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Brisbane to Cairns RFDS Charity Bike Ride, October 2008

RFDS Charity Bike Ride Route

Brisbane to Cairns RFDS Charity Bike Ride

Parliament House staffer Stephen Finnimore, cycled from Brisbane to Cairns in October in the lead up to the Far North Queensland sitting of the Queensland Parliament in Cairns.

Stephen’s ride was aimed at raising awareness and donations for the Royal Flying Doctor Service (Queensland Section) (RFDS).

Brisbane to Cairns RFDS Charity Bike Ride - Stephen's Blog


  • Total distance travelled = 1,927 km
  • Total magpie attacks = 30

Friday, 24 October

Edmonton to Cairns

The final day dawned fine and clear, with the strong southerly wind persisting - not that I would need its assistance today. It was only a short run into Cairns, so I started out a bit later than usual, meaning I had fun mixing it with the quite heavy peak hour traffic into the centre of Cairns. Had a quiet coffee with the sisterhood on the Esplanade before heading to the Convention Centre where I was greeted by Speaker Reynolds and warmly welcomed by the familiar faces of Parliamentary staff colleagues and others.

It was then off a little further north to the Cairns RFDS base to be overwhelmed by a welcome from a large and generous crowd of local RFDS staff, with an official ribbon finish line to break, followed by a chat over morning tea.

And the ride was over - all that was left was to ride back into Cairns for a quiet celebratory lunch with the support crew.

The 33.5 k for today took the overall trip total to 1961k, whilst today’s 1 hour and 27 minutes meant I had spent a total of just over 74 moving hours in the saddle since leaving Brisbane.

Thursday, 23 October

Today was the last real day of the ride, tomorrow I just have 25 km left to finish from Edmonton up to the Cairns Convention Centre and then another 6 km up to the RFDS Base at the Cairns airport.

My ride today was the 2nd longest in distance and the longest in time taken. I particularly enjoyed the day as I took more time along the way for breaks and also included some detouring off the Bruce Highway.

I left Tully via back roads through cane fields and rejoined the Bruce after about 12km at El Arish. I found the sisterhood not long afterwards at the Silkwood Hotel with an expectant look on their faces – unfortunately the pub didn’t open for another 2.5 hours.

Then went off the highway on an idyllic run through Cattle & Cane country – and a few bananas as well. The green countryside with fast running streams and plank-a-long bridges were a cyclist’s challenge.

There was lots of cane transport and harvesting happening - since leaving Brisbane there has only been 3 days where I haven’t seen cane.

Had a brief stop at Paranella Park and then onto South Johnstone where the sugar mill gets right up close and personal in terms of both site and smell. At one point I was stopped by a crossing cane train whose tracks crossed the road in a wide arc both before me and after me. I was enclosed by it and have never felt so safe on a bike before. Only the magpies could get to me. Stopped for morning tea at Innisfail where a mobile bakery van pulled up beside me – not to be resisted. Had a quick look around the town before getting back on to the big bad Bruce with the final destination in site.

When riding through Miriwinni I passed a sign stating that the town was the home of Brad Beven - the world triathlon champ. I wasn’t sure whether to feel be inadequate or inspired.

Sneaked in another bakery stop at Babinda before the sisterhood arrived for another scheduled stop. They headed off to explore the nearby Boulders whilst I pressed on the next bakery at Gordonvale. By this time the tail wind was strengthening and required caution given the 4 metre drop off the side of the road.

I didn’t have time to finish my coffee when the support crew arrived for lunch meeting over looked by the steamy stack of the Mulgrave Mill.

I then pulled in at the Mulgrave Electorate Office where I was welcomed by Hon. Warren Pitt, MP and a man who has been stalking me for the last few days. Hello Mr Speaker.

There was then a short fast run into Edmonton for my overnight stop. It was very nice to have the trip bookended by staying with Kellie’s parents there seeing as she had ridden with me on my first day 3 weeks ago.

My stats for the day were -

  • 152.2 km travelled
  • 26.7 km/ hour average speed
  • 51.5 km / hour maximum speed
  • 5 hours 40 mins travelling time

In total I’ve ridden 1,927 km. Only 30-odd to go.

Wednesday, 22 October

I went for a walk around Ingham after my ride yesterday and was attacked by a Masked Lapwing – a bird better known as a plover. I don’t know what I’ve done to the bird species but they seem to have an issue with me.

