History is not a burden on the memory but an illumination of the soul


“I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past.” (Thomas Jefferson).
As 2016 slips quietly behind, with little more than a few ticks on the clock (if you have one that ticks), it’s a good time to reflect on the year that has been. Lord Acton once said “History is not a burden on the memory but an illumination of the soul.” And so with that in mind, lets turn on the light that was 2016.
I’m not one to make New Year Resolutions – mostly they are just one more goal to not fulfil. And there can be plenty of them without adding another. Mostly, this year has been an interesting, although at times stressful, year. My oldest daughter, Zoe, left home to embark on a journey of learning as a University Student. That was a little stressful, but no where near as stressful as my son getting his car licence and the subsequent having to compete with him for use of the car – those of you that have sons and have  gone through this will know what I mean (yes, mum and dad, that includes you). And then there was the health conditions that manifested their ugly heads that made it hard to exercise, as mentioned in previously entries in this blog. I have also had ongoing problems with my voice over the last year which has made certain activities and situations very frustrating, with lack of (sometimes no) volume and sometimes a very unreliable voice. Interestingly enough, my preaching hasn’t really suffered and has actually been enhanced somewhat by including my wife in my preaching appointments – it’s a quite unexpected blessing to be able to share the pulpit with my wife!
The year just gone wasn’t all stress, though. Actually there were some great things happen this year. Eliana and I got to travel on a railway that neither of us has travelled on before from Bairnsdale in Victoria’s far east. We had some great times away camping, hiking and exploring Australia’s eastern states with visitis to Griffith, Young, Weddin Mountains National Park near Grenfell, Jindabyne and Kosciousko National Park, Bombala and the South East National Park in New South Wales (NSW), Mitta Mitta, and Omeo (and the surrounding region) in Victoria. There were also a number of day trips. I got to explore some interesting railways that have been converted to rail-trails in the Otways in Victoria’s west, and to explore parts of Victoria’s high country on my bike. And while on the subject of bicycles, I saved up enough money in 2016 to buy a brand new mountain bike this year which has made exercising and exploring heaps more fun. The last time I got a brand new bicycle was about 5 years and around 15000 – 20000 cycling kms ago.
Here are some cycling stats for 2016:
  • Distance travelled: 5615km (more than the distance between the southermost point of Tasmania and the northern most point of Cape York Peninsula, the norhernmost point on the Australian mainland, via the most direct route. And roughly half way between the 2014 and 2015 distances).
  • Amount of time to travel those kms: 262.5 hours.
  • Average speed: 21.4kph.
  • Elevation gain: 23611 metres (2.66 Mt Everests).
  • Rides: 215.
  • Average distance per ride: 26kph.
I also became a member of a Gym in 2016, the plan being to increase my upper body and arm strength –  something my cycling generally doesn’t increase.
On a more intellectual note, I have been learning Biblical Hebrew for the last few years, and this year saw me actually starting to read a Hebrew Bible for myself in the original language, which has really been a very slow but extremely pleasant and mind expanding experience. I have gained a much greater appreciation and love for the Bible, and the God who inspired it, as a result. And I’m looking forward to more of the same as I continue through the dynamic and descriptive world that is the Hebrew Bible in 2017. I also almost finished a Certtificate III in Fitness, which when finished will allow me to be a Gym Instructor / Fitness Trainer, something I have been interested in doing for a while. While I enjoy the “software Enginerring” / Web Programming that I currently do (and will continue to do), I have been feeling a lack of human interaction in recent years since since I started working from home. And while the computer work is helpful and necessary, I want to be able to make a personal impact on peoples lives in the area of Fitness, which is why I embarked on the fitness courses I am doing in my spare time.

2014 Cycling Review


It’s been a year of ups and downs as far as my cycling activities this year. Here are some quick stats, courtesy of Strava

Distance 5,033.9 km
Time 246h 17m
Elev Gain 19,203 m
Rides 149

That works out at :

  • Average ride length for 2014: 33km.
  • Average elevation gain per ride: 128 metres.
  • Longest ride: 104km.

