Day 2: Noise In Every Corner

November 18, 2015
Ballina to Coffs Harbour
Distance: 219km
Total distance: 439km

The Eastern coast of Australia is densely populated. Riding in this small strip of fertile soil is unlike most parts of Australia, which are harsh and largely uninhabited. Food, water, accommodation, and medical supplies are readily available so it’s comforting to not have to worry about these basic life supports. Yet, this is hardly a cycle touring utopia. The heavy motor traffic and high number of impatient drivers are enough to put off many touring cyclists from riding these roads. For those brave enough to ride them, it is probably because they had to, and I doubt many actually enjoy it. Day 2 was the first day I had to endure many miles of highway riding.

I had a little sleep in to make up for the sleep deprivation two nights ago. Hence, I hit the road a little late at 6:10am, but hey Queensland was still only 5:10am! The planned route led me out of Ballina, onto the Pacific Hwy briefly and exited to Pimlico Rd at the 7km mark. I was aware that I could only avoid riding the highway for 10km, but grateful that this alternative road exists. With almost no traffic, Pimlico Rd was very pleasant to ride on even though it was a bit rough. The road then joins the highway at Wardell, followed by an old steel bridge crossing with its uncomfortably narrow footpath. I admitted for breaking the law for riding on footpath several times but rest assured it was all done in the name of safety of others and myself!

If only the entire highway was like this

Pimlico Rd felt like a typical Brisbane suburb street

Narrow path on an old steel bridge at Wardell

First rest stop at 50km, in a rest area called New Italy. There’s a free museum here and apparently a public toilet that I failed to locate after spending 5 minutes searching for it. The highway cuts across several forest reserves. Tall trees on both sides of the highway provide a nice cover against the morning sun. At Harwood (85km), I came to another narrow old steel bridge. This time the path was at the opposite side of the road, poorly maintained and with an entrance full of overgrown grass. Same deal when I arrived at the other end of the bridge. Sigh, do people in this town not bike or walk across this bridge?

New Italy Rest Area at the 50km mark

Concrete!! Extremely welcoming after countless miles of bumpy road surface

A decent infrastructure that was poorly maintained :(

The rough road surface had been solely responsible for much of the rattling and things coming loose on my bike. One of which was my headlight mount. I can see it bopped violently as I hit small bumps or just from surface irregularities. This particular instance though, as I completed the bridge crossing, I noticed it bounces weirdly. Gave it a good tightening and moved along. All was good until just a few kilometres later the plastic light mount cracked and eventually split into two pieces as soon as I touched it. Argh! Not quite yet a disaster, luckily, another mounting hole was available on the plastic bracket. Took a rest break at Ferny Park at the 92km mark. Looked at the map to see that I only have about 40km or so to get to a major town Grafton. It must have been the strong desire to seek refuge from the rising temperature, as the remaining distance to Grafton took me only 1.5 hours to wheel down.

My bike is falling apart :(

Not a bad view from the picnic shelter at Ferny Park. But it's no fun riding under the cloudless sky on a hot day

A note to any touring cyclist passing Grafton, the Macca’s here makes a good pit stop. It’s literally just next to the highway and the air-conditioning is bliss! The employees were happy to top up my bottles and provide ice water, which I happily gulp down to my heart’s content. The temperature recorded by my GPS device was 32°C just as I arrived at Grafton. Naturally, I took more than an hour lunch break here, also to serve as a reward for having done 133km in the morning. The temptation to stay on for even longer was strong, but I must resist as I still have 86km to get to Coffs Harbour before I can call it a day. When I got back to my bike, I found it lying on the ground! OMG, did someone tried to steal my bike!? Upon closer inspection, everything was still there, although a few items like my sunglasses, gloves, and helmets were scattered all over the ground. The lock was still unbroken. I then concluded that the wind was the culprit. The outcome of the fall was a damaged retractable nylon cord where I used to secure my hydration hose to the left side of my seat. Now that it’s broken, I can no longer drink water from the hose while riding. Not a major problem, I was still able to reach for my water bottle instead. Only day 2 and the unexpected failure count on my touring rig are up to 4 now! A real adventure is never smooth sailing ey ;)

The ice lasted 15 mins tops but every little bit of cooling helps

Eventually (albeit reluctantly), I left Grafton on a Southeast bound journey. Only 15 minutes into the ride, the temperature now shows 37°C! I was stopped only 7km from Grafton at a sheltered rest stop to splash some water onto my head and body. The ice water from Macca’s got warm pretty quick. An old couple seated there gave me the strangest look. No time to entertain them, quickly got back onto the highway and powered thru to overcome two long climbs and then stopped again after 25km. Long stretches of the highway was under construction. This makes riding the highway many times more unpleasant. The shoulder width was cut down in half and littered with gravels and sand. The air was filled with dust and loud noise everywhere generated by the machineries. The only plus side to this was the reduced speed limit from 100km/h to 80km/h and sometimes 60km/h. I also noted a significant number of drivers that chose to ignore the new speed signs. I think my eyes spent nearly half the time mirror checking.

