A Friday in November. A day off work. A target time to make the ferry. A plan for lunch. All that was remaining was weather. With the forecast clear, my ride advertising mode moved to “EPIC” as the day approached.
The Longest Day is about all day - no time pressure. No clock watching (except for lunch bookings and sometimes train/ferry schedules). A target of 200km (or these days anything more than 160km) that brings freedom for the mind. Nothing but country air, new scenes, and all day with like-minded cyclists. Making it happen just needs each person to have a discussion with their boss and get that day off work!
Excitement was building for this ride earlier in the wek. Who has the day off? Who has had a discussion with their boss about clearing the diary out? Who else could we encourage to ride?
Kev was quick to tell us he was all-in, and equally as quick to look for an out. Over a few different rides during the week preceding, Kev was working through a range of excuses, each of which we rejected, until the last one stuck (just):
- ”My legs aren’t good enough.”
- “I am going overseas next week.”
- “I need to mind Harvey’s cats.”
- “My sister is coming to stay with me.”
James, a Longest Day faithful, debated whether he even had enough annual leave to take.
Jeff cancelled his wedding anniversary to meet us in Hornsby.
Hannah ummed and ahed about making it to a meeting by 15:30. She didn’t trust our predicted finish time, despite assuring her we would be on time (this time).
In the end, there were 12 of us who had organised to be there, sporting new MC Velo jerseys. The beer was ready at the Clubhouse for end of ride celebrations.
The first sign of excitement for the day was that everyone was at the start early. A simple route with a good timing goal (should everything go according to plan). At our rendez-vous at Centennial Park, I admitted being excited for the ride. Tim reminded us that “Ettalong can eat you” referring to our previous visits and encounters. As we rode from the park, we laughed about our adventures and memories of great (long) days out on bikes.
Gursu joined us at Miller’s Point over the Harbour Bridge, and we headed up the highway to meet Jeff at Hornsby. Our trek up the Pac Highway was slower than normal with a few lights. Jeff called asking whether we were still on the way, and we reassured him we were around the corner…”jump on as we roll through.”
Our troupe was now complete.
There were a few comments about the cloud cover, perhaps questioning whether we were really in for an “epic” day. As we rode past Hornsby, the cars thinned out, and it did feel like we were riding into a cloud. Nice riding weather, but I wondered what the clouds had in store for us.
Hannah turned back at Pie in the Sky to have time to make her afternoon meeting. Clearly we weren’t convincing enough about timing estimates.
A puncture stopped me in my tracks and so sent the group on to Brooklyn and I joined them shortly afterwards. We made up some time by not stopping for coffee - water and toilet only. The cafe owner reminded us that the toilets were only for customers - and so before explaining our regular visits for sausage rolls, we inhaled a few choc muffins to keep the peace. We felt we should come back soon (Sunday) to savour the pork & fennel sausage rolls. There was no time for gourmet delights today.
Now the Mount White climb - a quiet road, with great scenery, and a few false tops for first-timers. “Wait at the top.” “Where is the top?” “It should be clear, the first person there can decide.”
We were lucky to catch the front group led by Ecky before they reached Gosford!
For a change, we didn’t need to ride tempo+ to get to the ferry on time. We arrived with time to spare (10 mins before scheduled time), only to wait for the delayed ferry!
Today would be Shane’s longest ride. After 100kms to Ettalong, he promptly sat down at the ferry stop, and shut his eyes for a quick nap. We nodded, “he’ll be alright after some food at Palmie.”
The crowd waiting with us for the ferry was reassuring. But time was creeping and we couldn’t see any boats in the bay - no approaching ferry. “What if the ferry doesn’t turn up?” Simon asked. “We can always ride back the same way…” Simon admitted to thinking about lunch in Palmie for the last few hours, and suddenly went pale at the thought of riding “back”.
The ferry finally arrived at 11:10. All good. Simon was smiling again, and we all lined up to climb aboard.
Swerlo doesn’t enjoy the boat ride. He had remembered his sea sickness tablets for the short ride to Palm Beach, but was late in taking them as the ferry pulled in. He would be lucky for them to take effect for the last two minutes of the trip. The swell was reasonably mild, but Swerlo felt every “wave”. The smile left his face after a few minutes into the voyage across the sea but couldn’t resist joining our laughter. It seems like the Travelcalm worked.
Shane needed a bit more sleep, so he took the bench - all of it - and made like a mummy. Jeff followed suit. We laughed…“they’ll be alright after some food at Palmie.”
Shane woke up ready to disembark, and asked about tickets. He was surprised to have not been asked to pay. Perhaps he looked too comfortable for the ticket attendant to have the heart to disturb him. He proceeded to use this financial gain to offer all of us slurpees if we slowed down from here.
Lunch was a relaxing stop at our regular Palm Beach cafe. Everyone had enjoyed the ride to here, and the breather over lunch. Lunch at Palmie is a good break making this loop two sections, 100kms to Ettalong, and 60kms back home. Easy.
It wasn’t just lunch that was relaxing, but also knowing that we now had no time restrictions. Just the ride home to the MC Clubhouse for a few celebratory beers.
Swerlo was battling a moral dilemma. His wife had booked a babysitter at 17:00, not trusting the Longest Day to run according to the timetable. Should he rush home and relieve the need for babysitting? Could he grab some beers and let the babysitter get the kids to bed?
As we were getting ready to ride, Simon rejoiced in the sunshine and warmth on his day off work, and reflected on the ride so far, reminding him about why he rides. “You get so used to riding locally in and out of traffic, this Ettalong loop is a lovely reminder of open roads, fresh air, and scenery.” He then proceeded to upgrade the ride to “EPIC+”.
We agreed to take it easy on the home stretch, and our next stop would be 7-11 in Mosman. The day was now hot and Carlos remarked at it being the first hot ride of the season, and more to look forward to. A slurpee was a well deserved refreshment which kept us going until home after a few brain freeze efforts.
The MC Team at the Clubhouse welcomed us with open arms as we enjoyed a few drinks, still helping Swerlo through his deliberations.
We had impressed ourselves by being back on time for once. Hannah could have just made her meeting (just, and dressed in lycra)!
- 1 puncture
- 158.34kms Shane’s Longest Ride
- Total ride 1733 kms. Average kms per rider 157.9kms.
- 3 slurpees smashed
PS2. We returned to Brooklyn Sunday for pork and fennel sausage rolls.