At the top of Awaba

That’s when I could let it all go and celebrate that I’d actually made it (and finally I have put pen to paper to tell you about it!). Awaba street is possibly the steepest street in central Sydney that stretches down to Balmoral Beach, my final destination. Alistair and I had scooted through the lights at Spit Road and then I had to stop before the final descent. The view is amazing. One you never get sick of seeing. You look down across Balmoral Beach and out through the Heads. I let out a couple of loud ‘whoo hooos’. Alistair and I did a couple of high fives.

For the first time, I let myself believe that I’d made it. That I’d cycled from my home in Perth to my home in Sydney. Before then, there were too many variables for me to think that I’d make it. Even the day before, as I cycled through the Blue Mountains or even as I weaved my way through the streets of Sydney on route to Balmoral Beach, I couldn’t celebrate. Who knows. I could have survived the road trains on the Nullarbor but get side swiped by a 4WD coming through Cremorne. But at the top of Awaba, I knew I’d made it.

On a steep descent like this, I’d usually see the back of Alistair getting smaller as he screamed down the hill. But this time, he snuck in behind me as I edged my way to the bottom of the hill. The day was beautiful and the view out the Heads spectacular. Half way down, the father of a friend of my brother’s, Colin, met us on his bike. I was braking so hard I couldn’t take my hands of my bike but there were happy exchanges as he pushed off and made us a little group.

The first time my heart went into my mouth was seeing my brother at the bottom of Awaba. He was standing there with a wave and an enormous grin on his face. I then turned at the bottom of the hill to head towards the rotunda. I’d seen some amazing things in the previous 48 days but the scene that met me at the rotunda rivalled them all. I heard everyone before I could really take it all in, a heap of kids holding streamers that I had to ride through, screams and whooping and clapping, champagne popping, hugs all round. Smiles. It was just brilliant. I couldn’t have wished for a more fantastic end to what has been an adventure of a lifetime.

Here’s a link to a video that my lovely friend Steph took: https://vimeo.com/75270572 (you’ll also need the password – which Steph also determined! – ‘ilovelucy’).

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That’s not a hill

The Blue Mountains. Now that’s a hill.

I thought my day yesterday had hills. We arrived in Blayney after what I thought was a pretty consistent day of ups and yes, that also meant some pretty nice downs. Really, it was the first hill climb challenges of the trip. But that was before today. My brother Mick had warned me. He’d done a recky of the road on his return to Sydney after his week with me. He’d said something like, ‘out of Bathurst, it just goes up’. And he was right. I was looking up at long stretches of road and in my highest gear for a lot of the day. After each one, it was great to get to the top, albeit completely out of breath, and I almost didn’t want any of the long glorious downs that we enjoyed on the other side. When you’re heading towards the Blue Mountains, this only means one thing. You have to go up again at some point. But my nephew Jack, who is now on the road with me too, keeps telling me about my morning tomorrow, the climb out of Lithgow, a straight steep climb up to Mount Victoria. He even said today that perhaps I should have ridden from Sydney to Perth so I could avoid this climb. Mmmm I’ll let him know tomorrow if he was right!

What another amazing week on the road it has been. The numbers have grown. Alistair, a great old friend of Dad’s and avid cyclist, joined me on the bike for three days, from West Wylong to Lithgow. His decision to join me at this stage was a good one, for he loves the downhills. As I pretty much started to brake on the crest, preparing to take it easy down the enormous long stretch of downhill before me, I’d see Alistair’s head go down and he’d start to furiously pedal, looking to see if he could top his highest speed from the previous downhill. Down he would fly and greet me when I’d finally catch up saying, wasn’t that brilliant. He has now headed home but will meet at Richmond on Monday morning to help navigate me through the labyrinth of Sydney streets to get me to Balmoral Beach. 

Mum, Dad, Kate’s husband Chris and son Jack have also been on the road with us for the past few days. Now instead of just one car passing with waves and honks, there’s three. At rest stops, picnic rugs are put down, chairs are set up, and we all settle in. Soup is made, coffee is boiled, and we sit around and chat as if we’re just down at the local park. It’s a bit of a rude shock when it’s actually time to get back on the bike. Not only has it been brilliant having everyone help in support (tho I’m still amazed at how Kate manages to push a child on a swing while putting a bandaid on the finger of another while preparing delicious lunches for everyone and booking accomodation for the following evening), but it has been truly special having all the family on the road to support and celebrate cycling4parkinsons. Because although I am out there cycling each day, it’s about the family, our friends and everyone who is following and supporting this ride and bringing awareness to Parkinson’s disease. And for that, we should celebrate!

