Melrose has been an easy peaceful three day stay. Nestled at the foot of Mount Remarkable and renowned as a moutainbike mecca, it’s a small quaint town. Probably more likely a village.
Getting here was hardly challenging. But then again I put a lot of effort into my route nowadays. The Mawson, like the Munda Biddi, has a tendency to vie off up impossible inclines before plunging into terrifying declines whilst going off at tangents to the direction I ultimately want to go in.
Thus study I carefully the maps.
I’m not against inclines nor declines nor even tangents and significant deviations if it all leads to a rewarding experience.
The definition of ‘rewarding experience’ differs significantly when I need to move 14 kg of dual-suspension aluminium mountain bike with the only baggage being my camel-pack and some energy bars. As opposed to 50-60 kg of loaded full steel framed no suspension touring bike + trailer and lots of gear.
An incline or two of say 8 – 12 % with the length of the incline in inverse proportion to the grade, is OK. Good for the heart-beat, good for the legs, good for that feeling of having accomplished something, then a bit of semi-flat riding to enjoy the view, the mood and get some kilometres done.
The Mawson, like the Munda Biddi, are not designed with this definition of ‘rewarding experience’.
I followed the Mawson through the Wirrabara Forest where the fire had wreaked havoc.
I got my 8%. For a good number kilometres actually as I ground my way towards Number 9 Bore, which represented the pinnacle of my climb. I got a good dose of 12% and shot of 14%. Heartbeat stuff. A 4WD load of forestry dudes stopped as I was taking a break and some photos half-way up one of the 8%-ers to make sure I’m ok. Nice of them. We joked that no matter what I eat for breakfast it’s gone pretty fast.
I enjoyed it. My MoJo is definitely back.
Then the Wirrabara came to an end and the pastures, paddocks and croplands began again.
And I faced a choice.
The Mawson wants to hug the foothills of the Southern Flinders Ranges leading to Mount Remarkable, which towers over the landscape. I know, through hard experience, it’ll be a day of steep but controlled descents and steep hard-slog ascents. Now, if it were through forest and some kind of aesthetically pleasing landscape, ala the Munda Biddi, I find I have the motivation to put up with this. But not paddock pasture and cropland. Just don’t do it for me.
My handy map tells me about Dust Bowl Road. The name alone makes me want to ride it. Wouldn’t anyone?
As I’m eating a banana on some dusty road looking in the general direction the Mawson goes and comparing it to the general direction Dust Bowl Road goes a grain-transport truck pulls up. The driver can’t quite grasp what I’m doing and advises I give up on the gravel, take to the asphalt and make my way to Melrose via Murray Town. Nice kind advice but advice I cannot take.
Dust Bowl Road is great. A nice little tail wind, enough variability to be pleasing and I make my way quite rapidly to Melrose. Under a lone giant tree I stop for snacks and to enjoy the view of Mount Remarkable barely five kilometres to the west. Melrose nestles at the base of Mount Remarkable.
Bundaleer and Wirrabara Forests not withstanding the view’s not changed since Adelaide. There have been some nice towns too. Otherwise it’s a desert. An agricultural mono-crop desert. Aside of magpies, galahs and kangaroos there is no biodiversity. I’ve not seen any Bobbys or Blueys, no snakes no snake tracks, no tracks of anything else either. Except when I’ve been in the Bundaleer and Wirrabara Forest. In the latter I come across a large snake. Not sure who’s more surprised I or it. Either way it disappears pretty fast and I’m not game to give chase through the long grass. A small snake later on disappears in a more languid fashion.
A 4WD passes me. A Bobby is crossing the road with perfect timing to end up under the vehicle’s left wheel. The 4WD very deliberately swerves to avoid it. Made me smile.
Still further on I finally come across a Bluey. A Bluey is very similar to a Bobby and occupies the same ecological niche. They have yet to cross the Nullarbor and so are only found in the Eastern States and the middle of Australia. Not in the south West. A beautiful lizard, slightly longer, sleeker with smooth scales.
Over the Edge Sports – http://otesports.com.au/ – in Melrose is the last decent cycle shop I’m going to encounter until … well, am not sure even Alice Springs has one. It is the last decent cycle shop.
I need an answer to my noise from the belt.
OTE, Santos Bikes and BMCR from Adelaide and I finally conclude that tension is OK, alignment is OK and therefore the noise is the result of the severe dunking I and Dreamer got coming into Burra which resulted in the chainwheel oxidising, as in getting a bit rusty, as it sat in the beer storage room. As I rode off from Burra the carbon-fibre belt began to re-polish the steel chainwheel resulting in the alarming noise. Solution? Well, keep riding. And it’s true. The noise, whilst still discernible, is a lot less noticeable of late. And a dose of Teflon &/or silicon spray. I opt for a small bottle of water-based wax emulsion, which also does the trick.
Melrose is where I also need to solve my new problem. The Topeak handlebar bag is supported by two L-shaped pieces of steel. All the vibration has resulted in them wearing out, much like you can break a can in half by repeatedly bending it. Topeak were sympathetic to my cause but apparently the supports are not available as independent spare parts and they don’t have a bag in stock to pilfer the supports. Should they come up with a couple of supports they’ll let me know.
Mark of Melrose Motors agreed to take on the challenge. His solution is a thick steel plate to lie behind the supports. To reduce the weight he cuts out sections then grinds them smooth. Another excellent piece of Bush Doctoring. I reckon the Topeak bag will now survive what’s coming.
Next week is going to be hot out here, approaching 40C in the water-bag. I need to find out how I perform in 40C coz it may well be my New Reality as I head further and further north.
I look forward to it.
My target is Quorn where new steel coupling arms await me. It’s only 70 km further up and it’s unlikely the arms will be there for another week, so I have an easy ride.
Quorn is also the last decent sized town until Alice, if I’m not mistaken. That means I have to be well prepared when I leave it.
I look forward to that too.
Melrose 14 November 2015