Day 2 - Tuesday, 9th June 2009 - Aileron to Wycliffe Well

Yesterday afternoon, I took a quick wander around Aileron. They have two large sculptures of an Aboriginal Male, with spear representing a hunter, and an Aboriginal Female and Child representing the gatherer side of their culture. They are very good, and later in the night we were talking to one of the owners, and the Male cost about $120,000 and the Female about $60,000. It is a lot of money to spend on a tourist attraction which isn't going to have a good return on investment quickly. The owners are very proud of their truck stop and are trying to make sure that they have more to offer than other places in the area. They aim to keep the place as neat and tidy as possible and they are a very friendly group of people. On a road like this, having an attitude and reputation like that probably makes a lot of difference in the long run.

They also had a Wedge Tailed Eagle as a pet. I didn't find out his full story, he was in a fenced off area, but it was open to the sky so if he is able to fly, then he still has complete freedom. He was completely unconcerned by us, and wasn't in any way threatened by us. The owners have had him for about 33 years, and it wouldn't surprise me if he was hand raised.

Today was an early start. We were due to cover 241km to Wycliffe Well, and it was always going to be hard. Distances like that are never easy, and the road conditions and the wind made sure that it was a very hard day in the office. Phil was hoping to get the slower starters out on the road at about 6:20am, then a second group at 6:30, and finally the faster riders at 6:40. Sunrise today was only at about 7:12am, so there would be a reasonable amount of riding in the dark. The plan was to have the vehicle behind the riders using their headlights to help illuminate the road. We were lucky as well as we had a full moon, so we were getting a lot of light from that.

The slower riders were slow getting away, and only ended up with about a 10 minute lead on the faster riders. When we finally rolled out, there was already a reasonable amount of light from the sun, despite still being below the horizon, and while we kept the lights on, they weren't doing a lot to light the road ahead of us. Phil and Susan were escorting us, and Pat Alex and I took the pace slowly to begin with to ensure that we were able to warm up well.

While the thermometer outside of the Roadhouse indicated that it was close to 10 degrees, it was definitely a lot colder. Especially when we were out on the road. I was wearing all of my winter gear but my knee warmers and thermal socks. So I had on my thermal vest, arm warmers, thick winter gloves and shoe covers. My think winter gloves still weren't thick enough, and my fingers were still suffering. I was eagerly looking forward to sunrise as the temperature would quickly get better quickly. We hit the first cattle grid, and decided to err on the side of caution and get off and walk across. We weren't sure if there would be any dew on it, and as wet steel and rubber are not a good combination, it probably wasn't a bad idea. It may have been safe to ride across, but falling onto a cattle grid is not my idea of fun.

We kept riding and soon caught up to Rob, who was one of the first riders to leave this morning. Phil asked us to try and sweep him up, and so we eased up our pace to get him in behind us. We were sitting in the mid to high twenties and it was comfortable for him, but I was hoping that we wouldn't have to keep it up all day, as it would make a long day even longer. We slowly reeled in the Girls, and when we caught up to them, I decided that I had had enough, and set off at my own pace. While I am prepared to help people get the distance, I really wanted to get moving today, as I knew that I would be pushing 8 hours in the saddle.

By this stage it was warming up, and I was starting to want to get rid of my winter gear. Morning Tea was at 60km or so at Ti Tree (pronounced Tea Tree), and I was hoping to make the distance in about 2 hours. Phil had wanted to have morning tea at 8:30am till 9am, and I knew that I would be a bit late getting there. I was riding well, but desperate to get rid of my cold kit, so I rolled the arm warmers down and opened the jersey up to try and get cooled down a bit. I rolled past a farm that was selling Mango products, and unusually, it seemed to be on a power grid. Seeing the poles head along the road, I assumed that it was supplied by power from Ti Tree, if anything else, it was a good sign that I was getting close.

