October 6, 2002 - Fremantle 43k/25m**

By chance I picked up a copy of ‘The Wheels of Chance – a Bicycling Idyll’, originally published in 1896 by H. G. Wells (‘The Time Machine’, ‘The War of the Worlds’, etc.). The protagonist, a Mr. Hoopdriver, leaves his job as a ‘drapers assistant’ for a fortnight tour of the southern coast (of England), on an “old fashioned affair with a fork instead of the diamond frame, a cushioned tire … and a gross weight all on of perhaps three-and-forty pounds.” Except for the regular cigarettes, the bike tourers in the story experience roughly the same thing I do: consulting maps, riding through small villages, lunches in village cafes, hassles with hills, paying for tourist activities like castle tours, and staying at sometimes seedy accommodations. It is an early Wells novel, drawing on his experiences as – a draper and a distance bike tourer. Back to my southern coast tour.

Charlotte – Los Angeles – Sydney – Perth: 30+ hours of continuous ravel. No flying destination takes longer time to get to from Charlotte. Perth is far away from everything. The tour books don’t think highly of it, the downtown skyscrapers are half empty, and they recommend tourists do like the locals, leave town for interesting things to see and do.

I landed around 12:45P, got a taxi and headed for Bike Force South Perth, owned by Gary and Vicki Delves. They had everything ready for me. I just had to change clothes, repack, and go. Here’s the shop, followed by a shot of my bike just about ready to go, with Gary in the background on the phone.

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By now it was around 2:30P, with strong winds coming from the west (the direction I needed to go to get to the coast) and some potentially menacing clouds. Checking the maps, Fremantle was only 30k away. I decided to tour around Perth a bit before making any decisions. It’s a pretty looking city. Here’s a shot looking north from across the Swan river, just a few blocks from the bike shop, and another from Kings Hill (Park) just east of the city.

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Perth has 1.5mm of the 2mm people in Western Australia. This 10% of the population in a state covering 1/3rd of the country produces 25% of Australia’s GNP. Most of this comes from mineral extraction. According to the taxi driver, they ship it all to Japan and Japan ships back cars, televisions and the like. Everything in the city seemed very clean and neat, and they have the usual range of big city chain hotels, but the only thing that really inspired me was their well designed, maintained and signed network of bike trails. So, I took one and headed east toward Fremantle.

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There was basically a continuous, 30km bike trail along the Swan River from Perth to Fremantle. The first interesting thing I came across initially looked like a bunch of kites flying over the river. Rounding a bend, getting closer I noticed people managed the kites with surfboards strapped to their feet and wetsuits on their bodies in one of the wider areas of the river. I don’t know what the learning curve on this is, but it looks like fun. (This is also a graphic on the headwind I was heading into.)

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More people seem to be into more and more different kinds of sports in Australia than in the US of A. To reinforce the point, number of kilometers downstream, in a park, I saw another first (for me). Cricket. I watched for a while. Some guy runs a few steps, heaves a ball at the feet of a guy with a stick, who tries to defend himself. I’m not going to display more of my ignorance by describing other activities. I couldn’t really tell if there were teams, or who was on which team. They all wear white pants and … well here’s the picture.

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Fremantle is the harbour city of Perth, and likely of all Western Australia. They have a lot of huge cargo ships, fishing ships, yacht club type boats, etc. But the thing that struck me most was the downtown city itself. It’s colonial, almost untouched. Were it not for the cars in the photos below (High Street, the Esplanade Hotel where I am right now, and City Hall), you wouldn’t know it was 2002. It could by 1880 or so.

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This is charming. I wish I had gotten here before 5P so I could have checked out the Maritime Museum and the rest of the town when it all was open. The hotel has pictures of all the famous people who have stayed here (it’s relatively expensive – $A185/night), among them Greg Norman. The hotel clerk says his new boat, $80 million (US or A, I don’t know) and 180 foot long – which makes it the largest private yacht in the world – is almost ready to be launched. It’s 5km south of town and I hope to get a picture of it for Guy tomorrow.

Here’s hoping the wind keeps blowing with the speed and direction of today for the next 3 weeks…

(Fremantle, Oct 7, 7:35P)

– If any of today’s stuff doesn’t make sense, I apolgize. I haven’t been in a bed for over 48 hours and things get a little blurred – like Glenys and Gladys.

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