Tasmania, Part 1

IMG_5331 HOBART, D1

It had already been a long day by the time we got to Hobart-central having taken the only direct flight. (We had to be up at 4:30am to catch it). And so we found ourselves in a pub just across from where the MONA (ROMA) ferry leaves called the Customs House Hotel. It had those so beautifully old sandstone block walls, hand-carved — presumably by convicts — pock-marked with a billion hits by horribly ancient tools. A bit like this, which I took a day or so later: IMG_5337 Then after lunch I’m in the toilet doing my business at the trough — obviously with my back to the door. And then I hear the sound of two guys coming in and they instantly started debating something — saying stuff like, “Can we do this?” And they seemed to be just hanging about waiting for me. And so I thought, “What? I know I joke around about Tasmania being a wild place — but am I about to get beat up? Really?” So I quickly finished my business and turned around to find these guys were not stooping over me like they were intent on doing harm — they were actually more worried about themselves. See they were tethered together in a rather complex (and perhaps beautiful) chain of plastic cable ties. They looked at me a bit sheepishly and I broke the silence by asking if they were on a bucks night. “Yes” they replied — a little bit relieved. And now the lumbered up to the facilities and it looked like they were going to attempt to each do their business giving the other party some attempt at privacy. So I said, “good luck!” meaning not just for whomever of the two was actually getting married. Trying as best I could to throw out that thought of these two goobs trying to pee it was time for some CULTURE. At the MONA ticket office (just a re-purposed shipping container) Dee convinced me to get the “posh” tickets. She might have even said, “YOLO”. I dunno — but we ended up in the massive forward section with only one other couple for company. But they did give us lots of drinks and awesome nibbles. IMG_5149 MONA was fantastic. A real credit to the state — and I would propose — our nation. Apparently the owner is losing $6 million a year. When we were deciding on this holiday we thought about New Zealand or WA but MONA was the deal-breaker. IMG_5191 Of course I did lose my brand-new, super expensive sunglasses in the “Madonna Room”. UGH. Highlight of MONA: Dee excitedly asking the attendant at the door — “Where is the POO MACHINE?” Apparently it is a bit controversial to Tasmanians. Of course there’s some that, “Don’t get it.” It has crucial bits in it that are purposely confusing — not just confronting. Even the entrance is obscure and a bit of dig at Tasmania. I guess Tasmanians feel the brunt of so many jokes, it’s hard to suffer just one more — even if it is for art’s sake. It’s like Tasmanians are saying, “At last we are being taken seriously!” only to realise the inherent jokes at their expense after the fact. IMG_5172 THOUGHTS ON B&Bs (and HOBART, Day 2) I am not sure why the B&B thing is so prolific. Apart from the fact you sometimes feel like an intruder in someone’s home, there’s that weird awkward breakfast party, each and every day — with a bunch of strangers, one of which (I bloody guarantee you) will be a total goob. And it should also be said: I am not even really good at breakfast. Until recently I didn’t even eat breakfast, let alone do it with random company. And for our first Hobart dawn this breakfast-party was epic. The entire table was full with couples, but thankfully, one of them were roughly our age. Anyway — we got through it despite suffering the American dude who was a bit too knowledgable and bit too chatty and obviously loved the sound of his own voice. Mount Wellington is the focus of Hobart. It’s so massive and as a mountain — even scary with those sharp dolerite columns. It’s the first thing all the Colonial painters brushed out and it just looms. I bet about 50% of homes in Hobart get a view of it rising so gloriously from some aspect of their property. I have driven up it so many times. But this time I wanted to climb it on my own. To make things a bit more even, Dee agreed to pick me up at the top. She dropped me off at The Springs and so I headed of. The walking track is quite direct and thus steep, and relentless. Of course there was no one else here stupid enough to do this. I smashed a bit too hard at the beginning and felt a bit shit towards the end when it got quite exposed but I made it. To be honest, I would not recommend this activity. About half the photos I took that morning are ruined because I sweated all over the camera lens. Here are two that were half decent. (I must stress that tower looks small — but it is like 10 storeys high). DSCF6008 DSCF6009 Later that day we did the gratuitous Salamanca Markets and had lunch at one of the 50 or so pubs in Tasmania that claim to be the oldest (this one was called Hope and Anchor) and then we went to the museum/art gallery — which was pretty damn fantastic. Highlights: IMG_5233“Hunter” — a TV series I loved as a kid IMG_5235 IMG_5239The story of the extermination of the Thylacine was unbelievably tragic. IMG_5246 IMG_5247 HOBART, Day 3 After our awkward breakfast we were soon driving south towards the Huon Valley and ultimately the Hartz Mountains. After we left civilisation and turned onto Forestry roads we were quite alone. About 20ks of complete wilderness ensued with the wind steadily increasing in intensity. On that dusty uphill trek we saw no other cars. At the top where the walking trail began we finally saw some people. But they promptly jumped in their car and disappeared. We had the entire park to ourselves. This might have been cool, but I was a tiny bit scared at that prospect. A bunch of worries entered my head. The wind was getting crazy. Like, really crazy. I remembered what happened on the ride back from Killarney earlier this year. “What if the road is blocked by a fallen tree?” I thought. “What do we do then?” But I kept my concerns to myself and we headed off. Pretty soon we were met by a freaking bizarre contraption right in the middle of the track. It was a device to clean your shoes to protect the delicate ecosystem from, I guess, “city problems”. DSCF6052 Then we struggled up to the alpine plain with the maddening