Thursday 7 March 2019

Posted by Velouria Posted on 15:16 | No comments

The #BigDayOut 2019

“When you see someone putting on his Big Boots, you can be pretty sure that an Adventure is going to happen.”

-A.A. Milnie
And that's exactly what The BigDayOut is all about - adventure. We never really know if it will be a good adventure or a bad adventure, but we don't really mind. Any adventure on a bicycle is an adventure worth pursuing. The only important part is that there is someone to share that adventure with.

#BigDayOut 2019

As always, Richie Porte and Cameron Wurf's excellent adventure is our reference when planning a BigDayOut. It must be epic. It must be audacious. And it must memorable.

We've added a few rules of our own over the years too. Like the requirement that new members need to submit a haiku. Or the clause that gives existing members the first right of refusal. And the rule that states BigDayOut should preferably happen on a windless (and hot) day.

As honorary members for life, Captain Craig and I are responsible for the route planning and member selection. Few things are as closely guarded as a BigDayOut route. Planning usually starts as the memories of the previous BigDayOut begin to fade, and the desire for a new adventure gains momentum. We typically go through 3 or 4 rounds of route planning, scrutinising roads for safety, planning breakfast, lunch and dinner stops and getting the balance right between roads we haven't ridden before, and old favourites that we love to bits. Once we have our route we shroud it in secrecy. Coca Cola and The Colonel could learn a thing or two from us when it comes to keeping secrets.

No adventure is complete without someone to share it with, and while Captain Craig and I are quite happy in each other's company for hours on end, barely saying a word to each other as the miles whiz by, we do like seeing other people too. As the rules dictate, Snack-Monster Mike and Heat-is-my-Kryptonite Tim were cordially invited. And Tim didn't disappoint - he fired off his unsolicited haiku in a flash

All that we needed now was the perfect day for bike riding. While this seems like a rather trivial thing to determine, it's not as easy as just checking the local weather forecast. We have to check the local forecast for all the regions that our adventure passes through. On multiple days. Using multiple forecast models. From multiple online sources.

And then reality steps in and throws a curveball - Captain Craig wasn't as available as he'd thought, and the decision was taken away from us. Wednesday the 6th of February was #BigDayOut2019. Unfortunately, the date didn't suit everybody, and in another unprecedented move, Tim submitted a withdrawal haiku.

Actually, he submitted two

This left the BigDayOut committee in a bit of a pickle. Do we go with just three riders and have that awkward situation where two riders ride side by side chatting, while the third rides behind, trying to edge into the conversation? Or do we try to find a replacement for Tim to alleviate the 3rd wheel problem? We turned to social media looking for solutions.

It turns out that while everybody wants to get an invite to ride BigDayOut, the sudden interest dries up when they are actually invited. Either that, or they are really bad at haiku. So we waived the haiku requirement and still, everybody was suddenly "busy" on that day with that important thing.

The First 100kms

When Captonians moan about the wind, you know the wind is really blowing. Most other cities around the world would probably declare a disaster, shut the schools, and issue severe weather warnings, but not Cape Town. We moan a little on Facebook and Twitter, and then we carry on with our lives. Some people take the kids to school, others head off to work. Us - we were going on a bike ride.

Our first order of business had us doing a quick loop of the Peninsula - up Ou Kaapse Weg, over Chapman's Peak, through Hout Bay and over Suikerbossie towards Camps Bay and up Kloof Nek to see the sun rising over the city bowl. A quick dice with the morning traffic in town before we headed off on the West Coast road, passing car after car as they sat gridlocked for miles. I'm not sure what it is, but the freedom of two wheels is intoxicating when others are stationary. This is the sort of freedom that we'd experience over and over again during the course of the day - free from the daily grind, free to have fun, free to ride bikes.

Morning splendour

The Second 100kms

Once out on the West Coast road we ate up the kilometres, thanks to the roaring South Easter. But, much like eating a bunny chow from the Eastern Food Bazaar, we just knew that this was going to come back and bite us. And so, with the Mountain slowly shrinking from sight behind us, we made short work of one of the most boring roads in the Western Cape. We were only too glad to see the turnoff to Darling, despite the wind and hills that it brought, just for a bit of variation. And the promise of breakfast.

Within sight of The Mountain - we're still safe

“An army marches on its stomach”

-Napolean Bonaparte
Choosing what to eat on BigDayOut is an art form in it of itself. You HAVE to eat. You eat to forget about the previous 100 kilometres. You eat to survive the next 100 kilometres. And you eat for the 100 kilometres after that when you don't feel like eating at all. And while all this eating is going on, you have to think about what you're about to eat. There are few things more appealing to me than a peanut butter milkshake. The sheer genius of the guy who took an already good idea, the milkshake, and thought to add peanut butter. We might as well stop trying to be creative in the kitchen - we've peaked with the peanut butter milkshake, and everything else is just second best. However, as much as I love a peanut butter milkshake, I don't like tasting a peanut butter milkshake hours and hours later. Needless to say, peanut butter milkshakes and I are now having a bit of a trial separation as we learn to appreciate each other again.

