The residual refrain: Day 18

Tallangatta – Jindera: Under that big blue sky

Tuesday April 4, 2017, 36 miles (58 km) – Total so far: 749 miles (1,205 km)

The weather is perfect today. Warm, sunny, light winds. Not much smoke hanging about in the air. I finally reset my watch. Daylight savings ended on Sunday, but an actual ‘time’ has not mattered the past few days. The numbers given to when the sun rose and set were pretty extraneous.

We’ve ridden this way on so many weekend rides that I feel like we’re just heading home after another 3-day foray. I start planning what needs to be done once I get home, what veggies I should get at the fruit market, what needs to be restocked in the pantry. That this is likely my last ride along the lake on the way home from a short bike tour is just so incongruous with the past 12 years of life. It’s hard to get your head around. I suppose we are creatures of habit, so thinking about not just continuing on with what you’ve done in the place you’ve done it for the past 3500+ days is a bit mind-boggling.

The rail trail has a good surface these days all the way from the trail end east of Tallangatta to the reserve at Ebden. The trail continues on into Wodonga, but its surface isn’t quite as nice. The guys and I just roll on down the trail, over the spectacular Sandy Creek bridge and past the various reserves. We ride beneath tall, brown hills speckled with trees on the left and above the high water mark on the right. I think this trail is just as nice as the Murray to Mountains one out of Wangaratta, but it is not nearly as popular. Don’t let the secret out.

High Country Rail Trail. Surface is good from Ebden to Old Tallangatta these days – lots of improvements since 2012.
Typical views – High Country Rail Trail.
Ludlows Reserve. This used to be the nicest reserve to come to for the day. Ebden was/is pretty good. The campervan/caravan camping ghetto used to be out at Huon (which was fine because it wasn’t as nice for a day trip). But they cracked down on camping out there, so now they are congregated here. Wish they would have left the ghetto up at Huon instead 🙁

We turn off the trail at Mahers Road. We cross over the highway and then past the army base. A few kms along, the Old Weir Road leads us to the dam wall. Cars aren’t allowed on the dam wall anymore, so there is a road that passes beneath the dam. It’s got a steep climb in it and not much shoulder, so the easier and safer option is to ride across the dam.

Hume Dam holds the equivalent of six Sydney Harbours when full. It is just a massive body of water with more than 200 kilometres of shoreline. There are good views from the dam wall over the city and back over the main part of the lake. I stop to enjoy this for a few minutes before we climb up and away from the dam to the intersection with the road to Bellbridge.

Looking up to where we’ve been from the dam wall – bikes and pedestrians can cross – no auto access these days.
Looking over toward the dam wall – the long, grassy slopes. The gates are the tall bits on the left.

The stop/go guy has me stop. (Based on traffic movements, it wouldn’t have mattered if he had just sent me on through, because the construction is not actually on the road toward Albury). The stop/go guy and I have a good conversation while we wait. He is interested in where I’ve been and how far you can ride in a day with that much gear. He gets three months off over winter each year, so for five years in a row, he and his wife spent their winters in the American summer, exploring everywhere from Alaska to the Florida Keys. They just bought an RV and left it there for the next year. I conclude that I picked the wrong job in life – Stop/go people make decent enough money, get to be outside and three months off per year. What have I been thinking?!

From the construction area, we ride back into Albury on the Riverina Highway. They finally upgraded this section of road a few years ago. It is now safe to ride and has a shoulder all the way into the edge of town where you can pick up a bike path.

I weave my way through town. I think about this ride. I didn’t know how it was going to go. I’m very glad I’ve gone. I’m sad I don’t have many more years to explore all of the areas further, but what I have done has been fun.

I think I’ve finally gotten over my cold feet. So many times over the past six months, I’ve felt like I’m losing just too much all at once. I’ve thought: ‘don’t go back to the US yet, just move away from Albury but stay in Oz. Just go back to the US when your parents need you. We can wait out the years of this awful POTUS and be better off financially’.

But even though the grief can be all-consuming in certain moments, I know returning now and re-establishing myself before my parents actually need me is the right thing to do. I’ve been away for 20 years, so it will be good to have some time with my parents before that time is just looking after them. This move is for them, and this is what will make them most happy. I am strong and I’ll be okay, regardless of what I have to do. Jumping in the deep end and giving up everything all at once might be easier in the long run anyway.

We get through town and then just have one more climb before home. The road up to the Jindera Gap passes through a narrow valley with a deep-clefted creek and scrubby trees on the slopes. It’s a busy road these days – there is always a car going one way or the other. However, there is a shoulder the whole way up, for the most part, and a climbing lane for the steep part. I often still get people buzzing me closely in the slow lane, even with a full other lane to use. But today, everyone is on good behaviour. Then it’s just down across the flats to home.

I unload the bike, shower, do a load of laundry, hang out the tent and sleeping bag, and then head into town for fresh veggies. The tour is finished. Now we are ready to begin the long process of getting ready to go ‘home’…..

And that is how you know the ride has finished.

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