So, two days of riding to go. See you on the other side! ImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImage

 

 

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It’s time to celebrate!

No, I haven’t arrived in Sydney yet. If all goes smoothly, that’ll be in five days time. But it’s certainly time to pop an early champagne because yesterday we reached our fundraising target of $20,000. And already, incredibly, with donations that have gone directly to Parkinson’s NSW, we are now over $21,000. And it is because of everyone’s wonderful thoughtful generosity and belief in this cause, that we have been able to reach this massive goal.

Thank you thank you to everyone, family, friends and strangers. 

People say how hard it must be, day in day out to get back on the bike and keep going, and yes, while there have been days that I have felt just about every push of the pedal, watching the donations come in and to read everyone’s comments makes me never question what I’ve set out to do. I wake up in the morning, eat a mountain of muesli and get back on Surly. I’ve had the fabulous support of family and friends roadside, helping me get through the day. Seeing this country from the saddle has been superb. And now, to think that after literally hundreds of donations we have raised this incredible amount that will go towards Parkinson’s disease research is absolutely brilliant. Thank you!

But the thing is, the donations are still coming in and I’m still on the road. So let’s keep going. Let’s see what we can achieve over the next week or so while I pedal towards the Blue Mountains, over them (gulp) and down (yaay) into Sydney.

It’s actually been a bit of Girls on Tour over the past couple of days. Sister Kate, Pippa, Zoe and me. On the road. Again, what a treat! We’ve travelled from Euston, through Balranald, Hay and Goolgowi, and now here we are in West Wylong about to make the final push into Sydney. The girls are loving it. They are in the routine and up for the adventure. Each morning Pippa asks whether we’re going to another cabin that night. They keep themselves totally amused at rest stops (chasing eachother round the car has become a particular favourite) while Kate seems to seamlessly heat up soup, make me coffee and pass the chocolate. I’m not quite sure how she pulls it off, what, with looking after the girls while supporting me but she does with total flair and enthusiasm. 

The riding has been great, bar one day of total head wind for 110k on an open plain with no wind break for the entire day (yeah actually that was pretty bad). But it’s amazing how things change after a rest day. The winds had turned to come from behind and on a similar flat open plain and over the same distance, I did the fastest day of the trip so far. The landscape has now become more undulating, it’s green, the fields and bush are beautiful and the sun has been out. And there are Kate, Pippa and Zoe greeting me with smiles and clap ins at every rest stop. ImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImage

 

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Here comes the sun …

Well, it only popped it’s head out for the last 10k in to Euston this afternoon but after a full morning of pouring rain with thunder and lightning, it was very welcome. It helped thaw out our frozen fingers and toes and dry our sopping clothes.

Mick, Katie and the boys certainly brought all weather conditions with them. Our first few days together brought beautiful weather for cycling. Blue skies and strong tail winds that seemed to follow us at each turn. After my first morning out of Port Augusta (which was up there with the strongest side and head winds together with the poorest road selection of the trip!) we asked eight year old Sonny to talk to the winds for us. He did more than that and did a full wind dance by the side of the road. And wacko, within a couple of hours the wind came from behind and stayed with us for the next couple of days. It was brilliant cycling. Down through the gorgeous towns of Melrose, Laura, Burra and into Morgan and Renmark. Open fields, quiet roads, good surfaces (oh the gift of a smooth surface) and beautiful countryside. We stayed on the Murray at both Morgan and Renmark, and watched the sun go down with wine riverside.

Oh but then we forgot to ask Sonny to do his evening dance. Bad mistake. A long day into Mildura came with head winds the whole day. It was one of those days. Head down. Keep the legs turning. You arrive eventually. The much welcome distractions were the characters that Mick and I met at our rest stops. Mal, a truck driver heading to Adelaide to pick up a load of Coopers and a lovely bikey who had everything he needs in life strapped to his bike. Both were quick to donate when they heard about our cause. After an interview and photo shoot with the Mildura Sunraysia daily we pretty much collapsed into bed.

