Stargazing

All my life I have loved looking at the stars, to me it is the endless possibility and expansion of space that captures my imagination. I remember being in primary school and looking at space books, my favourite shot was of the constellation Pleiades.

This constellation, its shape and colours, visible from earth even in the bright cites and only created from our position in the universe never ceases to amaze me. As you may know, I try and see any great meteor showers and when ever I get out of the city, I make the effort to look up and marvel at the sky on a clear night.

The best place I have seen the stars is probably Hawaii, although I did go to one of the greatest places to see the stars at Bryce Canyon in Utah but was unfortunately impacted by weather.

Kerrie & I were on the Big Island staying at Hilo. I had read that on the top of Mauna Kea at 13,800 ft there was free stargazing with telescopes provided by the Visitor Centre. The top of these mountains in Hawaii are home to some of the most powerful land based telescopes. The clear air, height above the clouds and position give us a great chance to look deep into the universe. Unfortunately, you can’t get to this telescopes without a 4wd, and entry is not permitted to the general public I believe.

One night before sunset, a storm came in and we decided to make our way to Mauna Kea. We drove our red delicious Jeep through the clouds, making our way up another dormant volcano on the beautiful Hawaiian islands. Arriving at the Visitors Centre, we watched some informative videos about the observatories and then made our way up a nice little walk to watch the sunset.

The clouds lingered below our feet, we were on top of the world. The sun, slowly started to dip, its light bent across the atmosphere, producing colours across the sky.

We returned to the visitors centre and they had started to prepare some telescopes for free viewing.

As the sun disappeared, the suns from other solar systems within our galaxy started to slowly appear. The air was fresh, the stars light that took so long to reach us started to brighten and we started to see our atmosphere, that blue by day turned transparent at night and reveal the universe to us.

Now, we saw Saturn once in Brisbane at a free telescope stall at the Greek Festival but when we saw Saturn from this height, I couldn’t believe my eyes. I could see the rings and the moons. It was so clear and just hung in the viewfinder like a tiny little Christmas ornament.

The employees of the Visitor centre used a laser pointer to show us various planets, galaxies and double stars above our heads, the expanse of the universe was from horizon to horizon, we had a full 360 degree view of the night sky. Unfortunately, our eyes were constantly not able to adapt to the darkness, as people were coming and going and the headlights of cars would reset our eyes. Usually its best to be in darkness for 30 mins for your eyes to fully adjust.

It was an amazing moment though, I felt like I could almost touch these burning balls of gas and planets above us. But I don’t think this will be my greatest view of the night sky. I plan to one day visit the Northern Territory to fully witness from what I hear is some amazing views of the night sky.

My love of stargazing continues to this day, and I have also been lucky enough to view a few comets with the last one visible to the naked eye being the great comet of 2007, Comet McNaught. I still have video footage of this comet, captured from our backyard right after sunset.

I wished I had studied the stars more and made it a career. Its important that what ever you do, you are passionate about it and the unknown questions of the universe continue to haunt me as they do everyone else.

As a keen stargazer, I hope one of the last things I do see before leaving this precious earth is Halley’s comet.

This comet is next due on the 28th of July 2061.

I will be 80 years old.

~Brad.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Maui

Kerrie & I hired a mustang, as you do when visiting Maui. It sounded like a cop car on the hit TV show Cops. Every time we took off I would happily ‘boot it’.

We started most of our day trips from our hotel in Lahaina , taking the coastal road with the impressive Mount Haleakalā as our backdrop. One thing I do remember, that volcano was huge and it wasn’t like any ordinary mountain. It gradually rose from the ground up, it wasn’t steep it looked like you could easily walk it, hardly any gradient.

It’s summit lives above the clouds, its mars like terrain looks alien with deep dark red colours and plants that only exist at this height, sprouted from volcanic soil.

The air is thin, at 10,000 ft. I distinctly remember having shortness of breath for the first 30 mins we were up there. Now, I did say the mountain looked like your could easily walk it, but once you get closer, the road to the summit is very very steep. So steep, that coming down you would be lucky not to burn your brakes out, so drop to a lower gear as much as you can.

