Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Hitting 1K

Made it!

Despite the storms,

to 1001.5km (626mi) for the month of October....with 2 days to spare.....

going to lie down now.

Might go for a ride Thursday though.........

Cheers for the sponsorship all.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Almost There

Well, October is almost over. With just 4 days to go I am at 938km(586mi) and have raised $1940 for kids cancer research, through the generosity of you guys out there. Thank you!

While I don't think I can wring any more money out of potential supporters (?), I know I can reach my target of  1000km for the month....just. Yes, although I have 4 days to do a measly 62km(39mi) I am working all 4 of those days. That makes it very difficult to get my butt on a bicycle, however even if I have to ride half the night on Thursday night I will make sure there is more than 1000km on the odometer!

There has not been anything much going on this month, what with all the bike cycling cycled, aviation committed and general butt scratching that has been going on. That pretty well filled the month but today we made time to head to the Queensland Museum for a look at a collection of Afghan antiquities that were hidden from the Taliban for 15 years or so. They were then rediscovered in a vault in 2003. Some of the pieces are dated at 2500BC and the kids had a great time going through the exhibits.

Probably my favourite piece in the museum was right inside the entrance. No surprise really, but it was Bert Hinkler's original Avro Avian which he flew SOLO from England to Australia back in 1928. Not the first to fly the route, but the first to do it solo in a single engine aeroplane. Back in the day Bert was in the company of Kingsford-Smith and Lindberg for the scale of his achievement. Very rarefied company indeed.

We really don't know how lucky we are here in Brisbane to have the original Avro Avian AND the original Southern Cross on public display. If these were U.S. relics, they would be hanging in the Smithsonian with Lindberg's Spirit of St Louis.

Ok. See you on the other side of the 1000k barrier.


Friday, October 18, 2013

Border Ranges Bikepacking Day 2

Well, my planned early start didn't happen.

I finally rolled out of bed at about 7:30 which is quite a sleep in for me. May have been something to do with the 152km the previous day? Anyway, I munched a couple of museli bars as I packed my kit up and pedalled off around 8:30am.

Darlington Park seemed like a very pleasant spot to stay...another time. I was heading south into the "Lost World" and was looking forward to seeing new country. Although it can't be too lost any more...it has electricity!

My legs were a bit stiff this morning but nothing worse than expected. I soon came to the Darlington Connection road which shot straight up the hillside to the west and disappeared at it's crest. The sun burnt itself into my back as I inched up the climb, dripping sweat as I crawled along. The first climb of the day is ALWAYS tough. After you get the hurt thermostat set for the day everything else seems fine...no matter if it is waaay worse. Anyway, the brake searing descent that followed soon cooled me off and it was back to motoring along valley floor again.

I passed through a small village, Hillview, that would have been a bustling place 50 years ago. Now while there are still quite a few residents, the abandoned houses tell a story of what once was. At least the community hall is in good order.

Pedalling down Christmas Creek road the undulations serve up both pleasure and pain for my tired legs. It is pretty country so the time passes quickly and before I know it I am at Stinson Park. This area is where Bernard O'Reilly made his way off the mountain looking for help for the survivors of the 1937 Stinson airliner crash. This was massive news in Australia at the time as the aviation era was still in it's infancy and Kingsford Smith, Hinkler and even that Lindberg bloke were household names. To think that a local farmer had the gut instinct and the bushcraft to just walk out into the rainforest and to actually find the three engined plane is incredible reading.

Anyway, I had read Bernard's book years ago and have always wanted to climb to the crash site to have a look for myself. It wasn't going to happen this trip, but I was going to climb up the "Stretcher" track. This is the path they brought the survivors down via. I knew it was going to be steep but wanted to make an on the spot decision once I was looking at the mountain side. The entrance to Gap Creek rd didn't look too intimidating...

But the hills surrounding me indicated something else. Very soon I was in granny gear, grinding slowly past various farm houses on what felt more like someone's driveway than a road. There were kangaroos lounging in the shade everywhere. Obviously, this was good country.

I was soon reduced to pushing my bike before I came to a gate adorned with signs.

Duly warned, I pushed onward, past some grazing cattle and then came to some old sheds and an outhouse.

Turning around, the view was fantastic!

Back to the task at hand, I tried to apply the common sense test to what I was proposing here. Initially I thought "no way can I get my bike up there".

I was at the right arrow. Check those contours!

Then I thought, "what if I just mosey up the Stretcher track to see what it looks like"?. Sure, why not? The worst that can happen is that I turn around because it is too steep.

As I started up the hill I looked back toward the sheds. The view was just getting better and better!

Arriving at the bottom of the stretcher track, it appeared to be a defined track along a small spine that ran down from the ridge line. Yeah, I could do this. So I did.

I started pushing with occasional stops to take in the view, water and some roasted almonds. The challenge of it was actually fun.

Of course, I was on snake watch big time. I soon spotted evidence of Joe Blakes but hoped that because the skin was in a small tree it would be a friendly snake. Although, we all know there is only one kind of good snake.....

Looking up the range to where I needed to be kept my enthusiasm somewhat in check.

Of course the final 20m or so of vertical were just that. VERTICAL! I had to skirt across the hillside, through the grass, to ease the difficulty but it did make it bloody hard to keep an eye out for snakes. I didn't hear any rustling which was reassuring but maybe they just weren't moving....?!?

Eventually I crested the ridge line!! It was about 10m across at the top and had a nice little line of single track running along it. Not from the cattle, but the Geocachers that frequent the hill. And the views? Fark yeah!!!

Even if I made it no further it was worth the effort so far for the view alone.The cool breeze that blew in from the east was icing on the cake. After soaking in the view I began to trace the ridge line north, toward the valley I needed to drop down into. I had tracked about 200m(yards) to the south by following the Stretcher track up but there was no option. It simply was not possible to follow my GPS line up the hill side.

I soon came to a rock outcrop that had vertical drop offs down the mountain side. The only way to climb it was by skirting around the left side, then using both hands....which made carrying a 20kg(44lb) bike pretty tricky.

I decided to leave the bike, hike over the top of the hill and walk to the spot where I needed to drop into the next valley. This would save me from pulling my gear off my bike and transporting it bit by bit possibly to find that it was in vain.

Once past the rocks it proved to be a very pleasant stroll. The ridge line flattened out into a plateau and there was a distinct track along it going right where I needed to go.

But right where I needed to go was a massively steep slope. It might take me all afternoon to find a way down, then I would have to find my way onto Jackson's Rd and across to my next hike-a-bike section along the "gazetted" Lancaster Rd. I had been applying the "is this sane" test to the whole climb so far but when I applied it here I was coming back with the answer of "probably not totally insane, but close enough that a bystander couldn't tell the difference" . Plus, the climb over the rock outcrop was stupid to attempt on my own. If there were two of us we could manhandle one bike at a time, but it just wasn't possible solo.

So, back it was to be! Not surprisingly, it was pretty easy to get down the hill. I even rode the lower section of the Stretcher track and my brakes lived to tell the tale!

Coming up with a plan for the rest of the ride I decided that my original Plan B reroute would likely be just too much extra to make my scheduled train in Casino tomorrow afternoon. I needed a Plan C.

What to do? What to do? As I filled up with water from the tank at Stinson Park I decided to back track the way I had come and ride up Duck Creek rd (not having done enough climbing today....) to O'Reilly's Guesthouse where I could camp the night then ride via Canungra, Mt Tambourine and the V1 bikeway to home. That way I could self rescue and probably would not run out of time. I did need to be home for work on Saturday morning.

I was feeling a bit flat riding back to Darlington Park. Maybe it was the fact that I had dragged my bike up a 230m(755ft) hill side after riding 35km(22mi) but I think it was probably more the disappointment at not being able to follow the plan. Perhaps the 770m(2525ft) climb that was looming had something to do with it!

I picked up some water and an ice cool icecream at Darlington Park and pressed on. I was soon heading along Duck Creek rd and at the pearly er steel gate.

It was getting late in the afternoon, I had a big climb ahead of me and I was not exactly swimming in water. I needed to keep the pace up- but not too much otherwise my thirst would suck my Camelbak dry. A delicate balancing act. So, I walked quite a few sections that I would normally ride. "Just to keep the heart rate down" I told myself.

I managed to get to the main lookout at just the right time. I caught the sun setting over Mt Barney and Mt Lindesey.

This lack of light as well as the lessening grade spurred me on. Past Luke O'Reilly's farm.

The setting sun was sending shafts of light through gaps in the rainforest canopy along here and small patches of forest floor were glowing like they were on fire. It was the most amazing thing I have seen but alas, I could not do it justice with the camera.

Once again, my tail light was pressed into service as I grovelled up the last few climbs to O'Reillys. Cresting the last climb, I jumped on the bike and began to pedal. Instead of smooth forward progress I had a bump-bump sensation. WTF?! Jumping off I soon saw the problem.

My non tubeless tyre had delaminated and the bumps would not clear the rear of the bottom bracket. I deflated the tyre some and pushed the last 1.5km into O'Reillys.

