[This is the final post in the series Smiling Kodiak Rides Again]
I may call myself a progressive, but at the end of most days there is nowhere I’d rather be than where I started: home. This morning the sultry voice of the Radio National breakfast host informed me it would be no easy feat: “Today’s forecast is for severe and sometimes dangerous thunderstorms, with high winds and damaging hail.” I don’t usually start my day with a prayer, but on this occasion I asked the gods to let me discover the radio station was broadcasting from a distant region of country Victoria.
The weather radar confirmed the accuracy of the forecast. A long swath of red nightmarish storms crept slowly towards us, running parallel to the entirety of our sixty kilometer cycling route from Myrtleford back to Wangaratta. I muttered many solemn oaths. Damn gods. Continue reading 10. Damn
Identifying a dangerous idiot quickly can be a life-saving talent, so over the years I have developed many techniques to do so. For example, a person who uses any of the following platitudes in seriousness can be immediately recognised as a dangerous idiot:
- “Whatever it takes”
- “Work smarter, not harder”
- “Zero tolerance”
- “Anything is possible”
- “Evidence-based decision-making”
- “Values-based management”
- “No fear”
- “Frank and fearless” (archaic)
This kind of idiot is relatively easy to spot. They have a propensity to rise to the top of the larger organisations that incentivise and congratulate moronic behavior, which is pretty much all of them. Proud of their success, the dangerous idiot rarely strings together a sentence without reference to one of these notions. Continue reading 07. The Idiot Police
It didn’t take long to pack up in the morning. We hadn’t really unpacked, the dreary abode not exactly making us feel at home. We were on the street, once again looking for coffee, by six-thirty.
During the previous evening’s exploits, I had determined the nearby Fishtails Café opened at six every morning. We had enjoyed meals there on previous trips, so knew it to be something of a local institution, serving good food cheap, breakfast, lunch and dinner, seven days. As we approached I felt rather silly to realize it was the same place we had avoided the previous morning because from a distance it appeared “a dubious looking mob lingered outside”. I considered that our horrible accommodation may have adversely coloured our attitude. This morning, the Fishtails Café was our saviour.
Our V/Line train back to Melbourne didn’t leave until just after noon. After a hearty breakfast we cycled off to take in as much of the Warrnambool to Port Fairy Rail Trail as we could in the time we had. Continue reading 06. Happy Trails
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
The Warrnambool real estate office had some encouraging listings. It was 1999, and we were in the process of moving back to the US to deal with dead and dying parents. We had sold our Port Melbourne house, and now we were looking for a place to invest the proceeds so it would keep pace with the real estate market until our eventual return. A beach house would have been perfect, but that was out of our price range. Instead, a rental hovel, or even just a plot of land, was more in line with our means. The window display showed three or four such places around $100,000, which is what we had.
An agent, at once handsome and slimy in short-sleeves with slicked-back hair, black rim glasses and – could it be? – a clip-on tie, greeted us as we entered. “Good Morning” I responded, “We’re looking for an investment property to park some money for a few years. You’ve got some promising prospects listed there.”
He gave a grin and looked us over — two middle-aged men in shorts and polo shirts wearing running shoes and sunglasses. “Right, then — we should have a chat…” he suggested, motioning us into a small glass cubicle: a chair for him, stools for us, the Formica counter demarcating his space from ours, fluorescent lighting completing the picture. Continue reading 03. The End of the Line
Melburnians complain bitterly and constantly about their public transport system. This can strike a newcomer as strange, because Melbourne has a pretty fabulous public transportation network. If you spend enough time here, you come to understand that Melbourne has such a wonderful system because nobody here thinks it is anywhere near good enough.
Melbourne came of age during the latter half of the nineteenth century in the throes of Victoria’s gold rush. For a period it was the richest city on Earth by many measures. Unlike its kin in New South Wales, Queensland and Tasmania, Victoria had little in the way of convict roots, and was consciously eager to demonstrate that by behaving “more English than the English”. Amongst much else, that meant they needed to have trains, and lots of them. Continue reading 02. Railroaded
I love a free ride.
