Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Australian Sojourn – April-May 2024

Part 5: Happy Birthday, Bernie!

Above: My friend Bernie McGowan with her youngest daughter Collette (left) and daughter-in-law Kristy – Saturday, May 18, 2024.

My 2024 Australian sojourn continues! . . .

I returned to Guruk this evening from the Northern Rivers region of New South Wales and the Sunshine Coast of Queensland where I was part of a number of events to celebrate my dear friend Bernie’s 70th birthday.

As I’ve mentioned previously at The Wild Reed, I first got to know Bernie, her spouse Mike, and their family in Goulburn, where Mike had been the principal of the primary school at which I taught from 1988-1993. Before relocating to the U.S. in 1994, I taught two of the McGowan children – Jeremiah (in 1989) and Tess (in 1992). I’ve stayed friends with all the members of the McGowan family ever since our shared time in Goulburn, and I always try to catch up with as many of them as I can each time I visit Australia from the U.S.

Above: A photo taken by my Dad showing myself and Mum with Mike and Bernie McGowan and their eldest son Jeremiah – April 1993.

Mike and Bernie’s second eldest son Raph visited and lived with me in the Twin Cities for a good part of 2004. He visited me again in the U.S. in 2011.

Back in Australia in 2014, Raph cycled over 1900 kilometers in memory of his sister Tess and to raise awareness and funds for melanoma research and prevention. (For more about this inspiring achievement, click here, here, and here.)

In the years since his epic bike ride, Raph has worked tirelessly to create and market the bakslap, a “lotion applicator that makes it easier to protect yourself from the sun when enjoying the outdoors.”

When on the Sunshine Coast to celebrate Bernie’s birthday, I stayed with Raph and his partner Millie (right).

Part of Bernie’s birthday celebration involved a (strenuously) fun time at Treetop Challenge, “Australia’s highest and most thrilling adventure park.” Here we engaged in high ropes maneuvers and glided along ziplines of varying lengths and heights. And, yes, I discovered muscles I didn’t know I had!

Above (from left): Mim, Kristy, Jeremiah (partly obscured) Bartley, Helen, me, Raph, Millie, Bernie, Sonny, Frankie, Collette, and Mike – Saturday, May 18, 2024. As you can see, we all had special socks for our treetop challenge adventure! And in celebration of Bernie’s birthday, our socks were as colourful as her regular hair and attire.

After I texted my friend Deandre back in Minneapolis about our Treetop Challenge adventure, he responded, “I didn’t think you had it in you.”

I said that going into it, I wasn’t sure either; but that I pushed myself through it by channelling my inner Black Panther! 😄

Later that night we all gathered first at The Boat Shed restaurant, overlooking the beautiful Maroochy River, and then at Jeremiah and Kristy’s home to officially celebrate (with lots of wings and bling) Bernie’s 70th birthday.

The following morning we enjoyed breakfast and time on the beach at Mooloolaba.

Above: With Frankie and Sonny at Mooloolaba
– Sunday, May 19, 2024.

Last Days in Australia

Australia Sojourn – April-May 2024
Farewell Minnesota Spring
Hello Australia Autumn!
Bundanoon, Batemans Bay, Braidwood and Goulburn
Hanging Rock
Family Time in Melbourne, Guruk, and Gunnedah

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Mooloolaba (2023)
In Northern Rivers Country (2019)
Townsville (2016)
Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast (2010)
Raph’s Inspiring Journey
Raph’s Journey Continues
A Surprise for Raph! . . . Well, Somewhat
Return to Oz . . . Sydney to Be Exact!
A Day Roving the Mid North Coast
A Bushland Wedding
“Flooded-In But Loving Life”
A Fresh Take on Masculinity
“Your Perception Is a Choice”
Our Sacred Journey Continues: An All Saints & Souls Day Reflection
The Australian Roots of My Progressive Catholicism

Images: Michael J. Bayly and friends.

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