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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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….