Fat Bike Odyssey: Day 2

15 02 2012

Through a haze of rum addled confusion, my mind slowly and painfully connected the dots. Yes, I am definitely inside a tent.

Unzipping and peering into the early morning light, it all came flooding back. The only way out of this campground required a long steep climb up a fire trail. I slowly thought to myself “this is going to require some coffee”.

After much fiddling, the water finally boiled and coffee was made. It was then dropped almost immediately, and fell in slow motion as I watched helplessly while the ground greedily consumed it. Yep. It’s going to be a rough day.

Another coffee was made and i started to feel a little better. Despite being the first up, I was the last packed and the others patiently waited as my two left hands fumbled in every way conceivable. There sure are a lot of buckles on my bike now.

The climb out tasted a lot like rum and a faint odour of Jamaica could be smelt by those with a sense of smell keen enough.

A climb up, a descent and Killcare beach lay before us with the only thing holding us back being the trading hours of the beachside kiosk which was known for good espresso. Touring doesn’t have to be all suffering….

Fat bike love

The 'road' ahead

Killcare beach was short but Chad’s bike was still making all manner of grinding noises as we reached the end and he quickly taught us the value of a beachside shower as he hosed his bike off to clear the sand out of the bikes driveline. His alfinated moonlander is going to be the perfect solution to the sandy gear blues.

At the end of the beach, a daunting hike a bike loomed. It pitched straight up the side of the hill and was littered with rocks and ruts which meant long periods of carrying. The kitchen sink tour wasn’t looking like such a good idea now. In fact, I was completely ruined by the time we reached the top as the heat of the day was already making its presence felt and I was sweating at an alarming rate.

Maitland Bay had been previously ‘ridden’ by Chad and the Ninja and the reports were a 7 km loop that took well over 4 hours on unladen bikes. Sanity prevailed and we duly avoided this option like the plague and instead rode a mix of fire trails and sandy single track to get us through to McMasters beach via Cockrone Lagoon.

Throughout the morning, my rear rack had been giving trouble. Despite admirably taking a beating on the convict trail trip only recently, the pull down and re-lube of the whole bike before the trip meant the eyelet bolts kept backing out. No matter how tight you got them, several minutes later, the bike would again be handling like an articulated truck as the rack swayed on the loose bolts. All the free play was playing havoc with the racks stays which were now bent at a jaunty angle. Imminent rack failure was apparent to all and so Brad’s belt (what the hell was he carrying that for? ) was used to brace the rack against the seat rails to try and remove some of the sway. Despite inital appearance so the contrary, the belt made a dramatic difference and with some careful riding for which I am not normally known, I was able to coax the rack along with a minimum of fuss.

Before the descent to McMasters, Chad parted company with the aim of meeting us again that night for another night dancing with Captain Morgan. He also headed off in search of a 28mm offset rack to fit a 5 inch tyre which we all felt was probably a fools errand but it would ensure trouble free riding if he could locate one.

As we bumped along next to Cockrone Lagoon, Brad investigated a tapping sound coming from the front of his bike only to discover his rack had shed a bolt and the remaining bolt was holding by the last turn of thread. We scavenged another bolt from the pugsley’s vast array of braze on’s and bolted everything back together. Half a turn more and the whole rack would have swung forward onto the tyre and stopped the pugsley dead in it’s tracks – likely at the worst possible moment.

Luck was the only thing holding this on

McMasters beach was soft and it was HARD going on a laden bike, the front wheel kept slewing and the the steep angle of the beach ensured that any swell surge happened quickly and without any chance of escape ensuring several maddening wet drive line, wet shoe moments.

Normally wet shoes are an annoyance but for some ridiculous reason, I had ridden without any socks on day 1 and sand had began removing layers of skin at points where my foot moved in the shoe. Despite wearing socks on day 2, the abrasion continued and the wet socks were keeping the skin soft and continuing the process. In fact, wet socks was going to become another theme for the trip and despite carrying everything I could think of, I didn’t pack a second pair of socks!?

