Despite a luxurious 8 hours of sleep on Saturday night (and the bonus two hours I got on Saturday afternoon) I was in no way ready for the 4am wake-up call on Sunday morning. The subdued elation I felt at having completed my first SS1600k was further tempered by the knowledge that having ‘finished’, I had to now get back on the bike and do another 800kms to return home. *sigh*

It was time to pony up, start heading south, and get some good Butt Lite IX practice in. It was nice to see some IBA faces around the car park as we left. Ox came past to say farewell and we gave Frans a wave as we pulled out of the hotel parking lot. Dalby was pumping on Sunday morning with all the contractors out doing some major roadworks but we made our way through the traffic, past the local bobby on point duty and out to the Newell Highway. The ride to breakfast was uneventful. A few stray roos but they were all quite small and stayed out of our way. There were some seriously big cotton trucks on the way into Moonee and we passed some other crazy riders (not the IBA kind) who then overtook us when we paused for me to take my brace off.

The bike looks so small next to the trucks!!

Next stop was Goondiwindi for brekkie and I was seriously ready for it. The sun was up, my tummy was rumbling and the local bakery looked like the place to be! We stopped and were treated to some delicious B&E rolls and surprisingly good coffee as well as a few locals looking a bit dusty after the previous day’s picnic races! Life was beautiful!

We fuelled up at the local servo and Kiwi went looking for the loos. It turned out a few hangovers weren’t the only results of the picnic races – the cashier informed us that someone in their inebriated wisdom must have thought it would be fun to shove a few toilet rolls down the bog… The toilet stop was going to have to wait!

I don’t know about Kiwi but I was feeling a lot more relaxed now the only deadline we had was getting back to work on Monday. Sure, I wanted to be home sooner rather than later, but it changes the ride completely when you know that if you want or need to stop at any time it’s not a big deal.

We crossed our first state border for the day and received the compulsory ‘biosecurity warning’ about carrying cane toads with us…

We went through Boggabilla, Moree, Narrabri (where we paused for a snack and a drink) and a few other spots along the open road before hitting our first roadworks…

… then came the hardest right-hand turn we made all day. Kiwi’s favourite road in Australia is the Oxley Highway, but it runs east out to the coast from Coonabarabran, rather than south-west towards Canberra. So we trundled on a bit further down the Newell and past the astronomy capital of Australia then turned off onto Mendooran Rd, cutting the corner to Wellington and avoiding Dubbo.

That was a great plan as far as Mendooran. We took some time out in the shade, refilled the camelback, ate some milk bottles and teeth and kept going – Google was telling us to be on the lookout for Cobbora Rd. We found it, made our turn and then about 5kms in it turned to dirt. Kiwi is well known for his ability to find dirt roads and this trip had so far been a bit of a disappointment in that respect. Kiwi asked if I was happy to keep going and figuring there couldn’t be that much dirt I said sure, of course, what could possibly go wrong??

This is the only photo. What started as a reasonable dirt road with a few floodways became gravel after about 4kms, and then rocks after 6kms. I wasn’t going to risk wriggling around on the back trying to take photos. The problem was we didn’t know how far ahead it would turn back to sealed road… We didn’t want to turn around and head back if there was only couple more kms of dirt ahead – it would be a much longer trip on the ‘proper roads’ – but at the same time AME is not a dirt bike – and I could tell Kiwi was working hard to keep the bike under control. At one point we passed a couple in a car who looked as lost as we were and just as surprised to find someone else as clearly unprepared for the road. Google clearly has a lot to answer for.

Finally, after 20kms of very rough riding, we came out the other side. We both let out the breath we’d been holding for the past 45 minutes – we’d made it without overheating the engine, dropping the bike, or getting a flat tyre!!!! Woo hoo!!!

We stopped to regroup, then it was back on the road and next stop Wellington for fuel and for me, a loo break including wetting my undershirt to try to keep cool. Thankfully it was a dry heat, but even so 35 degrees is pretty warm when you’re not getting the airflow from the front of the bike. From here we were on the home run to Canberra – via Cudal, Canowindra, Cowra and Yass…

We stopped in Cowra for a final leg stretch and snack and now I was feeling fatigue of a different kind – not so much sleepy but definitely lethargic. And my legs were feeling pretty heavy – the compression socks had been working hard all weekend but the lack of movement was definitely making for some swollen calves. I decided the way to deal with this was by finding somewhere I could lie down and lean my legs on something up in the air. IT WAS AWESOME!!!!

Then home time! The rest of the trip was spent with me squealing into Kiwi’s ear every 15 minutes as we went past a field with baby lambs in it. Kiwi insisted they were ‘out of season’ and even more cruelly refused to slow down so that I could take photos of them, pat them, and take them home to hang out with me and Hettie! They were only small! There was space on the bike!!! We have lawn and our lawnmower is broken at the moment – what’s not to love???

Anyway, I made him pay by squealing constantly in his ear and then he paid me back by getting St Elmo’s Fire stuck in my head for the rest of the afternoon!

The rest of the ride home as the sun set was divine. Yeah, my ass hurt more than I thought was possible. Yeah, I was hot and sweaty and helmet hair felt like it was going to become a permanent state of being. Yeah, the last two hours of any trip are the always the hardest. But the roads were smooth, the sky was clear, and the sights were beautiful.

The other advantage of having a pillion? She can order take away from the back of the bike for delivery on arrival at home. Thai food here we come!!!

We were welcomed home by a very excited puppy dog and I finally felt like we’d done it! I didn’t just get there, I got home again, and after three pretty big days on the bike I figure Butt Lite can only be three or four times as hard as that right??? Lisa?? Bart?? Help me out here!

So what did I learn?

  1. Be patient – taking a few extra minutes right now will probably save time!
  2. Wear the padded bicycle shorts on top of leggings, not underneath – the seams are not designed for a motorcycle seat
  3. Don’t start down a dirt road on a road bike if you don’t know how long the dirt goes for – it ended well for us this time, but it could just as easily have ended really badly (like the buckled rim we got doing the Far Ride but much worse)
  4. Not drinking alcohol in the lead up definitely helps with fatigue – and having a reason not to drink makes it much easier to resist a glass of wine at the end of a long day
  5. We work pretty well together as a team – I still have to learn that not everything Kiwi says out loud is directed at me but we didn’t get cross or cranky with each other. And despite different schedules for bodily functions, we managed to make our stops work well.
  6. I deal better with a schedule that has a shower at the end of the day and then getting myself ready that night – I can relax faster, sleep better, and there’s less risk I’ll leave something behind. Rushing in the morning doesn’t work for me.
  7. I can do it and while I wouldn’t exactly say it was fun, it is rewarding knowing that I can do it!

After 2700 and something kms we’re home, safe and with a good 10 hours of sleep ahead before work starts again on Monday.

I can only say again how grateful I am that I have a wonderful man, Kiwi, to share these adventures with! It was a pretty special way to spend a weekend together. Other thanks have to go to Lara – our magnificent dog sitter – who took great care of Hettie, sent regular ‘proof of life’ photos and whom Hettie clearly loves. And of course to everyone who helped along the way – with encouragement, kind words and hugs!

More adventures to come!!

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