Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Not here...but I'm actually here...

A very good friend of mine might get that title. Every time I get a call from him, he says..."Me here." and then there's a whole dialogue we go through after that.

For now, I'm at the beach. Well, near enough to it. It's very good to not be behind the coffee machine for a while. Four weeks actually. And boy, do I have an absolute pile of reading to do!

Meanwhile...enjoy some scenery!

Beach Detail


Sand Crab Standoff

Sunday, December 7, 2008

St Lukes...They Came...They Saw...They Ministered...They Went...

It's been a week of highs and lows...

High water but not as high as it could have been and certainly lower than expected!

Ok...I'll stop trying to be funny now.

There were floods about but nothing that stopped us from doing anything we wanted to do. It has held up some of the harvest still. I know that there are a lot of farmers who will just be glad to see the end of this harvest. The rest of us had to deal with some inconveniences but generally speaking, it has been GREAT answer to prayer that the rain and water has finally come. I know many farmers were pumping as much water as they possibly could. The first decent water in what seems like many years! And I don't think that the rain has finished with us yet.

So, it was a rather bemused local who sat in a 4wd during the week, surrounded by excited citysiders who were acting like true tourists and taking photos and video like mad of the minor flood that had crept up behind one part of the levy bank. Then as we cautiously and slowly drove through the .4 of a metre water, my mind was cast back to an earlier flood, in an older 4wd and going through a much deeper causeway.

It was back in the floods of 1998 when Crop-Jet was still operating on the cotton farm to the west of town. The floods had prevented us from using the normal way to get to work as the road was near the river. So, we had to take a big drive around the farm to get out and back home. And that drive was not all dry either as one of the farm levy banks had failed and part of the road was cut, meaning we'd have to tackle the water in the Landcruiser.

My experience of driving through water up to this point was not all good!

When Mark and I had been courting, we had gone down to Boat Harbour near Cronulla in Sydney. It was a known four wheel drive park and we went in there late one night after a date. Actually, I think it was part of the date...well, I know still a strange place for a date. Mark was determined that it was going to be my four wheel driving lesson. And it involved water.

So, my first experience was not good. It ended up badly with me getting cranky that we seemed to be getting deeper and deeper into the water, as it was coming freely over the bonnet of the old 40 series Landcruiser and it was seeping in through the foot vents and door sills. Not good. With Mark beside me, er...encouraging me to "keep it going", I think I finally managed to stall it trying to climb out of the deep ruts and up onto what I could see as dry land. Remember, all of this happened in the dark!

After that, I flatly refused to drive through any more water and actually handed over the driving to Mark. Yes, willingly, I relinquished control of the vehicle to Mark. Amazing but true. But let me reassure you...only for a short time and only to get him to get us out of the mess he'd let me drive into!

Well, here we were, leaving work this day together. As Mark is telling me which way to go to get out of the farm, that in itself an interesting experience given his ability to navigate from the air was far superior to his ability to navigate on the ground, we finally come across the flooded road. The road at this point, is not actually a road in all reality. It is just a tractor graded track into the black soil, which is notorious for turning into the worst kind of mud ever on the entire planet!

We come to the flooded road and immediately, I want to bail. I'd rather walk across than drive the car. Even with its four wheel drive capabilities. Mark is beside me, telling me its easy and that I can do it. The man has complete and utter faith in me and reckons that I can do it. I don't even want to think about doing it, let alone do it! He reassures me that everyone has been driving through this floodway for the past few days and that there won't be any problem. It has a gravel bottom, not a black dirt surface like every other road. I'm still not convinced and insist that he takes the wheel and drives us across. Mark insists that I need to learn how to drive through flood water and that nothing will go wrong. At this point, we could have been arguing this for about ten minutes or ten hours...the truck wasn't getting anywhere!

The trick with floodways and flooded roads, is that the water is not still and is actually travelling somewhere itself. Usually, gravity is pulling it fairly quickly down stream. This is the thing that most people forget when traversing this sort of water. Still water is simple because it is still and not going anywhere. All you're having to do in your vehicle is push it out of your way. With water that is moving, it is wanting to push you out of its way.

This is the scary part of floods. Many people have been pushed out of the way by flood water and they've not always been rescued or returned. Of course, they've also forgotten that cars can become boats before becoming lead weights and sinking to the bottom like a stone.

Finally, I think we got across the floodway. Otherwise, I wouldn't be telling you this story I'm sure! I think as we drove across, yes, Mark at the wheel, I felt the car get lighter and move slightly in the wrong direction. The cool headed pilot kept his head and kept the car on the go, never slowing or going too fast, the nervous passenger gripping the grab bar in front of her and watching in horrified fascination as the muddy brown water swirled all around us. It was deep water, I can't remember the exact depth but certainly deeper than .4 of a metre.

From that time on, I swore I was going to be going to work in far better style than driving through flood waters. And yes, the next time it flooded, we got airlifted to work in a helicopter.

So, back to the present with the happy tourists and myself sitting in the rear seat of a car, driving once more through flood water. We were heading on out to Cuttabri, a place known as the oldest licenced wine shanty in Australia, for dinner. The signs on the road warned of the water and I was a bit surprised myself to see so much there but the river was after all in minor flood! We made it through no problems, not even with a bow wave, like Mark and I had done in the Landcruiser all those years ago. But still a fun experience and rather exciting for those who'd never done what we in the country do get to experience every so often.

So, St Luke's visit has come and gone again for another year. This year, the team got to see the country at some of its best. Lush and green with plenty of things to bite you! And that's not just the mozzies I'm talking about!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

It's Official...

Today marks another milestone in the saga that is my life and was Mark's.

It is today, that I am officially allowed to talk about what was in the final report from the ATSB on the safety issues that may have been brought up by the accident that Mark had.

