4,000 for 40 – May Ride 3 – Day 1

Jindera to Lockhart via Rand

Monday May 30, 2016, 66 miles (106 km) – Total so far: 1,522 miles (2,450 km)

So the end of May is in sight. And thank goodness for that. I will not be sad to see the backside of this month. It has been one of frustration in all aspects of life.

On the bike side of things, rain, wind, other commitments, plus more punctures over two weeks than I’ve had in two years, kept me from getting many miles in. Then, on Saturday afternoon, the bike came back from a routine service with the chain rubbing in the easiest gears. Argh. Luckily, with the help of some crazyguys, I was able to get that mostly fixed on Sunday. I’d hoped to do a three-day ride Sunday-Tuesday, but true to form for May, that wonky derailleur means we lost Sunday. So much for tallying up some big mileage this weekend to make up for our woeful May.

So we are set to go on a modified two-day route instead. And then, true to form for May, dear husband spears me with some very hurtful things Sunday night. Sheesh. Will May ever end?

Now, when you live with someone who has chronic and complex issues, you learn to emotionally distance yourself from their plateaus and spiralling lows. It takes some time to learn how to do this, and along the way you build up large amounts of protective scar tissue. But every once in awhile you get caught off guard, or they find the one part of your heart left without protective scarring, and you find yourself hurt once again. Argh.

So Monday morning, I’ve got a month’s worth of frustrations to pedal out and a heart of hurt to heal. Bike riding is the best form of release and healing that I know – it’s kept me sane and stable my whole life. So let’s go.

It’s cold. It’s foggy. Summer is gone, escorted out about six weeks late with a frontal system a couple weeks ago that had low, scuddy clouds and cold Antarctic winds that both said “Winter” instead of “Summer”.

I don’t mind the fog. It’s not so thick that it’s unsafe to ride, and it matches my mood. I’m out the door around 9am – letting most people get on their way to work or done with the school run before I hit the road.

The first 15 kms to Burrumbuttock follows a route I’ve ridden a million times. But I keep thinking, “C’mon, fog, please lift after Burrumbuttock. That’s new road to me, and I want to see it.”

And, finally, after a month of shit, things start to align. The fog does start to lift… just after we pass through Burrumbuttock. It’s a little town with a pub, a school, a general store, a hall, a church or two and a closed ag dealership.

We ride through the rolling pasture and cropped fields. There are low hills to the right and larger hills to the left. The road curves here and there a bit, but mostly we’re just straight-shotting northwest towards Walbundrie. My mood starts to lift with the fog. This transformation is why I named my bike “The Wizard” – it magically transports me from bad to good.

Old bridge on the Culcairn-Corowa rail line. Someday, when NSW gets its act together, that will be a nice rail trail.

At the turn-off to Walbundrie, I head straight ahead. There are two roads to Rand – on either side of Billabong Creek. I doubt either of them have much traffic, but I think the Back Rand Road should have a little less truck traffic. The first couple kms on the Daysdale Road is a reverse route to one we did sometime last year, but once we turn off onto the road toward Rand, it’s new road once again. Yippee – I’ve got a thing for new roads!

The Back Rand Road is quiet. My soul continues to rise from the crappy depths. The only traffic I see on this whole section of road is one livestock truck and a rigid, flat-bed farm truck. For 25 minutes I don’t see any traffic. It is pretty perfect riding – flat, quiet, no wind, sunny, big sky. My wounds begin to heal. The pedalling is doing its work. I always feel like I could ride forever on days like this with roads like this. Just forever and forever – pedalling on and on toward the horizon. Good stuff.

Back Rand Road. Quiet, very low traffic, flat, sunny, cool, no wind. I could ride forever on days like this.
Freshly plowed field with Goombargana Hill in the background. We rode around part of it on an earlier weekend ride.

