Forest gumption – Day 2

Postponing the ride

Sunday December 20, 2015

It is long past midnight. I toss and turn and lie there thinking about my options.

The bike shops in Mt Beauty don’t look promising. One is a ski hire shop that just does bikes in the off-season. I don’t have a lot of confidence that they’ll have the expertise I need. The other bike shop has no specific hours – you just call the guy on his mobile phone. He advertises that he services all ‘high-end’ bikes. He probably wouldn’t want to touch mine. I would have to hang out another day to go to either on Monday.

If I go to a bike shop in Albury on Sunday, I would then have to ride out of town to get to Mt Beauty on Monday, as Nigel can’t give me a lift after Sunday morning.

It all puts me a day behind on the ride which puts me in touristy areas when the masses of Melbourne, Canberra and Sydney invade the country for their post-Christmas camping trips. And I do mean masses. Roads get super-busy and campgrounds that are normally empty burst at the seams for a couple weeks. I have no desire to get caught up in that.

I’m also concerned that even if I can get the derailleur functioning, I’ll be heading into backroads and areas with no bike shops for the next two weeks. I’ll be too far away for anyone to easily come get me. I won’t have confidence in the derailleur even if it is fixed.

Then I think: ‘this is so stupid. The only reason I’m doing this tour right now is because I had to take some time off work. I would normally never tour at this time of year or during school holidays. I’m trying to avoid hanging out in my awful apartment and having too much time on my hands – but I’ve got plenty of stuff to keep me busy. I need to clean up files on the laptop. I have online coursework to do for a GIS course. I can deal with it. This is so stupid to try to press on’.

So I decide that I will postpone the tour until March. I will have enough annual leave by then to take a couple weeks off. The weather will be better. It won’t be school holidays. And regardless of what I end up having to do with the bike, I’ll have it up and running and well-tuned by then.

After finally making this decision, I’m able to sleep.

Hours later, at 8.30am, it is already 35C (95F). The wind is already howling. It is the type of day where you hope no one drags their feet or blinks too hard, because any sort of friction whatsoever could start a fire. By 11.30am it is already 39C (102F). Nigel drives me back over to the crappy apartment in Corowa. It is 41C (106F) by the time we get there. The wind gusts are enough to make it hard to stand at times. It is like standing in front of a hair-dryer on high. The raised dust creates a dirty haze. It is horrid weather. Nigel is relieved I’ve given up the trip for now.

After Nigel heads back to Jindera, there are emergency warnings being broadcast for the valley I rode through yesterday. A fast-moving bushfire is travelling up the valley from Barnawatha. It is throwing embers and creating spotfires 4.3 kilometres ahead of the fire front.

It is exactly following the path I took just yesterday morning! It is eerie to look at the pictures I took, knowing all those areas are in the burn area. I think about the picture I didn’t take at the CFA shed showing all the guys ready and on-guard yesterday.

The fire ends up burning about 7000 hectares in less than 6 hours. More than 1000 stock are lost. Four homes, 26 sheds, 19 cars, 5 caravans, 12 motorbikes and four water tanks are also lost. The fire was caused by a tree branch coming down in those horrid winds and making contact (and a spark) with a powerline or electric fence.

And that is how my unluckiness with the derailleur was actually lucky. If the derailleur had been working properly, I would have stayed in Yackandandah on Sunday to wait out the bad weather. The fire threatened that town and they sounded the evacuation siren. I would have had to find a way out of there anyway. It’s lucky Nigel came and got me the day before.

And so ends the aborted portion of this tour. Stay tuned though – I will be back. With a functioning bicycle. I will do this tour in March, though I may switch up a bit of the route since I won’t have to try to avoid crowds and school holidays. (I’ll change the dates on the journal soon to reflect this).

Sorry about stringing you along and making you wait, but I think a much better tour and journal will result if I just push this back to March.

The bike has previously travelled on a bus, ferry, train and plane. It has also gone places in a car. Now we can add ‘delivery truck’ to the list. However, we will be aiming for all the miles to be done by bike in March!

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