interested in: spirituality, the narratives behind the material manifestation of craft, socially experimental, contextual practices, site specific/in situ, live code nyc, remapping materials as metaphors and allusions (making meaning from the matter), and the many aesthetics of cognitive mapping and place making, also, location and navigation things. I also like to think about time studies and lessons from the (past, (present) and future) so time based media. sustainability, critique on financialization and over use of natural resources, inspired by repetition and serial works, sculptural paintings, patterns/textures, and the high dimensional feelings one gets from architecture, dance/theatre performances/performative, events, being IRL, some acting and/or improv on stages/in cozy settings,
BICYCLING AROUND AUSTRALIA
WITHOUT BOOZE, DRUGS,
OR FLAT TIRES
Dr. Joan Elizabeth Mahoney
First, please let me profusely thank all the motorists who did not hit
me while riding my bicycle both in the United States and in Australia.
Also, I would like to thank the countless number of Australians who were so
nice to me in every possible way, feeding my body, mind, and soul.
Second, please let me thank my friends in alphabetical order without
whose help I could not have made this trip: Richard DeBernardis, head of
Perimeter Bicycling Association of America who approved this trip; Jim
Doran who helped me after the rape, took me to and from the airport and was
a very best friend always; Arlene Gotham of Suncoast Schools Credit Union
who managed my finances on both of my Australian trips; Mrs. Mae Holley of
Tampa whose prayers have kept me safe; Sue Moore who kept my morale up and
continues to be a very best friend; and Bonnie Theall, record holding
triathlete who has kept me sober and drug free--I couldn't live without
Third, I do have very supportive relatives including: Dr. Jim and
Susan Dube (cousins) who helped me after the rape and will always have a
special place in my heart; Captain Parker and Nulla Bradley (uncle and
aunt) who couldn't be more wonderful to me. I remember Parker telling me as
I was biking through Lake Charles, Louisiana, during my bike across the US
in 1980, to "go slow."
Yes, Parker, I have always gone slow...too slow to set many records
but I don't think that that was what you meant.
Fourth, I would like to thank my long and ever suffering husband Matt
Mahoney who has done everything but write this manuscript. He is, indeed,
a computer genius. Nevertheless, I don't love him for that, I love him
because he is so affectionate and patient with me. It's not easy living
with a rape victim and recovering alcholic who continually does long bike
rides and comes home "hanging over the handlebars."
Fifth, if I could properly communicate with my cats "Double," and
"Money" who stayed at home in Tampa while I biked, I would. On our first
wedding anniversary, Matt encouraged me to adopt "Healthy" a kitten from
the pound who has enriched our lives.
Please let me thank everyone who has helped me so much especially the
great lady at the Tampa Rape Crisis Center who led me to believe that I am
a good woman and the Narcotics Anonymous woman who saved my life by letting
me stay with her during the impossible days after the rape. I do respect
their anonymity. Also, I want to thank my parents, now deceased, who gave
me strong genes both for alcoholism and tenacity, especially my strong
women ancestors who gave me the good qualities that I have. We are all the
sum total of all of our ancestors!
And last of all, dear reader, please ignore all the mistakes in this
book. After all, nobody said I was a good proofreader.
BICYCLING AROUND AUSTRALIA
WITHOUT BOOZE, DRUGS,
OR FLAT TIRES
There are a few things in one's life that one can never forget.
These events are etched in one's brain cells almost like an individual's
genetic code is written at conception. In my life the major events have
been the drug free birth of my son at home in my own bed, being called Dr.
Joesting after having passed my doctoral oral examination, and the sight of
the Sydney skyline at l:05 pm on September 29, 1991.
But what was a fifty-four year old ex-Texan doing higher than the
planet Pluto at the sight of the Sydney, Australia skyline? Everything has
a beginning and this trip was no exception. One could say that this trip
around Australia began with my birth but it actually began when I finished
my first perimeter bicycle ride around Australia in 1979. I had bicycled
alone around Australia in 1979 to get away from a violent husband who was
threatening to kill me. In 1979, due to his increasing physical violence I
was saving up money to buy a gun to shoot him but spent the money on a
plane ticket to Australia instead. When I told him about this in 1992 he
yelled, "You are saving up money to buy a gun to shoot me," irrationally
putting it in the present tense.
Yes, it was time to leave my home in Tampa, Florida, where my ex-
husband lived only three miles from the home that I owned and move to
Florida's east coast and try to get this book written. This 1979 trip was
described in the self-published book Bicycling Down Under Off the Sauce in
1983 and was sold by mail through three free advertisements: in Women's
Sports, in Journal of League of American Wheelmen, and in the American
Psychological Association's Division 35 Newsletter (the psychology of
women's division). I had sold this book, published on the computer at The
University of South Florida for $5 and received only one negative letter.
The book or booklet was not worth the $5 or so it was said. This book
received another negative comment from a member of Alcoholics Anonymous who
complained that the book did not tell who I was. As a rabid cigarette
smoker his evaluation might have been "clouded" by the anticigarette
smoking attitude that I have and was pointedly expressed in this 1983 book.
Besides in 1983, I did not know who I was except that I hated all
people who smoked in public as I was allergic to cigarette smoke. In 1983,
I had had only five years of continuous sobriety after 25 years of
continuous drinking and drug addiction. In 1995, I know who I am, a
middle-aged woman who craves the open roads. I am a woman who lost
everything but happiness and the intense love of the solitude of the
freedom of roads, pushing my body and mind to their ultimate limits. A
friend once described me as having traded my alcohol and drug addiction for
an addiction to adventure.
As a young woman deprived of all adventure in conservative Texas, I
had despised the alone summer I had spent on an Illinois farm. I had
learned that if one does not like oneself then one will hate being alone.
If one loves oneself, then one will cherish being alone.
In the years between 1979 and 1991, I had changed so much. In 1979, my
sobriety was very new and fragile. My career as a school psychologist had
been destroyed by my drinking/drugging and I hated myself for having done
this. I insisted that I was not an athlete and that I needed a man
desperately. By 199l, I had more confidence in that I knew the Australian
terrain and roads. Also, I had many more miles on the bike with my legs
even stronger. Definitely, I was a better person and actually loved
myself. And too, I believed that I was an athlete. However, the greatest
difference was that I took the 1979 trip to save my body but in 1991, I did
the perimeter to save my soul. In l988, I was awakened in my own home in
Tampa by a black man with a knife at my throat. I survived this rape or
incomplete murder and stabbing without the sympathy of my family or AA. He
also took my priceless bicycle that had carried me around Australia in
1979. But I did survive without tranqulizers or booze. And I learned from
much from reading.
In addition, I had been influenced by many people including the
feminist Gloria Steinman who said, "Think of something that you wanted as a
child and your parents wouldn't give it to you." For me, that was FREEDOM
and that is what I had on my two bicycle rides around Australia. And then
I read Goethe's couplets: "Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin
it./Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it." Also, during the l979
Australia trip, I had purchased, read, and carried with me Dame Naomi
James's book At One with the Sea: Alone Around the World (1979). She had
sailed solo around the world and advised, "Most people don't find the limit
they can do...I think building a stone wall would be just as satisfying."
Nevertheless, I still knew that one has to let the good things in life
happen. Therefore in the blessed solitude of writing this book I will let
it happen just like I let the fun on the trip happen.
Since my disease of alcoholism had made me make the wrong choice of
destroying my professional career, I had little money for my second trip to
Australia and had to use semilegal plane tickets. With this cheap round
trip ticket, the airlines decided that I was not going to leave Tampa,
Florida, on Tuesday, May 5, 1991, as I had originally planned but instead
had to leave on Friday, May 10, arriving in Sydney on May 12, 1992,
Mother's Day. Therefore, I decided to dedicate the 1991 trip to my mother
who died from the effects of alcoholism. Little did I know that my father
would never know that I finished the trip as he died before my last letter
reached him. My stepmother told me that he just could not hang on long
enough. She said that my father had worried about me dying alone on the
side of some isolated Australian road.
Since I had already done the perimeter of Australia once I knew that I
could it, providing that I did not get hit by a car or truck and be fatally
Day l (May 12, 1991) At 6:30 AM, the bike and I landed at the Sydney
International Airport. Unlike 1979 when the bike and I did not arrive on
the same day, my bicycle, packed in its cardboard box, was dutifully
waiting for me beside the baggage carousel but I did not have the $l
Australian gold piece to put in the machine that controlled the grocery
cart like trolley to carry the bicycle through Customs. A wonderful
Australian woman gave me the $l and told me how stupid it was to charge $l
for the trolley when people had not yet gone through Customs and could not
have changed their money. In the spotless airport, the bike box and I
began the Customs procedures. First, I had to go through the customs
passport inspection. The woman official looked carefully at my passport
photo and I remarked, "Terrible photo."
"I've seen worse," she replied.
The male customs official sitting beside her insisted, "Yes, yours is
It was then that I was absolutely certain that I had arrived in
Australia and was so happy to begin feasting on Australian humor which is
very self deprecating.
Conveniently located in one of the bicycle saddle bags or panniers
that I had used as carry one baggage, I had a $50 travelers check which I
quickly changed to Australian currency. But now, poor me, had to find a
quiet deserted place in the airport terminal where I could get the bicycle
out of the cardboard box and put it back together. Box size restrictions
had forced me to take the bicycle apart before leaving Tampa as the bike
had to fit into a proper sized box. It had been a discarded box that had
been used to ship a new bike into the United States. My favorite bicycle
shop in Tampa, University Bicycle Shop, had given it to me free.
And so with the bike box on the trolley getting into everyone's way, I
wandered all over the airport finally going to Information. There I was
referred to the Tourist Information Center where there was a pedestrian
free area with some seats for workers to rest on during their breaks.
Since I had worn a skirt through Customs because I wanted to look as
conservative as possible, I had to pull on black tights underneath my skirt
and then pull off the skirt. No, I could not leave the bike box unattended
to go into the bathroom to change clothes.
With my skirt pulled off in front of a few people, my next problem was
to get the bike box open, cutting through layers of tape that had held it
together. Fortunately, I carry a small pocketknife with me which did the
job. Next, I had to get the bicycle out of the bike box which I could not
do alone particularly since everything for the trip had been packed tightly
around the bike to act as padding.
I have never been shy about asking for help and so I asked a worker
trying to ignore me so that he could enjoy his break from work. He did
hold the bike box down on the floor while I pulled the bike out of the box.
He quickly said that he had to go back to work and fled. I couldn't blame
Pedals had to be put on, as well as the seat and handlebars. The
front and rear saddle bags were installed and on top of everything, I put a
joanmade waterproof pillow case like holder for my tent, sleeping bag, and
foam mattress. I had sewed the pillow case like holder from green
waterproof material that I had obtained via mail order. I did get much
practice in hand sewing on this trip as my clothes, tent, etc. needed
mending too frequently.
After I thought that I had the bicycle properly put together and
loaded, I found the Airport Post Office which was open on Mother's Day. I
had the postal employee read the 0000 on the bike computer (this Cateye
Vetra computer was easy to take off and on the bike) and stamp the date and
the place on a post card. When I found out that aerograms were cheaper
than air mail post cards, I began using aerograms to weekly report to
Richard DeBernardis of the Perimeter Bicycling Association of America. My
1979 bicycle ride around Australia had not counted as a record because I
had gotten a ride for part of it and because I had not validated the trip;
that is, kept accurate records and had the computer or odometer reading
sent to the Perimeter Bicycling Association of America. In 1991, before I
left Tampa, I had contacted the Ultramarathoning Association and the
director had referred me to Richard. By writing Richard weekly and getting
replies from both him and a member of his staff, Sue Moore, we became fast
friends even though I did not meet them until November, 199l, and this was
now only May 12.
On May 12, my Sydney map that I had requested from the Australian
Tourist Bureau had not arrived before I had left Tampa, so "mapless" I
began my ride from the Syndey Airport. It is no exaggeration that I vividly
remembered the first stroke of the pedal in 1979. It was with my right
leg, then, as my left leg was injured and in 1991, it was also with my
right leg as I had gotten into the habit of mounting my bike from the left
side just as I had always mounted a horse as a child.
And so a journey of a thousand miles (actually it was over 9600 miles)
began with a single step which was the same exact thought that I had had in
1979. The first revolution of the pedals is the most important.
But I was mapless so I had to follow the signs to the Sydney Harbour
Bridge that I had to cross to begin my journey north. I was attempting to
follow the same route in Sydney that I had followed in 1979. Even on a
Sunday, traffic was bad at times on Highway l N as it wound around through
south Sydney. I discovered that my handlebars were loose and had to get
the heavily loaded bike up on a sidewalk or footpath as they are called in
Australia, to tighten them. As usual I took advantage of a driveway's
slanting entrance to the highway to avoid lifting the bicycle over the
curb. Bike tools were in the right front pannier or saddle bag where they
remained for the entire trip.
People were walking about carrying their Sunday newspapers and paid no
attention to me riding my loaded bicycle. Just like in 1979, I almost fell
off my bicycle when I saw the Sydney Opera House. I was home! The morning
that been cloudy with some threatening rain but when I briefly glimpsed at
the Opera House, the sun came out like a good omen and the hills began.
Proper bicyclists, that is, bicyclists wearing the tight cycling shorts
using toe clips or clipless pedals on expensive 10-speed bicycles, began
passing me. I don't like being passed when riding a bicycle but I had no
choice because I was riding a heavy mountain bike with all my necessities
for the trip loaded on it. Most the bicyclists passed me without even a
word of greeting just like serious bicyclists do in Florida. They were out
on their hard training rides and had not time to waste.
However, one woman bicyclist rode beside me for a short time and
complimented me on the choice of my equipment. In 1979, I had been
"verbally abused" because of my poor equipment but one does learn much on
any perimeter ride.
As on future perimeter rides and most bike rides, the traffic bothered
me. It always does. I hate traffic as I have been hit by cars several
times. One does not heal faster if it is not one's fault! My legs were
fine but the traffic had "fanned" me into an undesirable emotional state.
After only 31 miles I found the La Manchu Carry-park, the same place that I
had stayed during my first night in Australia in 1979. The prices had
changed for the worse. In 1979, I had paid only $3.50 Australian for a
space for my tent and permission to use the showers but in 1991, it cost
Now the La Manchu Carry-park was now computerized as I was given a
computer printed receipt.
In the comfortable sunshine, I put up my tent, a standard pup tent as
I had never been able to get those dome tents that require the "stick the
poles through the fabric tunnels" to work. Then, a welcome hot shower
followed by a food search. When I had registered at the camp ground I had
noticed that there was a food shop but I had also observed a family cooking
on a barbecue as they are called in Australia. These are really outdoor
cooking facilities under a roof that is open on all sides. Underneath this
roof was a grill-like apparatus. This family had been carefully watching
me and invited me for "tea" which means FOOD or supper. I eagerly ate
steak, potatoes with sour cream, fried tomatoes, and onions. This family
was celebrating Mother's Day with their adult son Pete who lived in a
caravan trailer in the camp ground. A caravan in Australia is essentially
a bathroomless camping trailer. I enjoyed both the food and conversation
with this wonderful family but when the sun went down, I went back to my
tent to "sleep under the stars" as the cliche goes. I left my saddle bags
open to air out as there were stars in the sky.
Away from the crime and noise of Tampa, Florida, I dreamed that I had
gone back to Tampa unexpectedly and came home to chaos caused by my tenants
that I had thought that I could trust. Actually the chaos was the dreaded
sound of rain on the tent roof which forced me to get up and put the extra
roof or rain fly on the tent. I forgot about my open saddle bags. It was
still raining the next morning and everything was wet with water having
accumulated in my saddle bags. Nevertheless, Day 2 (May 13, 1991) had
Day 2 (May 13, 1991) Pete must have felt sorry for me as I looked so
bedraggled and cold because he came out of his trailer and asked me if I
wanted a cup of coffee or tea. This made me so happy! On his TV there
was the exact same CNN news announcer as I had watched in Tampa only a few
Fortified with coffee and toast, I laboriously took down my wet rain
fly and tent and loaded everything onto the bike after carefully emptying
the water from my saddle bags. Since I had some experience with rain, I
had many plastic bags with me which were now used. Wanting to avoid the
awful traffic of Highway l N I got on Highway 83 following signs to
Newcastle. The mountainous road was similar to those in New Zealand with
little or no grading to eliminate the steep climbs with switch back snake
like climbs and terrifying downhills. I did realize that I did not have
front brakes working on my bicycle and did not trust myself to repair them
so I "made do" with only the rear brakes operating.
Ignoring the road closed signs, I continued struggling with the hills
and enjoying the lack of traffic. Suddenly, the road was blocked by a
concrete barrier. It was identical to the concrete "tank traps" that had
been placed around the Tampa Stadium for the 1991 Superbowl football game
when it was predicted that terrorists would attempt to disrupt this
football game during the Persian Gulf War. These barriers had forced me
run around the stadium parking lot when I was running to work and now I
found the same barriers in Australia and wondered if they used the same
wooden forms to mold then.
I was forced to unload the bicycle, first removing the "pillow case"
container for my tent, sleeping bag, and foam mattress which had been
tightly rolled up, then removing the front two saddle bags and the rear
pair of saddle bags. Next, I had to lift everything including the bike
over the barrier. After the bike had been lifted over as there was no way
to go around the barrier, I loaded the bike and began riding, again,
surrounded by dark green forests without any sign of human habitation.
Hearing a peculiar rattle, I noticed that my rear luggage rack had become
unbolted and remembered that my friend John in Tampa had been so kind to
carefully bolt it on for me. He had found it difficult to get the heavy
duty luggage rack on the mountain bike frame and had had to make many
apparently unsuccessful modifications. Now in 1992, special heavy duty
luggage racks for mountain bikes are available but in 1991 this was not the
case. In 1991, I had had to make do with a touring bike luggage rack mail
ordered. Fortunately, I was able to get the luggage rack "rebolted" on the
bike as the missing bolt was hanging onto the bicycle frame. Just when I
thought everything was fine, another concrete barrier appeared and I had to
unload/lift/reload the bike again only to get on the main road where I
found the traffic to be terrible. I was carrying a large map of Australia
and noticed that Gosford was the next town. But where is Gosford I asked
In both the United States and in Australia, the towns and cities are
surrounded by new and used car lots and petrol (gas) stations. I did see a
kilometer sign "G 5k" and knew that Gosford was 5 kilometers away. Seeing
a man walking beside the road, I asked if he knew of a bike shop in
Gosford. He told me about Bikecology located in West Gosford, giving me
the directions. I had to turn around and go back a few blocks riding on
construction plagued narrow roads. To get near Gosford, I had had a
terrible decent on this extremely narrow highway terrified by all the
traffic. It seems that everywhere there is road construction, bicycling
becomes even more dangerous especially if there are numerous vehicles. I
But I really liked the great bike mechanic and shop owner of
Bikecology. While the rear luggage rack was being "glued" on with clear
nail polish and the mechanic wanting to know why John had not used longer
bolts, I left the bike shop as I had errands to run. However, the lesson
is clear that when attaching luggage racks to bicycles, one should always
use the longest possible bolts.
As I was hungry, I found a Chinese cafe or take way (fast food) and
observed that the waitress had made a mistake with one of the orders that
was turned down. I asked if I could have it for $5 and did eat cheaper.
Besides, I love Chinese food and eat it as often as possible.
I also opened up a Commonwealth Bank Savings account. Before leaving
the United States when I was trying to get my Australia visa, I had asked
if there was a national bank in Australia where I could deposit a large sum
of money and withdraw it when necessary so that I could earn interest which
would be impossible to do with the standard traveler's checks. The embassy
official had told me about Commonwealth and this idea did work as long as
there were cities with these banks. Later on during the trip, I had to
open another Commonwealth account where I could withdraw money from any
post office. All post offices throughout Australia will allow one to
withdraw under $200 if one had the proper Commonwealth account. It was
perfect! While I was accomplishing "food and money" the excellent bike
mechanic had adjusted the bicycle's rear derailleur or gear shifting
device, repaired the brakes, tightened the handlebars, and had the bicycle
ready for only a charge of $15. I noticed that he had displayed in his
shop a Cannondale bicycle with a price tag of $1500 on it that I could have
purchased in Tampa for $350. If only I had bought an extra bike and sold
it for a profit. So much for hindsight and possible deportment from
With the mechanic/shop owner's directions, I biked on the Freeway in
the crash lane on easier hills. About 3:30 PM, I decided that I should
find a place for the night so I followed signs to the Macquarie Caravan
Park in Morisett, New South Wales, where for $10, I rented a "van" or
camping trailer. The bike was now squeaking so I had to bike into town and
buy a $6 can of oil at a bike shop. I spent $l.60 for food and was given a
free candy bar when the grocery shop clerk noticed my United States accent.
Yes, I reluctantly admitted that I was from the US.
After eating a can of spaghetti and a can of fruit salad, I quickly
went to sleep as I had ridden 65 miles in mostly sunshine.
Day 3 (May 14, 1991) It's strange how the body and mind remember how
to load a bicycle. It is only day 3 and I have the bike loading/unloading
"down" so that I can do it with as little wasted time and motion as is
possible. The bike kick stand is a wonderful thing since I do not have
anyone to hold the bike.
Still, I wish that someone were with me as I feel safer riding in
awful traffic with another person. It seems that motorists can see two
bicycles better than one and probably in the ligatious United States, the
bicycle hating car driver knows that if she/he hits one cyclist, the other
will record the license tag number and sue.
And why is the road under construction just when I want to ride on it?
This road construction equalled a muddy, narrow, traffic clogged road and
to make things as bad as possible, the freeway had ended and it began a
dripping, penetrating rain.
When I get too many negative feelings, I have enough sense to get off
the bike at a petrol (gas) station and realized that I needed a map. I
spent $5.95 for a small but complete Australian atlas that I used
throughout the trip. Before I had left Tampa, I had made a list of all the
places that I had spent the night in 1979, along with the dates, and tried
to stay on schedule. However, occasionally I spent the night in the same
place but never in the same exact accommodation.
On the other side of the page of dates and locations, I had written
all the important names and addresses that I would need on the trip with a
waterproof pen that wore out by the time I got to Port Heglund. Throughout
the trip, I wrote notes with the waterproof pen in an All-Weather Journal
from Eastern Mountain Sports.
It was a good thing that I had everything possible either in a plastic
bag or waterproofed in some manner as I had rain, rain, rain. Am
Australian garbage collector riding a bicycle caught up with me in the rain
and showed me a special bicycle lane beside the road. I rode briefly with
him until Kyle Hale from Daytona Beach, Florida, was suddenly riding beside
us. Kyle was on a touring bike. Both of us expressed surprise at our
meeting as we had been living only about 160 miles apart in Florida. I
supposed the Australian garbage collector was overwhelmed by this amazing
coincidence as he left us at an intersection, remarking, "I get off here."
To save money, Kyle and I decided to share a caravan in Karuch
spending $11.50 each. We spent $5.10 on food with Kyle cooking his rice
that he was carrying and a can of Chinese vegetables, plus a can of
mushrooms. I did the dishes or washing up as I hate cooking as much as I
hate biking in rain and traffic.
The caravan was perfect for two people as it had beds in both the
front and back with a privacy curtain instead of a door for the back
bedroom where I slept. Kyle gave me a copy of the Australian Youth Hostel
Guide as he didn't need it anymore as he was soon leaving Australia to
return to Florida.
According to my bicycle odometer, I had ridden 68.72 miles on Day 3
but I still had to get clean and dry to be ready for Day 4. That night I
dreamed that my favorite cat out of my family of five cats was in a cage.
Dreaming that I had taken him out of the cage, he rolled over in my arms.
I love that cat and missed him more than I missed the people in my life.
That cat had shared more with me than my family and friends because my
family lived in Texas and I in Florida so we did not have that much
contact. My wonderful friends in Tampa simply were not around me as much
as my beloved cat "Double." I carried in his photo in my billfold for the
Day 4 (May 15, 1991) Awakening to the patter of rain on the medal roof
the camping trailer, I was not especially happy but I mixed some powdered
milk and had a bowl of cereal (the caravans in Australia come complete with
cutlery, dishes, and pots and pans). The cereal had been purchased the
night before as the shops are closed early in the morning.
Kyle's bike lacked a kick stand so I held up his bicycle while he
loaded it. He did show me how to wipe off my bicycle chain with a rag
usually found abandoned in the caravan park's laundry facilities.
And so we began riding in the rain, rain, rain, through rain forests
in the mountains. We rode through Bulahdelah where I had spent the night
in 1979 in the single hotel. I had washed my hair in 1979 and because it
was so cold in my heatless room had dried my long hair in front of the
fireplace of the hotel. My hair was even longer in 1991. In 1979, the town
had had only a take away or fast food cafe and the hotel. In 1991, there
was another hotel, a new city library, a city park, plus other shops
including a chemist or drug store, a butcher, a bakery, etc. The town had
certainly grown in 12 years!
I was so exhausted and hungry that I rode down the wrong side of the
road and was almost hit by a car. (In Australia, they drive on the left).
The motorist did dodge me for which I am very grateful. I had wanted to
sit in a cafe and have a pot of tea that I had come to love in 1979, but
Kyle wanted to eat on one of the tables in the park so we compromised.
He sat with me while I had the tea and we bought two meat pies and a
peach pie at the bakery. We biked to the park where two fat dogs were
"cruising" the picnic tables pretending that they were starving. Almost
every town in Australia had a lovely and well maintained park with picnic
tables, toilets (restrooms), water fountains, and at least one begging
animal such as a dog, cat, or bird. Since there were two dogs at this
park, one was dominant over the other one while the subservient dog put his
back on the ground and exposed his vulnerable belly to the other dog. It
didn't impair his begging. People eating at the other table obligingly
gave both fat dogs their scraps from their meals just as they did in all of
It was so nice to have Kyle along as my bicycle odometer rattled loose
and stopped functioning. Kyle was able to fix it without difficulty.
Then, we were riding side by side on an unusual level surface when my
profile bars became so loose that I handed them to Kyle just like an old
comedy film where the driver of a car hands the steering wheel to the
person unluckily sitting beside him. Once again, Kyle did the repairs.
How could I have ridden that first few days of "getting the bugs out"
without Kyle? I suppose that I would have survived anyway but I was not
handy and still am not handy with bike tools. Because of being left-
handed, I can never remember how to tighten or loosen screws and I no
longer wear a nondigital watch so that I can use it to see clockwise. Poor
Poor me, again, because then came horrible hills/mountains/peaks.
Kyle rode ahead of me after praising my bicycling ability. He insisted
that my skill on the hills was unusual for someone so recently from flat
Florida. With Kyle far ahead of me or so I thought I was struggling up a
"mountain peak" and I heard Kyle yell at me, "You're almost there." He
was sitting on top of a cliff. In 1979, I had "crawled" up these mountains
and in 1991, I still "crawled" up the same mountains.
But the scenery was worth the trouble as these mountains were covered
with a rain forest with large tree ferns that are found in the rain forest
area of Cypress Gardens, Florida, where I had competed in my last triathlon
on May 4, 1991. This triathlon had consisted of a three mile run (27
minutes), followed by an eight mile bicycle ride (25 minutes), and by a
wild l/4 mile swim (12 minutes). I won second place in the women's age
group 50-54 with a time of l:09 which was two minutes faster than my time
of 1:11 for this triathlon in 1990.
Slowly we were riding out the of the mountains and although it was
becoming more arid it was still raining. My body was adjusting to the
miles. By the end of the day, I bicycled on ahead of Kyle and had to wait
for him at a caravan park 13 k from Taree. We again shared a camping
trailer or caravan paying $10 each. Also, we split the cost of supper but
I ate more as my body had begun craving food as it was burning calories
that had to be replaced each evening. That night Kyle and I agreed that we
would go our separate ways the next morning as I wanted to rush on and he
wanted a more leisurely pace. I had a record to set.
Day 5 (May 16, 1991) 13k from Taree. I left earlier than Kyle and was
glad to be alone, again. I just don't like riding with someone else as I
carefully listen to my body and ride accordingly. I do like sharing
accommodations as it is cheaper and I can usually manipulate the other
person to cook. I do hate cooking but I don't object to "washing up" too
But I was very hungry even though I had had one breakfast. In Taree, I
had a second breakfast for $5 and was just dumping the sugar directly from
the sugar bowl into my tea cup when I earned the attention of the manager.
As soon as I opened my mouth to politely greet him and make an excuse about
the sugar being lumpy, he immediately knew that I was from the United
States. Accents never lie!
He sat down across from me in the booth where I was sitting so that I
could see my bicycle through the plate glass window. I always watch my
bike when I am not on it! Immediately, the manager began defending our
then President George Bush who I believe that history will list as one of
our worst presidents. No, I didn't disagree with this manager as my body
was screaming "FOOD" and the breakfast was buffet or translated "all you
can eat." Small talk was difficult as I was "shoveling" the food in but as
soon as I had had enough I politely excused myself. I always tried to be
polite as this is one of my rules.
Another one of my rules is to always be prepared. One of my rear
saddle bags or panniers had become lose and I vividly remembered in 1979
that it had bounced off repeadedly until I got it bolted onto the luggage
rack. The panniers had not made the Australian trip in 1979 as one of them
had been destroyed by being rear ended by a car outside of Barstow,
California, and I had had to buy new ones in Arizona as I was biking across
the United States.
Biking out of Taree, I found a hardware store where a very nice
salesperson found some bolts of the right size and let me have them without
cost. I love anything free that is good!!!!!!
And Tourist Information Bureaus in Australia are free with advice and
advertising pamphlets. They are designated by a blue sign with an "I" and
I often stopped at them to get information about the roads, inexpensive
sight seeing locations, and cheap accommodations if there were no youth
hostels in the area. I could see from my atlas that there were two routes
north. The very kind lady at the Tourist Information Bureau explained that
the coast road was flat. Ha! It turned out to have torturing hill climbs
but exquisite views of uninhabited beaches bordering the endless Pacific
Ocean. The unbelievable beauty was worth the many times I had to get off
my bike and push it uphill. Bicycles in Australia are often called "push
bikes" and the steep grades of the roads make this an excellent name.
After several hard climbs, I remembered that I had been on this road in
1979. Long term memory is a delightful thing!
Another delightful thing for the bicycle traveler is the youth hostel
directory that Kyle had given me. I could not purchase an Australian Youth
Hostel Directory in the United States and since I arrived in Sydney on a
Sunday, the book stores were closed. I could have bought a directory at
any youth hostel but I did not want to stay in Sydney as I had miles to go.
According to the youth hostel directory, there was a youth hostel in
Port Macquarie but the worst hills of the trip came just on the outskirts
of Port Macquarie. Exhausted with my brain probably being short on the
blood supply as the blood was "feeding" my worn-out legs, I could not find
the youth hostel and no one that I asked for directions could help me.
