Lunch trek

With my wife off work all week, we decided to have a bit of a day out. I looked for and found a nice looking cafe/restaurant where we could have lunch. I phoned them up to check they had dog-friendly seating, under cover, since the weather was threatening rain again. They did, but they didn’t take reservations for parties under 4 people, and told me to just show up and we’d probably get a table within 10 minutes.

So we hopped in the car and drove out there. The place I’d selected was out in some rural suburbs, where there aren’t too many people. I figured it’d be a bit quieter and less COVID-ridden than places closer to the city.

We drove out into the region, passing various farms and properties with horses and chickens and stuff. When we got to the cafe, we found it was in a nursery, and there was a huge car park almost completely full of cars. There was a queue of a dozen or so people waiting outside the cafe, and more arriving as we circled the car park. That looked like a lot more than a 10-minute wait, so we left and continued up the road.

Further along is another cafe where we’ve been a few times, also in a small nursery, and it’s never been anywhere near that busy. I turned off the road to enter the driveway… to find the gate closed and a sign saying it was closed. Presumably they were closed for this week between Christmas and New Year, as many places do.

Two prospective lunch places down, we continued driving. Further on there’s a bakery that we visit occasionally, the Glenorie Bakery. When we got there, it was open, and not too busy, although I did have to wait in a queue for a few minutes before ordering our lunch. I got a lamb pie and a Mexican pie, while my wife had a cheese and spinach roll.

After eating, we went to a nearby park where we let Scully run around and chase a ball for a while. She was running really fast in the huge open space, with no other people or dogs around. Normally she’s too distracted by others to really let loose like that.

On the way back we stopped at a roadside vegetable stall, where a farmer was selling produce. They had punnets of tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplants… and the most enormous figs I’ve ever seen. I grabbed a punnet of the figs. They’re about the size of tennis balls – much bigger than the golf-ball sized figs you normally see in supermarkets. I had one when we got home, and it was nice, though not quite as sweet as some figs I’ve had. I’ll have to think of something to do with them tomorrow. Or maybe for New Year’s Eve.

We decided to take a scenic route home, via Berowra Waters.

Berowra Waters

There’s a road leading down to the river here on each side, but no bridge. You can cross the water on a car ferry, which carries 12 cars at a time.

Berowra Waters ferry terminus

We arrived at the ferry terminus just as the previous trip was departing, with two cars queued up ahead of us. So we’d be in the next trip across. But unfortunately, there was a sign up at the gate saying that the ferry would be closed for 25 minutes for cleaning. When it reached the other side, we could see the cars disembarking, but none got on, and yes, it was about half an hour of waiting until it loaded up and came back. This gave us time to wander around a bit and enjoy the scenery.

Eventually we made it onto the ferry and across the river, to continue our journey home, making a big loop. According to Google Maps, we drove a total of about 90 km just to get lunch and take Scully for some exercise. It was a nice day out though, and I got to go on the Berowra Waters ferry, which is a thing I’ve never done before.

At home this evening I made a sweet potato and cashew pizza. I also put some corn and beans on my half of the pizza (my wife wanted just the sweet potato and cashews), and when it was baked I added a drizzle of mayonnaise and chilli sauce. Pretty good! Unfortunately I forgot to take a photo until after I’d sliced it.

Sweet potato and cashew pizza

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Good Friday… was good

Good Friday is a public holiday in Australia, second only to Christmas Day in everything being closed for business. A few cafes and restaurants are open, but basically all retail stores and other businesses are closed. So my wife had a day off work, and we slept in very late this morning. She spent much of the day sewing her dog bandanas. I did some catching up on various small tasks that I needed to get done – tax accounting and answering emails and so on.

I also worked on a travel diary for my recent road trip to Port Macquarie a couple of weeks ago. I expanded the posts I made here and inserted many more photos. I haven’t done a proper travel diary for a couple of years due to COVID restrictions on travel, so it was good to do one. It’s now complete and viewable here.

