Australia Bike Ride 17
After failing to eat properly the night before I was delighted to discover this seemingly ramshackle general store in Kin Kin was a top cafe.
When I turned up last night it seemed improbable that they could russle up this omelette:
This was a sight for sore eyes. I asked inside about my nocturnal American friend. Yes he was known. His name’s Jim Wonder. He lives about 4 miles out of town and has been caught stealing showers and water before. They knew of his conspiracy theories and pre-occupation with artefacts. I feel I may have ‘grassed him up’ after discussing his ablutions last night but he needs to stop creeping around like that.
Fortified I headed north. Within a few miles I spent 10 minutes pushing the bike up an 18% gradient. Whether a help or a worry my Garmin Sat Nav does provide guidance that these enormous climbs are coming:
At the top I had another choice to make. Onward and upward with the Garmin’s route or ‘Plan B’ with Google Maps. I decided to abandon the Sherpa Tenzing opportunity and took an unmade road. The countryside was quite European and it reminded me of the Black Forest in Germany close to the French border. That, I recollect, has the odd climb.
Throughout this area local elections are taking place. Standardised posters were everywhere usually with a photo and name. Micky, in this one, is making improbable promises:
Apparently it is Australian law that all adults must either vote or register their intention not to vote. I wonder if this stops people whinging about the result?
At the bottom of one hill not too far from Gympie I was allowed onto the Bruce Highway. If you Google ‘Bruce Highway’ and ‘cycle’ you will discover loads of complaints about this road. I’m fairly dismissive of these types of dialogue but, I confess, the road had its challenges.
It’s been upgraded in separate sections and during my 50 mile relationship there were portions that were fine and then lengths that had a terribly coarse surface and or virtually no shoulder. The road had occasional overtaking lanes but never was it a dual carriageway. A feature that stopped vehicles giving you wide clearance, when passing, was a rumble strip of paint in the centre of the road.
What would you do in a pick up truck at 70mph? Give the cyclist clearance (and safety) and pull into the middle but experience the rumble strip or barrel on through nearly grazing the hip of the lycra loony on the hard shoulder but successfully keep off the rumble strip? No need to guess the answer. However due to creative signage I was always concentrating:
Of course a positive was that I was going directly north not weaving west and east. Nearing my destination a pick up pulled over and Paul leapt out in front of me. He’s a long distance cyclist and had hosted many cycle tourers coming through this area. Tonight he wasn’t staying at his home at my destination, Maryborough, or else he would have offered a shower, food and some shelter. He reeled off some camping options in Maryborough. They seemed to be free. However after Kin Kin I wanted hot water to do some laundry and proximity to some shops for dinner. I felt mean for rejecting his options and he seemed disappointed!
This was the first time I had experienced this type of interest and kindness. I continued into Maryborough and picked the second campsite I found. Again the owner was very kind and helpful – “here’s a supermarket, here’s your route out tomorrow, here’s the pitch etc” . On our tour of the site I saw the truck.
He’d received it as an heirloom and had once done it up. It was an 1933 REO. This is an American truck. I know you will have got some 70s Rock music compilation CD or cassette that has a track on it by REO Speedwagon. This is where the name comes from.
At this place and in the early evening my epic bike ride from Melbourne to Cairns abruptly ended.
I haven’t mentioned coronavirus a lot in the blog. I’ve seen the news headlines in the UK and Australia and spoken, often, to Anna about it. I was only concerned with the daily mileage and as you’ve read my schedule had few spare moments to think about a lot other than pedalling, eating, putting up the tent, washing my kit, showering, sleeping and then repeat. The whole pandemic had now spread worldwide and the situation was changing daily. In Australia there was no change in anyone’s behaviour or movement to detect. Yet.
Two things nagged me. Given the seriousness I should be with Anna at home and, secondly, would I be able to leave the country in April? Anna had been checking with Trailfinders. They could give you information to cover the next 48 hours but longer than that they had no firm information.
After a busy day in the saddle you are still ‘in the zone’ for an hour or so about mundane things like negotiating a slip road/ramp and what gear to be in. However, I shortly found myself charging my phone in the shower block but speaking to the UK travel agent. Anna had set this up. I heard the professional’s analysis and it was time to go. The travel agent switched my April flight for another one in 3 days time.
I was crushed. Imagine you’re playing, say, a team sport and doing well. You glance toward the touch line and see a coach holding up your number taking you off the pitch. Whoa, not now, we’re winning let me see this through.
At this point in time all I could really see was a couple of days of stress. Tomorrow was Saturday, apparently (!), I had to get the bicycle on public transport in order to return to Brisbane. There were limited transport solutions. When I got there I needed a big cardboard bike box: all the bike shops, where I’d get one, would be shut on a Sunday. I needed accommodation near a bike box and the airport etc….
Anyway these matters were resolved (with Anna and a cycling forum on Facebook) and I started the trek home.
I will publish one more blog, after this, to wrap up the statistics and some summarising thoughts. It’s around 1,200 miles. Frankly I’m still processing all this.