The Blonde Runs

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Aussie East Coast Road Trip: Sunshine, Gold, and Byron

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We woke up on the 7th and leisurely made our way to breakky (breakfast) into the little area of the Sunshine Coast we had stayed in, Maroochydore (just an hour and a half north of Brisbane). After a busy two days of driving and day tour, we were ready to slow down a bit, settle in for a couple of days somewhere, and just take our time doing…whatever.

While we had to do a few “technical” things while driving through Brisbane, like return the rental, coordinate getting our car back from some friends’ parents who let us leave it at their house for safe keeping, we did do a few touristy things.

The friend’s sister (of the parents whom we left our car with) has a bar in Brisbane down an alley. It’s not that weird here, I promise.

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We also took them by the colorful Brisbane sign, near the ferris wheel, and on the quick ferry up the river.

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We ended that day another hour and a half south, in Ocean Shores, near the Gold Coast and just about 20 minutes north of Byron Bay. Remember how once upon a time I said that Byron Bay was super busy and like the Vail of surf towns? And remember how I said that “we” didn’t want to overplan anything, but just see where we ended up each day or two? Yeah, that’s why we stayed 20 minutes away. And it actually wasn’t that bad!

When we had checked into our budget hotel, I did some scouring of surf lessons in Byron Bay, for Tia and Jason, the next day, and booked them in for a half day lesson. Nick and I have already surfed, so while we would have loved to have another go, we didn’t feel the strongest need take part. We had some brekky and decided to follow them and just take photos.

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We think they had a lot of fun and are hoping it was one of their favorite days!

That afternoon we spent the day wandering around Byron Bay. Although it’s extremely touristy, there is a lot to see and do there, with plenty of shops, restaurants, cafes, and bars. We even met up with some friends we know from Canberra who happened to be driving a very similar route to us. They had started a few days prior, in December, and we always seemed to be a few days behind them.

On the 9th, we drove nearly 5 hours to Cresent Head for lunch and relaxing on the beach.

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Another hour south, and we were back in Port Macquarie for a quick dinner and sleep.

It was here that we had to make a decision about where to do next. We could either head down to Canberra (7 hours), spend a day or two, and show Tia and Jason where we live, then head up to Sydney a day before their departure so they could take in that city; OR we could stop in Sydney and remain there until the departure flight on the 13th. Nick and I didn’t mind one way or the other, but they wanted to see where we lived, so we spent all of the 10th in the car driving to Canberra. We made it home in time to stop by the markets for some dinner ingredients.

7 January to 10 January
This Stretch- ~1516km/942m-I am including all of the back and forth between Ocean Shores, Byron Bay, and Lennox Head, as it is significant enough.
Total- ~4938km/3068m

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XO,

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Aussie East Coast Road Trip: The Long Trek and Fraser Island

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The rain was sufficiently upon us, and not planning to let up. That, and the fact that all the locals kept telling us there wasn’t much to see between here and Rainbow Beach anyway (a huge stretch). It all led us in making the big decision to call this day a wash. Not much to do when it’s raining, so we may as well take one full day to drive as far as we can toward the next destination. With one little sidetrip…

We left early on the 5th and drove half a day down the coast. Everyone was right. There wasn’t much to see. The main road we were on, the A1, veers inland anyway, so there wasn’t even a coastline to ogle over.

Around midday (noon), we stopped at Cooberrie Park Wildlife Sanctuary. We wanted Tia and Jason to have the chance to get up close and personal with kangaroo and the like.

Don’t mind all the kangaroo photos. I freaking love kangaroo.
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Busted. Photo of me taking a photo of a baby kangaroo.
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Dingo
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Wombat
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Baby Wallaby
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Koala
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Emu (and tons of other birds that I won’t bore you with)
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A big reptile
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Croc
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After I had my Tia and Jason had their kangaroo fix, we were set to continue our long haul down the coast. Thankfully, we were halfway there. But exhausted by the time we arrived late to Rainbow Beach. Why driving/riding in a car all day makes you worn out, I’ll never know, but we went to bed “straight away” (right away); at least as best we could in that noisy hostel. ūüôā

On the morning of the 6th, Nick and I had a full day toured planned for Fraser Island, the largest sand island in the world. We had been working on booking that the previous day, as we were on the road for 15+ hours (with stops). Nick had been to Fraser Island about 13 years ago (along with many of the other places we had been traveling) and this was on his list of places to go this time around.

