There was no sleepiness from waking up at sunrise, nor sore legs from endless hills, nor fears of crazed motorists for today we would reach our first Australian climbing destination and get to spend one whole month in the same spot. Oh how to sweet to have regular food and to trade the redundancy of rotating pedals for absorbing rock climbing!
For the last leg of our journey we chose yet more back roads. Immediately we were met by some extremely steep climbs of 17% followed by a downhill and more of the same. Climbing up another 15% grade my chain came off my lowest gear in between the sprockets locking the rear wheel. We stopped and I fixed it, then stopped again and just as we neared the top, we stopped a third time. To my dismay I realized that my hangar had snapped and my rear derailleur was just hanging on my chain. This is the only part I didn’t bring an extra of. These derailleur hangars are made to break and are what is known as a sacrificial part, breaking in order to save other more expensive parts and to prevent injury.
After I finished cursing our fate and began devising a temporary fix using zip ties, a woman appeared in a golf cart. She said that maybe her husband would have a part that we could use. Her husband, Martin from Holland, and a life long bike rider knew exactly what we needed and took the hangars off his own bike. And although it wasn’t the right part, it was good enough so I could change into my lower gears and would get us to our destination. We thanked him profusely and promised to mail the part back once we found a replacement. His wife had told us that the roads continue to be hilly and we were only 50% of the way through. We debated turning back and taking the highway, but then decided to stick to the planned route. Thankfully Martin’s wife was wrong and we were at the top of the last big hill before the road flattened out.
Exhausted but elated at our good fortune we reached the Glasshouse Mountains Campground where we would get our first long rest. When we arrived we met a local guy named Warren who welcomed us in true Aussie fashion, with cold beers. We can’t say enough about the generosity of others and for two cynical city people this has been an instructive trip.
Cher’s knee is feeling better but we decided not to push it even though the Glass House Mountains are only 98 km away. Taking a winding route we had a pleasant day. Only one motorists blared their horn at us. We’re not sure if this is just because we are trikes and have a wider profile than a 2 wheeled bike or if motorists around big cities are more aggressive. Most likely it’s a combination of the two. However, we do see motorists we always put one wheel in the dirt and keep the other on the road, so we take up about the same space and we have the benefit that we don’t swerve. Not having to balance we are able to hold a perfectly straight line easily. Perhaps the world isn’t read for trikes… for adults…on highways.
Nevertheless our day was pleasant and cool. Brown’s Creek Rest Area just outside of Yandina was grassy, had taps with potable water and a composting toilet. One of many free rest areas in the more rural areas there were several caravans and a couple of long-term residents, who appeared to be modern-day gypsies camping in the area. While Cher and I took our hobo shower at the taps, by soaping up in our running shorts and then rinsing with our water bottles we met a man by the name of Cole.
Slightly tipsy Cole informed us that he was celebrating the completion of cooking school and was heading off to Southeast Asia to learn about the cuisine there. Proudly 58 years old, he announced that he had raised 3 responsible level-headed children and that the secret was, no secrets. No conversations were taboo. That’s it. He plans on opening a retreat where urbanites can get away. Cole gave us the whole run down and a great talker we knew his life story before bed time, which is just after the sun sets. It’s going to be strange returning to the real world where we don’t have the advantage of riding trikes to meet so many people. In sum the trikes have probably drawn ten times more positive attention than negative.
We do hope though that people learn to share the road with non motorized vehicles. Where do they need to be that they can’t let off the accelerator for 30 seconds? That is an idealistic question, because really it’s asking that people be less self-centered. We are all to some extent, myself included. Maybe an acceptance of cycling will also signify that a Utopian society is on the horizon.