One thing to keep at the forefront of your mind when reading anything from the Australian Transport Safety Bureau is that their brief is to find a safety issue. If you find yourself trying to make sense of this report for any other reason, well...I'm afraid you probably won't make it. These guys are trying to find if there was a safety issue that needs to be addressed so that this type of accident does not occur again.

Sadly, there was no safety issue found that they could address so as it won't occur again.

If you would like to read the report in its entirety please head over to...


Remember, that this is a report that has been written with safety issues in mind. It is not a report that has been written to give conclusive answers. Those may never be found or given. The hard reality is, we will most likely never know the full picture of what Mark experienced in those last minutes of his final flight.

What I can say with absolute certainty, is that Mark is where we can only dream of being at this time, and that is with our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Be Inclined...

To watch the way of the rain,
When it falls slow and free...

I can't take credit for writing those words, except for here, as they are someone else's. I do however, have a fondness for them.

And so it rains here!

Has been for a whole day or so. While other parts of the country are being bombarded with high winds and cyclonic conditions, we're just getting steady rain. Which is how this country needs to take it. Slow and soaking.

Of course, you can't please everyone. Those who are yet to harvest a winter cereal crop are probably watching their income go down the tail drain. Its sad, as many of these farmers are yet to get a good go. On the upside, if this rain continues, then they won't have to worry too much about the future. As there will finally be one!

Personally, I think that the rain is great. The garden will just continue to look great for the next few months now, even if we don't get a whole lot of follow up rain. And of course, it means grass and feed for the horses. It also means weeds but I've got something I can do about them!

If it continues to rain like this then maybe, just maybe, we'll get a flood.

I wouldn't mind a flood...a flood means a lot of things to me. One of them is...water views!

Bring on the flood...I think I'm ready.

Rainbow Sky

Sunday, November 16, 2008

A Self Portrait...or Two...

Gesh...probably the hardest thing that any woman and maybe even any male for that matter, has to do is take their own picture. I found it difficult to get my mind around and then to figure out how to do it without showing any of my "ugly" bits...and I'm not talking about the private parts here!

So, another challenge and seeing as this time, I have not got a willing subject of the human variety, I have bit the bullet, or in this case, put the camera on a tripod and taken some photos of myself...

After an initial kind of "what the heck am I doing?" reaction, I came up with the rather, (well I thought so) brilliant idea of dressing up for the camera. I've got plenty of costumes! So, I had ideas for Cowgirl Tam, Pilot Tam, Biker Tam...you get the picture...

Cowgirl Tam was NOT all that good...didn't quite get what I wanted there...so you may not see any of those shots. There were two versions of Pilot Tam...One with a pilot helmet and a green military style jacket, the other with the classic sheepskin jacket, a Pratt & Whitney cap and a pair of aviator sunglasses. Now, where on earth would I get such props you wonder! Not...Pilot Tam v1 was not really very good because of the focus issue and a big white helmet, I'll probably give that one another go at a later date. Pilot Tam v2 was far better.

Anyway...after lots of hits and miss, the hardest part was actually setting up the camera. Time and again I had to go back and try to get the focus right. In the end, I figured out to leave it focused on a spot and move myself closer or further away.

The point of all this?

Well, the challenge is for lighting. So, in effect, I had to set up my own little photography studio and use some reflected lighting. Lighting is something I get. I love using any props or lights for more lighting. Lighting is what I did as a teenager for theatre. And if it hadn't been for Teen Ranch, I'd probably still be sitting in the dark somewhere, doing the lighting! So, lighting this was easy for me.

Although an overcast day outside, there was still a very nice bit of light coming in through the window...actually, a window that I'd like to block the light out of! Maybe not now I've been playing around with self portraits! And with a big piece of white card, I managed to get some good light onto the side of me that would have been in shadow.

Without further ado...here are the results...the one's I'm happy with.

EB Lesson 7 - Light and Reflectors

If you look closely, you'll see the reflection off the white card in the sunglasses and in the next one, its quite clear in the helmet visor.

EB Lesson 7 - Light and Reflectors

So, as much as I'm serious in these photos, there were one or two where I tried laughing but its pretty hard to laugh at yourself when the camera is loudly counting down the seconds! I had put on a funny dvd on the tv and turned it up loud but I couldn't really hear it over the beeping camera and the airconditioning!

Anyway, don't be surprised to see me revisit the self portrait. I have to admit, after I managed to get over myself, I had a bit of fun and am enjoying the results. I hope you do too.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

When all is quiet...

Roses at Rose Street Garden

Coffee in the Garden1

Whew...what a couple of weeks...

I've been very busy making coffee...

The ABC Open Garden scheme came to our town and several gardens in the district were invited to open. One of the gardens is just two doors down from the bakery cafe where I work. My employers were approached to do coffee and light refreshments for visitors over the two days. Reluctantly they agreed.

So, a commitment was made to purchase a smaller coffee machine that would do the job. I was enlisted to research the right machine for us and I only had a week and a half to get it! A big call and by Friday, the day before we were meant to be at the open garden, my boss and I were wondering if we were even going to be making coffee! Well, at the last hour, it seemed, the delivery truck backed into the driveway at the rear of the shop and we unloaded a rather large box.

We were the new owners of a brand new machine. It was kind of exciting and when we took it out and put it on the bench, were in awe of all the shiny bits that greeted us!

The weekend went well, it wasn't too hard sitting around a garden for two days. We made a few more coffees than we'd expected and sold quite a few of the Portugese Custard Tarts and Lemon Poppyseed Muffins that we'd made as well.

The following Friday, the community was holding a Relay for Life, a huge charity event for the Cancer Council that involves teams of people walking a large circular track for eighteen hours straight. Of course, we were there to keep them all awake with coffee!

