The first day's camp in Lobethal was on the local football club oval. The skies were mostly clear for the moment - the night ended up being wet, windy and restless.
Nearly 150 riders gathered in Victoria Square, Adelaide, on 9 May 2015, for the start of the Outback Odyssey.
Vineyards dotted the steep hillsides climbing out of Adelaide on the way to Lobethal. Stopping here was as much for the photo as for catching my breath.
The view towards Adelaide after climbing most of the way to the peaks of the surrounding hills was breathtaking, both in beauty and effort.
After ending up 20 kilometers off route, round trip, and behind the support team, I made the best of it by enjoying the loneliness. The driest state in the driest country on Earth was experiencing record rain, making it greener than most locals had ever seen.
Too Far North
The farther north we rode, the more abandoned homesteads we saw. Some were left behind because of bad luck; others were built too far north and beyond were normal rainfall could support agriculture at the time.
Windmills were another common sight. So common I could make an entire portfolio of windmill photos. In a country of wide open spaces and constant wind, why wouldn't they be commonplace?
The Aussies asked me often what I thought of their country. I told them it was beautiful, tough, and for someone raised in the close quarters of the Ozarks hills and forests, far too expansive
Everyone once in a while I'd see a collection of buildings and think it was yet another run down farm, abandoned like others, and then see some movement. Nope, more tough farmers, like there are everywhere else.
Our first rest day was in Burra, a former mining town founded by Cornish miners. Great place to relax, wash clothes and eat real food.
All the way to the Murray
Supposedly you can see all the way to the Murray River from here. Whether or not you can, what can be seen is the Goyder Line. From here north, there is insufficient rainfall to sustain agriculture on a long-term basis. The change in terrain and from crops to grazing land is sudden and significant.
Windows down under
After passing north of the Goyder Line, the terrain changed from clumps of dense trees and farmland to scattered scrubby brush and grazing land.
The Outback Odyssey follows the Mawson Trail, which is named after Sir Douglas Mawson, and connects to points associated with him as well as another famous Australian explorer, Hubert Wilkins. This is the view out the window of Wilkin's bedroom in his childhood home near Mt. Bryan.
One of the more experienced Aussie riders insisted on taking me up to this abandoned house to point out some details. The stone steps were imported and had bullnose detailing not found on others. There were some other architectural details not found on other houses in the area, all of which showed that the family that built, and then left, this house had money.
Laura is the home of Golden North ice cream, which is quite possibly the greatest ice cream in the world. After a long ride into Laura, sitting at a cafe down the road from the factory and enjoying a cone was a nice treat.
Melrose, the capital of all things mountain biking in South Australia. Also home of several places to get great food and alcohol.
I was surprised at how little wear was on the tires on this truck considering the condition of the rest of it.
The Vault Cafe is small, but well worth the tight quarters to get excellent food. Sitting outside to eat and do some people watching is a good way to spend an afternoon.
This species of caterpillar, the name of which I do not know, forms convoys that can sometimes be a dozen or more members long. This was one of the smaller ones I saw crossing the road.
Why drive a fencepost when you can use the one that is there?
Flinders in Sight
Want to feel small, alone and entirely comfortable? Ride into a place like this and then realize that what you are seeing on the horizon will take nearly two more days to get to.
The most surreal experience I've had - riding across a vast, empty plain, with an 80 kilometer per hour headwind, and the sound of opera coming from somewhere in the distance.
Opera in the Outback
The source of the opera music I head as I rode into the Willochra Plain. All the result of one man with a van, a generator, three speakers and heaps of enthusiasm.
The Town That Never Was
Simmonston, sometimes known as The Town That Never Was, was a town that was built in anticipation of a railway extension expected to go to Quorn. When the railway went to Gordon instead, the town was abandoned before having been occupied. All that remains are the ruins in the Willochra Plain.
Taking it back
The foundations of a building in what was named, but never became, the town of Simmonston are nearly completed consumed by brush.
The Cradock Hotel is in the middle of nowhere. After hours of hard riding, stopping for a cold drink, a bag of salt and vinegar chips, and a few minutes on the front porch admiring the local art was a welcome break.
The Longest Ride
The longest stretch of the longest ride of the trip, the last few miles into Hawker. The flat, straight ride never seemed to end until there was a sudden rise and right turn into town.
Riding through open cattle grazing land was interesting. Most of the cattle gave us a wide berth, although some got curious if we slowed down or stopped. I doubt they saw anything as interesting as us all that often.
Not a Western
There were a few moments riding through remote South Australia that I had to remind myself that I wasn't in the American Southwest. The sight of a kangaroo or emu bounding was enough to remind me where I was.
Our first sight of Wilpena Pound came at the end of the second longest day of the ride. We camped at Rawnsley Park, in the shadow of Wilpena Pound.