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