Saturday, 30 October 2010

Friday Frolic

View from my office, who wouldn't want to go for a ride?
My sister, Kathie, came down from Queensland for our Dad's 80th this weekend, and we'd agreed to meet at Rachel's for dinner and a catch up at six-thirty on Friday night.  I walked through the door exactly three minutes early, and said hello to everyone before ducking off into a spare room to get changed out of my cycling gear. 

As I stepped out to join them again a few minutes later, it was strange to think that I'd been out for a two hour bike ride and less than hour earlier I was lying on the ground checking for any dislocations after coming out second best with an argument with a tree.

But, I get ahead of myself.  The idea had came to me earlier in the week of a "Friday night foible", mainly because I liked the sound of it.  In my head this was a rambling, exploratory ride along the foothills of Mt Wellington after work to justify some guilt-free, yummy take away afterwards and blow away the cobwebs of the week.  The main idea, was to select one or more of those little trails running around the mountain like spiderwebs and head off straight from work to see where they went.

Unforuntately, after checking my disctionary, I found that although the alliteration sounded wonderful, a Friday foible was actually a Friday weakness, which actually made no sense unless I was talking about the yummy takeaway afterwards.  The one positive of this definitional error is that as well as enjoying the ride, I now also get to ponder new names for my planned friday ride, though the best I've so far come up with are "Friday Firefly" to "Friday Frolic", which is what it will go by until and unless I think of something better.

Unfortunately, my sisters suggestion that we should catch up for dinner seriously curtailed my initial nights plans as I only had an hour and a half after work, but after trying to justify not meeting her for dinner, I quickly realised that as I see her about once a year it would have been somewhat selfish to not join her every opportunity I got.

My Plan B, as I expounded to Stephan over a coffee earlier that day, was therefore to knock off work early, say 4pm, and still get a 2 hour ride in before heading down to see her.  He must have misunderstood my brilliance and determination in juggling these two feats, as his response was to laugh at me and suggest that the more likely outcome was that I would get to my sisters house just as they were finishing washing up the dishes and going to bed.  Strangely, there was a little voice in my head saying "You, know he's right, don't you?"

But, 4pm came and I was out the door and on my bike.  I had planned a brilliant route, which if it worked out perfectly would have me cycling not one, but three new trails, and what's more I had organised a location that if something should go wrong I had multiple exit routes so I could still get back to see my sister on time.  This was going to be perfect.

Hobart Rivulet Cycleway / Walkway
And it was, for about 20 minutes.  From work, I headed out through St David's Park and over to the Hobart Rivulet Path which I followed up to the old female convict gaol, where I cut off up towards McRobie's Gully.  As expected they were just locking the gates to the tip as I arrived preventing me skirting up onto Forest Road Track.  Cunning plan (and new route) number one ... just before the tip gates I cut off onto Louden St on the right, and after a bit of a steep climb, started searching for a gap between numbers 15 and 19 Louden street where I could see on google maps and the property indexes that a public byway existed that would get me up to Forest Track.  Except it wasn't there.  Well it was there, but the houses on either side had built driveways and other things where the throughway was supposed to be, and not wanting to be one of those rude cyclists who pedals through someones back yard without permission, I suddenly found myself unable to get onto the route I had planned without having to backtrack into town and cycle all the way up another way.  Something I didn't have time for in my remaining 1hr and 30 minutes.  My plan had come unraveled before I even got onto a single new track.  I was so certain that I could get through this part I hadn't even made a contingency plan.

But, it was a beautiful evening, the muscles and lungs had started to waken up, and after a short think I realised I could just head up around Cascade Brewery onto Old Farm Road and then cut off through the bush onto the Main Fire Trail from there.  All was not lost. 

I, on the other hand, was completely lost and disoriented just15 minutes later.  I had cut off onto the bush track as planned, only to find a new track being built which I dutifully followed until I got to the sign which said "New track being built, go away until it's finished, except if you're on a bike in which case just go away forever".  Well, maybe not that exact phrase, but it was pretty close.  I pushed my bike back up another steep hill until I got on what I thought was the old track, but wasn't, and that was where you caught me at the beginning of this paragraph emerging out into some pumping station or something, thinking "Hmmm, it could be that I'm lost again." 

Thankfully this is the reason that I have a GPS permanantly mounted on my bike.  It confidently assured me I was somewhere, and that there was a road just above me, and that if I followed it, this road would take me out onto Strickland Avenue, and if I was on Strickland Avenue then I wouldn't be lost, I'd be on Strickland Avenue.  10 minutes later that was exactly where I was, and not long after that I turned off onto the western end of the Main Fire Trail determined to link up with my planned route come hell or high water.  I at this stage stopped looking at my watch which was suggesting that I'd used up nearly half of my alloted ride time, and was yet to actually even get onto my planned ride route.


Main Fire Trail, Mt Wellington

I was surprised to see a sign as I entered the fire trail warning dog users that "Dogs on Leashes" was being particularly enforced in this area" with a $100 fine, which I thought was a shame, so I was very pleased when about 400 metres further on, I cycled down across a little stream to see two beautiful labradors frolicking around in the bush creek having a great time with no leashes in sight. 

I had probably better explain that I love dogs, but can't abide walking a dog on a leash.  A dog is born to run around and be free and crazy, at least that's what I think, so the idea of a dog being on a leash just doesn't work with me.  This being the case, I quickly assured the panicked dogs owners that I thought it was great that their dogs were running free, before quickly realised that in doing this I'd gotten distracted from a looming climb in front of me and wasn't quite in the right gear to tackle it.  God must have felt kind to me given my kindness to the dogs however and I somehow managed to keep turning the cranks until I emerged at the top of the Old Farm Track.

Main Fire Trail, a psuhy bit, with my trusty GPS
About another 500 metres past this, I got to the first turn off to McRobies gully (an unridden path set aside for another day) where I noticed my GPS told me that I should get off the main fire trail and try the path running just below, but parallel to it.  I dutifully did this, as I was on a frolic after all and exploration was my objective, but in this particular circumstance it wasn't such a good choice as the track was pretty overgrown and not really that much fun, dumping me back out at the lower McRobies Gully track where I rejoined the firetrail for the climb back up again.  Well, push.

So it was, at about 5.15pm I finally arrived at the top of New Town track which was actually on my planned route for the day.  However, having taken an hour and fifteen minutes to get here, and with only 45 minutes to get back again, I decided to postpone my first planned loop, and instead head straight for that track I'd seen those two riders disappear down last week.  The idea was to plummet down there, which I was pretty sure would drop me somewhere around Knocklofty and a quick dash back to my car.  I'd have time to spare, in fact I made a mental note to give Stephan a call and mention this to him.

With this thought in mind, I turned my bike off onto the new trail and began a descent down what looked like a great bit of single track that I would never have known about if it hadn't seen those two cyclists disappearing down it by sheer stupid luck. 

Doesn't look that steep, does it?
It started off wonderfully, flowing down and along the hill, but then it got a bit steeper, turned sharply, got more slippery, and then suddenly I realised it was all about to go wrong. 

I like the way we get that Adrenilin shot that seems to slow down time so we have all the time in the world to appreciate every single moment of a crash.  Firstly, that moment when I realised that my forward motion was too much, that my front wheel was sliding as I touched the breaks, that feeling of weightlessness as the front wheel jammed against a root and I was propelled over the handlebars, the realisation as I flicked my eyes up off the track to where I was going to see a thick tree right in front of me, the impact with the side of my head and helment, the bruise as I felt my legs hit the handlebars and then the bike come down on top of me from behind, and then just as quickly, the stillness as I realised, I was on the ground and had stopped moving. 

Then there's that moment when time starts speeding back up, you realise you're alive and you start moving arms and legs to see what hurts, at the same time you start to realise that EVERYTHING hurts, and yet still, there's that impulse to forget your own aches (a good sign they're not too bad) and check out your precious new bike instead to see if it is in one piece. 

What finally gave me the confidence that I wasn't too badly hurt was the realisation that I was more worried about being late for dinner than I was about my various scrapes and bruises.  I couldn't stand the thought of Stephan being right ... again.

So it was that I pulled myself and my bike together, and continued downwards.  Now the track isn't really all that steep and technical, it's not easy, but most competent cyclists could get down it, but my confidence was now thrown a bit, and I was also fast coming to the conclusion that this trail might not be dropping me on to the Knocklofty trails, it was just going down, down, down.  I checked my GPS and it showed me that I was heading down towards McRobies Gully which I was OK with, and soon enough I crossed over McRobies Creek and expected to jump out onto the trail which would wend it's way around the tip so I could announce to the world a new trail discovery. 

Except, again it didn't, the track turned right and started to follow the creek upwards.  Suddenly, my bruises and scratches were completely forgotten as I realised that this trail meant to head all the way back up the the Main Fire Trail.  I had less than 35 minutes ot get back to my car.  This was a disaster.  Any other time, I would have enjoyed that trail, actually truth be told, I did enjoy that trail, just a bit less than I otherwise would have.  It was great riding, with a bit of pushing, and I felt like I was in the middle of nowhere, not less than a kilometre from Tasmania's largest refuse tip and 2 or 3 kms from the centre of Hobart.

More trail (if you can see it).
This trail eventually emerged back out onto the lower McRobies gully road mentioned before, but an unmarked trail headed straight up in front of me to what I presumed was the upper McRobies gully road, I decided to bee line for this, and at 6.53pm I did indeed emerge onto the upper trail and quickly pedalled out onto the Main Fire Trail.  I had about 15 minutes to get back to my car, but I knew the route from here and it was mainly downhill. 

I have to admit, that even in my rush, I did have to respect the rules of Friday Frolic, even if I was making up the rules on the spot, but the philosophy of the frolic is to explore new trails whenever they appear, and so even here I decided to cycle that little firetrail just below, but parallel to, the main fire trail in the other direction to see if it was nay fun, but it wasn;t really and that's about all I have to say about that.

From there it was a quick run down onto Old Farm Road, an even quicker descent down there, popping back out onto Cascade Road just behind the Brewery, and a further downhill pedal into a frustrating headwind back into town.  I pulled up next to my car just before 6.10pm. 

Seventeen minutes later I walked into my sisters house as though I'd just come from a relaxing ride straight after work.  Unfortunaltey I hadn;t had the time to send that text message to Stephan.

I think I'm going to like my Friday Frolic, bring it on.

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