36.4!! What am I doing out here???

Looks like I've entered a brumby region. Unlike me, they weren't stupid enough to come out in this weather condition

Massive road construction work. I didn't take any photos at the horrible stretches as a full concentration was required

This rest stop had a service station and a café. Gulped down a 500ml milk carton and a 500ml soft drink. The brain started playing with numbers. I still had 54km to go and this should take about 2.5 hours. But the 32km I did since Grafton was incredibly difficult with the heat and construction work. I can’t imagine myself spending another hour riding in that condition. Back to the map then, in search of a better motivation. Aha! Motivation located! And it’s only 15km away, that’s where I exit the highway into an alternative road in the town of Corindi Beach. That should take care of the highway stress, and riding near the sea, the cool sea breeze should take care of the heat problem. Am so glad to find out that my prediction was accurate! After Corindi Beach, the alternative road took me across a series of coastal towns. One of which was Woolgoolga (191km) where I stopped at a Woolies for a very delicious thirst quenching icy cold bottle of Coke. It’s the simple pleasures like this that would stay forever in my memory.

Past Woolgoolga, the road, aptly called Solitary Islands Way, stays parallel to the highway and eventually runs adjacent to it. Had an odd encounter with a young adult male riding on what looks like a beater bike trying to race me. Ordinarily I don’t respond to a situation like this but why not have a little fun and show this bloke what a recumbent is capable of ;) He soon became a tiny dot in my mirror and never saw him since. The road further South becomes a lot smoother and has bike icons stamped onto the shoulder indicating a bike lane. There was little to no traffic on the Southern section of Solitary Islands Way – I’m guessing cars would prefer taking the highway instead. The road finally ended at Korora Basin and I got dumped onto the highway again. I was only 8km from my destination so didn’t make a big deal. Besides, it was dual carriageway with plenty of shoulder. The only dodgy section was the narrow climb up a hill where The Big Banana resides. But a bike path (covered in fallen leaves and twigs) took care of that! Plenty of traffic lights crossings as I got closer to Coffs Harbour town centre.

Solitary Islands Way is THE way to go!

A semi-decent path next to the narrow and busy highway is better than none. Oh, and The Big Banana in the background.

I arrived at the backpackers an hour or so before sunset, where I booked a bunk bed for the night. I rode the same distance as day 1, at 219km, and just like day 1, I was on the road for 12 hours. How I managed this feat was beyond me! After check-in, I took a walk along Harbour Drive towards the sea and absorbed the sunset view of Muttonbird Island and the marina in the foreground. Walking on cleated shoes was awkward so I decided to go barefoot. The knee pain was still present, so I got myself another ice bag. Back at the hostel, it was packed, noisy, and the air was filled with awful smell of cigarettes, alcohol, and sweat. I knew at this point that I should have taken a room at a motel or a motor inn instead. This was basically a party house, I couldn’t fall asleep until around midnight with the constant door opening and closing and the party noise. I also wasn’t feeling comfortable leaving my bike outside the premise. I came to realise that for a ride like this, when a quiet and peaceful night is needed, it’s best to just stay away from youth hostels.

Kids were seen playing in the ocean as the sun sinks into the horizon. Shows you how hot the day has been.

Looking East towards Muttonbird Island

It was a pleasant walk :)

The state of the hostel room was in stark contrast to the peaceful walk on the clean street

Strava ride profile

4 responses

  1. Randall
    9 Dec 15

    You write really well Melvyn. So well that I feel the dual desires of doing this trip and also not doing it. Well done.

    • melvyn
      10 Dec 15

      Thank you for the kind words Randall. I was trying to make an accurate account of the ride for personal reference. But if my words also inspire others, then I would feel very happy :)

  2. Mike Keefe
    10 Dec 15

    Hi Melvyn!
    If you need a place to stay near Gosford – let me know…

    - I bought you Catrike Trail via your brother a while back – Still have it – it’s a great ride!

    I’ve done some minor weekend touring on it (Springwood in the blue mountains to Gosford) & did the Conquer Cancer 200Km ride a couple of months ago.

    I will be riding 80km with the OZHPV guys down in sydney on saturday..

    So it still get’s used!


    • melvyn
      10 Dec 15

      Hi Mike, wow happy to hear that the trike is serving you well! Wish I get to do the OzHPV social ride, but I’ve already completed this tour and return to Brisbane (by flight). Hope you enjoy the ride and all the best Mike!

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