They kept confusing my pronunciation of "youth hostel" with Newcastle a
city located in the general area. Even though I was totally worn out, I
was not too tired to notice that what I thought was the youth hostel was
actually an outpatient mental hospital. It was unlocked with no one
responding to my knocking. It is a good thing that I can read the bulletin
boards and with my doctorate in psychology, I guessed correctly. Finally
someone in the mental hospital came and pointed out the youth hostel, just
two doors down the street.
Perhaps I should have spent the night in the mental hospital instead
of the youth hostel as it was not fit for human habitation. There were no
doors on the dorm rooms; just curtains covering the doorways. People sat
in the lounge or living room watching TV and could listen to people
coughing in bed. The loud almost all night TV probably prevented much
hearing but kept me awake. And, too, the hostel manager was negative
towards bicycles and forced me to keep my priceless bicycle outside. I am
very protective of my bicycle at all times because I have had so many
bicycles stolen in crime filled Florida. Other people have reported their
bicycles stolen in Australia as bicycles are easy to steal and almost
impossible to trace.
But before bedtime, I had to explore Port Macquarie and to find a
bicycle shop before the shops closed. My bike needed some minor repair
which cost $10. At this bike shop there was an identical Raleigh
Technician mountain bike with a price tag of $943. I had paid only $350
for my bike at the University Bike Shop in Tampa, Florida. It seems that
in Australia there is a high import duty to encourage local manufacture.
The local manufacture of ice cream does reach its peak in Australia as
I was able to buy an ice cream called Hokey Pokey, the best flavor in the
world that I had eaten in New Zealand. Made in Australia or New Zealand, I
didn't care but it did cheer me up but I did not sleep due to the noise of
the TV. I can still hear the British comedian's music and most music is
unpleasant to me. When I politely complained about the TV noise I was
ignored so I tried to rest in bed and plotted morning revenge.
Day 6 (May 17, 1991) At sunrise, I noisily left the Port Macquarie
Youth Hostel. In Tampa, Florida, I had developed the rule that if I were
kept awake the night before, I made certain that I made unnecessary noise
leaving the next morning. Actually, I know that I was the Ugly American
when I loudly said that it was U.S. custom that if I were kept awake at
night, I would wake "up the dead" early in the morning. This is not
following the golden rule to do unto others as you would have them do unto
you. After all, I was in Australia to set a record and not win a
popularity context or promote good international relations.
My "relations" with the continuous hills and excessive traffic had not
improved in the cloudy weather. Just when I could not take it anymore,
Kempsey appeared and I found a bakery, the most blessed shop in Australia.
Just as I do in Tampa, I asked for day old bread and was asked if I wanted
10 loaves for $1. If only I had had bicycle trailer! I did buy one loaf
for 10 cents and it was so good, as good as Kempsey was a town with stone
bridges and buildings but marred by road construction.
Struggling through the road construction, I finally rode out of it.
On the road everything is so different and everything changes so quickly.
The only thing constant is change which was certainly true. I liked all
the little houses lining the road feeling so much at home so glad that I
had been sober for over 13 years. I was glad that I was healthy enough to
ride 77 miles to Nanbucca Heads where I found a perfect youth hostel with
quiet rooms where I was able to get some sleep, finally.
Day 7 (May 18, 1991) Today I rode on the roughest, narrowest, and most
traffic-filled roads of the trip in the RAIN. It was getting even more
difficult to stay warm and to get dry and clean but I always left each
night's lodging just as I found it.
After a ride of only 33.89 miles, I was too disgusted to ride any
further so I found the Coffs Harbour youth hostel with much difficulty. As
in the United States, most Australians do not know when there is a youth
hostel in their community and therefore cannot give directions to it.
Youth hostel directories usually supply a map but it is almost impossible
to me who gets lost easier than anyone.
Getting lost bothers me and I got irritated when I finally found the
youth hostel and was told that the shops closed in an hour. Quickly, I
washed my dirty hair, combing it as I walked into town to buy the ever
The youth hostel proved to be noisy but I found a paperback book and
read In the Long Run which was about a runner who loses everything to
cocaine except for winning the Olympic Marathon. He died at the finish line
knowing that he had won. His jealous wife had shot him at the finish line.
There was a definite message in this book for me, the recovering alcoholic
and drug addict.
The good thing was that I hadn't ingested a mind altering drug in many
years but the bad thing was the continuing rain.
Day 8 (May 19, 1991) Leaving Coffs Harbour, I found the roads to be
bumpy with a sprinkling of some hills. At Grafton Park, I stopped at a
petrol station or gas station and some travelers offered me some excellent
fried chicken. They were enjoying lunch at the picnic tables provided by
the petrol station and were curious about the woman on the bicycle.
Naturally, they asked me many questions using food as a bribe to get me to
The two couples seemed to compete with each other in the offering of
But food was not the only thing that I needed. Rain was threatening
so I decided to stop at the nearest town Ulmarra. Biking into town, I saw
a teenaged girl and asked her the directions to the caravan park. She
walked me to it and we found that it was terrible. She invited me to her
home. Her parents were playing cards while watching TV and rather ignored
me. In our hesitant conversation, the father mentioned "The Twelve Step
Program" and I asked him if he was a member of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA).
He was. I told him, "I am Joan and I am an alcoholic," the universal
statement made at all AA meetings. Promptly, I got the invitation to eat
and stay for the night.
We had much AA talk and caring/sharing. Mr. and Mrs. AA decided to go
fishing but the girl did not want to do so, so we walked along the Clarence
River and "checked out" the two antique stores in town. I did find a
carousel horse that I wanted to buy for my friend Bonnie Theall in Dunedin,
Florida, but as usual the too familiar problem of not enough money poked
its head into my business. Bonnie collects carousel horses and I always
keep an eye open for one.
While walking, the girl kept insisting that she was an Aborgininal and
did a "show and tell" letting me look at a booklet she had made for school.
That night while the family watched TV, I read one of their books about a
British subject who had immigrated to Canada and had had trouble with
droughts so he had returned to Britain where there was sufficient rain.
Day 9 (May 20, 1991) Unfortunately, my wet clothes had not dried on
the clothesline on the porch over night so I had to put on the wet cycling
shorts. We had much happy AA conversation during breakfast with the mother
telling me that she collected ornamental frogs. One of these days I am
going to send her many, many frogs.
The continuous rain and heavy traffic made the bicycling bad but the
cane fields on the side of the road were scenic. Outside of Ballina, I
found a small shop with knitting books on sale in a sheltered basket. I
bought one of the many knitting books as I am an addicted knitter just like
I am an addicted bicyclist. If only I could successfully combine my two
But I was not addicted to riding in the rain so after seven hours and
80 miles, I found the Ballina Youth Hostel which was as nice as the Holiday
Inn or even the Hilton Hotel. After getting the bicycle unloaded, and a
priceless hot shower, I went to the Ballina Post Office where I had the
postal worker stamp an aerogram with the date and the place. At my
request, he copied the miles indicated on the bicycle computer and signed
his name. I mailed this to Richard of Perimeter Bicycling Association of
America (PBAA). Then, the bicycle got a free check-up at the bicycle shop
and I had to visit a chemist or drug store where I complained to the lady
pharmacist or chemist about my jock itch. She said that she had just the
thing for it. A Canadian woman bicyclist had been staying with her and
also had developed jock itch because she, like me, was constantly wet with
her clothes not drying. I was sold Canestern by Bayer to treat it and I
ended up using it most of the trip. In north Australia, I had jock itch
from sweating, and in the south, from the wetness from the never ending
rain. Towards the end of the trip, I did not need it anymore but by then
had contacted corns on my toes which I thought was athlete's foot. This
took nine months to cure by using "spacers" between my toes which was a
problem caused by too tight shoes.
The only problem with the Ballina Youth Hostel was that the kitchen
was locked at 10 PM and was not unlocked until 7 AM. However, I did have
food in my room to myself. Eating in rooms was prohibited but I always get
hungry at night if I am doing high mileage biking or running.
Day 10 (May 21, 1991) The next morning I shared the kitchen with
Lily, a single woman traveling with a very well-behaved five year old son.
She had spent the night in other women's dorm with her son. We discussed
being independent women, about doing what makes you happy, regeneration by
bicycling, traveling cheap, and how we were solving the problems of the
world. It is too bad that I had to leave too soon but I had to somehow
ride to the next youth hostel just north of Tweed Heads. Her parting words
were, "See you in the Himalayas." Yes, Lily, I hope to see you there,
But if I believe this, then I could barely believe there was no rain.
To avoid more hills, I rode closer to the Pacific but still there were
hills. There was a beautiful red poinsettia growing beside the road as I
struggled up at a particular steep hill. As is common in Australia, the
view of the Pacific was not cluttered by buildings or any sign of humans.
Without human constructions, there was almost an excessive amount of
bird song along the road. I decided that I was bicycling through a giant
bird aviary. Bird song is my favorite music but I hate to see birds in
cages. Animals should not be put in cages unless they are criminals. Only
criminals, birds or human, should be caged or jailed.
Riding on the edge of Tweed Heads, I did see security bars and
security systems advertised but there were no bars on windows as there are
in the United States. I still feel that criminals should be behind bars
and not good citizens. The security systems that were advertised made me
feel that Australia has lost its innocence as there were no security
systems even advertised in 1979.
Trying to find the youth hostel, I rode through Tweed Heads and
somewhere entered Queensland. The youth hostel was located on the Gold
Coast in Coolangatta. After wasting much frustrating time being lost, I
got directions from a policewoman at the local police station. She
naturally routed me over as many hills as possible when I discovered later
there was another flatter route. Nonbike riders must have much trouble
understanding hills and bikes with Australians probably being even more
auto addicted than we in the United States.
The youth hostel was located near the airport and was just across the
highway from the Pacific. After getting a room with six bunk beds in it on
the second floor with the manager telling me that it would be a "single"
for the night, I unloaded the bike and carried everything up the stairs.
After a shower combined with the washing of my ever wet clothes, I walked
and walked looking for a Chinese restaurant. It was an expensive $8.50
meal but I was hungry -- as always.
Day 11 (May 22, 1991) The rain was coming down so hard that I decided
to wait it out for a day which I found does not work. However, when I made
reservations for an extra day, the manager treated me better than he would
have treated the Queen of England. He gave me room 13 to myself alone and
loaned me a piece of rope that I tied together between the three rows of
bunk beds as a portable clothesline.
Even with the rain, I had to go outdoors for food so I walked towards
downtown Coolangatta beside the gray Pacific Ocean. The wind was blowing
bits of rain and I knew that my "sorta home" in Tampa was far to the west,
but I was still very happy. My shopping consisted of the purchase of a
billy (a small medal bucket with a metal lid and handle) for $4.25,
vitamins for $10, and $7 for food. While exploring downtown, I saw the
youth hostel van clearly labeled and parked at the curb. The manager had
given a Japanese a ride to town and gave me a ride back to the youth
hostel. When I told him how nice that I was being treated, he said,
"That's because you treat everyone nice." Wow! Me a former old dirty
drunk being considered nice. Will miracles/wonders ever cease?
When I want my normal solitude to cease at youth hostels I sometimes
get into conversation with the other people, that is, if I feel like
company. Youth hostels do give one the advantage to talk to other people
or to withdraw whereas in a standard hotel or motel one is alone when
traveling that way. Also, youth hostels have tourist information and used
paperbacks or even hard cover books. I am an addicted reader, too, but
could not carry many books on the bicycle as books weight almost as much as
water. Besides, I could not afford to buy new books so I read those found
at youth hostels, carrying them from one hostel to the next and "trading."
I did talk to a student pilot who reassured me that planes were built
to withstand much turbulence When flying, I still don't like it when I the
airplane it bounces around.
Conversation seems to "bounce around" most in youth hostel kitchens
when everyone is milling around trying to cook at the same time and use all
the same appliances, dishes, etc. Often youth hostels have giant kitchens
and Coolangatta was no exception. Here I met a man who said he would bike
to Brisbane with me the next day. He began working on his bike, while I
let my bicycle "rest" in my upstairs room. I became good at carrying my
bicycle and all my gear up and down stairs as I got plenty of practice.
Day 12 (May 23, 1991) There was no sunrise as it was covered by rain
and more rain. Today was the worst ride of my life with all the rain and
the Brisbane traffic. The man who began riding with me could not keep up
and after a few miles I never saw him again. I do hope that he is fine.
Since I had no map of Brisbane and had only directions to the Kedron
Youth Hostel, I was in trouble. At 2 PM, I was biking through Brisbane and
hated it just as I did in 1979. For even a million dollars, I will never
bike through Brisbane, again. It is even more dangerous when one has no
idea where she is going, it's raining, and rush hour is at 2 PM. I had
ridden into Brisbane on Highway l with signs with pictures of bicycles on
them with an "X" over them. In other words, bicycles were prohibited but I
did not know any alternative road through Brisbane. I was ignored or
observed out of the corners of the drivers' eyes as Australians are always
too polite to stare but they are nevertheless extremely curious.
Caught in the traffic and very lost, I screamed my frustration and
darned if some truck drivers did not imitate my screaming. I guess they
thought it was funny but I having a "dyed in the wool" dry drunk. In other
words, I was acting like I was drunk but was dry in that I had had nothing
alcoholic to drink.
Patches of blue sky showed just as I found the Kedron Youth Hostel
complete with a sign painted on its roof so that one could see it from the
main road. Of course, there was a stair way to carry the bicycle up but
had large dorm rooms and a balcony from which I hung my clothing that I had
washed with me in the shower "toeing" the clothes in an attempt to scrub
the dirt out. A male bicyclist who said he was living at the youth hostel
agreed to buy some groceries for me. As usual, I was too hungry to wait
for the rice to cook and decided that I would never cook it again because
it takes too long.
I had just finished eating when a Japanese yelled, "Are you an
American? I heard that an American woman was staying here."
"Yes," I feebly admitted that I was an American. I didn't usually
brag about my citizenship because I was always clearly outnumbered by
Australians who sometimes did not like Americans.
The Japanese asked, "Do Australians speak English? I spent five years
studying English in Japan and I can't understand the Australians."
I asked him, "Did you have American teachers?"
"Yes, but why did you ask that?"
"Because Americans speak a different dialect of English while
Australians are closer to British English. Most of the time I can't
understand the Aussies either and I have spoken English for 53 years."
"I can easily understand you and not the Aussies. Now, I know," the
Armed with my postdoctoral study in psycholinguistics from The
University of South Florida, I advised him to request that the Aussies
speak slower and showed him my book about Australia on $50 per day written
in American English which was very similar to the English written in
He agreed that the vowel sounds were different, the slang unreal, and
the words slurred. Nevertheless, he was relieved.
Then, I got into my usual problem due to my racism and sexism. Trying
as hard I can, I kept trying to forget about the rape but sometimes but
sometimes my problems surfaced. Also, I had been harassed by men as I
jogged near my home in Tampa, Florida. Once I had been chased by a gang of
blacks and set an Olympic world record, I am sure, running to the safety of
a white bar. Black men have taught me to be a racist and sexist and to be
afraid but when I express this, I generate anger in some people who are not
prejudiced. Although I am currently working on my racism and know that
there are many good black men, in 1991, I was trying desperately to heal.
When I got into arguments at youth hostels, I usually ended the argument by
excusing myself to go to bed as I always have to get up early.
Day 13 (May 24, 1991) Today, I rode on some of the best roads of the
trip but still had some rain and was glad to get to the youth hostel
located off the main road. There were signs on the road that said that
bicycles were prohibited but when I rode near the toll booth, a lady came
out of the guard house and opened the toll gate for me telling me, without
my asking, that I was only 15 minutes away. She didn't say "away from
what" but I guess that she meant the youth hostel at Maroociliydore which
is near Nambour. The bush telegram was working already!
As is too usual, I was exhausted when I arrived at the youth hostel
and the manager was not there. An old man was sitting in the kitchen told
me he was dying and gave me some cooked chicken. However, I had to race
out and buy more food before the shops closed. In the small towns of
Australia, there are no 24 hour a day open super markets. I did buy some
blue spray paint for my bicycle helmet because I had read in an Australian
women's magazine that the color blue repels flies and I knew that flies
were coming as I headed north. I had learned my lessons well in 1979 but I
wasn't certain exactly when the flies would begin covering my face and
getting into my eyes.
I shared the women's dorm with a 62 year old Canadian woman who said
she had been talked out of bringing her bicycle to Australia because the
towns were too far apart. She described her beautiful touring bicycle
complete with all costly accessories. She insisted that I could not ride
my mountain bike around Australia. She was one of the few negative people
that I had met or was she just jealous? She did not seem excited about
regeneration by bicycling or my "sermonizing" about doing what makes you
happy providing it is not illegal.
My bicycle odometer now reads 786.5 miles and I know that I am doing
it, one day at a time. I know that I have a long way to go and no youth
hostel to stay in tomorrow night but I will find a nice place to stay that
is priced within my $20 per day budget for all expenses.
Day 14 (May 24, 1991) How I loved the Nambour bakery! Nambour is a
small town consisting of many shops for everything including green grocery,
bakery, butcher, chemist, furniture, etc. and is very typical of Australia.
And the rain came, again, again. I did find a roadside fruit stand and
asked permission to take the discarded fruit from the rubbish bin or trash
can just like I do at home. No, I am not a bag lady but do cut out the
badly bruised and rotten parts of fruit with my tiny pocket knife that has
a file, scissors, and a small knife blade. This is all that I needed.
Suddenly, just outside of Gympie after biking only 62 miles, I saw a
navy/black sky. I knew that it was a vicious storm coming and I needed
shelter fast. There was only one caravan park in town with a pregnant
woman manager who asked me to wait while she finished getting her clothes
off the line before it rained. She told me about her bicycling through
France in the rain one afternoon and had five flat tires. She arrived at a
camp ground and all the shops were closed. For supper, she had only two
boiled eggs, some bread, with nothing to wash it down. She did sell me some
food as shops in Australia often close early on Saturdays and rented me her
last available cabin for $20 completely destroying my budget. I must
The nice lady did loan me some magazines to read as I was out of
reading material and there was no TV, of course. The cabin was actually a
wheelless trailer or prefab room containing only a kitchen and bedroom. In
Australia one has to always go outdoors to a toilet or bathroom or restroom
with the women's section always the furthest distance away.
But as at home, I love to read in bed and my home habits always go
with me. It was so nice to have a double bed just like I have at home and
complete privacy which is the first that I have had since leaving Tampa.
Still, I had to get out in the rain and walk to the bathroom. Only twice
in Australia did I have a bathroom attached to my room: Salmon Gum and
Day 15 (May 26, 1991) Today, I noticed that there are fewer Norfolk
Island Pines found now and the earth is becoming both redder and drier.
There were some remaining hills "dressed in patches" of rain forests.
I wanted to stay in the youth hostel at Hervey Bay and rang or called
for directions about 15 miles from Maryborough at a British Petroleum
Station where the clerk could not have been nicer. The youth hostel was
closed so I was forced to locate other accommodations. Rain was
threatening and I hate "wet tenting" even though my tent is waterproof.
The tent did lack a reading light, kitchen, etc. Poor me! I had bicycled
only 53.20 miles when I reached Maryborough. If I did not consistently
increase my mileage there was not going to be a record for me but I
listened to my body that did not want to tent in the rain. I found the
only caravan park in the small town and the cheapest or least dear van on
site was $25 but I loved the solitude and privacy of the camping trailer.
When I complained about the cost of food, the manager of the caravan park
showed me how to distinguish between poisonous and nonpoisonous mushrooms
growing in the mowed grass area of the park. I picked a frying pan full
and cooked them in water because I didn't have anything else to cook them
in. The frying pan was part of the usual equipment of the caravan. I also
splurged on a Violet Crumble candy bar which we do not have in the United
States. As in the United States camping grounds often magazines are found
in laundry rooms and that is the same way it was in Australia. In the
laundry room I found back issues of Australian women magazines New Idea and
Women's Day. I love to read and eat. Best of all, I loved the quiet
reading until I fell asleep.
Day 16 (May 27, 1991) As is usual, before beginning my daily ride I
carefully go over the map noting small towns where water is always
available. As I continue to endlessly ride north, the towns and getting
further and further apart. I am already very worried about how I will
carry sufficient water as I am not riding the same bike as I rode in 1979.
As previously mentioned, my precious bike had been stolen at knife point.
The luggage racks on my current bike are completely different and I can't
carry the large bottle over the front wheel. Before leaving Tampa, I had
prepared almost every water bottle that I had and allotted one entire rear
saddle bag or pannier to water bottles, only. These extra water bottles
are empty, now, but soon I will have to bicycle with the heavy water. I
also have a "camel back" that is a one liter container for water that is
like a backpack. However, I know that today, I don't have to carry too
much extra water.
However, the further north that I rode, the hotter it was becoming.
At Childers, I stopped at a gas station for water and something to eat. I
have a tendency to tell strangers about my status as a recovering alcoholic
and former drug addict, and strangers in turn, tell me their troubles. The
waitress there told me all her troubles with drugs probably because she
thought it was safe to tell a stranger. Obviously, I was just passing
There were some soldiers getting gas and they warned me about the
north, that I would not be able to find water and that I would be hit by
cars. Over the "camel back" I always wore a reflective vest, the rear
saddle bags were highly visible yellow so I knew that I could be seen in
the day time by motorists. If at all possible, I never rode at night
because I could not see and likely could not be seen.
But I was in a hurry to get to Gin Gin where I had asked both friends
and family to write me via general delivery. There were some terrible
hills just before Gin Gin which I don't remember biking over in 1979.
Along the road there were some workers in a truck patching the road with
hot tar and I kept catching up with them and then they would pass me. They
did ask me if I wanted a ride to Gin Gin which was one of the many offers
for a ride on this trip.
Sometimes, the most difficult thing that I did was turn down a ride
but I had a record to make. That meant no rides for any reason!
And it kept getting hotter as I pedalled so hard to get to Gin Gin
where I forgot that the post office was on the outskirts of town. Because
the post office was about to close, I jumped off the bike and was suddenly
dizzy. I did race into the post office to be "slammed" by the fact that
there was no mail waiting for me from family and friends. I did have the
portly postmaster put the date/place stamp on an aerogram and the number of
miles on the bicycle odometer. He wrote on the aerogram that he was the
"Great Grand Nephew of the Wild Scotchman, Queensland's only Authentic
Bushranger." One can only get souvenirs like this when one is filthy from
road dust and obviously just off a bicycle. In Australia, there was an
effective "bush telegram" so I am certain that all the postal employees and
residents of Gin Gin knew that I was on the road.
The Highway Hotel where I had stayed in 1979 was the same but I
couldn't afford to stay there, again. My budget had been busted so I had
$5 for a tent space. Just as I completed the erecting of the tent, it
began raining. The foam mattress got wetter as it had not been dry since
Sydney. I ate at the cafe at the caravan park and a truck driver looked me
over in my tight bicycling shorts remarked, "Good tunes are played on old
fiddles." There was also a romance going on between a truck driver and a
woman worker at the cafe. While looking at me, he was asking her what time
she got off work. She was sending me visual daggers. I didn't want her
man. No man for me as I had a record to set with as little money as
And so into my tent with the sounds of trucks groaning on the nearby
highway hills, I did not have much sleep. I did have to ride early the
next morning in a waterless area. It kept raining, though.
Day 17, (May 28, 1991) The atlas showed very few towns after Gin Gin
so I filled the bicycle water bottles with water, carefully closing them
and standing them up in my saddle bag. However, there was no rain but
there were hills and more hills made harder by the weight of the water.
I did find drinking water in a cistern at a road side park. Knowing
how sick one can get from polluted water, I always asked the other people
if it was drinking water before I filled the water bottles. My rule was to
keep extra drinking water at all times as one can always pour the water out
if one has too much but if one does not have enough water, one is in
dreadful trouble especially when alone.
After 75 miles of no rain, I stopped for the night at Bororen and paid
$5 for a tent site at a lovely caravan park. As soon as I had the very
welcomed shower, I hung out my always wet clothes on the clothes line.
Yes, I carried clothes pegs or clothes pins attached to my bike's brake and
gear shift cables....like a decoration. My tent was put up so I walked
into town to buy cans of food. Just like I do at home, I search for the
best price so I looked at food at the only shops in town. I was searching
for chinese food but they only had it frozen which meant cooking. I told
the clerk that I didn't have a stove and did he have another form of
chinese food. Finally, he found a can of chinese food and asked, "Do you
have a can opener?"
Yes, I did have a can opener which was the most used tool of the trip.
When I got back to the caravan park, a nice couple traveling with a camping
trailer loaned me a folding chair and table so that I could eat properly
instead of sitting on the ground. No, I didn't have silverware or a china
bowl but sitting felt so elegant. While my tent and clothes dried out from
the Gin Gin rain, I ate supper and watched the wild parrots eat at the bird
feeder. Many caravan parks and private homes had bird feeders which were
very entertaining especially at sunset when the birds would come to eat.
The couple also told me about a book by Eric Newby entitled Round
Ireland in Low Gear. Throughout the trip, I kept hearing about this book
that described the Irish roads in detail by a couple who had bicycled
around Ireland. I am sure that the Irish roads are as transient as the
people in Australia. Most things change so much with weather including the
destroying floods of the Australian wet season, and simply people moving on
to greener pastures or so they think.
But tonight, there is a full moon to help heal my soul from the rapes
that I cannot seem to get over. My son had been conceived as the result of
a date rape in 1957, and of course, the police in Texas would do nothing
because the rapist who became my first husband said that I was just
hysterical and drunk. The second rape was the worst thing that has ever
happened to me but not being able to get an abortion and having to be
pregnant and give birth via natural childbirth to an unwanted child. Since
l960, when I placed this child out for adoption, I have always wondered
what happened to him. I am very angry that I was prevented from getting an
abortion. I did have a legal abortion later and felt no emotional pain.
The pain from not knowing about my son born on October 28, 1958, has been
terrible. Abortions are a woman's right!!!! To me, life begins at birth
when the baby takes his/her first breath. It's emotional murder, adopting
out a child although I knew that I could not rear the child as I was no
good because I had conceived a child before I was married or so my very
religious family had pounded into my head. And so I drank and drugged
myself to blot out the pain of being no good.
One of the main reasons for my trip around Australia was to heal my
destroyed soul. Sometimes I feel that the brutal second rapist is
following me in Australia. However, my nights in Australia have been filled
with good dreams as I feel safe enough here to dream and heal and enjoy the
full moon that cleans my soul so that it can heal.
Day 18 (May 29, 1991) There is an early morning tapping on the rain
fly of the tent and my clothes that I had hung to dry are wet in the grey
nonsunrise. It is Happy Birthday to my younger brother Dan who is 49 years
old today in Dallas, Texas. I had not even taken his address with me to
Australia as he does not write me and when we have telephone conversations
he is extremely negative. He was still drinking when I visited him in
Texas in 1984. He offered me a beer even though I had made very clear that
I am a recovering alcoholic and could not have a drink. At that time, my
sister-in-law immediately offered me a soft drink. Thank you much, Anne.
Today, the land became dry, flat, and hot. Exactly 77 kilometers from
Rockhampton, I got my first real tail wind through golden fields of
nothing. At one road house and gas station combination where I stopped to
fill up my water bottles, I talked to some soldiers and one described my
trip as my Mount Everest climb. The soldiers complained about sleeping out
in the rain and mud without tents. They were from one of the many military
convoys I saw on the roads as the Australian military was very active in
the winter of 1991.
Continuing on to Rockhampton with the glorious tail wind, I passed a
white van parked on the side of the road. A man yelled, "You're strong."
I felt strong, then!!!!!
While searching for the youth hostel in Rockhampton, I crossed the
Tropic of Capricorn but did not bother to take a photo. When I finally
found the youth hostel in Rockhampton, I discovered that my plastic bag
filled with wet clothes had fallen off my bicycle somewhere. When I
complained to a woman at the youth hostel, the Australian whined, "You have
lost your clothes" in such a maddening manner that I almost slapped her. I
was so irritated and upset.
Before the shops closed, I made a frantic run and found that cycling
shorts cost $60 which I didn't have. My cycling shorts had cost only $10
in the United States. As it was I had only running shorts and a t-shirt
that I was wearing. I just didn't have any other clothes.
But at youth hostels one is usually helped. I met a big mouth man
from Los Angeles who had been hit by a car in Brisbane while riding his
bicycle. He sold me a pair of cycling shorts that lasted for the rest of
the trip with much mending. My sewing kit was well used and I would never
leave home without one.
To combat saddle sores by keeping my bottom dry, I cooked my supper
wearing only a long t-shirt. This "bottomlessness" must have attracted the
attention of the young couple from the Netherlands who were managing the
youth hostel and they did hear my complaining when I checked in during the
few hours designated for paying. They took me to a garage where the
bicycles were locked and showed me a large box of clothes that people had
Perhaps I am a very normal woman in that I wanted to spend much time
selecting proper clothes but I knew they were in a hurry and did not have
all night. I was allowed to select red sweat pants, a long baggy khaki t-
shirt, a cycling t-shirt, khaki shorts, and a hand painted t-shirt. These
clothes became very valuable souvenirs of the trip.
This day ended with the satisfaction of having biked 106 miles the
longest distance of the trip so far and knowing that all was well at least
until bedtime. Sharing the women's dormitory room was a large woman from
Britain who snored all night shaking the bunk beds. Also, I had played
with a cat who had helped himself into the other women's dormitory and hid
under a Japanese woman's bed. We were laughing. She said to the cat, "Ten
dollars, please, for a place to spend the night." We were able to coach
the cat out but the laugher was worth the 106 miles.
Day 19 (May 30, 1991) Because I was still upset over losing my clothes
and tired from the over 100 mile ride, I decided to spend another day in
Rockhampton. My tent had some small holes in it from the cigarette burns
when Steve, a former client, had borrowed it in Tampa so I had to find tent
patch tape. I decided to walk about Rockhampton shopping and sight seeing.
Also, I needed socks which I got free a used clothing store. I had the
local bicycle shop install a rear view mirror on my left tip of my
handlebar which saved my life many times.
I discovered the Pilbeam Theatre and Art Gallery with free admission.
It had a perfect exhibit of paintings and pottery of Australia by
Australians. This art gallery is one of the best kept secrets of Australia
and definitely should earn international recognition. One never knows what
will find when one is open to positive things.
When I got hungry, I began looking for cheap food and asked people
walking down the street where I could purchase cheap fish. I was able to
buy a kilogram of fresh fish for $l. Back at the youth hostel, I cooked my
fish in water and it was delicious. Yes, I shared a piece with the begging
Day 20 (May 31, 1991) As is usual, I packed up and left early.
