Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Scody Tour of Tasmania (With bicycle theft.)

Last weekend provided a treat for both North West Tasmanian bicycle enthusiasts and those enthusiastic about stealing bicycles. The 2012 Scody Tour of Tasmania ran from Hobart upwards including climbs up Mt Wellington, being thwarted by unusually wild winds and snow near Launceston and finally last Thursday it reached the north coast, colliding with the good citizens of Devonport. It was here that Queensland Gold-coast based outfit, 'Team Downunder' had two competition bicycles stolen after leaving them locked in their trailer overnight, amounting to a loss of about AU$26,000 and ending with one rider completely pulling out of the tour. As the news coverage suggested, it will be a hard task for the culprit to either ride or sell such equipment within Tasmania. Despite the presence of tours and roadies, being a bicycle backwater means there's not many $9000 Avanti Quantums with $1700 Garmon computers and $2500 wheels cruising the streets of the North West coast or indeed the state.

Tasmanian cyclist Ben Grenda lines up.
(He won the Burnie stage!)

Those unaffected continued across to Burnie on Saturday via Ulverstone on Friday, doing a 30 lap criterion around an 800m circuit of Burnie CBD before setting off back to Devonport for the big finish. Plebs who fancied cycling on the closed roads could pay $99 for the privilege and tag along as part of the 'Tour de Burnie Corporate Ride', like the annoying little brother of the main tour. On Saturday, Ginger walked into town to view proceedings, wondering why they had elected to set up the presentation podium outside the ugliest building in Burnie rather than the beach directly in front of said ugly building. He said there were about 100 people spectating and he phone-captured the general malaise for posterity. To be fair, the weather had taken a turn for the dour despite being Spring.

Clouds roll in by the beach.
Starting positions.
Rub and tug by the beach.
Praties is a fast food shop that sells baked potatoes with your choice of toppings.
The embarrassing Burnie clipart logo.
The ugliest building in Burnie.

Later, I dragged my fat bottom out of bed and we walked to a bottle-neck on Bass Highway outside one of our favourite cafés and stood waiting for three minutes until I managed to take four entire pictures of the tour as it left town. With a hit rate of 1 passable picture to 3 terrible pictures, I felt satisfied with my work and walked the 10 metres inside to buy an iced coffee and some macarons. Bicycle spectating is hard work.

An insult to bicycle race photography.

(Ginger's camera work.)

Monday, October 1, 2012

Ulverstone to Turner's Beach

On an early Autumn day, Ginger and I laboriously transported the Pashley along with his Schwinn and formally introduced ourselves to the Ulverstone to Turners Beach cycle path. Immediately we discovered that this was a cycle route beyond our most bucolic dreams.

The most picturesque cow's arse you will ever behold.

The 'official' path starts at Buttons Beach and runs through to Turners beach - this is the section on which you are completely shielded from cars and it goes for an all too brief 8-ish kms. Though Bass Highway and its suicide cycle lane run parallel, you'd have to be mad or mad and in training to choose battling trucks over the blissfully smooth, direct and civilised journey offered by the Ulverstone/Turners path. Set well back from the highway for the most part, the path sits quietly amongst pastoral land, allowing you to forget that Tasmania's main road is actually quite close by.

The ocean is ever present to the North as you cycle, peeking out from behind bush covered dunes, winking in the sun just beyond a field fence and glittering through gaps created by little boardwalk entrances to beaches. The combination of sea and countryside interwoven is genuinely cheering to the soul. You cannot cycle on this path in fine weather and be miserable.

Ginger with concrete, bicycles.

There are sights to see (You cycle past a miniature railway!) and a different landscape each season. On our first jaunt in Autumn we paused to admire a small creek and lush pasture whereupon this horse galloped up at speed, eager to greet us.

The horse was so enthusiastic about our stopping, we came to the conclusion that he too enjoys the mixed use path because some people have probably been bringing him treats. He was particularly excited about my camera bag and very disappointed when I produced an inedible camera though he was kind enough to pose with the Pashley despite my lack of treats. I think the resulting photos really emphasise the classic 'town and country' looks of the Pashley. We promised him carrots on our next visit.

When not passing farms, the Ulverstone/Turners path nips out to circumnavigate a holiday camp site and nudge Bass Highway. Though it never actually touches Bass, it does cross the holiday camp driveway and this is the time you must be wary of traffic. Fortunately, it is well sign-posted and gives you plenty of warning.

Many mammals in Fat-bottomed contemplation.

The path ends where the railway line meets the town of Turners Beach, thereafter if you continue you are relegated to some of the roughest road surface ever tolerated in the gentle streets of suburbia. Your jolting skeleton will find that the road shoulder is actually the roughest part, with a clear and spitefully visible demarcation between surface for cars down the centre and surface for everyone else. The slightly more tolerable road mocks you from your bumpy place in the designated bike zone but as we discovered on our first trip, it's worth the skull rattling. Only a kilometre or so later you arrive at a café, ice-cream and gift shop directly opposite the beach at Turners. This popular spot is a pleasant interlude before the return journey and a walk on the beach is recommended. There is no official bicycle parking but there are plenty of poles to lock up against and alfresco seating if you are feeling separation anxiety.

After a few autumn rides we've since ridden the path semi-regularly, noting the changing light and landscape. Now that spring has really sprung, I look forward to seeing what else this delightful diversion has to offer. Even it's just more cow behinds.