I’ve been on vacation in Melbourne Australia since the 13th. Thought I’d start recording my blog entries here instead of my little notepad. I know – crazy thought.
Here’s the backstory. Army buddy named Tom and his wife Annette are Americans working for Ericson and living in Melbourne, Australia. I’m presently between jobs (and pretty much everything else) at the moment, and have a small severance check to play with. So am taking the opportunity to do a little traveling. My friend Alex Wetmore has loaned me his freshly fabricated S&S coupled bicycle (called the Travel Gifford aka TG) for my trip, and here I am to burn a couple weeks off, have an adventure, ride some bikes, and make some friends.
Now the dump:
Day 1 – Sunday
Arrived, met Tom and Annette who are still moving into their apartment. Had them drop me off at Edenborough Gardens to meet White Scott (who’s flown in from Perth for the weekend) and friends who are taking advantage of the unseasonably warm day to drink beers in the park. Much fun is had, monster bike ridden, friends introduced. Tai lends me a 26in bar bike – which is fortunate because the bike Alex lent me has a bad rear hub. Plan is to swap out the back wheel on bar bike to put the Travel Gifford (Alex’s bike) into working order. White Scott flies back to Perth (but will be back next weekend) and I have two bike rides to join if so inclined – Wednesday at 6 at Federation Square the ride leaves at 630, and another ride on Thursday at 7 leaving Melbourne Museum at 730. I hope to meet some people at these and have a good time.
Day 2- Monday
Finished putting the bike together. Back wheel from the bar bike goes on just fine, but it really is a shite wheel. 7 speeds instead of 9, and if you try to dig on it you jump chain so there’s a lot of taking it easy involved. Also, data here is very expensive. Fidgeting around with data plans and maps and no idea where to bloody go – everyone drives on the left side of the road which freaks me out. I’m also on an unfamiliar bike and very much don’t want to muck it up since it’s on loan. (Alex has loaned me this fantastic collapsible bicycle that he built in his basement. It is the topic of much conversation among bikey types.) All in all I find myself rather intimidated by it all and limit myself to bike paths along the waterfront, just getting familiar with the Travel Gifford (TG). By the end of the day I’ve gone as far in both directions along the river as the bike paths will allow, and crash out early. Last thing of the day I put out a call on Tarck to see if there are any Melbourne members.
Day 3 – Tuesday
Wake up to messages from Tarck bros. Andrew Blake (Aka Blakey) – a Melbourne native – has reached out with a laundry list of helpful things and armed with this, I head off into the heart of the city, prepared to conquer! Breakfast at a cafe called 65 Degrees, and then north to a bike shop called Commuter Cycles in Brunswick. Those boys are super excited to see the bike, and I have them look at the bottom bracket that I can’t seem to keep from creaking. They had a small backlog said it’d take a couple hours to get it done so I wandered over to Albert Street Food and Wine where I have a pretty incredible pizza, and a spiced pineapple dish with mocha ice cream and candy corn (of all things) under a glaze of some sort that was just fucking incredible. While there I get word from Blakey that the lads at the bike shop have posted pics of the TG on twitter which we all find extremely amusing.
After picking up the bike, I pedal south again – stopping by the very large Victorian Market as it’s closing. Looks very interesting. Will have to stop by when it’s open. Afterwards find myself wandering aimlessly through the CBD.
The CBD – The Central Business District – is very busy. Sidewalks packed with people, traffic is thick… I walked my bike through most of it. Thing about not having anywhere to go, bicycling in the middle of it is a good way to get killed. You’re doddering around and everyone’s got somewhere to be. You’re seeing the sights and everyone else is trying to get from point A to point B on their lunch hour – driving through the city is a necessary evil, not a novelty.
The other thing is this – I finally bought the bullet and purchased an international data package from AT&T after haggling with them for an incredible amount of time to get my phone unlocked – which they steadfastly refused to do while I was under contract. Fuckers. So for $100 I got 275Mb of data. That’s great and all, but I clocked through 40% of that in 5 hours. Obviously I was going to need to buy an Australian phone if I wanted maps and communication – where $50 would get me 3 to 5Gb of data. So I picked up an Android phone and now have an Australian phone number and whatnot.
