The Big Ride

So with 10 days left before I start the Cross Country ride, I decided that there should be some sort of way to record my trip for myself and anyone else that wants to know how I am travelling (or suffering or both). It is my intent to keep this site updated as regularly as I can but I am aware that there are some sections of the ride where there will be limited or zero reception. Where that is the case I will update once I move up the road a bit I will post updates.

I was planning on riding from Fremantle in the West to Bondi in the East, however after looking at maps, I have decided to extend the ride ever so slightly by riding from Coogee, Western Australia to Coogee New South Wales. It is just funnier this way.

The total distance will be a bit over 4100km depending on the exact route, and a bit over a month of pedalling.

Day 32. One final push

Daily distance 120km

Total distance 4032km.

I wake up 1 minute before the alarm. My stomach is full of butterflies. I suppose I am feeling a bit nervy for some reason. 

I am on the road slightly before 7am. Unlike yesterday, the hill is going the right way.  I am making ground and barely pedalling, this is what I have been chasing for the last month. 

I will be descending through some pretty nice views,  however I won’t be stopping for piccies once I am moving. 

I am making ground quickly,  what a difference a day makes. After 2 hours I am nearly at 50km. I do take the opportunity to stop for one particular sign, I am closing in on the finish line. 

 The sign is about 60km out from Sydney, but if it makes them happy….

 The highway soon turns into the M4. There is a dedicated bike lane but thanks for nothing New South Wales Roads and Traffic Authority for these drains. They are large enough to catch a mountain bike tyres. No prizes for guessing what happens if you hit one. 

After the initial 50km, the next part of the ride is slow.  Due in part to the absolutely rubbish bicycle infrastructure that Sydney possesses and the traffic. As it happens I just need to press on. The legs are suffering a bit,  somehow the flat part of the ride managed to accumulate 800m of climbing,  I did not see that coming. 

88km into my day,  I hit 4000km for the ride. I do stop for the photo. I am in picturesque area so the photo is taken. Actually if you look the other way,  not so pretty.

I press on, struggling to make decent time and in fear of being run over. The distance is dwindling and I push on heading for the coast. Nearing the end Sydney briefly gets the bike corridor right. It is a nice change for the day.

Finally after plodding along I catch my first glimpse of the Pacific Ocean. I am almost there. Well at Bondi anyway. 

A quick stop at Bondi,  it was the original finishing point. I am a bit skinnier than the photo in Western Australia 3 weeks ago. I  just need to get to  Coogee, I am off for the last time. 

I get to Coogee and head towards the surf club.  Emotions are a bit all over the place.  I have made it across the country 32 days of cycling.  Happy, tired, slightly overwhelmed I will need time to process this. 

Today was going to be a day of reflection. It turned into a survival day in Sydney traffic. It was hands down the worst day of riding on the trip, the roads were congested,  dirty and in poor repair. Emotionally I was concentrating on the bike and riding not the trip. 

I have achieved the crossing. Processing to follow. I will in the next week or so have a trip wrap up in the blog.

Thank you for your support and reading my trials and tribulations. 

Day 31. Katoomba and more hills

Daily distance 101.56km

Total distance 3912km

Daily ascent 1604m

I am on the road as the sun is rising.  It is all quiet at this time, this is not surprising given the noise I heard coming from the pubs last night.  People were drinking because there is a car race on the weekend. Anyway it suits me at the moment.

I did go past a queue of race fans trying to get a free breakfast from supercheap auto. Some of them did not look the greatest, I suspect last night was to blame. At this stage I am chuckling at them.  I had good sleep and the legs feel good,  right now.

That does not last long.  The hill climbing starts, I am turning the legs over.  I seem to gaining elevation but my horizontal speed is terrible.  I am struggling to maintain 8km/h. Yesterday’s climbing has taken its toll. I am just turning the legs over and the sweat is pouring out of me. Nearing 2 hours I finally get to the top of hill 1. 560m of climbing done,  the GPS is showing 15.4 for horizontal distance. The top of the hill is 1180m elevation, perhaps it is the lack of oxygen.

