Sunday, June 14, 2015

Route Map

Here's a link to the route map:

The markers are shown in two colors to distinguish the overlapping routes in Victoria.

(Below is an image of the map)

Route Map (Image)

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Postscript: Home Again

There was way more rain in coastal Queensland than I'd seen in the previous 3 months.  There was some severe flooding, though Peter and I mostly avoided it.

Peter and I spent one rainy day in Brisbane, just taking a walk in a park near his house between showers.  The next day, also rainy, we drove 3 hours north to visit Dave, a Hervey Bay cyclist I met years ago via an internet cycling list. In spite of the weather, we had a great visit with Dave and his family.  Dave took us on a tour by car along the coast, but the rain washed out the planned barbecue.  The sun was back for our drive back to Brisbane, so we stopped for a hike through dense forest to Kondalilla Falls. Later we stopped at the touristy town of Montville.

There was 200 mm (8 inches) of water in Peter's rain gauge when we got back to Brisbane.  Fortunately, he lives on a hill.

With dry, sunny weather, Peter led me on a couple short bike rides through the hills of Brisbane. On one of them, we rode past the Queensland Tennis Centre, which flooded a few years ago the day after the end of the Brisbane International tournament.

Peter suggested making a "dry run" by car to the airport, so we wouldn't get lost the next day, which gave me a chance to pick up a bike box.  The next day, with the sun in our eyes, we got lost anyway, but made it in plenty of time.  22 hours later, I was back in Madison.

The Final Tally (kilometers, 2,676 miles)

It was a great trip, with lots of great people along the way.  A special thanks to the folks who fed and/or put me up along the way: Ernie and Jan, Ian and Ruth, Steve and Alicja, Alf and Sharon, Kate and John, Dave and Coral, and, of course, Peter.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

End of the Line

The road I had intended to take from Pittsworth to Clifton had a bridge out, but fortunately there was a fairly low-traffic alternate which wasn't much further.  There were hills, but it was a short ride and nice day.  Both Pittsworth and Clifton are fairly high, 400-500 meters, on the western slopes of the Great Dividing Range.  The nights there were quite cool.

Just outside of Clifton I came upon a small airfield, where a whole bunch of WWI airplanes were parked, no doubt in celebration of ANZAC Day.

Clifton Airfield

The farm land was looking more productive as I traveled east, and Clifton was the most prosperous looking town I'd seen in a while.  Clifton has a nice camping area at the showgrounds.  There was a great oboe spot next to the basketball courts, so I decided to spend the next day there.  That day turned out to be very windy and cool, so I actually ended up practicing and working on reeds in the sun in the grandstand, but that was fine.

The camping area at the Clifton showgrounds is surrounded by the horse track, with rails on each side.  While I was packing up early Monday morning, a single horse went by twice.  When I went to leave, I found the rails across the road closed and locked.  As the horse was nowhere in sight, I slid my bike under the rails on its side, and was on my way, the left panniers just a little dustier.

Not far from Clifton, I came to the "Darling Downs Zoo".  I didn't have time to tour the zoo, but they had some snacks, and I had a chat with the young woman running the shop.  I also met a baby red kangaroo, rescued after its mother had been hit by a car.

The ride to Laidley crosses the Great Dividing Range, though there aren't any really big climbs.  Along the way, I saw some trees I mistook for exotic maples, making a half-hearted effort to show some fall colors.  Peter, an  expert on trees, tells me they are Brachychitons (coral trees), a native tree.  Once across the Range, the road drops several hundred meters to the Lockyer Valley, some of the richest farmland in Australia, though it's small.  Unfortunately, the traffic makes the ride down the valley less pleasant than it might be.  There was a little store at Ma Ma Creek, time for another snack.

Brachychitons Masquerading as Maples

Traffic reached truly unpleasant levels going through the town of Gatton, and was pretty heavy the rest of the way to Laidley.  I got into Laidley about an hour before sunset, so I went right to the caravan park.

