Spring in full bloom is coming to an end, hello Summer!
Our boy, AKA ‘The Pok’, has started to say some really funny things with the reasoning of a 4-year-old behind his musings. Some of it is hilarious, or just bizarre.
I am far from being a saint when I am driving my and reacting to the idiotic misaligned actions of my fellow drivers. To be honest, my language when cussing other drivers was pretty bad. That has changed significantly (my wife might beg to differ) since becoming a dad. I am always conscious of the fact that I have a little word repeater in the back seat.
But I couldn’t contain myself on the way back from a “boys only” trip, with the Pok, to Ikea. [side note: this would appear to be our second favourite destination for "boys only" trips, the first being Bunnings Warehouse Hardware Store].
Travelling in the car at 60 kph, I had to slam on the brakes to let in a young driver who was too impatient to wait for the acres of space available behind my car.
I let rip within the noise cocoon of my own vehicle, “You stupid Muppet!” Satisfied with myself at the verbally issued tirade.
Within a second “The Pok” gave his version of cussing to the driver, “You silly Prawn Head!”
I double taked, as this was the first time I had heard him have a crack while driving.
“[Pok], what did you say?”
He responded just as eagerly, “I called her a silly Prawn Head, because they are just silly.”
I burst out laughing at what he thought was a demeaning turn of words, which bemused him as to why I turned from road rage to laughter at his outburst.
Some day, when he is much older, I will teach him insults that are not comedic.
I have been long overdue for a blood donation at the Australian Red Cross Blood Service. I was booked in for a donation this morning for a blood plasma, when I was asked if I could donate platelets instead. Apparently I have a high platelet count (for no other reason than I have), and some poor soul does not. He or She is in desperate need on a daily basis of platelet transfusions until they can find a suitable bone marrow donor – not an easy job. So my Friday Fone Foto is a simple one, a new blood sucking machine that I have become acquainted with. :-)
I don’t like pushing my causes on others, but if you can donate then why not? The needle only tickles, the staff are always awesome, and plus they give you a free milkshake after your donation!
We were fortunate to have spent the weekend just past up in the New South Wales Hunter Valley – wine country! Of course with a drive of just over two hours it provided me the opportunity to pack my road bike steed on the roof and plan for a ride. I had never ridden up in the wine country before, but have driven through the valley on many occasions. What I recall is the poor quality of the roads up there in certain sections, and many of the smaller vineyards being access via unsealed roads. So to be honest, I was a bit nervous riding up there – particularly with the speed differential between me as a cyclist and the cars travelling at 80kph (50mph). And being wine country, I had noticed that many car drivers are a bit
tipsy wobbly behind the wheel. I planned two morning rides on the Saturday and the Sunday, but this trip is the only one where I prioritise the vine before the bike and I only managed to squeeze in a Saturday morning ride (I know that this breaks Rule #11 – I will pay penance at Velofix later this week).
I set off at 6:30 on Saturday morning, and what a glorious start to the day it was. The sun rising over the hills gradually illuminating the vineyards from long shadows. The air was fresh, wine country is farming country. We stayed at the Crowne Plaza, which provided me good access to high quality tarmac to roll on from the get go. The first part of my ride was up North through Lovedale.
The vineyards on some of the properties are quite close to the roads, and you get a real sense of what you are riding through. It kind of makes you thirsty…
The other non-wine farms are just as picturesque. This view of the rising sun through the eucalyptus trees created stunning shadows for many metres along the northern stretch of my route.
I was disappointed that there were no grapes on the vines, but it was the wrong time of the harvest season. Still, the weather has been pretty good, the vines looked healthy, so hopefully it will be a bumper year.
It was not flat on this ride, and as soon as you get off the main roads it becomes quite bumpy and gravelly. There was also a fair amount of roadwork going on that is not due to be completed until next year some time. For the stretches that were complete, the road was smooth as glass – the sort of road that cyclists dream about on a perfect ride. But it was far too bumpy for my liking through Pokolbin on 23mm tyres. It was so bumpy that as I headed back through the Eastern section of Pokolbin, the rattling shook my light completely out of its socket at 45kph. I had to slam on the brakes and backtrack to see if I could find where it had bounced off to. Fortunately it was still working and easily found, albeit with a few battle scars inflicted by some harsh gravel. While there I decided to ride up to Hope Estate winery, where I got married. It was surreal being in the saddle riding up the long driveway, knowing that my wife and two children were sleeping back at the hotel. Since we were married back in 2008 the property has changed significantly, not to mention the paving of the driveway.
