Ryan.

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The view from McAfee’s Lookout

On the way to Nebo there’s a bunch of lookouts we’ve never ever bothered to stop at and I thought we should just check them out seeing as we weren’t gonna break any records today so I made the crew stop even though there was almost nothing to see.

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THE ROAD

The rain was episodic. Sometimes severe, and other times entirely absent. The road however was littered with massive branches and bark and sometimes boulders — see below. (At one point a branch fell down in front of me giving me quite a fright — but it turned out to be quite small. I was just a bit edgy.)

We collectively wondered how the descent would go. Tom thought we should be positive. “We’re not going to crash,” he said matter-of-factly. I tried to believe.

But the more you ride in these conditions the better you get at it. It just felt so evil at the beginning because it has been so dry in Brisbane for months. For example — you kinda get used to the fact that you squeeze both brakes and nothing happens. And running over a squashed toad and almost slipping out I decided to avoid them (and there were billions of them) in future. By the end of the ride I was feeling pretty confident and rode almost naturally.

REASONING

We briefly wondered what the rest of the world must think of us — up here in such atrocious conditions. We decided they would consider us “freaks”. I don’t mind that tag. I was actually having fun. The world looked beautiful, I was entirely soaked but didn’t really feel it anymore and I was with my mates doing something amazing.

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Gradually visibility started deteriorating, but the cars tended to be quite good to us, taking their time to overtake as safely as possible.

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#selfie!

JOLLY

We stopped at the next lookout — Jolly’s Lookout — and the drive up was fucking steep. Oops. We had the place to ourselves and of course — there was absolutely no view. The wind around was incredible. The trees, so fucking tall up here, roared like thunder. We just had to imagine the view with help from the many information signs.

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Then it was on to Nebo Village where we stopped briefly at the cafe which incidentally has been the subject of some debate in the cycling community of late. Personally I am not quite sure what happened. Some reports state the owner caught some riders urinating at the back and that perhaps precipitated the agro.

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Pretty cool lens-flares as a car with headlights approaches.

FIRST ENCOUNTER

The very first rider we saw on the mountain was just after we turned around. His name was Matt and he was visiting from Auckland and he had run out of tubes having busted two tubes within a few kilometres. So we stopped and Ryan offered him one of his spares. Ryan took on mechanic-duties deciding the rim-tape was faulty and Matt had to sacrifice a 10 and a 5 dollar bill to plug the gaps.

As they worked I stood a bit down the road to direct traffic around and a guy in a ute came upon us and as he passed he gave me the finger/bird. What a fucking asshole. Matt said, “Drivers must be just as bad over here as in New Zealand”.

Soon an Energex truck came upon and actually stopped to see if we needed help. Good on them and this perhaps helped allay my horrible feelings for humanity.

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Matt followed us home. On the way we saw a dude in Rapha! I caught up to him and said, “This is the best day to be wearing Rapha!”

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Back safely down the mountain, but in the middle of the heaviest rain of the day so far, I asked Matt where he was headed and he said “Clayfield”. And because I was heading for Hamilton, not far away, I offered to show him the way. And Tom came too — and Ryan up until Windsor.

We got Matt safely back and then Tom and I went on to Racecourse Road where I was picking up Dee’s car. Poor Tom had to climb over the Gateway to get home. Soz dude!

When I took off my shoes my feet looked ancient, like they had aged 50 years.

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GOOD RIDE!

BONUS PICS

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Boating

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I am not much of a “water” person. I prefer mountains and trees and stuff like that. But water is an element you have to embrace. It looks beautiful and it brings life and stuff and is a part of everyone. So I don’t hate it — I just dabble in it every now and again.

SAILING and DRAMA and DISASTER

Quite bizarrely my dad got into sailing when I was a kid. He had a mate who sailed up at Lake Cootharaba — just north of Noosa — and we went up there once and Dad got hooked and bought this very dodgy and ancient wooden catamaran off that bloke (so he could upgrade to a fibreglass boat).

So one day Dad was sailing around the lake and somehow managed to get into trouble — no one knows exactly what happened — not even dad. It seems he was knocked off the boat and consequently put a big hole in the hull with his head. He was knocked out and only saved by his brand new life jacket.

