Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Beautiful day

Life has its little ironies. For example, in the final hours of a four-day event with the goal practically within reach, you are the most impaired and least able to appreciate it.

If this were a one-day event, at the finish there would be a party, dancing in the streets. Two days, hugs and laughter all around. Three days, a Mona Lisa smile. Near the end of Day 4, fatigue and desperation and numbness make it tough to feel anything at all.

Well, except maybe are we there yet?

We've been on the road for most of four days and three nights. To come back into civilization, get to the point of feeling and interacting normally, we have to press on a little further. Put an end to it. Do what it takes, whatever lies between us and the finish.

As luck would have it, the road to Melbourne goes directly over the top of one tall hill after another. No mystery here; after climbing one we can see the next clearly in front of us. And the next. No winding around, no breaks.

What it takes is climbing the same 50 meters over and over.

This is farm country, with micro produce for the crowds of Melbourne and tours for the school kids and training for the cyclists. Someone says  'this is why all the racers from Melbourne like Stuart O'Grady are such awesome climbers'. Good for the Tour de France! It seems like a mean joke, coming in like this.

The sky is close down around us, cold and gray and humid. The wind pushes against our faces and shoulders, like it has for four days. I'm lagging behind everyone except Rick, whose stomach shut down in Beechworth and has been running on sugar water ever since. I'm pretty sure I will never make it. My body feels so heavy and tired it's hard to breathe.

In Yea, no matter how awful it may sound, next time I'm having a real meal. What was I thinking, coffee and cake!

At kilometer 165, we turn left onto the Maroondah Highway. It's a narrow busy two-lane affair and at the turn, since there's no shoulder it seems like an excellent time to pause and let that semi towing a flat bed trailer glide on by.

It gets worse from there. We spend 15 kilometers in silence, drowned out by 3 lanes now in each direction of heavy car traffic. Could it be rush hour? Stoplights, no shoulder, hills. Drivers who are not expecting at all to share the road with us. They're not happy about it either. It's obvious this is not the bike route. This is confirmed when we ask David where we are and he doesn't know, never comes this way!

When finally there is a turn, we are still doing long, steep rolling hills, now on anonymous surface streets. There is some hopscotching with a huge public bus. Then we're on an unmarked path, with its surprised pedestrians and dog walkers, twisting through parks and neighborhoods. Who came up with this route? The only good thing is the route sheet; pretty much spot on. But really, to stay on course when you're brain dead, you need a Garmin. I'm following folks that have technology and trying not to get dropped.

When finally we reach the famous path along the Yarra River, the boys are energized and riding fast. The path itself sounded way more orderly and designed than it really is. A patchwork, with gaps filled in by winding around a building and cantilevering the path around the outside. Tight turns that are hard to navigate. This is what bike advocates do, in a car culture. They make do.

Even so we are lucky to have it. Lucky to have our 30-mile tour of the outer and inner suburbs of Melbourne. Think of Deb, who rode today and is somewhere up ahead, so disappointed to DNF on Day 2. Rick, whose water bottles are full of Coke or cordial (nasty, concentrated Kool-Aid). Vinny, who also had heat-related stomach issues yesterday. The many riders who DNF'd and did not ride any more of the course. (That might have been good thinking on their part.)

So yeah, we are lucky to wind around and climb and wonder why no one makes cities on a grid. (Is it really that hard?) What's so special about the Albert Park Sailing Club and why do we have to go through all this to get there? Because that is how we get to stop.

And we put an end to it as a group, taillights blazing, right at dusk.

Photo by Bob McHugh and Rod Burgess


  1. That's awesome. I'm glad you made it! (Unsurprised, because it's you, but glad.)
    Those are great arm warmers!

  2. Thanks Rachel! I was never sure about making it... I never can believe it when I do.
    Hey, maybe SmartWool should sponsor this blog!

  3. Great read. See you there in 2017?