Author Topic: Rides 2019 +++ Add yours here +++  (Read 1995 times)

John Saxby

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Re: Rides 2019 +++ Add yours here +++
« Reply #30 on: April 14, 2019, 06:37:35 AM »
Dispatches from the Gold Coast: Two more rides in the Currumbin Valley & surrounding hills

This past week, I did a couple more rides in the Currumbin Valley, each one stretching my modest limits of time, distance, hills and overall degree of difficulty.  The main thing though, was not revisiting this beautiful cycling route, but securing a photo of the Aussie bacon butty highlighted in an earlier post.  To get this Main Thing out of the way, see photo #15, captioned its café acronym:  No longer a bacon butty, it’s a BLAT—a toasted bacon, lettuce, avocado and tomato sandwich, set upon an 8” plate, and more properly named an ABLAT, an Aussie etc.  As always, details matter: “lettuce”, there ain’t.  Instead, mine had arugula/rocket and dill.  Queenslanders do a lot of things, but chic is not normally one of them—the standard dress code is T-shirt, shorts and flip-flops—and a Good Thing too. This sandwich, however, nudges towards being chic, and that’s a good thing too, as lettuce is boring beyond belief, and today’s combination of dill and arugula was first-rate.  If you’re putting avos in your sandwiches, you’re edging towards chic, whether you like it or not, and despite the fact that they’re as common as apples.

There’s another reason for reshaping the acronym. I had my ABLAT after climbing some big hills (see below), and after eating it, decided I’d rather not endure another ABLATive Second Time Around on my ride home, so took the less scenic homeward leg through Currumbin’s light industrial/gasoline alley quarter, which is pretty much flat.

Each ride was full of hills and scenic landscapes.  There is, we’re advised, wildlife in the neighbourhood, and two cultural icons caution riders and motorists to be careful in approaching the valley—see #16 below.  The Currumbin Valley was once an agricultural economy, and significant vestiges of that remain.  It’s being turned into horse-stabling country, and even more, into coveted and expensive country-estate terrain.  We’ll say not much more about the latter, though residents are saying plenty, to judge from the stop-the-developer signs along the road.  Photo #17 below shows some of the Valley’s characteristic lush pasture-and-woodland, and #18, the associated authentic horsey product, prized by local gardeners. (No trans fats, no hydrogenated palm oil, no added salt or sugar, and that’s as you’d expect.  But no grass??  What do the creatures eat, for heaven’s sake? Or are the unseemly grassy bits screened out?  Or…?)

On the tougher of my two rides, I took the high road up towards the NSW border. This is a steady 9-km climb up from the riverside and away from the valley road. It’s a stiff 14% in the first 800 metres, the 14% being a mix of 15% or more for a couple of hundred metres, down into my low-low (22T x 34T); then a little plateau of 150 metres for so to catch my breath, then half a kilometre-plus in 2nd or 3rd gear.  After that first stretch, almost all of it in dense cool shade, I reach what I call the ridge road, a twisting and undulating 8 kms with an overall 10% upgrade to the NSW border. The border snakes along the very top of the northern wall of the ancient caldera enclosing Wollumbin, the eroded plug of the ancient volcano which Cook named Mt Warning. (Wollumbin’s peak is is the first part of Australia to be touched by the rising sun.) On this ride, my time a little limited by grand-parenting duties in the afternoon, I would not go as far as the NSW border.  Instead, my turnaround would be Freeman’s Organic Farm, 6 kms onward and upward from the turnoff.

There are breaks in the roadside vegetation, as the road curls around the contours of the hillside.  I never tire of the landscape: photo #19 shows the view N across the wooded valley towards Springbrook Mtn, with the Bactrian-camel peaks of Mt Cougal just visible NW.  The Valley Road, invisible far below, winds upriver (westwards) to a small national park embracing Mt Cougal.  (Maybe I’ll get there on another ride?)

