Day 3 – 38 kms (24 miles)
First light. Far in the distance a kookaburra chortles. The grey shadows make the vegetation seem indistinct. The pale greens of the eucalypts bleed into the darker greens of the cassias. There is no dew, but you can see your breath. Just.
And the mozzies can smell your breath, too. They are already flitting about the tent.
So I get everything packed up and get all my layers on before quickly disassembling the tent and packing up the bike. It all goes down in 23 minutes flat.
We push back to the main road and then fly along the final three downhill kilometres. We lean into the corners, putting our weight onto the outside pedal, carving down that skiddy gravel.
At the bottom of the hill, in the middle of the road, with the mozzies from the top blown away, and the mozzies at the bottom yet to find me, I quickly drop my pants for a morning pee. Then I get my shorts underneath pulled back up before the mozzies can attack any exposed flesh.
I roll up the pants and put them in the pannier. I brush my teeth while stamping my legs. And then we go sailing back down the rail trail. It will be all downhill all the way to Bullioh and almost all in the shade. It’s pretty chilly and there are goosebumps on my legs. That is a nice feeling to have in mid-summer.
There are plenty of farm gates to open and close on this trail, so every time you pick up a good head of steam, you’ve got to come to a stop and negotiate a gate. Still, there is little effort involved as we cruise downhill at various speeds.
As I ride, I think about what I will enjoy most about going for a long tour next spring. Of course, there is the freedom to answer to no one but yourself. No dates that you need to be anywhere, no responsibilities and all that.
But I think what I will most enjoy is just being outside all the time. I used to count the number of nights I spent in my tent each year. And so it will be a joy to sleep outside almost every night and just go feral – redeveloping that deep sense and feel for the weather and your place within the topography. Now, of course, remind me that I said this when it’s been cold and wet for days and all my gear is damp!
My plans are still to go do a loop down through southwest and central Victoria first. I’ve never explored that new volcanic province at a speed that allowed a good understanding of that landscape (i.e. I’ve only ever been through there driving, on a bus or in a car). This is what I’d hoped to do in Sept 2021. But COVID restrictions and that pesky gallbladder got in the way. However, I now see that the gallbladder sidelining me was actually a good thing – it allowed me to really truly rest and rebuild energy in a way that I wouldn’t have if I weren’t lying around in bed in pain.
So I think that loop might be 6-8 weeks starting in mid-September. But I’ve got no timelines and if I get out there and find there’s more to explore than I’ve anticipated, then so be it. I don’t have to be anywhere at any certain time.
After that loop is finished, the plan is to swap bikes in Albury (I’ll get a 2X3 storage unit for my belongings, but my car and second bike will live at Nigel’s place most likely). Then I’ll take the mountain bike into the VIC high country (North East and East Gippsland) and ride around down there until next autumn. If I can’t get the bits for the mountain bike I need before that part of the ride, I will just take my touring bike. It just means I’ll have to be a bit more choosy about which tracks I try to tackle.
So those are the loose plans in my head that I’m thinking about as I cruise down the hill. Occasionally, I pop out into the sun which feels mighty nice on my goosebumped legs.
By the time I get to Old Tallangatta though, there is heat starting to seep into the day. I remove my warmie jacket at the bench there, and I pop in the 20-min-before eating pill that helps my body bind and excrete oxalates instead of absorbing them. It will take a little bit longer than that to get to Tallangatta, but I’m feeling good today and my legs don’t hurt. All that pushing yesterday certainly gave my arm muscles and core a workout, and my forearm muscles are a bit sore today.
Soon enough, we’ve rolled up and down the gentle hills of the rail trail and are back to the car at Tallangatta. I’m quite pleased with this ride and how good I’ve felt. Lower temps than normal for summer certainly helped.
Next weekend will not be a multi-day ride weekend. I have to do a very certain regime of diet so that I’m set up to do a stool test on Monday, then two days of no food but plain chicken and white rice before doing a SIBO breath test. That would all be just too hard to manage while out on the bike. The weekend after that, though, could be a 4-day ride if the weather cooperates.
The days are really sliding by. I’ve already done 3 weeks of work! I have started to notice the sunrise being later and later. From where I live, I can hear the morning bugle call at 6 am from the nearby army base. And it’s not light anymore for that morning bugle. Mid-summer is going to be late summer soon.
Autumn is my favourite time of year here and I can’t wait to enjoy it in my first year of feeling good again. I have so much to enjoy and catch up on that I’ve missed out on over the past 4.5 years. Yippeee! Bring it on!