Archives for the month of: May, 2013

Going to Pearl Harbor is a strange experience. There have been so many books, documentaries, and movies about this place and the surprise Japanese attack in 1941 that dragged the United States formally into World War II that it should not be a tourist destination of surprises. But for all I knew about it my travel companions; my wife (not so much) and son, my parents, and my grandmother were not so informed. For them (my wife excluded) the place was a journey of discovery.

Getting there from Waikiki Beach without a hire car proved to be very easy. We simply jumped on the number 42 bus and 40 minutes later were delivered to the Naval Base. It should be noted, Pearl Harbor is still an active Naval Base with the associated restrictions that go with it. My mother was shocked that we were not allowed to take our bags into the site. She even wanted to argue with someone about it (at which point I thought that throwing her into the brig for a few hours of solitary confinement may teach her some sense – then again no chance). After her initial call to arms, we eventually headed into the memorial site.

Another tip for the uneducated traveller, if you want to visit the USS Arizona memorial then you have to get there early and book your place. There are only a limited number of places each day, so if you get there after 10am there is a good chance that you have missed out. To be honest I am glad that we did miss out. I know I would have felt that hollow feeling of walking on a grave site, a place where over 1,000 soldiers perished in the sinking of the battleship. So seeing in person the white memorial from a distance was good enough for me. We ended up buying tickets to see the USS Bowfin submarine, USS Missouri battleship, and the Pacific Aviation Museum. This would turn out to be a very interesting and surprising trip.

The USS Bowfin

The World War II US Navy submarine the USS Bowfin is a museum that is maintained to the same condition as its time period. The tickets allowed us to descend into the very bowels of the ship to briefly experience life as a submariner (minus enemy torpedos, depth charges, and other smelly submariners). After boarding on the deck, you are quickly into the forward torpedo tubes. The light and the different coloured metals was surreal, and with the only natural light coming from the open hatches. As you walk back through the ship, the officer’s quarters, mess hall, crew quarters, bridge, and engine room are all preserved and laid out like they would have been during the ship’s service. Swinging a cat is definitely off the agenda here, and even walking through the bulk heads is an adventure in contortion – camera bag banging as I walked through. All the machinery and controls from the era are all in place too. Walking through here was… fun. I was like a little kid on a boat, and in some rooms I had it all to myself. Climbing back onto the deck via the aft torpedo tubes, just to remind you that this boat had a deadly intent, you arrive back again to daylight and the conning tower. The USS Arizona and the USS Missouri are across the water from the deck guns that watch protectively over the harbor. I had to wait for my wife and father to tour the submarine as we had to take turns taking care of the Pok – who loved all the “rockets” (translation missiles) that were on display. A couple of hot dogs in the belly and then it was off by bus to the USS Missouri

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The USS Missouri

This was not the first time that I had been on the Mighty Mo, I had been on her decks before in Sydney Harbour for the Royal Australian Navy’s 75th birthday celebrations. Back then she was still an active ship, but was not long for decommissioning. But even as we approached the ship, I was still awestruck by her size. She is one big, mean, bad-ass boat. With those nine massive 16″ cannons bristling on her deck you can’t help but feel in awe of her capacity to deal out some punishment. The Pok was able to board this ship with us, though climbing up the ramp with him on my shoulders was not what I was expecting. He did want to salute the captain when he boarded the ship, which amused the tour guides. Our tour guide was a young woman who was still at university and she was great. She was full of enthusiasm, and very knowledgeable about the ship and its history. The Mighty Mo had a very different feel from the Bowfin in that it had been retrofitted with modern weapons systems for when it went back into service for the second time. There were launch tubes for Tomahawk cruise missiles, Vulcan Phalanx anti-air turrets, and the main tower was bristling with modern tracking systems. But the real prize to visit when on the Missouri is the spot where the Japanese Imperial military forces signed the treaty to end the war. The story about this moment in history is quite interesting, particularly the bit about how they could not find a table suitable for the day of the signing. Did I say before that this ship was big? Our group was getting tired and we still had one more site to visit.

