11 June 2018
Total Kilometres: 42 kms (26 miles)
Total Kilometres 2018: 2428 kms (1509 miles)
It’s a long weekend. It’s the Queens Birthday public holiday. So what do a few Yanks do to celebrate a monarch in a Commonwealth country? Well… we go ride, of course.
The Queen’s birthday is actually in April, I think. But we have a heap of public holidays in April (Good Friday, Easter Monday, ANZAC day), and I guess Oz needs a holiday to celebrate the start of winter, so Queens Birthday is always the second Monday in June. That just means we have to share the national park today whereas we would normally have it all to ourselves on a Monday.
I have this ride burning in my head that I’d hoped to do this weekend. It’s a 70 km ride with a fair bit of climbing and a mix of chipseal and gravel out of Myrtleford. But the Melburnians over-run Northeast Victoria on long weekends, so I’m thinking I don’t want to be on any main roads this weekend. Plus, I feel a bit scrappy and think shorter kms would be better for my body. We did a short ride around town on Sunday – it’s written up here. But today it is off to the national park to pick up the remaining bits of unridden tracks in the Mt Pilot section.
It’s another gorgeous day of about 15C, sunny and clear. It’s our last good day for a bit. It looks like we’ll get the autumn break this week – just two months late. Rain is forecast from Tuesday to Sunday. So let’s get out there and enjoy this while it lasts.
We park in our usual spot near the public toilets in Chiltern and then take off on the Beechworth-Chiltern Road. This one can be a bit busy, but we are only on it for about 3 kms. Then we turn off on Black Dog Creek Road and let the tree-lined bliss begin.
Today we don’t take the turn for the sealed Deep Creek Road. Instead, we head up the rest of the gravel Black Dog Creek Road and then on a couple of single-lane, dry weather only laneways.
Once we get up to the national park, we take off on Little Pilot Road – a new one for us. Unfortunately, they’ve just graded it very recently. With the rain Friday night and Saturday morning, it’s very, very soft and grabby. It is a slow ride – like riding on damp beach sand. The vehicles have really torn up sections of it already, and there are muddy, deep vehicle tracks to avoid in places.
Once into the park, we begin our tree ride. Today’s ride is all about mining, logging, fire frequency and intensity, and how those influence forest growth. Each track is a little different in its thickness of regrowth, size of trees, burn scars and patterns, and survivor health. If you don’t look at it in such an academic way, it’s just a whole bunch of scraggly trees.
To me it is forest ecology, gentle hills and fast descents. It is just getting out there and pedaling. It’s about being outside. It’s about appreciating all that I have and my good fortune to be able to be right here, right now. It’s being grateful that the ME/CFS doesn’t have me bedridden, and that even when I feel scrappy, I can still go out and do a gentle 42 km ride. To me, this ride is about exercise and staying as healthy as I can. It’s about reaffirming that I am a cyclist and that I ride. It’s what I do. It’s who I am – even if it’s not at the level of adventure and intensity that I prefer. This ride is another chunk toward my yearly goal – which I’m unlikely to meet but which I will stride toward right up until 31 December. I do not concede defeat easily.
And so we spin up that good granite and practice our bike handling skills on the sandy and winding Honeysuckle Track. The gully has escaped some of the intensity of fire and there is even a good diversity of understory plants through here. It’s a shame the motorobikes have chewed up the track so much, as this is a really good bit of riding.
I’ve got my iPod playing – I turn it up full volume and put it in the handlebar bag – and I’m pedaling along to all my favourites on my RIDE playlist. I don’t have my newest album on there yet, but once my playlist ends, I’ve got this one new song by Xavier Rudd in my head. I really like the whole new album, but the song Growth Lines has spoken and said, “I’ll be a good salve on the hard days.”
I’m healing well after the end of my 20-year relationship. But on occasion, the loss still feels acute. Not often and not for long, but sometimes the grief arcs up for a bit. And this song is going to be the one that makes me feel okay on those days. If you listen to the song, and you replace the “floating in the ocean” bits with “riding in the forest”, then you get EXACTLY what riding does for me, and has done for me, in all the hard and shitty bits of my life.
And if you don’t know Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”, then you don’t truly understand how beauty can rise from pain – particularly Jeff Buckley’s version (hands-down the best cover ever). I first discovered Cohen’s poetry when I was 13, and he was a huge influence on the poetry I wrote back in those days (though Hallelujah is not actually my favourite Cohen song).
And so we ride through the forest for a couple hours. We only meet up with a couple vehicles right at the end – even though I counted eight utes with trailers parked in one spot (motorbikes) and one car with a bike rack (I only saw bike tracks in one spot).
One of the vehicles comes up behind me on a downhill. I let him trail me. I’m not breaking 40kph for him, and there’s nowhere to pull over anyway. Once I get to the bottom and can pull over, I do.
The vehicle stops beside me and the guy yells at me from the driver’s side:
“Get your fucking bike off the road. Use one of the fucking bike paths and stay off the roads.”
I look at him. I am not fazed. I just yell, “Yeah, fuck off you prick.”
His eyes get big and he says, “Oh. I thought you were a bloke! It’s not safe to ride these tracks, lady. Someone will run you over!”
I have been riding these tracks and many others for many years. I do believe I am a very capable cyclist. However, if you are driving behind me when I am out of the saddle, and you think my hips, ass and legs are a bloke’s, then I do question your eyesight and whether you should have a driver’s licence at all.
I do not say this to him. I just glare back at him and let him break the gaze.
He roars off, leaving me in a cloud of diesel fumes. Don’t you dare harsh my mood, you arse. I quickly shrug it off and get back to my good riding vibe. I’m so glad he could be a cyclist-hating arse and a patronizing male all in one exchange.
We finish off the ride with the sun getting low and the breeze picking up. The cold change this week will be a cold one (a high of 9C on Sat… brrrr…). There will be rain each day in the coming week, but we’ll still get out each day except Friday after work. We’re riding down the shortest days of the year – sunset is at 5.06pm the next couple weeks, but that is as short as it gets.
Soon, we’ll be riding into lengthening days. And hopefully, lengthening energy periods. Regardless, we’ll be riding into whatever there is to come. Because we will be riding. Always.