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Awaking to a nightmare (Part I)

AUSTRALIA | Sunday, 11 December 2011 | Views [939]

The cozy little spot sets the scene for many a fuck-up

The cozy little spot sets the scene for many a fuck-up

So I just got off the phone to the good folk at the Guinness Book of Records and they confirmed that I am in the running for a few categories in the next edition. 'Worst decision ever made', 'Most complete and utter reversal of fortunes', 'Most profanities uttered while pushing a bike up a steep incline' and 'Most amount of dismounts on numerous steep inclines in one day'. My factory setting must be stuck on 'moron', and no amount of life experience or good intention seems destined to change that.

I was awoken by a number of birds warming up their vocal chords as the rising sun warmed everything else. Homely smells of a waiting breakfast wafted under the door to tempt me into giving up on riding altogether. Yesterday was just too good to seriously believe that I could have any more days like that. To savour the fact, I laid in bed for an extra hour pretending it was earned by winning the Melbourne Cup.

A routine bike inspection prior to employing an ingenious new way to pack revealed that the trailer tyre was wobbly. It had a bolt or two loose, still a few shy of the screws loose in its rider. If you think that I would have been smart enough to check that before heading off yesterday, you obviously overestimate me. Tightening the tyre fixed the wobble better than any creative repacking could have done, but I did it anyway just because packing up had not yet become a chore. Neralie scored three hugs in parting and the suggestion that her amazing hospitality would be suited to running her own B & B.

Feelings of invincibility carried me the 3kms back into town where I had to turn south towards Rathdowney. As I did, I hit a wall. Not the usual wall where the body runs out of carbohydrates and starts burning fats instead. The sort of wall where it feels like a BOEING 747 is driving down the road in front of you. I was forced to ride in first gear and peddle like a man with the 'chapter skip' button held down just to maintain the enviable speed of about 10kms an hour. My intended destination of Kyogle instantly vaporised and was replaced by a flat spot about 100 metres ahead of me.

Knowing I had to make Lismore by the following afternoon, I was forced to soldier on. It took me nearly 3 hours to make Rathdowney, by which stage I had considered all possible foreign locations my savings could take me to instead. With such an unbalanced ratio of pedal strokes to ground covered, I knew that it wouldn't be long before friction was going to take a toll somewhere.

Every smart rider, and me as well, knows that riding far without bicycle shorts, or knicks, is a death sentence for your testicles. The sanitary napkin shaped piece of chamois is great for cushioning the vitals, or hiding embarrassing prayers made when speeding vans approach sideways, but I need a pair that feels more like a nappy. Something that feels like I have strapped a sofa to my ass. Nothing can help when most of your pedalling goes to stopping the bike from going backwards.

I walked into the Rathdowney Information Centre hoping the lady will offer to drive me to Lismore. She offers the same observation that everyone has thus far, and that is that I must be mentally deficient. I came in for help, not opinions but I know the lady sincerely believes she is only pointing out something I may not have realised yet. Given my windswept and mysterious demeanour, I thought it would have been obvious that I had thought of nothing else so far that day.

When I detail my plans to have my bike carry me effortlessly along Lions Road, she repeats her earlier observation, positive I mustn't have heard her. Lions Road crosses over the Border Ranges at angles that would make Lance Armstrong take up ping-pong. I was a little surprised I hadn't taken that into account given that the title 'Ranges' doesn't normally refer to lovely flat strips of open country. There was no free ride forthcoming from this lady, but she did suggest that the Mt Lindesay Highway was a more trafficked, much longer but flatter option.

At this point, the average persons' basic survival instinct would kick in and drown any foolish ideas with cold hard logic. 'Average' is not how I roll. I fell deep into thought, long and motionless enough for Rodin to have carved a homage to my predicament. It is very hard to capture a blank expression in stone though. Sensing I was astral travelling, the kind old lady offered some more disturbing news to aid my decision. As Lions Road carves its way through the lower ranges, the hills act as a wind tunnel and either propel you along like nitrous-oxide, or stop you dead in your tracks.

Yeah righto love! The more this fear-monger tried to tell me it was suicide, the more determined I became to prove her wrong. Her tales of peril were better suited to pitching the 'Patriot Act' to Noam Chomsky than selling Rathdowney shire, and I pondered how many children she had worried into becoming agoraphobic. She had made my mind up for me, for better or worse, so I thanked her for that and quickly left before she told me tales about trolls that live under bridges.

It was 19kms to Andrew Drynan camp, the only real stop before Kyogle. I planned to camp there and lose a good nights sleep worrying about taking on the Himalayas the next day. It was either that or the Mt Lindesay Highway to Woodenbong, a distance double the suckiest kilometres I have ever ridden getting to Rathdowney. Neither option seemed great when compared to a road side sale of an almost new bike and trailer combo.

That she was right about the wind tunnel effect had me worried about her other premonitions. The open farm land, quaint cottages and cattle curious about my contraption had all the hallmarks of a bucolic country scene. The addition of rain, albeit only light, removed any gloss I tried to paint over the situation though, and all I could think about was hot baked beans on bread and a warm bed.

By the time I had made the Andrew Drynan camp, I was tired and tense, but not yet beaten. I had third degree chaffing like such a wound deserved a black belt in wasted effort. It was completely grey and a swirling mist made the shelter above the park bench I accosted virtually redundant. There was a slight slope so I picked a spot away from trees and erected my tent for the first time since acquiring it. It has an apex three quarters of the way along its length and why I thought that peak should be above my knees, I will never, ever know. It was raining too much by this stage to make any position changes feasible. To avoid the blood rushing to my head, I realised I would have to sleep with the tent roof resting on my face.

Taking a dip in the nearby creek to rinse off seemed pointless in lieu of the rain, but it was a quicker way to reach a point of partial cleanliness. Thankfully the water was far warmer than I expected given that I had used up all my luck yesterday. I put on the only long clothes I had, which wasn't an over sight, just what seemed like the right thing to pack when heading to a place at the start of summer. They didn't stay dry for too long, so I put on the IPod to let some music take me far, far away.

Michael Franti serenaded me into the arms of an imaginary lover long enough to give her vague definition. Then the battery died. Feeling homicidal rage or uncontrollable sobbing coming on, I decided to preoccupy my mind with preparations for tomorrows ordeal. Grey skies and mist meant I would need the bike glasses I had brought specifically for low light conditions. I hadn't had a chance to employ them yet, but tomorrow was their time to shine. Pulling their sleeve out of my handle-bar bag, I quickly noticed they were a little more compact than what I remembered. Yep, they had snapped in half.

Tags: hills, misadventure, people, riding

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