Plan B – Feb Ride 2 – Tour de Greta

12 February 2018

Kilometres: 54.92 (34 miles)

Total Kilometres 2018: 690 (429 miles)

The breeze is almost chilly and almost beyond moderate. It whirls stray strands of hair about my face as I stand in the rest area just outside of Glenrowan. I am thankful for that cool breeze – it has been an exceptionally hot summer. But oooh, riding in that wind? No one would think poorly of me if I just didn’t ride today. I’m going to be riding into that hair-whipper of a breeze for at least 20 kms.

But, no, it doesn’t matter what people think anyway. What will I think of myself? I drove down and paid for a motel room which really wasn’t in my ‘fun’ budget just so we could do two days of riding… so we need to make the most of this. Besides, I woke up feeling better than any time since I started feeling crappy in December. We have to go ride. That, and I can’t bring myself to disappoint the frog and turtle.

So we assemble the bike, load on a pannier with tools, chocolate bar and peanutbutter, and then off we go into that wind. We ride over the end of the Warby Range and then fly along downhill for the first seven kilometres. The sun is still pretty low. It angles its rays at a decent slant through the trees. It gives the tree trunks a golden glow and the leaves a muted edge – a huge contrast to midday in Oz.

Heading down the crappy pavement, into the wind, along a very pleasant tree-lined road first thing.

The pavement is crap – I know how bad a road is not only by the torture on my wrists and forearms but also by the amount of jingling coming from the zippers on the handlebar bag. The first seven kms are almighty jingly.

Finally, we roll onto the flats at Greta West (pronounced Gree – ta). There are plenty of creeks through here. Even though they don’t run all year, the trees grow in abundance where they haven’t been cleared. It’s a pleasant pastoral with the long, low range in the background.

We then roll out onto the flatter bits – pushing east across the large valley toward the locality of Greta. Large hills ring the southern and eastern edges of the valley – much of them burnt in the 2006/07 fires. That’s the study area where I did my PhD between 2007 and 2010.  I enjoy the views of those areas from this location – I’ve not driven or ridden in this part of the valley before.

Out onto the open, flat bits of the valley between Greta West and Greta.

Greta West had nothing but a couple houses. Greta has the cemetery and a church. The body of Ned Kelly, Australia’s most notorious bushranger, was finally returned to his family a few years ago. He is buried in an unmarked grave in this cemetery. If you read the stories of his exploits and his family’s role in all of it, many of those stories involve this area. Ned Kelly’s mother’s place is still here – on someone’s private property somewhere between here and Greta West.

At Greta, we head south to… yes, Greta South. We proceed into more rolling farmland. The southern end of the valley that runs into the foothills is decidedly more hilly. We pedal long gentle rollers and a few shorter, steeper hills. The views to the Toombullup State Forest to the south are expansive. Much of that area has interesting volcanic rock from the Devonian – flows and pyroclastics. But today we just look at them from afar.

Down into the more hilly part of the valley south of Greta.
Pleasant, gently rolling hills with pasture and grapes.

Greta South has the tiny primary school. In the valley, triangulated between the three Gretas, is the sports complex. I wonder how many kiddos attend thelittle school. I can’t imagine more than 12-15. Victoria is unique in the eastern states in how many tiny little schools it still runs. In NSW, these kiddos would be bussed the 30 minutes into Wangaratta.

We climb the ridge just beyond the school. There are good views before we dive back down to Ryans Creek. This area has a lot of small holdings and hobby farmers. It is aesthetically pleasing with the many rolling hills and ridges. There are plenty of trees and water – ‘plenty’ being relative to Oz.

Looking over to Drum Top and the hills of the Toombullup State Forest. The ridge in the far right behind the tree is where the Whitfield-Mansfield Rd runs.

From Ryans Creek I head up a gully that delivers us onto a ridge and the rolling valleys and hills of the Lurg area. There are several wildlife projects down this way that are ongoing – several properties have signs on their gates identifying the property as a regent honeyeater site.

This is a popular training route. You might read that to say: Cyclists (may be ahead). Share the Road. But my experience with the aggressive drivers on this road is that they read the sign as this: “Cyclists, share the road (by ignoring the drivers who pass you way too closely from behind and the oncoming drivers who expect you to drop onto the dirt and don’t slow down for you).

I am unimpressed with the drivers today, though. I don’t mind dropping off the chipseal to the hard-packed dirt, but c’mon, you could at least slow down just a tad. Plus, I have timed the ride to coincide with bin pick-up day. I keep getting in the way of a rubbish truck driver… or maybe it’s two drivers – the rubbish bin guy and the recycle bin guy. I ride 4 different roads and despair each time I hear the freakin’ truck coming up behind me. I keep thinking, “Surely, you’ve already done this road!”, as they barrel past me and cover me in dust. I’m sure they’re thinking, “F*&K, the bitch is on this road, too!”

Heading into the Lurg Hills.
Very pleasant except for the drivers.
Up into the open hills and valleys of the Lurg area.

However, the scenery is a hilly beautiful and once I turn off the ‘main’ road, I encounter two kilometres of bone-jarring gravel. The centre of the road is all down to large, chunky roadbase. Generally, you can find a strip down each side that is smooth to ride. But, oh no, not this road – that strip is all corrugations.

It’s so bad that once I reach the first crossroad, I think about turning back if this isn’t the road I want. I look at the crossroad – I don’t have a detailed map for this area. It looks like it should be the one I want. But my map only shows the larger gravel roads… and that one doesn’t look ‘larger’. In fact, it looks like it goes straight up the ridge.

So I whip out my phone. I have a bar of service which is enough to confirm, very slowly, and in the middle of another dust storm generated by a rubbish truck, that the road going straight up is the one I want. At least a garbage truck probably doesn’t go up there!

So this is the last part of the steep stuff – we had to get off and walk here. Of course it was steeper than it looks.

So we head out of the little creek valley up the hillside along a tree-lined road. I am proud of how far I make it up the hill before having to get off and push the final parts of the steep grade. I wouldn’t have been able to make it any further had I been in peak fitness. At some point, that level of steepness just sends the rear tire spinning out. And so I push the bike up the final 100 metres… and curse the road gods when I hear the *#&@( garbage truck coming up the wall of road. At least this time he is in low gear trying to get up the hill and can’t cover me in dust!

Once over the hill, we fly along down the other side. The descent is more gradual, but the road is in awful shape. It is more like mountain biking than road riding on this side. I do believe I even got air twice. Further down, it is just rough, loose, large gravel and chunky road base. Thankfully, the momentum carries us over this better than trying to go up it. But it is still quite crap. No other words.

The ‘road’ transports us back into another wide valley, as we pass many more small holdings. A lot of these properties look like self-sufficient, hippy sorts of places. Not that I mind that. At all. I deeply respect and admire it, in fact. Who wouldn’t want to be tethered to the electricity grid and held ransom with power prices? But the sad fact is, if you want to live this lifestyle, you’ve got to be handy. And oh, my goodness, I am not handy! I would never survive. The first time the water pump went down or the solar panel chucked a wobbly, I would be in deep trouble.

Five kilometres of shaking, vibrating, bouncing, jarring downhill later, we make it to the Greta Road which we ride south for a few hundred metres. Then we join a nicely sealed road that gently descends back toward the freeway. AAAAAHHHHHH…… We’re doing 28kph on that gentle downhill, pedaling hard and so excited that we feel so good.

At the bottom of this road, we meet up with the Glenrowan-Winton Road which is more or less a frontage road to the freeway. I’ve ridden it a few times, but never north. I can look back to see that we crossed those Lurg hills at about the highest spot on the ridge. Go, Em! We are recovering!

We came over that ridge on Emblings Road right where the cleared land meets the forested land.

And then I look forward. I put the rubber to the road, the pedal to the…. Yeah, you get the idea. That moderate wind that was whirling my hair about in the rest area this morning is giving us a great push the last 7-10 kms back to Glenrowan. Woo-hoo! Those kms go down so quick, especially compared to the gravel up and down the ridge. Yee-ha!

The 2009 Black Saturday fires, which claimed 173 lives, resulted in many changes in fire preparation, response and recovery. One of those changes is that most bushfire prone towns now have designated places in town that are relatively safe (usually the football oval) if you get caught out and can’t evacuate.

We get into town. I make the mistake of going to the bakery to get a drink. I know better. I’ve tried it twice before. And both times they were absolutely hopeless. They are hopeless again today. There are 3 people working, and about 4 groups of people waiting on coffees, sandwiches, etc. The staff are getting their orders mixed up. And there is very little in the way of bakery items in the bakery case. It’s quite pathetic.

I stand there with a soft drink for about 4 minutes before deciding that I really don’t need that sugar anyway. They even have two signs posted on the counter by the cash register that says there might be a wait because they do each order fresh. If you have to put up a sign saying you are slow…. you need to hire another staff person or go to McDonalds and see how they do it. It’s crap food, but that man didn’t make millions because he got order-taking and production wrong. Seriously, one person takes orders, one person does sandwiches, one person does coffees. The order taker coordinates and makes sure no one is waiting… like the poor, smelly chick who just wants a Coke. I’ve worked in fast food; I’ve worked in a kitchen. It is not that hard!

But the bakery has a stranglehold. There are a couple ‘cafes’ in town, but the takeaway shop (where I would have gone) has closed. The Greek owners – always good, consistent, overpriced food – finally retired and no one else wanted to take it on.

So I head back to the car, pack up and feel remarkably pleased with how great I feel. I actually hurt LESS than anytime in the past two months. All the activity has actually improved my joint and muscle pain. I’m tired, and I feel like I could nap for a few hours, but I feel so much more nimble. Oh, thank goodness. I am so glad I ignored my laziness and pedaled off into the wind this morning. The crew is back!


**Note – 36 hours post-weekend rides, and I can say that the muscle and joint pain were so much better after riding. But the fatigue was greater than it has been the past few weeks. I took a two-hour nap on Mon afternoon after getting home, then slept 10 hours that night, and have felt kinda spacey and very tired all day Tues. So I can either have energy and achy joints and muscles OR less body pain but lots of fatigue. Still, I am sure we are on the upswing!


Leave a Reply