22nd September 2015
Traces of Wombat dot the road leading from Fowlers back to the Eyre Highway. Plenty seem to be around, but I’ve yet to see one alive.
After 32 km of gravel and asphalt we ride once again on the Eyre Highway.
There are no shoulders to the Eyre Highway in South Australia, unlike in Western Australia. A decimetre high dune of loose gravel parallels the asphalt, providing any hapless rider a terrifying experience in balance and control should they have to leave the asphalt to avoid various grades of Large Metal Objects squishing them.
We only do this if a road-train comes from behind whilst another vehicle approaches from the front.
Roadtrains are not the most nimble of monsters and whilst they endeavour to give us as much room as possible, oncoming traffic means they can’t give us a wide berth.
Consequently we slow to a snail’s pace and challenge the gravel-dune. For cars and vaners however we expect them to slow down and wait until it’s safe enough for us, them and what’s approaching before overtaking them. For them it’s a matter of brake, gears and judicious use of an accelerator. Hardly demanding. 99.9% of vaners duly do this. But there’s 0.01% who do not.
One vaner clearly does not want us on the road and totally expects us to mysteriously dematerialise as he (it’s almost invariably a ‘he’) approaches from behind on small rise which prevents us from knowing if anything is coming. To encourage him to consider our welfare we ride a bit further into the road. The logic being that they will have to either slow down and wait, overtake properly or simply run us over.
This particular vaner is very much not impressed by having to give two vulnerable and exposed human beings any due consideration but is forced to slow down. When he passes he gives us less than a meter’s space. We could reach out and touch the van if we wanted. As he passes he leans on his horn to vent his frustration at our presence. We swear and curse and raise fingers but are otherwise impotent to do anything about it.
Later as we approach Penong along a long slow incline within the town’s limits a huge three-trailered heavy-mineral sands concentrate roadtrain starts down the hill towards us whilst a vaner approaches from behind. And the fucker insists on overtaking us, taking on not only us but also the roadtrain. The trucker has to back-off, we are forced onto the very last bit of asphalt as the vaner passes but centimetres from us before wobbling back into the lane swerving the van right in front of and juuust missing Rob. The trucker has his hands raised in bewilderment and anger. I note the registration number of the van. Not only was it utterly stupid what the vaner did, it was also extremely dangerous. We note the van does not stop in Penong.
Just as we get into Penong the first van makes a desperate bid for freedom. Rob, who’s ahead of me, pursues him yelling and screaming for him to stop.
Beyond angry I go to the local police station where Ashley, the local copper, dutifully notes my story, the registration number of the van and promises to call Ceduna where all vehicles must stop. Since no damage has been done, no accident caused and no ‘proof’ such as video footage of the incident there’s nothing the police can actually do but ‘talk’ to the vaner.
I conclude that sometimes it’s good vaners are natural-born cowards safe behind the wheel of a combined 6000-7000 kgs of machine+van secure in the knowledge of single-button all-door locking protected by 4WD and four wheel ABS disc-braked seat-belt secured ergonomic arm-chaired multiple air-bag safety coz I’m not sure I’d be particularly civil if one did stop to discuss the merits of crushing cyclists to death just so they don’t have to gear down on our behalf.