Wheel Women

This past week, and the week before that, were all about the bike. And the women. And the rides. And the cafes. Put it all together and it’s a winning formula; there is almost nothing I could recommend more! And it’s all due to the women’s cycling group Wheel Women. Have I mentioned them before? Once, twice?? But they’re always worth another mention or more because they do amazing work getting us women on bikes and keeping us there.

I have to say that my involvement with (possibly read: dependence on) Wheel Women is one of the main reasons why going to Canberra for 3 months from September to December 2016 was hard, and why coming home was so good. I really didn’t know if I’d keep up riding in Canberra without my supportive group. Wheel Women’s director kindly put me onto a cyclist in Canberra, but her group was more of a mountain bike club, and the road cycling group she referred me to rode at 6am on a weekday; enough said! She offered some one on one rides, but in the end I sort of bumbled around until I found a few places on my own. It was a nice offer though.

Of course I took my bike, helmet, cycle computer, bike clothes and other accessories (there a lots of add on products that you “need” when you start riding!!) with me to Canberra. But having the stuff with me, and actually using it are two different things. I’ve proved this before. Having to think out where to go, how to get there, what the route will be like, what to do if I got stuck halfway due to accident or mechanical, if I’m up for it etc becomes a barrier very easily. With Wheel Women, organised rides are thought out, planned and advertised by someone else. All I have to do is turn up at a specific place and time and follow the leader; that holds a lot of the attraction for me to keep up riding, I’ll admit. Is that laziness? Maybe. But it’s a winning, working formula and I think it’s an attraction for a lot of us Wheel Women members. I did try to find some new riding locations in Canberra, and I fell in love with Lake Burley Griffin and its surrounding bike paths so that kept me going on rides a bit. A few local rides to brunch or dinner, to sightseeing near our place etc made up the rest of the rides, twenty in all; not terrific for 90 odd days but hey I did something more than look at my bike on the verandah!

As much as I was looking forward to riding with Wheel Women again when I got home to Melbourne, I didn’t get straight back into it because we were away a lot during January; but now that I’m back into it, I feel like I never left. It has amazed me though how quickly your bike fitness diminishes when you aren’t regularly riding. You really do have to do a couple of rides a week to maintain your level, and it is worth maintaining that level of activity so the next bike ride feels better. But on the plus side, it only takes a couple of rides to get back to where you were; it’s a constant state of flux.

What has been the most wonderful thing about returning to Wheel Women rides, aside from the excellent rides, is the response of Wheel Women members. I’m not saying I’m anyone special, or trying to be pompous, or blowing my own horn but the lovely, sweet response I’ve received to being back on rides has been overwhelming. I honestly don’t know whether I feel more humbled or thrilled or excited or overjoyed or loved at each next ride. Catching with my old friends and being welcomed back so warmly; meeting new members and striking up new relationships. Man, it is SUCH a great group of people. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a group of women that are so unanimously supportive of each other, tolerant of others at a lower level, encouraging to all, utterly friendly and so focused on building each other up regardless of individual personalities. It’s such a privilege to be part of Wheel Women!

So, here I am back riding with my cycling group and loving it! But it’s not a group that you make friends and develop relationships with, it’s each of the special women that have made my day each time I’ve gone out riding with them. These women are really special treasures: women who’ve overcome their fears, their past experience, their lack of experience, other people’s unhelpful opinions, their weight, their age and more to tackle what is essentially a sport but for most has become a means to transport, to a broader social life, to permanent skills and, most importantly, to independence. Who knew that so many benefits could come out of trying out cycling?

I certainly had no idea of the depth of experience and privilege I would come to experience when I started cycling with Wheel Women. I wanted to attempt to start bike riding again; that was my entire ambition. A few years hiatus from cycling followed a bad fall off my bike onto my chin and hand, narrowly missing falling into a 3 lane road in peak traffic. This left me shaken and lacking confidence to return to commuting to the train station to travel into uni. Several years down the track, I was off work on sick leave but having been used to working hard, full time I wanted to do something, anything, to fill in a little time in my week. My hubby was riding lots, commuting to work every weekday, long rides on Saturdays and 2 or 3 early start weekday rides plus any other chance he got. I thought it would be nice to get started back on my bike slowly before attempting anything too drastic with him. Knowing my fitness wasn’t great, and I’d recently stacked on a LOT of weight, I wanted a quiet, friendly environment without too much expectation and did I get a lucky break falling into Wheel Women’s arms! They wrote and taught the 8 week program administered by another agency, and so I was involved with them right from Day One. A very good way to start. I’ve talked about some of those early days before and you can read about it in my other blogs.

Today I want to share the rides I’ve done in this 2 week period. Between the beginning of the week before last and the end of last week (a fortnight all up) I have done 7 bike rides, each and every one of them has been with Wheel Women.  I should say that this is the most I’ve EVER ridden in a similar period. It’s also the only time I’ve gotten on my bike to do a ride THREE days in a row. So I’m kicking goals, as they say, which is not the point of the piece, but I just wanted to make sure you realise that this isn’t a typical or usual or expected run of rides. All the same, I’m thrilled that I did it all, and it’s more points on some fictitious blackboard somewhere out there in the universe that tells me whether I’m doing good or not. I’m doing good! Brain, take note. You seem to very easily let the good things slip through the net while retaining the smallest bad things for my constant reminding. Well, here are some solid facts for you as proof that I can do it, okay?

13th Warburton rail trail, 34.5km

Chatting to Alicia at Woori Yallock

This is cycling to me – riding with my friends and chatting at any opportunity

15th Moonee Ponds Creek trail, Upfield bike path, Capital City trail, 18.5km

Mixed business cafe with the girls

The face of cycling to me – smiles, happiness, water, and a new cafe menu to check out

17th Specialized sale, Capital City trail, Moonee Ponds Creek trail, 16.5km

oo ooh so much stuff

RIDING to a BIKE clothes sale with my BIKE buddies and shopping for BIKE stuff galore…now how to get it home??

18th Otway and Great Ocean Road classic, 30.5km

yep struggling a bit

This is Wheel Women – when the going gets tough, there is always someone beside you keeping you company, someone at the top of the hill encouraging you to get there, someone behind you letting you know you aren’t being left behind and someone at the finish line cheering. It inspires me to dig deeper.

 

23rd Merri Creek trail, Main Yarra trail, 25km

me and kathy

Friends on every ride

24th Williamstown, Maribyrnong River trail, Bay trail west, 30.5km

Classy ladies Sylvia, Robyn, Judy, Alicia, Lyn

We ride, we find thrones…what can we do but be glorious, Lycra-clad queens of cycling?

25th The Women’s Ride, Gardiner Creek trail, 13km

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The aqua and purple team of Wheel Women teaching 30 women how to change a flat tyre after a ride along the Gardiner Creek trail – what a terrific morning!

That’s 168.5km all up in a fortnight in case anyone is counting. I’m sort of stuck at the 30km per ride mark which is my next thing to tackle, alongside mastering hills. But it’s not really the point is it? The point is the company, the enjoyment, the fresh air, the friendship, the new cafes, the new sights and places; the personal achievements are kind of a lovely bonus.

P.S. Aren’t you glad there are keen photographers around to capture all my best moments?! All photo credit to the Wheel Women Facebook page, most likely to a coach or ride leader, or fellow member. Enjoy!

 

Canberra Day 78 to 81

[Monday 28th November – Thursday 1st December, 2016]

Okay so I’m hopelessly behind, but by some lucky chance if I cram a week into one, I’ll be up to date. At least the first half of the week anyway.

Monday 28th November, 2016

Today is our 7th wedding anniversary. 7 year itch anyone? Not even slightly, well not most days anyway. We’ve been together since 2003 so I’d say the 7 year mark has been well and truly crossed; nearly doubled even. Although the last 3 years of being sick has probably put the most strain on our relationship of anything so far! Actually no probably about it, it definitely has been the hardest thing for the two of us to get through! At times I’m sure we didn’t know how we’d get through it. And we probably aren’t through it yet, well of course not. But we’ve gotten to a kind of plateau point right now so we’re enjoying a bit of a reprieve! But we both know today isn’t going to be a big celebration cos hubby’s work has really ramped up and this is going to be a LLOOONNGG week for him! Cue long nights for me waiting for him to come home…yeah right! I got things to see and do. And then later on once its died down we’ll have a lovely meal out or something. In the meantime I’m trying to get a park to check out this bike shop, but can’t get near it. In my attempts I find this beautiful street art, hidden away in a back alley but just stunning! Canberra is terrific for street art I’m finding.

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So to fill in my day, I take a drive out to Lake George to look for birds. This is not exactly easy. Lake George borders the highway for something like 28 kilometres between Collector and Bywong over the border in New South Wales but over the fence the lake itself is divied up into individual private ownership so unless you contact them all and they somehow all agree to you entering their property, you cannot get over the fence to look for birds. This is somewhat inconvenient because its the perfect spot for birds: large shallow lake that comes up and goes down, muddy flats, grassy sections, livestock etc. So you have to bird watch from the side of the road, but since the lake went down after all the spring rain its quite a long way away. I drove up to the furthest point where the lake borders the road and start my start-stop progress back down along the road. I pull in at each stop and check out what I can see. Unfortunately not that much, but there are some birds of prey as expected hovering above the highway so that was fun to photograph. In need of lunch and finally accepting that birding Lake George is really a lost cause, other than raptors, I head to one of the wineries for lunch. The cafe is shut but its a lovely spot. Then off to another winery in hope, but it doesn’t open Monday; I guess I didn’t factor in that a lot of tourist spots would be shut today. So off home for a 3pm lunch and a nap, then when hubby did finish work we went on a bike ride around two loops of the lake. A load of washing, some blogging (if you’ll believe it) and another day wrapped up.

Tuesday 29th November, 2016

Today I checked out the Canberra Museum and Gallery (CMAG, not to be confused with the National Museum or the National Gallery). There’s a new exhibition about Jeannie Baker, a very talented Australian illustrator and story teller. I had one of her children’s picture books as a child and it was beautiful. This exhibition is right up my ally with a book called Circle about the migrating patterns of endangered Bar Tailed Godwits which are beautiful wading birds, and about how human development of wetlands into suburbs etc affects their survival. Her illustrations are to die for! Poor choice of words, oops! They are gorgeous and so detailed and just incredible; I admired that exhibition so much! There was another exhibition that I checked out that was more post-modern, not really my thing but a little bit interesting.

Then I headed over to the Belconnen Arts Centre on the beautiful shores of Lake Gininnderra to check out a Moira Nelson exhibit that looked interesting; a brochure I found somewhere else. This woman has a brilliant style! Her sketches and paintings are marvellous, although maybe if I were the subject I wouldn’t be gushing. She pulls out all of your insecurities and paints them front and centre, which I think is so refreshing, but then my wrinkles are still under the skin not falling down my face! The paintings/drawings aren’t realistic as such, but they absolutely capture the spirit of the person, as far as I can tell anyway. I really truly enjoyed the exhibit, and to top it all off the artist was in residence sketching someone for the exhibit finale, which was fun to watch. I even ate lunch with her, and did my own drawing! After I finished the bird, she told me it was a self portrait; I told her it was a young bird morphing into a male! I hope that has nothing to do with me! In the same gallery there was also an exhibit from the gallery’s disabled program, one from the local high school’s Year 12 class and all in all what a great local gallery. img_1081

Another gallery I’d picked up a brochure for is at Gold Creek: the Old School House gallery. I headed over there but apparently they are closed on Tuesday, but how was I to know when the door was open and the kitchen going? So I was halfway into the place before they told me they were closed. But they kindly let me have a quick look at the cutesie art in the living room and the dining room of the old cottage. Then I tried to find the Gunghalin homestead AGAIN and failed AGAIN, but I somehow found the Gungaderra Homestead instead, not that you can go into it, but it turns out the same is true of the Gunghalin Homestead so nothing lost. Hubby called to say he’d be late, so off I head to the  Jerrabomberra wetlands. A beautiful place with LOADS of birds and lovely paths, except the last one where I had to beat a path along a bank through a wheat field up to my arm pits on a snakey day!! My shoes may never be grass seed-free! That was not fun, plus it was dusk so I couldn’t properly look for the snakes! But lovely grass and water birds, always a great combination for a long list of birds.

Wednesday 30th November, 2016

A bit of a home day so I got my pharmacy registration renewed and paid for (remind me why), packed my new weekly medicine box, some groceries, got a script dispensed, puts the bins out la di da. Then the main event of the day: a bike ride down to Aspen Island on Lake Burley Griffin to hear the Carillon concert at midday. This is a clock and a musical instrument that sounds like bells and sitting in the shade on the island listening to classical music isn’t a bad way to spend the early afternoon. I finally got to that bike shop Onya Bike and got me some cycling gloves in a lovely colour that matches my gear. And then, finally finally, I got to the National War Memorial in time for the Last Post ceremony, and I’m so glad! Wow, its an impressive event! Singing the National Anthem as an adult, listening to the lament on the bagpipes and the Last Post on the bugle, hearing about the life of a service person and seeing their family lay a wreath, then reading what they’ve written; it’s spine chilling really, in a good way.

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The Carillon on Aspen Island, connected by a bridge to the walking track around Lake Burley Griffin

Thursday 1st December, 2016

My brand new computer is playing up in the speakers, the processing, the mouse pad!! Seriously, its 2 weeks old. So back to JB hifi. Plus the case for my mobile phone was defective and when I dropped my phone both the case broke and the screen cracked!! Back to Optus; is this a recurring theme? But they won’t compensate for cracked screens, even though they admit that the case they gave me isn’t protective! ARGH! So on to something more fun. Buy a pair of shoes! Well that feels better. Then out to Fyshwick fresh food market which is really lovely, if I had a shopping list I’d be in real danger! But its just nice to look at all the fresh fruit and veg, the delis and everything. And then THE event of the day, week, month, maybe year: a performing arts piece called NERVOUS being held up at the Yale Colombia Dome at the top of Mount Stromlo near the Observatory. It was billed as a light, sound, dance, acting and science experiment event and it was all of these. A brilliant exploration of social anxiety, internal struggles to be “normal”, interpersonal anxiety through body movement, dance that mimicked the intensity and strain of close human interaction, music that thudded in your chest and made you feel like your heart was skipping a beat, flashing lights and strobes and a brilliant floor overlay of the stock market representing societal anxiety about world events, emergency sirens and news presenters…so much jammed into a short performance by 4 talented creative artists! As someone who suffers with generalised anxiety, I could relate to all of it, and that’s a precious thing! Almost too much…that thudding heart stopping music kinda got under my skin and made my throat tighten and got me feeling anxious!! And the social anxiety section was so very true that I felt like I was understood, which is also a wonderful thing. I felt very close to the artists by the end of the show, and I would definitely go to any other performance put on by the Australian Dance Party!

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The utter awkwardness of intimate physical contact, the fear of not being accepted, the longing to be part of a relationship, the difficulty of making the first move, eye contact as a whole means of communication (this whole segment was silent verbally)