wind all around. At a few points it was difficult to not get blown off the half-a-metre-wide duckboard track — and if you fell — you were almost guaranteed of ending up at least shin-deep in water. DSCF6048 DSCF6064 SCREAMS About 20 minutes into our little adventure Dee was leading the way. But suddenly she was screaming and dancing and jumping about and before I could process anything this tiny snake went between her legs and then I too was hot-stepping-about in total fright. Just to make things even the snake also snuck it’s way between my shaking legs and then off the thankfully spilled over the boards and down, away, into the heath. We dashed ahead a few metres and I desperately asked Dee, “Did it bite you?” Thankfully not but I was a little bit sure the creature actually touched my shoe. Holy shit. It was too small I am figuring to be much of a danger but apparently ALL snakes in Tasmania are deadly. Just saying. The wind was now fucking ridiculous. I have never experienced anything like it. We were at an altitude a bit over 1000m and when we got to Lake Esperance I knew it was time to turn around. On the way back in the car the road looked like a mess. I mean it was a dirt road already, but now it was covered in broken branches and leaves and at one point we had to doge a fallen tree. The car kept getting smacked by stuff and at two points we snagged some branch that got trapped under the car necessitating a stop to physically slide under the car to dislodge it. And in the Huon Valley we were intending to stop at the Wille (Nelson) Smith Appleshed but conditions outside were apocalyptic. At one point, I shit you not, with branches flying horizontally across the road — it looked like we had stepped into a scene from the movie Twister. IMG_5253 ALABAMA Back safely in Hobart we met up with the amazing Imogen (or Immy), a friend from Brisbane who had just moved to Hobart this year. Oh my god – we had the best time! Immy is incredible. Dee had never met her before but instantly they were besties. After a coffee at Providore, Immy took us to this semi-boutique hotel called Alabama that had a bar attached. Immediately I was enamoured. The co-owner was serving at the bar so naturally I had a massive gush about how awesome the place was and incredibly interested in how it all worked. So the rooms all featured art (from local artists) and every guest has to share facilities (which personally just maybe might be a deal-breaker for us). She even gave us two keys and let us have a sneaky browse of two of the rooms which was really nice. After that somehow I mentioned I rode bikes and suddenly she was saying, “Are you by any chance familiar with the bike polo scene in Brisbane?” And then she was showing me her guest book and sure enough — there was Dom and Clancy and Handsome Rob. Amazing! IMG_5327 Here’s Ssome pics of Alabama: IMG_5312 IMG_5319 IMG_5322 IMG_5330 IMG_5328 MT FIELD The next day he headed again for the deep heart of Tasmania. This time for the very first National Park in Australia. It is actually called “National Park” on the map at ground level. Up in the wilderness it is called Mt Field. Afrer paying our $60 national park pass, we started the drive up. The road was of course just ruddy wet sandy-dirt and hopelessly narrow. And on the left side was almost always a massive cliff with certain death if we strayed over. For some amazing reason, we only dealt with one car coming down while we were going up. And thankfully there was room and we each exchanged a very hearty “country wave”. At the top the wind was still crazy. It was so much uphill on the walk part. Quite steep. And obviously Dee was unimpressed. After climbing about 200m in altitude, then some more, Dee was a bit flushed and over it. I sent her back down to the ski village part while I smashed up ahead to the Lake Seal lookout. DSCF6087 DSCF6103 DSCF6090 Back down the track Dee was a bit more civilized. We stumbled down and naturally I found myself about 20 paces ahead. And then I heard some voices obviously coming the opposite direction. So I stopped to let Dee catch up. Mostly so we didn’t look like we were some disfunctional couple. but at exactly that point a massive snake, black and really scaly, slithered away just centimetres from where I stood. I jumped over to the other side of the track and stood like a statue. Meanwhile our new hiking companions arrived just as Dee caught up. I explained how I had just seen a massive snake and the female portion of our new friends was utterly horrified. “I was just saying how I didn’t think there would be any snakes on this walk!” So then we did a more civilized walk to Russell Falls and I experimented with that camera trick of letting the shutter stay open a bit so the falling water looked like snowy mist. BUSHY PARK Our bed this night was another B&B, but of the EXTREME variety. It was run by these ancient Scottish Mormons — lovely ancient Scottish Mormons it should be said. But we didn’t realise this potential complication until we had arrived and saw all this weird religious paraphernalia about. And this B&B was a more like staying in your grandma’s spare bedroom. The whole house, apart from their bedroom upstairs, was free range. We instantly wondered what they would think if we wanted to have some booze. We looked at eachother in bewilderment. “We should Google that.” But there was no reception and so we just had to suffer. At least there were puppies for Dee to pat and upon wandering the land we saw some Scottish Coo. As it turned out it was totally cool and we had some beautiful Tasmanian wine we had sourced from one of the (awkwardly titled) 9/11 chain of bottleshops in Hobart. All in front of one of those “roaring fires” in our own personal sitting room. We were the only guests that night which made things a little more like we were intruding and so it was quietly decided that we would skip breakfast, and smash north on the morrow. A 5:30am start to the deep northwest of Tasmania ensued. (More on that in Part 2!) DSCF6114OMG — this place was connected to the NBN! DSCF6120 DSCF6133 DSCF6145They cooked us dinner! DSCF6130The view out the front door TEASER PICS FROM PART TWO (coming soon — featuring snow, and wombats, and thrones, and puppies, and apples and a lot more IMMY! YESSSS) IMG_5503 DSCF6207 DSCF6327

