Shifting – July Ride 3 – Bein’ Green

18 July 2020
72 kms (45 miles)

Kermit the Frog has a couple famous songs. His song, ‘It’s not easy being green’ was featured on the first season of Sesame Street. That show has always been at the forefront of addressing tough social issues in a way that children can understand. “It’s not easy being green” sees Kermit feeling undervalued because of his colour, an analogy to race which, 50 years after being written, is just as relevant as ever.

It’s not easy for the Oz landscape to be green either. For about nine months of the year, it’s pretty brown. Australia is the driest inhabited continent on earth, and the landscape shows it. Of course, this past summer there was a whole lot of black to go with the brown, too. So, in the three months of the year in my part of Oz when the landscape goes green, it is something to revel in and enjoy for the short time when the weather is temperate and humane.

Our ride today is a very obvious one to fill in on my map. It’s also an obvious one to do in winter when the gravel roads are a bit smoother and stuck together by moisture.  We consider doing this one as an overnight and taking camping gear down to the Moyhu Timber Reserve. But my el barto symptoms have all been really crap for a bit now, and sleeping well is essential on weekends to get energy back for the huge work weeks I’m doing right now. I can’t ever guarantee a good night’s sleep in the tent, so we just do this as a day ride instead.

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This map is not quite accurate – it doesn’t reflect our ride up Box Forest Road over to Braines and Hills Lanes. But you get the idea.

We head south and east from home on roads we’ve ridden before. To my happy surprise, they’ve fairly recently dumped more clay and regraded several of the roads I ride today, including Allen’s Lane which just had a small strip of smoothness down the side of all the cobblestone base the last time I rode it.

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Yeah, try to say that name to an overseas call centre operator when you have to give your address (Bobinawarrah is part of my street address). That’s a CFA shed off to the right.
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My first wattle in full bloom this season. I could see some about to burst out on Monday, but this is the first of the season. I’ll see several more today. They are about right on time this year. Last year they bloomed early.
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They’ve put down a new clay layer on Allens Lane, so it is a much smoother ride than last time. 

We scoot along under high cloud and light winds. After a somewhat wet and occasionally miserable June, July has had a lot of really nice sunny, windless winter days. Of course, most of those have lined up with the work week, with the rainy days on the weekends, but we’ve squeezed in at least one good ride each weekend.

We’ve also managed to go for a short ride at lunch-time at least a couple days a week. Not all Julys are this nice. If you came from overseas and visited this year, you could be fooled into thinking that Australia was a really beautiful and easy place to live. You would then be unpleasantly surprised by all those days between 40 and 46C in summer!

Never mind, this July has been beautiful, and it could not have come at a better time with everyone feeling a bit fatigued and depressed with all the virus stuff. Now, we really need a very rainy August since we are still below average on rain, and winter is generally the most likely time of year we can make up deficits.

We turn off Allens Lane to go pick up some new roads. It’s an indirect way of heading over to the Meadow Creek valley, but the website is not called “Ramble out yonder” because I stick to the most direct routes. There are unridden roads over there, and so they must be ridden.

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We’re going to head left of photo, then turn right and meander along the shoulder of that range just inside the forest boundary.

Braines Lane becomes a tiny little track through the edge of the forest after we pass the last property driveway. It is a bit rocky and eroded, but I enjoy the feel of my muscles saying “WTF are we doing?” and the challenge of navigating the gullies and big rocks. Ahhh, it’s quiet as we gently ascend to the shoulder of the range.

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Traffic Hazard Ahead signs can sometimes be an understatement in Oz. I’ve seen major landslips on the side of a mountain that required four-wheel drive to negotiate with just one little sign like this. In this case I think it is an overstatement. There is just one pothole at the bottom, and there is much worse on other roads today that have no signage whatsoever. What that means is that somebody called and complained about this one, so the Council just came and whacked up some signs to limit their liability.
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View over toward Glenrowan (centre of pic at horizon) and Warby Range off to the right from Braines Lane.
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Braines Lane becomes a bit of track instead of a lane.

