2024-04-26 -37 145

From Geohashing
Fri 26 Apr 2024 in -37,145:
-37.7944806, 145.1376805
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On a suburban street in Doncaster.


Expedition 1:

Expedition 2:

Expedition 3 and 3A:


Expedition 1 (Stevage)

There are expeditions that start with a bang and burn hot till their firey conclusion. There are those that start slowly and reluctantly, dragged unwillingly from a warm bed by a deep conviction that enthusiasm will accost the expeditioner somewhere along a bike path and power him valiantly towards an untold triumph deep in a cluster of spiky bushes and leading him safely home where he shall bask in the warm glow of his accomplishments. There are the occasional few that start with excitement and energy, but somewhere along the line, hunger, mishap, poor planning, accident or other misfortune conspire to rob the expedition of its promise leading to an unsatsifying trip with dull stretches of busy roads, waiting in the dark and perhaps getting quite wet in the process.

And then was this type. A strange lack of enthusiasm despite a month-long drought that despite decent weather and a great bike route never quite lifted, the engines never quite fully firing up, let alone the afterburners igniting. I suppose at least we can take comfort in documenting these outliers that most expeditions are not of this kind. And we can insert some cliches about yin needing yang, fire needing ice, good needing evil. If we were the cliche-inserting type.

It is Melbourne. It is cool but sunny. The geohash reveals itself in an area I have visited several times recently for geohashes - Doncaster-ish. Nice and close to the Koonung Creek Bike Path. Straightforward to get to. But I'm not totally feeling it. But crucially, I need this expedition to complete a streak of 12 months in a row with at least one success per month, and that gets me over the line and out the door.

I then busy myself planting mini cabbages in my front garden, which of course leads to weeding kikuyu grass. Eventually the threat of a long ride home in the dark gets the better of me and I launch.

One of my bluetooth earbuds isn't working, and I'm struggling a bit to find a podcast episode that holds my attention. I land on the ever-reliable never-amazing No Such Thing as a Fish and begin to learn about haikus and the ridiculous circimustances by which a 9 year old boy inherited the royalties from the book Goodnight Moon, and his subsequent squandering of them.

I'm feeling particularly unexcited by the stretch of bike path along the Eastern Freeway, so, following recent discoveries of an alternative route, I take an even alternativer alternative and follow backstreets through Thornbury. I connect down the Darebin Creek Trail to the Boulevard in Ivanhoe and along other muddy trails, a route I'm now quite familiar with.

So it is with some degree of alarm that I suddenly find myself somewhere completely unfamiliar. I'm beside a cricket oval. There is a sport going on, and many spectators. I don't understand. I continue. Somehow the rift in the space-time continuum resolves itself and I'm back on the familiar path.

I'm feelingly mildly irritated and trace it to the fact that I'm actually a bit cold. I was convinced I would warm up so went for a short-sleeve jersey, but I'm not really riding hard enough to make it happen. Everything feels a little bit hard. There is hardly anyone about.

I cross the bridge over the Yarra and notice that this bridge connects two parts of the Main Yarra Trail - but I'm heading the other way. So I guess for the brief moment I'm on the bridge itself, I am actually on the MYT. This mundane detail pre-occupies me for a few moments.

I keep looking at the map to see if I'm close yet, but I'm not. It feels further than I expected. I'm either unfit or still a bit under the weather. Or just grumpy.

Eventually I get to the bit where leave the trail, onto a windy little climby trail which I don't recall visiting previously. I'm now learning about a man who once built a kind of stalagmite organ inside a cave in the US. A keyboard triggers actuators which cause hammers to hit stalagmites which he had carefully carved down to size to be perfectly tuned. What an ingeniously creative act of environmental vandalism.

I see a kookaburra gliding through the trees, and for a moment what looks like a grey butcherbird, but turns out to be a noiser miner.

The point itself is the latest in what seems like a long series of foothpath geohashes. There's a house next door for sale, and I smirk at the fact that the grass here has been recently replaced with fresh turf, presumably to make that house look better.

