In The quest for penguins chapter, I made mention of my penguin tights. Well, here they are in all their glory (and mine...I'm such a dude in them). Sometimes when I wear them riding around town, people look at me like I'm some sort of extraterrestrial being. Other people say "Cool pants!" However, when I'm racing, everybody likes them. When the weather is a bit cooler (it had been snowing during this race), I wear my penguin tights.
You can't see it very well in this picture, but my bike has "Warrior of the Turtles/Friend of the Penguins/Team Moosepoop" painted on it. I have a very cool custom paint job and there is no doubt that it is the finest looking bike at a race (this isn't just my opinion either, pictures availabe here). There was one race where there was a very steep hill which only a few people were making it up. If you climb a hill and falter in the middle, you can lose a lot of time. If you aren't going to be able to climb all the way up the hill, it is quicker to get off your bike and run up it. I didn't know what would be quickest this day, but I heard a large crowd of people from a few hundred meters away cheering the people up the hill. I knew I had to go for it.
I don't know how many people there were, but it was a whole bunch of them. As I approached the hill, I heard people (most of whom I didn't know) yelling "Go Penguin Pants! Warrior of the Turtles...Friend of the Penguins!" It was time to do my best. I started the climb and I was going through a crowd of people no more than 30 cm. away from my handlebars cheering me (well, actually screaming in my ears) to the top of the hill. All the time it was punctuated with "GO PENGUINS!" When I crested the hill, the crowd burst into cheers and patted me on the back. I'll never forget that feeling as I went over the top.
There was the time I was traveling out in the western part of the U.S. in Wyoming. This is a fairly conservative state and I was on a small, secondary highway. I was nearly running out of gas, as there hadn't been a gas station for over 100 km. I saw a sign for this town about 10 km. down a dirt road and I figured I could get gas there. It was quite a rundown town of 300 people. It didn't have any businesses except for a single bar. Well, might as well ask. I walked into the bar in this town full of "cowboy" types and ask where I could find some gas. The whole place fell silent and they all looked at me. Absolute silence. I think they respected me. They were quite polite and pointed me back to the main highway. Very friendly folks they were. Someone later commented, "Of course they were friendly to you. They were afraid of you!" Well, that might be. I have this suspicion that they still talk about me to this day, "Remember in May, no, it was April of '99 when that guy wearing them pen-goo-in pants came in?" Someone else would say, "Yep, how could I forget?" It is nice that someone remembers me.
I'm currently traveling around the world. I've spent a bit of time in Australia. While I was there I bought a car and what a story (perhaps I should use the word "saga") that has become. This 1986 Ford Falcon XF is supposed to be a real workhorse, but I had a lot of problems with it. So I thought, "Well, might as well have some fun." So I decorated it. As you can see, it's quite the car. It really is a lot of fun to drive (when it works). People will video me as they pass me on the highway. They will take my picture or come up to me and say "I had to talk to someone who would drive a car like this!" I don't know if you can see it on your screen, but the hood of the car says, 'UFOS Land Here Please!" There is also a flamingo on the roof of the car. I tried to get a kangaroo, but it didn't work out. The only kangaroos that I could find were the stuffed toys or inflatable ones, neither of which would be very durable at highway speeds. I also found a concrete 'Roo. The only problem with this would be how to firmly affix it to the roof of the car. Can you imagine what would happen if a 40 kilogram (90 lb.) roof ornament came off on a turn around a city corner. It would bang up the car (not to mention a bunch of people at the bus stop). So, I decided on the flamingo. It certainly is steeped in American pop culture.
I had to weld the flamingo to the roof with metal legs. Two places didn't want to do it because they were afraid of setting the cloth roof lining on fire. I went to a metal fabricator who said to me, "Who put all this crap on this car?" I said, "Excuse me, but I did." You don't insult a customer's car or anything else. He said, "It will be $35, but it's a lot of dicking around." I said, "No, you aren't going to work on my car. You aren't worthy of it." I eventually had to bolt it to the roof (without being up high on legs). As far as the rest of the car goes, well maybe someday I will explain what "Warrior of the Turtles" means for those who don't know. The front of rolling piece of art is done in thylacine (or the Tasmanian tiger) stripes. This is a carnivorous marsupial that is most likely extinct in Australia, but there is still a chance that it exists, however small.
I had to get a picture like this before I left Australia. With this one, you know where I'm at! If the public demands it, maybe I'll explain what "Friend of the Penguins" means, but you have to beg me a bit. You can't see it in the pictures, but the back of the car says, "Team Moosepoop Chase Vehicle." I have to let people know who they are following on the highway. As I said, the car is a lot of fun to drive, but....
This picture pretty much captures way too much of my experience with the car. This is a picture of Neville of the Timber Creek Garage in the Northern Territory. This day I was told a road was passable, but it wasn't. So I turned back after going on it for 50 meters. I go over a causeway and kick up a rock that hits the bottom of the car. I look in my rear view mirror and see a stripe in the causeway. I think, "I didn't see that stripe on the way in, did I?" I drive down the highway and 500 meters later the oil light goes on. D'oh!
I hitch back to town and Neville tows the car in. There was a big wide stripe down the middle of the road which is the remains of my five liters of oil. If anyone is going by Timber Creek, look for the Bullita Creek turnoff about ten kilometers east of town. I'm sure that monument to my glory is still there!
This is a picture of me in the village of Mengino in the Eastern Highlands of Papua New Guinea in June of 2000. This village is about 90 km. south of the provincial capitol of Goroka. It is only accessible by air and the nearest road is 40 km away by very rugged trail. There aren't a lot of people who get to this area. When I walked into the village, some of the younger kids ran away from me. I didn't quite understand it at the time, but the chief (the man at the top of the picture) told me that some of the kids hadn't seen a white person before. He said that I was the first tourist to ever come to Mengino. It had been quite a while since someone from the outside world had come to their home.
One day they brought me hunting. I got my hiking boots on and they got their bows and arrows. We hiked across rugged hills and reached a cave which had flying foxes (large fruit eating bats) in it. It was a 80 degree climb about 20 meters tall to reach the cave where the foxes lived. They cut down small saplings with bush knives (machetes) and lashed them together with vines and made a ladder to reach the cave. They were able to get one bat that day which they proudly showed off. It was really quite a good time in Mengino. A week after I left the village, I sent another traveller there. He said, "You're impact is still being felt. I heard your name mentioned many times." They said they won't forget my visit to their village. I won't either.