A town called Healesville. The tourist info center.
Always a fount of useful knowledge.
Just not so nice when it sprays you in the face.
I walked in to an unattended room full of brochures and pamphlets. It is warm in there. Mmm heat.
Soon a little woman comes from a back room, alerted by the tinkling of the bell mounted on the front door. She’s probably my mother’s age, but plump. Like most people who work at the tourist info center, she is enthusiastic!
“G’day there, you alright?” This means, Can I help you?
“Hello, yes, I am just cycling through town, and I was wondering if there is a supermarket here, perhaps an IGA?”
She is very thorough. “Yes, there are two grocery stores, and one of them is an IGA. The IGA is up this street here to the left, then down to the next corner on your right. The other supermarket is up this street, to your left, down to the IGA, then about three more blocks, on your left. Okay?”
She’s looking at me hopefully, like she’s just knocked that one out of the park with ease, and I might have a real challenge for her.
Finding the supermarket was really the only thing I came in for, though. Hmm. An extra map couldn’t hurt – especially a free one.
“So… do you have a map of the area?”
She grabbed on like a bull terrier. And I can’t blame her, I suppose, for assuming I wanted directions; most people in there probably do.
Suddenly she had a map in her hand. It unfolded like a transformer as she pronounced the phrase, “Which way are you headed?”
I sighed inside. “Uh, Canberra, I guess.”
And so it began. She was voracious.
“Well there’s the Black Spur.” Oh, that sounds cool!
“But you’re not taking the Black Spur.”
Wait a minute — I’m not? Telling me my business, are we? Not off to a good start, lady.
“Because it’s much too narrow and dangerous for a push bike.”
“Oh is it a bad road?”
“No, it’s actually a very good road, only very windy and there are some parts that are so narrow there’s actually not enough space for two vehicles to pass at once! You can’t, on a bicycle. You can’t.”
Now I was starting to get a bit perturbed that she had presumed to decide for me. But she was still going, perhaps trying to distract me from that cool-sounding Black Spur thing.
“You can go back to Yarra Glen, then up to Yea, that way.” Her yellow highlighter traced back the way I had just spent the afternoon traversing. “Then you could come East again to Alexandra, and from there you could come down the Maroondah Highway back to here.”
During a rare moment of silence — perhaps she was catching her breath — all I could do was stare at her in disbelief. Did she really just suggest a 150 kilometer detour?
“See it all depends on whether you want to see this area along the Maroondah Reservoir. It’s a nice area.”
“Isn’t that the Black Spur…?”
“Oh yeah, well, it would be okay going the other direction.”
You’ve gotta be kidding me. How does that work? I began to suspect there was more afoot than her simply worrying for my safety. Some sort of tourist-info control issue perhaps? I tried to break it to her gently.
“Listen, I’m sorry, but I’m not going to backtrack all that way. Seriously, is there a sign that says no bikes allowed or something?”
“No, there’s not, but it is just too dangerous…”
“To tell you the truth ma’am, with all due respect, when you tell me I can’t do it, that only makes me want to try it.”
“No,” was her well-thought-out response, “because, when they do have cycling races and that, they close the whole road.”
I leveled my gaze at her until she looked up from her map.
She needed to know.
“I’m going to give it a go.”
I know I shouldn’t have reacted so indignantly; I did, after all, walk into her info center. I basically put myself in the position to receive advice — and it’s up to me to do with that advice what I will. It’s not my place to reject it, in any way. That was just my ego flaring up.
It’s actually one of the most liberating aspects to being out here, on a bike. I am exposed to the world, open for anyone to offer advice if their own ego deems that necessary.
The less armor I wear around my heart, the stronger it seems to beat.
So, info-center lady, I’m sorry. And in the end, you did help me.
But the Black Spur was fine.