Saturday, May 28, 2011

Western Wandering

Perth was the main destination this week with two nights being spent in the hotel there, with some local W.A. flying in between.

I managed to hire a bike from the usual place (About bike Hire) and get a Swan River loop under the wheels. The loop goes via Fremantle and is about 50km, which I can seem to knock out in about one hour and fifty minutes. It is very flat for that 50km! I was pressed for time so no stopping for photos this time around. Rest assured, the view hasn't changed much since the last time I did the ride but it was very nice nonetheless to be out in the fresh air.

A relatively easy two sector day was rostered and we turned up at the appointed hour to do our "thing". The company's newest aircraft was at Perth domestic terminal after completing our first business class service from Sydney and was recomposing itself for the return service.

The launch was very well received by those lucky enough to partake in the action and more can be read about it here.


Perth traffic.


We made our way up the west coast for a port that would be a first time visit for me. It amazes me how busy these small airports have become with the mining boom. Twenty years ago when I flew around in this part of the world in light aircraft a one hundred seat jet was was the regular service to a select few destinations. Now one hundred and eighty seat jets fly into every town and quite a few mining airstrips as well, just carrying mining crew.

The WA coast looking out over Kalbri.




Port Hedland terminal.

After a few more days of criss-crossing the country it was nice to be coming home. We passed these guys on the second last sector. No matter how many time I see it, I find it hard to comprehend how accurate satellite navigation is these days. In the middle of the outback, an hour into the flight we pass exactly centreline to centreline at about 1670km/h closing speed. You can appreciate why it is vital that we are at the correct level i.e. at least 1000ft vertically apart, otherwise the result would be unthinkable.

 

                              

Monday, May 23, 2011

FNQ Fun

A recent work trip saw me with a decent layover in the far north Queensland town of Cairns. Decent (read usable) layovers here are almost unheard of for us pilots as it is usually just twelve or thirteen hours, then back on the bus.

So, thinking a couple of days ahead I figured that I would organise a hire bike to check out some of the hills that Cairns is surrounded by.


The weather on the day turned out to be windy with showers around but as the temperature was still in the high twenties I wasn't worried about getting wet. As soon as I got to the hotel it was a wirlwind of activity to get changed and walk down to the hire shop. I would have just enough daylight to get my four hours of riding in before dark.

I had hired a flat bar roadie thinking that most shops use Giant bikes and that is probably what I could expect here. Out rolls the Schwinn "Spoterra" complete with toe clips. Hmm...maybe I should have packed my shoes and pedals? No worries, I can make do but I made a mental note not to pick the bike up and feel how heavy it was.

As it was such a windy day I asked the shop owner to point me toward some hills where I would be a little more sheltered by the rainforest canopy. He cheerfully pointed out Lake Morris road up to Copperlode Dam adding that there was about 1200m of climbing in that little ride. Perfect! I saddled up and headed out of town toward the hills.

The first thing I noticed about riding in Cairns is that there is zero respect for cyclists. I was buzzed twice, while riding in the bike lane, within about five hundred metres of the CBD and I witnessed a bus turn across an intersection in front of a woman cycling through the intersection at about the same time. Ok, point taken. Treat every vehicle like it is being driven by a redneck bogan and I will be sweet. I am always ok once I have the ground rules sorted!

Fifteen minutes or so later and I was at the turnoff I was looking for. The road from here went up.


I felt I was starting to get used to the toe clips, but as the climb became steeper my feet began to slip out of the cages as I tried to pull back at the bottom of the pedal stroke. Then I was unable to get my foot back in because there was too much grip on the pedal and pushing my toe into the cage just rolled the pedal over! I am sure you would get used to this style of pedal hookup if you persevered but I will definitely bring my pedals next time.

The climb was moderately steep and I was soon back in granny gear spinning away. Going for me today was the fact that I felt great! It was a beautiful day sheltered like I was in the trees, I was spinning easily without putting the heart rate through the roof and best of all I was technically getting paid for the privilege.

After all the years of flying into Cairns it was great to actually have a chance to venture outside the city limits, although I was probably still within the city limits. The hills and the rainforest are in Cairns, or should that be that Cairns is partly in the forest?

               The city centre is literally just four or five kilometres on the right of this photo!


Oh yes. I forgot to mention the sexy helmet that the hire shop owner fixed me up with! We were having a bit of cheeky banter while he readied my bike and just as I was about to leave I reminded him about the helmet. He reached around the corner of the office and handed me this sexy aqua blue and white number. Not really my style, but hey, whatever takes the focus off my dial I guess!!

Did I mention the climbing? Well, I still was!

The scenery was amazing. Be it the outlooks over the city centre, the bay or the forest when it enveloped the winding, snaking road.


