March 12, 2008

Highway One

Sometimes I get some pretty silly ideas. Like tonight.

I'm laying in bed, not sleeping. So I try thinking about something to let my mind drift off. I imagine that I'm riding a bicycle. I figure in my imagination, I'll get tired after a while, so maybe that will help me fall asleep. No, that isn't working. So I try imagine what I'm doing on a long bicycle ride. That's when it hits me with a flash.

I'm riding around Highway One. Not California's Pacific Coast Highway. Oh, no. That's not nearly ambitious enough. Australia's Highway One, the ring highway going all the way around the continent. There are a few hardy souls who actually attempt to do this. With the exception of Uluru and Alice Springs in the middle of the continent, this one highway covers pretty much every inhabited part of Australia except for Canberra. If you take a ferry or a plane, it even runs through the island of Tasmania. And Australian names are super fun to say, like Borroloola and Warrnambool -- at least as cool as place names in Wisconsin like Sheboygan and Oconomowoc.

Now my problem is, I start actually thinking about this super-trek. How long would it take? If I could do, say, fifty miles a day on a bike, how long would it take me to do 20,000 kilometers? (Quite a while, and fifty miles a day would be pretty ambitious for me, at least until I got in shape, which a project like this would probably accomplish.)

How would I carry enough food and water to survive? In pannier bags? Maybe hitching a trailer to the bike with all the water in it and stacks of energy bars?

Then I get to thinking about the territory -- the outback is pretty rugged and pretty sparsely populated; getting new supplies out on the road would be very difficult. Perhaps I'd have to carry a tent around because there might not be anywhere to stop and stay in a structure for the night. What kinds of predators or other natural hazards are out there in Australia?

This is starting to sound like a challenge even for an experienced bicyclist like Orange Phantom. So now, with all these variables to think about, the logistical challenge of such an undertaking has taken hold of my mind and I'm more awake now than before.

So that's what I'm doing back on the internets now -- looking up stuff about this utterly random thing I'll surely never actually do. Oh, I may visit Australia, but to bicycle all the way around it? Get real, it's never going to happen. OP might do it, but not me. One of the linked blogs of a guy actually doing the trip shows that an experienced bicyclist has budgeted a year for the project. That's a little more vacation time than I have accrued. I haven't figured out yet how he's getting enough water to keep on going, much less food. Running out of either while in a place like the Nullarbor could be pretty dangerous. (And the ride there could be pretty monotonous -- there's a 90-mile stretch of road on the Nullarbor that is absolutely straight.)

A few answers to my questions -- Animal threats are low but not nonexistent. There are relatively few predators that would be a danger to a human camping in a tent. Foxes have been introduced and dingos are indigenous, but they mainly leave humans alone. There is a cute little carnivorous marsupial called the Spotted Quoll, but again, he's not much a threat to a human. Crocodiles, were I foolish enough to pitch a tent near a river or a hollow where they lived, could be a threat. There are rats, which bite people. Feral camels are not a hazard to humans other than by grazing on their crops. If I were on Tasmania, the Tasmanian Devil has been known to bite humans, but I hadn't been thinking about Tasmania. Kangaroos, although herbivorous, are also big and heavy and they are a traffic hazard to cars in parts of Australia's Highway One while they are moving about at night, so I might be in danger of getting crushed. The biggest danger seems like it would be from venomous scorpions and snakes. And if I were to get bit, or have some other medical emergency, I would have to rely on the Royal Flying Doctor Service for help.

So now I know a lot more than I did before, but I'm still not sleeping.

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