Spin the Globe with Justin Butner

A world citizen may provide value to society by using knowledge acquired across cultural contexts.

Biking in Melbourne

On Saturday Leanne took me for a bike ride. I’m planning on spending a month in Tasmania, an island that is about 300km x 300km (Scotland or West Virginia-sized). There are some fantastic walking trails that take several days and some fantastic day hikes. There are towns both large and small to explore and culture to be seen. And the nature seems to be out of the world, or rather from this world before we kind of destroyed most of it in the name of progress and civilization and development. And so in addition to the walks and the sitting around towns there are plenty of opportunities to bike around the countryside. It is cheaper than the bus and more likely to happen than me buying a car.

There is only one problem with this plan. I haven’t really biked more than a handful of times in the past decade. And so I found myself around noon on Saturday loading myself onto a bike for a test run. It was actually a scenic journey done for its own sake, but it served as a test run as well. The plan was 36km of riding – from Leanne’s place in the suburbs of Melbourne to Jells Park and back. The park would have a café and a lake and be generally pretty. After a morning of going and borrowing a bike, tuning it up, and adjusting it to my body we headed out.

“We can turn around anytime if you want.” “We won’t push it.” “We’ll go at your pace.” For someone who rides bikes up and down mountains weekly for fun, Leanne was being amazingly patient with me regaining my bike legs (that term doesn’t seem to work as well as “sea legs”). And so I set the pace. A lesson I’ve learned from years of screwing up is to not get too confident. Many a workout has started out very easy and I’ve ramped up very quickly confident that I’m in great condition. This usually falls apart around the time when I have to turn around and head back only to realize that I’ve used 90% and not 50. So I took the pace slow, never pedaling so hard that I couldn’t maintain a conversation.

We rode along a bike path that trailed a creek for a time, then through woods, through parks, over a chicken-wired boardwalk, past a motorcross track and a dump, along more park lands, past cow fields and horses, under high voltage power lines and finally to Jells Park.

The café at the top of the hill turned out to be like every other café in a park – overpriced and not particularly enticing. So we headed down to the lake for water out of our packs and stone fruit we had brought along. The overcast day was perfect in my estimation. Bright sunlight is hot, blinding, and prone to cause skin issues. Overcast days mean cooler temps so I can keep my long sleeves on and avoid the sunblock overdose. I think the photographer in me also has something to say about indirect light being better for shooting than the harsh shadows of direct sun. Leanne seemed a little more bummed to not see the sun. Perhaps the whole having a job thing is factoring in for her. Since I can go outside any time of day, my vitamin D fix has not been this strong since I graduated.

We spoke of Australia, of our plans for New Year’s and Tasmania now that all of the complications had come in, of my mood, of the people around us. And she pointed out something that has often been weird for me. Here I was – Justin from the US, Justin from Northern Virginia, Justin from Covance – crashing into her world of home, childhood, and heritage. In those times I’ve found that it takes a mental shift to put the pieces together. The incongruous parts must be incorporated and understandings of a place get adjusted. She’ll have a couple months to figure that out while I jaunt around the Victorian and Tasmanian landscapes.

The bike back was harder but doable. I didn’t die. I didn’t come sailing home far more in shape than I had expected. I arrived hungry and worn out but not tired, ready to sit on a comfortable chair and veg out. Biking the countryside is going to be a manageable goal, though not an automatically achievable one.

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This entry was posted on December 7, 2011 by in Australia, Victoria (Melbourne).

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