First 2023 S36O – to Ross

Almost 1 year since my previous S(ub)36(hour)O(vernight) ride to Ross, here I go again.

Yes, it’s seems to have become an annual event. So much so that I have a link to all my Ross Rides in Menus. The weather is still not the best so it was a bit tricky picking two days where no rain, or not much rain anyway, was forecast.

Last year I gave the busy Cressy Road a miss and did an “out and back” via Valleyfield and Mt Joy. This year I decided to do the loop – going to Ross via Cressy and the west side of the Macquarie River, coming back on the east side via Mt Joy. I had a look at Cressy Road the day before and traffic was really light. Are most people away at the coast or just kicking up their heels at home? I hope so.

Of course that’s not how it was even though the road was quieter than normal. There were some really quiet moments. The first of the quiet times was as I joined Cressy Road and it lasted until just past the new police complex. Then it was all log trucks, hay trucks and sheep trucks with numerous tradie Utes stuck between them. A rush and bustle and Tony in the gravel by the roadside and then – clear air again.

House “gone”

About half way along Cressy Road there was a house. Just to left of the garage was a dirt slope which allowed the end of the pivot irrigator to ride up and over and get past house and cars. I always wanted to see this in action as the end spray looked like it would clean the garage, car and house as it went past. I will never see it now – the house has burnt down. Accident or planned house removal? Don’t know.

At one point, seeing a truck approaching from behind, I snuck into a handy driveway to let the truck and its following convoy go past. The driveway was the entry to Cressy Farm.

A tiny shop with nothing in it

Just inside the driveway I found the Cressy Farm tiny shop. Nothing much for sale today but I like the “open door” policy. Oh no .. that reminds me of workplace practices !!

It was good to arrive in Cressy, the town. The road widens through town and there is plenty of room for parked cars, trikes, bikes and through traffic. There is also a handy modern public toilet which I used as there is nothing else in the 60 kilometres from here to Ross.

I assessed the day. Grey and an easterly to south-easterly wind but no rain in the air. Yes, it was going to be a headwind all the way and a cool one at that following the recent southerly change.

The road conditions out of Cressy are generally quieter than between Longford and Cressy. I still met the occasional log truck though and hoped that they would disappear towards Poatina in a few kilometres time. There was also a B-double gravel truck that pushed past – I hoped that was a one off.

Some vehicles did go up the Poatina Road but not everything. Even so, the road was much clearer vehicle-wise and it was now time to start enjoying the journey.

Don’t know the name of this peak but today it looked like a small active volcano. As you can see, the land is starting to dry out and the lovely summer brown colouring is beginning.

Comparing this year’s pictures with last years, the skies look pretty much the same. I remembered that in Jan 2022 I had a headwind to Ross too – and then a great tailwind back the next day. I wonder if 2023 will be the same.

Pivot irrigator at work – newly planted crop in the paddock

Today I am riding with the trailer. It continues to work well and it’s easy to forget it’s there. I have loaded the two heavier boxes containing kitchen and foodstuffs over the axle and two lighter boxes with bedding and clothing towards the front of the trailer. The only fly in the ointment by this point was that the weight and the wind were taking their toll on the battery. We will see how this goes. Will towing a trailer be more expensive battery charge wise than using panniers and bags on the trike?

Bugger – log trucks

Yes, the log trucks didn’t all disappear up the Poatina Road. They were on the road until this point – about 15 ks from Cressy but I saw none after that. Actually those on the road were OK so – “Thanks Drivers”.

I passed Lake River and continued on to Barton.

There I stopped for a break. That canopy case was being a bit of a wind brake today but not as bad as it would have been if the canopy was deployed. By now the nett impact of weight and wind was becoming apparent. I had 3 batteries with me so no problems getting to Ross – I was just hoping that I would be able to charge something up at the electric vehicle charge point supplied by the caravan park. If not, well, it might be hard getting back tomorrow.

It was also getting cooler.

I estimated it was around 15k from Barton to Ashby Road – the turn off to Ross. I decided I would swap batteries there. The 16ah unit being used would be low on power by then – probably at 33-34 volts. So I would swap it with the 13ah “smaller” battery. That would leave the second 16ah fully charged for the next day. It could get me home if the wind stays as an easterly and I didn’t thrash it.