Occasionally, small lanes and driveways lead to dwellings and farms. Some owners have planted spectacular small gardens around their number signs and mailboxes--#20 is a good example.

Freeman’s Farm market is closed today—farmers have to tend their fields—but on the weekends, it sells avos, bananas, tomatoes, leafy greens, potatoes and the like.  It’s now more than a hundred years old. 1915 was a grim year for many Australian families, but Arthur Freeman established his farm then, when the ridge road was a scratchy gravel affair, and it has continued to this day.  It seems to be part of the global WWOOF (WorldWide Opportunities on Organic Farms) network—visiting the farm with our grand-daughters a couple of days later, we chatted with a young Polish farmworker, one of a regular small contingent of WWOOFers to be found here.

The Arthur Freeman Lookout has a splendid view down the valley and eastward to the Coral Sea—but with the farm closed on my visit, I couldn’t get to that.  Just downhill from the farm, however, is something pretty good too.  Photo #21 explains why Mr Freeman wanted to stay.  A little further down the ridge road, a cyclist has a fine view lookin’ eastward to sea, with a shiny flash of the Coral Sea about 15 kms away just right of mid-centre in #22.

Further still downhill, near the upland cattle pastures, a Weird White Thing appears atop a hill to the SE—see #23.  But what is it?  A homage to Greg Norman, the ‘Strayan golfer, by one of his golfing buddies?  An outpost of the ASS, the Aussie Surveillance State?  But monitoring what, here?  Is there a gang of rogue bovines wandering these hills, maybe a chapter of GUM, the Global Ungulates Movement?  Maybe they’re recruiting militants, sharpening their wits, horns, hoofs and slogans like, “Your time’s up, bipeds! We’ve had it with you and your slaughterin’ ways!”

In the end, I didn’t see any wildlife from the road, beyond clutches of magpies and parrots. Only the yellow icons, and a couple of “Wild Life” panels painted on the road suggested that there were, or used to be, koalas and ‘roos in the neighbourhood.  From my bike, I saw none of either.  There was one puzzling moment when I saw a flash of something in the bush.  Approaching a string of 3 or 4 cars stopped by the roadside, I figured that there must be some wildlife along the verge. There was a steep short cliff just a few feet from the road, and up ahead, near the first car, I saw what seemed to be a small antelope, about the size of an adult Thompson’s gazelle or a female white-tailed deer zig-zagging along, looking for an escape route up the cliff and into the bush. ???  There are no antelope which are native to ‘Straya—was this an escapee from a farm or a small zoo?  And from where?  A puzzle, and I have no clue to explain it.

There are, however, koalas a-plenty in town. The one you see in photo #24 below, huddled beside the tramlines on a Southport shopping street in a cropped fiberglass stump, strikes me as a sad and frightened wee critter, who’d rather not be a pop-culture icon, but would be much happier in the cleft of a big gum tree, sleeping most of the day and getting mildly stoned on eucalyptus leaves.  The cousin—brassy younger brother?—in #25 welcomes a visitor to a roadside park in Southport on the edge of the Nerang River estuary. This one is the mascot to last year’s Commonwealth Gomes, hosted by the Gold Coast. By comparison with his cousin just a few hundred metres away, he exudes pizzazz, bonhomie and chutzpah.

The koala’s status as pop-cultural icon was not a sure thing, however. There was a public debate.  Some just wanted to leave the poor creatures in peace in their gum trees, and to urge motorists not to run over them when they fell out of their clefts. Some asserted that a pop-cultcha icon had to have pizzazz, and that on that score, the critters lacked the necessary koalafications. Other challenged the premise, and said that there was no rule requiring pop–cultcha icons to have pizzazz or chutzpah. They said that the wee bears had inimitable endearing koalities, and were fine just as they are. In the end the authorities designed the mascot sub-species you see.
« Last Edit: April 15, 2019, 12:05:15 PM by John Saxby »

John Saxby

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Re: Rides 2019 +++ Add yours here +++
« Reply #31 on: April 14, 2019, 06:43:38 AM »
Four more photos from the Valley, attached.

