Shifting – July Ride 1 – Independence

6 July 2020

48 kms (30 miles)

It was a cool night in southern Sydney, but the pub was warm. The cover band played at one end of the main bar. A sprinkling of people, who had already had enough to drink to loosen inhibitions, danced to the ‘70s and ‘80s rock. The pub was probably ¾ full, and there was a line at the bar for drinks. The atmosphere was comfortably middle-class bogan hanging out with friends.

Then, the band launched into its next song, and it was as if the Sirens of Homer’s Odyssey had called. Everyone in the pub seemed to pause for a moment and turn toward the band. The dance floor filled quickly, the line at the bar evaporated, and people got up from their seats. And then nearly every person in that pub started to do a line dance with specific moves that EVERYONE seemed to know.

For as strange as this was to see, all those people could have been up there sacrificing a goat or partaking in any cultural ritual from around the world that you never knew existed until you stumbled upon it.

I watched in awe. It was my first Australian cultural experience related to this phenomenon.

You see, that cool winter night, on 4 July 1998, at the Peakhurst Pub (i.e. Peaky Pub) in southern Sydney, the band had launched into Nut Bush City Limits.

And it seems every Aussie in the country, at least of late Boomer and Generation X age, knows the line dance for this song. Funnily enough, the line dance originated in America, but I’ve never met an American that knows it. Yet, they taught the dance in Australian schools for a long time as part of their physical education courses. So a whole lot of Aussies know it. And Aussies of a certain age, with a little bit of alcohol in them, cannot resist busting the moves when a cover band plays that song.

That night was my first, but far from last, experience seeing mass quantities of Aussies partake in uncoordinated attempts at a crappy line dance. And should you think I am overstating the Australian infatuation with Tina Turner’s song, the Aussies have world records to prove their love.

That night also happened to be the 4th of July. I was hanging out with Nigel and his friends. I had met Nigel in March of that year and had met back up with him in Sydney at the end of my trip. His friends had all toasted to the 4th of July for me earlier in the night, which is why I remember the date of my Australian cultural indoctrination (I still don’t know that dance though).

So every 4th of July, I remember the Nut Bush and my first experience with it. I think back to being a kid in America and my safety conscious parents not taking us to fireworks shows or buying any fireworks to light at home either. Instead, they bought sparklers which we were allowed to stand with and twirl in the driveway while we tried to see the city fireworks show over the neighbouring homes and trees. So, the 4th of July was never a big deal to me as a kid, or later on in life either. These days, after a few minutes of recalling kiddo memories and the Peaky Pub, I just move on with the day.

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This 4th of July is filled with going up to help Nigel with some things and then driving home. The weather is poor anyway. Sunday is much the same. I have a slightly ambitious idea for a ride Monday that has been staring at me from the map for a long time. But by the time the fog burns off, it is too late to do that ride given our short daylight hours.

So, once the fog finally lifts around noon, I decide I’ll just ride up to Eldorado and give the guys a float in Reedy Creek instead.

We take off through the bright green paddocks, seeing a few other cyclists out for a ride on our way. It’s school holidays in Victoria, so there are a few more people out and about than normal. We head over the river which is running high and fast and then down several roads we’ve ridden quite a few times now in the past 9 months.

It is a joy to hear frogs calling out in chorus from every roadside puddle and ephemeral creek. The sounds of life are such a change to the dryness of summer when only the buzz of flies and lowing of cows can be heard.

It’s cold – it’s still only 6 degrees. Verne has his hood up and Kermit is leaning in close. The cold air in my lungs makes my asthma a bit annoying, but with all the stresses lately, it is just so nice to get outside and away from all those worries for a bit.

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Chilly but gorgeous day for a ride.

As we head north, I note that there is still a thick fog layer hanging over Eldorado. We continue on, thinking it will lift by the time we get to it.  But as we get closer, I note that it isn’t lifting. So I recalibrate and decide we’ll head east on whatever road comes next. We’ll ride up to Everton instead, before turning toward home. It will give us a similar distance and maybe a new road.

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Winter – water in the fields and all that white sky is lifting fog.

The new road ends up being Bradley Road. It traverses the wide valley with some tree-lined bits, some open bits and some boggy, low bits on either side of the gravel. It really is nice to just be out pedalling. My el-barto symptoms haven’t been too kind lately, and the artemisinin and myrrh have been kicking my butt, so a gentle ride is probably a good thing. I always feel better after a ride if it isn’t too strenuous.

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Bradley Road. New one – can’t tell, can you?
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See all that thick white cloud over there. That’s fog sitting in the amphitheatre basin of Eldorado.

