Saturday, August 05, 2006

The Anniversary Tour -- Australia

It was a great day in Melbourne when the Gone Gaming crew arrived on their world tour. Sadly, we weren't able to supply a mayoral reception, but we did manage a minibus and the girls were waiting with a giant "welcome gamers" sign. You come to Australia, you expect to see the beach - at least that's what we'd figured when we made our plans. And the beach is where Fraser and I get a lot of gaming done, so we had, in expectation of our friends' visit, hired the big old house we go to every January and loaded the bus up with what we considered an appropriate assortment of games.

DW, after learning our destination, immediately demanded to be put off the minibus so he could go to the Harley rentals booth at the airport. We left him (muttering something about "price-gouging convicts") with a chorus of reminders to "Drive on the left!" and headed for Lorne.

DW had done his research and knew that there was a beach (and a motorcycle GP track) at Philip Island, but was eventually persuaded that it was Lorne we were going to.

We figured our friends might want to see some native Australian animals, so a stop at Victoria's Open-Range Zoo was in order. We all enjoyed seeing the cheetahs, monkeys, lions, rhinos, giraffes, zebras and hippos, although Shannon and Mary seemed to think something was missing (I can't imagine what - but Fraser and I were mighty annoyed that the meerkats seemed to like them better than they liked us). When we piled back into the bus, there was quite a spirited discussion of what you might call rhinocerous-shaped playing pieces (rheeples was the popular favourite, although Coldie put up a strong argument for rhiples.). We believe this stopover gave time for DW and his Harley to cruise down the rest of the Great Ocean Road and then back again to Lorne.

But life is not all about boardgames (strange as that may seem to some). Destination number one was not the gaming table but the beach. It was pretty funny to us that we'd gone from Summer in Alaska to Winter in Melbourne and really hadn't changed our clothes (in fact, it got warmer) - and that Fraser and I were both rugged up in our winter gear while the others were wearing their chic resort casual best. Weirdly, Coldfood muttered about sauerkraut every time he came near us - I wonder whether he had Australia and Austria confused. It was great to catch up with Yehuda, who was staying with some jewish friends just around the corner from the house we had rented.

at the beach

That's all of us at the beach in Lorne - from left to right, Fraser (and the remains of our sandcastle), Joe, Melissa, DW, Shannon, Yehuda, Mary, Brian (Coldfoot). What you can't see in that shot (Sorry ladies) is the lifeguard.

We dissuaded the overeager hordes from a swim in the ocean - when there's nothing between you and Antarctica except some water, you want to be sure it's a HOT day before you risk the chill factor - and headed up the hill to the house, after a stop at the Newsagent where Yehuda collected a copy of Australian Monopoly for his collection. (We didn't have the heart to tell him that all Australians grow up with the English Monopoly set).

We had a surprise waiting for Shannon - some friends from Melbourne's "Cthulhu Conglomerate" who knew him from his Chaosium days were waiting for him at the house, with a copy of Arkham Horror and a set of Mythos cards. That took care of him for a while.

Coldfoot seemed surprised at the house's lack of double glazing and insulation, and that the pipes ran up the outside of the house. He was amazed that the very old thermometer was inside the house, and very puzzled that it went over 100ºF (and not below 0ºF).

After getting everyone a beer, Fraser, Coldfoot, Mary and I settled down for a game of Hansa, which we bought on Mary's recommendation - or, to be more accurate, on the mind control that Mary exercises through Geeklists and forums. Meanwhile DW, Joe and Yehuda took it in turns to get whipped by Biggie at first Connect Four and then San Juan (Biggie later asked me what a "namby pamby nancy Eurosnoot game" meant). Our surprise guest Grognads made a great showing at Make 'n' Break, though.

Time for the serious stuff now - the group divided for Power Grid and Princes of Florence. While the others set up, Coldfoot and I had a quick game of Colour Clowns with Otto - although I am not sure where she got the idea that "I will crap in your weaving hut" is an acceptable thing to say to a gaming partner.

The poker chips being used as substitute Elektros in Power Grid were the closest that DW got to a game of poker, although he was pretty excited at the opportunity to play for "peanuts".

By "peanuts", he meant Australian Dollars.

If only there had been a TV at the house, he might have had a chance to catch some of the WPT Poker show.

Australian coat of arms

We barbecued the national coat of arms for dinner - roo and emu sausages, washed down with a couple of bottles of good Aussie red. And a salad. And a couple of bottles of good Aussie white. And some beer, to keep things lively. And, to make things really Australian, we added Fairy Bread, Pie Floaters and Pavlova with passionfruit and strawberries. It was a shame Yehuda couldn't stick around for dinner, I think he would have enjoyed the rather rowdy game of Apples to Apples - although sadly, no-one seemed keen on my plans for Werewolf.

With time running out for this leg of the tour, we decided it was time for a good Australian game. I pushed for Freya's Folly or Sunda to Sahul, but Fraser wanted the sheep - and out came his ancient copy of Squatter, Australia's greatest-selling game. I sat this one out, but enjoyed listening to everyone developing their sheep stations and increasing their sheep herds and the sizes of their wool clips.

By now, it was getting late, so we told the girls it was time for bed, settling them to sleep in the minibus. Biggie wanted to keep gaming, and let her displeasure be known, telling Fraser, "You are cruising for a smiting, Daddy."

I wonder where she learned to say that.

The drive back to Melbourne was uneventful but pretty, as we took a detour through the city centre. We had planned to visit Eurogamesfest but were running short of time, especially as we were somehow catching a time machine back to the US to avoid missing a day due to the International Date Line. If we'd been taking a commercial flight, we would have had to leave before we'd arrived, which is never fun.

It was sad to leave the kids again, but exciting to be on the way to the next stop on our world tour. We felt that this travelling makes us kind of suck as parents, though, as tomorrow is the Bigster's 8th birthday. The truth is, we'd have been happy to keep going for a few more weeks - next time, we might try to spend a bit longer at each stop.


Coldfoot said...

A thermometer that doesn't go below 0? How would you ever know what the temperature was?

(Copy and Paste)

Gerald McD said...

Happy Birthday to Biggie!

Another great stop on the tour, and I learned even more interesting things about Australia, especially in the food line. Now, where can I get some of those goodies in Colorado??? (Not likely, I guess......)

Melissa said...

Here are a few links for you, Gerald: (this one is much more gourmet than the other snack food links)

Gerald McD said...

Melissa --

Thank you very much. I'm sure the family would enjoy Fairy Bread and Pavlova. Probably only two or three of us would brave the Pie Floater, though.

Fraser said...

Sorry DW, but the Wiggles are in the US at the moment, so we couldn't arrange anything for you. Maybe you could catch up with them on their tour