Thursday, March 14, 2013

Day 6 : Colac to Ballarat

Colac to Ballarat - 110 km - Total 605 km

The thought to hold for the day on this our last day of cycling was from Bill Gates:

‘if we all have the fortitude to see this effort through to the end, then we will eradicate polio’

...a most appropriate thought as it connects our 600 km effort with the effort to rid the world of the scourge of polio.

Leaving Colac by the Princes Hwy, we were farewelled by a gaggle of gang gangs in a gorse bush, the male resplendent in his brilliant red plumage. We turned north ... our dominant direction for the day ... at the Colac – Ballarat Road sign, and were intrigued to see by the roadside where some feckless fellow had built a pyramid out of discarded stubbies!!

We cycled along some perfectly formed lakes. Was the ridge along which we were cycling a lunette caused aolian sand drift or was it prosaically a landscape produced through some creative bulldozing?!!

Passing the Goodie Farm ... was that Bill Oddie behind a bush? ... we headed off to Beeac, famous for its windmills. Interpretive signage in the windmill heritage park was duly taken in as we munched on our fruit and restocked our bidon bottles.

Lunch was at Rokewood in the shade of a rotunda in the park ... or was that a gazebo? Peter threw out the word etymology and while it whisked away in the wind, David googled both rotunda and gazebo on his iphone, but we were none the wiser! To add to the confusion we commenced some steady hill climbing ... Ballarat is some 500 m elevation ... and just past Quarrel Hill we came across a farm named ‘Rotunda Ridge’ ... or was that ‘Gazebo Gorge’?!

Meanwhile Graham at the rear had spied a lady tending her post box and solicitously enquired of her the derivation of Quarrel Hill. The land all around had evidently belonged to a Mr Quarrel, the original squatter. There had been no argument!!! Elders (the agri business) evidently had got their start on the land to the east of this spot. At the little locality we had passed through before the rise, where Alicia had photographed a chain saw sculptured horse and rider in the park, there had once been a thriving gold mining village with several pubs.

The climb ... though not severe.... was long and steady, the road narrow and the surrounds forested. Our escorts – Margaret, Sandra and Michael - did a great job slowing down the traffic and offering we riders some protection. Robert and Eilish, who had cycled out to our afternoon tea spot ... a fabulous park and oval complex with excellent shelter and conveniences .... cycled back into town with us.

Following a few calls from and to DG John Gatt, arrival times were juggled and we cycled familiar roads back to the Conference Centre from which we had commenced our journey 6 days before. DG John, Eileen, the Sportsday Coordinator Arthur and Sandra’s friend Ruth were there to welcome us. Photos were duly taken and we adjourned to the coffee shop across the road for our plenary wind-down session. Mid coffee, we were surprised to see Katrina walk in. Evidently Margaret and Katrina had been quietly colluding in order to preserve the surprise.

At the Sportsmans Dinner that night ... hosted by Ballart South Rotary Club at their venue – the Ballarat Golf Club ... we managed to all sit together. Our guest speaker and local boy was Steve Moneghetti. His definition of running – when one leg gets in front of the other, you replace it with the former – we transferred easily to a cycling application. Dinner was great, along with the conversation, and we were more than thrilled when our chief support person, Margaret, was awarded the Sportswoman of the Day Trophy. Margaret’s name will be engraved under such salubrious names as Eileen Gatt, Katrina Watson and Wendy Smith ... all from past Rides to Conference.

Many thanks go to all participants and supporters. Our Polio Plus total appears to be $6120 at this stage ... down from previous years due to our having less participants, but none the less an achievement to be proud of. When combined with previous years efforts, it will give us a grand total in excess of $70,000 over 5 years.

Journo Graham, editor Margaret

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Day 5 : Port Campbell to Colac

Port Campbell to Colac - 90 km - Total to date 495 km

Having survived a hot sultry night.... there were no air conditioners and the cool change arrived with a blast at 4 am.... the temperature at brekkie and the prospect of a cooler day’s cycling was most welcome.

