Wagga Wagga to Jindera via Collingullie and Pleasant Hills
Monday April 4, 2016, 104 miles (168 km) – Total so far: 1,075 miles (1,730 km)
I am not too sure how this day is going to go. But I’m not worried about it. I’ve got a couple days to get home and a good idea of where I can camp and get water along the road ahead.
I have enough food for two days in my panniers, a bottle of Coke and an extra litre of water along, too. There will be nowhere to get food on the route except at Collingullie (too early in the day) and Walla Walla (close enough to home you might as well ride the last 15 miles). The only place to get water will be at Pleasant Hills 60 miles into it.
But those are the logistics that I know about and can control. One of the things I love about bike touring is how all of the external factors influence your day and combine with the things you can control to give you one particular experience. Do the same ride the next day, and it might all add together into something totally different.
I’m rolling up the hill out of the caravan park at 6.30 am – right on sunrise. I want out of Wagga before the majority of people start their day. We roll back over the river bridge, through North Wagga and the floodplains, then under the embankment of the newer bridge that leads out to the suburb of Estella and the university. I’m not sure if the underpass was built for stock or pedestrians, but it does what I need it to do – it connects me with the Old Narrandera Road.
The growth of the Estella suburb is pretty amazing. They are doing earthworks and rolling out road alignments for several kilometres up on the hill above the road. How crazy – I have no idea why you would ever want to live up there on a tiny block with absolutely no trees a long way from the town centre. Wagga is known as a rough town (compared to Albury, Bathurst or Orange or other regional centres in NSW), so maybe none of the other parts are that desirable anymore? Whatever the case, no thanks! It gets hellish hot out here in summer – I can’t imagine how hot it would be up on that hill!
We roll along through pasture and horse ajistment blocks with long views toward the river. There is one short, steep, pointless hill to climb through really nice stands of Murray pine. It is one of those hills where the range ends less than a kilometre toward the river, but they’ve put the road over the hill instead of around. The Aussies are good at that!
Once over the hill we ride through flat fields, gentle folds of hills and large rural blocks. It all looks so dead and desolate at this time of year, I don’t even bother to take a photo. Then I turn off to head back over the river. At first today, I couldn’t figure out the wind direction. It seemed to be helping, so I left it at that. The forecast said it wasn’t supposed to be doing much at all today, but it was definitely more than ‘light’. Now that I’ve turned back east for a little bit, I confirm that there is definitely an ENE wind a blowin’.
I have to do a couple kilometres on the Sturt Highway, but they’ve resealed it recently, so the shoulder is smooth enough and wide enough that the b-double trucks don’t rumble by too closely. At Collingullie, I turn onto the road to Lockhart. This will take us southwest for a bit before we turn off to head south and toward Jindera. It is all a little bit of a roundabout way to get home, but my experience is that the Holbrook Road and the Olympic Highway out of Wagga are not all that much fun to ride. After I get off the Lockhart Road, I will only see about 2 cars per hour.
There is a bit of traffic on the Lockhart Road with people going to work and school and such, but there is plenty of lane width and I never get squeezed. Everyone is giving me heaps of room, too. Best of all, that wind is helping me big-time. The road is fairly flat, traversing an open landscape of harvested fields and occasional lengths of tree-lined road. And I’m rolling along at 16-18 mph. The road just zips away beneath me as the wind provides assistance.
At one point I come across the caravans, equipment and barking dogs of some drovers. There is a sign that warns you of stock for the next 5 kilometres. These are stockmen using the Travelling Stock Routes I wrote about in one of my Guntonneuring entries. I ride and ride, but I don’t come up to the first cattle until at least 5 kilometres ahead. The cattle are strung out for about 3 kilometres along the road. They must have been travelling the ‘long paddock’ for awhile now, because the cattle are not skittish around the bike whatsoever. They glance up from the dry, brown grass and resume grazing.
It’s only another 5-10 kilometres past the cattle, plus a few gentle hills lined with nice patches of white or yellow box and some Murray pine, before we turn off onto County Boundary Road. This part of the road is new to me. The hills start to pick up here, as do larger patches of remnant trees and more sections of tree-lined road. I love this type of road where the gentle rollers give you some downhill relief but lots of nice, long views out over the landscape from the high points, too.
We roll down through Milbrulong – a few houses on a few platted streets along the rail line. I guess you never know which towns will become bigger centres and which will fall away into decay when you lay them out to start. There is not much left here, but the school somehow hung on until the end of 2013. The trains now run about twice a year – to coincide with harvest. Most of the rail lines aren’t used at all anymore – just the silos associated with them – but for some reason, this one has remained.