One of the most exciting, terrifying and stupid things we did was the Road to Hana. This road is popular with tourists, it winds its way around the ocean, with tropical rainforests and waterfalls. In a lot of places, it only has room for one car as well. Oncoming traffic, is a challenge to say the least, Kerrie wasn’t a fan of the Monster Truck size Ute’s coming our way.

We made our way through the impressive drive to Hana after various stops and 2000 photographs of us and stopped at the beach for a nice pre-packed lunch. Pre-packed as in we went to a supermarket and tried to find the healthiest thing we could. I recall my sandwich had Mayonnaise, so I only had half a sandwich.

Now, usually tourists will turn around and head back home, but we decided to push on. We pushed on so much we found ourselves going from bitumen to dirt. We then found ourselves pretty lonely, no other cars and the rainforest slowly turned to rocky cliffs and no barriers. The ocean continued to hug the edge of the island as we drove but a few metres from certain death.

I might mention that it wasn’t until after this drive did we find out you are not allowed to take hire cars on this road. I guess the rattling of the suspension should have alerted that to us earlier. The car was filthy, but the views were too good to turn around. What the hell, i thought. We are on a holiday we are on an adventure and we are seeing things not many people had the chance to see!

We continued on.

We passed small little local swimming spots, crevices in the mountain that flood water would rage through and even a little church right on the ocean. We found ourselves behind Mount Haleakalā, places where ancient lava would have flowed to extended the island itself.

Now, as we made our way back to a proper road, yes the suspension was still rattling and yes the car looked like it went off road, but it was worth it.

We had a few more days at Maui to let the suspension work itself out and the rain wash the evidence away, which it did.

We left the car at the airport before heading to the Big Island, I assume the Mustang is still going strong, and so are we.

~Brad.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Demons.

Hello old friend.

Its been over 8 years since I discovered you. Since then you have haunted me, but today you haunt me no more.

The only way past you, is through you. Maybe I had some assistance, but it is a first step. Maybe the challenge has only begun, but that’s ok, I am ready.

You can’t hold me back anymore, you can’t hurt me anymore.

The only way to get rid of the fear, is to face the fear.

I know you will linger around, I know you will follow me wherever I go, but I got the upper hand now.

You have no power, you have no voice.

Today, is the day I progress.

Today, the demon is no more.

~Brad.

Medium Rare

Last night I did something different. I was invited to a steak cooking class as a customer of a company called Dicker Data. There was two tickets but I was the only one who could make it.

I didn’t know anyone but I decided what the hell. From my days on Contiki and going to Instagram walks I am used to going to places by myself and making friends. Shit, I have even been to Disneyland by myself!

I had to take a bus I have never taken before, so I left work about five minutes early and walked to bus stop 95a. There was a huge line of people waiting to the bus, so lucky I got there early.

Moments later a bus arrives, it wasn’t the 113 as I had hoped but a Queensland Uni shuttle, the line started to move. I noticed everyone was getting in this bus, and I was getting closer to the door. I suddenly realised this line was for this specific bus and I quickly moved aside and pretended like I knew what I was doing.

So, by myself and getting a little nervous about attending said Steak Night the bus arrives, the 113. The door opens and the bus driver says “One minute, just doing changeover” and then kind of signals to me, but it was too late I was halfway in the door when it shuts on me. No serious damage just a second hit to the already damaged and nervous ego.

I stand and wait for bus door to open, once again pretending I know what I am doing.

I jump on and we are on our way.

I have lived in Brisbane for over four years and there is a lot I haven’t seen. This bus took me through underground tunnels and various twists and turns. The scenery was different and a breath of fresh air to be honest, I kind of felt like I was travelling a new city, a new country.

I arrived at the hotel thirty minutes early ( I hate being late) and got myself a beer. I sat on a lonely single table, but that’s ok I like my own company, I like my own thoughts.

It is quite exhilarating putting yourself out to the unknown, I think you learn a lot about yourself.

