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Sunday, July 29, 2007

Dodging traffic and translating french maps

Sorry all - we'd love to write about every wonderful thing we saw today on our first day of the great COFE ride, but we can't find anyone with enough energy to spell words properly, let alone have them make sense...

Here is the consolidated version, soon to be updated if we ever stop eating ourselves into food-comas every night and can stay awake long enough.

Day one of The Great Cofe was successful! At 10 a.m. Walter, Troy, David, Lucas and Heather left the Eiffel Tower exactly on schedule. We road through quiet Saturday streets in the drizzling rain to start but it soon stopped and the rest of the way through the suburbs of Paris, was in the sun.

Leaving the city was a bit tricky at times, and map reading became a frequent activity. Any attempt to coincide our timing with that of the support vehicle or the Rotary Club members offering up a place to stay that night, was more or less impossible, and so we just road on.

When once we stopped for a map-reading and saw that we were not yet even at our halfway point, the day's objective of Provins seemed dreamy, but at 5:50 pm, ten minutes before schedule, we arrived! Our first day and already 100.01km are behind us!

After comparing bum-calluses and using stair-railings as crutches, we were over-joyed to meet Mr. and Mrs. Blackford from the Provins Rotary Club; not only because they are so kind for putting us up for the night, but because they had lots of homemade food and any kind of drink you desired!

Any chance it will always be like this?

Tomorrow, Troyes!

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Final Preparations and a day in Paris

July, 27, Paris_______________________________________

Walter has been tied up and placed in a closet as a result of buying the stinkiest cheese in all of France. I am Heather and it looks like I'll be stepping in as Blog-updater. Walt's attempt to remove the stinky-cheese smell from our hotel had him carting it around the city, polluting the expensively-perfumed air and attracting small animals along our path to Le Louvre Museum. Unfortunate, our people-watching curiosity and lolly-gagging brought us to the Louvre with only an hour to spare between it and a pre-arranged meeting. A decision was made and Le Louvre will have to wait until next time for our cheese offerings.

For dinner, we met with Jenny Busch, the Tasmanian Coordinator of Adult Cystic Fibrosis. Jenny had flown in from a meeting in Copenhagen to see us off tomorrow. Over pizza and red wine, we told her of our luggage mishaps. As it looks for the moment, British Airways has, in theory, located the missing bags of sponsored gear and expensive camera equipment and in a vague email, we are told the luggage is ''at the airport''...which airport, we don't know. It is possible these necessary items are making their way back to the address of origin - Australia. We wait optimistically for its arrival, but haven't got much time left to be hopeful as we prepare to leave at 10 a.m. from the Eiffel Tower. Sadly, most of the missing camping gear and camera equipment has been replaced during sporadic bursts at the shopping centre across from our hotel - at least convenience is on our side!

An email from the president of the Rotary Club in Provins, our destination for tomorrow, lets us know he is saving us beds and dinner upon our arrival, should we make it in time; something to look forward to, as the crazy driving techniques we've witnessed are certainly not! Our plan to be rid of Paris in four difficult route-finding hours may be a little optimistic, but we're ready!
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Friday, July 27, 2007

All together!

We had a celebration dinner after we finally found Heather! We could not pick her up from the airport, so she made her own way to the hotel. She proved herself to be a durable chick! Why was I even worried about her. Here is Troy comparing beer size to coffee size. How will this comparison go in Gemany!
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Thursday, July 26, 2007

We are in Paris!

Flights for Lucas and I were problem free as we had no luggage for BA to loose! David and Troy had a good time navigating their way to Paris too. This morning we jogged to the Eiffel Tower! We also had our first language issues, ending up with an unexpected breakfast.

Today we split up to do chores, I ran into the metro to find a big computer store to replace lost IT stuff, went to pick up Martin from Gard du Nord. Troy and David went to add bits to bikes, Lucas went in search of wireless microphones (recording audio is lousy without it).... and Heather is due to arrive. The airport is miles away and I cannot pick her up... I hope she calls up so I can tell her to catch a bus!
Heather is leaving Canada:
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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Feeling Good good good!

Got up nice and early and we all went for our first run/exercise. Now that we got clothing to wear we can get changed into something fresh! Certainly was getting old wearing the same s$%t everyday!

