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The start of another RTA Big Ride… It was 1 pm when I left Melbourne in Joey’s car, brand new helmet in hand, all the usual accoutrements stuffed into duffel, and Norky bike laid across the top.

A relatively event-free drive to the Victorian border, with far less traffic than I usually encounter when we drive this way at night. From Albury to Gundagai there was a huge thunderstorm visible to the east, dark and foreboding, not a good sign for a week’s camping! It faded away at the turn off, then another appeared ahead as I neared Cootamundra — Coota to it’s inhabitants. The rain arrived at the same time I did, big, fat, heavy thunderstorm rain, so I parked the car and retired to the nearest pub to consider my options — what to do between 7 pm and 3 am in Cootamundra on a Friday night…

The first beer wasn’t a good start, a chipped glass cut my lip and the barman’s look at the glass seemed to indicate that it had a good week or two of life left… I left and walked up the street to the next, for a counter tea of bangers and mash, and another beer or two.

The show-ground wasn’t supposed to be accessible before midnight, but I decided to drive around at 9 pm to scope the place out, partly because the map provided by Bicycle NSW was so poor and I didn’t want to get lost! Not only was it open, but people were unpacking bags and bikes, and some even had a tent up and were having a few hours sleep. I decided to join them, parked the car and curled up in the passenger seat for three very uncomfortable hours of sleeping in an Astra.

Around half-past midnight I woke and stiffly got out of the car, then did what little packing I needed before wandering around and wasting time until the coaches arrived at three. Foolishly, I got into the first coach — this is always the one that they fill completely, but has the advantage that it might leave a few minutes ahead of the others. I ended up with the back seat to myself; above the motor it’s noisy, above the rear wheels it bounces, but two seats to myself and I found the pillow hidden behind the seats that the driver keeps for when he has a sleep in the back. Somehow I managed to sleep most of the way to Warragamba, apart from the forced stop at 6 am at a BP diner on the freeway at Marulan. It must have been one of the worst prepared places I’ve ever visited, some people were still queueing to try and get food while the rest of us where being ushered outside and back into the coaches! Shocking service, ridiculous prices, lousy food — standard roadside diner.