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!

 

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Canberra Day Twenty

Friday 30th September, 2016

It rained today. Again. A lot. It’s positively mushy underfoot! It can stop now, by the way. There’s plenty of water for everyone. More than plenty. I know we aren’t the worst off by any means but still. And the chill wind! Is it snowing somewhere?

I woke up bright and early at some outrageous hour because the thick clouds were creating a great wall of glare! Too stupid with sleep to shut the blinds, I slept intermittently til hubby got up and we both complained about it; just hadn’t done anything about it! So I got up for a shower (!) and breakfast, but couldn’t hack it. Back to bed, a good sleep this time, then up for some study to finish my CPD year which ends today, some lunch, and then the highlight of the day, if not the week; afternoon tea with a good friend from my Traralgon days. One of those brilliant people who you can catch up with after who knows how much time, and all manners of experiences and just pick right up and go with it! Awesome!

We had afternoon tea at Via Dolce right in central Canberra, and wow, what a place for decadent cakes and pastries! Definitely recommended. So a lovely cake on some gorgeous china, a wonderful chat about all manner of things, and just a feeling of well being to be catching up and enjoying life. Brilliant!! Then a wander around the Canberra Centre, kind of like Doncaster or Melbourne Central shopping centres in Melbourne, then trying to find the travelator that went to my car park; that took a while!! Some groceries for tea, some scripts dispensed, then home to our lovely hosts who are back from their cruise full of stories and happiness. A lovely meal together over green curry, and tomorrow we’re going to the beach! And it’s going to be 22 degrees and sunny! But that tale is for tomorrow. Chat later!

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Canberra Day Fifteen

Strictly speaking not a Canberra day at all, but it’s all linked to Canberra so here we go.

Possibly one of the most exciting days of my life! I have been wanting to see whales in the wild probably since I was born, maybe a little after. Currently I subscribe to a tantalizing blog that sends me an alert from anywhere along the Great Ocean Road that a whale is sighted so that potentially I can go and see it. Of course I live in Melbourne and so the closest sighting has still been 2 hours away, the furthest one a ridiculous 4 or 5 hours. So in order to make this work for me, I set up a spreadsheet earlier in the year and put in all the sightings with where, when, what type of whale and how far off shore the sightings were so that I could pin my money on the most common places and take a driving holiday. That hasn’t really eventuated, but I still dream about it. Now that I’m living inland it’s quite of all moot, and even if I were in Melbourne and free to go on a 4 hour round trip for the sake of a possible sighting, I couldn’t because the Great Ocean Road is shut with landslides!

So, where is this all heading? Today we decided to go and check out Kiama and everything that is between Shoalhaven Heads and there. Lots of stunning lush scenery, beautiful hills, brilliant ocean views, just lovely to be enjoying it all, soaking it up. I’ve been to Kiama once only for half a day on band camp, but I remembered the blowhole so we headed there. It was a bit of a wash out due to flat seas, no wind etc but we heard people CASUALLY (how could they?!?) talking about taking photos of whales. I was like, where’s this? And it was a few hundred metres of shore happening right there and then!! Excitement plus; doesn’t even describe the happiness!! This is the best photo, they were a fair way off, but this shows what others thought was a mother and calf on her far side plus another whale in front flipping its tail!!! WHALES!!!!! I saw them! With my own eyes and through my 300mm zoom lens!! Oh of all the days I wished I’d spent those few thousand dollars on a 600mm lens…not really though, I have a great editing program that let’s me crop a lot of the photo away. I’ll put what my camera got as the header; what my eyes got was a lot less. Although I think when the header image gets cropped it does zoom in a bit.

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Well! What to say after that?! We enjoyed more driving once the rain set in after a sunny morning, the dramatic skies were a highlight and the scenery everywhere was just delightful. We drove a couple of roads that hubby hopes to climb another time; he needs to go home and get more gears!! It was seriously steep, we were wondering if we’d tip over backwards!! And we drove down in first gear and still sat at 30kmph! Fascinating. We saw some gorgeous sandstone cliffs, mountains, farming and horsey farms, little seaside villages and it was just a lovely day seeing new things and having new experiences!

