July 1st-10th, 2001
Overall, it was fun to check out things at the high school reunion. May get in touch with a few folks, but most everyone else, will not see for another ten years.
Made a trip to Fort Collins to inspect a rental property I own there and also to drop in on some folks at HP. Looks like there are enough changes at work. However, will let this all sort out for another eight months before getting too involved with this.
My father has spent lots of effort these past few months working and fixing up the web site from my dispatches. We spent time trying to see if we could get Frontpage 2000 working better on Windows '98, to make this easier. This was harder than it should have been due to several factors: (1) Frontpage 2000 is not inter-operable between W2K and W98 (2) Frontpage 2000 on W98 is abysmal concerning case sensitively and does not keep names consistent with respect to upper/lower case (3) Our hosting is on an Apache server on Linux, where case sensitivity is critical (4) General size and complexity of this site, particularly the navigation. Hopefully we got this better...though this was a lot more labor intensive than it should have been.
My new bike had arrived in Colorado. Decided not to take it to
Australia, but did get it put together as a "hot spare". Also
bought another 700x35 tire and an additional water container.
It is a long way to fly from Denver to Darwin. I left Denver at 8pm local time on July 3rd and arrived at 5am on July 6th. In between: 2.5 hours flying to Los Angeles, 4 hours layover at LAX, 13 hours flying to Taipei, 1.5 hours layover in Taipei, 5 hours flying to Kuala Lumpur, 10.5 hours layover at KLIA and 5 hours flying to Darwin, and +15.5 hours of time change. Whew!
Found a "transit lounge" in KLIA with food and net access for not too much $. KL airport has squat toilets complete with a high pressure hose to wash one's backside. Fortunately, also western toilets with toilet paper. I'm not that adventuresome :-).
Prior to landing in Darwin, the cabin was fumigated. Australian customs was careful in checking for food, plants, drugs and dirt. I was asked twice, "where is your bike?" Knowing this was important to my explanation of riding around Australia. They also checked bottoms of my tennis shoes (though any dirt found there would likely be Australian dirt).
bus brought me from the airport to the motel. Here I left my baggage for a
day of errands in Darwin. First stop, the Top End Motel, where I left my
camping gear and other stuff. Next stop, Wheelman Cycles. My worn
drive train had been replaced and everything was lubed and checked. Walked
around downtown Darwin and had lunch with James, a Darwin local who was planning
his own cycle tour and had seen my web site on the net. Good lunch and I
learned a bit more about the Darwin area.
the afternoon, I took the bus to the Aviation Heritage Museum. The museum
houses a giant B-52, the only one on display in the southern hemisphere.
The B-52 was renamed "Darwin's Pride" and took the full width of the
hanger. Nestled in the corners were other WW2 planes (Spitfires, P40s,
B-24 bombers, a Zero) and also several more recent planes. Several
displays of the bombing of Darwin. I was amused by one former plane that
had seen subsequent duty as a caravan and also as a chicken coop before being
came over jet lag and a slight cold to get ready to start the second stage of my
ride around Australia.
Nice to be cycling on the road again, particularly after a half month hiatus. The bicycle felt sluggish and heavy. Front rim rubbed ever so slightly until I loosened the brakes. The rubbing didn't cause much friction, but was obnoxious to keep hearing.
Darwin was already stirring when I got up for brekky. In front of the hostels, folks with backpacks waited, presumably for their Litchfield or Kakadu tours. It felt cool, though I was already sweating. I rode along the Stuart Highway for a while, before following a bike path that paralleled the road. Several bike commuters out and also a club ride with half a dozen people.
Peaceful and quiet riding the first 23 km to Palmerston. Here I got back on the multi-lane highway. This first stretch was reasonably populated and I used this as an excuse to stop a few times for a drink at Palmerston, Noonamah and Acacia. After the Arnhem Highway left, the road reverted back to one lane each way.
Tropical forest with slight hills along the way. Several road trains passed, one or two honked and did a very close pass. Others gave me some more room. Acacia store had a prominent "No bikes and no dogs" sign, but otherwise a good place to stop briefly.
After Acacia, at 63 km, it got warmer, though I seemed to sweat less. Traffic also became less after the Bachelor turnoff at 85 km. Another 3 km further was a nice roadside rest area. Half a dozen caravans had already found it.
The last 25 km went quickly and I arrived in Adelaide River in time for a late lunch. Adelaide River had a nice pub whose claim to fame was Charlie, a (stuffed) buffalo that had starred in the film "Crocodile Dundee". Outside in a pen were a few live buffalo. At lunch there was a large group raising money for camps for children with cancer. Otherwise a good share of roadside traffic stopping.
