The story of our pets mauled to death

IMG_9254.JPG

IMG_9251.JPG

WARNING – GRAPHIC, UGLY STUFF BELOW.

I was at a dinner with my nephews and my sisters when I got the call.

Dee – “I think the dogs have killed a chook”. What? I said. She explained they were missing but she could see one motionless in the neighbour’s backyard.

“Ok. I’ll call you back,” I said. I was a bit numb to it all. Trying to be a good guest at this dinner, and process it all. I was thinking things like, “Maybe one had survived” and “At least they died quickly”. But both of those assumptions were super-wrong.

Then I realised I should get home. I ran most of the way. Dee picked me up at Torwood Park.

I rattled that next door gate so the dogs – two massive alsatians – would know I was attempting to come in. It took a few trys but then they started going nuts with the barking. They smashed up to the gate ready for a fight but they let me in maybe I guess they because they recognised me.

Even though I just had to trust they wouldn’t bite me if I came in – I slunk inside. They led me around the back. I was looking for the bodies and the further in I went there was nothing. Then the dogs went around the deck and up to the top of their backyard. It was like they were leading me to their trophies. I followed and it was then I saw both chooks right next to eachother in a bed of a hundred broken feathers. It almost looked like Art. Just a hideous version of it.

One of the birds (Charlie) was horribly mutilated. Her head was missing and big bits of her body around the neck were chewed out. The other was intact but messed up. She was laying on her side and the eye facing me was closed – like it was fused that way. I picked her up and her head flopped like the neck was snapped- but then I heard something like a tiny inhalation. A gasp. I thought the dogs had made the sound or it was just a crazy snap of the dirt and twigs beneath me. I didn’t realise it at the time — but it was a signal.

The dogs were still circling around, so proud of their achievement. At that moment I thought I had imagined it. The birds were so damaged it was impossible they had survived this ordeal. I shooed the dogs away as I lay down the towel (which I had grabbed out of the car) and put both birds on top and wrapped them up. The dogs were still circling around so happy with their achievements as I walked back towards the gate.

Carrying them out I almost immediately felt a warmth through the towel. “Oh god!” I thought. They are so warm – it must have just happened – if only I had got home sooner.

But then I remembered that sound. It just hit me. One of them was still alive.

Dee was waiting for me in the front yard. Even though I was not 100% certain I said, “One of them is still alive.” She was already in tears and now things were so much acute.

I laid the two birds on the deck and looked at the eye of the one I suspected was still alive. Her neck was broken and it looked like she had been dragged around by that neck. Blood was coming out of her beak. How she had survived was incredible — but still so fucking awful.

It was confirmed when her eye — three quarters closed — managed what must have been an incredible effort to stare back at me. She was indeed alive. I knew what I had to do. I asked Dee if she agreed and she said yes. I apologised to her. It was Big Red. Named after Big Red in the “Bring It On” movies. She was the biggest of the three, the most ginger. And probably the top of their tiny pecking order.

I went into the house and grabbed a plastic bag. But what was I going to do? I just realised the bag was to stop her looking at me while I killed her. I put her in and them stomped on her head. I jumped up and down as much as I could until I felt her skull was flat. (I wanted to make sure).

But that didn’t stop me opening up the bag to check I had indeed killed her. Oh god. There was blood on my shoes and on the paving. I had made such an effort the plastic bag had ripped open and the eye that she had looked at me with was now entirely free of her skull. It was massive and round and it was still looking at me. Oh god. Oh fucking, fucking god.

You don’t get a pet and look at it every day and imagine for one second that you will one day stomp on its head with all your might. And that “one day” you will stomp so hard you set an eye free and gaze into it. But that’s what I did. She made no further sound apart from the crushing sound of doom.

oh god.

At first I just stared into space. I think I started weeping about an hour later. Then we went downstairs and discovered an egg in the hutch. I started bawling again.

And today I was walking to the city to get lunch and I put on a sad playlist and just started weeping uncontrollably. Luckily no one truly looks at anyone these days. I think I managed to look half decent at the sushi-station. Maybe not.

This song is just the WORST (or BEST) at times like this:

 

AND HERE ARE SOME MEMORIES:

IMG_8463.JPG

IMG_8470.JPG

IMG_8490.JPG

IMG_8611.JPG

IMG_8616.JPGIMG_8838.JPG

IMG_8940.JPGIMG_9221.JPG

IMG_9261.JPG

IMG_9723.JPGIMG_9884.JPGIMG_9889.JPGIMG_9990.JPG

HELSINKI – September 8-9

Had my entire backpack searched at the airport security in A’DAM. I was cool with that, but boy oh boy — they were thorough. I got in trouble because I didn’t realise I should have taken my camera and the iPhone charger out of my pack and put into one of the trays (just like the lappy). Look — I travel quite a bit and this was the first time I had encountered these regulations. Anyway I did my best to be polite and apologetic.

On the flight we tried one of Ben Law’s little tips. We deliberately booked a window seat (me) and an aisle seat (Dee) separated by an empty seat (some random who we could negotiate with later). It was genius. Thanks Ben! No one got booked into that middle seat and we had our row to ourselves. Pity it was only a 2 hour flight.

Over Helsinki we swapped seats and Dee got a decent look at all the lakes of her homeland. “It’s the land of a thousand lakes,” she said, quite authoritatively. And it looked true. They were everywhere down there. But as I learnt later — there are about 188 THOUSAND lakes in Finland. So Dee was basically lying. I am used to that.

Anyway I bloody dare you to look up Google maps and witness all that land vs puddle bullshit. It is bloody crazy. Wait. I can do that for you just cause I am a decent guy. Observe:

Screen Shot 2016-10-21 at 3.46.24 pm.png

We should establish at this outset that Dee is 1/4 Fnnish. Her mother’s maiden name is the unpronounceable “Veijalainen”. Phonetically you could get away with saying VAY-A-LINE-ANN.

A BIT ABOUT FINLAND FROM WHAT I COULD GATHER INITIALLY

Finland has a population of about 5.5 million people, so about a quarter that of Australia. It’s relatively flat — didn’t see any mountains or even that many hills. Lots of lakes and ocean coastline — as mentioned previously. Finland has been around as an autonomous state only about 100 years. Was part of Sweden for a bit (in Helsinki all road signs are in Finnish and Swedish), then Russia (further east you get the road signs begin in Finnish, then below is the Swedish, then below that is the Russian). Finland allied with the Nazis at the beginning of WWII and fought the “Winter War” with Russia and punched well above it’s weight. (But in the peace deal, possibly cause it killed a highly disproportionate amount of Ruskies (compared to Finns) — it lost quite a bit to Russia.) Mostly it has been pushing against Russia, rather than Sweden. Monuments and markers of the War(s) are everywhere here.

The language is like nothing I have ever heard before. Apparently it has more in common with central-eastern Europe than Scandinavia or even Russian. It is still a tiny bit high-pitched, but not sing-song like Norwegian. Everyone seemed to speak an incredible amount of English so you can truly get away with “Hei” (Hello) and “Kiitos” (Thank you).

Sauna is a big deal over here. You pronounce it “Sour-nah”. According to wikipedia there are over 3 million saunas in Finland. Than is over one sauna for every two inhabitants. Wiki: “Finns think of saunas not as a luxury, but as a necessity. Before the rise of public health care and nursery facilities, almost all Finnish mothers gave birth in saunas.” We got to experience this all first-hand. But more on that later!

FIRST DAY

We arrived by train from the airport and found our way to the hotel which was basically in the dead centre of town. We had missed lunch and it was now too late so Dee sent me on a mission to find snacks, a drink, fruit and a tinned coffee. But finding a convenience store was a super-challenge. I got the fruit (berries) just at a market-kart near the station but failed on most of the other criteria. Finland has that thing where you can only buy booze at State-run facilities. And these can be hard to find if you don’t know where to look.

Meanwhile my phone-card from the UK refused to work so on the agenda for that night’s activities was to get a cheap Finnish phone plan. We eventually found R-Kioski. Pretty much exactly like a 7-11 but it also had these massive gambling machines (like Pokies) in a corner. Very weird.

Later we scrambled around to the big sights like the Cathedrals and the big Square and the waterfront. Dinner was at this pub place around the corner.

IMG_0850.JPG

IMG_0858.JPG

IMG_0869.JPG

IMG_0870.JPG

IMG_0872.JPG

IMG_0880.JPG

SUOMENLINNA

So in Finnish – “Linna” basically means fortress or castle. We got to see a few other “Linnas” around the place. The vibe in Finland is that it is a tiny country squished between superior nations but it will defend itself to the hilt. To the HILT. And “Suomen” is basically the word for Finland. So Suomenlinna is a bit of a big deal. And it isn’t just one island. It is six islands connected by bridges. There’s a bunch of people that live there permanently. There’s even a school. And just quietly — the Pokemon were going riot over there. I saw a bunch of kids who had obviously skipped school just to go nuts over there.

The place was huge and there were always tiny nooks and details of the fortifications to look at and explore unimpeded. Tunnels and ramparts and actual batteries. Plus cute houses and views over the sea towards Estonia. It made the our pathetic “fort” in Brisbane (Fort Lytton) look pretty ordinary.

Lunch was at a ramen place. Look — it is so much easier ordering food in the language it was invented in when you are in a place that is a billion miles away. So consequently there is cultural neutral-zone.You kinda appear quite knowledgeable, and be a deadshit tourist at the same time. It’s a level playing field. “Tonkotsu Ramen Kiitos.” And then you can proceed to know the condiments and use the chopsticks (and spoon) with super-dexterity. It is a revelation. (ASIDE: In London we would order Pho, but we would get the kudos by pronouncing it “Fir”.)

