Brisbane Royal Show Day 2011 - Does one subject oneself to a congested environment, abundant with a plethora of airborne micro organisms, micro pollutants, and reconstituted country air? Or does one languor in tranquil surrounds, bestow their lungs with actual country air, and expose themselves to a trace of macro pollutants? From an MTB enthusiast's perspective, the answer is definitive - ride the "family" corridor of the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail (BVRT), ie. Fernvale to Lowood.
Upon entering the township of Fernvale we honed in on the public amenities and deposited Starvin' Marvin in the carpark while we went in pursuit of sustenance. At midday the main street was a flurry of life, which made accessing our chosen culinary target - Old Fernvale Bakery, somewhat of a challenge. When inside the bakery it was as though we had been transported in space and time to the strawberry and ice-cream stand at the Ekka; waiting to be served in one of several queues that went out the door. Our wait was well worth it though. We indulged in freshly made chicken and salad rolls, followed by decadent treats of blueberry apple turnover complete with pink cream for Malcolm and a caramel-cranberry-nut slice for me.
Following refuelling our bodies, we set off for the Fernvale Futures Visitor Information Centrefor reassurance that the Fernvale to Lowood trail was open. The Information Officers there were very friendly, knowledgeable, and helpful. They presented us with up-to-date information on what parts of the Ipswich to Blackbutt sections of the BVRT were open, which was very useful for future endeavours. More importantly, these Officers were more than willing to give us the affirmative to engage in the Fernvale to Lowood trail. Armed with the knowledge of the Fernvale to Lowood section being open, we went and got Tiberius and ourselves ready for some more misadventures along the BVRT.
Before setting off for the trail, Malcolm decided we'd go and get a photograph of the Fernvale Futures Visitor Information Centreas a precautionary measure just in case we didn't get back in time for dusk to descend upon us and shadow our photographic record. The centre is reported to be the original site for the Fernvale platform and displays some railway memorabilia. The trek to the centre from the amenities was rather quaint as it contained some of the old railway track that was backfilled. Riding between these tracks invoked my obligatory duty as a Stoker to make "train engine" noises. Back at the centre, Malcolm was attempting to take a strategic photo of Tiberius and I with the old Fernvale platform seat in view when an affable lady by the name of Janelle Nicholson approached us and asked if we'd like her to take a photo of the three of us. We spoke at large with Janelle because she said her husband Dean was also into riding tandems and would be interested in seeing Tiberius. So, Janelle summoned Dean to come and have a look at Tiberius. In this instance, the use of the term "look" is metaphorical because Dean is legally blind but that didn't stop him from being able to appreciate Tiberius in all his glory. And if you'd like to follow Dean's exploits on a tandem go to:
Blind Courage http://www.blindcourage.org/
The Fernvale to Lowood trail had the same rideability legend as the Esk to Toogoolawah trail. Most of the trail was designated "Moderate Grade - surface may be rough" with a section of "Easy Grade - even surface" at the start (Fernvale Memorial Park to Fernvale Road) and finish (running parallel to 50m of old railway track into Lowood Train Station). There is a notable difference in the Fernvale to Lowood trail, it is more detached from its setting in comparison to the Esk to Tooloogawah or Moore to Linville trails. This is because the Fernvale to Lowood trail sets the rider adjacent to paddocks rather than steering them through the paddocks. At any rate, the Fernvale to Lowood trail is definitely fast by MTBO standards. On a scale from 1-4 where one is able to be ridden flat out by an elite rider and four is barely rideable, the Fernvale to Lowood section rates as negative one. Having said that, the trail is very inviting for families to ride because it is largely flat and very easy to negotiate, inspiring one to meander and indulge in one's surroundings despite the surface being conducive to speed. While the trail is favorable to a high tempo, the sporadic barriers may dampen the pace for those wishing to be expeditious. You can ride through these barriers without having to dismount but at a lesser pace. Alternatively, in some places the barriers can be circumvented. In addition to barriers being in place to help riders decelerate, there is also the periodic gate to traverse, which brings you to a temporary halt. What I particularly liked about this trail is all the water crossings contained concrete culverts, which made for smoother and faster riding as opposed to the freshly laid river rocks we encountered on the Esk to Toogoolawah trail.
Almost immediately after we had crossed Fernvale Road, we encountered a family of cyclists on the trail. They were taking a breather on the side of the trail, just before we came across our first concrete culvert. While we did see other cyclists embarking upon the trail ahead of us, we did not encounter anyone else until Lowood. It was good to see others making use of the trail, especially families on "people's day".
The route from Fernvale to Lowood was pretty direct but we did find the section near the Shelter Shed to be a little unclear. Basically, stay on the dirt and avoid going near the bitumen and you'll be fine. BTW, the Shelter Shed is marked on the BVRT: Fernvale to Lowood brochure.
There are a couple of sections of the trail towards the Lowood end that have spectacular terraced views of the Brisbane River. It is along this section of the trail that the dry-stone pitch rock and brick walling of the railway cuttings makes for very interesting viewing, something I studied very closely when the embankment got steeper and narrower.
Entering Lowood across Prospect Street is probably on par with "Advanced-Grade" as riders are taken across a narrow strip of rutted trail that abuts an embankment. We chose to hit the road on the way back as it was far more cycle-friendly. Once clear of the embankment the trail flattens out again and you'll find yourself running parallel to circa 50 metres of old railway track. These tracks were littered with dead grass seed that were spiky when we rode it. And I don't mind telling you it was as though our mere presence imbibed life back into these seeds as they catapulted themselves off of Tiberius' tyres onto our legs, stinging our skin as they made contact. We didn't linger in Lowood as it looked as though the heavens were considering making us even cooler and potentially soggy in the foreseeable future. So, with the help of a pleasant elderly couple who were passing, we acquired more photographic evidence of our visit and headed back to Fernvale.
The trip back to Fernvale was the same as the outbound trip except perhaps the Brisbane River comes into view for a longer duration, so one has a tendency to further study those dry-stone railway cuttings. On our way back to Fernvale we encountered a couple of pedestrians (one inbound and one outbound) at the Lowood end. This was the most human traffic we'd encountered to-date on a BVRT but it still wasn't on par with the Ekka crowds.
Back in Fernvale, circa 3:30pm, it was time for afternoon tea. So, we took ourselves back to CJ's Cafe for a light snack and first-rate country custom. You know, for people who weren't very hungry, we somehow ended up ordering hearty snacks. Malcolm ordered a hotdog with the works and I ordered an open grill, each getting caramel milkshakes to wash it all down with. Well, when Malcolm's hotdog came I swear it was a foot long, with the Frankfurt engulfed in a whole side of pig, not to mention the sea of onion and cheese that accompanied it - all for $6.50. While my open grill wasn't as long as Malcolm's hotdog, it probably outdid the hotdog on thickness. For lashings of avocado, mushrooms, tomato, onion, and cream cheese made my open grill stand several inches tall, and the best part of my open grill was the baked on crispy cheddar cheese that not only topped it, but also surrounded the bread itself. And it only cost $7.95! These were truly tasty, hearty snacks at very affordable prices. Boy, those Proprietors of CJ's really know now to look after their customers!