A bit later I received a boat for Christmas one year. A tiny boat — perhaps the tiniest. It was a Northbridge Junior and could really only support the weight of me at 11 and one mate of roughly the same age. That mate was Scott and we had a great time camping and sailing and getting horribly sunburnt. (In those days I wanted a tan more than anything).

But then Dad couldn’t fix that hole his head made in his boat and so we never went sailing again, apart from one day when we went to Lake Moogarah during the Christmas Holidays and the wind was shit and the lake was horrible for sailing and afterwards while dad was packing up the boat and putting it on the car’s roof — my sister and I managed to watch a girl drown in the cafe’s pool. TRUE STORY.

But then things got even more surreal.

On the way home the car’s roof racks broke free and my Northbridge, still attached to the racks were suddenly free and sailing across the road behind us, narrowly missing another car and then landing without much dignity in the grass by the roadside.

I got out of the car with dad and helped him get things back in order. My new boat was a mess, but just quietly I didn’t really care. We eventually got it back on the car and got back to my nan’s house in Ipswich.

But that boat was cursed. When Dad and I moved to Sydney the removerlists lost the mast. I was appalled at the injustice, but ultimately didn’t morn the loss.

TODAY

Yeah — so sail-boating is nice and natural and appeals to all my love of history and as we were splashing through the Bay I thought of how Oxley had done so, perhaps just at the same pace and if you you blocked out the other boats — which wasn’t hard — with perhaps a very, very similar vista. That was nice.

And sailing on nature’s whim is pretty cool. I really enjoyed that. The sails give you shade from the sun and send down this torrent of breeze to keep you even more cool.

STRESS

But in saying that, it was an entirely stressful adventure. Everyone kept saying to me, “How relaxing is this?” AndI kept thinking, “Wha?”

See it might have been quite zen, and serene and really, really cool in the periods when we were out, “free as a bird” (so to speak). But the bookends around that stuff were really, really stressful. I tried my best to present a very calm and united front in these periods, but secretly I was a mess.

And you know what? Those in control were probably in a much worse state than me.

Anyway — we managed to get the boat refuelled and then we were off. I’ll get to the drama later.

THE BAY

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After some time we did a tack and headed into Horseshoe Bay — part of Peel Island. Peel was a former leper colony of colonial (and later) Brisbane. I really wanted to walk around the island and I swum off towards it and only 30 metres away I could touch the bottom — but I wasn’t sure what the schedule was. But then I took out my camera and swum around for a bit with one hand above the water!Image

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ImageThis is Dee leaping!

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HOME

Eventually we got to go home.

I am a bit maybe “fast” in my appreciation of “experiences”. So things seemed to be moving so, so slow. Consequently I was very happy when we go moving again and in that process I got to steer the boat for about 20 minutes. And it’s not like driving a car — it’s like walking through a crowd of people — no matter which way you want to move in, something keeps pushing you somewhere else — probably towards the bar.

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SAILS

I am really, really impressed by sails. They look amazing in flight, but they also look organic — with their veins and really cool detail when you get up close. Plus — they are working away to help you get somewhere for free! Awesome. Bike-riding and sailing are more similar than you’d think. The wind is a constant worry when you ride a bike. Sometimes a wonderful friend, sometimes an idiot not knowing where it’s going, and mostly a fucktard always in your face and being a total downer.

And below is Tim pretending to do that leaning off the boat stuff to fill the sail stuff. LOL

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PARKING

The craziest thing today was when we attempted to park the boat.  It went against the grain of everyone trying to convince me that this was such a peaceful, relaxing adventure; I kept hearing “this is the life,” which I knew wasn’t the reality.

When we came into dock that sense became a total reality. Given it was the first time on his own, Terry was having trouble getting the boat into the tiny dock space which was fucking complicated. It had a big yacht at the top whose owner was there watching us – and another boat at the bottom. 2 attempts trying to back-in failed and then there was even trouble turning around to try a front-in dock.

So now I was at the very front of the boat and Terry was gliding us in at a pace you could  see grass grow. Meanwhile that douchecanoe was watching us all the while. You could “feel” his absolute pleasure in our battle.

So I was on the bow. And I was steadily getting worried that this attempt would end in more tears. From my position I could sense everyone was getting STRESSED.

I now had a rope and as the bow got closer to the pontoon I was told not to jump but I was determined — I was not only going to jump, I was going to dive into the canal just to drag this boat to its pontoon if it came to that.