John Saxby

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« Reply #32 on: April 14, 2019, 06:45:34 AM »
And three final photos:  a Weird Thing on a Hilltop, and wildlife, after a fashion.

Danneaux

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Re: Rides 2019 +++ Add yours here +++
« Reply #33 on: April 14, 2019, 07:03:47 AM »
Quote
Further still downhill, near the upland cattle pastures, a Weird White Thing appears atop a hill to the SE—see #23.  But what is it?
Could this possibly be it, John?: https://www.flickr.com/photos/133795154@N03/31543169365 Explanation below the photo at this link.

A bit more on the details of this type of installation here: http://www.ryanwilks.com.au/air-services-coolangatta-airport-radar-upgrade/

Surely enjoyed your account and photos John.

All the best,

Dan.
« Last Edit: April 14, 2019, 07:55:19 AM by Danneaux »

John Saxby

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Re: Rides 2019 +++ Add yours here +++
« Reply #34 on: April 14, 2019, 11:51:51 AM »
Pretty good sleuthing, Dan! And a good photo too.  How long does one wait to capture lightning across a ridge, I wonder.

The view down towards Coolangatta in Ryan Wilks' website seems about right for that apparatus on the hilltop: Coolangatta is on the Queensland (northern) bank of the next river south, the Tweed.  That's over the top of the caldera, down into the base of the ancient volcano (the Tweed now irrigates cane fields in the northern portion of the volcano.)

If one has even the slightest tilt towards paranoid fantasy, tho', I'd still opt for the gadgets of the SST  ;)

Cheers,  John

Andre Jute

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« Reply #35 on: April 14, 2019, 11:56:52 AM »
Holy Maloney*, now that's a sandwich, complete with the flagpole it deserves. I eat avocado almost every day; its oil is healthy and I like the taste when dressed with pepper and soy sauce.

Super photographs, John, and I read your report twice for the pleasure of the decent English, which in darker moments I fear is endangered by the anti-social media.

* pronounced in Australia to rhyme; in Oz only the snobbish say "Marney"
« Last Edit: April 15, 2019, 12:05:20 AM by Andre Jute »

John Saxby

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« Reply #36 on: April 14, 2019, 10:36:21 PM »
Thanks, Andre.  That ABLATive was for you ;)

John Saxby

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Re: Rides 2019 +++ Add yours here +++
« Reply #37 on: May 07, 2019, 02:24:55 AM »
First ride of the northern spring

Sunday, May 5:  My first ride of the spring, and the first 20-degree day since October 10, 2018—my cycling buddy Dave tracks such things, and told me that we have waited 206 days for a proper spring-like day, complete with gentle winds and bright sunshine.

I celebrated by riding across the Ottawa River and into the Gatineau Hills.  My usual route out of the city, the bike paths beside the big river, was pretty much under water—this past week, the Ottawa reached historic highs, just two years after the “once-in-a-century” floods of 2017.  On Sunday, the river had receded slightly from its peak, but the spate was still fierce, just barely below the retaining walls on an island in the middle of the river – see photo #1 below.  (Further downstream near the city’s downtown, the Chaudière Falls had a flow higher than that of Niagara Falls.  The bridge over the river just east of the falls was closed—the torrent was lapping at the structure of the bridge just below the roadway. That’s the only time I can recall that bridge being closed. In mid-summer, the river is a good 20 feet below the bridge.)

In the hills, the tree cover looked pretty much as it had been late last fall—grey hardwoods devoid of foliage, the only colour being the green conifers. (The big difference was that the day was at least 15° warmer than it had been on my last ride last year.)  There were no more than half-a-dozen bushes beside the road with the first suggestion of leaves, buds all tightly coiled, with just a hint of green. The birches, maples, beeches and scrub oaks showed no open buds at all.

