Creswick to Adelaide
One of my long-time friends was leading her last service before retirement recently. We travelled over to be there, and I took the opportunity to ride home to Adelaide. She was the minister at Creswick, which is a little north of Ballarat, and the shortest way back to Adelaide is along the Western and the Duke's Highways. Traffic is very heavy on both these roads. They are not pushbike friendly, especially the Western Highway. I chose a parallel route for the first 170km and then headed due west to the coast to take the much quieter Princes Highway along the Coorong. The direct (car) route is 630km. My tourist route was 769km, which is pretty good given the big loop out to the coast. I planned the ride over four days.
Day One was designed to break the back of the ride. I crossed the Western Highway at around the 180km mark after short periods on the Sunraysia and Pyrenees Highways and a variety of minor back roads. Many of these back roads were the classic back-country bitumen of Victoria: just wide enough for a car. The route wound between various ranges and around the top of the Grampians.
The narrow bitumen makes for very quiet riding.
The main challenge in country Victoria is finding sufficient food and water. There is good mains water at Lexton (45km) and (maybe) a luke warm pie or two at the post office. There is nothing to eat at Elmshurst, and explicit warnings not to drink the recycled water. (75km) Nothing more is available until Glenorchy, which has a good clean water tap at the back of the town hall. (150km)
From there until Edenhope there is neither food nor water. A few small places have a sports club, but these are usually shut at night, and you never quite know what's in the water. It is clear that many such facilities are not connected to potable mains water.
I've been able to get water from the rainwater tank at places like Joel Joel, and sometimes found it full of gum leaves, and black or brown, and undrinkable. In some of these places, people bring water to the hall for events.
I'm pretty sure the track doesn't go all the way around.
The Grampians from just north of the Western Highway.
You can see classic back-country bitumen in the photo above. It's narrow down near the on-coming car on the right; if you meet an on-coming vehicle on these roads you have to drop your passenger side wheels off the bitumen. But bits of the roads have been widened, especially in areas that get boggy. In the foreground the paddock has recently been sprayed (the yellow) in preparation for this winter's crop.
My crossing of the Western Highway was a few kilometres short of Horsham and entailed 2.5km of boggy and heavily rutted track followed by the same distance of badly corrugated metal road. From then on: good bitumen all the way to Edenhope. I reckon I met less than half a dozen vehicles during that time. Shortly after taking the photo of the Grampians, I rode for about a kilometre whilst able to see the Western Highway traffic. In those few minutes I saw 40 odd vehicles crossing in front of me, which illustrates just how much difference to comfort and safety a well chosen route can make.
I stayed in a cabin at Edenhope. I was carrying a bivvie and sleeping bag, but the weather was always threatening rain, so I chose to buy comfort for that first night. Apart from anything else, if you don't know a place well, rolling out a bivvie in the dark is always a risky proposition, including camping on a bull ant trail, attracting the attention of local dogs or cattle, or getting soaked by sprinklers if you risk a town park.
Edenhope has a drinking water tank in the main street, plus chemist, coffee shop, bakery etc. A good place to stop.
Day One was 294km over 18:30 hours; 15:50 riding. Average riding speed was 18.6km and real average speed was 15.9. I was pleased with this. It's a long time since I've ridden with a full touring load. Route
At 149km Day Two was about half the distance of the first day. But the head winds after lunch were bad enough that I wondered if my total time was going to be about the same as the day before!
And, as at other places, don't drink the water at Apsley.
The first 50km to Naracoorte was a pleasant ride, often accompanied by a multitude of white cockatoos careening around above the road, warning all and sundry of my approach. Apsley is the only settlement on this road. There's a pub (shut at present) and a corner shop. Hynam (across the border into SA) barely exists.
Naracoorte has everything. I topped up my food supply and then headed off to Lucindale for the second 40km. That entailed 35km of a strong head wind, partly caused by a lack of tree cover along the road. It was also one of those relatively rare times when I was riding directly in to the wind. I began to wonder if my projected arrival time at Kingston was out by 5 or 6 hours.
They were not wrong about the name
Vegetation like this takes a lot of the bite out of head winds… except when the wind direction is exactly that of the road. Then it's a wind tunnel.
Lucindale has a great little park and facilities in the middle of town, including an SA Water drinking fountain—Yea! I arrived at the same time as three small children rode their bikes into the park.
"Are you a police officer," asked the little girl. I was so surprised I asked her to repeat the question and then said, "No, I'm not a police officer."
"Are you a postman," asked Boy 1. "No," I said.
"Ah!," said Boy 2, "You're a cyclist!". I said that I was.
"Then why do you have a flashing red light on the back of your helmet?" said the little girl.
