Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Riding the August Moon

Preparing for the ride

Early this month I took a week off work so that I could make a long distance ride from Darwin to Mataranka. Following the wisdom of seasoned world traveler Kris Larsen, the ride was timed to coincide with the full moon, the incentive was to ride in the cool of night by the light of the moon.

Post Script: The ride did take place, neither bike nor rider arrived in Mataranka, the journey was an utter success, reaching the geographic destination was not the objective! 

I set out on this trip with a desire to re-connect with myself and find some sense of purpose, or at least respite from the growling Black Dog which had been nipping at my heals over the past year(s). 
As long distance rides go this was no great feat. Every day there are cyclists out there touring the world, they travel thousands of miles unreported and without fanfare or celebration. The purpose of writing about this relatively short trip is part of a process I am hoping to continue. To recount an experience, to examine the thoughts and motivations of the author (ego, self, I), develop and practice the act of writing, to journal evidence of life outside of the mundane and to contribute something to this blog space which has remained quite blank for some time. 

This will be the first post in a series, it is an introduction.


The rolling gear for this trip included an old 5 speed cruiser sourced from the local tip and a semi dilapidated dog trailer found during cyclone cleanup, both had been lying around the yard for several years. I always liked the bike but it never really got the use it deserved, when I dragged it out from behind the shed I found that sun and unrelenting humidity had taken their toll. The head stem bearings had completely seized, pedals were stuck, chain stiff as a board and the bottom bracket bearings had become quite rigid. I did what I could to resurrect the bike, replacing bearings oiling and greasing everything I could, but was unable to access the main bearings in the bottom bracket, the primary power delivery for the whole drive train! I figured I’d take a chance on the state of the bearings and just loosened it up as much as I could by riding the bike around until the oxidized (rusty) bearings release their grip. Orders from the home office were to get rid of bikes and junk from the yard... Or else!  The writing was on the wall, this would be a one way trip for my recently revitalized outfit.

More of an odyssey of the spirit than a mere bike ride, I took inspiration from the following books: 

The Bicycle and the Bush by Jim Fitzpatrick

A comprehensive account of the revolutionary impact of bicycles on rural mobility across Australia during the 1860s. Fitzpatrick’s book draws together accounts of cyclists covering huge distances on the predecessors of the modern bicycle. In the late 1800s bicycles were the fastest form of personal transport on earth. This book inspired me to take an attitude that with the aid of a relatively simple bicycle a person can travel independently across all kinds of terrain. A simple machine and a bit of resourcefulness give wings to a restless spirit! 

Bicycle Dreaming by Kris Larsen

I met Kris somewhere around Darwin several years ago, I’d seen his unusual recumbent bike around town a few times and was compelled to hunt him down. When I finally met the guy I was blown away to discover the depth of his knowledge and experience in all things mystical and practical! Kris has written books about his experiences sailing, living with his equally talented mermaid (Local Artist Natalie) on a beach in the Philippines, escaping Eastern Europe and of course cycling. He is a self published author who even physically makes his own books! If you haven’t heard of him please check out Kris's web site HERE and order a book! You won’t regret it! http://monsoondervish.com/ 
Kris describes beautifully in his book(s) a philosophy which matches many of my own thoughts and musings but refined and tested on the anvil of experience and constant revision. His description and general rejection of peculiar social conventions and mainstream cultural norms really hit a chord with me. As I read Kris's description of experiences on the road I felt compelled to step free of the persona I had adopted for the sake of social conformity. I realized the price I’d paid for social respectability had crippled my spirit from it’s true vagabond nature. A longing was aroused in me which I am constantly reminded waits to be satisfied. It’s not specific to riding a bicycle but the bike does provide a convenient and practical vehicle for liberation!

In Bicycle Dreaming Kris presents a good argument for riding at night. Benefits include: Less heat and less cars. It was a while ago that I last read the book but I think he also advocated night cycling because of the serenity and beauty of traveling through the land at night. Another big plus when traveling South on the Stuart Highway during the dry season is the absence of the Southerly wind at night. The top end gets it’s dry season primarily due to cool wind blowing from the south, it literally blows the humidity away. As a cyclist riding South these winds spell one thing…. Head wind! To an exhausted cyclist a strong head wind can be a show stopper!  

The essay - Nature by Ralph Waldo Emmerson 

Sketch by Ralph Waldo Emerson - Transparent Eyeball (Nature)

Life changing, transcendental work of magic and art! I found a book of collected works by Ralph Waldo Emerson among a pile of books at an opp shop somewhere and I snatched it up immediately. I knew his name after reading Thoreau but until last week I had never read a word of Emerson! At 47 years old I have missed one of the most important authors of my life! Reading Nature to me was nothing short of a spiritual experience! He puts into language concepts I have only felt in moments of complete commune with God and Nature! The only experience I can compare it to is a moment in my past when all was revealed while I lay beneath a tree in a forest in central Victoria experiencing unity and dining on a lightly steamed rainbow of mushrooms.

On this ride a perfect combination of physical exertion, exhaustion, solitude, quiet, the company of creation and the guiding influence of the books mentioned above, delivered to me an awakening… or maybe just an experience of the absence of self! Halleluja! 

Plan: Cycle to Mataranka during the week of the full moon in August. Ride at night if possible. Breathe deeply, drink the water as it is available, and observe the connection between the people on the land and the water we use. Discuss with people I meet, where possible, how they perceive the potential development of coal seam gas wells across the NT, the impact this will have on the water and their relationship to it. Hang or hand out anti fracking signs where possible, requested or wanted.

Purpose: Escape the humdrum; engage the body and soul, re-connect with life force, eliminate the negative forces which have been eroding my crumbling psychic integrity… Escape toxic work environment get a fresh outlook on life, contribute to the well-being of all, find peace! 

Leading up to the ride I had very little time to prepare the bike or trailer. I had managed to gather some essentials, a tyre, some tubes puncture repair kit… not much else. I found an old bit of canvas from a camp cot and secured it as walls on the trailer with cable ties. Having so much space in the trailer I packed everything I could think of and some things twice! By 7pm on Sunday night the trailer was loosely loaded and ready to go. At 9pm I kissed my wife and children goodnight and farewell as they went to bed at a reasonable hour… Stupidly I stayed up till midnight browsing the internet, listening to music and basically denying my body the rest it needed before commencing a grueling 100km ride toting a heavy load.

Next morning I would rise early and begin my journey. 

(Edited 20:10 15/08/17)

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