Toowoomba Adventure

The coolest chic I know lives in Toowoomba, and a while back, she bought us tickets to see some banjo players at QPAC. I’d noticed last time I visted her that Toowoomba has some cool outdoor/adventure spots, so I decided to turn the whole trip into a mountain biking and hiking adventure.

The Nonce and Fatty ready for adventure

On the first day I drove to Wondai to see if I could find the mountain bike track I’d overheard some mountain bikers talking about a few weeks back. I went to the tourist information centre, but the lady there didn’t really know anything about it, so I thought I’d try and find it on the stupid map app thing that someone put on my phone a couple of weeks ago. It took me around the block twice, so I promptly deleted it and just went back to google. Luckily I saw some mountain bikers heading down the hill, so I drove down the road and caught up to them. I asked the girl at the back if they were going on the loop (I didn’t realise that it was an actual single track mountain bike track, not just a rail trail loop). “We’re going to the mountain bike track,” she said, looking at me suspiciously. At this point I remembered I was driving a white van. “Ohh, cool! Can I follow you because I’m trying to find it and I don’t know where I’m going?” I said.

I pulled over before the carpark (I didn’t realise there was one), and she rode back to tell me that I could keep driving and park at the carpark about 800 metres further along the road. I felt good about that because it meant she didn’t think I was a white-van-stalker.

Awesome track in Wondai

This is a bloody awesome track: lots of cool hills and do-able jumps and obstacles. It was heaps of fun. I met a cool fella here called Morris, who took me around the whole thing. He was really nice and I felt like I could be friends with him in everyday life, but as usual, I felt weird about asking if he wanted to stay in touch, so I said nothing, which is stupid.

After Wondai, I headed to Wooroolin with an 18km loop off the rail trail in mind. There was a sign at the start, which I followed up a MASSIVE hill to another sign that sent me down a nice, flat dirt road. A huge dog came running out of a house and I got a bit worried it was going to have a go at me, but it was a big sook. It had its teeth out, but was only doing a stupid grin to let me know it was friendly. I gave it a big pat and told it to go home, which it did. After that, there were no more signs, so I just continued to ride in a staight line, which took me over a grid and onto what looked like a long driveway. It was a long driveway: To someone’s farm house. I turned around and decided to head back to the car because I couldn’t tell which way I was meant to go because there were no more signs. AAAAarrghhh! As it turned out, I couldn’t go back the way I’d come because someone had closed a gate across the road where I’d met the huge dog. That meant I got to ride down a massive hill and managed to go the fastest I’ve ever gone on the bike: 39km/hr. I thought I was pretty cool, but I didn’t realise how much faster I could actually go until I got to Crows Nest the next day.

Wooroolin from the bike loop. Wetlands in the background

I headed to Kingaroy thinking I’d find a stealth camp there, but after driving around there for about an hour and not finding anywhere I felt OK about, I decided to head towards Crows Nest and find somewhere on the way. I ended up at Goodger, which was a much better spot than down the end of some dodgy suburban industrial estate.

Goodger school historical site

I write all this stuff in a journal while I’m doing an adventure so that I can remember it properly later on. I really, really hate doing this! It’s the most annoying form of wrting for me and I have to write very fast so I can out-write the feeling of the approaching tantrum of I DON’T WANNA!! This is what happens when I write in a journal:

The next day at Crows Nest I called into the tourist information centre to see if they had any stuff on the local mountain bike tracks. The lady was really nice, but the biggest Covid conspiracy theorist I’ve ever come across. Apparently everyone who got vaccinated only has five years to live. She claimed that the vaccine was a way of getting us all transformed into AI because the global elite want to control everything and depopulate the world. I kept asking her why, not belligerently, but because I was genuinely interested in where she was going with her particular theory, but when she no longer had a way to answer my enquiries, she reverted to beliefs (a war between god and satan), which you can’t really question, so that shut the whole thing down. Ohhh, what a shame.