On account of our late start, Cher’s knee, and our general lack of enthusiasm, we stayed another day to rest. I befriended an old woman who was trying to make sense out of the recent loss of her husband. She was quite given to alternative medicine and the mystical. It’s always interesting how people try to make sense out of the world. Prepackaged and purchased answers are never more than placebo at best. However, she was also writing a book as a guide to widowhood and she asked Cher and I read it and to give her some advice. She was already trying to make sense out of her loss through her travels and her book and we weren’t sure what to say. We told her the truth, that she was quite brave to travel alone and to share her painful lessons with others and that her book was sure to help.
Going to sleep that night, without saying a word, we resolved to make it safely to Glasshouse, and we held on just a little longer before falling asleep.
Taking advantage of our proximity to town we ran errands. We closed our Australian bank account we opened when we were having difficulty transferring funds from our HK to our US account, which issue was resolved. We also stopped to buy some groceries and later climbed out of town fully loaded up 15% grades. Cher’s already sore knee was in agony and we hadn’t gone more than 5 km.
Once again we retreated from the main road along a winding back road, called Old Noosa. There was no center line and after 10 km we passed a man cutting trees and he warned us that “rat bags” have a tendency to cut the corners into oncoming traffic. We thanked him and cautiously continued on. Our route took us continuously up and down hills and around bends and we were surprised to see that the speed limit was listed as 100 kph. Ten minutes later a man in his 70’s stopped waved us down.
With his wife standing by looking nervous, he began to tell us that she had passed us and had to yank the steering wheel when she came over the top of the hill. He recommended bigger brighter flags, and they should stand higher, and we needed flashing lights, and we really shouldn’t be on this road. His wife was only going 80 kph and the speed limit is 100. Although he meant well, we didn’t have time for a long lecture. So resisted to urge to tell him that speed limits aren’t a target, and that this narrow road, which sometimes wasn’t paved at all didn’t warrant even 50 kph never mind 100. I also didn’t point out that the both of them were well over 70 years old, and that so far it was this age group who always failed to see us. Instead I politely asked if he had a pickup truck, and if so would like to give us a lift. He said he didn’t so I told him that we had to get on our way. It was already after 3pm and we didn’t want to drive in the dark.
We stopped early at a free rest area just outside of Matilda behind a Greyhound gas station and were pleased to find a large pond filled with all types of water fowl. Camp was set underneath 3 low large palms and we found hot showers at the gas station. With the sounds of birds settling in for the night we both agreed that continuing on the highway past Brisbane would not be wise, but agreed that since we were only 100 km away we would finish our cycling to Glass House Mountains where we would climb for the first time in 5 months.
Having had enough of the highway we took to Old Gympie Road and were treated to gentle climbs and winding slopes through the country side. By the afternoon we were back in cane fields with a slight head wind, that came and went as we wended our way along the back roads. Google maps promised 90 km, but we soon found that some roads were not roads but private driveways and after 98 km we arrived at the designated rest stop.
Although Wiki Camps seemed to indicate we could camp there, we found a no camping sign. If we were in a caravan then we could stay, just no tents. Some towns do this to keep poor backpacker from squatting there. Many times Cher and I wish that people could make a distinction between backpackers and cyclists. We are not hobos living out of a car, we hobos with trikes. Cher’s knee was beginning to giver her some trouble. After a few thousand miles of repetitive motion these things are bound to happen. We moved on to a paid site and were happy to have a hot shower.
Day 287 and 288
We liked it so much we decided to stay two more days to get some much-needed rest and to recharge our morale. Mountains of fresh food and a box of cheap wine is the quickest way to boost morale.
We spent the greater part of the day, grocery shopping, typing, and eating. It’s difficult to express the joy of having a well equipped kitchen. Large pasta dinners, Quiche, grilled pumpkin, lamb chops, baby spinach salads, bacon and eggs, and pancakes, and these are a few of our favorite things! We bought much more and were feeling strong, both mentally and physically we were ready to set out the following day.
For the majority of today we had a wide shoulder. But as soon as we enter the hills, where we would need the shoulder, it disappears. We later entered some hilly territory and the shoulder disappeared. During that short distance none of the 30 or so motorists that passed us gave us a hard time.
