IP Day 5 – Southern Cross to Coolgardie

Wednesday 23rd March 2022
188.9km, +731m

9:43 moving, 14:46 elapsed. avg 19.4, max 36.5

Entering the traditional lands of the Wongatha (Wongi) people.

Marc’s TwoUp post: 1.00am start, headwinds all night and day. 9 deg and windy made it quite cold just after dawn. Hard work but got there.

Tracey’s Strava post: ‘Shattered

M: The alarm went off at midnight and we left at about 0045. Trace had a coffee at the roadhouse before we left about 0110 or thereabouts. First stop was Yellowdine RH (@33k) with a bit of a lump between here and there. The headwind was brisk but if there is one good thing about riding uphill it’s the headwinds are not as bad as on the flats.

We started using the UHF radio to talk to trucks we could see approaching from behind us. With there being more and more heavy vehicles we had dialled up the rear lights with the main one on solid and the two on either seat stay in a flashing mode. At one point someone in a mining ute said “that’s too bright to use in traffic” or something to that effect. Oh. Ok? So much for buying a higher lumen tail light so we could ensure we would be seen easily! We dialed it down a bit.

We spotted a guy sitting in his ute at some road works with his engine running and started a conversation. Hopefully we brightened his boring morning! We could then hear him for the next few kms over the UHF letting trucks know we were on the road ahead. It doesn’t cost anything to be friendly and maybe it will wake up an otherwise dozy truck driver.

We reached Yellowdine RH at about 0315, had some fruit and biscuits, and used the loo kindly left open by the lady who runs the place who is an avid DW. Nyk had been keen to catch up with us – as the last of this year’s riders – when we came through, and we had exchanged some messages, but our timing wasn’t going to work for being there when it was open. We filled up with enough water to get through to Coolgardie as well. No water or supplies for 154km. [T: I managed to keep the food down, but I did kind of gag at one point – before we left. This psychosomatic aversion to eating in the dark was not ideal.]

After leaving Yellowdine we were on an undulating landscape the rest of the day. On the higher ground it was quite exposed and we had a front quarter headwind that blew consistently the whole day. Even on gradual downhills (like < 2%) the bike would not pick up any speed by gravity alone – it had to be pedalled constantly to maintain mid-20 km/h speeds due to the wind. At times maintaining even 20 km/h was too difficult and seeing as the main objective was just to get to Coolgardie in the day with the least amount of wear and tear on the “engines”, we tried to keep the power levels minimal.

Tracey was starting to get the hang of using the radio, and figuring out what to say. One of our first ‘exchanges’, though, was an ‘order’ to ‘get off the road’. (“Could you repeat that please?” “GET OFF THE ROAD”) At the time we complied because we thought perhaps they couldn’t safely pass us, but with experience now behind us, it’s more likely they were simply the first of the approximately 10-20% of ‘dickheads’ in the ‘cross-section of humanity’ (truckies cohort) that we encountered across the country. On another occasion we overheard (westbound truckies to eastbound) give a ‘heads up’ about ‘an elderly couple on a tandem’. Well we hadn’t seen any elderly couples riding – no idea what he was talking about! Then there was the ‘f@#*ing clowns in the middle of the road’ (and a few other things). Tracey got on the radio at that point and announced that “the f@#*ing clowns have mirrors, and will be on the shoulder, or as far to the left as possible”. Silence.

T: Riding in the dark, while I never really liked it, and some drivers clearly thought was nuts, is arguably safer because a) there is less traffic, and b) with our mirrors we could see a vehicle approaching from behind several kilometres back, and prepare accordingly. And the whingers can go jump, because vehicles behind us would dim their headlights – once they had line of vision – several kilometres back as well. It was considerably harder to spot vehicles in the daylight, especially when they didn’t have their headlights on. [Country driving? Put your headlights on throughout the day, ESPECIALLY, if you are driving a grey/silver vehicle! You’ll actually be visible to oncoming vehicles wishing to overtake, as well as cyclists with mirrors!]

Later the radio proved invaluable when we got a heads up that there was an oversize vehicle coming behind, and we could let them know that we were up ahead, that we knew, and would be off the road in time. This happened a few times – so we’re unsure if it was this first time – or one of the others – that the driver in the pilot car, now that he *could* talk to us, got a tiny bit carried away with wanting us to be off the ride waaaaay before the truck was approaching us. “We’ll be off in heaps of time – we’re just heading for that patch of shade!” (At least the drivers in the rear pilot cars all waved and said thanks/have a good day etc.)

