Day 7 Blackall to Longreach
Emotions were running high this morning as we woke to our final day. Although we knew we had another long, hot day ahead, somehow it seemed more achievable today knowing there was going to be reunions with family and friends at the end and we would be celebrating the incredible feat of cycling 1237km (although the final number of kms is debated based on whose Garmin you are tracking) in 7 days. So, for the last time, we fueled up on bacon and eggs, filled up the water bottles, applied the sunscreen and got ready to roll.
RideWest had another first this morning, with our photographer Matt Ryan taking to the air to capture that perfect peloton shot. Last night at the dinner in Blackall, a local mustering pilot from 3 Rivers Helicopters, generously donated a 15-minute chopper ride as an auction prize. Matt could not help himself and bought the prize, the results are amazing, see the image gallery below.
Our first stop for the day was roadside about 50km out of Blackall, and it was here we had our first set of surprise visitors. Past RideWest cyclists, local families and some beautiful children shouting encouragement and waving their hand-made signs, lit up the faces of our riders and support crew. These messages of support and families joining us on the last leg, only grew in volume and intensity as we got closer to Longreach.
As we arrived in Barcaldine for our lunch stop, we were welcomed into the home town of Don and Angus Chandler, by their family and the local community at the Tree of Knowledge Memorial. As we admired the impressive structure, we discovered that the award-winning memorial was built by the brother of one of our riders, David McNab, a 2020 RideWest sponsor, McNab Constructions. We were then treated to a lunch and few moments of bliss as we lay on the lawn in the shade, before hitting the road for the final 100 kms.
We arrived at The Wellshot Hotel about 3:30pm right as the day’s heat was starting to really affect our weary riders. But it was here that more and more family reunions were occurring – the happy tears were flowing already. The buzz of excitement together with a cool refreshing beer was just what the team needed for that final push into Longreach.
At a little after 4pm, a party was being set up in the Edkins Memorial Park in Longreach. Local school kids proudly waved the signs from their sign competition as they eagerly lined the street. Champagne and beers were put on ice ready to toast that celebratory arrival. Families, friends, and colleagues who had travelled from all over Queensland to greet their loved ones lined the footpath. And then at 4:30pm the magic moment of the spotter vehicle coming down the main street of Longreach, followed by the police escort, the RideWest truck and finally our riding team, set the crowd alight. They had made it; they were finally here!
The riders were truly exhausted, but so full of joy and pride. What an achievement and what a celebration to follow. The emotion boiled over, from laughter to tears and shear relief, the intensity of the last week was released and we could finally say, “We made it!”.
Later that evening, our team together with 90 other guests gathered in the iconic Qantas Founders Museum to celebrate and reflect on the week that was. The drinks flowed, the meals were delicious, and the fundraising still didn’t slow. Our team had raised over $330,000 for the Royal Flying Doctor Service. In a year where communities have struggled with bushfires and a global pandemic, our expectations had altered on what we might be able to achieve for the Wellbeing Out West program, but to our delight the generous donations of all our supporters has us on track for one of our highest fundraising efforts to date. With the final donations still coming in, we won’t know that final figure for a few weeks, but we will most certainly keep you all updated.
At the conclusion of the evening we got to view the new Luminescent Longreach light show, an absolute delight, leaving all us all saying ‘wow’. It is absolutely worth a trip to Longreach to view this spectacular, although maybe a flight or car trip would be a more appropriate way to get there!
Thank you to all the supporters of RideWest. Thank you to our incredible corporate sponsors. Congratulations to all our riders and support crew on an incredible week. Please stay tuned over the next couple of weeks as we continue to update you with more images and of course our final fundraising tally. We look forward to meeting with the team from the Royal Flying Doctors service and presenting a cheque to enable them to continue with their invaluable work of providing mental health support services to regional and rural Queenslanders.