Today it was fine and clear with a southerly wind when I set off from Ingham just after 6am.

The ride today was relatively short and the first 15 km through cane fields was very pleasant. This lead to the Cardwell Range which was the biggest climb of the whole trip.

The lookout up the top over Hinchinbrook was fantastic. I stopped for a coffee and a macadamia biscuit to enjoy the view. There were two other touring cyclists there as well and they were considerably weighed down with belongings. Their bikes were towing cargo trailers and also had panniers hanging off the fronts. One of the riders had a guitar strapped across his back. I felt very fortunate to have the support vehicle carrying my bags and collection of musical instruments.

There were lots of coastal streams on the road to Cardwell and the narrow shoulderless bridges crossing these were a concern to this cyclist. I also had road works to contend with during the last 15 km of the ride and the 3 metre drops off the edge of the road made those bridges look easy. Very pleased to arrive safely in Tully.

My stats for the day were as follows-

  • 102 km traveled (3rd shortest day of the trip)
  • 4 hours travelling time
  • 60 km/h maximum speed (coming down the Range)
  • 25.4 km / h average speed

I’ve traveled 1,775 km in total and there are about 160 km to go.

As I near the end of this ride I want to express my great appreciation to all family and friends who have texted me along the way with messages of support. It has been a great inspiration to receive these messages while travelling.

Tuesday, 21 October

I left Townsville at 6.30am with the continued assistance of a tail wind but the impediment of heavy traffic and road works to deal with. These works along the Bruce Highway north of Townsville have removed much of the shoulder of the road where I would normally have ridden so this made goings tough.

I have encountered plenty of road kill each day but today I had to swerve to avoid my first snake. It was a very big and very dead python.

Soon after I had a rear wheel puncture which I am confident was unrelated to the snake. I stopped to change this but after getting back on the road my front tyre also started slowly leaking. Two punctures in one go.

I had a short stop at Blue Water and then met the support crew Rollingstone. Then went to the Frosty Mango where I had a non-banana smoothy. I have been eating 6 – 8 bananas per day – they are a cyclists snack of choice.

Approaching Ingham, I traveled through more cane harvesting country and the road had the best shoulder to date. I arrived at 12.15 and was met by a journalist and photographer from the Herbert River Express.

I want to say another big thanks to my support crew, 'the sisterhood' for their sterling job throughout this journey. They have always been there with water and food to keep me fueled. I think that there job has been more difficult than mine and Wendy and Dianne have had to contend with heavy colds as well for the last week. I'm very appreciative of their commitment.

My stats for the day were –

  • 114.9 km travelled
  • 4 hours 3 mins travelling time
  • 28.3 km/hour average speed
  • 46.9 km maximum speed

I’ve traveled 1,673 km in total and calculate that there are around 250km to go.

Monday 20, October

Today is a rest day in Townsville and I took the opportunity to do a bit of organisation and forward planning. I visited the RFDS Townsville base for morning tea and had a look around Townsville in the afternoon with my expert local guide.

So far in this blog I have neglected to mention my support crew. My two sisters Wendy and Dianne have done a wonderful job in assisting me along the way in the support vehicle. It is a long, slow and difficult journey for them waiting for me at designated spots and no doubt worrying about my safety. I need to also thank Holden who have very generously provided us with a support vehicle – a new SV6 for the trip and also to BP Air for supplying us with fuel cards. Holden and BP Air are great corporate supporters of the RFDS and I am very grateful to them for the assistance that they have provided with this ride.

Sunday 19, October

I left Home Hill at 6.30am and travelled the first 10km through back roads. It was delightful going through the cane and passed the smoke of the Inkerman Mill. The Burdekin Bridge is long and shoulderless, so no real room for cyclists. Crossing it early on a Sunday morning when there were very few vehicles on it was a wise move. I then took the heavy vehicle by-pass through to Ayr and due to an complete absence of trucks was the heavy vehicle on it.

I had a brief stop in Brandon and saw plenty of magpie geese in the cane pastures. Luckily these birds didn’t live up to their name and there were no attacks.

I arrived in Townsville at mid day and was welcomed by the Speaker, Mike Reynolds at a ceremony in the Flinders Mall Centre stage that was also attended by representatives from the RFDS and the Townsville City Council.

In the afternoon, I took a walk along the Strand and through the city clocking up approximately 6 km by foot.

