A training S36O to Ross

Heading into a stiff breeze I began the S24O trip to Ross.  After the first 10 kilometers I realised this was actually going to be an S36O (sub 36 hour Overnight camp) trip as the going was slow.

The purpose of the ride is to test myself out. It’s a 70k ride and the path I have chosen takes the east side of the Macquarie River – the hilly side. I have been planning the Melbourne – Adelaide ride using the “Ride with GPS” tool. I don’t completely trust it as differing gradients are quoted for the same hill when the hill is included in two or more route plans. I wonder where it gets gradient information from! Anyhow, I have divided up my interstate route into 50-60k chunks – now to check I can actually do two 70k days sequentially. NB : the 70ks to and from Ross are also hillier than most days en route to Adelaide – if RidewithGPS is right.

Weighed down with 2 panniers, one rack pack, one underseat bag and 3 bottles of water, myself and the Magnum, I was hauling quite a bit of weight and it didn’t help that the wind blew straight at us for most of the 70k to Ross.  So the trip “there” became a journey of enjoying the fleeting moments when hedges, embankments or trees broke the wind allowing a ridiculously high speed of 14kph to be achieved – before we were blown back to less than 10k.

Wind coming from Front Port quarter

I decided to use the backroad running to the east of Macquarie River.  It has more hills than the road on the west but it doesn’t need a trip to Cressy on a weekday – Cressy Road is busy with trucks and utes all week.  Of course there are trucks on the backroads too but you can hear them coming well before being buffeted by their bow wave of air.  I realised after a couple had passed that being buffeted by truck air when on a trike is much better than when on two wheels. It is easier to hold your line and you are not pushed into the graveled edge so much. And, if you are, then being on 3 wheels, it is very difficult to lose balance!

One of many drink stops. Every 10k or when something interesting appeared.
Here it was the mailbox. Made out of harrow disks it reminded me of the sea mines from WWII that were “ornaments” or nostalgic reminders at coastal resorts in the UK.

The day was grey and cool.  It was not scheduled as a rain day and it wasn’t.  Overall there is not much to say about the trip other than it was long and no sun = dull, featureless countryside without the light to bring out shadows and contrasts.

The wind continues – the road disappears into the distance – a slow old day this one

The final leg of 17 kilometers began after a 3 kilometre descent to the Macquarie River.  It was a great descent, not too fast at a 30-35kph unbraked roll and after crossing the river and riding a couple of k the turn off to the gravel road to Ross appeared.  10 kilometers of gravel into a head wind was not nice towards the end of the day.  There were quite a few vehicles on the road but most slowed when passing. Only a couple kicked dust in my face. After 10k the road became paved and the last 7k was better.  We ended up at the junction with the Midland Highway.  Very busy.  There are two entrances to Ross off the Highway – should I turn right or left?  What did I do last year?  Um…..

OK – right.  The hard shoulder on this part of the Midland Highway does not quite fit the front wheelbase of a Magnum.  The Highway is a single lane in either direction job here.  I gained a little distance from speeding trucks by placing the inside front wheel in the dirt, keeping the rear wheel just on the tarmac of the hard shoulder and the outside front wheel just inside the rumble strip.  As the dirt was some 6-7 cms lower than the tarmac, cycling was an unbalanced affair with a creaky soundtrack. Luckily there was only approx 2 k to go to the turn off for Ross – enough to tell me triking the Midland Highway is not a comfortable activity. 

Happily we survived, turned left and cycled down to and over the Ross Bridge.  Round the corner and to the Motel which manages the caravan park.  It was 2 minutes to 6pm and the Office was closing.  A surprise.  The Motel no longer manages the caravan park – there is an office at the park.  It was now gone 6 so I quickly pedalled round until I found the office.  The Caretaker was just about to “have it away on her toes” (or rather in her Series 7 BMW) but she deigned to stay and book me in.  Bloody nuisance these latecomers.  

After finding a site I had great difficulty getting stuff unpacked and the tent up.  People kept coming over to talk to me!!!  A number of blokes dropped by to tell me their cycle touring war stories and then someone who owns an ICE trike arrived c/w with pictures of his trike and trailer (the unit currently “at home” on the mainland).  By the time I got round to putting the tent up I had got quite cold and all fingers to the second knuckle joint on each hand had turned white!!  Belatedly I dug out an extra top and things soon warmed up – it was the wind blowing through the damp cycling top that cooled things down.

I have bought quite a few freeze dried meals from a small company in Hobart for emergency use on the mainland trip – or those nights when I just can’t be bothered to do anything more fancy. In the ordering online I stuffed up and have 4 x Vegetable Laksa. So I used one on this trip. Very tasty. Luckily. After cups of tea, a shower, the Laksa and setting up the sleeping mat, quilt etc and bedding down the trike for the night I took an apple and had a walk around Ross. Not much has changed except there is an air of business slowdown – perhaps the fact so many businesses are for sale comes into that.

One business not up for sale is the “bottom” bakery with it’s wood fired oven. One of it’s upstairs rooms features in a Japanese animation series “Kiki’s Delivery Service”. Fans come from all over to visit the room – and that provides the Bakery with much business.

After the walk I was ready to turn in and I had a surprisingly good nights sleep only awakened now and again by the occasional train hooting it’s way through town. Why they have to hoot on 3 separate occasions right by the camp grounds is unknown. But disturbing.

The way back

Aha . a better average speed on the way back

OK. Yesterday’s stats are quite disappointing. I reckon I would have travelled with an average speed under 10kph and was almost happy to find it was 10.1 kph. BUT it WAS into a strong wind all the way and I did make it! I will be hitting winds riding to Adelaide so knowing how to manage slow speeds and a struggle mentally may have come out of yesterdays ride. Just lay back in the seat and think of other things including “tomorrow will be better“!!

I have read much where touring cyclists comparing riding to life. There are hard bits but if you press on they will end and things improve and so on. I find similarities to managing a long term IT Project. Even when you are near the end, the end can’t be seen – you are too immersed in the detail. Suddenly the end is in sight and, crikey, you’ve made it. It’s a surprise – and it’s GOOD.

I had enough of being in a small tent by 5am when the skies were beginning to lighten. There was no wind! What will be in store today. The wind direction yesterday was not the normal prevailing wind – will it turn today and be a headwind all the way home? Time will tell.

Sunrise at Ross
The view from the tent site. The country has had no rain for quite some time. Campground visitors from interstate expressed surprise as they think Tassie is always green.

My recumbenting colleague Colin is planning to set out from Longford this morning and we should meet somewhere on the Mt Joy road in the section between Powranna Road and Barton Road. When Colin gets that far then his return ride for the day will be the longest ride he has done on his Warrior. It’s great when you find you can accomplish something new. Especially as the old idea was that at our age (Colin is a couple of years younger so may take offence at this) the body only goes one way – into deterioration.

I packed up slowly and carefully while having breakfast. A few early risers greeted me but, luckily, didn’t feel like chatting. I set off at 7.30am.

Which way to go? After much thought and the lure of a coffee I decided to head up the Midland Highway to Campbell Town and a suitable coffee stop. Pedalling out of Ross there was still no wind and the sun was poking through a little. It could be a good day weatherwise. Legwise it was another matter. Lethargic might be the word to cover it. It was hard to build up to 10kph. Oh well, let’s see how it goes. From Ross to the Highway it is slightly downhill and speed slowly built up to 12kph! Strewth these legs have no energy in them!!

Somewhere in there is the shadow of tired legs!

The 12 ks on the highway to CT were a repeat of yesterday evening. The trike didn’t quite fit on the hard shoulder, the traffic was fast – 110 kph and close. I hit the gravel when trucks approached from behind. Often vehicles moved over significantly when passing – you can tell when they do this by hearing the tyres going over the centre rumble strip. Sometimes they can’t do this because of oncoming traffic so I move as left as I can and hold my line – once as 3 semi-trailers and trailers came past tailgating each other. Don’t think of what would happen if the front truck had an issue. Press on, use the actual road when possible and dive back to the hard shoulder when the next vehicle approaches from behind …….. Ah, I can see the “Welcome to Campbell Town” sign in the distance, gradually it gets bigger, the 80 kph sign is reached, the 60kph sign is reached and we are gliding down the hill to the Campbell Town Red Bridge.

