Sunday, 15 October 2017

Ollie vs the Rottweilers ...

Hi, my name's Ollie ...

Ollie the Dog
...  and John (my dad) has let me do a guest post about the worst day of my life ... ever.

It started like any other day ... dad got up early for our morning walk (he takes forever to get ready to go for a walk) and after what seemed like an eternity we finally walked out the door and headed down towards Roscommon Reserve behind Lauderdale.

Ella and I love our morning walks.

Me and Ella

Anyway, this morning, we were about half way around the reserve and I was hard at work leaving my scent on a gate, because some inter-lopping dog that thought he might own this area had dared piddle here, when (very rudely) dad yanked my leash and pulled me behind him.

I was just about to tell him off for being so rude (I thought I might 'accidentally' piddle on his foot) when I saw this big black shape descend on me from out of the bush.

The next minute is a bit of a blur of fast, dark, black dogs, bites and pain.

I remember dad screaming and I remember trying to defend myself, but there were two of them and they were so big.  I remember being dragged off my feet and eventually driven into, and then under, the dam waters, but it all happened so fast I couldn't tell you what exactly happened. 

I also remember coming to the surface of the water and trying to swim away, but I was really hurt and I just couldn't stay afloat, so I remember thinking this couldn't be happening as I sank below the surface.

Then, just as I went under the water, I felt something grab me from behind and so I put out one last burst of effort as I turned around to defend myself ... but then I saw it was dad who'd finally got back to me and pulled me out of the water.

I still wasn't sure what had happened: I could see my collar and leash lying off to one side (How had I managed to pull out of my collar?) and I could see dad's earphones about 5 metres away in another direction.

Fortunately, Ella still seemed to be OK, and I could finally see what it was that hit me ...

Two large Rottweilers.

Dad later explained that they had been getting walked off their leash and must have seen me and taken off to attack before their owners could stop them.

I heard their owners say something about their dogs thinking I was a rabbit (ME - a rabbit?!?  how indignant!) and they quickly offered to pay the vet bills when dad said he was going to report them to the council, but then, somehow, like in a nightmare, one of their dogs pulled free again and came straight for me a second time  ...

Now I have to admit that I may have thought some not very nice things about dad in my time (like, "can't you see I'm starving - give me your roast pork!" and "can't you sleep on the floor so I can stretch out on the bed a bit more?", but today - he kind of came through.

Every time that dog came towards me and Ella he basically just stepped between us and started kicking and screaming at it, managing to hold it off until it's owner came a second time and dragged it away.

I was sort of sinking into shock at this point, but I heard dad trying to get their name and address details, which they now wouldn't give because I think at this point the owners knew they were in trouble, and then they both turned their backs and walked away.

I know dad tried to call mum several times, because he wanted to follow them, but he said that he had to get me home first and make sure I was OK, and by the time that they finally touched base, it was too late to go back and chase those rottweilers down.

Dad said that he was pretty sure his photos would be enough to find the owners, and I hope he's right.

But as for me ... I wasn't so good.

At first, it just looked like bites and scratches and some emotional damage, but mum and dad still took me to the vet (mum's a bit of a Dr Google addicted hypochondriac), and it's kind of lucky they did, because if they hadn't been warned by the vet to look out for infections or injuries over the next few days, mum may have missed that lump that came up a few days later ...

I'd been trying to tell them something was wrong - I didn't eat my dinner (I mean hello!!!!) and I tried to tell dad I didn't want to go for a walk in the morning (I mean double hello!!), but it wasn't until mum felt the lump that she took me to the vets, and when she did, I was taken straight into surgery.

Just like the vet had warned, I'd gotten an infection from the fight, and it had formed into an abscess under the skin.

When I woke up from the surgery, everyone seemed really worried and I was getting carried everywhere.  I even had a large pipe jutting out of my side with blood and pus oozing out of it (yum!).

When I got home and tried to go outside for a ... well you know what ... I realised I couldn't get through the door and that things were even more serious than I thought.

