Archives for the month of: January, 2014

Yesterday, on the way back home from our long weekend away, I received some news that I knew would eventually come but not so soon. My uncle Marc (Gaëtan) Nemorin passed away after a battle with acute myeloid leukemia (AML). He was a happy man to be around and always had a smile on his face and a tale to tell. Marc is and always will be the husband of my godmother Ghyliane Nemorin, and is also survived by his two children – my cousins Shaun and Ariane. He was a good father and took care of his children well. Marc loved football (soccer) and was an accomplished referee who officiated at the top level of the sport in Australia. He kept very fit, and I feel that he has been robbed after living a very healthy life. Marc was definitely a child of the 60s and 70s and the influence in his tastes in the arts stem from this period. I remember vividly to this day this painting – “Wings of Love” by Stephen Pearson, that he had hung up in his lounge room. I did not know the meaning of it as a child, but I just remember how vivid the painting was and the depth to the fantastic scene.

Wings_of_Love-Stephen_Pearson

His other love was always music, and he had some cool taste in music. Marc enjoyed singing and jamming with bands often in the studio crooning out tunes. And if there is one thing that he has imparted on me is some of his musical tastes – it is because of Marc that I love Roxy Music.

Marc has been taken away from us far too early, and I feel a great loss not only for me as one of his nephews but the great loss for my godmother, and my cousins who have been robbed of a grandfather for their children.

Gaëtan, may you rest in peace and live on in your children and their children. Enjoy a bit of Roxy Music up in heaven – I am sure Bryan Ferry would not hesitate to jam with you.

If there is one spot in the world that I have found to be as close to idyll, it would have to be Port Stephens on the NSW coast about 30km North of Newcastle. It is an absolutely beautiful part of the world and less than 3 hours drive North of Sydney. The port itself is a drowned valley estuary, and the large natural harbour that it makes is 134 square kilometres (52 square miles) in size. Here is what it looks like from the sky.

Port_Stephens-Google_Earth

For me it has everything that I want for a holiday at the beach, and one day I will live there (maybe when I am old(er)…). If you want water sport activities and fishing – tick. If you want quiet harbour beaches with no surf – tick. If you want bushwalking – tick. If you want sand dune adventures – tick. If you want relaxing by the beach – tick. And if you want riding then big tick.

So when my wife said “let’s go up to Port Stephens for the Australia Day long weekend”, I was dead keen to go up there again. This would be the first time my boy would be old enough to comprehend that this would be a fun trip, so a family trip was the order – with my road steed on the roof racks ready to go. This is where I thank my wife profusely for allowing me to indulge in some two wheel exploring of the port, and over the course of the long weekend I managed to squeeze in over 180km.

The riding is mostly flat, but when it does get to the hilly bits then it is a bit Jekyll and Hyde. What I mean by that is that it is either flat or stupidly steep. There is one hill leading from Corlette to Nelson Bay which hits 16% gradient – ouch! The steepest road I have ever ridden up is in Corlette, and it would definitely be over 25% gradient. I haven’t run the GPS over some of these routes yet, I will keep that for another time.

It is so picturesque riding through here, even when you are in the suburbs. There are many roads like this, with the beautiful and natural Australian bush right on the side of the road for kilometres on end.

Riding_0087

With all the surrounding national parks and preserved bush and wetlands, you are bound to see the natives. If you look closely you can see not one but two koalas in the same tree.

Riding_0081

A ride around the area always involves destinations like the serene Soldiers Point, which looks Westward and in the evenings to a setting sun. Early morning is not just the dominion of us cyclists, the fishermen love getting out on their boats too. But what is awesome about Port Stephens is that even at the boat ramps you can still find one that is not bustling.

Riding_0082

From Soldiers Point, to the West you can see a similar location known as Lemontree Passage. As the crow flies it is only some three to four kilometres away, but a round trip on the bike is close to 50 kilometres of riding. Of course I had to do that ride, and I was greeted to an awesome sunrise at the boat ramp at Lemontree Passage.

