Day 164: 76 miles west of Nullarbor, SA to 4 miles west of Eucla, WA - Four Legs on the Slow Road - CycleBlaze

February 6, 2015

Day 164: 76 miles west of Nullarbor, SA to 4 miles west of Eucla, WA

The cliffs that have been forming over millions of years are still there when we wake up in the morning. After several long days of riding we decide to sleep in, stick around awhile, and enjoy the I-might-poop-myself-because-this-place-is-so-astounding beauty that no one passing on the highway cares anything about.

Good morning, Australia.
Heart 1 Comment 0

Kristen's front derailleur issues are also still there when we wake up. And on closer inspection we realize that it's not a matter of making minor adjustments to the alignment, because the cable itself has frayed and is starting to come apart. At best, half of the strands of the cable remain held in place by the tensioning bolt. It's the exact sort of issue we hoped to avoid by having the bikes checked out in Adelaide, but the problem was either missed or ignored, so now we have to deal with it out here. To help us keep going at a decent speed until we have a chance to replace the cable, I pull up as much tension as I can using the barrel adjuster up near the handlebars. This lets the chain clear the derailleur and allows Kristen to once again use the full range of the cassette in the middle chain ring.

Heart 0 Comment 0

Our incredible run of wonderful weather continues. High clouds shield us from the direct sunlight, a tailwind still blows cool and refreshing from the southeast, and there's no sign that the pattern will change anytime soon. And despite what we were led to believe, the plains around us don't look dead and dull and lifeless like a desert. The bushes and trees shine in a thousand shades of green. Birds chirp all around us and dash between the plants less than a foot off the ground as they pick off hovering bugs. And every few seconds we see these black and orange beetle-like flying insects wobble through the air in front of us on a drunken path toward who knows what. The things are huge; almost as long as my index finger and as wide as a cigar, kind of like a giant firecracker, with wings so big that they make a buzzing sound like that of a small propeller plane.

Heart 0 Comment 0

I check my email when we pass through an area with mobile phone service. I have a message from my dad, who tells me that he now has my dog Walter, and that Walter seems healthy and happy and isn't showing any signs of the injury and bad behavior that have been following him around for the last few months. In an instant the cloud of worry that's been hanging over me for the last week feels as if it's been lifted. With the scenery in front of me changing little, I spend a lot of time thinking about Walter, about my friends and family, about how great it will feel to be back home, and about how fucking awesome it will be to wear clothes made of cotton that fit well, that don't smell of dead animals, and don't fall into a style category somewhere between permanently homeless and ready to go on an African safari. We're still very much looking forward to cycling across America in the coming spring and summer, but after so much time spent on the road we're also ready for the break that waits for us as soon as we reach Perth.

In the early afternoon we pull off the road and head down a short side track. We expect to find more cliffs, but somehow they've all disappeared. What we see instead are rolling hillsides with gentle slopes that ease their way down to water the color of a gem, where it's clear and pure enough that we can see the outlines of the rocks and sand on the bottom far below.

Heart 0 Comment 0

For miles after, we ride with the sea visible beyond the little hills off to our left. The cloud cover soon turns so thick that it blocks out the sun entirely, making it feel like we're on the Northern California coast. As we approach the border with Western Australia we try to guess which road train drivers are on speed based on the combination of how fast they drive, whether or not they wave back to us, and what kind of clothing they wear (a tank top is a definite yes).

Heart 0 Comment 0

When we reach the roadhouse at Border Village we cross into the Central Western time zone and pick up an hour and forty-five minutes just by walking in the front door. A few bored-looking tourists filter in and out of the place, but mostly it's long haul truck drivers — long haul truck drivers wearing the shortest shorts I've ever seen on a man that wasn't either French or actively competing in a swimming event, long haul truck drivers with one arm and a permanent scowl, long haul truck drivers with massive brass belt buckles in the shape of a cowboy hat, and long haul truck drivers who say things like, "Hey sweetie, how are ya?" to the woman working behind the counter at the roadhouse.

Heart 0 Comment 0
Things to do while cycling on the Eyre Highway number 14: get a burger with the lot — beef, bacon, lettuce, tomato, carrots, grilled onion, and an egg.
Heart 1 Comment 0
Heart 0 Comment 0

We don't pedal away until after we've spent several hours eating, working, and showering away the dirt and sweat and sunscreen that have congealed in off-colored and off-smelling patches on our arms and legs and faces over the last three days. And we make it all of 200 feet before we stop again.

To get into Western Australia you first have to pass through a biosecurity checkpoint, where they look into your bags or the cupboards of your caravan to make sure you aren't trying to smuggle honey or an apple or a baby cow across state lines. We don't have any of these things, but we joke about blowing through the checkpoint without stopping anyway.

When we get close, I tell Kristen, "I'll yell out something like, 'You'll never take us alive!' and then we'll floor it and ride off into the sunset and make them chase us down and shoot out our tires or something."

There are another eight variations on this plan, all of them involving us doing the same kind of thing, only with terrible German accents yelling out made-up German words.

In the end, the guy at the checkpoint looks in just one of our eight bags, makes a comment about our solar charger, and then we're off into Western Australia, our fourth and final state. It's weird, but psychologically it feels like we're almost there, almost to Perth, because we've crossed this imaginary line. But then we try to figure out how many days of riding it'll take to get there, and the reality comes down on us. There are still more than a thousand miles to go to reach the Indian Ocean; we're not even close.

Heart 0 Comment 0

We make it all of eight miles before we stop again, because that's how long it takes to reach the town of Eucla, and towns out here are so scarce that we're now in the mode of stopping at every one of them no matter where they show up. There we stuff our faces with carrot cake and chocolate muffins, because why the hell not?

Heart 1 Comment 0

After a drop down from the hill on which Eucla sits (cleverly signed as Eucla Pass), we coast onto a featureless plain that stretches farther than we can see. Within minutes the sun drops below the shield of the low clouds and into a band of haze that forms a kind of thin screen, allowing us to look straight into it as the burning ball of orange approaches, crosses, and then disappears beyond the horizon. Out here there are no cars or trucks or RVs, nor houses or farms or fences. It's just two crazy Americans on bicycles who never imagined they'd actually be here, but now that they're here can't imagine being anywhere else.

Heart 0 Comment 0
Heart 1 Comment 0

Thanks to the time change, by 7:15 it's already too dark to ride. When we see a rare cluster of trees just off the highway, we walk the bikes through the brush and set up the tent behind the gums with the crickets chirping all around and the first stars starting to reveal themselves overhead. Within an hour the full moon appears through breaks in the clouds and casts down on our bikes, our gear, and our sleeping bag like a dull nightlight. In this way we fall right to sleep.

Today's ride: 57 miles (92 km)
Total: 5,596 miles (9,006 km)

Rate this entry's writing Heart 1
Comment on this entry Comment 0