Tuesday, 17 September 2013

CQ2013 - the Final Wash Up

48 hours back at home and Cycle Qld seems like an already distant memory and we have begun to save for next year's adventure.  I have an excited 12 year old who is already planning to pilot his own bike in 2014.  He has begun to plan training rides commencing this Saturday!

My first ride post-event yesterday morning felt a little hollow.  Yes, I was back on the Merida, my riding buddy beside me, but there's something to be said for sharing the road with hundreds of other riders all headed in the same direction.  As one of the slower riders on CQ, we would start off early in the morning and spend the day listening to choruses of "Good morning...passing...on your right..."

The majority of riders had at least a friendly smile for the weary mum and her gorgeous son on the road, with many standing jokes thrown back over their shoulders as they passed.  "Hey he's not pedalling back there...passing on the up, but see you on the down...how's the turbo this morning..."

Riding that first ride back in the burbs and the other riders we passed kept their heads down and legs spinning with barely a glance at us.  A friendly "Good morning" responded to with stony silence from the majority of riders along the foreshore. And of course, my little tandem buddy was not there to chat to me as we rode.

The Comeraderie of life on the road is what I miss the most after a week of CQ.  Suddenly all of those common goals have gone home to their families and friends, and that feeling of togetherness is lost until the next tour.  Even the larger group rides lack that vibe (or maybe I need to ride in a different group!)

So who rode CQ this year? People from all walks of life, all ages, male and female.  The youngest participant rolling behind his day's bike in a trailer - a 2 year old boy.  The oldest rider, and 83 year young gentleman.  He has 41 years on me.  I hope I am still that active at 83 - it would be my 44th CQ if I'm still riding at that age!

There were mountain bikes, tourers, hybrids, roadies and cross pollinations of all of these.  Tandems, recumbents, solar powered and man powered made up the mix.  On tandems - mums and sons, dads and daughters, husbands and wives all joined in the fun.  Lycra wearers, boardie models, casual clothes are represented.  All fitness levels joined the ride, but the one constant across the board was the united love of the bike that we all shared.

Now the tent is hanging out ready to dry, the clothes have been washed and the bike will be back home tomorrow.  Across the country, people are sharing their stories and hopefully enticing their friends to come along for the ride in 2014.  Photos are being uploaded on social media sites of smiling riders on bikes, at rest stops, at pubs, on tours, at breakfast and dinner, swimming in gorges and rolling down hills. 

Let's hope just a few are inspired, drag their bikes out of storage, visit their local bike store and discover (or rediscover) the joy of the ride.  

So it's farewell CQ2013 Mission Beach to Port Douglas, and hello CQ2014 Agnes Waters to the Sunny Coast.  Only 350 odd sleeps to go and it will be upon us again.  Hope to see you there!

Monday, 16 September 2013

CQ2013 - Day 8 - Mixed Emotions

Day 8 and as the title suggests there are mixed emotions.

On the up side, we will go home to our dad/husband and sister/daughter who we miss while we are away.  It is also a year until we have to put up that darn tent again.  It's not a difficult task, but there's something wrong about all that work for only one night's sleep (most nights) before repacking and starting over again in the next town.  And let's face it - once you've camped in a camper trailer, the tent just doesn't really cut it!

It also means the tandem goes back in the garage for a while and I can drag out my roadie.  Ah to ride fast and solo again.  Love my buddy on the back, but sometimes one needs one's solitude.  After all, I love cycling because it allows me to get into my own head at times.

Living out of a bag is also something that can only be done for so long.  You can only wear the same three shirts so many times before you wish for a bit of variation.  A washing machine wouldn't go astray either - hand washing in a basin leaves a bit to be desired!

On the down side, Mum the cook enjoys a week's break from meal planning and cooking. I don't miss the kitchen while I'm away.

I also miss the fabulous people we meet on the road.  Whether it's our fellow riders or the wonderful volunteers, we make so many friends along the way.  It's a bitter-sweet farewell, knowing that we will see many of them again next year.

Anyway, it was up a little earlier, pack up for the final time, force down a quick breakfast and we were on the road to Port Douglas.

A nice flat run today, passing through the last of the cane fields on our way to the coast.  We maintained a good pace, with nary a thought of flat tyres.  We were on the home stretch and were on a tight schedule to ensure we arrived, pulled down the bike, packed it in its box for transporting home and then getting ourselves on the bus to the airport.

The icing on the cake that was CQ2013 was the glorious ride along 4 Mile Beach to finish.  Finally a pro for riding that hulk of a tandem - fat tyres that made it easy to trundle along the beach.  The sand was so hard packed though that a number of roadies traversed the beach with ease.  It was surprisingly hard work to pedal on (it was important to maintain momentum so the weight of the bike didn't sink the tyres into the sand).  We stopped a number of times for photo opportunities, after all there isn't much beach to ride on down here in Brisbane!

The water was like a sheet of glass, with only small waves breaking onto the shore.  The sky was the same colour silvery-grey, with a light cloud cover.  The beach at Port Douglas is buffered by palm trees and other bush land, not marred by buildings.  It is old school beach - not built out by development - just pristine, golden beaches.

We also felt downright naughty as we took off our helmets and rode bare-headed with the wind in our hair.  Very excited to cross between the finisher's flags and finally have a photo by the professionals without my helmet squishing my do!  Walked the bike back up the beach, onto the road and also passed through the blue finisher's chute for a photo with helmets on.

