How I uncovered some long-lost Go-Betweens pictures

It began with a desperate call from my Dad. He’d lost his birth certificate and citizenship papers. Were they in that box of his old negatives and prints he’d given me during 2020’s lockdown he asked.

He was applying for a new passport and mumbled something about getting deported. I said I’d look and call him back. I soon found the papers he was after but in doing so I saw a picture of a smiling blonde woman lying on a bed, holding a hairbrush. I’d completely forgotten about this strange image.

I’d rung my mum when I first saw it and said, “Is this Lindy Morrison?” Mum had explained it was indeed Lindy from the Go-Betweens. But this was a promotional shot taken by my father for a play Lindy was acting in a year or so before she had joined the band.

Once Dad had calmed down he said the play was called “The Kiss” which was written by someone called Jackie McKimmie.

I began to wonder if Lindy had a copy of this photo – or had even seen it. That night I messaged Adele Pickvance who played bass for the reformed Go-Betweens — someone I knew through my days playing in a rock band with Wintah Thompson – the son of another member of the reformed Go-Betweens – Glenn Thompson. Glenn is also famous for drumming in Custard.

So Adele got permission and I soon had Lindy’s email. I waited until the next day and fired off a message with a copy of the photo. Very soon I got a wonderful reply.

She was delighted. “You have no idea how much joy this photo gives me,” she wrote. “I have nothing but a poster from this period….It was such a great play. Such a great time.”

I wrote back promising a better scan as I’d only taken an iPhone photo of the print. Plus I said I’d have a dig around those negatives because I suspected there were other photos she might be interested in.

Photo: Paul Hannah

See back in 2020 I had had a cursory look at those negs. Dad had dabbled in photography in the late 70s and early 80s. A few weddings, some sports photography for The Sun newspaper. He’d even had a Polaroid camera and had gone to restaurants seeing if punters were interested in a picture for a small fee. (Of course none of those ended up in this collection.)

There was a pub shoot of a 1979 meeting of the Brisbane Poets Union with some extra shots taken out the back of the Pink Palace Apartments on a massive fire-escape. These shots ended up in Time Off and in the UQ student paper — Semper Floreat. And there were many more shots from the play Lindy was in – all on negative film.

Photo: Paul Hannah

Now I was determined to have a proper look at all this stuff so I bought a cheap negative scanner from the internet and a few weeks later it arrived.

I got stuck in and after a few hours I had got through most of the film but there was a grubby bag leftover labeled my aunt’s engagement. I almost didn’t bother looking at these but I eventually pulled them out and sure enough the first 9 or 10 shots were of the happy couple but then there were shots of a weird party with a band I didn’t recognise. (There was even a couple lying on the floor pretending to be dead.) I texted my aunt and she was equally mystified: there was no party for her engagement. 

But then I got caught up in tracking down everyone in the other pictures. My mum’s friend and my old boss Robert Whyte helped by sending me the Time Off story for the poet’s union. The big group picture was thankfully captioned and I reunited lots of people with pictures of themselves they hadn’t realised (or had forgotten) existed.

Meanwhile my dad managed to identify those party shots as a pretend “Wake” my mum had held for the funding cut which led to the cancelation of the 1978 Queensland University Review. Another important detail here is that my mother worked at Activities in UQ and was part of the production team for that play Lindy was in. She had roped my father in to taking all those promo shots — perhaps for flyers, posters etc.

My mum on left. Photo: Paul Hannah

Then I was at my sister’s place on Sunday afternoon and telling her the story. She used to work at State Library and suggested I get in touch with John Willsteed – another member of the Go-Betweens and a local academic and according to my sister — a good old-fashioned local historian and archivist. That night I sent him a Facebook message and started feeding him random images. Turns out John used to live in the Pink Palace and he recognised a few people. He sent me his number and I promised to get in touch the next day.

So I had a chat with John, told him the story so far and he was keen for me to write everything down and submit the pictures to State Library. I said, “No problem!” And in the meantime I promised to send him the rest of the scans.

Later that day I dumped them all on him in a series of emails. And at the end I decided to tack on those images of the “wake party” and the band which I assumed were just the entertainment that night. I labeled the photo “Mystery Band”.

Next thing I know John sends me a message saying the mystery band was in fact The Go-Betweens. Like THE GO-BETWEENS. One of the most, if not THE most, iconic bands from Brisbane. One of my favourite bands it should be said too. And here I was, the biggest dork in the world, sending someone an image of the band he was actually a part of, with a message practically saying I have no idea who these jokers are.

In my defence it is Tim Mustafa on drums, Grant McLennan has an odd haircut and Robert Forster is looming in the dark in a difficult profile. Plus the image was taken over a year before Lindy joined. You kinda forget that there was an extended period when Lindy wasn’t part of the band in their formative period.

Photo: Paul Hannah

And then a whole lot of things made sense. Growing up I knew my mum had some connection to the Go-Betweens. In my head over the years the story became mum had given the Go-Betweens their very first gig. And this was at the UQ Student Union refectory. And so in 1997 the very first gig my own band ever played happened to be supporting Custard and Grant McLennan. After our soundcheck I brazenly went up to Grant and said as much and he was very polite and pretended it might be true. And then I think I backtracked – maybe it was just your first paying gig? Maybe you were just, like, at a party…? Oh gosh!

And then of course all those documentaries came out and I did my own research and eventually read Robert Forster’s book and there was never any mention of a gig at the Student Union Refec. I cringed over and over at what I had said to Grant that night. And much, much later I met Robert Forster a few times but every time I carefully took note to never mention that story.

But now there might be some truth to it. It was definitely not their first gig – but it was most definitely one of their earliest. And these pictures are perhaps some of the very first of the band performing — and the very first time they have been seen. I certainly cannot find any image of Tim Mustafa playing with Grant and Robert – so there is that.

CODA

After all this I sent my dad a message: “You know that picture you took of the band at the Wake? You won’t believe who they are.”

All photos below: Paul Hannah

The Brisbane Poet’s Union on the fire escape behind the “Pink Palace”; Photo Paul Hannah

HELSINKI – September 8-9

Had my entire backpack searched at the airport security in A’DAM. I was cool with that, but boy oh boy — they were thorough. I got in trouble because I didn’t realise I should have taken my camera and the iPhone charger out of my pack and put into one of the trays (just like the lappy). Look — I travel quite a bit and this was the first time I had encountered these regulations. Anyway I did my best to be polite and apologetic.

On the flight we tried one of Ben Law’s little tips. We deliberately booked a window seat (me) and an aisle seat (Dee) separated by an empty seat (some random who we could negotiate with later). It was genius. Thanks Ben! No one got booked into that middle seat and we had our row to ourselves. Pity it was only a 2 hour flight.

Over Helsinki we swapped seats and Dee got a decent look at all the lakes of her homeland. “It’s the land of a thousand lakes,” she said, quite authoritatively. And it looked true. They were everywhere down there. But as I learnt later — there are about 188 THOUSAND lakes in Finland. So Dee was basically lying. I am used to that.

Anyway I bloody dare you to look up Google maps and witness all that land vs puddle bullshit. It is bloody crazy. Wait. I can do that for you just cause I am a decent guy. Observe:

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We should establish at this outset that Dee is 1/4 Fnnish. Her mother’s maiden name is the unpronounceable “Veijalainen”. Phonetically you could get away with saying VAY-A-LINE-ANN.

A BIT ABOUT FINLAND FROM WHAT I COULD GATHER INITIALLY

Finland has a population of about 5.5 million people, so about a quarter that of Australia. It’s relatively flat — didn’t see any mountains or even that many hills. Lots of lakes and ocean coastline — as mentioned previously. Finland has been around as an autonomous state only about 100 years. Was part of Sweden for a bit (in Helsinki all road signs are in Finnish and Swedish), then Russia (further east you get the road signs begin in Finnish, then below is the Swedish, then below that is the Russian). Finland allied with the Nazis at the beginning of WWII and fought the “Winter War” with Russia and punched well above it’s weight. (But in the peace deal, possibly cause it killed a highly disproportionate amount of Ruskies (compared to Finns) — it lost quite a bit to Russia.) Mostly it has been pushing against Russia, rather than Sweden. Monuments and markers of the War(s) are everywhere here.

The language is like nothing I have ever heard before. Apparently it has more in common with central-eastern Europe than Scandinavia or even Russian. It is still a tiny bit high-pitched, but not sing-song like Norwegian. Everyone seemed to speak an incredible amount of English so you can truly get away with “Hei” (Hello) and “Kiitos” (Thank you).

Sauna is a big deal over here. You pronounce it “Sour-nah”. According to wikipedia there are over 3 million saunas in Finland. Than is over one sauna for every two inhabitants. Wiki: “Finns think of saunas not as a luxury, but as a necessity. Before the rise of public health care and nursery facilities, almost all Finnish mothers gave birth in saunas.” We got to experience this all first-hand. But more on that later!

FIRST DAY

We arrived by train from the airport and found our way to the hotel which was basically in the dead centre of town. We had missed lunch and it was now too late so Dee sent me on a mission to find snacks, a drink, fruit and a tinned coffee. But finding a convenience store was a super-challenge. I got the fruit (berries) just at a market-kart near the station but failed on most of the other criteria. Finland has that thing where you can only buy booze at State-run facilities. And these can be hard to find if you don’t know where to look.

Meanwhile my phone-card from the UK refused to work so on the agenda for that night’s activities was to get a cheap Finnish phone plan. We eventually found R-Kioski. Pretty much exactly like a 7-11 but it also had these massive gambling machines (like Pokies) in a corner. Very weird.

Later we scrambled around to the big sights like the Cathedrals and the big Square and the waterfront. Dinner was at this pub place around the corner.

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SUOMENLINNA

So in Finnish – “Linna” basically means fortress or castle. We got to see a few other “Linnas” around the place. The vibe in Finland is that it is a tiny country squished between superior nations but it will defend itself to the hilt. To the HILT. And “Suomen” is basically the word for Finland. So Suomenlinna is a bit of a big deal. And it isn’t just one island. It is six islands connected by bridges. There’s a bunch of people that live there permanently. There’s even a school. And just quietly — the Pokemon were going riot over there. I saw a bunch of kids who had obviously skipped school just to go nuts over there.

The place was huge and there were always tiny nooks and details of the fortifications to look at and explore unimpeded. Tunnels and ramparts and actual batteries. Plus cute houses and views over the sea towards Estonia. It made the our pathetic “fort” in Brisbane (Fort Lytton) look pretty ordinary.

Lunch was at a ramen place. Look — it is so much easier ordering food in the language it was invented in when you are in a place that is a billion miles away. So consequently there is cultural neutral-zone.You kinda appear quite knowledgeable, and be a deadshit tourist at the same time. It’s a level playing field. “Tonkotsu Ramen Kiitos.” And then you can proceed to know the condiments and use the chopsticks (and spoon) with super-dexterity. It is a revelation. (ASIDE: In London we would order Pho, but we would get the kudos by pronouncing it “Fir”.)

