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 69

[Saturday November 19th] A hot dry day with cool to warm morning for riding

I’ve had two early mornings in a row after late nights, like 5am wide awake after midnight bedtimes, so it’s time to be alert but not alarmed as needing less sleep can be the first sign of a “high” or manic episode coming on. It’s nice to have a little more energy though, get a bit more done, drag my feet less, enjoy life that bit more; hopefully it’s just a PMS thing, cos that can happen, or just an oddity. So at 8am, after going back to sleep for a bit, I decided hubby’s suggestion of a morning bike ride was actually a good one. Usually I’m not with it enough to get up until hubby is nearly or actually back home from his ride, so I don’t really get to thinking about what to do while he’s out. But seize the day! Let’s change that up. So off I go exploring, finding my way down to Lake Burley Griffin via some lovely back streets, then around the middle and wetlands loop and a bit of the hilly loop to get there. You never know what you might find in the backstreets; check out the awesome bird street art. I have to say I felt a bit disorientated riding around the lake! It was 8.30am, but what with the second sleep earlier and people’s activities I felt like it was at least lunchtime. I mean who picnics on the edge of the lake at 8.30am in the morning? Who races dragon boats and attends a full boating carnival at 8.30am in the morning? What’s with people, do they hate sleeping in on the weekend? I can understand the people bird watching maybe, because I dropped off at the Jerrabomberra wetlands for a quick peek at the bird hide where a group of elderly were yapping at the top of their voices!! Hello, its a bird hide! Silence is required at all times otherwise what bird in its right mind is going to come close so that we get great views? I asked them to be quiet, one lady paid attention. I asked again and one oldie told me I could come back later! I told him it wasn’t for my convenience, it was the rule of bird hides; they left not long after. It stuck in my craw though!! I also stopped off at the site where they built trenches for soldiers to train in; that was pretty fascinating. Anyway, it was just incredible to see the masses of walkers, joggers, dogs, cyclists all out and about so early. Then home to hang out with hubby. We were planning on going out together but I was fading after all that exercise and emotion, so off for a nap and hubby put his feet up on the couch to chill out for a while.

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If I could design my own wall, I don’t think I could have chosen better!

Our plan was to go to Sparrow hill in Kowen Park which is out off the Bungendore Road past Queanbeyan. It’s a dead end road that I think is a leftover from when they built the current road, and its beautiful with gorgeous green English trees mixed in with the eucalypts and otherwise sandy, rocky, dry bush. They’ve built 40 kilometres of mountain bike paths with linking trails and man alive, are they well used on the weekend compared to when I dropped by the other week! There was a single other car there that day and today I can easily count 20 without hesitating! As the afternoon wore on more and more cars with picnics and bikes and rugs and crates of stuff arrived…turns out there was a juniors 3 hour mountain bike enduro race so all the families were piling in for a nice night in the bush from 4 to 7pm. Meanwhile I wasn’t enjoying the 30 degree heat (yep I know its not that hot but I was dripping!) so I wasn’t budging far at all, and sticking to the shade (which gum trees aren’t really great for), and basically doing as little as possible while trying to watch for birds as much as possible. I didn’t get a great long list, but I was well entertained by a family of Rufous Whistlers that were chasing each other all around me, and challenging me to grab whatever photos I could as they fleetingly touched down then flitted off again to harass each other. Half at least of the satisfaction of bird photography is grabbing a decent photo despite the best efforts of the birds being flighty, the situation (directly over head into the blazing sun!), the weather (overcast, raining), and whatever else comes up (low battery, full memory card, dust on the lens, la di la di la)! Getting home and seeing that the photo turned out as well as I hoped is always a huge thrill! Anyway, an hour mountain bike (MTN) bike ride for hubby, an hour bird watching for me; everyone’s happy! Then a nice fresh dinner of Vietnamese, some groceries and home to chillax as the evening breeze comes drifting in the bedroom door and lounge room floor and makes for a gorgeous evening inside, as much as outside. Delish!