The first photo below was our tour bus for the day. High profile and 4WD to manage any waves, sand, etc., along the way. The island is 4WD specific and permits are mandatory for all drivers. After a few pickups, we headed off the mainland via the Inskip Peninsula (with the “su” pronounced like “shoe” here in Oz). Clearly, based on the 2nd photo, this is seemingly informal without much pomp and circumstance boarding the ferry to Fraser.

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There is presumably a large shark population in the water between the mainland and Fraser Island. Though the waves are sure to lure many a surfer, our tour driver said his brother-in-law refuses to surf there after an experience with a shark; and I can’t say I saw anyone attempting, so perhaps everyone knows better than to even bother.

Once there, we started traveling the main beach, 75 Mile Beach, which due to high tide proved to be a bit tricky so we went inland, and drove through the rainforest. Along the beach, we were keeping a sharp lookout for dingo, as there is a huge population of the wild dogs on this island. Sadly, we didn’t see any on our tour.

It is such a contrast to see the lush, dense forest environment on a sand island. At one point, we stopped for a rainforest walk along the Wanggoolba Creek and found some decent sized trees and various other flora.

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And the Wanggoolba creek itself makes you take a second glance. It appears to be murky, but it is actually crystal clear with a sand bottom. The water is also so pure, you are allowed to drink from it, and fill water bottles.

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Lake MacKenzie. A freshwater lake, and one of the cleanest in the world. The beach sand is nearly pure silica.

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The Maheno Shipwreck. Sold to Japan for scrap in 1935, a storm came up, snapped the tow chain, and the Maheno drifted off the Fraser, later to be used for target practice by ANZAC’s. Now, mostly buried under the sand, but quite a sight, nonetheless.

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75 Mile Beach. This is the “highway” on Fraser that can be quite busy at low tide. Probably my awesome dance moves here. The top pic of the post is also 75 Mile Beach.

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After the tour, we met back up with Tia and Jason, and rounded out the day with another hour drive south to the Sunshine Coast.

5 January to 6 January
This Stretch – ~1193km/741m
Total – ~3422km/2126m

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XO,


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Aussie East Coast Road Trip: The Whitsundays

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It had rained through the night in Townsville, and was still carrying on a bit when we left for Airlie Beach. With only about 3 hours until our destination, we took our time, hoping the rain would continue to taper. Nick and I had done our research, and were following the forecast, knowing full well we’d be in for some showers off and on throughout this trip…it is the summer in the Queensland rainforest. And thanks, Humidity, for joining us as well!

Once we arrived in Airlie Beach, we found our accommodation, where we’d be bunking for 2 nights, (hostel) and walked the town. The rain had stopped and we could enjoy some overcast skies that created some striking green/blue hues in the water.

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Airlie Beach is considered the Gateway to the Whitsundays, a stunning 74 island archipelago, boasting secluded and unspoiled beaches, but also resorts and mini-towns, if you go to the right island.

On our walk in town that first day, we booked in for a full day tour of the Whitsundays. We’d first visit the world famous Whitehaven Beach and then move along to Langford Reef for snorkeling. I was so excited for this tour and it was one of the few things that I insisted we do while on holiday. As much as I am a Colorado/mountain girl, I simply love traversing between islands on a boat or ferry. Always stunning and magnificent.

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After an hour or two and some some morning tea, we anchored near one of the world’s most famous beaches: Whitehaven Beach
(also the top photo)

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This is also considered “stinger season”, and if you intend to go into the water, a full, albeit thin, body suit is strongly recommended to protect against Box Jellies and Irukandji Jellies. Both can be deadly, so it’s either the stinger suit, or staying in the netted area, if the beach has one. Whitehaven is too pretty to have a netted area.

Whitehaven is also too pretty to have any activities. So, visiting the beach consists of walking/relaxing on the pristine white silica sand that stretches 7km one way, taking a bush walk, and swatting the march flies, which seem to be constantly swarming. You can also beach camp here, if you go through the appropriate channels. But, the combination of white sand and clear, turquoise water make this setting truly beautiful, even if only soaking it all in for a short time.

