Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Wednesday 2950
This morning wasn’t quite as cold as yesterday’s, and even though it was overcast I was looking forward to being outside. Before painting however, Mick took me to his friend Glen Preece’s studio and I was able to have a look at numerous works, both finished and in progress. Glen’s work is mainly autobiographical, and he works freely from his memory and imagination. The figures that inhabit his paintings (occasionally including himself, as well as friends and family) can be quite loose and simple in the small works, or more refined and personalized in his larger works. After the visit, Mick took me to his mother’s place to paint and I found a nice spot sitting amongst the apple trees. As I was finishing the painting up, the visit with Glen that morning inspired me to put Mick’s mother into the painting and I think I’ll title this one ‘Nan and her apple trees’. I finished up and we went into town for a warm bowl of corn and sweet potato soup and coffee. It was hard to say goodbye as we had had such a nice time over the past couple of days, but with a bucket of fresh veggies and a big hug, I climbed into joan and headed down the road to Kiama. I had planned to meet up with my mate Ronnie and he was still in Sydney, so when I got to the coast I went straight to the Harbour bar and bistro for a Kent old brown. Pints were the same price as schooners, and a local named John saw me pouring over my map on my own and invited me over to his table. John kept good company and his mates and I all sat around talking about the recent cold snap and the outbreak of swine flu. Ronnie eventually made it in and picked me up, and we went back to his mum’s for a curry and a very chilled-out evening.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Tuesday 2700

Woke up and restocked my palette with fresh paint and lots of it before setting out to explore Mick’s land. I had all day to paint and ended up doing a small oil and two gauches. It was marginally warmer today, and with the sun shining down on me I was quite content to paint the day away. As I was working on the oil of Mick’s neighbour’s chookery, his German shepherd came out and had a fit at seeing me. The dog alerted his owner who came out and said hello, and after all of the fuss I decided to put them both in the painting at the back of the path. Mick finished up his business by midday and came out and we painted alongside each other and enjoyed the rest of the afternoon before heading back to the house for dinner. I did a mess of chorizo and spinach with breaded eggplants, again from the garden and we relaxed into the evening listening to a CD of poems by the local poet Mark Tredinnick.

