Of giants and trees

Some showers was in the forecast but the morning was only partly cloudy with moderate winds. It was inviting temperate for a bike ride and cache hunt. 2 new geocaches poped up nearby in the last few days, so we were eager to get on our bikes to hunt for them.

We travelled southwards on the upfield bikeway to Royal Park. We followed the path around the zoo towards Elliott Avenue but crossed the trams tracks to the car park of the State Netball and Hockey Centre. We took Brens Drive and that got us to the park where the Geocache Giant’s Lunchbox was.

The find was relatively quick. The container is a Chinese Moon Cake container. It brought us memories of last year’s Moon Cake Festival. We did not make any swaps. After signing the log box, we returned the container to the hide and head off to the next Geocache.

We continued on Brens Drive until it reaches Elliott Avenue and followed the bike path along this road for a few meters before crossing the road into park lands. Having mountain bikes gave us the advantage of being able to ride to the Geocache Girl in a Tree. This cache is fairly exposed and precariously perched. I had to execute an upward maneuver to get to it. The container was also a small Moon Cake case. We signed the log book and left.

From this location we cycled to the path on the boundary of the zoo to get us back to the Upfield Bikeway to go home.

An hour after the ride, it started pouring. We were glad that we took this ride in the morning while the weather was still good. It wasn’t a particularly long ride by any standards. It was only about 9km but is was very enjoyable. That’s what counts most.

http://www.geocaching.com/seek/cache_details.aspx?guid=7a784111-3876-4480-a708-3f0b4e21831f

Southbank to Williamstown

We planned this cycling trip with some family friends. The plan was to ride from Southbank to Williamstown by crossing the Yarra River with the Westgate Punt. We took the train to Flinders Street station. As it was a Sunday, the Sunday Saver ticket came in handy. The Sunday Saver allowed the holder to travel on all public transport on both zones.

While waiting for our friends to join us, we decided to hunt for a Geocache at Southbank. It was still early in the morning, so there wasn’t much human traffic about. This made it easier to locate the Geocache. If you are a Geocacher in Melbourne, I highly recommend this cache.

When our friends arrived, we cycle along Southbank to the Melbourne Exhibition Centre. By this time, there were more people about. From the Melbourne Exhibition Centre, we cycled to Normanby Road and followed the tram tracks. The tram tracks took us through a tram yard and through several parks in Port  Melbourne. We rested at one of the playgrounds that dotted the parkland. The kids enjoyed themselves at the swings.

When we reach the Ferry Terminal, the Spirit of Tasmania wasn’t moored. We debated whether we should have something to eat at the nearby cafe or proceed to Westgate Park to take the Punt across the Yarra to Spotswood. As it was only 11am, we decided to press on.

Along the way to Westgate Park, we hunted for the second Geocache of the day. We found the predecessor to this cache not long ago nearby. The old cache has now been disabled. The hide for this cache is very innovative. We would not have guessed the hide if not for the hint left by the owner. Another cache I would consider a must-find.

As we approached Westgate Park, we found that the route to the Punt did not go through the park anymore. There is a cache in the park I would like to find, however, the others had cycled ahead. I decided against calling them back as I did not wish to break the momentum the kids had going then.

When we reached Lorimer Street, we weren’t quite sure whether to turn left or right to the Punt terminal. There weren’t any signs to guide us. We decided to ask for directions. Fortunately, one of the two men nearby knew the way and got us promptly towards the Punt Terminal.

After a short wait the Punt arrived. Our friends’ kids had never been on the Punt so it was a refreshing experience for them. Although we had been on the Punt in the past, it was still a highlight of the cycling trip that we always looked forward to.

After crossing the Yarra, we had to make a decision whether to visit the ScienceWorks Museum. Although one of our kids was willing, we felt that it was close to lunch time and the food at the cafe in ScienceWorks wasn’t particularly inspiring. So off to Williamstown centre we went.

We purchased some take-away and ate them at the park in Williamstown Centre. After which the kids played in the nearby playground. We spent some time at the park before going to the nearby shop for some ice-cream.

We continue to cycle along the shoreline of Williamstown. That’s when we had our third Geocache hunt. It was a relatively easy find. There was another nearby cache I would have liked to attempt but the others had already cycled on.

After reaching the Esplanade, we backtracked a bit to Thompson Road and head for Williamstown Station. This completed the cycling trip.

When we left home, the temperature was in the high teens. At the end of the ride, it was probably in the mid-twenties. It was mostly sunny and got a bit windy at the end of the ride. Oeverall, it was excellent cycling conditions. The ride was over 17km which is a great achievement for the young ones. This route is one of the most scenic Melbourne has to offer. I highly recommend it.

Ring Road Run

The weather was cloudy and threatening with rain most of the day. By the late afternoon, the cloud had mostly cleared and there were some blue skies and sunshine. The temperate was about 20C.

I was alone on this ride and decided to do something more substantial. My intent was to ride up to Upfield Bikeway and search for a track linking it to the Western Ring Road. The junction of the Western Ring Road and Sydney Road is near where the Merri Creek Trail begins.

At the end of the Upfield Bikeway, I crossed Box Forest Road and cycled up Sages Road. From satellite images on Google Map, I can make out a track leading to the Ring Road long side the train tracks. Unfortunately, when I reached the end of Sages Road, the track was fenced off. Determined to continue the ride, I backtracked to Box Forest Road. At this point, I realised that I have forgotten my water bottle. I realised that I need to get to water before the thirst sets in without forsaking the ride.

I cycled west on Box Forest Road and turned right into May Street. May Street eventually led me to John Street which connects up with the Western Ring Road Path. I travelled east on the path and cross Sydney Road to the start of Merri Creek Trail. My throat was a bit dry but I wasn’t particularly thirsty. I felt that I should be able to get to Coburg Lake without water. Fortunately, there was a cool breeze which helped to cool me down. At Momba Park, I circled a building looking for a tap but couldn’t find one. By the time I reached Coburg, I was in need of water and refreshed myself at a tap.

After a short rest, I decided to ride home via Merri Creek. I have originally wanted to complete the circuit by getting home via the Captial City Trail that connects to Upfield Bikeway to where I started but I have decided against it as it was getting close to dinner time and I was feeling a bit hungry. So I left the trail at Auturton Street and cycled home from there.

In total the ride was about 30 km (the track log above has been edited). It took slightly over 2 hours to complete. It wasn’t a bad effort but my average speed wasn’t great. I would have like to complete the circuit but I would have to leave it for another time.

Longer Merri Creek Circuit

This ride was a family ride: 2 adults and 2 kids. It had been a while since the family had attempted a significant cycling challange. Consequently, this ride proved to be quite testing for most of us.

The weather was execllent for cycling. When we left the house (at around 3pm), it was about 20C and fairly sunny.

In order to entice the kids into this trip, we promised them that we would stop at the cafe in the Fawkner Cemetery for some Milkshake. This would explain the first leg of our trip. From the Upfield Bikeway, we cycled straight to the Cemetery. The Mikeshake really hit the spot for the kids. They certainly had new-found energy for the ride.

We back-tracked a bit to Boundary Road and crossed Sydney Road to travel on Queens Parade which led us to Merri Creek. This section of the ride was overall downhill but with the undulating terrain expected of a path following a creek. We deviated from the Merri Creek trail at Harding Street and took an informal unpaved path just to make things interesting. The adults were riding on mountain bikes and the children’s bikes are essentially mountain bikes anyway. So going off-road did not pose too much of a problem.

We emerged from the unpaved trail near Moreland Road. Following the rest of the Merri Creek trail led us to Rushall Station where it joined the Capital City Trail. This section of the trail is also called the Inner Circle Rail Trail. On certain parts of the trail, one can see rails embedded in concrete or tarmac. We took this trail to Park Street and decided to ride down Park Street instead of continuing on the trail to Princes Park. Park Street took us to the Upfield Bikeway and from there it took us home.

The total circuit was about 24 km. It took us slightly over 3 hours with a number of rest stops during the ride. Looking at the elevation profile above, it looks like when the ride started, the altimeter in the GPS had not settled down yet. The GPS in question is a Garmin Oregon 300 with altimeter set to auto-calibrate. I should probably have turned on the GPS for a few minutes prior to the ride.

Before the ride, I had expected 2 hours of riding time but it took us more than 3 hours instead. It would appear that the family has lost some of the stamina we built up last summer. In the past, we had cycled longer distances than what we did today. We might need to start training up again.

Shorter Merri Creek Circuit

I was alone on this ride. The temperature in the day was about 33C – too warm for cycling. When I left home for the ride, it was around 31C but the sun was low in the sky. This made the ride a bit more bearable.

This route is very familiar to me. The Merri Creek Trail section of the ride was mostly uphill but the steep sections are relatively short. It should suit novice to moderately experienced cyclists. My kids (aged 9 and 11) have been with me on this route in the past, so it should not pose too much of a problem for most cyclists.

I didn’t meet many walkers and cyclists during this ride. That was probably due to the heat. As per yesterday’s experience, there were lots of bugs hoovering around the water’s edge. I had my goggles on this time. They didn’t bother me too much.

I rested at the northern end of Coburg Lake after a bridge crossing. I felt a slight cool breeze then. The temperature had probably fallen to 29C by then. After the short rest, I decided to head home. I put my lights on as I didn’t want to be caught out while on the road. I have by then decided to take Sydney Road home instead of using the Upfield Bikeway as I was not traveling with children.

The total distance (door to door) was about 12.5km. It took less than 55 minutes. The temperature was a bit warm for comfort but it was, nevertheless, still a pleasant ride. The warm temperature has discouraged some people from coming out which was a bonus. Merri Creek can be quite crowded during cooler times. This summer looks like its going to be a scoarcher. I thought I should get myself aclimatised, otherwise, I may not get too much opportunity to cycle.