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Another family of bicycle travellers

Recently, at the talk we gave at the Local Lives, Global Matters conference in Castlemaine, a woman approached us. We met Krista while we were cycling through Orbost at the end of last year. She and her family were planning a cycle touring expedition in France.

We often meet families who have travelled all the way to Europe where they perceive the roads are safer for, and the drivers kinder to, families on bikes. But after sharing with Krista a little of our experience, she and her partner Sam and their two youngsters, Daisy (two and a half) and Banjo (four), decided to tour a little closer to home.
As bicycle advocates wanting to spread the word of families on bikes, we invited Krista to be a guest blogger, to share her insights and anecdotes of her family’s three month bike-camping adventure from April to June this year, from Goulburn to Urungu. Over to you, Krista Patterson-Majoor:

In the mornings we busy ourselves making breakfast, stuffing sleeping bags, and packing our belongings until the sun reaches us. More often than not, we seek the sun. One morning we cross a frost covered oval to bask in the warm glow. We make a bench seat from old fence rails and we sit silently, worshipping the sun.

We wear multiple layers while riding. Gentle uphill slopes are a blessing as they help us keep warm. Steep descents are torturous – the icy winds and misty rain collide with clenched fingers and squinting faces. There comes a moment when all feeling is lost. An unexpected warmth rushes through our rigid fingers. It’s a feeling that brings memories of early morning newspaper delivery runs, another character building experience involving bikes.

In the evenings, we rely on each others body warmth to stay cosy. Daisy and Sam on the edges, Krista and Banjo in the middle. Three mats, three sleeping bags zipped together as one. Until Daisy stabs a mat with a tent peg. Fortunately it is repairable. On another occasion a Banjo and Daisy game splits a seam in a down sleeping bag. A cloud of feathers fills the tent. White fluff rushes up noses and into open mouths, causing hysterical laughter until we discover the source. On cold nights every single feather is important!

Some days we wake up and we don’t feel like riding, or packing the tent, or loading the bikes again. On days like these, something small often makes us realise how lucky we are to be where we are; a patch of sunshine, a quiet stretch of road, a Daisy song from the trailer, or perhaps another hour long Banjo story from the back of the bike. There’s also something bigger; the growing belief that cycling offers a unique opportunity to journey together as a family. 

No sooner than one journey ends, thoughts of others begin to grow. We’re deeply impressed and inspired by the way in which Banjo and Daisy have embraced this journey, and grown as a result of it. As a friend from home pointed out ‘… they don’t know they’re little, and are supposed to be playing in the sandpit’. Although they may be little, they have played a big part. We think they make wonderful companions. We are thankful for having had this opportunity to spend so much time with them.

Thank you Krista, Sam, Daisy and Banjo for sharing your story. Happy riding! We hope lots more families follow in your wheel-paths. xx

Gift economy

We said goodbye to the Goulburn River and the Murchison caravan park, home to a community of colourful permanent residents – Desley, Brian, Keith and Di – and headed east.

It was an unexpectedly difficult ride due to the lack of shade and a headwind for much of the forty-three kilometres to Violet Town. The sun baked us on this flat and straight stretch of road where annual grasses and fences dominated. Little stood out apart from the occassional creek and composition of wild flowers.

We arrived in Violet Town hot and exhausted, we found some shade to recuperate under and some free municiple power to recharge.

According to Sam from Ballarat e-bikes, “each lithium ion battery holds 0.333 kilowatt hours. Assuming someone is paying 27 cents per kilowatt hour, and the charger is 90% efficient, it’s about ten cents per charge per battery.” While the bikes recharge we have been collecting litter in the parks, reserves and sports grounds that we poach the power from.

We figure that the 20 cents of free energy we take from each town to assist our movement equates to about one bag of collected rubbish. When people ask us about our art practice we say we’re quite well-known for waste collecting. We also pick up rubbish and pull up weeds in exchange for a free camping ground.

This morning we woke to a rich chorus of birdsong at our camp along the Honeysuckle Creek. A morning’s walk enabled a feast of free food, including these deliciously sweet Nagami kumquats (Citrus japonica spp.)

and these luciously ripe loquats (Eriobotrya japonica).

Zero had earlier just missed out on hunting down a buck hare along the creek, so when we stopped for a cup of tea in the main drag we asked the cafe if they had any meat scraps for him. Success!

We’ve discovered three other things while being in friendly Violet Town. The first is the potential food supply in the gardens of abandoned houses, something to note as we move from town to town.

The second is walnut shell mulch. The region is a walnut growing climate, at least for now, and what a great way to use the waste product of this food.

The third is that Violet town has a range of publicly-accessible, intentionally-planted fruit trees and herbs, including figs, plums, rosemary, lemongrass, sage and olives,

which compliment the spontaneous roadside fruit growing here including cherry plums, pears, apples and walnuts.