Monday 2700

After two weeks of down time in Sydney repairing jumpin’ joan’s tail light and other small things I am back on the road. A quick trip to Parkers in the Rocks on the way out of town enabled me to pick up some gauche and watercolour pads, and I was on the M5 by 10:30. I drove down to Bowral where I had planned to meet up with my friend Mick. We dropped into the Milk Factory to have a look at the current exhibition and then went into town for brekkie. He took me out to his tree nursery and showed me around, including a tour of his veggie patch – from which he had been supplying me the most delicious vegetables this past summer. It was quite cold today and there was a lot of wind, so I really had to bundle up while painting. I finished up at dusk and came inside to find a warm home and hot dinner of pumpkin, potato and spinach from the garden.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Monday 1460km
A very interesting day. I drove to Cowra where I had seen a very appealing view on my way through earlier in the week and stopped at a park on Binni creek rd. to do a small painting. I was tucked up in the rocks and the trees being very quiet as I painted and suddenly a fox came out of nowhere and landed inside two metres from me. We both stared at each other for a second before he ran off…very cool. I finished up and drove down to the pub for lamb cutlets, salad and chips for a very cheap $5. I saw a bottle-o across the way and decided to stop in for a bottle of Dewar’s before heading off to Canowindra. I drove up the lot and parked, pulled the parking brake and headed in. When I came out, jumpin’ joan was gone! A guy walking up the parking lot asked if that was my van, pointing down the bottom of the lot. I said yes and realized that the parking brake had failed. Amusement turned to despair as I realized she had crashed into a large fence post at the bottom. A mob of coories on the veranda of a pub next to the parking lot were having a laugh and yelling all manner of things at me as I jumped in and pulled joan off of the post. I had a quick look at the damage before driving off to a park for further assessment. After I had time to think about it, I felt really lucky, because if joan would have missed that post by another 10cm, she would have rolled out into two-way traffic on a main arterial road. Despite busting up my drivers-side brake light and signal, the flasher still worked. I couldn’t open the back as the bumper had mashed up into it. Being Easter Monday, the wreckers were closed, as was NRMA, so I decided to head back to Sydney and fix it myself there. This seemed like a great idea until I hit Blackheath in the Blue Mountains when Easter weekend traffic started backing up with all of the holidaying people trying to get back to the city as well. It took 3 hours to do the 40 or so kilometres to Springwood where it finally opened up. I made it into Paddington at 8:30pm and felt very relieved to be home. I had to come back to Sydney for a gig on the weekend anyway, so this will give me a chance to restock, fix and fit joan out with a few extras.
Sunday 840km
Easter Sunday, I got up and hit the road early and drove almost all the was to Boorowa. I stopped in Wagga Wagga for a nice pub lunch and continued on looking for a place to paint and eventually camp. Fences hugged both sides of the road the entire way and there was no place to pull over. Just before dark I had to pull off at the junction of a country road and a highway to camp as there were no other prospects. Made lentils for dinner and played a bit of guitar for the sheep in the paddock across from me before retiring.
Saturday 600km
Up at 6am to go out and touch up my three animal/monsters and then to the Victorian Pub at 8:30 to begin the ‘big one’. The festival really went off today, with a supposed 30,000 celebrants milling about the street. People seemed pretty impressed with what I did, which kept my spirits up and the music teacher who set up a stall beside me and had a selection of her students singing and playing music kept me entertained. I was finishing up the piece at around 3pm as most of the families had moved further down the street for the parade and the pub crowd was beginning to go feral. Just as I was picking up, I heard the opening notes to one of the Crooked Fiddle Band’s songs and rushed down to catch their set. Griffith seemed to enjoy the Metal/Folk/Gypsy sounds of this Sydney-based band and after they finished up I said ‘G’day’ to Gordon and Mark and we wagged our tongues for a bit. I got showered up and then hit the town to do a bit of celebrating meself. Getting a beer from the bar felt like being in a Moroccan ticket queue. I finally got served and sat down with some locals who were very chatty about life in Griffith and their upcoming plans to visit Las Vegas. I ended up having an early one yet again as I was pretty knackered and I just don’t enjoy partying like I used to.
Friday 600km
Got up bright and early and hit the streets looking for a coffee and ended up having a full breakfast with juice at Miei Amici. Completed the three pictures for the day quite quickly while making small talk with passing strangers. One guy named Zimmerman from Canberra told me an interesting quip about the origin of stripes on sweaters. He claimed that back in the day when mothers would knit all of their children’s clothing, if a (let’s say green) sweater had a hole worn in it, it would simply be unravelled and the yarn saved. If a child was in a growth spurt and their favourite red sweater no longer fit anymore, mother would unravel it and extend the material by adding in the green yarn from before as ‘stripes’. Whether this is true or not, I find it absolutely intriguing. I finished up and went to have a very expensive lunch at the Clock restaurant, and just as my main was arriving I looked out the window to notice that the rain was too. Rather than fix-up the pieces tonight, I figured I would get up an hour early tomorrow to touch them up.
Thursday night 600km Drove into Griffith noticing all of the orchards and vineyards hugging both sides of the road. The local council has arranged for me to come and take part in their yearly Autumn celebration called ‘La Festa’ by doing some chalk drawings on the pavement. I checked into the Gemini hotel and had a very refreshing shower. After meeting with the festival coordinator and looking at the sites for the artwork, I stopped to have lunch at la Tavola, one of the amazing Italian restaurants lining Banna ave. In the spirit of warming up for all of the exercise I would be subjecting myself to tomorrow, I drove out to a gym called Fresh and did a body balance class with Gemma. It was just what I needed and I took things easy after that and had an early night so I would be fresh for the morning.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Thursday 410kmI drove into Young at around 8:30am and parked joan so I could have a walk around. Got a proper latte from the Sheehan’s sunnyside café and some much needed wool socks from the wool room. Everyone was out and about on Zouch st. and it was nice to see smiling faces that said ‘How are you going’ when you make eye contact. I decided to give one of the WWOOFing farms a call and made contact. Evidently my email never made it through…I wonder if it was the same for the other two I sent out. While waiting to meet up I went to Maccas to use the thunderbox, when I noticed a sign saying “free wi-fi hot spot”. I asked the sixteen year-old manager if one needs a code to activate the signal or not: “Nope, just jump right on!” This seemed to be the perfect solution to the problems I’ve been having with my wireless. I could just travel from Maccas to Maccas uploading as I go. Only one problem: I have not spent a single dollar at a Macdonalds in over five years. Despite how much I love to hate big corporations though, Maccas has constantly evolved to stay with the times and please their customers. Play equipment for the kiddies, healthier menu choices for the fatties, and now free internet for roadies like me. I still didn’t want to give them any of my money, so I was relieved when Darryl showed up and bought some fries. Darryl has a cherry orchard on the edge of town and offered to show me around. He said that the rain had been scarce these past five years and the orchard might not be as ‘picturesque’ as I had imagined, but when we arrived I thought it was absolutely marvellous. He showed me the different varieties of cherry trees he grows and explained about grafting and bio-dynamic farming practices. I helped him pick up some branches he had lopped off of the dying trees and we chatted about all things cherry related. Besides fresh cherries, he has also perfected a cherry puree (not made from seconds mind you) that he is keen to ship to anyone interested. Over a bite of lunch he said that I was welcome to paint here and stay the night if I liked, which I very much appreciated. He headed off and I got my painting gear out and headed up into the orchard to paint. Later on, as the sun went down, and I finished up a not-so-flash spag bol, I tried once more to access my wireless and…. whammo! I’m online. It seems like I’m getting the last of the logistical bugs worked out for this trip. Hopefully I’ll be able to post more frequently now.

