Oct 14 - That's it. We've unloaded the truck and dropped our stuff in the house. It's been a great year of adventure, exploration, and growth. Without further ado (adieu?), I'm signing off on Trippin06. I leave you with my final thoughts. Thanks for reading and see you around.
Oct 13 - We're done with step 3. We left Orlando at 8:30 and got to our house at 8:30. We traveled through time and space. The house is still there. All is well.
Oct 12 - We are done with two of four steps in our move to NC. Yesterday we packed up all of my in-law's stuff from Grandma's and Ma's, as well as a couple of nice pieces for ourselves. Today we drove from St Pete to Orlando and, with the help of 3 movers, unloaded our storage unit and loaded everything into our 26 foot truck. We literally just made it; the cargo area is filled top to bottom and back to front with both useful and useless stuff. Tomorrow we drive ten or so hours to Cary, and on Saturday we unload and move in. On Saturday night Bri and I will sleep in our own bed, in our own room, in our own house, for the first time in a long long time.
Oct 9 - During our trip the Orlando Brewery opened here in Orlando. I weep for the timing. It has a wide selection and they were very tasty. I'd recommend the Pelican English Pale Ale.
This week is moving week! Yay!
Oct 4 - Has anyone else given up on politics? I try to stay interested but just get disgusted with everything and everyone. What a bunch of amoral sociopaths and egomaniacs. They're all crooked as a coathanger. I am sticking to the comics page.
Oct 3 - Was all wiped out and went to bed at 8pm last night. Got up at 4am to take Bri to the airport for her USAT clinic. Came home and realized I've come down with one of these travel related colds. Bummer. Went out and bought some pseudoephedrine from the local CVS. They needed to see my driver's license to make sure I'm not taking the pills and cooking up meth in my father-in-law's rental unit. After that I had to get fingerprinted at Burger King for my Whopper.
The market is up! Oil is down! Gold is down! Trade the margins! Arbitrage baby. Go long on silicon. That rhymes.
Oct 2 - We're back home in our home away from home at my Dad-in-law's back flat. It was another 25 hour door to door trip but not so bad in the grand scheme of things. I'm going to keep the updates going until October 15, when we are officially moved into our new house in Cary, NC. October is going to be a busy month for us. By November things should calm down and we'll get back into our routines. I'm going to sign up for a Spanish language class, study for my strength coaching certificate (CSCS) and get back into wicked shape.
Sep 30 - We're in Gatwick Airport, London. The NWA flight to Detroit is overbooked and there's a chance we'll get voluntarily bumped to tomorrow for 400 British pounds each and a free hotel stay. That's about the most anyone's offfered to pay me for 24 hours of my time. I'm moving up in the world.
Sep 28 - At the moment I am doing a bit of work and sampling Brugse Zot, a Belgian blond beer that is brewed here in Bruges at De Halve Maan family brewery. It is pretty good. The town is definitely worth checking out. A bit touristy but nothing as bad as a Miami or St. Pete Beach during peak season. The streets are full of cafes, shops, and various antiquities from the 1200s onward. Europe has the fortunate circumstance of having been around for three to four millenia. There's a gravity to the local church, the town hall, that we in the US have a bit of trouble emulating. These buildings were built to last.
Sep 27 - Today we toured around Amsterdam. It is quite a city. They have coffee shops full of people happily smoking hash and dope right next door to libraries and family restaurants. But the city seems to have found itself a good groove and the folks are very friendly. Just about all the Dutch speak English, which makes this a very tourist friendly place. Prices are a bit 'high' (ha ha), but that's not surprising. Today we wandered over to the Vincent Van Gogh museum / national art treasury and checked out Crazy Vince's eclectic collection. He was a moribund sort but drew some pretty pictures. After that we lightened the mood with a tour of the fine Heineken museum/ old brewery. Heineken here definitely tastes better than the stuff they sell in the States, I'm not sure if the brewing is licensed out or what, but the beer here is much better. It would be easy to spend a week or so just wandering around Amsterdam and riding a bike to and fro. They are nuts for bikes, but no one wears a helmet.
Now we are on our way to Bruges or Brugge, where we will invade some more castles and check out the Staffe Hendrik brewery.
Sep 26 - We are in Amsterdam at the moment, took a long day to get here. Avoid London airports if at all possible, the security staff is rude and they are giving out conflicting info on what is allowed. All the signs say you can have a laptop bag and another (purse, backpack, etc) but then they make you check one of the bags if you are unfortunate enough to come in from a different EU country. We had to relay through from Zurich to Amsterdam for reasons of cheapness. Tired today. My walking shoes are smelly!
Sep 24 - We're into our last week of the real Trippin06. We had the chance to put our boots up and relax at Joy's aunt's house here in Hoehentengen, in the German state Baden on the Swiss border. Germany is divided into states, much like the US. Many places are really. On Tuesday we'll be off to Amsterdam for one night. Then we'll catch a train to Brugge (Bruges) in Belgium for two nights, then back to Amsterdam for a final evening of Flemish frolicking.
Our last day in Munich we decided to be good world citizens and visited the Holocaust Memorial at Dachau. Dachau was first concentration camp and \ the model on which all other camps were based. It's sad, amazing, and troubling that the human race could turn to such means to subjugate and and enslave others. Granted it has been going on since man crawled out of the cave and saw someone different then his tribe (many ancient cultures destroyed and enslaved others as a means of preserving their own), but that sure doesn't make it right. Over 300,000 prisoners were processed at Dachau and somewhere between 30-40,000 were killed or died here. It was liberated on April 28, 1945 by the US Army. Prisoner number nine was processed in 1933 and died only a couple months before the camp was liberated. Imagine spending 12 of your years in a concentration camp run by sociopaths bent on cruelty and humiliation. There are hooks in the oven room so that the process of death by hanging and cremation could be more efficient. The execution wall was designed with a blood ditch.
My father doesn't like to talk about it, but he and my grandfather were woken in the middle of the night and taken to a Nazi work camp in 1944 when he was nine years old. That's a nice way of labeling a forced labor/slave camp. This was during a period when Germany was on a high recruitment phase for free wartime labor. They got out when the war ended (age 11). The few times he's been willing to talk about it he says it wasn't that bad, but imagine some of the memories he must be repressing or not letting us in on. Small wonder he woke up with nightmares during most of my childhood. (Besides the fact that he had me for a child. ;-) ) Some of us live in very fortunate times.
On a much lighter note, we've been enjoying our vacation from vacationing here on the Swiss border. We went into Zurich yesterday afternoon and walked down Bahnhapfstrasse, otherwise known as the world's most expensive mile. Underwear on this street costs 59 francs (about 48 dollars at current exchange rates). The Swiss haven't bothered to join the EU as they are rich and snooty. We've been going for a daily run along the Rheine river on pleasant trails. The weather has been very cooperative for most of our trip, raining on us only in Salzburg. I'm looking forward to exploring some 800 year old breweries in Belgium and the Red Light District in Amsterdam. Europe has a lot of amazing and old things to see. But then again so does the good old US of A and I'll be happy to be on home soil in less than a week. -Sniffle, tear-.
Sep 22 - Oktoberfest was a lot of fun. Glad we put this on the trip schedule. It's amazing to see so many people happily downing beers together. The international language of "cheers" makes up for any translation losses. Today on a brief escursion to the site via the underground subway to pick up a souvenir I met an older Italian gent. "Oktoberfest," he asked? "Ja," I said. "Something something Italian," he said. "Iche spreche ein bischen Deutch," I said. "No," he said, "Italiano?" "Preggo," says I, with a shrug. "English?" A headshake. "Francais?" he asked, pointing at his wife. "Habla un poco Espanol?" I asked. "No," he said. "Prost!" I said. "Ja, Prost!" he said. Alles klar. No worries. It's cool.
We are going back to Joy's aunt's house in Hohentengen for four days of recouping. All my clothes are dirty and everything smells like smoke. I'm not sure if it was just the crowds at Oktoberfest or Bavarians and Austrians in general, but everyone here seems to smoke like a chimney.
On the 26th we will go to Amsterdam for a couple days and look for Roxanne.
Sep 21 - We made it to Oktoberfest. The rides are good and the beer is better. Bri was surprised to find out that there are actually rides here as opposed to just a bunch of beer tents and stumbling drunks. We had some fun before wandering into a beer tent for some local fare and a few liters of beer. Not all the waitresses are huge Helga types. There are a few petite women running around with ten liters of beer in their hands as well.
We spent a night in Salzburg a couple days ago. While there we got to see them setting up for the UCI World champs. We missed the first event by just a day, though we did catch a few of them peddling around town. We also went on a Sound of Music tour. I thought I'd died and gone to hell. Austria is a very pretty country though.
Sep 17 - Today we took the train into Vienna (Wien). Bri and I were able to have a nice run through the Castle Gardens, which are amazing in both size and complexity. The Hapsburgs knew how to build a house. After that we all went to the Museum area where we toured around the Imperial Palace. Austria was the home of quite an empire for a long while and the Palace reflected it. It was friggin' huge. The city also has an area called Museum Central, essentially a modernized hangout for tourists and locals alike, just across the way from the Palace. Very avant garde. We finished up our very quick but very nice tour of Vienna at the 7 Stern Brau, one of Vienna's brewpubs/beergardens. Joy found this one in her book, which has a bunch of excellent information about traveling Europe. The beer was good and our waitress spoke English well enough that I didn't have to butcher mein Deutch any further for the time being.
Tomorrow we're off to Salzburg, where we'll take part in the 2006 celebration of Mozart by laughing like hyenas and playing tricks on the locals. After that we'll do a Sound of Music tour, which should totally kick ass.
Sep 16 - A whirlwind of sights in Budapest last night and today. Climbed up the Galliet Hill overlooking the Danube; the Hungarian Capital Palace & Historical Museum, Hero Square, and a number of other historic sites. The Magyar tribes descended from the Ural mountains over 1,000 years ago and have been fighting for this and other lands for a millenia. They're a proud people with a rich cultural heritage. Budapest is an old city that is quite international in flavor and the young folks are victims/products of globalization. Everyone everywhere is just looking to have some fun and make some scratch.
Sep 15 - We're currently sitting in the Nyiregyhaza train station waiting for our late train. Last night someone robbed the track of a few hundred yards of electrical cable. And the engine broke down. Ah well! I'm using the opportunity to catch up on some work.
We had a nice time visiting with my family here. My Aunt looks very similar to my father and a lot like her mother (my grandmother). Our cousins and second cousins have been very hospitable. One of their neighbors who was also a retired fireman showed Joy around the firestation as well. Yesterday we drove to Tokaj (Tokoi) and checked out the wineries. The area has a volcanic mountain where all the vines grow. Bought a bottle of dry white to bring back with me. We also stopped by the city of Gava, where my father was born and raised. We visited my grandmother's house there and spoke with the nice lady who currently lives there. My grandfather used to have a shoe factory next door, but it was appropriated by the Nazis during WWII. It's a small village, the woman who lives there now has lived there all her life.
They love to feed us all the delicacies. My aunt broke out the special desserts that I used to gobble up as a kid. I'm swearing off food for three days, I feel like someone shoved a turkey in my guts.
Sep 13 - Last night we toured around the city of Nyiregyhaza. It's grown a lot since I was here twenty years ago. Has a nice downtown area and park. We found a club where the average age was about 17. My cousins were in heaven.
Sep 12 - We're on the train to Nyiregyhaza where we'll spend the next three days with my Dad's side of the family. Here we have my Aunt Klara, my two cousins Bobbi and Aggi (females), and my second cousin Petr. Seanyi (Shawn-yee) is also my second cousin and has taken the week off from work in Budapest to travel with us. Seanyi is 28 and Petr is 25. Bobbi and Aggi are quite a bit older than I am, so in all probability we'll spend more time with the younger fellers.
We took a very quick tour of BUdapest yesterday, checked out the Parliament building and walked by a couple museums. We'll be back there in a couple days and should be able to spend more time looking at the cultural objects. Buda and Pest have been around since Roman Empire times, the city is one of the oldest permanent residences in Europe. It started as two separate cities that merged in the mid 1800s. They're separated by the Danube and people still ask "do you live in Buda or Pest?" It's a cultural mishmash of old European architecture and neon signs advertising everything under the sun.
Sep 11 - We took off from Hoentengen this morning around 5AM to catch our plane to Hamburg then Budapest. While in Hoentengen we spent time with Joy's Aunt and cousins and checked out there Weinfest, an annual event that features a number of the local winery products. The local beer wasn't so bad either. We also got in a pleasant 11k run through Switzerland along the Reine river. We're now in BUdapest visiting my cousin and tomorrow we take the train to the town of Nyiregyhaza, where we'll hang with my Aunt for a while. Today we walked around Budapest, strolled along the Danube, and did some shopping in their local market. I'd type more but am pretty tired at the moment.
Sep 9 - Today we're getting a full twelve hours of travel. We started at 7:15 Spain time with an hour long ride to Bilbao airport in the Basque country of Spain. Then hopped on a flight to Stansted airport (London), caught a long taxi ride to Gatwick airport (London), and are now gearing up at the local Starbucks in prep for a five O'clock flight to Zurich. Then we take a short car ride to Joy's aunt's house across the border in Bavaria, Germany. I plan to sample some local brews tonight, you can count on that. My only exercise today is trying to convert Euros to Pounds and then back to dollars.
Sep 8 - Buenos dias! Today we walked around Santander's downtown area in search of any restaurant that sold food we were more familiar with. Bri's stomach finally located us an italian joint and we were all happy to dig into pizza and pasta. The bocadillas (sandwiches or xx surrounded by bread), raciones (portions of whatever), and tapas (tapas) have been keeping us going but haven't been the most satisfying. I'm also struggling to find a big cup of coffee - it doesn't exist here. The coffee is strong but when you drink it like I do, one pequeno cafe americano doesn't quite do the trick.
