Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Flyboy Epic - Day 1

At this point in my Tour Divide training it is time to start getting some bikepacking overnight rides under my belt.

But where to go? 

I needed a route that was tough, but not too tough, interesting enough to keep the motivation level up and have adequate resupply points so that it didn't turn into a survivalist type situation. 
Where to find such a route?

Well, luckily I have friends like Neil Ennis. Neil writes a great blog and delights in exploring hidden trails all over south east Queensland. Even better, he is very generous with his knowledge and agreed to cobble a route together for me from his extensive collection of "red squiggles" on a map. Thus, the Flyboy Epic was born.

It looked to have the distance, the climbing, the hike-a-bike and definitely the interest factor. Tick, tick, tick and tick.

I managed to eventually get out the door at about 10:20am, so not exactly optimum but I was underway. And I was straight into some of the best singletrack around. It felt good to be pedalling again as I ascended the Birdwing trail in Cornubia. This bike pedals really well uphill, almost effortlessly and it was a nice way to warm up.

The usual trail/road/bike way was soon taken care of and I was trying to find my way into Roma Street Station for the first time.

Picture middle aged man in lycra (or don't) with a loaded up bike. This does not equal inconspicuous. At least it was midday on a Thursday and not very busy.

I soon had a ticket and was munching some chips while waiting for the 12:30 to Rosewood.

And once on board, I had the place almost completely to myself. Business class!

In a mere hour and a half, plus one train change(!), I was rolling out of Rosewood with a full water bladder and chicken wrap to go. This is where the fun really starts.

I had really lucked out with the weather. It was crystal clear and about 27C(81F). Not bad weather for Autumn and much better than the torrential rain we had over Easter. It would be interesting to see how the black soil region that I was heading into was coping with that rain.

This was easy riding, all blacktop with little traffic.

 Just the way I like it.

I passed an old country tennis club by the side of the road. Clearly not used it years, it had that 1950's style that reminded me of so many little community tennis clubs from my childhood. They would be dotted around the countryside and were a hub of social and sporting activity for us Aussies that lived in the bush. As a child, I remember we would drive for hours to spend Sunday playing tennis then dig into the spread of lamingtons and pavlova that the ladies would lay out for afternoon tea. This one took me back......

The sun was beginning to get a little low in the sky as I rode into the tiny hamlet of Rosevale.

 I topped up my water and spoke to the owner of the pub for a bit. I couldn't place his accent but he spoke about Israel a bit. Unfortunately, I wasn't hungry or thirsty and my bags were full, so couldn't buy anything from him today.

I pushed on toward the rising terrain along the Cunningham highway and my first encounter with the Bicentennial National Trail.

This trail runs 5330km(3331mi) from the top of Queensland all the way along the Great Dividing Range and finishes just east of Melbourne, Victoria. Here, I had my first few creek crossings to contend with.

To be honest, it isn't a very well laid out trail in a conventional sense as it crosses many, many private properties and is very poorly marked in many places. You really need the guide books, a lot of patience and some luck to follow it. Today, thanks to Neil, I had a pink line on my gps to follow that took away all the uncertainty. However, it was still reassuring to see a BNT blaze here and there.

I had come to a tricky section of the trail where it crosses a national highway. The Cunningham Highway is on a huge climb and is used by most all of the interstate trucks heading south and west. With almost no shoulder, cars trying impatiently to pass lumbering, climbing trucks or truck screaming down the hill trying their best to hold the turns, it obviously isn't a place for a cyclist to loiter.

Unfortunately for me, Neil wasn't sure of the best way across the road here either. He had painted his pink line along the northern fringe of the highway, then crossing at the helipad (yes, there are so many crashes here they built a helipad to medivac injured drivers). I knew that side of the road toward the helipad was very steep but gave the route a go, in the interests of furthering our route knowledge.

It was almost dark now(the sunset was stunning) and I was in waist high grass so I put my gaiters on, switched my light on and pressed.....on. As the hillside became stupidly steep I found a gate with the BNT blaze affixed to it. Looks like this was the point to cross and to be honest, the sideslope was getting too steep to get all the way to the helipad.

I hauled my bike the 20m upslope from where the above photo was taken and watched the traffic whizz by at 100km/h(60mph). Shit. I was about 1500m(metric yards) short of the helipad and the desired crossing point. I turned all of my lights on, especially my blinky tail light and pedalled my backside off for 500 metres until I could dive off to the left of the highway and the relative safety of chest high grass.

Did I mention the chest high grass? Yeah, that grass, the stuff with huge spider webs strung throughout it. I felt like Bilbo in Mirkwood but instead of a glowing sword and a magic ring all I had were my Moxie gaiters and an Ay-Up light........crap.

I ended up lifting my bike over a chest high barbed wire fence as there was almost no grass in the paddock next to the BNT. This sped up my progress but this 1.3km section took me what felt like an hour to cover.

At the top I found the motorcyclist memorial, the BNT entry and a microwave oven that holds a trail visitors book that can be signed by through hikers/riders. I felt I had wasted enough time here and pressed on into the dark night, across some farmer's cow paddock....

This paddock contained, not surprisingly, cows- some bulls and more important to me, lots of hidden logs, holes and washaway drops all concealed in long grass. It certainly kept me on my toes and I only had one almost moment. I was very glad to get through this section of the BNT and hit the dirt road climb up to Spicer's Gap.

Spicer's Gap was the original crossing of the Main Range and I knew it went UP, but one of the small mercies of riding at night is that you can't see how steep hills are in the limited light. You can feel the resistance in the pedals but you are spared the headf#ck of seeing a big arsed hill rising above you. Thus, I was able to easily pedal up the road. My only concern was water with my last refill being a the Rosevale pub. I knew that there was a natural spring, Moss's well, higher up but I was definitely in water conservation mode.

I soon came to Spicer's Gap campground which was deserted and looked pleasant enough (read flat)  so I called a halt for the night.

I quickly set up my tent and inflated my new Thermarest Neo Air sleeping mat. A quick dehydrated meal and a hot chocolate courtesy of the jetboil and I was off to bed.

I knocked out a total of 159km(about 54k of this on the train) with 1500m(4900ft) of climbing in 10 hours. I still felt great and would have pressed on had I known the terrain better, so was happy with that progress for the day.

As I drifted off to sleep I wondered what tomorrow would bring..........



  1. Wow, nice job. That is quite the ride for one day. Do you think that is about what you'll be getting on the Great Divide Ride?

    I had to chuckle about you night riding through the paddock with all its hidden obstacles.

  2. No, it will be much more! I did 54k on the train which meant I only rode 105k myself. I will need to do about 190k a day to meet my 23 day goal and there is much more climbing at altitude on the divide. On the plus side, there are more open roads and less hike-a-bike on the divide and certainly no 5ft high gates to keep lifting my bike over!
    You'd love night riding in the bush....... ;)

  3. I'm really enjoying reading this. Keep writing! Oh - and if you want more hike-a-bike rides I have a few more ideas you'll hate me for :)


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