Over the period of fifteen hours we sold over 240 coffees and hot chocolates. We left tea for someone else to take care of. I was busy enough with the coffee! I had a laugh when I had at least two people ask for the "chocolate biscuits" I had. They weren't chocolate and would have tasted more like sour coffee! People thought that my coffee pucks were biscuits. Actually, a bit of a compliment really as it was nice to see that when I did knock the puck out of the portafilter, they stayed a whole "biscuit". That is what could be seen in the knockbox, so I could forgive the uninitiated for thinking they were edible.

Anyway, its been nearly three weeks of mostly work and finished with a weekend of three days off. Which made for a pleasant change...

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

What on Earth is Going on...

With this CRAZY weather? I mean, it's boiling hot one day, freezing the next! So far, this spring we've had hot, we've had cold, we've had rain, I've heard of sleet and hail in some districts and we won't mention the wind! Mainly because I really hate the wind, it drives me nuts.

I think that having exceptional hearing is a bad thing because when it is windy, you are adversely affected by it. I really avoid being out on windy days and today was no exception. It is days like these that I'm glad I work indoors.

We spent last weekend out in the heat of the day, well, it wasn't meant to be stinking hot but it was. We managed to dig over twenty holes with two tractors and some helping hands. The posts are in the holes, now I'm just working on setting the posts. Sort of one post a day at the moment. The wind doesn't help there either...


That is the end that I've finished with. All that is needed are the rails.


This is the long side. I've done three posts on it. Only so many more to go...

Its a project that has been long time coming and its been good to get it done. Slowly but surely, I will get this place looking like it should! And it will be great to finally have a proper arena fence. Who'd like to come and sit on it for a while with me? You're all welcome!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

We Have A Winner!

Before I get razzed on for not updating...

Here goes.

The photo I entered in an online competition WON!

It was well deserved I thought. Here it is again just to remind you...

Tribute to a Pilot

As for the garden...well...it didn't do so well. But, it was its first outing in something like a garden competition and I didn't think it would actually be that good first time round. Especially, as there was a great lack of information as to how or what needed to be done. Anyway, if the garden looks as good as it does now next year, I'll consider putting it again.

We've also started on the horse arena fence. Yesterday, a group of friends and I spent a few hours with two tractors, a post hole drill and afterwards, lots of fluids! So, the posts are in, they just needed to bedded in. Over the next few weeks we'll get the rails on and it will be looking very TIDY! And like the horse arena it should look like...

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

On Competitions...

Its been a HUGE weekend with us racing around to get the backyard spotless and set up for the local town garden competition. I had entered the outdoor movie screen area into the "Entertainment area" section, along with the backyard into the "Back Yard" section. We spent the weekend whippersnippering, mowing, pruning, weeding, watering, planting in the garden. I emptied and refilled my small swimming pool that we call a pond, got things generally tidied up and the place does look fantastic...All I can say is pity about under the house! Oh well, that's the next big project really.

The judging was yesterday, thankfully a lovely day weatherwise, not too hot, no wind and for the judges it would have been a lovely day for them wandering around other people's gardens.

We find out in a couple of weeks if we've done any good! I'm not really sure how we went, one of the judges sounded impressed with the size of the place. The judges weren't locals so I think that that was a good thing.

As well as the garden competition, I'm still joining in on some photography challenges. The most recent one was for a "character portrait"...So one afternoon, when I wasn't gardening, Seth and I went out to the airstrip to make use of some aircraft for a photo shoot. I was pretty happy with most of my results. Some of you will be amazed and possibly a bit shocked at just how similar to his dad the young pilot looks...

Seth himself, enjoyed being a model for me. I thought I was possibly going to have the reluctant teenager on my hands but he even suggested poses for the camera, which made my job a lot easier!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Somedays...I feel like I'm....

...In A Movie...

Well, I had some thoughts a while ago about how I found myself relating to certain female movie characters. I thought I'd put it up here and see what thoughts I get back. Let me know who you relate to, I'm interested to know...

Some days I feel like...

Princess Leia...A little bit of royalty but not really, a little bit fiesty, like I could take on the Empire and win all by myself, like I could hang out with the boys and fight side by side with them. Like I could love a scoundrel, a pilot and a good man too.

Some days I feel like...

Sabrina (not the teenage witch!)...where I need to go off to some far off romantic city that would be good for my heart and find myself.

Some days I feel like...

Jean Gray...or rather Phoenix...where I am all angry and confused, myself but not me, when my anger could make me self destruct and destroy anything in close proximity as well.

Some days I feel like...

Princess Fiona...Not quite beautiful in the classic sense, kind of different in a quirky way and certainly misunderstood by my parents, who love me but don't quite get me because of my oddity...which ultimately they share.

Some days I feel like...

Jane Smith...I have the normal life but its actually hiding something else. There was a husband who as it turns out, was on the same side, for each other and not against each other after all. All that trying to kill each other was not actually the thing we really wanted to do! And when we finally got it together, we were a formidable team that could take on any opposition.

Some days I feel like...

Gwen DeMarco...It's only one job I have...its stupid but I'm going to DO IT!

I'm sure that there will be more...

But for now, who do you feel like some days??

Sunday, September 14, 2008

It's All About Jesus...

Well...here I am...12 months since I started a blog.

I thought I'd celebrate by telling you all why I am the way I am. And this will be where I might lose readers or keep them. So be it! This post has been a long time coming...in fact its been 12 months and 37 years in the making!

Because its ALL about Jesus. It is Jesus who has redeemed me, Jesus who has paid the very dear price for me, Jesus who now lifts me up, promises me only good things and who now encourages me to tell you all about Him. It is also Jesus who Mark is now with.

Look. It's not been an easy road. Far from it. NO ONE would EVER wish this situation on themselves. I never dreamed of being a widow at the rather youngish age of 36. I TOTALLY believed that Mark and I were going to be married for a long, long time.

Dreams...oh, I could tell you the dreams we had together...shattered in one heartbreaking moment. I can tell you too, that I've more than shook my fist at God over the past eighteen months...my biggest question..."WHY THIS WAY?"


It is so I can tell you all why I am this way. And guess what!?


