Possums playing with pedals in the middle of the night, finding a swag of golf balls and men's deodorant packs strewn across the road, and being mistaken for a police RBT stop are just some of the stories Goondiwindi's David Batterham can tell.
The 57-year-old machinery operater is halfway through a gruelling 2400 kilometre solo bike ride from Goondiwindi to Mount Isa, and part of the way back again, to raise awareness of, and money for, dementia in Australia.
It's the third time he's taken to pedal power to spread the word of the needs of people with the disorder, and their families, beginning with a 1000km Goondiwindi-Charleville loop in 2021, then taking on a 1700 trek from Griffith in NSW to Goondiwindi last year, including a swim across Lake Cargelligo.
He raised over $10,000 each time and hopes to match or exceed that this year, driven by memories of his mother's experience of dementia.
"I was brought up on a farm east of Moree, and what Mum did, raising the three of us, teaching us school and how to drive, and a lot of bad habits - she was a real character," he said.
"When she passed, I was going through her notes to find photographs, and read that she knew she had dementia long before she told us.
"When she went into care, the hardest thing was to walk out after a visit, and say to her, you can't come with us."
The many conversations he had on his first ride showed him just how many people were touched by dementia, and gave him the momentum to continue riding.
This time around he's finding the September headwinds are proving as much of a challenge as the blisters on his backside.
He left Goondiwindi on September 23, doing 150 to 160 kilometres a day until it got hotter and windier, when he's been averaging around 90km a day.
So far he's managed to stack his bike outside the Mitchell Bakery, luckily at 5am, when there was no-one there to witness his struggle to get his foot off his pedal, and has fought off possums trying to pounce on the bananas packed away in his satchel, in Blackall.
Sights include a box of Father's Day gift packs, consisting of golf balls and deodorant sticks, that had fallen off a vehicle and ended up all over the road.
"I could start a hardware shop with the number of tools I've seen beside the road," he said.
He often trains at night, when his flashing red light is mistaken for a police RBT station, judging by the number of cars that have put their blinker on and turned in when they've spotted it.
As well as the wind and the heat - he can only carry a maximum of 5 litres on the bike each day - he hadn't had a lot of time to train for this ride, and so his posterior is feeling it.
A chance find of a lickmat in a store, designed to provide pets with mental stimulation, has been taped to his bike's seat and is proving the perfect padding.
Otherwise, David's fitness and desire to make a difference can't be faulted - before he set off on this trip he pushed a wheelbarrow for 70km in the Goondiwindi region, to raise money for aged care.
This year's ride is vastly different to the last two, riding through pouring rain from Mitchell to Morven the first year, and being diverted around floodwater last year.
He was expecting to leave Longreach for the push north west on Friday but had come down with a head cold and was recuperating in Blackall for a day, on Tuesday.
The enforced rest gave him a chance to share his message and to seek donations to help Dementia Australia work towards a cure.
He now expects to be in Mount Isa at the end of next week, and already has next year's ride, from Goondiwindi to Adelaide, complete with another swim in Lake Cargelligo, in mind.
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