It's early evening, dark and the rain is starting to build from light to pounding as I pull off the road to change gloves and put the raincover over the tank bag. What a miserable start to the ride. A mild amount of traffic whizes by. It the usual Saturday city exodus headed for their country retreats in the hills east of Adelaide city.
For me, the misery started earlier that day. I finally rode out of home just after lunch. The new Steel Pony tank panniers readjusted 300 metres down the road so I could actually sit down properly. I'd ordered them a long time prior to fitting the crash bars but never used them prior. With some cursing, I get them retied on the side of the road so I've actually got a couple of inches clearance off my knees. All good, onwards we go, into the weekend traffic. I get about twenty kilometres from home when I decide to fire the Garmin 60 GPS into life, to start navigating a course towards the South-East of the State. But no detailed maps come up.
What the hell? So I pull over again and fiddle with the menu and setup pages. Still nothing, I fear I've wiped out all the loaded maps with something I did to it the night before while loading a route system and clearing the track memory. Knowing this is vital gear for the trip, I turn for home.
Four hours later, I've reloaded the GPS memory card with Shonky Maps data for the whole of Australia, scrapping the OzTopo files previously loaded. While waiting for this download to finish, I also fiddled with the bike and noticed a flat spot on the rear tyre's centre tread. It brings it down close to the minimum legal tread depth but I'm certain from the tread wear rate so far that it'll last 2000 kms with luck. Just in case I head into the remote north of South Australia after the first part of the trip is done, I lash a spare Bridgestone DeathWing onto the load. It makes the bike look heavy but my basic gear is light and compact enough. The spare tyre stuffs up the way I want it loaded but I haven't got the budget or choices to do anything else.
I leave home again, with the sun going down as I climb the ranges again.
I have no idea how long I'm going for or where I'll end up. I've got 10 days of food, some empty water bladders, a metal detector and some old mining maps stashed into my usual camping kit. I know I've got to catch up with mates in about 16 hours time 400 kilometres away at a little Mallee town called Keith. Theres only miles of roo infested Mallee scrub and a sand dune desert zone between us. And a lot of rain.
Pushing through the night, winter gloves now working with the heated grips, I finally ditch the idiots surrounding me with their crowding 4WD's and blazing fog lights dazzling me every chance they get. The rain stops when I reach the Murray River at Mannum. Onto the ferry and across into the dirt roads that take me towards Lameroo township, my reflexes tuned to cut speed the moment a shadow becomes a kangaroo blinded by my HID lights.
Around 10pm I find a little country meeting hall and disused tennis courts at a place called Smithville, just above the desert section. I find a bit of firewood and set up camp in the chilly air under some huge pine trees. It's warm under the trees, so I forego wrestling with the tent and settle for my camp stretcher, inflatable matress and bivvy bag. I make a good feed from the first of my canned food and reheat rice packets then hit the sack. The full moon keeps me company during the silent, freezing night.
Next morning I wake just before dawn.
I don't even bother with breakfast. I've got to get moving.
To be continued....