Monday, April 29, 2013

SEQ Bike Packing Trip Part 4

....continued from Part 3....

Not setting an alarm and just waking up with first light worked a treat. I felt pretty refreshed after another ten hours sleep. I don't know how the Tour Divide riders do it on four hours sleep a night! They ride about double my daily distance and at elevations up around 8 to 10 000ft.

I was packed up quickly and with an eye on some breakfast in Fernvale, about 40km(25mi) distant, started pedalling into the rising sun.

I had indulged in the pure luxury of clean, DRY socks this morning and they felt great! Yep, they felt great for about the first 3km until the long grass, wet with dew, proceeded to soak them. They were saturated by about the 4km mark.

Still, it was a beautiful, clear morning and it was a pleasure to be on the bike again.

I was into and out of Coominya pretty quickly. I didn't even stop in at the shop this time. Surprisingly I didn't feel hungry at all. After being ravenously hungry on the first two days, by day 3 and 4 my hunger seemed pretty much back to normal. Maybe I was acclimatising to the riding?

Being mostly a gentle downhill ride I was making good time while the shadows were still long.

Just outside of Lowood I spotted another rider coming toward me. I wondered if Dean0 had wagged school and come out for a ride. Then I could see that the guy had a roll on his bars and a seat bag. Total overkill for a day ride so it must have been someone else.

It turned out to be a guy called Gavin. He had ridden from Nerang the previous day and was heading to Esk today, then back down to Nerang. He said a mate had talked him into doing the Tour Divide in the US this June and he was trying to get a few training rides into his legs. With only two months to go he was getting nervous about his lack of riding. He mentioned riding in South America and from his lean, cyclist look, I guessed that he had some reasonable experience at long distance riding and would know what he was up against. Good luck Gavin!

After chatting for 20 minutes or so I was a bit behind schedule now. I steamed into Fernvale intent on rustling up some eggs on toast and a decent coffee. This I managed to do at the fine establishment below.

Just don't be in any hurry when you order. On the bright side I had plenty of time to refill my Camelbak, oil my squealing chain and even phone home before breakfast arrived.

As I said, I have done this section of the ride several times and it is amazing how much local knowledge improves your judgement. I was soon powering along Banks Creek Rd toward D'Aguilar National Park, taking in the (deep) creek crossings and only slightly worried about passing through the "hippy" camp at the end of the road.

Not that the hippys are unfriendly. I just don't like going through private property uninvited. I wouldn't like a bunch of riders just cutting through my yard either.

Anyway, arriving at their gate I found it wide open with evidence that a car had driven out. "Good", I thought to myself. "Nobody around, so I'll just slip through unnoticed". Well, that was until some mean 'ol dog began barking at me. There was no way I was going to slip past him!

Soon a guy came out to see what the ruckus was about. I waved and explained that I was just going up to the national park and would he mind if I passed through his block, including in my explanation that the couple at the top of the block had offered an open invitation to come through any time. He said "sure, no problem" then we chatted for a while about the weather, my bike and living on his block. I have forgotten his name, but if you are riding out this way, make sure you say a friendly "Hi" to the owners and ask permission to pass through.

Barking 'ol dogs behind me, it was now the tranquility of D'Aguilar National Park that I heard. Plus my gasping for breath. I was making my way up "Whoa Boy", the notoriously steep climb/descent that is at the end of Dundas Rd. There are varying counts of the water bars that cross this track to prevent erosion. Today I played a rhyming game to help me keep track of the count as I battled up the climb and the wildlife did it's best to distract me.

It went something like "two, tie my shoe", "five, feeling alive" then 'thirty two, my shoe", "thirty five, still alive". Yeah, I was knackered and struggling for ideas but I didn't lose the count. I got to "fourty eight, shut the gate!" and I was at the top. Therefore, I make the waterbar count 48 for the climb. That settles it......