High fives all round! We had done it.  We had climbed higher than ever before.  We had found energy reserves we didn't think we had.  We made new friends and re-discovered old friends. We had great adventures and we did it together.  I cherish these memories, because let's face it, there is an expiry date on how long a 12 year old wants to hang out with his mum.

That day may be even closer than I think.  Especially after the trauma of pulling the bike down post-tour.  Tears and recriminations ensue as I try to be patient and eventually lose my temper (removing pedals does that to me - I always inevitably tighten them before I loosen them and then bust a gut trying to get them loose again).  Follow that with packing up said bike into a box that included various cycling paraphernalia to lighten our airline baggage load, and it's an achievement in itself that we are still talking to each other.

However if there is one thing that Hayden has taught me this trip, it is that chocolate frappes will cure many ills!  The Cafe2U van was never an attraction, as unlike many of the lycra-clad cycling set, I don't drink tea or coffee.  Then one lunch break, Hayden suggested a fruit frappe (made on water, lighter than milk based frappes).  I was hooked from that moment on.  On the final day I succumbed to a chocolate one, and I was sold.  Delicious, refreshing, and the perfect end to a perfect week on the bike with my boy.

Bike boxed, goodbyes said and onto the bus to Cairns for our flight home.  Loved that we kept bumping into familiar faces at the airport as we all made our way to various departure gates.  Friends returning to Sydney, Melbourne and our hometown of Brisbane.  Even those we hadn't met along the road had a smile as they spotted the familiar orange wristbands signifying a fellow rider, or the green lanyards and blue ride ID, or a CQ shirt worn proudly like a badge of honour.

Already talk was turning to CQ2014 - Agnes Waters to the Sunshine Coast, with many promising to see each other next year.  Hayden has committed to riding again next year, but with a difference. He will be riding on his own bike (all going to plan).  Being a little unsure of traffic, I will need to ensure many training rides to get him prepared to ride solo.  Confidence will be the key.  But should he decide it's still too soon, there will be a tandem bike waiting in the garage to be called into action.  And a mum only too happy to climb back into the saddle and share the adventures with her boy.

So our adventure is over for another year.  Only 358 odd days until CQ2014.  I would love to share it with you all over again.  Only one more CQ2013 post to go, as we go through the final wash up.

Saturday, 14 September 2013

CQ2013 - Day 7 Dead Flat, Downhill and Dad Jokes

Wow, here we are at Day 7 - the next to last day on the ride and as they say, what goes up must come down.

Mareeba was a lovely place to visit, if not a little unnerving.  They locked all of the gates into the Leagues club bar one to maintain security while we were there, so it was a little weird to be locked behind a six foot fence topped with barbed wire!

A gloriously flat ride today - the occasional up, but nothing major and nothing that our now much stronger legs couldn't handle.  Another flat about an hour into the ride - so a record three flats for the event so far.  I'm becoming adept at removing that back tyre with limited grease on the fingers.

Rest stop one done, and we pedalled through Mt Molloy onto the lunch stop.  Found an interesting ruin on the top of rise into Mt Molloy, with the remains of brickwork kilns and metal boilers.  Must google that one later on to find out what it was!

After lunch, the anticipation of a massive downhill section - 7km downhill, losing over 400m of elevation on the way down.  A couple of photo ops on the way down, with views clear to Port Douglas.  White knuckled it all the way to the bottom, wrestling the tandem to maintain control as we picked up speed.  Brakes on to wash speed, then accelerate again.  If it hadn't been so winding, it would have been fun to see how fast we could have gone.  Felt sorry for the people who did this ride in reverse a few years back - could not imagine climbing up that particular stretch and being able to walk the next day!

While that was fun, gotta say the highlight of the day was cycling to the Mossman Gorge Visitor Centre and catching the shuttle bus out to the Gorge to enjoy the Daintree National Park.

I can't wait to come back and explore Mosssman Gorge further. Today we did only the skywalk and then took the plunge into the cold waters of the Gorge to refresh.  Brisk, fresh and revitalising - can't describe how good it felt to just float and enjoy the tranquility.

Felt sorry for the non-cycling tourists who thought today would be a good day to experience the peace and beauty of the Gorge only to share it with 700 cyclists.  Oh well, hopefully they will still be here tomorrow to enjoy it all over again.

Out of the water, back in the bus, back on the bike and here we are camped at the Mossman Showgrounds for the final night party.  Some interesting costumes again this year, but with very limited charge left on the iPad, that will all have to wait til tomorrow night!

And finally the Dad jokes - Hayden sees an Expanda caravan.  Says to me - if it's an ex-panda, wonder what it is now.  Oh my, the dad jokes have begun!

So with the power running out the morning sees our final day of CQ13 finishing with a ride on the beach at Port Douglas.  I can't wait - bring on 7am!

Friday, 13 September 2013

CQ2013 - Day 6 - How Many Men Does It Take to Change a Tyre?

The answer to the question is just a little further down, but it is worth reading on...

Another absolute scorcher on the road today.  You know it's hot when the bitumen on the side of the road is tacky to ride on!

Not a bad day though, as we spent the day doing a fair bit of downhill work, and finally got to put the bike back into 2nd gear! Continued to push our recovery skills by staying in harder gears for the smaller slopes today so we could build up our endurance.  Hayden was even feeling the heat today, and we took regular rests in the shade to bring the body temperatures down and reapply sunscreen to our already burnt bodies.

