So here’s some extra pics from the Killarney overnight adventure. And for those of you who are keen to get on board for the next one — save July 9/10. Just quietly.
And for those who missed what we just done: here are the links:
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.
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.
Later in the night Dan took this shot. Someone had hidden or secured or just dumped some hay in front of our rigs. Hmm
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.
Here’s Scott getting acquainted with the pub-dog.
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.
Photos by Dan!
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:
I think Dan wandered off to bed next. Then Duggie. But Scott and Wookie were still socialising.
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.
This 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.
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.
Scott eating his breakfast at the kids table. Deservedly it should be said.
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.
This was a thing. At least twice up the climb. (photo by Dan)
The 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.
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.
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.
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)
Photo by Wookie
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.
Another one of those 12% bullshit signs. UGH!
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.
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.
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.
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.
Me! taken by Duggie.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Photo 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.
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.
In most crossings you had no idea what the bottom looked like cause the water was so muddy.
I think Dan was the first to successfully get across without stepping down. Kudos.
Pic by Duggie!
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.
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
So here’s my proposal.
I have corralled a few peeps already who just might be interested. Including the irrepressible Shirts. This will be epic.
At this stage there others include Scott, Dougie, Benny, Planet Ryan, Conor, Dan (Danfx) and maybe Bennett. (Come on dude!)
And Saturday May 21 and Sunday May 22 is firming as a date where the planets are aligned for everyone concerned.
DRIVE TO BOONAH SATURDAY MORNING
On May 21, not too early, we do a car-pool thing and meet at Boonah. Maybe near the Dungandan Park/pub.
Maybe Brad has a better place to leave our cars overnight. Maybe a get there at 8:30, start at 9am.
DAY 1 RIDE
So we head south-west towards the Mount Alford township (all on bitumen but with a few sharpish pinches), then south, still on bitumen until we hit the junction.
Then instead of taking “The Head Road” (like we did last time), we stay on Carney’s Creek road which is all dirt. It later becomes “White Swamp Road”. Ominous.
And this takes us up the mountain in a bit gentler fashion – but far bumpier. It will still mean a lot of climbing.
Where the White Swamp Road ends is 57 kms from Boonah. And here, at The Head itself, we hit the Condamine River Road. Which google maps won’t let me map out. But from my rough estimates it’s under 20ks of dirt a billion river crossings. (Well 12, apparently.)
There is no food or water over the entire last 65kms of the ride.
Map from Boonah to The Head
Detail of the first stretch of dirt
So we stay at the Killarney pub/motel. It is super cheap at the pub – about $40 for the night. And about $100 for the motel room.
Then we get up a bit later (cause the cold start just an hour after dawn last time was almost dangerously freezing).
And then we just go back to Boonah via the bitumen road. There’s a climb at the beginning which isn’t too tough – then those two massive drops. And then about 20ks of road with few bumps. Pretty manageable.
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.
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?
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.
“Puttin’ some gravel in our travel” — Wise words.
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.
I 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.
This 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.
Here’s Scott starting that decent. Ryan just ahead. I h=was completely stationary — ready to run down after this bullshit was documented.
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.
All 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.
Hands were shaking/jumping-around too much to get this shot in focus
Glad of the gate so I could catch-up.
Here’s Bennett taking a photo of me taking a photo of him
Ryan 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.
A 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!
That’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.
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.
Spot the super-smudge on the lens. (HINT: it’s not Scott’s filthy second-day shirt.)
Did 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:
Just saying. 🙂
Here’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!
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.
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.
This is where Ryan and Bennett are “Lathering up” with moisturiser just to soothe their epic skin damage. It was only about -10% sexual.
Ryan’s “speed-sleeve” now matched his skin. Kudos.
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.
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)
This gallery contains 15 photos.
Quite a few psychologists and philosophers will tell you that it is the anticipation of the event that is actually more glorious than the event itself. And a few more will say that the memory of the event is even more incredible. In a healthy mind they say our memory skews in favour of the “good stuff” while downplaying all the “bad stuff”. But there is also the school of thought that documents the very real malaise of “post vacation blues”.
I put the KENT sticker on for Bennett — but he didn’t come 😦
And these theories work for me almost all the time. You have some epic travel planned and you spend months preparing and you get increasingly excited and you are just shaking with excitement the night before and thus just buzz through the epic bullshit of the transit part and the actual overseas adventures go like a fucking flash and then before you know it you have to go home.
