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Archive for March, 2010|Monthly archive page

Doing wrong

In all about the ride, bike, ozstraylia, Uncategorized on March 28, 2010 at 4:01 am

Okay so I’ll admit it right at the start I was in the wrong, rolling the wrong way up a one way st, Flinders lane so I can turn right onto Swanston st and finally go and see this Ron Mueck exhibition I’d been supposed to be seeing for weeks.

So I hear the shout look around bemused and two coppers, holding their armoured vests on the kerb are telling me I shouldn’t be doing what I’m doing, okay! I stop bike get off it, and they continue to tell me that I’m in the wrong, I don’t say much at all, just stare at them and nod occasionally, thinking say little, agree with them and I won’t get a ticket or a fine.

Now this is the bit that bemuses me, are all police officers across the world sent to a course whereby they speak to adults as if they were children or just the Aussie ones? I’m wondering whether it was because I’m black or am  I reading too much into it. Do coppers affect the same tone back home?

I’ve realized in situations like these in the past, the less you say, and the more you agree the higher the likelihood of not being punished becomes, this does not mean that I am a moron who can’t comprehend what you are saying. It was almost on the verge of if they don’t understand say it slower and louder.

Meh. Hope all my interactions with coppers on this trip are as meaningless.

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Fantastic mr fox

In travelling on March 28, 2010 at 3:46 am

Just watched the fantastic fox and I have to say it is probably one of the most perfect films I’ve ever seem, it’s funny, idiosyncratic, witty, surprising, and genuinely touching. I’m really mad that I didn’t see it before, what was I doing. I liked it so much I didn’t even mind meryl Streep voicing felicity fox. And Jason schwartzman as the son was superb, bratty, and huffy and needy and so insecure.

The animation is perfection as well, stop motion with some gorgeous touches, it was just so well done. I’m gushing I know and if you’ve already seen it you have my permission to tell me to shut up, but if you haven’t you need to see it. Sits up there with the best that aardman, studio ghibli and pixar have to offer..

And the black power salute at the end made me want to stand, lower my head and hold my fist aloft as well. Good times, good film times…

Artworld/Ron Mueck

In artworld, japan, ozstraylia on March 28, 2010 at 3:26 am

I sit in front of a red rectangular canvas, slightly uneven orange line bisects the red horizontally and at the left edge, the red paint doesn’t quite reach and uneven blocks of white black and blue are painted on. I like this painting, it makes me smile and I sit in front of it for at least five – ten mins. I’m still looking at it as I write this..

And looking at a painting/image/Installation for longer than a brief moment is a big thing for me, usually in and out of any exhibition, gallery within mins the painting is On The Way (1973) by john firth-smith

I’ve been to a few art galleries on my trip so far and I’ll be going to a load more as I go along especially when I hit New York, and probably if I can hack the hills some in Los Angeles and San Francisco.

It’s kind of awe inspiring to see art works which you’ve only seen in books or as posters or prints in the flesh to get up close and look at them, breathe on them, peruse the brush strokes. And also in Japan as well as Melbourne take photos of them. Having a record of the artworks that you like, that move you, that get the brain moving and the heart pumping is quite special. I made the mistake of not asking at the gallery that I was in in Tokyo, where they had a mass of Rodin sculptures outside, whether I could take photo’s and it was only after taking copious notes for writing up later of what I felt about each painting, that I realized I could have taken photo’s of them.

So finally got to go to the Ron Mueck exhibition, which had been showing at the NVG in Melbourne and it was quite thrilling. The scale of things, and the realism with which they were finished, was truly incredible, the urge to touch his sculptures was almost overwhelming, the hairs on the backs of bearded mans legs, the bunch of branches that a woman struggles with, the clothes of the two old women. All of them seem to dare you to touch them with through their lifelike nature, but of course you can’t, even thought the sample piece of skin that you are asked to touch at the entrance to the exhibition feels weird and plasticky, it doesn’t stop the realistic nature of the sculptures fooling you into thinking that if you touch them they will be soft, and warm and fleshily human. What I found amazing was the range in scale, small made big, big made small, and how I as the audience reacted to it, trying to get as close as possible to see some minute detail or having to step back to put the size into context. A really fascinating exhibition, and even more fascinating that Mueck, worked for Jim Henson’s Creature Shop, and was a model maker/puppeteer on Labyrinth. I do wonder how he works, I’m of the opinion that he works alone, by himself, laboriously punching each hole for every single hair, rather than having an army of acolytes doing it for him. I could be wrong.

