Autumn, Hair and 10 or so bikes


Recently I joined a cycling group called Albury Wodonga Pedal Power. Evey year they do a weekend ride of the Murray to Mountains Rail Trail and this year it was in May. The trees were in the grip of their Autumnal Leaf Change when we embarked for the township of Bright (Victoria, Australia) late on Saturday afternoon to meet up with the group. After a fantastic tea of Vegetarian Penne (for me) and Cajun Chicken (for Jesse) at one of the local eating establishments with the rest of the group, and with the temperature getting colder than Joe Hockey’s national 2014 budget, Jesse and I decided the best thing to do was to head back to our accommodation.

Ovens River, Bright

Ovens River, Bright

Bright, and indeed the whole region where it is located, is very picturesque in Autumn with the deciduous trees turning all shades except green. Even the vineyards were changing their colors, which was a new concept to me – I didn’t know that grape vines changed their leaf color in Autumn.

Grape vines in autumn colors

Grape vines in autumn colors

Apparently even the hair of teenagers can change color in Autumn too!

Teenager in Autumn

Jesse the Teenager in Autumn

The next morning we woke up fairly early and had a breakfast of ‘Mini-Meal’ muesli bars and ‘Up and Go’. John, the older Heavy Metal devotee gentleman who was sharing our room who had a night on the town and got back to the room after we had already fallen asleep awoke not much later and by 8:30 we were ready to depart for our rail trail adventure.

The morning was nothing like the weather forecast which said it would be warm and sunny. Even in the afternoon the weather was nothing like the forecast. The dart board used by the weather men must have moved when they threw the dart to decide what the weather for the day was going to be. And so we had to set a pretty fast pace for a little while after starting the ride to warm ourselves up and get the blood pumping. At Eurobin we all stopped for a few minutes for all the group to catch up and for a slightly late introduction to the ride from Anne, the ride leader.

Eurobin rest area

Eurobin rest area – most of the rest areas are former railway stations, and have a railway motif.

Then it was on to Myrtleford and morning tea. The portable stove made an appearance and soon there was hot water for all sorts of hot drinks, along with various cakes, slices and biscuits. By this stage Jesse had broken a personal record for the longest ride. Previously he had ridden about 22km as a longest ride. But he was to do even better. After we finished morning tea we headed west towards Everton. This meant an ascent of Taylor’s Gap, a 7km steady climb, which was then followed by an equally steady descent towards Bowman station site. By the time we reached Everton Jesse had more than doubled his previous cycling ride personal record having cycled 58km! Well done Jesse!

Scenery near Taylors Gap

Scenery near Taylors Gap

Hume and Hovell Monument

Hume and Hovell Monument – these monuments are dotted all over the place where the two explorers travelled in the 1820s. This one is about 5km from Everton.

At the start of the ride there were 14 of us riding. By Everton there were 10 finishers (although only 9 are in the photo below for some reason).

The Finishers

The Finishers

At Everton we split into two groups – 5 took the support bus up to Beechworth, and the other 5 decided to ride the Everton to Beechworth climb – 16km most of which is fairly relentless climbing up a approximately 3% grade. It was made tougher by the fact that we had already ridden 58km before we started the climb. But the 5 of us set off and headed up the hill anyway. The muscles continued to get more sore and the heart pumped harder and the sweat flowed freely but we eventually made it, arriving at Beechworth around 2:30 in the afternoon. There were congratulations all around at having achieved what we did, then it was into the cars, some heading for a very late lunch and others heading for home.

Old chimneys near Beechworth

Old chimneys near Beechworth

Beechworth Railway Station

Beechworth Railway Station

On the way home I had a meeting at the church, and one of the people at the meeting was the driver (I think he said) of the last train to Bright. So all the activities for the day had some connection with the Bright and Beechworth railways! It is certainly a different dynamic riding as a group, and while I enjoy the ‘lone ranger’ cycling around home it was great to be part of a group that all had a common goal.

Here is a link to the GPS data for the ride: http://www.strava.com/activities/142469827 .

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Cycling Holiday Day 4 – M2MRT – Wangaratta – Beechworth


One thing became quickly apparent upon arrival at my accommodation at Wangaratta – it is much more noisy than Bonnie Doon. Bonnie Doon was very quiet and serene (yes, I could feel the serenity). Wangaratta is all hustle bustle. Wangaratta is a much much bigger town than Bonnie Doon and I guess that accounts for the increased noise levels.

Today I tackled the Wangaratta to Beechworth rail trail, which I thought would be hard even before I rode it as everything I read suggested to ride from Beechworth towards Wangaratta, not the direction I went. There has to be a reason for that ‘suggestion’…

The section between Wangaratta and Everton was pleasant enough – fairly open country, not many steep or long hills, fairly flat generally. But the Everton – Beechworth section was another thing altogether – it was looong and steeep. It wasn’t as open country as the Merton Gap section of the Goulburn Valley High Country Rail Trail I rode a few days ago and there were NO magpies, but comparing Merton Gap and Everton – Beechworth tracks I would have to say they both were hard going. I think the Everton – Beechworth track was a little harder, just because of the steepness of the ascent and how long and relentless it was. I was really counting down the kilometres from about 1/2 way between Everton and Beechworth.

I didn’t take many photos of today’s ride, as I was doing this day’s ride specifically to see if I could reach Beechworth. Which I eventually did. I did take a few photos including some of the Everton rest stop, which is at the junction of the Wangaratta – Bright and Everton – Beechworth rail trail. So here are the best of the photos I took for the day.

Between Bowser and Everton

Section of rail trail between Bowser and Everton.

Mt Buffalo

Mt Buffalo, from rail trail between Tarrawingee and Everton

Everton rest area

Everton rest area – all the rest areas on the Murray to Mountains Rail Trail have the same style rest area. Pretty neat!

Bufferstop with plaque

Bufferstop at Everton with commemorative plaque

Plaque

Plaque at Everton commemorating the opening of the first section of rail trail

Everton rest area facilities, showing old station platform

Everton rest area facilities, showing old station platform

Gradient chart

Everton to Beechworth gradient chart

Site of Everton Junction

Site of Everton Junction. Beechworth trail veers off to the left, Bright trail veers to the right.

I didn’t take any photos between Everton and Beechworth. Not because the scenery didn’t warrant it, but because I really didn’t want to have to stop on the grade and have to build up my speed again. Maybe if I ride it from Beechworth to Everton one day then I will take some time to take some photos.

So that ends my 4 day cycling adventure, and here I am sitting at home typing up my last blog entry for the trip. Total distance travelled was around 160km – not bad for 4 days. So now it’s time to take a little break from my bike riding, but only until the weekend when I try a ride closer to home.

GPS tracking for today’s ride can be seen here:

Cycling Holiday Day 3 – GVRT – Bonnie Doon – Mansfield


Being quite tired from yesterday’s ride, I was in bed and asleep by about 8pm. And I slept well, waking at about 5:45am today. The shoulder / neck muscles were still a bit sore but I felt more mentally ready to tackle today’s ride than I did before yesterday’s ride. The ride was only 22km, which is about 1/3 of the distance I covered yesterday and shorter than most of the rides I do around home.

Bonnie Doon Caravan park backs onto Lake Eildon, and after breakfast I decided to go for a contemplative walk along it’s shores. While doing that I took a few photos of the scenery. The water was fairly still and created some interesting mirror effects of the landscapes and trees. can you feel the serenity?
DSCF5597-bonniedoon-lake-eildon DSCF5598-bonniedoon-lake-eildon DSCF5600-bonniedoon-lake-eildon

Duck family on Lake Eildon

Duck family on Lake Eildon

The Bonnie Doon township also has an interesting history. One of the most moving events was when the size of lake Eildon was increased. I don’t mean moving as in emotional, although it might have been for the locals in 1955 when it happened. I mean the town was literally moved. In 1955, while the moving of the town to higher ground was still underway, heavy rains in the catchment areas caused a rapid rise in water level which covered many landmarks from the pioneering days including the Wappan Station and the Commercial Hotel. In 1996, a Patricia Day commemorated the move in a poem…
DSCF5605a-bonniedoon-railway-infoTo get to Mansfield from Bonnie Doon requires crossing Lake Eildon. On the rail trail this means using the old railway bridge which has been converted to cycling / walking bridge. While I rode across all the other bridges on this ride, I decided to walk across the Bonnie Doon bridge. The fencing looked not quite high enough for my liking, and I didn’t like the idea of plunging into the lake bike and all if for some reason I hit the fencing. That might seem like I had a lack of confidence in my own cycling ability but I have only ever had one cycling accident, and a fairly minor one at that. It’s probably just an example of me being extra careful, after all I wasn’t riding with anyone else so if I did happen to have an accident probably no-one would have known where I was.
DSCF5603-bonniedoon-old-railway-bridge DSCF5607-bonniedoon-old-railway-bridgeA few kilometres after the bridge I went past the 120 milepost. That means 120 miles from Melbourne. And when I stopped to take a photo I got swooped by a magpie. Not that swooping magpies was a rarity – actually I lost count of the amount of times I got swooped. But I am beginning to wonder whether stopping, or slowing down, actually causes the magpies to be more vicious in their attacks. The 120 milepost was approaching to top of the only major grade on the hill, which culminated at Hangmans Hill.
120 Milepost - beware of magpies in spring!There is really only one historial point of interest on the next section of the trail – Maindample. Maindample probably owes it’s existence initially to the discovery of gold in the area. Today it is mostly a wayside stop on the way to Mansfield and beyond. In 1867 there were numerous gold reefs found, but apparently no alluvial gold. The gold boom in Maindample was short lived, but even as late as the mid 1880’s some miners were still trying to coax gold out of the Try Again Reef. The township was officially surveyed in 1875. I remember seeing the railway goods shed from the road on numerous occasions when travelling through, but this was the first time I had seen the goods shed up close. It is quite a different style to the other existing goods sheds on the trail. Don’t ask me why, I am only making the observation.

Maindample goodshed

Maindample goodshed

The scenery along this section of the trail is open farm country, and very pleasant on the eyes. The further away from the main roads the trail is, the more tranquil it gets, except when the magpies dive bombed, then it was a matter of peddle frantically, or stop quickly and walk backwards keeping an eye on it. In the distance to the east Mt Samaria (I think) can be seem, to the north is open farmland, to the south is some hills known as The Paps. Whenever I hear the name ‘The Paps’, or see the mountains it reminds me of Biblical references to being ‘girt about the paps’ (KJV) and I wonder whether the person who named them was making some sort of allusion to what the Bible calls ‘the paps’.

The Paps

The Paps

Mt Samaria (I think)

Mt Samaria (I think)

The Paps

The Paps

I arrived at Mansfield about 9:45am, and waited for Rebecca to pick me, then the plan was to travel around the mountain ranges to Wangaratta by car, where I am staying tonight, so I can do the climb to Beechworth tomorrow. But while we were having lunch at Mansfield 2 ambulances and Police car sped down the road we were planning to take so we head up and over the range via Tolmie and Whitfield instead. The rail trail to Beechworth starts almost at the front door of the motel where I am staying. I have off-loaded as much luggage as I can so I can tackle the climb to Beechworth with less weight as the trail is about 40km long, and apparently quite steep after Everton. I hope it’s not as steep as the Merton Gap climb from yesterday, but I suspect it will be.

To see the GPS tracking for this ride, go to:

The Itinerary


Plans are under way for my Annual Leave this year, and the plan is to do a 4 day cycling holiday along some of the Rail Trails in Victoria, Australia. Since the start of September I have been trying to ride around 120km to 140km a week in training for the holiday. Here is the basic plan (keeping in mind that this has already changed twice!).

Day 1: Tallarook – Yea. 40km. With a stop at the Kerriesdale Mountain Railway if time permitting, which apparently has great views from top of the line across the mountain ranges.

Day 2: Yea – Bonnie Doon. 62km. This will be the longest and toughest leg of the trip, with a long up hill grade west of Merton and then a (supposedly) downhill run from their into Bonnie Doon. This section also has the Cheviot Tunnel and Goulburn River bridge at Molesworth.

Day 3: Bonnie Doon – Mansfield. 22km. This apparently has some hills, but 22km is a small ride for me and so it shouldn’t be a problem. From Mansfield, my wife is picking me and transporting my bike and me to Wangaratta.

Day 4: Wangaratta – Beechworth. 43km. I have heard that from Beechworth to Everton the rail trail is more or less downhill all the way, a creating the route on Veloroutes.org confirmed it. As I am planning to travel in the reverse direction (Everton to Beechworth), that means I might find it a bit hard on this leg. But then part of the fun is overcoming the challenge!

Depending on how I feel and what money I have left, I may do an extra day along the Tallangatta – Wodonga rail trail as Day 5.

Of course, this is all subject to change (I may be riding on old ‘permenant way’, but that’s no guarantee that my itinerary will be ‘permanent’), but I hope it doesn’t change too much as I have already booked all my accommodation!

The plan is to GPS track each cycle’d leg, and upload to my Strava profile when I have arrived at my accommodation each night.