Home seems very quiet after four days of niece-and-nephew filled activity! Time to catchup on a few of the outstanding chores, put away some of the Christmas loot and buy some much-needed provisions, then time to get off the couch and get out on the bike — far too little bike riding has been done this year.

I decided to go east in search of Lysterfield park, site of the Commonwealth Games mountain biking circuit, and ride around some of the trails out there. Not at all familiar with the area, our street directory in the kitchen shows the whole park as one big empty space since it predates most of the development out there.

North road then Wellington road, far too much traffic and noise, not a single one paying any attention to the lowered speed limits for the construction works… construction works that had narrowed the lanes in places and led to some interesting moments when two obnoxious semi-trailer drivers passed within inches, too lazy to pull out into the adjoining, traffic-free lane.

Somehow I managed to skirt almost the whole park, following the main road south and then winding my way around through endless suburban streets, eventually finding myself at North Hallam road and heading back north towards the parkland again! Finally found an entrance to Churchill park and rode in, then tried my best to memorise the very complicated network of fire-trails, walking, and riding paths! I think its the first off-road riding I’ve done for years, straight off along Bellbird track and gradually up hill…. Then gradually uphill became steeply uphill and it really hit home how long it is since I’ve been off road! Tyres slipping and sliding in the gravel as I tried to keep traction, trying to keep my eyes on where I wanted to go, and an unfit heart hammering away telling me how unfit I’ve become! I have no idea what my maximum heart rate really is, going by the simplistic old 220 minus your age then it shouldn’t have been allowed to get up over 180 — the Edge GPS/HRM happily telling me that it hit 183 at some point!

Finally back down hill, a slow cruise in the gravel with the road tyres, taking my time to admire the views and listen to all the bird-life — and to get my breath back. The track finally ended at a 2m fence and an enormous locked gate, so back half-way up the hill to try a different way, and finally out into the back streets of Rowville. I then tried for a while to get back to the park by following the roads, but the whole suburb seems a maze of dead-ends and circuits, with very few through roads, so I didn’t seem to be getting anywhere. The endless blocks of enormous hideous McMansions in all their brick ugliness were an ugly shock too — such massive houses packed almost fence to fence, no eaves, brick cubes, and the gaping maw of double or triple garages filling the front.

Time to leave this place and return to known ground … a bit of guesswork and a few turns hopefully in the right direction, then follow what seemed to be a main road through the suburb and I found myself back almost where I’d started, at the corner of Stud road and Wellington road. I took a meandering way home, where Wellington road crosses Dandenong creek I detoured off onto the cycle path, then followed it up to Jells park and attempted to get home along the Scotchmans Creek trail, but abandoning it somewhere in Mount Waverley — infuriating that after ten years of riding around these bike paths I can still lose them as they cross roads and zigzag on and off road through the suburbs! The Dandenong creek path had dried out from its Christmas flooding — as with many paths, it was built as an after thought at creek level under road crossings — all I had to contend with were a myriad of helmet-less families wobbling their way along the paths on the left, on the right, or straight down the middle towards me.

I really only rode through one very small section of the park, discovering afterwards that I was nowhere near the main trails and Lysterfield lake which were even further east! Maybe next time I’ll take a copy of the map with me!