Just outside of Tolga a lovely fellow mentioned that our back tyre was a little low.  Thought that was weird cos I had pumped it up before leaving, but pulled over about 2km from the rest stop to inspect the tyre - there was a sweeping downhill that I didn't want to risk a blown tyre on.

Sure enough, on inspection the tyre appeared to have a slow leak - not completely flat, but slowly losing pressure as we rode along.  Tried to pump it up to get us to the rest stop, but could hear it slowly hissing and knew we would need to change the tube.  That was when Hayden noticed a good 2cm tear in the tyre - there was shredding around the tear and that was where the tube had punctured.

At this point the BQ truck pulled up and asked if we needed a hand.  Never one to accept assistance (I like to be independent), I told them flat tyre and hole in tyre, but I would change the tube and get to rest stop for assistance.  That's when four very chivalrous gentlemen parked their car and came and helped with the change!

First stop, plugging the hole in the tyre to prevent further punctures.  Now I've heard of this before but have never seen it in practice - fold a $5 note inside the tyre and then insert tube and inflate as usual!  Voila - worked a treat.  Limped the bike into the rest stop and another lovely fellow replaced the tyre, tightened up a few loose bits and pieces and we were good as new.  The four fellows all found us at some point during the day to check up on us and make sure we were travelling ok.  talk about feeling the love!  If that was the worst Friday the 13th had in store for us we felt pretty good.

The rest of the ride was pretty uneventful, as we travelled to Mareeba.  There are some pretty awesome infrastructure items along the way - kilometres and kilometres of canals carrying water to farms across NQ.  The ones we followed were so enticing, and if it weren't for the "No Swimming" signs, we may have even stopped for a paddle.

The scenery has also begun to change along the ride.  Mareeba is considered the door to the Outback, and the land changes dramatically from lush rolling green dairy farming properties to parched, brown  tobacco and coffee plantations.

We stopped at Mt Uncle Distillery for lunch.  I forewent the liqueur tasting (we were back riding after lunch after all!) but did buy a few of the snack products for the folk at home.

Arrived at camp, set up, showered, put the phone on charge and left Hayden to rest in the tent while I explored town.  Mareeba has the longest Main Street I have ever walked along.  Lots of interesting shops and finally the Woolworths hoodoo was broken by a Coles supermarket.  Brought a few little knickknack and found my way back to camp.  4.15pm and it felt like I was walking in the midday sun.  Absolute shocker!  Temps peaked here at 32 degrees at 3.17pm - unbelievable as you would think it would be cooling down by then.

Escorted Hayden for his massage and am now just chilling out in my tent, preparing for our last two days of riding.  Can't believe how fast the time has gone and how many km we have under our belts.  Hayden is already looking forward to next year, so it looks like we will be bike shopping sooner rather than later.  Me, I'm looking forward to Monday when I can get back on my roadie and see how much difference this week has made to my strength.

So until tomorrow when we arrive in Mossman, I bid you all good night.

Thursday, 12 September 2013

CQ2013 - A Hard Day's Rest

Day 5 on the banks of Lake Tinaroo on the outskirts of Yungaburra sees CQ2013 celebrating a day of rest.

No major plans for the day, just some ideas on what we would like to see as the day pans out.  Let Hayden have a sleep in this morning, so he didn't wake up til 7am. Up to the mess tent for a quick breakfast of French toast and maple syrup and back to the tent to decide the day's plan.

Turns out he didn't mind getting on the bike again and riding into town for a look around.  We had travelled into Yungaburra by SAG wagon the night before to check out the nightly movie (Brave), but when someone else is driving and it's dark, it makes quite a difference with your navigational skills!  Thankfully BQ put up signs to direct us to the town centre and we headed into and out of town  to our first stop - Curtain Fig National Park to see the Curtain Fig Tree (funny that!)

Gorgeous ride down into the rainforest, with nice shade and not too much hard work getting up and down the hills.  Won't try to explain the science behind the tree, suffice it to say that it was a tree that had a seed dropped into it, the seed grew into another tree that grew over the initial tree (which died and fell over) and the fig tree shot out "roots" that made a curtain down to the ground.  It would be much more exciting if I could add a picture, but they're all on my camera at the moment, with no way to download them.

Next stop, the Peterson's Creek Walking Track.  A 2km walk along the newly reclaimed stretch of Peterson's Creek - an area devastated by flooding that has been cleaned and replanted in the last twenty years.  Gorgeous flora and fauna on display. Commencing with the platypus viewing area (yes we saw the platypus, but I missed the photo op and he didn't come back in the 15 minutes that I sat poised ready to get the shot), and following the creek through to the old railway bridge.

Spotted a snake as I was about to step on him, stopped just in time to see him safely into the bush.  Know it wasn't a python, and it had a bit of brown in the back, so not really sure what type he was, so was quite happy to look but don't touch!

Met two lovely women on the walk who pointed out a tree kangaroo in the tree above our heads.  Took some shots but given he was sitting with the sun behind him, he was in a bit of a silhouette.  Waited to see if he would move and that was when I noticed the second one higher and better positioned for a photo.  Again, can't wait to upload some photos of our find - so very cute and quite unique looking.

Walked the remainder of the track and checked out the turbine used to pump water to the township, the old boiler used to fuel the pump and a refreshing swimming hole before returning to town.