The highest grade on the way up was about 17%. Not too bad in itself unless you consider the pedals. So, I was spinning and spinning and spinning some more. And thinking. Rides like this are exciting because it is all new. No previous experience to fall back on, just kilometres in the legs and self belief. It is always interesting to ride a new trail or a new road because you do not know how much to conserve yourself. Many of the rides I do are over familiar trails or roads that I know when I can blast along and when I need to rest for a climb.

Finally I crested the climb and began downhill for a while. Then the ride turned into a series of rolling climbs and descents before arriving at the gates of Lake Morris. As I am on a tight schedule ( I have to have the bike back at 5pm) I sit at the totally deserted kids play area overlooking the lake and take in the view while munching on a sandwich. Ahh the simple pleasures!


And my partner in crime wanted a portrait as well....


Actually, it was a nice straight, well adjusted bike. The gears changed smoothly, the brakes worked well and the seat wasn't as "Fizik Tundra like" as it looked. I would, er will ,certainly hire one again when next I have enough time to enjoy a decent ride.

Now it was time to turn it around and head back into town. Those downhills after the crest were now uphills and my now cool legs complained bitterly about being awoken. I gave myself an uppercut and got on with the job at hand though and was soon whooping it up through the twisties on the way back down. I could line up the corners motorcycle style and apex them, carrying as much speed as I was game to into the next bend. This was possible due to the almost total lack of traffic on the road. Only two cars went up and back while I was climbing, while just one passed me on the way down.



All too soon I was at the bottom of the climb again and was passing some after work/school riders out on training runs. How nice to have this as your local ride!

For those interested in the stats from today, please have a look here.

I have a multi day layover coming up next week in Perth and subject to weather I feel the need for a bit of cycling, western style. Lets see what eventuates......

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Random Ramblings

There is still not much direction here at Flyboy HQ. Various rides have occurred which spawn some photographic opportunties, but nothing that really rates a post of it's own so here are some shots from these random days.

Starting from the latest, last weekend at Old Hidden Vale, the Merida 24hr.

Merida 24hr OHV. 14th May 2011

Merida 24hr.


Graham, Merida 24hr, on his way to 4th place in the distinguished gents class.


Lucy sharpening her skills, OHV.


Plane spotting.



Chillin'.





A work trip recently saw me strolling around Castle Hill, Townsville.
Magnetic Island from Castle Hill.


WWII pillbox, Castle Hill.


Digger's outlook.


Townsville.

The Goat Track.



The Eastern Escarpment ride returns, May 2011.

The cow shed stop.


The top, looking north east.


That last "burn" to the top.

That is the gist of what has been happening around here lately minus the pics of me digging holes, then filling them in. Now that it is drying out a bit and the building has finished I am looking forward to getting back into the bush and the riding. More soon...













Tuesday, May 10, 2011

A Day In The Life Of A Commuter

I had a need for one of my rare visits to the City of Brisbane today. I had an email from my accountant last week informing me that if I didn't get off my bum and submit my tax return for 09/10 I would be donating even more of my hard earned to "The Ferral Garment". Cue Homer Simpson esque scenes of filling in a tax return with a HB pencil, estimating how many kids I have and a mad rush to the accountant!

The last time I drove into North Quay I parked on a dusty vacant block next to the accountant's building and was charged $32 for the dubious privilege. So last time I rode in and parked my bike in his foyer. From memory it was February (yes, I have a habit of late filing), hot and I was rather sweaty from the ride. This year I came up with a brilliant idea at the 11th hour. A quick shout out for information on http://www.mtbdirt.com.au/ about the Brisbane Cycle to City service and I had a solid plan to avoid re enacting the smelly meeting with my accountant!

Jim, one of the local hard men, had seen my post about riding into the city and as a regular commuter he offered that I tag along with him. So...it wasn't going to be a gentle roll along for me!

We met at the appointed hour, right on official sunrise and began my first commute. Now there are a few rolling hills here in Cornubia that really get your motor up to temperature very quickly. In no time at all I was reduced to gasping out snippets of conversation while Jim chatted away freely! We rolled on along bits of Logan Rd as well as the South East Bikeway before arriving at Southbank. We hopped the bridge to the edge of the Botanical Gardens where I thanked him for dragging me along. It had actually been a hoot for me even though I slowed Jim waaayyy up. So, thanks for the ride Jimmy.

Now to find the Cycle to City station. I found my way to King George Square easily enough but strangely the "King George Square Cycle to City Station" isn't in King George Square! It is along the road a bit toward Roma St station. Go figure!



Making my way underground I quickly found the entrance with a smiling young girl behind the counter to welcome me in. I explained my need and she quickly sorted me out. Apparently the gas had been cut to the city overnight so the showers were cold! I was wondering if my accountant had anything to do with this?! Karma!
Anyway, the facility is absolutely top notch in my humble opinion. I was very impressed with the super friendly greeting, the layout of the bike storage and also the locker room and showers. All very clean and modern. Even the iron was pre warmed so I was looking spiffy in no time at all. If I was a city based worker I would join up without hesitation.

A quick bite and a coffee then I was on my way to do business. The financial stuff out of the way and I was back to C2C for the reverse process, except I would have empty streets for the ride home, being ten in the a.m.

Being a glorious, cool, clear morning I took the return ride a little more gently. Just me and the path for most of it.




I did venture into a couple of bike shops during the ride home, just to see what was new. I could barely move in 99Bikes Underwood for all of the stock they had on the floor. There must be some demand for new mountain bikes despite the all of the rain this year.

Back home at about eleven thirty with 68km and 850 metres climbing, according to the gps, I reflected on what it might be like to commute to work. Despite having done the ride several times from Eight Mile Plains, it adds another dimension to ride from my front door to the City and back. Combined with finding my way around a largely unfamiliar city and experiencing the Cycle to City service, I really enjoyed the "doing something new" feeling. I had a huge amount of fun today. It would no doubt wear a little thin having to do it five days a week, but the upside is that you are getting about 350km a week for free. No telling the kids to blend their own smoothy to make time for a ride. :-)

Now, how do I come up with another excuse to use Cycle to City? I have a feeling my tax return might be done before the end of July this year......


Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Mountain Biking: What Is It?

I really have not had much to post about lately.

The building work here at home has taken up a lot of my spare time, work also makes it presence felt with a bit too much of this..

(yeah, I am sure they saw us too at 36 000' ???)

 ...and the weather simply has NOT been sympathetic toward MTBing since about November last year. However, we have just had three, yes count them, three glorious day of sunshine. I let the first two days go through to the keeper. Actually, I went for a road ride on day two but that doesn't really count! After these two trail drying days, for day three I organised a MTB and catch up ride at Gap Creek with Dean0.

The plan was to meet at his place in West End and ride up over Mt Cootha to Gap Creek. Sounds simple enough. I have wanted to ride over Mt Cootha for a while now and had considered doing it on my road bike as it is a sealed road but after almost not having a low enough gear on my MTB I have new found respect for all the roadies that ride this hill regularly.

We dropped of the sealed road into Kokoda, thinking that it would lead us nicely into the Gap Creek trails. Wrong! It was almost straight bloody down. I am comfortable enough with my sexuality to admit that a portion of this trail was walked down! It was a certain blood loss award for anyone that tried to ride it on our bikes and I haven't tasted gravel in about a year, so no need to start today!

The first bit of single track we hit was on the right just off Beilby Rd. I think it is called Cubberla Creek Trail, but I am not sure. It is a nice little sinewy length of flowy single track that is looking particularly green and lush at the moment. I had Dean0 riding behind me and was thinking that I need to keep the pace up so I do not hold him up too much. It is just the Kind,Understanding,Nice Type of guy I am.....Anyway, pushing fast..ish on a trail that I don't really know after not riding single track for literally months is only going to end one way. To have some honor I almost wish it had happened at a reasonable clip! Unfortunately I was almost stopped, negotiating a tight right bend around a tree with my weight too far forward.............




The end result was many laughs had by my riding "colleague" and no damage to myself, but some strange shifting from my Trek. On closer inspection we noticed that the derailuer hanger was a bit bent. While a slight inconvenience, it posed no major issue as I dug into my Camelbak for the hanger that I had carried around for the last three years, waiting for just such an occurrence. My impeccable upbringing stopped me from uttering what I was thinking as I fitted the hanger only to find that the thread on the end of it was different!! Who would have thought that the same model bike, just a different series (Trek Fuel EX 8 and 9) would have different derailuer hangers????????? Bugger!! On to plan "B" then. Just don't shift down to granny gear or the spokes will eat the derailuer.

And that is how we rolled on. The hills were a bit of a slog, but the downhill was just as much fun. We covered all of the Gap Creek trails that were open and then headed back to West End for brunch.


On the ride back toward food, chatting with Dean0, it hit me what I have been missing this year. It has been the regular rides with the guys that are fun to be around. It is the social aspect that I have been missing. There have been almost no "Regular Wednesday Morning Daisy Hill Rides" due to the rain turning the Daisy Hill trails to slop. I thought I was missing the riding and was wondering why it has been so hard to get up in the early mornings and do a solo ride. The answer was suddenly so obvious! While I love the riding in the bush for all of the enjoyment and de-stressing that it brings, I also enjoy the banter, jokes, tech talk and laughter (especially crash induced) immensely and have missed it these last four months or so.

So, at the risk of offending the rain gods and returning to seven years of drought, I sincerely wish this rain would P#$$ off for a while so that the southside regulars can catch up for a few weeks and do what we really enjoy doing....living the Mountain Biking Life.