The Waiting – Strenuous Activity – Day 6

Day 6 – 86 kms (54 miles)

“It’s time to go home, when you start to smell the donuts.”

It is my favourite quote from two of my favourite friends’ adventure stories. It was Day 13 of a 14-day backpacking trip. Dan was trudging along, pretty hungry and not all that excited about the food rations left in his pack that late in the trip. As he hiked further along, he thought he started to smell donuts. He didn’t eat them on a normal basis so he wondered why all of a sudden he’d be smelling and craving donuts.

He hiked further. He then came to the realization that it was his long hair next to his face that smelled like donuts. He stopped and put a strand of hair to his nose. Yeah, his hair smelled like donut fryer oil. He called out to his friend. “Smell my hair. Does it smell like donuts to you?”

His friend sniffed. He replied, “Yeah, you smell a bit like an apple fritter.”

Back around Day 7, Dan had washed his hair with a travel-size bottle of shampoo left over from a motel visit. He looked through the rubbish he was carrying in his pack. Yep, the shampoo had an apple fragrance. So the remnants of the apple shampoo combined with all of his built-up hair oil had made his hair smell like an apple fritter.

To this day, Evan jokingly still refers to Dan as ‘my little apple fritter’.

Since then, those guys always say that it’s time to hit town, clean up and resupply or go home when your hair starts to smell like donuts.

Of course, that quote makes fun of the 1980s commercial we all still remember: ‘time to make the donuts’. Don’t remember? Not American? See below.

My hair doesn’t smell like donuts, but it’s still time to go home. I’m out of food. The forecast highs the next couple of days are supposed to be around 35C (95F). And all the city people will invade the country on Sunday for a week or more of camping and whatever. So my little quiet spot might see people crowd in.

So we’re up at 5am – thanks, Verne, for the wakeup nudge this time. We’re on the road at 5.30am just after first light. We roll down the valley in the quiet as the greys turn into yellows and greens. The air is cool-ish but not nearly as cool as the preceding nights. Yep, with a high of 35 predicted today, it’s good to get going early.

Emerging from the forest into the valley.
And the good morning god said, “let there be colour.”

We roll down all that elevation we climbed on Tuesday. We average 30 kph at times (twice as fast as went up); at other times we average 23 or 24kph. There’s no one moving about. It is still and silent. Just my kind of morning. There is noise and movement at one dairy farm, as the cows must be milked, even on Christmas Day. But other than that, the valley is ours this morning.

Another disused milking shed.
Almost to the end of the valley.

Once I make it back to the main road, I text Nigel. I told him not to expect a text from me until sometime today, but I know he’ll feel more at ease if he wakes up to a message already on his phone. It’s been five days since I last contacted anyone. My phone pings with emails and messages. No thanks. Not yet. I do not check them nor check the news. Nothing is so urgent that it can’t wait until later today.

We roll on back down the rail trail. A northeasterly picks up not long before Tallangatta and gives us a little bit of a push. Yep, get on home before that wind gets hotter and swaps to the northwest.

Far reaches of Lake Hume. Off to the right is the Jervis Creek Plateau. The tiny building in the very centre of the shot is the remnants of the old butter factory at the original Tallangatta town site. All the dairy farmers in the valley I just exited would have delivered their milk here way back in the day.
Looking over the course of the Mitta Mitta River with the dam at nearly 100 percent capacity.
Image taken from same spot as above back in March 2019.

I do stop in Tallangatta to eat the last of my food, glug down a litre of water and refill that litre. There’s some movement down the end of the street. It actually looks like the supermarket is open. But I don’t venture toward the people – there’s a wee bit of COVID around at the moment and with the influx of city people for the holidays, I expect there will be a lot more soon. I’m not THAT hungry.

That smooshed Christmas tree must have a neck ache by now.

Onwards. My legs don’t feel so bad with more than half the ride done and all that easy pedaling to start with down the valley. Not having 6 days of food and 5 litres of water on-board helps a fair bit, too.

On the trail again….

The day heats up. The cars start to come out. Just before Ludlow’s Reserve I see a touring cyclist standing and looking at his phone. I stop to see if he needs help. No, he’s just looking at messages. He’s from Sydney and did some hiking with a mate around Tumut, then they rode to Tumbarumba together. He then did the rail trail there, then he rode down through Tooma to Corryong and then on to Tallangatta for a rest day. Today he’s riding to Beechworth before meeting up with mates for a few days in Porepunkah.  He thinks he’s using the rail trail from Yackandandah to Beechworth, but I warn him it’s not complete yet.

