Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Flyboy Epic - Day 3

A slightly restless night's sleep was had again. It certainly wasn't a comfort or warmth issue as the Thermarest and my down bag are excellent bits of kit. No, plain old thirst and just being plain old and sore made for a sub optimal sleep. While I am anti Vitamin I if I can help it, perhaps I need to weigh up strategic use to balance against pain related insomnia? Another consideration for the race.....

Anyway, It was nice not to have the tent covered in dew this morning and I quickly packed it up while my breakfast was also hydrating. I was sort of surprised that no one stopped to ask me what the hell I was doing camping there as I had been passed by many cars during the night and this morning. I must have looked honest or respectable.....yeah right!

Loaded up and pedalling off I was definitely a bit sore today. My chain was also protesting about the lack of lube too. I didn't have a small enough bottle of my favourite lube, Ride Mechanic Bike Milk, that would fit in my already stuffed bags. I thought to myself "Bike Milk is frickin' awesome and it will be ok" but even Superman had Kryponite and so it seemed I have found the limit of the lube, which was not insubstantial, at about 200km(120mi) on a heavily loaded bike.(A little birdy tells me that RM has a new, touring oriented lube in development)

As I slowly climbed Left Hand Branch road I worked my way past quiet farms either side of the road. The soil here looked as fertile as that up on the range.

I love these old farm sheds. They have been around for decades, with more and more "precious" junk being shoved into them until over time the junk is all that is actually holding the shed up. Clearly, this is one of the newer ones.

I was gently climbing this whole time and crossed some more new low level creek crossings. There was much evidence of earth works all along the creek. I guess it has taken this long to catch up on the extensive damage caused by the 2011 floods.

Still in cattle country and I was even stirring them up when they were 100m away in a paddock! These clowns ran for about half a kilometre before they realised I was on the other side of the fence and would do them no harm.

I came to a bend in the creek with a nice flat, grassy area that I wished I had found last night. It was the perfect camping spot but I wasn't quite sure if it was public land or on someone's property.

Shortly after this I passed a farmer shovelling manure into the bucket of his tractor. I stopped to say hi as I was passing very close to his house and sheds, along the BNT. He was very friendly and asked if I was riding the "horse trail"? I replied in the affirmative and he thought that it was great and said the trail went through his property and up, over Laidley Gap. "You can't miss it", he said. I thanked him and we both went back to our respective "jobs".

Laidley Gap? Mt Sylvia? 

Ahhh, the penny dropped as to where I knew those names from! This was part of the old Flight Centre Epic race course! I had clearly buried those memories very deep but now they all bubbled to the surface as the track became all too familiar.

There were still red arrows marking the route even though this hasn't been the course for about 4 years. I must say, at bikepacking pace, this was actually a very pretty ride...........apart from the hoof ruts in the black soil. They don't look like much but I am running zero suspension travel on this rig.

Up and up the trail went. Before too long I was off and hoofing it myself. I was so glad that it was dry. I think there are still guys in therapy that tried to race this in the wet a few years back.

There is an end to this.....and there it is!

As I crested the top a herd of horses pranced around and made a lot of noise, but dashed off before I could get a photo. So I modelled again. Sorry about that.......

That warning sign is to inform one and all that the track is very steep and "ill defined". Now they tell us?! Anyway, this bit drops down through Thornton View and was a hoot during the Epic race but in the two times that I raced the "old Epic" I never had time to take in the view. This time I stopped and admired the view over Thornton.

It was a hoot blasting down the farm road to the gate of "Thornton View" and brought back memories of crazy overtaking during the race just so I didn't have to touch the brakes after all that climbing.

The next few kilometres rolled by quickly and I was starting to wonder where I might meet up with Gaz, who was tracing the route out in an anti-clockwise direction. As I said, I didn't know what time he started so I didn't know where we might meet.

A quick photo stop at the Thornton School and I was off again.

Just up the road was the tell-tale marker at the entrance to Edward's Gap, a tractor mailbox. 

Another of the old Epic's infamous grinds, I needed no GPS or route notes to find the trail as it was etched into my memory.

Most of the track over Edward's Gap was actually covered in long grass and I became a pin cushion again for a while, but thankfully nowhere near as badly as yesterday in Goomburra.

The road down off Edward's Gap is fast and flowy so it was nice to be making good time here. I was sort of hoping I would meet Gaz somewhere here but little did I know he wasn't even on his bike yet.