Unreasonably wide shoulder
We stopped at a grocery store on the way into town and a woman told us that we were brave to drive on the same roads as Queensland drivers. She thought this was funny. Although she didn’t laugh very long, perhaps she saw the scowl hidden under our forced smiles.
We toured around Maryborough, a quaint historic little town and eventually settled on staying at Wallace caravan park. Although the price was quite steep at 27 dollars per day it had everything a touring cyclist needs. A well equipped kitchen, complete with new pots and pan, and free wifi and even a usb recharge point at the pool.
Today we encountered yet more angry drivers. They’re not yelling but they just lay on the horn and don’t let off until they’re well past you. I have to believe that many people are angry at the new law which took effect this year that makes it mandatory to give cyclists leeway and are taking it out on us. We’ve even had motorists passing the opposite way giving unfriendly honks as they pass. It’s hard to relax and enjoy cycling when you’re constantly looking over your shoulder. Not surprising that Cher melted down today and wants to take either the train or a bus. I’ve tried to assure her that if they’re honking they see us, but the close flybys are nerve-wracking. Cher has agreed that we will try an alternative route and if it’s still hectic then we will take a bus.
We arrived at the Sugar Bowl Caravan Park in Childer. Even though we paid full price we were parked on the corner of the entrance. With the noise of the highway close by and backpackers returning from work toting boxes of wine and cases of beer for the weekend we settled in for a good nights rest.
We should have known the smell, but we were too tired when we set up to pay heed. We awoke to a tent covered in bat droppings. Those “amazing animals” came to chew on the leaves on the trees in great numbers as they shrieked and flapped all night long. Cher and I both agreed that the woman who called these same “maligned” animals “amazing” would change here tune were she forced to live under then for a week. I spent an hour washing the tent before packing it up. This hasn’t helped the smell of our tent which has been wet for far too many days.
It’s been a bit of a battle, with warm days and cool nights. As soon as the sun goes down anything that cools quickly condenses water from the air. Our thin tent has been wet inside in out pretty much every day for the last 3 weeks. We can’t always wait for it to dry and have to pack it away wet and dry it during lunch. Despite only a few hours in the bag we are beginning to see some mildew. We love our gear and do our best to take care of it and so it saddens us to see it abused. We do take solace in the fact that within one year our tent has seen the equivalent of 3 years of regular wear and has more than paid for itself multiple times over.
At the moment our tent is the least of our worries. It seems that the closer we get to Brisbane the more aggressive the drivers are becoming. Today a caravan on an empty road came within a foot of us before returning to the center of the lane as it passed. Passing a free caravan park I though I recognized the caravan and stopped to ask them if they passed us so close intentionally. He replied, yes, you don’t belong on the roads, and you’re endangering me. I was outraged. How was I endangering you while you’re intimidating me in a two ton vehicle on an empty road? He stuck to his claim that he was within his rights because he was on this side of the white line. I lost my temper which he attributed to the fact that I was an American. But what he didn’t realize is that as a long time resident of NYC it took all my self-control not to punch him in the face. We took a photo of him and his van but realize that we have little proof that he was intimidating us. Angry drivers, even one or two a day is a major blow to our morale. With the traffic increasing and the roads narrowing we are reassured we made the right call to fly out of Brisbane.
Killer on the road
Our neighbors stayed up late getting drunk around their illegal fire, while Cher and I, the “crazy backpackers” were in bed by the time the sun set and trying to get our full ten hours in before the sun rose. We were kept up by the same woman who said we couldn’t camp there, as she harassed her neighbors about how amazing fruit bats are. We never learned why, she just kept slurring, “they’re amazing, so amazing.” Although she did state that they don’t poop and their noses are shaped like upside down roses, although though we don’t believe the former and the latter is nothing to gush over.
