This is the second installment in a 3 part series. To read Part 1 click here.
(Continued)….1am rolled around, and it was back on the road. Man I felt awful. Tired, cold, and back on the hypnotic misery of the flat, dark and straight highway. I started to get small thoughts, doubting that I would make it. These thoughts always come on a long event. They are just part and parcel of pushing your limits. That’s how you know you are approaching your boundaries, because you start to feel you can’t go on.
600 kilometres to go….
In Port Fairy we found a toilet, and I went in and sat down. I sat there for a good while, whilst Sam tried to explain to a local drunk at 2:30am where we were riding to, with limited success. I begrudgingly got back on my bike, with my doubts about finishing increasing by the minute. I started feeling guilty that I was letting the team down, but finally I said I needed to stop. I couldn’t even talk much any more, the blackness was starting to overcome my consciousness. I found a picnic table, and lay on top of it. It was cold, about 10 degrees, but I lay there, apologised profusely to the guys for an extra stop, and tried to get a control on my dropping confidence.
I lay there and thought about my family. I thought about my wife, and how she always encourages me to keep going. I thought about my little kiddies, who will stand on the side of the ride yelling “GO DADDY!” at the top of their little lungs, whenever I do anything on a bike. I thought about this blog, and what it has so far become. The blog is not called “I tried, but it was a bit hard, so I stopped”…. What sort of phony would I be if I chucked in the towel now? Sure, 450 kays is a great ride, but it wasn’t even a consolation prize to what I wanted. “With All I Have is the name of your blog mate, time to get it done” I thought.
The boys woke me up at this point. Apparently I’d slept for about 10 minutes. That was it. I was good to go now. Back on the bike, and off we went. I was no longer lagging, I was no longer the weak link. My little bit of self-analysis and reflection had been what was needed to restart the mental engine. Let’s get to Portland.
Portland eventually came, and the McDonald’s was open. Boom! Egg and Bacon Mcmuffin, pancakes, 2 hash-browns and the biggest, strongest latte you have please. Apparently I fell asleep again for another 10 minutes in the corner of the Maccas…. Pretty hard not to when you are sitting somewhere warm and comfortable…
565 kilometres to go.
The next section we were a little worried about. The road to Mt Gambier is full of pine forest and is frequented by logging trucks. OK, trucks can be scary, but logging trucks spraying shards of pine shrapnel, some as big as your fist was not an exciting thought. The chips were littered everywhere, but thankfully, whilst plenty of trucks went past, they all gave a wide berth, and were unladen at the time.
The hills rolled on through the forests, the scenery was different to the rest of the trip, and the winds picked up a bit. It was pretty tough, and it was 4 ragged roosters that finally pulled into the bakery in Mt Gambier for lunch. The half way point was just past Portland, which was great to get past. That was a big mental hump to get over. As tired as I was, after my rally on a picnic table, I felt like I could make it.
We all felt we needed a power nap to get going a gain, so we found some grass under a tree, by a train line, and lay down. 20 minutes, with a helmet for a pillow, on some grass, under a tree, in the middle of the day. We laughed about these stops afterwards, they felt like proper adventure riding. It was old-fashioned grit, and just finding a way to get through that was getting this done.
Getting going again, and our worst fear was realised – head wind… Strong, straight at us. But by now, we had become a really well organised team, and formed a team time trial, taking precise 1 kilometre turns on the front. This was ace! Every turn on the front meant you had covered 4 kays. 5 turns = 20 kays. With the distance seeming to drag and drag between towns, this was really helping us break it down. Especially when the distance markers are total lies! A sign saying 13 kilometres to go could mean 11 or 15, they just felt like putting a 13 sign there at the time. At least the pace line was something else to think about.
Millicent came, and we stopped for dinner early – we didn’t know what would be open at the next stop. Subway footlong – YES. That was soooo good. Party in my mouth good. We stuffed our faces again, and the mood around the crew was great. Yes we were concerned about the night ahead, but we had some strategies to overcome the darkness now. There was a real confidence about the crew. Plus there were so few trucks and cars on the road, we felt quite comfortable.
400 kilometres to go.
Oh man the next 107 kilometres of road were sweet. I’d been concerned a bit, as this road is bolt straight for kays and kays on end, and if there is a strong wind, there is no shelter anywhere. But the sun was lowering in the sky to our left, and we had the wind at our backs for the vast majority of the time. Sam and I rode off the front a bit, and just happily chatted 150 metres up the road. James and Pete weren’t tired, they just cruised at a different pace. The wind was so strong, it was easy. So easy that I went to down shift, and realised I was in top gear, whilst just cruising along.
That section filled the tanks a bit. The farming scenery, the flat land and the setting sun, all with a tail wind. When we did rock into Kingston, we were mentally a lot better. Thankfully the service station was open, so hot dogs, hot chocolate and soft serve ice cream with a chocolate flake were the order of the day.
Still, whilst the mental tank was full, we were pretty bloody tired, so a quick power nap was on the cards. Sam hunted around, and under a tree in a park we found some lush grass to lie on. 20 minutes, alarms set, helmet for pillow, snooze. Yes, when you wake up, it is as cold as all hell, as you were lying on the ground, in the open air, in your clothes. Then when you get up, your blood goes back into your legs, and you shiver profusely for about 5 minutes. But that quick recharge is enough to stave off the deepest pits of fatigue for a little longer, and the immediate cold you feel gives you something else to think bout for a little bit.
On the road to Salt Creek we did not see a single vehicle. Not one. We rode 4 abreast across the whole road, engaging in all sorts of banter. Some of it was deeply disturbing banter, but when you are that tired, weird stuff can be very funny, and it helps you keep going. Pro tip for an epic – pick people who are at least as big of a dickhead as you are.
We were all stuffed, riding a straight line was hard, keeping our eyes open was hard. Talking became hard. We started stopping to pee a lot. I think Pete suggested the theory about burning fat releases more water, but I’m not convinced. Anyway, that stretch of road should be a lot greener after the volume of hydration we delivered.
We got to Salt Creek some time after midnight, I really have no idea of exactly when it was. A quick water in and water out stop, and we looked down the road for a spot to sleep. The winner was literally a ditch, filled with native grass, in the open. I just cannot think of a better example of our determination to finish this ride than the fact we had a nap in a ditch on the side of the highway, in just our cycling clothes. It was bloody comfy too…
210 kilometres to go…
To be concluded…
Thanks so much for reading, stay tuned for the final chapter of this epic. To stay up-to-date, please remember to drop your email into the home screen, and subscribe to the blog. It’s worth it just for the welcome email I’ve heard… 😉