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!

 

New Zealand trip Day Five

[Monday 31st October, 2016]

I’ve been trying to get this done for days, obviously more than a week even but my computer has started down the slow walk to death after various bad treatments over the not so long period that I’ve had it. You know, dropping it on the floor while carrying it in one hand and food in the other (I mean tough choice, which do I save?), accidentally letting it fall off the bed while it was balanced on the edge trying to connect to the wifi while I’m upstairs (the wifi connection keeps getting weaker!), lugging it in a suitcase or carry on luggage or hand bag around the city and the world, letting it fall down the stairs while carrying it one hand stacked with all kinds of things that need to go up or down the stairs; all the way down the stairs! Balancing it on the laundry sink while doing the washing and maybe it slipped in…carrying it in the washing basket maybe getting it a bit damp, tripping over the power cord and tugging it off the couch, it all comes out! Obviously I live a bit too closely with my laptop, but that’s another issue. What have you done to your laptop?! says hubby. Oh nothing, why, it’s fine! But the toll has started taking its grip with a screw falling out, then another screw, then the backing coming off (but you can put it back on!) and finally a loose wire poking out! Oops! I do regret the amount of damage that I do…it’s becomes one long line of sorries! I never mean to do it, I never plan on it, and it always comes as a surprise somehow even though in hindsight obviously it wasn’t the best plan. Am I just clumsy? Hubby thinks more like careless or thoughtless or something. Either, either…well that doesn’t work well as text, but you know what I mean. The point of this gibber gabber? My computer which was never strong on finding wifi connections right in front of its nose has now almost ceased to find them at all! I stick the wifi right under its nose, it’s right there, but it secures the connection without internet, or connect to the internet but so tenuously that as soon as you want to actually USE the internet, it all falls down and drops out! So I’ve been trying on and on to upload a photo for this blog and I can’t! Jolly annoying since all the photos are on my computer only. And of course being away from “home home” I don’t have a USB to transfer the photo to hubby’s laptop. They are still on my camera so by some lengthy process involving cables and memory cards and installing software I’ll figure it out, but now my internet isn’t even sufficient to save this draft. Blah blah blah excuses excuses. On to the actual matter at hand!

Today is the last day of our cycling tour. It has gone really fast!! So far 78 kilometres, oh my. 78 kilometres of beautiful scenery, great food and birds; oh and nice company. Today is going to be our longest day, but plenty of stops so let’s do this! We started from Havelock North at 9.30am with the plan to cycle back to Napier, then onwards to the next part of our holiday. My quads are really stiff today! Maybe due to getting very wet, then very cold then huddling inside getting warm with no stretching yesterday blah blah. So I’m feeling a bit sluggish from that, then the first 3km are a small grinding gradient uphill making my legs feel totally feeble and useless. I hate grinding gradients! Although I am not a fan of hills, I’d rather go up and down sharp hills all day then grind slowly upwards. But after that 3km the rest of the day was lovely and flat so…besides at the end of that short 3km was an absolutely gorgeous winery, Black Barn Vineyard! I mean this was the epitome of a beautiful Tuscan vineyard set on a sloping hill with olive, fig and citrus trees, a private estate for rich people at the top of the hill with ocean views then a stunning winery including outdoor dining under the vines and…gee, am I gushing? It also has a cute boutique food and gift shop. It was so nice! BUT…it was before 10 in the morning so no tastings. It’s just a bit early. Besides, we’re not exactly starving for wine, hey? Next stop: Te Mata cheese factory! Oh yeah, much more interesting; I LOVE cheese! Tastings, tastings, tastings but sadly no purchases; just too difficult to get back to Aus. But seriously: Takina Gold, Camembert, pink and white terraces named after the now-extinct landmark, sheep hard cheese Sleeping Giant, young sheep cheddar, drool, drool, drool! Aahhh, but sadly no. But instead we had a drink and snack and I discovered the amazing New Zealand creation of berry smoothie in a bottle! Delish! Now back on the bike. We could sit here all day but…gotta get back on the flood levee bike paths and follow the Tukituki river out to the coast and check out the lovely wetlands around the mouth of the river. What a lovely ride once again, so pretty and what a fine day today; fine, warm, excellent! Then through the cute little town of Haumoana and along the coast on a gravel track to the stunning Elephant Hill winery for a tasting. It’s another beautiful vineyard and a unique winery with the outer building completely made of copper, designed to look like the ocean; and it really does, sea blue with an infinity pool, very posh eating, all the drinks back lit with blue lighting, and very professional staff. Actually by the time we got there I was a bit in the zone. 3 days of riding, of socialising, of new experiences, new people, new scenery, and I am a bit washed out. Plus its our last day in the north island and I’m not at all sure that I’ve seen enough birds yet. A tasting or two in and I’m over it. Instead I’m going to wander around outside in peace and quiet and solitude and talk to the birds and get some photos until the others are ready.

