Friday, September 16, 2016

Spring mounting to King's Park













                  

After what seems like a long winter, spring is finally here. This early part of spring is probably the best as we still get wintery nights (it was 4c yesterday) but with lovely sunny and cool days, of 16-18c. This is also a great time to see wildflowers here in Western Australia and today, we set off to do just that. Witness the wildflower bloom at King's Park.

It was great to meet up again with Frank and Carolen under Mt Henry Bridge for the 12km ride to KP via excellent bikepath that runs along the Kwinana Freeway. When I left home it was under 10c and a bit nippy but the weather settled to a cool 15c morning with blue sunny skies. It was wonderful to ride with a strong tail wind and we were flying at 27-28km/h without any effort. It was amazing that we got to the turn-off at Mount Street in 30 mins flat!

                                               

For those who know, Mount Street is named so appropriately because it is one of the steepest hills in Perth. Many roadies come here to train and my young friend Lance, a top class competitive roadie was here with his mates earlier. There is even a video made called "Chain Breaker"...


We had to gather ourselves and prepare mentally to climb this chain breaker hill. It did not help when a young lady on a roadie pulled up where we were, took a look at the hill, got discouraged and wanted to turn back. I told her "Let's do it together!" and so off we went. Frank on his KHS T3 went off first, followed by Ms Roadie, then I on my humble 7 speed Giant with Carolen also on a KHS T3 taking the rear.


Frank charged up like a rocket and it was discouraging to see him so far. It helps when you have age or the lack off, on your side. But when it comes to climbing, it is always best to do so at your own pace. I was very skeptical that my coffee-mug carrier could do this climb as the gearing was meant for cafe rides but moments like this, I had to draw from my experience to make this work.

I started off fast to get the Giant Momentum to live up to it's name and settled at a steady pace. This worked well until half way up when no amount of pedal pushing could propel the bike forward. No wonder granny gears were invented for such a time like this and the KHS foldies had them! Just like sailing against the wind, tagging a hill can be helpful and I used this technique to go up. Ms Roadie meanwhile who was left behind caught up with me and panted her way up.



It was so satisfying to finally make it to the top and it was great to see that Carolen was still chugging up. She had a serious injury 9 months ago and to see her recover, so determined and making the climb was heart warming. We celebrated with a drink from out water bottles and cruised up easily the rest of the way to King's Park where Frank was waiting for us, looking a bit bored.

                     

Well deserved coffees all around at the cafe and I brought along some special Grapefruit Butter Cake which my friends Ray and Caroline baked for me, to celebrate our achievement. It is always special to catch up with good friends over a cycling coffee break like this.

                     

Indeed, the flowers at King's Park were at full bloom and I was worried my Hay Fever would attack with a vengeance. Thank God it behaved itself somewhat and I managed to shoot these lovely pics.







Returning was much harder as we had to battle the headwinds but after climbing Mount Street, headwinds were relatively easy. We stopped to admire the Pelicans basking in the sun before heading home.





Truly one could not ask for a better Spring day to cycle and mount Mount Street, in the company of good mates! Days like these are given to us by our Creator to enjoy and seeing all these beautiful flowers really lifts up the soul. More importantly, they serve as a reminder of God's great love and care for all of us.

                               

If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers - most of which are never ever seen - don't you think he'll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I'm trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.

Matt 28:30-33  The Message

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Mirror mirror on the ball...

                                                  
Image result for bicycle mirrors road bikes
Pic - www.felixwong.com

Age must be catching up on me as I have been nursing a rather stiff neck. I find it difficult to look behind my right shoulder, something that we normally do not do, unless we are cycling in traffic. It is so important to check visually before we swerve left or right on the road to change lanes or cross the road etc especially when there are fast moving cars around.

With my aching neck, every time I turn to check while cycling can be a rather painful affair. I do not know why it took me so long to attach a simple handlebar mirror on my Momentum bicycle but pain can be a very powerful motivator. Just taking the newly mounted mirror for a test ride, this particular one which I got for $5 or so at Changi Village Singapore, proved to be worth every cent and more.

 

It is so reassuring to hear, see and then expect traffic creeping or zooming past you and we can then make the necessary safety adjustments on the road. Being able to keep an eye on your mates who are cycling behind you is also a good thing. If they are out of sight, we can slow down or stop if needed instead of squirreling down the road and then wondering what happened?