Bag dogs

In ozstraylia on March 28, 2010 at 2:28 am

Small cute dogs are like cute babies, people feel compelled to play with them, commend you for having them, and generally coo over them. I on the other hand just want to dropkick them into the nearest ocean or forest to be devoured by some top predator. The dogs obviously not the babies.

Chinese New Year Melbourne

In out and about, ozstraylia, travelling on March 28, 2010 at 2:21 am

The thunderous rattle of firecrackers, spitting and crackling away as the lion dancers wheel and turn in front of the shop entrance and the drums beat harder and faster building to a crescendo as the fireworks hit the looped mass at the top and the noise increases exponentially and the fingers you thought about sticking in your ears to block out some of the noise, you definitely plug in now.

They firecrackers sound like rain on a tin roof, tapping out a relentless rhythm, that echoes around you.

And the ceremony goes on, as the sun curves overhead the long street of restaurants is visited by the lion and the fireworks all blend into one.

Sitting eating fried dumplings facing the street watching the teams of Chinese societies march up and down, technicolor lion at the front, drummer hauled along on a carriage and the flag bearers of all nationalities at the rear, waiting for the crackle and rattle of the fireworks to begin again, flooding the sun drenched street with grey sulphurous smoke…

Phillip Island Superbikes

In all about the ride, bike, ozstraylia on March 28, 2010 at 2:19 am

It’s amazing the difference in engine noise. The flat deep almost a raspberry, almost a fart engine note of the ducati and the high pitched shriek of the yamaha’s or honda’s or Kawasaki’s flat out across the finish line. I’ve also fallen in love with the deep blap blap blap of the KTM. When I hear the commentators talking about the beauty of the noises racing bikes and cars make I’m always suspicious, but having heard them, I’m adding my name to that list. I am actually thinking of buying a KTM  just because of the sound these ones make as they boom down the home straight.

There are some big crashes in the second to last race on the Saturday, a couple of riders getting a bit too aggressive, trying to squeeze into gaps that don’t actually exist, but my lids kept dropping, been a long day and all.

Philip island on the Saturday night is odd indeed, Cowes the big town is a main street which isn’t that long and an esplanade. For this weekend they’ve set up a stage at the end of the main st before the beach and a covers band Yesterdays Heroes is kicking out a wholehearted version of living on a prayer.

All the bikers are out, bikes lined up along the kerb and the riders are standing looking at bikes they like, always wanted but could never afford, or the ones they used to own.

I’m definitely odd one out, at the track as I wheeled the bike around the stares I received was as if I had a severed head on the handlebars. Wasnt sure whether it was because I was black? A cyclist? Or both? Was also unimpressed by the reiterations of the same “you’re on the wrong bike” statement, which wasn’t funny the first time.

I’m confused by how protective and defensive the bikers seem to be about what they perceive as their place/space. Would we as cyclists feel threatened if a biker turned up in full leathers amongst spectators at the Tour de France or Rollapaluza? Would we stare and gawk and make awkward jokes or would we welcome them?

There are deep similarities between this group of men obsessed with and obsessing over their two wheeled transport and the ones that I know and am a part of. Saddened that it seems as if I can’t be part of one group because I am so obviously part of another.

