One of the most intensely gobsmacking realisations when you do big rides – is the fact that there’s a point where everything previous to that moment seems like an eternity before. Indeed the beginning of the ride feels like it should be documented in black and white — it was THAT long ago. And on day two of a journey like this, thinking as hard as you could to remember that moment just over 24 hours ago at the Regatta where it all started — it seemed like a whole other lifetime.
So much stuff happens – so much detail — when you are out in the horrible publicity and exposure of being on a bike on THE ROAD. And this kind of riding means your brain is working just as hard as your legs.
I got a decent amount of sleep compared to the night before, but woke up quite hungry. I had an apricot bar and got all prepped and went down to meet the crew in the carpark so Dee could load up the car and drive all our overnight gear back to Brisbane. I had been thinking we would all have breakfast together, but I’d got it all mixed up and everyone had already had a big breakfast so I was like, “Shit!” So I jumped on the bike and rode a few blocks across town to the McDonalds and grabbed a McMuffin and a hash brown and shoved them down.
It was chilly out on the road north, but nothing like we had imagined. We left Dan behind as he had family stuff so that meant there were 6 of us. There was more climbing to get out of Toowoomba and after a piece-of-shit hill at 25kms I got dropped but I could see everyone ahead as the road was dead straight and lined with massive trees. Although the world seemed flat my Garmin told me I was still going up.
At 31kms we stopped at a village called Hampton and at a little local information hut the nice old lady on duty gave us water. I asked her about the road to Esk and she said, “Oh – it’s a very winding road,” like she thought it was almost impassable to bikes, “And there’s lots of motorbikes!” She also said there was a detour because the road was closed at Ravensbourne National Park. I think she also mentioned a landslide had taken the road out but I immediately forgot that when I asked if the detour was sealed and how much extra road we needed to take. She said the detour road was narrow, but sealed and only added another kilometre or so.
“No biggie,” I thought.
Scotty shoving newspaper down his jersey to keep him warm on the descent. So pro!
It was straight down from here and at the bottom I managed to successfully eat a gel while riding. The last time I attempted this I failed and the gel got all over my hands, then all over the handlebars and made everything sticky and generally – shit.
And then we came upon the detour and looking left the road just went stupidly up. “Oh great,” I thought. And Shirts was like – let’s just take the road. If we get a bit of gravel – big deal. Right? Scott and Ryan had by now decided to hit the hill and I turned into it and then went, “Fuck this,” and shouted up, “Meet you where it joins up”.
I agreed with Shirts. The “road closed” sign didn’t look that convincing when it had a “local traffic only” sign attached to it as well. It was worth the risk. If we had to turn back it was only a kilometre or so wasted. Then we looked back and Scott and Ryan had changed their mind and were following us. But then there was another “ROAD CLOSED” sign which looked far more serious – especially when the road beyond was covered in dirt. “Oh yeah. I remember the old lady saying something about a landslide now.”
We paused wondering what to do looking down the road. I decided to have a look and rolled very carefully down. What bitumen was left was covered in rocks and sticks and mud. After maybe 600m the road just ended. Like, the road was literally missing. Cut in half by a flood I imagined.
“Shit.” From what I could see it looked like the only way to cross would involve getting our feet wet. I dropped the bike and walked down some more to investigate and to my surprise I realised there was a way across. I walked back to the bike and the crew were just rolling in and relayed the news. But we couldn’t even see where the road picked up again on the other side. There was this bunch of fallen trees and I just guessed that was where the road was.
So we picked up our bikes and climbed over the deep red rutted soil. There was just a few patches of concrete left where the bridge had once been. On the other side, up the hill and past the fallen trees we were relieved to see that the road began again and looked fine.
I grabbed a stick and cleaned all the dirt out of my cleats. Once upon a time I had walked through mud and not cleaned my cleats after and while I had rode the mud had dried and when I finally stopped I found myself stuck to the bike. Not a very pleasant experience.
The next bit of road was through beautiful Endor-like forest and there was plenty of down which was fun. It was still about 15 or 20ks to Esk and I was about to stop everyone for a quick break when this “6%” down sign appeared and I was like, “Roll on!”
What followed was THE BEST DESCENT EVER! It just went on and on and the bends were easily negotiable and I hardly touched the brakes. And just when it seemed it was about over, a sign saying “2km more of winding roads” appeared and I thought, “YES!”
Mashing into Esk we were pushed even faster by a serious tail-wind. We were going so fast Shirts, who had stopped for a nature break, couldn’t catch up to us.
After all the shit quality food we had had the day before I guided the crew towards somewhere a little more sophisticated for lunch. And the food was great. By the time we left it was about 12:30 and the average speed was over 32km/hr.
The next 30kms was where things got a bit tougher. A few of us started to struggle or tone it down keeping something left for the end. Eventually Ian developed a painful knee problem and we had to slow everything down significantly so he could keep going. At Wivenhoe Dam picnic ground he didn’t think he could go on. So Ian and I started asking people for a lift back to Ipswich but no one could help or was willing to.
Meanwhile Scott and Shirts had tyre/tube issues which they set about fixing. Eventually Ian gave up and decided to test his knee by riding around the carpark. He decided it was feeling a little better so I sent him ahead to Fernvale at his own pace. We were now doing calculations in our head about how far we needed to go and how much light we had left.
The night before there was a lot of talk about getting the train from Ipswich. But now we all agreed we were feeling OK enough to give it a go. After all the route more or less followed the trainline. And It looked like we just had enough light, but we’d have to go reasonably hard.
We caught up to Ian at Fernvale, 27km from Ipswich. After a quick round of goodies from the pie shop we left Ian who was trying to get a cab from Ipswich. I said I’d ring him from Ipswich and see how he was managing. And then we smashed on. I was a little bit worried about this section cause I had no happy memories of it the last time I went through this section. But we nailed it, although by the end Ryan looked absolutely shattered. I have seen him that bad only once before. I said to him, “Just give it a go to Booval – 3 stops from Ipswich and see how you feel.”
He agreed and we gently covered those 4 or so ks via a backway that avoided some shitty sections of Brisbane Road and that hill near Ipswich Girls Grammar. Just before that I rang Ian who was riding back to Ipswich and said he was only about 10kms away. I guess that was the only way out.
Ryan signalled that he wanted to keep going and we hooked up with the main road. Just before Scott had accidentally blasted through a stop sign. I told him it was probably the safest stop sign to run cause it was a 4-way stop sign intersection – something I’ve only ever seen in Ipswich.
We had a vicious tailwind at some points which could push us up into the 40s without much effort. Another train-station “out” was passed at Redbank and another at Gailes. After that one was safely behind us I knew we would all make it home.
At Moggill Road the Garmin said our average was 31.5km/hr and we had climbed 1700metres. By the end of the day we would have climbed just as much as the day before. Madness!
By the time I got home, bizarrely, my big toe was the part of me in the most pain. I think it was just squashed into my shoe for too long and Dee had to take my shoes off not for the first time in her life.
Well done everyone. Good times.