Just a quick check on e-Bay will show a myriad of bicycle mirrors, some as cheap as $1.29 so really, there is no excuse of not getting one.

                                 


Some may say that having a mirror on a bicycle is optional, perhaps so uncool even and really being too much on the ball. But I would say having one in traffic is as essential as having good lights at night and perhaps even more so than a helmet.


Monday, September 5, 2016

Getting that cycling "visa" from the wife...


The most prized Visa given to my dear buddy by his loving wife on his birthday!

                             

 
Here's a big THANK YOU to our amazing wives!

                     

                  
Pic fm Rev Dan Lee

For those of  you who are married to a wife that loves to cycle, this blog post is not for you. You guys are so blessed as anytime you want to go for a tour, you just go with her and enjoy yourself. Please do not take this for granted and do spare a thought for us who love to jump on our bike, but we have to get the nod from our better half first. Sometimes, this is easier said than done and can be quite a challenge.

                                             

I try to do 4 major trips a year and I'm very grateful to have a wife that is very understanding and is sympathetic to my passion. However, it is a fine balancing act to make her happy as well as to make my many bicycles happy. These 2 goals seem to be in conflict with each other but it does not need to be that way if you follow closely these "time and tested" principles on how to get your cycling visa. Please don't sue me if these fail...

                            

1.  Make her #1 in your life. Unless she knows she is more important than your bike, you are doomed before you even take the Ortlieb out of storage. The truth is that she did not need to marry you but she did. The least we can do is to cherish her decision and be diligent to make sure each day is the best day of her life. Show her that she is the reason why you work so hard, the reason why you come home, the reason why you love the kids so much. Sounds like a tall order, but if you can do this, half your battle is won. Remember "Happy wife, happy life!"

                                                         


2.  Let her know that touring actually makes you a better husband and father. OK, this one sounds a bit flimsy but truly, it does! Even the best marriages need regular time out and absence does make the heart fonder. Being away from your spouse can be healthy as you do miss each other and a time of reflection and appreciation are important. I come back from tour missing my family dearly and feeling renewed, recharged and refreshed. This also is a good time for her to catch up with her friends. Needless to say, touring is a very physically healthy activity too and approved by physios.

                               

3.  Make her a part of your tour if she is not going. Not all wives are interested, but do so anyway. Involved her in the planning, share with her who will be on the team, get her to meet them if possible. Share with her the map and the destinations you hope to visit. When you are on tour, contact her daily and update her about the happenings of each day. Be interested too in how her day went. It is important she knows that she is in your mind, not out of sight, out of mind, and be thoughtful. If possible, buy her a gift. Yes, we always give the excuse that as cyclists, our pannier are already bursting but a broach, earrings or a scarf do not take much space. O yes, it helps if you know what she likes!

                                

For those whose wife tours with you not because she loves to but because she wants to be supportive, make sure this experience is a really special one for her. Take this opportunity to be that White Knight who carries her panniers, who fixes her bike, who serves her drinks and even throw in a massage every now and then.

                                

I am by no means the authority on this but I hope you find these tips helpful. Would love to start a discussion and hear from you guys and gals as well. We can learn so much from each other. Talk to me.

All the best in getting that cycling visa!

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Her children stand and bless her
Her husband praises her
"There are many virtuous and capable women in the world,
but you surpass them all!"

Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last
But a woman who fears the Lord will be greatly praised.

Proverbs 31: 29,30



Thursday, August 25, 2016

Don't be punctured by punctures






Forest Gump’s famous words about life and how it is like a box of chocolates in some ways, reflect the experience of touring. You truly do not know what or when you are going to get them, especially in the mysterious world of punctures. For unknown reasons, they happened at the most unexpected moments despite our best efforts. Yes, using tires with puncture guard protection do help to an extend and perhaps even using better tubes or the best rim tape. Though it happen 2 years ago, I still cannot believe it when my Schwalbe Supreme, deemed to have the best race guard technology, exploded on me at Khao Lak when it went over some sharp metal.

