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.