- Me (Tom Brennan)
- Sam Williams
- Piers Truter
- Penny Sadubin
- Leon Smith
- Elke Sorhus
- Assorted odd characters we met along the way
- 5/12/94 : Geelong - Anglesea - Lorne - Cumberland River
- 6/12/94 : Cumberland River
- 7/12/94 : Cumberland River - Geelong - Ceres
- 8/12/94 : Ceres - Stieglitz - Boar Gully
- 9/12/94 : Boar Gully - Bacchus Marsh - Ballan
- 10/12/94 : Ballan - Daylesford - Hepburn Springs - Castlemaine
- 11/12/94 : Castlemaine - Axe Creek
- 12/12/94 : Axe Creek - Bendigo - Axe Creek
- 13/12/94 : Axe Creek - Rushworth
- 14/12/94 : Rushworth - Murchison - Violet Town - Dookie Ag. College
- 15/12/94 : Dookie Ag. College
- 16/12/94 : Dookie Ag. College - Wangaratta - Rutherglen
- 17/12/94 : Rutherglen - Wodonga - Bonegilla
- 18/12/94 : Bonegilla - Hume Weir - Jingellic
- 19/12/94 : Jingellic - Walwa - Corryong - Grey's Camp
- 20/12/94 : Grey's Camp - Top of Mt Pinnabar
- 21/12/94 : Top of Mt Pinnabar - Khancoban
- 22/12/94 : Khancoban
- 23/12/94 : Khancoban - Cabramurra
- 24/12/94 : Cabramurra - Adaminaby - Shannon's Flat
- 25/12/94 : Shannon's Flat - Canberra
- 26/12/94 : Canberra - Queanbeyan - Bungendore - Lake Charles
- 27/12/94 : Lake Charles - Bundanoon
- 28/12/94 : Bundanoon - Kangaroo Valley - Woodhill Mountain
- 29/12/94 : Woodhill Mountain - Berry - Wollongong
- 30/12/94 : Wollongong - Bulli - Stanwell Pass - Sydney
Date : 5/12/94
Distance : 85.8km
Average : 22.0km/h
Time : 3 hr 54 min
It started off hot and sunny as we rolled out of Geelong. The first 20km to Torquay was flat and easy and we covered ground quickly. From there to Anglesea the road became more hilly as it headed inland away from the coast. I was underwhelmed by the appearance of Anglesea. The dearth of shops and people made it seem like a hole of a place to me.
Next stop was Airey's Inlet, about 10km down the coast. This was the last town on the map before Lorne, so we stocked up on some bad tasting water. I was hoping for some cooler weather, but it just seemed to keep getting hotter.
The stretch to Lorne was a nightmare. I suffered a bleeding nose just through the heat. My muscles were fatigued from two days of gruelling Ultimate, I was carrying a full pannier, there were too many hills and the sun just kept on beating down. On one steep downhill section of the road, it had got so hot that the tar was melting and we were actually slowing down going down the hill.
We finally rode into Lorne in the late in the afternoon, and immediately headed for the Lorne Oven House, which sells wonderful ice-cream. The lady there was fantastic. She filled up our water bottles with iced water.
A welcome break, and then back on the road. The last 7 or 8km to Cumberland River weren't too bad (it might have been because Piers took my pannier). It was starting to get dark, so it wasn't quite so hot, and the hills were all fairly flat. We rolled into the camping ground just as the sun was setting, and I took a well-earned rest.
A well-deserved rest day. I needed this after 3 days of riding and running. All I did was eat, lie in the shade and play cricket. Cumberland River is a great spot to camp, marred only by the squadrons of mosquitoes which invade at dusk and hang around in the tent until dawn.
It was unfortunate that during the night someone (who shall remain nameless) was mightily ill and slept in the back of Michael's car. This meant Michael being the third person in a 1 to 2 man tent, and a rather uncomfortable night.
Date : 7/12/94
Distance : 97.9 km
Average : 18.3 km/h
Time : 5 hr 21 min
Top Speed : 77.4 km/h (Piers, on the road out to Bells Beach).
So this was the first "real" day. We set off around 8am, and stopped for breakfast in Lorne. The bloke in the deli knew us as frisbee players, and was very helpful and chatty. A loaf of bread, a hunk of Epicure cheese and a few frisbees full of Weet-Bix later, we hopped back on the bicycles again and headed north.
