Perth. An Epic Ends

17 December 2016

It’s not even 0500 when I point Dreamer right out of the Railway Hotel’s yard and ride off into the pre-dawn. There’s light enough to see but the sun’s still a while away. Asphalt. Hardly inspiring stuff is asphalt. On the other hand it’s damned easy to ride. And so I ride. Into a headwind. Of course.

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The Road heading south from Mullewa, well before the sun starts to cook the landscape
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My route. The Last Leg

The country’s pretty. Low ranges along the horizon. Vast fields and paddocks, the shorn wheat stabbing yellow spears into a bright blue sky. Tiny insignificant dashes of green against the yellow and blue all that remain of the extensive woodlands and forests which dominated this area for countless millennium. Before white settlers white pastoralists white farmers white axes chainsaws and a lot of hard work.

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Farmland and rangeland. Transitioning from the arid outback not far to the north to the Mediterranean climes of Perth

I wonder as I plod against the relentless sou-wester whether if they knew then what they know now would they have left more of the forest and woodland. Each time a thin band of bushes and trees line the narrow strip of land between the asphalt and the inevitable fence the headwind drops and my speed noticeably picks up. It was the same in other areas of Australia shorn of it primal vegetation, like the Eyre Peninsular. How hard could it have been, how ‘costly’ in terms of loss of arable land would it really have been had they kept a hundred metre strip of vegetation along the road?

The land is still sparse and harsh. And hot. But it is clear I am transitioning from the arid outback to something more humane.

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Not a tree in sight. No wind break.

One hundred and thirty-eight kilometres later I roll into Three Springs. It’s not even three o’clock in the afternoon. It’s fucking hot. There’s free camping here in the town’s caravan park. The wind is howling, the sun fierce. I feel an overwhelming need to get out of the sun and the wind and chill, just a bit.

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Home for the night, though I do think about riding another twenty and wild camping

Nothing drives home how separated I, on my Epic, am to conventional normal life than arriving in small town Western Australia mid-afternoon on a Saturday. Nothing’s open. No food and supplies no cold drinks no tourist information no idea where the caravan park is no one to ask. Three Springs does not have many streets. I come across the little info sign with a caravan on it pointing along Hall St. Turn down it until I come to the community swimming pool, which is open. Hot as I am, need of a shade and cooling, as I am, desirous for a cold drink, as I am, a swimming pool may just tick all the boxes. Aside of having a small shop, swimming pools have showers. And a place to swim. Sounds like a winner.

The attendant suggests I bring Dreamer and Zi-Biddi into the pool enclosure where I place them under shade. A cold Coke-Zero before collapsing into the cool blue water. Despite the temperature floating around the early forties in the sun, the howling wind has a decidedly chilling effect. I have become too acclimatised to extreme high temperatures I realise. Whilst showering I rinse the sweat off today’s ride from my clothes and the chlorine from me. Hydrated and chilled, time to sort out accommodation.

The free camping area is right next to the swimming pool. A few sparse threes offering limited shade over dusty campsites, no facilities to get out of either the sun or the wind to, say, cook, and campsites targeting vaners. As a locality it’s great. There are toilets and showers available by paying a deposit and getting a key. I call the number but it is a Saturday and I leave a message on a person’s voicemail. No key. The attendant at the pool explains that the toilets at the recreational field which borders both the caravan park and swimming pool are always open. No shower though, but that’s no longer necessary.

The toilet block also provides shade and shelter from wind and sun. I could cook there. I also figure no-one’s gonna complain if I set Soulo up on the edge of the vast green expanse of lawn of the recreation area rather than the dust of the campsites. In an hour or so evening shall start and the sun will disappear taking most of the heat with it. I aim to start early tomorrow, so morning sun won’t be a problem either.

In the shade of the shelters at the swimming pool I stare over the caravan park and recreation area, chilled by the relentless wind despite the sun’s fierceness.

Fuck camping!

Fuck making dinner!

I’m on a mission.

I want L O T S of rich food and a decent night’s sleep with the chance of a quick getaway tomorrow.

