Saturday, 1 October 2016

First words ...

Having only come into their lives when they were 4 or 5 years old, I never got to witness the joys of seeing Zara or Markus speak their first words, or take their first steps.

But today I think I got to experience something just as momentous ... I got to see Zara use chopsticks for the first time ...

I am so easily pleased.

Friday, 30 September 2016

Zap Fitness (Just Venting)

So Kim, Zara and I went out for a quick dinner at the Foreshore Tavern the other night.

It was pretty busy when we got there, and as I still half wanted to get to a Sea Canoe Club snake handling session later on, Kim quickly went up and put our order in.

Then we waited.

While we waited we chuckled with smugness at how clever we were getting our order in early as a very long line started building up at the bar.

We also grimaced a bit as the line stretched up to, and then around, our table leaving us with people standing over us as we waited for our dinner.

Forty minutes later we were still waiting for our entrees.

Then we noticed people that were standing next to our table (ordering their meals well after we had ordered ours) getting their meals.

So, with temperatures rising, we inquired as to the hold up with our meals ... and found out that our meal order had been left on the counter all this time.

We were pretty angry (I mean who wouldn't be) but that's when something unusual happened ...

Firstly the Manager came out, apologised for the error, and then gave us half our money back (followed very soon by our entrees and meals).

That was good enough (in fact it was amazing) in my book, but then after our meals they also brought us out a free desert each (and a good desert) as a further apology.

I wasn't a big fan of the Foreshore Tavern prior to this, but we had good meals, and most importantly they recognised they had made a mistake, and they over corrected to fix it.

I respect that.

Which brings me to Zap Fitness ...

I joined Zap Fitness a few months ago and then almost immediately got asked to act in my bosses job for three months leading to a 7 day a week work life, and then I got the flu, and then hurt my shoulder ...

The key thing is - I never actually got into the gym.

I did make an attempt somewhere along the line to make use of the free personal trainer session advertised on their website ...

But the offer of a free consultation with a personal trainer had apparently vanished and I was encouraged instead to sign up for three sessions for $99.

So, realising that I was blowing money up against the wall and that there was a four week 'wait' period to end memberships, I went into the gym (during business hours) to close my membership.

Except there were no staff there.

So, I emailed the gym explaining that I had been into visit to close my membership, but that there was nobody there, and asked them if would they please terminate my membership as of the day I went in.

A week later I had heard nothing, so I called them to check what was happening.

The person I talked to said that there must have been some problem, and to resend the email to the website and she'll fix it.

So I did that.

And I waited another week, with no response, and then I called again.

This time the person told me that there was no way the above could have happened as I had to go into the gym to cancel my membership (I pointed out that I had) and then after some rather persistent nagging from me asking why exactly it was impossible for me to cancel my membership in writing or over the phone, he said he'd call the gym and see what he could do.

Turns out, according to him, that he could do nothing.

So, I took an early day off work and went into the gym to cancel my membership.

It was at this point that the guy at the gym tried to offer me that free personal training session that hadn't been available to me before.

To be honest, he pissed me off so I asked exactly why I had to come into the gym to cancel my membership and he explained that (a) they needed to verify it was me cancelling my membership and not someone else (because I can see that happening a lot) and (b) when I hit the green button accepting my membership on the ipad, I had agreed to the terms and conditions which included ending my membership in person in the gym.

Then he explained to me how unfortunate it was that I'd come in today, as they'd just processed the membership payments and so I would be six weeks (three more payments), not the normal two, before they could stop processing my membership ...

At that point I just got pissed and stormed out.

Now the thing that really pisses me off about this, is that although I feel pretty confident that under Australian Consumer Law they're in the wrong in being able to claim that I was bound by terms and conditions that I never read and was never aware of (see exhibit a from their website which would seem to counter their claims of lock in times and agreeing to fine print ...) especially as I did go into their place of business to cancel my membership and it was them that failed to have someone there during their advertised working hours to accept my cancellation  ...

