Final pack up day is a bitter sweet day. It's the last time you have to work out how to fit all of your gear into your bags ready for the final load onto the luggage trucks. It's the last time you will have to have your meal ladelled onto your plate. And blissfully, it's the last time you will have to use toilet paper that is more closely related to paper rather than tissue.
But sadly, it's also the last time you will catch another cyclist's eye on the way to breakfast and say "good morning" and get a big smile back. It's the last time you get to be cheeky to your favourite Marshall standing giving directions on the roadside. And it's the last time you will share the road with 500 fellow Cycle Qld folk, at least until next year.
Every year, friendships are rekindled. There are people I only see on CQ but when you arrive on site, it's like you only saw them yesterday. They are welcoming and inclusive. Many of these friendships become FB mates, which means we can catch up throughout the year, and keep up with their many cycling adventures.
There's Jenny and Russell who I met on CQ11. We have been mates ever since and Jenny has even gotten me to get onto a mountain bike and try some new skills. There's Sarah who I met at CQ16 as we climbed the Glasshouse Mountains. We are Chicks Who Ride Bikes and caught up for coffee post ride. This year, Sarah provided much needed mental fortitude given my lack of training prior to the event. CQ12 I met Sue and Brodie, which was great for Hayden, as it meant he had a mate close in age to join on the ride. Sue, Troy, Dylan and Jan are a great group of people who are so welcoming and are always good for a conversation around camp. There are so many more - cyclists and volunteer's alike.
Final pack up complete, final breakfast eaten and its the final 31km of the tour. 5km of beautiful flat cycling through the cane fields outside of Murwullimbah, followed by a 5km climb up and over Mt Tomewin. Once again the bell birds were out in full song, and it was a slow and steady pace up the mountain. It's not too bad a climb - relatively regular gradient, with a slightly steeper stint in the middle, followed by an easier gradient to get to the top. Along the way there were spectacular views across the hinterland and then the most delicious descents with the chance to get up some really big speeds. These are my favourite parts, although truth be told I may need to learn to curb my enthusiasm as I sometimes push the boundaries of my comfort zone and a dose of the speed wobbles can be catastrophic, if not fatal. Thankfully, this time I arrived safely at the bottom intact. The final 10km was another beautiful flat ride, with the chance to roll the legs over and head to the finish chute.
Very excited to see Brendon waiting by the side of the road to watch me finish, and the chance to say goodbye to everyone. I hadn't caught up with Mary and Linne over the course of the ride (they are early birds), so it was wonderful to see that they had just crossed the line ahead of me. After over 500km I finally got the chance to give them a congratulatory hug and a hello!
Collected my luggage, had my obligatory chocolate frappe to celebrate end of ride and finally, before leaving, paid my deposit for next year's ride for a chance to have my airfares paid to Cairns. The CQ circus had ridden into town in Goondiwindi, moved to Yelarbon, Texas, Stanthorpe, Woodenbong, Kyogle, Murwullimbah and finally was finishing up at Currumbin. The tents are packed away, the bikes have been boxed and it's time to start dreaming about CQ18.
The Daintree to Cairns via the long option - can't wait.