Saturday, March 5, 2011

Weekend tour: Mirboo is not Mirboo North

The movie “127 hours” is about a weekend trip. I really relate to that rush at the start to get to where the trip starts.

Lately I have been reduced to weekend tours. Just Saturday and Sunday, since I have work stuff on both Mondays and Fridays. It occurred to me that this is the situation for a lot of people, so I share here both the tour itself and how I plan them. It’s highly individual what people carry and how you go about things. But I find it valuable learning from what other people do.

If you live or visit Melbourne and you want to do a two day tour, then this might be useful. Or even use parts of it for longer rides.

This ride is from Cowes, across to Morwell. Cowes is south of Melbourne. In my case I got the train to Stony Point and then the ferry. It’s nice to get out of the city to start. In fact I find the outer suburbs really tough. There are usually not bike paths or bike lanes and the traffic is pretty intense. Ideally I’d like to start about 300km from the nearest city, but this isn’t possible on a weekend tour.

Riding from Cowes to San Remo is usually pretty quiet. There is a bike path and/or a bike lane all the way. I arrived at Cowes at 8.30am, and set off. Lots of motorbikes I thought. Then I realised the whole island was full of motorbikes. Lots of them. All heading to some major race. Luckily they were going the other way. So I had noise and fossil fuel burning all the way off the island. Not my preference, but not really a problem.

Getting off the island heading towards Wonthaggi you join up with a rail trail right at the highway. Bliss. Good surface. Great riding.

How far to ride? I find that I am almost always too ambitious in the distances I attempt. I can ride up to 120km fully loaded in a day, but I try to aim at 70km. But somehow it always seems to stretch. This day I ended up aiming at 87km for the day. After Wonthaggi I headed for Inverloch. Then on by the southern road towards Buffalo.

I found myself flagging. Friday was a tough day at work. I got to sleep late, packing in a hurry. Not good preparation. Probably didn’t eat enough either. My plan was to keep going to Buffalo, but since I’m tired I rethink it. Instead I head for Meeniyan. I know there is a rail trail there. This will mean that the Sunday ride is about 10km shorter: not much, but it makes a difference.

Where to camp? Google street view is your friend. A lot of times I have actually picked a spot from Google street view. Works well. In Meeniyan it’s not exactly stealth camping, as it is a very small place. But still you have to be careful about where you camp. I try to find a place that is not visible from the road, and not next to houses. Behind a clump of trees. The only people who encounter me there are people using the rail trail. Most of them are cyclists. In Australia the worry is mostly kids out mucking around who might enjoy the idea of hassling somebody in a tent.

How much to carry? In Australia this question reduces a lot of the time to simply: how much water to carry? If you are out three or four days without a town to pick up water, it becomes a major issue. But on this sort of weekend tour it’s not a problem. One day’s food, one day’s water. No drama. You could even eat out and leave the stove at home. But I like to be independent so I carry the noodles and cook with the little stove.

Setting up the tent I’m tired. Not too careful. But it rains all night and is still raining the next day. I’ve left stuff out in the rain - on a longer tour this would be a serious error. But on this short tour I just pack the wet stuff away and dry it out at home later in the day. I don’t even clean up the cooking pot.

What food? I’m rather fond of dehydrated food. Really? I’m really fond of how light it is to carry. My limit is about four days of living on cheap supermarket dehydrated noodles. You can buy really fancy dehydrated food from outdoor shops, but it is almost as expensive as eating out in a restaurant. In this case I could eat in a restaurant, so it doesn’t make sense.

Which route to take? We have a system of labelling roads. There are A, B and C roads. Almost all A roads have a big shoulder, so it’s easy to ride on them, but you will have traffic going past you at 100 km/hr and 120 km/hr on some of them. Not all B roads have a shoulder, and they carry a lot of traffic. So C roads are ideal. In some places there are good roads that have even less traffic than C roads. But they are a navigation challenge. I rate by best navigation effort was two days in the Western district without a bike computer, just using my watch to estimate distance.

Mirboo is not Mirboo North. Mirboo North is on a B road. It has hot and cold running everything. Want shops? Plenty? Want restaurants? Quite a few. Want a place to camp? Forget it. So it is Mirboo for me. No shops. On Sunday I follow what is called “Farmers Road” for pretty much the whole day north to Morwell.  First through Mirboo then through Yinah. There are just lots of cows and lots of farms. No real shops, but it is just fine.

How do I get my bike home on the train?  Some places on the planet have excellent mixed train and bike systems. A big place at the end of the carriage where you can put your bike. Unfortunately we don’t have that sort of thing. I have to make sure that I pick a time when the train won’t be packed with passengers - on a Sunday somewhere near the middle of the day is best. Even then there is a chance that the place where the bike goes is full. Ideally I like to join trains at the start of the journey - in this case that is Traralgon. But again the two day tour makes that not possible.

I’m lucky. On the train at 3pm and heading home. Back to Frankston.

So there it is the two day tour. I expect this year I’ll be doing a few.

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