Riding_0085

I had to get a shot of my road steed posing with the boats of the Marine Rescue of New South Wales, who voluntarily commit to supporting the saving of lives on the water – 24 x 7. I never knew about this organisation before this last weekend, until I had the opportunity to talk to one of the volunteers who was raising money to keep their operations going. Just in Port Stephens alone last year they went out to over 100 calls.

Riding_0086

Finally, I had to snap this shot of a sign that held very true this last weekend. Yes Australia has some nasty critters, and Port Stephens has many of them. You have been warned…

Riding_0088

I often joke about the fact that the critter danger in Australia is overhyped, but on my rides I had to twice swerve to avoid a couple of small snakes on the road shoulder. No problems at 30+kph. But the crap my pants moment came when we spent the day at Fingal Bay where my son was begging to go for a ride on his balance bike. He got very tired after 3 kilometres in the heat and I ended up carrying his bike in my left hand with him sitting on my shoulders (as usual). Gazing at the beach and not looking where I was directly walking, I stepped on something rubbery but fleshy. As I turned around I saw what I didn’t want to see, one of these scurrying off into the sand dunes.

Eastern Brown Snake

And it was big, at least two metres long! Yes, I crapped myself. Because while I was trying to deny it what I had just stepped on was an Eastern Brown Snake – the second most venomous snake in the world. But he was scared, I was scared, and we called it a truce. My son from his perch said to me “Don’t worry Daddy, he is a nice snake because he didn’t eat us.”

I can’t wait to ride up here again next time – hopefully minus the serpents.

Summer in Sydney is awesome! Nipping off from work in the afternoon rushing to get to the beach while the sun sets. Give an Aussie a ball and bat anywhere and anytime they will work out how to make a game of it.

Sydney_2014_0077

This is why we won back The Ashes!

P.S. These aren’t even our top athletes…

This week’s travel theme from Ailsa’s blog ‘Where’s my backpack?’ is Silver. I didn’t realise how tough this week’s travel theme would be. I take a lot of photos of gold stuff, and colourful stuff, but you never see a lot of silver stuff. What I really wanted to find in my photo travel archive was a gleaming P-51D Mustang fighter plane, but alas donuts. But I did find some so here goes. As usual the images in this post link to my larger photos on Flickr.

Starting in Australia first, I really like this photo that I was lucky enough to capture in Caloundra, Queensland, Australia. The beachside “boardwalk” has lots of cool street furniture and these oversize silver taps add to the aquatic theme of the beach. The couple were not inserted, and I think make the photo.

Caloundra_2011_0180

Off to Japan, and  the Fuji TV building in Odaiba, Tokyo is one of the many iconic buildings design by the renowned Japanese architect Kenzō Tange. This photo really doesn’t do the building justice with its silver sphere on the top floor walkway.

Tokyo_2007_0554

Further South in Kyoto, Japan, is a temple called Ginkaku-ji – also known as the Silver Pavilion. This building was supposed to be covered in silver likes its sister building the Golden Pavilion, but they ran out of money (back in the 15th century). So it is not the building which is the highlight so much as the perfectly manicured grounds.

Kyoto_2007_0183

Across to Europe and in Paris, France we have La Géode at Cité des sciences technology museum. It is a spectacular silver sphere which doubles up as high technology digital cinema showing cool Imax sort of stuff. The thing is 12 stories high! You can see from the sky that it was a perfect day to spend in a museum.

Paris_8110

If you ever go up to Northern England and one of my favourite cities Leeds (and home to the mighty Leeds United) is one of the best military museums in the world – The Royal Armouries. There are so many pristine suits of medieval armour on display, you almost get lost in there. I love this display of a knight in his silvery armour with battle mace in hand ready to do damage. I would love to go back to visit when they put on the jousting display in full kit.

Leeds_Armouries_0021

Finally, in New York City, arguably the most beautiful skyscraper is the Chrysler Building. It’s art deco finish is soooo beautiful. I particularly like the gargoyles.

New_York_20060197

I have to post one more photo, I wouldn’t say no to one of these that I got close to at the Paris Auto Mondiale (motor show) back in 2004. The perfect mix of McLaren and Benz.

