Packed up early a.m., and was on the road at 7.30 after a pleasant brekky. The weather today is fine, and we will be riding with a steady tail wind into Childers, then onward to Biggenden. Today is the longest ride day of the tour, and I’m apprehensive.
The bike is still making funny noises, but I no longer care. I’ve found a good cruising speed, and find myself tagging along with a nice lady from Canberra. We chat about the difference in the weather, and she tells me how much gear she has to wear just to go for a ride during a Canberra winter. A lot of gear apparently, and she still gets cold.
Smoko is quick, as I’m keen to punch out as many k’s as I can while I’m feeling fresh. Back on the road I tag along with a bloke on a bike that I would like to own one day. He’s on a Giant CRX-3. I get talking to him, and learn that his name is Bernie, and that he’s from Rockhampton. A nice bloke… for a boilermaker! We ride on to Childers, and I end up walking up the final hill into town, something I didn’t think I would do.
Lunch over, I rip into town to buy a bandanna to replace my bucket hat. Bernie has sold me on the idea of giving a bandanna a go because they are nice and light, cover the back of your neck, and absorb sweat. The 3 stores I visit don’t stock bandannas. Oh well… back on the bike and straight downhill on the western road. It’s a great thrill, free wheel spinning down that gentle grade on a well paved road, I’m having a ball.
The heat of the day grows with each passing klm. I’m passing more and more people now, some of them look overheated. I keep drinking from both my water bottles, gotta keep up the water or you’ll go to pieces. Make it into the little village of Dallarnil. The local school has set up a smoko stop for us, and all the teachers and kids are there in attendance to sell us their local wares. How good was it? Well, I’m not much of a sweet tooth, not really into cakes and bikkies, but I took one bite of the home made fruitcake and was hooked for life. The food was so good that it had to be home made, with real ingredients. I hit the stall three more times, stocking up a goodly supply for the days to come. One of the teachers got chatting with me, and I learned that the money earned today would go towards the school trip to the Rockhampton caves. I insisted that they should also take the kids to see the Singing Ship in Yeppoon, and give the little bushies a nice day at the beach as well… I hope they made enough to throw in a little side excursion to the coast.
Pulled into town after midday. I’m buggered, there’s not much left in the tank, and the last 5 klm’s have been a bit of a grind. We pass a nursing home on the outskirts of town, there’s a lot of very old people sitting under a tree waving madly at us. Some of them are asleep. The bloke riding next to me says, “Jesus! If ever there was an advertisement to keep fit as you get older then that is it.” I look at him closely trying to guess his age, and he second guesses me, “I’m 71 son, and fit as a fiddle. Hell, if I ever get like that,” he says pointing to one old fella who is drooling onto his pyjama shirt, “then I’d rather be dead.” I don’t say anything, but nod in agreement. Unfortunately by the time you get that old and decrepit you no longer can control how you die… you just sit in a chair and wait for God to kill you… hopefully sooner rather than later.
Set up camp, washed my clothes and hung them out. A couple from Adelaide start chatting with me, and I think of Tania, a mate from Adelaide who is doing a run today. I wonder how she is going. Mooched into town, passed a couple of pubs packed with bike riders, then visit the library where I learn that the old lady running the place is an ex-Gladstone girl. She tells me that the internet is available for an hour today if I want to send some emails. I can’t remember my password, so log onto the Craig Harper forum instead and send a brief message to my friends. I’m missing them and my family very much at this stage. Learned that Tania survived the run!
So what to do? I stroll the main street, buy a beer at a crowded pub, yarn with a fellow rider about the days run, and push on. The little museum at the end of the street is open, and I wander in. Two hours later I walk out, quietly impressed with the set up and the information that the old bloke inside shared with me. Next stop, the bowls club. I order a rum and coke, and a flambouyant character named Bevan serves it up with a flourish. He’s a nice bloke, given to hugging the patrons and fussing over them. He makes me laugh. The old bloke I’m sitting next to makes me laugh as well as he takes the piss out of Bevan in a low voice. A young fella walks in and flops into the seat next to me, “Bloody bike riders!” he says in a loud voice, “All the pubs are as full as ticks, so I have to drink here!” He looks sideways at me, so I say, “Yeah! Damn cyclists! Pushing us locals out of our digs!”
We all laugh. And I finish my drink and take my leave. Bevan is sorry to see me leave so early, but I have to get my washing in before the sun goes down and the dew hits it. There’s something great about small country towns, and I’m keen to learn more about the place, but time is pressing as the sun sets behind the prominent range on the western side of the town.
Tea is a quiet affair, and I catch up with some more mates and meet more new folk. All in all a pleasant day, and tonight I’m in bed and asleep by 7.30pm.
Day 3 – Maryborough
Up early again. Lots of people up pre-dawn packing up. Plenty of coughing and sneezing going on. Pack up and hit the road. It’s a great day for a ride. Trees grow over the road providing us with shade and dappled light. Lots of low hills, corners and great scenery. I’m a pedalling machine now, revelling in the cool of the morning and the smoothness of the road. My bike has stopped making noises.
Bernie hooks up with me again and we tag team all the way into Maryborough. It’s a good ride. We set up camp in the showgrounds, and I set out to catch up with my Auntie and Uncle. They aren’t home, so I cruise into town and take some photos of the tribute to PL Travers, who wrote the Mary Poppins stories. She was born in Maryborough and some of the characters from this town live on in her stories.
Strolled thorugh the gardens, admire the river etc. It’s a nice place. Again, all the pubs are packed with cyclists, as are the cafe’s. Ride back to my Auntie and Uncles place and learn that my Auntie is in hospital the poor thing. I’ve run out of time to visit her, so send her a message instead. Back to the showgrounds for a quick shower and tea. The toilets on the trucks that follow our group are in a state, so I buy some toilet paper and start using the public facilities instead. That night, the heritage folk welcome us to town and fire off the ceremonial cannon. It’s surprisingly loud, and some of the kids get a fright. I enjoy a beer and waddle off to bed. A late night for me tonight… it’s 8.15 when I hit the sack.