But luckily the boat got close enough for me to leap over.

And then I dragged it closer but had to use all my strength to keep the very front of the boat from scratching along the pontoon. Dee wondered why I was shaking, 2 minutes later.

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Mt Mee via Ocean Road

Today we met up at 5am — the earliest we have for quite some time just cause BOM was predicting a 34 degree day. It turned out to get over 35 so that was an inspired decision.

We were heading for Mt Mee and we were gonna do it a different way, via a side road that claimed to be 18%. Although that road — Ocean Road — was pretty fucking brutal, we were pretty certain it wasn’t anywhere near as bad as 18%.

Anyway — it still got pretty fucking hot by the end and Ryan was just getting back into riding and he was getting intimate with the biggest depths of the pain cave by the end.Image

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Gear jersey trackstand triplets!Image

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On the way down Mee I felt this slapping on my back and I stopped and realised my headphones had come away from my helmet strap and had got caught in my rear wheel and consequently the earphones were shorn clear. Shiiit.Image

Itsa me — Mario!Image

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It’s now “Armstrong” not “Lance”.

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So I feel a tiny bit dirty.

Most of that feeling stems from the fact I went on that charity ride with Armstrong in 2011 — paid my money — felt a bit “important” riding with the biggest legend of this sport. But the other half of that equation is that although I was aware there was a huge debate out there as to “did he or didn’t he?” — I somewhat chose to give him the benefit of the doubt or just believe whatever drugs he took: that was early on — maybe only in those crazy 90s — and that maybe only influenced the first few of his Tours.

In all honesty — when I started out riding bikes with some degree of seriousness I did so really, really not knowing about him or his epic feats. I probably knew his name, maybe that he was important, but I only understood his whole story just very gradually after.

And my first inklings of him were the chatter on the internet of his potential doping. I mostly took it to be internet gossip and weasels trying to create controversy and conspiracy. But then there was this one terribly convincing article I saw — which is lost to history — but that got me thinking. That and a 4Corners story around that time about how pathetic and hopelessly-behind anti-doping strategies in sport were.

So I had a few reservations when Armstrong came to town but I still rode that day and felt good and rated it as a bit of a highlight of my life when I came to write a list at the end of 2011.

A year and a bit later I saw Tyler Hamilton’s evidence and I was starting to crack and get convinced I needed to distance any feeling one way or another for Armstrong. He is now “Armstrong” — not “Lance”.

To be honest — Bike Snob and his pretty obvious support for Armstrong was a big influence.

Then the USADA investigation (and incredible summary) was upon us and I was unceremoniously yanked away from any fantasies that things weren’t as bad as they could be and utterly convinced and really, really appalled — not so much by the epic doping — but more by the allegations he controlled the situation and bullied his team-mates into taking drugs or else. He seemed ruthless and belligerent and really, really nasty.

Bike Snob has certainly toned down his “support” for Armstrong — but maybe he needs to atone too. I dunno. Maybe I have just misconstrued everything he says — his blog is frequently surreal in its comedic adventures. I shouldn’t take it so seriously.

So today was the big confession. I didn’t expect much but I admit — it was drama and good TV and I was hopelessly transfixed. I actually thought Oprah did OK. Of course I thought Armstrong was still in good form in his “PR” and consequently wasn’t entirely sincere. There were bits where he still had digs — at Tyler — I haven’t read his book and refusing to deal with his fucked up treatment of Betsy and that I never called her fat bit. HOLY SHIT.

That stuff was so shocking. I had no idea how he treated those poor women who stood up. This is Betsy’s reaction:

http://youtu.be/WTrkBRwT5Uc

That was pretty heart-wrenching.

I think it is safe to say I have an even worse opinion of this person now than ever. And yes — I will be watching part 2 tomorrow.

My Tiny Nanna’s Big Adventure

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My Nanna was a primary school teacher at Sacred Heart in my hometown — Ipswich. While I think of myself as having grown up in Brisbane, I am reminded of the fact that every few weekends would be spent at her house and I would be there a great deal of the school holidays.

My Nanna had ample stocks of food in the fridge and cupboards — unlike at home. And next door was an older boy called Ross who was fun to hang out with, even if the age difference meant there was no way I could compete with him at any activity we played.