I am doing calculations in my head.  This will take me all the sunlight hours to reach Katoomba at this rate.

 I am rattled but I need to move on.  I get into the downhill section and keep trying to figure out how to get more from the legs.  They are not complaining,  just not responding.
Looking ahead I can see the mountains that I will need to get over  (or wishful thinking around). That is still some time off,  future me can deal with that.  I have more hills and I need to get to Lithgow first.

I finally get into Lithgow just on 1000m of climbing done for the day. I am not feeling super at this stage. My quick lunch stop becomes over an hour. I realise that I am getting into my own head and starting to stress about the climb up Mount Victoria. I have allowed myself to listen to people that a) don’t ride at all,  b) have never ridden up said mountain and c) generally have no idea. I am playing mind games with myself.

I just have to go.  But first I find the statue of Marjorie Jackson, the Lithgow Flash.  After the photo I am on my way.

I come across a bittersweet sign.  So close to Sydney but approaching the pass up to Mount Victoria. Only 35km to reach Katoomba. I  look at the GPS, it is only reading 41. I thought this leg was longer,  nothing to it.  Keep pedalling.

I stop at a rest stop,  there are amazing views but I don’t have the ability while going up hill or the desire to while going down hill for photos today.  The legs are still working but so slowly.

I just plug away waiting for Mount Victoria to come. In the near distance I can see the road disappear. I am near.

As I get close to the sign I am relieved to see the decimal point and my heart starts v again.

I push past the sign, the legs are pumping furiously, I can see trucks grinding up the hill in front of me, well this will be fun.

The gradient increases, it is warm.  I am looking at the line on the shoulder of the road,  not even prepared to look up.  Given my speed so far today,  I feel I will be climbing this hill for at least 40 minutes. The head is down sweat is flowing copiously dripping freely onto the road.

With my face down,  the sweat is pooling into my eyes.  It is laden with salt and sunscreen,  the eyes are stinging but there is only one thing that matters. Getting up this hill. I am peddling with everything I can get out of my legs,  unexpectedly after 20 minutes the hill flattens out and I am in Mount Victoria village.  The hill is behind me.  Nowhere as bad as I had built it up to be,  perhaps my legs are better than I give them credit for or perhaps I need to not listen to people talking crap.

I go straight for the service station,  I want a cold drink. As I get into the driveway, a large man sitting in his car eating a pie gets out and says “you just rode up the big hill,  that is awesome” and gives me a little clap.  I am pretty happy with this acknowledge him and get the drink.

I am not sure what is going on with the distances today,  nothing is matching.  At least with the hill behind me I have time for photos.

I even stop at the Majestic Hydro Pavilion  for ice cream. It is not great but in the circumstances it does nicely.

I finally get to the hotel and check in. I go through the routine and while downloading my GPS, I realise it was set in miles per hour.  Everything makes sense now.

I have time for photos of the blue mountains after checking in.

The plan for tomorrow is about a 2pm finish at Coogee. It is the final day and unless something catastrophic happens,  I think I have a better than even chance of finishing this journey.

Through surreptitious investigations I have information.

Being a slow learner, the companion had elastic straps hanging off his bike again.  One caught the back wheel and tore a spoke out of the rim.  When I read this I just laughed. He is 400km behind me now.

I am pretty sure this is not going to fix a spoke.

Day 30. Onwards to Bathurst

Daily Distance 106.84km

Total Distance 3811.31km

Daily Ascent 1360m

I woke earlier than my alarm, I think that there was some anxiety due to the few hills that I will be riding up today. As soon as I get out of bed, my legs feel like the large slugs that have previously plagued me. Nothing I can do but get some food in, get ready and start riding. 

Once on the road, there is no relief from the slugs and I just push on. The sun is just starting to rise and I will need to keep an eye on the sun glare. If the sun is shining directly down the road, drivers can’t see me and I take a bit of a rest while waiting for the sun to rise. This morning this was not necessary though and I encourage my slugs to push harder.