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Just a couple of hours is all that’s really needed on Whitehaven. The tour took us around and between some other smaller islands and brought us to Langford Reef, a sand and coral spit, still considered to be in the Great Barrier Reef. The water was a bit choppy, but we snorkeled and saw even more amazing underwater wildlife. This was certainly a tour I was anxious to take, as seeing Whitehaven and the Whitsundays had been on my dream list since arriving in Australia. I’d say the day was well spent.

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That evening we relaxed, reminisced about the day, and plotted our next stretch of highway, as another storm was rolling into the beach town.

2 January to 5 January
This Stretch- ~275km/170m
Total- ~2229km/1385m

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XO,


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Aussie East Coast Road Trip: Central Coast to Gold Coast

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When we left Bondi, we knew we needed to be in Brisbane by the 29th, since Nick’s siblings would be flying in on the morning of the 30th. So between the 26th and the 29th, we had no agenda. Panic mode commences. Just kidding. I was fine.

We knew we wanted to drive through Newcastle, the largest coal exporting harbour in the world. It’s about 2.5 hours north of Sydney. But I swear it took us nearly 2x as long because of an accident that shut down the main motorway, the M1, just as we were leaving. I blame my poor average navigation skills for not being able to get us around it. Regardless, we made it down to the Esplanade for a late lunch on the waterfront.

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Wanting to be a bit farther north, we continued on another couple of hours to Port Macquarie (pronounced Muh-qwor-ee). During the drive, I called around for accommodation and found a decent hostel through the Hostelworld app. Yes, there were times during the trip that we thought we are too old for hostels. No, we didn’t want to spend heaps (a lot) of money on accommodation during a month-long trip. Yes, we actually had some decent spots. No, we didn’t always stay at them. Yes, we have some great stories from those experiences where we did. ūüôā

We got in late enough to not be able to see or do too much in town, so we had a really nice dinner (I guess this is where we make up the difference spent on cheap accommodation) and called it a day. In the morning, we headed out early, but not before stopping by the river, where dolphins are rumoured to play in the morning hours (no dice).

Port Macquarie is also know for its’ koala population and is home to a koala park and koala hospital. And to celebrate the iconic animal, a sculpture track was created to display 50 uniquely hand-painted koalas in and around the city as the Hello Koala Sculpture Trail. They are about 1 meter/3 feet tall.

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I should mention, that it had started raining overnight, with a consistent drizzle, so there wasn’t much point in trying to really “do” anything, except keep moving. We had been keeping an eye on the forecast and knew we’d be running into rain during our trip (it is rainy season and we were heading north toward rainforest…), so we figured we would just knock some kilometers out of the way, if the weather wasn’t really cooperating for sunny, beachy activities.

We did stop briefly in Crescent Head, as we were considering a place to stay here on the way back down with Nick’s brother and sister. It was here that we started likening coastal towns to mountain towns. Since that’s easiest for us to make a connection with. And if you are familiar with Colorado mountain towns, we suggested Crescent Head was the Crested Butte of surf towns. Small, raw, and not quite yet overrun with money and people-at least not that you can see overtly.

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Between here and Coffs Harbour, I had a little bit of time to do some research on Big Things Australia. It’s really just a collection of over 150 very large “things” spread out all over the country. Tourist attractions. Kind of like the Big Ball of Yarn, the Corn Palace, and The Green Giant, among hundreds of others, in the States. I’m sort of a sucker for those types of things (I guess anything “shiny” to keep me distracted and occupied on long road trips), and I wanted to see a few in Australia. As long as they were not out of the way, and mostly in our path of direction. Mostly. We really lucked out with a few and were able to pass right by them with very little stopping time.

The Big Banana – Coffs Harbour
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And after seeing that monstrosity, I had to see more!

The Big Prawn – Ballina
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There are multiple websites housing various pieces of information about some, but not all of them. So, over the course of the trip, it became a bit frustrating for me trying to piece them all together on the route we were taking. I have very little patience for poor web design on important sites, so toggling back and forth between several poorly designed sites made my interest fizzle a bit. And yes, I do consider the Big Things Australia sites to be be “important.” But not to worry, there are several more big things I will reference in subsequent posts!

