Monday, March 31, 2014

A Little White Lie Never Hurts Anyone…….

“So you’re Delta, what level Delta?” The man at the bag drop-off asked me as I put my Buxum bike box on the belt.

I'm getting to be a pro at dismounting the bike and building it up again.

I was totally caught off guard, but I needed to think fast.  Here I had jotted down my American Airlines Frequent Flyer number on my hand thinking Virgin Australia was part of their flying allegiance and I would need my number to get credit for my miles.  But Virgin was Delta and I had already entered my Skymile number when I made the reservation online.

What level was I?  What was Delta’s system anyway,….Gold, silver, and bronze, or was it the premium, elite, medallion sort of titles.  I couldn’t remember.  All I knew is that I’ve never had a high ranking status in any airline mileage program, except for with United, the year I flew back and forth between Spain and the states about 5 times the same year.  But, if I said I was “gold,” status, I would get both bags checked for free, even the bike!  Quickly I answered “gold”, I didn’t say it with much confidence obviously because the attendant behind the counter quickly responded, “Are you sure you’re gold?”  So this time I was much more confident and said “Yes,…I get my bags checked for free, right?”  “Yeah,” he answered, without thinking twice. To look like I really knew what I was talking about I said, “So do you have a lounge here?”  “Yep, right before the security check-in!” he replied once again. With a big smile on my face I walked my bike in it’s nice shiny Buxum bike box case over to the oversize luggage check-in belt and was on my way.

Luggage, which cost me 60 dollars each to check in on the last flight I made with Virgin Australia, went free this time! Unfortunately, I had purchased my ticket on Priceline rather than their homepage directly and I didn’t read the disclaimer that the luggage wasn’t included in that really low fare.  Therefore, I got slapped with a hefty extra luggage fee when I got to the baggage drop-off counter in Wellington, when I flew into Melbourne the first time. Just to remind you, 120 dollars is about a week’s budget on my trip. This time at the airport, I was prepared to suck up the cost.  I had There was no one in line at the domestic counter at the Virgin Australia check-in desk and I had my choice of being attended by a man  or a woman attendant.  I chose the man, following the theory that has proven to be true down under….that these Aussie men are genuine gentlemen and have take extra good care of me!  Mr. Gogos, whose name I quickly tried to pick-up after he checked the bags through as a Delta Gold Skymile customer had just made me one ecstatic frequent flyer.  It never occurred to me to tell a little white lie, but he’d set me up perfectly.  Was it really going to hurt anyone? After all, it is Qantas that is struggling here in Australia, not Virgin!  I knew I was going to have a good trip over to Tasmania after my check-in experience at the airport.  

Mikey, Melissa, Marcos, and Jamie at Lupino in Melbourne
The last time I saw Marcos the chef, he was trying to warm up after a brutally cold climb in the Pyrenees

Actually, my streak of good luck all started before I arrived at the Melbourne airport.   Earlier that day, I found out I had been accepted into the 2014 New York City Marathon on November 2nd. It had been a dream of mine since I qualified a few years back in Paris and it was also the perfect way to finish off my trip and see my friends and family out east in the States.  Just after that news, a Thomson Bike Tour client had taken me to a neat old cafe in North Melbourne and then dropped me off at the airport, making the logistics of traveling with a bike much easier.  And the night before that, I had the opportunity to meet up with some other Thomson Bike Tour clients, who were on the same trip as Stu and Spud who I'd also managed to see in Australia.  Marcos was an Italian Aussie who had told me all about his restaurant Lupino in Melbourne and I finally got to eat there 2 years later with Mikey and Jamie, clients from the same group as well!

Jesse, Nerida, and two of their boys with a Tapas dinner awaiting. I love when my hosts let me take over their kitchen 
By the time I arrived in Hobart that evening, I was already on cloud nine!  And the good times continued to roll as I met a high school friend, Jesse Warburg, who I hadn’t seen for a good 15 years.  Since then, he’d married an Australian, Nerida, settled down in Hobart, and they'd just just had his third child.  His kids are the age of my sister's children, so I felt quite comfortable and familiar around them. His life and mine was radically different from the last time we’d seen each other, but it seemed as though we’d never lost contact.  Again, having a wonderful guide in a city makes a huge difference, and I once again found myself saying, “I could easily live here!”  Jesse and Nerida live with their 3 boys about 2,5 kilometers from the city center.  I hesitate to say city because although Hobart is a capital city, there are only about 200,000 inhabitants. Life in Hobart is peaceful!  There is a great public transportation system and cycle paths all throughout town.  The city is clean and lively, has a farmers market on the weekend, and rush hour traffic is pretty much non-existent.  They ride their bikes everywhere around town, including to school in the morning. In fact, they have an electric bike because they live a few kilometers up Mt. Wellington, the largest peak in the area.  From the front windows of their house you can see heaps of cyclists climbing and descending the mountain, out for a good ride.  If I lived here, I’d be doing that ride a handful of times a week!  From what I've seen so far, I don't think I'll have many flat stretches of road in Tasmania.....who told me this country was flat?!?

The Warburgs are a cycling family
In my two days here we’ve been to the farmer’s market, explored downtown, made an attempt to climb Mt. Wellington, which isn’t easy with a kid bike trailer on the back of a bike, even if it is an electric bike!  I visited Eamon’s primary school, their eldest son’s school, and gotten some useful riding information from Thomson Bike Tour clients who are natives to the area.  You could argue that Karma would eventually catch-up with me for lying, but it already did day 2 in Hobart.  While cycling with Jesse and the boys, one lost control on their bike and I went tumbling over them with my camera in my hand and it broke completely.  Luckily, I had a complete warranty, and the following day I had a new camera, the newer model in fact, in my hand.  Let's hope that was my only payback for the little white lie.

Eamon with his special guest Ms. Melissa at South Hobart Primary School

Down the road from the Warburg's, a famous brewery...can't wait for my post-ride beers
Tomorrow I set off on my tour of Tas, heading west first through the desolate and remote wilderness. I’ve got a week of riding before I make it up north to a more populated area.  I cycle across the north and then down the east coast and back into Hobart towards the end of the month.  Tasmania was the one Australian destination I wanted to cycle.  In fact, at one point in my route planning, it was the only place I was going to stop in this enormous continent.  Obviously those plans changed, and as I’ve stated before, without even stepping foot on Tasmania, I already love this vast and diverse country.  I have high expectations for Tasmania, and I know I won’t be disappointed, although my legs might get tired from all the climbing.  So here I go, let the good times roll!

The view from Mt. Wellington, Hobart and the bay

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