As I listen to Yesterdays Heroes go through their repertoire of rock classics, sweet home Alabama, you give love a bad name, jesse’s girl, i wanna rock n roll all night, the much needed queen medley (another one bites the dust, we will rock you, bohemian rhapsody, I want to break free), sweet child o mine, angels (Robbie willliams, in the house!!!), sex on fire, etc etc etc (they also intersperse some more modern songs but I don’t know their titles). I’m wondering whether cyclists are as defined by their music as bikers are, rock is good, nothing else is worth listening to, unless of course your talking about the pop classics that were played as the band took a break, ride on time, word up, ain’t no stopping us, some wham song I can’t remember the name of, unbelievable, relax, etc etc etc. It’s a strange mash up of music.

But even as I’m trying to clear my ears of the noise, I’ve got to wonder at the bar/restaurant that closes it’s kitchen at like nine on one of the biggest Saturday the island sees all year. I thank whoever is up there that I was born and raised in London and this small town isn’t/wasn’t my experience for growing up and seeing what was possible/available. I really do think I would have gone insane if this town was all I had. If this was the sum total of my worldliness. Shit! Fuck! Holy hell! It doesn’t bear thinking about…

No wonder so many small town bods head to the big city. What divides those that want/need nothing more than the small town they’ve been raised in, and those that need to get out, for whom that place where they grew up isn’t enough? Serious question.

Another serious question, does dancing to rock consist of anything apart from stepping from side to side, swinging your hair about and pogoing intensely? Because the people (predominantly women) who are shoccking out to the tunes right down in front seem to do nothing more than this, just bigger and bigger. Or they could all just be middle aged and dancing like parents do.

I’m wondering whether everyone here would be as bemused as I am right now if they were in my position at an old school black wedding/house party? And were observing the soca business going on!

I’m waiting for a burger to arrive, it’s not yet ten thirty and you can’t conceive of how bored I am by this evening. Christ I can’t even take the piss out of it. Is this as good as it gets for the local populace, if so they are being sold short…

And yet more people come, moths to this musical flame, in twos and threes and fours and fives, walking down the main drag, necks craned, looking left and right to see what’s happening, pulled forward to the people bunched up in front of the stage.

Sunday

Wake up early well half eight, bowl of cornflakes, sugar making the milk sweet at the bottom. Four pack of cider in the bag with two tops and a waterproof jacket just in case.

The ride to the track is just like yesterday windy as I crest the rolling hills that criss cross the island, I get hit in the chest by a headwind which pushes me to a virtual standstill even though I’m exerting as much if not more force thru the pedals. The sort of headwind that slows you down as you spin downhill and takes away all of your momentum just as you start the uphill. The terrain either side of the undulating belly dancer of a road reminds me of the plains of Africa, burnt brown grassland with trees spindly foliage a dark green dotted across it. Earlier on I’d ridden through a stand of eucalyptus trees, it was like riding through a fog of vicks, but now it’s the fishy stink of decomposition and cowpats and the whiff of little penguin home, invading my nostrils, the countryside is never truly smell free and the strong breeze continues to bring them to you wherever you are.

Love the sound of the twins the KTM especially has a lovely grunting roar about it. I’m ensconced down at MG corner the Hairpin after the boys come shooting over Lukey Heights a few meters away from the track, but you see the bikes come down off the top and dive down to a sharp hairpin, then tip it left and open the throttle for the long long left onto the start finish straight.

As the superbikes race past you get a whiff of chemical cocktail that smells like nothing you’ve ever smelt, sweet, burnt and sharp and not natural. And the bikes are louder than you would believe, burping and bellowing into the corners and round my viewing point as they pull hard, front wheels lifting, traction control cutting in and changing the engine note.

James Toseland high sides at the top of lukey heights, meters away from where I’m standing, he sits in the dust and dried grass, holding his hand, slowly he rises and walks to right in front of me and sits heavily. Obviously in pain, obviously wanting to be anywhere but here. He moves slowly, cautiously, like an old man with a dodgy hip, and arthritis in his joints. The crowd step forward to take photos, cameras held high, I’m no different so I try and get shot or two.