The return is easier and downhillier, and follows much the same route, although through Fairfield and Northcote rather than Thornbury. I'm still feeling a bit nonplussed about the whole thing, but I have had some exercise, seen some sights, and learnt some trivia which may prove useful one day.

Expedition 2

After university, I travelled from Melbourne Central Station to Box Hill Station and hopped in Wizdude's car. We then travelled to the Geohash and arrived at 7:15pm.

Expedition 3 and 3A

Friday — what a day. Particularly because Thursday was a lazy public holiday, and a meaningful fraction of people took Friday off in view of the long weekend opportunity, it looked to be a cruisey day.

Not for your intrepid correspondent, of course, who is a diligent servant of his employer. So diligent that he even visited a client that day — and if, by chance, the project team lead there happened to have his last day and was going to head to the pub at 4.45pm, well, it’s always good to maintain positive relationships between development teams and science teams. We are a service provider and liver fortitude is one of our services.

Between charming clients and hacking code out of the software mines, I took the opportunity to look at the geohash — and of course it was a nice and easily bike-accessible one. That was a bit annoying because it was not super-compatible with the pub concept. I considered going earlier in the day, but that was incompatible with keeping my job. Still, a few adjustments could be made: I cajoled the 4.45pm pub into a 4.15pm pub, and declared myself to be a “one pint wonder”. I was on my bike, leaving the city and heading hashwards, by 5.15pm.

Photo showing gravel in the dark, lit up by a bike light, with the front wheel of the bike just visible
I say the ride was uneventful but there was the hated gravel

It’s much darker now we’re out of daylight savings and approaching winter, but other than dodging the occasional unlit cyclist or pedestrian, the ride was pleasant and uneventful.

However, mere minutes into the ride, I received a message from my friend Martin, who replied to the most recent message I had sent him (I had sent that message 21 days previously), and suggested we get dinner. I said I would love to but that geohashing etc, see how far the hashpoint is, I’m on my bike, and so I would be extremely late so we could get dinner at like 10pm or something or, alternatively, next week.

He replied by sending me a picture of the conveniently-close Westfield Doncaster shopping centre. I realised at this point that he would be traveling by car. And his car was big enough to carry my bike, meaning that I could avoid having to ride home, like the coward I am. And I would get dinner. And, most important, a dragalong achievement!

I gave Martin instructions to meet me at the hashpoint (“just come to this address, it’s completely safe, I assure you”). He told me it was a four minute drive from the shopping centre, and I estimated I was significantly more than four minutes away, so I told him that I would send him a message when I was about four minutes away.

A picture of me in the dark, grinning, wearing a bike helmet and bike jersey
Expedition 3 success

When I turned off the bike path, I indeed sent him a message, and four minutes later I was at the hash-point. You can never be too careful with geohashing: a geohash in hand is worth two geohashes in inaccessible locations or that you are prevented from reaching by hilarious disasters, so I scouted the area, found the point, took the obligatory selfie and screenshot, and reported success. I wandered back to the nearest intersection, grabbed my book, and waited for Martin to arrive.

And waited.

And waited a bit more, until the ding of my phone heralds a message: “Bad news. My battery has suddenly died 😀” (I don’t understand the emoji either). Kids these days. Unable to navigate without GPS and a phone. I wrote back to point out that it was just two turns (which he could look up even with a dying battery) and that he could draw a map on paper.

A quick phone call sorted out my confusion. Indeed it was the car battery, not the phone battery, that had caused the problem. However, the car was in the carpark of Victoria’s fifth-largest shopping centre, and amongst its 400 stores would be one that sold jumper cables. I was told the problem would be sorted shortly, so I said I would wait and he could meet me there.

A few chapters (i.e. 25 minutes) of my book later and I was not only starting to lose faith in the plan, but also to lose feeling in my extremities as they cooled. I decided it was time to cut my losses and head off. One option was heading back to my house where, after an hour of invigorating riding, I would be at home, with a shower-beer waiting, writing up the story of my hash. The other was to ride to Westfield Doncaster and join the Martin Car Battery Circus of Tragedy, with no shower-beer and no sure prospect of actually making it home. Bravely, I chose the latter option.

(I say “ride” to Westfield Doncaster but despite some hills to warm me up, it was mostly walking. That area is not bike-accessible.)

