Tuesday, 30 August 2011

On one of the advantages of being a bike-geek

One the common attributes that people to me is that I bike to work and that I am somewhat bike obsessed. This is not a bad thing as there are worse things to be labelled. In fact, I rather revel in the label.

It has its uses. A notable one came up earlier this week. On Monday, I was given a new schedule that will start in November. I will be working Sunday-Thursday, rather than Monday-Friday. I took it better than most of my professional colleagues (who are also getting new schedules). However, on Tuesday I suddenly realized that the schedule was in conflict with the Tour de l'Île and the Défi Métropolitain. I approached my superior about this conflict. She didn't hesitate for a moment before saying that I would be allowed to alter my schedule for those weeks, given that I was such a bike enthusiast!

Monday, 29 August 2011

On four (possible) muck-ups in Australia

The first was applying for a more expensive visa than I needed to.

The second I noticed, but not chronologically, was booking a flight from Broken Hill to Sydney on Regional Express without verifying whether they take bikes and at what cost. In theory, they should but in practice, who knows. I have made an inquiry. The thing is, I could have worked things to stop riding in Mildura where I would have had more of a range of exit options.

The third I noticed but was probably the first muck-up was not checking the exchange rates. I had an idea the Australian dollar was worth a little bit less than the Canadian one. It turns out the reverse is true. Thankfully, the difference is not severe.

The fourth I noticed, but which happened before the Regional Express blunder was not to notice that the Jetstar flight I booked flies into Melbourne's secondary airport near Geelong, not the main one. This actually could be an advantage as if I found suitable accommodation in Geelong, I could start from there, rather than central Melbourne, as Geelong is apparently about 70 km to the South-West of Melbourne. The downside is that I would have to take a train into Melbourne to see the sights. Then again, after three flights, including one that comes in at number 23 of the 30 longest commercial flights list (15 hours 25 minutes spanning 3 days on the calendar so I will never see the light of day on October 16, 2011), I may simply be unable to function sufficiently to get into Melbourne!

For the latter reason, I am strongly tempted to book myself a private room in a quiet establishment in order get some quality sleep, rather than a cheap room in one of Melbourne's many quality "youth" hostels.

None of these issues are critical, and in the latter case, "it's an ill-wind that blows no good".

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

On biting the bullet

I have booked my flight to Oz.

And applied for an Aussie visa online.

And had it accepted.

And then discovered I could have applied for a significantly cheaper version.

On being blown to the horizon

We started early, but not so early as to miss a red squirrel picking up and eating a fallen scrap of Alice's chocolate cake. If she was using the standard family recipe which includes a bit of coffee, there was the possibility of the squirrel going hyper on caffeine. This trope has been explored in the movies Hoodwinked and Over the hedge with "hilarious results" to borrow a phrase from old British TV listings.

The wind seemed against us most of the day. Initial and optimistic applications of sunscreen were relatively in vain as bright sunshine gave way to significant cloud cover.

We stopped in Clarenville for lunch as well as some internetting at the tourist information office. The next one in Goobies beside the statue of Morris the moose didn't have wifi. In fact, their computer had a dial up connection. The road out of Clarenville was quite dramatic, almost hacked out of a cliff!

We spent the night at the Tanker Inn which is a blue collar motel in Arnold's Cove. It was built in the early seventies to serve the workers at nearby Come-By-Chance whose refinery has a nicer name than history. In 2009, it was bought by Korean state oil company. At supper, there were two East Asian men at a table near us along with a group of Westerners. My theory is that the Asian men were Koreans from the head office.

The next day saw fog turn quickly to rain and what might have been an interesting crossing of the isthmus to the Avalon Peninsula turn into a wet slog. There were some sightings of dramatic barren landscapes in the fog, but nothing to lift our spirits. At Whitbourne, we stopped at the tourist information office to figure out where we would spend the night. After some discussion, Margo suggested that we call it day and hole up in the nearest motel or similar. Chris and I heartily agreed to this suggestion. Unfortunately, the nearest accommodation proved to be in Broad Cove, 10 km or so off the TCH, between South Dildo and Dildo, towns so rude that their names can't be used in certain Southern States. ;-)

The next morning, we got up late in order to get to a nearby whaling and sealing museum. It was poorly labelled, badly organised and glossed over the fact that whaling in the area had been a short-lived boondoggle. It did have an interesting photo of a two-headed Minke whale foetus that had been cut out of its mother. The museum also spared us the worst of an intense downpour. The day passed fairly drearily until mid-afternoon when a young woman on a lightly laden touring bike passed me out of the fog on a hill. A little later, I came up to here at the turn off the TCH we intended to take. We chatted for a bit as I waited for Margo and Chris and she for her dad. She and her dad had set out from Victoria some nine weeks earlier, after some pleasantries we parted company, they straight to St. John's and we to Witless Bay.

