The Waiting – August Ride 2 – Happy Anniversary

17-20 August 2021

104 kms (65 miles)

You’d think I’d remember such a critical occasion. But I do not. I don’t remember the leaving or the arriving. Perhaps those memories are there, I just can’t pick them apart from the 20-some other times I did the exact same thing: say goodbye to my parents as I flew over the ocean far, far away to my home in Australia.

Yes, 20 years ago on the 18th of August, I arrived in Australia to live on a permanent basis. I had a backpack and suitcase with all of my belongings. I have no idea what I prioritized to bring to start my new life. I don’t remember saying goodbye to my parents. I am sure it was heart wrenching. It has been every single time I’ve said goodbye after visiting them over the past 20 years. I do not remember which airports I flew through. But I did land in Sydney, my new home, and Nigel did pick me up at the airport. But I don’t remember it at all.

Maybe that was the time he actually came into the airport to pick me up? He did that once. Most times I’d just ring him after I got through customs and then wait for him on the Departures level kerb (if you know Sydney airport, you know why that is done). He’d stop, I’d throw in my bags, jump in the passenger seat and then we’d go. Or maybe that was the time he brought me an ice cold Dare caramel milk to sip on immediately after clearing customs. I really, really liked that flavoured milk and he often teased me that I kept coming back for the milk in the guise of coming back for him.

So, yeah, I don’t remember that final act of uprooting my life and resettling in Australia.

Wedding day – December 2000. It took about six months in total to apply and receive the visa to come to Oz. These days the application times and costs have really blown out.

I do remember that upon arrival, Nigel whisked me away to sit in the car for another 2.5 hours (if you’ve flown to Australia from about anywhere, you know you do not want to sit anywhere any longer after you’ve finally arrived). He took me up to a beautiful B&B where we had our own colonial style cabin with a hot tub on the verandah up at Telegraph Point. We stayed two nights.

Christmas 2001 – our first one. I quickly figured out that baking Christmas cookies when it’s super-hot is no fun and that Nigel is very much a Christmas grinch. So I can’t remember celebrating Christmas much at all after the first few years. We’re both atheists anyway, so we’re not missing anything of great importance to us!

Then we did what you do. We went camping – travelling up the NSW coast and then through Southeast Queensland. I remember the nice camp kitchen at the caravan park in Esk, how freezing cold it was overnight in Warwick and that Dalby was not somewhere I’d ever want to live. But the other memories have faded, receded, lost to time and many layers of new memories.

Sebastian, my favourite teddy bear since age 9, on our first night of camping in Oz as ‘residents’.

But here we are, 20 years later, and I must celebrate somehow.

I’m not big on celebrations. I can’t remember when I last celebrated a birthday or Easter or Valentines Day or any other holiday. They just don’t matter much to me. I rarely drink alcohol and I can’t eat much food at all at the moment. So I’m going to celebrate by doing what any outdoorsy chick would want to do: go camping. By bike.

There is a weather window that looks good that covers the 18th. We’re not in lockdown but will likely be again soon. My guts are in no condition to do much but force me to lie around and complain, but my brain needs a break from everything COVID, so that wins out.

The plan is to do a four-day ride with very low kms – just 10-20 miles a day. I can’t be vertical for more than 2-3 hours before needing to lie down again, so this will just be a little bit of riding to link together a bunch of time lying around in my tent. If the most you can do is lie around, you might as well lie around somewhere in the tent rather than at home in bed.

Day 1 – 22 kms (14 miles)

We roll away from home. I live on the far east side of town on the flanks of Huon Hill, so there are a few kilometres of coasting downhill to Happy Jack Creek to start. Every cyclist can agree that it is nice not to have to ride uphill to start the day.

Days 1 and 2. All the red dots are where we camped each night.

There are dark, low and menacing clouds to the south. They hang heavy and do not appear to move. We ride through a light drizzle or mist at times as we work our way across town. It’s not like the drizzle comes from a cloud above but more like we are riding through a light, wispy cloud instead. 

I take side roads where possible and then cut over to a main road heading west. All of the bike paths go north-south and there are not too many good options for riding east-west in Wodonga. Most of the bike lanes on the east-west roads are narrow after-thoughts carved from the parking lane in prime dooring position.

