Once every 12 months or so since 2018 I have ridden Ross and back with an overnight camp at the riverside caravan park / camp ground.
On this years ride I tried to remember what bikes I had ridden previously. To aid the memory as the years add up and rides telescope into one, I prepared a Blog Menu Item to link all Ross S36Os together.
Last year I rode with Colin but this year he is not ready for 7ok day rides so I loaded up to tackle it by myself as I have a bit of spare time and there is a “weather window”.
To Ross – 2022 – Covid conditions apply
I watched the weather forecast, looking for two days possibly without rain. They appeared but would be with easterly winds. The prevailing wind is a westerly but not this week. OK, Day 1 will be with a headwind and Day 2 will be with tailwind.
Tuesday came, the trike was packed, last minute items added and we were off. We? Well I took Ernie the Muppet along for the ride. Sky cloudy, air – not too windy, ideal for sunburning a careless Ant who has been caught out before by cloudy and cool days during summer. This time though I had the sun canopy up and lashings of sunscreen applied. I was travelling with the minimum of equipment so had no long trousers to cover up with if the legs got burnt.
I decided to use the country road to the east side of the Macquarie River as this route minimises time on the Midland Highway and avoids the busy Cressy Road. I had packed all three trike batteries but intended to get to Ross using only 1; it may have been wise to swap over at some late point to share the spare between days 1 and 2 but I didn’t. The plan was to use a non-powered site at Ross to avoid being close to others, so no 240AC recharging on this trip. I also planned to charge the lights and my phone from battery 1 during the evening (the bike display has a USB socket).
To eke out the power I set off using power level 2 and put in leg power to kick us along. As we cruised (slowly) down Chintah Road the headwind was obvious but just a gentle drag. I stayed in level 2, sat back and watched the countryside slowly pass by. Although cloudy, it was soon possible to feel some heat from the sun and I knew the canopy was a good thing to be using.
Passing through the yellowing, straw-coloured countryside we came across a paddock with sheep. Strange, they looked very much like a group of 20 or so rams?! A second look – bloody sure those things are balls and they have willies. How odd. Did the farmer not like ringing them when they were small? Did they escape when they saw the tool? Is there a new chef on TV raving about how to cook ram’s testicles? Am I seeing things? Let’s ride on!
The route is divided into sections by Powranna Road, Barton Road and Macquarie Road. Chintah Road takes us to Powranna Rd, Mt Joy Road takes us to Barton Rd and Valleyfield Road takes us to Macquarie Rd. There’s not a lot of other landmarks and certainly no towns on the way. It’s all dried out fields, lots of fencing, long driveways leading to distant farmhouses and lots of Keep Out signs. There are only a few safe pull-off spots so one tends to take rests at the road junctions.
Along Mt Joy Road the wind started to pick up. It was blowing the canopy around and the “airbrake” effect was pronounced. I decided to stop at Barton Road and put the canopy away. By now I was using power level 3 and inputting more leg power to keep things moving. It was continuing to be a slow old ride, even getting slower.
Eventually the Barton Road junction appeared and I packed away the canopy in its bag. I also refreshed the sunscreen and pulled on the fly fishing face mask. That still left the back bit of the canopy up and so there was still an airbrake – just not as bad. At least now I didn’t have to hold up the front of the canopy during heavy gusts.
Before Macquarie Road there is a significant climb and we tooled up that at power level 3, Ant power level as much as possible and, just before the top, level 4 for a few hundred metres. Boy the legs knew they were having a day out and the underneath of the feet started to complain. From the junction to the Macquarie River there is a couple of kilometres of nice downhill. As we descended I changed from using the cleat side to using the flat side of the pedals. This allows a more central placement of the foot which seems better for trike riding longer distances – at least for my feet.
At the junction with Ashby Road I had some grub and water. The gravel looked bad. I was not keen to tackle it. Off we went, yes, gravel bad. It looks as though the Council has tipped truckloads of grey marbles over the surface without grading it or rolling it in. It’s all loose and vehicles running over it have created gravel drifts at the sides and centre. This was not helped by the numerous motorists who didn’t bother to slow down when passing or overtaking. 30% did, the rest were just thoughtless bastards – as I told them, loudly. They were probably saying Get off the road on that thing!
8 long kilometres later, shaken and stirred (up) we got to the tarmac. There was enough power left to up the level to 4 and we pressed on into the headwind enjoying a flat, non-corrugated 9 kilometre ride at 15 kph all the way to the Midland Highway.
The Highway wasn’t very busy so we were soon turning off into Ross – it felt like the end of a long day. The caravan park was quite busy and I joined a line of tents by a hedge paralleling the river. It looked like the hedge would be a windbreak but the wind decided it wasn’t. After erecting the tent I realised I was under a couple of high branches from a nearby tree. It wasn’t a eucalypt though and looked sturdy enough so I stayed where I was.
The family in the tent next door drove up and backed their large SUV thing between our tents – rather closer to mine than theirs. One person exiting the vehicle said “Hello”, the others took one look and turned away. Blimey, I must look weird or smell or both !!
So, unfriendly camping. Maybe covid has made us suspicious of each other.
After sorting things out the camp it was getting late and cool. Luckily I had, at the last minute, packed a puffer style jacket bought for this very purpose. It squashes into a small space but is very warm. A freeze-dried packet of Curry Dahl was next on the Agenda. This I had to stir for 15 minutes as, if you didn’t, the food stuck to the bottom of the non-stick (?) pot. Several hundred stirs later it was ready and very tasty. Hadn’t had one of those before and wished I had another.
The charging idea didn’t work too well. After a long time the phone was charged a bit. After an even longer time one rear light had not been completely charged. so I guess the USB port isn’t pumping out too much 5V power. It was too cloudy to use the solar panel. A problem for tomorrow!
