I sleep restlessly for some reason, despite a real bed. Nevertheless, I feel energized in the morning and get things set up so that I can keep my bike and trailer locked up at the hostel. It helped that I am from Alaska and the woman who was behind the counter has always wanted to go there.
I figure out the tram schedule, grab my single bag holding the stuff I can't replace, and cruise downtown.
Melbourne has already started to grow on me. There are a number of parks I have passed that have a lot of green, the houses are well-kept and very colonial (mostly brick with some solid woodworking). People are nice, responding to my obvious tourist questions with helpful tips and an Australian drawl.
I jump off the tram in the heart of the downtown after a 30 minute ride. Manage to find a post office where I send my passport over to Masterton (so they can get the work visa taken care of), then grab a super big breakfast at a local coffee shop and read the paper. Delightful. The coffee is good, and the bacon is one step closer to "real" bacon (it's still ham-like, but they at least make it sort of crispy).
I spend the day wandering around, pick up some particularly good seam sealer for my mattress, and look up info on Tasmania. Downtown Melbourne is much closer to an American city than a New Zealand city. Shops are numerous and mostly upscale, people are walking around in what is (I presume) the latest fashions, and most of the people here are from Melbourne, not all tourists like downtown Auckland seems to be. The streets are clean and the sidewalks are busy. I have noticed that cars here in Melbourne are much more like an American city, too - rather than the "well-loved" import cars in New Zealand, the bulk of the traffic here is four years old or newer. Lots more American cars, including Fords and Holdens (GM in Australia).
The size of things is more American, as well. Shops and buildings are just on a bigger scale for a larger population. Interestingly, I only see a few homeless people out. Not sure why that is.
I find some cool shops, including a very helpful outdoor store and a "backpacking light" store that introduced me to a super-lightweight pack built in New Zealand that is supposed to be one of the most comfortable on the market. I try it on and LOVE it. Now if I can only remember the name. . . It would make a perfect climbing or backcountry ski pack once I have money again.
Downtown Melbourne. This was one of the less-busy streets at a less-busy time of the morning. The city really feels energized.
Some random group doing a dance number on the street. I think they were selling fitness center passes or something, and if the mostly-male crowd was any indication, they were going to be successful.
After a quick lunch and some more wandering, I figure it's time to head back. I have a few miles to bicycle to the ferry terminal. The tram is as easy to navigate back as it was coming to the city center, and soon I have put my bike and trailer together and head off.
The big, wide beaches of Melbourne. A lot more people here, believe it or not, than the New Zealand beaches.
A beautiful pathway runs for miles along the beaches. There is a separate path for cyclists and for people walking in much of it. It is well-groomed and popular with cyclists and beachwalkers, but not too popular. That is the ferry ("Spirit of Tasmania") in the background. It looks smaller than I was expecting, and, given the strong winds and waves, I wonder if this is going to be one of those occasions where I spend the night making offerings over the side to Neptune, god of the seas.
I cruise leisurely along with a fantastic tailwind reducing my exertion to "stomper" level. In no time, I am at the ferry terminal, actually an hour early. End up in line and go through their mini-customs. They take away the white gas I had bought downtown for the camp stove, but otherwise leave me alone. Still haven't seen Mom and Dad yet. The line starts moving on the ferry, and I figure I will find them there.
I get my bike well-anchored in a small, dingy room on the truck level of the ferry, and head up to check out the sleeping arrangements. We have "oceanview recliners" which turn out to be glorified airplane seats looking out of the back of the ship. I can be pretty sure I'm not going to get much sleep on THOSE babies.
If I was worried that I might miss seeing my parents, I was gravely mistaken. I return below to pick up my fleece and I see, from across the cargo bay, a giant yellow monstrosity that has "McWilliams" written all over it.
It is fantastic seeing my parents here, and it's made even more fun by their obvious pride at this crazy contraption.
The Trike is built by Greenspeed here in Melbourne. It is basically a tandem recumbent. In addition to their usual tandem recumbent, they have customized a "surrey top" that sports a flexible 62-watt solar panel. Why such an elaborate energy setup? It has a massive lithium-ion battery that powers a 500-watt motor "for uphills". I am skeptical about how well this will work, but interested anyway.
My poor, elderly parents behind what I have dubbed the "Geria-trike" tandem recumbant tricycle.
It takes a while to get all of the equipment worked out and the Geria-trike strapped to the ship. Soon enough, though, we head up for a celebratory dinner in the ferry restaurant.
I know it sounds a little strange to say, but I am actually excited to travel with my parents. At the risk of sounding like a weird homeschooled kid, my parents are, at the very least, interesting to hang out with, and at the most very fun. They like doing things a little differently as evidenced by the above photo. Let's face it, they are the instruments that shaped me into what I am today. I don't think either one of them would accept responsibility for any interest in video games.
Dinner itself is much fancier than I am used to. As a matter of fact, the nicest place I have eaten out during the last several months was the Fergburger in Queenstown. Sadly, a close second would probably be Burger King.
Check out the guns.
It is amazing to have your own person who just gets you things you ask for - our waitress was very nice, got things out promptly, and answered with an emphatic "yes!" when my dad asked if you were supposed to tip in this country.
Those of you that know my dad will understand. Those of you who don't can probably begin to fathom a bit of his general psyche.
Fantastic dinner, and we discussed our plans for the trip. Dad has been working like crazy, taking on hours that border on insane. He needs to relax, and getting out and away from people will certainly help that. Mom also likes getting away from the crowds and loves seeing lots of animals. We come up with a game plan. No definite goals other than to have fun. We will not try to make it any certain distance, just to get to some interesting places. We'll probably spend quite a bit of time in the northeast corner of Tasmania, which is beautiful but is more remote and has the least tourists.
The wine and food soon hit. Mom and Dad had been up packing the night before they left, had an 18-our flight, and then had spent all day at Greenspeed getting their Geria-trike up and running. I think they could have slept on the solid steel vehicle deck. Actually, Dad might have preferred it so that he could "keep an eye on the rig".
Seriously, we were all pretty bushed. I stayed up a bit, but was soon out as well.
It was around midnight when I was awoken by one of the staff. "I think you may have the wrong seat, mate," he said. I had taken a seat closer to my parentals that had seemed to be empty, but apparently had been taken. Moving back to my seat, I found that I couldn't get to sleep easily and so tossed and turned.
Tomorrow should be interesting. We are coming into Devonport (a larger town on the north side of Tasmania) at about 7AM. Planning to head for a national park to camp on the maiden voyage of the Geria-trike.
A quick note about the name "Geria-trike". My parents are not old, and certainly do things that people half their age don't often do (like ocean kayaking for a month at a time, mountain biking, camping for long periods of time in the bush, rafting class IV rivers by themselves, the list goes on). My mom refers to my dad and herself as "your ancient parents" or "your old parentals", and so I feel that the term "geria-trike" is simply working with that theme. In other words, there is only affection in the term.