Friday, March 20, 2009

2/24/2009 - The GeriaTrike Maiden Voyage

The ship dings out an alarm around at 6:00AM along with a message to wake everyone up. We come into Devonport at 7AM, and they want people ready. I groan, partly due to the loud wakeup call, but mostly due to the new and interesting shapes that my back has acquired in the last 6 hours. These "recliners" are masters of spine origami.

We pack up and head down to the vehicle deck. It takes probably an hour to load up the Geria-trike, whereas my stuff basically just snapped on my bike. I figure this will occur daily until my parentals figure out their system. [Note: I am actually writing this much later than the date listed. They do not figure out a system.]

At last, much to the relief of the truck drivers trying to get cargo off of the deck, we push off and I get to see the Geria-trike in action. Mom is still getting used to the clip-in pedals, but this is made much harder by the fact that one of the screws holding the clip in her shoe is missing. We'll have to find a bike shop to get the right one. Little did we know that this would be a sign - a premonition, if you will - of Things to Come.

IMGP1879.JPGThe Geria-trike freight train as we waited to clear customs. I also want to point out that the ankle pant straps I am wearing were my idea and I expect credit when they start appearing in Paris fashion runways.

My first impression of the Geria-trike in motion is that Tasmanian devils had better not have developed a taste for human flesh, because there is no way we are going to outrun them. Recumbent cycles have the disadvantage that their riders cannot come out of the saddle to gain extra power. I will not mention the additional reduction of power that is directly proportional to age, as my parents are card-carrying members of the AARP and I do not want to anger them. No one wants to get on the wrong side of the AARP for fear of retribution mostly in the form of lobbying for increased penalization of trespass on lawns and more cane-shakings than you can shake a cane at.

IMG_2003My dad, circa 2004, sporting his AARP card and his version of a "rock-on!" hand signal, the execution of which proves that the AARP card is indeed his.

We come up against the classic "GPS versus good sense" direction argument, as the GPS seemed to be trying to send us right back on the boat again. Drivers in Tasmania will soon wish the same thing.

After winning the first bout with the GPS, we determine that we need to cross the river and head across the bridge. This is the first test of the Geriatrike, as it involves a steep uphill climb.

IMGP1881.JPGThis particular pace has been determined by Dad as "winching speed". This is an accurate statement. For those of you NOT into off-roading, this translates as "one-half walking speed".

They successfully pass their first test, and off we go to downtown Devonport.

IMGP1883.JPGDevonport: Home of the REAL "Bridge to Nowhere"

As we start to pull into the city center, I start to notice something. I am used to an occasional look or wave, but I am not used to the unabashed staring that the Geriatrike triggers. People slow down and kids are suctioned to car windows like bigger versions of Garfield dolls. Adults often pretend like they don't notice the trike until they think that they won't be noticed, at which point they swing around and stare as avidly as the kids. Mom and Dad are a mini-carnival and I look like the tagalong security detail.

Soon enough we arrive at a very lovely spot for breakfast, the Rosehip Cafe. It is now late enough that the cafe is empty, but the owners are present and turn out to be very nice people. I soon learn that the Geriatrike brings fame not only on the road but in opening conversations. We spend over an hour grabbing a fantastic (and big!) breakfast of sausage, eggs, tomatoes, toast, and bacon. Random people keep coming into the cafe and asking about the trike, starting more conversations. My guess is that we could erect a little fence around the Geriatrike and start charging money to see the "Amazing machine that runs on THREE WHEELS!! But not quickly!"

IMG_2035.JPGThe proprietors of the Rosehip Cafe along with my parents. Dad has struck a pose not unlike Vanilla Ice doing the "running man", for some reason. I think it's the pants.

At last, humming with our new sense of celebrity, we head for the store to pick up supplies (lots of fresh fruits and vegies), to the bike shop to grab some various-and-sundry parts (tires, screw for Mom's shoe clip, etc), and a visit to the information center (which takes longer than normal as Mom and Dad somehow get lost in this town of 25,000). By the time we are done, it is time for lunch. Looming over the information center is the staple of the American diet, McDonalds. It sucks us in like a fly to a bug zapper, and we use their free wireless internet as well (all the McDonalds here have them, an unexpected benefit in a state where internet is as pricy as the food).

Once again, the Geriatrike brings some interesting people, in this case Richard and Elizabeth Nelson. They actually come over to ask about Dad's "Alaska" bike shirt. As it turns out, Peter is from Sitka, Alaska and does a show on NPR via Sitka called "Encounters North" where he goes to interesting places in Alaska and discusses issues important to that area. You can check him out at Elizabeth teaches at the university in Sitka, doing creative writing courses.

IMG_2036.JPGRichard and Elizabeth, outdoor lovers extraordinaire, who also were drawn in by golden arches and promises of free Wifi. This photo appears to have been taken on the sly.

At last, we tear ourselves away from the bastion of American greed and start on our way. The plan is to head for a small national park that is 25 miles away.

Once again, the GPS gets in the way of good sense, but at last we find our way to the highway leading out of town. I don't know what you may expect with Tasmanian roads, but I was thinking "two-lane" and "rare Toyota land cruisers sharing lanes with kangaroos". What we got instead was a four-lane freeway with two-trailer semi trucks every other vehicle. The noise was devastating. Nice shoulder, though.

5km out of town, we found our first turnoff to a smaller road. Ahhhh. Though still with fairly frequent traffic, things improved. No shoulder, but the trucks were much less frequent. Plus, we now had roadkill to deal with. Now THAT'S Tasmania!