Jet-lag only really effects me on the return journey. And going back to work is so demoralising and you realise you’ve lost all your fitness and your belly now requires the looser notch on your belt and you look around Brisbane and think what a shit-hole it is.
But a few months later you have recovered and you reflect on everything, go through your photos or chat to someone who shared this journey with you and you just feel entirely warm with beautiful memories and a bliss that is hard to describe.
WHY RIDING ADVENTURES ARE DIFFERENT
An epic ride is quite the opposite.
You spend most of the imminent period leading up to the event — sometimes weeks — in a state of absolute distress. So worried, and so distracted by everything that could go wrong. The night before you can’t sleep and you can feel your stomach shiver with giddy. You wake up way too early and arrive at the start quite a bit punctual.
This ride meant all that shit was trebled. I was especially worried. I thought my legs would be fine, it was just the lungs that worried me. I thought the heart rate would get too high and my poor coughy phlegmy lungs just wouldn’t have the capacity to cope. Luckily they managed though I was a bit concerned every so often.
Ryan, Tom, Shirts (in front),Doug, Conor, Benny
But by the time the ride started I could calm down. At least this meant that whatever conclusion, good or bad, was closer and I would have some control over the ensuing details (by riding accordingly) and some idea of how I would go — ever increasing during the day.
And in regards to the fun or enjoyment of the ride — well during it all by it’s very nature it goes slow. Not just because of your pedal-speed or the many, many hours you are on the bike, but also because you are perpetually concentrating — on road underneath, the road ahead, on views around, on staying upright, on staying straight and away from cars, doing your turns at the front, looking out for your mates, keeping hydrated and powered up with food, and then spending a lot of brain-power on anticipating the next section (or sections) of brutalness ahead. Plus there are heaps more which I shouldn’t need to document.
So I guess all those times where you aren’t really specifically suffering — you realise you just might be having fun. And even that suffering stuff can be pretty funny once the hill is over and your legs and heart stop whinging. Maybe even during!
But then when the whole ride is all over, or just about to be, you suddenly feel this “I FUCKING MADE IT!” euphoria. A real, real euphoria. And it lasts for days and days later. It’s almost a feeling of “THANK GOD THAT IS OVER!” (Even Dee feels this vibe.)
Which, I think, is quite a refreshing way to experience the world.
Tom and his massive pack
Conor (left), Benny, and Doug (right)
Took the opportunity to take a pic of my bike while Tom changed a flat. We got like 7 flats collectively those 2 days.
A one-tree-hill heading into Boonah. It had a name – like a plaque.
Tom and Ryan
The bit where shit was about to get real. One of those “The ride starts here boys”moments. I could almost hear Scott screaming this in my ears.
Benny, Doug and Shirts (right)
Doug and Shirts on the front
Ryan heading into Killarney. You can almost see how massive that growth out the back of his bike is!
In the distance is that Audax crew heading out for their 250ks to the Gold Coast and beyond
Shirts and Doug
Doug, Shirts, Conor, Me, Tom, Benny
Shirts doing warmups before Day 2 started proper
Tom climbing outta Killarney, day 2
Tom being camera-shy
Benny in foreground, Shirts and Doug in distance
Me being arty
Tom, and Conor at the back, Shirts and Doug in front.
Tom all sepia crossing the Teviot Brook.
Shirts and Benny
POTENTIAL AUGUST 23/24 OVERNIGHT RIDE
So the destination would be Tyalgum in Northern NSW.
DAY 1: Brisbane, behind Tambourine, Canungra, Tomewin Rd Border Crossing, Murwillumbah, Tyalgum. 167km.
Tyagum, (maybe something else around there), Natural Bridge border crossing, Springbrook climb, Springbrook descent, Robina, Home (train option).
*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!
About 4:45am at the old substation just across from the Old Museum at Bowen Hills. Just me and Ryan today and the plan was Caloundra and back. We’d done this before back in 2012. But conditions this time were so, so much better.
It was dark for the longest time. Later today when we came back through in the opposite direction we were like, “Oh — this is what this road actually looks like.” Some sections — like at Strathpine — were just BLACK. Not even street lighting.
Just coming into Caboolture the light started to seep in. The Glasshouse Mountains looked a lot prettier than this pic.
20 minutes later the world was a tiny bit more civilised.
