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15 October 2003

As the song goes, "there was an old lady who swallowed a fly...perhaps she'll die.

Australian flies are particularly irritating buggers. They are small, don't buzz loudly, but are always there and you can't get rid of them. Peggy tells me that I've perfected the "Aussie salute," which is accomplished with a wave of the hand across your face to brush away whichever fly has chosen you as his special person for the moment. Brush, then brush again, then brush again. The fly never takes the hint (I know people like that...). On our time going north, whenever we got out to photograph wildflowers, I began to understand all those natives in Third World countries who stand for National Geographic cameras, flies stuck to them everywhere. After awhile it becomes "why bother?" It's an exercise in futility.

I do, however, draw the line at actually injesting flies. The very idea recalls Marty Feldman as Igor in "Young Frankenstein."

Today was a red letter day. Until the fly episode, I was going to thrill SecraTerri and entitle this entry "Shimano components" because I remember when Terri raved about getting Shimano components for her bike. After nearly 6 weeks here, in this land whose bike paths put Davis, "the city of bikes," to shame, I was finally going to ride a bike.

Peggy dusted off her bike (unused since her own fall on her first ride, 2 years ago) and brought it out into the patio area for me. I looked at it and my heart leaped up. The bloody thing had Shimano components coming out the yin yang. Now, I honestly don't know what Shimano components are, or why they make Terri excited, but I gather that the Shimano company makes really good stuff and this baby was loaded with all sorts of doo dads which all had "Shimano" stamped on them. Hot damn. I was ready.

We decided I should at least take it out for a test run. It had, after all, been four months since I'd been on a bike.

I decided to pedal around the block. To get here to Peggy's house, you have to come up an incline, similar to the formerly horrible overpass I finally conquered in Davis, and with no exercise whatsoever under my belt for four months, I didn't think I was ready to try going up this hill (and how embarrassing to walk the bike up the hill!). But to go round a couple of blocks was all flat, so I put on Peggy's much too small biking helmet, tried to remember how to actually get on a bike, and set off.

I had gone the equivalent of two blocks when I encountered a car coming straight for me. that's when I remembered I was in a country that thinks one should drive on the left hand side of the road, so I moved over. (Peggy says "Now do you see why I wouldn't let you behind the wheel of my car?")

I safely maneuvered the equivalent of about 4 blocks and made it home unscathed. I was ready for Monty and Carolynn, who had invited me to come biking along the coast bike path today. You can bike the whole length, from Perth to Fremantle, but Monty had kindly chosen a relatively flat (in most spots) stretch of about 5-6 miles for us to ride, after which we would meet Peggy for lunch.

We followed Monty and Carolynn to Mullaloo Beach, unloaded the cars, got our water bottles, straddled the bikes, and we were ready to leave. Peggy, chuckling at the whole idea, took our photo, got in the car with her new book, and drove off to Hillary's Marina to meet us when we'd completed the ride.

As we continued down the path, I discovered that it really is "like riding a bicycle" and that it all comes back to you. Though I expected my legs to turn to jelly and my breath to come in heavy pants, the more we rode, the better I felt. I was using higher gears and my legs were responding, as if awakened from a long sleep. Let it not be said that I am any sort of expert biker, but I hadn't turned completely to mush during my four month hiatus.

The path is beautiful. Smooth, mostly flat, and it goes right along the edge of the beach. Sometime the view of the water is obscured briefly by a sand dune, but mostly the whole time you are in view of that beautiful blue water, and getting the benefit of the sea breeze.

After we had gone probably a mile and a half or two miles, we stopped at a beach to take a break, and to walk along the water's edge. This panorama shot isn't terrific, but gives you an idea of the vastness...and the lack of people.

It was after our stop at the beach that I had my fly encounter. I'd been performing the Aussie salute for some time and made the mistake of taking a big breath at an inopportune moment and felt the fly fly right into my mouth and stick at the back of my throat. Yuck. (I thought about the time Judy Garland said she was singing "Over the Rainbow" at the Hollywood Bowl and had a moth fly into her mouth.)

I was surprisingly not totally grossed out by the experience, though I did stop to take a swig of water to wash the damn thing down. Well, at least I've ridded Western Australia of one nasty bugger, and so far my system seems none the worse for wear.

We watched a military plane pass low over the ocean and drop a life raft (a training maneuver, Monty told me), and we passed by a lovely little lagoon, with a nice bridge over a duck pond where people had thrown crumpets that looked like mushrooms.

We also saw some kids taking a kayaking class at Hillary's Marina. Now that's an interesting gym class!

We were meeting Peggy at 12:30 and got to Hillary's sooner than expected, so we biked another mile or so and I made it up a "hill" (well, not really a "hill" but an incline). We did hit a patch of sand at one point, however. Peggy's bike is a mountain bike, so should work all right on uneven and weird surfaces, but it ended up being a kind of strain on my shoulder (which had been letting me know that it had been a long time since it had to grip handlebars). It didn't exactly injure the shoulder, but I wanted to be cautious, so decided not to do the return trip with Monty and Carolynn after we all had lunch at Spinnakers restaurant on the marina.

It felt so good to be out on a bike again. I can feel that I'm not exactly back 100%, but I'm back enough to do short rides again, and if you are going to do a short bike ride, my god, you couldn't ask for a more gorgeous one.

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