Thursday, August 17, 2017

Riding the August Moon - Intermission

Adelaide River

Rest… sweet rest. 

So, having composed myself after the exhausting ride, I booked in at the Roadhouse caravan park. $18 got me a patch of grass in a shady corner next to another cyclist. Considering the amount of time I’d spent on the road, dehydration and exhaustion, I was feeling pretty good actually. Legs were tired but not too stiff, no headaches, no injuries. I had a shower to freshen up then set up my humle camp which consisted of a mozzie dome, sleeping mat and a very thin supermarket grade sleeping bag. Rolling up my towel for a pillow I lay back and looked up at the palm trees above me. Bliss!

After the somewhat harrowing and slow ride I decided instantly upon arriving in Adelaide River that I would leave my bike and trailer where they lay and get on the next bus back to Darwin. I felt demoralized and very pessimistic about being able to continue. Looking back I’m sure this was a combination of good sense, fear and poor character. The trailer made my trip quite unmanageable with so much traffic around. It made good sense not to continue along the highway considering the risk. On Monday afternoon I thanked my lucky stars I hadn’t been killed and committed to going no further on this absurd odyssey!

As the evening rolled on I began to feel much better, I chatted with a my camp buddy, a guy who’d come from the UK to cycle from Alice Springs to Darwin, at 72 he was going strong! I relaxed into the night comfortable knowing that I didn’t have to go on. I might as well enjoy my visit to Adelaide River, relax and settle in for a day of rest and leisure but as my nerves settled I began to feel a sense of communion with the road and the guild of bicycle tourers...  maybe it's not too late to snatch the towel back.  

At a time when I was feeling unsure of what to do next I received a very welcome text from my wife encouraging me to put off any major decisions until I had rested. My constant desire to be on the road has put our marriage under a fair bit of pressure, I didn't expect an encouraging message. This one bit of encouragement was enough to change my whole attitude toward the ride. Forgoing a decision till the morning, I lay down and returned to the book I’d been reading. Christ Moon’s ‘One Step Beyond’. 

Although Chris Moon’s book was not my inspiration for setting out on this bike ride by Tuesday morning it had impacted my psyche enough to change my attitude toward quitting! I woke with a new sense of enthusiasm. I felt light and free and as if I had actually achieved something by getting to Adelaide River. The stresses I had been under, particularly with work, seemed to be a 1,000 miles away! 

As I write this I can see how affected I am by the encouragement or discouragement of others. I reflect on the quote by Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen.
"The strongest man in the world is he who stands most alone." 
I have battled with concepts of being an outcast and struggled to fully participate in society under the rules and conventions set by others... My wife would refer to that quote as something that sustained her in her teenage years, I rejected it for some time as an assertion that men can function entirely in isolation from their society. Now I move back to the concept that the man/woman must develop their character fully as an individual rather than fall obediently into conformity with the whims of the croud. We must nurture and develop that inner resource which commands life over death.

While I sat at the Last Tucker cafe reading and sipping my morning coffee I kept an eye on the road. Would today be as busy as yesterday? Could I actually be thinking about continuing? 

Still undecided about what to do I checked into the Adelaide River Show Society (ARSS) caravan park, where they only charged $10 per night and set up camp. I joined my cycling buddy at a nice shady spot under a tree. There I spend the morning reading and tinkering with the bike. By now I could feel that I had shed a lot of the tensions I’d pedaled hours to escape. 

Relaxing in the shade at the Last Tucker cafe Adelaide River
At about midday I wandered back to The Last Tucker coffee shop where, as the signs proclaim, they make 'real coffee'. The owner is a passionate campaigner for the Anti Fracking movement. I’d been carrying about 50 Frack Free NT triangle posters in the bowels of my cavernous trailer to share with interested people. After a coffee and a chat I rolled away from Adelaide River’s only ‘Real Coffee’ shop a dozen triangles lighter. 

Finally I can use first gear!

I had reached a turning point. One day of exercise and rest had transformed my whole outlook. In the afternoon I borrowed some pliers and wrangled first gear back into place! Having kept a pretty close eye on the road all day, I was confident the traffic wouldn't be a problem. Dorat Rd was quiet. It was clear that I could actually continue! I felt like I no longer needed to linger here and planned to get back on the road early in the afternoon! 

This sudden change of heart was a significant moment for me. With some solitude and time I was able to reflect on my state of mind. Yesterday I was absolutely sure that I could not go on. I had valid reasons that totally justified my decision to quit. Today I feel like I can do this! After a day of rest, comfort and contemplation and a bit of character building reading material I was pumped and couldn’t wait to get back on the road for the next leg of my journey….

(To be continued…. The Ride Day 2)

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