Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Wallowing - a Story in Pictures

So... the wading pool stayed in its box over the cold wet Christmas. We felt so - so cheated, somehow.

Today, though, was hot and dry, and the perfect day for a bit of wallowing in the wading pool (the Poobah & I call it 'Hippo-ing'.)

The Poobah, however, was nowhere to be seen when the pool needed to be inflated. Meh - she's asthmatic anyway. Besides, I have a hand pump.
Which doesn't appear to be working. Uh-oh...

Holy crap - thank goodness I'm not a smoker!
Oscar (lurking, stage left) : WTF are you doing?

Here Mum, now you've blown up the bottom half, I'll do the top one.

This is harder than it looks. I'll just, er, go and look for - for a pump. Or something.

No worries Boomerang Boy - these middle-aged lungs are in tip top shape! Wow, these head-spins are pure 1970s! Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

Ha HA! I feel so STRONG and CAPABLE.... and light-headed...

Once the hard work had been done and Betty had regained consciousness, the Poobah turned up with the makings of strawberry daiquiris, and Betty got to sit in the pool first, to enjoy the fruits of her labour.
Boomerang Boy attended to the sausage sizzle and kept himself cool with a spray bottle of ice water...

And eventually we ALL got to do some hippo-ing! YAY! What a lovely way to spend a roasting afternoon in Canberra!

Sunday, 27 December 2009

Playing in the Dirt

64mm of rain has softened the ground a little, so yesterday, in very light rain, I exhausted myself digging a new flowerbed where some overgrown shrubs used to be. I've reduced the 'lawn' area a little more - although the November heatwave pretty much killed off any alleged green stuff that once masqueraded as 'lawn'.

Before - about a year ago. What is that green stuff on the ground?

After - yesterday's marathon effort - a new garden bed!

A long soak in L'Occitane's Delicious Almond foaming bath was supposed to forestall any aches and pains after wielding mattock and shovel for three hours, but I was all bent up like a paper clip when I woke up this morning. Aaaargh! Still, the best thing for sore muscles is to stretch and work them, so today, with a half-formed idea in my head, I decided to avoid the post-Christmas sales and go to the garden shop at my local Bunnings.

I found the standard rose I was looking for – a gorgeous, delicate pale cream flower (and there don't seem to be any thorns, which is a bonus! I don't like plants that bite!) and half a dozen small lavender plants. That will sort the far end of the new garden bed.

Not having a car to call my own, all my garden shopping is done on the bike, using a Ventura bag and a selection of Ocky-straps. You'd be surprised what you can carry home on a motorcycle. The SV seemed to be sprouting a rose bush....

A Bunnings man was wandering the car park while I was loading things up, and he cracked up.

'Now there's something I've never seen...'

'If it survives the ride home,' say I, 'it will survive anything. Besides, with this precious cargo I'll be going pretty slowly.'

He chuckled, and wandered off shaking his head and muttering. 'That's made my day, that has.'

It was a slow ride home, and I got some very peculiar looks - but we made it, with only two snapped stems and the loss of two buds. Wheeeeeeeeeeeeee!

A couple of back-breaking, neck-burning hours later, the rose and its little surrounding circle of lavender are safely installed in their new home - manured, mulched and watered. So now we just wait and see...

It's official - after playing in the dirt today, sans hat, I'm a real redneck - ouch! Note to self: you can still get sunburned on the cloudiest day.

Saturday, 26 December 2009

The Best Laid Plans - Christmas 09

Some people love Christmas. I'm not one of them. For lots of reasons I haven't been a fan of Christmas for years. I've Bah Humbugged my way through more than I can count. This year the Poobah (my daughter) and I decided to have 'Unchristmas'.

We had one last year at her little flat in Woden. We stayed in our pyjamas all day, drinking strawberry daiquiris, eating un-Christmassy food and watching un-Christmassy videos. It was great fun.

This year we thought to have it at my house, and add a new dimension to it - these southern hemisphere Christmasses are usually sweltering, so last weekend I bought - tadaaaaaaaaa - The Wading Pool. Here it is, ocky-strapped to the back of the bike. The plan was to spend the day wallowing in the water ('hippo-ing', we call it), sipping strawberry daiquiris and having a BBQ, before watching the (now) traditional un-Christmassy videos.

But - after a week of hideous temperatures well up in the 30s,
we woke to 10mm of rain in the gauge, and a steady fall that would continue all day and all night.

The best laid plans... oh well. Forget the wading pool. There would be no hippo-ing this Unchristmas. We still did the strawberry daiquiris, though, heh heh.