Head down to the Commercial Hotel on the corner of Thomas Street and Railway Road. Wander into another time-warp-space-continuity-thing, like the Railway Hotel in Mullewa. Modernity and progress have not made it here. Yet. “What kind of accommodation do you have?” I ask. “You can have a unit for sixty dollars” I’m told, and offered a key to go check it out. Modern clean units out the back of the hotel with ensuite and fridge. A Deal!

Thirty-seven dollars for fried prawn entrée, a main of pasta and a large glass of shiraz.

Have a chat with the woman in the unit next to me before hitting the sack early. I’ve got a marathon tomorrow: one hundred and forty kilometres to Moora. Against them headwinds. Should I succeed, I shall be motoring along, making very good time. Should I succeed.

18 December 2016

Relentless day. Full on twenty-five to thirty-five knot headwinds. Looong ascents. Energy sapping morale destroying ascents. Any notion of one hundred and forty kilometres and a ride victorious into Moora evaporates as I grind up yet another four percenter in second gear.

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Sunrise through the dead trees bordering the dry swamp

The Brooks, at least, is fine.

No way to do the kilometres. I would eventually be ground to a halt along some random stretch of the road and collapse catatonic on the road and be ground into the asphalt along with all other road kill. Plan B. Skip Moora. Camp in Watheroo.

The plunge southward into the über-urban conurbation which radiates out from Perth pays an interesting dividend as I cycle through Carnamah at 0600. The local roadhouse is open. At 0600 on a Sunday!? Not sure what surprises me the most. That there is a roadhouse. That it’s open. That it’s open on a Sunday. Regardless, I can’t resist and pull in to enjoy a coffee and a chocolate muffin.

Coorow arrives sort of around lunch time enough for an eating stop. No idea how to pronounce it … Coorow, Co_orow, Coorow, how …? Fifty kilometres done so far. The woman in the roadhouse explains that “down the road, next left, there’s a park. And the shop should still be open”. Indeed the little shop is still open. Closes at 1130. I don’t find the park but I do find a patch of lawn on the grounds of the Country Women’s Association house under a massive eucalypt with extensive shade, a tap for water and toilets across the road at the municipality building.

I find the park as I head back towards the Midlands Road. It is opposite the little shop. Rode straight past it coz I was checking out the shop.

Back into it. A kool eighty kilometres to go. Oh Boy.

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A lake! A you-can-swim-in-me-lake. Only it’s hard riding into 30 kmh headwinds and I can’t afford the luxury of indulging

C*nt of a day. Sooo slooow. Pretty country. Would be nice to enjoy the ride rather than endure an endless endurance ultra-marathon. The hills are long, long looong inclines. Even going downhill I godda pedal courtesy of the joys of the headwinds.

Strength sapping. Relentless.

Just shy of Watheroo I simply have to stop and check out something which catches my eye. I can’t quite work out if the spindly structure supporting four bicycles which have seen much better days is a memorial to, a warning to, or honours cyclists and cycling. Should I be creeped out? Should I relax and feel welcome? With a certain trepidation … With a smile I ride on …

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Not sure this is a GOOD sign, as I approach Watheroo

One hundred and three kilometres into the day, mid-afternoon, I ride into Watheroo. Should I stay? Or I should I go? I’m knackered. The thought of painfully plodding along for another thirty kilometres to Moora, or until I simply can’t plod no more and wild camp is not an attractive one.

The wind is picking up. It’s actually getting stronger, the tall eucalypts bending and straining. Thirty more?

After a year and half riding around Australia I don’t think it unreasonable that I thought the Watheroo Station Tavern – a somewhat misleading name since it has camping, units and rooms – would be a station homestay kinda-place. Nope, it is not. It is, quite reasonably, named after the old Watheroo railway station buildings it occupies.

Shane, the owner, takes pity on me, gives me a good price for a unit. It’s immaculate, modern, air-conditioned. He tells me horror stories about the previous owner. Sort of an Outback version of Fawlty Towers. The juke-box in the corner was forbidden, if you didn’t’ turn off the lights after visiting the toilets no more beers (by law you have to have the lights on, apparently), when the owner’s favourite TV show came off punters were promptly turfed-out, fridges and cold-rooms were turned off at night resulting in no really chilled drinks available, the beer lines were never cleaned making a draught beer a bit of a dodgy drink, and no investment in the rooms means no one stays at the hotel. Unsurprisingly no one came to the pub. The previous owners simply walked out one day and never came back.

Shane got a call from the town council and offered a chance at the place.

Shane takes over B O O M … popular. The town desperately missed its focal point. It’s a nice place. I recommend it.

19 December 2016

What a difference a day makes. Going well. Headwinds continue but they are not so strong. The wide railway verge adds a decent windbreak too. It runs along the west side of the road. Large trees and thick bush dominate the verge. Great windbreak.

‘Wildflower’ farms dot the area. Not sure wildflowers remain wild when they are farmed. Isn’t farming and agriculture by its very nature the opposite of having to rely on something so fickle as a wild resource? Farmed wildflowers. Just don’t really go together.

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Can you farm ‘wild’ flowers? Surely they are no longer ‘wild’ if they are farmed

By midday-ish I’m riding past Lake Wannamal Nature Reserve. Australia’s astute transport planners thought to put a railway between the road and the lake. No lakeside picnic places or any other way for the hapless traveller to access the lake. I leave Dreamer in the shade of a tree and make my way through the railway reserve until I get a view. Water’s sweet, or at least not salty. No swim for me today, however, for I. Am. On. A. Mission.

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Yarra Yarra Lake. Sweet (-ish) water. But my Mission calls, and I continue

Too close too close. The gravity of the End of The Epic is too strong to resist. I’m being pulled inexorably south towards Perth.

So, I clamber back on Dreamer and ride on. After Wannamal the terrain is hilly, which hurts, but doable.

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The green of winter still here. In contrast to the north where the red-brown arid world is awaiting the green of the monsoon

One hundred and fifteen kilometres later I am confronted with a T-junction: The Great Northern Highway. New Norcia and Meekatharra one way. Bindoon and Perth the other. Turn right. Almost immediately opposite is the Scottalian Bindoon Hotel. A vision risen from the mirage of the Ride. Cool drink, warm bed, hot food. I ride in.

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The Great Northern Highway. Perth is now less than a day’s ride a way

I am mistaken. It is not a vision risen from the mirage of the Ride. The Scottalian Bindoon Hotel remains but a mirage. It’s open. The barman surprised to see me. All the rooms are being renovated. Tired of leg, tired of mind, but I must continue. I get a free beer for my sorrows. He recommends the Windmill Homestay along Gray Road in Bindoon.

The kilometre marker has a friendly ‘P’ on it with a helpful ‘85’ under it. P, I think, and try to work out which town it is. Can’t be Bindoon, coz Bindoon starts with a ‘B’. All the other Ps I know I know can’t apply. So which town is it that lies eighty-five kilometres away and begins with a P? Because, that’s a day’s ride. I’ll be in that town tomorrow … and the penny drops. P for Perth. Of course. P for Perth. If anything drives home to me the brutal reality that my Epic is rapidly drawing to an end it’s when the kilometre markings mark Perth and the number of kilometres is less than a day’s ride. I’ll be in Perth tomorrow. Fuck me!

It’s another fifteen kilometres including a tough taunt little twelve percenter at the start of Gray Road, before I roll into Windmill Homestay. It is the most expensive accommodation so far, at one hundred and twenty dollars for a vast room with ensuite bathroom. Breakfast’s included. And nice people.

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Windmill Homestay, Bindoon. The most expensive accommodation I’ve paid so far

Overall I managed three kilometres more per hour than yesterday. That’s thirty kilometres more over the ten hours I rode today. Temperature was mild, scenery pretty. Just a looong day.

Make a meal on the large table on the terrace, enjoy a couple of beers, hit the sack early.

It’s coming to an end. I’ll make Perth tomorrow but not actually end the Epic. Not officially. I stay with Will and Jen, two serial adventurers who I met crossing the Nullarbor for a couple of nights. Using various travel methods they keep themselves pretty busy. Check out their blog: https://wiljenblog.wordpress.com/.

I need this step-down approach to ending the Epic. I’m going to be on such a high once hitting Perth I can’t imagine my poor Pop and (Step)Mom quite coping. Think ping-pong ball multiplied by perpetual energy squared by celebratory spirit meets Little Old Couple in Stable Settled Quiet Life divided by Alzheimer’s. The proverbial Irresistible Force meets the Immovable Object.

I want to celebrate. A Big Fat Barbeque. Champagne. Real Champagne. AND Australian ‘sparkling’ wine. Prosecco. Beer. Spiritus. Music. And talk. Travel Trail Track Epic Adventure Talk. Am gonna be talking a million miles a minute. Hyper is the word. I’m gonna be hyper, and my poor Pop and Mom are just not gonna do it for the Boys.

Will and Jen on the other hand are perfect. Kids Grown and Gone, financially independent with no job to restrain them – they are not an Immovable Object. Serial adventures. I mean that. Check out their blog. Motorbikes. Motorbikes in India. 4WDriving. Cycling. Will’s the best BBQ cook I know (I’m personally not so good at the meat thing). Fantastic company. I am fully confident they’ll know how to handle me. I look forward to two days of travel and track debriefing before heading home to the more sedate world of Pop and Mom.

I’ll meet them in Kings Park overlooking Perth city. For the photo ops.

Fuck me, it is really coming to an end!

20 December 2016

Down Route 95 – The Great Northern Highway – towards Muchea. Past an almost continuous stream of glass and PET bottles, iced-coffee Tetra Packs, junk-food wrappings and bottles and incalculable amounts of random garbage. Past the ‘Roadtrains – Take Care When Overtaking’ sign. This one intrigues me. The Great Northern Highway eighty kilometres north of Perth is busy and hilly. There’s no shoulder in many places. Australian roads are between 3.3 – 3.5 meters wide, less than most other countries despite having the largest vehicles allowed without requiring special permits (http://www.driverknowledgetests.com/resources/road-widths/). And them large vehicles, roadtrains, themselves are 2.5 meters wide. That leaves a miserly one metre for me to share the road with a roadtrain. Pannier to pannier I must be just a bit less than a metre. You do the math.

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Bindoon to Burns Beach. Damned damned close …

So, if a roadtrain does not ‘Take Care When Overtaking’, I’m fucked. Add no shoulder, a headwind – means I don’t hear shit – and modern trucks can be amazingly quiet, and a truck can suddenly be there, right next to me with waaay less than a meter to spare.

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Never quite worked out whether this is to warn the motorist to take care overtaking a roadtrain. Or for the roadtrain to take care overtaking, say, a cyclist. Either way, I can attest that there is not a lot of ‘taking care’ overtaking me on the GNH

Normally the roadtrains are the least of my problems on the roads. Here, on this narrow winding busy excuse for a National Highway they are a major threat.

As per normal, the vast majority of cars, 4WDs, and vaners have no idea what ‘Take Care When Overtaking’ actually means. I’m used to them. It’s the roadtrains which are truly frightening.

After a vehicle overtakes me within arm’s length, I notice them deal with oncoming traffic by moving as far to the side of the road as possible, giving themselves meters of space. After all, I surmise, hitting another vehicle head on would be very bad for their health. Wouldn’t want that, now would we? But a human being on a bicycle is not accorded the same value. After all, should the 4WD run me over the driver shall escape unscathed. And in the Australian Road Rule Book – he/she who is bigger gets the road.

I’ll be happy to get to Muchea in a few kilometres and get off the highway.

Down the scarp onto the flats, through Muchea onto to Muchea South Road right on Neaves Road and head towards the coast. A handwritten sign suggesting coffee attracts me. Hit the Mother Load – it is an Italian enclave. I get superlative espresso and perfect cappuccino. The melodic sound of Italian reminds me of how much I miss Europe’s diversity. I’m peppered with questions, multitudes of photos are taken. Mario in particular is fascinated, dragging everyone else who turns up, and who are all Italian or of Italian descent and who all know everyone, into the discussion. Turns out he’s the owner and I get my caffeine fix for free! A wonderful interlude into my Ride.

I depart to the waves of a small army of Italians shouting encouragement.

Neaves Road turns into Joondalup Road. Joondalup is one of Perth’s most northern suburbs and abuts the Indian Ocean. My cunning plan is to ride down the coast, beach and ocean to the west, urban conurbation and The City to the east. When I hit Cottesloe Beach, turn east and ride into Perth centre and Kings Park, for that photo op, where Will and Jen shall meet me and transport me another eighty kilometres to their home in Mandurah. And my Epic debriefing. And champagne. And BBQ.

I am in the city now. Suburbia. I haven’t seen suburbia since Adelaide in October 2015. It’s a little overwhelming. Kilometres of roofs, for I cannot see the houses – all single-story bungalows – because they all, without fail, have a fence which reaches until just under the eaves. Roofs slant downwards until terminating just above a fence separating them from the neighbouring roof less than a meter or two apart which slants up peaks before slanting down until the next fence and the neighbour’s roof. Repeated for kilometres. Wide multilane arterial roads funnel traffic in an out of narrower roads which ultimately must end in capillaries deep in the spongy mass of them domestic alveoli where exhausted workers exit cars, enter houses, get refreshed before reversing the process.

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Joondalup suburb. I rode along Burns Beach Road, fascinated by the endless procession of roofs. Quite a contrast to the vast open plains which I’ve been riding through for months now

It’s quite awe inspiring and fascinating if a little intimidating. The contrast between this and the vast open plains of the Australian Outback is all but insurmountable. I simply can’t imagine myself living in such a place.

Burns Beach Road, and the terrain dips, coming off ancient sand dunes and heading towards the ocean.

There’s the ocean. A thin blue strip above the pale beige brown and light green of the suburbs.

Tears come to my eyes, I choke up. I have to put my hand to my mouth to contain huge diapirs of emotions rising from the mantle of my emotions that I didn’t even know where there.

It’s a truly disconcerting experience. I am, afterall, on a meter wide strip of asphalt separated from huge vehicles by twenty centimetres of paint. A Perthian cycle-path. There are traffic lights, junctions, side-roads, countless driveways all disgorging more huge vehicles into or out of the artery along which I ride. The last thing I need is to lose concentration to the emotional overkill of achieving an objective I didn’t quite realise was so important.

For five hundred and twenty four days I’ve lived a pretty unique life. Alone, mobile, transient, changing, the polar opposite of Stable Settled Secure, the polar opposite to the suburbs I’m riding through. Each day different from the next except for one thing: that today is different than yesterday and tomorrow shall be different again. The only constant in my life for the last five hundred and twenty-four days is change. And me taking part in it.

Past experience of Epics has driven home to me just how *change* takes me over. It is not a stress, per se, it is a fundamental function of existence. My Comfort Zone is infinite for the only constant in my Comfort Zone is change. There is some predictability to the change: I rode the Tanami Road every day for three weeks. But that’s about it.

Consequently all of my emotional, mental and physical energy goes into navigating my transition through this change. And then, suddenly, from one millisecond to the next it’s over. Bam! Epic? Done!

All that energy, all my emotions, my mental gymnastics and physical prowess all have to go somewhere. In seeing the Indian Ocean whilst riding through the sublime mundanity of Perth’s northern suburbs my Epic ended. I may be fifty kilometres from my father’s house in Glen Forrest, I may be planning two days with Will and Jen in Mandurah, but my Epic has ended. I have done it and my emotions are flooding out.

Joondalup Road becomes Burns Beach Road turn right on Ocean Parade and four hundred meters later pull up on the cycle path on the dunes overlooking Burns Beach opposite Burns Beach Café and Restaurant. And cry. Quietly perhaps, standing between Dreamer and Zi-Biddi on the cycle path and the low fence keeping people off the dunes to give me some space from random strangers passing by. But cry I do, the energy bleeding out of me.

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Dreamer & Zi-Biddi and the Indian Ocean. And the little strip of land where I relinquished control to pent up emotions I didn’t even know wanted to voice their own opinion. So I cried

Once my emotions have reached a new state of equilibrium I make my way over the Café, order a cappuccino sans cacao sprinkled on the top and a belegde broodje. I call Will to tell him where I am and we think I should arrive in Kings Park by 1400. Sixty-five kilometres so far today. Another forty odd to Perth. It’s ten-ish in the morning. Four hours for forty kilometres. Not including me sitting in the café.

I completely did not expect the cycle path along the coast to be so damned tough. It’s kilometres of very short very steep undulations winding through sand dunes. I can’t get any real momentum going coz there are other people using it. Each decline has to be controlled. Each incline is pure leg power. Combined with the headwind it’s exhausting.

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The coastal cycle path. 20 km to Perth centre, via the coast

It’s also phenomenally pretty. There’s plenty of low coastal heath, the terrain changing between rocky outcrops and cliffs and dunes keep it interesting and there are endless alluring views of huge wide white sandy beaches and the Indian Ocean. Random dead-ends, cul de sacs where the fine architects of the route placed an access path to a particular beach but also decided they did not need to put a sign telling anyone that’s what they’ve done: cycle path to the left, beach access to the right. I make the odd mistake, clumsily turn Dreamer and Zi-Biddi around, retrace my track and turn right.

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Endless white sand beaches, icons of Perth

There are also a few too many moments when cycle-path hits urbanization and gets … lost. No signs. I’ve no idea where I should go to pick up the continuity of the cycle path: Hilarys, Trigg, Scarborough. Fortunately at each of these moments a friendly cyclist turns up and guides me along complicated routes before delivering me back on the coastal cycle path.

From Burns Beach to Cottesloe is, according to my Garmin Montana 650T, something like forty kilometres. Another ten or so to Kings Park. On a ‘normal’ road that wouldn’t be an issue. Given the convoluted nature of the cycle path, that random beach goers and pedestrians keep my speed pretty low, the pervasive headwind added to my desire to enjoy the ride, look around, indulge rather than push, I can’t see myself making Cottesloe before heading to Kings Park for 1400.

City Beach turns up after thirty kilometres. Cafes and restaurants. Beautiful beach. Good access to Perth central and Kings Park. It’ll do.

A few Dreamer-Zi-Biddi snaps at the beach before heading to the Odyssey Beach Café for lunch. It’s really busy, pre-Christmas indulgence. Everyone seems so … well dressed. I’m, err, in Keen cycling sandals, Macpac shorts which are getting a bit ratty, a sweat stained and holed Kathmandu wool T-shirt, a huge helmet bedecked by a hi-viz sun protection covering, carrying an Ortlieb handlebar bag. They don’t blink an eye, but they do put me out back under the shade of a huge pine tree after they asked me “Is the terrace OK?”. “Sure, but I need shade”. And shade did I get.

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Me, Dreamer & Zi-Biddi at City Beach. Here for lunch before heading east to Perth centre
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City Beach

It’s expensive but I don’t give a fuck. I eat, share some small talk with a couple of women to my right, and enjoy the view over the beach and the ocean.

Now godda somehow find my way into Perth central, riding with inner city Perth traffic. Should be fun. According to the map it should all be fairly straightforward.

Head down Oceanic Drive. I’ve forgotten just how hilly it is as I ride over more ancient dune systems now safely buried under concrete, brick and asphalt.

Rob, a lawn-mower man sees me coming and steps out to have a chat. I get the usual questions. He’s clearly impressed, even more so when I tell him today my Epic pretty much ends. Reaches into his pocket and gives me twenty dollars. Surprised I tell him “You don’t have to do that” to which he replies “I know I don’t have to do that. I want to do it. It’s an amazing fucking trip you’ve done Mate”. Thanks Rob. Love Australians.

A moment later I get my first sight of the (in)famous Perth skyline. A short while after that Garmin gently guides me through the small streets of Subiaco before I hit Thomas St. On the other side starts Kings Park. Damned close now, damned damned close.