And now we’re here in Euston. Mick and Katie’s last day on the road. They will pass sister Kate tomorrow, arriving with her two girls Pippa and Zoe, and do the handover. It’s been brilliant having them all with me this week. Mick has ridden most of the way with me. Pretty impressive when he’s never ridden more than 50km on a bike before now. He’s totally embraced it, has enjoyed the challenge of all weather conditions and has been a great fun cycling buddy (though I reckon he’ll be quick to buy a new saddle when he returns to Sydney!). Katie, Lucas and Sonny have been super. Clap ins and hugs greeted us at every rest stop and at the end of each day. Katie always managed to find the best coffee in town and drive it out to me roadside for a great midmorning caffeine hit (after weeks of pretty basic coffee options, this has been like Christmas). Lucas and Sonny have played in just about every park between here and Port Augusta and now talk about ‘the mighty Murray’ as if its as familiar as Sydney Harbour. And the best part has just been hanging out with them. Living in Perth it’s rare that I get so much time with them. So what a fabulous treat it’s been for me.

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The day Mel and I parted …

My head was obviously a bit out of sorts. I waved goodbye and was rolling out the driveway of the caravan park when Katie yelled after me, ‘when do you put your helmet on?’. Whoops. Went back to fetch it, strapped it on and took off again. That was this morning.

It was like the day Gill and Paul drove off for the last time, from the Nullarbor Roadhouse to head back to Perth leaving Mel and I looking at each other thinking the only way out of this place, was on a bike. We both freaked out a bit, took a few deep breaths. We had a day’s rest to get our heads around it. Watched some great midday tv. Then we pushed our bikes out the next morning as the sun came up, literally rising before us at the end of the road we were travelling on. It was the flattest landscape we’d cycled on, the biggest sky, nothing between us and the horizon, 360 degrees around us. It was a truly spectacular feeling.

So this morning I had to say goodbye to Mel. I started to get a few nerves. Mel has cycled with me since Esperance, almost bang on 2000km. Every day bar a few rest days. What an adventure it has been and what a cycling companion she has been. We have seen some of the most beautiful landscapes this country has to offer, watched it change and shift from the back of the bike. We have laughed till we cried, we have talked and talked and we’ve sat in silence, each listening to our toons, in our own bubble as we pedalled the long stretches of highway. Mel was also there in some dark times, when I got sick and couldn’t speak for three days because of an intensely sore throat and brutal cough. She kept the focus, made me cups of tea and pulled out the tarp so I could kip at our rest stops. All my energy was on turning the legs and I didn’t have anything left in the tank at the end of each day. She brought me soup in bed and got us safely to Ceduna where we had two rest days. It was just what the doctor ordered, literally. And then, with spirits and health improved, we rolled on through the beautiful Eyre Peninsular and on to Port Augusta where we met up with my next support crew – brother Michael and his family Katie, Lucas and Sonny. It was brilliant to see them, and battle it out over ping pong at the caravan park, although getting woken up at five this morning by 1000 Rebel motor bikers leaving town wasn’t the best start to the day! I missed Mel on the bike today, she would have loved the hills I had to climb! Mick joined me for some of the ride later in the day, some very sweet riding through undulating canola fields and gorgeous old towns. We’re now settled in at our cabin at Laura, with spaghetti bolognese on the cooker. Lucas and Sonny are catching flies. Mick and Katie are having beers on the balcony. Mel is probably sitting on a plane now, heading to Melbourne. See you soon Mel, it was truly fabulous. What a ride!

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10 days in pictures …

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Thank you from the Nullarbor

Through the great generosity of so many friends, family and strangers we have so far raised an amazing $16,673. In addition to what you see on the donations page of the website, this includes a $700 donation from overseas friends who donated directly to Parkinson’s NSW.

Donations have come from all over the globe, and range from a dollar received from a truckie we met at the WA-SA border to an anonymous $1000 donation and everything in between. The youngest donor has been three day old Ned, with the help of his lovely great grandma Nell. I am inspired by such generosity of spirit and would like to say an enormous thank you to everyone. It is fantastic that we are so close to our $20,000 target and if we get there, and I really believe we can, I can’t wait to see what we can achieve.

I am also loving reading all your comments, both on the donations page and Facebook. After a long day of cycling, often feeling tired and wondering if my legs will be able to turn the next day, reading people’s words and comments gives me such a boost. They really do inspire me to jump back on the bike and keep pedalling!

Thanks also to my gorgeous nieces and nephews – Zoe, Pippa, Sonny, Jack and Lucas – who made the fabulous signs you’ll see in the pics below. The signs are great, thank you! Can’t wait to see you on the road.

The other pics include people we’ve met and who’ve donated along the way.

Am now horizontal on my bed at the Nullarbor Roadhouse after a beautiful morning at the Head of the Bight watching thirty-odd mother whales with their calves. Quite something.

Will be pushing out again tomorrow across this incredible treeless plain. See you on the road …

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PHOTO GALLERY

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