IP Day 34 – Aireys Inlet to Melbourne

Monday 25th April, 2022

146 km, +950m
Elapsed 10:23 Moving 7:11
Max 60 kph, Avg 20

We got away at 6:15 – in the dark. A big hop (for us) into Melbourne today, and it would be good to get the last bit of the GOR done before the traffic got going.

We got through Anglesea before sunrise, and then we took a quick roadside snack break about an hour in, just a few hundred metres before turning off the GOR. The route was taking us on a detour through the famous Bells Beach. I was thinking ‘Yay! Away from the traffic!’ We stopped a couple of times for photos at around 7.30am. So far, so good.

But then there turned out to be a few ‘little hills’ we had to ride before rejoining the main drag into Torquay. The air was BLUE with the cursing (ok, my cursing) at whoever’s idea it was to take this goddamn route up these STEEP pinches.

Here’s a couple of screenshots from Streetview to give you an idea – the last two. (OK, the first pinch was okay-ish… it was those second two that did me in.)


[Edit: Have since been informed by a friend that the locals refer to these hills as (excuse the language!) ‘The Three Bitches’. Not just me then!]

Now, I’ve sussed it out since then that there ARE residential streets that aren’t as steep that could have been taken (and most certainly WOULD have been taken if it had been a route I was plotting.) Mumble, grumble, mumble, grumble.

Anyway, Torquay by 8am. Time for some food. Today was Anzac Day, so we were lucky to find something open along the route (as the Great Ocean Rd ended and the main road became Surf Coast Highway). Fortunately the route took a turn, and took a secondary road out of Torquay through to Geelong.

On the outskirts of Torquay we had dotwatchers popping up all over the place! We were given a bag of freshly homebaked ANZAC biscuits from Fraser!  We were trying to remember everyone’s names, but were failing 😳… but it was a real boost to stop when we could for a quick chat, and a photo!

It was nearly 10am when we rode through Geelong’s city centre. It was probably a good thing it was Anzac Day – it was all pretty quiet. But there wasn’t really anything much open, so we kept going. The route took us on a shared path right on the edge of the water.

Some of the shared path was really a bit dodgy for a touring bike. As in ‘dodging’ pedestrians. Public holiday didn’t help that I guess. By now we were ready for a loo stop and refueling (read: Tracey desperately wanted another coffee), but there was nothing around. We wound through some industrial area streets (interesting side note: the Spirit of Tasmania port has since moved to Geelong and the route goes right past it.)

Back along the waterfront for a bit, so we stopped at a park bench and had a snack looking over Limeburners Bay and back towards Geelong.

Hovell’s Creek Trail then took us under the freeway and through to Lara, where we thankfully found an open cafe in the shopping centre. 11.30, but we’ll call it lunch.

The route then took us on a giant zig-zag of country backroads… about 30km worth. At least it avoided the M1, and there weren’t many vehicles, so, really, a thumbs up.

It was getting on for 2pm when we came into the outskirts of Werribee, which is an outer suburb of Melbourne.

We had a dotwatcher come out to guide us around a new road re-routing that has made the official route redundant. We felt a bit bad when we bailed into the first servo that we saw – we needed some energy (chocolate milk time, from memory). He kept riding, so we didn’t end up catching his name either. It was lovely of him to come out though.

We then had to get through Werribee and onto the Federation Trail cyclepath. Riding through Werribee itself on the Princes Hwy (yep! Princes Hwy again!) was a shocker with the traffic. Some dotwatchers waved to us from the footpath on a busy corner, but there was no way we could stop. I guess the original route planners may have tried to figure out quieter back street options (I mean, they make a point of it in other places) but just gave up, so we were mixing it with 3 lanes of traffic. Ugh!

We could see there was actually a service road running alongside the main road, so ducked in to try that, but it turned out to not be continuous over some side streets, so we had to merge back out into the traffic again. It was sweet relief to spot the trail and get away from the madness.

