We rode in just over a week ago now, absolutely delighted with ourselves; we did it! Our heads are still spinning. If you can, do a Great Ride at least once in your life. They are the experience of a lifetime.
So here is what a day was like for us.
Wake up early to the chorus of tent zipper alarms all around (5 am? 6 am? - its still dark). Clutch around in the dark for enough clothes to get decently to the loos (Sam's Loos, Dubbo - semi-trailers of them). Shoes on - hopefully not wet from rain or dew. Queue for toilets; queue for breakfast. Stock up for the day; snacks for the ride from the breakfast selection and water from the big plastic water bartletts. Pack up tent (damp); haul bags over to luggage trucks and then try to remember which truck our bags are on, so we don't have to go looking forlornly when we reach the other end.
Sunscreen, helmet, sunglasses. Bike bags bursting at the seams with all the paraphernalia of the day's ride - tools, puncture repair kit, rain jacket, sunscreen, snacks. Water, water, water.
Off we go - how far today? 50km? 60? 80? Check the Ride guide and oh my, look at all those hills ahead. Hundreds of brightly coloured lycra possums ahead and behind, making our way through the town, the farmlands and the forests in a steady snaking line. Even the cows can't help staring at us go by. The day passes by in stages, morale dips and dives with the terrain, the wind and the weather. The rest stops are welcome, lunch even more so.
I'm slow, so we end up spending much of our day with the older riders and the parents hauling their kiddies up those hills on the back of tandems or in trailers. You have to admire them. Sunlight plays through the trees. Sometimes, I find myself singing with the sheer joy of it, others we tune in to the parents telling their little ones stories to keep them amused.
Eventually, our favourite sign of the day - 5km to go! Some days it comes a lot earlier than others; some days the last 5 km is much longer than others.
Now ... find luggage truck (what number was it?), put up tent, shower (Geoff's Showers, also Dubbo and also in a semi-trailer) and change. Relax for an hour or so if we can, then straight to the HQ bus to get the computer and start putting together the next day's newspaper. Take plates and cutlery along ... we won't be back before dinner.
Karla and Andrew are there - they've picked up great stories and pictures of the amazing cacophony of riders who are out there with us on the ride. Now how are we going to fit everything in?
Oops, that's the call for seconds - still working on the paper, we're about to miss out on dinner. Quick, better go and get firsts. Hmmm, this is good.
Last job of the day - find someone from BV to sign off the paper so we can get it printing; hand over to Judy and Marlese, who go on printing into the night so they can hand out the Paper to the Riders next day at breakfast.
YAWNN!!! Gee its at least 9.00 pm. Bed is calling. Must remember to pack a real pillow on our next ride ...