IP Day 51 – Sylvania to the Opera House

Sunday 15th May, 2022

65.4km +616m
Moving 3:23 Elapsed 6:01
Max 51 kph Avg 19.3 kph

We left the motel at 8.25; Malcolm and Roger met us only a few hundred metres down the road! They had each had a pretty early start from their respective homes to get all this way already!

We pulled up at the cafe that was very handily located, on the route, only 2 km along. Hugs all round and a lot to talk about over coffee and food. They suggested morning tea at Rhodes – about 40km on. Sounded good to us! Today was all about enjoying the final ride in, and not finishing off – and spending time with family – feeling totally shattered.

We headed over the Captain Cook Bridge, and along the shared path through Brighton-le-Sands – along the edge of Botany Bay. This was all familiar – we’d ridden this way a handful of times.

We joined the shared path alongside Cooks River – well, at first it’s Cook Path Trail, and then the Cooks River Cycleway.
Just after we’d crossed the Princes Highway (yep, there’s that Princes Highway again!) up pops a dotwatcher! It was Unkle Erik (the dotwatcher who liked gauging stations and hydrography in general). He usually greets the riders as they come through Sylvania, but he had missed us last night. We missed the opportunity to get a pic with him and his wife – but he took photos of us.

A little bit further along, through Earlwood, we heard the sound of cowbells. Malcolm actually lives along here – and his wife and daughter, Sam and Keira, were out waiting for us.

Sam keeping her distance as she was just getting over covid.

Further along, we were joined by another NSW Big Rides tandem alumnus, Geoff – out on his single bike today to ride with us for a bit. (He actually does more paddling than pedalling these days).

I was pretty relieved I didn’t have to worry about the navigation – although I did keep a bit of an eye on it. All we had to do was follow Malcolm!

We got to Rhodes, and more coffee, and food, at 11.40. 38km. There was no point getting into the city until the Half Marathon was all done and dusted. Messages were flying back and forth with my sister and our girls, estimating our arrival time so that they could time their travel into the city.

We crossed the Parramatta River, detoured to find a loo, then had to take a detour off the route and onto some back streets to avoid a community market that was blocking the route through a park.

Then we had a bit of a crazy section. It might have looked like we just had to ride straight along Cressy Road for a couple of kilometres, but Cressy Road isn’t continuous! Here’s where a local guide is absolutely worth their weight in gold! There are a couple of places where you have to take a track – check this one out that I’ve taken some Streetview screenshots of:

This is looking back the way we had to come – down the hill, around the roundabout, and onto this path behind the guard rail! Extra degree of difficulty on a tandem!
Along between the guard rail and fence, then a sharp turn up the hill. Again, extra fun on a tandem!
And it’s the high road, not the low road!

Up and over that track, onto the road, up a hill, then onto a dirt track that went up some more! (I called for a breather at this point!) (Dirt track disproving the claim that the whole IPWR route is sealed!)

Eventually, Cressy Rd joined Pittwater Road (and local knowledge of when to join the bike path on the other side of the road was invaluable!) Said bike path then did a hairpin turn to run alongside Epping Rd and M2. To be honest, by then, I only half knew where I was, even though I had grown up in this area. Much has changed – there wasn’t the M2 back then, and there certainly wasn’t a dedicated cycleway.

We rode along this cycleway for about 8km. We had a couple of side roads to cross along the Lane Cove section of Epping Rd. Then it got more like a serious cycleway, swooping under the Pacific Highway and a few other crossroads, and then alongside and under the Gore Hill Freeway (M1) a few times. Then up a spiral ramp onto an overpass and the next thing we were riding up an on-ramp and then a link road (that still felt like an on or off-ramp!) on a painted green bike lane. This route has had everything.

Back onto residential streets! Again, cannot emphasise enough how glad I was that I didn’t have to navigate all this! I did what I could while riding, to update the fam – trying at one point to share my google maps location with one of the girls – at least it would give an ongoing update vs the 10-minute pings of the Spot on MAProgress.

I was, again, kind of familiar with the streets of North Sydney and Milson’s Point. I was about to say not from riding, though, but then I remembered that we had actually ridden across the bridge, south to north, on the Newcastle Overnight ride! Several years ago, that was!

We got to the infamous steps. Hopefully, soon all the lobbying, design and planning will come to fruition.

Someone offered to help push the tandem up. Nah, we got this! This is a Marc and Tracey job. Always is, with the tandem.

I might have rolled my eyes more than once at this circuitous tour of Sydney the route takes, but I have to admit that it’s pretty special coming in over the harbour on one of Sydney’s icons – headed for the other. My eyes may have got a bit watery at this point. I don’t know about him, but he did reach back to squeeze my hand for a short bit.

