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If only I ended every day in a brewery.

AUSTRALIA | Sunday, 29 January 2012 | Views [1343] | Comments [2]

Not many feelings compared to that!

Not many feelings compared to that!

The grass always seems greener; once you've eaten it. Since arriving in Melbourne, I look back on the adventure with more sadness than relief. A week ago I was nearly incapacitated with regret for not having a normal holiday somewhere slightly more enjoyable like Asia or the Whitsundays. Even a place like ah, I don't know, purgatory, would have seemed better at the time. Knowing that any more riding is a matter of choice rather than necessity inclines me to remember the highlights, more than the hard times. Some would call that denial, but I like to think it's best to focus on the positives.

And to my great relief, the last two days were all positive. My rest day in Neerim South had been spent entirely in the cabin not only for the novelty factor. In frequent Melbourne style, a grey blanket had been thrown over the sky and being outdoors looked more appealing than it really was from the comfort of a recliner. I pottered around relishing the space to potter and I cannot say that I did one single constructive thing for the day.

After thanking Mick so many times he thought that was the extent of my conversational skills, I headed off a little dismayed with the morning drizzle that was dampening my clothes and my spirits. Only a change of attitude was needed to see that as a blessing when it acted like a refreshing and cooling mist during the first 15kms of riding. Even though most of that was done uphill, I could have ridden up them backwards I was feeling so fresh.

The stretch from Mt. BawBaw to Powelltown was all state forest and windy enough to prompt Mum to urge me to take more precaution than usual. The landscape was dense with trees, but not so cars, and I was left thinking that if Mum was worried about that road, it was a damn good thing she didn't see some of the roads I travelled on before. Twenty or so cars passed me at a respectable speed demonstrating that if I was meant to be hit, someone would have done it about 100 hills ago.

A slight 1.5km climb was rewarded with the best descent of the trip as it continued to wind its way through the forest for 5kms before it ended up at the 'Powelly Pub'. I knew for sure that anything posing a challenge had already been conquered and it was time to just cruise along and sing. That would have been challenging to any wildlife within earshot, but I didn't care. I could have propelled the bike along through goodwill alone but to avoid attracting attention performing miracles, I stuck to the more conventional method of pedalling.

Turns out it was only 54kms to Millgrove, meaning it would have been two ridiculously short days had I decided not to have a rest at Neerim South. Family friends Kim and Jill welcomed me in with open arms, stocked fridge and a spa bath. A half hour soak in that had me wishing I had just towed a spa on wheels instead. Mum and Dad also joined me there and took most of the contents of my trailer with them. I could have ditched the whole thing but I wanted it along for ceremonial purposes. Packing it with a pillow and one change of clothes turned out to be the best weight to carry, but it definitely lacked the luxury I was accustomed too.

On a routine examination the next morning, I saw that the tread on the trailer tyre had worn away so much that the tube was now exposed and bulging. With one day left there was no way I was going to change it so I decided it was worth the risk. If it blew up on the ride, it would make for a more spectacular entrance rolling in on the rim with sparks flying off behind me. Thinking that, I almost did take to it with a knife to ensure such an entrance did happen.

I cruised back towards Warburton and the start of the rail trail then returned to Millgrove to meet my cousin Gow. A catch-up chat there took long enough for slime tyre sealant to start oozing out of three spots and collecting on the trailer frame. Gow's wife Kellie offered to come collect it should it not make the distance but I preferred the idea of leaving it where it dies like a forlorn relic and warning to others who may want to travel with cheap crap.

It was a beautiful sunny day and the shady path of the trail stopped us from being over exposed. There was an easterly wind gently propelling us along as we chatted and weaved around all the weekend warriors that made the trail busier than a lot of roads I had ridden on. We made such good time that a coffee stop at Mt. Evelyns Cog cafe was necessary to avoid making a very unfashionably early entrance.

One punter was sufficiently stoked with my efforts to buy us both a drink and Gow and I both wished we had been at a pub to have been shouted something worthwhile. The promise of alcohol was needed to help push Gow up the only hill of the trail and he got to the top looking like he needed CPR more than a beer. The last stretch of highway widened the gap between us as Gow's enthusiasm to end his 40km ride couldn't match my relief at finishing my 2193km ride.

Even though I had gotten emotional whenever I had thought of the end previously, I felt rather numb as I rode the last few kilometres. Looking at a map of the entire trip the night previous made me realise how much had been forgotten as one day blended seamlessly into the next. The scope of the undertaking was lost on me as day to day riding felt so normal now that not doing so felt weird. The ride had encompassed the entire gamut of emotions but they mostly came one at a time, like despair on Lions Road, ecstasy on down hill descents or bewilderment whenever anyone asked me why I was doing it.

As I closed in on Coldstream Brewery, I either felt too many emotions and blocked them all out, or I was just too over it to feel anything. When everyone poured out onto the roadside to cheer me in, the former seemed more likely than the latter. I pulled in, dismounted and raised my arms in triumph. Two new emotions washed over me as my eyes moistened from um, some grit off the road or something. The first was a sense of accomplishment like I haven't felt since I tied my own shoelaces for the first time. The second was a strong sense of resolve never to commit to something of such scale without any understanding of....bollocks to understanding, just don't commit to such a thing again really.

After a thorough round of hugs and kisses, Kim and Tanya filled a big bucket with water and baptised me back into normal life. Washed away was the stink of the day and the every emotion except for relief. And a strong desire to drink with no regard for how I felt the next day. I changed into dry clothes that weren't padded in any way and totally devoid of lycra.

Dad had filmed my entrance and impromptu shower while Kim filmed his feet, various things for one second at a time of God only knows what while the lens cap was still on. In Dad's usual style of filming anything and everything even remotely related to a given topic, he happened to film a thorough inspection of my rig. My bike must think that laying down is its best look, and as it threw itself to the ground, the trailer tyre finally blew out. The trailer had held on just long enough to make it and my only puncture of the trip left a permanent green slime reminder in the brewery car park.

Polite and orderly behaviour had to be maintained at the brewery in view of the family but such restraint could only last so long. The 'boys' Simon, Elliot, Gow and myself hadn't been together since Elliots wedding in Asia last year so there was a lot of catching up to do. Back to Simons we went and the ride was officially ended at 1:30am with the consumption of the last drop of whisky in the house.

Even though I could no longer stand without wobbling or lie down without spinning, I still had the wherewithal to give thanks for making it to the end in one piece. I may have used up most of my nine lives, but I was so much better off for the experience. There were things I would have liked to have changed and could regret if I saw any point to it, but I don't. I did something I had always dreamed of doing, proved to myself and various doubters that I did have the ability to keep going even when the only thing stopping me from giving up was having a justifiable excuse. I came up with so many along the way that I thought almost justified quitting, but I passed out on the last day of riding extremely grateful that I had stuck with it and feeling pretty damn proud of my achievement.

Tags: bicycling, destination, friends, on the road



Well done Harry! Are you cycling to Broome next???

  stowaway Jan 30, 2012 9:36 AM


Hey Stowaway,

Not riding to Broome mate! My riding days are done for the time being, or at least my touring days. Hanging out in Melbourne and Perth for a bit then I'll take the easy way back to Broome and fly. Hope you're well mate. Cheers, H

  harry Jan 31, 2012 8:08 AM

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