Lucas was keeping up with us to film the spectacle of us running through Amsterdam. Amsterdam is totally shut-down in the mornings. Nothing is available before 8 or 9 am, only drugs and alcohol. Streets are pretty well deserted at 7am except for some street sweepers and drug pushers.

Freshly showered we walked to a bakery, most were closed, and got our last chocolate croissant (sorry wife, wish I could bring you one), Dutch coffee,... Only got harassed by one beggar, and a Rastafarian on the dam square. We were just about the only tourists up at this time, and so we were the only target for them.

Eight o'clock back at the hotel trying to call B.A. to postpone our flight. I missed them last night and now they don't open till 9am.

Lucas and Troy spoke to their insurance companies in Australia too, and they will get some money reimbursed for the big shop. Troy mentioned Lost Luggage. The agent said; 'Heathrow?'. Yes, said Troy. 'British Airways?' asked the operator... Apparently they reached a crisis point in Heathrow, we are not the only ones.

Ten o'clock a press photographer wants to take a shot of us with the vehicle, after which David and Troy will head off for Paris. The navigation equipment on the VW Caddy is already programmed to take them there! Too easy.

Shopping Therapy

Our luggage is still lost... Its almost been a whole week in the same cloths.

We swapped hotel this morning. I had to book another night in a hotel as we had nothing to camp with. Nothing to ride in, nothing at all really... We had planned to camp this night but that was not possible. Booking our hotel for one more night was $$$ so I got on the internet and booked us into another hotel at an 'internet' rate. The swap was not simple. First we had to take the car out of the garage... 90 Euros for the two nights! It is the going rate in Amsterdam.

At the new hotel the car did not fit into their car park and we had to park it near the station in some public car park (also at 45 Euro per night). The car is only small, but the hotel was sure it was too tall. Not to worry, they also would have charged us 45 Euro for the car night.

Tonnes of Lost Luggage

In the afternoon Troy, myself and Lucas headed out to Schiphol airport to check out the lost luggage. It was not easy getting access, but we got it. We found the room with all the Heathrow 'un-processed' lost luggage in it. Our gear was not there. I also checked other rooms with luggage in it. There was heaps of lost luggage by the looks of it. Yes, they even admitted themselves that Heathrow had a bad couple of days.

British airways gave us some forms to fill in if it hadn't been found by tomorrow and pledged to pay us ­35 Euro per day our luggage was delayed. After all, at this time of the high season 2-5 days were reasonable delays for luggage... If we had to buy anything keep receipts and send them to BA, although he could not tell us if we would get anything refunded nor had paperwork to explain it. The forms we had did ask for the inventory. Our luggage has a full Patagonia outfit for 4 people in it, $$$$$$ a huge loss. I assume we will get the luggage eventually, but when? BA was advised of our Paris hotel.

Shopping Spree

We raced back to town to catch the shops before they closed, and we went on a wild sweaty shopping spree. We bought duffle bags, tents, sleeping bags, bicycle shorts, raingear, panniers for the bikes... oh, underpants and socks,... It was a huge shop in a record time. We lugged heavy bags out the shop as they locked the doors behind us.

Then we came back to David who was lounging in the hotel, where he told us later that the amount of time we took convinced him that we had some major developments. We think he got his gear as he went to the transfer desk in Heathrow at the time and got his flight changes done there, whilst us three did it in the BA lounge where a friendly lady helped us while we had a cold beverage... David eventually got his bags, we didn't. Who knows what happened. We just think it is frustrating that someone made the effort to look for the medicine, found the first aid kit that was part of David's luggage, and my medicine bag, but the rest of our luggage was not taken! Surely they must have been placed together!


Anyway, we had an Argentinean steak for dinner and a relaxing pint of stout in a cafe. Tomorrow David and Troy will drive off to Paris and Lucas and I will have to find and buy some crucial computer/camera parts necessary for the documentary. We will need to postpone our morning flight to Paris, but BA was not open after 6pm when we called up - the earliest opportunity we had. Lucas is shooting good footage, but we really miss the external microphones as the audio is lousy from the built-in mike.

Tomorrow is another day and we should be in Paris tomorrow night. In the early morning we are all going for a run around Amsterdam to regain fitness and lung health!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Family Dinner

The one night we could do it we got some family to come and meet us!
Always great to see them, especially when I am so close but with so little time.

