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.