Day 123: Lavington, NSW - Four Legs on the Slow Road - CycleBlaze

December 27, 2014

Day 123: Lavington, NSW

We haven't had a day off not spent working on a farm, moving from one hostel to another, staying with a host, or deconstructing the bikes and packing up the gear, since we holed up in a dumpy little cabin in the tourist trap of Te Anau on the South Island of New Zealand. That was almost six weeks ago. It means that today becomes a day to go back and forth between writing, working, making sure the bikes are still in good shape, and doing nothing at all.

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Mike AylingHey Jeff

Mary and I stayed here in May 2018!

Mike
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3 months ago

When we venture out into the strange suburb that surrounds us, we notice a sign at a crosswalk that tells people to stop, because cars have the right of way, always. It's the kind of ridiculous, cars-are-the-most-important-thing law that's so offensive it causes us to love Australia a little less. We have the same feelings about whoever decided it would be a good idea to add shopping carts to the chaotic mix of people and kiosks and potted plants that already turn a lap around the mall into an experience not unlike the final obstacle course on the TV show American Gladiators.

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In the evening I take a walk around the neighborhood. It's a depressing mix of KFC and McDonalds fast food joints, a discount mattress store, a place that sells printers and toner, a pet store, a carpet and vinyl flooring outlet, a shop specializing in exhaust pipes, a shop specializing in fishing equipment, a car wash, and a dozen empty lots where new car dealerships and home improvement superstores will one day stand. With nothing intriguing or amusing to distract me, for the first time on this trip I start to feel homesick in a serious way. I've now been away from Seattle for more than three months, which I've never done before. I miss my dad, I miss my dog, I'm bummed I had to miss Christmas with my family, and it makes me sad to realize that I won't be around when my closest friend, who I've known since elementary school, welcomes his first child into the world in February. I think about how much I loved Portland, and all of the places I'd like to go when we're back there for a week in March.

Lavington captured in a single image.
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There are so many stories of people who set out on grand global adventures, who go for years at a time without seeing their families. Reading all of those stories somehow made me think that the excitement and interest of life on the road would make it easier to set aside thoughts of home, that the magic of travel would be able to overcome the ways in which I'd miss the comfort of the people I know and love. But even though that lifestyle has turned out to be as great as I hoped it would, I can now confirm with certainty that the pull of home is as strong as it's ever been. While there's no part of me that wants to tap the brakes on traveling, I now understand in a profound way how I have so many wonderful things to come home to, and how fortunate I am for that to be true.

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The most fascinating part about the holiday park is not the kids playing Marco Polo in the pool, nor the fifty-year-old men in speedos who sit around tanning themselves at the same time. It's the guy who never leaves the enclosed area that holds the park's common kitchen and TV-watching area. On the surface he looks like a typical middle-aged dad, with the receding hair line, the oversized t-shirt with the logo of some Hawaiian resort spread across the chest, and shorts that are about an inch shorter than they need to be. But although we know his family is knocking around somewhere in the park, whatever interesting or boring times they're having happen without him.

He's there when we come downstairs at 9:00 in the morning to use the showers, and he's there when we make lunch around noon. He's there when we get on the bikes and head over to a nearby shop to get Kristen's brake and derailleur cables adjusted, and he's there when we get back. He's there when we go to the grocery store in the evening, and there when we get back from that too. He's there at 10:00 p.m., with darkness all around, when I walk outside to bring the bikes inside for the night. I can even hear him down there when I finally shut down my computer half an hour past midnight, with the TV droning on despite the fact it should have stopped working hours ago because of intense overheating issues. Sometimes he's eating, sometimes he's drinking a beer, sometimes he's with another guy who seems to be his buddy, but always he's watching a documentary about global warming on MSNBC, a cricket game, or one of those shows about semi-interesting topics like how bridges are affected by earthquakes or how the airport in Hong Kong was built on a man-made island.

It's getting very American.
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At first it's kind of a joke that he's there. Then it starts to feel weird. But by the end of the day the feeling has evolved into one of unquestioned sadness. We can't help but wonder what would lead a person to take their family on vacation, only to spend no more time with them than what's required to sleep in the same room at night. It also makes us wonder how his wife feels, if his kids notice, and what kind of explaining and excuse-making she must have to go through if they do. We can't understand what it must be like to feel that way about the people you're meant to be closest to, and we hope we never do.

Today's ride: 2 miles (3 km)
Total: 3,723 miles (5,992 km)

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