Good Morning

This photo needs no explanation except that my phone camera only captures about 1/10 of the true natural beauty to which I woke up.

Also just watched a pod of dolphins going out from the shore, maybe 6 of them. Cool!

Oh, aaaand now there are 3 little parrots in the tree 10 feet from my tent.



(taken at 6:30 am)

May 31: Half-Day in Overdrive

I slept in until 8 am this morning (gasp!), cooked breakfast, and hung out with my Canadian neighbors. After such a relaxed morning, cleanup and packing set me back even further. I got on the road about noon headed down the princes highway ALL DAY. This made navigating pretty easy; I don't think I checked my phone GPS more than a handful of times. However, as a result, today was the least scenic thus far. The majority was shoulder riding through forests. Princes highway bends away from the coast at this point, so I actually didn't see ocean until I pulled into town less than a mile from my destination campsite. Hence, I mostly kept my head down and cranked away for four and half hours straight. With no landmarks or scenic overlooks, it wasn't too hard to just focus and keep pedaling. I had a 5-10 minute stop about every hour, I think, including one at a roadside sandwich shop/gas station.

The front 2/3 was forested and hilly as mentioned. The back end had more farmland - like the end of yesterday's ride but more hills. Lots of quick ups and downs today as opposed to massive climbs and multi-mile downhills. In general, it seems the terrain and myself are beginning to come to an agreement: hills are not as vicious and I'm getting a TON better at climbing. I was really technical with my gearing today, spending almost half the time on my previously-seldom-used top front chaining. I focused on maintaining a constant cadence and bumped up to the top chain ring on downhills instead of coasting/resting. All in all, I felt that today was the most athletic day I've had yet. I hardly stopped for photos. I kept a really good eye on regulating my system temperature- and food-wise, which kept my mind occupied.

Eventually, I called the ulladulla visitor center to see where I could camp and found out about a few places, one of which is right on the water and a half kilometer from the highway. After making my way there (here), I set up camp, walked to get groceries, cooked (shrimp and pesto spaghetti, sausages, fresh bread), showered, and now I'm in my tent. The campgrounds are sorta trashy; it's more of a "caravan park", so RVs and mobile homes. It's also almost completely empty with out being winter. I think I'm the only one in this area - I talked to the one other guy I saw, who was homeless by most conventional definitions (apparently the Australian govt has a decent stipend for the unemployed). He was brief but interesting and friendly in giving me a lead to another campsite down the coast. This place is also overrun by opossums - Australian bushytail opossums! They're about as big as raccoons, white and brown with a big bushy black tail, and look more like a squirrel crossed with a cat. Kinda cute, actually - Google em! They'll come right up to me looking for food.

I'm set up on what I found to be the best spot here - the whole place is up on a ridge about 100 ft over the ocean. I'm 20 ft from the edge looking straight through a rare clearing in the trees out my left window. I can see and hear ocean and really look forward to waking up like this! The woman at the info center even says they've had a bunch of whales passing through recently. Time for sleep; blogging takes forever on a little smartphone.


PS on blogging from phone - my phone has an app built in so I can post straight to my website but functionality is frustratingly limiting. It won't allow me to post pictures in line with text or caption them, so they all just get dumped at the end in hopes that you, readers, can figure out what they are. I think the order gets scrambled sometimes too. Augh.

PPS I have included a picture of myself so that you know I'm really alive - the scenario my friend Dave pointed out hasn't come true yet, in which the bike becomes self-aware and travels and blogs on its own.

Today's stats:
Total dist: 45.82 mi
Time: 3 hours 36 mins
Avg speed: 12.71 mph
Max speed: 39.76 mph


May 30th: Progress

Had another really enjoyable and productive day today. The views weren't as scenic (still picturesque and beautiful!), but overall it's getting less hilly. I started out in the small city of wollongong (although probably the biggest I'll see for awhile) and made my way out and down the coast a notable distance! I'm getting a ton better at navigating. One of my main snags is having to ride a mile, stop to check or double check my map or phone GPS, ride a mile, stop, etc. I felt like I was doing that significantly less today.