And the BBQ, cooked by the very talented Boomerang Boy and his lovely assistant, Oscar bin Laden, once Boomerang Boy (who had a big Christmas Eve) had recovered enough to don the BBQ hat and pick up the tongs.

If I help, can I have the leftovers?

Good BBQ - high five, little dude!

And the rain continued... 30mm and counting!

And we did watch Mrs Henderson Presents and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. And also The History Boys. And there was much laughter as well as a few cinematically-induced tears - and a good day was had by all.

And the daiquiris kept coming, and eventually the old chook nodded off, and her lovely children couldn't help themselves. Actually, they could - and they did. They helped themselves to her camera and look what she found on it when she woke up this morning. At least they hadn't drawn a penis on her forehead (something the Poobah has been known to do in the past. Just ask her friend Leanne!)

And the rain did (still!) fall.

Yes, that is just under 50mm in the rain gauge. The ground should be nice and soft for all the digging I have planned for the next week. For now, though, from all at Chez Betty - Merry (Un)Christmas!

Thursday, 17 December 2009

The Brisbane or Bust Adventure - heading home Part 2

That 5am thunderstorm was a whopper that rocked the motel on its foundations! It looked like another day of crap weather ahead, although Resourceful Pete, the mad dirt-biker from Cairns, said he'd checked the radar and the way south looked ok. His own route, back to Cairns, looked less pleasant - storms, storms and more storms. Erk.

After days of weather that felt a bit Old Testament - fires one day, floods the next - I was expecting locusts and plague any second - I wondered what the day would throw at me. So much of this ride has put me well outside my comfort zone. I didn't realise just HOW far outside my comfort zone I'd been till I was on the familiar road between Sydney and Canberra - but I'm getting ahead of myself.

My gloves and boots were still all squelchy from the previous day's deluge - eeeeew, it's nasty to put your feet into wet boots - but everything else had dried overnight, thank goodness. The road crews left early to lay their bitumen and I farewelled my dirt-rider friend and the sleepy little town of Guyra (although I doubt that anybody could still have been asleep after that 5am storm!) to head towards Sydney.

Thunderbolt's Way was interesting again - plenty of thick fog along the way. At first I wasn't sure if it was fog or bushfire smoke because there'd been quite a few fires burning out of control around there for several days. I could see patches of burnt earth all the way to the edge of the road at times, but there didn't appear to be anything alight (phew!)

In the day-to-day course of things, I don't speak to strange men as a general rule, but the rules change when you have a motorcycle - it's so weird! When I got to Gloucester for a wee stop and a leg stretch, I parked outside a pub and dragged a can of Red Bull out of my bag. Almost instantly, Peter, a Vietnam vet, came up and started chatting. We were soon joined by another slightly older fellow, John - both Triumph riders from way back who just wanted to talk about bikes. I love that stuff. We had a pleasant half hour just chatting.

Heading on down the road I met up with Pisshead for lunch at the twin servos near Wyong, and arrived in Sydney at around 3.30. My old neighbours made this weary traveller very welcome, and we stayed up as late as we could (given that it was a weeknight and most people (not me!) had to get to work the next morning!)

Oh, and what a glorious morning it was on Wednesday. It was the perfect weather that I really should've had for the whole trip! Not too hot - although it warmed up later - no rain/fire/flood/hail/fog - just a shitload of very ugly Sydney traffic for the first hour. How on earth do they stand it? I forget...

It was a lovely ride home. I re-entered the ACT on the dot of midday, and walked in my front door at about 12.20. Somebody had turned up the heat while I was away, but there was NO HUMIDITY! My washing dried in no time at all and I even got around to a bit of blogging.

A check of the bike showed me that the entire trip had taken me 2634kms (over 1600 miles). The company of family and friends was lovely, the people I met along the way were terrific and the "challenge" I'd been looking for ended up exceeding my expectations. Much of it was bloody hard work - harder than I'd thought it would be. (I'm trying soooo hard to resist the temptation to be all gloaty, and not succeeding very well. Oh, bugger it - I was proud of myself!) The airhawk seat was brilliant - after all those hours in the saddle, my bum wasn't even sore - and surprisingly, nor were my shoulders. My hands ached and the Helmet from Hell made my ear hurt, but apart from that I felt surprisingly good (just as well, coz the weather's too hot for soaking in a hot bath, ha ha!)