Once in CT the road is really, really wide and so there is no difficulty riding on the left, well away from truck life up to JJ’s Bakery – the first Cafe when approaching from the south. Second breakfast time. Latte and a Steak and Guiness pie. Both really enjoyable.

While I was breakfasting, Colin sent a text confirming he would be riding this morning. I also realised that, as I rode the Highway, the legs must have sorted themselves out as after the climb up from Ross we had managed a reasonable speed into CT. Now I engaged the little chainring on the front and pedalled slowly up the main street as the Trip Odometer decided to reset itself to zero. Luckily this time it was as it reached 100k so no information was lost. After the Cafe strip I opted to go on the footpath up to the Longford turnoff. The road narrows after the Cafes and I had had enough of the trucks for a while!

Climbing hill 1

The backroad from CT to the Longford turn off is 8 kilometers of nice downhill and 3 major climbs. Well, major to me on the heavy trike. Nothing much to the group of 6 women riders who passed me on the first hill. At the foot of the second climb I met 2 trucks which seemed to believe the entire road was theirs. I ended in the gutter both times being showered by gravel. The second truck was enormous – like a hugely extended Hummer. I think it was a crane but was watching the wheels too much to get too much detail. It really filled the entire road – so why didn’t it have a vehicle in front advising WIDE LOAD and why was it travelling so fast? Unfortunately I didn’t get it’s business name off the side or I would have made enquiries.

Having lost all momentum in the gravel I had to go downhill a bit to sort out the gears before turning and tackling hill 2. I took the climbs slowly so as not to empty the legs of power and, as I did so, I realised a nice fact – the wind was building and IT WAS BEHIND ME!!!!!!

What a well shaped Gum Tree

At the apex of the third climb the turn off to Longford appears and this leg starts with a really nice downhill section. Today the downhill complete with a following wind is a delight. And the sun is out and the countryside looks really good with it’s various shades of light brown interspersed with the occasional green patch of irrigation. Happiness is cycling shaped.

Gum Trees and heaps from the Bauxite (open cut) Mine

The difference cycling into wind and with a following wind is like chalk and cheese. I reckoned Colin and I would meet after I crossed Barton Road – not far from Powranna Road – but we met quite a bit earlier. Colin was having a good day even though he was into the wind.

As we rode together it was interesting. I seemed to ride faster downhill and along the flat but Colin always caught and overtook going uphill. So, although we were often separated on the road we kept regrouping and chatting. I think we were both travelling at our own pace sometimes regulated by waiting for the other. Speaking for myself I felt it worked well.

The Barton Road Junction. Half way point for me. Colin and I met shortly after.

Back in Longford I thought about what the trip. Key fact, I can tackle two 70k days loaded with all camping gear. The route had also included more climbing than most on the Mel to Ad trip. It would seem my legs can do it, my feet can do it and Hey – I can do it!!

Author: antc1946

Born in 1946 I learnt to cycle about 10 years later. On a bike with rods connecting brake levers to the brakes - anyone remember those? I emigrated to Australia (from the UK) in 1974 and moved to Tasmania in 1984. Bicycles were in my life for most of that time although sometimes they were replaced by motorised two wheels for a bit more excitement. On reaching 70 I decided to stick to pedal power but in 2019 an electric recumbent made an appearance. it's now 2023 and I have 3 bikes. 2 e-recumbents and the Brompton.

3 thoughts on “A training S36O to Ross”

  1. Fantastic effort and congratulations , on reaching yet another goal. Thanks for documenting it I enjoyed the day haveing cycled about 30ks out we made good time coming back. Well done Tony.

    Liked by 2 people

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