Shifting – January Ride 1 – An unexpected treat

19 January 2020

45 kms (28 miles)

The morning begins with thick smoke and an orange tint to the air. It’s been that way most mornings since the beginning of the year.

They’ve said we were going to get rain on a couple occasions now and we got nothing at all. Today they say we’re supposed to have showers developing. We’ll believe it when we see it. We haven’t had rain since the first day of December.

But somewhere around 11.30, the north-northwesterly that should bring that rain strengthens and blows the smoke away. I’ve been working on coursework, but when I see the opportunity to ride, I pluck it right up.

I quickly gather the guys, their floaties and a bottle of water and we are out the door at noon.

Now, normally, when the hills in the distance are fuzzy with haze, you’d say, “wow, there’s a fair bit of smoke around, today, there must be a fire somewhere. Maybe I should give a ride a miss today.” But this season has been far from normal and to even SEE the hills in the distance means the air quality has improved a bit. The air quality scale goes downhill from good to moderate to poor to very poor to hazardous. We’ve had a heck of a lot of hazardous and nothing above moderate since the beginning of the year.

So let’s go. Moderate is do-able with my inhaler. And as the wind continues to pick up, the air quality will improve as the ride goes on.

I initially think I’ll just ride up to the river and give the guys a float. But I’m not even to the river when I decide this day deserves a longer ride. We’ve got water to drink and tools to fix any issues that arise. Where to go?

I decide that Eldorado is a good distance. This will allow us a chance to get a cold drink at the ride mid-point and then get blown home by that strengthening wind. Storms are supposed to develop later, but it’s not cold, so other than lightning, I am not afraid to get wet. In fact, when it’s 30C and humid, getting rained on would feel quite nice.

There is considerable protest from the handlebar bag when I don’t stop at the river for a float. I explain that we are going for a longer ride and we’ll check out Reedy Creek when we get to Eldorado.

Kermit retorts, “Yeah, right. We rode over that creek on Christmas day further down and it was DRY AS.”

I reply, “Do you want to go for 45 kms or not? We’ll float on the way home, I promise”!

And so we head on into the wind. We cross over Hodgsons Creek on the little pedestrian bridge. That creek is dry now, too. It was good to discover that little bridge because it means we can scoot up River Road to get ourselves several places without having to ride on the Great Alpine Road or the Beechworth-Wang Road.

We head up to the Boralma-Tarrawingee Road (it’s a locals road – people use it to cut off the freeway to Tarrawingee and Milawa). We’ve ridden this one several times before. It all looks the same, just drier. Do we ever need rain!!

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The air is getting clearer as we go. Visibility has been down to 100 metres at times and often less than a km over the past few weeks, so you can’t miss a day like this, even if it is windy.

Pedal, pedal, spin, spin into the wind. Breathe that somewhat clear air. Enjoy this unexpected opportunity to get out on the bike. I love nothing more in life.

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We actually rode by here on the day they were baling that.

The wind is about 25kph and gusting to 35. We are riding into it. I’m not supposed to ride hills, but no one ever said anything about a headwind that is harder than some hills!

We roll on – so pleased with ourselves for getting in a ride between bouts of smoke. The roads are quiet. This is good. So good. My body feels good. I’m pedaling with such strength and consistency. I’m not just turning over the pedals and only pushing on the downstroke. I’m feeling so efficient. Oh dear goodness, how I have missed this! C’mon you good body, you – this is pretty awesome.

We roll on into Eldorado. I keep my promise to check out Reedy Creek. We head down to the swing bridge. Man, everything looks so dry. The creek is well and truly dry, too. Sorry, guys. There is a collective rolling of eyes and sighing from the handlebar bag.

The swing bridge, circa 2007, over Reedy Creek.


Yeah, the old one, circa I-don’t-know, does look a bit dodgy.
Ain’t no water in the well and the creek’s run dry. See the Husker Du version below.

I look over to the other side of the creek. There are unridden roads over there and I am excited that come autumn when the temps have moderated and I’ve rebuilt a little bit of fitness that some of those roads will be mine! Thank you, modern science and antibiotics. You’ve given me hope once again that I will eventually get my life back!!

We head back up to town. There are dark clouds off to the northwest and thunder in the distance. So those storms are building. Yesterday we got six spits of rain and seven thunderclaps when all the supposed rain clouds just fell apart.

There are plenty of people enjoying the shade and having lunch at the tavern. On the other side of the tavern is a takeaway shop. I go in to get a milk. Yep, I’m back to milk (just not chocolate). Yay! In fact, I’m supposed to be drinking a fair bit of it to help with oxalate toxicity (a long story – but something the new doc suggested to look into that I was hoping was going to be a false lead, but looks like could be behind some of my pain).

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The pub in Eldorado is popular today. There’s a really nice shady area out the back. Old car for my dad.

Across the road in the park, there are a couple of people taking video and photos of an older gentleman in a white shirt playing saxophone – or at least faking the notes on a tenor sax. I never get a chance to ask what he plays, with whom and where.

As I down my milk (oh, that cold drink tastes so good!), I pull out my phone to check out the radar. As I do so, the emergency vic app goes off with a storm warning. Everyone I know is “warning-ed” out. With all the alerts the past few weeks related to the fires and smoke, everyone just sighs when they hear that alert alarm. When you’ve been getting alerts 5-10 times a day for 19 days, you really just want to turn the damn thing off.

Radar does indicate a whole heap of storms off to the west. They are coming down from the north and tracking pretty much straight south. We look good for now.

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On the board for the Jan Cycle365 challenge – rocks. I’ve got so many places I’d love to go for that challenge, but it’s been too smoky to ride. You can’t tell, but that hill back there has a heap of rocks like the one my bike is against. I am going to have to ask for an extension on that challenge due to extenuating circumstances.
This is what it looked like behind me when I was taking the photo above. I think people near Springhurst are getting wet, but I really don’t think that one is going to get us. I do hear its thunder though.

So off we go toward home. The road out of Eldorado has good views of Mt Buffalo, but most of it isn’t visible today, swallowed up in its own smoke. There’s a fire up there – down in the valley below, actually. It’s good to see no plumes around Mt Emu today though – last time I could see that bit of the Black Range, there was lots of smoke on the slopes.

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There are more big boulders over there on that hill. I am going to submit rock challenge photos well after the Jan challenge period is over when I can get up closer to some.

Thunder continues in the distance and the day goes cloudy with the outer edges of the storm. It looks like it’s getting some folks blessedly wet over near Springhurst. It is good to have some cloud cover here to keep the temperature down.

We veer off the Eldorado road to go grab a new one. Woo-hoo! We get Rusholme Road under our belts today – flying along at 30kph on the good bits and fishtailing our way through the sandy and corrugated bits further down.

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Rusholme Road. New one for us. It means we won’t have to turn back west as we would have if we had followed the Eldorado Road down to the rail trail. We’re flying at 25kph here.

Storms are building. There is more thunder. I still think we’re in the clear.

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Road is getting sandier and looser. It will get a bit beach-y and corrugated further down.

Things begin to seem a bit more dicey as we pass through Tarrawingee, but man, I promised those critters a float. So with a storm and its thunder breathing down our neck, I stop off at the river.

I roll under the road bridge. At least we’ll be safe if a storm catches us. As I blow up the guys floaties, I pull up the radar on my phone (I’m a woman – I can multi-task). I’ve only got one bar of 3G under the bridge, but it eventually loads and pings up two new storm alerts on the emergency.vic app.

Hmmm…. that looks like we could be in the path of some of that. Believe it when we see it.

The guys are happy I have not used stormy weather as an excuse not to float. But I’m comfortable knowing we can hang out under the bridge if needed.

The guys don’t get to float as long or in as many places as I would have allowed if the thunder wasn’t so persistent, but they do get 10 minutes of joy. What would I do without these guys – it’s a lot of fun to always be on the look out for places to float, and I really do enjoy looking at the back of their heads as we go. It reminds me of the thousands and thousands of miles of things we’ve seen together.

I ponder. Do I stay or do I make the dash home? It’s only 6 kms and those storms don’t look to be moving fast. The wind is definitely going to help blow us the rest of the way home.

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It’s gotten a wee bit dark. Looking down the Ovens River at the bridge on the Tarrawingee-Markwood Road.

I decide, let’s go. It will give us a good reason to pedal hard and see just how much I can do at the moment. The rest of the way home isn’t too open – much of it is tree-lined, so I won’t feel too much like a lightning rod.

So off we go – pedaling back home in those last 6 kms at 25-30 kph. I’m pushing hard and so is the wind. I can’t believe how good I feel. Oh gosh, this bodes well for the future. I even had a big weekend last weekend energy-wise and a huge week at work this past week. So good, so good.

I talk to my Grandpa as I ride. I tell him to re-direct the lightning if he’s doing any overseeing of my life today. My grandfather was absolutely paranoid about thunderstorms and lightning strikes after my uncle (his son, of course) survived a high voltage electric shock and extensive 3rd degree burns when he was 13.

My grandfather would gather us up and shuttle us indoors at the slightest sound of thunder and wouldn’t let us back outdoors for 30 minutes after the last thunder clap. Remember that Indiana, where I grew up, does thunderstorms in a big and scary way.

So I’m thinking of my Grandpa for the second time today. My grandfather was a saxophone and trumpet player. He played in bands in the Army in World War II and then in bands after the war. So I was thinking of him in Eldorado when I saw the photo shoot. Maybe it was a sign he was around and was going to help me safely home. I don’t really believe in such things, but if you do, there you go.

We roll into the carport with not a drop on us. I check the radar. The storms have all fallen apart. I will say that the plumes of smoke coming out of the Buffalo Valley were pretty impressive as I came down the final bits of the road toward home. I wonder if it’s gotten into the pine plantations on the west side of the valley. I sure hope they get some rain on that over the next couple days (they will get some around 8pm – hope it was enough to be useful and not just a nuisance).

I go in and grab some ice water and sit out on the verandah – as it’s cooler with the wind outside than inside the house. What an unexpected and excellent treat!

I do feel good. I just did 45kms and I haven’t been doing much of anything for some time now. What rides I’ve done have been just here and there. I felt good on a similar-length ride on Christmas Day. It is good that I can do 45kms with no after-effects. We have a base to work from!

I think the thing that has been most helpful is to get rid of that recurring fever that would make me feel so hot and weird at times, particularly when I went out to ride most of last year. I just thought it was the first tinges of hot flushes preceding menopause. I knew it wasn’t the cortisol sweats that I had in mid-2018 for a bit, but I never suspected it was a recurring fever! But gosh, getting rid of that come-and-go fever has been such a huge improvement!

Yippee! Ride one done for the year.

(And we are finally getting a bit of steady rain as I write this at 8.30pm).

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