Border closures and lockdowns this year really put the kybosh on a couple of tour ideas (north to Qld and back, and then even just Northern NSW). So here we are just into December with just a couple of days to spare and some new gear to test-drive… or rather test-ride. And we wanted to see how we go with longer distances. My auntie lives in Yamba, so we decided to do a one-nighter, take her out for dinner, and then get ourselves back home again the next day. No biggie, hey.
Early start. Check. We got away just after 6.30am, which is good for us. Our planned route was to take Solitary Islands Way through Woopi past Safety, Mullaway and Arrawarra, then the highway to Halfway Creek. Parker Rd across to Orara Way. Grafton, Lawrence, over on the ferry to Woodford Island then Maclean, then last leg into Yamba.
Break it down. Planned stops were Halfway Creek, Lanitza servo, Grafton, Lawrence, Maclean.
We opted for the highway at Arrawarra (rather than Range Rd). It wasn’t too bad, and saved us that last climb up on Solitary Islands Way which we were all too familiar with. As we’ve done before, we scuttled across the highway to the Halfway Creek servo for coffee/milkshake and some cake (30k) and then back across to resume going north another few kilometres.
Parker Rd is a lovely, peaceful stretch, and then Orara Way wasn’t too bad traffic-wise. The store at Lanitza (@50k) has downsized somewhat since we last stopped there (probably 10 years ago), no longer selling fuel. Or even Gatorade as it turned out! We shared a coke, and then set off for Grafton, with a little detour @57k (highly recommended)
We had another quick stop just before turning onto Armidale Rd so Marc could take a photo of the tandem leaning on the flood warning sign that he installed for a work project.
He promised me that it was pretty much all downhill into South Grafton from there, and he was right. Yee ha. I’ve only ever ridden it the other way, and I wasn’t that keen to repeat that slog (thus firming up an alternative route I’d plotted for our return home)
Under the old bendy bridge, and a late brunch/early lunch at a cafe. (@77k) Toast Espresso 👍
Here’s where I should have clued up on the state of the river and checked on the operating status of the Lawrence ferry ( Live Traffic app – not hard 🙄) – after observing how high the river was when we came over the bridge. Instead we tootled off out of town, via a park where we found a tap and splashed water over our heads and shirts. It was getting a bit warm by this point.
We got nearly 4k out of town before coming across the ‘Ferries out of service sign ‘ (both Ulmarra and Lawrence car ferries) Oops. I guess at least we didn’t get all the way to Lawrence, but still…
We had no choice but to head back through Grafton and then take the new bridge over the river (@85k) and then take the old highway – now Big River Way – to Ulmarra (where we stopped for a rest and water top up (and wetting of heads) in the park) (@98k).
Another 9k up Big River Way, and we could turn off to Brushgrove. We took advantage of the pub being open and grabbed a large lemon squash and pretty much inhaled a packet of chips. Water top up, loo, and more water dunked on heads at the park, and then it was a (surprising) 20k along the river to the northern end of Woodford Island and the bridge over to Maclean.
We passed the Lawrence ferry at our 118k mark when it should have been at 92.😳
The tailwind turned into a bit of a crosswind as we turned east at the top of the island, and it was hot, so we grabbed a 5 minute break alongside the river.
At Maclean we hit the Gatorade and a huge pack of kettle chips. (Carbs and salt baby) and then steeled ourselves for the last stretch into Yamba at peak hour. Ugh.
Marc succinctly summed up the traffic into Yamba as ‘feral’. Add a stiff crosswind, and the only positive light I can cast on that last 18k was that the adrenalin of the multiple close passes and constant rear-view mirror vigilance made us forget about how hot and tired we were.
The motel was clean and roomy, with a pool, so we jumped in for some hydro therapy on the legs, and then, after a shower, plonked our butts back on the bike to pedal the few k’s to my Aunt’s place.
Chinese restaurant for dinner and a lovely catch up, then a few k’s night pedal back to the motel (Not hot! No traffic! Bliss!)