Total Kilometres: 27 kms (17 miles)
Total Kilometres 2018: 1722 kms (1070 miles)
The fires started Thursday. Between 11am and 12pm, there was a new fire reported every six minutes or so. In our area, more than 25 fires ignited throughout the day. It was hot (35C) and very windy, prime conditions for fire spread. It had been 37C the day before – a new heat record for our town going back to the 1880s. Many of the fires will likely be found to be reignitions of stubble burns from previous days. Some are reported to have been caused by lightning – though it was clear where I live and work. Luckily, no homes were lost, and all of the grass fires were contained by the end of the day.
BUT, this all meant the Rural Fire Service revoked all burn permits and wouldn’t grant new ones until Tuesday. Their firefighters, almost all volunteers, needed a break after 25 fires in one day. What this meant for me, an asthmatic who has been suffering greatly the past few weeks, was a few days of clear air!!!
Yet, I still did not get in an overnight ride on the weekend. It was windy and rainy on Saturday, and I had other social commitments. Plus, I may or may not have gone a little nuts with buying baby plants at a carpark sale that needed to be potted up.
On Sunday, I was tired and the wind was strong and gusty (up to 70 kph). I didn’t really want to ride and camp in the trees with winds like that. So instead of packing up and taking off for an overnight, I enjoyed a quiet day trying to figure out how to do a gentle, but not boring, tour next week.
So on Monday, we just drove down to the national park (a 15-20 min drive) for a short, gentle ride. It is the sort of ride that makes me feel lazy, but also the type of ride that the doctor has ordered for now. Of course, the clouds were still hanging about, with enough precipitation to make the roads wet. Consequently, Kermit opted out of this ride and hung out in the warm car instead (Verne is hanging with Nigel this week).
My original idea of heading into part of the park south of the freeway seemed a little foolish, since the rain clouds can stall out against the hills. So, instead, I opted to weave around and pick up more new tracks in the national park on the north side of the freeway.
It is chilly to start – such a welcome relief after an extraordinarily hot summer that just won’t quit. It is only 15 degrees C when I head out – it’s like walking into air-conditioning after being out in summer heat. Maybe I could use a jacket, but I just wear my normal orange tshirt and black shorts and enjoy the goosebumps in the first kilometre until I get warmed up. Really, this is the perfect temperature for riding: not cold and you don’t sweat much.
I ride up through the mugga ironbarks on good gravel to the turn-off to Wallaces Gully Track. The skies are grey with thick, puffy clouds with indistinct edges. Tiny blips of blue edge in here and there, letting through a bit of gleaming sun for a moment or two before promptly turning back to grey and gloom.
The mist is on-and-off again. It is not drizzle. It is not mist. It is somewhere in between. I think I would call it “Misty Sprinkles”. Of course, that title reminds me of one of those facebook memes where someone has listed the letters of the alphabet twice in two columns. Next to each letter is an adjective or noun. Then the wording at the bottom says: Your prostitute name is the last letter of your first name and the last letter of your surname. You look for the appropriate words next to the two columns of alphabet letters and come up with something like “misty sprinkles”.
Wallace Gully Track weaves around on a very gentle downhill through open forest. All throughout the ride, we will see mullock heaps and large holes scattered all over the forest. This whole park, and surrounding area, was the site of a gold rush in the late 1850s. Gold was mined up until the Great Depression in a few spots. The mining here required following deep leads – hence all the holes.
Wallace Gully Track also produces a bright green among the dark ironbark trunks and pale green leaf canopy – there are stands of drooping she-oak throughout (Allocasuarina verticillata). The contrast in the colour and the spindly leaves makes the overcast day seem not so sodden.
We cross over Callitris Track and roll on down to the forest edge at Devonshire Road. I have images of hot cups of tea and scones with jam and cream. The mist turns thick here for a little bit, enough for the gravel to stick to the tires and beads of water to fall from my helmet visor. But then it stops, and the sun comes out for a minute or two as we make our way up Mt Pleasant Road. This one has had a lot of big gravel dumped on it, so it’s not as nice to ride.
