*we actually did quite a bit of riding these last two days, but in the spirit of full disclosure we should say a great deal of walking our bikes occurred too. (Thanks to Benny for suggesting the title. And of course he did absolute no walking.)
Here is what happened.
Up until Friday we had 10 riders, but 3 sadly pulled out. Still SEVEN is a pretty rocking crew and the biggest ever in my experience.
In alphabetical order: Benny, Conor, Davey (me), Doug, Ryan, Shirts and Tom.
This was a ride where we had to lug all our own shit. So our bikes looked like they had cancer — all these random growths hugging the frame. Indeed Ryan had a goitre spewing out the back of his bike. Quite impressive. Tom won the contest of lugging the most shit and I think Shirts lost the battle of bringing the least amount of shit to Conor.
Timer shot cause I got bored waiting for the crew! (I am super-punctual)
One of those “over the ear shots”.
We took it pretty casual into Ipswich. The fog was beautiful but it wasn’t too cold. We saw some random riders and they asked Dougie where we were going and it turned out they were going to Killarney too. Quite bizarre. We hooked up with them at the pub later.
The road to Boonah was pretty shit. Tom and Ryan got flats and the rollers towards the end broke up the crew. At Boonah we had covered 90ks.
These shitty “audible-lines” are fucked for bike riders. They were omnipresent on this section. Evil.
Past our Boonah Cafe stop we turned towards the range to Mt Alford for quieter road southwest. All the while the mountains in the distance got closer and closer. It was quite surreal knowing that those bad-boys way off on the horizon were just a side-note to our eventual destination. And on top of that we had to go over this epic range.
Eventually we got to the road which would take us over the range. It is such an epic road it has three names: “Carney’s Creek Road”, “The Head Road” and then “Spring Creek Road”. The sign said 42 km to Killarney and it did not lie. Which seems simple, especially when the last 20kms is mostly downhill. But OMG, that 22kms took the longest ever. Like EVER.
COWS and GRIDS
Some of this journey was through National Park, but a lot of it was through dairy stuff. And the cows owned the place. Some of them where the size of small cars and they walked all over the road as you approached and then got spooked and bolted just as you were 5m away and you literally thought you were about to be trampled.
The GRIDS were epic. We must have had to blast through at least a dozen. Some of them had the grating so far apart it felt like you would be sucked under. Each and every time you took your chances when you rolled over. You were always turned into a human milkshake but you just prayed you wouldn’t have a few flat tyres at the other side as well.
When we hit the first one we saw Conor up ahead awkwardly trying to step over the grates like he was stepping over one of those broken wooden rope bridges. Just seconds before we hit it I said to Doug, “I think we can get across” and he took my advice. But it was still really unsettling. The next one I decided to hit them at speed. Dougie decided to bunny-hop it. TRUE STORY. It was one of the most amazing things I have seen riding. WOW!
And here’s a pic of one of those grids with my foot for size and scale.
Dougie kindly took a photo of me. GUT-LYFE!
Dougie: “I really like rocks”.
But then the climb started. “Climb” is a bit of an understatement.
I knew it would be steep but stupidly I assumed it would be steep in just a few sections that you could potentially suffer through.
I had studied the google street-view pictures — like pored over every inch of them — and they seemed to display a story of “uphill” but not brutally so. But pictures lie. Like REALLY LIE. Like Lance Armstrong Lie. Photographs cannot, not ever, not ever-ever, tell you how steep a section of road is. It is the greatest lie of all maybe.
So after the first kilometre or so I let everyone else plough on and I stopped to wait for Tom and Ryan who were struggling behind. Eventually they passed and Ryan looked delirious (see photo below). He was singing. But I actually thought he was talking in tongues but later I learnt it was a Taylor Swift song. They were determined to continue.
I pressed on trying to gauge if my poor lungs were up to this bullshit. See I have been quite sick for the past 2 weeks and I was so terrified I would die from lung failure cause all I have done these last two weeks have been feeling ill and coughing all the time. I had been morose on the Friday before just assuming I would die or need epic medical rescue. But at that point everything seemed manageable. I was still shit-scared, but I thought I just might get through it.
I promised Dee that I would walk the bike if I got too much in the red-zone. And that came almost instantly. My Garmin has this setting where it pauses once my speed goes lower than 6km/hr. And so I really got sick of the Garmin just switching off all the time with this evil “You are useless Beep”.
I thought, “If my Garmin isn’t recognising this bullshit, what’s the point of me riding it?”
A few seconds later I swung around a stupidly steep corner and almost threw myself off the bike sideways trying to negotiate the hairpin and stay rolling and that’s when I unclipped and started walking. I felt no shame. It was so early in the climb too. But I had to do what I had to do.
Others have different opinions — shame-wise — but I was walking my bike up the hill faster than Tom and Ryan were riding. My cleats were destroyed, my back ached but my Garmin was indifferent and I was actually making progress without destroying my legs or lungs.