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BOMFUNK MC’s

Here’s the thing – I will not try to pretend this next bit wasn’t tragic. It is what it is. I have been the biggest fan of this song, and it’s film-clip. Like almost equally. It is just the perfect marriage of sound and vision (and dancing). One of the very first children’s shows on TV I watched was called “Words and pictures”. And that was what it was about. Perfect. Art or just lowly “entertainment” wasn’t necessarily confined to just one medium at the same time. You could be the best of both or all worlds at the very same time.

Anyway this film-clip was so amazing and I just had to go there. Luckily the wikipedia page had the very specifics so I could go there and KNOW I was in exactly the same place. Nothing was changed. I even attempted to play the song on my iPhone but accidentally sent the music LIVE to everyone on the train cause I hadn’t quite got my headphone jack connected. Dee was horrified, but I didn’t care.

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NEXT!

That night we had dinner in some brewery and prepared for the next day into the heart of Finland via Dee’s great-uncle — Marku. He was picking us up at 8am.

BONUS PICS

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IMG_0895.JPGSome art installation!

GUEST BLOG – Jess writes about the Redhead Festival

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My take on Redhead Days is a little different to Davey’s… While I fully sympathise with the plight of the downtrodden gingers, wept for the guy in the Being Ginger Netflix documentary, and would argue strongly that the lack of ginger emojis is a mild form of racism… I myself never endured any ginger torment as a child.

Sure, there were what Dee would call my “terminally ill years” between the age of ten and 15, before braces and eyebrow tinting, but even through those awkward teenage times, if I had a dollar for every time someone asked, “Is that your natural hair colour?” I’d have enough money to hit up every ginger festival in every country every year.

I know this makes me (even more of) a minority, and I consider myself lucky for never having been made to feel embarrassed about my hair colour. (Except maybe for the time I dated a guy who turned out to be obsessed with Annie, and I only found out when he introduced me to his grandmother, who said, “Oh, she does look like Annie!” That was awkward.) My ginger pride stems from my upbringing, and the strong female gingers I had as role models – my beautiful mum, who I watched being constantly adored by my dad, and my fiery aunty, a total knockout loved by everyone. I don’t even know if you could call it “ginger pride”… Our hair colour, while acknowledged and celebrated, was just a small part of who we are. It was a non-issue, so I never had to overthink it, and I just kinda liked my hair colour. Even appreciated that it made me a little different.

So for me, Redhead Days seemed like a bit of fun. Something that would make a cool story… “Yeah, so I’m traveling through Europe for six months, and my first stop is a little town in the Netherlands for a three-day celebration of gingers.” Why not?!

But then I arrived in Breda, and my little ginger bubble burst. For the first time in my life, I actually felt self-conscious about my hair colour. While there was a strong sense of solidarity amongst the gingers, it was the non-ginger ginger enthusiasts that really made me uneasy. All of a sudden I was on display, and I didn’t like it one bit.

Standing in the town square, men with cameras would swarm and take photos of me like I was an animal in the zoo. One guy got so close I had to give him an “I can see you” eyebrow raise so that he’d back off.

Probably the most unsettling encounter was with a (non-ginger) guy from Vienna who claimed to be a journalist. He approached Dee & me in the park one afternoon looking for a story, with a bottle of coke and pack of cigarettes his only tools of trade. Within five minutes of awkwardly sleazy chitchat, he was convinced he and I were “the perfect pair” and suggested we be Facebook friends. Feeling a little flirty (in hindsight, foolish!) from the wine, I said that if he could find me at the pub crawl later that night, we could make that happen. He did find me. Twice. At two different pubs, among hundreds of gingers. In the dark of night in a foreign town, he seemed even more creepy than during the day, forcing me to make a French exit and go home to bed.

The official group photo was the last straw. Being herded into the photo location space, and then separated by a barrier from the non-gingers while the photographers snapped at us from the top of a cherry picker, just felt a little too much.

So while Redhead Days was an interesting experience, I was relieved when the weekend came to an end, and I could just throw my hair up in a ponytail and move on. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d washed and blow dried my hair three days in a row. Because hey, if I’m going to be photographed unknowingly, I want to be looking my best. 💁 (Blonde emoji used for lack of a ginger one.)

And here’s Jess’s blog: The End of August

Killarney Overnightah — NIGHT 1, DAY 2

A Thing From DAY 1 (see it here) I Forgot To Mention:

At maybe the 4th or 5th Condamine river crossing we see this 4WD waiting for us to finish crossing. It’s completely stopped at the other side. In no time we get out of the river and then the car sets off and just starts gunning it across the river as fast as it could go — so unnecessarily. It was bouncing all over the place and making such a racket. We all just lol’d. That’s not how you do it. Duggie said (like he was talking to the driver), “Dude, the river isn’t that deep. If I dipped my dick in the water I wouldn’t even get my balls wet.” TRUE STORY. 

THE PUB

So it was about 3:30pm when we got to the pub. Killarney Hotel is definitely a country pub. Lining up at the bar was a genuine cowgirl in boots with spurs. Later Scott was like, “I only thought that stuff existed in old movies.” Dan went inside to sort out the rooms but then he was back saying they didn’t have my booking for the motel section. Argh! But they did have a room upstairs and so I took that. We all paid upfront and I was desperate to get outta my kit so I raced upstairs with my bike. Then I hear this, “Excuse me love…” And it was one of the hotel workers telling me to put my bike in the shed out the back. “Is it secure?” I said and she said it would get locked later. Last time we were here we got to put our bikes in our rooms. Oh well.

After I had changed Scott and I went out to the shed to check it out. There were kegs and cartons of beer and hay bails so we figured there’d be no way they’d leave it unlocked overnight.

20160521_193556_zpstmd9tqs0Later in the night Dan took this shot. Someone had hidden or secured or just dumped some hay in front of our rigs. Hmm

INDIGESTION

Just after we had arrived in town we had convened at the local Foodworks and I had scoffed down 2 of their rather dated-looking sausage rolls (plus an ice-coffee and a coke) and then after my first beer once we got to the pub it all felt super-tight in my stomach and I had to go for a bit of a walk to get things loosened up again. So I was a couple of beers behind when I got back. We were all camped out in the smokers section on the front deck.

I went inside and found a spare form-guide and stuffed my Condamine-soaked-through shoes with the scrunched up paper. Later I found more newspaper and did the same to everyone else’s shoes. They would thank me later for that bit of genius.

Some locals started talking to us — a little patronisingly it should be said. But we didn’t care. We were on our best behaviour and having a good time. There was a lot of hi-fiving and back slapping and talk of how tough the day had been. I asked Duggie if he would have included that first detour loop if he knew how epic the ride would be and he said, “No…I wouldn’t…but I’m glad we did it. You know?” And I totally understood what he meant and agreed. It hurt, but it really gave the ride something special.

IMG_0003Here’s Scott getting acquainted with the pub-dog.

FOOD

After a tag-team system we were soon all showered and changed and the pub was now getting pretty busy. Lots of guys in cowboy hats. Lots of kids in cowboy hats. Heaps of people wearing sleeveless puffy jackets. To order food you lined up at a section of the bar. We let the line-up get a little shorter and then jumped on it. Most of us ordered this steak sandwich and James Squire combo deal for $15. Bargain. But the barman looked a bit perplexed at this fancy city-beer and had a bit of trouble finding them.

After hoofing down all our meals and sides (I think Scott had two mains) Duggie then spied the jukebox and as we all had unwanted coins weighing down our kit we all pooled our resources. And Duggie set about queuing up the next 50 or so songs. (Only a slight exaggeration). He said there was a LOT of Pantera. Thankfully he didn’t select any of those tracks.

FRIENDS

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Suddenly we were back in the smoker’s lounge opposite a group of three women. Gradually we all got talking. I think the two pub puppies facilitated things. (They belonged to the pub but the two cats were strays they said). We were all having a good time but it seems there was some politics going on that we weren’t aware of. Suddenly that famed “country hospitality” wasn’t as forthcoming. Some of the staff seemed to be a little upset. Agitated even. Unfortunately (or fortunately) I didn’t get to witness much of this as I crashed into bed at 9:30 well before stuff escalated. So what follows is sometimes what I remember, and sometimes what I was told the next day.

I’m gonna try and be impartial here. So I will just point out the case against us and you can decide.

1) We drank everyone under the table. I certainly thought I might get refused service when I started buying rumbos. Scott said exactly the same thing.

2) We were eating some snackfood (like nuts and chips) from the Foodworks. And I guess that is a bit uncool seeing as they were selling that sort of stuff too.

3) I bet the tracks Duggie picked on the jukebox hadn’t been ever, ever been played in that place.

4) We were just being friendly with some local ladies and how were we to know their facebook status might have been set to “It’s Complicated”.

5) And I guess we were charming and funny and super cool. I can understand our awesomeness was a bit confronting.

6) We were a pack of blow-ins on push bikes for Christ sake. How offensive can you get?

7) And yes, we did stay up a bit late… More on that later.

According to Scott the staff suddenly called last drinks just before 11pm while there was still 20 people about. The 4 crew remaining went upstairs to the back balcony with some takeaways. Some of you may have seen *that* Instagram pic of Duggie. Here it is in case you missed it:

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I think Dan wandered off to bed next. Then Duggie. But Scott and Wookie were still socialising.

1:30AM

At about 1:30am I drifted out of sleep. My room was at the farthest end of the hall — next to the bathroom. All of us had been put in the southern wing of the hotel in rooms 1 to 5. I think I heard the lady that organised our rooms saying that she had put us all together and kinda implied that we were away from other guests.

IMG_0005This was my bed BTW. My feet went way over the end.

And by the sound coming from across the hall I just prayed that was the case. By “sound” I mean a woman giggling and then a voice I kinda recognised as maybe Scott delivering another zinger — then more giggling. The walls of this place were paper thin. Ancient VJs. And Scott seemed to have a lot of zingers up his sleeve. Far more than Bill Shorten.

Eventually I drifted back to sleep praying we wouldn’t get in trouble. Then at approximately 2:15am I woke up busting for a pee. Just as I stood up out of bed I hear this BANG and then a bit of muffled commotion, the toilet being used (rather noisily) and definitely no more zingers. Then silence. But by then I had dived back into bed and folded my legs together and willed myself back into slumber. At dawn I was woken by cows bleating and then bizarrely a voice coming from a loud speaker quite a long distance away. The Country is weird.

I went to the bathroom and then as I came out this random guy was coming in through the still dark hall and I said, “G’Day” but he just kinda gruffed at me.

“Oh man.” I thought. He must hate me (us). I looked up the hall and the only open door was only metres away from what I assumed was the centre of all that partying just 4 hours ago.