The legs complain, fortunately my body is not a democracy and despite the complaints, my brain has told them to shut up and drives them on, propelling me forward at a very pedestrian speed. The hills have started almost immediately from the departure and I plod along with the speed slugs can produce. 

I get an early morale boost, only 300km to Sydney and I will reduce that by 105km by the end of the day. I am planning to be in Blayney around lunch time, hills and wind not overly factored in. I am starting to think that I may be a better than even chance of getting to the finish line in 2 days time.

After the issues that I had with the Horrock’s Pass near Port Augusta, I have changed my approach to hills. The new approach is to get up any hill without stopping if possible, slowly if required but get up the thing. If I have to stop, I will but only after running out of gears. And then after recovering, I will continue. This works well for me even though at times it feels like I could be quicker if I walked backwards.

I spotted some beehives yesterday, I could actually hear them from the road. Today I go past more, I am sure that I passed plenty of others but just didn’t see them. Without the bees there are no crops so it is good to see them.

These are not the only insects that I see today. There are countless little flying insects that due to the orientation of the sun I can see coming at me like tracer rounds from a WWII movie, just before they hit me in the face or try to get in my mouth. I start riding with one hand over my mouth. This coincides with magpies, I am having fun. 

There is still plenty of photo opportunities from the top of the hills. I keep riding on up the hills, it is a large false flat and I keep pushing.

Thankfully today I could see the wind farm and the turbines were stationary. Hooray for not riding into a cyclonic wind.

After hours of plodding along, I finally approach a decent downhill just before the town of Blayney. I don’t have the photo on the Blayney sign as I was travelling over 60km/h and I was not stopping at this stage, the legs were still heavy and any gains at this stage were hard won. Once in Blayney I get some food and replenish water and sugar. I take close to an hour to rest (actually avoid more hills). 

The main road of the town, is quite busy and I found a good range of food options. The roads are busy with people travelling to Bathurst for the upcoming car races. 

I can’t put off the departure any longer and I jump on the bike. I notice the difference immediately, it is like I have changed legs while I stopped. The slugs have been replaced with pistons (still slow speed) but happy to just go on and on by the feel of things.

Shortly after leaving Blayney, all my birthdays and New Years Eve celebrations all come at once. Long, steep descent. I read this as “you have a chance to break 70km/h”. I wait for a break in traffic and I am off. I quickly run out of gears for my leg speed and I just tuck in. 

A quick glance at my GPS, 72, 73, it tops out at 74.5km/h, The quick descent is over in less than 2 minutes and as a bonus I managed to wear out my brakes at the back to allow me to make a corner without impacting any oncoming traffic. Google to the rescue, I find a bike shop near my accomodation, that will be the first stop.

While riding I like to help the community so here is today’s assistance. The chicken comes first, I still have not seen Egg Lane.

Getting into Bathurst the legs are still feeling good. And I find the bike shop.

I am greeted at the door by the “guard” dog. She is just sitting outside in the sun. Apparently people visit the shop just to see her. I get to pat the dog for 40 minutes while the brakes are being replaced. 

Definitely two polar opposites for the day. The first part was just survival mode and the second part was just good fun. 

The climbing today was the most that I have ever achieved on any of my bikes in a single day. On a lighter bike I am sure I could have done more. Tomorrow I find out if I can go one better than today.

After doing some calculations I will make it over 4000km in total. The missed Adelaide detour will cut about 150km from the original plan.

Day 29. Cowra

Daily distance 162km

Total distance 3604km

After a good sleep in a bed. I was off at first light again.  After looking at the map last night I have opted for a back road instead of the main highway.  Less traffic,  less maintained but so much more pleasurable than having trucks speeding past my shoulder.

The landscape changes almost immediately, small hills and larger ones in the distance. I have definitely left the flats that make up the Hay Plain. I decided to send all my camping gear home today,  so my mission is to find a post office and offload some weight.  

There is not much happening in the landscape. Paddocks of canola edged by eucalyptus trees for kilometres. It is good riding,  not much traffic, plenty of birds (most of which do not swoop me). The types of birds are changing as well,  there are plenty of sulphur crested cockatoos and rosellas which I have not seen recently. I  pedal on. 

