RTA Big Ride 2005 diary

Day 6: Queanbeyan -> Gunning (70KM)
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There were road-works at about 5km out, today, extending to about 10km. The police sent us through in bunches so that traffic coming the other way up Sutton road wasn't too inconvenienced. Most riders were well behaved, but one idiot came racing up between some of us without warning. On the iffy gravel surface, that's quite dangerous.

After the road-works ended, the rest of Sutton road was really nice to ride - mainly flat with some undulations. About 2 km out from the village, I realised that the road looked familiar. It wasn't that I had ridden the same section two years ago, but the section on the road between Bungendore and Yass that we rode then is parallel to this and has a similar layout. We had morning tea at the Pony Club, exactly as we did two years ago, and it felt great to actually ride out of there, not wait for the sag wagon.

The route diverged again about 2km up the road where we continued north, not west. The road was almost flat, but with small uphill undulations, and I kept a good average speed using the downhill sections to sustain the momentum up the next rise.

Lunch was at Dick Smith's property (Bowlylie) just outside Gundaroo. He has a narrow gauge railway running around his hilltop house yard. There are perfectly manicured lawns and lots of fruit trees. Outside the the grounds are poplars and oaks and a tennis court. There was little native flora that I could see.

Model rail-line
Model rail-line

Dick Smith's house
Dick Smith's house

Emu sculpture
Emu sculpture

After riding over the pick-a-plankish bridge and through Gundaroo, the road turned uphill and over a range - some nice, sharp climbs. I think that it took as long for the last third, as for the first two thirds of the day's ride. Some people got into camp before 11am and the pub in town only opened at 11 - I think that the riders were a bit put out at having to wait. I managed to make camp by 11:30 and had a shower before heading down there. Water pressure in camp was low and the vollies were grumbling about problems with the council supplying proper electricity and water.

Gunning shire office
Gunning shire office

At the pub I had a few beers with James and another racer - Scott. The bar staff were overwhelmed at the amount they were selling, being used to a small town appetite, not a hundred cyclists swarming in, it seems. At one point I was asked to tell people to bring their glasses back to the bar, as they were running out of clean glasses. Also, the local news-agent had sold out of papers (which probably pissed off a few locals). At 2pm the local pool (which is normally closed) was apparently to be especially opened for us. I had planned to go down there, but didn't make it. I heard later that it was so packed that people could only stand in one spot - no swimming possible.

Elton and Olivia play tennis?
Elton and Olivia play tennis?

At 3pm there was a talk by Michael McGirr, the author of "Bypass: the story of a road" about his cycling trip up the old Hume Highway. His brief was basically about how to turn a diary into a bestseller (sure!), but turned into a discussion of his research and creative process. The main point he made was that you need to find the voice of the characters - his example being Aunt Polly in Huck Finn. He suggests sitting in a cafe and just writing down the conversations you overhear. He's an interesting guy and the book sounds good. I'll have to pick up a copy sometime.

The one book I took with me has become dog-eared from being thrown around in my bag. I haven't read any of it yet and probably won't. Next trip, I'll have to remember not to take one. Poor old Integral Trees!

Just before 4pm, I left and went back to camp as there was a talk on digital photography for beginners. Unfortunately I didn't get much out of it except that the speaker - a ex-pro photographer and now lecturer at UTS - is in love with digital photography. I asked if he had any tips on exposure times and lighting, but he didn't really understand or answer the question. The thing that everyone seemed most interested in was finding the equivalent of 35mm film. I think that the only useful thing was his iteration of the 70/30 rule in taking pictures of landscapes, and a tip for getting around auto-focus when the camera can't cope (focus on something which camera can see and then point the camera back to the real subject). At least, the talk was an realisation that I've probably got to just experiment more and re-read the manual if I want to take better pictures.

This evening I went to the gourmet dinner at the pub at Gundaroo, which has one chef's hat from the SMH Good Food Guide. The listed menu contained two entrees:

  • Hand crafted goat's cheese tortellini with pine nuts, sultanas and a butter of fresh plucked sage
  • Honey glazed, house smoked duckling with grapes, watercress and beetroot crisps

three mains:

  • Chef's hand-selected market fish with bok choy and a crab and egg noodle salad. Finished with pickled cucumber and an Asian broth
  • Confit chicken with parsnip puree, peas and a tarragon jus
  • Mustard crusted rare roast Bungendore beef, with mash and wilted spinach

and two desserts.

  • Pavlova stack with mascarpone cream, bananas, butterscotch sauce and praline
  • Vanilla bean creme brulee with peppered pears

On the bus over there I was feeling a bit solitary and single since everyone else appeared to have booked in groups. When we got to the restaurant a woman named Kath, who was from the RTA, took charge and organised some of us in a table group - overriding the seating arrangements of the staff. I found myself seated with her, a young woman called Caroline and her German father, Walther (who I recognised from Red Faces where he placed blues harmonica). Jim, the photographer, was there as was another woman called Jacinta. I thought that she and Kath were friends, but later found out that they had only met briefly on the ride.

Kath was a real organiser, as befits her educational role within the RTA - riding to schools along the route and speaking to the kids about cycling. She organised me into selecting a good bottle of wine (San Genovese) which we shared, then gave back and foot rubs to Jacinta, who was obviously tired, during the evening.

Caroline was born in Germany, but came out here as a baby when her father decided that the nuclear risk of living on a potential war zone was too great. He spent quite a while telling me about his life there and how he has found himself now in a similarly dangerous situation thanks to the new world politics.

Jim, unfortunately, appears to have little to talk of but cameras. It's his first ride and he says that he's enjoying it a lot. However, I guess I'm not the best conversationalist, myself.

Jacinta has some sort of HR research qualifications and has recently moved to Sydney and taken up a new job. She lives in Surrey Hills and quite enjoys the place, apparently. She's a really nice person (obvious despite the tiredness) with beautiful eyes and a very open countenance. She's the knockout of the table.

The food was outstanding - not quite the advertised menu, but similar. I had the tortellini (which was great), and Kath insisted on sharing the duck with me (which was not quite as good). I had the rare roast which was melt-in-the-mouth tender and properly rare, with a great mustard glaze. I also was passed some of the fish which has a wonderfully delicate flavour with a bit of peppery, pickle flavour infusing it.

The pavlova had been taken off the menu, replace by Rocky Road. We all, apart from Kath, decided on the creme brulee. Instead of the the pears it came with honey-glazed Egyptian figs, and it was one of those close-your-eyes and linger on the palate moments. We were all in ecstasy. The vanilla flavour was just right, and the figs were so sweet. It was a taste that you just want to hang onto as long as possible.

The evening turned out to be a great success, and my earlier misgivings about my lack of social skills were assuaged (thanks mainly to others reaching out to me, I'm afraid). I'm still nowhere near as self-confident in company as I want to be, but I feel that I have made contact with some really nice people that will continue.

Back in camp, and we came in past the tennis courts which were in full operation (with people trying to sleep in tents nearby by the look of it), and the nearby rumble of the Hume highway. Given that it's an early start for the 109KM ride to Marulan, the chance of getting a good night's sleep is slim.

Ride Statistics

DST  74.30 km 
TM  3:29:33 
Max. speed  58 km/h 
Avg. speed  21.2 km/h 
Avg. RPM  58 
Max. RPM  88 

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