Rand is in desperate need of CPR. Or maybe just being placed in the rescue position, because I suppose there is a faint pulse. There are two old men chewing the fat at the corner by the telephone booth, a couple of vehicles and a tractor come and go from the ag store, a livestock truck thunders through town, and there is the loud clink of glass bottles being tossed in a bin outside of the pub by the proprietor. But that’s it. A quick ride around the two main streets reveals… not much. It looks like it was a happening rural centre from about 1900 to 1930, but it’s all broken-down, dilapidated and disintegrating now.

Importantly, there is a picnic table under a shelter which is catching that low angle sun of late autumn. So we can have lunch in the warmth of the sun. Lunch is deluxe-o today because it is cool enough to carry veggies now! I’ve got a wheat tortilla and a takeaway container full of avocado, lettuce, tomato, diced celery, red capsicum, fresh coriander, green onion and cucumber. Veggie wrap and a few swigs of Coke. Yum! The soul is continuing to lift.

Time to get out of Rand – though there were plenty of places around town where you could camp with shade…. should you ever find yourself near Rand as the sun is setting, or your legs say the day should be done.

Rand may have been a bit busy around about 1900-1930 – but it is in sad shape these days. This is the old business block – but it’s in disrepair and missing its veranda. I think people might be living in there, but there’s no business.
The old General Merchant – everything that used to be inside is now in boxes on the front veranda because the roof is in various stages of collapse.
The pub and the grain silos at Rand – both are still operational. There is an rural/ag supply store up the road, and these three businesses are all that remains of the economy of Rand. The railroad closed long ago – Rand was the end of the branch line.

The road north out of Rand takes us down and across a big basin. It’s big-sky country out here. Down below the big bowl of blue and cumulus cloud, huge fields of emergent crops stretch away from the road with enormously long straight lines of green striping the barren, brown earth. In the distance ahead, a line of hills poke up with gently, rounded humps of earth crowned by spiky rows of trees. My heart continues to heal – the scar tissue is healing the inner flesh wounds. What would I ever do without my bike?

It’s so nice to see all the new crops emerging. I noted wheat, canola and this leafy crop – they were all a nearly fluorescent green.
I loved this pine – it looks like it’s stumbled and, as it’s about to fall, it has thrown its limbs out in counter-balance.

We get up into the hills. The fields of neon green newness bring life back to the landscape that just weeks ago was so dull, brown and lifeless. It’s a new season once again. We’ve made it through another summer. I can almost hear the land sigh in relief. There’s moisture in the soil and the plants once again.

A farmer gives me a huge wave as he passes in front of me, darting across the road between fields. As I pedal slowly up that Ferndale Road, I can see his little ute getting smaller as he heads out across another enormous field. I enjoy seeing the dark shape of his tiny figure get out of the truck way across the field.

I love that feeling of being such a tiny speck in a huge landscape. In times like this, there is an animation in my head like you see in a documentary or educational film: you see the pinpoint of where you are and then the camera zooms up and away from a satellite pic of the earth. As the camera zooms out, it shows your tiny little point on the earth and where you are in relation to the region, then the state, then the continent, etc. Yeah, I love thinking about how this little piece of earth over which I’m pedalling is so finite yet so connected. I love thinking about where I am on some road out in bumf*ck Oz and how many billions of other bumf*ck roads there are out there in this world that remain unridden.

Pleasant views all day…

The hilly bits last until you get to the road that runs from Bidgeemia to Pleasant Hills and eventually Henty. Hmmm… maybe we should ride that one at some point. But not today.

We go cruising down the hill toward another huge basin, this one much larger than the last. On the way, we pass a small hall and dilapidated tennis courts at Urangeline. You could camp here or up the road where Urangeline is located on maps – there’s a small church there.

Today, there are about eight cars parked outside the hall and the door is open. If I were social, I would pop in and see what was going on. But I’m not social. Not even slightly. And I sometimes get quite tired of explaining the bike, my accent and the fact that I actually live here.

So on we go. The Kermit chorus is back after a summer-long intermission. There has been standing water along the road in places all day today. I enjoy looking at the reflection of the sky and trees in those placid puddles as we ride by. You’ve got to be at just the right angle to get the reflection – and it’s only momentary when your moving along at 12mph.

We’re back to thicker, brown soils in the basin after pedalling over thinner, redder soils in the hills. Yeah, it feels good. Since I turned on to the Back Rand Road, the traffic has been almost nil. I’ve been going 20-30 minutes today without seeing a car. And once we got past Rand, we’ve been in Lockhart Shire – which has better roads. It’s all sweet today, and all paved, which was one of my route requirements for this trip. I’ve got a brand new chain on the bike, and I couldn’t bear the thought of riding dirt on the first ride and getting grit in a brand new chain!

The other reason I decided on this route is that much of the landscape reminds me of my birth state of Indiana. Flat. Agricultural. Crops emerging in April/May. And today I want to think about ‘home’ and all the good memories I have of this weekend from the 1980s and 90s.

You see, it is Memorial Day weekend back home. It is the only weekend I would ever want to be Indiana. Memorial Day weekend is the Indy 500. And I have a million good memories associated with going to the track all through the month of May and on this weekend all through my life in Indiana. This year is the 100th running of the race. It’s a big deal. They will cram 400,000 people into the IMS for a 2.5 hour race of 500 miles. If you’ve never been there, and never heard the whine of 33 cars doing 235mph around that banked oval accompanied by the roar of the crowd, everyone standing up in a 2.5 mile-long Mexican wave as those cars come flying around to complete that first lap… well, you just wouldn’t understand. It’s an Indiana tradition and the absolute best example of the Doppler effect you could ever find. Yeah, I miss Indiana on this weekend. So, just after those cars have gone spinning around the track in circles at high speed, I’m going for a spin in countryside that makes me think of “home”.

Big basin, big sky.
I thought these trees had some personality.
Look at that! A puddle! Standing water! You know what that means? Summer is finally over, and now we get a few months of humane conditions and decent temperatures.

On across the big basin, under that low angle sun, we pedal and pedal. This is just what we needed today. I’m getting my attitude all readjusted. I’m feeling all that calm filling up my heart and soul. I know I have a good life and many, many things to be grateful for – I don’t take this for granted. Even when things aren’t perfect, and are sometimes downright exasperating, I know my life is good. So good. Please don’t ever let me whine too much. I know I am a lucky woman with privileges many others won’t ever have.

Eventually, we roll into Lockhart. The last 5 kilometres have been on a busier road, but everyone has waited when they needed to and everyone has given me room. Thank you. In that 5 kilometres we passed by a state forest – where you could easily camp. There is an unnamed dirt road about 4-5 kms from town and another marked road (Forest Rd) just a couple kilometres from town.

Lockhart is a small town, but it has everything you need – small, sorta crappy IGA, pubs, couple takeaway shops, a caravan park, a museum, a bowling club, a swimming pool, a motel and at least one bank. The main street footpaths are covered by verandas – the town’s claim to fame. It is another place that thrived in the early 1900s, but this one has managed to hang on somehow.

We check out the sculptures on the Brookong Pastoral Shadows walk – they are just okay – the better sculptures are in town (see my crazyguy Between the Waves journal for more pics and info). Still, it’s nice to stretch the legs in the dying light and revel in the puddles and the chill in the air. Welcome to winter and the last, straggling hours of May.

Public artwork in Lockhart.
Lockhart is known as the ‘veranda’ town. Both sides of the main street are covered with verandas. You can see the Commercial Hotel (1910) down there.
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The other side of the main street in Lockhart.
One of the old banks – now a private residence I think.
We’re out doing the sculpture walk in town and the guys are most excited by this puddle – we’ve been passing them all day, and this is their first chance to get out of the handlebar bag and dip a claw or flipper.
This sculpture was called “Swaggie and his mate” – but with Verne and Kermit next to him, it should be “Swaggie and his mates”. A ‘swaggie’ is a term for a travelling stockman.
See Kermit in the coach?
The truckie is on the other side of this truck checking straps. I’m glad I didn’t get passed by this guy on one of the one-lane backroads – scary and sneezy!
Mural in Lockhart.

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