We made pretty good going during the morning, stopping for a couple of mandatory picture stops along the way, including one of us riding three abreast under the Great Ocean Road sign. We took a detour out to Bells Beach to check out one of Australia's premier surfing sites. I was far from impressed. We watched two surfers sit on their boards for about 15 min without catching a wave. We then wandered down the 200-odd stairs to look at the beach itself. How can they call it a beach?! It doesn't even have sand. All Bells Beach is is a ocean-eroded rocky outcrop! I sure wouldn't want to wipe out there.
The weather began to close in, so we stopped for lunch again in Torquay, and ate at a fish and chip shop which had been closed the first time through. It wasn't worth the wait. The fish was greasy and the chips undercooked. The weather beginning to drizzle, we headed out for Geelong.
We stopped briefly in Newtown, a suburb of Geelong, to pick up a leg of lamb and take directions to our overnight destination from the butcher. The ride to my friend's Tommy's place at Ballanclea, via Ceres, was awful. The hill out of Geelong was long and steep, there was a stiff headwind all of the way, and it was rapidly getting cold and wet. Sam wasn't helping by insisting on taking photos from the windswept top of the hill. Even once we reached the top and headed down the other side we were barely hitting 30km/h. That was demoralising for so much hard work.
The dirt road to Ballanclea from the bottom of the hill was longer than I remembered. I kept thinking that the property was just around the next corner, but it ended up being a few kilometres down the road. When we finally got there we found that we were missing Piers. It took him another 10 min to catch up - apparently he'd suffered a slow puncture and was having to stop every 500m and pump it up again.
I was feeling surprisingly good at the end of the day, in fact better than the other two. Riding in the evening seems to be much easier than riding in the morning.
We also found that we needn't have bought the lamb. A quick look through Tommy's freezer revealed large numbers of legs of lamb, along with numerous other cuts of meat. We ended up cooking two legs, along with two trays full of potatoes, pumpkin and onions. I think Tommy was quite taken aback at just how much of it we managed to eat. I guess he was used to a leg of lamb and a tray of veges feeding a family, not two cyclists.
I took Tommy's brother's bed. I thought that was quite amusing because I knew he was sleeping in my bed in Sydney. It's so much nicer sleeping in a bed after a couple of nights at a hard campground.
Date : 8/12/94
Distance : 68.3km
Average : 16.8km/h
Time : 4hr 4min
Top Speed : 78.6km/h (Tom, between Bannockburn and Maude)
It felt like we were leaving civilisation for the first time. We again managed to leave early, planning to have breakfast in the next town since we had no milk or breakfast cereal. After much deliberation over maps and directions we headed off down a road called Friend in Hand Road, much to our amusement. We flew along in perfect formation and reached Bannockburn, a small but interesting little town, in no time at all.
Breakfast ensued - Weet-Bix, with large amounts of sugar. The sugar is required to keep the cardboard taste of the Weet-Bix from coming through. Weet-Bix is the only breakfast cereal I know where the box tastes better than the cereal. We filled our water bottles in the basin of the toilets, although not without some consternation since there was a funnel-web spider in the bottom of the sink.
We rolled on to Maude, which was quite forgettable. I don't think we saw a single inhabitant. I did hit the top speed of the day on this section, which was almost as fast as I'd ever gone.
Then it was up into the mountains. They weren't real mountains - the maximum height was only just over 500m - but it was called the Brisbane Ranges National Park, and it was a bit of a climb for us. We climbed slowly for about 10km until we reached Steiglitz early in afternoon.
Steiglitz is basically a ghost town, although we didn't see any ghosts. It was named after Augustus Wilhelm von Steiglitz who owned much of the land around there at one time. It had an old sandstone courthouse, which was apparently identical to the one in Ballan. We stopped at the tiny little tea-room cum visitors centre called Peppercorn Place, and sampled the banana muffins and eucalyptus tea on offer. They were delicious. It is definitely a place to stop if you are ever going through. Our only disappointment was that they were out of damper, but the muffins made up for that. We were still hungry after that, so we parked ourselves outside the courthouse and had lunch - lamb, cheese, lettuce and tomato rolls using the previous night's left over lamb.
We found that there was a nice camp site about 20km away at a place called Boar Gully, so we headed out. We had decided to take the short route - this meant travelling on dirt roads for a while. Note that "dirt" roads are rarely dirt. Mostly they are sandstone or other underlying rock with a layer of gravel, sand and larger chunks of rock on top. This makes for difficult riding, as we found on the first couple of kilometres.
