So close to finishing one month early.
AUSTRALIA | Sunday, 25 December 2011 | Views  | Comments 
A positively great photo of a beautiful sunset over Little Beach in Nelson Bay
It's days like these I don't question my sanity; I fear for it. I question my dedication when even the air I breath conspires against me. I wonder how much more I would be enjoying myself if I was laying on a beach somewhere in Asia, far removed from anything with two wheels. “These days are character building” I hear positive people say with the sort of look they get when deriving some perverse sense of enjoyment out of a really shit time. I try to be positive as much as possible, and I'll try to bear that in mind as I relate the days events.
I was laying in bed thinking positively about how not even ear plugs could stop me from feeling like I had been sleeping on the side of the road. I had set my alarm knowing I had to coordinate two ferry crossings. I also knew that compression brakes were going to be a far more effective wake up call than my phone's pathetic beeping. I laid in bed till 630 praying for a better day than yesterday. When I rolled over to put my pants on, delicately resting my shoulder on the tent wall and the pole snapped, I knew it wasn't going to be. I laid back and tried to remember where in my soul laughter came from. I found a deep well of images frightening to a criminal psychologist and decided it was probably not the best time to be looking.
The tent was still wet, as were my shoes, but the sky showed signs of being more sporting. As I popped open the handlebar bag to fill it with the days sustenance, both of the buttons broke. Kindly old Dr. Foot went to administer a much deserved remedy, and only the tightness in my legs stopped them from assuming punt position. After loading the bike I went to return the lock to its holder and it fell off due to another bolt with a stripped thread. This time I had to laugh or else I would have started sucking my thumb.
I sat back down and took so many deep breaths I brought on an asthma attack. The two week warranty was expiring on everything and I was left pondering why things happen in three's to most people, in 20's to me. Is this all self-inflicted as my misfortune gives me something to write about other than the weather or my chafing? I feel I am being challenged enough just riding this far so why do all my possessions have to conspire against me like some Lady Luck funded revenge plot?
Resigning myself to a foul mood for the day, I gave thanks that no one was around to inflict it on. My first turn was a wrong one and resulted in a steep climb to return to the right road to take. I was taking another back road along the Bombah Point scenic drive and completely unconcerned that two thirds of it was dirt track, until I hit it. Last nights rain had made it a mud track complete with corrugations so perfect for enhancing chafing that I am convinced that's what they were there for.
The time spent trying to figure out where to get some valium or TNT, plus the extra time needed to navigate a road better suited to a tank, meant I was not going to make the 10am ferry from Tea Gardens to Nelson Bay. The small ferry at Bombah Point had about 20 metres of water to traverse so watching it pull away from my side as I approached hardly justified the swearing I still felt compelled to mutter.
I knew there was no point racing as the internet had informed me there wasn't another ferry out of Tea Gardens until 230pm. The 10kms of road that ran alongside Bombah Broadwater was every bit as scenic as Lakes Way but with all the things missing from yesterday. The road was recently paved, shouldered and perfectly flat. Not one car passed me on that stretch and many little picnic spots prompted me to stop and search for some peace of mind. If such a thing could be found externally, it would be on a beach in Asia, in a pharmacy or in Kate Beckinsale's bed.
I arrived at Tea Gardens by 1045am and felt hungry enough to take a bite out of anyone that came close enough. A boat sat at the dock with 'Ferry' emblazoned across it, but hunger and my faith in the infallibility of the internet stopped me from inquiring about its route. When the lady brought my coffee out, curiously coming ten minutes after my pasta meal had been cooked, I asked her about the ferry that was departing as we spoke. Hearing it was a passenger ferry to Nelson Bay felt like realising I had done the washing with a winning lottery ticket ruined in my pants pocket. The lady didn't need to be too observant to notice rampant eyelid twitching and decided to carefully back away.