IMG_0883.JPG

IMG_0886.JPG

IMG_0889.JPG

IMG_0893.JPG

IMG_0896.JPG

BOMFUNK MC’s

Here’s the thing – I will not try to pretend this next bit wasn’t tragic. It is what it is. I have been the biggest fan of this song, and it’s film-clip. Like almost equally. It is just the perfect marriage of sound and vision (and dancing). One of the very first children’s shows on TV I watched was called “Words and pictures”. And that was what it was about. Perfect. Art or just lowly “entertainment” wasn’t necessarily confined to just one medium at the same time. You could be the best of both or all worlds at the very same time.

Anyway this film-clip was so amazing and I just had to go there. Luckily the wikipedia page had the very specifics so I could go there and KNOW I was in exactly the same place. Nothing was changed. I even attempted to play the song on my iPhone but accidentally sent the music LIVE to everyone on the train cause I hadn’t quite got my headphone jack connected. Dee was horrified, but I didn’t care.

IMG_0889.JPG

IMG_0890.JPG

IMG_0891.JPG

NEXT!

That night we had dinner in some brewery and prepared for the next day into the heart of Finland via Dee’s great-uncle — Marku. He was picking us up at 8am.

BONUS PICS

IMG_0881.JPG

IMG_0884.JPG

IMG_0893.JPG

IMG_0894.JPG

IMG_0895.JPGSome art installation!

EUROPA TRIP (DAY 5-7) BRUSSELS/ANTWERP

From LONDON to BRUSSELS to ANTWERP

I’ve said it before and I will say it again — it is so, so civilised travelling by train. The seats are generous, the security and immigration is less intense, you can walk about anytime you want, watch the countryside (except for the tunnel parts) and you generally arrive right in the centre of town. I would even rate the chugging motion, the clickety-clack of the train over the tracks being quite therapeutic and conducive to sleep – if that’s what you need.

IMG_1060.JPG

IMG_0737.JPGEUROSTAR 2007 vs EUROSTAR 2016

In saying all that — our hotel was in the old part of Brussels so we had quite a walk up there on rather hot day, dragging Dee’s suitcase noisily over the cobbles. A good 20 minutes passed.

IMG_0739.JPGDee carried my backpack, while I looked after her suitcase and my smaller pack

Eventually we arrived and the place was pretty fancy. But we conversely — were quite dishevelled. We must have looked so awful they gave us a glass of home-made lemonade while we checked in. It emerged the hotel was an old Dominican monastery. It was the kinda place that had a personalised welcome message on your room’s TV and the kinda place you took a photo of before you messed it all up with your crap. In the public areas a loop of Gregorian chants was omnipresent. I am not sure if that was settling, or kinda weird. As we came and went here I am sure the staff thought of us as probably simple folk that have accidentally come into wealth — “nouveau-riche”. We wore pretty simple attire relative to the other guests and we didn’t have the breakfast and we were always coming and going. I guess it was all confirmed when we famously got the barman (right in this supremely palatial bar) to open — literally the cheapest bottle of wine in Brussels — because we didn’t have a bottle-opener.

IMG_0770.JPGDid some boxing in the hotel gym — was great!

BRUX

While Dee freshened up I hit the town exploring and found a bunch of places to show Dee later. Here Brussels had those tiny lanes and organic street layout. Brux had a charm. The flags draping over the lanes and the fact it was a tiny, but quite big city all at the same time. We were staying in the hyper-touristy section but you could still get a feel of the place despite the incessant “frites” signs and “chocolate” stuff.

That evening we spent 50 euro on two ramens for dinner. Why it was so expensive I do not know — maybe it is a delicacy here.

IMG_0500.JPG

IMG_0516.JPG

IMG_0494.JPGIMG_0497.JPG

FEET

Meanwhile my feet were a mess. I had developed a massive blister on the plane 4 days earlier and it was now a goiter-sized bubble on my left foot. The other foot was littered with blisters too. Jess Kearney and I did a comparison — I won. And the only relief I got was to get walking for about 15 minutes. Once you had got accustomed to the pain, once your feet were “warmed up” — then you could perambulate with some degree of dignity. The cobbles did not help.

IMG_0666.JPG

The next day I hobbled the 400 metres to the Museum of Comics which was super-interesting. The english translations were a bit dodgy, but it was so amazing realising cartoons go back to those monks back in the middle ages and their innovative illustrations to religious texts. And nowadays a lot of comics are done with super-sophisticated software on massive tablets. It’s almost cheating. There was a lot of Tintin/Hergé — he’s pretty-much a national hero in Belgium.

BOERKE

But also this comic about a guy called Boerke. Which I think loosely translates to English as a dude named “Dickie”. (Of course it does. LOL). There was this installation devoted to these comics and it was so subversive — but so incredibly hilarious too. (And beautifully illustrated too!) It’s the sort of thing you could only get away with in Europe. But we both thought it was the best. You be the judge:

knackboer373.jpg

IMG_0521.JPG

IMG_0528.JPG

The town square looked postcard perfect the day we arrived, but then overnight all these trucks arrived and ugly bunting and pavilions were being set up for some gooby beer festival. All that old-world-chic was now ruined by 21st century logos and plastic and cordons and crowdedness. In all the airports in Europe, just after you get through security, or though immigration, they have this pad with 4 options on it. Colour coded and happy/sad face options. “How was your experience today?” it asks. But “Ugh” or “Sigh” was never an option. I think I would hit either of those buttons on this day if one of those bad-boys were available. But maybe mostly I was complaining cause any photo I wanted of the place was compromised and instantly dated.

That night we had a beer at this pub that Jon recommended which apparently had over a 1000 beers on tap. It was called Delerium and it was one of those places that was a bit of a warren. It had exotic and historic beer memorabilia plastered all over the place and all the tables were barrels. Outside (at the rear non-entrance) it had a gigantic beer bottle hanging off the facade and the words “BEER PLANET”. Ordering one of 10 beers available is intimidating. Ordering 1 of 1000 is just utter bullshit. But being the trooper I am — I somehow managed.

IMG_0506.JPG

IMG_0771.JPG

ANTWERP

The next day I did an early morning trip to get breakfast at the local “Paul” — a popular boulangerie chain over there. According to the diary I wrote that day I was a bit scared about ordering something in a place not necessarily frequented by foreigners — especially at that hour. Despite practising, I managed a very bullshit “Deux croissants et un cafe au lait, sil vous plait.” But of course they answered in perfect English and I was all worked up about nothing. My “Merci!” was literally perfect it should be said.

We met Jess at the train station and then had a quick lunch in the tourist-trap restaurant section and then we headed up to our train. I checked another “FAIL” into our list when buying our tickets from the only FRENCH speaking vending machine. So I accidentally bought 3 return tickets — we were only going one-way. Oh well.

We arrived at the magnificent Antwerp(en) Centraal Station. Possibly *the* most amazing train stations I have ever been to. From where we arrived, at it’s deepest depth, we looked up towards the light and it seemed like a temple. We took all these successive escalators up and up towards the pinnacle, all the while more and more bathed in natural light and getting closer and closer to the original station building with its massive dome and incredible architecture.

IMG_0590.JPG

IMG_0624.JPG

Our hotel was just across the road but it was a bit “basic”. Jess was sharing with us. Despite the fact it was blazingly hot there was no air-con, no fans and the layout of the rooms was weird. (Jess was basically sleeping in a windowless cupboard off the main bedroom). The shower was a bit awkward and there was no WIFI! UGH. Deal-breaker. But it was just for one night — right? Luckily the temperature dived once it got dark. We got composed and headed off towards the old part of town. The route was through a major commercial district. Malls and expensive shops everywhere.

IMG_0603.JPG

IMG_0605.JPG

Then were were suddenly upon possibly the tallest church I have ever seen. And it was like 12th Century. Crazy. We stopped for a drink (I had a Duvel) in the courtyard ahead of the church then somehow arrived at a bar that had a “house dog”. A place called Billie’s Bier kafetaria.

IMG_0612.JPG
I had something that tasted truly awful but apparently was revered and had an incredibly complicated brewing process.

IMG_0609.JPG

Next we had the WORST dinner at a Chinese restaurant. I accidentally ordered basically a macaroni-cheese in a Chinese style. (The menu was in Dutch). It was more bland than disgusting. Like the kind of food you might appreciate if you were on a long-haul flight and you had slept through a meal-service.

OH YEAH — I GOT A HOLE IN MY THUMB NAIL

IMG_0636.JPG(more on this later — eek)

BONUS PICS

IMG_0513.JPG

IMG_0773.JPG

IMG_0765.JPG

IMG_0537.JPG

IMG_0567.JPG

IMG_0578.JPGIMG_0583.JPG

IMG_0600.JPG

IMG_0596.JPG

EUROPE TRIP (Day 1-4)

IMG_0663.JPGDee was hoping to buy Albo’s new book at the airport — but instead just had to download it to the Kindle.IMG_0672.JPG

AN INTRODUCTION

This is the story of our 40 day trip to Europe. It was a “busy” trip. It made my head spin when the reality of it all hit the night before we left. I was a mess of nerves and I genuinely believe I was more anxious than I had been on the eve of our first time to Europe almost 10 years ago. This time we were jumping about Europe like iced-up-maniacs on pogo-sticks. By our standards it was an unprecedentedly hectic schedule. We weren’t stopping for very long in any one place — apart from the 6 days in a row at London right at the very end. (Which was essentially a reward for all our previous express-tourism). We had three separate car hires, one of which was that right-hand drive bullshit with a manual — meaning I not only had to get my shit together to drive on the opposite side of the road, but had to change gears with my right hand.

There were a bunch of intra-Europe flights on airline carriers we had never heard of and all the transfers that necessitated. There were a bunch of extremely early flights. And we were yet to book a bunch stuff — particularly in Ireland.

LONDON

The last time we arrived in London it was at 6am. (This was back in 2011). And thus we made it to our hotel in record time. Probably just before 9. Naturally the hotel room wasn’t ready so we were forced to wander around a bleak, grey city like zombies for hours and hours until we could check in at 3pm. Lesson-learnt, this time we booked an airport day room. It was so tiny and super hi-tech it was like living on the International Space Station. There were buttons everywhere for lights and the TV but crucially a button that would un-furl the bed. (It was like a massive robotic Jason-Recliner). That done the entire room was filled up. Once you were done napping you literally had to collapse the bed so you could move about the place again. We only got about 1.5 hours sleep but it was enough to feel a tiny bit fresh for the trip from Heathrow into the city proper.

We took the express train to Paddington, then got some brand new Oyster cards and planted 20 pounds on each. At Liverpool Station we took a quaint black cab and the (equally-quaint) driver was the most ENGLISH person you could imagine. I actually think he called me “Gov” or “Governor”.

So we were staying in Hackney. About halfway down Hackney Road in a spot I would describe as “authentic” London. On the “dodgy-scale” I would rate it at about 15%. Like there was perhaps a 15% chance anytime you ventured out there that something uncomfortable would occur. Within a stone’s throw there was a Chippy, three off-licenses, a Tesco and some weird proliferation of bag merchants.

ON THE BUSES

We soon learnt our road had three great services (the 26, 48 & 55) that would certainly get us moving in the general direction we needed to be — if not taking us almost exactly where we wanted to go. So we didn’t use much of the Tube. It is only a pound per journey on the bus — no matter how far you travel (as long as you stay on that particular bus). As opposed to the Tube which is almost 4 quid minimum a trip. It was now all about the buses. We would always ride up top to get the views and to be guaranteed a seat and jut for the novelty. Plenty of people also took dogs on the bus — Dee would rate that as another bonus.

FIRST NIGHT

Our date with Laura K and Laura Morrissey was in Shoreditch at the Owl and Pussycat. We walked over and, being inherently super-punctual — we got there early and I was faced with my first cultural malaise. I was ordering our drinks and I had been prepared for Dee’s wine but my beer proved a complication. I successfully ordered the wine, but as I looked down at the beer-taps I couldn’t recognise any brand — or any variety. As far as I could tell there was not even a Guinness or Kronenberg option. Whatever I stumbled into ordering was barely OK. I think I even ordered it again just cause I couldn’t bear the roulette of trying something else which might have been worse. It was a bit of a wake up call. I was now on the other side of the planet and I had to get my shit together.

It was so great to see the Lauras and epic good times were had. PizzaEast for dinner.

IMG_0685.JPG

I CAUSE AN INCIDENT

We were back at the hotel by 10 and we crashed into bed. Asleep almost immediately. But at about 3:30am we both woke up and I decided to use the facilities. The room was unfamiliar and completely dark and I was searching for the bathroom light. “Where the fuck is the bathroom light?, “ I said to Dee. I had completely forgotten that bathrooms in the UK have the light switch on the outside. It is absolute stupidity — but that is how they do things over there. I was stumbling around and Dee was giving me some suggestions. Eventually I found this cord and I think I said, “Hey maybe this cord is it.” Dee literally screamed, “NO DON’T!” But it was too late.

I yanked this cord and suddenly all these alarms went off. I literally thought I had set of the Hotel’s fire alarm. Dee sprung out of bed in a panic and was like, “That’s the panic cord.”

“WHAT?!!”

See we were in one of those “ambulent rooms”. Designed for people with disabilities. That panic-cord was super-effective. It not only made unspecified people in the hotel (or else) in panic-mode – but I too was now also quite a bit PANICKED. I dived upon the room’s telephone and was immediately in touch with someone in Reception. In hindsight I realised I had picked up the receiver just at that instant after Reception had dialled our room number to check on us.

“Oh My God, “ I said as calmly as I could muster. “I didn’t mean to do that.” She started telling me how to cancel/reset the alarm but her instructions weren’t quite specific enough. (I guess because all rooms are subtly different she was telling me to find this switch at a place it definitely was not.) Another panicked minute or two ensued before I found that cancel button — on the ceiling of all places. I leapt on a chair and the CRISIS was averted. But all that adrenaline was still swimming about our super-wired bodies and as we slumped back into bed it took us a bunch more time to get back to sleep. After that I started making a list of all the FAILS! we had done so far.

Examples:

1) I said “G’Day” at least twice within hours of arriving.
2) I said, “Can I chuck that on my card?” — which would have been equally a highly mystifying and creepy thing to say now I realise it.|
3) Dee accidentally locked her suitcase after accidentally spinning the combination locks.
4) (In Brussels) Buying the cheapest/dodgiest wine available but when we realised it required a corkscrew, we realised we were in such a super-expensive hotel and asking the concierge to uncork it. So much AWKWARD.

IMG_0391.JPG

IMG_0946.JPG(2007)

IMG_0392.JPG(And in 2016)

The next day, a Friday, we went into the city to get UK phone cards and have a wander around. Went to the British Museum and it was “Saturday” chaotic. So much more security since last we visited. Not much else to report about that day except the epic stairs at the Russell Square Tube station.

BRISBANE IN LDN

That night we caught the bus up to one of most favourite places in London — Stoke Newington — initially to meet Laura K. But then a bunch of other Brisbane ex-pats were on our agenda. Sonya and Brad, Mark and Katie. We all piled into this tiny backroom section of an awesome vegetarian Indian restaurant (RASA) and shared stories of living in London and me and Dee got excited. Then LK and Dee and me headed to Camden (EDIT: Actually Dalston — thanks LK) to see Susan’s band. Laura Morrissey was there too and then suddenly Mitch appeared. So many Brisbane friends! But jet-lag was creeping up and I was mostly to blame for us leaving just before midnight. Moments before I made the call I had accidentally gone to the women’s toilet and it was horrifying. “OMG! I am just a tourist! I am a Deadshit! I am so sorry!” That was literally what I said when I emerged from the cubicle and when the realisation punched me in the face. The two women there were luckily very understanding.

IMG_0405.JPG

IMG_0409.JPG

SUNDAY

The weather had turned a little. It was periodically drizzly but our tiny umbrella seemed to keep us dry as we walked over to the Columbia Road Flower Market. It’s a thing in London to buy flowers. It’s a bland and dreary existence here (nature-wise) and I guess you don’t get to see much natural colour and so people go a bit nuts for flowers to spice up their apartments. It was super-crowded and we slow-mo’d our way through the throng to find a quaint bagel place and dove out to the back for a bit of peace and to scoff some rather excellent bagels down. Then Dee and LK went off while we made own ways independently towards the War Cabinet Rooms over near Westminster. I made it most of the way just walking only having to get a four stop/one change tube ride to meet the deadline. The tube service was advising that patrons should take water to stave off the heat down there. It was good advice. The tube was disgustingly hot. You’d think being so deep underground it would be sufficiently insulated — but the air is so blisteringly stuffy. The atmosphere seems to be enriched by human body heat and having just walked up top for an hour meant my core temperature was already elevated. There was a spot at the end of the carriage where you could stand next to a tiny open window which provided some relief — but only while the train was moving.

IMG_0419.JPG

IMG_0420.JPG

The line-up for the War Rooms was epic, but after a quick stop at a Pret-a-Manger for a coffee we got hit by a sudden downpour. It was sufficiently severe to decimate the line-up and we made it down with only the briefest of waits. SCORE!

After learning quite a bit more about than I really needed to know about Churchill (but achingly little about his wife Clementine) we came up into the light again and realised we hadn’t seen a single window for hours. LK came back with us to our hotel room for drinks. Then collectively we did a poke-hunt in Haggerston Park and then at Bethnal Green we caught our first Mr. Mime — a Europe-only Pokemon. We were all so excited we did this big group hug. Embarrassing, but it felt good at the time.

IMG_0429.JPG

IMG_0436.JPG(August 2016)

IMG_6637.JPG(January 2008)

IMG_0441.JPG

IMG_0465.JPG

MONDAY — BANK HOLIDAY

It was a slow start, but after wandering around the area we made it to a cafe attached to a recording studio called “The Premises”. It was one of those places with signed pictures in frames all over the walls. Jarvis Cocker, Little Boots, Lily Allen etc. A group of four fat Council workers had the table next to us and were so deplorably inappropriate they made Trump seem like an angel. The runt of the group was a guy called “Fat Paul” who copped most of the vile. And he wasn’t that fat. Poor bastard. Even the waitress was insulted — “You’re not as fat as Fat Paul,” one of them said. Literally.

Anyway. It was mostly a quiet day that ended with dinner in a section of Hackney that I can only describe as Little Vietnam. Tomorrow we had to negotiate THE CONTINENT. (More on that later.)

ASIDE: This was my favourite ad on UK TV. So good. (and the way the dog jumps up in the very last second is equal genius and magical.)

BONUS PICS:

IMG_0395.JPG

IMG_0468.JPG

IMG_0475.JPG

IMG_0479.JPG

IMG_0480.JPG

IMG_0482.JPG

IMG_0679.JPG

IMG_0705.JPG

IMG_0710.JPG(Drinking in a park with a squirrel)

How someone took advantage of our missing pet

Today someone took advantage of me: and here is how. 

Today is the 9th day our chook “torrence” has been missing. Hopefully she is dead cause I really can’t imagine what suffering she must be going through if she still survives. Sometimes I imagine her out there and think she might be fine finding food – it’s just finding water that worries me. And dying of thirst…. 😢

Despite trying so hard not to, I grew to see her as a genuine pet. A friend even. She has her flaws – just like the puss – but I am quite attached. 

I did my best to find her. I’ve walked around, I’ve made a flyer and letterboxed twice and now all hope seems lost. Then today I got a call from a private number.

“Do you have chooks?” she said. Immediately I thought Torrence was found. Yes! I said, excited. But instead, this call was just to complain about our other two chooks. She was threatening to call the Council. I sunk again into that malaise.

