Archives for the month of: February, 2013

So I might be down a set of wheels, but that doesn’t mean others in our house are not keen to go for a spin. We bought the Pok (AKA our son) a balance bike a few months back and have been waiting for him to grow tall enough so that he can put his feet down on either side and push. He has recently gone through a mini growth spurt and we got him a new set of shoes that give him that little bit of extra height. Now he is ready to roll! After an abysmal weekend of weather, Sunday morning let the sun burst through the clouds. I could tell he was itching to get outside because he was riding the bike down the hallway. We had to take him to ride.

The location for his ride was the C.A.R.E.S Facility at Sydney Park in Alexandria. It is where they do motorcycle rider training for learner riders during the week. On the weekend it is where the children play on any combination of wheels. As soon as we parked the car up, the Pok was itching to take his bike for a spin – he wouldn’t even let me carry the bike to the track, he insisted on doing it. This facility is great! It has flashing signals (just like the proper ones on the road), speed bumps, marked pedestrian crossings, curbed road sides, marked lines – the works. And all of it is in a microcosm of traffic. For those parents half asleep walking through the complex you are going to get collected by a speeding child on a bike, scooter, or wheeled contraption of some kind. The look of joy on the kid’s faces is great, and this is the one of the safest complexes of its type that I have seen in Sydney where kids can just hoon around on wheels.

The Pok quickly got the hang of it, and it wasn’t long before he just took off and thought about looking for us as an afterthought. He was concentrating very hard, and what pleased me was his left hand prepared to grip the brake lever just like he has seen me many times doing before. Here he my little riding buddy hitting the track.

Pok Riding - #1Pok Riding - #2Pok Riding - #3Pok Riding - #4

What we weren’t expecting was half of the track being drowned in water from all the rain over the last couple of days. The drains must have been clogged, and this left a few dips in the road with big pools of water. Our son saw this and headed straight for that section of the road. He stopped as he reached the edge of the dry pavement and pondered his next move. After a very short period of pondering the words that came out of his mouth should not have surprised me, “Daddy, can I go in the water?” At first I responded “No, go the other way.” But then when he asked again I thought what would I have done if I was riding. Of course I would have gone through the water – again, and again, and again. There was no way I could stop him from riding through. So with shoes, socks, and shorts off he hit the trail again but this time Fred Flintstone style.

He Loved It!

Pok Riding - #5Pok Riding - #6Pok Riding - #7Pok Riding - #8

I would be lying if I said that there was not a hint of jealousy on my part. It looked like awesome fun! I think that this place will be frequented heavily until he goes exploring other trails. Especially if he gets to finish off his rides the way it finished today. He is too young to develop the cyclist’s post ride coffee addiction, so naturally he is picking a different poison.

Pok Riding - #9

Good times! If anyone wants to know where Sydney Park is, I have attached the Google Maps link below. The arrow marks the spot where the the riding track is. There is a car park adjacent to it with a set of lights to get into it, very easy to get to for anyone driving.

Sydney Park - Alexandria - Google Maps

 

I have resigned myself to the fact that my MTB steed is gone for good. That is devastating, but as my wife correctly said “I need to look forward and move on”. On a side note, my wife has been awesome dealing with a very angry/upset/melancholic rider in the house whose fuse has been unacceptably short. I think the most devastating thing about it is when I got screen shots from the CCTV footage. The Police are not interested, and if I was honest I don’t think they even have the manpower or resources to chase this sort of stuff down (they have enough trouble chasing down thieves who break into houses or steal cars). So I am left with the follow up, and while my main course of action is to chase up my insurance I want to post this guy’s photos so if others see him they lock up and call him out to the authorities.

Here he is entering into our building in the wee hours behind our cleaner who is trying to empty the garbage.

Thief_MF1

He was obviously not specifically looking for mine.

Thief Mother F#cker 2

At this point I suspect that he realised something was not right about the front wheel.

Thief Mother F#cker 3

He has made a mistake by deciding early morning is a good time to do this. That is when I (and most serious cyclists) get out and ride. It will be interesting to see how I would react should I bump into him.

But I need to move on. The challenge for me now is to find a 26″ bike with QR skewers so I can attach my son’s trailer to the rear axle. I will find a new MTB Steed to love and ride, and now I have the customisation bug it will become very much my ride.

For the last 9 months I have been putting together a dream of mine – a custom mountain from component parts. This is the one I feature as the first steed in my stable. I bought the frame as my birthday gift from my wife and son last year and have meticulously sourced (funds permitting) all the components from all corners of the globe. It was very personal and my pride and joy because it was my design, my setup, and was made to fit me perfectly. It is the steed that I use to tow my son in his trailer so we can go on a bike adventure together as a family. I had busted a spoke on the front wheel last weekend and was going to get it fixed this morning at one of the local bike stores. I had my son with me and we headed down to the garage to get the front wheel and jump in the car. That is when I saw it missing.

