week 5...
the wild yellow yonder

Townsville to Richmond

Cross off Destination #1: The road to Townsville is complete. Thus begins the Australian Outback.

As a basis of comparison, consider the East coast of Australia to be congruent to Southern Ontario (not a bad analogy for both Canadians and Americans, since Southern Ontario is the farthest most Americans are willing to venture into Canada). The highway is wide, cities and towns abound, and you wouldn't need to drive too far before you encountered tourist gems like Balls Falls, The Big Apple or Buttwick's U-pick Fruit Farm.

Southern Ontario weather reports (not to mention government funds) end at Sudbury, North Bay, possibly even Sault Ste. Marie. At that point, you've reached the Canadian Outback, which virtually no Americans (or Southern Ontarians, for that matter) are game to travel. A town each hour, or at least a gas station each hour, but not much more. Oh sure, each town has its claim to fame, like the Giant Goose in Wawa, or the -72C Coldest Place in Canada next to the A&W in White River, but we all know what your destination is... Thunder Bay!

Okay, it's really Winnipeg. But that's what makes Mount Isa even more like Thunder Bay. It's not really a destination, it's a supply stop. It's the only town within 8 hours in any direction with a Wal-Mart (yet, sadly, no Red Lobster... you'd need to go to Duluth for that). Mount Isa, in comparison, is the only town with a Silly Solly's.

So, next time you're driving between Thunder Bay and, well, anywhere, imagine yourself in the Australian Outback. Just get rid of all the trees, all the lakes, all the water sources, and all the colour green. Just don't dream so much that you hit one of those Outback Moose.
Feral Dinkum:
Did you know? A feral pig can run up to 30km an hour! That's faster than we can bike! Eep!

Did you know? A feral pig can chew through anything! Even skin, bone, muscle and cartilage! Double eep!

Did you enjoy
Brush with Death?
Here's more!
The Hellspider
The Dingo
The Redback
The Blue Tongue

brush with death #5
"Feral pigs? HAH!" shouted Aimee defiantly, thwarting the attempts of yet another Australian local attempting to warn us of the dangers ahead. "That's like saying, 'Ooh watch out for the vermicious albino caribou' in Canada. It's just silly talk."

After all, she thought, how feral can a pig really get? They're just piggies! Snort snort snort, hee hee!


The night was so dark and spooky, the moon was yet too shy to emerge. The Tandem Two hadn't seen another vehicle in over an hour... the Witching Hour, perhaps? A time when the rest of the world is asleep and all the ghouls and spectres of the mind come out to play.

Kevin sensed a shape to his left, but couldn't quite define it with only the wide-beamed halogen light attached to the front of his Penninger Recumbent Tricycle. Aimee was, as usual, oblivious. Kevin turned his head, topped with miner's torch, and illuminated the shape.

It was a FRIGGIN' HUGE HAIRY PIG!!! Thankfully, it was dead, but at that second or third day of death when the bloating has inflated it to its largest it will ever be.

Wide eyed, shaken, and thinking the single thought "They do exist," Aimee and Kevin cycled further into the night.
these are the people in our neighbourhood...
If there's one lesson we learned this week, it's this little two-parted beauty:

    I. Travellers in cars stop at rest areas for two reasons: to pee and to eat.
    II. If they're nice, and you look pathetic, they may share with you.

By sharing, I'm of course referring to the food, and not the urine. Here are a few of our new rest-stop friends...

Mareska, Paul & Alex
There is nothing better than seeing people twice. We made friends with this happy bunch back in Townsville and they stopped to say hello as they sped past us. They're relocating to Perth and we'll be sure to drop in on our way through. Let's hope Alex saves some wiggly worms for us.
Steve & Dave
This pair is on a mission to Outback Queensland to work with Aboriginal communities down in Lake Nash, NT. Not only that, but they gave us a whole bottle of Vanilla Coke miles from any Vanilla Coke store anywhere! Now that's a friend!
Lionel & Gladys
We had a wonderful lunch of chicken and ice cold water with Lionel and Gladys. They left minutes before a convict bus pulled up to let the inmates have a wee in the middle of nowhere. Lucky them.
Jim & Elise
Custard always comes your way right when you need it. Today it was delivered by Darwinites (Darwinians?) Jim and his granddaughter Elise on their way to Cairns to drop off some furniture. See you in Darwin for a barbie!
here i sit, broken hearted...

