Tour of Victoria, 2001

Participants were: Keith and Fran, Mark Weber and Richard Vagg

day 1 drive time
day 2 in Milawa - Keith 60, Fran 40
day 3 to Euroa - 121
day 4 to Nagambie - 80 (includes trip to Chateau Tahbilk)
day 5 to Castlemaine - 117
day 6 to Bridgewater - 87 (includes trip to Inglewood)
day 7 to Echuca - 116
day 8 rest day
day 9 to Murchison 87
day 10 to Benalla 108
day 11 to Rutherglen 80
day 12 rest day
day 13 rest day
day 14 to Milawa via Chiltern and Beechworth - 85

Day 1

The drive is always a bit tedious...
left Sydney 8:20, arrived Milawa 16:10 – bought a few last minute goodies
Wondered if the server at work had fallen over.
Wondered if the server at home had fallen over.
Wondered how much the cat was annoying the neighbours who agreed to feed her.
Dinner at Milawa Pub - very good as usual.

Day 2

Overnight was not cold, morning clear, sunny and warm! Perfect day. Breakfast in dining room at 8 am (civilised, but too late!) excellent food - local honey, home made jams. Cycled to cheese factory and bought supplies for the next few days. Stopped at local horticulturist's and threw the ball for his dog, chatted about life, the universe and onion weed. Fran then went for a haircut. Keith did a 16km warm-up ride up the road to the first slight hill just after Markwood - avs speed 28. Mark and Richard were to arrive by train from Sydney at about 3:40pm, so Fran and I cycled into Wang to meet them. Fran watched and Keith supervised the reassembling of the bikes and we all rode back to Milawa hoping this glorious weather would continue for the rest of our trip. Dinner was at the new cheese factory restaurant and was superb!

Day 3

Milawa to Euroa via Taminick Gap and Violet Town - 121 km

We set off at about 8:55 after watching several rain storms drench our habitat, but luckily the persistent clouds had difficulty in raining upon us.

After about 17km we reached to considerable climb over Taminick Gap - the climb was... a climb... the downhill on the other side was a hoot - keith scored 76.4 km/hr.

The lake, Lake Mokoan, is eerie in the light of thin cloud. We rode 20km along its shore, noting the thousands of dead trees in its midst. The rest of the trip was just a matter of navigating our somewhat circuitous but mostly flat route, so we stopped for a snack here and there and consulted the map just to be sure. At one point we had to endure several kms of dirt road, but it was in good condition and not too slow.

Mark and Richard rode consistently faster than us. Eventually at the 100Km mark we reached Violet Town - a small and picturesque village just off the main freeway route to Melbourne. We bought drinks and were quizzed by some local youths about the trikes. They were amazed that we had ridden from near Wangaratta - Fran didn't have the heart to tell them we had come the long way! We were all quite tired now and decided to take the shorter route along the freeway to Euroa. Keith and Mark ran a good sprint for this final 21 kms reaching speeds of 42 along the freeway. We reached Euroa, had showers, stowed the bikes in the Caravan Park shed, went in search of much needed food, then visited the pub. Guinness on tap!!! We played some pool, followed by a very good dinner in the pub's restaurant! Fran and I had stocked up on Milawa cheese so we bought an extra bottle of red and took that back to our cabin. It took little time to devour an entire Camembert and the bottle of red, before we all started to feel a little sleepy.

Day 4

Euroa to Nagambie 60km (20 km extra to Tahbilk winery)

We awoke to another warm, but cloudy morning. There had been strong wind gusts during the night, but for now at least all seemed calm.

During breakfast the wind picked up, but luckily it was going to be at our backs most of the day. We set off, testing our legs after yesterday's long haul. All was fine, though some saddle soreness among the non-trike riders was noted. Mark bought a second water bottle and cage in town before we began in earnest.

At the coffee stop in Longwood.
The hot chocolate did not come with Marshmallows,
so Mark asked and the lady opened a packet especially for us!