It was stolen!

I could not believe what I was seeing – and for a minute I thought I had it upstairs in my apartment where my road bike lives. But it was gone. My son said “Daddy where is your bike?” and that is when it hit me. I had been robbed! As I walked up to the cage it was weird because everything was closed up and the lock was on, but when I got closer I saw what the b@stards had done. They had not broken through the lock, but had broken through mount for the latch and closing mechanism. There was an additional slap in the face because they decided to hang up the lock back on the hook, to make as if nothing had happened.

Broken Latch

They had left everything else lying around including my park tool stand. The cave dwellers probably didn’t even know that they were looking at. But they had lifted the bike clear off its wheel stand.

The empty stand

The b@stards even left their implements that they used to crank open the cage. A rusted old adjustable wrench and a rubber hood that was lying on the end. The hood was probably used so they would not get their thieving hands covered in rust. As if it wasn’t enough of a kick in the guts taking my steed.

A thief's tools

To say my stomach dropped was an understatement. I returned upstairs to inform my wife of what happened, and she came down to inspect herself. There may be hope, as we have CCTV installed in the garage following an assault of one of my fellow neighbours. We will be able to check the footage on Monday. As we went back to the lift I started to feel anger swell inside me – do nothing was not an option. So I left my family and ran around every street I could in the neighbourhood, in the hope that the thieves were stupid enough to leave my MTB steed on display. But to no avail. My anger had not dissipated, so  I thought to myself that the thieves may be stupid enough to try and fix the broken spoke. I grabbed the photos from my blog and wrote up a sheet with the specifications on the side, including all the custom parts. Then I travelled to all my local bike stores, six in total, and informed them of the situation. Two of them had sold me parts, and two of them I had bought from numerous times in the past. I left the sheet with them and then I went to the local Police Station in Glebe. They were quite sympathetic to my cause and in talking to the Constable on duty he consoled me with the fact that bike theft in our area is rife.

By the early afternoon my adrenaline had gone and I felt physically exhausted. I was no longer angry, I was devastated. I had spent 9 months putting this bike together, and it was my first hardcore off-road set of wheels that if I ever chose to race would be my steed of choice. I have not been blogging much the last couple of weeks because I have been working my ar$e off and having to travel. And the one joy I look forward to with certainty on the weekend is towing my boy on a ride. If my bike is being used to finance a high or addiction, then that makes me even angrier. I have worked hard and sacrificed much to attain my wheels, and no doubt the thief with the wrench will never understand this concept.

I wish cycling had more team directors like Vaughters trying to come up with practical and doable solutions to addressing drugs in sport.

The weekend had arrived and I picked up my son – the Pok – from day care after I had finished work on Friday. He was looking forward to the weekend too, so when I asked him what he wanted to do on Saturday I was taken aback by his response – “the Zoo!”

So with sunscreen liberally applied, and hats donned, we trekked over to King Street Wharf near Darling Harbour in Sydney. The Zoo we decided to visit was the Wildlife Sydney Zoo – which features a colourful cast of native Australian animals. We had never been here, and at first I was a bit sceptical that this would be a tourist trap but boy was I surprised. Housed in a large building enclosure that has been built over Sydney Harbour with a high netted ceiling is a wonderful small zoo within an easy walk of Sydney CBD. The proximity you get to the animals left our son in a bit of a fright at first – particularly when snakes drop down from their branches to within a foot of your face having only a sheet of glass separating you. There were plenty of open enclosures for you to get close to the animals, but also safely away from those that require distance. The one I am talking about is “Rex” the 5m Saltwater Crocodile – the prime example of an apex predator.

The zoo staff support conservation and animal care and you can see they spend a great deal of time taking care of the animals and their habitats. So with my Canon Powershot G15 in hand, I tried to see if I could get some shots as opposed to snaps. I was quite happy with some of the results, even the ones that were shot through glass. BTW all the photos link through to larger images on my Flickr photostream.

Wildlife Sydney Zoo - #1

Wildlife Sydney Zoo - #2

Wildlife Sydney Zoo - #3

Wildlife Sydney Zoo - #4

Wildlife Sydney Zoo - #5

Wildlife Sydney Zoo - #6

Wildlife Sydney Zoo - #7

 

Wildlife Sydney Zoo - #8

Wildlife Sydney Zoo - #9

Wildlife Sydney Zoo - #10

Wildlife Sydney Zoo - #11

Wildlife Sydney Zoo - #12

 

Our 2 year old son had a great time visiting this zoo, and his fear of the reptiles abated ever so slightly by the end of the trip. The zoo also has plenty of other attractions to appeal to kids. In the end we all left extremely impressed, and I don’t think that this will be the last time we go here. If you visit Sydney, and only have a day or two up your sleeve, skip the tacky tourist traps like the Madame Tussauds next door and check out some of Australia’s native fauna here.

Pok at the Wildlife Sydney Zoo - #1

Pok at the Wildlife Sydney Zoo - #2

Pok at the Wildlife Sydney Zoo - #3

The ANZAC Bridge is Sydney Harbour’s other bridge. It is the one that is often forgotten by the tourists, but equally important in keeping Sydney moving. In my opinion it is an engineering beauty whose elegance lies in its myriad of cable stays and it’s two sentient towers. The area in which the bridge is situated holds lots of Sydney’s working history, with the old sandstone quarries being located on the Pyrmont side (East) and one of the many old dockyards surrounding the harbour foreshore being located on the Rozelle side (West). For many American GIs posted to the Pacific Theatre in World War II, they would have departed from Sydney in boats docked near where the Western footings now stand.

The weather this last weekend has been pretty much rubbish, but at sunset on both days the heavens opened up and provided a spectacular sky show with the ANZAC bridge as its star. Come to think of it, the weather this Summer has just been bizarre – and I think there may be another heatwave coming our way later this month. Both my Canon EOS 400D SLR and Canon Powershot G15 came out for a play and here are the results. As usual all the photos link through to larger images on my Flickr photostream.

ANZAC Bridge - #1

ANZAC Bridge - #2

ANZAC Bridge - #3

ANZAC Bridge - #4

ANZAC Bridge - #5

ANZAC Bridge - #6

The last shot is of the cycle path that loops around on itself on the Pyrmont side to bring you up to the height of the bridge deck. I have ridden this too many times to count. If you are interested in going for a walk to the bridge you can find it at the location below on Google Maps. Make sure you stop at the Sydney Fish Markets for a bit to eat while you are at it as well.

ANZAC Bridge - Google Maps

 

Cyclone Oswald has well and truly left us now, but not without carving a swath of destruction over the Northern Territory, Queensland, and NSW. It has absolutely belted South Eastern Queensland and North Eastern NSW and hit Sydney with a vengeance early last week. There are a lot of people in Queensland who have lost everything again, but at least this time they were more prepared. The satellite image below shows its size as it hit South Eastern Queensland, days before descending down to where I live in Sydney. If you want to get an idea of the scale that the storm is covering, this would swallow up the whole of Portugal, Spain, France, Switzerland, Belgium and the Netherlands at once (as well as parts of Italy and Germany) – I this checked by comparing the area of coverage on Google Earth.

Cyclone Oswald Satellite Image - SE QueenslandWhen it hit Sydney it was downgraded to a category 5 storm, but it pretty much drowned out the remainder of the Australia Day long weekend. By Tuesday morning (29 January 2013) the storm had dumped 100mm of rain between midnight and 6am – pretty scary. Being an amateur photographer, of course I wanted to capture my experience of the storm. I didn’t dare go out, given it was blowing a gale and my camera gear was not quite waterproofed. But I did venture out onto the balcony and pulled out my new Canon Powershot G15 to shoot a couple of snaps. I wanted to see what the in camera HDR setting would do and how would it show the detail in pretty horrid and bizarre low light conditions. Here are two shots that I shot on the Monday night before the real rain shower began. As usual all the photos link through to larger images on my Flickr photostream.

Cyclone Oswald Rain Storm - Sydney - #1

Cyclone Oswald Rain Storm - Sydney - #2

There is a complete lack of definition in the sky and the drowned out clouds kept on dumping more as I went to bed. The reflection of the water on the buildings and the road brought out a lot of detail that I wasn’t expecting to capture – and I must admit, for a couple of HDR images, they don’t look to unrealistic. By comparison, here is the same two compositions taken using the camera’s auto setting. I much prefer the low light detail of the buildings and trees being brought out in the HDR images, without muddling around with the colour balance, hue, and saturation of the images.

Cyclone Oswald AUTO - Sydney - #1

Cyclone Oswald AUTO - Sydney - #2Meanwhile, inland, between Sydney and Melbourne our poor farmers can’t buy a bucket of rain. I took this shot while flying back to Sydney from the air and was absolutely amazed by how barren and brown the land was – while the coastal cities and towns were drowning under rain and flooding. There is no denying that Australia is a land of extreme beauty, but also extreme weather and we get reminded of this every day.

Barren Country NSW from the air - #1

 

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