Stats for the day were:

  • 106 km travelled
  • 3 hours 43 minutes travelling time
  • 28.5 km / hour average speed
  • 53 km / hour maximum speed
  • 2 Magpie attacks

Stats for the journey so far:

  • Total kilometers travelled 1,558
  • Total kilograms lost 4.6
  • Distance to go = 353 km

Saturday, 18 October

Complete the following sentence, Bowen is the M A …….. capital of Australia. Most people might answer Mango but for me, Bowen is the Magpie capital. There were lots of magpie attacks today.

The journey from Proserpine to Ayr today was the longest ride of my journey – 173 km.

I was keen to get away to an early start but this was foiled when I woke up to find my bike had a flat rear tyre. It started raining as I changed the tyre at 6am and heavy rain continued for the first 10 km of the day’s ride.

I commenced on side roads through cane fields before I reached the highway and saw plenty of birds of prey circling for their breakfast of fresh road kill. I have seen much road kill each day and have swerved to miss the dead echidnas in particular. This morning, I had to avoid a turtle attempting to cross the highway.

I stopped to do a live interview for ABC radio Townsville and following this received plenty of toots from passing vehicles who I assume had been listening.

The Tilt Train overtook me on its way to Cairns and I then stopped for a break in Bowen. As I alluded to before, on my way into Bowen, the magpies went mad. There were 5 different attacks in short succession and then another soon after on the way to Home Hill. Apart from these attacks, it was a great ride due to the strong wind behind me. This assisted me in making great time all the way except for the last 10 km from Inkerman to Home Hill where the wind changed.

I was welcomed to the Burdekin by the local Member, Rosemary Menkens, MP and the Mayor Lyn McLaughlin.

Stats for the day were as follows:

  • 173.7 km total
  • 32.3 km / hour average speed
  • 47.8 km maximum speed
  • 5 hours 23 minutes travelling time
  • 2 punctures
  • 5 magpie attacks

Friday, 17 October

Yesterday I dropped my bike into Rock ‘n’ Road – a great cycle shop in Mackay. Ron, the man in charge, very kindly gave his time and in giving the bike a gratis once-over. He fixed the rear wheel which had again come out of alignment. Many thanks to Ron. I also picked up a new pair of prescription riding sun glasses that were ordered before I left and couriered to Mackay for me.

I set off before 6am with a strong tail wind in support and the rising sun in my rear-view mirror as I rode through the city streets to connect with the Bruce Highway. When I reached 10 km clear of Mackay I officially declared it a magpie free town. I rode through the sugar country scenery with the clouds of mill smoke in the distance. Trains and harvesters were part of the landscape and there were fewer heavy vehicles on the road.

Despite the new prescription glasses, there was no difference in my speed.

About 40 km out of Mackay, I was attacked by the most persistent magpie swooper of the journey. The bird continued its attack on me for several hundred metres. People have asked why I don’t wear a bike helmet with the attachments that repel magpies – the answer is vanity.

After a breakfast stop at Calen, the cane country gave way to beef grazing and then back to cane again as I got closer to Proserpine.

I arrived at Proserpine at 11.50 am and was met by Jan Jarratt, MP and reporters from the 2 local newspapers.

My stats for the day were as follows:

  • 126.16 km ridden from Mackay to Proserpine
  • Total time of 4 hours 44 minutes
  • Average speed of 27 km/h
  • 1 very persistent magpie

Stats for the ride so far -

  • 1,278 km travelled in total
  • 22 magpie attacks

Thursday, 16 October

I arrived in Mackay yesterday afternoon and have a rest day here today.

Have put the bike in the shop for a routine grease and oil change after travelling 1,150 km on this journey so far.

Yesterday was ‘Ride to Work Day’ or day 12 of my ride to work month.

The trip from Clairview to Mackay started well with overcast weather and a nice tail wind. The scenery changed from dry beef grazing country to sugar cane as I passed Carmila.

There was a designated fatigue zone with rumble strips along the edge of the road. Riding over these certainly increased the fatigue in parts of my body.

Conditions then got tougher as I approached Mackay with the weather warming up and increased traffic. Mackay has become a very busy centre.

All up I did 132 km yesterday at an average speed of 25.8 km/h.

There were 2 magpie swoops and I was also shadowed for a while by a low flying helicopter.

After the rest day here today, the next stops will be Proserpine, Ayr and then Townsville.

Tuesday, 14 October

I arrived in Clairview this afternoon after a 4 hour ride from Marlborough.