Today for some reason I found myself contemplating mortality. Life, the universe, and everything (Douglas Adams). This happens from time to time when I get too much downtime and actually allow for introspection. Life happens very quickly. It feels like just a little while ago I was barely into my twenties. Now I'm nearing mid-thirties and things haven't slowed down a bit. What have I done to leave a mark? Should we tread softly and leave only our footprints (Jerry Garcia) or should the world tremble and quake at our memory (Alexander the Great)? Is it possible to leave the world a bit better off, perhaps a bit wiser about what makes us all go round? Do we shuffle off the mortal coil as mere players on the stage (a mixed metaphor a la Shakespeare) or leave raging, raging against the dying of the light (Dylan Thomas)? No man is an island. Carpe diem. One man's refuse is another man's treasure. Do I want to build houses or memories, bank accounts or dreams? What is the way?
That's some of what was going through my head as I took my siesta earlier today. Our journey around the world has been a great deal of fun, enlightening in many regards, and has certainly helped to cement and build our relationship even more. As someone who has been goal oriented for most of my life, I have to start thinking about the next challenge, the next opportunity, the next big adventure. But what I'm saying here is that all these things are sometimes just distractions from the fundamental truths in life - we're all headed towards an unpredictable rendevouz with destiny. When we meet our final fate do we get another chance, another turn on the great wheel, or is that the big enchilada? I hope for the former but live like it's the latter. My proof of an existential existence is limited to a few good hallucinations and some wild dreams.
Sep 7 - Today we got taken up to the top of a mountain and then rode our bikes down. Went through a number of little towns on the way, two or three old buildings and a sign would sum it up for a couple of them. We've arrived in Somo, where we'll be for the next two nights. Haven't gotten into town just yet but we're happy with our room in a converted farmhouse made of 400 year old stone. Riding the heavy hybrid bikes uphill can take a good bit of effort. Our Spanish has been making slow improvements, nothing like having to get around and order food to make you build up a working vocabulary.
The part of Spain we've been touring has been slow to develop to the outside world due to being hemmed in by a bit of a mountain range, part of which we rode through today. Muy bonito. This part is also not too expensive, which has eased the burden on our wallets a bit (for the time being). I may take that back after seeing our selections for dinner tonight. ;-) The coffee is pretty good but it's a pain to keep asking for it - the cups are tiny. I need a portable espresso machine.
We also got in a nice swim in a local watering hole outside of Rubalcaba. Check the pics for more on that. Es un poco frio.
Sep 6 - We're in the seaside city of San Vincente de la Barquera today. Nice town. We're still working on our Spanish but are surviving pretty well. We've been riding heavy hybrid bikes and yesterday's ride took about three hours to cover 40k of pretty hilly terrain. It was a mucho bonito cyclism though, excellent views of the Northern Spanish coast. Today we'll be heading down to the local beach where I'll be happy to get in some swimming and running. The coffee here is good and strong, it looks like tar when we pour it out of the mug. The hotels provide breakfast which consists of lots of breads and jams, if we're lucky we get cheese and a meat selection. The local Cerveca is San Miguel. The Spanish pronounce the 'c' as 'th' rather than the 's' we're used to in the Americas. Cerveca is properly pronounced 'thervetha,' and gracias is pronounced 'grathias.' Trying to affect a lisp while barely being coherent is a tough sell but I'm getting the hang of it.
Yesterday we had our comida down in the town center and were treated to la Vuelta a Espana zipping by. They went by at about 40k/hr or so. We didn't have the inclination to hunt down a hill to get a better view on. The timing on seeing that was purely luck, it wasn't something we planned. But now we've 'seen' one of the Grand Tours live and up close. The crowd certainly gets excited.
Sep 3 - After a couple days of hectic traveling, we arrived in Santander on the Northern Coast of Spain. But before that, we flew a redeye into London where my old roomie and good buddy Rich Greenwood picked us up and showed us around London. We saw Big Ben, the Tower, had a royal audience with the Queen, and some other shit. None of slept very well on the flight over so it was an early night out. London is quite a sight, lots of old streets and new shops combined with historic architecture and new things all crowded by people, cars, multilevel buses, and bad haircuts. We had dinner at Weatherspoons and called it an evening.
After arriving in Santander, our tour organizer from Iberocycle picked us up and brought us to our starting hotel, which I have to say is quite nice. We're in Santillana del Mar, and staying at the Santillana del Mar Hotel. The city is very old, very quaint, very historic. Just two main cobblestone streets that head towards the old church, which the old town was centered around. Off to the south are the newer houses and all that for the folks who now make their living supporting the shops and restaurants that make a business of the old town. We stay here tomorrow as well then head off to San Vincente, where we'll run into the Vuelta a Espana tour riders and hopefully get to see an exciting moment or two. Purely chance, we didn't plan on that but it's a nice bonus.
Tonight we were able to successfully BS our way through dinner with a waitress that pretended to speak no English but who probably has a PhD in English Lit. I ordered beer, rice, and shrimp in rice without saying any of the three curse words I really do understand.Tomorrow we're staying here and will tour around the beach a bit then head into town for some more shopping and sightseeing and speaking of the no so bueno Espanole.
Sep 1 - We're off to London today/tonight via a redeye, then on to the northern coast of Spain on Sunday for our mini-bike tour. Looks like we may catch a stage finish of the Vuelta, which should be neat. After that we're on to Switzerland and Bavaria, Hungary, Austria, Munchen (Germany) for the real deal Oktoberfest, back to Swiss border, then Holland and Belgium, then back to London and onward home. We'll update as possible with pics and notes. Might be a bit delayed depending on connections. We're really looking forward to it.
Aug 24 - We're back in St. Pete at my father-in-law's shack-out-back. It is good to have a few days to relax and reflect a bit before we head off on our final leg of Trippin06. I had a chance to look through some of the pictures which Bri has been putting up. Wow, it's been quite a year. Thank God we're keeping these logs and taking pictures, my short term memory is pretty lousy. I have trouble remembering what I did last week much less where I was three months ago last Tuesday.
Anyway, it was a great summer of travel. It's been a goal/dream of mine to get out to the West and spend more than a few days looking around. I have to say that if Colorado wasn't so far from the East coast I would have been pushing for a move out there. We may still make that happen someday. Living in NC puts us just a few hours from most of our family and friends, which counts for a lot. Not to mention that Cary is a well designed city with great parks, good jobs, bike-friendly streets, and nice houses that we can afford. Montana was great but it's really friggin cold during the winter and I'm not into suffering inside for three months.
We're off to Europe on Sep 1. These next few days I'm getting my athletes situated with their training as I don't expect internet access to be as easily accessible during our time on the Continent. We'll be there for four weeks. A buddy of mine from New Jersey summed it up when I told him how long we were going for. He looked at me with a laugh in his eye and said, "I've never had a month off, ever." That sort of thing puts my life in perspective.
I'm really happy about the house we bought. I already have a two year plan for building up the cash reserve to acquire our next home and turn the one we just bought into a rental property. The plan involves working more (or smarter, natch), not traveling a lot, and creating net positive cash flow. ;-) There's a lot to be said for a) having a goal, b) making a plan to achieve the goal, and c) achieving it. Things I didn't think were possible or likely a few years ago have just become a matter of asking "how can I get this done?" There's plenty of articles and blogs out there with this simple mantra. Taking it from the page to practice is a little tougher but if a joker like myself can make things happen, imagine what some of you real smart cats can do. Phew, that's all I've got for now.
Aug 21 - The Bahamas was a lot of fun. First time I've gone more than a day without email/phone/work in the past couple years. I haven't forgotten how to relax! We stayed at a very nice but very expensive resort with my Dad, Step-Mom, Sis, and favorite Bro-in-law. It was a grand old time and fun was had by all. Dad won 500 on roulette on our last night. I went up 32 on the sports book and the ponies but then went down 50 in five minutes on the same roulette table. Bri hit a slot for 42 so all in all we're up except for the six dollar beers.
Aug 16 part 2 - Not a bad way to finish our US tour. We are in Savannah GA. Took a short trip down to the Historic District/Waterfront. We found the Moon River Brewery and celebrated our home purchase with a few final microbrews. Not bad. Never been to Savannah before, wish we had more time to explore but time is running out. Heard they have some good triathlon groups here as well.
Last night we went to the Flying Saucer Draught Emporium in Raleigh. They have over 200 different beers available and all sorts of specials. We suspect we'll be spending the occasional evening dining at that fine establishment after our relocation is complete. Tomorrow morning we're back to Orlando to just about complete our circuit of the US.
Aug 16 - Today we're going to the title lawyer's office and handing in the biggest check we've ever cut. Here's a picture of our new home in Cary. Not too shabby, eh? We got a great fixed rate product with the help of our friends Dave and Bill Picciano. Some of you have been to our condo in Orlando, where we lived for the last 4.5 years. This place is newer, nicer, and bigger than the condo, and we're pretty psyched about it. Prior to the condo I lived in a dump and had negative net worth. Turns out that saving more than you spend is a good idea. Who knew?
Aug 13 - Down in Virginia visiting Bri's sister and her hubbie Sean. Jersey was a lot of fun - we watched the South Jersey Lifeguard Championships on Friday night then went to the OCBP Lifeguard reunion on Saturday. Caught up with a lot of old buddies and told lots of stories about the good old days. Also made it out for some fishing in the back bays of AC. Won 8 dollars on poker. I'm going to be joining the world poker tour soon.
Aug 9 - Last night John and Arnold Davenport took us down to South Philly for an authentic Cheese Steak from Geno's. They serve cheesesteaks, cheesefries, and Italian hoagies. That's it. Today we're heading down to Atlantic City to take in the sights and lose our home deposit on the slots. Wish us luck.
Aug 6 - It's been a lot of driving and not much typing for me over the past few days. We had a safe drive across the top of the US, stopping in Teddy Roosevelt Natl Park in North Dakota, then hit Fargo, ND and Beloit, WI. Fargo was nice but it gets colder than the North Pole there during the winter so I don't think we'll be relocating anytime soon. We drove a lot. Chicago is quite a mess to drive through. Take the ferry around and across to Michigan if at all possible. Spent a long weekend with the Campbells up in Niles, right next to South Bend and the Fighting Irish. We planned to check out campus but time didn't permit unfortunately. This morning we drove up to Coldwater, MI to meet my aunt and uncle for a lunch and to catch up on things. Driving across country is a great way to see people you don't see a lot of.
I'm looking forward to spending the next few days in Philly and then South Jersey. Going to catch up with some old friends and have a few cheesesteaks. Might take a trip to the Philly Museum. Definitely will be visiting a casino or two in Atlantic City. Vegas, baby, Vegas!
July 31 - Tonight we're in Glendive, Montana. I'm glad beer is legal here. Man, I try not to diss on small towns, rural America, etc, but I'm starting to understand the whole "Say no to Meth" campaign they've got going on up here in MT. Some of these towns are friggin' boring. The town we're in tonight doesn't have much going on in the way of restaurants, downtowns, nightlife, daylife, moonlife, afterlife, or prolife. It's on the moon. We may as well be in North Canada surrounded by Moose and elk and oil. I joke that if I lived here I'd have to move as soon as possible, but who would know where to go if you grew up in small town USA? You might just wind up at the town pump and making meth in your backyard lab. We'll take a couple pics of the ads they have on that. Hey, if you live in one of these small towns, I'm not dissing it or you, but I'd either become a leader of civic reform or the town bum.
Great Falls had a nice bike trail, if you're ever in the area. Lot of historic Lewis and Clark stuff along the way.
July 30 - We're in Great Falls, Montana right now. A town in between a town and the mountains. Today we went into Glacier National Park and checked out one of the more pedestrian trails, the Avalanche Lake trail. Very nice, scenic, etc, check out the pictures for more details. We caught up with a couple young bucks (besides myself, har har) and took some snaps of them. Man, the US has some beautiful places. You need to get out here and see the mountains, back country, unmarked forest regions, for yourself.
I was going to rant and rave about the possibilities of the Universe but am pretty tired so will just say, dream on.
July 29 pt 2 - We dropped into the Barley's Brewhouse in Kalispell today. Their Whitetail IPA was excellent - beyond excellent for an IPA. Other good brews we had while on tour:
Bayerne Brewery Trout Slayer Ale
Big Sky Brewery Crystal Ale
Alaskan Amber (Alaska?)
Huckleberry and Honey (Barley's)
more when I can remember them
July 29 - We've safely finished our bike tour here in Montana. Now we're going to go check out Glacier National Park up near the Canadian border. I'm looking forward to that.
July 27 - Today we rode from Ennis to the Lewis and Clark Caverns. Lewis and Clark are those intrepid explorers who set out to find a waterway to the Pacific but discovered it wasn't gonna happen and trekked out to Oregon/Washington from Missouri and back. They have a lot of monuments and notes out here as they were the first white men (besides the French, but apparently they don't count in US history books) to discover a lot of the Northwest areas. It was pretty cool. Our tour guide was a bit of a goof but he was entertaining and kind hearted when it's all said and done. I suppose the type of personality it requires to live in a small town and give tour guides in a cavern system would somewhat require a not-so-socially-graceful type to handle the stress. Like I'm some kind of socialite, right?
July 26 - We caught up with another ghost town today. Forgot to talk about the ghost town we saw yesterday. Bannack, Montana was a territorial capital for a couple years out here, full of gold miners and bandits. A beautiful setting but not close to anything. The gold died out a while ago and the town died. So today we went through both Nevada City and Virginia City. Same story. Completely old west.We also forgot to mention riding through the Big Hole Battlefield.
We are having a great time, it is nice to have no real worries except launching off on your bike for the next day's ride. But that's much like what are year has been. Montana is a great state, and the tour company does a nice job of planning out the route and providing support. I think we'll try to take in a few more over the years. Great way to see the country. The US is vast, much bigger than my east coast centric mind could really grasp.
July 25 - The past couple days have been fun. We camped out under the stars last night with 100 of our new closest friends. Camping isn't bad if you don't mind waking up whenever the next camper has to sneeze or take a whiz. It's also not bad if you like crawling in and out of a tent. Just kidding. I sort of enjoyed it, could have done without the squeaky bathroom door that was a few yards from us.