Some shots since the last time I posted some shots

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This is a rare photo of bear-cat in the daytime. I was walking to work cause that evening I was going to celebrate my 10 year anniversary at the union.

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I was wearing “my big-boy pants” as Dee calls them. Sometimes she begs me not to wear shorts. “But we live in Queensland,” I say. She then does this big gruff, “UGH!” But just cause I am very nice, I wear my big-boy-pants and she gets a bit chuffed.

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And here we are at The Fox reminiscing and shit. It was a great night. 10 years feels like no time at all — but after that night I realised how much stuff had happened and how long ago it happened and it was good to remember it all, tell a few secrets about the old days and just sear it all into the brain so it is up for the 15 year anniversary.

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And then Jon found a beer — a “found-beer” from the table behind. I would like to say that we dared him to drink it, but apparently that encouragement wasn’t necessary.

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TODAY!

Today was the first ride I had done with Ryan in FOREVER! It was good to see him again.

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ImageAnd Tom had brand new shades which I just HAD to document!

ImageI had a break on the western freeway and had this little dude for company. I tried to share my apricot bar – but he/she wasn’t interested.

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Then I went to the Aftermath bike polo tourney at West End. Just to say hello.

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This is Jamie refereeing. He looks so officious!

Since He Started to Ride (Pt 2)

Part one is here.

