Category Archives: Planning

I Need Some Time to Rest and Plan: Tuesday 28 July 2015 (Day 65)

Tuesday 28 July, 10:25 am – Cornelia’s

As we drive Cornelia is telling me tales from her life and work when this oh-so-Irish comment jumps out at me: “All they talk about at tea breaks is hurling.”

Hurling is a religion in these parts. The Kilkenny team is the Yankees of the sport having won 36 championships (of 129 played – they’ve also been runners up 26 times). Next closest is Cork with 30 championships and 19 as runners up. We’re in season and the team’s colours fly everywhere in Kilkenny. I don’t understand the game but am charmed by the continuing health of a very-definitely provincial sport with no aspirations of, you know, going global. Hurling is Irish.

I looked at a bunch of photos which all depicted some level of inexplicable sporting madness.
I looked at a bunch of photos which all depicted some level of inexplicable sporting madness.

It’s nice tagging along with Cornelia –  it gives us time to just hang-out and chat in the car as she drives between the various puzzle pieces of her life.

In 1988 she was travelling with her friend Nicola and I was travelling with my friend Jerry Lee (whom I visited in Florence a few weeks ago). We were all heading to Greece when we met at the train station in Bari, Italy. We fell in together and spent a few weeks in company.

Jerry Lee, Cornelia, Nicola, and me on the ferry from ... Athens to Santorini maybe?
Jerry Lee, Cornelia, Nicola, and me on the ferry from … Athens to Santorini maybe?

We’ve kept in touch off and on over the years but I last saw her in 1995 when I was in Ireland with President Clinton.

I’m missing being on the bike but know I need some rest and I am not missing the ‘travel’ per se – the packing and unpacking, the finding a place to sleep, etc.

Also, my lack of interest in Kilkenny is a real sign of needing a break.

Some ideas/questions bubbling away:

  • Volunteering at the festival, yes (as part of the ‘say yes ‘project);
  • Make a flying visit to London from here (Derry, Belfast, Dublin, London);
  • Ferry from Rosslare to Cherbourg and visit the French in Caen; then to Tom B’s and the Vuelta. A train someplace;
  • How important is getting to the Vuelta?
  • Can I get to the Rugby World Cup? More Pool A & B tickets go on sale on Thursday

Anyway … I’m still not sure – but I’d like to settle some plans for the next couple of weeks – set some accommodation, book transport. Dunno, dunno.

I just need to get through the stuff that needs doing, spend a few quiet days moving in an orderly way through stuff would be good.

And look for the energy and spirit of it to come back into it.

Yeah, a few quiet days, that’s what I need.

Should I Take That? Should I Take This?

Basically I’m having endless circular thoughts about gear.

I’ve been thinking about clothes again, more. I’ve gotten two new pairs of Merino undies. I’m again leaning toward wearing the knicks and cycling tops I have, at least to begin with.

For off the bicycle: I’ve the Kathmandu shorts and the travel skirt and the new Merino dress. I’ve the Midnight Oil t-shirt and the grey Kathmandu one or maybe Powell’s Books. Should I get something a little nicer? Something long sleeved?

Will I sleep in my existing leggings and a t-shirt? Or should I take something more pyjama-like? Something loose and breathable might be nice.

This is what it’s like in my brain today.

It Suddenly Seems Very Soon

Taking into account my Australian ride it’s like three months and a week or so to go. Shit. Okay.

I need to settle on a starting point: Sydney or Melbourne. Melbourne is pulling on me but I need to look at what the cost of getting there will be.

I have a lot to do; I have a lot of decisions to make.

I’ve begun reading The Rough Guide to Europe on a Budget – a Hanukkah present from my friend Laura S – Albania is a YES. But later in the trip when I’m a little more road seasoned.

Flight Changes are Giving Me Grief

Qatar Airways has changed my flights leaving me with the option of either taking a later flight from Sydney to Hong Kong on Cathay keeping short layovers there and in Doha but losing 10 kg from my baggage allowance (as Cathay offers 20 kg to economy passengers on that route compared to Qantas’ 30 kg). Or I can stay with Qantas but have nine hour layover in Doha without the provision of a hotel room.

I’ve told my travel agent neither of these options are acceptable as they both materially change the product I bought. I wouldn’t have bought a ticket with either of these conditions.

We’ll see.

Let My Traveller’s Year Begin

I feel like I’ve mentally turned toward the trip and that it is now front and centre in my mind.

This morning I was catching up on some emails and watched the videos Matthew Harris had posted, in two parts, of his ride so far: from Eindhoven to Dubrovnik and from Dubrovnik to Istanbul. They were excellent.

On his blog post, I commented as much and he replied quickly with thanks. Matthew is an Australian who has been living in Europe for 21 years and is cycling home. He’s taken a winter break and come to summer in Australia. I suggested that if he came to Sydney I’d gladly shout him a beer/coffee to hear his stories in person. He replied he was in town now – how about this afternoon? 5pm Newtown? Ha ha – the internets.