The riding has been nice and the towns pretty cool. Last night we stayed in Jackson and camped at the Jackson Hot Springs. Population 38. The day before we were at Bud and Shirley's in Darby. Population 800. They had everything!
July 22 - Wow, can you believe the miracle kid from Pennsylvania? Floyd's comeback in the tour is amazing. That is why you never say never.
We're on our way to Missoula right now. It's a beautiful country up here. Definitely worth checking out sometime. Hills like white elephants and all that jazz. Purple mountain majesties. Scenic overlooks. Stunning vistas. Farms! Bozeman had some good brews. The Montana Ale Works is the place to go if you're a beer snob. Their Mainline IPA and Organic Pale ale are both very good. The Bozone Amber from the Bozeman Brewing Company is also worth a taste or three. We start the bike tour tomorrow with a 72 mile leg so I don't think we'll be checking out any microbrews tonight. There's a time and place for everything. ;-)
July 20 - Today we took a well needed rest/errand day and caught up on some of the mundane shit in life that we'd all like to pretend doesn't affect us. Things like an oil change. You can't just trip all over the country and expect your vehicle to smile and nod. We also had to pick up some camping gear. We'll be spending a night or two under the stars up in Montana and ya don't want to do that without at least a sleeping bag and some bug spray. Our time in Cody is coming to a close but I'm happy to recommend this town to any intrepid soul that has the balls or audacity to quit their job and head west, young man. Why are you sitting there wasting your life waiting for some angry middle manager to give you a 3% raise? Get the f--- out while you can, bud. Life happens fast. You've got to stop and look around once in a while, or you might miss it.
I sense an opportunity to rant. Free yourself. Free your mind. There's no reason you have to do anything you don't want to. If you're reading this then in all likliehood you live in a free society which has granted you the ability to make the most of your talent, dreams, and prespiration. You want to go be a model? Go for it. Want to be a poet? Go write. Want to study quantum physics? Quarks off to you, buddy. Take your chances. Make your move. Don't sit there and whine about how lucky I am, or the other guy is. Create your own opportunity. Live your dream. At the end of the road the only thing you'll have are your memories and the best wishes of your friends. Everything else is a phantom.
They say a particle of light can't be pinned down until observed and even then they're not sure where it is. Translation = anything is possible depending on how you look at it.
July 19 - Missed a couple days, we've been on the road. On Monday we went for a nice run on the Boulder Creek Path, then cooled our legs in the ice cold stream afterwards. Ouch. Then we drove up to Fort Collins and paid a visit to the New Belgium Brewery. They have a limited run Witticism Wheat or something like that which is completely organic and very tasty. Unfortunately they're not selling it in bottles. The 1554 and the Blue Paddle are also very tasty.
After that we met up with a couple of old friends of Brianne's in downtown Fort Collins. David and Gina used to live in Orlando but relocated back in the 90s for quality of life and to raise a family in a better area. Fort Collins, if you didn't know, was voted the #1 small town to live in by Money Magazine a few days ago. (Side note: Cary, NC, our new home, was voted #5). We had a good time meeting them and their cute kids. The downtown area is very nice. Lots of shops, restaurants, and ice cream shops. After dinner we drove up to Cheyenne, Wyoming.
Our luck was that we had booked a hotel with a view of the train tracks. One tooted by every 2 hours or so, leading to an excellent night of sleep. When we got up we found a greeneway and got in a very pleasant 25 mile ride through the town of Cheyenne. We loaded up and took off to Dubois, WY after breakfast. Dubois is a town of about 1,000 with a western theme near the eastern entrance to the Grand Teton National Park. We'd picked Dubois off the map with no expectations but it turned out to be pretty nice.
This morning we drove into Grand Teton and went for an excellent run-hike around Lake Jenny, at the foot of the Le Grand Tetons (that's French for 3 Great Big Boobies). They are very impressive, I must say. Right now we're back in the car about to drive through Yellowstone on the way to our next stop, Cody, Wyoming. Named for Buffalo Bill Cody. They have a rodeo every night during the summer. We're totally going.
Updated might be few and far between due to very low coverage and not much in the way of wifi hotspots.
July 16 - Today I had the pleasure of watching my favorite lady have another good race down in Aurora, CO. I snuck in a long run while she competed. Later in the day (after a nap and a bunch of coffee), I tackled Flagstaff road, which is right out our door here at the Chataq-however you spell it inn. Straight into the mountains, baby. I'd like to know how much elevation I gained, let's just say it was a lot. I went up for 35 minutes then had to call it as the grade kicked into high gear after a double switchback, and I don't have a granny gear. I only stopped once to pant for breath. On the way down I only stopped once to shake with fear. Very fun. This is why folks who live in the mountains kick ass at races. They're forced to train like animals. After that I went down to the Boulder Creek Path and toodled around while people played in their innertubes. This is a very fun city for outdoorsy types.
Tomorrow we're out of Boulder and onto Cheyenne, Wyoming via Fort Collins. Don't know much about any of these towns other than they're on the front range and we've never been there. Oh yeah, The New Belgium Brewery is in Ft Collins.
July 14 - We are hangin' in the Republic of Boulder right now, a world unto itself. Words don't describe what this little town on the front range of the Rockies is like. Imagine a bunch of mountain bikers, road cyclists, hard core runners, triathletes, hippies, wealthy college students, wealthy retired folks, poets, writers, zensunni wanderers, a few brewmeisters, a couple average joes, and an assortment of everything else. Now imagine giving them control of the town. Welcome to Boulder.
we visited the Boulder Brewery tonight, keeping in tradition with our theme of bikes and beer. They have a nice little setup. If you ever make it to town and enjoy good brew, check it out. The food was exceptional for a brewpub.
July 13 - Today we drove up Pikes Peak. It was totally freaky. I thought we were going to get blown off the mountain a couple times. Then I thought we'd run out of gas and have to live on wildflowers and tundra dirt. Fortunately we made it back down. The views were pretty awesome. But then anything viewed while going through oxygen narcosis would be pretty cool.
July 12 - Today we went to the Garden of the Gods and met Lyle Loveland (?) from Manitou Springs/Phoenix. Lyle is a 74 year old who has pretty much been there and done that. He did IM Hawaii in the 80s when he was 56. He's done 61 marathons including Pikes Peak (which is horribly tough). He's crossed the US on his bike 3 times, once going east to west which is generally considered tougher due to the winds. He was impressed with our Florida "Share the Road" license plate and we had a great chat. While we were talking Lyle's wife (same age) took off on her morning run. Lyle then went for a walk through the park. Bri and I had a great ride doing a couple loops. The running in this park looks phenomenal. We'll have to come back sometime.
Tomorrow we're off to Boulder where we're staying at the Chataqua Lodge, recommended to us by Taylor and Martha Dudley of FL (the Studleys). I'm doing a aquathon tomorrow night. Good fun.
July 11 - We're in Colorado Springs. Very scenic. Going to ride in the Garden of the Gods Park tomorrow morning, I hear it is very nice but have never been. We'll probably wind up checking out Pikes Peak on Thursday. Tonight we went to the The Phantom Canyon Brewery in downtown Colorado Springs. They have good beer but the food is way overpriced. After that we walked over to the Thirsty Parrot. As you could imagine with a name like the Thirsty Parrot, it was a bit more relaxed. I have had my last plate of chicken wings for several weeks. They didn't serve them in Australia and I held off until after USAT nationals.
July 8 - So the most exciting thing we've found here in Kansas is the Boulevard Brewery. We'd go visit it but they don't have a brewpub, just a brewery, no Sunday tours. I sampled one of their Unfiltered Wheat beers a couple days ago, it was pretty good for the middle of Kansas. I hear they also have a football team and a baseball team out here. The city needs some revitalization, there is quite a bit of urban blight surrounding the downtown area. We also found a pretty good burger joint: Fred P Otts down on 11th and Main. Great burgers!
July 6 - 487 miles today, not bad at all. Pretty much a straight shot from Indiana to Kansas City. Can't say I'm impressed with what we've seen of the city so far. BTW, I may not be a master of basketball trivia, but I shit roses.
July 5 - Covered 593 miles in about 10.5 hours today, not bad for us. We're in Corydon, Indiana right now. I'm not sure what else to say.
July 4 - We bought a house! It's in Cary, 4.6 miles down the road from the entrance to Umstead State Park and less than 1m to Bond Metro Park. I might put up a link to the online pics if enough people ask about it. We are very happy with the location, size, acreage, and price.
July 3 - House hunting in Raleigh/Cary. Some nice places. The riding will be very relaxing around here.
Jun 30 - We are back in St Pete after another tour de Florida. Had a good time catching up with family and friends the past few days. Tomorrow we're off to North Carolina where we'll be viewing a few homes in Cary and Raleigh. The internet has made it possible to have a very good idea of what you're looking at before you even show up. We were originally going to look at townhomes but after some discussions we've decided to get a house. In the area we're looking at we'll be able to afford both a house and a backyard without having to go upside down inside out on the mortgage. We'll have a housewarming party sometime later this year. Watch for your invitations. ;-)
Jun 22 - Nothing new to report. We're off to Miami tomorrow to do some bass fishing with my dad on Saturday, then jump in the Key Biscayne sprint triathlon on Sunday. This week has gone quick. We rented Lord of War and some other movie which was entertaining but I've already forgotten the name. My sister-in-law Heather is here with her two precocious children, the younger of whom is my Goddaughter. Hopefully she doesn't puke on me.
Jun 15 - We're currently in a well needed holding pattern here in St. Pete. Have a nice routine going and catching up on things that have been pushed off repeatedly. Like haircuts and health insurance. We've also taken the opportunity to due a bit more homework on our planned future home in or around Raleigh. Our search area is centered on Umstead State Park, which is a pretty big MTB/trail park on the northwest side of Raleigh/north of Cary. After seven years of living in Orlando where the nearest parks were 45 minutes away, I need a good trail system near my house. Cary is looking pretty attractive for a number of reasons, one of them being reasonable home prices and a good location. We are doing another Florida tour next week (Miami-Orlando-St Pete) then head off to Kansas City via Raleigh at the beginning of July.
Last night we swam with the St. Pete Mad Dogs out at Pass-A-Grille Beach. The water was pretty calm having just had a storm blow through. Good barbeque and a couple beers after. Not a bad way to spend an evening.
Jun 10 - Miami's not as bad as I made it out to be yesterday. It's just not a bike and run friendly city, at this point in life these things are very important to me. We did get a nice swim in at the FIU North campus on Biscayne Bay. Today is going to be "catchup on work" day.
Jun 9 - Orlando - Miami - St Pete in 3 days. A whirlwind tour. Miami is bloody hot. Baking concrete everywhere. Get me out of here.
Jun 6 - Today is 06/06/06. The sky is falling.
Been running around quite a bit the last few days. We are definitely living the vagabond lifestyle right now. I packed so light that Bri had to go buy me some shorts and shirts to wear. This summary fails to mention what we'll only refer to as the "the great underwear debate." Life is good.
Jun 2 - A fitting return to sunny FL. Right now we're stuck in a rush hour traffic jam on the bridge from St Pete to Tampa. I can do without these! Last night we were finally able to get a good night's sleep. The night before that I slept from 12 to 1 then wasn't able to get back to sleep. Bri got about 3 hours. Yesterday was booked solid so no rest for the weary. Today I'm meetiing one of my athletes then going to dinner with my sis, mom, and bro-in-law. Tomorrow we have the clinic. Not much sitting around since getting back to the State.
May 31 - All in all we booked 31 hrs and a bit on our door to door migration from down under to the Sunshine State. Feeling a bit woozy but should be OK shortly. Don't ask me any complicated questions though.
May 30 - Been traveling more than 24 hrs now. LAX was a nightmare! In Ohare, all flights delayed from fog and winds. Be back in FL by 11:30PM May 30. What a long strange trip it's been.
May 28 - Dunedin was a good time, we scored another brewery tour with a visit to the Speight's Brewery. They make some tasty stuff, their signature Gold Medal Ale is top notch. Worth a visit if you're ever in the Southern Hemisphere. We also checked out the Cadbury chocolate factory. Bri was a bit more excited about this one, but to be honest I also enjoyed it. We wandered around downtown like tourists on vacation, taking pictures of nothing in particular. Good times. Then it was back on the road to Christchurch...where we finished our tour with an evening at none other than's Speight's Ale House. You see, Speight's makes a really tasty chocolate ale. Bri and Shana have found their beer.
We're back in Collaroy after a delayed takeoff due to fog in Christchurch early this morning. John, Bron, Jeff, Louise and Simon got together to see us off with a final brekkie together. We fly back to FL on the 30th (also arriving on the 30th). Our time here has quickly come to an end. I'd like to write something profound like I found my lost soul or discovered the secret to zensunni happiness or have heard the sound of one hand clapping. Maybe I have. Maybe location doesn't matter. As the Aussie bloke Micheal Hutchins once wrote, "Welcome to wherever you are." Maybe we're all just a step away from where we want to be. Maybe you're there now. Instead I'll say it's been real, and it's been a hell of a lot of fun. If you ever have the means and the opportunity, I highly recommend quitting your job and traveling. It is so choice.
May 26 - We're currently on Highway 8 heading over to Dunedin. Dunedin, if you didn't know, was founded by Scottish settlers and is Celtic for 'Edinburgh.' We got an early start this morning with another cold run in the rain. Makes you strong like Conan. We also filled out a few postcards with pictures of us in various states of unadulterated terror during our mad freefall yesterday. It's not the cheapest way to celebrate life, but what an unforgettable minute. Good stuff. Bri and I were both impressed by the company's flyer. I was doubly impressed that the flyer included Frank Herbert's "Litany against Fear," which was made famous among scifi geeks like myself by the Dune series.