I heard dad say that it had already cost over $1,100 in vet bills (do you know how many treats that would buy?  no - neither do I, but I bet it's a lot), plus both he and mum are having to take time off work, or juggle working from home, for another week so they can look after me, so I guess I'm lucky that I've got parents that will look after me no matter what.

But it really was the worst day of my life, and I just wish someone out there might know who these dogs (and their owners) are, or where they live, and could let us know anonymously in the comments or by emailing john at

You see, I don't understand how things work in the human world, but I know dad immediately reported the incident to the council dog controllers, but they don't have the authority to go knocking on doors looking for the owners, so unless someone comes forward and identifies them, that means those dogs might attack some other dog like me in the future, and no one will ever know they've done it in the past, plus the owners will never be held responsible for all my medical bills ...

So if you know them, please let dad know ...  he said he's seen them walking around before so they must live somewhere around the Lauderdale area ...

In the meantime, I might go back to resting as I don't feel so well.

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Scotts Knicks - A Review

So back when I bought my Scott Genius mountain bike in march, I was cruising around AvantiPlus's website (like you do) and I saw they had a pair of $120 Scott knicks (shorts) on special for half price, and I thought to myself "bargain - I could do with a spare pair of knicks for New Zealand!"

And so I ordered them.

But they didn't arrive in time for the grand depart to New Zealand, so I only got to wear them when I got back to Tassie.

I wore them a couple of times on my commute into work, racking up a measly 20kms in saddle time, before I put them on for the ride up to Pillans Lake.

Now what I didn't write about in the blog post is that about an hour into that ride, as I set off from one of my many stops, my brand spanking nicks caught on the front of the seat and the seat just went straight through them like butter ...

Now I don't know about you, but I reckon that a pair of $120 knicks should be constructed with material that can withstand being caught on a seat.  That seems to be a reasonable and foreseeable risk for cycling knicks.

On further inspection I realised that the way the padding is sewn into the shorts sort of leads to them jutting out at the back and create a natural catch point ...

So I wrote to the shop I bought it from (Sheppard Cycles) and explained how, after two short rides, the nicks had caught on the seat and ripped and how I wanted my money back.

And they didn't respond for a week, so I wrote again, and this time they did respond saying:

"This is not a warranty issue as the sorts have unfortunately been snagged on something that has torn through the fabric.
As a goodwill gesture we are more than happy to send you a brand new pair if you could please provide me with the model and size of the shorts."

Now this was nice of them, but I explained that I didn't want another pair of dodgy shorts, I just wanted my money back.

But, they didn't respond again.

So I did what any reasonable person would.

I decided to make a point and I went to wiggle and chain reaction and pushys and bought a pile of knicks from various companies, all of which were less than the 'discounted' price of the Scotts Knicks and proceeded to see if it was a reasonable expectation that knicks should tear if caught on a mountain bike seat.

Yea, I know, that's what you'd all do as well right?

And so far (two weeks in) I can report that the two pairs of nicks that I have tried have (miraculously) withstood the rigours of sliding on and off my bike seat without ripping.


But then something happened which has delayed the trial... something I'll write about soon.

In the meantime, can I recommend not buying Scott Nicks

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Sandy Cape Track

You know that moment in Forrest Gump when Forrest stops running after having criss-crossed the continent several times.  The moment when he turns back to those following him and says something like "I think I've had enough ... I think I'll go home now".

Well I had that moment (albeit on a much less grander scale) as I was pushing my bike along Sandy Cape Beach today.

Sandy Cape Beach
I was about 2kms down the beach, and I'd been pushing my bike for the last 500 metres of that distance, and it was slow, slow going.

The reason I was pushing my bike was because the only part of the beach I had found that was hard enough to ride on (even with 29x3 inch wide tyres) was the area inside the back wash of the waves.

So I'd been riding in this wet zone to start with, when I'd been slammed by a set of monster waves, literally washed off bike, and after recovering from that little incident (soaked from head to toe) I was suddenly a lot less keen to try my luck with that riding tactic again ...

