Five of us geared up on Sunday to do the ‘Dotswood Dash’ again. We were the same five who were misled into thinking the 230km ride was only 210km last year, an error discovered late in the day when it was too late to turn back! This year we were prepared, two tandems and one solo bike, ready for a big, but enjoyable day in the saddle.
The Dotswood Dash bears it’s (recently bestowed) title because the ride travels in a loop from Townsville, out to Dotswood Road and along it’s 70km of dirt, then back to Townsville.
This year we did the Dash in reverse, heading to the Hervey Range first, riding across Dotswood Road to the Flinder’s Highway at Mingela before returning to Townsville. All of us were hopefully expectant that this route would have more downhill action, particularly once we reached Dotswood Road at the top of Hervey Range.
Starting at 5am, we had a good ride out along and up Hervey Range Road, stopping for a break at the Lookout.
As we pedalled further on and up past the Heritage Tea Rooms, which were closed at this early hour, we chatted about the lovely cool weather, how good it was to be doing this again this year, and how we might try for 250km this time; a few rolls around town when we got back would get us there.
At the turnoff to Dotswood Road we stopped for a rest before the dirt began.
In case you’re wondering, the big military warning sign refers to land on either side of the road, not the road itself. We have been along there during training marches with camouflaged soldiers carrying machine guns and slow-moving tanks, but there was no action today.
There was some speedy-feeling downhill at the beginning of Dotswood Road, but this changed very quickly. As we pushed into a strong headwind and up frequent undulations, we started to realise our hopeful expectation of a general descent from earlier in the day was becoming rather hopeless.
The grid bridge at Keelbottom Creek (the second time round) had us walking as usual. The recent rains had washed through and cleaned out the area, leaving space for a couple of campervans, campfires and dogs.
Lunch came when we had had enough and needed a stop under a shady tree.
Our lunch was interrupted by a very slow moving, empty cattle truck, bouncing over the huge stones that littered the road. The river obviously used the road as a pathway when it got really going and the road seemed to be made up of river stones.
We had experienced rough roads like this before (disastrously) and now had Sea to Summit straps wrapped around our panniers. The panniers were only lightly filled anyway and probably didn’t really need them, but we always like a bit of overkill.
The river stones hampered our path out of the lunch spot somewhat. Have you ever been on the back of a tandem that is rocking and rolling and bouncing all over the place? It was actually terrifyingly fine until we hit a soft, sandy patch that was supposed to be hard-packed and tipped over. Paul and Sarah had wisely stopped just before our tip and walked through the worst of it.
Thankfully the river stones gave way to the gravel again and we continued on, pushing into the headwind and enjoying the rare downhill, which just offset the headwind somewhat.
When we reached the Flinder’s Highway at Mingela, Paul and Sarah decided to continue straight onto the Calcium Roadhouse (food!). Trent came with us to the Mingela pub, a mere few hundred metres off the highway, where we sculled softdrinks and refilled our water bottles.
Our chain was showing the effects of 70km on dirt…
After a brief rest, we set off for Calcium roadhouse. Mingela was 85km from home, which meant just over 30km before we reached roadhouse hot chip delight! And we had the extra bonus of a wonderfully quick roll down the Mingela Range! Unfortunately the steepest part only lasts about 2km, which means it passes all too quickly, but it sure felt good!
By the time we reached Calcium roadhouse, we were feeling the effects of the day. There was no energy for photos, not from me anyway! We did discuss that we had not been any quicker than last year, and that we no longer cared about doing extra kilometres to bring us up to the 250km goal tentatively broached this morning!
Paul and Sarah headed off with gusto while our tandem and Trent trailed along behind.
As the shadows lengthened, we pedalled and pedalled…until we finally reached town as dark was falling, thirteen hours after leaving that morning including nearly eleven hours in the saddle…
It was a day to be celebrated and we did just that with a bottle of champagne before heading home for a shower, dinner and bed (although, in typical form, Paul and Sarah were contemplating going out Latino dancing!).
The evening finished with questions…will the Dotswood Dash happen again next year? Which direction will it head? Will it go further…?