Day 15 - Thursday, 9th July 2009 - Ellendale Rest Area to Willare Roadhouse
Yesterday at the Rest Area, one of the people was a professional Masseuse, and she offered her services to any of the riders at one dollar per minute, a couple of the riders did make use of the offer. I don't think that Kirsten has been doing massage at any of the Bush Camps that we have been having.
Last night, after I had finished sorting everything out, I offered any help that I could for Dinner. Pat and I were in charge of getting the main part of the meal ready over the fire. It was a Dahl of some description, and it took us a bit longer than expected to get it ready, so after the briefing had finished, Phil was trying to pad out the time, and the call went out for some jokes. I think that everyone had some jokes, but they probably weren't clean, so given we were amongst others, they probably didn't want to volunteer them. We were treated to a magical moonrise while we were cooking. It is a near full or full moon, and so it was up shortly after sunset. Because of the dust in the atmosphere, it was a very yellow colour, bordering on Orange. It makes me look forward to Staircase to the Moon, which is something we can hopefully see at Broome.
The meal last night was another really good one. It was just a really simple dish, but it hit the spot for everyone, I could have gone back for more, but I was already sated, so I didn't see the point of stuffing myself. I had to make use of the loo, and unlike the toilets at the previous Bush Camp, this was just a long drop, which meant that it didn't smell, and it wasn't at risk of running out of water as there was no need for any.
When I went to bed, I first had to finish setting up the tent, I have been a bit lazy with it at the camps, and this was no exception. I couldn't locate my Lip Balm, and I thought that I had lost it. I have a bad habit of putting everything from my back pockets into my helmet, this wouldn't be so bad, except for the fact that the helmet is an expensive one, so it is full of holes. I suspected that it had dropped out and I would probably never see it again. If it is the only thing that I lose on this trip, then I don't see it as a bad thing.
I was up very early in the morning, as I had again offered to help with breakfast again, and this time it was 30 minutes earlier than usual. I was able to pack the tent up very quickly this morning. One way I was able to speed it up was because I didn't use the sleeping bag liner last night. It is the hardest thing to pack up.
The wind had been around for a good chunk of the night, so the temperature was higher than we would have expected. Once I was packed, I went to help Phil and Susan prepare for breakfast, I was again put in charge of porridge and hot water. This time, the fire was a bit hotter than in the past, so the porridge was simmering very quickly. I was a bit distracted at the time, so I didn't pick it up straight away, and it did burn a little bit and stick to the bottom of the pan. We managed to get Breakfast on at the right time, and Susan was determined not to mention that the porridge was burnt, but I managed to convince Barry to ask for BCB's, without explaining it. He was convinced that it was something special, and it was only afterwards that I told him that it stood for "Burnt Crunchy Bits".
There were no people on the roster for duty today as everyone had already done it once, and Susan asked for people to help out where possible. She asked for someone to volunteer to clean the porridge pot, and I immediately stuck my hand up, to be met with "Not James!". I still helped out where I could, and I was the last rider out, only just behind Barry.
As I went through the soft sand at the entrance to the Rest Area, I nearly came unstuck due to the soft sand again. I managed to hold it together, and I stayed upright. We turned back on to the Highway, and were immediately met with Road Works. There was a "2km Gravel Road", but it was just hard packed dirt, so it was actually very rideable, and quite fast. Barry was taking a while to warm up, and so I shot past him, and kept going. It is interesting here, that Boab Tree's must be protected. I have seen several Road Works, and they always seem to rope off the Boab's, and these were no exception, every now and again, the road would have to deviate slightly so that it would avoid any Boab's.
I came out the other side, knowing that the 2km was rubbish, and I checked my bike computer, and it was showing that it was closer to 4km of gravel road. I passed Peter who was parked waiting for the last rider, and I yelled out as I went past that Barry was still behind me, and we were the last two riders on the road. While the wind had eased when the sun came up, it was still blowing, and it was pushing us along quite well. Once we were past the road works, there was what appeared to be another Rest Stop on the right hand side, and it was besides a river. I am not sure if it was an official camping area as there didn't seem to be any signs, and I didn't see any facilities. In either case, I would have been happier there than where we did stay, as it would have meant that we would have been able to get cleaned up after the ride.
We were on flood plain again for the first part of the day, and while the scenery wasn't fantastic, I was feeling good on the bike, it was a nice day, the bike and me were working really well, and that was sufficient. I love it when everything comes together, and I was just loving it. There was a lot of spinifex around, and it was reasonably green, there were even some wild flowers growing at the edge of the road, and I was wondering if I was seeing some of the early wild flowers that Western Australia is known for.
