Big Question Marks

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Hell on Wheels

There's nothing like the feeling of freedom a bicycle gives you (at least when you're a non-car-owner). When you're going from no wheels to two wheels, suddenly many more places are within reach, travel times are slashed dramatically, and all the while you're getting some exercise. It was certainly our mode of choice in Toronto, where biking often beat the subway to the destination!

My new wheels at my favourite stretch of beach
We've both been contemplating buying used bikes for a while now, but hadn't gotten around to yet. Last Thursday I'd finally had enough of being limited by my feet and the mysterious ways of the Gold Coast bus system, and hopped on Gumtree (the Aussie equivalent of Craigslist). Within minutes I found a whole bunch of used bikes for under $100. Sweet! There was one bike that looked particularly good (despite being pink and purple and having a "Miss Cool" sticker on it) for just $65.00. I called up the seller and it turned out they had a number of used bikes on offer, and they were only about a half hour's stroll from our apartment. So the next day, I moseyed on down to Broadbeach Waters, wondering what kind of bike theft ring these likely crackheads must have going for them (after all, who is available anytime during a Friday other than students and crackheads?), and soon found myself horribly cursing my own cynicism. Instead, I met a retired couple with a lovely house on one of the canals, who fix up bicycles as a hobby for a little pocket money. They were actually really sweet (though I'm still not entirely sure where they get all the bikes from) and after trying out a few choices, I ended up with a slightly shabby-looking 10-speed that felt great on the road and had these awesome higher handlebars (extra comfortable for those long beachside rides, said the lady). And it was $45. Nothing a little spray paint couldn't fix. Woohoo!

There were too many things to do over the weekend to take my new wheels for a spin, but as soon as Monday rolled around, it was definitely time to explore some (formerly) unreachable Gold Coast corners I'd been itching to check out: The Spit, for one.

The view south from the end of The Spit
The Spit is a long strip of land a little north of us that runs along the ocean and extends beyond the suburbs of Surfers and posh Main Beach (home of Palazzo Versace, Versace's own Gold Coast hotel) and Sea World, and looks pretty uninhabited on our maps. It separates the ocean from "The Broadwater", a wide but calm inlet where many people keep their boats. Word is there's great snorkeling somewhere along The Spit, too. So I hopped on the bike path that stretches along the beachfront and cruised along the shore — waves on my right, beautifully smooth pavement underneath. For those of you used to biking around Toronto, you'd probably understand that the Gold Coast's lack of potholes, curbside junk, and big cracks in the pavement are a real treat! What does suck about biking around the Gold Coast is that bike paths suddenly vanish for no apparent reason, there's a lot of roundabouts, and road bike lanes are a little random as well. Nonetheless, cycling is about taking things as they come. And there was plenty to see on the way — the beachside caravan park we stayed in back in 2008, Donatella's hotel, a fishermen's co-op, a posh marina, Sea World's roller coaster and resort, and tons of birds. Finally, the road ended at a parking lot that was surprisingly full of cars for a Monday afternoon.
People were fishing from boulders along the seaway, and surfers paddled in from the ocean. Two people were having a private surf lesson on the beautiful dune-lined beach, and lots of people bro
ught their dogs along to have a frolic (dogs aren't allowed on most of the beaches here). Looking south, you could see the skyscraper hotels of Surfers faintly off in the distance, but this place felt very natural and far from any of the built-up-ness of where we live. You could just feel that the people who visited this place really appreciated having a slice of nature so close to home. I certainly did.

Cute & chirpy little thing!
There was still a long ride ahead of me, though: next stop on my route was Southport (sort of the business centre of the area), to get the old bike kitted up. Though clearly visible directly across from The Spit, there is only one bridge to Southport that joins the two bits of land — and it's way south of both The Spit and Southport, in Main Beach. The scene along the way back was even prettier with the sun sinking: orange light along The Broadwater, the birds getting more chirpy as sundown approached. About 7.8 kilometres later (yes, I looked it up), I find myself in Bicycle World in Southport, checking out prices of bike baskets (eek! $39 at the cheapest!) and gel seats ($80- ouch!) and oogling the many gorgeous shiny hipster bikes for sale (but if I'm only going to use mine for a year, there's no way I'm shelling out $600!). Guess I'm not a bourgeois cyclist after all, though maybe I'll get a really cool bike the next time I'm sure I'm staying somewhere for a long time. After settling on a fitting — and more affordable — bell decorated with the words "I love my bike" and a water bottle holder, I scooted over to K-Mart's bike section instead at the shopping mall. No luck on the basket, but at least I scored a mediocre gel seat cover for my aching bottom. The last 6 km back to Surfers were definitely the toughest (note to self, next time bring a snack!), but in all, after my 22-kilometre maiden voyage, I can safely say I think my new bike and I going to make a great team!

You can check out my route on my biking Google Map — I made it partly because I was dying of curiosity about how far I'd pedaled. Turned out it was further than I thought! Guess maybe I should invest in one of those tripometers, too. -D.

View Dayle's Biking Adventures in a larger map

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