Wednesday, October 31, 2007


Please let it pour.

It has been threatening to storm all afternoon. I've had my ear on the ominous rumbles of thunder, and my eye on the BOM (Bureau of Meteorology) radar. Rescued the washing off the line around 1pm, just as a few drops fell, but nothing much has happened since. Not here, anyway, but a bit later on today not all the after school commitments are right here.

So far Zoe's tennis lesson has been cancelled. 10km away they obviously got more wet than where we are. Caitlin has Touch scheduled a few kms north at 5.30, then she has to go back down south to town for netball at 7.30. The Touch people are a bit crazy - they'll play in the rain, unless it's "dangerous" (ie. lightning, hail...) or the fields are too soggy. Netball? Who knows. They'll try and play till the courts get too slippery.. sometimes meaning a wasted 50km round trip.

So I'm sitting here not quite sure whether I'll be out and about or not, and not quite sure what I want. We can always do with the rain. Noone in Australia wishes rain away anymore. But it's a shame to miss one's sport. I just wish I knew.

But there's one reason I would love it if it just pelted down.

It's bloody Halloween. Today. Apparently. Which, in these parts, ie. Australia, where we do not have a tradition of doing Halloween, means that some kids run around in pathetic excuses for costumes, focusing only on the collecting of "lollies" (as we call "candy") There is no spirit of dressing up - like it is properly done in North America.

Well, that's what they do around here, anyway.

And they do it from .. about... now. ie. 4pm. Can't do the porch light off trick - because it is still light. Daylight saving has just started, so can't do the porch light thing till after 7pm, and the local riff raff don't understand that protocol anyway.

It probably sounds as if I'm a bit over the top in my 'anti'-ness. Perhaps it has something to do with the way our door got egged in our first year in this house when we were caught unawares with the trick-or-treat phenomenon. Great trick kids. NOT.

In subsequent years the walls of our house have been egged as well as part of the unsupervised "Halloween" antics of stupid kids.

So needless to say, I'm very 'anti'. If others want to do the Halloween thing, that's fine. Just, please... don't involve me. My poor deprived children are not allowed to get involved in roaming the streets begging for lollies from strangers either.

So we have a 'no Halloween' note on the door now, but in the past that has been ignored. (These unsupervised kids ? Can't read I guess - in fact some teenage boys, only a couple paying lip-service to dressing up with a couple of rubbery masks, have just knocked on the door. "Can't you read? I asked. "Didn't go to school." Duh. It makes you worry for the future of the world. Really.)

What I think would quite satisfactorily do the 'trick' this afternoon would be if the heavens opened. Might put them off scavenging for free lollies. A bit of lightning for effect. And maybe even a strike close enough to anyone carting eggs, just to scare the bloody living daylights out of them. Halloween karma, that would be.

Wouldn't you know, though, the radar is showing the heavy falls totally skirting around us. Damn. Looks like I'm on the sport run after all.

Later: Overheard in town. 2 boys on bikes. "... and if I can't get eggs I'll bring toilet paper"

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Monday, October 29, 2007


Ride or bust...

The imperative to be able to ride on the weekend was pretty high on my list. Perhaps if I didnt have the 90km Gong ride next weekend I might have been a bit more patient, but I had to do something more 'constructive' with my knee and related niggles.

So. When my left hip got into the act on Friday morning, I took myself off to the chiropractor. Oh hallelujah, what a difference! Click and clunk, and no more hip niggle, and, I swear, even more movement with my knee. He ok'd a 'light' ride on Saturday morning, but advised against the longer 60 + km training ride set for Sunday. (And maybe ride 50km - by myself - during the week). Hmmm.

Saturday morning, with the girls on their now fortnightly paper run, just Marc and I headed off to the community ride, this time riding our 'half bikes' (yes, that's tandem rider terminology for single bikes!) He rode in from home, while I drove in. I did 31km on my road bike (in B group, while he rode A - have I ever mentioned he's a faster, stronger rider?)... and I was rapt with my knee. Hardly any niggles! And I was walking down the stairs like a normal person!

She's baaaacccckkkk!

[Oh, and the shoes!! Fan-bloody-tastic! - what a difference stiffer shoes make! As Cait will now attest, riding a bike with 'clipless pedals' is a revelation, and once you've ridden with them, you just don't want to go back to riding with joggers and toeclips - it makes that much difference to your riding. (No, I don't know why they call them 'clipless' when to me you 'clip' into them.. but what would I know?!!) And now these new shoes? Better again! We have still gone for the spd type (designed for mountain bike riding) because a lot of our riding is of a 'touring' variety, and we want to be able to walk around in comfort when we stop. (Specific road shoes and cleats make that a lot harder - in those you don't have 'high heels', you have 'high toes' !!) and I for one decided I didn't need a whacko walking gait to niggle with my back.) These shoes, as I didn't explain in my last post, are stiffer than the lace-up models we first had. And to think that two years ago Marc had to convince me that it was worth getting 'cycling shoes']

So, anyway, what the hell... I decided to ride on Sunday. Against professional advice I guess, but he doesn't really understand what sort of training we need for a big 90km ride - on tandems.

It was a big day... 70km... which included the 3 km 'Bruxner Park' hill, plus a lot of other ups and downs. Cait and I had some frustrations with our tandem, including the chain jumping off the front derailleur - and getting so wedged Marc had to break the chain to unwedge it - and the fact that we *think* we'd go faster with skinnier tyres like the others all have. (The difference was particularly noticeable when, for both of us, our last significant rides were on road bikes with skinny tyres, AND the rest of the group were also on skinnier tyres and scooting along a lot quicker than us.)

For a time there yesterday we were both feeling a bit negative about the tandem experience vs the concept of riding individually on road bikes. (Not that she and I both have road bikes - so defecting to 'half bikes' next week is not an option.) I even confess I told Marc this new tandem was a "$2000 piece of ****" . He, understandably enough, countered with a number of reasonable arguments as to why this was not the case - and that, no, we didn't actually ride faster on the old tandem. I am lucky he didn't thump me for being a spoilt brat.

The misbehaving derailleur was a bit of a downer (as was the heat we encountered during the middle of the day)..but perhaps our yee-ha 73 kph coming downhill back into Coffs gave us the sweetener we needed. (Marc did about 82 on the triplet, which, he says, handles better the faster it goes!!)

I am a bit sore everywhere today - surprise, surprise - so I'm contemplating the wisdom of having ridden (knee-wise) - however the training yesterday was probably more beneficial. In the scheme of things. I would never have ridden something quite as tough by myself during the week. I'll rest the knee now for a few days. (After I see how I go at swimming today!) And I have another massage booked for tomorrow.

Marc has also promised skinnier tyres, and he spent last night trying to fix the derailleur - to no avail. Bike shop job he thinks.. just hope it can be sorted for the weekend. If we hadn't ridden such a ride yesterday we would have been facing these mechanical problems on the Gong ride itself.


Thursday, October 25, 2007


Shoe Therapy.

New shoes! I bought new shoes today! A bit of retail shoe therapy to boost the mood this week. But, no, it's not what you'd think, unless you've 'known' me for a while. We're talking shoe therapy Tracey Style...

New bike shoes, of course. You didn't really think I'd be talking strappy, sexy sandals with heels did you? - Can't walk in that sort. Can't put orthotics in that sort. (Look crap in that sort anyway) These are much more useful!

Looking for a link has dampened my mood somewhat. The US price and Australian price, given the decent exchange rate at the moment, are just so far from equivalent it's not funny, even given freighting them across the Pacific. The current exchange rate should make them about AUD95, and I don't want to even think about what I paid for them at the local shop. (I need to get me an agent in the US .. I could cover postage, pay a sizeable commission and still be ahead!)

Of course, the point is that I have them right now, ready to go. It's only the knee situation that is preventing me from road testing them - hopefully I'll be able to ride tomorrow.