After that I went into Crows Nest to get a coffee and looked at a few maps to work out where to ride. I decided on a 20km mountain bike loop, which was pretty challenging. The first bit was OK and it was before the road went to dirt that I got the bike up to 50km/hr. That was pretty cool! The bike had a small speed wobble, but it was barely noticeable. Not long after that, the road when to dirt with massive corrugations on gigantic hills and I had to get off and push the bike a lot. It was really hot and I kept fantasising about getting a Crows Nest softdrink when I got back to the car. It was on the back end of the loop that I noticed my back brake wasn’t really working, which was a pain because there were some massive down hills on the way back towards Crows Nest and I could’ve picked up some good speed on these if I wasn’t worried about needing to slow down should a car come over the next crest or whatever. There was really only about 2km of nice riding on this loop. The rest was too corrugated and steep to really stay on the bike.

Fatty on the nice part of the Crows Nest loop

After the loop I went to Crows Nest National Park. I did the hikes there, but was struggling a bit by this point because my legs were so sore from a big run I’d done two days prior (the 2nd day after the exercise is always the most painful), and I had to find a big stick to help me get up and down all the stairs on the hike to the lookout at the top. It was worth it. I got to do some great cooees and yelps from the lookout. It was really echoey.

View from Crows Nest Falls lookout

That night, I wrote in my journal: ” I think it’s good to not know too much about what you’re going to do. There’s no way to get disappointed: That bike loop at Crows Nest wasn’t really fun, but it didn’t piss me off like the Rainbow Beach ride did because I had no ideas about what it would be like.”

The next day I went for a drive in the forestry at Hampton, with the idea that I’d end up at Lake Perserverence and then Lake Cressbrook. At Lake Perserverence I found a secret hike:

Old hiking sign at Lake Perseverance

I got really excited about this because I’d looked into the valley the day before from the Crows Nest Falls lookout and thought how cool it would be to go down and follow the creek bed and explore the bush. I went back to the car and got the GPS so I wouldn’t be held back by worrying about getting lost, but I didn’t get that far. I spent around 2 hours climbing around all the boulders in the creek bed, but couldn’t see where the trail went after the second marker. I assumed you follow the creek bed, but I just rocked hopped around up to the spillway and climbed back out to the car. I didn’t feel like getting stuck in the guts of nowhere. Given the condition of the sign and the two markers I did see, it’s obvious that this trail isn’t really used anymore, so it’s not likely that it’s going to be obvious where to go to get out of the valley at the other end.

Perseverance Creek. I think you follow this creek to get to the falls

After Lake Cressbrook, which was full of rules (YOU CAN’T! DON’T! STOP! NO DOGS! KEEP OUT! NO! NONE OF THAT! KEEP IT DOWN! SLOW! ). I went to Ravensbourne National Park, which was awesome. I found an old memorial at the Gus Beutel lookout, but I couldn’t read who it memorialised because the engraving was worn away. I did all the hikes in the park and at one point, in the middle of the rainforest, with the picabeens towering above me, two army Chinooks beat their way overhead. It gave me goosebumps as images of Vietnam sprung to mind.

Trailhead Ravensbourne National Park
A very cranky goanna Ravensbourne National Park
There were two of these overhangs. Both had little insectivorous bats hanging inside.

That night I wrote in my journal: “Today I felt like this is why I’m alive.”

The next day I faffed around in Toowoomba before heading off to Brisbane for the gig. I bought a new seat for my bike (the existing one had snapped) and asked the dude who sold it to me about fixing my hub and my brakes. Nobody in bike shops ever really likes fat bikes, but this guy wasn’t too bad. He reckoned I should probably buy a new bike because mine needs too much new stuff, which will require me to spend more than the bike is worth. He showed me the one below, which seems pretty bloody expensive at $2K (Fatty cost $650), but he reckons it’s only entry level. Entry to what exactly? Entry to spending even more money next time, then on and on ad infinitum. People get really judgey about equipment when you’re doing a specialist-type activity. This is one of the reasons I’m not a huge fan of clubs. So far, the mountain bikers I’ve met on the tracks have been pretty accepting, but even so, I’m not rushing out to join the local mountain bike club!

Norco Bigfoot 3

After the faffing I headed into Brisbane to catch up with the coolest chic ever. We had a great time and, overall I had another really great adventure, which I would not have been able to do had I not crossed paths with the dangerous and stupid iteration of myself in 2022.