My last day on the road was the short 26 km ride to Rosewood, the end of the railway line from Brisbane, and the end of the road for me.

Rosewood Railway Station

I wheeled my bike right onto the train, and a bit over an hour later got off in Brisbane, where my friend Peter met me at the station.  He led me through the maze and hills of Brisbane to his house a few km away, the real end of the road for me.  We plan to drive a few hours north to visit a mutual cyclist friend in Hervey Bay, then back to Brisbane where I'll pack up my bike for the long trip home.  The most remarkable thing about this bicycle tour, I can now safely say, is that in over 3 months on the road I never once had to ride in the rain.   This is a dry country, but that's amazing.

At Peter's in Brisbane

Friday, April 24, 2015

Home Stretch

I noticed the Nindigully Pub on a bus ride in 2004, and it looked like a nice place to camp.  It was an easy ride from Thallon, so I had all afternoon to relax.  There's a free camping area. which apparently had recently been flooded by the Moonie River.  It had dried out enough by the time I got there, and I even got a table.

Nindigully Campsite
The pub itself had free showers, food, and refreshments,  What else could a touring cyclist need?

Another short ride the next day brought me to St. George, the largest town I'd seen in a while, though it's looking less healthy than it did in 2004.  It rained all that night, though not very hard, and the next day looked threatening, so I stayed in a cabin the second night.  The weather turned cooler, and has been since.  It made the network news when some places got down to 4 C (38 F).

Meanwhile Kate, the former windmill fixer I met in 2001, had invited me to visit her family farm, which wasn't far out of the way.  Getting there involved some 26 km on a gravel road, which wasn't bad, but the 2 km driveway had some muddy spots.  There was no sign of a vehicle having been in or out in a few days, so it was clear they home-school their children. The place is quite remote, at least 100 km from the nearest town.

Gravel Road

Entrance to Kate and John's Farm

Kate, John, and their three young children have been there 6 years.  The farm was nothing but pasture when they arrived.  It's rather small by Australian standards, only 3,000 acres, on which they graze cattle, sheep, chickens, and a bunch of feral goats and pigs.  They also have at least one horse, a whole bunch of dogs, and lots of vehicles and machinery.  They're really pioneers, albeit 21st century ones.   It's far from a simple life. John also works off the farm, flying helicopters, among other things.  When he's away, sometimes months at a time, Kate has to manage everything herself.  Visiting them was an interesting glimpse into a lifestyle far different from that I, or most anyone else I know, have ever experienced.

John, Charlie, Kate, and Gus
(Rachel was still asleep)

It rained again the next morning.  John was going my way, so I was glad to accept a ride as far as the sealed road.  It was a short ride to Westmar, which has a camping area and a roadhouse (truck stop). The camping area didn't offer anywhere pleasant to spend the afternoon, so I got a cabin at the roadhouse, where I could practice in the afternoon.

Along the road since I got to Queensland, I've been seeing giant prickly pears, an exotic from South America.  It reached plague proportions in the early 1900's, until an insect was introduced to control it.  Some has obviously survived.

Giant Prickly Pear

Road trains are very long trucks, here up to 36 meters (120 ft).  I've seen them with up to 3 trailers here, though they can have more. They are on all roads, even the smallest, narrowest, or gravel ones. I've counted up to 46 wheels on them, but some surely have more than that.  It's best to stay out of their way.

Road Trains are Everywhere

From Westmar, I rode east on the Moonie Highway to the village of Moonie, another roadhouse and caravan park.  The tent sites were pretty grim, but adequate. There was a library across the road with WiFi which occasionally worked.

The ride to Cecil Plains was longer, and featured actual hills, which I haven't seen in a while.  While climbing one of them, a ute (pickup) passed me and pulled over.  It was Ralph, from the Hebel Store, where I'd stayed a week before.  He was going the other way and turned around to chase me down. What are the chances of that?