Eventually guests arrived and one gentleman came up and introduced himself. He was in a suit, but real friendly and we got to talking all things business and tech.

Granted I didn’t understand everything he was talking about in terms of business but I thought I kept up well. I am sure he was none the wiser.

We eventually moved over to the bigger table where the class was setup to begin and I met and spoke with various customers and enjoyed a few drinks. The presentation was very informative and I learnt that You Tube doesn’t know how to cook a steak, so I look forward to giving this technique a go.

The night ended and I was on my way home and I reflected on what had happened. As usual I tend to over-think situations and predict the future and when you do that enough and try to avoid the situation Mr.Anxiety starts to creep up and say hello.

The power and I guess, you could say enlightenment I felt was welcomed and all because I decided to open myself up to the unknown. The night was a success and I am really glad I attended and made so new contacts.

So in closing, I, you, we have to take a chance. We have to give it a go because you never know what will happen, open yourself up to change and possibility and get into that deep end.

So instead of just being well done, try something different and try something rare, you never know where it may lead you.

~Brad.

The Road.

The fog has cleared, I am on a road. The destination, is unknown although there are a lot of roads and a lot of land on either side where I can build a new road.

Right now, I feel like I just drove through an intersection and I can’t remember if the light was red or green. I’m too busy wondering where I am going. I’m too busy looking ahead for obstructions, for speed bumps, for uncomfortable situations.

I’m stuck.

Every moment up until now has been of my making. Every moment I have enjoyed, but where do I go now. If I stay on the road I wanted long ago, I will end up at a place I don’t want to be. I can’t stay here, there is too many people going by without me, I can’t think, I can’t feel. The longer I stay on the side of the road, the further everything moves away from me.

Something is inside me, its wants more. People say I’m content, but I am far from it. I am more confused than ever and now I don’t know which way I came from on this road. The clouds are gathering again, they are black and full of the liquid of life.This liquid will pass over my body, like a snake passing over a boulder. It will cleanse my skin, but won’t cleanse my soul.

I want to get cover, but there is no shelter here. I can’t protect myself any more, I must go on, I must make my own path, a new path to behold.

I turn around and next to the road is a stone. This stone has an arrow on it, pointing to the west. The west, why the west I don’t know. I don’t know if it is even an arrow, but my brain has told me it is so.

There are three doors in the ground. One is wood, one is steel and one has no door.

The door with no door, is the easy way. It leads back to where I am.

The door of wood, is not that hard to open. I can use my foot to kick it up if I have to. But down there, is another road. It looks like this one, but just a little different. The road has a different surface, but the countryside it passes through is the same.

The final door, is the steel door. This is the door I want. This is the door I need. It will take all of my energy, all of my power to open it. It is so thick and heavy, I can’t even imagine what is below it.

I hear no sounds from the steel door. It’s completely unknown, and I am not sure of how I will be or what I will be when I enter it. Sure I can sit in front of it, maybe wait until someone leaves and opens the steel door from the inside, but that’s not what I want.

I want to open the door myself.

For now, I take the door with no door.

Another day, is what I say.

Another day.

~Brad.

South Rim

On my first trip to the US, the highlight and vivid memory to this day has to be the first time I saw the Grand Canyon.

My father, big fan of Clark W. Griswold made sure I was to do the famous head bob on the Rim. I didn’t disappoint.

First thing I noticed, was the elevation. I imagined the canyon at the end of a desert.  Basically dust until the crack in the earth, but I was surprised to find ourselves driving through a forest.

The Contiki bus was no stranger to climbing the plateau which the Canyon has etched itself into.

We climbed up through thick forest and gorgeous views of the surrounding areas, although this was nothing compared to the awe-inspiring canyon. Trees continue to line the highway as we continued to the South Rim. The more popular area of the Canyon and made famous by various movies,especially National Lampoons Vacation as mentioned before.

I kind of imagined driving into the National Park with views of the Canyon but  it just wasn’t visible.

How could the biggest hole on earth be so hard to see? Our hotel was on the rim, but again with no view. We checked in and I recall getting to the hotel late. So late it was after dark.