Mike Weinberg my cousin impressing Lucas!

Aunt Hannemien chatting up David.

My uncle Bernard showing a good van Praag appetite!
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The Plan of Attack

We have formulated a plan of attack to deal with the lost luggage. As for clothing is concerned I am at crisis point. I have now determined that my Amex travel insurance will cover expenses of necessities. First thing tomorrow I will buy socks and shirts... I, and the team, have left Australia about 5 days ago and we are still wearing the same!!!

Many calls to British Airways luggage people has come to this. They have no idea at which point you can claim damages from them but that it is 'reasonable' in their eyes to have 2-5 days delays in luggage because it is peak season!!! Personally I disagree with that statement. We were invited to come to the airport after 3pm tomorrow to check the unsorted lost luggage at the airport to see if we can see our bags! I trust we will find them. British Airways has rented 180 meters squared space to store it all in!!! David got his bags, I got my medicine bag, we are confident the rest of our gear is there. Lets hope so!

So instead of testing out our camping gear tomorrow we have nothing to camp with and we had to find a hotel. The hotel we are in now is too expensive to just renew, so I got on the internet and found us another great deal elsewhere. Tomorrow morning we will change hotel. Hotels in Amsterdam are not cheap, and we wished we could camp for the night and check our gear...

This does mean we will get a chance to be tourists and take a canal cruise tomorrow. Although I have done that a few times in my life the rest of the crew is excited about that prospect! Hopefully we will find our luggage in the afternoon and go to Paris the next day. In the event our luggage is not there we will need to buy new tents, sleeping bags, and high tech equipment for our filming (wireless cameras, hard disk storage, cables, wires, and cycle clothing.

Most annoying is the large amount of awesome Patagonia gear that was given to us by Patagonia may be lost! That will probably be the single greatest loss as I am carrying the gear for Heather and Lucas and the spare pieces too. Big money, big loss... Lets hope we find our gear in the 180 m2 space of British Airways at the airport tomorrow!

We also have another slight complication, Heather's mother was struck ill by for unknown reasons. Heather has delayed her flight by a day to be there for her mum. We all wish her all the best and are thinking of them.

Well, this is all good stuff for the documentary I suppose!

Did you want to know I am still wearing all my old clothing I left Tasmania with? No? Ah well.
We are supposed to test-ride and camp tomorrow morning, but without luggage we have no sleeping bag, no tents, no clothing,... we will need to stay at least one more night in the hotel $$$$. We are jet lagged and dirty... I need to go for a ride, I need to cough.... There is Heineken downstairs!

Australia has gone smoke-free, but Amsterdam appears to be alcohol free...
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Getting Started

Delays.... and making the most of them!

Flying... what can you use for entertainment when flying for 36 hours in a plane.

We found Martin and an awesome looking support vehicle!

Troy, Lucas, David, Walter and Martin.
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Lost Luggage....

Our Melbourne flight was delyaed and we missed the Amsterdam connection in London. By the time we got to Amsterdam our friends had waited for over 2 hours... Ai. Our luggage had also not arrived. None of it, for any of us. My 'dry-ice' packed medicine also did not make it.

Finally got to bed at well past midnight Dutch time, and got woken up by room-service. They had my medicine bag! The contents were not exactly cool, but I immediately put the $$$ medicine in the fridge. I hope it is OK, its been in transit for 48+ hours, and was wrapped with 2 x 1kg dry ice.

Next morning, most of us still dressed in our original clothing, foundDavid's First Aid kit in the hotel. It too had arrived. No sign of the others. We spent the day shopping, which was tough as the shops did not open till 11am or in some cases 12 noon - despite it being Monday!

Also no bike shops here in Amsterdam!!! We found some gear in other shops. Bought a SIM chip for my phone and discovered I need a PIN... No idea. So you can only SMS us for now on +61417067460.

By the afternoon David got a message to say his luggage will arrive between 8 and 10pm. The others are still not located.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Four out of Five ain't bad!

Progress report 1, four of our team has arrived in the Tullamarine International Qantas terminal in Melbourne! David, Lucas, Troy and myself are enjoying a few beverages as we wait for our delayed aircraft. I certainly hope we make our connection in London. But really, it is out of our hands. We do not have to paddle yet, we are just comfortably lounging away, and if we miss a flight or have a delay, we can handle that! Lets hope we do arrive in Amsterdam on schedule as friends are waiting for us. Heather, number 5, is packing her bags in Canada as we speak!