And to top it all off, I problem solved the reason my photo software wasn’t uploading almost by myself, not much hubby input. This is impressive because ever since I started dating hubby and he was studying software, I’ve pretty much left anything technology to him. I have learnt a few things too, but more or less anything out of my immediate knowledge goes to hubby. And he gives me the phrase made famous by the IT crowd: “Have you tried turning it off and on again?”. I’m trying to put my brain to learning a bit more, before the medications kill my memory retention altogether. Let’s see how I go. In typical style, I got my afternoon/evening burst of energy and got stuck into getting my blog up to date and managed to get 2 blogs written. I know I should be writing much less, but my memory being what it is, I’m trying to keep the details in so I can remember it later. I haven’t really been able to convey the sense of the day always, the mood, the weather, but hopefully remembering the things will bring back the feeling of the day. We’ll see.

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 Nine

Today was THE BEST DAY of BIRDING EVER!!! EVER!!! So far at least, I’ll try to improve…not that seeing a greater number of species of birds is something that you really have a lot of control over, but still.

Two hours, THIRTY EIGHT different species of birds, no idea about the number of actual birds, and every single one WITHOUT MY CAMERA!! Screams and wails of horror! As a comparison, when I spent 3.5 hours in the bush at Black Mountain last Monday I got 19 species! I got ready for a bike ride this morning, kicking my week off to a good start. I headed off around the central loop of Lake Burley Griffin planning to go around the eastern loop as well, and the birds just kept appearing one after the other after the other! I finished my ride but never again am I going without my camera! Canberra is certainly living up to it’s birding potential! 38 different types of birds and quite a few that I’ve seen only a couple of times if that: Golden Whistler, Black Faced Cuckoo-Shrike, Tree Martin…I wish I could show you, but I can’t.

So I’ll settle for this adorable family of Wood Ducks! 11 ducklings with their parents and another pair of ducks; could they be any cuter? And to all of my Wheel Women friends: no one was hurt in the photographing of these ducks! No crashes, no injuries, all parties went their separate ways happy and unharmed!

P.s. I went to Floriade today, photos to follow, and an even cuter event happened! So I’m changing my photo 🙂

[Note: but you’ll notice that I’ve snuck in the original photo as the header…]

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Tiny little baby Purple Swamphens (AKA Maori hens) which must be pretty recently hatched! But despite their fluffiness and having 3 toes instead of webbed feet, they are great swimmers!

Canberra Day Six

16th September, 2016

Well friends, another day, another adventure. I felt myself getting a bit tired mentally today but tomorrow is going to be bright and sunny, and I’m getting out and about! Just thinking up ideas, and planning what to do gets me up out of my rainy slow mood into a better gear.

So many options for tomorrow!

The spring flower festival Floriade is opening tomorrow; one look at the website and I’m excited! Not so excited about how far I’m going to have to walk to get there…might take my bike. Then there’s the Raiders game…if you’d listened to a quarter of the radio that I’ve heard this week you’d know this is the biggest thing since sliced bread! Something about NRL, I think that’s rugby, and Canberra’s team that lost last week but still have a chance at the grand final because this week they’re gonna win the final, but they already played the final, but they’re playing the final so get behind it…I’m lost!! Whoever these Panthers are that are fighting them, I hope they understand the gist of it all! Tsk, rugby! Bring back AFL!

Then there’s an NRS (national road series) road race which for the uninitiated is a bike race over 3 days for the best in the country who haven’t made it to international pro level, or who have stepped down from pro level. My husband thinks he’s one of them so we’ll probably go check it out at some point; they’re usually a lot of fun with side carnivals. Might even show him a loop of Lake Burley Griffin now that I know it like the back of my hand haha! Then there’s my birding, a loose plan for lunch with hubby at Piallago and the possibilities are endless!

