Last Sunday was a popular Melbourne bike ride titled “Around the Bay in a Day”. It is an annual event that, as you probably can guess, rides along Port Phillip Bay. Beth and I had already planned a ride with a friend of ours and as the details were being finalized our friend (Amanda), suggested that we partake in the riding festivals. Besides, the web site promised a nice ride with friends, a park where we could relax and listen to a band at the half way point, and free stuff like water bottles and t-shirts.
Our options for the bike ride were 50k, 100k, 210k or a measly 250k. Since none of us felt like we were in great shape, we decided on the shortest of them. I am glad we did. That day turned out to be the hottest October day on record. Temps were in the mid 90’s.
Melbourne seems to have a lot of organized activities. The events have been one after another since we arrived here. The Fringe festival, the International Arts Festival, the Melbourne marathon, and now this bike ride have all taken place in the last seven weeks. These are only the few that I know about. I am sure that we are missing some. The difference between these activities and other activities that I have participated in is the organization and participation. As you may have read in the last blog entry I think that Beth and I were the only people out cheering for the runners in the marathon. Since we didn’t want to be the only people on the sidelines for the cycling event, we decided to participate. We found out on the website that we could sign up between 4:30-8:00 AM. Naturally we signed up at 8:00 because the ride didn’t start until 8:30, who wants to get up at 4:30? The riding officials must have decided to start early because as we were signing up thousands of bikes started whizzing by, which of course throws me into a panic because I don’t want to be left behind.
It has been my experience that when there is an event such as this, a route has been blocked off completely for the participants. It is not the case here. The beginning of the route is in the middle of the city and as we started we were in the midst of hundreds if not thousands of madly peddling people on bicycles. One would think that the roadway would be cleared. It was in parts, but for most of the time we were supposed to stay in the bike lane, which is a little too small to accommodate so many people. Not only that, we are also supposed to obey the regular traffic laws. So here we have a mob of people on bicycles peddling like the wind so they can make the next traffic light. Of course we didn’t always make it. So we would wait patiently for the light to turn green and get our feet cranking again to beat the next light. Of course we wouldn’t make it ……and so on, and so on…..I think it took us about an hour to go 5K. It was shaping up to be a very long day.
After we got through the heart of the city it wasn’t so bad. The biggest challenge was going to be the Westgate Bridge. Imagine the High Bridge in St. Paul but longer…a lot longer. Did I mention that it was starting to get warm out? The advantage that we had going over this particular bridge at this particular time was that we had the wind at our back. I did mention that it was starting to get hot right? We had a strong north wind that day. You may be thinking ahh a cool northerly breeze, remember everything is different here this air comes from the desert, not the tundra we know as Canada.
We had achieved the bridge obstacle and we were now about a quarter of the way through. The half way point was the promise of the band and food and refilling of water bottles.
We reached the park at Altona (the half way point) without much incident, only to discover that the food wasn’t free for the riders. The website said something about enjoying a muffin while listening to a band, drinking from your new water bottle and wearing a fancy new shirt. So far there was a band playing cover tunes, I brought my own water bottle, we didn’t get a shirt yet and now I have to pay for my food. I am glad I brought some money. Some of the advertising promises had come true, we did enjoy the company of friends. We have about 6 friends in Melbourne at this time and we actually ran into 3 of them. With the addition of our German friends Mirko, Rachel, and Eric we became a traveling bike convoy of 6.
After resting in the shade and replenishing the water stores, it was time to head back. Remember the desert winds that helped us across the bridge? Do I need to say anymore? We did get a chance to stop at the bridge apex and take a few photos, you can make out downtown Melbourne (known as the CBD) behind us. Back across the bridge into the city, waiting for the traffic lights, into the park where the rewards awaited.
Finishing a race is always exciting, the roar of the crowd as you come down the shoot, the inevitable photographer capturing your image, food, drink and all the goodies that come with the enormous entry fee. As we and the rest of the stragglers turned to bend to come into the shoot there was no crowd, just like when we were cheering for the marathon. The guy with the camera was there though, but he was changing the film so he missed us. Yes, I did say film. Everything will be alright because the feast awaits us. We dismounted our tired bicycles and made our way to the food tent. As promised a table full of nourishment was in front of us, we made our way into the line and were told that this line was for the people who rode the 100K ride. What we ended up with was a sub par mini-muffin.
We could at least look forward to the fancy new shirt, right?
When we quizzed one of the volunteers he told us that if we signed up the day of the ride we wouldn’t get a t-shirt.
After all the promises the advertisements made, the goodies we were left with was a day with friends…..and a water bottle.