I stopped after mile 27 in kiama to eat, rest, and check maps from around 12:30-2. I found a couple of prospective campsites online and left.

Outside of kiama, I had some roads that weren't all too pleasant. I rode the bike lane/shoulder of the princes highway for awhile, including a multi-mile backtrack in order to get going the right direction upon getting on. I also rode through a 100 km/hr, one-lane road with a terrible shoulder. It was the alternate route from the highway, but I can't decide which would've been less safe. If anything, it pushed me to keep a better pace. Lunch hit me around this time, too, so from about 2:30 to 5:00 I was pretty much cranking constantly at 16 mph and feeling great. Maybe it was slightly downhill? Maybe there was a tailwind? I'm still not sure whether it was the elements, roads, food digested, or sheer motivation out of fear from the cars whirring past my elbow, but I was really in the groove at the end. For the last 8 miles or so, the shoulder came back, roads were smooth, and I was riding through an agrarian valley, the air thick with the South farms fragrance I know all too well from urbana-champaign. aside from the massive mountains to the West, it was nicely reminiscent of my training.

At 4 I called the campsite I wanted - nowra wildlife area, right on a river, not too far off of my route, and $10 a night with a hot shower. They were really nice and assured me I'd still be able to get a spoot if I showed up after their office closed at 5. I found a little grocery store on the way and bought what was probably too much. Oh well, the more food in me, the better! I'm eating about 4-5 meals a day to keep up with my body.

The campsite guy was nice - he opened the office a half hour late and even suggested I save the $2 on power and charge my phone from the outlet on his RV. There are only two other people camping here from what I can see. There's a Canadian guy whose friend showed up a little later and a van with at least one person, I think Australian but they didn't say much. I spent the night cooking on my camp stove, - an exciting first! I made 4 sausages and spaghetti with pesto and mixed veggies on a single 6"-diameter pan. All turned out well! The camp stove really makes you appreciate cooking from home and the simplicity of turning a single knob on an already.usable surface. The flame went out a couple of times but I think I've got the hang of it now.

I hung out with the Canadian guy and later his friend, too. He had a campfire (essential - I'd say it's about 45 degrees here at night) and we exchanged stories and plans. He's been living at this campsite for a month! Apparently he wakes up every morning and takes a canoe across the river to go rock climbing. Surprisingly (the woman in the hostel specifically told me, "don't stop in nowra. There's nothing there") this town has some of the best rock climbing in Australia and is one of the first sites that started doing it. Cool to be going upwards, I'm sure, but I need to keep going horizontally!


Today's stats:
Total dist: 56.28 mi
Time: 4 hours 50 mins
Avg speed: 11.64 mph
Max speed: 38.11 mph


Breakthrough for Myself and Mankind / Lunch Break in Kiama

I call it "peanuts in nutella" or "making the most of the for different foods I carry with me" or "why didn't I think of this sooner?"

Stopped for lunch in Kiama. I made extra chicken breasts last night, so I crafted a chicken-avocado-pesto sandwich. Looks a bit like bile, but yeah nutrients!

I followed a guy, Tony, into town. He found me on the bike lane next to the highway (functional but not fun) and showed me a less-trafficked route closer to the coast. He also assured me that after the next few towns, things should level out a lot. No more giant hills?!

Making good time today so far. Was feeling great this morning on all levels. Getting noticeably better with hills and navigation already. I've got my sights set far on a campsite Tony mentioned. He either said "shellharbour hoods" or "shoalhaven heads"... If you thought Australians were hard to understand, try conversing while riding a bike on the shoulder of a 100km/hr highway. Anyway, I've got 27 miles under my belt and it should be another 30 ish.

My god I look strange eating nutella with a spoon in a public park.


May 29th: Spectacular Views

What a day, whoa. It's now 4 pm and I'm drafting this from the beach before I check into my hostel about 1 km away. Today I spun my way through forests and coastlines while on hills and mountains nonetheless.