... but there's nothing I can do about it.

I'm helpless.  It would cost me more than what it's worth (a lot more) to hire a lawyer or even lodge a claim in the small claims tribunal to try and prove my rights.

And I think that's wrong.

What use is Australian Consumer Law protections, if it can't be used?

So I got really angry for a few days ... then I remembered by foreshore desert and got over it.

Still a bit upset at not going to that snake handling session though - I heard it was really good.

Sunday, 25 September 2016

The Goldilocks Loop (Clarence Foreshore Trail)

The Clarence City Council have recently completed a short new section of the Clarence Foreshore Trail to try and take the 'sting' out of what was previously a very steep climb on the bridge side of the sewerage works ...

If it helps, you can see the new trail (red section) and the old section (light yellow line) circled in blue in the image below.

This short detour half works in my opinion - it's less steep, but it's still got a bit of a grade on it (I still passed some girls on hire bikes pushing them up this hill).  My vote still goes for a waterfront detour to take this horrible section out of the trail.

However, this little detour, plus the fact that Kim told me she was going to do a 30k run along the trail as part of her Auckland Marathon training, got me thinking again about my 'Goldilocks Loop'.

This is a loop I've been thinking about for a long time that would connect together the many little reserves and trails that run through various Clarence reserves allowing you to complete a loop with the foreshore trail (which let's face it is a nice one way ride, but a bit of a chore if you ride it all the way out and all the way back).

Now, there's two obvious parts to this loop: The Clarence Foreshore Trail and the Charles Darwin Trail, but tying them and the rest off the trails together without too much road or too many turns - that's where it gets difficult.

So, when Kim set off on her run last weekend, I set off on my bike at the same time in what would be my first (or maybe second) attempt at bringing together many little exploratory rides into a single loop ...

We both started at the Howrah Primary School car park (near the Caltex) with Kim planning a long  out and back along the foreshore trail to Geilston Bay and back, whereas my plan was to head towards Tranmere, and then loop back through the hills to Geilston Bay, hopefully catching Kim somewhere along the Clarence Foreshore Trail on the way back.

There is, in my opinion, basically two ways to get from the Howrah Primary School trail to the Tranmere continuation ... a simple ride along Tranmere Road for about 1.2km (a safe, but fairly busy route) or the quieter, but steeper and navigationally more complex option of heading through Mortyn Park climbing via backstreets up to the Minerva Street entrance to Minerva Park which you can then follow back down to Tranmere Road and then back onto the Clarence Foreshore Trail.

Truth is, that nine times out of ten, I'd avoid the climb up to Minerva Park and just head along Tranmere Road, but I feel compelled to connect the parks, so do I put in the one time out of ten option or the nine out of ten option for my goldilocks loop???

Oh the dilemmas.

Once on the Clarence Foreshore Trail, you just follow it around until you drop out to near Rotuma Park, and it's a lovely ride.

But then you (if you're me) have a decision - how the heck do you get from this point into Rokeby Hills?

In the spirit of this being a join-the-parks-and-reserves route, I opted for a trundle up through Rotuma Park, but to be honest it was all a bit of unnecessary climbing, because when you get to the road at the top of the park, you just descend back down onto the roads you would have gone up anyway to get to Oceana Drive before ending the climb up the very steep Vitesse Court and into the reserve.

The route got me there, but it wasn't 'fun', but nor are there any other obvious options - at least for an ascent option, other than maybe the route up through the Elinga Play park which involves a lot of pushing.

Once in the reserve I just followed the various trails that exist (lots of informal trail building in these hills) experiencing them in the reverse direction to what I'd normally ride them, and to be honest there's a reason why I'd normally ride them in the opposite direction (it's more fun) but with that said there were only a few little sections that I had to push, and overall - I still had fun.

I exited the reserve via Mayfair Court (the way I'd usually come in) and from there coasted down onto the Rokeby Road Cycleway onto Clarence Street, around the Shoreline Shopping centre where I jumped onto the Charles Darwin Trail.