Now the biggest challenge on CQ might sound like the hard courses set, but it's really getting access to the charging bar so you can charge your smart phones, garmins, iPads, iPods etc.  the Visitor Information Centre had a power point outside, so I was able to charge my iPad enough to get me through this blog creation tonight! Lovely and cool to sit on the concrete against the brasher block building in the middle of the day before popping over to the pub for a refreshing cider and a counter meal.  If you ever head out Yungaburra way, I can recommend the Reef n Beef at the Lake Eacham Hotel - at $30 it was an absolute steal.  Hayden fully recommends the hamburger and chips too.

After a bit of grocery shopping it was back to camp for an afternoon nap, swim and for me, a sunset boat cruise on the lake where we did a bit of bird spotting, tried to spy a platypus and looked for tree kangaroos.

Busy day, but a restful day too.  Who'd have thought we would be back on the bike? Hayden seems to be enjoying the trip, however as anyone with a 12 year old boy would know, it can be hard to get much out of him at the moment.  He has gotten much better at talking to the people we meet on the trip, and even had a conversation with a lovely fellow this afternoon while we waited for our meals to arrive.

Riding the tandem generates a lot of interest, and we find ourselves answering the same questions over and over.  I'm not sure how he will feel next year when he's riding on his own and is less of an oddity - although something tells me he wouldn't mind fading into the background again!

We are now in our tent after a carb loading dinner, ready to hit the road again tomorrow as we ride to Mareeba.  It looks quite easy tomorrow, but let's face it, this is NQ and there are sure to be some challenges on the road ahead.

Oh and before I forget - next year's ride has been announced.  CQ2014 will start in Agnes Waters and finish at the Sunny Coast.  BQ have promised a flat coastal course, with some long options to challenge those who want hills, so if you've ever wanted to try one of these events, next year's course is the one to begin with.  I'd love to share CQ with some friends, so if you're keen, start saving ready to register in March next year.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

CQ2013 Day 4 - Hills, Helping and Heat

Welcome to Day 4 - aptly subtitled, "I woke up this morning so the world is good."

After yesterday's gruelling adventure, I forgot to mention a few things, so wanted to start with them.

Firstly, when we got back to camp we took our bike up to the mechanics for a once over, as it was making some weird noises.  Turns out that when I change our rear tyre I didn't put the brakes together properly and one side was rubbing the whole time! Talk about making life difficult for yourself, Sue!

Secondly, we met a lovely woman who shared some cycling wisdom with us early in the day that is probably the best advice I've heard for hill climbing.  As we hit the hill, we start to count to fifty - eyes pointed to just in front of the bike.  When we reach fifty, we start counting again.  The brain engages on the counting and forgets to think about the climb.  Works a treat and got me over many hills both yesterday and today.

Speaking of today, how do I describe today.  More hills, a couple of challenging climbs and some of the most spectacular scenery you could ever be lucky enough to see.  We left Millaa Millaa at 7.30am and had our first stop shortly after - walking down to the falls just outside of town.  We could ride our bikes down but when one of the guys told me it was an 18% gradient, we thought the walk would be nice.  So did most of the rest of the riders!  

The first of the spectacular sights for the day.  Trundled a bit further up the road to be rewarded with views across the Tablelands.  Breath-taking, humbling and exhilarating all at the same time - rolling green hills, lush valleys and blue sky as far as the eye can see.  Worth every pedal stroke to see that at the top of the climbs. (Incidentally, we dropped approx 550m today, but reclimbed about 464m, so an up and down kinda day).

Hardest part of the day is backing up after a shocker yesterday, but it had to be down. The legs are tired but recovered without soreness, the mind is still a little broken from yesterday's meltdown.

Only an hour into our journey we threw a chain after a quick change on a hard climb.  Averted the disaster of a fall only to find the chain firmly wedged between the chain set and the wheel.  Thankfully three friendly helpers appeared and wrestled the chain back into position and we were on our way again.

It was another hot day today. Bloody hot! 32 degrees according to the bureau, and hot enough to give us both some pretty nasty sunburn - even after reapplying it copiously at our rest stops.  We took plenty of regular breaks in the shade, especially through the middle of the day when the sun was absolutely relentless, but it was still very draining.  

Our rest stop was at Mallanda, and we bought a couple of pies to pop in the panniers for later on.  Lovely little town that I'd love to go back and visit when I have more time to appreciate it more.

Then more hills and climbs past the Nerada Tea Centre and around the rim of the volcanic craters to Lake Eacham for a lunch break.

Pristine, emerald waters so clear you can see right to the bottom, even in some of the deepest points. Oh, and cold.  Gorgeously brisk and refreshing as it washed away the dirt of the road and eased tired muscles.  Hayden couldn't get in fast enough and after I stripped down to my bra and riding shorts I was far behind.  

It would not be an exaggeration to say that that has been our favourite part of the trip.  This is a gorgeous lake that just must be seen to be believed.  I will be back to NQ to share these sights with the rest of the family.

So after a quick lunch, we checked out the saw-shelled turtles and Hayden had another quick dip before heading back onto the Road for the final 10k to camp.

More beautiful scenery and then a welcome sight - lakeside campsite at Lake Tinaroo.  Pelicans, ducks, fish and a gorgeous lake.  Rest day tomorrow and we aren't sure what we are doing yet.  Leaning toward a ride into town for a pub lunch, exploring the heritage trails and an animal walk to spot platypus and tree kangaroos.  But I guess you'll know soon enough! See you tomorrow.