[I had a massage today, and, ooh-ahh, how wonderful it felt on my tight-as calf muscles. It made an immediate difference to walking down stairs, so here's hoping...]

I at least had a reason to buy new shoes. Caitlin has claimed my old ones. Marc came with me to the shop this morning, and somehow we walked out with two shoe boxes. His and Hers, pretty much.

Who said it was only women who did the retail shoe therapy thing?

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Wednesday, October 24, 2007


Call me mellow yellow.

Oh I wish I felt mellow. But, anyway, yellow is the colour of the day:

Pretty, huh? Wish I could say they hurt as spectacularly as they look, but they don't. The knee is the thing. It's recovering veerrrry slowly. There is an improvement, but only just. Today I can walk down stairs vewwy vewwy carefully. (Bet Rootie wishes she could walk down stairs full stop at the moment.)

I've also got the build up - physical and emotional - to the dreaded 'monthlies'.. and they're late... I have hints of cramping about to start, yet I can't use Endorphin Power (as worked last month) because I can't go ride a bike any crazy distance, or swim for an hour. (Tried swimming on Monday and that was a bust as well!)

Trying to keep a lid on it all. Must.. think... mellow.... yellow....


Monday, October 22, 2007


The wrong weekend to give up sniffing glue

The wrong weekend to think about giving up drinking, anyway. I swear I did have some good intentions that way. Must-lose-weight/alcohol-is-empty-calories kind of intentions... but the moon, stars and planets have to be in perfect alignment for me to carry off such a feat of willpower; the slightest hitch, and I'm all " Oh god, I need a drink."

The new washing machine installation went off with only a tiny hitch. The cold water inlet tap/cock (probably not turned in 9 years) started leaking once I tried to do the first load (one stuffed washer..) Purhase of new washing machine cocks and a handy husband sorted that one out on the Friday, but it warranted a glass of something on Thursday night, especially after the drama of getting the damn thing delivered in the first place.

Friday morning things started to go more awry. The 'lemon delicious' cakes I was making for Zoe's birthday (to share with her class - she has a couple of friends who LOVE our lemon delicious cake) stuck to the pans BIG TIME. Both pans. With the cake delivery deadline being before 11.00 (recess), as I had an appointment in town at 11.15, I had no option other than to ring the school and get them to deliver the message that 'Mum has had a cake cooking disaster, and she'd have to make more for Monday.' With Saturday being her birthday, I figured I could get away with it, though I could have done without the spousal support: "What are you doing? Ringing the school? What are you going to say? Why didn't you make them last night? Well you left yourself no room for error." Thanks. And shut up. And why do you have to be hanging around at home instead of being at work?

Apparently she was upset, but her Wonderful Teacher told her that Mum would likely be more upset, so she should give me a great big understanding hug when she got home. So she did. And was able to giggle at just how stuffed the cakes were. They still tasted good, but they couldn't have been cut up into slices for classmates! Despite the rest of the day going ok, I felt justified in washing down the day's frustrations with a beer.

On Saturday things got a bit worse. I fell off the bike - the tandem I was riding with Cait - and I've wrenched my knee.

We were on the community ride, and I clipped the back wheel of someone in front when they braked suddenly. Cait, on the back, kept upright and held onto the bike, but I went tumbling off to the left, landing, luckily, on some grass at the side of the bike track. Good look that - NOT. We all know to be careful riding in a bunch, but I stuffed up. My left knee felt jarred but I got back on and it was ok riding. So I rode another 50km before and after a bacon and eggs breakfast at a cafe (in honour of Zoe's birthday). Strangely enough I seized up once we stopped riding, and by evening (despite icing it) I was hobbling - effecting an ungainly gait in order to favour said stuffed knee, and consequently putting stress on other parts of the old bod, so I'm a bit sore everywhere now. I have some impressive bruises to show for it, front and back of my thigh (and one bruise over on the right thigh!)

[Photo1 = bruise on front of thigh day 1.
Photo 2 = bruise on thigh day 2

Photo 3 = bruise on back of thigh]

So no riding for me on Sunday. The rest of the family rode the next day with another family, while I played support crew.

