Sunday, January 26, 2014

The Wall of Fame

Six intrepid cyclists took on the challenge to complete the entire trip around Australia. They came from all walks of life and from a couple of different countries.

Annie was the first to commit and one of our youngest. Annie was from York, England and was coming to Australia for an extended period of time. She loves Oz so she may never go back home to live. Annie had never camped before and wasn't sure whether she would enjoy it. She was easily converted to the camping life (didn't like our bugs but loved the stars) although she did resort to the upgraded cabins more often than was ideal. Annie had only been riding for a few years but was a very strong rider, although I did find I had to boost her blood sugars most days in mid stride. She was a delight to have aboard and she always had a very positive attitude.

Theo came next. Theo is from Port Macquarie (via the Netherlands) and had ridden with us a couple of times before. Theo was one of our older gentlemen on the ride (not the oldest). Theo has a very distinctive riding style and I was able to identify him from a great distance. He has the best attitude and the best wave. It was always a delight driving past Theo. He brought along his professional camera on this trip and became our unofficial photographer, organising quite a few posed shots. He spent one night in hospital with some food poisoning, not caused by my cooking, and this kept him off the bike for a little over 24 hours but he was determined to get back in the saddle as soon as I would allow him. Theo was one of our poets and we loved his contributions. I must also say that he gives the best hugs.

Chris, who partnered up with Theo for most of the trip, was from Deepwater up in the NSW tablelands. Chris is another very strong rider with much experience in long distance cycling. Chris was my nursing side kick for most of the trip- if I had a problem (which there weren't many), I would ask Chris' opinion. She was a plodder and rarely complained about riding conditions. Poor Chris had an off bike mishap on the Broome to Perth leg and was ordered off the bike for the last couple of weeks of that leg. We all thought she would head home and meet us again in Perth but she decided to remain with the group and ride in the truck with us. She never complained but it was evident that she would prefer to be out on the bike. She was an inspiration to me with her determination.

Georg was from Germany. He spoke very good English but he really struggled with the Australian humour (or should I say Collis' humour). There were a few clashes between them until they worked each other out. Georg was another one with a distinctive riding style and he preferred to ride on his own. He told a few riders that he does not like to ride and talk, he just wants to ride. He liked to be one of the last to leave the camp each morning with the aim to be in the first couple arriving at our destination. Georg was known for his love of steak meals and cold beer. He went straight to the local hotel/roadhouse upon arriving every day at the destination for at least one beer. Everyone knew when Georg wasn't happy as he would not talk, so we just left him alone until he was ready. He had a fall on the Broome to Perth and unbeknown to us, he was considering pulling the plug. He plodded on and I'm pretty sure he is glad he did.

Ben, our youngest rider to do the whole trip was from Sydney and he was riding for Rabo Bank. Ben was a real surprise to everyone. He could outride all of our riders and then he would sit back quietly, riding beside me to protect me from the wind (although he was a skinny little thing, it still made a difference and I couldn't have ridden on one day without his assistance). He and I had a few clashes and I'm sure he didn't know how to take my humour but I'm sure by the end of the trip he had worked me out. Ben started off being all about riding the distances but by the end of the trip he had developed a love for taking every side trip available to him to see as much as he could. I feel the trip has changed his life in more ways than he could have dreamt of.

Woody, our oldest rider (only just) and a man who has ridden four other rides with us, is from South Carolina.Woody's original plan was to finish his circuit of Australia in Broome but in true Woody fashion decided to continue on to Melbourne. What's an extra 7,500 kms between friends! Keep out of his way first thing in the morning but once those legs warm up he is as good as gold. I've seen Woody mellow over the years, not as bitey as when he was a young man of 60! He has seen more of Australia from a bicycle seat than most Australians would see in a life time and is heading for 1,000,000 kms, if there is one bloke who could do it, Woody could.

Day 37 Dromana to Mentone

We had requested everyone to pack most of their things and keep all their bags together and give it to us last night. Didn't quite work out the way I had planned as a few riders don't like to follow directions if it doesn't suit them. Oh well, this is the last day. Found out at last night's briefing that Richard has seen his Kangaroos so he can go back to Ireland a happy man. Collis and Lorraine gave very clear instructions in last night's briefing and Jerry was prepared to lead them in. We felt we had all under control. We were meeting at Frankston McDonalds for morning tea. We didn't plan on us not being able to find a car space big enough for the truck and trailer, which left us driving around in circles before we decided to park illegally out the front. By the time we got into McDonalds the riders had bought themselves their morning tea. Bugger!! Sorry guys, it wasn't planned!
From here we headed to Mordialloc with Melanie leading down Nepean Highway. Another group gathering here where my great mate Karen arrived to welcome everyone home. Then Jerry led them down Beach Road and we all met again at the Mentone Hotel- this has been a slow crawl home. We eventually arrived at our destination, greeted by our family and some of the riders' families, in time for some photo opportunities before heading down the road for a well deserved lunch.
The journey of a lifetime, one that will probably not be repeated by any of these participants or our company (not this route anyway) has come to an end. There were lots of tears as everyone started to realise exactly what they had achieved. Very emotional time for all of us. Hopefully some life long friendships have been established with happy memories of a great holiday and adventure.