Dundas Rd has some "rolling hills" along it's length and while I was reduced to walking up some of the really steep rollers, I mostly just stood up and mashed the pedals, single speed style. I was amazed that I could still muster this energy but also pleased to see that it netted a faster climbing speed and no pain for my legs. I was pleased to reach the rubbish tip at the top of Dundas Rd, for now the cafe's on Mt Nebo were just a few short minutes away.

A few short minutes and some considerable PAIN away that is! I don't like riding on the road up here on Mt Nebo because the road lacks any shoulder and the large number of motorbikes and cars that like to treat it as their own private race track make being a hood ornament a very real possibility. Just watch this video to see what I mean(note: not here in AUS, somewhere in California but I don't want to be that guy).

Luckily, the pain wasn't from wearing a Deadcati up the backside but because I chose to take Hammermeister Rd and avoid the main road. I was soon at the cafe' enjoying a pot of tea and the chocolate hedgehog slice that I had hauled up the hill from Fernvale bakery as a reward for making it.

The run down South Boudary Rd was fun with the top section providing big smiles as my supertanker ploughed down the hills and managed to crest the next rise without too much pedalling effort. I was pretty much head down, bum up for the next few hours as I carved through a few of the single tracks in Gap Creek Reserve. 

Hitting the streets in suburbia here is always a bit surreal after hours in the "bush" but I was pleased to be rolling along easily. I even spotted a mountain biker up ahead whom I guess was heading home from a single track session. As the road tilted up, I decided to go all "attack" on his arse and get past him. I actually managed to blast past pretty easily which was pleasing because this was the roughly the 100km(62mi) point for the day and the 480km(300mi) mark for the 4 days.( I learned later that his name was Mark. he saw the blog post on!)

I deviated slightly so that I could ride along South Bank to take in the views and top up my water. Talk about surreal. I had been in full on "bush" just 30 minutes prior!

The run along the south east freeway was pretty mundane as usual with just a chocolate milk stop at a local petrol station where I got to witness some outstanding driving skills/attitude displays by "school mums" on their way home with the kids. Scary stuff!

I decided to finish the ride by cutting back through Daisy Hill Forest and dropping down Wallum Froglet in Cornubia. I bumped into Oppy, one of the trail building gurus here in Brisbane as he unloaded his bike for a ride in Daisy Hill and chatted (rambled like a hobo on a bike) for 20 minutes or so. Thanks for putting up with me Oppy!

The run down Wallum Froglet was pretty sweet and I stopped at the bottom to shut the GPS down and enjoy the quiet of the bush (only just heard over the tinitis from wind noise in my ears!).

I had made it home after riding 515km (322mi) and climbing 8100m (26 600ft)! When I mapped out the route I have some misgivings as to whether I could ride the it. As it turned out, I cut about 100km(62mi) from it due to a lack of time and navigation problems, so I guess if I was being pedantic, I couldn't do it in 4 days. I am very happy with the effort regardless and with a bit less sleep, could have done the total distance. But then, I like my rest..... 

I will pay more attention to the navigation in the planning phase next time and will have to look into why my Garmin eTrex didn't perform the way I had expected. Note, this is not to say it did anything wrong. It just didn't do what I expected! 

My Giant XTC29er worked perfectly. There were zero mechanicals, not even a flat tyre.

I must thank Neil for his track logs. Without them I couldn't have even contemplated this ride. Also for his phone advice when I discovered my route shortcomings on the GPS and his very generous offer to drive up and meet me with another GPS. That was above and beyond the call! Thank you.

Physically I felt pretty good and the lack of rest I got in the following days testified to that. Normally I would have broken down with a cold or something but this time I was at trail building next morning pushing barrows of rock, then kids sport and catching up on work around the yard. That is not to say I didn't look shagged, but I felt reasonably ok.

Also, a massive thank you to my lovely, understanding wife for letting me go for 4 days to play boys on my bicycle. Not many women would give their bloke that much leeway. Thanks Rebecca.

I think this is my favourite photo from the trip. It is at the cafe' on Mt Nebo when I realised that I had done it. I knew I could finish from here. I felt great.......