Compare that with the cumulative total of all rides I have logged in Strava so far:

Distance 7,957.1 km
Rides 248
  • Average ride length for total time on Strava: 32km.

So the average ride length has gone up by a whole 1km per ride this year compared with the total cumulative distance average ride length! But that doesn’t give the true picture of what happened during this year. The graph below gives a more in depth look at my bicycle ride patterns.

Cycling Stats Graph for 2014

Cycling Stats Graph for 2014

The year started well, with a fairly intense few weeks of riding in January and a new personal distance record on a single ride of 76km up to that time. That ride also was beyonf mobile phone range for about 40km which gave me an increased sense of adventure! In the months that followed I did a number of 100+ km rides, and the longest of them, at 104km, is still my personal distance record. For the 1st half of the year things seemed to be going quite well, with my highest kms in a week ever occuring in March, but then after July the wheels seemed to come off my cycling efforts (excuse the pun). This was because of a number of things occuring around me and as a result me getting to the point where I had trouble finding the time and losing my motivation almost totally by September. That motivation came back for a few weeks in October, then the motivation went south again. And only really returned after the long weekend I spent in the Kosciosko National Park a couple of weeks ago.

Eastlink visual features

Eastlink trail visual features

But I still made it to over 5000km for the year which is still a pretty good effort.

The highlight of the year would have to be the cycling holiday I did in March which included:

  • Various trails around Melbourne (Victoria).
  • The Goulburn Valley High Country Rail Trail (also called the Great Victorian Rail Trail) between Alexandra and Cathkin.
  • The Foster – Meeniyan section of the Great Southern Rail Trail.
  • The full length of the Warby Trail between Lilydale and Warburton.
Warburton Station

Warburton Station on the Warby Rail Trail, Victoria

Who knows what 2015 will bring. I had planned to do the 25000 Spins Great Ocean Road ride in February but I think it’s unlikely that I will be fit enough to do that ride now – it’s going to be hard to get to 125km and decent elevation gain in a single ride (as has been suggested I try to get to). It’s also unlikely that my minimum fundraising target will be met.

Shelter near highest point on the ride

Shelter near highest point on the Alexandra – Cathkin ride

I have a vague plan to try another multi-day bike ride maybe after the snow season in 2015, but that plan might also come to nought like my plan to be involved in the Great Ocean Road ride. Only time will tell. So the New Year approaches, and we tick over to the New Year. What will 2015 bring?

Old Friends?


Normally we think of friends as being those fellow human beings that we have a bond of friendship with, people we have something in common with. And certainly those fellow human beings are friends. But maybe friends can be more than just human beings. Dogs are often referred to as “mans best friend”, so maybe other non-human things can be friends too in some way? When I was growing up in the foothills of the Dandenong Ranges in eastern suburbs of Melbourne, Victoria (Australia), my dad and I would sometimes spend a Sabbath afternoon exploring the national parks / state forests not far from where we lived. My parents still live there, and it is good to go back from time to time and experience the fond memories of days gone by, days that somehow seemed to be more relaxed, less stressful.

Interesting gum tree

Interesting gum tree

Over the New South Wales September 2014 School Holidays I had an opportunity to go on a mini-holiday with Eliana, my youngest offspring, to visit my parents and re-discover some old friends that I haven’t connected with in a long time. At church on Sabbath I had an opportunity to catch up with a number of ‘old friends’ (‘old’ not referring to their age, but rather how long they have been friends!). In the afternoon after lunch mum and Eliana went for a drive and I took the opportunity to do some hiking in the nearby forests. The plan was to hike from my parents’ house along Paddys Track and Neumanns Track to Grants Picnic Ground in Kallista then loop around via Coles Ridge Track and Welch Track back to my parents house through the Dandenong Ranges National Park. It had been many many years since I last walked that loop – at least 30 years I think. Some things stay the same and some things change. Near the start of the walk, just past the bridge that spans the Monbulk Creek there is a location called Jack the Miners in Selby. I have memories of going there for family picnics when I was young, and of it being a big expanse of open space with nicely mowed grass. But today it looks like the photo below.