But no matter—the roads were in good shape, the park maintenance crews having cleared away all the winter deadfall. And on the roads there were—no cars!  Just dozens of cyclists, a few joggers and hikers, and mums and dads with infants in strollers along the bike paths. The first rides of the year, and the last, are always like this—hints of what a low-carbon age might look like.

(An example of what winter can do is in photo #2 – a rockfall beside the road in the lower reaches of the park.)

Easing upwards, I was reminded of how open and light the woods are at this time of year—the afternoon sun just floods the forest floor.  (Photo #3 below, of Pink Lake, shows some of that effect, but at too great a distance.  Other scenes would have been better.  Sorry-o  :( ) There were no wildflower blooms to be seen, though at higher elevations the trillium beds were full of green leaves. The first blooms may be there on my next ride.

And, three or four marshy ponds offered a delightful racket of chirruping bullfrogs. Not every pond, but enough to remind a passing rider that the frogs are still around, if in fewer numbers.

At Champlain Lookout, the view westward from the summit (at some 300 metres above sea level) across the Ottawa River shows pallid landscape colours, mostly greys and yellows.  (Photo # 4)  In a couple of weeks’ time, the deciduous trees will add some soft light green shades.  Today, I’m happy to share the view, the warmth and the sunshine with 10 or 15 cyclists.

Andre Jute

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« Reply #38 on: May 07, 2019, 10:44:58 PM »
Some mighty rivers you have, John. Reminds me of a train journey across Canada, the train sometimes running for miles alongside huge rivers before crossing them. It was a school outing from the American school where I was an exchange student and one of the girls in the party, a canoeist from somewhere out West, said several times that the rivers looked "rough, dangerous, experts only".

You're right, those trees beyond the first layer directly on Pink Lake do look bare.

Surely not 20 degrees Celsius?

John Saxby

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« Reply #39 on: May 08, 2019, 02:26:28 AM »
Um, yes, Andre, 20 degrees Celsius.  Early October to early May is a loooong time between warm days.  "Normally", we might expect a 20° day as early as the third week of March, and have some certainty of one by the 2nd or 3rd week of April.

Springtime in the Valley is a bit of a crap shoot.  My line is that we have two months of March, and then July begins.  After the first two 20° days, Sunday and Monday, there's a frost warning for tonight (Tues) and Wed.  After two warm days, though, we finally have some foliage on the hardwood trees in the city, and on Sunday evening, we heard the magical honking of a V of geese overhead, heading north.

I was knackered after my first ride up into the hills: 75 kms in the gold Coast, with maybe 20 kms of that being tough hills, is a whole lot easier than 56 kms which is almost all hills...

The big river can be both magnificent and terrifying when it's like this.  I was astonished to learn that its flow this week is greater than Niagara. (Neither comes even close to the Zambezi in May, but that's another matter.)  I still find it a bit mind-boggling that this huge and sometime dangerous river runs through a city of a million people (counting both sides of the river.)

Cheers,  J.

Andre Jute

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« Reply #40 on: May 08, 2019, 07:34:29 AM »
Today in West Cork the temperature will, after the wind chill factor is taken into consideration, be in single digits (Celsius). And we're two degrees warmer than the West Coast of Ireland, exposed to the Atlantic. Mind you, Canadians probably deserve a hot day more than we do, after all that snow and ice.

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The big river can be both magnificent and terrifying when it's like this.  I was astonished to learn that its flow this week is greater than Niagara.

It looked like a river in a hurry, swollen by what assume is a big melt upriver. That rockfall you photographed also looked like it was split off by water putting on 11% of girth as it froze in the crannies and splits of the rock.

John Saxby

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« Reply #41 on: May 09, 2019, 02:58:03 AM »
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swollen by what I assume is a big melt upriver

Yes, it's exactly that, Andre.  The snows came in late October this winter, and stayed.  There were occasional weird spikes in the temp--up to +9° in late Jan/early Feb on a couple of occasions, if you can imagine.  Those temps produced huge puddles, 20 ft across and more, which in turn would freeze as the temps dropped 25° overnight.  In April Ottawa received about 160 mm of rain--not much by tropical standards, but more than in any April on record. This arrived as the snow melted upstream, and contributed to the runoff. (interestingly, the problem was more severe in the watersheds upstream from Ottawa--downstream, the snowpack--hence melt--was smaller this year.  But, the bigger tributaries are upstream, and some of those were higher than ever recorded.)

