The Distance

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To travel to the Tour Down Under most of us hopped on an airplane or went on a 10+ hour roadtrip to get to Adelaide. Not Andy White of fyxomatosis. For the second year in a row he rode the thousand kilometers from Melbourne to Adelaide and arrived just in time to join us on Willunga Hill. Here is the first part of his journey in his own unique and wonderful way of telling a story.

241km in adult talk…

Day two of my ride to Adelaide from Apollo Bay to Hamilton. Featuring an all-star cast of Australian flora and fauna.

If you haven’t read Le Petite Prince you really are missing out. One of the many things I took from it was the difference in the way adults and children describe the world. Adults in general, quantify the world around them. 6.1kg tells me nothing about the bike, well nothing particularly exciting. In the same vein, the distance I rode each day is no measure of the experiences I took from it.

Time to get carried away…

It was about 3am when a cool change rolled in from the Bass Straight. I finally fell asleep with my stomach only half knotted now. At 5am my rest was shattered by the sound of a skip full of glass bottles smashing. It might as well have replaced my alarm. I was tired, but wide awake. I packed up my belongings, ate half a bag of crisps and drank another bidon of water and hoped that something was open in the sleepy hollow that is Apollo Bay.

Not only open, but I started with a great brew, two toasted cheesies, croissant and another toastie for the road.

According the profile on the GPS the day began with two big lumps, and they happen to be set amongst some spectacular forest. Shortly after I rolled out of AB another cyclist came alongside, and then passed me. Ticking over a faster pace, on a mountain bike I thought ‘Why not’ and jumped on his wheel. I’m pretty slow to start of a morn and this rider seemed to be in a hurry to get somewhere. I rolled alongside to share a turn and ask where he was headed, but as I did he veered left, and rolled into a driveway – done for the day.

In a similiar deviation I’ll throw in the story of ‘Quick Greg’. I began my career as a bike courier / messenger / wheeled delivery person in London, two weeks after September 11, 2001. A few months in and I was already on my second bike, the first destroyed when a double decker bus rolled over it. The bike was my brother’s Giant MCM team carbon mountain bike. I’d installed the RockShox forks from the crushed Trek, up-spec’d the front v-brake to a Hope Mini, removed the rear brake, rolling on slicks, chopped the bars, and had an E.T. soft toy strapped to the stem. It was pretty fast/cool – or so I thought.

I’d learned quickly that the best company in London was M.E.T.R.O. dispatch. They had cool uniforms, made the big money, and all the riders were fast except for Nasty. They even had cute girls on their fleet. I made it a personal mission to line-up any METRO riders for unsanctioned street drags, before I’d even heard of a thing called an Alleycat.

One day I lined up the meanest looking rider of the lot. He looked like Jesse Ventura, and wore Oakley Mumbo’s that disguised any eye contact. The rider, who I later learned was Greg took the bait. Before I knew it we were racing down Clerkenwell rd through traffic at 50kph. Greg rode a track bike by ‘T. J. Quick‘ a London frame builder, specialising in track frames. I didn’t know what a track bike / fixed wheel was, I just knew his bike said ‘Quick’.

Farringdon intersection was approaching at blinding speed, and I’d love to say we had the green light, but we didn’t. Neither of us slowed, and we picked our line through the traffic gaining speed as the road dips and crosses Farringdon. Greg inched ahead and was on the left handside in the gutter and I was racing down the center of the road. He was tiring and just as I was clawing my way back to level he whipped left (into METRO base which I didn’t know at the time) and the duel was done. I later discovered Greg raced track and was an angry unit. My appetite had been whet for racing and getting a ‘QUICK’ bike.

A solitary car passed me between Apollo Bay and Lavers Hill. The invisible wind blew across my face here from the south-west.

Lavers Hill was the first respite, and I trudged into the General store damp inside and out from the outside mists and sweat. I was in two minds about following the coast to Warrnambool or follow my original sketch of a route. I let the coffee and pie decide.

