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John Cook's Alpine Tour 2018

Submitted by Greg G on Wed, 28/03/2018 - 8:55am

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Pics to follow but.......

A few videos from the Ulysses Melbourne Alpine Tour - possibly better named the Alpine Swim!! Despite serious rain, it was a lot of fun for Peter Gleason and I. On the whole, my wet weather gear did a fairly good job!! Must have grown webbed feet in the rain when I was riding in France last year. One of these in particular shows the Ulysses "corner marking" system, and the uncertainty of people marking corners when Tail End Charlie isn't who you think he is!!!

 

 

 

 

Congratulations to John Cook for a really great ride!  Thanks to Pat Ryan as Tail End Charlie!  Thanks to the corner markers when I took over as TEC briefly while Pat helped Tez with his flat tyre!!

 

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20th Anniversary Melbourne Branch Autumn Alpine Tour

This great ride started back in late May 1998 as "The Autumn Ice Run" when three Melbourne branch members embarked on a two day ride via Bairnsdale, over Mt Hotham (then the highest sealed road in Victoria) before stopping overnight at Mt Beauty and returning to Melbourne via Myrtleford the next day.  The ride was about 900 km and part of the aim (challenge?) was to cross the Great Divide before roads were closed for the snow season.  The ride grew and after several years of stopping at Mt Beauty and then Tawonga, the overnight venue was moved to Howmans Gap YMCA Lodge near Falls Creek.  This actually made the ride a bit longer but is a great venue for group camaraderie.  That route is over 500 km in a day on challenging roads and we caution inexperienced riders or those easily fatigued not to attempt it.   Several years ago the Bogong High Plains Road was finally sealed and this gave us a shorter (but more demanding) route to get to Howmans Gap from Omeo.

I first participated in 1999 and have been a regular ever since despite a few absences due to travel.    Over the years we have had wives/ partners, friends and quite a few members' sons join the ride.   We've also had Ulysseans from as far afield as Ballarat, Macedon Ranges, South Gippsland and Sale join in.    In 2000 (I was absent - phew!) members awoke at Mt Beauty to a cover of snow!  I've heard rumours of a man strangling bagpipes that year and of people having problems with bikes icing up as they struggled down the Kiewa Valley to Wodonga (the routes across to the Ovens Valley were closed due to snow) before being able to turn towards Melbourne.   In 2013 predicted snowfalls prevented the main group from crossing the alps from south to north, so we detoured via Yackandandah and some Kiewa Valley back roads before reaching the very cosy fire at Howmans.  My son and several of his (fool)hardy mates including a female rider from Gippsland still rode adventure bikes over Mt Hotham through the snow and joined us.

After 20 years of doing the "Autumn Ice Run" at the end of May we decided to move the date in the interests of both safety and logistics.

We picked 24 March 2018 to avoid long weekends, Easter and school holidays plus have the advantage of longer daylight hours for riding.   Of course it rained for the first time in 6 weeks that weekend!   A large group of us set off at 8.00 am on the Saturday and rode east along the Princes Freeway in relatively dry conditions to Longwarry, where we turned off and rode through farming country to our morning tea stop.  We enjoyed good views from ridge tops and interesting roads through places such as Brandy Creek and Buln Buln.   The damp roads after such a long dry spell made our riding a lot more tentative than usual.  At Heyfield we met up with Brian and Teresa of Sale branch and had a good rest break after some 175 km.   We then rode past the Glenmaggie Weir wall and east via Newry, Maffra and Bengworden to Sarsfield.  We then took a diversion through Tambo Upper and had a delightful little run following the river into Bruthen, where we met up with Holly, Nev and Scott for lunch and another good rest break.   The weather radar showed a heavy storm chasing us and most of us donned wet weather gear just in case as our route was no longer heading away from the bad weather.

We then rode north beside the Tambo River enjoying the bends and views through to Swifts Creek.  The road then opened up and I must admit I really loved punting through the open sweeping bends on the final climb into Omeo without resorting to licence losing speeds.  We took another rest break at Omeo and took the shorter route via Anglers Rest to Falls Creek to minimise exposure time to the predicted foul weather.

This road has innumerable tight bends and really is quite challenging, but the scenery is simply great.   As I rounded one tight left hander, I disturbed a very large eagle enjoying a road side snack.  It decided to fly off in a leisurely fashion on my side of the road with its two metre wing span entirely occupying my lane for several seconds while I followed it!    Others can corroborate this.  The memory is mine forever, but sorry, I didn't get video evidence.  We took another rest break and regrouped outside the Blue Duck beside the Cobungra River before the final ascent to Falls Creek.   I had been lucky that far and decided not to put my wet weather jacket on!  Of course as soon as we turned onto the climb, where it became too tight to stop safely anywhere, it started raining properly.  By the time I reached the top, the arms of my leather jacket were soaked through.  I stopped and put a jacket on anyway and as the rain had rendered views non - existent we continued straight on to our warm and dry accommodation.  The lodge has a great drying room which certainly provided service that night.

Once rooms and bedding were sorted, we all met up in the dining room and settled down to a great night of camaraderie.  On arrival we were also met by Max and Gail who had arrived by car as Max had decided to hang up his riding boots a few years ago.   It is great that members can still get such enjoyment from their membership even when they can no longer ride.  I will quote Max's response to me on the Monday morning; "Got home with no problems, Gail and I very much so enjoy the company we were with and our stay at Howmans Gap.."           

In all, 32 people took part in this year's event.  During the evening it was very noticeable that the rain was simply "bucketing" down for a substantial part of the night.           

We all enjoyed a hearty cooked breakfast on the Sunday morning and then hit the road relatively early dressed in full wet weather riding gear as it was still raining.  I set off tentatively and soon discovered the shiny (and wet) alpine bitumen was still extremely slippery and I had a significant slide.  This reduced my confidence in grip (I was a bit surprised as I would have thought 12 hours of heavy rain would have washed the worst of the detergent and oil off the road - but not so) even more, so it was quite a slow ride down to Mt Beauty where we all refuelled.  We then enjoyed the run down the Kiewa Valley before riding along Happy Valley Road to Ovens and then on to Oxley, where we were made most welcome for our morning tea break.  From Ovens, Teresa and Brian turned left and headed back over Mt Hotham (which they said was windy, wet and cold) on their ride home to Sale.  In view of the weather, we decided to pass on one of our normal mountain crossings via Tolmie and did a quick transport run down the Hume Highway to Euroa instead.  From there we rode back into the hills, crossed the Merton Gap and stopped for an early lunch at Yarck where we were again made most welcome.   People then headed off in assorted directions to ride home and the last two hours of riding was in bright sunshine.         

I will name several people who have made very significant contributions to this event;  Ivan Leishman who started it all, former branch president Peter McMullen who championed the event for over 12 years and my son Michael plus his mates who have provided fantastic "pilot" services through east Gippsland over the years.    

Put simply it remains a challenging weekend ride which provides great camaraderie to a very diverse bunch of people.  Thank you to all who have participated over the years and I am already planning for next year.

John Cook #5048

Footnote:  Check the calendar the ride has already been scheduled for 23 - 24  March 2019 a few weeks after the National Rally at Mornington enlightened