Riding the final 15kms of our journey on 11th July was surreal. It was also incredibly cold.
Arriving at the meeting point 45 minutes prior to our planned take-off time, we were greeted by friends and family all eager for the opportunity to meet Falkor and cheer us on for this symbolic ending.
It was overwhelmingly amazing. Sharing this occasion with so many special people filled us with insurmountable joy. We were met by a total of 37 faces at the starting point and joined by 19 riders and 3 crazy runners on the bike path.
Our families, and even our friends’ families were there to cheer us on, including a few new mums & dads, some tiny babies snuggled in car seats while partners dropped off their husbands/wives to join us. Faces we hadn’t seen for years, people that we had never even met, coming along and getting involved in the support party. My parents drove 12 hours from NSW to be there.
I am still untangling the colourful ball of emotions.
Tucked into a baby buggy, the youngest participant of the ride was my baby cousin Mia Jane (just turned 1) with the most experienced rider being Bren’s Mum. It was incredible that no matter how far these people had ridden in their lives, or in-fact when they had last been on a bike, they all came out to give it their best and brave the freezing cold to ride with us to the finish line.
It still chokes me up now just to think about it.
We were a crew to be reckoned with on the Main Yarra bike Trail; Falkor & Bremma, 13 adults on bikes, 2 baby buggies, 2 kids doing the tandem thing in bike seats with their parents and 3-4 youngsters braving their own wheels (Gabriel set off on his own bike but due to wheel problems, was forced to jump in the buggy and couldn’t complete the journey self supported. We felt his pain).
It was a testament to friendship, love and loyalty and we caught a glimpse of the way people have shared our journey through our blog. It is still soaking in.
When we woke up that morning to hear the rain pounding on the roof, we expected a soaking of a different kind. The weather forecast all week had been atrocious with predicted hail-storms and hectic winds. With our 2 year riding anniversary set as the date, there was absolutely no postponing it and we would ride no matter the weather. All week I was confident that the forecast would change and we would get clear skies. I engaged total strangers in conversations about the weather and begged people to ignore rainy forecasts in an attempt to manifest a sunny day.
“Shake your fist at the weather man” I proclaimed, refusing to hear any chatter of predicted rain.
But I will admit that when I awoke on Saturday 11th July to hear rain on the roof, I cried a bit. Of course we would still ride it, but how miserable. With so many new families and small children on the invite list, we knew that rain would mean a solo finish by Bremma.
I got out of bed around 7:30am feeling pretty miserable. I’d been listening to the rain all morning and didn’t need to look out of the window.
Ambie (my best mate and now landlord) bounded out of her bedroom all grins.
“Look at the forecast”, she beamed.
Having schooled everyone all week on the need to ignore rainy forecasts and believe only in what we wanted to see, I was certain that Ambie had adopted my delusion despite the obvious weather outside.
“Its awful”, I moaned, shuffling into the kitchen to make a coffee
“What? No,” she consoled me, confused by my sudden depression. “The forecast has changed, its still gonna be cold but it will be clear all morning. You’re gonna make it dry to the finish!”
She showed me a totally changed outlook on the weather app that had taunted us with bad forecasts all week and drew the curtains to reveal clear skies.
It was awesome. It had rained itself out in the early hours of the morning and it looked as though we would indeed get a few hours of clear weather to complete the ride. I felt like a bride on her wedding day. I like to think that it was all of the positive energy everyone put out there and that together we made it happen. The power of optimism!
Then people started to post their biking preparations on FB and messages of encouragement arrived from around the world. We had friends traveling from all over the state to share this day with us. Including my parents traveling from NSW. I started to feel nervous and woozy from the in-pouring of love.
We weren’t really prepared for what this kind of support would look like or feel like, and so we didn’t say the right things or even come close to expressing our gratitude properly. There were loads of hugs though and that was magic. We got some good photos both before and after (thanks to all for sharing and HUGE thanks to TOVO for his amazing shots), but with everyone arriving in staggered times, and the serious jobs of pulling bikes out of cars, the putting together of baby buggies, dodging rain and drinking champagne, we never managed to get a group shot. Some things are just too awesome to capture in one photo.