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.

The Brain

[Author’s note: written last Thursday]

Today I…

…Hmmm.

I just realised that a lot of my writing and thinking starts like this.

That’s one thing about being home by yourself for months; you get to thinking about yourself a lot! And not so much about others.

Plus, you know, the whole life-changing nervous breakdown thing that triggers a lot of soul searching, heart searching, mind searching etc.

Plus being in therapy which encourages looking into yourself and understanding yourself and changing yourself. Plus seeing doctors regularly who ask you about yourself and want an answer about yourself.

Don’t know whether it is bad or good but it is what it is. I’m just noting it for my own reference really. Without judgement, just like my psychologist, mindfulness teacher and gratitude life class coach would say!

So today I went to a free organ concert.

This is something that I’ve wanted to do for a while now and haven’t gotten around to. It’s actually something that I’ve wanted to do ever since school camp to Sydney way back, not sure which year; probably about a decade ago though!! We saw the majestic organ at the Opera House but never got to hear it played. So the idea of hearing an organ concert is something that has been lurking in the back of my brain ever since.

And now it popped up for free! Can’t beat that!

So I went along today and took in the concert.

Annoying thing is, I’m not sure if I enjoyed it. Annoying, frustrating, irritating, worrying, concerning,interesting; pick one, any one.

My logical brain appreciated the size and the grandeur of the organ and the work that went in to building such a large musical instrument. It registered the admirable fact that the organ has been in place for a long time and still rings true thanks to dedication of many people. It realised the lovely surroundings from where I sat including the bright colours of stained glass windows, lovely wooden furniture, carpets and heating that made the environment comfy cosy on a freezing cold rainy day. It took in the detail of paintings and carvings and settings that were meticulous and intricate.

My rational brain heard the satisfying chords of the music played and admired the skill of the organist, and the patience of the girl sitting by to turn pages. It was interested by the variety of other people with a like desire to hear organ music in this day and age, and the ongoing support of obvious regular attendees. It was intrigued by the range of notes and variety of styles in which the organ could be played; impressed really to hear fast furious pieces together with traditional classical music and lyrical hymns. It felt obliged to be satisfied overall because really, wasn’t I ticking off one of my longings?

My physical brain was engaged in making sure that I was comfortable. I overheat very rapidly these days because of my medicines so all my coats and scarves were off. But just to be sure my physical brain checked and checked again and found that I was in fact sweating. Seriously, it was 8 degrees outside and I had just walked into a mildly heated draughty room and I’m wiping sweat off my face! Argh. Moving on, my brain was okay with the seating, the position, the view. It was surprised to find the seats in fact very comfy for an old building, and the view to be very nice.

So my brain goes on, looking, checking, assessing, approving and appreciating.

But is it enjoying? Today I’m just not sure. Usually I can feel it; happiness, joy, enjoyment. But today is one of those days where everything is in place, but I just can’t quite get to where I think I want to be.

Is it the medication, is it the condition, is it just an off day? Was it my lunch not sitting well, the seat slightly skewed, the conversation I just had? Was it my planning for tomorrow, my list of others things I’d like to do, my thoughts on dinner?

I think it will take more time and experience before I know the difference and can say for sure which is which.

I’m glad I did what I’ve wanted to do for so long. I’m sorry I didn’t quite get out of it what I thought. Maybe my expectations were not aligned with reality or maybe today’s just not my day. At least I have the blessing of being able to try it again sometime since the concert is a recurring one. A lot of times we don’t get opportunity a second time so that’s definitely in the plus column!

Feathered friends

I have a bucket list.

On that list are birds, and some animals, that I want to find in the wild and take photos of.

It all started in September last year (2013) when my husband and I took our first overseas trip to South America.

That trip occurred smack bang in a period of huge change for us with both of us having quit our jobs before we left and taken new jobs in the city, having decided to rent out our old house and rent a new one in the city but without having anything signed and sealed, and with me being one month into a new medication for anxiety that was working pretty well. But I still had twinges and the organising of the trip had been a trigger for a whole stack of ‘what if’ anxiety for me.

