(March 2, 2020 – written by Dave)
Our second night in the tent was a lot more restful. It could have been our tired state but the sleeping pads seemed to have made less noise last night than they did the first night – for sure. The jury is still out on the tent overall. It is small which is great for weight and small footprint but not many panniers will fit inside with us so using it on a long trip would have some drawbacks (Senior Editor’s note – hmm, some major drawbacks…). We’ll need to work this out before we tackle the next long trip.
We had a short day planned and packed up slowly to the sound of kookaburra calls echoing around the park. For brekkie, we decided to put some more money back into the local community and headed over to the general store. The same gal was working and we got more of the story. She works seven days a week as she owns the place and loves life out in the bush. The store has pretty basic grocery supplies but has tasty homemade goods and lots of locally made things for sale. And, most importantly, she has an espresso machine so proper flat whites were on offer. She greeted everyone with a smile and really seemed to enjoy what she was doing. We were more than happy having made the stop in Bylong and contributing to her business. For sure it is a recommended stop if you pass by that way.
Leaving Bylong, we followed the Bylong Valley Way 25k up (you guessed it) the Bylong Valley. The valley and hillsides were a carpet of lush green rolling grass. One could have easily have mistakenly thought that you were riding in Ireland or the like. We discussed the fields “greening up” with the store owner earlier and she corrected us. She said that had we come out only a month ago we wouldn’t have found brown grass, we would have found dirt! It rained more in the past three weeks than it did all of last year and boy, are the farmers happy about it.
We’d asked the store owner how hilly the road ahead was. As she laughed, she answered “oh boy, there’s a hill”. We don’t generally trust car drivers when they tell us that the road is flat because it rarely is flat on a bike, and little undulations are barely noticeable when driving a car. However, when car drivers talk about steep hills, well, there’s probably serious hill and we pay attention. We reached the hill at 25k and knew we were in for some work as it came complete with the “Steep Hill” warning sign. It was super steep for about 2k and only slightly less steep for the last 3k to the top. We had low enough gears and made it without walking, but there was some grunting. The store owner was correct in her assessment.
We saw the sign below at the bottom of the hill and also several other times along the Bylong Valley Way. Normally I’d include it, with an attempted clever caption and call it good. But today, this one photo gets its own paragraph because it will have deep meaning to the closet physicists out there. The sign says “Falling Rocks Do Not Stop”. Well, technically it says “Falling Rocks” [first statement] “Do Not Stop” [second statement]. It’s obviously telling motorists to not stop as there may be falling rocks. But if you read it the way I read it, all as one long statement, you end up with Newton’s first Law of Motion. That is, objects (rocks), in motion (falling), tend to stay in motion (do not stop).
Objects in motion tend to stay in motion = Falling Rocks Do Not Stop
How about that, good old Sir Isaac joined us out on the road today. Hats off the Bylong Valley Way sign department.
It was lumpy from the top of the hill to our planned stop for the night in the town Rylstone. As noted on day one, the disadvantage of riding this route the direction we are riding is that big uphills aren’t going to be followed by big downhills. Oh well, it’s what we signed up for. At least today we arrived early enough to get the brekkie menu for an early lunch. We settled into one of the main street cafes and enjoyed a second brekkie and because it was hot again, another chocolate milkshake.
Rylstone is a classic old Aussie country town. It was founded in 1820 and became a regional farming hub and key railway stop. Over time as the railway changed routes and more direct highways were built the town’s importance waned. It still services local farmers but these days it also gets support from tourism as well as mining. There are many great old stone buildings and classic 1800s historic streetscapes.
We were planning on camping in the town caravan park but after riding there and finding limited shade and no camp kitchen, we called an audible. Rather than ride back into town, we decided to ride 7k down the Bylong Valley Way to Kandos, Rylstone’s “twin” town. Funny, given the choice of riding 3 blocks back to town or riding 7k forward to into the unknown, we chose riding forward. Touring cyclists reading this will get it, it is hard to ride “backwards”, even if it is only three blocks.
We arrived in Kandos to find it a lot smaller than and not nearly as charming as Rylstone. Once we read more, it sort of made sense as Kandos was founded much later, in 1913, and it was only founded to support a local cement mill. Kandos was basically a company town and today with the mill closed, the company has almost completely departed. Kandos cement was used throughout the building of NSW and they have a cool town tag line – “the town that made the cement that made your town”. They supplied the cement for construction of Sydney Harbour Bridge, the Opera House and a whole bunch of other famous buildings in and beyond Sydney. As these things go, the limestone that fed the mill ran out and today, Kandos is a shadow of its former self. The cement plant closed in 2011 and of all the mines the company once operated, only one is still producing ore. As such, many of the shops on Main Street were boarded up, empty and for lease.
Had we stayed in Rylstone we would have had many choices on where to sleep but sometimes, limited choice works out just fine. Given really no option, we headed to the Kandos Motel, which is conveniently located next to the Kandos Hotel. Remember that in Australia, “Hotel” in the name of a business almost always means “Pub”. The Kandos Hotel is no different. Out front of the motel rooms they have a traditional old Aussie pub where you can get a hot meal, a cold beer and catch up on all the local gossip. We think there are also rooms above the pub (the hotel) but we plumped for the fancier ‘motel’ rooms – confused yet?
After showers we retired to the pub for a recovery beverage. Somehow I managed to convince the publican to switch the TV from day-time-soaps to the T20 Cricket Woman’s World Cup. The Aussie gals were locked in a sudden-death, do-or-die match with New Zealand. Yeah, I know, most readers won’t have a clue what T20 cricket is but Nancy doesn’t either – she retired to the room for a nap well before the Aussie innings had reached conclusion – crazy. For the record, the Aussies won.
Our dinner options were as limited as our lodging options. It turns out that the Kandos Hotel is the only establishment serving food in Kandos so choosing where to eat was as easy as choosing where to sleep. While the pub had been empty in the afternoon, for dinner it was packed. At least half the patrons in the pub were wearing some form of mine/road work gear and looking really dirty after clearly hard days on the job. The other half looked just as dirty, but had at least changed out of their fluoro. We stood out visibly as city slickers. We were careful not to start any political discussions and left our feelings about coal mining for future conversations. It actually turned out to be a fun night – people watching us, us watching people and the food was ok too. The interesting ‘salad’ that came with the main meals included a slice of beet root, a slice of canned pineapple, a slice of ‘cheese’ and some buttered white bread.
Even though today’s mileage was lower, it was a good test for our riding gear. It was our third day in a row of temperatures well above 30 degrees. In past blogs I’ve spoken about how much I liked my blue wool Kitsbow jersey and how I don’t have to wash it even riding day after day. Well, I may have to rethink that strategy. After three days in the steamy Australian summer heat, the jersey was no longer blue – rather it was now blue and white, white salt blotches that is. I broke down and gave the jersey a good rinse just before the cricket. Don’t get me wrong, I still love my wool. I think however, we may have found its temperature and humidity limits. At least it did dry very fast in the heat after its wash though!
Tomorrow rain is forecast to come in – along with more appropriate temps for wool. We are scheduled to ride 100k, with some good climbing on our way to Lithgow. Rains are being caused by the remnants of a tropical cyclone that is drifting across the centre Australia. Since we are out riding in the bush where rain is desperately needed, you won’t hear us complaining about the weather. We just hope that we can reach Lithgow before things get too messy on the roads.
Brekkie is included with (and delivered to) our room – another nice country hotel amenity. We’ve asked for the earliest possible delivery time – 6:30 – and we hope to be on the road by 7AM. Yes, both of us are looking forward to sleeping in a bed tonight.