Monthly Archives: September 2008

Home Improvement

Dust

As I sit here typing this entry I am surrounded by dust.  Dust on my keyboard, on the table, on the floor, benches, walls, and seats.  I’ve got dust in my hair, ears, nostrils and eyes.  I’m literally covered in a fine layer of dust.  Physically I’m tired and weary, emotionally… wrung out.  I’m at ‘that’ phase of a big job.  The phase where you just wish it was over, that the job was done, or that you hadn’t started it in the first place. 

What was the job?  Well, the tiles in our house were a little off colour, dated, and some were damaged.  The carpets in the bedrooms needed replacing as they were stained beyond cleaning, manky, and basically looked like crap.  Ok, the tiles I could live with, but the carpets had to go.  So off we went to the various carpet stores to get some samples.  The selection available to us was ordinary to say the least.  Plus, for the first time ever, we had painted a feature wall in each of the rooms, and trying to select a carpet that would match the colour schemes was surprisingly hard. 

Then the more I thought about it the more I started warming to putting tiles in the bedrooms.  “Ok, go fetch,” I said to my wife, I’ve got other pressing things to do…

A month of visiting tile shops, bringing home samples, humming and haa-ing, and we finally decide to… give up.  That’s right, we’d had enough.  This was getting out of hand.  But we had to do something, the carpets needed to go, and we had to replace them with something.  In the end we persisted and found a tile we both liked, so we decided to tile the entire house with them.  All I had to do now was rip up the carpets, and ‘get one of those tile removing machines’ to rip out the old tiles.

The Tile Removing Machine

What a "Tile Removing Machine" looks like

What a "Tile Removal Machine" looks like

In my overly optimistic mind, I’m thinking of something big on wheels, with a spinning ceramic blade and a dust bag.  A machine I would simply start and follow behind sipping a cup of tea while it almost casually removed our old tiles.  Oh, no.  No, no, no, no, no… 

The tile removing machine, as it turned out, was a depressingly heavy jackhammer with a spade bit.  As I lugged it over to the car I had my first misgivings.  Later in the day I had removed all the furniture from the house into my once clean and tidy shed, and sat in the echoing dining room and pondered what I was about to do. 

I was about to rip up perfectly good, but ordinary looking tiles.  Why?!  Because we wanted to ‘improve the look (and value) of our house.  As it was late in the day, it was decided that I would not start jackhammering just yet, but would make a start first thing in the morning.

The First Skirmish

It took nearly 5 minutes to lift the first tile.  Underneath the tile was another floor covering, a layer of green lino.  I couldn’t have been more surprised to see this.  Our home is 14 years old, and to see a layer of lino that was looking dated in 1979 lying underneath my tiles was a bit of a shock.  Because the tiles were stuck to the lino, and the lino was glued to the concrete, the jackhammer, and my knees and back, were in for a bit of fun. 

Surrender

It was at this point, with two tiles lifted, that I found my wife and told her that I wasn’t going to do this job.  It would take too long, be too hard, and I wasn’t all that keen on ripping up the tiles anyway.  She didn’t look too happy, but said, “Ok, well you cancel the new tiles that we ordered.”  I rang the shop, and was basically told that they’d fast tracked our order, and that this was very inconvenient, and really, what was the problem with ripping up the tiles, ‘How hard could it be?’ 

Harden Up Nancy Boy!

Okaaay.  I had lifted two tiles by this stage.  If I lifted another one, then I’d have to take the rest up because we only had two replacements.  At this point I made a cup of tea and had a think.  “Just do it!” called the Positive Side of my brain.  “You’ll be sorry,” warned The Realistic side. 

“Ah, don’t listen to that moaner,” replied Mr. Positive, “just think of how good your house will look, how nice the new tiles will be to walk on, no more carpets to clean, just get in there son!  Swallow a spoon full of concrete and harden up! How hard could it be mate, just DO IT!” 

Mr. Realistic wasn’t going to lie down and take this, “Greg,” he said, shaking his head from side to side, “how many times has HE lead you astray with that last comment, ‘How hard could it be?’  Usually very hard, and how many times have jobs turned into nightmares, and think of the cost, do you really ‘need’ these tiles?  Your grandparents lived in the same houses all their lives and never once improved them, why must you do this to yourself?”  Mr. Realistic was leading by a mile.  

Mr. Positive pulled out his trump card, “It will make your wife happy.”

Mr. Realistic went very quiet. 

I finished my cuppa, picked up the jackhammer and pulled the trigger, I was now beyond…

The Point of No Return

Well, by the end of the first day I had removed the tiles in the loungeroom and still had the kitchen, dining room, hallway, and laundry to go.  I was in deep shit here folks. 

By the end of the first day, my hands are numb, my back and knees are aching, and I’ve covered the entire house in a layer of ceramic dust.  I am not a happy man.  I’ve rung my wife at work and simply said, “Bottle of rum.”

Yes!  It's fun for all the family!

Yes! Fun for all the Family!

She understood. 

Day 2

Visited the good chaps at Flexihire and got a clay breaking attachment for the jackhammer.  The tile lifter they had given me was a shattered wreck, so they replaced that as well.  The clay breaker turned out to be very good at smashing up the tiles, which I had to sweep up and load into the trailer, before returning to the house and using the tile lifter to remove the layer of lino and glue.  It was peeling off ok, but very slowly, and took a lot of pushing on the jackhammer to get it up.  My neighbours were wondering what the hell was going on, but were smart enough to stay away lest they were enlisted into the living hell my life had become. 

That night as I lay on my dusty lounge, twitching and spasming, I thought about my options.  At this stage I was prepared to pay someone, anyone, a thousand dollars just to come in and remove the rest of the tiles and the underlying lino.  No names sprang to mind though. 

Day 3

It was my final day off.  Saturday would see me back at work, the happiest man in the factory I would be, just glad to be at work and not jackhammering floor tiles!  Today was the final burst.  Whatever tiles were left had to go today.  I steeled myself and fired up the jackhammer.  Oh God it was bad. 

By midday the last tile smashed apart, shards ricocheted off my goggles, and I gave a ragged cheer through my dust mask.  Gazing around the house, I noted that everything, every surface, wall, window, knicky knacky object, etc. was covered in an inch of dust.  The only things left to do now was rip up the lino, and have a bit of a clean up.  With a bit of luck, by 3pm, I’d be sitting on the back deck enjoying a well earned beer. 

By 3pm, I was a screaming wreck.  The lino wasn’t peeling off anymore, it was coming up in a thin layer, which meant double the work as I had to go over it, and over it, to get the remaining vinyl and the layer of glue up.  At 6pm the job was done.  Throwing the jackhammer through the back door and myself to the floor in agony I felt slightly relieved, but determined.  Determined that this was the last time, EVER, that I would do this sort of work.  And just as determined to ban my wife from EVER watching another show featuring Jamie Durie, Steve Bisley or any girl in tight clothes doing a yard or home make over.  EVER! 

Backyard Blitz

“Ok, Jamie, I’ll just rip up these tiles, remove this wall, and replace the kitchen,” says some big boobed, white toothed bimbo in designer work clothes, “And Voila!  It’s done, now to give the new kitchen a bit of a spruce up with some nice colours… and look at that!  Finished!  Doesn’t it look great?!” 

“It sure does Jan!  Now while you were doing that, me and the rest of the team were whipping up a retaining wall, putting in fountains, rebuilding the garden, re-sewering the street, helping a crippled kiddie across the road, and even gave the car a tune up.  Aren’t we just fantastic?!” 

No you’re not.  You are cheats, and liars.  Your jobs go to plan, you have all the right tools, you don’t discover nightmares from previous owners reno attempts, you have a team of crack professionals at your beck and call.  You make us envious.  You make the rest of us feel that we are missing out on a life of wonder and magic because our homes are functional, not pretty, and not filled with the latest gadgets and crap that your advertisers demand you plug like the whores you are.  In short, you people are bastards, I want you out of my house, and off my tv screen… 

You reward slack arsed home owners, who should be pointed at and mocked for being lazy and shiftless, with new homes and yards. 

How do I get onto this bloody scam?!  “And here’s Gb folks.  He bought this house several years ago, and hasn’t done a thing with it.  He mows the lawn twice a year so he can find the dogs, and inside he hasn’t even banged in a nail to hang one picture.  We so have to help him!  While he takes a well earned break in Hawaii, we’ll do all the work the lazy sod should have been doing in the last 10 years, and double the value of his house.  Let’s just hope he can summon up the energy to water his plants once a month after we’re done.  Maybe his grateful neighbours will do it for him and hopefully keep the value of their homes up as well while they quickly bang in ‘For Sale’ signs?”    

Am I sounding upset? 

Green lino

Green lino, blue walls... mmm classy...

Stage 1 Complete

By 9pm, my wife and I had managed to clean part of the kitchen, and the sitting area of the loungeroom before collapsing into bed.  The smell of dust and lino fills the air, my body is in a state of shock.  So, stage 1 is complete.  Surely it couldn’t get any worse.  All we have to do is lay the bloody tiles, clean down the walls, mop, replace the furniture… I mean, ‘How hard could it be?!’

And you can shut up as well Mr. Realistic, I don’t want to hear the words, ‘I told you so’, right now!  Geez I’m glad to be going to work tomorrow…

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Filed under Life & Thoughts

Cycle Qld – The Aftermath

Well, it’s been a week since I got home and unpacked everything.  Everyone is asking me the same question, “Will you do it again?”  Honest answer, “I don’t know.”  BUT, as the week wears on, and the scars heal, I’m starting to lean heavily towards, “Maybe!” 

