Sister Adventure 2013 – Great Vic Bike Ride: Birregurra to Torquay


Today was perfection!   How’s this for a view?


Or how about this?


And what about the Warbys?



Sister Adventure 2013 – Great Vic Bike Ride: Nelson to Portland

Ding, Ding, Ding!!! We won the lottery last night when we accidently camped near the volunteers. They are great because we didn’t hear them at all last night, and they get up early. At 5am, all these alarms went off around us. Leanne and I were keen to hit the road early this morning, so that worked perfectly for us.

We got up and packed-up the tent, and then headed for breakfast. Again the organisation was amazing. I was a bit worried about breakfast, as I don’t do cereals and milk, but there was so much fruit for me to eat, yogurts, muffins, bread, etc.

We were on the road shortly after 7am. I again had a giggling fit when I realised I couldn’t get my leg over the frame of the bike to get on. This was a good old fashioned Alison giggling fit. Yep completely out of control, no sound laughing and then huge gulps, tears rolling down my face laughing. Leanne just shook her head and explained to the bewildered man nearby, that I wasn’t haven’t an episode, that this type of thing (the laughing) happens all the time, He responding, by telling Leanne that he had got my whole giggling fit on his helmet video. Glad I could be of entertainment!

Once I got on the bike I found the ride today so much easier than yesterday. I managed to stay with Leanne and at times passed her. She has a lighter bike, cleats, and is lighter than me, so leaves me for dead on the uphill, with my extra weight and speed I go flying past her on the downhill. We played cat and mouse all the way to Portland. I loved riding through the farmland. It was so nice seeing paddocks, green grass and cows. We did the ride today really easily and managed to get into town before the camp even opened.

We were there that early that we were able to help with the unloading of the luggage from the trucks. I almost did my back with some of that luggage. Some people were not following the luggage weight limit.

As we were riding into Portland Leanne started talking about going for a swim in a heated pool, and finding a spa. I thought that was wishful thinking, but ironically our campsite was right beside the YMCA heated pool. Ding, Ding, Ding!!! Winner, Winner, Winner!!! After putting up the tent we headed straight to the pool and found the spa. We had the most lovely time in the spa meeting other riders.

We then went up the street in search of food. We found a place offering Devonshire teas. It was here that I met Barry, one of my lecturers from my library degree at RMIT over 15 years ago. Talk about a small world!

Sister Adventure 2013 – Great Vic Bike Ride: Mt Gambier to Nelson

I awoke on Day 2 of the Great Vic Bike Ride in a pool of water.  Nope I didn’t have an accident, but Leanne’s tent didn’t cope very well with the overnight rain.

I also woke up feeling the effects of the red wine from the night before.

I blame the red wine for our confusion when trying to work out the time.  We couldn’t work out whether our watches had stopped or our mobile phones had gone funny.  It took me a while to remember that we had crossed the border and we were in a different time-zone.  This explained why our watches were 30 mins different to our mobile phones that had automatically changed times.  Duh!!!

Unfortunately we had to pack the tent up while it was still wet which wasn’t ideal.  The weather wasn’t looking too crash hot, and I was regretting not having found a proper wet weather bike riding jacket.  Doesn’t the universe know I don’t ride in the rain?  Leanne wasn’t fairing much better either.  She had bought a jacket online, but it was a size too small.

After waking up wet we decided that we needed to buy a tarp to put under our tent, particularly if the weather continued to remain wet.  Seriously – where is Spring?  But our first stop was a bakery!!!  Leanne and I had joked about this being our bakery tour of Victoria.  I started the day with a jam donut (can’t remember if I had one or two of these) and a cream jelly cake!  Excellent fuel I believe for a bike ride.

After getting the tarps we commenced our ride.  I lost it and got the giggles as we tackled the little hill out of Mt Gambier.  I barely made it up the hill and thought my God if I can’t cope with that, how am I going to tackle Lavers Hill?

We stopped in at the Blue Lake and then headed out towards the country side.  I think I would have really enjoyed the ride if it wasn’t for the wind and rain.  Leanne kept riding off into the distance and having to stop and wait for me.  It seemed to take forever to get to the first rest stop.  After that the ride got a bit better and I found some energy after the lunch stop.  As I was riding along feeling sick and sorry for myself I promised myself I would not touch wine again on this trip.  Riding in that weather with a hangover was not fun.

