We saved the longest distance for last, and this morning we are making sure breakfast is big enough to get us half of the distance to our planned stop for the night, Port Sorell, once again.
We have been shown some wonderful hospitality by Tamar Valley Christian Fellowship, just outside of Exeter. Ruth and Shane, our previous hosts at Launceston, suggested we could stay, organised our stay, and it was fantastic. The kitchen helped us cook wonderfully, and we didn't set our tents up, instead we slept on the floor inside, with the intention of leaving earlier.
We left earlier than our normal 11am time and departed upon the long, long road before us.
The Road from Exeter
Down from Exeter the road falls, a low road that rolls past more farms, brown grass and cows. Truck whizz past us, some taking care to change lanes and others zipping past closer to us, at times I mutter curse words, and other times they come spilling out - I would imagine not too many cyclists are going to be slowing down trucks on this road, some patience would be appreciated.
Farms roll along beside us, houses are small and close to the road. Hills built on hills, the brown grass drops down a rise and leads to trees on the hill behind, that rolls further still behind that, to the furthest hill, that reaches far beyond us. We drop down after a short climb, into the small town of Glengarry. Jacqui zips up behind us, all smiles and happy, "that was fun!".
We had been warned about The Glengarry Hill, and it was not nice to our legs. A gentle road out of the town heads upwards, it flows around a bend, between the trees that reach high, and then around another, which exposes the steep incline.
Zeke and Nathanael had ridden away at the bottom of the hill, and Levi and I can see they have stopped before it gets steep, recovering their breath for the next big push. They leave before we get there, slowly moving up the steep slope. Adeline is asleep in the back, Joash is yammering to himself, and I am puffing, and sweating, and waving over the road, as my bike swerves at the slow speeds and under the heavy weight.
The road sits at a steep pitch for 350 metres, hovering between 10 and 11% all the way. It is so hard a truck slows down behind me, gears crunching as the driver tries to find the easiest for the hill. I pull over into the grass and the truck engine roars as it drives past us. I welcome the rest, puffing on the side of the road, but will use it as an excuse later on when the boys ask how many stops I made.
Down and up, with the thought looming that we have to ride up to get into Frankford. So we go down, roll for a way, and then the Up starts. Not very steep, but the road is hard to ride, and we break into groups, again. The grey clouds that have been threatening rain, all morning, are moving in, drops of rain start to fall, but not very heavy.
At the top we stop, Ezekiel and I, and the rain starts. Rain coats on and we wait, talking to Joash, who is in the trailer. Up the road we see a couple on a tandem leave a café, we recognise the bike from our prior meetings; we had met them while getting on to the ferry in Melbourne, waved to them as they rode away in Devonport, and Joash and Elijah saw them this morning as we were getting ready to leave, they rode past our evening stop.
With the rain falling we decide some hot food and drinks at a café sound like a marvellous idea for lunch.
Out, and Up from Frankford
Jacqui said she thought the town was long, and she was right, Frankford is Tasmania's longest town.
The road drops out of Frankford, a fast descent. But it raises up a wonderful climb, the road winding up a gradual slope. The sun was out after this morning's rain, and this seemed to be the epitome of was everything a ride should be.
Pine trees on one side of the road stood tall above us, the enchanting smell of pine drifting over the road like incense heating over a candle. On the other side the road dropped down into a valley, first into farm lands, and as we climbed higher into groves of gum trees, mixed with pine. In some places the trees in the valley thinned out enough to look down into damns, with still water.
Beneath the summer sun we rode, Zeke and Levi on my wheel, as we look about each of us take turns in pointing out things we like the look of; the views, the tree, the smells. Everywhere around us is beautiful, and the road just drifts up - we are climbing but the view is a wonderful distraction.
We come out of a corner and the road stretches up in front of us, straight as an arrow. A constant slope, not pressing too hard. At the top we stop and wait for our tail to catch up.
Up the Last, Big, Long Hill
A few downhills, speedy and fast. Then past some forest, which has been cut down, the sight is so barren, the land covered with stumps and wood chips and felled branches. "It is so ugly." Said Zeke, "I don't know why they do that."
Three, that is the magic number today, we were told it was “two”, but that was wrong. Over the third bridge and the road curves around a bend, then up again. 'It won't go on that long.' I think to myself, after being told the hill after the second bridge was bad, if only I knew.
Around another bend and the hill kicks up, the slope steepening as it climbs to the top. It is a long drag up too, the tail end of the day and our legs aren't too fresh. It keeps going, and behind me a truck grinds it's gears and stops, Levi goes past saying "The truck has stopped.", and indeed it has. I pull over, allowing the driver to find a gear and get started, loud as it drives past us, creeping up the hill.
I start up again, hoping the top of the hill is around the corner. It can't be, I still hear the truck, in a low gear, as it goes up the steep hill, where I can't see it. The hill keeps going, around one corner, and then another, before cresting near an intersection.
Back to Where we Started
Our reward for the day, our thought for getting through the hills, was to return to Port Sorell, a place we enjoyed at the start of our trip. At Port Sorell was a nice pizza shop, which added to the reward.
We were all happy and relieved to arrive at Port Sorell Lions Caravan Park, a long day of riding behind us. Jacqui walks up the steps and talks with the owners, who are happy to hear about our travels. We check in, set up tents and relax for the evening, ordering pizza and chips and thinking back on all we have done to get where we are.