After that nice little distraction, we made it to Byron Bay. The Vail of Ski Towns. This lovely town is full of shops, people, restaurants, bars, cafes, people, money, and such, with pretty much just one very busy and often backed up road in and out. It’s a great place! And being such a great place means you have to book accommodation early during the summer months, or be willing to pay a steep price. Which we weren’t. Which meant we stayed out of town. Which was fine.

Byron Bay
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We stayed about 20 minutes inland at a hotel in cute little Lismore, where we were treated to a twilight show of thousands of massive (large) bats flying overhead. Nick and I first noticed some movement outside when we were listening captive to a Serial episode. Probably the one about the cell phone tower pings. Or the Nisha call. Or maybe they were both in the same episode. Anyway, we mistook the dark shadows for birds. But at a closer look, and finally moving outside to watch, we knew it had to be bats; based on the shape of the wings, and that these shadows were moving so silently and erratically. Literally, thousands flying over the hotel. Thousands. It was awesome and disgusting all at the same time. Our hosts confirmed our theories in the morning when we checked out. Apparently, they cause the farmers a lot of frustration. While I didn’t get a picture of them, I did get a picture of this guy the following morning, right outside our door:

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From Lismore, we drove through the Gold Coast (see top pic), seeing cities like Miami and Surfers Paradise, and finally into Brisbane. Here, we’d be staying with some friends, seeing the sights, and picking up Tia and Jason (Nick’s sibs) from the airport.

26 December to 28 December
This stretch – Bondi Beach to Brisbane ~1077 km/669m
Total – ~1370km/851m

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XO,


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Aussie East Coast Road Trip: The How

IMG_9832Dusting off the blog with a series of posts about Nick’s and my recent road trip along the east coast of Australia.¬† I mean, why do a measly post about my lack of running, when I can post several times over the next few weeks about all the kilometers we racked up, all the beaches we visited, and overload you with all the photos?!¬† I think this is a much better option…

Let’s begin with how this all came about.¬† Since moving to Australia, Nick and I spoke frequently about the places we’d like to visit during our duration.¬† Not really knowing how long we’d be here, we knew we wanted to make the most of our time, and see as much as we could, at least within the restrictions of work and money.¬† So, we kind of had a verbal short list and long list of everything we wanted to do/see, based on those restrictions.

“Wouldn’t it be cool if….”

“I’d love to see…”

“I just read about…”

“Someone suggested ___ and ___ …”

“If we had two weeks, we could go…”

“But if we had three weeks, we could…”

And so the conversations went.¬† And the dreams grew. And the excitement started building.¬† Especially when we found out Nick’s work would be shutting down for a good amount of time over the Christmas and New Year holiday.¬† Then those dreaming conversations turned into a matter-of-fact:

Let’s do it!”

So we started planning a road trip that would cover the majority of the eastern coast of Australia.¬† Well…kind of.¬† “Planning” is a tricky word. And this is where Nick’s and my love for travel and experiences and outlook on how it all should go down differs.¬† A lot.¬† But don’t worry, we know this about each other and it was only annoying a few times during the trip.¬† Let me lay it out for you a bit, in regards to how we wanted to approach this trip:

Nick:¬† Go with the flow; have a few must-do experiences; have a few specific spots in mind to visit; don’t make any accommodations so we aren’t confined, but just see where we end up each day and then find a place to stay; hire a car in Cairns; but let’s have fun!

Rebekah:¬† Type A; decide where we are going to be each night so we can book accommodation (it’s summer holiday and the coast is busy); decide on what exactly we want to do so we can book in for those must-do experiences (it’s summer holiday and the coast is busy); not plan every minute of every day, but at least have a rough outline so we aren’t wasting time making last-minute decisions; but let’s have fun!