Setting off as a cycling crew, we waved goodbye to the supporting drivers and cycled off to the tune of bike bells. 15km to the TotallyTandem finish line.
Brendo predicted the 15km would take an hour to ride, so I should’ve known better and just doubled it. There was so much excitement along the trail with lovely pedaling chats, paparazzi snaps, some bike break downs, a ripper stack by my 6 year old nephew Beau, a few wrong turns, some obstacles requiring bike-lifting team work and even a bloody stair case, that it took us nearly 2 hours. Never before had we ridden with so many friends and my face was hurting from the constant grin. Smiling out loud was back in full force.
What a gorgeous bike trail it is all the way from Doncaster into Fitzroy. Such a beautiful nature-trail almost the entire way from the suburbs into the city. I don’t think Melbournites realize how lucky we are. With a trail like this, you’d have to be nuts to commute by car or catch the bus everyday.
Our mission was to reach the Edinburgh gardens in Fitzroy where we would meet the finish line crew, a party of an additional 40people, who had been waiting for over an hour in the freezing cold.
I expect they were all very relieved when they finally saw us ride into the park, knowing that we hadn’t been thwarted by another Falkor break down and that their cold wait was coming to an end.
For us, seeing everyone grouped together in the distance was just as we had dreamed it. Sarah and Ambie had orchestrated the hanging of a huge Aussie flag and TotallyTandem sign for us, and they were flying in the wind as we entered the park. I got a lump in my throat and commenced a weird whooping-giggle-cry.
With the bells of every cyclist ringing madly, we pedaled the last few meters to hear shivery cheers from a wall of smiling faces. As if by magic, a red ribbon was produced for us to ride through, marking the official end of our epic ride. What a feeling.
We both leapt off the bike and for the first time in history, swiftly abandoned her to walk off in opposite directions, eagerly reconnecting with our friends. I had barely unclipped from my pedals when I looked at my hands and found a glass of champagne in each one. Yep, these are the people that know me the best.
It was a super emotional, all-in-hug-fest. Just beautiful. So many new babies and growing children now a part of our sea of friends. Home just got even better.
With all of that powerful energy now being poured into us instead of holding-off the weather, it very quickly it started to rain. We were so stoked that the weather held out for our last pedal turns and weren’t really surprised when the thermometer suddenly dropped and the clouds opened up. It was almost snowing. Some rushed under the cover of the playground shelter, while others made a bee-line for the pub. It was bitterly cold and looked for sure as though the gig was up. Then just as quickly as it started, it passed. So icy cool, but now dry, the party continued with a spread of food suddenly appearing complete with quiches & chocolate crackles. It sure was good to be home.
The next few hours passed in a whirl-wind of hugs, tears and champagne cheers, along with an ill-prepared speech. The people at the pub would have missed, and lets be honest it wasn’t a fabulous speech, but it has been recorded for prosperity and you can click here to see that. Bren is also working on a mini film of the day and we will send a link out when that is completed. There is some ripper footage.
Oh and we never passed the runners on the bike path, believe it or not they all ‘Run Like Crazy’ and arrived at the finish line well before us.
While the pedals have turned for the last time on this tour, the journey continues.
None of these stories were written by me but it’s been great to share our story and spread the good work of World Bicycle Relief.
What an honor to have raised over $16,000, providing 109 bicycles and changing the lives of real people in rural Africa. Achieving this goal has absolutely changed our lives too and we are forever indebted to you all for working with us to make a difference in the world.
People always us what it is like to ‘be back’ and ‘have we settled in’ but I don’t think anyone realizes how impossible those questions are for us to answer. If we have learned anything, it is that perspective is rarely a shared commodity and while we have dictionaries to provide literal definitions, everyone still sustains different interpretations.
Everyday is a gift filled with unexpected challenges. We hope to keep the TotallyTandem journey alive by compiling our photos, creating a small exhibition, making a mini film, writing the book and sharing our stories with friends and in public forums. But most importantly, we hope that when you find yourself in a jam, you will be able to draw some strength knowing what we have been able to achieve simply by following our dreams. If we all believe, that’s all we ever really need.