Back on the road, we set off for Malmesbury. Another one of those towns that no one actually goes TO, but rather goes THROUGH on the way to somewhere else. And the road trip there is about as memorable. Apart from Snack-Monster Mike having a panic attack about a suspected puncture, I don't remember too much else of the journey. I do remember that I was starting to get annoyed with the wind. This constant relentless headwind that kept buffeting us for kilometre after kilometre. And the heat. It was starting to get warm. And I was starting to get happy.

Long straight roads
A quick stop in Malmesbury to replenish the bottles and we were on our way to Wellington. One of my highlights of BigDayOut is when people ask us where we've ridden from, and where we're going. As the day gets longer, so the looks of amazement increase. But everyone says the same thing - crazy cyclists.

The Third 100kms

When most people see tractors, they see slow-moving farm implements, often covered in animal excrement. And then they forget about them. When cyclists see a tractor, we see a meal ticket. A free ride. An opportunity to have fun while zooming along. And we spotted two. With the wind increasing in intensity, we jumped at the chance to hide in the slipstream of the tractors. And here is the weird part - we only rode behind those tractors for 3 minutes, but it felt like hours, such was the effect that it had on us.

By now the temperature was over 40C. The sun was baking down on us. And the cool drink in our bottles was like tea. The incessant headwind wasn't helping either. Instead of being a cooling breeze, it was like a hairdryer, sucking the moisture from each of us. And for some strange reason, my body really likes this. This is where it likes to operate. The hotter the better. Which is Captain Craig's worst nightmare. He'll be solid one moment, and the next moment he's pedalling squares.  Head down, jersey open (the only time Captain Craig goes full-on Euro-Pro). A world of misery and hurt.

It's getting hot
This makes it rather awkward for the rest of us, because, ultimately, there is not much you can do to help when the wheels fall off. Snack-Monster Mike tends to zip off up the road, giving the sufferer some time and space to dwell alone in their pit of sorrow, while I try to be the silent companion, lurking around, offering unspoken solace and comfort, but ultimately, both techniques have little effect. These were Captain Craig's demons, and he had to deal with them alone.

Captain Craig going full-on Euro-Pro

“It doesn't matter how slowly you go as long as you don't stop”
With a sense of trepidation, we refuelled in Wellington, knowing that we were about to commit to something big. Up until now, we'd always been on the right side of the mountains, within calling distance of an emergency rescue. As soon as we went over Bain's Kloof, we'd be leaving behind civilisation and venturing into the dark unknown. For any Capetonian, travelling out of sight of The Mountain is a big thing, and so trekking over the Du Toitskloof mountain range was our watershed moment. This was the Big Day Out, and we were putting on our Big Boots.

Time for Big Boots 
As if it's not bad enough that we have to manage our bodies and our minds, we now have to manage our gadgets too. Long gone are the days when one would simply hop on a bike and go for a bike ride, and BigDayOut is no different. Mixing juice and cramming snacks into pockets is easy in comparison to preparing all the gadgets for a full day of adventure. I had to:
  • Charge my bike
  • Charge my Garmin
  • Charge my front light
  • Charge my rear light
  • Charge my phone
  • Charge my battery pack so that I could repeat this process while out on the road
  • Charge a spare Garmin, in case the previous point didn't work out
And then the nightmare begins. You're making Sophie's Choice style decisions. What do you charge? Phone or Garmin. Garmin or light. Front light or rear light. In a testament to my skill or complete lack thereof, I finished BigDayOut with a phone on 6%, a Garmin on 11%, an empty battery pack, and a flat rear light. More about that rear light later...

With Bain's Kloof behind us, the wind still in our faces, and the sun slowly sinking in the sky, we entered the Slanghoek Valley, or as we shall call it from now on, Purgatory. The Slanghoek Valley is magnificent. Mountains on one side, hills on the other, and miles and miles of vineyards in between. And we hated every second of it. In fact, we've now ridden through this valley 3 times on 3 separate BigDayOut adventures, and we've hated it each and every time. It's the straw that breaks the camel's back. We're all just a millimetre away from mentally or physically cracking, and every year, the valley claims a victim. Snack-Monster Mike was the first to go, mentally pulverised into submission, while Captain Craig followed suit, physically giving his very last effort.