I ended up rolling into Ti Tree at about 8:40, so about 2 hours after I had left Aileron, about when I wanted to. I ducked into the toilets, and grabbed some of the food on offer. I had had a big breakfast today, so I wasn't that hungry. I put a banana and some of Sue's Scroggin in my back pocket, and had some of the fruit that she had cut up. I ended up rolling out last at about 9:05am, but not by much, so I soon passed Rob, Jan and Katrina. I set off chasing the other riders who were ahead, but enjoying riding by myself. The profile map for today was supposed to have us going downhill for about 110km to our snack point, then climbing for about 30km, and then descending for the last 100km. The gradient in both directions was only 1% or less, so you virtually never noticed. There were times when you could see that it was slightly downhill, but it generally looked and felt flat.

By this time in the day, the wind was starting to pick up, the problem that we had was that it was a reasonable Easterly, so it was to our side. While a crosswind is better than a headwind, there isn't a lot in it. As a result, it made the riding a lot harder, not something which you want on a day where you have to cover 240km. The road surface as well left a lot to be desired. It was mostly large aggregate, which in the cycling world we refer to as dead road, it has a high rolling resistance, and you spend a lot of energy trying to overcome this whenever you are riding along it. Again, something which was adding significantly to the difficulty of the day's riding.

Our next stop was a snack point about 50kms up the road, we had about 2 hours to cover this distance, normally, I wouldn't have had any issues covering this distance in that time, but the wind and road did not make it easy. Plus, there were two memorials along the way, one to commemorate Stuart and Kekwick who climbed Mount Sturt which was nearby, this peak was later renamed to Central Mount Stuart. I pulled in there with some of the other riders and I left with them. Up the road, my bike had developed an annoying click. I thought that it was my cleats as I have had this problem before, and tightening them resolved the issue. I pulled over and flagged down our supporting vehicle, but he didn't have a flat bladed screwdriver which I needed to tighten the screws on my left cleat. The right cleat could be tightened by an Allen Key which I had in my saddle bag. I tightened the Right, but it didn't make any difference. I set off riding again and just endured the sound, a few kilometres up the road, Phil and Susan passed me and I was able to flag them down. Phil did have a screwdriver, but unfortunately, tightening the screws in the left cleat did not make a noticeable difference in the noise.

I kept riding, and slowly closed the distance to the other riders, but I passed another memorial which I quickly pulled in and grabbed a photo of. This one was to commemorate a C Palmer a teamster who was buried in the area in 1871 while serving with a team surveying the area for the overland telegraph. I didn't stop for long and pressed on again. The group ahead of me was moving well, and while I was closing the distance, I wasn't making a huge amount of time on them. The unscheduled stops had cost me a lot of time, and so it would be a while until I was able to catch them up.

I caught up to Sam and George first, Sam had dropped off as the pace of the group had started to tell on him, but as it was only 5 km's to the rest stop, they decided to press on. George was having problems with his left knee, which was a new injury for him, and as a result he was easing up the pace in an attempt to try and rest it. As I was closing the gap to the last few riders, I saw something off Pat's bike, I wasn't sure if it was something he had dropped, or something which he had flicked up off the road. I had a look at it on the way past and it looked like a short length of rubber hose, I didn't stop, and it was only when Pat stopped and started to turn around did I realise that it was something off his bike. It turned out that it was the end of his pump, and he didn't find it.

I had made the snack stop at a reasonable time, but the Girls and Rob were a reasonable amount behind us. He had made an executive decision that they weren't going to ride the full distance, he was going to put them in one of the vehicles and bus them to the Afternoon Tea stop and let them finish the distance from there. It was a harsh choice for him, but he has to look after the majority of riders, and he can't afford to let some riders get too far behind the others.

I left the Snack Stop a few minutes behind the others, but I quickly closed the distance down, I stayed with them for most of the way to lunch, another 40km up the road. The wind was reasonably strong by this stage and still off to the side. The road surface as well was very unforgiving, and it was turning into a very hard day. By this stage, we had covered just under half of the distance, but when the conditions are hard, even that small victory doesn't feel too good. At one point, I wanted to stretch my legs a bit as the slower pace was hard for me to maintain. I pressed on ahead to one of the very few passes on the road, and stopped up there to wait for the others to catch up. In the end, I stayed with them until about 10 km out from lunch before pressing on by myself. While I was strong enough to stay on the front and try and help out, my strength was actually working against me as I would easily increase the pace to one that was too high for the other riders in the group.

