Friday, 7 October 2016

Blue Tier - The Firsts

I should of known today wasn't going to go well when I had an inspiration the night before the official opening to the Blue Tier trails today ...

"Hey", I thought to myself.

"I reckon if I leave early enough, I could get in a quick ride on the new trails they've opened up at Derby and still get to the Blue Tier opening ceremony in time ".

Then after a moment of contemplation ...

"Sure I can."

Little did I know how hard the trail gods must have been laughing ...

Now there is a little bit of a serious side to this post - an insight if you will - into good old school provision of trail information at the trail head (and not on an iphone).

I rocked up to Derby with about an hour, maybe a bit more, to explore the new extension from the top of Long Shadows up to the new shuttle point at the "black stump" and then depending on time, the plan was for a quick ride/walk down the new black diamond Shearpin and 23 stitches trails before following the new "Return to Sender" trail back to Derby and a triumphant arrival at the Weldborough pub for the official opening.

It was tight, but possible, so off I went.

I was impressed to see that they had already updated the trail head maps with the new trails, and even more impressed to see that they have now added numbered routes to the information head, so now, rather than having to remember which list of trails to string together for a ride, you can just pick a route number and follow that route ...

Kudos on that one.

Out on the trail, there was also new route number signage (albeit that it can be a bit hard to interpret, eg. does the sign below mean 1 goes left and the rest go right, or 2,4 and 6 go left and 1, 3, 5 and 7 goes right?

That's where my being impressed stopped, because as I got to the top of long shadows ready to launch off onto the new upper section - I instead found the dreaded orange fence and a construction site sign.

Concerned, but not defeated I rode up the Dambusters trail towards 23 stitches, only to find more orange fencing and closed off trail ...

Despite knowing my likely fate, I continued on up to Black Stump (via the Cascade Dam Road) in the hope of at least being able to follow "Return to Sender" back to Derby, but instead I found all the trail heads fenced off ...

It was also about this time that I realised I had seriously miscalculated the time I had available to me to ride these trails (please try and act surprised), and so I returned to Derby (via open trails) feeling slightly cheated.

Tree down over long shadows
When I got back to Derby I did a double check of all the trail head signs, but sure enough there was no indication any of these trails were still closed.  I then jumped onto Blue Derby's facebook page, and that was where I found (after clicking on the "Read more ..." tab on one of their posts) that these trails weren't opening today because of the rain.

So here's my thoughts: on trails like the Meehan Ranges or Trevallyn/Kate Reed where 90%+ of riders are locals and they know the trails and what he weathers been like - you can get away with posting trail closures on the local facebook pages.  On trails where most riders would be coming into the region for a day or two, like Blue Derby, well,- I don't think you can get away with putting trail closure posts at the end of a long post on facebook.

I would like to see Blue Derby put a traffic light system (or trail status indicator like snow resorts use) up on their website showing whether tracks are open or closed (or soon to be closed).  I'd like to see this replicated at the main trail head as well - or even if one of the businesses in town that are benefiting from the extra trade had signage out front ("come grab a latte and get the latest trail information inside ..."

Anyway, I still had fun at Derby and got to see the trail in a much wetter condition than normal ...

But it was time to hit the new Blue Tier trail ...

Now I hit some serious 'firsts' on the Blue Tier trail.

I'm guessing that I was the first person to miss the official opening (just for the record - although I got an official invite due to my recent involvement in the cycle tourism strategy, and probably could have justified headed up for work, I actually took the day off and went there as me, in my own time and at my own expense, so I don't have to feel guilty about missing the opening).

I'm pretty certain I was also the first person to try and ride the 'loop' - that is starting the ride at Weldborough and riding up the old Blue Tier Descent trail before coming back down the new Blue Tier trail.

I can say this because (a) why wouldn't you catch the shuttle and (b) there was no sign of any tyre tracks from the top of big chook all the way to where I crossed the new Blue Tier trail about 8 or 9 kms later.

I must say that the old Blue Tier trail has taken a bit of a beating by he elements since last time I rode here, especially up near the top, and it was quite the epic (especially as I had skipped lunch) to get up to the top.

But after what an hour or more of slogging and pushing and wading of deep creeks, I finally crossed the new Blue Tier trail, and got myself ready for the descent.

As I wanted to put the full trail route onto I figured I may as well ride the rest of the old Blue Tier Descent route to the Poimena trailhead and then enjoy the ride back down from the start.

So I jumped back on my bike - the same bike that I had been riding (and pushing) all around the old Blue Derby trail network all day and which I had been riding and pushing all the way to the top of Blue Derby, and I started pedaling ... and it didn't feel right.

