Monday, March 9, 2020

The Victoria Divide 550 - Day 4

My alarm went off again at 6am. That seemed like too soon but was another decent seven and a half hours sleep. I jumped up, got dressed and packed my sleep kit away. I wasn't feeling hungry so just drank the coffee milk I had carried and got pedalling just on first light. The trail was fairly pleasant, gradient wise but I took it easy to allow my weary body to warm up a bit. 

I soon came to a stupidly steep section of track that I just resigned myself to walking. It wasn't a bad morning for a walk.

They never look as steep in photos.

After one last such push I was on fairly flat ground with Lake William Hovell out to my right. Then the road became a sealed road! Oh the luxury! Roos bounded around, trying to get to the safety of the bush after being "busted" feeding on the lush green grass of the foreshore.

Roo on the road.

I pedalled up an incline to find myself looking down on the dam wall. I stopped for a few minutes to enjoy the view and a banana.

The the road went down, ever so gently for a very long time. I was in heaven as even light pressure on the pedals had me topping out near 40km/h. Finally, I was making good progress. The road eventually flattened out and I was expecting it to turn back to dirt at any moment. But it didn't. I rolled past vineyards and cellar doors on a crisp, still (almost) early Autumn morning.
Very soon I rolled into the little village of Cheshunt, which I wasn't expecting. I thought the first village was to be Whitfield. 
The general store was clearly the place to be as it was surrounded by cars. I wandered in and ordered a bacon and egg roll, a real coffee and a sandwich to go.

I had an interesting conversation with the lady behind the counter as she regaled me with a story about those "damn cyclists". Apparently she had passed one on a hill somewhere this morning and he was going so slow up the hill that she had to go onto the wrong side of the road, approaching a crest to get past - all at 100km/h and felt it was dangerous!! As she was kindly making me some food I thought it not wise to point out that it was great that she recognised a risky situation but had completely failed in how to mitigate the risk for her, the cyclist and any potential vehicle coming the other way. 
Not fcuking hard but Australian drivers just don't seem to be able to connect the dots to action a safe outcome, even if they perceive the risk in time.
Anyway, I just nodded like she had been wronged, took my food outside and enjoyed the solitude.

Back on the bike and I was soon through Whitfeild with no reason to stop because I was fed and watered. But I did stop. I saw a guy whom I thought was trying to load a Yamaha T700 Tenere' onto a trailer so I wheeled over to offer a push. Turns out he was just taking it off the trailer so we had a chat about what he thought of the bike. It is number one on my list to replace the F800GSA that I just sold.

Now the route turned east just after Whitfield and I was expecting more rough bush tracks for 60-70km until somewhere near Myrtleford. I was to be VERY pleasantly surprised to find that they were all just country roads through farmland! This meant fast, easy(ish) progress!

Some were even sealed.

Check the wombat exiting stage left.

After quite a while I came to this sign. A bit ominous.....

But Hills Lane was flat and fun. It wasn't very long though.

It turned left onto a more remote, rough and rocky track, but still just country lanes. Nothing like what we had experienced in the mountains.

There was even the odd vista.

Now, as I approached Myrtleford, I began seeing road signs saying 10km to go. Then another with 10km to go. Well, the route sort of winds it's way toward town, trying to keep us off the busier main roads so my gps ended up saying it was 25km to town from the first 10km to go sign - you are warned!
And this is why I was getting anxious. I was mentally tucking into a pie and custard tart for 15km too long!! That milk tasted soooo good too.

Sitting here, outside the bakery I began to notice how hot it was. I hadn't really noticed on the bike because I was smoking along at 30km/h for most of the last three hours and it felt cool enough. Talking of smoking along, I had done just over 100km this morning in four hours whereas yesterday it was 65km in eight and a half hours. What a difference flat countryside makes.

I grabbed some basic supplies at the Coles in town as it was "only" about 100km to Albury from here. I did know that there was one last shitty climb comewhere between me and the little hamlet of Stanley, just 30km away. 
The first few kilometres out of town were on a sealed rail trail which made progress very quick. Then things turned nasty again. We turned right, up a hill that just went up and up. My right quad was starting to give me some grief and while walking one of the steeper sections I deduced that my seat post had slipped down, putting more load on my legs when pedalling. I took a few minutes to rectify this and instantly the pain/load was gone from my legs. (Thats not to say they weren't pretty sore and tired though)

I didn't bother with too many photos from this section as I just wanted it done. It ended up being a 2000ft climb up to a ridge line in mid thirtys heat. Not much fun. 

Eventually the climbing stopped and a pine plantation appeared on my left. I was rocketing downhill and then the road became sealed again. Before I knew it I was standing at the bar of the Stanley Hotel ordering two more Carlton Zeros and a jug of water! Stanley was a beautiful little place and I wish I could have stayed longer than the twenty minutes I did.

Watching the world go by at Stanley.

Jumping back on the bike there was only about 75km to go. I started out on service roads in a pine plantation which was very pleasant. There were a few ups but nothing too bad. Then I dropped into the Yackandanda mtb trails, which was incorporated into our route. At first the trails were pretty open, flowy and bloody good fun even on a heavy bikepacking bike. I even had an echidna waddle across the trail in front of me. He stopped to hide despite me telling him I was a friend. I guess I don't speak echidna very well.

The trails went on and on, becoming tighter and steeper which wasn't appreciated but at least I was attacking them in the late afternoon sunlight and could enjoy them for what they were.

A lot of the trail seemed to be following (or was part of) an aquaduct. The trail was mostly on top of the bank, being very narrow and raised but occasionally it was in a trench.

The very end of the trail section saw me at the end too...of my tether! Trail for the sake of trail is how I describe this sort of noodling around. I was quite pleased to finally pop out at the trailhead.

The four kilometres into Yackandanda were all uphill. Rolling into the main street the first place I saw open was The Star Hotel. It had huge bench seats outside so I rolled up to one, plonked the bike against the table and headed inside to order a chicken parmy and a cold drink. 
While I sat there waiting for dinner to arrive I pondered what was left of the route. Just some back roads into Wodonga  then I would be done. 42km to go! Would these tired old legs have enough left in them?

After about 40 minutes waiting I was starting to get a bit testy as to where my food was. As I was about to enquire, it finally came out. I scoffed it down as quickly as I could and set off again.
The trail out of Yack was a initially a cool little path that wound along through someone's property, alongside a creek. I passed a few locals walking their dogs. It then popped out onto some dirt roads where I saw this little fella, resting....

The road came to a "road closed" sign but there was clear evidence of motorcycle traffic so I was on the right track. This closed section proved to be fun but every house I rode past in the fading light saw their dogs barking at me like crazy, so there was no sneaking by.

I eventually came to a sealed road and I had a laugh at the name of the road. Perfectly appropriate for us lot of loonies doing this ride.

The next hour or so wasn't very pleasant as it was now dark and my tail light battery had decided to be flat. I had bought the 170 lumen light especially for this situation and now it was flat! Luckily there wasn't much traffic but I kicked myself for not charging it while I was waiting all that time at the pub. So, I plugged the light into my cache' battery and put it in a jersey pocket to let it charge. If I heard a car coming from behind, I whipped the light out, turned it on and held it in my hand, facing rearwards until the car went past then returned it to the charger. 
I soon had to ride on the main road from Yack to Wodonga and even though it was only for a few kilometres it was NO fun at all. I mounted the tail light as it was now charged sufficiently and was able to put my head light on a low output to save ergs there. I was lucky in that maybe half a dozen cars passed me along this section and all from the opposite direction as there was no shoulder to this bit of road. My plan was to simply ride off the road into the grass if anyone had come from behind me. (I have no confidence in Aussie drivers to do the right thing and would rather take control of my safety anyway)
So after 3km of that I was off onto some quiet backstreets in a suburban subdivision. Then the route took us onto some walking trails behind houses. A couple of times I thought I was going into someone's backyard but the route actually just skirted their yard, usually to access more walking trails. I almost hit one grey kangaroo and one bunny along this section as they bolted across my path to get back to the safety of the bush.
The route joined a rail trail at the army base and I got to cruise car free all the way into Wodonga. The only issue was as I got into town there were several road crossings and it was sooo hard to slow down and give way crossing the road after being my own boss in the bush for so long.
The route then twisted and turned until I found myself standing in front of some sort of large outdoor artwork. 

I was done!! 
I pressed the OK button on the Spot, snapped a couple of really bad low light photos and scratched myself. These finishes are almost always anticlimactic, with nobody there to welcome you. (What it looks like in the daylight)

My thoughts turned to finding a bed for the night and my lovely wife had pre booked a motel room for me. I found the motel, found a pizza delivery service and once the pizza was devoured, spent about 20 minutes in the shower trying to wash the grime away.

While doing a bit of stretching (old bloke stuff) I reflected on the ride. Today was a really good day at 205km and "only" 2400m climbing. Almost double yesterday's mileage but with just 1000m climbing less, all done in two hours less time too!

This gave me a total of 581km(361mi) ridden, which includes riding to the start and from the finish to my motel. The climbing was an off-the-chart 12 500m(41 000ft)!! For me to do this in 3 days and 14ish hours was very pleasing as I was only three weeks into a base training plan, on my way to peak in July for the Colorado Trail Race. I did miss a small section of trail up near Mt Stirling which would have added about three hours had I ridden back up, then done that section but it also may have blown my mind and caused me to quit, so as they say "it is what it is". I was also reminded that I pack too much stuff. My reason for this is I don't want to be "that guy" who hits the rescue button on his Spot and makes bikepackers look like irresponsible fools - but I do need to trim what I carry and be a bit more uncomfortable, especially where racing is involved.

If you have read this far then perhaps you may well have the stamina for bikepacking because I have dribbled on with almost everything that happened. Oh, I think I forgot to add that I blew my nose on Day 2 and 3......... ;)
Anyway, thanks for reading and I hope this info is helpful to someone out there, whether it be to prepare for the route or to simply inspire someone to get on their bike and go for a pedal. 
Every adventure starts with that doorstep mile.....


* Carlton Zero beer? WTF is that about?
Well, I am going alcohol free for the 6 months leading up to the Colorado Trail Race as recovery is impaired by alcohol and as an "older" rider, recovery is THE biggest hurdle to fitness for an "older" rider such as myself.
I do miss my beer though. One can find Zero almost anywhere and it doesn't taste toooo bad - considering I haven't had real beer for a few months now. I will look to find tastier versions of alcohol free in the coming months but it appears to be very boutique and hence not widely available.

Homeward bound.


  1. Nice work you psycho!

    Interesting your comments about zooming in on your GPS. We had similar problems on the Dusty Butt. My GPS couldn't route the trails we were on - it would say that the next turn was in 20km whereas there may have been 500 turns before then. Zoom in and follow the purple line...

    Luckily we didn't need to fend off snakes...Dunno if I'd be keen on sleeping in a bivvy bag over your way...

    1. Thanks Andrew... I think? ;)
      Yeah, with the gps you don’t need to see any map features. You just need a Hawke eye on that track line. Nothing else matters or you will get lost!
      As for the snakes, they are pretty useless in the cold at night. Well, that is what I was telling myself. Plus my hammock is as heavy as a tent and I was lugging too much weight already.

  2. Well that was an entertaining trip report, you looney. Your not convincing me anytime soon with all that whining and whinging about climbing those hills. I'll stick with the motor thanks. I'm just enjoying it from reading from afar.

    1. But you only appreciate the highs if you experience the lows Garsshopper.

  3. Got to agree with your bro that it was an entertaining trip report - bloody well done mate. What is life without a few challenges along the way to remind ourselves that we're alive? As for zero alcohol beer, I drink a lot of Heineken Zero now. Tastes ok and there's no feeling like crap in the morning after a big night (not that I'm capable of them any more).

    1. The "not feeling like crap" has really got me hooked Geoff. I also find it makes me lethargic and not want to do anything, so good to be off of it.
      I was off the booze but was missing the beer taste after mowing the lawn or a big ride, then I saw this post by Sonia -

      They are spoilt for choice in the US but I have found a couple of craft breweries out here. Finding their beer in shops is the hard part.

  4. My mate John White who cycled the Canning Stock Route is riding the Hay River Track in the Simpson Desert in July - 620 km of eff-all. All you guys are certifiable!

    1. Lets hope the AU-NZ bubble is up and running by then. ;) Hope you are well mate.

  5. WOW, seriously hardcore Dave.

    I enjoyed the write up, and as you alluded to it is the tough rides/things we reflect upon.

    I've been doing some rides here on my bicycle and would like to expand that but road riding is not doing it for me and nearest forest is 100km away.

    Here's hoping we somehow both get to USA in July.

    1. Good to hear Warren. The exercise is good for the mental health too and any two wheel activity is fun.
      I am still training but I think going to the US, even by December, will be very unlikely. I don't think one would be able to get travel insurance to cover the obvious issue and medical is horrendously expensive in the US.

  6. I've obviously come to this report late Dave, but have to congratulate you on such an achievement ...... especially at your age!! All jokes aside- much respect. I am reasonably familiar with some of the country that you passed through and really enjoy seeing it described and photographed. Are you still working Dave or has the COVID-19 put an end to that for now. I wonder if you will be going to the States?

    1. Hi Jules! Thanks. It was hard but it was fun. I love that section of Victoria too so I'm glad I made the decision to do the ride.
      As for work, I am stood down on half pay. I will work if they need me but there is only enough flying for about 120 staff per week and there are about 850 of us on the 737, so my chances are slim. The main (massive) worry is the administration thing. If we lose our jobs there simply won't be any for us in Australia. Qantas will use it's grounded international fleet to pick up the slack we leave, so no jobs, no competition - careers that we have built over 30-40 years will be thrown in the bin. So, yes, I'm a bit stressed.
      I hope you are going well though and enjoying retirement?


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