The ride was one of my long term goals.  The thing that surprised me about the majority of the entrants I spoke to was that many of them were repeat riders.  They were obviously hooked.  This is a good sign.  So it may not be a one off…  I would be keen to return and catch up with some of my new mates, riding acquaintances etc, and see how they are getting on.   

Things I liked

Well, the organisation and running of the ride is, let’s face it, a nightmare.  The lead up and preparation for the ride and the logistics of providing food, shelter, toilet and shower facilities etc. must be a full time job for some very stressed people.  My hat is off to them.

Then dealing with the various problems on the ride itself would be another matter.  Never, at any time did I come across any volunteers or ride officials who were anything but, friendly, courteous and helpful.  This is the difference between a ride becoming a ‘death march’ and a ‘fun, life-changing event’.  A big “WELL DONE” to the hidden people who made the ride so much fun. 

Of course I liked the ride itself.  The day run into and out of Biggenden was particularly good, and the ride through to Imbil, Kenilworth and Maleny was magical.

The best part was making new friends, and getting out of my comfort zone on more than one occasion.  This is where you learn more about yourself, and the kindness of strangers. 

Things I Didn’t Like

People who pushed into the lines.  The lines moved fairly quickly anyway, so there wasn’t much to complain about really.  But for some it was a cardinal sin to stand at the back of the line, and too often we saw people shoving in front of others.  I’ve worked in places where blood would have been spilled.  But it’s a testimony to my fellow riders and the fun spirit of the event that the few ‘butt in bozos’ were tolerated with barely a shrug of the shoulders.  I think it’s a country / city thing.  We rural-ish folk aren’t used to long cues, or being in crowded spaces for too long, and it sort of grates us a bit.  Whereas for our city counterparts it’s a natural way of life, and something they can do without even thinking about it. 

Riders who didn’t call out when passing you.  The number of times I went to pass someone only to discover that I was in the process of being passed myself were too numerous to mention.  Plus riders who would pull out to pass and not look before doing so.  The number of times I saw cars, trucks, etc. brake and swerve to miss ignorant riders was waaay too many.  My heart got a good workout just by jumping into my mouth several times a day!  

But the only thing that really annoyed me was some of my fellow riders’ obsession with wanting to smear poo all over the toilets.  I don’t know what would possess a person to want to wipe crap all over a toilet seat, wall, and floor, but geez I wish they hadn’t done it.  By day 3 of the ride I was hunting for a relatively clean public toilet, because the ‘poo pigs’ had driven me out of the hired units.  A big THANKS to the toilet vendors though.  These ‘Kennies’ worked hard to keep the toilets and showers running in as clean a state as possible, in some trying circumstances at times at times, and they deserve a big pat on the back. 

A Special Mention

A huge thankyou and cyber hug to Jane Clarke, who has been my personal Guardian Angel before and after the ride.  Her upbeat emails, and assistance really set my mind at ease before the event, and I was glad to get to meet her in person and thank her.  Even last week she took the time to email me the details on where the hell my bike got to.  As usual it came down to a company in Gladstone providing the ‘usual’ crappy service for its’ customers.  If a company ever offered anyone in this town good service, it would be about 3 days before the rest of the towns’ vendors turned up with pitchforks and flaming brands to run it out of town.  People like Jane would just be shot as an example to other shop keepers thinking of being helpful, polite and nice to their customers.  Good onya Jane! 

Next Year

Apparently next year the tour is going to start and finish at Toowoomba.  There’s some nice country around that area, some good hills, lots of flats, and some pretty little towns.  I was initially disappointed that they didn’t choose a run through Central Qld, but the more I think about it, the more I’m warming to the idea of riding from Toowoomba to… Toowoomba. 

If I do go though with it, then I’m pretty sure it will be on a Giant CRX-4 this time.  AND, I will get it professionally serviced before hand to remove any annoying creaks and cracks…  and I will buy a new, leak proof tent.  Being cold is one thing, but being wet and cold is another.  There’s only so many nights you can get by wrapping yourself up in newspaper to keep warm.

Finally…

Thanks to all the nice folk reading my blog, and sending me positive feedback.  You’re all welcome!  It’s been a blast writing this thing, and I think I’ll keep going with it!  Although I’ve pretty much written out my ride material, for now.  I suppose I’ll have to start having more adventures and blog those… sounds more fun than tiling the house, building garden beds and retaining walls!

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Filed under Cycle Queensland

Cycle Qld – Day 8 – Bye Bye @ Beerwah

I’m woken in the darkness by the sound of cleated feet stamping up and down the aluminium ladder on the ladies toilet truck.  I groan, and fumble for my watch… it’s 4am.  I shake my head and wonder if these people actually sleep.  One of my earplugs has fallen out, for a brief second I wonder if I’ve swallowed the damn thing, then I find it, re-insert and pass out again as the clanging outside intensifies.     

An hour later I’m awake.  It hasn’t rained but heavy dew has soaked everything.  I stagger out of my tent and start packing up for the last time.  I take my time over breakfast, chatting with some of my fellow riders, shaking their hands, some for the last time, as we get ready to roll.  I’m on my bike soon enough, and today, my nice clean gloves are firmly lashed to the ends of my arms.

Bernie, Bill, Phil, Gb

Bernie, Bill, Phil, Gb

The weather is fine, a cool breeze is building from the west, interesting…

On the road and the ride is magnificent.  Lots of little hills, switchbacks, downhills, creeks, and the ever present sight of the Mary River languidly flowing to the sea.  It’s funny to think that if I got into a canoe and paddled a couple of hundred klms, I be back in Maryborough again.  The smell of the grass, african tulips, a dairy, and one piggery are intense in the cool of the morning, as are the sound of the bell birds, their lilting warbles can be heard for miles. 

Leaving Kenilworth

Leaving Kenilworth

The road twists and weaves, several one way bridges present the only real obstacles of this mornings ride.  I watch as one rider tries to pull over for traffic as we approach a bridge and discovers, to his horror, that his cleats are locked into his pedals.  He wobbles past us toward the oncoming car and the one laned bridge, his cries of terror getting louder with each passing metre.  The driver of the car, seeing his plight, guns his engine and dashes over the bridge, clearing the way for the hapless rider to cross unhindered.  Some of us were thinking that the cyclist was about to go for a swim.  I follow him for a while, and watch with interest as he tries to free himself.  I get bored with the show and pass him on a small uphill. 

Over the rise the wind hits us hard.  My rear flag snaps to life, bending hard to the left as the westerly cross wind punches into us.  Cyclists groan under the added pressure, until someone calls out from behind, “Hey!  At least the wind will help us tackle the range!”  Everyone smiles again.

The Range!  It’s on everyone’s mind, the big climb to the top of Maleny.  Steep and twisting, there is nothing we’ve hit so far that can compare with it.  I’ve climbed it numerous times, but generally at speed with the whites of my eyes showing.  Didn’t seem too hard, or high, on the motorbike.

Nice part of the world...

Nice part of the world...

We stop for smoko at a school in Conondale.  The fare on offer is all sweets.  I’m caked and sconed out.  I’ve eaten at least 3 years supply of sugary, cakey stuff, and hanker for something a little more useful.  I stroll over to the Conondale Shop and buy a tomato sandwich and an apple.  I mention this because while I was reaching for the apple I managed to knock over a display stand of chocolate bars.  50 people watch in amazement as the lollies cascade to the floor.  49 people rush to help me pick them up… bless ’em! 

Bernie rides with me out of Conondale, and we are cruising so we take the opportunity to chat.  He is impressed with this part of the world and will drive back through here with his wife after she picks him up from Brisbane.  I want to move here, to the permaculture farm my mate lives on in the back hills near Conondale, but my family would rather jump head first off a tall building than drop out of Gladstone society.  Pity.

Bernie is keen to tackle the range, his outlook is to face challenges head on.  Good on him.  We reach the base soon enough and he hoofs into it.  I, on the other hand, kick back into first and spin easily up the first incline.  I’m surprised to see so many riders off their bikes already, pushing them up the road, puffing as they go.  I check my speedo, 9 kph, I can maintain this no worries, and reckon it would be easier to do it in this gear than walking.  Halfway up I pass a big woman on a cruiser, she is struggling, and I think she is about to give up.  Pedalling hard, I catch up to her as she slows, “Hey Look At You!” I call out to her.  Her head snaps round in my direction and her bike wobbles a bit, “What?” she asks.

“Look at you!  You’ve got this far and you’re not walking!  Good onya mate!”  I’ve got the biggest grin on my face.

She smiles back, and her jaw sets, “Yeah, I have haven’t I?” 

I nod frantically, “You’ve already outdone half the people here today, just keep going mate, you can do this.  Just remember, whatever else happens, no one can take away your victory today, the day you rode to the top of the Maleny Range!” 

Her feet are spinning faster on the pedals now, and I laugh out loud, she laughs as well, “I was just about to give up… but I’ll keep going now.” Her breathing is laboured.

I slow down a bit, “Look, it’s not a race, just ease up a bit, get your breath back and keep pushing.  You’re gears are perfect for this.  See,” I say pointing to one of the boy racers who is standing up and straining on his pedals, “this is our time to shine.” 

She nods and slows immediately, “I think I’m going to make it.” 

“I’ll see you at the top mate,” I say and push on, easily passing the red faced boy racer.

Ten minutes later I turn another corner and see another hill sloping upwards, “Jesus!” I think, “This is a bloody nightmare!”  Then I hear the sound of cheering ahead.  The CQ Cheer Squad must be at the top of the hill, which has to be round the next bend!  I pump the pedals harder, and the cheering grows louder.  As I turn the corner I can see in the distance a group of people in the middle of the road waving flags and blowing whistles.  My fatigue is forgotten as I kick up two more gears and cross the line in style to a fanfare of cheering and bell ringing.  I crow like one of the lost boys from Peter Pan, with all my heart and soul behind it.  Bernie takes a snap and high fives me. 

“Did you make it!” I cry out, circling him tightly, not wanting to get off,

Call Me King of the Mountain!  Photo courtesy of Bernies' phone.

Call Me King of the Mountain! Photo courtesy of Bernies mobile phone

“Yep!” 

I laugh for the sheer joy of victory, “Bernie and Greg!  Kings of the Mountain!”  He laughs with me. 

I circle a few more times, “Come Bernard, let’s go to Melaney and dine in the park.”

As I ride off I wonder about the woman on the cruiser, should I stay and see if she makes it?  I hesitate for a moment then decide, no.  If she does make it, the Cheer Squad will be there to meet her and she’ll feel pretty good anyway.  If she doesn’t make it, then the last person she’ll want to see is me. 

Bernie slides into the space behind me, and we cruise over the gentle hills.  The view from the top of the range is unbelievable.  Ocean one side, forests the other.  The grass is lush and green, the cattle fat.  Large trees hang over the road in places providing shade.  Everyone is in a great mood. 

We cycle into the main street of Melaney and I pull over to visit my other favourite book shop, The Rosetta Stone.  I buy Dad a Fathers’ Day book, and the owner of the shop stares at me for a second, “You’re one of those crazy cyclists aren’t you?” she says, her eyes smiling.

I nod my head, my helmet is still on, “Yeah, how’d you guess?”

“How far are you riding?”

“From Bundy to Brissy.”

“That’s a long way!  Why are you doing it?”

I lean on the counter and give her a ‘thousand yard stare’, “Because little lady… it’s there!” 

The people behind me laugh as well, and a lady standing near the door asks me, “So where are you from?”

“Gladstone, Central Queensland.” 

“Oh Gladstone!  I was born there.”

I’m stunned, “You’re kidding!”

“No, my dad was a photographer, had a shop in the main street.  He was killed in a plane crash years ago, and I escaped the place.” 

I shake my head, “This state is too damned small,’ I think.

She smiles, “It’s a lot nicer place now isn’t it?”

I nod, “You thinking of coming back?”

“Oh God no!”  She immediately turns and leaves the store.  I follow not long after.  A small crowd has gathered round my bike, and I immediately think, “Oh, not another flat tyre!” 

It turns out they were admiring it!  My bike!  An old man is playing with the bell, and sees me, “Oh, gidday son,” he says, looking a little guilty, “just checking out your machine, is it all aluminium?”

“No mate, she’s just an old clunker, the flash bikes are still coming,” I jerk my thumb back toward the range.

As I saddle up, one of the kids says, “I bet your bum hurts!”

There’s a small embarrassed silence before I start laughing, “Yeah little mate, it hurts heaps!” 

I ring my bell as I ride off, and the small group wave back.  Nice place! 

I eat lunch while seated on the lawn of the park on the banks of the Obi Obi creek.  The Woolworths is across the road, the much maligned and protested against shopping complex.  A lot of bad blood remains in the area due to the building of this concrete wonder on the banks of the creek.  It is believed that platypus were displaced by the concrete pylons punched into the bank and the creek itself to support the car park area.  Many locals refuse to shop there as a result. 

Bernie joins me and I tell him in graphic detail about the great downhill ride ahead.  The road out of Maleny down the range to Beerwah is a cracker and I can hardly wait to get onto it.  We saddle up and ride out of the park, straight up a narrow street and away from the south bound highway exit.  I’m confused, and call out to one of the marshalls, “Where are we headed?” 

“Western road out of town, toward the Kilcoy turnoff.  Don’t worry, it’s only a couple of hills, then a big downhill run.”  As I slip past him he calls out again, “Take it easy, a couple of motorcyclists got killed on it fairly recently!” 

I nod back and grind up the hill.  My legs protest, and my back joins in, they were expecting a cruisy downhill run, but have been asked to step up for more work.  My brain is sympathetic to their cause, but orders is orders…

“A couple of fucking hills my fucking arse!!” The rider I have just passed is not a happy cyclist, he continues swearing and cursing as I ride away from him.  We’re on uphill climb number 14, and rapidly running out of steam.  Many riders have given up and are walking their bikes up even the gentlest of slopes.  I climb hill #15, and see Bernie has pulled up.  His face says it all.  “I just wasn’t expecting this mate!” I puff, “I didn’t mentally ready myself for more bloody hills!”  He grins, and saddles up, “Well the downhills’ gotta be here somewhere eh?” 

I shrug my shoulders, “Dunno, never been on this road before.  Pretty enough, but it would be nicer to see it from the top of my motorcycle.  Might have to track back here one day for another look.” 

Nice place... like the view... umm, so what is it?

Nice place... like the view... umm, so what is it?

I follow Bernie down a small hill that leads to another steep uphill climb.  I sigh and allow my feet to flop in the pedals on the down hill run, they’ll need all the rest they can get.  The westerly wind which was our staunchest ally up the range just an hour ago, has turned into a hot, dry headwind.  I can feel my lips burning, my shirt is clinging to my back, and sweat is freely dripping off my elbows.  As I clamber to the top of hill #16, I see an upturned bike and a damsel in distress.  I stop and ask her if she’s alright.  She shakes her head and points to her rear tyre.  It’s a mess, the tube has blown out, and removed the sidewall of her tyre in the process.  I can’t help her.  She smiles, “A nice man is pedalling back to the mobile repair van, he’ll get me another tyre, or send them up here.”  I nod.  That ‘nice man’ is going to have to pedal up and down these bloody hills again, the poor, unlucky, but big hearted bastard.  I ask her if she’s got enough water and she points to two water bottles on the fence.  Beyond them is a wonderful looking place which I can’t decide is a house or a restaurant.  I take a photo of it so I can ponder over it at my leisure. 

Back on the road, the highway starts to droop a little more, the uphills are flattening out, and the view is marvellous.  I turn a bend and there it is, a steep drop followed by a long sweeping corner, all downhill!  I grip my bars and kick the pedals, “Yeeeehaaa!”  All of a sudden, I’m not thirsty, hot, or tired.  I’m as alive as you can get!  

The downhill run is brilliant, with only one stop at an intersection as we turn onto the Kilcoy / Beerwah road.  I’ve been on this road before.  Admittedly I was lost at the time, but I wasn’t lost now, and knew that it was all downhill to the coast.  Yippedy, yippedy, YAY! 

The upper reaches of the range are all cattle farms, interspersed with pockets of gum lined roadway.  The road is steep in places, but level off for a bit so braking isn’t too hard on the pads.  I pass only a couple of people, and for the most part have the road entirely to myself.  Now, this is cycling! 

If you're going to get stung, make sure it's you've got a nice view to help take your mind off it.

Cycling Tip #48: If you get stung by something, make sure you have a pretty view handy. This will help take your mind off the fact that you may be seriously ill.

With about 5 klm’s to go I feel a movement on my neck, followed by a sharp sting.  The pain is intense and I automatically reach up with my left hand.  The bike wobbles a bit as I crush some sort of insect on my glove and try to extend my hand to see what it is.  Whatever it was is blown out of my palm by the rushing wind as I accelerate.  Bugger.  The bite is throbbing.  I rub it.  This makes it worse.  Damn, damn, damn.  Checking my odometer I work out that I only have about 4 k’s to go before smoko.  With a bit of luck the St. Johns van will be there, and I’ll be able to get this thing checked. 

I make it ok, but the bite mark is hurting like blazes.  Oh, for some Stingose!  I bypass the school area where the other cyclists are, and pull up next to the St. Johns van.  The officer is on his mobile phone and having a somewhat heated discussion with someone.  I decide not to interrupt him.  Instead I go and buy some sandwiches, and a couple of cakes for my little niece who will be coming with my sister today to pick me up at Beerwah.  I lash out and buy a coffee and a bottle of Gatorade, which I place on my sore neck.  The relief is instant. 

I show Bernie and he relays a horror story to me about how his son nearly died from a wasp sting.  My eyes open even wider and I want to check my breathing and my pulse… don’t panic! 

I finish my sandwich, visit the toilet and all but rush to the van.  The bloke is still on his phone!  For Gods Sake!  I see that the rear door is partly open, so I give it a nudge.  There’s stuff everywhere, but none of it is any good for my purposes.  The officer sees me and waves, I wave back, and he promptly turns away and starts stabbing the air with his free finger as if he was poking the chest of who ever was on the other end of the phone. 

Bernie grins, “Looks like you’ll have to wait mate.”