The area is still flat. Apparently so flat the area floods occasionally,  I am not sure if the floods are due to rivers or just rain but it can get deep here. It is such a large area with no discernible incline that it is difficult to appreciate. 

I have decided not to go swimming in any of the lakes despite the picturesque settings. The ducks were not happy with me stopping anyway I was not going to further harass the animals so I pedal on. 

 Still looking for a post office,  I come to the town of Grenfell, birthplace of Henry Lawson (who knew), although the annual festival should have been an indicator. 

The town itself is well maintained and quite vibrant. I find a bakery and go for sandwiches. While eating I get into a conversation with a guy who road from Brisbane to Cairns on a bike that he described as old then in 1985. He was very keen to keep talking and I had to forcefully excuse myself eventually. 

I find the post office.  Time to get rid of the excess weight.  Tent,  sleeping bag all my cooking gear. That will save me so much effort on the upcoming hills.  I grab a box stuff everything in, go to the counter. It is just 4kg, I am feeling quite deflated. I was hoping for 8kg, I suppose that means I didn’t drag extra across the majority of the country.

I pedal on heading for Cowra.

Scenery is spectacular as I cover the final 40km for the day.  There are a few hills but they give me great photo opportunities. 

I know that there is a large drop into Cowra and have decided it is time for this bike to break the 60km/h mark if I can. As I approach the crest of the hill the road disappears and I know I have a chance. Pedalling with gusto and going through my gears I top out at 69.9km/h. Happy with the 60km/h annoyed I missed 70. I will take the wins I can. 

I arrive in Cowra, it was a long day.  I am feeling amazing but tired, that is the last of the long rides (well horizontal distance anyway). Tomorrow is another leg day, about 1200m of ascent. 

I check into the motel and start to get sorted for the next day.  The bike was happy with the roof overhead,  as was I.

Sleep and food are on my agenda right now.  I am off to find food. 

Day 28. West Wyalong 

Daily distance 149km

Departing the Goolgowi caravan park as the sun started to make its mark,  I was on my way for the last of the truly flat days of riding.  The first part of the day did not provide much to look at, trees lining fields of grain. Not that it is a terrible view.

 There was some mildly amusing signage to keep me entertained. Not sure exactly what children this sign is warning drivers about, but there it is. 

There is a nice tailwind and I am really enjoying the ride.  The road is billiard table flat,  it is a great day to be on the road. 

I arrive in the town of Rankins Springs.  I head for the service station after correctly guessing nothing else would be open on the public holiday. The lady behind the counter says pump 2 as I walk in.  No,  I am actually on my bike.

After a brief conversation she does not charge me for my drink as I am not asking for donations and she is sick of people begging for charity apparently. Score me. 

As I leave the town I come across this silo.  You don’t need to have plain designs. 

I stop stop for lunch in the town of Weethalle. They do a good job on their silos too. Just before I head off I notice that I have lost pressure in the back tyre.  My first puncture.  I just plan to inflate every 10km.

The universe has other ideas.  10km on I attach the pump, put some air in.  Then Bang. The entire valve blows off. I think I will change the tyre after all. Not happy. 

I just plod along with the new tyre, the landscape is not changing and my day is now dragging out. I make the decision to find a room tonight, the tent needs a clean anyway. 

I get to West Wyalong after over 10 hours. The town is a lot larger than I thought it would be and I have no problem finding a room.  The day went from good to fairly ordinary but I am chugging along and have less than 500km to go.  The end is visible.

Day 27. Goolgowi

The countdown is on.  It was chilly this morning.  Looking for my cold weather gloves I realised that they have been sent home with the other stuff I thought I needed when discarding excess weight. A caravaner took pity on me and gives me some knitted ones.  I politely take them suspecting they will be completely ineffective.  Turns out I was right.  Cold fingers it is then on my departure. 

