Mudgee Madness, 2001

Photography: Daniel Steffen

Day 1, The Cast

Our group is: Mark Weber, Daniel Steffen, Gunter Hauber, James Dolan, Kin-Yat Lo, Fran and me.

We all met at our place at 7:30 am on Thursday Jan 25 and drove to Mudgee. It is a scenic drive, but then, its a drive and really there's not much to report about it. On arrrival in Mudgee we were reminded just how hot it could be out here.

We took lunch at the trendiest cafe in town, did some shopping for breakfast and on-ride snacks for the next day, and retired back to the motel for the afternoon.

At about 6:00pm Gunter knacked on our door and declared his intention to do a short ride. James' bike had a flat tyre so he stayed behind. Fran was not interested preferring to allow the rest of us to test our endurance (madness) in the heat. We set out on a short route we found from our good collection of maps. Mark had a flat tyre 200m from the motel, so some time was spent in the sun repairing this. I knew the route better than anyone else and despite my being not nearly the quickest rider, I attempted to lead. A few minutes later we noticed that Kin-Yat had not followed, he probably blinked and missed one of our turns.

Once we found the road we needed the speed merchants took off. Mark and Gunter cruised at about 35km/hr with Daniel and me behind managing about 30. At the 14 km point Daniel and I stopped (it was still very hot) and waited for the other two to find the end of the sealed road and return, which they soon did. We returned to the motel and it became apparent that apart from the need for a dip in the swimming pool, dinner was now a high priority. It was Daniel, sitting in the beer garden at the pub having just cooked his very large steak who put it best "the whole point of this weekend is to eat well, isn't it?"

The ensuing conversation dealt with the deep philosophical "chicken and egg" problems associated with cycling and eating/drinking well (do we eat more to provide energy for cycling, or do we cycle in order to be able to eat more?Daniel clearly susbscribes to this latter view). Of course the pub had Guiness on tap which helped this conversation greatly!

Day 2 Ulan and Gulgong, 94kms

As agreed we rose early and took breakfast outdoors in the still dim light. None of us had slept well in the overnight heat, but there was no talk of abandoning our quest.

We set off at a little after 6:30 am heading up the main road to Ulan, a town which boasts nothing more than a small shack (the pub) a few houses, a small school (from which we pinched some tank water, fresh apples and nectarines) and the largest open cut mine in the southern hemisphere. Gunter and Mark made a short detour here to have a look at the mine while those of use with more reasonable cruising speeds set off for Gulgong. We found the 25 kms to Gulgong quite scenic; the bush at times reminscent of the Piliga scrub. After a few kms of mild climbing we noticed a pair of kangaroos bounding about in a paddock obviously having at least as much fun as we were. So far the terrain had been mildly undulating but now it flattened out and in fact there was a downhill run into Gulgong.

In Gulgong we stopped in a park at the edge of town and ate our prepared sandwiches and dried fruit and nuts. An enthusiastic and helpful local in ancient Combi happened upon the unlikely sight of us and couldn't help but let us know that because it was Australia Day entry to the local swimming pool was free! The shade of the large trees was now beginning to be our only refuge from the heat, so after refilling water bottles we again took to the road, riding through the quaint town without taking much time to look about and back onto the open road. This last 30km leg was where the heat caught up with us, but all made it back to the motel and immediately managed to find just enough reserve energy to fall into the swimming pool.

We drove into town for lunch. Our small cafe table was soon crowded with a myriad water bottles and glasses, spiders and milk shakes. A silly conversation about "six sarsparilla spiders" ensued partly from our overheated brains and partly from the waiter's interesting pronunciation of "spider". The hot afternoon provided some extra sleep.

Mid afternoon the other contingent of riders arrived to join us; Simmi, Sibba and their daughter Linda.