I get the shits now, “Stuff that for a lark!” I say, and stalk over to the St. Johns bloke.  He sees me coming, six foot of unshaven, wild eyed, lycra clad wrath and he smiles, “What’s up mate?” he asks in a kindly voice.  I point to the mark on my neck and he smiles even wider, “Oh that?  Just grab a block of ice out of my smoko esky on the passenger seat.” 

My eyebrows shoot up all by themselves, “Yeah, it’ll be right,” he says, “just put some ice on it.”  He turns away and starts yelling back into the phone.  Bloody hell.  I do as he says and 5 minutes later, greatly relieved I pedal off. 

The road continues to drop, and a sign warns us of good times to come, “Trucks Use Low Gear”.  Bernie and I are the only two riders on the road as we hit the tree covered twists.  We stop pedalling, hunker down and hang on.  His bike slides away from mine easily, but I cut corners and slowly reel him in.  I kick my pedals, using top gears now that I’ve never used before, and hitting them hard.  Speed is at a premium, and I’m having a ball.  From the way Bernie is hanging from his bike, so is he.  Magical stuff! 

All too soon though the road levels out, buildings appear, then houses, and traffic.  Cars zoom past us and alongside us, too quick, too close.  The traffic builds steadily until we are almost driven completely off the road.  We scarper up a small hill, and see the sign announcing that we have ridden into Beerwah.  I ring my bell for the last time as a marshall appears on the road and directs us into the football grounds.  There are already hundreds of tents lined up in the fields.  It is a pretty campsite, and again I regret not staying the night. 

We pull up at the entrance, and I ask Bernie for the use of his phone and call my sister.  My parents are visiting her and they will come out as well.  Nice.  Bernie takes a photo of me.  My last one as an entrant. 

The last red arrow...

The last red arrow...

The Final Line Up

We find our bags, and while Bernie selects a campsite I wander over to the Rider Information tent with my luggage.  I find a volunteer and ask her where I can get a bike box from.  She points to the tent and says, “In there, but they don’t like being disturbed before 2pm.”  I check my watch, 1.35pm.  Damn.  I partially dismantle my bike as a small line builds.  I pack away my riding gear, sort out my backpack, find the little gifts I bought for my niece and wait.  Walking to the front of the line I see the look of indignation on the man and woman waiting near the front.  “I was here first,” I say in a flat voice.  She’s about to speak, but the man beside her looks at me, then down at my hand and cuts off her off, “No worries mate,” he says, and placing his arm round her shoulders they move back a couple of steps to make room for me.   

I take my place at the front of the line, impressed that my ‘standover man’ voice worked, then I realise that in my right hand I’m casually flicking my work knife open and shut.  I do this so often at work that it has become a sort of habit.  A habit that I will no doubt be arrested for in a couple of minutes.  I close the knife and slip it into the top of my shorts, my ears blaze red with guilt.  Then it dawns on me why they are so eager to be in the front of the line.  All these people have flat mobile phone batteries and are waiting for the few available power points that are so greedily fought over everyday.  No one in this crowd can call anyone, let alone the police.  I’m smiling now, as a small man, with a twirly moustache steps in front of me, “Is this the line,” he asks casually, not looking directly at me. 

I grip his shoulder and say, “Yes it is mate.  You must be from Brisbane eh, because you’re place is, back there!”  I manage to turn him round then give him a little shove in the right direction, but he spins on the spot, his flushed face says it all.  I’m in the mood, he’s in the mood, then the tent flap opens and a cheery voice calls out, “Right!  Who’s first?” 

“He is!” Two voices call out simultaneously, and I look over my shoulder to see the man and woman pointing directly at me.  Nice of them wasn’t it.  ‘They must be from some other place than Brissy,’ I think as I step forward.  The little moustachioed filcher is shuffled back several places as he stands dejectedly to one side of the line, his anger unspent.  I tip him a wink and and friendly nod as I pass him a minute later.  Gb the magnanimous.  He looks daggers at me.      

Bike in a box

"Bike in a box, I'll see you at home. I have an appointment with you in the shed my pretty..."

I’m handed a box, and I find my bike tools.  15 action packed minutes later and my old pushie is boxed up and ready to go.  I slap the labels on the sides and decide to find Bernie.  It’s quite easy to do as he’s standing right behind me.  “Thought you could use a hand with your bags,” he says.  What a mate!  Mr. Moustache is still waiting in line, he is not a happy camper.  I wave farewell to him, and he glares back at me, ‘Not my fault you’re an arsehole mate’ I think. 

Bernie helps me lug my bags to the front gate, and I thank him for his help and his mateship on the ride.  Again, I’m sorry that we won’t be finishing together tomorrow in Sandgate.  As we shake hands I hear a familiar voice call out, it’s my Dad, I look up and see my Mum, Sister and little Niece coming towards us.  They are smiling, the sun is out, and they look great, they also look clean.  Bernie walks away as I pick up my little niece and hug her.  She smiles at me, “Heyo Unkel Grick!” she beams at me, then her face goes all serious, “Don’t eat raw chicken eh?” 

No darling we don’t eat raw chicken.  Right here, right now, it hits me that the ride is really over. 

(We don’t have chicken for tea.)

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Cycle Qld – Day 7 – Meandering up the Mary

 

I wake up early after an excellent sleep and peer outside my tent.  It’s drizzling, but the clouds are thinning.  I pack up my gear, and wander down to the breakfast tent.  I meet Jane Clarke, my email contact from Cycle Qld who helped me out prior to the ride.  I shake her hand and thank her for her help.  She looks a bit tired, but manages a nice smile.  After brekky, I find Bernie and Bill, they are packing up.  Bill will be catching the bus to Kenilworth today, he manfully resists our kind offers to ride his carbon fibre bike across the Mary Valley today… the mongrel. 

Today we will be crossing the Bruce Highway as Al, the motorcycle cop, briefed us the night before.  Main roads will be reducing the highway speed limit for a couple of kilometres each side of the crossing, we are to go only when the marshalls tell us, no mucking around either, cross the highway as quickly and as safely as possible.  They must have had nightmares all night worrying about this bit of the trip. 

I slide onto my seat and wince a little bit as my stiff shoulder and hip lock into position.  I normally warm up, but haven’t today, I don’t think I can.  As I wait for Bernie to load his gear, I think about the trip so far, and the horror story of yesterday.  I’m philosophical about it, “Could have been worse,” I think, “at least I haven’t had any flat tyres.”  My spirits lift, and I pat the handlebars, “Good onya girl,” I mutter.  A rider waiting nearby smiles, he knows… 

Bernie meets me at the gate and we take off, eager to get the highway crossing out of the way.  The sun is trying to break through the clouds now.  Things are looking up.  I’m really looking forward to pedalling through the Mary River Valley today, having done it numerous times on my motorbike.  It will be nice to experience the river and the lush landscape at a slower speed.

I’m half a klm down the road when I note my front end is wobbling.  A flat tyre!  I pedal over a narrow bridge, two trucks nearly knock me into the creek.  I throw my bike upside down, neatly ripping the seat on a hidden stick in the wet grass.  I replace the tube as Bernie appears.  He has doubled back when he noted I had stopped.  “No worries?” he asks.  “No worries mate.”  I can’t find the cause of the puncture, which worries me, so I turn the tyre inside out looking for a hole, or nail, anything… nothing. 

Roadside Repairs

Roadside Repairs

Tyre back on, pump up the tube, and away I go.  I make it as far as Cooma, two klms up the road, when I note with a little sigh that the front tyre is flat again, it starts to rain.  “Why Lord?” I cry out to the surprise of a group of power line workers, “Why must you piss me around like this on my holidays?”  The rain eases off a little.  Bernie re-appears, “You’re kidding!” he asks.  I shake my head, “Got another tube?” he asks.  I shake my head again, “Nope, I didn’t think I’d need two.”  I look at the lowering clouds and think, “You’re really pushing it baby!”  God doesn’t look at me, he’s engrossed in His morning paper and pretends not to hear.  I open my backpack, and rustle around inside for my tube repair kit.   Fortunately I’ve learned from bitter experience to carry at least 27 patches.   Just In Case!

It’s at this point that something occurs to me.  My gloves.  I’m not wearing my gloves!  I’ve forgotten to put them on, and I remember that I’ve left them back at the camp site.  Great, just great. 

We rip the tyre off, this time by sheer luck, I locate the tiny sliver of glass that has twice bought me undone.  I patch both tubes and replace the tyre.  Minutes later we’re back on the road, but something is wrong, my front end is still wobbling and the bike is making creaking noises again.  I want to kick the thing to pieces on the side of the road.  Instead I take small comfort in thinking about how much damage I’m going to do this bike when I get it back home to my shed. 

 We reach the highway crossing and the marshalls aren’t mucking around.  They divide us up into small groups, stop the traffic, and let us go, “Stay in single file, don’t stop!”  

I’m halfway to the turn off when my front end really gets loose, I stop.  Instantly Al the bike cop is on me, “Keep going, keep going!” he cries, I look at him in desperation and jump on and keep going.  The bike feels terrible.  I make the turn off, relief pouring off me like steam.  I keep pedalling to the next smoko stop, ignoring the wobbling, and the noises.  The last hill is pretty extreme and I end up pushing my bike up to the smoko stop.  I grab a sausage in a bun and a drink then flip my bike over for a closer look.  My tyre is on back to front, this would explain a lot.  Bernie comes over, Phil tagging close behind, “What’s up now?”  I show him.  Minutes later I’ve taken the tyre off and put it on the right way round.  I douse the frame in WD40 and flip it back over.  The sun has come out at last.  I take my raincoat off and smile, “Bernard old mate, I’ve got a good feeling about the rest of this day,” I say.  He nods in agreement.  “I got a call from the missus,” he says. 

