The forecast leading into our Daylesford weekend escape was looking favourable.
For too long the weather had been far too cold for late spring, but with 27 degrees on Friday, the tone was being set for a good weekend.
As the afternoon rolled into evening, everyone gradually arrived for a well earned Friday aperitivo. As is the tradition with our weekend escapes, our Friday night dinner is a casual affair of fresh home made pasta and this time, it was pappardelle with a slow cooked duck ragu, paired with a couple of great wines from the local Captain’s Creek vineyard. It was very quiet for a little while there….. not because people weren’t talking (far from it)… just that everyone concentrated on the soft pasta, followed by a delicious blueberry Clafoutis.
Wow what a combination…
Absolute perfect weather conditions greeted us on Saturday morning; it was still and warm, giving us a slim view of what to expect later in the day.
Coffee was taken and as I was cooking breakfast, I was mentally prepping my next steps for the day; which kit, where are my shoes and helmet… hhmmm my helmet.
Yep, all ok it’s in the same box as the shoes.
I carry on and finish a breakfast of scrambled eggs laced with basil and parmesan.
It’s time to kit up and get the crew on the road. Kit on, shoes on.
Helmet… it’s not in the box, it’s not in the bag and it’s not in the car.
Yep, I’m that guy.
The guy who’s left his helmet at home.
No worries I’ll just drop into the local bike shop….
Nope, that would be in Ballarat.
Ok, what’s next. The sports store? No there’s isn’t one in town.
Toy store. Nope. Servo. I am now clutching at straws.
Hang on, what about the electric bike hire place we saw yesterday…. they’ll have a helmet for sure… I ring and no answer.
Surely they’ll be open at 8.30 on a Saturday… nope. I leave a message and hope for the best.
At 9am, I decide to head up the street and check, and yes they are open, and yes they have a spare helmet I can hire.
Crisis averted, we get underway with my new sun visor equipped helmet and head out of town with an ever so slight head wind as we track towards Malmsbury, on our way to Mount Alexander.
It’s good to be in the summer kit, feeling the warmth in the air and away from the traffic and built up urban environment as we roll along the very quite country road.
Just before the 60k mark we hit our first, short and only section of gravel for the day, the end of this stretch also kind of marks the start of the climb.
This was to prove quite testing for all today, as the beautiful conditions amounted to the first hot day for a ride in months.
As we slowly ground out the 6k climb, most of us couldn’t get enough water in. It was an absolute relief to get to the top, rest, regroup and then roll a little further down hill to stop and have lunch.
This is a very timely and welcome break in the shade. We enjoy a fresh panino and take in more water and the sugary goodness of a lemonade.
With thirst sated and appetites quelled, it’s time to roll out and finish the back half of the course.
The conditions have changed a little but are still just magic; it’s still hot but there is a storm brewing to the southeast of us and the wind is helping to push as along the beautiful back roads as we near the final 15k back to Daylesford, which as it happens is virtually up hill.
I see the sign that says 10% up ahead and think ‘Robyn’s not going to be happy about that…’. I grind my way up and have only a short reprieve before I see another sign with the same 10%, I think for ####sake could they just join the two together. We reach the top of this pinch and most of us are done. I am out of water and soft peddling as I keep an eye on the ever so slowly diminishing km’s.
I see an elder gent up ahead watering his garden and think that I have just seen a vision from god. I stop and beg for some water as the guy tells me that it has been a little hot today.
Yeah, no kidding there.
I gulp the water down and get back on the bike for the 3 remaining km home. I can see the changing trees up ahead and the church spire, rounding the corner I see the main street of Daylesford, what a sight to behold, I get to the top of hill and then coast back down to our digs by the lake. There’s a couple of the group beside means we all just sigh relief..
Salt, water, a shower and a beer… but not in that order.
I’m not sure which of the preceding tonics had the magic effect, but we were now feeling refreshed.
A little weary, but refreshed none the less, we set about the next task of the day; starting the fire, getting the charcoal hot and seasoning the porchetta. After a little bit of faffing about, the porchetta is on and spinning.
Aperitivo is in full swing now with celebratory beers and proseccos going hand in hand with our traditional antipasti of olives, zucchini, red peppers and eggplant sott’olio, ricotta spinach and prosciutto frittata, homemade salami, a huge wedge of Gorgonzola cheese, and some beautiful olive bread from the Malmsbury bakery.
As the sun set, we shared the terrace with the kookaburras and relaxed and wound down from a challenging day on the bike, talking and watching as the little porchetta kept spinning and the skin turned to a golden crackle.
We had sourced our wines tonight from our good friends and wine partners at Vino Bambino, focusing on an Abruzzo theme to go with our meal. As we made our way to the table, the corks were popped from the Terzini Montepulciano d’Abruzzo and it was an immediate hit. With a rave review from Tony about its chocolate and vanilla flavours, we all had glasses in minutes. Full bodied and soft, this paired perfectly with the Porchetta, rosemary and garlic potatoes, broccolini with pistachios and our fresh, summery Amalfi salad.
Buonissimo. After a short breather, a silky vanilla pannacotta with balsamic strawberries was the final indulgence, only to be complimented by an ice cold digestive of homemade Limoncello.
What a perfect day.
As the group readied themselves for bed, the conversation turned to the scheduled ride tomorrow; how far, how high and how much gravel? After a little negotiation and a few micro adjustments, we had a new ride route for Sunday.
It was now time for sleep and a solid uninterrupted 8 hours of bliss.
On Sunday we woke to another clear morning with a slight chill in the air and a need for coffee. As the group rose and their need for caffeine was attended to, we had a leisurely breakfast before rolling out and heading west in the direction of Smeaton. The sun had burnt off the chill and we were left with another warm and perfect day, and with the only major road for the day knocked over in the first few k’s, this was a dream ride on back roads and country lanes, and a few sections of beautiful gravel. The landscape changed as we headed back into the direction of Hepburn Springs and became more “elevated” as we started the climb back up into Daylesford.
It’s interesting the difference riding on a road for the first time versus knowing what to expect when you do it the 2nd time….
We rolled back through town and down to the lake to finish the weekend’s ride and prepare for our farewell lunch.
Everyone had packed their bikes and cars and were freshly showered as they meandered back to the table for a glass of the fresh Pecorino from Abruzzo, which was just the thing to cap off a great weekend and a leisurely lunch of asparagus and parmesan risotto with prosciutto crisps.
Before you knew it, it was time to say goodbye to our fantastic group of guests, with people heading back to Melbourne, back to Bendigo and to Queensland.
With the perfect balance of challenge and reward completed, and a great experience shared with wonderful people, another Weekend Escape was over.
Until next time. Until Gippsland.
If you’d like to join us for a Weekend Escape, check out our range of weekends coming up in 2018 here.