Oh, and yes, we had a nice little farewell committee in Devonport! Thank you all for showing your snouts, we feel very special! Tears were shed aplenty.

The Advocate

Today I am leaving, on a jet plane, don't know when I'll be back again....
Found this article in the Advocate this morning! Remarkably accurate except for the Danish connection. I think Tracy the reporter meant Dutch. We have a famous Tasmanian lady who became a Danish princess, so I am not insulted.

The Advocate 21 July 2007

It even tells people to go to this blog! That is nice.

Had a funny thing happen last night after the ABC news item aired. One kind man donated money to The Great COFE for CF after tracing me down on the Internet. Turns out he is the employer of the man I bought a camcorder from! Small world isn't it. It was a coincidence that we have a Barz and a Braz on the ride and a Lea and a Li, but this now seems insignificant.
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Friday, July 20, 2007

ABC News

A special thank you to Jarrod and JR for volunteering to be my friends for the occasion!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Time is Nigh

Keeping up-to-date

I have been asked about how people can keep up to date with this blog without always having to physically go to this blog. Well, that is possible:

You can get a life link on your browsers toolbar by subscribing here:

It works very easily if you have Internet Explorer 7 or Mozilla Firefox, and The Great COFE will come up as a life bookmark showing the latest articles at all times.

Good luck!

Bike preparation complete!

The bikes are prepared and ready for us to fall in love with them! Complete with bullet proof tires, bike computers, mirrors and lights! Thank you Cor Melissant and Batavus!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007


The ABC news crew came knocking on my door this morning and filmed me taking meds and riding around with friends. With a bit of luck I'll be on the 7pm ABC Tasmania news on Wednesday night! I will keep an eye on it and post it on the blog if I get a chance.

Healthwise I am doing very well, no worries about going. Showed the doctor the X-Ray and he had the official radiographers report there as well - which said I had a pretty good infection in the left lobe at the time of the X-ray.

All is on track, Cindy Braz has left the country tonight and she will meet us in Vienna to help relieve Troy the support driver. I have swapped my life from PC to laptop as well - which also means I am using Windows Vista now.

Monday, July 16, 2007

The first clip...

Yesterday was another lovely day in Devonport and feeling better again I set off with wife Katherine to coach Hans's house for a little ride. We rode over the top of Dooleys Hill and into Latrobe (72km/hr down that hill!). Here I am coming up and over the hill. I had two nebuliser sessions before the ride, coughing heaps of gunk up, but all through the 2-3 hours of riding I coughed and coughed and coughed. It's what I do, it's what I have to do.

At night my lungs felt pretty coughed out and raw, but I still had to have a nebulising treatment and cough some more before going to bed. Coughing the Distance!

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Bike preparations in progress

I am feeling much better again! Antibiotics are doing their magic.

A special thankyou to Martin in Holland, who devoted a day to pick up the five bikes from the Batavus factory far far away. He also arranged for the bikes to be metiulously prepared for our 4000km trip by a Cor Melissant bike shop. Andre in the shop there and Martin have negotiated with Batavus about the required modifications and it appears that Batavus's generosity did not end at the donation of the bikes but may even cover the accesories we require!

Troy the mechanic is having a farewell BBQ for his friends tonight. Katherine and I are veging at home. I need to concentrate on being as healthy as possible next week when we board the plane!

A few light (25km) training rides are planned this week, starting tomorrow with Hans the coach!

Friday, July 13, 2007

X-rated Picture

Look you can see the sheath of the sword I swallowed when they took the X-ray. Like some flip the bird for the camera I like to do silly things for X-rays too. See if the radiographer notices.

Don't you hate it when you are super pumped about a trip and then you start feeling crook? Well, I had an X-ray taken yesterday and started a course of antibiotics too. Having had night sweats, and starting to feel pain in my chest (not good generally) it was time for action.

Anyway, I sneaked in the back straight to Radiography avoiding the sick waiting rooms etc. I managed to get in and out real quick. Hospitals are where I perceive to be at highest risk of getting bad bacteria into my lungs!