We rolled into our late lunch stop at Du Toitskloof cellars and went about our business refuelling for the climb up and over Du Toitskloof Pass. Except Captain Craig couldn't bring himself to eat. Which, for anyone who knows Captain Craig, is a very strange thing indeed. I made sure to steer clear from the peanut butter milkshakes, but with Captain Craig not keen to eat his meal, I couldn't let it go to waste. Another amateur move. My reward: basil and garlic pesto burbs for the rest of BigDayOut.

The Final 100kms

We had two challenges left - get over Du Toitskloof Pass, and then fight the wind back into the City. And for one of us, that was one challenge too many. Captain Craig dug deep, went into the pain cave, burrowed around in his suitcase of courage, wrestled his demons, dropped the hammer and sat on the rivet - all to just get over Du Toitskloof Pass. But it cost him dearly. The lack of food and the feelings of nausea not only cracked his body, but cracked his soul too. He was a broken man. However, as an expert in dealing with feelings of nausea while riding bikes, I still believe that all he needed was a good old tactical vomit and he would have been right as rain. As a seasoned expert in the art of the regurgitation, I also understand how difficult it is self-purge.

Is there a light at the end of the tunnel?
And so, it was with sadness that Snack-Monster Mike and I left Captain Craig at a dodgy garage outside Paarl while he waited to be rescued - we still had a job to do. Ninety-nine more kilometres.
The sun was low in the sky. People were returning from their day at the office. Others were getting in a quick bike ride before dinner, a spot of TV and bed. And Snack-Monster Mike and I were still doing the same thing we'd been doing for almost 15 hours - riding bikes. And I think we were still enjoying it. The temperatures were dropping, the wind was almost behind us, and there was a peacefulness about everything. A peacefulness that lulled us into a false sense of security.

Sunset. What a time to ride bikes
We'd had grand aspirations of finding a quaint little place that offered boutique burgers for dinner, but with one man down and an overriding desire to finish, we resorted to Garage Forecourt Cuisine. Dodgy pies. Iron Bru. Chocolate bars. And vanilla milk! We probably inflicted more damage on our bodies with those snacks than we did with the 400 kilometres of the BigDayOut.

They say you can't teach an old dog new tricks, but Snack-Monster Mike is living proof that you can. In a complete reversal of his urinary habits from BDO2018, where it took him hundreds of kilometres to find the perfect wee spot, Snack-Monster Mike was happy to wee almost anywhere, anytime. Say the word, and we'd stop. It was during one of these stops that my South Africanness shone through - a car stopped while we were engaging in some night weeing, as one does, and my immediate thought was that we were about to be relieved of more than just the urine in our bladders. But we needn't have worried, for this was the beginning of the several night supporters that would drop by and say hi.

Snack-Monster Mike - a new man
Next up was Snack-Monster Mike's wife, and she provided a reassuring escort as we edged ever closer to the bike lane and our appointment with the South Easter. This was to be our moment of reckoning, our date with destiny that we'd been ignoring all day long - two guys on bikes, under the cover of darkness, fighting their way back to the Southern suburbs. I generally hate war analogies, but we had a battle on our hands. Sore bodies. Sore minds. Grinding our way into the teeth of a gale. Normally, at this point of a BigDayOut, I'd mentally knock off the kilometres in my mind, each one a victory. Except now I was celebrating every 100 metres that ticked over on my Garmin.

Thirty kilometres to go became twenty, twenty became ten, and suddenly we were in single digits. The end was almost within touching distance. And then Mike's Snack-Monster struck. With seven kilometres to go, we had to stop for a snack. But Snack-Monster Mike was all out of snacks. Luckily, I'd been carrying around a nougat bar for 409 kilometres, just in case a situation like this arose. Also, I'm quite sure Snack-Monster Mike had seen the nougat bar in my pocket, and had been lusting over it for hours. Under the guise of riding behind me because my rear light wasn't working, and not because he wanted to hide from the wind, I'm quite sure he'd mentally consumed that bar over and over again until he could suppress the urges no more. So there we were at the Liesbeck Parkway N2 intersection, late at night, hardly a soul in sight, eating nougat. And boy did that nougat go down well.

Captain Craig on the Scooter
 As we limped home, passing clubbers, street people and women of the night, I thought we were about to be mugged for the second time that night. By a guy on a scooter. He was getting far to close and being far too friendly for my liking. I do remember trying to figure just how he was going to mug us, and where he was going to put our bikes, but before I could figure all that out, I realised it was Captain Craig coming to escort us for the final few kilometres of BigDayOut 2019. Secretly, I was relieved that he was still alive and in good enough spirits to share in those final moments.

Yoh - that was a toughie
And then it was over. A whole day had passed, and we'd just ridden bikes. We saw things and we experienced things, far too many to list. Some good, and some bad. But that's exactly what adventure is all about.