Then he asked me to fish out his phone from his back pocket, open the camera app and pass it to him. We got a mixture of videos and stills. The stills will do.

The south side has a ramp that you can ride down. Right turn, and down to the water, doing a loop around under the bridge at Dawes Point, right under the pylon, (taking the scenic route here, no shortcuts!) Through The Rocks (the pubs were tempting!) Around the back of Circular Quay station. One last pinch – up Albert Street. A left into Macquarie, and then coasting down to the Opera House forecourt.

*I was drafting this post as the 14th rider for 2023 rode in, and now (as I try to finish it off a week later!) two more have completed their Indipac. Finishing off our account of our ride at the same time as dot-watching the field of 2023 has kind of intensified the emotions as I remember our last day. No. 14, Dale, (his second time, no less!) did it one month and one day quicker than us. There is now one more out there, and he’s now only one day behind where we were at the same day – so you can bet I feel an extra affinity with him! I hope he continues and gets to feel the elation that we did on this day, riding over the Bridge, and rolling into the Opera House.

Everything that followed was a bit of a blur. My first thought was reaching out to hug our precious girls. Then trying to find my sister (who was hanging back taking photos!).

My parents were there, looking like Ma and Pa Kettle – sadly we could see the progress of the dementia in the two months we’d been away. Neil, my sister’s husband, had had to go find them as they got off the train. Mum clearly didn’t fully grasp what we’d gone through: “But did you enjoy it?” Too soon, Mum, too soon. Marc propped the tandem at the foot of the Opera House steps, but Dad managed to knock it over while he was ‘looking’ at it. (sigh!)

There was Gail, a former colleague of Marc’s, who had become addicted to the dotwatching after Mic told her about it. She came down from the Central Coast just to be there at the finish – handing us each a bottle of orange juice as ‘closure’ to a 30-odd year old ‘joke’. (I thought it was funny.)

Marc’s then colleague, Nick, based in Sydney, arrived, with a gift bag of beer, wine, and a trophy he’d had labelled with ‘IPWR 1st Place Tandem’ or something like that. This thoroughly confused my Dad who apparently assumed it was an official presentation; we couldn’t manage to explain to him (with his memory being shot) that Indipac was a kind of under-the-radar event, and it’s best that way.

There was Roger’s son, Richard, who had ridden in (whether to just ride home with his dad, or to say g’day to us I’m not sure!) And Mark D, aka Rotovelo across Australia, also a dotwatcher, who rides a velomobile. …… and who set out on Indipac 2023.

With the tandem too heavy and cumbersome to risk the traditional front-wheel dip into the harbour off the stairs, we loitered around the Opera House forecourt for a while but eventually said our thank yous and goodbyes to everyone. We couldn’t thank Malcolm and Roger enough for having spent their whole day with us, and taking the stress out of the navigation. We are very lucky to have dot-watching, cycling friends share our last day! Malcolm messaged us later to tell us he got lost going home! Just as well he saved all the navigation for us!

We then headed, as planned, to the Opera House Bar with the relos.

Marc and I first headed down to our van that Lisa and Neil had left parked down in the Opera House car park. We had left a bag of clothes and stuff in it, and I had also asked Lisa to throw in the smaller (baboushka’d) suitcase we’d sent back from Fremantle. (She even washed those clothes for us xx.) She had been expecting us to be needing to pull apart the tandem to pack into the big cases again. No need for that! This is one of the reasons we keep the van – the tandem rolls in the back and we tie it down!

We scrabbled around to find clothes that actually fit! The pants we had been wearing before we left just about fell off us. It had felt like we’d lost a few kilos between us, and here was the proof. Then we scrabbled around for a bit trying to find the cord we’d thrown in for tying the tandem down! After a bit of a panic (it was two long months ago that we’d left home – did we actually pack them?!) we finally found them under Alison and Zoe’s bags!

After an awkward clothes change, and then tandem-tying-down, we made our way up to the Opera House Bar to the others. Hot chips and beer went down a treat. We then left Lisa and Neil with the task of accompanying Mum and Dad home on the train. With the girls booked on an evening flight back to Brisbane, we had booked a motel not too far from the airport at Coogee Beach. We had dinner with them at a local Italian restaurant (the best lasagna I’ve ever had!) and then dropped them at the airport. We didn’t get to see them for long, but words cannot express how awesome it was.

We would be staying in Sydney for a few more days before heading home. Postscript to come – but IPWR 2022? We did it!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s