Let’s get to Ashby Road for now though. I geared down and took it quite slowly in order to limit power usage. Crikey, the wind was getting up and now there were spits of rain in it. The sky had darkened and that “volcano” was now covered in grey-black cloud. This wasn’t good.

An enormous amount of hay has been cut in northern Tasmania this season and on this stretch I was passing a lot of it. First hay was cut for silage – probably because it kept raining and the cut hay couldn’t be dried. Recently the reduced rain and increased winds has dried the hay well while the earlier rains ensured the number of bales cut from a paddock is much larger than usual. I imagine the main problem for farmers is where to stack it all. I mentioned before that, due to the mild, wet winter, there are heaps of bales left from last year. Now these are being disappeared (going where exactly?) and the new are taking their place. Perhaps some of the excess will be trucked north to the mainland and sold in the areas still impacted by flooding?

At last, Ashby Road. I swapped batteries and it was nice to see 41 volts on the display. It was raining lightly at this point and I had thought about swapping my light showerproof top for a heavier waterproof one. Nah! It’s not going to be that bad I thought.

How would the trailer cope with a gravel road? I was about to find out. The initial 3-4 kilometres of Ashby Road had a good surface. No “marbles” like last year and very smooth. In some places better than the preceding chipseal. The trailer travelled smoothly with no worrying crashing noises from inside. A few vehicles passed and all slowed down. Nice.

Except the rain had now strengthened and my hands were getting quite cold. My winter gloves were back home so I was able to watch my finger tips gradually turn blue and then lose all feeling !!

The wind powered in, the rain swept in with it, it was grey and misty and cold. “What am I doing here?” I thought. I had donned a warmer top somewhere prior to the Ashby Road junction but now that was getting wet through the showerproof top. I dug out my over-trousers and they were helping me to keep warm – a bit – even if they were grabbing at my knees on each pedal stroke.

“Why do I do it ????” as Wayne the used car sales guy says in the TV ad while slapping his forehead.

The second half of the gravelled section of Ashby Road was full of “marbles”, drifts of gravel and rocks appearing through the road surface. Riding even slower, the trailer now bounced about with gay abandon. I rode this section slowly in part due to the surface and in part due to the wind / rain. While tackling this miserable section I remembered that the 2 kilometres or so of the Midland Highway I needed to ride was featuring roadworks at the moment – to widen the road. Just how was it going to go to trike a narrow lane in the roadworks with traffic that wanted to go faster than the 40k speed limit? Hmmm. Not looking forward to that!!

I then noticed that the fresh battery was down in the 37v area. That was quick! Nearly half used up already.

Luckily that moment was the nadir of the trip.

Midland Highway Roadworks

By the time I arrived at the Midlands Highway the rain had stopped.

I assessed the roadworks situation and found that a huge section of the part fenced off from vehicular traffic was in a state of well crushed gravel waiting for a top coat of chipseal. It was like 3 lanes wide, smooth and heading where I wanted to go. I cycled across the highway to it and had a traffic free roll all the way down to the junction with the road to Ross. Magic. The rain remained somewhere else and the wind eased a little too. I began to feel a little warmer. Ah – that’s better.

I hoped I would be able to get out of the roadworks easily at the junction and did. There was a rough patch just at the junction but that was OK. From there it was a quiet roll down to Ross, over the Macquarie River via the old stone bridge and round to the caravan park.

On the way down the tarmac section of Ashby Road I had ridden through columns of tiny flies hanging in the air. They had probably just hatched in a couple of spots protected from the winds and where the sun was trying to break through the cloud. I was covered in the things. So, on arrival at the campsite, the first thing I did was to wipe myself down – a surprising amount of black stuff came off my face – tiny squashed flies.

The park operator/manager was nowhere to be seen so I called the number on the door and was told to pick a site and she would be along later for the cash. I could also use the EV charge point for $2 per hour. It was just a 240v socket – nothing special – exactly what I needed.

I selected my site for the night and pitched the tent. Each pitch of the 3 person tent has taken longer than the last! This time I seemed to get everything wrong that it was possible to get wrong.

Eventually – success!!

