Sunday, 11 September 2016

CQ16 Day 9 - The final day, but already looking forward to CQ17

Another year done, another ride ridden. It never fails to amaze me both how fast and how slow the week of Cycle Qld goes.

For those of us who love this adventure every year, we will now spend another 52 weeks counting down until it is time for us to Cycle Away Feom the Everyday, knowing we will catch up with friends new and old, hearing a year's worth of stories, and feeling that stirring of kinship again.

The mess tents have been dismantled, the luggage trucks unpacked one final time, ready for the next load of precious cargo - the bikes being returned to Brisbane for dispatch back to addresses from across the country.  The vollies will return to their normal lives knowing that they have once again been part of something great - a smiling happy face  at the lunch stop, serving meals, tending bar.

Our vollies are a special bunch, toiling into the late night and starting in the wee hours to make our week fun, functional and seamless.  Along with the Bicycle Qld team they are the amazing foundation that gets us out on the road in the morning and sees us safely into camp at night.  To those who put in their hard earned time and efforts, I know I speak on behalf of all of the riders when I say, 'Thank you'.

With pull down of camp at Burrum Heads, we had a nice short jaunt to Hervey Bay after a breakfast of savoury scrambled eggs.  22k to the first rest stop smashing it out with Doug. We were both disappointed to find that the headwind from yesterday had not made an appearance today as a tailwind to drive us home. Instead after only about 10k we once again found ourselves working against a headwind, with one eye cast to the heavens in search of rain, as there were some pretty ominous clouds overhead.  We could see as we rode that there must have been some serious rain in the area overnight, as drains were gushing fast-flowing water.  In Burrum Heads we had a couple of light showers, but Hervey Bay had had torrential rain and high wind gusts overnight.

Rest stop after 22k and it was down to the final 22km.  Now while I easily get lost in Hervey Bay, there is a particular hill that I am more than familiar with.  For those of us who did Gayndah to Noosa, you'll remember it as the hill from hell straight after lunch on the day before the rest day.  For those who've done the Hundie, you'll remember it as the hill from hell that has to be ridden four times on the bike course.  What you may not know is that now the hill also has a resident magpie who swoops just as you crest the worst of the steeper part of the climb.  Like we needed that at the end of the ride.  In fact, Doug and I had three separate magpie encounters just in the 44km.  Thankfully only one swoop (me just back from the hill from hell), the others we saw swooping riders but they just eyeballed us as we rode by.

Last stop, a detour off the esplanade due to roadworks before passing the Whale Park and finishing under that familiar blue arch and smiling at the camera one last time for the photographers.  We even got a free shot of us crossing the line today - it already had pride of place on my fridge.

My lift (my folks) were already waiting for me, so after a quick post-ride bacon and egg roll, hug from Sarah, photo with Doug, catch up with Andrew and Mary, farewell to Kerrie and Paul, unpack of luggage truck and finding of gear, it really was the end of the ride.

To everyone I met along the ride, thank you for your smiles and your friendship.  To Epic Cycles who kept me on the road against all odds, I salute you.  To Lester, my massage therapist who has gotten my body so prepared with his monthly magic, you rock (only had two massages this ride, compared to 5 double bookings last year).  

To Mary, Doug, Andrew, Gill, Jenny and Michelle and the countless others who I haven't mentioned, thanks for your company on the road, at the rest stops and at camp.  What a blast we all had on CQ16, and it looks like we will all be back again for CQ17 as we explore Goondiwindi to the Gold Coast.

If I've even inspired some of you non CQers to have a think about this one in future, we'd love to see you there.  If you're not up to the whole time, there are shorter options available (single days, multi-days) that you could test your mettle on, in anticipation for bigger and better things to come.  Anyone can do these rides, and everyone does.  Our oldest rider this year was well into his 80s and we come in all ages, shapes, sizes and genders.  There are families with young kiddies, retired couples, generations of riders all enjoying this beautiful state and the great outdoors.

Not into camping, well there's easy campese where they will put up the tent for you each day, or All Trails where they pick you up and take you to luxury accommodation.  Some opt to book their own motels or Airbnb stays too - it's up to you how you want to roll.

You don't need to spend millions on a bike and it doesn't have to have all the bells and whistles, just some nice gears to get you up and down the hills, lights to shine the way and an enthusiastic rider willing to give it a go.

Everyone is encouraged, applauded and celebrated for their achievements, and it is a great way to spend the afternoon watching people reach camp with a sigh of relief that they have made it and cheering them across the line.  For some it will be the longest ride of their lives, for others it will be a lifelong love affair introducing them to supported bicycle touring.  

Your body will hurt - I won't lie.  Your brain will have moments of fuzziness from exhaustion or from fighting the wind.  You may have to jump in the SAG wagon, but no one is going to bag you out about it (except if you know Russell Moore, who will tease you mercilessly).  But after all is said and done, you will have the most amazing sense of pride and achievement of putting yourself to the test.  

So here's my final wrap for the week of my ride:

Total distance ridden (official riding days - doesn't include leisure jaunts into towns): 561.4km
Long options ridden:  3
Average speed: 21km/hr
Top speed: 72.1km/hr
Elevation gain: 4604m

For those of you who've followed the blog - thank you so much, and for those who've commented, PM'd, shared or tweeted it, many thanks for your support.  This is my sixth CQ and I want to make each year just a little different so it's not like reading Groundhog Day each ride.

See you in Goondiwindi for CQ17.

