The residual refrain: Introduction

Friday March 17, 2017

I don’t know what to say. Or maybe I don’t want to say it.

But I think it goes something like this….

Some people get a swan song when things end. Swan songers are the beautiful people – the ones with perfect or predictable lives. They are the ones who have closely followed social norms and followed a predictable path – college, marriage, dog, kids, car, house, career. They live a model life.

Swan songers make the rounds to say goodbye upon a conclusion to rapturous applause, accolades and a symphony of praise. It’s a finale fitting a life where melody, harmony and rhythm blend together for a Top 40 hit that resonates with the predictable.

But then there are those of us who receive the ‘residual refrain’ – those of us whose path in life, for whatever reason, hasn’t followed many social norms. Our endings receive nods of appreciation, or looks of “I told you so”, or pats on the back with “better luck next time”. Residual refrainers are not the beautiful people. Our paths are not predictable ones.

Let me explain further.

When you do not live a model life, you are more likely to end up with a residual. In any model, you have multiple factors that combine to predict a latent variable.

For example: Factor A (spouse) + Factor B (career) + Factor C (house) = Latent Variable (Your Life) .

Of course, this model is based on theory (and it would be more complicated with mediating and moderating variables and other stuff). It’s what you THINK will happen.

But then you get what actually happens. This difference between the predicted value (what you THINK will happen) and the observed value (what ACTUALLY happens) of that latent variable (YOUR LIFE) is the residual.

So when you think life will go one way, and it ends up another – you are dealing with a residual. And for those of us that this happens to repeatedly, well, it ends up a ‘residual refrain’.

So this trip is my residual refrain of life in Australia. It’s a short ride to say goodbye to the mountains of Victoria before I move back to America after 17 years. I don’t want to go. If I had no responsibilities to anyone but myself, I definitely would not leave. Everything, except my family, is here. But I do have responsibilities to them, so it is time to go.

I presently find the grief and loss overwhelming. I’m not sure if this ride will distract from, or compound, the loss of all that I’ve known for most of my adult life. But let’s go ride some roads and ranges that have been on our to-do list for awhile and see what happens.

The residual refrain: The route

Friday March 17, 2017

The route went through a few iterations.


I first thought maybe I should link up places I wanted to say goodbye to – places we’d gone camping or bushwalking or riding over the years that had good memories. But the more I thought about that, the more I thought I wanted to leave those places with the memories they already had.

So the next idea was a three-prong approach:

1) Link up some of the places in Victoria that I’ve been wanting to visit and roads that have always beckoned to me on the map. This would include the Nunnett and Nunniong Plains (interesting, stepped basalts and maybe a chance to see some Buchan limestones and Snowy River volcanics), the Strezlecki Ranges (interesting faults and vegetation), the Pinnacles and Bryce and Morkoka Gorges (old erosional surfaces and dissection), Freestone Creek Road (entire Devonian rock sequence exposed in road cuts) and the Acheron Way (a road through rainforest I’ve always wanted to ride).

2) I also wanted to include the Omeo Highway – I’ve ridden it twice and driven it a few times, and it is just the most fun you can have on a bike. It is my favourite road that I’ve toured in Oz, I think.

3) Since it became apparent in September 2015 that my time in Oz was most likely coming to an end, I started a quest to ride new roads each weekend in about a 150 km radius from home. I’ve documented these rides over on Neil’s Bicycle Life. See the map picture below. Even though I have covered a lot, I still need to do the Ryans Gap road over the Warbys near Wangaratta and the road over Mt Samaria.

Black lines show all of the roads we’ve ridden in the past 18 months. Wagga is to the north, Tumbarumba to the east, Omeo and Molesworth to the south, Euroa and Berrigan to the west. The red star sorta in the middle is home.

So the final route reflected the desires of the three-pronged approach, though I ended up not being able to do the Gorges and Pinnacles because of bushfires and closed roads. This meant my ride was three days shorter than I’d planned.

I also had a look at using the Jones Road out of Dargo to the Wentworth River and then down Engineers Road to Bruthen. I also had a look at the Bulumwaal Road out of Bairnsdale. I didn’t end up doing these roads, though – just not enough time for everything and you can only flog yourself on rough gravel for so long 🙂

The residual refrain: Day 2

The Warbys – Mt Samaria State Park: Pushing…

Sunday March 19, 2017, 57 miles (92 km) – Total so far: 103 miles (166 km)

The morning is cool and silent as I wake to the grey of night turning into day. We’re near the end of daylight savings, so sunrise isn’t until 7.20am. It’s 6.40am now and I soak in the quiet and the first few rustles of day. It’s as if earth has a resting pulse and we’re packing up between the long, slow beats of life. Read more

The residual refrain: Day 3

Mt Samaria State Park – Alexandra: Dirty, dirty girl

Monday March 20, 2017, 65 miles (105 km) – Total so far: 168 miles (270 km)

There is a very high chance of getting wet today. In fact, things are already wet. It rained for several hours through the early AM. My leaky tent leaked, but the extra plastic sheet I brought along has diverted the wet to places on the tent body that means my gear and I stayed dry. That’s good – the plastic sheet idea was untested prior to the trip.

I can get a couple bars of phone signal, so I check the radar. Hmmmm…. yes, there is rain out there. Read more

The residual refrain: Day 4

Alexandra – Marysville: Wisps of mist

Tuesday March 21, 2017, 25 miles (40 km) – Total so far: 193 miles (311 km)

Two twists to last night’s stories unfold this morning. First, the severe weather forecast for today looks like it is going to give me a tiny headstart to make a run for Marysville. All that rain sinking down from the north is supposed to really fire up today. A severe weather warning for strong winds, storms and flooding is forecast for most of the state. Last night, Nigel sent me a text saying “Bad weather tomorrow. Find somewhere to hole up and stay safe.” Crap, he rarely sends me text messages on the road. I usually text him something like “Alexandra safe” at the end of a day and he texts back “OK”. Read more

The residual refrain: Day 8

Darlimura – Stratford: ‘This is how cyclists die’

Saturday March 25, 2017, 71 miles (114 km) – Total so far: 379 miles (610 km)

It sounds like a painter has finished up with the latex, rinsed out his brush and is now flicking out the water onto my tent with quick, hard flicks of his wrist. The rain is light and sporadic, as if individual clouds have just had enough and decided to drop whatever they hold so they can move more quickly to the east. Read more