And so it is written that SatNav had cycled up Mount Sinai and had returned with two tablets of solid steel.
“I have been to the mountain” he cried “and I have heard the word of the disciple. Go forth good people of the steel, and Conquer ETTALONG!” He cried, and the people rejoiced for many of them had never been to Ettalong but had heard tales of its great beauty and excellent fruit toast.
Not for nothing is it known as Etta-LONG and so I did a quick audit of my personal fitness, cross-checked the vertical climb charts of some Ettalong regulars, and realised that while Steel is real, I was going to park the single-speed steelie at home and trot out the regular alloy bike instead. With its clear lacquered finish it is still a celebration of all that is metal and so I would “fake it” in order to make it all the way.
The day dawned and it was GOOD DAY indeed. Some light cloud cover, a little rain overnight to bring the temps down. Meeting Binners early in Chatswood, we were joined by his mate Ben. We rolled up to Turra for the off. Ben, who is an oncologist and so a total super-hero in my books, unfortunately got called into work. Seemingly “some prick” hadn’t made it in today. Disappointment was written all over his face as he turned south back down the highway.
The turnout at Turra was excellent and about 20 of us set off up the highway. The pace was pretty good with VD and WBA up the front and SatNav ranging up and down the side checking everyone was okay. I settled in three rows back and (I’ll admit) tried to coast as much as possible. This strategy was paying off, until we encountered some hills.
The old Pacific Highway is lovely. It was getting more rural. There were some beautiful descents and challenging climbs. We had a re-group at Mt White and then about half the group split and headed back. We didn’t know it at the time but we had lost 2-3 along the way. Sorry guys. Glad you made it back okay.
That left six of us, with VD again leading from the front and the rest of us slotting in behind. Highlander and I battled for Lantern Rouge honours. It was great to have his company for a while but I eventually solidified my position as LR. VD peeled off at Calga and we definitely missed the nice hole he punched through the air for us.
The road was beautiful now as it headed towards the central coast. Windy with not too many long climbs. There were cool mossy corners. We had some helpful attention from a red cop car which shadowed us for a while. This was reassuring as there had been the occasional motorbike totally going for it through the tight twisty stuff.
Eventually the descent into West Gosford came up. We were on the main road now. Making the descent was a lot of fun on a bike but I do love driving down that road so I was undecided what was more enjoyable. Certainly it’s more fun in a car on the way up.
From there it was pretty but the headwind was strong. My legs were really starting to pack it in. We had a great group going with Zlatko in the lead. DtB offered to take the lead and I couldn’t hang on. We splintered and I fell back. Luckily Ettalong wasn’t too far off.
We got to the café with 12 mins to spare to be greeted by B1|C and Murray who had been on their own epic adventure. Happy Luke had taken the time to order ahead from the road but even so the café was in disarray. My order of a strong flat white somehow became a very hot flat white. Exiting the café with only a minute before the ferry it dawned on me. I now had a very hot drink in one hand and an almond croissant in the other and it was too far to walk to the ferry. I was going to have to perform a circus trick if I wanted to take both with me. I took a couple of scalding sips of coffee and ditched it. Later, Zlatko demonstrated how to deal with this situation by riding one handed and pulling a croissant from under his jersey. (And no, that’s not a euphemism.)
We duly got on the ferry. It’s a beautiful trip across if a bit rough today. We were standing and stretching and getting fairly tossed around. We joked about getting a KOM on the ferry. Magoo has it already apparently.
Our numbers had increased thanks to B1 and Murray. B1 offered to show us a way out of Palm Beach that didn’t involve the busy main road. It did involve rather a lot of hills though. By this time I was really struggling but the ERs were looking out for me. B1 offered another hilly deviation but this time I decided to take my chances on the main road. It was a case of I’ll take the high road and you take the low road and we popped out at about the same time.
Back on the ferry Zlatko had mentioned going for a beer in Manly. This worked in well with where I was going and I figured seeing as I kinda missed out on coffee at Ettalong perhaps alcohol would quieten down the little voice in my head that kept saying “coffee coffee coffee”. So after the main group split off to Church point and Happy met up with family, Zlatko and I fluffered down to the Bavarian Beer Café in Manly, the Z-man being the only ER to actually complete the full Steelie Day Out on a steelie. Chapeau.
It’s no surprise that a nice guy like Z had nice friends too. They were good enough to speak English just for my sake. Apparently they meet there every Sunday for Oktoberfest. “Starting early this year?” I asked. “Oh, we like to celebrate Oktoberfest all year round.” One of Zlatko’s friends replied. What a great tradition.
A quick Paulaner Pilsner and some hot chips and I was off. The rest of the journey home was a dreamy, slightly inebriated cruise via Balgowlah and then down onto The Spit. Just before Parriwi I sidled up to a couple of Rapha boys. They turned in perfect sync and both gave me a sneering look before they took off. I felt like yelling after them “I bet you haven’t already got 140 kays on the clock, smartarses!” but I didn’t have the energy.
I got home about 1:00 expected to be feted as the returning hero but there was no one home. The dog was happy to see me though. Man’s best friend, truly. Jason, I’ll send you a photo if you’d like.
All-in-all, a great day out and an epic ride. Thanks SatNav for organising and for everyone who took leadership on the day. It would’ve been great to do it on the steelie. Maybe next year.