I try to give him some info on what to expect on the way to Yack from Huon and what bits of rail trail I know that are finished. He’s definitely a bitumen rider with no interest in riding any gravel roads or camping, so I don’t have too many suggestions on other routes since staying on bitumen is pretty limiting here.

He tells me New Zealand is great to ride because they have lots of rail trails. Meh… rail trails are okay, but I don’t go out of my way for them. I just use them to connect up other roads and avoid unsafe highways – I wouldn’t ever specifically go somewhere to ride them. I’d rather ride forest roads. Or have roads with adequate shoulders. But they obviously bring in good tourist dollars. Whatever, I hope he made it to Beechworth safely!

I stop to wet down my shirt at Ludlow’s Reserve. It’s getting hot. But there’s still a thin layer of cloud keeping a lid on temps, so for that I’m grateful. The kays slowly shift by. I am not feeling too terrible.

As I ride, I make up lyrics in my head for all the non-Christian touring cyclists bombarded by Christmas carols in December. It’s been so long since I’ve listened to carols that in many cases I can’t remember more than the first verse though. You can see my efforts in the Appendix below.

They’ve taken all of the old trestle bridge bits and made a bit of artwork on the rail trail. The old rail trestles over the Kiewa River and floodplain are long gone and there are just foot bridges now. Some of these remnants were just lying over in the long grass by the river up til now.

And then, finally, I’m riding the final few kms. McDonald’s is open in town, but KFC is not. I am surprised, but not surprised, by the length of the drive-thru queue at Maccas on Christmas Day. There’s some traffic out and about, but I cruise through the last roundabout with no need to give way. I then ride up through the 2010s neighbourhood where all the houses are smooshed together. It appears that inflatable Christmas decorations are the thing to have on this street. They all lay in deflated heaps in the tiny front yards.

And then we’re riding up the hill of the driveway and home. I’m pleased with my body today. We have got sooooooo much muscle and fitness to rebuild, but I don’t feel too tired, like I did Monday and Tuesday. Once you get a post-viral fatigue syndrome (e.g. long COVID) or ME/CFS diagnosis , you’ve got that for life, like certain STDs or bad memories from an ex-spouse.

Some people are lucky and can get the symptoms into remission, but it’s always there waiting for you to flick the immune system switch, and it can always come back. So I’ll have to be careful for the rest of my life to not overdo things. But I think this was okay today. From zero kms for two months to 40 kms to 85 kms with some resting in between. I’m okay with it, and I think my body is, too.

We’re on our way back. Slowly. But surely. I have always held on to hope over the past 4.5 years. I’ve been persistent and self-advocated when doctors and specialists gave up on me or told me it was all in my head. West Nile virus, frozen shoulder, bartonellosis, crap gallbladder… we’ve done the rounds of disease and inflammation. But I always knew I could get better, and I finally feel like we are turning the final corner. We are turning the page on that long chapter of crap. Phew!

And ’tis the end. Always nice when the sky looks like this from your front door in December and it is a sunset not a bushfire.

Appendix: Cycling carols for the non-Christians, southern hemisphere versions

Away in a forest

Away in a forest, foam pad for a bed
The tired touring cyclist lays down her dirty head
The stars in the sky looked down where she lay
She sleeps very deeply after long kays today.

Oh Eucalypt

Oh eucalypt, oh eucalypt
How scraggly are your branches
Oh eucalypt, oh eucalypt
How crooked are your branches

Your leaves, so pale in Summer-time
Still hanging there in Winter-time
Oh eucalypt, oh eucalypt
How unshady are your shadows

Jingle zips

Riding ever so slow
On a really windy day
Over the hills we go
Struggling all the way

Zips on panniers ring
Annoying me alright
What fun it is to ride and sing
A cycling song tonight, oh!

Oh jingling zips, jingling zips,
Jingle all the way
Oh what fun it is to ride
On a long hot windy day, hey!

Silent night

Silent night, full moon night
All is calm, all is bright
Sleep has settled on the girl that rode
As she curls up in her nylon abode
Sleep in exhausted peace
Sleep in exhausted peace

Joy to the world

Joy to the world! The day is done!
Just as you lost your zing!
Let every heart, return to rest
And listen to nature sing
And listen to nature sing
As creatures and insects of nature sing

We three bikers

All the bikers of touring kind are
Used to riding and travelling so far
Field and fountain, moor and mountain
Following chip-seal tar
All the bikers, All the bikers

Oh rest ye touring cyclists

Oh rest ye touring cyclists
Let nothing you dismay
For all the weather forecasts
Predict tailwinds today
To save us all from crosswinds’ power
That blow us where they may
Oh tidings of comfort and joy
Comfort and joy
Oh tidings of comfort and joy

10 thoughts on “The Waiting – Strenuous Activity – Day 6

    • Thanks, Scott. I do think I’m finally on my way after dragging through the mud health-wise for a long time. A friend said, “Hey, now you can have your mid-life crisis!”. I replied, “Nah, I don’t think I need to. I think my body just had one.”

  • Jingle Zips. A good one for Tassie I thought – but now it is an earworm!!!

    Well done cyclist Em. 86k managed well. I tryst you “pulled up” good the next day.

    • Yep, pulled up okay. We had those really strong southeasterlies for several days and ‘extreme’ grass pollen counts the last few days, so my hayfever is terrible. Or so I think. I may go get poked in the nose tomorrow just to be sure it is only hayfever. It will be my fourth brain tickle… I’ll be an expert soon.

  • Great to see you out pedaling like that again! Tidings of ccomfort and joy! Love your X-mas carols, too!

  • Excellent Christmas carols. Approximately 25 years ago I did the same thing. I wrote all my own words to a bunch of traditional Christmas songs and made a cassette tape of me and my kids singing them. I still have that tape but I don’t have a cassette deck to play it on, and I can’t remember hardly any of the words anymore. But I do remember they were some pretty irreverent parodies. One lyric I do remember goes something like this:
    I’ll be home for Christmas
    That is my decision
    I’ll be home for Christmas
    When I get out of prison.

    I have GOT to find a cassette player.

    • Haha! I would love to hear those. I remember making up lyrics to various carols with my brother when we were about 13 and 16, when we both played instruments, but have no idea what they were now. You can definitely still get cassette players, and you can also get ones that you plug in via USB to a computer and can convert the tape to mp4.

      So, my old car, Necessary Beast was 1995 Ford. She was an awesome old gal until I ‘upgraded’ (lol!) to a 2003 model last year. Necessary Beast had developed some transmission issues that no one could figure out, so she retired after 14 years of service to me. The great thing about Necessary Beast was that she had a tape deck. So I used to listen to all of my bootleg tapes on the 45 minute drive to work and back each day. Alas, my 2003 car has a CD player (which doesn’t work). I’ve hung onto the tapes thinking I’ll get one of those players to convert those tapes to mp4 files, but haven’t done it yet.

  • hi again, emily, gosh, you’re posting blogs faster than i can keep up with them. i was struck by your day 5 report of the meditative state you reached while staying in camp for the day. it’s a gift to reach that level of being. i can see why the camping weekends are restorative for you.
    for myself, the closest i get to mediation is to stop thinking about myself, and that usually requires some time on the bike, tnx for the kind words about my wife’s frozen shoulder. she’s cancelled the physical therapy sessions while we focus on headaches. she regained a good part of her range of motion before the outbreak of headaches so she’s better than before. and the galumphing dog begins obedience class on jan 3. she can be adorable dog for long periods of the day but there’s always an outbreak of demon dog barking, bouncing about the house and chivvying the 11-year-old, six-pound chihuahua. our cat got ticked off at Molly the other day, took two quick steps toward her and whacked her on each side of the nose with a closed paw – thump, thump, like a boxer sparring with another fighter. i heard the paws hit the dog’s nose, they were that loud. cats can pack a punch.
    good luck on the return to the land of offices. stay healthy.

    • Hi Chuck – great to hear that your wife found some relief and got some ROM back with the frozen shoulder physio. My shoulder never responded to the physio and just took its own course. But the good thing with it is that regardless, it will eventually resolve on its own. I hope she can find some solutions for the headaches or ways to get rid of the triggers. Molly will most certainly be a model dog with all of your attention, time at the dog park, obedience class and lessons from the cat. She is lucky to have you both rescue her! Stay safe up there and all the best. Enjoy any cold, snowy days for me. I miss those, moreso when I can admire them from afar, I suppose, though!

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