At the moment I am riding a V/Line train, first class from Melbourne to Warrnambool, Victoria— free! You could be doing the same.
Two days ago, I had little in my calendar for the coming week. Then, a series of screw-ups caused a tremendous number of persistent, repeated delays, delays which will plague V/Line passengers for weeks, if not months, to come.
First, much of the V/Line train fleet, particularly the relatively newish Vlocity model, was determined to lack round wheels. This was attributed to normal wear and tear, nevertheless has caused all sorts of technical and philosophical difficulties. Those trains had to be taken out of service, leaving many trips replaced by buses which proceeded tediously through traffic, finding their way to train stations just far enough off the major thoroughfares to make the journey painfully slow. Continue reading 01. A Free Ride
There’s no easy way to get into the USA these days. Even as a US citizen. Even from Canada, which does its utmost to expedite the process of getting rid of us by importing and housing large flocks of US Customs officials at its airports and other gateways.
We had done our best to find a pleasant way of fleeing the Polite North by booking on the high-speed Victoria Clipper for a three hour ferry ride to downtown Seattle. After walking a mile to the wharf with our wheelie bags noisily jostling behind, I was disappointed to find the customs line-up started a hundred meters outside the building before snaking another hundred inside. At least it was a pleasant and sunny day. Standing in the rain would have sucked. Continue reading 16. Planet Rosehip
Months ago, not long after I was advised of my mother’s death – I think it was about twenty seconds – I did a rough calculation of the dollar amount I stood to inherit. Scottish heritage, don’t you know. It wasn’t a huge amount, nevertheless it was a something of a windfall since her mother lived to the age of a gazillion. Gramma left her estate nearly penniless, having squandered her dwindling fortune on life. I had expected nothing more or less from Mom.
After Mom’s funeral, I was feeling flush, as well as grateful to the friend who had put us up for several days. In thanks, I offered to buy him and his extended family dinner at a local restaurant named Brine on State Street in Newburyport. We sat down and started ordering “flights” of geographically diverse oysters. Even those from Long Island Sound were tasty and did not kill us. Yet, anyway.
A lovely time was had by all, the food was great, the service better. The check came to eight hundred dollars, which is quite reasonable for seven people at a fancy restaurant. Nevertheless, it represented a couple percent of my inheritance. Realizing that if I did this fifty more times, well, “poof”, Ma might as well have lived another twenty years, I reviewed the bill carefully.
I had spent over four hundred dollars on oysters. Continue reading 15. Inspiring Victoria
Ah, Vancouver. At once hip and conformist, flakey and staid. For years Vancouver has jousted with my home town, Melbourne, for the ill-defined and less understood title of “Most Liveable City”. One could be forgiven for concluding that a city’s “liveability” requires it to have exorbitant housing costs, one of many traits Melbourne and Vancouver share. (Note that San Francisco is often the USA’s “Most Liveable City”.)
Melbourne has won the worldwide title five years running, while Vancouver is has faded a tad, recently yielding its runner-up position to Vienna. Nothing is more certain than change, which dictates that Melbourne and Vancouver can only grow less livable, at least in relative terms.
We found ourselves visiting with Lauren and Peter in their uber-efficient one bedroom apartment smack dab in the middle of downtown Vancouver. Yes, the same Lauren and Peter we had seen married only days earlier on the prairies of Alberta. We were going to skip Vancouver, but then realized that we hadn’t actually spent any time with Lauren, despite having spent four days at her “wedding that kept on giving”. For a couple that had just written, directed, produced, cast, starred in, built the sets, promoted, and swept the theatre for an eighty-four hour production, they were remarkably well rested and relaxed. Our overnight stay did not appear to disrupt their honeymoon in the least. To be sure, honeymoons aren’t what they used to be.
Continue reading 14. A Stopover and a Popover