Sunday, 23 September 2012

Four Springs 4Hr Enduro

So what can I tell you about today's enduro ...


It was wet, very wet.

Rain on my windscreen.
But if it was very wet, then it was extremely muddy ...


and yet still they came ...



and they raced ...

Even I raced ... truth be told I even enjoyed it, despite appearances to the contrary ...


Two hours in, as I huddled in my car trying to keep warm between my laps, I heard a cheer go up from outside.  I didn't give it much thought as I thought it was just a team cheering someone through transition.

Ten minutes later I struggled back out into the weather, grabbed my muddy bike and pushed over to the strangely empty transition area.  As I entered the meager shelter of the transition tent, a guy turned to me and said "Don't worry mate, it's over ... they've shortened it to a two hour event because of the weather.

At least I assume he said that last bit, I was already back over at my car getting changed into my dry warm clothes by the time he got to the "it's over" bit.


In fact, I think out of the entire field there was only one person who was unhappy about finishing early ...


 ... the Kim machine, who got through her second lap and was fired up for her third.

Must have been that great dinner she had last night.

and that was our muddy weekend.

If you're interested, the course is here from my first (and only) lap.






Saturday, 22 September 2012

A free meal ...

So, after I paid for our lunch at Asian on the Pier on Thursday, Kim stumped up with an offer I couldn't believe ... she offered to pay for dinner on Saturday night at Deloraine ...

 $$$$ KA-CHING  $$$$ !!!!
 
... well that's what went through my mind, I think what left my mouth was something more modest like "ok, that'll work".
 
So as we're enjoying our afternoon tea, I started pontificating about what yummy goods I would be consuming that night and that's when the small caveat came out .... there would, apparently, be a cap on my meal costs tonight.
 
"A cap?", I enquired.
 
"Yes, a cap."
 
"and what would that cap be?"
 
Well it turned out the cap was not to be disclosed, but if I were to exceed this cap then I would get to pay for the entire bill.  Hmmm.
 
This then was our meal ...
 
Kim started off with a Bulmers Cider ... I had a glass of water.

Kim decided to go for the $16.50 tasting plate for entree ...

and she really enjoyed it ...

I had another glass of water.
Then for mains, Kim had the scotch fillet steak, medium rare with pepper sauce and extra vegetables on the side ($29.50)
I had the lamb shanks (they were the cheapest thing on the menu).

To her credit, Kim did pay the bill ... and she really enjoyed her meal.  In fact I wouldn't be surprised if she offered to pay again sometime ...

Thanks Kimmy!



Stubbs Road (Private) MTB Park

I've had intentions of exploring the tracks at Stubbs Rd (near Devonport) for at least a year now (I recall having vague intentions of heading out there on the way back from the Murray River Marathon at the beginning of the year) so when I saw that there was an LMBC Enduro at Four Springs this Sunday, I figured this was a perfect chance to make a weekend of it and finally go and explore these tracks ...



No, sooner had I suggested the idea to Kim than she had booked us into some nice B&B in Deloraine ... which must mean that we were going ...


I didn't have much to go on in terms of finding this place, but we did eventually get there after driving past it a couple of times and then leaving the car at Turner's Beach and cycling back along the road where, at this more casual pace, we were able to see a few Cradle Coast Mountain Bike Club Events advertised on a gate, so we figured this must be the place and went off for a play.


I noted on the CCMBC website that they said that there was a complex trail network up here ... and they weren't wrong.  We first headed up the main gravel road to the water tank on top of the hill, where we ran into a couple of trail bikers, and from there we cycled around the back of the tank and saw a single track trailhead off near some jumps and we were off ...




Don't go this way ... that was a mistake.




We played everywhere we could find a track being mindful that we were on privately owned tracks  (check out our Garmin route here). 

We headed off on the Eastern side first (just because that's where we found the first trailhead) dropping down past and around a dam before we headed around to the Southern and then Western sections of the property where the track networks and options got progressively more intertwined and complex.  To be honest there are so many tracks on the western (Stubbs Rd) size it can just get confusing.

