Day 1 - Holbrook to Jingellic - 54.1 km

Saturday 25th Feb. This was it. D-Day. In the morning we had to get all our gear down to this community hall in the main street of Holbrook to register. We soon discovered why some others staying at the motel had gone down really early. By the time we got there, buses were arriving from all over the place, and it was a bit mad trying to weave our way through people and luggage with all our gear, plus trying to work out where exactly amidst all this was the end of the queue.

We'd left the trailer bike off the car, so Marc, Cait and Zoe rode downtown from the motel, while Alison and I were going to have to keep our bike on the car, drive out to the "secure" parking (about 1 and a half km off the highway), and ride back.

After a couple of bum steers, we ended up on the right queue. Despite my tendency to crowd paranoia, I actually found it ok, as I got talking to the couple behind us. They had met and got together on a previous Big Ride (in their more 'mature' years!! Looking at the photo now (you can see the girls and the back of my head just near the door).. we can see people that we subsequently got to know during the week!! We also started to notice how many people there were much older than us!!!

We finally got through the registration process.. tagged all our bags, and then got them through the weighing (for all our concerns, it wasn't particularly strict!)... and then relinquished our luggage to the luggage truck. As Alison and I headed to the car, I got a call on my mobile from the motel. Alison had left a small bag with the cd walkman in it!! Doh! Lucky we were still on 4 wheels.. dropped in to pick that up.. and finally found the un-signposted, and unattended parking area. Just lucky that there was another rider there to help me get the tandem down off the car!!

A warm up ride back into town and to the 'Big Sub' to await the start. We were serenaded by bagpipes (not sure why!).. and we got up close and personal with the Heart Foundation heart, seeing we were raising money for the Heart Foundation.

As we expected, given the queue they were still processing when we left registration, the Start was late.. so it wasn't ideal beginning a ride pretty much on lunch time. Alison and I had missed the sausage sandwich the others had bought when we'd left registration. Lunch was en route.. but first we had to cover 34 km! Just as we started we copped a bit of drizzle.. but our spirits were fairly high, (and wet shirts just kept you cool) until we encountered what can only be described as a 'dead' road leading up to a "short steep climb" at Chinaman's Gap. In retrospect I should have been more wary of the terms they were using in the Ride Guide ".. relatively easy ride over rolling countryside". Nowhere in the guide did they take account of how the road surface can affect how you 'roll' along, and believe me, some of what appeared to be "rolling" countryside was simply not 'rolling'. On what was seemingly a flat road, I felt like we were getting nowhere. "Check the back tyre, Alison!! It's not flat is it?" Later I found out that other people had wondered the same thing, and one person had asked the Shimano support truck to check her bike as she was sure there was something wrong with it! He used the term "dead road".. Once I heard that, I was relieved that it wasn't all in my imagination.

With no run up before this hill, we made the first smaller incline, but had to get off and push up the last steep bit. (I had actually exerted myself so much trying to ride it, I felt sick, and, right then, was feeling just a bit concerned about the rest of the ride if it was going to include too many hills like this one!) Marc, in his inimitable fashion, set the stakes for the rest of the ride, and they rode up it, despite the wheels spinning in granny gear!!

As we reached the top, a woman came over to say hello. She lived about 50 metres from us!! Knew about us from the blurb we'd put in the local paper.. and we weren't hard to spot. She and her husband were doing the ride. How unbelievable is that.

Downhill to lunch then, thank goodness, although it was one of the weirder lunches provided. A sausage (more steamed than bbq'd) on one slice of bread.

Thankfully the last 20 km wasn't too tough, and our first campsite was quite nice, although the 'family camping area' didn't eventuate (turned out all the others with kids on the ride had taken the deluxe camping option), and to find room we had to invade the volunteer area. (We discovered during the early hours of the morning that some of them get up around 4 am to start putting the signs out for the course... so we vowed to keep our distance in future!!)

Marc took the girls for a swim in the Murray River (cold!) while I did the first of many laundry loads. They had an amazing set up, which I forgot to take a photo of.. waist height 'benches' made of upturned roofing iron, with a grate over the top. Jets of warm water spraying down continuously, and you used the basins provided to handwash and rinse your clothes. The water drained away into a hose, which appeared to go into this big inflatable waste water tank. Amazing stuff.

Had the first of our meals on our laps (girls weren't overly impressed).. but they met up with other kids, and weren't lacking for energy. We were starting to meet up with other people.. including one couple who had left their 3 younger kids at home..but were interested in how the hell we were doing it! (We didn't know yet, did we!!!). We struck up a sort of friendship after passing D. talking on his phone about 'this family with 3 kids, and two tandems and a tag-a-long...' "You talking about me?" asked Marc.

The whole week people did keep commenting (and praising us) for doing it with the kids AND with our own tents. We didn't actually feel that clever or amazing, although the support we kept getting was pretty good for the ego. We just did it, and the girls were really pretty good, and got to know the routine. We certainly weren't the last to get packed up each morning, though we learnt to get up a bit earlier, and the last few days Marc sent Alison and I off before the tent had been done. We're not particularly regimented people, he and I, but we pretty much fell into a division of labour that worked. Wake up, get selves dressed. Roll up our sleeping bags and mats. I start waking Zoe up and getting her organised. He went and sorted out the other two. I mostly packed the gear from in our tent, and got the inner tent unhooked and folded up. He led the packing of the small tent, and the big one. All in all, despite feeling envious of how little the deluxe campers had to do, we were really happier with our own space, and our own gear.

>> Day 2