Cecil Plains is at least more than a roadhouse, with a proper pub, store, and caravan park.  There's a cotton gin on the edge of town, so there were plenty of trucks passing through, but I think they go to bed at night, so it wasn't bad.  The next day, while I was trying to make a phone call, a fire truck went by, siren blaring.  I found the reason on the edge of town a bit later.  Looked like he took the corner a bit too fast.  I'm glad I wasn't in the way.

Overturned Cotton Truck outside Cecil Plains

Later, an email from my friend Alf in NSW:

"There is a story around the trucking stops that the reason the cotton truck fell over was he was cut off by a mad Canadian cyclist. Could this be true? Nobody will ever know now as I believe he quietly slipped out of the country." 

(Alf has a well-developed sense of humor.)

The ride to Pittsworth was short, but quite hilly toward the end, the first real climbing I've done since the Grampians in Victoria months ago. There will be more hills in the next few days, as I cross the Great Dividing Range again as I approach Brisbane.

Saturday, April 18, 2015


After the rains while I was in Gilgandra, the sun returned and I seem to be escaping winter again. A few days after the rain, things started to look a little more green, but as I traveled north and west all became brown again.

I'm starting to pass through towns with significant indigenous populations. Sadly, this seems to mean more crime and vandalism. My next stop, Gulargambone, is typical. In addition to the usual closed shops resulting mainly from the depopulation of the surrounding farms, there are bars on all the windows, lots of broken glass on the ground, and other signs of vandalism.   The swimming pool in Gulargambone had a nasty guard dog inside the fence. 

Gulargambone was otherwise pleasant enough, with a nice caravan park and friendly people. I even met two friendly aboriginal women working in the cafe at breakfast. 

The Warrumbungles

The ride to Coonamble was short and easy, with a tailwind. The road is a sort of major highway, but traffic is light. The caravan park, however, had a major problem, as there were thorns everywhere. I found a mostly bare patch of dirt, borrowed a shovel, and cleared a spot big enough for my tent. 

They want to frac here, too

After all that work, having found a good oboe spot at the sports ground, I decided to stay another day. The next morning, I had just gotten everything set up in the grandstand, reed tools included, when the maintenance guy showed up to hose it down. At least nothing got wet this time!  I went back in the afternoon, after the place had dried out. 

Meanwhile, I pulled a whole bunch of small thorns out of my tires. None were large enough to cause punctures. 

At Coonable, I reached the Great Artesian Basin, a huge aquifer which provides water to inland Australia. Here, it comes out of the ground at 37 C (98 F). 

The Great Artesian Basin

I was determined not to ride the 115 km to Walgett into a headwind, waiting it out, if necessary. Mother Nature, however, was having none of that. After 30 km of crosswind, it shifted into my face for most of the ride.

100 km to Walgett

On the Road to Walgett

 I got to Walgett an hour before sunset, but the camping options didn't look attractive.  

The fortifications in Walgett are impressive. The supermarket, for example, at night retreats into a shell of concrete and steel, like a turtle. Most of the capital in town must be invested in steel bars and concrete. I retreated to a well-fortified motel.  The aboriginal bartender at the restaurant where I had dinner was friendly enough. 

The supermarket came out of its shell in the morning, so I could get some food for the shorter ride to Lightning Ridge, a tourist town among the opal mines. It was a barren ride, getting ever drier, but Lightning Ridge was a nice town, not nearly as heavily fortified as Walgett.  The caravan park even had WiFi, and I arrived in time to call my friend in Finland. I had to evict a mob of kangaroos to put up my tent, but there were no thorns. There was even some shade and tables, so I stayed a second night. 

The Lightning Ridge Turn-off

Lightning Ridge Tent Site

Lightning Ridge Sunset 

It was another warm day for the ride to Hebel, just across the border in Queensland. It was still very dry, and termite mounds started to appear along the road. No sign of grass, though small trees survive where they haven't been cleared. I'm told there hasn't been a real rain here tn 4 years. 