They were digging up her yard every day, she whinged.

Ok, sorry, I said. Trying hard to disguise my disappointment. I told her I’ve built this fencing trying to keep them in. But, yeah – they have always found a way through. 

I will fix it, I said.

“When will that happen?” she bleated. “Because I will call the Council.” Repeating her increasingly nasty threats.

“If you feel you need to call the Council, then go ahead,” I said. 

Now everyone in my work-pod could hear. Sencing this conversation was going downhill I dived into an empty office. 

She demanded to know when I would fix the fence and I said i would do it on Saturday, but if she felt she needed to complain to the Council in the meantime she should do that.

The conversation ended and as I emerged everyone was wondering what that was all about.

“Chook drama”. Everyone calmed down – but I was still wired. 

Super upset. No one appreciates that chooks are meaningful – I get that, but it still shits me. I was also upset that I had upset a neighbour. I value my neighbours. But something else was niggling at me.

I asked my boss for some leave so I could go home and check it out and attempt to fix the problem.

Once home the two surviving chooks were indeed missing and I called and called but they didn’t return. I then went around to this neighbour’s house (she gave me her address on the phone) and said, “Hello, I’m here to bring the chooks home.” 

Even then, this woman was cold and obtuse. I stood well away from the front door and politely asked if I could find the chickens and take them home. She refused, highly implying I was untrustworthy, and went looking for them (she found one) and only then told me I could enter the property. 

The garden she was so precious about was pretty ordinary. A rusted old car without plates or full tyres in an asbestos shrouded shed (dangerously shattered it should be said) dominated the front. Out the back was a garden with no fence on one side. The garden was neat, but not cultured in any sense that a chook could comprimise. Indeed the bush turkeys do far more digging. Our chooks scrape – they do not dig holes.

So I grabbed the chooks and as I was leaving she casually asked me about the missing chook. “She’s gone,” I said as bluntly as possible and I kept walking. Not looking back.

Then I spent the next two hours fixing the fence. And all the while I remembered this woman had just taken advantage of my loss, via my flyer appealing for help looking for our missing chook. 

All she wanted was to complain. about nothing really. And she took my phone number from that plea for help, just to complain about a tiny agenda that really meant very little. 

I just cannot understand why people treat eachother like this.

I miss our chook and I hope this person feels bad about it too. 

HOME HAIRCUTS (+ a sneaky Goon Sax review)

I HAVEN’T BEEN TO A HAIRDRESSER, NOR LET ANYONE CUT MY HAIR, IN 15 YEARS. (See below)

So while I have been listening to that amazing debut album by The Goon Sax for the past few weeks I was recently struck by two things:

a) Home haircuts
b) The fact that Conan got a bit affronted by it. (What?)

the_goon_sax_h_0915.8145e2fe310ccf8cd901434ffccebd02.jpgHere’s a pic of the Goon Sax. Louis, Riley and James

FIRSTLY: HOME HAIRCUTS

Louis sings, “Do home haircuts ever go right?” 

Well I can tell you Louis, almost definitively — “Yes, yes they do.”

And he tries to get his mum to help but she seemingly refuses. All I can say to Louis is — Dude, I got all that push-back, but eventually I just went at it on my own. And I survived.

And here’s how. I have been cutting my own hair for about 15 years. That is a TRUE STORY.  It’s not something I advertise, and when people find out, cause my fiance Dee likes to blab about it, they are genuinely surprised.

THE DENTIST (OR “HOW IT STARTED”)

See, just like Louis, I HATED going to the hairdresser. When I graduated from the barber (perhaps because they just refused to exist anymore) going to a hair-dressing-salon was always an ordeal. It’s so intimate. And then it’s all that forced “chat”. It’s in a space that was so alien. You’re almost strapped to that chair with that cape like you’re in a straight-jacket. It’s just like being in a dentist’s chair — the same amount of indignity, but without so much physical pain.

When I was just still in high school we had one up the road and they insisted on washing my hair before they cut it and it brought back bad memories. Nits (hair lice) were a big deal when I was a kid. We were all afraid of them but that didn’t stop us swapping hats, sleeping over sharing pillows and epic wrestling and generally being always in super-close-quarters. At the start of a school camp the teachers inspected everyone’s scalp before we were allowed on the bus to Binna Burra.

And then my grandmother, whenever I stayed at her place, insisted on personally washing my hair. She was such a control-freak. She assumed I was being mistreated because my dad wasn’t a religious nut like she was. It was like my Dad had made me so dirty because I had rejected religion and I needed purification — even if it just was super-cleanliness.

But home-haircuts were a thing when I was growing up. A chair got dragged out into the backyard and some unqualified scissors got dug out of the kitchen drawer. Both times it was one of my dad’s girlfriends who would just announce that they would “have a go” at cutting my hair. And both times it turned out great. “Great” in the sense that I was super-less-shaggy and neat and no-one knew any wiser.

A spark in my brain formed.

GROWING

As a teen I tried growing my hair long just to be cool. And for two years I didn’t need a hairdresser. But as a late-teen my hair was so, so thick and consequently had no option but to get wavy and super-puffy. If it even got a whiff of shampoo it got even worse. It was like I had a wavvy-hair-afro. I got so sick of the puffiness I cut my hair short again and didn’t grow it long again for 10 years. So I then I was suddenly committed to keeping my hair short and because I was officially an “adult” and thus responsible for keeping my hair in order I asked my sister to cut my hair — which failed. But then I convinced an early girlfriend to have a go. I didn’t care if she failed. I just didn’t want to go back to the hairdresser. And she did amazingly for about two years. Then we broke up.

WHAT THEN?

My hair grew out and when it got a bit too shaggy for my job I asked my new girlfriend to have a go at cutting my hair. She refused. Looking back I guess it was a bit much to ask from a woman who you had only been dating for only a few weeks.

But then I just gave it a go myself. And it worked. It wasn’t perfect — it never has been — but I got better and better at it.

HOW TO CUT YOUR OWN HAIR

And here is the exact point when I started cutting my hair on my own.

df_mouthopen.jpg

And then I realised that one side of my head wasn’t behaving like I wanted. So I changed the way I parted my hair. A complete revolution. To all you kids out there: you never know what side your hair will get thinner first.

So then I looked like this:

new_shirt.jpg

But the part of my hair was all wrong.

So working it all out was also the necessity of being in one of those corporate jobs where I had to look civilised — meeting lots of important people all the time — so I just hacked at my hair and prayed for the best. I learnt a lot just trimming a little bit universally. Then trimming some more over the same universal if that didn’t do the required.

The more I hacked the more I got good and then suddenly it was effortless.

BUT: I could never, ever cut anyone else’s hair — I was only trained to cut my own. I would definitely freak out if I was given that job.

pore pack.jpg

Nowadays I look a bit like this:

IMG_9704.JPG

 

DSCF6075.JPG

SCISSORS

I have used the same scissors this entire time. They are shorter than paper-scissors — but they are still just ordinary ones. The shortness helps your confidence that you are not going to chop off a chunk of ear. You start at the sides taking what you can best figure is an inch from every bit. And when I say “inch” I mean what you figure your hair needs to be ruley again.

Then you take an inch from the top. Then you just shorten the fringe how you think it would best suit — usually on an angle away from how you part your fringe.

If that is not to your liking you chop away at your hair again taking just a centimetre. So it’s basically a cutting that you do in stages. Start hacking, then trim. You’d be surprised how forgiving your shag upstairs can be.

And you might have to re-visit the cut maybe 2 or 3 times again in the hour or so that ensues just to target any issues you missed. I don’t cut with wet hair, because it made me cut a bit shorter than I might have wanted and when you cut dry what you see is what you get. The WYSIWYG principle. I can cut my hair in under two minutes. And that is no exaggeration. Crucially I could do it WITHOUT a mirror. It gets that automated.

BEARDS

Beard trimming took me a bit of practise. The first time I tried it on my own (Dee did the a good job of the first) I hacked a great big chunk out of the side of my face and was mortified. But no one noticed until I pointed it out and with a bit of a stroke of my chin like I was thinking hard it was instantly disguised.

So tips: go even.

EVEN: It’s the exact same principle as head-hair-cutting but it is super-trimming rather than hacking. It’s a finer detail. You just snip all over at the most even rate you can muster.

But as a right-handed person it is so much harder to trim on the right side of my face — so take a bit more time with those snips. And be more vigil lest you leave your face totally unbalanced. And just take your time, stroke around your beard like you are solving all the world’s problems, and work out what bits are too long and thick and what is fuzzy and not. Simple.

The moustache is a bit trickier. Just go slow and go even and it will become ok. I would say you need a mirror here. Just snip what is getting in front of your top lip and then trim elsewhere if it’s necessary.

OH YEAH — THE GOON SAX

Personally I never expected to like the Goon Sax much. I knew the band existed well before I saw them play at the Zoo supporting Darren Hanlon last year. And of course I was interested. I had never officially met Louis, but I had seen him around when his dad was about. He seemed like “that teenager” I used to be. Sullen and bored and wanting to be anywhere else but there. Just like I me at that age.

And so I watched then at The Zoo that night and they were a bit tentative and awkwardly swapping instruments all the time. It wasn’t a super exciting set — but that is not a criticism. The thing that was most awkward was the fact they seemed — on the surface — like a parody of the Go-Betweens. Two songwriters and a female drummer. And all the songs had a very “Lee Remick” vibe.

It’s a bit awful of me thinking back, but I cynically thought, “Is Louis…like *trying* to be like his dad? Really?”

IMPROVING ON YOUR HERITAGE

See when I was a kid I wanted to be nothing like my parents. I certainly wanted to be as successful as them, but I wanted to do things different. But then I thought a bit more and something occurred to me: “What choice did he have?”. This is my bias and my ignorance.