Today's highlights will include a tour of Speight's Brewery in Dunedin and some general touristy site-seeing. The city has about 110,000 folks and is famous for its architecture. Right now I am looking at hill after hill of green pastures and sheep. Bah bah.
A bit of a summary on Queenstown - basically the adventure/thrill capital of NZ. It is near a lot of ski slopes, is the home of AJ Hackett bungy jumping, lots of bushwalks/nature trails (multi-day), has about 9,000 year round residents, many of whom are dreadlocked adrenaline junkies, and a fun downtown area. Worth a visit if you ever get the chance.
May 25 - Happy Birthday, Bri! First let me tell you about yesterday. We started in Franz Josef town, the tourist centered town that people base out of in order to go visit the nearby Glacier. Bri and I went for a short, painful run in the cold rain then we all went for some brekkie in town. The day cleared up and we were lucky to have a picture perfect visit with the Glacier. The Glacier is a bunch of compacted snow that is slowly making its way down a crevasse. It used to cover the entire valley floor but is bigger than it was in the 1970s. Very neat to see. After the glacier we jumped back on Highway 6 for another long but scenic drive to Queenstown. Last night we went out and visited the Dux Lux Brewery, which makes several varieties of tasty beer. The ginger beer tasted like sprite with pee in it though. Then we hit the hay.
Today, May 25, was Bri's 27th birthday. We got up early, went for another painful jog, then called the Nzone skydiving company. They had two spots open on their 12:30 trip. We were in! Yep, we both jumped out of a perfectly good plane today. Rather, we seated ourselves on the edge and then our tandem master pushed us out. The weather was nice, just a bit chilly - there was high level cloud cover but we jumped under the clouds - our jump altitude was 12,000 feet with about 40 seconds of freefall time. Amazing. We sucked it up and bought the photos and DVD as well. Neither of us got too freaked out on the way up (or down, either). Not something we're going to do every day so what the heck. I will say that I am totally for going skydiving again. NZ is a beautiful country, viewed from the open sky during free fall defies mere words. It was amazing. Stupendous. Like communing with God for a brief moment in time.
May 23 - Many screaming Kiwis have made it known that Monteith's isn't brewed in Christchurch. It's brewed somewhere on the West Coast. Coincidentally, this also happens to be where we're now located. Today we drove from Christchurch to Franz Josef via Athur's Pass (the middle of the country) on highway 73. It took more than 6 hours. Time passed quickly as it was also one of the most scenic drives I've ever been on. The rain and clouds broke somewhere in the mountainous central region and we were treated to some of the natural wonders that make New Zealand world reknowned for it's beauty. I could go on and on about the views, let's summarize and say, "wow, totally killer, man."
Tomorrow morning we're off to check out Franz Josef Glacier. The glacier is an ice flow originating from the Southern Alps and was named after the Emporer of Austria in the 1860s by the man who discovered it, whose name escapes me. This should serve as a lesson to all would-be explorers out there: if you discover something new and interesting unknown to the modern world, name it after yourself.
It an interesting twist of space and time, we also ran into Scott Molina at the pool my wife picked off a pool-finder a few days ago. He is looking fit and happy as usual.
New beers we've checked today: Monteith's Dark (tasty, slightly chocy), Mac's Gold (light lager, easy drinking), and something else I can't quite recall just now, it had bubbles and tasted good.
May 22 - We've made it to New Zealand. It's a pretty place. Pretty cold and rainy. We're here in the off-season, known as the rainy season, also known as the why are you here now season. Snow season starts up in 3 weeks. Summer ended a while ago. So I'm going on a beer tour. Much to my surprise, NZ doesn't share the same home brews as Australia. Who knew. I haven't figured out just what is the national beer just yet. But what we did sample today:
There are a number more I will need to work through in short time to bring you a full review of what NZ can offer all you other beer-loving afficianados. Apparently they have good wine out here, too, but I ain't swillin' the grape on this go-round.
We're off to Franz Josef Glacier or something like that tomorrow, it's going to be a 6 hour drive across the middle of the island, which is filled with fjords, mountains, and other cool things.
May 21 - I ran a 1.28 today, not bad. It's funny what you can start to take for granted on travel. Oh, look, the Opera House. Run run. Botanical Gardens. Run run. Harbour bridge. Run run. John Howard. Yawn. We're off to New Zealand tomorrow. Really looking forward to exploring this part of the world. Our itinerary will take us to Christchurch, Franz Josef Glacier, Queenstown, and Dunedin. This is about as much as you can fit into 6 days and requires a bit of driving. Next time we'll go for several weeks. Already planning that, ya know.
May 20 - Today for the first time in a long while I did just about zilch. A bit of work but other than that I sat around and ate a lot. A full rest day. Tomorrow's half-marathon should be enough exercise for the weekend.
May 19 - We're heading out to the Rocks for another evening of fun with the lads and lassies. After that we're laying low for the weekend as the Sydney Half Marathon is right around the corner. The weather is expected to be pleasant. I'm looking forward to it. After that we're off for a week of touring in New Zealand. Gonna be a bit chilly there but quite a site nonetheless.
May 18 - We all hired on for a discounted tour of some of the natural wonders of the Cairns area today. Great sites. The company name was Turtle Tours, the fella's website might be 'Cairnsstudenttours.com' but we're not positive. We checked out the Barren Gorge, a few beaches, the rainforest and a couple waterfalls, and some fisherman named Dougie.
May 17 - Yesterday we took a catamaron out to Upolu Cay, a little sliver of the Great Barrier Reef within striking distance of Cairns in North Queensland. Today we're going to wander around town and buy touristy junk to bring home. The weather is very similar to Florida, fairly hot and humid. Queensland is also known as the Sunshine State. Fitting. We'll put some pics of later.
May 15 -
Happy Anniversary Bri, my lovely wife whom I worship and adore!
Hanging out with you is wonderful, me truest, me amore!
Wherever you may wander, I'll follow like a puppy,
Panting and drooling, too, cuz I'm a little messy!
Two years have gone so fast, good times have they all been,
Rhyming just like Yoda, my heart in love is in!
So my present Bri is this, a public infatuation,
If fools are made by love, then a fool is what I is.
May 14 - Happy Mother's day, Mom! And all you other mothers out there as well. Word to your mother, is what I'm saying. We're off to Cairns tomorrow to check out the Great Barrier Reef and have a bit of fun. It's supposed to be nice. Hopefully they don't leave us stranded at sea like the unlucky couple featured in the movie Open Water. On that note, see you in a few days! Or maybe not.
May 10 - So here down under they have a shadow minister for every cabinet minister in the government. For instance, there's the Prime Minister John Howard from the Liberal party, and there's a shadow minister, Kim Beasley, from the (Opposition) Labor party. Down here Labor and Liberal don't mean what they sound like. Liberal is somewhat analogous to our more moderate Republican party, while Labor is more like a left-leaning Democratic party. There are areas where they don't line up though so trying to apply our US-centric titles to their parties is not useful. Suffice it to say, it's entertaining watching the news. Every time one of the majority party ministers does something or makes a statement, the press also grabs a statement from the opposition party's shadow minister...shadow minister of superannuation and intergenerational finance, banking, and financial services, shadow prime minister, shadow minister of the interior, shadow of the shadowy Royal secret Australian defense force, etc. Here's a recent example:
Australian Treasurer: We've had another 10 billion dollar budget surplus, and so, we are going to reduce taxes across the board. Everyone gets a tax break - the poor, the rich, families, absolutely everyone. Our top rate has dropped from 47% to 45%. (True.) It's a great day for Australia.
Shadow Australian Treasurer: This is a bloody slap in the face to the working middle class. That man is a bloody moron and has had too many pints. Bloody idiot.
Another thing I haven't quite figured out yet is the "Superannuation funds" they have here. Essentially all Aussies with jobs are mandated to put in a percentage of their earnings into a retirement fund, and employers are mandated to match some of it. The kicker is that they don't have low cost index funds, everything is managed and the managers get 1.5-2.5% percent, which is a buttload of your money. I could be wrong on this one though. However, you might be interested to know that Aussies are considered to have some of the highest net retirement savings in the first world. Maybe there is something to mandatory retirement funding.
By the way, all our local pools are cold as hell, I'm wearing a wetsuit for our next workout. My wife has been outlasting me lately.
May 7 - It's been a quiet week here. We had a fun weekend, went down to the Rocks on Friday night then had a dinner party on Saturday. I must be old, I said dinner party. The Rocks is part of the original settlement of Sydney, we started in a pub/hotel that was built in 1828. The clientele were also built in 1828. We finished in another pub/hotel that was built in 1845. Lots of fun.
I've taken to waxing philosophical while riding lately. 10+ hrs a week on the bike can do that to a person. I don't think about anything specific, it might involve stars, clouds, market penetration, and cash flows. You know how difficult it is for a little guy to invest directly in a foreign stock unless it has an ADR? Then you've got to wonder if it's really time to aggressively short the dollar, but our market surges upward. Do you stick it with BRK and the Oracle and hope for the best? And you wonder if gold can bust through the 1k mark? Is there still upside potential in the energy sector? Are high oil prices here to stay? Are REITs due for a downward cycle? Do you follow the crowd or go the other way? What is your risk tolerance? Are there aliens out there wondering the same thing about the Beezlebobble Stock Exchange? I could go on.
May 2 - Like my Bri says, time flies. It has been a fantastic experience hanging out here in Collaroy, NSW. Part of what has been so great about our time down under has been the simplicity of our lifestyle. We don't have a car. We don't stress about career advancement, office politics, and yearly performance reviews. We don't play keeping up with the Joneses. We just hang out and do our little thing from home. Life is great. There are 12 restaurants within a five minute walk; 1 big pub; 2 small grocery stores; a barber; a pharmacy; a newstand; 3 surf shops; 1 liquor store; 1 dog grooming service (don't ask); 1 excellent running/walking trail; 3 excellent beaches; a 9 hole golf course; 1 25 meter pool; 1 50 meter ocean pool; and lots of happy people. The city is a 40 minute bus ride and Manly (world famous Corso and all) is just a 15 minute bus ride. we can ride our bikes out the front door. What else does a person need in life? We hope to find something similar in our future home, wherever it may be.
Apr 30 - The continental US is 3.7 million square miles land mass. Australia is 2.9 million. It is a big country. The population density is the lowest among developed nations at something like 2 people per square kilometer. It has 16,000 miles of coastline. One four month trip isn't enough time to see everything. Did I tell you my surfboard broke?
Apr 29 - My 'Redback' styrofoam surfboard has ridden its last ride. A freak wave and a sandbar have contributed to its untimely demise.
Apr 26 pt 2 - Oh yeah, Anzac day yesterday was a blast. We all played two-up and drank lots of beer. I lost 15 bucks and Bri won 10. Hung out at our local RSL in Dee Why. RSL stands for retired serviceman's league, sort of like a VFW but much more developed and catering to the public. This place had four levels of bars, restaurants, pokies, and bowling. Cheap drinks and food. I'm going to get a 10 year membership.
Apr 26 - We've been doing some analysis on our summer travel plans. We're out of the Southern Hemisphere at the end of May and back to the States. Traveling Australia has been a good time and well worth the expense. I would strongly encourage everyone back home to get down here for a trip or two. However, due to the rising costs of gas in the US and my insatiable appetite for pizza, we've decided to slightly downgrade our North American adventures. Instead of criss-crossing the country all summer as originally planned, we'll be spending June in and around St. Pete and Orlando. In July we'll drive to Kansas City for USAT Nationals. Then we'll spend two weeks in and around Colorado and some of National Parks. Then our summer highlight: a weeklong bike and camping tour of Montana. That should be neat. After that we'll head over to Michigan for the Steelhead Half-IM (70.3). Then we'll hit the Jersey Shore, North Carolina, pitstop in the northern GA mountains for some epic style riding, then head back to Fl. My analysis revealed it would actually be cheaper to drive to the midwest and stay in hotels rather than fly to Nationals, fly home, then fly back for the Montana bike tour. Training around Boulder for a week or two can't be so bad, eh?
The big dilemna we're looking at now is whether or not to do the World Champs in Switzerland (provided we qualify). Between the race entry, uniform requirements, and flights to anywhere Swiss, it would be cheaper to fly to Ireland or Belgium and do a week long bike tour. As an athlete and coach I think it would be good to race at this event and be part of Team USA, but as a normal guy on a budget I have to wonder if such an investment is worth any future possible return. It would be great if I won or placed but what's my chance of that? Top twenty is pretty meaningless.
Anyway, we'll be visiting Europe in 2006 one way or the other, definitely attending Oktoberfest in Munich and visiting my family in Hungary. Exactly when is still up for grabs.
Apr 24 - Back to our routine here on the Northern Beaches of Sydney. The weather has gotten cooler since it is now fall down under. It's very pleasant. We're spending the next three weeks hunkering down and getting some quality triathlon training in. In the latter half of May we're taking more trips. I don't have much to add today. Traveling is nice but routine is also nice. Wow, that was deep. Somebody stop me.
Apr 21 - Our last two days on the Great Ocean Road were a bit wet but still some good sight-seeing. We got a look at the famous 12 Apostles, cliffside formations outside of Port Campbell. I really wanted to do another bike ride on the GOR but the weather was really lousy, about 45 degrees, windy, and blowing rain in from the side. We skipped it. Port Campbell was a tiny town, just a few shops and three hotels. Nice beach though.
Yesterday we drove from Port Campbell to Albury, which turned out to be a good stopping point. Albury has a bike/walking path that runs from the center of town along a river up to a pub about 35 kilometers away. We ran a few K on it when we arrived then had a nice Italian din din. I was psyched, anticipating an early ride along this excellent paved path. Unfortunately, when we got up at 6AM it was once again pissing down rain, windy, and cold. We did a short run and had brekkie instead.
All in all, it was a great trip within a trip. We both really liked Lorne, could have done with another night there and skipped Port Campbell. My one complaint is that hotel jumping like we did makes it a bit tough to keep up with the healthy diet we've adopted. I ate way too many chips (freedom fries) and am giving those up again. At a lot of cafes here if you order chips they give you a two pound bag of the damn things.
