Thursday, July 16, 2009

Drunken service and winter gods....

Another week, another ride.  Bertrand Russel said that 'The time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time'. It is also said than a book is like a mirror: if an ass peers into it you can't expect a saint to look out.  So if you find Russell's notion shallow then you ought to look a bit deeper! But, to return from the mire (or martial arts) of ever more-profound sayings, how many other day-long fulfilling adventures will typically set you back $10 for lunch and $20 for fuel while the rest is free?

I rode alone. Leaving home just after 10am I headed up the freeway past the airport, and before Sunbury I turned left to Digger's Rest. There was no wind and again it was a cold but hearteningly clear, blue, winter's day. Later as I passed through Kyneton after lunch I was to see the temperature gauge in town read 10 degrees. It is lower when you are exposed and speeding through the cold air. But from the start I huddled within my sheepskin and leather and was warm. I was intending to explore new roads west of the Calder freeway. But first my petrol tank was half-empty and so I decided to make a stop once outside the city, probably at Digger's Rest.

Digger's Rest has no petrol station except the one I passed coming into town and to which I returned. Having no proper signs, no indication of brands or octanes or prices, I had passed it thinking it was abandoned and now used as a wrecked car yard.  Being the only place in town I double-checked and found it open. As I pulled up at Digger's Auto an old man - or was it a woman? - came out from among some wild cacti and called to me to use the other bowser. As I pushed away from the original bowser I saw that it had no glass and was rusted. It was about 11am at this point. As the old man stumbled over to me I thought, "He's drunk!" Then I chided myself for my assumptions about this poor bugger who probably had suffered a stroke or some other disability.  But no: he was drunk! And he insisted on serving me. I averted my eyes as he pointed the petrol nozzle in my face and fell sideways into the bowser with a complaint-cum-laugh.  When he finished he took me into a dirty old shed and, amidst the usual old-man-shed's broken mechanical rigmoral and rubbish was an Eftpos machine and a display of potato chips.  The drunk man proceeded to tell me all the details of his life and of his family's lives; both the bare facts and how he felt about them, as well as a fine-detailed report. As I rode away I thought about how bad an idea it was to stop at a place which looked like a post-apocolyptic set from Mad Max.  I expected the questionable fuel to clog the carburetturs at any moment. And then I thought about how silly that whole thought was: what an experience! 

I planned to head west and find roads travelling north to Maldon, however I had to turn back due to the current blitz of road works on bridges on small back roads which are currently the bane of my navigations. Up to Gisborne then Bullengarook and west on a road the map claims is sealed, only to find it was not. It was hard-packed clay however so I decided to follow it for a distance to see if the tar would re-emerge. It didn't but I enjoyed a pleasant sortie before returning to Gisborne.

East of Gisborne I decided to folow wherever the roads might lead and to approach intersections with arbitrary whim. I got lost in a tangle of back-roads and discovered an area transplanted from rural England, through which I puttered along.  I soon found myself at the turn-off to the Mount Macedon Memorial Cross. This place was cold, and I was even colder, exhaling white clouds.

The Macedon Cross was erected in the 1930s to commemorate "Australia's sons". 

Nearby was a lookout with a plaque commemorating the ascent to this place by Major Mitchel in 1836 with a view to seeing Port Phillip, in the light of which he named the mountain Macedon, after Phillip of Macedon. I'll let him tell the story This photo does no justice to the expansive map-like view of the land spreading near and far:

As I walked back from the cross I nodded to a rather committed older cyclist who was puffing his way through the chilled thin air. I rode to Woodend, a short but substantial enough distance, went straight and ordered my lunch at a bakery and, as I sat down to wait for it, a mere few minutes after having pulled into town, I looked up to see that cyclist standing there smiling. This man is clearly a fast rider.  Afterwards I rode to Tylden, Kyneton, outside of which I took some photos on a dirt road.

As you can see it was a fine winter's day. It was meant to rain but all I saw was a constant exchange of rich grey clouds and then deep blue skie, the effect of which were constant bursts of winter sun. I had worried earlier that bringing photography (well, my attempt at pointing and shooting) to my riding would create a kind of attachment to "capturing the moment" rather than flowing through the moment, empty handed and present.  But as I rode I found myself noticing the colour and angle of the light, as it sat on the hills or spread with softened brilliance in its own abstract colours in the sky. Photographic attention deepens your attention and appreciation. 

I headed north on empty roads to Redesdale. Before Mia Mia I saw a sealed road and followed it.

The road stretched on and on

but there was much to see

The road lead me to Burke and Wills Track. Here is a photo on that 'track' just before I entered the forest, which later took me to Lancefield and directly south past the airport and into Melbourne.

One of these days I'll make it to Maldon. The day was filled with so much that I have not mentioned. I arrived home at 6pm, and aside from taking the odd photo (many from the seat of the bike) I had not been off the bike since finishing lunch at 2pm, in motion the whole time. 

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