I am accustomed to the last minute scramble of packing, bundling up the kids and filling the taxi with a thousand bags before departing on a family holiday. Consequently, this past Friday, it was odd to be leaving for the airport alone. My husband Justin came home from work early. I kissed him and our little boy Julius goodbye. They would be picking up our daughter Ofelia from school and going camping this long weekend. I decided a few years ago that camping wasn’t for me. I had planned this work trip to Melbourne when my own plans to write for the weekend fell through.
In the taxi, as I always do, I took stock. I realised I had forgotten my straightening iron. Not enough of a reason to return home. I tried to check-in but was unable to via my mobile. “Weird,” I thought. When I arrived at the airport, I discovered that I had booked a ticket for departure on Thursday and return to Sydney on Tuesday. My planned itinerary was for Friday to Monday. Of course, I had ignored the airline’s confirmation emails. The week had been a blur with a two-day conference and the Save the College Street Cycleway rally.
With only myself to blame, I paid the equivalent of another ticket to get myself back to Sydney on Monday night. When I sheepishly told Justin about what I had done, he said, “You could have flown Qantas!” He was gentle with me. I vowed never again. I boarded the plane and also confessed my stupidity to the lovely man sitting next to me. He had helped me with my bag and handed me a glass of water. He was also very kind.
I decided to go to Melbourne because I wanted to meet the many bicycling people in the neighbouring state of Victoria. I asked Paul at Gazelle Bicycles Australia to recommend a bicycle shop. I wanted to borrow a good bicycle for the weekend. He introduced me to Gary at Spokes in Abbotsford. The taxi dropped me at the shop which is in a semi-industrial area. It was dark now and very cold. I had asked our friend Stephen to meet me at the shop. I had several meetings scheduled and because of my famous “sense-of-no-direction,” Stephen had offered to be my guide.
Gary showed me around his bicycle shop, Spokes. I was amazed. It was packed with e-bikes and push bikes. They had sold many bicycles today. He told me how he had lived in the outer suburbs and after spending time in the Netherlands, he had a revelation. He wanted to recreate the ability to bicycle for lifestyle in Melbourne. As a result, he moved his home and his bicycle shop closer to the city. He showed me several fleets of bicycles that he and his team had been preparing for the City of Yarra, Dominos Pizza and Australia Post. There was an entire room set aside for bicycle parts that were dedicated to the over four hundred bicycles he maintained for Australia Post in Victoria. My mind was blown. An enlightened Dominos Pizza franchisee? Wow!
He loaned me his wife’s bicycle a Gazelle Genève from 2011. He adjusted the seat for me. It reminded me of the Ultimate T1 which I test rode a few weeks ago from Omafiets in Sydney. But before my departure, he wanted me to test ride the Urban Arrow cargo bicycle. Stephen had arrived. He started his second job as photographer for the weekend.
Gary explained the Bosch electric motor gear shift system and adjusted the seat for me. And away I went. His parting words were, “Just keep turning left and you’ll come back around again.” I felt a little scared. It was dark. There were cars. I didn’t know this bicycle. I was in an unfamiliar neighbourhood. Where was I going?
I did notice straight away that the cycleway was nearly double the size of the ones in Sydney. A speed hump was ahead which had flashing lights. I went over it and turned left. The gear shift was smooth and immediate. Yet, I had done nothing. It was working with my speed and cadence. The cars were calm and seemed nonplussed by the presence of this giant bicycle. At a stop sign, I used the throttle to commence. The take off was smooth. I found the shop again. Gary and Stephen were deep in conversation. Gary adjusted a setting on the Bosch system to “turbo.”
I went around the block again even faster. Again, the cars were very calm. It was very dark in this semi-industrial neighbourhood but my path was well illuminated by the front light. I saw many cyclists on many types of bicycles. They all seemed confident and focused on reaching their destination. Many were lycra-clad but several were wearing every day clothing. I had a last chat with Gary and exclaimed about the Urban Arrow. It was a great ride! However, I confessed my preference for tricycles after having fallen on the Yuba Mundo with both kids in the back.
After spending nearly an hour with me, it was past closing time for Gary and his team. It was time to set off for North Fitzroy with Stephen. I strapped my Po Campo weekender bag on the back rack, my Linus pannier bag on the left side and turned on the lights. We were off! The entire ride was peaceful. I was also feeling better after the laps around the bicycle shop. That tired post-airplane feeling was gone. There were many cyclists riding on the extremely wide cycleways. The cars left enough space for us. They passed gently without flooring their accelerators.
We found the Airbnb apartment on Falconer Street. It was beautiful! I detached my bags from the bicycle and brought them inside.
The gas heater had been left on for me and the place was warm. Stephen suggested that we walk to dinner. I was shocked at the suggestion! Walk? I realised that the speed to which I was accustomed while being writer, mum and wife was “zip-zip!” I thought I would try this new slower pace for tonight. It was novel.
We walked to dinner and had a great conversation. The last time I had been in Melbourne, over two years ago, I had been working for the bank and was staying in a five-star hotel in the city. A little boring. This time, I was in a local neighbourhood and I was on a bicycle! Very exciting!
I went to bed in my beautiful apartment and slept diagonally on the bed!
Can you guess who I was going to meet tomorrow?
Today’s ensemble: J.Crew coat, Leona Edmiston dress, Yakkay helmet, Cartier Santos, BBB gloves, Geox boots, Witchery sunglasses, fake fur scarf, Lovisa ring, Nihola tricycle. On Remix Sydney photo: Zara jacket, Warehouse dress.
On Julius: Baby Gap jacket, Giro helmet, Kathmandu scarf, Baby Gap long sleeve t-shirt and jeans, Clarks shoes.