Today rained then was sorted of fine then drizzled and I wasn’t sure when was the best time to go riding so I ended up not going, which is a shame. I think it would have topped off my day in better fashion than a sleep. But too late for that. Tomorrow is another day. On a recommendation I checked out the Red Hill lookout today, another rainy view! Are you seeing any repetition here? There’s a cool restaurant up there that I wouldn’t mind checking out another day. But tomorrow is going to be sunny! Maybe I’ll do Mount Ainslie, Mount Pleasant and Red Hill lookouts all in one! I’m still glad I went the places I did this week in the rain, but I’m excited to go back in the sunshine. So Red Hill lookout, then a random drive around looking for little strips of local shops where I might buy a present for a friend; finally found one in Yarralumla on my second detour. Sadly because I dropped hubby to work at 8am, the shop wasn’t open but at least I found it so I’ll be back.

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Back home, a bit of blogging and website portfolios, then down the street for a couple of jobs. Lunch, games with the cat who is become a good friend of mine and hubby’s, a nap and deluxe nachos and long chats over dinner! Awesome Friday night. And now even a timely bedtime!! I so need it, and can’t wait for tomorrow to dawn for more adventures! What’s your pick of activities? Comment and let me know.

Canberra Day 4

14th September, 2016

Today was another sort of not much day, but last night was also late at the baby shower of all things, so that wasn’t the best preparation for the day. Not that I regret going one little bit, it was a fun feel good night with lots of laughs and lovely people.

The same pattern prevailed today: get up early and go to hubby’s work, drive on, this time around part of the western loop of Lake Burley Griffin that I rode yesterday and take photos, home for a late breakfast. The lake makes such a brilliant subject, and I also got some lovely shots of King Parrots feeding in the grass. These are usually very timid birds but living next to the bike path seems to have accustomed them to people coming and going and I was able to get within a few metres which was fabulous!

Then some work on my website, yesterday’s blog, leftovers for lunch and a couple of hours napping to round out the day! Really not much of note. It rained today from lunch on and off so it was kind of a rest day. There are meant to be showers for the rest of the week but I’m hoping to get some things done between showers. If not, there are plenty of indoorsy things to do so I want to keep the ball rolling before I get stuck on the couch again.

My photo of the day, surprisingly, isn’t the awesome close ups of king parrots, welcome swallows and my first decent photos of yellow rumped thornbills. The photo of the day has to be the lake, beautiful and serene. I think it’ll become a favourite!

And we’re done! See, I promised they’d get shorter 🙂

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For more photos from today check out my website: Morning Lake Burley Griffin Drive

Canberra Day Three

13th September, 2016

I promise that my posts are getting (okay, will get…) shorter as I progress through the 90 days that I anticipate I’ll be spending in Canberra! The writing to photo ratio is all wrong. And I’m aiming to get them in line with the days themselves; I’m confusing myself writing the day after!

It was a bit of a funny day. Same start to the day today, albeit more sluggishly cos I left going to bed, and more significantly taking my tablets, until 11pm. Meaning I was a bit “hung over” when it came time to wake up. Nevertheless, I jumped in the car early with hubby to drive into his work with him by 8am, then took over the wheel and started off on what is becoming my morning “pick a road at random and explore before breakfast” drive. I had woken up by then; I promise I didn’t drive hung over.

“Peak hour” traffic was really not a thing yesterday, at least not between Harrison and Dickson. Aiming to get to hubby’s work by 8am today did take a tad longer, like 4 minutes longer! I love the traffic!!! I might as well be back home in Shepparton, a town of 25,000. No waiting, no kilometre long lines of traffic, delays of half an hour – instead you just go where you want when you want and the traffic just flows. You could get used to it…

Today I headed south across the bridge over Lake Burley Griffin towards Parliament House then took a left and passed by what I assume are some of the embassies with flags in front of grand houses. The highlight was Mugga Drive in a suburb somewhere which has a fabulous view over the city and to the mountains beyond.