Apr 19 - The past couple days have been nice. On Monday we stayed in Lorne, which is about 60k away from Geelong. It is very much a resort town, with an entertaining downtown area. Our hotel was right on the water which is always pleasant. We rode from Lorne almost to Apollo Bay, then turned around. This is one of the more scenic parts of the GOR, after Apollo Bay it turns inland and cuts through some rain forests and farmland areas. On Tuesday, we stayed in Apollo Bay, another cute seaside town with nothing to do but eat, drink, and relax on the beach. In Apollo Bay we ran around a bit this morning but didn't take any pictures. Ah well. After a big brekkie and packing our stuff up, we jumped back on the GOR for the drive to Port Campbell, where we are now. We detoured a bit to check out the Triplet Falls, a very enjoyable walk through the rainforest to a scenic waterfall. With all the talk of the outback and deserts and what not you would think that Australia is a big dustbowl, but they've been keeping this part of it a secret. Very lush and tropical. On our way into Port Campbell we passed the 12 Apostles, but didn't stop as it has been raining buckets today. Tomorrow we'll hope to check those out then start the long drive back towards Sydney. We're hoping to stop in Canberra, the Aussie capital city, but reviews have said we may not be missing much if we skip it. Ciao for now.
Apr 17 - We made it to the triathlon yesterday despite the freezing cold weather. Had a decent race as well. Afterwards we caught some brekkie then hung out and watched the pro races. Anytime you think you're fast you should go watch these guys and gals slug it out. Watching some guy run a 30 minute 10k without breathing hard is something else. Pete Robertson is a three time world champ, pretty cool to watch him deck it out with an up and comer (who also won the Commonwealth Games).
After the excitement we headed back to our hotel for a rest then went out and found a little restaurant by chance. Good food. Then we packed it in for the night. This morning we got up bright and early to do a bit of work and then get a little swim in. Then we headed down M100, which is also the Great Ocean Road. Our route took us from Geelong through Torquay and Angelsea, ending in Lorne. For anyone interested, you could bike the entire way from Geelong, there are good shoulders from Geelong to Torquay. Some of the GOR (past Torquay) doesn't have great shoulders but it is a pretty safe ride. We drove for now. We pit stopped in Torquay to visit the Rip Curl shop, there's a pro surf tournament going on at Bells Beach (nearby), but it is suspended for a couple days due to small waves.
Anyway, In Lorne we're staying right on GOR across the street from a big park and the ocean. Pretty neat resort/vacation destination. There's a lot of holiday traffic today so we're going to do a short run then ride long tomorrow and Wednesday. That's all for now.
Apr 15 - Normally I look forward to a triathlon if for no other reason I'll get a good workout surrounded by some like-minded people. But I'm afraid to say I'm not exactly excited about tomorrow. The water temp has dropped to 59 degrees, and the weather forecast is mid 50s. Today it's been windy and rainy to boot. If it's sunny and calm winds I'll be OK, otherwise I'll be joining Bri for the world's longest "T1" while we get decked out in all sorts of gear. I may try to put on jeans and a sweater. Wish me luck.
Apr 14 - We have been jokingly calling ourselves retirees lately. We've been trending towards 5PM dinners and 9PM bedtimes. It's 8:30 here in Melbourne and Bri has called it a night. I'm doing a bit of catchup and then will follow her down. By the time we get back Stateside I suspect we'll be eating dinner at 4 and calling anyone under 25 a young whippersnapper. Kids these days, you know?
Anyway - happy birthday, Shana. So we got up this AM and had a nice in-room brekkie down in Eden. Will put up some nice pictures. Then we went for an exploratory bike ride that took in all of Eden. It lasted about 30 minutes with multiple loops. Eden is very cute, it has a couple main attractions. The first is the fishing, it is apparently quite good in these parts. There is a wharf with a good restaurant and excellent views. The next attraction is the killer whale museum. You have to see it to believe it. From the 1880s Eden was primarily a whaling town. Some of the aborigines worked among the whaling crews, and of course the aborigines were friends with some of the local orcas (killer whales). One day in the 1910s a local pack of killer whales decided to start helping out the whalers by cornering whales in the harbor. Then the leader of the orca pack, Old Tom, would swim to the wharf and splash around until the crews followed him to where the whale was penned in by his pack. The crew would dispatch the whale then leave it for the orcas to nibble on the lips and tongue (orca delicacies, do ya' ken). Big Tom would sometimes get so excited he would actually tow the whaling crew to the site. Other times he or his pack would help the crew fight the already harpooned whale. Amazing stuff, they have all this documented. Anwyay, in 1931 Big Tom passed away and was found in the harbour, he'd come home to die. They decided to keep his bones and put them on display. The orca pack never came back, and whaling, which was already on the decline, ended in this area. It was eventually outlawed in 1946. Voila, fast forward several decades...and Bri and Marty get to tell you the story of Big Tom. If you ever feel like seeing a little piece of history that makes you go, hmmmm, check it out. Eden, NSW.
So, after our visit with Big Tom we jumped back on Highway 1 for the drive into Melbourne. We stopped for a scenic lunch in Lakes Entrance. Bri sang songs and read me poetry while I drove. Driving in Australia isn't too bad once you get used to the whole wrong side of the road thing. What makes me a little bit ornery is the frequent speed limit changes that seem to spring up for no reason. It'll be 110(k) for a stretch, then drop to 70 with a kangaroo sign, then go to 85, then 65 around a bend, then back to 100 with a passing lane uphill, then 75, then 50 through town, then 80, then 100, then 60 with a picture of a wombat. It begs the question, What team of laughing convicts designed this highway, or more importantly, are running the department of transportation?
Tonight we're staying in St. Kilda, which is a suburb of Melbourne. We are actually in a motel that is above and in between a bunch of shops and clubs, if we weren't a boring old married couple we'd probably be downstairs boogying up a storm. Did I just say boogie? Groovin, I meant.
Apr 13 - OK, a little bit of a culture update. Easter down under is a big deal, sort of like Christmas is for us in the Northern Hemisphere. The kids all get out for a couple weeks and things close down. Folks go on holiday and walkabout. Just so you know.
We left the Sydney area this morning around 11AM and beat most of the traffic. We took the Prince's Highway (Highway 1) from our place in Collaroy and headed south, ending in a little town called Eden, which is on the Sapphire Coast. We decided to take the long way around to Melbourne in order to catch some of the nicer sites along the coast.The drive took around 7 hrs, it is a lot of 2-lane and goes through many picturesque little coastal towns (population 1900, population 6,800, etc). Every town has a very nice hotel, regardless of the town size. A hotel here may or may not have rooms for rent, but what it does have for sure is beer, food, and pokies. I suppose that's why even the smallest town hotel is in pretty good shape, the pokies (slot machines and some sports books). Anyway, we stopped for dinner in a town called Narooma, about 300k from Sydney. The O'Brien's Hotel boasted a million dollar view, so we decided to go have a look. Very nice.
Another picturesque view from Bulli, about 100k from Sydney (up soon). This place had a lovely little restaurant called the Cliffside Cafe. We sat down to have lunch but bolted when we saw the $25 sandwich prices. It was a nice view though.
Eden has a killer whale museum that we're probably going to check out tomorrow morning. We're hoping for a short AM bike ride but not sure of what routes might be safe. Highway 1 is not my first choice. After that and a bit of brekkie (pronounced brek-ee), we're back on the road for the ride up to Melbourne. Melbourne recently hosted the Commonwealth Games, if you haven't been paying attention to all things Australian.
Apr 10 - I didn't go out yesterday but made it out for some fun this morning. A few pictures from yesterday are up on the pic site.
Apr 9 - Biggest surf in 30 years!
Apr 8 - The surf really took off again today, unfortunately I spent most of the day typing away on the PC. Went for a short evening run around Long Reef and had to stop several times to admire the view and waves. Where we live is within a couple minutes jog of several surf spots. There is Collaroy Beach directly to the north, which generally has smaller waves but a nice right break when the swell hits. A bit to the south is a sheltered part of Collaroy which is normally flat, except when the big waves come in, it gets really big and breaks in several spots and several directions. I stopped today because it was double-triple overhead and there were about five brave souls out there. When a wave like that breaks it's like a two story tall wall of water coming at you, even duck diving under can give you the shits, let alone dropping down the face. Then around the other side of Long Reef Point (the cliff) I got to watch Long Reef going off. There is a third break out there I've been looking at whenever the waves get big, wondering why no one was out there. Today I figured it out. There were two guys on jet skis pulling a couple of very brave souls onto the break. I was on top of the cliff with an excellent view. It had to be a 15 foot wave. Gigantic stuff. Inside there were a few more guys on the second break and a few more intrepid souls on the inside. I'm going to go out in the AM and pray for friendly surf. Of course, I did not have a camera, tomorrow it will probably be lake flat again.
Apr 7 - The water has gotten chilly quickly down here. Swam without a wetsuit in the ocean pool a couple days ago and was shivering for an hour after. The Aussies have no problem getting in, which I reckon is because they're mad. Not much else going on right now, Bri has been organizing our next tour which will take us over to the state of Victoria. The Great Ocean Road is supposed to be quite a sight, I am really looking forward to that. The surf is still decent so I'm going to get back out tomorrow for a bit if it works out.
Apr 3 - Today was nice and relaxing. Bri got up early and then dragged me out of bed at 6AM because she was bored and wanted somebody to play with. We went for a run down through Long Reef then I cooked her a scrumptious breakfast. I'm telling lots of porkies tonight. Then we sat around and basked in each other's company, it is nice to have my wife and best friend back in town. Later on we went down to Collaroy beach and Bri got to watch me wipe out on a bunch of waves. Actually I did OK but managed to hurt myself standing up. Boy, I'm getting old. Pulled something or other so will not be doing any intense training for a couple. The waves were still pretty decent size and I caught a couple fairly solid rides. Good waves, there's some Bitter in the fridge, Bob's your uncle.
Apr 2 - Bri took a 5hr nap yesterday to sleep off her jet lag, then we went out with John and Bron Bates to celebrate John's 14th 22nd birthday. Went down to Dee Why Beach, where they have a load of trendy restaurants and what not. This morning we both got up bright and early and decided to ride our bikes down to Manly where I would jump into this 2.8k swim. It was cold out. Brrr! Fall has arrived in Sydney and with it some chilly temps. Fortunately the water was pretty warm and I enjoyed a good effort. Caught one wave on the way in to pass a couple people from the pack I'd been swimming with. My time was still around six minutes off the winners which makes me feel old, slow, and fat, but then I realize I'm pretty content so what the hell. Afterwards we biked up to Church Point and back. Later on we're going down to Manly for some drinks with friends. All in all a nice Sunday down under.
Apr 1 - Bri has returned! Hark! Hark! Bow unter her! For she is Bri, the mighty, Bri, my goddess! All hail the Bri! She is sleeping off the effects of a 26hr plane flight right now. Shhhhh.
Mar 31 - Another lazy day waiting around for my wife to come home. Went for a long ride up through the Kur-Rin-Gai national park, down into Akuna Bay and then out to West Head. Nothing but trees and kangaroos up there. When Bri gets back we'll take some pictures of the views. Akuna Bay is a harbor with a bunch of nice boats whose wealthy owners use them once every few months. Also has a good shop where I've been picking up a meat pie of some sort as a break. Have I gone on about meat pies yet? They're all the rage here. Oh, I'll have a chicken cabob pie, I'd like a mushroom and beef pie, vegetable pie for me, thanks, oh I'll take a chicken curry pie, bloody oath. The nearest pie shop is quite popular and charges double the going pie rate, which is unacceptable in universal pie currency. I boycotted that place after my first visit.Bri gets back tomorrow. While she's been gone I've learned a few things. One - I'm apparently a slob, unless some homeless Aussies have been sneaking in through my patio door and wreaking havoc while I sleep. Two - if you're going to imbibe, Jame Boag's Draught is the best of the available choices for avoiding hangovers. It is brewed with pure Tasmanian water which apparently is pretty pure. VB is the worst choice and why it is referred to in the popular literature as piss. This isn't to be confused with someone "taking the piss," which means poking fun. However, "he's bloody pissed" rightly means he's had too many VBs. Right, I'm tired of talking.
Mar 30 - Fairly relaxing day. Went for a long run around Narabeen lake, which has an off-road trail for a good portion of it. Came home and made some coffee and some phone calls. The surf was pretty small, but I didn't feel like swimming so around 4:30 I headed out for a paddle on my new toy. About 10 minutes into the paddle I discovered some ridable waves with no one around so caught quite a few. They were overhead, if you're 3 feet tall and in a crouch. Good fun though, the 7'10 gets onto them pretty well. Still figuring out how maneuverable a styrofoam board is. Got tired after about an hour so paddled home.
Mar 29 - Pulled off my first dawn patrol in a few years. Waves weren't as big as yesterday but still fun for a rusty never-was like myself. Managed to pull my way onto two waves before I got hungry. Good fun. The local 12-year olds totally kicked my ass. There is something very spiritual, zenlike, and meditational about riding the surf while the sun rises in the east.
Mar 28 - I've been hemming and hawing about buying a soft-top surfboard down here for a few weeks but the past couple of days have changed my mind. It's gone from mildly entertaining ripples to some serious waves. Was out riding the bike this morning and along one of the beach roads I heard a thunderous roar that can only mean one thing - big swell. Narrabeen is seeing some real monsters, on the east coast US we'd call it double-triple overhead. maybe 5-6 feet backside, which is bloody big any way you look at it. My local points (5-10min walking distance) are Long Reef and Collaroy. Long Reef was pumping yesterday, and Collaroy, which is typically smaller and generally populated by grommets and new guys due to the cliff formation nearby, is also pretty big today. Anyway, combine all this with an improved currency exchange rate, I pulled the trigger and got myself a 7'10 Redback softboard. They are cheaper than a normal board (made of styrofoam w no enamel/epoxy) but typically hold up fairly well. Also picked up a shortie wetsuit on sale, something I've needed for a long time anyway. Tomorrow early AM I think I'll head out and the first of many sessions in the two months we've got left down here.