We had a break at Beerburrum — just like last time — then started smashing along Steve Irwin way. This road has about 18kms of no-shoulder death-zone-ness. It gets quite scary in some sections where there is a traffic island in the middle.
Beerwah has to get on the map somehow.
From Landsborough the road is actually really, really good. Nice surface, plenty of shoulder, not too much climbing.
The sun came out for a bit.
For the return journey just imagine exactly the same as before except:
1) heaps more traffic
2) a tiny bit of rain
3) very sore legs, plus sore neck, back, hands, bum, etc, etc
4) I had the beef and vege pie at Beerburrum instead of the chicken curry on the way up.
Total distance was 207km, over 1500m of climbing, an average speed of 30.9 and 6.5hours of riding (not including breaks). It is safe to say that me and Ryan are pretty fucking proud of ourselves — just quietly. Having made it through today we both know this will make the Killarney ride that’s coming up just a little less daunting.
Friday was basically just watching Steve Martin in “Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid”. The most controversial aspect of that night was a debate between Dee and me over how to pronounce “plaid”. “PLAYED” or “PLAD”.
Dee won. You say it like it rhymes with “MAD” — but without as much emphasis at the end. Like the the word just trails off.
Cool story huh? But all that drama was nothing compared to what was next!
Although I have documented the “Second Saturday” phenomenon many. many times before, I have been a bit lax in my writing of late — so I feel I should explain things again. A Second Saturday ironically starts on a Friday night, and it goes like this:
1) I love Friday nights. But when things might get real very early the next day I am a vision of discipline. I have a drinking limit and a definite bed time and a NO DANCING rule. So when your very being tells your soul “you should be partying”, instead you spend an impossible amount of time being quite ordinary. You start choosing and laying out your riding kit. Dee does something similar each and every work-day where just before bed she organises her work outfit for the next day. But me — I’m not used to that shit. So this activity is pretty intense and entirely alien.
2) Next you make sure your bike is in super-order. But you don’t pump the tyres until the morning cause they will leak about 10psi over night.
3) Then you set an alarm – maybe even two alarms – and despite that you are awake waaaay before those alarms ring and you are soon conceding defeat and up before 5am on your first Saturday. And then you get ready for that day’s adventures in a preparedness that I will maintain is more thorough than going out on a first date with the woman of your bestest dreams.
4) And then you do that epic ride which is probably the easiest part of the two Saturdays.
5) Once you are home and showered and re-hydrated and scoffed some food and had a calm-down in front of the TV with some stupid old movie on 7GEM you then head off to bed. That first Saturday thus fades into MYTH and you awake again an hour or so later and clamber out of bed just as the sun looks tired but you have a sudden buzz and you shake off that midday-sleep fuzziness and BANG! You have just scored a Second Saturday.
I cannot tell you how awesome this feels. I remember going to visit my Nanna in Ipswich on weekends (taking the train there on Friday afternoon after school and gorging myself on takeaway Pizza and Ice-cream and staying up past 8:30 to watch TV) and waking up in a daze on a Saturday in a strange bed underneath my nan’s ceiling fan like I was Martin Sheen in Apocolypse Now and being totally scared about where I was and being horrified I was late for school and then realising it was a Saturday and all that bullshit disolved and I was deep into party times.
(I am not sure why that story is relevant, but you’ll just have to trust me.)
Ryan and I did some decent riding that morning. Two summits of Coot-tha and an ascent of Mount Gravatt. I then did a bit of house/cleaning to wind down and got a tiny, tiny nap. But crucially it was enough sleepiness to draw a line in the sand between First Saturday and Second Saturday.
I wasn’t expecting to race on this second Saturday, but tragically — I am hopelessly prone to suggestion. I reckon I would get hypnotised pretty easily. Sometimes just watching people get hypnotised on TV or in a movie makes me a little fuzzy. You know when parents were trying to detonate all those youthful impressionable impulses and they would say, “Well if Billy told you to jump off a bridge would you to do it?” When I heard that logic it made total sense in my head. That fuckin Billy.
No way would I jump off a bridge if he told me so. But then it occurred to me maybe I would…
Anyway — despite saying about three hundred times that I was NOT racing and just there to say “hi” and do the slightest amount of partying — I had other commitments. I had to see Wintah and Glenn and Nelly’s band at Southside Tearoom. But of course your best friends sometimes have no understanding that you have other best friends. And so my protests were ignored and my name suddenly appeared on Gypsy’s race list. And that $5 entry fee just evaporated mysteriously from my wallet.
