Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Woods Point


Visiting : Toolangi, Marysville, Woods Point
Distance : 350-400km
When : Wednesday 30th November, 7:00am
Where : Click here for route map

This is the last TWBD ride of the year so I thought I’d give myself an early xmas present and do something I haven’t done in a long time - a long solo ride. I love riding with small groups but I also love getting lost in the bush by myself and I’ve been long overdue for some lonely time.

The rough plan was “Woods Point return. No Sleep.”

As always, some things went very right and some things went very wrong.



The full story

I’ve wanted to ride to Woods Point for years now. For that I blame the ARST crew - Andy, Dan, Dave, Adele, Scooter. Andy’s write-ups of their 3-day rides had me salivating. Big hills, big dirt, big distance. But it was always out of reach - I couldn’t get there and back in a day so it remained on the todo list. Years passed...

Then a few weeks ago Blakey mentioned that Scooter said something about doing Woods Point with no stop-overs - just pushing on through the night with no stops at hotels or pubs along the way. My ears pricked up and I started doing the maths. Y’know what, that could actually work. Maybe I’d found a way!

So, stealing the idea wholesale, I planned out a rough route that’d be about 350-400km - depending on how I felt on the day - and set about convincing my wife that riding through the night by myself in the bush was a good idea. It all came together and I rolled out at 7am on a Wednesday morning with the promise that I’d be back for breakfast the next day.

Just me, my bike and 24 hours. Yessssssss.


A bagged Brooks. What a dork.
Wet start

It was bucketing down rain when I set out. Thunder, lightning, the lot. I really didn’t mind though. I had full fenders, rain jacket and pants and I was happy that it wasn’t going to be too hot. I rolled on through the rain to my first stop at St Andrews for a quick natural break before starting the climb up to Kinglake. The climb went quickly and pretty soon I hit the bakery at Kinglake for a coffee. Everything seemed to be working ok - rain gear was fine, bike was fine, all good.



No love for logging trucks

The mostly downhill run across to Toolangi was fast as usual and soon enough I was entering the Toolangi State Forest for the first dirt of the day. Excellent. Familiar roads through here and all empty. I was expecting to see more logging trucks but the area was deserted. Just me and the animals. It was a Wednesday morning after all - I guess the ubiquitous 4WD and trail bike crew were still toiling away at their day jobs dreaming of the weekend.
Toolangi State Forest

 I enjoyed the solitude and the fast downhills before stopping to fill up water as I crossed Murrindindi River. I’d decided to do the ride on two bidons and refill regularly at creeks and rivers. I figured that they’d be clean enough and I had a bunch of Aquatabs with me if the water looked dodgy. I’d checked my maps beforehand and it looked like there’d be enough creek and river crossings to keep my bidons filled all day and night.

It was while filling up at Murrindindi River that I found a fat black leech attached to my leg. Bastardo! Haven’t had to deal with leeches before but I was pretty sure that you shouldn’t just yank them off so I left it there and figured I’d deal with it in Marysville, my first major stop, which was only an hour or so away. I looked down at him regularly and noticed that he was slowly getting bigger.

Plantation Road. All downhill. All fun.

Marysville

I bombed down Plantation Road out of the Toolangi State Forest and popped out onto Maroondah Hwy just after Narbethong. The heavens opened again and I climbed up Marysville Road in the rain, sweating into my clammy rain gear. Ugh. Fortunately the climb went easier than last time (when I was running 54” singlespeed) and I flew down the other side into Marysville and headed straight to the newly-rebuilt shopping centre for supplies. There’s still a lot of rebuilding going on - Marysville was devastated by the Black Saturday bushfires in 2009. I like visiting and spending money there.

I ordered a couple of meals from the pizza place and then hit the supermarket for more supplies. I picked up a small cigarette lighter here, went straight to the foyer of the shopping centre, knelt down and held the flame to the greedy leech. It jumped off and immediately went inching around on the ground looking for something else to latch onto. I wasn’t hurrying but I was trying to be business-like about refuelling and getting out of there so I didn’t even think to get the leech away from the front door of the shopping centre. I hope it didn’t find one of the locals.

