Sunday, 24 May 2009

Froot Loops R Us

I suffer from Anxiety Disorder – a consequence of the attack in 2006 that I didn't think would keep rearing its ugly head as soon as a bit of stress came my way.

The panic attacks I've sort of got used to. They are hideous but they're acute, and the after-effects last maybe a day. They're familiar and they're finite.

What I really hate is a flare-up of the constant, chronic whoosh in the guts (it's the same whoosh I used to get as a kid on the swings, except it's no fun without a swing), followed by a massive spike in my heart rate, and difficulty breathing. When it's chronic the loop takes anywhere from 30 seconds to a couple of minutes, and it just keeps going ad nauseum....

The first (and I'd hoped the only) chronic episode was three years ago. I thought I was going to die. I thought that the strain on my heart would be too much for it and it would just stop. The loop was running about every 30 seconds, day and night. After 3 days of it I was going crazy. I yelled for help, the doctor diagnosed me and gave me the most disgusting medication ever. It was official – I was a froot loop.

The medication made me nauseous – I could hardly eat (lost a kilo in a week – wheeee, there's always a silver lining, ha ha!) had head-spins that made riding the bike risky and frightening, made my mouth taste like an iron foundry floor, gave me weirdo giant spider dreams and actually increased the anxiety (oh, good one!) I persevered for a week, then ditched the medication.

For me, riding my bike is the best medicine. I hopped on the bike and rode to Deniliquin, a little over 500kms away. And back again the following day. Riding is a great restorer of equilibrium. It puts me back in control.

So today, after work triggered another chronic episode the other day and I've been having the whoosh (NOOOOOO!), I took a giant restorative ride – a 560km trip that took in the twists of Brown Mountain and Clyde Mountain – and it took me over 250kms until the bad feelings went away. It was tough going, I have to tell you, sitting on that bike and feeling the whoosh of anxiety rather than exhilaration. When the exhilaration took over though.... Magic!

But take a step back to Friday morning at work. My boss was staggered that I let work affect me so badly (actually, it's not a conscious choice – it just happens...)

'It's only work,' he said. 'You shouldn't let it get to you.'

Hello? See, I hear that again and again from people in the Public Service, and I just don't get it. I can't operate that way. If I don't care about what I'm doing, why the hell would I spend a third of my life doing it? I just couldn't spend 8 hours a day of my very valuable, only-one-go-at-it life doing something I consider so meaningless that it just doesn't bother me when it all goes to shit.

Am I the only person who thinks that way? Work... um, single woman, mortgage, bills.... how the hell else am I going to live? And I can't spend all day having my brain anaesthetised and not giving a shit about what I do!

I quit teaching because I was so burnt out that I stopped caring – and I'm sorry – teachers have to care – how can they survive such a killer workload otherwise and be good teachers?

Maybe that's where I really belong – back in a school, trying to foster a love of the English language and a love of learning; caring about results; caring about actually making some kind of impact; working myself to death but feeling that it's all worthwhile, rather than working myself into a straitjacket because I'm the only one who takes my job seriously!

Maybe it's time to go back to my first love. Something to think about after my nice hot bath (oooh, aching muscles – haven't had an uninterrupted day of saddle-time like that for AGES! It was soooo good!)

Sunday, 10 May 2009

Unaugural 2009! Wheeeeeeeee!

Why on earth would around 20 allegedly sane people from three states plus the ACT gather in a paddock out the back of Tarago, rural NSW, in early May to freeze their bits off overnight?

Because we're motorcyclists. We do weird things.

The 7th annual Unaugural Rally was held at the usual venue on 9 May – and was great!

I'll tell you how great it is – unco Betty dares to ride 6kms of GRAVEL road to get there (and this was my fourth Unaugural!) You know how much I hate gravel, and I don't reckon the road to Funkytown ever gets any easier.

There were slings and arrows of outrageous fortune (only lost 3 arrows all up), snoring Pissheads by the campfire, ice-covered motorcycles and people with the most amazing coffee-making apparatus.