When you spend as much time as we do in far removed rest areas, you find yourself looking for things to do to pass the time. There are card games, long naps in the hot sun, and mini expeditions to explore within a few hundred metres of the only shady area for miles. One of these mini-expeditions brought me, Kevin, into a place where very few men are apt to tread... the ladies room.

And you know what I noticed? The graffiti in the ladies room is so much tamer, friendlier, and happier than the mens room. I enjoyed reading it! It was so bubbly and cute, and their biggest bathroom beef was from toilet paper thieves. If that's the worst injustice that would cause a female traveller to pick up a magic marker, then they are truly the gentler sex.

When I told Aimee my amazement at the tameness of the anti-paper-thievery campaigning, she laughed and asked, "Well, what does the mens room say?" She was aghast! (Side note: stop for a moment, and picture Aimee aghast. It's kind of funny.)

Mens room graffiti is littered throughout with angry racial slurs, slanderous sexual accusations, and homosexual advances. And unfortunately, it's something I'm sure most men, myself included, have simply grown to accept. There are a lot of angry, sexist, racist homophobes on the loose out there... it's scary. Sure, there's the occasional "I can't believe how stupid you racists think you are, you're obviously not that bright since you display your ignorance on toilet walls," but it's so dwarfed by the giant spraypainted DIE RACIAL SLUR DIE that, though the one quiet voice may feel appeased, the rest of the gender is still mortally embarrassed for itself.

My only hope is that it's the loudmouthed few that decide to leave their mark, and the moral majority are silent, happy, and unswayed by the choice words on the mens room wall. And to the women, I hope the toilet paper pinchers are the worst kind you ever have to deal with.
wally's amazin' facts!
Everybody knows that the English are from England, the Irish are from Ireland, and the Welsh are from Wales. But what do you call a cat from the Isle of Mann? A Manx! Go on, ask one yourself!

This Week's Amazin Fact: The town of Winton holds a special place in the hearts of Australians, and for good reason. You see, once a jolly swagman camped by billabong, under the shade of one of Winton's many fine coolibah trees. That's right... Winton is the home of the song Waltzing Matilda! We didn't go there; it was too far to bike. I just thought you should know.

While you're still digesting that morsel of tucker, take a wild guess at the cattle population of the area around Charters Towers. You'll be surprised! Answer next week!

Don't forget to look for your favourite swag-wombat this week!
Distance this week: 503kmDistance since Day 1: 2013km

What is Bikeabout? Click here to find out!

Day 30: Where's Bubbles?
Distance Travelled: 57.3km Temperature: 32
Time on Trikes: 5.0h Water Left: 5.5L
Terrain: Short climbs
End Location: Rest Area #279
leave it all behind
It seems like just yesterday we arrived in Townsville and now we're anxious to leave it behind and begin Phase II: The Outback. There's a certain nervous energy going around today... a feeling of 'there's no turning back' combined with the sense that we're making our first major left turn. We won't be making another turn like this until we reach the Three Ways Roadhouse: roughly 1500km away. It's a bit of a psychological barrier to get over, thinking about those bare kilometers.
   Well, you've got to start somewhere, right? Outback, here we come!

"Love that dead roo smell, but can't get to Australia?"
- Kevin.
Day 31: Mellltiiing...
Distance Travelled: 58.2km Temperature: 41
Time on Trikes: 8.0h Water Left: 11L
Terrain: Stupid huge mountain, followed by many little mountains
End Location: Burdekin River
it's getting hot in here
That's no typo; the temperature jumped ten degrees since we left the coast. 41 degrees? I've had coffee colder than that!
   If you want to play along, go preheat your oven to 106 degrees. Put your face right in front of the door and then open and close the door and enjoy the warm ovenly breeze. Refreshing, isn't it? Actually, it probably is. We just heard Thunder Bay's already had its first snowfall. Lucky bastards.
   If you're really super keen to simulate the Aim & Kev experience, ask a friend with a sauna to light it up, drag your exercise bike into it. Don't throw any water on the rocks, 'cause that'd be cheating! You want a wicked dry heat. Keep it up for ten hours. Then do it again tomorrow. Now you're starting to get the idea...
   Thought of the Day: If our insides were as hot as our outsides, we'd be dead!

"I'm sorry I drank all the imaginary Coke."
- Kevin.
Day 32: Rocketcloud!
Distance Travelled: 114.3km Temperature: 20
Time on Trikes: 13h Water Left: 16L
Terrain: Huge hills, huge headwind
End Location: Homestead
de night time is de right time
That's no typo; the temperature dropped twenty degrees since yesterday. 20 degrees? I've had Coke hotter than that!
   It didn't take long for us to figure out that the only way to survive this trip is to cycle where the sun don't shine. Our first introduction to night biking was baptism by fire: literally. We were already pretty antsy about riding in the dark for the first time, but mother nature threw some wild ones at us to make life even more exciting than it already is.
   First, the wildfires. Not blazing wildfires out of control, but small 'controlled' fires on either side of the highway for about thirty kilometres. Just enough to give us that hickory smoked flavour.
   Next came the duststorm. We know our eyes were getting gritty but we thought it was merely because of all the smoke. We found out later that we had caught the top-end of a duststorm that ripped across Queensland. It was a case of not seeing the dust for the fire.
   Then there was the willy-willy. Or as we called it, the frickin' frackin' tornado that came out of nowhere. It swept up from one side of the road about 100 meters in front of us and picked up sticks, stones and ash before hurling itself at incredible speed into the bush on the other side of the road. WHUMP! WHAP! Things clanking down around us left and right!
   And don't even mention 'feral pig' to Aimee.
   What have we learned from all of this? If it's a choice between the afternoon heat or bushfires, dust, tornados, pigs, bats, road trains, drop bears, hoop snakes, and hideous flesh-eating bunyips... see you tomorrow night!

"There's a beautiful river up that way.
There's no water in it, but it's beautiful."
- Lionel, Rest Area Friend.
Day 33: This Bike Climbed Mt. Washington
Distance Travelled: 42.3km Temperature: 39
Time on Trikes: 7.0h Water Left: 9.5L
Terrain: Not as bad as people seem to think
End Location: White Mtns Rest Area
mountain out of a molehill
"Enh, you've got a hill ahead of you, mate." says the zillionth person today.
   We've had hills and ranges galore since we left Townsville, but according to the locals, the Burra range is a nasty one. "Oh, the road's good for about 20, but then there's that range you gotta reckon with." We thought it was going pretty well, but it started to get late and our energy was waning... the last thing we wanted was to suddenly hit a monumental range of hills and valleys the likes of which God herself had never witnessed, with a shoulder just wide enough to allow a roadtrain to play Crack the Whip. We decided to tackle them in the morning, after a good night's rest.
   Wanna know what happened the next morning? We were a half mile from the top! These naysayers and wolfcriers must have their hillometers all out of wack, because this hill wasn't anything compared to hills we've seen in the past. We're hill-wise and hill-worthy, and if this is what the hill-less outback hillbilly towns call a hill, then any hill after this'll practically be a speedbump. The Burra "Range" rated a mere 3/10 on the scale of hilliness. We laugh at the Great Dividing Range. Hah!
Aimee: "Whoa, I almost tripped over this cliff!"
Kevin: "That might have sped us up this afternoon."
Day 34: Guilt Trip
Distance Travelled: 100.0km Temperature: 41
Time on Trikes: 10.5h Water Left: 11L
Terrain: Morning climb, evening coast
End Location: 20km from Hughenden
population: you
What can be said about outback towns, population 10 or less? They may not have a supermarket, but they've always got a pub. In fact, they may not have a house, but they've always got a pub. We pedalled through Torrens Creek today, and got the distinct impression that it's not the hoppin' hot spot the owners would like it to be. In fact, they've begun (or perhaps they've always done this) to use the strategy of guilt to make people stay and spend money. This isn't a winning strategy for us, and the chances of us sticking around become even slimmer when combined with a level of customer service that might prompt us to ask if the owner had ever worked as a cashier at a Manhattan Wendy's.