I woke up at 4:45 to a rainstorm - it had been raining all night. It was a great test of my tent, which I'll give a B. I brought two of my panniers inside and left the other two outside the main tent body but still under the rain fly. The tent wasn't perfectly waterproof and I was a little crammed on space, but it set up quickly (even in the dark) and did the job.

With most of my packs, tent, some clothes, and sleeping bag being a little damp, the added weight was probably around 10 lbs (science fact: a wet 2 lb, 12 oz tent probably actually weighs around 6 lbs). I took off at sunrise and started my venture by walking my bike up a steep slope with no shoulder for a mile and a half. I then rode the rest of the way through Royal National Park, which I found out is the second oldest national park in the world! Didn't expect that at all. It was all forested so not a lot of sunlight to dry my stuff. I rode with a 50s-ish couple for a few miles; the human interaction was nice and they were really kind. I was in the park for about 25 miles and was starting to feel a little dreary when everything suddenly opened up and I was at the top of a huge cliff overlooking the shore! It was easily the most uplifting and emotional event so far. I paused a bit at the overlook, ate a celebratory half avocado, and took photos. An old Asian woman with a tour group took a bunch of pictures of me, hah.

Next, I headed down the coast (really, hardly ever losing sight of it) through a bunch of little surf towns. I stopped in one and took a nap in a park, stopped in another and had what was perhaps the most delicious and rewarding hamburger of my entire LIFE. It was at a little diner across from the beach. The burger had, if I recall correctly: patty, bbq sauce, Australian bacon (basically ham), pineapple, beets, and lettuce. There might've even been more ingredients - I didn't find the pineapple til halfway through - but I was pretty focused on destroying it quickly for the calories. The staff was super nice - they even let me fill my water bottles and charge my phone.

I kept going with the destination of wollongong or a little further in mind. I felt a shower would be fantastic so I found a youth hostel in wollongong. I came to a dilemma when I began to really get in the groove around 3:30, pushing 15 mph up and downhill (I think the burger had hit my system). I could've either made the short trek and found my hostel early or kept pressing on and hope there would be a place to stay within the next couple of towns. My knee was acting up a little so I decided to go for wollongong but took the extra time to sit by a beach. I spotted a lighthouse across the bay and couldn't pass it up. I sat out there for about an hour taking pictures and trying to comprehend the divine beauty of the site - out on a little peninsula, beach on both sides, harbor in the middle, and mountain range with sunset in the background.

Everything today was very picturesque, very surreal, and I couldn't have taken enough pictures. Very little traffic, too - the most i saw was either around 7 am through the park or 4 pm coming into wollongong.

I'm in my hostel now, going to find some groceries and make dinner. Can't wait to see what tomorrow brings... Hopefully as smooth and rewarding a ride as today's! Legs are sore but spirits are high, sights are set on Melbourne asap!


PS phone service is awful and internet costs... What is this, 2003? Dunno whether to blame it on Australia's show tech environment or hostels finding ways to monetize everything. Hence, I'll post more pictures later.

PPS I meant to post this last night from my bed but I think I passed out as soon as my head hit the pillow. It's 6 am now, I'm up, and the rest of the hostel (including my three roommates) is still sleeping. I'll try to pack up without waking everyone else and get outta here by 8.

Today's stats:
Total distance: 40.39 mi
Time: 3 hours 55 mins
Avg speed: 10.31 mph
Max speed: 38.49 mph


Up 'n at 'em

Set my alarm for 4:45 so I can slip outta here unnoticed. It rained for most of the night and still is now. currently sitting in my tent wondering how it'll pack if the rain fly is still wet.

I had a preliminary breakfast of a handful of peanuts, a power bar, and a multivitamin. One I get a couple miles away and find somewhere dry, I'll have a sandwich or finish off the sausages I have leftover from dinner.

6:30 now, hitting the road.  Stopped raining but gear is damp. Got my rain covers on! Tough cycling here and still not feeling great about traffic. Wish me luck!