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The Pacific Aviation Museum

Another quick bus trip to a couple of hangars at the back of the base and you reach the Pacific Aviation Museum. As a lover of all things that fly, I dragged my family to this site. It was definitely less crowded here and for those who skip this destination you really miss out. After all, the naval war in the pacific was fought in large part by the aviation arms of the respective navies. In the first hangar, you are greeted by the sight of a Japanese Mitsubishi Zero fighter bomber plane. Almost in response to the Japanese plane hanging from the ceiling is a Curtiss P-40 Warhawk. Further inside is one of the few surviving Douglas SBD Dauntless dive bombers which were famous for their role in the battle of Midway. Yes, I was nerding out a bit seeing all these beautiful old flying machines but my son was enjoying it too. The second hangar, which I think even a few of the visitors to the first missed out on was for me the highlight of the trip. This is where all the fighter jets and helicopters were and this collection was even better. Greeting you on entrance to this hangar is a Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15 opposed by the North American F-86 Sabre from the Korean War, when jets were deadly simple. As I turned to look at the rest of the hangar, I was surprised to see an uber fast Lockheed F-104 Starfighter sitting on the deck with its wings detached, which was famous to me from when Chuck Yeager tried to set the world record for altitude but exceeded its limits and narrowly avoided death in the ensuing crash. The highlight of my whole trip was talking to one of the museum attendants about the the “Starfighter”. As it turned out, it had just arrived that morning and all the attendants were swarming over it. All the attendants are retired ex-USAF engineers who maintained planes throughout their careers. They continue their labour of love into retirement, and I think they have got it worked out. Why go to a retirement village when you can hang out with other blokes and have fun fixing planes. I was pleasantly surprised to see a Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21 on the deck, the first that I had ever seen in the flesh, and then a flight capable McDonnell-Douglas F15A and Grumman F14 parked further down. I could go on, but all I can say is go visit this small museum and you will be well surprised at the quality of the displays on exhibition.

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This week’s travel theme is Pathways, which caused me a different problem from the previous travel themes of which photos not to include. Ailsa has given us a good one this week, as my most vivid memories of travels are walking down pathways in places that I have never been to before. You can find the link to Ailsa’s travel theme at http://wheresmybackpack.com/2013/05/24/travel-theme-pathways/ . Quite often when I travel I like to leave the map behind and just walk to wherever it leads me. There is always a metro stop, or taxi, or a local who can guide me back to the roof over my head for the night. Sometimes it is also fun to watch the pathways that others take, enjoying the observation of their journeys. BTW – all the images below link through to my larger photos on Flickr.

The first photo is one I took in Thailand on a remote beach on one of the islands in the Andaman Sea. It was fun watching the crabs make the little balls of sand and then scurry on their paths back to the holes they originated from. There were hundreds of these patterns all over the beach, in what must have been a daily ritual.

Travel Theme - Pathways - Andaman Islands Crab

The second photos is from the day we spent in the university town of Cambridge in the United Kingdom. This is a very walking and cycling friendly place, where the car definitely does not rule, and the beautiful pathway along the river was well traversed – with the matching pathway on the water leading to other destinations.

Travel Theme - Pathways - Cambridge

The next two photos are from my first and second trips to Japan. Kyoto has the well known Philosopher’s Walk with the many temples and shrines dotted along it’s pathway. There are many other paths leading off of these trails, enticing you to explore. Kyoto would have to be one of the most beautiful and green cities I have ever visited.

Travel Theme - Pathways - Kyoto

In contrast the lesser known Kanazawa on the Western coast of the island of Honshu is often overlooked, but what a mistake. The home of gold leaf and the preserve of the old Japanese culture in the town has many sites that have avoided war and destruction. This photo is from the old Samurai Quarter that still exists today in the same layout and structures from those times. People still live there, and you can just imagine the Samurai walking through the pathways with their wooden shoes clanking on the stones.

Travel Theme - Pathways - Kanazawa

Not all pathways are laid out on the ground. The British canal system spurred on the industrial revolution and the many pathways that criss-cross the country show you a different side of the country that often cannot be seen from the motorways and highways. This shot was taken in a tiny village called Lyneal, and you can see the accompanying pathway alongside the canal where the older canal boats would be towed by horse along the waterways.

