Hayes Creek – Pine Creek
When I arrived at Hayes Creek I was stuffed, my spirits were in much better shape than the previous ride from Darwin to Adelaide River but I had depleted most of my energy. I thought I’d need a day to recover. Oddly, after having a good feed and a pretty reasonable sleep I was up and about bright and early on Wednesday morning. By 7am I had decided that if I started early enough I’d make it to Pine Creek easily.
Hayes creek is situated at the beginning of quite a rise from the relatively low lying Adelaide River flats. After breaking camp I was immediately confronted possibly the steepest incline on the Stuart Highway until you reach the MacDonnell Ranges, although by world standards that’s not really saying much.
The country along the Stuart Highway between Hayes Creek and Pine Creek is really quite pretty. You have to be traveling slow enough to appreciate it, and I was. There were several fresh water streams trickling down from escarpments and the geology and plant life was considerably different to most of what I’d seen so far.
Traffic on this leg was moderate and the road was a lot more manageable than my previous experience on the Highway. Although I needed to adjust to leaving the road a lot more often I had made a conscious decision to take my time, stopping to look around and to rest and drink plenty of water.
For the first time on my journey drivers started waving to me and I had a far greater sense of mastery of the road. With less traffic and a couple of days solid riding experience I felt I could anticipate bottlenecks in the traffic and get out of the way more effectively. Truck drivers gave me a wide birth and I always made sure I was off the road well before they were upon me. About half way I stopped at the Emerald Springs Road House and relaxed on their veranda for about an hour, coffee and scones with jam! Yum!
During the final leg to Pine Creek I actually felt I had found my rhythm. (The fact that I only had to ride 60km in the whole day and there was a coffee and scone break right in the middle may have had something to do with my confidence) About 15 km out of Pine Creek the pedals seized! I thought I’d thrown the chain but looked down and found it was sitting snugly on its cogs! Oh no! From the time I set out I feared this happening! I was unable to grease the bottom bracket bearings before I left home, I knew they weren’t in good shape having sat through a few wet seasons and they had been making a dry squeaky scratchy sound for most of the trip… Yes! Low and behold. The crank had seized!
|A good traveler does not neglect his machine! (but I did)|
After a bit of physical manipulation I managed to get the crank to turn, it was a bit wobbly but it made several rotations without jamming again. There was an ominous grinding feeling and the sound of metal scratching and bending. I figured I must have shattered the bearing casing. On these old one piece crank sets the bearings are contained in a thin metal casing, I reckon if that had dried out or become rusty, the constant revolutions of the crank would eventually chew the metal out and it would start to come apart. The bearings are much tougher and would continue to roll but the whole fit would be looser and would meet with resistance whenever a scrap of metal got caught between the bearings… That is my theory of what happened to my bike.
I was able to continue riding into Pine Creek but knew that unless I could find a replacement*, that’s as far as we’d be traveling together. Within myself I knew this was the end of the line. Rolling up to the shady park in the middle of town I put the bike down on it’s stand and raided my food supplies. Time to hit those treats I’d been saving for a desperate day in the future.
After a decent break in the shade I checked into the Lazy Lizard camp site, made a few half arsed attempts to source an old bike with a one piece crank, then decided it was no longer necessary and officially declared the ride over. There was little likelihood of fixing the bike well enough to travel another 200km and I felt like I had already taken too much time away from my family. The urge to go on was strong though! After only three days of cycling I felt an incredible magnetism to life on the road. A compulsion to go on, a singleness of purpose which revolved around, eating, drinking, sleeping and pedaling. It is pure and uncomplicated and a treacherous temptation to the breakout man trapped within.
*(Not as unlikely as you may think. One piece cranks were the standard for ultra-low price department store bikes for about 30 years. There are likely to be 100's of thousands of them scattered all over the country, probably in prime condition considering the average punter will quit the cycling fad after the first puncture and push their bike up against a wall, where it will sit until door to door scrap metal collection ever becomes a thing again.)
(More on Pine Creek next post)