Caitlin rode my road bike, wore my bike shoes, and my bike glasses, a baptism by fire of 50km for her first time on a road bike and with cleats. (She did well too.) She'd like to keep all three, but she's starting with the shoes. (Meaning I need to buy myself another pair. That's cool, I can cope with that!) I just hope I'll be ok for the Gong ride in two weeks - and for some training rides this weekend.

So meantime, I need at least one drink a night to ... um ... soothe the frustrations?

I'll stay off the glue!

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Thursday, October 18, 2007



Is there anything more frustrating than waiting at home for the delivery of a new household appliance? If you were trying to work a paid job at the same time, undoubtedly you'd be more frustrated than I am today, but even so, as midday approaches, I'm becoming a bit 'tetchy'. What is it with companies that can't possibly give you a more specific delivery time than "Thursday"?

With our 13 yr old washing machine becoming more and more 'unbalanced' in the spin cycle (with a loud *bang, bang, clunk* as it stopped) it was diagnosed ($50 later) as being not worth fixing. Better to put the money a new gear box would cost towards a new machine, he said. It's a bit sad that 13 years out of a machine is considered a good run these days. (Cue "They don't make things like they used to!!" line.)

So, after going through the predictable angst of deciding 'wtf' to get (top loader vs front loader mainly, but then which brand/model etc... ) we bit the bullet and ordered one. It's bigger than the last one. A top loader still... for many reasons, but mainly the part where the repairman told me that you couldn't give him a frontloader (from his 'repair' perspective.) It's a compromise on water efficiency. Better than the old top loaders, not quite as good as front loaders. 8.5kg capacity - it'll do all the sheets for the family, for example, in one load rather than two and a half, which has got to be a good thing, water wise and time wise.

If and when it gets here. I haven't been game to disconnect the old one in case they don't show today, in which case I'll be very shitty, but at least I'll still be able to wash. (Old Faithful is still doing it's stuff, albeit now with a the sound of the gearbox groaning and screeching as it knocks itself out of balance.)

Meanwhile, I can't go for a walk. I don't want to go upstairs and vacuum in case I don't hear the door. I'm just... waiting.

Edited to add at 2pm:

Luckily I am an impatient girl. About 15 mins ago I decided to ring the store to 'confirm' they were still coming. Ahem! Not on delivery list for today! Turns out the salesperson stuffed up. Charged me the $40 delivery fee, which is on the invoice, but forgot to change some other crucial part of the invoice to 'Delivery' from 'Pick up'. I hadn't picked that up as it wasn't obvious what was just default 'babble' on the invoice.


Fortunately, and I'll give a thumbs up to the local "Hardly Normal" [popular slang term for the real name of the chain store) delivery manager dude here, because he's sorted it so that the poor driver, now 80km north in Grafton, and returning to Coffs via another delivery on the back road at Glenreagh (same route as our 100 mile ride!)... will then load on our machine and bring it back up here. (about 20km). Which will give me time to safely go out to the shop to pick up something for dinner.

Lucky I didn't decide to ring at about 4 or 5 when they hadn't turned up.


Wednesday, October 17, 2007


A special occasion.

Yesterday afternoon I was making a saucepan of spaghetti bol so that we'd have a quick-to-prepare meal ready for when we all got home late from Touch Training (Marc + Cait with the other two in tow) and a BUG meeting (me).

I like to put red wine in my spag bol - it gives it this certain je ne sais quoi. [In other words I think it tastes better...] I gave up on cask reds for cooking a long time ago because I actually don't cook that many meals that require red wine. I figure you may as well use something that you can actually drink, and I like to think that the food tastes better with good wine in it!!

My motto is "I like to cook with wine. Sometimes I even put it in the food." So.. my usual M.O. is to have a bottle of red hanging around - I'll slosh some in the bolognaise, and then have a glass over dinner (except that lately I've been avoiding the reds because I tend to wake up the next day with a headache.)

