I feel rested after my comfortable night inside the camp kitchen. It’s been dry and warm. I’m packed and ready to ride just as daylight overtakes darkness so I head out onto the road. The long gentle downhill I enjoyed late yesterday afternoon continues for the first few kilometers of today’s ride and it boosts my confidence. I sing and whistle as I ride; a sure sign that I’m enjoying myself.
Today is just about pedaling closer to Bathurst. I want to make Mudgee, which is a 108km ride in total. I feel good so, instead of my usual 20km per rest stop ride I push through to 30km per stop. I even stop a few times to do a spot of geocaching.
I hit Birriwa, which proves to be a total nothing of a town. Everything is old and decrepid, even this once functional truck that is now rusting away in a paddock. I can’t help but wonder what towns like these were like in their heyday and what changed to cause the decay. People clearly still live here but it looks like a place to live on the edge of living.
Beyond Birriwa I continue to ride through sheep country. The soundtrack to my day is baaing sheep and bleating lambs. They panic when they see me but don’t budge for cars. It still fascinates me, even after a week. Even the most docile and comfortable looking old bag of mutton dressed in wool will jump to her feet and thunder away as fast as a sheep can thunder.
In Gulgong I detour into the town in the hope of a cold can of Coke. It’s been 85km since Coolah and I’ve only stopped briefly for a museli bar and to grab a few easy geocaches. Unfortunately, the whole town is shut. A tree has fallen on a power line and the town is in black out. Even the three pubs have shut their doors to customers. Nothing is being bought, sold or traded. It’s a bit of a shame because I could really go something cold right now. So I eat a few more museli bars and pedal onward.
I reach Mudgee in the mid afternoon. I head straight for the supermarket to buy that cold drink I’ve been fantasising about. It tastes every bit as good as I hoped it would. I am absolutely at the end of my cycling ability now and realise that cycling on to Bathurst tomorrow will be an impossible task. It’s still 130km of brutal mountain climbing (actual mountains not just the rollers I’ve been pedaling through). I have cycled 680km (423 miles) in just seven days. I’ve ridden every day and haven’t taken a rest day. My body is fatigued and I’m definitely not fit enough to maintain this level of effort. Nor do I want to just simply blat out miles.
So I make a decision to stop my ride. I explore all the options for getting to Bathurst and all end in a wall. There’s public transport but that will take 4.5 hours each way. I cannot rent a car in Mudgee over the weekend. My friend doesn’t currently have transport because her car has died. And hitching isn’t as easy as it sounds because I’m quite shy about asking strangers for help. Fortunately, Paul has a level head and reminds me that it’s only 1,035km (644 miles) to Bathurst from our house. That’s an easy two days driving. Why don’t I take a rest day in Mudgee tomorrow then take 11 days to cycle back to Texas where he will pick me up to take me home. Then a week later, after I’ve completed some commitments at home, I can simply drive to visit my friend in Bathurst. It makes total sense.
So tomorrow I will take a rest day in Mudgee. It’s meant to rain all day anyway. Then I will start the long ride home, taking more time to check out the sights along the way because I only need to cover 60-70km a day, not 100.