Saturday, December 30, 2006

Day 3 :: "I love the wind"

"I love the wind"... as we reminded Heidi last night, her famous public speaking quote. That said, she would have loved today. Thunder and stormy wind overnight, so a very windy day today. Plenty hard enough getting up some of those hills anyway, sometimes the wind made it impossible.

We rode only 32km today, half what we rode last time, from Mount Crawford to Tanunda in the Barossa Valley. A sensible decision, last time we were too ambitious. Today, it was difficult riding for the first 5 or 6 kms, we had previously driven along this rode and camped at the end. We both didn't like this part of the ride, it seemed like the day was going to be a miserable one, but after we had climbed for those 5 or 6km, we rode along a ridge and experienced much easier riding, both downhill and uphill.

After being rewarded with tremendous views of the Barossa Valley at Trail Hill, we rode through the elaborate entrance to Steingarten and followed the nice roadway along the rocky ridge, through the vines, stone walls and timber viewing platforms of the Steingarten vineyard (Steingarten translates as Garden of Stones).The rough dirt road (read stony rutted road) prevented a rapid descent to the valley floor, although we still acheived speeds of about 30km/h. Riding through the rolling farmlands towards Tanunda, we detoured slightly from the trail so we could ride under the famous archway over the road at the entrance to Tanunda.

We rewarded our day's ride with a late lunch at a Tanunda bakery, making it in just before they closed. The shorter ride was much better, both mentally and physically. The predicted afternoon thunder never came, instead the wind dropped and the skies cleared.

  • Riding: 32.2 km
  • Riding Time: 02:06 hrs
  • Rest + Riding Time: 03:25 hrs
  • Average speed: 15.3 km/h
  • Max speed: 50.4 km/h
  • Temp: 30 degrees (Adelaide 33), windy, sunny

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Day 2 :: Butterflies

Ever had that feeling of butterflies before you start something big? No, I didn't mean those butterflies. I meant butterflies, the winged variety. We saw so many as we rode today. Alex even tasted one, not voluntarily, but he said it was a much better experience than having a fly in your mouth. Apparently they feel like paper.

Anyway, did the Montacute (the bridge we finished at last time) to Mt Crawford section today. We decided to ride this section of trail from Mt Crawford (450m above sea level) down to Montacute (125m above sea level). The highest we got was near Cudlee Creek (577m above sea level), just prior to the steep descent back onto the Adelaide Plains. It was a rapid descent, mostly on rough dirt fire tracks, so it was braking intensive; it's quite difficult to go above about 30km/h on the rough track littered with rocks and branches.

We left my car in a car park adjacent Linear Park in Athelstone, and drove Alex's new van up to Mt Crawford Forest. Riding through the forest was cool, although much of the trail was surprisingly sandy, as this photo of Alex can testify. It was a little unnerving riding beyond Glen Davon Road in the forest. I like to follow closely on the map where we are, there are plenty of markers to lead cyclists, but it is much easier to follow the trail when you anticipate where it is going. Upon coming across the the bitumen of Cricks Mill Road we noticed that in the area we had just ridden, the map and the trail were quite different. I was relieved to know that my map-sense was still good.

On the ride into Birdwood, some 20km from where we started, we rode along a steep undulating bitumen road, allowing us to ride quite fast down hill. Down one of these hills, we achieved 51km/h. With the wind rushing past our ears, we didn't hear a car approach us from behind until it's driver beeped his horn, moments after passing me and just before reaching Alex. I think Alex got quite a fright! At 1pm we reached Birdwood and stopped for a snack at a little servo (after meeting at Alex's house at 9.30am, we had started cycling at 11am).

From Birdwood, we rode to Lobethal, climbing over Mount Torrens. If it were somehow possible, I would have done a little shout-out to Sue and Michele who live there somewhere (walkers in the Heysen club). The trail didn't pass over the peak of Mount Torrens, but was close! It was in our ascent here that Alex rested on the road, his back was giving him some grief.

By 3pm we reached Lobethal, where we ate lunch, perhaps the food at Birdwood was our 'elevensees'? I had worked up a bit of an appetite by now, so the chicken ceaser baguette with avocado hit the spot. We topped up with water at the public toilets behind a hall. I had finished my 3 litres of water from my bladder, and I think most of it had been transferred through my other bladder... sorry, I couldn't help that stupid play on words, I had finished the 3 litres of my hydro pack. It wasn't an overly warm day, but noticeably cooler on the shady roads of Mount Crawford.

At Lobethal, we psyched ourselves up for the ride up to the highest point of today's ride. We were now quite comfortable dismounting from our bikes and pushing them up steep hills. Earlier in the day, it was asthma that got me walking my bike up hills, but now, the moment Alex got off his bike ahead of me, I was off too. Fatigue was taking it's toll on us. Now I know why when you see promotional photos of the Mawson Trail, there seems to be so many photos of cyclists lying down in the grass besides their discarded bikes. It seems to be how one spends a break when you just ride up one hill after another. Cudlee Creek gave us no such grass, and besides, it was summer, I think grass is more likely to invite snakes. We lay on the dirt in the shade of a shelter, marking the first entry point to the Cudlee Creek mountain bike loop network. After psyching ourselves to climb the remaining 40 metres to the summit of today's ride, we rode through some of the loop network. We didn't really need to, it added a couple of kms and the trail only returned to the dirt road a few hundred metres on from where we had left it, but it was cool to ride through. It's plantation forest, with many fire tracks winding through it, offering glimpses through the hills towards the Adelaide plains and Outer Harbor. We then rode through some vineyards, and began our descent back down to the Adelaide plains. It was on these dirt roads that I first noticed my slowly deflating rear tyre. The tyres had slime (fyi for you non-cyclists: it's a fluorescent green liquid placed inside the tyre tube that seals small punctures) in them and rubber stripping, but the slime in my rear tyre was numerous years old. We topped up the tyre with a CO2 canister, but by the time we reached the bitumen of Gorge Road it was tough riding. I stopped at the bridge where we ended last time, and Alex rode on another 1.5kms to where the car was parked. We only had one other technical problem, again with my bike. Back a few kms before reaching Lobethal, my rear derailleur came off from it's fixing point to the frame. Luckily I could find the missing screw on the road, and it was quickly established it was just a case of it being vibrated free on the corrugated dirt roads (you may well think it was loose before we even started riding today... but I won't think that cos it makes me look bad). In those vibrations we also lost my tyre pump - mental note: when I buy a replacement select one which is fastened on securely, not held on my a pressure clasp.

We drove back to Alex's van, camping roadside overnight. We would have camped at a campsite within Mt Crawford forest, but camping is not allowed in December (or January to March), so we camped outside the forest on the side of a dirt road. We cooked up a nice meal of chilli sausages, rissoles and mashed potatoes - and beer - and experienced the stillness of the sunset. We slept in the back of the van. The next morning we met a local whose house was close by, an old dutch woman. She was very gracious in offering us hospitality, but we had decided that morning not to ride from Mt Crawford to Tanunda, a distance of some 35kms, but instead return home for a day of rest; we were very tired and stiff from the previous day's ride. But it was touching to have the invite, I think the previous night we expected the opposite reaction, as in "move on" or "why are you using a gas cooker - can't you see all the dry grass everywhere?". It was a little funny deciding not to ride to Tanunda, it was like neither of us wanted to make that call, but both of us were relieved once one said perhaps we shouldn't ride! I think in retrospect the ride was a little too ambitious for our current fitness levels, we didn't have much left in us by Lobethal.

  • Riding: 60.5 km
  • Riding Time: 03:55 hrs
  • Rest + Riding Time: approx 7 hrs (did we rest that much?)
  • Average speed: 15.4 km/h
  • Max speed: 55.8 km/h
  • Temp: 22 degrees (Adelaide 25), sunny
As an erratum to this blog entry, I've added a Google Earth file showing where we rode. I did this at work today, it's the Friday of the week between Christmas and New Years. Of my team of 7, I am the only one here, and I have nothing to do. I think I'm just about finished for the week (it's 11am). Anyway, so I loaded the Heysen Trail GPS data on Google Earth, very interesting, for inclusion on the new website I am making for the walking club. Then today I thought I might have a play around to load a bit of stuff on for the Mawson Trail ride we did. However, with no GPS data, it's just a series of placemarks, rather than a continuous line with added placemarks, so perhaps you have to play the placemarks to get a better idea of where we rode. I'm not sure if I would bother to do it for any other rides, it's not like I am normally this bored anywhere... I wouldn't mind a camera with GPS so a trail line can be loaded on Google Earth, and photos viewed where they were taken. That could be very cool. Yeah, so, the Google Earth file to download and view.

Sunday, December 3, 2006

Day 1 :: Negative Gearing

It just didn't feel right to start the Mawson Trail at the bridge where Gorge Road entered the gorge (at Montacute, just past Athelstone). It just seemed such an insignificant spot. So we decided to start our trail at the beach, where better? The Mawson Trail: 800kms from the beach at Adelaide to Blinman in the Flinders Ranges. Much better than The Mawson Trail: 800kms from an obscure weir in a gorge near at Adelaide to Blinman in the Flinders Ranges. Just doesn't work, does it? Nope. So we started not at the zero point of the trail, but at the minus 34km point: West Beach.

There were a few logistics to solve. One, as Julie kindly pointed the irony out to me, Alex, who offered to ride with me, didn't have a bike. Thanks to Tim for the borrow of a super light bike. Yes, I can really feel Kate's angst now, that her husband's bike is so ridiculously lighter than any other bike. That must be why, at the end of the day, having ridden 45km, I was struggling to make it back to Alex's house, and Alex, well, not so, he had to keep waiting for me. His bike was lighter. That had to have some effect.

We left a car at the railway station by the Entertainment Centre and caught the train to Grange. From there, we battled head winds to ride the 5kms along the beach esplanades to where the Torrens River meets the sea. The wind was tough - had some second thoughts about this whole ride-the-Mawson-Trail idea, riding seemed so much harder then I remembered. But seeing the number of people flying huge kites and kite-surfing at Henley was comforting, yes, the wind was strong today. I wonder where we will be riding next time we experience winds that strong...

We stopped to take our official start photo, then rode the relatively easy ride along the River Torrens Linear Park (no wind here!). We rode quick, passing many people, although one guy got the better of us. We rode the 34kms to where Linear Park enters the gorge of Gorge Road, where the trail peters out to nothing, stopping at the water pipe bridge. I didn't have the official Mawson Trail maps yet, BicycleSA had sold out of map 1, but I was told the trail officially started on the other side of this bridge, although it actually started several hundred metres further upstream at a weir, which might be why we couldn't find any signs.

I enjoyed riding along the Linear Park trail, always a nice ride. Good to ride through Athelstone, past one of my cool places, that really old homestead surrounded by a stone colonnade and stone walled yards, old machinery and old stone sheds. I love it, it is just so cool. Sorry, no photos, didn't stop to take any. We only stopped for two rests, plus one at either end of the trail.

Rode back down Gorge Road about 7km to Alex's house. Alex's butt was sore. He hadn't ridden a bike for a long time (hence the owning no bike!). The next ride? When the weather and our social calenders line up...

  • Trail riding: 34 km
  • Total riding: 47.3 km
  • Riding Time: 02:26 hrs
  • Average speed: 19.3 km/h
  • Max speed: 43.5 km/h
  • Temp: 22 degrees, sunny

Monday, September 25, 2006

The Mawson Trail

So I've been keen to start riding the trail for a while now. Ideas have developed over the past few months, and I think I'm going to be able to start answering it's beckoning call soon...

Map of the Mawson Trail

This map is sourced from the website.