If your parents have impeccable taste and skill, and they’re not douchecanoes, and they’re obviously not telling you what to do — naturally you just might find your way to making your own awesome music…and it just might be in that same vein. Because awesome music is awesome music — right?

And Wintah is the best example I could think of. Wintah has an equally incredible musical dad who is actually a great guy. Wintah, son of Glenn Thompson (from the nouveaux Go-Betweens, Custard, Adults Today etc), was an incredible role model. He had the best taste in music and christ I wished my parents had brought me up like that. Why would you not want to emulate? Wintah was always ahead of the curve with music. I used to think I was pretty accomplished, but he introduced me to some amazing stuff and broadened my taste quite a bit. And thus his band, The Little Lovers, was not a huge leap from what his dad’s bands did. Stylistically and aesthetically it was almost a mark 2. Just quietly I thought Wintah had improved the model. (But that’s just between you and me.)

BACK TO THE SONGS

The thing that struck me personally was that this album by The Goon Sax seemed like a collection of “first songs”. They all seem like the first generation of songs in a songwriter’s career. And again that is no criticism. They remind me of my very first attempts at songs. And hearing songs like these (back when I was very little) inspired me to write something and form a band. (My inspiration in those days was The Melniks — but that’s another story.)

The difference is it’s just amazing how great this generation of songs are — I cannot imagine what the second or third generation will bring. Very excited.

Production-wise the album is much richer than you would think. They have been genuinely nurtured by whomever produced them. A definite hands-on producer. I know it was recorded at the JSS studio. The songs seems so earthy and pedestrian, but there’s a deliberate complexity. A bunch of layers you just might not notice. There’s a lot there supporting everything — like in the Home Haircuts song. . The first thing I really noticed was how bloody good James was at bass playing. I am just assuming he is the one playing on Louis’ songs. Just cause they seem so much more lush.

ALSO: I think the decision to put one of the strongest songs last —  “Ice Cream (on my own)” — was inspired.

The drumming is so incredible too. Riley, a ginger like me, is apparently a brand-new drummer. She learnt the skins just to join. I know how tough drums are — being a frustrated one myself. She is pretty damn interesting and tight at the same time. Just see the mad-skills she displays in the “Boyfriend” and “Target” tracks. And live she has to sing back-up as well.

And just BTW: I genuinely had to look up who “Roger McGuinn” was. I am so uncool. But not so uncool to wonder once I saw his picture if his hair, circa 1967, is really aspirational.

hmm.

And finally here is the Goon Sax at the Planetarium. One of my favourite places in Brisbane!

goon-sax.jpg

Oh and Conan’s judgement doesn’t really count. He has great taste in music, but it is highly, highly Patrician. He just doesn’t get this stuff. His loss.

IMG_7082.JPG

Camp Mtn Railtrail + Goatness

I love checking out new bike infrastructure, and so I was keen to see the freshly sealed rail trail from Ferny Grove to Camp Mountain.

This former railway line was the scene of the worst rail incident in Queensland’s history, almost exactly 69 years ago. 16 people died and dozens were injured.

The train was charted by federal government workers keen to celebrate that Labour Day with a picnic out at Cedar Creek in Closeburn.

It was absolutely laden with people — over 200 — and the driver had never driven that route and on descent into Camp Mountain the train was going too fast and derailed on a tighter bend.

And our route today took us right over the top of that fateful journey. Just about 50m before we turned left onto Camp Mountain Road was where all that awful shit went down. Back all those years there was a train station at that intersection. It is pretty wild to think how things have changed so much in just the living memory of my grandparents.

Anyway. Just while I am feeling philosophical, I should note this ride was a bit like “Waiting for Scotto.” He was meant to meet us at Lifecycles but when he was late Mark texted him and it emerged he had only just left his house way over in Annerley.

We decided to roll away, going slow, and let him catch up. But that was a bit hard cause these were rubbish roads with a lot of traffic so you just naturally want to get through them as fast as possible. But we only had to “Wait for Scotto” for about 15 minutes. Mark started doing laps of the carpark. That looked like fun so I joined him. Benny practised track standing.

IMG_0309.JPG

Eventually he arrived, looking resplendent in his new Pedla kit —  and we rolled on.

IMG_0311.JPG

IMG_0313.JPG

So here was where the rail trail started:

IMG_0315.JPG

The new pavement has been a tiny bit controversial — as some people loved the dirt and grass and naturalness. And I get that, but if it makes people ride bikes more or just exercise (it was pretty crowded with walkers), then that is a good thing in my book.

IMG_0318.JPG

We didn’t see any horses to yield to it should be said. Horses seem to be on the very top of the rail-trail food-chain.

IMG_0320.JPG

Just cause I have been so neck-deep in gravel these past weeks, and have far more on the horizon, I decided to pick out a tiny bit extra on this ride. First was this dead end street traverse:

IMG_0325.JPG

Then there was this dodgy next section which I had researched on Google Maps, but it was just a hunch that we could get through. Scott and Benny were a bit ahead and naturally missed it because it was hidden down this tiny grassy path obscured by this massive “End of Road” sign.

And they rode left up the bitumen before they realised we were all waiting for them to notice we had stopped. When they saw the route Ben said, “Well that was obvious”.

IMG_0326.JPG

And this section, though short, had some super-treacherous sandy sections. And the last bit I lost it and did a half crash. I managed to unclip both legs and stay semi-upright. I don’t think it counts as a crash — but my sandy rear-derraileur attests to the fact the bike at least went totally sideways:

IMG_0341.JPG

Here’s a shot of Ventura smashing through the last of that shitty section:

IMG_0328.JPG

And here is a shot of a puppy. This is for my fiancé, Dee:

IMG_0329.JPG

Next was the main road again and then up the Goat Track. Here’s Ventura again:

IMG_0334.JPG

IMG_0336.JPG

Scott and Ben talking new bikes

IMG_0339.JPG

Instagrammin! 

IMG_0343.JPG

At the top we gently rolled on to the Cafe. Cake-time!

There were several things to note here:

  1. On the way to the Goat Track we saw a kid heading in the opposite direction getting motor-paced by a guy on a scooter. (“That’s weird”, we thought.)
  2. Then as we were waiting for our coffee’s and food we saw the same kid and the scooter roll past. This time the kid was ahead of the bike and Ben said, “Look, he’s dropped him!” And it seemed this kid had smashed it to Samford then back up the mountain. Impressive.
  3. There was a random roadie sitting next to us and he knew the kid from the Coot-tha Burn last whatever. His name is Sebastian Something. He’s only 16.
  4. Another teenager then turned up in a very expensive sports car with a very beautiful date. They didn’t stay long and then the two tried to leave. But the poor kid seemed to have no idea how to work the car and took a few minutes and a few gear crunches and even more engine stalls to reverse and then eventually head down the road back to Brisbane. I was too embarrassed for the douchecanoe to even look.

Back to Brisbane and Ventura had a mechanical and so I suggested we fix it at my place. It was a great chance for Scott to be horrified at my lack of, and poor organisation, of my tools! oh well.

It was a good ride. Legs still feel sore from Boonah, but they are getting better. Just need to remember how to suffer more.

IMG_0345.JPG

Boonah Overnightah (PART 1)

Traditionally, well in my experience, overnight tours have been about being super-minimalist. Basically these following “rules”:

1) Keep the weight to only what is truly necessary. They call it “credit card” touring.
2) Ride hard and fast with the Garmin on all the time on the smoothest route possible to maintain an impressive average speed.
3) Drink, sleep and eat at the local pub (or sleep at a cheap motel if you really have to).
4) Remember: if you think you just might need something — well you won’t. Leave it at home.
5) Lots of beers and dodgy pub food make sleeping easier so you can just jump out of bed and get a super early start for the limp home on day 2

But it seems there are other people out there in the world who do things decidedly differently.

1) They take an inordinate amount of stuff so they can be almost totally self-sufficient. Camping gear, cooking gear, most of the food and spares of almost everything.
2) And they ride the rough and dusty way. The slow way.
3) They might visit the pub but only for a counter meal
4) They leave their Garmin at home (Wait – what?)
5) Not so many beers and thus a very long and relaxed and super casual start on Day 2 – and that’s even before they even get on the bike.

And this was one of those overnighters. A very, very different experience for me.

ODD ONE OUT

Because I am only set-up for the former I rode this overnighter just like I would normally. Crazy huh? So I was *that guy*. I was riding a carbon bike with a dodgy seat-topper and a pretty much just a credit-card in my back pocket. I would be the one that would get ALL THE FLAT TYRES and maybe worse and slowing everyone down and be generally useless. Story of my life.

Plus I was the only one with a Garmin rolling and super-interested in its results. (Ryan’s doesn’t count cause that was ostensibly just for navigation).

The only thing I did to perhaps help my argument was to change my tyres to a set of 25mm Maxxis Re-Fuse. Scotty assured me they were bomb-proof. (So a little wider and heavier than I usually use). ASIDE: On that Killarney ride back in 2014 we met some old veteran overnighters and they said they don’t let anyone come on one of their rides unless they are rolling with the Maxxis. True story.

As it turns out I wasn’t “that guy”. Various other people thankfully took that mantle. More on that later.

THE RIDE

IMG_0152.JPG

This is one of those rides where you get a train at the start and a train at the end. This can be a bit awkward cause maintaining conversation for 1.5 hours at the start of a ride (at 6am when you are a bit blergh from just having woken up much earlier than usual), and then the inevitable 1.5 hours of conversation at the end (when you are super-tired and dehydrated and have spent literally every waking hour with these people and so you have NOTHING left to talk about).

Anyway. This trip out wasn’t so awkward. I got to meet a dude called Ryan — not to be confused with the other Ryan. So this ride’s “Ryan” I am dubbing “Planet Ryan” cause he’s a mechanic/bike-builder at Planet Cycles and not the Ry Ry from many other bike adventures. Planet Ryan is also a Ginger!