I’m cheering on the Brits, who knew I was so patriotic, Leon Haslam who eventually wins his first superbikes race, Leon Camier last years British superbike champion who out breaks himself whilst in a six man duel for fourth place, Shaky Byrne whose pulling himself into twelfth/thirteen place.

The sun comes out for the race, heating up my back abating the wind chill somewhat it’s about 19 degrees figuring it’s 15 degrees with the wind chill. People are wrapped up against the wind, but the sun comes out and it’s warmer even with the breeze still bothering the land.

Walk round the area looking at bikes, there are some beauties out there, lots of Ducati’s, Aprilla’s, Honda’s, Yamaha’s, all the fast bikes, Gizzers, R1’s, 1098’s, 999’s, 600 Supersports, CBR’s, RR’s

Everyone’s got their cameras out, long lenses galore, leaning over the fences as the bikes flash past, engines roaring, spluttering, screaming, cutting in traction control seeking the perfect amount of power to get the bike moving as quickly as possible over the tarmac…

The second race is a proper bunfight, with Carlos Checa overtaking on the last lap, passing Leon Haslam right in front of me, the cheer that goes up from the spectators is long and loud. Jonny Rea outbrakes himself on the 2nd lap and fights back to grab eighth? James Toseland soldiers on bravely even though you can see he’s not quite as quick as the five man break away in front and is holding up the five man pack behind. But there’s position changes top to bottom, riders fighting to the last, chopping and changing, trying to squeeze the last bit of speed out of their tortured engines.

The riders are so very very brave, those bikes move so quickly, and mistakes, accidents mean you’ll hit the ground very very quickly. And it seems like there is no room for maneuver, the riders ride so close, so tightly packed, leaning on each other and trusting that they don’t make a mistake and take them out..

Going to have to go on a track day when I get back, unless I can do one in the states…

Still not sure when I’ll buy a motorbike to replace the one that I had to sell to pay for the worldwide trip ticket… Would love to have one, but experience says that if I get one whilst still cycling pretty much everyday, then it’ll just sit outside my house looking forlorn and unloved.

All About The Ride: Frankston to Melbourne

In all about the ride, bike, ozstraylia on March 28, 2010 at 12:55 am

After the hustle of the wed night ride, I’m determined to get some more miles in. I was hoping to go down the great ocean road, but getting there is a pain, if there’s one thing they don’t have here in Australia, its as integrated a train service as Japan offers. If there’s no train or metro, there might be a bus service, but that’s no good to me as they don’t allow bikes on them. And nothing is joined up, no interconnections, or if there are they are hopelessly disjointed. Best to just get a car then! So I’m told by Matt, friend of Tim’s (you’ll hear more from him when I tell you about the footie game I went to, Go! Magpies!) that riding from Frankston to Melbourne would be doable, get the metro out to Frankston, ride back down following the beach road. Two and a half hours in the saddle, three tops. I’m sold and find myself, rolling the bike through Flinders St station to platform eight and the hour or so journey it’ll make out to Frankston.

I sit and read, headphones have gone tits up and I’ve not had the chance to buy a new pair to replace them. You would have thought that some genius would have recognized that invariably the first thing to go in headphones is the cable, connecting earpiece to connecting jack. And it does every fucking time, and yet, no ones’ come up with a more robust way of connecting music player to music listener. I’m sorry, paying upwards of a hundred squids for great audio quality, and then getting shafted because the cable is as thin as the copper wire used in a plug fuse isn’t acceptable.

But I digress.

Headphoneless I sit on the metro, overland, through a couple of tunnels, sitting reading my book, doing a bit of research for the novel I’m supposed to be writing. I sit there very much engrossed, trying to wedge the bike along the line of folding down seats in the disabled area of the carriage, hoping it doesn’t get too busy and I have to start moving shit round. When an old man, big gut, white shirt, white hair, with one of those wheeled zimmer frames, the ones, with a motor and a brake lever gets on, awkwardly. All of us in that section of the carriage start to rise to give up our seat for him, but he waves us off and proceeds to the end and wedges himself down, as the train starts off, threatening to dump him onto the floor. He settles in, I think no more of it. Some people are texting on their phones, some are playing games, some are listening to music on their ipods, some like me are reading.