Hebel consists of a pub and a store/restaurant/caravan park. The latter is run by Barb and Ralph, who have been there 10 years. The place is for sale now, as they are fixing up an old bus in anticipation of joining the ranks of "grey nomads". Meanwhile, they served a great dinner (lamb cutlets) and breakfast. 

On to Hebel

Border Crossing

Roo Bars

Hebel Sunset

Hebel Pub

Hebel Store

About half way to Dirranbandi the next day, everything turned green. There was even standing water along the road in places. I'm told the summer was dry and that the rain just arrived. Just outside Dirranbandi, I started seeing trucks with huge rolls of cotton, as the harvest is in progress.   The "volunteer" cotton plants along the road are another sign of rain, as the fields are all irrigated. 

Green North of Hebel

Dirranbandi is another dying farm town, most of the former businesses closed.  A pub, grocery, and bakery remain, the latter two apparently run by recent immigrants. The caravan park had thorn-free grass, so the town met my meager needs. 

The next stop, 65 km east, was Thallon, which consists of a pub/post office/tiny store, and camping at the sports ground, with horses grazing in the oval. There was a big crowd for dinner at the pub. One friendly cotton farmer bought me a beer, introduced me to 3 generations of his family, and told how his grandfather had cleared the prickly pear. 

I left Thallon early the next day, in case I wanted to ride all the way to St. George, a bigger town. It was another warm day, with a strong headwind. 33 km from Thallon is the legendary Nindigully Pub. There's no pretense of a town, but there's free camping, so I decided to have a lazy afternoon, and ride on to St. George in the morning. 

All this sunshine and northerly progress hasn't been compatible with oboe playing, as my lips keep getting sunburned, no matter how often I apply sunscreen. Oh well, I'll be turning east soon. 

Monday, April 6, 2015


Not a very exciting post, I'm afraid.

I did find a nice caravan park my last night in Dubbo, but it was out in the sprawl zone and felt a bit like a concentration camp with the massive security fence and gates which closed at night.  At least there wasn't much chance of someone carrying my bike over the fence.

From Dubbo, I rode to the tiny town of Mendooran.  It was the day before the start of the big Easter weekend holiday, and already there was plenty of traffic on the roads. Mendooran has a nice, free campsite by the river, with some good shelters.  The hotel was serving food, and, after some negotiations, let me use their WiFi.  It was a nice spot, so I decided to stay the next day.

The second night in Mendooran, it started to rain, and continued until about 3 PM the next day.  It never rained hard, but they really needed the rain here.  The shelter at the campsite was the perfect spot to wait out the rain, so I stayed another day.

The rain finally let up Easter Sunday, so I rode on to Gilgandra, a town of about 3,000. Before leaving Mendooran, I fixed the second puncture of the trip, another thorn.  The next day, just as I was debating whether to ride on, a serious thunderstorm arrived.  I found a caravan park with a room for just $40, so I stayed.  (The first time I've rented a room on this trip!)   The room was especially useful, as I searched the entire town without finding a decent oboe spot.  Yesterday morning, as I was packing up, another storm arrived, so I stayed another night, too.

Back in 2001, at the very end of my trip, while I was fixing a flat tire near here, a woman stopped to see if I needed help. That's how I met Kate the windmill fixer.  When I got to Gilgandra, I was immediately approached by a local farmer, Ross Stockings.  (My heavily laden bike attracts a lot of attention.)  I asked Ross if he knew of Kate, and indeed he did.  (He also knows Alf in Yeoval.) Ross got her phone number for me, so I called her last night.  She's married now, with three young children, living on a farm in southeast Queensland.  It's not too far off my route, so I may be able to visit.

Winter is catching up with me.  It's cool and cloudy today, with a little drizzle, but good enough to ride on to Gulargambone after lunch.  I won't need much water today.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015


Once again, the weather has been generally pleasant.  Some days have been rather warm, a couple nights at higher elevation a bit cool, but there's been no significant rain.