So that's all for today folks.  Feeling just a bit more refreshed now we know there is no riding tomorrow unless we want to.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

CQ2013 - Day 3 Exhausted, Exhilarated and Emotional

CQ2013 - Welcome to my Nightmare - Day 3 on the road.

Today was always gonna be a tough ask.  I knew, Hayden knew it and everyone we spoke to on the ride knew it.  Let me begin by telling you a few "fun" facts about today's ride.

We climbed over 1500m today (elevation) - the equivalent of 5 Cootha rides.  One climb was 5km at 8% gradient, another was 2.5km at 10%.  There is rumour that one of the climbs was 15% but I'm yet to have that confirmed, however I have seen the Garmin that shows the gradient.

BQ have confirmed that it was the hottest and hilliest day in the history of CQ. It was a reported 30 degrees, with the temp maxing at 35 degrees on the blacktop.

70 riders rode the SAG wagon today - approx 10% of those who are participating.  A pretty mammoth effort given the route we followed.  BQ very generously kept the route open longer to allow those who wanted to finish the ride to do so.

So how did Hayden and I do today.  We started at 7.30am and finished at 4.10pm.  We rode 66km in that time,  which we would normally do in about 3 hours.  Of course that is the ride to Cleveland and back, which doesn't involve any mountains and only very small hills.  We stopped and reenergised at each rest stop.  We ate and drank copiously to keep our energy levels up.  We even managed a little bush walk at the lunch break to work a few different muscles and rest the hill climbing ones.

The day began with a nice 26km generally flat (only a couple of challenging hills and climbs) route.  It was already 25 degrees at 10am when we stopped, so lots of water on board to stay hydrated.  We had a flat tyre after the first rest stop and had lots of offers of help, but happily able to do this simple repair, so sent the good Samaritans on their way.

The next section to lunch at Henrietta Creek upped the ante with more prolonged climbs (but still quite gentle rises that felt manageable).  Felt pretty good after a rest (and a mango frappe) and happily pressed onto the afternoon tea break.

Cue Hell Breaking Loose!  First climb out of lunch - the aforementioned 5km at 8% gradient, through roadworks.  But for every pedal stroke up, total value in the scenery provided at the end of the climb. Rolling green vistas across the hills and valleys of the Palmerston region made every drop of sweat and every tear (cried silently of course) worthwhile.

We had been watching Mt Bartle Frere (Qld's highest mountain) for the whole ride.  At some points you could see the peak peeking out of the cloud cover at the top, and for about 5 glorious minutes it was clear of cloud cover and showed itself in all its glory.  Again, totally worth it!

And the cherry on the cake - a huge sweeping 2km downhill with limited curves, which saw us doing about 85km/hr at the steepest section.  Absolutely, totally and utterly crazy and exhilarating at the same time.  Had to ease on the brakes when the bike started to shake and shudder under the pressure of the fast descent.  It wasn't til afterward when one of the riders we passed told me that I found out Hayden had both arms outstretched for most of the downhill, meaning he was no hands for our top speed.  Makes my gut wrench thinking about the potential injury if he bounced off at those kinds of speeds!

At the final rest stop at Mingalli Falls, I put my foot down and told Hayden I had nothing left to give. He did not accept my protests and again after an energising iceblock we set off on the final 14km.  The first climb was 15%.  We had a crack but ended up walking it.

So we limped into camp at Milaa Milaa after almost 9 hours on the road to many hugs and high fives from our fellow campers.  One lady looked at us and said "you didn't do today on that did you?" and pointed at the tandem.  She was horrified when we said yes!

Mentally, I was shattered. It had taken every reserve to get through the final section and I had nothing left in the tank.  As we crossed into camp to the applause of a number of fellow finishers I will admit to having a quiet tear at the accomplishment of our day's feats.

So after a quick tent set up, a gloriously cold and refreshing shower and a fabulous massage each, we find ourselves relaxing in our tent after a delicious dinner of chicken satay kebabs with cous cous and salad.  Proud of our efforts and even more proud of the pluck shown by a twelve year old boy
determined to complete his day of riding.  There were times when I had to ask him to dig deep and find extra power to get us over a hill and he rose to the challenge on every occasion.  I am so proud to have such a resilient, determined fellow on the back of my bike with me.

Time for bed now as it's another 70km on the road tomorrow to Yungaburra where we will have a well earned rest day.  Hard to believe we are almost half way already.  Hope I haven't rambled too much - brain is still fuzzy!  See you tomorrow.

Monday, 9 September 2013

CQ2013 Day 2 - Plantations, Paronella Park and Pools

Ah NQ, rainy one minute, steamy humid the next!  Welcome to day 2.

Spent the night listening to showers and mentally preparing for a wet pack up.  Would have been time better spent sleeping, as the new day dawned with only very little cloud cover and a magnificent rainbow over camp.  It was like Mother Nature's way of saying "Sorry for the crap weather, here's a rainbow to make up for your troubles."

Still had to give the tent a good wipe down before packing away, but so much nicer than the worry of everything getting wet when the tent comes down.

Left Mission Beach (somewhat sadly) and started the day's trek to Innisfail.

