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!