The road to Cobden started from the petrol station and within 200m a large sign stating the road was ‘UNSUITABLE FOR 2WDS AND CARAVANS’ appeared. The bitumen became dirt, the dirt became rocks. The rocks became a sort of pave and since there had already been limited traffic on the sealed roads I took this chance to listen to some music. I’m glad I did because it really gave me goosebumps of excitement.

An hour later, the 16km descent was behind me, ágætis byrjun had come to a conclusion, and my bike looked like I’d ridden a stage of Giro – in 1991. The clouds were replaced with blue skies and the temperature had climbed. Time to ditch the arm warmers.

It was at this point I called The Boss to let her know I was still alive. It was atop of sizeable hill. A tractor rolled past and came to a stop, the engine still racketing. The driver yelled ‘You’ll get betta reception if ya roll back down the hill. If ya can’t get through you can use me phone’. I gave the driver a warm smile and waved him on.

The blink-and-you-will-miss-it town of Simpson provided the day’s lunch. Hot chips, laced with salt and vinegar, steak sandwich, dim sims and a powerade which I watered down and put in my bidon. A third of the days journey had been covered and it was 12.30pm.

Look far into the distance in this shot and you can see the rollercoaster that lay ahead.

When I rolled through Terang it had a familiarity about I couldn’t could my finger on. It was officially ‘stinking’ hot, I filled both bidons again and took relief in the shade. Then I realised I’d ridden through Teran enroute to Warrnambool/Melbourne. The memory of those headwinds came back. Thankfully they weren’t present today, replaced instead by blistering heat.

At the crossroads, Terang only six kilometers away.

Everytime you see a photo it means I’ve stopped, obviously. It means stopping, dismounting, pulling the bag off my back, unzippering it, removing the camera, composing, pulling the trigger, putting camera back in, zipping bag, putting it back on, remounting. As my levels of CBA increase the number of photos decrease and though I really CBA’d at this point I’m glad I did. I love this photo. I rested for 5 minutes in the end and just soaked up the ‘serenity’. Officially this is Mt. Noorat.

According to Wikipedia, Mount Noorat is an extinct volcano, situated on Glenormiston Road north of the township of Noorat, and approximately six kilometres north of Terang, Victoria, Australia. [1] The last eruption is estimated to have occurred between 5,000 and 20,000 years ago.[2]

Mount Noorat is a major volcano of the Newer Volcanics Province of Victoria, with a peak height of 310 meters above sea level and a crater between 160 to 200 meters. It is characterised by multiple vents, a complex topography, and the deepest scoria enclosed crater in Victoria. The mount illustrates a transition form maar eruption to scoria cone development, and includes megacryst and xenolith.[1]

Taking refuge in the shade in the small town of Caramut.
A long road ahead and in this distance on right are the Grampians

This was the last photo from the day. My GPS died shortly afterwards, my legs were tired but I was in far better condition that yesterdays failure. 241km for the day and all doubt from yesterday was replaced with enthusiasm for tomorrow’s ride. It takes in the beautiful towns of Casterton and Coleraine, and after that it was all a mystery. Bring it on.

My first stop of the evening was Woolworths in Hamilton to plan for tomorrow’s breakfast as well as some detergent for my clothes. Merely soaking and rinsing my kit in the sink yesterday did little to remove the stink. At the checkout I asked if there was a pub in town – that also had accomodation. This opened a 4 way discussion between the checkouts, with another local chipping in on where I should stay. I rolled up to the first option, The Botanical – booked out. The second was the Grand Central in the main drag. Bike friendly, good food, cold shandy/radlers’ and clean rooms with private showers for $40. The room was a long way from the Hilton, but equal distance from the Apollo Bay hovel.

My brief invetigation of the town for Bakery’s / cafe’s returned nothing was open until 7.30am but McCafe was open from 6am according to the barman. As they say in the Classics – Any port in a storm, beggars can’t be choosers.

You can read part 2 and part 3 of Andy’s epic ride to Adelaide on fyxomatosis.

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