CHARITY

The first group ride I ever did was a charity ride organised by a former boss of mine and it introduced me to the wonders of sucking the wheels of a group — or “drafting” as it is better known. I was pedalling along on my own, in quite a bit of pain, when without much warning about 20 other riders just swarmed around me and I tried not to panic as I became part of that entity (but also NOT a willing part of that performance) — so I slowly filtered my way to the back of that group but for some reason I decided to stay in touch, just behind the last two riders. And it was then that I realised how much easier it instantly got, just being dragged along by a bike-riding black hole. It seemed I was constantly soft-pedalling or squeezing the brakes on downhills so I didn’t go crashing into their backs.

But of course this was simply a clear illustration of one of bike riding’s most interesting facets — on a flat surface you expend more effort pushing through atmosphere than actually keeping you and the bike rolling.

This is a collage of the awkward professional-photos they take at these events and put thumbnails up on the web for you to perhaps buy. Embarrassing.

A COMPUTER TELLING ME I WAS ABOUT TO DIE

Before Garmins the best computer you could get was the Polar CS200. It measured the usual things like distance and speed but it also had a heart rate monitor. And to set up the monitor you plug in your age and weight and height and stuff. But I hardly ever used it, except for this one time when I strapped it on and went out on an early morning mash. It was a Saturday and I was coming down Old Northern Road at Everton Park (which is a dual carriage way) and there were hardly any cars about and just at the top of the hill there the shoulder disappears so I had to move into the lane and this Tarago beeped at me in such hostility as it went past and I was naturally pissed off at this mindless aggression so I started chasing. Down the hill I went and almost effortlessly smashed up and around so I was alongside the driver’s window and I screamed at him, “WTF?”

Then I hear this insane beeping, even though I was going at 60km/hr — a speed at which the wind tends to deafen you. And so I realise it is coming from my bike computer and it’s telling me my heart rate is over 180 — which is pretty damn high and possibly higher than the maximum for someone at my age. OK. Slow down Davey! In that state I still managed to overtake the Tarago — just coasting — and in doing so I underlined my point, even if it did have that beeping nonsense as an accompaniment.

FIRST CRASH/FIRST SCABS

My first crash happened not long after I started riding seriously — but I just had to get it out of the way. It is a little bit of a mystery as to what exactly was the cause. All I can say is that it was a wet day, I was jumping from the road onto the footpath up a tiny lip in a driveway and at that point the bike slid from under me and I was sideways.

The mystery part is I then noticed the bike had a flat rear tyre so whether that happened as a result of the crash or contributed to the crash — I don’t know. But I will also say this — all this happened in the middle of town while everyone was rushing to work so consequently I had a billion people who witnessed me looking like a douchecanoe. Yay.

The best part of this whole affair was road rash. I love picking at scabs. I think I must have a very mild form of dermatillomania.

CENTURIES

The next goal for me was a “century” — 100kms in one day — a purely symbolic achievement. As a fail-safe to my extreme pussyness I decided to ride as far away from home as possible so I couldn’t just give up when things got tough after halfway. So I made it to Ipswich one afternoon and then turned around and only just made it back home before it got dark. I had really underestimated how long this would take. And it was a tough ride, with all the hills in the latter half tackled in the grannyiest of my granny-gears. I suffered and suffered and had to constantly rest — which isn’t surprising because I remember I hardly ate anything on that ride. Proper nutrition while riding is a bike lesson I refused to learn for years and years and years. I am such an idiot.

Oh god. Look how fucked that geometry was. I was such a deadshit. (But in saying this the wheelbase wasn’t as bad as it looked – the downtube was just at an evil angle)

FIXED

Pretty soon I decided to build my own bike and so I bought an old Malvern Star frame from eBay and set about transforming it into a fixed wheel. (See above) My motivation wasn’t to be cool or hipster or whatever (I wasn’t really even aware of that emerging scene) — I just wanted to build something retro-classic and because I had exactly ZERO skills at bike building — a fixed wheel was the easiest place to start. I was also a big fan of Sheldon Brown who had written a series of articles about bikes and riding that taught me a great, great deal. And Sheldon, who died not long after that, loved riding fixed. So I was keen to also give the process a try.