Travel Theme - Pathways - Lyneal Canal

The next two shots are of the pathways that marked out the UCI Mountain Bike 2009 World Championship Cross Country course at Mt Stromlo in Canberra, Australia. No other sport allows you to get so close to the riders, and watching the likes of Nino Schirter and Julien Absolon carve it up on the trails was awesome. I can’t wait to take my new MTB steed down to Mt Stromlo for a spin.

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Travel Theme - Pathways - MTB XC Worlds 09 - 2

The island of Mykonos in Greece and it’s main town centre is a labyrinth of pathways that were designed to confuse invaders. Now it just confuses hapless tourists like me, but it certainly is fun.

Travel Theme - Pathways - Mykonos

If you ever get the chance to visit Kakadu National Park in the Northern Territory of Australia then do it. This place is stunningly beautiful and typifies the Australian outback and the ancient history of the Aboriginal peoples. This photo was taken on our trip to Ubirr with its ancient rock paintings. Climbing up this rock along the pathway of your choosing provided us a stunning vista of the wetlands. My wife and one of my best friends can be seen navigating the rock. It was humbling to contemplate that maybe as much as 25,000 years ago or more the indigenous people of Australia walked these very paths.

Travel Theme - Pathways - Ubirr

The last shot was taken at the Versailles Palace Gardens in Versailles, France. I could have taken many similar shots like this one throughout the gardens, and you never know where a break in the hedges along the pathways might lead you.

Travel Theme - Pathways - Versailles

Our first stop on our trip to Hawaii was the island of Oahu. For us Australians, we don’t have many flight choices other than to land at Honolulu. This island was also to be our final destination as well. The flight from Sydney to Honolulu was a 10 hour red-eye, and thank goodness that the Pok (AKA my son) slept for a good portion of the trip. This also meant that he got into the Hawaiian islands timezone straight away. My parents were travelling with us as the raison d’être  for the trip was my youngest brother’s wedding. They sat in the row behind us on the flight and it was great having another set of “babysitters”. I didn’t realise that this was also the first time that my father had been to the United States, so it was all going to be new for him. As we came into land, I was surprised at how high the lush green mountain ridge line looming on the Northern end of Honolulu was. We arrived at Hawaii!

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Oahu is probably the island I knew the most about, having seen many photos, TV shows, and movies all based around Honolulu and Waikiki. But my strangest familiarity was from the taxi ride to our hotel at the Western end of Waikiki. I was familiar with the roads, from a computer game of all things. Back in 2007 there was a game released for the original Playstation Portable called “Test Drive Unlimited”, which was set on the island of Oahu. Not only was this game set on the island, but it was accurate with the road layout gained from satellite map data coupled with the lane widths and intersections. It was a very weird sense of deja vu. We arrived early to our hotel on the first day and that gave us the opportunity to ease into Waikiki. Lunch at a bar on Waikiki which had all of its doors and windows gloriously open to the outdoors would set the tone for the next two and a half weeks. And there were gardens EVERYWHERE, with flowers of all kinds in bloom. This got my son quite excited as he had been looking forward to seeing a “hula hibiscus” that Minnie Mouse searches for in an episode of the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse (if you are a parent of a two year old you will understand).

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The first place that we stayed at was the Ilikai Hotel and Suites, which is where the opening scenes to the original Hawaii Five-O were filmed – you know the one where the camera zooms into Jack Lord standing on the balcony. You can hire that suite if you want, but it will cost you. Unfortunately Jack Lord was nowhere to be seen.

 

It is an old hotel by the rest of the Waikiki residential standards, but a good portion of the suites have been updated to modern standards so we were quite happy with where we stayed. It is located on the Western side of the Waikiki beach strip, but a great location for anyone with families as there is a very large lagoon within a quick walk out the back of the hotel that is safe for children to safely swim in without any fear of being wiped out by a wave. From here you are also within walking distance to many of the shops and restaurants including the Ala Moana shopping mall. Below was the view from our balcony at around half an hour after sunset.

