4,000 for 40 – June Ride 1 – Day 1

Jindera – Holbrook via Mountain Creek

Sunday June 12, 2016, 45 miles (72 km) – Total so far: 1,642 miles (2,643 km)

May has been kind enough to share its frustrations with June. I was hoping all the crap that coalesced in May might magically end with the turn of the calendar page. But, no. I’m hoping this doesn’t mean it’s a seasonal thing and is going to last all winter.

But never mind. Let’s get out there and go ride. The weather forecast is great for the next few days. I do need to be back by Tuesday, so I can get a flu shot. So I plan a simple overnight I can do from home that will allow me to pick up five new roads on day 2 for my ‘let no road remain unridden’ quest.

There was a hard frost overnight and it is still just 40F at 10am, so I hang out and don’t leave until 11.30am. We’re not going far today, and we’ve ridden parts of this route several times, so it’s not a big deal. Plus, I’m going to motel it tonight, so I won’t have tent and sleeping bag weight to slow me down.

The weather is perfect. It is sunny. There is no wind. The high will hit about 60F. Other than a constantly sniffly nose at that temp, this is my perfect, ideal, wish-every-ride-had-this-weather day.

The pasture has all gone green. There is a bit of water in the farm dams now. I pass two different farmers offloading sheep to restock various paddocks. There’s been enough rain that the hard-packed clay roads have some moisture in them and the dirt is sticking together again. Going off tarmac isn’t quite such a dusty, loose, wash-boarded experience as it is during summer.

Cattle. Hills. Green grass. Burma Road. Winter has arrived.

Just as I’m about to turn out onto the divided freeway from the old highway route at Mullengandra, I see two people standing in the middle of the old highway next to their parked cars. They are dressed like city folk. They appear to be waiting for others. They don’t see or hear me coming up the old highway to the intersection. It gives me the greatest pleasure to see the woman jump about two feet up and two feet back, and the man jerk really hard, when I go noisily bumping over the cattle grid not five feet from them. I just wave as I go by and quickly cross the adjacent freeway. Really, you should never just stand around in the middle of a road!

More cattle. More green grass. More hills. Mountain Creek Road.

The climb up the Mountain Creek Road is pleasant, as always. There’s never much traffic and the gentle climbing feels good in my legs. The landscape is alive again with some colour and you can hear water cascading down some of the ephemeral creeks. The trees line the road and it is just a perfect day for a ride. It never ceases to amaze me how low the sun tracks across the sky this close to the solstice. The shade thrown over the road by the trees makes it feel like late afternoon instead of 12.30pm!

Mountain Creek Road – a favourite of mine. Never any traffic, generally tree-lined and winding through the hills. Note all the side shadows from the trees. It is just after 12pm – the sun is definitely low-angle here in June.
Too bad my camera has such crappy zoom. (Okay, I suck, too, but this is mostly just bad zoom.)

We crest the drainage divide and go rolling down through the trees to the flats between Fairburn and Fellow Hills Roads (we’ve ridden them before). The last time I came through here was Easter Sunday, and all of the fields that had just been stubble-burnt then are brimming with green crops a couple inches high. And so the seasons turn.

Based on the size of that planted, exotic tree, there are a few generations with memories of growing up in that house.
Looking back at the Yambla Range from Mountain Creek Road northeast of Fellow Hills Road.

After the Fellow Hills Road, the Mountain Creek Road gently climbs up and over the end of the Galena Hills in a series of gentle rollers. I’ve only ridden this way once before – going the other direction last July. The rollers are not as steep as I remember, but I do have better fitness now than I did last July.

It’s a long weekend for the Queen’s Birthday (her birthday is actually in April, but the weather must be too crappy in England in April for all the associated parades and such, so the official holiday is in June). But everyone must be having fun somewhere else because this road is pretty darn empty. It’s opening day for the ski season, but as usual, there’s not a whole lot of snow up at the ski fields yet. So maybe not a perfect day to ski, but absolutely perfect for riding a bicycle! Really, this is the most perfect day we’ve had in a long, long time.

Looking west from Mountain Creek Road. You could not get a more perfect day for a ride. Sunny. No wind. Cool.
When there’s no wind and it is this cool, I don’t even need to put my hair back in a pony tail. Happy crew today.
Closing in on Holbrook – the view ahead.
And this is why Australia does not have great snow. It’s opening weekend of the ski season. I am about 1.5 hours from the ski fields here and I am comfortably riding in shorts and a t-shirt. High today of 60F.
The submarine in Holbrook’s town park. Very popular for people to clamber on while they stretch their legs on drives between Sydney and Melbourne. This town is about halfway between the two cities on the main highway.

Eventually, we roll into Holbrook and head up to the cafe next to the submarine for a burger. I sit outside in the sun as I eat and watch all the people climbing all over the sub. The burger is alright, but the takeaway shop sells them for $4 cheaper, so I’ll probably just go there next time.

A nicely-dressed man with perfectly sculpted hair comes up to me. He asks all about the bike and where I’ve ridden and what I’m doing today. He’s impressed by my tours and my quest to ride new roads each weekend on overnight rides. He says he wasted 35 years of his life in the corporate world and academia and wishes he’d done what I’m doing with my weekends now.

I tell him (Mr. Baby Boomer with plenty of dollars and few responsibilities now) that it’s never too late to start. I also tell him that most of the cyclists I meet on the road are from his age group and gender. He tells me he’s had trouble translating his personal goals into action after having goals just given to him for so many years at work. He thinks I’m inspiring though and suggests that I should write a book and go on a speaking tour. Um… no thanks… I just like to ride.

The “Duck’s Arse” – because you always wanted that part of a submarine in your town park.
Brand new submarine bits – just officially unveiled on ANZAC Day weekend this year. It was built in England and was ‘sailed’ to Oz in 1914 – a distance record for a sub at the time. It saw action in the Pacific and kicked some butt in the Dardanelles.
Why, Holbrook, you appear to have a submarine in your park.People seem to love it, but it absolutely creeps me out. I hate the backstory behind the town’s name and why the sub is here, too – it reflects Oz’s deep conservatism and racism.

I wander around for a little bit taking pictures of all the ocean-going equipment planted in a park five hours away from the nearest sea. Another man comes up to me, a local, and can’t believe how far I’ve ridden today. In my head I think, “but today was a short day!” He says, “You’re absolutely mad. Don’t you know that weekends are for cafe brunches and going to the pub with your mates for lunch and to watch the footy?” Ha! That has absolutely no appeal to me. I can’t imagine spending a day as gorgeous as this sitting inside an old, smelly pub eating overpriced food!

To each their own, but how did “I just like to ride” get so complicated. I’ve loved riding my whole life – it’s always been a part of my identity and what I most prefer to do. But here’s one old white guy telling me to write a book and another old white guy telling me to park the bike and sit around and eat. Sheesh.

I head up to one of the old motels and get a room. The proprietor there is friendly, but I don’t quite get his sense of humour. He does suggest my bicycle needs an engine. He also suggests I crank the electric blanket up on the bed since it is supposed to be 29F tonight. I dislike electric blankets – my intention is to turn up the heat (and his power bill) in the room, instead!

No complaints, though. You can tell this was a really, really nice motel when it was first built in the late 1950s/early 60s. The rooms all have undercover parking on the back side. The roof slopes upward and the rooms have huge windows facing the inner courtyard and pool area. That side of the room also has a door and covered porch with chairs. The room itself is really huge. The bathroom still has the original pink wall tiles, but the floor tiles are a ’70s brown and the shower stall tiles are an ’80s cream. It’s still quite nice and has had recent refurbishments – no pillow selection and that sheet/doona thing that many places have now, but it does have a big LCD TV, fridge, microwave and toaster. The towels and toiletries are artfully folded. After a shower and some more food, let’s enjoy the heat and a soft bed. We don’t normally have such luxury while riding!

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