The Waiting – All about the gear

“You’re going to carry liquid fuel?”

The 20-year-old shop assistant appears incredulous, as if carrying liquid fuel was sacrilegious in camping and hiking circles.

When I entered the store, he was very excited to help me. Give him 5 stars for initial customer service. I tell him I have a list of items to look for. That makes him very excited.

But once I tell him my first item is a 500ml Trangia fuel bottle (to safely transport methylated spirits in my pannier), I get the above response.

I reply, “Well, yes. I’ve got a Trangia and don’t want to carry the fuel in a coke bottle or anything.”

“Oh, I’m a Jet Boil man myself.”

And so he should be. The store has a huge Jet Boil display. But I did heaps and heaps of research on backpacking stoves before deciding to go with an ethanol stove. And I’m pretty certain in that decision. The only reason I’m here is because they’ve got the fuel bottle for 40 percent off.

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The Waiting – September Ride 2 – A bit more (reckless)

24-27 September 2021

190 kms (118 miles)

It’s the white noise of tyre tread crunching over gravel. It’s the sound of the occasional ping when gravel flicks up to contact the frame. It’s the pull of the brakes against forward acceleration as the trail crosses a road. It’s the first breath of wind that pushes in a gentle quartering tail position. It’s the sun rising steadily on a trajectory mid-way between winter and summer. And it’s the consistent drumming of my heart in a steady, increasing rhythm that matches the gentle incline.

It’s the little things that add up to the joy of being out on the bike. And here we are again.

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The Waiting – September Ride 1 – A bitta Mitta, a bitta Murray

14-17 September 2021

180 kms (112 miles)

Are you one of those people that have good timing? Do things just fall into place more often than not? Do you just beat the rain showers? Does the perfect job come open just as you are ready to quit your current job?

Or do you have rotten timing? Does your planned holiday coincide with record-breaking rains? Does the perfect job come available just weeks after you’ve committed to something else?

I’ve personally never had particularly good or bad timing – I tend to find a bit of both. But I’ve known people who somehow just sail through life and doors always seem to open at the right time. I’ve also known people who bump into every obstacle out there and are always the one who gets caught in the rain.

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The Waiting – September Challenge Peaks – Happy Spring

1-2 September 2021

30 kms (on foot)

What is the scent of spring? Is it freshly mown grass? Is it flowers blooming? Is it the scent of sheets hung on the line instead of coming from a dryer? Or is it, like in the town where I went to uni, the smell of moist cow, horse, geese and dog shit as the ground starts to thaw?

For me, it is none of those. The ground never freezes here, and we mow our lawns more in winter than in summer, so mown grass is not a new scent in spring. The same goes for flowers – they bloom more in winter than summer here, so the scent is not novel in spring-time August. And I hang my sheets out year-round.

No, the scent of spring for me is… sunscreen. There is only about 2.5 months of the year when the UV index is such that sunscreen is not recommended where I live. And so, after that brief pause over winter, the slightly acrid, slightly bitter smell of SPF 50 jolts me into the realization that we are, once again, on our way to the insanely hot temperatures of summer.

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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.

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The Waiting – August Ride 1 – Get it while you can

10 August 2021

30 kms (18.5 miles)

Some moments in time are fleeting – a brief pause, a stuttering breath, or a whirlwind of events that pass so fast you wonder what just occurred. Sometimes you know the moment will be fleeting and you engage with it fully knowing it will not last. Other fleeting moments hold some pregnant pause of potential but slip on by before giving birth which leaves you to wonder just what might have been.

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The Waiting – June/July – The corner

Squiggly line roads are the best. When you see a squiggly line road on a map, take that one. These roads contour with the land. They curve with the rivers. They follow the ends of ridgeline spurs instead of going over them. They switchback up a pass instead of climbing at a 20 percent grade. They also tend to be very scenic, and part of the adventure is never quite knowing what will unfold around the next bend.

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The Waiting – March Ride 2 – Riverina Rollercoaster

26-27 March 2021

The end is nigh.

The earth has tilted. Back the other way. The equinox has come and gone.

The sunrise is after 7am. We are pulling the last dregs of daylight savings. It finishes soon.

And the fire restrictions also finish at the end of the month. After 31 March, farmers don’t need a permit to light things on fire like crop stubble and debris piles.

So with the end of everything summer coming soon, it’s time for a ride out in the cropping areas before the farmers start burning stuff, and the air becomes way too smoky to breathe.

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The Waiting – March Ride 1 – Re-jigged rail trail ride

5-7 March 2021
171 kms (106 miles)

There’s an urgency in autumn. The earth’s tilt is just right. The weather pattern is stable. The temperature becomes humane again, and there is day after day of sunny skies and light winds. There is a hurried sense that you need to take advantage of every single day because that perfect confluence of factors never lasts long enough.

In my part of Australia, you’ve really got to hit it and make the most of those perfect early autumn days. Those weather and earth axis conditions that are perfect for outdoor activities are also perfect for burning off crop stubble and conducting planned burns in the forest. The consequent smoky days really ruin the gorgeous days of autumn, so you’ve got to get out there and make the most of it before the burns begin.

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The Waiting – Feb Ride 2 – Over to the river and through the woods

26-28 February 2021
120 kms (75 miles)

The thought of a ride is always on my mind.

 If I am at work, and the day outside is nice, I consider the wind and which direction you’d hope to be riding if on tour on such a beautiful day. In my mind on those beautiful days, I can see the road flowing forth up a long valley or the views from any of the numerous forest roads in the region.

If the weather is poor, it will remind me of that day I rode 103 miles across the Montana plains in wind, rain and 42 degrees F. Or a couple times on tour waiting out a snow day in my tent in Iowa or Illinois in early spring.

Or I will get random memories from the thousands of rides I’ve done over the past 10 years that pop in my head at any ol’ time. Cycling memories are always there, and regardless of weather or health, I’m always planning the next ride.

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