I’m not that impressed with the Android, but it will tether to my ipad, and does basic texting, phone calls and maps so will make it work. After a long dinner with Tom, I burn off the rest of the evening trying to familiarize myself with my new lifeline and then crash out.
Day 4 – Wednesday
After a bit of fidgeting, head out to the Salford Lads Club for lunch (another Blakey rec). I’m introduced to a fella Blakey knows named Tom and we get to chatting for a bit. Food there is fantastic, and for some reason there are a million beautiful women there. I didn’t want to leave (shut it) but lunch rush was picking up and I was occupying valuable table space. Will be back tomorrow morning for breakfast.
Side note. They call breakfast here brekkie, Americano’s are called “Long Black”, and there are a million ElCamino’s they call Ute’s.
With nowhere to go and nothing to do but take in the sights, again found myself walking my bike on the sidewalk through the city. It’s less dangerous, and there’s a lot to take in. I mount up when I want to cover ground.
I stopped at BSc Bikes to pick up a new 26in wheel for the TG. Tonights the Wednesday night bike ride and I want to be in good shape for it. Also, the bar bike that Tai has lent me is White Scott’s bike while he’s here. So whatever the case I need to have a more permanent solution before White Scott comes back.
As I sit, I’m at a cafe called 65 Degrees. Need to find a park and swap my new wheel in, head home, charge my phone and get ready for tonights ride. Apparently it’s a fixed gear ride which could go any number of directions. In Seattle a fixed ride is a fast hard ride – momentum and inertia is a fixed gear bikes best friend. Here where it’s flat, I’m assured that the pace is easy to maintain but you never know. At any rate, hope to meet some people and have some laughs.
More to follow later. - SG 1512hrs
Day 4 – Continued – stolen from Tarck/point83
Probably did 25 miles at a pretty balleur pace – fatty me on 26in Travel Gifford, everyone else on fucking awesome Bob Jackson fixies, and one guy on a time trial bike with a disc tubular Zipp rear wheel. The bike was the business. sounded like a jet. Fella named Sam had it. it was loud as hell to ride beside him.
Anyhow, a good portion of the route was all winding river path and drainage. I didn’t actually have a problem keeping up or with the pace until they started hitting rollers. Then of course the math kicks in and I was last one in.
It was black out. No stars, no moon, high overcast, no streetlights anywhere. Black. Just our bike lights and the path.
There was a point where were pedaling along when a commuter train streaked by overhead and illuminated a 50 foot tall statue of the Buddah in the middle of the field we were circumnavigating. We had no idea it was there. It was absolutely kickass.
We ended up at the Brunswick velodrome where we did some laps, caught our breath and bullshitted for a bit, and then pedaled for burritos and home. Ironically it was on this last lazy leg going for burritos where I got dropped – hit a light and didn’t know where they went. Lol.
I don’t know if they appreciated my war cries when bombing down big hills as I’m wont to do, or whooping it up when riding through tunnels, or breaking out a couple beers at the velodrome – though one fella (Jamie) took me up on my offer for one. But the night was perfect, the ride was fucking beautiful, and these fellas were nice as hell. Under such circumstances I’m not generally inclined to be quiet.
Day 5 – Thursday
Started the day out at the Lads Club again for bfast, then headed into the city to meet Blakey for the first time. Very nice guy. Very helpful. Took me to a neat little coffee stand underneath Flinders St Station and then showed me where the Apple store was so I could pick up an adapter for the ipad that would let me pull pictures off my camera’s SD Card. He split for home afterwards and I mucked about until I found a cafe with WiFi to upload a bunch of SD pictures on.
Afterwards went home and loaded up for the Thursday night ride that I’d been looking forward to. Was assured the Thursday night ride wasn’t as fast as Wednesdays ride, was generally more drinky and social. Really, sounded more like my pace.