While the distance and wind factor meant we needed to ride through the night, I’ve been learning since of things we missed out on seeing in the dark.  <insert disappointed face> It’s only later, looking through my photos about the Rabbit Proof Fence signs we saw at a rest area back on Day 3 that I’ve read more about the State Barrier Fence, and where it is now – which is only about 20km east of Southern Cross.  Well, we certainly didn’t spot it at 2am. 

All cost, little benefit: WA’s barrier fence is bad news for biodiversity

(But hey, just because you don’t learn about something you see – or don’t see! – and don’t absorb fully at the time, doesn’t mean you can’t read up on it later after your trip is over – in fact , as we have discovered, often a ‘journey’ through an area is a great trigger to learning more about it.)

Also notable is that there was a film Rabbit Proof Fence – I have known about it, but never seen it (something I should rectify)…  ‘Rabbit-Proof Fence’ and Its Connections To Australian History

The temperature didn’t get above 10 degrees (then factor in the wind chill) till the sun came up (over 90k in), but then by late morning the day had well and truly warmed up.

Comment to friend on TwoUp FB post: Shivered through the night and got burnt legs during the day.

As we rode into the afternoon it was hitting the high 20s and I could feel myself burning on my left (ie. northern) side. We were stopping for a rest more often – sometimes only after 10 or so kilometres. I was struggling. Especially my bum. I had tried the suggestion of wearing two pairs of knicks but that was not good and I ripped them off at one rest stop.

M: While still on the outskirts of Coolgardie Tracey’s phone started beeping with a few messages from her sister congratulating us on making Coolgardie. I remember her, grumpily, probably not quite appreciating them quite for what they were – encouragement !

T: This is, embarassingly, true, and I owe Lisa an apology for being an unappreciative, grumpy b*@#%. In my defence I was, initially, typing on my phone as we were riding (so short and sweet). But those last few kilometres felt like they dragged on forever. Also fresh in my mind was the ‘Merriden incident’, and so I also was NOT going to be told I was already somewhere when I hadn’t got there yet! And then, well, yeah, I was beyond shattered – which can turn you into a grump.

and I wasn’t going to be denied ANY kilometres, never mind 15 of them!

I just about cried with relief as we rolled into ‘civilisation’ just after 3pm, and staggered into the servo which was, thankfully, a mere one block into the built-up area. Gatorade and chips barely hit the sides. We sat outside in the shade of the building for a good half an hour before summoning up the energy to ride another three blocks down to the motel. While I was planning/researching this ride, I was really disappointed that the route didn’t go through Kalgoorlie, and I even naively imagined that taking a side trip/detour could be an option. After all, it was highly unlikely I’d ever get near the place again, and I wouldn’t mind checking it out. Hahahaha. So naive. After all the mining traffic, you could not have PAID me to continue on another 40k through to Kalgoorlie. And I had my fingers crossed that tomorrow, as we swung south towards Norseman, we would lose much of that traffic, as a good percentage of it would surely have been headed onto the big mines around Kalgoorlie itself.

After a shower and a rest we walked down to the IGA (for next-day supplies, and probably pre-dinner beer!). For dinner, the option was ‘room delivery’ from the motel restaurant (which wasn’t operating due to Covid), or the pub, and Marc insisted on the pub. Bad choice bud. Well, now we can say that we agree with Tour Clown Under from last year’s Indipac in his opinion that it’s (one of?) the worst pubs in the world. Inexplicably named ‘Denver City Hotel’, it had headbanging, loud, heavy metal music playing in the bar.  The volume was slightly diluted in the dining room, but the staff seemed wholly disinterested in serving. And, while I admit to having made a stupid choice of seafood in an inland town, the fish and chips were pretty much inedible. Not ideal after such a huge day leaving most of your meal uneaten.

We decided we would tackle the next leg to Norseman in two hops. Thank heavens – tomorrow we wouldn’t be starting in the dark.

2 thoughts on “IP Day 5 – Southern Cross to Coolgardie

    1. Hey Julie, it’s a GME TX667. Bought it at JB HiFi, around $80-90. Lightweight, compact, USB chargeable. Same one as Luke (Beetlejuice) used. There was a post and discussion that included radios on the IPWR FB page at some stage – probably back late last year. – actually, Marc’s just looked it up, it was in March ’21


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