By 6:30 I was downstairs and made myself a coffee (I didn’t realise they still sold International Roast) and read the paper — which incredibly was the Sunday edition: pretty civilised for the Country. Then that guy from before was there. I said hello again as warmly as I could manage expecting some more grief, but he must have mellowed after his shower and he said “Hi”. I waited a minute then asked him what he was up to today. He was doing the 10k fun-run up to Queen Mary Falls which started at 7:15. Right! Duggie had warned me about this. One of his mates was doing it too. We caught up with her later.

It took quite a while for anyone else to join me. Eventually Wookie was down and I set about getting the bikes out of the shed. The air was pretty crisp but it wasn’t brutally cold. I was comfortable in my kicks with arm and leg warmers to cover almost every other bit of my appendages. I guessed it was just above 10 degrees. (No where near as cold as last time we were here).

Soon Duggie was down and then Dan looking far more rested than anyone. When I brought up the delicate details of what happened last night it seemed Dan was even more oblivious than me – having slept like a log the whole night through. Jelly.

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COMMOTION? (OR WOOKIE TAKES A STAND)

So then I quizzed Wookie and Duggie about just what had gone down last night. And we all had to be very quiet cause it was so early and we had some controversial subjects to discuss. But I slowly pieced together what that commotion just after 2PM was all about. I can’t really explain it, but all I can say is that Wookie had had enough and banged on Scott’s door demanding the partying ended and that led to some guests leaving and the hotel being dead-quiet again. As far as I know everyone got home safely.

WAKE UP SCOTTY (part 2)

So for the second time in two days I was the designated “get Scott outta bed” guy. My first strategy was creeping up the creaky stairs and quietly knocking on his door. Unfortunately no one knew the exact number of his room. So I ended up knocking on this door and an old guy emerged looking entirely mystified. At least he was dressed I thought.

I apologised as profusely (and as silently) as I could manage and then knocked on the door next. No answer. Not even any stirring.

Back downstairs we collectively decided I should try calling him. Ring. Ring. And then, “…Hello.” Thankfully he sounded quite composed. “Time to get up Scotty,” I said. “Ok.” he replied. And though it took him a lot longer to get ready this time, he was downstairs and eating breakfast and looking quite decent. I gave him the sliver of Panadol I had left after me and Duggie had got stuck into it. He was very excited about that.

The dude who I had just met upstairs (and his mate) were now downstairs in the backyard area with us having a durrie. They didn’t seem to have noticed (or cared) about all that nocturnal partying.

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DAY 2

So that part of the adventure over and we were rolling again. About 7ks in and we were starting that climb up to Queen Mary Falls. Immediately we saw the straggling runners on the road from that running thing. I felt I needed to say hi to all of them I was passing but after about 50 I just kept rolling and minded my own business. Most of them looked like they were cooked and didn’t really mind having to make an extra effort of saying “Hi” back at me.

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20160522_0821010_zpsalrhfkzrThis was a thing. At least twice up the climb. (photo by Dan)

20160522_081427_zpscvxm9dtfThe runner’s sag-wagon. (Photo by Dan)

We stripped off all our extra layers only about 600m into the climb. Just above where this Dan’s pic was taken. It was getting warm. Duggie got to say HI to his pal and at the top it was madness with runners and buses and cars everywhere. But the climb wasn’t over and we headed up to the Carr’s lookout about 15ks from the bottom.

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A quick stop at the lookout and we were into that first crazy downhill. (3km of nuts-berg) I warned everyone as much as I could about how steep it was and how it had this left-hand hairpin which had almost been my undoing last time I was here.

We made it down safely and the cows on the verge at the plateau didn’t mind us (unlike last time). I forgot to tell you that on Saturday we had to deal this massive cow chewing the grass on the verge half on the road and seemingly oblivious to us. I was leading and came to a complete stop about 30 metres away. Despite it being midway through a downhill section I signalled to everyone to stop and while everyone skidded to a halt Scotty did a big “WHOOP!” and the cow freaked out and charged away — we resumed rolling.

The next descent was steeper and longer and there were bunches of motorbikes coming up at the same time. When I saw the first bunch I was so freaked out I did a few skids in my attempt to lock-off some speed. (Last time we had this road to ourselves cause of that fallen tree blocking all traffic right at the bottom.) So I was at least 200 metres behind everyone else. The disc brakes on this rigs were now whining and sounded like they were rubbing the pads. Scott explained that when they get that cooked they can get warped by the heat.

WINDMILLS

So I had missed this IN-JOKE about spotting windmills that Duggie and Wookie had designed. Anytime you called out a windmill you got a point. So at the end of this ride the stakes were high. Everyone except me and Scott were on almost equal points — at about 4 each. So there was a bit of competition happening. Anytime a ridge was looming it was best to be in front just in case you got the first to spot one. And Scott was now in on it too after getting a single point on the board and thinking with just 20ks to go he was still a chance. It took a bit of getting used to when someone would SCREAM and POINT and I thought the world was coming to an end — but it was just another one calling out a windmill.

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Naturally Scott the most enthusiastic. I tried to get on board but the only contribution I made it was a tie with Duggie. Oh well. At a few points right in the death the crew was swaggering all over the road not concentrating at all on the conditions desperately looking at the country on either side like a new-age Don Quixote. At a few points I almost ran up the back of someone who just decided to stall while they scanned the horizon or wondered if a car smashing over a crest would wipe someone out because they were drunkenly taking up all sides of the bitumen.

So the tally was:

DUGGIE, WOOKIE and DAN — 6

SCOTT — 4

ME — (1)

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HURTING

I was really suffering in the last bit. It was hot and I wasn’t getting enough food or water in me. My kit had that halo of extreme salt-sweat. I had really underestimated how brutal this section was. Exposed to the sun and a lot of shitty little climbs right at the end. I had no chance of spotting windmills let alone keeping my shit together. Thankfully Wookie got a flat (sorry Brad) and I got a decent rest and a chance to stock up on fluids and food.

But then we were back at Mt Alford and the windmill prize was divided equally. Thankfully the cars were just as we had left them. The pub was open and we packed up our gear and I was first to stumble inside — I was so cooked. I started looking around a little bleary from all that previous effort. The place looked kinda nice. I found my way to a menu sitting on the bar with a sign saying “Order All Food Here”. And then I hear this rather annoyed voice saying, “Kitchen doesn’t open until 12”. It came from a woman sitting at a table all by herself who just might have looked related to that grumpy staffer back at Killarney. “What time is it?” I ask. No answer.

I ask Scott who has just joined me. It was 11:20. We can get lunch at Boonah I say. Scott agrees but then looks like he is on a mission. He disappears deeper into the bar. I walk outside into the hot glare and heat and break the news to the rest. Everyone agrees at my suggestion to go to the cafe at Boonah — the one from the Boonah breakfast. “But do they have beer?” everyone asks. “Yes they do. Totally.” I say. I was only about 50% sure I remembered that. But thankfully I was right.

Then I was in the car cranking the aircon and Scott eventually emerges carrying a 6-pack of VB. Oh right — that’s what he was doing.

On the way to Boonah Dan was pointing out windmills from his car. Unfortunately they didn’t count. Soz.

At Boonah most of us got chicken burgers and then it was another all-over-hi-five and we were separately heading home — adventure done!

There was talk of a new one on July 9. JUST SAYING.

BONUS PICS:

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IMG_0311 Another one of those 12% bullshit signs. UGH!

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Killarney Overnightah (pt 1)

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Although this ride was fucking awesome and epic and beautiful and a bunch of other superlatives — ultimately it ended up being a much tougher ride than anyone expected. Like much, much tougher. Both days. There were moments when I thought this was a bridge too far. I couldn’t help but compare it to the Boonah Ovanightah from April which was another gravel adventure in a similar direction and over pretty much the same distance. But this ride was twice as tough as that. More hills. Much, much more gravel and a real remoteness. For instance if disaster struck in the 35k section around White Swamp there would be real, real trouble. Plus there was the absence of any opportunity to replenish water, which led to (in my opinion) desperate measures. More on that later.

80% gravel and hills and hills and more hills

I don’t think it is much of an exaggeration to say Day 1 was about 80% gravel. I kinda fucked up here. I really didn’t do enough research to work that out. I just saw road on the map and assumed it would be a bit of gravel, then a bit of bitumen. Stuff would even out. I did a bit of google street view exploration and of course that stuff just cannot accurately detail what the practical conditions are. It’s all lies. The severity of any steepness is entirely under-represented and any gravel looks smooth and inviting.

BEFORE THE START

So I was being a conscientious Di2 rider and put my bike’s battery on charge on Thursday night. Friday morning I attempted to plug that battery back in but the lever that secured it suddenly snapped. Disaster. I rode it over to Scott at Velo in the Valley single-speed-style for rescue but the whole system was fucked. I would need a new bike. I thought this adventure was all over for me. Luckily Scott had his Specialized Crux. But it had no wheels. Then Jesse, god bless him, donated his wheels to complete the ensemble and I was back in business. But in my heart of hearts I was super glad to ride a cross-bike — a bike much more suited to these conditions. It would be far more comfortable and ideal for the hardest part: the 20ks and 14 river crossings at the end. But I was wrong.

WAKE UP SCOTTY! (part 1)

So I was picking Scott up in a car and ferrying him to the meet point at a place called Mt Alford, just south of Boonah. I rock up only about 10 minutes early and there is zero sound emanating from his flat. I can see into the living areas (which are empty) so I knock on the window I assume belongs to the bedroom. Something stirs. Suddenly the front door opens and here is Scott in some flesh-coloured jocks and my reflexes kicked in. It takes me a micro-second to spin away (hoping they were in fact flesh-coloured jocks and not a completely-naked-just-woken-man) and I start dragging the bikes to the car. Thankfully they were on the deck and I could get busy without actually entering the flat with this possible naked person lumbering about attempting to get ready.

Only about 5 minutes later and Scott appears at the car fully dressed and carrying his panniers looking almost completely composed. Well done. Soon we are heading south and although Scott has not had a chance at his morning poo, I assure him there is a public toilet at the ride start that will suit this necessity.

At Boonah we get pastries and pull into the Mt Alford Hotel’s carpark only just a bit late. Us parking here didn’t seem like an issue, but we got some grief for it later as you shall see. Duggie (AKA Cameron) and Wookie (AKA Brad) were setting up. A minute or two later Dan arrived — making our full crew of 5 complete.

Of note, Duggie and me (et al) had done a trip to Killarney back in 2014. That was a super-tough ride too, but a road-bike and bitumen thing. That standard route to Killarney.

MORE ON “THE ROUTE”

Duggie and I had collaborated on this ride — both of us being such fans of the country out here and that first adventure. We were both super-enthused. And Duggie wanted to put in the Condamine River Road, while I was all about adding this White Swamp arc. Then Duggie included an extension at the start — just to make the final tally of kilometres respectable at about 82. This excursion out to Moogerah Dam was super-beautiful but pretty bumpy. 20ks later at its end I could feel that it had taken a big chunk out of my overall awesomeness. In other words, my legs were starting to whinge a bit.

So the route when viewed from above looked like a figure 8 with an extra circle attached. On the map Duggie layed-out — and stuck to the pannier on the front of his bike — it looked beautiful. There wasn’t much overlap between Day 1 and Day 2. Maybe only 4ks.

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START

So it took us about 20 mins to get all our shit together and just about 100ms after we started rolling I remembered my wallet was still in the car. Bullet-dodged we were properly off. Then I said to Scott, “Oh yeah, how do you change gears on this thing?” (I wasn’t used to a SRAM gear-setup.) It turned out to be pretty cool. You only had to use your right hand and it was a half-click to go down to a tougher gear and a full-click to hit the granny-gears. Loved it. But in saying that, my hills-gear only went to 40-28, which meant a lot of grinding while everyone else got to spin almost twice as much. But beggars can’t choosey.

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Around the dam we hit an amazing road that skirted the Main Range peaks south of Cunningham’s Gap. It was so “Australia”. There was even a flock of gallahs and occasionally we saw kangaroos leaping out of sight.

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30ks in and we passed the “Head Road”: the route up from that 2014 ride. Duggie shuddered when he contemplated what we did that day. “That climb gives me shivers,” he said. And so we committed ourselves to a new way up. It turned to gravel almost immediately and it was pleasant for about 5ks and then it started getting shitty. By now the sun was getting near it’s peak and my jersey was saturated. Despite it being deep into May, the humidity was nuts and I knew exactly then that water, or lack thereof, was going to be an issue. We stopped for a break just as the first 12% hill loomed. We could literally see it snake it’s way up. In my head I was like, “Yeah, once that’s over that’s the worst of it.” I definitely even said that. So up we went and at the point where it looked too epic to waste blowing up my legs I got off the bike and walked. And Wookie instantly reciprocated. He was so appreciative. Wookie had been off the bike for 5 weeks due to life-stuff and needed to take it gentle. I have a philosophy of no-shame-walking. When it’s so steep there’s no need destroying your legs when you can get up that bullshit by walking. And especially when you get to the top only about 30% later than riding up.

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IMG_0138Me! taken by Duggie.

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That pinch done we rolled on expecting things to get civil, but then bang! Another sign saying “12%”. Ugh. Once again me and wookie did a bit of walking. I kept telling everyone, “I think this is the worst of it over”. But sure enough I was proven utterly wrong and everyone started cursing any optimism I tried to put down. Quite rightly it should be said. The third time the sign came about (this time 13%) Duggie and Dan started walking. By the 4th, another one of those evil 13% fuckstains, Scott had succumbed too and we five were all trudging up the road on foot.

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Eventually at the top was the NSW border and we rested for a bit and then thankfully we did get some relief — in the sense that is was more down than up for 10ks. But there were a few shitty little hills randomly biting us whenever they felt like it. The terrain was just so random it just didn’t make sense. There were super-crazy descents but then another pinch straight away. We’d get a sudden burst of bitumen on a downhill only to find that at the very bottom, where you were travelling so fucking fast, was a point where it changed to gravel.

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Another random section was a super-incredible descent (on bitumen) which Wookie nailed — he is one of those fearless downhill riders and has a bunch of KOMs or near KOMs to prove it. At the bottom in a dip was a dodgy culvert and Scott got a flat. But it was a beautiful place to change a tube under this big ancient gum tree with Mt Wilson looming over us.

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A bit later, at White Swamp proper, we were turning right and it was up and up again. There was more walking and it was now super-warm. Touching on 28 degrees and super-humidity. Meanwhile Scott decided he had to roll. He explained that with the panniers at the back of his bike it was just fucked to walk his rig. Every step and your calf would bang into the rear bag. So as he struggled ahead we 4 just sauntered up. Everyone was really, really feeling the intensity of this adventure.

At the dilapidated border crossing where we went back into Queensland again we could see our next target: the Condamine River Road. But then everyone was like, “I’ve got no water left.” I had about 600mls (some of which was still frozen) sitting in my backpack. Everyone was too polite to drink more than a mouthful and thus was determined to drink the water from the creek. I was mortified. “Dudes, there’s houses down there. I will knock on a door and see if we can get some.” Implying there was no need to drink untreated river-water from country surrounded by cattle. But no one listened. It seemed like a challenge. Something primal. Meanwhile I just thought of how Bart dared Lisa to drink the water in that episode of the Simpsons. EEK.

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WET RIVER

We slid down and turned left onto a brief section of bitumen (the same bitumen as from 2014) and then right onto white gravel. According to my Garmin we had 21ks to go. But seeing as the last 60ks had taken well over 4 hours I was starting to wonder if I would start suffering soon. Like “Suffering” in the EVIL sense. There was no question that I was suffering in a GENERAL sense, I just feared that situation escalating. And confronting us now was all dirt and 14 points where the road crossed the river. After a particularly brutal pinch Wookie looked in trouble. We stopped and assessed the situation. He ate some more food and drank some of my water, but he was struggling. I really wondered how brutal this next section would be.

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me_duggiePhoto by Dan!

As it turned out, this period was incredible: beautiful and awesome and all our spirits were lifted. I would almost rate this section as a “breeze”. But just quietly.

See we got to stop and get our feet wet. Like saturated. Some of us (not me) tried to smash through and ford the crossings. It should be said the other four got quite good at it towards the end. Me: I managed to only cross the river once in a very easy section. (I made a promise to Jesse that I would walk the bike over all the river — so as not to potentially damage the wheels).

But back to the third crossing, where the river suddenly didn’t look as muddy from all the 4WD activity. Here is where the crew started filling up their water-bottles and drinking the water. Gulping it down. They said it tasted amazing and was clear and cool. I was horrified, but I was in no position to argue. We were desperate and everyone was sick of my optimism.

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Onwards and it was actually really fun every time a crossing came up. It was like a computer game working out where to cross and there were 4WDs around either being dickheads or gawking at us. At one point we passed an honesty-system stall where you could pay $5 to get to feed some horses. As awesome as that looked, we really had to roll on. Everyone agreed this section had really made the ride exponentially special.

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IMG_0244In most crossings you had no idea what the bottom looked like cause the water was so muddy.

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IMG_0246I think Dan was the first to successfully get across without stepping down. Kudos.

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IMG_0241Pic by Duggie!

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And then we were back on sealed roads and in Killarney central and at the Foodworks buying all the hot baked-savories they hadn’t sold yet before they were due to be thrown out.

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OMG. NEXT TIME (in PART TWO):

1) Too much baked-savories
2) Room booking fail and your bikes are not welcome here
3) Locals only!
4) Friends are made
5) “You outta towners stealing our sheilas!”
6) A definitive list of things you can literally get away with at a country pub (some of which are awesome and some of which are not that.)
7) Drama with barman
8) More “Friends!”
9) 2:30am and some of us are still awake
10) Wookie takes a stand

BONUS PICS

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HOME HAIRCUTS (+ a sneaky Goon Sax review)

I HAVEN’T BEEN TO A HAIRDRESSER, NOR LET ANYONE CUT MY HAIR, IN 15 YEARS. (See below)

So while I have been listening to that amazing debut album by The Goon Sax for the past few weeks I was recently struck by two things:

a) Home haircuts
b) The fact that Conan got a bit affronted by it. (What?)

the_goon_sax_h_0915.8145e2fe310ccf8cd901434ffccebd02.jpgHere’s a pic of the Goon Sax. Louis, Riley and James

FIRSTLY: HOME HAIRCUTS

Louis sings, “Do home haircuts ever go right?” 

Well I can tell you Louis, almost definitively — “Yes, yes they do.”

And he tries to get his mum to help but she seemingly refuses. All I can say to Louis is — Dude, I got all that push-back, but eventually I just went at it on my own. And I survived.

And here’s how. I have been cutting my own hair for about 15 years. That is a TRUE STORY.  It’s not something I advertise, and when people find out, cause my fiance Dee likes to blab about it, they are genuinely surprised.

THE DENTIST (OR “HOW IT STARTED”)

See, just like Louis, I HATED going to the hairdresser. When I graduated from the barber (perhaps because they just refused to exist anymore) going to a hair-dressing-salon was always an ordeal. It’s so intimate. And then it’s all that forced “chat”. It’s in a space that was so alien. You’re almost strapped to that chair with that cape like you’re in a straight-jacket. It’s just like being in a dentist’s chair — the same amount of indignity, but without so much physical pain.

When I was just still in high school we had one up the road and they insisted on washing my hair before they cut it and it brought back bad memories. Nits (hair lice) were a big deal when I was a kid. We were all afraid of them but that didn’t stop us swapping hats, sleeping over sharing pillows and epic wrestling and generally being always in super-close-quarters. At the start of a school camp the teachers inspected everyone’s scalp before we were allowed on the bus to Binna Burra.

And then my grandmother, whenever I stayed at her place, insisted on personally washing my hair. She was such a control-freak. She assumed I was being mistreated because my dad wasn’t a religious nut like she was. It was like my Dad had made me so dirty because I had rejected religion and I needed purification — even if it just was super-cleanliness.

But home-haircuts were a thing when I was growing up. A chair got dragged out into the backyard and some unqualified scissors got dug out of the kitchen drawer. Both times it was one of my dad’s girlfriends who would just announce that they would “have a go” at cutting my hair. And both times it turned out great. “Great” in the sense that I was super-less-shaggy and neat and no-one knew any wiser.

A spark in my brain formed.

GROWING

As a teen I tried growing my hair long just to be cool. And for two years I didn’t need a hairdresser. But as a late-teen my hair was so, so thick and consequently had no option but to get wavy and super-puffy. If it even got a whiff of shampoo it got even worse. It was like I had a wavvy-hair-afro. I got so sick of the puffiness I cut my hair short again and didn’t grow it long again for 10 years. So I then I was suddenly committed to keeping my hair short and because I was officially an “adult” and thus responsible for keeping my hair in order I asked my sister to cut my hair — which failed. But then I convinced an early girlfriend to have a go. I didn’t care if she failed. I just didn’t want to go back to the hairdresser. And she did amazingly for about two years. Then we broke up.

WHAT THEN?

My hair grew out and when it got a bit too shaggy for my job I asked my new girlfriend to have a go at cutting my hair. She refused. Looking back I guess it was a bit much to ask from a woman who you had only been dating for only a few weeks.

But then I just gave it a go myself. And it worked. It wasn’t perfect — it never has been — but I got better and better at it.

HOW TO CUT YOUR OWN HAIR

And here is the exact point when I started cutting my hair on my own.

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And then I realised that one side of my head wasn’t behaving like I wanted. So I changed the way I parted my hair. A complete revolution. To all you kids out there: you never know what side your hair will get thinner first.

So then I looked like this:

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But the part of my hair was all wrong.

