2000km later…


The new Jamis Durango mountain bike

The new Jamis Durango mountain bike

Three months ago I purchased a new bike, a Jamis Durango 29inch Mountain Bike (MTB). At the time it was ‘on sale’ and cost about 2/3rds the normal price, so it was a desireable option for the price. The previous bike that was purchased new was a 26″ foldable bike, which travelled an estimated 20,000km over the time I had it, and last year was on it’s last legs. Before I purchased the Durango I had looked at road bikes, single speeds, cyclo-cross, even a footbike. But none of them seemeed to fit my needs – either I had to travel hours to purchase, price was too much for my budget, or I had concerns about the a bike’s ability to handle the sorts of roads I often travel on. “Roads” might even be a bit of a overstatement of some of the places I had taking the 26″ foldable and a 20″ foldable bike I had been riding before I purchased the Durango, so anything that couldn’t handle some rough tracks really wasn’t a viable option. No ultra-thin rimmed road bike for me!! Then I was in a bike shop in the nearest regional city to our home, and saw the Durango. “A mountain bike wasn’t necessarily the most desirable option” I thought, mostly due to them being heavier than other bikes, and greater tyre resistance on the road, but the more I thought about, the more the Durange seemed like a good choice. It also had disk brakes on the bike, and the lockable suspension front forks for the extra bumpy tracks, which seemed like a good idea for where I was likely to ride. So I purchased it.

 

Mud - there has been plenty of that this winter!

Mud – there has been plenty of that this winter!

Three months, and 2000km, later I am happy to report that the Durango has been, without a doubt, the best ‘fit’ for me of any bike I have ever owned. Not only has the bike allowed me to do some rougher and muddier trail rides (can you hear me giggling uncontrollably, and see me grinning uncontrollably as I negotiate large mud puddles on farm tracks near home), but it is a dream to ride on the bitumen too. My average speed on most rides on the new bike is about 5km faster than it was on my previous bikes – something that really surprised me as I thought the heaviness of the bike (around 14kg) would have the opposite effect. As far as long rides go, I have probably done a higher proportion of long rides on the Durango than on previous bikes – over the last few months I clocked up some rather long rides on the new bike, about 85km being the longest. But haven’t managed a 100+ ride like on the 26″ foldable, yet. Other notable road rides on the new bike include a 50+ km ride in the foothills of the Snowy Mountains with a local cycling group, two 65+ km rides to Albury and back, a 60+ km ride to explore some disused railway formations near Ryan and Henty, and a 50km exploration ride along a road called “Gluepot Road” (I had imagined there was a valid reason why they called it that, and so hadn’t attempted it on any of my previous bikes). With the very wet last few months, and often muddy stock and farm tracks, I would have been very limited on just about any other type of bike. This is where the mountain bike really came into its own as I felt a lot more confident traversing some of the very large puddles and mud patches I encountered on the various rides. A total of 2000km in 3 months is a decent effort, even on a much lighter road bike!

 

A bit of Edgehill Track in the tyres of the MTB

A bit of Edgehill Track in the tyres of the MTB

About the only things I needed to do were replace the seat that came with the bike with a more comfortable seat, and figure out a way to carry multiple water bottles, and other ’emergency’ kit such as spare tube, tools, money, etc. The seat replacement was easy – I replaced the seat with the ultra-comfy ‘big butt’ seat from a previous bike, problem solved. But the water bottles and emergency kit was a bit more complicated and I still haven’t managed to figure it out satifactorily. Not long after purchasing the bike I purchased a Topeak seat mounted bag which I thought would fix that problem but as it turned out the size of the bag when attached to the seat post / back of seat fouls the rear tyre. So the bag is mounted on the front of the bike in a rather weird way, but at least it “works” there (even if it looks a little strange) and doesn’t foul any other moving parts on the bike. That solution is still not quite satisfactorily, but as the bag cost me a whopping $90+ dollars, I figured it will have to do for now.