Also with us was Bennett, our leader — then Dan (not Antmandan), Daniel Licastro (AKA “Gypsy” in times gone by) and Scott. So six of us — though Dan was joining us just for day 1 and then riding back to Ipswich. All of those guys were rocking tyres no thinner than 40mm (even Dan). The other overnighters were also carrying 8-10kgs of extra stuff on top. Maybe even more.

IMG_0153.JPG

SECRET SEVENTH

And then there was this secret seventh member of our crew. A ghost rider ready to maybe judge us once we had uploaded our Garmin data. See this ride had been proposed, mapped, tested and then ridden (a few months back) by one Bradley Norman. Brad of Queensland Cyclocross fame. So we were essentially following his directions — even though he wasn’t there because he had to work this weekend.

Brad’s imperatum, and the fact that Bennett didn’t print the map out, meant we were kinda wedded to his plan. It was Brad or Bust. I stupidly suggested a slight variation to the last stanza of the Day 1 route but no one was having any of that shit. That idea got shot down in nano-seconds. Brad or Bust.

ROLLING

IMG_0155.JPG

Off the train at Rosewood we went to the bakery and had some pasties and a toilet-break and then we were heading south. The gravel started almost immediately. On a road bike gravel means this:

1) You have to swim about the road like a drunkard hopefully avoiding any stones larger than a Jawbreaker.
2) And in doing so you are concentrating on the road-surface 100% of the time. Vastly more than you’d usually do.
3) The excessive vibrations mean your hands get very sore and you’re constantly shifting positions to get some relief.
4) You don’t get excited for downhills. Any speed above 25kms/hr is adventurous so that basically meant I was constantly on the levers trying to keep my speed in check on the backside of any hill. But in saying that when everyone else smashes past you at 40+ you eventually get a bit more relaxed.
5) The 90 degree turns are the worst cause that’s where the gravel has been washed over by traffic and seems to congregate like it’s a gravel-party — so you are slushing through much more junk.
6) Uphill is where I felt the most stable — cause it was so much slower. See point 4.
7) Downhill on grass I just had to get off the bike and run with it. True story.

So we were a bit clueless as to the route but luckily Ryan had this brand new super-fancy Garmin 1000 which he had pre-loaded with Brad’s route and we were sweet. I mistakenly believed I knew the turns but we would have been fucked if the crew had relied on my directional skills.

IMG_0156.JPG

IMG_0162.JPG

IMG_0166.JPG

IMG_0168.JPG

IMG_0175.JPG

The next 30ks was a variation of dirt, gravel, bitumen and various previously undocumented road surfaces which were quite refreshing. The views were great and we mostly had the road to ourselves. The terrain was rolling but no serious pinches.

IMG_0179.JPG

IMG_0180.JPG

DOG

At about 15ks in I was about 100ms in front and I saw this dog on the left start getting nuts and barking and carrying on. He stated sprinting towards me and I was zen, assuming the fence would secure him. But then s/he was suddenly ducked under the fence and was on the road-verge charging at me and I heard this massive growl. The kind of growl that only means, “I want to fucking BITE you”. My heart jumped about 20 beats per minute and I jumped out of the saddle and sprinted away as best I could. Luckily it was on a downhill incline. Once the the dog was no threat I looked back at the crew having no chance to verbally warn them. But they seemed fine. Later everyone was like, “the dog was just playing with you.” But in my heart of hearts, that dog was only a bit more civil faced with a crew of bikes rather than just me on my own.

ROSEVALE

It should be said that there were no shops or water opportunities for these first 65kms. But there was a chance at a place on the map called Rosevale which was a “maybe”.

At a gully/creek crossing about 20ks in Dan’s only full water bottle jumped out and he lost all that water. So we stopped at the Rosevale hotel but it was deserted. We saw a tap but it was protected by a fence and a “beware of the dog” sign. But eventually we realised this place was empty — the “foreclosure” sign helped. We jumped the fence and got this shot with an old train carriage in the background.

IMG_0202.JPG

IMG_0199.JPG

IMG_0187.JPG

IMG_0190.JPG

The next section was all bitumen and Dan said to me, knowing I was a bit worried about my tyres being compromised, “It looks like you might be alright.” Meaning I had dodged a bullet with respect to gravel. But then almost as soon as he said that there was a sign saying “Gravel next 6.8ks”.

And this gravel was very “AUSTRALIA”. So ginger. It spectacularly contrasted the super green of the vegetation. And the main range was now so close and so beautiful. There were cows everywhere and I love dairy cows, and there was a bit more shade — but my hands and arms were suffering from constantly cushioning the road surface on my body. Steadily I was starting to feel a bit shit — in the “can-I-do-this?” sense.

I did my best job of keeping that to myself cause everyone else seemed to be smashing it.

Meanwhile I was doin the maths trying to calculate when the gravel would end and suddenly it did about 800ms before it was meant to. And the country opened up and now we were so amongst the majesty of the northern section of the Main Range National Park. And I just got a bit excited and sprinted ahead amongst all these views and smooth bitumen and sweet downhillness.

IMG_0205.JPG

IMG_0209.JPG

IMG_0210 2.JPG

IMG_0217.JPG

IMG_0220.JPG

A MISSED BRAD SPECIAL

About 8ks later Ryan couldn’t figure out Brad’s map. It seemed to be sending us down a no-through-road. And we collectively decided that this was a Brad Special and not obvious enough for us goobs so we would all stick to the road. Admittedly we were all really hungry. Supposedly Brad’s special side-tour involved a creek crossing. I am just about 20 per cent disappointed we didn’t explore that. But then getting lunch 20-30 minutes sooner was magical. Just saying.

IMG_0228.JPG

KENT’S POCKET

After a decent lunch at Aratula at the BP truck stop where we saw a douchecanoe pull in with a number plate that effectively said, “MY ASS” we headed up the highway. It was a bit hairy when massive trucks smashed past but thankfully only about 2ks later we were on side-roads again. Skirting around Mt French we hit the main road to Boonah and soon we were at the fabled sign that said, “Kent’s Pocket Road”. I won’t bother you with an explanation of why this event was so meaningful in a LOLOLOL kinda way. But it did mean we KENTS spent an inordinate amount of time perfecting this crew-shot.

The Kent’s Pocket road was a detour. An extra few kilometres over rocks and sapped our arrival time at Boonah by at least 20 minutes. But it was all worth it. Great scenery and at least one untethered and un-fenced cow standing inches away from the road which I did my best to avoid but Scotty tried his best to seduce.

IMG_5290.JPGPhoto by Bennett

IMG_0230.JPGAborted timer-shot photo

IMG_0231.JPGTimer-shot I nailed!

IMG_0237.JPGThe beauty of Kent’s Pocket Road

BOONAH

At Boonah I was just absolutely ecstatic that I had not flatted (or caved in any other fashion). I was pretty chuffed with myself. I had successfully rolled 80ks without being “that guy”.

To celebrate we got some brews from the drive-thru and went to the park to relax but the sun and the ants made that a bit shit. I headed back to the motel where I was staying. I would have stayed at a hotel but there’s no way I would do that if no one else was doing the same. Meanwhile Dan headed back to Ipswich on his own making his total ride over 130ks. (that was an extra 50s).

IMG_0243.JPG

As it turned out Scott was bunking with me cause he couldn’t source a tent. I don’t think I have had a friend stay on the bottom bunk for like — maybe 20 years.

It was a bit daunting, but it worked out ok. He snored a bit, but then I had to pee in the middle of the night and I woke him up super-early.

WEIGHT

To be honest I think Scott won the WEIGHT AWARD. His bike was so super-loaded. Indeed he seemed to purposely overload it just for lols and maybe for a bit of ballast. I am sure Bennett would agree. Scott was constantly offering us all the excess food or water he had lugged. And then he was like, “Do want my spare tyre?” “What about this bean-bag and flat-screen I stuffed in there too?”

And for all the shit Ryan and Bennett carried — they forgot the sunscreen. WHAT? And they payed for that! More on that later.

NAP

I managed to get a 30 min nap while Gypsy and Scott lounged in the Boonah Motel pool. Meanwhile Bennett and Ryan set up camp at the Boonah Showgrounds. Thankfully they got a section a tiny bit more secluded. After I woke I was a bit sleep-drunk and made Gypsy and Scott ride up to the lookout just above us up this 20% climb. “TRUST ME — THIS WILL BE GOOD” I said and Scott was like, “No one who has ever said, ‘TRUST ME’ has come up with the goods.”

But I think I nailed it. You can judge by the pics. We could see all the major peaks, the entire town and the gliders getting towed up.

IMG_9790.JPG
Panorama from the Boonah Lookout

IMG_9789.JPG

DINNER (and camping)

So after my nap, and Scott and Gypsy having a swim we went over to the camp grounds just in time to see Bennett cook his dinner.

IMG_0250.JPGHere is Bennett (with his epic sunburn) cooking his baked beans

IMG_9796.JPG

After unsuccessfully trying to destroy Bennett’s tent by constantly tripping over his main anchor line, we headed for the pub.

We went to the Dugandun pub about 1k down the road on Scott’s insistence. It turned out to be an inspired decision. It was a beautiful old pub and it was just a bit lively. Crucially — at least for Gypsy — they had at least 6 different types of parmy’s on offer.

While Gypsy chose the traditional parmy, Scott and me went the “Nacho-Parmy” which Bennett described as “Bogan-Fusion”. And he was right. It was shithouse. But I just wanted sustenance. Here’s me and Scott getting our meal:

IMG_9803.JPG

Look I learnt a lot more about Tinder than I needed to know that evening. But that is another story.

