About the time I went to Oz, I was getting the idea that I wouldn't be going back home at the end of six months. I didn't exactly let everyone know that back home, but the idea was sinking in. For the first four months, I'd been telling people I met that I'd cycle for "six to eight months... or until I get tired of it". By the time I left Saigon, I was saying "a year or two... or until I get tired of it". The emails from Australia didn't really hint at that, because I developed a somewhat childish propensity for surprising people, and I wasn't quite willing to give that up.
About this time, the web page was getting more attractive with inline photos and more of them, as well as other improvements. I also started adding small photos to my notification emails and made them more frequent.
I tried to come up with something even more Dorky Australian Touristy, but that's the best I can do. No worries though, I'll do better next time.
I'm currently in Brisbane, Australia and it is a very strange place. Internet connections work quickly and reliably. People on moto-bikes all wear helmets. Nearly everyone I encounter here speaks English (more or less). All of the cars drive VERY FAST. I got clear up to 60 kph (37 MPH) in the taxi on the way to the hotel. All of the cars drive in the SAME LANE, in the same direction, on the same side of the road (the wrong side of course). Most of the streets have wide sidewalks that are apparently used ONLY for walking, not for parking moto-bikes or selling things. People cross streets by walking up to an intersection and waiting for a colored light to tell them when to cross, with no dodging of cars or anything. Apparently they have no sense of adventure. I've walked about 4 km, and nobody has tried to sell me anything. So all in all, this seems like a very strange place. I'm not at all sure I'll get used to it, but I'll give it a shot.
Since I stayed in Vietnam longer than planned, I ended up here in Oz in the winter. For that reason, I'm changing my plans once again. I originally planned to ride South to Melbourne, but I'm going to ride North through Queensland instead. When I get tired of riding, I'll take the train or something to Sydney, and then to Melbourne. This is roughly like landing in Boston in November, and deciding it makes more sense to ride your bicycle to Florida instead of Maine.
My current exacting plans call for me to be in Oz until I get tired of it. After that, I'll either come home, or I'll go somewhere else. So you can tell, that my days of indecision are over and I'm now firmly in control of my itinerary.
My time in Vietnam was all that I'd hoped it would be, and more. It's the most complex visit I've ever had, including some good things and some bad things. I expect to have my Vietnam page done in a couple of weeks (yeah, yeah I know... you've heard that before).
Time to put my bike together.
I'm still alive and well, here in Arlie Beach, Queensland, Australia. Earlier this week, I completed my first century ever. For those unfamiliar with biking terminology, that's 100 miles (160 km) in a single day.
My first century was mostly a triumph of stubbornness and ego over good judgment and common sense. As in all such contests, either stubbornness or ego could whip both good judgment and common sense by themselves. Together, it's an unbeatable combination. I started out the day feeling kind of wimpy and weak, and the first four hours were spent basically cranking and whining. Part of this is that by random chance, I had chosen the most hilly segment of the ride that I've done so far. I had arbitrarily chosen a destination 160 km away, but also had a backup location at about 110 km just in case I wimped out. When I got to the 120 km mark, I was feeling really tired, and a set of storm clouds started forming just ahead of me. To add insult to injury, I was also riding through an area that seemed to have a nice looking hotel about every ten feet, so to keep going I had to ignore my whining, the storm clouds and the nice looking hotels. However, I had the bit in my teeth by then, so I just persevered. I did in fact get rained on, but it doesn't seem to have done me any more harm than any previous rain did. I got to town right at dark which would have been a problem, but they had a bike path that saved my bacon. I got to the hotel, and pretty much collapsed. Then I spent the next day working and resting from the ordeal.
Of course once I'd done that, all it did is show me what a pansy assed crybaby I've been with my previous mileage targets. After resting one day I rode 400 Miles (650 km) in 4 days. This isn't an earth shattering record of any sort. I know a couple of guys like Zach Kaplan that have ridden 200 miles in a single day, but it seems like a reasonably good speed for a middle aged computer geek carrying 50 pounds (22 kg) of stuff.
I just crossed over the 2,000 mile (3,200 km) mark for the journey as a whole. That breaks down to about 200 km (120 Miles) in France, 1,800 km (1,100 Miles) in Vietnam and 1,200 km (750 Miles) in Australia. I would tell you what percentage of my target mileage that is, but the target mileage keeps changing. I'm planning for another 1-2,000 km here in Ozzie Land, and then I'll move on. The actual Australian mileage will depend on which direction I turn in the road at the next town I come to after I leave Arlie Beach. I plan to stay here a few says to get caught up on work and see the Great Barrier Reef, which is the biggest structure in the world created by living organisms.
Cycling in Australia is great. The roads are about the same as the U.S., once you get used to driving on the wrong side. The drivers are very courteous, about the same as in France and much better than in the U.S. I'm particularly happy with the truckers and bus drivers who generally seem go give me every bit of room that they can safely give me. The very rare exceptions to this are the people you would expect, e.g. young boys in their teens and twenties, and rich people.