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Next up is lunch at the Te Awanga winery up the road (literally, like 300 metres) and a tasting at the table there. Much better than standing around tasting. Another beautiful lunch and a lovely lady who brought us tastings with sea views and a gorgeous cottage garden. Actually I’m over tastings, well not the white ones but reds have gotten on my wick, I never liked red much to begin with but tried them anyway and a couple were alright in that they weren’t very red-like, but I’m done with them now, unless its a sticky dessert type thingamebob. It’s odd, with the last tour I didn’t get sick of tasting over the 5 days, but here after 2 days I’m done. Well after filling our faces, off back to Napier. After some issues with wind, it’s meant to be a tail wind all the way home! YIPPEE! And what do you know? A lot of the way home is along a wetland between the shore and the levee, YAY for me! Birds and more birds! So 47km done today bringing our grand total to 126km with the group, and another few kilometres around town. Unfortunately my grand plan of doing the 1 hour walk around the boardwalk on the estuary in town didn’t really eventuate. I mean let’s be realistic: 47km today, 134km all up and I thought I was going to do a walk? With no way to actually get there once the bike was returned? No, no. A shower, a spa to repair my legs and wait for it, the best is yet to come! Dinner at the Mission winery! Exceptional 3 course meal! Truly amazing! Crayfish bisque; superb! Absolutely divine pork belly, which nearly everyone at the table chose. And vanilla and peach schnapps creme brulee with the most amazing super thinly sliced pink lady apple flash frozen and super sweet! Fantastic! Definitely a recommendation. No sad goodbyes, just glad that we got to do the tour and on to the rest of all our holidays.

Canberra Day Forty One

[Friday 21st October, 2016]

Late night last night, late morning this morning. I had alarms set for 7am, 8am, 9am and when I had exhausted those by snoozing three times each I slept right on through!! But when I got up I was firing and got a few jobs knocked off that I’ve been shifting through my calendar for…well we won’t dwell on that! Got my physical to-do list organised in time for lunchtime and headed back up the highway to Gold Creek to check out the reptile zoo. And a few vintage cars parked around the place; I think they’re here for the caravan and touring and home and garden show!! Long enough name? Once I finally got someone to come to the front counter at the zoo (I could hear them laughing and chatting at the back!) I had a great time. They have a great range of lizards, snakes, crocodiles, frogs and everything in between! Quite fascinating, and the staff were accommodating offering pats of different lizards and snakes; not too near the snakes! A lot of information around about different animals, could be more but better than certain other places I’ve been lately. I was pretty impressed really, quite a big range and well kept. I wasn’t in a mood to take in a lot of information but I had fun with my camera taking different shots. Good times.

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Had a rather annoying afternoon with Australia Post in their shop after that, as though a phone call to them this morning hadn’t been enough! They’ve stuffed up our mail redirection and its still going to our family even though the sticker shows that that redirection expired a week ago! And nothing is coming here, although it should have been for a week! And now, because our new accommodation gave us their office unit number not our actual unit number to us before we moved in, I’ve had to cancel and restart our second redirection and pay for it again. Yes, I’ve paid twice for a service that I’m not getting. Can you feel my temperature rising? The humidity isn’t helping either. Grrrrr. Also I sent my knives off to be sharpened a month ago which was supposed to take 2 weeks, and they still aren’t back. Although with the current mail bungle they could be in Melbourne for all I know!! Argh! Home for a nap. I’m drained! I was planning on a lovely bike ride that I mapped out on Google maps last night, and I’ve packed my bike and helmet in the car and everything, but I just can’t. Now I just have to hope that the rain doesn’t start too early or too heavily tomorrow. This is why you do your ride first thing, I hear hubby saying in my mind, then it doesn’t matter what happens; you’re all good. But he didn’t say that. He empathised, and understood and that was just the best! Awesome guy!