We head back toward the rail trail and then head east on it. There’s a long, flat stretch between Hodgson’s Creek and the Wangaratta-Beechworth Road. There are views up onto the edge of the Beechworth Plateau and the national park to the northeast. In contrast to summer, when you dread this long patch through the sun, the radiant heat is welcome. C’mon Vitamin D dosage!

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Ha! The poor phone camera has such a scratched front-side, that we are a bit rough and fuzzy. My point and shoot camera needed its battery charged, so we only had my crappy $50 phone camera today.

There’s a short climb and fall before the Beechworth Road, and then a longer gentle climb to Everton Upper. There are swooping magpies along here in spring, and I’m wondering if today will be the day I get my first swooping of the year. This is usually the second week of July, though the full-on, multiple attack rides don’t usually start until mid-August. We’ll completely disregard that swooping in May this year because I don’t quite know how to tally that one.

But the magpies leave me alone and I traverse the trail without nuisance. I note all the oxalis growing on the trailside and consider picking some to take home to include with dinner, but I don’t have any salad fixings right now, so I leave them be. They are an edible weed, and there are plenty along the ride today.

At Everton Upper, we turn off the trail and coast down White Post Road. There is a popular parking area for the rail trail here. This lot is at the base of the 16 kilometre climb up to Beechworth, and a lot of people park here, and then ride up to Beechworth return. Or they do car drops so they only have to coast downhill! There are four cars in the lot today.

White Post Road curves down through a small valley past old cottages and one very tidy, immaculately maintained older home that has an old council playground structure in the rear yard on the creek flats. Imagine how cool that would be if you were those peoples’ grandkids!

Toward the end of the run, where the road runs out of the valley at the base of the Everton Hills, a magpie comes, floats along above me and then swoops, not too aggressively, three times. Yep, second week (this is the first full week, but second week of dates) of July every year! Up ahead, I can see a roadie coming my direction. I’m sure he could see the bird coming for me from that distance, so at least he got some warning.

From Everton, I turn back toward Markwood. There is a very aggressive magpie near the store here, but luckily, he hasn’t joined his mate yet in swooping for the season. (The most aggressive magpie ever – the one that shat on me multiple times – is just a km or two up the Diffey Road nearby).

I stop with the guys to give them a float in the Ovens River, since we didn’t make it up to Reedy Creek. This is usually quite a popular camping reserve, but in winter it is all mud and a lot of shade, so there is no one here today. I let the guys float for a bit in a backwater while I soak up the sun. I can’t believe it is already mid-winter. Time has flowed in the weirdest of ways since the pandemic took hold.

We ride on toward home down a road we’ve ridden dozens and dozens of times now. This one has three swooping magpies on it, but I will most likely miss their antics this year. I’m going to have to move house, and will probably have done so before they all get going again. Sigh…. Moving will be a big hassle, and the stress of finding somewhere decent in a place with super low vacancy rates, is not exactly what I need right now. But you do what you have to do and just get on with things, right?

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View from my front porch. That big, ugly, plastic white tent with roll-up sides and the adjoining open-sided shed is going to be a function centre for weddings, etc for up to 100 guests. That is less than 20 metres from my bedroom window. Directly behind my bedroom window, within 15 metres will be a parking area, outdoor dining and pizza oven. Nup. Not going to put up with that.

Today’s ride was a hastily recalculated Plan C, but it’s a good 50 kms that doesn’t hurt my cruddy body much at all. It’s probably just what I needed. Riding is always what’s needed!

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I think 2020 will be a year that sticks in many people’s heads as the year that all their plans were ruined. But I think, for me, 2020 will actually just meld right in with 2018 and 2019, since all my plans for those years were ruined, too. The stay-at-home orders in those years were imposed by my body instead of the government, but already, all this slow downtime has started to lump together in my head.

Other than the huge disappointment and sadness in not being able to see my family this year, all the rest is a whole lot like the past two years have been. And the work from home… yeah, I did that for 3 years in my PhD, and hated it then as much as I hate it now. So I look forward to the future and will muddle through the next 18 months in much the same way I muddled through the last 24.

However, I am grateful to be in Australia, even if they do have an obsession with a really bad line dance from the 1980s. The other cultural icon song of a participatory nature, which I also got my first experience with on 4 July 1998, is one we recently missed out on when they cancelled the Red Hot Summer Tour in March. That was at the very beginning of the pandemic, though it feels forever ago now.

Here’s a bit of a history of the song and a live version of it (you won’t be impressed by the quality of the music, but it is a clever and very Aussie chorus). Language warning!

Until next time, are you ever going to read my journal again?

