Monday, 25 August 2014

41 Today

I know it's gonna be hard to believe, but this wasn't the most awesome present I received today ...

But it was up against some pretty stiff competition, including some true recognition of my super-powers ...

The return of two of my earliest childhood toys which have lain hidden in some cupboard for nearly 35 years ...

And even some indication from Kim that she reads my lessons learned blogs and doesn't want me to get lost and drown at sea ...

But to be honest, even the best of these don't rank in my top three presents this year.

Coming in at number three was the magnificent tip from Mr Walters about how to remove my rides from the Strava Heat map ... Oh yes, Tasmania think of all those little dark lines that will now get just that little bit darker as my explorations fade from the heatmap.

I am so happy.

At number two, were the concerted efforts of the two monsters last night who were given different coloured toppings to decorate my cake.  You might want to take some notes Mrs Cathy Cakewoman because they're coming for your Huon Show Prize this year ...

Note the "John" at the top and the combined smiley face.

Which brings me to the number one bestest birthday present this year.

I was sitting down eating my breakfast this morning and little Zara comes downstairs and says "You know that list of things you have to do on the back of you toilet door" (referring to my bucket list)

"Yes", I replied

"Well it says you have to take your kids camping ... and it's not crossed off ... "

Then there was this short pause before she continued on, "... and you have taken us camping"

So, not knowing how to tell your girlfriends seven year old child how sweet and lovely a thing that was to say, I told her instead that she had better get back upstairs and cross that off for me ...

Another bucket list item done.
... and that's why having Kim and the monsters is the bestest present ever.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Glenorchy Mountain Bike Park

I'll be honest and say that the Glenorchy Mountain Bike Park has never really super excited me.

I mean, yes it is fun to ride, and it is definitely head and shoulders above the Kingston Mountain Bike Park.  It even has the prestigious claim of having it's own shooting range ...

Though oddly, being shot isn't one of the warnings in the park ... unless 'obstacles' is a euphemism for flying bullets?

But the trails themselves don't super excite me.

Having said this, I was still very pleased to see Su Sprott's post on Facebook that the council had made the effort to put up some signed trails.  So pleased in fact that I thought I'd head out and take lots of photos and ride it and stuff ...

And I quite liked the new signs, albeit that I personally would have preferred the green route to be in the other direction and it would be good to add a sign next to the trail head that actually points behind you to where the track starts (I'm being picky - overall I think the signage is awesome).

However, I was walking into work today and it suddenly dawned on me that in my two visits over the weekend  (I went on Saturday and rode the signed routes and went back on Sunday and rode around the merton fire trail to Lumeah Avenue and back) I had met just two other individuals and one group of riders.

... and they had all been lost.

The first group I met were heading up the Tolosa Fire Trail having just come off the water fire trail thinking they were on their way up the North South Track (they weren't, and luckily for them they had a female in the group who thought to ask for directions as she cycled past me).  How they got lost, I'll never know because there is good signage at the junction where they must have made a wrong turn telling them which way to go ...

Not one of these signs points in the direction they headed.

The second cyclist I met was coming down the now one-way track that takes you up to Five Ways (and he had cycled past a no entry sign to get onto that track whilst ignoring the other signs telling him to go the other way).

And the third guy I met on Sunday was a lovely guy, but new to mountain biking and he was just plain lost over on the eastern boundary of the park, and so I took him for a tour around the cross country course to help him get his bearings before heading off on my own ride.

So, it seems that other than me, absolutely everybody I met was lost in one way or the other at the now super well signed Glenorchy Mountain Bike Park.

And that's just wrong because I'm supposed to be the lost rambler, not the only one who knows the way.

What has the world come to.

Monday, 11 August 2014


I got extremely excited this morning when I opened the curtains and saw ... SNOW!!!!

Admittedly, it wasn't a lot of snow, but snow, is snow, is snow and with child-like enthusiasm I quietly snuck out the front door and set about creating a wonderful present for Kim ...