Me emerging from my encounter with the surf.
So I was pushing my bike along, in my own world, thinking about whether I really wanted to push my bike for another 7kms down, and 7kms back up this beach when a four wheel drive pulled up beside me.

"You've picked a hard way to get down here", the driver chuckled.

"Yea", I said (trying to smile)

"You're the guy from tassie trails aren't you?"

"Yep, that's me"

And therein followed a brief conversation about how we'd crossed paths at the Cranky Penguin (another little escapade which I'd tried riding in a Penguin Onesey) and he confirmed my worst fears

"So, does the sand get any harder as you make your way down the beach", I asked (some may say pleaded".

"Nope", my new friend said ... before driving off.

And that was the beginning of the end of my hope.

I pushed and rode another 500 metres or so (just beyond Daisy River) as I watched the vehicle move further and further (and further) down the beach until it was just a small black dot in the haze.

My pace was woefully slow through the soft sand and as much as I really wanted to get to Sandy Cape, I think I knew deep down inside that today wasn't going to be the day, because that's when I stopped, stood there watching the vehicle fade into the haze, and I realised I didn't want to go on - I didn't want to push my bike that far.

That's when I turned my bike around and started to head home.

To be honest, if I rewind in time a bit, the Sandy Cape Track had probably become too big a prize in my mind for me to really enjoy actually being there.  I'd wanted to ride this track for years, in fact I'd tried to ride it years ago only to be thwarted by a split tyre six or so kilometres north of the Pieman River.

This route was part of a long distance fantasy route I've had in my head for years.  A trail that connects together a winding network of wild tracks from one end of Tasmania to the other, and this was a key section of that trail, and it had to be good.

I'd emailed someone else who had ridden it, and they had described being blown from the Pieman River to Arthur River in a day while barely having to turn a pedal as the wind pushed them along, but that wasn't my experience today.

I'd set off from Temma, heading south, and the first 10 kilometres of the route was an undulating inland track with a surface that went from super soft sand to fun rocky trail.  I'm not sure how much of the surface condition was a result fo what would have been heavy easter traffic the week before.

It was OK to ride, but having ridden the southern section around the Pieman River and coastal sections around Arthur River, the riding and scenic outlook along this section just didn't compare.

But then just past 10 kilometres, the track descends down onto the coastline and the next four and a half kilometres were the sort of west coast riding that I was expecting ... wild, wind swept tracks and hard packed beaches with the surf pounding in ... I was in heaven.

Highpoint of the track  - 40 metres above sea level ;) 

Then, at about 14.5kms from the trail head, the track heads out onto Sandy Cape Beach, where I expected the same fun riding I'd experienced on the two shorter beaches I'd just been along, but it was not to be.

I think I am becoming soft and lazy in my middle age, as really I should have carried on from the point that I'd got to.  I mean it is a six hour drive from my place to Temma so maybe I should have invested the extra 4 or 5 hours it would have taken me (at the pace I was pushing my bike) to get down to Sandy Cape, but the enthusiasm for the walk just wasn't there.

Believe it or not, I do, mainly, ride my bike to enjoy myself.

The ride back seemed to go a lot quicker than the ride in (I sort of sussed out how to time riding inside the waves on the way back along the beach and there was a slight tailwind on the way back) and the advice I'd received from numerous sources to avoid riding this trail due to the heavy 4WD traffic, while true in one way (I did pass quite a few vehicles - maybe 10 or 12 - in the time I was out there) was mainly wrong - the vehicles I met didn't detract at all from the ride and in fact all the other trail users were friendly and pleasant, and like me just seemed to be out there wanting to enjoy themselves in a remote place.

Overall I was disappointed by this ride - it just didn't meet any of my (extremely high) expectations and is no where near as enjoyable (on a bike) as the sections of coast north of Temma or South of the Pieman River.

But, still ... there's a bit of me that really, really wants to ride (walk) to Sandy Cape.

Maybe it's time to dust off that motorcycle licence of mine ... or maybe I might just go back and try it at another time of the year.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

New Zealand (Old Ghost Road) - Bike Holiday Costs

As most people who know me well will attest, I am rather obsessed with validating things that don't make sense to me, and I'm also rather unafraid to call out what I think is bullsh*t when I see or hear it.

It's not actually one of my most endearing qualities, but then I'm not actually sure that I have any endearing qualities.

So back in 2012 I started documenting and reporting on my expenditure on cycling holidays, because a number of the reports that were published on cycling expenditure seemed like the proverbial bullsh*t to me and so I wanted to validate them.

Since that time I've looked at my expenditure on European Holidays and event holidays, and I'm willing to admit that I've been surprised by how much I do spend on holidays and that it seems that the overall quantum of expenditure (if I am anything to go by) that I've seen in reports isn't unreasonable, although I'm still struggling to get close to the requisite spend of $123 per person per day on food.

Not wanting to break with tradition, I've just been back through my accounts on my latest little soujourn to New Zealand to ride the Old Ghost Road and I've totaled up all my expenditures and come up with some data on how much my last minute decision to head there cost.

Insert drum roll here ...

Turns out the total cost was $2,686 (yes I am really that detail oriented which is why people will always seek to avoid me in the hallways) for a total of 8 days (and 2 part days) or 9 nights in New Zealand.  That's $335 per day.

Now this is actually cheaper that it should have been as I ended up booking the flights with my last Virgin Australia points, saving about $800 in airfares, and I also haven't included the cost of the new bike I bought to go on the trip as that would sort of overwhelm everything else (and will hopefully last a bit longer than the short time it was used over there).

So with those caveats, where did the money go ... well I'm glad you asked.

The two largest expenses were Accommodation (33%) and Car Rental and Fuel (29%) followed by Food and Miscellaneous Spending (19%) then lots of little stuff.

Flights and Parking were only a small part (7%) of my expenditure because all I had to pay was the $110 for my bike ($55 each way) and long term parking near the airport.

You'll note that my food expenditure was a paltry $63 a day, only half the average of a normal cyslist (and I really do try and spend a lot of money on food).

Probably the more interesting graph is this one:

This graph breaks my expenditure down into what I spent in Australia and what I spent in New Zealand, and more specifically how much I actually spent in the region of the Old Ghost Trail (the logic being that it is the region which has built this great attraction which pulled me to New Zealand, so how much of my direct spend did they actually receive through accommodation, food, track fees, shuttles etc.).

The answer is pretty sad for cycle tourism:  Although I spent 86% of my total holiday spend in New Zealand, only 14% ($380) of my total spend was actually spent in the local region.

So, take home story - if you want to capitalise on mountain biking toursim.  Let someone else build the trails nearby, and then offer accommodation or something else for the riders to do nearby that they can spend lots of money on.

Or more seriously, maybe it's time to start thinking about paying for the trail we ride on.  I mean it just seems weird that I pay $85 to park my car at the airport for a week, but I only pay $55 for two nights in huts and the opportunity to ride the Old Ghost Trail, right?


Sunday, 2 April 2017

Pillans Lake Track

If you zoom into the Great Lake on a map of Tasmania, and then find Liawenee on the western shore, you should also find a road heading off from there towards Lake Augusta.

If you then zoom in even further you'll find a little 4WD track heading off north through Lake Augusta and out the other side into the middle of nowhere ...

That's Pillans Lake Track, and that's where Oliver and I headed off to ride today.

This had been one of those rides that took a long time to get to.

It was also a ride where everyone that had ridden it unanimously agreed on one piece of advice:


Descriptions of rocks and pained bodies were uttered through words and eyes that, even months or years after the ride, glazed over with the painful memories of the ride.  It was like talking to soldiers returning to a memory of a battle best forgotten.

I tried to tell Oliver this, but he was undeterred and so I rationalised going on the ride on the basis that it had only been three people that I knew of who had ridden this track - and two of them had done it on hard tails, so maybe our full suspension all-mountain bikes would turn those rocky tracks into smooth, buttery trails.

That, and the fact that it was somewhere I hadn't ridden were enough for me ...

So, on a slightly overcast Sunday morning we found ourselves parked on the lake bed (the trail is only open when the lake is low enough to allow access), bikes out and ready to go and see what we should see ...

Head towards that hill.
First impressions as we crossed the lake bed weren't great, but nor were they desperate.  Sure this wasn't a track you could just cruise along on cruise control, but with a bit of sensible route choice the riding was possible, even fun.

Even as we left the lake and started up the first little climbs, we could see why people described the track as rocky, but it was ridable and there were none of those "oh oh this is a mistake" thoughts going through my head.

As we pulled up to Allison's Hut, about 4.5kms into the ride, I was completely convinced that the horror tales we'd heard of broken bodies and shattered souls was simply due to poor bike choices and inexperienced riders.

Not too bad at all.

It might not be flow nation, but it's ridable. 

On top of that first hill seen at the start.

Rough and Rocky.

Allison's Hut

Take the time to check out the roof art inside ..

I have only the broadest memories of the next section of the track around to the junction to Kerrisons Hut No. 2 and those memories were all good.

My recollection was of challenging trail interspersed with easier and fun sections and an increasing kaleidoscope of views and flowers ...

We didn't go all the way into Kerrisons Hut No. 2 instead taking a turn north to first get out to Hut No. 4 on Pillans Lake, with a plan (later abandoned) to visit on the way back out.

The personality of the trail changed really quickly after this junction, going from rocky, but easy graded, riding to suddenly becoming yo-yo like with lots of short, but sharp, climbs and drops.

Perversely as the views got better, the riding got harder and harder.

Somewhere along this section, my enthusiasm and energy for the ride started to seep away and I found myself pushing up more and more of the little climbs.

Those rocky tracks which had seemed such a hoot to this point ... well they started to irritate me as I had less and less of the rapid surge-energy needed to push through or over them.

However we still had enough energy to push on for another couple of kilometres past Hut No. 4 when we found an unexpected trail continuing on into nowhere, but it just seemed to keep going and going and my energy petered out before it did.

Back at Hut No. 4, we met a couple of the owners who were in residence (it is a private hut that is locked) and so we had a bit of a natter with them as we ate our lunch on a nearby rock overlooking the lake and they prepared to head out in their four wheel drive.

I wasn't looking forward to the ride out (so rocky!) and so after lagging further and further behind Ollie for the first kilometre or two, I suggested he take off and go and check out the detour to Hut. No 3 (also a private hut) near Lake Field and that I'd just meet him at the junction.

This worked out well and gave me a bit of a chance to recharge slightly as I waited for him.

Then we headed back, and I have to admit, the ride back became a bit like hell.

All those trails that had seemed fun and challenging on the way in, well they must have sprung up an extra thousand rocks per kilometre, because I felt that most of the ride out was like riding along a rocky stream bed, and I don't recall the word 'fun' entering my mind once.

To say I was glad to get back to the car would be the understatement of the century.

It had gotten cold, and it had been a long day (we'd been out there for six and a half hours and I'd only ridden 39kms), but I was still a bit surprised when Oliver, who seemed to be taking it all in his stride, said what I'd be thinking ... this isn't a ride he'd be coming back to ride again.

In fact, as we quickly packed up and headed our separate ways, I think we would both give the same advice if someone asked us about heading out here for a ride:


Epilogue ...

It's amazing how quickly a change of clothes, a coke and a warm car can turn your thinking around.

By the time I had gotten to Deloraine I was already well into planning my return to the Lake Pillan Track.

In winter, with a nice thick cover of snow on the track and on the fat-bike of course.

I just know Oliver will be in when I suggest it to him ...