The Cool Chic (LHS) and me (RHS) at a banjo gig. I love banjos, and I love folk music, but this was really freakin’ horrible shit! I was glad I had no expectations because there was no way for me to be disappointed or pissed off. I have never, ever heard music like this before in my life! It was like cats screwing!

Cords, Cubes and the Death of Knives

I think I’m finally getting somewhere with this whole sucking thing. I’ve been practicing the banjo and I can actually play the entire dueling banjo song all the way through AND most of it actually sounds like the song from the movie, but in super slo-mo.

I have no idea what I’m doing, so I’m pretty much just making it all up as I go along. This is what I’m dealing with:

I= index R=ring M=middle

I had no idea how to play a cord, so I had to draw the way it looks so that I could understand it. It’s so bloody confusing because I couldn’t find instructions anywhere on which finger goes on which string on which fret, so I just had to work it out myself. I don’t know if this is “right”, but I’m kind of assuming that there must be no “right” otherwise it would be more obvious.

The tab (the sheet music) is just as confusing and I had to make all these notations on it so I knew which finger to use when I played the note. Again, I don’t know if I’m doing it “right”, but who cares. It’s not like I’m trying to get accepted into the Peabody Institute.

Click here to see what banjo tab for Dueling Banjos looks like. I don’t know what the bars along the bottom of each note mean, but I’m assuming they’ve got something to do with the speed the note has to be played at, which is something I learned in primary school like 35 years ago.

Even though it’s sort of coming together I still can’t imagine ever being able to play it like this.

The throwing knives I’ve been working on since the start of the year have had to be retired for a while. Two of the knives suffered a fatality the last time I used them, and it wasn’t like I threw them hard or anything. I’m also thinking that the instructional book I’ve got might be a bit shitty for learning from scratch, which is a pretty common thing so far. Instructions and teachers are never really that great for people who have no idea how to do something.

Two out of the three from the set are broken.

I’ve been working on solving a Rubik’s cube too. The instructions for that aren’t actually too bad, but I keep getting stuffed up when it comes to solving the top face. I’ve had it out once, so all I had to do was solve the pieces on the outside of the upperside, but I got confused about which was clockwise and which was anticlockwise. Unlike the banjo, the woodworking and the tap dancing I’m pretty confident I’ll get there in the end.

Solved bottom face (white) and bottom and middle layers. Click here forĀ  the YouTube video I’ve been learning from.

One thing that hasn’t been that hard so far is the graffiti. I’m going to graffiti up the side of my house, so I’ve been playing around with what I’m going to draw. This is the start of it:

The two rectangles in the middle are the windows. I’m going for a climate change theme (but it might get changed) that will be overlayed with a story. It’s probably not going to be “real” graffiti because I won’t be using spraypaint. I don’t know how to use it properly and it’s also really expensive. I thought it a good idea to practice on paper before I commit anything to the wall.

Learning is not attained by chance, it must be sought for with ardor and attended to with diligence – Abigail Adams

 

Knives, Banjo and Cashews

I had my second go at knife throwing the other day and it was heaps better than the first time I did it. Yay! I threw 50 times and managed to get 1 knife in the target 17 times and 2 knives in the target 3 times. I was pretty excited about that:

The times I got the knives in felt different to the times I missed, kind of the like the way it feels to hit a perfect shot in tennis; it was a really good feeling and I took heart from that because it didn’t feel like that AT ALL the first time I tried throwing the knives.

When I kept getting it wrong I went back to the instructional book to see what it was making me get it wrong. I tried to concentrate on how the knife was meant to be held, the follow through and the windup. It all make a difference. My aim seems pretty good because even the knives that didn’t stick in the target hit the target. Still, I wouldn’t encourage anyone to stand around with apples on their heads.

After the 50 throws I wanted to keep going, but I thought it would be best if I didn’t overdo it and end up getting the shits with it like I did the first time.

