Stephen rode with me the first 20 undulating kilometres from Jacky’s mum’s house to their house on Stewarts Point Road. Along the way a friend of theirs caught up with us on his road bicycle. In his mid-70s and absolutely fit as a fiddle he was out on a cool-down ride and talking of his plans for riding in Suluwesi later in the year. People often say of older people doing stuff … oh, such an inspiration … but in the case of this fella he was trim, strong and looked relaxed and happy. However you get there that’s a good place to be anytime of life but certainly in your mid 70s.
It would be my longest day’s riding so far – about 73 kilometres – some on the highway but a lot on country roads. As Stephen promised once I’d passed the servo at Clybucca the topography flattened out. The land was marshy and wet with recent rains but, as ever, filled with cows now joined with crane-like water birds, standing on their long legs in the wet. With the flat came headwinds shifting to side-winds on the road to Smithtown.
The people of Smithtown are missing an obvious tourist opportunity. They make the Milo but you wouldn’t know it as it looks like any small country town but for a wee sign pointing toward “Nestle”. No Big Milo Tin. No kiosk selling hot and cold Milo and various Milo treats. I so would have stopped.
Sum-Sushi in nearby Gladstone got my business instead – serving a surprisingly good wood-smoked salmon roll, which I topped off with an apple slice from the nearby bakery.
Sitting there the sky to the northeast had gone leaden and the rumble of thunder sounded distantly. The south, the direction I was headed and from where the wind was blowing, was clearer with some patches of blue even. It was still 25 kilometres to Crescent Head and I thought of stopping at the hotel in Gladstone but … didn’t.
The rain began falling within 10 minutes of my leaving the bakery – but it was warm enough, not falling too heavily and the road well populated so if I got into serious strife help was near at hand.
I was riding along the Belmore River and it was all really very pretty. I was getting more and more wet but, well, all you can do is pedal really. It was flat and as the rain picked up the wind had lessened; I was moving at a good clip and should be in Crescent Head soon enough.
Well, not soon enough to arrive before the rain really began bucketing down. Ten kilometres out the road forks – one way to Kempsey the other to Crescent Head – and just past that it began hammering down. I was soaked through and through. My shoes – surprisingly dry-ish until then – filled with rain and I squelched through each pedal stroke.
I began singing. Loudly. Midnight Oil’s Sometimes and Power & the Passion – I tried I am Woman but couldn’t remember the words.
This is a weird sort of mash-up video for this song – but includes some good stuff, so, why not?
Many reading this might think this sounds miserable. You might think this was on par with the tough day on the Crawney Pass or the challenges of getting over the Moonbis … but, no. I was happy – well happier to be riding in the rain than sitting at a desk. I felt alive and as in control of my life as any of us ever are.
When I’d found a motel, dealt with my sodden gear (all hail Ortlieb panniers – nearly everything in them was dry) and showered – I lay on the bed, watching well-earned TV, and felt strong – physically, mentally and emotionally. These days of riding have been testing but in the best sort of way … I’ve been tested and met the tests (so far).
Sometimes you’re beaten to the call sometimes; Sometimes you’re taken to the wall But you don’t give in
The next few days will test my patience. Another storm system has settled in; the local bus will take me to Port Macquarie where I will have to wait it out. I had already planned to spend two nights there so here’s hoping come Sunday the worst of this will have passed and I can press on.