2/1/2015 – written by Dave
132k – Wollombi to St Leonards (home!)
Today was a really long day. I’ll start with the mileage total as it covers a good part of the story. We had planned to take the train from at least Hornsby, one of the main stations north of our house in St Leonards, or even Brooklyn (at the bottom of the last big climb) or Berowra (the first station after the climb that had trains headed our way). We were not too keen on riding in Friday afternoon rush hour traffic at the end of a long day. Brooklyn was the first choice but the station has no lifts and two very steep sets of concrete stairs to get to the platform – not fun on loaded touring bikes. I remembered this from the last time we bailed there while riding the tandem. Call up Plan B – not stopping there meant we had the 4k Brooklyn climb to negotiate – with 80ks in our legs already. But I convinced Nancy that this would be better than the stairs.
While hot today, there were some clouds on and off during the climb – as part of my negotiation, I convinced Nancy that we could hop on the train at Berowra. Berowra made the distance just over 100k and best of all it has direct trains to St Leonards. Well, that didn’t work. When we rolled up to the train station in Berowra, we saw on the monitors that “buses would be replace trains from Hornsby to Chatswood” – or about 3/4 of the route we needed to use the train. They don’t let bikes on the buses, especially with all of our bags.
So, Plan C came into play. Just put our heads down and ride home all the way. We had a slight tailwind and everyone says “it’s downhill from Hornsby to the city”. Well, it is not all downhill and traffic was a little bumper to bumper in places but we managed to keep up with the flow and make it all the way home. While people on loaded touring bikes would generally be a novelty, in rush hour traffic, I don’t think folks were too impressed to have us out there. But we made it – I think it was the pie we shared at Pie in the Sky that did the trick…
So back to the beginning – it actually started about 10PM last night. It was so hot still at the time we got in the tent I convinced Nancy to roll back the rain fly halfway to see if we could get some more air through the tent. Then, when Nancy was up using the ladies she woke me to show me a spectacular lighting show off in the distance. I rolled over and mumbled. Nancy reported that we should be fine, as we still had clear skies (Chief Editor’s note – no, I did not say anything like that. I think I made a comment about the snoring that I heard while approaching the tent, which seemed incompatible with the statement that he would stay awake until I got back from the trek to the ladies room). It turned out to be my turn next for the call on nature at about 2AM – and by now the lighting was a lot closer. I’m not sure what woke me or caused me to get up but while watching the show, it started to rain. Lucky, as being up meant I could quickly deploy the rain-fly. The lighting stayed away but we got some serious big drop rain for a while, or at least until I fell back to sleep – as did Nancy. We were both pretty confident in our new tent.
By morning, the storm had passed and we had broken blue skies. We were up first at the camp site and Nancy suggested that we roll up the hill and use one of the pub tables and umbrellas for brekkie, rather than wake up the other campers with our jet engine MSR stove. I came up one better, suggesting we use the picnic tables at the new park right next to the pub. What a discovery it turned out to be. There were lots of signs about no camping and no alcohol but best I could tell there were no rules against hanging wet tents and firing up the MSR stove to make brekkie. We made our oatmeal and coffee and were rolling by a little before 8AM. It should be noted that our new friend Adrian had barely gotten out of his tent/coffin. I suspect that he had a slightly less comfortable night than we did as he was not sure how waterproof his “structure” was.
We had nice ride out Wollombi Road to start the morning. There was virtually no traffic and the rain had freshened everything up. We’d only ridden this road in this direction once and that was 8 years ago on road bikes. It was a completely different story on loaded turning bikes. There are two steep climbs then a series of rollers that take you to the conservation centre at Bucketty where we had morning tea. By this time the temperature and the humidity was rising and we were soaked with sweat when we stopped. We half-expected Adrian to catch up by now but it turns out that we never saw him the rest of the day – he could have passed while we were at one of our stops.
From Bucketty, it was 22k to Peats Ridge – one of our favourite cafe stops. This was supposed to be downhill but it wasn’t. The loaded touring bikes gave us a real test on rolling terrain – it doesn’t take much of an uphill for the weight of the bikes to stop the momentum you get coming off the downhills. We were ready for lunch at Peats for sure. Too bad our favourite cafe was closed… We settled for sausage rolls at the servo across the street.
For some reason, the ride down Peats Ridge was easier than either of us remembered. It could have been the sausage rolls. Before long we were at another favour cafe stop at Mt White. We were stopping now every 20k or so just to make sure that we had enough cold liquids. Nancy was dreading the rolling hills before the Mt White decent but they were also “not too bad”. Before we knew it, we were at the Brooklyn climb and I had Nancy in Plan B mode. She had been talking all day about how hard the Brooklyn climb would be (Chief Editor’s note – a bit of an exaggeration, I simply noted that if the sun was at full strength with no cloud cover it was going to be bloody hot!) but it turned out to be ok – we had a few clouds and in many ways a long sustained climb is easier than the rolling terrain of earlier in the day. We pulled over at Pie in the Sky for a pie (what else) and a little congratulations. Little did we know that the pie would provide the extra energy we needed to get all the way home.
Overall, it was a great trip. We are both really tired tonight and have a lot of cleaning to do the next couple days. We rode something like 740k in 8 days of riding and with nowhere near enough training. And we are not as young as we used to be. But we’re home and we have our own bed to sleep in tonight, and we don’t have 1,000 country birds trying to wake us up tomorrow morning in our apartment – I’m not sure that’s a good thing… We did go out for a pizza and a beer though, which is a bit hard to get in the bush…
In the next couple of days we’ll post an equipment review. New bikes, chairs, sleeping bag, coffee maker, etc… Lots of notes to make for our next adventure. Thanks for reading.