After nearly a century of railroading Victorians with the stuff, V/Line banned alcohol from its trains in 2008. This presented something of an ethical dilemma, as I consider a glass of wine (or twelve) on a train ride to be an unalienable right. Thus, I filled my bicycling “water bottle” with a pleasant Sauvignon Blanc. In the spirit of Thoreau, Gandhi and King, I nonviolently perpetrated civil disobedience all the way to Warrnambool, the elixir helping me ignore the leper whacking my seat back.
We arrived in Warrnambool at ten-thirty in the evening. It was cold, windy and damp, a thick mist verging on drizzle filling the air. Collecting our bicycles from the baggage car, we strapped on our bags. It did not seem a good idea to ride in the dark and wet the single kilometer to our AirBnB accommodation, especially given the amount of “water” I had drunk. We set off on foot, pushing our bikes alongside. Continue reading 04. Dumb Luck
On the first Saturday of August the good people of Portland gather at the river for a celebration. The event’s climax is a competition of brave men and women that launch themselves off a stage in homemade flying contraptions powered only by goodwill. The law of gravity being what it is, each brief flight ends with a spectacular crash into the river. It is a very popular event.
So popular that tens of thousands of Common Folk gather hours in advance on the banks of the river and on the nearby bridges, hoping to assure themselves a good view. All morning the Common Folk waited and ate and drank and sweat in the blazing sun, discussing grandpa’s hernia operation and Aunt Annie’s new husband (she could have done better), while picking their favourite for the upcoming contest. Continue reading 20. Mean-Spirited, Powerful Justice
There’s too much cursing in this world, and I am part of the problem. For me, cursing is the natural by-product of trying to accomplish something or get somewhere. I’m always trying to get somewhere, and thus tend to travel in a blue streak.
One of these days I need to calculate how much of my life’s cursing has been:
A. As a pedestrian cursing at motorists and cyclists;
B. As a cyclist cursing at motorists and pedestrians;
C. As a motorist cursing at cyclists, pedestrians, and, well, pretty much everything.
Offhand, I’d guess my cussing volume, from most to least, would be C, B, A, — even though I’ve spent more time as a pedestrian than as a cyclist, and more time on a bicycle than driving a car. Maybe my propensity to swear is proportional to my desired speed of travel. Continue reading 19. The Curse of Portland
Four years ago, after a few drinks at a party, Frank Lee and I decided to take a taxi home, a fifteen kilometer ride across Melbourne. I was in the passenger seat next to the driver, as one does in Australia. Frank was in the back. The driver took an unexpected turn, in the wrong direction by my reckoning, causing me to query “Where the fuck are you going?”
That was a poor choice of words. The driver responded by shouting “Do not speak to me that way, you have no right to talk to me that way!” He was absolutely right.
Yet it didn’t stop there. He continued with lengthy passages beginning with phrases such as “You people think…” and ending with “…will get what’s coming to you!” He waved his arms about, several times taking both hands off the wheel, his eyes growing wild with fire as I cowered in astonishment.
After about five minutes of this, Frank shouted from the back seat “That’s enough, stop the car!” Instead, the driver hit a button that put us on the equivalent of a speakerphone. A woman’s steady voice identified herself as “Emergency Dispatch”. Continue reading 18. Street People
The campaign trail headed north from Boston aboard Amtrak’s Downeaster, bound for Portland Maine. I like train travel, even on Amtrak. An Amtrak cabin attendant once told me that American rail employees refer to train buffs as “foamers”, as in foaming at the mouth. Australians are a bit more subtle about it, inventing, as they do, their own word for train fans, “gunzels”. This is as one might expect: where Australians enthuse, Americans fanaticise.
Would be that there were a few more Americans fanatical about Amtrak. Continue reading 06. A Yankee’s Yankee