300ks on a bicycle – why?
I have been bicycle touring for the best part of 15 years now and hope to keep it up for many more years. Strangely enough, I am not alone. Bicycle tourists are a tough breed; you may think that road cyclists who compete in multi-day, mega-kilometre rides at breakneck speeds over alpine ranges are tough. Pshaw! Tough is walking into a packed country pub at 3pm on a friday afternoon, wearing lycra tights.
Junee Pub at midnight
On Wednesday 22 April, after 6 months of organisation, I set out from home heading for Junee in NSW. Junee is a wonderful country town with some excellent examples of 19th and early 20th century architecture, five or six great pubs and the holy grail of cyclists throughout the world – a chocolate (and licorice) factory. More about that later.
In Junee I met 39 other cyclists who were gathering for The Pedal Power Pub Crawl #3 or PPPC#3. The Pub Crawl is an annual event that celebrates bicycle touring in its purest form – unsupported cycling. Each of the 40 participants have to carry all that they need for 4 days cycling including food and water for each day. No sag wagon, no bus and no common sense. There are no coffee stops until the end of the day’s ride and nary a pub to be seen en-route.
Thursday (day #1) began clear and fine with just the hint of a breeze. The day’s ride was a convoluted journey on secondary and tertiary roads, devoid of cars and large trucks. Pure cycling bliss. Today’s trip was around 70 kilometres along quiet country roads through undulating countryside (http://www.bikely.com/maps/bike-path/2009-Pub-Crawl-Junee-to-Temora243576). Your correspondent did his trip alone thanks to a senior moment upon leaving home (refer to a previous blog).
The country today is gently undulating with a good mix of climbing and descending and an excellent way to warm up for the days ahead. After years of drought the land is responding to recent rain and is picture perfect. Today’s little adventure came via two young bulls who had stuck their heads through a fence to sample the greener grass on the other side only to discover that their budding horns precluded extraction. The two stunned creatures looked imploringly at me as I cycled past. In the best tradition of James Herriot and Harry the vet, I leapt to their rescue. It looked simple enough, yep twist the head, poke one horn through, twist the other way and … nope the hole is too small. Try again, getting there … push a bit harder. Beast #1 took exception to having its head twisted every which way and decided to join me on my side of the fence. Suddenly there I was, supine, staring at point blank range into the eye of the poor disgruntle beast with nothing more between us than the aforementioned fence into which the silly animal was now more firmly stuck. Fortunately the fence saved me from being crushed under the beast and I was able to extricate myself albeit with a few barbed wire cuts and a bruised ego. Well at least I now know why I am not a farmer.
The Terminus Pub is a welcome sight after 3.5 hours in the saddle.
Day #2 dawned a little overcast but not too bad. A hearty breakfast and a farewell to the Terminus Hotel and we headed due East for Young. Unfortunately the wind was heading the other way and provided some character building pedalling until it slowly turned South-westwards and the road South-eastwards, resulting in a slight tailwind for the remainder of the day. The flat to undulating countryside gave way to a couple of challenging hills in the last twenty k’s and along with some light rain it made our arrival in Young a welcome one. The coffee was average but who cared. Great day!
Day #3 saw us pedal back the way we came for 20 k’s against the ever increasing wind before turning South towards our Goal for today, Cootamundra. Today’s journey of 56 k’s is welcome after 80 and the wind was off our starboard side so not much of a challenge. The gently undulating countryside meant that we pedalled hard up some longish hills to be rewarded with some longish down-hills not too tough but the body is starting to remind me that it needs more bike time if it is to remain fit. Note to self – ride more often. Here is how we got there (http://www.bikely.com/maps/bike-path/2009-Pub-Crawl-Young-to-Cootamundra)
After crossing the Stockinbingal Road a rather cheeky 1k climb at the 40k mark gave way to a long gentle down hill all the way to Cootamundra and the first coffee of the day. Again, the countryside was a picture, making the whole thing really worth the effort.
Day #4 and our final day in the saddle for this year dawned cold windy and with more than a threat of rain. A good warming 2k climb out of town warmed up the muscles before some of us turned off the Olympic Way onto the Dirnaseer Road with Bethungra in our sights. Of all the countryside we cycled through over the trip this had to be the pick of it. Gently undulating, green, lots of great views and some beautiful farmhouses. Real chocolate box stuff. If you want to go there have a look at the route (http://www.bikely.com/maps/bike-path/2009-Pub-Crawl-Cootamundra-to-Junee)
A rather scruffy looking Caf in Bethungra turned out to be a surprise with our genial host providing great coffee and a warm dry respite from the deteriorating weather.
Some kept on the highway but a hand-full of us followed the planned route for the short 20k hop to the centre of the know universe, Illabo. The Illabo pub, one of only about 6 buildings in the town (including the Church outhouse) was just in the right spot. We scuttled under its protective veranda just as the heavens opened up and dumped a short sharp heavy downpour onto the less fortunate including two of our number who had backtracked, up a hill for two k’s to look at a railway cutting. Most unusual!
Soon the rain cleared and the sun shone, albeit fleetingly, so those of us following the plan headed out into the howling wind for the last stretch of the day, 27 ks into Junee. This proved to be a challenge for your correspondent with a few thigh-burning hills made steeper by the incessant headwind. Soon we turned South and eventually South-east when we had a howling tail wind for the last 5 ks into Junee. Just pipped to the post by the rain we arrived slightly damp at our destination 83k’s after leaving Cootamundra. What a day and what a trip.
How good is it to look back over the past 4 days and say,’I did that’.
A nice warm shower, a cool beer and a superb dinner at the Junee Licorice and Chocolate Factory capped off a great few days.