Oahu - Honolulu - Ilikai Balcony

A night with Friends in Oahu

Our first night in Oahu was to be spent with an old work colleague Shannon from Sydney (well originally she is from New Zealand), who met the man of her dreams Dave who is in the US Army and has been posted in Hawaii for a few years now. They were set to depart on return to the mainland in a couple of days for Dave’s next posting. Shannon and Dave to my wife and I on a drive to the South Western side of the island near Ko Olina to watch the sun set over the ocean and grab a great bite to eat. We had a fun night telling stories and talking about old adventures. Dave gave us plenty of tips for our trip, and provided me with more items to add to the travel bucket list – more for next time. For Shannon, the move was going to be a big change but she was looking forward to it with optimism and happiness. Thanks guys for the wonderful night out and hopefully we will catch up with you again in the future on the mainland.

Surfing Longboard on Waikiki

While at Waikiki, I told my wife that I had to try my hand at a long board and hit the surf. I woke up early one of the morning and headed out to the beach. There were already a load of surfers out past the break. This was to be the second time I had tried my hand at surfing, but I have had years of experience on a body board in the Sydney surf. But I didn’t realise how out of practice my paddling muscles were. I picked up a 10 foot board and paddled out through the break. A big board is a big piece to get moving, and I underestimated how much energy I would need to catch the waves. 30 minutes into my 1 hour hire I was totally shattered. I had caught onto three waves by that stage, but hadn’t stood up. The first time I stood up, I wobbled and then proceeded to fall backwards into the water. The second time I stood up I was too far back and lasted maybe 5 seconds before falling off the back of the board, while it continued in the broken surf for another 25m or so. The third time I nailed it! I got up and was planted and it was AWESOME! I rode the wave for maybe 15 seconds before the wave petered out and I dived off the board. I managed to catch one more wave but my energy was totally sapped. Seven waves in all in a 1 – 2 foot swell. I was chuffed but totally exhausted. When a couple of the locals saw me walking back in my board shorts they nodded the greetings of the morning, all I could return back was the shaka sign and a big grin.

Waikiki Beach

It may not be the best beach in the world, but it is certainly one of the most famous. And it has got a lot going for it with surf, snorkeling, dining, and shops all nearby. We spent a few days laid out on the beach soaking up the sun and a couple of nights eating by beach side. The second place we stayed at was the Outrigger Reef Hotel and it has a great restaurant, the Shore Bird Restaurant & Beach Bar, located right on the beach with views to Diamond Head. You get to cook your own steak and feast on an assortment of buffet goodies. I had an interesting experience where a couple of drunk (more like hammered) freeloading girls tried to waltz up to the grill and steal my steak and ribs – to which the restaurant staff quickly evicted them.

Very weird.

With the Diamond Head volcano in the distance and great sunset views, it is hard not to like Waikiki. It is easy to be a holiday maker here.

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And our boy loved digging up big holes in the beach for him to jump into and request to be buried. This resulted in sand getting into him everywhere, which is an interesting experience when cleaning up your child. He discovered a discarded yellow spade that would end up coming with us on the rest of the trip. When I explained to him that Diamond Head was a volcano, he was a bit confused. This would come in handy later in the trip for when he played up and I would threaten to throw him into the volcano. This is still working for the moment.

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If you are lucky, you might chance an impromptu hula show encouraging you to attend the many Luaus that are present at the hotels and resorts. My son was giddy with excitement when he saw the performers dancing and proceeded to shake his hips. He was having a good time already, and nothing makes me happier than seeing him happy.

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Even the evenings on Waikiki are special

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Honolulu was the base for us to journey to Pearl Harbor, but that is for the following post. For now, I am going to keep unpacking the bags and get settled back into normal life. Missing Hawaii already, but in Honolulu I got the chance to knock off two of my travel bucket list items for the trip.