The ride from here became one of quiet back roads where I could hear the air streaming through Magpie's wings as they maneuvered to get a better vantage point of what this thing was that was squeaking it's way along the road. Yes, the poor chain was starting to sound bad by now!

As I finally rolled into Rosevale again, this time suitably thirsty, I saw a fluro yellow dot coming up the road the other way. I ducked into the pub and ordered two Cokes then nonchalantly sauntered out the front to watch Gaz roll up! We downed the Cokes, then he produced a huge iced coffee milk he had packed from Aratula for me. Not wanting to dissappoint, I downed that as well and to be honest, if he had another I would have made short work of it as well! This bikepacking sure gives a bloke a hunger and a thirst!

Gary Tischer photo.

After a short break we pedalled south toward Aratula and Gary's car, still 30km(19mi) away. It was a glorious morning for a ride, as the last two had been and Gaz proceeded to photo-bomb my attempts at artistry......

We rolled into Aratula for another feed at the truck stop. My GPS read 371km. Take off the 54km of train travel and it was a not too shabby 317km(198mi). Later analasis would reveal a total of 3765m(12 350ft) of climbing. Hmmm....it felt like more than that!

As a training ride I was pretty happy with how it went. I felt good for the 3 days with no major soreness anywhere. My kit worked well, especially the Ground Effect Exocet knicks(shorts-thanks Marshall!). After about 28 hours in the saddle, my bum(butt) was in perfect condition, which as any cyclist knows is EXTREMELY important and a real deal breaker for long rides. I must point out that I have no affiliation with Ground Effect, I just love their knicks!

Ground Effect miracle shorts!(and my arse!! Too much information?)

My sleep setup worked well and I was a little hot both nights. This won't be a problem on the Divide and I must say I am more concerned about the lack of temperature on the Divide. I am sort of hoping for a "hot" year, but planning on it being cold.

Finally, if anyone wants to get out and explore this great section of South East Queensland, I say DO IT !  It is a beautiful area, so close to Brisbane and the temperatures are starting to drop, making for some great riding.

Cheers and thanks for reading.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Flyboy Epic - Day 2

After a slightly restless night's sleep where I found myself too hot(!), despite the clear skies during the night, I was up early making some oats for breakfast and packing my gear back onto the bike. While in no great rush, I was trying to come up with a more efficient packing style than last time out. Right Andrew? 

I was soon ready to roll.

I was pleased to find last night that in addition to my 600ml(20 oz) of water that I quarantined for cooking, I still had about 1 litre in my Camelbak bladder. This didn't leave me too dry overnight, but I would need to find water relatively soon this morning.

Relatively soon came along, relatively soon when I rode up to the Moss's Well sign.

I grabbed my bottle and filter then set off along the trail to the well. In my excitement to fill my bottle I sort of forgot to get a shot of the well itself. Forget idyllic mountain spring. It was more a slighlty opaque puddle of stagnant water with little water spiders racing across it's surface. But being a begger, I couldn't be choosy so popped an Aquatab into the bottle and left it in the bottle cage on the bike as "back up" water. I hoped not to really need it.

I was a bit surprised when soon after I suddenly crested the Gap! I must have ridden much more of it last night than I realised.

That bit of road behind the gate is the original highway across the Main Range. One can only imagine the hard yakka it would have been to drive ox carts up and down this mountain. The early pioneers were tough....because they had to be. I shuffled slightly uncomfortably in my tough-guy lycra.....

Neil had advised me not to miss the view from the Governor's Chair lookout. I was keen to press on and make miles but decided to have a quick look at the view. I was bloody glad I did! South East Queensland was laid out in front of me like a map.

Ok, enough playing tourist. I was soon enjoying the cool, quiet roll along the moss and leaf covered road.

There were some upity bits that were quite rocky but for the most part this road was a pleasure to ride. Then I felt it. The resistance in the pedals reduced and my speed shot up. I had crested the clinb and was heading down the western side of the mountain. Woo Hoo!

The woo hoo quickly turned to grumbling as these next 45 minutes was spent negotiating steep, rolling hills. 

Creek crossings in the gullys, deep wheel ruts along the trail from the previous wet weather and sharp climbs sapped my motivation along here. Not knowing how long it was until I dropped out onto the highway and my resupply point at the Tregony truck stop didn't help.

However, I soon left Spicer's Gap trail in my dust and rolled out onto the highway-again.

Just 1.2km(less than a mile) in the wrong direction, was my morning tea stop.

The Tregony truckstop would have all manner of food to stuff down my cakehole and I would be able to refill my depleted water supply. A bacon and egg roll, coffee and O.J. were quickly despatched. I also bought a chocolate bar, bag of mixed lollies and a chicken sandwich for later. A bird in the hand and all that...

I now had to roll 2.5km west along the highway to get to South Branch rd. This section of the ride consisted of excellent, open gravel roads which served as a way to get me to Goomburra National Park while keeping me off the treacherous Cunningham Highway.

This road was also the entrance to Spicer's Peak Lodge. Rooms go here for about $1400 a night, making my humble tent look quite affordable.

I made great time along here, thanks to the excellent surface of the dirt roads and maybe a hint of tailwind. I soon blasted through Maryvale, crossed the Cunningham Highway again and headed for Goomburra along quiet, sealed back roads.

This is very rich farming country around here. The deep colour of the volcanic soils seems to just beg to be cropped (yeah, country boy put your hand up!)

More fast road miles rolled past as I made my way along an ever narrowing valley, toward Goomburra.

There were now lots of camping and 4 wheel driving  parks along either side of the road. There was some interesting art works as well.

I stopped into the little cafe' that was attached to one of these parks for some food and drink. I wanted to top off my water but the rather unfriendly(initially) lady thought I might be a health inspector and declined to assist with filling my water bottle for me. 
I gently pointed out that I would be the world's most dedicated health inspector as I had pedalled all the way out here on a bicycle!
 She seemed to think about it for a minute and visibly warmed a little. Too late though, I just bought the water, cold drink and ice cream that I already had in my hand but didn't buy any of the food that I was planning on buying from her shop. I decided I would rather make do.

Pedalling off to inspect other restaurants.........er, to continue with the route, I rolled through beautiful countryside on silky smooth dirt roads. There were campgrounds all along here and being a Friday, there were plenty of people setting up tents or already camped. I must come back here to check it out in more detail.

Entering the national park I took a left and started the climb to the edge of the Range.

 It went up. And up. 400m in 3.3km(1310ft in 2mi). 

I had plenty of time to inspect the scenery and wildlife.

I needed to make some time up so I rode straight past the first lookout, Sylvester's Lookout. The second lookout, Mt Castle, was in a sort of dead-end setting so I thought I had better take the 450m walk to the lookout. It said "no bikes" but there was no way I was leaving my bike here so I pushed and carried it along the less-than-bike-friendly trail.

It was pretty rainforest though with trees typical of the area.

I eventually made it to the lookout and was greeted with a spectacular view across to Mt Castle.

I loitered here for a while, taking in the view, munching some almonds and mucking around with my camera. Enough stalling, time to get moving again.

As I said above, this road was a bit of a dead end. The only way to go on was over a locked gate, into the National park along the Winder Track. Of course, that gate was chest high and my bike weighed about 20kg(44lb). Luckily I have been doing some strength work as part of my training as there would be at least 10 head-high lifts of my bike required along here.

Looking ahead, I could see that there was long grass in my future, so I decided to put my gaiters on again. Only, I couldn't find one of them. Bloody Bugger! It must have fallen off the bike somewhere this morning. With the long grass and weeds to come along here, I would rue that loss!

The Winder Track started out a Alice in Wonderland-like experience. 

It soon turned to snot. Snot that stuck to me like I was some sort of mobile pin cushion. And yes, another of the high gates!

After what seemd too long, it opened out onto a ridge line where the grass was much more manageable and I was able to catch glimpses of the view to the north east.

The elevation here was about 3500ft(1070m) which is pretty high for Australia. The cooler, milder climate at this elevation allows for some unusual growth that you just don't see at lower levels. There were mushies all around here.

Luckily, I didn't have to take this track down but it did signal that I had finally left the Goomburra National Park and was crossing some of the 4wd tracks from the camp grounds far below in the valley that I had ridden into Goomburra on. The roads now were wheel rutted, rough 4wd trails which while not as pleasant, were easier to make good time on. 

I was still heading west but I would soon be turning north on my route. I felt I was making progress again.