I located some much needed water, then was pleased to see that I had some service on my mobile(cell) phone and made that call to home. The drive up to O'Reillys is VERY twisty and I didn't want my lovely, by now slighly overtaxed, wife driving it in the dark so I opted to camp and she very kindly(again) agreed to drive up and pick me up first thing in the morning.

I had a great nights sleep and was up early in anticipation of my rescue truck.

When the cavalry arrived she was in great spirits and seemed to be enjoying herself very much. I mean, how could you not with a beautiful mountain road to drive, kangaroos lounging along the roadside, view that went on forever and me to pick up?!! We had a delicious breakfast at Canungra in the cafe' frequented by motorcyclists whose name escapes me before driving back to Brisbane.

Ride stats for day 2 are below.

Both days total 222km(140mi) and  4210m(13800ft) of climbing.

So, another bikepacking trip was done and dusted. Like the last, it had not gone to plan but again I was okay with that fact. The navigation this time had been spot on. That was an issue last time, so nav problem solved.

This time my issue was an ambitious route plan. I sort of knew that I would struggle with the hike-a-bike bits as I was time limited to 3 days. With another day up my sleeve I am sure it would not have been a problem so I can wear that, although the rock outcrop was a deal breaker while solo. Some scouting rides might iron out this crinkle in my plan, but then again, they need time to undertake. 

The tyre problem was completely out of left field, though I have had it happen before, there is no way to predict when it might occur and I'm not going to put new tyres on the bike for each ride. Maybe if I was going to cross the Simpson Desert I would put new boots on. If I had pressed on westward my wife would have had an even longer drive to retrieve me. I also would have struggled to make contact as phone reception is very sketchy where I would have been that night and I really don't want to press the level 2 rescue button on the Spot.

All up I am pretty happy with how it panned out. I have learn a bunch more about bikepacking and about my own personal capabilities and that is what it is about. Getting out there into the bush, out of my comfort zone and testing one's ability to adapt and cope.

Cheers and thanks for reading.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Border Ranges Bikepacking Part 1

Getting myself out the door for this ride was proving to be a bit of a challenge. I was still up at 10pm the night  before, going over my route maps and cue sheets. I had known how important it was to have my planning squared away before my last trip, yet I still headed out on that one under prepared  I had paid the price with some sub-optimal navigation that lead to a reroute. Not that it particularly worried me at the time but this time around I wanted to stick closer to the plan and feel more confident of the route.

This left me still packing my rig on the morning of departure. This is a job that you don't want to rush as you are bound to leave something vital behind. Now, not that I rushed it at all...but I left my arm warmers, towel and tail light at home! The beauty of the first 30km or so being through suburbia was that my lovely wife just met me along the route to rectify these oversights. I would be glad of the tail light especially over the next two nights.

The first part of the ride was along various sections of the Logan cycle network. Connected isn't a word I would use to describe this network. Nor would I use informative to describe the Logan City Council's webmap of the network. One small scale map with some lines that are about 1km thick going by the scale make it less than easy to follow. Still, I managed to find my way out to Teviot Road at Greenbank and onto my first dirt road in a fairly efficient manner.

What is wrong with this picture?

Soon I was pedalling along quiet dirt roads with only the occasional watchful magpie as company. This is what it is all about.

I soon came to my first creek crossing which was unexpected. The crossing on Undulla Rd had obviously been washed away in the floods, cutting the road with a fairly permanent looking "road closed" sign blocking my path. No problem on a mountain bike though. I just picked my bike up and walked across the creek.

Just the other side of this crossing was my first section of "questionable" route planning. Brennan's Dip rd/Nixon Rd was a road in name only, being a gazetted line on a map and nothing else. I was pleased to see that the farm gate did not have a private property sign hanging from it. I let myself in and followed a dirt track which more or less followed the gazetted line on the GPS. 

Nixon's Rd goes where?
I soon came to a point where the official road diverged at 90 degrees from the track I was following. It was time to don my Moxie Gear gaiters and "head bush". 

From here on I was on snake watch big time. I was glad that the cattle had kept the grass short in this paddock but I still made a point of keeping to the clearer areas. This isn't to say that every second stick and branch lying on the ground didn't give me a fright as I mistook it for a snake! 

Coming to a creek line I was a bit stumped for 5 minutes or so as I searched for a point to cross that was not a 20 ft drop to the dry creek bed. I eventually found a cattle track that led me into and out of the creek.

 This proved to be the only difficulty on Brennan's Dip rd/Nixon rd and I soon found myself looking down through the trees onto the dam wall at Wyaralong Dam. Having studied the maps so much in planning this ride I found I didn't need to consult a physical map at all. I knew the terrain so well that I could recall features from memory to navigate my way. Good stuff!

Wyaralong Dam

I then began my way along the shoreline track. I had not ridden this track before so was interested to explore it. It proved to be quite sandy with a lot of short steep pinch climbs and sharp descents which made keeping a good average pace tough work on a loaded bike.

After a while I came to the old homestead where I took the opportunity to top up my water from the water tank. This would be the first test of the Steripen to sterilise some water. And it was an epic fail! I had put fully  charged  Nickle-metal-hydride batteries in it and now the little blinky light on the pen was telling me it needed new batteries! Another mental note: test your equipment before you leave home...... 

It wasn't the end of the world though. I still had plenty of water but part of my game plan for this ride was to top my water up at every opportunity as resupply points would be hit and miss on this ride.

The Shoreline Track proved to be quite long and the sun was getting low in the sky by the time I reached it's western end. As I rode along I had been weighing up my camping options. While I had originally planned to just camp where ever I ran out of steam, I now had a desire to camp at Darlington Park campground, some 27km south of Beaudesert. I was currently about 25km to the west of Beaudesert. So that equated to something like another 50km. No probs. I would wing it and see how I felt.

Rolling into Beaudesert having survived the traffic on the main road I headed straight for the local Woolworths where I purchased 4 lithium batteries for the Steripen plus some water and more food. 

While inhaling a bottle of flavoured milk I noticed that I was sitting next to a cafe'. Very soon a good old fashioned burger was following that milk and I felt like a million bucks again....well like twenty bucks anyway.
Yeah, I know. Gaiters are on wrong legs....but it works.

I decided to push on toward Darlington Park so switched my blinky tail light and Ay-Ups on before pedaling into the darkness. The next 27km went by fairly quickly and I was surprised how good my legs felt. No cramps or soreness. I felt nothing at all and could have quite easily kept pedaling. But I wanted to see what Darlington Park looked like and as it was dark when I arrived I would have to camp to see it in the morning.

Riding up to the owners house, he came out to see what I wanted. When I asked if it was okay to camp and if he wanted me anywhere in particular he asked "where are you"? "Here" I replied. "No, where are you parked" he asked. "Here" I replied again. "I'm on a push bike". "Oh, I thought I saw vehicle lights" he said. "No, they were my Ay-Ups" was my reply. As I set up camp I chuckled to myself about how good Ay-Up lights are. Most non riders have no idea how good lighting systems are these days.

It was about 9pm by the time I climbed into the hammock. With 152km(95mi) and 2130m(7000ft) climbing I was a bit tired and was looking forward to a good nights rest. 

The route so far with everything going to plan...

Then it would be up early and into Day 2 and some interesting terrain........

Tuesday, October 8, 2013


I have been planning another bikepacking trip for a little while now. "Planning" is a very loose term actually. I looked at the map, looked at some other riders GPS tracks, looked at how much time I have and came up with a suitably squiggly line that will be challenging and might be fun.

There will be some tough Hike A Bike in the Christmas Creek area down near the NSW/QLD border which may just prove impossible to lug 20-odd kilograms of bike and gear over. It looks okay on Google Earth (but then so does Mt Everest!) however, the topo map shows some close contour lines which equals HURT.

If I can't manage the H.A.B. section I do have a "Plan B" which involves backtracking somewhat, though the elevation profile on my "Plan B" looks like it will hurt a lot as well.......

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With the Great Cycle Challenge underway, I have been smashing myself up, trying to get back on an even footing with my average kilometres after missing days on the bike due to work. This culminated in an 80km ride yesterday in near record (for this time of the year) heat of 38C(100F) that saw me drag myself home on my lips....which sort of put me off bikepacking today, despite the cooler temperature here today. Still, I have managed 304km(190mi) since Friday so I am ahead of the curve again.

The route I have selected is pretty slim on resupply points and with the heat in mind, water top up was a very important consideration. After much thought on the subject I decided to purchase a Steripen so that I will have drinkable water pretty much anywhere I find a water source. Being a public holiday in Queensland yesterday, I could only find the "Classic" and not the "Adventurer" in stock at the local outdoor shop, so will have to wear that weight penalty.

The good news is that I feel pretty good today and my legs will feel even better tomorrow, when I plan to start pedalling pretty early. You can follow/stalk/ignore my progress via my Spot tracker at the following link. (From the 9th October Australian time.)

Cheers and thanks for reading.