As per yesterday, an early start was needed, and we managed to be nearly half an hour earlier. We left open the option – if we struggled – of staying the night in Grafton, but the goal was to get home.
I’d plotted an optimistic, longer, way round to Maclean (for a change of scenery), but we discarded that one straight up. No need to do more km than necessary and it didn’t skip much of the Yamba Road horror stretch anyway.
We originally thought we’d grab a quick brekkie at a cafe on the way out of Yamba, but quickly decided the smarter move was to get out before the traffic built up any more than it already had by 6.15. 🥴 Honestly, I would not recommend riding this road at all. Sure, it wasn’t nearly as bad as the previous afternoon, but my god there are a lot of dickheads driving in and out of Yamba.
So, bacon and eggs at Maclean (@18k) then we retraced our route back over onto Woodford Island, and then round to Brushgrove (@40k). We stopped to have a chat with the Lawrence ferry operators, who were on shift, but still not running due to high tides, combined with floodwaters from the headwaters further north. Once the water hits a particular height, that’s it, it’s cancelled.
Back to our little park at Brushgrove, and by then it was warming up enough to go with the head-wetting strategy, even if it didn’t last until the next tap.
We debated taking another back roads route (that I had plotted) out east a bit, and back into Ulmarra, but again decided the shorter the better. Better to just cope with half the distance – 9k – down Big River Way, which despite some traffic was still nowhere near as bad as the Yamba Road.
We headed to a cafe, but it was closed, so we doubled back to the coffee van up on the main drag. Turned out the coffee was good, with friendly service. We were also able to benefit from some local knowledge that confirmed that the route I’d chosen actually did continue over the new highway bypass, and was also sealed.
We needed to get something to carry with us for a side-of-the-road lunch about halfway to (lol) Halfway Creek. So this required yet another stop- at the servo where we nabbed the last two pre-made sandwiches in the fridge. And then splattered water all over our heads. Hot.
My chosen route turned out to be a good one along narrow, quiet roads through farmland. (Area called Lavadia.) We took another quick stop in some shade and then whizzed down past the newly built prison, ie. Clarence Correctional Centre. Huuuuge complex. Two ‘complexes’ actually. Had no idea it was there.
We crossed over the highway, then came out on Eight Mile Lane (the road to Wooli). (@69.5k) There were a few more cars on this section, but fortunately, it wasn’t too far to the southern end of Big River Way, and then only about 1k to the turn-off onto Old Pacific Hwy.
We stopped at the first shady spot we came across and pulled out the egg sandwiches. (@76k)
It was ‘only’ 10 km along this road until the Parker Rd turn-off where we would rejoin the highway (where we turned off yesterday) – but it turned out to be the toughest section. We’d been riding into a headwind all day, both a curse, but also a slightly cooling ‘blessing’. This section, though, was a bit shielded from the wind, which made it hotter. The tar was making a popping sound because it was sort of melting. And it was this gradual climb.
It didn’t seem very far before it was another stop or have a meltdown for me. More water on the head, and I took off the damned ‘wicking’ singlet we always wear. Right. Only 7 km to the turnoff. I google-navigated it and counted down every kilometre. It helped.
There was a bus shelter there, so we just sat there in the shade for about 10 minutes. Hot.
Another 7 to Halfway Creek (@93.5k) and we got to sit in air-conditioning for a while. (But not before a quick chat with another cycle-tourer who was just leaving!)
Gatorade and a plate of hot chips, then a bottle of water emptied over the head, and then ONLY 30k to go. But this was really already in home territory. We’d been up here a few times on weekend morning rides.
Another 7k to the Range Rd/Solitary Islands Way exit. A slog of a hill, but we knew there was a downhill reward on the other side. (The hill we avoided slogging up yesterday)
That section of Solitary Islands Way had barely any cars, so it’s great riding, really. We stopped yet again in a shady spot. Yes, a lot of stopping today, but it was hot, and bums (especially mine) were sore. And today all the climbing was at the end of the ride, in the worst of the heat.
So, yes, we even made one more stop – at the Mullaway servo (@115k). Ice cream time. And more water-over-heads. Then the last few kilometres home. We stood under the hose, had a cup of tea, and then went down to the beach for a swim. The best hydrotherapy for post-125km cycling legs, and only a few hundred metres away.
Overall we were really happy with how the bike went. We learnt a few things regarding more optimum ways to pack our new bespoke (obviously) frame bags. (Thanks to Bike Bag Dude) We definitely experience far less wind resistance compared to panniers – and felt we had a better ‘touring’ average speed, although crosswinds are obviously a bit of a trade-off.
The biggest ‘issue’ turned out to be my newish Ground Effect ‘Sirens’ knicks that I had bought a few months ago to replace the trusty ones I’d worn on all our tours since our US adventure in 2017. They seem to have changed something about how the chamois insert is stitched in, and the tightly overlocked seams rubbed me absolutely raw in the crease between leg and torso – and that contributed a lot towards the almost meltdown there at one point. I’ve thrown out the old ones (of course I have – the only things I do get around to throwing out are things I later actually want), so I can’t compare to the previous ones that didn’t give me that sort of trouble – but when we looked at the construction of Marc’s cheaper DHB knicks, the stitching construction difference made us go ‘WTF Ground Effect?!!’ Anyway, the ‘bottom line’ (haha), is that for long touring days, I’m going to need new knicks, and then I’m going to need to test them out on long days.