Thursday, 5 March 2015

The Victoria Trip (O'Shannassy's Aqueduct Trail, Warburton)

Travelling really does reflect the ups and downs of life ... just in a much more compressed way.


My stay at the Marysville Caravan Park wasn't the best (I stayed in the $60 single rooms which were comfortable enough for my purposes, but you could hear your neighbours pretty easily which isn't so good when one is leaving at 5am and the other at 6am in the morning).

On the good news front I did find a bakery that was open in the morning and so decided to treat myself to a big breakfast and a latte while I used their free wi-fi ... except the breakfast was disgusting and no one on shift seemed to know the password to their wi-fi.

The latte was good though.

It was a bit of an overcast and windy morning, and as I set off for Lakes Mountain I noticed the car's thermometer reading 9 degrees.

By the time I got to car park at the top, the thermometer was down to 2 degrees, it was white out conditions, it was very windy, and if that wasn't enough indication that this may not have been a good day for mountain biking, then watching the few road bike riders brave enough to have ridden up here this morning snapping off a quick photo before disappearing back down the hill (or into a nice warm van) was.

So I decided to cut Lakes Mountain from the itinerary and head, via the back roads, to Warburton, which proved to be a wonderful drive.

Sitting in a cafe in Warburton, watching the rain coming down outside whilst drinking latte number two of the day and eating some french vanilla slice I was somewhat entertained to get an email from a friend suggesting that I go and find a nice cafe and have a latte and vanilla slice.

Finally, I decided that if I didn't get out on my bike soon then my whole holiday will be gone before I know it and so I reluctantly pulled the bike out of the car and set off with limited enthusiasm to ride a loop out along the Warburton Aqueduct Trail, down to Launching Place (where I had turned around last time I had ridden the Lilydale to Warburton rail trail) and then back to Warburton.

My interest in this route came about from having recently read the Warburton Mountain Bike Feasibility Study which mentions these trails, and so with little more than a general idea of where I was planning on going ... off I went.

For anyone who may follow me, the first section was along the river and was lovely ...


Then there was a rather vicious climb up from town to the start of the rail-trail (Yuonga Road Car Park) - don't let me oversell that climb - it's nothing I couldn't just jump into granny gear and pedal my way up, it can just be a bit of a surprise if you're expecting a nice flatfish ride


And then I was on the O'Shannassy aqueduct trail ...


And I was in heaven for the next ... however many kilometres it was.  Seriously (especially when compared to the Lilydale - Warburton rail trail) this trail is just gorgeous riding ...















It's mainly flat, easy riding albeit with one section which drops steeply down onto Don's road (named Edwards Road Car Park on the map) and then back up again onto the trail, and the trail does get rougher and less managed the further you get from Warburton (in fact the last "steep descent" section down to Parrot Road is almost technical with quite a few ruts).

From there (if we ignore the fact that I took a wrong turn when I came out onto parrot road, by heading immediately left back up this road, rather than heading right and then left on the next road) it is a doddle of a ride back to Launching Place (I went along Dalry Road, not realising that it was a busy road to Healesville, if I had my time again, I'd probably go down Koo Wee Rup Road and jump onto the tail trail there).

From Launching Place it was just a case of following the rail trail back to Warburton.





To be honest, after riding the aqueduct trail, I found the rail trial pretty boring - a general observation I make about several of the rail trails I've seen here in Victoria which seem to go through fairly uninteresting areas and run largely parallel to busy roads.

So yea - another day when I didn't get to ride the trails I came to ride, but also another day when I did enjoy what I actually did.

I guess that makes it a good holiday.

Postscript - To finish the day, I jumped onto booking.com at Warburtorn to find somewhere to stay and found what looked to be a nice little hotel in nearby Healesville at a good rate ($99).  For some reason though, I decided to just drive there and book directly.  Of course when I arrived the room had been booked and so I ended up just staying in an overpriced motel.

Sigh - the ups and down of travels.

 To be continued ... (tomorrow - Kim arrives!!)

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

The Victoria Trip (Buxton MTB Trails)

So ... the rest of the Victoria Trip.

It was meant to be a week of awesome mountain biking ...

Falls Creek MTB Trails
and lovely B&B's ...



It was meant to be both an adventure and a bit of RnR  ...

Warbutron Aqueduct Trail
Yea - so that was the plan.

The reality was just a little bit different.

After losing the first day to the Hire Car fiasco, and then having half my holiday funds disappear into a certain bike shop in Mansfield (which charged me $40 to squirt a bit of stans-no-leak into my rear tyre) I headed down to Buxton to check out the trails down that way.


I rode pretty much all the trails (except trails 6, 7 & 8 which were shortcut trails).

I loved off-camber (4) - don't skip it, but I confess I was getting a little bored by the time I got to the top of trail 8 (I like my trails to take me somewhere, or give me some views, not just draw a really cool squiggle on my GPS device) and so I almost took the fast ride home.   I'm so thankful I didn't because the last section of the acheron ridge trail (2) was the real highlight of the trails for me ...






In fact perhaps the only way not to enjoy this last section is to fly around a corner straight into a snake ... which is exactly what I did.

Yea, that throws the confidence a bit going into all those berms let me tell you.

I toughed it out as much as I could, but I was always going at 70% of the pace those trails deserved over that last section as I envisaged another snake strike heading my way.

I got to the end of the trails with no more incidents (just a big grin on my dial) and with plans to hit Lake Mountain the next day, I decided to be smart and head to Marysville for the night ... except when I got there I discovered that Marysville is an expensive ski resort town ... which was pretty much closed.

I managed to get a room in the Caravan Park ... but I had to head back to Buxton for a meal.

So much for being smart - Sigh.

... to be continued.

Rifle Butts MTB Park

I suspected I was going to like Rifle Butts MTB Park even before I got there.

 

It's the kind of place where you need to turn left at the black stump to find it (or download the GPS file from trailmate and put it on your phone), and to be honest most people (at least those whose cars aren't faulty, thanks Europcar) would whiz right past on their way to the more iconic Buller trails (where I now won't be going this trip - did I say thanks Europcar?).

Main Trailhead - Rifle Butts MTB Park

So Rifle Butts MTB Park - it's just on the outskirts of Mansfield, and the main XC loop which picks up most of the trails is about 4.5kms long, which even for me who stopped to take lots of photos (as well as adjust seat height, seat direction and pump more air into the tyres several times) was a fairly short time spent on the bike.

I hit the trails on a perfect day (would have been epic up at Buller, Mr Europcar man) and I just really enjoyed the old-school feel of these trails where you'd suddenly find some little technical feature or a corner that is just a little bigger, tighter or less bermed than you expected to give you a nice wake up call and let you know these trails were built by mountain bikers.












The last little downhill section back to the car (Rubbish Run I think it was called) was a tight little challenge on the 29er, and I was almost tempted to head off on a second lap to do it all again.

...  except I needed to get to a bike shop.  

You see I'd got home from work on Monday night and went downstairs to throw the bike into my Ground Effect body bag for the trip over to Melbourne, expecting it to take 10 minutes (I'd done this a dozen times).

However, after spending that time alone just trying to get one of the pedals off, I finally got to the part where I was ready to "easily" slide the bike into the bag ... only to find that it wouldn't fit.

It was at this point that I realised I'd never actually put my 29er into this bike bag and what ensued was a 30 minute battle as I took more and more parts off the bike trying to get it to fit.  

I eventually figured out that if I fully (and I mean fully) deflated the rear wheel, took off the handle bars and turned the forks around, I could just (and I mean with a lot of force) get my bike into the bag.

