Day 143: Kyeema Conservation Park to Adelaide, SA - Four Legs on the Slow Road - CycleBlaze

January 16, 2015

Day 143: Kyeema Conservation Park to Adelaide, SA

We start riding at 6:00, to the sound of the first kookaburra calls of the morning. A quarter-mile later we crest the hill we started yesterday evening and then tear down a steep descent that freezes every patch of exposed skin within two minutes. We spend the next half hour bitching about how it's so cold that we have to wear gloves, bitching about the uphill sections that stand in our way, and hoping that the flats show up soon so that we can make it the forty-five miles into downtown Adelaide by the middle of the day.

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With the sweat still pooled in the folds of our rain jackets we fly down a massive winding hill that bends left and right for more than two miles before spitting us out in the still-sleeping town of Willunga. From there we pick up a beautiful paved rail trail that takes us past endless rows of grape vines and the first of the day's roadies, all of whom insist on wearing skin-tight lycra despite carrying along a beer gut that would cause even the most positive-minded person to pause and say, "That guy's got a real paunch on him, eh?"

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But then a wooden fence line appears, and everything after that changes. Open fields and agriculture disappear, and in their place it's the skate parks, golf courses, grocery stores, landfills, and motorways that mark the inevitable but still disheartening creep of the suburban sprawl.

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We ride alongside sheet-metal fencing where the color never stays consistent for more than a dozen feet at a time, from all of the painted-over and re-painted-over graffiti. We ride beneath long overpasses and over short wooden bridges, and we hold our breaths when we crank through the tunnels that shoot below busy highways. We make the chugging sounds of train engines and the hooting sounds of train whistles, which turns out to be far more rewarding than looking out on the rows of houses and boulevards that swallow up the landscape.

The suburbs of Adelaide sit on rolling hills, so even though we're on a rail trail we spend a lot of time cranking and sweating at like five or six miles per hour. With twenty miles still to go and a busy bike shop waiting on us, our slow pace makes us anxious. But the advantage of the trail is that it mostly shields us from the busy boulevards lined with car dealerships and gas stations and Hungry Jacks. For the most part we head through parks and among trees that separate the trail from the backsides of the houses that it parallels, and for that we're so thankful.

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But then we start to zone out and focus on whatever's right in front of us, in the way that always seems to happen when we land in big cities. The details and nuances fade away, we look forward to the time when we don't have to ride anymore, and we stop only to put on sunscreen and search out trees behind which we can piss.

The zoning out is part of the reason we lose track of where we are and find ourselves many miles away from the place we thought we'd be. It's the point where a normal person might start to get concerned. But we are Team Hawthorne and we have a pannier full of delicious dried meat sticks and a desire to get somewhere that isn't the suburbs, and we know that together those two things can take us a long way. And so we spend a few moments recalibrating and figuring out where to ride instead. Along our new path we talk about all of the good things that have fallen our way today, like how we're almost always on trails instead of busy streets, how it's nowhere near a hundred degrees, and how in the end our trip into Adelaide is the easiest ride into a major city I've ever experienced.

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It's a great afternoon once we get settled. We make it to the bike shop in time, we grab burritos that taste enough like American burritos to satisfying our cravings, and we find a movie theater playing The Hobbit that also serves beer and cider. We don't need much from Adelaide today, but Adelaide delivers all the same.

Nice job by the man in the checkered shirt for flipping off the camera with such quick reflexes.
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As we wait for the bus that will take us back toward our hostel, I watch rush hour traffic stack up in front of us. We haven't been out in a city this big during this time of the day for months now, and I'd forgotten how it turns into such a mess of honking horns, idling engines, and cut-off drivers swinging their arms wildly and cursing from behind tinted windows. From the shade of a eucalyptus tree I see the gridlock, the anger, the wasted money, and the wasted time slip by at two miles per hour. And as much as I love the energy, the diversity, the culture, and the wonderful food of proper cities, I can't help but feel thankful that the grind that comes along with them is not a part of my life, that it might never again be a part of my life, and that we only have to experience this kind of thing for an evening before we slip back out into the countryside tomorrow.

Today's ride: 46 miles (74 km)
Total: 4,613 miles (7,424 km)

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