Once again more great rolling hills, and perfect temperatures. But despite the circumstances we both were ready to move on. Over a long lunch, in a sunny spot we decided that we would cycle any further than Brisbane. We had planned to go as far as Sydney but after around 4,000 km, and almost 10 months on the road we were both itching to finish up our journey and reboot our lives. If we continued on to Sydney and climbed in the blues it would mean another 3 months on the road. Also, since coming to Australia our budget had doubled to around 40 per day and neither of us want to start from scratch when we returned to Hong Kong.
We rolled into yet another free camp spot and set up under some large trees. Although you get more bird poop under the trees, the leaves reflect the radiant heat and prevents the air from reaching the dew point, which keeps the tent a bit drier.
In a landscape that doesn’t change often we were treated as flat fields gave way to trees and rolling hills. Low winds, a cooler temps made for a great day. Cher was quite pleased as the temperature was perfect for cycling, cold enough not to sweat but not so cold you froze. I was quite relieved as well. When we planned the trip I was in charge of the timing of the seasons and have been promising Cher for months that it would get cooler. It’s always good to have something to look forward to, but it can be disappointing if deferred for too long.
We arrived at a lovely free camp site with free cold showers. Cher went first and claimed it was hot. Judging from the fact Cher wasn’t shivering, yet detecting some mischief in her look I guessed it might be tepid, but it was freezing. We set up camp on a grassy spot with barriers to keep the caravans from parking there. As we set up a woman sitting outside her caravan told us we couldn’t camp there. Cher, wanting to avoid any trouble went over to ask where she saw a sign that said this, to which women replied, that Cher could camp up a tree for all she cared. Her husband came by later to smooth things over, explaining that crazy backpackers were always leaving a mess. I didn’t point out to him that we were cyclists, not backpackers. Later that evening they lit a fire, which was the only thing expressly prohibited on the sign as we entered.
Leaving Rockhampton this morning we had to cross the river into town. Only after we rode onto the bridge in rush-hour traffic, did we see that there was a cycle lane, on the opposite side of a chain-link fence and 6 inch curb. Angry motorists began honking and a man in a pickup truck gave us the finger and yelled. I just waved and smiled. We only held up one lane of 2 for a whole 200 yards. We would have taken the bike path had there been any signs. We stopped to chat with a young local and shared our story, to which she responded that the same thing had happened to her until she figured out where to find the entrance and exits to the bike paths.
With a bike store close by we stopped to buy a couple of extra tubes and some chain lube. Patches are great if you can find the hole. Using your cheek or your ear to locate a hole isn’t always possible on a windy noisy highway. Much better to change the tube and fix the hole later when you have a sink full of water to check for holes.
Knowing that the next two days we would put in decent distances, we chose to have a short day today. Despite an overflowing septic tank and a swirling breeze that randomly wafted poo smells our way, we were won over by the prospect of free camping and showers at the local BP station. Not only did we find wonderful hot clean showers but we also were treated to free coffee and Australian hospitality. Fearing that we were usurping amenities meant for the truckers we made ourselves scarce and ducked in and out of the bathrooms quickly and quietly. Coming out for a smoke break the short order cook came out to have a chat and admitted that he was much too lazy to cycle and admired us for our commitment. He also invited us to help ourselves to much coffee as we needed.
The cook, a large ruddy-faced man whose personality would have never fit a skinny man went on to tell us about why people in the outback are friendlier than people on the coast and why army food is so bad. On the first it was because of the necessity of people to rely upon each other in such an inhospitable environment. He went on to recount a story of how he used a road kill kangaroo to fix the fan belt on a Mercedes. Complete with a description of how to plate, stretch and shrink the hide so it fits. Although fantastical, his story illustrates quite clearly many Aussies in the outback willingness to help despite differences that might leave others to turn a blind eye. On the second, his theory as to why army food is so bad, he reckons that with every injury a man is demoted. A pilot who can’t fly becomes a foot soldier and a foot soldier who looses a limb ends up in an office until eventually only the most lame become cooks. I believed him, as a beefy chef, he looked like a man who knows what good food is.