Once the dye was cast I worked out the maths in my mind:
1) 5 checkpoints should only take about 30-45mins. An hour tops.
2) I would smash the shit outta my riding duties and make my apologies at the end and thus miss the after-party. (boo!)
3) Then I would smash home, have a shower, get dressed and take a cab — rather than the train I had previously decided.
The format for this race was exactly the same as the first alleycat I raced way back in 2008. That alleycat was a revelation. I met so many of my bestest friends and somehow I miraculously won the event — mostly because I was paired with a character called “Shirts”.
So you raced in pairs. Tag-team. One team-member went off first while the other waited.There were 5 checkpoints. Each of us did two on our own and the last checkpoint we did together.
When Gypsy was doling out the pairs — this time Shirts was paired with Supermanlegs who is quite a considerable ally. I was matched with a dude called Justin (pictured below) who I had never met before. Immediately I said to him that I had no interest in racing hard and we had no chance of winning (cause I suck) so he should just ride safe and have fun. And I meant that entirely at the time. Entirely. But when the race started my blood began sizzling with excitement and the prospect of adventure. And Justin was up to the task in the drama department. It was decided that he would ride first. And about that time I told him how I had won the first of these events. But no pressure!
THE RACE DETAILS
The four checkpoints were divied up amongst the first riders: So of the 9 that went out — 2.3 were going somewhere, 2.3 others the opposite direction and so on. I know that sounds a bit ridiculous — but it worked. Crucially, each checkpoint wasn’t as simple (distance or navigationally) as the other. So it didn’t matter who came back first to tag in their partner — that first rider might have scored an easy first checkpoint. So I wasn’t that worried when rider after rider came in and I just had to wait. But then when Pat (the only other rider left with me) got his tag and I was left there on my own I knew this was gonna be a slow night. I was philosophical. No big deal. You get a prize for dead last!
About 1 minute later Justin appeared and I got my manifest and I read the map upside down and luckily I was stuck at some lights and decided to check the map again. Then I smashed over the Victoria Bridge and gave Pat a hi-five as we passed on the bike path. Meanwhile he was heading back to the “Joynt” and I was still heading to the checkpoint. A few seconds later I was getting Bennett to sign my manifest and I was fanging it back. Somehow I managed to pick the best route and arrived home just as Pat did too.
Fast forward a bit and suddenly I am going off to my next checkpoint and again we were dead last. At this point I was just trying to get the race over so I could get on with my other commitments. So I hit it up to some random street in West End where Kat was checkpointing. I took an entirely stupidly long route but managed to take a very awesome route home and scored impossibly good lights and only had one ute and one set of pedestrians try to kill me.
Then Justin and I had our own checkpoint to do collectively and I “read” the map and “saw” the street (Cribb) but I didn’t quite understand exactly where the checkpoint was — I just guessed. And cause Cribb Street was my side of town I knew the best route (which happened to be the most boring) and we set off. At that point in my head I assumed we would be last but I thought maybe we could craw back some dignity and not have everyone back at the Joynt getting super fuzzy with booze and back-slapping wondering if we were dead and sending off a search party.
So over the Go-Between bridge we went on the bike-path side and I was about 20m ahead and then I overtake two guys and for some reason I thought they were in the race too. But then I hear this maddening scream and I come to a stop and look back and see Justin being cleaned up by one of them randomly turning off the bike path. He has a low-speed fall and I swing back to check and by the time I am there he is back on his bike saying he is OK. (Later he would say the crash put his shoulder out. eek!)
So we continue on and through the underpass and suddenly there is Dayne and he gives us both a zip-tie. And at that point he says we are SECOND.
At that point the blood rushes to my head. “If we get second place that will be quite a tale. Quite.” So we ride on, backtracking our route and soon Gypsy is there and telling us we got second place. Amazing. Justin and I HI-FIVE and then I have to leave! As painful as it was ignoring that glory I had to get home and on to my nesxt adventure. But it was crazily cool to get that buzz that we had come second — and despite all that adversity. Wow. I felt quite amazing it should be said.
So a $45 cab ride later I was at Southside Tearoom. I did stop at the Joynt to get my bike lock and my dufflebag surprise present from BO GEAR! Awesome.