Not all cycling rides are undertaken with a convoluted route in mind, or plans to arrive at some remote location in a distant foreign land in time for the local snake whacking festival.
Mostly we cycle in our own backyard, where every ride is a sneaky mini holiday come training ride. Training for what I wonder? Well there’s always the next ride, next week.
My local cycling loop, The Federation Trail from Footscray to Werribee, takes me out of Melbourne’s congested inner city along the coastal fringes of Williamstown, Altona and Point Cook, past belching Dickensian factories in Laverton, large scale market gardens in Werribee South into sweet smelling bushland at Werribee Gorge. I can dial up or down the distance between 50 to 100 kilometres.
The regularly ridden route feels comfortable. I slip in easily just like my battered old cleated cycling shoes, as they click automatically into place. The bike is given its head, we know where to go. I’m in my element out in the elements, cycling through the seasons for many years at a time now, a graceful weaving procession across the landscape and through history.
I’m cycling through the indigenous lands of the Bunerong and Wawoorung Clans, people of the Kulin Nations. There is still historical evidence of their presence. Kangaroos were once hunted here. Out across the flat basalt plains, lava from ancient volcanos ran to the sea, where it formed bubbles, which are still visible today. Convicts and then sailor’s from the 1850’s gold rush carved scrimshaw onto the porous bluestone. I stopped at low tide and search for the earliest examples, 1863 is my best.
Over the years of riding the trail, I’ve witnessed young saplings, lemon scented eucalypts, become towering gums. Along the foreshore of Jawbone Reserve in Williamstown, English built cannons from 1864, left over from the Crimea War and positioned to repel a possible Russian Naval invasion, sit silent as if still waiting for the Tsars armada.
Following the coast out past the deserted Cheetham salt works surveyors pegs point to land now earmarked for housing but no one has told the wildlife; a fox and rabbit play out their age old drama.
I return with the wind, sated, no energy zapping time trial, rather the adventures of a weekend warrior.