Milbrulong State Forest to Jindera via Munyabla
Monday October 24, 2016, 69 miles (111 km) – Total so far: 2,327 miles (3,745 km)
My alarm goes off at 5.30am. I am immediately up and packing. The plan is to get everything packed up and loaded on the bike before breaking down the tent last thing – hopefully getting as much ready before the mozzies under the tent fly get cluey about what’s happening.
So everything but the tent is ready to go just after first light. I quickly pull off the fly and smoosh it all together and roll it up – hopefully trapping some of the mozzies. I am wearing two layers on top and pants over my cycling shorts. I’ve got my winter hat and hood on. Thankfully it is cool this morning – I don’t know what I’m going to do when the weather finally turns hot.
My plan for battle – beating a hasty retreat out of the forest at dawn – seems to have worked. We do not have swarms of mozzies attacking us.
Once out of the forest, I head further south on Curries Road. The sun is still low and all of the farm dams look like frothy cauldrons with misty brewing steam rising from their surfaces. The forest is a thick mass on a gentle ridgetop as we head down through fields toward a creek.
At Illets Road we take off all the outer layers. It is around 8C, so the jacket doesn’t come off yet. A light breeze is already blowing – we’ll slog into it all day.
Illets Road heads west down a tree-lined good gravel road. The mozzies and flies are still absent, and I don’t see any traffic in those first 10 miles, so it is all pretty perfect. I see about 3 kangaroos and 2 black wallabies, and I send several flocks of galahs into flight. The road gently climbs before reaching a high point with nice views. This then drops us back to the paved road between Milbrulong and Pleasant Hills. I’ve ridden this road quite a few times – it’s a gentle rollercoaster on new-ish chip-seal and never has much, if any, traffic. Truly, County Boundary Road is a gem.
Just before Pleasant Hills (and its suspicious residents), I turn east on Fig Tree Lane. It has a dense tree cover in the road reserve and good gravel. I meet one oncoming ute who doesn’t slow down whatsoever for me. Arsehole! I get covered in thick dust and gravel and ride through it for another 20 seconds. Most guys in old farm utes are pretty courteous – but there always exceptions to every rule.
Fig Tree Lane eventually climbs to the top of a series of rolling hills and I grunt slowly up. I feel really flat today – just not much energy – and I can feel the fatigue in my legs. I wonder if I’m low on iron again – there’s no reason I should feel this low on reserves. I tend to slack off on taking the supplements because they upset my stomach a bit, and I can easily go a month without eating red meat (I can’t recall the last time I had any as I’m sitting there at the road intersection feeling blah).
At the intersection of Fig Tree Lane with Dick Knobels Road and the Five Ways Road, I stop to unlayer, eat, drink and sunscreen. The wind is strengthening and the mozzies and flies have begun to come out to play. Onward.
I head down a paved stretch for a few hundred metres (the same section of road where I chased a kangaroo last weekend), then follow the gravel road on up the hill back to the Munyabla grain silos we passed by last week. But this week, I head east on the Munyabla Road. It is flat and in good condition, but I see about 6 cars in 5 kms. I wonder why we are all on the road at the same time?
I pass the original site of one of the old Lutheran churches, several old road reserves that have been reclaimed as private property, the old cemetery and the second church site. It’s amazing to see how big the second church was and think that there is not a single clue in the present landscape as to its previous existence (other than the sign!). I guess this 5 kms was ‘main street Munyabla’ back when this area was settled.
I turn south on Ryan’s Stock Route. I’ve ridden parts of this road further south, but the first 6-8 kms are all new. It is pleasant, there is a teeny bit of traffic, and it’s a nice ride other than the headwind, flies and mozzies. There is one sustained climb in there that I’m not expecting but geographically makes a lot of sense. Pant, pant, pant. If only I had all of my gears….
The rest of the roads we ride are all repeats of ones we’ve done before. So we just roll on through pasture, canola and wheat – all moving forward with the season and heading towards seed. The seasons change. Time marches on.
I think a lot about loss as I ride. I’m about to lose one of the four people in all of Australia that I deeply care about. I think about how my concept of death has really not matured since I lost my first deeply loved family member at age 7. I knew then that I would never see my Mamaw again. I understood that, and that was what death meant. And to me, as an atheist, that is still what death means.
I suppose the only maturity I’ve gained is that I can see and feel what it means for others now. And perhaps, for me, that is what compounds my grief – knowing how hard it is for other people. My life in Oz has seen a lot of chronic loss punctuated by brief periods of acute grief, so I’m used to that hurt. But other people are not. All I can think about is how much of a hole my adopted Aussie mom’s loss is going to create in her husband’s life. My heart has broken over and over since I came home from America and learned that she had very little time to live. And so I pedal with this flat, heavy heart today… maybe my physical blah-ness is just a reflection of the hurt in my heart.
We slog it on home – taking frequent breaks to eat or drink or just stand there on the side of the road. The headwind is pulling out all of my energy and I just want to get home and have something to eat – preferably some sort of milk product. Pedal, pedal, coast. Pedal, pedal… we’ve ridden this a million times. I do manage to get a photo of Gum Swamp this week. The sound of all the birds and frogs over there brightens my mood a bit. But I’m just tired and want to get home.
I do one new thing today – I stop at the old grass tennis courts at Gerogery West for a 15-minute break. I’m only 12 miles from home here, so I usually just push on home. But I’m tired, and I think an intake of peanut butter will give me the energy for the final push into the wind.
And then it’s on down the road, getting passed and re-passed by the same guy delivering mail. I’m sure it’s as frustrating for him as it is for me! And then I get two vehicles, including one Council dump truck, pass me way too closely in the final 5 kilometres.
It is a relief to get home, have a choc milk, hang the tent to dry and take a nap! I’m getting up there in miles this month, but this ride took more out of me than it should. However, next weekend looks like pretty decent rain on Sunday, so there is unlikely to be an overnight ride then. We’re still on track for our 4,000 for 40 goal at the moment, so a weekend off is acceptable!