After the archery exercise and the lighting of the annual conflagration, food was plentiful and the Beer Witch stayed on duty for most of the evening, defending the fridge against all comers and curtseying tres elegantly *chortle*. A new tradition may have been born, with the introduction of SOUP! Bacon, sweet potato and sweet corn soup was a nice early morning warmer today (it was very cold - look at my poor bike as it was this morning...)

The awards were spectacular – outstanding achievers were:

Bill scored the “furthest” award because he was actually going from Townsville to Brisbane, but decided to come via Funkytown (a distance of over 2000kms. Townsville to Brissy is about 1300kms. Bill likes to take the 'long way' round.)

It looked for a while as if Bamfy might get the Hard Luck award, coz she chipped a nail – BUT - Jo edged her out by making a grand entrance, falling over at the driveway to Funkytown. (Driveways SUCK!) Nev, Jo's loving husband kept going - keen to get to the beer, no doubt - leaving Marty, Moike and G-S to help Jo pick up her Beemer. Jo – I am currently holding your award hostage, heh heh – but I'll make sure I take it to Wintersun for you.

Newcomer Tim C got the smallest capacity bike award for travelling all the way from Coonabarabran on his GS500F – about 550kms, and he's only been riding since about February – what a trooper (bet his bum's sore after riding all the way home again today!)

Aeeek got the award again for the longest distance on an unpowered vehicle – he rode 104kms on his bicycle. On my way home this arv I passed him, pedalling valiantly up Smiths Gap. Phew, too much like hard work!

BigIain scored the most elaborate coffee-making apparatus award (again – what a surprise! - although Bill almost gave him a run for his money this year!)

Old Fart Moike got oldest bike & rider, with a spectacular total of 88 years (his bike must be truly ancient!) and in his acceptance speech he thanked antiques Johno and Theo for not showing up, heh heh!)

Pisshead turned up late (what a surprise) in his mum's Corolla (an even bigger surprise!) and downed most of Big's bourbon (no surprises there! I believe they are accustomed to drinking each other's bourbon) - and then provided a very melodic background to the campfire chat with his 2000 decibel snores.

Another successful Unaugural – thanks heaps, BTH & Minx – was really terrific!

Sunday, 3 May 2009

Narooma - a very Betty adventure (Part 2)

Day 2 – In which I make it home in one piece.

The Inlet Views motel is a lovely lovely place, driveway from hell notwithstanding. Bill and Margaret, the owners, bought it nine years ago. It was run down and in need of lots of TLC, which it evidently got. The little one-bedroom flatettes are bright, airy and comfortable, with gorgeous views of Wagonga Inlet.

I had a lovely Saturday afternoon admiring the gardens and talking to Margaret about her handiwork, before locking myself in and firing up the laptop. I wish I lived on the NSW south coast... There's something about water views that really helps me to organise my thoughts.

By sunset I'd written a blog post and started writing a new novel.

Superb weather this morning, and I swallowed the fear of falling over in driveways, and headed off at around 8.30. The bent gear selector is a pain in the bum, especially going from first to second gear. Must go and see Bruce about it this week. I think perhaps I should take him a bottle of wine as well, to head off any smart-arsed comments – oops, I mean, to buy his silence *chortle*.

Back to the trip though. I had planned on doing a Twin Peaks run this weekend, so a Twin Peaks run was what I would do, no matter what.

My new front tyre loved the twists and turns on Brown Mountain, (wheeeeeeeee!) and before I knew it I was cruising through Nimmitabel and wondering where the warmth went. A thick swathe of low cloud nibbled its way through my winter jacket and chilled me to the bone. It wasn't quite fog, but I was really glad to stop at Cooma to refuel and, um, have a rest stop. The cold weather makes me wee.

On the road from Cooma to Canberra I encountered every kind of stupid driving behaviour that there is, and was relieved to pull into my driveway a bit before 1.30pm.

