Australia is coming, I can feel it. Three months until Jane and I board the plane and four months until the Ride 2 Cure kicks off. LifeCycleForNeuroblastoma used to dominate my every thought, much like sex is supposed to woo yer average male brain, but the thought of spending six hours a day on a bike in a wilderness half a world away is now king. Planning is in full swing…

If you’re a regular reader, then you’ll know that Gabby, my big ginger Aussie roadie, decided that we were going to hire a motor home instead of doing stops at fixed locations. We booked ourselves a big upstairs/downstairs four berth job a couple of months ago so the accommodation is sorted. Gabby calls it a road trip.

Then we needed a website so we can maximise awareness of the Ride 2 Cure tour across the globe, so Neuroblastoma Australia have engaged a web developer to put together something that will do the ride justice. Our plan is to auction off every single one of the 2222km between Brisbane and Adelaide in support of neuroblastoma research. I have to say that I haven’t seen the website yet but I’m hoping that you’ll be able to click stuff and see updates from along the road. I think it’s gonna be fabulous!

So then we thought “kit”: we need kit. My mate Neil who does all my bike stuff used to be a a graphic designer in a previous life so he and I have been knocking ideas about in much the same way that we came up with the gold bike. We have the shirt design, we have the front and back layout, we have some stuff that we want to add for the website, and we also want to add some logos for Fast Rider Cycles as they have been building and fixing LCFN bikes for the best part of four years now. I wouldn’t be going to Australia if it hadn’t been for Neil: fact.

And what about the route?

Ha! The route… I started out a few months ago by playing on gmap-pedometer to get an idea of the distance. That was back in the days when we planned to go down the coast via the Gold Coast and Sydney. Then Neuroblastoma Australia asked if we could make the total distance around 2200km so riding over the Sydney harbour bridge went in the bin: too far by 300km. It was around that time that I discovered the website bikemap.net: I bought a subscription and started messing with inland routes: that was when I found Wagga Wagga. I sooooo want to go to Wagga Wagga.

Now being in the middle of nowhere is all well and good, but if you miss a junction, you can find yourself not meeting another one for another twenty miles. So navigation is kind of important. Cue the Ka(nga)roo…

To give it it’s full name, the Hammerhead Karoo is basically SatNav on a bike. It’s a box of tricks much like a Garmin that sits on your handlebars and does all of the stuff that a Garmin does, but with the added advantage of SatNav without the irritating voice (actually there’s no voice at all: you have to look at the screen, which is no real hardship when you’re only doing 15mph and it’s right there in front of your nose). The Karoo is an absolutely brand new piece of kit. The first models didn’t ship until about six weeks ago, but because I’d had my name on the early supporters list since the back end of last year, I got mine at a huge discount. I guess if you’re diving in just now, you might not be so lucky.

The Karoo does what SatNav says on the tin. It does routes. I plugged in “Lady Cil” and it offered me “Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital, Brisbane”. Correct. Then I whacked in “Adelaide O” and it offered me the Adelaide Oval. Correct. That’ll do for planning’s sake. So then I clicked on ‘make route’. This is all on a device no bigger that a smart phone remember… and less than ten seconds later there was my route, configured on bike friendly paths and roads. All 1350 miles of it. I’ve still to find another 30 miles because this one’s about 40km short of our desired 2222km but that won’t be a problem, believe me: we’ve got three weeks to find that detour.

So then you’re thinking “yeah well, that’s a pretty high level route”… no problem, grab the screen with two fingers and do exactly what you do with Google Maps on a smartphone. In ten seconds, you’re down at street level on the great escape from Brisbane along the Western Highway bike path.

The Karoo is a truly fabulous piece of kit.

And, having made your route(s), you can download them onto the device and use them offline: that’s exactly what we’ll be doing because I dare say there’ll be hee haw t’internet in the middle of nowhere.

So are we going to Wagga Wagga?

Well the official route says no but see those extra 40km that we’ve to find: I reckon we might be able to wangle a detour. The nearest we get is a place called Yanco but that’s on the hypotenuse of a south westerly leg so I suspect that if we head due south from West Wyalong then hang a right a Wagga Wagga, that’ll kill two birds with one stone.

Yesterday morning at daft o’clock, Gabby and I had a two hour Messenger call whilst sharing my desktop: he’d just had his tea and hadn’t yet had my breakfast but I did had a Sports Direct pint of coffee on my desk so I was well sorted. We basically had two screens: on the first screen was the Karoo route in all it’s drilldown glory. The second screen was Google Street view. You get the idea: drill into the Karoo bike route, right down to street level, the jump across to street view to check the lie of the land. Gabby knows the route out of Brisbane anyway, but it was hugely beneficial, not to mention educational, to be able to play with the intersections and check out likely meeting up points on the way out of town. Once we’re out of Brisbane, it’s a piece o’piss. Just keep heading south and watch out for ‘roos. If there’s one thing I really don’t want to do on this trip, it’s getting sideswiped by a kangaroo.

On the miles front, or phase 2 training as I prefer to call it these days, I’ve managed to trade the knee injury for a calf strain. I suspect I managed that clogging a really intense shift on the rollers midweek: maintaining 20mph at my age puts an immense strain on the body but my old friend ultrasound has, these past two nights, managed to keep the show on the road. Today I trimmed a couple of mph off the norm and got an extra songs in on the Solving Kids Cancer playlist.

Sunday will bring up the 18th consecutive 200 mile week of the LCFN journey. I used to go on about the 36 weeks I managed back in 15/16 that was set for a calendar year until I crashed on black ice at 5:30am. But that included holidays so the real consecutiveness was actually only 24. This run won’t get to that because I’ll be down in Liverpool with my work within the next couple of weeks but given the winter we’ve had, it’s been a fabulous run, and one that I will never repeat in my lifetime…

Which brings me to the calendar year of miles: A bit of me would have loved to have cracked 10,000 miles in a January to December year but because this adventure will finish in September, that won’t happen either (nor did I quite manage it in any previous year). But the year that runs from April 21 last year to April 20 this year is sitting at 11,126 miles which is some compensation. Of 109 days so far this year, I’ve cycled on 108 of them: and 107 of those 108 have been 30 miles plus. This time last year I’d only been out 84 times and of those, only 25 outings were 30 miles or more. That has been the impact of ramping up the workload with the Ride 2 Cure looming over the horizon.

The week has been random and extraordinary as if by default: up at 5am working on two days: still working at 10pm on two other days, but lots of flexibility in between because that’s the way life is these days. In between, I’ve managed to load the new release of SNOMED-CT into the toolkit that I’ve been developing: all 27 million rows of it.

If you’d said to me five years ago that when I got the folding bike, that it would eventually lead me to Australia, I’d have sent for the men in white coats. And if you’d said to me just over two years ago that I’d have become an in-demand software developer in a new technology sector within healthcare, I’d have definitely had you certified.

But that’s exactly the way it is…

The land of the Ka(nga)roo.

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