Visiting : Warrnambool
Distance : ~620k
When : Saturday 28th November 2009, 4am @ Fed Square
Fixed Warrny: 1, Angry: 0
Well, that was a bit harder than I thought it would be. I made it to Poorneet Junction (142km) and decided to bail out. From there I hit the back roads down to Winchelsea where, once again, I hooked up with wifey and finished the day on four wheels instead of two.
All preparations went well. Bike and gear came together perfectly. Only got about 3 hours sleep on Friday but, apart from that, I got off to a good start. Rolled past Fed Square about 3:45am and stopped for a quick photo before getting straight into it. The city was still heaving with drunks and wandering souls so I was happy to leave it behind.
Ay-ups lit the way along Federation Trail and I spotted countless rabbits and three cats licking their lips. Man, that place stinks even worse in the pre-dawn – I went past a big tin shed that was billowing steam out its windows and doors into the morning air – god knows what was in there.
Rolled into Werribee soon enough and managed to screw up the exit off Federation Trail again and got lost in the side streets for a while. Worked it out in the end, got food, water then out to Bulban Road. Sunrise on Bulban Road was awesome. I’ve never seen it so early in the morning – the sun slid up in the east and lit the You Yangs beautifully. Clear skies, light breeze, feeling good.
Uneventful riding out to Lara and beyond. The wind was picking up and I was enjoying the scenery. Hit the Midland Hwy and fanged it down the hill to Batesford.
Dog Rocks Road was a nice surprise. Coming out of Batesford it was a steep little rise with a bunch of big rocks on top. The place was crawling with rabbits so I don’t think many dogs have been there lately. I stopped for a quick photo and a food break before bombing down the other side of the hill and meeting the Hamilton Hwy.
So here’s where it started getting hard.
The wind was blowing from the northwest and picking up in speed. The Hamilton Hwy leg was all west with a bit of north – 50km of headwind. Ugh.
I kept a slow pace – didn’t want to burn out too quickly – and just plodded along. Still warm and sunny, plenty of food on board, decent shoulder on the road. I kept pushing and pushing into the wind and finally rolled into Inverleigh.
Nice food break here and then back on the road only to find that there was no shoulder any more. Oh well, I’ve ridden on worse roads so I just hunkered down and kept rolling.
It was still quite warm at this point and I could see heat waves rising from the top of the wheat fields. But the wind was actually blowing the heat waves – I could see them streaming off the top of the wheat and curling sideways and gusting off in whorls and eddies. Pretty cool.
How can I describe that section of the ride? It just wore me down until I broke. The headwind was blowing harder and harder – must have been 40-50km/hr at times right in my face – it was almost stopping me in my tracks. I was pedalling about 35-40rpm which means I was doing roughly 12km/hr – dead slow! Grinding away so slowly on the straight, flat road and feeling like I wasn’t getting anywhere. Frustrating!
The road had one lane in each direction, plenty of double white line sections and no shoulder, just a thin strip of tarmac all smashed up and bumpy from countless repairs. The dirt off to the side of the shoulder was no good too – sometimes there’s a nice smooth, wide dirt shoulder that’s fine to ride on – not this time. So, my usable road space was limited to a thin section of crappy shoulder.
Of course, that would be fine if there wasn’t much traffic – I’d just take some of the lane and make people swing wide to get around me. But no, there was heavy traffic. Cars, trucks, B-doubles, stock floats, tankers all flying by regularly in both directions. If I took the lane then the people coming up behind me would have to slow down and wait for oncoming traffic to pass before pulling out to overtake me. Which means I’d be relying on all of them to see me in time and be able to slow down from 100km/hr to 12km/hr before rear-ending me. For a B-double coming over a small rise behind me, that might not be physically possible even if the driver did see me and decide to brake in time. Which they probably wouldn’t. So, for the sake of everyone’s safety, not least my own, I clung to the edge of the road and kept the bars as straight as I could.
