To our great joy, the prison waved its right of incarceration and we were permitted to depart around 10 this morning. Today was our first day of nonstop glorious weather, and what a difference it makes! We were especially fortunate because it fell on the day we've both been looking forward to most: Phillip Island. We were only a couple of hours away and the drive was just as beautiful as all the others, except made even more so by the clear skies that allowed us to see for miles in every direction. As we got closer to the island the ocean was always on the horizon, set high above seemingly endless hills. They were so steep and the valleys were so low that it was as if someone had spread a green blanket over hundreds of mountain-sized marbles. We arrived on the island just in time for lunch, and walked up and down a main street that led right up to the water. It was lined with shops and restaurants on either side, but we discovered pretty quickly that most things are closed on Mondays so we missed out on our top picks. Apparently this is a weekend town so they use Monday and Tuesday as rest days. I was a little disappointed at first, but all it really just meant that the crowds were much smaller than they would've normally been, and I'd trade a few restaurants for that any day! Our first stop was the Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit. This is where the big boys of MotoGP come to play on the worlds fastest motorcycles, and I practically ran inside. Right next to the main track is a scale model for go karts, so we signed up for some racing time before our guided tour of the circuit. I just wish I'd been better prepared! The carts go around 50mph, and this is not some NASCAR woopity-do oval! This thing has hairpin turns, elevation changes, and back to back curves that made every thrilling second a challenge. Your lap times are all recorded and displayed on a leader board, so of course it became my purpose in life to get the fastest time. Brittany and I were together for the first ten minutes alongside a couple of other guys, and I think she was a little thrown off by just how fast these things are (hey, I was too). The best and worst part was the second set, when everyone else left the track and I had the whole circuit to myself. I can't even begin to describe how beautiful this track is, perched above the ocean, and I was grinning from ear to ear under my helmet as the kart rumbled and tires screamed beneath me. Unfortunately, I did learn that racing against myself sucks most of the fun out of it. When I was on the track with someone else I just wanted to beat that person but when I was all alone I was the man to beat, and I was pushing harder and harder with every lap. My time got better and better, but by the end every muscle in my body ached, I had more adrenaline than a charging rhino and my nerves were shot. I still wouldn't trade it for anything, and I have a newfound respect for the guys running the same lines at 200mph! After the go karts we went in to the visitor center and met our guide. It was a public tour but we were the only two there, so we got a privately guided walk through all the areas a Joe-shmo like me would never get to see on race day. We went through the paddocks, over the track itself, and in the control tower. We even had our picture taken on the real-deal winner's podium! It was an outrageously special experience that I'll remember for a very long time. Hmmmm, why don't I have a bike anymore? I think the tiny house might need a garage... While I drooled over shirts in the gift shop, Brittany had found a nearby winery for us to visit. The Purple Hen was a small boutique wine maker with a beautiful vineyard full of soon-to-be-harvested c******nay. Every vine was covered with thick netting, and we were told that was to keep the birds away. They even had snake warning signs, so I just had to ask what kinds of snakes they usually see (I'm still a bit disappointed that I haven't seen any!). The guy kind of smiled and said it was mostly to scare people off. I guess in Australia a "Beware of Dog" sign doesn't have quite the same bite as a "Snakes Here" sign. Ha! "bite"...I crack myself up :) After a long tasting we bought a bottle and enjoyed a glass outside in the sun. The wind is extremely strong all along the island and we huddled behind a thick tree to take in the views under a pale blue sky. Brittany's treat of the trip was coming up in the evening, so we rented an apartment and got some laundry done before heading to a tip of the island for the nightly penguin spectacular. Every evening, thousands of tiny penguins hop out of the water and march up the beach to their burrows. It's aptly called the Penguin Parade, and we both had high hopes for it. Not wanting to miss a thing we got there a full hour early, only to learn that they'd already started coming in! We practically jogged to the viewing area, afraid we were too late. Within minutes though, here they came, sometimes one at a time and sometimes in giant groups. They're the smallest penguins in the world (only around a foot tall) and they waddled adorably within right in front of us. We weren't supposed to take any pictures but I snuck a few in ;) I especially loved watching the fat ones because you could tell how much harder it was for them to walk than the others. "Curse that twelfth sardine burrito!" they undoubtedly thought. At one point we saw a shadowy black blob on a nearby hill, barely discernable in the grass as the sun had already gone down. It appeared to float like a hazy ghost, moving so quickly that we stopped looking at the penguins and stared hard into the night. Minutes later a dark brown wallaby bounded down from the hill. I actually panicked for a moment, trying to decide if there was any possibility it was here to eat the little penguins like popcorn chicken. Fortunately for the children present it just hopped right through the path, paying the penguins no mind and nearly running a few over. We never thought we'd see penguins and a wallaby at the same time! As the "parade" came to an end we made our way off the beach and into the conveniently located and bountifully stocked gift shop. There was an interesting display that helped you to appreciate that this activity, while absolutely an invasive tourist pasttime, is essential to the penguin's survival. If it wasn't managed properly people would still come and they'd pretty much all be dead in a few years. It actually made sense and made us feel better about participating (we still felt a bit guilty up to that point). The squeaky chirps and calls of the penguins echoed along the road as we drove away. It was the perfect end to a perfect day! We're a full day ahead on our itinerary and I think we'll use that extra time to visit some wineries in the Yarra Valley. Is there anything better than sipping wine in a sun-drenched vineyard? Oh yeah...go karts.