Home again for late breakfast, then writing up yesterday’s blog, trying to sort out the glitch in my website, adding the list of birds that I saw at Black Mountain yesterday into the ebird database, phaphing around doing nothing in particular but spending a lot of time! Oh, and unpacking my suitcases! That was fun, not. I mean, it had to be done sometime, but I was putting it off for some obscure reason. Anyway, its done. I forgot to bring clothes hangars but luckily our awesome hosts have spares. Then back to bed by lunchtime cos the drowsiness was just persisting and I couldn’t think straight!

Got myself up after a couple of hours, and even though the day had been a bit of a wash out, and nothing much in particular was happening, I just decided not to let that go any longer. Time to get my bike out and hit the trails, especially since the rest of the week could be rained out. So I did it. I pulled myself together (to me that’s the most impressive part), got dressed, got my gear together and didn’t forget anything, successfully drove there and back with the car on the roof and it stayed on the roof! Hubby has me on a training schedule and this week I’m doing 15 and 20km rides. Well, kicking that off I rode the western loop of Lake Burley Griffin by myself, and clocked up over 19.5km! And it was beautiful! The skies were really dramatic looking like they’d start raining any minute, and the lake was so still and the trees, the grass, everything was so lovely! Stand by for a Lake Burley Griffin portfolio! I stopped and started a bit too much to take photos; I got a bit cold, which is rare for me. It was challenging with “undulations” but so worth it. I’ll definitely do that again!

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So this has to be my photo for today. A bike ride on a not-so-hot day AFTER my nap, and late in the day when I could have decided not to bother. Pushing myself through the undulations, but loving the downhills. My first bike ride in Canberra. A solo ride, my first for Canberra. First ride around Lake Burley Griffin. Lots of things to celebrate! So here I am at 3.30pm deciding to make something of the day despite it all.

It should have been 16km, but I’m having some issues reading signs! Not literally, my vision is fine. But it’s like I decide what I’m doing to do before I even read the sign based on what makes sense to me, then I read but don’t register the sign, and carry on doing my own thing regardless. So far in the 3 days I’ve been in Canberra I’ve done 2 laps of the entire city in the car after missing my turn TWICE while trying to find my own way and refusing to use GPS, I’ve walked for 3.5 hours instead of 2 hours on Black Mountain cos I didn’t pay attention to where I should have parked and thought I was somewhere else, and now a 4km detour into the Australian National University because I skimmed the sign and thought I should go straight ahead instead of veer off! Oh and the shower. It’s a new shower to me and doesn’t have the symbols on it…tell me though, isn’t it always hot to the right and cold to the left on those mixer taps? Someone agree with me. I was getting very annoyed at whoever used up all the hot water, and my hair was half wet so now what was I going to go, etc, until my hubby pointed out that I was turning it the wrong way!! I feel that there must be a lesson here somewhere…

Lastly for the day, a really enjoyable night out with loads of new people at a baby shower for a girl I’ve sort of known over a few years, and reconnected with this year. I forgot that there would be so many new people until I was inside the door, which I’m really pleased about because it has happened twice in our 3 days that there’s been a bit group of new people, and I haven’t had any anxiety about it at all! Hubby and I agree that I’m not high, I’m not low, and we feel like maybe this is what normal will be like; and we’re happy with that. Some great days, some struggling days, and some middling days. Isn’t that life for someone who isn’t mentally or physically unwell? It’s not all excitement and performance, sometimes it’s just step by step. This would be my photo of the day if it weren’t for my bike ride.

Last thing.

I’ve finally had success getting more photos onto my website after a technical glitch. I have to commend Fran from Adobe for being super helpful! The link for yesterday is below, and there’ll be more to come with coming posts. I’m so pleased with my website and the individual portfolios!! I love my photography, it’s so satisfying and fulfilling. Having somewhere other than Facebook to share it, and share it professionally is so exciting! I really hope that you find something you enjoy, whether it’s scenery, birds, my journey in Canberra or life in general.

For more photos of today, see my website: Bike ride and baby shower

See also my Canberra Day Two photos: Black mountain views and Black Mountain Birds