Tonight was the inter-fortnightly virtual games night between face-to-face games nights. Normally we have a turnout of 6 or 7 people, but tonight most people were either doing family things or were away on vacation with their families for the Easter weekend. So I played a couple of games with one friend, and we called it a night to go do our own things. We played Parks on Tabletop Simulator, followed by CuBirds on Board Game Arena. I won both games, which was good!

New content today:

Road trip day 3

I’m back home tonight, after a day on the road with my wife and Scully. We left our accommodation Kangaroo Valley this morning, and drove to Bowral in steady rain. We had a nice lunch there, then headed back home, arriving around 5pm. Overall, since leaving home on Friday morning we’ve driven 438 km.

I’ve had time to process a few photos from the the trip, so here they are. First, Kiama Lighthouse:

Kiama Lighthouse

The ocean pool at Kiama:

Kiama rock pool

What I’m guessing is an unnamed intermittent waterfall (that only appears after heavy rain), spotted on the escarpment of Budderoo National Park, from our drive up Upper Kangaroo Valley:

Budderoo waterfall

The road that was flooded, cutting our progress up Upper Kangaroo Valley – you can see from the flood depth marker that the water is more than a metre deep over the road:

Gerringong Creek flood

A view of some farming country in Upper Kangaroo Valley:

End of Treefern Road

And a view from Cambewarra Lookout, over the Shoalhaven River and the towns of Bomaderry (this side of the river) and Nowra (far side):

Cambewarra Storm

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Road trip day 2

It rained overnight. Heavily… really heavily. And with a lot of thunder too. Fortunately Scully isn’t one of those dogs who freaks out with thunder; she’s very relaxed about it and doesn’t really react at all. But still, it was an interrupted night of sleep with the storm.

Heavy rain continued as we got up and went out to a nearby cafe for breakfast. They had outdoor tables under a verandah, so we managed to stay mostly dry while eating.

The rain slowly eased up a bit, and we did a drive to Upper Kangaroo Valley, which is basically a dead end road, but I wanted to go there to see an old suspension bridge over the river which would make a good photographic subject. We got there just as the rain eased to a halt, so we could walk around and I could get some photos without getting wet. But the road there crossed the river at a causeway and the torrential rain of the last few hours had swollen the river so that the road was now under more than a metre of water! So there was no way we could drive across the river. We continued up the same side of the river for a bit, hoping to reach another interesting spot, but we were again stopped by floodwater over the road.

Nevertheless, it was an interesting drive and the scenery was well worth it. We saw a large waterfall appearing through the clearing mist, falling off the escarpment in the distance, and I got some photos which will hopefully be good.

We had some sandwiches for lunch back in Kangaroo Valley. Then we took another drive in a different direction, to Cambewarra Lookout, which is on top of a nearby mountain and provides an amazing view over the Shoalhaven River valley to the south. The road up there is narrow and winding – there are a lot of very cool roads in this area.

Back in Kangaroo Valley, we had dinner at a Thai restaurant. The afternoon had turned out fine after the morning storms cleared. But apparently there were serious hailstorms back in Sydney today. Hopefully there’s no damage at our place.

Heading out on a road trip

Just a short update today, as I’m on the road with my wife and Scully, taking a long weekend trip. We drove south from Sydney, stopping at Scarborough for morning tea, then at Kiama to have a walk and see the lighthouse and blowhole.

We had lunch in the town of Berry, and then headed inland to Kangaroo Valley, where we’re spending two nights in a nice accommodation. Dinner was actually back in Berry, which is only about 20 minutes drive away, in a nice Italian restaurant.

The drive between Berry and Kangaroo Valley is along a very narrow and winding road that threads up over the intervening mountains and back down again. It passes through dense forest, and is an amazing drive.

I won’t link today’s new comics, because it’s tricky using an iPad and I don’t want to spend too long on this before getting some sleep…

Weekend away, day 3

Scully slept better last night in our motel room. I think the rain helped, as the sound drowned out a lot of the minor noises that kept distracting throughout her the previous night.

The rain held off for the evening, and my wife and I went out to a nice restaurant on one of the nearby winery estates. We’ve been here once before and really enjoyed both the food and the atmosphere, so made sure to rebook it for this trip. They said over the phone that us bringing Scully would be fine, but I wasn’t sure if we’d need to sit outdoors – I think they mentioned something about a private room. When we got there, it was sprinkling very lightly. I said we had a booking and had informed them we’d be bringing our dog. They showed us straight into the main dining room and gave us a table in the corner!

