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.