Monday, November 18, 2013

Orion upside down

As we make the right toward Tumbarumba, what a simple, happy thing. A town name on a road sign! Feels like we're getting close.

Meantime I've been contemplating the power of the integrated adjective. And how giving a special rhythm to words can make them memorable. It's been very quiet, these last 100 kilometers. Except inside my head, that is. In my head instead of real thoughts what's playing is a single phrase, over and over: 

Up in Tumba-bloody-rumba shootin' kanga-bloody-roos... 

Up in Tumba-bloody-rumba shootin' kanga-bloody-roos... 

Can't remember when or how the thing started today, but there's no stopping it. 

It really started in 1981, when one of my host dads demonstrated the proper usage of Australian slang by reciting this poem by John O'Grady. Somehow, 32 years later, passing a road sign telling how many kilometers to Tumbarumba, the memory is called up. Detailed and intact! Including Brian's  delight in how the words sound. Makes me want to know how all that works

Now if there were just a way to turn it off...

David gives a fair effort by saying the last climb, the one up the road, promises 400 meters of vertical gain. 400 meters!! The Big Climb was 600 meters! Could it be that we have that much effort between us and dinner and bed? Sometimes it's not helpful to have company.

I say nothing, of course.

On that last leg between Tumba-bloody-rumbas, I was thinking about Deb. Actually hoping she didn't attempt it. The climb, brutally steep and long. The dangerous pavement on the descent. And a long dark stretch where you need to whistle and keep very, very alert. An un-rando-bloody-neur-like thought! But I can tell she's not 100% today. Anyone in that situation, it would likely eat them up.

We reach town and ride down the main street, with its streetlights on and storefronts all dark and shut up tight. We pass a rider from Japan who's a little wobbly on his bike.

Kinda eerie but peaceful, too. The moon is up, a full moon. Beautiful. Out of the mountains now, the sky opens up for us. There's Orion, or is it?

Looks like him, but tweaked and spun around, rising feet and sword first! This seems quite funny in an ironic way. (Possibly because of exhaustion.) But when you say you're heading to Australia, out come all the silly jokes about water swirling the other way in the bathtub and everything being upside down. Ha ha ha! And you debunk them, of course. Well, in the case of Orion, the myths are true! 

We start to climb, gearing down for the final push. My legs are definitely weak. Slowly the reason dawns on me: hunger, along with an extreme case of stubbornness. I just don't want to reach back to my pocket, grab a bar, unwrap it against the handlebars. Put it in my tired maw and chew it while riding. Don't want to. Just can't make myself do it. And so I'm weak, struggling to keep up.

David looks down at his computer and says "well, it's official. My biggest day of climbing, ever. We've just passed 5000 meters."

I put my foot down and get a bar out and start moving again, chewing unhappily. I want real food so badly it hurts. Feels like we'll never get there.

A couple of kilometers up the hill, a car passes us. There have been few cars since we left Adaminaby. This one leaves plenty of space and as it passes it seems to slow a bit, maybe taking a look at us. Sometimes this is what support vehicles do, getting a sense of who's still on the road. 

There's a dark shape on the back, a road bike. Our lights hit it and the reflectors on the spokes light up for a moment. 

I just know, Deb's in that car.

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