Saturday, 10 September 2016

CQ16 Day 8 - The Devil's Triangle of Cycling

What a great day of cycling. Following a rather defeated day with a broken butt yesterday, I was just happy to be able to get on the bike today pain-free.  If you ever wanted to know the name of my special 'magic' cream - it is Calmoseptine, and honestly this morning I no longer had the issues of yesterday's ride.

Breakfast (ham and cheese muffin) eaten, camp packed and on the luggage truck, we rolled out of Maryborough destined for Burrum Heads.  Our first stop was the fairy garden, 25k from Maryborough over some gorgeous countryside - flat, fast roads that really allowed for some good time trial work.  I had a blast flying past the early risers, big ring turning like mad to get up the few hills and sitting in my favourite gear to maintain race pace.

The fairy garden was gorgeous - sustainable gardens that grow its own produce and is largely self-sufficient as well as promoting Land for Wildlife.  They had the most beautiful Guinea Pig hutch, with about 50 pigs in it, ranging from older ones right through to new babies.  Probably could have spent a couple of hours there, but after a delicious drink and homemade muffins, it was back on the road to Howard for lunch (tandoori wraps, cheese and crackers, orange juice).

Another lovely stretch of road to follow, with a few hills thrown in, but mostly just a good flat roll.  Made good time and rolled in at the 49k mark at 9.15am - far too early to be eating lunch, so just snacked on the cheese and crackers, hit up the coffee machine for a chocolate frappe - a Hayden tradition that has carried on in his absence) and had a ride on an old coal hauler steam train that has been lovingly restored with tracks set up at the historical museum.  Three loops on a bumpy track was enough to bring back nightmares of some of the roads we had been riding on over the last 8 days!

Caught up with new mate, Doug, who I met on Mary's training ride to Woodford.  He talked me into doing the additional 25k long option today (who'd have thunk it after yesterday's ride - go figure!) and I have to thank him for it - it was a lovely ride out around the airstrip with the added novelty of some very inventive mailboxes, including a terminator-esque robot with devil dog made from spare parts, St George and the Dragon, Bender from Futurama, various recycled household appliances (including a front loader washing machine mounted on a pole), and wood huts with some amazing detail in the build.

Also added another rider to our group, Sherry, who is over from New Zealand and has loved her time on CQ.  Got talking to her and she is a triathlete, so we had a bit in common to talk about, along with some tips for good events in NZ.

Got back to the start of the long option and decided we still had plenty of time til lunch, so decided to head straight to Burrum Heads, and this is where the fun began.  The Devil's Triangle of Cycling - headwinds, hills and either rain or extreme heat.  We had two of the three - hills and headwind with the threat of rain and it was brutal!  Doug set us off in a pace line, (well there were two of us so it was technically a pace duo!) with me hanging on at the back for the first 10k while we rolled at 30+ kph.  Took a short turn at the front for about 2.5k to give Doug's legs enough break to get us home.  Finally dropped off about four k out of Burrum but rebunched to roll into the Burrum Heads Bowls Club just on midday where we celebrated with a couple of icy cold drinks and enjoyed the aircon.

Quick set up of camp and we rolled into town to check out the beach (glorious) and investigate the claim that you can buy Mammino ice cream at the Foodworks (false - not anymore).  Consoled ourselves with a scoop of the local stuff anyway before we were joined by Gill and we decided to test out the water.  

Pristine water to swim in, deliciously cool and refreshing, blue skies overhead - how could we not strip down to bra and Knicks and have a dip?  Enjoyed just floating, chatting and staring at the sky, letting the ocean wash away a week's worth of road grime, fatigue and worry and just savour the cool waters.

Refresh achieved and it was back to camp to grab a bite to eat when I realised I hadn't eaten lunch. I can highly recommend the steak sandwich at the bowls club if you're ever up this way.  They even flicked the channel over for us so we could watch the Giants smash the Swans in the AFL finals (sorry, do I sound a bit pleased with that - there were a lot of Swannies in the room - I was the only one watching who went home happy!)

So we now begin to draw CQ16 to a close.  Only 44k on the road to Hervey Bay tomorrow.  Dinner (roast beef with gravy, spuds and ratatouille and fruit salad and yoghurt for dessert) was a highly anticipated affair as the ride briefing has revealed that next year we will be once again starting off in Goondiwindi, visiting Texas, Stanthorpe, some mystery Mexican (NSW) towns and finally rolling into the Gold Coast.  That means a lot of climbing again next year, so the training begins again, or perhaps I should use this week as the precursor to continue training.

Either way, there are some big goals ahead as we cycle to the end of CQ16 ready for CQ17.  I've met more wonderful people whom I'm proud to call friends, solidified more friendships and am already looking forward to seeing everyone again next year.  But more on that tomorrow, there's still one more day to celebrate all things cycling tomorrow before the long drive back to Brisbane.  And perhaps trying to find a Mammino ice cream stockist in Hervey Bay!

Friday, 9 September 2016

CQ16 Day 7 - Otherwise known as the day my butt broke

Riding a bike can be an absolute pleasure - the sun shining, birds singing, wind in your hair kind of experience reminiscent of the Vaudeville musicals where they break into song to spout their love of the bike.  Riding a bike can also be the kind of day where someone asks how it was and all you want to do is flip them the bird, punch them in the throat and watch belligerently as they gasp for their final breath.

Ok that may be a slight exaggeration, but sometimes riding can really suck, and it's only one small (or in some of our cases, not so small) reason - riding can hurt.