The same day I started playing the banjo again. I’ve had my banjo for a long time, but have never been able to play it. Well that’s not technically true; I can play it fine, I just can’t make it sound like anything anyone would recognise as a tune. I started out worrying about never being able to get it right and this kept coming up the whole time I was playing it, although it was pretty easy to pick up the rolls again.

I found the whole thing pretty frustrating actually. For the millionth time I wished that I could find someone to teach me how to do it because it feels like I don’t know how to learn this particular thing properly and that I should be further along with it by now given how much I’ve done so far. If I break it down though, I’ve probably only spent around 20 hours practicing in the six years I’ve had the instrument. I think the belief that I should be further along comes about from my most recent attempt (about 7 years ago) at learning the violin; I was able to play an actual tune after the second lesson and was able to teach myself other songs at home. I’d played the violin for a short while when I was 8 or 9 years old, but have never played the banjo prior to owning this one.

I found a slow jam beginner’s banjo DVD in my library of 5K plus books and DVDs and slapped it on in the hope that it might help. It didn’t. It was too fast to follow, didn’t explain anything properly and I felt like it was saying:

Here, it’s easy, just play it like me. I’m so great. It’s so easy and if you can’t get it right following these simple instructions, then obviously you’re stupid.

It would be like someone walking into their very first maths lesson having never even seen a number before and the teacher going, “here’s an equation, work it out” without explaining anything.

I wasn’t really that happy after this and I recognised that I was getting the shits when I felt cause to yell at the DVD: “How the fuck am I meant to follow that when you didn’t even tell me what it was, you dickheads!!” So, I shut it down, put the banjo away and hoped for better luck next time. I had a really good link to put in here for a TED talk about how this dude was able to learn stuff, including the mandolin, by teaching himself, but of course now I can’t find the darn thing. Poo!! Anyway, Tim Ferris is someone to look up regarding learning and Josh Kaufman also gives some good insights on how to learn new stuff on your own, both on TED.

The cashews are a small aside that I wanted to use to demonstrate how it can serve you to think outside the box. We have a huge cashew tree in our yard. For all the years we’ve lived here it has dropped its disgusting fruit here and there but this is year is what some would call a mast season:

These are cashew apples. The nut is on the outside of the fruit. Apparently the fruit is edible, but far out, I can’t imagine eating them! They stink and are all soggy and disgusting. Yuck! The dogs love them though and my kelpie has put on a considerable amount of weight from gorging on the fruit before we can pick them up.

We’ve been putting them in our compost until I thought about how wasteful it was to throw away the viable seeds. Could I sell the seeds? Yes I could! Daley’s Fruit Tree Nursery replied to my enquiry email by saying they wanted to purchase 300 seeds:

So, basically I got paid almost $100 for stuff I’d been throwing away. All it took was to think about the “rubbish” in a different way.

If it’s my thinking holding me back with the banjo playing, it would be great to find a way around it, but for now I just have to remember:

If I am willing to be good at something,

I must also be willing to be absolutely terrible at it.

Woodcarving

One of the things I decided to try this year is woodcarving. This is one of the things on my list that I’d never done before and I was looking forward to it, but also a bit worried that it would be really hard and I’d be really bad at. See, this thing is, there are a few things I’ve tried to do in the past that I failed at because I had a shitty teacher, which caused to me to sink into despair, not just for the skill I was pursuing, but for my entire life: I’m a useless idiot, why do I bother with any of this? Playing the banjo is one of them and when I try something new that involves a teacher I get a bit scared that it’s going to pan out the same way as my banjo lessons.

This post isn’t about banjos, but I’m attempting to impart how it feels to be held back by past experiences and why you shouldn’t let negative crap from the past stop you. See, my banjo lessons were run by a very good banjo player. He really was, he was awesome, he was in a band and he traveled all around the country-side doing his thing. But what I didn’t realise at the time is just because someone is an expert at a particular thing, doesn’t mean they are a good teacher, which is what happened with my banjo teacher; he was a useless teacher, but an awesome banjo player, and I was a bit scared that the same thing would happen with the wood carving teacher. Thankfully, it didn’t. I really didn’t want a repeat of the banjo lessons – old mate not explaining what to do, followed by a speed demonstration, which I couldn’t copy, then repeating the same procedure over and over until all he was doing was playing the banjo as though up on stage for an expensive hour that I drove a six hour round trip for (I worked out after the second lesson that he was a total dick and never went back). Click here for what he expected me to do in the first lesson.