So working it all out was also the necessity of being in one of those corporate jobs where I had to look civilised — meeting lots of important people all the time — so I just hacked at my hair and prayed for the best. I learnt a lot just trimming a little bit universally. Then trimming some more over the same universal if that didn’t do the required.

The more I hacked the more I got good and then suddenly it was effortless.

BUT: I could never, ever cut anyone else’s hair — I was only trained to cut my own. I would definitely freak out if I was given that job.

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Nowadays I look a bit like this:

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SCISSORS

I have used the same scissors this entire time. They are shorter than paper-scissors — but they are still just ordinary ones. The shortness helps your confidence that you are not going to chop off a chunk of ear. You start at the sides taking what you can best figure is an inch from every bit. And when I say “inch” I mean what you figure your hair needs to be ruley again.

Then you take an inch from the top. Then you just shorten the fringe how you think it would best suit — usually on an angle away from how you part your fringe.

If that is not to your liking you chop away at your hair again taking just a centimetre. So it’s basically a cutting that you do in stages. Start hacking, then trim. You’d be surprised how forgiving your shag upstairs can be.

And you might have to re-visit the cut maybe 2 or 3 times again in the hour or so that ensues just to target any issues you missed. I don’t cut with wet hair, because it made me cut a bit shorter than I might have wanted and when you cut dry what you see is what you get. The WYSIWYG principle. I can cut my hair in under two minutes. And that is no exaggeration. Crucially I could do it WITHOUT a mirror. It gets that automated.

BEARDS

Beard trimming took me a bit of practise. The first time I tried it on my own (Dee did the a good job of the first) I hacked a great big chunk out of the side of my face and was mortified. But no one noticed until I pointed it out and with a bit of a stroke of my chin like I was thinking hard it was instantly disguised.

So tips: go even.

EVEN: It’s the exact same principle as head-hair-cutting but it is super-trimming rather than hacking. It’s a finer detail. You just snip all over at the most even rate you can muster.

But as a right-handed person it is so much harder to trim on the right side of my face — so take a bit more time with those snips. And be more vigil lest you leave your face totally unbalanced. And just take your time, stroke around your beard like you are solving all the world’s problems, and work out what bits are too long and thick and what is fuzzy and not. Simple.

The moustache is a bit trickier. Just go slow and go even and it will become ok. I would say you need a mirror here. Just snip what is getting in front of your top lip and then trim elsewhere if it’s necessary.

OH YEAH — THE GOON SAX

Personally I never expected to like the Goon Sax much. I knew the band existed well before I saw them play at the Zoo supporting Darren Hanlon last year. And of course I was interested. I had never officially met Louis, but I had seen him around when his dad was about. He seemed like “that teenager” I used to be. Sullen and bored and wanting to be anywhere else but there. Just like I me at that age.

And so I watched then at The Zoo that night and they were a bit tentative and awkwardly swapping instruments all the time. It wasn’t a super exciting set — but that is not a criticism. The thing that was most awkward was the fact they seemed — on the surface — like a parody of the Go-Betweens. Two songwriters and a female drummer. And all the songs had a very “Lee Remick” vibe.

It’s a bit awful of me thinking back, but I cynically thought, “Is Louis…like *trying* to be like his dad? Really?”

IMPROVING ON YOUR HERITAGE

See when I was a kid I wanted to be nothing like my parents. I certainly wanted to be as successful as them, but I wanted to do things different. But then I thought a bit more and something occurred to me: “What choice did he have?”. This is my bias and my ignorance.

If your parents have impeccable taste and skill, and they’re not douchecanoes, and they’re obviously not telling you what to do — naturally you just might find your way to making your own awesome music…and it just might be in that same vein. Because awesome music is awesome music — right?

And Wintah is the best example I could think of. Wintah has an equally incredible musical dad who is actually a great guy. Wintah, son of Glenn Thompson (from the nouveaux Go-Betweens, Custard, Adults Today etc), was an incredible role model. He had the best taste in music and christ I wished my parents had brought me up like that. Why would you not want to emulate? Wintah was always ahead of the curve with music. I used to think I was pretty accomplished, but he introduced me to some amazing stuff and broadened my taste quite a bit. And thus his band, The Little Lovers, was not a huge leap from what his dad’s bands did. Stylistically and aesthetically it was almost a mark 2. Just quietly I thought Wintah had improved the model. (But that’s just between you and me.)

BACK TO THE SONGS

The thing that struck me personally was that this album by The Goon Sax seemed like a collection of “first songs”. They all seem like the first generation of songs in a songwriter’s career. And again that is no criticism. They remind me of my very first attempts at songs. And hearing songs like these (back when I was very little) inspired me to write something and form a band. (My inspiration in those days was The Melniks — but that’s another story.)

The difference is it’s just amazing how great this generation of songs are — I cannot imagine what the second or third generation will bring. Very excited.

Production-wise the album is much richer than you would think. They have been genuinely nurtured by whomever produced them. A definite hands-on producer. I know it was recorded at the JSS studio. The songs seems so earthy and pedestrian, but there’s a deliberate complexity. A bunch of layers you just might not notice. There’s a lot there supporting everything — like in the Home Haircuts song. . The first thing I really noticed was how bloody good James was at bass playing. I am just assuming he is the one playing on Louis’ songs. Just cause they seem so much more lush.

ALSO: I think the decision to put one of the strongest songs last —  “Ice Cream (on my own)” — was inspired.

The drumming is so incredible too. Riley, a ginger like me, is apparently a brand-new drummer. She learnt the skins just to join. I know how tough drums are — being a frustrated one myself. She is pretty damn interesting and tight at the same time. Just see the mad-skills she displays in the “Boyfriend” and “Target” tracks. And live she has to sing back-up as well.

And just BTW: I genuinely had to look up who “Roger McGuinn” was. I am so uncool. But not so uncool to wonder once I saw his picture if his hair, circa 1967, is really aspirational.

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And finally here is the Goon Sax at the Planetarium. One of my favourite places in Brisbane!

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Oh and Conan’s judgement doesn’t really count. He has great taste in music, but it is highly, highly Patrician. He just doesn’t get this stuff. His loss.

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Camp Mtn Railtrail + Goatness

I love checking out new bike infrastructure, and so I was keen to see the freshly sealed rail trail from Ferny Grove to Camp Mountain.

This former railway line was the scene of the worst rail incident in Queensland’s history, almost exactly 69 years ago. 16 people died and dozens were injured.

The train was charted by federal government workers keen to celebrate that Labour Day with a picnic out at Cedar Creek in Closeburn.

It was absolutely laden with people — over 200 — and the driver had never driven that route and on descent into Camp Mountain the train was going too fast and derailed on a tighter bend.

And our route today took us right over the top of that fateful journey. Just about 50m before we turned left onto Camp Mountain Road was where all that awful shit went down. Back all those years there was a train station at that intersection. It is pretty wild to think how things have changed so much in just the living memory of my grandparents.

Anyway. Just while I am feeling philosophical, I should note this ride was a bit like “Waiting for Scotto.” He was meant to meet us at Lifecycles but when he was late Mark texted him and it emerged he had only just left his house way over in Annerley.

We decided to roll away, going slow, and let him catch up. But that was a bit hard cause these were rubbish roads with a lot of traffic so you just naturally want to get through them as fast as possible. But we only had to “Wait for Scotto” for about 15 minutes. Mark started doing laps of the carpark. That looked like fun so I joined him. Benny practised track standing.

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Eventually he arrived, looking resplendent in his new Pedla kit —  and we rolled on.

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So here was where the rail trail started:

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The new pavement has been a tiny bit controversial — as some people loved the dirt and grass and naturalness. And I get that, but if it makes people ride bikes more or just exercise (it was pretty crowded with walkers), then that is a good thing in my book.

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We didn’t see any horses to yield to it should be said. Horses seem to be on the very top of the rail-trail food-chain.

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Just cause I have been so neck-deep in gravel these past weeks, and have far more on the horizon, I decided to pick out a tiny bit extra on this ride. First was this dead end street traverse:

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Then there was this dodgy next section which I had researched on Google Maps, but it was just a hunch that we could get through. Scott and Benny were a bit ahead and naturally missed it because it was hidden down this tiny grassy path obscured by this massive “End of Road” sign.

And they rode left up the bitumen before they realised we were all waiting for them to notice we had stopped. When they saw the route Ben said, “Well that was obvious”.

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And this section, though short, had some super-treacherous sandy sections. And the last bit I lost it and did a half crash. I managed to unclip both legs and stay semi-upright. I don’t think it counts as a crash — but my sandy rear-derraileur attests to the fact the bike at least went totally sideways:

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Here’s a shot of Ventura smashing through the last of that shitty section:

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And here is a shot of a puppy. This is for my fiancé, Dee:

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Next was the main road again and then up the Goat Track. Here’s Ventura again:

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Scott and Ben talking new bikes

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Instagrammin! 

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At the top we gently rolled on to the Cafe. Cake-time!

There were several things to note here:

  1. On the way to the Goat Track we saw a kid heading in the opposite direction getting motor-paced by a guy on a scooter. (“That’s weird”, we thought.)
  2. Then as we were waiting for our coffee’s and food we saw the same kid and the scooter roll past. This time the kid was ahead of the bike and Ben said, “Look, he’s dropped him!” And it seemed this kid had smashed it to Samford then back up the mountain. Impressive.
  3. There was a random roadie sitting next to us and he knew the kid from the Coot-tha Burn last whatever. His name is Sebastian Something. He’s only 16.
  4. Another teenager then turned up in a very expensive sports car with a very beautiful date. They didn’t stay long and then the two tried to leave. But the poor kid seemed to have no idea how to work the car and took a few minutes and a few gear crunches and even more engine stalls to reverse and then eventually head down the road back to Brisbane. I was too embarrassed for the douchecanoe to even look.

Back to Brisbane and Ventura had a mechanical and so I suggested we fix it at my place. It was a great chance for Scott to be horrified at my lack of, and poor organisation, of my tools! oh well.

It was a good ride. Legs still feel sore from Boonah, but they are getting better. Just need to remember how to suffer more.

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Boonah Overnightah — DAY TWO

DAY 2

After getting up way, way too early I killed some time by walking up to the lookout. Boonah was covered in thick mist and looked spectacular.

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Next I dragged Scott outta bed, ate one of his bananas and we headed over to the camp grounds. Everyone was taking their time packing up, but the café didn’t open until 7 so that was cool.

Then Bennett was doing a test of his rig when he was like, “Oh shit”. His rear tyre was flat. “At least that will take the heat off me when I start multi-flatting,” I thought. It had been a minor miracle that my tubes weren’t compromised over the 80ks of day 1 but I knew that my luck just had to run out — right?

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There’s good and bad things about having three mechanics in your crew. Any issues beyond a busted tube or a broken spoke just might be fixable. And they will be experts at helping you repair even those things. You can learn a lot.

