Days 179 & 180: Ravensthorpe, WA - Four Legs on the Slow Road - CycleBlaze

February 21, 2015

Days 179 & 180: Ravensthorpe, WA

On our way down to the town's cricket oval we pass by a caravan that has stopped next to a little park near the center of Ravensthorpe along the highway. A retired man of about seventy looks up at us as we approach.

"Bit hot to be walkin' around today, innit?" he asks.

We both fumble out some kind of vague answer, trying to keep from laughing in his face. Although it's true that it's still summer in Australia and we're not next to the ocean, even in the early afternoon on this cloudless, windless day it's maybe eighty degrees. It's the kind of day where when you stand in the shade with a mild breeze, you get the feeling that it's the most perfect weather you could ever hope to find in Ravensthorpe. But by this point in our trip the guy's reaction no longer comes as a surprise. For a country where it's so hot for so much of the year, we now understand that the majority of Australians are a bunch of candy-asses when it comes to the heat. They will complain about it whenever they have the chance, no matter how hot (or not hot) it might actually be.

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We've made several attempts to try and figure out cricket over the last two months. Today is our last chance to make some connections, to have some kind of breakthrough. At this time next weekend we'll be in Perth.

But our best intentions mean nothing; the situation is hopeless. Everyone's wearing different-colored shirts, so it's impossible to tell where one team ends and the other begins. Sometimes the batter hits the ball and the people standing around in the field run like mad to grab it. Other times he hits the ball and everyone holds their position like they're lost in thought, dreaming of a fresh sausage roll and a pint of Swan, and can't be bothered. And then, with no fanfare beyond like three quiet claps, everyone leaves the field and walks over to the shade, where they start drinking beer and smoking.

But eight minutes later they walk out of the shade and back to the field, or pitch, or oval, or whatever the proper term for it is. The only problem is that when they're about to get started, they realize there aren't enough players, so they have to stand around and wait and yell at some fourteen-year-old kid named Josh to get up and get out there.

"That's the way, Jaggy Boy!" screams out a guy who sits on the folded-down tailgate of a ute, with the kind of scratchy voice that carries in its inflection the weight of thirty-plus years of heavy drinking and smoking and multiple bar fights.

"Is it?" Kristen asks.

We have no idea.

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We watch heavyset forty-year-olds dive with what can only be described as terrible, arthritic form at the batted balls hit their way. At one point, as the pitched ball heads toward the batter at a slow speed, he turns more than ninety degrees to his left and cranks the ball such that it ends up flying off directly behind where he stood half a second before. It would be like in baseball if the batter tried to hit a pitch into the press box instead of into the gap in left-center field. We're part of a crowd of about twelve people. None of them are entirely paying attention to the game; not even the scorekeeper. Mostly they're sitting around talking to each other, drinking beer and bottled water and eating potato chips. At one point we hear the pop of a champagne cork.

"Ah yeah, that's a hundred! Well done Andrew!" says the day-drunk guy in the bed of the ute, with more emotion that we thought people watching cricket were allowed to have.

A hundred what? What has he done? That comment, like the game of cricket itself, will stay forever a mystery to us.

And so we both sit around yawning and confused, becoming ever more aware of why every cricket oval we've visited so far has been rimmed with garbage cans full of empty beer bottles.

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Over the weekend we spend hour after hour after hour working, writing, reading, showering, washing our clothes in the sink — everything there is to do in our motel room except turn on the television, because that somehow seems like an admission of defeat. I find myself looking over at my bike time and time again, thinking about how I'm going to build the next one, what I'll do differently, about all of the ways I can make it more reliable so that we never again end up in a spot like this.

At one point Kristen looks through a series of pictures taken back when we were on the Eyre Peninsula and the Nullarbor Plain. She talks about all of ground we covered, all of the mechanical problems we dealt with, all of the logistical issues we solved, and all of the amazing things we experienced together.

Then she pauses for a moment before turning to me.

"We work fucking hard," she says.

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Or at least we used to. Because there's so little to do in Ravensthorpe, we eat way too much pizza and drink way too much beer, both of which do nothing to keep me from feeling way too bad about the sad state of my bike and the possibility that our journey will come to its conclusion in a way we never expected, never planned for, never wanted. Unlike so much of this trip, our time in this country town of a few hundred people isn't interesting or textured or alive. We're just passing time, waiting. It's strange and boring and depressing and we can't wait for it to end.

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