Now, I’m pretty sure that restaurants here aren’t allowed to have animals (other than assistance dogs) in indoor food serving areas, but we weren’t about to point that out, and nobody seemed to mind at all. The diners at the tables nearest us were delighted and waved at Scully and scratched her when she wandered over (on leash, but she had enough room to move around a little). So we were nice and warm inside, and enjoyed a most wonderful meal. This place does a five course fixed menu, which changes daily, using a lot of ingredients they grow on their own property, and sourcing other ingredients from local farms.

This morning we got up and went to a cafe for breakfast, before packing the car and checking out of the motel. It had rained very heavily overnight, but stopped while we were having breakfast. It started up again by the time we were packing the car, and then got heavier as we drove off, heading home.

We took a different route for the first part of the trip, through a couple of small towns along a longer road that we hadn’t driven along before. It was nice to see the towns, but it was raining fairly heavily when we were there, and it was also very cold, so we couldn’t fully appreciate the scenery and historic buildings. We stopped for lunch in Lithgow, just the western side of the Blue Mountains, and then drove straight through form there to home, through heavy rain.

It was a good trip, and the rain wasn’t nearly as bad as forecast for Saturday, but it did hamper us a bit today. Scully’s glad to be home, however. After two days of being on the road in unfamiliar places and being on edge, she’s crashed and been sleeping most of the afternoon and evening since we got home.

New content today:

Weekend away, day 2

As it turned out, the weather wasn’t nearly as bad as forecast. The morning was clear and dry today. It only started raining about 1pm, and then it was only light and intermittent, although as we approach evening now it’s starting to set in a little heavier. But nothing like the torrential rain all day I was expecting.

We had a nice breakfast at the place where we would normally stay in town, but can’t this time because of having Scully with us. Then went to the Mudgee Honey Haven to buy some local honey, then to Baker Williams distillery to get some of their delicious butterscotch schnapps (I always pick up a bottle when we visit town), and to de Lusso winery to buy some wines, which they make from a range of rarer Italian grapes that are not commonly grown in Australia.

After that we went back into town to have lunch, at the Mudgee Brewing Company. We sat outside and it started to rain, but we had a large umbrella over the table and so were fine. After eating we walked around the centre of town, checking some shops, letting Scully run in the park a bit, and then going to a ceramics gallery where a local potter makes various things: bowls, plates, vases, cups, mugs, etc. We bought a couple of really beautifully glazed noodled bowls.

Scully had fun exploring Mudgee with us. Here she is at the Catholic church and the historic clock tower in the centre of town.

And checking out a roll of hay at Baker Williams Distillery.

Tonight we have our fancy dinner of the trip, at a restaurant out of town at one of the wineries. I think they said that they have a private room inside where we can bring Scully, which I’m hoping is right because it’ll be pretty cold sitting outside tonight!

New content today: When the update happens there’ll be new Irregular Webcomic! rerun annotation, Square Root of Minus Garfield, iToons, and Comments on a Postcard.

Weekend away, day 1

Today is the first day of the weekend trip I’ve been planning with my wife and Scully… since we first booked it back in about February. We originally booked for April, but that got scuttled by COVID-19 travel restrictions that were introduced. We rebooked when travel opened up again, and managed to actually make it this time.

We left home at 1:30 this afternoon, after my wife finished her morning shift of working from home. The first hour of driving was basically crossing suburbs of Sydney, and we really only got outside the city after crossing the Hawkesbury River at Richmond, north-west of home. From there we crossed the Blue Mountains via Bells Line of Road, arriving in Lithgow about 3:30. This is the only real town we pass through on the way to Mudgee, and we stopped to get a snack and a hot drink for my wife. Many places on the main street had closed already – after 3pm in a country town not much is open.