“Good news?” 

“Yeah, she just wanted to wish me Happy Birthday!” he laughs, “We’d both forgotten about it!” 

I laugh with him and shake his hand, “Well, that’s two bourbons you get today, one for helping me out, and another to celebrate surviving another year!”  Today is getting better by the minute. 

A quick toilet break, then we are whipping down a long grade, having a blast.  The bike feels good underneath me. 

The ride to the small village of Imbil is great.  The scenery superb, and the conversations brilliant.  THIS is CYCLING!  The whole valley is picteresque, the river winds it’s way slowly through lush green hills.  Fat and contented looking dairy cows gaze at us as we pass.  It’s a shame the State Govt wants to build a dam here and bury this beautiful country, just so gardeners in Brisbane can water their plants.  Protest signs are everywhere, ‘Don’t Murray the Mary!’  FUBT ‘Farmers United Beyond Traveston’ etc.  Some of the Vic riders I know are taking photos of these signs and don’t understand some of the local references.  I help with explanations.  The State Labor Govt has been riding roughshod over this area for the last couple of years, and right now a Labor MP round here would be about as popular as a chronic farter in a crowded lift.  One billboard announces that Bob Brown will be in the area today to add his weight and voice to a protest, I wonder if we’ll get to meet him.   
Riding for a Cause

Riding for a Cause - the boys let me take their photo... and in doing so, increase my 'cred' a tiny fraction of a percent.

At Imbil I take the opportunity to make a donation to the two young fellas who are riding small BMX bikes to Brissy to raise money for the Childrens Hospital.  Phil takes our photo.  These young fellas are brilliant, and have been the hit of the ride so far, wheelstanding their way into our hearts.  I personally wouldn’t like to ride such small bikes so far, but when you’re young you tend not to worry about that sort of thing… you just go for it dude!  Funny thing is, when they initially turned up at the start of the ride, one of the organisers said, “Get those kids out of here!” Thinking that they were local Bundy lads wheelstanding through the bike camp.  When it was revealed that they were actual entrants, he took one look at their bikes and said, “You’ve got to be %(*&$#$ KIDDING ME!  They’ll never make it to Brisbane on those!”  I found out later that they made it the whole way and have so far managed to raise around $4000… good for them!  You know when I was that age there was only two things I could think about… my car, and driving my car : )   

You can check out their site at http://www.everydayhero.com.au/Simon/McClintock 

We leave Imbil and have to cross a small range on the way to Kenilworth.  Yesterdays uphills are nothing by comparison, this is our first real test.  I make it to the top in first gear at an average of 8 kph.  My lungs are on fire, and my legs are numb from the hips down, but I make it.  Sweat is pouring down my arms onto my hands, my grip on the bars is super slippery now, and I remember why I needed my gloves.  The run down the other side is breathtaking.  I don’t know what speeds I reach because that would mean taking my eyes off the road and looking at my speedo.  Not going to happen.  Yesterdays prang is fresh in my mind, but this is too good to pass up.  I’m thrilled and terrified at the same time…, and loving it!  My hands are blown dried by the time I reach the bottom of the range, but some of my fingers are numb.  I don’t care, the buzz from the downhill ride carries me as far as the campsite.   

Kenilworth

We make camp just after midday, Bill has set up the Taj Mahal and directs us to where he is camped.  It looks like an ok spot, even though the truck with ladies toilets on it is parked on the other side of the fence.  The sun is fully out now, the blue sky is full of puffy white clouds, no more rain today.  We unpack and drape our wet gear over the fence.  While it is drying we hit the Kenilworth pub for a well earned beer, and to celebrate Bernie’s birthday.  Bill orders a Rum and Cola in a can and we laugh when the barmaid tells him it will cost $9.50.  We think she is joking right up until she hands him the 50 cent change from the $10 note he’d given her!  At these prices, getting loaded in Kenilworth is going to cost us a small fortune.  He stands there looking forlornly at the top of the can, “Bill,” I say, “that better be the best damned rum you ever drink.”  He grins, but his heart isn’t in it.  We have a couple of beers, Bill switches back to beer as well, and we sit out on the back deck in the sun enjoying the warmth, dry feet and some good music.   Eventually we cruise out of the bar to see what’s on offer in downtown Kenilworth.  It’s a pretty little place, really nice.  I’ve always liked this town.  If only we could move the beach a bit closer…

We enjoy a nice feed and coffee at a small cafe, the food is brilliant, and the coffee fantastic.  Elsewhere around town our fellow riders are enjoying similar fare.  Everyone is smiling.  It dawns on Bill that something is missing, “Where’s the graffiti?” he asks, “Look!  There’s people using the park and not littering or drinking!”  Yep, welcome to the country.  I grab some real estate brochures.

Our gear is dry by the time we get back to camp.  I throw everything into my tent, this will be my last night under canvas, and I have more than enough dry clothes to see me through the next couple of days.  Bill tells us two pieces of interesting news, the first is that we can shower in the show pavilion for a $2 donation, and second, the Shimano service truck mechanic is doing free gear adjustments just behind our tents.  Bernie and I scramble for our bikes and line up.  There are 5 people in front of us.  Half an hour later there are still 5 people in front of us.  The first couple of customers are basically getting their bikes rebuilt from the ground up.  I look on in disgust.  “Bugger this mate,” I say to him, “I’ll do my own maintenance.”  Bernie decides to wait it out. 

Waiting in line with Bernie

Waiting in line with Bernie

I change my brake pads, (big downhill tomorrow, I’m not taking any chances), calibrate my gear adjustors, clean and grease the chain, and have a fiddle with the seating / handlebar set up.  An hour later I take it for a quick test ride.  I’m satisfied with the bike and chain it to the fence.  I wander back to the Shimano tent and note that Bernie is still in line, there are only 4 people in front of him now.  

Laughing, I leave him to it and wander off for a shower before tea.  As I pass the Riders Reception I pop in and ask if anyone handed in my gloves.  Someone has!  They smell like an aadvark has pissed all over them, but I put them on anyway!  I shower with them on so they are nice and clean by the time I finish.  Afterwards I lay on my warm, dry mattress and continue reading my novel.  As the sun sets I find my head lamp and wander off in search of tea.  On my way to the food tent I note that Bernie has finally made it to the front of the line, I give him a wave on the way past.  He waves grimly back.  Happy Birthday mate. 

During tea I meet an old friend of my Uncle in Ipswich.  He’s a nice bloke, a veteran of many of these rides, and has really enjoyed this one.  I have too, as this mornings dramas have faded quickly to the back of my mind.  I clean my plate and stroll over to the beer area.  A blues player is keeping us entertained tonight, and doing a good job.  I find Bernie, and we have a few drinks together.  Bill appears and joins us for a couple more.  It’s the latest night we’ve had on the tour, 9pm.  Tonight is my, and Bill’s, last night.  Bill is unable to ride, and has organised for his wife to drive up from the Gold Coast tomorrow to pick him up.  I ask Bill if he believes in luck.  He replies, “No, I reckon you make your own luck.”  I look sideways at Bernie and say, “When I was on the side of road this morning Bill, I said to Bernie that I will punch through a wall the next person who says to me that you make your own luck!  Lucky for you, there’s no wall here, so I’ll let you off.”  We have a bit of a laugh, then Bill says, “Well, make of this what you will.”  He finds a plastic chair and sits down in front of us, I wonder why he hasn’t got his whiz bang u-beaut camping chair with him.  He takes a sip of his rum and smiles, “I just finished talking to my wife about the new floor for her shop, and said I wasn’t sure what to do.  I need to be there to assess the options and make a decision, but I also want to finish the ride.  And she said to me, ‘Why don’t you just put it out there for the Universe to decide, you’ll get your answer soon enough.’  You’ll never guess what happened next?”

I shrugged, “No, what?”

Bill started laughing at the memory, and we had to wait for a bit until he settled down, “Well, I told her goodnight,” at this point he started laughing again, “then, I hung up, and put the phone in my pocket.”  He starts laughing again, and we have to wait until he gets himself together, “And bugger me, my brand new, 7 day old Anaconda camping chair collapsed from underneath me and I fell out of my tent!” 

We piss ourselves laughing.  After a while we agreed that the Universe had pretty much given him his answer!  We stroll back to the tents and were surprised to find that we have pitched them underneath a powerful light.  It was like midday.  Bill starts to laugh again, then stops suddenly, “Listen!” he said.  We listened, in the stillness the noise came, ‘Clack, clang, clack, clang, bang!’  We looked over to the truck with the womens toilets on the back of the tray, as each woman steps onto the metal staircase to access the door, the sound echoes around the camp, “Jesus!” said Bill.  I nudge him, “And to add to your woes, the Universe has sent you another sign!”  I flicked the tarp on his tent and a shower of dead bugs rain down over us, Phil starts laughing as well, “The plague of locusts!”  We started cracking up again, much to the disgust of the people trying to sleep around us.  It takes nearly half an hour to get over the giggles as we lay in our seperate tents.  If I hold my hand up I can make out my bones in the bright light.  Bill starts giggling again in his tent, and the rest of us catch it as well.  It’s good to be alive! 

I’m sad now that this is our last night together.  I couldn’t find a way to change my train ticket now, so tomorrow will be my last day.  The thought sobered me a little, and tomorrow we will be tackling the Maleny Range.  Outside, the light shuts off and we are plunged into instant darkness, I open a small flap on my tent door and stare at the stars.  It’s a beautiful night, and I feel good.  My bed is warm and dry, and a feeling of pure contentment fills me.  ‘I could do this for at least another week,’ I think. 

As I drift off into a dreamless sleep, my last thought is of the uphill grade into Maleny, “Piece of piss,” I mumble.

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Cycle Qld – Day 6 – Pouring in Pomona

 
Who's not a pretty boy at 3am!
Who’s not a pretty boy at 3.30am?

I’m not a pretty sight.  My tent is not a pretty sight.  The view outside… you guessed it, is not pretty.  I’ve been awake for hours listening to the storm overhead, and wondering if any of the gum trees above me will mercifully drop a branch directly onto my tent. 

At 3am I change into my riding gear, put on my raincoat and huddle in the darkness.  All my gear is stuffed into heavy duty plastic bags, but my mattress is soaked.  Which means I’m propped up on my two canvas bags in order to keep my sleeping bag from getting wet.  I count down the minutes to dawn. 

At 5.30 I drag myself outside and pack my tent in the pouring rain.  The weather is abominable.  Breakfast is quick, no line up this morning due to the rain.  I grab a cupful of porridge, and swallow it down on my way to the coffee stand.  I mainline a cup of luke warm coffee, rinse my cup under one of the streams of water pouring off the eave of the food tent before dashing back to the camping area.  The boys are ready to go.  “If I owned a mobile phone fellas,” I say casually, “I’d be ringing Pomona right now trying to book a room for the night.”  They think about it… I wish they’d done it, plenty of others did! Our fellow riders booked out every unit, pub, or van in the entire Noosa coast area that day apparently.

The couple behind me, a New Zealander and his American girlfriend / travelling companion are dumbstruck, “I thought it was always sunny up here?” he asks incredulously.  I smile back, “How do you reckon it stays so green?”  He shakes his head, “Do you know,” he shouts over the wind, “we have a special name for this sort of weather in New Zealand.”

A Wet and Windy Dawn

A Wet and Windy Dawn

“Yeah, what do you call it?” I ask.

He grins back, “We call it, ‘Fuck this Weather’!”  He disappears back inside his tent.  It did the trick, we’re all laughing. 

The ride marshals have left to clear the way for us, and we toss our bags onto the luggage trucks.  They squelch as they hit the top of the pile.  Whatever is wet will stay wet until the sun breaks through, hopefully tomorrow.  The blokes driving the trucks snigger at us over the top of their cigarrettes, they think we’re as mad as cut snakes.  We are. 

On the bike, and down the road and back, the old girl is still running well.  Bernie joins me, and we wait for Bill.  His knee is still very stiff and he wobbles toward us pushing his bike.  He looks concerned, and realises he can’t find his glasses.  I hold his bike while he looks for them.  I’ve never handled a carbon fibre bike before, and I tentatively lift it to feel the weight.  I nearly throw it over the nearby toilet blocks!  It must be like pedalling a cloud of steam riding this thing!  Bernie notes my surprised expression and has a try, he too is stunned.  Our bikes feel as heavy as cement trucks compared to this toy.  Bill returns, no luck with the glasses.  His vision is like mine, blurry distances, he will be needing those glasses today. 

I pedal back to the site and dig around in the clover.  No luck.  A group of people join me in the search, and I’m touched by their helpfulness.  They are all busy trying to get wet gear into wet bags, but still take the time to help a fellow cyclist out.  I’m glad to be associated with these kind folk.

Returning to the bikes empty handed I note Bills expression, it’s one of many future disappointments for the poor bugger.  He bravely throws a leg over his bike and saddles up.  We can feel the pain as he slowly pedals toward the road.  We get a kilometre down the track before he stops, he can’t go on.  We sit with him on the side of the road for a bit.  The ‘sag bus’ will pick him up eventually.  We feel pretty sorry for him.  He grins back at us, “No good all of us sitting here is it?  Go on, piss off you two, at least I’ll be sitting on a dry bus today!”  We grin back and wish him well as we saddle up.  The rain stops.

We stop again down the road and remove our raincoats, they’re too hot to ride in.  A minute later we are scrambling back into them as another squall hits us from out of nowhere.  The drops are huge, and we are punching straight into the wind.  The road is lined with ripple strips and they are playing havoc with the wheels.  Oh the joy! 

Smoko is a quick affair at a service station.  I stuff a sandwich down and entertain the boys with a quick rendition of Singing in the Rain.  They, and others, cheer up immediately when I accidentally step into a deep puddle while trying to high kick as I sing.  The show is now over.  Minutes later we set out again.  Bernie and Phil quickly shoot through, I’m in cruise mode, one shoe squelching loudly with every push on the pedal.  Even though it’s raining, and cold, it’s good to be riding.  While I’m riding, I’m warm, and my thoughts are pleasant.  I think about my family, sing songs, and reminisce about the last time I was on this particular stretch of road.  I was on my motorbike, and travelling much faster than I am now… the sun was shining back then too. 

Gympie is 10 klms away when we turn off onto the Kin Kin road.  The country side is a bit hillier, and the road narrower, but very pretty.  If only the sun were out this would be an almost magically beautiful ride today.  Lunch is held in a small hall, and as we pull in a group of brightly dressed people cheer us on with a rough version of “Cycling in the Rain”, I ring my bell and they cheer wildly, I feel better already!  I take my shoes off and squelch inside, grab a roll, a piece of cake, an apple and a bottle of water.  I stuff them down as Bernie finds me.  “How’d you go?” he asks.  It’s what we always ask. 

“Yeah alright.”  Standard answer. 

“Big downhill coming up.” 

“Yeah.”   

“See you at smoko eh?”

“Yeah.”  I’m a sparkling conversationalist at times…

We ride into the mist, invigorated with solidly filled stomachs.  The hills beckon.  I hang onto Bernie’s tail for as long as I can, but soon he disappears into the distance again, ‘Really,’ I think as I puff up another slope, ‘got to get me one of those bikes!’  A wooden bridge at the bottom of a long downhill has a couple of marshalls posted at it, and they are looking worried as I pass them, “Slippery!  Slow Down!”  I do, and I judder over the potholed surface of the bridge.  My teeth manage to remain in my mouth somehow. 

I struggle up the hill past the Cedar Falls Dam.  It is overflowing, a stark contrast to the last time I was through here.  Again I wish the sun was out, this would be a photographers dream in the sunlight.  Around the corner, up another hill and I spy a familiar bike on the side of the road, I pull up alongside it.  “Bernard!  What’s a dazzling urbanite like yourself doing in this rustic setting?” I ask. 

He grins but he’s concerned about something, “My container with all my tube repair gear has popped off my rack.”

I look at the empty pocket on his carrier, yep, it’s gone alright.  “Jesus!  Where do you reckon you lost it?” I ask.

“Maybe at the bridge.” 

I think about the crossing and nod, he’s right.  I turn to go back with him.  “Nah, you keep going,” he says.  I shrug, “Got nothing better to do!”  We turn and head back downhill, the riders coming up the hill look at us as if we are mad, only the ‘boy racers’ double back, wanting to add to their klm count.  We don’t look anything like ‘boy racers’, we look lost, and very, very wet.  I pull up at the dam lookout while Bernie has a look around the bridge.  He pedals back up the slope, “Not there, it probably fell in the water.”  I nod back dejectedly, and we rejoin the riders heading south.

Not long after he disappears again.  I slog on.  The rain is back, and the wind is too, but is much colder now.  The hills are getting steeper as well.  Swollen streams line the side of the road, and the trees bow low overhead, dripping heavily onto us.  The road is covered in patches of dirt, run off from the hillsides, slippery and treacherous under my wheels. 

I take one long downhill run at speed, freewheeling, the water spraying off my front tyre is hitting me directly in the face and the grit is filling up my nostrils and tightly pursed lips.  Up the next hill, my legs are screaming for mercy by the time I reach the top.  The downhill is long and curving and I’m not going to go nuts here, it’s too slippery and the road surface too uneven.  I’m halfway down the hillside and braking fairly hard as I go, when two old ladies whip past me on their comfort bikes,  “Don’t burn out your pads luv!” the lead rider calls as she slips past, “Yeah, ta darls,” I think, “when I need advice from a little old lady I’ll…”  I hear a familiar sound behind me, “PASSING!” I edge over to the shoulder of the road to allow the rider behind me better access, and as I do, my front tyre flicks off the edge of the bitumen and to my absolute surprise I find myself flying through the air.  I’m currently enjoying the thrill of my first stack in over 10 years.  I hear the sound of someone nearby yelling out, “RIDER DOWN!” and as I hit the bitumen landing on my back, I think, “That’s me!  I’m the Rider Down!”  I roll in mid-air and land on my back again before rolling onto my right side and skidding to a halt that ends with me miraculously on my feet.  I howl into the rain, “Goddamit!! I’m On Holidays!!”  Bikes whiz past me, one stops,  “You alright mate?” he asks.  I nod my head, “Yeah, I’m fine mate, fine, keep going.” 

He leans over his bars looking closely at me, “How’s your leg?” 

“Ok,” I reply without looking, I’m pre-occupied with picking up my bike, I’m delighted by what I see, bugger all damage! 

“Mate,” says the rider, “have a look at your leg will you.”

I look down at my left leg, it’s fine, a quick glance at my right leg reveals that my calf is covered in blood down to my shoe.  Shit. 

A quick wipe with my gloved hand, and I laugh, “It’s fine mate,” the relief in my voice is real, “just a graze, the rains’ making it look worse than it is.” 

He hobbles over and confirms the result, “You gunna be ok?” he asks.

“Yeah, I’ll be fine,” I say.  But my feet are wobbling now, and I’m cold all over, if I don’t get back on this bike soon I never will.  I throw a leg over the seat, prop my right pedal and let go of the brakes, “C’mon!” I call out to him over my shoulder, “race you to the bottom!”  He smiles, and easily beats me to the next corner.  Both my feet are shaking like leaves on the pedals now.  I push harder to stop them from getting worse.  It works.  By the time I pull up for smoko the bleeding has stopped and my nerves are fine.  “Not Today!” I think as I pull up, “Won’t be quitting today!”   

As I hobble into the Kin Kin school for smoko I note that I have an egg shaped lump on my right hip, my knee is bleeding again, and that I’m unable to raise my arm any higher than my right shoulder.  I’m going to feel this in the morning…  I check my backpack, miraculously my camera is not smashed, and all the gear inside my plastic bags is still dry.  Yippee! 

Smoko is another quick affair as I’m keen to get into camp.  Bernie has gone ahead.  There is a large concentration of traffic on the road around the area.  We were to learn later that a multiple fatality had closed the Bruce Highway and that all traffic had been diverted through the Pomona district.  It was a sad end to the days ride thinking of the shattered bodies out there on that lonely road, and the news that awaited their relatives. 

I set up camp, eventually.  Brisbane people can be arrogant bastards at times.  Twice I put my bags down on a likely spot, only to have some jumped up little twit race up to me and say, “That spots taken!”  One of them, a dumpy little woman even raised her finger to my face.  I’m really not in the mood for this by now.  I actually toy with the idea of breaking her finger, it’s right there in front of my nose, and I could just reach out and snap the thing back to her arm, but I manage to choke the feeling down, “Well,” I say through clenched and chattering teeth, “if you get out of my fucking way you stupid bint, I’ll just find somewhere else to freeze to death ok?”  I got a look of disgust thrown back at me as I barged through the ‘forbidden zone’.  I set up camp atop a hill, away from every bastard else.  Everything is wet except for the plastic treasure bag of dry clothes I packed the night before.  I grab my towel and a change of clothes and find the shower truck.

Some hero, no scratch that, some SAINT, has managed to find a source of hot water and plugged it into the showers.  Just standing in line inside the shower truck is blessed relief.  I actually smile as I catch my bedraggled reflection in the mirror.  The shower is brilliant, blood and mud disappear down the drain, and 5 minutes later I’m a new man. 

I toss my wet gear into my tent on top of my wet bags and make my way into Pomona for a feed and a beer.  I get both in record time, and follow it up with a hot coffee at a nice little takeaway.  It’s late afternoon, and I don’t want to go back to my wet tent just yet, so I stroll around town.  I’m impressed with the place, it really is very pretty.  I visit a bookshop, buy a book and listen to the weather on the radio with the owner.  More rain, gales, and cold weather tonight and tomorrow.  I find a pay phone and call my family, and listen to their cheerful voices, I miss them very much right now.  A mate has dropped in to pick up his lamingtons from the girls school fundraiser, his booming laugh and their happy squeals make me want to pack up and catch the first train home.  My heart sinks as I hang up.  I have one more beer at the pub, and start to toddle back to the camp site.  I hear the news of the car crash from a fellow rider as we walk through the rain, and in spite of feeling bad about it, think about how lucky I am to be alive right here, right now.  I think about the day and reflect that things could be much worse.  By the time I get back to the campsite my mood is greatly improved.  How bad could it be?  As I stroll through the gates one of the marshalls informs me that unofficially 100 + riders have pulled out of the ride.  I’m actually surprised by this.  I thought this mob was made of sterner stuff.   

While I was in town I managed to grab about 6 free newspapers.  I lay them on the floor of my tent, then lay my mattress on the papers, then I took all the inserts from the papers and lay them on top of my mattress.  Hobo bedding made easy.  It will still be damp, but not uncomfortably so. 

Tea is quick and forgettable.  I stagger into the beer tent to listen to tonights briefing.  I am stunned to hear that only one other rider had a fall today.  They know about my accident, but nobody knows who it is!  I do : )  Al, the bike cop, informs us about the accident, and how we will be crossing a very notorious part of the main highway tomorrow.  He looks worried.  We’re too tired to be worried.   

Bernie drinks a bourbon while I down a rum and cola, we are both dead on our feet.  He has some good news, some rider found his tube of gear and handed it in to the lost property tent, just as Bernie was walking in to report it lost!  We’re both amazed at this stroke of luck.  Maybe better times are ahead for tomorrows’ ride?  The entertainment is cancelled tonight as the performers leads are lying in puddles of water.  Our loss I suppose.  

At 7.30 I stagger off to my tent.  I can’t lie on my right side, even though I try a number of different positions.  Another shower of rain hits the top of my tent and the words of a Charley Pride song roll through my head as I drift off, “Rain drippin’ off the brim of my hat, sure is cold today.”  I’m smiling as I drift off to sleep.

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Cycle Qld – Day 5 REST DAY!

 
Feeding Mammal Moochers at Tin Can Bay
Phil pheeding Mammalian Moochers at Tin Can Bay

Revelling in the heady delight of a day off, I sleep in til 7a.m.  The camp is quiet apart from the wind howling over the top of my tent.  Eventually I amble out into the bright morning sunshine and greet Bill and Bernie.  Bill has a bung leg and is worried that he won’t be able to ride on.  Today he will be hunting for a doctor and whatever pain relief is available. 

I remember a forum mates advice, (hiya Narnie!) and tell him not to push too hard on the leg as it may cause more damage.  He will see how he goes.  We stagger off for breakfast… no line this morning! 

A quick pedal up to the marina to get a few photos of the dolphins being fed.  A large crowd has turned out, much to the delight of the bloke running the show, and to the greater delight of the dolphins who seem eager to get stuck in to a huge feed of free fish.  It didn’t take them long to train us did it?   

Pedalled round the township, located a fruit shop, a chemist, and a hardware store.  Checked out a cheapy shop, but they don’t stock bandannas either.  6 months ago I was tripping over the damn things every time I walked into a shop…

Back to camp, I let Bill know about the chemists and he gives me a hot tip on the best fish and chip shop in town.  It’s a good trade of information.  The wind picks up another couple of notches, and Bernie’s getting a bit of ribbing from me and Bill about his pending dolpin watching cruise.  When we learn that it’s a 3 hour cruise Bill and I launch into the opening verse of the Gilligans Island theme song!  “Give my love to Maryanne and the Professor!” I call as Bernie walks off in disgust. 

I visit the fish shop, there is a cue a mile long outside the door, ‘Not today,’ I think.  I pedal past the remaining 3 fish and chip shops and am dismayed to see similar lines.  The only one that doesn’t have a long line happend to sell fish for $9 a piece, which explained a lot. 

Water Views on a Water Tank

Water Views on a Water Tank

Back to the original shop.  I join the cue, and order a fish, chip and salad lunch.  I’m informed that the meal may take an hour.  No worries.  I go for a ride and take some piccies, and learn that Tin Can is named after an aboriginal word Tuancanbar, which roughly means, the place where the dolphin and the dugong feed.  Interesting eh?  It reminded me of how Noosa got it’s name.  An early visitor to the area asked one of the local aboriginals, “What is the name of that beach?”  The native, who had a smattering of English replied, “No Sir”.  The visitor then dubbed the place, Noosa Beach.  I’m not making this stuff up by the way… 

History lesson over, I think about my flimsy little tent and decide to buy a tarp, and look for a pirate flag to strap to my bike flag.  The flag is harder to find than a damned bandanna.

A quick visit to the campsite has revealed that my tent is in danger of being blown away by the gusting winds.  I locate another site near a large clump of trees, remove my four dinky little pegs and move the tent to the new site.  The absence of wind roaring through my ears is a blessed relief. 

I return to the fish shop, wait for another 40 minutes and pick up my lunch.  I’m so hungry I could eat the wrapping as well.  Back in my tent I pig out on the best tasting fish and chips I’ve eaten in a long time.

The new camp.  Bill is wearing a top hat... must have stapled it to his head

The new camp. Bill (far left) is wearing a top hat... he must have stapled it to his head

Meal time over I open my book for a quiet read.  The meal has its’ effect and I fall asleep almost straight away.  I awake in the middle of the afternoon and note that the clouds have built up, and the wind in the trees is really going off.  Bills tent out in the middle of the field is buckling.  I stroll over and ask him if he’s interested in moving.  He visits my site and decides it might be a good thing.  With the help of the ever smiling Phil, we move the Taj Mahal.  Phil also decides that it might be a good idea to move.  I start laughing at the scene.  Bernie’s tent is sitting like a lone duck in the middle of the park being buffetted by gale force winds.  The rest of the team join me, and we crack a couple of jokes at Bernie’s upcoming surprise when he returns.  I wonder where I could lie and wait with a camera to catch the look on his face. 

