“We been through every kind of rain there is. Little bitty stingin’ rain … and big ol’ fat rain. Rain that flew in sideways. And sometimes rain even seemed to come straight up from underneath.” – Forrest Gump
Every word applied to the ride from Adelaide to Melbourne.
I arrived in Adelaide and went straight to a bar with a ‘Coopers’ logo. I have pleasant memories of sharing that beer for the first time with a close friend in Melbourne a few years ago. After spending the last 4 days on the road with minimal personal interactions, I needed those memories. I sat down and made the pint disappear.
My second solitary drink turned into an ‘interesting’ discussion with some criminal defence lawyers at the table next to me. I promised myself I wouldn’t discuss politics or religion with anyone during this trip, but I had already failed miserably in Cairns. These guys are pretty good at debating; I guess that’s why they’re lawyers.
I hadn’t showered since leaving Albany, so I had a bit of a scrub up for the first time in five days at a $19/night hostel -I fucking stank. The bunk bed was a luxury after the five sleeps in my bivvy bag.
The receptionist told me they’re expecting a big storm when I asked to book for just the one night. Constant thunderstorms, wind and rain battering QLD, NSW and VIC. I wasn’t keen on losing time, so decided to carry on towards Melbourne the best I could the next morning.
The sky transitioned from sunlight to dark clouds, and it started with a bit of spitting.
“Oh look, there it is! Better pull over and get my rain gears on!”
Then there was a bit of wind. That was fine too. But then the wind picked up. An hour later, I pulled in to a servo that was knocked out by a power cut. It was getting pretty bad; difficult, but not impossible to ride in. I topped up at the Tailem Bend Roadhouse, and did a bit of planning while I sipped on a coffee.
The south easterly winds were coming from my rough direction of travel: more burnt gas; inconsistent changes in wind speed and direction relative to road; higher mental strain trying to figure out how to not get bowled over. Oncoming road trains unleashed a jet of water from beneath, and blinded me every time.
I had to be aware of the limited traction offered by my rear tyre with 10,000kms on it since Darwin. Average wind speeds between 30-50kmph, with gusts of up to 90kmph. I constantly kept pulling over to use the WindyTY app to forecast the wind speeds and expected rainfall at rough times I could be at a specific place.
I planned my route to Melbourne on the fly using this method. I realised I would get thrashed by the elements no matter where I went. So unless I stay put -a temptation I did contemplate momentarily- I just had to pick my poison and choose how much of a beating I took and where. I only strayed from the A8/M8 highways a couple of times. At the closest, I was 70kms away from the eye of the storm pillaging the region (although that’s not indicative of maximum wind speeds or rainfall). I saw images of the aftermath in the news today.
I had to accept missing my chance to ride the Great Southern Ocean Rd, but I’m sure life will throw an opportunity my way.
I also realised I only spent a little over 48 hours in South Australia. It’ll be a great place to bring my parents for the wines and national parks. I only had a taste of the Eyre Peninsula by staying the night at Streaky Bay. Next time I’ll bring a net or a basket, because I saw giant crabs measuring about 20cm across just off the Smoky Bay jetty!
Yesterday’s gently reassuring morning sun was just the set up for a cruel joke that lasted the entire day: it just got worse and worse. I rode tipped over on either side for more than ten of the thirteen hours I rode. I got completely soaked, and wind-dried about 4 times. And I didn’t feel my fingers or toes all day. I can’t think of a single muscle in my body that wasn’t working overtime, and isn’t stiff today.
That was the most demanding ride I have undertaken in my entire life.
It’s been five consecutive days of riding 483, 865, 760, 740 and 760 kms/day. I’m all for character testing, but I think I built enough character to deserve a solid pampering here. Luckily, this place has the friends and culinary offerings to do a right job of it.
I’ve been to Melbourne many times, but I’ve never been happier to arrive in this city, or any other. Now I’m off to a buffet where I have vowed to eat my money’s worth.