Down Under

Day 23 Thursday, 28 Feb, 2008-02-29

Sitting at Pino’s Restaurant on Phillip Island. It is basically the only place open late. It is cold here, and windy.

Day 16 Thursday

Flight from Christchurch to Melbourne. Uneventful, as I like them to be. Caught the bus to the city, hiked a kilometer or so to a convenient bar, and left a message for Sara. Cell phone didn’t like the Aussie network, so I had to use a payphone. Message along the lines of, "I found a bar, on the river, next to the casino, with blue fabric on the handrails… come find me." It worked out. Had some beverages and a pizza if I remember correctly. Some background here for the non-Houston URS folks. Sara is a friend from Houston that transferred to Melbourne with URS. The Melbourne office is in a slightly more scenic location than the Houston office. She was kind enough to offer up the spare sleeper bed in the flat she shares with two other folks and spend the weekend with me touring the state of Victoria.

Day 17 Friday

Sara had to work so I did a walkabout in Melbourne. Saw a bit of the city. Sara finished work and we headed North to wine country. After a 3 hour road trip, we got to the hotel late, the sign in the office window read: "Larry Ragsdale, Room 17, key is in the door." Small town Australia, it appears, is not much different from small town USA.

Day 18 Saturday

Woke up at the Wangarratta Family Motor Lodge. Kinda like a farm house, but better. Got woke up by a rooster. We spent about an hour talking to the folks that ran the place as we were checking out. Turns out that one of the proprietors, a fellow named Eureka Smith, was a singer song writer. He knew Johnny Cash. Met him shortly after June Carter saved him from drugs and whiskey. Apparently they hooked up whenever Johnny came down under.
Went to a brewery in Beechworth, whose name escapes me. It shouldn’t because they are really, really good at making beer. Damn good. Sara bought some blackberry jam in Yackandandah, apparently it is really good. We ate some cheese and drank some wine at the cheese factory. Went to Thooma and caught their big event for the year. Finished off the evening at the Buffalo Brewery, which was more like a small town pub. Played some pool; it was kinda like the good ‘ole days, but in Australia, and Sara kept beating me at pool.

Day 19 Sunday

We ate some breakfast.
Shortly thereafter, we drank some wine.
We ate some smoked meats and other good stuff with some wine, maybe the Shiraz.
Road tripped far.
Stayed at a hotel on top of a bar. Kinda like in a Western movie, but in Australia.

Day 20

Cruised down Australia’s Great Ocean Road. Beautiful limestone coastal scenery. Blue water, massive surf. Be sure to check the pictures for this day. (Great Ocean Road)

Day 21

After making it back to the flat in Melbourne the night before, I took a day of leisure, while Sara was off to work. Slept in a little, surfed the internet, took care of some unfinished business, etc. Sara and I met up later in the evening for dinner at a Tapas place and a few beers. I had a very disappointing experience in walking into an Irish Pub at 10:15 pm, on a Tuesday, and being told they were closing for the evening. WTF ? Anyway, I stayed this night at a hostel. Two of my roommates were British lasses, doing a quick lap around the world. Since they were headed to Los Angeles, I gave them a list of highlights to hit, since that was all I really had time to do out there. Hermosa Beach was on that list for the nightlife…. I almost asked them to go to Sharky’s bar on Thursday evening, find the flip cup game, ask around for a chick named Elizabeth, and then give her a message……….

Day 22

Rented a car and headed south to the local tourist spot of Phillip Island. This one had an automatic, which is good, since shifting with my left hand would seem strange. Checked into the hostel, met my roommate Mr. D, who was a project manager for large steel fabrications, ie welded pressure vessels, mining equipment, etc. Good guy. Anyway, the tourist attraction is the Penguin Parade. For a mere $18, you get to join about 800 other folks on a beach, on concrete bleachers, to watch the Little Penguins come out of the sea, cross the beach, and make it to their nests to feed their little ones. It was just like National Geographic. They would form up in groups of 12-50, waddle across the beach, up into the dunes, and then regurgitate food into their chicks mouths. Their chicks were getting quite old, 6-10 weeks, and many were almost as big as their parents. Apparently around 12 weeks, the chicks take to sea and start catching their own food, with no instruction from mom and pop. Cool stuff. They bring in people by the busload for this, literally. Then off to Pinos to work on photos.

Day 23

Stuck to my routine of a big breakfast and then headed to the village of San Remo for the daily 11:30am Pelican feeding. Took some pictures.
Then hiked Cape Woolamai to some granite outcroppings called the Pinnacles. It was crazy windy. The path was along the beach, and then through the dunes. Took some pictures.
Then stopped at the Phillip Island Wildlife Park and took pictures of all kinds of animals. Drove to Smith Beach to try surfing, but the only people out in that wind were the two dudes windsurfing. And it was cold.

Then ate some dinner- microwave soup and a few apples. After that I headed west to The Nobbies to take pictures at sunset. Forgot the Graduated Neutral Density Filter in the car, so I feel the pictures are somewhat lacking. Haven’t sorted them yet, so I may be surprised. The wind here made the hike earlier feel like a stroll in Houston. That damn wind was blowing straight off Antarctica. Went back to Pinos with Mr. D and Mr. K ,the other roommate. They were both in town for the Superbike races at the racetrack. World Championships or something like that. There were a ton of bikers in town. Kinda like the Lone Star Rally, but smaller. Those guys headed out, and I stuck around to upload photos over the wireless network. I really hate paying for internet access- big strike against the Aussies and Kiwis. My new method to pick up chicks is this: look cool and type random stuff on a Macbook. When you are asked, "Are you a writer?" – you always answer yes. I really think it will work, chicks like that artsy crap, not math. On a math side note, this marks the longest period of time since at least August of 1995 that I have not seen or utilized my HP 48…..possibly since August of 1993. I hope I don’t forget how RPN works.

Day 24, Friday, February 29, 2008

Leap year, in Australia. Kick ass. Anyhow, I started the day with the usual "big brekky" as they call it here. It was raining so my morning hike activities were traded for what I thought was the elusive "free internet." But then it was added to my breakfast tab. Darn. Drove back to Melbourne, did a hike around the city to the bookstore. The scenery is good here. Now back to the hostel, sitting in the room, cleaning up and adding to the text started yesterday evening. I got two roommates so far, a chap from Ireland, Mr. T, and a fellow from Australia, Mr. G. We are all waiting for the Scandinavian blonde roommate to show up… though it will probably be another dude. Side note: a 200 ml bottle of Jim Beam is "Approx 5.8 Standard Drinks." Gonna hit the pubs this evening, and off to Tasmania with a familiar face on Saturday.

Morning of Day 25, Saturday, March 1, 2008-03-01

Other roommate showed up, it was another dude. Paid $9 for a beer at the Irish Pub. Then I paid $9 for a Guinness at the Crown Casino. Irritated at these beer prices, I found the dumpiest place I could- still paid $5 for the Australian equivalent of Bud Light. Time to move one.


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