He turns up later in the day with a tale of woe about the size of the waves in the sheltered bay.  His tent is bearing up well in the gale, but he decides to move in to our exclusive, and less wind blown neighbourhood.  We help him move.  The clouds are much darker now and the wind is not letting up.  Tomorrow’s ride is going to be fun.  Bill has spent the day icing his sore knee and is hopeful that the rest, along with a slight overdose of Neurofen, will see him ready to pedal at dawn.   

That night at the after dinner briefing we are given the bad news.  90% chance of heavy rain, backed up by howling South Easterly winds.  Tomorrow is not going to be fun.  Horror stories emerge about last years ride, where half the riders pulled out after 3 soaking, freezing days being buffetted by a strong headwind.  The forecast is for more of the same this year…

I hit the sack after strapping my new tarp a bit tighter over my tent.  The rain hits not long after and it’s not mucking around.  Even with the shelter of the trees I’m getting wet.  I move everything to the middle of the tent, curl into a tight ball and try to stay as dry and as warm as I can.  It doesn’t work.

I can’t wait for tomorrow… oh hang on it’s already here.  Anyone feel like a 2 am start?

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Cycle Qld – Day 4 – Tin Can Bay

Maryborough to Tin Can Bay

Up very early this morning.  A fellow camper has decided to pack up at 3.45am, and was making a fair bit of noise until a womans voice told them in no uncertain terms to ‘Keep it Down!’ (I’ve cleaned it up a bit for publication…)  but it’s too late, we’re already awake.  Use the extra time to slap some chain oil on the bike and have a bit of a dig round for the ‘noise’ that has been driving me nuts for the last couple of days.  I still can’t find anything, but on impulse spray WD40 over every exposed area of the bike. 

Above us the sky is cloudy-ish, and the wind is coming from the SE.  We will be punching into it the whole way.  This is the only part of the ride I’m not really looking forward to.  Most of the riders I say this to look at me in a funny way because the majority are dreading the climb up the range to Maleny on the 2nd last day.  ‘Yes’, I reply, ‘But at least there’s stuff to look at on the range.  Unless you like looking at endless rows of pine trees there’s not a lot to see along the Tin Can Bay road.’ 

Smoko on the road to Tin Can

Smoko on the road to Tin Can

Brekky over, toilet stop, and awaaay.  Bernie has locked onto the rear of my bike as we wind our way through Maryborough.  I’ve put my padded gel seat on the bike and my rear end is VERY grateful for the extra comfort.  We pedal through the main street and out onto the highway, the steam from the hot water outlet of the sugar mill looks impressive, and Bernie and I have the same thought, “Barramundi!”  Must remember to ask my relations if it’s a good area for catching the big fish.

The bike is running flawlessly, sliding easily between gears and not a noise to be heard.  Okaaay, so I’ve inadvertantly fixed ‘whatever’ it was, but what is it?  Have I mentioned I don’t like mysteries?  The only concern I have now is the small pieces of sugar cane littering the sides of the road.  I’ve hit a couple, and the last one kicked my front tyre to one side, I manage to stay upright, but have to concentrate fairly hard on the roads’ surface to avoid hitting anymore. 

On the open road Bernie slips past me, his Giant is built for chewing up big miles and my mountain bike is hard pressed to maintain the same cruising speeds.  I hold onto him for a while but I’m using up precious energy.  We turn off on the road to Tin Can Bay, and Bernie points out that the whole highway had been a steady uphill climb.  No wonder I feel buggered.  After a quick pit stop we slip back onto the highway and continue on into the now increasing headwind.  I can’t maintain the speed, and I back off a bit, calling out to Bernie to ‘Take it away’, I watch as he disappears somewhere in front of me, a pattern which will repeat itself over the coming days, and I think, “Gotta get me one of those things.” 

In order to save my breath calling out ‘Passing!’, everytime I manage to reel in a fellow rider I’ve taken to ringing my cheerful little bell.  It gets a few laughs from various folk.  As we ride on, and the headwind picks up, the clingle, clingle noise from my bell is being heard less often.  We stop for smoko on the side of the road.  Strawberries and cream, a cup of tea, bikkies and cake… at this point it occurs to me why I’m gaining weight on this trip.  Have a yarn with Bernie.  He has loaned me one of his bandannas, as I had failed in my attempts to find one at Maryborough as well.  They are pretty good.  We take off again after taking some snaps.  Again, it’s not too long before I find myself watching his rear wheel disappear into the distance.  Then a group of smartly dressed gents slides past me and I decide to tag along.  Pedalling hard I pick up the last rider of the group and am relieved to find that I can easily keep up and that we are riding at a pretty good clip.  We pass numerous riders and I can even take a turn out front without slowing the group down.  Ahead in the distance I can make out Bernie, I kick up a gear to the surprise of the group and try to reel him in.  It doesn’t work, and I’m getting some pointed comments about my speed from the bloke behind me. 

Logging trucks are all over this section of road and these boys mean business.  They are probably on tight schedules and they aren’t slowing down unless they absolutely have to.  One of the blokes in the pack is a screamer, and the first time he yells out, “CAR BACK!”, I nearly fall off my bike from shock.  And besides it wasn’t a car, it was a truck bearing down on us like some sort of avenging juggernaut.  I nearly fall off my bike for a second time when it roars past us, narrowly missing my right hand on the bars. 

In addition to the headwind we are now hitting some hills as well.  We pass stacks of slower riders, many of them are on foot pushing their bikes up the hills, sweat is pouring off me by now as the pace hasn’t let up.  My little bell is working overtime as we pass more and more bikes.  A couple of others join our pack and some of the originals drop off as the pace picks up another notch.  We lose one bloke to a flat tyre and he calls out to us to keep going.  We do.  All of us want this ride to be over, the scenery is less than inspirational, and the trucks are getting thicker and faster. 

We turn off the logging road as we hit the lunch stop.  I meet up with Bernie and we flop to the ground and eat our salad rolls.  The ride has taken its’ toll.  Around us riders are lying down, some are stretching their various leg muscles, others are lay motionless, all are groaning.  A bloke next to us tells us that he will be sleeping at home tonight in Gympie and re-joining the ride after the rest day.  The REST DAY!  That’s right, tomorrow is a day off from the bike.  This cheers us up no end.

It’s 14 klms into Tin Can Bay, a doddle!  The headwind from the SE doesn’t give us much respite, for some reason it’s still punching into our faces.  The road though is in good nick, with wide shoulders, and there are a couple of great downhills.  I can’t wait to pitch my tent and have a rest. 

Tin Can Bay

We pass an army encampment, two soldiers watch us over the top of their sandbags.  Australia’s finest are conducting an exercise in the area, and we have been warned that some of them are carrying live ammo.  Great. 

We pull into Tin Can at 12.30 ish.  From what we’ve seen so far it’s a pretty little spot.  The park we are camping in is near the water, the wind has picked up a bit and I’m a bit dubious about camping in the open.  I set up my tent near Bernie’s, and step into a patch of clover.  A bee stings the bottom of my foot.  It hurts.  I pick up my tent and move it back away from the beach, in between two bbq huts.  It’s less windy here.  A group of soldiers on patrol slip quietly through the trees nearby.  In the distance can be heard the sound of some big guns being fired.  Bloody hell. 

Bernie and I head into town for a bit of a look around… on foot.  The army has set up a base near a phone tower, sandbags, tents, and sentries everywhere.  Around us are more patrols.  I decide that yelling out ‘Alla Akbar’ might not be so funny at this point.  We have lunch and a coffee, then wander up to the small marina for a look.  It’s a beautiful little spot, with holiday homes and units right on the waters edge.  Bernie has booked a dolphin cruise on his rest day, and he is planning on taking an old friend of his (a nice old lady who is one of the volunteers on the ride) out on the boat for a treat.  I’m more content to just sit in my tent and read my novel. 

View from my tent - note the tea towel in the background... this was 'before' it got windy

View from my tent - note the angle of the tea towel in the background...

We get back to the campsite only to discover that my tent has been moved to one side and is now surrounded by many other tents.  Bernie has a bit of a laugh, then helps me move back to the beach area.  We are joined by Bill, a twinkling eyed bloke from the Gold Coast who has put up his tent near Bernie’s.  We immediately nickname Bills’ tent, ‘The Taj Mahal’.  It’s a six man special, and he’s bought it along so he can put his carbon fibre bike inside at night.  

That night as the wind picks up slightly we enjoy a couple of rums before tea.  It’s the first bottle (hip flask type) that I’ve bought in years, and I’m happy to share the contents.  The band is great and so are the conversations with other riders.  We meet up with Maria from Miriam Vale.  She’s the Australian distributor for Rohloff hubs, and is sort of here on business as well as pleasure.  She tells us about her adventures on the Young Endeavour, and other sailing boats, her previous rides, and the ingenious design of the Rohloff hub.  She is also getting over the flu and like half the other riders on the tour has a serious hacking cough.  

At the after dinner briefing we learn that the weather for tomorrow is for increased winds and a 60% chance of rain.  I like those odds.  Here in Gladstone 60% means ‘no chance’ of rain!  It might be a bit different though down here.  Another late night, it’s 8.10 when I hit the sack, my tired legs grateful for the rest.  I open my novel ‘The Sword Edged Blonde’ for the first time and read two pages before passing out.  Outside the wind picks up the pace…    

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