So I bought tools and then all the parts I needed and I assembled what I could and when it all got too hard I took it to the bike shop across from work to finish. And then I went for my first ride through the city fixed. On that short cruise I made all those rookie mistakes — like trying to coast and getting that “shock” and taking a foot off its pedal and not being able to get it back on etc.

But it was exciting and challenging and made overtaking other bikes much more gratifying. So I started doing all my commuting fixed and saving the roadie for weekends.

POTATOS

The Malvern Star soon got replaced by a bike built in Brisbane — a white Berretto and meanwhile I started reading some fixed blogs and I was really influenced by what was happening in Japan — with their colour mashups, asymmetry and general wackiness. That’s when I ordered a white aerospoke for the Berretto. Only about 2 weeks later I rocked up to race in an alleycat for the first time.

I was petrified at the thought of racing and really only turned up just to watch. Bizarrely I actually knew three people there already. There was Marty and Ranga Dave who I had randomly said hello to (cause they were also riding fixed) just rolling around town, plus I knew Erik from Brisbane’s first fixed-centric bike store — Gear. So I had someone to talk to and people to allay my fears and insist I have a go. The other cool thing about that night was the fact it was tag-team and I was teamed up with someone you all might be familiar with — Shirts — also racing for the first time.

The story of that race is told below.

After that race I was dubbed “Potato Dave” because there were too many other “Daves” and that’s what Aerospokes are semi-affectionately known as here in Australia.

MASHING

Alleycat at Surfers Paradise.

A whole bunch of things happened now. Suddenly I had a whole crew of awesome new friends who were all quite rock n roll. And soon I was unashamedly proud to be a bike rider. It wasn’t just a hobby and a way to get to work and back — it was a new lifestyle. You could ride bikes and be not be naff and boring. And I didn’t care what my other friends in rock n roll felt. Indeed — many of them soon started getting into bikes too.

A bike tower pile after an alleycat

And so I hardly touched my road bike. It literally gained a layer of dust. I still did long distance rides — but I did them fixed – including a 200km to the Gold Coast and back in March 2010. I also got into the bike polo scene and I gave that a go a few times but I sucked so bad I gave up and just came to hang out and watch. For a while I knew 90% of the fixed gear community and if I didn’t know them I still waved when we passed.

And then I organised my own alleycat. I loved alleycats so much I organised it so I could race in it too. And each and every one of the ‘cats I have run since have been designed so that I could ride too.

AN UGLINESS

Just a few weeks ago Tom was hit by a driver in a car that cowardly fled the scene. Tim, one of my besties, got car-doored earlier this year. And on top of that I have witnessed Ryan knocked over and even been there when Shirts got cleaned up by an idiot pedestrian crossing the road without looking. On top of that it seems a few months cannot pass without me hearing of one of my friends involved in some sort of drama.

But back in those heady days when I was just starting out, while I was hyperaware of what Bike Snob NYC calls “the indignity of cycling” I was still a bit oblivious to the “tragedy of cycling” and consequently a bit cavalier about it all.

And this attitude prevailed even though from stories told to me by other riders and reading other accounts on forums and blogs — and just the many, many close calls I had personally experienced in the short time I had been riding seriously — I quickly realised it might not just be a matter of “if” I would be hit by a car — it just could be a matter of “when”.

And when that day came — it was a particularly ugly, ugly incident. I was riding along a 3 lane road, and I was in the shoulder, when a car “buzzed” me as close as he could and the driver leant on the horn at the same time. I was infuriated and charged on and very soon caught up with the vehicle at a set of lights. I pulled in front and just glared at the driver and shook my head. Then the lights changed and I pushed off owning the lane and he managed to get around me and just as he got past he swung the rear of his car directly into me and sent me crashing into the road. I tumbled for a bit then came to a definite stop. I lay there with my face against the bitumen in the middle of that massive intersection of Newmarket and Enoggera Road for at least 10 seconds not really sure what to do.

I didn’t feel particularly in any danger because the world around me had froze as well. Although I looked up for a second and saw his car speed off — every other car, bus and truck stopped like they were hit by a comic-book immobilisation/freeze ray. And then someone pressed “play” and the world started moving again as a few people who had got out of their cars swarmed over to me and I got up and carried my bike to the footpath and said I was ok. I mean — I was bleeding and bruised and the bike was a bit of a mess — but I was OK. Mostly it was shock. I put the bike back together as best I could and rode home and reported the incident still covered in blood and road grime at the Valley police station. I managed to get a few bits of the number plate and the make and colour of the car but the cops were useless. They refused to do a wildcard number plate search and generally treated me in a callous and uncaring manner — even insinuating it was my fault. Thanks.

OTHER BAD STUFF

Of course I got hit by cars again and again — and one motorbike just to make things more interesting. Each and every one of those incidents involved the other vehicle turning into me from the right with the driver failing to look properly and it mostly just knocked me over without much damage — but once one of those collisions sent me to hospital on my very first trip in an ambulance. Maybe I will document that story another time.

But I’m still here. And despite all that evil drama — I love bikes so much this bullshit hasn’t broken me. And perhaps it has just made the right side of my body just that bit tougher.

Taken on my hospital bed

BIKE TOURING

That’s Ryan just behind Shirts in front

And one Saturday morning I met a dude called Ryan at that square at the top of the Queen Street Mall with some silly name. It was just Gypsy, me and him on a ride to Scarborough and I’d just accidentally joined it after seeing the proposition posted in our fixed forum. And I had no idea that day I would meet one of my bestest friends ever. We all went for a very ordinary ride and that was that. But I soon realised Ryan was one of the true believers in this burgeoning crew. He was organised and wanted to improve our skills. He would turn up and he could suffer. On top of all that he got inspired and it was Ryan that made me do things that I never thought possible and all this improved my life exponentially.

Ryan rode fixed for a while, then bought a road bike and I dusted off my Trek so I could hit the mountains with him and just keep up. And it was then that I started dividing my time between fixed and road biking again.

Ryan soon had this idea to do an “overnight ride”. He planned it all. We would ride the 180+ kms to Byron Bay on the Saturday morning, then the next day hit the hills that surrounded there (about 140ks) , then ride home on the Monday. I decided to get on board. This would be the toughest thing I have ever done — and I say this despite the fact I could do that ride without as much suffering now — but back then it was at the very limit of my abilities and fucking, fucking hurt. And to add the conditions were appalling: torrential rain for the first two days, then the hottest day of that new Spring the last. This, again, is another story for another blog.

But when I got home it was like heaven. It felt just like when I had first summited Coot-Tha, except with far, far more pain. I wanted to tell the world. Once I got back to Brisbane it was just after 5pm and there were bikes everywhere. Even though I was cramping up and so, so very weak, I looked around at every opportunity to tell someone my story. Eventually, just metres from home, this unsuspecting douche-bag rolled up to me at lights and the poor dude had his ear torn off. I told as much of the story as I could in the 1-2 minutes we had waiting for the light to change.

We have done many more of these rides including one to Woodenbong in northern NSW which sent me to the darkest, deepest depths of the pain cave — and where I was scraping the bottom and my brain wondered if it got any worse, I just might need medical intervention or worse. And naturally that ride took a chip out of my resolve to do these sorts of things ever again. Luckily I realised what had gone wrong — the intense heat had just sapped all my hydration and sent me into epic organ-meltdown. But once again, this is a story for later.

OVERSEAS

In 2010 I bought a bike bag and took a bike with me on a trip to the States and Canada. It never made it past the 14 days in New York because I mailed it home deciding I loved it too much and it had suffered enough and would get killed with any more transit. But that fortnight in New York riding around on my own bike just felt like bliss. It was my muse for my photographs of NY and the mashing through traffic over there, and the riding in general, was so different — it just opened my eyes. It was like bike-drugs. It felt so different, so intense and there were so many people witnessing it — it was like you were in your very own movie.

GARMIN and 2012

I’ve talked about my Garmin so much already and will link to stories soon. But it really did transform my riding. It made me conscious of what I was doing and made me strive for to achieve more. I set that goal of 10,000kms in a year and got there. And halfway through that year I decided to attempt 100,000ms climbed too — and got there with a massive effort in the fading light of 2011 spending so much time on Coot-Tha I felt like a local.

