So, really, the start of a tour isn’t the first day on the road. Sure, there’s the (sometimes long) lead-up of route planning, and (if needed) the acquiring of new gear. For me, it really starts when the packing does.
T minus 7, T minus 6… Saturday & Sunday 12/13th March
One week till the start, but only the weekend left to be packed up and on our way. It was really happening!
Marc’s last week at work before taking extended leave was predictably nuts, and it included him driving the work vehicle down to Sydney on Thursday, doing some field work, leaving the vehicle with his colleague, and then flying back to Coffs on Friday night.
This was it – no more ‘training rides’, which, thanks to the weather, had been pretty thin on the ground anyway. Time for the tandem to be pulled apart and carefully packed into its two cases, with the rest of our ‘gear’ packed around it – for padding. Overflow ‘gear’ went into a smaller case that would ‘babooshka doll’ into one of the bigger cases. Final decisions were made about inclusions and exclusions. We’d be couriering these cases back to Sydney from Fremantle, so we could indulge in a few extra items of clothing, plus some tools, that we could use in those prep days in Fremantle before we had to set off with …. not much!
The last time we pulled it apart was nearly 4 years back – at the end of our Sydney-Melbourne ride. Fortunately, his memory about how to do it is better than mine.
T minus 5 – Monday. Drive to Sydney.
We got away just before 10am. A quick drop-off to my friend with a bag of the last bits of fresh food/milk, and a stop-off in town at the medical centre to pick up a script for ‘just-in-case’ antibiotics. (Marc had done a telehealth consultation for that earlier in the week.)
We got to Sydney around 4.30, dropped in to visit my parents, and then headed to my sister and brother-in-law’s place for dinner. We were imposing on them to mind our car for the duration, and added to the imposition by asking them to then drop us at a hotel near the airport (rather than impose even more by doing a Hornsby -airport run in peak hour on a Tuesday morning.) Just the start of the overwhelming support we got from my sis throughout the ride.
T minus 4 – Tuesday. Sydney to Perth/Fremantle
We took an Uber to the airport around 9am for the 10.25am flight. (Very civilised.) At least (with the benefit of hindsight) this was still pre- the epic airport crowds that seemed to get worse from around April (?), so we had no queues, and the food court wasn’t at all crowded.
As much as I was dreading the 5-hour flight, at least everyone was adhering to the mask rules- except for eating of course. Still, how you don’t catch Covid on such a flight I don’t know, but after tracking down the free WA-supplied RAT at Perth airport, we did it as required, within 12 hours, and both were negative so, all good. (Right?!)
We Ubered again – about half an hour to Fremantle – and we were thankfully able to check in at our Airbnb a bit early. The owner was a keen cyclist himself, so that was cool.
We dumped our bags and set off on foot to the closest cafe/bakery. At this point, with the 3-hour time difference and despite having had a meal on the plane, we weren’t really sure what meal this was, but we needed food. It was back to mask mandates (that had already been dumped in NSW) and showing proof of vaccination in order to dine in anywhere – but that actually made me feel a whole lot better.
I convinced Marc to wander a bit further towards the water to check out the scenery – and so we walked for a bit, but he was itching to get back to start putting the bike together. And complaining about how long it took to walk anywhere compared to riding! (My view was that we had more than enough riding in our near future, but, time-wise, he did have a point!)
I did think he might like to get back to the Little Creatures Brewery later (for beer and food), but we never made it. That evening we settled on a shorter walk to dinner at the Norfolk Hotel – with an outdoorsy eating area (but with some musical chairs/table to move away from the very adjacent smoking area).
T minus 3 – Wednesday
By lunchtime, the bike was back together again …
… and to test it out we made various trips downtown and about town for food, supermarket, chemist, laundrette. In the afternoon we walked down to The Old Synagogue to meet up with a long-time online friend of mine, Karmela. When I say ‘long-time’, I’m talking over 20 years – and this was the first time we had met in ‘RL’! We slipped into chatting as if we indeed had known each other in the flesh for all that time, and it was lovely!
More walking – back to the BnB, then back a few blocks again for dinner. (Thai this time – we figured it might be a while before that was a menu option once we set out.) And then some more makeshift bike stand ‘fine-tuning’ of the bike.
T-minus 2 – Thursday
All week the rider WhatsApp chat group had been going off, as one by one (or two by two) riders arrived in town, and the local riders welcomed us.
There was an ‘official’ Meet the Riders get-together set for Thursday afternoon, but a spontaneous meet-up went down at Ginos at 7.30am when Scotty rode down from Perth with his laptop to help ‘Caveman’ with reloading the route to his Garmin (because he had somehow accidentally deleted it at 3.30 in the morning! – no, we don’t know why he was mucking around with his Garmin in the early hours either!) Basically, the rest of us gatecrashed – but it was nice to have a low-key opportunity to meet and chat with the others.
Caveman Chris’s problems turned out to be the first of a number of tech/navigation cries for help with a few people experiencing accidental deletions, or last-minute hiccups in uploading the route to their devices. So far, fingers crossed, I had all that under control. I had split up the route into 100-200km chunks and had a way of Bluetoothing them from the RWGPS app on my phone to the Garmin 1000. And as a backup, I had also uploaded the route (or rather routes) onto a ‘Google MyMaps’ and I could view it as a layer on Google maps on my phone. With my phone ‘Quadlocked’ on my handlebars, alongside the Garmin, I hoped I had the navigation pretty well covered.
Anyway… Thursday morning…. Back to the BnB again. At some point we put ‘Muc-off’ inner tube sealant into the, well, inner tubes. Marc had decided to use this based on ‘Captain Steve’s’ – 2021 IPWR alumni – recommendation. He had to ‘McGyver’ inserting it into the presta valves, and it felt like a bit of a gamble, but he figured there was probably no downside. (You’ll have to wait until the wrap-up to find out!)
It was time for a last hit-out/test ride. We set off south – mostly on bike paths – for a 26k return ride to Woodman Point, with lunch at the cafe at the surf club at Coogee Beach. Spending some time viewing the Indian Ocean seemed somewhat fitting – and, again, in a neat bit of time-travelling hindsight, there was also some symmetry going on with Coogee Beach on the west coast and Coogee Beach on the east coast (although I have since been reliably informed that they are pronounced differently! I don’t really know how to linguistically explain this, but Sydney’s ‘coo’ is a short sound, and WA’s sounds like the noise a pigeon makes…. I think!)
We also found a park to complete one more task that we had been unable to do at home due to the ‘Big Wet’ that had started – a tarp pitching practice run, plus taping up the Tyvek groundsheet to size around the perimeter.
Back to the BnB, and then at 5.30, we rolled back downtown again to Bathers Beach House for the big Meet n Greet, where we got to meet the rest of the riders, a few of the behind-the-scenes ‘organisers’, and even a few extremely keen local dotwatchers. We did try to mention as much as possible that we intended to take it at our own pace, that on Day 1, especially with the climbing out of Perth on a tandem, we wouldn’t be going as far as the others (as per the usual Indipac MO) – so we didn’t expect we’d see the rest of riders once we were a few kilometres in, and that we would be very much in contention for the ‘Lanterne Rouge’.
T minus 1 – Friday
We had the courier booked to pick up our cases for late morning, so we had a frantic rush to make sure we packed anything we definitely did not want to take with us, and to make sure we didn’t accidentally get rid of anything we did need to take!
One more laundrette trip – well, may as well start off with clean kit. And the traditional rear-wheel dip in the ocean at 11.30. Marc’s TwoUP FB comment was ‘Tracey’s not much of a traditionalist but went along with it’ – and that’s pretty true, although I would have used the word ‘ceremonial’. I already knew that if we made it to Sydney, I would NOT be riding any further out to any beach in Sydney, nor risking manhandling the tandem down any stairs to the water at the Opera House, so it was all a bit of a waste of time as far as I was concerned! But I did it for him.
We got that done, then rushed back to the BnB in time to be there to make sure the courier picked up the bags. Even though we had left them outside the unit I’m not confident he would have actually found them!
We had yet one more ride downtown on the agenda for the afternoon – a trip to the post office to mail off some personal business stuff. While I waited with the tandem outside the PO, a bird dropped a ‘message’ that landed splat on the Garmin. It turned out that one of the other riders – Luke, I think – also had a bird poop on his seat that day. In our chat we all decided to go with the ‘good luck’ superstition.
Back to the Old Synagogue- essentially the closest place to walk to – for dinner. Bike packed completely, last minute adjustments to the bike. Early to bed. This was it. Gulp.