Amsterdam – days 11-13.

We arrived in Amsterdam on my very first birthday overseas. And of course it didn’t quite feel like the kinda birthday you get back home where I buy myself a lego set and eat sticky-date pudding for desert and relax on the couch all evening. No — it was just another intense-day where we had to get somewhere and once that done — maybe I could relax and maybe be interested in celebrating. I think I might have got to that point at about 5pm.

But backtracking: we got an uneventful train from Breda and then found a cab rank at the back of Amsterdam station and I swear we got ripped off. I couldn’t see any meter running but I thought that was just cause I didn’t know where to look. And cause we were doing two drops, one for us and one for Jess, I thought that might have something to do with it.

I thought I had learnt this scam (from this time in Atlanta where the driver locked our luggage in the boot until we paid whatever he had previously “quoted”.) The scam is where the taxi driver just “quotes” you a figure at the start of the journey and you accidentally “accept” and so the meter isn’t running the whole time and later you don’t have much choice but accepting. It was a bit more acute cause Jess had to pay the final bill (cause we got dropped off first). So not a great start. And taxi drivers wonder why they have such a bad rep and why everyone seems to embracing Uber.

Our hotel was a little on the edge of town. But close to all the museums and the park and of course there were canals everywhere.

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BIKES

It really was the most bikes I have seen in one place. It was a little funny though because ALL the bikes were using the bike lanes or the side streets — never the road proper. I looked on and thought, “OMG, I could smash so much faster using the car part of the road.” And I saw the occasional “roadie” and they were using the bike lanes too — which were vastly more congested. I guess that was the vibe. For me personally I like to mix it up with cars and smash it. To make sure my Garmin stats are the best they can be.

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THE HOTEL

It was a nice place where we were staying. All this cool furniture and Art in the common areas, plus a market virtually next door which had a food hall, cinema and cool shops.

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That night we had dinner at a Japanese place and then had some fun — just quietly.

The next day we realised another TRAVEL FAIL: you could only buy tickets to the Anne Frank museum online and our window was virtually frozen out. I had even read Anne’s Diary as prep, but I figured just standing outside was enough. It had been such a harrowing experience just reading her words and then stumbling around the streets where she lived, walked, and where she rode her bicycle — before it was banned. Then looking at her prison before a proper-prison was sad enough. Her ghost was everywhere — indeed she was almost a ghost when she wrote those words, and walked these streets and cowered at the back of that factory.

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Later that day we had lunch in a rooftop restaurant which had one of those  glass elevators. I am all a bit tragic in these situations. I don’t like heights, and I don’t like elevators. But I love views. Work that one out Freud.

And then we went to the Van Gogh Museum and used one of those audio-tour things. They are so good. I am so dumb when it comes to Art. I barely even know what I like — mostly just knowing what I hate. And the stuff in the middle — the stuff I am indifferent to is more a mystery than true indifference. So it is so refreshing having stuff explained to me. I LOVED that nun (Sister Wendy) who explained paintings in the most incredible way imaginable. So much weirder (and less pompous) than Robert Hughes, but conversely so much more natural. I saw it on some obscure timeslot on the ABC when I was a kid. Even as a kid I thought she rocked. CHECK THIS OUT I BLOODY DARE YOU — OMG! Or this which is super-trendy ATM. (Watch vs Hannah Gadsby’s review of the same painting.)

Anyway — I did my best not to get all teary – but it was super-hard. He was a redhead too. Bloody hell.

The next day we did that Ryks Museum and that was OK. Like it was at least an hour of entertainment before you were over it. We stretched it out to 1.5 hours. OMG — art galleries just get so samey. Call me a philistine — but that is the truth.

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SUMMARY

At the time, and a bit since I really don’t think I got into Amsterdam that much. I think I need to go back one day and maybe that will change. I mean Paris was a bit like that. London possibly too.

BONUS PICS

IMG_0805.JPGGratuitous red-light district shot — it was pretty tame really.

