I had a call last week from Dean inviting me to join him and a few mates on a scouting ride that he had planned out. The route was the BVRT from Ipswich to Esk, then back to Fernvale, up and over D'Aguilar National Park to Mt Nebo, then down to West End in the city. It sounded interestingly challenging.
We had done a similar route back in May but this time would start in Ipswich. There were two main goals for this ride. One was to test our sleeping set up before we venture further afield and the second was as a scouting ride for a larger group ride Dean is planning on posting up to a wider audience in the near future.
The forecast for the weekend was truly appalling. Violent thunderstorms, tornados and heavy rainfall was on the cards from Saturday afternoon onwards.....and the forecast didn't really disappoint!
We left from Ipswich at about 1pm Saturday in pressing humidity. This was about an hour or so after a massive thunderstorm passed through the area. We were wondering how the soil might handle the moisture but were confident after several months of dry weather that it would simply soak up whatever fell. This proved to be a pretty accurate assessment and emboldened our risk assessment confidence for the weekend.
The Ipswich to Fernvale section of the trail was new to all of us, apart from Dean who had been meticulous in his ride prep, with a scouting ride of this section on his own! Nice work Dean0. There were many, many locked gates along here that pretty much ruined the flow as we lifted our fully loaded bike packing rigs head high over and over again. This wasn't surprising as the trail is actually closed. Why, we couldn't tell, as it was in tip top condition. More protecting "ourselves from ourselves" by our over-regulating governments I guess. Anyway, we did our best not to burst into tears when we got a fleck or two of mud on our shins.....
Rolling into Fernvale we did what you do when one gets to Fernvale. We hit the bakery for some rats coffins..er meat pies and icy cold drinks. As usual we were not disapointed with 100 different pies on offer. The few we sampled were top notch.
So far we had managed to dodge the weather. There had been massive, dark thunderstorms with continuous rolling thunder stalking us all afternoon, but they seemed to be drifting by on either side of us. We hoped this would continue for the countryside was beautiful in the sunlight.
Not far out of Fervale we stopped for our first mechanical, a flat tyre. This would be a regular occurrance on this ride for some reason. Having switched to tubeless tyres a few years ago, random flats are a thing of the past. About all I have to deal with now are the very rare massive sidewall blowout when you slice the tyre with a rock. I had forgotton how annoying (and slowing) flats are.
After several of these unplanned stops it became clear that we wouldn't make Esk before dark. Bummer! I had thought the distance to be a "piece of piss" and as such, left my AY-UPs safely at home. All I had was a pathetic little camping head light. Well, it got pressed into service and was actually fine at about 12-15km/h. The trouble was we were doing 20-25km/h! To say the last 30 minutes of riding into Esk was exciting is an understatement!
We rolled into town accompanied by much thunder and lightning, but remarkably still dry. Dean and I peeled off for the caravan park where we planned to camp, while the other three guys headed for their digs in the pub.
The caravan park owner kindly put us right down the back of the park in a shed that was leaning about 15 degrees to one side due to flood water giving it a bloody good nudge last year. Still, it seemed sturdy enough and would keep the approaching wall of water in the sky off of us. Not exactly the gear test we were planning, but you have to be adaptive with these things. After a quick shower to freshen up, we headed off to the pub for some grub.
At the pub we were talked into the "protein overload", more commonly known as the mixed grill. While we patiently waited for the food the power went off and on to the time of the lightning bolts outside. Each time it happened the publican would say "if it stays off you guys will have to leave". Without food? With nothing else in town open? Like hell!
Anyway, the power stayed attached long enough for us to be delivered a large plate with the whole farmyard on it. We quickly inhaled it before donning our rain gear for the trudge back to the campground.
On arrival at the campground we passed the owner who told us to move to higher ground as he wasn't sure how much water might come down the creek! It was clear from looking at our shed that the water DID in fact come up pretty high and we could well enjoy a "wet dream" during the night. After a bit of risk analysis we thought screw camping in this weather, rang the pub, booked a room, packed up and got out of there! The best laid plans.....
Sprawling out in an old Aussie pub room is usually pretty ordinary, but when the roof was trying to lift off the place at 1am I was pretty happy to be in a proper buiding!
The stats for the day were not massive. The 73km (46mi) and 570m (1900ft) of climbing did not accurately portray the effort that included lifting our bikes over what felt like 300 locked gates and moving along at an average speed of 17km/h.
What will tomorrow bring?