I spent a third night in Condobolin, and another cyclist rode in the last evening.  I didn't have much time to talk to him, but Joe lives on the NSW coast, and was riding west towards Hay for a few days, then catching a ride home.

It was a warm ride to Forbes, a pleasant town I stayed in in 2001.  I spent a couple nights there.  Heading east to the small town of Eugowra, it turned a little cooler as I climbed.  There I pitched my tent under a gigantic shed roof at the show grounds, then found a great oboe spot in a shelter in another park, so I decided to spend two nights there, too.

Eugowra Campsite

I asked around about dinner, and learned that there was a Chinese restaurant at the lawn bowling club, which I never would have found on my own.

Breakfast both mornings was at the "Gentle Cow" café, run by a bloke named Mike.

The Gentle Cow

My last morning in Eugowra, I had a chat with a truck driver waiting in the park for his truck to get a new wheel bearing.  It was a double, hauling 50 tons, but I didn't ask of what.  He later passed me, giving me what passes for a friendly honk from a 50 ton truck.

As one travels east, towards the mountains of the Great Dividing Range, the land gradually rises.  My next stop was Molong, at 530 meters.  It's a little bigger town, on a major highway, but at least the caravan park had a free washer.  It was quite cool that night.

It warmed up quickly the next morning for the ride to Yeoval, where I had stayed in 2004.  It doesn't have a caravan park, but the locals in the bowling club all agreed that no one would care if I camped in the park.  Conveniently, the bowling club had a shower. 

In 2004, a local had seen me riding around town and invited me to have breakfast with his family the next morning.  I managed to contact Alf Sunday afternoon, and he invited me to meet him the next morning, so I decided to stay one more day in Yeoval.  Alf and his wife, Sharon, recently started up a museum and coffee shop dedicated to Banjo Patterson, Australia's famous poet, who lived part of his childhood in Yeoval.  Alf and Sharon lead busy lives, in which I was immersed for a day.  I met Alf early Monday morning at the museum, rode along with him on a shopping trip to Wellington, 40 km away, then back to the museum for breakfast.  He showed me around the museum, as well as a new park across the road for which he's largely responsible.  Both Alf and Sharon drive school busses, so that afternoon I rode along with Sharon on her run, and the next morning with Alf on his.  They invited me to have dinner and stay at their house, so I slept in my first bed since Feb. 16 back in Colac.  Back at the museum Tuesday morning after Alf's school bus run, we had another breakfast, and I got ready to leave.  Alf asked me to deliver a letter in Dubbo, but just before I left he got a call to drive a crook (sick) school bus to Dubbo for repairs, so he took the letter back.  (He had offered several times to drive me to Dubbo, of course.)  About a half hour out of Yeoval, Alf and Sharon met me going the other way in Sharon's car.  It seems the bus broke down and Sharon had to pick up Alf.  So, I got the letter back again.  A ways further down the road, I found a bunch of fresh oil on the road, and eventually the bus parked along the road.  Later, a very large tow truck went by going the other way, but I got to Dubbo before it got back with the bus.  Alf and Sharon had also told me about two cyclists just ahead of me.

The Banjo Patterson Museum

A ways past the abandoned bus, I met the two cyclists at a rest area.  Charlotte and Ruben, from Belgium, had left from Melbourne two weeks earlier, also on their way to Brisbane.  Both were towing trailers.  They're on a two year "working holiday", planning to sell their bikes in Brisbane, and continue their travels to the north and on to Asia. I left the rest area before they did, and didn't see them again until I got to Dubbo.  They were both born the year of my first New Zealand trip, 1986.

With Ruben

Dubbo is a big town, about 50,000, on two major highways, but it's the last one I'll see for quite a while.  The caravan park I stayed in last night was a real dump, but there are several others, so maybe tonight will be more pleasant.