It felt like the tyres were slipping in the mud.

Unperturbed, I jumped off the bike and pushed to the top of the slight hill I was on, jumped back on when it flattened out and started pedaling again ...

Except, that slight slipping feeling was still there, and it was feeling worse: like I was doing two pedal turns for every turn of the wheel.  What was more concerning was that the resistance you'd expect from pedaling uphill just wasn't there either - it felt like the gears were slipping or something.

Fifty metres later I was turning the pedals and nothing was happening at all.

I jumped off the bike and had a good look and found to my horror that I could turn the pedals and the chain was moving, the rear cassette was turning - but it was like the cassette just wasn't connected to the rear wheel which just sat there doing nothing.

I moved into a state of denial for a period at this point, turning the pedals expecting some miracle of reattachment to occur and the wheel to start turning again.

But it didn't happen and the horrible realisation started to set in that after all my effort getting up here, I would probably have to push and 'coast' my bike all the way back down again.

There was going to be no screaming descent for me on the Blue Tier today.

The only consolation I could think of about this is that a least I was at the top of the ride and it was all downhill from here ...

Yea right!!!

As Glen Jacobs was to say to me at the Welborough pub later that night "The thing people need to understand is it's not the Blue Tier Descent, it's just the Blue Tier track" and I can attest to that difference in spades.

There's lots of downhill  and undulating parts to this trail, but I can say with a great deal of authority that there is also a lot of flat and uphill sections as well, and when you have to push your bike along these flats - well it becomes the blue tears trail (sorry - I had to put that in there somewhere).

It took me nearly an hour to push and coast back down to the point where the Blue Tiers track connects onto the Big Chook track and it was a great relief to get onto a truly descending track and burn through the last few kilometres to my car.

But I'd done it - I'd (sort of) ridden the Blue Tier and (until someone tells me otherwise) I think I chalked up a few firsts - first person to do the full circuit after the official opening, the first person to catastrophically breakdown on the trail, the first rider to walk the entire length of the trail, and (right up until the moment I wrote this sentence) I was going to claim the slowest strava time, and one that will never be beaten for the blue tier trail ... but then I just went and looked at strava and lo and behold ... there is not one, but thirteen riders who have somehow managed to ride the trail slower than I walked it.

Now that's a first!


After spending a pleasant night catching up with a few people in the Weldborough Pub and camping there for the night (which, as a rather depressing aside, was practically empty), I headed up to Poimena the next morning in my car and walked the top part of the circuit that I hadn't managed to ride.

It was a longer walk than I expected (6.4kms) and the trails were gorgeous in the early mornin sun ...

After my walk,  I headed down to St Helens for breakfast (where I had one of the most amazing breakfasts ever at a place I can't remember the name of, but it is on the main street just down from East Lines and they do a big breakfast with boston beans - find it and try them!) and (more importantly) to see if I could get my rear wheel fixed at the bike shop.

You can imagine my devastation when I got to the door and found a sign up saying 'Sorry - closed - gone riding at Blue Derby for the opening'.

I was back in Hobart a few hours later, and that was my unsuccessful first attempt at the Blue Tiers.

Postscript to the postscript:

Oh - I am at least pleased to report that it turns out that I did in fact experience a mechanical catastrophe: the grooves inside my rear hub, which provide the forward propulsion, had apparently worn away - something that both bike shops I took the bike to (and the hub manufacturer) say is unheard of.

So at least I know it wasn't some small little glitch I could easily have fixed out on the trail if I knew a bit more about bike maintenance, and added bonus - wearing out the inside of a rear hub is another first I can add to my list.

I am so easily pleased.

Sunday, 2 October 2016

Another try at finding Goldilocks (Clarence Foreshore Trail Loop) ...

So I spent some time thinking about last weeks Goldilocks Loop, and my overall conclusion was that it was too long with too much climbing.

So I decided to have another go, at a shorter loop in the Northern section ...

Specifically I wanted to look at the option of heading over and around Rosny Hill, Gordons Hill and Natone Hill rather than having to head all the way out over Pilchers Hill.

So I started near the Rosny skate park and rode up through the park to the Bastick Street / Riawena Street junction and from there headed onto the Rosny Hill Circuit via the Haven Court entrance.

In hindsight, there is no curb onto this track for bikes and with a new house being built next to the switchbacks, I think I'd carry on up the lookout road a bit further and join the track there.

A clockwise circuit of Rosny Hill is always a nice ride.  I avoided the illegal trails that climb you up and descend you back down again and exited via the gravel switchbacks onto Montagu Bay Road before climbing  back up to the Riawena road junction (again in hindsight I'd just do the full circuit and avoid this little climb).

Montagu Bay Road Exit
Little known fact: If you follow Montagu Bay Road to its end near the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, you can actually duck out onto a little track that runs beside the highway back down to the Swimming Pool Centre (it's a bit rough at first, and its hard to see the entrance to this track until you're right on it).  From there you just use the overpass to get over the road.

I was in new territory here as I wanted to find a legal way to get to the Gordons Hill trails as you are not supposed to go through the school.  After looking for some southern entrances, I actually found that if you descend down onto the highway and then cycle up the road to the City View Motel, this road continues around past the hotel and into Gordons Hill.

Finding this entrance made me very happy.

Realising that the trail is still closed to bikes (despite being eminently cyclable, and being cycles quite often by the tracks present) erased most of that new found happiness.

But, let's say it were opened to cyclists ... this would open up what I think would be a very cool route around the hill and out onto Marril Street (you can continue around the hill on the trails, but it is steep and not much fun).  Now the trick here is to take the second left into Lindwood Court at the end of which is a small walkway that you can follow through into the quiet Henley Street which you can follow most of the way down the hill.

Woo hoo!

My next goal was to find a quiet way to get over to Natone Hill (preferably without too much climbing) and so I headed up and along Malunna Street to St Cuthberts School where I could use the overpass across the East Derwent Highway ...

With the added bonus that, by following the path alongside the East Derwent Highway, I also managed to avoid the normal steep climb up onto the Natone Hill Circuit.

I chose to cycle around the hill (though you could just zoom straight across if you headed onto the trail and rode in a counter-clockwise direction) and from there it was an easy drop down onto the Clarence Foreshore Trail at Geilston Bay for the ride back to my car.

I ended the ride exploring various ways to ride up to the Kangaroo Bay Fort which is a rather cool, and unvisited site just off the clarence foreshore trail ...

There was much to like about this alternate route.

Although not perfect, it was far easier riding that then previous route with no killer climbs.

Navigation would be tricky in a few places, but not insurmountable.

Finding out that Gordons Hill is still closed to cyclists is however an issue.

I'll keep it mulling over, but I think I'm getting close to a goldilocks loop.

Saturday, 1 October 2016

First words ...

Having only come into their lives when they were 4 or 5 years old, I never got to witness the joys of seeing Zara or Markus speak their first words, or take their first steps.

But today I think I got to experience something just as momentous ... I got to see Zara use chopsticks for the first time ...

I am so easily pleased.

Friday, 30 September 2016

Zap Fitness (Just Venting)

So Kim, Zara and I went out for a quick dinner at the Foreshore Tavern the other night.

It was pretty busy when we got there, and as I still half wanted to get to a Sea Canoe Club snake handling session later on, Kim quickly went up and put our order in.

Then we waited.

While we waited we chuckled with smugness at how clever we were getting our order in early as a very long line started building up at the bar.

We also grimaced a bit as the line stretched up to, and then around, our table leaving us with people standing over us as we waited for our dinner.

Forty minutes later we were still waiting for our entrees.

Then we noticed people that were standing next to our table (ordering their meals well after we had ordered ours) getting their meals.

So, with temperatures rising, we inquired as to the hold up with our meals ... and found out that our meal order had been left on the counter all this time.

We were pretty angry (I mean who wouldn't be) but that's when something unusual happened ...

Firstly the Manager came out, apologised for the error, and then gave us half our money back (followed very soon by our entrees and meals).

That was good enough (in fact it was amazing) in my book, but then after our meals they also brought us out a free desert each (and a good desert) as a further apology.

I wasn't a big fan of the Foreshore Tavern prior to this, but we had good meals, and most importantly they recognised they had made a mistake, and they over corrected to fix it.

I respect that.

Which brings me to Zap Fitness ...

I joined Zap Fitness a few months ago and then almost immediately got asked to act in my bosses job for three months leading to a 7 day a week work life, and then I got the flu, and then hurt my shoulder ...

The key thing is - I never actually got into the gym.

I did make an attempt somewhere along the line to make use of the free personal trainer session advertised on their website ...

But the offer of a free consultation with a personal trainer had apparently vanished and I was encouraged instead to sign up for three sessions for $99.

So, realising that I was blowing money up against the wall and that there was a four week 'wait' period to end memberships, I went into the gym (during business hours) to close my membership.

Except there were no staff there.

So, I emailed the gym explaining that I had been into visit to close my membership, but that there was nobody there, and asked them if would they please terminate my membership as of the day I went in.

