Author Topic: Climbs, cars and a rail trail: South Gippsland on a Mercury  (Read 2358 times)

Moronic

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 138
Climbs, cars and a rail trail: South Gippsland on a Mercury
« on: December 14, 2021, 12:53:10 PM »
Early in December I set out with a companion on a tour of South Gippsland - well, a narrow slice of that region in southern Victoria, Australia, that we traversed over six days. This was my first tour on the Thorn Mercury 650b that I bought in July, my first tour in about 15 years, and my second tour with Pete, who had accompanied me on that previous tour, a nine-day trip through the south-west of Western Australia. Pete took the same bike he used then: a Norco mountain bike with a suspension front fork and an aluminium frame that looked all but bombproof. Like me, Pete had done no touring since. However unlike me he had done lots of riding, in regular weekend outings on road bikes with others.

Here is Pete's bike as loaded on Day 3 of the trip:



And here is mine at the same point. If you're wondering how I got away with taking so little luggage, that is partly because I brought compact gear that would barely squeeze into the bags, and partly because Pete carried my mattress and enclosing blue tarp:



This would be, as Pete put it, a calibration ride. We wanted to find out what we could do and how best to do it. My choice of two small front bags and one small rear bag is one I will revise for future trips of this kind, on which we carried tents and a camp stove. My thought was to put the light stuff in the front and the heavy stuff in the rear. As it turned out I didn't have enough rear volume to make that work, and ended up with about 4kg in each bag for a total of 12kg, eight of them at the front. The Mercury ST fork was easily up to handling that, but it made the low-speed steering needlessly heavy. Pete ended up with 16kg distributed across his four bags.

We trained from central Melbourne out to Yarragon, a small town about 150km south-east of Melbourne on the Princes Highway, which runs through Gippsland and then along Australia's east coast. Within a few kilometers of our Day 1 route south to Leongatha, we were heavily into a 10km climb averaging about 5 per cent. Which required consistently low gears but rewarded us with extensive views.

At an early rest stop looking back at the lowlands where we had come from:



The road ahead kept going up:



And Pete, who was climbing much more speedily than I, got a glare or two from the locals:



Next: more from Day 1, and the Great Southen Rail Trail (Day 2).


« Last Edit: December 18, 2021, 01:40:18 PM by Moronic »

John Saxby

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1842
Re: Climbs, cars and a rail trail: South Gippsland on a Mercury
« Reply #1 on: December 15, 2021, 11:18:47 PM »
Great stuff!  Love those narrow hillside roads.  I've not done any touring in 'Straya, but on visits to our son and his family in the Gold Coast, I've managed quite a few day rides in the QLD/NSW border ranges.

A suggestion on lightweight rear panniers for your future touring:  I've had a pair of Arkel Dry-lites for several years now.  They weight about 540 gms, give you 28 ltrs total, and are waterproof, durable and easy to use. Here's the link: https://www.arkel-od.com/dry-lites/

Can't see the lower hookup point on your rack, but the photo in the link shows the elasticated hook that the Dry-lites use. The upper fastenings across the rack are wide velcro straps,easily adjustable, and very secure once set.  The plot is held in place by tension created by the elasticated hooks.

I put my denser items in the Dry-lites (food, cookware, etc.) and the bulkier, less-dense items (clothes and sleeping stuff) in my larger panniers on the front rack.

Look forward to the next instalment/s! (Serious envy here: ice, freezing rain, and godknowswhat, to be followed by rain & 13 degrees tomorrow. Only stationary-trainer riding for me.)

Cheers,  John

And a PS, nudged by Andre's comment:  great action shot of the koala!
« Last Edit: December 16, 2021, 01:56:18 AM by John Saxby »

Andre Jute

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 3821
Re: Climbs, cars and a rail trail: South Gippsland on a Mercury
« Reply #2 on: December 16, 2021, 01:24:49 AM »
Super report, Moronic, and meaningful photos showing the hills and the valleys they rise from. Not to mention the little koala which, from the scars on its face, must be a dominant male.