And just yesterday I signed up to Strava and I had no idea what it really meant until now. So that is going to be another albatross around my neck. Any Strava segment I run through I will be conscious of and just might need to bust-a-move, which might have consequences later.

So we come to 2012 and there has again been many achievements. But they are already documented so I’ll just link to a few selected highlights like:

1) The new Felt

2) The big wet ride

3) The Toowoomba Tour ONE | TWO

4) The Nambour Ride

5) Noosa overnighter

Shirts: Photo by Ranga Dave

THE NIGHT I FIRST MET “SHIRTS”

So Saturday evening Dee and I walked up to New Farm and the mood was somber – mostly on my part. I was shitting my pants. I had no idea what to expect tonight except it would somehow involve racing my fixie around town going from check point to check point. And my legs were sore. I had ridden up Mt Coot-tha that afternoon and my legs hated me. Eventually I made up my mind just to watch.

But when we arrived at the Alibi there were a few bikes there already and luckily one guy called Marty (who I had met at a bike shop a few months ago when he stopped to admire my bike) gave me more of an idea what to expect and said because it was tag-team that would make it easier and more of a “fun” format.

After dinner I couldn’t sit down – I was too nervous. Before I knew it I had paid my five bucks to enter and fate was sealed. I was given position “8” (which was eerily empty) because someone had refused that spot cause he thought it was unlucky. Eek!

Everyone was looking at my bike which was pimped out with a new aerospoke front wheel. They call them “potatoes”. I don’t know why.

Soon it was time for the briefing. Names were drawn out of a hat and I was paired with a guy called Nate [SHIRTS!] who looked VERY keen to win. In fact one of my friend’s actually said to me before the race – “He looks like he’s in-it-to-win-it!”. Like she was saying – “Get ready to be decimated”.

I took a deep breath. I knew I had to ride EVEN faster not to let this guy down. And I had no idea how my skillz matched with these dudes. I mean, I ride my bike quite a bit, but I am pretty much a pussy when it comes to the crunch. SHIIIIT. So there were four manifests – messenger-talk for pick-up and delivery points – but each rider would do only two of those, plus a 5th manifest which the two teamed-up bike riders would do together. But interestingly all the teams would be split 4 ways so that not all riders would be riding to the same checkpoint at the same time. (Except the last one)

On top of this there was a secret something to “do” at each checkpoint. So we got our first manifest and Nate was going first. His mission involved going to the city botanical gardens and scoring a goal. (We guessed it had something to do with bike polo).

So he was away and riding blindingly fast up Brunswick oblivious to traffic and danger. “Oh fuck,” I thought. “Oh FUCKING, FUCKING FUCK.”

Soon riders were coming back and tagging their teammates but I guessed these crews had shorter checkpoints. Then I saw a bike hurtling towards us at a speed one might seriously consider was literally “BREAK-NECK”. He was now on the wrong side of the road. “Oh shit…that’s Nate,” I realised.

He did this massive skid perfectly coming to a stop right in front of the guys handing out the manifests, adding to my woes. I got the next manifest and saw that it was Doggett street in the Valley. That’s all I read and started caning it down the road. I decided to avoid Brunswick to avoid lights and traffic. Soon I was at Doggett but the street was deserted. I looked at the map again and hunted down the street in a panic. Again I stopped and re-read the map. Fuck! I had missed the words “laneway”. Then I saw it and almost at the end I saw some women drinking beside a pile of shoeboxes. This was it! I said hello, they said they liked my bike, I said “Thanks!” and took my box and was off – back to the Alibi.

Nate’s next mission was somewhere on the Story Bridge. I moped around thinking I had blown it spending so much time in Doggett Street and being so silly as to not read the manifest properly. Soon riders were saying the cops had set up a patrol at each end of Brunswick Street to catch anyone running lights.