Wednesday 382km
Woke up to a very cool, crisp morning. Headed towards Cowra with less than an hours drive, I took the back roads and before long found a nice little place to pull over and paint a small panel. As the day warmed up I was able to shed my layers and replace my redbacks with a pair of sandals. Finished the painting and over a bit more gravel to arrive in Cowra around 11am. I went and joined NRMA as was recommended by Shaun and several other seasoned travellers, picked up some groceries and then tried to sort out my internet. I found out the night before that I am out of credit on the Telstra wireless that Mike gave me, so I found a Telstra store and enquired about recharging. The lady there said that she couldn’t give me any information on how long $50 worth of credit would last, and she couldn’t help explain how to make sure the connection is working and she couldn’t do anything else for me except sell me the $50 voucher and give me a phone number (25 cent call) to a call centre for customer service. I left wondering why they can’t replace her with a vending machine. This episode left me frazzled, so I jumped in joan and headed out towards Young. Just past midday I stopped on the side of the highway at the Triple J café and had a schnitzel. There was a bus full of senior tourists from Sydney tucking into some serious roadhouse food while watching me fiddle with my laptop out of the corner of their eyes. No signal, damn. Good schnitzel though, and the butter sanga on white bread (no crust) really made it feel regional. I was hoping to stop by two cherry orchards on my way through Young to enquire about WWOOFing and got out my book, but there was no signal for my phone so I just hit a gravel road and before long found myself on top of a huge hill. I painted another little panel and since it was going on five o’clock I cooked up a curry and settled in for the night. With an incredible 360 degree view of the area, I couldn’t help feeling like I was camped at the local pashing spot. After I had gone to sleep in the back of joan, I was awakened by a hoon who drove up and put his headlights right into my windows and probably got a pretty good look at my bed-head, before stomping on it and sending dust everywhere. It felt very primitive. Was this a local who was asserting dominance over his territory? Did he have a keen sheila with him, and seeing his usual mating ground occupied now had look for a different spot to woo her? I snorted and pulled the covers back over my head.

Tuesday 254km
I took flight out of Sydney at midday yesterday as planned. As my speed increased on the M4, so did my anxiety concerning jumpin’ joan. She handled the weight of her load, a speed of up to 110, as well as the many potholes we encountered with strength and grace however. As per my ‘agreement with self’ to not drive longer than one hour at a stretch (so I can experience the landscape from more than the windscreen alone) I stopped in Lawson and had a ‘norm burger’ with hot chips and a ginger beer. The next stretch of bitumen took me to Bathurst where I had a chance to get some money out of an ATM. It was nearing four o’clock and the brilliant sun hung just above the road ahead of me, blinding me and reducing visibility in some stretches to just meters in front of me. Of all the extras I fitted joan out with, a bull-bar just didn’t make it on and having seen three rather large dead roos on the road since Katoomba I thought it might be a good idea to start looking for a place to camp. On trips I’ve taken in the past, the first night tends to set the mood for the trip and I wanted to find a good spot to test my camping gear and acclimatise. As I drove through Blayley there was a mobile RBT unit and the coppers waved me over to the side of the road. I proudly showed them my Aussie ‘gold’ drivers licence and they asked me to count slowly to five into a machine they put in my face. I cleared the test and asked if there was a place to park my van for the night around here and one of them directed me to a caravan park up the road. I pulled in to what looked to me more like a trailer park and enquired about how much…
“need power?”
“need any hook-ups or amenities?”
“ok, that’s $18 then”
“ok thanks then, tah”There was no way I was going to pay $18 to stay in a trailer park on my first night. I started thinking how that would add up to 20% more than the rent I paid in Sydney for my little flat in Darlinghurst and my blood began to boil. As I pulled onto the mid western highway and left Blayley, I saw a sign for ‘wind farm viewing area’ and ‘dam’. I veered left and as I pulled into the dam basin I beheld a string of campsites, some occupied, many vacant. I couldn’t see a sign describing fees so I pulled into a spot on the hill and settled in. The sunset was amazing and despite the large sign next to the lake that said ‘Warning, toxic algae – may be harmful to humans and pets, no swimming, drinking or fishing’, I felt like I had found my little piece of paradise.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

9:21 am 19 degrees C partly cloudy. We set our clocks back an hour yesterday and now the days are shorter and seem markedly cooler. Preparations this past week have gone pretty much as planned. James helped me install a dual battery system, and if the modem Mike gave me works, I should be able to post images and text on a frequent basis. After a last quick trip to Parkers to get my final supplies I plan to hit the road around midday.