You know...I could spout Bible verse after Bible verse here now...but I'm not going to do that. If what I've said here has affected you...well you'll either go and pick up a bible for yourself to see what the heck it is that Jesus is all about. Or you will leave me a message here to ask me personally how you can find Jesus...

Because, seriously, if you don't know Jesus, you will struggle in life, you will find hardships unbearable, you will worship and idolise the wrong things. There IS more to life...and that MORE is JESUS! And if you don't know Jesus, you will be on the path to hell...and whats more...WE won't see each other again. I would dearly love to see ALL of my friends and family again. PLEASE, FIND Jesus! This blog might be the start for you...MY prayer is that it is.

I live, love and glorify Jesus. Nothing else matters...

Monday, September 1, 2008

Here I am again! This is becoming a habit...

Have just got back from a Christian conference of 3 thousand people in Katoomba called "Engage". It was aimed at working people, so it had relevance to being a Christian in the workplace. Got to hear some great teaching from some awesome speakers, sing along with a great band and had lots of fun with some friends on a road trip. What a whirlwind though! One of the speakers, who I'd been told about a few weeks ago and had started to listen to on the internet, I actually got to meet! I was really stoked about that, I can tell you!

So, a great few days of teaching that has given me a few challenges to move along with...

Crash, the joey is going along great! She gets bigger each day and seems to eat more too. I love the way she hops after me now and I think soon she will want to be out of the pouch more. Will have to start thinking about building the enclosure for her!

We finally got some rain here again! I think its been nearly 3 months since we've had anything decent. Probably longer, actually. So, I came home to see that we had about 50 mls in the gauge. Already there is a lot of green popping up out of the ground. It never ceases to amaze me how quickly this country can recover with a bit of decent rain! Now, if we can just get some follow up!

I went out for a ride last Monday...hadn't been over the levy bank for nearly six weeks! So, it was nice to get out for a few hours. Went up the road that I am still waiting for them to finish a couple of kilometres of bitumen on so I can go up the windy bits up the big hill! I took some photo's of the hills...

This one is a recent sunset...we sure get some gorgeous ones here!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Long Time No See...

Damn blogger...

Sorry if you've left comments recently and they've not been published. In order to reduce the spam problem, I moderate the comments before publishing them. It appears the last lot got eaten by some bug in the system! Sorry folks! But I did get to see that you'd left me some comments! Thankyou!

Yes, I've been a bit busy of late. A few pictures will tell a thousand words I'm sure.

The first one is of a joey that was thrust into my life by her mother who committed suicide on the side of my car one night a few weeks ago. She's doing very well and even hops around after me...well, bounces off things and hops after me! She's quite the feeder and is doing well with weight for age I think.

We've had a fairly mild winter but it has had its share of frosts too...The new back deck has even had a frost on it. Reminded me of the snow!

I'll be back soon...this time I promise!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Monday, May 26, 2008

A Blog About Something...

So, I think I lost my muse there for a while...

I haven't even been writing up in my real life journal much either.

It was like after the excitement and busyness of March, I didn't have anything left to say and that 3 posts on one weekend was probably enough to turn any die hard reader away. Well, I hope that there are some of you still out there...waiting...reading...listening to crickets! LOL.

Well, the crickets can be silent. I have found my voice for a time again. As well as rediscovering a past passion for photography.

I purchased for myself a replacement for the Pentax SLR that I've had and got a DSLR. Boy, what a learning curve! I just love the photos I can take. Wait till I can get over the nervousness of using all this new stuff and I get back into manually using apertures and shutter speeds! The sky won't be the limit, I can assure you!

So, I have got a flickr account to host all some of the good pictures...the bad ones you just delete! And if you're interested you can have a search for Duchess and the Duke, you'll find us there too.
I'll post some here as well...

Monday, March 24, 2008

Bathurst and Back on a Bike, Episode III

There really is nothing like coming down the road towards Mt Panorama. It is an awesome vista as you come over the small rise on the main road to the track. As you get to the top of the hill, you look up and see the huge letters proclaiming that it is "Mount Panorama". As soon as you see that, your heart begins to beat a little faster as you know you are within moments of riding over the hallowed ground of some of Australia's greatest moments in motorsports. As you cruise past the pits, which is an impressive building these days in its own right, you really can imagine the noise and the crowd and the cars that make that once a year pilgrimage that is known on sporting calendars as "Bathurst".

However, this time, I was headed towards the motor museum that had been built on the entrance to the main straight and to spend a few hours poking about the exhibits. There are just as many bikes on display here as there are cars. And if you're really lucky, you might even be able to have a chance to own some motorsport history as several cars on display are up for sale! It is interesting to read about all of Australia's racetracks, including the ones that don't exist anymore. There is quite an extensive model collection of race cars and then there is the Peter Brock wing with a small area that holds a few of his race cars. After spending a couple of hours here, I then rode back to my accomodation to get ready for the Saturday evening dinner with the Ducati rally.

Dinner was a lot of fun, with me sitting with some more people that I had got talking to about Ducati's, of course! Some more folk from Sydney, again several of the women were pillions. One of whom was in the process of getting her licence to ride as well. After 20 years of being the pillion! Couldn't believe that she had taken that long to want to get up front herself! Along with the entertainment of those who had dressed in the theme of the evening...being GOLD, they also gave away a couple of awards and fined some folk for some very funny things that had happened during the day. The fines were all given in a great spirit as the NSW Ducati club gives the money to the Spinal Unit in RNS. I think by the end of the fines, people were just throwing money into the bucket regardless of the fine! An auction of a Troy Bayliss signed helmet and shirt followed, along with a couple of autographed books on motorcycle racing. A good evening, shared with great people and lots of fun.