From Steiglitz, the road went steeply down a hill to a creek and then up the other side. Stopping on the hill was a bad thing - it usually meant getting off the bike, pushing it to the next slightly flatter section and then pedalling furiously trying to get enough grip to get going. Mostly the hill was too steep to get the bike rolling without initial momentum. Once we reached the top of the hill the going was much easier. There were large numbers of "Black Boys" (Xanthorrhea australis) in flower, which were very impressive, and we stopped for a few pictures.
Soon we hit the bitumen again, and rolled the last 10km or so to the camp site. We were the only people here, with the exception of one shifty looking character who looked like he was trying to find somewhere to bury a body. He wandered around for a while, until we made our intentions clear by pitching tents, whereupon he drove off in his ute.
The camp site was not too bad. Reasonably flat, a bit of grass, a few too many mozzies, tap water, toilet - all the mod cons, really. We made a fire, cooked dinner (an evil tuna and tomato pasta thing), and settled down to sleep.
Date : 9/12/94
Distance : 64.8km
Average : 18.1km/h
Time : 3hr 35min
Top Speed : 66.7km/h (Piers, Pykes Creek near St Annes Winery)
Little of note happened during the day. We started out from the Boar Gully campsite and had a bit more dirt to cover before we got back on the sealed roads. From there it was all downhill to Bacchus Marsh, which was our target for the day. We stopped for a while at an abandoned quarry, where Sam insisted on another photo stop since there was quite a bit of abandoned machinery.
The other two decided that I was getting too fast. They insisted that I get front panniers as soon as possible. I kept finding bursts of speed and enthusiasm at the end of the day, and they thought I was not pulling my weight. We looked for panniers at the bike shop in Bacchus Marsh, but it wasn't much of a bike shop. My back panniers cost more than the most expensive bike there, and they didn't even sell front pannier racks, let alone front panniers. Reprieved for another day or two!
Since we got to Bacchus Marsh just after lunch, we decided that there was little point camping near there. We wanted to ride along Werribee Gorge, but a quick check at the local police station told us that the ride would be impossible. Instead, we headed off on the road to Ballan and Daylesford. What a pain! The road from Bacchus Marsh to Ballan is almost all uphill, about 12km of it! Luckily it isn't too steep - it's reasonable to put the bike in a middle gear and just roll slowly up - but it's still not much fun.
About two-thirds of the way up we encountered our first winery for the trip, St Annes at Pykes Creek, just past Myrniong. We did the obligatory tasting and ended up with a bottle of chardonnay to go with dinner - not a bad drop! Unfortunately Piers found at the same time that he had lost his compass, probably falling out on one of the hills. That was a bit of a nuisance since we had been using it to help choose roads (which were invariably badly signposted).
We pretty much avoided Ballan, since it was getting latish, stopping only to get some stuff for dinner and some marshmallows for toasting. That meant we forgot to check if the courthouse was the same as the one in Steiglitz. Oh well.
We met a complete loony just outside Ballan. We had stopped outside a property called 'Mingara' since it had the same name as Penny's parents property in Kangaroo Valley. In the distance we could see another cyclist riding from the direction of Daylesford. We waved as he got closer, and he pulled over (or more correctly, wobbled over) to talk. What a sight! His bike was an old fifteen-speed Roadmaster with squeaky brakes and rusty gears. His front pannier was a patched denim bag slung over the handlebars, which must have made steering impossible. His back pannier was a milk crate strapped on to the back rack, and in it he was carrying a pillow and doona! He also had a small woollen shoulder bag slung over his shoulder, and everything on the bike was tied down with red twine. The only thing stranger than the bike was the rider. His appearance was a little unusual, but you meet all sorts. However, there was definitely not much action between the old ears. We managed to elicit from him that he was travelling to Meredith for a music festival on Sunday (it was Friday). We had a look on our maps, and it turned out Meredith was on the other side of the mountains we had just crossed. We asked him what route he intended taking, and he said he didn't know. It turned out that he didn't know where Meredith was, how far it was, which direction it was, how to get there or even what day of the week it was. At that point we gave him a few quick directions, took a photo of him and his machine, and headed off in the other direction. We thought it was safer that way.
We found our campsite here by heading down a random access trail into the bush. A couple of hours later we had a roaring fire, roasting marshmallows having had a filling dinner and the St Annes chardonnay. A most definitely good evening.
