Itís 4:00 AM. Iím wide awake and have been up for an hour. I went to sleep around 8:00 or so and slept soundly in the recliner, but I woke up at three and couldnít get back to sleep.
I arrived here yesterday morning at 6:00. It took me over an hour to get off the plane, collect my checked bag and get through customs. Melia was waiting at the airport and we got in the truck and headed west. Thereís a new tunnel through the city and it makes getting to the airport a lot easier and faster. Melia had to make a couple of stops along the way to pick up items like chicken feed (sheís got a bunch of chickens) plus picking up some items for a friend at the friendís momís house. We got back to the farm and I saw a few changes. Thereís a house on the next property that wasnít there when I was here four years ago. Thereís another cell tower on the other side of the hill from the one that seems to be a lightning magnet, but the biggest change is how dry and brown everything is.
This area has been in a drought thatís been going on for two years. Everything looks either dead, or barely holding on. I thought it looked pretty arid when I was last here, but now, itís looking more like a desert. Melia said that the long term forecast is for rain in January. I hope itís a light, steady, soaking rain. Mother Nature being a cruel mother, though, itíll probably be a deluge that causes massive flooding. This area really need that slow soaking rain, so that the water will have time to penetrate the ground and bring the water table up. A deluge will cause massive problems with flooding and erosion, etc, but it wonít have time to sink in and get absorbed.
Anyhow, back to yesterday, we got back to the farm and I walked around with Melia and watched her feed and water the chickens and the horses. I got to say hello to the dogs. Iím pretty sure that Titan remembered me. He was very enthusiastic in his greeting. I got to meet Snoop for the first time. He seems to be a friendly enough dog. Heís little; a Dachshund mix of some sort. Titanís a Rottweiler and Juniperí a Great Dane. I donít know why, but I really like Titan. Some dogs just click with me.
Once the animals were fed and watered, Melia and I went into town. We stopped at Meliaís bank so I could change my US dollars for Australian dollars. We then went to the Cafť 33 where I had a magnificent Flat White coffee. Theyíve improved the Cafť 33 since I was last here. Some new tables and chairs and theyíve installed air conditioning. A/C here isnít like A/C in Cincinnati. I think it was maybe 2 or 3 degrees cooler in the cafť than outside. Then we hit the supermarket. Melia is a similar shopper to me. I usually go into a store to get one or two items and wind up with a cart full. Oh; shopping carts arenít called that here; theyíre called trolleys. Also, all four wheels pivot freely, not just the front two. Pushing the trolley around the store became an exercise in controlling motion. It also showed me how easy it is to spend money here. I was trying to do money conversions in my head, but prices are definitely considerably higher here than back home.
Living in Cincinnati, I tend to be aware of gas prices. Gasoline here is really expensive. Itís averaging $1.65/liter. After converting Aus to US Dollars and Liters to gallons, it works out to roughly $4.58 a gallon in US Dollars. Thatís for regular. I didnít price Premium or Diesel.
I was a zombie yesterday and just endured the day. I had to fight off sleep a few times because I felt that I wanted to get used to the time here as quickly as I can. I was mostly successful.
We went out to a small restaurant in Gatton for dinner and watched a magnificent sunset. The sun was a beautiful orange/red ball that I could look at without hurting my eyes. The smoke from the fires, combined with the dust in the air made that possible, but as pretty as it was, Iíd much prefer a sunset that wasnít so pretty for some rain and a greener landscape.
The sun goes down early here; it set around 6:30 and it was dark when we got back a bit after 7:00 we sat and talked until Melia started laughing at me; I was nodding out in mid-sentence as we were talking.
I didnít take any pictures yesterday. Hopefully, Iíll bring the camera with me today and get a few. Even with the drought, there are some beautiful flowers here. The Flame trees arenít as incredible as they were four years ago, but thatís only by comparison. And I saw some Bougainvilleas that were astonishingly brightly colored. And, if we go to the bakery in Fernvale, Iíll take a picture of a great steak sandwich. At least, I hope itís as good as it was last time.