If we are honest, punctures still belong to the world governed by Murphy and his quirky laws. That being the case, it is so important to take these annoying aspect of cycling with an open and positive spirit. As one of my good cycling buddy shared, these are wonderful opportunities for the team to catch their breath and not get too worked up over it. Over the years I have toured with many different people and most just laugh about it, get it fixed and roll on in every sense of the word. Yet there are those who are somewhat affected by punctures and get upset and riled up when these are mentioned.


If you are in this camp, take heart. Punctures will always attract all sorts of comments, the good and the bad, the kind and maybe the not so kind and thus, it helps not to take them too seriously. In all touring adventures, punctures are part and parcel of the game and in our recent FSTR ride, 3 foldies were affected, one twice. George always the eternal optimist, who had that honour, laughed about it and said “No issue la!”


While I don’t wish for punctures to happen to anyone, the only way to prevent it really is to stop cycling altogether. I choose like George to just go along with it and take these Murphy breaks to offer mate-ship and help. Getting a flat is inevitable and can be fixed easily with a new tube or some glue and a patch. Like battle scars, be proud of them. It tells the world you are actually out there cycling unlike those keyboard cyclist whose only experience with punctures sadly, is virtual and imagined.

Pic Ali Express

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

FSTR Day 7 - A short finale to a very long adventure. Chumphon. 30km

                  




                             


Team Lovethefold on a Pokemon Hunt. TWL Beach. Pic KC

                      

                       
Who's afraid of the big bad slopes? "S" pose perfected!



A steep climb out of the Cape.

Chumphon - Pic KC


                 




The final day was to be the most relaxing day of our entire South Thailand Ride. Our overnight train to Butterworth, Malaysia was scheduled at a very late 1030pm and we had literally the whole day to cycle a mere 30km to the Chumphon train station.

We enjoyed a free and easy morning where we would check out of the hotel only at noon. I ended up having  a leisurely breakfast at the nearby Pirates Terrace Cafe. As I headed out to meet the rest there, it rained cats and dogs. It was the first time for me to deploy my raincoat. Seems the August monsoons are more apparent as we go south of the Gulf.

                             

The English breakfast I ordered was a very generous one stuffed with sausage, bacon, eggs, baked beans, toast, fried tomato but when one had cycled 400km, the concern about eating such a "breakfast for champions" is not an issue. Lovely to eat slowly and enjoy good conversations with the gang.

                            

Just as we were to set off, the rains came down heavily and we took shelter at Clean Wave Resort's huts and had second rounds of hot drinks. Nobody had any motivation to move and it was fun just watching the rain come down and giving everything a fresh wash.

                             

The opportunity finally came for us to move off and we did. However just 200m at the end of the beach strip, it rained heavily again and we took shelter once more. You can say we were off to a very slow start. I noticed the presence of the Thai military and kudos to them for keeping the security of the area and giving us that sense of peace. The bombs that went off in 5 different places throughout Southern Thailand must have scared off many tourists from coming to this beautiful country. But we were undeterred. If anything, they need our help and support. I asked if I could take a selfie with one strapping soldier and he kindly obliged without any hesitation.



To make things interesting, YC suggested we take the scenic route to a particular cape which juts out prominently. We were all game as I knew Chumphon was not the most exciting of towns in Thailand, having been there on our first STR 2 years ago.

                                                      

The ride there was a wet but enjoyable one along the most deserted roads. Not a soul in sight and definitely not a place which would be a prime target for the next bombing. It was good to be back on the saddle and cycling on the wet roads added to the fun.


Pic KC

We passed by a bridge and we stopped to observe a fishing boat firing it's diesel engines and heading off to sea for their day's expedition. While they made their way out, I could not help but reflect about how our own adventure was soon coming to an end.



                   

The 2km turnoff to the cape proved very challenging with steep climbs and descents. The reward for our effort was quite a sight with the sea on the both sides of us. KC, VT & Claudine hiked another 2 mins to reach the very end while I stayed back for good reason. Sand flies and mozzies are naturally attracted to me. As I waited, the rains came down again and we had to use our raincoats again. Here, my Da Brim really came to its element in keeping the peltering rain off my face.

                            
Pic KC

We took a group pic here in the rain and made our way back. Returning seemed much harder and at one stage, all of us had to push up save for YC and KC, the powerhouses. Our ride to Chumphon saw our stomachs rumbling. All the big breakkie we had was burnt off and riding on empty with the low fuel warning light blinking was not a pleasant experience especially in the cold.

