Sports Mad Melbourne

Melbourne Open

I enjoyed my recent visit to Melbourne. I was able to spend a lot of time with locals and what I suspected was confirmed by my tour guide Daryl–Melbourne is sports mad. In a country whose main religion is sport, this is the mecca or the Jerusalem.

They have the premier horse race of the year: the Melbourne Cup. They invented Australian Rules Football and started the national league. They also host the Australian Open tennis tournament. It is as if New York City, Dallas and Kentucky were all rolled into one.

The 2016 tennis tournament began just as I arrived and it concluded last night. There was a big upset. Serena Williams rolled over everyone she played except one. Angelique Kerber played superbly and never lost her courage. Good on her! Serena was very gracious in defeat.

Just a funny story or two to illustrate how sports influence Aussies. We were traveling on the Great Ocean Road and we kept spotting these big black and white birds. Daryl, our tour guide, told us they are magpies. Then he added, “I hate magpies.” I asked why (since I love Sacramento’s yellow-billed magpies). He explained that the Collingwood football team mascot is the magpies and that the fans from Collingwood (a neighborhood in Melbourne) are “quite feral.”

Melbourne has 11 teams just in their city alone and regularly fill the stadiums. But then they only charge about $45 a ticket. The last time I heard of someone going to a San Francisco 49ers football game the seats were $250 each.

Daryl also told us the story behind the saying “Buckley’s chance.” It implies that the odds are long. William Buckley was a convict who unknowingly bought some stolen goods in England for which he was tried and sentenced to deportation to a new penal colony in Melbourne. The land was inhospitable and the penal colony was not surviving. The leader in charge decided to move everyone to what we now know is Tasmania, but he did not explain this to any of the convicts. So Buckley thought he was being shipped back to England. He was not having any of that, so he and two other men jumped overboard and swam ashore. The jailors decided not to go after them since they were unlikely to survive.

The three men made it ashore and scrabbled around trying to find enough to eat for a few weeks. The two other men decided to set off for Sydney and were never heard of again. Buckley was a tall man–6’4″ and he must of been strapping. He continued to make a go of it on his own. Some time later he met his first aboriginal people. They had just lost their elder who was also a really tall man. So at first they thought Buckley, with his very pale skin, was his spirit. It was all sorted eventually and they taught Buckley to survive. I cannot remember now how well he eventually did, just that he lived long enough to be immortalized with the slang, “You don’t have a Buckley’s chance..”

Some might have said that Angelique Kerber did not have a Buckley’s chance. But now you know the story and you know that Buckley’s luck was both bad and good. And that like Buckley, Kerber made the most of her luck and came out on top.

 

Must See: Tour Down Under

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City of Adelaide goes all out to welcome UCI cycling event Santos Tour Down Under and its fans.

When I was following the Tour de France in 2014, the Aussies I met encouraged me to come down for the Tour Down Under. The City of Adelaide really commits to making the Tour Down Under a success. Victoria Square is completely dedicated to the 6 stage race with a festival open to the public (free access) all week. It is right on the streetcar line and just across the street from the Adelaide Hilton, headquarters for the Tour Down Under race management, all of the cycling teams, and many fans.

Signing autographs at BMC booth.

Cadel Evans, Tour de France champion, now retired, is Australia’s most successful cyclist and a huge favorite with fans.

While the race starts and stops all over South Australia, it returns every night to the Victoria Square to turn over bikes to mechanics set up in a main tent. Thus there is a routine for cyclists and fans that makes the race easier to watch (and probably to ride).

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Free haircuts for gents in the Village by one of the sponsors. I do not understand: caffeine shampoo by Alpecin.

There is Willunga Hill, but South Australia does not have Alps or big mountains, so the race favors sprinters. It is also a great race for tuning up your legs and fitness as teams enter the new season after 2 months “off”.

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Jens Voigt signing autographs and posing for photos with fans at the Trek booth.

This is a UCI sponsored event so it draws the main European teams, but a mixed bag of headliner riders and domestiques. Just as the Tour of California attracts all of the American riders, this race draws all of the Australian cyclists.

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View the race from Victoria Square on the big screens.

When I arrived on Thursday, Stage 3 was taking place outside of town. I had to wait to check in so I stowed my bags and headed downtown to find a bookstore. I got distracted and returned to the hotel just in time to watch Simon Gerrans (Orica Greenedge) nip Rohan Dennis (BMC) at the finish line. The bonus points extended Gerran’s lead. He was heading towards his 4th win (nonconsecutive).

I met up with my Tour de France friend from Perth for dinner. He and his cycling club spent the week cycling out to the race course. They were having an absolute ball riding, watching the race and having a few beers. They were not the only bike club, every day the festival area and the race course were awash in Aussie cycling clubs, including Greg’s club the Eaton Dogs from Bunbury, Western Australia.

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Cyclists ride to the start of Stage 6. The final stage is 20 circuits through the Adelaides CBD.

