Saturday, July 21, 2007

Mountain biking hardcore madness

Canberra is mountain biking nirvana. I've been riding here for about 15 years, back when Stromlo hadn't burnt down, when front suspension was a novelty, and only wankers wore bike shorts. The MTB scene in Canberra has grown massively since then - you only have to go to the annual 24-hour race to see how many people are into it. If you're coming down to Canberra, and have the slightest interest in riding on the dirt, chuck your bike in the back and we'll go for a ride.

Ada, Alison, Brendan and Peter did just that, joining me and Sarah (on a bike borrowed from my brother-in-law) for a day among the pine trees.

You can see how hardcore Sarah is - she doesn't even wear a helmet while bombing down Majura.

Here I demonstrate a good technique getting over a log at Sparrow Hill, an awesome 30km single track loop halfway between Queanbeyan and Bungendore. Observe my bent arms, weight back, and I should be looking off somewhere into the distance if you believe the Thredbo cannonball instructors, but if I'd followed their advice I wouldn't have noticed that I was heading for a fall. Don't worry, I made it through ok.

Alison is looking shaky, a tense face, front wheel not straight, possibly going a bit slow, but she pulled it through and made it over ok, no doubt in part due to her baptism of fire at Thredbo.

I think this is Ada's second run, which looks great, dead straight, good form, a bit slow from memory, but she got over. Extra marks for having a second go after a massive bail the first time around, which you can see on her facebook profile.

Brendan - nothing wrong here, nice and calm.

While we're in a MTB mood I might as well share the carnage of Thredbo's cannonball run. Alison got a gift certificate when leaving her last job, and convinced Ian and I that riding down the international standard downhill track at Thredbo would be fun. It sounded like a good idea at the time, but about five seconds in I realised this was a lot tougher than I thought it would be.

It was a fantastic day to be up there. We got kitted out with body armour, shin guards, elbow pads, and helmets with face protection. I thought this was overkill at the time. We then got the chairlift up, which in retrospect was the highlight of the day. The initial part of the track was a simple fire trail, but the next part was insanity. There were two foot high drop offs every two feet, which made staying on the bike as difficult as being on a bucking bronco unless you had dual suspension, which none of us had. It was like riding down very steep stairs with twists in it. To make things more difficult for me I had clipless shoes which meant that I either had to risk going down with the bike, or have very limited traction on my pedals. I opted for limited traction, which made things even harder.

We did this on the Easter long weekend, on the busiest day on the cannonball...ever. So the track was full to bursting with people who really shouldn't have been on there. Falls were common. The pace was slow. One girl fell off and got her foot caught in a rock crevice, almost twisting her ankle. The instructors were saint-like in their patience.

You can see Alison and I here at the first rest stop, about five minutes in. One girl had already requested to be pulled out, so we had to wait for the van to come and get her. I'm trying to convince Alison to keep going, under the naive assumption that when the instructor said that the worst of it was over, he was telling the truth. It took me another hour to get down, and Alison a bit longer. It was tough...damn tough. The only positive of the day for me was that I was used as an example by the instructor of how to fall off a bike properly, ie. go limp. If only there was video footage. Ian also displayed good form when he fell off by attempting to grap the foilage as he went down the hill.

Ian managed to blag a proper downhill bike once we got down. Note the huge travel on the front forks, the tractor-sized tyres, the generous rear travel. This is why the instructors can tell you to look at the horizon, because these bikes do all the work for you, you just need to pick the correct line. On the original bikes we had there is no hope, the track is not designed for bikes like that. The lesson was learned. Downhill is a different sport. I'm sticking to cross-country from here on in. I'll leave the downhill to adrenaline junkies looking for kicks in the snow boarding off-season.

Just to make myself feel better I've include a photo of myself coming off the last lap of the 2004 Mont 24, the must ludicrously ridiculous physical exertion I've ever put myself through. To be fair, I had a cold, was not terribly fit, and had only purchased my bike about a month before-hand after a long period of not cycling. I took it as a bad sign that I cramped up in the calves halfway through my first lap. It was a worry that my main competition on that last lap was a fat 12-year old. I was the slowest in our six man team by a long way, but I did not care in the slightest. I was ecstatic to complete all three laps and go home for a bath.

Even so, looking at this photo makes me feel so manly that it gives me tingles in naughty places.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Post Haste

When I got up on the morning Sarah left, I had the strange feeling that she had left in a hurry at around 5:30am, as evidenced by the breakfast she left for me on the bench.


It's slightly rude of me to lump all these evenings into the one post, but we really didn't take enough photos to justify separate ones. Be warned, if you eat with us you're going on the blog (at some point).

Jules and baby Bella came over, with Bella demonstrated her skill on the bongo in between meal breaks. Richard and Scho provided the conversation skills.

Sarah is just glowing in this photo, radiant! We were regaled with Stu's travel plans (lucky bastard).

Yes, we can actually have dinner parties now. I guess we could have had dinner parties at the old place as well, but they wouldn't have been as cool. Sarah's former house-mate, Lorraine is here with Peta.

When in Canberra, cycle. Jacki and Rick were all prepared to race me from the Hyatt to Kingston markets. I wish I could say that it was a nice day. It was freezing.

Still, it looks very nice, and was a fun day once we got to the markets and got stuck into the mulled wine.

Flash photos are cool with reflective cycle clothing. We were massively under-dressed for the Speaker's bar at the Hyatt, but I think they're used to sweaty people clomping in from the lake.

For three people who claim not to like any photo taken of them, they pulled it together pretty well for this one.

The move

As I'm sure you all know by now, updating this blog has not been the highest priority for Sarah and I. We've been busy, doing things like moving house, moving to Papua New Guinea, hosting parents, that kind of thing. It's a conundrum, as soon as you've got interesting stuff to say, there's no time to fiddle around with cyberspace, yet when your life is dull and boring you can upload reams of inanities, causing the Internet's infrastructure to creak under the load.

So apologies for the lateness of this posting. I hope this will sate your craving for pictures temporarily. More will follow.

The first picture does not strictly speaking relate to moving house, but I like it. The lone light and bare floorboards capture that feeling when your former home is emptied, barren, as though you've never been there.

Sarah couldn't have moved without all the help Dog-Dog and I gave her. Here I am watching the football while Dog-Dog has a stretch. It's that kind of support which made moving house much less stressful for Sarah.

Yep, it sure is tiring moving house.

For some reason we ended up hiring removalists who made us carry a large proportion of the boxes ourselves. They made the very cogent argument that they faster we moved, the less money we would pay. That was a great motivation, but after about twenty trips up the fifteen steps to the apartment, we once again saw the attractions of trading money for labour. It didn't help that the Thursday prior to the move I had stuffed my back in my macho attempt to drag a futon mattress from my car to the apartment.

The lounge room looks pretty similar to this now if you mentally remove the boxes. Through the window you can see the portholes of the other section of the complex, separated from us by an inner courtyard. There is a large balcony which gets the sun on a portion of it between 3:30 and 4:30. Hopefully this situation improves by the time summer comes around. Northbourne Avenue is within spitting distance on a windy day, so it almost feels like we're living in a big city!

This photo is looking from the balcony to the kitchen. The study nook is near the front door to the left. Add a bathroom, bedroom and tiny little laundry, and you have our home.

Playdo marvels

It hasn't taken long for this blog to descend to the depths of drunken debauchery in an attempt to entertain you, the masses. I blame the combination of readily available playdo, in three delightfully smelly flavours, mixed with copious amounts of alcohol.

It all started innocently enough when Alison sculpted this delicious looking hot dog, but everyone knew that wasn't enough. With Ada, Alison, Sarah and I quickly becoming more drunk, and with one of the most phallic dishes in the world for inspiration, we crossed the line of good taste.

Of course, Dog-Dog was not terribly excited by the playdo. In fact, I think he wanted us all to go to bed...

but Dog-Dog, being the lovable rogue that he is, still had plenty of kisses for the guests, pictured here planting a wet one on Peter.

And so to this day-glo Frakenstein creation - sort of how I picture mutant genitalia deformed by radiation. Let this be a lesson to you all - playdo and alcohol do not mix!

There are only so many obscene objects you can create with a soft, excruciatingly colourful, malleable substance. Possibly we could have workshopped some more lewdness, but to counteract the horror ducks and vegetables started popping up from the table.

Brendan was driven to insanity by this nonsense, and despite some great mountain biking around Mount Majura and Sparrow Hill, which featured death defying rolling over logs and surprisingly little injury, attempted to eat my head after a Saturday night on the town in Canberra.