As winter starts to fade in Melbourne we find ourselves getting into a new routine. Bren has returned to work in the city two days a week, and I am furiously writing my book (the first 10,000 words are in the bag). The rest of our time is spent juggling with the admin of returning to a structured society while catching up with friends and family. There is a wild fluctuation between normality and strange and even those definitions keep switching. We have to be on our toes.
So this will be the last blog for a while as we pour ourselves into our new existence and grapple with the constraints of city living. Naturally, there is a lot on the goal chart and we will be heads down ticking off as much as we can before the end of the year when we head to Japan. Oh yeah? Did I mention that? We will be heading back to the Northern Island of Hokkaido in December for 3 months where we plan on working toward slightly different objectives. But you know us, without a shiny goal in the distance life is simply flailing about.
A HUGE TOTALLYTANDEM THANKYOU to everyone who was able to come out and share our final riding day with us. It was so very wonderful to have you all be a part of it and we are so grateful to you all for the support you gave us not just on the day, but throughout the entire trip. It’s impossible for us to ever properly express the way your love effects us, but know that each and everyone of you made it possible for us to complete this journey.
It’s a dangerous task to try to name and thank everyone who was there on the day as it’s almost certain that I will omit a name accidently. But I am gonna give it a try. Please know we love you all dearly and cant thank you enough for being there for us, especially in the cold and rain.
Team Innes/Frail; Riders Beau & Jeff, support crew my cuzzy Alisa & the matching divas Kelsey & Scarlet
Team Full Riding Family Frail; riders Benno, Loz and baby Mia in buggy #1
Team Tovo; Rider Leanne, support crew Max & Chris (also amazing photographer)
Team Run Like Crazy; Tristan Miller, his cousin Matty & Nic “Cougar” Marie plus Bec and baby Raffa
Team Ride From the City to Donny, then Back to the City Again; Andrew & Darcy
Team Cary; Rider Robyn and support crew & photographer Alex
Team Full Riding Family Bary; Michelle, Dave and their sons Gabriel (awesome self ride then upgrade to buggy)and Henry in the tandem seat. Plus Michelle’s Dad from South Africa smiling despite being roped in.
Team Cunningham; Chris & the Cunningham boys all riding under their own steam
Team Brophy; Rider Danger Nathe, early morning support crew Judy and sensational event coordinator and publicist Sarah, big ups to Maeve & Hugh for lasting out the cold and remaining awesome ALL DAY. Stayers!
Team Scooby; Riders Sammy Gee with son Finn in the tandem seat & Cassy at the wheel
Team Honky; Mission Jimbo surprising us with a mid trail appearance.
Team Thiessen; Dave, Pippa, Lauchie & the brand new Finn!
Team Davis – Peter & Wendy cant believe you drove down all that way to stand out in the cold for us!
Robyn Cary – can’t believe you rode all the way with us.
Ambie – magical always in every way
Pablo – despite the injuries, he remains upright
Family Rees – Katies, Robbie, Maisy & Otto driving all the way from Mansfield and chasing rainbows for us
Emma Leigh, Carol & Ian Winterburn – extraordinary huggers and detail lovers
Campbell & Amii – hot
Miss-Man Ghensi ‘Boozy Whatsit’
Braddles the Fox
Lucy & her lovely girls
Kylie Goodwin and her man Dave
Family Olsen – Kelly & Fred with Maddie & Scarlett. Thanks for the birthday song.
Jay in all his woollies
Kirsten & Jesse – looking hot but cold (know what I mean)
Candice & Portia – all the way from Point Lonsdale
Benny, Atti & Maddy
Felicity Tucker with Ruby & Alby
Jem & Ev and their boys Noah & Jedi – all the way from Airies Inlet
And of course, to ALL OF OUR TOTALLYTANDEM followers everywhere around the globe. While distance didn’t allow for you all to be there at the finish line with us, your strength, love & support were what got us there. For all the ways you helped us reach our goals with every blog you read, post you shared, pictures commented on and messages sent to us, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts. YOU ALL were a part of our journey and will continue to be a very special part of our life.
(Cue fat lady)