Parkes,NSW - West Wyalong - Goolgowi - Hay - Mildura,Vic - Renmark,SA
The alarm wakes me to a quiet, clear night with no clouds. My riding gear hadn't had enough time to dry out, but I've got extra layers of thermals on to keep me warm and the wet gear to act as an extra wind break.
After the rain the road, buildings, looks cleaner. Maybe it's just the lights reflecting off the remaining water? Maybe it is because the effect is carried into a sky full of glistening stars? Pretty.
At West Wyalong I make a fuel stop and take the time to wonder at how different these towns look when they are completely deserted, the leftovers of the rain making it appear that the people have been washed away in some gigantic cleanup.
The extra layers of gear are not doing enough to keep me comfortably warm and the wet gear I still have on is now making life a misery. The other effect of the rain has been to drop the temperature by several degrees - it's incredibly frustrating knowing I have better gear for the conditions at home.
The stretch from Wyalong to Hay was a challenge - straight roads cut through the trees, in the headlights the effect is of a never ending tunnel through the inky night. There are few other vehicles on this road and surprisingly little wildlife - a couple of foxes, possibly a wombat or two and a roos bum that bounces back into the scrub nearly as quickly as it came out.
I make several short stops to walk around and get the blood flowing, culminating in a longer stop in a small park in Goolgowi. Originally I had planned to get some sleep either here or Rankins Springs, but the plan now was to keep moving. After a 15 minute break I feel refreshed, but as luck would have it, I have to stop nearly straight away to wait for the first train of the day to finish shunting across the road.
The sky is lighting up as I reach the Hay - the last silent and deserted town on this trip. At the Caltex I meet up with the first other riders I'd seen since the previous day, and they're headed for Renmark. Even in the few minutes I'm at the servo more bikes pass by - it's reassuring to know that you're on the right road and on time for checkin.
A few mental calculations tell me that I have no chance of getting to Renmark in time for the SaddleSore ride - but if it was too easy, everyone would be doing it. All I have to do now was get to checkin on time and find a docket from after 1200h(plenty of those) on Friday, from a place that's at least 1000km from Renmark to complete the FarRide.
As I join the cavalcade of bikes headed west first rays of sunlight cast a warm glow across the landscape, relieving some of the monotony of these long straight roads, literally and figuratively warming my heart.
Momentarily I get excited as I approach a corner, checking my speed, looking for the apex, getting ready to get a good lean angle, before a spark of rationality tells me that it's only a 15 degree bend and all I need to do is make a small steering input......I've had enough of straight lines, regardless of how good they are for my moving average....
More bikes appear - some I pass, others pass me, definitely on the right road now!
Across the Murray at Mildura I make a final fuel stop, then end up on yet another straight road. There's more traffic in general now and we pass caravans and trucks. I guess normal people are waking up now.
More bikes pass as I top up the fuel in Mildura - no need to rush though, I'm right on time for check in if I keep up my regular pace. The road is still maddeningly straight, but at least there's a few hills I can see now and the temperature is rising.
The crosswinds manage to keep the temperature down enough to be annoying and I briefly consider stopping at one of the numerous roadside rest stops for a stretch, but I'm actually feeling quite good now and I reckon I'd be just as cold off the bike as on.
I join up with two other riders and the three of us pass through an early morning speed check, the fruit-fly inspection, and the Paringa opening bridge without incident to pull into the last free space outside the Renmark club about 20 minutes before checkin opened.
There's nothing like finishing a ride like this - bikes everywhere, faces new and old, everyone with a story, relief at finishing and having a chance to relax, a desire to keep going, all mixed up together.
At checkin I used a docket from Goondiwindi(four states and a day away), which gave me 1495km in the 24 hour period and a total trip of 1870km in 27 hours. Close.........
By the time I turned around it seemed a large chunck of the crowd had disappeared to continue their rides or check in to their motels.
The carpark at the back of the Renamrk club had cleared out a bit:
We still had a large number of bikes in the main street though:
After lunch was dealt with, dinner announced and group photos taken Muttley produced a bit of extra horsepower out the back of the club:
Would anyone like a ride? Would we ever!!
So with a fanfare from the boats' rather impressive sound system we climbed aboard and were waved off by Pat and his new pink sporran(I hope it was a sporran):
Unfortunately the only photo I have of Chris(Muttleys son) is this rather unimpressive shot of the back of his head:
Chris gave us an excellent tour of the river and was able to tell us about the local history, wildlife and everything else that makes this town special, an excellent ambassador for Renmark and much appreciated!
Up the river we go!
It's rather difficult to know what to photograph, but I had little choice, as my camera quickly drained it's batteries. I know others got more photos:
In a such short distances the scenery changes dramatically.
Notice the houses on top? The boat ramps on some of these places are amazing - running all the way from the top at impossible angles. I'm surpised that they find enough traction to drive back up, let alone dragging a boat!
A bit of history:
Doesn't look like much, but if you look closely you'll see remnants of an World War 2 internment camp built to house Italians immigrants. To keep them from contacting Mussolini and arranging an invasion of Australia they were brought out here and put to work cutting timber for the paddleboats.
Houseboats are a major part of the local tourist industry and are everywhere along the river:
Back towards town and we pass a restored paddlesteamer and barge.
Barge Argo is still being restored:
Paddlesteamers used to be the heavy freight haulers of their day, each paddlesteamer would typically pull two barges loaded with timber down to the coast.
My dodgy camera couldn't be coaxed into taking any more photos so I can't show you the river lock, the start of the pumping system that irrigates most of South Australia or the koala that we spotted on an island sanctuary.
Soon enough we headed back to check into motels and get settled before dinner. "I'll just have a quick snooze" I thought...three hours later I barely made it to dinner at the pub before the seating ran out!
Muttley put together a great event at a great destination and once again I would like to say THANK YOU!!
That's the FarRide portion of the trip over, now I just have to get home.