"Wouldn't it be fun to ride across here" were the throwaway words I once uttered to Joanne in 1994, as we drove across the Nullarbor Plain to Perth. "You can ride, I'll drive the support car" said Joanne, and the subject was forgotten.
Some seven years later, in early 2001, Joanne and I had visited our financial planner Bill Temple, from Bridges Financial Services in Perth and as usual, the subject of the future had come up. During the revision of our plan, one option mentioned was the taking of some leave (I had lots of long service and annual leave stacked up) to "do some touring". A few days later I deployed for a few months on HMAS DARWIN.
Part of our deployment was a trip to Mumbai (Bombay) in India, for the Indian Naval review.
During that deployment a few things happened and a few decisions were made, one of which was my realisation that as I approached my 25th year of service I was ready to move on in life and leave the Navy.
While I was away, Joanne had been riding our LoGo Recumbent trike which we had named James because its production number was 007. On my return from the deployment, and on the way home from the ship, Joanne mentioned that she was enjoying riding her trike, and after following Patrick & Sharyn (fellow trike riders touring the country) via their e-mails, had decided that she might be able to do that ride across the Nullarbor after all. Well, as Joanne says, "that was it". We discussed a few things and by the time the next morning came around, the decision had been made, we were not just going to ride the Nullarbor, "we" were going around Australia by trike. That was March 2001.
Following the decision to go, many things happened. I went to work and put my discharge papers in, we told friends and family, many of whom thought we were mad, and we generally started to organise things. I then deployed again on HMAS DARWIN, off to the Solomon Islands for a stint of peacekeeping. On return from that trip, Martin Arnold (owner of Logo Trikes) had built my new trike, which we named Pip because her paint scheme colour was Watermelon Red.
Many things happened following that. More plans were made, leave was taken, and Ann & Bob (my Aunt & Uncle from England) came for a visit and some touring by car was enjoyed. The worlds worst terrorist attack (Sept 11) happened in the USA, Ansett Airlines went bust, stranding Ann & Bob in Perth which resulted in their hiring a camper van and driving across the Nullarbor to Adelaide to meet my parents, and we had had a garage sale to get rid of those "excess" belongings. Before I knew it the rest of our goods were packed away in a 3m x 6m - storage unit and we were leaving on our tour.
The sun was already up and at 6.23 am when we rode out of the driveway and off down the street. Much to some of the recumbent groupís disgust there was no fanfare, speeches or celebrations, we just got on the trikes and rode off in the middle of the working week.
We rode off down the street and along a route that we had travelled previously, one that we knew well. It was probably this familiarity that stopped the big trip apprehension and it felt just like any other ride except for the huge amount of gear we had onboard. Along with this, because we rode day by day, with no real "must do" planning or agenda, the trip became one of, a series of rides not one big one.
For the first month we were getting used to living on the road, getting rid of body weight we didn't need (around 10 kg each) and riding everyday. It was just a case of life on a day by day, hill by hill basis. Such a change from the planned, regimented life I was used to in the Navy. Many people ask us how much training we did for the tip, and the answer is "very little", we basically got on and started riding. We had done some group rides with the West Australian HPV group we belong to, and a couple of 100 kilometres rides but that was it.
We were also very much still in familiar territory, and focussing on where we were and where we were going for that day to be too worried about what lay ahead. For the first time in our 24 years of marriage we were also getting used to being together for 24 hours a day. Never before had we spent 24 hours a day, 7 days a week together, and we were experiencing life, each other and the country like never before. Neither of us was overly conscious of this so we werenít wondering if "we" would make it back together or not.
To some extent, this trip was just a case of "letís see what happens". It was not planned to the smallest detail like you might think it should be, or would be by someone with a military background. It was more a case of read what you could, talk to whoever you could, prepare a list, buy a few things and with an idea in our heads ride - just ride. Neither of us knew what was going to happen, how or if we would handle it or even if we were up to it at all. I think that Joanne followed me in blind faith, a faith that she has shown ever since we have known each other.
I remember thinking (and Joanne likes to remind me) that we would just wake up each morning when we were ready to wake up, take a leisurely time to pack up, ride a bit during the day, stopping to look at whatever we felt like before stopping to set up the tent and to spend some time sitting around reading, writing and having time together. I could not have been more wrong if I had tried. "Weíd still be in Western Australia if he had his way" quips Joanne if the subject ever came up in conversation.
The trip has been a mixture of emotions, hard work and a huge learning process, mostly about us. Most mornings "on the road" we were up early and in about an hour, had packed up, had breakfast and set off. Our day was then filled with riding and viewing, riding and viewing some more.
We tended to ride up to half a kilometre apart, and often in our own little world. I generally ride in front and if I see things of interest, or obstacles, I would point them out for Joanne, she in turn yells out to tell me of things she has seen, and that I had missed. We found we would ride for about an hour or 10 -15 kilometres before stopping for a snack and toilet break before doing that over and over again. Before long we were used to riding 60, 70 or more kilometres each day with no problems. We would then stop for lunch and maybe another break before finding somewhere to stop for the night. We were just so vulnerable compared to people in caravans and motor-homes and being able to sleep in peace is a big thing, so a nice out of sight, out of mind campsite was always a priority.
So anyway, here is the rest of the
story, diary entries and facts. Itís not meant to be a literary masterpiece
but Joanne and I both hope you get as much from reading it as we did
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