I arrived safely, met Martin, and went to inspect the car. Indeed, the battery didn’t have enough amps (or volts, I always get those confused) to make the starter motor go. However, as a bike-user, I called my father to discuss the diagnosis, and he confirmed that battery issues were to most likely cause. He made a number of practical suggestions (like, “check the battery leads are securely fasted”, or “call the Royal Automobile Club of Victoria”, or “ask someone in the other 7,574 car parking spaces to jump start you”, or “I can drive over and jump start you”, or “this probably happens a fair bit, call centre management and ask”).

Sensible as these were, Martin prevaricated between them, so I took the most obvious actions: I stripped off all my bike clothes in a dark corner and replaced them with centre-appropriate clothes, and demanded dinner.

A photo of my hand holding my half-eaten burger
Burgers make problems go away

The nice thing about dinner was that we got burgers, and they were full of grease and salt. Grease and salt are delicious and put a lot of problems into perspective. I also ordered a beer, although when I did so the cashier had to run around the store to find a staff member over the age of 18 to serve me. Ahh, suburbs. Never change.

We headed back to the car. It was now almost 9pm and the carpark was thinning out (did you know shopping centres close? Martin did not, and got a lot more worried when I informed him of this fact), so we split up to find someone to help. Martin headed off in the direction of the scary-looking guy smoking and yelling at his phone, about 200 metres away. I approached the friendly-looking young couple who were unlocking their car in the car park literally next to Martin’s car. This sounds like a set-up for me failing and him succeeding, but there will be no subversion of expectations here: while confused, the young couple were friendly and agreed to help while the scary dude did not. The car was soon burning fuel once more.

Hmmm. Friendly. Couple (×2 dragalong). Geohashing. Could... could this be the start of a beautiful thing?

No. As soon as Martin’s car was running, our saviours GTF away’ed as soon as they could from the crazy people trying to steal their car’s electricity.

A photo of me and Martin smiling
Expedition 3A success

Nevermind. It was now past 9pm, but having come this far, I directed Martin to take the two turns necessary to get back to the hash-point, and we were there four minutes later. I said: “You can turn off the headlights, but do not—I say again—do not turn off the car. Just to clarify, do not turn off the car. And in case you didn’t hear me the first time, do not turn off the car.” Martin promptly... nah he left it running, although it would have made an excellent coda to the story.

The impugned vehicle. The headlights are off but let me tell you, it is running.

We popped out, wandered over to the hashpoint, and Martin got his first geohash! He will make an excellent geohasher, as he had no compunction about trespassing on to someone’s front lawn, and this wasn’t even a hash that required any trespassing!

(Hash story ends here, feel free to stop reading unless you like planes.)

We got back into the car and headed towards my place. As we approached, I pointed out that it would be best to keep the car running for an hour or so to recharge the battery, and so we should go for a drive. I also pointed out that we were 86 miles from the Nagambie geohash, we had a full tank of petrol, it’s dark, and we were(n’t) wearing sunglasses. He didn’t get the reference, and also noted that a car with electrical issues was not something we wanted to take very far out of the city.

A very blurry photo of a plane landing
Airbus A320 VH-VQG operating Jetstar flight JQ712 from Hobart on approach to runway 16 at Melbourne airport, Tullamarine

So we settled on the obvious alternative, Melbourne airport. I gently directed him to the aircraft-viewing-place for Runway 16, where we parked, turned off the headlights and DID NOT TURN OFF the engine, and watched a few planes land, enjoying the salubrious company of the aircraft-viewing-place–icecream-and-kekab-selling-bus.

After waiting a few minutes we headed back, with Martin dropping me off home (CAREFUL NOT TO TURN OFF THE ENGINE) and then himself heading back to his house. It was too late for—and I hadn’t done enough exercise to justify—a shower beer, but still. A good hash.


BarbaraTables and Wizdude earned the Land geohash achievement
by reaching the (-37, 145) geohash on 2024-04-26.
Stevage earned the Bicycle geohash achievement
by cycling 40km to and from the (-37, 145) geohash on 2024-04-26.