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Parkes Bushranger's Weekend 2012

by Ian Garrity

The weekend of November 3rd and 4th 2012 saw the first running of the Bushranger's Weekend at Parkes NSW. My wife Katherine and I signed up to do it and to people smarter than me, that title might have suggested that there may have been a bit of gravel road planned for these rides – and smarter people than me would have been correct, but more of that later. Local lad (but currently living and working in Sydney) Wayde Hazelton had laid on a huge amount of ride options over the two days, so you had the choice of doing either 50km, 100km, 200km (with a tar only option – at least I saw that), 300km and 400km. So it was a slight pity that there ended up being less riders than actual ride options. Friends of ours from Dubbo, Mick Cooper and Kerrie Walsh (who have running lots of rides in Dubbo with the BUGS Group there for a long time) were in attendance to do their first Audax rides. We sort of have to take the blame/credit for this as we had talked to them about the Audax rides we had done and they were both interested – possibly by the fact that for the first time in a long time, somebody else would be organising the rides and they would have to just turn up and, well, ride.

We arrived in Parkes on Friday evening, met Mick and Kerry at our hotel who told us Wayde had arranged to meet for dinner at the local (well, one of the local) hotels for dinner and a bit of a ride briefing. Sounded good to us. At dinner we found out just how few people had entered – other than Mick and Kerry and Katherine and myself, there was Kevin from Wollongong and local farmer Geoff entered for Saturdays rides and possibly another local Tony, whose potential involvement kept on getting less and less as the evening went on. First he was to do the 200, then he reconsidered and thought maybe the 100 – which was soon dispatched in favour of the 50. Which was then jettisoned completely in favour of having a motorcycle ride instead. Wayde himself intimated that if he didn't do some family business on Saturday he might find himself incapacitated by a serious physical injury inflicted by his wife Michelle, so he wouldn't be riding on Saturday either.

Saturday 3rd November

We were doing the 200km "tar only" option on our road bikes and had a 6.00am start and our only companion was Kevin, who would be doing the ride on his own self built bright yellow recumbent. While the standard "diamond frame" bicycle (materials notwithstanding) has barely changed in 120 years, the design of recumbents seemed to have not yet (indeed if it ever will) settle on standard design, and Kevin's bike was proof of that. It was a seemingly simple large single beam frame that all components were hung on, with a small front wheel and a chain three times as long as conventional chain. As we were to find out, it was quite a speedy combination. Geoff was the sole participant in the "mixed terrain" 200 and was on his flash Scott 29er mountain bike and – so a slightly lonely ride was awaiting him. The two rides headed out together (with a rather nice tailwind) towards Bogan Gate until the "tar only" wimps turned left to take the "long cut" (which still had a bit of dirt on it – but only because the road was under repair) and Geoff was left to soldier on alone.

Roadworks on the way to Bogan Gate - a sample for Sundays ride

Kevin and Ian at the Gate of Bogan

I was hoping Bogan Gate might have experienced a scandal involving ugg boots, excessive amounts of beer consumption and a rogue mullet haircut to give it it's name, but I was sadly disappointed.

From Bogan Gate we headed towards Forbes and some of the flattest and straightest roads we had ever ridden on – if you want some Nullarbor training, feel free to come here. Kevin had dropped back at one point to take some leg warmers off and we had gone on ahead. A local farm had some elaborate gate posts shaped like penny farthings, so we stopped for some photos. As we stopped, we looked back on the road and could see the flashing light on Kevin's bike a fair way down the road. After we mucked around and had some photos, we looked down the road again – and Kevin only seemed marginally nearer. That was not a reflection on his riding speed (which was pretty good, particularly when in "chase mode"), but rather the flat and straight nature of the roads. Coming from Sydney, we were used to ups and downs and the accompanying out of the seat climbing position that gave our bums a rest. With no hills out here, bums were definitely getting numb and some stretches were required from time to time. The first checkpoint at Forbes was duly reached and a bakery was located and raided by the three of us time honoured Audax fashion.

There is not a lot to relate about the countryside between Forbes and Eugowra that hasn't already been related – it is very flat, although there was a reasonably long pick a plank bridge close to Eugowra, which was a highlight, as it had a slight rise up to it.

