Wednesday, May 19, 2010

On the road to Balranald

Here we go! Today was the biggest yet, in terms of kilometres travelled, and what a way to fill it!

We'll start with a childhood game called spot the difference:

Did you get it? We're just going for one (or more accurately two) differences...

Since when did our road signs have testicles on them!? "Drive with care, the kangaroos for the next 20km are bigger and dumber than usual"

Anyway I was greatly amused at this addition which has made it's way onto quite a few road signs.

At about 67km from Hay, I noticed a vehicle moving towards me at a slower rate than the thunderous trucks or zooming cars. In fact, it was travelling at roughly the same speed as I was... Another bicycle!

Meet Sean. A 41 year old friendly Canadian guy who stopped and had a chat for about half an hour. He is riding the same course as me, in reverse, which of course means that at this stage he was on the home stretch. "I'm sorry Sean, what? Could you please repeat that? Oh no, I heard you, I just didn't believe those words came out of your mouth!" Sean had ridden over 3000km, and... wait for it... not a single puncture!! Aaargh! I literally lost sleep the night before because I was worried that when I woke up my tire would be flat (and it was), and here's this superman guy with NO punctures! Plus his thighs were as big as tree trunks AND he was riding with the wind. So now I feel like chicken legged Paul, foolishly straining against the wind, with flat tires and over 3000km to go... "Great talking with you Sean!" Hahaha. It was actually really good to meet Sean, and it was just a bit unfortunate that it happened on one of the longer days, as it meant I had to hurry off to beat the sun to my destination. Of course, Sean didn't have to hurry off, he could just pedal a couple of rotations and he would zoom to whichever destination pleased him at the time. He even offered me maps! I didn't have the heart to tell him I didn't see the point, as I'd only been on two roads since leaving Sydney, so I gracefully accepted, and we parted ways.

(above: friendly, superhuman, canadian man; Sean, and I by the side of the road)

I felt pretty good for the rest of the ride, although I was constantly under pressure to keep my speed up and get to Balranald before the sun went down, and in my decision to ride west, I was granted with the small consolation that I perhaps got an extra minute of sun than those riding east... suckers!

I passed a couple of mobs of wild emu which were great to see. I couldn't get a very good shot of them on camera, but then again I'm not that fussed. They can be my reward, and if you want to see them, you can suffer the Hay planes!

(above: a poor shot of some emus, for those of you not wanting/able to visit yourself)

Ok. Pretty full day. Should be smooth sailing (nice work Jessica) to Balranald. But wait? Everyone likes a shadow photo. Low sun, long shadow. Let's do it.

(above: said shadow photo)

No time to unclip both feet from the pedals. Right foot out. Left in. Good work on the photo (see above to agree). Camera away. Pull back out onto the shoulder slowly. Leaning left! Leaning left!!! Foot's caught! Going down! Nothing you can do now (except write about it in slow motion). Crash! Dislocated shoulder!!!

So there I am. Lying on edge of the Sturt Highway, next to my bike, with a dislocated shoulder, a low sun, and no cars passing... (insert swear words here!) Hahaha what an experience!! When it didn't go back in after my first attempts, all I could think was I would have to come back to this spot to continue the journey when I get back from the hospital. In the meantime I would have to wave a car or truck down (although not with my right arm!) Wait. A few more attempts myself. It was my right shoulder that was out, and so with my right hand, I grabbed my bent right leg, and with all the strength I could muster, I straightened it, at once feeling all the goodness of the world shine on me as my shoulder slide back into place. Heaven! The feeling of relocating my shoulder at that point was SO good, that I would almost dislocate it just for that feeling... almost.

Soon after I snuck up on a kangaroo having a feed by the side of the road. What a great sight to see such a big, healthy, wild Skippy at such close range. I travel quite quickly for something so quiet, so I am able to see wildlife that otherwise would be frightened away... or flattened.

15 one-handed kilometres later, I was in Balranald. To family who are worrying about my shoulder, it's fine! I'm already taking Voltaron for my knees, so I just tripled the dosage for one joint each. Hahaha, of course I'm kidding. I happen to be pill popping very responsibly.

In Balranald, Joanne very kindly put me up at the Balranald Capri Motel. HUGE thanks to Joanne at the Capri! I was super comfortable and the feeling of a hot shower and clean clothes was unbeatable. Being another one street town, I was thrilled to find Joanne so close to... well... everything. I asked about the best place for dinner, and after telling me I could eat at the Chinese restaurant in the RSL, or go to the pub, Joanne offered for me to take her car for the 800m journey!!! I of course declined, not so much because I couldn't justify driving 800m, but more because I could only imagine how nice it would feel to be in a car, and was worried I might make more than 800m. So off I walked to the pub.

Given the day I'd had, I would have been satisfied with a quick meal and home to bed. But no such luck. Meals at the pub were taking an hour, and so I asked two guys if they minded if I shared their table. It turned out these guys were two cops on a small work trip around the country towns. We had a good laugh, mostly at my expense, and it was nice to sit back in good company and have a chat. One of them, who for some reason wanted to be known (on here) as xyz kept laughing and saying "Geez man, I just couldn't do it! I couldn't what you do... I don't mean the cycling. I could do that! I mean the studying your whole life and then not being able to get a job after it". Hahaha! What a champ. They were good blokes, and it was great to sit back and have a laugh at everything at the end of a BIG day. Perhaps the best laugh came after they had eaten their meals in front of me, knowing I was famished and drained. My food FINALLY arrived, the lady said "steak medium-rare, with chips and vegies", and Peter, without missing a beat, "yeah that's me..." Bahahaha, simple. But classic in the moment. Great to meet you boys!

The end of a big (GREAT) day.

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