As I was heading back, the wind was beginning to pick up quite strongly. Later that afternoon as we were driving from cellar door to door I noticed the wind was properly buffeting everything. By the time I headed back the morning had well and truly arrived, with the South Eastern part of the valley in full morning glow. Quite a sight.
I will definitely ride up here again, but now better prepared. Here are my tips for riding up in the Hunter Valley:
- Recon your route in the car properly (via a few cellar door tastings if you can). The conditions of many stretches of road were not what I remembered them to be. And for whatever reason, many of the roads are not very well maintained.
- Go early – the valley is practically asleep before 8am and the roads are only being traveled by sober drivers who are trying to go about their business. For this ride I only passed one other cyclists and perhaps was passed by 30 cars in total.
- Swap out your rubber to some wider and harder wearing tyres (28mm if you can). It was like riding pave or cyclocross in some sections. Which leads me to my next point…
- Consider riding a cyclocross or flat bar hybrid / mountain bike. While the road bike was good for riding on the good roads, there are many unsealed roads that are more akin to riding the Strade Bianche.
- If drinking copious amounts of wine the day/night before then hydrate up. I was parched before I had even started riding.
- Be prepared for the elements. It is windy and exposed through the valley, and the sun is quite strong.
- Enjoy the view! There is no point racing through this area, it is picturesque and beautiful. I made sure to take it in while in the saddle and I definitely noticed many different things riding than I have ever done behind the wheel of a car.
- Be self sufficient for the ride, nothing is open in the early morning. It would appear that the valley does not kick in until 10am, so sourcing any refills would have been a no go.
- Watch the speed difference between you and the cars. While most of the roads I rode on were marked at 80kph, I would not have been surprised many were travelling faster.
- Make sure you ride up there! I was contemplating leaving the bike behind, but it was a beautiful ride up there in the wine country.
Last weekend’s big ride really cooked me. I mean really cooked! My quads haven’t felt that sore in a long time. I know the reasons why; not enough tempo rides (slower 60-80km spins), dehydration, and wearing cold weather gear on what turned out to be a warm day. Oh, and some pretty steep inclines too.
So when I rocked up to Wednesday morning’s training session it was no surprise that I hit the wall. What I meant to write was “blow up”. I hadn’t recovered properly before trying to knock out a sprint interval session. The blow up was… humbling (or was that humiliating?). As a result, my head was not in the right place. Throw into the mix my baby girl thinking that she lives in the Fijian or Tahitian time zone rather than on Australian Eastern Standard Time – I must be missing a few REM cycles too.
So that left me with a choice for this morning’s training session.
Show up or pike out?
I was trying hard to build my excuse list, heaven knows I had reasons. When the alarm clock went off at 5am, the question that entered my head was, “why are you doing this to yourself?” It is the same question that pops up when I hit struggle street on a tough ride. It is a question from the wrong space in my head. The negative space. [side note - cravings for dark chocolate cookies, Carribean rum and Coke (multiple), and two quarter pounders live in this space too]. So what is the answer to that question? I have a prepared response for this challenge which is another question, “When I am old and frail, do I want to look back on all the opportunities that I missed to live to the fullest?” That second question was formed when I was 20 years younger, lying on a hospital bed recovering from a knee reconstruction. That whole experience was a collection of harsh lessons, with one hard reality – to not take for granted my mobility and feel blessed that I have it, while I have it.
I made my choice. I showed up. It was a struggle, but I showed up. I set my power targets at 80% to what I normally train at, but I showed up. And as I warmed up my lithium batteries kicked in. I was still tired but I managed to churn through the session and in the end I spun at over 90% of my normal power targets. After the training session I suited up and arrived at work chuffed. I have won this morning, maybe not the Tour de France or the World Championships, but I won.
In the end there is no excuse or choice, it is show up – even if it hurts.
Our boy, AKA ‘The Pok’, has started to say some really funny things with the reasoning of a 4-year-old behind his musings. Some of it is hilarious, or just bizarre.
‘The Pok’ loves coming with me to Bunnings (Warehouse) hardware store. It is always a man adventure, and he is always discovering new things in store. However, the most important purchase at Bunnings is always a sausage sandwich from whichever local group is fundraising. It is always two sandwiches, one for me and one for him – and we never share!
So after I quickly wolfed my sausage sandwich down the chute, he continued working through slowly savouring his while constantly smearing tomato sauce and mustard all over his face.
I was in a hurry and had to exchange an item, so we queued up while he continued to eat.
Two attractive young women walked in, obviously friends, and the one in front caught a glimpse of ‘The Pok’ as. She started cooing at him, and then turned to her friend and said “Look at that little boy, he’s so cute.”