I think about getting my camera out and taking some shots of the landscape whistling past the windows, but don’t really have the heart for it, thinking it may look too much like the shots I took whilst in Japan. When old geezer declaims in a preternaturally loud voice, what did people do on trains before they had these phones, and these music making things? A woman beside him answers about her phone, and they fall into an awkward to and fro, with the woman restarting the conversation when I’m thinking its run its course, and I want to tell the old codger to quiet his buzz, can’t he see I’m trying to read here. I am the living embodiment of what people did before computers decided to dress up as phones. I’m. Reading. A. Book.

What is it with country folk and their need to speak to everyone and anyone. I don’t know you, I live in the city, where I’ll meet, come across, share space with twenty seven hundred different types of stranger (exaggeration for effect) in the course of a day and I’ll not want to speak to a one of them, this does not make me unfriendly, it just makes me selective.

The old codger slips into silence as he reads the large print in his hard back, and I await the end of the journey with the butterflies starting to rise.

The blustery wind, whips the waves into a frenzy, I’m hot but cooled by this confusing mixed up collusion of breezes, which is sometimes a crosswind, mostly a head wind and all you want it to be is a tailwind.

The static roar of it as I ride is accompanied by the dopplerised rumble of traffic coming past, sometimes lots of it, sometimes just one or two lone cars, like outriders for a larger platoon trundling ever closer.

Starting out from Frankston, once you clear the town and hit the never ending stretch of tarmac, all there is to see is brush and trees obscuring the beach to my left, but I know it’s there, the ocean just out of vision, I can feel it, taste it in the salty air. As the kilometers roll under me, up every road to my left, splitting the long runs of 5mins to the beach front properties, I catch a tantalizing glimpse of the blue of the ocean, and I’m eager to turn the corner, finish the houses and the scrubland and see nothing but blue, sky and ocean to one side of me.

I turn left onto the beach road, via a sweeping roundabout at Mordialloc and suddenly IT IS THERE right beside me, and I’m able to look at it whenever I want… Glistening under the bright gaze of the sun. White capped waves encroaching on the beach, taking back the land, one crashing line at a time.

As the kilometers pass I become aware of the dampness of my shorts, the fact I should have worn those cycling shorts I bought with me rather than boxers, as the chafing gets underway. Plenty of time out here on the road, to examine each and every irritation, the balling of fabric where my thighs are rubbing the inside of my shorts, the growing dampness at my waistband, as first my underwear and then my outerwear gets soaked with sweat. It’ll be interesting to examine the tidemarks when I get home.

With every pedal stroke I fall more in love with the new White sidi’s I’ve got for the journey, more so as they get dirtier and darker with every days use, more scuffed and worn they are attaining that patina of use that I admire/desire so much. But damn these carbon soles are stiff and unyielding, if I stand on them for any length of time I get aches and pins and needles in my feet, and as I ride and my feet move within the shoes, sliding millimetres back and forth they start to ache, nothing major but enough to draw my attention and for me to understand that some sort of cushioned insert will be required in the future.

I’m not one for eating or drinking on a ride, I know I should be and I’ve become more aware of how my body requires nourishment, on the longer excursions, so I’ve bought four bananas and some muesli bars to fuel me for the 40km run. Whenever I stop to take a photo of the waves, a view, a hideous beach front property I sip some water, or munch on one of the muesli bars. Whilst wandering up and down the aisles of the safeway that I’d pulled into just outside of Frankston, I was disappointed by the lack of flapjack action, my favourite choice of fuel for a ride, not catered for. Australia must do better. Hordes of energy bars and nut based muesli bars – nuts (raises fingers in the sign of the cross warding off the nuts that assail me from every quarter. But they always feel evil to eat, even if they do the job, and far too professional for me. I’m not producing the kilowattage needed to require the recovery powers of an energy bar.