In 29 hours I have ridden 560kms, had a disaster, been rescued by tattooed knights, written a chapter of a new novel, read several chapters of The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, watched a movie, talked to a bunch of total strangers, done a couple of blog posts, and come to the conclusion that, for the most part, riding alone is the best way to go. It's not that I'm antisocial – well, only a little bit – but I always seem to have better adventures when I'm on my own. I'm forced outside my comfort zone, and that's a good place to be.

Narooma - a very Betty adventure (Part 1)

Day 1 - In which there are disasters and knights in shining armour.

Holy dooley, it's May already – a third of the year has gone somewhere(?!)

I've felt down lately – really down. My creative juices have dried up, along with my sense of humour, and I've been in danger of becoming a Grumpy Old Woman. Well, more of one than I already am - my brief moments of charisma and sparkling wit have been on the endangered list. I have become Betty Misery Guts.

I had to do something, and quickly, before I was mired in a morass of misery, drowned in a slough of despair or perturbed by a perpetual pity-party, with me as the guest of honour. Slouched at my desk at work early last week, not even vaguely cheered by the best view in Canberra, it hit me like a bolt from the blue – I haven't done one of my sanity-saving solo rides all year. No wonder I feel like crap!

These trips have a beautiful simplicity, with only 3 rules:
1.I go alone.
2.I take the laptop (or, at the very least, a notebook and pen).
3.I stay overnight somewhere for at least one night.

The thought of an adventure pepped me up better than a shot of Vitamin B12 or an icy cold cider on a hot day. I googled for accommodation on the NSW South Coast and booked myself a self-contained flatette at the Inlet Views Motel in Narooma – and I just cannot begin to tell you what a difference it made to my mood! Anticipation is a wonderful thing.

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A beautiful ride in perfect weather, and at the other end of it, a cosy getaway and some quality time alone with my own thoughts, gorgeous water views and a fired-up laptop. This is Betty-heaven.

It was all going according to plan until I got to the Inlet Views motel.

See – Narooma is quite hilly, and the motel is on a blind corner on a steep road. It has a steep driveway from hell leading onto a sharp left turn on the aforementioned blind corner, and – yep, you guessed it – the Bomber decided to lay down on the way out of the driveway after I checked in. The damage – yet another indicator; a snapped clutch lever, bent bar-end – and OH NO – I've bent Clem the Hose-Clamp Wizard's beautiful handiwork... The fix he did on my broken gear-shifter last October is now as bent as Julian Clary. Sigh. And I'm 230kms from home. Did I mention the motel is on a steep blind corner?

The carload of young blokes that screeched to a halt to avoid squashing me flatter than Britney Spears before her boob-job was a godsend.

“You all right mate?” said the first young knight to leap out of the car.

“Yeah, nothing hurt except my pride”, I squeaked, drawing myself up to my full 160cm and trying to look as tough as a 160cm biker can, who has just fallen off coming down a driveway. Shit. The other blokes got out of the car, realising the fallen biker was female.

So there I stood. Stupid unco Betty and her fallen Bomber, surrounded by three wiry, tattooed young guns in dark glasses.

I confess, I said some bad words. The lad called Jeremy wheeled the bike to a safe place off the road, while the one called Dave stood in the road to stop anybody coming along and flattening us all. And THEN – the one whose car it was, whose name I never did find out, drove his mates to a shop in town that sells bike parts. About ten minutes later these tattooed total strangers were back with a shiny new clutch lever for the Bomber, which they even fitted for me.

The kindness and humanity of total strangers is staggering at times. It's very touching – all the more so when it comes from unexpected quarters. It makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. I'm serious.

Thank you Jeremy. Thank you Dave. Thank you, nameless tattooed young man with the mullet and the car. You guys were great – true knights in shining armour.

So – a very Betty adventure so far, complete with disasters. Who knows what tomorrow will bring?

Right now I'm sitting in my lovely flatette at the Inlet Views, soaking up the inlet views and the afternoon sun, feasting on rice crackers, dolmades and camembert (with a glass of red). Ana Moura (one of my favourite fadistas) is warbling away in the background - does it get any better?