Tag Archives: Rain

Riding in Pounding Rain is Better Than Sitting at a Desk: Scotts Head to Crescent Head (Day 11 – Thursday 30 April)

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.

Seriously, this is where they make the Milo. Macleay River at Smithtown (the town is behind me, but still).

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.

Holy Feck – That was hard (Day 3 – Tuesday 21 April)

The number of kilometres I’m meant to be covering keeps going up and yet I’m not completing them. That said I feel like the kilometres I’ve been doing are so much harder than one might expect that they are equal to double or triple the number of easy kilometres.

It rained heavily in the night and I woke several times to re-inflate my mattress. It was raining heavily when I first woke around 6:30 am – I rolled over and hoped for the best. When I rose an hour later it had lessened but it was still falling. All around was wet – four horses galloped along a ridgeline some 300 metres away, silhouetted against a white sky, we were inside a cloud and the drumbeat of their hooves on sodden ground was audible.

I got on with it slowly, hoping for a change in the weather but knew even without one I would have to just go – I couldn’t spend all day and a second night hanging around the rear of the Timor Community Centre.

On the positive my panniers were lighter and better packed. And I was glad I had bought rain pants. To begin with things weren’t too bad – it was wet but not too wet, and windy, but not too windy.

The rain started coming down much more heavily and the trouble with these Australian country roads is there is simply nowhere to take shelter – no cafes, no churches, no school bus shelters. I had to lean my bicycle against a tree and pull the tarp over myself and the bicycle to sit for a while on the sodden ground catching my breath and waiting, hoping, for the rain to lessen.

It did a bit and I pushed on. The pavement ended and the hoped-for good-quality gravel road was nowhere to be found – lumpy, rocky, corrugated. Rivulets of brown water running in channels. Climbing and pushing. Rain speckling the front of my glasses; steam coating the inside.

It was simply really fecking hard.

For lunch – such as it was – I again leaned my bike against a tree, but couldn’t be bothered with the tarp – I just was in the rain. All around me water.

I should say that while the road was quiet and lacked amenities there were homes and some traffic so I knew if I had to ask for help there were people about.

I wanted a test from this ride and I got one, in spades, for me, for my bicycle, for my gear, for my mettle and my emotional toughness.

At one point I spooked some cows that jogged along in front of me for several kilometres – I felt bad about herding them along but couldn’t see what I could do to stop them.

There was a moment when a huge flock of galahs rose from a field and whirled and circled around screeching – flashes of that dusty pink against the white sky.

I began up the Crawney Pass and the condition of the road surface improved – still gravel but better. It was, however, a pass and so a climb. When my bicycle was serviced recently I think the brakes were set a little too tight. A bit of grit gets between the pad and the rim and there’s an awful grinding and slowing. Foolishly, perhaps, I tried to fix it – standing on the side of a rising gravel road, in the rain. I was able to open the quick-release brake and tried to clean thing out. But then I couldn’t get the brake back together. It was by far the worst moment of the day – I begged for it go back together, I cursed it; I wondered where exactly my multi-tool was with which I could have loosened the cable to get it back together. In the rain. On the road. I cried some and pushed the bicycle for a while. I tried again and by some miracle got the fucker back together. It was such a moment of happiness – now I could ride on, further up this road, in the rain.

I had pretty much decided that if a ute came along I’d ask for a lift. Around 1:30 one did. I put my thumb out and Peter, a feed salesman from Walcha, came to my rescue. Sigh – it was about a 20 minute drive into Nundle. A distance that would have taken me a couple of hours I’m sure.

A fire was going at the The Peel Inn when I arrived. Scotty the English barman helped me drag my gear up to my room and let me store my bicycle in the cellar. I mentioned I’d gotten a lift from the Crawney Pass into Nundle and, if the weather didn’t ease, would be looking for one to Tamworth tomorrow. “I’m off tomorrow morning and could run you in if you like – let me know.”

When I turned on the television in my room I learned that the annoying rain I’d been riding through was the edge of a major storm cell which had been wreaking havoc in the Hunter Valley, Newcastle and Sydney. I’d been out of mobile range for a couple of days and expected my friends were worried. The hotel had WiFi so I was able to message people and tell them I was safe.

After dinner I visited my bicycle to see how badly she’d fared through the day: the chain – muddy and dry – had come off, the bicycle was spattered and the brakes caked in mud. Poor thing. I wanted to test my gear – well this was a test. I cleaned her up, got the chain cleaned, lubed and back in place for whatever the next day would bring.