Day 36: Rockhampton to Brisbane
Today I woke up with a slightly different feeling than usual. It was no longer a sense of wonder and excitement, but more of an acceptance that riding was my entire life for a solid 35 days and it is starting to come to an end. The ride out of Rockhampton began with the crossing over the Fitzroy, which was indeed very high and looked as though you could step out onto the bridge right into it. It had grown 9m in depth over the course of a couple days. On average, a person is 1.6m. So that's roughly 4-5 people standing on top of each other. It was the result of the rain Cyclone Debbie brought in and I have to say, never underestimate the power of weather forces in Australia.
The first 50km out of Rocky was intriguing. I couldn't capture it on my GoPro, but the banks alongside the road was filled with water yet it stayed green, kind of like a pond that has leaves and plant matter floating on top. It looked thick enough to walk around on it, but in actual fact, the banks could be up to 2m deep (as shown on the floodway measures).
As I approached the first major city since Cairns, it dawned on me that memories of the outback are just that - memories. I no longer have the ability to pull off to the side of the road whenever I wanted to (unless I wanted to be tooted at with annoyance) and I could no longer go the speed I wanted to (for the sake of writing this, I went the speed limit the entire way around. Ahem) basically, there's something about being in the outback for a few weeks that changes your perspective. I didn't think I'd say this, but I miss it. I got used to the heat and animals, and I quickly started to enjoy being so alone. Maybe it's just my personality. I mean, I created a company called Flying Solo for goodness sake.
I passed a turnoff for a town that is called Seventeen Seventy. Australia is the land of original town names. The turnoff said " <--- 1770" and I because I just came from the outback, I thought it was a blank town name followed by a distance that lead into the Pacific. It was later that I saw signs for Seventeen Seventy, the town, and then "Welcome to Bundaberg!".
By Bundaberg I was about halfway but it was still before lunch! The road traffic increased with every kilometer, and my patience with poor drivers was drawing thin with every clueless right-lane driver. Maybe I'm not meant to be a city person.
Mounds of construction sites filled the roads from Bundaberg to Sunshine Coast. They were repairing the damage from the rain. I didn't know the riding etiquette in Queensland so I didn't lane split too much, but by the end of it I wish I had. Cruise control doesn't work well when there's a lot of overtaking or curves. My throttle hand was getting a bit sore so I ducked into Sunshine Coast for a bit. After what seemed like 6 consecutive roundabouts, I found myself at a cute cafe called Lamkin Lane. It was a standalone building tucked away from the main streets. After seeing literally weeks on end of highway and open spaces, darting around an unknown neighbourhood trying to find Lamkin was a challenge.
The drivers in Queensland are also very unlike people from WA and NT (who understand right-of-way) so I admit I almost dropped Sheba a few times from pulling the front brake in for people who made a quick right turn in front of me. I finally sat down at Lamkin Lane and ordered a cappucino, and it turned out to be a Melbourne-standard cuppa that blew my mind. I ordered three. In retrospect I should have paced myself a bit more but luckily they closed shop before I could order a fourth. Wired as, I hopped back onto Sheba and headed down to Brisbane.
The weird thing about Queensland is that it's a very sunny state and is known for its beaches and surf culture. But like most everywhere in the world, it has to rain someday. It chose to rain the one day I headed into Brisbane. It was strangely warm so I didn't mind. The final 60km into Brisbane was a stark reminder of what city life was. People cut each other off, lots of tooting, and plenty of near-misses. Ah, and people who text and drive. That's what this blog is about though - riding around Australia, written in a motorcyclist's perspective. I don't usually remember every petrol stop or what I ate, but I do remember how I feel on the road. These 60km in a nutshell: hellhole.
I made it into Brisbane to be stuck in traffic going into the city. Brisbane is bigger than I thought, with lots of suburban districts and the town centre situated right on the Brisbane River. My goal was to get to Panthers Powerlifting, home club of my powerlifting coach who helped me prep for this ride. He was in Milton, probably one of the closest suburbs to the CBD (or so it seemed). Entering Brisbane CBD on a motorcycle during peak hour is like a death wish. Either cars don't see you, or they see you and choose to check how good you are at your motorcycle skills. It took 50 minutes from the edge of Brisbane to the centre, including a lot of internal screaming and clenched jaws. The rain had already stopped in Brissie and I was only a bit damp. Colin, my coach, greeted me with a big smile but had clients so I didn't want to disturb him.
I did some very necessary stretching and got to put in a couple of reps of clean and jerk before meeting with my host Dave. He came around to pick me up from Panthers and we shot off to Mt Coot-tha to see an overview of Brisbane. At night, Brisbane is a stunner from afar. I think it helps that it's so densely surrounded by trees and suburb that the brightness of the CBD becomes highlighted. There were a few riders at the lookout but they made no eye contact. Queensland is the first and only state/territory I've been to where riders don't acknowledge each other - I felt a bit like an idiot giving a riders wave to blank stares.
Dave's a confident rider and it was pure effort trying to follow him on square tyres and towing luggage. When we finally arrived at his, the driveway welcomed me with a steep curved incline. It's something one wouldn't think about in a car, but after riding flat for a month, it was shocking. I made it, no dramas, but after the brown pants detour, anything is possible. We settled in for the night and he gave me one of the best birthday gifts I've ever received, a custom painted mini-Sheba! The motorcycle community is one of camaraderie and I'm glad to be a part of it.
Tomorrow, a relaxing ride to Byron Bay for an impromptu holiday!