Cyclists and road crew headed off at 8 am. However, Margaret had to wait till 8.30 am for the manager to arrive in order to pay him. Sandra, in the mean time, shopped for Timboon made bakery rolls at the Port Campbell bakery – reminiscent of the special trip to Timboon the day before to stock up on large containers of drinking water. On the sharp rise out of town the cyclists were aided by a strong wind at our rear and this extra encouragement assisted us for most of the coast line journey.

After 12 km we pulled into the iconic Twelve Apostles Scenic Lookout. We cyclists were among the first of 5000 tourists expected that day!! This site is second only to Uluru in popularity and attracts some 1.5 million visitors a year. We walked our bikes under the Great Ocean Road to the lookout, en route chatting with the cleaning contractor who was equipped with long handled rubbish-retrieving tongs. He would not divulge just how many apostles were still standing (7? 6?), however he was a mine of information on the resident black and tiger snakes he encounters every day!!!!

There was to be no Myrtleford, Lorelei or Mount Samaria moments for cyclists this year (an ‘in’ joke for cyclists who have lost their way in past years), as the road signage to Simpson was clearly marked and reinforced by the presence of our helpful road crew. A stiff climb of 6 km and some challenging descents with severe cross winds led us past the ‘Macca Family Farm’ and ‘ G.O.R.G.E Chocolates’ (the acronym standing for Great Ocean Road Gourmet Experience). Undeterred by the thought of hoovering one’s way through a veritable mountain of chocolate, we continued up the hill and on to the Apostle Whey Cheese, where we had morning tea. This consisted of coffee with tasting platters of locally made Brie, washed rind, camembert, feta style, blue vein and other delicate soft cheeses on cracker biscuits, served up with an interesting talk by our host Julian. This was followed by an apt photo of Rotarians with Julian the owner/cheese-maker standing on the rotary dairy.

Cycling through the undulating Heytesbury countryside, Peter ...our peregrinacious agricultural scientist.... spoke authoritatively on soldier settlement blocks, the art of making silage and herringbone dairies.

It was somewhere betwixt Irrewillipe and Elliminyte that our on-road captain and strongest rider Tony actually spoiled the record and took the wrong turn, ending up on a dirt road!! Having been falsely directed by Michael, he suffered the indignity of having to be picked up in his own ute and put back on track!!! Other Rotarian cyclists – David, Rosemary, Bruce, Peter, Alicia and Graham – not the mention the other road crew – were quite astounded when Tony overtook them with a ‘Good afternoon gentlemen, ladies’. He had been out front!! Was he playing ‘silly buggers’ with us and hiding behind a tree as we passed?

Following a pause for refreshments, as we turned into the Colac-Lavers Road, we carefully juggled our entry into Colac between some heavy timber jinkers, navigated our way through the roundabouts and lights and made our way to the motel. Bruce, who needed some work done on his cleats (an essential part of a cyclist’s shoes for the uninitiated) was pleased to see a bike shop in the main street.

Graham

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Day 4 : Port Fairy to Port Campbell

Port Fairy to Port Campbell -95 km - Progressive total 405 km - Maximum Temperature 37C (Motel not air-conditioned) In the pre dawn light a patron from Massachusetts ...... who had been a musician at the Port Fairy Festival that weekend .... eyed off our brekkie which was set up in the lobby. We all had our breakfast in Sandra’s room, sitting around the perimeter of her 16 m square bed. Following a Ban Ki-moon thought for the day to remind us of our mission; “every child has the right to start life with equal protection from polio” - we were off. Crossing the Moyne, and glancing back at the fishing fleet, we were reminded of last night’s fabulous fish and chips at Wishart’s Fish Restaurant on the Pier. After a brief stop at Tower Hill to appreciate the relatively recent volcanic event which had sculpted the local landscape – 3000 years ago and a part of the Aboriginal dream time – we entered Warrnambool for an early morning tea. The busyness of the road on this - the first working day after a public holiday - continued out of town to our turn off to the Great Ocean Road. Caravans and motor homes with occupants luxuriating in air conditioned comfort passed us by as the temperature slowly rose for the day. Undaunted, our road escorts – Margaret in the van and Sandra in her car – kept pace with us and slowed the traffic. Tony, Bruce and David, with heads down and flying due to the great tail wind, sailed past our lunch stop at Nullawarre and had to be brought back. A succession of straight roads and right angle turns took us to the coast and what a welcome the sea breeze gave us as we approached the Bay of Islands for a photo shoot. At a later photo shoot at the infamous London Bridge, a chap took a photo of us and after an explanation of what we Rotarian cyclists were about, kindly gave us a donation of $50. Feeling the heat, but nonetheless buoyed by the fact that the wind was generally favourable, we pressed on to our afternoon tea stop at Peterborough. Graham was seen to investigate a chap under the bridge who was netting bait shrimp in the weedy shallows. Having loaded up with warm water flavoured by Gatorade we headed off on our last leg to Port Campbell. This was interrupted only by a quick overlook of the township at the lookout. A magic descent into the valley was spoilt only by a sharp pull up the hill into town, but redeemed later by the view of the beach from the motel and a cold soak in the sea at that ‘peach of a beach’ called Port Campbell.

 

Monday, 11th March, 2013

Day 3 : Hamilton to Port Fairy

Temperature today was 33C, so we headed off early again at 8am after Tony made his diagnosis on Peter’s bike which needed attention at the morning tea break. Tony and Alicia joined our ride today, having linked up on the previous night in Hamilton, following family commitments with a wedding in Mansfield over the weekend.  Conditions today were very favourable with excellent road surface, a magnificent tail wind and the heat of the day coming into play in the last session heading into Port Fairy.

Prior to our morning tea break, we stopped and marvelled at the magnificent sight of the Mount Napier lava field, which last erupted 8,000 years ago in spectacular fashion. Graham, our resident geologist, was ecstatic!! Morning tea at Byaduk saw some running repairs undertaken on Peter’s bike by our resident bike mechanic, Tony.

On route to the lunch break, we paused for a well-earned drink and toilet stop at the historic town of Macarthur, where Peter in his younger days worked for a period. We then proceeded on our day’s journey, experiencing some excellent conditions, with extremely smooth road surface, and welcome tail winds which enabled us to maintain a good pace. We overshot our designated lunch stop, which was planned to be outside the CFA building in Orford. Instead, we stopped for lunch on the side of the road beyond Orford in the shade of some welcome trees, where Margaret and Sandra once again supplied a nutritious meal, which included salt and pepper          !

During the final run into Port Fairy, we stopped to ensure that all riders were adequately hydrated, as the conditions so far this ride have been very hot, particularly in the afternoons. As we approached Port Fairy, the wind changed from a tail wind to a cool head wind, which was a mixed blessing as it slowed us down a little. Rolling into Port Fairy, we were confronted by throngs of people leaving the town after the annual three day folk festival. Bruce, Tony, Peter and Dave walked around town, and found a band playing at the Star Hotel. They spent an hour or so at this watering hole enjoying a cold ale and listening to the entertainment provided by The Roadtrippers (men like ourselves!) The day finished for all with dinner at Wisharts Fish and Chippery restaurant on the wharf.

Dave and Tony

 