I glance around the kitchen and find no opened bottles on the go, so I go to the bottom of the bookshelf where we've been keeping the reds. Only one left. Oooh, a cork instead of screw top. This isn't Marc's good wine is it? Nah.. wasn't that 'living' over on the buffet hutch underneath all the other 'stuff'...

Fast forward to 7.45 pm, and Marc is putting the spaghetti on to cook. I hear a gasp from the kitchen:

"You... opened... the....good... red.... ...."

"... the one you gave me for my 40th. (3 years ago.)

"The one I was saving for a special occasion."

Oh. Shit.

"You don't put this quality wine in cooking!"

(OMG, and it's the only wine we've ever 'cellared' as such too.)

In the range of stupid things I've done, this rates reasonably highly, especially since I gave it to him in the first place.

I suppose we all make mistakes.

So there we sat, slurping my old faithful spag bol, each with a glass of 6 year old, upmarket Penfolds Bin 389.

Bloody nice it was too.

And I didn't wake up with a headache either... I suppose that makes it pretty special....


Monday, October 15, 2007


The Most Boring School Holidays. Ever.

The kids are back at school today. If asked to write about their holidays, their pieces would probably be titled along the lines of "My boring school holidays.'

I confess that either side of our 100 mile ride, their two weeks off were a bit of a non-event. I'm feeling a bit guilty about it (as only I can) but this time round I just couldn't find the energy to make their stay-at-home holiday particularly eventful or entertaining. Mind you, I don't think there is anything wrong with kids learning to entertain themselves. In our house, being bored is not allowed. And neither is inviting friends over if your rooms aren't tidy... so noone got to invite any friends over. Unfortunately this meant a bit too much sitting inside with either internet, TV, or (in Zoe's case) a book. I did let Alison and Zoe take themselves to the beach a few times.. time to let the apron strings out a little... though it did mean I worried the whole time they were gone.
I didn't get round to taking them to the movies, or iceskating, or anything 'fun'. But I suppose they will survive.

The first week I was a bit sidetracked with getting things in order for our ride (I'm not sure what the excuse for the second week was - getting over it?) I did a couple of very short rides on my bike when I shuttled cars back and forth to the mechanics, (and haircut appointments!) I also had a massage one day and a chiropractor appointment another. Needless to say all those 'me' things ate into each day, leaving no time for entertainment. (Besides which they could have gone shopping the day I went to the chiro and they chose not to!)

For these holidays Cait agreed to cover for someone's morning paper run while they were away. This involved six early mornings each week - 4 days there were only about a dozen houses to deliver to, but Saturdays and Wednesdays involved delivering to every house over a route of a couple of blocks - all supposed to be done by 7.30 am. Despite the fact that paper rounds don't pay much, I didn't think it was a bad thing for her to learn some responsibility, and to actually earn some money for herself. Plus I relished the opportunity to see her get herself up at 6.30 each morning! Ha! School day get-ups will be like a sleep-in from now on!

So much for great ideas - she promptly got sick on that first Monday, and Alison took over for pretty much the rest of the week. Theoretically this could have gone off without a hitch (lessons in responsibility still apply) except for the part where she enlisted a friend's help on 'the every house' Wednesday delivery, then lost the map (which had the house numbers for the specific deliveries on the other days)... It all ended ok - the friend had accidentally taken it home BUT neglected to let her know; meantime Ali had spent more than half an hour walking the streets looking for it, and another half an hour listening to us ranting and raving about Responsibility. The Consequences meant not being ready to go to the movies in time with the above friend - I hope that friend learnt a lesson as well.

So Cait had come down with some lurgy - sore throat, cough... which ended up with a visit to the doctors and a course of antibiotics. She used that as an excuse to do the Sloth Thing for many days, and while she wasn't sleeping in she assumed a position either sprawled on the lounge, or slouched in front of the computer, sporting headphones, and watching episode after episode of Jonathan Creek. For some reason this irritated me a fair bit - probably something to do with having to yell to get her attention. I get pretty cranky when any of them sit there for hours... even though I do it myself. Nothing like a hypocrite for a mother...