Gorgeous rolling hills (they said it was flat!), but nothing too major to bother us.  After all, when the hills finish there's the dead flat plains full of sugar cane plantations, then banana plantations and finally pawpaw plantations.  With a gentle breeze that provided a cooling effect on a 29 degree day, the smell of ready to harvest sugar cane was absolutely intoxicating.  Even Hayden with his end of cold blocked nose commented on it - particularly as we rode past the cane factory - mmmm heady sugary molassesy goodness!

The banana fields sadly don't have the same smell allure, but are very pretty, as the huge bunches of bananas are covered in blue plastic - whether to prevent ripening too soon in the tropical sunshine or to prevent marauding fruit bats from destroying crops, I just don't know, but either way, quite decorative.

The pawpaw doesn't get the same royal treatment - they just hang from the trees waiting to ripen.  No smell there either, but still very impressive to see row after row of tall green stalks weighted down with orbs of sunshiny goodness!

Lunch today was held at Mena Creek Falls - right next door to Paronella Park - a privately run park previously owned and built by Jose Paronella. Jose's dream was to recreate Spanish castles in NQ.  Made entirely from materials sourced locally, it has been hit very hard by flooding and cyclones in recent years and is going through a period of rebuilding.  I guess it could be considered pretty, but to me it was just a crapload of ugly concrete in an otherwise beautiful setting.  Maybe I'm just not sentimental enough to appreciate his dream, or maybe it's just that I live in a house formerly owned by a Jugoslavian man who loved cement and used it far too much in our house and yard!  Still worth a look and a bargain for riders, as admission was half price!

The waterfall on the other hand is well worth the stop, as there is a suspension bridge over the top that let's you fully appreciate the force and fury of water.

Back on the bike for a short 18k into town.  Today's riding challenge was cane trains and tracks - a number of riders took falls today, with the worst one getting a ride in the ambulance to hospital. The plaster must be just about set by now I think!

Arrived at camp, popped up the tent and decided to explore the park we are using.  Woohoo there's a pool, but it's closed.  Couldn't con anyone to unlock it for us, so Hayden and I jumped back on the bike in civvy clothes (the only lycra being our togs) and rode back through town to the Innisfail Memorial Baths.  Best $6.80 spent so far as the water was deliciously cold and I could almost hear my muscles thanking me for the impromptu ice bath.  It certainly eased a few squeaky joints and put some of the hard work on the road to rest.

Refreshed, we spent the rest of the arvo in our tent by the river enjoying the cool breezes and company of fellow campers.  I've managed to catch up with a number of people from last year and also made some new friends by introducing myself at dinner to new people each night.  So there should be some more encouragement along the road tomorrow.

Tomorrow - the word that currently chills me to the bone.  Only 69k on the road.  First 40k is relatively flat, followed by 14k of climbs ranging from 5% to 15% gradients.  Then a short downhill and another 15k of climbs.  Gut clenching at the thought of it, but Hayden and I are determined to give it the best crack we can.  If we have to catch the bus, so be it, but it won't be before we give it our all to clear the top of the tablelands.

Again, either way, we have a prize at the end of the day - pre-booked massages with our favourite masseurs Jeffrey and Estelle.  That is what might just get us over the line!

So it's early to bed, early to rise, as it's a predicted steamy 28 degrees tomorrow, so an early start to stay out of the midday sun, which just saps the energy right out of us.  As in previous years, would appreciate all of your positive vibes and affirmations.  If I don't blog by 9pm, send out a search party for riders 199 and 22.  See you tomorrow for CQ2013 Day 3.

Sunday, 8 September 2013

CQ2013 - Days -1 and 1 Cassowaries, Comeraderie and Coastlines

Saturday, 7th September - up up and away as we begin our North Qld Cycle Adventure.  You'll notice the capitals there - that's how I think of this ride - it's an uppercase kinda ride.

The flight was relatively uneventful, except for the six young knobs sitting behind us who thought dirty sexual innuendo was acceptable behaviour when addressing themselves and each other for the entire flight.  Was it wrong that when one mentioned the word "bomb" I was hoping they would open a door and push him out?

Anyway, with the earphones in it was easier to ignore them and focus on a book, which I finished. Thank goodness for Kindle on iPad - I have 18 more, just in case I get through a few more as fast!

Arrived at the airport, jumped on a bus and headed for Mission Beach.  Drove through about 20 rain showers, and fervently wished with each shower that that was the last one.  Saw plenty of signs warning us of cassowary crossings, which I was beginning to think was a local joke for the tourists, when lo and behold, one of those magnificent birds walked right across in front of the bus, thankfully with enough warning that the driver could slow down and allow safe passage across the road.  It was gone into the rainforest at the side of the road before we had even started to move forward again, but such a beautiful creature.  Tick box 1 (spot a cassowary) - check!

Lady Luck was in our favour for the first 30 minutes after we arrived at camp, which is perfect considering it took us 29 minutes to set up!  Tent up, gear inside, heavens open and the showers continued throughout the night.  Not to be thwarted, and because we were ravenous, we pulled on our cheap shop ponchos (i'll admit I was worried it would be so old that it would perish in my hands) and caught the Rotary Club Shuttle into town.

Spoiled for choice, we decided on pizza and chips, which proved to be an excellent choice and then jumped back on the bus for our trip back to camp.

Early to bed in anticipation of building a tandem bike in the morning, we spent the hours between 10pm and 6am listening to the rain falling softly (and sometimes not so softly) on our tent.  Hayden was more than a little dismayed to hear that we ride rain, hail or shine, but soon came round.