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First glimpse of Perth’s CBD

Cross at the lights at the junction with Kings Park Rd and find some trail that leads me to The Monument which overlooks Perth. And, one hundred and ten kilometres after I started in Bindoon and some thirteen thousand kilometres and five hundred and twenty-four days after I began, I am here! I have done it!

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Me Dreamer Zi-Biddi and the whole Dream-Ride-Thing, near The Monument in Kings Park, Fuck I feel good
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Perth. A long time no see

Not quite closed the loop, the thirty kilometres to Glen Forrest, but for me this is It! Done.

Will laughs when I tell him where I am. He’s been here an hour already (I am late) and positioned himself where he can look along Fraser Ave, the main access road into Kings Park hoping to get that action shot as I ride in.

I’m overjoyed to see him. He’s getting used to the hugs.

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Will and I, Perth in the background. So happy Will could meet me

Perth from Kings Park is quite a vista. A great place to begin and/or end an Epic. The Swan River wide before me, the Central Business District skyline dominating, and dominated by resources companies – Rio Tinto, Woodside, BHP Billiton, CBH – the Darling Scarp in the background. The sky endless and blue overhead. Perfect.

Will’s a perfect accompaniment to my euphoria, letting me revel and enjoy. He’s a traveller. He knows. My face giddy with grins and the WoW! factor. The initial emotional shock may have worn off but I’m still miles high, skipping at light speed across the fabric of reality as it flaps in the celestial wind. I’m lovin’ it.

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Fuck I’m happy

Lots of photos later, a chat or two with other travellers and we make our way to where he’s parked his Landcruiser and trailer. A cold beer finds its way into my hand as we load Dreamer and Zi-Biddi.

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WIll, aware of just what a Dreamer and a Zi-Biddi means, came well prepared

The freeway buzzes past as we head to Mandurah. So fast so fast. Cars are amazing. As is are the roofs and the suburbs.

I’m glad I’m with Will and Jen. They have an idea what it’s like to do an Epic. Since they don’t work I can indulg in a celebratory moment, or two, too many beers, bottles of champagne, superlative BBQ, shots of black Sambuca and I’m not quite sure what else.

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Champagne with Wil and Jen. Hard to keep the smile of my face. I may have drunk a bit too much this night

Very, very happy to be here.

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That’s a weight I’ve not had for quite a while 😉

22 December 2016

After a couple of days of chilling with Will and Jen I load Dreamer and Zi-Biddi onto the Mandurah line of Perth’s rail network and make my way to central station. Negotiating Dreamer and Zi-Biddi from the platform to the street involves two too small elevators. I wait until no other person wants the lift, jam the doors open, unhitch Zi-Biddi, man-handle all of it into the lift and reverse the process one story later.

Re-loaded I make my way along William St over the railway and into Northbridge. I’m looking for Tak Chee Restaurant to meet Ivy, an old friend from University back in the 80s and enjoy Hainanese Chicken Rice. In the 80s I was a manic cyclist battling the stupefaction of Perth drivers and their inability to grasp who and what a cyclist is on a road. It was little short of war and back then I was fully into fighting it, Ride Warrior against my eternal foe Evil Traffic.

As I ride over the railway viaduct I conclude that whilst still not particularly good, Perth traffic has improved a lot. Until, that is, a black Porsche Panamera blows their horn behind me before pulling along side shouting “Get off the road!”. I look at the guy and can’t quite get out of my head the image of his neck, face and head looking exactly like a penis. “I’m sorry you are such a bad driver you need all the road for yourself” I lament calmly. He sputters and spits “I, me … a bad … I’m NOT a bad driver” “It must be hard being afraid of a bicycle. All you need to conquer your fear is … ride a bike” I suggest to him. He starts to call me every bad word the Australian language knows. Apparently that makes him the Good Guy.

Then the lights change and he shows me just how good a driver he is by flooring the Panamera, causing the Porsche’s ass to swing a bit before having to slam on the brakes for the next set of lights.

