Friday, April 24, 2015

Home Stretch

I noticed the Nindigully Pub on a bus ride in 2004, and it looked like a nice place to camp.  It was an easy ride from Thallon, so I had all afternoon to relax.  There's a free camping area. which apparently had recently been flooded by the Moonie River.  It had dried out enough by the time I got there, and I even got a table.

Nindigully Campsite
The pub itself had free showers, food, and refreshments,  What else could a touring cyclist need?

Another short ride the next day brought me to St. George, the largest town I'd seen in a while, though it's looking less healthy than it did in 2004.  It rained all that night, though not very hard, and the next day looked threatening, so I stayed in a cabin the second night.  The weather turned cooler, and has been since.  It made the network news when some places got down to 4 C (38 F).

Meanwhile Kate, the former windmill fixer I met in 2001, had invited me to visit her family farm, which wasn't far out of the way.  Getting there involved some 26 km on a gravel road, which wasn't bad, but the 2 km driveway had some muddy spots.  There was no sign of a vehicle having been in or out in a few days, so it was clear they home-school their children. The place is quite remote, at least 100 km from the nearest town.

Gravel Road

Entrance to Kate and John's Farm

Kate, John, and their three young children have been there 6 years.  The farm was nothing but pasture when they arrived.  It's rather small by Australian standards, only 3,000 acres, on which they graze cattle, sheep, chickens, and a bunch of feral goats and pigs.  They also have at least one horse, a whole bunch of dogs, and lots of vehicles and machinery.  They're really pioneers, albeit 21st century ones.   It's far from a simple life. John also works off the farm, flying helicopters, among other things.  When he's away, sometimes months at a time, Kate has to manage everything herself.  Visiting them was an interesting glimpse into a lifestyle far different from that I, or most anyone else I know, have ever experienced.

John, Charlie, Kate, and Gus
(Rachel was still asleep)

It rained again the next morning.  John was going my way, so I was glad to accept a ride as far as the sealed road.  It was a short ride to Westmar, which has a camping area and a roadhouse (truck stop). The camping area didn't offer anywhere pleasant to spend the afternoon, so I got a cabin at the roadhouse, where I could practice in the afternoon.

Along the road since I got to Queensland, I've been seeing giant prickly pears, an exotic from South America.  It reached plague proportions in the early 1900's, until an insect was introduced to control it.  Some has obviously survived.

Giant Prickly Pear

Road trains are very long trucks, here up to 36 meters (120 ft).  I've seen them with up to 3 trailers here, though they can have more. They are on all roads, even the smallest, narrowest, or gravel ones. I've counted up to 46 wheels on them, but some surely have more than that.  It's best to stay out of their way.

Road Trains are Everywhere

From Westmar, I rode east on the Moonie Highway to the village of Moonie, another roadhouse and caravan park.  The tent sites were pretty grim, but adequate. There was a library across the road with WiFi which occasionally worked.

The ride to Cecil Plains was longer, and featured actual hills, which I haven't seen in a while.  While climbing one of them, a ute (pickup) passed me and pulled over.  It was Ralph, from the Hebel Store, where I'd stayed a week before.  He was going the other way and turned around to chase me down. What are the chances of that?

Cecil Plains is at least more than a roadhouse, with a proper pub, store, and caravan park.  There's a cotton gin on the edge of town, so there were plenty of trucks passing through, but I think they go to bed at night, so it wasn't bad.  The next day, while I was trying to make a phone call, a fire truck went by, siren blaring.  I found the reason on the edge of town a bit later.  Looked like he took the corner a bit too fast.  I'm glad I wasn't in the way.

Overturned Cotton Truck outside Cecil Plains

Later, an email from my friend Alf in NSW:

"There is a story around the trucking stops that the reason the cotton truck fell over was he was cut off by a mad Canadian cyclist. Could this be true? Nobody will ever know now as I believe he quietly slipped out of the country." 

(Alf has a well-developed sense of humor.)

The ride to Pittsworth was short, but quite hilly toward the end, the first real climbing I've done since the Grampians in Victoria months ago. There will be more hills in the next few days, as I cross the Great Dividing Range again as I approach Brisbane.

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