One by one we emerged from our rooms wondering what to do next. The oddest thing had happened. We had been in Mudgee for more than 24 hours and not visited a winery! This did not change as four of us (Mark, Fran, Kin-Yat and me) decided to try waving our tennis raquets around on the tennis court in the hope that a tennis ball would strike one of them. The teams were: Chris Evert (Fran) and Bjorn Borg (Keith) v Andre Agassi (Mark) and Michael Chang (Kin-Yat) with the latter team prevailing... just! This was followed by a general swimming session and then the realisation that we were all starving.

After some discussion a delegation was sent into town to pick up our Indian take-away meal and some suitable liquid accompaniments. We sat outdoors and feasted well for several hours, our hosts providing cutlery, plates and glasses for the 10 of us.

Day 3, Lue Loop

None of us had had much sleep as the heat was oppressive all night. Regardless, we managed to assemble, have breakfast and get the peleton on the road. Sibba and Linda had a cunning plan. They would join us for the first kilometre and then take the turn off to Craigmoor winery. The rest of us would ride to Lue and back through a very picturesque series of valleys on the western edge of the Great Dividing Ranges. This proved a wonderful idea and the peleton soon became a thin line of single riders with several kms gap in some cases. James even managed to blink and miss the huge metropolis which is Lue, so we sent Gunter in chase to bring him back. Speeding down the final hill into Lue my right-hand mirror took it upon itself to part company from the trike and, well, there are thoudsnads of tiny pieces of it just outside Lue somewhere. Riding a trike without a right-hand mirror is extremely difficult in the city, and even in the country I felt naked without it.

After a wonderful mornings' cycling we all had a dip in the pool and then lunch at the bakery in town followed by the customary nap. At last we visited some wineries as the rain clouds gathered and for a short time the temperature dropped. The evening remained a little cooler if quite humid and we enjoyed a wonderful 5 course degustation meal at a local restaurant. An interesting service offered by this restaurant is the minibus to collect diners from their abodes and return them after the meal.

Dat 4, laissez faire

Well, it may have been due to the excellent meal the previous evening, or the slightly milder temperature, but we managed to sleep for once! There had been some discussion the previous evening about rides and no great agreement had been reached. As a result we all did our own small rides. Fran, Kin-Yat and I headed off to Wilbertree and back into town, then back to the motel – an easy 34 kms. Daniel and Mark did slightly less – they slept in. James and Gunter rode along an extremey scenic and quite undulating route west towards Burrendong dam. Gunter was unlucky however as a number of mishaps eventually caused him to thumb a lift home.

First, a puncture in the front tyre. Then having fixed this he noticed that the valve was no good. Then he tried his spare tube which would have worked well except that it was a mountain bike tube and he was on his road bike. Not only this but the tube was not particularly good either leaving him no option but to stuff it into the tyre and ride on it uninflated! This he did until he managed to get a lift most of the way back into town. James had no such trouble and rode back arriving at the same time. With our typical cyclist manners we all listened as Gunter related this tale, laughing at a restrained and polite level only.

The Icelanders (Simmi, Sibba and Linda) drove to Lue to visit the antique shop and almost managed to buy the shop out by purchasing a teapot and a WW2 Morse Key.

Next followed a swim and an early lunch which consisted of the left over Indian take-away from a few nights earlier. This was really nice even cold… really it was. Naturally this was washed down with the odd Cooper's Ale. Snooze.

During the afternoon the Iclanders returned to Sydney, taking Iron-man Gunter with them - some people seem to need to go to work ocassionally. Having been inpsired by the wonderful tennis of the Australian Open (albeit sponsored by a motor vehicle company) we decided to run a short tournament which proved both great fun and very energetic (clearly we had not done enough cycling!). The surface was not quite rebound ace, but each of us managed the odd artistic bounce.

Dinner, that culmination of a wonderful day, was again at the pub in town. We cooked our own steaks and downed the odd Guinness, then retired to the motel and sat in the cooler evening talking and eating grapes which were washed down with a glass or two of local red wine and mead.

Day 5

As one might expect this day, our last, was the only cool one. We packed and used those other faster but not nearly so efficient vehicles to get home.

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