17 April, 2016 Tentacles and a triathlon in Windy Wellington
This week a friend sent an email called “Almost like Finding Nemo” with a link to an article titled (legitimately) Inky The Octopus Breaks Out Of Aquarium, Makes Way To The Pacific. I clicked on it and saw, to my delight, the dateline was Wellington, New Zealand – where I did a sprint triathlon twenty-five years ago! More about that at the end of this post.
April is always – always – a pretty month in Richmond, nowhere prettier than on the banks of the James River. If you enjoy being outdoors, April is the premier time to be there. This week has been exciting (humor me) because I “got” my first osprey on the south bank of the river. Just over the Willy Bridge, across 150 from Stony Point Fashion Park. The nest looks quite new and the ospreys inexperienced – I hope they’re successful. They’re in a terrific spot and I’ll be able to check in on them every week. My friend Gilpin got some beautiful pictures of the pair, but this was the best one I was able to come up with:
Earlier in the day I visited the CSX tracks near Brown’s Island with one of my buddies. The Cliff Swallows (Petrochelidon pyrrhonota) I’d photographed so easily in 2014 seemed to have vanished. But my friend Kim said (basically) “look behind you!” I took this photograph in the precise spot I photographed them in 2014, just facing the opposite direction. It seems unusual to me that one year they’d build their mud nests on the east side of the bridge and another year return and build them on the west side. But here they are. Or here this one is; there were more:
I’m told there’s an active Red-tail nest in Bryan Park. It looks like a Red-tail nest, but I haven’t seen actual activity on it so far. This is my first ever Red-tail nest, though. I’m just learning to watch. This red tail landed in a tree a few yards away but never went to the nest:
This is the nest. It just looks like a bunch of sticks in a tall pine tree, but that’s what red tail nests look like. I’ll have pictures soon with actual birds on the nest:
Triathlon in Windy Wellington
In New Zealand, they say “you can tell a person is from Wellington because they always grab their hat when they walk around a corner.” I did a sprint (short) triathlon there in 1991. I don’t recall the wind, but boy do I ever recall the swim in the Cook Strait – I didn’t have a wetsuit and the water was 61º. I was young and foolish. My journal isn’t terrific and neither is my memory but I have some pictures. This was me in New Zealand, getting ready for a low key training ride:
This is the finish line. See where it says “Allen & Hanbury’s”? That was a pharmaceutical company, selling an anti-asthma medication called a “becodisk”:
This was my certificate for finishing the race:
This is a selfie (from 1991!) when I took a break driving down to the race.
In New Zealand, at that time, their equivalent to our interstate highway system was a two lane undivided road. Where the road crossed creeks, there was no overpass or tunnel – you just drove through a couple of inches of water. And when a farmer was herding sheep – I’m not making this up, I have proof – they herded them right across the interstate:
On February 14 of 1991 I boarded a Qantas 747 bound for Auckland, New Zealand, near the tip of the North Island. I had my bicycle and swim suit and running gear and I was headed for the starting line of my first overseas triathlon.
In the three years since I’d been hit by a car while training for a triathlon, my life had come almost completely apart. I’d lost my marriage and my job and my home, but still had my loving family and my lifelong desire to be outdoors, moving. And I wanted to be really, really far away from Virginia. I saw a race calendar in the back of Triathlete magazine and I saw a sprint – in New Zealand. When I was young I thought China was “the other side of the world” because we really did try to “dig a hole to China” in our neighbor’s backyard. New Zealand – that is really the other side of the world. New Zealand is so far away that it’s not even the same season there – when it’s winter in Virginia, it’s summer in New Zealand. New Zealand is so far away, it’s a different day. That’s where I wanted to be. Different hemisphere, different season, different day. But still speaking English – perfect.
It was the trip of a lifetime. Of course I was only twenty-five years old then. I’ve had several other trips of a lifetime since, and I’m looking forward to more. I hope you are too!