So - another adventure over, and Thursday will take me back to the Real World. Poop.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

The Brisbane or Bust Adventure - heading home Part 1

I mentioned my new best friends Tinana and Scrabble, didn't I? Scrabble is a scruffy and fairly brainless but totally adorable little terrier of some sort, with the cutest personality. She has two expressions - awake and asleep - and I have never known a dog to contort herself so wildly to get patted.

After lengthy debate about whether she was an 'adorable love pumpkin' or an 'adorable love parsnip' (she is shaped more like a parsnip than a pumpkin, it's true) I almost got away with smuggling her into my tank bag for the trip home. That Michelle was too feisty though. She heard me encouraging the Love Parsnip to hop into my tank bag.

'Don't do it, Scrabble,' she hissed. 'She has CATS!' Sigh...

So, Scrabbleless, and with a loaded up bike, I followed Clem for a fab ride to Mount Glorious. Yeah, tough life, but the thought of riding the motorway back through Brissie during peak hour was too horrible, so we'd planned to head out of Brisbane the scenic way. Actually, it wasn't peak hour when we left. It was closer to midday, and the clouds that hung over Brissie were black and evil-looking.

They didn't get any better. The first enormous blobs of rain splashed onto me just near Warwick, but they didn't last. Refuelling at Tenterfield, I asked the man at the servo if he knew what the weather ahead was like, and the report was all bad (and, as it turned out, very accurate!) Some ominous thundery rumbles made me put on the wet weather gear - well, the top half anyway - it was still way too warm to wear the entire sauna suit.

After the rain had been pelting down in non-stop sheets for half an hour I was actually feeling a little cool around the legs, not to mention squelchy in the toe region as my Rossi boots gave up all pretence of being waterproof.

I gave up when I could no longer see the road for the rain, and pulled over in a little place called Deepwater where, oddly enough, the water was very deep - rivers of it running down the sides of the main road. I abandoned my poor bike to rain and hail, and sheltered under an awning until the sky lightened a tiny bit. Could I make it to Glen Innes and a warm dry motel, I wondered?

I could. The rain sort of stopped - but when I got to Glen Innes there was hail piled so high by the sides of the road that it looked like a snowscape!

Press on, press on while the weather's tolerable, said the little voice in my head. You might even get as far as Armidale!

Not a hope. The sky split again just as I limped into Guyra, and I turned into the Guyra Park Motel. Lucky to get a room, I was - a road crew from just down the highway had scored some emergency accommodation to escape the wild weather. You can't lay bitumen in torrential rain, apparently.

So - even though the motel was full, the town was empty (it shuts on Monday nights) and if it hadn't been for a fellow traveller called Pete, I would've had nothing but a bag of chips for dinner. Resourceful Pete sourced some lasagne, and we chatted till quite late. He was heading home to Cairns on a KTM he'd just bought in Sydney (hope your trip's going well, Pete!)

After a late night I'd hoped to sleep till 6am, but thunder, lightning and an absolute deluge of Old Testament proportions woke me at 5 on Tuesday morning.

Uh oh.

The Brisbane or Bust Adventure - Days 3 & 4

I'm melting in my sacriligeous t-shirt - but gNat manages to look cool and gorgeous. How does she do that?

Days 3 & 4 – Chez Grimm to Casa del Clem

After the monster ride up it was lovely to veg completely with Grimm & Deirdre on Friday. Poor Grimm was feeling rather seedy for some reason on Saturday. Oh, okay, so was I, just a little bit. With temperatures in the 30s and humidity at around 70% it was too disgustingly sticky outside to do anything, so we spent the day watching movies, and the evening sitting in the spa, turning into rubbery creatures, sipping champers and watching music videos. Looxury!

Deirdre, Grimm and a terrified Betty about to depart

On Saturday morning, however, it was time to go. I said farewell to Grimm, Deirdre, Gina the dog and Monty the python and headed off for parts unknown. A mere 50kms of motorway riding, but I was terrified about getting lost. In fact, I was more nervous about making the trip from one side of Brisbane to the other than I was about riding all the way here from Canberra!

Bye bye Gina!

Decided to try riding in my glasses instead of the contact lenses, which have been giving me curry in the heat. Instead of having to contend with sticky lenses, gluey eyeballs and 200 blinks per minute to try and unglue them, all I had to worry about was my glasses sliding off my sweaty nose in the four thousand percent humidity.

It started raining just before I arrived, and gNat dashed out to meet me so that I didn't miss the house. (These people know me so well, tee hee!) Yay, I made it!

My fabulous hosts have made me feel very welcome. gNat took me for a drive around Sandgate and Redcliffe on Saturday, Michelle made a humungous pasta dinner (with even gluten free pasta for moi!!!) and we couch-potatoed in front of several episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, some red wine and a screening of Dogma.

I also have some new best friends, and I'm trying to figure out how to smuggle Scrabble the dog into my tank bag tomorrow. Getting her past Michelle will be tricky!

Big tough biker Clem with Tinana

Today we've been out driving, eating pizza and sightseeing – Brisbane is so much bigger than I remember – and I'm wondering how the heck I'm going to transport the rather large bike stand that Clem won on eBay back to Canberra! It's been a lovely relaxing holiday in great company, and I feel pretty clever to have come this far. Tomorrow I do my very good impersonation of an overcooked boil-in-the-bag dinner again, and start the long ride home.

Align Center

Waiting for pizza :-)

Saturday, 12 December 2009

The Brisbane or Bust Adventure - Day 2

Day 2 – Armidale to Brisbane – started with feelings of foreboding – the town was still shrouded in smoke from dozens of bushfires, and I had the sort of beginning to the day that, by rights, should've been how I felt on Day 1. Yep, the dithering, the nerves and the 10 poo morning. Eeeeew! At least the sun was shining!

So – my ausmoto friends had told me to look out for a one-armed cop in Armidale, and I found him right where you would expect – at the police station! Hope the shoulder mends quickly!

That was pretty much the best bit of the day. The fires got hotter, the smoke plumes got higher and the roadworks multiplied. What was supposed to be a shorter travelling day ended up being longer than the one before, only hotter. Bloody roadworks.

I'm talking serious roadworks – the sort where you're stopped by a flagman or a set of porta-lights out in the middle of nowhere. The sort where you're stopped for long enough to have to turn off the engine and sit baking inside your helmet. The sort where there's a looooong stretch of gravel that a flagman makes you stop in the middle of, and you fall off your bike and snap the brake lever and cause a big effing drama twenty kilometres outside Tenterfield because you'd foolishly decided to take the scenic route that Rob in Sydney suggested.

I hate gravel.

As always, when things turn to shite, angels come out of the woodwork. Soon-to-retire RTA worker John drove me back into Tenterfield, while flagman Dave put traffic cones around my bike and kept watch over it. Kevin from the bike shop back in Tenterfield – which is just next door to the Peter Allen Motel if ever you go up that way – retrieved my bike and replaced the snapped lever. He thought I should keep going on the scenic route and over that gravel again, but I'd had enough. I was just about ready to turn around and ride back to Canberra! Remind me again why I decided to ride from Canberra to Brisbane? 'A challenge', I think I'd said. Well I was feeling pretty bloody challenged, I can tell you!

I revised my route and came up through Stanthorpe and Warwick. By the time I got to the Shell servo in Aratula I felt like an overcooked boil-in-the-bag dinner. Amused motorists watched me pour ice cold water on my head, inside my jacket and down my throat, and my contact lenses were drying and sticking to my eyeballs again, so I did the eye-drop thing while I was at it. The things you go through!

It was a very tired, hot cross Betty who finally knocked on Graham & Deirdre's front door after 6pm, after having left the Deer Park Mottr Inn (Armidale) at 7.40am...

The reviving qualities of cider and sparkling shiraz, of course, are legendary, and before I knew it I was laughing, yahooing and snake-handling – a great end to a huge day!

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

The Brisbane or Bust Adventure - Day 1

I meet the littlest Lemmiwink at last, and even get a giant burp for my troubles!

Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! The Great Adventure is underway!

I'm writing this from my room at the Deer Park Inn in Armidale. Have had an amazing day!

No anxiety stuff to speak of (ok, it was a 3 poo start to the day LOL – but that's a huge improvement!) My hands weren't shaking when I got the bike out of the shed; my heart wasn't racing...

So – got away at about 6.45am. Low black cloud hung over everything, and it wasn't long till I was feeling cold (yes, I had been through the agonising 'leathers or mesh' dilemma AND the 'will I be warm/cool enough?' discussion with myself while I was busily over-packing at 5am after a 3.30am wake-up.)

It was a bit of a four-seasons ride, really – I was cold well before I got to Lake George, where I pulled over and put on my wet weather jacket, to keep out a bit of the chill. A bit of blue sky at Goulburn was fleeting, and rain started a bit after Marulan.

On the M7, the sun came out just as I hit the 'incident' that slowed (actually, STOPPED) traffic for several kilometres. Great. I sat baking in my gear for the better part of 45 minutes, cussing and sweating. I did a bit of judicious lane-filtering wherever I could, simply to find a spot where I could take of the wet weather jacket, open the vents in my jacket and grab some much-needed cold water - but eventually got to a spot where lane filtering was not possible *sigh*.

Enough horribleness... I didn't get lost, I didn't fall off. No bits fell off the bike. YAY!

AND – I finally got to ride Thunderbolt's Way! I knew time would be an issue – I chose the “short” way to Armidale for a very good reason – visiting the littlest Lemmiwink and her lovely parents – so it was a bit of a bugger to have such a long setback so early in the day... For that reason I didn't do a lot of stopping, apart from refuelling and wee stops.

After passing through a lot of nice little towns like Booral, Stroud, Stroud Road – and Stratford (on Avon) – although a town LESS like Stratford-on-Avon won't be found anywhere else, I'm sure!) I made it to Gloucester. What a nice town!

At the servo I met up with a young bloke on a Triumph Sprint who was travelling from Melbourne to Grafton on as many of Peter 'The Bear' Thoeming's Top 100 rides as he could. I didn't get his name, but he was a cheery like-minded soul. I hope his ride on the Waterfall Way tomorrow will be all that he's hoping for.

Thunderbolt's Way is a great road – the bits at the beginning, just after Gloucester, are the best; picturesque, twisty, up and down – and the quality of the road surface is, um.... variable.

I was a bit concerned about the 'mist' that was hanging around, especially when I realised it was bushfire smoke – and especially when the wind picked up and the temperature increased dramatically. I had to ride a little bit fast at times to get away from the smell of smoke – but seriously, there was no escape! By the time I got to Walcha I had to start the old 'water inside the jacket evaporative cooling regime - it was stinking hot, and so dry that my contacts tried to glue themselves to my eyeballs - horrible!!!)

I got to Armidale after 5pm. The light was a weird yellow with all the smoke. Erk.

After a quick shower at the motel I went to visit the Lemmiwinkses, to pay homage to the baby – and what a little sweetheart she is!

'Don't look so worried, Julia - I've done this before!'

It's been a fabulous day! I am absolutely buggered, but looking forward to studying the maps over my bacon and cheese omelette breakfast tomorrow, and heading to Brisneyland!

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Brisbane or Bust

There’s nothing like a big solo ride to take my mind off my problems, and my head’s been a bit of a mess lately. Maybe I should’ve called this post Madwoman Plots Great Escape on Motorcycle.

For much of the past month, since deciding to do the trip, the prospect of a Canberra-Brisbane ride all by myself (about 1400kms each way) has alternately thrilled and terrified me. The pre-ride anxiety started early, but by crikey, I’m going to do it, no matter what.

I don’t know what it is about starting a long ride, but getting myself on the road is a Major Operation – a monstrous battle with myself and all my fears. Day 1 (a week from today) will be something like this:

· Be awake for much of the previous night after successfully avoiding packing the bike
· Poo ten times before 6am
· Feel nauseous
· Pack/dither/pack/dither/unpack/dither/pack
· Agonise over my bike gear – will it be too hot/cold/wet for what I’m wearing?
· Load up the bike, sweat, shake, go to the loo again. Twice.
· Get the bike out of the shed. Try not to fall off getting to the end of my street
· Ride to Armidale.

Once there I will pay homage to the littlest Lemmiwink and catch up with her lovely parents before retiring to the Deer Park Motel for the night (I don’t think that house guests and new babies are a comfortable combination unless you’re a blood relative).

On Thursday morning I will go through much of the process all over again, although I just might be less nervous by then. I will, of course, study the map ten times, write out detailed directions in BIG letters and go to the loo several times. By Thursday night I will be in Brisbane, safely ensconced at the home (and undoubtedly in the spa) of my brother Graham and his lady, Deirdre.

Two nights of recovery (plus cider, plus spa) should put me in a fab frame of mind to trek to the Other Side of Brissie (hopefully without getting lost) on Saturday morning, to Clem’s place!
Clem’s one of my ‘Ride to Phillip Island’ buddies, and a whiz at doing fix-it things to motorbikes, using hose clamps (although he’s less resourceful when it comes to packing wet-weather gear). In the 3 years that I’ve known Clem, we’ve done the PI pilgrimage 3 times, and I’ve met his daughter, his brother and his sister-in-law, but haven’t yet met his long-suffering wife. That’s the reason for this trip.

I’m giving myself an extra day to get home so I can go at a more leisurely pace. Will be calling in to visit people along the way, although I haven’t any concrete plans just yet. I’m going to try being laid-back and carefree, going wherever the road takes me. At least – that’s the plan so far… watch this space.