The other thing that has happened is more subtle:  over the past 2-3 generations, Canadians have been draining wetlands across the country, while also paving growing amounts of or urban and peri-urban land. The result is that rainfall and snowmelt become runoff, rather than being absorbed into the soil and giving the water table a boost.

I see these things on my rides around Eastern Ontario. The drainage of wetlands is especially obvious, the incremental expansion of tarmac maybe less so. The beaver is mounting a comeback, so that where there's a colony of the critters, wetlands reappear. Beavers tend to colonise land that's marginal for farming, but they nevertheless generate a lot of grumbling among rural residents who wake up to find that beavers have completed a dam overnight, and--voilà! a low-lying field is now a marsh. Easy for me to say, I guess, but all things considered, I'd opt for a marsh rather than a flood.

On the temperature thing, an interesting fact: Montréal and Ottawa are approximately on the same latitude as Marseilles.

Andre Jute

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« Reply #42 on: May 09, 2019, 10:30:41 AM »
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On the temperature thing, an interesting fact: Montréal and Ottawa are approximately on the same latitude as Marseilles.

Good heavens, you're right. And that's not all. I live substantially to the north of you, but it is very rare for us to have ice on the ground because the odd few drops of snow that fall two or perhaps three times in an average winter soon melt away. From a cyclist's viewpoint black ice on narrow lanes between hedges that keep the low sun off the tarmac is more dangerous, and some places ground water that persistently breaks through the tarmac and, again between hedges, can form long streaks of black ice on the roads even when the nominal ambient temperature is in the high single digits. I was caught on one such once, and was glad I was riding my Kranich, which I bought specifically for its low stepover, and boy, did I put it to good use that day, because I simply put my feet on the black ice either side of the frame and with four-point stability slid elegantly (that's my story and I'm sticking to it) back down the hill. Ten years on, despite the Council repeatedly remaking that piece of road, the groundwater still breaks through there.

John Saxby

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« Reply #43 on: May 09, 2019, 01:46:06 PM »
You're right about black ice, Andre. Here, it is the danger for winter cycling, maybe even more so than the narrowed roads, motorists not looking for cyclists and the shorter days. A cyclists can manage those factors, but with black ice, it's so easy to lose all traction unless you have studded tires.

I know people who cycle year-round, but I long ago decided to give my two-wheeled life a rest for the 3-4 months between December & March.  I make an exception in those years when we don't have snow until January--it can happen, though it's uncommon.

On the latitude thing:  our winters, and those of Montréal, are the product of a continental climate.  We're far from the moderating influence of an ice-free ocean. Even Toronto has a much milder climate, because the influence of Lake Ontario. Our daughter cycles year-round in TO.

I'm always reminded of how much further north you are when I visit northern Europe.  When our daughter moved to Berlin in 2010, I warned her about the emotional effects of losing the sun in January.  She loved the long summer evenings, but was shocked by how much missed the sun in January -- she'd become accustomed to our cold clear sunny days in January and onwards.

Bill

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« Reply #44 on: May 11, 2019, 04:59:48 AM »
First ride of the northern spring

Sunday, May 5:  My first ride of the spring, and the first 20-degree day since October 10, 2018—my cycling buddy Dave tracks such things, and told me that we have waited 206 days for a proper spring-like day, complete with gentle winds and bright sunshine.




Hmm. That statistic got me curious and in Calgary we waited 184 days from Oct 20 to April 22 for a 20 degree day. But that was almost three weeks ago and it hasnt crept up to 20 again yet.

And lots of buds on the trees, but no proper leaves yet..