I knew what that meant. Another flat tire. And to think we hadn’t even hit the road yet.
Gently stirring the concoction of instant oats, milk powder, raisins and sugar that would be our breakfast, I pushed our mechanical troubles to the back of my mind.
With the constant drone of traffic on the nearby A1, we’d slept fitfully. I yearned for the backroads. Another gulp of thick black coffee and I’d be better ready to face the day’s minor calamities.
My customarily dependable Koga was letting me down. Big time.
Broken spokes, a chain that skipped and slipped every time I attempted a gear change, a back tire that stubbornly rubbed against the brake pads, squeaks and rattles that attested to seven years of use and abuse. My trusty stead was getting tired.
And flats. Not just a measly one or two a day. Three, four even five punctures per day were bringing us to a grinding halt.
Bundled together, these minor inconveniences left us frustrated and confused. Ill-tempered, too.
The clatter and clamour of the A 1 added to the aggravation. Massive trucks roared past from dawn to dusk, paying little head to two lowly cyclists. Podcasts helped. We are both unrepentant audio junkies. Our i-tunes subscriptions are nearing 100 and we’re still on the lookout for more. Current events, stories about strangers, international news, interviews, science, history, live storytelling. We just can’t get enough.
But I digress. (That happens when you’re as passionate as I am about podcasts.) Without a steady stream of stories in our ears, the ride up the A1 would have been pointless. An overdose of bitumen and boredom.
So, here’s the takeaway from four futile days on the A1:
- Major highways are no place for bike touring. You knew that, right? So did we. But sometimes it’s just easier to follow the fat red line on the map. Those skinny white ones take a lot more work. Truth be told, they’re usually worth it. TAKE THE LONG WAY!
- Things always look better with a little perspective. Weaving through roadworks yesterday afternoon after having waged war with the 5th flat of the day, I plunged into an appalling mood. 24 hours later, after a little comfort and pity from our Warm Showers hosts here in Mackay, things are looking up. I’m not quite so surly today after having devoured ¾ of a chocolate mousse cake and taken some time off the bike. Food and rest work wonders. So does a bit of peace and quiet.
- Bike touring always means good days and bad (unless it’s summertime in France). It’s best to stay a bit Zen. Situations inevitably improve. A spectacular sunrise will kick off the day. A stranger will offer you a cold drink on a hot afternoon. A family of kangaroos will come darting across the road.
You’ll be reminded why NOTHING beats life on a bike.
The A1. Don't do it. One of the busiest highways in Australia. You're tempting fate each and every time you do battle with the trucks.