The track becomes more of a road as we get into the forest reserve. We wander along not too far inside the forest boundary for a couple kilometres. Ahhhh, I needed a bit of this!

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Current daughter pic for my Mom and Dad. My folks don’t do any sort of video calling and still live in the age of dumb phones, so they haven’t seen me in over a year. It will be at least a year before they see again. That is slightly devastating, so I need to show evidence that I am alive, and at least pretty well.

The track ends at Hills Lane where we turn back downhill. I enjoy riding fast and negotiating all the eroded and sandy bits caused by the big dump of rain they got down this way last weekend.

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We are heading downhill to the right of the pic, then cutting left to follow the creek that is down in that line of native trees at the edge of the clearing. We’ll head to the left in front of all those pines. We’ll come back up the valley on the other side of those pines later today.

I see a mom and daughter from a nearby property out walking their dogs. They smile and say Hi, and I see the mom point at Verne and Kermit and say something to her daughter (with a smile). I’m sure Verne and Kermit enjoy the attention – they are movie stars, you know. (Verne is from Over the Hedge – video link below if you’ve never seen that movie).

We head toward Meadow Creek on a tiny little two-track that I’m pretty sure is not someone’s driveway. You can hear the rush of the creek over the rocks and the sound of many frogs trying to get laid.

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Looking down Meadow Creek.
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I don’t think this is someone’s driveway, I’m pretty sure it’s a public road (it is).

This little track spits us out on the main Meadow Creek Road. We did this one back in 2017 (I think – it was sometime in the past 3 years of ill health that has all run together in my head). The road is sealed for a little way as it climbs up onto higher land and the creek line runs to the other side of the valley. It is serene and mostly silent.

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Ahhh, at this time of year, you could be so fooled into thinking that Australia is a temperate and pleasant place to live.
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Clever use of horseshoes on the gate post. That is Ned Kelly (Oz’s most notorious bushranger) with guns for hands. Funnily enough, he appears about to shoot himself in the foot here (which you could argue he metaphorically did).
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Next gate post down the road and Ned is aiming guns with both hands.

This is quite a nice ride and the gravel is in good condition as we head higher up the valley. I enjoy all that green and the fact that every little dent in the earth is carrying water. Every road culvert has water flowing underneath. Every ephemeral creek is flowing. Every drainage line in every paddock is seeping water.

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I want to say, “Hey, don’t rush. Don’t head downhill and downstream so fast. Linger a while. Keep it green.” But gravity is a force greater than desire, and it pulls the water down into the creek which will run into the King River which will run into the Ovens River which will run into the Murray River which will run into the ocean 2000 kilometres downstream. And then the cycle begins again, or so you hope. Some years that doesn’t seem to happen all that much.

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Every indent in the land oozing water, every road culvert has got running water like this. Winter is such a great time to ride here.
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Upper end of the Meadow Creek Valley. We’ll turn right at the road end up ahead. Last time we came this way, we turned left. That is Mt Emu in the background. The fires last summer made it up to there.

At the top of the valley we head up Pettifers Lane – another new road. The other time we rode the Meadow Creek valley we turned left and circumnavigated the range to the east through Carboor. I’m not sure if the Carboor Road has reopened yet – that area was fire-affected. There are heaps and heaps of logging trucks on the road associated with the salvage logging of the burnt pine forest up that way anyway.

Pettifers Lane is a delight, though. We climb over a gentle gap in the range on good gravel. With the low sun angle and high cloud, the forest seems dark. With the winter green and damp, this dry eucalypt forest is transformed into a gloomy fairy tale setting where you expect a hobbit or Little Red Riding Hood to appear in view around each corner.

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Pettifers Lane. I enjoyed this one.
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Pettifers Lane. I love the jumble of topography from eye-level here.