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These signs were everywhere. We had to google them later because I thought it was highly weird. It turns out that it is an anti-theft device where if you steal something you just might get sprayed by a DNA code that will mark you and basically connect you to the crime. Unless you have like a billion showers in the space of a week. Or burn all your skin off. Or confess. Up to you.

IMG_0825.JPGDee with a shop cat

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Killarney Overnightah — NIGHT 1, DAY 2

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

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

THE PUB

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

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

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

INDIGESTION

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

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

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

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

FOOD

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

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

FRIENDS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1:30AM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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COMMOTION? (OR WOOKIE TAKES A STAND)

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

WAKE UP SCOTTY (part 2)

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

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

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

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

IMG_0292Scott eating his breakfast at the kids table. Deservedly it should be said.

DAY 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WINDMILLS

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

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

So the tally was:

DUGGIE, WOOKIE and DAN — 6

SCOTT — 4

ME — (1)

image1Photo by Wookie

HURTING

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BONUS PICS:

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

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Killarney Overnightah (pt 1)

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

80% gravel and hills and hills and more hills

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

BEFORE THE START

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

WAKE UP SCOTTY! (part 1)

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

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

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

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

MORE ON “THE ROUTE”

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

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

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START

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

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

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

IMG_0152Wookie!

IMG_0138Me! taken by Duggie.

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

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

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

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

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

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WET RIVER

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

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me_duggiePhoto by Dan!

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

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

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

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

IMG_0238Wookie!

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

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

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IMG_0241Pic by Duggie!

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

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OMG. NEXT TIME (in PART TWO):

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

BONUS PICS

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Boonah Overnightah — DAY TWO

DAY 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BATTERY LIFE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CRACK

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

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

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

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

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

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

IMG_0283.JPGRyan smashing it

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Just saying. 🙂

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

LAST LEG

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

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

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

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THE TRAIN, THE TRAIN!

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE BESTEST

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

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

FINAL THOUGHTS: “ON TOUGHNESS”

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

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

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

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

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

THE REST OF THE CREW

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

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

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

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

BALLAST

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

BONUS PICS (courtesy of Ryan)

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Engagement Party Pt2 (Party edition)

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This is Jess and James being awesome. I forgot to upload this bad-boy and then I remembered but our computer broke and it took ages of bullshit to get it firing again. So this has just given me time to refine things.

MORE ON THE SPEECH

I know it’s a bit boring to rake over this stuff but it seems to have dominated my life for a while, not just before, but after too. See, some people didn’t really appreciate what I had to say that evening and they told me thus on the night — which was a bit confronting. All I wanted was to make people happy, but if I didn’t succeed in that, I guess I expected everyone to at least be on their best behaviour, despite any grievances they might have had.

That being being said — here is a bit more of my clinical advice just on the process.

So I have had just a tiny bit of practise at public speaking of late. And it is no secret that it is fucking scary and just like Jerry Seinfeld describes it.

But I am getting more confident about it. However — I was thrown a little at the engagement party by the audience participation. There were lots of interruptions — which is fine — but I just forgot to expect that. My rhythm was a bit knocked about consequently — but all this is good and some of the jokes coming from the floor shat all over my material! Conan’s quip “We’re not gonna sit in silence” when Dee declared there would be no John Farnham on our playlist that night was inspired. (You had to be there).

So this is what happened after:

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Shirts, Dee’s mum Mary-Anne and “Singlettes” (real name Red or Brendan if you wanna be totally formal)! Good to see so many gingers in the audience and it was pretty funny how well Mary-Anne and Shirts got on.

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ImageAli and Scott

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ImageTegan (a different “Tegan”, not pictured) made our awsm cake — Bake Even

ImageDee’s Grandpa from Finland — Ismo

ImageIsmo, me, Ilka (younger brother of Ismo), and Dee’s dad Terry. I look tall, but I am not.

ImageBec and Ann try and fight over who loves Dee the most.