The Charles Darwin trail follows roads to begin with (and has a confusing little unsigned detour behind some houses and through Tilanbi Park) then you jump off onto a little bit of singletrack running beside the highway at the end of Tilanbi Street and start the climb up through Wentworth Park to the water tower (my second water tower for the day) and then the fun run back down towards the northern exit at Lanena Street.

While there is an alternate exit from Wentworth Park on Quarry road, neither of these northern exits put you onto a particularly good path to continue onto another reserve without a lot of street riding.

My option today was to head down to Shoreline, following the Charles Darwin Trail, and then I cut through the bus mall and off onto the small path through the lawns to the council building and then out C R Barnard Drive back to the  Gordons Hills Road.

From there you have to ride up Gordons Hill Road for a few hundred metres and then jumped over onto the concrete cycleway on the other side of the road that runs next to the highway and out towards Flagstaff Gully Road and the Polytechnic.

To be honest, I already knew at this point that this bit of trail wasn't my goldilocks loop - it was just connecting together trails, it wasn't fun riding.

Regardless, I was pleased to discover some new trail heading up the creek near the Polytechnic, so I followed that up to Flagstaff Gully Road and then started the long climb up Begona Street to Robin Court and eventually into Pilchers Hill Reserve.

Again, much of this was an uphill grind, and the last pinch from Begona Street to the reserve is particularly unenjoyable, but the real kicker is that because you can't ride down the single trail in Pilchers Hill (it's a one way climb) then the descent isn't that brilliant (it's good, just not brilliant) and so overall as I rode down and connected back onto the Clarence Foreshore Trail for the return, I was pretty confident that I hadn't found my goldilock loop this week.

The only good news is that, because of her new shoes, Kim had a blister so I managed to catch her about 600 metres before the cars.

I'll take that as a win.

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Maria Island Rogaine

I feel I've discovered one of those little secrets in life that everyone else has missed ...

The benefits of volunteering to set and vet Rogaine's.

Rogaining Tasmania has another Rogaine event coming up in November (The Maria by Moonlight event, and if you haven't already entered it's too late as it sold out in 5 days) and when Sally (one of the organisers) asked me to put a call out in the newsletter for volunteers to help organise the event ... well my hand shot straight up into the figurative air, as I said "pick me, pick me".

The strange thing is - it is really hard to get volunteers to help organise a Rogaine and I just don't get that - I mean let's look at the comparison.

For entrants to the event, by the time they pay for entry fees, ferry fares, camping and accommodation ... they're easily looking at $100 to $150 per person.

By contrast, as a course organiser, Rogaining Tasmania are willing to reimburse me my travel, accommodation and ferry fares (just for the record, while they do this, I haven't asked this time - except the camp fees which Sally paid for).

Round One to the Course Organiser.

Then of course, while for entrants, you have to get over to the island and then pour over maps before running around the island for 12 hours ... as vetters, we get to leisurely set up our tents, have lunch while we discuss who's going where and then set off in our various directions exploring different parts of the island in exquisite detail while trying to find interesting and challenging places to place controls.

Oh ... and did I mention that we get to ride out bikes everywhere as well ...

And that there's eve time to be a bit of a tourist ...

Round Two to the course organiser.

And then, finally, while competitors are running around in the dark ...

We are sipping wine, eating gourmet hamburgers and discussing the ethics of devil introduction to the island ...

Yep - I think it's round three, and game set and match (too much mixing of the sports metaphors?) to the course organiser.

All I have to do now is figure out where to organise my next Rogaine ...

Thursday, 25 August 2016

One present to rule them all ...

So I did in fact get one more present for my birthday.

It was my best present this birthday ... if not my best present ever.

Like ... ever, ever.

Even better than that BMX I got when I was what 6? 8?

It was, in a Lord of the Rings analogy, the one present to rule them all, the one present to bind them ...

And, no, it wasn't a new bike.

It was ....

A soda stream.