Happy days. But hey.. we were going camping on the weekend! It was something for them to look forward to?! Surely!

I spent the Friday on the computer finalising certificates in anticipation of everyone finishing the ride, plus thank you certificates for the support drivers. And doing up maps (which some appreciated at least - I tried not to be too put off by those who didn't worry about where they were going. I suppose the idea was that we kept together, but even so, I know that I like to know where I'm headed!) Why did I leave doing all that till the day before? Who knows.

Our very short Brooms Head camping experience could probably warrant a post of its own (if I ever get round to it... maybe I'll get a few photos up some time, though it was basically characterised by a northeasterly wind buffetting the campsite on the Saturday afternoon - and getting up at sunrise, packed and on the road before 7 am!) The older two girls made friends with other girls their age who were riding in the support vehicles, so it wasn't all bad. Plus it doesn't hurt them to be helping out their parents for a change. (Thinking many netball carnivals here!) Life isn't all about them.

After that, still nothing much happened the second week of the holidays. Caitlin was back on the paper run, but Alison took up the coughing baton (and is still running with it a bit..) The weather was rather morose (with moods in synch) but at least from my point of view there was a let up in the requests to go to the beach.

Marc went away for work for two nights, but I impressed myself by getting up insanely early on another morning and driving into town for a 6 am/25km community bike ride. I probably won't manage that one during term time, seeing I am a SAHM who doesn't work because she wants flexible hours so she can be home to get her children off to school!

They all got a bit lucky towards the end of the week and got invited to friends' places - although Alison had to endure accompanying me shopping around for a new washing machine on Thursday, and Caitlin got to come with me on Friday to get the car air conditioning overflow pipe fixed. (It was dumping water on my foot whenever we went round corners! Bearable for me, but not ok for the carpet. ) At least she also got to go shopping for some clothes.. and I actually didn't mind the one on one time with her.

They had their last paper round on Saturday morning (though they have agreed to take week about on another one with a friend), and so Marc and I were back on our tandem for our 7o-something kilometre return trip for the community ride.

Cait and Marc had Touch training on Sunday morning, which meant the whole family couldn't go on a 46km BUG ride that sounded good. [We now need to be training for the Gong Ride which is now only in 3 weeks time! Did I mention we are doing it again this year with the kids? Guess what we need to be doing a lot of over the next few weekends?] He suggested Alison and I ride a tandem together (even though I intend to ride with Caitlin ) and so we did - Alison bribed with the fact that there was another girl her age going to be there- on the back of our old tandem, in fact - and me bribed by the fact that she'd probably pedal harder to keep up with the other girl!
I don't think she had a bad time; and I enjoyed the ride anyway.

When you write it all out, it probably doesn't seem that bad after all, and it probably wasn't.

Except that if you made it to the end of this post without falling asleep, you are probably as much in need of a 'life' as I am!

The End.

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Thursday, October 11, 2007


Which is exactly why I don't work...

I've alluded from time to time here about my eternal internal conflict. I don't have job. (Because I think it would make life for all the family so much harder (me included) - particularly with the history of Marc working away so much, and not having any extended family for back up.)

But I would like to work to feel like a useful and contributing member of the family and society.

I'm continually beating myself up over it.

I tend to dread the question "So what do you do?" , and I've never quite come up with the perfect answer.

This morning I went into town to a new 'pre-work' Thursday morning community bike ride. 26km of exercise I wouldn't have otherwise done, and being school holidays I wasn't going to feel guilty about not being at home to get kids off to school. (Marc is away in Sydney for 3 days.)

Afterwards I was asked the Dreaded Question. By a woman who runs one of the local bike shops and a travel agency. (And probably several other things I don't know about.) She is the classic Business Woman, and I probably should have predicted her attitude.

"So, do you work in town... or do you work from home?" she asked me.

I said that, no, well, I don't actually work, and muttered stuff about Marc working away a lot, and me being around for the kids. (In hindsight I should have just said I 'worked at home'.)

