Sunday, 11 February, 2018
Kilometres: 87.02 (54 miles)
Total Kilometres for 2018: 635 (395 miles)
It was about 2 months ago that I started feeling poorly. It was about 3.5 weeks ago that I finally stopped feeling like death. My muscles and joints still continued to hurt and I was still very tired, but I knew the worst was behind me.
Well, things still hurt and I still get tired easily, but I want to test my body to see how well it is recovering. We’ve been riding 20-30 kms almost every evening on mostly flat ground. Can we go further? Can we add some hills?
I am able to pry myself out of bed at 6.30am on Sunday morning, so that’s a good start. This is the first time that I can say I have done that on a weekend since I got sick.
We drive to Wangaratta 30 minutes away. The plan is to do a big loop today with about half chipseal and half gravel surfaces. We’ll spend the night in Wang, go see a movie, and then, if I’m feeling okay on Monday, we’ll do a shorter loop with a bunch of hills south of town.
In all of this, we’ll get to ride almost all new roads. We’ll also ride part of the one section of the Murray to Mountains Rail Trail I’ve never done. Plan B got a Plan A for this weekend.
It is still cool, and there are still wisps of fog lying low in some paddocks when I arrive in Wang. Fog is good to see… it’s been way too hot and dry for that for the past seven weeks.
I take off down the rail trail. We’ve done this bit many, many times. They’ve put down a newer layer of gravel since I last rode it though; consequently, the ride is slower and there is the constant sound of pings as my tires kick up tiny pieces of gravel that bounce off the frame.
We ride up through all the flat, brown pastures. There are remnant trees thrown in here and there. Occasional sections of the rail trail have regrowth along the rail reserve, and this provides welcome shade from the sun in my eyes. I meet 4 groups on bikes, 1 group of three walking and 1 ‘round-Australia touring cyclist loaded down with a heap of gear.
We make good time across this placid, pastoral scenery. We find ourselves clicked down a couple gears to climb the gentle hill to Everton. Then we’re bombing back down the opposite side on a section of trail new to me. We cross the paddocks with medium-sized bald hills to the left. Soon we are to the section that parallels the main highway. Boring. Loud. Two highway patrol officers within a 5 km stretch. It is interesting to watch the fog lift and stretch and rise to form clouds, however.
Finally, we get up to Bowman and turn off on the road to Whorouly. New roads make the guys and me grin. It is a tree-lined ascent through a series of gullies as we climb over the ridge that separates us from the Ovens River valley. This road is quite pleasant and the little bit of climbing feels good.
As we descend to the river off of the rolling fields, I can see a whole bunch of bright green stuff growing on the floodplain. It looks like vines, but they’re not grapes? The answer is revealed as we roll across the river and past a large shed. Kiwifruit. There is more growing to the left.
We roll into Whorouly. At first, I think all there is to town besides a few homes is the pub. It looks cozy, but I’m after public toilets and a place to eat some fruit in the shade.
Once I turn left, I find the rest of town – a very well-kept sports oval, community building, playground, netball courts and picnic shelter. Back down the road is a preschool, old library-looking place and a church. There is also a café/newsagent. We have a break and assess the body. My right hip hurts. It always hurts now. I have the weird muscle pain/cramp stuff in my legs. But nothing is worse than when I’m not riding at all. In fact, it feels good to be moving! So at the halfway point of the ride (the easy half), we’re doing just fine. And we’ve already surpassed our longest post-sickness ride to date.
From Whorouly, we head across more flat paddocks toward an outlier ridge on the other side of the Snow Road. To get to the ridge, we ride up a very narrow gravel track named Cemetery Lane. I never see the cemetery, but there is a closed tip site at the top. I suppose it is similar – a dumping ground for things no longer in use.
The flies are terrible through here, but I cannot complain, because it has been a relatively low annoyance year for them. I have no idea why. But we won’t say anymore, lest they rouse themselves for a grand finale in the final months of summer.
The road angles up. It’s a shame there was so much fog around this morning, because all the views of the mountains in the distance are obscured by haze and lifting cloud. So no good pics, but it’s okay. Fog means the fire danger isn’t too high – there’s at least some moisture about.
We start into the climb to Kneebones Gap. It’s a bit steep at times, but the gravel surface is pretty good, and I’m enjoying the twists and turns as we enter a cloak of hills. The gap is hidden, and it’s even more of a secret, winding descent along a gully that turns into a narrow valley on the other side. There are a few cars, but everyone is well-behaved.
The climbing felt good. My cardiovascular fitness isn’t where it would be, but it’s not as bad as I feared it would be either. We are getting better! Confirmed.
Eventually, we conclude our long descent through the cloister of bald hills and tree-lined road, and we pedal into the wind across more flat, brown paddocks. I am very fortunate to live in a beautiful place with so many options for riding and outdoor activities. But, gosh, it is definitely a very brown place in summer until the ‘autumn break’ and its rains come in April.
Pedal, pedal. I see several vehicles, but luckily, sometimes when I see a cloud of dust, it ceases before it gets to me. The drivers have turned off down another road or into a driveway, and I am spared some grit and dust. I enjoy the views of the distant hills though. And I love the tree-lined roads. I would have missed them terribly had I been able to stay in America.
Eventually we turn off and head toward Milawa. This road is a strip of chipseal down the middle, and the wind is a quartering tailwind, so we make good time. The drop from the seal to the hard-packed dirt is pretty smooth, so it’s not a problem to drop to the dirt when I meet a few other cars on that one-lane strip of smoothness.
I stop for a Coke in Milawa. We’re going well. I’m so pleased with my body today. There are some other cyclists around, but I don’t see any on the bike path to the next little town of Oxley. I stop for the toilets here, then I ride over to the rest area on the King River, so the guys can have a float while I have my drink.
Then it’s back into the wind on the bike path. It is gorgeous through the floodplain with all of the big, old red gums. Their leaves shudder in the wind, creating a little nature disco with the sun filtering through the flickering leaves onto the path.
Once over the river, it’s more vineyards and paddocks and wind before we turn onto the Wang-Whitfield Road and head back to town. Having the bike path through here is fantastic because these roads are too busy and shoulderless to really be safe for riding, otherwise.
The bike path dumps us onto a frontage road in town and we weave along from frontage road to frontage road until we are forced back onto the main road. I navigate through the streets and shopping areas back to the car. I am tired at this point, and the wind has been a wearing force in the last 1/3 of the day, but I’m amazed at how good I feel. Oh yes, I hurt, but no more than I have since the virus took me down in December. I’m a bit stiff, but a few minutes off the bike packing everything in the car cures that. I am so happy with how things went today. Now, let’s just see what I feel like in the morning!