28 June 2019
I am determined to ride today. But the Universe seems determined not to let me.
Yesterday, the weather forecast called for sun and 17C in mid-winter. You really can’t pass that up. Plus, I’ve been feeling rather awful, and I just barely dragged myself through the first three days of work this week. So I hatched the plan to use my last day of annual leave to enjoy the good weather. If I could summon up enough energy to go ride, I would. If not, I would find somewhere pleasant in the sun to sleep away the day outside.
I wake up feeling awful. I don’t have enough red blood cells to get oxygen, in quantities required, where it needs to go. But I am a cyclist. And I ride. It is just what I do. Plus, I have this brand new bike that I haven’t really ridden yet. If I take it up to the national park, I can do some of the rockier tracks I avoid on my touring bike. It won’t be technical riding, but it will let me get a feel for handling, etc without taxing myself too much.
So it is off to fight the Universe to make it happen. The new bike does not fit in my car without a huge amount of effort. The long handlebars and seatpost make things difficult, plus the bike has a maxle instead of a QR skewer, so there is more effort involved in removing the front wheel.
So, my good friend Don has given me his old bike rack. First, I have to go get a hex key that fits the pin that screws into the tow ball. So off I go on a 5-minute walk to the nearest local hardware store to find a hex key. Amazingly enough, I find the hex key area of the store quickly. It is amazing because walking in a hardware store for me is like walking in a shop where everything is written in a foreign language. So thank you, Universe, for helping me quickly find what I needed.
I walk home. I have to sit down for 20 minutes to recoup some energy for the next phase.
I pump up the tyres on the mtn bike. I go find all the accessories and bits and pieces needed for the day. I don’t have any routine for this new bike and gear yet, so it takes a lot longer than the routine I’ve had for 14 years with the other bike! I then have to sit for another 15 minutes to get enough energy for the next step.
I go out and fit the bike rack to the tow bar. It goes easy enough – which is to say there are some curse words and a bit of exasperation, but I do eventually get it on there and tight enough that I feel confident my multi-thousand-dollar bike will be safe. I sit down for 10 minutes to rest.
I take the bike out and wrestle it up and onto the clamp bar (remember I have a left shoulder with very limited range of movement – particularly reaching up and sideways). Because the top tube is so angled, the bike sits a bit funny, but some re-positioning and the use of a strap seems to remedy the situation.
But then, nope, that clamp is not going to clamp that oversized tube. At all. I push. I hold. I push. I curse. I reposition. I try a whole bunch of things. Nope, that old bike rack is not meant for new frames.
So I pull the bike off. I then work very hard to untighten that very tight pin that I wrenched on. In the process, I wrench my poor shoulder. It doesn’t do well with anything requiring a lot of grip and movement simultaneously. Luckily, the pain is only temporary – 2 months ago, a movement like that would have caused excruciating pain for 30 minutes or so. I have no improved range of motion, but the pain has settled a bit.
I take the bike rack inside. I ponder taking the mtn bike apart to get it in the car. But I just don’t have the energy – knowing that I will have to reassemble on the other end AND get it back apart and in the car again later. I just cannot put together that kind of energy right now.
I am pretty sure I have just expended my entire day’s energy just working on the bike rack fitting. I contemplate just chucking it all and forgetting about a ride today. I feel like utter shit. Maybe I can just go somewhere nice and sleep in the sun. If any part of the outside of my unit got sun where I could lie down, I am pretty sure I would just lie down right there.
But I am a cyclist. I ride. That is what I do. Universe, be damned. So let’s go.
So I get all of the gear out of the mtn bike stuff, transfer it to my touring bike bag and load the touring bike in the car. I question whether I will actually have the energy to ride once I finally get somewhere!
It’s about a 25 minute drive to the national park. I leave the car in its normal spot at the Tuan campground when I’m riding west/north of the freeway. I unload the bike.
It really is a beautiful day. It is the last week of June and I am wearing shorts and a tshirt. It should be 12 or 13C – instead it’s 17C. Of course, there is a strong northerly blowing, but without that wind blowing down warm air from the continent’s interior, it wouldn’t be this pleasant.
I didn’t bring a detailed map today. I’m just winging it. I have an idea of some tracks and roads with mellow grades that I haven’t ridden before. I’m not quite sure how they all link up without the map, but I’ll just ride for a bit and see what happens.
I am spinning in easy gears. I am pedaling along slowly. I easily get dizzy and out-of-breath just walking around my house, so I’m really taking it easy today.
Even though I feel like shit, I am grateful to be out here. I am happy not to be at work. I am appreciative of beautiful days in mid-winter. I am happy to be in shorts and a tshirt. I am grateful to live in a beautiful place where I can roam the forest on a weekday and have it all to myself. I have many faults, but gratitude for small things and cycling has never been one of them.
After time winding through the ironbox on Bull Ant track and part of Donchi Hill Road, I head out of the park on Bests Road. This is a new one for me. I will be looking for new roads until my own life’s road dead ends!
For as strong as that wind is, and for the many directions I ride today, I never get it straight in my face. It’s actually kinda nice to feel that warmth when so many winds in winter are icy southwesterlies coming our way from Antarctica.
I’m on Marengos Road (another new one) for a bit, curving through paddocks and remnant box trees. I’m climbing gentle hills on a tiny little road that feels like someone’s driveway. Indeed, it goes within 20 feet of someone’s home.
I’m rolling by fresh winter crops and lambs and ewes that kick up mud as they run away from me and the bike. I’m on Mantelli’s Road (not a new road, but a new section). I’m on McGee’s Road. I pass by dams that actually have some water, even though we are still well down on rainfall. I don’t see a car the whole time I’m out today. I’m just enjoying being out on the bike. I really love nothing better in life. Oh holy crap, do I feel like crap – the crappiest I’ve ever felt in my life, but this is good for me. My spirit lifts.
It is the time of year for these roads. There’s been enough precipitation that the dirt is packed and smooth to ride. It’s not been so wet to be muddy though. Oh yes, winter is the time for dirt and gravel in Oz. There is a fad for ‘gravel bikes’ and riding gravel roads. But that’s never my goal. I’m just looking for new roads – I don’t care what their surface is or what sort of bike I ‘should’ be using to travel them. The Wizard has gone all sorts of places a touring bike shouldn’t go.
I decide I really should turn back – I’ve only ridden about 6 kms out, but I just have no energy whatsoever. I am short of breath just walking on flat ground, so 6 kms of pedaling in one direction is probably enough. Don’t even think about how sad that is… you cannot dwell on those things.
I head back toward the park on Bests Road again. We again feel like we are riding through someone’s private property. We are… it just so happens there is a public road through all of their land. We climb a hill slowly that gives us nice views over some fancy-schmancy dressage rings to the Barambogie Range in the distance. There are horses with shiny coats and beautiful form in the nearby paddocks. There are black cattle grazing on the hill that look up at me as I advance. They then all come to the fence and follow me along – looking for a feed, I would guess. They follow me to the top of the hill where they are stopped by a fence. I roll on though on a nice downhill on slippery gravel. I get the bike up to 40kph, as I slip and slide through a couple gentle zigs and zags.
I haven’t really known quite where I was for the past 45 minutes, but I was always confident I would find our way back. And here we are, spit out onto the track we came out of the park on.
We retrace our tracks up into the park – ride up a new track to a nice overlook of the Barambogies and the Pilot Range and contemplate a long rest here in the shade on a large log that’s fallen over the fence. The guys want to ride more though – they’ve been hanging out for it even more than me.
So I just take a little time to enjoy the view and to think about how lucky I am to have a place like this to ride so close to home and how lucky I am to live in a region with so many fantastic riding opportunities. Over the past few months, I’ve decided that should I regain my health, my first goal to train for will be the 7 Peaks Challenge – fully-loaded of course!
Yes, even when I can’t take a shower without needing to sit down afterwards, I’m plotting routes, I’m forward planning the rides I want to do. I am a cyclist. I ride. It is what I do.
The guys and I pedal back up the hill on big, loose gravel. I’m dizzy, so my balance isn’t perfect, so I pull my feet out of the toe clips just in case. But I make it up, spinning, breathless, but getting up there just the same. The trees through here are spindly and clumped – I wonder when the fire was?
We roll on up Donchi Hill Road – heading to the crest of the ridge. The views were better back on the smaller track – they are obscured by trees up here. Still, I am happy to be out here, alone in the forest, listening to my tyres track through the gravel, my freewheel zinging on the downhills, the galahs calling out in a riotous calamity as they lift in a chaotic mob from tree to tree.
One of the ridge crests has a picnic table. I’ve stopped here many times before. I’m only a km or so from the car, and I’ve got plenty of time before I need to head back, so I stop to rest here. I could curl up on the picnic table and sleep for hours (I’m sleeping 10-12 hours a night at the moment). But I’ll just lay here for 45 minutes or so instead – loving that it is the end of June and I’m lying in the wind and shade in shorts and a tshirt.
Whenever I lounge on a picnic table during or after a ride, I think back to the day I rode Trail Ridge Road in 2014. At the end of that day, after 76 miles and more than 5,000 feet gain in elevation, I rolled into a campground and found a spot with a picnic table in the sun. I laid down on that table and relaxed – after one of the biggest days on the bike ever. I was tired, but not exhausted. I was so pleased with myself and how I had ridden that day. I was so grateful for being out there on the bike and for having the most perfect weather for that climb that you could order. It was one of those perfect days on the bike that are few and far between but that you remember forever. It is now my picnic table memory.
It is good to re-read journal entries from those days in times like these. Here I am, lying on a table, exhausted after 12 kms. Really, I was exhausted before I even started those 12 kilometres. It is mind-blowing to think that Trail Ridge Road was just a little under 5 years ago – that pinnacle of fitness, vitality and riding. And here I am now….
The moral of the story is – don’t put off your dreams. Live with passion and intensity. Don’t fall for society’s trap that says you have to live a life in a particular way or order. I have never ever regretted doing those big tours in 2013 and 2014 when I ‘should’ have been advancing a career or buying a house or some such thing. I am uncertain if I will ever be able to do a tour like those ever again… so I am so grateful that I could do those tours… and did.
I lie on the table for a while. I am able to get my bony spine in a crack between planks, so it’s really quite comfortable. I think back to the 2014 tour. I try to look forward – there is too much uncertainty to really look too far, let alone make plans. But I do know that whatever comes my way, I will ‘ride’ it out. I am a cyclist. I ride. That is what I do.
Here is the final paragraph from my journal entry the day I rode Trail Ridge Road. It is still my truth.
Yes, I really am the luckiest chick alive to be out here riding and climbing mountains. I wish I could just keep going and going and going. More than ever, these days reassure me that no matter what else I do, or where I go in the future, I am meant to ride a bicycle. For all the days of my life.