Matthew is a lovely bloke – I really enjoyed meeting him although it was a little weird as it came together so randomly and quickly. We had a few beers and a big bowl of chips at The Court House Hotel. He inspired me with tales (and photographs) of riding under the midnight sun toward the North Cape in Norway.

Afterwards I met my friend Jonathan for dinner and we ended up chatting for several hours with Boris and Carla from Hamburg (he’s originally from Sibera). They have just arrived in Australia for a holiday. She had been an exchange student in Mackay QLD when she was 17 – 10 years ago. It was a really good night that went much longer and involved more beers than I’d anticipated – but was just the sort of encounter I’m looking forward to having many times over come my Big Ride.

I feel like my traveller’s year has begun.

Finding Inspiration at the Art Gallery of NSW

I spent part of New Years Day at the Art Gallery of NSW having a wander through the exhibits.

The text accompanying Tony Albert’s Hey Ya! (Shake it Like a Polaroid Picture) read, in part

Ritsi (the young man in the photographs) and Albert share an experience of re-connection to country and community by following the movements of their ancestors.

One image from Tony Albert's 'Hey Ya! (Shake it like a Polaroid picture)' at the Art Gallery of NSW
One image from Tony Albert’s ‘Hey Ya! (Shake it like a Polaroid picture)’ at the Art Gallery of NSW


Part of what I’ll be doing on my Big Ride is, in a way, just this: I’ll be re-connecting with the places my antecedents lived for thousands of years by following their movements across Europe. I will visit reminders and remainders of their culture and, hopefully, connect with my fellow descendants who still, or are again, living there.

The European Jews were, of course, displaced by the awful tides of hate history bore down on them. My families have done well in the diaspora, I’m not complaining. They were fortunate to have been driven out by the pogroms before Hitler’s Final Solution was enacted. But still, they were displaced. They were disconnected from their places and their communities. They had to learn from scratch how to make their way in the world.

As a still new, and happy, immigrant to Australia I suspect I see Australia’s Aboriginal history and people somewhat differently than I would if I had been born and raised here. The relationship between new and old Australians is complicated — as are these relationships anywhere in the world where there are New and Old.

Tony Albert’s work had me thinking about two things. How can I, living my modern peripatetic non-religious assimilated life connect with my not-to-distant Eastern European Yiddish-speaking shtetl-living observant Jewish ancestors? And how can my efforts to do so connect me with these, my fellow Australians, the descendants of the first Australians.

* * *

Tom Carment's 'Flame Tree'
Tom Carment’s ‘Flame Tree’

I was also taken by the exhibition of Tom Carment’s small watercolour sketches of parks and street scenes. These reminded me to put a sketch book and watercolour kit on my shopping list for the trip. I have basically no experience drawing or doing watercolours – not since I was a kid anyway – but am keen to give it a go. It seems like the time one would take to really look at a scene to try to represent it in pen and ink would be good — just taking that time to really look, will be a good exercise.

I Think I Need a Backcountry Bed

Yesterday I looked at a recommended sleeping bag – recommended by the authors of the Bike Touring Survival Guide. It’s called a Backcountry Bed by Sierra Designs and is amazing looking. I want – very much.

And I’m inclinded to get it. It’s less than US$300 and is like someone started from scratch: a zipless foot baffle, a sleeping mat pocket, an opening with an attached doona covering, pockets for arms out belly sleeping. Something which increases my tent-sleeping comfort as much as this promises to = must have.

I Needed a Distraction to Keep from Over Thinking

I’ve concluded that had it not been Learning German with Christoph Waltz it’d have been something else. That subconsciously I needed a way to avoid over-thinking and over planning my Big Ride. I needed a side obsession that was complex enough to keep me engaged but ultimately unimportant. Something to fill my idle mental time with because otherwise I’d be stressing over the trip.

I'd share a photo of Christoph with a bicycle if I could find one. Instead here he is with Ewan McGregor in a classically European setting.
I’d share a photo of Christoph with a bicycle if I could find one. Instead here he is with Ewan McGregor in a classically European setting.

Security is Mostly Superstition

Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing. (Helen Keller as quoted in Two Wheels)

I’ve finished reading Travelling Two’s free short guide and begun reading their whole book.

I don’t think I’ll need a lot of new gear:

I would like different handlebars, maybe, but I’ll think about that some more. If I decide to switch once I’m on the road I won’t be able to sell these. I should leave with something I’m happy with.

I need new panniers and I think I’d prefer a basket to a handlebar bag.

These are the sorts of things I’m thinking of.

And the need for more money, more work – if I could get $40/hour that will get me across the line in a year but really any full-time work at $25/hour or more would do the trick.

I’m determined to go between March and June 2015 and can tweak the trip according to how much money I have.

I’m definitely more motivated on the job front now that I have a goal.

I look around the flat and imagine selling stuff, getting rid of stuff, of how little I’ll want to keep and wondering what it will cost to store.