It has been a few weeks now disconnected and on vacation in Hawaii. What a trip it was! We saw and did some amazing things while there, and got to enjoy my brother and now sister-in-law’s wedding. I arrived back in Sydney yesterday afternoon to dreary weather and now rain soaked streets – so I am already in the throngs of travel withdrawal. My wife has said that I turned to being grumpy on the plane, she noticed the withdrawal in action.

The Pok (AKA my son) had a great time, and even the turbulent landing into Sydney airport cheered him up. While he slept for a good portion of the 10+ hour trip, he was wide awake and itching in his chair for the last 2 hours of the trip. When we hit our holding pattern over Sydney and were getting jolted around, the Pok started squealing giddily like a 2 year old does in excitement. Every time the jolting eased up, he would yell “can we do it again?” After about the 10th time, I told him he had to ask the captain of the plane – to which he responded at the top of his voice “Captain, can we do it again?” At least it calmed the nerves of all the passengers within 20 rows of us who don’t like turbulence.

Pok Flying Sleeping

 

BTW – if any parent is wondering what that special seatbelt thing is around him, it is a CARES harness and it was awesome. My wife bought it from a mother in Honolulu who children had outgrown it and it fits over the seat , but within the space of the tray on the back of the seat. It is FAA approved and he seemed reasonably content with it. There were only two catches to it; it doesn’t provide much head support when your little one drops off to sleep, and we were lucky that I had my parents behind us (otherwise it would have taken some negotiation with the air crew and the passengers immediately behind your child to install it). And yes, he stole my wife’s noise cancelling headphones.

We are definitely going back to Hawaii. I didn’t knock off everything on the travel bucket list, and discovered a whole lot more. Sure Honolulu is a tourist kitsch destination, but if all your holiday is to stay in a hotel and roast on Waikiki beach then you have fallen into the trap. There was so much to do just in Honolulu, but the best was getting away from the city and Oahu island.

For today, while I download all my photos and video this post is going to finish off with this sunset (to remember the many others that I will miss over the ocean). Well worth the 20 hours of flying.

Oahu Sunset

Ailsa at ‘Where’s My Backpack?’ has given us a tough travel theme this week – Dance. It is not a subject that I usually shoot, but I have trawled through some of my photos and maybe (?) have some loose interpretations to the theme. As usual, all my photos link through to the larger images on my Flickr site.

This first photo is from a couple of years back at the Festival of the Winds on Bondi Beach, which shows off kites and all kinds of other displays to do with the wind. These flags together show a painting of girls dancing and in the gusting wind they really did dance.

Festival of the Winds - Bondi Beach

The next photo was when we went to the Great Barrier Reef to dive at the outer reef. I have a bit of a phobia for diving, but this was too good to pass up. The fish swam and danced around me to a song that I could not hear. It was absolutely amazing and this little glimpse through the lens does not do the experience justice, I was totally surrounded.

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The next two shots are from our trip to Mayan Mexico, where we went to Xcaret ecological park (I wrote about this trip in an earlier post). We had the opportunity to watch quite a few traditional Mexican dances from the performers in the shows. The costumes were vibrant and full of colour. I had never seen traditional dance like this before.

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Riviera Maya  -  Xcaret Mayan performers

On the final day of our honeymoon in Shanghai, China, we decided to walk the length of the Bund where we finished up at what must have been a monument to the Chinese Communist revolution. In the middle of this, a group of older woman arrived and started practicing group dance together with a set of small red pom-poms on a cord. My Chinese is non-existent so I did not get the chance to ask someone what this was. Nevertheless we sat there for at least half an hour to watch the show.

Shanghai Morning Dance

The final shot was from the first night we spent in New York. We arrived on Halloween and was told by the concierge to check out the parade. It was crazy busy with people 5-6 deep from the barricades on the street. The parade was cool to watch, especially the group of university students who performed Michael Jackson’s Thriller. This was one of the girls who was dancing through the streets on stilts – impressive.

New York Halloween 2006 Parade

Tough challenge this week. Thanks Ailsa.

This weekend knocks on the head my first organised ride for the year – the Ride Around the Lake 2013. This is my favourite ride of the year because of several things:

  1. It is a great community organised ride to help a local charity – the My Place youth housing supported by the Lighthouse church that helps get disadvantaged youths in the area on their own two feet.
  2. The location is great! Riding around Lake Illawarra for the majority of the route and at the perfect time of the year as well.
  3. It has some cool segments on the route; The Koonawarra descent (downhill bombing), The Macquarie Rivulet run (closest thing to single track I have experienced on a road bike), The Mount Warrigal bike track (hilly and windy with a great view of the lake).
  4. It is not an easy ride. While it is only 40km, it is technical with plenty of turns and there are some steep uphills. There are also some “cyclocross” style negotiations requiring you to hop on and off the bike do a bit of gravel riding.
  5. It is the best signposted ride I have done, with awesome volunteers along all parts of the route, and
  6. It is a chance for my wife and I to ride with my Aunt who lives down in Wollongong.

It is not a race, but the serious riders get the chance once clear of the recreational riders to have a real go. This was the fourth time that I had participated in this ride and I decided that I was going to try and hammer it! My Aunt had a nasty off a few weeks back colliding with another rider who moved off his line, so unfortunately it was the first time in 4 years that she had to opt out. So with the blessing of my wife (thank you, thank you, thank you) we agreed to ride each at our own pace.

Ride Around the Lake Ride Route 2013

I set off on the 7:15am start, but was near the back of the group as we got there just after 7:00am (try getting ready for a ride when you are trying to take care of a two year old). I was caught up behind quite a few of the recreational riders who were having a good time, but not the kind of riders you want to be next to in a group – if you know what I mean. So when I finally got clear of these guys and gals after the first 3km riding away from the bay, I was able to get in the groove and settle in to a 33kph (20mph) pace. By that point, all the other serious riders had long got the jump on me but I didn’t know how many. What was strange was that there was no-one in front of me bar one guy on a road steed a few hundred metres up the road. I chased him down and overtook him. He jumped on my rear wheel and kept up with me for the next 5km or so, but when we turned back towards the bay crossing over the freeway he dropped off.

I saw the next rider ahead and chased him down too. He was an older guy who was turning over the big chainring with quite a bit of power. I didn’t catch him until we got to the steep suburb climbing at Kanahooka. After I passed him there was no-one in front my sights. This was not a surprise as this is where we were constantly turning left – right and going up and down over the undulating hills. Some of these pinches were up around 7-8% gradient, and it is weird because you cannot get into a groove. The big climb comes at about 17km in, but having ridden this ride 3 times before I knew what the reward was – downhill bombing at close to 70kph (43mph). You could possibly bomb it down quicker on the descent if it were not for the nasty gutter about 20cm deep at the end of the run. It was at that peak of that climb that I saw the next two guys in front of me. I chased the first guy down and passed him and then caught up with the next as we hit the Macquarie Rivulet. I didn’t realise until I uploaded the ride to Strava that I ended up riding the 9th fastest time ever along this segment at 36.5kph (22.5mph) – and the quickest on the day. It was when I got to the end of this bike track that I saw my next and what would end up being my last target, one of the local girls from the Illawarra triathlon club. She was riding on an awesome new Trek Speed Concept 9.8 WSD, which is an $8,000 bike here in Australia. Here is where my pig-headed bloke attitude came in as I thought to myself “I can’t let this chic on the cool bike kick my butt!” So I put my head down and started churning over the pedals at 95-100rpm. As I passed her on one of the straight roads through Oak Flats at around the 20km mark, little was I to know that this was the last rider that I would pass for the rest of the ride. I got on it and tried to keep the pace up and she was right on my tail. It wasn’t until we had to cross the bridge (unclip, ride, unclip again, gravel, climb, skinny 23mm rear wheel shanking all over the place on gravel – FUN!) over the creek at Koona Bay that I was able to get away from her and just ride.

