Monday, August 31, 2009

nearly there

OK, now that I have left Germany how the heck to I get the internet to speak english to me again. *sigh*
A comfortable and uneventful flight and I am at Changi Airport, a veritable holiday destination in its own right. There is free wireless, a butterfly garden, and food with vegetables in it! I am in heaven! It is delightfully hot and humid in the butterfly garden, and I am now only two hours from my own time zone. I feel I am home at last.

Now I can have a shower, eat a vegetarian curry and chill out for a few hours before I board. Just one more sleep (assuming I sleep) and one more airport transfer and I will be home by noon tomorrow. I am all travelled out! Hope to get a ride in tomorrow evening : )

coming home - really

A few pictures of Dresden adventures. I forgot to download the latest last night, and now my camera is packed away, so maybe a few more later. But in the meantime, I have walked a hundred kms around the city, including for confrence workshops. So I have eaten a ton and I feel like the Michelin Man.But the city is stunning, between the conference overload and the city beauty overload I am fairly knackered and looking forward to vegging out all the way home. Unfortunately I have to write a conference report for the organiser, who caught me clutching a restorative beverage at the conference dinner and asked me if I would do it, and I foolishly responded "no worries!"
The day after the conference I managed to get in a ride on one of these babies!
You are supposed to rent them to look around the city, but I managed to persuade my native guide to explore farther afield, and we ended up doing around 45kms on them! My butt is in better shape than I expected, they are slow but surprisingly comfortable!

We had to return them to the city of course, so I got in a last coffee and cake near the zwinger.

I am on my way. Now that I am back in Frankfurt I can actually get t-mobile coverage. Warning, if you plan to actually leave the airport in Frankfurt and move around the countryside, DO NOT pay T-mobile for internet. I have been huddling on streetcorners, hugging phone booths, doing anything I could to fire off the odd email and skype my family. It has been poor at best.

But now I am on my way at last. I can't wait to get home.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

on to Dresden

Sunday we all sleep in a bit, and have a nice breakfast, just hang around. We are catching the train to Dresden around midday. We go to the train station a bit early, have a good coffee and watch the trains. Thay are all sleek and fast looking. Ours comes and it fills up but we have reserved seats with a table. We have brought a cut lunch and fruit, so we settle in and watch the countryside streak by. Green as. Very cool community garden areas, complete with weekend sheds done up like Canadian summer cottages, but between veggie patches instead of by the lake.

The architecture changes from village to village as we head east. The train flies, we briefly hit 200 kms/hr. Then we come to Dresden.

Lovely. A short tram ride to the hotel. No internet access. So we walk out to find dinner at a well known place from my guides student days. We eat way too much and so we walk and enjoy the city lights.

Some more time to explore tomorrow before conference registration, I expect my shoes will get a workout.

onwards and upwards

Thursday is hot and hazy. My sister and I walk the dog, eat, she packs and I repack. I have split into two suitcases, so I can just take a small one to Dresdan, leave the biggie in Frankfurt at a friends apartment. A last phone call from my mother, I am comforted that she sounds the same as when I am in Townsville. I must call her more often.

We go to the airport, we are flying to Frankfurt together, she will go on to Helsinki. I am getting picked up by a friend, then working all day. It is companionable to fly with my sister. We doze, but don't really sleep. Then we arrive and must say goodbye, but we know we will talk often on skype.

I spend the day at Jeppensen, where I learn about three days worth of really interesting things in one jet lagged, long day. I will need to distill for awhile. At least I can correspond if I missed anything. The area in really nice, and my friend lives nearby in a fantastic 60s housing development that still oozes that modern astetic, but has matured with big trees softening the angularity and uniformity of the construction. I love it.

The next day is Saturday, and we go for a walk in the woods, a circuit that takes us about 40 minutes at a good pace. It is lovely. There are so many paths that you don't see a lot of other people, but there were probably a lot. All the cyclists are helmetless, on upright "shopping bikes" as I call mine, and my age or much older. People just going places on bicycles, not cycling. That is the shift we haven't made yet. I am glad it will be easy for those of us who cycle already!

