Thursday, 21 May 2015

On Moving and Being Moved


At the moment time seems to be passing ... well, at the speed of light! A week ago Dianne and I headed up north to Launceston to start a quick trip around the western two-thirds of the state. We had a special function to attend in Launceston; more about that later. The forecast was pretty good so we decided to take our bikes with us.

Arriving at our accommodation in Riverside just on noon, we quickly changed into our cycling gear and headed north on the West Tamar Highway (the A7) for an afternoon's ride. After about 10 kilometres, apart from a very brief rejoining of the highway it is possible to leave the A7 and ride down along the water all the way to the Batman Bridge, a distance of about 20 kilometres. This route meanders through a few small settlements and past a number of wineries and cafés. Boats are snuggled into cosy little coves and orchards abound.

When we reached the B73, which joins the West and East Tamar Highways and passes over the scenic Batman Bridge we turned west and headed to Beaconsfield, an old gold mining town where we paused for a late lunch. We decided that we'd be pushing our luck to be back before dark were we to continue on to Beauty Point for our intended 100 kilometre round trip so after a feed we got back on the bikes for the return journey. On the way back we stopped briefly to get a snap of the view across the river towards Windermere ...

Near Blackwall on the Tamar River
By this time we were about 10 kilometres from home and chasing the remaining light so we didn't loiter - although we were very tempted. This stretch of of road is one of Tasmania's most popular for cyclists. We've ridden along it many times in the past on visits to Di's mum in Launceston and look forward to more trips along it in the future.

Being Moved

The special event we'd come up to Launceston for was Riverside High School's 50th anniversary commemoration of the Scott/Kilvert disaster in the Cradle Mountain - Lake St Clair National Park.
Dianne was on the walk 50 years ago when a student and a teacher in training lost their lives in dreadful conditions. As a consequence of this disaster a hut was built on the shores of Lake Rodway and named the Scott-Kilvert Memorial Hut. It provides shelter on the "back" side of Cradle and makes a great spot to stop on an overnight hike in the Cradle Mountain area. Here's an image I pulled out of Google Earth that shows the location of the lake in relation to the peak (the larger lake to the right of the peak is Dove Lake; the one above and behind Dove Lake is Crater Lake):

Cradle Mountain topography, showing the position of Lake Rodway

The assembly was a very moving affair, with various members of the party and family members of the deceased telling their stories. Riverside High School's highest student award is named in honour of the two lost young men and a number of past recipients were there to talk about what the award has meant to them. All in all, I'd have to say it was the best school assembly I've ever attended (as a former teacher I attended plenty!), and despite the long program the students were remarkably settled throughout.

That night before the assembly and after our ride we caught up with an old primary school friend of Dianne's, one Jane Olsen (née Wagner) who had moved away to Melbourne before High School. She too had been on that fated hike, as Dianne had asked and received permission for Jane to come across from Melbourne and join the group. Dianne had managed by to get in touch with Jane to let her know the commemoration was happening. It had been about 48 years since they'd seen each other so they had a lot to catch up on over dinner; Jane's husband John and I talked sport while the ladies ticked all the memory lane boxes.

On the Move Again

We had decided to continue on to the Cradle Mountain area after the function at Riverside High School. It was pretty late by the time we got away from the lunch that had been organised for members of the 1965 hiking party and just coming on dusk as we entered Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park. Just before arriving at our accommodation we came across a wombat, peaceably wombling across the road, which finished the afternoon's journey from town into world heritage wilderness off very nicely.

Although we'd attended the 40th anniversary of the building of the Scott-Kilvert Hut and there was to be another function up there this year, my still-healing ankle and Achilles injury meant that I wouldn't be able to hike all the way in to the hut on the Sunday. Instead, we opted to have an early walk around Dove Lake on the Saturday morning and then drive on to Strahan on Tasmania's west coast. 

It was a day out of the box: completely still with an impossibly blue sky. Here's a few shots from our hike, starting with a couple of stunning reflections of Cradle Mountain. This one's from my phone ...

MY photo

... and this one's from Di's phone ...

DI'S photo

She reckons she's got a better camera in her phone. Hmmm. Not sure I can see any difference. What do you reckon? (To be fair, maybe her photo is just a little sharper.)

