Monday, 12 December 2016

Newcastle Overnight 2016

Conditions were perfect, apart from a prevailing headwind most of the way.  Mild evening, low humidity, and less traffic than previous editions, perhaps all attributable in some respect to the event moving from early Nov to early Dec. 

I’d had a rough morning after a work social the night before, suffering the indignity of being violently ill…in my car, and somehow also waking up with a black eye – these sleep injuries are getting more varied as one ages.  However come mid afternoon I felt ready for the dreamy adventure that awaited. 

The adventure started a little earlier than planned, as when Anita and I arrived at the station we were disappointed to see a sign across the entrance announcing track work, and buses replacing trains between Macquarie Uni and Chatswood.  But at least Anita got to discover the joys, firstly, of the LCNP, and secondly, of Fullers Rd, thus explaining the orientation of my circular mid-week commute.  Having gained Chatswood we were met with more signs announcing the whole of the North Shore line was out of action – hence more trundling to gain Observatory Hill, and the pub, whence we met Ben with still time enough for pizza and beer to be added to a still delicate stomach.

We met up with Andy, and a couple of hundred of others with similar contraptions at the start, and come 9 pm the field slowly inched over the bridge and through the hustle and bustle of North Shore traffic, before this was all left behind at Hornsby for the magic of the old Pacific Highway. 

As with previous additions, the food stops at Mt White and Budgewoi were much appreciated, savouring the delights of watermelon, Tim Tams, mixed lollies, coffee and, particularly, hot tea.  It’s amazing how refreshing a hot cuppa (or three) can be, especially if it’s been a while.

Despite starting at the tail of the field, we tapped out a decent rhythm and were fairly efficient at the stops such that we hit the Fernley track at about 4:30 am – before the birds had really got going, which was a bit of a shame, as birdcall through this forest corridor has in the past been one of the highlights.  The flipside was that we arrived at the baths in time to witness a magic sunrise, enjoy a dip, shower and relaxed breakfast, and make the 7:30 train home, which was considerably less crowded that the sardine-tin experience endured on a later train during the previous edition.

Once again one of my bicycle highlights of the year, enjoying probably the best conditions the underground event has experienced to date.


Monday, 28 November 2016

Operation Balcony

Before Operation Garage could be finished, let alone Operation Kitchen commenced, the more pressing issue of a balcony on its last jittery legs jumped to the top of the list.  It’s sagging mass was already being supported by telescopic poles I installed earlier in the year.  The weekend after returning from the US (August) I literally tore the old structure down, and then went about the job of procuring bits for its replacement.  Design would basically be the same, although with a few modifications; balustrade height in line with modern standards, and open deck edges to reduce kindling collection, which I figure is kind of important for a bushfire-prone location.  The deck panels are a recycled plastic-bamboo blend, as Bunnings couldn’t tell me which part of SE Asia the Merbau alternative actually came from.

The whole assembly process was a bit of a protracted process, with a few cycling-related things getting in the way, but the final touches were finally added on the weekend.

Big thanks to Ham for all his expertise with regards doing stuff with timber, and for his generous donation of tools, not to mention time.  Also thanks to all who pitched in for the critical “barn-raising” component of the project.  And thanks to Anita for her patience, not to mention all the hours of help with timber prep and staining, and keeping me plied in craft beer.  I suppose this means the kitchen has just moved up a notch (or two) on the list!

Monday, 24 October 2016

Blown around Bowral, 2016

I found myself on the startline for the Bowral classic rather by accident.  A flurry of entries from enthusiastic others, and the inevitable pulling out which happens with a percentage of these due to various circumstances coincided with my failure to enter the sold-out event.  So thanks for the ticket BT – it really was a grand day out.  Although in the preceding days it wasn’t looking so inviting.  The fear, especially for Anita, was the combination of rain AND cold.  Cold by itself can be countered by throwing on more layers.  Rain, on the other hand is a little more of a serious predicament.  In any case, the weather gods cracked a wry smile.  There would be no rain, but no shortage of wind, the other factor that wrinkles Anita’s enthusiasm. 

I’ll not sugar-coat it.  It was bloody cold on the start line.  The temperature during the day remained so subdued that my gillet and arm warmers stayed on the entire day, and I only went through a touch over 1 bottle for the 160 km.   But we weren’t alone as we inched forward in the start corral; eager to get the legs moving and escape the overenthusiasm and aural assault only Crafty knows how to dish out.  Ahh the serenity, as we finally snuck out of Bowral and onto picturesque country roads.

My initial impression of the route (and hence event itself) was that with several out-and-back segments, the route was somewhat contrived and hence not quite worthy of classic status (as billed).  However my impressions changed somewhat as the day unfolded.  The terrain was sufficiently varied that none of the segments felt repetitive, and the first 100 km warmup was a substantial softener for the main course; the last 60 km which contained the brilliant Kangaloon circuit.  This final loop was chock full of difficult pinches, country surfaces, A-grade properties (with A-grade prices), stone walls, magnificent hedges, some stunning views, and country avenues overhung by grand old eucalypts or stands of native forest.  Tough riding matched by impressive scenery.  All in all, well worth the effort, despite the wind which was cold and ever present, coming from one side or the other as one noodled round the clover-leaf shaped course.  Extremely well organized event, and great vibe at the finish too, with sausage sandwiches washed down with beer whilst basking in the sunshine as the band played.  For those who missed out this one is well worth adding to your palmares next time.