Moronic

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 138
Re: Climbs, cars and a rail trail: South Gippsland on a Mercury
« Reply #3 on: December 16, 2021, 12:37:27 PM »
Thanks for the encouragement, gents.  :)

We had looked pretty carefully at this Day 1 route, concerned that the climbs might require more than we had and therefore scrutinising grade profiles with Google Maps. There were longer and shorter alternatives, and some that seemed to run mainly flat across the top of the range while others rolled up and down. Nevertheless you could only get a sense of the topography. We reached the top of the climb and gratefully settled in to what we believed would be a gently undulating plateau and then a long descent to a major country road that we would spend about 5km on before we reached Leongatha.

However, the most direct route across the range looked more undulating than a longer alternative, which would transfer us via a gravel link to the appealingly if ominously titled Grand Ridge Road. We believed the gravel link would run for 2km and would be flat. Almost immediately however we headed down through a series of S turns until we reached another climb. This climb felt very unwelcome. Surely, however, it would be brief. I recall deciding that the corner I could see in the near distance would reveal the summit. What it revealed instead was a steepening grade and then, attached to a tree near a farmgate, a large privately produced sign that read (as I recall it now) Wurth's Hill. The sign did not, unfortunately, mark the top of the hill; rather it marked perhaps the foot of the brow. On the plus side there was very little motor traffic. I was convinced by now that I had done very well to specify my Mercury with 37/19 sprockets and a bottom gear in the high 14 inches.

The Grand Ridge Road was just about worth the effort. Some of it was like this, and while a lot of it had fabulous views either side the experience of riding our section of it is captured pretty well in this shot:



Except that a fair bit of it was downhill. There was a superb descent through a series of bends that could be taken wihout slowing on the Mercury but only if you judged them well and entered with courage. Even front loaded the bike steered beautifully through here, the big tyres offering reserves of grip approaching that available from a motorcycle. More, the elevation was exposed to the left, so that you could enjoy the curves with half an eye on magnificent greenery stretching to the horizon. Naturally, I was having way too much fun to stop for a photo.

All good things must come to an end, and so eventually we found ourselves attacking major rollers and approaching the highway. Time for a rest before the final push. We were pretty bushed by now.





The highway - not even a very big highway - was a rude reacquainting with the world of others after 55km in what had been largely a traffic-free bubble. Climbs often had me down near walking pace, where I was unstable enough that I worried I would steer for balance into the side of an overtaking car or truck that had cut things fine. At points there was no shoulder and a succession of oncoming vehicles, so that motor traffic arriving at my rear mudguard had no choice but to run me down or wait. There was even a case of horn honking and verbal abuse - not every motorist in Australia believes that cyclists have a place on proper roads.



We were relieved to reach our hotel, booked only that afternoon, to carry the bikes and luggage up to our rooms, to shower, to descend for a schooner or two of beer and an acceptable pub casserole, and then to retire. I was between sheets at 8:15pm, and must have been asleep by 8:16. We were weary but far from exhausted - we hadn't begun to ride until 11am and we were at the pub by 5. Drifting off over that minute or so felt fantastic.


Moronic

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 138
Re: Climbs, cars and a rail trail: South Gippsland on a Mercury
« Reply #4 on: December 16, 2021, 01:48:27 PM »
I've taken some pains to describe the first day because it was arguably the most varied and also the toughest of the trip. I am also aware that 60km is less than 40 miles, and I imagine that for some of you a succesion of 35 mile days barely deserves to be described as a tour. I like this sort of tour, though. It's not about setting records and it's not all about time in the saddle. It's about seeing places from a different perspective, and about having time at either end of the day - and indeed on breaks along the way - to take things restfully. Besides, I am still not very strong and so these distances were about as much as I needed.

Leongatha is a dairy town at the foot of the Strzelecki Range that we had crossed from Yarragon, and the biggest in the district. Although it is no longer reachable by rail, it marks the start of a 75km route south known as the Great Southern Rail Trail. We had elected to ride just the 60km to Toora, in part because we would be retracing some of it the following day, and in part because we'd been told that the coastal town at the end of the trail, Port Welshpool, had been hosting a plague of sandflies. I'm not sure how much these insects prevail in the northern hemisphere. They are the size of a pinhead and you can't feel them bite. They are very keen on sampling exposed ankles. You find yourself motivated to scratch at an ankle, and you discover soon afterwards that your ankle has been tattooed with a sleeve of bites. Untreated, the bites itch for a fortnight. So we were cautious and thought tiny Toora would be close enough to the coast.