I guess this is what Ground Effect mean when they say ...
A simple solution to the hassle of hauling your bike around on aeroplanes. Just whip off your front wheel, remove the seat and pop your precious toy inside the Body Bag ... All hard-tail, lightweight XC dual suspension and 29'er mountain bikes should easily fit into either the Body Bag.  Source: http://www.groundeffect.co.nz/product/BAG/BOD
Well if that's the kiwi idea of "easy" then they're even more laid back that I thought - bro.

The reason for this long rant is that if you fully deflate a tubeless tyre filled with Stan's Fluid, then there's a pretty good chance that the tyre will unseat from the rim during the flight heck - it unseated getting it into the bag), and therefore when you pick up your bike in Melbourne you'll find tyre sealant everywhere in the bike bag - except inside the rear tyre.

You'll then have to not only clean that mess up, you'll also have to waste one of those precious two gas cyclinders you brought across in your carry on luggage (yep - it's legal on Australian domestic flights to carry up to two gas cylinders in your carry on luggage) to re-inflate it.

More importantly for this story, you might also find yourself riding around Rifle Butts MTB Park having to stop and re-inflate your tyre every 10 minutes because it's not holding a seal properly.

So there was to be no second lap for me - what I needed was a friendly bike shop to throw a bit more tyre sealant in my rear tyre if I were to continue on ...  a simple and cheap, job ... or so I thought. ...

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Jinxed

I will confess to creating a lot of my own problems in life, however I do also think I have a pretty good case for thinking I'm jinxed.

For example, when I go out riding, and I end up struggling up hills in a puddle of pain - well that's my fault for being so unfit and overweight and I'll accept that - it's my fault, my problem and not a jinx.

When I break a spoke on my rear wheel - well that's probably something to do with my weight as well, so I won't call that a jinx either.

But how many people do you know who have had not one, but two deraileurs ripped from their bikes by random sticks in the last six months?

I bet not many.

In fact in the last month, I've spent nearly $800 just on bike repairs, including today where All Terrain Cycles in Mansfield charged me $40 to top up the Stan's No Leak Fluid in my rear tyre. 

Now to put this in context this is a 5 minute job even for me - you remove the valve core from the tyre, you inject the fluid (about $2-$4 worth) into the tyre, you put the valve core back in and inflate the tyre.

It's a $10-$20 job, not a $40 job.

Jinxed.

Another example from a couple of months ago: I went into the doctors to get a skin growth on my calf checked out.  My dcotor didn't think it was anything to worry about, but erring on the side of caution, he agreed to cut it out and sent it off for a biopsy.

All was good, the biopsy came back clean, the stitches were taken out and I went back to my life ... except two weeks later, whilst riding over a long weekend, the wound reopened, it got seriously infected, and for the last month I've  been going to the doctors twice a week to have it cleaned out and re-bandaged.

Jinxed.

Because of this wound, I've not been able to ride my bike for over a month, so I'm now up in Victoria on a weeks leave (which was booked on the premise of competing in the Bike Buller Weekend several months ago) but because I haven't  been on my bike for a month and with no base fitness to begin with, I'm now just cruising around riding trails instead.

Jinxed (but making the best of it).

I've got more - the Sea Canoeing Club has just had Nic Cunliffe, a brilliant instructor from Wales, over here teaching us some paddling skills.  I was originally meant to be on some sessions on 21 February, but getting dates for the Convicts & Wenches run that Kim is doing, I moved it to March 14.  (This wasn't, necessary as her run was actually on the 21st March, not 21 February).

The week before my revised session, I had to drive over to the Rosbery for some meetings about the West Coast Mountin Bike project. 

Now, I had a nice large car booked for the drive (as there was a chance we might get to ride some of the trails and so I wanted to take my bike), but when I went to pick the car up, I found someone had double parked over the back of it and I couldn't get it out. 

Needing to get over to the West Coast, I swapped the keys for a small car, just to get on the road, and came back the next day (after 10 hours driving in two days) with a really sore neck and shoulder from the driving and the headrest.

Rather than get better after a few days, the shoulder actually got worse over the course of the week, and so when I got in the kayak on Saturday for Nic's training, I found myself doing advanced training with a leg I can't get wet (because of the wound) and a shoulder which quickly started flaring up ... so I ended up having to sit out most of the morning session, and I dropped out completely from the afternoon session.

Jinxed by some idiot who double parked over my car.

All of this brings me to today where I flew into Melbourne with my bike, picked up my hire car from Europcar and headed off towards Mt Buller for a few days riding.

Now I'd already found out that there would be no shuttles up to the brand new Epic Trail (they only run on weekends), but I was still keen to hit the trails and explore and had arranged my route to maximise trail time.  I stopped in Mansfield for some lunch, and as I jumped out of the car, I locked it and just out of habit, I tested the drivers door to check it was locked ... and found that it opened.

Not thinking much about it, I then tried relocking it a few different ways, but although all of the other doors locked and unlocked, I couldn't lock the drivers door. 

There wasn't even a key hole in the door to do it manually.

Thinking there must be some trick to it, I both read the very thick drivers manual, and I even googled it ... all to no avail.

Finally, embarrassed, I did what every male hates doing - I called up the customer service line, explained my predicament, and asked if I could talk to someone who might tell me if there was some  'trick' to locking a VW Golf.

I made this call at 1.35pm after having already spent about 20 minutes trying to figure it out myself.

The customer service line put me through to the Melbourne Airport dealership where I'd hired the car.

The airport office, after hearing my issues (by this point I had also recalled that the car was unlocked when I picked it up and I'd also realised that the a funny 'door clicking' noise I'd been hearing on the way up to Mansfield was probably related to this problem), apologised, told me to call the roadside support number and assured me that they'd come out and fix it.

I rang the roadside support office, who told me they could get there, but I'd need to call the customer service number to get my contract number before they could log the job and come and help me.

As I was calling the customer service number, I found the contract number on some of the documentation I had been provided, so I hung up and called the roadside support number again.

After getting through to them a second time, I explained my problem (again) but was told this time that this was in fact not a roadside support issue, and that I'd need to call the Melbourne Airport dealership and they'd deal with it.

I explained (I pleaded) that the dealership had told me to talk to roadside support, and that this was already by fourth or fifth call, but roadside support were adamant, so I hung up and called the Melbourne airport dealership ...

Except ... I couldn't get through. 

After trying three times over 10-15 minutes, I finally rang the customer support line, explained I was getting pretty pissed off, and could they please help me solve this problem.

They finally managed to get through to the Manager of the Melbourne airport dealership, who told me my options were to return the vehicle to the airport (three hours away) or that he could send a new vehicle up on a tow truck which would take 4 or 5 hours.

Either way, this completely ruined my days plans, so I asked for a minute to think about it, and got a direct number I could call him back on.

After a few minutes, I decided that the best option would be to book myself into a hotel in Mansfield, and then at least I could unload everything into my hotel room and go for a ride locally while I was waiting for the new car to arrive.

So I rang the manager back on the special number he gave me to tell him the plan ...

Which put me straight through to a message bank service which was full and hung up on me.

Over the next hour and a half, I continued to ring the various numbers trying to get through to someone, anyone ... I finally got a call back at 16:35pm - three hours and 24 phone calls (seriously - I counted them) after I'd first called with the problem.

By this time, I had also booked into a motel, but as I'd spent all day on the phone, I had not got out for a ride or done anything else other than make call, after call, after call.

Finally, at 9pm that night, a replacement vehicle finally arrived at my motel.

No apology was however forthcoming.

Go on ... tell me I'm not jinxed.  I dare you.

Saturday, 21 February 2015

A metre matters ... but doesn't location as well?

I'm going to go off half-cocked here and say that I saw this sign this morning and I was p*ssed ...


But to explain why, I probably need to go back a few steps and say that a few months ago (or it may have been weeks - I lose track) I saw that the Tasmanian Government was going to be putting up these signs as part of a road safety campaign.