Bike box spotted in the line, heavens open again so we shelter in the camp cafe and attempt to put our bike together.  I make this sound hard to impress you, but really I just had to put the tyres back on, put the handlebars back on, put the pedals back on and make sure the brakes and dérailleur worked before we took off for the day's ride.

Heavens open again as we ride through the start gate and CQ2013 officially begins. But what a ride it was. Easy to forget the rain as you cycle into lush rainforest corridors, eyes peeled for another cassowary, enjoying the joy of being back on a bike, even if it is a bloody big hulking tandem!

A quick right turn, a few more rainforests and we are back on the coastline, following the road along some of the most gorgeous unpopulated beach areas in Qld.  Lots of giggling from Hayden and I as we listen to riders grumble about the head winds.  Living at Wynnum it is rare to have a foreshore ride without some level of wind pushing you to work your legs harder to maintain momentum.

As we make the turnaround point for the first day's ride, we are passed by plenty of riders (yes that is jealousy you are hearing - I miss my roadie), most of whom have a joke with Hayden and a kind word for his mum working hard at the front.  I think he was particularly happy to hear someone say, "hey she's not pedalling in front" - because the joke is usually that he isn't!

 Lots of familiar faces who remember our names and praise us for coming back to tackle a course guaranteed to be harder than last year's event around camp and we are both feeling the love!  And lots of people we don't know still giving us lots of encouragement.  Fave rider of the day was the man in the jelly bean jersey who dropped in in front of us and draughted us up a long hill, while cheerily telling us that "if people knew how hard it was to ride a tandem, they would all drop in and give you a draught. Poor tandem riders do all the hard work on their own.  Anytime I see you on the ride, I'll give you a draught love."  I think I'm in love!  (Draughting for the non-cyclist, is when a bike tucks in behind another rider and  enjoys the sensation of being "pulled" along by the lead rider due to reduced wind resistance.  It's like having 2 extra granny gears on your bike.)

Back at camp at the end of day 1 and Hayden is exhausted.  He has slept for 3 hours this afternoon, and I'm suspecting he may be getting just a little anxious about the climbs on day 3. I walked the 6km return trip into town to buy a brollie and a few more disposable ponchos, so good chance I will carry those for the rest of the trip without another drop of rain falling, but you won't hear me complaining either way.  I'm on a bike, I'm exploring a region I have never visited before (but will definitely come back to) and I'm doing it with one of my favourite people on the planet.  Life is good.  See you tomorrow for day 2.

Sunday, 1 September 2013

One week out and the nerves are kicking in

Well here we are one week out from the start of CQ2013.  I'm something of an early organiser, so my bags have been packed for at least a fortnight, and there are just a few more bits and pieces to put in at the last minute and we are all done.

My postal vote hit the Australia Post box on Saturday morning.  Four more days of work (which includes a major report due before I leave), a visit to the dentist, a beauty therapist appointment for some landscaping work and a couple of small rides to keep the legs turning round out the week before jumping onto a plane to Cairns.

Today I rolled the bike out of the garage and began to dismantle it ready for boxing.

It will be picked up on Wednesday evening and put on the back of a truck for the drive up to Mission Beach.  It took me about an hour to remove both sets of handlebars, pedals and wheels, wrap the chains and derailleurs and box all of our gear into the bike box.  I'm only hoping I remember how to put it all together when it arrives at the campsite on Sunday morning.  I may have to practice my "damsel in distress" routine in preparation! I haven't used that one in quite a long time, so it could be a real push!

My greatest challenge thus far has been motivating my turbo charger in the stoker's seat.  Hayden is a 12 year old boy who is ten foot tall and bullet proof.  His legs are going to be in a world of hurt after day one, but he will have only himself to blame as every time I asked him to saddle up to go for a ride I got the standard roll of the eyes, drop of the shoulders and whiny "Urgh."  It will be a real test not to say "I told you so."

So that explains the nerves.  Day three is an 86km uphill slog to the top of the Tablelands.  With a bike as heavy as the tandem, we are going to need every bit of strength to get to the top, so I am a little nervous that we will find ourselves on the SAG wagon for the first time on a CQ event.  I know there's no real shame if we do run out of puff on the hardest day, but knowing I could be doing this on my roadie (a much lighter and faster ride) instead of the hulk that is the tandem will frustrate me no end.

Anyway, back to positivity - one week to go until I join 800 like-minded cyclists enjoying the open road, camping under the stars and exploring new areas that I have never been to before.  Only six more sleeps until that plane ride, a quick bus to the campsite and it all begins for CQ2013.  I can't wait to share another adventure on the road.

Saturday, 10 August 2013

CQ2013 is coming...

Ok there is definitely a sense of déjà vu here. With four weeks until our 2013 cycle tour commences it seems like it was both only yesterday and an eon ago that Hayden and I rode from Gayndah to Noosa via Hervey Bay.

That was my second and his first CQ event.  We are now seasoned "tourers" for this year's event.  Well, at least we understand how it all works!

This year we are flying to Cairns, bussing to Mission Beach and then riding to Port Douglas via the Atherton Tablelands.  Once again we are doing the ride as a tandem pair.  No amount of cajoling, bribing or threatening could convince Hayden to pilot his own bike. I think he likes the idea of me being responsible for our safety and loves to just sit behind and turn the pedals over.

