Thursday, December 24, 2009


Sooner or later, my luck is going to run out.

Last Friday, I flew into DC at night to see Shannon, who landed from Melbourne. You've got to be nuts to fly into a blizzard. Obviously, I knew it was going to be bad, but it was worth the risk.

Sunday morning rolls around, and naturally, DC airports are in chaos. No standing by for me. Amtrak has booked solid overnight. So, I go looking for airfares.

I've worked in the airline business for almost four years (wow), but clearly, I still don't understand revenue management, or customer service. Essentially, all flights were canceled on Saturday, yet Sunday morning, I was still able to buy a one way ticket from DCA-RDU for $160. Why hadn't the systems automatically rebooked all available seats? This does not make sense to me.

So, I go to the airport, print my boarding pass, feel some pity for the hordes of people trying to manage luggage, and go to the gate. I see a flight to Raleigh that's delayed, but showing departure before my scheduled flight. Then my flight goes on a 1 hr delay, so I ask to fly on the earlier flight. They let me, since I have no luggage.

When I land in Raleigh, I get an email that my scheduled flight has been canceled.

How many more bullets can I dodge?

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Tour de Alpine

The weekend before I left for the States, Shannon and I took the truck up to the Alpine region to do a bit of touring. We had no plan, just a few maps and the camping gear in the truck. After a relatively early roll out on Friday, and heinous traffic, we made our way onto the Great Alpine Road.

Being that it was late by now, and we had no plan, we pulled into an info station (read: small shelter, picnic table, and sign) and threw up the tent. The center was off the main road across a bridge, and, as suspected, nobody bothered us for the night. It was perfectly clear with a nearly full moon, so we skipped the fly, and got to see the stars from bed. Pretty sweet deal.

We rolled out a little way to make sure that we wouldn't get busted for camping illegally, and wound up cooking breakfast at Conners Hill, which provided a pretty nice view.

Onward to Omeo, the last place for fuel for a while, and a place that seems to like to charge tourist prices for average coffee. Here we turned off the Great Alpine Road and up a road that connects to the Falls Creek ski area. It's about 75k between them, starting on a windy cliff side, then turning up the hill for a 35k climb to the resort.

Mountain Ash

About two thirds of the way up, we stopped to let the truck take in the view. We also went for a little 2k hike to the top of a hill, which had a nice view off the back. It was significantly cooler up there, and jackets were required in the wind, no matter how sunny it was.

Up at the base of the ski area, we stopped for lunch, at what was a rather lovely spot. We even managed to stay out of the wind behind a hill and the truck.

There are a few dirt roads that go to a high peak above the ski area. It's not lift serviced, but I suspect it's in bounds. The view from the top was great, and allowed us to see a dirt road heading down the other side that we had missed on the map. So, naturally, we took it.

It later rejoins the main road to Falls Creek and winds up in the town of Mt. Beauty, but not before stopping by Fainter Falls.

We had a stop in Mt. Beauty to get some supplies for the evening and were shortly on our way. We opted to take the cross country route, since we were in the truck. It was about 15k to get where we wanted to be, and it was a very pretty drive, despite the lack of animals. Very dense vegetation, and everything looked quite lush.

We wound up in a National Park campsite that wasn't signed from the road, and we were the only people there. We got to enjoy the babbling brook all night. At least until it started raining, and we went to bed.

Sunday. The only thing standing between us and the town of Bright is a ridge of mountains. Or some road. You know what comes next. We had some issues with signage at the beginning, but once we got going, it was a pretty nice set of track. It led up to the top of a ridge, where it then followed the ridge top for 10k or so, before dropping back down into a valley. We even contemplated cooking at the top of the ridge, but there was weather in the area, and it seemed like a good way to get wetter.

So down we went, into the valley near Bright. I'm pretty glad we did, since we managed to chase some kangaroos for a while, before settling down into a spot where hang gliders land (at least when there is good weather).

After stopping in Bright for some information, we decided to roll on because the local microbrewery wasn't yet opened. We decided to take a quick trip back off road. This turned in to a big ass trip.

I think it's now fair to say that we have tested the truck in a number of challenging conditions. We've done sand. We've done mud. We've done rock. And now we've done water, as well as rocky mud. I truly don't think that anything we did was beyond the capabilities of the truck (I mean, we're all still here) but it was probably less than smart to be solo doing it.

We wound up on a route (that we kept modifying) that circled the southern end of Mt. Buffalo. It started off fairly tame, but about 15k into it, we were frequently hitting 30 degrees on the inclinometer, up and down. This was the first time that we legitimately had to use 4low.

After about 25k, we came to a decision point. We could either take a 6k "rough track" (listed as being overgrown or difficult to follow) or about 30k more going up and down. Frankly, we were getting a little nervous about how much more difficult it could get, so after studying the topography and having a look down the rough track, we went for it. It looked great. In fact, the first 5.9k were great. Pretty easy, compared to what we had been working on. We can see the road on the other side. We're home free.

Son of a bitch.

It's pretty clear that this was on the map, in hindsight. We missed it. We saw the other one, and were worried about it. Naturally, it had a bridge. This little guy seemed to be higher and faster than typical with snow melt. It came up a little over my knee, but was moving at a pretty good clip.

This is the shot taken after we crossed. We came along parallel with the log on the far side, then turned left and stirred up the mud storm you see. There was a raised section of rock crossing the width of the creek.

Obviously, the truck could take it, but clearly, it wasn't our finest choice. But frankly, I wasn't feeling 35k (don't forget the backtrack) of punishing track. I had walked it twice. We nosed into it, to see if it felt stable, and then, just went for it.

And then, as you can see, while consulting the map, I had a drink. And didn't drive for a while.

We went fairly well out of our way to Beechworth to visit the brewery there, had a good (but not outstanding) beer, made some lunch, and headed home on the highway.

I guess we had enough adventure for the weekend.

Cultural Differences

One thing that I have gotten used to in Melbourne is the cafe culture. You can always find a little spot to have coffee and some breakfast.

This has proven slightly more difficult in DC. I would have assumed that there would be many places to sit and eat on the main drag in Georgetown. This is not the case. I found one eventually, but it was much harder than I've gotten used to. This is also considering that I wasn't all that interested in Starbucks...

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


I'm in San Francisco for the week to attend meetings for work. Last night, I got to have Anchor Christmas beer on tap and eat Mexican food in the Mission. Now, I'm watching the sun come up over the bay, turning the east bay hills a firey pink.

I miss this place. It feels like home.