As an afterthought I added "I'd work If I could find a 9-3 job."

I wasn't quite prepared for the vehemence of her response:

"Oh I get so sick of these women applying for jobs, but only wanting 9-3, and two or three days a week... and school holidays and the like. I can't operate a business like that.."

Some smartarse added "If you want hours like that there's school teaching."

I shrugged my shoulders and said "So, yeah, well, that's why I don't even bother applying... That's why I don't work."

I guess some of it is regional town mentality. But today, well... She basically just cemented the reticence I have always had about approaching anyone locally for a job with the flexibility I want and need.

It shouldn't be impossible to find work with flexible hours. In Sydney my sister saw and applied for the perfect job - it was advertised for 2 days a week, 9 - 3. Perfect. (And she got it.)

I know other people who get offered casual/part time/flexible work - hours that suit them. How do they do it?

By now I realise that nothing like that is going to land in my lap. If nothing else, this morning's little anecdote has convinced me that I'll need to pursue some sort of work from home.

Meanwhile I need to work on a flippant response to The Question. Something like "Oh, we have a very traditional division of labour at home. He earns the money, and I spend it."


Wednesday, October 10, 2007


Our next tandem purchase?

For days when we've got the sh***s with each other?

It's basically just the tandem equivalent of "Angry Bed Positions"...isn't it?

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Tuesday, October 09, 2007


The Hot 100

We went. We rode. We conquered! And so did all the 13 riders who attempted it! 100 miles on a bike in one day! That's about 161 km. It was a big effort by all. There were a lot that thought we were all nuts for wanting to do it in the first place.

While we started off with some (welcome) cloud cover, it cleared and hotted up as we made our way inland from our starting point right on the coast. Apparently it was about 35 degrees at Grafton (our lunch stop) during the middle of the day. The last stretch into Coffs, though, we rode into a thunderstorm - not that I think anyone was complaining too much about getting wet after having been so damn hot. (It created visibility issues then though; we were glad we had our flashing red tail light and yellow rain jackets - though once we were through the rain we ditched them because it was so humid!)

Our major hurdle, though, was Marc getting super bad cramps in his legs 40km from the end, just after we'd done a second post-lunch 20km stint in the heat. Damn! We'd been going so well up till then. My bum was holding up better than expected, and I wasn't as trashed as I thought I might have been by that point. (Guess the training rides actually helped!). And usually I'm the greater 'risk' factor, you'd have to say, given my propensity for niggling aches and injuries.

However. As we pulled up his legs cramped up badly... actually getting off the bike was a challenge. Then he spent more than an hour sitting outside this cafe on the asphalt where he all but fell... with the cramps occasionally taking hold. It was a bit hard to know what to do - tried massaging, tried stretching..... in the end he decided that as he'd taken enough minerals through an electrolyte supplement we'd been taking, it was most likely dehydration. (I'd been telling him he should wear a camel-back like I do, because on the tandem you are less inclined to reach down for your water bottle.) He drank a lot at the rest stops, but given that he sweats so much, it obviously wasn't enough. So he drank, drank, drank, drank.

In the end he then just needed time for the water to take effect. Despite preparing myself for the likelihood that we might not get to finish, I also knew that he's one determined bugger, and he wouldn't be giving up if there was any chance of finishing. We sent everyone else on.. asked our support driver to wait with us.. and then, one hour after the others had left, gingerly set off. We took the hills more slowly (ie. spinning more, rather than pushing...) and I kept asking "you ok? you ok?". Apart from a quick 'pee' stop for him (he'd drunk so much water by then - and actually, for a pee it wasn't all that quick given his 'touring tank'), we didn't stop the rest of the way to the finish. (When we did that section in training the previous week we stopped about three times!) I don't think we got quite as wet as the rest of them ahead of us... but we certainly got damp enough to cool down.

It wasn't quite the finish we envisaged, especially given that the rest of the day we were the pacesetters, with one guy in particular slipstreaming us for many miles... but we were proud, and relieved, to have pushed through and made it afterall.

