(December 21, 2020 – written by Dave)
Last night’s indecision turned into today’s action – opening our blinds and seeing blue skies made it an easy decision for us to shoot for the furthest of our possible stopping points. We still don’t know about tomorrow’s rain forecast but at least by riding further today, we have chance to reach our AirB&B in Evandale for our mini Christmas break. Today we ended up riding our longest day of the trip and had the most climbing in a day as well. It was hard day on the bike but we really enjoyed it.
Our route took us away from the coast heading inland, more or less cutting across the north-eastern corner of Tassie. Since we were leaving the beach, it makes sense that we’d be going up but honestly, neither of us expected the sharp climb we encountered just as we exited St Helens city limits. We were in granny gears there and for a good part of the morning.
We crested the first climb at about 15k then had a short downhill into a valley before the longest climb of the day. In the little flat section before the second climb started a car pulled over after passing us and out popped the Pilipino nurses we met a couple days ago in Bicheno. They parked almost in the middle of the road and greeted us with enthusiasm. It’s funny how on these trips you end up connecting with the same people multiple times.
The second climb was pretty long, probably close to 20k, but it was not too steep and it took us up through a rainforest full of tree ferns and big, majestic gum trees. Near the top, save for the gum trees, we almost thought we were back in Oregon as we encountered heaps of blackberry bushes and foxglove flowers. We had some nice distant views on the climb but we also got sprinkled on a bit. That was thankfully all the rain we got for the day.
There was a nice descent off the top of the climb into the one pub town of Weldborough. We had thought that we could camp behind the pub if we needed to but it was early (only just 11am) and we didn’t want to stop yet. The publican was friendly and for sure it would have been an interesting place to stop. We had a couple flat whites and ate our muffins sitting in the sun in the pub garden.
The next challenge of the day was a route choice. It was shorter to cut over the mountain at Mt Paris Dam Road but we weren’t sure what shape the road would be in. It was about 18k of dirt, but 10k shorter than riding Highway 3 up to and around Derby. We asked the publican and even though the road starts at his pub, he’d never been on it – kind odd, and a little worrying. Luckily the cook came out of the kitchen was more aware of the local roads. He confirmed that the surface was good and that our bikes would be fine, so long as we stayed in the tire tracks. Sort of odd advice but he was kind to help out – he wanted to know what kind of suspension we had, so I think he was probably a mountain biker.
The first part of Mt Paris Dam Road was steep but the surface was great, mostly hard packed gravel with no wet spots, no sand and only a few sections where the gravel was slightly deep – all completely rideable. Traffic out on Highway 3 was almost nothing. Paris Dam Road was even more nothing. We had two cars pass us in the full 18k. It felt very remote, reminding us a little of the Carretera Austral in southern Chile.
We re-joined Highway 3 just before Branxholm where we pulled up for lunch in front of the IGA grocery store. At least we weren’t sitting on the curb but it wasn’t fancy either. We were both feeling pretty tired from all the climbing and we couldn’t be bothered to cross the street and sit in the nice park picnic tables. We had more lumpy climbing after lunch and a stinger stiff climb coming into Scottsdale. Maybe we were just tired.
In town we rode straight to Lords Hotel and given that it was my day to check rooms, we got the cheap room with shared bath. To be fair, the hotel is empty and I talked to owner into giving me the family room. The room is quaint with big windows looking east where we came from today. To complete the whole pub experience, we have a giant Carlton Draught beer sign in our window. It’s pretty average beer and we can only hope that the sign is not too bright and/or they don’t leave it on all night. Their fancy “motel style” rooms are almost twice the price and half the charm (that’s my story anyway) (Senior editor’s note – no surprise what room we ended up in when Dave goes in to check. Let’s see if the story of “there’s no one here, it will be quiet” works out later on. And I’ll be sure to wake him up when I have to get up in the middle of the night to trek down to the far end of the hallway to find the bathroom!).
We wondered town a bit and found the microbrewery where they make Little River beers. Unfortunately they have pretty limited “cellar door” hours and only serve food on the weekends. So for dinner we ended back at the pub. Out of respect, I had a LR Pale Ale which they carry here in the pub. Our meals were ok but best of all was figuring out a way to order a meal and NOT get chips. I think we are both a little chipped out – that happens when you eat at pubs too often.
Tomorrow, depending on which forecast you read, there is, or isn’t, a dry window of no rain forecast that is wide enough for us to ride to Evansdale and stay dry. What are the odds? We are looking forward to reaching Evansdale. We’ll spend four nights there but will ride one of the middle days (more on that later). We found on our longer trips that moving every day can be tiring. It will be nice to have a few nights in one place, especially over Christmas.