I hadn't slept as well last night, largely because it was extremely windy and the tent were being beaten up by wind gusts, as well as suffering through a pretty severe sunburn on my shoulders and  discovering that our new neighbour should probably be in the snorer's zone! Trudging off to breakfast (baked beans) I had a feeling it might be a less than ideal day on the road.

Today's trek back along Rainbow Beach Road was actually a surprisingly nice ride - the hills were more undulating on the way back (meaning you could coast down one and get enough momentum to make it over the next rise) and while the road was hard and bumpy still, it was manageable early in the ride.  Morning tea at the Cooloola Cemetery Reserve was hosted by the Kia Ora P&C and they turned on a hell of a spread.

The new cranks on the bike were spinning well and I was happy with my pace after the break as we hit a little more flat road to get the speed up.  Most horrible moment I've ever had on a ride - an insect smashed into my cheek, which did its best impersonation of a windscreen and smeared the dead bug across my face.  There is nothing quite like knowing that you have a bug's innards on your face to stop you from licking your lips until you know it's well and truly cleaned off.

Passed Guy the Comms guy at the turnoff and today he is wearing a mortar board (grad hat).  I'd love to know where he finds all these things!

Misfortune two followed shortly after, with a flat tyre just 800m from the lunch stop.  Removed tyre, think I located the puncture culprit (with more than a little help from the very helpful James who pulled over to assist me (PS Mary was no help as she stood back and took photos!) and commenced inflating my tyre with a CO2 canister and it explodes in my hand and blows the insides out of my adaptor.  (At this point I should probably advise you all that although the first two misfortunes involve exploding innards, I promise that the final misfortune involving my butt does NOT involve anything exploding!)

So after more help from James, who thankfully had a pump and who also patched my old tube for me, I limped into lunch (roast beef sandwich, cheese and crackers, shortbread and apple juice).  Quick chat with Dave from Epic Cycles who once again told me how lucky I was to have been able to get my crankset replaced (they don't normally carry that stock and had swapped out a crank from a spare bike in the truck that just happened to have the right sized everything to fit my ride).

So with roughly 30km to go to Maryborough I jumped on the bike and began the last leg of the day.  After about 5km I realised I could no longer get comfortable in my seat.  I say in, as I have a minimalist frame seat that I sit in, rather than on.  I have never had a problem being comfortable on the seat but now I was really struggling with finding the sweet spot that I normally settled into.  So for the next 25k I wriggled and fidgeted and shifted position and came off the saddle and stretched, trying to right this very wrong situation, all to no avail.

It's funny that the whole time we are riding hills we are wishing for flat roads, but once on a flat road, we are dreaming of hills - after all, hills provide a challenge that can break the monotony and that force us to think about our riding - what gear do I need, how do I need to prepare for the next one - hills always have you thinking one step ahead.

As I limped into Maryborough nursing my sore ass like it was in a sling, I pretty much sprang off the bike and determined that I would walk into town rather than ride as the thought of putting my butt back on that bike was pretty remote.

So parked the bike, set up the tent, had a shower and a massage to ease my shoulders and neck and took myself off on foot to the high school to suss out all the vehicles and schools participating in the RACQ Technology competition (human powered vehicles entries in particular).  There are 148 schools participating, in a number of categories (HPV, tandem, solar etc) - it's awesome to think Maryborough probably has 2000 cycling enthusiasts sleeping at the school and Showgrounds tonight.

My son and his school are competing tomorrow - racing custom built and designed recumbent bikes in a 24 hour challenge commencing at midday. Sad that we will be rolling out of town before they start but can't wait to hear Hayden's stories on his return.

Was hoping they'd announce next year's route at dinner (chicken cacciatore) tonight, but they have stuck to tradition this year and will be announcing it at the party tomorrow night.

So with only two days of riding remaining, I'm hoping my busted ass will make it across the finish line.  I've applied my magic cream discovered in Bargara two years ago, and if that doesn't work, I'll just pull up my big girls Knicks and suck it up for the 90ish k left for us to ride.

After all it's better on a bike, whether your butt is broken or not!

Thursday, 8 September 2016

CQ16 Day 6 - Rest Day without a bike.

Let me start by telling you all that today I racked up 30000 steps.  My Garmin tells me that that is the equivalent of 22km and climbing of 48 flights of stairs - you tell me if that's a day of rest?

Early rise at 4.30am - couldn't sleep so I read my book for a bit before ambling to breakfast (French toast with maple syrup) and a quick google check to find out how to get to the Carlo Sandblow.

Walked the 700m to the main road and actually found a sign that pointed me in the opposite direction to my google navigation and began the hike up the the Sand Blow.  This track is part of the Great Cooloola Walk, which I'd love to come back and do sometime as its a great part of the world to explore.  

The track winds through 2km of the national park around the area, with options to continue onto Double Island Point, but today's destination was just a steady climb up and up until I was standing on the edge of the blow.  It's amazing that within 3 minutes of walking across the blow, my footsteps had been completely obliterated - you would never have known I was even there just minutes before.

Walked around the blow, taking shots of a misty Double Island Point as there was some cloud around. Totally awestruck to identify a rain shower out at sea that was blowing in quickly.  Took a number of shots to show how quickly it was roaring in over the water, as the winds have been quite blowy.  So much so in fact, that after finding the shelter of the trees across the blow, my face felt like it had had a chemical treatment due to the sandblasting it had copped on the crossing!  Nice fresh face for Sue!

Completed the loop (if I'd followed google it would have just had me go up the way I came down, which would have negated a lot of the walking and climbing, but also wouldn't have offered some of the views down to the valley below) and wandered into town, then down to the beach for a swim.  Given the wind, the surf was pretty rough and there were strong rips outside both of the flags, so didn't venture too far out as I didn't need to test the lifesavers' rescue skills on my day of rest.

Bumped into Gill and Michelle and had a Salted Caramel malted milkshake from a local cafe before walking back to camp to drop some hiking gear off and return to town for lunch.  I had been invited to join a couple of groups, but decided to just sit and have some me time, so went to the local butcher to get some fresh prawns and a dozen oysters, and settled myself on the Point to enjoy a fresh seafood lunch.  Got chatting with one of the other dads on the ride who has his whole family along this year (I think he mentioned it was the kids' third).  It really is great to see families out enjoying all cycling has to offer.

Bumped into Gill and Tracey this time, and joined them for a windy walk along the beach talking all things riding before heading back to camp for a well earned shower and afternoon nap.  PS - remember to apply sunscreen throughout the day next time, Sue you dingus!

Did a bit of tidying up of the tent (when did my kids get here and make this mess?), welcomed my new camp neighbour after my friend Jenny (who I miss already - she always has a smile for me) was forced to withdraw from the rest of the ride due to fatigue, pottered around camp until it was time to pick up my trusty steed and headed to Epic Cycles.

$260 to get me back on the road again, but that's nothing compared to how disappointed I would be if they hadn't been able to swap out a part for me to continue the ride.  Caught the shuttle this time back into town to enjoy a rump with chips and veges at the Rainbow Beach Hotel, as well as sussing out potential apartments to stay in for our anniversary later this year, as there is so much we can do while here.  Dinner at camp was stir fry with bread and butter pudding for dessert, which I wasn't in the mood for tonight.  Did grab a coffee from camp though, and bumped into the lovely Anna from previous CQs, who helped me solve the riddle of Belinda's absence from the ride this year.

Picked up my phone from Ride Reception and I am now laying on my mattress in my tent, listening to the rain on the roof as showers pass over the town.  Big day of 94k tomorrow, with those damn hills to recross early and then it's onto Maryborough - a town I've visited twice before with CQ and look forward to pulling into again tomorrow afternoon.  

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

CQ16 - Day 5 Last night I dreamt about the road to Rainbow Beach

Today's ride, what can I say about today's ride? 

Some showers early morning meant packing up a wet tent in Gympie and starting the monotonous trek to Rainbow Beach. We had been warned that it was a boring ride, with not much in the way of different things to see and to an extent they were right. Following breakfast (savoury scrambled eggs), we loaded up the trucks and were on our way.

The section to morning tea at Goombooria was through some beautiful country, with lots of gentle, gradual rises and not too many of the brutal short sharp hills of days 1-3.  Morning tea was a plethora of all things delicious, hosted by the local ladies auxiliary.  Just about every sweet and savoury treat you could imagine was on offer and at prices that could not be refused.  A Gatorade, caramel slice, cheesecake slice and a yo-yo cost a measly $4 - I doubled it, because it was good tucker!

Lunch (chicken Caesar wrap, cheese and crackers, sultanas and lemonade) was at the Cooloola Cemetery Reserve, but not before some of the promised monotony.  Long flat stretches of road with bumpy bitumen, brutal headwinds and not much to take the mind of tired legs meant a real mental struggle once again.  Pretty much 28km of pine forests, row after row, and did I mention the roads?  Long stretches of audible lines (you know the ones that make a helluva noise when you roll over them in your car) that had been poorly marked, so the corrigations were not aligned under the white line, but rather half a foot to the left, leaving you to either ride on a small strip of verge or on the right of the line in the traffic lane.

Not a constant stream of traffic but enough to remind you that this was no quiet country road, and enough yobbos to remind you to keep your wits about you.  Imagine watching someone (driving toward you) overtake the car in front of him driving in the wrong lane straight toward you, then realising there was a car behind you at the same time.  Makes for very interesting riding!

Post lunch, and the bumpy road did not improve, but the monotony of flat was replaced with some longer, steeper climbs and some fast descents.  Still a headwind, but at least the scenery was changing too, as it took on more of a coastal feel.

Once again, knowing Andrew paid off, as he gave us the tip at lunch to stop at Seary's Creek to check out the little swimming hole.  With only 8km to camp, I was feeling in desperate need of something to pick me up, so stopped to walk down to the creek and paddle my feet in the water.  Long story short, and after little encouragement, I went in fully clothed and enjoyed a refreshing freshwater swim in brisk cold water - like having an ice bath, and my muscles were happy for it.  I don't know if Andrew will ever know how much I appreciated that tip, as I think it was the only thing that got me through the next 8km of hard hills. 

Every rise was a challenge, every downhill a strategic crack at getting the most out of it for the next uphill. And don't even get me started on the last hill into town - that was a doozy!

Into town we limped.  Camp was delayed opening and we set off to explore town.  I found my way to the beach, got the obligatory photo, had a gelato, visited a few tourist shops and stocked up on sand pegs for the tent before heading back to camp.  

Tent set up, shower had, washing done and bike taken to Epic Cycles to investigate a clicking sound that it had picked up on the last set of hills. Chilling in my tent when I get the worst possible call from your bike mechanic - "Can you come and see us about your bike, it isn't good."  So back to the Epic tent to find I had cracked the spindle on my crank shaft, and that this was not a part they carried with them on the ride.  My ride may well have ended there and then if John from Epic hadn't offered to swap out a crankset for another bike he had in the truck for me.  Tragedy averted and all going to plan I'll be back on the bike for the ride out on Friday.

