Pedalling to paradise in a padded cell.
AUSTRALIA | Tuesday, 17 January 2012 | Views  | Comments 
My eyelid still twitches every time I look at this photo
I have never been so mistaken before in my life. Even the complete backfiring of my best efforts to be cool in High School do not come close to so utterly misreading a situation. From the position of the previous journal, I had every right to think that a stretch of track bristling with potential could do nothing but fulfil it. If the East Gippsland Rail Trail was a reward, I must have made a habit of raping and pillaging convents in a past life.
I started the day still beaming from seeing a seal the previous day. Yeah, a seal! Possibly the last thing I expected to see in Orbost except for Martians, dodos or attractive people. 30kms from the sea and this beautiful animal had swam all the way inland just to make me more gob-smacked and grateful for natures wonder. I had been talking to Matty by the side of the river when a head momentarily broke through the waters surface. I thought it must have been a dolphin until it swam gracefully passed, close enough to count its whiskers. (There were too many and I was too awestruck anyway.)
I stopped in at the Information Centre expecting to be hailed as a hero for giving the town something of merit to recommend it to tourists. Had I told the lady that I was the harbinger of the apocalypse, she probably would have reacted with the same lack of interest. Even though she claimed a few had been spotted over the previous weeks, it was still unusual to see an animal of the open seas swimming so far up a fresh water stream. Perhaps she ran a seal sanctuary or something, but while not giving the town the distinction it could sorely use, I still felt blessed to have seen such a rare beast.
And that's all the good news for this blog. If you are adverse to tales of unbridled rage, rambling vitriol, and non-specific venting aimed at bike trailer makers, you probably shouldn't read on. It's a good thing the average Australian citizen doesn't feel the need to arm themselves like Americans do. With a shot-gun at my disposal, I would have blown the limbs off every tree around me, taken pot shots at passing clouds and discharged the weapon so randomly it would have been the spontaneous manifestation of a new psychological disorder.
The lovely detailed map I had garnered from the Information Centre showed some smiling cyclists cruising along a beautiful stretch of bitumen path. Aside from the absence of a trailer, they were probably most over-joyed with a 95km trail of easy, car free riding. The first 6kms I encountered was more like a dry river bed. Big, half buried rocks bounced me around like I was riding a washing machine.
My bike was built for such conditions but I had modified it knowing that nearly all of my trip would be on paved roads. Tractor tyres hungry for dirt were exchanged for semi-slicks that slide over smooth surfaces with minimal resistance. Cobblestone tracks on steroids are not really its speciality, nor is my ability to handle such inconveniences. I kept smiling while the fillings, and the teeth holding them, were shaken loose in my head.
I knew my trailer was not built to withstand being stationary, so I feared how it was coping. I stopped to let the larger vibrations subside, and a cursory check over revealed the whole thing was bio-degrading. Before long I would be lugging a lump of decomposing metal. The hard rubber wedge I had jammed in had fallen out possibly within the first ten metres. I searched around and found some old steel left over from the actual rail line and wedged it in with the obligatory threats.
5kms later, the rocky river bed gave way to a sandy creek, and anyone who has ridden through loose sand knows how awesomely enjoyable that is. With hardly any traction, only sheer determination added forward momentum to the rooster tail of sand I was spraying behind me. Knowing that the trailer was a good place to lay blame in any situation, break-ups, gambling losses and the contraction of STD's notwithstanding, I stopped to give it another inspection.
Yeah, the metal had disappeared already. With no other metal objects available, I sacrificed my eating knife and cable-tyed it in place. That worked with spectacular inefficiency and I hadn't ridden far before my patience cracked again. Right, I am jamming a whole dinner set in there to stop this fucker from sagging back on its own wheel.
I stopped, opened my handlebar bag and the whole rig threw itself on the ground like it had lost the will to live. I was rapidly losing the will to let it live, but I drew in breaths so deep I nearly floated and gathered everything back up. I shoved the fork and spoon in where the knife was and cable-tyed them in to give the trailer the appearance it was being ridden by a dining echidna.