Soon we found ourselves in Longwood, a tiny town which boasts a Pub and a shop, and a very well maintained sports complex. In keeping with Bike North tradition we consumed hot chocolate (complete with marshmallow!) along with the bananas brought from Euroa. So far the terrain had been flat, and it remained that way all day. Combined with the tail wind this made for some fast cycling indeed. Keith and Richard put on a few spurts keeping in the mid 30s, and at one point Keith managed 47.5 while passing Mark. Naturally Mark was annoyed at this and some time later (after leaving a suitably challenging gap) caught the two leaders. Fran meanwhile maintained a fast 26-29 and arrived at the final turn-off only a few minutes behind us.

A short rest at Locksley

At this point we had a short 2 kms to our digs for the night. We unclipped all the panniers and then cycled into town for lunch. Replete, we cycled to Chateau Tahbilk to do some wine tasting. Most of the 8 kms was as easy as the rest of the day, but the final 3.2 kms is dirt road, and it is not too easy on either road bikes or a trike. We enjoyed some excellent wines, ordered some to be delivered and braved the return to town on the dirt. Unbeknown to any of us Mark had not left the winery because he had a flat! We know this was not actually true - he just wanted some more wine! This of course took him a little time to fix, but after not too long he appeared and we returned to town.

Chateau Tahbilk

During our short quiet time Keith received a phone call from work - some silly user had lost her password and been silly enough to try and use other people's logins - effectively disabling several users!! At least the server hadn't fallen over.

We walked a few Kms to town for a very ordinary dinner - the restaurants were all shut on Mondays - but at least we had more Milawa cheese to eat afterwards in our rooms!

Day 5

Nagambie to Castlemaine - 117 kms

It rained all night. It was still raining. Cold. Windy also. Other than that it was a lovely morning, so after some toast and tea we set off clad in full wet-weather regalia. Luckily the rain held off most of the time, and we were able to remove the wet weather gear. The countryside was glorious - rolling hills, bushland with thousands of small purple native orchids growing between the leaf litter, etc etc.

This rest stop was at the top of the first big climb for the day, only about 20km from Nagambie. The bush here was full of tiny purple orchids

Of course the rolling hills presented us with a challenge and we found the climbing tough going all the way to our lunch stop at Heathcote. Here there was a popular bakery and a pizza shop which provided us with a good hot and filling lunch. Knowing we had more hills to do we also bought some extra morale boosting chocolate hedgehog to eat somewhere suitable along the way.

The rain began again and the temperature had dropped as the wind now picked up and became determined to slow us down. It did. Hill after hill after hill... Still in magical country we arrived at Redesdale where exists a strange river crossing - a double bridge with arches over the top. This creates both height and width restrictions on the road - good for us - no large vehicles! The descent to the bridge was very steep (8% according to the sign) and of course the ascent up the other side was not only steeper (10%) but longer!

There were at least two more climbs of this length and grade to come (we didn't know this yet of course) - the worst being Col de Sutton Grange, about which we were forewarned by a sign depicting a car facing up the hypotenuse of a big black triangle! This was after we had done 100kms or so, which is why we didn't feel like photographing either the sign or the view from the top!

All this was testing rider-bike combinations. Richard did well, his bike providing good low gears for the climbs. Mark, who had struggled a little all day with his lack of low gears, especially on the Col de Redesdale, found some extra strength and on the worst climb of the day - Col de Sutton Grange (a real monster!) did the entire climb. The laden trikes plugged away in granny gear, and Fran climbed some of the steeper hills nearly as fast as she could have walked them!

By now we were very tired and still had quite a long wayto go, but the countrysie was just glorious in the mid afternoon sun.

We plodded on... and on... and on... It was now very cold and windy and we were deluged briefly a couple of times. Finally we reached the main road, after being misled by our rather inaccurate map. From here it was about 12 Kms to Castlemaine.

We arrived quite late in the afternoon, all very tired and drained of energy, but in surprisingly good spirits. I remember at about 30Kms to go we all said we had nothing left, yet here we were, finally, able to have a hot shower and a beer!

