The final run to Canberra.
Departing Albury/Wodonga across the border into New South Wales and highway running for most of the way here to Canberra.
The civic receptions, by Shire CEO, Mayors, councillors, RSL senior officials, RSL sub branches, RSL members, Veterans, current serving military members, Lions, rotary clubs and freemasons on-route have been absolutely fantastic. In all the towns, I can only say that the long ride home team have had nothing but the best in terms of outstanding welcomes in each town, fantastic support along with many donations from individuals and organizations on route across Australia from Perth.
Our thanks goes out to many people, in particular those since crossing the border:
Ex Navy members and curators of the HMAS Otway Submarine museum Holbrook - David Hocking and Roger Cooper for their grand tour of the museum. Extraordinary visuals whilst riding into the small town of Holbrook when seeing the enormous shell of the HMAS Otway resurrected and on display in the Holbrook Central Park. The submarine museum sits in one corner of the park for visitors to walk inside and actually enter into the original chamber control rooms of the submarine. One can almost get the real feeling of how a submariner lived in confined space onboard the Otway. A view through the periscope will give you a view of Holbrook in the distance rather than across the seas. Admiral Holbrook VC was one of the most famous submarine captains of the Otway and the curators of the museum have done their homework to make sure he features in the museum as one of Australia's most famous naval heroes.
After a nights rest in Holbrook, it was onwards meandering through sheep and cattle country to Wagga Wagga. On approaching Wagga Wagga township I felt like I was in familiar territory and had flashbacks of Recruit training here when I was a very young 17 year old army recruit a half century ago.
Many thoughts jumped into my mind as I cycled along - days of going through the green machine production line, days of marching on the parade ground, learning how to strip and assemble the self loading rifle (SLR 7.62 mm) long nights of spit and shining boots and shoes, cleaning ablutions and dish washing duties, hard core physical fitness regimes, the final long route marches to see if you had the guts and determination to be a soldier, and the final march out parade. Little did I know that one day I'd be pushing the trusty trek back through the same region 50 years on after already riding very close to 10,000 km from Vietnam where I would be put to the final test and fighting a war against a formidable foe.
We arrived in Wagga Wagga to be accommodated and looked after by the RSL at their motel premises which was organised by one our younger war veterans from Afghanistan - former 2 commando regiment soldier, Jason Frost (Frosty) who is actively involved in the local Wagga Wagga RSL Sub Branch.
I'm told Frosty is doing some marvellous mediation work with younger veterans suffering from PTSD and also assisting them to transition into civilian life. Great to see Frosty, well done!!!
Also a big thanks to Kevin Kerr (RSL Sub Branch President) and Ken May for their great work in the region and for facilitating care and support for the long ride home team during our time in Wagga Wagga. Joined by four cyclist RAAF Lieutenants - Jon Mason and Brendan Lickerman, and Army Trainees Tippers and Baumann, I was escorted through Wagga Wagga Main Street to the memorial park in town to be met by a welcoming group of veterans (and families) from conflicts - Vietnam, Timor and Afghanistan and local WIN TV and news. This was one of the highlights of the journey to date. Thank you all in Wagga Wagga for your outstanding support and warm friendship from the long ride home team.
It was back on the highway the next morning onwards and certainly upwards over lots of rolling hills towards Gundagai and Yass. A huge welcome and sausage sizzler in the memorial park of Gundagai to be officially greeted by the Shire Council representative Penny Nicholson and other Gundagai officials.
A big thank you for the kind donations by the shire council and the RSL ladies auxiliary, represented by Sheila Murray, who donated a very notable amount to the long ride home. The Gundagai RSL ladies auxiliary have in the past donated quite a substantial amount of funds to RSL Defence care, therefore, another large amount donated to the long ride home is worthy of a big mention.
Also a big thank you in order for your outstanding support and assistance towards the long ride home cause:
* Jim Sharman (Gundagai RSL Sun branch President)
* Keith Wood (Gundagai RSL Sub branch secretary)
* All the ladies from the RSL Ladies Auxiliary)
* The Lions club of Gundagai
I crossed paths in downtown Gundagai with a group of cyclist riding from Canberra to Melbourne raising funds for a similar cause as the long ride home - funds for the Chamberlain Foundation which supports first responders suffering from PTSD. Well done guys!!! Great to meet you on-route and many thanks for your cycling jersey gift. Safe travelling!!
Arrived in Yass to be met by a group of military enthusiasts, Max and John Hedges, Mark Ashby and Det. Voges who were out in full force ready for an escort into town with me riding behind some rather nice antique military vehicles. Thank you for the safe escort into the heart of Yass to be officially welcomed by Yass Valley Council officials:
* Rowena Abbey Mayor
* Kim Turner Deputy Mayor
* Councillors Allison Harker, Mark Reid, Geoff Frost
* Neil Turner Yass RSL Sub Branch President
* John Watt RSL Sub Branch Treasurer
* Richard Wilson
* Jan Wilson (Yass Community Radio)
A great opportunity to finally thank those individuals, groups and organizations who have kindly donated to the long ride home cause in recent days:
* Jan Wilson
* June Doyle
* Yass IT
* Andrea Arrogan
* Steve Scarlett
* Gordon Elphick
* Jane Dean
* Gundagai Shire Council
* Gundagai RSL Ladies Auxiliary
* Cathy Southwell
* Bill Hindson
* Raymond James
* Jim Wallace
* Michael Fisher
* Carolyn Mallam
A well earned rest on arrival Canberra taking in the Remembrance Day service at the Australian War Memorial. A couple of days off in Canberra until the 14th November before moving onto Sydney. A special report next in my next blog update reporting on the welcome to Canberra.
Warmest regards to you all.
Truck Sams on the long ride home in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT)