When my mate Adam Smiddy passed away I promised myself if I had a dream I would act on it. I thank Adam for showing me the strength to pursue a few of those dreams:
1. To do that first ride from Brisbane to Townsville back in 2006
2. To ride around Australia: Completed in 2014
3. To be proactive at finding my life partner - Alyssa Coe finally comes into my life in 2013 after I join a dating site called eHarmony.
4. To ride to Darwin from Adelaide - Happening as we speak
5. To start a family: Wow, at 54 I am about to become a Dad: Due date November 11 this year!
How To Get To Uluru And How The Whole Crazy Idea Came About
Welcome to the very first blog to kickstart our brand new Smiddy adventure with a 9 day ride up the guts of Australia to Uluru. Ayre's Rock has been on my list of places to visit ever since I became a cyclist some 35 years ago. Some rules were applied many years ago.
Rule number 1: Driving there was not an option
Rule number 2: Riding my motor bike was not acceptable
Rule number 3: Flying there was a definite no no
This left the only option available; travelling by pushbike was not only acceptable but the most enjoyable way of getting to the Red Centre. Therefore a plan was hatched in my mind back in 2014. That year was the final year of my 7in7 journey around Australia when nearly 40 riders joined me to complete the last leg from Melbourne to Brisbane. I knew after riding around Australia that my craving for adventure would not end there. With 3 days to go of that Melbourne to Brisbane odyssey, I pulled Christian aside and confessed to him that I was going to ride from Adelaide to Darwin and that I wanted to turn it into a Smiddy event, but that I would give myself 2015 off and do it in 2016.
Christian got that look on his face that said; "Oh no, run for the hills, another Sharky idea!"
He then said; "Okay Sharky I'll back you but please don't say anything until we get through this event."
"No problem mate I excitedly agreed."
Two days later, on that final day into Brisbane, we pulled into the Gold Coast for the only coffee stop we had for the entire two weeks of riding. What happened next I totally blame on a coffee high that messed with my brain.You see, my normal order of a half-strength cappuccino made with skinny milk but extra hot, was ditched for a full-strength cappuccino made with full-cream milk. After consuming that coffee I called all the riders in and asked for a show of hands of any rider that would like to join me if I was to ride to Darwin in 2016. It was very pleasing to see 3/4 of the riders that day shot their hands in the air. The bond formed during that trip in 2014 between the riders and road crew was exceptional and I think that all present on the day wanted to experience that high again.
I am so happy to welcome those hands, and the riders that belong to them from that 2014 ride. You have all helped to invite new Smiddy blood to this inaugural event, and on that note, a huge welcome to every one of the 57 riders and 20 road crew members present today.
I turned again to Christian that day as we rolled out from that coffee stop and said; "Sorry mate I couldn't help myself."
His reply was what I was longing to hear; "It's okay Sharky, I'm with you, but now we have to convince the Mater!"
To fast forward those meetings at the Mater, it basically came down to the Executive Fundraising Director at the Mater, Lesley Ray, saying to Cherie Nicolas, program manager of Smiddy, "Let's run with it because Sharky will do it regardless." It was Lesley that showed faith in me back in 2008 when Rowan Foster and I approached her with the idea of bringing Smiddy into the Mater family, and once again she showed faith in my idea and I am sincerely grateful once again. The only proviso was that it had to be run over a two year period. Adelaide to Uluru this year and Alice to Darwin, via Kakadu National Park in 2017. Lesley's reasons were sound as nearly 4 weeks on the road was just too long and stressful for Mater employees to be away from the office. I eagerly agreed and 18 months later here we are, a day out from yet another dream coming true for not just myself, but for everyone here today.
Ideas Are Great But People Who Make Them Happen Are Greater
I will readily admit that I am the ideas man in many facets of my life, Smiddy just one of them. But ideas are useless if you are not surrounded by people to help make them a reality. Therefore I would like to thank Lesley Ray and Nigel Harris CEO of Mater Foundation, for allowing this event to go ahead. Cherie Nicolas for her direction and leadership the past 2 years. Wendy Muir for everything that happens behind the scenes to enable these events to become real, and let me assure you for this event Wendy's list of things to do was huge. Krista Page for her enthusiasm and passion to help out where she could while juggling the other Smiddy events she is in charge of. Christian "Killer" Killeen; head chief honcho of Adelaide to Uluru and without him and his belief in my crazy idea we would not be here today. Not to leave out all the riders, many old returning Smiddy faces, along with many new first timers and our incredible established road crew and the newbies that you will get to know through these blogs over the next 9 days.
Last but certainly not least, Mr David Smiddy, for once again giving his permission for this ride to proceed, for without the support of this gentleman for 10 years now Smiling for Smiddy would not have even begun!
So all the riders have arrived, all the trucks and vehicles are packed and ready to go, although a small hiccup occurred with the refrigerated 'Terry Tucker Truck' that started perfectly fine in the engine department, but the fridge side of things was a no go. Many hours were wasted as another truck was delivered and hurriedly repacked. As I write these last few words a function for everyone involved in this event begins shortly, so with our rent-a-crowd of 57 riders and 20 road crew making up the bulk of the numbers, a further 30 very important family members and sponsors should mean a good atmosphere for our send off dinner at the Hotel we are staying in called the Arkubra. I am hoping that it starts a little late as it is 6:40pm and I need to get my butt down there.
I look forward to delivering day 1 blog tomorrow so until then all the best and thank you for following and supporting yet another Smiddy journey.
Just back from the function and guess what? The proceedings had started and I tried to sneak in but all the party lads were seated at the entrance and spotted me and yelled out; "Hey Sharky." Which resulted in 110 sets of eyes turning my way. I tried to remain cool and aloof but in reality I was so embarrassed. Some founder I am hey? Can't even be on time for the send off function to launch an event that started from my idea. If anyone of the riders and crew are reading this my sincere apologies.
If I may, a huge thank you to LMG and Simon Rowe for donating 20 auction items, mostly grog, and to Wayne Smith for donated a handmade quilt in honour of the big red rock, with all combined netting Smiddy an extra $5000 to add to the growing total that has clicked over $320,000! Also to the Harcourts lads who showed why they sell homes so well as they controlled the auction superbly. A special mention to Brendan Whipps, CEO of Harcourts Qld who celebrated his birthday today and was gifted a very large cake that he shared with all present. Lastly the slide show tonight of messages from love ones was warmly received and very appreciated by the riders and road crew.
Sharky definitely over and out this time around...