Day three looks to be the challenge day, with Bicycle Qld offering buses from morning tea onward to get to the top of the tablelands.  Both Hayden and I are determined not to catch the "SAG" wagon and to get to the top under our own power.  More on that as the tour progresses, but with his attitude I'm sure we will have a fair crack at conquering the all day climb.

The training rides on the tandem have been few and far between, with Hayden barely motivated to ride.  Thankfully I am still commuting to work by cycle and manage to sneak in a few longer rides on my days off, so I'm not too worried about my fitness levels.  Hayden may find himself sad and sorry for himself after a couple of days in the saddle.

Tomorrow we have our annual photo shoot for the local newspaper.  The angle this year is "what are you doing on Election Day?"  We will be on a plane early in the morning as we fly to Cairns.  Postal vote has been ordered, my only regret is that the election isn't the following weekend, because I still have to endure the entire election campaign.  It would have been ideal to miss the last week on the campaign trail with no television or radio contact!

Anyway, it's time to get back to packing the bags, checking our tent set up (woohoo, new roomy tent this year) and learning how to dismantle and rebuild our bike ready for the trip north.  Four weeks is going to fly by!

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Muscle memory = argh

This week entries opened for this year's Cycle Qld event.  An exciting journey that commences at Mission Beach north of Townsville, winds over the range to the Atherton Tablelands and finishes in Port Douglas, north of Cairns.

Once again, I'm counting down the days for my week-long cycling adventure.  I opened the question to Hayden to see if his passion for cycle touring was still as strong as it was at the end of last year's event.  He had a good think about it, and for my birthday, gave me the best present he could have given me - his confirmation that he wanted to do the ride again in 2013.

Our flights are booked, Hayden's entry is paid and it will not be long until my entry is confirmed as well.  The adventure continues!

Last year, you'll remember that Hayden was too young to pilot his own bike.  We bought a tandem bike and spent a week pedalling from Gayndah to Noosa via Hervey Bay.  It was a great experience, but one I thought (and hoped!) we would not be duplicating again, as he is now old enough to ride his own bike.

When I asked him if he'd like to ride his dad's Avanti mountain bike in this year's ride, he responded that once again he wanted to ride tandem.  No matter how much I tried to convince him otherwise, he was adamant that we were riding tandem.

So, on Saturday, we dragged out the tandem, pumped the tyres, lubed the chain and set off on our first training ride, a 35km trip to Wellington Point.

It took only about four cranks of the pedal for it all to come rushing back! The extra weight of the bike, the strength required to get momentum started and the chatty little bloke on the back of the bike.   Muscle memory is an amazing thing and as we got a few kilometres under our belts, it was like we had never had a five month break from riding our "long load."

What I had forgotten was how much extra strength I had found in my legs after riding the tandem.  I can't wait to get that strength back as we begin training for this year's ride.

We have planned our new ride jersey for Hayden (a "P" plate and MR markings to show he has graduated from a Learner rider, and are controlling a long load).  We are tent shopping for a double to save on weight and packing requirements.  We are saving all of our gold coins for the daily stalls at the rest stops so we can support local communities while nourishing our bodies. But most of all I am looking forward to the adventure of discovering new towns and exploring the Queensland countryside with my boy by my side.

And so it begins.  One training ride at a time.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

While it may seem like it, some things never change!

Today is my final day of leave before returning to work after the Christmas/New Year break.  It's been a busy time of celebrations, catch ups and camping.

Today I chose to watch Hayden's Eastern District Black under 12 rep team play their second match of a five match cricket round robin.  Many of you would be reading this and thinking what an horrific way to spend my last day off.  If you know me, you'll know there aren't many more perfect ways for me to relax and prepare for the busy work year ahead.

I have been a cricket fan for most of my life.  From about age 5 my dad would take me to his warehouse cricket games on a Saturday afternoon to give my mum some time with just my sister at home.  I learned to love the game (after all it must be a great game, my dad was playing!) and when I met my future husband (at an indoor cricket centre), I knew the tradition of Saturday afternoons at the cricket would continue.

Fast forward another 15 years and here I am at my son's first rep carnival.

Cricket is a cruel and taunting game.  The turn of the ball, inconsistency of the pitch, the luck of a fielder getting their hand to a tough catch - these are all things that can make or break your day.  There is no sound worse than the sound of the ball slamming onto the wooden stumps when you're batting, but no sound sweeter when you're bowling.  It's a team game and an individual struggle all in one and it's done in the heat of summer under a scorching sun.

I love the emotion of the game.  The high highs and the low lows.  The camaraderie when a wicket is taken or just a "great nut" has been bowled. The anticipation as the batsman walks out to the crease and the long, slow walk of shame when they are dismissed.  The anguish on a bowler's face when the catch is dropped off his bowling and the glee when the wicket is taken.

And so here I am today, watching my son ride the roller coaster that is cricket.  The triumphant smile as he gets off the mark with a four, the frustrated replay of how he should have played the ball after a "swing and a miss" and the shame as he runs out his batting partner before he has even faced a ball.

I watch him run through the full gamut of these emotions and worry a little about the emotional affect that this game may be having on his young, impressionable mind.  He broods over his perceived failures and replays how he should have done things over and over in his head.

But then I see him chasing dandelion puffs around the outfield and laughing with his team mates and I realise I wouldn't have it any other way.  He loves a sport that his dad, his grandfather and his great grandfather have all loved before him, a love that I'm certain he will pass onto his own children someday.