As I went to reattach the trailer, the bike decided it preferred laying down and keeled over like someone had shot it. With a shot-gun at my disposal, I would have happily obliged. The contents of the handlebar bag splayed everywhere again and I cussed so loudly it cut through the morning calm like a shot gun blast anyway. Veins throbbed erratically, teeth ground like Teutonic plates and limbs flailed around wildly trying to strike out at imaginary persecutors.
Dummy spits are never pretty and I am thankful that no one was around to see this one. If I could have, I would have taken my cricket bat and ball, gone home and trashed my room like a super-cell tornado. Years of Buddhist training buried, but obviously never obliterated, an anger issue that saw the aforementioned bedroom bomb attack happen on many occasions as a child. I was just as frustrated with the trailer as I was with myself for losing it with such reckless abandon.
I hurriedly repacked and rode off before Dr. Jekyl went stomp-crazy on something that richly deserved it. Seething white hot rage is not the best time to pursue an effective riding rhythm and I believe it may have been partly responsible for the next visit to the outer edges of my sanity. No less than a kilometre down the road, the chair fell off the trailer. Maintaining a modicum of composure was an act of will greater in personal merit than the entire ride itself. Seeing that the clip on the trailer bag had chosen then to break was an act of cruelty Spanish Inquisitors would have loved to have utilised.
I'm not the most masculine of men, as my numerous Winnie the Pooh goods, love of poetry and infrequent mincing would attest to. Various idiosyncrasies have seen me labelled a 'precious little daisy' on various occasions. And I'm not to adverse to crying should the need arise. This was a point in time where no other viable options were left open to me. Luckily, I realised that crying wasn't really a viable option either, so I just froze up. Blinded by an immobilizing hatred for the man who made my trailer, I stood mute and motionless for the longest minute of my life. I had brought this trailer off e-bay to save myself $100 from buying the reputable and well known BOB brand of trailers. Best $100 I ever saved! Worst lie ever!
Ah fuck it. I still had 80kms to ride and going all Van Gogh was not going to bring an end to my misery. It had officially become the worst day of the ride, and a finalist for worst day of the decade. I was completely blind to the countryside I rode through even though it could have been worthy of a National Geographic front cover. I was ready to leave the playboy bunnies and go to a back room on my own. I didn't want to admit defeat so I just pedalled, and pedalled, and pedalled some more.
Finally, I reached the two-thirds point of Bruthen. The Bullant brewery was there dispensing the only cure I could think of short of a tactical missile. I tried their I.P.A., brown ale and stout and started feeling slightly less rabid. A quick chat to Warwick, the musician entertaining the 30 or so punters, reminded me that I was still 'living the dream', even if Freddy Kreuger was constantly editing my itinerary.
As I rode off, Warwick sang out between verses, “See you later Harry. Happy traveling!”. Everyone gathered turned around to see me ride off and I nearly cried again. How could I let something so inanimate and harmless ruin my trip in such a way? My anger had done nothing but make a bad situation so much worse, and all the beautiful aspects of the day had been overlooked for the harm I wanted to inflict on anything that couldn't retaliate.
The last 9kms of the trail was paved, lending a tiny degree of legitimacy to the photo on the map. I had exhausted my indignation and my hard-done-by stance had given way to letting everything walk over me as long as it left me alone. For the first time ever, I played music while riding knowing that I didn't have to listen out for approaching cars. Katchafires' 'Revival' album lulled me into a place of partial peace that may have been aided greatly by the alcohol I consumed. Three beers certainly didn't help my riding as I struggled along with burning muscles till making Bairnsdale at 7pm. I had ridden 99.78kms in over five and a half hours and I had nary the will to do an extra 200 metres just to clock up the third century of the trip.
I called my Dad to ask for advice and he quickly realised that any repairs I undertook would have included a sledgehammer. He graciously offered to drive three hours from Melbourne and do the repairs right the first time than wait for me to edge even closer to the brink by demonstrating my unmanly lack of mechanical ability. It was all the excuse I needed to get pissed and have another rest day hoping to become human again before riding another metre.
Tags: bicycling, dummy spits, homicidal tendancies, misfortune, profanity