The hill on the left is McFarlanes Hill that we climbed a few weeks ago. The high point is off to the left.

Instead of using Drage Road as I have in the past, I cut down and through the TAFE campus. Drage Road has a fair amount of traffic and a bike lane that disappears in places. So cutting through the TAFE campus plonks me out on McKoy Street by the freeway which you eventually hook up with on Drage Road anyway. The only problem is that it has been pretty freshly sealed with very large diameter chip. There is a lot of loose chip left on the surface, too. I’d rather ride on firm-packed gravel than a road like this. But at least there is a wide shoulder/parking lane to ride in.

A few rain drops consent to gravity and land on my arms. It is only around 11 degrees and the wind is a headwind. It’s not particularly nice, but the rain and mist are just remnants of a front that passed through yesterday evening. So I’m not too concerned about getting wet. The next couple days should be partly cloudy and a bit warmer.

Plunketts Road. Freeway frontage road (you can see the freeway off to the right) that undulates along all the way to Barnawatha.

10 kms of city riding gets us to the edge of town where we follow the freeway frontage road up and down the flanks of the Black Range. My muscles don’t feel bad at all, even though it’s the first loaded ride I’ve done since March. But my guts are not all that happy with the scrunched position, and I’ll be happy to lie down once we get to the river.

This underpass under the freeway and rail-line is so much better than the other one. That is some local’s trash trailer blocking the entry on the other side. Not enough to deter a cyclist though.

Tiny patches of blue break through here and there. It would be a nice, sunny day up in the Riverina. But I can’t go ride up there lest they close the state border and I get stuck in NSW. All of my medical care and my current rental unit is based in Victoria, so I can’t take any chances of not being able to get back home.

Ducks and an egret on a farm dam.

The grass is green. The dams are full. The landscape looks vibrant under that low, scuddy cloud. We work our way along the gravel roads and down into the river reserve. Corellas scream in the distance, but the heavy cloud suppresses the noise and I enjoy the relative quiet. As an introvert who always craves silence, I have desperately needed this ride – the noise of people, neighbours, traffic, etc have started to reach my threshold level lately.

There is a very large puddle across the road where water has settled in an old river branch. It’s a bit like the bear hunt story: can’t go over it, can’t go under it, we’ve got to go through it.

I cannot tell its depth nor see what big rocks might be sitting underneath the surface. So off go my shoes and socks so I can push the bike across.

I stick to the edge and try to stay on clumps of grass. I can see bubbles rising from the centre of the puddle, so there are likely some yabbies that have taken up residence. I don’t want to inadvertently step on one of them.

The water is mostly about 6 inches deep, but there are two steps that are mid-calf deep and come up to just below the front panniers on the bike. But holy mother of buddha, that water is absolutely freezing!

I stuck to the grassy bits on the left on the way in and the grassy bits on the right on the way out. Both were about the same.

I immediately think of how soft I’ve become. My ‘boyfriend’ back at uni and I used to polar bear plunge every month of the year in the reservoir above town. We even had to break the ice once. One February dip featured an 18F air temperature. And here I am in air temperatures in the low 50s F, and water up to my calf, thinking: wow, is that cold! No doubt if Evan were here, he would be suggesting that we jump in the river once we got to camp. Or maybe not, maybe he’s gotten softer with age, too.

I ride up through the forest, negotiating puddled pot holes and spongy mud where vehicles have had fun mud-bashing on the access tracks. The river runs high with the pre-releases of water creating more air space in the almost full reservoir just upstream (where we went in our last post). There is not much old growth red gum in the reserve and the thick and somewhat spindly regrowth feels dark and dank under the cloudy skies. You would not be surprised to see Little Red Riding Hood darting through the trees.

Probably NOT going to go for a dip in the river today.

I get swooped by a magpie. It is the most half-arsed, lazy swooping I’ve ever encountered. It’s as if his female partner said: “Hey, go attack that cyclist.” And the male magpie puts down his glasses and the newspaper, gets up and says, “OK. If I must.” 

