Armed with a bunch of new gear (Oregon 550 GPS, Tarptent Sublite, AMK thermolite 2.0 bivy), I set off in the evening for Bunyip State Park, about an hour and a half east of Melbourne by car. Since it was exceptionally hot, I didn't have much interest in setting off earlier. My plan was to arrive, ride a short distance and camp. Just in case there were any problems with the gear, I had spare supplies in the car. I would then spend the next day mapping the area for OpenStreetMap (whose coverage of Bunyip is zero - the park itself isn't even on the map), and head home.
Except...I never made it. The electricals in the car started to fail on the freeway, leading to the rather alarming situation of having no lights in fairly busy traffic, and a rapidly failing engine. I turned off the freeway, and just cleared the offramp before the car died. Called the RACV, who eventually (20-40 minutes my arse, it was almost 90) confirmed a dead alternator, which they couldn't repair, and couldn't tow until the next day.
What to do? Of all the situations to break down in, having a fully loaded bike with camping gear in the back is about as good as it gets. I had a play with the GPS, and discovered that the openstreetmap data in the area was pretty good, and I was near Churchill Park and the mountain biking paradise of Lysterfield Park. I told the GPS to take me somewhere in that area, and was curious to see what would happen.
Fascinatingly, it immediately took me offroad, through a minor dirt path in Dandenong Police Paddocks, an aboriginal heritage site. I didn't have the hang of following the GPS yet, and ended up bush bashing through increasingly impassible scrub until I gave up and retraced my steps, finding where I'd gone off track. Then a nice ride along some pretty rough terrain, some road, a few aborted attempts to get into Churchill Park, and eventually found my way to the top of a bike hill with a nice spot for camping. Not sure if camping is legal...probably not.
The sublite was pretty easy to set up, and surprisingly big inside. I think you'd squeeze two people inside if you really wanted to, but the foot area isn't wide enough for two mats. The side entry is much more convenient than my previous tent. As advertised, the tyvek roof breathes very well, and there is venting at your head, in the ceiling, and a vented door. I do need to seamseal it though - got a few drips in the morning from light rain.
It was so warm that I didn't even really need the thermolite space blanket/bivy bag. I slept without it, then woke up mildly chilly in the morning and got it out. I actually would have been better off with my silk sleeping bag liner which I had with me but didn't think of. Anyway, the bivy bag was very warm — too warm for the conditions — and will definitely get more use in summery conditions like this. Much better than carrying a sleeping bag!
In the morning, I told the gps to take me back to the car, and again, it found a great way back, including lots of single track! Awesome...I really can't describe how happy I was when that happened. I've been mapping stuff like that in openstreetmap thinking it's a possibility that a gps device would actually use it...but to see it in action, woot. I wouldn't have thought of that route, that's for sure. It was also cool that you can choose to ignore the given route, and it still figures out how to get you there. As an experiment, I turned onto the dandenong creek bike path, and it immediately figured out how to get back to my car that way. Very nice....
Then I got the car towed to a mechanic, and rode home.
I didn't have any big problems with readability of the Oregon 550's screen, but will try it out more. I did notice that it's particularly easy to follow at night, although of course you're chewing through batteries faster.
Anyway, that's a very long write up for a 10 kilometre trip