Mar 26 - Bri and I are looking at some of our options for our summer tour around the US. A highlight might be this tour of Montana. I'm thinking heading to nationals in KS July 8 then 2 weeks in and around Colorado and Wyoming, then a few days of riding across Montana. After that we can trek back to the east coast for some more racing. I am chatty tonight as my favorite matey is still miles away.
mar 25 - Today while I recovered from a late evening with the lads down at the pub, my wonderful wife took in a 1st overall at the Run for Shelter 5k in Ybor City. Now I can write off her plane ticket as a marketing expense.
The Rugby match was a good time, they have five point touchdowns but everything else was incomprehensible. We watched the NSW Waratahs demolish the Auckland Blues. I hope to take in a good cricket game sometime as well. After that I may go down to the Polo fields and watch the ponies, jolly good and all that.
I counted how many emails I sent out this week- around 110 so far. Busy week.
I have absolutely nothing else to report.
Mar 24 - Today I'm going to a Rugby match with me local mates. Hopefully we don't start a riot. Bloody hell!
Mar 23 - Day 4 of being Briless. I wither. Sunlight avoids me, shadowcreep. coffee filter friends or fiends. Avance ye!
Many years ago I had a couple opportunities to travel to Hungary to spend time with my sole surviving grandparent. Being young, stupid, and selfish, I didn't go. I had things to do, places to go. Me, me, me. I try not to think about some of my regrets in life. Some you can't live down. I'd like to tell my grandmother that though I didn't know her well, I loved her dearly, and wished we could be closer. With age comes wisdom. The follies of youth. Every day a new decision, a new direction, a new path in life might open up to us. We are a collection of the choices we make, the people we touch, the memories we keep, and the mark we may leave in passing. Your duty today, my friends, is to do something kind for someone you love. Or a stranger. You may not have another chance.
Mar 22 - Day 3 without Bri. The flies have taken over the kitchen. I can't see. Yonder bacon sings, for shale might be rock. Oh, the horror! Desperare, vergessen. Think of flowers. Caper and giggle.
OK, I have not really fallen of the rocker. It is certainly quiet around here lately. I've been training like a madman. Catching up on work again. Road out to West Head today, a scenic overlook and nice ride far from civilization. I found a secret cliff trail in Dee Why. I can even cook for myself, believe it or not. Made flat bread veggie pizza today. Tomorrow is chicken-veggie-pasta night. Wow, this is an exciting update, huh? Maybe I should just go back to nutty rambling.
Mar 20 - Today me favorite mate takes off into the wide blue yonder for several days, leaving me here to fend for meself. I have stockpiled 20 cans of tuna fish, 6 cases of Toohey's New, 3 loaves of bread, 2 jars of tobasco sauce, and an orange. Everything will be OK.
Mar 16 part 2 - Bri chastised me a bit for being somewhat terse/short/non-verbose/ with some of my summaries, so I'll expand. The mass transit system here in Sydney and its suburbs is pretty well oiled when compared with the hellacious garbage we have in many large cities in Florida. It is probably as good as someplace like NYC or Chicago but cleaner. The buses are all air conditioned, on time, and clean. You can get from our suburb to the CBD by bus or by bus-ferry in about an hour. This is just a bit longer than it would take in a car. Sydney downtown/business district is very clean, full of colorful shops, cafes, and inhabited by powerful looking high-heeled blokes and sheilas. We could see plenty of apartments/condos in the area as well, which would make for some entertaining living during one's twenties and unmarried thirties, provided you had the funds and enjoyed the city lifestyle. The Australian dollar is currently trading at 73-74 US cents, down from a high of the low 80s in 2005 but well off a more lucrative trade of 50c to 1 US in 2001. Real estate prices here are absolutely ballistic, they peaked a couple years ago and have been going sideways since. A 1/1 condo in the Manly area (a Northern Beach suburb) runs about 300-350K Aus, which is roughly $250K US. A house on the beach will cost you the soul of your unborn son, while inland it will only indenture his soul to 10,000 years of hard labor. Anyway, the Ferry ride from Manly to Sydney cost 12 bucks round trip and took about half an hour, while providing you a nice view of the harbor as well as clean accomodations. The Aquarium was really well done for 27AUS which again is about 20 bucks US. I am a bit of a geek when it comes to fish, aquariums, and marine life in general, having grown up in Miami, FL in days of yore when there were yet wide open spaces to plunder and many good fish in the sea and Everglades for fishing and learning. (Thanks for the memories, Rob!). Australia, while it hasn't been pressured to the degree that Florida has been by development and population explosions, has also faced problems with encroachment on fish and wildlife habitat, and the Aquarium made a point to describe each territory the fish or aquatic species came from and then outline what environmental issues that particular species was facing. Quite enlightening and a good way to teach the upcoming generation about the duties of stewardship we all face on our shared little planet. Then we ate a Kebab and came home. Note that I said 'clean' in this paragraph several times, compared to the Orlando/Central Florida area it is a sparkling jewel lined with parks, memorials, scenic overlooks, and more importantly it's not concrete from start to finish. Do you think my judgement is biased? Of course, I like trees and shit. The end?
Mar 16 - Today we played tourist. Caught a bus down to Manly, then took the Manly Ferry to Circular Quay (which docks next to the famous Sydney Opera House). Walked through downtown and hit the Aquarium at Darling Harbour. Spent a couple hours looking at the fish and watching the sea lions play around. Got to walk through underwater tunnels with gray nurse sharks. Then we went back to Manly and had a Kebab while fighting off seagulls and watching the surfers. Good times.
Mar 12 - We spent a couple nights up in Nelson Bay, a pleasant small town on the North Coast of Australia. It has a bit of fishing industry, a very nice and walkable downtown area, and then a bunch of retirement communities/vacation homes scattered around. The people were pretty friendly, which I think is something typical you here about the Aussies. We stayed with a couple of folks we've been training with down here in the Sydney area, very relaxing weekend. The race went well, I felt very good on the swim and decent on the bike and run. 3rd AG, maybe top-25 overall.
This week we're going to venture into Sydney proper for a day. We plan to visit the Aquarium, which is rumored to be quite flash, then we'll hit some of the usual tourist traps and gawk at things. Will take plenty of pictures!
Mar 9 - A fairly quiet week. We are going up to Port Stephens for a couple days to take part in the Port Stephens Triathlon on Sunday. We're in the process of planning out the rest of our big outings as Bri is headed back to Fl for a few days to visit with Grandma. Unfortunately Grandma has fallen ill as Bri explained.It looks like we will go over to the Aussie short course championship in Victoria in mid-April then do a few days site-seeing/cycling along the Great Ocean Road. New Zealand visitis going to be in May, there are a slew of travel agencies hawking deals over here. It may be cold but that's what Gortex is for. Great Barrier Reef is TBD.
Mar 7 - Today was a good day. It involved lots of exercise, coffee breaks, and coaching. The weather here in the Sydney area was outstanding. I'm getting a soft top surfboard in the next few days so I can join the grommets on the nearby break. I'd like to wow you with some deep thoughts but you might land in a shallow pool.
Mar 5 - We're making long plans to figure out how we can tour the States in the summer while still peaking up in proper form for Nationals on July 8 and then Worlds in September. That's hard to do if you're in a car half the day driving around Montana. We're going to work out something where we drive a day, then plop down on someone's couch for a couple, then back on the road. If you would like your couch to be plopped on for Trippin06, let me know.
Our next two adventures are to tackle a few days on the South Island of New Zealand, then a bike tour of the Great Ocean Road in Victoria. Our final Aussie adventure will take in the Great Barrier Reef, but that's not for a while.
Mar 3 - We've made it back to Sydney safe and sound. Our last day in Tasmania was pretty relaxing. We did a short AM workout then bummed around from cafe to restaurant to coffee shop. Hobart and much of Tasmania is full of little cafes and bakeries that are operated independently and serve good, fresh food. Every place nails you for coffee, however. Here they don't do a lot of filtered coffee. It is all espresso and then mixed different ways. The closest thing to filtered coffee (typical US style) is a long black, or if you're lucky, a plunger. A plunger is a glass pitcher with a screen attached to a metal pole. You put the coffee in the pitcher, pour boiling water in, then stir, then wait, then fit the screen into the pitcher and slowly push it down. A long black is an espresso shot (or two, or three) with extra hot water added to keep the concentration somewhat sane. Like everything, some places offer better coffee than others. A typical price is $3 AUS or about $2.50US. They don't have 7-11s on every street corner so that's the going rate. While I'm on a roll, same for beer. A 6-pack will cost you $13AUS for a local beer, whatever it may be. However, Australian beer averages 4.8-5% alcohol whereas US beer is 3.2% or thereabouts. In addition, the typical serving size here is 375ml which is 13.2 ounces. So you're getting the rough equivalent of 8.4 drinks. Now if I would just apply this incredible grasp of mathematics to things that count, like pork bellies.
Mar 2 - We've finished the tour of Tassie. Bri and I rode 4.7 hrs, covering about 112k today, including a 10k climb up the Western Tiers on B51. This was about 3,000 feet and took us almost an hour. Nice tailwind after that, then our last 15k was a stiff headwind. We're back in Hobart and ready to relax for a couple days (off to Sydney tomorrow night). Gordo and Monica rode the entire route, which was about 255k and took them 9.7 hours riding time. They have ironblood! Bri and I had a good laugh a couple days ago when talking about how the only folks that can make us feel like a couple of real wimps are professional Ironmen. I got about 30 hours of riding in the last 10 days.
The views today were nice, the best was from the top of the climb looking back over the road that took us up. Fun.
Mar 1 - Yesterday was a bear, Bri and I covered about 70k in 3.5hrs and called it a day at the Tasmanian Devil Research Park, where we checked out some real life Devils. They are cute little rat-cat-dogs. We stayed in a nice cabin (the Cozy Cabins) up near Cradle Mountain National Park, which was pretty cool and relaxing. Weather was a bit miserable when we arrived but was very nice this morning. Today first thing (7AM) we ran around Cradle Mountain, which is a beautiful chunk of land and a world heritage site. Will put up the pics later, all I can say via this update is "ooh, ahh, pretty, pretty." Then we rode from Cradle to Deloraine via Sheffield and the Gog Forest. At the crest of the Gog mountain pass we met the Lizard King, who demanded a Word of Power in order to descend. Then we hooked left at the village of the Orcs and caught a tailwind to the Shire. I made some of that up but Gog Pass is real. When we got here a couple of us swam in a river since the pool was full of snot nose kids.
Tomorrow Gordo and Monica are going to depart from Deloraine and start the 250k trek back to Hobart. Bri and I are going to catch a ride a bit further up and then start riding. I will probably put in 150k or so, Monica a fair bit more, and Gordo plans to ride the whole shebang.
Feb 28 - We're off for three more days of some solid riding and will likely be out of network coverage area. Going to Cradle Mountain tonight, Deloraine tomorrow, and then a big day from Deloraine to Hobart on Friday. I might get up to 7hrs riding but will call it after there. Running around Cradle Mountain tonight, do an internet search for some ideas/pics of that area. Seeya.
Feb 27 - We're going on a brewery tour! weather here is beautiful, dry and perhaps 60 degrees. Nice shopping district just a skip away from our hotel. Did an easy run this AM along the Cataract Gorge, which has a nice walkway running along one side of it. Very pretty.
Feb 26 - Day 6 - Today was the toughest terrain of our tour. I covered just over 100k in four hours and 20 minutes. It must have been 9,000 feet of elevation. The only comparison I have is the Wildflower half-IM course which is 5,200 feet in 56 miles and this had much more climbing. The route took us through the Weldborough Pass which was something like 10k or more of steady climbing. After that we landed in Derby, an old mining town, 65k into the ride. It took more than 3hrs to get that far, and Bri called it a day. I sat down for a long regroup and coffee then finished the last bit, which had 7 more significant hills, and finished in Scottsdale. I'm completely buggered. We jumped into the van for transport into Launceston, where my Vodafone card is back on the network. Gordo rode the final leg which was another 65k and also hilly. We may all go for a swim tonight if the pool is open.
Feb 25 - Day 5 of the Tour of Tassie. This morning we left scenic Coles Bay for a jaunt up the east coast - Coles Bay to St. Helens. Took a nice coffee break in the town of Bicheno at about 40k. Then we were off to Elephant Pass, an 8k climb which peaked just in time to have crepes at the Mount Elephant Pancakes restaurant at 90k. Had a pleasant third brekkie there, then descended 6k through St. Mary's Pass and back towards the coast to St. Helens, where we're staying tonight. Total riding around 117k, Bri and I were on the bike for just over 4.5hrs. The roads here are chip seal, which are slow rolling. Weather was pleasant. Ran 30 minutes later in the day. Bri is in some mean shape, today was her longest ride and she backed it up with a 5k run. We're feeling the effects of a few long days of training, but in a good way. Tomorrow is 100k or so from St. Helens to Scottsdale, then an option to jump in the van or ride another 60+ k into Launceston, which is the second largest city in Tasmania. Will be swimming somewhere there.
A couple addendums - James Boag & Son is brewed in Launceston, hence it's popularity in this region. Good stuff.
When we did our swim in Coles Bay there were a couple kayak instructors teaching a group of students. One of the instructors was from the States from his accent. I couldn't help but wonder what sort of route in life it would take to be born in the States and become a kayaking instructor in Tasmania? In the States we get all types from everywhere, but when you're out of the country meeting or seeing someone else from the US becomes a little bit of a rarity. In NSW I only met one at a swim, and he was a bloody wanker.