Stay tuned for tomorrow; it’s a special day. Til then, and I’m off to bed at a reasonable hour! Success!

Canberra Day Twenty Six

6th October, 2016

Well this is going to be short and sharp because its after midnight and I do REALLY need to get to bed. But I’ve been through today’s 700+ photos and reduced them to 200 odd which I’m pretty pleased about! Nothing left over to sort out. I’ve got good photos by now of several birds up here, so unless what I take is better then into the bin it goes. I’m battling storage space on my laptop and online and everywhere!! But I do so love taking photos, and the birds and scenery are just so enticing. I’m trying to become more satisfied with just looking, but recording for posterity is just so tempting, even if I never look at the photos again! So I’m spending some time with memories, going back through the archives and deleting whatever has turned out to be pointless or meaningless or unmemorable, or just a bad photo. And when I’m processing current photos I try to keep the same principles in mind.

Today was about hills and dales. I went back and finished the the woodlands walk this morning-afternoon: beautiful birds and the day was perfectly warm and sunny and lightly breezy; perfect! As I was walking around I noticed blue painted arrows on the fire trail path pointing in the opposite direction to what I was going. I ignored them because its a loop, so why would it matter? But I should have done the hilly section when I was fresh instead of at the end when I just wanted to sit down. Why aren’t there more seats sprinkled around walking tracks? The rest of the signage was lacking, as everywhere, until I got back to the main road where it’s not that necessary. As always, instead of following the map in my brochure or Google maps if it comes to that I just blundered on, and ended up doing an extra larger loop as well as the intended loop! How many times?? So I’ve now done a 7.2km walk on Tuesday, a 1.5km walk on Wednesday and a 5km walk today!! And I’m not even manic!! I’m just building my stamina. But I think that’s enough for now. Besides I’ve gotta get back on my bike; its been 10 days or more.

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Tomorrow is Rest Day. I planned on it being Inside Day cos I’ve really had more than enough sun over 3 days and I’m looking a bit red. But the weather is just so good; gotta make the most of it before it starts raining again! What I want is for this 3 month stint of free time to be over (not too soon!) and to be able to say that I’ve improved myself. That I’ve improved my cycling distances and hill climbing, that I’ve proven myself able to walk distances, times, durations, and profiles that I wouldn’t have previously thought possible. I can say that I have improved on all of these things so far, and that’s in almost a month. So let’s see what the next two months can bring. I’ve just got to plug away, like I did today. I don’t know if I’ll ever look at a hill and think, YAY I’m gonna run up that hill! But I know that if I go a little way, take a rest if needed, go a little way then I’ll get there. I learnt something very valuable recently when I was doing a hill climbing, cornering and descending class with my lovely Wheel Women: never look at the next hill from the top of the current hill; it will always look daunting. Wait until you get to the very bottom, and then look up. Try it; it really changes the rise from Mt Vesuvius to a little mole hill. The next most valuable thing I learnt: just take a small section of the hill and do that; don’t worry about doing the whole thing. Once you’ve done one section, worry about the next. Breaking it into chunks helps to achieve the climb, however you’re getting there. I think you can draw the relevant parallels in life. So that’s my plan! Slow and steady, winning the race.

Canberra Day Ten

There’s something about “having” to get going in the morning to take hubby to work that really keeps me going and it’s working well. Actually, until his new workplace provide him with an ID and access to the change rooms (I mean its only been 7 workdays!), he’s been given authority to charge a cab to and from work. But I asked if I could still take him in of a morning, because it’s really working for me. And why tamper with a willing system?

I took my bike AGAIN today, two days in a row, and did the same combination of central loop/eastern loop of the Lake Burley Griffin bike path. I love that lake every time I see it: it’s so scenic, and rich with birds, and history. Not to be caught out with my camera twice, I slung it over my shoulder and headed off. Not the best set up but it worked well enough. It was pretty chilly but I had my camera and my bike and I was excited! Anticipation is so powerful. I guess it’s like hope, in a way. And hope is probably the most powerful counter balance to mental illness.