Katherine at one of the few rises on the ride - a pick a plank bridge near Eugowra

Eugowra also used to have a famous heritage pub – The Fat Lamb – but it had burned down the week before the ride, and a sad collection of collapsed walls and charred timber was all that remained. It was at Eugowra that Kevin noticed the cranks on his recumbent seemed a little bit further away than they were before. On his bike, the bottom bracket really should be known as the front bracket as it was the most northerly point on the bike. It was also adjustable, forward and aft, to allow for riders of differing heights to fit the bike. It seems it had self adjusted forward, so Kevin had to stop and readjust the location. We waved him goodbye and continued on the last leg back to Parkes. It was all quite uneventful until we were nearly back in town, when a woman passenger in a shiny four wheel drive helpfully pointed out to us there was a cycle path just over there (going to a sports oval), and then enquired as to why weren't on it. She was gone before I could enquire as to why the big shiny four wheel drive she was being passengered in was not actually off on a gravel or dirt track somewhere but on a bitumen road meant for normal cars...

Kerry and Mick were the only riders on the 100km tar and dirt ride, and greatly enjoyed it, but related that there were actually some steep climbs on the route. Seems the only hills around here don't have the luxury of a bitumen surface. They were both backing up for the next day's 100km route (as were we and looking forward to it as it went out to "The Dish"), and it would be the first time Kerry had done two 100km rides for the weekend.

Dinner that night was at a local Thai restaurant and we talked about the route for tomorrow. We now knew there was dirt, but didn't realise how much until Wayde gently pointed out to the dumb city slickers it was about 50km. Oops! Amazingly, Wayde went back that night after dinner and redrew the route to reduce the dirt component as much as possible just to cater for us stupid city folk...

Sunday 4th November

A relaxed 8.00am start saw Katherine and myself, Mick and Kerry, Geoff, Tony (who finally decided to do the 50km ride today) and Wayde rolling out from Parkes heading towards "The Dish" as the first checkpoint at only 25km. Wayde had handed out revised route notes in the morning, with a curious note to "Pat the Dog" at approximately 30km into the ride. Queries directed towards Wayde about what this meant were met with an inscrutable "wait and see" response. Geoff made it approximately 1.5km from the start, still on his flash 29er, when a his rear tyre failed in a spectacularly noisy "bang and screech of escaping air" style of flattie – so we now know the sound a tubeless mountain bike tyre makes as it fails. Turns out Geoff knew the tyre has a problem and had needed to pump it up a couple of times on his 200km ride the day before. He was just hoping to get one more ride out of it... Geoff told us not to wait, as he would go back to the start, drive back to his farm and meet us later on his road bike. So off to "The Dish" we went on the Wellington Road and turned off to the dirt section of Telescope Road – so at least we knew we were going the right way. We reached the dish and marvelled at its size and also marvelled at the nice selection of cakes on display in the cafe.

Katherine and Wayde enjoying the dish of the day

L to R: Wayde, The Dish, Tony, Kerry, Mick and Ian on the dirt

We had only just had breakfast, but we had to follow the Audax tradition and sample the produce... A neat display they had were two smaller dishes about 3 metre in diameter set up about 50 metres apart which gave a brilliant practical example of how the reflectors capture sound waves. Mick went to one and I went to the other and when each of us spoke, our words were heard as clearly as if we had been standing next to each other. I turned to look at Mick, and he was walking back to me, but I could still hear his words being reflected into my ears from behind me. It was an odd sensation, I could see him talking in front of me, but the sound was coming from behind as though a small speaker was there (which there wasn't as I checked...) We went back the way we came on the dirt of Telescope Road and found Geoff sitting by the side of the road with his road bike fixing the second of two punctures he suffered after transferring bikes – making a total of three for the day. Geoff took the laid back country style approach to fixing his punctures – so we waited quite a while until some impatient city folk dove in to help. Tony turned off soon after to return to Parkes, so our next stop was "Pat the Dog" which turned out to be a couple of metal sculptures made by a local farmer at the front gate to his property – the dog in question was metal and equipped with a highly impressive set of teeth. Photos were had and the dog was duly patted.

Kerry bravely patting the dog

The rest of the ride saw two flatties for me and one for Wayde (who was also on his road bike) – they were all pinch flats. You just had to hit a small stone at just the wrong angle and that horrible "pssst" sound (common in the universal language of cyclists everywhere) would result. Bugger! Still we made it back to Parkes after some more dirt and were happy with the weekends results. We'd seen parts of NSW that were new to us, and Wayde had proudly shown off his local area. There are more rides lined up for Parkes in the not too distant future (Wayde being an energetic sort of chap) so we can only recommend you get out there and do some different roads – for a change!


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