Dear Adventurous Reader

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Dear Adventurous Reader

James Rickard

We do not know what we are doing. Jacquelyn and I have never bicycle-toured before, alone or together. Our children (aged 12, 11, 10, 7, 5 and 2) enjoy riding but have never had to do it for anything more than local-based transportation. We have never been to Tasmania together (Jacqui lived in Tassie with her family for a year when she was 15, and I visited for a week when I was seven). 

Two years ago we joined our friends, the Millers, on a four week road trip through the middle of Australia (see , Otherways Issue 141). After the Millers returned to Canada, we took five weeks to drive from Cairns to our house on the Bellarine Peninsula. That trip is something we talk about to this day, the places we saw and the people we met created lasting memories. 

We love the idea of travel as education. Not only can you learn history by visiting old towns and monuments, but it brings to life the places, animals and people you see and meet. It is not just words on a page, but an Experience, which is a much richer canvas to paint upon the mind of a child. 

We work together as a family to solve problems. We experience the places we visit together. We learn about history, and people, in a hands-on approach. It teaches us more than what we read in books because travel is more than the places you visit. And it creates fantastic family bonding, which we enjoy too. 

And why bikes? Well, I guess we just like to do things the hard way. 

Here is our first diary entry… 

Dear Adventurous Reader, 

Today we departed on our bike adventure. It rained and rained in the morning, while we walked around the house gathering and yelling, sorting and eating, packing and building our bikes. Bits and pieces from our previously assembled test run were repacked as we began our month long trip bicycle touring in Tasmania. 

We Arrived at our Starting Point 

I am sitting in a dark room, on the third floor of a backpackers in St Kilda, Melbourne. The children are asleep, or trying to sleep in the air- conditioned room. Jacqui is catching up on Facebook. We are tired, with another early morning tomorrow, as we embark on the final step of our departure. 

Tomorrow is the final step, because today we started our departure, it was a two-part series. The first begun with a ride in the rain, a ride in a train and a ride through the wind to our small room for the night. It was not an easy day, as I envisaged it should have been, but adventure couldn’t wait for nice weather. 

Departure: Part One 

It was too early to get up, so I slept in.
I push my wake up time back, trying to make use of the limited space in my bed
to catch some more rest, but it doesn’t work. I wake, walk down the hallway, trying to assess our status for leaving
at 10am, “Are we packed?”, “Did we do enough last night?” I put on some bacon for breakfast, clean the coffee pot and get that going, I think I need a coffee this morning. 

Panniers and bags lie on the ground in the living room. They are mostly packed, but need a final eye before we seal them to begin. Outside the clouds are dark and a light, misty rain turns into something heavier, falling harder until Grandad calls it “Real Rain”. Not what we planned, rain and mud and cold and wind, but we can’t even think about the weather now, too much to get ready. It will clear up, right? 

Grandad, Nan and their foster child Andrew are all here. Grandad helps with breakfast. Nan plays a game of Ticket to Ride, the last for a month, with the older boys. Andrew stamps and sings, while the boys ask for quiet. Jacqui corals Adeline, while somehow managing to continue the packing we need to get done. This is standard operating procedure around our house, a beautiful mess. 

Our friend Kathy and her kids arrive to wave us goodbye, taking the attention of the boys for a while as Zeke shows off his backflips on the trampoline. We call them back and start loading up the bikes. The clock gets to 10am, and keeps on ticking as our departure time leaves us behind. The rain starts up again – unplanned, but not entirely unwelcome. 

Try as I might, I have never been able to control the weather… Actually there was this one time that a brother, a friend and myself did a rain dance so we could play the computer. But, beside that single incidence, there has never been an example of the weather bending to my will or command. 

These plans of cycle touring do not wait for the weather, actually they take place in spite of the weather. We couldn’t wait, indeed we had to start our first leg during a break in the rain, waving goodbye to those
who came
to see us off; Kathy
and her children are fantastic friends who saw that our adventure needed a fanfare to depart. Pa came down to wave us off. Nan, Grandad and Andrew joined the chorus as we wobbled up the hill away from home. 

What is this Riding in the Rain Business? 

We usually avoid riding in the rain. Miserable and dreary days are for board-games and watching Peppa Pig. Today we rode through the rain and puddles and mud, we wore our jackets and we got wet, everything got wet. By the time we got into Geelong the rain had moved on, but we made the first destination of the trip. 

South Geelong station was turned into a resting point and drink station as Josh and Jem were waiting for us. Long streamers and waves and drinks of juice for the kids. 

Warm drinks in the hands of the boys to fight the cold and the train arrived at the station. We rushed and pushed to get everything onto the train, as the conductor announced its departure. We have a lot of gear to load on at a short stop, I didn’t have time to say goodbye before the train pulled out of the station and we were on our way. 

It was not raining as we moved on after lunch. It was windy. It was so windy that the sea was full of kite surfers jumping and flipping over the waves along St Kilda beach. The boys watched and wished they could join in as we pedalled down Beach Parade, “Whoa! An Astin Martin!” one boy shouted. So many things to see. 

Finished, but Only Begun 

That was our first day, done and dusted as the saying goes. We got wet but we got here, to our small room in the backpackers, ready for an early morning for Part 2. The room is messy as we hung the clothes out to dry, reducing the ceiling height to suit Adeline. Our panniers are opened and on the floor and it is getting late. 

Tomorrow we wake early to once again load up our bikes and get to the docks… 

Otherways 143

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2 Comments

  1. Adele Ellery says:

    I love this! Will up dates be posted like this one? Or have you already done this and i could read it all? I would love to travel Australia and “real life” teach our girls . Husband isn’t too keen though. Have a wonderful time! Or hope you did ☺. I think you’re wonderful for doing this! Amazing. Your children are very blessed! 🙏😊

    • Miriam Mollema says:

      Hi Adele, glad you enjoyed it. This article was from an old copy of our Otherways magazine, it was published in 2015. We have all previous and current copies of the magazine available digitally, free for members, where similar articles can sometimes be found. For example in the magazine that was published after that there was an article called ‘Education on the Road’ which you can read here: https://home-ed.vic.edu.au/education-on-the-road/ .

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