Saturday, June 29, 2013

One day Esk-apade

Let's get this out of the way straight up - I went riding for the day at a place called Esk.  Obviously there are lot of puns to be made here, so let's do it now: it was Eskellent, I Eskcaped for the day, I should have taken my Esky, the scenery was picture-Esk, I was Eskcited, and so on and so on and so on (insert your own Esk puns on the comments section if you need to!).  Now we've cleared that up, let's get into it.

I've been writing about cycling a lot lately, just not on this blog.  I've been doing a fair bit for a couple of magazines, and as a result of that I've become a bit mercenary about my riding and writing - I've only really been getting on the bike when I've been getting paid for it.

My latest deadline was met yesterday, and today I found myself with not much to do, so I put the bike in my recently acquired van, and headed off for a ride around the Brisbane Valley near the town of Esk.  It was raining in the city where I live, but by the time I drove the hour out to the start of the ride, the weather was overcast but not threatening rain.

Gratuitous van photo.  I must admit I'm pretty pleased with it.

 The best part is being able to put a complete bike in without taking a wheel off - I hated all the farting around every time I wanted to put my bike in the old car.  Oh and the fact it's just big enough for me to sleep in is cool to.

I hopped on the bike, and rode immediately to the bakery where I sat around for the next 15 minutes eating a hot pie.  Once that important task was done, I pedalled over to the Esk trailhead, before having a change of heart and deciding to go a different way to the town of Toogoolawah.  I hadn't been on a "real" road ride for ages, so I figured I'd hit the open road then ride back on the rail trail.
 The Brisbane Valley Highway heading north of Esk has a reasonably wide shoulder and smooth surface.  It's however still chockers with moron P-platers with Monster Energy Drink stickers on their Commodores yelling and swerving at you.  Every single time I have ridden this highway in the past 5 years, the drivers have been unpleasant to say the least.

If the highway is shitting you, then get off the highway!  Time to go the back way to Toogoolawah, if I can remember it...

Quiet country roads and farmland scenery.

After a few wet years there is a LOT of grass around - the next fire season has the potential to be pretty full on.

It's been a long time since I've been on an Australian country road.  Away from the highway, drivers are awesome, slowing down and giving a wide berth and a wave.  People are courteous and good and you've no chance of getting skittled, however if a car is approaching, get right off the blacktop and right over into the gravel - that way the approaching car will stay on the tar and not spray you with gravel while politely trying to give you a wide berth.

 Well named and signposted local landmark.  It felt great to be in the countryside again - I wasn't that far from town, this spot just seemed to be an anomaly having the vibe of somewhere much more remote.

About 10km down the road I came across an unsigned junction with a road heading to the East.  I had no idea where the road headed, but I did know I needed to be going in that general direction, so off I pedalled.

A good navigational choice - the road turned to dirt after 50 metres or so.

There was no traffic on the road, although it looked well maintained and well used.  I figured it must lead somewhere so I pressed on.

 New helmet!

Caught a bit of selfie fever and got carried away with it.  I very nearly binned it trying to get this photo - I was doing close to 50km/h and was more interested in doing contortions to get a shot of myself than watching the road.

So that's where I was!  I eventually ended up on a main road leading to Toogoolawah.

Bridge over very slightly flowing waters.

Looking back from whence I came before rejoining to bitumen.

On the undulating road into the town of Toogoolawah.

I lived in little country towns for a long time.  Being in Toogoolawah on a Saturday morning really made me miss that lifestyle.  Maybe one day I'll get back out into the bush...

Lunch stop at the Coach House Cafe for a burger and coffee.

By the time I set off from town at about midday, the Saturday morning rush had well and truly subsided.

After lunch I pedalled across the road, and joined the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail for the 20km dirt ride back to Esk.  The surface was a little rougher than I expected, still it was great to be in the outdoors, by myself, riding a stretch of the trail I'd never been on before. 

The restored Toogoolawah station building alongside the trail.

Lots of grass along this section of the trail.  I don't really enjoy riding through grass a huge amount, it's kind of like trying to battle across a really large doonah.  It's comfortable but you get nowhere fast.

First of many flood damaged rail bridges along this section of the trail.

Pretty standard for an Australian creek -they're either flooding like crazy, of choked with debris with very little water.

New way / old way.

Lots of signage on this section of the trail.  In case you're wondering, "moderate" means "easy" - I ride all this stuff on a skinny tyred cyclocross touring bike and it does fine.

To be honest I saw this about 4hrs into the ride, and I wasn't having too much trouble keeping it under 40...

The cow tracks offered the best respite from the energy sapping grass.

I'm flat out doing 25 by this stage, not much danger of me getting over 60...

A group of 17 horse riders came along the other way.  I was please to discover the usual cycling banter applies when you encounter an equestrian - "nice day for it" and so on.  One guy even made a few saddle related quips - I was impressed.

It's self-timer time!

The highest point of the Esk-Toogoolawah section of the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail, where the line crosses under the Brisbane Valley Highway with all its idiotic P-plate drivers.

Pretty much all downhill back to Esk from here.

Old rail bridge that seems to be made from rough-hewn timber.  Pretty cool to see how well it's stood the test of time.

Some legend had put some sort of marsupial skulls across the bridge on the cross-members.

I didn't even need to get the feet wet with the little rock bridge!

Last bridge before getting back to Esk.

Back at Esk I loaded up the van, and with an hour or so I was back at Brisbane.  It's not often I go out riding by myself, but reflecting on it during the drive home, riding solo is something I really want to do more of - particularly to little out of the way country towns.  I guess now with the van it's easier than ever to bolt from work on a Friday afternoon and spend the weekend in some faraway outback place.  

Sounds like an Eskellent idea - I'm Eskcited...


  1. Eskellent description of the trail and great photos - thanks for posting.

  2. Great reading - I did this part on my own too one about bumpy..and there was about 20 gates! Solo riding in isolated places is good for the soul. Always a great feeling at the end though.

  3. Nice story thanks, you sound like I think, moron drivers, bakery's, burgers, and that solitude of riding in the middle of nowhere...I've only done the Moore to Blackbutt section up & down after it rained, the gates were open on the way up but closed comin back down which made things rather awkward..cheers