We had been to New Zealand a couple of times before but it was so easy that it didn’t feel like overseas. We didn’t change any money, just used our card; we drove a car around on the same side of the road; we ate the same food that we’d eat at home etc.

So this was the big first trip. We choose South America because my aunty lives in Brazil. Our trip planning started with a wish to go and visit her, and ended up an epic 30 day adventure through 5 countries, 6 currencies, 23 flights and many many people!

We started in the Galapagos. I’d heard about the birds and animals there and wanted to see it for myself. This was my holiday pick, my husband’s was Macchu Picchu and we both wanted to see the Amazon.

Armed with a new digital SLR camera and keen interest we arrived in the Galapagos by plane and were immediately entranced with everything we saw; plants, animals, birds, reptiles, both exotic and common.

And so started a new awareness in me of the joys of spotting fauna in their own habitat, and the equally exciting thrill of getting the perfect snap to take the memory away with me.

I started to realise that I had a real passion for this hobby.

I realised that it brought me happiness and a genuine peace. I realised that when I was looking for and finding different species, everything else faded into the background, my stress response was wound down and I thought of nothing but the joy at hand.

What an amazing revelation!

I’ve always loved animals.

Ever since I was a little kid and got into the dog’s kennel to cuddle the pups, to “help” the mother dog feed the babies and take them for walks.

All my favourite kids books involved animals. I was an animal person.

I wanted to be a vet, until I realised it was mostly cats and dogs and not lions and giraffes. I wanted to work at the zoo, and still do inside!! I wanted to be a marine biologist so that I could swim with dolphins all day long; then I realised there was a LOT of counting pippies on the beach instead.

Then I realised I didn’t want to be around sick or dying animals, so I decided to keep animals as a fun hobby rather than a job.

As a kid we had a couple of horses in the vacant block next door that didn’t belong to anyone in particular, and we would go over and feed them.

I raised ducklings into ducks and supervised their swimming in the channel, sitting on eggs and hatching of more ducklings. I mourned the ducklings death to our evil Jack Russell, sobbed over squashed ducklings with a negligent mother and thrilled to see the half grown ducklings taking their first swim in the irrigation channel.

I sort of thought of the family dog as mine, and cried over it like a family member when an idiot neighbour ran it over.

So I guess it should be no suprise to me that this is a passion for me.

But in the midst of moving to the city as a student, getting married and moving to the country, buying a house and moving again, then moving back to the city and all the challenges in between, I had forgotten how reviving I find it to get out into nature, to see birds and animals and plants, and to just take time out of life to enjoy creation.

But I now feel how much difference it makes to me to get out, to open my eyes to really see the world and to look for wonders. It always completely absorbs me, gives me a break from my head and the whirling swirling thoughts that seem to never end, and gives me something beautiful to carry along the way with me!

So, to my bucket list. One of the birds was a kookaburra. And I got it!! YAY!! My husband rides a lot and is always telling me about kookaburras that he sees. On a road trip last week we saw a few on the telephone wires, but I didn’t have a chance to snap one. Then, while walking across a bridge spanning a creek, I happened to look down and see one, sitting on a branch just a few metres away!! Bliss!

And later in the day I saw this one! Another one, sitting on a post just near the pathway. Awesome!!

SO now my list is: a lyrebird (incredibly shy and hard to find!), a bellbird (that delightlful ting ting sound in the bush, but brown and drab and hard to find), a black cockatoo, a gang gang cockatoo, swallows and a koala.

I’ve seen koalas before on Raymond Island in Gippsland, but it’s kind of like taking pictures in the zoo, they’re so common. So I want to find a koala somewhere they are hard to find.

Another bird crossed off my list this weekend: superb blue wren. Gorgeous!!

I have some new areas in my sights for bird watching, and photographing, and can’t wait for the next day out enjoying the benefits of this great hobby 🙂