This gate signalled the start of the descent off of the mountain. Yes, I would be making progress now!

This was the start of Black Duck Creek Road. Well, once I found it, it was.

Now, the trouble with this road was that it was steep, rocky in places and rutted with a bazillion hoof prints of the cattle that inhabited these hills. On a heavy, fully rigid bike this took a hard toll on my back, arms and neck. I was soon very sick of the jarring ride.

Add to this mix cattle. Not just any cattle but very stupid cattle. As you can see from the photos, the hillside is quite steep either side of the "road". Now, despite many side trails made by the cattle, I had now come upon a small herd that decided to trot along the trail a few hundred metres in front of me. While they trotted, they pooped. So now I was dodging ruts, rocks, logs  and cow dung. Fresh, smelly, sticky cow dung. It quickly became the "must avoid" trail obstacle, with rocks and logs coming in a distant second and third! 

I am a country kid and while no cow expert, I couldn't see how to hunt them off the side of the trail without getting alongside them. That just wasn't going to happen on this narrow trail.

As I rode along I heard a thumping sound. I checked my bike while negotiating cow-mines. Nothing. I looked over my shoulder to see a rather large young bull trotting along about 30m behind me! 

I stopped. 

He stopped. 

We eyed each other. I shouted "garn!". He didn't flinch. Shit! 

I should mention here that for a while, I had felt like I was in the absolute middle of nowhere and had been dreading a mechanical as I was a looong way from any help. I remember that song "Cows With Guns". Maybe he was the great cow Guru?

I rolled on down the hill and he followed me. I thought he probably just wanted to catch the herd of maybe 15 cattle that were fleeing down the hill but how do I let him past?  

There was a big drop off to the right and a high embankment to the left. Against my better judgement, I eased over to the left and slowed. I did feel quite trapped by the embankment with nowhere to go. The bull increased his speed and passed by me on the outside of the track. Great!

 I stopped.

He stopped. 


He turned around and I was thinking "I am going over that edge any second now"! This went on for about 30 seconds, then he turned and ran up a cow track, straight up the embankment. PHEW!

Rolling on I came to the herd, all pressed up against the gate. I went to the lower side of the trail and tried to gently herd them up the hill and out of my way. This went a bit pear shaped with a few trying to run through the fence, some going up the hill and a few going down the hill. At least the gate was clear and I was out of this accursed cow paddock!


Some more steep, rocky trail awaited me then all of a sudden I was on grassy, flat ground crossing and re-crossing Black Duck creek. I made good time but was starting to worry about water again. I hadn't topped up since my "health inspector" incident hours before and it was getting dark now. I didn't want to filter any creek water, what with all the cow effluent around. Nothing for it but to just ride.

I passed a cool looking old slab hut but only stopped to snap a photo. There was no time to inspect it.

Another kilometre or so down the road and I was onto a nice smooth gravel road. It went gently downhill and I smashed it along here doing at least 30km/h in the evening light. My K Lite dynamo light was pumping out the lumens and I didn't even bother with my helmet mounted Ay-Up.

I pressed on into the night for an hour or so, hoping to come across a decent camping spot or water source. This is incredibly hard to do in the dark, in country that you don't know, so I ended up riding all the way to Mt Sylvia. 

Mt Sylvia was the point where my northerly trajectory turned east and consisted of 2 houses and a school on an intersection of 2 roads. 

I managed to find a tap with drinking water at the school. I drank about 2 litres before I even set my tent up. The grass on their verge looked just too inviting for me to pedal any further tonight. So I set up camp, against the fence, by the side of the road and sort of hoped that some pished idiot wouldn't run me over while I slept. 

I had to chuckle as I ate my dinner, it had the same colour and consistency of the cow splats that I had dodged this afternoon! Yum.

It had been another good day in the saddle. 

With 129km(81mi) and 2000m(6500ft) of climbing in 9 hours, I hadn't ridden massive kilometres. However, I was feeling good, my new Ground Effect Exocet knicks were living up to their reputation for extreme comfort and my bike was working flawlessly.

Tomorrow would be the last day on this little training jaunt. I had a mate riding out from Aratula to meet me then ride back together. I had no idea when he was starting out, so hence, no idea where our paths would intersect. And why was the name Mt Sylvia vaguely familiar? These thoughts certainly added another element of interest to tomorrow's ride I pondered as sleep overtook me yet again.....