My map suggests the road south of Milbrulong is unpaved – but it has been recently sealed (in the last few years) and it is as good as chip-seal gets. The wind is swinging to the northeast, so we are getting a good quartering push, too. There is so little traffic as to be negligible. The temps are quite nice. What an absolutely awesome and perfect day to be out on the bike! The only bad thing for me is that there is smoke in the air and my lungs aren’t too happy. I will have a dry, hoarse cough and chest pains all day. But I am used to that, so all is good on the road today.
With the wind behind me, the good pavement and the nice temps, I’m just flying along. I’ve taken pics of this road before, and it is definitely not at it’s best at this time of year, so the ride today is becoming about the bike, the miles and the physical feeling of pushing it hard with the help of the wind. It’s not about the landscape today (which is normally what it is all about for me).
Up and down the hills we go until we get to Pleasant Hills. This is my only water option today and it is time to refill. I roll over to the recreation ground and am momentarily dismayed when the women’s restroom door is locked. Luckily, the men’s room is unlocked and I can refill water. The toilet and urinal trough are beyond gross, though, so I just relieve myself behind the building instead. Since it is only 11.30am, there is no way I’m camping here tonight. I’m 61 miles into the day and feel good. Let’s keep going and see what comes. In the back of my mind, I’m already riding all the way home today and getting my fully-loaded century ride in for the season.
15 minutes, one Snickers bar, 200 ml of Coke and some VitaWheat crackers later, we are rolling back to the road gleaming with a fresh application of sunscreen. Back to the good seal, back to the gentle rolling hills and back to a perfect day on the bike. Up and down and over hill and dale through the dregs of summer pasture, harvested wheat and burnt stubble.
I do stop for one picture at the same spot I took a picture on 3 November last year. I don’t quite get the exact same shot or angle, but the comparison is still pretty good showing the landscape almost exactly 5 months apart. You can match up a couple trees and the low/drainage parts of the field in the foreground.
Then it’s back to hammering out those miles under that big blue and smoky sky. We come up to the 10 kilometre section of road that didn’t get funding this financial year, and boy does that drag!! It feels like we are riding forever on patches, cracks and chip-seal the size of knuckles. Blech! But the wind is our friend today, and we roll hand-in-hand to the south.
I fly past the jet-patcher guy on the Lookout Road heading down to Walla. He is patching the edge of the road and spraying chips everywhere! How he decides what section of road edge needs repaired when it is all pretty bad, I have no idea! But who cares, we go flying past on the downhill, get ahead of his chip spraying and never see him again.
There is a short stop in Walla to consume a milk (temps are nice today, but it is still 85F and cold drinks are GOOD!). I drink half of the milk in the store while I’m waiting for a local old guy to gather together every unhealthy item in the store, plus a loaf of white bread and a litre of milk, to add to his pile at the counter. All the while he is complaining to the woman (who is looking at me apologetically) about how his mother just died and he is not in the will that she made in 1992. “And all this time I cared about her!”
Milk consumed. It is 1.30 pm. We are at mile 88. We are throwin’ it down today and we are riding all the way home. We’ll be hitting the century mark today! Now we are back to the roads where I know every single dip, hole and bump, every single incline, decline and curve. Away we go! I am sad to say, though, that the wind has diminished in the last 10 kilometres and isn’t all that much help in the final home stretch. Thanks for the good times, though, Mr Northeasterly, that was a good jaunt with you today!
I stop at Mile 93 to take a photo for another Bike Life Challenger, then it’s a hard, stomping crank home! Push it, let’s go, Em, let’s go! What sort of average speed can we do today!
At mile 104, almost exactly, I stop at the local IGA. They say you should never shop when you are hungry. I’m not sure you should shop when you’ve just done a century on the bike, either. My recollection of what is in the fridge at home and what I might purchase to go with those items to make something decent for dinner is a little fuzzy. Nevertheless, it all turns out okay and people get fed later.
I am amazed at how good I feel when I get home. Oh yes, I am pretty tired, but not 60 miles more tired than I was after 40 miles yesterday. It goes to show how much the wind can really impact your ride. I’ve done 3300 feet of cumulative climbing today and I was carrying a fair load since I had warmie gear (cold weenie coming out of summer), extra water and two days of food onboard. But I feel so good. However, my contact points can definitely tell you that we did a century on rough chip-seal! Still, it was a fantastic day on the road. I am truly a very fortunate woman and I do not take the good things for granted! Until next weekend….