4,000 for 40 – March Ride 4

Kiewa Country Iced Coffee: Walla Walla Loop

Tuesday March 15, 2016, 44 miles (71 km) – Total so far: 99 miles (159 km)

There is something outright wrong when you go for a ride and the high temperature is 32C (90F), and you think it feels ‘pleasant’. That was today. The humidity moved out, the winds moved in and the temperatures dropped. We just set records for number of days over 30C in February. We also just broke a record for number of days in a row in March over 35C (95F). We did 11 – the previous was 4. And so, my internal temps are so screwed up that 90F feels ‘pleasant’.

The day ride we do today is very local. We won’t get more than 25 miles from home at any point. This is my most-frequented loop when going for a short ride from home. I know where every bump, every corrugation and every smooth spot on these roads are located. The BLC purchase is also very local – a locally produced milk (you can only find it in NE Victoria and the Albury area of NSW) purchased from a family-owned takeaway shop.

So off we go along the tree-lined roads and over and down the gentle hills. The traffic is all going the other way into Albury for school, work and errands, and after 9.30am there is not much traffic at all. The gusty southeasterly is assisting us for the first 12 miles.

Big skies, brown land, scattered trees – it could describe a lot of regional Australia, but this is on the Glenellen Road in southern NSW.
This is one of my favourite roads to ride near home. It has tree-lined sections and open sections with very nice views out over the hills.
Looking back at the Yambla Range from Bethel Road.
This is a Travelling Stock Reserve. These reserves are a network of public land that usually extend out from rail lines. Farmers/drovers can use them to move stock. It is sometimes called “the long paddock”. The reserves are placed about 15 miles (I think) apart – the distance you would drive cattle in a day – along a Travelling Stock Route. In times of drought, when farmers run out of feed on their farms, they can move stock along these routes to graze along the roadside. The reserves all have a water source and are all fenced.For non-farmers, these reserves have great wildlife watching opportunities. They are important refuges for plants and animals and often are quite bio-diverse. They are also usually very good examples of what the vegetation in an area looked like at settlement before the land was cleared.
As we will see later, the German Lutherans were important in settling this area in the 1860s. There are little Lutheran churches like this one all over the place in this area.

Not long after we pass the Bethel Lutheran Church, I pull out the camera to take a little video of what the road looks like. We’re not far along when I realise that the large branch on the road that I’m approaching is not a branch at all. It is a 1.25 metre poisonous brown snake! I swerve a bit and the snake, surprised at my approach, lifts up and turns to the roadside. Phew! I have slowed that part of the video down below (about the 6-7 second mark) and left in the audio, so you can hear my calm “Yikes!”

The downhill with the tailwind is such a nice cruise. This is the worst-looking time of the year for the landscape here. The farmers are counting down the days until they can burn their stubble. The soil is thirstily waiting for the ‘autumn break’ and the start of the winter rains. Until the burning and the raining, the land lies still, brown and bleak.

Um… nope, we don’t live in a major capital city like the majority of Australians. The rail line you see in the background is the same disused line you saw in BLC 1 – the Culcairn to Corowa branch line that will some day make a great rail trail!
Obligatory crew back-of-head shot on a tree-lined road.

We roll through the landscape and then into the wind to Walla Walla. The town name means ‘place of many rocks’ in the local Wiradjuri language. Anytime a word is repeated it means “many” or “big”. And yes, there are many granite rock outcrops on the hills around the town.

I head down to the local takeaway shop to make my Guntonneuring purchase and then consume it at a picnic table outside of the largest Lutheran church in NSW. Outside the church is a display featuring information about the Lutheran families which settled this area in the late 1860s. At the time, land was scarce in South Australia, but New South Wales was carving up the original squatter blocks settled in the 1830s and offering up lots of land. So the emigration pattern here is a bit unique, since most settlers came out of Sydney.

Billabong Cafe in Walla Walla – a little, family-owned takeaway shop for our milk purchase today. We are going all local today, as we will purchase a Kiewa Country milk which is produced just over the Border from local farms. You think I’m the only one who likes flavoured milks – nope, it’s popular enough to have advertising signboards, as shown 🙂
Zion Lutheran Church in Walla – the third church to be built on-site in 1924. The first church was built shortly after the ‘pioneers’ settled here in 1869. That structure is no longer around, but the second church of quarried stone built in 1889 still stands next door and is still used as a church hall.
Detail on the front of the church. Inside is an organ with a huge number of pipes, most recently refurbished in 2012.
Near the church is an enclosed shelter with a display about the original Lutheran settlers who trekked here from Ebenezer, South Australia in 1868. Eight families, comprising 56 people, made the journey in 14 wagons and 2 spring carts. This display shows a replica wagon and has the names of the original eight families (and some of their photos) attached to the wagon. Sorry you can’t see much through the glass!
Verne just said, “It wouldn’t have been asking too much for you to get a straw, too, would it?” BLC Milk 2 – Kiewa Country Iced Coffee ($3.60)
If you’ve read my “Neither Here Nor There” journal, you will note that I’ve taken pics of various “Memorial Halls” in various small towns. It seems every community has a public hall built shortly after WWI that honours the fallen soldiers from that war. Walla has a Soldiers Memorial Hall, too. The “literary institute” next door was named that to comply with the grant source – the education board – though it was built to be used as a theatre. They look like they are the same building, but they are actually two separate buildings.

I roll slowly back down the main street to gather some photos of this small town. It is becoming a commuter suburb for Albury, but at this point, it is still very rural in outlook and there is little new development. If you want an old turn-of-the-century (1900 not 2000!) cottage or 1950s fibro home, then there is plenty on offer.

The Lieschke family is one of the original eight families to settle the area and is still quite influential. The original Walla Walla Motor Garage expanded and expanded, so now this is known as Lieschke Corner. Not only is there the Holden and Nissan dealership over there, but on the opposite corner is another half block of repair/garage buildings owned by the same family.
This is a new mural from the last time I rode through a few months ago. I love the look on the man seated next to the little girl. Either he doesn’t like children or that has been one long journey sitting next to her!
Site of one of the original stores and the original pub/hotel. The store to the left is from 1946, built to replace the original that burnt down. The pub next door was completely rebuilt in 1959 with motel units added. The exterior was redone in 1985 (can’t tell that, can you? – Ha!).

After our stop in our feature town of Walla Walla, we head back toward home. The wind is strong enough that it is blowing wire grass (like a tiny tumbleweed, sort of) all over the place, and I play ‘dodge the rolling vegetation’ for about five miles.

While I love the novelty of new roads, I know this one well enough that it is always a pleasure to just go ride and let my mind wander. It makes me very appreciative of all the good things in my life and how fortunate I am to be able to live here rather than a big city (Sydney for 2 years; San Diego for 1 – were enough big city living for me for life!). Work is hard to find, the cost of living is high and it is a 3.5 hour drive to the nearest international airport… but I can’t think of anywhere else in Oz I’d rather be. Riding always makes me grateful for the good things in life.

Kotzur silos – a success story for Walla Walla. They make these in town now in a big factory. There were at least 25 cars parked nearby. I would have taken a photo of the factory but there were roadworks and Council workers all over the place plus some big trucks coming and going, so I just stayed out of the way.
I think that’s a new sign. That’s the Mickan family homestead – one of the 8 original settler families. You can see on the sign it says “Since Settlement”. If you look to the left of photo, you can still see the original dunny (outhouse) out the back, too.
Postal delivery Oz style in West Gerogery.

I also enjoy watching the landscape change with the season. We sorta have four seasons here – but it’s more like 3 months of a cool, rainy winter, two weeks of spring, two weeks of autumn and 8 months of heat. You think I’m joking…. Still, I’ve lived here longer than any other place besides my childhood home (which I escaped as soon as I could at 18). So this is ‘home’ even if I’ve never felt like I have any roots or ties that keep me here.

Another Lutheran Church – can’t go 8-10 miles without running into one.
The logo is pretty neat – coming from someone who was transplanted a long way from where she was planted.
See the dam wall on the left? See the green all the way over to the right-hand side of the photo? See the dark bits on the lower part of the dead trees (it shows how high the water gets)? I ride by this dam all the time and use it to gauge how the winter rains are progressing and how dry the summer has been. I’ve seen this dam full (2012) and totally empty (2009).

The weather forecast is looking great for next weekend, though. After a cold front on Friday, we should finally get temperatures where they should be for this time of year. I am planning a four-day ride into the mountains to do some of the hardest climbing in the state. I hope my legs and lungs will agree to what my head says we should do to close out summer! Until next time….

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