COURTESY CAR

So after seeing a sign saying there was a “Courtesy Bus” that became a “thing” or a “challenge”. I was always like, “Dudes, it’s only 800ms back to town.” But I was voted down. The van was there and I just wanted to get in just to document the adventure. Here’s the photo:

IMG_9806.JPG

And here is Bennett winning $31 on the pokies!

IMG_9808.JPG

DAY 2 coming later!

Here’s some bonus pics via Bennett:

IMG_5324.JPGIMG_5312.JPG

IMG_5319.JPG

IMG_0229.JPG

Thoughts on “Chat 10 Looks 3”

When I was that snotty-nosed, pimply 20 year old I happened to accidentally meet the singer in my most favourite band. And “CLANG”* — that was David McCormack from Custard.

And almost the first thing I said to him was, “I really hope you guys don’t get big.”

It was a truly awful thing to say to a musician that at that point was skating so close to official “unemployment” status. Even the label “working poor” would be way too generous. He was the very definition of a “struggling artist” despite the fact the Arts world would have laughed at any suggestions he and his band were “artists”.

When I dared to say those words I meant it to be endearing. I loved them just how they were. So little and ordinary and so charmingly so. But David (almost too politely) responded by saying he sure wished they “got big”. His girlfriend Maureen, who happened to be also present, had to give me a little “talk”. “Just cause you have your own CD divider in Brashes,” she kinda said, “It doesn’t mean you are rolling in cash.” I was dutifully humbled.

SELFISHNESS

But of course I was being utterly selfish. I just wanted to keep this band locked down in my own romantic association. I pathetically assumed they belonged to me. And maybe I was just a bit cooler if my favorite band was the only band no one else had heard of.

And so I feel this selfishness has reared-up again. Although I am way older and have so many other distractions, today I find myself getting unduly upset that a humble podcast has got so “big” it is escaping me. It will no longer be the same.

CHAT 10 LOOKS 3

1200x630bf.jpg

So Leigh Sales and Annabel Crabb have this podcast in question. It is called “Chat 10, Looks 3” and I freaking adore it. Its bizarre and highly obscure title-reference is just another tragic reason why I love it so much. (The title is something to do with this Broadway musical called “A Chorus Line”.)

I would describe the podcast as a very lo-fi organisation of two besties that vaguely have an agenda of talking about what they are devouring in a cultural sense. Books, TV, movies, essays, other podcasts and quite a bit of cooking and culinary stuff. (Thankfully they steer well clear of music. Listening to the episode where Leigh tells of programming Double J seriously made me question my faith in her). The sound quality is often terrible. Their equipment is woeful. They choose highly inappropriate venues for recording — prone to interruptions, background noise and worse. They have no schedule to their feed. When (or if) a new episode drops, is seemingly random. They have no producer or editor (except for Leigh’s husband Brendan/Phil who is a beautiful revelation in that sense.) It’s just a beautiful mess.

On paper this is a podcast that should fail. There are podcast reviewers out there that really, really value all the things they do so horribly wrong. They would judge it so, so harshly.

But it works. It is quite remarkable. All the interruptions and sound quality issues just make it so natural. The venues are all cute in their plainliness but at the same time so exciting too. It’s uncontrived. It’s loose and it’s so much more fun for that fact.

And there’s a sense of beautiful competitiveness between the two and willingness to take the piss out of themselves. There’s an openness the two excitedly deliver that brings a truly random window into people that are genuinely interesting and aspirational.

IMPACT

So the immediate impact this podcast has had on me is that I have just started reading a lot more. I used to read quite a bit and then it just fell away. I just got distracted by other media and other adventures. But now I am back on board. I have bought four of the books they have recommended and one that was only half-heartedly endorsed (The Whites — and I thought it was pretty good). All of the TV I had already got on top of, but it was super-interesting hearing their take on it. The cooking I tend to zone out

And then there’s the impact the podcast has on Leigh and Annabel themselves. They give the hint that they are consumed by it. Later in the series Leigh confesses she feels she needs to read or view or bake more than she usually would just to feed the podcast — like it’s distorting her life.

Omnipresent is the shout-out to the website, supposedly under orders from Leigh’s husband Brendan. And there’s pleas to leave a review and maybe a comment. At the time I assumed this was just so they felt they were being appreciated. Like they weren’t banging their heads against a wall — which is the feeling I have occasionally got whenever I have attempted to put my “Art” out there.’ But maybe they were just angling for an upgrade.

LEIGH vs ANNABEL

Just by the nature of their dialogue you are encouraged to take sides. They disagree about a third of the time they agree. (Crucially they never seem to disagree about food.)

Oh man — initially I was all about Leigh. She was a redhead like me. She comes from Brisbane. She is musical. She is a bit more practical and not prone to the spiritedness of Annabel. Annabel is far more the dreamer romantic.

large.jpg

But then I’ve had a crush on Annabel Crabb since forever. I was a staffer for a few Labor federal politicians back in the day. And maybe what you would call a “hack” or an “apparatchik” in related jobs. And I was such a fan of Insiders. I loved her enthusiasm and obvious intelligence and — yeah — I loved her hair too.

And then we were in the same room. We literally brushed past one-another. It was on a staircase leading up from the Labor Party “green room”. I was heading down and she was heading away. I desperately wanted to say hello but she was moving so fast and off on a mission. I swung around, frozen of the stairs watching as she disappeared into the crowd of the who’s who of 2004 politics. It was Brisbane and I was somehow gifted a ticket to be a guest at Mark Latham’s campaign launch at the Brisbane Conservatorium. Of all the many, many political celebrities I was in the presence of that day, only Annabel Crabb and Gough I rate or even remember. (And I only remember Gough cause when the show started he was literally sitting behind me, one seat removed).

annabel-crabb.jpg

WHY I LIKE PODCASTS AND ESPECIALLY THIS ONE

So I like podcasts cause I do a hell of a lot of walking and they are a perfect accompanyment. I walk to work at least once a week. (8k round trip.) Every working day I walk about 4ks just to get my lunch. (I rate the sushi in the city way better than anything South Brisbane has to offer). According to my iPhone health app I walk an average of 17,000+ steps a day. And then I ride my bike and bizarrely podcasts work in that frame too — although I do have to rewind a bit when I hit a bit in the road when I have to exclusively concentrate on not dying. And I can even listen to them while jogging. It’s not ideal because jogging is such an intensive state that it does mush your brain while you run — about half your time almost all you can think about is how much pain you are in and “why am I doing this?” But a podcast like C10L3 is pretty light and mostly effortless listening. Perfect.

(And I listen to podcasts when I am travelling. Not just on the plane but in the endless queues. Or I listen to them with Dee. We do it on long drives or in hotel rooms where the TV is in a different language.)

But then C10L3 became a TV version. An iView “exclusive”.

And of course it just wasn’t the same. I know that is such a cliched term…but whatever. Suddenly they were like we have this TV series now and the podcast is going to be a bit rarer but everything will be ok.

But at this my 20% self-diagnosed Aspergers reared up. This is not ok. You cannot watch iView while you’re walking, cycling or running. Indeed you cannot watch it on a most planes or overseas or anywhere other than a computer or your iPhone on a bus/train. A position I rarely find myself in. And if you want to devour a podcast you can do it un-sequentially. You can listen to 5 minutes at one bit then listen to the rest at another moment. iView makes you do all these excruciating fast forward jumps if you want to segment your experience. And that ringing sound it does on my TV’s app makes me want to punch something. Ugh.

SO THE iVIEW SERIES

So backtracking to just 2 weeks ago, after almost a month of no updates on the podcast, I was getting desperate — and maybe even worried that this experiment was all over. But then there was promises and apologies and I thought, “Cool — this next episode will be a corker cause they have had so much time to work on it.” But before it landed I saw the tweet about a TV series. I was excited. But also a bit like, “Well it better not fuck up the podcast.”

I watched that first episode and I cringed a bit when they did the whole act of pretending to find a moment to interact. Great CGI graphics and filming but a whole deal of over and under-acting. In the podcast the meeting of these two very busy individuals in most episodes were explained as an incredible effort and sometimes almost a lining-up-of-the-planets. And I for one appreciated that. (I was perpetually amazed that two super-busy and important women could find the time to put this show together and devour all that reading and baking and stuff.)

I wasn’t too surprised that that first episode was a bit shit — that’s the vibe right? But this second episode was mostly just a regurgitation of previous podcasts avec contrived laughter at the same jokes and insights as before. And I know in the podcast they repeat themselves all the time, but I really just hoped the TV series had some new spark. Unfortunately it looks slick, the sound is amazing and the food and drinks are well documented, but there’s not much new.

Now it seems to me all those appeals by Brendan to leave a review and visit the website were just to propel the show into a new level. And let’s face it — a commercial level. I can’t help feeling a bit cheated. Like this was the plan from the start.

But then I think, “What do I know? Who am I to judge?” I think back to my horrible interaction with David McCormack. I understand that artists need some cash to survive. And what they earn is probably way, way, way less than I assume. And their potential for income in the future might not be as secure as I think. And they have kids and stuff.

Ultimately I am happy they have got the new TV gig, but I can also say it sucks and is in no way comparable to their awesomeness before. Just saying.

AND FINALLY — AN APPEAL

Leigh, you have such a talent for music. You can sing and play and you genuinely like it. But it seems you seemingly have no interest in improving your taste. You devour all other genres of art, why not music? Trust me — there’s so much incredible stuff out there.

• They say “Clang” when they are dropping the name of a celebrity they have met/interviewed/interacted with that seems a tiny bit gratuitous.

Gravel grinding on Mt Perseverance

IMG_0064

Today’s ride had EVERYTHING.

Crashes. Blood. Mud of the stickiest type you could imagine. Gravel of all shapes, variety and colour. Mist — like the kind of mist that fogs up your camera and where everyone more than 10 metres away looks like a ghost. Drinking untreated water. Rain and baking sun. (the kind of SUN that means I am now sunburnt despite 2 layers of sunscreen.) Five hours in the saddle.