"I thought country people were nice."
- Written on the side of the table
at the Torrens Creek Pub.
Day 35: Here Pup!
Distance Travelled: 91.0km Temperature: 40
Time on Trikes: 10.5h Water Left: 11L
Terrain: Flat yet windy
End Location: Halfway to Richmond
mutta whatta?
Dallyn would love the outback: we're in Dinosaur country! It seems that each town we come across has a different fossil as its claim to prehistoric fame. Hughenden's specialty is the Muttaburrasaurus. Here you can see a replica of this dinosaur that's found nowhere else in the world but right here across from the local pub in 'downtown' Hughenden.
   Actually, the original fossil was found nearly 216 kilometers away in Muttaburra, but that's too far away from the highway. Like Belle Fourche, South Dakota, "The Geographical 'Center' of the United States", the actual pinpoint is miles from the main drag on the property of some ornery old coot, so they moved it a little. After all, the continents have shifted in 100 million years, right? What's 216km between friends? This way, the Muttaburrasaurus can be appreciated by all.

"Australia's about the only country where three people can be standing around in their underwear at 1:30 in the morning on the side of the highway 50 k's from any town, and nobody thinks it's weird."
- Kevin.
Day 36: Cement Cradle
Distance Travelled: 40.1km Temperature: 39
Time on Trikes: 5.0h Water Left: 7.0L
Terrain: Uppy-downy
End Location: Richmond
toll road
After seven days of plus-forty heat, a turned-around timetable, air so dry that we bike with mouthfuls of water to keep our mouths moist enough to talk, and chilly nights that rob us of our already depleted sleep, we're a bit road weary.
   However, we consider our first week of outback riding a roaring success. We've travelled further this week than any previous week and just today we commented that it wasn't so hot, "only about 38 degrees or so..." It's safe to say that we've officially paid our first week's dues to this tough terrain and are feeling more at home with it each evening.
   We've learned that no matter how hot the midday sun gets or what hills are thrown in our path, there's nothing more rewarding than riding under a full moon counting off the shooting stars above your head knowing that you're the only humans within 50 kilometres. If we could package up the silence and beauty of the outback twilight, we'd make a mint.

"Better slow down, there's a flagman ahead."
- Drive-by Mr. Smartypants.
willy-willy: (n.) Force of nature. Looks like a miniature tornado that suddenly swells up from a seemingly innocent pile of dust. Capable of tremendous speeds and the ability to freak out travelling Canadians.
"Hey Billy! That dilly of a willy-willy just bullied the Silly Solly's!"

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We've got mail...
Just thought we would drop you a line to check on how things are going. After our meeting at Pentland Rest Area, with the menu of the day being chicken and cold water, we have spreed the word of your travels. We hope that you both are having a terrific time and that you are both well. Best wishes.
- Lionel & Gladys, Australia

Hi There!

Just a quick note to say gidday and wish you well. I guess the first couple of weeks will be the toughest but I'm sure that you'll be experts in no time. I'm looking forward to keeping track of your adventure!

All the best. Take it easy.
- Simon, Horsham VIC

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© 2002 Kevin Beimers & Aimee Lingman. All aboard the acid train!