We wander around on more new roads and tracks, or new parts of previously ridden roads, on the other side of the Howlong Road. We eventually make our way into town. There are some new signs that I see on occasion that says “Magenta Mine” (one of the old mines that has an interpretive walk – I’ve shown you before back in 2015). Below the text is a picture of a bike. So there must now be a signed bike route – but I’m doing bits of it backward, because none of the signs are ever facing my direction!
We come into town on the back side of the golf course and on a dirt road that feels like someone’s driveway. I’d hoped to check out a cafe that has been open for a couple years in the old Masons hall. It has a very inviting-looking back deck and I’m keen to try a milkshake (I’ve been avoiding milk for a couple months now, and I want to see if my guts are up to it). Alas, they have gone to new business hours and are no longer open on Mondays. Another time. http://bordercafe.com.au/2017/08/29/a-hive-of-activity-at-chilterns-hub-62/
So I end up at the bakery instead. I’m in a hurry to make decisions, or I’m going to get stuck in line behind two groups of three oldies each. My goodness, they could be dead before they all figure out what they want and get their order in.
So I go for a caramel slice (my fav) and a jam doughnut. Now there is something I must tell you about doughnuts in Australia. They suck. Australia does wonderful bakery items. And there are tiny, independent bakeries all over the place. It is one of the things I love about Australia. There are all sorts of wonderful sweet and savoury items on offer. But Australia just cannot do doughnuts.
So why did I order one? Because it’s one of the first things I see in the case (I’m in a hurry, here, remember), and the Chiltern Bakery has never disappointed me in anything I’ve ordered before.
So what’s the verdict? Australians would think it was one of the best jam doughnuts they’ve had. Americans would say, “you call that a doughnut”? And an American who has lived in Australia for a long time says, “Not even close to an American doughnut, but probably the best I’ve had in Oz.” (You must realise I gave up on doughnuts here a long time ago, so I haven’t sampled many in the past 10 years). It is a bit too dough-y and not very light, but it is yeasty in a good way and smells nice.
The caramel slice is much better – two thumbs up. The unfriendly young chick who served me though dudded me and gave me the tiny end piece. The others in the case were easily twice that size. The doughnut and the slice were $3 each.
Sugared-up, I head out of town on the Howlong Road and then take off on Bartleys Track. This is a good one. It climbs up to a ridge, so my climbing craving does not go totally unsatisfied. The substrate is those slabby Ordovician rocks, so there’s the additional challenge of picking a line.
At the top, there are good views through the trees over to the Barambogies. As we ride along the ridge, we ride through nice stands of Blakelys Red Gum. Their smooth, white bark stands out in such contrast to the chunky and dark ironbarks.
There are more holes and mullock heaps. I’m just spinning up the hill and then coasting the ridges at impossibly slow and gentle speeds. There is no way this ride can be the source of post-exertional malaise. It is going to take me more than two hours to do 27kms!!
The track winds down through the trees and then through more open ironbarks. You can see the track winding along the gully ahead. It dumps us into a sandy ditch at the junction with the Mt Pleasant Road again. You must get squirrely at least once on any ride on gravel for it to be a true loose surface experience.
Then it is on down the Depot Road back to the car. It has been a really nice ride – minus the mist. Of course, Tuesday will turn out to be perfectly clear, sunny, warm but not hot and with just a light breeze… and I’ll be inside working away….
But this was good – just what my head needed and just the level of exertion I’m probably supposed to be doing. I’m still coming to terms with what the upcoming diagnosis will mean for my riding and my life. I know what is coming. The prognosis is poor. So I’m going to wait until after I get back from my one-week tour to go back to my GP for the diagnosis of exclusion.
The good news is that I’ve figured out how to get my kms in on a daily basis, since long weekend rides are probably not in my future for some time. Since daylight savings ended, I’ve squandered time feeling sorry for myself. But it’s time to put away the self-pity and just do short rides every day – immediately after work for now and on my lunch hour once it is cool enough not to get too sweaty. I am determined to reach my riding goal this year, one way or another, one shitty diagnosis or not.