Day 4: Burn Baby Burn

November 20, 2015
Taree to Medowie
Distance: 142km
Total distance: 810km

Of all the good things that a touring cyclist can carry, the greatest of all would be the ability for good decision-making. Secondary to that would be the ability to rescue oneself from a bad decision. Failing that, of all the assets that one can afford to leave behind, do not leave behind common sense! Yesterday I made a decision to modify my route due to extreme temperature. Today, I was faced with another tough decision, as the temperature has just gotten even worse.

Whenever someone asked if I'm alright today

The planned route for the day covers a distance of 228km. With a peak temperature of the day expected to exceed 40°C, it made sense to skip all detours and just stay on the highway. The detours would have taken me to The Lakes Way where I got to ride next to a couple of lakes system, which include Wallis Lake, Smiths Lake, Myall Lake, Boolambayte Lake, and Bombah Broadwater. The signage for The Lakes Way was printed on a brown background, which indicates an official point of interest. Sounds fantastic I know, but apart from the greater distance, the infrequent townships in this area also made it risky to ride on such a hot day. It may or may not be cooler riding closer to the ocean (depending on wind direction). I’ve decided not to take my chances. By keeping to the highway, I shaved off a whopping 53km of riding which means my total distance to Newcastle slashed to 175km. After 3 consecutive days of riding 200+km, this was very welcoming distance-wise.

About the only time I enjoyed my ride was the first 2 hours

I left the motel at 5:30am to a nice and cool 19°C. At one point, I thought of time trialling my way while the early morning temperature remains low but my legs protested. Yesterday’s speedy 70km run to Taree didn’t just come at a cost of nothing. I soon encounter an 80m climb at the 7km mark which completely kills off this idea. From then onwards, it was highly undulating thru out. Despite the hilly terrain, I was able to maintain a 25km/h average speed until my first rest stop at Coolongolook at 45km. Pretty happy with my effort so far. At about 8:30am, the temperature shot up from 24C to 31C in a span of just 9 minutes! Had an opportunity to stop at Bulah Delah township at the 75km mark, but I must not waste any time while my body can still cope with the current temperature. My mind was completely occupied by worries and thoughts of anything heat-related – I hardly get to enjoy the ride. I got to 95km before I took my second rest stop, at about 9:30am. The temperature now reads 35°C. This was the first stop where I completely drenched myself with water. This method of cooling helped immensely, but this was as far as I got, as I didn’t know how else to keep my body cool. Little did I know at that time that from this rest stop onwards, each time I got back on the road, I never got further than 12km before needing to stop again to cool myself.

I don't fit in here

How do people re-apply sunscreen on sweaty skin?

Not quite Uluru, but pretty close weather-wise!

Only 10km down South, I came to a service centre. Ah finally the rescue is here, an icy cold drink or two (or three)! With absolutely no hesitation, I steered towards the shop, thru the intoxicating stench of petrochemical. An elderly gentleman asked if my bike was petrol-powered. I said no. Then asked if it was battery-powered instead. I said no. “Good on ya mate!” he said, and walked away immediately. Guess he wasn’t too keen to talk to a crazy retarded rider. A packet of milk, a bottle of coke, and another bottle of water took care of my hydration needs. Another round of clothes-on shower before hitting the road again. Next rest stop was the township of Karuah (118km) where I stopped for a lunch of buffalo wings at the local IGA supermarket. I was too embarrassed to ask if I could stay in their air-conditioned supermarket, so I just sat down on the carpark walkway kerb to have my lunch, with the company of a couple of dozen flies. The flies weren’t interested in my food, instead they were eager to land on my juicy salty nearly well done skin. I was amazed at how these flies can even survive in this heat, let alone flying persistently chasing small rewards, c’mon give it up already!

Karuah River crossing. Lots of fishing boats here.

