For the people who know me, Canberra has a magical attraction for me: It's cold in the winter, flat, fully designed and the size a city shouldn't be allowed to grow over. If it wasn't for the rejection of the people of TPG Australia I would be living there now...
This Saturday I had the pleasures of being in Canberra, having to take care of both Dirk and Hanorah and being close to lake Burley Griffin, in other words: a good weekend for cycling around the lake! Again!
Again? Yes, two years ago I did the full trip around the whole lake with Dirk on the back seat, from southern Canberra to the south/west point of the lake, back via the north and then back to south to the starting point. It was cloudy most of the trip, because when the clouds disappeared in the last fifteen minutes I felt like I was being roasted alive.
So this year with the three of us, I in the front and Dirk and Hanorah in a trailer. Hanorah has been on the bicycle a couple of times, but never for longer than 30 minutes. This 16 kilometers / 60-90 minutes trip around the western basin of lake Burley Griffin would be very long for her...
If you are staying close to the northern part of the Commonwealth Avenue bridge, the best place to hire a bicycle is Mr Spokes Bike hire. They have normal bicycles, tandems, with trailers and tag-a-longs. Oh, and pedal cars which I don't want to talk about.
The first five minutes of the trip they both were laughing and having great fun in the back. And from there it went uphill for me and downhill for them: Hanorah didn't like the helmet so I took hers off, Dirkie got bored so he got my cap, my map (you don't need a map to go around the lake, just follow the path), my bottle and my keys. That seemed to entertain them and we kept on going!
My trips with Dirk on the back has trained me to drag extra weight along but the ten extra kilos of Hanorah and the absence of a front gears made it impossible for me to go as fast as I liked, instead I rolled on nicely.
There are three uphill parts: The bridge at the exit to Belconnen, east of Government House and the Commonwealth Avenue bridge. But unless you are dragging a trailer with you, they are really nothing to worry about.
At a little bit less than two hours we came to the Commonwealth Avenue bridge and I wondered if I should do the central basin of the lake too, but a quick peek in the trailer showed that it would be disastrous for Hanorah so I called it a day, returned the bicycle and we went swimming in the pool.
According to the map, this trip is only 66 kilometers, which should be doable easily in four hours. Unfortunately we are not talking about a flat country like the Netherlands, but hilly south-of-Sydney-in-Australia...
The summer in Australia has been a very nice one: Not day-after-day a blue sky with awful hot days, but a lot of clouded days with nice 20-25 degrees Celsius: Ideal for cycling!
So, the first part, to Heathcote went as normally in 75 minutes. As I have written before, the part between Waterfall and Helensburgh via the Freeway 1 is not a nice one, so I took the Old Princes Highway. Which is nice and windy and with trees, but also with one hill near the exit to the Woronora Dam Road which kind of went wrong in every way: Just before the turn, I gave Dirkie an apple and started eating a banana. So I needed my breath for eating and breathing. Then Dirkie found out that there is a hole in his apple (at the core) and doesn't like it anymore, so I had to eat his too. Another number of breaths gone, and I was still going uphill. Short story long: I walked the last 20% of the hill.
In Helensburgh we had late lunch, Dirkie played in the park and the sky opened to a full blue sky and the temperature soared up. So we didn't get further than Stanwell Beach where we got picked up by Naomi for a swim.
Next time we will do the last 28 kilometers between Stanwell Park and Wollongong, but not today. Not today...
The part of greater Sydney where I live in is blessed with one cyclepath, which goes north/south all the way from Cronulla to Brighton-Le Sands. It doesn't go further, because the tunnel under the airport landingstrip is not suitable for cyclists: Cars are driving in rows of four, each side, through it at 80 kilometers per hour. It surely was something they didn't think about when they build that tunnel. And it is quite a shame, because now you can't cycle all the way around Botany Bay.
A second cyclepath goes from east-west from Homebush Bay to Brighton-Le Sands. If you link these two, you end up with a cyclepath between Cronulla and Homebush Bay! Or in my case, from Caringbah to Greenacre. good for fourty kilometers.
In a city where cyclists are considered second-rate citizens, these kind of facilities should be cherished. They are made for recreational cyclists, you wouldn't want to do them every day: They are way too messy and clumsy and you can't make proper speeds on them. So euhm.... what do we have?
