As a violent thunderstorm passed through the midnight Goulburn sky, we remained happy inside our wildly shaking tent, listening to the unhappy cries of riders trying to rebuild their own "home away from home" (thus, always happy to recommend my Macpac Olympus tent). The Bicycle NSW 2003 Bigride, from Warragamba to Cootamundra over nine days, remains mostly a memory of small happenings such as this. But this is the thing; good rides are not just about jaw-dropping scenery, and this ride didn't have a lot of it, but what one makes of all the small things which occur along the way, and the company you are blessed with.
Like many rides of this nature, my memory of the first day of cycling is of something not that impressive: short in length and high in stress from dodging a thousand other riders concentrated in the mass start. Better, perhaps, to have ignored the hype, foregone the opportunity to pick a prime campsite, and enjoyed a good cup of coffee before starting the journey to Camden.
Historically, the cycle on day two passed through an area previously known as "Cowpastures", the home for runaway bovines in the late 1700s. Not much to look at now though other than a plaque, but with a limited supply, no doubt the loss of a cow or two was a cause of concern when the colony was in its infancy.
For those with a love of the willow and red ball, arriving in Bowral early was a must to allow sufficient time to visit the International Cricket Hall of Fame. Bowral was the childhood home of Sir Donald Bradman.
The day riding from Bowral to Bundanoon was perhaps one of the prettiest of the trip. Good soil and mild winters support a large potato industry, and the rolling green hills provided the backdrop to the farmyard movie Babe. Leaving the spuds behind, the route took us along lovely forested back roads towards camp at Bundanoon, stopping along the way to take in the majesty of Fitzroy Falls.
If in Bundanoon try and catch the mystic lights of Glow Worm Glen, but just not with a pack of noisy cyclists (the little guys are shy!). Depending on your timing, there are also the haunting sounds of bagpipes and piercing strains of the caber toss at Brigadoon, an annual highland gathering. And for the mad marathon mountain bikers amongst you? The Highland Fling, one of the largest cycling events in Australia, occurs in November.
Goulburn, a city of around twenty thousand people offered plenty to do on the rest day. For Linda and I it was a day spent wandering around some of the lovely old buildings, enjoying a good coffee, and lying in the park. I'm not into touristy "Big Things", but the Big Merino did appear to have it over Robertson's Big Potato
From Goulburn it was 95km roughly south through sheep country to the village of Bungendore. Afternoon entertainment was a little double bass and guitar, followed by a wander through the town, which offered plenty in the way of food and art. It was here, in a small craft store across the road from the pub where cyclists spilled onto the street, that the trip memento was found - a beautifully carved, wooden pot pouri container.
Day seven, and it was the big ton - 100km from Bungendore to Yass. There would be little time for diversions along the way (not that I noticed many) as I was neither fast nor fit. Fortunately, apart from a couple of climbs and gently rolling hills, it was a gradual downhill to camp for the night.
The last complete day of riding would see us arrive in Harden, and an evening street party to mix with cycling mates for perhaps the last time (or at least until next year). We were on our way inland, and while the terrain was still undulating, the hills were now covered with grass that was shorter and browner than a few days ago.
The last day of cycling on tours like the Bigride are often more about getting to the end, packing the bike, and catching the bus back home than about enjoying the ride. I did keep an eye open for the Cootamundra Wattle (a weed tree in many areas), but it would be six months before their beautiful yellow flowers enriched the landscape.
All in all, it was a good ride, but didn't have that special highlight to put it in my top three.