I pressed on, and while I was faster than them, I was really starting to suffer. Because I had had a big breakfast, I probably hadn't eaten enough at the previous too stops. I was still riding OK, but I knew that I didn't have as much energy as I would like to have had. The road and the wind were really taking it out of me, and a trip in the van was looking pretty attractive.

Lunch today was at Barrow Creek, which was somewhere that Phil and Susan had originally considered as a place to stay overnight. It wasn't much of a place, and it didn't look that crash hot. If I had a choice, I would probably prefer to stay elsewhere. There was a bridge over the actual Barrow Creek, and as is typical, it was a dry river bed at the time. It was reasonably large, so it would be impressive to see it in full flow.

I got to lunch about 20 minutes early, but Phil and Susan were doing their best to keep us together, and so they were only prepared to serve up lunch when everyone had made it in. I went to the toilet, which I was charged 50 cents to use, and I wanted to buy a sports drink to try and get some fuel. They didn't have any, so I settled for an Iced Tea instead, not an ideal choice, but beggars can't be choosers, and it did have a reasonable number of calories in it, so it still met the goal that I was after.

I had a look around the pub, and it certainly had some character. Some of the walls were covered in old and foreign currency which had been signed by various people, it certainly made an interesting sight. On my way out, one of the other travellers noticed my jersey (I was wearing my club, Dulwich Hill Bicycle Club's jersey), and she commented that she used to live there, it is certainly a small world.

By this stage, the other riders were in and lunch was served. Because I was so hungry, I probably overate, but on a day like this, I would like to think that it isn't a bad thing. The main lunch was a cold chicken and pasta salad which was made at Aileron, very nice and it was very welcome. I had asked Dave, our mechanic on the trip to have a look at my cranks to see if he could locate the click that was annoying me, he checked my cranks and pedals, but was unable to locate anything obvious. He wanted to try and have a look at my chain ring bolts, but he didn't have a Torque Screwdriver, which is the tool required for my cranks. In the end, what he did didn't make a noticeable difference, and I had to put up with the click for the rest of the day. In the end, I think that I stopped listening to it.

On leaving lunch, I was again one of the last to leave, and on the way out, I saw the old Telegraph Station which was at Barrow Creek. It has a bit of chequered history, as some of the early workers there were speared by the local Aboriginals, and then the White's retaliated, and killed large numbers of the locals. I grabbed a few photos before rolling out.

I was pushing a good pace, but nothing which wasn't sustainable, and some of the riders were a few minutes ahead of me on the road. I passed all of them, but when I caught up to Alan, I eased up and we were chatting for a bit. While we were talking, the road managed to change again, and luckily for the better. While it wasn't a super smooth surface, it was a lot better than the one we had been on since before our Snack Stop, over 40km ago. As soon as we crossed onto it, our speed went up by about 2-3km/hr. Even if nothing else, it gives you a big psychological boost. In the end, I again rode away from him and headed out for afternoon tea by myself.

By this stage, I was on yet another straight section of the road. It was possible to see approaching vehicles for close to a minute before they finally passed me, and vehicles travelling the same way for significantly longer. I saw a sign laying down that indicated that a section of road ahead had recently been resurfaced, and while I was hopeful for something better than the current surface, it wasn't to be. It was back to the crap that we had been putting up with for so long today.

I had no choice but to keep going, I knew how far it was to Afternoon Tea, and I was hopeful of getting there shortly before 3pm. In the end, I got there at about 2:55pm, and I saw Rob, Katrina and Jan leave on the final leg to Wycliffe Well. I pulled in and said that I didn't plan on stopping for long, and I just wanted get the day done. There was only 50km to cover by this stage, but having already covered 190km, it meant that my legs weren't in the best of condition, especially considering the wind and the state of the road.

Phil and Susan were OK with me making this decision, but they pointed out that I would potentially be isolated, as I wouldn't have a support vehicle. As I had been riding like this for most of the day, I wasn't particularly concerned. I mostly just drank water, as I was still pretty full from lunch, but I did eat some of the Honeydew Melon that Sue had cut up. In the end, I got out at about 3:05pm, just as the other riders were pulling in.

Shortly after leaving Afternoon Tea, the resealed road ended, and the road returned to a good surface, not perfect, but better than it had been for the last who knew how many kilometres. Then, it improved even more. We were back to a sort of hot mix surface, that really allowed me to push the speed up. I was able to get the speed up into the high 30's, and I was turning a really good cadence, which meant that I still had plenty of energy to get me to Wycliffe Well.

I had estimated that the group ahead of me were about 5 k's up the road, and I guessed that I would catch them in about an hours time. This was initially based on what speed I thought that would be doing compared to my current speed on the shitty road. Once that changed though, I was able to quickly close the distance. I caught up to them at about 3:40, and based on their speed, I estimated their time of arrival about 1 hour 15 minutes away. I didn't stay for long, and quickly increased my speed again and pressed on.

Despite the previous 200 odd kilometres, I was actually feeling pretty good, it was still hard riding, but the fact that I was doing a good pace meant that the k's were tumbling down, I could see me finishing the days distance at about 4:30pm or shortly afterwards. I was generally able to keep my speed up in the high 30's, but more importantly, I was always turning a good cadence, which meant that I would probably be able to sustain it.

We passed over the Railway line, about 20km's out of Wycliffe Well, and as it was a high point, I stopped and grabbed a few photos. While it is obvious that the area was pretty flat as the road just vanished over the horizon, I couldn't see too far to either side of the road as there was a reasonable amount of vegetation around. Once on top of this railway overpass though, I could see for a long way in all directions, this is when it hits you just how flat the area is.

Phil and Susan passed me about 13km's out of town, and I was really pushing along. After so long in the saddle I was just keen to get there. It was funny seeing some of the signs advertising Wycliffe Well, one stated that they had the “Best Beer in the World”, I felt that I wouldn't bother arguing the point, as I was simply interested in a cold drink when I got there. I saw another sign pointing out that they had soft water there, again I didn't particularly care as long as I was able to get a shower.

For once, I was really counting the k's down, I just hoped that Phil was pretty close on his distances. It certainly looked that way judging by the distance signs that I saw. I actually watched the last few k's tick down on the bike computer, something I normally try and avoid. Right at the end, the road turned to crap again, but I didn't care as I could see the end of the line by this time.

I pulled in shortly after 4:30pm in the afternoon, 10 hours between start and finish. A very long day. I had managed to complete the distance in just a shade under 8 hours, so a very long time in the saddle as well.

Wycliffe Well promote themselves as the UFO Capital of Australia, and as a result, the Roadhouse has a sculpture out the front of Aliens landing, and the walls are painted with an Astronomical theme. Again, it is probably something that sets them apart from many of the other Roadhouses along the way. I grabbed my room key, and as I was sharing with Sam again, I grabbed his and my bags.

Dave, the physio pulled in at about this point, and he had picked up George on the road. His knee had obviously got too painful for him to continue riding. He got some treatment, took some anti-inflammatories, and he would see how it is in the morning. As the rooms weren't carpeted, I did my stretching out on the lawn, it was very nice out there in the shade, and as the grass was well watered, it was very comfortable.

Katrina, Jan and Rob pulled in and then the rest of the riders. All up, everyone had a long day out there today. It was just Hard Yakka for so much of it. I was really glad to get here, and glad that I was able to cover the full distance. I was always confident that I would have the fitness to cover the distance required, but given the weather conditions as well as the state of the road, it was a very hard days cycling. Tomorrow is a much shorter 131km, with a highlight of a visit to the Devil's Marbles. We have done the longest day on this ride, the next longest is 190km, and we don't have to that until Friday, so at least we have some shorter days first.

Distance 241.19 km
Average 30.33 km/hr
Time 7:57:09
Maximum 41.94 km/hr


Early Start Today. Up before Dawn
Some of the many signed Currency Notes at the pub at Barrow Creek
Having some lunch at Barrow Creek. The day got easier after this.
On the railway overpass. Suddenly you could see a long way...
The Aliens of Wycliffe Well

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Day 3

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