The image of Deb O’Reilly dancing through the Hat Head Bowlo waving the winning ticket in “Jag the Joker,” (prize – one meat tray) will be a lasting one for the Hat Head 2012 riders. It might have been the chance of picking the joker out of a pile of cards and winning $4,500 that had her dancing too. We weren’t lucky enough that night to win the jackpot that night, but we all counted ourselves lucky to have been on such a great ride!
It was the shakedown tour for Deb, Betty Anne and Dave, who head off to Europe shortly, the first time to try out all their gear and identify what they should have brought but didn’t. Betty Anne discovered that their two-person tent was just that – two people and nothing else, like panniers, would fit. Luckily, the back of Herb’s station wagon was available for this trip, but they’re going to have to figure out something else for Europe. Deb, who has cycled Europe before, didn’t have any hiccups and can hardly wait for departure; she wore a permanent grin all weekend.
Phil was also in the group, building on his long-distance cycling experiences, having done Armidale a few weekends ago, and travelling up and down the Gold Coast before that. Apart from a couple of pesky flat tyres on the first leg of the cycle from Urunga to Hat Head, no hiccups for this seasoned cyclist either.
Herb and Allan B drove down from Urunga and did the day trips out from Hat Head; their back-up with vehicles, camping gear, food and tarps to keep off the rain were invaluable. And Colleen and Mike came from Scotts Head, doing a tandem car driving/bike riding stint with the group on the way down.
The tour: Thursday morning, Phil cycled from north of Urunga, picking up Dave and Betty Anne along the way. Deb joined them at Valla and Mike joined them at Macksville. Mike and Colleen swapped transport at Clybucca so Colleen could cycle to Hat Head with the group. By the time the group got to the Hat Head caravan park mid-afternoon, Allan and Herb had already arrived and were setting up “Herb Hilton” (see photos). All the tents were up quickly as it looked like there was wet weather on the way. Pre-dinner catch-up was under two large beach umbrellas while water ran down the backs of those not lucky enough to be inside the drip line. Dinner at HH Bowling Club was the first of two great dinners there. Dave can vouch for the sticky date pudding, which he had every night we were there!
The Friday ride was a 9am departure to destination Gladstone, via Kincella Creek, a 12km loop. When we arrived, the café of choice in Gladstone was packed with a group of cyclists from up Mclean way, some of whom had organized the Big River Ride that Herb, Allan, Mike and Colleen went on last year. After a quick catch-up and coffee, our group did another 20km loop (Austral Eden) and then headed back to camp for lunch. Total distance was about 60km. A bushwalk that was supposed to be 3km but felt like more made sure we had worked up an appetite for dinner at the Bowlo again, and we were down there early. Lucky thing too, because people who ordered dinner early got free tickets in the Jag the Joker. We threw in five more dollars and had heaps of tickets, one of which won us the meat tray. Deb was up in a flash to claim the prize, but had a momentary panic when she couldn’t decide which card might be the joker. She called for help, and Herb was persuaded to go to her rescue, being mistaken for “hubby” by the MC, which he didn’t live down for the rest of the weekend. Lucky Herb has a sense of humour!
Saturday’s ride was to Southwest Rocks and it was heaven on the way in as there was a stiff tail wind pushing us along. A quick tour of the town and it was out to the Gaol and coffee at the café on the way back. The tail wind that had helped us into Southwest Rocks wasn’t going to help us out. Mike and Colleen ended up pushing a bit faster into the wind – just enough that Phil couldn’t catch them and ended up battling back 14km into the wind on his own – while the remaining five formed a solid peloton that worked like a machine, giving each rider a set time at the front and then switching so a fresh rider could take the lead. Another good, long ride at 60km or so once we got back to Hat Head. Then it was our last night BBQ, complements of our lucky ticket, and we shared chops, steaks and sausages (Deb had fish!) and a few drinks, agreeing that Hat Head should become an annual event.
Sunday saw us break camp. Deb, Betty Anne, Dave and Phil loaded their bikes for the long cycle back to Valla and Urunga. Mike joined them as far as Macksville, and Herb and Allan accompanied them as far as Clybucca then turned around and cycled back to Hat Head to pack their cars and head home.
We missed having Sally and Anna on the ride, who will also be cycling in Europe shortly. Many thanks to Allan, who organized us all and kept us on track without being a dictator! His truck, which seemed a bit like a magic pudding at times, provided us with all the camping gear we couldn’t or didn’t bring with us. At Deb’s suggestion, we agreed that we should do the Hat Head trip again in October as there are still many rides that we could do and it is such a beautiful area.