Nanna was small. Even as a kid she was someone you could talk to eye-to-eye. She was already short in her youth — maybe 5 feet 1 high — but in her old age she got scoliosis in her spine and started shrinking even faster than the wicked witch of the west under a South American waterfall.

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When she divorced my Poppa in her late thirties she was firstly forced to go back to her job as a teacher, and a decade later she was forced to learn how to drive a car.

She used to get a lift to work, but then have to catch a bunch of buses to get home in the evening. Eventually that arrangement somehow evaporated so she was cojoled by mum to get her licence and buy a car.

She was 49. It must have been such an adventure. I actually think this is a pretty cool achievement. But it wasn’t without drama. Within months she managed to crash her car when she oversteered at a Blackstone intersection. She took out one fence at the top side and another fence on a different road as she swung around.

But she was wisely consoled by a friend and told to get back up on the horse — so to speak.

On visits to my Nanna she would take me on drives in the country. I was very, very young but that didn’t stop me getting embarrassed. See, Nanna drove so, so horribly slow, it was pretty much an ordeal. I would get so embarrassed looking back behind her car at the epic traffic jam behind us and I would slide down into the chair while begging her to drive faster — which was useless.

On one visit to Beaudesert (where Nanna grew up) I suddenly burst into tears as we were approaching the town. “I don’t want to go to the ‘desert'”, I said, tears streaming down my face. “There’s lions and tigers there!” TRUE STORY.

And when we went to shopping centres she didn’t really know how to reverse so we would end up parking at the other end of the carpark just so she could find two spaces where she could drive through one space and front-first into the other so the car was facing outwards.

WINNING

And so one weekend it was her school’s fete and we went along. There was some kind of Lucky Dip and I entered and “won” a tour. I was ecstatic. I had never won anything in my life. And this tour was to see the Beenleigh Rum Distillery. I had never heard of it, but it sounded special. I was ceremoniously given the tickets like they were gold and I began begging my Nanna to take me there. It sounded like Oz or just a step down from “Dreamworld“. I was pretty determined and quite zealous in my badgering of my poor Nan.

This is the Distillery back in its hay-day.

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So my Nanna eventually obliged — and it was a big, complicated trip for her and her very simple driving skills. And all this in her tiny Holden Gemini — which looked a bit like this, but no where near as pristine or “tough”. And so we had the free tour of the Distillery and I tried my hardest not to be disappointed. There were big vats of stuff and an old guy talking too much and some broken views of the factory.

By the end of the day — the cafeteria was the highlight – but that wasn’t the point.

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The distillery closed down maybe a decade ago. It still has a tiny piece, a very, very tiny piece of my heart.

The Flood — 2 years on PT 2

PART 1

That Wednesday the sky eventually turned a brilliant blue which apparently was the same thing that happened back in 1974. It was eerie how the rain had stopped overnight but the water crept up and stuck around like a ghost.

And then there was an overwhelming stillness about the world which defied the vibe I felt — which was essentially that this was the most profound thing that has happened to Brisbane in my living memory.

When I got back home, it was still quite early and as I casually posted these pictures on FB — I didn’t realise how shocking this might be to wake up to for a few of my friends:

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But it was also shocking to the Brisbane people not living anywhere near the River. To them Brisbane must have seemed entirely normal, but perhaps just a bit quieter than usual. And so I think some people actually felt a bit left-out or a bit detached from this situation — which they perhaps overcompensated for later — something I will examine soon.

Anyway I soon went riding again and arrived at a deserted Coronation Drive which was already covered in leaf littler — a state that might appear quite normal — but to me it was stupidly bizarre. And it was also obvious all the residents of the buildings around had been evacuated.

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Heading towards the city with all six lanes to myself I felt a bit like the last person on Earth. At Hale Street I was stopped by flood water but a cop was posted here for some reason and instead of sending me back — he directed me up the flyover (and on what normally would have been the wrong side). Then as I was mashing up a policeman on a motorbike seemed to be giving me an escort over. Soon I was on the expressway at North Quay and through to the city.

I remember savouring the experience, riding slow and sucking everything I could in telling myself this could well be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

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Around the city was more sandbagging — as far as the Queen Street Mall. But to me it seemed only Charlotte Street was seriously flooded. On the way home I saw that Suncorp was under water and so was the adjacent part of Milton Road.