The beaches here are very nice, there are no condos, highways, sewage outlets, or drunk rednecks kicking sand on your towel. We had a good laugh talking about the phrase, "a middle of nowhere." Next time someone tells me we're in the middle of nowhere, I get to say, "hey, mate, I've been to the middle of nowhere, and believe me, you ain't there just yet." To get to where we are right now you would have to drive through the sticks, take a left at BFE, and then look for the unmarked off-ramp.
Feb 24 - Didn't write an update for day three, which saw us ride from Swansea to Coles Bay, around 70k. We ran just under 10 miles first thing in the AM, loaded up on some eggy weggs for brekkie, then Bri and I headed out for a leisurely ride to a winery about 30k up the road. Had a sample of their finest 2003 Freycinet Poinot Noir and a cup of strong coffee. Then we finished with a nice shot into Coles Bay. A decent lunch, a bit of exploration, then an open water swim in a quiet and secluded beach.
Coles Bay is a smallish town which is adjacent to a national park, The Hazards. The Hazards are four pink granite peaks that jutt out of the water, with a large protected bay on each side. Today (day four), we exercised our option for a recovery day and did some serious touristy stuff. First we did a two hour kayak, Bri and I paddling a two-man and our guide Michael in a single. We paddled through Coles Bay over to a resort next to the Hazards, had a snack, then paddled back. After lunch we went on a two hour hike up and over the Hazards to Wineglass Bay, which lies on the other side. There were some majestic views along the way. We're both a bit tired but having a great time. Tonight we're going to go watch the march of the penguins, for real. There's a spot down the coast where they live.
Before I forget, some of the beers I've been sampling here:
Cascade Pale Ale, Blonde, and Draught - Brewed in Hobart, Tas
Hazards Ale - brewed right next door in Wineglass Bay area
James Boag Premium Draught and XXX Ale - not sure where it's brewed
Feb 22 - Day two of our Tour of Tassie saw us do a 50minute open water swim in a secluded cove in Orford, just next to our place, the Blue Wave hotel. A bit of coffee and brekkie, then a 7k run to a coffee shop in Triabunna to meet up with our guide and change into cycling gear. Bri and I then rode a very slow and scenic 50k to our current stop in Swansea, a tiny fishing and farming town on the mid-east coast of Tasmania. Gordo and Monica rode quite a bit further and looped back. The ride bordered the coast for several miles and it was very spectacular scenery, the most similar that I've seen would be the drive from Seattle to Whistler through British Columbia. We took a bunch of pics, which should be up soon.The town of Swansea has one main strip with a few coffee shops, B&Bs, and restaurants. It is right on the cliffline/shoreline. There is one bottle shop (liquor store), which coincidentally is right across the street from our hotel, The Swansea Motor Lodge. Lucky me.
Tomorrow we're doing a longer ride and run but I'm skipping the swim.
Feb 21 - Today we rode about 85k from Hobart to Orford, a small town on the east coast of Tasmania. It was quite a scenic ride with a few longish climbs. Bri and I are in the process of acquiring some granny gears. We had a nice tailwind for a lot of the route, which made things a bit easier. Might have been 5k of climbing, which for us flatlanders, is quite a bit. Tomorrow it's more of the same. Here are a few pics, they do better than I can at explaining the route.
Feb 20 - Tomorrow morning we start our Tour of Tassie. The day begins with a run to the Hobart Aquatic Center, a swim, run back to the hotel, get situated with our tour guide, then ride 80-something k to the town of Orford, where we'll overnight. The weather is cool so we'll be bundling up. Today we bopped around the shopping district of Hobart, but didn't buy anything noteworthy. Pretty relaxing day.
Feb 19 - The ITU Hobart Oceania Cup Triathlon was quite an ass-kicking. The bike course was eight laps of a pretty technical and demanding course. The competition was fierce, with many top Aussie age-groupers shooting for a World's spot. They only give top two here. I raced as an old guy (35-39) for the first time and believe I made it into the top ten. Not bad. The course was entirely closed, which was nice, and the weather was fairly cool, which was also nice. Faint of heart, stop reading here. I had a major case of the poopies afterwards, which means I need to get into better shape, quick.
It was a lot of fun, Salamanca street is about a three minute walk from our hotel and was right next to the race course on the Waterfront. The street has a bunch of shops, restaurants, cafes, and pubs. We hung out for a bit watching the pro men and women compete. Not a bad way to spend a mostly relaxed sunday (racing excepted). Unfortunately Bri wound up with a flat, and as we didn't visit our local bike shop for spare C02 cartridges, she had to DNF. My wife is a super trooper and doesn't like to DNF; in fact it's been 16 years since she did so. Next time we'll be sure to get some spare C02s.
Hobart is an absolutely beautiful place, if you ever have a chance you should visit. I went on a brief tour of the city center last night on a taxi, there are a bunch of nice little shops all over the place. We're going to spend tomorrow checking out the town and generally just being tourists. The next day we're off on our Tour of Tassie.
Feb 18 - We've made it to the land down under the land down under. The Hobart region is very beautiful, I haven't travelled enough to know what to compare it to. Here's a picture from our bedroom window. I suppose it is like something in Europe or a small town in the foothills of the Appalachians. Contrary to what the mainlander Aussies were telling us, the Tassies seem pretty normal. Hobart City has around 200,000 people living here, while the entire state has just under 500,000. Not a lot of people for a quite nice area.
The ITU race tomorrow will be an all day event. Bri goes off at 8:30, I go off at 10:30, the pro women go off at 1:00, pro men go off at 3. After I finish I'm going to find the nearest pub and get good old-fashioned banged up.
Feb 16 - We're off to Tasmania later today. Good thing I have Bri with me, otherwise I wouldn't know when to leave, what to wear, where to be, what to do, or who I am. She is like an Outlook Calendar, Wikipedia, PDA, memory stick, and cellphone rolled into one lovely wifey-poo.
Our updates for the next couple weeks will probably be infrequent but long. We will try not to bore you with "I saw a pretty mountain and was bitten by a rabid Tasmanian devil" tripe.
Feb 14 - We went to a nice lunch for Valentine's day today. I had a Croc burger. It was tangy. Not bad. I have to buy flowers and chocolates for Bri tomorrow, since it is Valentine's Day tomorrow on eastern standard time. That's my fuzzy guy logic, anyway.
More trivia: phrases:
Good on ya = good for you / good job
How ya goin? = How's are you?
He's a bloody punter, mate = he likes to take chances, buddy
A schoonie of VB = a glass of beer, please
fair dinkum = genuine or serious
bugger that = no thanks
bloody poof = soft bastard
Feb 12 - Back in from Newcastle, which is a medium sized town up the coast (North) from Sydney. We had a nice time. There were around 500 people at the triathlon, including some U23 and junior elite racers. These kids are little anaerobic monsters. No wonder the Aussies and Kiwis are so good at triathlon, the 16 year olds are winning the overall. I felt pretty good on both the swim and bike and didn't fall apart on the run. Lacking a good bit of turnover and top-end speed there. Finished 3rd in 30-34 and maybe top 15 overall. Not too bad.
The weather was nice and there were a couple entertaining surf points along the bike course, though not safe to look at during the ride. Pretty crowded 3.5k bike course with 5 laps and folks all over the place.
We stayed in an Ibis hotel, which is a medium quality chain here. The bathroom looked like it was designed for a train or something, very space functional. Tiny little room, about as big as our palacial Hong Kong room.
So this update is not completely boring and all about mundane things - I am thoroughly enjoying myself and don't miss going to a 9-5 job whatsoever. I never imagined myself in a suit with a career ladder ahead of me. I had a nearly pathological dread of going to 'work' for most of 2003-2005. When I take a moment to reflect on my life and choices that have brought me to this point, I'm filled with a certainty that we've done the right thing. Life is an ongoing process, a journey with no set destination, and happiness is a result of one's subjective feelings of self-worth and fulfillment. I'm a simple man, with simple pleasures. Being happy is high on my list of life goals. The how and the why of that happiness, for me, is freedom of the mind and body. Freedom from the constraints of being average. Of being normal.
Feb 9 - Yes, this is true. The 10k guys served as the appetizers so us 2k swimmers didn't have any issues.
Feb 8 - We met up with a couple good training groups to start off this week. There is a master's squad that meets 4 nights a week about 12minutes away by jog from our place. Good swimmers as well. Also found a good Tuesday night track running group about 30 minutes away by beater bike. We ride down the sidewalk of Pittwater (the main beachside road through the Northern Beaches) for a couple k then turn off onto a nature trail that is really quite nice in and of itself. Both of these groups are affiliated with the Warringah Triathlon Club.
There is a pretty good trail system running through parts of the Northern Beaches, we will be doing some exploratory running on these.
We're racing in the Foreshore Sprint Tri this weekend. It's .5k, 18k, 4k. The times from last year are fast, I think even the weekend warriors here are pretty good. We're in decent shape but way off top form so everything will be for fun. The race is in Newcastle, about 3 hours away. We're going to drive up the day before and explore a bit before the race.
Next week we take off to the state of Tasmania, which is that little island of the southern coast of Australia. It's about as big as the area in Florida from Miami-Melbourne-Tampa. It has a temperate climate and is fairly cool to very chilly year round. We've joining forces with Gordo and Monica Byrn for a 10 day cycling/training tour of the island. A company called Island Cycle Tours is organizing things for us. To kick start the adventure we're racing in the Hobart International Triathlon on Feb 21, which is a Worlds qualifier for the Aussies. In all likliehood we will get stomped by the locals, but hey, racing in Hobart, Tasmania? How many times in a lifetime will we be able to pull something like that off.
Feb 6 - This weekend we spent a lot of time moving stuff into our rental and shopping for more stuff to put in the rental. Most of that is done now, so I can get busy relaxing. We were a bit annoyed with the rental agency and condo owners over the weekend. We were shown the place with a fridge, the pictures and documents all have a fridge in them, then the condo owners came over on Friday night (before we moved in) and took the fridge out. This is a brand new condo with new appliances. They gave us a story about how the fridge was a rental, but that doesn't hold up when we found the owner's manual and warranty info in the cupboard. They basically didn't want us using it. It just goes to show, people can jerk you around in any country. We still have to get the hot water turned on and the washer/dryer hooked up. I'm doing my best to be patient/understanding but my wife is ready to start taking people out back to the woodshed.
The place is very nice though, and fortunately John and Bron had an extra fridge for us. We are within walking distance of a bunch of stuff as well as the beach and a beachside pool. Went for a run last night and it was something else. There is a cliff out here that has a greenway trail going along the entire perimeter. Didn't get pictures last night but will put some up later. All in all, it will be a very nice place to base our operations out of.
Feb 2 - Today I spent more than my fair share of time dealing with a fundamental of economics: The bank that has your money will be reticent to give it up, while the bank that wants your money will make it easy to take it. Explanation follows.
In order to secure our rental for the Australian summer, we needed to put down a refundable bond of 4 weeks rent + 8 weeks prepayment as we don't
exactly have a credit history here down under. We transferred the funds to my US domestic checking account at (name withheld) from our money market account. Then the
"I'd like to wire transfer X amount to X bank here in Australia," I said.
"You need to come in to fill out a form to do a wire transfer," they said.
"I'm in Australia," I said.
""Tough shit," they said.
"Can we fax something back and forth?"
"No," they said.
"Why not?" I asked.
"We can't do that, imagine if someone got a hold of your signature, it would be so easy to commit fraud," they said, with stern reproach. "Try Western Union."
"Hmmm, I have access to my account online, know all the secret knocks, and am currently holding my Visa ATM card in front of me, surely we can work something out?" I said, my voice dripping with reason and accountability. "What's my daily ATM withdrawal limit?"
(Massively condensed version) "Perhaps," said the 4th person I talked to at (name withheld). "We can up your purchase limit on a temporary basis. Try charging the card at the bank you need to transfer funds into."
Ah, someone who is working with me! Brilliant! Bloody brilliant!
So...that didn't work as the Aussie bank was only capable of making a cash withdrawal transaction (my ATM daily withdrawal limit = much less than needed).
In the end, I took a cash advance on my credit card and was able to deposit the funds directly into the appropriate account.
I had asked to pay the realtor with a CC in the first place. (They don't accept credit cards.)
Isn't that convenient?
Now, if you're confused as to the original economic lesson: bank A has my money, make it hard to access it (gigantic corporate bastards, they're just watching out for me, ya know); bank B (credit card) wants my money, make easy to spend (cash advance fee + interest rate).
And before you ask, yes, we have opened a checking account down here...but we can't wire anything into it.
Jan 31 pt 2 - More trivia - the beers of choice here are Victoria Bitter (VB) or Toohey's New. The local equivalent of Bud light is Pure Blonde, but it's not very well known. Tastes good. They all taste good. People don't drink Fosters. Foster's is not Australian for beer, despite what your TV might tell you. Miller is an import and priced the same as Heineken and Beck's. Now that is just plain silly.
Jan 31 - The last couple days have been pretty relaxing. The barbeque on Saturday night was a good time, Happy Birthday Bronywn! Yesterday we ran at 6AM with John and Sampson (the Malamute), then rode 1.75hrs in the hills, then did some work. Afternoon we had lunch at a burger shop. A burger here is any kind of meat sandwich. So, for instance, you can have a chicken burger, a beef burger, a roo burger, a pork burger, a veggie burger, etc. Then we went down to the Warringah Mall, which is a very nice mall as malls go. You could shop till you drop. I got a haircut next to a 101 year old man from the Isle of Jersey, who was here with his 75-year old wife. At the mall I bought Stephen King's The Dark Tower which is the last in his epic series of good vs evil.
Today (Tuesday) we ran a bit in the AM, napped, then went down for a walk on Mona Vale beach. Surf was up a bit. Pretty lazy days. I did do some work in here somewhere. Going to swim with John's master squad tonight.
Jan 29 - We must have ingested some bad bacteria somewhere. My sore throat and achiness has gone away, but my mouth has broken out with swollen gums and ulcers on my tongue and roof of my mouth. It is painful to eat. Good way to go on a diet, though.
John and I swam the 2.7k Big swim this AM, along with about 1,500 other intrepid souls. There are some fast guys and gals here.
Jan 27 - It seems like we've been taking turns being sick. Bri has just gotten over some bug, for the last couple days I've been feeling achy with a sore throat. Spent last night waking up every couple hours in a sweat. The frequent plane trips and exposure to multiple bug variants has put a hurtin' on our immune systems. I'm hoping to get healthy and happy soon.
Not much else is new, we did run the 8k yesterday. Afterwards John took us down to Bondi Beach. He is a member of the Bondi Icebergs, a club that has a really nice clubhouse (re: bar)/pool right on the corner of Bondi. You can sit on the pooldeck and watch guys surfing just a few feet away. We did some goofy relays but the main course for these guys is beers afterwards - we didn't stick around though. The pool is filled with saltwater direct from the ocean. It's about 67 degrees right now. Spent the rest of the day relaxing and hanging out.
Jan 26 - Glad Bri described the Ferryboat ride from Hell, that will remain a highlight of travel. Imagine yourself in the most bizarre and alien environment, then turn the heater on. I smelled like elderberries when the ride was over. The insane karoake videos were the kicker. It wasn't just one or two, the macabre captain and his wretched crew of pirates played video after video of bad 80s music set to natural landscapes interspersed with soft-core porn. One minute there'd be a waterfall, the next a gyrating blonde in a bikini. That was when the guy sitting next to me started singing along. Go figure.
Looks like we are going to be able to stay in a place in Collaroy. It is nicer than our condo back home. By the way, anybody interested in buying a condo in Orlando? The market is slooowwww.
Jan 24 - We're back. Had a good time in Cebu City, the 2nd largest city in the Philippines. It is a mix of new wave modern business buildings and apartments and old-style shantytowns and tin-roof corner markets. We took in a few of the sites, including the Taoist Temple and the first fort that was built by the Spanish in the late 1500s.
The trip to Sydney was short as things go, only 14 hours from terminal drop-off to pick up. We're staying with my buddy John Bates and his wife Bron. I swam with John at FSU. He happens to live off in one of the areas that many cyclists use for hill training and as a turnaround point for group rides. It's called Church Point, the main road is rolling and windy.
Sydney is pretty neat, we've only had a chance to explore a bit so far but there are plenty of cyclists and runners out. They have pools built on the beach that fill with seawater, we will probably be doing quite a bit of swimming in those. The surf looks pretty good as well. Chances are we're either going to set up camp in Collaroy (a bit nicer and quieter) or Manly (a bit louder and more bars/shops). Manly is the main area in the Northern beaches that does short term rentals, but we may have something in Collaroy.
Jan 20 - Later today we are off on a fast ferry to Cebu, a city on another island in the Philippines. We will be hanging out and seeing some of the sites there tonight and the first part of tomorrow, then catch a plane from Cebu to Manila, then Manila to Sydney for an overnight. I've had time to make a few random observations about the Philippines:
Jan 18 - If you couldn't tell I was getting a bit stressed out when I wrote yesterday's update. It was nice to go see Lilian's parents in the town of Balayawan, about 60miles down the coast (up the coast?). The deal is our social circle by proxy are all semi-retired, retired, or well off and thus there is a lot of sitting around and talking. I have never been much for that unless it happens after all the work is done and there are large quantities of beer involved. I am beginning to see that folks may not really consider my job a 'career,' though it involves quite a bit of my time and effort. Anytime I don't get X amount of work done for a day or two, the next few days involve work plus X. My wife understands, which is the most important thing.
Today we're going to sit around and let me work. Got in a nice run this AM and we will do strength training and some swimming in the PM. We have our tickets to Sydney straightened out. We are also finalizing things for our tour in Tasmania, this will involve 10 days of biking, swimming, and running our way across the state under the guidance of a professional tour guide. I'll expand more on this when everything is set.
Jan 17 - Yesterday we spent an hour plus at the travel agents, then 3 hours having lunch at a friend of my dad and step-mom. Today we spent an hour at the travel agents, then drove 2hrs for a three plus hour lunch with my step-mom's parents. 1) We did get tickets to Sydney, 2) I need to start training b@lls to the wall again soon or I will go stark raving bonkers.
Jan 15 - Today we left the compound at 9AM to head down to the beach at Dauin, where we would board an outrigger for the half-hour trip to Apo Island. Apo is about 4 miles away from Negros Oriental. Our crew wasn't able to get the second motor on the boat started, so after a half-hour of running on a 15hp motor, we turned around. The owner of the outrigger then came down and tried to get the big motor started. So we headed back out to sea. Unable to get it started, we continued to putter through choppy seas at 2mph. Bri was a trooper and didn't say a word, but I had enough, as did my Dad, when one of the crew guys was riding ballast on orders of the owner. We asked them to turn us around, so they did. I went back to reading my book (a Dirk Pitt(TM) novel), then felt the wind shift and looked up. We were puttering towards Apo again. The owner of the boat, who was on board with the 2 crewmen, didn't want to lose our fare to another boat so was trying to take us with the little motor. We emphatically requested to be turned around, and he reluctantly brought us back to Negros.
So 1.5hrs into our half-hour journey, we were back where we started. Then they wanted us to pay for gasoline for a second boat, but even I can smell bullshit. We already paid, fellas. You work it out. So we finally got on a working outrigger and made it to Apo. There are some pictures up, but they can't tell the whole story. It is a small island with a tiny village and one inn. The diving/snorkeling here is excellent, they have a protected reef called Sanctuary on the backside. The views are really quite spectacular. There is a main sidewalk through the village, made up of maybe 2-300 people who live primarily on fishing and selling t-shirts to white-skinned schmucks like myself. The inn is nice, you sit right on the beach and can waste away the days under tropical skies. We didn't stay for the night, but if you are ever interested in really, really getting away from it all, you might want to check this place out. 1,300 pesos a night.
Jan 14 - Today we got in a pretty decent 55 minute run on some of the same roads as yesterday. I didn't feel as beat up as the day before. I am a bit under the weather, I have a pretty nasty head cold right now, am functional but dripping like Mr. Coffee. It was a fairly relaxing day; we hung out on the compound, I caught up on some work and then took a nap. We played tennis in the afternoon and swam for a little bit after that. I needed some veg out time after several days of go-go-go. We still don't have a flight out, it is nice here but I want to get down under so I can rent a surfboard and catch some tiny waves....and get back on my bike. We have either a Aquathlon or an 8k on January 26 near Sydney, so I would really like to be there before then.
Tomorrow we are taking a boat to Apo Island (I think), where we will spend the night at some small resort on the beach. So we may be offline for more a day. I am already experiencing withdrawal symptoms. Please don't unplug me. Please.
Jan 13 - Today we went for a 45minute run on roads that were slightly flatter then last time. Bri kicked my butt on every uphill, which was the entire run basically. After that she and Lilian went into town for some pampering, I stayed here to catch up on work. Around 1 we went into town for lunch at a Philippine-Mexican restaurant, then played 9 holes of golf. I wish we had brought the camera for this one, you golfers out there would get a real kick out of some of the pictures. Imagine this - the pin and flag framed in the center; behind it, a sharp mountain peak with clouds curling around the edges. Off to the side in the foreground, two small goats contendedly munch away on the green.
The round cost 2.50 with tip. We're off to a barbeque from another friend/neighbor in a bit. We still haven't secured onward tickets, so right now we're heading to Australia anytime between the 19th and the 25th. Who knows.
Today I also had a bit of a fright. While working on the computer one of the maids/gardeners came in to let me know the dogs were out on the premises (so I wouldn't go outside). About two minutes later, Kutya came nosing in. I looked at her; she looked at me. She's rumored to be the more peaceful of the killers so when she turned to go to my father's door, I calmly stepped out and asked the maid if the dog was supposed to be in the house. Then I calmly climbed up on the kitchen counter and waited for her to put the dog out. Kutya had nudged open the screen door and decided to come in. If it had been Vicious Bastard, I would most likely not be typing this right now. I like dogs, but not killer mutts from hell who haven't made friends with me.
Jan 12 - Yesterday we got in a 50minute run, from the Macay compound (my step-mom and dad's) up the hill/mountain they live on. We got 3-4k up with about 1200 foot elevation (maybe more, I don't have my altimeter), then descended back down. It was an interesting view, some of the pics are on the picture page. The "Tree Park" was at the top. About halfway up a bunch of school kids got a big kick out of seeing two 'foreigners' as we're called here, out for a run. Probably a pretty unlikely site.
Today we took an outrigger boat over to "Citihor" (phonetic) island, about 8 miles away from Negros Oriental. We basically just sat around and ate food and shot the shit. I can handle doing that for a few hours...but not all day. Anyway, it was very relaxing. The water was nice and I managed to get in a few minutes of swimming. There are very few fish here, they are extremely overfished. There are little kids everywhere. Philippines is a very catholic nation and you know what they preach...no birth control. There are also no stop signs, stop lights, or street lights in most of the city. It is a gigantic free for all but they somehow manage. Fortunately we have a driver who is pretty sharp. I also finally figured out that my step-mom has a static manually configured network connection so we're both able to hook up our laptops to email/etc rather than use the ponderous web interface. I am pretty much hamstrung without PC and internet access as you might guess.
Jan 11 - Yesterday we travelled for about 12 hours all told, from Hong Kong to Manila to Dumaguete City on Negros Oriental in the Philippines. My step-mom has a house/compound here. There are two vicious dobermans on site that have to be kept locked up, otherwise they will eat us. Their names are Kutya (Dog in Hungarian), and Vicious Bastard.
Macau was interesting. It is basically a 4 mile long island that is covered with high-end shops, low-end apartment buildings, and glitzy casinos. It is connected by causway to the small islands of Tapai and Coloane. We skipped the tourist tour and went straight to the Sands, where Bri hit a full set of threes on video poker, raking in 135HK dollars. We split and ran while ahead. I wanted to play some blackjack but the minimum bet at the Sands was 200HK which is about $26 US, a bit out of my range.
Yesterday we spent most of it in transit, arriving at our destination here in Dumaguete around 4:30pm. The city is definitely on the poor side. The main roads are paved but everything else is dirt and rock/gravel. Many of the homes are made out of corrugated tin. Our internet connection is a little spotty as we are relaying from the house (on the side of a mountain, essentially) down to a port in the city, where traffic is variable. Going with the flow.
Jan 9 - Guten Morgen! Yesterday we explored a bit more of the city and caught the metro to the Central district. There we took the Peak Tram, which is basically a trolley that rides up a steep incline to the highest point on Hong Kong, Victoria's Peak. It was a bit foggy out so the view was not all that it could have been, but an impressive site nonetheless. The mass transit here is really excellent, we can walk and catch trains/bus/trolley/cab everywhere. A 3 mile cab ride costs about 2 US dollars. The western establishments add a 10% gratuity so don't double tip. The local beer is San Miguel, it is not bad at all. I am a man of simple pleasures, what can I say.
Today we are going to get really brave and catch a ferry over to Macau. Macau is another island and a former Portuguese colony that is now the biggest gambling area in Asia. Wynn Resorts and all those casinos have recently been built or have licenses to build. I am going to impress Bri with my ability to be a chincy SOB in any area of the world, my gambling limit is $75 US. She has to use her own money. ;-)
Jan 8 - Good morning! Last night we took a cab to the Wai Chan area (instead of the subway). This used to be where you could get a nice "lady of the evening." There are still a bunch of strip clubs. There are also normal bars/restaurants. We went to Joe Banana's, a primarily western style bar that has the best drink specials we've found yet. Bri had a chicken and cheddar cheese sandwich. They're making it pretty easy for her to eat. I had a few Boddingtons. Good stuff. After Joe Banana's, we wandered up to the Coyote Bar, a somewhat upscale place that seemed to cater to westerners. Both of us were pretty tired so a drink there and a cab home made it a night.
Today the plan is to get some breakfast, do some work, then go check out a few of the many trails that are around Hong Kong, if you know where to look. More than 40% of the island is actually preserved parkland, it is literally a city built into the side of mountains in some places.
Jan 7 part two - Today was better than yesterday. This place is crowded. In the morning we walked around and through Victoria Park, which has a number of interesting rockwalks (good for your feet) and Tai Chi experts popping out of each and every corner. The pool, unfortunately, is closed, and the open one we could see from our hotel belongs to a private club. After our recon of the area, we headed out for laps on the 600m jogging track. Ran about 4 miles then decided to throw in some calisthenic stations. After cleaning up we took the metro (subway) from our Tin Hau exit to Causeway Bay, one exit away, and checked out lots of shops, etc. Got some Starbucks in me - don't normally shop there but trying to get a coffee from a Hong Kong 7-11 is like trying to get spicy noodles at a Burger King in Kentucky. Not gonna happen. Checked out the Queens Court (?) Mall, a gigantic tribute to commercialism. The people here are seriously trendy. And there's a lot of them. I haven't seen a fat one yet.
We are going to be brave and go up 2 exits to Wan Chai area, see what we can dig up for dinner and drinks. I got in about 5 hours of work, all in all a good day, sort of what I expect the next five months to be like. My wife has been asleep for three hours.
Jan 7 - Good morning! I slept until about 4am local time, then got up and started working. We went downstairs to get breakfast around 6:30. I sneezed at 6:40. Minute by minute minutae. We are off to do some exploring and then go run after that. The hotel we're staying at is called the Metropark in Causeway Bay. This is a happening shopping and entertainment district, or so we've heard. That's all for now.
Jan 6 part two - our first order of business was to take a nap that lasted from 12:30 until 8pm. So today the only thing we'll see is nightlife in the Causeway Bay area. You can check the pictures out here.
Jan 6 - Hong Kong
We arrived in Hong Kong at 6:30AM local time after 29 hours of travel. Both of us managed to get some sleep on the plane so we don't feel like complete zombies. Weather here is cloudy and about fifty degrees. Today's plan is to freshen up and then see if we can get some cash from our US bank accounts using our ATM cards. Both got rejected at the airport ATM. The plot thickens.