24/12/2014 – written by Dave
1 Mile – St Leonards to Blackheath
Merry Christmas everyone, from Blackheath, NSW, Australia. We are shattered. We rode our bikes today a grand total of 1 mile. Or at least I think we rode 1 mile. My computer decided to stop working just as we started. I tested it the day before (in spite of Nancy asking me “why didn’t you test it the day before” 5 times at St Leonards station) (Senior editor’s note – I simply asked, once (not 5 times) whether he hadn’t noticed that before, in the several days before the trip when he had the bike out, in between bouts of watching the cricket). Starting a trip is always stressful. I should really say that starting a trip is always stressful for Nancy. Somehow I didn’t get it when she asked if there was “another train to Blackheath” as opposed to is there “a different train to Blackheath”. I’m not really sure what question it was that I missed but I was in “Nancy travel jail” for a wee bit there as we made our way to the mountains. (Senior editor note – to clarify, when he told me about the short transfer time at Strathfield station (we had to transfer from the train we took from St Leonards), I asked if there was an earlier train to Strathfield so that we would have a bit more time to make the transfer. He said no, but of course there was an earlier train that would put us at Strathfield with a bit more leeway on the transfer.)
We only rode the train because it is so much easier getting out of the city. Holiday traffic and loaded touring bikes don’t mix. Having said that, loaded touring bikes are never easy on a train and this trip was no exception. We boarded at separate doors so we would both have enough room for our bikes. Nancy drew the short straw with the vestibule near the toilets. My straw was not long, as I ended up in a vestibule with a severely overweight gentleman travelling home for the holidays. He had not showered since his last visit home, apparently – you get all kinds on the train to the Blue Mountains this time of year. He only stayed one stop, Nancy had the toilets the whole way, or at least until I rescued her and her bike back to my carriage mid-way up the mountain. Chivalary is not dead, Nancy even got to sit for the last part of the trip while I guarded the bikes. You do start to wonder about the glamour level of our lives at some point.
By the time reached the upper Blue Mountains, the fog really rolled in. In fact, by Blackheath it was socked in like an Oregon winter – hey, it is supposed to be summer in Oz – what’s the story? We only live 200 metres from the station in St Leonards. The ride to the caravan park in Blackheath was equally short. Good thing, with the fog.
Setting up camp was fun – not. Our new tent is small – probably just the right size for backpacking. Not the right size for getting all of our bags inside on a bike trip. I should mention that the tent is actually a free tent from Marmot. We got a tent in 2003. While we were on our big trip, the Marmot tent was stored. I’m sure we cleaned it well before storing but on return, the rainfly had delaminated. We sent Marmot USA and Marmot AUS emails asking if we could purchase a new fly. Even with the very generous Australian Consumer Law, we knew that the tent was 8 years out of warranty. Well, what do you know, Marmot decided that it was just easier to give us a brand new complete tent for free. I’m thinking that they may have been one of the 5 people in the world following our blog and they felt obligated. Nancy thinks it was just the easiest way to get me to stop sending them emails. Either way, we were quite pleased – that is until we set the tent up. It is small – at least compared to our Hillberg tent. Actually, it will be great for backpacking, but with 8 panniers and two handlebar bags to store it seems a tad bit small. The Chief Editor was not happy as small requires extra organizing – on the best day, this is not my strength. (Wow, now I have been promoted to Chief Editor, which requires me to make sure these entries really are factually correct. So, I am required to point out that organising doesn’t even really make Dave’s skill set, on the best day. Thankfully, he has many other valuable attributes that make up for that deficiency.)
Anyway – the tent is up. We’ve had a first day glass of wine, Aussie lamb patties for dinner, Christmas pudding for dessert and stress levels are remarkably lower. Tonight we get to try out our new Nemo Duo-Tango sleeping bag (in our small but lovely tent). Tomorrow is Xmas and we won’t be with friends and families. But we do get to ride our bikes (a lot further than today) and I’m sure that the fog will lift (and the rain, which has just started dumping down, will stop). Who knows, maybe the tent will seem bigger once we get settled in for the night. Merry Christmas everyone!