It was a pretty bleak experience pulling into Scottsdale today, and not just because of the rain showers coming through.
It's been just over a year since I was out this way last and things have gone downhill fast - it was like every second shop was closed, and every conversation in the supermarket muted and the people hidden.
But not the rail trail ... last time I came and rode it the big challenge of the ride was finding it's starting point, but not anymore ...
Not going to miss that are you?
With that said, I did then miss the car park which was exactly where the sign said it would be ... 400m up the road. My excuse is that I got a bit of sensory overload with signs all over the place at the actual carpark (OK, there were three of them, but I'm easily confused) and as a result I proceeded to drive up the first kilometre of the new trail in my car, only realising I was meant to be riding it when I came to the first kilometre marker sign.
In defense of this navigational error I will say that the first kilometre is a new blue gravel road and it looks more suited to driving than cycling.
Regardless, the really good news is that there's no more tentative finding your way onto the trail ... everything's signed ...
But that's where the joy ends I'm afraid ... and not just because of the rain.
This is my recollection of the rail trail ...
Here we go ... hmm ... that rain is starting to lift above a drizzle.
Oh look, another kilometre sign (2kms) ... hope these signs are along the whole track.
Oh that's pretty ... better take a photo
ride, ride, ride ... this surface sucks.
Where's the next km sign?
There it is, 3kms. I think I'll turn around when I get into the big gully, it was nice there and I don't need to ride the whole trail ...
God this rain is getting heavy.
This surface really sucks.
4km sign? Seriously, I've only done 4kms.
Blue gravel? Seriously on a rail tail? my butt hurts - definitely turning around soon.
Ooohhh ... smooth surface ... and the 5km sign ... nice ... maybe I'll keep going, maybe it was only the first section that was that rough ... lucky I kept going.
When the f*ck will this rain STOP.
6km sign, 7km sign, 8km sign ... Oh ... yep, there goes my last little dry spot. Let the chaffing begin.
Surface is getting crap again ...
9km sign ... how long was this trail again 14km? 16km? Maybe I should turn around now?
No - I don't care if it goes all the way to Ringarooma, I'm going to finish this route ...
I must have missed the 10km sign, it's been way too long between signs otherwise.
Singing in the rain, I'm singing in the rain ... I'm just singing and cycling in the rain ...Oh my god, I'm singing out loud. That's not a good sign.
WTF ... there's the 10km sign ... I hate the rain, I hate this track.
A road, I see a road ... that must mean I'm near the old railway station ... it wasn't far from there to the end. Woo Hoo.
Where'd all this loose gravel come from? It's hard riding in the rain, there goes my speed. keep going ... almost there.
12km sign, 13km sign ... it wasn't this far last time was it? I should get to that gravel road and then I can either turn around or enjoy some nice bush riding.
Ah there's the road ...
Oh no ... they've cleared the lovely bush section ... gravel road here I go, here I go, here I go. Don't sing - nobody likes it when you sing ... even in a blog.
Is this frickin' cloud following me or something? It can't rain this hard for this long.
15km sign ... nope it's not 14km long
16km sign ... must be near the end.
WOO HOO - I can see the highway beside me, not far now ... and yes there it is - the road where I started last time. Finished.
Oh ... it keeps going.
17km sign ... not happy Jan.
Another road ... it keeps going ... I said I'd go to Ringarooma, so Ringarooma it is ...
Around the next corner and ... Track Ende.
Thank god ... now all I have to do is head back again.
At least it's all down hill from here ...
but it never stopped raining the whole way back and my gears started jumping again.
So why'd I put you through that monologue ... because I don't think the highlight of a rail trail should be the next kilometre sign along the way, and for me, today, that's what it was.
Don't get me wrong: I love the idea behind this rail trail, but at the same time in my book a rail trail should be easy to ride, fun, scenic and interesting riding ... and to be honest most of the ride up didn't feel like that at all.
Except when passing through the occasional cutting, I pretty much felt like I was riding along a poorly graveled forestry road ... one which needed a nice soft pavement put on top of it ...
So today ... not so impressed. Especially as I can compare how beautiful the top section was when I last rode it, when it was overgrown and wild, to what it is now ... but I can see the potential off it when the surface wears in or gets a proper surface put on it, a few more interpretive signs are installed (a trailhead map of the route with distances would be awesome), and hopefully (please, please, please) they let the track get reclaimed a bit more back to a single-track experience ... not a wide ugly scar of a road.
But for now, I'd either do it one way (downhill) do the circuit back via the road or just choose a shorter section of it to have a taste of what the trail has to offer ... seriously some of those cuttings are gorgeous.
Yes ... let me finish by saying the potential up this way is enourmous ... the stunning flow tracks in Launceston, the proposed trails around Hollybank, this rail trail and of course the tracks around Blue Tier ... give it a few more years and this region could be legendary.
Oh, and for the record ... 5kms further up the road ... the f*cking sun was shining like I was in the sahara desert ... it only started to rain again when I got to Weldborough and started to put up my tent ... of course.