Today I feel like we’ve successfully navigated a maze – a maze of cycle paths, cycle lanes, dirt tracks, rural roads and sidewalks to arrive in Geelong without riding on a single highway.
Sometimes it was pure luck. Sometimes it was Eric’s research into cycling routes to Geelong. Sometimes it was just a “gut” feeling that led us under overpasses, along industrial parks, through residential neighborhoods, or by stagnant streams.
Avoiding the highways did not make the route more scenic. As a matter of fact, most of today’s “safer” routes skirted large industrial zones with the smell of resin, paint, diesel engines, or sewer gas accompanying the view of smokestacks, large steel drums, pipes, pumps, machines and heavy trucks.
Avoiding the highways did not make the route shorter. Today’s ride was 94 kilometers, about 22 kilometers longer than we first had planned.
But, avoiding the highways did take us to many places we wouldn’t have seen from a car or the train as many people suggested and I have a better understanding appreciation of the diversity and comprehensiveness of Australia’s industry and commerce.
We started near our hotel in downtown Melbourne and took the bicycle lane heading west on La Trobe to the Docklands, a revitalized residential/shopping/entertainment area complete with a large Ferris wheel. There we connected with a busy cycle commuter path with a steady stream of riders racing to work. We were cycling in the opposite direction, away from town, and tried our usual “hellos” and waves but it was “all business” for those commuters so we concentrated on the path. We enjoyed watching the large truck-like cranes that drive between the rows of containers stacked two high and pick up containers to load them onto ships or trucks.
The next portion of our ride skirted around the ports of Melbourne. I like seeing these ports and imaging where all the containers are going and what they contain. I also enjoy seeing large companies guessing that raw materials are being shipped in and finished products being shipped out or vice versa. I was Toyota, Dow Chemical, and a large Resin manufacturer to name a few.
After we left Melbourne and the port area we sometimes followed the Federation Trail, a cycle trail with some historical information at different places along the path. A long portion of the trail was parallel to the Princess Highway and had been paved next to what had been (and possibly still is?) the sewer system for Melbourne. The trail was quite smelly and a little noisy but it was protected from traffic which was our goal. One plaque told us that many years ago the sewer smelt so bad at some places that even the animals wouldn’t graze near it.
Leaving the Federation Trail we headed to towns (really just farm crossroads with a church near each intersection) of Little River and Lara. By the time we arrived in Lara, daylight was fading so we tried to get a room at the Lara Hotel. As it turns out the Lara “Hotel” is only a casino and a bistro so I now have a new meaning for the word“hotel.”
The setting sun caused us to pick up the pace. The head wind also added a few knots so the next 15 kilometers towards Geelong were a real grind. We somehow found a cycle path that took us on the bay side of the Shell Oil Refinery and other large industrial sites. I know this doesn’t sound beautiful but, to be quite honest, I have never been this close to an oil refinery. I’m not sure we even allow people to get this close in the US..Guess I’ll have to cycle to Texas to see.
The final 5 kilometers into Geelong is a dedicated (painted green) cycle lane along the bay. We arrived just as the sun was setting. The sailboats bobbing in the bay, joggers running along the bay, and the stately homes overlooking the bay were a nice way to arrive to our destination.
Sipping a Victoria Bitter (VB for short) is taking the ache from my legs and writing this blog is putting a smile back on my face.