In less than an hour we found ourselves back at the water tank for the third or fourth time and we seemed to be increasingly riding back over trails we'd already ridden so we thought we had pretty much explored the place, but then on our way out we found one last trailhead on the northern side of the water tank and it turned out we had left the best to last as we flew (slowly) down a great section of single track that switched it's way down the hill.

I suspect there could be more trails up there still, but we'd had our fun and so after an hour or so we headed on out.

Instead of heading straight back to our car at Turners Beach, we decided to turn left at the end of Stubbs Road onto Westella Drive.  This road runs parallel to the Bass Highway and drops you out in Ulverstone, from where we headed down to the beach and then onto the new(ish) railway / cycling trail which runs from Ulverstone back to Turners Beach.  This loop added about 10kms to the trip, but was fast, flat riding and very scenic as you can see ...

Isn't that beautiful
... only kidding, it was actually a very enjoyable ride and it was great to see both the number and variety of walkers and riders using the track, ranging from this great old guy on his electric bike ...


... through to babies doing head dives out of prams onto the concrete path (amusing for me, not for his mother), children feeding cattle and young kids on their training wheels ...



Although not a planned part of our original ride, starting at TurnersBeach and adding this extra loop was a great offset to the more technical riding in the mountain bike park and was just a nice way to stretch out the legs and round out the day ...

As was our stop at the Raspberry Hills Cafe Farm just outside of Elisabeth Town on the way back to our B&B ...


Is it any wonder that all the locals over in Vietnam called me Happy Buddha ...

This guy enjoyed his raspberry pancakes almost as much as me ...

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Wednesday Night Rides ...

Kim managed to drag me out of the office and onto the bike after work tonight, which was probably a good thing (although I didn't really think so as I huffed and puffed my way up Strickland Avenue).

Just as a side note, I was very impressed to see that someone has set up a self service "fix-it" station half way up the road (love their work).  Now if only they could add one of these escalators ...

By the time we got to Chimney Pot Hill Road, the mist came in and it was time to head back to our nice warm car and some yummy take-away ...




A good night.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Patons Road (Wolfram Mine)

The observant reader may notice that after waxing lyrical about the joys and freedom of the West Coast in a previous blog entry, I ended up staying in Sheffield which is ... well it's not on the West Coast.



But don't despair ... there is a reason why I ended up in Sheffield, and the reason has a back-story (I'm very excited about this as I've never done a post with a back story).

Earlier in the week, I was watching the ABC news and saw a story about a Cable Car Proposal for Mt Roland.  Now what got my interest about this was that it mentioned a consultants report looking at a number of adventure activities to revitalise the area, including a(nother) mountain bike park proposal.

Despite my much espoused skepticism of a Mountain Bike led tourism recovery in Tasmania, this piqued my interest enough that I chased up the original consultants report to have a quick read of the relevant sections.

In doing so I came across little snippet on the features of the proposed mountain bike park (page 88 of the appendices) which stopped me in my tracks ...

it could conceptually "...  link to the existing Wolfram Track ride, which is well known in the sector and popular."

Whoa there, boyo ... the which track ride?  well known to the sector??  popular???  (Hopefully you've picked up that the increasing amount of question marks indicate my growing incredulity at these statements).  There was a track, no, not just a track ... a well known and popular track ... in Tasmania and I hadn't even heard of it???? (you got the question mark thing that time right?????)

Google was immediately consulted on this issue, and produced a reference to the Wolfram mine in the Guide to 4WD Tracks in Tasmania which did in fact confirm that there was a track out along Patons Road to the mine.  That was enough ... there was a track, it looked remote and scenic, and I hadn't ridden it.  What more did I need to know? Oh yea .. that it was well known and popular ... except to me.

My weekend plans for a sabbatical on the West Coast were quickly rewritten, I pulled a GPS track of the road line from the Lemonthyme Dam to the Wolfram mine off my computer, and fast forward 5 days and you find me in Sheffield early on a Sunday morning ready to go explore a new trail.

Happy me (both because I have a back story and because I'm about to go for a ride).

Firstly before leaving Sheffield though I needed to do two things .. find a decent cup of coffee and go see if they have cleared the Tasmanian Trail section running around Stoodley Plantation.  I got a fail on the coffee (nothing was open) so headed out to Stoodley and got a win on that one.  The track has finally been cleared, though it is now all harvested on one side so is not very nice riding.

I got back to Sheffield around 8.15am only to find there was still nothing open that served a coffee, so had to abandon my plans for a caffeine fix, and instead head hungry and thirsty out to Lemonthyme Dam.  I did some mental calculations on the way and figured the ride would be about 30km return (assuming I could get some way up the road in the car) and so I should be able to knock it off and be in Mole Creek for a late lunch ... I figured therefore that I'd be OK having skipped breakfast.  45kms and six hours later I would look back on this moment and punch myself in the eye for my stupidity.

I headed out through Gowrie Park and up around the side of Mt Roland where (much to my great amusement) I saw this gate and sign at one of the trail-heads for the Mt Roland bushwalking tracks ...


Yep, they're developing a tourism plan for the area, meanwhile anybody that actually comes here to explore Mt Roland will see the parks sign for the walk, right behind a great "Hydro Property - No Entry" sign. Do you see why I despair sometimes?

Fortunately this was not my destination, I was headed for Patons Road ... so onwards and downwards (seriously it is one heck of a descent down to the Lemonthyme Dam).


Although not signed, the start of Patons road is pretty obvious when you arrive at the dam (see pic above) ... you basically turn onto the gravel road and keep driving, though there are a few turns you can miss once on the road (at the first Y junction take a left, then at the second one take a right - more details when I get this up on tassietrails.org) until about 3.5km from the dam you come to a gate.

The gate.
Although you can carry on in a high vehicle clearance car for at least another 5kms or so (subject to fallen trees) this seemed like as good a spot as any to start riding to me.  OK, so I admit I didn't want to get locked in.

About 150 metres past this gate is the trickiest navigation part of the ride ... the gravel road appears to go around and up to the left, but there is actually an almost invisible road on your right (you cross a little creek and then it becomes obvious) which is Patons Road.  There are a few pieces of pink tape marking it, but if you're looking out for it you won't miss it.

From here on in the navigation is pretty darn easy ... just follow the deteriorating gravel road.

This is a magnificent ride, and ideally suited for fit, capable (in remote situations) cyclists of pretty much any ability.  The brilliant thing about this ride is that the further you go the more the track conditions deteriorates and the funner it gets (except all of those downed trees) ... but this also means it is ideal for beginner cyclists because there's lots of good places to practice skills from rocky creek riding, cycling through deep puddles and what feels like hundreds of log jumps ... and if and when it all gets too much (it never goes beyond intermediate difficulty) you can just turn around and head back.


I won't describe the route in detail here, but it's 22.5km to the mine, though you can probably drive further than I did and cut this distance (and the two big climbs on the way back) out.

Here's just a few snapshots to give you an idea of what the route is like ...










It took me just under 3 hours (with lots of stops) to get to the mine site, where I spent about half an hour having a bit of a look around.  It's a cool place.








However, I was hungry after three hours of riding ... problem was I didn't have much in the way of food ...





I made do with what I had, and then turned around and headed home, enjoying the ride out probably more than I did the ride in ... yea it did have a lot more downhill going downriver.










I was both a bit tired, and absolutely stoked with today's ride.  It really is a hidden gem.  I suspect it would be more fun in mid to late summer as it would be both drier and I suspect 4WD enthusiasts would have cleared many of the obstacles I had to stop and pull my bike over, but I'd happily do this ride any time of year.  It is an adventurous ride, and you will trash your bike, even if just a little bit.

Of course the important thing now is that if and when someone says "Have you heard about the Wolfram Mine Track?" I can of course just scoff and say "Yea, of course - who hasn't??????" and that's all that matters.