Oh; just for the record; itís light enough to drive without headlights at 4:30 AM here.
Melia had to do an early morning trip into town and I went with her. This time, I remembered to bring my camera.
This is a view from the truck:
You can see just how dry everything is. The haze in the sky is from the smoke from the Wildfires.
The drought has caused the trees to not flower as much as usual, but this is the best Flame Tree we saw after driving around a bit:
This next is the Bottle Tree that I really like so much. It's almost in the center of town:
On the way out of town, we saw a group of wallabys. This one was kind enough to stop and pose for a photo:
Then we saw a big Bougainvillea with purple and white flowers:
It's a crappy photo. It really was quite pretty.
And finally, I don't know what this plant is, but it stands beside the gate to a ranch along the way and I find it really striking. At first, I thought it was dying from the drought, but then I saw others like it in other ranches, so I guess it's supposed to look like that:
I went for a short walk with Titan this morning and took four more photos. The first is a small Bougainvillea bush right along side the driveway:
A little farther down is a Hoop pine that wasn't there when I was here in 2015:
Hoop pines are funny. The branches are very small and you couldn't even hang a featherlight ornament on one. The only Christmas Trees you'll see in Australia are artificial trees. Still, once they get big, Hoop Pines are really pretty to look at.
Here's the other Hoop Pine that's grown up since I last visited. It's maybe 50 yards further down the road:
Doesn't my fingertip look good while it blocks the upper part of the photo?
And finally, here's a picture of Titan. I don't know why I like him so much, but we seem to be developing a real bond.
Davo, on the XL Forum is a resident of North Central Queensland, and he replied to the photos post the following:
That tree you call a flame tree looks like a poinciana to me. Flame trees are a different shape and their leaves actually turn red. The plant in the pot beside the gate is a bronze bromeliad. Well thatís what we call them both.
I responded to his post this way:
I am about as far from being an authority on Australian botany as is possible. I was told the bright orange flowered trees are Flame Trees. I guess I was wrong.
Melia just confirmed what you wrote, so now I just have to find out (by actually seeing one) what a real Flame Tree looks like.
I hate to pass on inaccurate or misleading information, so I just thought I'd let everybody know
Yesterday was an interesting day for me. There was a string of errands to do, so everything got planned out to happen in a particular order.
The first thing was to round up half a dozen roosters and put them in a cage to be transported to another lady who raises chickens. Trying to catch free range roosters is definitely work. We worked out a system where I would help corner the bird, Melia would catch it and hand it off to me. Then Iíd put it in the cage in the back of the truck. It took a while to get that accomplished. It would have taken a lot longer, but Melia had separated out the roosters from the hens earlier. We then drove then to their new home and Melia and the other lady (whose name I didnít catch) talked about chickens and such for a while, and transferred the birds from one cage to another.
After that, we drove to the Bakery in Fernvale. It was a beautiful drive on back roads and I was really looking forward to one of the best steak sandwiches on the planet. The weather was comfortably warm; 31.8 C (89 F) and the ride very pleasant. We got to the bakery and went in to order and my heart was broken Ė they were out of steak. So I had their $10.00 Special; a double cheeseburger with bacon and Fries.
Froggy would have loved it. We had to cut the burger in half in order to eat it. There must have been close to a pound of beef with slices of American Cheddar cheese and a slice of Australian Bacon that was a round slice as big as the bun. The fries were those corrugated chunks of potato that were about a half inch thick. I tried my best, but I was unable to finish it and it was of excellent quality. I donít know how they can sell such a meal for only ten bucks and still make a profit. It was that good.