IMGP1885.JPGFinally on the smaller road. The figure in the background is my Mom, at the beck and call of a tiny bladder.

IMGP1887.JPGA little further on. The landscape is almost California-like, fairly arid, and hosts a lot of farmland. The warm environment accelerates the decay of the various woodland creatures that failed to find out why the chicken crossed the road.

IMG_2038.JPGMom's view from the back seat. If you've ever seen a true tandem bike, this is a serious improvement in scenery.

The riding itself was pleasant. In this area, the hills are small and rolling, fun to cruise. The sky is partly-cloudy and we get some cooler overcast in addition to the hotter sun-filled portions.

I have to make mention here of our pace. The Geriatrike is the pace setter as Mom and Dad are slower than my New Zealand-primed bike. Uphills would be at the aforementioned 1/2 walking speed, except for an intriguing feature of the trike: A motor. Yes, as soon as the concrete begins to slope upward, the motor comes on, and they average about 9mph up even the steep stuff. This is faster than I can go up the steepest hills, a bit of an ego reducer for me. There are some hiccups in the process of transitioning to this which they are working out and which I will illustrate in detail in later blog posts (as this one is getting a bit bloated).

Overall, we average 9-10mph. Actually, not bad for a first day on a new Geriatrike. We end up at a turnoff to an even smaller road leading to the national park. The park's name is a long random collection of consonants and so I will not even try to spell it here.

IMG_2044.JPGDad and I on the road to the national park. There but for the years go I. . .

The road turns to dirt (really, packed layers of dust) at its end as we pull into the park and pay for a night of camping. It is right at the northern coast of Tasmania and is right on the ocean. Bonus!

IMGP1892.JPGJust itching for a water buffalo to be standing in the middle of the road so I can try the Crocodile Dundee trick.

IMGP1893.JPGThe campground. A bit parched. I am silently hoping that we don't have to head over that mountain.

The campsites are not pretty. They, also, are a compressed fine dust that I expect will be found probably for weeks in my tent, and underwear for that matter. However, they do have some very nice covered picnic areas with grass around them. We make up some dinner as darkness sets in, and that is when a transformation occurs.

IMG_2051.JPGDinnertime around the Geriatrike. As per usual, it attracted the various campers over to figure out what is going on. They may also have been trying to find out which gypsy tribe we belonged to based on all the clothes and such hanging off the thing.

IMGP1894.JPGFrom the picnic tables. Not a bad end to a first day, but this is not the cool part.

As darkness begins to settle, the area around us comes quite literally alive. A curious "thump, thump, thump" close by brings my attention to the hopping of my first wallaby, basically a tiny kangaroo.

IMG_2057.JPG These things are much cuter with their internal organs intact rather than cooking to a delicate bouquet on a rural concrete road.

I get excited. The chance of a lifetime!

Well, maybe not. Soon enough, there are enough wallabys in the areas around us that, had they the inclination, they could have easily taken all of the campers for hostage and made off with our food. It is tons of fun to watch them, and their reactions are dulled by my bright headlamp, explaining the roadside wallaby collection.

IMG_2055.JPGI tried to keep my distance from the satanic wallabies. I suspect that there are direct-to-DVD movies in Australia exploring this.

From a distance, we notice a much more lumbering figure that is definitely NOT a wallaby. Using my well-honed wildlife photographer skills, I sneak up on this creature, amazed to see that it seems to be an evil scientist's dream - a cross between a bear and a wolverine. Except that it is in miniature, making it less useful for defending secret lairs or mountaintop labs.

IMGP1902.JPG A wombat. I thought that I was very clever sneaking this close to it, until I realized that it just plain didn't care that I was there even when the flashes kept going off, much like a well-behaved celebrity.

I found out later that these guys can suddenly change their mood and charge people that get too close. Luckily, I probably smelled bad enough after cycling all day that this guy decided getting any closer was not necessary.

IMGP1903.JPGThis wombat just chewed grass complacently until I left.

Needless to say, dinner was pretty fun.

IMGP1904.JPGA mom and baby wallaby, not fussed at all about a bright light and excited whispering.

By 9PM, we managed to get dinner cleaned up and the initial shock about the wallabies had diminished. It was time for bed. Tomorrow, planning on heading across a small mountain range to Beaconsville and beyond.


  1. i want one ... i want a wombat ...

  2. Hi Ryan, good to have you back on-line. We, too, are in Australialand at the moment, but further North, nearer the sun. Our pursuits also involve parents, but less activity. Ah, holidays.

  3. Oh, it's so nice to have the narrative continuing! I've missed it terribly. I had some good laughs at my brother's expense - until I realized that I'm right there with him (ie, AARP). Can't wait to hear about the entire adventure!!

  4. Glad you're back -- have missed to commentary. i want a wombat too!!! Or maybe a baby wallaby - -that would do.... The Geriatrike looks fab. Way to go T and D.
    hugs and love to all, Susan

  5. GO On, Git! Wallabies the raccoons of Tasmania.

  6. ahhhh, the wallabies are so cute!
    and the geriatrike cracks me up

  7. Everyone is anxiously awaiting the next installment. Hope you have time soon.

  8. For the love of golf and all that is holy.....

    The relative length between posts and the offensive nature of these comments are going to start to converge as we wait...

    "WORKING" is no excuse.

  9. Yes, we are still waiting. We realize you may be "otherwise occupied" but come on man, I really need to get back to work. Sitting at home waiting for a blog update is not going to fly for an excuse 26 days in a row - at some point work is going to cut me off.


  10. pressure ... pressure ... pressure ...


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