I showed up and yes the crew is more rough and tumble but literally everyones in squiddy gear on fixies and there to smash some miles. I’m told it’s usually pretty lax but since tonights crew was small (6 of us) and of a certain marque, they’re planning to do a 50k loop at a decent clip. We lit off but I bailed not 5 minutes into it with visions of my huffing and puffing to keep up (or catch up) all night long – sounded like a fuckall time to be honest. I just wanted to do a little bar hopping and meet some people. I peeled off in the middle of a park and sat down to watch Footie players kick balls back and forth for awhile, then headed the opposite direction – Tai had invited me to listen to his friends band perform at the Gasometer, so off I went.
Gasometer was a pretty great venue. Finally got a few beers in me, listened to a couple bands play, chatted with this badass bartender with fabulous tattoos, and then headed for home.
The weather was warm and humid with light overcast, and I pedaled for home slowly through the side streets, taking in the night. I was tired of trying to not get killed in traffic so this was a nice change of pace. I was still a little bummed that I bailed out of the ride. Not a big thing in and of itself but I don’t often bail out of rides and it put me off. Puttered around until back home and called it a night, sorta disappointed all in all.
Day 6 – Friday
Lads club again. What can I say – it’s close. Tom (not mine) did take note though and mentioned there are other cafe’s to look into. Somewhat sheepishly I asked after it and he gave me the following places to search out
and a couple others.
Met up with Blakey again and we pedaled over to to a pair of bike shops back to back with one another in the South end of town – FYXO and Shifter Cycles. FYXO is a great little boutique shop owned by a very nice fella named Andy – had some beautiful track and fixed bikes in there. Adjacent to it sharing a wall and a door way is Shifter Bikes. Shifter seems to be the burlier of the two, but they compliment each other quite nicely. I didn’t get the name of the fella who owned it but he was a rough and tumble sort who I liked immediately. Evidently he used to do a bunch of world CX racing or somesuch and this was his shop. Again, just the nicest fella with some incredible frames – I was duly impressed. Picked up a T-shirt and an emblazoned flask (mine wore out – shut it) and was happy to do it. Really neat shop.
Afterwards Blakey and I spent a good part of the afternoon riding a series of bicycle paths through Melbourne’s intricate river and parks system. 6pm rolled around, and we met up with the boys at Community Cycles for beers after work for an hour or so, then I headed home for an early night. Good day of pedaling and getting to know the city better. This place is pretty great. I do like it quite a bit.
Day 7 – Saturday
No bikes today. Tom, Annette and myself pile into their Toyota and head out to Phillip Island 90 mins away. Stopped at a winery on the way out, did a tasting and bought some wine before heading over to the island.
Phillip Island is home to a series of animal preserves and a few unique attractions such as the Penguin Parade. Evidently every night at sundown baby penguins emerge from the ocean to sleep on the beach. Unfortunately we didn’t stay long enough to see it, but it happens there.
What we did see however was a wide variety of well looked after and well loved wildlife.
I always feel a little funny at places like the zoo. It’s that whole imprisonment thing that gets to me I think. Sort of feels like cheating. But even my cynicism wore away after I hand fed a kangaroo (and her joey in her pocket!) before wandering over to the family of Wombats – which might have been the cutest things I’d ever seen. Words cannot compete.
We were back a bit after dusk, just enough time to get ready for the next days 80km gravel grinder ride that Blakey had put together, and that I’d been talked into going. Two rides already I’d been told – easy ride, decent pace, no problems – people of all caliber and marques. No worries! Neither ride had been those things and though I was looking forward to tomorrows ride, I suspected it would be no different.
Day 8 – Sunday
Day started out early. Met Blakey and the boys at Flinders St Station at 7:30am where we boarded a train headed east for Belgrave. By the time we arrived, there were probably 50 riders there – all in gear. Figured I was in for more of the same, and by in large I was.
Here’s the thing. Bicycling here – and most places I wager – is mostly rooted in athleticism of some sort. Point83 on the other hand, is rooted in alcoholism, cheating, karaoke, nerdery, lols, sex, drugs and rock and roll. Which is great and all until you place an alcoholic type amidst a bunch of athletic types – and then it’s just a fucking debacle.
Alas, the fellas I rode with were fantastic and the route was incredibly beautiful. Though it almost killed me with awesomeness – and hills – I had an excellent time. There was a point we even rode through a herd of kangaroos! There’s a video over in the flickr stream somewhere. The weather held until late afternoon, then it was thunder and lightning and the sky opened up and drenched us for the last couple km, which was actually pretty nice if you ask me.
I must say – Alex’s bicycle performed very well through it all. Not a single flat or problem. Though I’ve gotten used to downtube shifters, I still don’t love them – but really it’s my only gripe. I think bar-end shifters and slightly flared bars would be a better fit for me personally, but it’s strictly personal preference. In terms of frame and handling, it was excellent experience. When outfitted with a couple Revelate Design bags for gear, really couldn’t be happier with it.
By days end I was beat though. The ride thoroughly kicked my ass. I went to bed exhausted and happy and committed to do more riding so I’m in better shape for this sort of thing in the future. This is the kind of riding I want to do more of. Far more.
Update: Flickr Set is here http://www.flickr.com/photos/tehschkott/sets/72157629514457642/
And the link to that kangaroo business is here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/tehschkott/7104708043/in/set-72157629514457642
Day 9 – Monday
Down today. No bikes, just rest. Wrote and sent off postcards, did laundry. We may have tickets for Wednesday’s Footie game at the MGC for ANZAC day – Australian Veterans Day – but won’t know until tomorrow. Fingers crossed!
Day 10 – Tuesday
Weather was crap again but I went out anyhow. Why else come to a foreign country if you’re only going to sit inside? Pedaled wet in the rain first to a new breakfast location – Proud Marys – where I had the most delicious breakfast yet.
On that note – stringing together bike shops and breakfast locations and then filling out a city from there isn’t the worst way to go about a thing, let me tell you. Just something to consider.
Afterwards, wandered a bit up Smith Street which is kinda neat. Old and a bit run down, obviously one of the older parts of town. Pedaling through the neighborhoods there’s just a fantastic amount of wrought-iron work on the porches – reminds me of New Orleans.
Stopped in Velocycle to say hello to a fella named Leigh (Lee) I rode with on the Melbourne Gravel Grinders ride the weekend before, and to look around for a bit. Nice little shop, with some rather intricate graffiti to be had in the periphery. I think it obvious the youth of Melbourne take their spray painting rather seriously in this town. It was right impressive!
Said my hello’s to Leigh, picked up a fender for the TG and slowly wandered over through Brunswick before heading south again for home. Not much to be said or had really. So be it.
Day 11 – Wednesday
No bikes today. Through a dear friend of mine back home I was put in touch with a friend named Ian who works at Ticketmaster. Ian got myself and my friend Tom tickets to a genuine Australian footy match. And not just any old footy match – but today is ANZAC Day. ANZAC Day in Australia is like Veterans Day, except they take it FAR more seriously. Everything was closed. It was like Christmas in the states. It was rather shocking – a somber holiday? Hunh! Anyhow, the footy match at the MCG Statdium (Melbourne Cricket Grounds) is serious business. The stadium holds close to 90,000 people and attendance was at 87,000!!! Ian sat with Tom and myself and explained the rules. We all had a couple beers, ate a couple meat pies and by games end we were shouting shapeless vowels loudly and jumping out of our seats with the best of them. Essendon Bombers vs the Collingwood Magpies, it was a close game but Collingwood won it, 80 to 79 in the final seconds of the match. What a riot.
Also out today was the official ride-report blog entry about Sundays gravel grinder ride. Lots of fun to go through if you’ve the time. I need to do up my own blog post about it. Until then take a gander…
I bought Tom and Annette the boxed set of Game of Thrones and they’re hooked. Spend the rest of the evening with them as they plow through the tribulations of Lord Eddard Stark as Hand of the King, and Deneris Targarian as Kalisi of the Dothraki Hoarde. My oh my!
It occurs to me now that I fly on Saturday, and that it’s not very far away. It’s been a busy and fun 11 days, but I think I’m ready to come home – or get settled in! I could go either way. I like it here. I could easily make a home of it I think. My resume is out. You never know. At any rate it’s time to start preparing. I don’t have anything planned for tomorrow, but on Friday afternoon I plan to be at Commuter Cycles for beers after work. I suppose I’ll say my goodbyes at that time.
Until then though – what to do tomorrow?
Day 12 – Thursday