Day 160: Ceduna, SA - Four Legs on the Slow Road - CycleBlaze

February 2, 2015

Day 160: Ceduna, SA

Watching the Super Bowl in Australia is a strange experience. Not only does it happen at 10:00 in the morning, it happens on a Monday. And even though it's the same NBC feed that people in the States see, the commercials in between are not the Super Bowl commercials from the American broadcast, but ads for local pizza shops, scrap metal companies located more than a thousand miles away in Alice Springs, and mail-order knife sets that normally cost $700 but today are just $99 for the first ninety-seven callers. We also watch the thing while drinking exactly zero beers, because we have to make sure we're as hydrated as possible for the long, hard riding that waits for us beyond Ceduna.

I'm also weirded out by watching the halftime show with the sound off. It's the sort of thing that only makes sense if you're high, and trying to process the ridiculous special effects and explosions and costume changes and technicolor dolphins causes my brain to hurt. As the thing goes on and on, the more I shake my head in disbelief, because it devolves into the kind of meaningless cultural garbage that makes me ashamed to be an American.

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But the football itself is a joy, with the competing waves of pure excitement and utter disgust that go along with a huge game where the two teams are so closely matched that the outcome is always in doubt. In fact it's in doubt until the final minute of the game, when by some miracle a pass that should have fallen incomplete instead lands cradled in the arms of Seattle wide receiver Jermaine Kearse, and the Seahawks march down to the one-yard-line with only thirty seconds left to play. And there it is, right in front of them: the Super Bowl, three feet away. It's perfect, because they have what might be the best running back in the league, and without question the one you most want on your side when a championship hangs in the balance and all you need is a one-yard dive into the end zone to seal the win.

As time winds down and New England chooses not to use one of its timeouts to stop the clock, it becomes clear to everyone how the story will end, with a dive or an off-tackle play that leads to a touchdown and leaves no time for the Patriots to think about making a comeback.

Except the coach calls for a pass.

And it's intercepted.

And in an instant, the outcome that seemed impossible to screw up has been squandered completely.

Detailed Nullarbor planning.
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When I pick myself up off the floor twenty minutes later, I call back the guy at the bike shop in Port Lincoln and pay for my new rear wheel, which showed up this morning. I'd been told of a shipping company that runs a truck early in the morning every day between Port Lincoln and Ceduna, and that's where I ask the guy at the bike shop down there to take the wheel and have it sent. But when I call the company an hour later to find out when the truck arrives in Ceduna, and where I need to go to meet it and collect the wheel, I'm told that this service doesn't exist. To reach Ceduna it's first shipped back east to Adelaide, then placed on another truck that comes all the way west to Ceduna, who knows how many days later.

It's as if my wheel made it to the one yard line and it too has been intercepted. But then why the fuck wouldn't it be? From the moment I set out a week ago to try and get this wheel situation sorted, every person I've tried to work with along the way has given me bad information, failed to do what they've agreed to do, not done the job for which they've been paid, or some combination of the three, despite the fact that I've impressed on all of them how critical it is for us to reach Perth by the first of March. It's the kind of thing that would be a lot easier to handle if we were in a country where barriers like language and poor transportation infrastructure and international shipping problems were all things we had to overcome. But we're not; we're in a modern country near major highways and courier stations, with high speed internet and mobile phone service everywhere, and where everyone speaks English, albeit with a bunch of strange slang thrown into the mix. I just can't believe it.

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When I call the bike shop again to at least get a tracking number for the shipment, no one answers. I try four more times throughout the afternoon and get nothing. I call the shipping company to try and get the information that way, and no one there answers the phone either. We have no idea if the wheel shipped, where exactly it's going, or when it might reach this mystery location. And with all of the fucking around that's gone on over the last six days, we're out of time to sit around and wait for a resolution. We have twenty-seven days left to reach Perth, which is still 1,300 miles away. On it's face it seems simple; that's just forty-eight miles per day. But if you take out two rest days, you're up to fifty-two per day. If you also figure that at least three days will have to be shorter because of 110-plus degree temperatures that we're almost sure to face somewhere, then you're up toward fifty-six. And if headwinds show up for a couple of days, it's going to take a substantial amount of effort to hit that mark. If we wait in Ceduna another day or two for the wheel to show up &mdash and again, there's no guarantee it's even going to be that much of an upgrade over what I already have — then we have to average somewhere toward sixty. At that point we run the risk of turning the trip into the task of grinding out miles instead of riding when and where we want, and that's the formula for a seriously bad time.

I find myself laying back on the bed, staring up at the off-white-colored plastic of the smoke detector on the ceiling next to the far wall, and I keep coming back to the same thought: I don't want to be here. And it's not that I want to be cycling west off toward the Nullarbor and Western Australia and Perth either. I want to be on a bus to Adelaide, where I can box up the bike and get on an airplane and go home. I'm tired of the mechanical problems. I'm tired of spending hours of my time and hundreds of dollars and what feels like endless frustration trying to get a wheel that's not what I wanted and that's at best a mild upgrade over what I have. And I'm so stressed about the wheel or something else breaking out in the middle of nothing with no way to fix it that the road ahead no longer seems like a grand adventure, but a path toward finding ourselves stranded with no clear way of getting out.

But in the end, I have to accept the simple fact that none of this matters. We have a flight home from Perth that's too expensive to change, and if we quit now and tried to get there with the bikes by train or by plane it could easily cost a thousand dollars, and we'd still have three weeks of time to kill after we showed up. And more significantly, we'd be giving up on the adventure, sacrificing the unknown and the unpredictable for something safer and easier and almost guaranteed to be less interesting. If we bagged out now, there's almost no chance we'd return to finish riding across the continent. This dream I've had for so long would die right here forever.

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And so we commit ourselves to whatever the road has in store by riding over to the grocery store and buying $115 worth of food, which we wheel out through the sliding doors as the manager announces over the loudspeaker that the store will close in five minutes. If we're going to fail, we'll give it our best effort and complete focus until that moment is upon us.

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An hour later I get a call back from the bike shop. The guy was out all afternoon because a bush fire broke out down near Port Lincoln, and the blaze was close enough to his house that he thought his family might be in danger and had to head out there to check on them. You can't make this stuff up; even acts of God are trying to keep us from cycling across Australia now. But then he tells me that the wheel shipped, that it's headed to Ceduna, and that somehow it will make it there by the morning — although in keeping with the rest of this saga, he doesn't know what company is transporting it, nor where I can go to pick it up when it gets here. It could just be sitting in the roundabout at the center of town mixed in with the bushes for all I know. And thus continue our wild swings of emotion between complete despair and cautious optimism that have filled out more or less every day of the last week.

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It's the least restful rest day either of us have ever experienced. By the time the lights switch on above the porch out in front of our room we're both completely exhausted. We find ourselves looking forward to the start of our next big Australian challenge not with excitement or wonder, but merely hoping that we make it across at all.

Today's ride: 2 miles (3 km)
Total: 5,275 miles (8,489 km)

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