Credit where credit's due though ... as we were nearing the end of the walk Di did get this great photo of the boat shed with Cradle Mountain behind ...

Dove Lake Boat Shed
We hoped to get a ride in at Strahan after lunch so we didn't linger, but as we were leaving the park Di got a nice photo of a wombat who was out rather late, as wombats are meant to be nocturnal  creatures ...

Wombat near Ronny Creek
We did manage to get to Strahan in time for an afternoon ride, but it was fairly short. 

Our plan was to have a good night's sleep, get up early and try to get in a hundred before driving home to Hobart, but when we looked at the forecast we decided to make a change. The prognosis was for it to be drizzly in Strahan and sunny in Hobart. Almost a no-brainer as far as cycling goes. Besides, we noticed as we drove through Zeehan that the café we intended to have a break and a bite to eat at was now closed - another victim of the contraction of the economy of Tasmania's west coast.

By the time we got home we'd covered just over 800 kilometres of Tasmanian highways ...

Our Long Weekend Away
It was very tempting to stop along the way home and get on the bikes as the weather was just gorgeous once we got away from the moist west coast. However, the thought of being able to get off our bikes and into a nice warm spa bath kept us motivated to get home. And it was a stellar day in Hobart when we arrived, and we did manage to squeeze in one of our pet rides: out through Brighton, across to Richmond (via Di's favourite route), back over Grasstree Hill and home. A lazy 80 kilometres in still conditions and more blue sky. Not a bad way to finish off the weekend, eh!

Just How Easy is it To Ride a Bike?

Incredibly easy, right? After all, most people learn to ride a bike around the age of five. Given that fact it  may just not be so easy to learn to ride a bike. It may just be that our brains are so adaptable, so plastic  at that age we just don't realise the difficulty of the task we are mastering. This wonderful video suggests that riding a bike is a little harder than most of us think and that we can get smarter every day, and that's where I'll finish this post (and thanks to my friend Jon Jones for sharing this with me) ...

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

(s)Training in the Wind and Rain


Hobart is a windy place. It's a fact of life and, if one is a cyclist in this part of the world, something you've just got to take as part of the package. That package of course includes some incredibly beautiful and varied cycling terrain.

During the summer, our next-door neighbours Sam and Leonie had their son Evan, his wife Véronique and their baby Romy home for a visit. They are from Montréal, where Evan met Véro and has lived now for about 15 years. A keen cyclist, Evan loves getting home when he can and says that Tasmania in general and Hobart specifically has the best road cycling of anywhere he's been. Now I'm not saying that our cycling is better than some of the wonderful places around the world where you can ride a bike, but that gives you a bit of an idea of the calibre of terrain we have at our disposal.


Seeking shelter from the storm
The forecast for today was a bit ordinary ...

There will be wind and rain ...

... but, because we didn't ride yesterday we really felt like we needed to get out today to spin the pedals around and keep our training regime on schedule.

Most of our recent rides have involved a certain amount of plugging away into a headwind. After we got up and had breakfast and looked outside and at the BOM site it was apparent that the wind had arrived a bit earlier than predicted. Di wasn't that keen to do the same old thing again this morning - with rain thrown into the mix for good measure - so she came up with a proposal to cheat the weather gods. 

Because the forecast was for strong nor'westerly winds with a bit of rain, Di's plan was to cycle south 60 kilometres or so to Geeveston with the wind at our backs, have lunch and catch the bus home. That sounded like a good plan. It didn't look like it would be that cold, which fitted with the winds coming from the northwest, so we dressed warmly - but not in our mid-winter gear - and tucked our lightweight rain jackets in our pockets.

Off we set in the sunshine just after 10 o'clock, thinking we might actually be a bit overdressed. Maybe the worst of the weather had already passed through? No such luck. As we started to climb up towards Ferntree the rain started to fall hard enough for us to decide to stop and don our jackets. At first it was just rain. Not that big of a deal. But then the wind really started to roar. With the rain now pelting down and the wind buffeting us, I said to Di that if the conditions persisted maybe we ought just go to Neika and turn around.

Here's  what the conditions were like in Hobart this morning while we were out, with actual and apparent temperature, wind and rain highlighted ...