But then again — it can be a little intimidating — something I am sure Bennett felt. Ha! And I am pretty used to the fact that I was reminded by these experts every now and again how shit I am at looking after my bike. My motto is simply this: the sooner you ride the bike into the ground the sooner you can justify a brand new one.

Soon we were all munching on stuff at the café and I got a bit of grief for ordering a can of soft drink with my breakfast. Agreed. It’s not very grown up.

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“Puttin’ some gravel in our travel” — Wise words.

BATTERY LIFE

There was an epic side-drama to this trip. Battery or lack thereof. I really don’t know how these guys could chew through so much batt. Everyone was complaining about their percentages. Ryan had bought (and brought) one of those portable phone chargers just for this trip. So he was sorted. But Scott was on Tinder so much his poor phone was literally dead by the end of Saturday night. Bennett was all about the instagram. I had wisely brought an iPhone charger and though I gave it some extra juice while I napped at the motel — I didn’t even need it. My phone never dipped below 85%. I even brought a cable to charge the Garmin but that went unused.

So at the cafe everyone was scrambling to use this spare powerpoint they had sussed out while all the staff weren’t looking. Because I was the only one who had brought one of those little bricks that convert the AC powerpoint to the end of a USB cable they all had to share — so it got a bit “suspicious” around this tiny power outlet.

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IMG_0270.JPGI had this idea to document everyone’s rig in profile but I only got around to doing my own. Soz.

Eventually everyone was satisfied they had enough charge (and a few had done a sneaky number two) and we got rolling. Finally!

It was now 8am and I did the maths and we had plenty of time to make the 11:05am train from Rosewood back to Brisbane. If we missed that train it was another hour to wait for the next, and then another hour for the one after that.

After a slight route-fail we realised the way home led straight up that 20% hill to the lookout. Again, I chose to walk the bike when it got nuts rather than cook my legs so early in the day. I had no trouble keeping up with Scott.

IMG_0271.JPGThis picture does no justice to the extreme gradient ahead.

The sign at the bottom had said “No Through Road” and I was starting to get a bad feeling when the road ahead really did just end at some bushes and what looked like a fence. There seemed to be no way through. But then a gate became clear and the terrain beyond it was long, dewy grass and a stupid snake-ish semi-path down losing all that altitude we had just battled to attain. I knew it would be suicidal for me to attempt this riding so I jogged the bike down only arriving at the bottom just a few seconds behind. Now the path looked more legit but it was so overgrown that the big rocks were virtually invisible. I somehow managed a few pics, but then tucked the camera away knowing that would only end in tears.

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Here’s Scott starting that decent. Ryan just ahead. I h=was completely stationary — ready to run down after this bullshit was documented.

CRACK

Meanwhile, despite the very audible rumble of jumping up and down this path, I heard and felt this creak, which was more like a “CRACK” and I knew this was my seat-tube topper slipping again. I forgot to tell you all in the Day 1 section that that had happened three times that day while tackling the more crazy terrain. But on inspection the saddle didn’t seem to have moved so I just crossed my fingers and ignored it. Again I had to just plow on. I didn’t think a roadside tightening of the bolts with a dodgy multi-tool would be wise.

Ahead all these dogs started barking. Like maybe 20 or so and on the left it was apparent we had stumbled on some puppy farm. But this was Boonah — so maybe these all belonged to one crazy dog person. Who knows. I heard a woman’s voice trying to calm everything down but 5 bike riders crunching past must be a novelty to these animals.

IMG_0273.JPGAll those dogs were just beyond this mesh. I could not help but think they were all so nuts just one might just need to get out and attack us. But I worry a lot.

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IMG_0279.JPGHands were shaking/jumping-around too much to get this shot in focus

IMG_0276.JPGGlad of the gate so I could catch-up.

IMG_0281.JPGHere’s Bennett taking a photo of me taking a photo of him

IMG_0283.JPGRyan smashing it

After two gates — like the gates on the Brisbane Valley rail trail — (see above) we were uphill on brown dirt and then on bitumen up the Hoya climb — the longest climb of the day. Halfway up Bennett signalled that his rear tyre was flat again and we stopped in the shade in someone’s driveway. After changing the tube and zapping it with CO2 it immediately went down again. The mechanics all chimed in. “Take the tyre off and check the inside.”

Sure enough there was a bit of the wire bead that was loose and once that was removed another CO2 zap and then bang. It went down again. Now the mechanics were like, “Just use a hand pump.” And that got the tyre to a pretty decent stiffness. Thinking the drama was over Scott and I pushed on and at the top turned around and Bennett and Gypsy and Ryan were no where to be seen. We waited in the shade and about 5 minutes later they came through. It seems Bennett had tried to put a bit more CO2 in and that had failed.  Oh dear.

IMG_0285.JPGA three person effort just to get this tube change under control

Having spent about 30 minutes now on repairs that 11:05 train looked impossible. Ryan joked that the 1:05 was looking more realistic.

But the next 10ks were on rolling bitumen and our average speed improved. Which wasn’t hard. After 10ks I looked down and the Garmin said our average was just over 12ks/hr. Ha! Smashing it!

IMG_0289.JPGThat’s Bennett well ahead of me smashing these rollers. 

So we’d go down this long straight stretch and then only have to really push once we were fairly high up the next hill. A bit more gravel heading west and then more rolling gravel heading north again. In this section there was one climb (on gravel) that got quite steep and we had a 1 minute rest at the top. More calculations were done and we started to think we were back on track. It would be tight but.

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Here’s Bennet and his stupidly excessive, or stupidly inspired rear cassette. Wow. Meanwhile my camera had got this bit of dirt right in the middle of the lens. Sorry about that.

Gypsy had forgotten to fill up his water bottles so we had to detour to a park in Harrisville to fill them up.

IMG_0295.JPGSpot the super-smudge on the lens. (HINT: it’s not Scott’s filthy second-day shirt.)

IMG_0297.JPGDid I tell you that Dan/Gypsy didn’t wear a helmet the entire trip? With his washing-basket at the front and his ghetto-rig underneath he looked like a homeless person we had picked up on the way.

And Gypsy-Dan did look just a bit like Dicky-Knee. See if you can tell the difference:

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Just saying. 🙂

IMG_0301.JPGHere’s where my camera succumbed to sweat and all the road-grime. I was trying to get one of those LOL pics. oh well. FAIL!

LAST LEG

And then it was a short 1km smash along the Cunningham highway (thankfully only one big truck whooshed past giving us plenty of room).

Then we had one final section of gravel. At this gully and dry creek crossing the road became a rocky sandpit and I emergency unclipped and went, “Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit,” as I desperately tried to stop as the bike got dangerously close to washing out. But I made it and then walked a bit to avoid all that rubbish. Back on bitumen and the sun was really baking us now. I could tell the humidity was far worse than on Saturday cause I was super drenched in sweat. I could feel all this chafing in my thighs too. Yuck.

This section was turning out to be the toughest. I’d take a drink but the feeling of dryness in my mouth just wouldn’t go away.

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THE TRAIN, THE TRAIN!

So I thought everyone was on-board with the plan to smash it a bit at the end if we had a chance of getting that 11:05. See I was keen to get home cause I had so much work to do to get the blog sorted — it takes hours and hours. But everyone else (except for my co-conspirator Gypsy/Dan) were keen to take it easy. And I secretly thought that this would make a great end to the blog story. Maybe like this:

We were all super-suffering, the heat was intense, the weight of not just our bikes but the whole two-day-adventure suddenly became oppressive. But we dug deep. The passion flowed and we pulled out all stops just to make it to Rosewood in time. And we had exactly seven minutes before it left. Just enough time to grab supplies at the IGA and bolt back into the carriage just as the doors were finally closing. (Like that scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark when Indy scrambles under the stone door.)

And it did go almost exactly like that — except that wasn’t the vibe of the trip. Not in tune with the slow and easy and “take it all in”. This wasn’t a credit-card-tour. Those guys had stupidly heavy bikes and were too polite to call me out on my shit.

I get it now, but at the time I just got a bit excited. A bit selfish. I am so sorry guys.

IMG_0307.JPGThis is where Ryan and Bennett are “Lathering up” with moisturiser just to soothe their epic skin damage. It was only about -10% sexual. 

IMG_0308.JPGRyan’s “speed-sleeve” now matched his skin. Kudos. 

THE BESTEST

Sometimes you can ride in a way to appease the fact it will be a tiny bit “public” — whether it be by Strava or Instagram or by a blog like this. And that’s rather than just ride naturally and anonymously and savour these bestest times with a bunch of the bestest people who will only know the detail and the minutiae and the very authenticity of this true story. This is a story only we will remember and we will remember it well into our old age — but everyone else who wasn’t there will have long forgotten.

I asked everyone to tell me their highs and lows and everyone was too excited about the adventure to really pin down any specific low. Ryan said it best when he said he thought the whole deal was a highlight and I agree. There was this article by Andy White in RIDE MAGAZINE just last month or two and his riding partner said something like, “A ride doesn’t need to be fun to BE FUN.” And I think what that means is that all the challenges, all the suffering, and all the unexpected, and even all the absolute bullshit, just makes it so perfect. I reckon if everything went to exactly to plan I would be super-disappointed. And you know what — so would our ghost-rider Brad! Hi Brad!

FINAL THOUGHTS: “ON TOUGHNESS”

So at work today I was asked about the toughness of this ride — mostly cause I had to remind everyone I had just survived this Boonah adventure. And everyone pretended to remember what this was all about. All Friday I was fretting so much making sure everyone knew how EPIC I thought this weekend would be. Ugh.

Well personally this ride was easier than I thought in some aspects, but tougher in others.

1) I certainly expected to get at least one puncture. I certainly have super-faith in the Maxxis-Re-Fuse. It seems to be a very, very tough tyre. I put those two bad-boys through hell.

2) I didn’t anticipate the agony in my hands. And I underestimated how the gravel could tire you out and be so evil, but be so fucking beautiful at the same time. That 6.8k stretch was actually so painful but so amazing in exactly equal parts.

3) But then on even the shittest bitumen I could recover. At least give my brain a break from super-concentrating on the terrain. (I cannot tell you how bullshit it is evaluating and judging every single metre of the road ahead). And I have crashed about a dozen times on a bike and I don’t want to do it again.

THE REST OF THE CREW

I cannot really speak for everyone but I will just try to assume:

The guys with panniers found climbing when out of the saddle impossible (for Scott) and super-challenging (for Ryan and Bennett). Ryan said he had perfected this technique which involved a “straightness” when out of the saddle. You can’t throw the bike from side to side. You gotta be aware exactly where the weight is distributed. But if Scott left the saddle the entire backwheel would lose traction.

They obviously found smashing in a paceline ridiculous. See above.

And I would imagine any hills would have been rubbish with all that extra weight. I have never ridden a bike so laden with stuff so I wouldn’t know — but I can imagine it meant a lot more planning when a hill came up. A lot more dedication to the momentum you get from a downhill when you are faced with a serious uphill on the other side.