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Back at home I expected the power to be gone but all our stuff still had juice. But our internet connection dropped out and our mobile phone coverage was limited to a spot in the back corner of the garden which made things a little awkward.

And this being exacerbated by the fact relatives were trying to call us to see what was happening.

Around midday we were starting to think maybe we should try and find some food, just in case, and we found a shop open just off Milton Road and paid about 5 times as much for a very dodgy looking piece of pumpkin. This profiteering was really appalling and I haven’t been back to that shop.

By the afternoon we went for a wander on foot and on the way home noticed the water had entered our street and had flooded the underneath of the first 4 or 5 houses on the odd side of the road.

FLOOD TV

I should note the TV coverage of this spectacle. You could tell everyone was throwing all their resources at it as there were helicopters in the sky as soon as it got light and they only landed to re-fuel or when it got dark.

Dee was so glued to the TV she developed a slight crush on Karl Stefanovic.

But then there was reports like Suncorp Stadium was on fire, or the entire riverside restaurant had floated away and most incredibly — there was a crocodile in the River. All nonsense.

But there was real, real drama which was utterly gobsmacking to watch: like the Riverwalk breaking-up and the boats smashing into various bridges. Another. And this view where someone is applauding it.

TOURISTS

That Wednesday afternoon at around 4 I went for a quick look to assess where the levels were at. I was riding up a tiny street called Thomas and a car started smashing down towards me giving me no room when it’s side of the road was blocked and therefore it should be giving way to me. I had to stop because it would be dangerous to keep riding as we passed and I was just so pissed off I blocked the car’s path.

I shouted at the driver that he had given me no room which was met by the driver laughing at me like I had no issue. It was then I noticed his car was stuffed with at least 5 people. I instantly realised what these people were up to and I wasn’t feeling too diplomatic.

“Who the fuck are you?” I said. “You know what? You’re just fucking tourists. Now fuck off!”

There was a look in his eye of shock like I had somehow read his mind and all he could stammer was “You’ve lost it”. At that point I rode on.

I was just getting so sick of all the useless traffic up our street. I was also worried about the cat getting hit by a car. And I was just generally over all the noise and the selfishness of people who come from the other side of Brisbane just to gander at misery. I know I was guilty of a little voyeurism, but this was my neighbourhood and a substantial part of these tours was just working out if we would be affected. The only other area I gawked at was the city — and I did it by bike, which is hardly as intrusive as doing so by car.

The 4AM PEAK

Maybe I was also a tiny bit worried about the looming high tide which was due to peak at 4am. We went to sleep exhausted with the drama but at 2:45 I found myself wide awake. So I just jumped out of bed and grabbed my bike and disappeared into the gloom. Dee didn’t even realise I had gone. I headed straight for Haig Road because that would be a good indicator of how high the water was going to get. A woman was already there silently watching the water rise. She pointed at a house and said she lived there and she couldn’t sleep. We both noted it hadn’t got that much higher since this afternoon. I stuck around for about 5 minutes and then headed for the River.

I went up Milton, down Ridley and across the train station overpass. At Chasely Street beside the Wesley Hospital I started riding slowly as there were no street lights or lights of any kind. The road here dips down into Coronation Drive quite excitedly but despite the blackness I could see where the water began. This was new flooding — I hadn’t seen it here the day before. At the edge I looked up and saw that the water here had come from under the road — not across it. There was no way to get to the Drive without jumping a fence into the Wesley carpark and then I was over another fence and dropping my bike from a wall at the road side and hoping I didn’t scratch it. I jumped after it and then I realised how alone I was here.

It was so dark, but not so quiet. The sound of water was incredible. And mixed into that roar was the sound of metal and other flotsam and jetsam randomly banging against eachother.

Down at the Drift Floating Restaurant the sound got even worse. This time it was timber creaking and wincing under the strain of the torrent. Although there had been news reports of the entire restaurant breaking away — it was only a pontoon at the back that had in fact been swept away. But still — the owner had had to smash all the windows to let the water it to try and save his structure. I am not sure it made a difference. Two-years-on the building is still derelict and getting more and more decrepit.

As I rode on towards the city in that scary, scary gloom I saw the water was over the road in four sections: the biggest around the Regatta Hotel and Land street, then a tiny bit at Lang Parade near the floating restaurant, then a bit more at Cribb Street and then another lake at Hale Street. These sections were once natural creeks and you can read all about them on the “Once was a Creek” blog.