It was whilst engrossed in my creative endeavors that I heard the dreaded sound of a door sliding shut and the clicking of a lock ... 

I snapped out of my work to see the smiling face of my evil girlfriend who had snuck downstairs and locked me out of my own house (in just my dressing gown) ...

How mean is she ...

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Pickles Hill

This is another blog post about one of my oldest foes: expectations.

I headed out to the Pickles Hill Adventure Ride with two extremely burdensome expectations (neither of which I even realised I held).

The first was that I had expected my GPS track of the 15km Pickles Hill trail to look something like what is shown on the left in the diagram below  ...

Pickles Hill route options ...
That is, I expected it would be a nice, scenic 15km loop covering the backhills behind Cranbourne Dam near some hill called Pickles Hill.

In other words - rambler country.

What it in fact looked like (and I swear that this is my actual GPS track) is the image on the right ... a tight twisted tangle of trails which never actually leaves pickles hill and where you often find yourself asking the question ... "hang on - isn't that the GU wrapper that I dropped 20 minutes ago?" (not that I'd ever carry a GU wrapper, never mind drop one) ... after you've plunged down a hill, twisted around a mountain, ridden back up again only to find yourself back, pretty much back where you started ... for the fourth or fifth time.

Which makes the Pickles Hill tracks a pretty awesome use of the available land area ...  and I'm going to go out there and say it ... an awesome course for  ... a multi-lap enduro race.

Which is exactly what it was built for.

But it did not meet my expectations, so I'm disappointed.

The second expectation (and I didn't think this was a biggie) was that my bike would survive a 15km custom made MTB course, and that I'd therefore actually ride the course.

Which I didn't.

I got to leave with everyone else (well sort of, it may be that they sort of all left without me as I was busy taking photos ...)

I got to the bottom of the first hill with them all (please be impressed that I made it to the start line) ...

I even sort of managed to ride up the first hill with enough riders that I felt like part of the pack ...

But then I got to the first downhill, and suddenly my chain started jumping all over the place.

I stopped and checked it out, but couldn't see anything wrong, so carried on, but with my chain constantly locking up and jumping gears.  It was weird and despite stopping several times, I just couldn't figure out what was happening - especially as it only seemed to be happening when I went downhill.

Finally, I stopped to push my bike up a steep little pinch and realised that my pedals were turning as I pushed my bike forward.

Now, call me a bit thick, but for some reason I decided this must be happening because there was something wrong with my chain or jockey wheels, so I spent the next few minutes trying to find what was jammed in them that would make the wheel turn forward.

In the end I decided that maybe it would fix itself and so kept on riding up the trails to the top of the hill.

It was somewhere around here, as I had my bike turned upside down for the third time trying to figure out what was going on, that I realised just how tangled the trails were up on Pickles Hill.

Riders were heading past me in all directions ... and most worryingly I'd have a gaggle of 20 cyclists head down a track in one direction and then 30 seconds later 4 or 5 cyclists would come back down the same track ... but in the opposite direction.

Yea ... there was a lot of orange tape and orange markers up on top of that hill marking the trail.  The problem was trying to figure out which particular piece you should be heading towards.

Uhm ... now where do I go?
I eventually gave up on trying to fix my bike and resigned myself to just putting it in a big gear and constantly pedaling so that the chain speed kept up with my wheel spin.

This sucked (no pun intended).

Pickles Hill is a track that rewards good riding ... and it's very hard to do good riding when you have to pedal all the time and can only go downhill as fast as you can pedal, so my next couple of kilometres of riding, although through great country, weren't fun ...

Finally as I was riding along not enjoying myself much at all, it occurred to me that it must be my freewheel hub that had seized up, causing my chain (and hence pedals) to turn (you can hear the light bulb go on) ... so off came the wheel (again) and sure enough as I spun the freewheel it was catching ... what was probably more worrying was that I was able to loosen it enough with just my fingers to get it spinning again (update: when I took it into AvantiPlus Sandy Bay this week (I really should just make a regular booking), it turns out that this is a problem to do with the Giant bike hubs where a plastic seal over the hub often gets out of shape and catches on the freehub).