Thanks for reading. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

SEQ Bike Packing Trip Part 3

....continued from Part 2.....

As I lay in my sleeping bag in “the unit”, listening to the rain on the roof, I was wondering what effect this might have on the river levels at the numerous crossings I was to negotiate today? I was also pleased that I was sleeping in a warm, dry place and not having to pack heavy, wet gear onto my bike. Yesterday taxed the legs a lot and I didn’t need any more weight to drag around.  Yes, it was a good call to stay in Jimna.

Heading out of Jimna this morning the legs felt a bit “doughy”. Yesterday was a pretty tough day with all of the climbing and I was unsure what today would bring. It might be 90km to Nanango, it might be 115km to Yarraman or it might be 140km to Blackbutt with whatever climbing that brought. The trouble with these plans was that it meant I would be starting from Blackbutt at best on the last day. That would give me about 200km to ride on the last day. Not really possible. The next best option would be to arrange a pick up at Fernvale, something I wasn’t keen to do for two reasons. One, I didn’t want to trouble anyone with having to pick me up and two, I really wanted to complete the ride from and back to, my front door.

As I warmed up on the few kilometres out of Jimna toward the Monsidale Rd turnoff I mulled over what route I should take. I stopped briefly to look at the Jimna fire tower. A very impressive timber structure.

Dropping into Monsidlae Rd I enjoyed the long downhill coast, but as always, in the back of my mind was wondering when I would have to “pay the piper” for this descent.

It felt a bit like England Creek Rd in Brisbane Forest Park and I notice that after the overnight rain I was amongst the first road users for the day.

The countryside opened out to farming land with views that went on forever.

I was expecting a lot of river crossings today and the first one was encountered just near Monsidale. It was a very civilised concrete crossing that was covered in sand so that it felt like pedalling in custard to get across it. Wet feet. Before 8am. Again.

Not to worry though. It was another cracking clear morning. I wasn’t at work so what could possibly be wrong with the world? (Apart from the Boston Marathon bombing which I was blissfully unaware of). Just a bike to pedal and lots of photos to take.

I had made a decision regarding the route for the day. I would turn left on the Linville to Murgon Road instead of right. That would see me tracking straight to Linville and save me about 100km(62mi). While slightly disappointed at missing this section, I simply didn’t have the time to include it in this trip. Another time perhaps?

As I came to an intersection that was signposted as Louisavale Rd I confidently motored past as my road map showed that road curling back up to the north. I needed to take Monsidale Rd to the west, along Monsidale Creek. Reinforcing the idea was that the Louisavale Rd sign had a “no through road” sign attached to it. This would be the first time I obeyed an advisory sign on this trip and I should have stuck to my "normal" policy here.

Yep, of course that was the road I was meant to take to get to Monsidale Creek! I could see a road on my gps that headed in the correct direction and fell into a basic map reading trap of making the map fit the surroundings and not the surroundings fit the map. A subtle but important point.

So, after pedalling for another 30 minutes or so, I began thinking that the Louisavale Rd turn had to be the one, but as I rocketed down a range of hills was reluctant to make the climb back up to find out.
Arriving at the “next road” that I had seen on the gps revealed it to be not much more than a track. I spent some time here on the corner of Tableland Rd ascertaining that it would link back to Louisavale Rd. It would, eventually, so I headed off along it all the while watching a guy on a horse trying to get a small herd of cattle through a gate, without much success. I thought I knew a few swear words but boy, was I getting an education! It also made me feel much better about being a bit off track.

The short version of Tableland Rd is that it slowly disappeared into a creek line with chin deep grass. Yes, that is the "road" below.

 I was feeling pretty vulnerable without gaiters in all that long grass so decided that the sensible thing to do was give the Monsidale Creek section of the ride away. I back tracked then headed into Kilkoy(with a nice tailwind) for a coffee and slice of carrot cake as big as a house brick.

