Tuesday, April 22, 2008

77 year record

I took a picture of a motorbike parked outside our apartment this afternoon -- I hope it can stand up to the torrent of rain rushing over it's tires. How lucky for us that we are here to witness record breaking rain. There hasn't been this many consecutive days of rain for 77 years.

Monday, April 21, 2008

You'll never get it back together

This past weekend turned out to be yet another adventure in our new city. We had hoped to explore the great outdoors but it was raining (STILL!). Friday, after we rode our bikes in a major monsoon, Scott's rear derailleur stopped working. Since our bikes are our lifeline right now, Scott spent half the day on Saturday trying to fix it. Sunday, we went to 3 different bike shops in the area to ask them if they had ever seen a Shimano derailleur mechanism lock up and stop working. Each bike shop person said something different. The consistent message from everyone was that Scott was crazy for trying to take it apart and fix it on his own. One of the guys said "I know only one person who would do that, and it's the guy who designed it". Another guy said, "Oh, if you take it apart, you'll NEVER get it back together".

This is what I love about Scott: he was completely un-phased by all the comments that he could never figure it out on his own. Part of his motivation for fixing it on his own is that it would cost a minimum of $300 to replace the ONE derailleur mechanism. Two days later, Scott fixed it. He stared at it and thought about it for hours. Maybe it's his 2 degrees in mechanical engineering that enabled him to do it, but we also thinks it's in his genes. Last night Scott suggested that his recent grandfather, a wily farmer from Indiana, would have figured it out and fixed it to0.

The other bike-related happenings this weekend involved shopping (the hobby for many Sydneysiders). I had been looking for some leg coverings for some time. They are pretty expensive and most of them are made for men so even the small ones are gaping around my super skinny ankles. What we have found is that extra-small biking items are quite a good deal here because not many extra-small people bike! In the end, I bought some extra-small leg coverings and shoe coverings at nearly 80% off! Now I'm ready for the monsoon. When will it stop raining!??

Monday, April 14, 2008

Garage Sales and Curb Diving

I doubt many people would be as entertained as we were this weekend, finding treasures throughout the neighborhood. The first treasure was found down the street from us where a nice woman (originally from Cincinnati, OH) sold us her large pots and plants for ~$10 each -- score!! She even had a heavy duty dolly that we used -- 5 trips in all. Good thing Scott is so strong. During one of our 5 trips to/from the garage sale we also bought an exercise ball and weights to help enable our nightly workout sessions on the balcony.

In between biking to beautiful lookouts, we also found that our neighbors must be either rich, generous, lazy, or a combination of those things. We discovered that people place perfectly usable and valuable "garbage" items on the curb. We found tables, chairs, clothes drying racks, a brand new yoga mat, closet shelves, a vacuum cleaner, FULL propane tanks, etc. The most useful find was a golf cart that Scott fashioned into a bike trailer. I think we win the award for the best curb divers in Sydney.

During one of our bike rides we found a nice grill about 2 miles from our house. We considered calling a cab or hiring a local van driver to take it to our apartment but chickened out on the idea and continued on our bike ride. On our way home, we stopped by the grill and found 2 dudes sitting next to it drinking beer waiting for their buddy to bring a vehicle -- I guess we're not alone.

When I lived in Chicago during the summer of 1997, my dad gave my curb diving habit a name -- "Na Na Na". It's more than just a name but it's what you sing, once you've made the score. It actually came from the VW commercial that features the song "Da, Da, Da" by Trio. I guess we thought the words of the song were "Na Na Na". Scott and I have a new appreciation for this commercial:

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Funny food

On the plane from Honolulu to Sydney I asked if I could purchase the "Cheese and Crackers". The flight attendant asked if I wanted the "light" or "tasty" version. I, of course, went for the "tasty" version -- who wouldn't want the tasty version? When the flight attendant brought it to me I noted it said "extra tasty" and let out a hearty laugh hoping that the Bankok-based flight attendant would laugh with me. "Ohhhh, you brought me the extra tasty!" He didn't really laugh and I assumed it was due to our language and culture differences. BUT, today at the grocery store I realized that there is a type of cheese that is called "tasty". I looked it up to find that it is Australian for cheddar!!!!! Yum, I love cheese.