Clairview is a lovely spot, under the palm trees looking out on the ocean. I understand this is one of only 3 places where the Bruce Highway meets the coast. The tide here also covers a large distance – I have watched it go out at least 100 meters this afternoon.

The leg today was 105 km and I managed an average speed of 25.5 km/h. A great milestone was reached in that I passed halfway to Cairns at some point today.

When I set off from Marlborough this morning, I was accompanied by a flock of red-tailed cockatoos and mist in the hills.

I made great time in the morning but the wind changed and I had to deal with a head-wind going up hills this afternoon which made things much tougher.

I was shadowed by 3 magpies during the day (that I know of) but none of them swooped.

My original calculations of a 1,737 km ride (courtesy of Google maps) has blown-out somewhat due to various detours, getting to and from accommodation and the suggestion that I ride all the way out to the Gladstone Marina in the wind and the rain last Friday. To date I have travelled 1,018 km and it looks likely that the total to Cairns will end up being around 1,900 km.

Tomorrow I have a 125 km journey to Mackay and it is coincidently the national Ride to Work Day. As I have been telling media along the way, I am having a ‘ride to work month’ on my way to the regional Parliament in Cairns.

People have asked if I get bored along the way but the answer is no. Sometimes songs come into my head from nowhere and I had the pleasure of hearing The Triffids’ ‘Wide Open Road’ today. When you're driving on the Wide Open Roads, remember to watch out for the cyclists.

Monday, 13 October

Another good run today from Rockhampton to Marlborough.

It was overcast again and the strong southerly that has been with me since Childers continues.

The ride today was 135 km, my longest to date on this trip. Average speed for the day was 27 km/h – taking a total of 5 hours.

4 magpie attacks today.

The traffic has been very kind to me and I am receiving some supportive honks from passing cars and even a train.

Saturday, 11 October

Had a good ride from Gladstone to Rocky today – it was 118km and took me 4.5 hours.

Only 3 magpie swoops today. The further north I get, the less aggressive the magpies seem to be in their attacks.

So far I have done a total of 778 km, getting close to half-way.

I was joined for the last few kilometres of the ride by the Member for Rockhampton, Rob Schwarten, MP who also enjoys riding. We were filmed by WIN TV so lucky neither of us fell off.

Earlier I stopped to say hello to a passing cyclist who was riding from Cairns to Sydney – he had the right idea as his way is all downhill.

I have a rest day here in Rocky tomorrow so will get in some local sightseeing before the journey to Marlborough on Monday

Friday, 10 October

It’s blowing a severe gale and rainy in Gladstone today.

I arrived at the Marina at 11am after a 74km journey from Miriam Vale.

There were 2 magpie attacks today along with my first puncture which occurred in suburban Gladstone. On the highway this morning I saw my first mileage to Cairns road sign – it read ‘Cairns - 1234 km’.

This afternoon I was formally welcomed to town by the local Member, Liz Cunningham, MP and the Deputy Mayor, Cr Gail Sellers at the Gladstone Regional Council building. I was presented with a gift and some donations for the RFDS which was very kind.

I understand that from the various fund raising that has occurred so far, around $2,000 has been raised for the RFDS.

Thank you to all for this great effort, keep it coming.

Tomorrow – Rockhampton.

Thursday, 9 October

I’ve arrived in Miriam Vale after a 121 km ride from Bundaberg. I had an average speed of 26.2 km/h during today’s leg, assisted by a slight tailwind.

Only 1 magpie attack today which occurred just outside of Bundaberg.

So far I’ve ridden 586 km in total with about 1,200 km to go until I reach Cairns in two weeks time.

Tomorrow I’ll be finishing my trip at the Gladstone Marina if anyone wants to join me.

Wednesday, 8 October

My first day off and I was very happy to visit the good people at the Bundaberg RFDS Base.

The local RFDS pilot Graeme told me that he was about to fly off to Gladstone and that the journey would take 20 minutes. It will take me about 8 hours on the bike over the next 2 days.

Thanks again to all the Bundaberg RFDS staff for the visit. Please remember to send donations to the RFDS – they rely on raising $5 million each year from public donations in order to continue providing the fantastic service that they do.

Tuesday, 7 October

Have arrived safely in Bundaberg after a 118km ride from Maryborough.

The journey took 4 hours 30 mins and was much easier today as the wind has largely died down.