BALLAST

And you know what? I bet the balance of the bike would have taken some getting used to. It would be like getting used to a wheelchair for the first time.

BONUS PICS (courtesy of Ryan)

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Boonah Overnightah (PART 1)

Traditionally, well in my experience, overnight tours have been about being super-minimalist. Basically these following “rules”:

1) Keep the weight to only what is truly necessary. They call it “credit card” touring.
2) Ride hard and fast with the Garmin on all the time on the smoothest route possible to maintain an impressive average speed.
3) Drink, sleep and eat at the local pub (or sleep at a cheap motel if you really have to).
4) Remember: if you think you just might need something — well you won’t. Leave it at home.
5) Lots of beers and dodgy pub food make sleeping easier so you can just jump out of bed and get a super early start for the limp home on day 2

But it seems there are other people out there in the world who do things decidedly differently.

1) They take an inordinate amount of stuff so they can be almost totally self-sufficient. Camping gear, cooking gear, most of the food and spares of almost everything.
2) And they ride the rough and dusty way. The slow way.
3) They might visit the pub but only for a counter meal
4) They leave their Garmin at home (Wait – what?)
5) Not so many beers and thus a very long and relaxed and super casual start on Day 2 – and that’s even before they even get on the bike.

And this was one of those overnighters. A very, very different experience for me.

ODD ONE OUT

Because I am only set-up for the former I rode this overnighter just like I would normally. Crazy huh? So I was *that guy*. I was riding a carbon bike with a dodgy seat-topper and a pretty much just a credit-card in my back pocket. I would be the one that would get ALL THE FLAT TYRES and maybe worse and slowing everyone down and be generally useless. Story of my life.

Plus I was the only one with a Garmin rolling and super-interested in its results. (Ryan’s doesn’t count cause that was ostensibly just for navigation).

The only thing I did to perhaps help my argument was to change my tyres to a set of 25mm Maxxis Re-Fuse. Scotty assured me they were bomb-proof. (So a little wider and heavier than I usually use). ASIDE: On that Killarney ride back in 2014 we met some old veteran overnighters and they said they don’t let anyone come on one of their rides unless they are rolling with the Maxxis. True story.

As it turns out I wasn’t “that guy”. Various other people thankfully took that mantle. More on that later.

THE RIDE

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This is one of those rides where you get a train at the start and a train at the end. This can be a bit awkward cause maintaining conversation for 1.5 hours at the start of a ride (at 6am when you are a bit blergh from just having woken up much earlier than usual), and then the inevitable 1.5 hours of conversation at the end (when you are super-tired and dehydrated and have spent literally every waking hour with these people and so you have NOTHING left to talk about).

Anyway. This trip out wasn’t so awkward. I got to meet a dude called Ryan — not to be confused with the other Ryan. So this ride’s “Ryan” I am dubbing “Planet Ryan” cause he’s a mechanic/bike-builder at Planet Cycles and not the Ry Ry from many other bike adventures. Planet Ryan is also a Ginger!

Also with us was Bennett, our leader — then Dan (not Antmandan), Daniel Licastro (AKA “Gypsy” in times gone by) and Scott. So six of us — though Dan was joining us just for day 1 and then riding back to Ipswich. All of those guys were rocking tyres no thinner than 40mm (even Dan). The other overnighters were also carrying 8-10kgs of extra stuff on top. Maybe even more.

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SECRET SEVENTH

And then there was this secret seventh member of our crew. A ghost rider ready to maybe judge us once we had uploaded our Garmin data. See this ride had been proposed, mapped, tested and then ridden (a few months back) by one Bradley Norman. Brad of Queensland Cyclocross fame. So we were essentially following his directions — even though he wasn’t there because he had to work this weekend.

Brad’s imperatum, and the fact that Bennett didn’t print the map out, meant we were kinda wedded to his plan. It was Brad or Bust. I stupidly suggested a slight variation to the last stanza of the Day 1 route but no one was having any of that shit. That idea got shot down in nano-seconds. Brad or Bust.

ROLLING

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Off the train at Rosewood we went to the bakery and had some pasties and a toilet-break and then we were heading south. The gravel started almost immediately. On a road bike gravel means this:

1) You have to swim about the road like a drunkard hopefully avoiding any stones larger than a Jawbreaker.
2) And in doing so you are concentrating on the road-surface 100% of the time. Vastly more than you’d usually do.
3) The excessive vibrations mean your hands get very sore and you’re constantly shifting positions to get some relief.
4) You don’t get excited for downhills. Any speed above 25kms/hr is adventurous so that basically meant I was constantly on the levers trying to keep my speed in check on the backside of any hill. But in saying that when everyone else smashes past you at 40+ you eventually get a bit more relaxed.
5) The 90 degree turns are the worst cause that’s where the gravel has been washed over by traffic and seems to congregate like it’s a gravel-party — so you are slushing through much more junk.
6) Uphill is where I felt the most stable — cause it was so much slower. See point 4.
7) Downhill on grass I just had to get off the bike and run with it. True story.

So we were a bit clueless as to the route but luckily Ryan had this brand new super-fancy Garmin 1000 which he had pre-loaded with Brad’s route and we were sweet. I mistakenly believed I knew the turns but we would have been fucked if the crew had relied on my directional skills.

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The next 30ks was a variation of dirt, gravel, bitumen and various previously undocumented road surfaces which were quite refreshing. The views were great and we mostly had the road to ourselves. The terrain was rolling but no serious pinches.

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DOG

At about 15ks in I was about 100ms in front and I saw this dog on the left start getting nuts and barking and carrying on. He stated sprinting towards me and I was zen, assuming the fence would secure him. But then s/he was suddenly ducked under the fence and was on the road-verge charging at me and I heard this massive growl. The kind of growl that only means, “I want to fucking BITE you”. My heart jumped about 20 beats per minute and I jumped out of the saddle and sprinted away as best I could. Luckily it was on a downhill incline. Once the the dog was no threat I looked back at the crew having no chance to verbally warn them. But they seemed fine. Later everyone was like, “the dog was just playing with you.” But in my heart of hearts, that dog was only a bit more civil faced with a crew of bikes rather than just me on my own.

ROSEVALE

It should be said that there were no shops or water opportunities for these first 65kms. But there was a chance at a place on the map called Rosevale which was a “maybe”.

At a gully/creek crossing about 20ks in Dan’s only full water bottle jumped out and he lost all that water. So we stopped at the Rosevale hotel but it was deserted. We saw a tap but it was protected by a fence and a “beware of the dog” sign. But eventually we realised this place was empty — the “foreclosure” sign helped. We jumped the fence and got this shot with an old train carriage in the background.

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The next section was all bitumen and Dan said to me, knowing I was a bit worried about my tyres being compromised, “It looks like you might be alright.” Meaning I had dodged a bullet with respect to gravel. But then almost as soon as he said that there was a sign saying “Gravel next 6.8ks”.

And this gravel was very “AUSTRALIA”. So ginger. It spectacularly contrasted the super green of the vegetation. And the main range was now so close and so beautiful. There were cows everywhere and I love dairy cows, and there was a bit more shade — but my hands and arms were suffering from constantly cushioning the road surface on my body. Steadily I was starting to feel a bit shit — in the “can-I-do-this?” sense.

I did my best job of keeping that to myself cause everyone else seemed to be smashing it.

Meanwhile I was doin the maths trying to calculate when the gravel would end and suddenly it did about 800ms before it was meant to. And the country opened up and now we were so amongst the majesty of the northern section of the Main Range National Park. And I just got a bit excited and sprinted ahead amongst all these views and smooth bitumen and sweet downhillness.

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A MISSED BRAD SPECIAL

About 8ks later Ryan couldn’t figure out Brad’s map. It seemed to be sending us down a no-through-road. And we collectively decided that this was a Brad Special and not obvious enough for us goobs so we would all stick to the road. Admittedly we were all really hungry. Supposedly Brad’s special side-tour involved a creek crossing. I am just about 20 per cent disappointed we didn’t explore that. But then getting lunch 20-30 minutes sooner was magical. Just saying.

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KENT’S POCKET

After a decent lunch at Aratula at the BP truck stop where we saw a douchecanoe pull in with a number plate that effectively said, “MY ASS” we headed up the highway. It was a bit hairy when massive trucks smashed past but thankfully only about 2ks later we were on side-roads again. Skirting around Mt French we hit the main road to Boonah and soon we were at the fabled sign that said, “Kent’s Pocket Road”. I won’t bother you with an explanation of why this event was so meaningful in a LOLOLOL kinda way. But it did mean we KENTS spent an inordinate amount of time perfecting this crew-shot.

The Kent’s Pocket road was a detour. An extra few kilometres over rocks and sapped our arrival time at Boonah by at least 20 minutes. But it was all worth it. Great scenery and at least one untethered and un-fenced cow standing inches away from the road which I did my best to avoid but Scotty tried his best to seduce.

IMG_5290.JPGPhoto by Bennett

IMG_0230.JPGAborted timer-shot photo

IMG_0231.JPGTimer-shot I nailed!

IMG_0237.JPGThe beauty of Kent’s Pocket Road

BOONAH

At Boonah I was just absolutely ecstatic that I had not flatted (or caved in any other fashion). I was pretty chuffed with myself. I had successfully rolled 80ks without being “that guy”.

To celebrate we got some brews from the drive-thru and went to the park to relax but the sun and the ants made that a bit shit. I headed back to the motel where I was staying. I would have stayed at a hotel but there’s no way I would do that if no one else was doing the same. Meanwhile Dan headed back to Ipswich on his own making his total ride over 130ks. (that was an extra 50s).

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As it turned out Scott was bunking with me cause he couldn’t source a tent. I don’t think I have had a friend stay on the bottom bunk for like — maybe 20 years.

It was a bit daunting, but it worked out ok. He snored a bit, but then I had to pee in the middle of the night and I woke him up super-early.

WEIGHT

To be honest I think Scott won the WEIGHT AWARD. His bike was so super-loaded. Indeed he seemed to purposely overload it just for lols and maybe for a bit of ballast. I am sure Bennett would agree. Scott was constantly offering us all the excess food or water he had lugged. And then he was like, “Do want my spare tyre?” “What about this bean-bag and flat-screen I stuffed in there too?”

And for all the shit Ryan and Bennett carried — they forgot the sunscreen. WHAT? And they payed for that! More on that later.

NAP

I managed to get a 30 min nap while Gypsy and Scott lounged in the Boonah Motel pool. Meanwhile Bennett and Ryan set up camp at the Boonah Showgrounds. Thankfully they got a section a tiny bit more secluded. After I woke I was a bit sleep-drunk and made Gypsy and Scott ride up to the lookout just above us up this 20% climb. “TRUST ME — THIS WILL BE GOOD” I said and Scott was like, “No one who has ever said, ‘TRUST ME’ has come up with the goods.”

But I think I nailed it. You can judge by the pics. We could see all the major peaks, the entire town and the gliders getting towed up.