A week later I had heard nothing, so I called them to check what was happening.

The person I talked to said that there must have been some problem, and to resend the email to the website and she'll fix it.

So I did that.

And I waited another week, with no response, and then I called again.

This time the person told me that there was no way the above could have happened as I had to go into the gym to cancel my membership (I pointed out that I had) and then after some rather persistent nagging from me asking why exactly it was impossible for me to cancel my membership in writing or over the phone, he said he'd call the gym and see what he could do.

Turns out, according to him, that he could do nothing.

So, I took an early day off work and went into the gym to cancel my membership.

It was at this point that the guy at the gym tried to offer me that free personal training session that hadn't been available to me before.

To be honest, he pissed me off so I asked exactly why I had to come into the gym to cancel my membership and he explained that (a) they needed to verify it was me cancelling my membership and not someone else (because I can see that happening a lot) and (b) when I hit the green button accepting my membership on the ipad, I had agreed to the terms and conditions which included ending my membership in person in the gym.

Then he explained to me how unfortunate it was that I'd come in today, as they'd just processed the membership payments and so I would be six weeks (three more payments), not the normal two, before they could stop processing my membership ...

At that point I just got pissed and stormed out.

Now the thing that really pisses me off about this, is that although I feel pretty confident that under Australian Consumer Law they're in the wrong in being able to claim that I was bound by terms and conditions that I never read and was never aware of (see exhibit a from their website which would seem to counter their claims of lock in times and agreeing to fine print ...) especially as I did go into their place of business to cancel my membership and it was them that failed to have someone there during their advertised working hours to accept my cancellation  ...

... but there's nothing I can do about it.

I'm helpless.  It would cost me more than what it's worth (a lot more) to hire a lawyer or even lodge a claim in the small claims tribunal to try and prove my rights.

And I think that's wrong.

What use is Australian Consumer Law protections, if it can't be used?

So I got really angry for a few days ... then I remembered by foreshore desert and got over it.

Still a bit upset at not going to that snake handling session though - I heard it was really good.

Sunday, 25 September 2016

The Goldilocks Loop (Clarence Foreshore Trail)

The Clarence City Council have recently completed a short new section of the Clarence Foreshore Trail to try and take the 'sting' out of what was previously a very steep climb on the bridge side of the sewerage works ...

If it helps, you can see the new trail (red section) and the old section (light yellow line) circled in blue in the image below.

This short detour half works in my opinion - it's less steep, but it's still got a bit of a grade on it (I still passed some girls on hire bikes pushing them up this hill).  My vote still goes for a waterfront detour to take this horrible section out of the trail.

However, this little detour, plus the fact that Kim told me she was going to do a 30k run along the trail as part of her Auckland Marathon training, got me thinking again about my 'Goldilocks Loop'.

This is a loop I've been thinking about for a long time that would connect together the many little reserves and trails that run through various Clarence reserves allowing you to complete a loop with the foreshore trail (which let's face it is a nice one way ride, but a bit of a chore if you ride it all the way out and all the way back).

Now, there's two obvious parts to this loop: The Clarence Foreshore Trail and the Charles Darwin Trail, but tying them and the rest off the trails together without too much road or too many turns - that's where it gets difficult.

So, when Kim set off on her run last weekend, I set off on my bike at the same time in what would be my first (or maybe second) attempt at bringing together many little exploratory rides into a single loop ...

We both started at the Howrah Primary School car park (near the Caltex) with Kim planning a long  out and back along the foreshore trail to Geilston Bay and back, whereas my plan was to head towards Tranmere, and then loop back through the hills to Geilston Bay, hopefully catching Kim somewhere along the Clarence Foreshore Trail on the way back.

There is, in my opinion, basically two ways to get from the Howrah Primary School trail to the Tranmere continuation ... a simple ride along Tranmere Road for about 1.2km (a safe, but fairly busy route) or the quieter, but steeper and navigationally more complex option of heading through Mortyn Park climbing via backstreets up to the Minerva Street entrance to Minerva Park which you can then follow back down to Tranmere Road and then back onto the Clarence Foreshore Trail.

Truth is, that nine times out of ten, I'd avoid the climb up to Minerva Park and just head along Tranmere Road, but I feel compelled to connect the parks, so do I put in the one time out of ten option or the nine out of ten option for my goldilocks loop???

Oh the dilemmas.

Once on the Clarence Foreshore Trail, you just follow it around until you drop out to near Rotuma Park, and it's a lovely ride.

But then you (if you're me) have a decision - how the heck do you get from this point into Rokeby Hills?

In the spirit of this being a join-the-parks-and-reserves route, I opted for a trundle up through Rotuma Park, but to be honest it was all a bit of unnecessary climbing, because when you get to the road at the top of the park, you just descend back down onto the roads you would have gone up anyway to get to Oceana Drive before ending the climb up the very steep Vitesse Court and into the reserve.

The route got me there, but it wasn't 'fun', but nor are there any other obvious options - at least for an ascent option, other than maybe the route up through the Elinga Play park which involves a lot of pushing.

Once in the reserve I just followed the various trails that exist (lots of informal trail building in these hills) experiencing them in the reverse direction to what I'd normally ride them, and to be honest there's a reason why I'd normally ride them in the opposite direction (it's more fun) but with that said there were only a few little sections that I had to push, and overall - I still had fun.

I exited the reserve via Mayfair Court (the way I'd usually come in) and from there coasted down onto the Rokeby Road Cycleway onto Clarence Street, around the Shoreline Shopping centre where I jumped onto the Charles Darwin Trail.

The Charles Darwin trail follows roads to begin with (and has a confusing little unsigned detour behind some houses and through Tilanbi Park) then you jump off onto a little bit of singletrack running beside the highway at the end of Tilanbi Street and start the climb up through Wentworth Park to the water tower (my second water tower for the day) and then the fun run back down towards the northern exit at Lanena Street.

While there is an alternate exit from Wentworth Park on Quarry road, neither of these northern exits put you onto a particularly good path to continue onto another reserve without a lot of street riding.

My option today was to head down to Shoreline, following the Charles Darwin Trail, and then I cut through the bus mall and off onto the small path through the lawns to the council building and then out C R Barnard Drive back to the  Gordons Hills Road.

From there you have to ride up Gordons Hill Road for a few hundred metres and then jumped over onto the concrete cycleway on the other side of the road that runs next to the highway and out towards Flagstaff Gully Road and the Polytechnic.

To be honest, I already knew at this point that this bit of trail wasn't my goldilocks loop - it was just connecting together trails, it wasn't fun riding.

Regardless, I was pleased to discover some new trail heading up the creek near the Polytechnic, so I followed that up to Flagstaff Gully Road and then started the long climb up Begona Street to Robin Court and eventually into Pilchers Hill Reserve.

Again, much of this was an uphill grind, and the last pinch from Begona Street to the reserve is particularly unenjoyable, but the real kicker is that because you can't ride down the single trail in Pilchers Hill (it's a one way climb) then the descent isn't that brilliant (it's good, just not brilliant) and so overall as I rode down and connected back onto the Clarence Foreshore Trail for the return, I was pretty confident that I hadn't found my goldilock loop this week.

The only good news is that, because of her new shoes, Kim had a blister so I managed to catch her about 600 metres before the cars.

I'll take that as a win.

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Maria Island Rogaine

I feel I've discovered one of those little secrets in life that everyone else has missed ...

The benefits of volunteering to set and vet Rogaine's.

Rogaining Tasmania has another Rogaine event coming up in November (The Maria by Moonlight event, and if you haven't already entered it's too late as it sold out in 5 days) and when Sally (one of the organisers) asked me to put a call out in the newsletter for volunteers to help organise the event ... well my hand shot straight up into the figurative air, as I said "pick me, pick me".

The strange thing is - it is really hard to get volunteers to help organise a Rogaine and I just don't get that - I mean let's look at the comparison.

For entrants to the event, by the time they pay for entry fees, ferry fares, camping and accommodation ... they're easily looking at $100 to $150 per person.

By contrast, as a course organiser, Rogaining Tasmania are willing to reimburse me my travel, accommodation and ferry fares (just for the record, while they do this, I haven't asked this time - except the camp fees which Sally paid for).

Round One to the Course Organiser.

Then of course, while for entrants, you have to get over to the island and then pour over maps before running around the island for 12 hours ... as vetters, we get to leisurely set up our tents, have lunch while we discuss who's going where and then set off in our various directions exploring different parts of the island in exquisite detail while trying to find interesting and challenging places to place controls.

Oh ... and did I mention that we get to ride out bikes everywhere as well ...

And that there's eve time to be a bit of a tourist ...

Round Two to the course organiser.

And then, finally, while competitors are running around in the dark ...

We are sipping wine, eating gourmet hamburgers and discussing the ethics of devil introduction to the island ...

Yep - I think it's round three, and game set and match (too much mixing of the sports metaphors?) to the course organiser.

All I have to do now is figure out where to organise my next Rogaine ...