In just over a week I leave for Australia and New Zealand. This trip is going to have a few different elements to it. I’m traveling for the sake of travel, on the one hand, but I’ve also got some work lined up that is going to occupy some of the time I’m there. The work, though, sounds almost as fun as the exploration of these new places.
All said, I’ll be out of town for about six weeks, from 17 September through 3 November. That’s a good, long trip, and if you’re interested, I’ll give you an overview of what’s happening, a quick run-down.
— September 19 - 21 I’ll be in Sydney with Travel Portland helping them to give away a couple of bikes; one of my bikes and a Breadwinner. If you’re interested in knowing more about it (and I’d say if you’re anywhere Sydney or Auckland during this time, you ought to check it out), here’s all the information you'll need.
— September 22 - October 3 I’ll be in Auckland, New Zealand. The first 4 nights of this I’ll be helping give away another 2 bikes, (1 Ahearne, 1 Breadwinner). Then I have a week to explore in and around Auckland, see the sights, meet some people, hopefully ride my bicycle (yes, I’m bringing a bicycle that I will be leaving in Perth, but that’s a story I’ll get into in a moment).
— 4 October - 2 November I’ll be in and around Fremantle and Perth on the west coast of Australia. During this time I’ll be the first “Artist in Residence” at the Surreal Foundry & Cycleworks. Jesse Searls is an aspiring bicycle frame builder and the founder of the Foundry. He is in the process of finishing the construction of his workshop as I write this. We’ve spent the past several months discussing bike making equipment, tools and jigs, etc. It sounds like he has bought a lot of the equipment needed, and so, for much of the month of October we’re planning to work together to get his workshop up and running, and to build a bicycle frame or two together. I believe we’ll be going at a fairly relaxed pace, so there should be plenty of extra time for me to explore, cycle, read & write, swim & surf, and generally get out and about and see that part of the world. Maggie will be coming for the second half of October, so she and I will be exploring as well.
I can’t say enough about how excited I’m becoming for this trip. Jesse first contacted me in March 2014, asking about a bike I had advertised for sale on my website. Yes, I told him, it’s still for sale. He was considering buying it for his son, who plans to ride from coast to coast across Australia following the most southerly roads along the Great Australian Bight. Jesse and I exchanged several emails, and he told me his story, which I found to be very interesting. Jesse is a recently retired physicist who had, quite a number of years ago, helped invent technology which enabled new capacity in digital networks and improved the sensitivities of radar systems. It was a significant enough improvement that he started a company to produce the technology, and his company was eventually bought by an international contractor. For the next bundle of years Jesse worked for his company as they did international sales, and as he explained it, the burden and stress of this work was incredible.
Now that he’s stepped away from the company, he realized that some of his most personally satisfying moments were when he was able to take concepts and designs that were theoretical and to actually fabricate them — to make them into something physical. Jesse’s love of bicycles started in 1973 when he bought a Frejus racing bike to use as his primary mode of transport. Since then he has had a yearning to learn how to build them. Transforming an idea into a “thing” by using the hands to fabricate it, then getting to test it and use it, or watch someone else do so and hopefully see a smile peel open their face — there is a great deal of joy to be found here. And this is where I come in. Having built a lot of bikes and having taught a lot of people how to build their own bikes, Jesse thought I might be a good person to hang out with for a while. Lucky for me.
In all of this, I do feel very lucky. Jesse wants the bike I had for sale, and I’m going to bring it over with me. We’re going to work together to set up his workshop, and then I’m going to help him use the equipment to learn to construct his own bicycle frames. Based on our interactions through email I think both Jesse and I are pretty mellow individuals, and I think we’re going to get along just fine. I’m really very excited to meet him in person and to see the workshop he’s constructed. What a dream come true in itself — to be able to consider every last detail of a workshop and build it from the ground up. And then to have the dream, part II, where you get to fill the workshop with great tools, and then part III, actually using them to make things. As I said, I feel really fortunate to play some part in this.
I am also looking forward to the opportunity to see some of the beaches and treks in southwestern Australia. Apparently, it has some of the best surf beaches in the world, big trees, and a broad range of vineyards and gourmet food producers. There's also the Munda Biddi Trail (which means "path through the forest" in the Noongar Aboriginal language), which is a 1000 kilometer off road cycling path. If I'm lucky I'll get to spend some time exploring this as well.
While I’m away I’ll have my computer, and plan to post photos and words about what’s happening. Please check back if you’re interested in hearing about the place, the trip, the progress, the work, the experience.