Rail Trail Ride – North Eastern Victoria 25th to 29th November 2012

It might have seemed like a long way to go for a cycle, but the five-day rail trail ride in north eastern Victoria was well worth the effort. The riders were: George, Phil, Alan B, Herb, Colleen, Mike, Don, Margaret and her sister Ann, and Grant. Robert and Liz and Michele and Don joined from Coffs BUG.

The first day’s riding (Sunday 25 November) had been organized to start at 1pm after everyone had arrived at Myrtleford, but on Saturday night those of us who were in camp decided that with the high temperatures forecast for Sunday, it would be better to start early, at 7am, and do the 21km to Buffalo Lake. It was a great start to a great week – just long enough to feel like we’d done something, but not so far that it was a shock to those of us who hadn’t been doing much cycling. But what to do about Robert and Liz, who were due to arrive later that morning and were expecting to cycle up to the lake, as per the itinerary? Easy – let’s do the cycle again! Seemed like a good idea at the time, but the smaller group of cyclists hit 47 degree heat and a very hot bunch arrived at Buffalo Lake and immediately hit the water. You could almost see the steam rising off them….

The early morning start set the pattern for the rest of the week, as the temperatures remained high, but thankfully the two cycles in a day didn’t become a habit. Our typical day was to cycle, with coffee at the end point, then return to Myrtleford Caravan Park (a wonderful spot, with plenty of trees) to rehydrate, eat, read and sleep and build up enough energy to sit around the camp table and have a drink at beer o’clock, before deciding what to do about dinner. Alan’s wife Bev was the camp angel, making sure we all had cups of tea and biscuits and whatever we needed, which was greatly appreciated. We had a great barbecue one night with Bev, Margaret and George’s wife Betty providing potatoes and salads, and the Coffs BUG doing dessert.

Day 2, Monday, was our first cycle on a proper rail trail, which was of course what we had come for. The destination was Bright, about 40km from camp and with no traffic and no hills it was a cyclist’s dream. We had the trail all to ourselves and kept up a steady pace, with the usual breaking up into smaller groups depending on how speedy you were.

Day 3, Tuesday, was our longest cycle – over 100km to Wangarrata and back. Envisaging hot mix bitumen for hundreds of kilometres of fast, smooth cycling, many of us were disappointed at the quality of the surface, but none of us were as disappointed as Don (Coffs BUG) who will be forever known in DUBBUG as “Puncture Don”. In the course of the day, he had six punctures thanks to the type of tyre on his bike and also the sharp, fine gravel on the trails, which seemed to lodge in his tyres and work their way through. Phil and Herb had single punctures, but with Puncture Don’s experience everyone was a bit spooked by the prospect of having more. The weather on this day was a bit wet, but the clouds and short rain spells kept the temperatures down and it made for good cycling conditions. We had an outstanding pub lunch at Everton, where the hotel staff opened the kitchen just for us. Food always tastes so much better when you’re really really hungry!

Day 4, Wednesday was our hill cycle, up to Beechworth, home of the famous bakery. We found out from Peter (who lives there and sometimes cycles with us) that only tourists go there, and from Alan B that the coffee was pretty bad, so we ended up at the lovely café across the street instead. The climb was a steady but not steep one for 17km and Beechworth was a welcome sight. We all know how George loves the hills, and this one was no exception; he decided he’d catch a ride home from Beechworth but he missed the best part of the ride. Little or no pedalling and no braking on this wonderful gentle descent through forests and paddocks. Next time, he’ll have to get Betty to take him to the top of the hill instead. The total ride for this day was over 80km.

Day 5, Thursday was our last day. The previous days’ cycles and the cumulative impact of all those kilometres had thinned out the group. Phil, Colleen, Mike, Puncture Don, Grant, Alan B and Robert were the only starters. A change in itinerary saw us going to Milawa, 34km away, on road not rail trail for a quick coffee and turnaround to Myrtleford where we packed up and most of us hit the road in the car to head home.

It was a great trip – good company, good food, heaps of exercise, no injuries (if you don’t count the sore backs, knees, feet and bottoms that come through five solid days of cycling!). Thanks to Mike for organizing the itinerary, for Alan and Bev and Betty for providing camp support, and to all the participants who made the trip so much fun.