I got my photos of the NINE ducklings. YAY! Hope fulfilled. Plus unexpectedly another family of ELEVEN ducklings!! And TWO Masked Lapwing (previously Plover) chicks!!! And a baby rabbit! And a baby Golden Whistler that was playfully flitting around the tree above my head. This paragraph hardly does justice to the joy, the bliss, and excitement, and happiness that all of this brings to me! It was a beautiful morning. Not only that but I recorded MORE species of birds this morning; FORTY FOUR up from THIRTY EIGHT yesterday, including a Double Barred Finch which was a LIFER for me; a bird that I’ve never come across before. That’s because it doesn’t occur naturally in Victoria – truly a bird for above the border.

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I had another fun jaunt at Floriade checking out the shopping stalls, trying one some clothes, tasting the honey donuts which were a terrific recommendation from a friend, and checking out the flowers. I can already see some tulips starting to fall apart, and others popping up and starting to unfold. I can see how a week can make for a total change in the gardens. I still haven’t tried the ferris wheel, but I will.

You must check out my website for Spring Babies!

And for some photos of the beautiful Lake Burley Griffin check out Bike Ride and Baby Shower and Morning Lake Burley Griffin Drive.

Canberra Day Five

15th September 2016

Some enthusiasm has gone out of me with a string of late nights trying to catch up with slow days; never a sensible plan. But I’m pushing on. I must remind myself that no day is a fail even if I don’t get as much done as I hoped. After all, it’s day 5. That’s FIVE days so far. Not even a week! It’s nothing in the scheme of things. I’ve been so many places, seen so much of Canberra’s urban and bush areas, and birds, and lake and although there’s so much more to see, it’s just one day after the other.

My morning routine continues, and today I plan to check out Mount Ainslie. There was actual peak traffic on leaving hubby’s work! A surprise! It was raining (maybe the reason for the traffic) and as I drove towards the mountain it looked like the top was in cloud but trying to be the optimist, I went up anyway. Yep, nothing to be seen but white fluff. Oh well, I tried. I’ll be back some sunny day. So I head for home, but what’s this? A sign for Mount Pleasant lookout! I’ve never heard of it, but let’s go check it out. So I make a right turn and happen to find myself in a fascinating little world that is Duntroon, the Army military college. Gorgeous old style cream and maroon houses and buildings, parade grounds, the odd couple of soldiers left and righting it along the footpath, military police, its own ambulance station; it’s so interesting! If it weren’t raining…but it is so I’ll write it down for another day.

The signs to Mount Pleasant prove a bit difficult, but whether its me or the signs is difficult to say! A few false turns and finally I start up Mount Pleasant. It’s not far, and a gradual climb – I might just come back on my bike and practice my climbing skills! Another misty, rainy view; it’s becoming a thing but it’s another location full of possibility for future walks, bird watching and bike riding. I’ll add it to the plus list. I’m still proud and pleased that I made it here to get the view; it would have been easy to turn and head for home today.

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Not a great deal more to the day except for getting a few jobs done down the street, familiarising myself with my local shops and getting a new pharmacy, a new Coles, a new post office and getting a nice Cold Rock icecream with fruit tingles and Nerds to round out the afternoon. Oh, and my daily 2 hour nap! No day would be complete…

For dinner we had a spontaneous night out for Japanese banquet at Kokoro in Gunghalin…I’m gradually getting used to the foreign sounds of the Canberra suburbs; I think I’m more used to Japanese! 6 courses of Japanese delishousness…not something I’ve ever done before but I think I’m sold! The raw fish section was a challenge but I got through at least one piece of each and some wasabi mayonnaise and soy sauce helped the rest to go down. I now LOVE lotus root chips, I’m ambivalent about edamame beans, and I renewed my appreciation for Japanese style sushi with just rice and fish. The sticky cooked salmon was wonderful but being the last course, it was hard to really appreciate! As for the black sesame and green tea flavoured ice cream…no thanks! But give me amaranth tea with floating flowers anytime, it was divine. Heavy tummy, off to sleep!

Check out the rest of today’s photos on my website: Duntroon and Mount Pleasant

Some of today’s blossoms are included in my Spring Blossoms portfolio: red and pink japonica, yellow daffodils and the deeper pink tree blossoms