The first time I was allowed to ride around the block it was a personal milestone, of unparralled adventure.
Since my first 'epic' I've never looked back and each time I plan a ride, part of the 'planning' involves making it more challenging, memorable and sometimes even forgetable.
A good blogeague of mine, John 'Prolly' Watson was rolling through these parts again and wanted to do a ride with Dan and I.
When it comes to long rides, I've got a rubber arm and need little convincing - finding a window of time however isn't always easy but find one we did and this is the view through that window.
The best ride I've done of late is the Tyers-Jamieson-Licola loop. Perhaps ever. To tweak it's appeal to our foreign friend we took out the rough Thomson Dam section, rerouted away from the deadly Black Spur road ascent and threw in more dirt and climbing for added comedic value.
On 'paper' this is how it looks.
Rather than drive to the ride, or utilise PT I rolled out from my door to meet Dan and John at Lilydale where the Warburton Rail Trail begins. In the darkness with my 'world' packed into a bag and on my shoulders, I rolled east through the Gorge and towards 'Diamo'.
Anyone who has ridden through Kangaroo Ground will verify that the first 40km is a very lumpy one. It was a good thing they were waiting outside the bakery in Lilydale. Basking in the morning sun, I took on a meat pie and donut before we set off.
For a change I had another photographer on board and I liked John's imagery so much we decided to use the others photos with our own words. You can check his version of the trip on PINP.
A clean bike is a fast bike.
The Warburton Rail Trail is the perfect warm up for a big day. It rises at such a gradual rate it feels flat. Perfect for taking your less-cycling inclined partners on a weekend away. It winds through forest and fields, along and over creeks and brings you to Warburton safely away from cars.
Three Sugars was the first refuel of the day.
I ate my weight in a Canadian stack, finished what Dan didn't eat of his, had a white chocolate muffin, pink donut, fresh juice and a coffee.
With a full belly the ascent of Reefton Spur lay ahead. The climb starts out quite harmlessly but drags on and on until Reefton, then it pitches slightly and continues all the way to Cambraville. The name would indicate that there is something AT Cambraville but it's merely an intersection, or carrefour as they say in France.
The temperature increased and became quite humid. We all ditched the morning layers. The traffic was almost non-existent, a stark contrast to the Black Spur which I'd wanted to take.
Cambraville was good for one thing. A well earned lie down in the shade.
Cambraville was also the point where the dirt began. Dan originally wanted to take the well beaten path via Woods Point to Jamieson. I wanted to take a punt on a fire access road which bridged across the Jamieson-Eildon rd. We both knew the Big River rd was not an option thanks to Angry's misadventure.
The road I'd pick 'seemed' less squigly on the map and it turned out to be a great route in challenge, surface and scenery.
The road surface disintegrated and thinking I was on a mountain bike, I took the descent at full tilt. It wasn't long John and I pinch flatted within the space of 200m. Once we were rolling again, another pinch flat. 'How many spare tubes you bring?' both looking at Dan who floats over the rough stuff like a gazelle.
Hours later we returned to the sealed Eildon-Jamieson road for a slick descent before the final climb of the day.
I threw my jacket on as we'd worked up quite a sweat until this point, a stiff wind was coming through from the north and rain loomed. Dan added some PSI to his tyres and it seemed like a good idea to follow his lead. It was all bitumen from here on in, unlike years previous when this road was not sealed.
I had to stretch my mind back to the original Woods Point ride with Team A.R.S.T. to remember this road. Dan mentioned the creek where we refilled our bidons - ah yes, the creek where I thought I was Bear Gryls and ate wild berries only to get serious bowel evacuations hours later.
Sure enough, the berries are still there and as we walked down to the banks of the river there was a chap camped out with a line cast. He'd already secured one for the night.
From the creek it's a long steady slog to the top of Bald Hill Gap. I'd forgotten just how long it was to the top, but thanks to the advent of GPS nothing is a mystery and I knew roughly it was 9km. Dan who has covered this route more times than anyone knew that we were getting close by the roadside barriers.
We both sat on our hands for a while we waited for our Yankee mate. 'How long do you reckon?' By the time we'd dismounted, stretched, drank and pondered, John came into view. A sweaty tired figure. 'That was brutal!'. Agreed.
From the top is a mad slide into Jamieson, touching the brakes only to wash off as much speed as you dare. We stoped at the lookout to enjoy the last light of the day. It's a magical part of the world.
I told Simon about our last ride out this way when I first noticed this sign. He told me his family have farmed in the area for generations and the reserve was named after his Great Grandfather. When Phil Anderson resided in the area, a young Simon would tag along on big training rides to Buffalo and back.
After a solid meal and a few radlers it was time to get serious over the pool table, and unwind for the day. The publican's young nephew was running the tables and doing a great job of it. We took our turns for a hot shower and I felt human again. We chatted again with the owner of the general store in the bar, who remembered the colourful Dan and said he'd be waiting for tomorrow morning - and they'd put in a cafe bench since we last rolled through. I could already taste breakfast.
In typical fashion the time between hitting the pillow and sleep was so short it could barely be measured. Bring on the dreams and tomorrows ride.