Monday 21st March 2022
4:25 moving, 7:23 elapsed. avg 21.3km/h, max 49.9 km/h
From yesterday afternoon through today we were travelling through the traditional lands of the Njaki Njaki Nyoongar people – Shackleton, Bruce Rock, Merredin, and Carrabin (and tomorrow, Moorine Rock.)
So, a more civilised time of departure today – at about 7.30am – given the decision to make two short hops to Southern Cross instead of one. (*snorts* – when a 90km day is now considered ‘short’!)
When we set out we were actually talking about staying in Merredin – and so my butt and my head totally locked onto a sweet 50k today – almost as good as a rest day, right? There hadn’t been anything open in Bruce Rock for breakfast supplies either the evening before, or in the morning, so we were riding on snacks for the 50km to Merredin. (We had ducked into the IGA in Quairading the day before – can no longer remember what we had!)
We finally got a bit of a tailwind as we headed north on a blessedly traffic-free stretch – this was – finally – good tandem territory.
Totadgin Rock was at 38km, and I was determined to check it out, given it was barely 100 metres off the road. I mean, what is the point of riding across the goddam country if you’re not going to see some stuff when it’s that close?!
Not quite Wave Rock, which we haven’t been to anyway… but it was still wave-like, and pretty cool.
It was only another 12k then to Merredin, and we made a beeline for a cafe.
The coffee hadn’t even come out (never mind the food) when a message came through via our TwoUp FB profile: ‘your tracker says you’re still in Merredin, are you having a feed or forgot to turn tracker on – people are getting concerned for you’.
“Still” in Merredin?! We’d barely been there 10 minutes! I was already feeling the weight of expectations, despite having tried to set the scene that we had a) definite plans to contend for Lanterne Rouge and b) that we’d be doing it ‘slow and steady’/our way/training on day 1 for day 2 etc. I was already feeling absolutely knackered from the first two days… and so I, well… pretty much ‘lost my shit’. I did a bit of ranting, and …um… I might have told him that I was ready to throw it all in right there and then if we were going to get the hurry-up if we so much as stopped for a cup of coffee. I could understand some concern if we were showing as stopped for ages off on the side of a road somewhere, but we were in the middle of bloody Merredin and we’d only just got there!
Marc let them know that while we appreciated the concern, we were indeed EATING FOOD, and that we were doing it ‘our way’, and we wouldn’t be doing 300km a day and sleeping on toilet block floors!
We learnt later that, ‘unofficially’, some people had been allocated riders to keep tabs on, 24/7. It was very comforting to know that help would likely arrive if we were lying in a ditch somewhere, and the message was absolutely in the spirit of caring and safety – but at the same time, this level of close monitoring very nearly derailed me just 3 days in. Marc was always more open to the idea of being a part of this all, while, blogging aside, I’m not particularly comfortable with getting any attention at all. It probably would also have been a good idea to have been told that we’d be allocated people who’d be keeping a close check on us.
We also surmised that the predictive tracking mode on MAProgress was likely to be at least partly to blame – possibly showing us at having already arrived in Merredin when we instead stopped off at Totadgin Rock. We had parked the bike against a tree while we checked out the rock, so maybe it didn’t ping. (Hard to believe it didn’t ping in the next 12km though.) We actually only spent about 20 minutes there!
Anyhow… once I had had coffee and food, Marc managed to talk me down. I now cannot remember at what point he proposed that we should try to get further along today – while the wind was still southerly. (A brave man indeed if it was right then!) We should try to get another 40k along the road to Carrabin Roadhouse so we had a shorter day tomorrow to Southern Cross. He only had a few sections of the whole route that he was really concerned about, and the 187km between Southern Cross and Coolgardie was the first – especially with these forecast headwinds. (No supplies/water for 154k after Yellowdine Roadhouse.)
The mind and butt (as I mentioned earlier) took some convincing, especially with the mood I was in. But I (reluctantly) knew it made sense. At some stage, despite the Roadhouse not opening till 4pm, I managed to get through and book a room. (These are the little details it’s hard to remember months later.) So off we went.
The remnants (?) of the original Rabbit Proof Fence at Burracoppin.
(More about that later too.)
Marc reminds me that it was along this stretch that we actually got an escort through a one-lane section of roadworks! As in, a pilot car drove behind us till we reached the other end, and traffic control didn’t allow oncoming traffic through until we were clear. I didn’t end up writing about it at the time, but on our first day of riding, in Oregon, between Eugene and Florence (back in 2017), we had the opposite happen on a very long stretch of roadworks, where we were only part way along when the oncoming traffic – with pilot car! – just about drove into us! So, WA roadworks crew… much appreciated – 5 stars! – even if we did feel like we needed to be ride like it was a time trial so as not to hold people up!
We arrived at Carrabin at about 3pm, so settled in to wait about an hour for them to open.
TwoUP FB post: Having a ‘short’ one today, got accommodation at Carrabin Roadhouse. The plan is to go to bed super early and start riding before dawn to beat the trucks and, hopefully, the wind (as it swings around back to more of a headwind )
We then only intend to get to Southern Cross tomorrow, so shorter still. Then we’ll work out the game plan for getting to Coolgardie.
The trucks since Merredin have mostly been good, no deliberate or reckless close passes, but I have to say it’s not very enjoyable and I don’t really know why I agreed to do this.
The flies are also seriously bad. (Waiting outside, in the flies, I mean shade, for the roadhouse to open)
It was the only place we actually used the fly veils we’d brought. (I’m not sure what the locals thought, but I didn’t care! How do they even live here?!)
We ended up being able to get into our room a bit earlier – showered (after tracking down some soap that they’d forgotten to leave). We were having a rest, when we heard a ‘whoop whoop’ outside. It meant nothing to me, but Marc recognised ‘Cashie’s’ signature call. An IPWR veteran himself, Cashie had made it his mission to interview all the riders in the first few days – working his way back to Perth from the frontrunners.
He had finally tracked us down at Carrabin (again we were confounding dotwatchers in general by not being on the road for 12 hours), and before I knew it I was (reluctantly) the subject of a video as he asked about us, the tandem (which of course was something new for Indipac watchers), our set-up etc.
I gather people enjoyed the video – I only caught some of it, and would prefer never to see myself on one again. Marc was all on board with it, but to be honest, if I’d really thought through the fact that I’d end up having to be on video while doing this ride, I may not have agreed to do it!
Once the camera was off I enjoyed chatting. Then he led us out to his car with a boot full of drinks and snack supplies and insisted we take as much as we wanted. The first of a heap of amazing dot watcher generosity.
Despite the short day tomorrow we still planned to leave early in the hope of getting most of it done before the wind picked up too much. Early to bed then.
Also posted this to the Indipac/DW facebook group:
Hey from TwoUp… just letting you know we’re doing (attempting) this at a much slower pace than everyone else, so we’re not going to match the others in terms of riding time/distance per day/breaks etc. If there’s anything scenic remotely close to the route, then we’re going to check it out, and we’ll be making the most of coffee/meal stops while we can.
Predictive mode can sometimes be misleading if we stop so it might look as if we’ve been somewhere longer than we actually have.
We checked out Totadgin Rock, just about 15k before Merredin, barely 100m off the road. Bike shoes with spd cleats not the ideal footwear to walk up on top, but we managed
Today we planned to have a (strategically) very short day with respect to tackling the stretch to Coolgardie and how to deal best with wind and traffic.
Trying to manage’ expectations’ on top of managing us – and particularly myself – weighed heavily on me. I think this worked to some extent, although then I subsequently felt that then people took that to the other extreme and decided that we had turned it into an easy-peasy lovely tour – and yet that was also far from the truth of it.