Outside of Rockhampton, I took a photo of a road sign showing a map of
Australia and the highway around it. It was a sunny good day with a tail
wind that actually blew me along the road. I could have bicycled further
than 69 miles but asked the local people about the next town going north
and was told that there was nothing for 115 kilometers or over 68 miles. I
paid for a tent space in the only caravan park in Marlborough and put my
tent up in what I thought was a very isolated space as I love peace and
quiet. Then, I walked about a mile into Marlborough for groceries and
bought my "normal" three cans plus milk plus a candy bar.
Enjoying my leisurely supper of a can of pork and beans, a can of
mixed fruit or tropical fruit salad, and a can of vegetables sitting in the
grass beside my tent and reading some magazines from the laundry, I was
very content and happy and ready to go to sleep at sundown. I had not
slept long when there was an awful ruckus. It seemed that there was a
noisy mob of smokers camping near my tent. The wind blew the smoke right
into my tent and the noise was awful. Margaret, part of a nice couple from
Victoria. did ask them to be quiet. I had heard one of them calling
"Mary," so I yelled that Mary should be quiet. We were ignored and I got
sick from the cigarette smoke so coincidental in Marlborough which must
have been named after the Marlborough cigarettes in the United States.
I had enjoyed my conversation with Margaret and her husband. That
evening they invited me to their camping trailer for coffee the next
morning. Trying to sleep though all the noise, I actually looked forward to
a hot cup of coffee.
Day 21 (June 1, 1991) Coffee and toast at 6:30 AM was the perfect
start of the day. Margaret's "man" described himself as a bushwalker and
insisted that my jacket was not Goretex. A look at the label convinced him
that I knew that I was doing when I had purchased it.
But I had to load the bike and get it and ride loving the vastness of
the bush, the healing solitude with the bush cuddling me with the warm sun
and winds of challenge. The endless prairie grass, the water deprived
slender trees gave me more security than I had known in a long time. There
is something about the knowledge that one's legs can carry a person
anywhere she wishes to go. A form of serenity, joy, a beauty in one's
self-esteem. So I finally began to heal and my soul began to grow whole,
Riding today I was glad that the vastness of the bush is like the
potential of the human mind. Limitless. But then I needed a place to stay
after a ride of about 68 miles. I had been told about a resort called
Clairview on the Pacific Ocean and found it by following signs off the main
highway, biking on some dirt roads with some tail and some head winds. I
found the Mermaid Caravan Resort and paid the atrocious price of $8 for a
tent space. In the resort there were 13 peacocks, some bush turkeys, and
free tea at 5 PM. I did walk on the vast beach and took a photo of a
leaning tree and "sand script." I was completely at peace and not hungry
for anything. Being alone is so healing for me. In 1979, my trip had
saved my life and my sobriety, the 1991 trip was saving my soul.
At the Mermaid Caravan Park, I met Mary, the manager and co-owner who
explained to me that she charged what she felt it was worth for her to get
off her butt and do. She did have some hand knit sweaters in her caravan
shop which she was selling. I did show her my lace knitting and she copied
the pattern so that she could use it. If only I could combine my bicycling
and knitting addictions!
That night in my tent I was still hungry so I "binged" on some dried
apricots a man had given me when I had stopped at a rest area that
afternoon. The rest of the night I was in and out of the bathroom with a
severe case of diarrhea.
Day 22 (June 2, 1991) It was a perfect day for biking. I had an extra
breakfast at a roadside cafe watching the owner Janice bake while I ate
homemade quiche, as well as fruit and ice cream. After some more miles of
very pleasant riding, a couple parked in a car on the side of the road
offered me coffee. Delicious!
But I had to get on to MacKay which is pronounced "Miky" and find the
Backpacker's Hostel where I planned to spend the night. If there was not a
youth hostel, I often stayed in Backpacker's Hostels which were privately
run and with "looser" rules with too much cigarette smoking and drinking,
usually. But any port in a storm.
When I finally rode the 88 miles to MacKay, I did have trouble finding
the hostel but when I did I was offered a private room with a bathroom for
$10. However, it was upstairs and I got more practice carrying the bike
and all the gear up the stairs. Also, there was a small swimming pool and
I found that I could still do the butterfly stroke and free style, too.
However, I got out of breath quickly and knew that I would have trouble
returning to swimming when I got home.
It was Sunday and I wanted to buy a newspaper but all the news agents
or news stands were closed. I did find a pub selling a $3 supper but it
was not enough to eat so I found a Hungry Jack or really Burger King and
had a $l.20 sundae.
By then, with my stomach full, I was ready for bed after having had
fled rain clouds the entire day. I do pedal faster if the rain is chasing
Day 23 (June 3, 1991) Of course, it was raining and showers continued
all day. Beside the road there was cane, cane, cane. In between the
showers, I took a photo of the cane fields and a mountain.
In the rain, there were hills with some tail winds. Exhausted, I
thought I would never get the kilometer signs to end in Proserpine. In
Australia, there were kilometer signs every 10 kilometers with the largest
beginning and for example 10 kilometers just as one was coming into the
next town or even road house as the towns became more and more distant.
In the rain in Proserpine, I could not find a cheap place to stay as
the hotels were too expensive at $15 per night. Also, since the hotels
were above the pubs, there was cigarette smoke and noise preventing the
sleep that I needed. After asking at the pubs, I found a cheap motel with
a room for $10. Then, I had banking business to attend to because my
Commonwealth savings account had a minimum of $500 withdrawal and I refused
to carry $500 in cash. I opened up another account with a $200 withdrawal
maximum so that I could withdraw money from any post office anywhere in
Australia. I did not know how far the post offices would be apart but with
planning I did keep sufficient money in my fanny pack which I wore around
For supper, I found a take away chinese cafe where I got a dinner for
$6.90 with the largest portions of the trip. I did not go to bed hungry
Day 24 (June 4, 1991) Awful rain all day, again. I just could not
take the rain anymore so I decided to stay in Bowen only a 40 mile ride
from Proserpine. The roads were very narrow so that I was forced to get
off the roads for trucks. No, I don't dispute a truck's right to be on the
While trying to find the Backpacker's Hostel, I got lost in the hills
of Bowen but by then the sun had come out and I felt better. Also, Bowen
had a cheap grocery store and a bike shop where I got a new kick stand for
my bike for $5.
The Backpacker's Hostel had a tropical garden in the rear where I
talked to a Swiss cyclist who was going the opposite direction. While he
fixed his flat tire, I told him about the roads. He was impressed by me, a
mere American woman, who had ridden under such conditions. I met an
Israeli soldier who had been in the army until a month before. This hostel
was filled with good looking men including the Danes but of course, there
was an especially chauvinist male who noted that I was opening a can of
spaghetti and eating it without cooking. "Cook that, " he commanded. And
then there was that big fat British woman who snored like an earthquake. I
told her about it and she threatened to "Bop you, one." I said that it
would not be a good idea as I felt that I was physically fit.
Nevertheless, I do not fight anymore and did not want to risk immediate
deportation and an end to my record attempt.
That night I dreamed that my ex-husband Robert Joesting had moved with
me to a northern part of the United States where there was much snow on the
ground. I could not ride my bike so I left him but I had no place to stay
as I could not go back to my parents. My parents and I have never been a
close with my father telling me when I biked across the United States in
1980, "You can stay with us but only for a short time." So much for family
values. Perhaps he was afraid that I would be a "free loader."
Day 25 (June 5, 1991) Today, the roads were extremely narrow and
bumpy, but it was sunny, and I did not object as much to getting off the
road for trucks. The head wind and hills were not much fun but no rain was
so good. I did stop at a petrol station for a pot of tea and was given
some vegetables by a proud owner. He showed me his 22 pound cat who had
been fed fresh beef since weaning. The cat was huge but docile.
The worst part of the trip was the bridge over the Burdekin River
between Home Hill and Ayr. The bridge is called the Silver Link and is
over a thousand meters long. Since there was no solid rock foundation,
huge concrete caissons had to be sunk in the river bed to carry the weight
of the bridge which did wobble as I struggled across it terrified by all
the truck traffic.
The river was nothing but sand and scattered potholes of water so it
was not very scenic. The bicycle entertained me by falling off the narrow
walkway with the chain repeatedly coming off. The front saddle bags all
came off in the impossible traffic. I was so glad to finish this awful
Then, I had to find a place to spend the night and went to the first
caravan park where I was told it would cost $7 for a tent space. I just
could not afford this so I followed my "instincts" and asked directions for
the second caravan park in Ayr. A man told me to "take a right at the fire
"Excuse me," I said, not understanding exactly what a fire brigade
was. Hearing my United States accent, he corrected himself by saying,
"fire station." At the caravan park, I paid only $6 after I finally found
the manager and was told to put up my tent near the other tents. This was
the custom as the sites with power were reserved for camping trailers.
Immediately, I saw two touring bicycles chained to a tree beside a
tent and met Charlene Grath. She had biked with her husband from Sydney
and were now picking fruit. They had begun their bike ride in Portugal and
learned they could not wait out the rain but instead got used to riding in
the rain. In India, they could not find a bike tire so had bought leather
belts, took the buckles off and put the belts between the tire and tube and
Her husband joined us after he had finished playing soccer with the
other fruit pickers. This Canadian couple invited me to eat with them and
I donated the vegetables I had been given. Strange to write but we had
biked exactly the same road from Sydney to Ayr but they had stayed with
people while I was somewhat more of a loner.
Bicyclists crave other bicyclists and so we told road stories while
the stew was being cooked. I was asked by a New Zealander or Kiwi living
solo in a tent nearby if I wanted some rockmelon. Grath immediately
"translated" by saying a rockmelon is a cantaloupe as they are known in the
United States and Canada.
There was much camaraderie around the stoves provided by the caravan
park beside the picnic tables. Two Israelis rested on a blanket and sang
haunting folk songs. When the stew was cooked, I hungrily ate every
spoonful and gratefully accepted offers for more. I was told that I had
eaten the most of anyone that they had ever fed. This was the second night
that I had not gone to bed hungry as I was using up so many calories each
day and was on a "thin" budget of $20.
Day 26 (June 6, 1991) It was hard to leave my friends from Canada but
I had miles to go to get to Townsville, 61 miles from Ayr. If only I could
have legally picked fruit for a few days.! With a US Passport, I could not
work in Australia, but the others were from British Commonwealth Nations.
However, I still wonder about the Israelis. How did they get permits to
work? There was no time for thinking as I had head winds on roads that
would suddenly turn excessively rough in the places that had been wrecked
by record breaking floods the previous wet season in December and January.
About 20 kilometers from Townsville, I tried to telephone my friends
from the 1979 trip but could not find their phone number in the phone book.
I did drink a coca cola but that did not help me feel better. Again, I had
trouble finding the Backpacker's Hostel and was in a terrible mood. I was
able to get a single room for one night for $10 but had to carry the
bicycle and all my gear up some outdoor wooden stairs. I was exhausted.
Day 27 (June 7, 1991) This morning I woke up with my right eye swollen
shut and covered all over with pus. It would be impossible to ride a bike
with only one eye as it handicapped my depth perception.
I did see the manager and he gave me directions to the hospital that
was within walking distance. Following the directions to outpatient, I
soon saw a doctor who reassured me that I was not going blind but my eye
had been irritated by the wind. He was a black African, educated at
Oxford, and now a grateful citizen of Australia. He wrote a prescription
and directed me to the hospital's chemist where I did have to wait. There
were many Australian magazines to read. The only charge was $6 and I had a
half day left to sight see.
I had read about a $12 ferry ride to Magnetic Island. But first, I
needed to eat and found a Chinese smorgasbord, a multilingual use of words.
There I drank the greatest coffee I have ever tasted. Thames!!! I enjoyed
the ferry ride with my vision returning as a result of the medication and
bought my friend Betty Walker a gift. In Townsville, I had bought Ms
Arlene Gotham of the Suncoast Schools Credit Union of Tampa, Florida, a
pair of opals. On both the 1979 trip and this 1991 trip she had done so
much for me taking special time to prepare for the trips before I left. It
was a privilege to bring her the opals!
I also purchased a used paperback book by Nancy Donkin titled Always a
Lady Courageous Women of Colonial Australia. As the ferry threaded its way
through all the expensive Australian yachts, I realized that Australia was
not in as bad an economic situation as was insisted.
Being accustomed to walking, I walked back to the hostel where I found
two Japanese women sharing my room. One woman from Japan who had ridden
her motorcycle through Australia's north insisted that it would be
impossible for me to ride my bicycle there because of lack of water. I
could not get her to understand that I had done it in 1979. She did
struggle to get the road dirt out of her jeans and was late for the free
meal provided by the hostel's management every Saturday night. I loved the
hamburgers and greasy food for once but now that my eye was better, I had
to get to bed early and head north.
Day 28 (June 8, 1991) Even though I had been told by the medical
doctor to stay out of the wind so that my eye could heal, I had to ride
against tremendous head winds to Charters Towers. The horrible hills did
not help. Also, I had to carry enough water for one day as I did not see
any locations for water for the 97 kilometers.
About 12 kilometers from Charters Towers a truck driver of a small uti
or pick up truck offered me a ride. When I refused he offered me water so
I made the mistake of stopping. He said we had to go around his truck for
water. That's when he grabbed me around the waist. Quickly, I twisted
myself away and jumped on the bike.
Reading in the Backpacker's Hostel Directory that rides to the hostel
were available, as soon as I got to Charters Towers I called the hostel but
were told the car was unavailable. Then, I requested directions and had
trouble understanding them. Later, I was told that my telephone call had
been a "distress" call. Still, even though I was thoroughly exhausted, I
was able to bike to the hostel, stopping at a shop to buy food and a
precious newspaper just before the shops closed.
The hostel's manager assigned me the bicyclist's room in the basement
that was open on one end. The bicycle was wheeled down the driveway into
the basement where it was parked near my bed. This hostel was like the
manager and acting manager as it had much character. It had been purchased
with the earnings from a gold mine. The lights were electrified lanterns.
The second floor kitchen window had a rope to the outdoor ground floor
rubbish bin lid that one pulled up when one wanted to throw the trash out
the window. But I was very exhausted with every cell in my body hurting
from the head winds. I had just climbed into my sleeping bag on the bed
when two guys came downstairs to play ping pong. They noted that I must
like red because my bicycle, pants, and sleeping bag were all red. It was
because Alcoholics Anonymous in Tampa, Florida, gives everyone a red poker
chip for the first year of continuous sobriety and "multiples thereof." I
had collected 13 of these red poker chips as I had 13 years of continuous
After the ping pong game was over I was able to go to sleep as I had
to get an early start the next morning.
Day 29 (June 9, 1991) Loading the bike after breakfast was now a
routine which I tried to do as rapidly and as efficiently as possible but I
did not get very far as the head winds were savage so I decided upon
another rest day. It was Sunday and the shops were only open from 10 AM
till noon. Everything else including the museum were closed but I did see
the open air free zoo. The shops were great. At a needlework shop, I
bought a stamped for embroidery linen map of Australia. There I talked to
a vet who was buying large buttons "to button up a horse's shoulder." I
will never know if he were teasing as you can hear anything in Australia.
Outside of a pet store, there was a kitten in a cage screaming. He was
quickly put inside where he stopped. There I saw a unique pet carrier that
was made like a straw house with curtains on the windows. I wish that I
could have spared the money to buy it and send it home.
I thoroughly enjoyed walking around and did get some washing done. At
every opportunity, I washed the few clothes that I had as I had to stay
clean and dry to keep from developing saddle sores.
It was fun to read and watch TV the rest of the afternoon with one of
the most handsome men in Australia. He was the acting manager and was
carefully looking me over in my jogging shorts that I wore when I walked
about the town. Of course, he had directed me to the short cut to the city
over the railroad tracks through the wild flowers. He looked so good in
his jeans but since I was afraid of AIDS and of getting a "reputation" I
just flirted with him. I will never know what could have become of a
"romance" with him. Should I have gone to bed with him?
Day 30 (June 6, 1991) I did get up early to eat breakfast and get the
bicycle loaded. Sexy Tom had been sleeping near me in the men's dormitory
which was just a thin section of paneling from me. I know that we both
knew that the other was there.
I was just about to get on the loaded bike when Sexy Tom appeared and
asked, "Have you had your breakfast yet?" If only I would have said that I
wanted him for breakfast! Was that what he wanted me to say? He did talk
about having wanted to go jogging with me and was sorry that we did not get
Biking from Charters Towers without a head wind I did see two
kangaroos hopping across the road. One turned around and faced me. I
wondered if this were a good omen. Just outside the Pentland Caravan Park
two men from the United States, Hawaii and California, stopped me and told
me that Alcoholics Anonymous is fifty years old today. They took a photo
of me and I had them take a photo of me with my camera.
Since the shops did not open until 5 PM, I went to a hotel and had
orange juice plus the ever present Australian meat pie. Also, I made the
decision to sleep without a tent as there were no mosquitos and no chance
But it was very cold. It was so cold that I had to tie my sleeping
bag hood around my face so that only bits of face were in the open. Of
course, I used my tent's rain fly as a ground cover. I dreamed about my
former doctoral advisor Dr. E. Paul Torrance without whose help I would not
have my doctorate now. I had gone to one of his student parties without an
invitation and was very embarrassed. On this trip in my sleep, I am
working through so much but that is one of the many purposes of it.
Day 31 (June 11, 1991) Today, there was almost no traffic, the way
that I love it. I climbed the Dividing Range complete with a mountain
pass. This was followed by a very windy prairie with two water stops. The
first was Torrence Creek Hotel where I added to the graffiti on the hotel
wall. A Canadian had written that he had survived the Barkley Highway on a
bike. I wrote: "I have ridden a push bike from Sydney to here." In
Australia, a bicycle is called a "push bike."
But I had to hurry to Hughenden where I had to mail some things home.
I did see a sign on a hotel "Backpackers Special" and so I made inquiries.
Of course, the room was upstairs and because I was so tired and dizzy I had
to ask the bar patrons for help in getting my bicycle and gear upstairs. I
couldn't get the room lock to work so I asked for and was given another
room. The lock still wouldn't work so I decided to barricade the room shut
after I had taken care of "business." At the same time that I showered, I
washed my clothes and hung them on the balcony to dry.
There were some old copies of Woman's Day beside the tea making things
so in an informal lounge near my room so I read and ate. No, I did not eat
in the hotel downstairs as it was very smokey and noisy. I did watch the
news on TV in the pub but the smoke drove me away.
I am very scared about tomorrow as I have to carry more water than I
have carried on this trip so far because there is no water between
Hughenden and Richmond, a distance of 77 miles.
Day 32 (June 12, 1991) This morning I filled eight bike water bottles
as well as the two liter "camel back." It was lovely ride with little
traffic. There were tail winds and I properly drank ample water as I had
to urinate. Just when I got my bicycling shorts down a "quiet" truck came
by with the driver waving.
Richmond is an oasis with a beautiful caravan park which was spotless.
I did watch a car get stuck in the mud from the sprinkler watering the
lawn. People at the caravan park were especially friendly inviting me to
the pub to watch a big Australia rule football game on TV but I was too
tired. I kept hearing of other bicyclists and was told, "You're not the
only one, you know."
Day 33 (June 13, 1991) It was cold and so hard to get out of the tent
and "break" camp, that is, stuff the little red down sleeping bag in its
stuff sack, roll up the foam pad and tie it with the cord always kept in
the tent "things," and then finally take down the tent and load everything
on the bike. The night before, I had made sure that the road house was
open early in the morning so I walked to the road house in the darkness
before dawn so full of fear. I knew that I had to ride an entire day
without a source of water. Of course, I had loaded water the night before
with my consistently obeyed rule being that I always made certain that my
bike water bottles were filled.
After a cold walk to the road house, I arrived there to chat with a
friendly male attendant who served me a pot of tea. Australian males do
not object to doing traditional women's work if there is sufficient payment
With much reluctance, I rode out of Richmond noting that the swimming
pool fence had a sign on it that it was closed for the winter. Each day as
I left the security of a town for the unknown I was reminded about each day
being a new beginning, a slogan from Alcoholics Anonymous.
But the tail winds were perfectly grand with me doing 95.63 miles
without any water except that which I carried on my bike.
Sheep scrounging food in this bleak land had bleated at me. My first
sheep! In 1979, I had seen sheep much sooner on this trip. However, I had
biked almost 100 miles in 5:55 with a maximum speed of only 23 miles per
hour because the ride was essentially flat. I had averaged 16.3 miles per
As usual, I followed the caravan park signs into Julia Creek knowing
that there would only one caravan park in this small town. The caravan
park was dusty and dirty so unusual for the spotless country of Australia.
There was a sign on the trailer office of the manager that he would be
back. I used the restroom and noticed how filthy that it was so I rode on
to check out the room prices of the hotels. Too expensive but I finally
found a woman manager or publican of a hotel who offered me camping space
for $l which I gratefully paid. She did warn me that it would be noisy
because it was railroad pay day, today. I did pay her $5 for a hotel meal
special but my hunger pains were still not satiated so I walked about the
town trying to find the cheapest food shop or food store. I did buy and
eat $6 more food and even purchased ear plugs.
I had noticed many aborigines walking about the town and my post
traumatic stress syndrome was returned to my consciousness. I remembered
the rape in 1988 by a black man that I had come to Australia to forget. As
it got dark, I became more afraid and expressed my fear to the woman
publican. She reassured that the aborigines would not hurt me and that she
was married to one. She suggested that I have some tea in the upstairs tea
room of the hotel. Fearfully, I ended up in a nonfunctioning bathroom in
the hotel, locked from the inside. This was after I had read the magazines
found in the "tea room," and listened to all the noise in the downstairs of
Also, I thought about the extreme differences of the two towns only 95
miles apart. I don't think Julia Creek and Richmond could have been more
different with Richmond being so clean and quiet while Julia Creek was
dirty and noisy. I had checked my bike tires out that afternoon as I was
concerned about the bike tires wearing. I kept thinking I should change
the bike tires but the car garage owner insisted that they were fine after
a total distance of 2123.3 miles. Wow! I was able to get 9631 miles out
of the front tire and have saved it as a souvenir as it did the entire
trip. What a great advertisement for Bike Nashbar brand road tires. This
was done without a puncture or flat tire or any other bike tire problem.
Day 34 (June 14, 1991) This morning as I was loading my bike, carrying
everything down the stairs, I talked to the lady publican again while she
was mopping the hotel. Her name was Janice Hatfield, the same surname as
an old boyfriend that I had in Salisbury, Maryland, when I taught at
Salisbury State College in 1975. She told me that she worked everyday
except Good Friday and Christmas. Indeed her work was hard doing all the
work at the pub and hotel. All the cooking, cleaning, serving of
alcoholic beverages, with only two days off during the entire year was her
life. I just wonder how much sleep she got as I know that she went to bed
long after I was asleep and got up about the same time that I did.
Unrelenting toil but her attitude was positive and I enjoyed talking to her
and learning about the Australia that I love.
And so I rode out of Julia Creek, with carefully filled bike water
bottles. As I biked towards Conclurry the terrain became even more harsh
and the flies became real pests covering me whenever I got off the bike to
change the water bottles or to get some food from my panniers.
A wonderful couple stopped beside the road and offered me coffee or
tea. "Whatever you are having," I replied that I have no preference. A
pot of tea seems to give me more liquid although tea contains caffeine
which is a diuretic but it didn't seem to bother me.
I enjoyed their wonderful pieces of cake plus coffee, but when I went
to get the bike back on the road, the right pedal pad snapped off, broken
now. Even with the broken pad I rode on to Conclurry to a beautiful
caravan park that was filled because there was a show or a fair in
Conclurry that weekend. All the banks and even the post office was closed
but one grocery shop was open where I purchased fly repellant.
The caravan park was extremely green and nice with grass on which to
pitch my tent. I had made friends with Norm and his wife who invited me
for a "tartlet" which was like tiny a favorable pancake. Delicious! They
also had me over to their tent for supper but meanwhile I had walked to a
road house/gas station for extra food and met a lady veterinarian that
kindly discussed using "buttons to patch up horses." Yes, they do. The
vet in Charters Towers had not been having "a go at me."
I also described my friend lady vet from Maine and Tampa who did
triathlons with all the rigorous time consuming training. This lady vet in
Conclurry said that she would not have the time for all that training.
After the wonderful food from Norm and his wife, plus another couple,
I became sleepy and forgetting my problems with insomnia, went quickly to
Day 35 (June 15, 1991) The highway to Mt. Isa was hilly, with head
winds smashing me when they could. Hills do protect a cyclist from some of
the winds. A woman from the Cloncurry Caravan Park had given me a sandwich
that morning so I had a ready made picnic lunch. How much I appreciated
this great gesture! There was a road side park at Creilla with a sign
denoting that in 1861 explorers had come through that area. In 1991, there
was water actually flowing in the river in that most beautiful serene spot.
There, I felt good vibes HOME AT LAST and except for the pesky flies,
everything was perfect.
But I had miles to go before I could rest more and so I got back on
the bicycle and got the heavily loaded bike back on the road. A Swiss
woman and her husband came up beside me in their rented motor home. I had
met her in the toilet or bathroom at the caravan park in Cloncurry where I
had forgotten to bring my toothpaste. She had graciously loaned me hers.
Whenever I heard someone with a foreign accent, I tried to determine their
first language. Having been a German-English translator in the late
1950's, I always tried to retrieve my long lost German when I recognized a
German accent. This wonderful woman was from the German speaking part of
Switzerland and did both enjoy and laugh at my attempts to speak German.
Nevertheless, I had to get to Mt. Isa before sunset and got lost, as
usual, trying to locate the youth hostel. As soon as I had found the youth
hostel, paid the $9 fee, registered, unloaded my bicycle, and got a shower,
I had to rush and buy food before the shops closed as there were very few
shops with evening hours or "heaven forbid," 24 hour grocery stores.
After buying food, I sat on the curb and just relaxed. Suddenly I saw
two "fair dinkum" (Australian for true) bicyclists ride by. They were using
toe clips with cycling shoes on proper l0-speed bicycles. After seeing my
waving and jumping up and down, the man and woman stopped, got out of their
toe clips, and off their bikes. They had remembered me as the "one who
waves" as I had always waved at automobiles carrying bicycles. I would
wave more and more as I rode further west into the state of Western
Australia or WA which the Australians insist stands for "wave."
These two cyclists told me about a race scheduled for the next day and
gave me directions to the start just a few miles from the youth hostel. I
decided to give it and try and take the next day as a rest day as I had
some long lonely stretches to ride and needed as much rest as possible.
The weather was now sunny and dry which I enjoyed.
Day 36 (June 16, 1991) The next morning I rode my empty bike to the
race, paid $5 for the entry fee and loved looking at all the racing bikes
in isolated Mt. Isa. I had carefully shaved my legs for this race although
my budget did not allow me to waste money buying many disposable razors. I
wanted to look like a real bicyclist but my mountain bike gave me away.
My lack of speed also reminded me that I had biked 79 miles with hills
and head winds the day before. However, I did do a seven mile criterion in
23:52 without my bike computer as I did not want to "mess up" the total
distance reading. Admittedly, I was last but I was catching the last male
in the race just before the race ended.
After the race, there was freshly baked cake, and I bought a chocolate
candy bar. It was fun to just be around my "own kind" talking about
bicycles. Since my bicycle was making funny noises and I wanted to have
the luggage racks properly secured, I was looking for a bike mechanic. Of
course, I found one but he insisted that I come to his shop on Monday
morning, the next day.
There was an elderly male bicyclist who was fascinated by me. He
wanted me to sleep with him in his van that night for free but I had
already paid the youth hostel for that night and I said that the fee was
nonrefundable. Truthfully, I really don't know if that was so. He praise
me by saying, "You're one in a million," as he felt my arm. I guess that
he was too afraid of feeling my legs as he knew that he would have been
slapped and a ruckus guaranteed.
I spent that Sunday wandering around Mt. Isa and talking to guests at
the youth hostel. I especially liked the youth hostel manager Diane or
"Di," who had finally let me bring my bicycle inside my room after I had
made faces. But "Di" did not let anyone dominate her. I had watched how
she had deservedly treated a motorcyclist who had boldly and carelessly
ridden his motorcycle on her carefully tended lawn. He had parked his
motorcycle completely oblivious of the grass and lovely flowers bordering
the breeze way of the white painted youth hostel. Rushing into the hostel
he had put his milk in the refrigerator when "Di" confronted him. When she
told him to get his motorcycle off the grass he had run back into the youth
hotel, got his milk, and loudly left.
"Di" was also an animal lover even though her husband was a butcher.
She had a cat that I gave milk to as I am a sucker for begging animals even
if they are well fed. The best youth hostels all had pets such as a cat or
dog that found most guests a "soft touch."
And Mt. Isa was a "soft touch" for me even if it was "sweet and sour."
The air was polluted as evidenced by my continual coughing but at night
this mining town was "lit up like a Christmas tree." I did wish that my
camera could have done justice to a photo of it.
Also, I had plans for the next day to make. Staying at the youth
hostel was an Austrian bicyclist going in my direction. We decided that we
would ride west together on Monday, after I got my bicycle repaired and we
had purchased provisions.
Day 37 (June 17, 1991) Our start was delayed because I had to get my
bicycle repaired at Joe's Bicycle Shop. Joe, who had raced on Sunday, did
not have a large bolt to properly secure the front luggage rack so I ran
about Mt Isa searching for such a bolt. What a perfect place to hunt for
mechanical supplies! Mining towns have everything in that category. I
found a large building with nothing but shelves containing boxes of bolts
of all sizes. Meanwhile the bicycle was getting the needed new wheel
bearings as they had over 2300 miles on them.
Also, I had to race to the post office to get an aerogram stamped with
the date, place, and have the postal employee write in the total number of
miles...and groceries to buy.
After loading the bicycles, it was already 11:30 am before we left
carefully filling all our water bottles as there was to be no water until
Camooweal a distance of about 150 miles.
I stopped at the last petrol or gas station to fill up all my water
bottles to their brims. We had not ridden more than a few miles when we
were out of the traffic of Mt Isa so we rode side by side. We did meet an
oncoming Belgium cyclist riding with a bad rear wheel who complained, "I
always have head winds." He described his problems with the state of
Victoria's mandatory bicycle helmet law which I did obey throughout
Australia. I always bike wearing a bicycle helmet as I believe in the
As we biked aided by a tail wind and only mild hills, it became darker
and darker. I had remembered in 1979 camping beside a "bore" or windmill
with a large water tank so that I had water for washing. We could not find
it so we decided to "go bush," which I hate. I despise "waterless
camping." We did have water for drinking but could not spare the water for
a "sponge bath." I hate getting into my sleeping bag covered with road
dirt and dust.
We did maneuver the bikes off the road with Bob, the Austrian,
building a fire carefully so as to prevent bush fires. We cooked instant
noodles in my billy (pail with a lid of Australian origin and necessity) on
a stick. Because we were so hungry, the noodles were delicious but it did
get dark quickly and so we climbed into our separate tents and settled into
the excessively serene quiet of the bush.