At times I've wondered whether doing it on the back of a tandem was 'easier' than on a single. I know not everyone thinks that - some see the pace we set as quite daunting, however the momentum you build up on the flats and hills makes it easier to cruise, and I think that makes others think we have it easy. Hills on a tandem are harder, no doubt about that - lucky this course had relatively few of them. As Marc pointed out, the downside of the tandem could have been that one of us (me in this instance) may have not been able to finish because their partner couldn't.

Finishing it together, despite the problems, was all the more sweeter though.


Tuesday, October 02, 2007


Birds behaving badly

The only sign that it is really only Spring despite the insanely warm temperatures is bird behaviour. "Bad" bird behaviour, even if they are only doing what comes naturally. In Australia there are a couple of bird species which get rather protective during their spring nesting time. They take their job of protecting their eggs, and then their bubs, very seriously, and it's the one part of Spring that you tend to dread.

Magpies are the worst - and they particularly don't like bikes, although they also go for walkers. Marc and I were swooped on the tandem just as we reached our seaside village destination on our ride last Thursday. Freak out! You suddenly hear that swoosh, swoosh of wings, and you realise you're being dive bombed by a manic bird. The fact that you're wearing a bike helmet doesn't really make you feel any better about it. While they might not draw blood if they make contact, you don't really want a chunk taken out of your helmet, and you don't really know just how good their aim is. We must have been a sight - me on the back of the tandem, swivelled round trying to both stare at the magpie (because some reckon that if you're looking at it it won't attack) and fend it off with one waving hand, while Marc was trying to control the bike. They swoop again and again until you manage to get far enough from their territory for their liking. Some of the official advice suggests you get off your bike and walk (so you don't have an accident I guess), but I'm more an advocate of 'get the hell away from there as quick as possible'.

There is an area the girls know to avoid a couple of streets away from us, so they try to remember to take an alternative route to their friends' place.

As if the maggies weren't enough, this year a couple of plovers (aka "masked lapwings") have taken over the park area between the houses and the beach, so for now you have to take a bit of detour to get to the beach. We haven't been swooped by them yet - some kids warned us as we headed to the beach yesterday afternoon, and we could see them patrolling, so decided not to stir them up. It is quite amusing that a pair of birds can change the behaviour of so many humans.

I don't like the heat, but I'm just a bit 'bring on summer and the end of the swooping season...'



Time warp

Excuse me, but what the hell happened to Spring? It was only just winter.. and suddenly now I'm in summer - sleeveless shirts, sunscreen and a bike nix tan already. We seem to have missed a couple of months of 'in between' weather there. I really do like the whole concept of easing from cold to hot over a couple of months, and given that I don't handle the heat that well I really need the chance to get used to it gradually each year.

Today topped out at 31 degrees here (almost 90 F) and tomorrow is forecast to be hotter and windier. (Which will make it worse inland - thank heavens for the sea breeze with a predicted NNE wind here.) There are bushfires springing up all over the state, fanned by hot dusty winds (and started by asshole arsonists, but that's a whole other story...)

But for the lack of christmas decorations (and associated christmas induced stress) I'd swear blind it was the summer school holidays, instead of the October/Spring between term vacation.

Suddenly we have the easterly, ocean breeze-facing french doors flung open on all floors. The boogie boards are out, and the younger two hassled me to go down to the beach this morning... Given the temperature, I was more than up for it. The water was probably cooler than the average summer temp (though some summers you can get a cold current through that makes the water colder than today was!)

Just yesterday I raised the dreaded topic of what we should do at Christmas time. (And given the way time is toying with us, it will be here before I can blink.) With all the immediate relatives living many kilometres away, we have spent more Christmases away than home, and the whole thing is wearing a bit thin. On top of the frantic packing hassles (and carting loads of christmas presents up and down the highway), you really need your head read to leave a beachside house at this time of year and head for either the city, the mountains, or even another far more crowded beach.

Our beach at christmas doesn't get a lot more crowded than this.

Where would you choose?!!

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