And officially THE MOST flat tyres on a ride ever. (I am pretty sure it beats every single Werewolves ride. Maybe even them all combined!)

Oh and epic ‘Gramin of course. After all — Bennett was in attendance. 

So Brad had researched and organised our super-gravel-ride today and it started, 7am, at a place called Helidon just at the base of the Toowoomba Range — about an 80 minute drive from the Brisbane CBD.

On a computer screen it looked like this.

And I figured it was achievable. 62km and around 1100m of elevation. I haven’t done much riding lately but I’ve kinda kept some skills up-to-date. Up until today via the tales I’d heard on the internet — 62kms on a MTB roughly equates to about 100km on a road bike. But I don’t believe that shit anymore.

I had no idea how tough this ride turn out to be.

Gravel isn’t just that dirt and rocks that sap your speed. It’s those ruts that are virtually 50 speed bumps all 20cm apart that don’t just fuck your momentum — they render much of any effort you put in redundant. Gravel is also swimming left and right about the road trying to find the smoothest and safest route. Gravel (can mean) you have to stay in your saddle while climbing lest you lose traction in your rear (drive) wheel and thus you spend much more time using certain specific muscles — whereas on bitumen you often get the chance to share the effort by standing up (and give your bum a break). Gravel can turn to mud which cakes your tyres like it was superglue and instantly doubles their weight.

Gravel is a massive challenge.

THE STATS

But let’s get back to the start. There were 15 of us. And here is the tally of tyre flats (in alphabetical order – SPOILERS!):

Adrian – 0 (but about 5438 times his chain fell off)
Bennett – 0
Brad – 0
Connor – 0
Declan – 1
Dave (me) – 0
Geoff – 0
Jeremy – 2 (a double flat)
Jon – 0
Jordie – 0
Josh – 3 (incl a double)
Mark – 0
Nate – 1
Rhys – 1
Scott – 0
Stefan – 3 (including broken spoke)

MOUNTAIN BIKES vs CYCLOCROSS (CX)

So I was on an MTB (with 2 others) while the other 10 riders were on CX bikes. They are lighter and have thinner tyres so require a little bit less effort to roll. But they do get a LOT of flats. I think after the 25km mark I would have cried if I had got a flat. (more on that later)

IMG_0085This is Geoff — also on a MTB (as was Mark)

BOTTLES

The first 10kms was mostly bitumen — but here was our first taste of gravel. And then DISASTER!

IMG_0070

IMG_0081.JPGIMG_0084.JPG

We all hit this massive succession of ruts and suddenly water bottles were flying out of cages everywhere. Well — only two but they both happened in stereo. I stopped and retrieved them knowing water (or lack of) might be an issue on this ride. One belonged to Bennett who had the sense to stop. But Jordan kept riding! And he only had that single bidon. Anyway, the crew waited for us about 2km down the road and Jordie was pretty relieved to get his bottle back. There was only two chances of water later in the ride. At Murphy’s Creek and supposedly non-potable rainwater at the lookout at the very top of the ride (34kms in).

Meanwhile Connor had packed 2 bottles for the ride in his car but had completely forgotten to put them on his bike before we left. He then found a random Orchy Juice bottle on the side of the road and then filled it up at a tap in Murphy’s Creek.

That’s resourcefulness.

Personally I would have abandoned the ride in that situation.

DIRT and DOGS and CLIMBS

IMG_0090

And then the dirt was omnipresent. We wouldn’t see bitumen until the last 7km.

This next section, roughly about the 20km mark meant the group split. The tough guys were all trying to get Strava KOM’s on this virgin territory so they sped ahead. (They were also quietly trying to pwn Brad).

But while they were going nuts I was starting to feel a bit rubbish. I was towards the end of the bunch and found myself talking to Brad (pictured below).

IMG_0091

Brad attempted to talk to me about my favourite subject — Star Wars — but I was so fucked that I had trouble concentrating and responding. Normally I could talk Star Wars underwater but right then I was in real trouble. My legs had these hints that cramps just might get involved.

Rhys was struggling like me and eventually I got off the bike and walked. He soldiered on on but did succomb at one point. I had to walk about 4 times in total over the next 12ks.

At the top the world got foggy. I had to take off my sunglasses as they just became opaque. There was a lot of rainforest up there and big, big trees.

The guys up front reported they had been threatened by a dog that was at one point about to bite through a tyre. The dogs out that way aren’t fenced in. It seems to be a recurring story. On Brad’s earlier reconnaissance he had a similar experience.

IMG_0107

IMG_0124

IMG_0108Jon getting acquainted with a random horse

IMG_0112Bennett ‘Gramin!

FIRST FLATS

After this picture above — that’s when the flat tyres started. Just a few seconds into our next stanza. There was a double flat (Stefan) and then Josh punctured too. They literally hit the same rock it seems. Rhys and me and Adrian just soft-rolled onwards. I was in such trouble I was happy to just get through a few kilometres at the most basic of speeds while repairs were done and we could find a nice place to wait a bit further down the road.

We waited in that epic cloud at what I now realise was the highest point of our adventure. Around 800m I presume.

Rhys attempted to ‘gram a pic of his bike trying to keep it upright with a stick. Unfortunately I missed the bit when that failed and just as he was about to take the pic his bike was sideways!

IMG_0115

And then everyone else arrived through the mist. The only reason I could take this picture was because I heard them first.

IMG_9274

DOWN AND UP TO GUS’ LOOKOUT

IMG_0127.JPGMy tyres just got nuts with mud

So the next bit was a whole lot of down via a road designated as only traversable in “Dry Conditions”. We were almost immediately were met by a car coming up (flagerantly ignoring that dry-road vibe.) The road was so narrow we stopped completely to allow it to pass. It should be said that these roads were so remote I think this was one of only 5 or 6 cars that engaged us that entire day.

Meanwhile the route was all downhill but this was all mud. Red, red mud that stuck to everything. My wheels were now twice as wide and when you went over gravel the rocks stuck at low speed but then spun out into your face when you got a bit faster.

The road steadily deteriorated. At times it had bathtub sized holes — conveniently filled with brown water if you felt inclined for a swim.

Then it was up and up to the lookout. Of course there were no views. But Brad assured us it was a truly amazing vista in clear conditions. I believe him. On the way down I spied a few glimpses through the trees that were gobsmacking.

Here’s what it might have looked like: (NOT MY PICTURE)

Gus Beutel Lookout.JPG

Here’s what it looked like today:

IMG_0128.JPG

IMG_0132.JPG

CARNAGE

Next we headed down. With all that speed and being on a refreshing sliver of bitumen my tyres suddenly started spewing out all that mud. It was like a mud version of a Catherine-Wheel. I was sans-sunglasses courtesy of the misty-gloom. So I wasn’t just blinded by mist — but mud too.

But the faster I went the more mud was decamped. So I was in a bit of a conundrum. See Brad had warned us that there was a very acute right turn coming up that would arrive very suddenly. But a few of us forgot that instruction (looking at you Adrian!) and found themselves having to backtrack for not the first time. I managed to pull up and do that rather technical turn over what could be described as a potential bit of quicksand.

Then the flat tyres started again. It was one after the other and then another.

It just got ridiculous.

And the road was descending quite rapidly. The CX riders were going nuts. Over 70kms per hour at some points. And Rhys was in front and he over-cooked a massive downhill chicane. He went through a bush at the right and done one of those emergency unclips to stop. But Stefan was right behind him and had no option but to crash on the left. Geoff was third and procedurally decided to stop by deliberately washing out sideways. I arrived only a few seconds later. Geoff was signalling the danger to everyone behind but I was in no trouble having been very generous with the brakes.

Stefan was all bloodied and had another flat. Rhys had to give him one of his spare tubes.

Somehow Rhys had chopped the top off one of his bidons. Impressive.

IMG_0133.JPG

NEXT

Thankfully those last 30kms were about 70% downwards.

There was a few pinches but they were brief and I took it as easy as I could. Thanks to all those flats a big bunch of the crew were miles behind. Nate said they had just repaired a tyre and then literally 50ms down the road they had to do another. Must have been stupidly frustrating.

IMG_0138.JPG

Scott and Rhys and Stefan and Declan and Connor went ahead and me and Adrian kept a more conservative pace. Mostly cause Adrian kept dropping his chain. He would roll up to me and then suddenly say, “Oh shit, I’ve dropped my chain again.” This literally happened three times.

So Adrian and I enjoyed the last 7kms which was on tarmac and on a sweet, sweet descent. Here is Adrian doing a sweet skid for the camera:

IMG_0143.JPG

LOST?

So it was just Adrian and Me in that last 10kms. And we were a tiny bit worried we were lost. The guys in front had long since disappeared and there was no sign of any one behind.

But we got to this built-up area and felt a bit more confident. At this cross road we couldn’t work out which way to go. I saw a woman in her garage and asked her if this was “Helidon”. “Yes,” she said. Awesome. Then we asked directions to the centre of town. She was instantly befuddled. After a bit of trying to give us directions she went and got her husband to explain. We had that time to look it up on our phone but we were polite enough to wait.

And it turned out we were only 200m away. What?

Meanwhile at the SPAR it only took about another 15-20 minutes for everyone to reconvene.

IMG_0144.JPG

Geoff had brought the VB. It was Australia Day after all.

IMG_9277.JPG

IMG_9276.JPG

IMG_0146.JPGThis is Stefan having just washed up all his wounds at the public toilet in Helidon.

IMG_0147.JPGI took my shoes off and my legs were ginger

BONUS PICS

Screen Shot 2016-01-26 at 2.33.18 pm.png

IMG_0097

IMG_0069.JPG

IMG_0094.JPGIMG_0097.JPG

IMG_0100.JPG

IMG_0099.JPGIMG_0103.JPG