Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! The Great Adventure is underway!
I'm writing this from my room at the Deer Park Inn in Armidale. Have had an amazing day!
No anxiety stuff to speak of (ok, it was a 3 poo start to the day LOL – but that's a huge improvement!) My hands weren't shaking when I got the bike out of the shed; my heart wasn't racing...
So – got away at about 6.45am. Low black cloud hung over everything, and it wasn't long till I was feeling cold (yes, I had been through the agonising 'leathers or mesh' dilemma AND the 'will I be warm/cool enough?' discussion with myself while I was busily over-packing at 5am after a 3.30am wake-up.)
It was a bit of a four-seasons ride, really – I was cold well before I got to Lake George, where I pulled over and put on my wet weather jacket, to keep out a bit of the chill. A bit of blue sky at Goulburn was fleeting, and rain started a bit after Marulan.
On the M7, the sun came out just as I hit the 'incident' that slowed (actually, STOPPED) traffic for several kilometres. Great. I sat baking in my gear for the better part of 45 minutes, cussing and sweating. I did a bit of judicious lane-filtering wherever I could, simply to find a spot where I could take of the wet weather jacket, open the vents in my jacket and grab some much-needed cold water - but eventually got to a spot where lane filtering was not possible *sigh*.
Enough horribleness... I didn't get lost, I didn't fall off. No bits fell off the bike. YAY!
AND – I finally got to ride Thunderbolt's Way! I knew time would be an issue – I chose the “short” way to Armidale for a very good reason – visiting the littlest Lemmiwink and her lovely parents – so it was a bit of a bugger to have such a long setback so early in the day... For that reason I didn't do a lot of stopping, apart from refuelling and wee stops.
After passing through a lot of nice little towns like Booral, Stroud, Stroud Road – and Stratford (on Avon) – although a town LESS like Stratford-on-Avon won't be found anywhere else, I'm sure!) I made it to Gloucester. What a nice town!
At the servo I met up with a young bloke on a Triumph Sprint who was travelling from Melbourne to Grafton on as many of Peter 'The Bear' Thoeming's Top 100 rides as he could. I didn't get his name, but he was a cheery like-minded soul. I hope his ride on the Waterfall Way tomorrow will be all that he's hoping for.
Thunderbolt's Way is a great road – the bits at the beginning, just after Gloucester, are the best; picturesque, twisty, up and down – and the quality of the road surface is, um.... variable.
I was a bit concerned about the 'mist' that was hanging around, especially when I realised it was bushfire smoke – and especially when the wind picked up and the temperature increased dramatically. I had to ride a little bit fast at times to get away from the smell of smoke – but seriously, there was no escape! By the time I got to Walcha I had to start the old 'water inside the jacket evaporative cooling regime - it was stinking hot, and so dry that my contacts tried to glue themselves to my eyeballs - horrible!!!)
I got to Armidale after 5pm. The light was a weird yellow with all the smoke. Erk.
After a quick shower at the motel I went to visit the Lemmiwinkses, to pay homage to the baby – and what a little sweetheart she is!
'Don't look so worried, Julia - I've done this before!'
It's been a fabulous day! I am absolutely buggered, but looking forward to studying the maps over my bacon and cheese omelette breakfast tomorrow, and heading to Brisneyland!