Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride

More from Western Australia by Gravel Girl.

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To tell you the story of this adventure seems to be my norm. It started when Kevin said it would be easy. “Two hours, maybe less. A rails to trails bike ride. 1,500 feet of gain in 25 miles. Starting and ending in Nannup, cutting through a National Park.” And he was “sure” the road bikes would just roll along the miles in no time, even though the trails were gravel. Nothing alarming. I wasn’t even sure I should carry two bottles of water or wear bike shorts. Maybe I could wear flip flops. It was going to be like a trip to Disney ….

But 4 hours later of hacking through the woods, I crawled back to the car with grit, gnats, and a fly ground into the blue and white zinc sunscreen I had creamed on my face at the start. It was honestly a new marker of success to find the fly on my left cheek; I was assured I had on enough sunscreen. Seeing the dead fly made me chuckle like a kookaburra.

While I surveyed the unfamiliar face in the car mirror, I thought about a tidbit from the news last night: the top places that are posted on Instagram. They are:

10: The Dubai Mall: Dubai, United Arab Emirates

9: Yankee Stadium: New York, New York

8: Madison Square Garden: New York, New York

7: Red Square, Moscow, Russia

6: Musée du Louvre: Paris, France

5: Gorky Park, Moscow, Russia

4: Siam Paragon, Bangkok, Thailand

3: Times Square: New York, New York

2: Dodger Stadium: Los Angeles, California

And now for the Number 1? Disneyland. California.

Australia wasn’t on the list; Nannup and the twenty five mile bike ride that is three hours from Perth NEVER made it. And yet, the place was stunning, far better than a Disney ride. Far better than Mr. Toad’s Wild ride which is what this route should be named.

The trails wound through miles of woods; a mixture of wide, smooth dirt roads and skinny, rocky, sandy single track. Kangaroos, emus and wild boar bounded in front of the bikes. The parrots, black cockatoos and kookaburras provided surround sound music, with the cicadas and their signature “chirp, chirp” in the background. The surprises included Kevin bunny hopping over a “bluey” (Western blue-tongued lizard which are a tad smaller than an iguana). And me swerving to miss a snake that was inches away from my ankle and already hissing because it was mad about Kevin almost running it over. (Note to self: maybe being in front is safer?). But the biggest surprise: although I had to stop dozens of times to pull sticks out of the gearing on the bike, we only had one mechanical (a flat tire).

I thought about each place on the Instagram list. I had no desire to visit Yankee Stadium, Dodger Stadium or the Dubai Mall. I felt indifferent to Bangkok or Moscow. I had been to enough of NYC. I had been to the Louvre, on rainy days when I lived in Paris. And I was happy to pass up Disneyland, even Mr Toad’s Wild Ride.

After all, I had found my own “wild ride,” one that left me covered in blue and white zinc sunscreen mixed with grit, gnats and a fly stuck to my cheek…. And gave me a chuckle that even the kookaburras would admire.

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