Sarah: While the cat’s away

Well, actually, he isn’t, he’s right here observing as I type – it’s Tom who’s away.

After taking him (Tom, not the cat) to an early morning presentation that he has to give at the University of WA, I drop him off at the airport, his new “fat bike” neatly packed away in an equally new “tardis” bike bag. If this works out, it could signal the start of our new travel style. To and from the Americas we used airline-issue cardboard boxes – bulky and awkward, and impossible to fit into a normal car. We’ve high hopes for the tardis.

Tom’s off to Hobart – the place we first met, nearly 10 years ago now – and one dear to both our hearts for many more reasons than that. I’d love to be going, but am not entitled to any leave during my 3 month “locum” contract. In any case, our ongoing ability and need to have adventures separately as well as together is one of the things I really value about “us”. He plans to have a photographic trip into the Labyrinth – one of my very favourite places on the whole of this beautiful planet – and I look forward to seeing what he comes up with. No doubt the absence of an impatient “let’s-get-there-or-at-least-let’s-keep-moving-and-warm” companion will help.

Perth’s domestic airport is out on the Great Eastern Highway…. as are several short mountain biking circuits described in the WA Mountain Bike Trail Guide. I’d never drive this far just for a 5-6km loop, but given that I’m out in this direction anyway, I might as well make an afternoon of it and throw in my bike. I decide to ride them all.

I realise even before arriving at Goat Farm that I’ve forgotten my cycling shoes. Oops. Never mind; today I’ll mountain bike in town boots. I’m grateful to find that, this being more the domain of boys in full-face helmets who stick to the downhill runs and hone their skills on the jumps loop, I have the tortuous perimeter cross-country circuit all to myself. No-one’s looking at my ridiculous feet, unless it’s a passing bird.

It’s just me, the trail, and Roxy, who as ever is ready and rearing to go. Though I admire and am attracted by the very simple pared-back mountain biking style of the Garys of this world (steel frame, fully rigid 29ers, single speed, hmm that’s the real thing) it has to be said: I love my bike. Her eager responsiveness, the forgiveness in her bounce. We zig-zag up and then snake down, fast and fluid. I’m a lousy “blogger” in that I don’t stop for photos, but I can’t, I just can’t interrupt this essential present that is flow and motion and life, am unwilling to exchange this, this, this, here, now, this is it for an image saved for later.

It’s still winter, technically, but I’m sweating under a cloudless sky, wondering how soon I’ll be wanting to exchange my bike for the watersports that are more appropriate for our summer. They call Montana “Big Sky Country” – and rightly so, for it is – but for all my earth-wanderings I’ve never met a sky bigger or deeper blue than this one I grew up under.

Forsyth’s Mill, my second port of call, is a little further out and just the sort of riding I enjoy: flowing singletrack with jumps, berms and trees so close together my handlebars only just fit through. Here are a few picnickers, but no-one else riding the trail. Despite its proximity to the highway, it gives me that lovely “alone in the bush” sensation that I live for.

Lake Leschenaultia is more “one for the family” but I’ll ride it this once for the sake of the list ticker inside me, knowing as I do that I’m unlikely to come back unless it’s with a pea gravel newbie in tow. I’m soon wishing for a horse, but reminded that all things are relative when to my surprise I pass two other cyclists pushing their bikes up a gentle incline. Still, it’s good to be out in the bush and moving on this glorious Saturday.

I finish up with a visit to the lovely John Forrest National Park – I’ve time, and an Annual Parks Pass that needs to see some use – where there’s a mix of “legal” and “illegal” trails. I think the general idea is: stay off the walking trails but the rest is fair game. To be completely honest it’s not always crystal clear to me which is which but I figure as long as I don’t churn up the trails and am courteous to walkers, I should be OK.

I finish my day scribbling at a picnic table, relishing this incredible winter that allows one to just “be” outdoors in comfort. I’ve always been a sucker for a well placed picnic table. The writing is like the biking: I’m completely, utterly immersed in this exact moment that is the present. Right here, right now. There is no past, no future, and no place else.

The secret to happiness, perhaps.



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