In the small town of Gin Gin, I pulled into a hotel and the operator asked if I had a mate with me (In Australia, a mate is a buddy or friend). It turned out he was asking because in the room next to mine he had another American computer geek cycling around Australia. This turned out to be Mike Vermeulen who lives in San Jose, about 10 km from where I used to live back when I had a home. He works for Hewlett Packard as a Software Engineering Manager, making Unix System Software for HP mainframes. He's taking a year off to cycle. His style of cycling is quite a bit different from mine, and much more ambitious. I tend to ride for a few days or weeks, and then goof off...er...ah... sightsee and work for a few days. He on the other hand is going to cycle *ALL* the way around Australia. For those of you unfamiliar with Australia, that's about 15,000 km (9,000 Miles). It's about the same distance as cycling all the way around the border of the continental United States, or the same as doing Hanoi to Saigon and back 5 times. His training seems a bit more efficient than mine as well. I trained by sitting on my ass for a year, and then riding around Hanoi for a few weeks before the start of the ride. He trained by riding from California to Florida. He also rides one of those odd looking diamond frame bikes where you sit upright with your head over the handlebars. We had a good time talking about cycling, equipment, strategies, routes and the like. He also has a web page, which he updates using a different style than mine as well. For his page, he writes notes to his father every few days, who posts them to the web page. This is opposed to my doing squat-all for two months and then blasting out the page from hell all at once. You can check out his web page.
That's about it for this too long installment, so I'll sign off for now.
P.S. I'm looking for a critical proofreader or two for my Vietnam pages. By critical, I mean not checking spelling and grammar, but checking for length and a general sanity check. It would be particularly helpful if you knew something about the history of Vietnam or the war. If you'd like to volunteer for this onerous task, let me know.
The long awaited Vietnam page is now complete. I had a bit of trouble keeping it down to a reasonable size, and you could easily argue that I failed at that. At 90 printed pages, it's more than double the size of all my previous pages combined, and the photo gallery is about three times the size of the earlier ones. This stands to reason since I spent three of the first five months of my trip there, and I have a lot more to say about it.
If you feel like tackling it, take a look at Wade's Vision Quest - Vietnam. The text is broken up into four pages, and the gallery into nine. Two pages of text are entirely optional. One of the optional pages deals with the history of Vietnam and some book reviews. The other page deals with the American War, known to you yanks as the Vietnam War.
I also added a second page about my bike. I now have one page written after 200 km, and I added a page written after 2000 km, at which time I think I knew a bit more. For the mechanically inclined, check out Wade's Bike After 2000 km.
As always, comments are welcome. If you disagree with some of my very strong opinions I'm happy to receive criticism or discussion.
I'm currently in Townsville, Queensland, Australia. The red line on the attached map shows my progress to date. I just passed the 1,000 mile (1,600 km) mark for Australia. On Monday, I'll turn west and head off into the outback for the mining town of Mt. Isa, which is about 2/3 of the way from Townsville to Alice Springs. Once I reach there, if I'm feeling my oats, I'll continue on to Alice Springs. Somewhere along the line, I'll work my way down to Sydney. The most likely outcome is that I'll fly from Alice Springs, but it's remotely possible I'll feel compelled to cycle there.
I'm now in the famous Australian Outback. I'm currently in Mount Isa, about 1/3 of the way across the country. The red line shows my trip so far. I rode the 1,000 km (625 Miles) from Townsville to Mt. Isa in 7 days, so my times are getting a bit better. So far in Australia, I've done 2,600 km (1,600 Miles), bringing my overall total up to 4,600 km (2,800 Miles).
I've been here in Mt. Isa for a few days getting caught up on work, and adding some camping supplies to my load because I'll need to do a bit of camping on the next segment. Mt. Isa is a small mining town, attached to a huge mine. The mine is all underground, and produces lots of tin, lead, zinc and copper. They also have the largest Sulfuric Acid plant in the world, which takes Sulfur Dioxide from the copper smelting process and converts that into Sulfuric Acid for making fertilizer. This both removes the fairly toxic Sulfur Dioxide form their stack, and makes a valuable product out of it. I did a surface mine tour, but didn't get to go underground because I didn't book far enough ahead for that tour. I also didn't get to wander around the mine-site :(
Tomorrow morning, I'll head toward Alice Springs which you can see on the map, and then to Ayer's Rock which is just southwest of Alice Springs. That'll be another 1,600 km (1,000 Miles), at which point I think I will have sufficiently experienced the Outback, and I'll catch a plane to Sydney.
Riding the Outback is fun, but it's going to be another of those difficult to explain things. I think if I was riding through it in a car I'd be bored to death, but cycling it is good. It's somewhat big, flat and boring just like the guidebooks say, but if you're cycling through you can see lots of subtle changes that you wouldn't notice in a car. It's also a great place to push myself for speed a bit. For a few hours a day, my world collapses down to me, the cycle computer, the hawks and the Road Trains. I like that.
So far, I haven't seen a single live Kangaroo. They come out at dawn and dusk, and I've been out at both times but never managed to see any. I've seen about 50 dead ones, but they don't count. I could stop at a zoo or refuge to see one, but that seems like cheating.
Obsolete chart removed...
It's time to sign off and head out for dinner, so I'll check back in from Sydney.
Next - Russia