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Day 2 : Ararat to Hamilton

Maximum temperature 33C We dined at the Ararat RSL on Saturday night and did some more carbo loading for those who felt the need, while others enjoyed roast lamb, beef pie etc. We aimed to rise early to beat the heat, but the boys in their room made the mistake of not checking the clock radio setting and were awoken at 5.15am instead of the planned 6.30am! After breakfast in the conference room, we left the Ararat Colonial Lodge at 8am and headed through the deserted town (Sunday morning), to the outskirts where Graham was informed by a local that we were on the wrong road and heading for Hall’s Gap instead of Hamilton! Not long after leaving Ararat, Graham had the first puncture of the ride. Peter was later heard to ask, were they puncture-proof tyres? It was a beautiful cool clear morning and we made good progress with spectacular views of the Grampians on our right. Our morning tea stop was at a once thriving wheat town and rail centre, Willaura, now a virtual ghost town. Margaret and Sandra had as usual made sure that we were suitably nourished with the usual treats of fruit drinks, coffee, fruit, biscuits, jelly beans, Milo bars etc. Even more spectacular views of the Grampians were to be seen as we cycled on to our lunch stop at Glenthompson. It was now quite hot (understatement) when we set off for Dunkeld with Michael and Rosemary leading the way. After a 20km ride we were rewarded at Dunkeld with icy poles, which were refreshing to say the least! The final leg into Hamilton was a hard slog of 32km with, for the most part, a boring featureless landscape. Graham and Dave cooled off in the pool but didn't stay long. Bruce and Peter (joint effort)

Saturday, 9th March, 2013

Day 1 : Ballarat to Ararat

Maximum temperature 33C . Carbo loading rather than comfort food was all the go at the Mid City Motel dining room the night before the ride. Gnocci, spaghettoni puttanesca were the most popular. Free sweets were on offer such as brandy snaps served with fresh fruit. The party was in full swing outside room 3. The ladies invited Bruce and Peter to join them, but instead, they switched rooms as they preferred a good nights sleep. Peter the next morning was overheard saying that they were like an elderly married couple already. Then, following photos, cyclists Bruce, Peter, Graham and David followed Margaret in her van and Sandra in her car to the Performing Arts Centre. D G John Gatt and Eileen passed us in Howitt Street with a resounding blast of their horn. Turning into School Lane, we met Rosemary and Michael. Before farewelling us outside his Conference Centre ,current King of the Mountain, DG John was overheard commenting to Margaret about a possible French Connection after Lisbo.,It turned out to be a barge trip in Burgundy! Was Eileen planning to swim and John planning to cycle? On our way out of town, we avoided traffic building up for Ballarat’s Begonia Festival. A siege was in progress somewhere, but we managed to avoid it. We passed the Last Straw hay supplier and a boat for sale called Hard Yakka and we were on our way towards Snake Valley and Carngham. We paused at Cemetery Hill amongst the pines to catch our breath. Graham thought he heard the melodious call of a Rufous Whistler. Guttered Victorian homesteads and gatehouses were a sobering reminder of January’s fires. At the morning tea stop, there was conjecture of the name of a distant hill. Sandra, who had had a hard mornings shopping thought the hill might be called Sleeping Lady, but Margaret looked up Vic Roads and found it was called Emu Hill. David and Graham were eclipsed by a gigantic wedge tailed eagle which glided between them on route to its lair. The lunch stop at Beaufort was welcome. The riders had had a change in wind direction and it was getting warmer,so the average was down from 26.5 to 23.5! A lady from Toorak spied us and without asking us for our story guessed what we were about and entertained us with her exploits of being an expensive Rotarian at Toorak. The band rotunda in the park was locked and inaccessible, but the yellow building across the road was thankfully open and a great relief for us all. Being on the Great Western Highway, Beaufort is often a staging place for cyclists passing through. We heard of a mono cyclist passing through, who stripped to his waist in the park and lathered himself with Vegemite and was duly hosed off by the local firies – all for a good cause. The heat set in that afternoon as we cycled the remaining 40 kms to Ararat. We were reminded of our cause – Polio Plus and the reason why we are suffering the heat and the hot water from our drinking bottles! A car full of yahoos let out that morning from the city let us have it verbally as they passed by. While some of us were contemplating the poetry of the Wind Farm at Buangor, our arvo tea stop, Michael headed off for some serious wine viewing. The place was air conditioned. Bitumen bubbles popped under our high pressure tyres as we approached Ararat. What a relief to finally get into Ararat as we settled into the Ararat Colonial Lodge. Beer, a swimming pool, and the prospect of more gnocci (even some nookie) and a good nights sleep were tantalisingly appealing. Journo Graham and Editor David