Date : 10/12/94
Distance : 68.6km
Average : 20.8km/h
Time : 3hr 18min
Top Speed : 68.3km/h (Piers, into Hepburn Springs)
Well, it was an exciting morning. Sam had lost his sunglasses and was trying to find them. Having accused me of dithering when leaving campsites for the last few days, I decided to lose control, and I roamed around the camp ripping six-metre trees from the ground and smashing them to pieces against other trees. That seemed to shock Sam and Piers slightly - I don't think they thought I had anything like that in me.
We eventually left without Sam's sunglasses and headed for Daylesford. We stopped in at Bin Billa winery on the way and bought ourselves a couple of bottles. Sam and Piers also stopped at a gallery while I was some way out the front. I was forced to wait on top of Leonard's Hill (714m) (or ride back down to find them) until they arrived, them having had a snack and a cool drink in the meanwhile. Leonard's Hill was our first crossing of the Great Dividing Range - the next not for 10 more days at Mt Pinnabar.
Just short of Daylesford Piers noticed that Sam's rear wheel had developed a noticeable buckle in it. There was not much we could do on the road, since we thought a bike shop was needed, so we rode into Daylesford a little more carefully. Piers and Sam sat down on the steps of the post office and tried to figure out what was wrong with the wheel. Luckily a passing scout leader on a scout bike hike came over to chat and immediately pointed out the problem - a broken spoke (open side, not drive side!). A quick check in one of our references showed that there was a bike shop in Daylesford. Another quick check showed that it shut at midday. A further check showed that the time was 12:15pm. Doh! Mystified by the early closing time, one last check revealed that it was Saturday. The other two had thought it was Wednesday!
I went off to do the shopping and left the others to replace the spoke and true the wheel using only an adjustable wrench and the photocopied pages from a bike book. The instructions in the book said ominously "Wheel truing is an art, and beginners should not expect first-time perfection". Luckily for us Piers and Sam got it right first time.
So much for being able to spend all day at the hot springs. After checking out a couple of bookshops in Daylesford and grabbing a couple of fairly average hamburgers for lunch, we rolled the few kilometres to Hepburn Springs and arrived around 5pm. Mmmmm! The mineral springs were great! We lay around long enough for weary muscles to feel a little rejuvenated and then made plans. We had the choice of stopping at a campsite a short way out of town, or riding thirty-something kilometres to Castlemaine. For some foolish reason we chose Castlemaine.
As it turned out, this worked well. We rode in formation and (ignoring one real long steep hill out of Hepburn Springs) flew into Castlemaine in under an hour. Boy was that a nice ride!
We asked at the local police station where we could camp, and their only suggestion was the main cricket oval. We would have to move by the time the cricket starts at about 10am, though. That sounded fine to us, so we pitched tents on the middle of the oval. We certainly didn't have a nicer piece of grass to sleep on!
Date : 11/12/94
Distance : 68.1km
Average : 18.5km/h
Time : 3hr 41min
Top Speed : 68.3km/h (Piers, road to Redesdale)
Not much happened during the day. We didn't ride far, and passed through very few towns. We watched a bit of cricket in the morning as we were packing, and decided we should reach the first of Sam's relatives in the afternoon. The best thing to happen in the morning was a stop at a place called Chewton. It has a shop called Ranter's Remarkable Market, which has so many odd things to sell that it's unbelievable! Sam was going to go berserk and buy all sorts of things, but he had to restrain himself since we told him he had to carry it. I was almost tempted to buy Piers a bird windmill to stick on his handlebar bag, but I only ended up buying some nice jam for breakfast, since we were sick of the Black and Gold jam we had had since Cumberland River.
A sad thing happened also. Sam had one of the bottles of wine from Bin Billa wrapped in his bed roll. Unfortunately it managed to work its way loose, and thinking to make its own way to Axe Creek, took its chances on the road. It lost, and broke into little pieces, wine spreading everywhere. We paid our last respects, and sadly moved on.
The rest of the day was awfully hot. Sam wanted to go to the Redesdale Pub, to see where his uncle's band had reformed many years ago. We decided to humour him, and made the 10km detour. A mistake. The pub was, well, how shall I put it, pub-like. Much like any other country town pub. We had a drink (not alcoholic! Not in that weather, at least!) and got some stuff for lunch at the shop. When we asked for our water bottles to be filled up, however, we were told we would have to pay! Apparently the drought had hit hard around there and they had to truck water in from Castlemaine or Bendigo.