Now you could look on the re-routing as a major disaster, however I just saw it as a bit unfortunate. I was still pedalling along on an adventure, along roads that I had never ridden, taking in sights I had never seen so I was still happy with how things were going. Again, these navigational glitches would highlight areas that I needed to pay more attention to at the planning stage and identify potential traps in my GPS operation. As I have understood for years, you learn much better lessons from your failures that you do from your successes.

As I inhaled cake I made the most of having phone service by checking my phone messages. Almost as soon as I had turned it on it rang! It turned out to be Neil, just seeing how I was going and why I had missed the turn at Louisavale Rd. I explained it and my intentions, then checked the other ten or so messages that I had received while incommunicado.

I headed out of Kilkoy via Georges Creek Rd toward Toogoolawah. It proved to be a quiet country road with nice scenery.

It also gave me an idea for a name for my bike.(not that I have names for my bikes, but Bertram he shall be!)

Rounding one corner I came up behind a koala walking along the side of the road. As I stopped pedalling the Hope hub ratcheting scared it back up the nearest gum tree. It just sat there about 4 feet off the ground looking at me as I passed by.

Rounding another bend and the Brisbane river was spread out below me. It was amazing how wide it was and how eroded it had become after the last few years heavy rain.

Making my way into Toogoolawah, I spied the sky diving centre. Veering off the highway I cruised across their landing ground to check out the jump plane, a Cessna Caravan. The Caravan is a real workhorse of the skys these days and its not every day you see one with such a garish paint job..

Rolling into Toogoolawah it was time for an ice cream. I had travelled through several sections of road works where the road was being resurfaced. The stop and go sign holders wouldn’t let me sneak past as “I might slip on some gravel and hurt myself!” After riding 350 odd kilometres and hiking a bike through some crazy country I found their nanny state mentality almost laughable. "More than me job's worth, mate" they all said. I was glad they were there to protect me from myself!

Out of Toogoolawah, I proved them right by taking the first railway bridge that ended in 8 foot high grass. Unable to find a way through and suitably humbled, I backtracked and took the main BVRT. D’oh!

The Toogoolawah to Esk section of the rail trail was new to me. It proved to be quite pleasant, apart from the long grass in places. I motored along across and past some old rail bridges.

Coming into Esk I made a quick stock up at the local grocery shop, where the check out chick was very pleasant to a smelly, middle aged mountainbiker. A quick hobo shower in the local park next to the cenotaph, then I was back on the bike to see how far I could get out the road before it got too late.

I particularly like the Mt Hallen section and was hoping to find a spot to camp along here.

Pressing on while the sun went down proved to be extremely beautiful riding. The colours, the flow and the temperature made for very pleasant riding.

I kept going, crossing various bridges as dusk turned to night. After a little more pedalling I found two likely trees to string my hammock up between and made camp.

I was soon rehydrating a surprisingly delicious chicken curry underneath a bright half moon. In a plus, by jumping around I could get a text message to send, but not make a call. Almost a perfect location! Another 134km(84mi) with 1400m(4600ft) of climbing and I was pretty knackered, so early to bed and all that…..

Stats for the day are.....

Only one more day to go before I needed to be home. I have done the Esk to home section of this ride before, so knew exactly where I was going. Still, it would be interesting to find out how much was left in the legs with the climb up into Brisbane Forest Park to come....

Cheers and thanks for checkin' in.

Monday, April 22, 2013

SEQ Bike Packing Trip Part 2

....continued from Part 1....

Waking up at 6am I quickly got my gear packed away and rode down to the Palmwoods IGA for a food resupply. My legs were a little stiff, but quickly came good as I warmed up a bit.

Making sure you have enough food(fuel) and water to get you to where you intend to go is probably just as critical as knowing where you are going. Making sure that there was a resupply point at the towns that I passed through shapes where you stop and where you just keep on riding.

Today's first stop would be Mapleton. At around 17km from Palmwoods it wasn't a huge distance but what it lacked in kilometres it made up for in elevation. Not only are the hinterland roads winding and hilly but I had to climb up onto the Blackall Range to get to Mapleton.

So, I set off on a route I came up with by linking a heap of minor roads together. Once again, judging by the traffic I had hit upon a great back way for all the locals to travel up the range. With no shoulder on the road and car after car of "school mums" trying to set land speed records I was soon pretty nervous about making it to Mapleton at all. Luckily there were some nice views and places to pull over and catch my breath.

There were several long steep climbs on the way up. One of the most disheartening things was to climb for 30 minutes, then blast down into a valley that I could see a huge climb on the other side of. Ouch! Getting to said climb, I was greeted by a warning sign advertising the gradient at 20%. There was nothing I could do but get off and walk.

At least when I reached the top of this climb I was up on the range proper. It was a gentle pedal in to Mapleton from here. The Mapleton area housed many detatchments of troops during the second world war. I imagine the forests around here made great training grounds for the jungles of Asia that lay ahead of the troops when they were finally shipped off to fight the Japanese.

In Mapleton I refuelled at the local IGA/Bakery/BP garage. Here I picked up a couple of maps for the coming days. The map for today's trails was a "Great Walks" topographic map which was perfect for what I needed. The other map for Day 3 of the ride was just a generic road map, but still better than the nothing that I currently had.

I faffed around here trying to decide which way to head to Kenilworth. I had been advised to take the Obi Obi rd as it was safer than Delicia Rd despite being the main road to Kenilworth. Mulling over my new maps with a coffee in hand, I decided that I had had enough of sealed roads and the traffic that goes with them, I would take Delicia Rd and deal with it's associated issues when I came to them.

It was great to be on the dirt again with the zero traffic flow that went with it. Much more relaxing despite the fact that I was still gently climbing. I soon passed Mapleton's cemetery with some interesting looking head stones.

The trees in this forest a huge.There are so many straight and tall eucalypts it would be a logger's dream to get in there. The views out across the Obi valley from occasional vantage points were stunning as well. The air was so clear after the thunderstorms the previous afternoon.

There were also some very fancy looking front gates along here.

Shortly after this point Delicia Rd came to an end with a "No Through Road" sign. This was the bit I had been looking forward to. As I eased off the dirt road, Delicia Rd narrowed considerably and pointed downward. Bring it on!

It soon became just a couple of wheel tracks, then a wallaby track. Without the gps there was no way to tell where the road actually went. Yep, thats Delicia Rd right there.

Hike-a-bike was the order of the day with many steep, rocky drop downs that had to be negotiated carefully. I must admit, I was keeping a sharp eye out for snakes along here as my gaiters hadn't arrived before I departed and my legs were feeling particularly exposed. All was good though with no sign of any Joe Blakes, just rock drops to contend with. This photo doesn't do the steepness of the hill any justice at all, but it was probably the hardest to negotiate. I have the scrape on my back to prove it too....

Delicia Road flattened out and opened up to long grass and I was able to ride again. I glimpsed some more nice views out to the west through breaks in the lantana.

I was soon pedalling into Kenilworth, crossing the Mary River just east of the town.

I don't recall coming through Kenilworth before today. It seems like such a nice little town that I will definitely be back to explore the surrounding area.

I stopped at a cafe to grab an orange juice and send a quick text update to the guys following me from home. I quickly put the phone back on Flight Mode to save the battery. Had I left my phone on for a while I would have received a detailed turn by turn text of tomorrow's route. That may have come in handy...

Riding out of Kenilworth was very pleasant as it was a beautiful morning. There seemed to be a lot of motorcycles cruising past and I soon found out why.

Just out of town there were a series of bends that were race track smooth and cambered perfectly to hold you into the turn. That explained the cafe just outside town that must have had 20 bikes parked out the front.

Climbing, climbing and some more climbing later I turned off into Charlie Moreland Reserve, along Sunday Creek rd. This road would take me through Imbil State Forest, then Conondale National Park to my overnight destination, Jimna.