I’m the first person in Tak Chee. Ivy turns up. Ivy’s a Chinese national from Malaysia who’s been living in Australia far longer than I ever have. She’s more Australian than I am. Since she is of Chinese descent AND from Malaysia, she knows the best restaurants where I can get my two most favourite meals: Hainanese Chicken Rice and Nasi Lemak. Great to enjoy these moments with Ivy.

Now, meal eaten, it is TIME. Time to ride the last section, the very last thirty kilometres to close the loop between the 16th July 2015 and today, the 22nd December 2016. And the official, formal end to my Epic.

It’s a straight forward ride. Follow the cycle path along the railway line connecting Perth city to Midland, weave through Midland itself along Clayton Street, under the Roe Highway viaduct left onto Rason Parade which seamlessly becomes Purton Place for all of two hundred meters before seamlessly becoming Miller Street. And where Purton Place becomes Miller Street turn right onto the Railway Reserves Heritage Trail which follows the route of the old Eastern Railway into the hills.

It’s a great trail. Gravel, with some joyful bits of Western Australia’s infamous pebble gravel, it keeps me away from the unenviable joy of riding up the Great Eastern Highway with its absolute lack of a shoulder, high concrete curb, heavy goods vehicles grinding their way up and the usual ‘Cautious When Overtaking’ traffic.

I am totally familiar with gravel roads. I grind up the Heritage Trail through various hills suburbs. When I get to Darlington I know I am less than three thousand metres from ‘home’. Then I’m in Glen Forrest. Turn right on Birkinshaw and make my home? Or first turn left, visit Glen Forrest Liquor Store and get some champagne?

No brainer. Turn left.

Glen Forrest Liquor Store sits atop a steep driveway. The parking bays slope dangerously. There are no cars in the drive-through so I park Dreamer on the apron and enter the shop.

Even though there’s no cars in sight and I am a legitimate ‘drive-through’ customer I’m told I “… can’t park yer bike there”. Well, fuck you, I can and I have and I ain’t moving it. Fuck the cars.

I am still in my exulted euphoria mode and nothing, not even these myopic blinkered twats are gonna put a stop to it.

Two bottle of champagne later I roll down the hill, back onto Birkinshaw and up towards Tillbrook, up the gravel laneway to the back lane and finally the gate to my parent’s property.

Here I pause for a moment, take a photo. For once I open the gate and roll down their garden and into the shade of their veranda, my Epic officially ends.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Baz’ back gate. I have made it. The Epic is over

And so it ends.

 

Max

Glen Forrest, 22 December 2016. My Epic Done!

 

[Post script: my Epic has ended. I still don’t know what comes next. But something shall. Cycloaustralis shall continue, though not so much about a cycling Epic around Australia. Keep with me and let’s see where it goes]

4 thoughts on “Perth. An Epic Ends

  1. Max,

    What a fantastic read, this post was definitely worth the wait. Obviously I enjoyed the wonderful “plugs” you gave Jenny & I.
    I found the whole blog post very descriptive & interesting, your emotions really come through in your writing.
    Thanks for allowing us to share in the end of your amazing cycling adventure around Oz.
    I glad you are going to keep posting on Cycloaustralis while the next phase of your journey continues. Jenny & I’ll both be following your next exploits closely.
    See you on Monday mate, I’m looking forward to discussing the next chapter of your Epic & maybe our paths will once again intersect during it…I hope so !

    As the famous lyrics in the AC/DC song says “I’m gonna Ride On, Ride On”….
    Actually I think “Ride On” is probably your latest “Theme Song” I’m sure you know it but haven’t heard it in at least 30 years…Have a listen, it will give you a smile.

    Will & Jenny.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. A fantastic read, an incredible journey, congratulations Max!

    Now where’s the epilogue? What happened after you went through those gates? And the days following? Can’t get my head around how you can adjust mentally and physically after your trip.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Angela

    Like

    1. Hi Angela. Thanks. Epic endings tend to have a nasty sting to their tail.
      Although the riding is over, my ‘trip’ still has a good six months to go.
      A cushion before reality really takes over.
      Am curious myself how I’m going to adjust back to ‘real’ life.
      I’ll keep you informed.
      Cheers … M

      Like

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