Anyway, the wood carving was hard, but not seemingly impossible like the knife throwing. That strikes me as strange because with the carving there is more than one thing to get right, but with the knives it’s just the knives. I thought that maybe it’s because the carving is slower and you can see what’s happening as you do it, whereas with the knives, you throw it and that’s it, there’s no coming back from that single action; it’s a single action to get the result, but the carving is multiple movements and actions to get the result.

I worked on a relief carving of a leaf. I had trouble knowing which side of the chisel to press up against the edge when cutting the line along the margin of the leaf. It feels weird not to know how to hold something to make it do what you want. I can’t remember the last time I had to learn something like this; probably in childhood. Once again, it was very difficult to embrace the feeling of ineptitude and I had to constantly remind myself that it’s a natural way to feel in the circumstances.

This is how I started out: just playing around with the tools on a block of wood clamped to the bench.

This is what I ended up with. I’ll keep working on it in my next lesson. It’s going to be a leaf.

Experiri est Descere

(to try is to learn)

 

 

How much will I suck in 2020?

2019 wasn’t bad. It wasn’t all easy though. Some shit went sideways and I said goodbye to a few relationships and also some beliefs that I’d been hanging onto for too long. I also extricated myself from a toxic workplace. None of this was easy because it’s hard to see people for what they really are. I don’t want to believe that people are intentional arseholes, but the truth is that sometimes they just are, and contrary to what said arseholes probably think, that’s not actually my fault. It would have been easy to blame myself and say that I should have done this, I should have done that, I should have learned how to breath underwater, defy gravity, turn water into wine, tame dragons, control the weather, and I should have kept my mouth shut about the shady shit that was going on, but I didn’t because it’s not right to do bad shit to people and it’s not right to accept that from anyone, be it your boss, your brother, your neighbour, your best mate or a government department.  If I kept accepting that kind of treatment then I’m just as crappy a person as the ones who are treating me like shit because I’m teaching them that I deserve that kind of treatment. I’m also teaching them that they can treat other people the same way, and that’s not OK with me.

I did some pretty amazing stuff in 2019: I hiked 450 km on my own to Brisbane and got to meet some really cool people, and I raised over $6000 for brain injury while doing it. I read close to 100 books, exercised for 377 hours, ran more than 180 km, learnt some wicked skipping drills, went to some great gigs, grew out of my clothes because I built new muscle, got my first reading glasses, survived a bushfire, and made some freakin’ awesome plans for 2020.

In 2020 I’m going to see how much I can learn. Can a skill in one sphere emerge in another sphere, giving rise to an ability where none previously existed? Basically, will a lifestyle of breadth, rather than depth facilitate emergent abilities? I believe it will. It’s going to be tricky to measure this, but I’ll do my best. I’ll be recording everything I do and putting it on YouTube so everyone can see how much I suck when I first start out, and how that’s actually OK, because everyone sucks to begin with!

Watch me as I suck at these things:

  • playing video games*
  • knife throwing
  • tap dancing
  • learning a new language
  • skateboarding*
  • graffiti
  • juggling*
  • rubix cube*
  • macrame
  • physics
  • wood carving
  • singing*
  • kiteboarding
  • navigation*
  • chess
  • playing the banjo*

* These things I’ve tried at least once before, but was never any good at and/or it’s been over twenty years since I’ve done them.

Here’s what I’ve been doing in the last couple of days:

Snorkelling around the snags in the river. It’s a hard life.

Kayaking up the river and down a creek. This is where I suck. I made this ridiculously stupid and hilarious documentary about the Burrum River on a GoPro, but can’t get the damn thing to transfer to the computer so I can upload it to YouTube. Waaaahhhh!

See, it’s ok to suck, because that’s what pretty much everyone does the first time they try something, and this was the first time I’ve used the GoPro.

Learn by way of failure

Because

No one ever started off being an expert