Stage 3 was originally billed as 87km from Inglewood to Boggabilla but with 20km to claw back from yesterday, it was always going to be more eventful than that.
When it was still hosing down at 6am, I (briefly) contemplated delaying the start (nah, that would be like giving in to the weather). The rain was scheduled to clear mid-morning, but we needed supplies so we scooted out of the caravan park at the back of seven. I parked my carcass on a bench outside the supermarket, under cover away from the rain, and got tore into my clusterfux.
By 8am we were back on the road to bag those remaining stage 2 km’s…
Hallelujah, a tail wind!
22km’s done in 45 minutes and I was on it with an absolute passion. The pace didn’t slacken for another two hours and by the time the R2C entourage hit Yalebon at 11am, I’d clogged about 75km: hey, I was only booked to do another thirty, including yesterday’s clawback.
“I could do some serious damage here” thought I.
However as the road hung a right over the railway on the way out of Yalebon, the tailwind turned around. Hit by an immediate ten km/hr drop in speed, I put the van in front for the first time. Hazards on, flashers strobing on the bike, we were visible all right, and relatively safe.
Soon after, the rain returned and I stopped for lunch: 16km to the New South Wales border at Goondiwindi and a mere 15km further to Boggabilla.
This was turning out to be a good day.
We crossed the border at 13:40 and reached Bogga ten minutes after that.
It was bonus time.
I was in no mood for stopping early, and even though (a) I had a vicious cross wind to contend with (b) it was generally uphill, my legs were in fine form with Paul in tow behind. No concern about a niggling calf muscle today. We left the A15 and I found myself on high quality, low traffic tarmac. This was the stuff of my dreams.
In bright sunshine, I bagged another 40km in that afternoon session.
Wondering where on earth we were going to pitch up for the night, Google kept offering us a wee safe haven called North Star just a few kilometres up the road. It was that or double back to Boggabilla and lose time tomorrow.
“Let’s check it out…”
There were a few old houses scattered about, a school (that’s always a good sign), and a scabby old road sign pointing to a hotel.
“Let’s try there.”
The place looked deserted but I could see someone in the shadows so I peered through the window and a lady came to the door.
“We’re looking for somewhere to hook up the van and maybe get a shower and something to eat” I said.
“See those cars parked over there” she replied, pointing about 400m away, “that’s the Sports Club: they’ll be able to sort you out. Go round via that blackboard sign over there…”
So we did.
And they did.
It was probably the warmest welcome, certainly up there with Barham in the second week, of the whole trip. Showers, food, drink on the house, and great craic. All we were missing was electricity but that was no big deal as the battery in the van was good for three days. We even got to hang our clothes over the fence at the back of the club.
The place was indeed in drought. The barman drew our attention to a couple of photos on the wall. One, taken in 2004, was an aerial shot taken when the site was as lush as it had ever been. The other one, taken in 2011, was at the height of the great flood and the only thing visible was the roof. Today, there was nothing but scorched, cracked earth.
One of the farmers in the Sports Club told us that we should have a flashing light on top of our van. He gave us the address of a place in Moree where we could get one the next day, and told us that he’d phone up in the morning to bill it to his account. He explained that the light had a magnetic base and would stick on to practically anything. It was only the next morning that Paul twigged that the top of our van had a fibreglass shell and nothing was going to magnetise itself to that. But thank you for your kindness, Doolin Agriculture, however we had to give your hospitality a bodyworkswerve.
Stage 3: 161km. 429km done. 1793km to go.