ImageTHUMBS UP! This is perhaps my favourite shot of the night.

So then there was the “Cake-cutting” and I suck worse than Campbell Newman at staged kissing.

ImageMe being a dickhead but I like Jennifer’s pose in the background

ImageJane giving Dee the re-gifted doves* (*in-joke)

ImageMary-Anne and Kristian (Dee’s bro). Judd in the BG!

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Mark and Alicia (Dee’s aunty)

ImagePeter was a bit overwhelmed by the occasion. Don’t blame him.

ImageLinda, Luke and Erin looking beautiful.

ImageRyan, Marty and Shirts.

ImageFi and Tom. Gorgeous!

ImageAleisha (Archaeologist — NO SHIT!) and Jess

ImageBec and Libby

ImageMrs Picton and Mary-Anne — I’m just guessing but I assume that are saying, “yay for party-timez!”

ImageJudd and Jennifer being like dinosaurs, or tigers, or something.

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Jess and Conan and Dee. I like how only Conan is in focus cause — VOICE OF REASON

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Ash (who looks like the guy from Bush) and Joel.

Image“I LOVE YOU!” “NO! I LOVE YOU!”

ImageClaire (our awsm photographamer) and Dee and Jess

ImageKay and Dee

ImageJennifer and Jeffro!

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ImageJeffro and Julian

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ImageBree and Jess Jardine

Plaster Fun House and the SouthSide Tea Room

So the SouthSide Tea Room had an event on Sunday. It was called “Plaster Fun House” and we had a great time. It was me, Dee, Jeremy, Kerrie and Ella.

I am not exactly sure what occurred — because I wasn’t quite sure what I had signed up for and just had to go with the flow as events happened. But there were tangible results at the end.

THE GRATES

The SouthSide Tea Room, an amazing venue, has just been established by John and Patience who previously had been part of the band — The Grates.

And so I am going to talk a little about our history. In 2003 my band Specialbranch formed and we soon recruited a 17 year old Eastside lass called Jess. I had known her (online) for years from us being diehard fans of Custard and when I learnt she could sing and play keys and she was already a veteran of a band called Parkertron I asked her over to audition.

I have always thought having a woman in a band is crucial. Not that the band was “blokey”  or one bit masculine — it was just we needed (even superficially) some gender-balance and I love female voices.

Anyway — Jess got the part and we all got to be friends and she became part of the band.  And so our very first gig at Ric’s was accidentally with “Clifton” — one of John’s (John from The Grates) bands.

I designed the poster below and I got John’s band’s name wrong:

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That night I remember trying my best to compliment John on his set — but truth be told — I was too nervous about us playing next to pay enough attention.

Later, John and Patience and Alana formed The Grates who turned out to massively successful. But just while the inkling of that was happening we played another show with them: (this is their (The Grates’ poster)

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Anyway. There suddenly was this very “Brisbane” backlash against them — mostly from snobby bands and snobby musicologists here locked up in Brisbane’s malaise. And Jess got caught up in that stuff. But she was young, horribly opinionated (which was your duty in that period) and dating a guy that was half bitter about music and half in love with it.

[I guess it gets easier and easier as time goes by to get stupidly disillusioned with music when it gets so prolific.]

Jess: “It was basically tall poppy syndrome. No one knew them. They came from nowhere. And every band in Brisbane was jealous because they had been struggling away for ages and thought they were more deserving than a band who had not been around as long.”

I was having no part of the argy-bargy. I thought The Grates were compatriots — even if they were a bit flawed or derivative. “Aren’t we all?” I thought.

They were decent, lively and had fun tunes. No harm.

So Specialbranch imploded very soon after and we lost touch with them — except that our friend Conan played with them for a while and then Dan Condon did the same and I got John to write some stuff for my zine in 2005/6.

But then this Sunday — even though it wasn’t the first time I had been to the SSTR, I got to say hello to them again. And they are living a dream I fantasise about. Running a bar and having fun events and getting to host your favourite bands. Amazing.

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ImageTaken by Kerrie! “Beer-Dee”

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KERRIE

Lastly, I just want to say Kerrie did amazingly well. She is an Artiste. She did amazingly well and her attention to detail was truly whoa! If I had a say, I would award her FIRST PRIZE!

This is her result after it had been glazed next to Ella’s. Image

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RECENT PHOTOMOGRAFZ

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So Friday I spent the morning with our gardener-dude clearing up the absolute mess that was these fallen palms.

It was fucking hardwork. I was laden with sweat by 8am. I thought I was fit but all this bending over and chopping stuff and lifting and throwing was way more exhausting than I assumed.

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My dad’s ute was filling up pretty quickly with the log parts of this beast that was maybe 10 metres tall. The picture above is only about 30% of what we got on there. Dave — the gardener — had to slash around the tray to rip shit up like a blender to crush and pack stuff down.

Once finished the ute looked like this:

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And then it was a miraculous effort just to get the ute out of the driveway. Our drive is fucking steep and slippery in dry conditions. But with all this wet and the grit on the concrete the car’s wheels started spinning out. We had to ask the tradies working on the house across the road to move their car so we had a huge audience in this endeavour.

There was smoke and the smell of burnt rubber everywhere. The guys across the road were having a ball watching this drama. Three attempts later and Dave just had to mash it up in that, “drive it like you just stole it” vibe. And he drove a perfectly straight line and up and over the lip into the road. Phew.

The fallen palm-clump is perhaps a blessing. I am now determined to turn that space it once occupied into a vegetable patch and perhaps the level blow and above it. See there was not much light there before — but as you can see from the photo below it gets a lot of sun now and to be honest — the garden looks no less awesome to me (obviously after a decent clean-up). So Dave and I made a pack to meet up in a month and get the vegies growing. Stay tuned.

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PEDOMETER

When I was younger I was obsessed with the TV show Burke’s Backyard. It was on just before the footy (on a Friday night) and it was about a life that I was at least fascinated by, but something I also perhaps aspired to. A simple life with animals and trees and nature and growing your own food and generally being closer to our collective-agricultural heritage.

So one day Don advised us all to get a “pedometer” and the very next day I did. And in those days they were only sold in Tandy stores and this device brought about my very first love of personal stats. It was the original Garmin.

And at Christmas, struggling for stuff to ask for from Secret-Santa — I requested a pedometer. And it was awesome. But then it was lost during the floods. One of those epic walks I did in the rain and wind and not really paying attention because there was so much else to worry about. So I bought a new one this week and it is crazy-awesome just tallying your movement. And it doesn’t register cycling so it is genuinely about my steps. Indeed this new device won’t start counting until you have done 5 steps in a row — just to avoid accidental “steps” or knocks to the device being included. Obviously I am aiming for at least 10,000 steps on days I am not on the bike for 5 hours.

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This is from our dirty river on Wednesday (I think). Barrels are kinda cute — don’t you think? And this one is particularly pretty and almost compliments the colour of the water.Image

On Saturday night Liss and Michael came over for drinks and chats and Thai food at “Thai on Earth”. Here they are bonding with the cat. They also got to know our chooks and loved them and started thinking they might need some too!Image

Speaking of the chooks — they are much more adventurous now and will come into the house if you leave the door open for them. It is quite a surprise when you suddenly see them clucking around on top of some furniture. But they poo everywhere and they make a bit of a racket when you are trying to concentrate on TV.Image

A crop of an instagram pic I took on a muddy ride to work this week:Image

And finally today I did a lazy 30ks around the river and it was tough. My legs feel like they have been scrambled by those cramps I had yesterday. Ugh.Image

To the east

CRAMPS

No one really knows much about cramping. One of the reasons for this is that research into the topic is rare because cramps are notoriously random and apparently there are many different types of cramps and also it will take a brave cyclist to allow a researcher to stick some medical probe into a muscle that’s experiencing one.