A cup of tea, a walk to check out the opening times for the main street Cafe and it was time to turn in for the night. Although cool outside, the tent (2-person, MacPac Apollo this time) felt warm inside as low fly and solid inner walls kept the winds out. The lightweight sleeping shawl proved (once again) more than adequate to deal with the cool night temperatures. Sleep was tricky though as I had tweaked my right shoulder that morning before setting out and it was a bit uncomfortable. Also I couldn’t get a pillow sorted. By 2.30am I got the pillow situation resolved and all was OK.
Covid and Caravan Parks
Basically I was left feeling uncomfortable. There weren’t too many people in the facilities block but only 50% wore masks while in there. Tassie rules – indoors, wear a mask. Obviously difficult while cleaning teeth, showering or just washing your face. I found myself eyeing off the taps with suspicion. Who touched them last? Did the control knobs have covid smeared on them. Same with the toilet door/seat! Same with the entry door! Better wash hands carefully and then use the sanitiser in my pocket! This virus is making me paranoid. Oh dear, is it worth the effort to ride and then stay in a caravan park? Is the trip to the Edge of the World 3 week return trip doable in Omicron times?
Ross to Longford, the return
Packing up, I checked the winds. Yes, they had remained easterly – great, this would mean a tailwind back.
As I packed up the tent I placed the folded up flysheet in a spot out of the wind so it wouldn’t blow open while I took down the inner. A bloke walking past sniffily informed me it was on a PUBLIC FOOTPATH. Rather than discuss the point he ignored what I said and moved on, demanding to know where I was cycling. Then he proceeded to give me advice on which roads to use without enquiring about my plans. Then he strode off, catching up with his walking companion. “A bit rude” I thought.
Packed up, I risked a visit to the facilities and once again went though the dance of what to touch, when to severely wash the hands and how to get out without touching anything mucky. Failed. Another hand sanitise at the bike.
Ah good. The top Cafe was open and soon a bacon sandwich and latte were on order. The cafe has organised itself with an entry door followed by a loop though the building to an exit door. This stops people collecting their order and exiting through the waiting queue. One bloke collected his takeaway from the counter, turned and made to exit via the input door. I said he should take the loop – so he looked at me and just carried on walking though the sizeable queue. While waiting for the sandwich, I stood out of the way of the counter queue with my coffee cup placed on the end of the counter. A woman behind pushed past and moved MY cup to one side so she could see something!
I sat outside in a really bad mood thinking how easy it was to not do the right thing and, with the accelerating rates of Omicron, how easy it is to pass the virus around. We all need to lift our game.
I then kicked the table and spilled half my coffee!! Boy, a great morning!! Now I had coffee flavoured shorts. Bugger. Accident 1.
If I was ever to cycle tour again I needed a mood lift. Thankfully it came in the form of the delicious bacon sandwich and that strong tailwind!
I had deployed the canopy for just this purpose. As soon as I got off the Highway (another lightly trafficked gauntlet run) the wind kicked in behind. I knew I had two batteries to burn up so started off at level 3 and upped to 4 for any slight rise. The tarmac run to the start of the gravel section sped by nicely. The canopy was solidly in place and obviously acting like a sail. You little Ripper!!
All drivers on the gravel section were great. Slowed down, waved and generally behaved well. Some sections were 20kph bits but there were enough pot-holed, corrugated sections to shake things up once more even at 4kph. Advice : don’t get you tongue between your teeth when riding Ashby Road!
The short 2.5 kilometre section between Ashby Road and Macquarie Road was another thing. 2 ks of climbing for a start and into the wind. I geared down and selected level 4, held onto the front of the canopy and before too long we were turning onto Valleyfield Road. Yesterday’s trip along here had been slow – up hill and into the wind. Now it was a downhill, tailwind and level 4 blast. Speeds under 20 kph were rare and traffic was minimal. I felt the bad mood slip away as the road flowed under the tyres.
During the climb we passed another opium poppy field and I decided to get a bit of footage. Afterwards I tried to push in the extended selfie stick only to have it suddenly give, squashing my pointer finger in what was obviously a sharp place. Accident 2.
I carried on riding saying “Ouch” and “&**k It”.
Reaching Barton Road I decided not to swap batteries at that point but to ride a bit further. Mt Joy Road continued the rush but with a few more hills. Battery levels were getting low as I got to the Mt Joy farm access road, so I stopped in the field gateway opposite and changed them over while having some grub.
Getting a bit excited about riding with the full battery, I went to get on the trike, did it badly, got tangled in a cable and almost came a cropper. I didn’t but things broke and I took a small chunk out of one calf! Luckily everything still worked although there will be patch up work needed at home. Accident 3.
The next bit was quite hilly but we were soon over that and diving down the hill past the poppy processing plant. A bit further on and we had arrived at Powranna Road. At this stop I took on more water and then the last leg along Chintah Road to Woolmers was just more of the same! What a ride. Soon I was back in Longford ready for a shower and a coffee.
Great to have completed the ride.
Day 1 was enjoyable as I realised it would be slow but also that I would get to Ross to book in and set up without being in a rush. After 70 ks the wind was a bit tiresome but apart from that (and some gravel drivers) it was a good run.
The time in Ross proved to me that, no matter how well you manage, there are problems with avoiding covid. I have COPD and Covid of any sort is something I don’t need. – I consider this ride a warning and food for thought going forward.
Day 2 was something else – a real dash propelled along by wind, electrons and legs. Brilliant. It was cool and grey, not a day for looking around or photography, so the speedy version worked well and dispelled my early morning bad mood.
The light batteries lasted OK. The front one is a large capacity affair and handled two days of riding without going out. I have 2 rear lights and was able to use them one at a time to cover the full distance home.
All in all a good ride.
’til next time ………………………………………………