Sunday, September 30, 2012

Ethelton. One more time...

Almost as soon as I'd gotten off my bike, I was back into the cut-and-thrust of the Ethelton Entertainers' season. I'd missed the first four performances due to being away, so when I sat down amongst my band mates on Tuesday night I felt a little like a new boy.
I've been a member of this troupe for around 20 years; I started helping behind the bar in the early nineties and once they found out I played guitar and sang a little, well, that was that. I moved from the bar to the 'orchestra pit', and that's where I have stayed.  Apart from getting up on to the stage to sing a song or two each night.
Every year the show plays nine nights; sellouts more often than not. It has afforded me the privilege of playing with some very accomplished musicians, and has also allowed me to perform some wonderful show tunes on both bass and guitar. It's been great fun.

Living the rat pack dream...

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Annual Tour Day Nine - All Good Things...

Homeward bound.

I was expecting a tough day, as the profile and wind forecast were both suggesting hard work. I wasn't disappointed.
We packed for the last time, and left camp around 7.30. The gentle downhill 30 kilometre run into Gawler seemed like anything but. The wind was fierce, blowing us sideways, and there was more than a little climbing, even if it was a nett downhill leg.
The five kilometre climb out of Gawler wasn't bad, and the ride along the top had its moments, both good and bad. The wind was another ripper though; probably the stongest yet.
The ultra-slow grind up to the summit of One Tree Hill Road was a bit of a heartbreaker. Not a lot of space for bikes and traffic, especially when you are tired and a bit wobbly...
The sideways buffeting of the wind as we re-entered the suburbs made playing with the traffic even more difficult than usual. I got the feeling the most of the drivers felt that four or five inches was more than enough space. How considerate...
The ride into the city along the Linear Path was a relief, notwithstanding the occasional idiot dog owner.
I was delighted to arrive at Bike SA, some nine days after leaving, relatively intact and in good spirits. Lunch, the gathering up of gear and the usual bittersweet farewells were brief.
The toughest day of the ride was saved until last, so I definitely earned my Radox bath that afternoon.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Annual Tour Day Eight - Back on the Mawson

Once again, Ray and I hit the Mawson for some off-road hi-jinks. The Kapunda-Tanunda journey is picturesque, and there's some good riding to be had. I think it was the first time on the tour that we stopped specifically to take photographs.
We overshot a turn towards the end of the trail (still not sure how - all the markers were clearly visible), but even with the detour we were still sitting in Nuriootpa enjoying a coffee and a finger bun at 9.30. It was far to early to end the day's riding, so we planned a route out of town, onto some dirt, and then back onto the Mawson towards Rowland Flat. We passed a few Annual Tour riders on the bitumen heading out; I think they must have thought we were lost or heading the wrong way. I suspect we confused more than a couple of them.
It was a stonking good ride. The dirt was a great workout and, once again, the scenery was beautiful.
Just before we got back to the highway, I clocked 60 kph on one of the downhills. Nice.
The ride back into Tanunda was uphill, and into the strong wind. Traffic, magpies, and a bumpy shoulder. Not much fun, but a necessary evil. We managed to get to camp in time for lunch without too many dramas.

Chateau Tanunda played host to the tour; lunch and dinner were appropriately salubrious.

Annual Tour Day Seven - Wind Problems

The first stretch of the Day Seven ride was a lovely sprint out of Burra and towards morning tea at the Russian Molokan cemetery.
Once the wind had gotten up though, it was a different matter entirely. The breathtaking, panoramic views of the ranges were soon forgotten as we rode the World's End Highway and climbed into the wind; the leg between Robertstown and Point Pass was particularly tough. Point Pass looked like a bigger place that I would have imagined, and the golden spire of the church stood out for miles. I was happy and relieved to make lunch in Kapunda, where I enjoyed the best roll of the trip.
The last section was also quite climby, but we held a pretty good speed and actually quite enjoyed ourselves all the way into Kapunda, our evening destination. Unusually, we didn't see another bike along the whole stretch.
We enjoyed a few pints in town, visited the bakery, and I bought a two dollar 1940 edition of Treasure Island from a second-hand shop.

Annual Tour Day Six - Day of Rest

Rest day in Burra. Again...

I didn't do much. The sleep in, hot shower and cooked breakfast provided a sense of luxury and leisure, and from there it was a case of just wondering what to eat or drink next. I'd cleaned and lubed my bike the night before, and done my washing, so I was free of the burden of responsibility.
Lunch was a surprisingly good pizza from Cook o' Burra, which we ate sitting under the verandah of the Burra Hotel.
I bought three LP records for a $1 each, and managed to safely stow them on one of the trucks.
In the afternoon the weather turned pretty foul, and broke a couple of tents. Judging by the strength of the wind, I think we were lucky that it was only two. Thankfully, the poor weather and high winds were gone by the evening.
Time for the talent show. Oh dear...

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Annual Tour Day Five - Mawsoneers!

After clearing it with those in charge, we rode the Mawson Trail rather than the established bitumen route on Day Five.
And what a brilliant ride it was.
Initially overcast and rainy, the day's conditions improved as the hours passed. From the moment we turned onto Angus Court Road, I was filled with happiness.
I've ridden this leg about half-a-dozen times in the past, but always in the autumn. To do it at this time of year was something a little different. The canola fields provided an impressive backdrop to Camel Hump. We didn't stay long at the top of the climb as it was a little fresh.
It is fairly flat, but there a couple of pretty thick climbs and some joyous freewheeling sections too.
We got buzzed by magpies, saw kangaroos, felt a few spots of rain, encountered cows on the trail, waited while sheep were led from one field to another, and had to get over a couple of electric fences. Ray took a tumble in the mud, just for fun.
All in a day's work, really.