All I can say is that I generally know what causes them in me. It’s usually a very hot day, I’ve been riding over around 100ks and I also suspect one can be triggered by moving a muscle in a slightly different manner to the default motions of cycling. It’s like your body gets so used to that zone it gets upset if you alter it.

That last point becomes more acute post-ride when I try to bend over to take my shoes off or I am lying in bed trying to sleep and a foot — so used to having to push against something (and slightly bent towards my shin when riding) — starts cramping cause it’s free and can now “relax”.

Anyway — more on all that later.

THE RIDE

We had 6 of us today which is pretty much a proper crew. At the meet-up point at Planet Cycles there was me, then Dayne, then Jesse arrived. Then Scott, Tom and finally Shirts.

The day started on a downer — I quickly discovered trying to take a snap of the sunrise that it seems not only my Garmin, but also my camera was a casualty of that wet ride last Saturday. The back display screen wasn’t functioning — which bizarrely echoed what had happened to my Garmin. So my photos will be a bit more shit than usual cause I couldn’t see the shot I was composing and I couldn’t even be sure the shot was taken. Ugh.

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Dee will be grateful Scott has shaved the mo and is working on a new beard.

Scott was rocking his fixed wheel with TT bars — the rest of us were on gears, though of course Shirts was also avec TT bars.

Originally the plan was to head towards West Mt Cotton Road and then hit Serpentine Road in Redland Bay and then swing home via Cleveland. But while we were mashing the plans got altered. First we hit Mt Petrie Road which gave Scotty a bit of a workout. So I said, “We’ll cut out West Mt Cotton Road” — which is pretty brutally steep and not very much fun if you just have one gear.

“Don’t alter the plans for me!” he said.

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But before all that Tom randomly said, “Take this right”. And we all obeyed and it was firstly down Rochedale Road and then into Ford Road through Sheldon. I’ve never been on these roads but it was amazing. Really pretty, quiet and packed with stuff to gawk at like transmission dishes, weird houses, horses and a place that had it’s very own half-sized rugby league field.

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I caught Scott instagraming on-the-bike. So I had to get into his photo:

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Another shot by Scott.

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It was fun to watch Scott climbing with his two water-bottles in the back of his jersey bobbing around. Tom thought it was “mesmerising”.

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Then the troop headed towards the West Mt Cotton summit. It was doubly complicated for Scott. Because he was brakeless, he had to somehow slow down during the initial 20% drop which has a potentially nasty corner at the bottom, and then he had to dig himself out of that gully. Ow. We all went first but Dayne stuck with Scott just for the LOLz and to document his suffering. Dayne is such a good mate!

This is Dayne’s pic — which I think is fucking amazing!

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And I think I captured the very moment Dayne took this shot:
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Dayne’s selfie to celebrate!
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“That wasn’t much fun,” Scott said at the top.
So we made our way down and then on Beenleigh-Redland Bay Road Shirts led us and time-trialled all the way along. It was absolute mashing and things went by so fast I had to take Dayne’s word for the fact we narrowly avoided two squashed turtles in our line. We consistently held the speed above 45 and Scott had to pull out cause he just couldn’t consistently spin that fast. I needed an excuse to rest so I dropped off the back too — ostensibly to keep Scott company.
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We were now about 65 kms into the ride and I still hadn’t refilled my water bottles. And there were no places to fill up so I had to steal some of Shirts’ water. Eventually we got to stop at civilisation — a servo somewhere near Victoria Point. Dayne demonstrated how spraying yourself — when you are all sweaty — with compressed air was amazing. He was right. Even in your shoes apparently!
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So thankfully we made it to Cleveland and had a chance to eat and rest. I was so desperate for food I dived into the cafe and ordered the first thing on the menu. Our table was so crowded Jesse managed to tip his whole meal all into his lap. We laughed so hard I got the first of my many cramps for the day — in my chest.
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Scott took this sneaky pic!
On our way again and naturally Shirts became — THE SHIRTS. Everyone was getting quiet. There was just suffering and I was in too much pain to take many photos.
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For some reason we took this scenic route and around Wynnum I was just over it and feeling tweaks and twinges of an epic cramp about to wave over me. I was also starving again and so sick of drinking water that felt like it had just been boiled. It was around 115km from home for me at this point and I don’t think there is much point riding when it sucks and you’re gonna pay for it for days later.
So I bailed and Dayne decided that was a good idea too. And below is what remained of the crew saying goodbye and heading home.
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On the train there was an empty VB can and I couldn’t resist posing for a photo which Dayne took.
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HOME
So I got off at Park Road and slowly hit those last 10ks. My legs were a mess and cramping and I was so, so hungry. I made it to the fish n chip shop at the Baroona Road shops and ordered my lunch — I was craving salt and more salt. Then as I was riding down Baroona with that meal swinging from a plastic bag from my bars — I heard this, “DAVE!” And turning around it was Jesse. RANDOM!
After devouring my lunch I had a massive dual-leg cramp in the living room which locked my legs straight — like they were suddenly in full length casts. I could feel myself getting dizzy and sick with pain. Luckily it faded. See I need to keep my legs moving post-ride when I am susceptible to cramps. I have learnt that if you jiggle them around — kinda simulating the motions of the bike — that seems to help. If you get sedentary — that’s when they arc up.
BONUS PICS
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The Flood — 2 years on PT 2

PART 1

That Wednesday the sky eventually turned a brilliant blue which apparently was the same thing that happened back in 1974. It was eerie how the rain had stopped overnight but the water crept up and stuck around like a ghost.

And then there was an overwhelming stillness about the world which defied the vibe I felt — which was essentially that this was the most profound thing that has happened to Brisbane in my living memory.

When I got back home, it was still quite early and as I casually posted these pictures on FB — I didn’t realise how shocking this might be to wake up to for a few of my friends:

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But it was also shocking to the Brisbane people not living anywhere near the River. To them Brisbane must have seemed entirely normal, but perhaps just a bit quieter than usual. And so I think some people actually felt a bit left-out or a bit detached from this situation — which they perhaps overcompensated for later — something I will examine soon.

Anyway I soon went riding again and arrived at a deserted Coronation Drive which was already covered in leaf littler — a state that might appear quite normal — but to me it was stupidly bizarre. And it was also obvious all the residents of the buildings around had been evacuated.

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Heading towards the city with all six lanes to myself I felt a bit like the last person on Earth. At Hale Street I was stopped by flood water but a cop was posted here for some reason and instead of sending me back — he directed me up the flyover (and on what normally would have been the wrong side). Then as I was mashing up a policeman on a motorbike seemed to be giving me an escort over. Soon I was on the expressway at North Quay and through to the city.

I remember savouring the experience, riding slow and sucking everything I could in telling myself this could well be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

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Around the city was more sandbagging — as far as the Queen Street Mall. But to me it seemed only Charlotte Street was seriously flooded. On the way home I saw that Suncorp was under water and so was the adjacent part of Milton Road.

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Back at home I expected the power to be gone but all our stuff still had juice. But our internet connection dropped out and our mobile phone coverage was limited to a spot in the back corner of the garden which made things a little awkward.

And this being exacerbated by the fact relatives were trying to call us to see what was happening.

Around midday we were starting to think maybe we should try and find some food, just in case, and we found a shop open just off Milton Road and paid about 5 times as much for a very dodgy looking piece of pumpkin. This profiteering was really appalling and I haven’t been back to that shop.

By the afternoon we went for a wander on foot and on the way home noticed the water had entered our street and had flooded the underneath of the first 4 or 5 houses on the odd side of the road.

FLOOD TV

I should note the TV coverage of this spectacle. You could tell everyone was throwing all their resources at it as there were helicopters in the sky as soon as it got light and they only landed to re-fuel or when it got dark.

Dee was so glued to the TV she developed a slight crush on Karl Stefanovic.

But then there was reports like Suncorp Stadium was on fire, or the entire riverside restaurant had floated away and most incredibly — there was a crocodile in the River. All nonsense.

But there was real, real drama which was utterly gobsmacking to watch: like the Riverwalk breaking-up and the boats smashing into various bridges. Another. And this view where someone is applauding it.

TOURISTS

That Wednesday afternoon at around 4 I went for a quick look to assess where the levels were at. I was riding up a tiny street called Thomas and a car started smashing down towards me giving me no room when it’s side of the road was blocked and therefore it should be giving way to me. I had to stop because it would be dangerous to keep riding as we passed and I was just so pissed off I blocked the car’s path.

I shouted at the driver that he had given me no room which was met by the driver laughing at me like I had no issue. It was then I noticed his car was stuffed with at least 5 people. I instantly realised what these people were up to and I wasn’t feeling too diplomatic.

“Who the fuck are you?” I said. “You know what? You’re just fucking tourists. Now fuck off!”

There was a look in his eye of shock like I had somehow read his mind and all he could stammer was “You’ve lost it”. At that point I rode on.

I was just getting so sick of all the useless traffic up our street. I was also worried about the cat getting hit by a car. And I was just generally over all the noise and the selfishness of people who come from the other side of Brisbane just to gander at misery. I know I was guilty of a little voyeurism, but this was my neighbourhood and a substantial part of these tours was just working out if we would be affected. The only other area I gawked at was the city — and I did it by bike, which is hardly as intrusive as doing so by car.

The 4AM PEAK

Maybe I was also a tiny bit worried about the looming high tide which was due to peak at 4am. We went to sleep exhausted with the drama but at 2:45 I found myself wide awake. So I just jumped out of bed and grabbed my bike and disappeared into the gloom. Dee didn’t even realise I had gone. I headed straight for Haig Road because that would be a good indicator of how high the water was going to get. A woman was already there silently watching the water rise. She pointed at a house and said she lived there and she couldn’t sleep. We both noted it hadn’t got that much higher since this afternoon. I stuck around for about 5 minutes and then headed for the River.

I went up Milton, down Ridley and across the train station overpass. At Chasely Street beside the Wesley Hospital I started riding slowly as there were no street lights or lights of any kind. The road here dips down into Coronation Drive quite excitedly but despite the blackness I could see where the water began. This was new flooding — I hadn’t seen it here the day before. At the edge I looked up and saw that the water here had come from under the road — not across it. There was no way to get to the Drive without jumping a fence into the Wesley carpark and then I was over another fence and dropping my bike from a wall at the road side and hoping I didn’t scratch it. I jumped after it and then I realised how alone I was here.

It was so dark, but not so quiet. The sound of water was incredible. And mixed into that roar was the sound of metal and other flotsam and jetsam randomly banging against eachother.

Down at the Drift Floating Restaurant the sound got even worse. This time it was timber creaking and wincing under the strain of the torrent. Although there had been news reports of the entire restaurant breaking away — it was only a pontoon at the back that had in fact been swept away. But still — the owner had had to smash all the windows to let the water it to try and save his structure. I am not sure it made a difference. Two-years-on the building is still derelict and getting more and more decrepit.

As I rode on towards the city in that scary, scary gloom I saw the water was over the road in four sections: the biggest around the Regatta Hotel and Land street, then a tiny bit at Lang Parade near the floating restaurant, then a bit more at Cribb Street and then another lake at Hale Street. These sections were once natural creeks and you can read all about them on the “Once was a Creek” blog.

When there was not much else to see I headed back the way I had come and talked to the security guard at the train station who was having quite a lonely night protecting the trains that were being warehoused here. Apparently it was because the Bowen hills railyard was in too much danger of flooding — which seems anti-intuitive now I think about it.