Day 36 Cumberland River to Dromana 120 kms

Everyone was up early and excited about the ferry ride across to the other side of the bay. The trip is coming close to the end and everyone has mixed feelings. My sadness is continuing to stick to me. I've realised that it is because I had convinced myself that this trip was going to last forever and I will never have to go back to work. I was wrong, I don't like being wrong!
The winds were very good, up their tails most of the day even though the road kept turning. Morning tea at Torquay but most of them missed the stop and I found myself out in the middle of this roundabout directing all these cyclists or yelling as loud as I could at the ones that missed seeing me. Not a very relaxing stop! Then we headed to Queenscliff and booked everyone onto the 2 pm ferry. Some enjoyed the hour trip across the bay, some slept their way across and others tried to not think about their sea sickness.
Jerry turned up at the ferry in Sorrento so that he could ride in with the group tomorrow morning.Cycle X shouted everyone a bed in cabins in Dromana for our final night. Melanie turned up on her motor bike so that she could lead everyone in tomorrow. We had a nice dinner which looked a bit like the Last Supper down at the local hotel.

Day 35 Port Campbell to Cumberland River 138Kms

We got a reasonable start this morning as we had a tough day ahead of us- they had to climb Lavers Hill (approx. 19 kms). Actually they were climbing most of the day and everyone was wanting to get as much sightseeing done in the allocated time.
Morning tea was at the top of Lavers Hill at a cafe. Once we went past Lavers Hill they all seemed to disperse doing their own little things, in/out of the different viewing stations and beaches along the road.
They all made it safely to Apollo Bay where Pat's partner Tim joined us for the night. Lunch at Apollo  Bay. Robbo was late getting in to lunch after taking some detour. Cumberland River is just a caravan park where the river meets the sea. Cute little caravan park enclosed by some cliffs. Very busy even though the weather was cold and windy. We couldn't boil the kettle as they supply their own electricity via their own hydro plant. 
Kangaroos were hopping around down near the river but when I tried to find Richard to show him, he was nowhere in sight. Will he get to see a live kangaroo before we finish? These were big kangaroos!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Day 34 Port Fairy to Port Campbell 105 kms

Woke to rain and strong winds this morning plus the phone ringing madly. It was 6.30 and our son was ringing to say the battery on my car at home was flat!! He is using my car while we are away, anyway told him to ring the RACV to fix it- I couldn't do anything from here. We had slept in and we had to rush to get out to catch the riders before they headed off.
I'm starting to get really tired. My mood is a little flat and I think because I am tired and also that the adventure is coming to an end. It has been a huge undertaking, not only for the riders but for Collis and I as well. We started planning these rides nearly 2 years ago and every spare minute I had was used in the preparation towards this. It has been my focus for 2 years and it is coming to a close. I am unsure what I will do with myself next but a few of the riders want us to start planning the next rides.
Most of the riders went to the Cheese Factory for a drink and then we had morning tea at the 47 km mark. Lunch was at the Bay of Islands and into Port Campbell by 1.30. The scenery is changing with spectacular views along the road.
Georg has been contemplating going home apparently, since he had the fall off his bike. He wasn't enjoying the pain he was having from the fall, the cold weather and the restrictions that both were putting on his riding (of course the trouble with his tent wasn't helping either). BUT he has picked up and he is glad he continued on especially for the scenery leading into and along the Great Ocean Road.
Rain again  this afternoon but we had all set up our tents and settled into the well stocked camp kitchen. Some of us did get a little wet running from the tent area to the amenities block.

Day 33 Port Fairy 0 kms Rest Day

Collis has been fighting off a cold for the last couple of days, coughing and sneezing all over the place. He is worse today with aches and pains as well as all other symptoms. I have been dosing him up with lemon drinks, vitamins, oranges and sudafed so hopefully this may be the peak today and he will start feeling better tomorrow.
Slept in, which is usual for rest days. Went for a walk into town with Collis and Annie. Bought the kids some presents seeing we've been away for nearly 6 months. Some nice little art galleries but too difficult to transport anything home with all the luggage we are carrying. Ended up having lunch in town before taking Collis home and putting him back into bed. He slept for a couple of hours and felt some improvement when he woke up.
I read out the letters of encouragement that had been placed on Facebook, at the briefing and they were appreciated by all the riders. We finalized the photo competition for this leg with Ben as the winning entry. The theme was the "road" and his winning photo will be on the front cover of this leg.

Day 32 Mt Gambier to Port Fairy 162 kms

Crossed over into Victoria early today- back where it all began! The weather changed slightly with the sun shining at morning tea. We had morning tea at Dartmore and we were delighted by the tree 'chain saw' carvings.

There were carvings commemorating the Great War and further down into town in the children's park they had a nursery rhyme tree with every nursery rhyme you could think of plus on the boundary fence was all the Australian animals local to that area. It was fantastic.
Lunch was at a roadhouse in Heyward. We had been contacted by a fan on Facebook, Meredith who wanted to try and catch up with us on the road. We gave her a destination and an approximate time but we arrived an hour earlier than expected and I didn't have a contact number for her so I was a little worried that we may miss her. Meredith came early just in case this happened and she was able to catch up with a few of the riders. Lovely lady who is following us on Facebook and my blog and would love to be part of it. She kindly gave a donation for TADVIC as well. It was great to meet her.
This was the lead in for our last rest day so quite a few of us got cabins again. The weather has been changeable all day but no one had to ride in the rain.
The winds over the last 30 kms were difficult for everyone and they were all pretty tired once they arrived. The facilities at the park are top notch and has a pleasant manager who was very helpful.