I have to admit we didn’t really explore Nelson because of the weather.  It wasn’t the coldest or wettest weather I’ve ridden in, but some reason I found it hard.  It was a bit of a worry that it was the shortest distance of the whole trip (only 42km).  When we arrived I just wanted to put that tent up, climb in and warm up.

It was at Nelson that we first saw the awesome temporary village that is erected each night for the Great Vic Bike Riders.  The organisation of the event is amazing!!!  There are portaloos, portable showers, a massive tent for meals, food vans, ice-cream vans, a bike store with bike mechanics, a camping store (I bought some waterproof pants), bars, a large screen that shows movies at night, and then thousands and thousands of tents.  It is simply incredible!

I thought the showers would be cold, but Leanne returned raving about her shower.  I still set-out though with low expectations.  OMG – the shower was amazing.  It was so hot and I felt like a new person afterwards.

That night at dinner we met a couple from the UK!  Yep people come from everywhere to do this ride.  There is a group of indigenous students from Alice Springs.  Actually there are lots of school groups, there are people our age, retirees and quite a few young families.  This ride shows you that bike riding is a sport that everyone can do.

Sister Adventure 2013 – Great Vic Bike Ride: Mt Gambier

Welcome to the tales from the Sister Adventure 2013.  What’s the Sister Adventure you ask?  Well instead of buying Christmas presents, my sisters and I now celebrate Christmas with the “Basket of Chance”.  What’s the Basket of Chance you ask?  Well before just before Christmas Janice, Leanne and I get together (usually there is wine involved) and conduct the Basket of Chance.  We pop three pieces of paper in a basket (or bag or bowl).  One has adventure written on it, one has decadent dining written on it, and one has cultural event written on it.  We each draw out a piece a paper, and then we are in charge of choosing and organising whatever option we pull out of the basket.  It’s an awesome idea!  Christmas lasts the whole year, as the activities are usually spread across the whole year and we get to do really cool stuff together.

In 2013 Leanne was in charge of organising the adventure activity.  At Christmas in 2012 she had given Janice and I a little package.  It had a bicycle bell in it.  The adventure for 2013 was doing the Great Vic Bike Ride.  We had spoken about doing this for a while, and the 2013 route was along the Great Ocean Road which we really wanted to do.  It also went reasonably close to home, so we could stop in and see Mum and have a night in a comfy bed.

Leanne and I did the whole 9 days, but Janice couldn’t get off work, so she joined us for the last weekend.  Our friend Emma also joined us for the last 3 days.

Preparations for the ride didn’t go exactly to plan.  I had hoped to go on some training rides, but that didn’t really happen.  I did manage one ride along Melbourne’s bike paths, but was so exhausted I had to stop and have a sleep under a tree. The only thing that got me home was the cold bottle of bubbles waiting for me in the fridge.  Leanne only managed one training ride in Alice Springs as well.  That ended in a disaster with a flat tyre.  So we started the ride fully prepared – NOT!

I had also been unable to buy a bike rain jacket.  I trooped around Melbourne’s bike stores trying to find one, but the women’s one didn’t seem to fit me and the men’s ones looked terrible, so I just decided to take my big hiking rain coat instead.

The night before we left I dug out my old riding tops from when we last did Around the Bay in the Day.  I thought, ohh I better just try these on before I pop them in my bag. OMG – it was a disaster.  Riding tops are not flattering at the best of times, but these were SHOCKING!  I had 8 boobs!  Obviously I was a bit slimmer and toned when we tackled Around the Bay.

Day one involved getting ourselves, our bikes, and all our camping gear to Spencer Street station so we could catch a bus to Mt Gambier.  We got down to the station and the place was full of people and bikes.  We were relieved to see that we seemed to have bought about the right amount of luggage, and that there were people to help us get us our bikes ready for transport.  We loaded our bikes onto the truck for transport.  They were cattle trucks which greatly amused Leanne and me.  We then boarded the bus.

The trip to Mt Gambier was very LONG.  Leanne and I ended up amusing ourselves by playing “I spy”.  She tried to trick me with “windex”, but I win the prize for “number plate”.  I had to give so many clues before Leanne guessed this.

When we got to Mt Gambier we grabbed our luggage and quickly put up the tent.  I needed a few instructions, but you’ll be pleased to know my tent skills improved as the trip went on.  After registering, we then went in search of our bikes.  Finding our bikes proved to be quite difficult.  Message to self – next time remember to pop some tinsel or something on our bikes to make them stand out.  The bikes had been taken off the truck and laid on the ground.  We had to walk around the graveyard of bikes trying to find ours.  After we had the bikes back at our tents we headed for the nearest pub in search of a nice glass of red to warm us up.