From Caringbah to over the Captain Cook bridge, it's industrial area backstreet. If you come from Cronulla you can take the cyclepath between Shark Park and Taren Point. Between Sandringham and Brighton-Le Sands it is shared with pedestrians and often very windy path. Add constantly bumps and having to move up and down from the footpath onto the road, it is less than optimal.
From Brighton-Le Sands to South Strathfield goes via the Captain Cook river. The first part goes south past a lot of vegetable patches, then north past the St George soccer field, under the M5 and there I got lost. But after I hit the Princes Highway and went north I found the river again. Going past the river is very nice and even on a hot day like today it was cool enough. The whole path is interrupted by crossings with roads where you have to break, stop, pass first part, pass second part, and start again. But it is doable. And if you have, or your pillion has, enough of it, there are enough parks with playground facilities on the road.
The Captain Cook river, at Brighton-Le Sands it is a big river, but the further and further you go it will shrink in size, until at the end you have a small stream of water, 30 centimeters wide, floating in a huge concrete bed.
The last part of the trip past the Captain Cook river ends at the crossing with the Hume Highway / Liverpool Road in Strathfield. There you again see the Sydney you know, with its asphalt and cars. Luckily the footpath is safe, and two kilometers further we were at the home of Dirkie's Australian grandparents where we spend the rest of the afternoon.
If you are on holiday in San Francisco, crossing the Golden Gate bridge is a must. You can drive over it with a car (well, you didn't need to come to SF for that, you can drive with a car whereever you want to) or walk over it (always exciting, but what are you going to do on the other side of that bridge?). Third option: You can cycle over it! Being a dutchman, I of course chose for that option.
Hiring bicycles in San Francisco is very easy when you're in the tourist area (i.e. near Fishermans Warf). From US$ 7 per hour for a simple bike to US$ 15 per hour for one with 3 / 8 gears plus air-suspension. Throw in two more dollars and they will pick you up when you have a flat tire. As long as you are back before the shop closes you can have it!
So, now for the trip: It is a trip between Fishermans Warf (North San Francisco) to Sausalito: Past the beaches, over the bridge, through the National Park (optional) and then to Sausalito for lunch and some drinks. And then everything back, but the National Park is optional again. See the Google Map for details, it is nearly complete except the places you go up and off the Redwood Highway: You have to go under it to get to the bicycle path on the other side. Just keep following the beaches and the signs for bicycles and the bridge.
What are the highlights?
Total length: About 30 kilometers because you have to cycle back.
The first part of my trip to San Francisco went easy and successfull: Customs in Australian didn't search my bag, the plane left on time (I watched (Video On Demand with Qantas is great) the movie "Where is Osama Bin Laden" by the same guy who did "Supersize Me" I think and the Australian movie "Cosi", both movies worth mentioning) and except for some nasty bumps over a couple of minutes it was all smooth, customs in the USA didn't ask too many questions (I guess I am just a statistic for them), my luggage was there on the caroussel when I was ready and the hotel was not too far away from the Montgomery station and the weather was nice (read on for more on that one...). With regarding to forgotten luggage: razor blades and socks: I only brought one pair of socks!
To go from the airport to the hotel I decided to go by train with BART, or Bay Area Rapid Transit for long. For U$ 5.35 (otherwise US$ 30.- for a taxi) you can't complain too much. The trains are clean and not too slow, but they make an awful noise when going around bends, so much that it started to hurt my ears. Note for people who need to keep receipts to bill back to work: Make sure you put 5 dollar-cents more on your ticket so you get it back when going through the final gates. I am not yet sure how to go from here to Sunnyvale, since the BART railroad doesn't go so far south.
The Courtyard Marriott hotel has free internet, but it requires a daily recharge, which comes by going to the frontpage and clicking on "1 Day Free Internet". The good news is that there is wireless network support too and that is used for the Riverbed provided laptop. If you are overseas and the people you try to call don't have Skype or internet access available, use the Skype dialout service! For three cents per minute I could talk to my wife and children yesterday (I know, this sounds like a bad ad)
The weather... It was wet, very wet. So I didn't do much walking outside yesterday due to ENOUMBRELLA. But I did walk through it to get some tea bags (the hotel does have free coffee but no free tea and the waterboiler, due to its use in the previous years, is now smelling like coffee even if there is no water in it) which ended up in an hour walk through the suburbs and I acually enjoyed having gotten my hair wet like this, it has been ages ago since that happened. Today (Sunday 07:00, DST stopped here today so I have one hour more today) it is dry so far but still a 40% chance of rain.
So what is on the menu for today? First I want to have breakfast because I'm hungry like a wolf, then I'm going to find a place which will rent me a bicycle so I can cycle over the Golden Gate bridge, buying some more socks and then I will meet up with some people of the FreeBSD project.
The Tuggerah Lake is a trip which takes you past Norah Head, Toukley, Gorokan, Wyongah, Wyong, Tuggerah, Chittaway Bay and then all the way around the lake to the Entrance. Good for some 50 kilometers of travel, which is mostly flat. Google Map
I started at Magenta, at the eastern part of the lake. From there to Norah head is a asphalted road through the nature area. Through Carlton Beach past the lake and then over the bridge to Gorokan. If you are brave and curious enough you can visit the One Stop Rock and Voodoo Shop which is on this strip. After Gorokan you will see in the distance a traffic light with a huge hill, turn left (south) before the hill, there is enough road left for getting tired later. You can't cycle directly next to the lake here, you are always one block of houses away from it.
Once past Rocky Point you end up on a beautiful stretch next to the river. And when the road goes away from the river you go to a nice forest area again. If it has rained a lot, which it did for about 12 days before I did this trip, then the river is very high and all the moats in front of the houses are filled up; Not a picture you see often in Australia.
Under the railroad tunnel and the Pacific Highway and you end up back in the reality of a stretch of commercialism: The sudden overflow of cognitive impulses which fight for your attention is enormous. Luckily that the part of this road is very short, and you can relax on the road to Chittaway Bay and then back to the lake.
The next part up to the bridge at The Entrance is a piece of cake it isn't too late in the morning or when it hasn't rained for 12 days in advance: Too late in the morning and it will be all filled with little children cycling there and lots of people walking, and if it has rained for 12 days it will be flooded at certain parts. The flooding part isn't that bad, just make some speed, lift your feet and you get through it without too much problems: It doesn't get deeper than 10 centimeters. Except for two places: Just before the Rotary Park there was a whole street flooded and the last three meters suddenly brought the water up to the chains; and a silly low bridge near the Picnic Point Reserve which on both sides had very deep water on the path.
Once I left the Picnic Point Reserve (with or without dry feet) I went up the bridge and north back to the Magenta Shores. The trip took 200 minutes and included two breaks of say 15 minutes each.
Cycling between Caringbah station and Kurnell is 13 kilometers, but you have to cycle back due to lack of train stations in Kurnell (but there is one in Cronulla and Woolooware).
From the train station, go to the Denman avenue because you will not be able to cross the railroad again until somewhere in Cronulla.
At the crossing of Denman Avenue and Gannoa Road, turn left. If you go straight, you unnecessary will go up a hill. Past Sharkies and the school and that's the last you will see from Cronulla.
The Captain Cook drive is a nice long road with only two minor hills but it has, despite that it is a beautiful natural area, one huge drawback: It is full with factories and industrial areas on the right hand side. I don't know who got the idea of putting all that industry here, but it surely is not the right place for it.
In Kurnell at the crossing of the Captain Cook drive and Polo street is a small milkshop which does do a very good milkshake. Take the milkshake into the National Park and enjoy it in the Memorial Park!
Cycling between Helensburgh station and Stanwell Park is another nice size trip (10 kilometers) with a stop at Symbio Zoo and Stanwell Heights.
But there is one major warning: From the station till Helensburgh town center it is only hill up. And hill up. And hill up. For about three kilometers. But once you are at the Symbio Zoo you have two hours to recover from it.
From Symbio Zoo to Stanwell Heights is a nice refreshing trip through the foresty areas, and at Stanwell Heights an unique view over Stanwell Park and if you're lucky you will see some whales.
Down from Stanwell Heights to Stanwell Park is a drop of 250 meters over 2500 meters, making it an interesting experience for the brakes on the back of your bike. And at the bottom you can enjoy a swim on the beach.
Be warned, going back to the train station in Stanwell Park is an only-hill-up experience too.
Cycling between Waterfall and Helensburgh is a nice size trip (10 kilometers).
You can go via the Southern Freeway but I would strongly suggest not to do this: You only have three hills, but these are horrible hills which don't give you any satisfaction. When you do it early in the morning you don't have too much hassle of the traffic going between Sydney and Wollogong.
The path you should take is via the Princes Highway, on which there are more hills but they are not that high. And it will give you more shadowed areas.