2013-02-08 -37 144
Amongst trees near Gordon.
On Friday after work I had to take the van to the mechanic in Northcote and ride my bike home. I picked up my bike from home and headed to the mechanic undecided whether I would do Melbourne east geohash or just ride home. The Melbourne east geohash was in a backyard in Epping, it was going to be a short, unpleasant ride on busy roads in peak hour and I would likely fail to get into the backyard. Before I left home I had one last look at the Melbourne west geohash which I noticed was near a town called Gordon (my last name) but it was 120k away which seemed like a ridiculous ride to do at 5pm after a day at work.
By the time I got to Northcote I had decided going home was boring and the Epping was too soft core so I started riding towards the Gordon (which Felix Dance informed me is the coldest town in Victoria) in cycle shorts and a short sleeved cycle top with no jumper, food, cash or plan for how to get home. I knew I would be far too late for the last train back to Melbourne, didn't bring a tent and would be arriving to late to get a motel room in Ballarat. Luckily I had brought my good road bike which still had Staminade powder and the tools I would need for a long ride in my saddlebag and two water bottles on it. I hadn't put much planning into this ride but I figured things would figure themselves out.
My first stop was very early at Brunsburg Caltex where I bought a meat pie, an ice coffee and three twin pack snickers bars, I decided on snickers after reading the nutritional information on a number of snacks in the store and finding they were the best value in terms of kilojoules per dollar. I downed the ice coffee and meat pie quickly and saved the snickerseses for later in the night. My route took me along familiar roads through the suburbs passing right outside Aimee's (who was with me on my first geohash but hasn't done any since) house but I decided there wasn't time to stop to say hi. I then passed within 100m of my work in Keilor east and joined the same route that I took for last week's Melton geohash. While riding along Melton highway I stopped to take a photo of Koroit which I was right next to for the hash last week but I wanted a photo in the better light. Mount Koroit isn't a mountain it's just a hill and not even that big but it is steep and very obvious because its surrounded by flat farmland. It's right near Kororoit creek, it's always* annoyed me that Kororoit creek is next to mount Koroit, two such similar names for things right next to each other seems silly. Not long after stopping to take the photo I stopped to talk to a guy who had the bonnet on his Landover open. Most of my life my dad has driven old range rover that were frequently broken down so I felt his pain. The car was overheating which was fair enough as it was a hot day, it was 530pm but still close to 30 degrees. He told me the car had done 700,000ks which is a fair effort. He asked where I was going and I explained the geohash and that I was riding to Gordon, he was the first of many people to tell me I was mad that night.
- Always means about 6 months since I first heard the two words.
When I got to Melton I got onto the Western freeway which I would be on for most of my journey. After riding a few ks along the freeway a car pulled up in front of me, having already stop to check if one person was alright I figured I’d stop to say hello to these people to. A bearded redheaded man got out of the car and I thought "hmmm, that looks like Matt" a friend of mine who I know from playing in bands together and we go bike riding together quite often. As I got closer I realised it was Matt and my friend Rhonda was in the driver's seat. They saw me riding along and pulled over to say hello. Matt and Rhonda were heading up to Falls Gap for the Grampian's Jazz Festival where Matt's band Shirazz were playing and suggested I should come along. I thought Halls Gap was about the same distance from the hash as home was and I had no accommodation for the night so I decided to go, turns out it was actually 60k more. This is the point where my ride changed drastically; instead of riding 230k I was going to ride 280k. The return trip would have had bail out option on the way home with many 24 hour service stations and fast food restaurants along the way, trains starting at about 5am and all night buses if I got really desperate. The halls gap trip had far fewer places to stop, more hills and of course at the end I would be in Halls gap. I didn't know it was that much further at the time as I'd never been to this part of Victoria before and I didn't bother looking it up on my phone. Matt offered to lend me a jumper but I declined as I was quite warm and I figured it would be annoying carrying it.
My next stop was Bacchus Marsh, it's a town I’d heard of many times but never been to so I decided to drop leave the highway and ride through the town, hoping to find a grocer because I was craving an apple. The road into Bacchus Marsh is an Avenue of Honour. I'd never heard of an avenue of honour before but quickly discovered it means there is a tree planted along side the road for ever soldier from the area to have died in World War One. As I got into the township of Bacchus Marsh I saw a grocer on the side of the road, it looked closed but there were people in there so I gave it a shot. They were indeed closed but agreed to sell me an apple anyway, the Lady who served me asked where I was riding and was amazed that I was doing a 120k ride at night time and said "you must me fit to do that, give us a look at you" looked me up and down and exclaimed "you're well fit". I think the word well should be used in that context more often as I’ve only heard it used like that in Skins before. It may have been partly contextual as I was really in the mood for apple but I swear that was the sweetest, most delicious apple I've had in my life.
I continued along the Western Highway and took the Gordon exit. It was convenient having huge signs with my name on them telling me to exit; all intersections should be like this. On the outskirts of Gordon there was a large welcome to Gordon sign which I stopped to get a photo with, I struggled to get the photo with my phone in one hand and torch in the other trying to light my face and the sign that says Gordon. The road from Gordon onward was sealed but pretty rough and only just wider than a car, quite different to the four lane freeway I’d been riding on. About 10k out of Gordon the road changed to rough, corrugated gravel which I road along for 5k. The road changed back to sealed at a junction a few hundred metres from the closest road point to the hash. As I stopped to look at the GPS several dogs started barking very loudly from the house on the property I was about to enter for the hash. As I was hiding my bike under a tree on the side of the road a light turned on in the house obviously to see why the dogs were going nuts. With people awake in the nearby house and the dogs barking ferociously I decided I was going to have to continue without the torch on and with minimal GPS use. I climbed the electric, barbed wire fence and got snagged getting shocked in the leg several times before freeing my self. I checked the GPS to get a bearing and started walking the 500m to the hash. Immediately after the fence was a line of waist height prickly buses with thistles around the edges. I made it through them and the next few hundred metres for open paddock. I then was met with another line of prickly bushes to make my way through with a ditch on the other side followed my more thistles. I was starting to wonder what kind of property I was on, there were no signs of live stock but they had the electric fence running and these prickle bushed seemed to neatly arranged to be an accident, thinking about this and the dogs which were still barking I was starting to think maybe the owners of this property don't want people in here.
After two more barbed wire fences I make it to the clump of trees that the hash is in. not surprisingly the trees were surrounded by thistles and prickle bushes but after making it through the prickles it opened up to trees planted in a neat grid that I walked through easily. I did the usual GPS dance wandering round in circles, trying to get as close to the hash as possible, getting a reading of 1.5 metres to go, stepping forward 1 metre and then it was 6 metres in the other direction. Hash point reached at 22:30 The barking dogs and other people deterrents had left me a little jumpy, I could hear what sounded like footsteps about 10 metres from me that seemed to be following a similar pattern. The pattern of taking a few steps, thinking you hear something and stopping to listen for the other steps then taking a few more, trying to work out if there is someone nearby with out them finding out you are. I'm sure it was just a roo but at the time I was freaking out that there was someone else very near by, trying not to be detected by me but very close - maybe following me. I thought about saying something in case it was another geohasher but I thought this was incredibly unlikely. I had decided it was the property owner or one of his hired goons out here trying to stop me from finding the weed crop or whatever they were trying to keep me away from.
I made in out of the trees and find an easy path around the prickles, the fences and the ditch and walk back to my bike. As I'm climbing the fence I hear some kind of fast moving footsteps nearby and something attacks me leaving me with a bloody knee. It was dark so I couldn't get a photo but I know what I saw. It wasn't a possum making the noise and the barbed wire fence scratching. I was under attack from raptors, the property owner had good reason to try to keep me out, it became clear to me that the dogs I heard barking sounded very different to normal dogs and that it was in fact the call of raptors. Jurassic park was wrong, they don't screech, they bark. Having narrowly escaped the raptors I jump on my bike and ride as fast as I can without thinking about direction. After about 1km I stop to send a message to Felix Dance letting him know I’d succeeded and to Matt letting him know I was coming to Halls gap. I checked the map and discovered I’d ridden in the wrong direction for falls gap and I was going to have to ride back past the raptor farm. When I got there the raptors had calmed down but they started barking again and the light turned on again. I was feeling quite guilty about keeping the owner up this late as it was now almost 11pm.
I rode back to the highway and headed into Ballarat where I got Hungry Jacks for dinner and headed off at about midnight. Having never heard of Avenues of Honour before today I found myself riding along another one, this one with a large archway at the entrance. Halfway down the avenue of honour which was leading back to the highway I hit roadworks and have to take a detour that travels back in the wrong direction adding a couple of kms. On the bright side the detour took me past the mars (chocolate not planet) factory which smelled delicious. About 20k out of Ballarat my alarm goes off, I always set an alarm for 1:30am when I'm geohashing at nighttime as this is when the Dow opens. I check the coordinated to find that the geohash is 150 metres from my house, I was furious as this would have got me the second best couch-potato honourable mention. I seriously contemplated turning around and riding home but I was already closer to Halls Gap than home and in my mind I’d already committed to the ride.
I continued riding along the highway towards Ararat which is where I would turn off the highway. It was a beautiful starry but moonless night and there was very little traffic. Most of the traffic were B-Doubles on the Adelaide to Melbourne route coming towards me and a lot less heading in the same direction as me. The great thing about riding at night time is there is so much room on the road that you can largely forget about traffic, when ever a truck came from behind it would pull right out into the next lane leaving about 4 metres between us, if I'd been doing this ride in the day time I’d be lucky to get 1 a lot of the time and there would be trucks passing me constantly instead of one every 10 minutes. In the Ballarat to Ararat leg of the ride I was starting to get pretty worn out, not sleepy at all as it's hard to fall asleep when riding but just struggling to keep the legs moving at a decent pace. I'm not sure if it was the headwind (if there even was one), or if it was my legs getting worn out or maybe I was riding up hill the whole time but I felt like I was riding really slowly and it was a constant gradual ascent.
In Beaufort I saw a sign pointing towards toilets and followed it, I'm starting to wonder if the councils in country towns put these up as a joke to annoy tourists. My experience is that very few of these signs actually have a toilet anywhere near them. Beaufort was no exception, I rode into the park it was near and had a look around and did a few laps around the side streets in the area but there was no toilet. I mostly just wanted the toilet for a tap to fill up my water bottle at and I saw a closed petrol station on the highway and filled up there. Beaufort water is horrible. It was about four or five am and I was freezing so I was expecting the water to be quite cold but it came out lukewarm. Having been out of water for quite a while I drank some straight away and it tasted like dirt. I tipped out the water and ran the tap for 30 seconds hoping it was just a dud bit that had been sitting in the pipes but the flow of warm mud continued. Having been completely out of water for quite a while and no towns nearby I kept and drank the water, it wasn't too bad when mixed with Staminade powder.
I continued riding to Ararat and by this point it was really cold. I don't usually get cold on bike rides because I’m working had enough to keep myself warm but 200k into a ride I didn't have the energy to keep warm. The BOM tells me it only got down to eight degrees over night but it felt colder than that, wind chill probably didn't help. The last few km into Ararat is downhill so when I arrived I was absolutely freezing and I decided I was going to wait for the sun to come up. I pulled into the servo on the outskirts of town at 5:45 and bought a pie which I ate inside, while it was considerably warmer in the servo outside it wasn't all that warm so after about 15 minutes I picked up the courage to go outside and went into town hoping for somewhere warmer. Maccas was open so I got myself a meal and a coffee and enjoyed the warmth til 7:30.
The final 50km from Ararat to Halls Gap was the slowest bike ride I have ever done. I was crawling along at about 15km/h and stopping for a break every 10 minutes or so. I arrive in Moyston to discover Avenues of Honour are quite common so I rode a long a third in the one trip. Not long after Moyston I felt like I was working harder than I should be and I looked down to find a flat rear tyre. It wasn't dead flat but low so I figured I could get away with topping it up rather than repairing it and I only had to stop to pump it two more times before Halls Gap. Pomonal General store was open and I was up for any excuse to take a break so I stopped for a packet of jelly snakes and a coke before continuing on. I arrive in Halls Gap to find the streets full of jazz and a crowd of people, they had closed the main road for the festival so I was moving quite slowly weaving amongst the jazz fans. Matt had a spare bed at the motel so we had arranged that I would call him when I got there, he had also texted me direction which I ignored figuring I would look it up when I got there. Alas my phone was flat so I rode around Halls Gap, feeling slightly delirious having been awake for 27 hours and just having ridden 280k luckily after not too long I find Matt and Rhonda on the side of the road with and they showed me to the motel room.
My attempts to sleep during the afternoon weren't too successful, I had a few naps but spent much of the afternoon enjoying town with Shirazz and their posse. We had kangaroo souvlakis for lunch, had a browse around the shops, saw a couple of bands and had a swim at the motel swimming pool before we went for dinner at the Pomonal pub. Shirazz played a great set to the pavilion with considerably more people than seats and then I headed back to the motel room to fix my flat tyre. We stayed up for drinks in the motel room, I fell asleep while we were all still talking and then I was awoken by Matt after everyone had left for their own rooms to check that I had set an alarm. I had to leave at 6am to get the 8:15 train for Ararat to Melbourne as I had a music rehearsal in the afternoon and I had organised a group of friends to go see Cat Empire at St Kilda fest. Trains don't run from Ararat very often so it was important I made the 8:15am or I would be waiting for the 4:05pm. I set off on the bike ride and was making good time until I got a flat tyre near Moyston. This time it was the front wheel and went down much faster than the previous so I had to fix it. It only took about 10 minutes to fix the flat but that was enough time to put me behind schedule and miss the train. I bought food supplies for the day at Aldi in Ararat and decided the best way to keep myself entertained was to read a book. Being a Sunday in a country town the library and all the book shops were closed but I found a newsagent with about 20 second hand books. There were several about parenting, a number of self help books and a few in Italian and a book called Oil by Upton Sinclair which I settled on and bought for $5. I went to the station bought my ticket for Melbourne and started reading. Next thing I know I was awoken when the door of the station opened, I had fallen asleep four pages into the book sitting upright on a wooden park bench and an hour had passed. I spent the rest of the day reading, sleeping and occasionally making conversation with someone who came to the station for a bus or the station staff. There were several buses that went back to Melbourne throughout the day but even if you remove the wheels, buy an extra ticket and the bus is empty you aren't allowed on.
I arrive home at 7pm, have a quick shower and ride to St. Kilda Fest, along the ride I get a number of text messages from people including Felix wondering where I was and where to meet up. Everyone assumed that as I was the event organiser I would be on time and know where we were meeting up. I arrived at the gig 3 songs before the end and was unable to find my friends until it was over as my phone was once again flat. After the gig I found Felix and the rest of the group and we headed off to find somewhere to get a drink. The only bar we find with room tells us it's table service and that we can't order at the bar so we wait about 15 minutes then we are asked to leave as the bar is closing. We convince them to let us have one round and pay $60 for two jugs. After this bar numbers dwindled and five of us head onto another pub, Felix insists he knows about a pub that's open all night nearby but we can't find it so we go down a dodgy alleyway and find a pub where we get $5 cups of sangria. Felix was keen to keep partying and had tried to convince everyone to stay when ever they left through out the night but by 11:30 it was just Felix and I and I couldn't drink much because I was picking my house mates Cam (a fellow geohasher) and Em up from the airport at 1am so Felix and I go home at 12. Finally arriving home from the airport at 1:30 am after a ridiculous weekend that was only meant to be a short bike ride.
On Monday at work I took a photo with my phone and the phone froze with the loading symbol on the screen. After thirty seconds it quit the camera app and is at the home screen. I go into the photo album to discover all my ~1100 photos are gone, the only ones with a backup are those that I have already uploaded to the geohash wiki which I hadn't done for this hash yet. I had a client in the room and I was on my other phone to the boss at the time so I had to pretend to be calm but I was not happy about having no proof of this ridiculous ride. After resetting the phone it had 27 photos on it and it said restoring and was counting up through my photos. The next 10 minutes went very slowly as it recovered all my photos.
TL;DR I went on a really big bike ride, it was fun.
This is the route I took. 
| Lachie earned the Velociraptor Geohash Achievement
| Lachie earned the Ridiculous
| Lachie earned the Bicycle geohash achievement