Wednesday, 9 September 2015

All Good Things ...

... Must Come to an End

It's been a week since the last day of our epic ride across the continent. We've unpacked, done all our dirty laundry (Di), put the bikes back together (Doug), cleaned the house (Di) and done some gardening (Doug.) We've been to the State Cinema to see a movie (Ricki and the Flash with Meryl Streep), had dinner with friends, out to breakfast this morning with some other friends and have even had a couple of rides. It doesn't feel weird anymore not getting up every morning and into our cycling gear straight away, so I guess we've generally settled back into being homebodies.

I figure there has been enough time - and space - between finishing the big ride and now to be able to look back and sum up the journey. Here are some raw numbers:

Total number of ride days: 44
Total number of rest days: 9
Total days from Perth to Melbourne: 53
Shortest stretch of consecutive days riding: 2 (the first two days; ~ 200 kilometres)
Longest stretch of consecutive days riding: 12 (Esperance to Ceduna;  > 1400 kilometres)
Total distance: ~ 4700 kilometres

Memorable Moments

I've always been of the opinion that raw numbers don't mean anything without some sort of context. In this case, the context has to be the experiences we had along the way, the things that really stand out. We went off on this caper with the attitude that it wasn't necessarily going to be a holiday as such, but that it sure would be some sort of adventure. We thought it pretty likely that we would have some very ordinary weather and that could significantly impact on player comfort level. (In fact, there were very few days when we set out in early morning rain.) Our little accident just a few days before leaving home didn't help. As it turned out things went much better than we could ever have dreamed, so there were a lot more highlights than lowlights. Here are some of the moments that stand out, both good and bad:

Best Moment Off the Bike

This one was easy: it's definitely eating oysters and drinking stout with Peter and Di in Cowell ...

Ahhh ... the simple pleasures of life!
Peter had treated us to some oysters in Tumby Bay and we were looking forward to some more further down the coast of the Eyre Peninsula in Coffin Bay. Unfortunately the weather was looking abominable for the ride south so our route was amended and we thought we were going to miss out on another feed of South Australia's finest oysters. Little did we know that Cowell is growing oysters and its reputation for them. I wandered over to the closest factory from where we were staying and paid for three dozen of them. When we got down to shucking the pearly beauties it turned out that we'd been given 38, so a great little bonus. And they were fantastic!

Worst Moment Off the Bike

We were in Madura. It was the longest day's ride of the entire journey: 157 kilometres, the first 60 of which was in pouring rain and into a bit of a headwind. Di had been having trouble eating as her stomach didn't like the various anti-inflammatories she'd been consuming to try to get some relief from her sore hip. She reluctantly got into the van after morning tea at Cocklebiddy after we'd plodded along that 60 kilometres and rode with Collis. We opted to take a cabin at the caravan park rather than crawl into our tent with thunderstorms threatening. (And did it storm! The thunder raged for over six hours!) Di was so low she said, "This is the worst holiday I've ever had!"

Hardest Day Of Cycling

Gairdner to Ravensthorpe. Definitely. Way back in Western Australia and only the eighth day of riding. It was the second of two long days - each just short of 150 kilometres. It started with a gradual uphill slog of 30 kilometres into a steady, cold headwind, which was too strong for Di to do much with so I towed her most of the way. I'd had diarrhoea overnight and was feeling pretty shattered by the time we finally made it to the caravan park. It was made worse by the fact that, after an exhilarating descent to the Phillips River just a few kilometres from the end we had the inevitable climb back up to the town. This was offset by maybe the ...

... Most Beautiful Moment On the Bike ...

... when we were just on the outskirts of Ravensthorpe. We rode towards a large flock of galahs which were across the road in front of us. Just as we neared they rose into a pink and grey cloud and wheeled, wheeled and wheeled again before settling on the road in front of us. As we drew closer once again they rose and flew off and we thought that was the end of it. But no: we soon came across another large flock that did just the same thing. And then another. There would have been hundreds of them in total and they left us feeling exhilarated after such a hard day.

Most Relaxing Morning Tea Break

This is an easy one. Di and I had climbed Horrocks Pass, ridden through Wilmington and on to Melrose. We had a fantastic break at the bike shop in the sun, drinking coffee and eating brownies and muffins!

Most Dramatic Finish

This happened on the short stage from Cummins to Tumby Bay on the Eyre Peninsula. I got a great photo of a dog in the back of a truck as we left Cummins ...

Could this be another King?

... then we had some great riding into the hills east of Cummins. Rain started falling as we got towards the highest point of the range and continued as we descended. But once we reached the outskirts of Tumby Bay the storm hit with a bang. It was so wild I was moved to howl back at the wind and rain. Di and I were out in front and made straight for the café on the waterfront and waited out the worst of it inside. Once we made our way to the caravan park everyone else had decided to forego camping and take shelter inside four walls and we promptly followed suit.

Most Rewarding Day

This is a tie. Sorry, but I've mulled over and over this one and there's no way out of it. 

For Di, the day to Madura was a shocker, and that night was the low point of our shared experience. But for me, that day of riding was terrific. The whole group had slogged into morning tea at Cocklebiddy, so soaking wet that the proprietor of the roadhouse was complaining as he mopped up the puddles we left on the floor. Perversely, I was feeling pretty chirpy - maybe because we'd done some of our training in conditions just like these and we were somewhat acclimatised, and had appropriate gear on. Once Di made the decision to get in the van, I decided to set off, and I set off with a purpose. The wind had come around and the rain eased and with that my spirits lifted further. I rode the last 97 kilometres of the day on my own in three hours and one minute. 

The other most rewarding day would have to be when we rode from Port Campbell to Wye River. The day started with some gorgeous riding along the coast before going up into the Otways, roller-coasting through thick temperate rainforest and then descending back to the coast and more riding beside the sea. We rode about 125 kilometres and climbed over 1800 metres - the most of any day on the whole route. Di, Neil and I rode together along the coast visiting scenic sites along the way, went at our own pace up to Lavers Hill and down the other side to lunch, then regrouped for the rest of the ride along the coast. It was one of those magic days on the bike.

Most Exhilarating Moment

This would have to be the wild descent into Palmer the day we rode from Gawler to Wellington. Thankfully, I'd been able to get my broken right shifter replaced in Gawler: I'm sure I wouldn't have had nearly so much fun on Collis's spare bike. I'd just paused at the top of a climb ...

... unaware of what lay ahead. But soon I found myself rounding a corner and plunging down a wonderful, twisting descent. The only thing wrong with it was that it was too short.  This would also have to have been one of my scariest moments of the whole trip. As I was racing down one of the few straight but short sections of the descent a stupid young woman blasted past me in her car with the horn blaring. Caught me by surprise a bit.

Not Just the Nullarbor!

I hope sharing the journey with us across the continent has convinced you that there is a lot more than just the Nullarbor between the west and east coasts. We certainly look forward to revisiting - at a more leisurely pace - much of the territory we passed through. But I can't help but leave you with this striking image from the early part of our traverse across the Nullarbor ...

Di with camel: another road train casualty

Home in Hobart

As I said earlier, I think we've adjusted to being home again. It wasn't hard, even though we think we both have a deep nomadic streak running through us; we love being back in the company of friends and there's lots to occupy us ... at least for a while. 

Today we did one of our favourite rides and had a great time on the bike despite the winds playing their usual tricks, which prompted Di to write a little poem ...

Ode to the Headwinds of Home

A damnable thing is a headwind from Hell
It gusts down the Derwent without letup or spell
And just when you've turned
For the tailwind you've earned
It's back in your face, all your pleasure to quell!

Despite the winds, we are pleased to be home for the moment. But it won't be too long before the restlessness gets the better of us. There are places to go and things to do! And, despite having my soulmate at my side I still haven't found what I'm looking for ...