May 28th

Had an ok ride today getting out of Sydney, kind of annoying. I left coogee around 11:30 and got here about 5, no stops for more than 5 mins. Still overall a light day as far as total mileage goes - too much stopping and starting, sidewalk riding, and backtracking. I'm now at royal national park outside of town. Quite a ride getting here - mostly meandering through cities and suburbs while trying to avoid major highways. GPS on my phone, I'm convinced, is the best thing that ever happened to me. More info later; there's no power at the campsite so I didn't want to burn up battery that I'll need to help navigate tomorrow. Holy crap does it get dark here, though. It's 6:45 and basically pitch black. Today was a race for daylight and I can already see this being an issue in the future.


Today's stats:
Total dist: 35.65 mi
Time: 3 hours 26 mins
Avg speed: a whopping 10.36mph
Max speed: 35.66 mph


May 27th... Coogee again

Ok, so I didn't end up leaving today... But it's my vacation! I've had enough going on with planning and getting gear together since summer started and do I really even need to justify this? See below (sea below).

Oh, we also made giant amounts of stir fry and busted open a coconut (tip: drain the juice and then smash it on the sidewalk).


Sydney - Past Couple of Days

I left the Western Suburb of Balmain yesterday morning to explore a different half of the city. A Star Course / school friend of mine, Adam, has been studying in Sydney and lives in a house with 30 other students in Coogee, on the East end of Sydney's suburbs right on the beach (next to the famous Bondi Beach). We explored some city markets and Vivid Fest, a city-wide art installation focused on LIGHTS! Everything was exactly on par with my educational interests and my senior design project, so I was pretty into it most of the time. I'd also ridden in the night before to check it out, so there's a mixture of photos of the same things. There were a bunch of standalone LED-driven things, as well as giant 3D projections on several buildings (even the Opera House). Anyway, here are some pictures and videos.

These spheres were my favorite and completely amazing. I think we watched them for an hour.

I spent the morning looking at maps and FINALLY finding a place that stocks my camp fuel (white gas, or "shellite" here) about 3 miles across town. The last few days have been mostly acclimation to the terrain, climate, general city riding, and, oh, riding on the opposite side of the road. I think I've almost gotten used to it by now, but I was mentally unable to make right turns for the first couple of days. It's a LOT more difficult than anywhere else I've ridden before. For instance, this morning, about 75% of the trip to Bondi Junction to get my shellite was uphill. Up STEEP hills, too. On the way back, finally downhill, the wind whipped so hard coming off of the bay that I had a hard time even getting above 20mph going downhill in some places. Cars lined the left side the entire time, too, so I've been working on finding the best medium between not getting knocked off the road by traffic and not getting doored by unsuspecting drivers leaving their parked vehicles.

What's wrong with this picture?

This place is so awesome and the coast is so beautiful, I don't really want to leave. These folks are really fun and friendly, too. Hey, maybe I won't leave - it's my trip, after all! I could use a day of beachgoing, guitar playing, and hanging out. Provided that I do leave, I'm going to take it easy, only do a few miles (~30?), and find a campsite early so I can make sure I know how to set up all of my gear before it gets dark, then fire up my little stove (thanks to the Healy fam for the useful gift) with some sausages (called "snags" here).

Oh, and here's what my bike looks like all loaded up!

That must be difficult to ride, you say! That must be really heavy, you say! The bike alone with added racks and fenders weighs about 35 lbs. The panniers weigh between 40 and 50 lbs altogether. The hardest part is getting momentum going when starting. Once I'm rolling, steering isn't that much different. This is partially because I decided to leave out a handlebar bag - the lower your weight is, the better. Alas, it is no longer fun to carry it up flights of stairs.



Balmain is Adorable

Here's where I've been staying the past couple of days - a suburb a couple miles West of Sydney.

Headed to meet a friend and stay another night on the other side of Sydney, check back for more updates soon!


Mike Tip #1: The Jacket Nugget

This is a trick that I just developed based on the physical principle of "nuggeting" a backpack (consult internets or any high school boy if unfamiliar). Basically, it is likely that your entire cycling jacket fits within its own back zippered pocket (whoa, very meta), so turn that sucker inside-out and stuff it all in the inverted pocket. Congratulations, you have just saved a couple cubic inches of space in your pannier! That's enough for at least 3 more cliff bars!

Happy packing,