I was pretty shattered, but knew I had to see something so I raced down to the edge. I can’t explain what I saw, a hole but I couldn’t make out details. It was also very cold, the wind was ripping through my every bone. I don’t think I have been in colder weather.

Due to the canyons elevation, it does snow although not this time of year.

I returned to the hotel, a little sad and a little disappointed I couldn’t see much. That night we had a party in a hotel room. Typical Contiki, the Ranger arrived and shut us down for being to loud. I can understand, was probably a Tuesday night.

On Contiki everyday is the weekend.

Morning arrived, the earth completing another successful rotation.

This was it, the time had arrived.

I recall walking down the short trail to the first lookout. this was also the place where the gas-powered bus would take you along the South rim, stopping at all the best lookouts.

There isn’t many words to describe the canyon, its hard to take in. It’s size, is immense, it looks like a painting. It looks fake. I think a lot of people describe it this way. You can’t see the river from this first lookout, but you can see what it left behind as it slowly carved its way through the plateau over millions of years.

Its quiet, and its peaceful. It’s also impossible to see it enough, the amount of detail, your eyes struggle to see every crack,every ridge and every pebble. I have returned to the Canyon 3 times and every time I go I say to myself, take it in as much as you can, but it’s just too big.

Even the helicopter I took over it, pushed my eyes and mind to the limit.

You simply need to see it for yourself.

~Brad.

The Fog.

Its white, its cold. You rush through as you fall. There is no turning back now, you have begun.

All the things you dreamed up in your head, all the predictions you pondered, don’t exist.

This is now. This is you.

What will you do when the fog clears? What will you see, how will you feel?

The wind rips past your face, your eyes start to water, you are falling faster and faster,deeper and deeper into the unknown. Feel you heart, feel your veins, you are alive. You are no longer a passenger, you are in control. You can move sideways, you can flip backwards and forwards, you are weightless.

You close your eyes, you take a big breath. Silence.

The air, you feel enter your nose. The tingle, this airborne matter creates as it enters your lungs and energizes you is something new. You no longer think about what is coming, or what has happened. You are ready to open your eyes.

You are ready for what ever happens, because it hasn’t happened yet.

Time, is only a measurement. We are not recorded on any surface, we are only today, we are only now.

Nothing happens, until you do something. You took the first step, you fall and you wonder. What will I become, where can i go.

No one can tell you as you fall through the fog, you must find your own way.

You must find the road.

You must find it, today.

~Brad.

The Edge.

I spoke about the hole. You don’t want to go back there, no one does. It should get better from here, it should be easier.

That was only the first hurdle in the invisible race we all run. The next event is the long jump.

First you lay down and you crawl to the edge. You peek over while keeping a firm grip on the edge. It’s the last piece of safety. It’s comfort, it’s known and it’s keeping you there and holding you back at the same time. 

You can hear sounds from below but you don’t know what they are. Thick fog is below, it doesn’t rise or fall, it doesn’t clear for a glimpse. It’s either you go through it or you don’t. This is the edge.

You return from time to time, you stand now and slowly creep to the edge. It’s a shuffle, it’s safe. You know where you are while you look down into the unknown. 

It still feels dangerous, it still feels unknown. It’s sometimes easier to not glimpse at all.

Sure you can stay on the edge, it will do for now. You can’t get off it though, there is a hole waiting. Sometimes you hear whispers from the hole, familiar thoughts you have learned to understand. What would carry you down there beckons, it calls to you. It wants you down there.

But, that’s not where your going. You know you must jump, you know you can’t take a rope or parachute. There is no safety after the edge. 

The more you shuffle to the edge, the more the edge responds. The ground becomes weak or is it your knees? You close you eyes and hear a voice. It’s yourself. The internal dialogue, the engine that burns in your stomach and powers your thoughts. It wants more. It can’t live on the edge anymore. 

In the distance you can hear laughter and a scream. The fog is low but in the distance you can see people on their own edge. You look left and right and now you can see people jumping. They were there all along.