Our night at the pub ended up being a hilarious night.  We met Bill, who seemed to love a drink more than us.  He also loved to call us Darl…

We would have woken all our tent neighbours up when we arrived back with our laughing.

Around the Bay 2004

Some of you may remember my sorry “Around the Bay in a Day” tale from last year.

I must have had rocks in my head, but a couple of months ago I signed up to do it again.  I think I just wanted to prove to myself that I could get back before the finish.

The ride was on yesterday and we had perfect weather.  I completed the ride with Tanya (rowing/cycling friend) and my sister Leanne.

My ride adventure started the night before.  I had borrowed Tanya’s bike pump to pump up my tyres, and instead of inflating them I kept deflating them.  I couldn’t believe I was doing this ride again and I still don’t know how to use a bike pump, let alone change a flat tyre.

Some of you who know me a bit better may know that I have a hysterical laughing problem.  Sometimes I start laughing and then can’t stop.  Sometimes it may look and sound like I’m crying, at other times no sound comes out, but I’m really laughing.  These episodes can strike at any time, and the strangest experiences can set them off.  I had one such episode at 5am yesterday when I was riding against the traffic, with a taxi heading towards me.  It looked like being a head on smash and to make matters worse I almost fell off my bike.  Luckily I lunged for the tram stop and the taxi changed lanes.  Not funny you say, well for some reason I thought it was hilarious, and I started giggling and couldn’t stop.  Leanne and Tanya (who have both experienced my laughing episodes before) just shock their heads and probably thought to themselves that it was going to be a very long day…

I found the ride down to Queenscliff really easy, as we were able to take advtange of some great packs.  The pack I managed to get on outside of Queenscliff was awesome.  I have never travelled so fast on a bike in my life.  The only problem with the packs is that if only one of us got on to them you soon got separated from the others.

Reading between the lines you’ll probably work out that I really lost it at one point.  It was probably only for 17km, but it meant that I slowed us down by about 30 mins.  I didn’t really have enough to drink, but at the same time I was busting to go to the toilet.  At the time we were riding through some picturesque rural areas.  I should have been really excited about seeing cows, but the only thing going through my mind was which tree would be a good one to go and squat behind.

Tanya was Michael Schumacher.  She was constantly burning up the road overtaking people.  I kept thinking I had lost her and Leanne and then I would see these yellow tops in the distance, veering out towards cars and over-taking whole packs of cyclists.  I kept waiting for her to burn-out, and particularly when we got to Beach Rd which usually I power along and leave the others for dead.  But no, Tanya was like a Durecell battery.  She loved the tail wind conditions, and just kept going and going!

Leanne once again did extremely well, keeping up with and overtaking cyclists with flash road bikes.  (Leanne has a very well loved old hybrid bike.)

All in all it was a great day.  Unlike last year there was no sore neck, back or feet and no crying.  My bike is still in one piece and I might even consider getting back on it and going for a ride in a couple of weeks.

Can someone remind me next year not to sign up again?

Around the Bay 2003 – Where’s the finishing line?

Just thought I’d send you a quick report of Around the Bay in a Day.  Yes – despite the shocking weather conditions I made it!  It took us fourteen hours, and by the time we got back it was dark and they had packed up the finishing line!!!

Yesterday morning the alarm woke me up at 3.45am.  I jumped out of bed and joined the masses of bike dudes heading down to St Kilda for the start of the ride.  It was a lovely balmy morning at 4am – little were we to know what was to follow…

At 5am we started off.  My main aim in the early stages was to successfully stop at the traffic lights and to not fall off my bike.  (There was only one traffic light where I wasn’t able to get my feet out of the pedals and had to run the red light.  Luckily there were no cars coming at the time.)

The first big challenge for the O’Connor girls was the Westgate Bridge.  Surprisingly this was easier than I thought.  The views were fantastic.  Leanne and I laughed at Janice bringing a camera, but we got some great photos from the top of the Bridge.  Soon after that Leanne and I dumped Janice (she goes a bit too slow for us) and we sped off on our way down to Werribee.  I found this part of the ride really hard – Leanne actually zoomed off in front of me – I couldn’t work out why I was going so slow, but finally I realised I was in the wrong gear.

After Werribee the dreaded rain began.  (For those that don’t live in Melbourne it poured yesterday.)  The wind was driving the rain into us, and it was so hard it was stinging our faces.  Occasionally we would ride under an overpass and there were all these wet miserable cyclists waiting for the SAG Wagon to pick them up.  If you can’t go any further you turn your bike up side down and wait for the SAG WAGON (a little mini bus) to come and pick you up.

We managed to make it to the Little River service station and made the fatal error of stopping too long.  By the time we got back on our bikes we were frozen.  At this stage I was only going as far as Geelong and had every intention of finding a shop, buying myself some warm clothing and then catching a train back to Melbourne.  Unfortunately I didn’t bargain on my little sister being so determined to keep going.  I felt like I was going to let the team down if we stopped.

And so we continued on down to Queenscliff.  By the time we got there my shoulders and neck were so sore that I was crying.  We got down there at 11.50 (which was really slow going).  Unfortunately we just missed a ferry and so had to sit around for over a hour waiting for the next one.  I was so cold and miserable.  I sat huddled up on a bench, my body shivering and teeth chattering.  I promised myself I would never ever do this to myself again.  What made it worse was that we called Janice to find out that she had caught the bus back to Melbourne and was on her way home to have a hot shower.

When we got to Sorrento there was a miracle – there was blue sky and the sun started to shine!  Talk about four seasons in one day.  Soon we put away the rain coats and were applying sun screen.

The sun eventually dried my clothes and warmed by bones, but it didn’t fix my sore neck & shoulders.  The pain was beginning to get really bad again.  I began wishing that my bike would get a flat tyre so all of this would come to a gracious end.  Sometimes prayers are answered and next thing I knew my sister Leanne had got a flat tyre.  Yah!!  I thought this is the end I can turn my bike upside down and wait for the SAG WAGON to collect us.  But no, Leanne isn’t pleased – she’s mad!  I suddenly see a new side to my sister.  Usually I am the strong one, but today I am a crying whingeing mess, while she is this determined woman of steel.  There was no way she was going to let this flat tyre beat her.  I had no choice but to get out my bicycle repair kit and attempt to fix the flat.  Although we had the tools neither of us had ever fixed a flat tyre before.  For over 30 mins we wrestled with the tyre.  Cyclist after cyclist rode by us – they seem blind to our plight.  (Admittedly we didn’t stop to help any of the other riders we saw with flats during the day.)  Eventually a bus stopped.  The driver said she was the last bus for the day.  If we wanted to give up this was our last chance.  Excitedly with renewed energy I ran to my bike reedy to dump the damn thing on the bus.  Leanne however wasn’t as keen and so the bus driver fixed her tyre for her (in less than 5 mins).

And so it was back on the road again.  By this time we couldn’t see any bike riders in front of us nor behind us!  It was so depressing.

The iron woman Leanne finally began to run out of steam near Mornington.  At one stage she had to get off her bike and walk up a hill.  Watching someone suffer seemed to give me more energy – suddenly I was the one ploughing up and down the hills.  The view as we were riding down the hill at Frankston seemed to make the day all worthwhile (well almost).

At Carrum I lost it again.  My neck was so sore.  I ended up calling Janice to tell her where we were and burst into tears.  As were travelled back along Beach Road towards St Kilda, conversation between Leanne and I ceased.  Each of us were in our own little world, focussing on that finish line, willing ourselves to make it.  The sunset was beautiful and as the night closed in we had to pull out our bike lights again.

Eventually at 7pm we pulled into the finish line.  Fourteen hours after we began we had made it home – well what was left of the Finish Line.  They had almost finished packing everting up.  There was no one there to meet us, but some stranger clapped us which made us feel better.

Leanne and I were almost crying at the thought of having to ride home from St Kilda, but we discovered Janice waiting with her car to pick us up (how nice was that).  We had our photo taken with the time clock to prove we made it, and then as if on cue the heavens opened up and it started raining again.

And so ends the Around the Bay in a Day adventure.

Feeling okay today, but neck and shoulders still sore – could do with a massage.  My bike is currently in pieces on the bathroom floor – am unsure if and when I’ll put it back together.  Leanne is already talking about doing it again next year – I think I will take a bit of convincing.

Thanks for the e-mails and text messages of support.  Thanks also for the sponsorship – I sure earned that money for the Smith Family.

P.S.  I never want to see a banana, energy bars, lollies or blue Gatorade ever again…