RTA Big Ride 2004 diary

Day 3: Tuncurry -> Buladelah (68KM)
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Rain, rain and more rain. Some giant depression has dumped massively on the whole area. We started at about 7:30 so that the police could escort us across the Wallis Bridge before the Monday morning traffic started. The sky was overcast with a south-westerly blowing through. At breakfast, I managed to eat and get packed before any rain, but some weren't so lucky.

I left wearing my light "Master and Commander" shower jacket and booties, but it looked like it was going to fine up by about 10 minutes out so I took them off - bad move. 5 minutes later it started coming down and I managed to get the jacket on before I got totally soaked, but my feet were already so wet I decided to forgo the booties.

At 18km I got another flat in the rear which I changed in the pouring rain. Then, coming over the rise at Botti Botti, I got out of the saddle to push over the hill and my chain snapped. Pushing the bike just over the rise I saw an ambulance and a rider down - I'm not sure what happened, but I guess he slipped out around the corner. Morning Tea was about 100m away so I got there and tried to fix the chain - found I had no chain breaker and had to wait for the Shimano van for about half an hour. After he fixed it (in about 2 minutes - it's amazing what dry and warm hands can do) I went up to the surf club at Elizabeth Beach and had a cup of tea and a mars bar. Then, feeling better, I headed on my way.

By about 11:30 I made it to lunch at the Smith's Lake reserve. There were lots of people milling around and police cars everywhere, including one with the bonnet open and several people standing over the engine. I asked what the deal was and was told that the police has just declared the route closed as they said it was too dangerous. We waited for about an hour huddled under what shelter we could find. Some people started dancing (Hokey Pokey etc.!) or playing catch with the lunch-supplied oranges to keep warm. It took me a while to realise that the people clustered around the police car were trying to get their hands warm over the running engine.

Cold and milling
Cold and milling

Dancing
Dancing

Finally the word went out that we should just leave our bikes and then get on a bus to Buladelah. The camp-site was underwater and they didn't know what was going to happen once they got us into town. Some cyclists (including James) managed to get through before the police closed the route. Most of those managed to set up camp on higher ground or in stables etc., around the showground. The rest of us would have to find some other alternatives.

The main street
The main street

In town, we were deposited at the camp-site entrance and told where our luggage had been off-loaded. I found my bag and changed out of my wet jersey into a dry shirt (the long-sleeve one I had bought the night before). Then I went in search of warm food. The local soccer club had set up in one of the show-ground buildings making sausage and steak sandwiches. I had a sausage sandwich and a cup of tea, then relaxed for a while until someone said that Heebee (one of the volunteers) had an accommodation office set up behind the luggage building. By this stage I had my shoes off as there was mud and water everywhere. I waded up to the office to get there just as a local guy called Frank walked in saying he had a caravan with room for 10. He was just one of several locals who had opened up church halls, the library, courthouse museum etc. to help us.

Some of the bikes have arrived
Some of the bikes have arrived

Hardy campers in the mud
Hardy campers in the mud

It turns out that Frank knows John, one of the riders, who went to his place to tell him he was in town. They're old 'scouser mates, so Frank offered John a mattress at his place. I got my bag down to his truck in time to meet him and John. He started driving over to his place to drop John off before going to the caravan. Then he said that he had a bit more room at his place, and maybe I would like to stay there instead. It sounded closer to the action, and cleaner, so I said yes.

It turns out that Frank lives in a converted garage behind an old, half-decayed shop on Stroud Street. He was planning to do the shop up but the council wanted him to put up a lot of money to pay for car parking spaces. The converted garage is basically a four room deal with a bedroom for him and his 8-month pregnant partner - a local aboriginal girl half his age (about 24) called Rachel.

There is also a bathroom/laundry with a kitchen-sink/washtub in it, a living area with a counter and fridge one one side and two lounges and a TV on the other. Frank's also added a sun-room at the back where the mangy old Blue-heeler sleeps, and with the dining room table and a BBQ. John had a mattress out there and I had one in the lounge-room.

After a shower, I went back to the show-ground so see if the bikes had arrived. Some had and another truck-full arrived while I was there, so I spent some time helping to unload them into some semblance of order. Mine finally arrived about 5pm.

The word went out that the local sawmill had heard of our plight and had cleaned up the factory floor and taken the day off so we could have somewhere to set up the Brasserie and food facilities. They ended up taking the following day off as well, once we found out we had to stay in town. I had dinner up there, and got back to Frank's just as they were starting dinner there. Out of courtesy, even though I had earlier said that I would not be having dinner, I had some vegetables, and some beer - Frank had bought steaks and beer for all of us in the afternoon.

Frank introduces himself as the town drunk - he's definitely a dipsomaniac. When he tells a story about a fight he was in, he gets in your face and it's like he's reliving the events, rather than remembering it. From what he said, he was a big-wheel in the Sydney English community, based at Balmain. He's got several properties around town, including 300 Ha (if I recall correctly) on the Bombah Point road where he is planning to build an eco-resort. I heard a story that he made his money from brothels, but he's also apparently worked hard in the housing industry, I think.

He's a "fair dinkum" bloke. While he's been a hard man in the past, it looks like he's trying hard to mellow out for the sake of Rachel and the baby. Frank was talking about his rules of life which include "there's always some alternative to fighting". He also talked about getting on a program to dry out up in Queensland.

Ride Statistics

The computer was playing up because of the rain, so the figures are probably a bit rubbery.

DST  36.17 km 
TM  2:01:45 
Max. speed  47 km/h 
Avg. speed  17.8 km/h 
Avg. RPM  92 
Max. RPM  97 

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