No one ever got to look at the X-ray, I have an appointment with a GP for next week... So this morning, still having to sleep with towels I got a bit worried and a medic friend told me to show the X-rays to a doctor at the hospital.

I got a gazillion things to do, but health must come first. No health - no trip! After waiting for 20 minutes or so I got freaked. Here I am sitting in a breeding ground of bacteria to show my X-ray. What are they going to say? Take antibiotics? I am already on them? Order more tests? It is a tiny hospital where they can't even do a sputum tests. The staff tried hard to keep me there, promising the doctor would see me soon. But after an hour I got the heebeegeebies and did a runner. Tuesday I will see my favourite doctor here; Dr. Alarm. His real name is Dr. Afrujul Alam from the East Devonport Medical Centre.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

The Batavus Bikes!

Martin is working on getting the tires changed into more appropriate ones.

And look at the support vehicle! Still naked, will be covered with our propaganda soon!

Ja jaa, it is a Batavus!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Oral N-acetylcysteine going to Phase 3 trials...

One drug that stood out in my youth in keeping my lungs clear and hence me healthy was a product we imported from Europe; Fluimucil. It was a trade name for oral acetylcysteine. It was available over the counter in Holland 30+ years ago and loosened my chest greatly. I took it three times a day as directed by my doctor because that is what CF patients got. In Australia it was not available. I still import it and take it before rides when I feel chesty.

It has a mild anti-inflammatory effect and a virtual instant (minutes) mucolytic effect. It is available over the counter in Europe and Asia and I swore by it. My mother spent from 1978-1990 actively trying to get it known in Australia by translating the brochures, sending dozens of letters and costly samples to anyone she could think of. The CF community was not keen to test my mum's foreign medicine on their children. I think it was the main drug that kept me out of hospitals.

So this week I get a brochure in the mail from my in-laws who just happened to randomly run past a CF function in the USA and picked up a few printouts. One tells me that Oral N-acetylcysteine is going to Phase 3 (definitive trial) trials having just finished the Phase 2 - which is 'human safety and efficacy trial'. This is just ludicrous, unless Oral N-acetylcysteine is different from Oral acetylcysteine without the N. Is some of this valuable CF medicine that is used in Europe finally reaching the rest of the world? Is there some other drugs they should perhaps share info about!

I know that on my ride I will certainly be bringing oral acetylcysteine, in nice black currant flavoured effervescent tablet form!

The first picture!

Here I am in my new cycle shirt!

Picture taken by Phil Mitchell.

Monday, July 09, 2007

New Cinematographer!

Unbelievable but true, at this hour before midnight we found a young talent from Canberra who has even found an investor to fund his flights to come and help us film and possible do post production as well!

Lucas Li was alerted to our need by a Ted's Camera Store employee,
Michael Deeble, who helped me greatly in advising and locating a suitable camcorder for the headcam. Lucas studied at ANU and specialises in Production Management (we could use that!), but is also a competent cinematographer and editor as is apparent in his entry in the film competition: Oz in 30 Seconds. You can vote for him there.

One of the first excellent suggestions Lucas had was to ask about the contracts. What contracts I asked. He meant the ones I was reading about in The Idiot Guide to Filming, those crucial bits of paper... Because of his prior work experience in the field he is able to help us in the right direction and obviously help us manage our production! An inspirational DVD about CF will now certainly reach every CF clinic in the world. It is a matter of time now!

Last and not least, Qantas was very prompt, efficient and friendly in cancelling the flights for Kevin from Canada and booking Lucas on the same flights as us! Welcome aboard Lucas!

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Dinner Auction at the Deck Cafe

Another great success! We netted over $7000 on this fantastic night! It was my 42nd birthday as well, so it was an extra big night.
A very big thank you to all who helped, donated, ate and bought the many auction items. More on this later! I need to recover...

Monday, July 02, 2007

Pedersen Retro Bicycle

Alright, imagine if we had a Pedersen Model T bike riding with us. We would be right up there with TopGear! I am bribing them at the moment, watch this space!

Pedersen is a boutique retro design Danish manufacturer who claims to have The most Comfortable bike in the world. We need that! Unsurpassed ergonomics and an anatomically beneficial posture, seated on a genuine leather hammock seat. Yes!

The first model in 1893 was made of wood and weighed just 19 pounds, and a few changes have been incorporated since: