Sunday, December 30, 2012

Punching On......After All, Its Boxing Day

Lots more flying to be had today with a double crossing of the continent. If we had gone in a straight line and for another 3 hours we would have been in Los Angeles!! Well, actually we would have been swimming, out of gas......but you get the gist.

 Some cool sights today with multiple crossing traffic high above Leigh Creek.

A QANTAS 767, 1000ft above us and going slightly faster. It was so close we could see the rivets on the underside of it!

Then, at the same time an A330 came the other way, 1000ft higher again. (And yes, this is legal)

How good are modern aircraft navigation systems? Here we all were, over the middle of the country, on the same track and all exactly aligned by GPS. This is the reason dilligent attention needs to be paid to altitude separation by both pilots and air traffic control!

Halfway through the day and the sun is setting to the west of Brisbane.

The moon going down behind the cloud at 39 000'.

Just a few days until new year and I am hoping (needing) to get out on a bike before the calendar winds down to the 31st. Until then, there is always this to get me by.....

Hope you Boxing Day was a relaxing one.


Friday, December 28, 2012

What Happened To Xmas?

Today was Christmas day for us here in Oztrailia. I hope you had a good one and the fat man in red was kind to you. My day started at 5am (Brisbane time) in Sydney. I was lucky enough to watch my kids tearing into some gifts that included a new bike for the youngest.

I managed to do ok as well with some new electronics, but by 7am I was on the way to the airport for my commute to Brisbane to begin work for the day. Things went a bit pear shaped somewhere here and after a soap opera like plot line I lobbed in Brisbane 1 and a 1/2 hours late for work!

 Well, we (um, crewing) managed to pull a reindeer out of a sack and got the show back on the road eventually. Despite nature's best attempt to foil us we got back into Sydney, found a new mount and speared off toward Perth. Well, we actually speared off toward Melbourne to avoid weather but eventually ended up at the point everyone bought a ticket to. Happy Days! It was by this time 11:30pm Sydney time and so a verry loong day out.

 I would like to put a big SHOUT out to all of the guys and gals who had to be present at the coal face today. Hopefully you managed to enjoy some of the pleasure that many take for granted, but also saw how the other half spends xmas and like me, appreciates what we have. I wish all of my readers (yes, both of you ;-) a great christmas and look forward to another great year ahead.



Wednesday, December 19, 2012

James May on: Bicycles

Those geezers from Top Gear are not only funny, at least one of them is smart as well.

Here is a little piece on bicycles from Mr May. Thanks to Bike Snob for pointing it out.


Monday, December 17, 2012

Bordering (On Madness)

Today the Brisbane South Mountain Bike Club (BSMC) organised a social ride in the south western corner of the Scenic Rim, along the New South Wales/Queensland border as a part of it's monthly away social rides.

The plan was to ride up the range on Carney's Creek rd to Queen Mary Falls, then around past Killarney and back along the Condamine River rd. This was a ride I had been keen to do for a while and what better way to do it than with a group of like minded MTBers.

Pre ride planning saw my bike prepped the day before with my gear sorted out. The wheels nearly fell off of the operation that night though. Having caught up with good friends for dinner (and being child free for a week or so) I took it upon myself to assist with the demolition of some great red wine and before I knew it "pumpkin o'clock" had come and gone. An 80km(50mi) ride in 35C(95F) heat with about 5 hours sleep was going to hurt a bit! Not to mention all of those "antioxidents" at work in my body.....

Anyway, at the appointed time we set off from the corner of  Carney's Ck Rd and Carney's Ck Rd(?) with the talk being of how the climb a few kilometres down the road was going to rip our legs off. This was from experienced riders too. Gulp.

The morning was warming up quickly but I was glad that we had parked away from the climb so that I could warm up a bit before the climb. Small sections of cool shade taunted us as we made our way along here.

When we did finally get to the climb I just clicked down through the gears and spun at a nice, sustainable pace. Tony was kind enough to flat, thus giving us a small rest. 

But these were the fast pair so Chris and I took the opportunity to get ahead a bit. Chris was soldiering along on his single speed and making a pretty decent job of it so far considering that he had done about 30k and 700m climbing on it the day before. What you can't see in any of these photos is the slope. Rest assured, the "S' turns are to flatten the hill out a bit with his gearing...and they mostly worked...

Then came the inevitable...

I am not sure how long it took us to climb to "The Head", but somewhere around an hour is probably close enough. The views were amazing and it was now obvious how far we had climbed.

As we popped over the top the view changed to one of rolling pastureland on our right (Queensland) and dense forest on our left(New South Wales). It was simply stunning with bright red Flame Trees in full bloom dotted across the lush green hill sides. It felt all the better having bested that bloody climb!

The Rabbit Proof Fence ran along our left for quite a while here.

Shortly after this stop we met up with the guys who were doing the 40km(25mi) version of the ride. The club is trying to give everyone a ride distance that they feel comfortable with and it was good to see some takers for the ride especially as it is right before Christmas. So, with their car parked at the intersection of Spring Creek and Condamine River Rd we set off for the "loop" section of the ride.

Pretty soon we came to another section of road that tilted up rather steeply. No problems. Just dump a heap of gears and spin, spin, spin. Well, until my bum went numb from not moving on the seat with all that damn spinning!

We soon broke out of the trees and were greeted by another stunning view. This wartime Nissin hut was probably shifted here decades ago and it was easy to see why. It has a commanding view across the whole valley! Someone, once upon a time sat on that verandah, taking in the majestic views and breathed the clean, cool air that being 3500ft above sea level brings. I wonder what they thought about?

Not far past this idyllic spot is the official lookout. It pays tribute to a Lincoln bomber crew who lost their lives on nearby Mt Superbus back in 1955 while conducting a medivac flight.

One day I plan on visiting the crash site, but that will have to wait until I find another day to squeeze into the week.

The next few kilometres were steadily downhill toward QM Falls and passed quickly, yet pleasantly. The shop provided a much needed coffee and toasted sandwich to fill the hole that all of this climbing had created.

Several motorcyclists stopped in as well and I took a few moments to admire the various weaponry that had assembled. I must get back out here on my motorbicycle soon.

From the cafe the road dropped down a steep, winding hill which I guess is why the motorbicyclists frequent this road. We breifly stopped at Dagg's Falls before getting back to the business of  screaming downhill.

Turning into Condamine River rd we began the trek back toward the cars and the 14 river crossings of the Condamine River. They would be much appreciated as it was quite hot now and there wasn't much in the way of shade.

This pleasant section of road passed quickly enough, but on each small climb the body was telling me that it wasn't overly thrilled to get the heart rate up again. So we took a few more breaks.

And got a bit wet.

Exiting the tree cover again we ground our way across open paddocks, into a stiff headwind and were before long back at the finish point for the 40km riders.

This left somewhere around 15km of mainly downhill before we were back at our vehicles.

Al was keen to get going but my legs would only go around so fast. He found a few picturesque spots to wait for the rest of us Freds.

The ride down The Head proved to be an interesting one. I had the new experience of cars pulling over to let us past as we were going far quicker than they were, even though we weren't even pedalling! Screaming down a narrow, winding mountain road in a pair of shorts, jersey and a small foam helmet was a hoot and yet we all lived to tell the tale!

Back at the cars and we had covered 77km (48mi) with a bit over 1500m (4900ft) of climbing in under 6 hours total time. Notice that first climb from the 6km to the 10km mark!!

Not a bad day out at all and if anyone is interested in coming along for any of the future rides with BSMC, just check out their website or get in contact with them. You don't need to be a member and you will have a great day out and maybe see some new-to-you country.

Cheers....I need a lie down.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Magical Mystery Tour

The last week or so have been taken up with the serious side of work. Yes, it has been the time of year when you are marched into the "lurching cave" to attempt to hang onto your license and hence you livelyhood. No pressure.....

That being sorted out, it was time for a tour of all points AUS and some INDO time too.

The first person to correctly guess the location of this monument will win.......the prestige that comes with being the first person to correctly guess the location of this monument!

After a week or so of ultra responsibility, I think it is now time to bring out the rebel within.

Livin' on the edge.......

Cheers and have a great weekend.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Record Run

Well, I have previously expressed a desire to ride the Great Divide Route in the US of A. While in the country of inexpensive food and tipping a couple of months ago, the reality of actually doing it was rammed home to me as we drove north out of Pinedale, Wyoming.

While comfortably ensconced in our speeding RV,  I looked out to the east at the imposing Wash River Mountains, cloaked in thunderstorms, towering above 10 000ft, patrolled by roaming bears and thought to myself "how frightening would it be to be out on a bicycle in THAT?!" The Tour Divide route crossed those mountains right where the storms were. All of the romance that the movie "Ride The Divide" created around the race evaporated in a loud "pooof!".

The harsh reality of riding the 2400 miles (4400km) alone, tired, hungry, lonely (and did I mention lonely?) increased my respect for those that have tackled this route in the past. This year's race winner, Ollie Whalley from New Zealand, set a new race record at 16 days plus some change.

This well made video on Jay Petervary's record setting Individual Time Trial brings back some of the romance.........but the lingering terror of the reality is still vivid in my mind.

 I am glad I saw the reality of the landscape from the comfort of a RV and I can now understand why otherwise well prepared challengers drop out after just a few days.

Has it changed my desire to "have a go"? The sort answer is a reserved "no". But...........

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Helmet Hunting

Number 2 child and I hit up some bike shops today, mainly because it was too hot to do anything else.

While in there we started trying on a few small helmets as I have been thinking it is nearly time to take the kids for a gentle ride around the block on the motorcycle. Clearly, we need something to protect their "scone" while doing so.

Now I know what to look for when buying a helmet for myself. Fit, ventilation and then style is the order I work in but how do you determine a good fit with a child? How can they know if a tight, snug fit is right or if it is too tight and going to hurt after an hour?

If anyone has any helmet buying advice I would be pleased to hear from you. While I am not planning on purchasing a top of the line lid for the kids, I do want to purchase a well fitted, safe helmet.
 But I am resigned to the fact that we will not agree on the syling.....

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Shippies Arms

Tucked away in the back streets of Battery Point, Hobart is a great little pub with a lot of history.

The Shipwright's Arms has been serving cool refreshments to the local population since about 1846, which is a long time by Australian standards.

Since the inception of the Sydney to Hobart yacht race, the Shippies has cemented it's place as the drinking hole of choice for thirsty sailors. It's interior walls are plastered with photographs, trinkets and "thank yous" from the crew of many ships. These range from sailing types through to warships from many navies around the world.

I was sailing the skies these last few days and while walking around Battery Point to "smell the roses" decided to pop in for a cool refreshment as it was in the low 20s Celsius, which is getting warm for Hobart.

Not wanting to look like some plagiarist stalker, I didn't take any photos of the cool stuff on the walls. You will have to slip in for a bevy and have a look for yourself.

The area around the hotel is one of the earliest colonial establishments in Terra Australis. Basically, after the British discovered Terra Australis and came up with the bright idea to dump her undesirables here, Sydney and Hobart were the first colonies to be populated. The main reason Van Dieman's Land (Tasmania) was populated was because it was so remote and desolate. It was literally at the arse end of the Earth. Next stop, Antarctica! The worst of the worst convicts were sent to nearby Port Arthur.

Thanks to some historical preservation we now have a picturesque area that is like a window into the past. The old houses, shops and pubs of the area draw tourists from all over just to enjoy the long summer evenings over a pint or two.

I laughed that they had to point out that he was "a famous Hollywood actor". Surely, even the clueless, self absorbed youth of today would know who Errol Flynn was....? 

If you have the opportunity to visit Hobart I highly recommend a stroll around Battery Point and the adjoining Salamanca Place. These suburbs are definitely best enjoyed on foot as they cover a relatively small area.

And after all, what better way to work up a thirst?

If you can get your arse down there, just do it!


* I have no association with the Shippies. It is just a great place for a drink or meal.

Monday, November 26, 2012

R is for Riding

And the 1? It might be for the number of times I get to ride it per year! Well, almost.

I actually managed to up the ride percentages for the year today. After a quick mountain bike ride early this morning, I came home to pat the kids on the head before shipping them off to school. I then sat down to a coffee and nutted out a ride route.

I had been thinking about a lap of the dams. That is, out to Fernvale-Esk-Kilkoy-Mt Mee and back but the prospect of doing Fernvale-Esk so soon after last weekend wasn't overly appealing. Neither was filtering my way through Brisbane from the north side.

I have been avoiding the Gold Coast hinterland due to constant whispers that the Police have a heavy handed presence when dealing with motorcyclists. I guess they want to keep them off the Advancetown road. It is a very sweet piece of and I am sure plenty of wanna-be racers have wiped themselves out on it over the years. But, it is a Monday. It is a bit showery looking, so not a very inviting day for riding. Perfect!

View Larger Map

 I must say, after gearing up it was nice to thumb the starter button and have the engine turn over at a rapid rate before bursting into life. The new battery seems to be doing the job.

The other nice thing I noticed was that it finally felt natural to sit on the bike. The controls fell readily to hand, my throttle control was pretty good and it felt normal to tip it into the first few corners. As I have mentioned before, I was slightly afraid that after 7 years off the road bikes I may have fried the brain cell that was responsible for co-ordinated riding but it seems he was just slacking off, possibly watching the cricket while downing a tinny or two.

Getting the boring bit out of the way didn't take long at all. I took it easy along the Advancetown road to get my eye in and to just have a recce of the place. I hadn't been along here for a few years and while the road surface was a bit choppier than I remember it still had the wide surface with the fun, tightening 40km/h (25mph) bends that can catch the unwary out. But I was fine because I am very wary these days.

Moving along through Natural Bridge I noticed that the cafe' was closed, but that could just be because it was a Monday morning. I was soon at the border crossing into New South Wales. The old tick gate is there but these days the surveillance is done by fixed cameras. Human contact has gone. I guess if you break the law they just send you a fine at their convenience.

Across the border the road deteriorated into a bumpy goat track. Pretty much what you expect when you ride in NSW these days. But it was still fun.

At Chillingham I turned right onto the Tyalgum Rd. This was new territory for me. I am pretty sure I have never ridden through Tyalgum before. It gets a good mention on the local motorcycle forums so I thought I had better see what all the hype was about!

The road into town was twisty, narrow and a bit bumpy. It was however, deserted. This made for a fun ride and the 13km to Tyalgum were dispatched quickly. A quick look around town and it was either the pub or a "mumsy" looking little coffee shop for morning tea. 

Can you guess which one I took?

Yep, too early for the pub and I was after a nice coffee.

Consulting Mr Thoeming's and Hemma's conglomeration over some raisin toast and a cuppa was very pleasant indeed, despite the rising humidity this morning.

I was still a bit undecided on the route (despite what I said above) and finally decided to head down to the Kyogle road and duck out to Uki for a look. This bit of road is another gem of northern NSW. Today the traffic was against me and I basically trickled along, stuck behind various trucks and cars for the ride out and back.

I made my way back through Murwillumbah and headed out the Chillingham road to retrace my path across the border. This is a very pleasant little ride, despite being stuck behind traffic most of the way. From Chillingham to the Springbrook turn off the roads were pleasantly deserted.

The short link across to the Springbrook road is very nice. Unfortunately it is signposted at 60km/h making it a very "watchful" section of the ride.

The Springbrook road itself is just how I remember it. No, it is even better! Many of the corners have been repaired and are now superb "hot mix" ashphalt, making them as smooth as a racetrack! 

Even though I was going downhill and I dislike downhill bends, I was having a ball again. Well, until I caught a conga line of cars. This time I just pulled over and waited for them to get away from me. Then as the next car that was coming along behind me appeared around a bend, I headed off again. Not perfect flow, but I was working with what I had and it was nice.

From Mudgeeraba it was onto the motorway for the trudge back home. I must say, I think this is the sort of sport bike riding that I can handle. About 4 or 5 hours of saddle time or 260km(163mi) interspersed with coffee and photo stops seemed to work well and stops my various bits from complaining too much.

So, two rides for the day. One motorised and one humanised(?). Perhaps the perfect balance? That should see me through the next few days at work. 

Now its time to put my personal bike washer to work.