Our search for dinner became amusing when we found a Vet next door to a fairly dodgy looking chineses restaurant. We decided against this as an option as our sense of adventure had been used up during our gruelling day's ride. At dinner I declared "The pirate lives" (Mark has a shaved head, a light racing bike and amazing hill climbing ability).

Day 6

Castlemaine to Bridgewater on Loddon via Inglewood 76

Today promised to be fine, though it was very cool as we left the pub to get breakfast at the local hasty-tasty. As with almost all towns there was an evil climb out, followed by a small reward and a few more undulations. We knew however that today would be much shorter distance, and much easier riding. The wind was still strong southerly, so it was at our backs, and Inglewood had to be at lower altitude than Castlemaine. Of course we were right!

The trip was uneventful, the countryside's green rolling hills soon giving way to open flat paddocks of rape seed (canola) and wheat.

Richard powered along getting an average in excess of 28 for the day! Keith buddied Fran up some early climbs and then drafted her along towards the end.

For once we were in town in time for lunch, and we had plenty. Then to the caravan park where we had a booking. No-one home and not expected back until 4:30! We were getting very cold. This was unacceptable. The pub had no accommodation so all we could do was go back 8 kms to Bridgewater. The motel had plenty of rooms so we looked no further.

Keith's trike parked neatly outside the motel room in Bridewater on Loddon. Such a big name for a small town, though the Loddon river had plenty of water in it!

Bridgewater is small but pleasant. It is on a major truck route so the main road is quite busy. Dinner at the pub was quite good Aussie-Chinese and we had a few games of pool (one of very poor standard indeed - Keith & Fran)

Day 7

Bridgewater to Echuca 116kms

Today would be flat! The morning was very crisp but fine - not a cloud in the ceiling, and there was only a slight breeze rather than the strong winds of previous days.

Fran has arranged for the Motel to provide us with sandwiches for the journey, and we had bananas, nuts and dried fruit as well.

As usual there were a few climbs out of town, though these were not at all steep they were long and it took a while for the legs to warm up. Keith and Richard did the 21 kms to our first and only 'town' (Serpentine) with an average of 32 kms/hr! Here we refilled all water bottles, bought some extra snacks and set off the the next 20 kms stage. The rest of the trip was flat and straight. Richard and Mark tended to travel at the front while I sat just in front of Fran to give her some advantage into to the wind. At times Fran and I could see Richard and Mark up to 4 kms in front.

Most of the day the roads looked like this...flat, narrow and straight

The occasional passing of a very large truck punctuated the day, as did the odd strategic navigational manouevre. As the road was quite narrow we had to pull right off the road to allow a truck going either direction to pass! After our hilly exploits from Euroa to Nagambie, this was certainly a different style of cycling.

Near the town of Mitiamo which was a few kms to the side of our route - and we had no intention of adding any more distance to the trip, no matter how small!

On arrival in town we found a map in the park and attempted to navigate to our digs. After a few tries, some directions over the phone from the owner, and some extra directions from some local kids on BMX bikes, we made it. Another long day!

After showers Fran and Keith walked to the shops and bought ingredients to cook Fettucine Bolognese.

Keith made the Bolognese, Fran arranged some music for an upcoming concert, Richard continued a light snooze and Mark walked to the pub to get us some beer to augment the red wine.

Having an entire house to share was quite luxurious and we looked forward to tomorrow - a rest day!

Day 8

Rest day in Echuca

Echuca is not small and proved to be very busy on the roads. Despite being totally flat and with wide roads (in the main) it seemes that most trips are done by car. There were many cyclists of course, perhaps more than one would see in Sydney?

Breakfast took some time and we had not purchased enough 'stuff' the previous afternoon, so Richard went for a walk to the shops to get some cereal and fruit - though he did this after having some scrambled eggs!

Various washing and ironing was done so we all had enough clean gear to get to Rutherglen in a few day's time :)

Fran, Mark and Keith then wondered into the tourist area of town for a late morning tea/early lunch. This was found at a cafe right near the river. On the way back restaurants were surveyed with the evening meal in mind. There were several excellent possibilities, and a pub - the Shamrock - which had several Irish beers on tap... pre-dinner drinks solved!