I also walked out the the WW2 cemetery. A number of
victims of the air raids on Darwin were buried here. It wasn't a
particularly long day and winds were mostly crosswinds from the east. Yet,
I felt the ride some on this first day after the break.
Light cloud cover with an almost full moon. Left while it was still dark. Nice easy gliding and chance to see a beautiful sunrise. As I rode past water holes, I would see startled birds taking off. Landscapes continued with "savannah woodlands", so not as much to see beyond the immediate forest.
A rest area at 30 km at Bridge Creek and a chance to eat an orange. Signs indicated that this area had been site of a gold rush with boom and bust settlement. Another 27 km to Hayes Creek and a stop for brekky. I was good and hungry by then. The "cancer fundraisers" were here again on their way back to Darwin.
Traffic was busy today with many road trains. People in most of the caravans would wave and I'd nod or wave back. I inadvertently caused a potential accident when a caravan passed from behind and pulled way wide to give me room. Tires of the caravan dropped off the pavement and the trailer fishtailed until it was back in control. Whew!
After Hayes Creek, terrain had more hills. Light winds with an occasional head wind. My speed slowed as I climbed through the hills. A Popsicle stop at Emerald Springs at 80 km got me going again for the last 30 km to Pine Creek. Hills were also less here, through head winds were stronger.
Motels in Pine Creek were full, so
found a camp site at the Lazy Lizard Caravan Park. In the afternoon, I was
a "lazy lizard", but also walked around Pine Creek.
Today's route was a repeat from June 15th, except going the other direction. Left Pine Creek late. The Lazy Lizard said they opened at 5am for brekky, but I gave up on them when nobody was around at 6:30 am. Waited at the other cafe in town until it opened at 7:15 am.
Light traffic today. Terrain with gentle rises and falls, particularly in the last half of the ride from Edith Falls turnoff onwards. Fortunately, high thin clouds kept the sun off and things a bit cooler. Despite a late start, distance was shorter today and went quickly. Stopped briefly at the Edith Falls turnoff at 49 km and then not again until Katherine.
Found the same motel as my last visit. In the afternoon, went on a tour of the Katherine School of the Air. This school boasts "world's largest attendance area" and serves 800,000 sq km or about three times the area of the UK. There are 300 students in grades pre-school to year seven. High school is either a boarding school or other choice. Students are organized both by grade level and by geographic cluster with the cluster having the main teacher. Staff also includes a special ed teacher and support staff such as for mailing everything to the students. Most of the instruction occurs using prepared course materials + tutor guides that are mailed to each student. In addition, each class meets via radio four times a week for 30 minutes each time. The radio time gives the teacher on-air interaction with the class. Teachers also visit once a year and there are a few occasions during the year when students can visit the school. All these visits occur during the dry. It was an interesting visit to see how this all fit together.
Bought some extra food in Katherine as the forthcoming
section will require some multi-day travels between food stops and also longer
gaps between water stops.
Nice to depart the Stuart Highway and set off westward again. Followed the Victoria Highway out of Katherine. For a few km, houses and businesses. A few km out of town, a rail business and then bush again. Signs indicated Victoria River at 193 km away and Kunnunarra at over 500 km away.
Today's route had some gentle rises and falls as it crossed from one drainage to another. At 70 km, slightly larger hills that the road wound through for 15 km or so. Almost entirely "savannah woodlands" again. Apparently woodlands have some of the most diverse wildlife, though much of it is nocturnal. Riding through the day, one sees mostly birds and termite mounds.
Stopped at the rest area at 57 km and refilled on water. Until then it had been cool with sun up from behind. Slightly warmer after the break. At 85 km, met a couple cycling the other way. They lived in Alice Springs, had flown to Perth and were riding home.
Came to the 62 mile rest area after 102 km. Five caravans parked. We all shared a picnic table for our lunches and then they departed. The rest area had a nice water tank, few shade trees and otherwise was a good place to stay.
Later in the afternoon, met my first Japanese cyclists. A man, woman and their five year old child. The child rode out back on her father's bike and had an alphabet coloring book for during the ride. Today it was T/train and U/umbrella day. Otherwise, the parents spoke limited English. They had started in Perth and were riding first to Darwin and then to Sydney. Their two year journey would continue from Australia to New Zealand, South America and North America. I'm impressed!
The rest area had a mix of pass through
traffic and then later caravan traffic that evening, about ten vehicles parked
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