The legs feeling good though and I’m sipping from the water bottle whenever required… And there’s nothing to do but turn the pedals and ponder on the architecture of the beach front properties that are passing by on my right. Ponder on the lack of originality in their design, on their construction (brickwork over a wooden frame), and I’m assuming the land and the property don’t come cheap, why the owners don’t do something interesting with the design of their home. Don’t they get grand designs over here, shouldn’t Kevin McCloud be making a beeline for this country to follow them in their house building.

The houses that have any sort of modern look/feel, all appear the same, angular, sharp, glass and metal, like smaller versions of those super sharp and modern properties you see in glossy US drama’s set in LA or Miami. But these buildings feel anything but modern and glossy, they feel just derivative, copies of copies of something someone saw in a different country and transported over. Maybe I’m being harsh, but I’ve a feeling there is some really interesting architecture happening around the desire to combine sun and views, but its not happening on this stretch of beach front. As I ponder this I make the decision to take photo’s of the main perpetrators, the ugly, the eyesores, the same same, but not different, but there are so many of them, so so many. My heart sinks as I see them right beside each other, down the road, just passed them, that the thought of stopping to take photo’s of them is too much and I find that I’m picking out the ones which don’t correspond to the trend, which sit out from the crowd, and start taking photo’s of them instead.

This beach road is the main route for roadies to get the miles in, on the weekend, or as I’m doing a weekday afternoon, and as the ride rolls on, I am passed by roadies of all persuasions riding head to toe in Lycra. Expensive bikes, expensive wheelsets, each trying to pound the road into submission, they pass me as if I’m sitting still and I don’t mind at all. They’ll move at their pace, I’ll move at mine.

There aren’t any noticeable hills, on the route a couple of inclines, the kind I can generally get to the top of without getting out of the saddle but when I do get there I am not going at any pace that you could call fast, not by any stretch of the imagination. But as with all the uphill bits, they still hurt when you’re getting to the end.

But just being out in the sun, feeling the wind on my face, the sweat appearing and cooling on my forearms, the exertion required to keep the bike moving forward, is all I need, and makes this jaunt so worthwhile.

Apologies for the interruption

In travelling on March 21, 2010 at 6:50 am

Hey big people, I’m now in New Zealand, about to make the drive down along the west coast of the South Island to Queenstown, via Punakaiki and Franz Josef. Got three days to do it and after driving from Auckland to Wellington, I’ve no doubt the scenery, views, vistas will be jaw dropping.

Apologies for the lack of recent updates, my ability to get hold of some quality broadband access for the amount of time I nee,d to upload photo’s to the blog and flickr is being seriously compromised as I travel and so the posts have stopped, dead in their tracks actually, and not even that stylishly either. I’ve been writing stuff down, so never fear I have recorded my thoughts on all that has happened, since the last bits I posted.

So as soon as I can I’ll be posting up the last memories of Melbourne, the ten day tour of Sydney, which is hilly as, and was made more pleasant by having a partner in riding crime for the last weekend, plus my limited experience of the difference between Oz and Kiwi land.

I’m enjoying myself immensely, and I am getting fairly excited about heading to Argentina, though nervous as my spanish is still non existent.

Anyway got to go catch some sleep, before the 8 o clock ferry. Three hours rocking back and forth, looking for iceberg. Maybe, fingers crossed they might even have wi-fi on it. I’m not holding my breath but it’d be nice if they did.

Be well and keep cycling…

Smashing it: Part 2

In all about the ride, bike, ozstraylia on March 11, 2010 at 4:29 am

This Wednesday we do a ride out to the airport. The airport I ask, how fars that? About 25-30k’s. There and back. Nah just there, all in your talking about 50-60k. I’m trying to figure out how many miles that is, mental arithmetic was never my forte at school. I’ve got an engagement back in town out at the Corner Hotel on Swan St, with a guy I met out in Kyoto, whose in Melbourne for a couple of days. And I don’t want to be dragging my arse out there at like eleven when he’s already good and toasted and I’m sweaty and bedraggled and ready for nothing more engaging than a night attached limpetlike to my pillow. In my head the number 40 odd pops up. Forty odd miles not too bad, two thirds of the way to Brighton, back by half nine, ten maybe I venture. Nick whose the defacto leader of this ride, thinks about it and then nods. Cool. I can do this, and maybe I won’t get kicked out the back this time.