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Panorama from the Boonah Lookout

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DINNER (and camping)

So after my nap, and Scott and Gypsy having a swim we went over to the camp grounds just in time to see Bennett cook his dinner.

IMG_0250.JPGHere is Bennett (with his epic sunburn) cooking his baked beans

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After unsuccessfully trying to destroy Bennett’s tent by constantly tripping over his main anchor line, we headed for the pub.

We went to the Dugandun pub about 1k down the road on Scott’s insistence. It turned out to be an inspired decision. It was a beautiful old pub and it was just a bit lively. Crucially — at least for Gypsy — they had at least 6 different types of parmy’s on offer.

While Gypsy chose the traditional parmy, Scott and me went the “Nacho-Parmy” which Bennett described as “Bogan-Fusion”. And he was right. It was shithouse. But I just wanted sustenance. Here’s me and Scott getting our meal:

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Look I learnt a lot more about Tinder than I needed to know that evening. But that is another story.

COURTESY CAR

So after seeing a sign saying there was a “Courtesy Bus” that became a “thing” or a “challenge”. I was always like, “Dudes, it’s only 800ms back to town.” But I was voted down. The van was there and I just wanted to get in just to document the adventure. Here’s the photo:

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And here is Bennett winning $31 on the pokies!

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DAY 2 coming later!

Here’s some bonus pics via Bennett:

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Gravel grinding on Mt Perseverance

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Today’s ride had EVERYTHING.

Crashes. Blood. Mud of the stickiest type you could imagine. Gravel of all shapes, variety and colour. Mist — like the kind of mist that fogs up your camera and where everyone more than 10 metres away looks like a ghost. Drinking untreated water. Rain and baking sun. (the kind of SUN that means I am now sunburnt despite 2 layers of sunscreen.) Five hours in the saddle.

And officially THE MOST flat tyres on a ride ever. (I am pretty sure it beats every single Werewolves ride. Maybe even them all combined!)

Oh and epic ‘Gramin of course. After all — Bennett was in attendance. 

So Brad had researched and organised our super-gravel-ride today and it started, 7am, at a place called Helidon just at the base of the Toowoomba Range — about an 80 minute drive from the Brisbane CBD.

On a computer screen it looked like this.

And I figured it was achievable. 62km and around 1100m of elevation. I haven’t done much riding lately but I’ve kinda kept some skills up-to-date. Up until today via the tales I’d heard on the internet — 62kms on a MTB roughly equates to about 100km on a road bike. But I don’t believe that shit anymore.

I had no idea how tough this ride turn out to be.

Gravel isn’t just that dirt and rocks that sap your speed. It’s those ruts that are virtually 50 speed bumps all 20cm apart that don’t just fuck your momentum — they render much of any effort you put in redundant. Gravel is also swimming left and right about the road trying to find the smoothest and safest route. Gravel (can mean) you have to stay in your saddle while climbing lest you lose traction in your rear (drive) wheel and thus you spend much more time using certain specific muscles — whereas on bitumen you often get the chance to share the effort by standing up (and give your bum a break). Gravel can turn to mud which cakes your tyres like it was superglue and instantly doubles their weight.

Gravel is a massive challenge.

THE STATS

But let’s get back to the start. There were 15 of us. And here is the tally of tyre flats (in alphabetical order – SPOILERS!):

Adrian – 0 (but about 5438 times his chain fell off)
Bennett – 0
Brad – 0
Connor – 0
Declan – 1
Dave (me) – 0
Geoff – 0
Jeremy – 2 (a double flat)
Jon – 0
Jordie – 0
Josh – 3 (incl a double)
Mark – 0
Nate – 1
Rhys – 1
Scott – 0
Stefan – 3 (including broken spoke)

MOUNTAIN BIKES vs CYCLOCROSS (CX)

So I was on an MTB (with 2 others) while the other 10 riders were on CX bikes. They are lighter and have thinner tyres so require a little bit less effort to roll. But they do get a LOT of flats. I think after the 25km mark I would have cried if I had got a flat. (more on that later)

IMG_0085This is Geoff — also on a MTB (as was Mark)

BOTTLES

The first 10kms was mostly bitumen — but here was our first taste of gravel. And then DISASTER!

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We all hit this massive succession of ruts and suddenly water bottles were flying out of cages everywhere. Well — only two but they both happened in stereo. I stopped and retrieved them knowing water (or lack of) might be an issue on this ride. One belonged to Bennett who had the sense to stop. But Jordan kept riding! And he only had that single bidon. Anyway, the crew waited for us about 2km down the road and Jordie was pretty relieved to get his bottle back. There was only two chances of water later in the ride. At Murphy’s Creek and supposedly non-potable rainwater at the lookout at the very top of the ride (34kms in).

Meanwhile Connor had packed 2 bottles for the ride in his car but had completely forgotten to put them on his bike before we left. He then found a random Orchy Juice bottle on the side of the road and then filled it up at a tap in Murphy’s Creek.

That’s resourcefulness.

Personally I would have abandoned the ride in that situation.

DIRT and DOGS and CLIMBS

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And then the dirt was omnipresent. We wouldn’t see bitumen until the last 7km.

This next section, roughly about the 20km mark meant the group split. The tough guys were all trying to get Strava KOM’s on this virgin territory so they sped ahead. (They were also quietly trying to pwn Brad).

But while they were going nuts I was starting to feel a bit rubbish. I was towards the end of the bunch and found myself talking to Brad (pictured below).

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Brad attempted to talk to me about my favourite subject — Star Wars — but I was so fucked that I had trouble concentrating and responding. Normally I could talk Star Wars underwater but right then I was in real trouble. My legs had these hints that cramps just might get involved.

Rhys was struggling like me and eventually I got off the bike and walked. He soldiered on on but did succomb at one point. I had to walk about 4 times in total over the next 12ks.

At the top the world got foggy. I had to take off my sunglasses as they just became opaque. There was a lot of rainforest up there and big, big trees.

The guys up front reported they had been threatened by a dog that was at one point about to bite through a tyre. The dogs out that way aren’t fenced in. It seems to be a recurring story. On Brad’s earlier reconnaissance he had a similar experience.

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IMG_0108Jon getting acquainted with a random horse

IMG_0112Bennett ‘Gramin!

FIRST FLATS

After this picture above — that’s when the flat tyres started. Just a few seconds into our next stanza. There was a double flat (Stefan) and then Josh punctured too. They literally hit the same rock it seems. Rhys and me and Adrian just soft-rolled onwards. I was in such trouble I was happy to just get through a few kilometres at the most basic of speeds while repairs were done and we could find a nice place to wait a bit further down the road.

We waited in that epic cloud at what I now realise was the highest point of our adventure. Around 800m I presume.

Rhys attempted to ‘gram a pic of his bike trying to keep it upright with a stick. Unfortunately I missed the bit when that failed and just as he was about to take the pic his bike was sideways!

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And then everyone else arrived through the mist. The only reason I could take this picture was because I heard them first.

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DOWN AND UP TO GUS’ LOOKOUT

IMG_0127.JPGMy tyres just got nuts with mud

So the next bit was a whole lot of down via a road designated as only traversable in “Dry Conditions”. We were almost immediately were met by a car coming up (flagerantly ignoring that dry-road vibe.) The road was so narrow we stopped completely to allow it to pass. It should be said that these roads were so remote I think this was one of only 5 or 6 cars that engaged us that entire day.

Meanwhile the route was all downhill but this was all mud. Red, red mud that stuck to everything. My wheels were now twice as wide and when you went over gravel the rocks stuck at low speed but then spun out into your face when you got a bit faster.

The road steadily deteriorated. At times it had bathtub sized holes — conveniently filled with brown water if you felt inclined for a swim.

Then it was up and up to the lookout. Of course there were no views. But Brad assured us it was a truly amazing vista in clear conditions. I believe him. On the way down I spied a few glimpses through the trees that were gobsmacking.

Here’s what it might have looked like: (NOT MY PICTURE)

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Here’s what it looked like today:

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CARNAGE

Next we headed down. With all that speed and being on a refreshing sliver of bitumen my tyres suddenly started spewing out all that mud. It was like a mud version of a Catherine-Wheel. I was sans-sunglasses courtesy of the misty-gloom. So I wasn’t just blinded by mist — but mud too.

But the faster I went the more mud was decamped. So I was in a bit of a conundrum. See Brad had warned us that there was a very acute right turn coming up that would arrive very suddenly. But a few of us forgot that instruction (looking at you Adrian!) and found themselves having to backtrack for not the first time. I managed to pull up and do that rather technical turn over what could be described as a potential bit of quicksand.

Then the flat tyres started again. It was one after the other and then another.

It just got ridiculous.

And the road was descending quite rapidly. The CX riders were going nuts. Over 70kms per hour at some points. And Rhys was in front and he over-cooked a massive downhill chicane. He went through a bush at the right and done one of those emergency unclips to stop. But Stefan was right behind him and had no option but to crash on the left. Geoff was third and procedurally decided to stop by deliberately washing out sideways. I arrived only a few seconds later. Geoff was signalling the danger to everyone behind but I was in no trouble having been very generous with the brakes.

Stefan was all bloodied and had another flat. Rhys had to give him one of his spare tubes.

Somehow Rhys had chopped the top off one of his bidons. Impressive.

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NEXT

Thankfully those last 30kms were about 70% downwards.

There was a few pinches but they were brief and I took it as easy as I could. Thanks to all those flats a big bunch of the crew were miles behind. Nate said they had just repaired a tyre and then literally 50ms down the road they had to do another. Must have been stupidly frustrating.

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Scott and Rhys and Stefan and Declan and Connor went ahead and me and Adrian kept a more conservative pace. Mostly cause Adrian kept dropping his chain. He would roll up to me and then suddenly say, “Oh shit, I’ve dropped my chain again.” This literally happened three times.

So Adrian and I enjoyed the last 7kms which was on tarmac and on a sweet, sweet descent. Here is Adrian doing a sweet skid for the camera:

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LOST?

So it was just Adrian and Me in that last 10kms. And we were a tiny bit worried we were lost. The guys in front had long since disappeared and there was no sign of any one behind.

But we got to this built-up area and felt a bit more confident. At this cross road we couldn’t work out which way to go. I saw a woman in her garage and asked her if this was “Helidon”. “Yes,” she said. Awesome. Then we asked directions to the centre of town. She was instantly befuddled. After a bit of trying to give us directions she went and got her husband to explain. We had that time to look it up on our phone but we were polite enough to wait.

And it turned out we were only 200m away. What?

Meanwhile at the SPAR it only took about another 15-20 minutes for everyone to reconvene.

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Geoff had brought the VB. It was Australia Day after all.

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IMG_0146.JPGThis is Stefan having just washed up all his wounds at the public toilet in Helidon.

IMG_0147.JPGI took my shoes off and my legs were ginger

BONUS PICS

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