Monthly Archives: June 2015

A Lotta Rain, A Lotta Fun – Byron Bay to Kingscliff (67 km)

A nice cycle path between Ocean Shores and Brunswick Heads.
A nice cycle path between Ocean Shores and Brunswick Heads.

The last two days we’ve seen a lot of rain. Yesterday, we had our bikes fully loaded and were ready to push off when the skies started dropping buckets. Eric wanted to push forth. I wanted to take a day off and window shop the cute boutique stores in Byron Bay. Luckily, I won!

But today with the rain still pouring and my panniers a bit heavier from the two (not one but TWO) cute feminine wardrobe additions that are as different from cycling clothes on the fashion scale as is humanly possible.  With my new, cute, utterly impractical dresses squished firmly into my rear pannier, I agreed we should ride.

It’s not that I really enjoy riding in the rain. It just that I knew, in the long run, it would be much less expensive if we left the hippie-vibe, artsy-farsty, I-missed-this-kind-of funky, town of Byron Bay.

We both put on our rain gear and pulled the velcro straps tight against our ankles and wrists. As  for shoes, I opted to wear my pink Croc flip-flop because I hate cycling in squishy socks while Eric, in trying to keep his shoes and socks dry, wore  the cut-off sleeves of his old  rain jacket pulled tightly over his shoes and socks.

Yes, we got rained on,  and yes, we stayed relatively warm and dry…on the outside that is…my rain gear always makes me sweat a LOT on the inside.

Putting all the rain gear/rain discomfort aside, the ride itself was a pleasant surprise with a little rewards around almost every corner. Here are the “rewards”…

1. There was a cycle path from Byron Bay most of the way to Brunswick Heads. It’s not well marked and not the easiest to find, but I think we spent less than 5 km on the Pacific Coast Highway.

Having a path next to a highway is MUCH better than being on the highway near Brunswick Heads/Ocean Shores.
Having a path next to a highway is MUCH better than being on the highway near Brunswick Heads/Ocean Shores.

2. Tourist Drive #38 through Wooyung had almost no tourists (or other vehicles for that matter.)

Tourist Drive #38 is narrow but had little traffic on the day we traveled.
Tourist Drive #38 is narrow but had little traffic on the day we traveled.

3. There is a cycle path from Pottsville to Hastings Point.

It's never to rainy for ice cream. We enjoyed this view at Hastings Point while eating ice cream.
It’s never to rainy for ice cream. We enjoyed this view at Hastings Point while eating ice cream.

4. There is a BEAUTIFUL, fairly new cycle path from Hastings Point to Kingscliff.

This cycle path goes through Cudgen Nature Reserve and on to Kingscliff.
This cycle path goes through Cudgen Nature Reserve and on to Kingscliff.

What these cycle paths meant is that we could enjoy the view and not worry about being splattered with highway water from passing trucks.

Crossing the Cudgen River.
Crossing the Cudgen River.

What they also meant is I could ride through puddles on the paths with my feet splayed to each side giggling like a child.

What a great day!

The south approach by cycle path to Kingscliff.
The south approach by cycle path to Kingscliff.

Yamba to Byron Bay – 3 Days – (180 km)

The wold famous Yamba prawns made for a delicious picnic lunch.
The wold famous Yamba prawns made for a delicious picnic lunch.

This segment of our ride up the east coast of Australia was a combination of some of the most scenic and enjoyable parts of our trip in Australia interspersed with some of the worst roads we’ve had in Australia. Luckily, the bad stretches of road are tiny in comparison to the amazing scenery and off-road options.

Yamba to Evans Head – 76 km – Yamba is a lovely fishing town located where the Clarence River meets the Coral Sea. It’s know for its delicious prawns so we bought a kilo and carried them on ice and wrapped in paper for our picnic.

This ferry from Yamba to Iluka was filled with mini pirates.
This ferry from Yamba to Iluka was filled with mini pirates.

We then rode the 9:30 am ferry along with about 60 first graders dressed in pirate costumes who were on a field trip to “Pirate Park” in Iluka. One-eyed pirates with aluminum foil hook arms, foam swords, pirate hats, and a few ballet slippers and tutus  made the ferry ride a joyous, happy, loud event.

The road through Bundjalung National Park through the bush was shady and quiet  until it intersects with the Pacific Coast Highway.

This church is now a cafe, a nice diversion from the bad roads.
This church is now a cafe, a nice diversion from the bad roads.

The next 20 kilometers on the highway to Woodburn  were noisy but had a fairly good shoulder. Turning east at Woodburn, the road is very narrow with no shoulder and heavy truck traffic. The cycle path about 2 km west of town was a welcome improvement.

