Friday, March 14, 2014

Bicycling Australia: part 2 - Pale Blue Dot

You know that Breeders song "Cannonball"? That distorted "check check ahhhoooooahh" vocal intro, those drum clicks, that bass riff...that's the song we have programmed as our alarm clock. It went off this morning at 6:15am. We dragged ourselves out of bed, carried Alia's bicycle box down the hostel steps, and bid her adieu. She joined us a couple weeks ago in Sydney, and headed home to Detroit today from Brisbane after almost 300km of riding, some serious beach time, wallabies and koalas, plenty of sun, a bad head cold, a Mardi Gras pride parade, and lots of laughs. It was fun to have another person along for the ride, and now Aims and I have a mere two weeks, 3 shows, visits to the Sunshine Coast and the Great Barrier Reef, and a 24hr travel day before we get home!

Prior to Sydney, we had a memorable time in Canberra, the nation's capital. Our wonderful hosts Gary and Su gave us the grand tour, including an elevator ride to the top of the Telstra tower atop the summit of Black Mountain for a panoramic view of the area. I was a little dizzy up there, it felt unnatural but amazing to be up so high in a tiny building. Canberra is a methodically planned city, sort of reminiscent of Washington D.C. We toured the Parliament House, but missed a visit to the Aboriginal Tent Embassy. In fact, our entire Australian experience has been largely devoid of any obvious signs of Aboriginal people or culture. There's a legacy here of violence and brutality and oppression similar to what native North Americans suffered at the hands of European colonists. After coming from the diversity of New Zealand where we saw the celebration of Maori language and culture nearly everywhere, it's been unsettling to feel an undercurrent, a constant but subtle pulse of racism. I have to say, most of the people we've met in Australia are wonderful, diverse, peaceful, kind, interesting, and welcoming folks....but that beat remains. A few days ago I met the most profoundly racist man I've ever met. He literally told me, out of nowhere, that he "hates Aboriginals, not a single one of them will ever work a day in their lives. I know I'm racist, but that's the truth." Aimee and I were both stunned into open mouth silence. All I could wonder was whether it was worth it to argue with this old man, or if just walking away would be better. That internal struggle seemed to last forever. In the end, a few seconds passed, I told him it was good he knew he was a racist, I got on my bike and rode away. The incident keeps replaying in my mind as we ride. I keep coming up with better things to say ("you MUST know that's not true! You have Aboriginal members of Parliament for God's sake!"), but really there's no changing someone's mind with rational thought in a conversation like that. I saved my breath, and am trying to move on to constructive things.

Other Australian Encounters =

The bookstore owner at our first gig in Canberra gifted me Barbara Kingsolver's book "Flight Behavior". I loved this novel, and even lugged the heavy hardback edition across mountains. Truly a gift, and eerie to read the passage commenting on massive drought and bushfires in Victoria due to climate change.....David from True Wheel Cycles in Mullumbimby gifted me with his time and expertise (and the correct wrench size!!) to send me safely on my way, though in need of a new headset soon...Frances, Lilly, Bek, Tim, Will, Cam, Deb and Tony, Erik, Erin, David, Rhyla, Ian, Gary, Su, Kieran, Catriona and David, Deb, Shevaun, Sam, Jake, Jennifer, Graeme, Helen and more people I'm sure I've missed have gifted us with a place in their homes, among other acts of kindness. Thank you!

I'll sign off with this Carl Sagan quote...I first read it at the Carter Observatory right before we left Wellington, NZ, and I've carried it in my heart ever since.

“On February 14, 1990, on its way out of the Solar System, Voyager 1 spun around one last time for a final glimpse of its home planet, 6.5 billion kilometers away. Our place, Earth, appears as a tiny speck, lost in the vastness of space.

We succeeded in taking that picture, and, if you look at it, you can see a dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever lived, lived out their lives. The aggregate of all our joys and sufferings, thousands of confident religions, ideologies and economic doctrines...every saint and sinner in the history of our species, lived there on a mote of dust, suspended in a sunbeam.

There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits, than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known."


  1. Envious as hell. You gals are always an inspiration!

  2. mmm, thank you for sharing MoZo. I will try to remember these thoughts as I traverse each day encountering other life-forms. OMB