After a couple of sardine sandwiches, we headed north again towards Lake Eppalock. We made pretty good going and soon reached the turn off on to the dirt road to Axe Creek. It's amazing how much slower the going seemed on dirt (or as I mentioned before, gravel). This was not helped much by the d'ga d'gas, our pet term for the corrugations in the dirt roads, so named because that's the noise you make if you try to say anything while riding on them.
We found the last turn off to Steve and Wendy's, and after a couple of nasty hills, found ourselves at their property. After we got here, they told us that the next turn off would have given us a flat ride in instead of the hills. D'oh!
Steve and Wendy are very nice. They grow a lot of their own vegetables and have their own organic lawn mowers in a couple of goats. We had a dip in their dam to cool off in the afternoon, which was great, although I kept thinking my toes were going to be nibbled by yabbies.
Date : 12/12/94
Distance : 54.8km
Average : 18.0km/h
Time : 3hr 3min
Top Speed : 69.5km/h (Piers, road back from Bendigo to Axe Creek)
We were supposed to have a rest day here. So much for that! We just had too many things to do and we needed a large town to do it. The other two decided that I was riding too fast for them and as a result made me buy a pair of front panniers and a front rack at great expense to the establishment. I also decided that my speedo needed replacing, it having reset itself a number of times since the trip started.
We then wandered off to explore Bendigo. Sam and Piers found that the oldest Chinese dragon in the world lives in Bendigo, and went to find it. I wandered around looking at some of the old buildings before conveniently bumping into a couple of second-hand bookshops. I somehow managed to acquire a number of books, although exactly what I intended to do with them on the ride remained to be seen.
We met up again for afternoon tea, and then headed home vis another second-hand bookshop. The ride home to Steve and Wendy's was a real pain, into a headwind for most of the way. Having three panniers and most of the shopping didn't make it any easier for me. I knew getting the front panniers was a bad idea. The other two claimed that I needed the practice riding with two full front panniers - a likely story!
Date : 13/12/94
Distance : 88.6km
Average : 20.9km/h
Time : 4hr 14min
Top Speed : 70.2km/h (Piers, Camel Mountain after Toolleen)
We had a long hard slog, and probably the most boring day of the trip thus far. We passed through only two towns along the way, Toolleen and Colbinabbin, neither of which had much going for it. In defence of Colbinabbin, it did have a swimming pool, but I will get to that soon.
We got underway fairly late, and Sam and I made a detour down to Lake Eppalock just out of Axe Creek. There has obviously been a fair amount of drought in the area, since the lake only covered about half the area it looked like it once did. There looked like there were even some catamarans on the other side of the lake, but there really wasn't a lot of lake left to sail on.
The road was flat all the way to Toolleen, and the ride was uneventful. Toolleen seems to me to be a fairly overrated spot on the map. It was probably put there because there was no town of size anywhere near. All I can remember of the town was one service station with a sort of a general store attached. Maybe there were no other buildings!
We had our one hill for the day about 5km out of Toolleen. It is called Mt Camel because it has two humps, but it is not much of a mountain at all, despite it being the highest peak in the obviously not very high Colbinabbin Ranges. Piers managed to set the highest speed for the day on it, though.
We rolled into Colbinabbin late in the afternoon, and went "Whoohoo" on finding that there is a swimming pool in the town. We had a nice long soak, until we realised it was getting late and we were supposed to be in Murchison by the evening, about 40km away. We rode on to Rushworth, half way to Murchison, and decided we'd had enough for the day. There was a nasty headwind and we really didn't feel like slogging 20km into it. We had dinner in a greasy little takeaway place in Rushworth. All of the options looked fairly evil, but I chose the chicken as being the least offensive. Sam and Piers both went for the fish and chips. I warned them that Rushworth is 200km from the nearest ocean and about the same from any major river, and if they ordered fish and chips then it was not my responsibility if it was inedible. It very nearly was. I don't think they'll be getting fish and chips except in coastal towns from now on!
The last problem was a camping spot. Sam wanted to camp on the main oval. I thought this was sheer foolishness, given that there were sprinklers going all over it and that there was a large gathering of locals (and their 4WDs) in the clubhouse. My reasoning was that us camping on their oval might strike a primal nerve, and I had visions of them driving round and round our tents with headlights on high beam, and using the tents for air rifle practice. My choice of camp site was out of the way but rather lumpy and windy. If Sam's tent hadn't been pegged securely to mine, I suspect it would have been back at Camel Mountain by morning! It definitely wanted to fly. Rushworth is not a place I plan to camp at again.