 

When I took the bike in for it’s 3 month warranty ‘adjustment’ service, the guys at the bike shop said the chain was already fairly worn, and when I told them how much kms I had done they understood why. And one of them made possibly the biggest understatement I have heard in a while : “sounds like you are enjoying the bike then”. Enjoying? Yes! Really really enjoying!

Eliana negotiating a large mud patch on Wyoming Lane near home

Eliana negotiating a large mud patch on Wyoming Lane near home

Hickman Lane flooded - very bug puddles

Hickman Lane flooded – very bug puddles

The staff at the bike shop suggested I convert the drive train (front and back cog sets and chain) for a more durable set, which would cost around $600 fitted. That would bring the total cost of the bike up to about $1000, still considerably below the $1500 I was quoted for a cyclo-cross bike I originally looked at. So I am hoping to have the conversion done as the budget permits. Another possible upgrade that might be worth me considering is an upgrade of the brake system from cable to hydraulic disk, but I have no idea how much that might cost.

So here is the run down…

The Durango mountain bike has overall been a great choice. It is durable, tough, good on all types of road surfaces (probably mostly because of the 29″ wheels), feels very saure-footed on slippery sections, and is heaps of fun. The price at the time of purchase, and the fact the little 20″ K-Rock foldable bike I was riding wasn’t really suitable for me to do long rides on, and the extra time it would take to save the money to get a $1000+ bike, were the main reasons I initially decided on buying the Durango. But after 3 months of riding anywhere and everywhere, I am glad I did.

Gluepot Road calls

Gluepot Road calls

 

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Time for a Weddin


No. I am not getting married (again), or anything like that. Over the weekend just gone, Rebecca, Jesse, Eliana and myself went to the Weddin Mountains National Park, located in the New South Wales central-west region. The purpose of the trip was to camp and hike and generally enjoy nature. Or in other words, get a prescription strength dose of Nature-RX . My wonderfully organised wife had trolled the internet for suitable venues for this outdoor adventure weekend, and many of the places she found were having road closures and/or fuel reduction burns over the weekend, and Weddin Mountains National Park was just about the only one she found within a reasonable distance drive from home, which had some good tracks to walk and things to do. So Friday morn, the car was packed with all the stuff we thought we would need, less some things we should have tried to fit in to our Honda CRV but didn’t due to space. And off we trundled initially at the leasurely pace allowed by Learner drivers in the ever forward-thinking state of New South Wales (Australia), but then after Jesse (our Learner driver) had finished driving I took over and drive at the actual speed limit, where possible.

Weddin Mountain National Park is located about 30 minutes drive west/south west of the town of Grenfell, and rises up to a somewhat impressive height above relatively flat surrounds. It seems somewhat out of place surrounded by flat-ish farming land. The place we were going to be camping was Ben Hall Campground, on the western side of the park. The campground was very dry, the creeks in the area all dried up, but apart from that it was a great place to camp with lots of shade from eucalyptus and kurrajong trees. Ben Hall was one of a not insignificant number of bushrangers (ie, outlaws) who found that stealing, pillaging, and taking other people’s stuff was more lucrative than working hard for a pittance and buying his own, and he had a hideaway in a cave near the campground from the long, but probably not quite long enough, arm of the Law.

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Kangaroo at the campground

Sabbath morning dawned with a little cloud, and a forecast top temperature of around 28 degress (Celsius). And so we embarked on what would become the longest hike Rebecca and Eliana have every done to date – more than 10 kilometres. Jesse and I have done longer hikes before. The destination was Eualdrie Lookout. The hike itself initially followed a dry creek ravine, with stunning multi-colored and variously shaped cliffs and rock faces, with layers of tress between various parralel cliffs and rock faces. The creek bed looked like it hadn’t had water in a long time. Along the way we saw a goat, which I think must have been wild, as well as hearing kangaroos and/or wallabies bounding through the bush above and beside us. And hearing the song of birds. Although it seemed that bird life was no apparent as in other places we have visited over the years. Rebecca and Eliana must be commended for the effort on this hike. Following the trail involved a fair bit of scrambling over rocks, negotiating fallen trees, and trying to avoid some pretty nasty spiky plants that we encountered in a number of places. Eliana had a fall, but with a some tears and a little encouragement she was back on her feet again. Rebecca kept referring to the last time we climbed “The Rock”, a towering edifice of a rock that stands sentinel over the township fo the same name about 40 minutes drive from where we live. I tried to re-assure her that this hike would be no where near as bad as “The Rock”, but I really had no idea what the hike would be like. We eventually arrived at the Eualdrie Lookout, and had some lunch while enjoying the views (which were quite stunning), and watching various members of a colony of lizards moving over the rocks.

Near the lookout we met a couple who we had seen at the campground earlier in the morning. They live at Ulladulla, on the NSW south coast. They were heading south to Victoria and visiting various places of interest along the way. At the campground, we met a number of other campers, some staying just one night, some longer – they were either going to or coming from Western Australia, Katoomba, Adelaide, and other places. The campground almost seemd to be some sort of ‘cross roads’ for all points of the compass.

Sunday we decided to go for a hike fairly early, then we had to go into Grenfell to buy some more water as there was absolutely no water at the campground excepot for washing hands in the toilet blocks. The hike we did was the Bertha’s Gully walk, which seemed to be named after the wife of Jim Seaton, who had a farm only a short distance from the campground in the years during and after the Great Depression. On other documentation the walk seemed to be called Black Gin Gully. But as a Black Gin is a racist term for an Aboriginal female, I am guessing that the gully was renamed after a white woman. This hike was described as a ‘pleasant walk’, and so we were thinking ‘easy’. But it wasn’t. This walk involved even more climbing and scrambling over rocks in relation to it’s length than the Eualdrie Lookout walk. But the scenery! There impressive towring rock formations and cliff faces, and some other differently shaped rocks which with that wonder of the post-modern age – the digital camera with impressive zoom capabilities – I was able to get some close up pictures of.

Upon our return back to camp we went for that drive into Grenfell I mentioned earlier. It was basically uninterering, so I won’t bore you with that. And lunch was minestrone soup with bread buns, then biscuits and fruit. After lunch, while Rebecca and Eliana rested after their earlier hikes, me and Jesse decide we would tackle the Lynchs Loop and Lookout hike. The sign at the start of the hike said it would take 2 hours, and was 2.5km in length. So we bounded off like a couple of mountain goats and slahed the required time in half! Including a 10 minute beark enjoying the views at the lookout. This hike had more impressive rocks. Impressive rocks are one thing this park has plenty of. And on the way down we, or I should say Jesse, almost collected a spider’s web. And it was a rather large spider that presided over his food collecting apparatus. After a rather un-manly scream from Jesse we negotiated around it and kept going.

When we got back to camp we all got in the car and drove to nearby Seaton Farm, a historical site featuring various Depression-era innovations and money saving examples. The farm buildings were constructed by Jim Seaton from second hand iron, mill offcuts, mud and earth, and hand cut timber from the surrounding trees. It seems that Jim Seaton would be what we might call a ‘hoarder’ today, as he kept anything and everything including bags of charcoal, tins and bottles, old tyres and car parts, second hand fences, correguated iron and farm machinery. But then when the times were tough all that assortment of thing could make the difference between making a living and not. The various items collected by Jim Seaton is testament to not only the difficult times he encountered, but also to his unique character.

The farm was a model of self-sufficiency – they grew their own vegetables, killed their own meat, grew feed for their sheep, cows and pigs. The farm house was made of iron, and had a packed earth floor – probably no “take our shoes off before you enter”, or “don’t bring those dirty boots inside the house” for the Seatons! The internal walls were made of mud over wire frames. But it did have sky-lights in some rooms, built by the Seatons of course.

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Storm clouds brewing

After our visit to the Seaton Farm, we continued for a leisirely drive to the nearest settlement, a township called Bimbi. By the time we arrived back at camp it was time to cook some dinner. As we partook of our dinner, a vegetarian pasta bolognese, storm clouds seemed to be gathering and as we had heard that there was the possibility of it being a  stormy night. As we had no plans for the next day except to pack up and head for home, and as we had done and seen everything we had planned to by Sunday afternoon, we quickly as possible packed up all our belongings into the Honda, and departed for home. And we are glad we did. As we drove along towards home we had a fairly constant lightning display – sometimes close by and sometimes nearer – and when we got home and checked the weathr radar on our phones we noticed that two storm systems – one coming from the south / east and the other from the north could have collided not too far distant to where we were camped!

Temora Time Warp


Temora is a fairly typical Australian country town, located west of the Great Divide in New South Wales, surrounded by cereal cropping land. The town has some silos and a railway line, a single main street with plenty of old shops and a few new ones, and houses on streets radiating from the main street. When Dad visited with us recently we spent a day at Temora at two main venues – the Temora Aviation Museum, and the Temora Rural Musuem.

Most museums have displays and machinery that are more or less static, and that have the appearance of being complete, but are not in working order. The Aviation Museum has a number of ‘warbirds’, all of which are in working order. ‘Warbirds’ is a term used to describe military aircraft that have since been purchased by civilians and have had their armaments removed. The musuem has two Supermarine Spitfires (the only two in flying condition g in Australia), arguably one of the most ascetically pleasant warbirds and one of the most influential in history (they helped turn the tides against the Nazis in the Battle of Britain). They also have a number of other military aircraft. Here are a few pictures…

CA16 Wirraway

CA16 Wirraway

CAC Boomerang

CAC Boomerang

Canberra Bomber

Canberra Bomber

Cessna A37B Dragonfly

Cessna A37B Dragonfly

DH82A Tiger Moth

DH82A Tiger Moth

Harvard

Harvard

Harvard front

Harvard front

Supermarine Spitfire Mk16

Supermarine Spitfire Mk16

Planes over Temora

Warbirds over Temora

The Temora Rural Museum is housed in a building and outdoor area that is attached to the Visitor Information Centre and is well worth a visit. It is set out like a’town’ with a street, and buildings on either site. Each of the buildings has it;s own ‘theme’, and some buildings were dismantled from their original location and moved to the museum. Rather than give a big long write up, here are some pictures of the exhibits in the Rural Museum…

Classic / Vintage Car

Classic / Vintage Car

Old Fire Truck

Old Fire Truck

Farm Machinery

Farm Machinery

Temora Independent

Temora Independent

Printing press

Printing press

Petrol bowser

Petrol bowser

Steam Traction Engine

Steam Traction Engine

Don Bradmans 1st home

Don Bradmans (the famous Australian Cricketer) 1st home

Don Bradmans 1st home

Don Bradmans 1st home interior

Don Bradmans 1st home

Don Bradmans 1st home interior

Church in the wildwood

Little Church in the wildwood. This church was originally the Presbeyterian church at ,

Church in the wildwood

Church in the wildwood interior

Home machinery

Home machinery

Small HP machines

Small HP machines

Farm machinery

Farm machinery

Farm machinery

Farm machinery

Farm machinery

Farm machinery

International Truck

International Truck

Trucks

Trucks

Radios

Before the flash drive, before the Sony walkman, before the stereo, before the getto-blaster there was… The really big heavy radio! If punks carrying getto-blasters think their tough, get them to try carrying one of these heavy beasts!

Gramophones

Gramophones.

Time got away from us and we had to leave the Rural Musuem before we had finished exploring it because we needed to get home for dinner. All the more excuse to go back there one day and spend some more pleasant hours stepping back into the Temora timewarp.

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: