This was an extra-ordinary ride (for me at least) so I thought I'd try to describe why.
I had been wondering for a while if there was going to be a ride to mark the winter solstice, as there had been a summer solstice ride. The summer version was, as many people who have been on this site for a while would know, a ride that had a degree of tragedy attached to it and personally I was hoping to claim back a bit of fun and achievement for this particular solstice ride***. I hadn't said this to Dahondude (Jeremy) who organised the ride or anyone else at the time. I hadn't even met Michael Warner, but was one of many such people in the cycling community who were affected by his suicide to greater or lesser degrees.
(***It has subsequently been pointed out to me that it wasn't the Summer Solstice ride where Michael had his collision, but a ride a month or so later. It was what I thought had happened at the time, and part of my motivation for getting on-board with this ride so quickly. It makes me wonder if I would have been so keen if I had the facts correct in my mind! The things we think of in retrospect!)
So 13 riders met-up at the Tower Hotel shortly before 6.30pm, and it was reasonably warm for a winters nightwhich was helped by the fact that it was dry. We were also supported by Colin, who took up the top-of-the-hill supplies for us (some of which he baked) to enjoy at Mount Lofty summit. Ominously, it was cloudy over the top of the ranges and the forecast for the ranges was suggesting that it wasn't the place to be that night. Ah well, I was sure the term 'Belgian-up' was going to be heard a few times on the night, I was covered up enough and the hills would keep me warm, so onward and upward it was going to have to be!
The effect of a group riders heading off at night has a certain charm and excitement to it. I have found this on the flat runs with the Nightriders and heading up through the hills was no different. I knew I was going to be the slowest rider there (I was the heaviest/least fit rider by some margin), but to see the red blinking lights of theother members of the group gradually pull away was actually mesmerising. Eventually I was alone on the road headng up to Norton Summit and it was still, and mostly pitch black bar the light coming from my own headlight.
I did learn that climbing the hill, any hill, in the dark takes away the fear of the climb (or the fear of not making it).You can't see far enough ahead to worry about it! You just keep going. About half way up the ascent of Norton Summit we hit the cloud, which had seemingly started to roll down the hill to meet us. The further up we went, the thicker it got, until the lights from the houses on the side of the hill, no more than 50 meters away, could not shed any defining light on the structures to which they were attached. It got so thick that I nearly hit a kangaroo on the road that I only saw when I was within 5 meters.
I was just about to the top when Chewie (Rob Rau) came back to check on me and rode with me up to the group at Norton Summit (thanks Rob). I would estimate that the group had to wait for at least 5 mins, so those who weren't completely dressed for the occassion would have been getting really cold. Sorry guys! Especially as there had been a little rain starting to fall also. There was a brief discussion about which way to go to get to Lofty, the longer, easier way, or the hard way. Woodshill road. Inkeeping with the tone of the night, it was harder, shorter ascent of Woodshill road that was chosen. This was going to be a first ascent of this particular road, I have never seen it previously even by car. It was foggy and dark enough to say that I still haven't seen it. My legs have now felt it however! Despite considerable zig-zagging, I did get up all the way. If I remember rightly Jeremy turned around to see how I was going at the end of that stretch (thanks Jeremy). I had to ask him to identify himself as I couldn't tell from a meter away whilst moving along an unfamiliar road in a pea-soup fog.
There were a couple more stops prior to the summit, I have almost no idea of where they were! I think one was near the intersection of Greenhill road at a bus stop! I had a fair bit of time alone up there, never enough to lose my way (too many people looking after me for that), but enough to realise that this was a real test for me to even finish, but finish I did. What greeted me at the top was to see everyone starting to tuck in to well earned scones, muffins, coffee and tea amongst the now strong winds and fog with a little more rain thrown in for good measure. No sparking view of Adelaide tonight!
The descent, using the old freeway, was exhiliratingly terrifying and we didn't drop out of the cloud until we were most of the way down. I reckon I was on the brakes almost all of the way down.
So why was it extra-ordinary for me? It was my second ever ascent of Lofty and the first via Norton Summit. It was cold, wet and visibilty was atrocious at times, to the point that regular riders of the hills were having difficulty judging where they were and at what speed they should be travelling. The point was that everyone made it up and down, without so much as a puncture until the very base of the descent. Riders were equipt and careful, with enough in-car support to make it a fun event despite the best efforts of the elements. So thanks to all of the riders on the night and Colin in the car.
Bring on summer!
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