Looking Forward

While I sit at home, battling a bronchial cough, and wistfully looking forward to getting back on the bicycle again, I have been considering how my cycling efforts might be of help to more than just me. There are obvious health benefits (not just physical but mental and spiritual as well) from cycling for the individual cyclist and I have been the grateful recipient of those benefits over the 5 or so years. But up till about a month ago my cycling has not been any real benefit to wider society.

Cutting near Alexnadra on Great Victorian trail

Cutting near Alexandra on Great Victorian trail


Rail Trails

Corowa turntable on what would be the Culcairn - Corowa trail

Corowa turntable on what would be the Culcairn – Corowa trail

About a month or so ago, I offered some photos to a rail-trail advocacy website. The result of that was that I was approached by the co-ordinator for Rail Trails for New South Wales ( http://www.railtrailsnsw.com.au/ ) and have been working as part of a team working on a proposal to turn the local disused railway line near where we live into a rail-trail. For those who don’t know what a rail-trail is, they “are shared-use paths recycled from abandoned railway corridors. They can be used for walking, cycling and horse riding” ( http://www.railtrails.org.au/what-are-rail-trails/introduction ). Over the last year or so I have personally experienced the benefits of rail-trails, having ridden a number of them so far:

  • The Murray to Mountains trail between Wahgunyah and Rutherglen, and between Wangaratta, Beechworth and Bright.
  • The High Country trail between Wodonga and Old Tallangatta.
  • The Bass Coast Trail between Wonthaggi and Anderson.
  • The Great Southern trail between Toora and Koonwarra.
  • The Warby trail between Lilydale and Warburton
  • The Great Victorian trail between Tallarook, Alexandra and Mansfield.
  • Belgrave – Ringwood trail.
Yarra Junction Goods Shed on Warby trail

Yarra Junction Goods Shed on Warby trail

And I plan to ride more as time goes on. I live in the state of New South Wales (Australia), but there are relatively few rail trails in this state. All the trails I just mentioned are in Victoria, which has developed the concept of rail trails to what I would describe as a ‘fine art’ – there are rail trails everywhere, and there are a number in various stages of development across the state as well. But New South Wales up till now has only a few trails scattered throughout its bigger-than-Victoria area! Hopefully that will soon change, and it’s nice to think I might had something to do with that.

Sandy Creek bridge on High Country trail

Sandy Creek bridge on High Country trail

Ocean view from Bass Coast trail near Kilcunda

Ocean view from Bass Coast trail near Kilcunda


25000 Spins Great Ocean Road 2015

Over the last year or so there have been a number of ways that my cycling could have been used as a fund raiser for charities helping those less fortunate. A cycling friend of mind suggested some time ago that I go on the 25000 Spins Great Ocean Road ride, and since the start of the year I have had that goal in mind. Well, yesterday I signed up for the February 2015 ride, and gave a sizeable personal donation towards the fundraising goal I have set. The goal I have set is $5000, and I have till late January to achieve it. But there is more than just a monetary goal – I have to be able to ride 300km in 3 days. So far I haven’t been able to achieve that, although I have managed to ride 200km in 2 days. Another milestone I will need to achieve before I will be physically ready for the ride is to do at least one 120km ride – so far 104km has been my longest. So there is a bit of work ahead before I am ready to embark on Great Ocean Road experience, but it gives me two goals to work towards and they will help keep me focused.

My personal fund raising page for the 25000 Spins Great Ocean Road 2015 ride is located at: http://greatoceanrd25000spins2015.gofundraise.com.au/page/JamesStanford if you feel inspired to donate.

So while I sit here coughing and spluttering and recovering, I look forward to the 25000 Spinsaventure in February, and getting back into cycling again and meeting the challenge.

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 .

Vacations are for…

Celebrating with family
Over the last week and a half we had a number of celebrations: we had Christmas lunch in the Aussie bush with my mum and dad and youngest brother Callum, and his girl-friend Sharon.

Sharon_and_Cal_4713_500A few hours drive away, we caught up with Rebecca’s brothers and their wife / partner / fiance (soon to be wife), depending on the brother. The highlight was when Rebecca’s youngest brother David and his fiance Mel got married. To each other, of course. Here is the happy couple cutting the cake.

DSCF4764_500The wedding ceremony was held next to the Latrobe River in a town called Noojee, in southern Victoria. A town that holds special interest for me as I once owned a block of land there and was planning to build a house and live there, but that was nearly 20 years ago. Plans change.

The next day we decided to travel into the Victorian high-country, into an area called the Dargo High Plains on our journey home. Not that they are really ‘plains’ as in ‘large areas of flat land’. Before we got to the bustling metropolis (??) of Dargo we did some exploring of the Den or Nargun, a portion of the Mitchell River National Park. Wondering what a Nargun is? It is a mythical creature that the Aborigines of the area described as half human half stone which supposedly captured children that visited the pool near Nargun’s den. Here is a photo of the den where the non-existent Nargun supposedly lived, complete with rock pool.

Den_of_Nargun_4773_500One wonders whether there was some sort of fearsome creature embellished by legend and oral traditions over the years, similar to the dragon St George fought in Welsh legend. Or whether the tradition of the Nargun was merely an attempt to keep certain people (in this case children) away from the pool. I guess we will never know. Our youngest daughter was a little concerned that the Nargun might get here (she is 7), so we explained that our God was more powerful than a Nargun or any other monster and she was ok after that. The township of Dargo itself owes it’s existence to the discovery of Gold back in the 1800’s, but today is mainly frequented by tourists and local farmers. Being good tourists, we decided to have lunch at the Dargo Hotel.

Dargo_hotel_4781_500We don’t often eat at Hotels (also called Pubs in Australia), but we are glad we did eat at the hotel as the food was great, and well priced. There was also a lot of information about the town displayed on the walls, so while waiting for our lunch there we read up on the history of Dargo and surrounds, and looked at the artifacts on display. The hotel oozed character.

From there we headed north and up. And up. And up some more. I travelled the same road, the Dargo High Plains Road, around 20 years ago and I don’t remember it being so steep! And for so long. Funny how the mind chooses to remember some things and not others. On the way we stopped in at a place called Grant. Actually it’s not so much a place as the site of a no-longer-existant town – a ghost town.

Grant_4788_500This town, when it existed, owed it’s total existence to Gold. Unlike Dargo which had farm land around it, Grant had no farmland nearby (unless you include Treasures Homestead which is some distance further north and above the snow line). Water was constant problem, and when the gold ran out the town died. In 1865 it had 2000 people, 4 banks, churches, a stock exchange, stores and a newspaper called the Crooked River Chronicle. The decline had already started by 1870. With the closure of the Good Hope mine in 1916 the town was doomed. Along with the lack of water, the climate seems to have been somewhat severe too – I have a book which tells the story of there being a snow storm, a heatwave, and an earthquake in one day!

From Grant we continued north and up, to Mt Saint Bernard. At this location there was once a hospice which catered for travellers between Harriteville and Mount Hotham. This was in the days of travelling by open motor vehicles, or horse transport and the Hospice would have been a welcome relief to travellers making there way over the mountains. the Hospice was destroyed during the Black Friday bushfires of 1939. Today, all that remains to commemorate the existence of the Hospice is a cairn and a sign.

Mt_Saint_Bernard_Hospice_4804_500A little more ‘up’ and along a very exposed road…

Mt_Hotham_road_4805_500… and we arrived at Victoria’s highest alpine resort – Mount Hotham. A large sign at the entrance to the resort shows how proud they are of that fact!

Mt_Hotham_resort_4812_500The ‘main street’ of Mount Hotham resort looks more European than Australian. But then thats not unusual for an Australian alpine resort.

Mt_Hotham_resort_4814_500The views from the resort are simply breathtaking. The mountains poke above the treeline. And the valleys are so steep and deep. Pictures really can’t do the views justice, so I didn’t think I would even bother posting a photo of the views. The temperature was a very pleasant 27 degrees Celcius. Much more pleasant than the 38 degrees down on the plains!

From Mount Hotham we travelled down, down, down, to Harrietville, then across Tawonga Gap to Mt Beauty where we needed to buy some pain-killers for my wife who by that time had a migraine headache. Within 2 hours we were back home, and we all collapsed in tired heaps on our beds.

Well, maybe exersize isn’t really what most people think of while on holidays. But then I am not ‘most people’. Today I took to the Murray to Mountains Rail-trail with some friends. From Myrtleford to Bright we trundelled along on our bikes (most of the group powered along and quickly disappeared into the distance) and saw lots of interesting things, including old kilns and buildings…

Myrtleford_Eurobin_oldBuilding_4823_500… old machinery …

Myrtleford_Eurobin_OldMachinery_4827_500… some interesting animal life – a lot of bird life…


… and a lazy brown snake being some of the more interesting animals we encountered. On arrival at Bright, that jewel of the Ovens valley, that town of the beautiful autumn leaves, that provider of great hot foods, we had lunch.

By the time I got home I was feeling ready to finish my vacation and embark on a week of vocation.