He just does these slow, loping arcs that pause for a moment above my shoulder before flying to a branch ahead. As I pass him, he does the same slow, gentle swoop again. He never does a beeline, high-speed attack where he clicks his beak, screams or hits my helmet.

The maggie continues this all the way to the river. After I pick out a somewhat flat spot that is not under any large tree limbs, he continues to swoop me and then sit in the tree above. So I look at him directly and say, “Fuck off. You are going to have to share.”

And he does. Ha!

He comes back around every so often to sit in the tree for a bit and watch me, but he gives up on the swooping.

Home for the night as the clouds shove off to leave clear skies for a cold night.

There are plenty of mozzies and the air is not warm, so I get some clothes on, the tent set up and then drape the sleeping bag over me and lie down. The pain in my guts has started to radiate to my back, and that is a sign I need to get gravity pulling on my organs at a different angle for awhile. That back pain can get bad enough that it is hard to stand up, so I just succumb to a forced rest.

My view out the end of the tent.
The guys’ view out the other end of the tent.

Later on, the guys and I have something to eat. I’ve always loved fresh spring rolls, and since I can no longer eat bread (and not found any gluten-free bread worth eating), I make these all the time. Anything you would put on a sandwich, I put in a spring roll wrapper. Today it is lettuce, green onions, mini roma tomatoes, red capsicum (bell pepper), carrots and avocado. My favourite dipping sauce to make is a tamari peanut one, but that seems like it could really easily leak in any container I have, so I’ve brought a spicy mustard and mayo spread instead. Veggies cause my guts the least harm, and I can manage the three small rolls over about an hour and a half. That is one of the joys of cycling on day one or after a supermarket stop – fresh veggies!

Verne looks incredibly enthusiastic about lunch.

Slowly, the wind picks up and the blue patches become larger and more frequent. It’s still quite cool and I’m happy to just lie there and enjoy the quiet. The rowdy birds interrupt on occasion, but mostly it’s just a peaceful afternoon watching the clouds break apart and scoot away.

Impressive tree form.
Tree ladder for summer fun.

After dark, two guys come in a Land Cruiser and make a fire about 100 metres away on the river bend. They get louder as the fire gets bigger and they drink more, but thankfully, right on 10pm, they douse the fire and leave. Ahhhh…. Quiet. It’s not the first or last time I’ll have to listen to drunk bogans hanging out at one of the river reserves. It just reminds me why I much prefer to just camp off somewhere in the forest rather than in a designated camping area.

The damp earth sighs. The sigh condenses in the cold, moist air and soupy fog envelopes the flood plain. It muffles the sound of the freeway in the distance and blankets the vegetation with dew. The air just hangs. On occasion, a patch opens up to the sky and dim stars twinkle. Saturn, off to the ENE, is HUGE. How impressive. How lucky am I to be out camping midweek on the banks of the Murray.

Day 2 – 23 kms (15 miles)

The fog has gone. The grass bends with the weight of the dew. The tent is saturated as the sunlight filters through the tree limbs. It got down to 1 degree C last night, but I was warm and comfy in my sleeping bag and puffy jacket.

I unzip the tent and crawl out into the crisp, clear air. There’s no hurry to pack and go. I’m not going far today since I only have three vertical hours at a time to play with.

So I lounge on the riverbank in the sun as the tent fly dries. The guys have a float. The corellas, galahs, kookaburras and magpies create a noisy conversation in the trees. It is pleasant and peaceful except for the birds.

Guys floating in NSW. The state border is not the middle of the river. NSW claims the whole river and VIC starts on the riverbank.

Such a relaxed start is definitely not my style. I like to get up and go early, and I have no qualms about packing a wet tent. I like to beat the wind and traffic. I like to get where I’m going by mid-afternoon. But with such short mileage, I can start at lunchtime and still be done by mid-afternoon!

I try to embrace this different schedule, but it does make me miss the type of riding that I really like to do. Still, I’m doing the absolute most my body will allow, and I don’t know many other people that would attempt this when they were in this much pain and with the potential to perforate an unhappy organ.

The guys and I finally roll away around 10.30 or 11am. The sun is high in the sky and we connect up to a paved road that takes us over to the road that connects Howlong and Barnawatha. Normally, that road can be a bit busy, but there’s no one on it today. So it’s a cruisy, flat, mostly smooth ride down to Barnawatha. The high pressure system has moved over, so there’s no wind either.

We’re heading over to the treed hills for the afternoon after a water refill stop in town.

I have only done a loose idea of how this ride might work. I am carrying all four days of food so that I will not have to go in any stores or have any contact with people. There’s no virus here, but it seems with delta, it’s just a matter of time before it arrives.

I do need to refill water each day, though. So the idea is to fill up in Barnawatha today, ride up into the forest for the night, then ride down through Chiltern to refill tomorrow. I can then backtrack to Barnawatha or Chiltern on the final day to refill if needed.

So it is a disappointment, to say the least, when I roll into the small park on the main road to find that the water has been shut off. Crap.

There are two moms sitting on a blanket nearby. Their young kiddos are playing on the play equipment. They give me the evil eye, no friendly hello. I return it. Everyone is suspicious of people they don’t know at the moment, and they probably think I’ve snuck out of locked-down Melbourne to infiltrate their town. If only they knew how low-risk I am and how little contact I have with anyone. I live alone, I go to the fruit market once a week and ALDI every 2 or 3 weeks, and that’s it! I have not seen a friend in person since April (except Nigel whom I check on monthly). I am a contact tracer’s dream, really!

I discard my rubbish and decide to head over to the sports oval. Surely they’ll have the water turned on there for footy players to refill their water bottles at training.

However, since the last time I’ve come this way, a whole new health centre has been built next to the oval. There are a few people around, so I dig out my mask. (They are compulsory indoors and outdoors unless you are at home, alone, or exercising). I lean the bike against the wall and go in search of a water tap. I can see a spigot on the side of the building, but it looks like that water might be coming from nearby rainwater tanks. And going to the labelled toilet inside the medical centre defeats the purpose of not going indoors with other people.

Hmmmm…… I don’t want to have to check in and go indoors to get water, and I don’t know where that spigot on the wall is sourcing its water from.

Luckily, I find a water bubbler (fountain) with a tap near the oval. Success!

Yes! Water tap there on the right. That new building is interesting with the medical centre on the front side and the club rooms, bar and kitchen for the footy club on this back side. With a shared toilet for both.

We roll out of town on some gravel roads past a bunch of lifestyle blocks. We ride up into the forest on the crunchy gravel, the silence pervading and the stillness intoxicating. Ahhhh, I am so glad to squeeze in this ride. I really needed some time on the bike and out amongst the trees.

Yes, it’s a road. I think we’ve been on it before. It’s linking us up to a bigger one.
Rileys Road.

The wattle is in bloom, creating thick masses of yellow throughout the forest. They line the roads and escort us forth into the national park.

We see the blackened trunks and singed leaves of a planned burn done last April. They tend to burn frequently in this national park and keep the forest floor pretty open.

My guts need a break, so we stop in an open area next to the track. It’s cool enough to want to be in the direct sun. I pull the tent groundsheet out to lay on and have a small snack. As long as I only eat small amounts of food, I don’t vomit. Nausea comes and goes, but after almost four months of this, I’ve at least figured out how to keep food down.

Break in the sun. Vitamin D absorption. Radiant heat absorption. I need to put on some pants and a raincoat though so I don’t get eaten.

My plans quickly change. There are heaps of mozzies. These are seasonally-adjusted ones. Normally, you don’t find mosquitoes out and about in the middle of the day in full sun. But the temperatures must be cool enough that the best time of day to be moving is in mid-day sun. (They don’t bother me in the evenings or mornings when it’s colder).

So I put on my pants and rain jacket, cover my face with a thermal top and recline for a bit. The sun feels good, and I enjoy looking for sunny places to sit and sunny places to camp. It’s a contrast to the nine months of the year where you are seeking shade instead.

After a while we get up and head back out on the track. We come up behind four women on horses. Instead of trying to figure out how to alert them that I’m passing without spooking the horses, I just turn off on the next track and follow that instead. I did not have a specific route picked out, so it’s not disrupting any plans.

We continue gentle climbs and descents through box and ironbark trees on tracks that have been graded since I last rode through here. It’s fun to fly through the forest on the fully-loaded bike and dodge the sticks, big rocks and sand as we kick up some dust in our wake. I feel like my bike-handling skills are a bit rusty, but we still have a lot of fun.

I decide at some point I’ve had enough and lean the bike against a tree. I wander through the open forest, up a hillside, and look for an open-ish area to put the tent. About a three-minute walk into the forest, I find a good spot.

I go back for the bike, unload it and carry the panniers through the forest. Then I go back for the bike. I’m happy that there are no snakes to worry about slithering along as I step over logs and through the grassy open bits.

The mozzies like it up on the hill, too, so I crawl in the tent and lie down. Today is my actual anniversary day and I think about the 20 years I’ve spent in Oz.

Home for Night 2

Signs I’m not really Australian: I still hate Vegemite. I think cricket is the most boring game ever apart from golf, soccer and ten-pin bowling. I don’t follow any of the footy codes. I don’t really like meat pies. I can handle sausage rolls but much prefer a spinach and ricotta one. I don’t like the heat. I still find it incongruous to have Christmas when it’s over 100F. I still hate the flies.

Signs I’ve probably become Australian: I agree that voting should be compulsory. I’m grateful we have an independent electoral commission that runs elections and determines electoral boundaries (this reduces, or eliminates, voter suppression and gerrymandering). I’m totally on-board with universal healthcare. I like mangos. I like eating kangaroo.  I can no longer imagine Christmas without fresh cherries. I dislike authority but I’m completely complicit (except with sticking exactly to the speed limit like the Victorians do). I’ve never owned a clothes dryer and think hanging things out to dry is just fine. I slip, slop, slap and have skin checks regularly. I don’t know how to drive on snow or ice and haven’t seen snow falling in maybe a decade. I’ve long ago figured out that you MUST have a sunshade for your windscreen and put a towel on your steering wheel in summer so you can actually touch it when you go to drive. I also know to NEVER touch the metal part of the seatbelt buckle in summer.

When did this happen? When did I stop feeling like an American ex-pat? I don’t know. It must have been gradual, but I do know that by 2010, when I went back to America and did my first longer bike tour, that I felt like I was a tourist with some extra background knowledge rather than someone going home.

I certainly felt like I was no longer American when I went back in 2017 and tried to figure out how to build a life there in anticipation of needing to be there to help my parents in the future. That was such a spectacular failure, and the return to Oz so easy, that I knew the transformation was complete.

So Happy Anniversary to me. There has been a fair amount of struggle in those 20 years, and external events in my life have certainly made me wiser, more compassionate and more tolerant of all the crap that life can bring. I’m probably kinder, gentler, a bit less judgmental and bit more laid back than I was when I arrived.

I’ve achieved what society would call success – I’ve completed a PhD (only 1.5% of Aussies can say that); I’ve completed a post-doctoral research fellowship; I’ve worked in professional jobs for state and local government; I got my last job through professional contacts. So I think I could say I’m a bona-fide middle-class Aussie. Of course, if you know me, you know I really don’t care about such things at all. I’m much prouder of that ride map I have on the wall, and all the roads ridden I’ve marked off so far!

You get the floppy hat and a cape if you neglect your health and spend an ungodly amount of hours focused on a specific topic for a few years.

The sunset is a slow burn, a long gentle descent into darkness. We’re far enough into spring now that the sun seems to linger longer at dusk. The temperature does not automatically drop and bomb before last light.

The sunset colours are muted oranges, yellows and a light pink against the blue. It is not spectacular, but it does glow in the last moments and seems to draw out, as if the darkness is trying to pull it away and it’s determined to hang on.

Day 3 –  23 kms (15 miles)

Day 3 ride – the red dots show where we camped on night 2 and 3.

The night was cold. The sleeping bag kept me warm though, and I do not wake through the night. I’m so glad I got the bag instead of a quilt. I researched that decision for quite some time.

The morning is grey. We are still in the cloud. It’s not foggy per se, but this is the type of grey that has the sun sitting just above the cloud bank. It will burn off by 10 or 11am, but it is damp, cool and dingy now.

I pack slowly and then carry the bike, and then the bags, back to the track. We wander around a bit more in this section of the park on roads we’ve ridden before. Then it’s over the main road into another section of the park.

We ride the boundary track and enjoy the views out over the crops to the trees in the distance. The canola is in bloom. The wattles are, too. The grass is a verdant green, and the gum tree leaves don’t seem to hang as limp as they do in drought. All this green and gold (Oz’s sporting colours) is so appropriate for the Olympics going on right now.

The guys get their daily floatie session. I set them up on an old mining dam. Frogs croak in the background, and their session is like a version of ‘slow cinema’, as the lack of wind or current means they ever-so-slowly glide across the surface. I lost their old tether and could not find anything appropriate in the house that would work, so the poor guys are tethered with a tape measure from my sewing kit today!

It’s still too cool for the mozzies, so I hang out for a bit. If I hadn’t come across those horse riders yesterday and diverted down some other tracks, I probably would have camped here for the night.

The guys would have liked to camp here last night. Maybe next time restrictions lift enough for an overnight ride.

Back on the bike, we head out of the national park to pick up a couple new road sections. There is a much more direct way to ride into town, but this ride is all about short daily kms and just wandering around a bit, rather than trying to get anywhere specific.

Marengos Road – we haven’t ridden this section before.

I stop at the old fire shed to skim read the interpretive signs and look at the old pictures of all of the gold mining that occurred here in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

Recreation reserve. There are some tennis courts back there and I’m sure you could camp here if needed. The national park is just a few kms away though and would be quieter with fewer stickybeaks trying to figure out what you were up to. The historical display in the old fire shed is well done.
I’ve shown you some of the old mullock heaps all over this valley on other rides. Here’s how they came to be. Don’t think I’d be drinking the groundwater in this area without extensive testing first.

We roll on into Chiltern and stop in the park to refill water bottles. There aren’t many people out and about. Perhaps they will emerge from their warm houses once the sun heats things up a bit. I see one tourist couple wandering around.

Not much sun today. You can see the fog bank to the right above the hills. The hill on the right is at Springhurst. The hill to the far left is part of the Barambogie Range.

I check my phone. Nope, they haven’t thrown us back in lockdown yet, but it’s pretty obvious it’s not far off.

When I woke up this morning, the gut and back pain had not receded in the night. I already had pain in my back when I woke. So I considered that we should, perhaps, just ride home today. However, I’m enjoying being out in the forest and away from people a lot, and I really don’t want to go home. The weather is decent (the low temps each night were around 1-2C and the highs were 14, 15, 15, 15 on the trip).  So I decided upon waking that I would make that decision at Chiltern once we’d wandered a bit in the morning.

And so here we are. I decide that we’ll stay out another night. I’m in enough pain that just doing a little bit more riding and then finding somewhere to lay down is probably better than pushing the 35kms home anyway.

Toilet block at Chiltern. There is a water tap outside so you don’t have to go inside. The bird is the endangered regent honeyeater. There are only about 1000 of these left. The box ironbark forests like those in the national park are important for their survival as they feed on the nectar of the eucalypts in the forest and breed there in spring after dispersing over winter.

As I get ready to leave, an older man in a mask makes eye contact with me. He’s 10 or 15 feet away as he squints at me. I raise a finger as a hello and then stop, as I think he is about to ask me something. But he just continues to look at me. I can’t tell his expression from just his eyes with his mask on, so I just ride off. I’m not sure if he was staring me down with the evil eye or he was just trying to look a bit harder at the bike and gear. The masks definitely impede nonverbal communication!

Masks make non-verbal communication so hard. Am I smiling? Am I frowning? Am I sticking my tongue out at you? My mom sent this over from America. She also sent a really cool bike one, but it has ties instead of ear loops so doesn’t work well with the helmet.

We cross under the freeway and into a different section of the national park. I stop at the picnic area and we go have a look at the dam. It’s an old mining dam – there’s no trace of the mining infrastructure right here, but there is sluiced ground all around. It is hard to imagine this area devoid of trees and so noisy with the sound of earth being pillaged.

Guys by the dam. The frog chorus was incredibly loud and I could hear three different calls.

We utilize the picnic table for lunch. I’m able to get down some peanut butter on a rice thin. That will have to do for lunch. The nausea and pain are ticked up a notch today. 

Em reviews lunch. I’ve really had to figure out a whole bunch of different foods to take with me since I can’t eat gluten anymore.

The sun makes a brief appearance. The forecast was for partly cloudy skies, but it’s been mostly cloudy today. There ends up only being a bit of sun between the fog lifting and the thicker clouds that roll in after noon.

Now where to camp? I need to lie down soon. There is a ridge off to the left that falls away to low, grassy banks of an ephemeral creek on the right-hand side of the road. It looks damp and cold down that way, so we keep riding. Not too far along I see a gentle drainage leading up to the ridge. I do want to get a fair way off the road here. Last time I camped in this section, there were guys on motorbikes riding around and yelling after midnight. So I don’t want to be close enough to the road that anyone like that might come harass me.

I climb up the drainage and then onto a spur of the ridge. There is a nice, flat spot up there, but it will be a bit of hike with the bags and bike. It’s about a 3-4 minute walk up to that spot. But it looks like it will get any sun that peeks through the clouds, and it won’t be nearly as cold as down along the creek.

Home for night 3

So up we go, slowly, in two trips. Aaaaahhhhh. The sun goes away behind the clouds not long after I set up the tent. A nap ensues. And so goes the afternoon.

Arrow points to the road we climbed up from. We’ve actually climbed up about 70 metres though the photo doesn’t make it look that much.

 After two months of not working, I no longer feel like I’m on a short holiday and due to return to work very soon, as I did in the first month. I’ve well and truly transitioned into no responsibilities and very low stress levels. I’ll be ready to return to work at some point, but it’s definitely not now. I couldn’t sit in an office chair for work for very long with all that pain anyway, so it’s good I left when I did. But plans for returning? I’ve got none right now and am definitely not thinking about it!

A breeze picks up after dusk. It’s a warm wind ahead of the next front. It doesn’t keep me awake, but it does keep the tent dry all night and I’ll be happy to pack up a dry tent in the morning.

Day 4 – 36 kms (23 miles)

I wake with the first chortle of the first bird. I want to get going early today as I will have a headwind all the way home and want to get as much ridden as I can before the wind gets too strong.

I enjoy the gentle climbing and the sound of my tyres crunching over the packed dirt and gravel. The sound of a smoothly running bike is certainly music to a cyclist’s ears.

Sunlight creates dappled shade but highlights the pale green of some leaves in the low-angle light. After we climb to a small gap, we get a nice, fast, slightly squirrely downhill through gentle twists of track before reaching pavement once again.

A fast, fun downhill out of the park and best buddies up there in front.

As we descend into the Indigo Creek valley and out into the farmland, it gets noticeably chillier. We lose a good 3 degrees dropping down in the valley. It’s all wet and dewy down here, too. Good choice, crew, on lugging everything up the hill to camp yesterday!

Very chilly down here. There are lots of bee box sites IN the national park, but here are some adjacent locals getting in on the action.

I join up with Plunketts Road – which is a freeway frontage road – all the way in to Wodonga. We climb around the end of the range and then into the wind. A mass of dark blue cloud chases us, though this front ends up being a dry one. It will just be a change in wind direction later in the day.

That dark cloud chases us all the way home, but there’s no precip in it.

I fight into the wind. I note that there must have been a supply of car computer chips that got to the factories in Japan, Korea, etc, because there are heaps of car carriers with new cars, utes, and SUVs on board heading south. It would be interesting to know why they dock at Sydney rather than Melbourne. I don’t know car brands well enough, or am close enough, to see what kinds of vehicles they are, but there are certainly a bunch on the move today.

There’s a wind tunnel not far from the Murray Valley highway exit on the freeway. There always is wind through here thanks to the topography. I grunt into it, the grass blades leaning far over in my direction. But thankfully, after climbing the hill that projects out perpendicularly from the main range, the wind lessens except for occasional gusts.

