My Aussie city by the bay
We took off from Lakes Entrance fairly early so that we could make it to Geelong by late afternoon. We were back on the tracks, but now in Victoria, which has a surprising amount of beauty in its countryside. We drove through the winding hills and Victoria countryside for hours, stopping here and there to take a break.
We were getting close to my old stomping grounds and I couldn't get my mind off of arriving in Geelong and what it would be like after so long being away. We drove through the outskirts of Melbourne and headed on the M1 towards Geelong. Things were starting to look familiar now and it was a fantastic feeling to see something I recognized.
We finally arrived in Geelong in the late afternoon, and the first order of business was to find somewhere to do our laundry. We were all on the last legs of our luggage, and Ken was down to wearing board shorts and a ripped up old K-State t-shirt. A quick check of the iPhone revealed a laundry facility in West Geelong, so we headed in that direction.
The laundry was quite nice, and there was a young couple using it at the same time as us. We all turned up with nowhere near enough change to use the machines, and the couple pointed us to a milk bar just down the street where we loaded up with one dollar coins for the laundry. When we returned to the laundry, we talked for quite some time to the couple about the U.S. and what it was like to live there while our laundry finished up.
With a suitcase full of clean clothes, we headed into town to find something to eat. We decided on going to a restaurant right on the bay, and as the late afternoon sun streamed down on the Geelong bay, we had a good meal and a couple of beers. It was fantastic to be back, and being near the bay felt like being at home for the first time on my trip.
We needed to find some place to stay for the night and I quickly convinced Danenberg and Ken that the National Hotel (the Nash) was the place for sure. The Nash is a bar I am intimately familiar with, and it was the first place I stayed when I was in Australia for the very first time. It's one of the dirtiest, dingiest, most revolting places you could find and it totally rocks. We checked in, and Ken and Brian were really amazed by the accommodations that we had just purchased. Spider webs in the windows, beat-up old furniture, colorful crab curtains, three types of carpet in one — the term "four star" definitely applies here.
After admiring our facilities, we decided it would be a good idea to go to Macca's and get on the Internet, so that Ken and Brian could check their email for the first time in ages. I was finally able to upload some pictures, and Danenberg and Ken were able to get caught up on their electronic communications. We also had some delicious 50 cent ice cream cones.
We headed back towards the Nash and I went down to the bar. Ken and Brian were hanging out in the room, so I began the night by myself seated in prime location. I struck up a conversation with one of the staff members about Geelong and how much I missed the place. She reckoned I should get a job in Australia and move over straight away. She was probably right. She also made me aware of a horrifying, almost surreal reality — Sumo night was no longer being offered at the Nash.
Sumo night was one of the best things about going to the Nash back in the day, it involved paying a small fee when you entered the bar and receiving a card. Using your card, you marked who you were picking as the winner of about 8 sumo matches. As the night went on, every 15 minutes or so, they would show a pre-taped sumo wrestling match on the televisions in the bar. If your fighter won, you got a free shot of warm sake (an Asian alcohol). You can imagine the noise, craziness and the fun that ensued from here. The shot was supposed to be the benefit, but too many times it was the horrific downfall of my evenings. Ahh sumo night at the Nash, R.I.P.
Eventually, Brian and Ken showed up and we began the night in earnest. It was a Monday night, so there really wasn't much going on at the bar. Maybe about 10 people total were present, but it's not about the quantity, it's about the quality. The Nash is all about quality. We struck up a conversation with the locals, and got to know a bit about the bar staff. Tess was a bartender that had recently begun working at the Nash, and Tim was the manager of the place and a really cool guy. We ended up having several beers at the bar and talked quite extensively to many of the locals.
After a full couple of hours at the bar, we discovered that the good folks at the Nash had never prepared a Bellfast Bomber (a simple drink which consists of dropping a mixture of Irish Whiskey and Bailey's into a Guiness beer and drinking it extremely quickly). We introduced them to the bomber, and then they proceeded to one-up us, by preparing a Chernobyl shot. This shot was like nothing I had ever seen. Basically it involved stacking a bunch of alcohol on the stems of champagne glasses, pouring alcohol all over the place, then lighting it all on fire. After the bar starts on fire, you basically blow everything out and take the shot. It was interesting, and beginning to be a bit much for me.
I hung around the bar a bit longer, but then went up to our room to chill out for a bit as they were about to close everything down for the night. Within a couple of minutes Brian came up to the room and said they had closed the place down and given us all an extra beer. I went down and drank the final drink of the night before I found myself leaving to go wander around Geelong in the wee hours of the night. I walked for about an hour around some of the old sights and places I had visited or was a regular at during my time in Geelong. It was good to get a feel for the city again and see some of my old stomping grounds. It was also a bit disturbing to note that a lot of my old hang outs had been torn down and replaced.
When I returned to the Nash, Brian, Ken and a few of the locals were still up drinking. I grabbed some crisps from the vending machine, and then left to go to bed, as I was realizing that the topic of choice was politics, which I don't like talking about amoungst new or old friends, so I retired for the evening.
Brian and Ken did not. In fact, I learned the next day that Ken had nearly caused a major international incident. Apparently, after I went to sleep, one of the guys that was hanging out at the bar was talking about how he really enjoyed singing some old Pearl Jam song that Ken was familiar with and could play on guitar. Ken went to the car and got my guitar from the trunk, he began to play the song and as the guy was doing his best Eddy Veddar impersonation, Ken decided to sing along to help him remember some of the words he was missing. Big mistake.
When Ken was done playing the song, the guy was seriously offended that Ken had tried to sing as well and told Ken if he had wanted to sing the song he should have just said so. Ken calmed everything down and played the song on guitar for the guy to sing immediately afterward. Apparently the guy was amazing. He apparently sounded just exactly like a really drunk guy, trying really, really hard to impersonate Eddie Veddar. Everybody that was still awake and at the Nash agreed this was the best really drunk guy trying to sound like Eddie Veddar ever and Ken and Brian went to bed for the evening.