Sitting on a carpark kerbside eating buffalo wings while frantically shooing flies wasn’t exactly the best condition for nourishing new ideas. Not sure how, but I managed to think up something exciting – mental imagery. It’s a mental exercise practised by some professional athletes to improve their performance, by simply imagining themselves performing the act prior to competitions. My modified version of mental imagery do not improve performance as such, but imagines a different situation from the reality to hopefully trick my brain to execute the activity as if the condition was favourable. My wishful condition was a strong overcast above me, with moderate to strong cool wind with signs of storm approaching although it won’t quite reach where I am, as is often the case riding in Brisbane. I swear it worked, momentarily at least. I felt the wind brushes on my skin started to feel slightly cooler. I could hear a faint thunderstorm. I waited in anticipation to feel the first drop of rain on my skin, however tiny it might be. I kept my eyes closed to aid with my false sense of reality… until I lost it completely when a fly tries to creep into my ear. Back to reality it is then, sigh.

My motivation to leave Karuah was the desire to get the air flowing again. Temperature under the shade at Karuah was 35°C, back on the road under the sun it rose up to 39°C. It still feels hotter riding under the sun despite the increased airflow, D’oh! After a scorching hot 10km, I came to a rest stop with a public toilet, hooray! A couple looked a bit puzzled as they see me walking out of the toilet completely drenched from head to toe. They must have thought the toilet was broken or something. Back on the road, and my display now reads 41°C – this was all unchartered territory for me. I began to have some serious doubt whether I can hold on to this much longer. Lucky me, just 3km from the last rest stop, another rest stop mysteriously pops up! This was at the turn off to Medowie Rd at 132km. Once again I performed my routine drenching but this time I decided to stay a bit longer under one of the sheltered picnic bench. While seated, a couple came and offered me a bottle of water and a cold bottle of orange juice, which I gratefully accepted! A bit later, the same generous couple gave me an apple and a banana! I was so touched by the kindness of strangers. Had some flashbacks moments to the times riding at the Nullarbor where I was spontaneously stopped by some kind travellers that offered me food and water. As a traveller, I have come to realise that people are inherently kind. I’m sure that most travellers, especially touring cyclists, would arrive at the same conclusion.

Sydney looks achievable!!

Spare some thought

Life savers from the kindness of strangers!

So it was decision-making time. To get to Newcastle, I now have two route options. I could stay on the highway and ride the 40km distance, or head South towards Medowie to ride closer to the ocean (potentially cooler) but with an additional 3km to Newcastle. A friend of mine Terry, while sitting comfortably on an armchair in his Brisbane home, informed me that the shoulder on Medowie Rd and subsequent roads weren’t too bad, as seen from Google Street View. Option number 3 was to stay at this rest stop until it cools. But it was getting too hot to even rest in the shade, therefore I’ve decided that I must get to an air-conditioned shop ASAP. My brother in Sydney informed me that the nearest shop was 9km away at Medowie. My weather app informed me that the temperature was expected to remain high and only fall into sub 35°C after 5pm. It was just past noon when I arrived at the rest stop. There was no way I can survive a 5 hours wait at this rest stop. I had to relocate, quickly. It was windy at the time, which helped cool my body even though it was hot wind. I braced myself to make that 9km journey to Medowie town. It was horrendous – by far the toughest 9km ride since I left Brisbane! I did my best to prevent my body from overheating by squirting water all over my arms, chest, and thighs at 1-2km intervals. I didn’t have much in my mind besides chanting repeatedly “I MUST make it to Medowie” while looking at my odometer.

It took forever but I arrived at Medowie without too much drama. As soon as I got into town, I went straight to the nearest café but was disappointed to find that they didn’t have air-conditioning. Got myself a milkshake anyhow to cool off. It helped but wasn’t good enough. The temperature now reads 43°C and apparently still on the rise. With 34km left to Newcastle still, I made a last minute decision to ditch this and just call it a day at Medowie. The nearest accommodation was only 200m away, and lucky for me, there was vacancy for a motel room! Took a refreshing cold shower and slept with the air-conditioning at full blast before waking up at 6pm to find that the temperature outside was still uncomfortably warm. I believe I made a good decision to end the day’s ride here at Medowie and rewarded myself with a hearty steak meal at a local pub. It didn’t matter that I have to make up this distance the next day. All that mattered was I survived to ride for another day!

In retrospect, it seems like a common sense to cut my journey short riding in this weather. But at that time, it was a decision that requires extensive thought

Good decision must be rewarded! XD

Strava ride profile

one response

  1. Dean
    8 Feb 16

    Sunscreen and Sweaty skin? bananna boat 50+ spray, uits waxy and sticks to everything… loving your blog dude!

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