9 thoughts on “Shifting – July Ride 1 – Independence

  • Just heard via the BBC World News that they’re shutting the Victoria-NSW border cuz of an outbreak in Melbourne. How is that going to affect your part of the world; you’re almost on the line, yes? Stay safe

    • I used to live almost on the line! But I live about 75kms away now. It is still a bit crap because Nigel lives on the other side, as do many of my friends. The crappy thing is that they should have closed down metro Melbourne two weeks ago when the case numbers started to go up before the school vacation period started. They didn’t, and so that let people from Melbourne go all over the state while the virus was spreading. So NSW closed the border AND then VIC finally put restrictions back on Melbourne. If they’d only shut Melbourne down two weeks ago, they wouldn’t have had to close the border. The first day of border closure was pretty chaotic apparently. It was bound to be when they effectively just split a city of 100,000 in half overnight where many people live on one side and work on the other. It sounds like the restrictions could get even worse. But still, I’m glad I’m over here where they take it really seriously and are doing what needs to be done to contain it. Just 4 weeks ago, Melbourne was only getting about 4 cases a day. So it shows how quickly it can take off when restrictions are lifted and just a few people do the wrong thing. Hope you are staying safe there!

  • Hilarious! We’ve got line dancing here in the U.S. too, of course. It happens at every wedding reception I’ve been to in the last 20 years, which, thank god, haven’t been all that many. I’ve never liked that “spontaneous” audience participation stuff — from the Rocky Horror Picture Show screenings in the 1970’s, to line dancing, to boot-skoot boogying, to the choreographed hand gestures and choruses that break out at any live performance of “Sweet Caroline” or “Brown-eyed Girl.” I don’t participate in such things and I don’t even like seeing them. The people doing it seem to be having so much fun, but I know I’d feel like a dork. I guess that makes me a curmudgeon.

    And here I thought “Nutbush City Limits” was a Bob Seger song.

    Thanks for getting me all riled up, Emily. Now I need to calm myself down with a nice peaceful, Verne & Kermit-like float down the river . . . or a bike ride.

    • Ha, ha! Sadly, I do think this makes you a curmudgeon. Or you just need to drink more beer in such situations so you don’t care and end up joining in, too! So do you know Americans that know the line dance for Nut Bush? I know Americans that know line dances, and I’ve seen them done, but usually to Garth Brooks. I’ve never seen an American do Nut Bush! And I agree. I HATE Rocky Horror Picture Show. I don’t really like musicals all that much either… except the Muppet movies. If I remember correctly, the Nut Bush song is about Tina Turner’s home town, but I don’t totally remember. Funnily enough, I’ve never heard the Bob Seger version. Glad I could get an old curmudgeonly guy riled up… 🙂

  • Thanks for another update! OMG. The Angels. Thanks for that. Will be in my brain most of the day no doubt.
    Stay safe in the madness…
    Did I mention that I’m working 5 days a week on a couple of ARC grants? Lucky to have it!! Still awaiting the examiners reports.
    Catherine

    • Sorry – I just saw your comment from May – don’t know how I missed it! Virus brain, darn it. That is so fantastic about working on ARC grants. Congrats! I hope they are interesting and challenging and not too interrupted by all the COVID stuff. There have been so many cuts in funding and the unis are in such dire straits that it is fantastic you’ve got research work. I submitted mid-April and my last examiner report didn’t come back til August. I was lucky to go on a bike tour, though, so I wasn’t thinking or worrying about it in that time. Hope you don’t have one that drags it out like I did. And you mean you don’t listen to the Angels on your “Top 100 Beer Songs” CD all the time? LOL! Take good care up there!

  • When we were new to Sydney back in 1974 we found the pub at Tom Uglies Bridge. There, on a Sunday (when pubs were generally shut due to the odd licensing laws of the time) you could have a beer and there was a band which excelled playing “Sunshine of Your Love” (Cream). It was before the Nut Bush era.

    When I first heard the unbidden chorus to ‘Am I ever going to see your face again’, all I could think was Brilliant – how Australian! The Angels. Ah yes. At the time I worked with a girl called Judy and she was an Angels fanatic. Oh the memories! We met up with Judy last year. She now lives in Broken Hill and tells anyone who listens how she has been to every Angels concert .. ever. Not true but she is convinced.

    • Those are some great memories 🙂 My only memory of Tom Uglies Bridge is how narrow the traffic lanes were where the lanes jogged at the southern end. Nigel is from southern Sydney so all his friends and family that we used to visit were spread out through places mostly south of the Georges River. When I spoke to Nigel, I asked him, and he said he remembers that pub from when he was a kid (not going in – driving by) and his family was driving out to Maianbar from Riverwood/Lugarno on weekends. I don’t think the Angels are a very good band, but the ‘unbidden chorus’ does make me smile. Judy must have been sad that all the Red Hot Summer Tour dates were cancelled. We were going to go to see Hunters and Collectors, but the Animals were also on the bill.

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