So double yay - I was back on my bike and riding again, and I had something that no one else crammed on that hill had today ...

I had the tracks all to myself  ...

Unfortunately my mood for the day was soured and I couldn't really get back into enjoying the trails and so was quite happy when I found myself dropping down off the hill towards the cars ...

... where I got lost one last time as I tried to figure out which way I was supposed to go across the paddocks.

And that was my Pickles Hill ride.

Not surprisingly, because of my unrealistic expectations that I'd actually be able to ride the route, I didn't really enjoy my time on Pickles Hill, but with a bit of time and distance, I do appreciate what amazing work the trail angels have done on that hill to put together the right combination of single and double trail with a challenging track that will really reward those who can ride a bike, whilst providing an enjoyable challenge for those intermediate riders who are just there to do a few laps and have a great day out ...

Damn ... I was about to say that it's not however a track for ramblers, but having just written the above, I think I may have just talked myself back into going back out there for the race.

The Pickled Rambler may be back ...

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Weilangta Walk

I went for a walk today, I really, truly, did ...

Here's my walking boots in the back of the car to prove it ...
Except as several thousand people already know from some photos I posted over on facebook, I sort of took my bike with me ...

So maybe it would be slightly more true to say that I honestly, truly, planned on going for a walk today:  it's just that there I was at the trail-head getting ready to set off on a walk when I glanced at my bike in the back of the car and this little voice inside my head said  "won't you be pissed off leaving that here if the whole thing is ride-able?" and then this other little voice (I think it may have come from my bike) said "worst case scenario, you carry and push me for a while and if it's looking bad you ditch me and pick me up on the way back ..." and, other than the worry about all these voices talking to me in the middle of nowhere, I couldn't really fault their argument.

So my bike joined me on my walk.

That's the truth and I'm sticking to it ...

Anyway, the plan for today was finally, after something like twenty years of meaning to do it, to go out and walk the track at the Sandspit River Conservation Area on Weilangta Road with the idea in the back of my mind (planted there during a ride around some of the Hellfire Trails) that maybe this trail would be an awesome mountain bike trail (that would bypass a very steep ascent and descent on Weilangta Road).

And to cut a long story short ... it is and it does.

Or more correctly, it would be if:

   (a) it were legal to ride a mountain bike there (it isn't); and
   (b) the track was cleared.

At the moment the tracks been cleared for a short way in from both ends (quite recently), but the bit in the middle is a tangle of overgrown branches and downed trees (though quite a few less than when I turned up with my little pruning saw) ...  which only someone like me is likely to enjoy.

This was after 10 minutes track clearing work ...
you should have seen it before.
track, oh track, where art though track ...
Just another downed tree ...
The other fairly amazing, and until now unknown, thing about this track is that it is currently being used for high tech experiments by the military (or maybe an advanced alien civilisation, I'm not 100% sure).

Again ... true story.

Take a look at this photo ...

It looks like a perfectly normal wooden bridge doesn't it?

But I swear it is un-passable.  

These bridges (and there are quite a few of them on the trail) are so slippery that if you step onto them, you will make a puck on an air hockey table look like it is stuck in quicksand.

I almost broke my neck on the first one of these when I got onto it and my front wheel went one way, the back wheel went another way and I went ka-thump in the middle with a loud squawk.

A bit more cautious at the next bridge, I stopped to walk across it, put my foot on it and went ka-thump a second time (while my bike had a good chuckle to itself, just reinforcing in my head that maybe I really am going crazy).

After that I just did my best to shuffle or jump over these bridges very, very carefully.

Having thought about this deeply (and having listened to all the voices inside my head) the only logical explanation that I can come to is that the military is conducting experiments on creating super-slippery bridges to stop enemy forces advancing down walking tracks and they thought this was an excellent place to trial such devices (or that some advanced alien civilisation dropped some super un-sticky stiff here ... but this seems slightly less plausible as I'm not sure why they would).

