Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Down the Riverina

It's plenty hot here on the Riverina. This morning's bitter cold, it must have been a mirage.

We know exactly how hot because the Waterford's top tube feels warm to the touch. Mid 90's (F), then. No shade. For the first time on the ride I'm wishing for a Camelbak.

After twisting and turning in the mountains and along the river, we still don't have a favorable wind. Don't understand how that's possible.

At Hume Weir, a burger that is almost as huge as Lake Hume appears in front of me. A basket of potato wedges, similar in size. Plus an ice cream and a Coke. Potatoes, the new power food. And gluten or no, it all gets eaten. Given another hour, I'd go for another round.

But with almost 200km still to go we hit the road. Tacking this way and that to avoid metropolitan Albury-Wodonga. At which point I realize, it was a bad idea to leave the control without some ice. The route steers away from population centers (thus, no stores). The heat is barely tolerable, with the hottest part of the day ahead of us. On a day like today, ice can mean survival.

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There's a likely place, a small gas station/store by the side of the road. This might be the only chance. "Do you have ice?" I ask the proprietor. He gives me a long look. "Yes, but you have to buy the whole bag." Having no problem with that, I fork over $3.52 and tell him, there'll be a half-finished bag out there for whoever comes along and wants extra.

I rip open a bag in the big white cooler. Fill up my sports bra (try that, guys) and start in on the bottles. Out comes the owner with second thoughts. "I can't let you pay for a whole bag of ice." (We're not in the USA any more, Toto.) I argue that he absolutely can. I'm happy to pay. Someone will get more ice than they paid for, and they'll do something nice in turn. It's called paying it forward.

All this while the top half of my Route 66 jersey is completely stuffed with ice. I look like some kind of odd bird, bent on defending itself. He won't take the money, and so we reverse the transaction right there in front of the store. He has a story all worked out for the ice delivery guy!

This somehow (don't remember how) launches a real conversation with the proprietor. Who asks what I do. "I'm a blogger." He knows what that means! When I mention brain injury he tells me about his brush with encephalitis. We've both been through neuropsychological testing. After his illness he had something like 32% of his cognitive capacity. Through rehab and speech therapy, he's up to 92%. Next year he and his wife are doing a tour of the Northern Hemisphere. I give him my card and say, contact me.

Though the ice in my bottles disappears fairly quickly, it does help. The stuff in the sports bra is my secret weapon. It lasts an hour and a half.

And the human kindness, well it's still there.

1 comment :

  1. :) This started my day off with a smile and some optimism. The ice trick is genius!

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