... and this was what it was like on top of Mt Wellington ...

Fern Tree is at about 450 metres above sea level, with Neika at about 500 m asl, so the weather we experienced would have been somewhere in between Hobart and the top of the mountain. All I know is that we were pretty darn cold and wet when we arrived at Neika and decided that yes, we would turn around. Normally it's just wonderful heading out of town and up through South Hobart, into the forest and over the shoulder of the mountain and then further south towards Kinston and on into the Huon Valley. Not so today. As you might imagine, we were very happy to turn around and head back to Ginger Brown for a couple of hot drinks and an early lunch.

Warmed up from our repast we were relaxing before heading back out into the maelstrom when the lass serving us notice that there was a big puddle of water under our chairs and spreading out into the aisle so she put up the wet floor warning sign ...

... which made us think that maybe this was a good time to leave.

Anyway, this image from  Google Earth will give you an idea of the terrain we covered today ...

Home to Neika
The cross-section shows the dip into town from our place, and then the steady climb up to our turnaround point.

Strickland Avenue up through Cascades and Fern Tree and on to where it joins Huon Road was literally covered with leaves and limbs and sheets of bark that had been torn off the gum trees.  The wind - which sounded like a freight train at times - absolutely funnels through that area and water was streaming across the road. We came back the same way we went up but descended much more sedately than normal due the gustiness of the wind and the debris on the road. At 30 kilometres for the return journey it was much shorter than what we'd had in mind but bailing seemed the only sensible thing to do.

It may sound surprising, but I am actually really pleased that we got out today. This was first hill of any significance that I've cycled up since my Achilles operation so it was a bit of a landmark. My ankle behaved itself and we got home safely. And we have made a start on the week. The forecast for the next few days isn't very flash, but not as bad as it was today. We will endure!

Last Week

Anyone who's sick of hearing of our cycling endeavours might as well stop reading here. It's all about the bike for the time being as we ready ourselves for our big adventure which starts in just over two months. We have got a lot of work to do between now and then to ensure that a) we are reasonably placed to complete the task we've set ourselves and, b) we enjoy at least some of it!

Last week was a mixture of satisfaction, pain, pleasure, delight and acrimony. Paradoxically, the delight and acrimony occurred on the same day, which was the last day of the week. We decided to ride to Richmond and back via one of our favourite routes. Here's what the journey looks like ...

Richmond Loop

It's out through town via the bike track and then into some lovely countryside - including passing a number of vineyards. The weather was sublime: with no wind for the first time all week ... the sun was shining ... what could go wrong? Well, we had a little miscommunication about which route we were taking from Tea Tree on to Richmond. Di hadn't noticed (or had she chosen not to notice?) that I'd continued past her favourite route to go via the slightly longer version and when she suddenly did become aware she blew up. I was nonplussed that our wonderful day out was being spoiled by well, a temper tantrum. We had words, but managed to continue the ride without either of us committing homicide by multi-tool. Thankfully.

I mentioned earlier that today I did my first significant hill since getting back on the bike. I was encouraged to do so by the fact that I was able to get up Grass Tree Hill without any dramas. You can see it in the little peak in the cross-section in the image above. As hills go, it's a charming little challenge, and one that you can quickly improve on thanks to the short distance and relatively even gradient. Here's a Google image with a cross-section ...

Grass Tree Hill
That ride capped a week when we'd been on the bikes six days out of seven and covered just under 400 kilometres. Not a lot by serious cyclist standards, but more than we've done for a while. And much of it involved punching at least one way into reasonably strong headwinds. We took the bikes up the east coast and did three rides and it just happened to be very windy along the coast - as it often is, actually. But the terrain makes it worth the effort. Out on the open road, past beaches and vineyards, seeing Wedge-tailed Eagles and waterfowl, through woodland and past sheep paddocks ... just a great mix of visual delights. 

Here's an image showing where we have been riding over the past week ...

We Ride; We Rock!
By the next post we might have taken the bikes further afield if the weather is kind. But right now , as I sit here in the late afternoon I am pleased to have shelter from the storm with the wind roaring and rain lashing the landscape. Apparently the weather hasn't passed through quite as quickly as the experts predicted.