The rest stop was 23km in and I just blew through this, after all I had enough water and electrolyte to sort me out for the ride. Then it was the bizarre sensation of riding by myself for the final 15km or so. Now I know a little what it feels like in a breakway when I am watching the races on TV. You are riding by yourself, trying to keep the hammer on tap and constantly checking your trip computer for speed and cadence. My average speed was nudging up to 28kph for the whole ride and I was keeping over 85rpm. As I neared the finish of the ride a couple of the volunteer “cheerleaders” who were dressed as Supergirls didn’t realise that I was coming in to finish and rushed to usher me to the line. I think I was the first to cross the line,  as I didn’t see any other riders at the Illawarra Yacht Club finish line.

It was a perfect day for riding, and the ride organisers had a band at the finish as well as a stall for coffee, bacon and egg rolls, and play areas for the kids. All the guys I passed came in over the next 10-15 minutes after me. I was able to keep 27.8kph for the entire 42km which given that I rode in no-one’s draft for the entire ride, I had to stop at two traffic lights, the many switch backs, and the clip out and ins – not bad really. I ended up doing the 5th fastest time ever for the ride circuit, but I was a bit miffed that there were two others who recorded faster times on the day (with a further two ahead of me from 2011). They must have got cleaner runs at the start than I did as there was two other start times after I took off. But all up pretty chuffed and I am finally getting my legs in. My wife came in at just over 2 hours for the 42km and had a pretty good ride herself. She got the chance to ride with a couple of others who kept her pace and enjoyed it – even if her regular ride buddy (my Aunt) was laid up on the recovery bench.

I didn’t stop and take any pics, but my wife shot off two on her phone from the rest stop. Magic spot for a ride.

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The more serious rides are coming later in the year in September, October, and November. I am working on building my base now and might even plan an overnighter with a couple of mates. That is to come, but first the Hawaii trip!

My trip to Hawaii is less than a week away now, and I am pumped. My brother’s future brother in-law has spurred me on and hired a road bike for the week in Maui. I have done the same, and now I am looking forward to doing some cool riding on the island. I am going to have to bring my pedals from my road bike along with my riding kit. As this is my first time to Hawaii, I have been doing some reading up on other blogger experiences of riding in Maui. It is some very interesting reading, particularly reading people’s accounts of climbing the Haleakala volcano – the longest climb in the world. At over 3000m, I don’t have the legs at the moment to attempt this ride, nor probably the time. Ryder Hesjedal, the Canadian pro-peloton rider and current Giro d’Italia champion holds the record at some 2 hr 32 min. But that was a ridiculous ride, where he pumped out over 350W of power for the whole climb. Most of the other cyclists that I am reading about are doing it somewhere between 4-6 hours. Below is the video of the Ryder’s assault on the Volcano in an attempt to beat his boss Jonathan Vaughters then record.

But I am getting the kms in the legs. I have racked up a couple of 60km rides and regularly now churning out a couple of quick 40km spins during the week too. I love this time of year riding in Sydney, perfect weather and fewer riders, walkers, and runners out on my routes. If I ever decide to go for a night spin now there are few people around the traps.

But back to my Maui riding coming up. The big gotcha that a lot of the cyclists talk about is the huge tradewinds that blow across the island pretty consistently. What they most talk about is planning the rides so that the routes are mostly in the shadow of the two volcanoes. It might take a bit of driving to get to the start of some of the rides, but it beats riding into the ridiculous headwinds that these tradewinds produce on a return leg. There are some fairly good roads, and a few that follow the coastline too. I am looking to get in quite a few long rides and hopefully a bit of climbing too. While Haleakala might be out of the question, there may be hope to ride some of the valleys up Puu Kukui. Here is hoping for 7 days of sunshine, cool weather and glass smooth roads (though I will settle for 7 days of good riding).

Maui tradewinds

One other thing that I am pumped for is my favourite organised ride of the year (even if it is the shortest), the Ride around the Lake down at Lake Illawarra. At only 40km long I am going to try and smash it, and believe I have the legs for it this year to have a bit of fun. I got a 42km ride in this morning with one of my riding buddies MG and felt some good power in the legs. I just need to shake off my annoying congested lungs.

I can’t wait to fly out next week!

