Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Large Sheep Testicles and the coffee/bike/produce store

April 16th

Large sheep Testicles and the coffee/bike/produce store.

It was foggy on my way into Goulburn, and I was exceedingly pleased to find a large bakery with a large fire going in the back. I had to double check my flight tickets for back home and knew that I would be waiting in Goulburn till at least nine or ten that morning as the internet café/ library opened. I ordered breakfast and casually read the paper as the fire snapped and cracked to my great satisfaction. Goulburn is known for its Merino wool production, and if you don't believe them you can take it up with the two story concrete sheep that lords over the exit next to the bakery. I imagine this anatomically correct (its huge) beast is Goulburn's protection when Godzilla comes to town.

For some reason I really had not doubted Ray's statement yesterday when he said that I would see him in Goulburn. Thus I was only slightly surprised to see him waving in much the same frantic way on Goulburn's main street as he had on the highway. I pulled up on the sidewalk, and Ray commenced a talking.

"See, I thought I would run into you again. Where did you end up sleeping?"
"A few miles out of town on the side of the road." I had no problem admitting this after the fact.
"You’re keen, aren’t you? Have you had your coffee yet? I’m heading to bike store. It’s just down the street and to the left; it has the best coffee in town."
I had actually just come from the information center and was heading there anyway after finding out the Internet café did not open till 11. My thread-bare bike gloves had committed hari kari, and I was in need of a new pair. I told Ray.
"If I had a pair in the back of the car, I would give them to you." He paused. "If you head to the bike store, I’ll see if I can get you a discount. See you there."

Who was I to argue with that offer? I had wanted to chat more with my new interesting friend, but he had to make a phone call, and I rode the two blocks to the 'Green Grocer Café & Cyclery.' The sign was black with thin sea green letters. It was quite a name for the place that, had I lived in Goulburn, would be my favorite 9am to 5pm haunt. It's hard to beat a combination of a café (with all the extra bakery trimmings) arranged around a large isle of fresh fruit, fresh roses by the front door, the day's paper neatly stacked next to them and a well stocked cycle shop right in the back. Like many combinations, you might think this is asking too much of a store, yet nothing about the Green Grocer Café felt unduly cluttered or incongruent. Despite having had two cups at the large sheep genitalia bakery earlier that morning, I would have had to sample this store's beans even without Ray's recommendation.

I was looking over the gloves and settled on a $20 pair of Fox gloves. My previous $8 pair had lasted a long time, and it seems that no matter how much I spend on cycle gloves, they all last the same amount of miles. Ray had walked in by this point and approved of my choice.

"This man just biked from Perth, give him a discount." Ray said to the salt-and-pepper athletic looking man behind the counter.
"How’s $15?" he replied.

I wasn't arguing. Ray seemed like a wheeler-dealer anyway and clearly quite familiar with the man behind the counter. The man behind the counter was one of the best cyclists in the area, and as Ray so politely put it, had been working on bikes for "300 years." It was about 9:45 and this gentleman had already put on 80km from his house to work today, and I felt glad I did not have to race the guy when Ray started comparing the kind of shape we were both in. Not that I have any doubt in my ability to go, I just felt that for this trip at least, I was really wasn’t a speedy kinda guy. The chitchat went back and forth as it does, and more of Ray's life bubbled to the surface. He was originally English. Moved to the US to become and engineer. When he arrived, he picked the Boston Red Socks as his team as they were the closest team geographically to England. He had been married and drafted, went to Vietnam in an American uniform, and had made his way to Australia for some R and R. Somewhere along the way he had been married three times, had one American son and two aussie daughters. Ray ask me if I had seen the expiration date on the power bars. I replied I had not.

"Not to worry, my wife bikes and I feed them to her. She hasn't died yet."
I laughed. Genuinely entertained but a little disturbed. I asked him to join me for coffee. He declined the offer for coffee, but said he would join me directly.
My eyes and gut were bemoaning the lack of fresh fruit in my diet, and I took advantage of the café's eclectic nature and, along with my Long Black (Americano), purchased 2 bananas, 2 pears, and 3 satsumas. I took it outside, pulled out my journal and began to put down my experience with the Curious Mr. English.
It was not long before he joined me, and in his restless fashion told me he could not stay long, but that he had one… no two questions to ask of me.

Question 1. If I could have breakfast with anyone in the world, who would it be and why?
I chose Theodore Roosevelt. He solidified his place as my favorite president when, as a young boy, I found out that myself and 'Teddy Rose's Belt" shared an interest in bears, of which at the time, I had a blue bear (whose name just happened to be "Teddy") that I was rather attached to. As I grew up and learned more about the man, my general interest in him increased. He was a jack of all trades with an interest in everything. This was combined with the work ethic, intellect and means to become a huge force and presence at home and abroad. He was a capitalist to be sure, but was the driving force behind the creation of National Parks to protect the intrinsic value of our America’s natural wonders. Later in life, upon reading Upton Sinclair’s "The Jungle" that described the appalling conditions of immigrants and its pro-socialism slant (TR was passionately anti-socialist), he created the FDA to try to find some solutions to the food quality problem in order to keep socialism at bay. I don't want to give away any of my politics. However, what fascinates me most was this man’s energy and willingness to take up the challenge. That, in a nutshell, is why I would love to have brekki with TR.

Question 2. If I could relive any day of the trip what would it be?
I realized once I answered this that it was in keeping with the previous question. I chose the day/ night Anthony and I rode to Adelaide. It was the hardest day, and I felt I did not pull as much of the weight as I should have. I have had some amazing days on this trip; why would I want to try and replace already amazing memories. I think I would have a better chance at reliving and redoing the most terrible day because, while it may be hard, it would also need the least to become an overall improvement of the situation.

Thus ended my interesting meeting with the Curious Mr. English.

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