So yeah, a little different.¬† But I was determined to calm my Type A personality and travel how Nick does.¬† At least for part of the trip.¬† I did book accommodation for Christmas and New Year, because, well, that’s just a given.¬† And the rest, I was just mildly concerned that we’d miss out on experiences because we didn’t pre-book, or we wouldn’t find ideal accommodation because we also didn’t pre-book.¬† This trip would stretch me.¬† And I was prepared and mostly okay with it.

Once things were set in stone that this trip was, in fact, happening, Nick was able to convince his brother, Jason, to fly out from Minnesota and join us for part of our adventure.  Not long after, his sister, Tia (also from Minnesota), found a way to make the trip happen as well.  And just like that, we had travel companions! And it was family!

The route began to take shape, based on their arrival into Brisbane on 30 Dec, their departure out of Sydney on 13 Jan, some technicalities with our vehicle (more on that in later posts), and a lot of “maybe we could do this”, before, during, and after his siblings visit.

Roughly, this is what Nick and I covered over the span of 4 weeks: 

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Don’t be fooled by the distance stated on that map. It was actually closer to 7200 kilometers (about 4500 miles-and I’ll have the official total in the final post) because it doesn’t take into consideration the initial trip Nick and I drove into Brisbane, nor does it have all of the little out and backs we took to visit beaches, waterfalls, etc. I’ll go into more detail in subsequent posts with maps, and kilometers/mileage, photos, what we saw, what we didn’t do, etc. You’ll be bored. This is mostly for posterity.

And if you follow me on IG, you may have noticed the recent photodoc of the trip under #australeoni.

XO,


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…not always a bed of roses

We made it to Australia!

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And it’s winter. ¬†But it’s lovely anyway!

After about 3 weeks of casual¬†non-running, due to race recovery, wedding, honeymoon, and moving internationally, I am finally back at it. ¬†While I’m coming back slow and easy, I’m reminded that running is not always a bed of roses.

I don’t always PR, I don’t always have the greatest of runs, I don’t always want to go for a run.

And even though I’ve missed running, this first week or so “back” has been more like a bed of thorns. ¬†I have felt pain during every run in one shape or form: ¬†upper back, lower back, heels, calves, quads, hip flexors. ¬†Not all of them in one run, but sometimes 1-2 in every run. ¬†I just don’t feel fluid or at ease in running right now. ¬†I don’t like it.

While even these small runs are gratifying and make me realize how much I miss it when I step away for a bit, it’s been a struggle for me to accept that this past week and a half has been so painful and achy.

I feel like I’ve been training a lot in these past 12 months. ¬†I have put in about 10 races in total. ¬†It really isn’t much when you think about it. ¬†Sometimes I run 2 races in a month, and then not race for 2-3 months. ¬†But the quality I am going for in every race is substantial. ¬†Aside from one race (Leadville), I have approached the other 9 races competitively. ¬†At least competing with myself and my own PR’s. ¬†I’ve proudly added a 5k, 10k, and half marathon PR to my stats list this year, and competed in 2 new distances, which automatically allows me 2 new PR’s! ¬†Not to mention experimenting with trail running/racing, which is a totally different ball game. ¬†And when I think about the quality of training that comes with each of those PR’s and each of those new distances, some on new terrain, I know I’ve asked a lot of myself in the past year.

So, perhaps now is my season of rest and enjoyment. ¬†Not to rest from running, but to rest from racing. ¬†Don’t get me wrong, I have several “races” I’m looking at here in the local area between now and December, but I’m not sure I should approach them competitively, backed with intense training.

That’s really hard for me to read back to myself and actually accept! ¬†But I think it’s the right thing for my body.

My goal is to run and be active for as long as I can. Continually training and competitively racing isn’t going to allow for that.

I will know when it’s the right time to switch gears and start training again. ¬†For all I know, it could even be in the next few weeks! ¬†But for now, this is how I’m feeling and this is where I’m at.

XO,


 


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…OUR WEDDING

WE GOT MARRIED!

It all happened a few weeks ago in a small Colorado mountain town. Our family and closest friends, many coming from out-of-state, were in attendance. We were grateful and overjoyed to have so many, come from near and far, to celebrate with us! ¬†It was truly everything we wanted and had hoped for; the perfect day, the perfect weekend. ¬†I am blessed beyond measure and I know I’ll love him until my last breath…

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XO,