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.
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.
“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.
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 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.
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.