So up and down the gentle hills we go into the wind. Head down. Pedal it out. A magpie swoops moderately aggressively but only for about 25 metres. My guts are ready to be home, but I’m ready to just keep riding for a year or more!

I wind my way back through town and climb through the neighbourhoods to my place. I’m home by 10.30, in the shower by 10.45, trip laundry hung out by noon.

Trees are all in flower.

Please don’t mind that we took four days to ride what we would normally ride easily in just one day. This really is the most my body can do right now, and I am happy to get horizontal on a soft surface upon the return home.

Touring plans are vague. The lockdowns will come and go for some months yet, so there is very little planning that can be done. But at least I did get out for my 20-year anniversary to celebrate in the best way I knew how. I didn’t perforate any organs. I was able to mostly manage the pain by riding short distances and laying down a lot.

 We’ll continue to get out as much as the restrictions, lockdowns and my body allows. I have no goals or plans in life right now except to heal and ride as much as possible. So much is outside of my control at the moment. But 20 years in Oz has taught me to go with the flow and not worry too much about those sorts of things. She’ll be right, mate.

POSTSCRIPT – 27 August:

As predicted, we went back into lockdown on Saturday after getting home on Friday. We are locked down until at least 3 September which means no bike touring (and the weather looks great next week!). I don’t think a release from lockdown looks positive for the third either. So we’re stuck at home yet again and very glad we took the chance to go more than 5km from home while we could. Still no cases here for more than a year, but it’s just a matter of time.

Ah, man! That is perfect cycling weather and we would have loved to make a 3-day ride out of that. Alas, we’re still in lockdown then and can’t go more than 5kms from home and only allowed out for 2 hours of exercise a day. You don’t know how much I hate the federal government who couldn’t get us vaccinated in a timely fashion with mRNA vaccines.

I will have to put up with the gut pain for a long while yet. I met with the surgeon this week. He wants to do a gastroscopy. The earliest I can get in is 28 October. You have to be vomiting blood to get in any earlier. So fingers crossed COVID doesn’t erupt in a way that sees that procedure cancelled after waiting so long. I’ve already been in a lot of pain for four months, so another two just seems like forever at this point. Ugh.

But like everything, I guess we will just have to take it as it comes. At least I’ve learned a lot about how to manage all of it so that I vomit less often and the weight loss has slowed. That twisty road to recovery turns out to have a bit of climbing involved, too. But I guess I’m glad that I’ve never been a sprinter and always enjoyed the really long rides. Just keep pedaling.

6 thoughts on “The Waiting – August Ride 2 – Happy Anniversary

  • Always enjoy living vicariously through your bike tours, no matter how long or short. Congratulations on 20 years. I’m not sure how nostalgia and homesickness haven’t derailed you. Good luck with the medical stuff later this year, and I hope someday that the plague subsides. Cheers!

    • Thanks for the kind words. Sorry the [posted rides have been pretty boring for so long!! I sooo wish it were a long tour I was writing up!

      I can’t ever really recall being homesick, just frustrated at times in the first few years when it was hard to find decent work. I enjoy remembering happy times and memories from the past, but don’t think I get too nostalgic simply because I’m always looking forward and on to the next challenge. However, I definitely missed some American junk food in the first few years but not really anything anymore. I do enjoy Mexican/Tex-mex food when I go back to America though. You can find it more readily in the cities here now, but it can be quite expensive. I do miss my parents terribly, and always have. That is the one thing that has been, and always will be, hard.

      I hope all is well for you and you have been able to sneak in some rides here and there, even if just a long day ride.

  • Emily – you are a wonder. How many other people would go out and enjoy a 4 day ride with dodgy guts? I think – None! So glad you got out, the weather was OK and you did it all before lockdown.

    • Thanks, Tony. I think I would have ended up living overseas somewhere, most likely not permanently though, if I hadn’t ended up in Oz. I’ve always jumped on opportunities for new or challenging things. I hope you get the good weather we have forecast for this week up here and can take advantage of it, since you don’t have to stay within 5kms of home!

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