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.

Mansfield


From Tuesday to Thursday this week we (minus one – Zoe was away visiting friends in western Victoria) headed to the town of Mansfield in north east Victoria, Australia. Our purpose was 3-fold: 1) Go to the Mansfield Zoo because Eliana wanted to go to a zoo and it was the closest one to our home; 2) provide an opportunity for Jesse and I to do some cycling together in preparation for a long-ish rail trail ride in May; 3) spend some time away from familiar surroundings. On all 3 purposes we successed, although I had spent a lot of time in and around Mansfield over the years.

Mt Buller

Mt Buller (I think)

The Bluff

The Bluff (I think)

Tuesday, late in the morning, Bec dropped Jesse and I and our bikes off at Tolmie, a location some 25km from Mansfield in the mountains between Whitfield and Mansfield. The plan was that we would ride from Tolmie via Barwite to Mansfield. The road looked nice and straight on Google Maps, and I figured that the ride would be pretty much all down hill as Tolmie is considerably higher in altitude than Mansfield. That assumption was certainly not based on any actual knowledge of the roads we would be riding along. We started off on Old Tolmie Road, and after a few kilometres we encountered was a rather long steep hill – going up! I had climbed steeper and longer hills before on the bike so I didn’t find it too hard going although I did stop a few times to catch my breath on the ascent. Poor Jesse ended up walking his bike up most of the ascent and was clearly tired by the time he got to the top. The next part of the ride was a great relief – 7km of down hill and we didn’t need to peddle at all until we crossed a bridge at the bottom of the descent. Most of the descent we were travelling at over 30kph. But after the bridge there were some more hills. Not as steep as the ones before the descent but quite long and tiring nonetheless. Eventually we arrived in Mansfield and met up with Bec and Eliana who had purchased us a ‘gourmet’ lunch of beans from a can and corn chips from a packet as well as some Yoghurt in a tub. The GPS Map for the ride is located at http://www.strava.com/activities/130382830 .

After we checked into our cabin in the caravan park Bec, Eliana and myself went and had a game of Mini-Gockey while Jesse had a nap – the ride must have been tougher than I thought. What, I hear you ask, is ‘Mini-Gockey’? Well, it’s like mini-golf, with some of the ‘moves’ of hockey. I’ll let you imagine that rather than try and explain further. We had decided we would eat at a Pub that night, and so we chose the Delatite and had a great tea which included way too many hot chips! We decided not to have any dessert on account of the size of the meals we had and how much the meal had already cost us – eating out for 4 people is expensive at the best of times!

The next day I was hoping to do another bike ride with Jesse along the Great Victorian Rail Trail from Mansfield towards Bonnie Doon or Merton. But Jesse said that his muscles were still sore from the previous day’s ride so I decided instead that I would go a solo 40 plus km ride around the area instead. I was only familiar with one section of road outside the town of Mansfield on the planned ride – a short (couple of kms at most) stretch of the Mansfield – Woods Point road. All the rest of the roads I travelled outside of Mansfield were totally new to me. It’s strange how the perception of how well one if doing on a ride sometimes doesn’t match the ride statistics. I felt that my muscles really lacked energy on the ride, but when I uploaded the ride GPS data to Strava my average energy output over the whole ride was higher than my usual. One thing I noticed on the ride was the tendency of cars on the roads to not give much space for me. Whether that is because they were in a rush to get to work, or lack of consideration to cyclists in general, or some other reason I don’t know, but it was a very different experience to riding on the roads around where I live. The GPS Map for the ride is located at http://www.strava.com/activities/130683805 .

After I got back to the caravan park and had a shower we headed out to the Mansfield Zoo. Here are some photos of the zoo’s animals…

Bonnet Monkey

Bonnet Monkey

Jesse feeding a Llama

Jesse feeding a Llama

Agile Wallaby

Agile Wallaby

Dingo

Dingo – Australia’s native dog

Eliana feeding a Deer

Eliana feeding a Deer

Bison

Bison, a loooong way from home!

White Lion

White Lion

Capuchin Monkey

Capuchin Monkey

European Polecat

European Polecat

The Zoo had some white lions, various monkeys, some bison and a various types of Australian native wildlife. It was interesting to speak with the Zoo owner, and watch the lions get fed. After the Zoo visit we had another game of Mini-Gockey. And then it was back to the cabin for some relax time before we attacked dinner.

On Thursday, we packed the car and cleaned the cabin early. Then we started travelling back home. The plan was that Bec would do some shopping on the way as we needed some groceries to keep us going over the Easter weekend. I decided that I would ride the bike from Albury, where Bec was going to do the shopping, and would attempt to get all the way home. I had ridden the route I took on a number of occasions, but have only ever ridden it towards Albury / Wodonga not away from it. So while it was familiar territory it was a very different ride – the scenery was the same obviously, but the experience of riding in the reverse direction was quite different. I didn’t carry any water with me on the ride, but carried some money to buy a drink if I felt I needed it and I also knew where I could get water on the ride. Today I rode a total of 70 km, and arrived home around 3 hours after I started the ride.

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.