We were happy to see this cycle path just west of town.
We were happy to see this cycle path just west of town.

We found a cabin at the caravan park on the river and enjoyed a walk along the sandy beach watching pelicans and the sunset.

Evans Head to Ballina – (56 km) Evans head is a very small, sleepy beach town with lots of fishing and surfing and peace and quiet.

The ride from Evans Head to Broadwater through Broadwater National Park runs through more Australian bush.

The 7 km from Broadwater to Wardell on the Pacific Coast Highway was the scariest highway we’ve ridden in Australia.

Did we mention how much glass is on the road? I think throwing bottles is an Australian sport like rugby and cricket.
Did we mention how much glass is on the road? I think throwing bottles is an Australian sport like rugby and cricket Luckily, the flat occurred near a farmers lane so we could pull off the bad road..

It we had it to do this ride again, I might choose a long detour…

…but then we would miss one of the most beautiful parts of the ride, the road from Wardell to Ballina that follows on the south banks of the Clarence River.

Bull frogs croaking and birds singing along the Clarence River.
Bull frogs croaking and birds singing along the Clarence River.

Another ferry ride across the river, (did I mention I love ferries?) and cycle paths all around Ballina made it one of our favorite seaside towns in this part of Australia.

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Ferry to Ballina.

I will always remember Ballina as the place I saw my first whale (or at least it’s spout.)

This cycle path is along a breakwater out to a whale watching point.
Lots of benches alongcycle path is along a breakwater out to a whale watching point.

It’s also the place where we received some great Aussie hospitality from strangers-who-became-friends, Gary and Leann.

Ballina to Byrons Bay – 50 km 

We had been dreading this segment of the trip because of the busy, narrow roads. We’d even  considered taking an inland route and avoiding Byron Bay altogether. Luckily a chance encounter with a cyclist let to “insider information” which meant we completely avoided the highway today AND had one of the most beautiful days of this trip.

Skennars Head looking south to Ballina.
Skennars Head looking south to Ballina.

Here’s how to do it..

First, ride the cycle path to Skennars Head. Stay on the path as it leaves the coast and heads inland following the old road to Lennox Head. At Lennox Head, if the tide is out, push your bike down to the beach until you find the hard-packed sand near the surf and cycle north for about 7 km.

Cycling on the sand from Lennox Head to Broken Head.
Cycling on the sand from Lennox Head to Broken Head.

At the rocky outcroppings, look to the shore and take the one-land, dirt fire road up the hills and through Broken Head National Park.

We had a picnic at the rocky out-droppings before heading inland to the fire road.
We had a picnic at the rocky out-droppings before heading inland to the fire road.
We also hit a big milestone this week.
We also hit a big milestone today….
The fire road to Broken Head Nature Reserve.
The fire road to Broken Head Nature Reserve.

At the end of the road, turn west until the road intersects with the highway. Head north on the Pacific Coast Highway (about 1 km) and turn east to  Suffolk Park. Follow the beach road north until it ends.

The cycle path from Suffolk to Byron Bay goes through (and over) some wetlands.
The cycle path from Suffolk Park to Byron Bay goes through (and over) some wetlands. follow the path the rest of the way to Byron Bay.

Follow the cycle path the rest of the way to Byron Bay.

Byron Bay Lighthouse - great whale watching place and near the eastern most place in Australia.
Byron Bay Lighthouse – great whale watching and near the eastern most place in Australia.
Here's a picture of my first wallaby. I'm not sure how they are different from kangaroos except for their colorings.
I saw my first wallaby eating near the lighthouse. I’m not sure how a wallaby is different from a kangaroo except for their colorings.

The sunset was a beautiful way to end the past three days.

Byron Bay as seen from the lighthouse.
Byron Bay as seen from the lighthouse.

 

 

 

 

 

Coffs Harbour to Yamba – A Beautiful 2-Day Ride (150 km)

Coffs Harbour on a Sunday morning.
Coffs Harbour on a Sunday morning.

We decided to take the direct route to Grafton along the Omara Way rather than hug the coast on the Pacific Coast Highway. We’re very happy with our decision as the two- day ride was a change of scenery and terrain with wide-open vistas, hills and valleys,  and small towns catering to Sunday tourists with cafes, brick oven pizzas, cold beers and plenty of sunshine.

The climb out of Coffs Harbour is fairly steep but after that climb, the rest of the day is filled with gentle rolling hills and lots of flats. If you’re lucky, like we were, you’ll also have a nice tail wind to push you along.

A great lunch stop is the small town of Glennreagh. We enjoyed a picnic along the river at the Lion’s Club Park but the tavern was hopping with motorcycles and other Sunday tourists.