Day 38 (June 18, 1991) We got up at sunrise as we had to get to
Camooweal. Bob remade the fire and we had tea and fruit. We took down our
tents and loaded our bicycles and rode on, with Bob being frisky and
sprinting out ahead of me. I held back as I knew we had a long way to go.
I did try out my German on him as he was German speaking. He did give me a
Bob began having troubles with his bicycle and we had to stop
frequently for him to attempt to repair it. The flies ganged up on us,
then. We did see some motorists watching eagles but unfortunately I missed
Just outside of Camooweal, traffic increased with cars filled with
aborigines. We later found that there was an aborigine funeral in
At the Camooweal post office, I tried to buy an aerogram but they did
not have any. At the cafe, I could not get waited on and when I was
finally able to give my order at the butcher shop type display case, I
spent $4.75 on a tiny carton of milk, meat pie, and a pot of tea. Bob,
like the male I had previously cycled with in New South Wales, had wanted
to lunch in the town park.
But I needed a napkin from the cafe but I still don't think
Australians know what a napkin is actually. I tried sign language which
still did not work. Perhaps there are no paper napkins at the Camooweal
Driveaway. When I asked for a fork it was slammed down on my table. No, I
did not like Camooweal and had had a similar bad experience there in 1979.
For me, it is the worst town in Australia.
We still had to buy groceries with Bob and I taking turns watching our
bicycles while we shopped. We still had to determine the next source of
water. I was very irritable and when this has happened in Australia,
someone always comes to my rescue. At the town park with the overflowing
toilets, a nice couple traveling with a caravan going the opposite
directions gave us a map with all the water sources indicated. They were
And it was nice to leave Queensland as we entered the Northern
Territory only a few miles outside of Camooweal. Bob and I stopped to take
photos of each other and one of the photos of the 22 year old Bob won an
honorable mention in the 1992 Florida State Fair but I had no idea that
this was to happen.
We kept riding and Bob began to get irritable especially since his
bicycle continued to give him problems. Also, he was getting very tired
and wanted to camp out, again, without water for washing. Every time he
got off his bike to take a break, the flies really bothered us. I kept
telling him about the Avon Downs police station where I had stayed in 1979.
"It's around that bend in the road," I kept telling him. Perhaps his
macho German attitude kept him going as I was certainly not a young woman
and he could not let an older woman outride him.
We rode and rode with frequent breaks for Bob who insisted, "I need
the power." He got this power from eating and resting. I just needed to
ride as we were now racing the sunset and I refused to do anymore "bare"
camping. Finally we found Avon Downs Police Station on the right hand side
of the road where it had been in 1979.
We were viewed suspiciously by the police who finally let us take a
shower and wash our dirty clothes. The police warned us that we might have
heart attacks and die because there was no way for us to get medical care.
Bob later told me that that is what people say in Austria about winter
camping, that it is very dangerous.
In 1979, I had been allowed to stay indoors at the police station in a
guest room but this year we were told to camp beside the river near the
police station where we could see wild birds at sunset and sunrise. Clean
from the shower with my clothes hung on the clothesline and all water
bottles filled from the police station cistern we camped out again,
struggling with our bicycles to get them down the river bank. There was
some water in the river in pools among the rocks so typical of most
Australian rivers in the north. We didn't see any birds but we did hear
When it got dark, Bob got friendly and said it was a place for
romance. What! I was 53 years old and he was 22 and the pimples on his
face looked like herpes. I was getting tired of Bob, too, and wondered how
I was going to rid of him. I love traveling alone!
Day 39 (June 19, 1991) That morning, we again had tea from the billy
of hot water over the fire made by Bob, plus some fruit. I put my gloves
on top of my loaded bike and, as I struggled up the river bank, they must
have fallen off. We stopped by the police station to pick up our clothes
and to get more water. My always obeyed rule in dry isolated areas is to
always carry the maximum amount of water. There was a young pig wearing a
harness tethered to the clothesline and we joked about it later, about
pignapping the pig and eating it for supper.
We stopped joking as we rode on because Bob was having even more
troubles with his bicycle. Finally, it stopped working and Bob could not
find out what was the matter with it. I had remembered my problems in 1979
and noted that his $10 luggage rack had broken. Bob cursed in German and
asked me what to do. "I don't know," I told him as the flies covered me,
crawling under my glasses.
By now, I was in an extremely unhappy mood so I simply said, "Auf
weidersang," in German for "good bye," and got on my bicycle and rode away
heading west. He yelled, "You can't do this to me," but I knew that as a
male he would have no trouble safely getting a ride back to somewhere he
could get his bicycle fixed. I suspected that the broken luggage rack had
also broken some spokes and other parts of his bicycle.
It was so wonderful to be alone that I did not even look back while
listening to Bob's obscenities in German. The head winds were awful and I
had had enough of everything negative. When I saw something square in the
distance I decided that I might consider stopping for the night although it
was early and I had biked only about 30 miles. All nature made things are
without angles and are rounded. Only human made things have angles that
can be square.
Continuing to bicycle, I found some buildings beside the road with the
sign Soudan Station. Being careful about possible attack dogs, I hallowed
the station for someone. I found the housekeeper in the laundry house
washing clothes in washing machines similar to mine in Tampa. She told me
that the manager was not in but that she thought that I could put my tent
up on the lawn in front of the manager's house and to wait for the manager,
Phil Miller, to return. I spent the time writing letters about how I hate
"raw" or "bare" camping, that is, camping without a water supply for
When the manager arrived, he invited me to see some calves being taken
from trucks and put into a corral to settle down and heal after having been
castrated. He was very kind and informative about the Soudan Station. He
also invited me to supper which consisted of meat, and canned vegetables.
The station personnel were cordial and asked me politely about my trip.
It was time for bed but I had to put the rain fly on the tent as I
noticed the dark clouds of an approaching storm. Suddenly, the wind came
up while I was taking my shower. Just as I was returning to the tent, I
saw my tent ripped up from its tent pegs, flying away. The plastic tent
pegs were not holding so I ran after my tent in the stormy darkness.
While informally exploring the station, I had noticed a storage
building into which I drug my tent and all my gear including the bicycle.
On the cement floor, I put down my ground cover which also doubled as a
rain fly, my foam pad, then my sleeping bag, and slept beside a
refrigerator containing many cans of beer. There, I dreamed about a woman
administrator at Hillsborough Community College who had been so supportive
of me. Together we had worked with a recovering alcoholic student and both
knew about my own recovering status from alcoholism.
It was still dark when the unsurprised aboriginal cook turned on the
light and said that he had come for meat from the freezer. He had to thaw
it out to cook. He wanted to know if I wanted him to turn out the light.
I thanked him for his kindness and said it was time to get up. He invited
me to breakfast.
There was never any shortage of food on any of the stations that I
visited. Breakfast was scrambled eggs, cereal, bacon, sausage, tea, and
coffee. Everything was "serve yourself," and all one's dirty dishes were
washed by oneself by dipping them in the kitchen sink filled with hot soapy
water. This was also the standard routine in all the stations. Very
efficient and very Australian and I was very much in love with the
Day 40 (June 20, 1991) After searching for and finding the missing
plastic tent pegs from the lawn, I loaded the bike and began bicycling the
94 miles to Barkley Homestead. There were head winds without the
sheltering hills. I made only one stop to eat but I felt great. There was
no Bob to pester me to do "raw" camping. I feel that I must have a shower
at the end of the day in order to recover properly. I like to ride as fast
as possible to my destination without many breaks so that I have as long as
possible to recover for the next day's ride.
A uti or pick up pulled up beside me and the man driving asked if I
were ok. "Fine," I replied and he drove off. This ride took me over six
hours and when I arrived the Barkley Homestead rumored to be terribly
"dear" or expensive, a man was taking a video of me. When I asked him why
he said, "Because you are important." And I felt that I was queen of the
Contrary to rumor, the Barkly Homestead charged me only $3.50 for a
tent site on a grassy lawn and I paid $10.50 for my first and last lamb
dinner complete with a fresh bougainvillea on the table. I dined on a
linen tablecloth and had an unbelievable cloth napkin "out in the middle of
nowhere." It did cloud up while I was eating so I had to interrupt my meal
and go and put my rain fly on the tent but it did not rain.
Since it was almost June 21, the shortest day of the year in the
southern hemisphere, I found a WICCA bonfire but since I did not seem to be
welcome, I left. I also fed a horse who was walking about the caravan park
begging treats. Some people told me that a motel room at the Barkly
Homestead cost $100 per night because the tent sites were subsidized by the
motel rents. Nice!
Day 41 (June 21, 1991) Even though I knew it was the shortest day of
the year in the southern hemisphere I still had 125 miles to ride to get to
Three Ways and then hopefully get some form of other transportation to the
youth hostel in Tennant Creek.
Some people that I had met in the Cloncurry caravan park stopped their
camping van and made me a welcomed sandwich. I was so worried that I might
not get to Tennant Creek before the post office closed on Friday for the
weekend so I asked them to pick up my expected mail and to leave it at the
office of one of the two caravan parks. I wrote a note to the post office
for them. They also agreed to purchase some very much needed aerograms for
me. These aerograms had not been available and I needed them to write
letters. I was so worried about my property, pets, and plants in Tampa.
So I biked hard. It was very hot, dry, and dusty and I was covered
with flies every time I stopped to go to the bathroom or to transfer water
from the bottles in my luggage to the camel back water carrier on my back.
It seemed that I biked forever averaging only 14.2 miles per hour.
When I arrived at the Three Ways Road House there were three hitch hikers
sitting on the side of the road who welcomed me with, "Welcome to Three
Ways. Easy to get into. Hard to get out of."
As the sun was quickly going down, I decided to hitch a ride to
Tennant Creek where I could stay at the youth hostel cheaper than the
caravan park and motel at Three Ways. Several of the people in the bar at
Three Ways said they were going north instead of south to Tennant Creek.
Finally, I found Clyde Woodbridge driving a red Chevrolet van who took me,
my bike, and my gear to the Tennant Creek Youth Hostel, following the
directions given in the Youth Hostel Directory.
The Youth Hostel manager was not in but he had a note on his door with
room keys. One key wouldn't work, of course, because so many keys in
Australia were nonfunctional. I did take a room as far from the noisy
kitchen as possible. The room was dusty but the bike easily fit into it.
By then, the shops had closed to open on Saturday morning. The group in
the kitchen, smoking and talking, offered me some stew from a pot on the
stove. At first, I did not understand the word but finally figured out
what they were offering me and was very thankful for the food. Hungrily, I
ate the stew and the food that I was carrying. Since I was using up so
many calories on the bicycle I was always hungry as my body was trying to
A man from Alcoholic Anonymous that I had met in Pentland was staying
at the youth hostel and was very helpful and proud of me for having been
sober for over 13 years.
Day 42 (June 22, 1991) Because I needed to pick up my mail, I decided
on a rest day in Tennant Creek. About 9 am, I walked to the caravan park
office and found one letter, not from my family but from a woman I had
never met before. Sue Moore of Tucson, Arizona had written me because
Richard DeBernardis of the Perimeter Bicycling Association of America had
given her the copy of my book Bicycling Down Under Off the Sauce that I had
self-published about my first Australia trip in 1979. Over Sue's letter, I
wept with joy in the caravan park. I did learn that it was not the same
caravan park I had stayed in 1979. After rereading her wonderful letter
several times and more weeping about finally hearing from the US, I found a
real super market and was able to finally get cheap food. It was more
expensive to buy 25 tea bags than 100 tea bags for 99 cents. I ended up
spending $16 for food and then found a book exchange which is a used book
store. Reading material!
But I was worried about my family whom I had written. What about my
rented house in Tampa? The shops closed at noon so I went back to the
youth hostel where I found the other people chopping wood for a bar-b-que
which means cook out in Australia.
I enjoyed reading in bed but when the sun went down the noise went
up. It was the noisiest night of my life. The group was drinking beer and
smoking dope at the youth hostel. When I complained to the manager,
threatening to call the police, the manager said that the Tennant Creek
police would just bring a case of beer. Actually, I was very afraid to do
anything as I was very vulnerable on the bicycle.
So I appealed to the man from AA and he thought that I wanted sex.
Had the entire world gone crazy? We did have an AA meeting in the kitchen
with the Australians' beer cooling in the refrigerator.
"You don't want us to drink, do you?" Are you drinking our beer?" We
were bothered by the beer drinkers but laughed at them.
"No, we don't care if you drink." Drinking your beer is the last
thing that we would do," we said. The man from AA was very wise in AA
lingo. He loved Australia because he didn't have sinus trouble here but
that Australian government wouldn't let him stay permanently because he was
an "undesirable." He had left all his personal possessions in a van stored
Around the bon fire they sang now with a live band: "Hit the road Jack
and don't come back no more, no more" over and over. It would have
bearable if they had sung Australian songs but instead were copying some of
the worst junk from the US.
Did they stop before dawn? I don't think so. Later I read that the
residents of Tennant Creek were angry about the pubs being open 24 hours
per day and also could not sleep because of the noise. The pub owners
liked the money so I suppose that the pubs are still open 24 hours per day
as they were in 1979.
Day 43 (June 23, 1991) Without much sleep I left at daylight and rode
to Renner Springs with hills and some cross winds and increasing heat. It
was certainly getting hotter and hotter the further north I rode.
The roadhouse at Renner Springs was located back from the main highway
with a dusty driveway/parking lot in front of it. The toilets or bathrooms
were dirty which was extremely unusual for the very clean Australians. I
don't think that I had dehydrated but I did drink numerous cartons of
reduced fat chocolate milk. In Australia, they called low fat milk reduced
fat and since I always on a low fat diet because I seem to compete and
train better on it, I learned to ask for reduced fat milk. I also ate a
meat pie filled with fat but I was hungry.
Of course, I had to pay for a camp site where I put up my tent quickly
as I had had much practice and tried to use the most efficient motions.
Day 44 (June 24, 1991) Today I rode only 61 miles to Elliott, a two
roadhouse town. I put my tent up at a fancy caravan park, the Club Med of
the outback complete with a nice swimming pool and "mossies" or mosquitos.
The well managed caravan park's office included a well-stocked grocery
store, post office, and community bulletin board which had a sign saying
that a therapist was going to visit the area to help people with "trouble
in the head." The manager explained that it was worded in this way so that
the aborigines could understand that the therapist was coming and could
All caravan park grocery stores are more expensive than local grocery
shops where the local residents buy their food and supplies. So, I did an
exploratory trip looking for cheaper food. I did talk to a policeman who
had been a racing bicyclist but did not train on the highway that ran
through Elliott. Actually it was the only paved road in the area.
Instead, he said that he trained on his wind trainer but was too busy with
too much area to cover to get much time for training. Indeed, the outback
policeman is probably the most over-worked person in Australia except for
the single woman publican, that is.
A medical doctor from Melbourne staying in the caravan park found me
and had his wife offer me food to get me to answer questions. Actually, it
doesn't take an offer of food to get me to answer questions as I try to
very polite at all times. However, throughout my ride around Australia,
the very polite and extremely generous Australians would offer me food and
then "pound" me with questions probably generated by their curiosity. I
enjoyed all of this unless I was too tired. The medical doctor suggested
that I carry a thermometer to monitor my body temperature as it was getting
hot. He thoroughly questioned me about my diet, my training, and supplied
some fresh research data concerning second hand cigarette smoke. The
Australians had found that second hand cigarette can trigger fatal asthma
attacks in victims of asthma. The mosquitos did interrupt our conversation
and also it was getting late and it now my habit to ride earlier and
earlier each morning to escape as much of the heat as was possible.
Day 45 (June 25, 1991) Although I got an early start, riding some in
the early morning darkness, the wind rose up early. Is there anything
worse than a hot head wind? A cold head wind with rain?
Today, I averaged only 12.9 miles per hour for 68 miles to Dunmarra.
There was only one road house there complete with a cafe, grocery store
items for sale, and of course a caravan park with leaky toilets. Since
tour buses stopped there, one could not get waited on while the tourists
crowded the facilities. Also it was expensive following the pricing system
of "what the traffic will bear." I had to pay $3.00 for a meat pie and
$l.50 for a bag of peanuts.
That night the campground was very noisy with a woman sitting too
close to my tent laughing like a burro. I was in a state of exhaustion
from the heated head winds so I went to the manager and complained. She
had disappeared when I returned with the manager. Admittedly, I had called
her a jack ass and she said that she was going to wash my mouth out with
soap. I remember my own mother threatening to do that when I was a child.
Day 46 (June 26, 1991) Today there were many cars with caravans or
camping trailers behind them. Traffic on the road on the outback was
strange indeed but this was the height of the tourist season in the north
in their winter the only time it was "cool."
Thirty miles from Dunmarra there was a roadhouse that was not shown on
the map. There was serve-yourself tea and coffee with a giant coffee urn
of hot water as well as containers of instant coffee, tea bags, powdered
milk, and sugar. I had a bowl of fruit salad with ice cream which was a
great Australian "food," which I don't see eaten in the US.
I rode ninety miles to Larrimah where I paid $4 for a tent site in a
caravan park with mosquitos and a crocodile inside a fence. There was also
a fenced-in bullock who looked very oriental with hugh horns that he shook
in my direction.
Miracles of all miracles! There was a "real live" but used newspaper
four days old in the caravan park which I borrowed from the manager. I had
not read a newspaper since Tennant Creek as there simply weren't any
Across the highway from the caravan park there was a hotel with free
camping as I learned too late. For $10, there was an "all you can eat"
dinner so I devoured everything in sight. While I was waiting for dinner
to be served, a busload of girls from a private boarding school arrived.
They danced with each other and also took photos of each other in front of
a large balloon type beer can near the hotel. One girl kissed it and when
I accused her of doing just that she told me, "You didn't see it." We
laughed and laughed!!!!
With a full stomach from unlimited food, I crossed the highway to my
tent and found that it was so quiet I had trouble getting to sleep. Ha!
Day 47 (June 27, 1991) Fog in the morning is frightening to bicyclists
because we know that we cannot be seen by oncoming vehicles. We are almost
asking to be rear-ended. I tried to wait until the fog lifted but it got
later and later so I cautiously began riding. I did get off the bike to
take a photo of giant termite mound so common in the Northern Territory.
When the fog lifted, I saw three bicyclists going in the opposite
direction which was very rare. There was a French couple who smelled badly
because they weren't showering often as they were bush camping. Their
bicycles had large fenders and tough over-sized touring tires. The other
bicyclist was a 59 year old British man who had fought head winds. We did
stop and talk on the road. It was so nice to be around my own kind.
Soon after the fun conversations, a racing bicyclist passed me
followed by his van. Later, I saw him up the road beside his parked van
and asked if I could help. I was advised to "get on."
And get on, I did, riding the 49 miles to Mataranka which had changed
more than the total of Australia since 1979 when I had stayed there. The
old homestead where the manager had lived was now a "not so nice" youth
hostel rather like a jail in "flavor." There were still the well-maintained
cabins where I had stayed in 1979 but the caravan park was considerably
expanded, a large lodge and outdoor theater added, and of course, a large
"tourist trap" store. Because of the expense of the lodging options, I
decided to just rent a tent space and put my tent up.
With lodging settled, I again explored the thermal springs as I had
done in 1979. This time, the thermal springs were crowded with swimmers
speaking many different languages. In 1979, I had heard only English. And
in 1979, I had gone "skinny dipping, but had to definitely forget about it
in 1991. The trees around the springs had grown much larger, too.
There was a tame kangaroo hopping about the caravan park posing for
pictures and being fed. Unfortunately, due to procrastination I did not
get a photo of him or any other kangaroo on the entire trip.
Announcements were made about the free evening entertainment on an
open air stage. While I waited, I discovered the all you can eat salad. I
always lied and told them that I was a vegetarian as it was so much cheaper
to eat only salad instead of the usual steak and salad. Meanwhile, the
management was urging everyone to get his or her beer before the
entertainment was to begin.
Actually, the entertainment was deliberately delayed so that people
would drink as much beer as possible. Since people did not drive on the
outback roads after sunset and everyone there had accommodations for the
night, it was safe for people to get drunk as they could not cause any
driving accidents. The caravan park had closed, too.
Finally, the entertainment began with a singing group doing original
Australian songs and staging some mock crimes with some audience
participation. I just wish that I had purchased a tape of this real
Australian music. When the entertainment finally ended, I was exhausted
and happy to go to bed. Before I went to sleep, I remembered my 1979 visit
to Mataranka. I had biked into the city of Mataranka and had hung my wet
clothes on the hotel's clothesline. Wet clothes have always made me bold.
The irate hotel manager or publican had asked me to leave because there was
a rodeo and the town was filled with single men. When I had asked him
where to go he had said just get out of town but about that time a
motorcyclist from St. Petersburg, Florida, just happened to be drinking in
the pub and insisted that I follow him on my bike to the Mataranka
Homestead where I stayed on the floor of the cabin he had rented. He did
not like the red dust stained t-shirt that I was wearing so gave me one of
his to wear. Although he lived near me in Tampa, I never saw him, again,
On this 1991 trip, I did work harder trying to scrub the red dust out
of my t-shirts. A usual soaping and rinse in the shower while I was trying
to get my body clean did not work. It took scrubbing to get the red, red,
Day 48 (June 28, 1991) I rode 75 miles to Katherine, today, where I
stayed in the youth hostel after having had much difficulty finding it. I
am now having to spend much time under cold water showers trying to get my
body temperature down as it feels that it is rising from the biking in the
Katherine had a large supermarket where I bought a pair of thongs that
I am wearing as I type this. I was told that thongs are Australia's
The 75 miles to Katherine were completely void of human habitation
with Katherine itself appearing like a super surprise all of a sudden.
Day 49 (June 29, 1991) Today, a friend gave me a ride to the Katherine
Gorge where I was shown how to shake the trees so that the fruit bats in
these trees would fly off in all directions. A baby bat got separated from
the group so I had to help it with a dead tree branch to get onto a fence
and from there onto a tree branch. In the Katherine River, I reviewed my
hard learned butterfly swim stroke and decided that I had done a biathlon
or duathlon bike-swim-bike. My only claim to fame is that I am the only
perimeter bicycle rider ever to do the butterfly swim stroke in the
At the youth hostel, I was invited to compete in a coming local
triathlon but I had to leave as soon as possible. I was running out of
time as the Australian summer was coming and it was getting hotter and
hotter. I had to bike south to the cold weather.
Day 50 (June 30, 1991) Today I rote 129 miles to Victoria River
Crossing having left Katherine at 4 am in the dark to escape as much of the
heat as possible. This is exactly what I had done in 1979. Biking in the
darkness was serene and cool and mysterious. I wished that I could have
stopped the passage of time. However, about daylight, the road changed
almost on its own from smooth ideal cycling circumstances to dangerous
construction work with a sharp drop off on the side of the road instead the
standard level shoulder. Only a slight nudge from a vehicle would have
ended my world record attempt.
Along with the construction, it became very hot but I did have a tail
wind. I rode and rode over rolling comfortable hills. By then, I was so
strong that I did not have to even shift the gears of the bicycle.
However, I began to wonder where is Victoria River Crossing? Did they tear
down the roadhouse? This had actually happened to Barry's Caves Roadhouse
between Three Ways and Camooweal. The roadhouse had disappeared between
1979 and 1991 leaving only the bare cement floor as evidence.
Happiness is arriving at a roadhouse when one is almost too exhausted
and too hot to continue. I was so glad to arrive at the Victoria River
Crossing Pub with a caravan park and tent space for $2. Inside, there was
an aerial photograph beside the bar showing the flooded pub in February,
1991, with just the roof showing above the surface of the water. There
was a water mark on the wall.
For $10, I had the best meal in Australia! And seconds, too. Buffet
tables had been set up outdoors containing steak, ribs, mutton, an
assortment of salads, and two desserts, pavlova and trifle. However, the
cook tried to accuse me of not paying after he went around asking people if
they wanted seconds. I had kept my receipt in my shorts pocket. The fresh
food was unbelievable out in the middle of nowhere. And the cook was
outstanding even though he described himself as an "old camp cook."
Very hungry as usual as I had burned up many calories riding the 129
miles, I ate until I was comfortably filled up. I was asked, "Did you eat
all the pavlova?" "Of course, not," I lied as I just eaten most of it. The
outdoor tables were insect free as darkness came. I remembered that this
Victoria River Pub was identical to what it had been in 1979 except for the
high water mark and photograph of the flood.
Day 51 (July 1, 1991) Today, I rode only 60 miles beginning before
daylight carefully watching my bike mirror for the head lights of oncoming
trucks which rarely occurred. Because of tail winds, I had the best
average miles per hour of the trip -- 16.5. In Timber Creek, the youth
hostel was easy to find but I still worried about it being closed and I
would not be able to check in and rest. The youth hostel was an old jail
with the first police station preserved as a museum nearby.
I loved the architecture of the youth hostel/jail. It was on metal
stilts with metal framing as the ants eat all of the wood used in
construction. When I toured the museum, also made of metal, and when I
opened my mouth to talk, it was noted that I was an American or Yank as we
are called. I was given a bumper sticker honoring the Northern Territory's
anniversary on July 5. They had thought that July 5 was the US
Independence Day which is actually on July 4.
July 4, is of course, the day that the US celebrates its birthday of
freedom. But freedom is what the Timber Creek prisoners did not have
before the modern brick jail was built. The prisoners were chained to the
boab tree as there was not room for them in the jail.
At the youth hostel there was the smell of sewage and I made the
mistake of drinking tap water instead of rain water but I was in a hurry to
get the police write the mileage from my odometer on an aerogram that I was
using to validate my trip. I had now ridden 3365 miles or about l/3 of the
way around Australia. Usually, I had a postal worker do this but there
were no post offices for a long way. The police were very cooperative and
It is so nice not to be afraid of the police anymore. I always found
the police in Australia to be very polite, very officious and proper but
have an astronomical job to do as their territories are larger than many
states in the United States.
Day 52 (July 2, 1991) Is there anything worse than dysentery on a
bicycle? I ran out of toilet paper but did have drinking water so I rode
90 miles becoming weaker and weaker. I hate "raw" camping but had to
resort to this admittedly using some precious drinking water for wash
water. I did eat and drink and read Always Afternoon by the Australian
woman writer Gwen Kelley about World War I German prisoners of war in
Australia and Ben Retallion by E. U. Thompson which was about England in
Never again will I do "raw" camping and never again will I bike
without some type of medication to control dysentery.
Day 53 (July 3, 1991) The dysentery stopped so I loaded my bike and
rode 63 miles to Kununurra, Western Australia. About 30 miles from
Kununurra, I crossed the border between Northern Territory and Western
Australia, yelling "good bye" to the Northern Territory as I rode by the
closed down "guard house." There was no human around and I was in love
with my wonderful solitude.
This solitude ended when I followed the directions in the youth hostel
directory to the youth hostel. Kununurra's youth hostel is the best hostel
in the world! It was carefully and very helpfully managed by Erica. She
is the greatest Australian woman! I had to buy groceries and was able to
comparison shop between two large supermarkets, just like I do at home.
Since my arms were getting sunburned, I bought a second hand long
sleeved shirt and dress at the Opportunity Shop run by a local church.
Day 54 (July 4, 1991) Happy Independence Day! The day began with a
cat fight early in the morning. The youth hostel cat had treed another cat
and he was telling her about it. Hearing the loud sounds of the cats, a 12
year old child and I ran out to investigate and one of the good looking men
staying at the hostel poked his head out of the men's bedroom saying,"Do
something about the bloody cat." We chased him down the tree and the
desexed female youth hostel cat finished the job. In Australia, they
"desex" their cats instead of neuter or spay them as we do in the US but it
is the same procedure.
I was the only American staying in the youth hostel and celebrated
with a rest day. I baked myself a pudding cake from a mix that cannot be
purchased in the US. Delicious!
The youth hostel is a former hospital that Queen Elizabeth had
visited. This hostel had been carried in pieces overland the same route
that I had taken from Sydney. It was a long string of rooms enclosed in
peaceful cool shade trees, a great protection from the savage burning sun.
There were the usual rooms--lounge room with TV, kitchen, separate
men's and women's dormitory rooms, bathrooms for both men and women, a
backyard with precious clotheslines, coin operated washing machines but no
dryers. Very few dryers were found in Australia especially where there was
Enjoying my rest day, I got my digital watch changed 1 1/2 hours ahead
to conform to Western Australia time and had preventive maintenance done on
the bicycle. I relished my exploration of Kunnurra, the best city in
Australia. It had expensive jewelry stores, tourist shops, clothing
stores, etc., even a swimming pool which cost $2. I decided to save the
money and not swim. Nevertheless, this was the best July 4th of my life!
In the US, there are terrible sounds from fireworks which cause me to go
into a panic state. This is probably from my post traumatic shock syndrome
which was caused by the brutal rape, robbery, and stabbing I suffered from
in 1988. My healing has not been making as much progress as I would like.
Day 55 (July 5, 1991) It was so hard to leave Kununurra and Erica of
the youth hostel. Erica had befriended a 72 year old woman traveling alone
whose bus had lost her luggage. Erica really took care of everyone and
loved her pet cat who helped her manage the youth hostel.
The road over the dam was very bumpy which I don't remember it being
in 1979 but the darkness was scary and comforting at the same time. I have
a love/hate relationship with biking in the dark. In Australia, there was
little or even no traffic so it was safe except for the possibility of
hitting a large hole in the road.
Following the highway, I turned south finally knowing that eventually
it would get cooler. However, today when I turned left or south, I hit hot
head winds which pounded the dust into me. After about 35 miles, I decided
that enough was enough and began looking for someplace to stay for the
night. It took me almost 42 miles of riding before I came to a cattle
station that I could see from the highway. Most cattle and sheep stations
were a considerable distance from the road.
I was happy to see the Kingston Rest Station that had a large
population of fowl, that is, chickens, geese, and ducks, complete with
their droppings all over. I asked permission to put up my tent for a rest
and they thought it was only to be for a short time. I could not get my
plastic tent pegs into the ground as they kept popping out whenever I tried
to hammer them in. I had to move the tent to moist ground where the
plastic pegs would work. Yes, I know that I should have learned from the
1979 trip to have metal pegs with me. I knew that I had to buy some metal
pegs as soon as I could locate them in a store but I knew that was many
Two station workers or ringers invited me into their kitchen which was
real mistake. I love to eat and the two station employees had their own
kitchen, dining room, and bedrooms. The station manager and his wife lived
separately in a home of their own. But the ringers had to go back to work
so I read some back issues of Reader's Digest which I had bought at the
Opportunity Shop in Kununurra.
The station manager had wrecked his leg in a lighter than air aircraft
crash and had to be taken into Kununurra for treatment. He was driven by
his wife and while they were gone slowly people began arriving at the
station for a round up.
One young woman, her father, plus two other men joined the station's
ringers and the manager. We sat around talking or at least they did the
talking and drinking. Because I am an alcoholic, I had to refuse their
offers for a beer. I explained, "I get mean when I get drunk. I chased my
ex-husband with a knife and sometimes I wish that I would have killed him."
With this type of explanation, one does not get anymore offers for a beer
and one does not offend his/her hosts. In 1979, when I was staying with a
friend in Perth and eating supper with wine on the table, one of the women
asked why I thought I was too good to drink Australian wine. If an
alcoholic tries to explain about being a recovering alcoholic, it sometimes
does not work but if one tells the truth about getting violent when
drinking this does take care of the problem.
As usual, I was hungry and very grateful when supper was served having
been cooked in the main house. There was a big pot of spaghetti and a big
pot of sauce. When I piled the food high on my plate, the teasing began.
"Don't you know that other people are coming to eat tonight. They are
late. Save some food for them. Are all Americans so impolite?" I never
know how to respond to teasing whether it is in the US or Australia. They
may have been telling the truth so I did moderate my eating somewhat. I
shared my mosquito repellant with the two extra men and listened to all the
dingo and other stories that might have been told for my benefit and might
have lacked some truth. Indeed, only on a bicycle can one experience the
real Australia or the authenticity of any country!
I was shown a bed even though my tent was up. I did excuse myself
early to go to bed. A nice man did cover me while I was sleeping. He was
the one who had made all the anti-American statements that evening. I
don't object to hearing the US criticized because most of the criticisms
were valid and I did agree with him. I was always polite as I somewhat
afraid because I was definitely outnumbered. Still, I felt safe, so
wonderful in such a harsh land.
He had called me a "Bloody Yank" with "bloody" being an obscenity in
Australia. It is like small children picking on the other children that
they especially like.
Day 56 (July 6, 1991) The next morning I was the first up as I needed
to get an early start because of the heat. Quietly, I got out of bed and
did not have to get dressed because around people I always sleep in my
shorts and t-shirt. I couldn't find my bike! I looked all over for it and
finally found it hanging up on of the rafters of the veranda. I did wake
up the tallest man who politely, while smiling, got it down for me.
By the time I had taken down the tent and got the bike loaded, the
"anti-yank" man was up and hugged me as I left saying, "You're all right,
mate." This is one of the greatest compliments that I have ever received
in my life or so I was later told.
Today, I had a nice road with some road workers stopping their van and
giving me water and road directions explaining where the camping and water
was located. The conditions of the road change rapidly as the government
is doing its best to improve the highway. However, at times there is just
one lane because of construction. The detours were either dusty or muddy
depending upon the rain or if they were sprinkling it with water to keep
the dust down.
Turkey Creek was so different in 1991 than it was in 1979. There was
now a very nice roadhouse complete with camping facilities. A pharmacist
from New South Wales asked permission to photograph me in front a large
bull painted on the front of the road house. I decided not to put up my
tent as there were no insects and no hope of rain. The manager of the road
house asked if he could put one of my bike water bottles in his freezer.
Later that night he bought it to where I was sleeping "out," with my
sleeping bag on the ground cover with foam padding to cushion me from the
The frozen water in the bottle was wonderful because the water in
water bottles tends to get hot and hot water does upset my stomach. I
decided that on my next trip around Australia, I would carry insulated
water bottles. The camelback container for water that I wore on my back
was good if I put ice in it but often the roadhouses were not open when I
left about 4 am in the morning.
Day 57 (July 7, 1991) I knew that I had a 107 mile ride to the next
source of water which was Halls Creek but I did not expect the savage head
wind that caused me to average only 10.3 miles per hour. It was the worst
over 10 hour ride of my life! People did stop and give me extra water
although I believe that I had enough to last. I always tried to drink more
than I needed to because dehydration when biking alone could be my death
I arrived in Halls Creek exhausted and dizzy and could not find a
cheap place to stay because there are no youth hostels in Halls Creek and I
was too tired to put up my tent. I saw a sign on a motel advertising $10
accommodations but was told "we stopped doing this a long time ago." I
finally found the caravan park and saw the friendly Tasmanian that I had
met in Turkey Creek. Much to my dismay, I could not get waited on at the
caravan park. It was so frustrating in that the clerks can see that you
are sick but stick to the rule, first come first served. I was put in a
$15 cabin (contained twin beds with an electric refrigerator between them)
with a cigarette smoker in the next cabin. I had to find the manager just
like I would have done in the US because whenever one is having problems,
the manager is the person to see. The manager found me another cabin with
the man next door having a blood pressure hygrometer. He took my blood
pressure the next morning and it was an excellent 112 over 92.
Then, I had to find food but the shops were closed so I walked to the
hotel but the food was too expensive. I finally had to buy some canned
food from the caravan park store.
Day 58 (July 8, 1991) I did not feel too well this morning so I
decided to take a rest day. I had to buy $15 worth of food at the grocery
shop which was not a supermarket but was rather like a country store with
gray wooden floors. I found a bakery and asked for day old bread. "We
give all our day old bread to the pigs," I was told.
"Please rescue it from the pigs," I requested and they did. While
trying to eat breakfast, I broke my plastic spoon and had to buy another
spoon which became one of my trip souvenirs.
I did go to the tourist bureau trying to find a town to spend the next
night not too far from Halls Creek as I wanted to avoid "raw" camping. I
was told about Marys Pool about 70 miles away where I would not find
drinking water but would have washing water.
The man with the blood pressure apparatus was very friendly and
offered to take me to the China Wall. He had bent the shock absorber of
his jeep but could drive slowly. He was obviously bored waiting for the
replacement to arrive. Also, he was not alone as another couple had broken
the axle of their camping trailer, the tow bar of another camping trailer
had been broken by another tourist couple, thanks to the rough roads.
Because there were few auto parts in Halls Creek, parts had to be ordered
and the people waited in the caravan park.
I am glad that this man had to wait because I enjoyed my trip to the
China Wall. It was a natural rock formation which looked like the China
Wall. He had his video camera and did do a "documentary" about me. Too,
he took my photograph with my camera to prove that I have ridden to the
Great China Wall.
Later in the afternoon, I began thinking that I needed an AA meeting
but there were no meetings scheduled. I asked the clerk at the caravan
park if I could put a notice up in the office and she handed me a card
enthusiastically to write an announcement. One woman came to the meeting
and gave me her meeting schedule. She was driving north to a national AA
convention and told me that I would meet other members of AA also driving
north. She said that she would spread the word about me on a bicycle
biking around Australia. A drunk also came to our meeting but we were
scared of him and asked him to leave. Yes, I know that we should have
helped him but we were two women alone and the man in the next cabin had
Day 59 (July 9, 1991) A cold tail wind made bicycling easier than it
had been in a few days. The road was flat but I was afraid that I would
miss the side road leading to Marys Pool. After slowing down and carefully
looking, I saw a primitive sign indicating Marys Pool. The water was
stagnant in the river with many flies around the over-flowing trash cans.
There were caravans, and camping vans but I was the only tent camper.
Jim and Mary, camping in their caravan, helped me take a shower. Jim
had a homemade shower outside their trailer that one had to fill with water
and then release it. Borrowing two buckets, I walked down to the river and
carried two buckets to fill the shower. Mary held a towel around me for
privacy and I did get a shower.
As I was very hungry, they loaned me their fire and I cooked instant
noodles in my billy which is just a tin bucket with lid and handle. It
fits neatly on a stick for camp fire cooking. The facilities were free and
it was not "raw" camping but almost!
Day 60 (July 10, 1991) It was cold at Marys Pool. In the cold morning
air, I moved around in my sleeping bag getting a drink of water from a bike
water bottle beside my sleeping bag, combing my hair and braiding it
without getting out of the preciously warm sleeping bag. I had read that
Arctic explorers did just that. It was very difficult to get started but
since I had not put up the tent at least I did not have the "tent chore."
It was too cold to bike in just cycling shorts, so I put a pair of
pants over the shorts. Later in the day it got hot so off came the pants
which was a nuisance because one had to get off the bike, take off one's
shoes, etc. But my hands were cold that morning and I had lost my gloves.
I rode with one hand in my jacket pocket with the other hand controlling
the bike's handlebars and then changed hands.
Fortunately or unfortunately, it warmed up as the sun jumped up in the
sky. I was glad that I had taken off my long pants and glad that I did not
have a head wind. However, I had to ride 117 miles averaging 14.7 miles
per hour. I was quite happy to see the sign for the Fritzroy Crossing
Lodge which I had been previously warned was extremely dear or expensive.
I had to have a place to stay for the night with showers and I was willing
to pay almost any price. I love showers!
There was an actual paved driveway into the Fritzroy Crossing Lodge
with speed bumps looking like a top resort which it was. In my dirty
cycling shorts and t-shirt, I felt very much out of the place when I made
inquires in the lodge lobby. The always female clerks were very kind to me
and told me that a tent site would be only $6. Wow! I was given a map to
the camping area and slowly rode my "tired" bike from the lodge on stilts
to the exceptional camping spot. The amenities or bathroom facilities were
on a man-made plateau with clothes lines, coin operated laundry facilities,
small store, etc.
When I walked my bike about looking for the best possible camp site, I
saw a couple in a tent who looked at me. I asked if this was a quiet
camping place. The woman asked me if I had a generator. What? "Do you
have a generator? I was kept awake all last night by a camper with a
generator," she explained. I decided not to tell her that it would be
almost impossible to carry a generator on a bike. Since she was so
concerned about noise, I decided that this must be a good place to camp and
it was. No insects, no rain, no noise = perfection. The rain would come
during the wet season beginning in late December through February with the
lodge closing then and the stilts and plateau serving their vital
The couple served a vital function for me. They were friendly and
unique Tasmanians avoiding the cold by traveling with a stationwagon and a
tent in the north. He was a copy of Richard Burton, the famous actor and
ex-husband of Elizabeth Taylor with identical accent, and a way of
projecting his voice. Yes, he had taught speech and drama in Tasmania.
When they decided to drive into town about a mile away, they asked me if I
needed anything. Yes, I needed some fruit salad in the blue can which was
one of the best Australian foods, of course, unavailable in the US. Made
in Australia of tropical fruit, it had to be nourishing and filled with the
much needed vitamins. Even though I was taking an Australia made multiple
vitamin pill, I did my best to eat as well as I could on my severely
When I had paid my $6 to camp, I had asked at the lodge about supper
prices. I was told about the buffet for $10 which was too expensive. When
I lied that I was a vegetarian, I was told that I could eat just salad for
$4. However, I had to wait until 6 PM so I watched TV in the restaurant
area. People were sitting at tables drinking alcoholic beverages which did
not bother me.
I was so happy when they began putting out the large bowls of salads.
People stood in line for their expensive steaks while I binged on all of
the salads. I was able to get some protein by eating some of the salads
with peas and cheese. The salads were all so good but I was alone and
almost lonely as everyone had someone.
My appetite was temporarily taken care of so off to bed I went
sleeping under the unpolluted Australian sky without any ceiling which is
part of my intense love for Australia.
Day 61 (July 11, 1991) Because the next source of water was 155 miles
away and because the caravan park was so pleasant, I decided upon a rest
day. I spent the day walking into town over the Fritzroy River bridge.
Carefully, I explored the town and the lodge with its expensive motel and
swimming pool complete with a hard to reach gate latch. Australia is a
child-oriented country with almost extreme safety features for children
rarely found in the US. The water was too cold for me to swim but the
children were happily playing in the water. Meanwhile, I was very afraid
of tomorrow as I had to bike 155 miles to the next water. Of course, I
knew that I could carrry enough water for "raw" camping or at least two
days supply but NO!!!! I will go to any length to get my evening shower
just as I will go to any length to stay sober and drug free.
From the Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) schedule given to me by the woman
in Halls Creek, I found the name of a couple in Derby who could probably
help me if I needed assistance on the long ride. My idea was that they
could follow me in a car and keep me from being rear-ended in the dark, the
bicyclist's worst fear. I did have a flashing beacon light for my bike and
an attachment on the handlebars for a flash light but I was afraid. I am
one of the most fearful people in the world. What was I doing biking
around Australia on the most isolated roads in the world? The need for the
healing of solitude and my love for adventure often overcomes my fear and I
go on, most of the time, enjoying myself in complete saturation of
happiness. These are the reasons that I stay sober. And yes, I had a
record to set!
At the lodge, after supper, I found a pay telephone and called or rang
my Derby people. They agreed to find me around sundown in an orange
station wagon. How wonderful are the people in AA!!!!
Heaven is a full stomach and a sleeping bag under rainless, clear
skies on a superb night on the outback! The caravan park was so quiet I
had trouble getting to sleep.
Day 62 (July 12, 1991) Leaving in the darkness, I tried to quietly
load my bicycle which would have been so much simpler if there hadn't been
the tent to take down and pack.
Today, I had the greatest ride of my life. It was longest ride I have
ever done on a heavily loaded mountain bike. The ride was over 10 hours
long but I did it. Edith of Adelaide who I had met in the women's toilet
or bathroom at the lodge had bought me extra water which I gratefully
accepted. She was traveling around Australia with her husband. Throughout
the trip, I had had many talks with women in the bathroom while I was
trying to comb my below waist length hair, brush/floss my teeth, etc. It
is well known that men make business deals in men's bathrooms and we women
are now not far behind. I did promote bicycling for women, including
information on the importance of women always getting a woman's bicycle
seat or saddle and the necessity for keeping one's face sheltered from the
sun by hot glue gunning a visor on the essential bicycle helmet. I have
never been able to purchase a bike helmet with a visor so I always glue a
visor on the helmet. As a result above my mouth, I am almost wrinkle free
while below my mouth, the wrinkles are terrible. People tell me to use sun
screen and I do but I dislike it around my mouth as it contains alcohol and
I can't have even a drop of alcohol to drink.
And so I rode without tail winds or head winds but instead had cross
winds knocking even the heavy bike about. The road "rolled" over the dry
red landscape punctuated by scrawny trees and other vegetation obviously
having a difficult time surviving in this savage land.
And I biked and biked as the sun quickly went down with me wondering
where Sharon and Rodney from AA were and how I was going to get to Willare
before total darkness.
As if they knew I was worried, they appeared and drove on ahead
insisting that I did not have far to go. The Great Mother Goddess seemed
to ride a tandem bicycle with me with her riding on the second seat on a
woman's saddle, of course, providing the power.
Just before total darkness, I saw a man walking for charity beside the
road and then I saw a man riding a cheerful-looking camel collecting money
for the Flying Doctor Service. No, I was not hallucinating, I don't think,
because I later found out they were real. Sharon and Rodney said that I
should have stopped and talked to them but they didn't realize how scared I
was of the dangers of the darkness on a bike.
Happiness is getting to a camp ground in now total darkness but I had
my tent to put up as the mosquitos quickly let me know they were there. I
am very proud that after a 155 mile bicycle ride my legs were good enough
to stoop and drive the tent pegs in. My AA friends watched in amazement or
were they convinced that I was crazy? When they came close for hugs, were
they checking my breath for alcohol? They did invite me to stay with them
in Derby but I had already wasted too many days resting, anyway, and
besides, like too many people in AA, they smoked. I didn't want an asthma
attack from second hand smoke. But they had been so wonderful to help me
out....just lending me assurance that someone cared carried me through the
longest and greatest ride of my life.
But I had to get food from the small store attached to the caravan
park. The hotel there was boarded up as the owner said it no longer paid
to operate it. I would have definitely stayed in the hotel if it had been
open. Since I was not suffering from a calorie deficit at this time thanks
to the buffet at the lodge, I did not have to eat more than my usual three
cans of food.
As the total darkness settled down, I went to sleep.
Day 63 (July 13, 1991) I knew that the next roadhouse was 87 miles
away so I got an early start in the morning biking only five hours and 45
minutes. The Roebuck Roadhouse did not water their grass so the caravan
park was dusty. I don't really like putting up my tent in sand that only
slightly covers the Australian concrete ground.
The Roebuck Roadhouse had locked showers because it was said that
people have been known to defecate in the showers. In Tampa, Florida,
there was a problem with people defecating in the public swimming pool.
Many times I had had to get out of the pool when I was swimming laps
training for triathlons.
There were many aborigines at Roebuck Roadhouse but they were not in
the bar portion. They did appear to stick to themselves and were ignored
by the Australians. By dark, the aborigines had left the roadhouse in
Worrying about the coming isolated road, I tried to call Port Smith
which was located off the main road. I wanted to get a ride there so that
I would not have to do any "raw" camping but because the telephone had been
tampered with, I could not get through. Anyway, I had to get a good
night's sleep in my tent on the dirt in order to face an unpredictable day,
as I had little idea as to where I would spend the night. All my bike
water bottles were filled before leaving.
Day 64 (July 14, 1991) Knowing that I had over 70 miles to ride before
I reached the Port Smith road, I left early. When I reached the Port Smith
road I knew it was going to be dirt and I cannot ride my mountain bike on
dirt because it has pavement tires. What I should have done was to have
carried the dirt tires as spares but I hadn't done that. I waited beside
the road with the flies harassing me until a nice couple with a caravan
came and put my bicycle inside it and away we went the 24 kilometers to the
beach. They let me sit in the back of their car with their children.
At the Port Smith Caravan Park, I was so exhausted that I laid on a
picnic table conveniently provided at every camp site. Indeed the wooden
table set in cement was hard but I was tired. The office of the caravan
park did have some magazines which they loaned out to me and I enjoyed
resting and reading but only in the shady canopy over the picnic table as
the sand flies were terrible.
So terrible that I had to put up my tent, but again I had trouble
putting tent stakes or tent pegs into the concrete ground. When I would
hit a plastic tent peg with my hammer that I had traded for my prospector's
pick that I had found on the side of the road in Rockhampton, the tent peg
would fly into the air. I had to walk around until I found some soft
ground. Yes, I definitely needed metal tent stakes but had not seen any
place to buy them since Tennant Creek.
A nice couple gave me a fish in aluminum foil and suggested that I
find a fire to cook it over. I took a walk and found a camp fire
surrounded by people cooking. It was an Australian bar-b-que or metal
grate with space for much wood and of course fire. A woman at the fire
told me about a book that she had purchased and had with her entitled
Bicycling Australia's North. She refused to sell it to me but let me look
at it. It was written by a woman who bicycled almost the same exact route
that I had in the northern part of Australia and had written an excellent
book about it. I was determined to find a copy at some book store before I
"Providing the Great Mother Goddess is in favor of me getting the
book, " I whimsically said. The woman's husband must have been a "Jesus
Freak," as he adamantly insisted, "God is a he." I am still wondering how
this man knew the sex of God but I didn't argue as I was alone and knew
that the Bible said God was a "he" but most translations were done after
the pronoun "he" was designated for both sexes when all the educated women
of the time were in convents. Besides, I wonder if the man had seen God's
But I still had to plan for the next day. I needed a ride back to the
main highway so I asked the office manager if I could put a sign up in the
office. They gave me permission and I quickly had a South African coming
to my tent site and offering me a ride early the next morning. With the
next day's plans decided and the mileage to the next shower located at
Sandfire over 116 miles away, I was happy to breathe the nice salty air as
sleep came quickly and was without nightmares.
Day 65 (July 15, 1991) As planned, I got a ride with the family from
South Africa. They had come to Perth via Nottingham, England, from South
Africa. They invited me to stay with them when I came to Perth which was
about 1800 miles or a little over a week or more of hard riding.
After this family had let me out of their station wagon on the main
road, I had some good tail winds but when the road turned west, the head
winds clobbered me. However, I could see some tall aerials on the horizon
which usually meant human habitation although sometimes when I rode closer
they were just one of more aerials standing by themselves surrounded by
vicious looking fences.
The sand beside the road was actually the color that sand would be if
it were afire and I did stop and take a photo of it. I was so happy to
finally get to Sandfire and to ask for Ken from AA. He was out so I paid
$3.00 for a camp site, $1.50 for milk and $10 for a salad plate but I was
still hungry. Ken from AA arrived and found me beside my tent looking at
his flock of geese who were the beggars of the caravan park. Sandfire Flat
had changed so much since 1979 with the sun roof over the gas pumps having
been removed because Ken said that people had hit their vans on top of it
too many times. He had expanded the caravan park, too.
Ken gave me a free cabin for the night including what I called a "real
live bed." He invited me to his rooms in the back of restaurant and we had
a two person AA meeting complete with herb tea. Ken was the usual
alcoholic in that his wife and children had left him but he was staying
sober. How he was doing this I don't know because he had a liquor license
and ran the pub with cases of liquor stacked in his home. Also, he had
much AA literature but was a long way from any AA meeting. He kept talking
about his only AA meeting at 80 Mile Beach. I felt so much better about my
sobriety after having talked to him but I still had to ride the next day so
it was early to bed on the "real live bed."
Day 66 (July 16, 1991) Today, I rode only 90 miles with hot tail winds
to Pardoo Roadhouse where for $3.50 I could put my ground cover, foam
mattress, and sleeping bag. There, I learned that the manager was not too
much in favor of me sleeping out in the open so he offered me a free cabin
which I gratefully accepted. His staff was extremely nice but these women
seemed concerned about who was showering when. Somewhat peculiar, I
thought but then I was outnumbered by all the wonderful Australians. The
cook was good and I ate well. The manager talked about biking with me the
next morning. He was so nice and I knew one of the few "written in stone"
facts about Australia that the manager of the roadhouse determined how one
would be treated, just like the principal of a school.
Day 67 (July 17, 1991) The next morning, the manager rode beside me
along the road asking me if this was the speed that I usually rode as I did
my customary warm-up. "Yes," I answered nonchalantly but actually I was
lying as I was riding deliberately slower than usual listening to his
labored breathing. Because I had to get to Pt Hedlund by sundown a
distance of about 100 miles, I knew that it was extremely important to pace
myself. Both of us noticed that he was having problems with his bicycle as
it began rattling in a disturbing way. I told him to rapidly shift his
gears in hopes of getting it in the correct gear. He did but he had
dropped back. I slowed down reluctantly for him to catch up but he didn't
so I continued pedalling along as usual as I had for over 4400 miles.
Then, "out of the blue," I saw him ahead of me and he explained that he had
gotten his bicycle fixed and had gotten a ride. Again, we rode side by
side on the almost traffic free road. Within a few miles, he again dropped
back and I never saw him again. He did mention that he was employing
lesbians and found these women to be the best possible employees. I
agreed. They had treated me so well.
But I had to get to Pt Hedlund as I had a mail pick up or so I hoped.
Turning off the main highway into Pt Hedlund, I was slammed by an awful
head wind and polluted air. Horrid red dust! I had trouble finding the
Backpackers Hostel located on the Indian Ocean complete with the usual
mosquitos and sand flies. The cigarette smoke almost knocked me out and
when I said that I thought I might have a fatal asthma attack, Shaun, the
manager, found me a smoke free room away from all the noise in the front of
the hostel. I did get to the post office before it closed and found that I
had no mail. This no mail was the worst part of the trip. Why can't
Day 68 (July 18, 1991) Being worried about possible mechanical
problems with my bicycle and hoping to get mail today, I decided upon a
rest day in Pt Hedlund. Shaun did give the bike and me a ride to the South
Pt Hedlund Mall where I found a K-Mart, the first one that I had seen in
Australia. Agreeing to meet Shaun in a hour, I did as much shopping as
possible. I found some "solar power" fabric to send home as a gift for
Jorge my tenant, the metal tent pegs made in Victoria, and at a fabric shop
I found some black waterproof fabric which I bought and then at the hostel
sewed it into a pillow case where I stored my clothes. I had a pillow and
a water proof container for my clothes. Perfect! At night I would just
take it out of my front saddle bags, select clothing, put them on after my
shower, and then use the rest of the clothes as a pillow.
In Pt Hedlund, I found a needlepoint store which I loved. I found a
balsa wood bike kit which I sent home, too. At the local newspaper, I was
interviewed by a local woman journalist who promised to send me a copy of
the article but she never did. Also, she came to the hostel and
But I did photograph the three-legged cat called "Six Pack" who
supervised the hostel and begged for probably the only food that he got.
His leg had been shot off or so I was told but he did get around. Every
cat has a story and every cat lover can tell many cat stories.
However, the dirt, flies, smoking, and drinking of the hostel bothered
me and I was glad to know that I could leave the next day.
Day 69 (July 19, 1991) For breakfast, I gave "Six Pack" some cat food
that I had bought for him but I did disturb the dog sleeping in the chair
forbidden to him as I was up early.
Happily leaving the filth in Pt Hedlund, I enjoyed the early morning
coolness which was great for biking. However, this perfection did not last
long enough as I saw some dark gray blue sky up ahead and knew that rain
was coming. It did. It rained so hard that my front saddle bag became
filled with water but my clothes were kept dry by their "pillowcase."
Today, I saw my first dead sheep and soon saw live sheared sheep
grazing in the bush beside the road. I had ridden about 65 miles when John
of the Karratha Alcoholics Anonymous stopped me beside the road and we had
a meeting. The woman from Halls Creek had done as she had promised and
told people in AA about me. I felt good vibes from the meeting on the
outback highway. There's something about AA fellowship (I dislike the word
"fellow" as I am not a fellow). Rain was now serious after having stopped
for about 50 miles. I had biked almost 80 miles when I came to Whim Creek.
Since I don't really like wet camping, I paid $12 for a backpackers special
cabin, that is, a cabin without sheets or towels. One was expected to use
one's sleeping bag and one's own towels. However, one did get a bed with a
roof over it.
For $4.00, I got a lunch at the bar where they had a large bowl of
chocolate candy bars. One was allowed to select any candy bar. I love
Violent Crumble which I can't buy in the US and certainly ate my fill of
them in Australia.
By now, I was missing my cat in Tampa. He's the love of my life and I
sometimes wept because I missed him so much. I carried his photo all the
way around Australia and showed it to everyone who would look at it. They
must have thought that woman is not only crazy for riding a bike around
Australia, she's weird, too, for loving a common marmalade cat as they
called him. We call them yellow striped cats in the US.
I did try to help other travelers, too. I met a woman in the bathroom
at Whim Creek who was complaining about camping in the rain and I suggested
that she talk to the manager about a backpackers cabin. She said they were
too expensive but I told her how much I was paying. Later, I found out
that the manager had been very kind and had given this family very low
rates. They were thrilled and I made friends!
Day 70 (July 20, 1991) This was the worst ride of my life or so I
thought! Admittedly, it was cool but I had a terrible head wind. The
people that I had met at Whim Creek with the three children and the
wheelbarrow on top of their jeep did stop and give me a sandwich. This was
so nice of them. They explained that the wheelbarrow had been abandoned
and they needed one at home.
About 5 kilometers from Roebourne some aborigines scared me. Whenever
I see people walking on the side of the road I often change lanes on the
bike. When I did this, the aborigines changed lanes, too, yelling, "We're
not going to hurt you." They did look like they were carrying rocks or
something in their hands.
Very frightened, I finally turned my bike around on the road to keep
from getting too close to them as they were heading in my direction.
Finally, a car came by and I raced beside the car passing the aborigines
and racing into Roebourne just as the owner of the store was locking it. I
begged him to let me buy food but he carefully and deliberately locked his
store refusing to let me buy needed food and dental floss. Also, since I
was trying to keep up with Greg LeMonde who was doing the Tour of France, I
wanted a newspaper.
I rode all over Roebourne trying to find a newspaper but the news
agent or newsstand was closed, the petrol station had sold all their
newspapers so I decided to find a place to stay. I found the Harding River
Caravan Park where I saw the couple from Tasmania who gave me some of their
milk that was going bad. I love milk. The manager kept pestering me
explaining that he was one-half Italian and one-half Yugoslavian. He was
Exhausted, I put up my tent and went to sleep only to be awakened by
the manager singing, "Oh my darling, oh my darling Clementine," poking his
head in the back window of my tent. When I asked him if he were drunk he
said yes. I said, "I have a gun and I am going to shoot you." He didn't
argue about how I got a gun into Australia but said, "I'll see you in
morning." Finally, I got back to sleep.
Day 71 (July 21, 1991) Of course, I was up and out of Roeborune, the
city that looked like a town in Mexico or as it is called the Bronx of
Australia, early in the morning. No, I never saw the manager of the
caravan park, again, and did not want to. I did vividly remember when I
was in Roebourne in 1979 when I was treated like the belle of the ball as
they had a dance the night I was there and had a severe shortage of women.
I had danced every dance in my running shorts and loved it. How times
Terrible headwinds caused me to average only 11.3 miles per hour for
93 miles to Fortescue Road House. I did get a break at a travel stop with
chickens wandering about. I got tea and fruit salad and a relief from
fighting the wind. The roadhouse personnel were complaining about the
specks in the eggs of their chickens. I noticed a rooster walking about
and suggested that if they got rid of him, the specks of sperm would
disappear. But I had to get to Fortescue Road House where there were paper
back books for sale for fund raising as well as free magazines. The tent
sites were grassy and in the center of a circle driveway. There was good
food and plenty of it. Again, it was the excellent manager. I put up my
tent as it was cold and I met a couple with a travel trailer who gave me
tea in the morning. They admitted they were not married but instead were
lovers. I really loved this older couple so happy and who shared their
happiness with me.
Day 72 (July 22, 1991) One of the worst things that can happen to a
bicyclist is a strong head wind. The worst thing is to be hit by a
vehicle, of course. Today, there were terrible head winds but I still had
to bike 107 miles between water or roadhouses that always had water. It
took me nine hours and 47 minutes to do it even though I had many steep
hills, too, which do shelter one from the head winds and give some relief
on the downhills.
Almost as bad as the head winds was the staff at the Nanutarra Road
House. There were many rules that one was informed of when one broke the
rules. For example, one could not read the abandoned newspapers on the
tables because they were for the staff, only. One could only eat at
certain tables. Other takes were off limits depending on the price of what
one ordered. The restrooms or toilets were filthy so very unusual for
However, what remains most in my mind about Nanutarra Road House were
the two waitresses. One was skinny and wore a skinny miniskirt, while the
other was fat and short. They reminded me of the nursery rhyme: One was
fat the other was lean/She ate the fat and he ate the lean/And they licked
the platter clean.
The worst possible thing about the Nanutarra Road House was that the
prices were impossibly high. It cost $l.20 for a 35 cent candy bar! And
the food portions were extremely tiny with my body screaming for calories
depleted by the 107 mile ride averaging only 10.9 miles per hour.
On the Australian outback, the road houses have people at their mercy
and can charge what the traffic will bear because most people do not drive
after dark. There is much danger from hitting a kangaroo, cattle, or
breaking down. For a bicyclist it is even worse. Unless I chose to camp
out in the bush and carry a very heavy load of food, I had to take what I
could get at the road houses. But the word does get around and I am
certain that Nautarra is not making the profit that other better managed
road houses are earning. Later on the trip I heard negative things about
Nanutarra especially about how the staff should be nice to customers
because customers are responsible for their salaries.
Also, the petrol or gas sold was from Britrish Petroleum, and I have
avoided buying anything from a BP station ever since. BP, to me, means
"Bleed your money, please."
Even with the depressing dirty surroundings, I did enjoy my sleep in
my tent but was eager to get out of there the next morning.
Day 73 (July 23, 1991) The next morning I did need some caffeine to
get my "motor" started so I resentfully parted with $3.00 for a pot of tea.
A gentleman came up to me while I was riding away and complained about the
dirty toilets, about how small the women's toilets were and told me to tell
the staff. When I did so, I was just ignored. I did suspect that the
manager of Nanutarra was an alcoholic with his staff taking full advantage
of his disability.
Fortunately, the next road house, Barradale, was only 47 miles away
and even with more head winds, I did have an easy ride. While biking alone
on the roads, I remembered my 1979 stay at Nanuttarra where I had camped on
the Aushburton River and smoked dope with another camper. With my right
eye bothering me, again, I was happy to see the road house and put up my
tent even if I had to pay $7 for a tent space. In the road house, I paid
$2.00 for an Australian delight, fresh fruit and ice cream!
A kind nurse traveling did look at my eye and told me to keep the wind
and dust out of it. I suppose that on my next trip around Australia, I
will wear prescription goggles to protect my eyes. Next trip! Did I
really write this?
But I liked the road house and the staff was so nice. Nevertheless, I
was glad to get into my tent and get some sleep feeling so safe and secure.
Day 74 (July 24, 1991) Today, there were no headwinds for the first 90
miles but then when the road turned, I was hit hard and had about 18 miles
of awful winds. When will the road house come? What will the road house
be like? Road house roulette is the game I play.
But I had crossed the Tropic of Capricorn, today. It was only a sign
covered with much graffiti which did not exist in 1979. I did take a photo
of the bike beside the sign and actually felt alone, more alone than I had
ever felt on the trip. No one was around the sign, and no motorist
stopped. I rarely felt lonely even though I was alone most the time. I
had to come to savor my aloneness and found it a source of healing, of
growing, of becoming. Maybe I was avoiding people too much but then I have
always disliked too much contact with people with my parents criticizing me
often as a child for this trait. I shall never forget how they demanded
that I take part in extra curricular activities as a junior high school
student. My favorite extracurricular activity has always been reading,
that is, when I cannot bike or run or ride horseback as a child.
But where was the roadhouse? I was getting tired and had ridden about
seven and a half hours. I was so happy to finally see the Minilya Road
house with a homemade sign "$5 Backpackers." When I asked to see this
accommodation, I was taken to a narrow tin building filled with beds and
nothing else. It was designed for travelers who carried their linens or
sleeping bags and wanted to be indoors for the night. Fine! I was warned
that I would have to share it with any other people who decided to spend
the night, but it was explained to me that it was unlikely that anyone
would be there. I was delighted to unload my bike and then find food. The
waitress gave me free jam while the skinny waitress at Nanutarra had
charged me 40 cents for a similar container of jam.
While I was walking to the showers, I saw a man driving a dilapidated
truck on the road house driveway and suddenly get out and give the truck a
drink of coca cola. Wow! What will I see next? Later I learned that he
was trying to clean out the carburetor and had given the warm engine some
type of chemical that he had had in a coke bottle.
I had to have the waitress fill my bicycle water bottles because the
water was from a "bore" or a well and was unfit to drink as it was
contaminated by "natural" chemicals and was very sticky. I had to use dish
soap to scrub the road dust off my body but I loved the shower and just
rested in it. Showers do help me recover!
Day 75 (July 25, 1991) Today, I rode 93 uneventful miles to Carnarvon
where I stayed in the Backpackers Hostel which was a "dizzy" type place
which was almost beach front. Carnarvon was a beautiful place with the
blooming bougainvillea lining the road into town. However, I did not take
a photo of it as I kept thinking it will become even more beautiful.
Immediately, upon arriving at the hostel, I was pestered by a man from
New Zealand who was drunk. When I asked for a room, I was told that I
could have the manager's room as soon as his family got packed for a trip
to Perth. I reported this drunk to the manager and threatened to ask for
my money back if this drunk did not leave me alone.
I did have a quiet room and spent the night alone but I was too tired
the next morning to ride so I took a rest day in spite of the cigarette
smoke in the hostel. Youth hostels usually prohibit cigarette smoking but
backpackers hostels are not governed by any rules so they are usually
"ruleless." Both types of management are fine with me providing I am not
bothered by noise or by smoke. Second hand smoke can kill me by causing an
Day 76 (July 26, 1991) I had a wonderful rest day in Carnarvon
exploring the town and spending $6 on books at the book exchange. I did
buy a $2 dress which I finally wore on November 3 in Tampa.
It was so nice walking the sunshine! I did notice that there was a
"truck yard" where truck trailers were unhitched because south of Carnarvon
three trailer trucks were not allowed. It was a very noisy and busy "yard."
Also, staying at the backpackers hostel was the Austrian that I had
"dumped." Naturally he was not too friendly but did tell me that he had
gotten a ride back to Tennant Creek where he had gotten a new luggage rack
for his bike. I was relieved that he was ok.
My bike also needed repairs and had the local bike shop replace the
chain and the rear chain rings as they had over 5181 miles on them.
That evening I tried to go to an AA meeting but when I finally found
the correct address no one came. While I waited, I watched people go to a
liquor store and come out with their bags of booze. It's so wonderful not
to need booze!
Day 77 (July 27, 1991) While loading my bicycle this morning, the now
sober New Zealand pest got up to see me off. It was a nice gesture
although I think he had stolen my AA medallion when I had cleaned out my
fanny pack or bum pack (in British English) to wash it. We had talked some
AA and I had showed it to him. AA would say "Pass it on" and I do hope
that I did pass on what I had.
This New Zealander did seem worried about me as he told me about how
the aborigines had attacked a white guy. Yes, I had heard screams that
night but had a safe back room which I, of course, had barricaded with some
furniture. Besides, the backpackers hostel was just across the street from
the police station. And yes, I had heard rumors about racial problems in
Carnarvon all along the road but I had learned to ignore these rumors
because I could do nothing about them. I was always careful because
surviving in crime-filled Tampa, Florida, had taught me some excellent
techniques for avoiding crime when biking or jogging.
But I got a late 7 AM start and had terrible headwinds and was covered
with flies, worse than usual, every time I got off my bike for bathroom
purposes or for refilling my "camel back" from the water bottles carried in
my saddle bags.
The flies were so bad that the Wooramel Road House had a screened
porch where one could sit and eat and write letters. I spent $3.50 for
camping and $10 for food. The manager and owner did ask me, "Anything we
can do help you?" This was the first time that I heard this in Australia!
His teenage daughter did help me put up my tent and we talked and talked.
Apparently, her family approved of her talking to me about her boarding
school experiences and her dreams for her future. It was hard on a
teenager being stranded at a road house so far from anything or any other
teenager. However, she was friendly, well adjusted, and so very normal.
But she must have thought that I was abnormal having biked 82 miles of
roads with nothing. Yes, the hills had plants and animals but I only heard
the sounds of the birds and the continuous wind songs and only
occasionally, the sound of a car, bus, or truck passing me.
Day 78 (July 28, 1991) This morning it was cold and damp and I was
unhappy about the blasted weather turned bad. It was so hard to get
started but I did get a break half way at the Overlander's Road House.
Also, I had a $4 pot of tea in a crowded cafe as there was a dreaded
tourist bus there at the same time. I did buy a newspaper and reluctantly
got back on my bike as I had miles to go to get to the Billabong Road House
for a total ride of 82 miles.
Suddenly, I saw many cars parked beside the road with the
photographers very busy. There were emu in the bush and I also stopped and
photographed them. I found out later, that lacking telephoto lenses, the
emus were not visible. However, when I got back on my bike, the emus ran
beside me at 16 miles per hour. Then, there was nothing but a straight
road disappearing into the horizon and TAIL WINDS making it the best ride
of my life in the now sunshine. Of course, there were hills at the end,
but that always seemed to be case. No, I don't know why road houses have
hills just before them. It's probably because my sore legs notice the
hills more at the end of the day when I am road house hunting. Yes, I
always knew exactly how many miles away the next road house would be but it
always seemed longer as I did get tired, dirty, and very hungry.
And hungry I was when I arrived at the Billabong Road House and found
a grassy site to pitch my tent behind an old hotel separate from the Road
House. I was going to buy food in the road house when I met a man who
noticed my USA accent and told me that had wanted to go to Seattle last
year. Since the International Conference of Alcoholics Anonymous had been
in Seattle in 1990 which I had attended but had been very much bothered by
all the cigarette smoke even outdoors, I did ask him if he were a friend of
Bill Wilson. This is a tactful way of inquiring if one is a member of AA.
Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob had co-founded AA in 1937, the year that I was
We had an instant AA meeting. Jim of AA "shouted" me or treated me to
a hamburger. He told me that the sheep in the center of the flock are not
killed by the wolves. "I want to stay in the center of the flock so that I
won't get killed," he elaborated and repeated, "I want to stay in the
center of AA." But I am a periphery or a perimeter person always hanging
onto the edge of a group where I might killed but I won't be overcome or
squashed when "push comes to shove." I really needed the AA meeting.
But I also needed more food but before I went to bed, I wandered over
to the old hotel and did not drink at the pub but did pet a lovely Persian
cat. The publican's wife became friendly especially when a motorcyclist
showed up. Although she insisted that she hated to cook, she volunteered
to cook us a meal for a $5 donation. Yes! It was great meal on a table in
the veranda including the motorcyclist, Mr. and Mrs. Publican, and another
couple who joined us. The motorcyclist was asked if he were my husband.
He smiled and said, "No," although his tent was pitched near mine. It was
a great evening, great people, and a great place, and even a great cat!
And I was happier than I had ever been.
Day 79 (July 29, 1991) The next morning the motorcyclist walked his
motorcycle to the road before starting it because he had told us the
evening before that motorcycles do wake up people. Since it had begun
raining late that night the motorcyclist's tent had leaked and he had ended
up sleeping under one of the tables. My tent had kept me dry and he had
been kind enough not to join me in my tent. He was a real gentleman!
The newspaper that I had read at the Overlander's Road House the day
before had a weather forecast predicting fair weather. However, the
weather did not agree as it began raining off and on. It seemed that every
time it began raining, I would get off my bike to take off my helmet, then
my reflective vest, then put on my rain coat and then it would stop
raining. I would have to repeat this in reverse. And then came the head
winds, too, as I rode towards Bimi Road House where I was looking forward
to a hot shower.
The winds increased in intensity and I was so glad to see Bimi but no
showers were available. Even though the clouds were covering the setting
sun, I refueled with a candy bar and a coca cola in Bimi and decided to
race to Northampton putting my flashing beacon light on the rear of my
The rain and winds increased as the darkness came like the veil of
death. I thought that Northampton would never come to end this worst ride
of my life. It was so good to see the lights of Northampton in the
distance. I have never been happier when I finally reached the residential
district of Northampton. Knowing from the youth hostel and backpackers
directories that there were no cheap accommodations in Northampton, I
relied on my wits which by now had become almost witless. I saw two women
walkers doing their exercise and asked them where there was a cheap place
to stay. They directed me to Mrs. Simpson who managed the Nagle Center
from her home.
Following their directions, I came to Mrs. Simpson's rain shined red
brick home and had trouble getting her to come to the door because her home
was shut up tight. Finally, she came to her door and wanted to know what
was the matter. She did get in her car and I followed her to the Nagle
Center which was an old convent a few blocks away.
Mrs. Simpson certainly pampered me. She stayed with me while I showed
in the detached shower room, then she showed me where everything was in the
large kitchen, and finally showed me my bedroom and asked me how many rugs
I needed. In the US, we put rugs on our floors and not on our beds but I
did know that "rugs" in Australia were blankets. I let her leave five
blankets and of course, if all else failed, I had my sleeping bag.
She also directed me to the closest grocery shop where I bought $8
worth of food and paid Mrs. Simpson $10 for the room in the convent. The
rain continued to pour down, the wind kept roaring, and the darkness almost
seemed to get worse, but Mrs. Simpson had to go home to her husband. And I
wanted to eat and go to bed because I had ridden 121 miles in over eleven
So I went upstairs to my room which had been the Mother Superior's
room or so Mrs. Simpson had told me. It was a small room with a twin bed,
a desk, and a chest of drawers. The convent was not heated so I quickly go
into bed to get warm. Of course, I had a paperback book with me.
But I was still hungry so I decided to go down the lovely hard wood
polished stairs to the kitchen to eat more. Food is so good after so many
hours and miles on the bike even if it was just a can of baked beans,
canned fruit salad, milk, and bread.
As I was climbing up the stairs, I heard a noise that could not be
explained by the wind song moans or the beating of the rain. I turned to
look to the bottom of the stairs and I saw the Mother Superior dressed in
her white habit. In a proper Australian accent she told me, "I don't think
you are suitable to stay here tonight." How did she know that I had been
denied an abortion in 1958 when I had conceived a child as the result of a
rape and was very Pro Choice? I did argue, "But I have paid $10. I have
paid!" What more could I say? Having attended 13 different colleges and
universities and having earned four university degrees plus postdoctoral
study, nothing prepared me for this ghost. What was I to do? Later when I
told this ghost story to a friend he said he would have left immediately.
But where could I go? It was either a ghost or the cold dark stormy night.
Besides, I did not believe in ghosts as I had been trained in the sciences.
Ha! I now believe in ghosts as that Mother Superior was real but my
body still screamed "cold" and "need sleep." I did barricade the door even
though I have heard that ghosts can come through walls at will. The five
"rugs" were carefully placed over my head and I did sleep with the light
on. Perhaps I would not be able to see the ghost as well with the light
on. Because my body was so exhausted, I did get some sleep that night.
Day 80 (July 30, 1991) It was a delight to see daylight as I got on the
road as soon as possible riding out of Northampton. As usual, I tried to
clean up after myself as one of my personal rules which I never violated
was to leave my night's sojourn as clean and neat as I had found it. The
Mother Superior must have had her breakfast earlier as she did not bother
me, again. Perhaps my horror story of my enforced pregnancy of 1958
converted her. I do blame this horrible part of my life for some of my
drinking and depression.
There is nothing worse than an unwanted pregnancy except for being an
unwanted child. My mother had once told me that if abortions had been
legal, I would have been aborted as I had been conceived by accident at a
bad time in her life. I do believe my mother's unwanted pregnancy
contributed to her death from complications of alcoholism. It was such a
waste of a very talented and beautiful woman! I have no tolerance for
people who are opposed to abortions as I feel they have a pathological
desire to force their opinions on other people. I support the AA's slogan
to LIVE AND LET LIVE or in other words to mind one's own business. I
cannot believe abortion is murder as I do not believe that life begins
until the child is born or all the results of miscarriages would have to be
given a christian (sic?) burial.
Perhaps Mother Nature was weeping about my mother not aborting me as
there was rain, and more rain. However, the views of the Indian Ocean were
spectacular and the terrain was now very green--probably as a result of the
rain. But then I saw navy blue sky which always makes me cry as it means
only one thing: RAIN. Knowing that there was a youth hostel in Geraldton,
but not knowing the hours it would be open, I stopped at the first
telephone as I could find. As usual, I could not get it to work so I had
to ask the AMPOL Station owner to call the youth hostel for me and make
reservations. The message was that the hostel was open and to make myself
However, I had only ridden 34 miles but I was ready to quit,
especially since everything I owned was wet. The rain had somehow gotten
inside the plastic bags lining my bicycle saddle bags.
Following the directions found in the youth hostel directory, I found
the youth hostel and got a roof over my head. I did stop the bike to pick
up some discarded vegetables on the side of the road so I had some free
tomatoes and potatoes to eat.
Day 81 (July 31, 1991) Since my clothes had not dried, I decided to
take a rest day and try to get them dried. I also, again, had to clean out
my panniers or saddle bags. As usual, I did a walk around the town, buying
some work gloves for $l.95 to protect my hands. No, I don't usually use
the standard cycling gloves as they have circles cut out on top of the
hands and I don't like sunburn circles. I want complete hand protection
which I get from work gloves. Of course, I purchased some used books and
carefully watched the weather as I had clothes hanging outside on the
When it looked liked it was going to rain, again, I ran back to the
hostel and rescued my clothes. I became very creative at draping my
clothes over bunk beds, chairs, etc. always trying to get them dry somehow.
Day 82 (Aug. l, 1991) Today, there were green hills for the first time
in my memory (Ha!) and a tail wind. I had a pot of tea break at Dongara
which was very nice. I thought that I was going to stay in Eneabba where I
had stayed in 1979 but when I asked a policeman for directions to some
accommodations, he said, "You can't stay here." "Why?" I asked. "Because
there are only single quarters available. No women allowed."
As the sun was going down and it was already very cold, I
demanded,"But where can I stay? It is not safe to ride after dark."
"Twenty-nine kilometers south is the Half Way Mill Road House. You
can stay there and it won't be dark if you hurry. How fast do you ride 29 k
Unhappily, I thanked him and biked as fast as I could racing the
sunset. From the road, I saw a museum that I had visited in 1979 but I
didn't have time to stop and revisit.
I ended up riding 119 miles and was extremely cold when I arrived at
the road house where I rented a tiny cabin for the night. It was actually
a prefab room but the landlady loaned me an electric heater so that I was
cozy for the evening.
Day 83 (Aug. 2, 1991) Today, I biked 58 miles in the rain for five
hours arriving in Cataby to discover that there was no camping and the
motel was too expensive. What will I do? Knowing that all major decisions
in Australian small towns are made in the pub, I went into the pub and
loudly asked if anyone knew of a cheap place to spend the night. A drunk
male sitting at the bar also loudly responded with the suggestion that I go
across the highway and ask if I could stay in the sheep shearers quarters.
It was obvious that the sheep shearers had just finished their work
for the year and were packing up to leave. As I wandered around the sheep
station looking for Colin, the manager, the cook smuggled me some food that
she was packing. It did take courage to ask Colin if I could stay out of
the rain in the sheep shearers quarters but remember that I was on a $20
per day budget. A worker packing his gear asked me, "You are an American,
aren't you? Then you must have some drugs." I was shocked! Being a
recovering alcoholic and former drug addict, drugs would be the last thing
that I would carry. Besides, I did not travel in a foreign country to
break its laws. Throughout my ride around Australia, I did my best to obey
all Australian laws at all times. Except for the running of a few stop
signs and an unauthorized trip to a submarine base, I don't believe that I
broke any Australian laws. I was never bothered by the police!
Finally, I found Colin taking a brief rest leaning against a building
looking at the sheep. Yes, I could stay in the sheep shearers quarters but
did I have a swag? A swag in Australian is one's bedding and can be
extremely elaborate and weather protecting or just some blankets. I had my
priceless sleeping bag made from goose down and being child-sized fit me
perfectly as I am only 5'2" tall. This same sleeping bag had kept me warm
on the 1979 Australian trip.
So, I unloaded my bike and settled in for the night in the unheated
tiny room with a single bed. As usual, I first wrote in my tiny journal
about my day's ride.
While I was writing, Colin, the manager, knocked on my door. Would I
like a tour of the sheep station? Of course. He took me to his uti or
utility vehicle and drove me all over the sheep station. He raises lupin
or bluebonnets for sheep food alternating the paddocks or pastures for
controlled grazing and growth. I vividly remembered my father's love for
bluebonnets, the Texas state flower and how my Grandmother Domaschk always
havimg bluebonnets growing in her yard in Port Arthur, Texas. I was
looking forward to telling my father about bluebonnets being used for sheep
food. Colin did not know that they were called bluebonnets but admitted
that the flowers were blue.
The ground was extremely wet as it continued to rain but the rolling
hills and Colin's descriptions were a great pleasure to me.
Colin asked, "Would you like to have tea with us?" I had been in
Australia long enough to know that tea meant supper and of course I enjoyed
"Yes, thank you very much!"
Of course, I had to shower and put on clean clothes but I really
enjoyed eating with Colin's family. His wife was an avid horse lover who
rode as much as possible. Colin showed me the outstanding miniature anvils
that he made as well as horseshoe nail horses. He's an extremely creative
artist and should be exhibiting in museums.
I loved his two young daughters who showed me their "horsey" decorated
rooms. Again, the people of Australia were the icing on the cake of the
trip just as they were in 1979. I might love my solitude but I love
people, too. Did I really write this? A victim of two rapes, much verbal
abuse, and two alcoholic parents? Healing is possible if one has the
capacity to do what makes one happy and this trip has given me unbelievable
happiness. The rain is certainly not making me happy but the fact that I
am not bowing to the bad weather is giving me some happiness.
Day 84 (Aug. 3, 1991) Will it ever stop raining? For eight hours
today I rode in the rain and wind following the directions given me by Joan
and Richard Russell of Perth that I had met at Port Smith. At times, the
head winds were almost impossible when I had to turn into them. When I
telephoned the Russells from a convenience store, Joan Elizabeth Russell
(Joan Elizabeth is also my name) told me that her husband and sons were
gone and that she was home alone.
But Joan had to wait. There were knitting books to look at at the
convenience store and I am an addicted knitter, too, but still I had to
hurry as Joan was alone because her husband and oldest son were "seconding"
a friend in the Avon Descent Canoe Race and her other son was away at camp.
Perhaps Joan wanted to spend some time alone just as I do but wet and cold
I was anxious for warmth and shelter.
Joan admitted that she did not have a clothes dryer so we had to drape
all my wet clothes all over her chairs in front of the heater. And Joan
could cook, unlike me, who is grateful that I have never killed anyone with
my awful cooking.
I had read in the newspaper about a time trial type bicycle race so
this evening I called the telephone contact. He told me that he lived
nearby and that he would pick me up the next morning.
Day 85 (August 4, 1991) Just as he said he would, this bicyclist
picked me up at the Russell's and took me and my unloaded mountain bike to
the time trial. The time trial was held on the Garden Island Submarine
Base off-limits to all foreigners. Just before we drove through the gate,
my friend said, "Shut up," as the guard would have instantly detected my
The other bicyclists were quite friendly but all looked askance at my
mountain bike. In the US, Australia, or likely any other place in the
world, one does not do a time trial on a heavy mountain bike.
However, I had no choice so I rode as hard as I could on the hills in
the rain and wind for a total of 32 kilometers or about 20 miles in a time
of 1:12. I had borrowed a Cat Eye Vetra computer for my bike as I did not
want to get the accumulated mileage of the time trial on mine. It is
amazing that a Cat Eye Vetra Computer owned and purchased in Australia
would fit my Cat Eye sensor but it did.
On the time trial course, of course, there was a kangaroo completely
ignored by these Perth cyclists. When I arrived back at the Russell's
home, they were still at church so I walked to a nearby shopping center and
purchased a newspaper which described a drowning during the Avon Descent.
The friend that her husband and son had been "seconding" had dropped
out because of the terrible weather. It was much better to drop out than
to drown. The male members of the family had returned late that night and
were even more wet than I had been.
Day 86 (August 5, 1991) Today, I took the bus to Perth, the most
beautiful city on the earth, but it was rainy in 1991, while the weather
had been perfect in 1979. In real estate, it's location, location,
location, while when biking it's weather, weather, weather.
I did a sentimental return to the Sir Walter Raleigh statue that I had
put my bike in front of for a photograph in 1979. That bike had been
stolen in Tampa when I was raped but I had bought another Raleigh bike for
this trip. I spent a most wonderful day in Perth shopping for down
sleeping bag shampoo as my sleeping bag was beginning to smell, gifts for
the Russells, and books and books.
That evening, Joan, the best cook in the world, baked some cookies for
me to take with me. I did my best to carefully ration them out for an
Day 87 (August 6, 1991) Using the excellent directions provided by the
Russell's oldest son all of 11 years old, I rode to Freemantle. The ride
was hilly but constantly remained on the ocean front. So beautiful! I did
walk around Freemantle and visited the Round House, the oldest building in
Western Australia. It was an old jail with another outstanding view of the
I did not get to wash my sleeping bag because there was not enough sun
to dry it. And there was no heat in my single youth hostel room for which
I paid $12.
In Freemantle, I did buy a can of jam for $l.29 which certainly are
unknown in the US. I had to put the contents of the opened can into a jar
in order to carry it with me on the bike.
Day 88 (August 7, 1991) The ride to Freemantle from Perth had only
been about 25 miles but I wanted more miles today so I decided to ride to
the youth hostel in Bunburry. Early in the morning it was cold but as the
sun intensified, it became hot with hills and more hills. The sun seemed
to instantly crash down without Bunburry appearing. A man and his son
stopped and gave me directions when there was just a slight bit of light
remaining. I was told to cut through a walk way which I could not see
because it became so dark. It seems that most youth hostels are
deliberately hidden away so that not even local residents can find them. I
don't know why this is usually the case! When one does not know the area,
it is almost impossible to find too many youth hostels.
I had to stop many times and ask directions. When I finally was
riding down the correct street, the youth hostel did not have an outside
light. When I asked a woman walking on the foot path or sidewalk, she told
me, "You are one house from it."
The interior of the youth hostel was great complete with an open fire
place and no heat, of course. Naturally, I spent my evening getting as
close to the fire as possible, just barely avoiding a burn.
The woman manager and her husband who live next door came to visit as
I was eating. The youth hostel cat "Rex" a ginger unneutered Tom also
visited and competed with me for a place near the fire. He helped me clean
my plate that had some jam left on it.
Actually, I did not have time to pet the cat as much as I wanted to
because I was so tired from the 110 mile bike ride that had taken me about
nine hours. Of course, I had to sleep under many blankets as I was cold
until my body heat got a chance to warm my bunk bed in which I was alone as
there were no other women staying in the youth hostel that evening.
Day 89 (August 8, 1991) This morning I was awakened by the sound of
the bell on Rex's collar. Except for a small emergency light in the
hallway, it was almost as dark as a cave in the youth hostel. When I tried
to switch on the lights, I couldn't get the switch to work, so I ate
breakfast and packed with my flashlight or "torch." Rex had to help me
both with breakfast and packing. At 7 AM, the lights suddenly switched on
as they were on a timer to prevent hostlers from leaving the lights on all
night and wasting electricity.
"Rex" and I seemed to have electricity as he french kissed me, the
first time a cat had ever done that. Then, he acted as if he were going to
"spray" my pannier. Yelling at him stopped it just in time.
Although it was time for the sun to rise, a comfortable cloud blanket
for the sun, at least, prevented my feeling the sun's warmth. I did take a
photo of "Rex," but the cloudy weather prevented it from being good. I was
told that "Rex's" sister had been killed by a car and that he was very
friendly because he missed her. Every cat in Australia had a story, just
like every person's story is unique.
Today my easy ride was unique in a forest and only 50 miles long to
the Dunsborough Youth Hostel, the most beautiful youth hostel in Australia.
For $6 I had a private room, an indoor fireplace, and was saturated by the
exquisite views of the ocean. The hostel was surrounded by large Norfolk
Island pines and flowers and more flowers. Birds called "28" because they
allegedly say "28" were almost excessive in this area. I never was able to
understand the "28" but enjoyed their neon green colors and their attempts
to say "28".
Day 90 (August 9, 1991) This morning I woke up with a front tooth ache
and knew that I would have to find a dentist as soon as possible. Ignoring
the hills, I tried to get to Margaret River as soon as possible, enjoying
my first glimpse of sun in a long time.
At Margaret River I was told there was a dentist office where I was
able to get an appointment with only a two hour wait. While I waited I
found tofu for 95 cents which made a tasteless sandwich in my temporary
camp grounds in a local park. There was also a Catholic Church made from
earth, only, which I photographed for my Tampa Catholic friend Jim Doran.
He was bike-sitting with my precious racing bike in Tampa and had taken me
to the airport eons ago or so it seemed.
It seemed that my dental appointment time would never come. I was
pleased when I finally got into the dental chair and Dr. Plant, originally
from Zimbabwe in southern Africa, but educated in London, was my dentist.
He is best dentist I have ever had but unfortunately said he was not
allowed to take the dental exam required for dental practice in the US. I
begged him to take his family to the US, anyway, because I have had too
many sadistic dentists in the US, particularly in Florida, where they let
worthless dentists from other foreign countries to practice irresponsible
Dr. Plant carefully and kindly filled my "eye" tooth, painlessly and I
jumped out of the dental chair at 3 PM to ride the nine miles to Augusta as
there was a youth hostel there. I had to take my bike computer off my bike
because Augusta was out of my way and would not count for the perimeter
The Augusta Youth Hostel was nice with electric heat so I was actually
warm. The nice man running it was a smoker but he always smoked outside.
He loved his bird feeder and encouraged me to watch the birds eat at
At the local grocery store, a woman noticed my US accent and told me,
"We Australians are good people and please remember us that way." She gave
me a fresh fish for which I was extremely grateful. Yes, I will remember
the Australians as the best people in the world. So good to me, that I
want to do my third perimeter ride around Australia and this trip is still
incomplete. I can't be completely crazy, can I?
The other residents of the youth hostel decided that I was completely
crazy when I cooked my fish in water and then put jam on it as relish
because I had no catsup or tomato sauce. These women teased me.
But the sunset was not teasing as it was extremely blood red and I was
told that it was caused by a volcano eruption in the Philippines. And I
wondered if this were some kind of omen, good or bad?
Day 91 (August 10, 1991) This morning, I had to backtrack the extra
nine miles to Augusta where I took the highway to Nannup where I could not
get drinking water. The hills were steep and there were many of them.
After the water troubles in Nannup, I rode through groves of large trees
much like the Giant Sequoias in California. The recently logged areas were
terribly depressing and I actually pumped my bike harder to get through
these negative vibes. Sometimes I feel that trees feel pain when they are
cut down by greedy loggers. If more recycling of lumber were done, more
recycling of paper and cardboard products took place, and more buildings
made from earth then fewer trees would scream when they were felled.
It was almost as if the environment were agreeing with my feelings of
sadness as it became grayer as I rode on trying to find the Pemberton Youth
Hostel. I felt as though the rain was telling me that the world was
saddened by all the tree stumps, like stumps of the legs of people whose
limbs have been removed.
But where was Pemberton? I stopped at a fancy resort and asked
directions having to leave the main road and follow a very hilly road
finally seeing signs to the youth hostel. An almost ghostly thing happened
as a black and white milk cow ran beside me just inside her paddock fence.
This occurs only rarely and there were few open areas in this forested
area. The darkness was rapidly surrounding me and it was almost completely
dark when I arrived at the youth hostel.
At the youth hostel, I was actually greeted for the first time in
Australia by two nineteen-year-old women that I had met at the Dunsborough
Youth Hostel and who had joined me at the Augusta Youth Hostel where they
had teased me about putting jam on my fish cooked in water in a frying pan.
We had read magazines in the electrically heated lounge or living room
Almost in unison they said, "We're so glad you are here!" I should
have left then as I knew something was strange but I valued their
friendship and looked forward to a quiet restful evening with them.
"Where is the manager?" I asked as I knew that I had to check in and
pay my $8 to complete the requirements.
"He's not here. He lives in a cabin over there."
The cloudy darkness now fogging in hid "over there," so they agreed to
let me follow them in their car with their headlights helping so much.
The manager lived in a rustic cabin so much like the youth hostel,
made of worn, unpainted, neglected wood with screens with holes in them
that invited mosquitos inside. When he saw my bicycle, he authoritatively
insisted, "That bicycle does not go inside the youth hostel. It is a motor
vehicle and motor vehicles do not go inside human habitations. Put it in
the shed behind the youth hostel."
Even when staying in youth hostels, one of my always obeyed rules of
this trip is that my bicycle stays where I stay. If I stay inside, the
bicycle stays inside, or I don't stay inside. Most youth hostels allowed
the bike inside providing it did not bother the other visitors but this Mr.
Earring was adamant. I called him Mr. Earring because he wore one earring
in one ear.
When I was "boozing and using" I knew that rules were made to be
broken and I decided then and there on that cold, dark cliche type night
that my bike was going to stay inside especially since a misty rain had
begun. I hate wet bike seats and did not trust the isolation and darkness
of the area. A perfect place for thieves!
The two women asked me if I could find my way back to the youth hostel
as they were going into Pemberton about six miles away. "Would you like us
to get you anything?" they politely asked.
"Yes, please get me a liter of fat reduced milk," I said and gave them
I don't know how I found my way back to the youth hostel in the
darkness and cold. I was very tired, cold, and hungry but I did have some
food in my bicycle panniers.
While the two women were in town, I ate, showered, and unloaded the
bike putting it in the women's dorm room. I was glad that Mr. Earring was
a male because males are very unlikely to go into the women's dorm room.
My wet clothes were hung in front of the gas kitchen stove trying to get
them dry as the rain had increased while I was biking to the youth hostel.
It seemed that the fog and darkness increased so much that it looked
solid. When the two women returned they admitted that they were afraid.
"Afraid of what?" I asked.
"Have you noticed that there are no locks on the doors of this hostel?
And no locks on the women's dorm room doors!"
About then Mr. Earring arrived to check up on us. He did not ask how
we were but asked if the bicycle was in the shed.
"Yes," I lied remembering that Alcoholic Anonymous demands "rigorous
honesty." Right now, AA did not count.
The two women had already seen the bike in the women's room but did
not say anything except, "Why aren't there locks on the doors? We're
Mr. Earring repeated the question that I had asked, "Afraid of what?"
"Of being raped, murdered."
Just then, I got a flashback from my brutal rape in 1988.
Arguing, Mr. Earring said, "There are not supposed to be locks on
youth hostels. This hostel is out in the middle of nowhere."
I did notice that he did not reassure us that it was safe as it
probably was not.
Perhaps Mr. Earring was convinced that we were just three silly
females and with his "macho" comment he disappeared into the darkness
obviously not caring.
As soon as he left, the two women demanded, "What are we going to do?"
They did cause my protectiveness to resurface after so many years of
dormancy. Being a survivor and I guess, somewhat adaptive I made possible
We would first barricade the two doors of the youth hostel with
furniture and then barricade the single door of the women's dorm room using
the bike as a weapon. Unfortunately, I was not carrying a long bike pump
but instead carried a small lighter compact pump which lacked the weapon
I did reassure them that should someone try to attack us I would help
them out of the dorm window and then slam the bike into the intruder. They
did seem reassured enough to sit in front of the fireplace for about an
hour and read while I finished off the liter of milk they had so kindly
purchased for me.
Following our battle or defense plan, we crawled under numerous
blankets in our separate bunk beds and somehow went to sleep in the extreme
silence of the now rainless night. Oh, for some sounds of cars/trucks or
even airplanes!. We were enclosed in the darkness and were almost
Suddenly there was the sound of the barricade coming down in front of
the front door. The two women set a record for getting out of their beds
and climbing on the window sills, together.
"Who is there?" I carefully said, reasoning that a burglar/rapist
would not identify himself. When the three of us recognized the voice of
the male accountant that had stayed with us in Dunsborough our relief was
"Why did you put all the furniture in front of the door?" he asked.
We described the isolation and our terrible fears.
"Now we can go to sleep and feel safe," we told him but I did note
that he was out of shape and probably not much of a fighter. I did
remember all the barroom brawls I had been victorious in and wondered if he
would be any help at all. However, he was nice and we trusted him. He had
been and remained a perfect gentleman a tribute to Australian manhood!
Day 92 (August 11, 1991) I wanted to leave as soon as possible and so
I was up, had breakfast, and was packed before any of the other people were
up. This was my pattern at youth hostels. I was always last to bed,
reading late, and then first up in the morning. It was just natural for
It was also natural for me to notice any change in my surroundings and
I observed that the man had barricaded the two doors after we women had
gone to bed. We weren't the only ones scared.
However, there was cold rain falling making the grey wood of the youth
hostel even more dreary and the tree trucks and bare limbs were just lines
of grey. The accountant came out on the fragile porch (some of the porch
boards had rotted) and said, "You aren't going to ride, today, are you?"
My left knee was bothering me slightly and I did not relish another grey
cold wet day on the bike. Perhaps it would sunshine tomorrow, I thought.
"Would you like to go sight seeing with me?" He asked.
"Only if we could stop by a grocery shop in town," I requested. As
always, I needed FOOD, the fuel for this trip.
We did spend a pleasant day looking at the water falls and the tall
tree with the circular ladder going up it. My legs were too sore for me to
climb it. Besides, I'm terrified of heights.
At the grocery shop, I bought groceries and a Cadbury Fruit Nut candy
bar which I shared with the accountant. I am convinced that Cadbury Fruit
Nut and Violet Crumble candy bars got me around Australia! They are much
more expensive in the US so I rarely eat them at home.
Later that evening before dark I walked trying to "walk out" the
soreness in my legs, particularly that upsetting left knee and found some
discarded onions on the side of the road. I also found a melon.
Mr. Earring had to come back to find out if we had destroyed the youth
hostel. I asked him about the melon which he did cut for me and found that
it was bad. Mr. Earring seemed to be looking for the bicycle. I watched
the two women snicker and almost ask him if he could find the bike.
As soon as he left we did laugh a long time! Some Germans came and we
all sat in front of the fireplace trying to get warm in black darkness with
only minimal light from the youth hostel's few lights.
Day 93 (August 12, 1991) Rain, again, but I was sick and tired of this
not fit for human habitation youth hostel so I left early and quickly
became cold and wet. My Gore Tex jacket did keep the major part of the
rain off me but my shoes were very wet and I was COLD, COLD, COLD.
As soon as I rode into Northcliff and saw the tourist bureau and craft
shop, I had the lady working there make reservations for me at a caravan
park near Walpole requesting an electric heater as I knew no cabin had
heat. I loved all the crafts made out of pressed wild flowers and thought
of buying something for my former department head at Hillsborough Community
College as she loved flowers. I am now very glad I did not as she did not
rehire me, again, as she probably thought I was weird for being physically
fit. She was obese and I had some resentments about having to use my tax
money to pay her medical bills as the college was tax-supported. I feel
that people who are not in shape are undisciplined and extremely lazy.
My legs felt qualified to ride the hills and more hills with the road
almost overgrown by dense grey forests. I was convinced that the forest
would never end and that I would never get warm and dry, again.
I was so happy to see the sign to Rest Point Caravan Park where I had
a cabin reserved. I had only ridden 87 miles in eight hours and was of
course extremely hungry.
This was one of the few caravan parks in Australia that lacked a
store. The manager, when I found him, did give me four eggs and asked, "Do
you know how to cook them?"
The $20 per night cabin did have cooking facilities and had a
beautiful view of a gray lake that I really did not care about seeing as I
had seen the color gray for so long, now. I did eat the four eggs in front
of the picture window, though, and went quickly to bed.
There was a slick sheet on the bed which caused me to fall out of the
bed, the first time in many years. Because I am so physical I was worried
that I was hurt but was not.
Day 94 (August 13, 1991) I was so glad to leave Walpole and the
caravan park--with more hills. It was downhill into Denmark and with bad
bike brakes I just sped through the town. Fortunately, there were no
traffic lights or cars in my way. It was unbelievably flat to Albany where
I had previously booked or reserved a room in the Albany Youth Hostel.
Today was a magic miracle in that I did not have any rain, that is, until I
reached the outskirts of the city. The rain came down almost like a
waterfall so I arrived wet at the youth hostel. There, I found a note on
my room door and later was welcomed by the super manager of the youth
The rain stopped and I walked all over Albany buying food, books, and
arranging for bike repair.
I loved my private room sleeping beside my bike but I needed an AA
meeting. I did find an AA meeting but it was scheduled for the next night.
Day 95 (August 14, 1991) This morning, I woke up remembering the
voices that I heard in Tampa telling me to "Go to Albany and I would meet
my love." I still had not met anyone eligible and kept wondering why I was
"called" to Albany.
While I was eating breakfast in the huge youth hostel kitchen,
Patrick, the manager, came in and asked if I would like to spend another
day in Albany, that I could stay free if I did the work that he hated to
do: mopping floors and scrubbing the toilets.
Since I believe in letting things happen, I gratefully agreed, and
made arrangements to attend the AA meeting that night. After I had done
the required chores, I explored more of Albany in the new sunshine walking
to the Vancouver Art Center where I talked to women quilting using United
States books and patterns. At least, we supply the world with quilt books
and patterns. The views of the ocean were, as usual, so beautiful. Is
there any place in Australia without a beautiful view?
I did try to get my clothes dry in the youth hostel's clothes dryer
but could not get it to work. That was the first time that I had used a
clothes dryer in about ten years and was the last time that I will probably
ever use one. I love solar dried clothes!
When it was time for the AA meeting, I followed the directions and
found it to be in a very cold place. It was about the Fifth Step which was
good for me. The Fifth Step in a Twelve Step Program like AA is as
follows: "Admitted to The Goddess (sic), to ourselves, and to another human
being the exact nature of our wrongs." Everyone was so nice to me
Day 96 (August 15, 1991) Unfortunately, this morning I got a late
start because Patrick, the manager of the youth hostel, wanted to interview
me as a free lance writer. He promised to send me a copy of the interview
and photograph. But there was sunshine! However, there was also head
winds and COLD!! Something was wrong with my rear wheel but I found out
later that it was actually my front brake rubbing the wheel. The bike
mechanic in Albany had adjusted the brakes too tightly. After 64 miles and
almost six hours of struggling, I just could not go any further so I came
to the tiny town of Welstead where I inquired at the single shop if there
was a place that I put my tent up for the night with shower facilities.
The woman told me that there was a tennis club and that I might be able to
use the club house showers. I could put my tent up near the caravan
already parked in the parking lot.
A fifty-three year old woman was gardening near the club house and
said that I could use the showers. We chatted about my problems with
alcoholism and she told the story of a woman she had gone to school with
who had awakened scrubbing toilets and decided that the coffin was going to
be her next home. She did overcome her alcoholism after losing everything
including her home. She is now a recovering alcoholic with her children
having come back to her. And I remembered what I have heard in AA so many
times: "Our stories disclose in a general way what we used to be like."
But I would have liked very much a "delicious" hot shower but I had
trouble getting the electric heater over the shower head to work. Besides,
I was wary of getting shocked, but even a luke warm shower felt good.
After my usual three cans or tins supper plus a liter of milk, I was
glad to get into my tent and get warm in my sleeping bag. Sleep came
quickly and dreamless and full of healing fun!
Day 97 (August 16, 1991) Yes, it was really cold this morning. While
I was sleeping the man who was living in the caravan had come back and had
parked his truck near my tent. There was frost on the windshield or wind
screen of his truck. And I was cold all over as I took down my tent and
went through the too familiar bicycle loading ritual. I banged on the door
of the caravan and invited myself in for coffee. In spite of my boldness
and caffeine withdrawal attack, the owner of the caravan was super polite
and offered me toast, too. He was employed grading the roads and was away
from his wife trying to save some money.
Even fortified with the hot breakfast, I felt miserable and wrote that
winners don't quit and quitters don't win which is probably the real motto
of my life. At this moment, I wanted to quit so bad but I calculated that
the trip was two-thirds over with about 3300 miles to go. Maybe I could be
in Sydney in a month! I had had to take off my gloves to write in my
journal but putting my gloves on my cold hands, I began riding towards the
next town trying to do at least 100 miles.
The road ran through fields of green wheat and sheep paddocks and it
seemed that the next town would never appear. I now hated bicycling and
was actually weeping and cursing and hating all the negative emotions of
I even ran out of water which could have been fatal in the north.
Finally, after a ride of 53 miles Jerramungup appeared and I quickly found
a van on site for $15, food for $5, and even got a newspaper. The van with
the oven on was warm and I was now feeling wonderful alone in a small town.
Hydrating my body and feeding my stomach, I was now, again, in love with
the world. A bicycle is the only way to travel! But I was too tired to
write my notes so decided to procrastinate until the morning when I am
always healed and fresh.
Day 98 (August 17, 1991) This morning it was sunny with bird song in a
warm place. I always feel better when I can eat breakfast warm all over.
Impulsively, I disconnected my front brake and as a result had one of the
best rides of the trip.
Once I had to walk down a steep hill as I was afraid that I would not
be able to properly control the bike without two brakes.
But then I had to brake after I saw four dead cows on the road and a
man on a four wheel vehicle stopped me and asked, "Is Elvis Presley still
alive? Have you seen some loose cows?"
"What?" I yelled as I hit my rear brake of my bike. "What did you
say?" I know that I was not auditorialy hallucinating but.....
The man explained that a truck had turned over killing four cows and
several cows had escaped and were running free. He had seen a television
special last night that said that 70% of the Yanks believed that Elvis
Presley was still alive.
Admittedly, I was amused and chatted briefly with him humoring him or
so I think that I did.
Back on the bike, I enjoyed the rolling hills, sunshine, and the
pleasures of being alone but not for long. Quite suddenly, I saw a van
with a blinking light followed by a runner. I parked my bike and ran
beside the runner who gave me a passionate kiss, my only passionate kiss in
all of Australia. A bus following the runner stopped and told me that they
were a group of firemen running around Australia in 60 days. They
questioned me and I signed their book. They gave me food from one of their
sponsors and one of their wives pinned a pin on me that stated "A Slightly
Fantastic Woman." Really, I wondered what is fantastic about a woman
biking around Australia? However, whatever, you never know what you will
meet/see on the roads in Australia.
Oh, but the brief running that I did with the fireman made me realize
how much I miss running. During the first part of my trip, I tried to
combine my biking with running but my legs were so tired each evening, I
had trouble running so I gave it up.
Nevertheless, running got me sober and now my biking is keeping me
sober but now I had miles to go before I could rest. But I was high from
the thrill of seeing the relay team and talking to others like myself.
Actually, they were not like myself in that they were a team and I was solo
probably because that I am a loner and introverted.
But today was warm and for once without head winds. I was chased by
some rain clouds and was glad to rent a camping trailer in Ravensthrorpe
where I could again control my environment. Buying a newspaper, I read
that tomorrow there would be "scattered showers," and went to sleep hoping
that this would be true and that the showers would scatter when they "saw
me," like Moses parted the Red Sea.
Day 99 (August 18, 1991) Apparently, I am not like Moses as the Red
Sea came down on me in the form of rain. I kept thinking that I could bike
out of the scattered showers but with a tail wind, I was able to average
over 15 miles per hour so I was not too displeased. There were rolling
hills which I enjoyed rolling over for a distance of 124 miles.
I would be lying if I wrote that I was unhappy to see the outskirts of
Esperance. The youth hostel directory gave good directions for once, at
least, directions that I could follow in the pouring rain. As directed, I
made a left hand turn and suddenly I saw The Great Southern Ocean, not the
Indian Ocean or the Pacific Ocean, but The Great Southern Ocean and the
youth hostel. The hostel was across the street from this ocean with the
beach lined with huge Norfolk Island Pines. In Tampa, I have a Norfolk
Island Pine that grows in a pot that is used as a living Christmas tree but
cannot tolerate below freezing temperatures. At least, I knew that it did
not freeze in Esperance!
The youth hostel was a string of buildings, bare, but substantial with
a kitchen over looking the beach. Since all the shops were closed because
I had arrived too late, I had to buy food at the expensive nearby caravan
park store. All they had was canned spaghetti. Never again will I eat
canned spaghetti. Enough is enough!
That night I had a very disturbing dream about my father. We had gone
to a type of concert or football game and there was much confusion and
looking for each other as we kept getting lost. When I finally found him,
he told me to wait for him beside a white station wagon as he had to do
some other things. The field im the dream was very muddy and I did not
feel very good when I finally woke up to more rain.
Day 100 (August 19, 1991) Emotionally negative and viewing more rain,
I decided to rest a day in Esperance. I did take the bike to a bike shop
where I decided to have the rear tire changed as there was a slight hole in
it. After 6623 miles, it was time to put on one of my two spare tires.
Even with the rain, I enjoyed walking around Esperance and got some posters
about alcoholism which I sent home carefully selecting the stamps so that I
could use them as souvenirs, too.
For a treat, I stopped at a Chinese Restaurant and being very cold, I
turned on the electric heater and accidentally burned a hole in the carpet.
I simply could not get warm.
Day 101 (August 20, 1991) Even with four blankets on my bed, I was
still cold. And the rain continued so I sat beside an electric heater
trying to get warm and get my stomach to stop "complaining" about
inadequate food. I did find an "all you can eat" supper that I went to
with a woman from the youth hostel. Finally, my stomach "quieted down," and
I knew that I would have to leave the next morning even if there was a
terrible storm. It was time to get to Syndey. I still had to set a
Day 102 (August 21, 1991) I couldn't believe my eyes! It was sunny
with an exquisite sunrise over The Great Southern Ocean (only 15 degrees
south is the Antarctic Ocean; they were both the same to me). This sunrise
was the most beautiful of the entire trip so far.
Regretfully, I left Esperance, biking to a small town called Grass
Patch where I was told about a Frenchman who had biked around the world and
had come through there five years ago. It had taken him 14 days to cross
the Nullabor Desert which I was facing, soon.
Today, I had too many hills and too much head wind so I only rode 70
miles. Once in a while, a beautiful view makes me stop the bike and
photograph it. Today, I saw some actual red trees which I photographed.
They were salmon gums which are gum trees the color of red salmon. The
next town appropriately was called Salmon Gum. But I was cold and needed a
warm place to stay.
My usual procedure is to try a hotel first and check the prices if I
cannot find a caravan park or if there is no youth hostel listed. The tent
was now just too cold.
At the local hotel, the woman manager, smelling of alcohol, said that
I could have a heated room for $10. It was the best price in Australia
complete with an attached bath. I just couldn't believe it. The bed came
with an electric blanket placed Australia style, that is, not on top like a
blanket but underneath the bottom sheet. I didn't care! I just ate some
food in my room, got a hot shower until the hot water ran out, and turned
up the electric blanket. I think my body temperature has dropped and if I
do not raise it soon I will be in trouble.
Day 103. (August 22, 1991) Today, I rode 65 miles to Norseman in more
cold weather. Norseman was an almost deserted town with a caravan park at
the eastern end where I rented a drafty shed-like room for $12. When I
first arrived at the caravan park, some people asked if they could take a
photo of me and I said they could only if they would tell me if Gorbachev
had been released. I had read in the newspaper that he had been captured
and the entire world was waiting, especially me. I felt good when I was
told that he was free.
After settling in the shed, I walked both to stretch my legs and get
groceries. I did have a photo taken of me beside the statue of the horse
named Norseman who had pawed his hoof and found gold. This was the only
statue of an "average" horse in the world! Also, it is probably one of the
few towns in the world named after a horse!
I did meet a man in the caravan park who invited me into his homemade
motor home which was an example of real Australian ingenuity. But the
caravan park was filled with nice people here in Norseman, a rather worn
out little town, that once boomed with gold and now was living off of
Day 104 (August 23, 1991) This morning as I was leaving the caravan
park, a dog brought me a tennis ball and indicated that she wanted me to
throw it and the dog brought it back time after time. I was in a hurry,
but when I tried to stop the game, the dog eagerly jumped all over the
bike. As I rode by Peter's motor home, I told him "good bye" as he had
instructed me to do so.
It was foggy and cold and was my last long ride according to my map.
I had to ride 128 miles to get to the next water at the road house.
All day, it threatened to rain on the bumpy road on the steep hills.
I was so lucky when a family offered me lunch at a road side park. They
were so wonderful!
Cold, cold, I became more and more cranky as I became more exhausted
and cold. When I finally arrived at the Balladonia Road House on the west
edge of the Nullabor, I was impossible to live with even myself. I simply
could not afford a motel room, there was no van on site for rent, so I was
forced to pay for a tent site. But then, I could not find a safe tent
space, in that it had to be out of the way of motor vehicle traffic. I did
not want to be run over in my tent. The man at the petrol station who had
taken my money for the tent space refused to help me so I had to get a man
from the cafe to find me a safe place.
In the dark cold, I angrily put up my tent. I had to find food so
after trying to get decent with a shower and clean clothes, I went to the
hotel and discovered the magic of an all you could eat meal for $5!
Eating, eating, alone, I did talk to another couple who were together about
my problems with the male manager.
The hotel manager, a woman beautifully dressed here in the middle of
the outback, heard me and said that she would talk to him. I just could
not believe her beauty. She was wearing her hair in a classic chignon
showing off her beautiful face and her raven hair to an advantage. In
classic style, she was wearing a white blouse and black skirt right out of
the pages of a fashion magazine! Why can't I write poetically about women?
Her clothes, face, and figure belonged in a large city. Have I been in the
bush too long? No, I am not a lesbian but love beauty when I find it.
It was raining outside, now, and I was not too thrilled about going
back to my tent so I "hung out" at the bar or pub where man tried to pick
me up, that is, until his girl friend arrived. I suppose to get rid of me
she gave me a map of the Nullabor. I don't do well at the picking up/love
triangle mess anymore. Still I had to have more food so I ate some final
snacks at the bar.
With my appetite problem solved, I went back to my tent, crawled into
my sleeping bag, and dreamed of no more rain or cold.
Day 105 (August 24, 1991) But there was rain on my tent this morning.
Oh no! I hate tents! I hate rain! And I had the second longest stretch
of road to ride today, 121 miles to Caiguna.
As soon as I could see the sunless daylight, I took down my wet tent,
packed it up, loaded the bike, and unenthusiastically got back on the road.
The map that I was given by the woman road house manager indicated that I
was riding 145 kilometers on the straightest stretch of word in the world.
It was not flat but covered with rolling hills that I had been so
accustomed to biking that I was actually enjoying these hills.
It was cloudy all day. I did stop at a graffiti maligned rest stop
with picnic tables under shelters and ate some bread, butter, and jam
alone. It has proven to be too expensive to buy toast even if there had
been a place there to buy it. It seemed that I couldn't get enough to eat.
One of my toes on my left foot was hurting bad. I decided that it was
athlete's foot resulting from my feet being constantly wet. I needed a
band aid but there was nothing until Caiguna.
It took me over almost ten hours to get to Caiguna. As usual, I was
cold, wet, and discouraged so I treated myself to paying $20 for a van on
site without heat. Yes, I knew the open oven trick so that I did manage to
get the camping trailer somewhat warm. Also, I did "beg" some band aids
from some nice people in the caravan park.
Also, as usual, I did wash my wet clothes in the shower and then had
the awful task of trying to get my t-shirt, cycling shorts, and socks dry.
If finding an infinite number of ways of hanging wet clothes in a camping
trailer or youth hostel is considered creative, then I must be extremely
But this camping trailer out in the middle of nowhere contained neatly
displaced "tea things," that is, electric tea kettle, sugar bowl, creamer,
tin of tea, tin of instant coffee, and tea spoons all on a paper doily.
Unbelievable Australia! Always amazing are the Australians, especially the
Day 105 (August 25, 1991) Leaving this morning on the bike, a dog from
the caravan park bought me a rock in his mouth and we had to play "throw
the rock." Dogs seem to always know a "sucker," and as an animal lover, I
do fit the category.
Also, I fit the category for finding head winds that exhaust me as on
this perimeter ride I must do point to point rides which means unrelenting
head winds or fabulous tail winds. Cross winds were rare.
Day 106 (August 26, 1991) Today, the head winds almost "killed" me so
I stopped at the first house, Cocklebiddy, having ridden only four hours
for a total of 43 miles. My average speed had been only 9.8 miles per
At Cocklebiddy, the flags were flying straight out indicating the
force of the blasted head winds. I did notice a cover for a pick up truck
sitting near the gas station and cafe. I asked the station attendant if I
could spend the night there. Yes, I could afford the $2.50 for a shower
but was low on money which has not been at all unusual in my life.
"You don't want to stay in it," he said.
"Because we have UFO's out here."
"Really? I wish my camera could take pictures in the dark."
"Aren't you afraid?"
"No, I don't believe in UFO's."
"Fair dinkum (truly) we have seen lots of UFO's out here."
"Well, I have never seen any UFO's anywhere."
"You haven't spent the night out here, yet, in the truck bed top."
"My ex-husband was drunk one night and he insisted that he was invited
to ride in a UFO when it landed on our farm in North Carolina," I replied
and then remembered how I did not believe in ghosts before Northampton.
But I could not beat the price of the free place to spend the night so I
decided to risk it and hoped the passengers of the UFO's were friendly if
they decided to visit me on the Nullabor.
Biking on the Nullabor seemed to make me exceptionally hungry so I had
to eat and ordered an ample trucker's special meal along with the "make you
own" coffee/tea urn. I binged on hot chocolate and was then entertained by
the resident St. Bernard owned by the road house manager.
I noticed several people walking about with cameras as the sun went
down. The weather had finally cleared as apparently the rain had been
blown away by the head winds. Several people were photographing the full
moon rising over the Nullabor, a priceless picture but my camera was not
equipped for dark photos.
One of the women petrol station attendants did have some magazines
which she let me read. When she was called away for a telephone call, she
did lock up everything as Australians do not trust Americans. After all,
we have the highest crime rate in the civilized world.
Saying "good bye" to the full moon, I climbed into my free roof and
dreamed of my ex-husband, Robert King. I wanted to get back together with
him. No, according to my dream, he was husband number 3, while the UFO
rider had been husband number 2. If only we could get remarried! But I
still had to complete my Nullabor crossing and get to Sydney about 2655
Day 107 (August 27, 1991) Will I ever get to Sydney? Will this ride
ever end? Yes, I am very discouraged this morning as it is windy, again.
No time to waste another day waiting out the weather so I began riding
leaving Cocklebiddy behind without having seen any UFO.
The winds blew me all over the road and seemed to make me grumpy. I
had ridden five hours when I came to Madura Pass and recalled how I had
ridden down it in 1979. This time I lacked courage so I walked the bike
down it to the Flag Motel that had no camping and did charge $30 for a
single room for the night. Only because I was feeling so depressed did I
pay this amount. The Flag Motel has the worst service in Australia! I
could not get waited on and when I did Maxine did not want to take my
money. At the bar, the "help" sits and smokes and ignores customers which
is clear evidence of poor management. A man bought me orange juice because
I cannot drink alcoholic beverages. He was a servicer of air conditioners
with his route being the Nullabor. He agreed that the Flag Motel chain
always had bad service and rarely stayed there but today he had serviced
their air conditioners.
Of course, my room was air conditioned but it was so cold that I did
not need it. The attached bath without towels was the second time I had
had an attached bath. Actually, I don't need an attached bath because at
home I have to walk down the hall to the bathroom. Staying alone, I can be
naked which is nice in warm weather but not tonight.
Day 108 (August 27, 1991) I could not believe that there was more rain
but I did have tail winds to blow me to Sydney. But first I had to stop at
the Mundrabilla Road House for lunch which was a delicious fresh fruit
salad and ice cream. There was I was served by the best looking man in
Australia. His body, face, and even personality was perfect and I know
that many women stopped at Mundrabilla just to look at him. He was very
friendly, helpful, and I wish that I could have stayed the night there but
I had to bike many more miles to take advantage of the blessed tail wind.
Besides, there was the dreaded killer dark gray-navy blue sky chasing me
which meant the only thing in any place in the world: hard rain.
Regretfully leaving the center-fold-deserving man, I biked the 122
miles to Eucla doing 100 miles in 5:51 which is a personal record for me on
a loaded bicycle. For the 122 miles, I averaged 16.7 miles per hour even
with the break to stare lustfully at the too handsome man.
There was no handsome man in Eucla where the savage rains caught me
before I could get shelter which was an unheated room for $18 plus $1 for a
shower. There was a large statue of a whale in the Eucla "rip off" road
house. No, Eucla was not my favorite place.
Day 109 (August 28, 1991) Today, it was sunny and cold as the rain
appeared to have rained itself out during the very cold night. Another
tail wind today with me biking the first 100 miles in 5:50 averaging 16.9
miles per hour.
I did stop for Milo which is a delicious chocolate hot drink found
only in Australia. The Border Village where I had also stopped in 1979,
was just the same in 1991. I believe that the same paint was still on the
walls although the cafe seemed to be somewhat smaller. No, I had not
At the Border Village, there was the same sign indicating the mileage
to all important cities of the world including New York, Tokyo, Auckland,
etc. In 1979, I had photographed it but in 1991, I did not see the need to
But I could not rest too long so I managed to bike 132 miles today as
I am so eager to get to Syndey and get this trip over with. I had to take
advantage of the wonderful tail wind and sunshine!
Because my budget had been destroyed, I decided to stay in a tent
tonight. The Nullabor Road House did have a tent area properly labeled
"Tents, only," so I thought it would be safe away from being possibly run
over by a car or truck.
As usual, at the Nullabor Road House, the Nullabor bandits were
operating by charging 29 cents for a tiny container of catsup, but only $4
for l/2 a chicken. I had to put an Australian $l coin in the shower to
make it operate. I had heard horror stories of women getting shampoo in
their hair and then running out of water without an additional $l coin.
Since I really don't like to spend much time under the shower, I did not
have any trouble. Of course, I had planned my attack on the shower with
soap, and shampoo ready so that when the water poured down, I could take
the best advantage of it. I hated the chill after the shower in the
unheated bathroom but by then, I had had developed a mindless routine of
getting warm and clean.
Day 110 (August 29, 1991) Since my tent was facing east as is my
custom providing the winds are cooperative, I woke up today to a most
magnificent sunrise which was 90 degrees all over the horizon. The sun
rise was all the colors of blended reds and pinks, a spectacular display
but I had no time to waste watching it. I thought that I would have a
sunny day for riding.
But the rain, came, again, and hills and more hills. I did ride by
the aborigines' road house Yalata but had been warned not to stop there.
Besides, it looked deserted. There was no time to stop.