I explained this was to prevent cars running over me, and began to unpack my night clothes and my tea. She said, "Do you have lollies in there?" This is not what an older man wants to be asked at the play ground. My barley sugars were in another bag, so I was able to truthfully say that I only had cyclist's food in this bag.
The wind had dropped quite suddenly at dusk, so although I needed to be wearing full night gear, I made up a significant amount of time. My night gear added a head tube, booties that come half way up the calf, and a windproof jacket over my jersey and light jacket. I sweat a lot, so despite the fact that the jacket is supposed to breathe, I get saturated underneath. But it helps with the night chill as the temperatures drop. (Well below ten degrees in this case.)
The ride to the coast was almost pleasant, but just before meeting the Prince's Highway a storm came in off the sea and I was drowned whilst struggling to keep the bike upright. The last 20km was "less than excellent." Kingston has a 24 OTR service station, which I know from my last visit still has hot food at 2am. I'd planned to sleep in the bivvie, but the forecast suggested this was an unwise move. I was very glad to have a motel room (right next to the OTR) waiting for me as I slogged out the last few kilometers.
Day Two was 149km over 11:30 hours; 9:10 riding. Average riding speed was 16.2 kmh and real average speed was 12.9. That lower figure shows the effect of the wind. Route
I planned on a 200km stretch to Tailem Bend. The road starts slightly east of north for about 30km and then swings slightly west of north. Forecast winds were northwesterly heading to west, so my riding conditions improved as the day went on. Not so for Lyell who I met about 85km north of Kingston. He was working harder by the hour as the wind dropped below the west.
There are no facilities for the 144km between Kingston and Meningie. The Post Office and the coffee shop are both shut. Be prepared to do the whole distance without getting water or food. The scenery can be spectacular along the Coorong, but the wind can be brutal. As Lyell was finding, Google Map's reports that the road is flat are not quite the truth. The gentle undulations combined with a head wind can be very hard work. In my experience, this ride can be freezing in winter, and terribly hot in summer.
There is a good little IGA at Meningie, and the Ampol Service Station has some hot food. Our family has found the Waterfront Motel to be a good over-nighter, but on this occasion I kept going to Wellington, where I took the ferry to the Jervois Road. It's marginally further, but has zero traffic through to Tailem Bend.
Both the young bloke at the Wellington Ferry, and John who has done night shifts on the Jervois Ferry for at least a decade, ride bikes. So I had a good chat at both crossings.
Tailem Bend Ferry
Day Three was 202km over 13:30 hours; 11:02 riding. Average riding speed was 18.3 kmh and real average speed was 14.9. Route
Day Four was deliberately shorter, only 120km. This is because the Adelaide Hills provide a significant challenge at the end of a long ride. There are three viable routes from Murray Bridge to our house about 10km north of the city, and all of them are hard work. Two begin on the Old Princes Highway aka Old Mt Barker Road. The first shadows the South Eastern Freeway all the way to the Tollgate. The second sheers off a little before Littlehampton and goes through Balhannah and Uraidla and descends down Greenhill Road. Both have multiple steep hills, narrow roads, and are scary busy during school and tradie rush hour at the end of the day. The close passing on some of the hills makes one wonder what people are thinking.
The third, my route of choice, is up to Palmer, and then back down through Birdwood and the Gorge. This costs me about 8 kilometres. The big upside is a road which is usually a lot quieter and certainly does not have the long narrow twisting climbs of the other two. There is one major climb out of Palmer, but it is nowhere as hard as it first looks. There are couple of smaller climbs to get up to the Birdwood – Mt Pleasant road, but the road always feels safer. From that intersection it is undulating downhill to the top of the Linear Park. But the entire Murray Bridge to Palmer section is a 1-3% climb. With a head wind (the prevailing wind sadly) it is a long stretch for a tired cyclist with a touring load.
The first photo is in the rain shadow on the Palmer side of the ridge. The second is on the Tungkilo side, and despite the heavy grazing, the difference is clear.
Day Four was 123km over 8:32 hours; 10:13 riding. Average riding speed was 14.4 kmh and real average speed was 12kmh. Route
A story about clothes
Bike clothes often get to a certain age and begin to stink as soon as they get sweaty. It's worse in cold weather where you may wear several layers to keep warm, especially if you are a heavy sweater. Add a jacket for after dark and the problem is worse.
Recently I tried a sports detergent product called Zeroda. I'd done several washes of my main kit before this trip. Everything was drenched by the time I finished each day. By the end of Day Three, my shirt showed signs of becoming manky, so I rinsed it in cold water. Problem solved. This was an unexpected and very welcome result—I'm a bit amazed—and I recommend the product.
Andrea Prior (May 2023)