When a truck passed from behind I’d get sucked forward and into the lane behind it. When a truck passed going the opposite direction I’d get slammed in the chest and go from 12km/hr to almost stationary in an instant. And then I’d have to crank it even harder into the headwind to get moving again and try to stay upright.
Are we having fun yet?
More than once I’d hear a bunch of cars coming up behind me and then two would fly by at the same time, one in the left lane and one way over in the right lane going in the same direction but about 20k’s faster. Freaked me out the first time but I guess there was a slow car in front blocking a bunch of others – the front car sees me and slows down even more and then the guy behind him takes this as an opportunity to overtake, guns it and comes around the leader just as they both pass me. Hehe, pushy bastards.
Anyway, I tried to stay positive and enjoy it but it was like balancing on a plank while riding up a 50km hill at walking pace with B-doubles flying by in touching distance in both directions. I got grumpier and grumpier and my arse was killing me – exactly the same as in a long steep climb – so I stopped for a quick breather at Poorneet Junction and the road sign pointing down to Colac was just too tempting.
I kept thinking to myself I like exploring, getting to places where there’s no people for miles, out into the bush, on little tracks, where I can turn! And go faster than 12km/hr! And not be blasted by trucks every five seconds! And see live animals doing animal stuff not lying dead in a ditch amongst faded beer cans and strips of tyre rubber!
So I turned off onto on Poorneet Road, started heading back home and the ride became fun again.
Back on the fun track
I didn’t have maps for this area so I just followed road signs and cruised the back roads with the wind mostly at my tail. I was on the edge of the lakes area so I saw a few of them up close. Scrambled down to Lake Weering for a few photos but I didn’t manage to capture how pink it was. A lot of the lakes have an algae in them that makes them look a deep pink, almost red sometimes. Very pretty.
I rolled through Eurack which seemed to consist of a disused “recreation centre” with an overgrown tennis court, a little “avenue of honour” with crosses for their war dead and a couple of old houses. At one house, a lady was bent over working in the garden and as soon as she saw me she stood up and waved as I went by. I waved back and smiled. There wasn’t even any shops there. You don’t see cool things like that on the Hamilton frickin’ Highway.
I decided to head to Winchelsea and hook up with wifey. I’d been messaging her my progress and she offered to drive out and pick me up. Yeah, why not. I didn’t have much fight left in me at that point.
So I started following the signs to Winchelsea and looking over my shoulder at the rain storms closing in. I could see isolated showers over the Otways to the south (the Kona 24hr must have been muddy as hell) and a handful more approaching from the west. The bastards caught me of course and, though they weren’t that cold, they were full of drenching rain and I got a thorough soaking to wash the stink of sweat and truck exhaust off me. It felt good.
Winchelsea arrived soon enough and I wrung out my clothes and once again, prepared my bike and gear to be loaded into the Camry for an easy ride home.
How do I get out of this chickenshit outfit?
Ended up doing about 210km for the day (i rode to the start from my place) over 12 or so hours. A decent effort but nowhere near what I’d set out to do. By Poorneet Junction I’d convinced myself that I couldn’t face the 100km Princes Hwy section which would be more headwind and probably rain too. At the speed I was going, I’d reach Warrnambool after dark. Looking back on it, I knew I could just keep plodding along and it didn’t matter if I got there at 6pm or 2am. I got to that tipping point where the motivation to continue was outweighed by the motivation to quit. The conscious, controlling, planning thoughts were argued down by the weasely, childish, scared, excuse-making thoughts and then bam, that’s it, I’d sold myself on the excuses and allowed myself to buy the promise of comfort, relaxation, no more pain.
I think we all have an inner Hicks and an inner Hudson. Hicks usually starts off in control and just quietly getting the job done. But, if you push yourself hard enough, at some point, Hudson will turn up and start whining and complaining and telling you stop and turn back. And if you don’t secure that shit then it’s “Game over, man! Game over!!!”
So, Fixed Warrny: 1, Angry: 0 but I’ll be back next year to have another crack. Definitely older, hopefully wiser (and, fingers crossed, less windier!)