But then something quite amazing happened. I could hear these voices and soon I rounded a bend and saw Doug and Shirts had stopped and were trying to strap their shoes to their bikes. “What the fuck are they doing”, I thought? Then it became clear they were gonna start walking too. I cannot tell you what a revelation this was. Shirts walking his bike! I had to document this moment but I only took one photo just to preserve the moment and not to dwell on it. Here it is:
An example of how a picture lies — this piece of road is stupidly steep.
At every bend I thought were close to the summit but the road kept going. I am sure we walked at least a few kilometres. The view from the top was amazing. It was incredible how high we were all of a sudden. Ryan and Tom eventually made it. Both had refused to walk.
The top of the first climb
Struggling over grids.
So this altitude meant we were on the plateau. It was all dairy country and the fields were green — a very, very rich green and all the shades of green (the nice kinds) you can imagine. It now made perfect sense that they had named Killarney after the place in Ireland.
It really was some perfect riding up there. Mostly downhill and lushness all around. I did have a moment with a cow that I thought was gonna kill me, but I got through.
CLIMB NUMBER 2
In all my research I knew there was two parts to this climbing-tragedy. But I was still in denial that the next climb would be as bad as part 1. But it got nonsensical pretty quickly and once again I jumped off the bike and decided I wouldn’t get back on until the top. Dougie and Shirts joined me. Conor and Benny kept going, even though at one point it looked like we were catching up.
Here is a pic of us at the top waiting for Ryan and Tom.
And here is Tom and Ryan just metres away from the finish — both looking entirely defeated:
Another plateau opened up for us here and 2km later we were at the Spring Creek Cafe. Despite the fact we had to roll down a hill to get to it, we were entirely glad. RANDOM FACT: Almost all of us ordered the same thing: Burger and Chips and a Coke.
Lookout sign. Too hungry and tired to read, so I took a photo.
The Lincoln Bomber that crashed on Mt Superbus happened somewhere near the summit of that mountain to the extreme left.
After the food we struggled on to Killarney. It was now almost 4pm and light was fading.
So we all made it! Business-wise I got our rooms sorted. Half of us were in the top level of the pub and the rest of us were in the motel on the other side of the car park. I can’t fault the facilities. The pub was great. My shoes were such a fail I spent most of the night in socks and only some old ladies in the restaurant seemed bothered (but didn’t officially complain). We met up with that crew we saw at Ipswich and they were into crazy audax stuff which was just a bit too much “next level”. Like “Next, next, next….” They wondered if we wanted to ride with them on the morrow — 250km to the Gold Coast was their plan.
“UM, no thanks.”
So the deal at the Killarney Hotel is that the kitchen opens at 6pm. But we totally didn’t realise that meant people would be lining up at 5:30 to order their meals. Somehow Conor got to the front of the line. And he had such a complex order for his chips and whatever which involved gravy and cheese and stuff. Behind him was a queue of about 10 people all looking hungry and disturbed by this chip-crazy blow-in! All we could do was look on and laugh.
Meanwhile the pub menu was not in a folder or a piece of paper — it was on a big this big board between the bar and the eating room. We were sitting in front of it for a while until we got removed as we were blocking people’s menu options. And these options were pretty narrow. Benny is a vegetarian and there was not one vegetarian option. It was meat, meat or meat with chips. So when Benny had to order he asked for the “egg and bacon roll, just without the bacon”. The bartender gave him a look worse than the look she gave Conor with his epic chips-requests. I had to step in to diffuse the situation. “He’s vegetarian,” I said. She was still a bit perplexed but accepted the order. Ben’s meal looked a bit tragic but he seemed OK with it:
So Dougie wanted to show me how his socks had all these holes from walking so much that day!
I had chosen to lighten my footwear by cutting out the soles. Yep. It was a disaster.
OK. So then I told my “Whitney Houston” Joke — which I sourced through Jess Jardine. And I think it is amazing and whenever we were all tired and feeling tragic I would say, “Just remember that when we get to the pub I will tell you my Whitney Houston joke. It will be awesome.”
But naturally everyone hated it. One day they might appreciate the genius. Meanwhile some random woman introduced herself and begged us to “Party”. We didn’t really know what that meant in a pub in Killarney. Because we were right next to the jukebox, Conor kept jumping up, using any unused credits anyone had just bought (but not used) to play anything other than Garth Brooks or Slim Dusty — does that count?
She described herself as a “Killarnian” which the sound of, we all had to admit, was not that endearing. Doug said it best, “You can’t help sounding like a bogan if you come from a place called ‘Killarney'”. It just sounds like “carney” and it embraces that “arrr” sound so much.
Anyway — she insisted on getting a pic with me. She took it. Actually not such a bad effort.
THE NEXT DAY
So I called it a night just before 10pm and no one objected. It seemed everyone else shunted off to bed not long after. In the morning I woke to find frost all over the place outside.
Benny, Dougie and I somehow snuck into the meals room to eat breakfast but it seems we might not have been entitled to this. Eek. They had a fire going which was pretty awesome. Ryan had decided he had enough and had called his partner Tiff to come and get him. (more on that later).
Some dude at the pub took this photo of us. Awesome skills! He walked all the way over the road so he could get the whole hotel in the frame.
I HAVE NEVER BEEN SO COLD
According to BOM it was 1 degree at Warwick that morning. I really think it was colder here. We rolled out just after 7am and I thought I was completely covered – well as prepared as I could be garment-wise. I had my long compression socks, normal socks, shoes, then knee warmers, kit, arm warmers, rain jacket, ear warmers, and hat. Plus fingerless gloves.
But fuck-me — my hands were so stupidly cold I thought I was in danger of frost-bite. I have never been in such pain while riding. I tried everything to warm my fingers up. I even put them in my mouth. Nothing worked. Eventually I had an idea. I stopped the bike, fished out my boxers and wrapped them around my right hand. Then I rode on and shoved my left hand down inside my knicks so it was against my belly. Riding one-handed and a bit lop-sided was bliss compared to before. My feet started hurting a bit as well but I just kept curling my toes to make sure they were still alive. About 10ks in, and about 5kms into the climb up out of Killarney, things got civilised and I could grip the bars with two hands again and shove my boxers back into the bag.
I will soon be investing in super warm gloves. Just saying.
It should be noted that the pic below was the last pic I took before my camera bounced out of my pocket and his the road. But then I heard a second crunch which was in fact Shirts accidentally riding over my stricken camera. But it survived — he went back and rescued it. It all just echoing that time back in 2011 my Garmin broke off my bike and Shirts rode over it and stopped to retrieve it.
It was at this point the blood was flowing enough that we could discard some layers and soldier on.
The climb out of Killarney was beautiful and civil and came in two sections that were never relentless enough to suck.
We were really dreading the ride down. We all promised to take it easy. It wasn’t a pleasant descent but it was manageable. When you are severely on the brakes the whole time it really ruins it. And it also ruins it when you think you are gonna cook your wheels and blow a tube at any moment. It also ruins it when you think a car coming the opposite direction will either suddenly smash you head-on or force you into a sliding crash. Plus on the left side was sheer cliff face and certain absolute bullshit if you rolled over it.
Both descents we stopped halfway to let our rims cool and warm up our hands so we could manage our brake levers effectively.
The last bit of down was naturally the longest, but not the worst. Visibility was a bit better. But it was still pretty evil and you were just worried the whole time about what could go wrong. But then around a corner we saw Shirts and Dougie waving us to stop.
“What are they on about?” I thought. But then I saw behind them was a massive fallen tree and I was like: “Woah!”
Yesterday there were a billion 4WDs smashing through here but today there would be none. I had wondered why the road was so quiet as we rolled through it. Now we knew why. Shirts was like, “I would have taken those corners a bit wider if I knew there would be no chance of oncoming cars.”
After we went through I saw a car approaching and so I put my hand out to stop it intending to do my civic duty and warn whomever it was of the blockage. So this car stopped and as the window wound down it was Tiff, Ryan’s partner, on her way to retrieve him! I was like half “OMG!” and half “SUPER-BUSINESS”. So I did my best to give her new directions to Killarney. I actually felt even more sorry for Ryan cause Tiff would not get to see how much suffering there was to get to Killarney. A guy at the cafe at Boonah was saying how he gets exhausted just driving up that bullshit.
I really wanted to get the token windmill shot in today. I think I nailed it!
BOONAH TO IPSWICH
Tom called for rescue at Boonah. He is in the army now and hasn’t ridden for months so apologies for giving him such a tough ride.
A BOGAN TRYING TO KILL ME
I don’t even think this dickhead need mentioning, but I’ll put this down. Just before Ipswich on that road there’s some roadworks where its one lane controlled by a traffic light. We all blasted through as quick as we could not to hold up traffic. After we were back on the two-lane section the cars that could now safely overtake were only about 300m behind the first vehicles. But some fuckhead in a car chose to hang on the horn in some stupid attempt at protest to me and Doug and so I just raised my finger. Suddenly a different car – a Hyundi Excel — did this “rally-car” stop in the dirt on the verge ahead and the driver door flew open. This massively fat guy in a lumberjack shirt forces his way out and starts swearing at me telling me something along the lines of “how dare I bare my finger to him.” Plus a few “FAGGOTS” and stuff like that. I try to explain to him, “I was directing it at the other car.” But he is on a mission. Then as I am about to pass he jumps at me like he is about to push me off my bike. I hold my line mostly cause I don’t believe he would be stupid enough to do that and if I deviate I might get cleaned up by actual traffic.
Anyway. Then I realised I had Shirts and Doug right behind me — which probably saved me. Thanks dudes.
Good ride guys! I am already planning the next one!