But thereís more to the story than just the food. We were dining out in the garden. There are a few shade trees and a fountain and the tables have umbrellas as well. Itís a cool and very beautiful setting for a meal. We were watching a few birds in the trees and a few of them would fly down to the ground looking for scraps. Melia suddenly pointed out a Rainbow Lorikeet that was on the table behind us. I sat very still and it slowly worked its way first to a chair a little closer, then to the far end of our table. Then it was joined by another of its kind and the two of them made their way to my unfinished lunch and started pecking at it. At one point, there were four of them on the table, but two flew away. They loved the roll (I canít blame them, it was as good as the rest of the meal). I didnít have my camera, but Melia had her phone and took some photos. The Lorikeets have remarkably beautiful color - Bright Green, Red, Yellow and Purple and theyíre a little bigger than the Cockatiels I used to have. The head of the Bakery came out and scolded the birds calling them by name and said they were being naughty. I told her, ďNo. They arenít.Ē They made my day.
Then there was a loud racket above us in the trees caused by two larger birds. I thought they were cockatoos, but Melia told me they were Corellas. They were neat to look at although they were being pretty raucous.
At that point, we left.
Thereís an old International flat bed truck in the parking lot. It must be from the late Ď30s or Ď40s. Iíd love to see it get restored. Itís a real beauty. I'll try to remember my camera next time and get a picture of it. And there will be a next time - I still want another of those steak sandwiches
After that, we went toward Gatton and the UQ pool to get some easy exercise and cool off. We had the pool almost to ourselves. There were only a couple of others using the six lane Olympic size pool and they were doing laps in their lanes. A couple of hours of easy swimming is more exercise than it seems and itís very enjoyable. It also helps me to sleep like a baby.
I may not have a bike to ride here, but Iím still having one hell of an adventure!
Hah! Those lorikeets are awesome. I had two hand-raised female cockatiels, great birds. One was normal plumage, grey variegated feathers, the other was yellow/cream variegated. I never cut their flight feathers. I'd get up, uncover them, open their cage door, and they'd join me for breakfast. They would eat anything I'd eat. Beef, turkey, chicken, cereal, pork chops, whatever, definitely omnivores. I do miss them, More birdie pics phleeeze!
If the day ever comes that I can occupy/build a house with an aviary, oh yeah. Some folks out in Texas or other wide open spaces let their parrots just free roam. Cool, until a raptor spots them.
Itís Friday morning at 7:00 AM here, while itís 4:00 PM on Thanksgiving Day in Cincinnati. I hope that all my friends and loved ones are sitting back in a food coma from having enjoyed so many wonderful things to eat.
I normally do a Snippet reviewing the past year on Thanksgiving Day, but this year, it would take so long to list everything Iím grateful for, Iíd be writing until Saturday. Still, hereís a partial list.
Just being here in Spring Creek is cause for celebration. I never expected to be here this year; yet here I am and Iím having a wonderful time.
Not everything thatís happened this past year has been wonderful. My accident last March left me crippled for a few weeks and it took several months to recover from it. But I did recover and without serious or permanent injury. The Roadster came out of the accident with only minimal damage that was easily repaired. In all, I was pretty fortunate.
The water line replacement looked like it was going to be a real problem, but I discovered that I could get help in the form of two different subsidies. I had to use up all my savings and scratch a bit financially, but I was able to make the payment on time without having to borrow money.
I did get to go to a few Flat Track races, this year. And even though the Memorial Day Springfield Mile got rained out, the Labor Day weekend Races made up for it. I made a trip up to New England and stayed in Hudson and visited with friends and family.
I didnít get to March Badness because of my injuries from the accident, but I did get to attend the West Virginia Buell Revival and Buelltoberfest.
The biggest thing I have to be grateful for is the people who are in my life. I have so many people who care about me and who I care about, I canít list them all. I have family and friends beyond measure. That might sound a bit corny, but itís still true. If I run a list of names, I know Iíll forget people and that would make me feel bad. I guess the best way to say it is if youíre reading this, youíre on that list. Yeah, there are a couple of mellonheads on the forums whoíll read this, but, for the most part (99%) thatís a true statement. Without all of you, my life would suck.
And finally, Iím very grateful for my sobriety. I really was miserable before I got sober. Staying sober gives me a positive outlook on life and lets me see just how good things really are.
