Bright to Tawonga via Tawonga Gap
Tuesday March 22, 2016, 16 miles (26 km) – Total so far: 925 miles (1,489 km)
Day 4 – over the hump between the Ovens and Kiewa valleys – that is all there is to it today. It’s about 9 miles to the top of the hump. The first four or five miles are gentle. The road wanders along the bottom of a narrow valley past green and grassy pasture, a walnut farm and then a chestnut farm. Then it turns a corner and starts climbing a bit more seriously. We leave the flat valley and follow a creek upward.
The trees have all recovered from previous fires in the past decade or so. Black patches of bark and an occasional standing snag are the only reminders that the bush burns here with only the slightest provocation. The road weaves up and around through sweeping curves and tighter corners. It’s at about the 12 km marker post that there a couple of steep grades to huff and puff up. But mostly it’s just a gentle-to-moderate climb through tall, green forest. Traffic is light, and the people that do pass me are courteous. At one point I do hear, and then see, a semi-trailer rumbling up behind me as I round my way through a tight, steep corner. I mash it hard through the corner and then roll over onto the grassy and gravelly shoulder to let him by since the upcoming corner is blind. I try to share the road the best I can when I can!
It’s not long until we are at the top and feeling really good about how well we’ve climbed over the past four days. There’s been nearly 16,000 feet of cumulative climbing. We’ve done grades that were steeper for longer periods than a lot of the riding we’ve done in the past. I think I’m growing as a rider and have really matured in my understanding of how to climb on a fully-loaded bike over the past six years. I have learned how to pace myself on long climbs and how to grunt things out when the going gets steep. I’m more confident in my abilities now, and I have a really good understanding of how my asthma is going to impact my efforts with various grades, altitudes and allergens. I suppose there is something to be said for age and wisdom, though given a choice, I would always prefer to be young, invincible and full of angst. There is a certain energy in youth which you cannot flex and build like muscle and retain as you age. It just goes as you mature. I hope, though, that the things that have replaced that invincible energy have made me a kinder, gentler soul but stronger person.
So now all there is to do is go down. The sharp curves and tighter turns on the Mt Beauty side of Tawonga Gap are steeper than the Bright side. But none of it is scary. Like all roads in Oz, you don’t want to get up too much speed, because you will hit rough stuff. They are particularly bad about resealing over culverts here. Some of it is rough enough you could probably jump them and get airborne on a mountain bike if you tried! A lot of the sharp curves get corrugations in them, even though they are chip-sealed, too. So I don’t look forward to the downhills here like I do in the western US. Still, I have a bit of fun leaning the bike through some of the curves and seeing what speeds I can manage in the two straighter bits toward the bottom (36mph – okay, but not thrilling).
There are a couple of short hills to climb heading into the Tawonga township, then one long, ripping downhill back to the river and caravan park. The sun is out, the dew is evaporating, and the temperature is that perfect, crisp autumnal morning. What a nice way to end a jam-packed weekend! They will start up the prescribed burns this afternoon and tomorrow in many places that I’ve ridden this month, so I really did squeeze in this ride in the last possible weekend of summer and before the smoke filled the skies. What awesome memories I will have of March 2016! Best 40th birthday month anyone could ever have 🙂 It also brings me right back on track to reach my yearly goal. Yippee!