Swagman #13 – Gold and Sunshine Coast Sandwich, BrisVegas Filling
Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
Our one stop on the Gold Coast turned out to be at a caravan park in Palm
Beach. I can’t recall it’s name, but it turned out to be a beautiful park
with a sandy beach situated right on a river. A short walk under the Bruce
Highway brought us to the ocean. Of all of the towns that cluster the
Gold Coast, the most publicized seems to be Surfer’s Paradise, which, given
it’s current state seems to be false advertising. From our secluded beach
near the caravan park, the skyscraping high rises that are jammed together
and form an enormous concrete wall along the shore of Surfer’s looked
completely out of place and cartoon-like in the distance. It is hard to
imagine the back-to-basics, earthly approach of the surf community would
endorse such a sight, and is an example of how some serious consideration
and a good sense of foreshadowing should be involved in the naming of a
Our three days in Palm Beach were great – days on the beach, nights in the
park, and mornings at Pancakes in Paradise ($6 all-you-can-eat pancakes, $50
certificate if you can break the record of 18). Our spirit was slightly
dampened when we locked our keys in the car, but reception sent out a rather
large man who smelled like he had managed to smoke an entire pack of
cigarettes on the walk to our car. Using a screwdriver and a wire hanger he
popped the lock open in roughly 15 seconds. “No questions asked,” I joked
and received no laughter from him.
We bypassed Surfer’s and continued right on to Brisbane, setting up shop in
a caravan park just south of the city. We were in a rush to catch the Rugby World Cup match between the US and Fiji, so we threw the tent together at
the base of a large hill, stomped in some stakes and ran out to catch a bus.
The match was a good one, and out seats were close enough to see the US
players get thrown around like rag dolls by the Fiji players. There’s a
reason why most of the pub security in Sydney is from Fiji and Tonga – they
are some big, big boys. Nonetheless the US put up a good fight, scoring a try
at the absolute last second of play but missing the extra point to lose 20-19.
The next day started out wonderfully, with Joe having his cell phone
stolen as he took a shower. He resigned to the loss rather easily,
considering he was leaving the country in less than a week. But he couldn’t
let it go that easily. As we boarded a bus to return to the city for drinks,
he borrowed my phone and called his own. I believe his message went
something like: “I saw you take it, and I’m coming for you. You’re dead.”
Back in the city we hit a nearby hotel and began drinking, at which point I
contacted Chris (BootsnAll co-founder) and he met up with us. Chris
described the meeting perfectly on Australia Blog.
The next day we woke piled up on top of each other and quietly dismantled
the wet tent and shoved everything into the car for the drive to the
Sunshine Coast. Our first stop was in Mooloolaba, where we found a terrific
caravan park right on the beach. This was to be Joe’s last days with us
before he would head back to Sydney for a few days before his flight back to
Los Angeles. Before we had left New York I had promised him that we would go
skydiving, so basically the time had come. On a slightly cloudy day we made
the short drive down to Caloundra and signed over our lives to Sunshine Skydivers. We were immediately handed a short stack of forms to sign. I
began to read them, got as far as “By signing this, you recognize that
accidents are very possible, possibly resulting in injury or in some cases
death…” and just blindly signed the rest. Ignorance is bliss.
We each paid for a video and pictures, so we would have our own private
cameraman plummeting to earth at 200 kph right beside us. This is the
second time I had skydived, and much like the first time I found myself
wondering what was wrong with me. Man was created to remain on the ground.
Everyone should do it at least once, but I had already done it. In
retrospect, I was glad that I had done it but the thought of it, as I got older,
seemed to grow slightly more disturbing. And now here I was again, 14,000
feet in the air, practically sitting in the instructors lap as he tightened
all of the straps connecting us.
“Tighter!” I yelled over the engines.
I couldn’t see the instructor, but we had obviously met back in the office.
He was about 70 years old. Part of me was glad, as he must have a lot of
experience. Part of me was not so glad, as I have an active imagination and
could imagine everything from a heart attack to Alzheimer’s. Naturally, as I
reconsidered this my cameraman turned to me, her fingers crossed.
“For luck,” she yelled. That’s exactly what you want to hear before you jump
out of a plane, with a grandfather between you and the parachute.
As luck would have it, I went first. I was composed, unlike the first time
when upon exiting the plane my arms and legs jerked as though I was trying
to tread water. This time I relaxed, put my head back on the instructor’s
shoulder, and began to fall at a pace that is indescribable. All organs seem
to rise about a foot within your torso. The lungs seem to only be able to
inhale. The wind rushing up at you is so strong that you feel numb, your
skin flaps, so loud that you can’t even hear the girlish screams coming out
of your mouth. Which is good, considering you paid an extra $100 for the
woman with the video camera mounted on her helmet who is falling in front of
you capturing every body movement and facial expression on film. Suddenly
she waves to you and it stops, you’re rising and then you’re suddenly still
in the air at about 5,000 feet. You just fell almost two miles in 60 seconds
and after the sound of the rushing air in your ears you’ve never heard
silence like you’re hearing now. The instructor spun me around a bit, bank
left, speed down, spin again, bank right. This went on for a few minutes
until the beach got closer and closer and finally we were coming in fast and
right before we hit the ground he pulled on the chute hard and we came to a
stop a few feet above the ground and then coasted the rest of the way
It’s like putting a clothes hanger in your mouth because you just walk around with a
big smile and won’t go away.
We spent the rest of our time in Mooloolaba at
the beach, watching the firework show that they just happened to set up on
the beach behind our tent. The next day we would depart for Noosa, where we
would part with Joe. He would be back in New York within a week, at which
point he would show our mother the video simply because children enjoy
playfully tormenting their parents.
At least I look cool in the video.