The afternoon was a quiet time, Mark doing some maths, Fran arranging more Icelandic folk songs and all of us watching some fairly dull TV and generally lazing about.

The Shamrock not only had Guinness on tap, but Kilkenny, Harp and Caffrey's We were also served a free plate of yummy nibbly thingies just as we finished our first pints thereby necessitating another round.

Dinner at Giorgio's was superb and we all ate so much that the long walk home was used to justify the meal!

Day 9

Echuca to Murchison 87 kms

This was AFL grand final day, so people tended to stare at us since we were out riding and not taking any interest in the footy. The terrain was flat, but the feeling of open space was fascinating. The temperature reached a pleasant 20 degrees or more later in the day after a coolish start, and a backtrack after taking the wrong road out of town. In Stanhope we met a guy who had built his own two wheel 'bent - worked really well... used a car seat slider to adjust the seat for different riders... 20 inch rear wheel and 16 inch front wheel. Like most amateur builders he hadn't painted it, but it went well.

Rushworth was a cute place, and the country around it was really nice, there were lots of trees and a lake, and it was no longer flat. We passed a local who had in his front yard a dual control four wheel bike which had used steering wheels for controls!

Murchison itself was nice, but we had a feeling of deja vu when we saw the caravan park where he had booked. We went to the motel instead, which was quite a strange place, but quiet, and had a pizza/pasta restaurant attached. We were all quite tired so even dinner was a strain.

Day 10

Murchison to Benalla - 108 kms

Overnight we had decided to cut off 15 kms and go to Cobram rather than Tocumwal. This would have shortened the next day by 10kms as well, and as our maps had so far been misleading in this regard, and we had done lots of long days this all seemed a good idea...

Until the wind !!

The wind was from the north east and that's the way we were to go. At Shepparton, after 35kms of battling this very strong headwind we decided, based on our trusty map again, to turn and go to east Benalla instead as it was a shorter distance and not so much into the wind.

It was probably a good decision despite the map being 11kms out on the distance! Never use an RACV map! It said 51 to Benalla but it should have read 62 - had we realised the misprint we may still have gone to Cobram as the wind was terrible on this raod as well. We battled on, often not able to maintian even 20 km/hr into the wind, and rarely getting above 22.

We had some snacks to munch on every so often, and while the wind was still very stong, at least it was not cold. We saw a number of snakes which had been killed on the road, and one that hadn't!

Finally we saw the 10km sign and at this point the three males took off leaving poor Fran on the road alone. Keith managed to get within 2 kms of town keeping above 30km/hr as the wind was now a little behind rather than full on (road swung south). Mark and Richard gave chase and were a minute or so behind, and Fran was not far behind them.

We stopped at the first motel we saw, which was very luxurious. We showered, visited a very nice bakery which had good coffee, then went back to the motel for a short Z-creation period. Dinner at Georgina's about 100 m down the road was superb. Lamb shanks for Richard and Fran, braised rabbit for Keith and an eggplant thingy for Mark, followed by suitably disgusting desserts. Best meal of the trip so far.

Day 11

Benalla to Rutherglen - 80 km

The wind had died down in the early hours of the morning, but the thunder, lightning and rain were amazing. Once again we were in luck - by the time we left (feeling a bit sleep deprived because of the noisy night) the rain had all but stopped, though the roads were very wet.

The going was much easier than the previous day and the terrain still mostly flat. We were able to avoid using the freeway. Near Glenrowan Richard discovered he had a flat rear tyre and stopped to repair it. The rest of us continued a few kms further and waited for him on the outskirts of Wangarratta.

As today was to be our shortest so far we had no problem taking more time and had a good lunch in Wang. The waiter was a local cyclist and gave us a book about the rail trail (Bright to Wang). Then we set off on the final leg to Rutherglen with Mark and Richard (as usual) going much faster than Fran and me. Then I had another flat! The front right tyre went down again - the rim tape had been holed a few days before and now the tube was pushing through it against the sharp edges of the spoke holes. I replaced the tube and we made it into town about 20 minutes later. Hooray, we made it!


Dinner at Tuileries - superb!!!

Day 12

Rest day in Rutherglen

Breakfast... Slob about... Walk to chambers vineyard and do extensive tasting - buy several dozen! Keith and Richard repair tubes... Lunch... Slob about... Keith and Fran booked dinner at the Shamrock, bought some YO as it is BYO.

Two other cyclists had stayed in the motel overnight - they rode out during the morning - arrived back and we had a chat with them, then they drove off for lunch in Yarrawonga.

We enjoyed doing nothing much all afternoon though Fran went for a walk and Mark did some maths - Fran also arranged the Queensland version of Waltzing Matilda. The other cyclists returned, and we chatted with them for a while - he raced, she tried to keep up. He is a serious racer.

Dinner at the Shamrock on its first night reopened under new management and in new premises was superb - well priced and top quality! The chef came out to check that Keith's blue steak was cooked to his liking - we suspect that when the waitress saw it, she dashed into the kitchen to tell the chef it was raw inside!

Day 13

Another rest day in Rutherglen

We started the day's activities with a taxing 3 km ride to Anderson's vineyard, where we tasted and bought. An expedition to Lake Moodemere turned out to be fruitless, as it was not open.

The driveway to Lake Moodemere vineyard. As usual it was rough and diffucult for road bikes, but the sheep slowed us down anyway

We enjoyed lunch in the courtyard at the bakery. Three of us were trying to work out why the man was dead in the phone box, with Richard giving really useful yes/no answers to our questions. A long-time Rutherglen resident sat down at a nearby table to have a quiet coffee, but we were making so much noise with our puzzle that she just had to join in. She contributed some searching questions, then had to leave to finish her shopping. A while later she walked passed, and asked "Have you solved it yet?" After chorus of "No!" she replied "Bugger!" When we finally got the answer (we won't tell you) we looked for her, but she was gone.

The famous 'wine' bottle of Rutherglen Looking towards our final destination from Rutherglen. The hills near Beechworth would be a long climb, but we knew there would be a reward

For dinner we cooked a sumptuous bbq at the motel, the owners having supplied us with plates, salad bowl, eating irons and bbq tools, mustard, tomato sauce - all for no charge, and washed it all up at the end for us. Of course we washed it (the food) all down with an appropriately chosen red liquid.

Day 14

Rutherglen to Milawa via Chiltern, Beechworth and Tarrawingee 85 kms

It was cold and foggy, and cloud increased during the day. The ride to Chiltern for morning tea was very scenic - then the climbing began. At first the flat, possibly downhill road was actually significantly uphill, and the range of big hills was getting closer. We had two big climbs through gorgeous forest, with a great descent in between, before Beechworth. Beechworth, now a tourist town, was packed, so we got a quick but rather ordinary lunch in the only empty shop we could find (guess why it was empty!).

After a visit to Pennyweight winery, we joined the rail trail and followed it to Tarrawingee, just near Milawa. This rail trail runs from Bright to Wangaratta, with a branch to Beechworth, following a disused rail corridor. It is a really terrific facility, especially the direction we were going - down hill all the way! There was a group of girls and assorted bikes stopped on a bridge. Keith was approaching at break-neck speed, they scattered, he skidded to a halt with great flamboyance to warn them that there were three more coming. These three also passed at break-neck speed, waving polite greetings to the astonished girls now standing like a guard of honour well back from the track.

The Rail Trail from Beechworth runs all the way to Wangaratta, through some georgeous countryside, often quite a way from the main road. Every few minutes (travelling at more than 35 kms/hr and often nearer to 50 as its all downhill) there is a crossing of a small side road - they are all well marked and easy to follow. There is another trail which joins this one near Everton and runs all the way up to Bright.

Milawa boasts the best pub of the trip, and definitely the best pool table (especially since Fran beat Mark). Dinner in the bistro was excellent, as was the choice of local wines available.