June 12: Finishing Strong

Today I felt like The Grinch when he gets "the strength of 10 Grinches". I had a fantastic ride to Melbourne, feeling the best I'd felt yet even though it was my longest distance. Knowing I had a warm destination at the end and that I wouldn't need to be on the bike the next day brought peace of mind and allowed me to go all out, adrenaline pumping full-blast. I just cranked away as if there was no tomorrow - which, in terms of my bike tour, was true!

Staying in the motel might have been a key move - I woke up warm and refreshed, hardly feeling sore with just a little tightness in my leg muscles. I attribute the lack of soreness to my motel room's heated mattress cover - in all of the debate over electric blankets not being safe, why didn't anyone in the US just think to put the heating elements underneath? I slowly made breakfast and got ready to go, lingering in my comfy room, while waiting for the weather to warm up. I made my break around 9:45 into some fog but it cleared and warmed up pretty quickly, at which point I felt that I should've left earlier. Oh well! With around 120 km to go and limited time, it only caused me to push harder.

I passed the usual countryside,  complete with its lambs, cows, and general flatness except for a few rolling hills. For most of the day, I bounced back and forth between the M1 freeway and smaller local roads. The freeway, surprisingly, felt safer than alternate roads at a lot of points. The shoulder was more than a car's width wide and signs constantly reminded motorists and cyclists of our road's shared nature. The only scary parts were exits and entrances, during which I would have to cross over the exiting or entering lane back into the shoulder at a designated "cyclist crossing" point. There was only traffic at these points once or twice and the lead driver slowed down enough to let me safely cross in front (although a few cars behind honked at me for the 3 seconds I took out of their day... sorry for the inconvenience, jerks). Regardless, this territory was smooth sailing and my speedometer was reading an average speed of 15+ mph for at least the first 45 miles!

About 25 miles from the city, I was no longer allowed on the freeway, so I got off and followed... You guessed it... The gold old princes highway! It took a faithful route diagonally across all other roads and directly into Melbourne. Definitely not its greatest stretch in terms of bike friendliness, the princes highway cut straight through suburbs with 2-3 lanes of traffic each way, disappearing and reappearing bike lanes, and no shoulder. These last few miles were the worst of the day because of all the stop-and-go at stoplights, yield signs, and winding on and off of sidewalks, but the lost time and extra strain were a small price to pay for a little extra safety. I rode with an older German guy for about 8 miles as he escorted me towards the city, reassuring me that exiting the princes route and finding a bike path would be a waste of time. Lots of my riding here also included bouncing in and out of "service lanes" where they existed - 1 or 2 block long one-way roads lined with houses and businesses alongside the busy street. Again, safe, but a lot of back and forth.

Eventually I made it to the city limits although it was difficult to tell at exactly what point. It was clear once I started seeing mass quantities of other cyclists racing through bike lanes single-file! I played along but ultimately got a little misdirected while trying to get past a river and another freeway. The last couple of miles were definite city riding - busy car traffic, skinny bike lanes, and endless stoplights. I think that with all of my gear, I was the widest and heaviest thing the bike lanes had seen all day. I finally found my way to my friend, Will, at 5:45 or so with extreme feelings of accomplishment and happiness! I'd finally made it through the first leg of the journey. Will is here on study abroad and gets to live in the very center of the city across from some skyscrapers and the parliament. See photos at the end for views.

The strangest feeling has been that I'm alright to set up here for a couple of days - no packing up my entire life every morning, no 8-hours-on-the-road days, no worrying about how much further my legs will take me or where I'll sleep that night, and no travel-sized groceries. Lots of exploring to be done here as I settle into the city for a couple of days!

I suppose this concludes chapter one of my Australian adventure tour! Thanks to everyone who's been following along and supporting me so far! I've got a few days here and will continue writing when I have the chance, but I'm actually unsure of where exactly my travels will take me next. Ideally, I'd like to ride between Sydney and Brisbane, a comparable distance to what I just completed but nicer weather. I'm also making a point to get all the way up the east coast to Cairns for some serious, tropical great barrier reef experiences, even if just for a few days.


Today's stats:
Total dist: 75.57 miles
Total time: 5 hours 38 mins
Avg speed: 13.43 mph
Max speed: 38.11 mph

1 comment:

  1. So excited for you!
    Also, you were in my dream this morning. I was walking to work on campus and you rode up on your bike next to me saying you had decided to extend your trip, starting in Ithaca and going across the US. Woke up slightly confused. Ha!