Sunday, 21 May 2006

Saturday 21 May – Old North Road + Dirtworks track…

Ah, the best laid plans of mice and men… What seemed to be an excellent idea turned out to be an absolute debacle. First, to our (T-Bone, Whisperer, Stephe, Doug and Brian) respective spouses and SEUs (Willo, Alexandra, Sue, Marcelle and Gabbie) – we’re very, very, very sorry.

Although there remains some debate as to whether we were supposed to be back at 2pm or 4pm, it’s pretty clear that 7pm was not in the relevant window… (given that we were gone from a 6.32am start to a 7pm finish, that’s just a bit unreasonable, even for the more poorly adjusted of us).

Sorry! We ended up riding for well over seven hours, covering some 78 kilometres (or about 30kms further than we’d ever wanted to go before).

The plan was simple. We had been posted a map of the northern loop of the Dirt Works race day (thanks Rob (why on earth would you have done it!)), and we figured it would be interesting to check it out. Add a couple of hours to an otherwise great Old North Road ride, and all would be good (even if a little longer than usual). The reality was considerably longer and more boring than anticipated (see the comparison satellite photo)… The track itself (as now seems quite obvious – given that they had to get a zillion competitors along it) was boring as bat poo – a long, moderately pleasant fire trail out into the boondocks and back.

We started as usual from the Mangrove Mountain pumping station (got to play around on the weir for a bit, while we waited for Whisperer to do some emergency bike repairs), and then headed up the long road to the Wat Budda Dharma – where we headed off up the northern road. We then joined the loop across to St Albans (which went on and on and on), and then finally descended into the valley (doing our best not to scare the jeepers out of a very jumpy horse guarding the gate – fortunately, Whisperer turns out to be a bike Whisperer as well!). After another couple of million kilometres on the road we made it to Shepherds Gully, did the climb to Devine’s Hill, and finally commenced our ‘normal ride’ so as to get home…

Even the glorious weather (how good can it be, week after week after week?) couldn’t really make up for the fact that we were looking for some sweet single track and got nada!

Lots of beautiful valleys, and some entertaining downhill sections did something for the mood, but by the time we got to Shepherds Gully for the climb back up to the good old Old North Road track, we were collectively wasted, and not really in the groove for a blast back. Those who still had water left at the top of Devine’s Hill had finished it about a 100m later – so we all did the entire ridge line and return drop without water, without food, and without any excess energy.

Special mention to Brian for keeping a secret stash of apricot bars and fruit snacks for the top of Devine’s Hill – probably the only thing that got us home…

Lots of talk about sore bottoms, and T-Bone managed to start cramping at the halfway point (so he walked pretty well every up hill for 35 kilometres or so!). So, all up, an educational experience in some beautiful Australian national parks, but pretty unlikely to ever be repeated.

Photos, track etc, here (out of order, and *still* no Doug…), some highlights below:

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