This was the first beach with any sort of crowds and the fatbikes were drawing all kinds of admiring looks and coversations. Everyone wanted to touch the tyres and the heavily laden appearance meant everyone wanted to know the details of our journey. If you were looking to pick up a middle aged man, you just need to ride a moonlander along a beach. They swarm to it like bees to a honey pot.

We were soon on Avoca beach which was much firmer and were making good progress until reaching Bulbararing lagoon which was flowing rapidly. A young lady was throwing a stick for her two dogs who were charging into the water and disappearing from view indicating the water was pretty deep even if it was only 10 meters wide. A quick discussion and she told us someone had just waded through it and it was about shoulder deep. Picturing trying to keep a 40kg bike above my head while walking through fast flowing water, I made my mind up that the boats were coming out.

While I have paddled with the bike on the boat before, I hadn’t put a fully loaded bike on the boat before and was unprepared for how poorly the weight was distributed. As I waded out, I looked down to see my bar bag was sitting beneath the water and I knew it was poorly sealed and would leak….. all over my sleeping bag. I then watched as a shoe fell in the water along with my fishing tackle ‘bag’ and who knows what else. I waded the shallow tidal flat before reaching the channel and padling across to the other side which left me with a soaked chamois to round out the full list of things I didn’t really want to get wet. Brad was next to cross and made land and was deflating the boat when we saw the jogger coming down the beach. He was a middle age man in a pair of budgie smugglers who didn’t even break stride as he surged into the ‘shoulder deep water’. His budgie smuglers didn’t even get wet as the water reached mid thigh at most. We’d just spent half an hour playing with our toy boats to cross a stream that was just over knee deep. What a laugh!

We again rode along the road to Terrigal beach where we stopped for a lunch of hot salty chips and hid in the shade from the heat, sea gulls and middle aged men.

With a full belly, we headed for the sand praying this beach was better to ride than Avoca which had been terribly soft and steep. As we rolled past a cafe at the beach, you could hear people’s eyes popping out of their heads as we rode down the soft sand and out of sight along the beach. It was almost awkward the amount of attention the bikes were attracting but at least it was all positive.

Looking back at Terrigal and Avoca headlands

The tide was now running out and Terrigal was a superhighway compared to Avoca so we made great time and connected through to the coast walking track where we noodled along in granny ring and didn’t see another sole. It was perfect sandy moonlander single track and an absolute joy to ride, as much for the trail as it was for the shade from the heat.

It started to cloud over as we reached Shelly beach and Chad was calling as we reached Towoon surf club asking whether we were going to find cover as the radar was showing heavy rain headed our way. We weren’t so convinced and instead headed to the surf club for a flat white and and a chat about fat bikes with the barista. Five minutes later, we were more convinced by Chad’s forecast and made for shelter from the impending rain where we sat around for an hour or so to let the storm front blow itself out.

Self portrait waiting out the rain

We returned to the beach after the rain had done it’s work to discover sand so hard you could ride a road bike and the first tail wind of the trip. Joy!

Before we knew it, we were at The Entrance and there was Chad waiting with a beer AND a rack! It turns out he wheeled his moonlander into the first shop he went to and they had a rack that you would swear the moonlander was built to fit.

A quick stop at the supermarket to restock on supplies and we continued on our way with the aim of finding camp in a sneaky section of sandy firetrail near Budgewoi lake. Chad had his camping gear in the car but after a little drive to the proposed area quickly decided he wasn’t going to park his car there overnight as it simply wouldn’t be there when he got back. Instead he headed off to grab pizza and beer and dropped them to us at a rendez vu point before heading home.

Brad and I had used the time to find somewhere to camp. It was incredibly slim pickings as the scrub was thick and the ground soft and highly sloped. Eventually, we settled on a wooden lookout platform as it was the most level spot we could find. Instead of the tent, I used my poncho tarp and through necessity, formed a mozzie net from the tent liner. Necessity is the mother of invtion after all.

The boats (our air mattresses) were wet and sandy after the ridiculous crossing early in the day but at least we were dry. The same couldn’t be said for my sleeping bag which was soaked but at least it was synthetic so would still keep me warm. With a belly full of pizza and beer, I drifted off to sleep to the sounds of mozzies exploring for a way inside my protective cocoon.

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