For Coolamon, read Wagga Wagga (pronounced Wogga, in the singular).
Right back at the start I described R2C to Jane as 700km south west to Wagga Wagga before hanging a right and riding another 700km into the wind. Back then, Wagga was only intended be a one night affair with no opportunity to get a real sense of the place. But because I managed to bleed three stages out the last two days, Paul and I got ourselves an extra day off, and we spent it in Wagga!
Wagga, Wagga, Wagga, Oi, Oi, Oi !!!
Coolamon sits about 25km north west of Wagga and it presented a perfect opportunity to get off the 39 before heading west.
We came, we saw but we didn’t conquer.
Coolamon had a caravan park of sorts, but no WiFi and no pub just around the corner: so in reality, it wasn’t the kind of place to spend two days kicking our heels. And in any case, Deanna was about to pull the masterstroke of the whole R2C gig so we needed to be those 25km to the south east.
Being in close proximity to Coolie, Wagga allowed us two days of relatively modern Aussie culture.
Bonus Sunday was a Wagga walkabout, but not until after we’d done the washing and hung it all up to dry between a couple of trees on the campsite.
Here’s a funny story about the site: they put us in a nice quiet spot out on the far side, furthest away from the main road, but we couldn’t connect to the WiFi. Paul went and had a word and they moved us closer to the hub. That was better, but the WiFi was still somewhat intermittent, and we had a need for an uninterrupted stream on the Sunday night.
After spending the afternoon in the pub watching the Broncos getting smashed in the playoffs, we had Celtic-Rangers scheduled at 9pm local time, followed immediately by the Italian Grand Prix. On the Sunday morning, we got chatting to a couple of guys who work at the Big 4 caravan site and they said to move the van ten yards onto a piece of grass normally reserved for the overnight sprinklers.
“The sprinklers won’t be on tonight and you’ll get a better signal” they said, so before we went to the pub, Paul moved the motor.
All was well until about halfway through the football, when I said to the big man “is that rain?” I couldn’t quite work it out because when we walked back from the pub an hour earlier, it was cold and clear.
I opened the door and had a look…
Not only did we have WiFi, we had an additional stream and a clean van!
And so to Manic Monday…
First up was 2AAA local radio and another live studio gig. That was at half nine. I was getting good at telling the story by now, and every time it was touching a new audience. After that we hopped into town to get some new road cleats for my gold shoes, the old ones (which themselves were only a couple of months old) having been walked to oblivion on the streets of Queensland and NSW. Somehow, I’d managed to break the connecting strip off the left one, which meant that it wouldn’t clip onto the pedal any more, and that in turn made pedalling much less efficient. Anyway, I sweet talked the man in the shop and he fitted the new ones free of charge. I think he liked our story. It was worth the wait, even though the shop was freezing!
11am was Wagga Public School #Take1, featuring Prime 7 TV News and the wonderful primary class of the gorgeous wee Isabella.
Basically the storyline here is that Isabella fought cancer as three year old, and won. Here she was, as a warm, effervescent seven year old, using Ride2Cure as the vehicle to open up to her classmates about her journey. And Prime 7 were there to record a news clip. That was in the morning.
In the afternoon, we were booked to return, this time to tell the Ride2Cure story to the whole school in the assembly hall, record another TV news piece, this time with WIN News (Riverina), and do a further radio piece with ABC. It was a busy old schedule.
Wagga Public School was the highlight of Ride2Cure, bar none.
The finale at Seymour ran it close, but whereas Seymour was choreographed, Wagga just kind of happened. It was totally spontaneous. From having 450 kids all going “me, me, me” when the headteacher asked for questions, to signing schoolbags out in the yard after the TV gig was over, Wagga was an occasion to cherish forever. I think Paul called it as we were driving away… “You’re not just a cyclist now, you’re a rock star too!”
And we weren’t even finished: we’d still got another visit to do, this time to Wagga Cycling Club junior section at 5:30pm. There, despite the intense cold, we got to meet the kids who are the future of the sport. They have a fabulous tarmac velodrome, a shed full of fixed wheel bikes of all shapes and sizes, and a bunch of coaches who, like community coaches always are, are totally committed to the improvement of their kids. A great wee club and a great wee community.
They asked me if I fancied a go on a fixed wheel number but as I’d never been on one in my life, I thought better of it. The problem with a fixed wheel is that if you stop pedalling unintentionally, you go over the handlebars.
I didn’t manage that for another couple of days….
Monday was just outstanding. TV x 2; radio x 2, Wagga Public School x 2 plus the Cycling Club. If we left neuroblastoma awareness anywhere, we left it in #WW.
Wagga Wagga, we loved you. You were the shining star in our journey. And did I really forget to mention that we also gatecrashed the Wagga Kangaroos Mad Monday (end of season) celebration? No, I didn’t.