Getting a photo with the dingo in front of the Glennreagh Tavern seemed to be a popular thing to do.
Getting a photo with the dingo in front of the Glennreagh Tavern seemed to be a popular thing to do.

After Glennreagh, the road degenerated but the traffic was also less so it didn’t seem too bad.

The bridge across the Clarence River is VERY narrow but just before the bridge (it’s unmarked) we found a pedestrian/cycle path on the left path attached to the railroad bridge below the car bridge.

The cycle/pedestrian path attached to the railroad bridge beneath the car bridge. (There were no signs and it took us awhile to find it.)
The cycle/pedestrian path attached to the railroad bridge beneath the car bridge. (There were no signs and it took us awhile to find it.)

Grafton is known for it’s Jacaranda Festival in the spring with lots of tree-lined streets in full purple bloom. It also hosts the July Racing Carnival where  women wear fancy hats just like Ascot in England.

We were pleasantly surprised with Tourist Drive #22 leaving Grafton. Although the road is in poor condition, it is flat with little traffic which gave us ample opportunity to appreciate the grazing cattle, sugar cane farms and widest river in Australia, the Clarence.

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Tourist Route #22 took us along the one-lane River Road just south of Lawrence.

On this road we cycled past a farm selling macadamia nuts so we stopped and bought a kilogram.

We probably would have gotten more use out of the lemons as macadamia nuts are hard to crack.
We probably would have gotten more use out of the lemons as macadamia nuts are hard to crack.

After lunch at the Lawrence Tavern, we headed north to catch the ferry.

Aside from the beautiful river, the best part of the Lawrence Ferry is that it's free.
Aside from the beautiful river, the best part of the Lawrence Ferry is that it’s free.

My favorite part of the ride were the 10 kilometers between the ferry and McLean. The road meanders along the river with great views.

Entering the very Scottish town of McLean.
Entering the very Scottish town of McLean.

Everything about this town appears to be Scottish from the store fronts, to the banners to the plaid patterns painted on all the telephone poles. A picnicking family even used a plaid wool blanket for their tablecloth.

Plaid painted on telephone poles along with Scottish surnames.
Plaid painted on telephone poles along with Scottish surnames.

The last 10 kilometers into Yamba were nerve-wracking due to tiny roads and lots of traffic. But, the scene from our campground took all the stress away.

The colors of the setting sun from the Blue Dolphin Caravan park in Yamba.
The colors of the setting sun from the Blue Dolphin Caravan park in Yamba.

 

 

Our Typical Cycle Touring Day in Australia

Several readers have asked how we spend a typical day. So…here’s it is….

Two of this morning's many birds.
Two of this morning’s many birds.

I wake up when the birds start singing, usually between 6:15 and 7:00 am, make a pot of coffee, respond to emails, read some news on my laptop, or read my book until Eric wakes up. I then make breakfast.

What I make for breakfast depends on the type of accommodation we’re in and the distance we have to travel. For example, if we have a small kitchen with a stove-top and microwave like most campgrounds and we’ll be cycling less than 80 kilometers (50 miles) I’ll make eggs or pancakes. If we have only a toaster like most motels or we have a long ride ahead, we’ll have a quick breakfast of muesli and toast. I also make a couple of sandwiches for our picnic lunch.

In addition, I often use the mornings between about 8 and 9 am to make calls to the States as needed.

We load up our bicycles which takes 30-40 minutes with a goal of starting to pedal around 9 am or earlier if we have a longer or difficult (lots of hills) ride ahead. (In SE Asia we often started cycling about 7:30 am to avoid the heat of the mid-day.)

Bikes are loaded. Today's safety talk might be to remind Eric to buckle his helmut.
Bikes are loaded. Today’s safety talk might be to remind Eric to buckle his helmut.

After our bikes are loaded but before we start riding we ALWAYS have a “safety talk” where we review the day’s ride and discuss things that can be potential hazards; e.g. heavy truck traffic, strong side winds, crazy Australian traffic circles, narrow shoulders, use your review mirror…it’s amazing the new things we can think of.

Today's respite from the traffic on the Pacific Coast Highway.
Today’s respite from the traffic on the Pacific Coast Highway.

We cycle anywhere from 20-30km and hope to find a cute cafe’ where we stop for our morning coffee break: an espresso (Eric) or a long black (me).The coffee culture and quality of coffee here in Australia is fantastic!

Coffee and a "world famous" scone!
Coffee and a “world famous” scone!

Noonish, or when Eric is hungry, or when we find a good picnic spot, or a “famous pie or scone place” appears, we stop for lunch. In reality, I like to have at least half of our daily distance cycled before we stop for lunch. Having completed half of our distance gives us a good judge of our time and speed for the day so we’ll have a pretty good idea if we’ll make our destination before it gets dark or how long we’ll have to dawdle over lunch.

One of our picnic spots.
One of our picnic spots.

Around 3 – 3:30pm, hopefully, we’re at or near our destination so we can find accommodation- cabin, tent, or motel – and get settled before it gets too cold. Because it’s winter here, once 3:00 pm hits, the temperature drops and our sweaty clothes turn very cold. Often our first stop in town is the Tourist Information Center where we get good, free local maps, ideas about “must see’s” in the area, and help with accommodation.

The Tourist Information Center in Kempsey was designed by a famous architect Glenn Murcutt.
The Tourist Information Center in Kempsey was designed by a famous architect Glenn Murcutt.

Unloading our bikes is faster than packing and we have a pretty good routine. I put perishable foods in the fridge, scan the kitchen for supplies so I’ll know what I have to cook with, plug in one of my electronic devices (the shortage of outlets means were always scrambling to get all devices charged before morning), ( see post about what we bring) and place my panniers on my side of the bed. We’ve found that by keeping our things on the same side of the room or tent in each different accommodation, really helps us NOT to lose things.

After our bikes are unloaded we often cycle to the grocery store. Or, I’ll go to the store and Eric will do maintenance on his bicycle. We I return from the store, he’ll clean my bicycle while I shower. Then, I cook dinner while he showers.

One of our vices has been the discovery of Arnott's cookies. Our goal is to try every flavor. The Mint Slice is better than a Girl Scout Thin Mint!
One of our vices has been the discovery of Arnott’s cookies. Our goal is to try every flavor. The Mint Slice is better than a Girl Scout Thin Mint!

Evenings are spent reading, writing (me) watching television, and/or route planning.

Of course, just like living at home we need a “weekend” or change in routine so we 1) go out for dinner 2) go to or rent a movie 3) stop by a pub for a pint 4) play cards or a game.

Socialization and meeting new people usually occurs during the day, especially when we stop for coffee or lunch. Now that it’s colder, we tend to stay in at night unless we’re going out for dinner.

Sightseeing is done throughout the day but especially leaving a town in the morning, entering a town in the afternoon, or when someone at the Tourist Information center tells us we “must do” something.

We like to cycle on "Tourist Drives" but I still can't tell you why it's called "Hungry Head."
We like to cycle on “Tourist Drives” but I still can’t tell you why it’s called “Hungry Head.”

I think the important thing to keep in mind is that we are not really “on vacation” everyday. This cycle tour “is” our daily life.
Days were similar in New Zealand but in SE Asia, we never cooked a meal and the days were warmer and longer so we rode more kilometers each day.

Top Ten Reasons to Ride on the Pacific Coast Highway (A1) – Kempsey to Nambucca Heads

We stopped at Fredo's near Kempsey to give us energy to tackle the highway.
We stopped at Fredo’s near Kempsey to give us energy to tackle the highway.

10. There is no alternate route.
9. You’re feeling too lazy to ride an extra 40 km to Stuarts Point and Scotts Head.
8. You want the mind-numbing noise from traffic to drown out your thoughts.
7. You’re bored with beautiful scenery.
6. You’re tired of taking pictures and the danger of passing traffic gives you an excuse not to.

Cycling to the Mid North Coast NSW seemed like a milestone worthy of a photo.
Cycling to the Mid North Coast NSW seemed like a milestone worthy of a photo.

5. The sounds of song birds is getting on your nerves.
4. You love the feel of sticky tar and gravel on your tires.

This cycle path just north of the bridge in Macksville was our first escape from the highway.
This cycle path just north of the bridge in Macksville was our first escape from the highway.

3. You enjoy bracing yourself against the draft of a passing truck.
2. You prefer trash-filled rest areas to remote picnic spots.

But the number one reason for riding on the highway……(drum roll please)…..

You find all kinds of great junk lying on the side of the road that your “mechanic” husband can put to good use.

Eric felt this piece of red hose was worthy of a stop and run back to pick up.
Eric felt this piece of red hose was worthy of a stop and run back to pick up.

Today’s finds: a piece of rubber hose and a “BadBoy” flip-flop that he’ll use on his bike racks to protect them from abrasive wear from his panniers!!

This "Badboy" will be put to use after Eric cuts off the strap.
This “Badboy” will be put to use after Eric cuts off the strap.

And, in spite of all my joking about today’s ride, the end was beautiful: cabin overlooking the river, beautiful sunset, gas heat and a real oven to cook dinner.

The view next to our campground.
The view next to our campground.