(October 14, 2020 – written by Dave)
We had a longer day planned so we made an early exit from our hotel room in Orange. Traffic was minimal in town and got quieter as we broke the city limits past the hospital. We had some beautiful quiet riding on the route that the chap in the bike shop recommended. In fact, we had super quiet roads all day long. Score one for local knowledge, especially when that local is a cyclist.
It was only 28km to Millthorpe, a notably quaint country town. It was recommended that we stop here for coffee, so that’s what we did. Millthorpe has lots of nice old buildings, a grocery store and a pub. It would make a nice, quiet base for exploring Orange if you wanted something quieter and/or just wanted a country experience.
It was only 15km from Millthorpe to Blayney. It was too soon to stop for another coffee so instead we stopped at one of the three bakeries and picked up some treats for later in the day. The road between Millthorpe and Blayney was the busiest we had all day – as in not busy at all. However, leaving town we were excited to find a narrow goat track that included a sign prohibiting B-Doubles (big trucks) beyond that point.
The next 35km through Newbridge and onto Georges Plain were nearly car free. We rode around and over verdant green hill after hill. The green just seems to go on forever. For some reason in this section there were no powerlines on either side of the road. It was kind of weird – as you rode, you knew something was missing but it was hard to put your finger on what it was. It reminded us a bit of riding in the Scottish highlands.
We passed a very pretty church in Georges Plain and diverted off route on to a really steep little road to get some photos. For the record, it was Nancy’s idea to ride up the hill, and yes, the photos turned out nice. We saw quite a few old stone churches today. Many, like the one in Georges Plain, had the odd broken window, sometimes covered with wood, and were clearly no longer in use.
We finally pulled up for lunch in the shade in Perthville. We had a nice chat with a local there who used to ride before a serious mountain bike accident. He had just finished the latest surgery and was wearing a sling. We told him that we were heading towards O’Connell and he commented on how nice a ride it was. We should have turned more easterly here but he didn’t say anything as we passed him, heading the wrong way. We didn’t realized the error until 5km down the road but luckily there was a road that cut across a hill and got us back on track. No harm done really, what’s 5km more on a 100km day anyway.
Coming into O’Connell we rode through the O’Connell ANZAC Memorial Avenue. In 1926, they planted trees on a short section of highway here in honour of the WWI veterans. The trees are well established now and a bit of a pain because they’d like to widen the highway and are not allowed to disturb the trees. I say, what a great deal, just make the cars slow down through the avenue and reflect a bit on those that sacrificed so that our lives might be easier today.
We pulled up at the O’Connell Hotel about 2:30 and found the same friendly publican that we spoke with a few days ago on the phone. We asked about camping and possibly getting a room. Nancy inspected the room then had a chat with the publican. He originally asked for $130 for the room, which seemed slightly overpriced given the room – it is tiny and well-used. Anyway, Nancy explained that we plan to ride to Katoomba tomorrow and that it would be nice not to have to camp. Her salt stained face and pouty lip did the trick and she was offered the room for less than half the original offer (Senior editor’s note – it was not pouty, I just explained that it was a hard ride and I wasn’t looking forward to camping. The publican nicely said that he couldn’t let me camp knowing we had to ride to Katoomba tomorrow). We’ll not post the actual amount here as the publican feared his wife might find out and he’d be in trouble. We both got a good chuckle out of the whole situation, however to be honest, once I was the room, I think the original asking price may have been the funny part. It seemed like all of the rooms were available for tonight so perhaps we just lucked out on his willingness to help some tired cyclists. A hot shower and a bed inside is a good thing, so I won’t complain.
So there you have it. We thought we’d have a harder time today and the word “epic” would have featured more in this post. As it turns out, the ride was pretty cruisey and we only got lost once. We aren’t too tired and have found a place to stay. Our room probably fits in the “I’ve stayed in worse” bucket but beggars can’t be choosers. Now, let’s see how that our pub meal works out…
Tomorrow we have a short day planned but it is still going to be hard. I think we’ll climb close to 2,000m and we have a short section on Berghofer Pass, the old original road over the Blue Mountains. Check back tomorrow for an update if we made and more details on Berghofer.