I was pushing a good speed, and while the road wasn't the best condition, I was getting a good turn of speed, but I knew that it was mostly because of the wind. I was slowly reeling in a rider, and it turned out to be Greg. When I went past, he jumped on my rear wheel, which I had no issues with. He is a good solid rider, and I am not afraid of having someone like him behind me. We continued to chase down other bunches, and as I caught up to one, I saw that Dee was on the back of the bunch, but I had been behind them enough that I saw that she had just finished a turn on the front. Even so, I typically meet her when she is at the back of a group, I made a comment along the lines of the fact, and Dee took the bait, and I coped a bit of an earful. As a defence, I powered past the bunch to avoid any more grief. My left knee which I have had problems in the past, was giving me a few warning signs, but it wasn't bad enough that I felt the need to back off the pace. I felt that half of the problem was hypochondria, and if I could stop thinking about it, then the pain would go away. But it is a bit like trying to not think of a pink rhinoceros. I saw some horses at the side of the road at one point. They were grazing on the left hand side, I tried to take a picture as I went past, but I wasn't very successful, unlike the horses a couple of days these seemed pretty used to traffic and cyclists, they just completely ignore me as I went past.
Our first stop for the day was listed at 50km, but for some reason, I thought that it was at 45km, so I started watching out for it at about 42km. We found a rest stop, and it was before Phil and Susan, but it was close enough to the right distance that it was unlikely that there was anything else up the road. We pulled in, and Pat, Graeme, Walter and John were already there. The map showed it as a rest area with a name, but it turned out that there was a sign there warning about a noxious introduced weed by that name at the Parking Area.
Kirsten pulled in, and someone mentioned that Gill and Trevor had kept riding past, I mentioned it to Kirsten, and she set off in pursuit of them. It was John's 75th Birthday today, and he had been given a pair of balloon's at breakfast, one with 7 and one with 5. He posed in front of the giant Boab Tree at the Parking Area with them, but I didn't manage to get a photo. There have been a lot of birthdays on this trip, more than I would have expected out of a group of 30. It must just be the right time of year.
Phil and Susan pulled in, and we quickly helped them get ready for Morning Tea, I was helping out cutting up, and others were putting up bike racks and laying out stools. We were early at the stop, and because of the wind, it seemed likely that we would continue to get ahead of the times throughout the day. Kirsten had returned with Trevor and Gill, they were 7 km up the road when she caught up to them, and she had also offered to drop them back off there when it came time to roll out.
After the standard 30 minute break, we set out on the road again, and Trevor and Gill were taken up the road. I was the last out, shortly after Barry, and as I went past, he jumped on with me. We went past Carl who wasn't far ahead of us, and as we went past, he tried to jump on. The pace was too hot for him, and he dropped off after only a few kilometres.
According to the profile, the road would started to take us upwards until shortly before another snack stop, and then it would take us downhill towards Willare, there was a slight pinch before the finish, but I didn't expect it to amount to much.
I caught up to a tail end bunch, and Barry dropped off me to stay with them. The scenery had changed, and there were a few plateaus that we were riding between, but once we were past them, there wasn't much to see. The terrain was pretty flat all around as far as the eye could see. I pressed on, and I caught up to the bunch with Dee again, she knew that I had been stirring before, and this time she was near the back, but a couple away from it. I said that she saw me coming, and that she moved up so she wasn't at the back. I pressed on, and given the wind still, the distance markers were going past very quickly. I normally base any time on about a 30km/hr average, I can usually work out easily how long any distance will take me, but today, I was pushing closer to 35km/hr, so any time calculation was going to be out very quickly.
I slowly passed the riders up the front, but Trevor and Gill were still to make an appearance, as well as the other usual suspects. I caught up to Ernie, and he jumped on with me. The mechanics had worked their magic on his bike last night, so the bottom bracket was no longer making any noise. Ernie jumped on, and like yesterday, I was doing most of the work, but he was still doing some turns which gave me a chance to recover. We caught up to Trevor and Gill, and I asked them if they were planning on stopping at the next break, or if they were just going to go on past. Gill responded with "We haven't decided yet"
We slowly reeled in Greg, and he was behind Graeme and Pat, I suspected that Graeme had seen me coming, and him and Pat had set off for next Rest Stop. Phil and Susan where ahead of us this time. Pat and Graeme where there ahead of us, and I mentioned to them that they had seen me coming. I again helped Phil and Susan get ready again. Most of the riders were in pretty early, and there was discussion that they would change the lunch stop, which was only 15km from the end, into a water stop, and then we would have lunch at the end. The tail wind was allowing us to get a long way ahead of Phil's expected times at each point. I think that most riders had an average over 30 km/hr, and some of the faster ones were a reasonable amount above that.
I was the last person out of the stop, but there was a reasonable sized pack just ahead of me made up of Pat, Graeme, Simon, Carl, Barry and Peter. I sat off the back, and they passed Fiona, and Simon dropped off to help her. Fiona has been having a few bad days on the bike, and Simon was going to stay with her to help her along. I offered her a sports gel, but she was already carrying on. I gave her a few words of support and pressed on. We saw a group of cyclists standing at the side of the road, and from a distance, it looked like they were standing around one on the ground, as we got closer, it revealed itself that they were changing a flat, not scraping someone off the road.
I initially planned on staying behind the group, but after Carl took a turn, he dropped off, and I soon closed the gap up to the group. Peter soon dropped off as well, and that just left Pat, Graeme, Barry and I. We were riding a good pace, and just enjoying ourselves, Graeme, and then Pat took long turns on the front, and when Pat peeled off, I commented that long turns seemed to be the order of the day. He said that it was pretty easy on the front, and when I got there, I had to agree with him. There were still some riders on the road ahead of us, but we were in no rush to catch them. I did a good long turn on the front, but when I peeled off, Barry lifted the pace by close to 10km/hr. I had been doing mid to high 30's, and it shot up into the 40's. It took me by surprise, and as I had just been on the front, I had an initial shock of trying to get on the back.
He wasn't up there for long, and when Graeme took over, the pace returned to a more respectable pace. We cycled through again, and this time when I was on the front, I knew that Barry would drop the hammer when I pulled off so I was a bit more ready for it. The pace again went through the roof, and he stayed up there for a very long time. We were in the high 40's for a lot of the time, and even hitting 50 at times.
We caught up to Ernie and Gill, and we went past them like they were standing still. When Barry finally peeled off the front, the pace stayed high. The water stop was at about the 130 km mark, and I was keeping an eye open for it. It was at an intersection, which was where you would turn off to either Broome or Derby. It had been changed to a water stop only, Kirsten was there, and we were the first ones there by about 2 to 3 minutes. Despite the fast pace that we had been pushing, it wasn't that much above others. We drank a reasonable amount of water, and filled up all of our bidons, it was still pretty warm, and we were drinking a lot. There was a giant Boab at the stop, and I think that it is one of the biggest that we have seen. Every now and again, I think that we have passed the last of them, for another one to appear around the corner. They are normally a very solitary tree, but occasionally we have seen a couple together, and sometimes a lot I one area. The last few days, we have even seen some of them in leaf, it is either because we are moving further West, or there is more water in the area.
We left the intersection, turning Left towards Broome, there was a final hill to crest before we could make it Willare, and according to the distance signs it was going to show up slightly ahead of schedule. Ernie had rolled out ahead of us, and we slowly reeled him. Pat dropped back to stay with him, and Graeme, Barry and I pressed on. The hill wasn't that bad, despite what the profile looked like, and once we were over the top, we continued to push on the way in. It didn't take us long, and we made it to the Roadhouse, we turned in quite fast into soft sand which was pretty hairy, but we all stayed upright.
We tried to find Phil and Susan, but there was no flour on the road, but we knew that we were at the right spot. I rolled around the back and I found them unloading the truck, Susan was trying to find out where everyone was going to stay, as there was a confusion over the rooms that we had been allocated. Susan told me my room, I was in a Donga again, but it has an en suite, and I found it very quickly.
For a Donga it is a good one, it is small, and I won't be able to use the bathroom while the bike is in the room overnight. I quickly assessed the laundry situation, and so I got out of what I was wearing and wandered over to try and get some one. I wasn't sure if there would be a mad rush as I suspected a lot of people may just wait until Broome or until they got home. The problem was that there were 4 machines, and 1 was out of order, and the Road House Staff needed to do 1 more load I each of them, so I had to wait anyway.
I did my stretching, and I then grabbed a shower, it was amazing how much muck came off me, but then again, I haven't had a proper clean in 2 days, so I shouldn't have been surprised. While I was having the shower, the power went off at the Donga's. Not normally an issue, except that it suddenly made them unbearable, as without the air conditioning, they quickly became an oven.
I went over for some lunch, which was a bought ready to eat meal. Normally, we would get something fresh, but it is made in the morning at the place where we have stayed overnight, that wasn't an issue last night as we were camping, so we had to make do. In either case, it was still a nice meal. It was lucky though that the fire at the supermarket in Fitzroy Crossing happened on the day that we left, and no the day before we arrived.
I managed to get my laundry on, and it was nice to have some relax time at the end of the day. We weren't expecting to have any, but we had arrived at our final destination for the day 2 hours ahead of schedule, mainly thanks to the tail wind. It would be nice if that can continue for tomorrow as it will make it a very easy day. If not, I think that we are all strong enough to make it on time.
It is hard to believe that tomorrow, after 16 days on the road between Darwin and Broome, we finally bring this ride to an end. From looking at the distances I have done so far, we are going to be close to 2,000km in total, but then again, I also overshot the first Lunch Stop by about 6km, so not all riders will be at that distance. It is going to be an amazing finish to an amazing ride.
Another giant Boab
Corner, what's that?
Horses grazing at the side of the road, they were unconcerned by us riders
Waiting for Phil and Susan, Gill and Trevor decided that this couldn't possibly be the rest stop
It is going to be over soon
That puts it all into perspective
Most of the drinks are water, does that tell you something?
for more Photos from Day 15.