There’s a nice crowd down at Federation Sq, there’s a luscious Yamaguchi, plus a fbm Sword, with gold phil hubs, old geezer with the shamal tubs is back, but there are others who I don’t recognise from last time round. Also Craig whose from Brisvegas and is heading out to Vancouver in a couple of days who I met at Polo is out and about, wanting to know more about the alleycat that’s happening on Saturday. I have no idea about that, I’ve already booked tickets and accommodation for the World Superbikes just down the way at Philip Island. Whoo Hoo!!!!

You get a lot of time to think when you’re kicked out the back of a pack of riders, there’s only like nine/ten of us, so I wouldn’t be as presumptuous as to call it a peloton, but I definitely am the lanterne rouge. Ride together, pedal alone. I get to think about how even though we’re not going as fast as last time, I still can’t keep the pace, I blame my spinny gearing again. Damn if I only had another couple of inches. Oooh Er Missus!

I get to think about the swooping, curving cycle path we’re on, how it dips and turns, alongside the course of the river it follows. The drying, trickling river, down in the riverbed, twenty or so meters below. We’d first come upon it after we’d turned left under the freeway flyover as we’d been heading out to Flemington, plunging down a curved concourse descending to a huge expanse of drain, overflow, run off, you know like they have out in LA, and which the Governator back in his acting life, leaped a Harley into, or the T-Birds, raced their hot rod along. It flies past, smooth and silent, and not a drop of water along its bottom. Passing a couple of boys with their skateboards, whose eyes and heads turn to follow us. I get to meditate on the foliage, darker green by the sides of the river, and sometimes in the river, lighter, sparser further away, the trees, overhanging. The breeze cooling me down. The churn of my legs, the ache in the tops of my thighs. The calluses growing ever thicker at the base of my fingers, as I get out the saddle and hoik myself up the intermittent changes in altitude. I get to think about the lack of scenic cycle paths like this in England, London. How here in Oz, you are so close to the countryside, that its never quiet, always something chirruping, or screeching, or bleating, or making some sort of noise. Letting you know that you are not alone. I get to think about how awesome this ride would be if there was a group of twenty, thirty, forty, all bowling along this path, occasionally coming across a walker, some joggers, those women dressed in tights and vests, caps on their heads, water bottle in hand, power walking towards you (does that actually burn more calories than running? Are they in the walk part of a run/walk routine?), young couples snuggled on benches, old people walking their rotund waddling dogs, or little snarling terriers rushing over the grass to confront another dog, whilst their owner calls forlornly for them to return.

I get to wonder how ruthless these riders I’m pursuing actually are. I’ve kept following the path, as it rises and falls, like some giants chest as they sleep, curving left, then right, slicing, through the undergrowth, across open expanses, over little bridges, with the river to my right and a wall to my left, avoiding the serious riders on their mountain bikes coming towards me, not wanting to leave space, afraid I’ll slip on the dust, dirt, gravel which is pulled across my path, afraid my camera will fall out of my pocket, even as something else catches my eye and I want to capture it, to show it you. I wonder when the boys in front will stop, will they ever stop? They have a harden the fuck up attitude, a man up attitude, and if I was from here I could understand, but I’m being taken out hella past the boundaries of my map and the boys didn’t even so much as look back as they pushed on and I fell behind. Wonder whether we are too soft back on THE forum rides, with our leave no man behind ethos, and our social rides, designed to make it easier for those new to any distance longer than the couple of mile commute to work. Wonder whether these boys need to tell newcomers how high the pace will be, how pushed and pummelled you will feel, so quickly after the start. Think about this as the equivalent of the Tuesday Night Rides, high sustained pace, training runs to push the limits of your endurance, Wonder whether I would have got dropped as quickly on them as I am on this. Know that Jonny would have loved this pace, up the front, tucked on a wheel, dancing hips as he sprinted up an incline. I get to think about how I knew the pace would be this high and yet I still signed up again.

I get to think they were waiting for me as the path diverges. I get to think they aren’t as bad as I thought they were.

We ride for a few more kilometres along the bike path, as the shadows lengthen and the view through my sunglasses gets progressively darker, even though when I peek over the top, its still light outside. Emerging from the undergrowth, hands tight on the bars, trying to still the desire to swing the bike left to right as I pull myself up the incline to where the boys are waiting, taking a little break, before the last push over to the airport. I look overhead at a pulsing purple sky and am distinctly unimpressed by the lack of aircraft. Swap my sunnies for my normal glasses and the boys are gone before I can get the case back into my rucksack. And I’m chasing down a long long road, round a roundabout, scrubland on one side, quick, impatient cars on t’other. The airport comes up surprisingly quickly. Still no planes, and we ride at a slightly more leisurely pace to the multi storey car park by the terminal and a decision is made to sprint to the top, and I’m excited by the prospect of spinning down on the other side as I sit my arse down in the saddle and spin to win, proud for the first time that I can actually keep up, albeit just on the wheel of the tail of this little group, feeling my front wheel lift every time I get to the top of a level ramp and turn right to hit the next rise. I’m disappointed to say the least when we don’t spin down, what was the point of riding to the top in the first place then. We take a lift down a level, and ride across the elevated concourse that connects Terminal to car park, pass a couple of startled travellers, then hook a right down the flyover of a road, a sharp left down the exit ramp and all end up at Mickey D’s for a fuel stop. I buy some Gatorade, and sip on it, as I tramp across some grass to get a photo of a road sign so that I can prove I actually rode out to the airport, as much for you as for me. We’re stationary for twenty mins, maybe more it’s not nine yet, and I’m quietly confident of getting back to town for ten. But I’m aware I’ve only had a couple of sandwiches all day, and even though I feel I should eat something, they don’t have any fig rolls, flapjacks, or anything that would give me that good long lasting energy, rather than the short sharp sugary energy spike of chocolate. The roll back is quick, but not thigh burstingly so, the group splits almost immediately and I’m on Nick’s wheel, as he charges into the wind. It takes as much energy as I have to keep on his wheel, and I apologise to him for not doing more work. I couldn’t go faster than him even if I tried. But the road is straight, and long, and wide, and cars still get annoyed that we’re there. I concentrate on my breath, on the wheel in front, on the big warehouse like shop called SexyLand we pass, toys for him and her!

Constantly aware of the cues that Australia’s human built landscape has taken from America, the wide two/three/four lane roads. So much land here that who cares how wide the roads are, the low slung buildings, the vast length of the avenues, and the shops built out where only a car can get you. As night envelops us my flashing front light, illuminating Nick’s rear wheel is all I can focus on, high in the sky, over in the distance I glimpse the tall blue lit buildings, and red neon signs of the CBD, almost home, and with that knowledge, I take the foot off the gas and realise at last how bloody tired I actually am, not bone weary tired, not off the bike straight to sleep tired, but tired enough to need to mentally chide myself as I start to flag on the uphills, and having to get out of the saddle on what I would have just earlier sat my arse down and pushed through. I start to slow to a crawl on every uphill and only the spins downhill will let me gain any sort of momentum. The boys up front slow and wave their hands as they pull left and right, heading home. No group meal tonight, its abit too late. Ten now. And Nick looks down at the trip computer on his bars and calls out 59k’s. He takes me back down to Victoria St market before heading off to his home and I know I’ve still got a few more kilo’s in me before I get to sleep tonight. I turn left and head down towards Swan St. Riding at my own pace for the first time all evening…