We sailed on the Spirit of Tasmania at 6pm on Boxing Day. Stayed up until dark then slept through somewhat rough seas, though not nearly so bad as a few days before when almost everyone was seasick. Talked for about an hour with a Danish sea captain who had been touring Tasmania for a few weeks. He is three months at sea and has three months off. He is big man with a bearded open face and a ready laugh. Very likeable. He’s a bit heavy from so many months at sea; we were very impressed that he could do those hills; said he pushed a few of the steeper ones, still impressed. He captains a container ship calling at west coast ports of Africa, based in Spain. He thinks he will come back to Australia and ride the Queensland coast in three months, might see us there. We will keep in touch by e-mail. (Note: in early 2004 we received an email from his family that he had died suddenly while on a hunting trip. We were happy he was outside doing the other thing he loved.)
We spent several days in Melbourne with John and Marge Barrett, including a quiet New Year’s Eve. We got in lots of visiting, rode two of the best trails in the area and even got in a bit of scraping and painting on a room they were re-doing. We also got the front wheel bearings changed out, on the spot in 15 minutes at St. Kilda Cycles. What service. We spend a day downtown enjoying Victoria Market and the bustle of a busy big city. We hope to see John and Marge when they come to America to ride cross country in 2003, on their tandem. (John and Marge rode across America in 2003, from Atlantic to Pacific and down the Oregon/California coast. We were able to host them three nights in our motorhome as we traveled the Lewis and Clark route)
Then we rode out to Donvale to stay with Bruce and Maggie Graham who we met in Albany while they were on an extended fly/bike tour of Australia. One day we met friend David and toured some wineries in the Yarra Valley. The last winery is a small mom and pop operation with such good wines that their entire production is sold through the winery doors. They also had the best views of the valley and were a refreshing change from all the profit-centre tasting room/restaurants that are becoming so popular. Most all the wines tasted were excellent, and the bike touring company even more excellent. While staying with Bruce and Maggie we got our camera fixed and slides processed and had lots of time to visit. Bruce helped Claire plot our route to Canberra, using his CD maps on the computer, while Maggie and I talked and I wrote. We felt so comfortable with them that we feared we might over-stay our welcome. Not to worry. The road calls.
One day we had lunch with Colin and Verna McKenzie at their home on the edge of Toorak. A proper English county meal: lamb and gravy, mint sauce, potatoes, squash, green beans with a wonderful Koonawarra wine, and for desert, summer bread pudding with fruit and fresh cream. We met Colin and Verna when they were four-wheel drive touring in Western Australia. There are two stories based on their trip in recent editions of a four-wheel drive magazine. They were a bit worried about our equipment when they saw us and were interested to see how we would fare. They were pleased to see we looked so fit and healthy. Verna told us how impressed they had been to see us destroy a two-litre tub of ice cream one day. “We’ve lived off that story ever since!” Meaning such a feat is of great value as a campfire story among four wheeling folk, who presumably would be hard pressed to burn off that much fat. They then took us on a driving tour of some areas of Melbourne that we hadn’t seen and dropped us off at the train station. Wonderful visit, and I hope we are able to catch up with them when they come to the States to visit. Colin worked for International Harvester and then Ford, and lived in the States for more than two years. An altogether lovely visit with special people.
In Melbourne, we had one more visit before hitting the Great Dividing Range. We met Ruth Shoebridge in Western Australia when she was visiting here son who lives in Paraburdoo and is an associate of our cycling friend Michael O’Brien. We don’t know how old Ruth is, but whatever age it is, she has more energy than most 25 year-olds, and is always looking toward the next adventure, and the adventures she has to tell are many! She invited two couples for tea and we had a wonderful evening talking bush walking. Bert and Mary have done quite a bit of bush walking in the U.S. and it was fun talking about the wild places there, and here, that weknow. Noreen and Campbell are next door neighbors. Noreen walks with Ruth and Campbell had many questions about our travels. Noreen told us the next morning that he had talked about retirement for the first time after they got home. We’re such bad influences! One of those wonderful evenings with friendly Aussies that are becoming more and more frequent as we turn our attentions to the social side of this journey.