Tonight I, along with my father and an old friend from school, had the pleasure of attending a great event at the Alliance Française de Sydney – an evening with Christian Prudhomme, General Director of the Tour de France. The talk was hosted by both the Alliance Française and SBS Television which is the home of cycling on Australian television and they have been broadcasting the Tour de France (TDF) to Australia for the last 17 years. Mike Tomalaris was also in attendance and introduced Prudhomme to us. Both him and Tomalaris are journalists by profession, so there was a common bond that they both shared – particularly since both had spent so much of their work life focused on the TDF. As it turns out, they are also both the same age. I believe Prudhomme was in Australia to talk with the broadcasters vying for the TV rights to broadcast the TDF after the contract with SBS expires in 2017. I only hope that ASO (the organisers of the TDF) realise that there are no other broadcasters aside from SBS in Australia who will show the same passion and do the race justice in their broadcast.

Christian Prudhomme - 1

It was a fascinating talk, and it was amazing to see that man in person. As the General Director of the Tour de France, he is one of the most important people in global sports management and what he says on TV has implications to not only cycling, but France as well. So seeing his persona in real life versus the media conscience presentation that he must provide when formally interviewed was a real surprise. He was genial, honest, and inspiring. Inspiring in that when asked about what are his goals for managing the TDF his response was simple “to make kids dream about being the champion of Le Tour!” This was a grown man talking about his humble goal of inspiring the next generation to achieve something.

He covered a range of other topics with the unavoidable topic of doping in cycling. Prudhomme is a staunch opponent to doping in sport and described the challenges for ASO having to operate within the regulatory framework established by the UCI. He noted that most other sports have chosen not to be as fervent in tackling drugs in sport, to which he was disappointed. Prudhomme was also pragmatic in the ability to completely weed out the drug cheats, noting that in every facet of life there are cheats – so practically cheating will never be completely eradicated. But he reaffirmed his continued commitment to tackling doping, and the need for cooperation from all the sports and international federations to consistently apply the rules.

We got the chance to ask a few questions covering many aspects of his job and the organisation of the TDF. I even got to ask a question regarding the selection of the teams for the wildcard places and pressure in the promotion of the sport globally. When some of the questions regarding the broadcast of the race were asked we got a very interesting perspective from him. He spoke about how the TDF and the last 100 years of French history were inextricably intertwined.

But what was more remarkable for me was his perspective on the social responsibility that the race organisers had in the promotion of France and its regional communities. Prudhomme told one story about how a few years back one of the stages finished in a a little known small town in the centre of the country. In recent years, this small town had suffered a decline in its local economy having relied heavily on the wood industries. With close to 25% unemployment, it was only when the TDF traveled through that it put the town on the map. Since then, the publicity boost that it received has given it a much needed lift and a small turnaround in fortune.

He spoke about how if anyone was serious enough they could put a stop to the race by blocking the route. But such is the passion of the TDF in France that no-one has done this to date (and even if they attempted to there would be just as many locals attempting to stop the potential saboteurs). He told an anecdote of a planned sabotage of the race route by some poor farmers in the Pyrenees. They were having a rough trot with bears marauding their flocks, and the EU had just passed a law protecting the bears. This was to the economic misfortune of the farmers, some of whom were losing up to 100 sheep to the bears. So to make a statement they planned to disrupt the race to gain international exposure to their plight. Solution – send in Bernard Hinault to sort them out. He amicably explained why the tour must go on (being a former 5 time champion and farmer himself), and with the consumption of many a glass of pure Ricard sabotage was averted. Hinault, always the enforcer!

There were many other points discussed and I do not want to misquote Prudhomme in his honest discussions with us. But it was a real breathe of fresh air listening to a progressive and visionary sports administrator who was humble enough to recognise his own role in managing the tour. He recognised that he was merely the holder of the fort during this period in time and bearer great responsibility to the sport, his country, and his role to inspire the next generation. He has inspired me, and I am pumped to ride again tomorrow morning with some wind in my sails.

Merci Christian, and to Mike and SBS as well, for a wonderful evening and may some of your vision rub off on other sports administrators.

Christian Prudhomme - 2

Vive le Tour!

 

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