Sunday morning, I gave the bike one more once over, as best could be done with half of Mudgee's road works on it and headed on up to the concourse that was being held. I arrived unsure of where to go and pulled up near Desmo, who rode a Ducati Monster. She called out "What are you doing up here? You should be down there at the concourse!" A friendly greeting for a Sunday morning which made me feel pretty welcome. Starting the bike back up, I made my way cautiously back down to the concourse, as everywhere was gravel!

After parking the bike in the appropriate section for its age, I went and chatted to a few new friends who were also admiring the bikes both old and new. Of course, the years from 2000 on was the section that had the most bikes in it, with the others only having a handful each. Even the nineties did not have many bikes, which surprised me a little.

It was decided that the judging would take place and that they'd do it by the most fairest way possible. By getting everyone to put up their hands for their favourite bike for the decade that was being judged! This was a fun way to vote as we all had a chance to have a laugh and vote for our friends bikes. When they got to mine, I stood at the back of the crowd calling out "Vote Yellow! You know you want to!" Of course, the bike that beat mine was a beautiful and rare SS FE. The FE being the Final Edition of the carby bikes. This one was bike number 444 and only had 22 thousand kilometres on the clock. I think that it was trailered to the rally but it sure was a pleasure to see one of these special bikes on display. And especially as it was along side my bike which in contrast was the first edition of the 900ss with fuel injection. I was proud to get the 2nd place trophy next to such distinguished company!

After the concourse, it was time for everyone to get moving and head home. Most were heading back to Sydney and some that were travelling further had already gone. I had decided to only go as far as Dubbo as I wanted to catch up with a friend who had recently moved there. I also wanted to break the trip up and not have to travel in the heat of the day like I had on the Friday to get there. But before I left...I just had to ride that track once more.

Well, maybe just a couple more times...

In the end, I really had to stop myself from going round Mt Panorama again! I had to get going before it got too hot!

All in all, it was a terrific weekend for me. It was a wonderful way to get out on the bike and build my skills on it. At no point over the weekend did I think..."Oh no. I have to get on the bike again!" Rather, I couldn't wait to get back on the bike again! I had a fantastic time meeting new people and I sincerely hope that they enjoyed meeting me! (Even if I do ride a yellow Ducati! But that's okay, there were quite a few others who do as well! Red isn't everything!) Next year they're talking Queensland and I'm already thinking ahead to that trip!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Bathurst and Back on a Bike, Episode II

As promised...

After fueling up on the way out of town, we were to head off towards Rylstone via a scenic route through some of the state forest. I guess for the staff in the fuel station, it might have been a familiar sight to see all his pumps taken up by bikes as he sure seemed none to fussed as we lined up to pay him our measly dollars! I don't think there was anyone paying much over 10 dollars a fill!

On our way out of Bathurst, we passed a few cars heading in the same direction. At the time, I sat behind a couple of the older Ducatis. I knew when the rider in front accelerated as his old bike would let out a cloud of smoke as it was burning a bit rich and it certainly smelt like it too! However, as old as it was, the old Duke could still keep up with the rest of them!

It was good to get off the main highway a little further up the road. I think we must have startled a few drivers. Ducati's are known for their noise and if you thought that a group of Harley riders were loud, then you've never heard Ducati's when they're in a group! Along with engine noise, most also have the loud clacka clacka sound of their dry clutches rattling away on their bikes as well. In fact, some are even louder as they have open clutch covers. Even I turned my head once or twice when I heard a bike come towards me, as I wondered at first what the noise was. It didn't take me long to work it out!

We took a left turn to head towards a tiny village called Sunny Corner. Here as we headed into the forest, the road was wide and smooth, the beginning of bike nirvana! You could almost see everyone wanting to go faster but not wanting to as they had been warned that just around the corner we'd have to pull up and slow down because of the road surface as we turned right. The excitement of the group was beginning to mount I think!

The route took us back towards Cullen Bullen and onto the main road between Mudgee and Rylstone via a small town called Portland. It was here that I recall seeing some kids on the side of the road, waving at all the bikes as we went through town. The houses were tiny weatherboard and fibro places, I guess the town had sprung up for the logging and mining that was going on nearby. I thought it would have been great to be those kids on the side of the road, hearing all these bikes ride past and nearly regretted being part of the ride as that was one aspect that we were missing out on! But that thought only lasted a moment of time as we got back onto the main road and headed towards Capertree. It was there that we had a quick stop to get the group back together again before the next leg.

We pulled into Rylstone for morning tea. It would have been nice to have spent a little more time there but we were already running a bit late I think and so we were encouraged to be quick about getting food and drink. A shame really as it was a place I'd not been to before and was interesting enough to warrant a bit of a better look, I thought. Could be a good excuse to go back there, though the Bylong road into Rylstone wasn't all that great a surface. I know I slowed down on it a bit as I found it jarring and rough on the bikes suspension.

After being hustled to saddle up again, I took the bike for a quick drink at the local servo and then headed out for Sofala. We came out onto the highway for a short time and it included a stretch through some road works. Unfortunately, the road had just been wet down again by the water tanker and it was a tip toe through slimey lime base. It also made many of our bikes very dirty and on my bike, it completely obscured the number plate and rear tail light! Some people didn't think that that was all such a bad thing though!

When we arrived at Sofala and found that there were some bikes that were clean, everyone wondered which direction those bikes had taken! As it turned out, a group had gone the wrong way but as it turned out, they'd probably really gone the right way!

Lunch at Sofala was a lamb roast with baked veges. Everyone ate together in the local hall, at least those who didn't want to drink at the pub. It was great to sit around the table with people who were willing to share information and have information shared. Everyone had something to offer in the way of information and opinions on riding. It went a long way to making me feel welcome in a group of people that I'd not had anything to do with. Even the NSW club president, who had been the organiser of the event, was more than delighted to meet me it seemed. I couldn't fault anyone's hospitality.

After lunch, I was invited to head back with a couple from Canberra, as it was a make your own way to Bathurst affair. This was a great time as Alex and his wife, Helanna had given me some very useful advice in regards to my riding into corners. As they rode ahead, I got the chance to be behind, working on my techniques. We even pulled over after a particularly twisty bit of road and discussed how I'd ridden it and if I was feeling like I was going into corners better. Which I certainly was. Left hand cornering had up until that point been a slightly unnerving affair for me, I was not feeling confident with it and struggled to do left corners as well as I could do a right one. After being told to drop my shoulder into the corner more, I found it made a huge amount of difference and was impressed that I was cornering left as well as I could corner right.

Well, looks like again I will continue this story...

Stay tuned folks!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Bathurst and Back on a Bike!

Last year I had joined up with the Ducati Owners Club of NSW. I joined because it is often a good way to find parts and information for your vehicle, hence why I am also a member of the Chevrolet Car Club of NSW as well. The membership has often paid for itself with information!

This year, I saw that DOCNSW was advertising the National Ducati Rally in Bathurst and so I decided that I'd very much like to go to it. It would be a great way to meet a group of like minded and new people, I thought.

So, last Friday saw me load up the panniers and head out early for my first really big trip on the Duke. I planned to reach Dubbo by mid morning and have at least a two hour break there. I had a great run down the highway to Coonabarabran and then onto Gilgandra. By the time I arrived at Dubbo, I could feel that the weather was starting to warm up!

I was meeting up with a fellow forumite from Ransomed Heart in Dubbo for morning tea and then lunch. The brief I had given him was that I required a place where I could see the bike! As I cruised down the main street, I kept an eye out for the Coffee Exchange where he would be waiting. As I pulled over into a designated motorbike spot, I saw that my friend had managed to get a table right next to the parking spot! He asked if I thought that it would be suitable enough for watching the bike...funny guy!

After this great visit with Lighthorseman (as he is known on Ransomed Heart), I saddled up again for the two and a half hour trip to Bathurst. As I came into Orange, I could feel that the weather was really warming up and was not surprised to see a temperature gauge saying it was 36 degrees! By the time I arrived in Bathurst, I could feel that my clothes were just saturated with sweat! I was sure glad to have a shower that evening!

Saturday dawned another glorious day, however it also held the promise of another hot one. I was eager to be off and after giving the bike another once over, made the short trip up to Mount Panorama where those on the rally were staying. (I had opted to stay with a friend who lives in Bathurst, seeing as I didn't know anyone!)

Mount Panorama is the hallowed ground of the greatest race in Australia's motorsport history! It has been where many men over the years have either succeeded or failed in their desire to tame the mountain! Now famous for the biggest V8 Supercar race of the year, a gruelling all day event held every October, it started out as a premier motorcycle track. These days it is a far cry from the dirt track it started out as. Now, it is probably the most perfect bitumen you can drive on as when its not being used for motorsport, it is a public road. Of course, the speed limit is set at 60km/hr and it is two way!

So, as I pulled out onto the smooth bitumen on Saturday morning, the sound of the V-twin burbling behind me, I couldn't feel but awe at being there. Sure, I've driven around it before, know how steep it hills are and tight its corners are but there was just something about riding out onto that hallowed ground. I actually drove up the Chase and up onto Conrod Straight, heading for the accomodation where the other Ducati riders were gathering for the day's events.

As we began to meet up, the organisers told us where we were going for the day and that the first thing we would do would be turn right onto Mt Panorama and then do a lap of the track! This really had me worried at first because I seriously didn't think I was ready for that first thing in the morning! As we headed out and then pulled out onto the track, I could see the long line of bikes that were now beginning to stream out along the road. It really was an awesome sight to see!

We then headed on around the left hand corner onto the pit straight and all too soon were flashing past the pits and onto the first corner of the track. It was beginning to get very exciting! As I took the first corner, concentrating on my riding and trying to ignore anyone else around me, I began to hear others overtake and make their bikes go fast up the hill. Unperturbed I just took my time and enjoyed the experience.

By the time we got round the track and back down to the place where we'd head off into Bathurst, I was kind of regretting that we had to leave and couldn't do another lap! But it was okay because I knew that the mountain would be waiting when we got back for the day and then I could try it again!

Well, as much as I hate to do it...I'm going to continue this in another post tomorrow! I know you'll all be waiting to hear about the rest of my weekend!

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Cars, Coffee and Celebrations...

My trip to Melbourne ended pretty well. The only downer to it was that my luggage didn't make the same flight home as me and came in on the next flight the following morning. I was very happy that it did arrive home of course!

Celebrate the Bean was a huge day on Sunday, with many people being drawn to the Coffeesnobs stand. I think the aroma of roasting coffee was what drew them in first! We had popcorn poppers, bread makers, stainless steel bowls with heat guns and of course a range of commercially available home roasting devices on display.

As well, the display that had people really amazed and fascinated were the open containers of coffee that went from uncooked through to dark roast. Many people did not know that coffee is green before being roasted to brown!

It was a hugely fun day and I enjoyed working the stand along with some fellow coffeesnobbers who also showed me a lot about roasting! And considering that I was very kindly given a coffee roaster, I needed to learn all I could!

Yes, I'm now going to delve into the realm of home roasting. It has been something that I've tried to resist doing, on the grounds that I just don't have time for it. But this little machine has shown me just how easy and quick it can be to do. There are many benefits for someone like myself to home roast, particularly as we are so far from any roaster. I must admit, when I got back to work the other day and had a coffee there, I was disappointed and frustrated with the taste of it.

So, I'm on the quest to have coffee the way I like it...all the time!

Apart from having a blat in the M3, we also went and had a look at what was on offer at the Melbourne Motor Show. A little disappointing in the way of great concept cars but there was enough to keep me amused. It's been funny this week to show friends a picture I took of the lime green Lambourghini and then tell them that its my new ride, whilst also explaining that it comes in yellow to match my bike and that it was a hard decision to chose colour! One lady wanted to race out the back of the shop and see it then and there!

Next weekend, I'm off to Bathurst on the bike for the National Ducati Rally. So this week will see me detailing and getting it ready. Cleaning it won't do too much good, however, as I'm sure by the time I get there, it will be covered with 6 hours worth of road grime again! Oh well, it'll make me feel good I guess!

Friday, February 29, 2008

A very busy week this week, one that has been touched by tragedy...

Last weekend, I spent riding the Duke to Armidale. As part of my trip there, I had been challenged on a forum to take a photo of the bike in front of a local landmark which is big! I chose the big golden guitar at Tamworth.

Actually, come to think of it, I think I became the tourist attraction at the golden guitar as when I was saddling up to leave, a group of people had gathered to watch! So, you can believe me when I say that I was extremely careful and cautious as I was going as I didn't want to do anything stupid like fall over or leave my stand down!

As there was a function on at the school for my son's boarding house, I made the effort to get there. Thankfully the weather was great and so I had a terrific ride up the hill! Once there, I was to meet another parent who had lost her husband last year to a heart attack. Her son is in the same dorm room as mine and it seems that they've hit it off.

One thing about going to boarding school functions is the awkwardness of being a single parent and especially a single female parent. Even the married women tend to hang around with their own husbands and so the couples tend to stick together. So, it's times like these that you definitely don't want to have any name tag and all you really want to do is be somewhere else!

However, I think that really, all my son wants is for me to be there and that being the case, I will do my best to do so!

On Tuesday, 26th of February, the town was rocked by the news of yet another aircraft tragedy in the district. This time, unbelievably, two aircraft were involved. One pilot managed to miraculously survive the impact with the ground and got away from his aircraft which had caught on fire. The second pilot unfortunately did not survive his crash.

It seems inconceivable that seemingly so soon after Mark's accident, here we are facing another one. It is more inconceivable that this one involves not only our bosses plane but his brother in law is the pilot who has survived. Once again, our boss is going through investigation from ATSB and insurance people. We haven't even had Mark's accident finalised yet. It is hard to say at this stage if this will make it all harder or easier.

On Thursday, I travelled to Melbourne. This was a trip planned months ago, way back in December last year. I would not hesitate to say that it was part of God's plan to have me away from home at this time. As the trip plans had fallen so easily in place when I had made them a couple of months ago, it can only have been His influence. I seriously don't know how I would have coped being at home this weekend, as there is another memorial service being held out at the same hangar that Mark's was held in. Either way, I don't think I would have gone to that service this weekend.

I know that this tragedy has affected me, as on the flight down, I spent quite some time quietly weeping. There was no point holding it back, it actually felt like a great relief to be able to do so.

So, I'm now in Melbourne. Today I had a great day with my girlfriend, we took her husband's M series BMW for a blat down to the Peninsula to check out their newly purchased holiday house. It was a fun day of two friends having a laugh, remembering some good times, talking about some bad and wondering why the blokes were having a look at them in the car! (We remembered that what we were driving was bright blue and stood out like a sore thumb!)

But good times and a great way to try and put the tragedy of the week behind me.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Scooter Photo Blog

Thought I'd just do a photo blog today. On Aussie Scooters, we've been challenged to take local photos with our scooters in them. These are what I've started to snap around town...

Monday, February 11, 2008

My Other Ride is a...

Scooter! A 125cc Aprilia Habana to be precise.

I thought it time to talk about my daily driver. He should get an honourable mention at least as he's nearly as famous as me around town!

At least, most people here in my town know who rides the little blue scoot! Its always funny to see people do a double take when you go zipping past as they certainly don't expect to see a scooter, which is more of an icon of the city, being ridden around a small country town.

Kids love the scooter the most, they stare at it in fascination, stopping whatever they're doing to watch or wave at me as I ride past. I don't know what it is about it. Is it its sexy looks, its bright blue colour or just its smallness? I'm not sure, they could just think I'm weird for riding one!

Its pretty quiet being a four stroke and I'd be the envy of most people who have to currently fork out nearly a hundred bucks to fill up their fuel tanks. It only costs me nine dollars! And of course, with just using the scooter around town, it lasts forever on one tank of fuel!

I've ridden the scooter long distance. A few years ago there was a National Scooter Rally in a larger country town about three and a half hours from here, known as Dubbo to Australians. I rode from here to another town where I met up with some other riders who had come from Brisbane and we rode on together to Dubbo. Yes! They had ridden all the way from Brisbane and some were on scooters no bigger than mine. The rally was a fun few days of riding around with like minded people. And seeing as I only ever see other scooters when I'm in the city, it was a real novelty for me to see so many scooters buzzing around the big town of Dubbo and to be riding one myself!

Most people used to get a real laugh when they saw Mark riding the scooter. He used to take it out to work if I wasn't needing it. Mark seriously had no shame, riding out with his bright yellow helmet on, that everyone knew was for the big yellow bike! He didn't care that people thought he was funny zipping around on the scooter. I mean, we're talking about big country boys who drive utes and four wheel drives! None of them would even dream about riding a scooter! But Mark rode it because he loved how zippy it was and thought it was fun. He'd brag to me how low he could get it into corners!

This month actually heralds Scoots fourth year in the family. I've managed to clock up over 13 thousand kilometres on the scooter over the past four years. Not a whole lot compared to city commuters, some would clock that up in six months. But for me, that is 13 thousand kilometres that are not on my car. Plus all the savings in fuel!

Ah, I love my scooter!

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Freedom. And a Mother's heartbreak...

Its a new school year. I've just taken my son back to school and I can tell you, it doesn't get any easier.

Contrary to this photo, my boy is now a tall young man of 15. Here in the photo he is a little man of 4. We were taking a walk in a nearby cotton field, near to where we were living at the time. The dog was a great mate, a Basenji called Outsider. The dog is no longer with us, as he was bitten by a snake many years ago.

As I gaze on this picture, it seems like a lifetime ago. Much has happened in our lives and this is a visual reminder of that.

Meanwhile, my son is happy to be back at his school. And that is a comfort to me I guess. Had I left a boy who was not happy, it would have made it all that harder. So, when I rang up last night to speak with him, the first comment I got back was "We've got so much freedom, mum!" It seems that now, they are of an age where they are treated with a bit more respect as well as being given more responsibility for themselves at school. They can now do their homework in their area, they don't have to get up out of bed as early, they don't need to do a roll call to go to meals. It is now highschool that he is in and he is excited about it!

I am excited for him too.

This is the time when you hope that your child makes the most of his school life, when he takes up any opportunity that takes his interest and that it is a rewarding experience. It is why we decided years ago to make the committment to boarding school for our son. Its a big committment but one that will be rewarding us all for many years to come!

Saturday, January 26, 2008


Was a favourite Eric Clapton album of Mark's. But I digress. I am going to relate the details of 9th of December, 2007, as I'm sure that there are those who'd like to know how it went!

It was an evening that seemed to come together very smoothly. Friends were coming from Sydney and those who lived here were already confirming that they'd be there. It was looking to be a big night.

The day before, Saturday, was a huge day. Some great friends and I built a back deck on my house. Just in time for everyone to come and oogle! It certainly was huge event just in itself, especially considering that the deck is a massive 8 metres by 4 metres! And the fact that it all went together smoothly was also impressive. No hitches whatsoever!

Sunday was a day that held a lot of expectations, even though I tried my best to avoid having any expectations at all. I really didn't want to feel like the significance of the day was going to consume me and I certainly did not dwell on it. Just looked forward to sharing the day with some wonderful friends.

At church in the morning, I was invited up to give a brief talk about how the year had gone for me. I felt that it was a perfect time to put to bed some "myths" about me that had been circulating around the church community. It had been questioned that I was possibly trying to live out Mark's Christian walk. I actually agreed with this and explained why I agreed. It's not so much as my living out his walk, rather me living our joint ideas on our Christianity. Hey, its one reason why we married! We both had the same views on many aspects of Christian faith and so it would stand to reason that if one or the other was "left behind", we'd probably be reflecting that!

As I said, it's hard to just get rid of someone out of your life who has been there for a long time. As Mark used to joke himself, we'd been married for a million gazillion years! (Just exactly how long is that anyway!?) And I also said that I would be upset if people who knew Mark, looked at me and didn't see anything of him in me. It would mean that our marriage was not real and that we didn't live as "one" as we had originally been married as under the sight of God and in the view of His church.

I think everyone got the idea!

Sunday afternoon was the complete opposite weather wise to 12 months ago. It was overcast and cool. Not hot, dry and filled with the smoke from bush fires. A complete and utter contrast. As people gathered, friends arrived from great and small distance, the afternoon looked to be bigger than I'd even expected.

One great girlfriend had been working at something special of her own behind the scenes. She arrived and presented me with a large cardboard box, stating that she had wanted to commemorate the day herself in her own way. I opened the box and found it full of caps! They were all printed with the Top Gun logo and on the rear of the cap was printed "John 15:13", Mark's favourite Bible verse! The hats were awesome and well received by all! I think that it was terrific to see people wearing their Top Gun hats around on the afternoon! What an incredibly thoughtful touch to the day.

As the sun set and the people ate, I recall coming out at one stage to gaze down at those who'd set themselves up on the lawn. It was a very peaceful moment to me as I thought how much it was just as it should be. Everyone sitting around, eating, drinking and chatting together. Exactly as Mark would have had it himself! I was very proud!

Later, we got set up with the cinema equipment and though the rain tried to threaten, no one would be moved and sat through the light shower that came down! We just threw a tarp over the equipment! The rain cleared and I announced that I was going to show the slide show from last year, as after all, it was why we were there. Everyone went very quiet and I'm sure that there were a few tears as well as a few laughs.

Then, on with the show that everyone had been waiting for! TOP GUN!

Seriously, it had many of us reciting the lines along with the actors!

All in all, a great night had by everyone. A great way for everyone to remember a huge event that occured 12 months ago. An important time for helping others with their grief, as many still come to grips with the fact that the man that was such a huge impact in their life has gone on ahead. It will be a great day in heaven when we all get there because Mark will have done a wonderful job of helping our Lord to get it ready for us!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

We Resume Normal Broadcasts...

Apologies to those of you who are visiting and reading. I have not been attentive to my blog and have not done many regular updates. I won't bore you either with a huge post about what has been happening, suffice to say it has been mostly all good!

However, I will bore you with my adventures on a Ride On Lawn Mower...

New Years Eve has fast become an annual event at friends where we race ride on mowers. It started a few years ago and is growing with every year, this year being no exception!

I was invited to bring out my mower as well and join in on the fun. And boy! What fun! Too much fun even!

Yes, I admit it, I am a total rev head. No apologies for that either!

Above is me on my mower. It's diesel powered and actually does a pretty good job of mowing the lawn. As well as racing, I also competed in a lawn mower tug competition. Of course, the diesel with it's weight and low torque did a very good job of pulling the competition across the line, no effort required!

We also came second in the Chicks Race and managed to come in the middle of the field in the Open Race. There were some very serious competitors in the Open class. Their mowers had been heavily modified and one was clocked at 43 kilometres per hour! That's very fast on something that was really only designed to mow the grass!

As well as Ride On Mower races, there was also some Watermelon Skiing for the kids which utilised two quad runners and two ski ropes and some wet plastic. In the end the kids were just as happy getting pulled along without having to try and stand up in watermelons. The kids were at it for hours and it was only dark that made them pull up!

The hardcore enthusiasts are already planning bigger and better things for the Ride On Mower races for next year. They're trying to get some races to happen during the year with the New Years Eve races being labelled as the Grand Finals. Should be fun!