                              
Pic KC

At this stage, we were not far from Chumphon and I recognised the 7/11 located on the outskirts of town. We stopped there on our last trip to Ko Tao island 2 years ago. When we finally spotted an eatery, we parked out bikes quickly and attacked the food stalls. Hanging temptingly in the window was crispy roast pork and my choice was obvious.

                    

I was surprised when one of the team members really piled up the plate and actually finished all the food like my good buddy Papa Mike. No names mentioned! But we were all really really famished.

                               
Photo credit withheld intentionally  :)

The Thai Government "celebrated" the finish of our South Thailand Ride in a grand way by holding a wonderful parade for us. There were a marching band all in smart red uniforms, followed by a contingent of cyclists in honour of our 1300km from Langkawi, Malaysia to Bangkok and finally, important Govt officials dressed in white riding on a decorated Hilux ute. 



Seriously, the celebration of the Queen's birthday in Thailand has always coincided with our 3 rides and it is always a joy to see the parades whether in Krabi, Trang, Chiang Mai, Bangkok or here in Chumphon.

We still had 6 hrs before our train came and we decided to hang out in the cafe of A-Te Hotel. No one was there and we had the whole place to ourselves. The staff did not mind us lounging there and the idea was to go to A-Te for a swim and a shower before boarding the sleeper train.


We showed a photo of the receptionist who last served us 3 years ago in the hope that the hotel would let us use its facilities complimentary like the last time. Alas, the Nong was no longer working there and we were required to pay 150B each. This was not bad as it included a drink, a towel, unlimited swim in the pool and shower.

KC and I though decided to have a Thai Traditional Massage priced at 200B nearby which included a cup of hot tea and shower facilities. It was unfortunate that the famous Chinese restaurant we wanted to have dinner was closed and we ended up at a Western style restaurant near the hotel. 

Pic KC

A small drama happened! After dinner, we went back to A-Te Cafe to get our panniers but we were shocked to see the cafe all locked up and in total darkness. A sense of panic set in...  Why did they close it so early at 9pm when it was supposed to be 10pm? YC fortunately went to A-Te reception and through a back door, the staff managed to open the cafe for us to retrieve our stuff. What a blessing indeed.


The ride to the train station was in the rain and the familiar sight of the train station made me very excited. We packed our foldies once again into the bags and waited for the train to arrive. 


When we boarded the train, that officially marked the end of our STR Adventure. We did this 2 years ago on our first STR in taking the sleeper from Chumphon to Butterworth on 14 Aug 2014 and here we are again on 13 Aug 2016 at exactly the same time on exactly the same train at exactly the same price!


As we rolled out southwards and settled into our sleeping bunk, I felt a deep sense of gratitude to VT, Claudine and Sue for joining me on this trip. Special thanks go out to KC, George, Wendy and YC especially for making time to go for ALL 3 STRs. They have truly been an amazing team to spend the week with touring down the Gulf of Thailand. We still have 2 more days in Penang and we look forward to enjoying Lonely Planet's 2014 top choice for foodies in the world.

I was very touched to receive these kind words and feel very humbled.

Claudine - "My special thanks to Alvin! What to say? It's always been a fantastic adventure time and time again. Thank you for bringing VT and I closer, thank you for bring the team together & thank you for introducing God's creations to me."

Sue - "Through my years of travelling across half the planet earth, this is the best trip I ever had in my life! Most of the time on own transport (bicycle), eating street food & staying in absolutely reasonable accommodation is to fun and joyful.

Alvin, thank you for allowing me to join you and this amazing FSTR Team! You awakened me to the importance of prayers, staying friendly all the time and of course, living a practical and thrifty life."

                             
Pic KC

Reflecting back, it all started with a dream to ride from the border of Malaysia to Bangkok, a whole 1300km and to think that this dream has become such a special reality tonight really lifts me up! All glory to our Heavenly Father who was with us every step of the way, including through terrorists bombings.

May I also thank you my readers for following our STR Adventures and sharing our fun and experiences wherever you may be. Dream your dreams and go make them come true! May I wish you 
โชคดี   "Chok Di" or God's blessings in everything you do in the future.