And you thought I was making up a tall story.

Anyways, this trail is quite short (4.6kms one way) but it a gorgeous blend of river-side and forest riding reminiscent of the best parts of the Cranky Penguin river section combined with a little bit of montezuma falls trail ... and that's an awesome combination in anyone's books.

If it were open to mountain biking (again, let me be clear - it isn't) then when combined with a steep climb back along Weilangta Road, it makes a lovely little loop (See blue line) with a lot to offer in terms of scenery that you can't easily get around Hobart.

But what's got me excited is that with maybe a tiny little bit of trail building and linking in with parts of one of the day 2 hellfire trails (red line) and existing forestry coupe roads (pink line - see how it's almost touching the weilangta walk) ... this could be one awesome loop starting from Sandspit reserve that would make use of an otherwise largely unused network of tracks less than an hours drive from Hobart ...

If only it were open to mountain bikes.

Which, if I haven't mentioned it - it isn't.

I would highly recommend going there for a walk though - but only with walking sticks and your super sticky soled shoes on.

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

A funny SEO story ...

One thing I've noticed with this blog is that as the number of page visits continues to rise ... so to do the number of spam comments (but unfortunately not the number of real comments).

Most spam comments are easily identifiable because they usually have little or nothing to do with the post and they usually end with a "hey why don't you visit my site at  ..." or slightly more subtly they do make a comment on the blog which can seem genuine and then just leave their web address as their email.

Now before Google Penguin (not to be confused with the Cranky Penguin) I suspect these spam posts  were put there by SEO companies who knew that google rewarded websites that have one way referrals to their websites ... so before the Penguin you paid the SEO company to increase your website ranking and they did this by (among other things) putting spam comments on blog sites which had some relevance to the business and which therefore increased that businesses google ranking.

The internet is such a brilliant place.

Except now Google Penguin has turned this on its head ... as now websites are penalised for having too many links from "link farms".

Who could think that's confusing.

So today I got an email from what sounded like a SEO company representing another company called cleaning for a reason dot com dot au demanding that I remove the link I have to their website as it may affect their website rankings with google.  Furthermore, they threatened that if I didn't do so they would put a "disavow link" on my site. 

Somewhat confused as to why I would ever link to a cleaning website, I checked out the webpage and sure enough ... there was one of those clever little spam comments at the bottom of the blog linking back to their site.

So, I removed the comment ... which was probably put there by the same SEO company that's now asking me to remove it.

God I love the internet, I love the Google Penguin and I love the Google Panda.

I just can't wait for Google Godzilla ...

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Snug Tiers

Two things you may already know about me:

(1) I write blog posts like I play chess ... I spend ages playing out the first two moves in my head and then once I've made those moves ... I basically make the rest up as I go along, or in the case of my blog posts, I concoct what I think are witty and insightful one-liners to start my blog when I'm out riding ... and these then rarely have anything to do with the rest of the blog post; and

(2) I'm a skeptic ... in that I question everything that doesn't make sense to me ... especially things that seem to be a scam dressed up in scientific fact ... like freeview TV, psychics and any current affairs show on a commercial television channel.

Just for the record though ... Zombies will end the world, even the most hardened skeptic will acknowledge that.

Glad I got that out of my system ... and now onto the random, I'm going to make the rest up as I go along, part of the blog.

I was meant to go down to Lake Pedder for a paddle this weekend, but the call was made on Thursday night to cancel the trip due to the weather so I spent Saturday doing other exciting things ... like preparing the monthly events update on and doing my tax return (which produced a large enough refund to buy a new bike or more prudently pay off a minuscule amount of my upcoming house loan.

This meant that today, I needed to do something outdoors ... and preferably in the snow.

Something like ... the Snug Tiers ...

I love riding up in the Snug Tiers during winter, and I figured today would be a chance to both go for a short ride in the snow and sort out a question which has been bugging me now for about 20 years ...

Why is there no track across the button grass plains between the Pelverata Falls track and the Grey Mountain Track?

I mean if you look at the tracks on google earth it just looks like there should be a track between the two ... it's only 900 metres (as shown by the yellow line in the picture below) between the closest points and it would turn two really nice out and back rides into one awesome circuit ...

So today I set off to see how hard it was to get between the two points ... and as you've probably figured out from the red lines which shows my actual route, the answer is it ain't as easy as you might think ...

I started by taking the track out towards Grey Mountain (having tried to figure out a way form the other direction a couple of weeks ago) and rode to the corner where the yellow line heads off on the map  as this  seemed to be the logical launching off point.

Twenty minutes later, scratched, bloodied and sore I found myself back at exactly the same point defeated by the thick scrub and cutting grass.

A second attempt to breach the thick undergrowth between the track and the plains was attempted a few hundred metres back along the track, and although I got within 20 metres of the button grass plain, I had to conceded defeat and retreat a second time.

This was when I took the lessons I learned in grade six history about how the Australian Explorers first conquered the Great Dividing Range (by heading up the spurs, not the gullies) and I retreated back along the track where I could easily get onto the plains and then set off across the plains to do it the long way.

It was a hoot to begin with ... sure I was carrying my bike and it was wet, but it was exciting and fun and new ...

Then about half way across, it became a little less of a hoot and a little more of a challenge ...

By about the 4/5ths mark I had resorted to walking down the middle of an almost waist deep (snow flow) creek carrying my bike above my head in order to make any progress forward through the thick scrub and the word 'hoot' was no longer going through my head ...

My only way forward was to walk down the middle of the stream.
I realised around about this point that I was potentially in a spot of bother as it had taken me over an hour to cover around a kilometre and I was in that bind where the thought of going back was pretty depressing, but having already been twice defeated by thick scrub earlier in the day, the three hundred metres between me and the track I was trying to get to seemed rather daunting as well ...

Then the stream I was walking down disappeared under a log and into a thick patch of cutting grass and I realised that my best bet was to try and cut off into the bush and try and get to higher ground.

The way out is that way ... I hope.
This is where this story gets a bit freaky.

I set off into the bush, basically throwing my bike in front of me and then trying to make my way towards it, and repeating this action over and over (PS. thanks AvantiPlus Sandy Bay for putting my bike back together on Monday and I still have no idea why my brakes were leaking fluid and needed fixing).

I was probably about 50 metres from the creek in the middle of frickin' nowhere, when I jumped off a log and slipped on the ground in front of me and as I plunged into the scrub, I found myself staring at an old scrap of newspaper ...

I don't know if you can read it, but if you can it might freak you out as much as it freaked me ...  it's an article about some large animal killing sheep in the Meehan Ranges ... and it was written in 1936 ... it's a frickin' story about the Meehan Monster ...

Despite all my solo jaunts off into the wilderness, I can actually get quite scared if I let my imagination run riot, and let me tell you there was a riot going on in my head at that point in time.  I had that moment of realisation where it crystallised in my head that I was in the middle of thick bush, nobody really knew where I was other than "up in the snug tiers" ... I was all alone ...  and there were scary things in this world.

I'll be honest ... I suddenly decided that I wasn't as worried about getting scratched and cut as I had been 30 seconds before and pretty much charged the last two hundred metres out into some more open bush, which to be honest was still a pretty relative term ...

But from there it was a much easier path forward to the old sawmill site I'd been heading towards for the last 1.5 hours.

I have to admit that once I got back out onto the open sawmill area and could hear the reassuring sounds of motor bikes and 4WD's, I felt a little bit stupid at my momentary hysteria...

But seriously (and please be awed as I actually bring this back to my opening points) ... could it be true ... could there really be a Meehan Monster?

Expect to see me on A Current Affair soon ... I'll be on after the psychic prediction about when zombies will take over the world ...

Oh ... what if the Meehan Monster's a zombie thylacine  ....