When there was not much else to see I headed back the way I had come and talked to the security guard at the train station who was having quite a lonely night protecting the trains that were being warehoused here. Apparently it was because the Bowen hills railyard was in too much danger of flooding — which seems anti-intuitive now I think about it.

It was now raining again, but not very heavily. Next I wanted to see how Toowong was faring, thinking maybe the real danger was from water backing up through drains, but it didn’t seem to be suffering as badly as the predictions warned.

And so I headed home and crashed into bed.

Thursday was another brilliantly sunny day and I went out riding again, this time attempting a trip to new farm to see how some friends were doing. They weren’t home but I got to enjoy all those car-free roads and expressways and this time there weren’t just bikes around, people were walking here too.

Later that day we went down to the Rosalie shops and just near the school some cops told-off a group of five kids for swimming in what was essentially shit. The kids obediently left the water but then followed us over the rise towards the strangler fig. At the fig a news crew was filming and interviewing people. When they saw the kids coming I saw one of them asking the group to jump into the flood water just near the Frew Street drain so they could get some footage. The kids happily obliged. I was shocked and was working up the gall to say something — knowing Dee hates it when I get righteous — but some old ladies beat me to it. They forced the kids out pointing out they could get sucked into the drain and drown.

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ImageThis is the intersection of Milton Road and Torwood St. You could hear the emergency siren in the distance.

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THE AFTERMATH

That night the water disappeared and all that was left was mud.

I got up and grabbed an old broom and headed over to a house in Aldridge Street where friends of friends needed help cleaning up. I arrived early so just volunteered to help at the house next door. Soon I was carting out all sorts of personal items which I was told to chuck. And this just might have included a stash of pornography, but I shouldn’t confirm, nor deny this story.

But then I was expected to trash some important looking papers and I thought I should check with the owner but it turned out he didn’t care. So I heaved them on the increasingly huge pile of shit across the road but it nagged me a bit cause it seemed like he was in a daze — and not really capable of rational thinking. And then deeper into his under-house-tip I also had to lug stuff that looked suspiciously like asbestos sheeting — which thankfully was wet, but still broken and fibrous and I just had to pray it was something benign like plasterboard.

In that vein it should be said that in Torwood Street over-zealous “helpers” had chucked out someone’s perfectly salvageable kitchen while the owner was absent.

An hour or so later, car after car started arriving with people enthusiastically offering help — but we had to turn them away as the area was already choked with volunteers. And one group were distinctly “Aussie” and were already on the turps and concerned they would get breathalysed on the way home. It seemed this was a party to them.

On the way home I noticed an important-looking heavy vehicle was trapped in a side street. So I held up my broom and the cars stopped and the truck could escape. But then I didn’t get a thank-you wave. UGH!

Then I went over to South Brisbane to help another mate at his home on Cordelia St and got to ride in mud at least 3 or 4 inches deep. Crazy.

That afternoon after deciding the shoes I had worn all day weren’t salvageable I went for a lazy ride over to the western freeway bikepath. I did some laps and then on the way home I decided Milton Road was too chaotic so I headed up past the Botanical Gardens thinking I would go home via Birdwood Terrace.

Unbeknownst to me, the police had issued a request to cyclists to avoid the area as the quarry was being used to dump flood clean-up waste. In any case I cruised through and was waved through by a stop/go person and just as I was past the quarry turnoff — without disturbing any trucks I should say — suddenly this TV cameraman from Channel 7 leapt at me from across the road and got right up in my grill filming everything I did like I was famous. I was rattled so I stopped the bike and asked what was going on. The cameraman just said, “Oh, my boss just asked me to film bikes here.”

Then the stop-and-go guy was shouting at me that I was blocking the road — which I wasn’t — and so I turned around and headed home the shitty way, not really sure what had just happened. At home I realised that the news was going to attempt to pillory cyclists again and this time it was going to be me as their poster-boy of nastiness.

Great.

Thankfully there was nothing on the news about me, but that’s the power of the media. I was just finding a safe route home yet they could paint me as some kind of demon. And I later thought, “Why didn’t I just show him the address on my ID?” Or point out all the caked-on mud all over me. UGH.

All that “flood-hero” nonsense really annoyed me. People were just doing their duty, but many it seemed walked around like getting a broom out made them superior.

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