Day 140: Meningie, SA - Four Legs on the Slow Road - CycleBlaze

January 13, 2015

Day 140: Meningie, SA

The rain during the night is unlike anything we've experienced or thought we might experience during the summer in Australia. It falls from the sky in sheets and waves and torrents, and it does so for hours, echoing off the rain fly at such a high volume that it wakes us up and makes it hard to fall back asleep. It pools in the lowest corner of the tent, drips in through the pin-sized hole in the fly left by a cat's claw several weeks ago, and leaves us wondering if we're going to wake up with water seeping in through the floor and setting our air mattresses afloat.

The weather situation is worse than expected this morning, and so too is the Spaniard situation. I can hear them singing as I approach the bathroom and mentally prepare myself to pinch a loaf, but when I walk in I find two of them standing on the benches in adjacent shower stalls, having a conversation with the upper halves of their bodies standing above the dividers. When I return ten minutes later to take a shower, they're standing in front of the long line of sinks and mirrors wearing nothing but skintight pairs of black underwear two sizes too small, giggling and joking and of course singing.

Half-naked Spaniards not pictured.
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At one point while I'm in the shower an older Aussie walks in to the bathroom. Upon assessing the situation, he says something to the overjoyed and mostly naked group of twenty-year-old dudes in the kind of serious and annoyed tone generally reserved for someone you've just caught pissing in your yard. I can't hear what he tells them in detail over the hiss of the water, but it must have been negative, because they make fun of the guy in lisping, buoyant Spanish for the next five minutes. And so continues the Spaniards' great Australian adventure, where everything is happy and wonderful and worth singing about, but every person they meet walks away unnerved, offended, or some combination of the two.

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A thick layer of overcast arrives in the middle of the morning and never leaves. The wind slashes through the trees of the holiday park at twenty-five miles per hour with gusts heading past forty. It's a terrible day to ride. With a lot of wide open stretches of heat and dryness ahead of us in the last seven weeks of cycling on this side of the world, we decide to wait it out and use the extra day to rest up, to clean up, and to do important things like celebrate the University of Oregon's blowout loss in the college football championship game.

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In the afternoon we walk into Meningie, where every business sits on one street, on the minor highway that runs north-south through town. It's a modest place, with one takeaways, one pharmacy, two grocery stores, a couple of motels, a bakery, and a car dealership so small that the showroom has space for exactly two vehicles. It's a world away from tourist-choked coastal towns like Robe, where most every restaurant and shop and clothing store exists for the sole purpose of separating underwhelmed tourists from as many of their fifty-dollar bills as possible. Instead it's a place where the locals welcome people from out of town who are passing through on the highway or who stop for a few days on vacation, but where they refuse to bend over backward in a desperate bid to appeal to them. It's just a good, solid lakeside town, and there are few places in this part of Australia where we'd rather have spent a few days off from the road.

The bicycle touring office.
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On the way back to the holiday park I walk with my head down into a driving rain, shivering in shorts and t-shirt, still in disbelief that it was 110 degrees less than a week ago only a few hundred miles from here. When the sun goes down hours later, we find ourselves tucked deep into the sleeping bag to escape the cold and rain the wind has brought with it. It's a move we thought for sure we'd left behind in New Zealand.

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