Cairns  or  Croupier

Shortly aprés scaling Range Rd on the return from Bowral on Tour de Robertson - May '07

Michael M's initial foray on a Muggs' ride was Tour de Macarthur which Scribe had assured him beforehand was one of our flatter rides.  Scribe had forgotten about a few hills around Picton, noticeably Razorback Mtn.  Croupier's bike has a double front chain ring 39/52 and 12/23 rear cassette, so Michael did it tough that chilly Winter's day out West.  Mike has subsequently replaced his rear cluster with a 12/27, yet still struggles on nasty climbs ie. Kangaloon Rd, when most of us have 50/34 compact cranks or a 52/42/30 triple chainring.

Michael 'n Rex aka Pimpernel enjoying din dins at Pizzas in the Mist, on our inaugural Tour de Robertson

In Oct/Nov 1991, in a momentary burst of hubris, Michael took off from Sydney on a solo, long cycle journey due Nth to Cairns Qld with panniers carrying his Sunday best.  Michael felt the need to test his staying power, both physically and mentally:

“I wanted to get away from it all and test my endurance and willpower at the same time.  I was also single, between jobs and had plenty of time and spare cash on my hands.  A Sydney to Brisbane ride which I completed a year earlier had wetted my appetite for something a tad longer. 

I generally tried to stay away from the coast and managed to avoid the major highways – but in Nth Queensland I couldn’t avoid the Pacific Highway for long stretches. 

My ride took about 6 weeks – taking it fairly easy, riding 5-6 days per week, with a couple of 2-3 day rests along the way.  There would have been only a handful of days where I rode over 100km on the day.  I rode solo without a support vehicle and carried all my gear in pannier bags strapped onto a rear bike rack only.  Took only the bare essentials.   The bike was a TREK mountain bike.   I stayed in pubs and Youth Hostels along the way – which meant I didn’t need to carry any camping gear. 

After arriving in Cairns – for good measure, I spent another week riding around the Atherton Tablelands and then put myself and the bike on a plane back to Sydney. 

Mr ride went fairly smoothly without too much out of the ordinary.  Not knowing much about bikes - I now regret that I didn’t do any servicing of it along the way, which probably made the riding a little harder than it should have been.  Believe it or not - I can’t recall getting even a single puncture along the way.   I did make sure the tyres were checked and pumped every 3 days or so but that was about it. 

The one thing that I recall is the swooping magpies which were a real nuisance as unwittingly I had picked hatching season to pass under their nests.   I learnt to keep a keen eye out for them as I approached or left a township - but they would inevitably take a few dives at me from behind during the split seconds I wasn’t looking.   There was a really tenacious one during the approach to Coffs Harbour that took a few nips out of my ear and caused me to bleed like a stuck pig. 

I was particularly lucky with the weather – apart from an evening thunderstorm I encountered when I was in Kilcoy, Qld the rest of the journey was bone-dry. 

As if riding to Cairns wasn’t a zany enough goal – after returning to Sydney I then did something really way-out.  I packed my bags and went from an Aussie Summer (Dec 1991) to a Russian Winter to visit a girl I’d met in Sydney not long before I did the Cairns Trip.   At that time it was roughly equivalent to going from “heaven” to “hell”, as the old Soviet Union was in its death throes and in fact ceased to exist just a few days after I arrived (from memory that was 19/12/01).   I ended up staying there for 5 months - which is another story in itself. 

Anyhow - we got married the following year and we’re still living together happily all these years later. 

When I was over there - I naturally thought about cycling and looking at a map, thought about the fanciful possibility of doing an east-west trip from St. Petersburg to Vladivostok.  After returning to Sydney, I found that a group of guys had already beaten me to the punch and had written a book about the experience – “Between the Hammer and The Sickle” by Simon Vickers (an Englishman) – a great read and a real inspiration for long-distance cyclists.  Also captures down to a tee what daily life is/was like for the average Soviet citizen living outside the big cities.  Karl Marx has got a lot to answer for. 

I still have high hopes of doing a cycling trip in that part of the world – perhaps from my city of birth – Harbin (Northern China) – (don’t ask !! – that is yet another story !!) to the city where I got married - Novosibirsk (Russian Federation).  That trip would have a nice symbolism about it.  The distance is about 3,200 km as the crow flies, but closer to 3,600 by road – comparable to Sydney - Cairns.  A tough trip - no doubt - but definitely achievable.  The summer weather in that region of the globe is not that different to an inland Aussie Summer -  with plenty of days of baking heat in July (35 to 40 degrees or better). 

If anybody is interested in this type of trip - now is the time to start planning for May-June 08 or Aug-Sep 08.  I’ve got contacts in both cities and would be seriously interested in organising something - possibly with sponsorship, etc. to help defray costs.  Its not a particularly glamorous part of the world  (I wouldn’t be surprised if there is zero interest) - but maybe for some people that could be an attraction in itself.

As far as some details about myself - I work as a Data Analyst for the Tax Office – focusing on data trails of people who may have understated their GST liability.  Been there for about 7 years.   Have done a lot of odd jobs throughout my life - including a 6-month stint as a Blackjack Dealer in Star City Casino, mobile-phone packer/dispatcher, manager of a customer-care centre  for a satellite-phone company which is now defunct and a PC Network Administrator for the old Department of Science in Canberra, when the quiz-king Barry Jones was at the helm.

I’m celebrating my 50th birthday this coming October and I hope to rack up another 50 years as my health is generally pretty good and continuing to ride the bike should keep me in good fettle !!