Jabbering away to Jason while I rode certainly helped me stay awake. We tried to figure out how far back the ever present Ted was. It seems Ted had opted to take a tar section rather than the gravel road "short-cut". But, instead of going left at the bottom of the dam toward Phuthaditjhaba he had opted to head West toward Harrismith to get onto the M5. Some people may think it was an odd route choice but no so I. The distance difference is negligible. But the biggest advantage is that it's a lot easier to say "I headed toward Harrismith" than to say "I headed toward Phuthaditjhaba." Yes, I had to Google how to spell that. It's not a name that sticks and I don't know how to say it properly either.
We worked out that I had a lead of 60 km on Ted. It wasn't a big lead. I was 380 km into the race which left me a little over 220 km to go. I hoped that I could average 20 km/h to the finish. I would need to stop a couple of times so that would add at least an hour. But Ted would also need to stop so the stoppage time wasn't important. I had at least 11 or 12 hours of riding. I reckoned Ted could close me down by 10 minutes per hour. A 60 km lead equated to about 2.5 hours as the route between us wasn't too arduous. The "science" indicated that if Ted and I kept moving at our relative speeds (him 10 mins per hour faster than me) I should pip him to the finishing post by 30 minutes. I'm not sure my methods qualified as science. In fact, they were anything but that, but the processing of this dubious data kept my head in the game and before long a saw a road sign the indicated that I was a few kilometres shy of Reitz. The fog was so thick I was well into town before it was obvious.
Jason did a quick check on Google Maps and said I should find a garage shop open even though it was only a little after 4am. I was sceptical but he was fairly certain because the images on Google Street View gave him a sense that it was a 24 hour convenience store. He was right. I got excited at the prospect of a cup of steaming caffeine - warmth and wakefulness.
First thing I saw as the doors slid open was a sign on the coffee machine, "Out of Order". I was tired and cold and unimpressed. My next coffee opportunity was 40 km away in Petrus Steyn... hopefully.
I wandered around the shop and settled on a bag of Lays Salted Crisps, a can of Iron Brew and a Magnum ice cream. From coffee to ice cream - yeah, very weird. But the eyes want what the eyes want.
I sat out on the front step of the shop overlooking the forecourt. It was busy for 4:30 am. A couple of young men, clad in farming fatigues, arrived in their Hilux bakkie, bought something and headed out to start their day. As I sat there I became aware of how cold it was and how inadequately dressed I was for the cold. Just then a youngster (mid teens) arrived on his bicycle. He was barefoot and wore short pants and a button up cotton shirt. He greeted me then ran into the shop to buy a litre of milk. Milk in hand he hopped on his bike and headed off into the dark streets of town.
I got Jason back on the phone and told him my sorry tale about the lack of coffee and how cold it was getting. At his suggestion that I put something warmer on I told him there was long climb just the other side of town and that was going to warm me up. Being the responsible citizen that I am I deposited my empty can and packets in a forecourt dustbin and got back on my bike. My next opportunity for coffee was a good few hours away.