The next day I spent about 18 hours going to Kangaroo Island for a wildlife safari. Fortunately I caught the tail end of the highlight television broadcast. Simon Gerrans won his second stage win and solidified his lead.

I was tuckered out from the big day out on Kangaroo Island and thought I would just watch the race and call it a day. So I bought a wood-oven pizza in the village and found a seat to watch the last hour of the Queen Stage on the big screen. Tassie rider Richie Porte (BMC) won the biggest climbing stage for the third straight year. He wrote his name on Willunga Hill–no one could beat him, not even the Columbian climber Sergio Luis Henao winner of the King of the Mountain jersey, could catch him.

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My candidate for a new logo!

The final day was a 20 lap circuit through the central business district. Because it was only 90 km it started at 1:30 instead of 11ish. This allowed me to relax and enjoy some time to read before slathering on the sunscreen and heading out. I checked out the course on King William Street just as the peloton was headed to the start. I realized that while it would be thrilling to find a shady spot on the street, I would only be able to see them go by 20 times and I would not see the finish. I opted for the village again at Victoria Square. The big screen projection screens allowed me to watch the televised version of the race.

Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen announce the race with assists from Robbie McEwan and Jens Voigt. On Australian television they show about 10 minutes of racing and then 10 minutes of advertising. It is a bit frustrating. Still, it was great to see the entire race, including the sprint finish with Caleb Ewan (Orica) beating Mark Renshaw (Dimension Data) by a comfortable margin.

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Lots of people rode their bikes to watch the race. Cycling clubs from around Australia made this a club outing for the entire week.

The overall race was won by Simon Gerrans, though this was never in danger. Team Orica controlled the race and Richie Porte, who moved into second place with his win on Willunga Hill, was quoted as saying, “I cannot sprint out of sight on a dark night.”

Adelaide is a smaller city and very walkable. I loved staying at the Hilton, but there are lots of hotels to choose from at different price points. The CBD is a $20 cab ride from the airport. Buy bus tickets to get out to the racecourse, or ride your bike. Or focus on downtown Adelaide like I did and enjoy the village and the rest of the city. There are VIP tickets for better viewing spots with grandstand seating and better access to alcohol. One of the most endearing aspects of the Tour Down Under was the easy access to so much of the race and amenities without having to buy expensive access. I was able to meet Jens Voigt and Cadel Evans at events in the festival village. I could have easily collected signatures by handing out in the mechanics tent.

The weather was sometimes broiling or hot and humid. Yet I would say this was well worth the time and expense to get to Adelaide to see the Tour Down Under. Well done everyone!

Santos Tour Down Under encourages a new generation of cycling fans.

Stage 6 was family day and these kids got their faces painted in the village.

5 Awesome Aussie Animals

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We arrived just in time to see the “Spirits of the Sky” bird show.

There are more than five awesome Australian animals or birds. The continent broke off from Gondwanaland way before any others so some pretty weird evolution occurred that is unlike anywhere else in the world. I was able to see all 5 at the Healesville Sanctuary outside of Melbourne.

  1. Exhibit A: the Platypus. Sometimes called the duckbilled platypus, but that is redundant. There is not another kind of platypus. This may be my favorite animal in Australia. (All five of these are contenders.) I saw the wee platypus climb out of the water and into her den–alas no photo. I did buy a terrific hand puppet in the gift shop.
  2. The Wombat. It was a hot day and so the wombat was snoozing under a log. They are so darn adorable. There is a photo of one in the newspaper and you just want to give it a squeeze.
  3. Koalas. They have to be on the list, of course. They are fascinating; however, they are also sloth-like and hang out high in trees so there is not as much interaction. And you want to cuddle them until you see their amazing claws.
  4. Surprise: Wedge-tail Eagle. Did not know about them until the Spirit of the Sky show. Wow. They are HUGE. And awesome.

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    Wedge-Tailed Eagle are magnificent birds.

  5. Surprise: Dingo. Maybe I am missing Lulu and Dozer (dogs at home). We caught the keeper presentation on the dingo and watched her interact with the two in the closest enclosure. I was reminded of my beloved Radar and yet there is that wildness that is also fascinating.

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What does not make my top five? The Tasmanian Devil fell out, in part because they are not very bright and can be vicious. The kangaroo because, except for the joeys that are A-Dor-A-Ble, they are kind of like really big rats and as common as deer. The Little Penguin I associate with New Zealand as well.

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The Tasmanian Devil is bigger than expected and solid like a badger.

My friend Sandy’s favorite animal is the echidna. I did not see one until I was on Kangaroo Island and I have to admit they deserve adoration–not sure what animal or bird they’d knock out of the top 5. What is your favorite?

The Koala Experience

Koalas in gum tree on Phillip IslandThe Phillip Island ticket we bought for the Penguin Parade gave us access to the Koala Conservation Centre within 6 months of purchase. We ate a yummy breakfast at Bean’d Eatery in San Remo and then drove across the bridge and to the middle of the island where a grove of gum trees is home to koalas both inside and outside of a sanctuary.

The sanctuary has older, larger koalas sleeping the day away in eucalyptus trees along a raised boardwalk. This allows you to see them a few yards away, and yet give them the respectful distance that a wild animal deserves. The centre is different than a traditional zoo because the design feels more like it is about containing the human visitors than containing the koalas.

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Koalas are tree-hugging marsupials: their young is born, climbs into their pouch and nurses for months, then the “joey” climbs out and rides on Mum’s back or front.

All day there was interpretive signage that communicated the threat to many of Australia’s iconic animals. The main extinction threat appears to be loss of habitat. And then, perhaps to limit overpopulation, some koalas have chlamydia, and some Tasmanian Devils develop cancer of the jaw, and so on.

I saw koalas in several more locations and each time the koala was chilling in a tree. Sadly when there is a bush fire of gum trees, it often consumes koalas who do not move fast enough away from an oncoming fire.

The koala looks so soft and cuddly and yet these nocturnal creatures are not. The males especially can make a racket at night.

I am so gladI saw so many different koalas.

 

Celebrating Penguin Awareness Day

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The Penguin Experience begins at the visitor’s centre.

Today (and by this I mean the full 24 hour period known as January 20 in Australia and the United States) is Penguin Awareness Day. The timing of my trip was planned to coincide with the Tour Down Under in Adelaide. My stop in Melbourne was motivated in large part by the Penguin Parade experience on Phillip Island.

I was fortunate that my friend Sandy had some time off from work and enthusiastically purchased tickets ($24 AU for just penguins; $47.20 AU per adult for package that includes the Koala Experience and other activities on the island). Her sister Colleen and husband Pete own the San Remo Hotel and Bar, referred to as the pub. Her gracious sister provided us dinner at the pub and let us sleep over at her house. This was hugely helpful because the penguins do not waddle home until dusk and in summer (January) this is around 9:15 p.m.  A delicious dinner in San Remo is also convenient if you are traveling on your own.

The Penguin Parade was very well organized and staffed. As a result, while we could not see the penguins up close when they landed on the beach, we could see them very up close as they waddled up the hill to their nests. We witnessed more than one penguin being mobbed by his/her young with them competing to receive regurgitated fish. Everything was designed to minimize disturbance to the Little Blue Penguins while still providing a terrific experience to about 500 people.  They call them Fairy Penguins or Little Penguins in Australia, but they are the same delightful type of penguin I have observed in New Zealand.

If you are in Melbourne and you need someone to organize transportation and tickets, then I highly recommend Melbourne Coastal Tours. Especially if you cannot stay locally to Phillip Island–best to let someone else drive you back to the city at night.

There are no pictures allowed at the Penguin Parade because the flash would scare the penguins. So instead, check out this “burrow camera” from the Phillip Island Nature Parks. http://www.penguins.org.au/attractions/penguin-parade/penguin-burrow-camera/

 

 

Getting in Right Mindspace for Vacation

I am a fan of Air New Zealand so when I booked my flights to Melbourne and Adelaide Australia I choose them again. I flew Southwest to Los Angeles International Airport to save money and car parking hassle.Everything went smoothly. I was in the Tom Bradley International Terminal awaiting boarding and I finally started to get excited about my planned vacation.

Air New Zealand is known for its creative air safety videos. They often amuse and passengers actually watch the safety announcement. On this flight the new video. I was delighted to see their latest video featured many famous surfers and the overall impact was to put me in the right mood for this vacation.

I needed to transition to full frontal summer temperatures and to a more hang loose attitude. This video really gave me a push to chillax.

Check out the Autodesk Gallery in San Francisco

Colleen O'Roarke, Julie Pieper Spezia, Lisa Goren at Autodesk Gallery

Fellow classmates Colleen and Lisa from my Leadership tribe enjoyed the Lego dinosaur as much as me.

I recently had the opportunity to participate in training on Human Centered Design at the Autodesk offices at One Market Street in San Francisco. On the concluding day of the training our hosts offered us a tour of the Autodesk Gallery. The gallery is a showcase for cool stuff created by users of their software.

Admission is FREE. This is a small miracle in an expensive city to visit. It is close to the Ferry Building if you are planning your itinerary.

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Autodesk Gallery exhibit; Photo by Colleen O’Roarke

I loved many of the clever, creative exhibits and there is a FREE photo booth!

Basic Information:

Autodesk Gallery at One Market
One Market, Floor 2
San Francisco, CA 94105

Located near the San Francisco Ferry Building and one block from the Embarcadero Station for BART and Muni, the Autodesk Gallery is easily accessible by public transportation.
Directions

Hours: Monday, Wednesday & Friday
10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Free guided tour on Wednesdays at 12:30 p.m.