This past year has been wonderful. I hope that the coming year is even better!
Iím sitting at the table in the dining room beside the back door, drinking my morning coffee and just trying to wake up. Iím not trying too hard, to be honest. I didnít sleep that well and Titan woke me up early wanting to go out. When I refused to get up, he went and sat in front of the gate and whined. After listening to him for half an hour, I got up and let him out, but then, I was awake and it was so close to time to get up that I didnít go back to sleep.
Anyhow, for two days in a row, birds have tried to come into the house while I was sitting here. Yesterday, it was a black and white bird that I think is an Australian Magpie. It sat on the post at the top of the stairs and stared at me for a while. Long enough that I was able to take his picture. Maybe he was just being vain and wanted to be a show-off because once I took his picture, he flew away.
A short while ago, a different bird wanted to come in. This one was colored differently and wasnít just posing for a photo. When he realized I was right there and wasnít going to move, he flew around the side of the house and came in through the office window. I was hearing funny thumps and when I went to investigate, I saw him bounce off the glass, then he found the bottom was open and he could escape that way and proceeded to do just that.
Anyhow, it was an unusual enough event that I thought Iíd write about it.
Last night, around 5:30, Melia got a call from Honiara that Ron was sick and in the hospital. The person from the company Ron worked for said theyíd call back in an hour. They never did. This morning, Melia called the company and discovered that Ron died last night. The person on the phone said that they tried repeatedly to call last night, but nobody answered. While my instinct is to say, ďBullshitĒ, itís quite possibly true. Phone service there is less than optimum.
Needless to say, Melia is a basket case. Sheís been on the phone with relatives all morning and is alternating between tears and being rational. Sheís dealing with it the best way that she can.
I donít know what Iím doing. My feelings are all over the place. I go from pissed off because it might have been preventable to remembering the good times and the bond that we shared. Ron and I used to refer to ourselves as brothers. Ron pissed me off at times, but we were always friends. If not for Ron, I wouldnít have seen as much of this crazy planet as I have. Ron and I gave each other motorcycles and we helped each other out when we could. We once walked the streets of Cairns for two hours in the rain yelling at each other at the top of our lungs. We also once stayed up until the wee hours of the morning examining textbooks. His were on Aircraft engines while mine were on Diesel engines and Heavy Construction equipment. When my first marriage ended, Ron set me up with a job where I had to be smart and resourceful and had to work 16 hours a day, seven days a week. I was a complete basket case, mentally and emotionally and having a job that was that demanding forced me to focus on what I was doing. I didnít have time to become nuts.
It was Ron, Melia and I who traveled around the United States together in 1981. That was the trip I remember best. It was also Ron and Melia and I who rode from Byron Bay to Cairns in 1994, then the three of us rode to Launceston, Tasmania for the 8th Australian HOG Rally in 1997.
Ron, Melia and I were as close as could be possible; now Ronís gone.
I guess that Iím glad that he died while Iím here in Australia. If I had been back in Cincinnati, Iíd be buying a plane ticket to be here. Melia had been talking with Ron about when he was coming home to Australia last Thursday. He was going to set things up so he would be here before I left to go home. When I was here four years ago, Ron and I hadnít gotten along as well as I would have liked. I was really hoping that we could have gotten past that; I honestly believe that was going to happen.
Ron was unique. Iíll never have another friend like him. Iím sorry that heís gone and Iíll miss him for a very long time.
Posted on Wednesday, December 04, 2019 - 12:49 pm:
It goes without saying, but do keep us all posted on things as they develop.
Your time down under is going to be quite different than anyone thought. I doubt there's anyone more capable of helping Melia than you, John. Take things as they come, keep yours and Melia's chins up as best you can. It won't be easy, but you'll find ways to get back to the sunny side.
Here's a favorite quote I have hanging on the wall in front of me...
"I would like to beg you to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books in a very foreign language. Don't search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now."