Crossing the mountains we were amazed at how much of the countryside had been burnt in the recent bushfires of last summer, just six months ago. Remember that that was the huge disaster that everyone was talking about, before COVID got going. It was just endless driving through blackened trees, and then getting long views from ridge tops across an unbroken panorama of burnt landscape. It was really eerie.

We left Lithgow about 4 o’clock, and drove through to Mudgee, arriving just before 6. We checked into our motel on the edge of town, which seems like a nice clean place, fairly modern. Previously we’ve stayed here at another place in the centre of town that we like, but with Scully we had to find somewhere that allows pets.

We headed into town for our dinner booking at a place we’ve been to before, but which has changed name and presumably ownership since last time. It wasn’t quite as fancy as it used to be, but it was a very good meal.

No sign of the forecast relentless rain that is supposed to hit tomorrow. Even now, late in the evening, there isn’t a cloud in the sky and the stars are twinkling brightly from the dark rural sky.

New content today: I can’t easily link to all these remotely, but check for new Irregular Webcomic!, Square Root of Minus Garfield, and Comments on a Postcard.

Back to Ethics

The new school term started this week here in New South Wales, and schools are pretty much open for business as usual. Ethics classes also begin this week, for the first time since they stopped for COVID-19 back in March, and my first class was today. There was no screening of any sort at the school gate – it was wide open and I just walked in. But I walked past another primary school on the way, and they had staff at the gate meeting kids with hand sanitiser and making them use it before coming in, and not letting parents in. I guess each school is doing things differently.

I only had these kids for 3 weeks at the start of the year, and I’d just about learnt all their names, but with the intervening months, I’ve forgotten most of them again, so I had to resort to name tags again. The discussion today was about animal rights. We began with a story about a chimpanzee who was taken from his parents as a baby and raised in a succession of human families, trying to teach him sign language. This chimp became violent and ended up in a cage in a research lab, and died at 20 (about half the age of chimps in the wild).

So we talked about whether chimps and other great apes deserve to have rights to freedom like humans, and experiments on them being banned. The kids were generally in favour of that. Then I asked about rats and mice that were used to test drugs that save human lives. That split the responses a bit. One boy said they shouldn’t test things like that on animals at all anyway, they should test on humans(!). Eventually we converged a bit and the kids were generally agreeing that animals deserved to have the right to live wild and free. Then I asked about dogs and cats – should they all be free, and having them as pets banned? And wow… that got interesting responses. One girl said, “Now you’re asking really hard questions!” And I answered, “Yes, that’s the point of Ethics class.”

So it was a good robust discussion, with plenty of the kids interested and contributing good comments. The behaviour could still improve, with things breaking out into spontaneous chatter more often than ideal, but it might have been a little better than the first classes in March.

I walked home a longer way, and then when I got home my wife was out with Scully and asked me to take her for a walk so she could go back in to work, so I extended it an extra couple of kilometres. I ended up walking over 11 km – before 11am!

We’re also planning our weekend away. We leave on Friday afternoon to drive out to Mudgee, a country town about 3.5 hours drive away (non-stop – we’ll have a rest break along the way). We arrive Friday evening, and have dinner and accommodation booked, at a place where Scully can stay with us. We spend all day Saturday there, and have a really nice dinner booked for Saturday, at a lovely place we’ve been to before. I think they said they have a private room where we can dine with Scully, rather than having to sit outside in the cold. And then we drive back on Sunday.

Speaking of the cold, the forecast for the weekend isn’t great, alas. Mudgee on Saturday is forecast to be -1°C overnight, to a maximum of just 14°C, and around 15mm of rain with possible thunderstorms! So it’s going to be wet and very cold. We’ll just have to make do and enjoy as best we can – we’ve been looking forward to this trip since we had to cancel it back in April.

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Nothing Saturday

Oops! I forgot to post anything on Saturday (it’s now Sunday morning here). Probably because almost nothing happened. I can barely remember what I did…

I posted a new Snot Block & Roll review (of an old sample). And I did some work on an old travel diary and photos from a trip to Thailand in 2005. And not much else.

I’ve been getting into the Netflix series The Haunting of Hill House. And finished watching season 2 of the new Lost in Space. Yeah, not a very productive day.

New content today: