I arrived at the Royal Exhibition Centre in Carlton this morning with no small amount of nervous trepidation, as well as some weary eyes, after catching the 0520 train with my partner, Danielle. We said goodbye with a big hug at Southern Cross Station, and I rode from there to Carlton, and parked at the big fountain to the south of the Exhibition Centre.

Not long after I arrived, Bec Yandell, responsible for looking after Ambassadors at One Girl, arrived and we walked around to Gertrude Street to grab a last coffee from The Donkey Café. By the time we returned, One Girl CEO Sarah Ireland, and Fundraising & Relationships Manager Kara Gibbons had also arrived, as well as a student and fellow Ambassador who’d come along to help send me off, though unfortunately, I didn’t quite catch her name.

Sarah was also on a bicycle she uses to commute, and we compared bikes a little, then got right into posting on Instagram, and taking as many photos as we could, then we all walked around to the other side of the Exhibition Centre, as the south side was off-limits to cycling. Once on the Museum side, we took some video footage of myself riding the bicycle, then we all said goodbye and I started off on the ride at about 0830!

I got to the major Flemington Road roundabout, and got caught up in the traffic flow a little and was forced to make a few u-turns and circle about a bit before I got going again down Flemington Road towards Moonee Ponds. I headed up Mount Alexander Road, past Moonee Ponds Junction — which is a bit special to me as I was born nearby! — and Essendon Station, in the area where I grew up. It was nice to be able to start the ride off in my old stomping ground. I headed along Mt. Alexander Road along my old paperboy route to Keilor Road, and through to Niddrie. I’d misplaced my legwarmers, so picked up a pair at one of my old childhood bike stores, Rapido Cycles, which is still operating in Keilor Road.

I crossed the Calder Freeway into Airport West and headed along Fullarton Road to Keilor Park, where I coincidentally rode past my Aunt Robyn, taking a morning walk! What are the odds?! Stopped briefly to have a quick chat and explain what I was up to, then headed off, again crossing the Calder, past Brimbank Park to old Keilor Village, and up to Taylors Lakes. Along this stretch some young hoon decided he’d show off his awesome manliness and fully-sick car by burning off a dude on a bicycle. What a legend! I bet all he gets all the ladies…

I rode through Taylors Lakes, keeping an alert eye on the SUV traffic through Watergardens and the outlying estates, and arrived into Melton about 1130. Apart from strong (45kph) headwinds and very dodgy road shoulders, as well as the usual Melbourne level of roadworks, the ride through Taylors Lakes and Melton to Bacchus Marsh was fairly uneventful. I spoke to a nice lady at the NAB in Melton when I stopped for a quick lunch of scroggin (otherwise known as trail mix) and water, as well as a couple of local cyclists.

I followed the Old Western Highway down to Bacchus Marsh from Melton, and it started raining. I came into Bacchus Marsh past the orchards, and struggled a bit with the Grey Nomads getting annoyed at not being able to get around me due to the lack of a shoulder. Saw plenty of Asian pickers in the fields wearing traditional rice paddy hats. Decided to ride around the back way through Bacchus Marsh and Maddingley to Ironbark Road, rather than try to deal with the Pentland Hills via the highway in the rain. At the rise of the hill just before Ironbark Road (McCormacks Road), the road condition here was shockingly unsafe, and I was forced to get off the bike and walk it up the hill, as trucks were passing me with no notice and no room to move and each time I tried to veer off onto the gravel I struggled to control the heavy trailer and bike combination at such low speed and gearing.

At Ironbark Road, what I’d thought was pretty flat in the car was hilly enough to be a problem into the headwinds, and after stopping by the V-Line railway track for a bite to eat, I started to realise just how bloody sore and tired I was getting. However, with my heart set on attending a Kris Kristofferson concert at the Civic Hall in Ballarat tonight, I pushed on! The headwinds got to 50kph gusts and I started to really struggle. I managed about 6 or 7 kph at most, and by the time I stopped for a rest at the Ballan roadstop on the Western Freeway, I’d decided to join the freeway at this point. I’d eaten so many bananas and scroggin I started to fear I might de-evolve to an ape-like form, as I headed along the Western Freeway, very sore, very tired. My legs were burning as my quads started screaming at me “WTF are you doing?!”. Even my lungs were burning as all thoughts of Kris Kristofferson were a distant memory. I just wanted to actually make it to Ballarat in one piece. And this was just Day One! PUSH ON!

I passed the Bungaree turnoff, and called ahead to Danielle to meet me at the Woodmans Hill Secondary College on the corner of Fussell and Victoria Streets in Ballarat East. I nearly got cleaned up by a light truck at the 80 kph road sign near the Mill Markets, but felt elated as I came down the Ballarat-Burrumbeet Road from the Western, knowing I’d made it to Ballarat in the one day, and in time for Kristofferson too! I showered, dressed and headed off to see the Silver-Tongued Devil live, thus ticking off one of my Bucket List Items, but I could barely walk and with my western-styled outfit and cowboy boots, the manner of my walking must’ve been hilarious to watch for the other audience members who had no idea I’d just ridden 120kms all day, and must’ve thought instead I was just too far into costume! Very funny indeed…

Off to my own bed, and ready to hit the road for the ‘second departure’ tomorrow morning.

How I’d rate today’s journey:

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