We then go into Frankfurt by bus. Job one, I need new shoes, mine have completely let go. I find a good pair in the first store we look in, then we are off to explore. We went everywhere, to the markets, a museum of applied art, a fabulous mall, a roof top beach, back and forth over bridges, past reconstructed history and uber modern design. We had proper German food, a lot of cider, and we walked and walked, especially since we stayed out late enough to miss the frequent bus times. When we got home I was exhausted, we had been on the move for well over 12 hours. The new shoes are good though.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

come on home

Nova Scotians are very parochial and proud. I grew up with lots of summer advertisements begging our wayward children home for a visit, so it seems natural to do as I am told and come home. And there is a lot to celebrate about being a Nova Scotian. We are just so nice. The people in the shops are so helpful, the drivers on the roads are so kind. If you look like you are even contemplating crossing the street, traffic grinds to a halt so you can pass. Food is served in generous proportions. Everyone is so polite. I admit that I miss that.

I am enjoying the ‘dog days’ of summer. It is so hot even I have broken a sweat. The haze is thick, America’s gift to the Maritimes has ever been her smog. I have stopped the recession in it’s tracks with a shopping spree which is totally out of character. I will be looking unnaturally well dressed upon my return to work.

I have dined on local produce, basked in the presence of my parents, laughed with my best friends. I should have stayed a lot longer than a week, but with work, research, commitments, I couldn’t. Leaving hurts just as bad after a month, a year, as it does after a short week. I will be back soon, I promise, to this beautiful, harsh place.

Thanks to my family for putting up with me, to Truro for keeping a downtown with heart and style. Thanks for home for staying pretty much the same.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

absolutely fabulous darling

World travel, hanging out with the beautiful people. It is so broadening.
You can keep your palaces and movie stars, I have had one of the best rides of my life around the 50K Loop with the Bluenoser himself. Riding supported by a local, lavishly catered and with good conversation the whole way.

I am not sure what Bikes Gone Wild has done with California, but Bluenoser has spiffed up the Loop with perfect weather, smooth new bitumen, hills that are just the right size and the obligitory roadside porcupine remains for your perusal.

Stunning views. Cool sea breezes. Thanks to my Brother-in-law for making us a 'group' .

Thanks to the Bluenoser for sprucing the place up.

Thanks too for the spread, which included the first Alexander Keith's India Pale Ale I have tasted in decades. It was delicious, and a kind of carb loading/recovery combo I hadn't tried before. It was all the better because it had a story to go with it.

I liked the local wildlife very much.
The restaurant had top views. I have never seen clearer water in the Maritimes.

And I met the beast that will travel across the wilds of North America

I have done the loop, but only for the first time.

Special thanks to Freewheeling Adventures for the rental of a bike that was the perfect fit, fast and light. I will be chasing up the possibility of buying it at the end of the tourist season, it was just fabby. Check them out for a fabulous tour or just a rental. They must have looked up the Townsville Cycling Club so the paint job would match my kit. ; ) Spif!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Vancouver with clear skies

Things are looking promising on the return ferry trip to Vancouver. I got to the hotel, got organised, and headed out by bus to the city to go to the Geologic survey office (I couldn't help myself). Then because it is light til late, I hit the streets.

Look! There are mountains just like they said!

Canada Place, is this a hang over from an Expo? Feels like it.

Very cityish, it is a big place. More beggers per sq. mile than any place I have very visited. I always thought Canada was a fairly socialist place, and it surprised me. I was going to have a hot dog for supper, but the beggars near the cart were so strident I was scared off. Now I feel bad I didn't buy them a hot dog. So I kept walking and admired the separated bike/walk infrastructure along the seawall. It was really busy with cyclists, and great to see a place that appreciates that cyclists and pedestrians are different, and need a different pace. I finally found a hot dog vendor, but I wasn't hungry enough for their product. I was grateful to find a maccas down the road.

So how does Vancouver rate? I couldn't live there. I spent a fair time walking and on public transport and I was threatened, re-routed (a pipe bomb scare) and weirded out by junkies and violent drunks. I like public transport too much to give it up.


I like Victoria, I would come back to the Island for a proper holiday sometime instead of just a working visit.
See, I am not bludging, I really did work all day and it was very interesting, I have a lot to digest and notes to organise and plans to make. I'll be doing some things differently because of what I learned here. I am figuring out that the people are the basis of the system, and everything else needs to work around them. Radical stuff.
After work I headed out into an exotic cold rain and had a look around. This is a city on a scale I can understand. Lots of bikes, but hair raising infrastructure (or the lack thereof). I was amazed how people would move through traffic. Nice architecture though, love the paint job.
Look, two of my favorite things! Globes and water features... I want one.

I wouldn't mind having a China Town (or an Indonesian, Malay, Indian etc Town) in Townsville. With a name like Townsville maybe we should start collecting them.

A pretty cool place. I think I see a cycling adventure avec rented camper in our future BoaB.