Jack the Miners, near the Monbulk Creek bridge and Paddy Track.

Jack the Miners, near the Monbulk Creek bridge and Paddy Track.

The obvious source of the name would be that it is named after a fellow named Jack who was a miner. And I have heard that there was once a hut there. But I also read that there was a timber tramway through the area at some point in the early 20th century that ran through the area, and Welch Track seems to follow that tramway for at least part of it’s distance. So Jack the Miners might have been a timber storage area or something else at some point as well. There is no real evidence of what it was used for evident today. So exactly where the name came from or what the clearing was used is not entirely clear. The track itself seemed little changed from what I remembered of it.

Paddy Track joins Jack the Miners and Neumann Track.

Paddy Track joins Jack the Miners and Neumann Track.

I remember the hill in the photo above a bit too well! But I didn’t remember quite how long it was. But in spite of doing virtually no excersize for the previous month I still managed to get to the top of the hill with only a little breathless-ness by the time I got to the top. At the top I heard some lyrebirds – at least I was pretty sure they were lyrebirds. Lyrebirds have been known to mimic all sorts of sounds including steam trains, car horns, chainsaws, someone chopping wood, and all sorts of other sounds. They look a little like a peacock, especially with their tail fanned out.

Lyrebird

Lyrebird

And it must have been breeding season as it was doing it’s dance and song to try and attract a mate. I managed to get reasonably close to the lyrebird I heard, but before I could take a photo of it close up it would scamper off further into the forest. I managed to get this photo of it’s mound.

Lyrebird Mound

Lyrebird Mound

About this time I saw a fellow walker who was walking in the same direction as me. It turned out he was from Ringwood and was spending a day hiking in the forest. For the rest of the walk into Grants Picnic Ground we talked about all sorts of things including religion (he was a Christadelphian), the state religion (Australian Rules Football) and the worship in the temple of sport happening that very same day (I still don’t know who won, but I suspect the Hawks going by the shear number of Hawks colors flying from cars, trains) and how that meant less people in the forest and more serenity for those who were walking in them, our different walking experiences, different places worth a visit (he had walked in the Little Desert near Dimboola, Victoria), the history of the tracks we were walking on, etc.

Dead but majestic looking tree

Dead but majestic looking tree

At Grants Picnic Ground we parted company and I continued along the Coles Ridge Track. Some months ago I purchased a Shofar (probably best described as a rams horn trumpet). The Shofar was used to sound a warning of attack, to call warriors to arms, to call people to religious feasts, and to announce important events. I took it on the walk with me and along Coles Ridge Track, and in a nice quiet spot I got it out and started ‘playing’ it. The echo of it’s sounds in the forest was pretty cool to listen to!

Crimson Rosellas

Crimson Rosellas

Then I continued on to Welch Track, through Jack the Miners again and back to my parents house. Are you are still wondering about the ‘non-human friends’ idea I talked about at the start of this post? In this particular case, the ‘friend’ would be the forest surrounds – the sort of friend that expects nothing of you except maybe a visit every once in a while. The sort of friend who continues to surprise with new experiences, while evoking old memories of past time spent together. And while walking in the forest, it’s hard to forget the ultimate friend, the “friend that sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24), a Divine friend who guides our steps and watches over our path (Psalms 23), who knows our innermost secrets (both good and bad) and remains the most stedfast, truest and loyal friend.

(For some more info on the weekend, see: http://www.jimsmodeltrains.ws/blog.php?id=390 .)