You want to take that jump, but you want it to be right. You go to the edge, and you take one step.

You take that first step in the unknown.

~Brad.

Funny Cars

In the 90’s the family fun days were Drag Racing. My father would organize for us to go to the Nationals that were held at Calder Park in Victoria. This place was also known as the Thunder Dome. Was a place for NASCAR type racing, V8 Super cars and top fueller’s.

First things first, an esky full of Rolls with Cheese & Ham, 24 cans of Coke and some chips and lollies. Also some water for hydration. The drive to Calder to me felt like hours, but only when I was older did i realise it wasn’t that far. I guess it kind of felt like that because the traffic was absolutely ridiculous.

Dad’s thing was to get there early so we could park in the Thunder Dome. The coolest part was lining up to drive through the tunnel that goes underneath the track, at the end of the tunnel you were presented with a huge green grass field, with a 360 degree view of the track circling around us. Sometimes there would be a car on the track as well, maybe a NASCAR type or an old HQ.

Was a bit of a walk from the car park to the quarter-mile straight that we would fixate our eyes on the for the rest of the day and night, but it was worth the view inside the Thunderdome. Old Bob Jane would pop in by Helicopter and the Caltex girls would walk past every hour or so to refresh our view. The only thing better than looking at cars were girls.

I can’t say I remember every race, or crash or girl for that matter, but I do remember a few moments that are as clear to me as this day. The first would have to be the burnout. Funny Cars, Top Fuellers and motorbikes would rip up the rubber on the wheels to warm the tyres up before the quarter-mile race. We would run down to pit lane, the most packed part of the track and breathe it in, oh yeah that sweet sweet rubber. Probably not good for a child, but I’m still breathing.

Night racing was the best, the top fueller’s were loud and the flames from the exhaust looked like engines from a futuristic space craft. The blue and orange, flickered with power, the exhaust lid and supercharger eyes would flick open to inhale precious oxygen. The engine cracked, it cracked loud like little fireworks going off. Enough to almost blow you ear drum, but just not enough to actually do it. The only thing better than the sound was the rumble in the ground when they took off. Was the closest thing to an earthquake I ever felt.

So you take that Top Fueller and you feel the ground shake and your ears almost bleed. Then, you up the ante. The Funny Car Jet Car comes out.

This is basically a jet engine with four wheels, a shell that looks like a funny car and a guy with balls of steel holding on to the wheel. I don’t think he actually drives it, he is just there to keep the wheel straight.

There is a hill behind the quarter-mile starting block, which is usually full of people. These people have to move with the jets come out. The power of the jet blows all the little, dirt and rubber up the hill. The heat is intense. The sound is like holding a can of fly spray and squeezing it into a flame, that quick burst of flame, the brwwwwwqqq sound, then the hiss of the engine. The sound of the turbine spinning inside, like a passenger jet taxing, then another burst.

From memory, these things don’t do burnouts. They just sit there constantly leaking fuel into the jet, the flames and sound increasing with every spurt.

Before you realise they have taken off, your brain captures up to the cars around half way and a pressure appears on your chest. You can feel the thrust, the power as these jets fly past. It almost knocks you off your feet. You almost have to push forward to make sure you don’t fall over all while screaming so loud that the jet engines vaporise any sound waves from the entire crowd. You don’t hear anything but the jet engine.

Then, like slowly turning a radio up you hear the crowd sound waves appear about 4 seconds behind the jet cars and they have already deployed there parachutes and are slowing down. You voice is now part of 1000 more, cheering and laughing. The most common phrase I think is, “Holy Shit, that was madness”

Your heart rate is through the roof, you feel adrenaline pumping through your veins.

What a rush.

That was a family tradition for sometime. Then they took the Drags away from Calder park. Eventually we replaced the family ritual with the Avalon Airshow before I left to live in Brisbane.

But guess what?

The Nationals are at Calder Park on January 23-24, 2016 at Calder Park Raceway. Then the Winter Nationals are in Queensland on June 9-12, 2016.

Looks like I got a date or two with a funny car.

~Brad.