Auto_Mondiale_2004_0105

Our boy, AKA ‘The Pok’, has started to say some really funny things with the reasoning of a 3 year old behind his musings. Some of it is hilarious, or just bizarre.

Christmas brought with it far too many chocolates into our house, at least 2kg worth. Most of it was gifted to our 3 year old son, who now understands the concept of receiving gifts. Following four days straight of helping himself to a breakfast of chocolate, we had to put a stop to it. I put the remaining chocolates on the top shelf at the back of the fridge.

So it was to my surprise that when the two of us had a boys night without my wife watching Cars and Madagascar, my son was not begging to go raid the fridge. As we were lounging on the couch watching the second film, he bolted down the hallway for what I thought was a visit to the toilet. Less than a minute later I heard ‘beep, beep, beep’, the warning signal from our fridge that the door has been left open.

I got up from the couch to walk down the hallway when I saw the cause of the noise. There was ‘The Pok’ standing on a stool with one leg on tiptoes reaching as deep as he could for the chocolates with the fridge door open.

I asked him, “What are you doing in the fridge? Are you stealing chocolates again?”

He turned to me with a cross look on his face and replied “No Daddy, I am not! The fridge is broken and making a beeping noise, so I had to go and fix it. You go sit back down in the lounge room.”

No chocolates were harmed as a result of this fridge breakdown…

Pok_Chocolates_Fridge

One of my workmates, PD, organised a long overdue ride on the weekend. He called the shots as to location and I brought one of my regular riding buddies, JB, along for the ride. This might come as a surprise for most Sydney cyclists who live ‘North of the Bridge’ but I have never ridden up this way before. We kicked off into the National Park at Bobbin Head and proceeded to take what is known as the “3 Gorges” route: Bobbin Head – Galston Gorge – Berowra Waters. What a magical ride! The day was perfect and the scenery equally so. I quickly realised that I am not getting enough climbing in on my rides, and the quiet fact that PD has a life of triathlon riding under his belt including the Hawaiian Ironman. Needless to say PD belted us, but it wasn’t a race and I loved it. How can you not love a ride where you get scenery like this (taken when we were waiting for the water ferry to cross at Berowra Waters).

Riding_0080

This ride was 62km in total, but had some bite to it with 1,130m of vertical. No nasty pinches, but some good hard climbing and some great downhill bombing.

Northern_Sydney_3_Gorges

I can’t wait to ride up here again, and probably need to add this to my list of local routes to tackle. There are some other routes out here that are now on the wish list too!

Summer in Sydney is awesome! Great weather, great beaches, and the ice cream comes to you – just how you would expect it to be delivered.

Sydney_2014_0092

My boy saw the boat coming in and immediately said “Daddy, I’m hungry.”

Can’t wait for the Australia Day long weekend.

This week’s travel theme from Ailsa’s blog ‘Where’s my backpack?’ is Illuminated. I thought I would use this travel theme to show off my photos from the Vivid Light Festival in Sydney from last year. I had to travel the best part of 3km to get to this location, but it was tough hauling with my Canon Digital SLR, 4 lenses, and a Tripod. I am only showing a few of the photos on this blog post but I uploaded a whole heap more, particularly of the Sydney Opera House, up to my Flickr account on this set Vivid Light Festival 2013. Oh, and as usual, the images link through to the larger sized photos on Flickr.

The Sydney Opera House was AWESOME! The video show this year was something special, and was good for both photography and video. The husband of one of our fellow bloggers, Josephine over at Becoming Aussie (the link has a blog post with video of the show), had a hand in putting together this part of the light show. My favourite part was definitely the lizard eye.

Vivid_2013_0541

The Sydney Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) was well cool too and competed well against the ‘House, but was pipped into second place.

Vivid_2013_0312

There were another two video displays against buildings this year, in addition to the regular one on Customs House which was unusually average. One was against the old brick warehouse building behind the Overseas Passenger Terminal, which was better to watch in motion than still. The running horses were the best bit.

vivid_2013_262

Circular Quay was bathed in colour!

Vivid_2013_0350

Not all the displays were grand, some were on a more human scale. Like this oversized illuminated beehive.

Vivid_2013_0356

Or the light panels that were sensitive to touch.

Vivid_2013_0198

The terraces in the rocks were lit up again this year after being absent in 2012. Love the colours, and the light murals on the 1st storey balconies.

Vivid_2013_0587

I liked the giant neon tube light bulb – cool too.

Vivid_2013_0192

Some of the art pieces were quite abstract, but this one was sheer genius. It would have to have been very highlight calculated with the shade effects against the textured cubes. The lighting changed its saturation over time and the shadows changed with it. Chapeau to this artist.

Vivid_2013_0202

I think my boy enjoyed the light show a lot, particularly when he got to play on the light piano with his mum.

Vivid_2013_0295

I can’t wait to see what the lineup will be for 2014.

Great theme this week Ailsa, good excuse to post some cool photos.

So I have seen some pretty weird stuff on my rides. Most times I am on the handlebars pedalling away wishing I had a camera in my eye like the 6 Million Dollar Man (yes, I just showed my age but gee that was an awesome show). But sometimes I just have to stop and take a quick snap with my mobile phone in my back pocket. This morning I saw the biggest yellow rubber duck I have ever seen in my life. I think it is part of the Sydney Festival, and was here in Sydney last year.

Rubber Duck - Sydney Festival 2014

For the record my ride this morning was a struggle as I was pushing against a mild bout of office communicated man flu. Still, my mate JB and I pumped out a good 80km and I fought through it to get some of my fastest Strava segment times. We took a detour through Sydney Olympic Park on he return. Perfect Sydney Summer morning for a ride, no wind, few riders, perfect temperature, and low humidity.

80km_Parramatta_Ride

Off to the beach this arvo I think.

While I didn’t write up a big post that summed up my 2013, and I don’t really believe in New Year’s resolutions, I do use the changing of the calendar to refocus my goals. My first set of goals is related to cycling. Last year I got stuck into my bike quite a bit, particularly in the second half of the year. I did my longest ride ever (260km for Around the Bay – horrible ride), rode around a volcano (West Maui loop in Hawai’i), and had my first ride ever with my 3 year old son (the Pok and his Dad go Riding). I was off the bike for a fair few months early in the year having spent far too much time working interstate, but I managed to squeeze in about 4,780km of riding.

I wandered what this would look like on a map, and here it is.

52ce33d6ec8d8399b90000e4

This would be the equivalent of riding from Port Macquarie to Sydney to Perth to Geraldton. Google tells me that this is about 49 hours of non-stop driving. It took me considerably longer than that. It falls far short of my mate Ben who lived the dream riding over in France as the TdF rolled on and some of my fellow bloggers like Frank at Serendipities of Life (huge kms last year and knocked on the head NZ top to tail and Sydney to Melbourne the long way) or Jim at Fit Recovery (who kept on plugging away all year for over 5,000 miles and earned his stripes for his new Specialized steed).

2014 Cycling Goals

So what are my goals for the year?

1. Stay healthy and avoid the prolonged bout of chest infection I had in 2013.

2. Be the same weight at 40 years old as I was at 21 years old  (I hit middle age in the middle of this year, only 5kg to shed).

3. Finish building my custom hardtail MTB steed.

4. Ride 7,500km for the year – a big step up on last year but I will be in Sydney for pretty much all of this year so it shouldn’t be a problem.

5. Get my son onto his first bike with pedals.

6. Ride my best times for the organised rides that I will participate in – Ride Around the Lake, Amy’s Gran Fondo.

7. Ride a couple of new organised rides that I haven’t done before – got three targets, should be interesting.

8. Ride in another country again this year – last year was the USA, this year probably the UK when we go visit our English relatives.

9. Ride 5 places outside of Sydney in Australia that I have never done before – my targets are Mt Stromlo in Canberra, somewhere else around Port Stephens, Mudgee (mmm… wine), Hunter Valley (mmm… wine), and somewhere else.

10. Don’t crash!

Should be a fun year in the saddle, looking forward to riding and exploring on two wheels!

%d bloggers like this: