We awoke early with the tang of smoke in our nostrils but, fortunately, on opening the tent flap saw the nearby countryside was yet unblackened by ubiquitous bushfire.
The road ahead, still long and winding, was remarkably unsullied by traffic. We left the fires behind, making good time before the heat returned. Geoff, while still keen to draught our tandem, kept a respectful distance behind. He seemed none the worse for his unconventional, high-speed dismount of the previous evening, the only evidence of which was the odd strip of sticking plaster and a rip in his now grubby jersey.
was two uneventful days before we located the rest of our group which, surprisingly, given the riders' snail-like cruising speed, included the prodigal John. We all meandered from town to town for a couple more days, enjoying a relaxed pace and a carefree post-Christmas break.
wasn't until the second night that we became aware of the idiosyncratic John's method of finding sustenance and overnight accommodation. Given the distractions of the trip's first day, we hadn't pondered the implications of his complete lack of equipment for a week-long ride...
rolled into a picturesque valley town one evening, expecting to camp as normal, only to discover that despite an idyllic location there was nowhere for tenters to pitch. Geoff suggested the three of us share a motel room – my wife and I could sleep in the double bed and he would have the remaining single. The other group members made similar arrangements before we all wandered off to the pub for cool drinks on a still, hot night.
This was a typical Saturday night in a typical country pub. The place was quite
crowded. Most of the townsfolk seemed to be there along with our bunch of outsiders. Before long, the first of two raffles began. John bought one ticket in each. Imagine our surprise when the first raffle was drawn and John became the proud owner of first prize, a large tray of meat. Imagine us all picking our jaws up from the floor after the second was drawn and John had again won first prize – this time a large basket of vegetables.
Now, to a touring cyclist, a large tray of uncooked meat and a basket of raw vegetables, are likely to be unmanageable, to say the least. Even if one had the means to cook them. To a touring cyclist without the means to carry anything on his bicycle... well, suffice to say, they would be useless, surely?
To John they merely presented an opportunity. He was quickly out the door of the pub and trotting down the road to the local pizza shop. Here he bartered with the proprietor, converting his winnings into two large pizzas with the lot!
we had all eaten our respective meals, thoughts turned to bed. It became clear that John had not arranged anywhere to sleep. Keen to soak up unused and therefore “wasted” resources, he asked if he could sleep on our motel room's vacant floor space. I was a little reluctant at first, since I considered vacant floor space had intrinsic value as a place to walk, but Geoff and my wife were more sympathetic. I was outvoted.
summer heat had not abated even after 10pm and, though we were tired after riding all day, sleep would not come for any of us. The room's air-conditioner, while somewhat effective, also emitted the decibel level of a jumbo jet, so we left it off and kept the door of the room open.
a couple of hours of restless tossing, turning and sweating, I had just managed to doze off when I was startled awake by a loud crunching as of a car driving over deep gravel. But the noise was inside the room. There was a light going on and off as well... WTF??
eyes focused on the source of the disturbance, I realised it was John at the refrigerator. He was breaking out ice cubes from the freezer compartment and chewing on them to cool himself.
sleep. Too hot,” he announced, when he realised I was sitting up looking at him.
Apparently uncertain that everyone was now
sufficiently awake, he slammed the fridge door and walked outside, leaving the screen door to bang shut behind him.
crap,” I thought. “Democracy sucks.”
would think that Geoff and my wife would have learned something from that experience. “Never again share a motel room with John” perhaps? But no, they took pity on him another time. That was a different trip, in a different place, with a worse ending...