IP Day 9 – Balladonia to Caiguna 

Monday 28th March, 2022
182km, +164m
9:00 moving, 11:52 elapsed. avg 20.2km/h, max 35.6

Strava description: Hours of agony. Cold headwind all day. Don’t remember getting to coast at any time.
(RIP Marc’s Lezyne – the Garmin better behave!)

We managed to leave at 5.09am (about 20 minutes before first light.) Marc went to turn his Lezyne on, and it wouldn’t power up – and it had that ‘brown’ smell you get when electronics have fried. Bin time. That was a bummer. While I was looking after the navigation aspect with the Garmin Edge 1000 (not that there’s terribly much ‘navigation’ across the Eyre Highway), the Captain mainly used his GPS for current speed, gradient etc, to help make gearing choices. What can you do in the middle of the Nullarbor?

An hour and a half to do the 34km to the start of the Ninety Mile Straight. It was a fine misty rain when we started out – Marc in particular (being at the front) got wet, cold feet. It would have been a good idea to have started out with toe covers – something to remember for future mornings.

“Ready, and Smile!”
“I’ll take another one to be sure.”

Tracey: Yeah nah.

Look, there’s not a lot else to say. Just an all-day slug. I was getting more used to using the radio, and settling on what to say (“Eastbound, eastbound, we’re a cyclist up ahead, do you copy?” – and then go from there based on the response. Sometimes you’d get a “Yep, gotcha, no worries.” Sometimes you’d get nothing and so I’d just throw out a “We’re on the shoulder, any room you can give us would be appreciated.” And then a “Thank you! Have a good day!” if they did give us space. If there was oncoming traffic, it was then up to Marc to figure out our timing (I was pretty bad at that)… and if necessary we’d bail. (“Oncoming, we’re getting off.”) In places, the drop-off from the bitumen to the dirt was a bit severe, so for the tandem Captain, planning ahead was crucial. It did freak me out a bit. (A lot.)

Straight.

I used the wikicamps app to choose the best options for rest stops.

Looking back at our speed throughout the day it was the second half that was the real killer – after the 90k mark, we were rarely getting above 20kph. For much of the first half of the day there were trees sheltering us a bit from the wind coming from the right front, but then (approaching that 90k mark) they gradually got lower and lower and then disappeared altogether, so we were copping the full brunt of the wind. There wasn’t really any escaping the wind in the rest areas either.

The elevation wasn’t as flat as you might expect – (or as downhill as it looked on the MAProgress elevation. It was still undulating in parts, but as I summarised on Strava, the wind took away any slight bonus we might have gotten from the slight downhills. It was pedal, pedal, pedal the whole way.

We did have a couple of distractions. Twice along the straight we had an overtaking car slow up and drive alongside, straddled across the dotted line, passenger side window wound down, just so they could have a chat. A kind of “holy dooley guys, where have you ridden from, where are you going, do you need any water or anything?!….” It was kind of cool because they were so friendly, but also a bit disconcerting. I had my eye in the mirror the whole time, and with one of them I had to say “guys, guys, car behind you!!!!”.

We had had a bit of a change in the weather too – it really didn’t get over 20 degrees all day. One day you’re bloody hot, the next you’re cold! Gah! It made it hard to know how much water to carry. Norseman to Balladonia, we only just made it with the water we were carrying, so we ended up with too much on what turned out to be the cooler days.

Anyway, we made it – nearly 12 hours after leaving Balladonia. Caiguna Roadhouse is just at the end of the straight, so once you see the ‘Ninety Mile Straight” sign on the other side of the road you know you’re there – we didn’t bother stopping.

We did pull in about 5km back up the road just to say we’d seen the Caiguna Blowhole, but it was pretty unimpressive.

Caiguna Roadhouse offered some kitsch.

The motel rooms were old and a bit ‘quaint’, with tiled flooring that was actually a bit damp the whole time. But it was a bed, and boy did I need a bed.

Over our meal in the roadhouse, we got talking to a couple of women mining engineers who were staying there. (Talking further with one of them in the morning we discovered that she grew up in the same area of Sydney as me, and in fact, through Uni (maybe?) knew a couple of girls that I occasionally played with in the street behind my house. Small world.

The wind forecast for the next few days was… not great. Those headwinds were not gonna let up.

We decided to break it up, and have a short day tomorrow – only 66km to Cocklebiddy, with then ‘just’ a 90km hop to Madura the followingday. No luck getting on to Cocklebiddy Roadhouse to book accommodation – hopefully I could get hold of them in the morning.

It was … straight.

3 thoughts on “IP Day 9 – Balladonia to Caiguna 

  1. Julie

    Continue to enjoy and get value from the read. I look forward to each instalment :). Wondering how much an impediment your substantial frame bags were/ are in windy conditions?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Marc

    The frame bags were much, much better in a headwind than, say, panniers which really are the alternative. On a tandem you can only run one seat bag on the stoker seat, so given we had to carry gear for two of us on the one bike, we needed to use all the available frame space.

    Captain’s aero bars also made the headwind better than it would have been otherwise. Struggling to keep it at around 20 km/h into a quite strong headwind is actually going alright I reckon. I haven’t checked but our roadspeed into a headwind probably wasn’t that much different to the single bikes on the ride. Uphill is a different story!
    Cross winds do affect the bike. Then again the bike is pretty heavy with 2 of us on board – so although noticeable I didn’t find it *that* bad.
    Another thing about the wind is that I noticed oncoming truck drafts were only really bad (requiring crouching and bracing) if the wind was from our right front quarter, 12 o’clock to about 3 o’clock. Anywhere from behind the oncoming truck’s wake had negligible on us. Also from 9 o’clock towards 12 no issue either. That said trucks going the same way as us had a big wash into us if the wind was from 3 to about 6 o’clock.
    So the ideal is a tailwind slightly from the left. 🙂

    Like

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