Journal

Archives: March 2007

Melbourne: The Saints! 27 March 2007

We had a lovely two-night stay in Melbourne, with Jim and Karen’s colleagues Anne & Graeme from the Outback. Jim was able to take his boys to dinner for the first time in two years, and the rest of us enjoyed a fantastic Thai dinner with Lucy, her brother John, and his girlfriend Simone, who came to Melbourne with Marty to celebrate the finish of our Tour d’GOR.

The highlight of our day in Melbourne was visiting Moorabbin, training home of the Aussie Rules footy club (team) Jim ‘barracks’ (roots) for – the Saints (Saint Kilda), to watch a training session – their first game of the pre-season is next week. (more…)

Great Ocean Road Day 12: FINISHED! 23 March 2007

Bell's BeachWe are done! We took it *very* easy today, but even so, we rode another 20k on the hottest day yet, with some very, very “bad!? hills! We rode from Torquey to Bells Beach, Australia’s most famous surfing beach and home to many competitions. It was breathtakingly beautiful, with very impressive waves and a wicked-looking undertow, but was rather quiet today in the grandstands. I kept riding along Bell’s Beach back and forth for several miles on those incredible hills to get my miles up – Surfer on Bell'sit felt a little like being on one of those gigantic swings in a carnival, swooping from one side of the valley to the other and back, except pumping the pedals on the uphills was much harder than pumping a swing.

We then drove to Torquay Beach and jumped in the surf to cool off and CELEBRATE – me in my jersey and bike shorts – fantastic!!

I have ridden 500 miles, and as my nephew Marty would say, ‘I am very happy’!

GOR Day 11: Following the Surf (Glenaire to Apollo Bay) 23 March 2007

Today we planned about 100k, and came close. Apollo BayJim and Patricia are determined to do 1000k on this tour, so they were preparing to leave around 7:30 and Irena and I would follow later to join them. I forget the rest of the plan (like true Newkirks, our plans change until they are DONE!!!). Anyway, two more tubes ‘died’ being pumped up (that makes about 10 now…), which delayed them until 9:30, so JEBIGA – we loaded up all the bikes (now that we have THAT figured out!), and Jim dropped us ‘gills’ (as he calls us) about 23k from Apollo Bay. Check out our get-out-of-town route up that hill!!! —->>>> (more…)

GOR Day 10: 32 KOALAS! (Glenaire UP Laver’s Hill to Otway Bay) 23 March 2007

Dinosaur CoveToday was a fantastic day. Our ‘success’ was getting out early (7:45 am – we are staying in this cottage for two nights), and riding up one of the most famous landmarks of this traditional ride – Laver’s Hill. It was about 1900 feet of elevation gain over 10 miles, and we worked hard, but actually enjoyed doing it. Coffee and croissants at the top with a view were a treat, as was the ride back down – I broke my speed record from 4 days ago and reached 37.3mph (over 60kph)! Then Jim and I kept going down from the cottage to order dinner (about 1k) and saw the most spectacular view yet from the bikes on our trip – steep downhill, headed straight for the ocean. (more…)

GOR Day 9: Majestic coastline, and yet MORE headwind! (PC to Glenaire) 23 March 2007

Twelve ApostlesA few days back, our bike tire pump broke down died (the valve head just came off!), and we couldn’t quite get our act together to get a new one. Of course it happened on the weekend, and everything here in these little town closes early, especially on Saturdays, and the one bike shope we found didn’t have what we needed. We have been using compressed air canisters, which is cold, so the tires go a little flat rather quickly, and it is more work (just what we *don’t* need) to ride on low tires. So, this morning I am sitting in a little motel lobby in Port Campbell using their one internet PC to update these travelogues, while the others have all headed BACK 67k to Warnambool (it is Monday morning) to buy a new pump. (more…)

GOR – Day 8: The REAL GREAT OCEAN ROAD (Port Fairy to Port Campbell, VIC) 18 March 2007

Up til today, we haven’t really been on the “Great Ocean Road” proper, which actually starts/ends in Warrnambool, though we have been following the coast. We have been traveling southeast, and as Murphy would have it, the wind, which is ‘typically’ westerly or non-existent this time of year, has been easterly, so we have been consistently riding into the wind. We are also now below the 38th parallel, and if we kept going in our same direction southeast out into the ocean, we would reach Tasmania, though of course it is too far away to see. After tomorrow, we will turn north toward Melbourne, and then only 4 more days of riding… hard to believe. Bay of Islands

This was the most beautiful segment of our ride so far, riding high above the ocean along the edge of tall cliffs, the sun glinting off the sea, and glimpsing impossibly turquoise water and surf and caramel colored sandy beaches splattered with volcanic rocks. And this was the first day we would begin to make many scenic stops (you look them up: Bay of Islands, London Bridge, The Grotto). Wide pathways lead from each stop’s parking lot to the best views about 1/4 to 1/2 mile or more from the road. They were frequently, though not always, paved or well-surfaced, so we would just ride our bikes down/along past the other tourists. (more…)

GOR – Day 7: FEELING GOOD (Portland to Port Fairy, VIC) 18 March 2007

Our itinerary has us scheduled to ride 70k today, but we rode over 100 (62 miles). JimAnd this was Irena’s longest-ever ride of her cycling career (she alternately denies and claims us Newkirks as a family – I know some of you can relate!).

Jim and I started out early from Portland, and we got a good laugh on me right off the bat: As I rode ahead of him out of the caravan park turning LEFT (which is like turning RIGHT in the U.S.), I was grinning and thinking to tell him that I am really getting the hang of this left-side, right-side of the road stuff… I looked right, then left, then promptly -automatically- crossed over to the right hand side! And just as I realized what I had done, Jim shouts “LINDA!!? (more…)

GOR – Day 6: SHORT! (Nelson to Portland, VIC) 18 March 2007

This day was a blast! We had planned for 76k, but ended up leaving the last of the logging road to the trucks, and rode only 30k (19 miles); average speed 18.87mph! It was drizzling when we woke up, so we loaded up, drove the hilly, winding road about 5 miles out to the beach Lighthouse(which would have been a *great* warm-up ride, major bummer), and then drove to our next stop for the night in Portland.

After checking into our caravan park cabin, we found another bike shop to replenish our supply of tubes – we have had 6 flats already, 3 from the tubes blowing when removing the pump. We then hopped on our bikes, and took a beautiful ride out to the Cape Nelson Lighthouse on the point – a winding, *very* hilly (the Information Center lady said it was FLAT!), rough-surfaced coastal road , with spectacular dunes and ocean views. At the lighthouse we found a standing compass and located due South, straining to see Antarctica (tricky with a 50-mile horizon). On the way back we saw an echidna – like a very shy, roly-poly porcupine. It was in the road, and as we approached, it waddled quickly to the undergrowth, curling up into a motionless ball under some dead branches, hoping we wouldn’t notice it, though we were right above it.

I reached my top speed ever today, of 36.2mph! (more…)

GOR – Day 5: LOGGING TRUCKS (Beachport to Nelson, VIC) 18 March 2007

Today was planned as a 124k day, and again I rode 65k (40 miles); average speed 13.1mph. Wombat crazyAfter enjoying a spectacular sunrise over the ocean, Patricia and I headed out from Beachport, along the beach and more stately Norfolk Island pine trees, while Jim and Irena drove out half way to Millicent, the next town, and rode back to meet us. We tag teamed like that into Mt. Gambier (Karen’s home town), and dropped our bikes at a bike shop for servicing, had lunch, and then while waiting for the bikes, drove for a “squiz? (look-see, also called a “sticky beak?!) at the Blue Lake of the volcano (the mount) – it has an impossibly blue color that changes to grey in winter, and back to blue again in summer. It is a city water supply, and according to Jim, is even blue in the bathtub! (more…)

GOR – Day 4: GR SOUTHERN OCEAN (K to Beachport, SA) 14 March 2007

Today was a *great* day – for me anyway.

A 96k day, of which I rode 65 (40+ miles), average speed 13.2mph. For the first time this tour we got a chilly early morning start, and were rewarded with a tailwind – a cyclist’s best friend. beach posesThis was Irena’s longest ride ever – she hopped on about 1/3 of the way through our 90k (58 miles?), while Patricia drove. We took a lunch stop in the delightful and really lovely tourist town of Robe, right on the ocean at a beautiful sweeping inlet point, with towering Norfolk Island pines everywhere along the shoreline. Then I FINALLY got my first crack at driving on the left-hand side of the road. It only took me 15 minutes to figure out how to get the truck/jeep (manual shift) in reverse , and after that I had no problems (we have been here now over 3 weeks, so it doesn’t seem so strange any more). (more…)

GOR – Day 3: GOING BACKWARDS (MF to Kingston SE, in reverse) 14 March 2007

Besides going *away* from our destination, one story of this day was flat tires. Jim carrying wheel

Given the head winds of yesterday, we drove all the way (126k) to our next stop, checked in, and then started our ride back. The first part of the ride back (from Kingston SE to McGrath Flats along the Coorong Preserve National Park) was boring, and dodgy – along a fairly busy road with no shoulder for the first 7 miles or so. And just as we hit the shouldered part, Patricia had a flat tire. The valve had pulled away from the tire when it was pumped up this morning. Jim’s Aussie pump doesn’t work well with our threaded tube valves, and pulling the pump off seems to destroy the valve connection to the tube. AND, unfortunately, we cannot get compressed air for another day or so – no bike shops in these little town. (more…)

GOR – Day 2: HEADWIND! (LC to McGrath Flats, SA) 14 March 2007

At Peachabella We are now on our own, the four of us. Last night when we arrived, the B&B owner warned us of tri-corner thorns when we told her we had ridden our bikes the 1/2 mile from the paved road on the dirt/gravel to the B&B (something a really serious road-cyclist would *never* do!) Sure enough, Jim had a flat, and then we blew out a tube pumping up, so our start was a bit late. Jim and Irena took off 30 minutes ahead of Patricia and I and parked the jeep at Wellington, where we would take the ferry across the famous Murray River – about 23 miles away, and rode back to meet us.

Meanwhile, Patricia and I *carried* our bikes the 1/2 mile back to the road (nervous of a flat and no air to pump a new tube – we FORGOT to get compressed air canisters! – that was a tough walk for Pat on her bad toe). It took us 58 minutes to meet up with them on the road, 11 miles out into a fierce headwind – I think about 30mph. It took them only 30 minutes to meet us, 12 miles back, with a huge tailwind of course! (more…)

GOR Great Ocean Road – Day 1: MOUNTAINS (Adelaide to Langhorne Creek, SA) 14 March 2007

We’re off, headed for Melbourne, 1000K/660 miles away, at about 8:45 am – Jim, Patricia and I – with Irena and Marty driving the jeep, through NE Adelaide (at sea level), and then up into the Mount Lofty Range. highest pointAs we rode (me sometimes as slow as 2mph!), I thought of my cousin Bob, who is a road cyclist and mountain biker, and often rides up into the front range outside of Denver, just for fun! Pat had badly stubbed her toe (maybe even broken it) the previous morning, and it was all black and blue and swollen; but she was determined to ride up the mountains, and luckily, it was much better riding than walking. (more…)

Adelaide Family & Friends 14 March 2007

When we arrived around noon from Sydney back on the 25th, after spending the day shopping and packing for our trip into the Outback, Karen, Phil and Marty drove us north along the coast to Semaphore for fish and chips. The sand of the Spencer Gulf is the *softest* I have ever experienced – like walking in baking soda, or talcum powder! (more…)

Uluru to Ernabella 12 March 2007

Today we drove back into the Lands, to Ernabella, where Jim and Karen and the boys spent a great deal of time – it was the ‘base’ of their work. I finally found a piece of art there that ‘called’ to me, and only afterwards found out that the artist is a “daughter�? of Karen’s. Aboriginal people relate to each other and everyone strictly, and only, by family structure. So Karen and Jim were ‘adopted’ by a ‘family’, and thereafter were considered sister, or brother, or mother, or daughter, or aunt, or niece, etc., and that relationship endures forever.

We spent our last night bush-camping in Ichinpiri, a lovely spot just below a beautiful rock waterhole, which we explored the next morning.

Uluru – Kata Tjuta National Park 11 March 2007

Friday night we stayed in a campground in a tiny campground cabin in Yulara (the resort town that was moved just outside the national park), and Patricia and I opted to sleep on the nearby grassy lawn in our swags. We then got up for an *early* hike through the Valley of the Winds in Kata Juta, which means “many heads�? in Pitjantjatjara language. There are 36 rock mounds over 35 hectares of land. Unfortunately, I forgot my camera, but I have a few photos from Phil. This is a mysteriously beautiful place (more…)

The Road to Uluru – Outback Story #3 10 March 2007

The next morning Karen cooked the grubs (called Maku) crispy in butter, and Patricia and I each tasted two segments. We both wished our stomachs had felt better, because they were delicious – a bit like buttered popcorn and hard boiled egg.

Then we headed off to see if we could find the “Surveyor General’s Corner” the marker of the corner of Western Australia, South Australia and the Northern Territories. Karen had gotten a “mud map” from a friend in the village, and she and Phil (a retired Army Lt. Col.) had some lively discussions over which map would be better to use to find it. (more…)

Witchitty Grubs – Outback Story #2 9 March 2007

Wednesday night we spent camped out in the desert not too far from some kind of decaying animal. There is a plague of camels in the center right now and they come into the communities looking for water and then die. We didn’t actually see a dead one near our camp and didn’t smell it until after dinner when the wind changed direction. Tim said “Nevermind, you won’t smell it after you go to sleep,” and he was right. (more…)

Pitipalya Waterhole – Outback Story #1 9 March 2007

One of the quintessential days of our trip was the first Wednesday. We had been camping for two nights at that point and it had been really hot – each day got over 100 but on Thursday it was about 110. The villages had lots of people in them because they were getting organized to go out bush for “men’s business”. There were people driving around everywhere and then they would sit in their cars for a while and then drive around again; all very excited and worked-up. (more…)

From the middle of Australia :) 4 March 2007

Hello from the RED CENTER!

But I’ll back up for a minute…

Sydney is beautiful – I have named it the City of Bays and Beaches. We walked all over, rode buses, two-level trains, and took the ferry, saw flying foxes (HUGE bat-like things with fox faces) in the botanical garden, and swam in several beaches, thanks to my friend Socs, who was a *lovely* host. We have pretty much decided to get back there a little earlier to see more – the weather is like DC in summer: hot and humid. (more…)