After the motor traffic heading into town we were looking forward to the rail trail. Nevertheless we underestimated just how good it would be.



The surface was uniformly hard and smooth, topped with only a sprinkling of fine gravel. Much of it was protected by vegetation from winds, but there were plenty of scenic sections nonetheless.



Trains evidently can climb quite steep grades, but it made an enormous difference that no matter how slowly I might tackle an extended climb, there were no articulated lorries that I might veer unsteadily into. The roadside vegetation also provided shade. And from Leongatha towns spaced 10km apart gave us opportunities for sightseeing and fuel top-ups.

There was an excellent cafe at Koonwarra that served lemon tart made on the premises:



And several at Meeniyan:



There were handy rest stops here and there, some including picnic tables:



And then near the summit of a climb that must have made small steam locomotives puff more than we did, this:



And even here I've captured only a segment of the panorama:



Toora arrived almost too soon, and there we set up tents in a tourist park:



Walked in to town for a beer and some shopping:



And returned with a fine bottle of white to cook on our camping stove a chilli dahl, served with middle eastern bread, yoghurt and mango chutney, at a barbecue nook that we had to ourselves. Many fine tales were told, a nip or two of very fine rum followed the wine, and we retired late feeling extremely pleased with ourselves.



Next: Day 3. Sometimes it's all about the destination.  ;D













« Last Edit: December 18, 2021, 01:49:34 PM by Moronic »

Moronic

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 138
Re: Climbs, cars and a rail trail: South Gippsland on a Mercury
« Reply #5 on: December 16, 2021, 02:35:31 PM »
Thanks John for the pannier suggestion. Yes I have looked at these and the low weight is attractive.

I might end up there. OTOH I'm quite attracted to the Ortlieb Sport Packers for the convenience of their flip-top access. Even though they add more than a kilo to the Arkels. And even though I have an ancient set of Ortlieb Back Rollers on hand, in an early version that I suspect weighs less than the smaller Sport Packers.

I suppose one really needs a suite of these things - so that you've always got just enough space for a certain expedition and never too much. And then of course you can equip inexperienced companions with the spares.

PH

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1680
Re: Climbs, cars and a rail trail: South Gippsland on a Mercury
« Reply #6 on: December 16, 2021, 05:36:19 PM »
I might end up there. OTOH I'm quite attracted to the Ortlieb Sport Packers for the convenience of their flip-top access.
Lovely report, it's almost a shame to dilute it with chit-chat...
I notice you're closing your ortliebs as designed with the shoulder straps, it's common to see them used without, just rolled and the two ends clipped together on top, used that way any advantage of the Sport Packer's closing system disappears.
If I were looking for a new pair of panniers, I'd be having a good look at the Ortlieb Gravel ones, about the same volume as their other front bags, but a bit taller and protrude less from the rack. But I'm not looking, my 15 year old classic Front Rollers are likely to outlive me. 

Andre Jute

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 3821
Re: Climbs, cars and a rail trail: South Gippsland on a Mercury
« Reply #7 on: December 16, 2021, 06:44:56 PM »
Moronic wrote:
Quote
So we were cautious and thought tiny Toora would be close enough to the coast.
And, anyhow, if you're starting from Melbourne, you take the St Kilda Road and soon enough you end on the beach, a flat ride.

Lovely report, and PH is right: shame to interlace it with chit-chat.

Moronic

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 138
Re: Climbs, cars and a rail trail: South Gippsland on a Mercury
« Reply #8 on: December 17, 2021, 04:12:56 AM »
I may have overstated the alcohol consumption from our evening at Toora, because I recall now that at the Royal Standard I drank no beer at all and instead downed two schooners of ice cold pub squash. Pete I think managed a Carlton Draught, a long standing local brew. But then we didn't waste the wine on the cooking. Point being that we rose happily and headache free the next day, struck camp, and rode into town for breakfast at a surprisingly excellent cafe called the Windmill.

From there it was back along the rail trail to Fish Creek, a ride of about 20km and all-senses pleasure. We reprised the long climb, repassed the big panorama, and enjoyed the light and shade.