It was now raining again, but not very heavily. Next I wanted to see how Toowong was faring, thinking maybe the real danger was from water backing up through drains, but it didn’t seem to be suffering as badly as the predictions warned.

And so I headed home and crashed into bed.

Thursday was another brilliantly sunny day and I went out riding again, this time attempting a trip to new farm to see how some friends were doing. They weren’t home but I got to enjoy all those car-free roads and expressways and this time there weren’t just bikes around, people were walking here too.

Later that day we went down to the Rosalie shops and just near the school some cops told-off a group of five kids for swimming in what was essentially shit. The kids obediently left the water but then followed us over the rise towards the strangler fig. At the fig a news crew was filming and interviewing people. When they saw the kids coming I saw one of them asking the group to jump into the flood water just near the Frew Street drain so they could get some footage. The kids happily obliged. I was shocked and was working up the gall to say something — knowing Dee hates it when I get righteous — but some old ladies beat me to it. They forced the kids out pointing out they could get sucked into the drain and drown.

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ImageThis is the intersection of Milton Road and Torwood St. You could hear the emergency siren in the distance.

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THE AFTERMATH

That night the water disappeared and all that was left was mud.

I got up and grabbed an old broom and headed over to a house in Aldridge Street where friends of friends needed help cleaning up. I arrived early so just volunteered to help at the house next door. Soon I was carting out all sorts of personal items which I was told to chuck. And this just might have included a stash of pornography, but I shouldn’t confirm, nor deny this story.

But then I was expected to trash some important looking papers and I thought I should check with the owner but it turned out he didn’t care. So I heaved them on the increasingly huge pile of shit across the road but it nagged me a bit cause it seemed like he was in a daze — and not really capable of rational thinking. And then deeper into his under-house-tip I also had to lug stuff that looked suspiciously like asbestos sheeting — which thankfully was wet, but still broken and fibrous and I just had to pray it was something benign like plasterboard.

In that vein it should be said that in Torwood Street over-zealous “helpers” had chucked out someone’s perfectly salvageable kitchen while the owner was absent.

An hour or so later, car after car started arriving with people enthusiastically offering help — but we had to turn them away as the area was already choked with volunteers. And one group were distinctly “Aussie” and were already on the turps and concerned they would get breathalysed on the way home. It seemed this was a party to them.

On the way home I noticed an important-looking heavy vehicle was trapped in a side street. So I held up my broom and the cars stopped and the truck could escape. But then I didn’t get a thank-you wave. UGH!

Then I went over to South Brisbane to help another mate at his home on Cordelia St and got to ride in mud at least 3 or 4 inches deep. Crazy.

That afternoon after deciding the shoes I had worn all day weren’t salvageable I went for a lazy ride over to the western freeway bikepath. I did some laps and then on the way home I decided Milton Road was too chaotic so I headed up past the Botanical Gardens thinking I would go home via Birdwood Terrace.

Unbeknownst to me, the police had issued a request to cyclists to avoid the area as the quarry was being used to dump flood clean-up waste. In any case I cruised through and was waved through by a stop/go person and just as I was past the quarry turnoff — without disturbing any trucks I should say — suddenly this TV cameraman from Channel 7 leapt at me from across the road and got right up in my grill filming everything I did like I was famous. I was rattled so I stopped the bike and asked what was going on. The cameraman just said, “Oh, my boss just asked me to film bikes here.”

Then the stop-and-go guy was shouting at me that I was blocking the road — which I wasn’t — and so I turned around and headed home the shitty way, not really sure what had just happened. At home I realised that the news was going to attempt to pillory cyclists again and this time it was going to be me as their poster-boy of nastiness.

Great.

Thankfully there was nothing on the news about me, but that’s the power of the media. I was just finding a safe route home yet they could paint me as some kind of demon. And I later thought, “Why didn’t I just show him the address on my ID?” Or point out all the caked-on mud all over me. UGH.

All that “flood-hero” nonsense really annoyed me. People were just doing their duty, but many it seemed walked around like getting a broom out made them superior.

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