However, about 15 miles from the Nundroos Road House, gale winds
attacked me throwing the bike every way but forward, jerking, jumping,
sideways, especially when a truck would pass me. I had to get off the bike
and off the road because the winds were so bad at times.
I was glad to see the Nundroos Road House where I was able to get a
backpackers room for $15 and an all you can eat salad for $5. And a
newspaper for 60 cents! I had come to cherish newspapers as they were
difficult to obtain on the Nullabor.
Tomorrow, I will have finished my Nullabor crossing. But I had to fix
the time on my digital watch as I had crossed into South Australia at
Border Village. I am not good with anything digital but did do my watch
sitting in front a cheerful wood stove making it one of the nicest evenings
of my life.
Day 111 (August 30, 1991) At 1 AM, I was awakened by noise outside so
naturally I opened my door to see what as the matter. There was a police
car and several people standing around. I decided that I should mind my
own business so I crawled back into my warm sleeping bag. I never found
out what the trouble was.
Today, I actually saw some green hills. But I also saw a bicyclist
coming towards me. We had to stop and talk even though John Paul from
France could not speak good English and I know almost no French. John said
that he was going to Perth and then north. On the back of his bike on the
back of his luggage rack he had a homemade map of the world which showed
that Quebec owned l/2 of the US including Florida. It was similar to the
part of the US that was actually owned by France before the Louisiana
Purchase. Three times he asked me if there were spiders on the Nullabor.
Although I did not try to correct his map, I did reassure him that I had
found no spiders. I did warn him about the dreadful road houses but too
soon I had to "hit the road" as I had to get to Ceduna before the post
office closed. It was Friday, and the Australian post offices are not open
on Saturday mornings as they always are in the US.
About six miles outside of Ceduna, I saw a truck in my mirror closing
in on me. To avoid it, I jerked my bike off the road and fell into the
gravel. Fortunately, I had the protection of the yellow sweat pants given
to me by Joan Russell of Perth and my navy blue long-sleeved insulated
shirt so only my left leg and left arm were bleeding. Still, I was in a
rush to get to Ceduna where I arrived at the post office barely in time and
I had mail from Sue Moore of Tucson, Arizona, David from Albany,
Western Austraila, and a letter from my brother. He wrote that my father
was dying. What a shock! I had not even known that my father had been
sick. Along with the fall, and now with emotional shock, I was in terrible
shape, and of course, it began raining, again.
Quickly, I had to find a roof and did find a $12 cabin with two single
beds. The rain came down on the tin roof and I wondered if the angels were
weeping. However, the only way that I like rain is on a cabin roof.
Day 112 (August 31, 1991) Today was a rest day and was sunny and of
course I wished that I could have ridden. The bike needed repair and I had
to get the blood out of my clothes. The bike had been slightly bent from
the hit/fall and I was bent, too, and had trouble sleeping as I ached so
Walking around town was fun and relaxing. I did discover a $4.50
salad bar and "ate them out of house and home." It's one of the most
wonderful things in the world to satiate one's appetite! I bought a gift
made out of a seed for my friend Bonnie Theall in Florida at a crafts
store, and generally had a nice day even though I could not make tea in the
cabin. It had no electric kettle. I did try to make tea using hot water
from the bathroom but it did not work. Also, I was very depressed about my
father. Maybe he was not dying!
Day 113 (September 1, 1991) And the hills came today with continually
threatening rain. By the time I had ridden the 68 miles to Streaky Bay, I
was totally exhausted so much so that the lady at the caravan park insisted
that I was "disorientated." I was aching all over, physically, mentally,
and probably even spiritually.
So I splurged and rented a $25 cabin which was actually heated. I was
given a sweet roll to eat which was such a nice touch. But it wasn't a
nice touch when I realized that my exhaustion might have been from caffeine
withdrawal symptoms as I had not been to get any tea inside me that day.
Day 114 (September 2, 1991) Today there were some hills but I found
Kenny Bay with a post office where I mailed Dad a get well card that I had
purchased in Ceduna. There was one last big hill to climb just before
Ellison and true confessions: I had to walk up part of it. Since my money
was running low, I had to ask the lady caravan park owner,"Do you have a
torn up van on site for rent?"
"How torn up?"
"Torn up enough to rent for $10."
"Is that all the money that you have?"
"That's all that I can afford for accommodations."
"Come with me. Your bike will be safe, here."
I followed her to a nice camping trailer and happily gave her the $10.
Then, she asked, "I'm going into town soon. Would you like to come
"Of course. Thank you very much. When are you leaving?"
She took a look at my filthy appearance and said, "You get your
shower, put on some clean clothes, and meet me at the office when you are
ready." She added, "I hope you have some clean clothes."
I was so happy and was pleasantly surprised when I walked into the
showers and found red plastic toilet seats which perfectly matched the red
shower curtains and red trim. Red does excite and thrill me. Yes, I had
clean and dry clothes!!!
It was a change of pace to get into her very clean car and go to the
grocery store with her. She also gave me a tour of all the beautiful sea
views of Ellison. People like her make a town especially nice and are the
icing on the cake of this unique trip.
I ate my three can supper listening to the waves. The sound of the sea
song sang me to sleep even though I was worried about my father. That
night, a nightmare grabbed me and I dreamed that the aborigines were going
to murder whites.
Day 115 (September 3, 1991) This morning, the waves tried to soothe me
and when I opened the door of the trailer, the sea gulls greeted me. Good
Morning to you, too!
For the first time in several months, I did not have to carry extra
water as there were two towns between me and my destination for the day--
Port Lincoln. At Sheringa, a small town with only one shop had a sign on
its glass door which read: "El Pasons are Texans, too!" I was born in
Texas and therefore have Texas on my pass port. When I had biked across
the US in 1980, my worst experience had been in Texas when a road house
owner had agreed to let me spend the night. When it got dark, he told me
to sleep with him or leave. I left. It might be that I am the only Texan
who wants Texas off my passport. The only way I could do this is to marry
a foreigner and get a passport from another country, completely giving up
my US citizenship. Actually, this would not be hard for me to do as I am
definitely not loyal in any way to the US. This country has too many
deficiencies. If only I could get Australian citizenship!
But I had to get to Syndey and the winds and hills were doing their
best to prevent this from happening. The bike seemed to be dragging and my
feet were aching. I was glad to go through the small town of Coulta where
I stopped at a crafts store located in a home. I loved the knitted kitten
in a sleeping bag and the owner told me where she had gotten the pattern.
I wrote down the title of the book and put it on my "must have" list. She
was so nice to me but I had to hurry away as I was again racing the coming
The bike continued to "drag" slowing me down. When I arrived in Port
Lincoln, I was so glad to see Challenger's Bike Shop where the bike got a
new chain and adjustments. I became sick and dizzy at the bike shop and of
course found this extremely disturbing.
At the bike shop, I got directions to the caravan park where I rented
a cabin with many beds. It did not have water but it had the all important
stove which I used for heat. Then, I had to choose a bed. Often, I had
rented a room or a cabin with many beds in it. Because I passionately love
to read in bed at night, I always carefully choose the bed closest to the
source of light.
But I was hungry and filthy, so I had to get a hot shower, choosing
the shower before the necessary food. One of the women in the toilet
asked, "Are you the woman on the bike that we passed today?"
"Yes. Are you cold, too?"
"No, but you look cold."
"And hungry, too."
"Would you like to join us for tea?"
Knowing that "tea" meant supper and supper was food, I happily agreed
and had a fantastic time.
The Kangaroo Tours, including a bus with a trailer attached to it,
contained a group of people who put up their tents each night and had a
cook to prepare their meals. And what a meal it was! The meal was served
under an awning as it was dripping rain, again. I was so hungry and the
food was outstanding! Even a loner like me enjoys company with food once
in a while.
Of course, I was questioned about my journey and they seemed to admire
what I was doing. Now, I have never thought what I was doing was anything
special but they gave me a slightly larger head but my head was about to
droop as I was becoming sleepy. It was hard to tell all of them good night
and good bye.
Day 116 (September 4, 1991) The view from the cabin window was
unbelievable this morning. All the beautiful sunrises and beach views were
worth a thousand times the cost of this trip. I I have seen enough beauty
for a thousand lifetimes, thanks to my bicycling and running. Most of all,
thanks to my sobriety! And it was actually sunny, today, although I was
aching. The green fields on both sides of the road did nothing to stifle
the head winds. Biking out of Port Lincoln, I found a bike path with many
views of the ocean and was even chased by a black dog. I did meet a local
cyclist doing his morning training ride of 20 miles. He seemed somewhat
impressed when I showed him the total miles on my bicycle computer.
Even with the head wind, I rode 80 miles today. When I was turning
into Arno Bay, a man with a video camera was taking a picture of me and I
never found out why. But I was exhausted and found a van on site for $14
near the ocean. I shall never forget how pretty the van was decorated in
pink, beige, and gray print. However, nothing worked in it, including the
necessary stove. I managed to have the caravan park manager fix that
promptly as I was cold. Will I be cold forever?
Day 117 (September 5, 1991) Today, I kept thinking about my father and
knew that I would not hear from my brother until I got to Sydney, if at
all. My brother and I have not had a good relationship. His letter that I
received in Ceduna was the first letter that I had received from him in
The hills and head wind seemed as if they were working together to
keep me from getting to Sydney to see if my father was getting better. I
stopped at Cowell for lunch and got a bit of a chocolate eclair on my nose.
Funny! I wish that I could have spent the night in Cowell as it was a
perfect little town but I had to pedal onward into the head wind to
Whyalla, the only town in Australia not decorated by hills as I had to go
downhill to get into this town.
The sun was out and so potent that I had to drink four water bottles
of water. My feet continued to hurt. I was so glad to get to Whyalla and
so tired that I rented a van on site for $15. It was called a Millard van
and I took a photo of it for my friend Millard of the Bayshore Runners Club
of Tampa, Florida. I had done many of their running races for years.
I had ridden almost a hundred miles and was glad to get into the van
and rest. However, as in Arno Bay, the gas stove would not work. It took
some convincing of the management that I needed the use of a stove.
And I had to feed the caravan park cat "Skip" part of my supper--a
saucer of milk. I miss my pet cat so much. His photo was carried around
Australia in my billfold and sometimes I wept because I missed him so much.
Sometimes I even missed people and did talk to an Australian male
staying in the trailer next to me. He did give me some food as he said he
was going to throw it away. I could not have made the trip without so many
people giving me food. Also, there was a great cistern of drinking water,
there. The water was so pure!
Day 118 (September 6, 1991) After filling the water bottles at the
cistern so that I was able to drink the tasty rain water, I rode through
Whyalla having to stop at red lights for the first time in about 1200
miles. The head wind smashed me all the way to Port Augusta so that I
averaged only 8.9 miles per hour for 51 miles. I saw a a pitiful sight. A
kangaroo was hopping beside me on the side of the road but when he became
frightened he kept banging into the barbed wire fence. There was nothing
that I could do to help him. I hate any cruelty to innocent animals.
By the time that I got to Port Augusta, I was exhausted and depressed
and knew that I needed an AA meeting, then and there. But I had to take
care of my physical needs so I went grocery shopping, got my shower, and
tried to find an AA meeting. I finally found a social service agency where
I had to wait outside while a man went for a list of AA meetings, none in
Port Augusta that night.
Somehow I went to sleep but at 3 AM, I was awakened by screaming and
banging. Drunks! There but for the grace of the Great Mother Goddess go
Day 119 (September 7, 1991) So depressed from awful yesterday, I
needed a good ride and did have the best ride of my life. I biked 105
miles with an average speed of 16.4 miles per hour with a tail wind, of
course. There were few hills and a very few rain showers with a clearing
blue sky. The wind was so strong that I could not get off my bike as it
blew me to Snowtown.
Since I didn't know where the caravan park was located, I stopped at a
shop, buying groceries, of course, and got directions. When I arrived at
the caravan park no one was around and I was cold.
I didn't have to deliberate long before I realized that bike tools
could be used for breaking and entering tools so I simply pried my way into
a caravan, turned on the stove, and "set up housekeeping." Long after
dark, the lady manager came and knocked on the door.
"How did you get in?" she asked.
"It was open when I came," I lied.
"You'll have to pay $10 if you want to spend the night here."
I paid her the $10 and then asked, "How much does it snow in
Snowtown?" She laughed.
"It has never snowed in Snowtown. It was named after a man called
With that, I had a pleasant evening.
Day 120 (September 8, 1991) The next morning I gave an apple to the
lone horse in the paddock near the caravan park telling him. "To you from
Sue." Sue was the friend that I had made by mail and was continuing to
write me. In fact, she was the only person who regularly wrote me
constantly saving my sobriety and keeping me going. She had written me
about her horse in Arizona. Today was a terrible day with head winds and
awful traffic into Adelaide. It was sunny but the impossible traffic took
me down, down.
I was so glad it was Sunday as I rode through Adelaide trying to find
the youth hostel. At the youth hostel, my bike was refused admission so I
left almost knocking over a woman coming into the hostel. She couldn't
understand that I was exhausted and angry about my bike. My bike sleeps
beside me or I don't sleep at all. Youth hostels are so unpredictable with
regard to bikes. I went to the backpackers hostel and the manager helped
me bring the bike inside.
Day 121 (September 9, 1991) Still tired, I decided to have a rest and
sight seeing day in Adelaide. I did take my bike to a bike shop where I
was ripped off to the price of $91. It was sunny and pleasant so I went to
the free botanical gardens where the roses were not in bloom, yet, but the
gardens were restful and I felt whole, again.
Also, I walked to the Library of South Australia where a very helpful
librarian copied parts of The Art of Knitting for me because I could not
afford to buy the book. It's the best book about creative knitting in the
world. I especially liked the necklace and vest patterns.
Day 122 (September 10, 1991) Today, it was raining, again. Since I
was craving an AA meeting, I did call AA and was invited to their club
house. Getting directions for the bus, I spent part of the day with Horst,
the AA secretary. En route to the bus I found a knitting pattern for a
dress which I purchased. Also, I made plans to attend an AA meeting that
evening and had to find a cheaper place to stay. I talked the woman
manager at another backpackers hostel to let me rent her nonfunctioning
bathroom for $5 for the night.
The AA meeting was in a cold basement and I was cold, again.
Fortunately, I had gotten a ride with a man who had spent much time in a
mental hospital. He was so nice, though. And I enjoyed the meeting but
did not enjoy my last night in Adelaide as the other people in the
backpackers hostel were extremely noisy. I acted badly in that I did yell
Day 123 (September 11, 1991) Angrily, this morning I woke up the
entire backpackers hostel. "You won't let me sleep at night, I won't let
you sleep in the morning. It's a US custom."
And then I had the absolute worst ride of my life. The hills had
grown considerably steeper and the highway indicated no bikes allowed.
Never again will I get off the highway as I could not get directions for an
alternative route. I was so glad to get off the bike and find a place to
stay in Murray Bridge. The cross winds had threatened to throw my bike
into the heavy traffic.
Because the caravan park was located outside of town, I had to walk
into town and found day old loaves of bread for 50 cents each. The walking
did help me recover for the long rides ahead
Day 124 (September 12, 1991) Today, the roads were bumpy like biking
on cobble stones with crazy winds from all directions. I stopped at Tailem
Bend to take a photo of the water tower as it looked at exactly like the
old water tower in Sulphur Springs which is now part of Tampa, Florida.
Unfortunately, the photo was poor as the camera cut off part of the water
tower. Since there were now towns occasionally, I did not have to carry as
much water and took advantage of tourist bureaus for making advance
reservations or bookings. At Meningie, I stopped at the tourist bureau
filled with crafts made from dried wild flowers and had them call Woods
Well and book accommodations for me. I had them ask if they had a van on
site for $20. I was told, "No, they don't have one for $20, but will you
take one for $15 with a heater?"
When I arrived at Woods Well, a trailer was waiting for me complete
with a vase of flowers on a doily on the table. Such a nice touch! On the
road I had tried to photograph a hedgehog which looks like a porcupine but
it had gotten away from me.
Woods Well was one of the nicest places that I stayed in Australia.
The manager and his wife could not have been nicer to me! They loaned me
some magazines so that I could do what I love and that is to read myself to
sleep because I had a long ride the next day. It was so serene!
Day 125 (September 13, 1991) It was so hard to leave the good people
at Woods Well and ride on the excessively bumpy corrugated roads. At
Kingston, there was a large artifical lobster which I put the bike near and
took a photograph. However, the service at the cafe near the lobster was
the worst in Australia. I was so angry about the awful service that I
wanted to go home instantly. Admittedly, food service is so much better in
Australians don't seem to care while in the US they want to make a
profit and good service is the only way.
I was so angry that I rode hard a total of 128 miles to the Beachport
Youth Hostel and met Caroline, the manager. She was very, very nice. She
even built a fire for me in the fireplace so that I could get warm and of
course let me bring my bike inside the youth hostel. She said it would not
bother anyone because it appeared that I was only person staying there that
Day 126 (September 14, 1991) Just like at Woods Well, I had trouble
leaving Caroline of Beachport. While I was loading my bike I photographed
"Crow" her cat. The cat was named "Crow" because her parents had seen some
crows in a paddock pecking something. They went to see what it was and
found a kitten being pecked to death. "Crow" was now a healthy, happy
desexed female cat enjoying her life at the youth hostel. In Australia,
they desex or spay female cats at the age of six months.
Caroline also had a dog named "Arlo", like Arlo Guthrie, who was also
very pampered and healthy. While I was talking with Caroline, I saw Edith
of Adelaide who had bought me water water when I was doing the 155 mile
ride in the north.
"It's a small country," insisted Edith as I thanked her again for
making it possible for me to ride so far alone.
Outside of Millicent, I saw a camel in a pasture and took a photo of
it in the sunshine. I had sunshine all day and did enter Victoria. I did
ride through Mt. Gambier where I had stayed in 1979. I was able to get to
Winnap where I the night in a cabin and was ready to ride early the next
Day 126 (September 14, 1991) It was not hard to leave Winnap but the
hills were steeper and the forest shaded the road so much that I had to
take off my sunglasses at times. There were splinters on the road from the
logging trucks which kindly went around me even though I have been harassed
for the last three days by magpies. They are black and white birds who are
nesting now and get very aggressive. I am so glad that I have my bicycle
helmet on. I have been told to wave my arms to scare them off but it is
still upsetting to be attacked with a whoosh of wings. In 1979, when I
rode without a helmet at the beginning of the Nullabor, the magpies had put
a lump on my head.
The rain began again and I was glad to find the Port Fairy Youth
Hostel with the nicest manager. She took one look at my wet, dreary
appearance and gave me a piece of quiche she had just made. After a shower
I had to explore Port Fairy and found some delicious Florentine cookies,
the best tasting cookies in the world. They are cookie-like pancakes or
pancake-like cookies and are sweet containing bits of fruit and nuts, and
were coated with chocolate. I was in love with Florentines!
I petted "Ginger" a desexed tom cat and "Jessica" a female cat at the
hotel. I had seen goats wearing blue coats and one in a yellow coat in a
pasture outside of town. As I was walking back to the youth hostel a woman
feeding a magpie told me, "The glass is lower than it has ever been in my
lifetime." Having been reared by a sea going family, I knew that the
"glass" was the barometer and knew that bad weather was predicted by its
fall. Oh no! It almost seems that we carry our past in our genes. My
maternal grandfather had sailed sailing ships in the Gulf of Mexico. He
and my grandmother had been lost in a hurricane and when they returned to
their home in Mississippi they read their own obituaries. Quite a feat!
Day 128 (September 16, 1991) Rain, rain, and more rain as the "glass"
or barometer had predicted. In Terang, I found some vegetables in a trash
can or rubbish bin and asked permission to take them. I was told that
country people are particular about what they eat but I just cut out the
bad parts of fruits and vegetables. I also saw a sign on the sidewalk or
footpath advertising cross stitch kits 1/2 price so I had to "take a look."
I did buy a cross stitch galah (type of native Australian bird) kit made in
Australia. You have to let things happen but I still had more miles to
ride to Camperdown. I only rode 64 miles to Camperdown and stopped because
of the continual depressing rain.
The only place that I could find to stay was up a steep hill in a
caravan park between two extinct volcanoes. It was a beautiful view but
the van on site lacked weather stripping and the wind and rain blew inside.
Day 129 (September 17, 1991) This morning, I tried to get out of the
van and found water all over. I was glad to leave in the rain and did call
the youth hostel in Geelong and make reservations. The manager promised to
leave a key in the letter box and she did. But the ride was hilly with
cold rain but the winds were on my butt and hurried me along. I've got to
get to Sydney. Will this ride ever end?
When I arrived at the youth hostel, I was wet all over with water in
one of my front panniers. The youth hostel was very nice but had only one
electric heater. I met a couple from Alaska and they were cold, too, as
there was no heat except for the tiny electric heater.
While I was eating bread, butter, and jam, I chewed down on something
hard and decided that I had lost a filling from my tooth. I dutifully
saved the piece of filling and knew that I would have to find a dentist.
Day 130 (September 18, 1991) It was hard to leave the people from
Alaska. They told me that they are the only Guthrie in Fairbanks and to
look them up when I come to Alaska. They gave me excellent directions to
the ferry as I was taking the ferry around Melbourne. One of the ferry
crew members took a photo of me and the bike on the ferry.
The ferry ride was fun but the real rain began when I got off the
ferry. And it seemed to get colder and colder. I could not find cheap
accommodations and finally decided that I would stay at the first place
that I found, the heck with the expense as I had hypothermia.
It was in Dandenong that I found a motel room for $50. It was
extremely nice with the attached bath, electric blanket under the bottom
sheet and an attentive manager. I did my best to get my body temperature
up and to get my clothes dry.
Day 131 (September 19, 1991) Again, it was raining and seemed even
colder than yesterday. I rode only 50 miles today and had to get the bike
computer fixed by Geoff Quirk of Active Outdoor Sports of Warragul. A junk
dealer had given me some hot soup on the outskirts of Warragul as I was
looking quite sick, again.
Again, I rented a van on site and did my best to get warm.
Day 132 (September 20, 1991) Today, I made a dental appointment but
made it in the wrong town. After finding the dentist's office, I
discovered that the dentist was 17 kilometers away and had the worst 17
kilometer ride of my life directly into the most savage head wind.
The woman dentist was so nice and discovered that the lost filling was
only a rock courtesy of Black and Gold Jam. I did meet some wonderful
women who were running the Straford Caravan Park and they allowed me to
stay there as their guest. Red carpet treatment! Their story was a
women's success story as they had written up a bid to take care of the
caravan park and had submitted it to the council and received the job.
They were doing an excellent job with the park and with their three
cats, "Jensen," "Priscilla," and "Melissa."
Day 133 (September 21, 1991) Elizabeth and Tami insisted that I rest
one more day in their caravan park. I did a walk around the town and
purchased and mailed a get well card to my father. I also spent some time
in the library reading adventure books that Elizabeth and Tami had told me
about. I wonder if anyone will ever read this book. It does seem boring
as I write it but the trip was exciting with every turn of the bicycle
Day 134 (September 22, 1991) This morning, the ride was easy at first
but then had gale winds near Lakes Entrance. The road was bumpy, too, and
hilly. I had to walk up and down some hills as they were very steep.
What? I saw a MacDonald's and had a $2 breakfast and realized that I
was almost homesick. I was cold with my feet hurting so bad that I could
barely bike. But Sydney is only 670 kilometers away or so a sign said. I
must get to Syndey as soon as possible as I am very tired in every possible
Day 135 (September 23, 1991) This morning at a rest stop two little
girls painted my bike tire with something. By now, I was extremely
irritable with the hills getting steeper and steeper as well as more
frequent. After only 50 miles, I stopped for the night in Cann River and
witnessed the completion of the 24 hour a day relay about Australia by the
firemen who beat the Swedes' record. I held the tape for them to break.
"Hip, hip, hurray," they yelled and I was part of history. Besides, they
remembered me. It was also a coicidence in that my mother's maiden name was
Soderstrom, as her father had been Swedish.
Day 136 (September 24, 1991) What country am I in? This morning there
was real sun but there were hills. I stopped in Genoa a nice country town
and bought a souvenir calendar towel but I had to go on to the Garden of
Eden Caravan Park in Eden. This park had tiny buildings made of shells and
the woman manager showed me her baby ring tailed opossum.
And then I was finally able to buy a Sydney Morning Herald. I am
almost there! To Sydney!!!
Day 137 (September 25, 1991) The hills were even worse. I stopped for
Devonport Tea at a wildlife center and "Max" the wallaby had free run of
the place. I was invited to feed a baby wombat in a bag while "Max" hopped
in and out of the cafe begging bits of biscuit.
Today, I struggled to ride 34 miles beaten by the hills. There was a
youth hostel in Bega with a beautiful view of the hills. I did get the
bike's brakes checked at a bike shop and was told, "You will get to Syndey.
You have the determination."
It is so good that I get the most encouragement when I need it the
most. I have been blessed with everything that I need when I most need it!
Day 138 (September 26, 1991) More rain but I tried my best to ride as
far as possible. The roads were narrow and now filled with traffic.
Often, I had to walk up and down these hills losing valuable time.
However, the youth hostel at Narooma was so beautiful with gorgeous
flowers, lemon trees, and a terrific view of a lake decorated with the
eternal rain. Since the youth hostel was located a few miles from town,
two of the women staying there gave me a ride into town to buy groceries.
One woman told me,"When one loves herself, she loves being by herself." I
do remember when I was "using and abusing" I could not stand being alone.
Now, I love being alone.
Day 139 (September 27, 1991) Today, I had awful hills but no rain.
There was terrible traffic, though. I was able to get a tent already put
up for $22 and was promised an electric heater but after I paid, suddenly
there was no heater. I was cold, cold.
Day 140 (September 28, 1991) Except for no rain, this was the worst
ride as there were gale winds that threw me into the traffic. I had to
walk up many hills.
A MacDonald's was very welcome and I drank five cups of coffee with
free refills. Here, I finally got warm and was able to get to the
Gerringong Youth Hostel walking down the steep hills. I did not want my
heavily loaded bicycle to get out of control in the traffic. A teenager
walking on the sidewalk or footpath informed me that I should be biking
down the hills.
At the youth hostel, I was given much encouragement as I announced
that I would be in Sydney the next day. I was warned not to be discouraged
if I did not make it. I am going to make it, tomorrow.
Day 141 (September 29, 1991) I had breakfast at MacDonald's where I
told everyone who would listen what I had just about completed. But I had
the steep Bulli Pass to climb and did so walking for 5 kilometers or 3.l
miles. Today, I did not spare my legs as "let the devil take tomorrow."
And I rode the ride of my life, the last 78 miles into Sydney.
At 1:05 PM, I saw the Syndey skyline and thought it might be a fake
suburb. I knew that I could be at the airport before dark on this Sunday.
No, I did not want to be in Sydney on a weekday with all the traffic.
Following the signs to the airport, I rode hard in the Sydney traffic.
It was the greatest high of my life when I arrived at the airport at the
same gate where I had started 141 days before.
I did meet an American couple who took photos of me dressed for the
occasion in my Save the Florida Panther t-shirt and neon pink shorts. I
was too excited to look at my watch or stop the bike computer but I think I
arrived at 3 PM on a sunny day as if the weather was asking me forgiveness.
And I ask you, reader, for your forgiveness. I do hope you have not been
bored. I was never bored on this trip which changed me forever leading to
an almost unreal life after this perimeter ride which was declared a
record. And I am still high from the trip and want to do my third
perimeter ride around Australia.
Unfortunately, my father died before he knew that I had finished the
Everytime I do another perimeter ride whether it is 50 miles which is
the minimum miles allowed for a perimeter by the Perimeter Bicycling
Association of America, or the 9600 miles around Australia, I recall both
seeing the Sydney skyline and arriving at the Sydney Airport. The most
priceless moment of my life! Thanks to my continued sobriety almost
anything is possible!
In 1995, as I complete this book that I hope will benefit others, I
have two mothers-in-law and am now living in Melbourne, Florida. If only
it were Melbourne, Australia! Nothing during the 141 day trip has prepared
me for all the changes that have occured in my life except that I know that
winners don't quit and quitters don't win.
How did I get two mothers-in-law? After returning to my home in
Tampa, I began competing in triathlons again and in April, 1992, I met a
triathlete who lived in Melbourne. During the summer of 1992, my ex-
husband went back to drinking, chased me out of an AA meeting, and I became
quite concerned that he would try to run me down with his car as he had
tried in 1978, thus, "motivating" my 1979 trip around Australia. Packing
two cats and four bicycles, I arrived on Matt Mahoney's apartment doorstep
and he let me in. We got married in October 1993 at the end of a 140 mile
race (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bicycle ride, 26.2 mile run) appropriately
near the bicycle corral. The bike that took me around Australia took me to
get our marriage license.
But two mothers-in-law? Matt's father had divorced his biological
mother and had married her best friend many years before. No two women
could be more unlike. Connie Mahoney has been extremely kind and
supportive of our marriage and my comtinuing recovery from the rapes,
alcohol, and drugs. However, Chip Mahoney, a social worker, has done just
everything possible to get me to drink, again. Either she doesn't know
what she is doing or she really wants me out of the family. Like my
brother, Dan Domaschk, I refuse to see her. I believe that rape victims
and recovering addicts must choose the people in their lives wisely as our mental health is so
My husband, Matt Mahoney, has been very kind to me and holds me at
night when the nightmares return from the rapes especially after problems
with his mother. He asked me what I learned from the second Australia trip
and my answer was that accomplishing any goal is strengthing and some of us
heal better in solitude. Most people are good, friends are more precious
than an Olympic gold medals, and winners don't quit and quitters don't win.
Please let me again thank all my friends and continue to thank the
motorists that don't hit me as I continue to do perimeters throughout the
United States and other countries. My goal is to do a perimeter bicycle
ride in all 50 states, one state at a time. I am trying to finish my second
million meters in 1995 on the Concept II rowing machine to celebrate the
75th anniversary of women winning the right to vote (August 26, 1920). I
continue to enjoy completing Ironman distance triathlons (2.4 mile swim,
112 mile bicycle ride, 26.2 mile run--have done eight), as well as
ultramarathons (over 26.2 miles), and weight lifting. I may even return to
college after earning four university degrees.
Very slowly, I am recovering from the rapes (can healing be rushed?)
and finally I am sponsoring a woman in AA after 17 years of continuous
sobreity. My message to everyone is to do what makes one happy. Life is
too short and precious to do otherwise. However, what makes one happy,
must be legal and do no harm, as remember I am a Goddess worshiper.
As they say in Australia, "Good on you."
Copyright 1995, Goodwoman Unlimited.
Copies of this book can be ordered for $7 postpaid (US) from:
415 Rutgers Ave
Melbourne, FL 3290l, USA
Music that has a specific job.
To shift you.
Something that gives you a feeling but acts like light in the room.