To compare conditions, yesterday it took 5 hours 30 mins to go 124 km due to the northerly wind slowing me down.

I left Maryborough at 5.30am and stopped in Childers for an hour's break along the way so all up a relatively easy day.

I stopped to say hello to 2 hitchhikers who were on their way to Townsville. I advised them that I was going all the way to Townsville and beyond but only had room for one of them.

Just outside of Bundaberg I was met by the local newspaper, the News Mail, who took plenty of artistic shots of me.

There were only 3 magpie attacks today.

Tomorrow is my first rest day of the journey and I will be visiting the Bundaberg RFDS Base - http://www.flyingdoctor.org.au/index.cfm?MenuID=70 Remember that donations to the RFDS can be made here - http://www.flyingdoctor.org.au/index.cfm?MenuID=62

Monday, 6 October

Pedal Power in Gympie kindly donated their services in repairing the bike this morning – many thanks to them.

The delay caused by the dodgy wheel meant that I didn’t get on the road until 10am and I had the company of a hot northerly all day. This made the 110km leg a fairly hard slog but I arrived safely in Maryborough at 4pm.

There were 5 magpie attacks today including a few genuine helmet hits.

Sunday, 5 October

There was a hot northerly blowing on the leg from Yandina to Gympie today. This made the hills in particular slow progress but I received some moral support from a local cycling club who were out on a ride.

On arriving in Gympie at 2.15pm, I realised that my rear wheel was out of alignment so I will need some repairs at the local bike shop tomorrow morning before setting off for Maryborough.

Saturday, 4 October

It was ideal weather for the 122 km trip to Yandina today.

I had the company of two riders from Brisbane to Nambour and it was great to start this adventure off accompanied by Kellie and Brian. Kellie is a work colleague who is on her own cycling journey. Good luck with Noosa Kellie - it is a mighty thing you are doing!

Brian is my long-time cycling partner. He has a regular habit of appearing on my doorstep in the pre-dawn hours on the weekend, his bicycle beside him. This has been annoying, especially when the mercury was struggling to rise even more than I was. But his persistence has helped ensure I have put in the training hours necessary for this ride. Thanks for all the "character building" Brian!

A magpie attacked Kellie as we rode through Caboolture and then I had the pleasure of a Butcher bird attack as I approached Yandina.

Thank you to Phil Smith from ABC Brisbane who phoned me just as we had stopped for a break in Caboolture. We did a live-to-air interview about my ride on his ABC breakfast show.

Friday, 3 October

Stephen departs from Parliament House.

I left Parliament House this afternoon with just a 7.7 km ride home before my proper departure tomorrow. I stopped in at Tom Wallace’s cycle shop to get some last minute spares and was attacked by a magpie for my trouble. No doubt the first of many swoops to come. Many thanks to all of my colleagues for the send-off from Parliament and to Russell Ousley from the Royal Flying Doctor Service who attended as well.

Thursday, 2 October

I had the great pleasure of going to the Royal Flying Doctor Service Base at the Brisbane Airport this afternoon. There I was met by the RFDS Chief Executive Officer, Nino Di Marco and the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, Mike Reynolds. The RFDS Beechcraft Super King Air B200 aircraft is capable of transporting two stretcher patients plus RFDS staff and can travel up to 500kms per hour over a distance of 1600 kms in pressurised comfort and safety. RFDS aircraft fly over 5.7 million kilometres per year and are believed to be the hardest working Beechcraft Super King Air in use in the world today.

For this reason, the RFDS must purchase a new aircraft every 18 months and donations received from members of the public go towards purchasing the new aircraft.

Wednesday, 1 October

Apart from more than a touch of madness, the Brisbane to Cairns ride was born of a number of inspirations. It is an opportunity to help the Parliament raise the profile of its regional sittings to be held in Cairns in late October 2008, as well as to increase awareness of and support the Royal Flying Doctor Service (Queensland Section), as the Regional Parliament charity partner - all in a way which promotes cycling.

I am also looking forward to the physical challenge - and the attentions of my personal trained masseuse at the end of each day - there will be one, won't there?

I have cycled for most of my adult life, including a regular but short daily commute. I have done a few long distance rides, both supported and unsupported, but the Cairns ride will certainly be the longest.

This blog will be updated on most days with news of my progress through Queensland, so please keep checking this page to see how I am travelling.

Most looking forward to the whole journey - especially the finish line!