Rest days in Melbourne

Tuesday 26th April, 2022

Sleep in time. We figured we’d chill until 10am checkout, then head out for a late breakfast, and to a bike store just a bit north, before heading into the CBD. I wasn’t going to last that long without coffee and some kind of breakfast entree, so, as you do in inner north Melbourne, I wandered around the corner to a ‘hole-in-the-wall’ cafe.

A skinny cap for me, and a couple of danishes would keep us going, but above all, I just soaked up this inner north Melbourne scene. I like it.

Our shopping list, apart from shoes, included arm warmers, thermal bottoms and tops, and cold-weather cycling gloves for Marc (we’d brought mine, but he needed new, better ones anyway). Oh, and ‘big bite valves’ for both our camelbaks. Marc’s had been leaking since Day 1, and mine had gunk in it. These proved to be difficult to source, at least somewhere within easy access to us – a casualty of the covid supply chain issues I think.

We decided we’d ride a couple of kilometres north to Commuter Cycles. We could ride The Upfield Shared Path – a mix of dedicated shared path sections, and quiet laneways – just about all the way too. Impressive. Google maps showed a cafe on the way, so that would be breakfast on the way.

Just as I realised we’d overshot the cafe, we heard a voice call out. Something like “Have a great ride TwoUp”. What the heck? We circled around to chat with whoever it was! It was a guy, Benny, who owned Radhaus, a laneway bicycle repair business that just happened to be in the same building as Acústico, the cafe I was aiming for.

So Benny was following Indipac, and just so happened to spot us. We chatted for a while, in between his customers, patted his dog, and had our breakfast next door. Their shops were actually connected inside, and so Benny told the staff what we were doing, leading to more chatting about Indipac.

Marc bought some gloves at Commuter Cycles, then we headed back. Just after passing Radhaus, we spotted a barber. Haircuts were on the list as well, seeing we were taking so long! Just over 6 weeks since I clippered his hair, Marc was well overdue for his usual #1 and 2. With my short hair ‘style’, at 7 weeks, I was overdue as well, and I knew it would drive me nuts by the time we got to Sydney. The barber, Mo, was free, so Marc jumped in the chair. Given my usual haircut style is minimalist styling/’wash and wear’, my hairdresser back home had suggested I just get a barber to cut it. So I gulped, and said ‘me too’.

I don’t usually get any kind of clipper cut, so it ended up so short that I would be happy to be covering my head with a helmet most of the time! Geez, the things you do.

Right then, back through Parkville, retracing yesterday’s ride back down to rejoin the route at Docklands, and then down La Trobe Street into the CBD. Right into Swanston Street. La Trobe Street had a separated bike lane the whole way. Swanston Street had separated bike lanes for some blocks, and none for others, so we were mixing it with the cars. The trams running down the middle of the road put a whole other degree of crazy onto it for out-of-staters. There are just so many bikes, though, that everyone is used to them.

We got ourselves safely into Little Collins Street and found Causeway 353 Hotel another block back. (Looking back I don’t know why we didn’t go the more direct route down Elizabeth St. Probably it was Marc trying to stick to the ‘official’ route.)

It’s important to record that we did indeed ride that 2.6km worth of official route. (GPS tracker bouncing off buildings – we certainly did not wander in and out of city buildings!)

Access to the hotel was via a narrow, crowded laneway, past cafes with seating spilling out into the laneway. I took my helmet and glasses off, and stashed the glasses in the helmet, as we walked the bike down the lane, and into the foyer. At some point, later, I realised that had been a dumb move because I repeated exactly the same mistake I’d made on a previous tour – putting my take-a-look mirror in my helmet, then knocking it off the arm of the glasses and losing it. At least this time I’d come prepared with a spare.

The next challenge was pulling out all the possible stuff we might need in our room – Garmin, Lezyne, lights, all the chargers and cords, toiletries, backpacks, etc. On top of the two dry bags that we carried on the back pannier rack (with clothes and stuff), and the bar rolls (we stuffed clothes in that around the sleeping mats and sleeping bags), we had to think of anything else we might possibly need over two nights that we carried in the frame bags.

Then one of the staff took Marc plus tandem down a lift to the basement. There were two lifts, one larger than the other, and the tandem only just fitted in the larger one.

We dumped our stuff in the room and then went back down and around the corner into Little Collins St to grab some lunch. These inner-city hotels are a bit of a pain with the tandem, and I was still doing a lot of eye-rolling about whether it was worth the hassle. But I suppose at least we didn’t have to go far for food.

A bit later we headed out on foot. Several blocks to Cecil Walker Cycles. No luck there with anything that we needed. Several more blocks to Paddy Pallin. (Thermal tops, tick.) Chemist Warehouse. Back to the hotel.

A couple of blocks again for dinner at The Crafty Squire pub. |

(I added it up – that was about 3.2km of walking this afternoon!)

We ordered online, for pick, up the ONE (only) camelbak big bite valve that we could find in Melbourne (that we could get to easily). That would mean a tram trip down to Bike Now in South Melbourne tomorrow.

Wednesday 27th April, 2022

Breakfast downstairs in the laneway. Yum.

Our shopping mission was incomplete, so it was walking time again:

We headed a few blocks north (again) to Rapha, where we ended up buying arm warmers. Walking again, to a tram stop and jumped on a tram headed south over the river to Bike Now. Except, part way into the journey, Marc realised that we’d kind of taken the wrong tram and were headed on a route a few blocks west of where we wanted to be! Nothing for it but to get off at the most appropriate stop and walk. We hadn’t gone far from the tram stop when we spotted a 99 Bikes shop. Well, that was handy. We had a look in there at the shoes, and found a pair (Northwave brand) that might be ok, but decided we should still check at Bike Now (seeing we were heading there anyway). 1.7km later. Their Specialized shoes (the same brand I had) were pretty pricey, so we said ‘yeah nah’, picked up the bite valve, and slogged back to 99 Bikes (via a lunch stop at a cafe) and bought the Northwave ones.

Tram back into the city. A stop at Kathmandu where we picked up some really lightweight thermal pants, then Patagonia where Marc got a lightweight T-shirt, and then a quick supermarket stop to stock up on snacks.

Back to the hotel where we packed up some more stuff to send home, and Marc headed out to post it.

We had walked 5.6km today (yep, I added it up!), and I was stuffed! Almost looking forward to getting back on the bike tomorrow. Almost!

[Heads up to any other non-Melbournites needing to use trams (or other public transport) in Melbourne. The MYKI card system is a bit of a shocker. The last time we were there in 2018 I was pretty annoyed to find out that if we needed to use the tram (outside of the free ones in the inner CBD) we would have to buy a MYKI card, each, for $6, and then load money on top of that! Rip-off! By this year, they had advanced the system to enable putting a ‘mobile MYKI card’ in Google Pay (now Google Wallet) and using NFC to tap on and off. Fortunately, we both have android phones, so that was handy. (No $6 surcharge to catch two trams!) I don’t think they have yet activated this feature for iPhones. Victoria has a lot of catching up to do with their public transport payment system!]

Bin time for the old shoes, but not before removing the cleats and putting them on my new shoes – in the right spot! It was, of course, a risk for bike set-up to be heading out on these long distances with new ‘equipment’, but it was the better option than risking the life span of duct-taped ones.

We weren’t inclined to walk anywhere else tonight, so we settled on the Thai restaurant in the basement of the hotel. I was regretting this as soon as we walked in. It was crowded (and noisy). What were we doing here? Would we end up having gotten ourselves this far across Australia, ‘covid-safely’, only to end up catching covid from a stupidly crowded restaurant because I was too tired to walk any further today?

We were also feeling a bit ‘country bumpkin in the big city’ because we’d never encountered robot service (with accompanying ‘music’) before!

Gawd, well, we may have had two days in Melbourne, but it was hardly a rest.

Tomorrow we had a lot of winding bike path along the Yarra to get out of Melbourne, and then some climbing. We were optimistically aiming for Noojee (about 140k) if we could get accommodation. Scotty and Greta had landed there on the Easter Weekend, and with no accommodation available, ended up sleeping in a gazebo in the gardens of one of the establishments there. Earlier today I had managed to contact the owner of the same place – Toolshed Bar, Bistro & Cabins/Outpost Retreat via Facebook; he assured me that they had a vacancy, and it wouldn’t be any more than $180, but I would need to speak to his daughter, the manager, in the morning. Our other option was to accept the generous invitation of IPWR dotwatcher legend, James, to stay at their house – ‘Casa de Carmichael’ in Yarra Junction (100k) – which he has thrown open to all Indipac riders over the past few years.

We needed to get an early start in the morning, factoring in getting a staff member to assist in accessing the basement to bring the tandem back up, then loading it all up in the foyer.

We had posted our intention to continue to the TwoUp and Indipac dotwatcher groups, and of course, received a lot of support. It does help a lot to have a cheer squad.

There were some vibes, perhaps, with some concern about how we would manage the two huge climbs ahead (basically Back of Falls, and Cabramurra). Some of that was, I suppose, whether the tandem would manage them, and probably our snail pace compared to everyone else played into that perception. The other concern was about the colder weather in those two instances of ‘high country’ given we would be hitting them in late autumn.

Marc wasn’t really worried on either count. We had managed our way this far with an eye on good weather windows, using, as one resource, Accuweather’s predictions a month in advance. He could see that there were still windows of warmer, clear days. Sure, if we went hell for leather we could get caught out with sleet or snow, but we weren’t doing any of this ‘hell for leather’.

He was also pretty confident with our lower gearing, and he had closely studied the distances and gradients of both climbs (especially Cabramurra).

In summary – he would manage the heck out of our timing so that we would be doing them in the ideal weather window. And he would manage the heck out of the actual climbs.

Me? The less I thought about those bloody climbs, the better.

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

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