Taking part in a three-day bike tour without actually riding? Well, that certainly isn’t my preferred way of participation, for sure. But if your body simply says ‘no’ to a daily 50 kilometres of sand, pea gravel, slopes, hills and heat, then being the support crew for someone who is keen (and able) to ride can still bring you some joy.
The advantage of having a fabulous support person (like me!) on hand are manifold: riders can put their heart and soul into the daily leg knowing that at the end of the day they will either get picked-up, or arrive at their campsite with their beds already made, their dinners planned and ready to go. All of this also means, the rider needs less gear to carry on their bike – a lighter bike equates to an easier ride. Let’s not forget the warm, supportive company of having someone near you who didn’t sweat their little heart out and is ready to listen to your adventures – bliss, right?
If watching from the sidelines is new to you, as it was to me, here an account of what a three day-tour from Nannup to Collie – the luxurious way – can look like.
Day 1: Nannup to Corner Goodwood Road/Jarrahwood Road
We start on a gorgeous, semi cloudy day in lovely Nannup – roughly three hours south of Perth. We’ve set up our tent and gear at the Camping Ground right next to the Blackwood River, which happens to be 30 seconds from the centre of this township.
It’s a perfect day for riding with the South West blessing us with its wonderfully mild climate. Mr T is heading off on his bike from our campsite – the Munda Biddi is only a stone-throw away from our base camp.
This is a lovely start as support crew. I can relax under the shady tall trees. Our dog, Mr Mo, is also chilling a little until we get restless and head-off for a short walk along the Blackwood River. Mr Mo’ s arthritis is making long walks impossible and shortly after we’ve set off I pack him into his backpack and carry him a bit more. Mr Mo is indignant, but I know, deep inside he loves being pampered.
The river is gorgeous and gives us a glimpse of what Mr T’s journey might be looking like. Lush and green! The path along the river is a short walk and we’re veering off to the left on a gravel path that leads back into Nannup. We combine our stroll with a little bit of window shopping and sassing out where to buy supplies. Nannup features a bottle shop, super market, a pub and three cafes, some art/craft shops, a pharmacy, a community centre, town hall and a few heritage listed buildings that are worth looking at.
The cafe Pickle and O looks tempting for a stop along the way. It’s got an inviting backyard and the proprietors don’t mind Mr Mo. We discover their hand-made, fresh scons with jam and cream… Yum!
Refreshed we head back to our camp to do some work. Mr Mo immediately gets to his job of laying down and having a nap, what a champ. The first leg of this trip should take around 3.5 hours, in theory. Being the first day and facing sandy terrain Mr T is texting me that he needs closer to 4 hours… It’s still not a lot of time when you’re busy tinkering on your laptop (or napping in the shade). In the blink of an eye it’s time to head towards the pick up point near the corner of Goodwood Road and Jarrahwood Road.
Heading out of town on the Vasse Highway the GPS directs us into Jarrahwood Road. ‘Road’ may be misleading. We’re on a dirt gravel track with plenty of corrugations. That’s not entirely a problem, only that we’re in a rather slick two wheel drive made for city life not outdoor activities. The shaking of the vehicle means that my mobile phone keeps popping off it’s suction holder and I need to stop to retrieve the phone from somewhere inside the passenger foot room. Never mind. I breath through the continuous pinging of stones hitting the chassis. Never mind. All will be good. I know, in comparison to riding the Munda Biddi this is just a short inconvenience.
Mr T is already waiting at our pick up spot. ‘Did you bring extra water?’ he asks, shaking his empty bottles. Well, what
an epic support crew fail! Neither did I think of bringing more water, nor any fresh snacks. I feel I’ve let my rider down in anticipating his needs. Lesson learned!
Apart from the scone this morning I haven’t had lunch either and as we’re both hungry we’re heading into
Donnybrook, a short ten minute drive (on sealed road) further north.
Never have a bacon and egg roll tasted so good, huh?
Day 2: Goodwood Road to Corner Pile Road and Richie Road
Although we’re an hour earlier than yesterday the temperature suggests the day will warm up and it’s getting steamy already. Mr T isn’t happy. The potential heat and a miscalculation of time means we’re behind schedule. ‘I’m not sure I should head off at all’, he muses.
Today’s drop-off point was yesterday’s pick-up point. The direct route leads via Jarrahwood Road. But, corrugations and gravel, remember? This isn’t an option with Mr T’s bike on the back – we’re worried the shaking may loosen the bike rack, or worse, damage both the car and bike. Our setup is simply not off-road proof and we’re not keen to risk any damage. That means, there’s additional travel time via sealed roads, a detour really which adds to our delay. Never mind.
By the time we get to Goodwood Road Mr T looks happy and energetic. I realise he managed to slightly move our drop off point, about two or three kilometres north of yesterday’s pick-up spot. Mr T is keen to avoid riding along Goodwood Road. It would have been a short stretch on this country road, but since this is the luxury version of bike packing, why not.
On our way back Mr Mo and I stop for some shopping in Nannup. With yesterday’s experience I’m keen to fine-tune the support crew services I’m providing. I’m buying some more water, ice to chill everything, snacks and food for a picnic after the ride. I’m feeling pretty smug having thought of everything – what could I possible have forgotten this time?
Given Mr Mo and I have to drive almost 100 kilometres to today’s pick up spot (yesterday’s 50 kilometres plus another 50 for today) we don’t actually get much rest. There’s just enough time for a few emails and quick lunch and we’re on the road again.
Today Mr T has finished his tour quicker than he thought and is again already waiting at the pick-up point on the corner of Pile Road and Richie Road. He’s wearing a big, happy smile. When we pack the bike on the back I know why he’s so happy to see me: horseflies! These merciless suckers have bothered him already during his wait. He can’t wait to pop the bike on the back and jump in the car.
We’re heading to nearby Honeymoon Pool for the picnic and a quick dip in the river. Again, the horseflies are swarming and are cutting our break short. They ease off once we’re dipping into water of the river. It’s crispy cold and we’d love to spend more time here as it’s absolutely gorgeous (despite the cruel flies). This is a national park though and Mr Mo isn’t entirely happy being left behind in the car. Despite the windows being down he prefers to be at our side and mopes on the way home.
On the way home Mr T muses that he’s happy with the picnic I organised, but after the long, hot day he wonders whether I bought any beer. Of course, who wouldn’t want a refreshing beer after having ridden the Munda Biddi. Did I think of that though? Never mind.
This is our last night in Nannup. Tomorrow is a rest day from riding as we’ll be relocating our base camp to Collie.
Day 3: Corner Pile Road and Richie Road to Collie
This is technically day 4 of our journey, but the third day for Mr T’s ride. We’ve dismantle tent and home yesterday, drove to Collie’s caravan park and set-up everything again. With a few spare hours, we’ve explored Collie, a country town with plenty of shops and supermarkets. The hustle and bustle is disconcerting after the quiet of Nannup, but we find a lovely cafe in the park and try to adjust.
The night’s sleep is filled with country town sounds. People laughing and giggling returning to their campsite after a night out in town. The noise of hooning cars – a little excessive for such a small place. We’re a little knackered and muse the loss of the cosy Nannup, but are getting ready for the final leg of the journey.
The 20 minute drive out of town back to the Corner of Pile Road and Richie Road is a breeze. There’s plenty of skid-marks on the roads, which confirms that the noise was actually hooning cars – the many white crosses we spot along the same road warning of the fatal consequences of hooning don’t seem to have a big impact on drivers.
Mr T is keen to get moving and off he goes on his final journey. The leg will take him through the same area we explored after day 2, the Honeymoon Pool, which goes through a deep valley. Hills, hills, hills is what it means for Mr T’s ride.
Once Mr T is dropped off, Mr Mo and my work is basically done for the day. We decide to check out Wellington Dam and Minninup Pool on our way back into town. The dam reminds me that a lot of concrete is required to keep water in one place. Minnimup Pool is gorgeous though (read: no concrete) and I could spend more time here.
For the next hours I’ve got time to follow Mr T’s journey on Strava and watch the weather forecast. Today’s clear blue sky and steamy heat will result in thunderstorms tomorrow – not particularly ideal for camping nor riding. Lightning in dry conditions such as these can easily lead to bush fires and I’m doubtful Mr T would feel comfortable being out and about.
I’m missing Nannup’s lush and leafy green while munching on my lunch. Collie’s caravan park’s proprietors are wonderfully warm people, but I’m struggling to connect to this place. The vacant bitumen lots around me await big camper vans that connect to power and plumbing, scattered hills hoists gently turn in the breeze, the neighbour’s children are playing in their empty front lawn across the road. I wonder how Mr T is doing and try and imagine being in the bush on my bike. In my imagination we’re pottering along a gently sloping path along orchards and occasionally steel a pear that we munch on. Little do I know that Mr T is battling the hills. On Strava his blue dot moving along the map suggests nothing of the uphill battle he is facing.
In my reality there’s little distractions. I muse about the encounter with our tent-neighbour who I’ve met in the morning while he sizzled bacon and eggs in the camp kitchen. He had proudly informed me of his reason for being in Collie by pushing his chest out so I could have a better look at his t-shirt that read ‘Gazzanats‘. A local motor show I gathered from the cars pictured on the shirt. The conversation fizzled out immediately due to my lack of excitement. I didn’t realise Collie had a reputation as a Motorsport mecca. Never mind.
The weather forecast looks unpromising and I’m deciding to take first steps to dismantle our base camp to return home today. It’ll be a short, two hour drive back home – I’m hoping that Mr T will be fit enough to help with taking down the tent… As I’ve packed up the innards of our home Mr Mo and I retreat to a shady spot so I can read my book and relax. Occasionally I check on Mr T’s progress. His blue dot is still moving. All good.
A little while later I wonder, wouldn’t it be funny if I took a photo of the caravan park – right the spot where I think Mr T will appear – just before he actually shows up? I drop my book, grab my phone to take the picture I’m thinking of. But exactly at that moment Mr T ACTUALLY appears in real life – magic!
We have a giggle about my awesome intuition and Mr T joins us in the shade. He confirms, this was a hard stretch. He looks pretty dusty from the journey. Also, pretty gutted, but in a good, satisfied kind of way. He’s having another snack and we’re deciding, yes, it’s time to pack-up and venture home. I’m glad he agrees – safety first. Also most of the packing is already done. Because that’s what a support crew is there for!