At the small and uninviting town of Fish Creek we weren't even hungry, so we bought from the roadhouse excellent filled rolls to eat later. Then set out along the road to Walkerville, formely a tiny settlement and slightly larger foreshore campground alongside Waratah Bay, from where you can look across the water to the minor peaks on Wilson's Promontory. There a well patronised national park marks the southernmost tip of the Australian mainland. We had expected little traffic on the Walkerville road, and in that we were disappointed. Since I had camped there as a teenager, a residential subdivision had been developed on high ground above the coast that now sited at least several dozen substantial houses. Unaware of this as we traversed heavily undulating bitumen towards it from Fish Creek, we marvelled silently at how many cars and 4WD wagons and wagons with trailers had needed to emulate us in both directions over this remote dead-end route on a Sunday.

The contrast with the peace of the rail trail was ghastly, and as well we had lost most of our shade and the weather had warmed. There is nothing quite like the experience of vulnerability as you approach a sweeping blind turn with a double white centreline and hear the hiss and whirr of a heavy motor vehicle approaching from behind at high speed. Their options are, 1, to brake hard and match your speed until they can see through the corner; 2, to give you a wide berth, illegally cross the centreline at speed, and risk a head-on collision with an oncoming truck; or 3, to partially cross the centreline at speed, miss you by 18 inches or so, and know that in extremis they could regain their lane early at the expense of only a brush with a cyclist. Almost no one took option 1; some took option 2; and most took option 3 as overwhelmingly the most convenient. Sometimes several vehicles would overtake in swift succession.

I think this aspect of cycle touring spooked me on the prior trip with Pete through southern Western Australia, which was my third in that region. I know I returned feeling fit and expecting to continue my fegular rides around that State's capital, Perth, and that instead I barely cycled at all over the following year.  As I said in my review of the Mercury, what had brought me back to cycling was the local abundance of dedicated cycle trails. I've resolved to be more avoiding of motor traffic in planning future routes. However, this route was the only one available to Cape Liptrap, and Pete had a special reason for wanting to go there. At the border of the State park here we pulled over and enjoyed our lunch.



Also memorable from this trip were road signs warning with stencilled silhouettes that kangaroos, wombats and koalas might be crossing, to which a humorist had added a similar sized silhouette of a rhinoceros. No I didn't stop for a pic. Another road sign warned motorists, using a picture of a sedan on an incline, that the grade ahead was unusually steep. I walked some of that one. None too soon we arrived at the turnoff to the Cape Liptrap lighthouse, where the bitumen ended and this surface began:



« Last Edit: December 18, 2021, 01:15:36 PM by Moronic »

JohnR

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 421
Re: Climbs, cars and a rail trail: South Gippsland on a Mercury
« Reply #9 on: December 17, 2021, 11:17:26 AM »
There is nothing quite like the experience of vulnerability as you approach a sweeping blind turn with a double white centreline and hear the hiss and whirr of a heavy motor vehicle approaching from behind at high speed.

I always cycle with a Garmin Varia radar on the back of my bike (I've had to improvise mounts for different situations such as on the end of a rack or the Carradice Bagman). Apart from the radar emitting a bright red light that even a poorly sighted motorist should see from a distance it sends details of what's behind to the Garmin Edge computer on the handlebars and this squawks when an approaching vehicle is detected and then shows one or more blobs moving up the right side of the screen. The latest version of this radar also works with a smartphone.

However, I would much prefer to be on the railtrail and free from the vehicles (and have less challenging hills).

Moronic

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 138
Re: Climbs, cars and a rail trail: South Gippsland on a Mercury
« Reply #10 on: December 17, 2021, 02:02:41 PM »


The surface above I approached with elan - after all, wasn't I riding a gravel bike, and one highly touted as such by its maker. I have posted on another thread about the resolution of this, but at the time I was shocked to find that those innocent looking corrugations threw the bike into a hissing, foaming, paroxism of bouncing, that could be ended only by slowing to little more than a walk. We had been looking forward to this section as mainly downhill, if concerned that the surface might have been soft. It wasn't soft. It felt diabolically hard. Worse, without wearing specs it was hard to see where the corrugations started and ended. I would find what I thought was a narrow path through the middle, and would pick up some speed, only to find that the path ended in more corrugations, and the bike would start bouncing again.