But before I had too much time to worry Nate had returned. I grabbed the next manifest and saw that it was on Melbourne Street in West End – the Gear shop. I knew where this was and bang! I smashed it up Brunswick heading for Ann. I actually overtook a rider up Brunswick which raised my spirits that just maybe we wouldn’t come last. [PLEASE GOD – CAN WE NOT BE LAST]

I got a pretty good run of green lights though I took one just a few seconds after it turned red and prayed that no cops were about. I filtered through the taxis and dodged peds and soon I was on my way down Ann. I jumped up onto the footpath at Town Hall to avoid a red and snuck in front of a bus at George. Then I rested a bit at the intersection near the Treasury and the Victoria bridge.

Down Melbourne Street I got another good set of green and was at Gear in no time. The task here was to snort a line of whizz fizz. Erik took a photo and stamped my manifest and then I was away. Up Melbourne I wondered about which way to get back and instantly just decided to go up Elizabeth. There was no debate. It was just the first route that came into my head. I got hit with heaps of red but took the time to rest. I was red-lining and pretended the break was necessary. Every second I was spinning I was spinning at 100 per cent. Then I suddenly saw the Ivory Street tunnel and decided to take it. I’d never gone this way before but hell – this was an alleycat: all rules were gone. It turned out to be Genius! It was deserted and soon I was in Moray Street but feeling DESTROYED. The hill after the tunnel was BRUTAL. For the first time in my life I was so buggered (no matter how much I wanted to) I couldn’t get out of the saddle.

but then I got some rest on the quiet streets downhill. When I got to the Alibi I was just barely able to stand without wobbling but managed to hand my manifest to Nate and he sorted out getting the final mission. That 10 or 15 seconds of rest was all I got and then we were away heading for Breakfast Creek. Nate let me navigate and we went through the Emporium carpark and dodged a few deadshit cars and turned right into Wickham. As I glanced up Wickham I saw a bunch of fixies heading our way at serious speed. SHIT!

Through the next light Nate took over navigating and suddenly he was turning right up THE steepest hill and my heart sank. I thrashed away at my bike but halfway up I was suddenly going nowhere so I jumped off and ran my bike up. Luckily the checkpoint was at the top and ranga-dave stamped my hand and we turned around. We were in the lead as the other fixies were still climbing up!

I didn’t have time to slip either of my shoes into my cages so as I cornered the clips scraped along the bitumen – scrape, scrape, scrape with each revolution of the cranks.

Then we were back on Doggett and we looked back and no one was following. Maybe they had taken a different route. On James we looked back again and the road was empty, but we rode hard still. Then we were on Annie which has a huge dip in the middle. Spinning like crazy at about 60kms an hour we pulled up outside the Alibi and threw our bikes down and handed in our papers.

I collapsed on the road. Then Nate came up to me and said we had won. WTF!??! No way – that’s crazy! On my first alleycat? There were many high fives and tales about eachother’s individual missions. Nate had had to chugg a beer on the Story Bridge and then had hit his head running up some stairs. Ow.

My friends brought me water and beer and then it became clearer that we had indeed came first. It took about 30 minutes for the other teams to all finish and then we had a presentation. Nate and I won 50 bucks on the bar and some Vans from Apartment in the city. Swt.

Me on extreme left

 

 

Pictures from today and last night

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Just thought I’d get the token pic of Sasha out of the way.Image

Haig Road has been dug up for re-surfacing and it has been like this for almost 2 weeks. And it is simply evil for a bike having to turn across this gravel bullshit! Some of the rocks are as big as tennis balls. UGH! Thankfully today it got finally fully sealed and I can forget about all those close calls I had.

 

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This is “Bear-cat”. He lives on Haig Road and is always up for a decent scratch. He looks really old.

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It was an Ekka holiday today so last night we met some friends at the Paddo for a beer and some food.

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ImageKerrie took this photo of me!

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And Kerrie took this one too. Love it!

Today I slept in — through necessity rather than design — and then did a few riverloops and ended up at Musgrave park for polo and to celebrate Scott’s bday. This is Marty:

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ImageAnd despite the fact we were drinking in public and being a bit loud and juvenile — it was the indigenous community that got a big fat visit from the Po Po.

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ImageThis is Eleanor and a big hi to Kath’s mum!

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ImageAli!

ImageHB Scotty

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