Ever since my first solo tour back in March 2016 I have been dreaming of going on another one. I loved being on my own, feeling truly free and the fact that I could come, go and do as I please was just so liberating. I simply wanted more.
The opportunity to do just that presented itself in mid July….
At the start of June I had arthroscopic knee surgery to tidy up some cartilage damage in my right knee. I’ve had problems with this knee for about five years and already had surgery in 2013, which unfortunately didn’t last. This time round the surgeon tried something different which worked much better.
So I found myself on extended sick leave for 6 weeks (I work in a supermarket). When it was time to go back to work there was a mix up with my roster and I ended up with an extra week off work. So I decided to make the most of this, by planning a 5 day bike ride doing a loop of the Pyrenees Region near where I live.
After spending a month off the bike recuperating, I had slowly started riding again, going a little further every day. After two weeks, I managed to do 20 kms without too much fuss so I thought that small, 50-60 km days shouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility.
I had been watching the weather quite closely and after an arctic cold front there was going to be a slow-moving, high pressure system hovering over my planned ride. You beauty!
I spent a few days packing and organising my ‘stuff’ and on Wednesday morning I set off. I was pretty excited, after all, I’d just spent 6 weeks inside, at home, with an ice pack on my knee watching Netflix.
As I started riding down the road at 9.00 am in the morning, an ‘unease’ started to settle over me. I couldn’t work it out. I felt fit, my knee was pain-free and I had enough supplies to easily last me the five days. The weather was really cold still, with a brisk westerly wind, but I’d been watching the weather closely and I was pretty confident it was going to warm up soon. It didn’t.
All our previous tours had been in spring and late summer, so this was the first time that I’d ever cycle toured in winter. I had plenty of clothing layers on (seven), that wasn’t the problem. The problem was, I soon worked out, that as I started to sweat the evaporation made me cold. Really, REALLY COLD! By the time I got to my first town, Dunolly, 13 kms up the road I was frozen. I stopped and had a nut bar in the weak winter sun and then went to the butcher to purchase sausages for dinner that night.
I set off again with the unease following me like a dark cloud. My next stretch was very scenic along a slightly undulating, quiet country road with no traffic, but it was hard going. The weather was still freezing and there were even patches of light drizzle. I was starting to run out of puff really fast and my speed dropped to about 10 kms an hour.
At midday, I was only 20 kms away from my camp site so I decided not to stop for lunch but push on. I finally reached the Melville Caves, in the Kooyoora State Park, after four hours of riding. I stopped and had lunch at the picnic ground and then tackled the last climb up to the actual camp site. When I arrived, I found the place deserted…… Mmmmmmm, that’s not really my thing. Call me a chicken, but the thought of camping alone in the middle of no where, was just not doing it for me. It’s all well and good being a fearless adventurer, but I think you need to be realistic too and not put yourself in potential danger. Now I know that the likely hood of some ‘weirdo’ turning up is remote, but it could happen……
So I wandered around for a bit taking stock of my current situation:
I was cold.
I was really, really tired.
I was still feeling uneasy.
I was unfit.
I was alone in a campground.
I was only one day in from a five day ride.
So after half an hour I decided to pull the pin and ring Andrew. He came to get me straight away and arrived half an hour later. We loaded up my bike and panniers and drove home the same way I’d just ridden. The cab was toasty warm and finally after 6 hours I started to defrost. It was really weird getting home and unpacking the same day I’d left.
Now I’ve just got to wait for the weather to warm up and my fitness to increase so I can try again. I know deep down that yes, with sheer will power, I could have completed my ride, but I just didn’t want to. It wasn’t fun anymore. I was a little disappointed, of course, but not devastated. As soon as I rang Andrew the unease I’d felt all day evaporated. I felt relieved, which to me is always a sign you’ve made the right decision.