Gowngeddoudofit!
I picked up my food from the pizza place and started eating half of it and packing half of it for later. My route had a big loop in it which would see me retracing my steps a little bit at about midnight around Cambarville. My plan was to stock up on food and water at Marysville and make a drop bag that I could leave off the side of the road somewhere. There are no towns around those parts - Cambarville is just a “locality” not an actual town - and, if there was, they wouldn’t be open at midnight anyway so using a drop bag meant that I could refuel in the middle of the night and wouldn’t have to carry all that heavy food with me all the way out to Woods Point and back. Brilliant! A nice neat solution which I was very proud of.

So, I packed all the food into Opsaks - which are fancy waterproof and odourproof ziploc bags - chucked them all in a shopping bag, lashed it all onto my handlebar bag and started the climb out of Marysville and up Lake Mountain.

Good times.

Big climb ahead
 It was still raining steadily and the weather got a bit more moody as I cranked up Lake Mountain and put some elevation below me. So sweaty! I tied my rain jacket around my neck like a cape so it could cover my back while letting my arms and body breath. This probably looked stupid but stupid doesn’t matter when you’re on a solo ride in the mountains. In fact “looked stupid” implies an observer - someone that’s doing the looking and judging that what they see is stupid. If there’s no observer then how can something “look stupid”? It didn’t look stupid. It just was.


A man road a bicycle up a hill. He wore his rain jacket like a cape.



Up Lake Mountain

I cranked out the miles up Lake Mountain. The last time I rode up here I was running 54” singlespeed and was deep in oxygen debt just trying to keep the pedals turning. It averages about 8% for a few kilometres. My buddy on that ride, Scott, just shifted down and pedalled away from me into the distance. It was that climb that convinced me to build up a geared bike after riding exclusively one geared bikes for a few years. And now, here I was, returned to the scene, on a geared and be-fendered bike. I'd made the right choice.

Climbing Lake Mountain
  Pushing on past the turn-off to Lake Mountain ski resort, I put more vertical below me until finally the road started going down towards Cambarville. I started recognising features around me from my Google Maps research and soon enough, I found the little place I’d chosen to drop my food bag. It was as suitable in real life as it was on my computer screen - easy to find, away from the road, no chance of anyone accidentally finding it. The weather was cool and rainy so my food would stay fresh. I was banking on the Opsaks living up to their “odourproof” promise and keeping my precious foods off the radar of any animals. Opsaks are designed/used in bear country in Canada/USA so I figured if they work on bears they’d work on possums and wombats.

All animals stay away!
 I didn’t see any benefit in burying or hanging the bag so I just left it on the ground and hoped for the best. It was just as I was leaving my drop site that I heard a couple of fat motorbikes cruising up the hill on the main road. Big Harleys or something, all loaded up for a long trip. They thundered past and echoed up the hill back towards Marysville.

It was about 5pm. I didn’t see another person until 4am the next day.

My turn-off

Big River

A couple of k's out of Cambarville I hit Eildon-Warburton Road. The start of my loop. I could have stayed on the main road here and gone all the way to Woods Point but I just couldn't bring myself to do a "boring out'n'back". I knew the main road (it was still dirt) was the safer, more reliable option but where's the fun in that? My loop would take me down to Big River Road and straight east towards Woods Point. Then, when Big River Road turns sharp north, I'd keep going east on some small logging roads and pop out onto the main road again at Frenchmans Gap, just a couple of k's from Woods Point. Easy. And a fair bit shorter than taking the main road.

So I was happy bombing down Big River Road, singing "Ça plane pour moi" as loud as I liked and passing by all the empty camping grounds. Mostly downhill, all beautiful dirt road through the bush. Wunderbar. It doesn't get better than this. The rain had passed by now too so it was nice and sunny, cruising through the tall trees while Big River splashed and rushed down in the valley below.