And I thought this was a good thing.

So good in fact that I made the effort to contact some people and suggest a few routes where these signs could be located.

Yes, I'll admit that my suggested locations did have a strong (OK, complete) correlation with where I ride, but there was a good and logical reason for this - research has conclusively proven a 100% correlation between where I ride and where I am likely to be hit by a car, which means it makes sense to put the signs up at locations where I ride.

This is obvious.

Now before any of you come up and join me on my high horse (perhaps espousing that you might actually like some signs where you ride as well) I will point out that I ride a lot of places, and I do actually have a pretty good feel for some of the less safe places to ride on Tassie's roads (especially around Hobart) ... and so my suggestions were probably quite reasonable.  They may even have been where you might have wanted one as well, which would be dandy, just lower on my priority scale.

You're welcome.

But .. and this is a big but ... it didn't matter anyway because when I raised my suggestions, I was informed that discussions had already been held with 'key stakeholders' and 'peak cycling bodies' to decide where to put these signs and it was all wrapped up and my input wasn't needed.

I was shattered (mainly about not being considered a key stakeholder, but also about the decision having already being made as well).

Which brings us to today and this frickin sign ...

Did they put it on one of the many dangerous pinch point commuter routes heading into Hobart?

Nope.

Did they put it on a major arterial route so it would be seen by lots of people?

Nope there as well.

They put it here ...


or if it helps, here ...


Yep, they've put it at the end of Pittwater Road near Seven Mile Beach.

Yes, it's a popular road cycling route, but is it a busy road or a dangerous cycling route?

I'm happy to stand corrected, but I wouldn't say so from my experience.  I've certainly never felt threatened cycling along there (except maybe by the rough surface).

Maybe there's lots of other signs elsewhere and so I'm being harsh, but I'd like to know where they are, because I compare this sign's location to the section of road between Rokeby and Lauderdale (which is where I suggested a sign should be put) and I think ... FAIL!

And that's my half-cocked opinion.
======
POSTSCRIPT ... All is saved ... I saw this posted the day after my post ...  http://www.transport.tas.gov.au/roadsafety/roads/cyclist_warning_signs , there are lots of other signs and they do look to be well placed.  There you go - who knew I'd admit to being wrong.

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Ollie & Ella

Kim trusted me with her precious monsters the other night ...

No, not the big monsters ... she left me with the other monsters  ...  Ollie & Ella.

Meet Ollie & Ella
Now overall Ollie and Ella are really taking to the new house, and they particularly seem to like the lounge-room where they can perch themselves up on the couch and dog bed and stare out the window at everything that is going on in their domain ...

Yes - all seems in order here.
So I thought everything would be tickety-boo with our night without Kim, but I hadn't factored in the small child problem.

You see the problem was that like most young children, they weren't quite sure what was going on ... and whilst they were initially excited and happy when I got home from work, you could almost see the question start forming in their little heads ...

Where's mum?
Where's mum?
When is mum getting home?
 I played with them a bit more and tried to distract them, but 30 minutes later, they were at the window ... waiting, waiting, waiting for mum.


and waiting ...


And waiting ...


and waiting ...


At around 9.30pm, I finally pulled the curtains shut and the first thing Ollie did was jump off his bed and try and find a way under the curtain so he could continue his vigil.

It was so sad because it was too dark for him to even see anything outside the window.

I finally got Ollie up to the bedroom where he usually saunters himself up to the top of the bed, throws himself down with an "oh if you must" look on his face and proceeds to roll over onto his back waiting for a tummy tickle ... but this time he perched himself on the very bottom corner of the bed - the one closest to the door  - and he just sat there staring out the door, waiting for his mum.

Poor Ollie.

Postscript: We all had a very long night as the dogs ran up and down the stairs every time they thought they heard something, but I'm glad to say that they've had a few more nights without mum now and have settled into the routine a lot more.  Ollie's even decided that even if mum isn't here, I'm still allowed to give him his tummy tickle.