The fog began to lift as we proceeded along route 13, with a stiff tailwind. The landscape was very windswept with few and stunted trees. There also sign saying you should stay off of the road in bad weather. We whizzed along the road.

The Atlantic seemed to lurk just beyond the curve of the Earth, beckoning me, the horizon having been brought. I had the feeling of being blown to the end of the road.

Near the sea we turned South to our efficiency unit where our hostess spoiled us with raisin buns and banana bread. I got to use the phrase "my cup runneth over" in conversation.

The next morning we rode to Bay Bulls, site of an ignominious RCMP operation, but more importantly, the embarkation point for a boat tour to the nearby Witless Bay Ecological reserve, where we could see puffins. I had selected the Gatheralls company for our tour as it used a catamaran boat that was likely to be the most stable for Chris. Puffins are iconic birds but I had never seen one in the feather before, as the little buggers like life out to sea. Hence, it was great fun to go on this trip especially as the guide kept a lively patter, full of bad jokes. "You will also be seeing some common murres, known as guillemots in Britain. Here in Newfoundland, we also call them good with gravy."

The puffins don't have an easy time near land as seagulls lurk near their breeding colonies ready to mug the poor puffin parents as they come into land with food for their chicks. In additions, the gulls will snatch up any chick venturing out of its burrow. Indeed, it is not unknown for the largest gulls to eat adult puffins!

After lunch, we climbed out of Bay Bulls onto relatively level upland with a strong tailwind that made biking very nice. I would use the adjective "pornographic" except that making love isn't pornographic. It was that good. It was easy to maintain speeds over 30, and not hard to break 40 along the flat, well paved surface. All to0 soon we ran out of road as we came into the outskirts of St. John's.

We hung a right to go through Petty Harbour on our way to Cape Spear. I am afraid we didn't do justice to the beautiful village and surrounding area. There was a lovely twisty downhill in a narrow ravine down to Petty Harbour.

There were several tough hills before we got the Eastern-most point which were all the harder as we knew we would have to face them going the other way back to St. John's! Mind you, we also got some damn good downhills in one of which I hit 70.8! That is faster than I had gone before in Newfoundland.

We posed for photographs and Margo waved at Finisterre. I hadn't known that there had been a gun battery there during WWII. It was somewhat ironic that on my first bike trip that I had visited Fort Casey in Washington State. The guns in that battery had intended for use against the British, but these guns were used by the British. The irony comes from the fact the guns at Cape Spear had been lent by the Americans and were of the same type and vintage as the ones in at Fort Casey! It is not impossible that the guns had seen service in both places!

While gazing at the broad Atlantic, a large helicopter belonging to Cougar Helicopters circled and hovered over an oil rig support vessel before lowering a man on cable to the vessel.

We hauled our weary selves over a last hill where St. John's lay wrapped around it's harbour. After an illegally fast descent, we found our hostel. M&C installed themselves in their double room while I chose a bed in a four bed dorm room. There was a big man in the furthest bed. From the widespread belongings, I got the idea he had been there a while. Among his gear was an electric guitar and a laptop from sometimes came third rate recordings of his music. Or possibly recordings of his third rate playing. He left with his guitar in the evening, presumably to busk.

A Brit joined me in my dorm. He was on his way to Labrador and confirmed my suspicion that Mike, the big guy had been there awhile. M, C and I found some very traditional Newfoundland cooking at a nearby restaurant. I had fish and brewis, cod tongues and figgy duff, washed down with some Qidi Vidi 1892.

Unfortunately, I didn't get much sleep that night as Mike snored something fierce. To say his snores were loud would lose the opportunity to use similes along the lines of "he snorted like a congested sperm whale." Around 2 AM, the Brit left with his sleeping bag to sleep in the kitchen. I followed suit.

The next morning C insisted that we back to the same restaurant as it had baked beans. Apparently, he and M are at opposite ends of the baked beans appreciation spectrum. As M runs the kitchen, he doesn't get them often! I had toutons.

After searching for rare and elusive bike boxes, we returned to the hostel where I complained about the company in my dorm: not only Mike and his snores but also a mouse that I saw rummaging in my luggage. The staff kindly moved me to another room, closer to that of M&C.

That afternoon I visited the Railway Coastal Museum. I was rather amused to find out that the "Newfie Bullet" had been so named by American GI's precisely at the time the railway had been at its most useful. With my historian’s eye, I could see the various gaps in the displays' narrative where embarrassing bits had been left out. My take is that Newfoundland's railway shouldn't have gone beyond Corner Brook, which in turn should have been the Gulf Terminus. I didn't see a whole lot of economic activity past or present between Port-Aux-Basques and Corner Brook. That is a lot of needless track mileage and therefore expenditure. This debt meant that the railway was both under-capitalised and probably drained away money from other potential ventures in Newfoundland that might have meant more business for the railway. Another issue for the railway is likely the poor education of Newfoundlanders which meant that its employees probably weren't as good on average as they were elsewhere. The low funding and low education probably led to a cycle of make-and-break and make-do that made the Railway increasingly dysfunctional. There was probably serious political interference as well as one of the reasons for the failure of Newfoundland as a dominion was excessive and corrupt public spending.

When I got back to the hostel, I took apart Leonardo and then joined Margo and Chris for a walk up Signal Hill. We passed some statues of the provincial dog breeds (i.e. Newfoundland dogs and Labrador retrievers). At the top of the hill, I was intrigued by one of the displays which had picture of the first shipload of American GI's arriving on January 29, 1941. Read that date again. Nearly a year before Pearl Harbor. Neutrality, mein arse!

There was a man walking his Newfoundland dog at the top. Schooner the dog attracted many photographers and was quite prepared to pose for them!

We returned to town via a cliff-side path that didn't do much for my acrophobia. Along the way, we had a discussion about the origins of the brightly coloured paint schemes used on the houses in St. John's. I put forward my opinion that the colours are probably a fairly recent phenomenon as until relatively recently bright pigments were relatively expensive. As well, given the relative poverty of Newfoundland, paint was probably something of a luxury for many households.

We tried to find a restaurant that had been recommended to Chris and Margo by a cyclist from Seattle who had befriended us in the hopes of finding a bike box. Unfortunately, either the instructions or Chris' memory of them were inadequate so we ended up at the India Gate restaurant for a fine meal.

The next morning, we went to a record store to buy some Newfoundland music. On the way back, someone stopped me to ask about the shoulder strap fittings I had added to my MEC bike pannier. He owned some and thought it was a great idea! I feel vindicated: my idea has gone viral. Possibly.

Anyway, later that day I caught my flight back to Montreal and here I am.

Since then I have had the following thought. How does one explain the Newfoundland sense of humour testified by the relatively large number of Newfoundland comedians (Rick Mercer, Mary Walsh, Greg Malone, Andy Jones and the guy from the tour boat company in Terra Nova Park to name a few). Here is my theory: given that the island has a harsh climate, a tough surrounding sea and a relatively inhospitable geography, you would need to be able to laugh or you would either go insane or leave. Natural and social selection means that current Newfoundlanders have evolved a very good sense of humour.

Monday, 15 August 2011

On kindness to strangers

Newfoundlanders are a kindly bunch on the whole. At the information centre/park HQ in Terra Nova National Park and federally paid bridges area, a man at a tour boat company told us where the people at the other tour company from whom we wished to rent kayaks from were. He also cracked me up with the line "This is summer in Newfoundland. We were hoping it would fall on a weekend this year!" Summer is the season in evidence this weekend. We set out from Alice and Mark's in the sun, only slightly slowed by me stopping at Canadian Tire to a temporary replacement tire. We had lunch at Joey's Lookout above Gambo.

As it was such a nice day, we tried to ask Alice and Mark to join us at Malady Head campsite. We couldn't reach them so we went to cousin Richard the author in Eastport. He was welcoming within the limits of his small house which meant we were camping on the porch. I used my bivy sack for the first time only to be driven buggy by the black flies. Around midnight, I snuck into Richard's back pantry with my sleeping bag and Thermarest. My rest was poor on the whole.

Alice, Mark and Anna joined us for a day of kayaking and yacking at the previously mentioned place in Terra Nova. Anna seemed in a happier mood than the day before.

Late in the afternoon (4 pm), we set out for our sleeping destination. This was in one of three different towns at distances 34 km apart in total. Between a stiff headwind and my fatigue, we ended up at the closest option, Charlottetown.

We snagged the last room at the handy motel where we encountered the nice guy from the boat tour. While Margo exchanged pleasantries, Chris and I wondered what a bike with large bags on it was. It was heavily loaded in back but had nothing in front. This put too much weight on the back tire in our opinion. We were soon approached by the owner who wanted to know if we knew where the nearest campsite to the East of there was. (This was a nominal East as by "East" he meant closer to St-John's as "Eastbound" on the TCH at that point meant actually going West!) We did but warned him it was 32 odd km away. More conversation revealed that his bike was broken in a remarkable number of ways. He had a broken spoke in his rear wheel and it was one we couldn't fix even though I carry spares. His rear hanger on his derailleur was broken. Margo thought I had one she had given me, but I didn't have it nor do I remember ever having one. Luckily Chris was able to bash the damaged hanger into back into shape with a couple of rocks. His rear mudguard had lost most of its bolts and nuts, becoming a danger in the process. I provided him with a number of replacement nuts and bolts. We couldn't fix his very loose front end. It was loose to the point that I strongly recommended he take the bus the rest of the way to St-John's. Chris agreed with me. However, Joseph, the cyclist, was determined and set off again.

He had taken the bus and ferry from Toronto to Port-aux-Basques. He had set out on Wednesday evening (it is Sunday night as I write this) which makes for some very long days on a cheap looking hybrid bike (Globe Vienna I think). He mentioned he had taken apart and reassembled his front end several times prior to departure which may mean his fundamental issue was chair-keyboard interface!

Friday, 12 August 2011

On the Atlantic shore

I am lying on a sofa chez Alice and Mark. Newfoundland can surprise you as I discovered on Sunday. As I biked along the TCH, I saw a car that I took for a Bently, but was in fact a fancy Chrysler. I was telling myself that this wasn't Montreal and didn't have fancy cars, when a Rolls-Royce went by! I kid you not.

We got to the dock in Triton in good time on Tuesday. "Our" fisherman, Michael Roberts, showed us his speedboat and his longliner. After some discussion, Chris decided that the speedboat was just too small for the comfort of the bikes and his notoriously weak stomach. So we went in the 50 foot or so inshore fishing boat. It was a first for Michael to take paying passengers. His dad was along for the ride and did most of the steering.

There was a serious swell, but it was also very manageable. There were some fairly dramatic cliffs to look at but the highlight came near the end of the crossing when a number of Minke whales decided to entertain us with their antics to borrow a phrase from Stephen. Actually, all they did was surface briefly in places sufficiently distant from each other that we could tell that there were more than one of them. But they were Minke whales which was treat enough!

We rode out of Leading Tickles on a winding road that brought us through Port Leamington where we had lunch. Shortly after lunch, I spotted and retrieved a cellphone by the side of the road. Just as I came into Northern Arm, I saw what was probably an ermine run across the road.

We spent the night in Bishop's Falls at an inn. There was a flyer at the reception desk for a Chinese restaurant that I had seen along the way. However the flyer didn't give the street number and I couldn't remember how far it was. A quick Internet search showed it was at 14 Main street. We were at 10 Main street! We walked over to the place. The food was pretty good considering. Margo tried to talk to the waitress in Mandarin but unfortunately she was a Cantonese speaker.

I noticed that day that my front tire was beginning to split. I consulted with Chris and we agreed it should be replaced as soon as possible. I ordered a replacement from MEC to be sent Alice, but there has been a bit of a snafu. I should have phone Cycle Solutions in Corner Brook and asked them to put a tire on the bus. I bought the old tire along with Leonardo and it has served for about 10000 km.

The next morning we crossed the Exploits River on the TCH then immediately turned onto a minor road that was almost overgrown but which I knew from satellite reconnaissance the night before went through. Chris asked me if it was the T'Railway. I said "No", because the asphalt was too old. My guess was that it was an old bit of the TCH. Later, a pickup truck pulled up beside me and it's owner asked to chat. He had seen us the day before near Northern Arm and was curious about us. Friendly Newfoundlander that he was he told us that my suspicion about the origin of the road was correct.

To avoid some hills we took an acceptable portion of the T'Railway to Notre-Dame Junction. We made Lewisporte in time for lunch at Tim Horton's. We rode along the shore, stopping in Campbellton to buy some wine for our hosts. These were Eileen and Gordon in Boyd's Cove. Eileen works at the same Library as I do and had offered to put me up when she heard I would be in the area. She greeted us warmly in something of a flurry of assorted children, cousins, hangers-on and a pair of pugs. She fed us fresh cod while fretting slightly as to thereabouts of her husband who was off cod fishing, in the recreational fishery. He is otherwise a university professor in electrical engineering at McGill.

The next morning, we went to a Beothuk interpretation centre that explained a nearby archaeological site. Very interesting with respect to what they did and did not find. No cod or auk bones but they did find polar bear bones.

The weather turned wet as the day progressed, and as there was nothing of note between where we were and Gander, I took off at my own speed get past the dull woods and rain as quickly as possible. (We have since decided against doing the remainder of the "Gander Loop'' and going straight on to cousin Richard in Eastport tomorrow.)

Alice was at home with Anna to greet me. Anna seems to be in a fussy mood, but que sera, sera. We have had a very relaxed day in Gander. After lunch, I went to the RCMP detachment to turn in the cellphone I found, then proceeded to the Museum Atlantic Aviation Museum. It need a few signs on the outdoor aircraft. Also the tires needed pumping up and the Canso(Canadian variant of the Consolidated Catalina)'s main wheels didn't match. Otherwise, it was a very nice little aviation museum. I was somewhat surprised at how much the Canso main wheels intruded into the sides of the fuselage. The museum's Lockheed Hudson looked like it had been used for passenger transport post-war. The place is much more the Gander Aviation Museum than the North Atlantic Aviation Museum.

After getting the makings of supper and making guacamole, I sat down with Margo and Chris to work out our route for the next few days. I hadn't really plotted the trip past Gander beyond a rough framework. We are now set to get to St. John's about a day ahead of the rough schedule.

The weather has been fairly poor and the locals keep saying they can't remember a summer this cold. This reminds of a Gilles cartoon.

I made black bean fajitas for supper. Margo baked some bread, made salad and some apple crumble for supper.

Did I mention I saw Minke whales?

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

On errors in recent posts

The last couple of posts were done via the iPhone which is relatively hard to edit with. I will fix the problems later. More typing issues will be present in future posts.

Monday, 8 August 2011

On getting to Triton

Yesterday we camped near the junction of the TCH with 410 under the power line next to the TCH a.k.a Sheppardville. Margo cooked the rice that I had brought to go with the curry that I had left in my freezer. She made Thai shrimp and veg stir fry to go with the rice. The place had favourable signs: fresh moose tracks and no vehicle tracks. However, it was a shade too close to the junction so we had too much noise of trucks slowing down or speeding up.
The day had gone much as I had expected except that the rumble strips gave way to nothing! And there was much rejoicing! We had lunch in the greasy spoon in White Bay. The road leading to the junction with the 410 was dead straight for what seemed like 10 km, so we could see the service station getting nearer. The road was being resurfaced, but as it was a Sunday, no work was being done. However, at the Iceberg Alley gas station, a group of road workers were putting so asphalt right near the pumps. My suspicion is that they government workers on their day off working for beer.
Margo and Chris' tent was generous for two but tight for three! In addition, the bikes were a bit too close to the entrance so I kept kicking the tent pegs when I tried to get in. I have much to learn about how to pack my bags for camping. The night went by fitfully and my sleep was poor leaving me with sore arms and a pain in the small of my back.

Today was hard mentally and physically. I found it hard to act as wind break for Margo and Chris as I couldn't keep station very well. Partly mental fatigue. The physical bit was the bad night's sleep in tight quarters and the presence of more hills.
We got to Triton where we amazed a barmaids by saying we ridden from Sheppardville today. I don't think we told her about Margo and Chris' Bangkok to Paris trip! Triton has a new museum housing the skeleton of a sperm whale that had washed ashore near the Codroy Valley a while back. The guide was obviously very proud of the museum but spent a bit too much time on the generalities of sperm whales (which I knew well enough) and not enough on the specifics of the specimen. Apparently it had been spent to Drumheller, Alberta to be mounted for display!
Tomorrow, we cross to Leading Tickles in a boat that may be too small for comfort.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

On getting things together

Well, I got to the Birds' Nest B&B where Margo and Chris had taken over my rather small room. Small, but at least it provided shelter together and was a symbol of the owner's great flexibility as Margo and Chris hadn't been supposed to be there at first. He is an expatriate Brit who is involved in a new restaurant in town. The B&B also acts as a bit of an internet café.
Thankfully, Margo had eased up on her idea of leaving Deer Lake today. This made for a much more leisurely day in which I could reassemble Leonardo without urgency while Margo and Chris cleaned and oiled the drive chains on their Surlys. Afterwards, we took our bikes on a very short test run into downtown to mail off my duffle to St John's, have lunch in the new restaurant and get food for the next few days. Unfortunately, I had forgotten my curry in my freezer in Montreal. I have just had a nice snooze. We hit the road tomorrow.

Friday, 5 August 2011

On getting to the airport

Well this is embarrassing. I am having trouble writing a blog entry on my iPhone. Anyway, I think I have found a solution.

I got a ride with a very good taxi driver, as recommended by the Mole. He asked me if I had my ticket and passport as I got in. Apparently, he has had problems in the past. I didn't have or need a passport and this puppy I'm using is my ticket. However, I did forget my sunglasses but I remembered only a few blocks away. We went back to get them, as well as a second pair of bike gloves. In the process, I noticed that I hadn't latched the front door!

I saw Mark arrive from Halifax. As well, Judy Berlyn was there to pick him up! Small world.
I am now past security, waiting for my plane, listening to a group of Newfoundlanders talk in English and Joual. (They might be from the Lower North Shore.)

My first post from my iPhone.

Addendum: I can see Leonardo on a luggage wagon waiting to be loaded.

I have arrived Deer Lake with all luggage.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

On ironing out transport issues relating to Newfoundland

Via a technique of rare cunning (e-mailing the town of Triton) I have managed to find someone to transport Margo, Chris and me from Triton to Leading Tickles so that portion of the trip is solved. It looks like a fisherman will give us a lift.

Furthermore, I have arranged for a taxi to get me and Leonardo to the airport on Friday. My cousin the Mole is on good terms with a friendly taxi driver with a van. Not as clever as the wheels, but the circumstances demand it.

Out of curiosity, I used Google Maps to figure out how far it is by road from Triton to Leading Tickles. I had been using the approximation of 80 km. In fact, it is 210 km! By water, it is about 11 km!

Monday, 1 August 2011

On issues with Australia

On playing chicken with Air Canada
During the last week, I thought I saw a very good deal on flights to Oz. However, I didn't jump on it as I wanted to wait until August to put the charge onto my credit card. When I tried this morning, the price was the previous standard one. Either I had checked using earlier dates to see what it would cost closer to the date of departure or the tickets sold out quickly. Either is possible, and to be honest I have been a more than a little distracted of late. However, it did highlight the fact that I am in a financial game of chicken with Air Canada.

On the wind patterns in Australia
My working plan has been to start in Broken Hill and go to Melbourne. This is, by and large, a North to South route. It has the psychological advantage of starting in a small town in the Outback and going to real goal: the Indian Ocean and Melbourne. As well, Melbourne has a lot to offer the tourist with a day or two to kill, before his train back to Sydney. Not mention bike shops that would provide a bike box. Conversely, biking in the opposite direction has the issues of trying get out of a large city on a bike (no easy task for the unfamiliar), riding towards what is comparatively little more than a fly speck on a map, and ending up in a smallish town with little to do in order to kill time before your flight back to Sydney as well as a relative shortage of bike shops and their bike boxes.

However, the winds tend to blow South to North in that part of Oz. As well, the longest days in my propose itinerary are the days between Broken Hill and Mildura which would probably be better at the end (when I am in better shape) than at the start.

Anyway, I can wait much longer before deciding which way to ride in Australia.

On my passport
My old passport ran out on the 13th of July. I had applied for a new one at the beginning of July. A notice saying they had tried to deliver it was in my mailbox last week. Unfortunately, I was only free to go to my local postal branch this afternoon. This was much more exciting than it otherwise as there had just been a heavy thunderstorm resulting in some flash flooding. In order to get to my destination, I had to traverse this major puddle.
Taken with my iPhone

You can see a motorcycle on the left of the picture. As I approached this obstruction, I saw it's rider, a young black woman, consulting her cellphone, evidently trying to figure out a way around it. It was deep enough, that my feet got wet pedaling through it.

At the postal outlet, the guy behind the counter knew instantly not only who I was, but also where to look for my postal needs. Rather than look under parcels, he went to the registered letter drawer. I am a little worried by this as I have no idea what his name is. He falls under my mental label of balding-red-headed-probably-gay-Québécois-man-who-works-at-the-postal-outlet. I don't get all that many parcels or registered letters, but he no longer asks me to provide ID except for pro forma reasons.

Riding home, I went by a different street, which turned out also to be also somewhat flooded. The same black female motorcyclist was coming the other way and smiled at me with the comment that there was a lot of water. Fortunately for me, I could walk my bike through the un-flooded pedestrian portion of the underpass.

Anyway, I am now in a better position to apply for an electronic Aussie visa.