Date : 14/12/94
Distance : 110.3km
Average : 20.8km/h
Time : 5hr 18min
Top Speed : 58.6km/h (Sam, road to Violet Town)
After an early start to the day, since no-one slept all that well, we headed for Murchison. Sam and Piers wanted to look at the local gallery, but it was Wednesday, and the gallery had decided not to open til midday.
Murchison was interesting, and it was a shame we didn't have more time to spend there. Murchison is famous for having a meteorite crash there in nineteen-sixty-something. Obviously not much has happened since then, because all the souvenirs and signs and things have stuff about the meteorite on them. There are a few wineries in the area but we only had time to visit the closest, called Longleat Winery. It is very good, and I will certainly order some more wine from it when I have some more money. As it is, half a case is going back to Sydney and two bottles have arrived with us at Dookie. We then moved on to a local strawberry farm, and ended up buying a few punnets of strawberries and a couple of jars of (nice) jam, something which is most important! Unfortunately we had a long day ahead and had to move on soon after.
We planned to head for Shepparton and then on to Dookie from there. The next section of road changed our plans drastically. The Goulburn Valley Highway is an exceedingly bike-unfriendly section of road (at least from Murchison to the Violet Town turn- off). It has no shoulder to speak of, and large numbers of semi- trailers whistle past all doing 80km/h and none of them moving away from the edge of the road to give you any room. The funny thing was that on similar sections of road elsewhere in Victoria we had been given a bit of courtesy by cars and trucks alike. I'm not sure why the Goulburn Valley Highway was so unpleasant, but I will never ride that section again. One truck passed so close that it actually clipped Sam in passing.
A quick council of war concluded that the G.V.H. was a Gallipoli in the making, and none of us desiring to sacrifice our lives to some indeterminate cause, another warplan was necessary. We decided to turn off at the earliest opportunity and head 40km east to Violet Town. The road was long, straight, flat and boring, but mercifully light on traffic. We did have to stretch our water supplies, since there was nowhere to refill between Murchison and Violet Town, but we made it eventually. Time was still pushing us along, so after a quick refuel (two burgers with the lot for Piers, one burger and one 2L bottle of Lift for me) and a chat in the park with a couple whose son had recently ridden from Perth to Sydney, we headed north towards Dookie.
As usual the wind picked up in the late afternoon, but for a change it followed us most of the way. It was a relief when we finally reached Dookie Agricultural College. By the time I dropped my bike outside Sam's uncle Bruce's place, my speedo had reached 6 hours, and I was thoroughly exhausted.
Luckily, Bruce had plenty of food (at least he did at the start of the evening). After trying some Bardi grubs (small fat white things a little like witchetty grubs) we had soup and bread, followed by marinated chops, salad and potato bake followed by half a watermelon and cheese, all washed down with four bottles of wine (two from Longleat, and two made by Bruce himself at the Ag. College). This made us feel human again, and sleeping in real beds helped no end.
I made an executive decision that we were to have a rest day. No ifs, no buts, no whingeing, no whining. In actual fact, Sam and Piers weren't all that hard to convince either. The bad news - the next day we have to reach Rutherglen, almost 120km of riding away. It also means we miss out on seeing Glenrowan, scene of Ned Kelly's last stand. The good news - we got to relax. We had a swim in the pool. We wandered around the college and had a round of frisbee golf. Piers reproduced his classic hook shot from hole 18 at Fitzroy Gardens, and sent his disc into the bull paddock. Sam and I got much amusement watching him try to retrieve his disc without being seen by the mean looking animals.
We then went cherry and apricot picking in the orchards. Bruce needed a couple of buckets of cherries to take with him to Shepparton - "Shep" he calls it - so we availed ourselves of the opportunity to pick ourselves a bucket of cherries and half a bucket of apricots. We took them back to Bruce's and proceeded to stuff ourselves silly with them. I ended up with fifty cherry stones in my mouth because I couldn't find anywhere to spit them out.
Sam and Piers amused themselves by catching flies live and flicking them into the web of the spider that lived on the window sill. It seemed to give them no end of enjoyment.
Bruce was out, so we prepared a huge pork roast and plenty of succulent vegetables for dinner. I think Bruce was somewhat surprised at the quantity of vegetables that we had done, but was more surprised that we had no trouble finishing them all off. We would have done for the pork as well, but we decided we should save some for lunch tomorrow. We also took the opportunity to sample some more of Bruce's homemade wines.
Given that we were riding to Rutherglen the next day, much of the conversation was on wine. Bruce told us that Rutherglen is world famous for its fortified wines, particularly Muscat and Tokay, and that we should try the Tokays, because they go well with coffee.
Date : 16/12/94
Distance : 117.3km
Average : 21.6km/h
Time : 72.6km/h (Tom, Mt Warby)
The rest day meant that we would have to miss out on going to Glenrowan, scene ot Ned Kelly's last stand, but in the whole scheme of things this was good. All of us needed the rest, as we still had plenty of stupid things left to do in the trip.
The roads around this part of Northern Victoria are very flat and straight. One of the first turns in the road was at a town called Devenish, just the other side of the railway. Devenish is fairly forgettable, apart from one huge silo standing next to the train tracks. I don't know what it was holding but it sure was big. We filled our water bottles here because it looked like it could be the last town before Wangaratta, about 50km away.
There were lots more straight flat roads before we reached the foothills of Warby Range State Park. In reality, the Warby Range was not much more than foothills. The climb up into the ranges was fairly long, about 4km, but not particularly steep. Piers and Sam raced out ahead, while I rolled my way up the mountains a fair way behind. The other two had been resting for ten minutes by the time I got to the (almost) top, so we had a break for lunch there, pork sandwiches made from last night's roast. There turned out to be another kilometre or so until we got to the real top, near Mt Warby, and then we flew down the other side. Piers and Sam dogfought it out at the front while I sat about 10m behind and drafted them a bit. This seemed to work, since I hit the top speed for the day on this section.
It was not far from there to Wangaratta, and first stop was a milk bar where I consumed another 2L bottle of Lift. I looked around town but was disappointed not to be able to find a single second hand bookshop. Piers elected to mind the bikes (read "have a nap in the park") while Sam and I went to Woolies to shop. Piers almost exploded when we came back with 1.5kg of Clusters (my favourite toasted muesli, which we had not been able to find anywhere else on the trip) and 1.3kg of Weet-Bix (which was cheaper than the 750g box). He promptly refused to carry any of it, which set Sam and I laughing. We gave him the rest of the food to carry instead.
The last 40km or so to Rutherglen were flat, dead straight and boring. It gave us plenty of opportunity to fine-tune our drafting skills, and only the wind, which kept changing direction, made things at all interesting. It's rather funny that there are times when you wouldn't mind a hill or two. In actual fact, hills aren't all that bad. At least you get to go down them at some stage. The wind is worse, because there's no guarantee that you'll get a favourable wind even if you've been riding into a headwind for three days. More likely you'll have a headwind again.
We stayed at the campground in Rutherglen as we arrived fairly late, and didn't have much chance to scout out other places to camp. We figured we could do with a shower anyhow. We made brief plans about our assault on the wineries for the next day, and decided to get an early night, both because we wanted an early start and because the pond next to our campsite was home to hordes of bloodthirsty mosquitoes.
Date : 17/12/94
Distance : 76.6km
Average : 22.8km/h
Time : 3hr 22min
Top Speed : 60.4km/h (Tom, Hume Highway near Wodonga)
What a fun day we had today. An early start and we headed back down the road to the one winery that we had decided on, Campbells. I haven't really tried wine before, but got right into the swing of things trying all six whites and a few of the reds. We bought a case between us, and asked for advice on where to head next. Armed with a few suggestions we wandered across the road to Stanton and Killeen. I wasn't too impressed with their wines, but the fortifieds were nice. We left with a few bottles in the panniers.
Next stop was Chambers Rosewood Winery, a bit of a cycle away. The tasting set up at Chambers was very much serve yourself. From a cycling point of view this was bad. By the time I tasted the whites and the fortifieds, and ignored the reds I am sure I was over the limit. Luckily it took us a while to pick the two cases that we eventually had sent back, so I was feeling a little more steady by the time we left. I already had three bottles of Tokay by this point.
We headed down the road stopping briefly at Jones Winery, which was forgettable except for the port, and then headed on to Morris. Sam liked their wines, although I thought they were a little overpriced. I still ended up with another bottle of Tokay, among other things. The lady at the winery warned us of cops with breathalyser units on the main road and showed us a back way to our last stop, Gehrig's. By the time we rode out of Morris, we had 20 bottles of wine stashed in our panniers.
The ride to Gehrig's was surreal to say the least. I literally floated down the road. That the sun was particularly hot and bright didn't help. We finally stumbled into Gehrig's mid-afternoon, only about three hours behind schedule. After buying another case and a half, and packing the rest of our wine in with our new purchases to be shipped back to Sydney, we walked outside and collapsed under a shady tree. Ah, bliss...!
It was another hour or so before we mustered up the energy to move. We needed to get well past Albury by tonight if we were going to keep to schedule. Once we got on to the Hume Highway things started to move a bit quicker. Sam and Piers decided to have their little bit of fun, and set up a drafting scheme to leave me behind. I slowly fell back, until I remembered reading somewhere that if you can keep your back straighter, your chest will open up and you'll find it easier to breathe. I tried this, got a second wind, set a new top speed for the day and eventually caught up with the two of them still trying to get away near the outskirts of Albury.
We did the shopping and cooked dinner in Albury, putting up with the excruciating noise of Christmas carols all up and down the main street. I phoned home and got good news about my exam results (3 As and a B). By this stage it was dark, but we had a camping spot lined up at a place called Boat Harbour, on the Hume Reservoir. The best part of an hour's good riding got us there, ending a long day.
Date : 18/12/94
Distance : 103.5km
Average : 20.0km/h
Time : 5hr 11min
Top Speed : 66.7km/h (Tom, Old Murray Valley Highway near Tharwa)
We talked to a couple of people about the best road to Corryong, and got told that while the Murray Valley Highway and on to Cudgewa was a bit shorter, there were plenty of logging trucks thundering up and down that road. We opted for the slightly less direct, but definitely flatter and less busy road along the NSW-Vic border.
First stop of the morning was at the Hume Dam. We took the customary photos and paid our respects to the monumental piece of engineering. Crossing the dam wall we reached NSW for the first time. This was short-lived however, since we crossed back over Lake Hume on a bridge only a few kilometres down the road.
It was bloody hot, and we were looking forward to filling our water bottles at the first town. Unfortunately in this part of the world, a circle on the map doesn't equate to a town on the ground. The first town consisted of a couple of signs, the second a school building (no tap!) and the third we must have blinked.
Date : 19/12/94
Distance : 80.6km
Average : 17.5km/h
Time : 4hr 36min
Top Speed : 65.1km/h (Tom, Thowgla Road to Grey's Camp)
Date : 20/12/94
Distance : 40.8km
Average : 9.0km/h
Time : 4hr 32min
Top Speed : 45.0km/h (Sam, ascent of Mt Pinnabar)
Date : 21/12/94
Distance : 72.4km
Average : 12.7km/h
Time : 5hr 42min
Top Speed : 78.2km/h (Sam, last 10km into Khancoban)
Sam was in no condition to ride anywhere so we called a rest day. Needing to be in Queanbeyan by Boxing Day meant that we would have to ride hard from here, but we figured it was doable. I learnt how to true my wheel in the meantime. There was certainly not much else to do in Khancoban in the middle of summer. It is obviously a winter town.
Date : 23/12/94
Distance : 69.2km
Average : 11.8km/h
Time : 5hr 52min
Top Speed : 71.0km/h (Piers, descent into Tumut Pondage)
We rode out of Khancoban in mild drizzle, knowing that we would have to get from 400m to 1800m by the end of the day. And that included a big downhill.
The drizzle quickly cleared and the sun came out, just as we started a steady climb. More than two hours later we were still climbing.
Date : 24/12/94
Distance : 77.6km
Average : 17.2km/h
Time : 4hr 31min
Top Speed : 69.1km/h (Tom, Snowy Mountains Highway)
Date : 25/12/94
Distance : 102.2km
Average : 16.8km/h
Time : 6hr 5min
Top Speed : 80.6km/h (Piers and Tom, near Tharwa)
What would you like to be doing on Christmas Day?
We woke up this morning in a field full of sheep, basically in the middle of nowhere.
Fitz' Hill descent
Crunchie bar at Tuggeranong
Doner kebab for dinner
Dad shouted us a Christmas night in a hotel.
Date : 26/12/94
Distance : 85.4km
Average : 17.7km/h
Time : 4hr 49min
Date : 27/12/94
Distance : 94.1km
Average : 17.1km/h
Time : 5hr 30min
Top Speed : 73.0km/h (Sam, hill in Bundanoon)
Date : 28/12/94
Distance : 87.8km
Average : 16.4km/h
Time : 5hr 21min
Top Speed : 76.8km/h (Piers, Woodhill to Berry)
Date : 29/12/94
Distance : 76.6km
Average : 17.6km/h
Time : 4hr 21min
Date : 30/12/94
Distance : ????km
Average : ????km/h
Time : ????hr