Dinner tonight was the best yet, with a hearty lamb curry and rice (banana cake and yoghurt for dessert), followed by our halfway party - meant to be ABBA ReBjorn, but due to last minute issues, instead was the UKBeeGees - a cool tribute band who were great and sounded pretty true to the original, hence the late delivery of tonight's blog as I was dancing the night away in the big tent.

Looking forward to a rest day tomorrow and doing some touristy things before preparing for out longest day as we roll out on Friday.

Until then, stay safe and trust your gut when your bike tells you there's something wrong.

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

CQ16 Day 4 - There's gold in them there hills!

Day 4 and we rolled out of Kenilworth following a breakfast of kidney beans and hash browns (I kid you not). Once again I opted for the safe choice of honey and butter on bread, as the thought of baked kidney beans before a long day on the bike was just an accident waiting to happen!

The previous night's ride briefing had warned us that we had a tough 78km day ahead of us and in most ways, Ben sure got it right.  Our first destination for morning tea was Carters Ridge, and true to CQ form it wasn't too far out of camp before we started the first climb of the day.  Lots of undulations today, with some great sweeping descents and equally tough uphills to test tired legs. A spot of rain, but really only a passing shower and not enough to warrant even pulling out the rain jacket.

Now one of the first questions people ask when they hear that I do an event like CQ is, 'aren't you worried about riding on the road?'  For the most part, the answer is usually a resounding 'No'.  If you've ever been on a BQ event, you would be well aware of the planning that has gone into play to ensure we are travelling on well maintained roads, have space for cars and trucks to pass safely, have low traffic volumes and the like.  At tonight's ride briefing we even learned that they had contacted the local logging companies to let them know we will be on the Rainbow Beach Road tomorrow and that the company had changed their schedule to assist with arriving safely.

Today, however I had two instances that made me wonder why we do what we do.  The first involved a two-laned (one lane each way) road with some of the shoulders having started to deteriorate.  I could hear a truck approaching from behind, and see a truck coming in the other direction.  Because the truck behind me couldn't pull across to give me the required 1.5m clearance, instead of slowing down and waiting til it was safe to pass, he continued to pass me as we met the teuck travelling in the other direction.  I maintained my line, breathing deeply to stay calm as his B-double passed within arms reach of me on my bike.  Ahead I could see the shoulder crumbled away to a rocky gravel.  To stay upright I moved about 10cms closer to the truck to avoid the poor surface.  Once he was ahead of me, I released my breath, cursed like a sailor, put my head down and continued on.

The second instance was similar, with a car who just refused to give me space.  As he passed me, I got swooped by a bloody magpie. Thankfully kept my wits about me and didn't wobble into the car.  If only drivers realised that the 1m rule isn't about trying to inconvenience them, but to help avoid accidents when the unpredictable happens.

From Carters Ridge we continued through to Kandanga via Imbil township, a place I'm more than familiar with as it's close to a campground we used to spend Christmas and Easter at.  Looped around the school so the kids could see us and cheer us on, laughed at the ride marshal who asked if I was doing the long option, stopped for the obligatory chicken dim sim at the Railway Cafe and then hit the road for Kandanga.

Having ridden this route before I knew we had a fair bit of work to do to get up and down hills, with a particularly nasty long slow grade just outside of down. Breathing technique employed and as I crested  the hill I got a little cheer from the two people who were pushing their bikes up.  Lunch (corned beef, cheese and salad sandwich, cheese and crackers, killer Python and orange juice) did not disappoint and was in a pretty spot at the bowls club, right under an old railway bridge.  Once again we were faced with a climb straight after lunch that just kept going and going and going.

Funnily enough though, the hills that made me groan on my first CQ now just make me smile, as I love a long slow ascent - it's the short, sharp gradients I've learned to hate!  I actually enjoyed today's ride and didn't find it nearly as difficult as I'd expected it to be.

About 10k out of Gympie, with the hills behind me, it was nice to a) be on a road that didn't feel like my teeth were rattling out of my head and b) be rolling at a nice pace after the slow slog over the range.  Even the heavens opening with 5k to go couldn't dampen my spirits (did you see what I did there?) and one very drowned rat rolled into camp in Gympie an hour before it opened, and so sat in the rain until it was time to unload the luggage trucks and set up for the night.

Following a deliciously warm shower and dry clothes, and with the sun now out and a warm breeze drying everything out, I hit the town centre for a spot of shopping (umbrella, compression socks, snacks, volunteer pressies and the obligatory Pepsi Max).  Spotted a sign for Parmy Tuesday and returned to the pub later that evening for a sneaky cider with dinner as I didn't feel like the spag Bol, apple pie and custard on offer tonight.

We are off to Rainbow Beach tomorrow.  Just a couple of short hills out of town and then a lot of boring flat road to trundle down.  Looking forward to the rest day (I get sick of striking camp each day) and hopefully the weather gods will be good to us.

Oh and our trusty Comms guy (who ironically is also named Guy) was wearing an Arab's keffiyeh today.  I forgot to mention yesterday's get up - a Puritan's cap during the day and Turkish military skullcap in the evening.  I love looking out for Guy each day to see what he's wearing - and he's a lovely man as well.

So until tomorrow, remember that everything is better on a bicycle.

Monday, 5 September 2016

CQ16 Day 3 - Kenilworth beckons

Day 3 - a short journey on the bike today, so of course I took my time having breakfast (sausages with tomato and onion if you prefer a hot brekky - I went with the cornflakes today), packing up and getting on the road - NOT!  After deciding I'd take my time I was still ready to hit the road just after 7.00am.  Even with the long option today it was only a 58km day, so leaving early would only result in getting to Kenilworth far too early and having to amuse myself around town until camp opened at midday.

Yet there I was at 7.06am, ready for the day's adventures and it didn't take long to find the first one. Not 200m up the road after exiting camp was a left turn arrow.  Seemed harmless enough until I turned said corner and saw the mother of all hills dead ahead. No warning, no warm up, just me, two legs, two screaming lungs and 20% gradient for about 50m straight up.  Needless to say I may have been cursing Ben Wilson from BQ as I forced my lungs back down into my chest, crested the hill and settled in for what I hoped was a bit easier rest of the way.

A beautiful morning for a ride though - just cool enough for a jacket early, and with the short climb out of Maleny it was (almost) all downhill to Conondale.  Particularly fun to hit the fast 4k descent down the range, with a top speed of 67.7km/hr.  I don't want to dob anyone in, but if I hadn't been held up by the two blokes riding their brakes down, I reckon I could have topped 80 today.  

Because I was on the road so early, we were directed to the long route (which I'd signed up to do anyway) and enjoyed an extra 15k roll along the Mary (?) River to Crystal Waters Eco Village.  Beautiful scenery to the left and right, green paddocks, fat cows all looking curiously at these strange people cycling by, all the while being punched in the face by a head wind on the way out.  Thankfully on the way back that tailwind smashed us back to the split point, so quickly in fact that I didn't realise we were back on the main route straight away - it only seemed to take half the time it had to get there!

Conondale P&C put on the morning tea spread today - the scones with jam (I passed on the cream) went down well, along with the ice cold Gatorade.  I have it from two reliable Chicks that the chocolate brownie was to die for as well.  The riders were obviously hungry today as they ate all of the baked goodies and cleaned out a good portion of chocolate from the local shop as well.  Highlight of the day was the kids from the state school standing along the fence cheering the riders on their way.

From Conondale we continued through to our next stop on the banks of Little Yabba Creek for lunch (ham, apricot and salad roll - made with love by BQ's Phoebe -  cheese and crackers and pineapple juice). The ride was through some picturesque country with a couple of tough hills to get up and over, but they were offset by sweeping downhills. I was most envious of the caravan perched on the banks of the river in the middle of nowhere - just the birds and nature in all its glory for company.

For the adventurous (and those with appropriate footwear) there was an optional 2km bush walk at lunch, but with only my cycling clips to walk in, I had to add that one to the 'must do' list next time we camp up this way.

My local friend, Andrew had given me warning of another climb after lunch and once again he was spot on.  While he didn't say what the hill was like, the heads up was enough to know to expect something, and to know there was a great downhill after the uphill.  It was a good steady climb and the down didn't disappoint.  

So at 10.30 I cruised past camp and caught up with a couple of the Chicks at a local cafe, treated myself to an ice cream at the dairy and did a spot of shopping, before heading back to help unpack the luggage trucks and set up for the night.  After a quick shower, it was off to the Kenilworth pub with Gill, where the cider went down a treat and we met John, a fellow rider, who is originally from London.  Great to hear his perspective on the ride and looking forward to seeing him out on the road (on his Merida) in the morning. Joined shortly after by Jenny and Russell, it was a great setting to kick back, relax and enjoy the afternoon sun on the front deck as we watched the world go by.

Down to the dairy again, this time for some cheese tasting (freshly delivered, Phoebe) and finally back to camp for ride briefing and dinner (satay chicken skewers, rice and greens, apricot Danish and custard).

I'm not sure I've ever written about the ride briefings before - essentially each night the riders gather in the cafe to get the lowdown on the next day's ride.  It usually goes a little something like this:
Tomorrow we are riding from A to B. Our first rest stop will be at such and such after x km, followed by lunch at this place after y km (you get the gist).  Followed by: Riders should be aware of hazards (like cattle grids).  The ride has a couple of easy climbs, nothing too hard (translation - there are some bloody hard hills ahead) and there will be a great tailwind pushing you along (do you really need the translation to know that that "tailwind" is going to smash you head on?). Ok, maybe I'm exaggerating a bit with the translations, but let's just say that after the hazard identification, I take the rest with a grain of salt and consult my Ride Guide to check out the day ahead.  It's all in good fun though!

Anywho - tomorrow we are off to Gympie via Imbil.  78k of many ups and downs on roads I am more than familiar with.  No long option for me tomorrow as they are heading on roads I am more than familiar with and have no desire to ride (the first 11k is lovely, the last 2k brutal - with a 200m 20% gradient.  I'll leave that one on the bucket list for another time!

Until tomorrow, when you question who in their right mind undertakes these cycle tours for fun and enjoyment, remember the words of Mark Cavendish:  

“To me, it doesn’t matter whether it’s raining or the sun is shining or whatever: as long as I’m riding a bike I know I’m the luckiest guy in the world” 

Sunday, 4 September 2016

CQ16 Day 2 - Majestic Maleny, Memories and Molasses Grass

What a gorgeous day to be riding a bike.  

My day started relatively early with a toilet wake up call at 2.00am.  Stick with me here - there's a reason I'm sharing this bit of info.  I just lay in bed telling myself I didn't need to go, go back to sleep, but after 20 minutes I admitted defeat, peeled off my toasty warm sleeping bag and dragged my body upright.  I unzipped my tent and was greeted with a velvet blanket of darkness highlighted by thousands of diamonds of light.  It was one of the most pristine night skies I have ever seen, and I've camped an awful lot!

So back to sleep for a few more hours and then it was time to pack down the tents, pack the luggage trucks, grab some brekkie (ham and cheese croissants) and hit the road for what promised to be a hard day in the saddle.

The ride to Peachester was just as I remembered it from the previous fortnight's training ride - relatively uneventful, but with some varying surfaces.  We hit the road, bike paths, gravel stretches and did just enough climbing to get the legs warmed up for what was ahead of us post morning tea break.

I was greeted at Peachester by my Twitter friend, Andrew (who I met on CQ last year thanks to my other Twitter friend, Mary), who is a local but is also along on the ride again this year.  It was great to pick his brain on what the next section was like, and with his words of advice ringing in my brain, I stopped for a couple of biscuits (ok it was four but I only ate two and kept the other two for later) and a Gatorade to give my legs a bit of a kick.

A quick downhill (split by a speed bump that I spied at the last section and took like a jump on my MTB) and a quick uphill I was calling good morning to BQ's Ben Wilson as he directed us onto another bike path that finished with one of those weird fence-type devices that forces riders to dismount and walk their bikes through the gaps.  Then about 50 metres of downhill on grass before coming out onto another road.  I treated my bike like a mountain bike for that grassy section and had fun dropping off the back of the saddle and careening down the hill.  At the bottom there was a very cool letterbox shaped like Bender from Futurama and then a quick brutal uphill to get back onto the main drag.  

This is where the fun (and climbing) began.  The first section was a nice steady gradient that took a bit of work to get up, but once again I employed the counting breaths technique to distract my brain from the workload in my legs.

Andrew had prepared me beautifully for the next section, explaining there were a couple of good pinches ahead, and with his description of the view, I was able to identify them easily and know what was ahead.  His advice not to put everything into the first pinch was spot on and after a short stop to admire the view and take some breathtaking photos, it was onto the second (and tougher pinch).  With Andrew's words ringing in my head about looking over and realising that that was where I was heading, all of a sudden I was there and rolling out onto the road from Landsborough up the range.  

This section was busy with traffic but a great road surface and a perfect gradient for an easy spin up the mountain.  And then my nose picked up a scent that always makes me think of my grandmother - molasses grass.  I remember every time we visited, we would wind down the windows and breathe in the delicious scent, knowing we were only minutes away from Nan's place.

I stopped briefly at the tea house lookout to cast my eyes at the ocean and send positive vibes to my friend, Sian who was racing the 70.3 World championships at Mooloolaba, and continued around the back of Maleny past Mary Cairncross Park, along Mountainview Rd (where I met a fellow Chick, Sarah) and onto the Maleny Rd.  

The entire time I was wracking my brain trying to work out where my Nana's house was that she lived in when I was a little girl.  I had so many wonderful memories of school holidays spent there and I just wanted to glimpse it, however didn't see it along the way and figured it was either the wrong area or it was no longer there and had been replaced.

Gorgeous views the entire time though,  and as I rolled past camp to continue on the long option, I contemplated giving it a miss for a brief moment.  (PS - Comms guy was wearing an orange and black mullet wig today).

However I had committed to it, the legs felt good, the lungs felt better and even the head seemed OK with it, so I took off toward Kenilworth on the old road, winding around the countryside, up and down plenty of hills (top speed of 70.2 km/hr downhill today), and finally back onto the Maleny Rd heading back to camp.  I walked two sections on this route, steeper and longer climbs that just took the wind out of me and I lost enough momentum to know I needed to unclip.  Even walking up them was exhausting, and I had to do a bit of a mental tidy to get back into the right headspace to continue on my way.  The final two biscuits hoarded from morning tea may have helped too!

Best thing I could have done, because about 500m from the point where I would rejoin the regular route, there on my right was the house I'd been looking for, looking not much different from all of those years ago (except it was now khaki instead of cream!). I had found my Nan's house by complete accident.

Rolled into camp pretty chuffed, had lunch (tandoori chicken wrap, cheese and crackers, m&ms and apple juice) and kicked back with a chocolate frappe until camp opened.  After a quick tent set up, cold shower to refresh my tired head and a short rest, we headed into town for a Pepsi Max and a gelato.  Before returning to camp, I walked a 2km round trip down to my Nan's old unit at the nursing home she lived in, wandered around her garden that is still there and just enjoyed feeling close to her one more time.  Those camellias and azaleas were absolutely stunning and I could almost feel her there with me.

A couple of the girls even went to do some platypus spotting in Obi Obi Creek and were rewarded with seeing them playing in the waters - how special is this part of the world, and it's all in my backyard!

After dinner of cottage pie and cheesecake, I'm snuggling into my sleeping bag as it promises to be a chilly night up here on the range.  Tomorrow we set off for Kenilworth and I know I'll be visiting a certain dairy for a spot of chocolate mousse.  Long option selected again tomorrow as we trundle out to Crystal Waters.

So until then, stay upright and keep the rubber on the road.

Saturday, 3 September 2016

CQ16 Day 1 - Wind, Woodford and Worn out Knicks

Day one of CQ16 is in the bank, as my friend Doug would say.  For a day that was meant to be a nice easy roll looping around the Woodford, Kilcoy, Villeneuve areas, it sure turned out to be a tough day one.