We came to a trail closure after 4 km but figured out the optimal detour ourselves. Another 8km of Federation Trail (which is awesome), but then came upon another closure where the route continued alongside the West Gate Freeway. We really should have done our homework last night! I had kind of dropped the ball on my forensic route familiaristion when it came to riding into Melbourne. I knew there had been posts on the FB group about detours, but for some reason I thought they were all on the way out. Wrong.

We stopped in a bus shelter and pulled out the phones again, sussing google maps, and also updates in the Facebook group, including one by avid Melbourne dotwatcher Lee, who said he was heading out to guide us in. We had just figured out the best detour when a rider emerged from the Federation Trail kinda like ‘Ah, THERE you are!’ It was Lee. So that was cool; I didn’t have to navigate – we just followed him through Yarraville – part detour, part route, part streets, and then onto various cycle path ‘trails’. At some point we were joined by another dotwatcher.

Time to stop for the city skyline photo op, and to take a few minutes to absorb the fact that we had made it to this next big milestone, Melbourne.

We had booked a motel in Parkville, a suburb off the route, about 6km north of the CBD. We wanted somewhere to easily wash clothes, and after a long day’s ride, maybe chuck some lube on the chain, and just roll the tandem inside the room. How lucky were we that Lee just happened to live right near there, so we got a guide right to the motel. We had ridden more or less that route at the end of our Sydney-Melbourne tour in 2018. It was sooooo much easier to do it with a local, and also not in peak hour, thanks to it being a public holiday. (Seriously, yes, Melbourne’s cycle trails are so well-used for commuting that they experience peak hour!)

4.30 finish at the motel. It was pretty average. And the biggest laundry rip-off of the whole ride, charging a blanket cash-in-hand 10 bucks for washing machine, powder and dryer – no discount for not wanting to use the dryer and having our own powder.

The Brunswick restaurant strip was a short walk away, so that was dinner sorted. We were really in Melbourne. A level crossing. Bikes whizzing everywhere. Melbourne really does have a great bike scene. I know it’s not up to Dutch or Scandinavian standards, and apparently it’s a whole lot better on the north side (where we were) but it feels awesome to this pair of regional NSW residents.

So I think it was over dinner that Marc finally addressed the ‘elephant in the room’.

“Um, so… now that we’re in Melbourne…???”….

Me: “Yeah, yeah, I know, we can’t stop now.”

Him – in his head “Oh phew, that was easier than I thought it was going to be!”

It wasn’t easier in my head – at the same time I’d been deciding I couldn’t pull out on him, I messaged this to my sister yesterday: “I mean, yes we can do it, it’s just whether I really want to. So tired. Really over feeling nauseous when I have to get up in the dark to start early. And I’m over the traffic. Just had enough of the dickheads. Close passes, etc. I mean you get that, but it’s just been too big a dose. I feel like this has put me off touring again tbh”

But the bottom line was that I knew all along that if he got me to Melbourne, and neither of us had anything drastically wrong, physically, then I would have to keep going. I couldn’t let him down, and I knew deep down that I’d regret it if I didn’t hang in there.

Whether as a thank you/reward/positive reinforcement, or just in regard to practicalities, it was decided that we’d have two rest days here. In our original game plan, we always knew we’d have to do some shopping to buy some warmer gear in Melbourne for the next section through the Victorian Alps and the Snowy Mountains. There was no point in carrying that stuff in 30+ degrees across the Nullarbor. We also needed to get new cycling shoes for me. The sole of one of my shoes had come apart several hundred kilometres back, and was being held together with duct tape. While it had held quite well, it wasn’t worth risking a terminal blowout in the middle of nowhere. (Thank goodness for Mr MacGyver and the stuff he decides is worth carrying, weight-wise, to be able to rig up fixes in the field. “Duct tape is more useful than a second airlite towel”)

So, anyway, we needed to be closer to various bike and outdoor shop options, Marc convinced me that it was worth shifting to a city hotel (where we would have to store the bike somewhere and thus haul out every possible thing we might need). That took some ringing around to find a place that would have somewhere secure to store the bike. A tandem bike – always just that bit harder to accommodate. Tomorrow we would check out of this motel, ride to a bike shop a few k’s north, and then head back south, and rejoin the route into the CBD. It would also be about 9km less when we headed out of Melbourne.

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