Despite the very low waters,  the locals are blaming farmers upstream and South Australia for complaining about the lack of water they get,  the Murrumbidgee River is a spectacular farewell from Hay. 

So with a slight breeze and cold hands I take off. Hay gives me one more unexpected history lesson at the site of the former POW camp. I am not sure I agree with the plaque but there it is.  I won’t rant here about it. 

The Mid Western Highway is not maintained as well as some of the previous roads, however this sign which signifies I am closing in on the finish makes up for the road. At least initially. I will be stopping at West Wyalong tomorrow and Bathurst 2 days later. 

There is less to see today than yesterday which is saying something.  I am cruising along when I start on the distance calculations.  It is Sunday the local shop closes at 2pm. At this speed I will get there at 3pm. What, wait.  Recalculate.  I get a move on,  pressing the pedals with gusto, I want to get to the shop as tomorrow is a public holiday. I push through the extended nothingness. 

Well there is some things photo worthy out here as it turns out. Not my cup of tea but I am sure some people attend.

It’s not huge,  however graffiti free it would be a great picture.

I am now pushing along at 25km/h when I am forced to slow down.  The local speed restriction device is working a treat. I am not sure what it is protecting or preventing but at least there is a warning. 

Nearing 4 weeks I spot a bike coming towards me.  I pull up for a chat.  He does not but tells me he is off to Gol Gol. At least if he doesn’t make it he has enough stuff to start his own town.  That interaction did not go as I  thought it would. 

I pedal on.  The landscape is changing subtly. More farming, more undulating road, more interesting.  I am making reasonable time and will make the shop. 

I pass big piles of hay, nice picture. And pedal on. Not much else going on. 

I come to Goolgowi well in time for the shops. I ease off now as I am in no hurry. I am only 2km out and can’t see the town,  it will not be big. 

I get to the shop.  I need not have hurried, it is barely stocked. I did a Gatorade and go looking for the caravan park. Following the signs I find it.  Not quite what I thought I would find but it still do. Just a park on the road. 

Tomorrow the first of the hills for the last few days.  Time for sleep. 

Day 26. The Hay Plain

Daily Distance 131km

Total Distance 3290km

I got off to an early start. Having driven across the Hay Plain a few times, I was not looking forward to today. There is nothing between Balranald and Hay so I loaded up with water and left near first light.

I watched the birds as I started riding. Eagles soaring on the wind, kookaburras and parrots starting their cacophany. The wind is coming from over my shoulder, a good sign for the day ahead.

I have started the day quite slowly, it is cool but nothing like yesterday so I take my time to warm up. A few corners and the wind hits me in the back like a train.

I am moving along in the low 20s without too much effort. I am hoping this keeps up as I still have 125km according to the sign to go. Based on my previous efforts that is about 7 hours in the saddle. I go on, there is not much to see out here.
The wind is whisking me along nicely and there is not much traffic, the day is starting out nicely. There is a little greenery but otherwise it is shades of brown. The wind pushes me along and I pedal on.

The first hour passes and I am a little under 20km/h. I know with the wind this will increase. The second hour is better and I am soon over the 20km/h. I am not overly exerting myself and the speed is holding. Happy Days.

The most exciting thing I see in the first 3 hours is a herd of curious cows. Some of them actually walk towards the fence to have a look at me, it makes a nice change from the animals running away from me. A quick look and the cows are off, so am I. The wind is picking up and I am having a ball.

Something new for the Hay Plain for me anyway. Agriculture. The watering system is huge and the crops seem to be doing well. At least the plain is good for something.

I push along and as the wind increases the temperature is starting to slowly. There is nothing to see here at the moment until…

I would have gone for a swim but the shorts are at the bottom of my bag. I am not convinced that the sign is actually needed.

There is the occassional building, a few passing vehicles and nothing else. This is how I remember the plain.

The clouds eventually clear and the wind starts to change direction, but I have broken the back of the ride today. As long as it does not become head on, I am happy.

I arrive in Hay, in less than 6 hours. I am quite pleased with this. I have time to get sorted with food, showering and all in time to watch some football game. Yep, today was alright.