Hawkes Bay NZ Water trail

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Things to do when your bike's in a box

Last night I packed Sir Gulliver, my touring bike, in a recycled cardboard box begged from the bike store around the corner on Pulteney St. This morning at 10am, the Seven Seas Shipping van came by, relieved me of a couple hundred $, and I consigned the bike for a trip north,and a couple of months in my niece's garage.

I feel sad, it's rainy, and I am bikeless in Adelaide. So I was pleased to see an alert from Adelaide Public Library, announcing that my hold on Kristian Bauer's Ride a Stage of the Tour De France: The Legendary Climbs and How to Ride Them [London : A & C Black, 2011] was waiting for me. As I'm heading out of town for two week's on The Ghan train to Darwin and back, I can't borrow this little gem. So I skimmed it.

It's a well designed, well written and comprehensive manual, offering short route descriptions, supplemented with photos, maps, altitude charts, and sidebars on fun things. It's written by a knowledgeable German road cycling enthusiast,a translation/update of the original German book from 2006. It's blessedly free of marketing and sales hype. I know I could tackle some of these "hills" on trusty Sir Gulliver, and not feel too self conscious. It's the "doing" that's important, not the "being seen to be doing."

Kristian helpfully lists a "quick guide to fun passes," which include the 3 easiest (Col du Hundsruck, Notschrei, Pra-Loup), the 3 most athletically challenging (Col de l'Iseran, Galibier via Telegraphe, Mont Ventoux), and the most beautiful (Port de Pailheres, Col d'Aubisque, Col d'Izoard).

He's so right. This past July I was able to watch as many hours as I could stomach, live, of the Tour De France, for free, on Australian commercial TV, from 10pm to 2am. Needless to say, I stayed up for the full 20 nights, going to bed in the wee hours, and wandering around at the office in a daze the day after. Only a handful of people there were paying attention to the fact that Cadel Evans was going to be the first Aussie to win.

In all those hours, listening mesmerized to Phil Liggett's delightful commentary, 've never really had the opportunity to study just how lovely the French alpine Tour sections are. I was struck by the realization that the Alpes look remarkably similar to the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. In past, stronger times, I've ridden two Ride the Rockies weeklong events, I now realize just how lucky I've been so far in choosing great places to ride. So I need to keep on making my own luck.

I immensely enjoyed this year's Tour de France, as the riders went through both Brittany and Normandy, and I saw several of the roads I'd ridden myself, only a year ago. Of course, I was loaded down with a ridiculous amount of gear, and a total novice at road touring, dealing with stupid things like having my back rack fall off the bike, as I'd not tightened the screws adequately,and dealing with all the insanities of life as a solo cyclist on a long road trip. Despite my laughable start, since then, I've ridden my touring bike from the Grand Canyon in Arizona, taken a folding bike around New Zealand, and even had a little time to ride in South Australia.

So, as I take the slow route back home to the USA, I'm planning to travel via New Zealand. I have just bought a flight from the Gold Coast in Queensland, to Auckland, and will hit the NZ road again, me and Sir Gulliver, in the new year.

Something to look forward to. Life hands you lemons, make lemonade, etc.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Ride to Work Day in Adelaide

Yesterday I attended a free breakfast for cyclists happened in Victoria Square, in central Adelaide. I found it ironic that for me, at least, it was, "don't ride to work" day.

There were free bananas, scones and juice, also a silly "ride as slow as you can" event mc'd by the local public radio station. The mayor was there, announcing big plans for more bike infrastructure to come to the city. The local radio commentators in general are non-cyclists, and went off topic fast, asking the various politicans who showed up about completely non-bike related topics, including asking someone's opinion of gay marriage. What relevance that had here, is anyone's guess. I heard the interview later, when I was back home. Made me scratch my head in wonderment.

Later I rode my bike in the Central Business District, and had to scream "heads up" at a woman inching her car forward out of downtown car park, heading straight at me. Just the typically blind motorist you find here. There still is a climate of disrespect "roads are for cars" type thinking here, making it difficult for cyclists. In turn, cyclists here take a number of risks that threaten their own lives, and don't help motorists get on board. Very few announce themselves as they ride past you on a bike trail. There's a lot of ground to cover here if the city is to become, in the mayor's words, the most bike friendly city in the country.

BikeSA is working on a number of good programmes to make the roads more multi modal. Good luck to them. Were I staying here, I'd have gotten involved, but my path lies in a different direction.

I am packing my bike for shipment north later today. If I pack it myself, it's much much cheaper than paying for the shipper to do it for me. They wanted a minimum of $180 for the privilege, and wouldn't let me put the tools, helmets, bags, etc in the box with the bike. With the other belongings I'm sending to Queensland, that would have meant a lot more expense.

Starting Sunday, I'm traveling to the Top End (Darwin) via one of the most famous trains in the world: The Ghan. I'm here, I have time, so I'm giving it a shot.

Monday, October 10, 2011

On the Road Again

The job I moved to Adelaide to take ended last week. Such is life.

I'm boxing up my belongings, ending my lease, shipping what I can, including Sir Gulliver to touring bike to Queensland, where he can live in a friend's garage for a month or so, and going on the road as a backpacker once more.

Despite the fact that I just cancelled my registration for the Tour Down Under day ride in January 2012,I know that Adelaide is pretty good for cyclists. As I won't be here to meet Eddy Merxcyx, or catch a glimpse of Cadel Evans during the Tour, I'm cutting my losses. There are many places to ride, and I won't miss the motoriststs and bus drivers here who straddle the bike lane. Share the Road isn't fully embedded in the car crazy culture here. It will take a few more years I suppose. But it is better.

In spite of my shoulder, I managed to start bike commuting, moving to 5 days/week in August, after a such a tentative start back in July. I worked out a great route along the Torrens Linear Park, and my temper improved immensely once I was back in the bike saddle. Gosh, I'd missed riding. I also discovered the ride up "Old Norton Summit Road" to the Scenic Hotel. It's a steep winding road, giving a view of Morialta Conservation Park, some vineyards, a cherry orchard, and the chance to be attacked by nesting magpies.

I rode up there last Sunday. "Maggie" ignored me on the slog up, but I felt the tell tale feathery flutter, sort of little dancing bird feet touching me on my left shoulder as I was rocketing down the winding mountain road. This is a rite of spring cycling around here. I didn't need a helmet embellished with plastic spikes, or even a set of printed human eyes from a "Swoop Off Kit" [http://www.dse.vic.gov.au/plants-and-animals/native-plants-and-animals/problem-wildlife/swooping-birds/swoop-off-kit]

You can't make this stuff up.