Day 182: Lake King Nature Reserve to near Newdegate, WA - Four Legs on the Slow Road - CycleBlaze

February 24, 2015

Day 182: Lake King Nature Reserve to near Newdegate, WA

"There's a leg hair on my wrap," I say out loud to no one in particular.

A moment passes.

"Oh wait, it's more black than brown," I correct myself. "It must be a chest hair."

And so begins a typical morning in this, our glamorous, enviable, adventurous life.

Heart 0 Comment 0

The energy provided by the hairy wraps turns out to be important, because from the first quarter of a mile we crank up a series of stepped hills before coasting down a similar number of steps on the other side. It's a clear reminder of how lucky we are that a 700c tire happened to appear literally at our doorstep yesterday morning. Trying to crank over hills like this for sixty or seventy or eighty miles a day for four or five days to reach the coast would have meant exhausting ourselves, not stopping much, and would have made our last week in Australia feel more like a job than a journey.

Instead we can ride at whatever pace we want and savor a morning where the air is full of the smell of eucalypts. But along the way I think more and more about how our days of riding among the gum trees are all but numbered, and how once we reach the coast there's a good chance we'll never experience anything like this again. That sends me down the path of thinking about all the other things about Australia that we enjoyed and for which America has no parallel: the hooting of the kookaburras at both the moment the sun appears and the moment it drops behind the horizon; the endearing accents of the young children; the sheer cliffs of the Great Australian Bight; the slang and the quirky local idioms; the sunrises and sunsets of the Nullarbor; and all of the kangaroos, emus, dingoes, cockatoos, and parrots that allowed us to share their homes for the last two and a half months.

Heart 0 Comment 0

I'll miss the Cadbury Dairy Milk chocolate bars, being able to get good fish and chips most everywhere, the homemade sausage rolls, soda made with sugar instead of corn syrup, and Victoria Bitter beer. I'll miss the dense network of paved back roads in New South Wales and Victoria that helped us avoid highways and guided us through dozens of welcoming small country towns. I'll miss all of the waves from passing drivers. I'll miss the nature reserves, the state forests, the national parks, and all of the wide open and unpopulated areas that made it so simple for us to just walk off the road and fall asleep with unworried minds. And I'll miss the kind of small but thriving country towns where everything's aligned along one or two main streets, where a sense of community pride runs deep, and where the farmers are quick to tell you how they don't survive off government subsidies like so many operations back in America.

It has been a wonderful experience in so many ways.

Heart 0 Comment 0

It hasn't been perfect, of course. We could do without all of the garbage and the countless dead animals that line the edges of every highway. We didn't care for the constant presence of the road trains, nor the fact that so many of them are needed in the first place. The high cost of everything once you're west of Adelaide was a constant source of frustration, as was the lack of open internet access pretty much everywhere. And no list like this would be complete without the racist old men that see no problem with their hatred of Aboriginals, Muslims, Asians — most anyone else who isn't Caucasian through and through — and have no problem sharing their thoughts with you early, often, and in terribly offensive ways.

But I suspect that what I wrote about bicycle touring in the months before we set out from Portland last summer will become truth in this case as well. When we look back with the benefit of perspective, time will have scraped away the harshness, rubbed out the ugly parts, and left behind only the most wonderful memories.

Heart 0 Comment 0
Heart 0 Comment 0

In the late morning we roll across the wide-open palm of a valley dominated by the golden glow of wheat fields and approach the town of Newdegate. Ever since we decided to head west on Highway 107 there's been a lot of talk about what we were going to find when we got there, because whenever we say the name of the place we end up calling it Nudegate, Nudiegate, or some variation like that, and then hilarity ensues. It's a town with so much possibility.

But in the end, Newdegate isn't much more than a roadhouse, a grocery store, a post office, and a tiny park with the first patch of dark green grass we've seen for days. Every other vehicle that passes is a white-colored ute with the body panels streaked and striped with the tan dirt kicked up by hundreds of miles of back road driving, we only see a few people walking around, and every last man and woman is fully clothed. I haven't been so misled by a town name since that time I passed through Three Way in Arizona two years ago.

Heart 0 Comment 0
Heart 1 Comment 0

It's already 92 degrees by 10:30, with the strong north winds forecast to help push the temperature up to 110 by the late afternoon. With that much heat, and with side winds gusting beyond thirty miles per hour, we know we have no choice but to hang out with the short-sleeved residents of Newdegate for the next six or seven hours until the worst of it has passed.

And so we head to the library, where exactly zero other patrons join us, but where employees of the library and the adjacent school spend hours chatting with each other and working almost not at all.

Heart 0 Comment 0

When we walk outside in the early evening we see that clouds have obscured the sun and that the intense heat of the afternoon has been knocked back a bit. But these aren't friendly clouds. To the north and the west they loom thick and dark and gray, letting loose low rumbles following lightning flashes too far away for us to see. These aren't the best conditions to leave town under and we know that. We also know that after today we have just four and a half riding days left to reach the coast, and with hot weather and hundreds of miles of rolling hills still ahead of us there's also a drive to keep forward motion going.

Heart 0 Comment 0
Heart 0 Comment 0

That forward motion lasts about four miles, because that's how long it takes for us to figure out for certain that the biggest, darkest, nastiest band of storm clouds aren't heading straight north-south but angling instead to the south-southeast, right toward us. Rain alone won't stop us at this point, but deep booms of thunder and jagged bolts of lightning going about their business just a couple of miles away sure as shit will. That's what leads us to backtrack a few hundred feet, walk into the bush, and set up the tent in a low flat spot with short trees that we hope will act as lightning rods circling all around.

Heart 0 Comment 0
Heart 0 Comment 0

With music from The Antlers providing the soundtrack, we watch thunderless flashes pop and illuminate the inside of our tent every few minutes — some off to the west, some to the east, and a few right above us. From our obscured corner of Western Australia, no more than a hundred feet off the highway, we lay on top of the sleeping bag, unmoving, breathing softly, but still sweating hard in the humid and windless night air.

Today's ride: 35 miles (56 km)
Total: 6,392 miles (10,287 km)

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