After a bit of frustration the tent was up and all the gear packed away inside. I had a great site although there were plenty of wheel ruts around caused by recent flooding and soft ground. Soon it wasn’t quite so nice as I was joined on all sides by newcomers in motor homes, rooftop tents on 4WDs and one large Whiz Bang (camper van with sliding door). In such circumstances you wait for someone to pull out the sound system and beers or, even worse, a guitar!! This did not happen and everyone was well behaved. Even me.

Eventually the Manageress appeared and took my money letting me have 3 hours on the EV charge point for $4. She omitted to tell me the code for entry to the Toilet Block though. I asked my neighbours. She hadn’t told them either! I phoned her again and she apologised for not sending me the SMS receipt with campsite details. Half an hour later I had the info.

All that was left was to cook tea and keep an eye on the charging battery plus rechargeable lights. I had brought my slow 2 amp charger instead of the 3amp one. After 3 hours the battery was not fully charged but I left the charge point and got everything tidied away for the night.

I retired early to read a book, fell asleep and was woken up at around midnight by noises outside. I thought someone was fiddling with the trike at first but then realised the noise was the sound of rain. I got up to close the tent door and saw that all around was covered in the grey of falling drizzle. The small tree the tent was partly under was collected the drizzle, saving it up and then depositing large drops on the tent. Quite noisy.

It continued to rain, sometimes heavier and sometimes lighter for a few hours – well, it was raining each time I woke up. In the morning light I woke again and listened … no rain or very light rain? Opened up and found -no rain. Yippee.

The tent was soaked. The trike was soaked. The grass was soaked. Nice start!! In fact it was nice because the sky looked promising with high grey clouds and no water coming out of them.

I was up early so took my time to breakfast, coffee and break camp. The tent was soaked of course. This is my third camp with the Naturehike and each time it came to pack up, the tent has been soaked. The main pack up process was made easier using the trailer boxes. I like it still. Around camp. Not sure about towing it yet!!

Everything packed away and rain covers installed I pedalled away and into Ross proper. I thought about stopping for a coffee and maybe even an egg and bacon roll but then decided a second breakfast would just be gluttony. So down to the Midland Highway I went and managed to hop back on the new part of the roadworks again. The second session on the crushed rock base was just as nice as the first.

Soon I was heading back up Ashby Road and it was apparent that the wind had not changed direction overnight and was now behind me. Lovely.

The battery level had been checked back at camp and I reckoned I could ride back up Ashby Road and maybe even climb the hill from the Macquarie River to the turn off to Longford before changing to a freshly charged one. This is what happened although power levels were getting quite low as we climbed the 2 kilometre hill.

The clouds were breaking up by now so, at the junction, I change batteries and deployed the sun canopy. With the wind behind that unit would act as a sail and not a brake.

I had two well charged batteries and around 50k to go. The wind was behind. Nett result – a speedy ride home. The glossy info for the trailer advises not taking it above 25 kph. That must be to ensure Burley don’t get into expensive litigation because I had no trouble with it when, forgetting it was there, we coasted down a nice decline at 40+ kph. Maybe if we suddenly got a puncture or hit a tight bend things might have gone pear shaped but we didn’t.

Yesterday the cruising speed along the flat was 14-15 kph and today that was raised to 22-24kph. Much better!!

Because I could, I swapped batteries again after 25 kilometres and had a second freshly charged unit to take me the last 25k. Boy it was a quick ride home and I arrived with 1 empty and 2 half full batteries. (You may not care but I am noting all this battery stuff down as info for me in the future. Plus info for Colin who is thinking about electrifying his trike soon).

A couple of comments from today’s ride :

The road verges are full of flowering grasses

To avoid hay fever I took an anti histamine before setting out. The grasses all around are tall, thick and pollen is pouring off them.

Lots of Sheep

I cycled for some time alongside a walkway between paddocks that was jammed full of sheep. Hundreds of them. Sheep en mass smell a bit but it is a healthy farm smell and quite pleasant!! Over a rise I found several people on horseback with their dogs milling about but not seeming to be driving the sheep anywhere. A bit of a mystery. Nobody returned my wave so I didn’t feel like asking them what was up.

That’s it then. The annual trip to Ross done and the tent is hanging out to dry.

’til next time ……………………..

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.

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