Biking mishaps

Scott couldn't have warned me enough about how difficult it was going to be for me to find my way around these streets on a bike. Before I start with my issues, I will quote the various stories that Scott shared with me over email from the past 2 months:

  • March 4th: On Saturday, as I was heading to my last appointment, there was an orange cone in the middle of the path. Nothing else. Just a single old faded orange cone. The cone was supposed to indicate wet cement, which I realized as I was halfway over the handlebars! My bike and my body was covered in it. A construction worker rushed over with a hose and started washing my bike. Meanwhile, my right leg was getting stiff! He had to totally hose me down. Despite me being soaking wet, and he having to redo all his work, we both thought it was hilarious. Seriously, I thought that only happened in movies and cartoons. What next? Sitting on a park bench with wet paint? Well, no. Ten minutes later, on the same bike path, one pigeon in a group of four is slow to take flight, and bounces off my right shoulder! At this point, I'm simultaneously laughing my ass off and fearing for my life. I made it back to the hotel without any surprises, locked the door, and stayed in for the night. Every day is an adventure.

  • March 13th: I guess I'm just not destined to ride my bike after work. My front derailleur cable broke about 4 blocks from work. The sports store at the mall had brake cables, but not derailleur cables. Then, I almost crashed my bike on the way home at the high-speed-90-degree-turn at the bottom of the hill. My front tire that I patched yesterday was leaking, but I didn't realize it until trying to make a tight turn at high speeds. I pulled it out. It would have been ugly. When I got home, I realized that the NEW rear tube from yesterday had a small leak.

Yesterday was my first day on the bike along the winding, hilly streets of Sydney. It took me until 2pm to talk myself into giving it a try. For some reason I was so scared to bike -- primarily because they drive on the left side of the street. From my apartment window I watched the cars drive along the road below and tried to make some mental notes about how I would bike. First, I needed to move my rear view mirror to the right side. My mantra started before I walked out the door -- "stay left, stay left, stay left". Since Scott and I bike so much in the states, I have some major muscle memory habits to break, like don't look left when you arrive at an intersection -- enter my next mantra "look right, look right, look right". Scott bought a very large book with all the street maps of the Sydney area that I could barely fit in my fanny pack. I made it to my first destination -- the real estate office to raise some hell about our NA (nasty ass) carpet, the dirty walls, and the lack of keys. I am suprised and happy to report that my ride was relatively successful except for getting rained on a bit.

Today I rode to work with Scott (my personal tour guide). Our route to work was hilly and wonderful -- about 45 minutes. Part of his commute is through the Lane Cove National Park (LCNP) on a large paved bike trail. Before and after the LCNP he rides many streets that I couldn't begin to remember for my bike home. So, I took the easier and more straight forward route home which meant I was biking on a path along the highway. I had to make a pretty large detour around some construction and found myself lost for a good 20 minutes. These streets are so confusing and windy. It was lucky that I was lost and thus biking slowly, because I biked over a grate in the sidewalk and my tire went through!!!! Note to self: the grates in Sydney run parallel to tires and road bike tires fall through. I can't believe I didn't get a flat or at least bend my rim -- I was kind of scared to look.

I'm sure everyday will bring a new biking mishap. By the end of this adventure, we will definitely know more streets here than the average Sydneysider.

Our start in Sydney

My arrival to Sydney was MUCH anticipated after Scott and I spent many weeks apart working hard on both ends. Scott spent 5+ weekends looking for a place for us. The rental market in Sydney is ridiculous. The prices are insane and there is no incentive for the real estate agents or landlords to be accommodating. Our new home is just north of Sydney CBD in a place called St. Leonards. We have a magnificent view of the city and the Harbor bridge. Our terrace (I think that's Australian for balcony) is really large as we scored the penthouse apartment. Now we just need to get our patio furniture which is currently sailing across the ocean!