Good times.

Big River Road
 Except for when I found another leech on my leg. Quick stop - cigarette lighter - gone. Think I'll carry that lighter with me on all long rides from now on.


Lucifer Sam

I was getting pretty far east on Big River Road when, coming round a corner I surprised an animal on the side of the road and it ran across to the other side and disappeared into the bush. What the hell?! I got a good, albeit brief look at it but I literally couldn't believe me eyes. My internal dialog went something like this :

"Did I just see that?"

"Yes, yes you did."

"Could it have been anything else?"

"No, it couldn't."

"Really? Out here? For real?"

"Uh-huh!"


...and so it was a second or two before I convinced myself that I actually saw what I thought I saw and yelled out loud :

"BLACK CAT!"

I kid you not. It was a large black cat. At least twice as large as any domestic cat I've seen with a beautiful short jet black coat with no markings. It didn't look like a panther but it didn't look like a domestic cat. It was big and it looked and moved like something wild or exotic.

Black cat sighted here
 So what the hell was it?

I don't know but I'm sure there's a prosaic explanation for it. Just a feral probably. Maybe crossbred with something exotic, maybe just a big wild domestic overgrown and thriving after it suddenly found itself well and truly at the top of a food chain with no predators even coming close to it in size. Whatever it is, it's out there right now feasting on native wildlife and not giving a damn what people think it is.

Incidentally I googled it when I got home and found one other report of a sighting of a large black cat in the same area. I took this as confirmation that I didn't hallucinate the whole episode. Though the report said that the cat was five feet long which the one I saw clearly wasn't.

Unless the one I saw was only a baby...


Big Bend

After I'd finished marvelling at what I'd just seen, I rolled on. The road was still great, the sun was still shining and pretty soon I came to the bend where Big River Road - and Big River itself - turn north and head up to Eildon. I stopped at the next place I could actually access said river which happened to be the confluence of Big River and Big Bend Creek. I filled up water, ate a banana and looked at the time. 7:00pm. Where did the day go? Oh well, better get the Ayups mounted before it gets dark.

Big Bend Creek
 I got my Ayups mounted on my helmet and rolled out. It was only a few hundred metres before I found my turn-off onto Cambarville Logging Road and the start of the 16km section of smaller roads that would deliver me to Frenchmans Gap, and from there it was a short downhill bomb to Woods Point.

Ayups ready
 From studying the elevation profile of this section I knew that I'd be walking some of it. There were some parts in the 15-20% range and the surface would be gnarly and only see the occasional 4wd and maintenance vehicle. I was cool with that, I don't mind the odd hike-a-bike. When you push your bike up into unridable terrain where other people don't go you inevitably see things that other people don't see so it's often well worth it, in my experience. So almost immediately after turning onto Cambarville Logging Road I found it unridably steep and loose and I started hiking.

Big Bend Creek meets Big River



Hiking

I figured it would only be a couple of k's before it leveled out and I could ride again. And hey, I had all night, right? I'll get to Woods Point later than I expected but the pub will probably still be open and I'll get to sit down, drink a beer and just enjoy the serenity of being in Woods Point, the place I'd dreamed about riding to for so long.

So I kept hiking and sweating into my jacket. Took off my jacket. Took off my gloves. Swigged water. Saw the surrounding hills slowly getting lower as I climbed higher and higher.

Cambarville Logging Road
 I kept thinking that it would level out soon and I'd be able to start riding but whenever i found a ridable, or even sometimes downhill, section it would always end quickly with a steep steep ramp that had me off the bike and hiking again. I was ok with it because I had all night and I don't mind the odd hike-a-bike.

Cambarville Logging Road
 The sun started getting lower and the light started to fade so I flicked on my dyno lights - not that I was moving fast enough for them to work - and then also my Ayups. There were some beautiful views from up there in the bush, on the side of a mountain as the sun set between unknown hills. I could see for miles and miles and vainly tried to work out what mountain that was in the distance, what bird that was over in trees, whether I should stop for a photo or not bother because the light was too bad.



Cambarville Logging Road

Darkness falls


Pitch black

Pretty soon the sun had gone down and it had become pitch black night. My world was reduced to the cone of light that my Ayups threw out. No more mountain views, no more picturesque sunset, just the steep, rocky, leaf-and-bark covered road directly in front of me. My perspective had contracted. I was no longer just a small dot on a huge scenic vista stretching away for kilometres in all directions. I was now the only thing in the world, perched on the edge of a ten foot cone of light, surrounded by darkness on an unridably steep track as I pushed my bike up the so-called road ahead of me and scrabbled my cleats clumsily over the increasingly rocky terrain. Not far now until it's ridable. Not far now.

My world
 So I kept hiking and swigged my water and sweated from the exertion even though the temperature was dropping as the night took hold and I climbed ever higher up the mountain. I knew my path would take me to the top of Corn Hill before ducking down to Frenchmans Gap. Corn Hill is about 1300 metres high - a little bit higher than Mt Donna Buang - which is high enough to get pretty cold, even on a clear summer night. I started to think of my situation. I was alone, on a road that sees no traffic, it was pitch black night, my water was starting to run low, there was no mobile phone reception and no-one but my wife and a couple of friends knew I was out here. I was getting mightily sick of pushing my bike up that steep rocky road and the idea of stopping for a rest started to flick around the edge of my consciousness. I didn't allow myself to entertain the idea because it just wasn't an option. Man, I just wanted to stop hiking up that goddam hill and get to Woods Point already and get off that stupid excuse for a road.

Tunnel vision
 So I kept hiking and I remember thinking, "Yeah, this is going to leave a scar."


Walking

I finally got off Cambarville Logging Road and onto Ryans Spur Track at about 9:00pm. It was much the same - long steep rocky climbs punctuated by short flat or downhill sections. I kept trudging up the hill, one foot after the other, pushing the bike ahead of me, cleats scrabbling over loose rocks, nothing to see on either side except trees fading almost immediately into darkness. Occasionally I'd hear animal noises, leaves rustling, sometimes a pair of glowing eyes reflecting my lights back at me from the blackness though the animal they belonged to was never visible. Kangaroo, possum, drop bear, black cat.

Finally, a signpost
 The close darkness had made me go into myself. I was really getting sick of the hiking. I'd been hiking for hours now. Step after step climbing god knows how many vertical metres. Was I going to have to climb all the way to the top of Corn Hill on foot? The ridiculousness of the situation began to weigh on me. And god knows what all this clumsy uphill hiking was doing to my legs - I wasn't even half way through my ride yet - I didn't want to burn all my matches walking up a stupid hill.

So when I started coming across unmarked side tracks and began to have trouble finding myself on my maps, my frustration levels spiked and I swore loudly into the night. I wasn't lost, of course. I just didn't know exactly where i was at that point in time. I had a detailed and current topo map of the area (carefully sectioned and placed into individual ziploc bags for protection) so when I started taking wrong turns it usually wouldn't be too long before I'd realize my error and backtrack to a known point. Except the wrong turns always seemed to be down hills so I'd have to ride or hike back up after realising my mistake. And it seemed like I was taking every possible wrong turn that I could make. I'd be flying down a steep rocky descent thinking "Yes! Finally moving!" before the track dwindled to nothing and I'd skid to a stop, check my map, pore over the topo lines, flash my headlight around to see if I could make out any geographical features and then call out "Faaaaaaaaark!", turn around and start pushing my bike up the hill back the way I just came.

More hiking
 The wrong turns were killing me but I was slowly but surely making progress on my proper path, even if it did seem like I was taking every wrong turn in the process. I knew that if I kept my head, kept thinking and trusting my maps that I'd get there in the end. And eventually I reached the top of Corn Hill at about 10:30pm and found a large open clearing and a huge starry sky dwarfing the hilly landscape. A small victory. It felt good. I was standing at the highest point for miles around, loving the cold wind blowing the grass sideways and cooling the sweat on my body. So many stars. Such a big clear sky. I smiled and laughed and called out into the night, in joy this time. This was what I wanted. This was what I'd come out here for. Standing alone on top of a mountain in the middle of the night, just me and the stars and no one around for miles and miles and miles. The world felt big again and I felt big too.


Finally getting somewhere

Down

It was a morale highpoint as well as a physical one. I felt somewhat recharged and ready for the descent down to Frenchmans Gap and then on to Woods Point. I was at the top of the highest mountain around, it had to be all downhill from here, right? Well, there was some nice downhill, then some more steep unridable uphill, then some more navigational screw-ups but at least the altitude had brought my iPhone back to life and I had enough reception to bring up google maps which made it easier to make sure I didn't get too far off track. And then the last section, Frenchmans Gap Track, was all downhill. But, in a cruel yet not entirely unfitting twist, it was so steep and rocky and loose and rutted that I found it, the longed-for downhill - completely unridable. I had to scramble down it on foot, holding back my bike so it didn't take off down the hill away from me, feet slipping and scraping over loose, ankle breaking rocks.

Jesus, people actually drive on these roads?!

Surrounded by ghostly shapes
 I swore, but not angrily. I was moving, I was on track, I'd be out of the woods soon.

And so I was. I rolled onto the main road at Frenchmans Gap, took a photo, noted the time and then got on my bike for the most welcome, most longed-for, fast downhill run that I'd had in a long time.

It was 11:30pm. That 16km "shortcut" had taken me four hours.

At last
 My legs were smashed, both bidons were long empty and I was thirsty and mentally battered. I'd set out that morning honestly thinking I'd make it to Woods Point for dinner, in full daylight. And here I was rolling towards the town at near midnight, a shattered man. Thirsty, tired, hungry and sore.


Look what the cat dragged in

Flying down the hill, I heard rushing water to the side of the road. I immediately hit the anchors and pulled off the road. Maori Creek. At last. I drank and drank and filled both bidons before eating some food and continuing the nice roll down the hill.

Thank you Maori Creek
I startled a couple of deer on the road not far out of town. I thought they were big dogs at first. Great, just what i need, a pack of wild beast dogs in the night. You bastards.

I rolled into Woods Point at midnight and it was an anticlimax. Everything was closed of course. There were some streetlights, some lights were on in the pub but there was no movement inside. There were lots of 4wds parked around the street. All sleeping. Everything closed up for the night. I took a picture, noted the time, and just kept riding.

Woods Point is asleep
I was really looking forward to that beer at the pub. That was going to be my prize for riding all that way.

Oh well.


Time to go home

Woods Point is at the bottom of a big dip - whichever way you come from you go down to get in and you go up to get out. So I started the climb up out of it and knew that I had a bit of a grind ahead of me. The climb is no big deal but I wasn't at my best so it was slow going. I stopped once or twice on the way up to have a breather. Mostly it was just a long slow seated climb. Just gettin' 'er done. I was tired now. Physically and mentally. I didn't mind that I was going so slow, I just turned the pedals over and knew that I'd get to the top when I got there. None of the grasping frustration of the hiking section to Frenchmans Gap. Now it was just turning over the pedals, just keep moving, just keep going. No anger, no excitement, no frustration, no longing, just keep moving. The goal had come and gone in a spectacularly unspectacular anticlimax. I was on the return leg now. The goal, the big excitement, the victory had come and gone.

Now I was just some idiot riding home in the dark...

It was about 1:30am when I finally reached the top of the climb and arrived at Matlock. Matlock is not a town but I think it used to be back in the gold mining days. Now it's just a tourist waypoint on the side of the road. A big open gazebo shelter thing with a few picnic tables and some toilets and some rough walls to help keep the wind out. It’s at about 1000 metres and on top of a ridgeline so it's cold and windy and bears the the markings of a long history of travelers stopped for the proverbial dunny break. The place is covered in graffiti. Scrawled messages of the "so-and-so woz ere" variety. I rolled into the shelter, parked up my bike and shone my ayups around trying to find some familiar names.

Ah, there they are...

Messages at Matlock
Dan, Andy, Dave and Adele. The ARST crew. They'd left their mark on one of their 3-day epics. It was good to see their names. It was their fault I was out there all alone and long past my bedtime. I thought about leaving my own mark on the wood there but it felt a bit vain and I didn't have a texta anyway. I was content with the fact that the place was leaving more of a mark on me than I was on it.

Matlock
I faffed around for a while eating, drinking, reading the crap on the walls. I even cleaned and relubed my chain which was starting to get a bit squeaky. A sushi fish of Prolink and a couple of baby wipes made it brand new again.

Prolink and baby wipes

Good as new!
I wished someone would make me feel brand new again - I was drained. It was 2am and I’d been moving all day. I needed to put my head down for a couple of minutes and reset my system. I put on all my clothes - arm warmers, jacket, rain pants - zipped everything all the way up and stretched out on one of the picnic tables. With my lights out it was pitch black. I closed my eyes and lay flat on my back with my arms folded across my chest like a corpse on a slab. In fact, the table was as hard as a slab and I was as cold as a corpse. I tried to relax my mind and shut down for a while but I never really slept.

Not a comfortable bed
 Still, my little power nap did refresh me a little. At the very least it served to bracket the frustration of the long hike and the disappointment of my not so grand entrance into an empty Woods Point. Now I could put that behind me and look forward to the road ahead, the next section, the next goal. So I rolled out about 2:20am and started down the main road back towards Marysville and, more importantly, my drop bag at Cambarville. 55km of easy riding, mostly downhill, all dirt road but wide and well-trafficked and complete with reflector posts and even warning arrows on the corners.

Luxury.


Constant forward motion

So I ground out the miles and enjoyed the fact that I was moving with speed again. The road tends downhill the whole way back to Cambarville - some beautiful long fast descents with a few short mellow uphills to keep it interesting. I’d love to come back and ride this section again in daylight and with less miles in my legs. The views are probably spectacular but I couldn’t see a thing. I was moving at a reasonable pace now and even though the road was in excellent condition I still had to focus and watch out for potholes, corrugations and gravel drifts.

Kilometre after kilometre of watching the reflector posts snake away around corners.

Red on the left, white on the right.

Pushing on through the night
 Off into the distance, around the corner. And then another corner. On and on. It started trying to snow. Most of this section is around 1000 metres so the light rain came floating down thicker and slower than normal raindrops but not as light as real snow. I guess you’d call it sleet though even that seems too strong a word for it. Whatever it was, it didn’t bother me - I was warm from the exertion and it wasn’t heavy enough to soak the ground. In fact, it probably did a good job of keeping the dust down. I must have been riding right through the clouds along here - on some of the fast downhills my headlights just threw a blinding white glare and I could barely see ten metres ahead.

There wasn’t much else to see or to focus my mind a great deal so I just pedalled along and kept moving through the night. My reaction time was way down and I didn’t even flinch when something charged out of the bushes at my front wheel on one nice fast descent. It stopped just short of my wheel and I flew past it at about 30km/h. A bloody wombat. I may have been half asleep at the wheel but I had the presence of mind to realise that if I’d hit it I would have been over the bars before I even knew what happened. Those things are fast and solid - like little brick shithouses. I realised how close I was to a major stack but, testament to my state of mind and tiredness at the time, I couldn’t bring myself to care very much.

Almost hit a wombat and came off. My ride could have ended right there. Oh well...

Red on the left, white on the right.

Following signs into the distance
 There was one nice little treat to break things up. From reading the maps I knew it was coming up soon. Still, it was a surprise and a joy when I finally rolled onto it - an isolated 7km section of beautiful paved road. I don’t know why it’s there in the middle of nowhere but it is. Mostly all downhill too. Both hands in the air, pumping my fists. "Ça plane pour moi" came back on my internal radio and I sung out loud, got down in the drops, stuck my arse in the air and caned it in the big ring!

Yesssssss!

Realistically I was probably only doing 40km/h or something but it felt like I was flying. I was just stoked to be putting so many easy miles behind me. My water was starting to run low again and I was looking forward to getting to my drop bag. My handlebar bag was low on food and I’d resorted to smashing gels. Not my favourite nutrition but a necessary evil at this point. It was 3am and my body clock was at low ebb - I should have been asleep but I was pushing on, forcing my body to keep working and eating when it really needed rest. I took a few small breaks along here. Just stopped pedalling for a while, coasted to a stop, put my elbows on the tops of my bars and hung my head down on my handlebar bag.

Exhaustion.

Not long now. Keep going. You can’t just stop here. You can't just close your eyes and magically wake up in Cambarville. No-one’s going to pedal the bike for you. There's no-one else here. There's only you. And the quickest way to get to Cambarville is to pedal. So just pedal.

Just pedal.

And so it became a death march. A slow, zombie-like, grind. Mind as spent as body. Half asleep in the cold and sleet. Red on the left, white on the right.

Until I saw something up ahead. What's that? Headlights. A logging truck coming the other way. He dipped his lights and slowed right down. I was still blinded by his low beams but I squinted up at him and gave a little wave as we passed. It was about 4am. I was coming back to civilisation.


Early bird

That encounter perked me up a little and pretty soon I started noticing outlines of trees appearing in the darkness. They slowly became more definite and the sky started lightening to grey. It was a very gradual transition but the sun which had disappeared off to the west the previous night had now finished its lap of the world and popped up behind me.

Don’t let the sun burn a hole in your ass William Blake.

I was heartened by the increasing daylight and had a feeling of return, of release, of making it through. I was still absolutely knackered but at least it was daylight now and I could see where I was riding and could see beautiful things down in Big River valley, a sea of low cloud sitting on top of the trees down below, birds waking up, making noise, distant hills in sunrise colours. It was beautiful.

Good morning Big River State Forest
 And when I finally closed the loop and hit the paved road again and came to the same Eildon-Warburton Road turn-off I’d taken yesterday instead of the “boring” main road, it was fists in the air and a tired but emphatic “Yessssss.”

Short cuts mean long delays.


Cambarville

I rolled on up the blacktop, easy going now. Not far to the drop site. Cambarville looked fantastic in the morning light. Beautiful mountain scenery all around. And when I rolled off the road to my secret spot... it was all intact, exactly as I’d left it.

Good morning Cambarville
 I’d originally planned to refuel here at around midnight. Ha! It was now 6am and broad daylight. My midnight dinner was now breakfast. I scarfed a chocolate bar, drank fresh bottled water and then sat down to eat my scone with jam and cream. Devonshire tea sitting in the dirt off the side of the road at 6am in the middle of nowhere. You idiot. It probably looked stupid but, then again, there was no one there to see me.


A man road a bicycle up a hill and went off into the bushes. He kneeled down over a plastic bag and ate food from it.


Food cache looks intact
Oh yeah!

Devonshire tea in the dirt


(Note: Phone was perilously low on battery now. No more photos!)


I packed up the rest of my food cache - chicken parma sandwich, M+M’s, a bottle of beer - made sure I didn’t drop anything - always pack out what you pack in - lashed it all onto my handlebar bag and rolled on up the road to Marysville.

It was clear that I wasn’t going to be home for breakfast. That was the original plan I’d made with my wife. Home for breakfast. It’d be more like home for late lunch if I kept riding all the way home. I’d taken two days off work for this ride - one to ride, one to recover and relax with my wife and son. I didn’t want to cheat her by taking two days for the ride and leaving her with nothing but a shell of a man falling asleep all over the place. I’d put her through enough by disappearing all night as it was.

So, I grudgingly made the call and asked how she felt about a nice drive to Marysville. She said she'd load up Max and start driving out to meet me. So it was decided, I’d pull the plug at Marysville and we’d enjoy our family day together. I would have liked to finish the ride as planned, but honestly I was pretty rooted so it didn’t take much to convince myself to bail out.

I rolled on up past the turn off to Lake Mountain ski resort and then bombed the fast paved empty descent all the way down to Marysville. The same road I'd sweated up the day before, wearing my jacket like a cape. I got back to Marysville about 7:30am. The shops were still opening up, people were walking their dogs, picking up milk and the paper, calling out good morning to each other from across the road, just starting their day. I found a nice warm park bench in front of the post office, kicked off my shoes, stretched out my legs, put my hands behind my head and let the morning sun burn my face.

At last I could rest.


Party Hearty

Once again I’d bitten off more than I could chew but, as always, I’d had a hell of a time chewing what I could. And that’s fine by me.

In the end I covered about 250km - probably a bit more due to wrong turns - in about 24 hours. Where did the day go? I’ve ridden longer in almost half the time. But not over this terrain and not with a four hour uphill hike in the middle of it. If I’d gone the main road to Woods Point - out’n’back - I think I’d have made it all the way back home. Without the stupid hike up Corn Hill I think the 350km version would have been doable.

Woods Point return. No sleep.

Unfinished business.

And a reason to keep riding and planning and poring over maps and reading about other people’s epic rides. And looking forward to next time.

There’s always a next time.


Thanks

It's the last TWBD of the year so it's time to give thanks. Thanks to the ARST crew for inspiration and ideas. Thanks MGG, Dirty Deeds and all FOA crew for keeping me honest. Thanks Sean for the bike. Thanks Sheldon, Jacquie and Kent for giving me something to aim for. Thanks all the people who came out with me on rides this past year and embraced the spirit of adventure by letting me lead you out onto unknown roads and sometimes stupidly unridable trails. And most of all thanks Rae and Max for always being there when I get home. And bailing me out way too many times!

See ya next year!



>> Click here for ACTUAL route ridden <<

>> Click here for more photos <<





Bike

Rawland rSogn (MD)
Front wheel Schmidt SON20 to Velocity Synergy 650B
Rear wheel Hope Pro 3 to Velocity Synergy 650B
Grand Bois Hetre tires 650B
SRAM Apex mechs, cranks, BB, cassette
SRAM TT bar end shifters
On-One Midge handlebars
Ozriders handlebar tape
Cane Creek brake levers
Pro stem 80mm
Avid Shorty 4 brakes w/Shorty Ultimate cartridges + Koolstop pads
Velo-Orange seatpost
Brooks B-17 saddle (shopping bag from Coles)
Shimano MTB pedals
Vavert fenders
B+M IQ Cyo headlight
B+M Toplight Plus taillight
Nitto M-12 rack
Velo-Orange Campagne handlebar bag (heavily modified!)

3 comments:

  1. Epic attempt and great report.

    I'd love to do a night ride in the M.O.N some day. Unfortunately my build and back injury make 24hrs non stop I very very tall ask.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Wow. Awesome write-up. Inspiring stuff!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Man, found this from fixed.org. Great read. I totally saw a big black cat out near Lake Tyers one time. Had the exact same dialogue. Few people believed me until I got to the house I was staying at and one of the owners confirmed there were heaps of other sightings and even a few sheep killed by a predator with teeth and claws. Crazy.

    ReplyDelete