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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.