I'm going to combine day 4 and day 5's post into one because for the last 2 days, all events that aren't riding a bike, drinking and peeing seem to be a bit of a blur.
The morning of day 4 saw me continue to master packing an entire campsite into a bicycle, a kind of reverse Mary Poppins affair. Fortunately for me I'm getting pretty good at whipping up coffee, baked beans on toast and a Nutella chaser. Unfortunately for any neighbouring campers, it's 5am when this occurs and I'm about as graceful as a flamingo playing the gong.
I was forced to traverse back through the winding 20km unsealed road that led me into the previous evenings national park beachside campsite. I believe the road was commissioned by MC Escher and is actually uphill both ways but I'm yet to confirm this.
Once I hit the Pacific highway, I settled into a nice groove and pedalled away. A note on distance signs: Once you read them, your brain is conditioned to react as if you were in a car; 'oh, gosh, only 20km to go, I better put my make up on, etc' (or whatever it is that you cardwellers say). When on a bike, this does a horrible job of both setting unrealistic expectations and at once shattering them like a cheap Driver Reviver biscuit. I now realise it's best to ignore them and continue pedalling, because that's all I've got to do anyway. I can simply go as far as I can in a day and that's that. Performing mathematic acrobats and imposing conversions and quotas does nothing for the fact that there are only so many hours (and hamburgers) in the day and there is never going to be an outcome of looking at a sign that isn't 'just keeping riding'. I'm certain that there is a gem of wisdom in this somewhere (and the subsequent best-selling business book) but as result of aforementioned exhaustive riding, I might have to save that for more lucid moment.
I eventually rounded on Grafton Showground and carved out my little corner for the evening. I was happy to do a sink full of washing and chip away at the pacific highway caked on my body with a hot shower and I crashed happy with my day.
Day's soundtrack: Douglas Adams' 'The Salmon of Doubt' audiobook
Away early again for day 5, I had the wonderful experience of going through drive thru at Grafton McDonalds on a bike. There were many laughs, mostly by me rather than the less-than-impressed staff and it turns out that bikes - even fully loaded ones ridden by what looks to be a homeless person - can't use drive thru. My thanks to Jess, the shift manager who made an exception for me and permitted me my excessive bag of food.
I'm pleased to say that I pumped out a great day in the saddle and that sadly the quality of my riding seems to be inversely related to the quality of adventures that I can include in these posts. Today was probably the first day I'm conscious of huge grins and a general sense that I'm both doing something I love and doing pretty well at it. On a deserted road, during a particularly punctuated point of glee, I even tried singing at the top of my lungs. Turns out I'm actually an absolutely atrocious singer. Like, really really terrible. Already this trip has been a true learning experience.
Heading out from Grafton, I passed a cycling couple. Thrilled to talk to anyone , let alone fellow 2-wheeled travellers, I pulled up aside and said hi. I've learned that the etiquette is to let a cyclist know you're behind them, pull up beside to complement their steed, and then ask them where they're headed. Lo and behold, they were cycling from Brisbane to Sydney! Upon inquiring which stops they had planned, they were exactly the same as mine! Clearly this meant we were now in a race so we curtly wished each other well, I mentally took back my nice words about what was actually a pretty ugly bike, and then I sped off. Each subsequent - and frequent - stop of the day was spent worrying about when they would overtake me and I'm not ashamed to say that today's record mileage was in a small way thanks to them. If you're reading this, thank you, and I hope you have a safe, picturesque, and slightly slower ride than me.
The old body is holding up quite well but I decided it was high time to invest in some chamois cream. At any one time, a bike rider is in contact with his or her bicycle in a maximum of precisely 5 points. One of those points is not one that benefits from broken skin and the word 'tender' gets thrown around rather a lot. I've also developed a pinched nerve in my neck due to actively scrunching my shoulders for 8 hours a day and I'm sporting some rather impressive tan (burn) lines but altogether one piece - a solid win in the cycling world.
I've set up camp just north of Nambucca heads and am making great time back to Sydney. Tomorrow sees me stopping in at my dear mother's in Port Macquarie, where I expect to collect a hearty meal, a loving embrace and some unsolicited - but not unwarranted - sun safety advice.
Today's soundtrack: Dan Ariely's fantastic 'Predictably Irrational' audiobook
Thanks for reading!