The week from Christmas to New Years Eve I spent at Lorne. An added degree of difficulty this year was that due to the fires between Wye River & Apollo bay the GOR was closed past Lorne, so that put a crimp in the riding options. There was surprisingly little smoke, the only real indication was the constant stream of fire-fighting aircraft (from littlies to a Hercules and a four engine jet). On the plus side there was much less traffic with far fewer people in town and a total absence of the P-plate hordes for the Falls festival. Each year for the past 5 or so I've made a thing of having a "last ride of the year" and a "first ride of the year" – here's the 2015/2016 junction.
December 30 turned out to be my last ride for the year for 2015; Lorne up the Deans Marsh road to Benwerrin then down along the Big Hill track to … err, Big Hill and back to Lorne along the GOR. At the beginning of the track I met two of the local rangers who were closing off the road to stop people camping in there tomorrow, the forecast was for high 30s and strong winds so there would be an extreme bushfire danger and the state forests would be closed. No problem riding today, I was told, “but it gets very soft on the lower half and you might want to turn off at either the first or second track to the right to come out at North Lorne or Cathedral rocks.” I thought I'd give it a go and see how I went. For about half its length the track is wonderful and gently undulating through the bush, then it turns to some evil form of ankle deep floury dust and makes for a very slithery brake-squealy passage the rest of the way. By the time I realised that it wasn't fun anymore I was too far downhill past the turn off and half-sliding half-rolling further every second, making the walk and bike-push back up the hill even less inviting. Those braver than I and better riders than I may well go faster and not fall off so spectacularly. (OK, I gradually slewed to a halt, failed to unclip my right foot and gracefully toppled over, banging my hip hard on a rock and swearing copiously) Eventually I came out of the forest at a powerline access road, a few hundred metres of that and it turned to tar, through a couple of holiday homes and rejoins the Great Ocean Road.