Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Newcastle Overnight

(with apologies to Don Mclean)

Not so starry night
Assembled on the round hill lawn
Lights, reflectors, smiles all worn
Countdown to the start.

Filing over bridge.
Through the city lights and sounds.
Successfully avoiding cars,
And d*ck-heads on the prowl

Pressing to the north
Brief rainstorm to rattle nerves
Headwind bringing darkness forth
And questioning resolve

Capes on then off, calling bluff of stormy clouds
Will we get soaked now?

Windy windy night
Turns up at the front we take
Climbing up Mt White to cake
Tea and lammingtons.

Time to roll along
Sliding down a blackened tube
Chatting up the second climb
Central Coast to come

Descending to the north
Senses piqued for revelry
Not tonight, so silently
We slip though empty streets

Capes still off, but nervous of suspicious skies
Surely no rain now?

Mild and cloudy night
Budgewoi for cakes and possums
Watermelon, snakes and lollies
Prepare for final push

Not so fast our troupe
A wheel locks up with broken-spoke
Side-of-road repairs and jokes
Not counting chickens yet

Lightness in the sky
Bird song lets us know its true
Fernleigh Track and tunnel too
Destination soon.

The baths atop the sea
Swim and coffee, chill then warm
Adventure is its own reward
Tiredness brought forth

Newcastle overnight.  Iron horse will take us home
Rain away if you like.  Dreamers all aboard

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Twitching the Blue Puya

The weekend SMH had a photo spread of an oddball Chilean Bromeliad in full bloom at the Mt Tomah Botanic Gardens – 8 years in the making.  No mean feat, the Mt Tomah BG even beat the Kew BG in the race to entice this species to flower.  Competition knows no bounds!

With a Sunday to kill, and tendonitis of the right elbow to nurse, Anita and I made a day of it and joined Iain, Neil, Tony and Cathy (and Matt!) in the Bluies, for coffee (if nothing else).  Whilst the climbing troupe went to the crag we went on a hunt for Red-browed Treecreepers and Beautiful Firetails.  As with virtually every species we’ve set out to twitch, we completely dipped on the birds. 

Fortunately we had the Blue Puya to fall back on, which was going to have a significantly harder time running away, and which, at the very least, might be adorned by New Holland Honeyeaters, if the pic in the SMH was anything to go by.  I’ve never been to Mt Tomah BG before, despite having driven past it countless times, and countless times pondered dropping in.  No time like the present.

We found the Blue Puya positioned near the bottom of a beautiful Japanese-style arrangement of cascades, ponds and Protea beds.  Numerous impressive flower spikes projected skyward, decorated by squabbling squadrons of NH Honeyeaters and the larger Wattlebirds (Red and Little), all eagerly supping on nectar which will be on tap for the next month or so.  Well worth the trip, and entry is free!

And whilst on the subject of plants, my late afternoon commute through the LCNP currently features beds of Flannel flowers, and the odd monotreme ambling about.

Monday, 26 October 2015

Soggies at the Choc; Nowra 2015

After the silliness at Stromlo two weeks prior, the Soggie ensemble fronted for the third and final round of the Choc Foot Singletrack Mind Series.  Anita and I met Mikey at the track for a Saturday afternoon recce, prior to dining at the enticingly named “Southern Stones Bar and Rock Grill”, which turned out to be a cook-your-own affair, but with a difference (sometimes it pays to ponder the title).  Slabs of raw rump were presented, literally, atop volcanically heated pavers.  Upon sitting down I wasn’t sure we’d made the best decision (we just wanted a pub meal in a venue where we wouldn’t get beaten up), but it turned out to be quite an enjoyable and “interactive” experience (as claimed).  It was all happening in Nowra that weekend, and we watched the end of a 30 minute set of “River Festival” fireworks as we strolled back to the Motel.

After a good snooze we somehow ended up leaving 15 minutes behind our agreed schedule, which resulted in it being a bit of a rush getting tires topped up, eskies and spares to the pit, number plates fitted, and sunscreen applied, but we succeeded just before the end of the rider briefing and lineup for the start.

The last time I raced at Coondoo Rd was two years ago.  Some additional sectors have been cut and the track is now a better quality 11 km loop (rather than a figure 8), with the back sector now running in reverse; eliminating a fire-road climb and now climbing what were sketchy off-camber switchbacks.  Not much climbing in general, but plenty of rutted corners, step-downs and step-ups, which were bound to take their toll. 

It was already warm on the start line and barely into the first lap my eye-lashes were flicking sweat all over the inside of my safety glasses.  They became so spackled I ended up removing them and immediately realized the benefit of having an undistorted view of the track, and some more breeze on my face.  I kept the pace sane and after a few laps was joined by Mr Stead, who seemed to be travelling well.  I was determined to hold Simon as he passed, but he soon escaped out of sight and I was convinced I wouldn't see him till the end.  Two laps later he suddenly re-appeared, paying for his earlier surge.  I dropped my pace a fraction as Simon is always good company, then proceeded to bore him with commentary as to which bird was calling when.  He politely cited a desire for an easier pace and I pushed on.

BTW, this was by far the best "racing twitch" I’ve had yet and provides a welcome diversion from the aches and pains accruing in hands and toes.  The bush was a raucous symphony of Wattlebirds, Friarbirds, Spinebills, Gerygones, Pardalottes, Cicadabirds, Orioles, Kingfishers, Treecreepers, Rosellas, Flycatchers, Misteltoebirds, Fantails, and Bronze-cuckoos, not to mention the Glossy-black Cockatoos which chimed up during the presentation, and the Black-face Monarch which piped up during the recce. 

As impressive as the birds were, they couldn’t completely mask the reality that the course was really starting to wear me down.  I was feeling OK at the 4 hour mark (where I almost caught Anita ;), but soon after, the toll of the heat, corrugations and effort made themselves known in the familiar signs of cramping in the hands and toes.  These are danger signs for me, with cramping in the legs not far away if issues of salt are not addressed.  I’d already passed Mikey nursing cramp and could see the writing on the wall if things didn’t change. 

Fortunately I now had Anita in the pits who was able to provide gobs of vegemite as well as an update.   With approx two hours to go I was hoping I’d be able to wind back the throttle or finish early, but I was surprised to hear I only had a gap of 8 minutes – to whom I wasn’t sure.  I knew my splits were starting to blow out.  I just had to hope that this would be true for my pursuer as well.  As much as I wanted to call it quits Anita and I decided that a 13th lap was good insurance to stave off a possible fast finish from Mr Kramer.  I later discovered that I was only a lap down on Ed (not two) and was second solo outright.  Certainly not as strong a field as in other editions, but a satisfying result nonetheless.

Mikey did a solid ride to pick up 4th on the day in Masters, which netted him enough points to join myself and Cory (meat in a Soggy sandwich) on the podium for the series.  Great stuff Mikey!  What’s more, Anita nonchalantly rolled round for her 4 hrs to take the win in female Masters, extracting a “where did you come from”, from the runner up.  I think she is going to be on a few more radars from now on, especially in that jersey!

Friday, 16 October 2015

More 24 soggyness

 Lizard showing signs of consuming too many gels...or ducklings