February 05, 2007

Cowes, Phillip Island, Aussieland, day two

After the free/travel day I spent with Dags driving down to Phillip Island, I expected to be at the circuit bright and early the next morning. Well, because of the vintage bike races going on, we weren't allowed in the paddock area, and besides, our flight boxes hadn't arrived yet. That meant a second day to see the sights and smell the smells, and while I did manage to get a little work done at the house (paperwork-wise) I was a little worried because if there's one thing you can't get back, it's lost time. I really don't like it when my boxes show up late, because that's one less day we have to get ready for the riding sessions, and it makes me a little nervous.

I woke up later than normal, had a small breakfast, and made my way into the township to have lunch with Alex Barros' crew. Everyone from the team had split off to do their own thing, whether it was mountain biking through a neighboring island, or waking up at dawn to go boat-fishing (like Mark Elder and some of the Factory guys did). I ran into Mark later that afternoon and he invited me to get some golfing in at the racetrack, but I had to decline. I may wear pink. . . but that's as far as I go (just kidding you golfamaniacs). Here I am at the entrance of Cowes' pier. After lunch I took a nice walk and after showing everyone some photos, Barros and crew decided to make the same journey. More time for me to take pictures and eat candy, haha!

Dickie says eat your Breakfast! I wish I was a little more "fat-free", because I really felt I was packing it on during this trip. All the good food in Malaysia was hard to resist, though some on my team feel that I don't have "good eating culture". Who says you can't have spaghetti and watermelon on the same plate?!?

On the main strip of Cowes, which you can't miss because there are only four blocks worth of "town" in this place, there are a couple Italian places that the teams and riders have been going to for years. Right across the street there's a place called Pino's, which my team ate at a couple times. There's a grip of memoribilia on the walls, including mini replica bikes, leathers, and lots of autographed pieces, and people tell me they've watched the daughter of the owners, Romi, grow up. That means she's off-limits.

Anyone who's been here will recognize all these photos, but if it's your first time, the only place to really get a drink and people watch at night is on the corner and it's called, Hotel. Show up on a race weekend night and be prepared to watch 15 year old girls slap the crap out of the dullards.

There's the pier I mentioned earlier, and while it looks super bright and sunny, there was actually a cold wind blowing heavily. You couldn't even really feel the sunshine, and everyone ended up getting burnt that day. My head just finished peeling, but other people had it worse!

The beaches were great for taking walks on, and while it was a weekday (I think, I can't remember the days, just the dates), there were still couples here and there, laying down or having mini-picnics in the shade of the trees.

I took a walk myself! It was great, and not unlike the dinners I have alone in Barcelona. Lots of time to think about "what have I gotten myself into this year?!?".

I managed to give two of Australia's finer treats a ride on my lap. The Crunchie was very interesting, like a very dense honey comb/dried-out pumice stone, but I'm saving the Chokito to eat in Qatar next week.

I think this is actually a Bay, but it still smelled like Ocean to me. You really can't put a price on the water, and I hope I never have to live far from it ever again. I tried something different with this shot, taking the pic through the polarized lens of my sunglasses. It turned out ok, and I think it's something I'm going to try again in the future.

Those of you Australians who couldn't get to the tests really missed an opportunity to meet and greet with the riders. They were everywhere in the town, just walking around, window-shopping, and just hanging out. We caught up with Carlos Checa (who looks like he's lost some serious weight!), Toni Elias, Marco Melandri, and Loris Capirossi was just walking around by himself for a lot of the day. We were all buying little souvenirs but I was waiting to see something special before springing for anything. I ended up with more chocolates, though, because you can't get the kind I like here in Spain, and they're neatly stashed away ready for the rest of the preseason tests. If they last that long, haha.

Great sunset that night, and everynight I went for a short walk around the house to try and see the McNaught Comet! I was successful, and I like to think this gave us a little extra boost during the tests. I couldn't capture my own pictures of it, but it was awesome, and seeing something like that reminds you of just how much spacedust we really are.

Dinner that night was at the Panhandle, a place advertising Texas BBQ. Do NOT be fooled. The ribs? Ha! We were joined by the Ohlins on-track technicians, Hopper's crew from Suzuki, the Marlboro team, the Black Sheep Squadron (as I like to refer to us), and some of the people from the vintage bike event. They'd come over to the table and ask for autographs and pictures, and it was fun to watch the locals do their thing. Our waitress was a crazy kind of girl who taught us the meaning of the word, "root", and later in the week she even tracked down The Hoff on Myspace. Definitely weird, but not as strange as seeing our old Ducati Engineer, C2, gobbling down on some beer and ice cream. He's such a health nut, always going for runs around the track after work, but I guess even he has his weaknesses.

The next day we made it to the track bright and early and proceeded to get to work. We had gotten some great data in Sepang and were keen to put it to good use.

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