The thunderstorms that I had seen brewing from my Kenilworth stop were now moving overhead and I was getting the first spits of rain for the day. Checking the time, it was about 12:30pm. Pretty early for an afternoon storm. 

I made my way through Charlie Moreland Reserve where there were quite a few people camping. The sign on the entrance to the national park ominously said "road closed" but I figured that I would ride along and see why it was closed. You can't believe everything you read, right?

There was mucho climbing to be had along here and little did I know this would be the theme for the afternoon. The view was mighty nice though.

I figured that because the road was closed, any vehicle that I saw would be a ranger's car. I had my "story" ready to go for when they stopped me and asked why I was there. Sure enough, thirty minutes later as I grovelled my way up another hill, a Land Cruiser was driving up behind me. Gulp! Here we go! But to my  relief, he just drove past, giving me a wave in the process. That is a green light if ever I saw one

The next few hours were spent slowly tightening up my hamstrings with never-ending climbs. I knew that I had to make about 500m of elevation but I am sure I climbed much more than that.

When the road finally tipped downwards I was stoked! Photo time!

But it was to be a false summit. The climb went on and on. All the while I was getting rained on for a short time and I think I had donned my rain jacket four or five times by this stage. I was wishing it would make up its mind.

Shortly afterward, it did make up its mind. A cracking thunderstorm moved overhead and I assumed "the position", hunched under a tree, trying to keep my electronics dry again. This went on for another good 45 minutes or so and must have dumped 25mm(1 in) plus of rain.

Finally able to ride again I came to a road sign indicating that I had another 21km(13mi) to go until Jimna, my next resupply stop. This was bad as I had just finished the water in my Camelbak and had one 750ml bidon remaining. Oh well, at least it was cool.

The road progressively went downhill and I managed to enjoy the fruits of my earlier labour by hooning down the trail.

I was getting pretty toasted by now and popping out of the dim, dark forest into open fields was a bit of a shock as it seemed to be quite a bit later while in the forest.  

It wasn't far into Jimna now. A quick resupply and I was planning on riding until dark, then stealth camping on the side of the road. I was also keen to get out of my wet riding gear. My feet had felt totally waterlogged  for half the day and no doubt would be a sight to behold when I actually took my shoes off.

The last few km into Jimna were another uphill slog. I was really glad to see the turn off into town. It was bathed in late afternoon light that almost seemed to be a sign.

Rolling into town I could quickly see that there wasn't much to Jimna. 

No shop, no petrol station. Just a blue tin shed that said "Visitor's Centre" on it. There was some advertising for food so that is where I headed.

As I walked up to the door, a tall thin gentleman came striding out and said "you must be Dave", more as a statement than a question! I knew his name was Dave as well and deduced that Neil must have warned Dave about my impending arrival. 

Dave started loading me up with food. A couple of frozen sausages, a couple of eggs, a few slices of bread and a knot roll were put into a bag. Just as I was beginning to wonder how I was going to carry it all, Dave said "well, you can stay down in the unit. You can have a warm shower and cook that lot up". Upon hearing that, all thoughts of continuing on out the road vanished. Dave could not possibly have been any more friendly and accommodating to me, pretty much a perfect stranger! He wouldn't even take money for the food, suggesting I just make a donation to the Visitor's Centre instead! Pure gold country hospitality and greatly appreciated on my part. Thanks to Dave and Neil.

The unit turned out to be old loggers quarters. They were warm and dry after another wet day on the trail and best of all was the hot shower. 

I had my little fry up then turned in for the night. I was pretty well shattered after today's ride. While only 84km(53mi) it had felt like a constant uphill grind all day and I was going to need a good long sleep to recover from it. I wasn't sure what the countryside was like for tomorrow, but I was hoping it wouldn't be more forest with uphill sloping roads!

So, the total after two days was 256km(160mi) with 4400m(14430ft) of climbing. I was a bit disappointed with today's distance effort, but once I saw the climb profile I felt a little better.

What would day 3 bring? New legs were what I was hoping for.......

Cheers and thanks for checking in.