Day 187: Fremantle, WA & North Beach, WA - Four Legs on the Slow Road - CycleBlaze

March 1, 2015

Day 187: Fremantle, WA & North Beach, WA

Over tea and fruit bread we start pulling all of the things out of our panniers that we plan to toss before leaving Perth and heading back to America. The pile is huge: the shirts we've each worn most every day while riding that now stink like death, tire tubes with hairline punctures we couldn't patch, eight old water bottles, my nasty helmet, sweat rags stained dark brown, ripped plastic bags, torn-apart cycling shoes, shredded wool socks, a pair of thin towels that hardly soak up water, an armload full of other clothes, and all of the leftover food we got tired of eating.

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Then it's on to tearing down the bikes, which haven't been washed or even dusted since we rolled away from the backpackers in Sydney in the middle of December. But because America could care less about biosecurity, unlike when we boxed the bikes for New Zealand and Australia there's no need to clean the tires and chains and fenders and everything else with toothbrush and a foot-tall stack of rags. Within a couple of hours the job is done and the number of logistical issues we have left to handle before leaving the country in less than two days reaches zero.

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It's a perfect summer morning, and Perth's typical sea breeze hasn't yet picked up for the day, so together with Ric and Anna we head off to the beach. We lay back on bright-colored beach towels spread over pale gray sand and look out on five-year-olds burying themselves, teenagers jumping off a yellow metal pontoon anchored a few hundred feet offshore, and old men bobbing in the shallows with only their balding heads visible. At the center of it all are a pair of Americans with ridiculous tan lines who feel happy and relaxed and content, knowing that for the first time in longer than they can remember there's nothing in particular they need to do.

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Later we walk around Fremantle, which all of the locals call Freo, because Australians never miss a chance to turn a normal name into slang. We head through the heart of town, including a walk down the street that forty years ago was a place you didn't go to at night unless you were looking for a fight, but that's now known as Cappuccino Row. We catch a look at the harbor, grab a few beers and a cider from a brewery, and savor what feels like some day-long victory lap.

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Awesome.
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In the early evening, Ric drives us up to the northern suburbs of Perth, where we unload our boxed bikes and armloads of panniers into the garage of a guy named Victor Calvo. As with Ric, Victor reached out to us through this journal several weeks ago and offered us a place to stay, so we've been looking forward to meeting him for awhile. As he introduces us to his family, I find myself unable to listen to him speak without feeling distracted. Victor grew up in America, but even though he's lived in New Zealand and Australia since the 1970s, he sounds no different than if he had arrived from San Francisco just last week. After five months on the other side of the world having heard no American voices on a daily basis except for Kristen's, it's an accent that now seems foreign.

Also awesome.
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Over homemade pizzas and Australian beer and the smallest bit of salad that's still socially acceptable to eat, we sit down with Victor, his wife Ruth, and his daughter Tia. They're an adventurous, interesting, well-spoken lot, with Victor having traveled the world throughout his life, Ruth growing up in a remote bush community of about thirty-nine people a hundred miles or so north of Norseman, and the two of them raising their daughters in between the South Island of New Zealand and Western Australia. Tia is a skilled surfer who has already seen more of the world than we probably ever will, has lived in Peru long term, and hopes to move to the Los Angeles area some time soon. That we've traveled as far and wide by bicycles as we have comes as no great surprise to any of them.

When they ask if we've seen any snakes during our time in Australia, we tell them that no, we haven't. We've heard one or two snakes rustling in the bushes, but the only ones we've come across have been flat in the middle of the road, run over by passing cars. This comes as a shock to everyone but us, because it turns out that poisonous snakes are such a common thing in this country that every school-aged kid knows the proper technique for dealing with a snakebite. It's as common as learning multiplication tables or the Pledge of Allegiance would be in America. We also learn that the Australian beers we've come to love are in fact on par with American brands like Budweiser or Coors Light or Keystone. They're what college students and tradesmen and country people drink when they want to get hammered, which is to say that they're cheap and watered down and definitely low brow. We consider this for a moment, but then decide that we will continue to love them all the same.

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With the waist of my shorts already stretching after just one day off of riding because I continue to eat like a complete fool, we walk down the block to the beach, past the hillside bushes that everyone assures us have poisonous snakes hanging out in them, and then feel the sand slip between our toes as the waves crash into shore beneath the pale light of a moon half obscured by clouds. It's a wonderful end to a wonderful day, a day full of fellow cycle-tourists and their families from start to finish. That these two things exist together is no coincidence.

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