The course took us along the D'Aguilar highway for 12km before taking us through some quieter back roads as we wound our way to Mt Kilcoy State School for our first rest stop of the event.  Traffic is always quite heavy around this area, especially on a weekend when families explore this beautiful local area.  Not too much drama though as most drivers gave us a wide berth and cyclists showed courtesy by staying left and keeping in single file.  

Funniest moment of today's ride was Gill's not so subtle hint to me that perhaps it was time for some new Knicks.  Apparently my old specialised faithfuls were a little worn and left not much room for imagination.  While others might think that was a little rude, I really appreciated the heads up so I could avoid the embarrassment further along the road.  We also got a wolf whistle from a passing car - whether that was as a result of said worn Knicks or because we were four hot chicks who ride bikes, we will never know!

But anyway, back to the ride.  The turn off the highway greeted us with our first good climb of the day, which had the heart rate up for the first time on the ride.  A wise woman on CQ13 taught me how to count my way up the hills as we crossed the range, and I employed those techniques today on some of the longer stretches of up hills.

Ran into many familiar faces along the way as well as at the lunch break (roast beef and salad sandwich, cheese and crackers, lemonade) and have even made some new friends to add to the CQ family.  

The killer on today's ride was the blustery wind for the first 2/3 of the ride.  When it wasn't blowing directly into our faces it was buffeting us from the side, a sometimes scary occurrence when a particularly strong gust can send you sideways into moving traffic or into another rider as they pass.

The wind really does play with your brain - it is a real mental game riding in that kind of weather.  Your legs are working hard, you think you're smashing out a fast 10k and you look down and you're barely crawling.  At the top of a climb, when you should be rewarded with a fast downhill, you're pedalling your ass off to maintain a decent speed and getting no real benefit from a descent.

The best way to combat the wind is to ride in a group, taking turns out front to work against the wind.  Today the four of us worked hard to share the load initially, and it wasn't til after the lunch break that we split out a bit and took the hills at our own pace.

The post-lunch ride after lunch was much more pleasant as the route turned us to take advantage of the same wind we had been working against earlier in the day.  A ride that had almost as much elevation felt somewhat flatter with a tailwind pushing us back to camp.

For those who've read my CQ blogs before, you'll know we have a couple of characters on the ride each year.  Our Comms coordinator wears a different hat/outfit each day and I'll try to see what it is each day and report back.  Today's get up was a leprechaun hat and a green vest while on route, which was replaced by a black wizard's hat for dinner (chicken penne pasta, berry crumble and custard) tonight.

On arrival back at camp it was a quick trip across the oval to the showers (we as using the Showgrounds amenities so we have the luxury of doors on the showers and real flush toilets for day one!) followed by a trip into town on the shuttle to explore.  My wonderful husband met me in town to give me my Garmin charger which I had left at home.  With only 60% charge before today's ride I knew my watch wouldn't last the duration of the ride, so he very kindly drove it up.  I'm glad he did, for more than just the reason that I now have a fully charged Garmin Fenix 3 ready for tomorrow's challenges.

The best part is dragging him around camp, showing him the setups and giving him a full inside view of life on a CQ campsite.  Dropped into Epic Cycles and bought a new pair of Knicks (quick release bibs for easier toilet stops - I will explain this on a future blog!). More than once Bren said he'd like to come along and do the ride, so I know if we can balance the business needs, we may see him out here one year.

The ride tomorrow sees us gaining 634m over 46km to get us into Maleny.  I've decided to bite the bullet and registered for the long option tomorrow as well, so it could be a triumphant Sue writing tomorrow or a broken Sue.  Only time will tell and I gues you'll only find out if you tune in tomorrow night for my next instalment. Until then, may all your rides have tailwinds!

Friday, 2 September 2016

CQ is here...

'Twas the day before CQ and all 'cross the floor 
Scattered bike bits and pieces, paraphernalia galore
The bags had been packed and repacked with care
In the hopes that the luggage limit was close to its share

f you've never experienced a CQ bike tour
You wouldn't really get the mess on my floor
As I figure out all the essentials I'll need
To get through each day, it's a quandary indeed!

I'd packed in my Chicks kit with the comfortable Knicks
And a cute rest day cossie with some 70s bits
Ready to party to Abba ReBjorn
With a sleep in treat planned for the very next morn.

My bike had been cleaned until it shone like 'twas new
A Chicks heart on the head bar, a name sticker for Sue
The puncture kit topped up all ready to repair
New tubes and canisters, all seemed to be there

But much to my chagrin I was repacking again
The forecast had called for some ongoing rain
So it's out with the extra pair of pants and light tee
And in with the jacket to keep the weather off me

Yet even with the threat of wet weather days
The fun of riding another CQ's here to stay
Exploring new roads, new towns and new pubs
It's a membership in one of the most exclusive of clubs

A few hundred members each year, many the same
There are really no rules to this bike riding game
Except to have fun and to ride A to B
Making friends, riding group, or sometimes just me

Dancing at night, meals served with a smile
Riding the long options to get extra miles
Each day's an adventure who knows what it will bring
And always in the early weeks of our Spring

Only one sleep and it all starts anew
The tents are all ready, the vollies are too
Put the bike on the carrier, the bags in the rack
Pack the helmet and bike shoes, cos CQ is back

See you in Woodford for #CycleQld16