I had three hours to fill in and I needed every moment to convince myself not to just throw all my shit in the river. I was having an out and out shocker of a day. Zippers kept getting stuck, bottle tops resisted opening, small things got caught on even smaller things, toes were stubbed on empty space, whatever I needed was always underneath everything else. It was all self inflicted but didn't have the same sense of atonement like other forms of self flagellation. It felt like I was simply taking the piss out of myself.
When the ferry arrived, I wheeled my bike down on to the floating pier and parked it a body's width from the edge, so in my case, not very far at all. Before getting half way to the captain, I heard a clunk and a collective gasp that could have meant a lot of things except for my day getting any better. I turned around and saw my bike and trailer prone, with the front end hanging out over the water. Fully aware I would receive no sympathy for finishing the job and kicking the whole lot in the river, I laughed at how recently I had wished for such a thing to happen.
How the handlebar bag remained closed with the broken buttons is a mystery that Angela Lansbury or Matlock are too old, or dead, to solve. Had even its contents gone in the river and left the bike high and dry, the rules of the game would have changed for good. Bank cards can be replaced. The camera is more than three months old, therefore overdue to be broken in some creative and idiotic fashion. I always carry less than $100 in cash, largely because seeing more than that in my wallet fools me into thinking I am rich and I blow it on the first pointless thing I come across. Thankfully, the straw dangled perilously above the camels back but didn't fall.
The hour long ferry ride was unique in that I got to watch the clouds I was moving away from, rather than towards. The captain also announced that there was a 90% chance of seeing dolphins on the trip. Quarter that with me aboard. 140 of them lived in the area and three passed us by at a distance of about 100 metres. I tried to capture their playfulness with a camera but it's like trying to photograph a deja vue.
I was barely able to put my butt on the saddle when I arrived in Nelson Bay, so I chose the nearest caravan park to the pier. With no unpowered sites and the next option being 8kms away, I was unable to register any surprise when the lady asked me for $40. She might have been able to say it with a straight face, but mine contorted like I was constipated as I handed over my mortally wounded credit card. The day had been so character building that I was like the Qin Terracotta army, and I offered as much resistance as what the replicas of the Imperial Guard would be able to.
I used three pegs as splints to hold together the broken tent pole. When it bent at an unusual angle but still held on, I gave thanks I wasn't a doctor, or being watched. I sat on the beach in the late afternoon sun wondering how much it would cost to graft some spare ass cheek skin onto my undercarriage. I was unable to sit still due to discomfort and twitching legs signified that caffeine was still electrifying my nerve ends.
Sure enough I barely slept that night but a gorgeous day full of new beginnings greeted me. Miraculously I felt better in the saddle like the previous days ponderings had somehow manifested. A rare stroke of luck too as Nelson Bay was so hilly I had to have my first break after just 4kms. 10Kms out I realised I am not on Santa's nice list, especially after the vitriolic diatribe I directed at the world in general. Even though I could see blue skies in front, behind, left and right, a single deluging black cloud followed me above, totally symbolic of my luck, and my mood.
After 5kms of riding through a monsoon, I hit dry road and realised the rain had stopped. Perhaps my new beginning required a rolling baptism first. Very few places had vacancies being the day before Christmas, and those that did wanted me to stay for a week or more. Not Tomago. Where? Exactly. Not even a worthy destination to a prison inmate, they still seemed to be make up a large portion of the parks clientele. The first two hairstyles I saw were mullets so magnificent they made Billy Ray Cyrus look like he was in the army. And of all the rules and regulations each place gives you, Tomago is the only place to have references to fighting and domestic violence, provide a number for the police and enforce school attendance by the kids that live there.
On the edge of Newcastle's sprawling industrial area, there isn't much to do or see that isn't mechanical or concrete in some ugly way. The best part of my day was spending two hours trying to find a place that would accommodate me on Christmas day. Hardly fun in any ones eyes but to spend Christmas with any sense of goodwill, I have to end this blog on a positive note.
Tags: bicycling, ferries, misadventures, on the road