A comment forum member PH had made about the springiness of the steel in a Mercury frame came to mind: he observed accurately that all steels were equally stiff. But one advance from heat treated steel is in yield strength, which is the degree to which a tube can flex before plastic deformation sets in. This experience confirmed for me - anecdotally - that my guesses had been right. The frame resonated with the tyres, which I had been running near maximum pressure to minimise rolling resistance under the added load from my panniers. As I said elsewhere, Pete commented that he could see daylight under the tyres as the bike bounced, and the front panniers lost their lower connection with the Tubus Duo racks. One came near losing an upper mounting as well. I was surprised that the Ortlieb trunk Bag remained attached. The only means of secure progress came through slowing painfully and attempting to avoid the worst of the bumps. Yes it was a tyre pressure problem, but I hadn't thought of that then.

A lookout on the way brought some relief:



After about 10km of this we reached a point that Pete identified as our destination for Day 3.

Pete had become friendly with his neighbours in Melbourne, who had recently sold their house there and moved temporarily to Cape Liptrap. He had a standing invitation to visit, but Covid restrictions being what they were this had been his first chance. At this outpost I expected a beach shack, and I believe he did as well. Instead we were greeted, and directed to shower in guest quarters with magnificent bedroom views across the bay to the Prom. Again a pic, while representative, does not do the bedroom panorama justice:



The outlook was even better from the residence proper, where we were plied with drinks and nibbles and encouraged to make ourselves comfortable.

We could have driven down here in a day, as another friend of Pete's had, bringing wine Pete had sent with him. Instead we had got there with three days of strenuous and otherwise challenging exercise. We were proud to say that after our third 60km day we really weren't all that tired. Beers and nibbles went to aperitifs and wine and a magnificent dinner. The conversation was wide ranging and memorable. For me and I suspect also for Pete and our hosts, the fact that we had got there by bicycle added an ingredient that could not have been trucked in. We retired within half an hour of the day, our cycling clothes washed and drying on a rack for the morning to come.

Our touring experiences so far had been wonderfully diverse. For some perspective on where our pedalling had brought us to, here's a crude map:



Next: Inverloch, on the beach.

« Last Edit: December 28, 2021, 01:16:24 PM by Moronic »

energyman

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 585
Re: Climbs, cars and a rail trail: South Gippsland on a Mercury
« Reply #11 on: December 17, 2021, 07:34:46 PM »
Here in freezing Lincolnshire the pictures were a welcome sight.
Thanks

Moronic

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 138
Re: Climbs, cars and a rail trail: South Gippsland on a Mercury
« Reply #12 on: December 18, 2021, 03:45:13 AM »
I notice you're closing your ortliebs as designed with the shoulder straps, it's common to see them used without, just rolled and the two ends clipped together on top, used that way any advantage of the Sport Packer's closing system disappears.
If I were looking for a new pair of panniers, I'd be having a good look at the Ortlieb Gravel ones, about the same volume as their other front bags, but a bit taller and protrude less from the rack.

Use of the shoulder strap closure allows a bit more volume into the front rollers, and also leaves a more stable platform for strapping things to the top. Given that I had set up with space so tight, both options were handy.

Yes I've looked at the Gravel Pack option too. Had not realised they had a slimmer profile though, thanks. They are about 500g heavier than the Arkels and about the same lighter than the Sport Packers, with claimed volume about the same as the Front Rollers but a simpler, if less compressing, closure. It'll be a toss-up.

Pete of course was carrying the heavy Packer type panniers at either end, and a handlebar bag, and a heavy U-Lock, and my 500g-plus mattress roll, on a bike with a heavy suspension front fork. And climbing much faster than I could. Lighter is funner though, I think.

Moronic

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 138
Re: Climbs, cars and a rail trail: South Gippsland on a Mercury
« Reply #13 on: December 18, 2021, 05:38:31 AM »
Allegedly there was a serpent even in the Garden of Eden, and our hosts had advised us strongly to close doors behind us. It appeared that doorstep visits from Australian snakes residing on the property were all too frequent. I didn't ask what kinds, but during various activities in that region 40 years ago I had encountered blacks, copperheads and tigers, the latter two varieties being very deadly. We were glad to accept the advice. However, it turned out we encountered not a single snake over the entire journey, even though the warming weather made this time of year the most likely for observing reptiles.

The following day involved a ride to Inverloch, a resort town on the south coast. We shortened it by a accepting a lift from our generous hosts back to the bitumen - motor vehicles are sometimes useful after all. The cycling began with a long descent and was generally pleasant, except again for the too-high frequency of overtaking cars and trucks.




Again, it had been too easy to think that this stretch of minor coastal highway would be little used outside peak holiday times. Not so. And of course, I was particularly sensitive.

We brunched at Tarwin Lower, and were pretty happy to roll into Inverloch in the early afternoon. Once again, it had been a little too warm. The seaside vibe was nonetheless relaxing.



And after booking into a good motel and resting up a while, we found an alfresco pub dining area not far from the beach.



What to take, and what not to take? The forecast had been for weather a few degrees cooler, and neither of us had elected to carry swimming trunks. Yet a swim on this afternoon would have been pleasant (if hazarding sandflies), and our motel offered a spa at which swimming attire was required. We had arrived early enough to purchase some, but a cost-benefit analysis of doing so - accounting also for intangibles such as time spent shopping rather than relaxing - didn't recommend action. What do swimming trunks weigh? Doubtless some could be carried at the cost of a few hundred grams. If we had brought some we would certainly have enjoyed at least the spa, and we may well have concluded they had earned their place in our panniers.

The next day was forecast wet. Nintey-five per cent chance of rain, and over long periods in significant quantity. However, still with gentle breezes coming mainly from rear quarters. We had carried good waterproof jackets, and so weren't very worried about getting wet. We were a little concerned that gravel roads might turn to mush.

Our ultimate destination was the railway station at Drouin, on the same line as we had come out on but closer to Melbourne. It was only about 70km distant, and we had two days to get there. Pete plotted a gentle 30km route to Korumburra, from where we would have only 40km to complete the next day before meeting the train. A chat with a local cyclist at breakfast confirmed our choices. We proceeded via Inverloch-Outrim Road and Clancy Road, with little surface information and facing what looked like a pretty big climb.

This 30km run to Korumburra - another farming town on the same highway we had crossed further from Melbourne on Day 1 at Leongatha - ranked with the Grand Ridge Road and the Great Southern Rail Trail as a cycling highlight of the trip. Promoted, as you may guess, by the scarcity of motor traffic. Outrim Road began sealed but soon turned to corrugated gravel, with the Mercury reacting much as it had on the Liptrap road. A stop to halve tyre pressures transformed the ride: all of a sudden the road felt smooth at any speed. The sprinkling rain added a moody look to the ample scenery, and kept us cool. It was one of those days where it felt fabulous just to be out there. Here's looking down Outrim Road:



And here is a view to the side:



Tar returned as we approached the Outrim Recreation Reserve:



Where we stopped for a cuppa:



And were glad we had chosen to carry a stove. Another of those gear questions. The stove itself was a multi-fuel Trangia, powered by an Optimus burner that runs on pressurised Shellite or other petrol-like spirit, and with its pump eqipped fuel container probably weighs a kilo and a half and takes up a fair bit of space. I prize it for its performance in windy conditions and for its stability, but there are lighter and smaller options available. Add utensils and cooking essentials such as staples and a bit of oil and we could be looking at another kilo. In total, we used it four times: twice for meals and twice for cuppas. We had hummed and hahed on whether to take it but found it added a lot to the trip. The opportunity for a reflective cuppa far from commerce on a rainy day seemed all but priceless.

The climb began at Clancy Road, which turned out to be largely good gravel. Again there was that experience of ascending into views. Better, except for the couple of kilometres at either end near the towns, I doubt we saw five motor vehicles on this stretch. Perhaps because it had been written up in he local paper four years earlier as "a death trap" for drivers, as we had learned when researching it the prievious evening.

From a brief rest on the climb:



Nearer the summit, and back on tar:



Over the top:





By the time we hit Korumburra it had got quite breezy and quite chilly, and as it was still raining we weren't keen to camp. We found a room about a kilometre out of town at the Coal Creek Motel, showered and walked back into town for provisions, finding more good wine and some fresh salmon for a risotto.



