What a great weekend!
Not just because I managed the 600 but it was a really well run and supported event and I got to meet old friends and make new ones. It was nice to press the flesh with blogger's Nancyboy (the ride organizer) and the exotic southerner Surly Dave after a long period of online friendship.
I love a road trip and the drive down had both brilliant sunshine and really heavy rain. Driving through Wagga Wagga, it was the greenest I had ever seen it and venturing further west to Balranald to avoid potential flooding in Victoria took me through a fascinating man made irrigation landscape in what should really be desert. Driving between Narrandera and Hay I saw and tooted (politely he waved back) a fully laden cyclo tourist, literally flying along with a tailwind. He looked very happy.
Arriving (at last) I checked in at the astonishing and highly recommended Mallee Bush Retreat, sorted the bike and gear and made it to the Hoptoun Community Hotel for dinner and drinks and yacking. Nice to catch up with Hans and Peter and to meet a few others, Les and Gordon who would be supporting the ride. I was quite tired after the long day of driving (had left home at 5am) so opted for an early night and found I was not the only one.
Alarms started to go off in the bunk house from about 4.30am (bastards!) mine was set for 5am, as the ride stared at 6 and how much could you do in 90 minutes? Anyway up and dressed I was light checked and before too long we were off, Peter's warnings of certain death by railway crossing at Warracknabeal uppermost in my mind. As always at the start, it's hard to tell who is fast and who is not, and chugging out of town I joined a group that seemed about right for my level of effort and was sucked along at 32-35kph for a while until about 40k in when my warmish attire was causing me to overheat and I realised that it wasn't likely I could hold that pace all day. Though it was great while it lasted.
After the first control in Warra, we turned east briefly before beginning the long run north to Birchip and Sea Lake. Leaving a bit lake I chased down a larger group of riders, and together we were an effective group working together to the Birchip control pciking up solo riders as we motored along. This was a really enjoyable leg, I chatted with a lot of other riders and Mark and I literally bolted into Birchip, smelling the chips at the cafe for the 128km control. If it was all going to be like that, it would be a doddle!
Birchip to Sea Lake was a bit different, the group had dispersed again and I passed a number of riders from the group until I was joined by Mark who I rode with to the control at Seal Lake through the extensive crops of wheat and barley and canola. We were briefly geograpically confused appraoching the town but otherwise made good time.
After lunch the next leg towards Speed and the controle at Patchewollock was a difficult leg. The wind had increased and we were riding right into it. I left the controle with legends Hans and Tim and along the way we collected a few others. The turnoff from the main road took us onto a C road towards Speed and we swapped duty into the wind. After a while we were fragmenting as a group and Mark and I (and another) arrived at the Pathe controle ahead of the others. It had been a tough leg but we were now turning back towards Hopetoun (in day light (just)) with only a measly 100km to go before sleep.
Leaving Pathewollock with Mark we rode together, occasinally seeing the flashing lights of riders ahead but never really closeing in on them. We also saw a bright red light shining from a Telecomunications tower that slowly guided us in to Hopetoun.
We reached the 300km control at 8.30pm and after a brie rest headed out for the last 100kms before bed. Peversly, this was up a hill to Wonga Hut. Shortly after town we were picked up by another rider and we headed along the road, playing with our lights and getting updates on the Swans v Dogs game (I did'nt really understand). After what seemed like a life time we passed into the Whyperfield National Park and then after another lifetime we arrived at the control. We had met a stream of cyclists coming back down the mountain as we made out way up, which was bother reassuring and depressing.
Wonga Hut was a lovely spot to stop and as Les reminded me later, I really wasn't too keen to hit the road again. It was now about 11.30, I'd been riding all day and tha hut was warm and full of food.
Eventually I prised myself up and Mark an I headed off. I was getting quite dozy and it was really good to have Mark's company on the way back just to keep me motivated. We eventually arrived back in Hopetoun and after checking in decided to set off again at 7.30am to complete the last 196km of the ride. We scoffed some of Peter's excellent pasta and grabbed a shower. Setting the alarm I was really looking forward to 4 hours sleep!
As I am now. More Latter...
Mileage in Kilometres = 6256km
PBP Quota = 2700km