The wide open road

Mel and I are a bit beside ourselves. It’s two in the afternoon, we’re fed, washed, the washing’s out and we’re lazing in our outback Moroccan-inspired accommodation in Caiguna. The reason? We only had 65k to ride today. What a treat. A big day yesterday meant a much easier day for us today. And now we’re savouring the moment.

We’ve had two near perfect days of riding. Luckily, as we’re on the 150k straightest stretch of road in Australia, with no wind break whatsoever. The land is flat. But the winds have been on our side and have pushed us along for the past two days. The sun is out and the sky is massive and blue. And you certainly don’t need to be thinking about which road to take. There it is laid out before you.

Out here you see the curvature of the earth, the wedge tail eagles circling and soaring high above, the enormity of the sky and the colours of the landscape. Even the road trains don’t seem to interfere with things. Mel and I have our calling system pretty much perfected now – ‘camper up’, ‘truck back’, ‘cars passing’, ‘clear’ are amongst the few words we need for each of us to know when we’re ok to stay riding on the road or when to pull off. And more times than not, we’ll get a honk or wave from everything that passes. We even had a trucker stop in the middle of the road yesterday to offer us a lift!

Last night we camped out under the almost full moon. Gill and Paul had driven on ahead and set up camp 400m off the road. A few other caravaners were also in the area. Gill had boiled hot water for us to go and have a ‘bath’. It had been a long day of 117k on the bike and I did liken the scene to Out of Africa tho rightly so, Mel did point out that it would be better if we had Robert Redford there to wash our hair. And then we sat back, opened the wine, made a fire, ate a beautiful curry that Gill had made a few days earlier, played sharades, and watched the moon rise. Two of our ‘neighbours’, after hearing of the Cycling4Parkinsons cause, both also made donations before leaving camp this morning. Even out here, in the middle of nowhere, the generosity of strangers is amazing.

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For those who like stats …

Some moments of the trip so far, broken down …

K’s cycled: 1149
Days: 13
Rest days: 1
Towns: 12 (York, Quairading, Kulin, Lake Grace, Lake King, Ravensthorpe, Munglinup, Esperance, Salmon Gums, Norseman, Fraser Range sheep station, Balladonia)
Longest day: 122 k
Shortest day: 72 k
Toughest day: Esperance to Salmon Gums (brutal day of 110k of strong head and side winds. Baptism of fire for Mel, her first day in the saddle!)
Best shower: Norseman Best Western
Best meal: everything made by our support crew-extraordinaire Gill and Paul (and can I just say here, they have been amazing. Mel and I want for nothing, they feed us breakfast, prepare our lunch roadside, have all the gags, keep us totally entertained, plan afternoon sundowners, and have simply gone above and beyond the call.
Most delirious moment: Well, there’s been a few but most recent was last night when sitting round the big wooden kitchen table at Fraser Range, looking at all the inscriptions everyone had scratched into table. I read ‘AH 4 KT 4 EVA’ in a big love heart, as three people in a love triangle. Mel pointed out EVA was probably not referring to a girls name but more likely ‘ever’. Mmm yes.
Number of Snickers and Picnic bars eaten: lost count
Most competitive moments: Playing UNO. It gets serious.
Highlights: raising awareness for Parkinson’s and receiving generous donations on the road from strangers, many with their own stories of relatives or friends living with it.
Best IGA: Ravensthorpe. Nothing compares.
Road kill: a few, even a camel today.

The trip continues to be amazing. ‘Turning right’ at Norseman was a massive milestone as we are now heading east towards Sydney and approaching the Nullarbor. Now in Balladonia and beer o’clock has just been called from the next room. Must dash.

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A week in pictures …

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The Nullarbor team have arrived

Munglinup was the meeting spot, pretty much dead centre between Ravensthorpe (or Ravi as the locals say), and Esperance. Paul and I left our little cabin at the Ravi caravan park this morning (after doing a quick live interview with ABC Albany radio) and had the most blissful ride with full tail winds for the 80k into Munglinup. The winds have been very kind since we left Perth but even we were amazed at how a strong tail wind can make it seem like your legs aren’t even having to work. We cruised up and down the ‘rollers’, with what seemed like a helping hand pushing us to the top of each hill and then gliding down long runs on the other side. On we rolled passing through hills of thick shrub as well as beautiful fields of yellow canola as far as the eye could see.

We were quick to grab a coffee on arrival in Munglinup (we got rather excited about the ‘real’ coffee machine at the roadhouse and were pretty delighted we weren’t disappointed) and sat waiting for Gill and Melissa, who had left Perth this morning to meet us here. We got talking to a lovely Dutch couple who’d been on the road in their camper since May (we even got the full tour) who also happened to be listening to the local ABC radio that morning. They’d heard me being interviewed and were quick to donate in support. It was a lovely moment.

As we waved them on their way, in rolled Gill and Melissa, with their Cycling4Parkinsons t-shirts on and car branding on Red. There was lots of whooping and hugs all round. Up went the tents, out came the red, and we settled in to Gill ‘s delicious dinner of ratatouille and chocolate custard biscuit fondue. Absolutely delicious, especially after a week of pub and roadhouse dinners!

So now we’re all settled into our tents. Onwards to Esperance tomorrow where we’ll have our first rest day the day after. Melissa will then join me on the bike with Gill and Paul support in the car. But that’s two days away. For now, with my new found love of the Kindle, I’m zipping up my sleeping bag and having some time with Little Women. Night xx

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