Why exactly do they call it OZ anyway?
Got up this morning in Melbourne. I almost said woke up, but that would imply that I actually slept. Geez Jet Lag sucks. What is up with time zones anyway? Isn't it Buckarooo Banzai who said "wherever you are, there you are."? I do not trust that guy anymore, I don't care if it is the 5th dimension or not either. Oh well, I figure it isn't anything that cannot be solved with a bunch of coffee and some Kangaroo boxing. Nothing like being kicked in the head by a Kangaroo to wake you, that's what I always like to say.
Growin up Merican, there has always been something about Australia. The fact that it hangs off the bottom of the planet, that north is south, the whole Mad Max thing, Santa comes in a bikini vs. snowsuit, there are exotic weird animals, there is the quaintness of being part of the British Commonwealth (means they somehow have a queen), Crocodile Dundee, the whole “Ute” thing, tons of crazy words that mean the same things that you and I use standard words for, the whole Australian accent thing… Although we all speak the same language, I have to admit that much of the Aussie language is nearly impossible for me. I hear the mostly hear the words, but do not always understand it.
I had a fun filled work extravaganza of 3 days planned. Not much to see a new place, but it was all I had. Melbourne – Canberra – Sydney.
When I got off the plane, I was greeted by about 72 really smiling Australians. That will be the first thing you will notice going to Australia. People are happy. Really happy. Why wouldn’t they be? The whole Mad Max rebellion appears to be over, the rest of the world has basically left them alone to tend to one of the greatest places on earth. The customs official smiled and engaged everyone that she saw. She must have said mate to me at least 5 times during our 1” of interaction. I am pretty sure we are best friends now.
Phil, Jason, Jono and Simon were my guides for the day. They are all former professional cyclists. I was definitely the weakest one of them all. They were spectacular at showing me the place. I did not get to have any weird Australian food, but I did drink 27.6 espresso shots, and I am pretty convinced that is what kept me from getting more than about 6 total hours of sleep for the 3 days I was there.
Melbourne feels a lot like Portland, but with a beach. Great coffee shops, a hip side and a high end side and everything in between. I visited a great bunch of Trek dealers, had a beer at the ESPY and went for a great ride along beach road.
I am told that beach road has about 10,000 cyclists on it on a weekend day. I believe it. I was there on a rainy Sunday, and saw more than 1000 cyclists in the morning there. There had to be about 1000 coffee shops along the road as well. There were plenty of coffee and bike shop combo’s as well. I think I have died and gone to heaven.
People say Canberra is the boonies (surrounded by bush – I just like saying that). They say there is nothing to do there. I frankly do not care. I think it is maybe one of the greatest places that I could ever live. There is fantastic MTB riding all over the hills, there is great road riding, it doesn’t really snow there – but there are snow fields (ski areas) about 2 hours away.
I did a couple hour MTB ride at a place called Stromlo Forrest Park.
Kilometer after kilometer of purpose built singletrack (single trail if your Aussie), a purpose built criterium course, a cyclocross area… littered with Kangaroo and Wallaby. Heaven as far as I’m concerned. During our 2 hour ride, it rained a “build the ark” amount of water. Water was flowing down the trail, super nice sandy tacky dirt that did not mud up on your bike – a flowy dh trail that I just wanted to go back up and do again. I could not get my camera out, as it was pitching down, but I know that we saw at least 30 Kangaroo. Dang that was cool.
We spent the day at our office there, and then visited the local Trek shop, then hoped a plane to Sydney. (Yep, I did learn to spell it while I was there.)
Wow is all I can say about the place. Wow. Ok, I lied….here is more.
Spectacular Harbor – took a ferry across it. Take a ferry across to Manly, you will not regret it. The water in Sydney Harbor is unbelievably clean. I saw a bunch of people in Manly walking down the street with surfboards in hand.
Yes, the Opera House is every bit as impressive as you think it is.
The next day, we did an incredible road ride out to West End. We saw 2 Wallaby along the way that had be just about the cutest thing you have ever seen. I think the Aussies are a little bit annoyed with them, like we are with deer, but seriously you will want to take one home in your carry on.
Sydney is a lot like Vancouver. Super busy down town, surrounded by beautiful water, lots of cyclists etc… If you get there, you want to stop in at Mecca coffee and order up a double Macchiatto (tell them I told you to) – you will never look at a Starbucks ever the same again. Holy cow.
All in all, Australia feels like it is both part of history and part futuristic. At any time Mad Max is going to come ripping across the landscape and the cities feel like they are very forward looking. It is both exotic and exactly as you expect. They make use of the English language better than most, they are maybe the most friendly people you will ever meet (including people like taxi drivers and immigration officials). The coffee is great, they love cycling, the scenery is breathtaking and if your not careful you could end up running right into a Roo.
Australian coffee words
A Short Black is a shot of espresso in an espresso cup.
A Long Black is a shot of espresso mixed with half a cup of hot water. This is known in other countries as an “Americano."
A Macchiato is a shot of espresso with a drop of froth in an espresso cup.
A Vienna Coffee is a long black or Americano, topped with whipped cream and powdered cocoa.
A Flat White is a shot or two of espresso with steamed milk and no froth in a regular cup.
A Café Latte is a shot or two of espresso with steamed milk and touch of foam in a regular cup. (Duh, we all know that one.)
A Piccolo Latte is a mini latte, served in a smaller cup.
Australian bike words
Bra's = handlebars
Neck = stem
Gate = frame
Conrods = cranks
Stompers = pedals
chair = Saddle
chair stalk = Seat post
gear box = Rear dérailleur
inner tyres and outer tubes= Wheels
(I am totally going to use these descriptions from here forward for parts on bicycles)
Entirely unrelated to Australia, but shows a bit of how I felt while being there on the language thing.
Aussies are fascinated with a vehicle called a “Ute”. It is not related in any way to a person from Utah and makes them entirely unique to the rest of us. It is really the most impractical useless vehicle you have ever seen. No payload capacity, can only take 2 people or one person and a bag of groceries, they look all business and party in the back (yep, like a mullet), cannot pull much of a trailer, cannot get more than a couple of bikes in the back, will not take a motorcycle, probably could not get more than about 3 bags of mulch…but that is all the things that make them cool beyond belief.
Why do they call it OZ? Now that I have been there, I think I know why. Surrender Dorothy!
Now that I have been there, I know why it is called OZ.
Good on you. Mate!