Sunday, August 9, 2009


I had a fabulous flight to Auckland. There must have been an administrative error so because I was in some delux economy section. I could hold my legs out straight and just brush the seat ahead. The food was good and I had lots of space due to an empty seat next to me. Sweet.

Auckland airport and I had some shopping to do. Drive the economy a bit. Then I looked for an internet kiosk. I just wanted to let Boab know I was OK. There was a small kiosk with 3 computers provided by Samsung, and a line up. So I cued patiently, waiting for a go, got there after a long wait and fired up the mail. It wouldn't work, wrong browser (opera). I tried to find my blog, and got somebody else's. Rattled by the shuffling in the cue behind me I gave up. Sorry mate.

Then onto the plane for 12 hours of sitting around. I watched a bad movie and dozed. I was in the normal cheap seats where even I could get leg cramps from a lack of room, but Air NZ does have fantastic service, nice wine, good food and cozy blankets. I still had an empty seat next door and a friendly Newfie to talk to, so it wasn't too bad.

Vancouver at last and the usual customs shuffle. To the hotel eventually to find it a bit of a dump, but clean. I had to change rooms to get a working phone so I could finally call home. Then a hot shower and a pact to stay awake until at least 9pm.
My shuttle driver had pointed out the bus to the city near the hotel, so I went out and caught it. I was at the end of the Frasier 8 line (if anyone is from Vancouver) and I went til the end of the line into the city (Robson st?). Anyway, it was a big, gritty, run down city I saw, and I am from the country, so I vowed to stay on that street so I didn't get lost. I walked a fair way up it and found a nice Italian restaurant specialising in local wild caught seafood. Super. I went in with my jeans and sneakers on and they seated me like royalty.

I had a hard choice, but I went for the albacore tuna and a glass of BC pinot noir. I was served an excellent starter of warm, crusty and yeasty rolls (3 of them!- I ate one.) and a superb tapinade of olives and preserved lemon. A few sips of excellent wine and the main arrives. Perfect seared white tuna sliced and arranged on a rosti of potatoes and celeriac, topped with the tiniest green beans cooked to perfection, and the tuna smoky from the grill and still raw in the middle.

Absolute perfection. Finished with a great coffee. Why on earth can I never get great service, delicious food, fast delivery and a decent price all at once in Australia. We have a skills shortage in more than the spatial sciences.

Back on the bus for the long trip back to the dive and now it is after 9pm on Friday and isn’t it interesting the sort of people who ride buses. A real cultural experience.

I arrived safe and sound and had a restless night, sleeping through the day. Them I made my way to Vancouver Island on the ferry.

It was cold and windy but I had the gear for it and I enjoyed the top deck.
They tell me there are mountains around Vancouver, hope I get to see them later. Saw some seals but no Orcas, maybe on the way back.

My friend Di picked me up at the terminal and we had a fun afternoon of a pub lunch, shopping and tea drinking, a nice meal. I should go to bed but (unlike my usual form) I am wide awake at nearly 11pm.

update: I have caved and bought a EeePC so I can get some work done and blog.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

listening to my wheels

My ride home this arvo will be my last time on my bike for ages. I hit out hard because I am grieving a bit already. Usually I wear an ipod (yeh I know all the reasons why this will spell my doom) but not today. I wanted to listen to my wheels. To hear the sweet sound those Mavic Ksyriums make under pressure. It is a hum and a whisper that cuts through the wind noise and speaks to you. It makes your heart beat faster, it makes you feel lithe and powerful. A symphony for strength.

25 days til I ride my bike again. The only things I will miss worse are my boys. *sigh*.

Looking forward to the 50k loop though, even if it is on a rental. I have my own pedals and shoes, my gloves and helmet. It will be the highlight of the trip I expect.

So onwards to Brisbane, Auckland and Vancouver tomorrow, Halifax on Wednesday. Eastwards HO!

Great circle route map courtesy 'Great Circle Mapper'. If they have a trainer set up on the plane and I pedal the whole way can I claim that mileage?

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Happy Birthday BoaB

Today is Scott's birthday. It has been pretty low key. A late start to the coffee ride, a saunter home. Chores.

I figure the insurance company has come through with the best present, a new bike to replace his damaged one. I can't compete with that so why would I. He's been missing his perfect ride, and I hope to see him back in cycling nirvana before I leave on Friday.

We will have a party tomorrow.
A sunset cruise on the Ross River dam, my usual safe cycling destination. It should be lovely.

Champagne, nice food, the majestic hills of this most familiar place seen from a new perspective. Our friends are looking forward to it. We are all heading off into the sunset together, and it looks like quite a ride.