Cycling Touring in the Big City


The weather forecast for today was for 31 degrees C, and so I decided the earlier I started the day’s ride the better. After a hearty breakfast of yummy muesli-esque cereal, I packed the bike, donned the cycling atire, and embarked on the day of cycling touring in the big city. The first section between Belgrave and Ringwood was along a bike path that followed the railway line. It was surprisingly hilly! But nothing to strenuous. I was aware of this section having remembered seeing it from the train many times, and so I arrived at Ringwood without loosing my way. On arriving at Ringwood I lost the trail and needed to find my way following streets while staying off the Maroondah Highway (a 6 lane cycling unfriendly road in my opinion). It took some time, but eventually I found the Eastlink Trail.

Ringwood Gateway Bridge

Ringwood Gateway Bridge

Ringwood Gateway Bridge

Ringwood Gateway Bridge

The Eastlink Trail ‘follows’ the Eastlink Tollway, a major multi-lane motor vehicle arterial road. While the trail was sometimes close to the road, I was surprised at how quiet it was at other times. Some sections were obviously tranquil, not even the hum of road traffic being heard. Even when the hum of traffic could be heard there were many linear parks and open spaces. Like yesterday’s ride, the trails I went on today were well used and I encountered many many cyclists, runners, and walkers. But there must be something in the city air that stops people saying ‘hello’, as only a few bothered to offer any greeting as they went past me. Somewhere along the ride the path name changed to the Koonung Trail, and then again later to the Main Yarra Trail / Capital City Trail. At one point along this section the trail was closed, and a ‘detour’ was suggested. I lost the Main Yarra Trail at this point and cycled along some streets trying to find the trail again, which I eventually did after a few about turns. Then a few kilometres further on there were some more repairs so I again had to resort to travelling along some back streets until I could link up with the trail again. All fun and adventure!

Eastlink Trail

Eastlink Trail

Eastlink Trail

Eastlink Trail

Eastlink Trail

Eastlink Trail

Open space in the big city

Open space in the big city

Around Burnley the trail started to look somewhat familiar. I had been along that section of the trail before it was the Main Yarra Trail many many years ago. I can’t remember whether I rode a bike that day or not, but even after the lapsing of many years and the path being quite different to what I remembered it was familiar enough to give me confidence that I was heading in the right direction. It was around this point in the ride that I decided to apply some sunscreen as it was starting to heat up. The parkland around the trail offered some interesting views – contrasts of natural surrounds and man-made structures.

City and parkland

City and parkland – it looks like the parkland is the predominant feature, but really the city is the predominant feature and the parkland exists within the city’s influence.

Gorge within 10km of city

Gorge within 10km of city

Gorge within 10km of city

Gorge within 10km of city

Yarra River near CBD

Yarra River near CBD

Yarra in the City

Yarra in the City

The city of Melbourne straddles the Yarra River, the bike trail I rode being on the south bank of the river. To get over to the Flinders Street Railway Station for my trip back to my parents house I needed to get to the north bank. Not hard, as I was familiar with the layout of the city and knew there would be a bridge carrying a main road across the river near the station. At the station I had to acquire a Myki card, and I assumed in my innocence that the Myki machine near the entrance to the station would obligingly assist me with my need. So being the computer savvy bloke that I am I tried to get the required Myki card from the machine, but to no avail. The Myki machine lacked certain instructions which would have helped me immensely. It took the help of an older lady to help me, and she pointed me in the direction of the newsagent where she said that Myki card could be purchased. Now here is an interesting idea for governments around the world to raise some extra cash – charge people for the Myki card itself and then make then ‘charge’ the card so it can actually be used. Maybe I am just a country bumpkin, but that seems a little wrong to me. Surely a traveller should be given the Myki card for free, and then just ‘charge’ the card to be able to use it. The newagent’s suggestion that I keep the Myki card as it is valid for 3 years didn’t really make me think any more highly of the Myki system as it cost me $13.00 for a 2 hour trip whereas in the past when I travelled in Melbourne it only cost me about $7.00! I arrived back at my parents house in time for a slightly late lunch, then it was time for some ‘recovery’.

A GPS outline for the ride is available on Strava at: http://www.strava.com/activities/117602604