CAMWEST: Cyclists’ Action Movement West

Feature — 2002 Big Ride Review

Rob Kemp, CAMWEST member, was lucky enough to go the RTA's Big Ride from Manilla to Walcha. This is a report from his experience.


A foggy morning in the ride

My primary aim for the ride was to avoid the struggle-bus. Because the days were quite warm and I'm a slow rider, my aim was to leave earlyish. On most days I managed to get on the road around 7.30. Another advantage of leaving early was that you normally managed to dodge the queues. The only trouble was that the breakfast queue seemed to start forming earlier each day as the ride progressed.

The first few days seemed difficult — The days were very warm, and the roads were bitumen but had a rough surface, which made cycling more difficult.

I had been lead to believe that being roused from the land of nod by 'Debbie' bellowing his particular slant on Shakespeare at 5.30 in the morning was one of the joys of the ride. But alas, after last year's expositions, he'd been banned.

Being in bed by 8.30pm was not considered abnormal.

I discovered about the 2nd or 3rd day that hills seemed a lot less onorous when you had someone to talk or listen to on the ascents. A tactic employed by a friend was to ask a question of the person you were riding with just as you were getting to the hill, and let them do all the talking as you were riding up...

Ashford was a particularly memorable town — Population normally under 500, swelled by 1400 for one night. The main street was closed to traffic, and the annual street festival which was timed for our arrival got under way. A stage was set up at one end of the street, and it seemed like every kid from the local school took part in at least one act — whether it be singing, dancing or telling jokes. At the other end of the street an indiginous band was belting out dancable tunes for those who still had the energy. In between there were stalls set up in the street — from the people trying to sell concrete garden gnomes, to the Italian eatery with patrons eating to the (Spanish) music of 'The Gipsy Kings'.

A few of us visited the local Anglican church in Bundarra on the Thursday evening to see the screening of 'Cats & Dogs'. Unfortunately for the locals who'd done a lot of baking and were selling supper, not many people turned up - maybe because the following day was expected to be the hardest and longest of the ride.

The 7th day (Bundarra to Guyra) was the most challenging. Because of the warm weather expected, the starting times were put forward by half an hour (6:30 – 8:30 am) and people certainly didn't muck around that morning, with long queues for breakfast before serving started at 6. I heard a rumour that the sag-wagon made 4 trips to Guyra to deliver weary cyclists to the campsite. A non-riding friend had driven ahead and placed some signs on the side of the road just before reaching Guyra. One that caused some comments from weary and sore cyclists — 'Bum massages ahead — $1'.

The whole camp seemed a lot more relaxed once this day was over. The rest of the ride was to be enjoyed rather than endured. I particularly enjoyed the final day's short ride from Uralla to Walcha. The first third of the ride was in fog, and all the glistening spider webs in the paddocks looked quite impressive. All the riders assembled at the Walcha showgrounds and did the final few km's ride into town as a large group.

Although a bit sore, I thoroughly enjoyed the ride and plan on doing some others.

Most quoted untruth: 'It's all downhill from here'.

Rob's cycling site

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