Wednesday February 27, 2013, 68 miles (110 km) – Total so far: 230 miles (370 km)
The mosquitoes have flown three successful sorties before I realise I’m under attack. It is then thirty minutes of rustling sheets so they’ll land near my head, then looking for them on the tent walls with my headlamp and attempting to squish them, before I land the bloody fatal blow. Ah. Ten minutes later the high pitch whine in my ear tells me it was not a solo mission. Another thirty minutes and I’ve killed mozzie bitch number 2. Even with the itchy insects now dead, it is still a hot and sticky night with not heaps of sleep.
So when the thunder rolls in the distance at 6 am in a repeat of yesterday, I absolutely cannot be bothered trying to ferry all of my stuff into the shelter before the rain arrives. This storm is a good one – long, rolling, reverberating peals of thunder, frequent flashes of lightning and tropical strength pouring of rain. It absolutely buckets down for an hour. I wonder how close the puddles are getting to my little patch of high ground.
I sleep through some of the storm, until the tent starts to drip water on me. Yes, this confirms this is the last trip for this tent. Last night I was lying there looking at the numerous thin spots and pinprick size holes in the fly from the streetlight shining through, thinking: “yep, the UV has destroyed it. 8 years. That’s how long my last tent lasted.” I use my tent alot – the only two months I don’t go camping are usually January (too hot) and July (too wet), so I’ve definitely gotten my money’s worth out of it. I pitch in the shade when I can, I don’t leave it up for days at a time, etc., but the UV is just crazy strong in Oz and with the amount of nights I use it, the fly gives up the ghost long before I ever have a leak in the floor or a problem with a zipper. Never mind, just add online tent-shopping to my list of things to do.
When the rain eases, I emerge from the tent and find I have puddle-front property. The temperature is nice and cool for now though. I hurry to pack up the wet tent and all my gear, so I can get going by 7.30am. This stubborn pressure trough is going to get pushed out by a southwest change today, and I want to see how far I can ride the tailwind before it swings around to become a headwind.
Today, we’re off the main highway and onto the types of roads I’d looked forward to before the trip. Verne and Kermit re-emerge after riding in the panniers yesterday and take their spots in the handlebar bag. We have a nice quartering tailwind, quiet roads, interesting cloudy, cool skies and a feeling that all is right with the world. It’s a fantastic morning. The wind strengthens as we go.
38 kilometres into the day and the thick clouds have just started to give way to a thinner layer. We reach Raywood – a newsagent/milk bar that’s a bit light on both, a pub, a post office, a church, a CFA shed, a primary school and a butcher. Meat, beer and a few social services. What else do you need? Well, in my case: water. I go down to the rec reserve but it’s recycled water used on the green stuff and there are no public taps. Bummer. I need to refill. I head up to the milkbar, note that the chocolate milk is out-of-date so go for a less desired iced coffee flavour, and go to pay.
I ask the skinny, middle-aged man if there is anywhere in town to refill a water bottle. He looks me square in the eye and says, “We sell water. Over in that case.” Bastard. If you are going to try to gouge someone, at least have enough shame to avert your eyes. I feel like putting the iced coffee back and calling the health dept and telling them he’s selling expired milk. Instead I say, “no, thanks, I just try to refill when I can.” Outside, I chug that iced coffee milk as fast as I can and then apply sunscreen. I’m ready to be outta here!
The sad thing is that during this short break the wind has started to swing and it is now a crosswind. But I’m still loving the ride and the sparse traffic as I cross the fields of harvested wheat and feed. It sometimes becomes a quartering headwind – I’m just not riding fast enough to keep up with the change! I keep scaring up the same flock of birds from the roadside trees. The galahs rise up in a squawking cacophony and move to a tree up the road. One minute later I get there and they do the same. Damn it – this lasts for three kilometres!! I’m not a big fan of the parrot family – Oz has some freakin’ noisy birds. It is squawking and screeching – not melodious chirping. I think of the galahs as the yappy dogs of the parrot family. One will start a short “squawk, squawk” and set off the rest. They never seem to know what they’re squawking about – these aren’t the smart parrots!
Finally, I go through a curve with an angled bank high enough to be a race track where Verne urges me “FASTER!” and we get our northwesterly quartering tailwind for seven kilometres into Bridgewater, arriving around noon. The construction guys and pretentious-looking people seated outside the bakery look at me like I’m a freak show instead of some awesome long-distance bike rider, so I buy a sandwich and take it down to the park instead. Afterward, I can’t find a water tap anywhere, not even in the public restrooms (it’s the kind you need a key), so I spot a Caltex station and head there. I buy a little milk and ask the clerk if the water in the outside taps is okay to drink. He says, “oh yes, that’s all I drink. But I can fill it up in here for you if you’d like.” I thank him but tell him that my Camelback is a bit fiddly so I’m happy to refill outside. He says, “okay, but I’m happy to do it if you want. You have a safe trip.” Wow – after the nasty guy at Raywood and the disapproving looks at the bakery, this guy makes me feel human again. Thank you India – I know you won’t miss one person from your millions, but I’m glad this guy is over here.
Now we head off into the hills. We’re long out of dairy country, passed through some sheep and wheat country and now we move into the rocky, sandy soils of the goldfields. After 17 kilometres of a fantastic “C-road” with good surface and shoulders (!), we start climbing and spend the next couple hours gently heading UP. We’re still behind the wind change, but the forest in the hills negates any crosswind. Tarnagulla has the creepiest and darkest public toilets I have ever been in, but it’s a quick stop so we can get as far as possible before the southerly hits.
Finally, we get to the downhill. I feel really good about how well I’ve climbed the hills without any fitness built, especially 50 miles or so into the day. I stand on the downhill to give my poor, suffering butt a break. Then, just as I hit the 60 km/hr zone on the edge of Dunolly I get a blast of cold (BLISS!) air right in my face. The southerly has hit. Perfect timing. I fight against it’s blessed coolness all the way to the motel where the super-friendly owner checks me in. I’m the only one staying there tonight. (I’m staying in a motel, primarily so I can finally freeze my water bottle for my meds, but also so I don’t have to pack up wet for a third day when it rains tonight).
Later, I head down to the Royal Hotel and have a great chicken parmigiana with excellent salad and a beer. The owner comes out and has a chat – she has the front door open and wonders if I want it closed since the wind is so cold. I say “oh no, I’ve been wanting AC for days, natural AC is awesome.” She talks about how long it takes to cool down the 100+ year-old pub after a hot spell and how she had a group of cyclists come in during the Great Victorian Bike Ride a few years back who had such a great time in the beer garden that they had to get the sag wagon to the day’s endpoint in Maryborough. Great lady – if you’re in Dunolly, grab a meal at the Royal.
I walk back to the motel in a light rain and a strong, cold wind. Awesome! This has been a terrific day.