It’s not too far to the top of the climb, and then we get a fast flinging down the other side into the next valley on good gravel. I enjoy the mixed lines of lumpy hills that present, at earth level, a messy topography. And I enjoy the views of this dog-legged creek valley turning north and toward the King River valley. Ahhhh, to enjoy this without flies, magpies, profuse sweating or sunscreen which attracts all the dust and grime. Winter is such a good time to ride here.

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Dropping into the next valley. You can see the road down there heading toward the right.
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Black Creek Valley – heading to the right around that ridge on the right.

We head on down the gravel and over a few small hills. Eventually we get back to some chipseal at Edi Upper and cruise the very gentle valley downhill. This has been a great ride today!

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That’s a big dam, and it is full! Edi-Cheshunt Road.
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Happy cows. (Or so I assume.)

We head over the river, and then cut over on Porters Lane. We then make a mad dash down the very narrow main road to the camping area along the river. This one is a very dark and damp one in winter as it sits in the immediate shadow of the mountain range to the west.

But, to my surprise, the place is packed out. I expected there to be a few people camping here, but not hordes! Maybe everyone is nervous that we’ll go back to stay-at-home restrictions soon, and this is their last chance to go camping again for a while. I don’t know, but I do know there are at least 12 different groups camping here and about 20 different cars and tow vehicles just in the one part of the camping area I ride through.

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Heaps of people here, and even more behind me. The only time it would be more crowded would be Christmas and Easter.

Of course, none of those campers are socially distancing from the others in their group that are not part of their household. We’ve had no virus cases in my area since early April when there was a couple of people that tested positive that had returned from overseas. But the lack of cases is surely just luck – it’s certainly not because people are doing the right thing!

I take the guys down to the river for a float. Of course there is used, wadded up toilet paper in various places along the little path. And the whole area smells like damp, rotting wood, campfire smoke, chemical toilets and burning plastic. It is actually pretty overpowering, so we don’t stay all that long. This is why I always prefer to camp off in the forest somewhere than at one of these designated open areas. Not only do you get all that campfire smoke and other smells, but you get the joy of everyone firing up their generator to cook meals and heat water for showers and watch TV in their caravans at night, too!

I make the mad dash back down the 300 metres of the narrow road to the laneway and then head back over the river and up the Edi-Laceby Road. It seems like this road comes out on the Moyhu Road far, far from Laceby. The road definitely never directly heads to the Laceby locality, so I have no idea how it has this name.

I have driven this road once before about a decade ago. My only memory was that the road was in terrible condition – and that was my perspective in a car, so you know how terrible it would have been on a bike! Given that memory, I’ve never really considered riding it. Now that I live pretty close, and winter means the gravel rides better, I decide to give it a go. At the very least, we’ll mark it off the map and never ride it again!

The road meanders along the floodplain for a km or so, before climbing over a small hill and dropping back down next to a small creek. We then follow that creek up the narrow, forested valley on a gently twisting and turning road. It is peaceful, and the sound of the creek running is pleasing. The road is decent, but it would be pretty awful once the moisture was gone. It would quickly fall apart and be very corrugated, dusty and eroded. There are signs of its true self in quite a few places. It is definitely a “wet weather road only” for cyclists!

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Well, that’s a fresh fall. If they don’t chop that up for firewood, I imagine it would keep growing with sprouts off the horizontal trunk since there are still a fair few roots intact. 

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There’s even a little waterfall over there – it’s perfect Verne and Kermit size.

We eventually top the little divide and follow another creek down the other side. This side is much more open, and the cleared land comes right up to the road reserve much of the way. There are a series of big potholes that we skim through or splash through, depending on depth and distance. What a really nice tight little valley and a good ride today in the damp.

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This was much more of a traffic hazard than the one on the other road with a sign. The puddle is about 2-4 inches deep, and so is that outlet ditch running downhill (which I managed to bunny hop at the last moment, somehow summoning the ancient, unpracticed BMX skills of my youth).
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Looking back over to Glenrowan to the west. Clouds have come in ahead of a front tomorrow.

We get spit back out onto Allens Lane. There have been a few places to give the guys a float, but I’m a bit anxious about daylight so have pushed on each time. But then we get to a really perfect spot on the Allens Lane causeway at Meadow Creek. I figure we’ve got 15 minutes to spare and give the guys a go on the creek we followed earlier. There is usually a trickle of water in this creek at other times of year, but not enough for a float. So the guys get to mark this water body off their list of watercourses floated.

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I do have salad fixin’s at home this week, so I grab some of that oxalis to include this time.

Then we make a mad dash for home. I pedal hard and keep the speedo around 25kph all the way home across the valley flats. That is fast for me – I normally do about 18-20kph at max on gravel.

I enjoy all the shapes, textures and colours in the cloud as I ride. There is a tickle of a memory here. Somewhere in my past, I’ve ridden somewhere at some time that makes this feel like deja vu. My head is saying I’ve ridden something like this somewhere else at some time in my past. West Nile Virus resulted in a bit of brain damage, so I can’t always place a memory anymore. Instead I just know that there is a memory that is trying to make a neural connection with the present, and not quite being able to do it.

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Clotted clouds above a full hay shed and bunch of other wrapped bales (ask me about opportunities for silage wrap recycling – I’m all up to date on that sort of stuff now with my current job, lol).
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Looking back toward the Carboor Range. There are some bare grapes vines in the middle distance, too.
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3.5 kms from home travelling at 27 kph here. This is the road I played chicken with the Prado on last time we rode this. See, plenty of room for me on the edge and a vehicle next to me. He didn’t have to drop a wheel off onto the gravel that time. I’m riding right where the middle of a car would be.

We make it home at 4.55pm. Sunset is at 5.20pm or a couple minutes earlier. So that is close enough!

At the winter solstice, the sun sets at 5.06pm, so we’ve already gained almost 15 minutes of daylight. I want to scream, “Nooooooo! Please let winter last longer. I’m still not sufficiently chilled from all the heat of last summer yet. I’m not ready for flies and magpies (none bothered me today) and heat and sweat and searing sun. Give me more days with highs in the teens and rides not bothered by any nuisance other than a runny nose.”

Oh, but seasons change. Time pushes on. With so much uncertainty everywhere, and huge, stressful workloads in my job, it is nice to have something that feels solid and reliable. The Wizard never disappoints. Cycling has always been a balm, a salve, a meditation and relaxation technique. It’s always been an escape. A way to soothe the angst in my youth. A way to soothe the disappointment in my adulthood. Cycling is always my answer to everything. Riding is the one, burning flame in my soul that can never be extinguished, even in the wet, green season of winter.

And here is a song to go with the times, from my favourite album last year. He has got a new album out with more incredibly relevant songs, but I can’t get my hands on it easily yet in Oz.

15 thoughts on “Shifting – July Ride 3 – Bein’ Green

  • Another great ride report Emily.
    Re the campers, some people have no idea on social distancing, or if they do, they can’t be bothered even here in Melbourne where we are all supposed to be staying at home.

    Mike

    • Hi Mike – I think I never got back to you after your last comments. I’m so sorry – no excuse except I forget stuff now and get busy with work and study. I hope you are well and don’t have any niggly issues from that knee injury by now. I hope Mary is doing well and you are staying safe down there. People were really good for about six weeks, then their attention spans ended, the threat seemed to go away, and everyone got really complacent. Take good care!!

    • Thanks, Kathleen. I think of you often. I know there was a lot of really tough stuff going on long before Covid-19, and I’m sure that has made things even tougher. Know you, your wife, mom and family are in my thoughts a lot. Take good care. Sending all my best.

  • Not only a great Ondara song, but a great video as well. I loved all of the characters he saw through the spyglass. Great descriptions of the land and your ride too, which I guess I can say about pretty much ALL of your posts.

      • I’m sorry for not mentioning your video, Kermit. I guess I’m starting to take your video awesomeness for granted. Saying “Kermit performed another great song” is like saying “the sun rose today.” Please know this: whereas I praised J.S. Ondara’s video in my message to Emily, rest assured that I loved yours every bit as much. Sure, your voice might not be quite as polished as J.S.’s, but your raw frogginess more than makes up
        for that.

        I’m sorry for not mentioning your video, Verne. It’s a fantastic video and your performance is excellent, but it is so hard for me to watch you getting attacked and knocked around and suffering so many misfortunes and barely escaping so many others. It gives me nightmares and reminds me just how dangerous this world is — especially these days. (Next time, please take the advice from the opossums and just play ‘possum.)

        Back to Emily. Thanks for the “Blowin’ in the Wind” gift. I liked it, but for that song I think I still prefer Dylan’s raw frogginess. While watching J.S. though, I saw the song coming next on Youtube was going to be his version of “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” How was he going to pull that one off? All I can say is, “WOW! that guy can sure put his own stamp on a song.”

      • Thank you, Greg. Kermit says he is used to not being noticed by Miss Piggy, but he’s glad for your acknowledgement. Verne says to let you know that it was all just acting, so he was never harmed.

        Yes, I’ve seen that Ondara cover of Nirvana. I was impressed because I like it when people make a cover their own. But, like you preferring the Dylan version of Blowin in the Wind, I kinda missed the angst and energy of the original Smells Like Teen Spirit. I just can’t stand Dylan’s voice, young or old, even though I love his songs. Speaking of artists who make a cover their own, Chris Cornell did some amazing covers, but his version of Billie Jean is my fav. I’ve always been a big fan of his (Soundgarden, Temple of the Dog) as I love his voice. Check it out here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B8yAZd7Ng8A

    • Thanks, Catherine. There’s no way to avoid the work at the moment – whomever said we should ram through a bunch of government reforms during a pandemic deserves to be deposited in a tiny, leaky dinghy in the middle of the ocean with no life vest. 🙂

      • Haha, yes that would normally be the case! Let’s just slip it in while everyone’s distracted. In this case, I think it is because they are trying to get some runs on the board and show success. It’s in response to an industry crisis, so I think it’s meant to show the public they can tackle a problem. Because they’ve so screwed up the virus response, they need a good news story!

  • There is a noticeable different in sunset times between your latitude and mine. The Longford sunset today is 5.08. We are behind the times!

    I have been pleased to see a bit more social distancing here recently. A lot of people are saying “we better get it right before the borders open”. Not the teenagers of course who still get around in their close-knit groups. We have 1 active case today, the first for a couple of months. A person returning from Melbourne and in quarantine so hopefully no damage done.

    A few afternoons have been quite Springlike recently but this morning the ride began in frost.

    Good to see the Guys floating again.

    • Glad to hear the TAS public is taking things seriously. I went out in the afternoon once about 3-4 weeks ago and was so totally freaked out by the lack of social distancing that I have only been to the store once or twice since and only first thing in the morning when there is hardly anyone there. From what others say, it hasn’t improved much. I wish they would just put the whole state back on lockdown until September at least.

      Yes, sunset here was 5.23 today. Let’s see: Longford is at -41.56, 146.99. Milawa is at -36.46, 146.38. I spent most of my time in America on about 40 degrees N. I guess it shows how much the tilt really matters!

      At the moment, the weekend forecast looks good here. We’ll see if I can talk myself into sleeping on some cold, wet earth 🙂 I’m doing some really long hours at the moment, so I have time-in-lieu out my wazoo. I’m hoping I can use some of it for a 3 or 4-day ride in early Oct after this round of work frenzy should let me come up for air for a second.

      Keep staying safe down there!

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