We were fortunate with the wind, which was across us at worst. The roadies' route meant that they had to endure a tough slog into it.
Gotta love those mountain bikes.

The Burra Hotel was pleased to see us.

Annual Tour Day Four - Clare, the moment I met you, I swear...

I got up at 6.00 and was surprised to see a healthy covering of ice on the outside of the tent. It was an extremely cold morning. I was tempted to crawl back into my safe haven but the clear blue sky was promising.
Breakfast was back at the Town Hall, which added an extra dimension to the morning's preparations. A bit more to-ing and fro-ing. I left my shoes outside to dry out/warm up in the morning sun.
The ride to Brinkworth was slightly uphill and slightly into the wind, so it serves as a decent warm up for the day. One of locals came down for a chat, resplendent astride her three-wheeled bicycle. The next section was a solid climb, and my poor mountain bike and I laboured along the long, upwardly mobile route. About 20 kilometers outside of Clare things started to undulate again, which provided a few moments of relief now and again. It was a beautiful spring day, and the scenery was lovely - blue, green and yellow. The penultimate section was another big climb up Barinia Road, a bit of a gut buster, before we turned right and headed into town along the extension of the Riesling Trail.
Lunch at the fitness club was all very pleasant, as was our afternoon spent wandering around the town.
After dinner, Ray and I sought assent from Bike SA high command to deviate from the planned bitumen course and ride the Mawson Trail between Clare and Burra. Permission granted. Off we go!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Annual Tour Day Three - There's No Town Like Snowtown

I'd slept really well so I was about as fresh as I could be for Day Three.
I rose, washed, packed and ate with an almost ruthless efficiency. I was expecting a pretty tough day, which was likely to compound my feelings of soreness.
It was a cool, cloudy day which probably suited us for the early push out to morning tea. The leg to lunch at Bute was pretty flat, and pretty fast.
As it turned out, the main part of the day was more of a solid grind than a series of punishing climbs. Which probably suited me. After a couple of hours of gradual climbing it was a great relief to hit the ten per cent descent into Snowtown. Have I ever mentioned that I love downhills?
We camped at the school, and walked into town.
Sherrilee and Flash the dog greeted us as we walked into the hotel.
As I replenished my lost fluids I gazed out of the window. Even in a sleepy town, gaxing out of the window is a better option than watching Days of our Lives on the big-screen TV. I could see two people performing some kind of 'show', larking about in a barrel in front of that building. Not sure if they were locals or blow-ins. They probably thought they were being cutting-edge and funny, but it just looked boring and more than a little sad.
Dinner was one of those lovely community affairs, held in the Town Hall. The food, drink and friendship were all top-notch. Thank you, good folk of Snowtown.
We walked back to camp under one of those moonless, starry, country skies that never fails to remind me of my insignificance. Truly beautiful.
Despite the cool night, I slept well.

Annual Tour Day Two - An Ill Wind.

It's colourless, odourless and tasteless. Depending on its direction, it can be of great assistance or it can smash you to pieces.
On Sunday the ride took me to Kadina and then on to Wallaroo. It was a pleasant novelty to leave camp without having to pack up. The route to Kadina was fast, the strong breeze pushed us all the way there, but as soon as we turned for Wallaroo and Moonta I knew I was in trouble. The wind was right at me, and the long, straight stretch from Wallaroo to Moonta Bay was hideous. Exhausting. Partly because I was out of condition, but mainly because the wind was a bitch. The 4WD that missed me by centimetres didn't do much for my opinion of tank-driving idiots either. Anyhow, for the bulk of the ride I just tucked in behind Ray and cursed. Happy days.

I was a tad relieved when we arrived back at camp.

I spent the afternoon recovering from a precarious position. I felt pretty bashed up. The miniature train ride around the mine helped a little, as did the restorative 'brown champagnes' at the Royal Hotel.

Vegetarian lasagna for tea. I bought my own Parmesan.

I was asleep before 9.00 PM.

Annual Tour Day One - Triangulation

This is where I find out if two rides in ten months is sufficient training for a nine-day bike tour. I suspect I already know the answer...

I jumped off the Bike SA coach in sunny Moonta, set up my camp and got myself organised for the first day's ride. I said hello to many of my fellow riders, many of whom I've shared rides with at various times over the last eight years. After a quick lunch and an even quicker riders' briefing, it was time to head off. Here we go then!
Luckily, day one wasn't too arduous. We rode a triangular route which initially headed east from Moonta and took me to a couple of localities the existence of which I'd never previously been aware - Agery and Cunliffe - before arriving back at camp a couple of hours later. It was a fairly flat 47 kilometres, and wind wasn't really a factor. It didn't particularly hurt, which was a relief. The distance itself, though, was more than I'd ridden in 2012 so I was satisfied that I'd made it without tiring.

The evening was the time to reacquaint with old friends, and the Bike SA evening routine. I had a substantial feed, a couple of reds, and crossed my fingers in the hope that the next few days would be OK.

No turning back now.