Which we cooked on the Trangia at a barbecue area at the motel that offered little beauty but plenty of shelter. The fuel ran out just as the dish was perfectly cooked, and we had used all the lentils and arborio that I had packed in Melbourne. Nicely judged, then. We washed down the food with the wine, and Pete distributed the last of the rum.



It had been a day of simple pleasures.

Next: A stunning finale.




« Last Edit: December 18, 2021, 06:54:32 AM by Moronic »

Moronic

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 138
Re: Climbs, cars and a rail trail: South Gippsland on a Mercury
« Reply #14 on: December 18, 2021, 11:21:30 AM »
I felt a little sad that evening as we prepared to retire. It had been a fantastic trip - indeed, the rail trail and the Liptrap destination event had been more fun than my fondest fantasies had anticipated. We had been joined after our risotto dinner by a woman who was living in an adjacent motel unit having fled, she said, a violent episode at her home. Her stories reminded Pete and me vividly of how fortunately we had lived. This holiday had been superbly effective at relieving me of stresses from my workaday life, and I felt as though I was just getting into the groove and could extend it advantageously for a month or two. Maybe longer.

I had never quite understood why someone would purchase, say, a Thorn Nomad and proceed to cycle on it through multiple countries or across continents for six months or more. Surely the scale of such a trip made of the bicycle a hair shirt, ridden from an unconscious desire to gratuitously experience pain. And yet, more than I had in the past, I was appreciating the intensity that cycling offered. For example, all of the rural scenes that I have recorded here, and the many more that we had immersed ourselves in, could have been experienced through the windscreen of a car, or much more immersively from a motorcycle. The bicycle took this to a whole other level though. If only because you are immersed in each for so much longer.

Can I credit the Mercury with some of my attitudinal shift? I think so. It was a point of negotiation between Pete and me that he wanted to cycle faster than I could. He was happy to wait periodically, and at corners, but he much preferred to get his head down and go for it. I attributed this at first to his greater strength, but then I have ridden with other strong riders who were happy to slow to my pace. Pete's comment on riding my Mercury unladen soon after I built it was: "This is luxury!" It occurred to me after we completed the tour that I had taken the Mercury's ease and comfort for granted. Even the Brooks B17 saddle, while not quite broken in, would have been much more accommodating than the narrow piece of plastic on Pete's Norco. It is certain the comfort, convenience, and mechanical competence of the Merc contributed to my relaxed relationship with progress.



We left Korumburra about 8:15 after a breakfast at the early opening bakery, with the aim of beating any commuting traffic but of course this just put us in the middle of it. There was a long climb on well patronised arterial roads, which I didn't much enjoy. However a turn onto small farming roads brought a sharp change of fortune and this, which we photographed only after being unable to bring ourselves to stop earlier at the beginning of a spectacular descent.



We were riding another ridge, and had scenes like this either side. Eventually the route descended through a series of decreasingly sweeping turns until I had to brake a little for a corner. Andy Blance has absolutely hit the ball out of the park, as the Americans say, with the high speed handling of this model, which I suspect is even better on 650bx50mm tyres that it is on 700cx35s. Decades of motorcycling have brought me comfort at high cycling speeds but the security I felt on this descent was complete. The rigidity woukd have helped here as much as the geometry, and yet the Merc never feels stiff where you want it to be compliant. Quite an achievement. Beautifully balanced wheels must have contributed also.

A final touring pic that represents much of the remaining route along the valley, in so far as some of the riding was better than this but some was also worse, especially as we approached Drouin, a town housing about 12,000 people:



Trains for Melbourne left Drouin hourly, and one arrived very shortly after I did.  The ride home with Pete was pleasant enough, each of us sleeping through portions of it. Some carriages on these trains come complete with bicycle bays, which we took advantage of

Cleaning up the Merc on completion was just a matter of wiping down the chain and sponging off the dust. We had covered less than 300km, so what else would I expect? Well, perhaps nothing else. Still, I found myself surprised after all that to discover that nothing was loose, nothing was bent, nothing seemed in any way different from how it had been when we set out, except that the chain felt a little slacker. And I was looking forward to another ride.



A long story then about a short trip. I hope some of you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.
« Last Edit: December 18, 2021, 12:07:44 PM by Moronic »