That's right, what I wanted above anything else this year was a soda stream, and I was so excited to get it.

Now to understand this desire, you have to understand that I owned one of the very first soda streams that ever came out.  Do you know the one's?  They 'farted' every time they gassed the water (it was so cool) and the reinforced glass bottles used to explode with alarming regularity ...

I loved it.

I've pined for one ever since I smashed my last bottle, and de-fizzed my last gas bottle all those years ago.

More recently, Kim and I did "Dry July" (well Dry most of July anyway), and in lieu of a glass of wine after work, we found ourselves buying those super cheap 75 cent bottles of Select Range soda waters from Woolworths.

They were in fact so cheap, and so nice, that we were going through up to 2 bottles a day ... and that was creating an awful lot of plastic waste in the recycling bin.

It just seemed ... wrong.

I thought there must be a better way, and that's when it hit me: We needed a soda stream.

But Kim wasn't so sure.

So I begged, and I pleaded, and I begged again ... and then on my birthday ... there it was my very own soda stream.


Now I can drink fizzy water to my hearts content, and even the kids love it.

There are some catches: I've of course had to go out and buy a spare gas canister ($49), and two extra bottles ($15) and although we don't usually flavour the water, we've bought a few flavours ($6-$8 each) ... just to try, so you can be enticed in by the entry price and then find yourself paying a lot more, but, I'm told that a refill gas cylinder costs $22 and makes about 60 litres of water, so that's about 37 cents per litre ... almost half the cost of what we were buying from Woolworths and more importantly we can say good bye to all that plastic waste ...

One soda stream to rule them all I say ...

I just wished they still farted.

Awesome birthday.

Thanks Kimmy

It's my (almost perfect) birthday ...

I had an almost perfect birthday today.

I went to work (I did say almost perfect) and I got to spend the morning doing a bit of work on the west coast mountain bike project, which for me is as good as my work can get (being paid to think about mountain biking trails).

Then, just as that was finishing, I got a call from my doctor saying that my tests had come back and I did have the Flu.  He also saif that it should only take four to six weeks to get over, and that I should go home ... so I did (but not for four to six weeks - again almost perfect).

I dropped by Kim's office on the way to my desk to tell her I had the Flu and was going home when she told me (blubbering in tears she was so distraught) that she'd had a disaster ... she'd been out and bought me a lovely pair of running shoes for my birthday ...

But unfortunately she then realised when she got back to work that they were a bit too small for me which was tragic as they were really, really good shoes ...

Then, just as tears started coming to my eyes as well, she went to put them on to show me just how small they were and we discovered that they actually fit her feet perfectly ... I mean how lucky was that!!!!

Almost perfect.

I would of been devastated if we'd had to return them and get another pair instead.

Then we got to my serious presents, first there was the chook ... 

Which was just what we needed to put over the grave of our dead chook ... how perfect is that!

Kim also got me another solar powered pot plant for my desk (because she knows how much I love plastic moving pot plants).  This was another particularly thoughtful present as the previous three pot plants she'd bought me had all got accidentally pushed off my desk and broken.

Unfortunately, and tragically, I must report that before I could even get this pot plant into work, Boo (our cat) knocked it off the table and broke it.

I feel so devastated - I must have left it too close to the edge of the table.

It would have been perfect.

I did get some other crappy presents - the birthday present equivalent  of stocking fillers - an airshot tubeless inflation system which I guess I might be able to find a use for ...

And an Exposure Diablo light ...

Which I have proudly attached to my Dahon folding bike thereby almost doubling its value ...

I also opted for a night in with the kids and pups (and my favourite Indian) which all in all (especially with the Flu and how I was feeling) made for an almost perfect birthday.

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Hotham and the flu ...

So, we'd had this trip to Mt Hotham booked for months, and we weren't going to let a little thing like me potentially having the Flu get in the way of our holiday (see previous post).

Yep, it didn't matter how bad I felt, we rationalised that as we didn't have the test results back from the doctor, it wasn't definitive that I had the flu and I might in fact recover after a day or two ... so we were going to Hotham.

Sensible precautions were however put in place to ensure that any potential illness I might have was not spread to the rest of 'us' ... namely I was allowed to be part of the trip, but only from a safe distance ...

That newspaper headline is unrelated ..
I was also relegated to sleep by myself in the 'kids' room on our first night away, and although I don't have any photos to prove it, Kim actually bought surgical face masks for her and the kids to wear in the car.

The other interesting thing about this holiday is that we almost had to bribe the kids to come.

What is wrong with kids nowadays?  Back in my days if my parents suggested we should take three days off school and go to the ski fields, I would have been sitting in the car saying "let's go" before they'd gotten to the end of the sentence, but not this generation ...

We couldn't leave Hobart until around 1.30pm, because there was no way that they could skip their Saturday soccer, and even then we had to bribe them with extra activities to entice them that this was going to be fun ..

For Marcus this was a visit to the Essendon DFO (what can I say, the boy likes to shop) and a skate park ...

For Zara it was a side trip to Airborn Trampoline world ...

Although for some reason I only seem to have photos of Marcus.

And, finally, for Kim it was a promise that she could cross dog sledding off her bucket list ...

But these little side trips got us to where I (I mean 'we') wanted to be ... Mt Hotham.

But once we got there the experience was pretty mixed ...

Zara took to skiing like a duck to water ...

Marcus also took to snowboarding like a duck to water (well maybe a slightly bruised and occasionally cranky duck) ...

And Kim ...



What should I say about Kim?!?

Let me back track a bit ...

Have you ever been in the situation where you're booking a family holiday having been enticed in by one of those "and the whole family can ski for as little as $999*" deals, but then as you've booked the flights, and the accommodation, and the hire car and then bought and hired all the ski gear required and lift passes, you realised that the Asterix next to the $999 means "if you come in summer and sleep in your car"?

That's what happened to us as we found the cost creep over $1,000, then over $2,000, and then before you know it, the cost is north of $5,000 and still climbing.

So, with all these costs skyrocketing out of control, I came to the point where I was booking our ski hire and lessons and although I didn't blink twice at the extra cost of sending Zara and Marcus off on ski lessons (they obviously would need it) I figured "I can teach Kim how to ski and we'll save ourselves $140". Woo hoo, she'll thank me for that.

And so I didn't book Kim any lessons.

I think that's what every logical, caring, compassionate boyfriend would do, right?  I mean it was a chance for us to spend some quality time together and save money.

It was a disaster.

I'm not a good teacher.

I'm a particularly bad teacher when I am sick with the flu, I have a raspy, sore voice, and I really, really want to go skiing.

But in my defense, Kim isn't a good student, what with all her "I'm not going to throw myself down some slope until you show me how I can slow myself down" nonsense.

So our skiing101 classes were a miserable failure, and  Kim switched to snowboarding for the afternoon ... wherein she carried her board up the hill a bit, fell over soon after standing up (as you do) almost wrenching her knee and that was pretty close to the end of Kim's time on the snow as she became concerned about destroying her knee in the run up to the Auckland Marathon later this year.

I, meanwhile, was out carving up the snow in my early 1990's (bright red) one piece ski suit like Austin Powers ...

Those green slops didn't know what hit them!

Truth is, while I got out and did some blue runs on the second morning by myself, I soon found that the combination of exertion and cold wind threw me into coughing fits, so I basically spent the time following the kids down the green slopes filming them on my iPhone ... which was actually really fun.

Despite my flu (I was finally diagnosed with the flu two days after we got back and then I was sent home by my doctor to rest.  I also lost my voice for  an entire week after the trip) and the fact that Kim didn't get much on-snow time, it was still a brilliant trip.

There's even been conversations of going skiing again next year ...

But this time we'll I'll pay for Kim to have lessons, and we'll go to Mt Buller ... I hear they have a deal on for families for just $899!!!