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Journal for 11-Aug-2003 : Mt Isa

Left Cloncurry very early, just on dawn. Good old Nth Australian easterly wind pushing us along. The air was slightly cool (ie 17C), but occasionally we'd ride through a warm patch, a bit like swimming through the warm yellow patch in a swimming pool.

The route from Cloncurry to MT Isa is incredibly beautiful, but also very dangerous for cyclists. We were passed by three massive road trains in the first hour. There is next to no opportunity to get off the road, see what's coming in either direction, or necessarily do anything about it. All very scary.

The scenery on this stretch is amazing. The colours are unbelievable, the unique shapes of the thousands of hills, spines and crags are impressive and the scale is just mind blowing. It's also extremely hard to photograph. At one point the road passes through a cutting which frames a craggy knob on the next ridge perfectly. A fantastic photo for helmet cam, but only visible from a blind corner on a busy narrow highway carrying oversized road trains.

I had one very, *very* close call nearly sideswiped by a four wheel drive (missed by 3cm) and had his wider caravan flicked my pannier straps. Things can't get closer than that, but I had a closer call, described below.

The unseasonably hot northerly winds kicked in about 11:30 today. Fortunately we'd covered more than 90ks by then, and stopped at the next rest area for lunch. Me a local copper patrolling the roads, or harassing the truckies as he put it. He pulled over a massive road train, inspected the rig and the driver's log book, and issued a fine for having driven 8 hours over his 12 hour per day limit (then let him drive on).

We avoided the Mt Isa Rodeo for financial reasons as much as anything (Mt Isa prices double during the rodeo). The rodeo types are identifiable by the swags in their utes and dopey looking hats. In the outback, every road user waves at everyone else. But these people almost never wave. Occasionally, and just occasionally, they might return a wave - but only if they are on their own and certainly not within view of another cow poke. "Each to his own" was my forgiving attitude yesterday, but today the stream of traffic leaving the Isa today enjoyed a very different affection from me.

The people who attend the Mt Isa Rodeo really love animal shit. They chose jobs that allow them to be close to it. They wear it on their clothes. They wear stupid looking broad brimmed hats to keep the shit on their clothes fresh for as long as possible. They don't use tents, they use swags so they can sleep with animal shit and have wet dreams about it. They even hold tournaments to see who can roll around in animal shit the best, and they *really * get off on watching other people rolling around in animal shit. They are quite literally complete shit-heads, and they obviously think other people without the same interest in shit are a waste of space. There is some suggestion this event is just an excuse for a piss-up and the odd harmless orgy, but that's just the socially acceptable cover for their real sordid activity.

So why the attitude? Well one of those shit-heads decided that issuing me the bird wasn't enough, and threw full chutney jar at me as they drove past. The best thing I can say about this shit is he must be a great shot. I didn't see it coming (which is probably just as well) but the jar travelling at a relative speed of 140km/h hit me flush in the back of the head. Linda didn't see it coming either, but she saw it bounce high of my wooden noggin. Shit it hurt. I thought I'd been hit by a passing car, until I realised I was still on the bike and my lungs weren't punctured. The smell of the goop now running through my hair told me the payload of the missile, and the damage done to my bike helmet demonstrated the force of the impact. If it had hit an unhelmeted part of my head (and I ducked just before impact to shield my face from the wind of the passing traffic) I'd probably be dead. If not from the blow but from being knocked unconscious and thus steering my bike into the oncoming traffic or off the cliff next to the road. In any case I must have suffered some sort of brain damage because I can now see all these irritating misplaced apostrophes in my earlier journals. This is without doubt the shittiest thing anyone's done to me on the road.

So, maybe it's unfair to target everyone with the same brush, but as far as I'm concerned these bumkins deserve all the respect their stupid appearance, accents and revolting smell engenders. As highlights of the Mt Isa RODEO (Rolling On Defecation Excrement Overtly) were shown over dinner I as audibly cheering the bull, urging him gouge the guts out of the clown in the silly hat, and pumped my fist at every injury inflicted. And, you can rest assured the Bike Odyssey corporate empire will never *ever* sponsor the Mt Isa, or any other Rodeo.

As for the shit-head responsible for my change of heart, his misfortune is that I may have, or not have, learned his identity. For legal reasons I can't tell you why his prognosis is so poor.

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