I don’t know how to react to strangers doing that. Guys never do it, but some women of all different ages feel the need to make a comment about someone else’s child. So I kindly smiled, and of course ‘The Pok’ kept on eating his sandwich ignoring the two young women. Side note – I keep on telling my brother that he can borrow his nephew for a day of “shopping” and we will get a shirt or cap made up that says “I’m his uncle”. – End side note.
The girls joined the queue directly behind me, and the one who made the comment then decided it would be a nice gesture to engage with my boy. She bowed down to his level and said, “Hello little guy, are you enjoying your sandwich”.
‘The Pok’ locked eyes on her and loudly…
Shocked, she recoiled back and awkwardly said to her friend, “I guess that wasn’t a good idea.”
I didn’t know whether to laugh or be embarrassed by my boy’s response. I apologised to the young woman on behalf of both us, “He is not normally like that.” My son finished off his sandwich.
An important lesson was displayed here. Never get in the way of a man (little or otherwise) and his food, particularly if it involves meat.
It’s a public holiday long weekend in Sydney, so my riding buddy AC made the call – time to go for a ride 120km of epicness. Sounded good to me. The proposed route would be to head south of Sydney, through ‘The Shire’ and into the Royal National Park (RNP). With the return leg via some out of the way roads following one of the train lines. Here is the route, and the profile (yes a bit of uphill ouch in this ride):
Now Sydney is not known for being friendly for cyclists, us riders wish it was, but it is not. If you want that, then go relocate to Melbourne or Adelaide. So for this ride we set off at 4am, not to get a clean run down to the park, but to avoid the dreaded Sydney traffic on a Saturday on the return. Yes, 4am is when sparrows are farting before they wake up, but hey. This was a tough ride, but also one of the strangest that I have done in a long time.
Firstly I made the mistake of dressing for the cool pre-dawn conditions, and not the warm morning temperature. I got cooked, and received multiple visits late in the ride from the dudes who live in cramp city. Those dudes are buggers, and I am sure they are mates with the ‘Man with the Hammer’.
Secondly after about 30 clicks into our journey, just past 5am, we came up to this rather large guy in khaki shorts riding a flat bar hybrid bike with pannier racks. Our pace was much quicker than his, but as we were coming to overtake him, he looked at us and then buried himself just so we couldn’t overtake him. It was hilarious. He even ran a couple of red lights to get ahead. We were toying with him like a lion does with a mouse, after all we had nothing to prove and had another 90 clicks to go. But as we neared the road that would take us to the RNP we dropped the hammer and dropped him.
Thirdly we had fun(?) on some stupid gradients as we climbed out of the first of several valleys we would be hitting for the day. Only to be buzzed and yelled at by a couple of kids on their learner plates who probably don’t even shave. That would have been around 6:45am – seriously boys, don’t be idiots and get a life.
The final bit of weirdness though was in the final stretches of the ride, with our end in sight. I was cooked and AC rode ahead through a roundabout turning right. I was a good 200m behind him at least, struggling with those cramp city dudes. As I came to the roundabout I signaled with my arm that I would be turning right. I had right of way and the oncoming traffic by law would have to yield, particularly as I was already in the roundabout turning. Rapidly advancing towards me was an Mercedes AMG C63, a car I wish I could afford to drive. But instead of giving way, the Merc sped up and flew into the roundabout cutting me off and forcing me to slam on the brakes and hold the back end of my bike from flying out. The driver didn’t even indicate his change of direction. This is not the first time this has happened and probably won’t be the last, but…
This NEVER happens on a bike ride
The Merc driver took off with me waving my hand at him for the danger he had put me in. Then another large sedan, a Holden (GM) Commodore, came flying past me from behind with its engine revving. This was strange indeed. The Holden flew up behind the Mercedes, almost bumping him. Then a set of red and blue lights in the Holden’s rear window started flashing. The siren came on, indicating to the Merc driver to pull over. Sure enough an unmarked police car witnessed the whole incident and the Merc driver was about to cop a fine or two. The real rub for the miscreant driver is that given it is a long weekend in Sydney it is also double demerit points off your license for any traffic infringement. Ouch! This never ever happens, never! I rode past the cop and the miscreant driver, shaking my head at him. AC was waiting for me and he asked what happened. I gave him the low down, and his jaw dropped – “No way!” The miscreant driver ended up catching up with us, and as he drove past he tapped his finger against his head. Lesson learnt perhaps, I hope so because as riders we are very vulnerable to any metal engined machine on four wheels and we always come out second best.
I am not sure whether I should buy a lottery ticket or not, but thanks to the cop for taking my safety into consideration. And thanks to AC for pulling me along on an epic and weird bike ride.