After the very relaxing two week rest at my parents house it was time for me to hit the road again.I had put the next leg of my ride on hold for a few extra days due some some seriously bad weather in the mountains but it was time to move on before I lost interest completely.The fact that the very morning I packed my bike up I somehow did myself some sort of lower back injury by bending and twisting the wrong way while attending to my bike.There was a really sharp pain in my sacrum and it extended down the back of both legs.I could not really straighten myself and when I went to sit it hurt like hell.There was no way that I was going to delay again.The bike was packed,I was dressed and that was that. I said my goodbyes to my parents and rolled out of the driveway and rode up the hill toward the Western Highway where I turned west for the first time on my trip.
One would think that as I was pretty much at the top of the Blue Mountains when I started that days ride that it would be a pretty easy ride across and over the top before making the descent down to Lithgow some 40 kilometers away.How wrong was I?The road heading west from Katoomba rolls constantly,following the contours of the spectacular mountain ridges that make up the this part of The Great Dividing Range.It was a tough start and the traffic did nothing to help though the great road conditions did ease my pain a little.The fact that I had done almost no riding at all over the last ten days of my stay was the one thing that hit me the most.I felt like I had lost so much of my fitness but I knew that in a few days the old legs would soon feel stronger again and all would be good.Strangely,the back pain I had felt that morning eased as soon as I hopped on my bike and it wasn't too long before I was back into riding mode and enjoying the passing scenery.
Not long after passing through Mt Victoria I found mysel at the top a huge descent.It was one of those scary steep and long downhills that truly worry me when I have a full load on the bike and a trailer draging along behind.There was not much in the way of a shoulder and I hoped the trucks behind me would be symathetic to the fact that I had no option but to take up the whole left lane as I rode the bakes down the dangerous,three kilometer descent.Once at the bottom I regrouped and began what would be a twenty kilometer rollercoaster ride through some of the hilliest terrain faced so far on my long trip.My poor legs hurt and I was definately happy to roll into the car park of the Lithgow MacDonalds after 40k for a morning coffee break out of the cold wind.
My morning coffee lasted about an hour before I filled my water bottles and continued west toward Bathurst.I had figured that todays ride would end just short of Bathurst which was about 100k from Katoomba an I always like to finish my rides about an hour or so from the next town so I know that if I use all my water overnight then a fresh supply will be just a short ride away the next day.Unfortunately for me the weather and the hills conspired against me and only ten kilometers out of Lithgow my legs really started to feel it.I struggled on through the seemingly endless rolling hills for another couple of hours gaining little headway beofre finally calling it a day at the 72k mark when my lack of enthusiasm, combined with a presentable camping area,coaxed me off the road for the day.I set up camp in the scrub beside a disused side-road and within an hour was,believe it or not,actually pulling on my running shoes to begin the long run training build up for Ironman West Oz which was just two months away.I went for an easy fifteen minute warm up run before completing eight,one minute hills repeats and 30 minutes of run drills which left my legs throbbing and my belly growling.It was time to eat and then prepare for the first night on the road to Ironman.
The next morning I woke up to a very painfull lower back.Just sitting up hurt so much that I could not put any weight at all on my tailbone.I had to roll over onto my belly and then do a push up to get into a crawling postion before backing slowly out of the tent and slowly standing up.What the hell had I done to myself?I went for a little walk to warm up and then slowy set about packing all my gear before gingerly hopping back on the bike and coasting down the hill near the top of which I had camped.The first uphill wasn't much fun but before too long any lingering pain had gone and about 5k later I had finally crested the Great Divide(according to a sign on the side of the road) and began the 20k descent into the frigid town of Bathurst.I passed the famous Mt Panorama race circuit and was thankful to be in town this week and not the next when the highways would be full with every petrol headed motor enthusiast in Australia making the annual pilgrimage to the famous Bathurst 1000 motor race.
As I rolled into town the grey clouds rolled in and a light mist began to fall.Thankfully I spied a pair of golden arches not too far away and was soon in the Bathurst MacDonalds warming up over a large Mac Cafe latte and chowing down on a couple of muffins.I had tucked myself into a corner where I could keep an eye on my bike but my little hideaway didn't stop the countless odd stares that I was recieving from those who walked by.The joint was jammed with people and I really felt out of place in a town that is far more welcoming of people driving hotted up cars than those riding bicycles.The kids,as usual,were very into my bike and a couple of them came over and asked me all about my trip and my gear.Until their parents told them to get away from me that is.Strange,single men in MacDonalds are not the sort of people most parents want their kids chatting to.Sad but true.
Once the clouds started to clear about two hours later I pulled on all my warm clothes again and headed off,out of Bathurst and on toward Cowra about 110k away.I knew I wouldn't make it that day but I fugured if all went well then I'd be riding through Cowra at around late lunchtime the next day.If the hills out of Bathurst were any indication then that was truly a pipe dream as I was to find nothing but more long rolling hills stretching as far as the eye could see.The hell of it was,I had now found myself riding into a strengthening headwind which made the ups hell and the downs heaven.The end of my day was heralded by the sounds of thunder in the distance and as I struggled mightily up the hardest hill of the day I could feel a few raindrops cooling my face in the increasing wind.I crested yet another hill to see lighting flashing in the distance and knew my day was nearly done.Another light show had me duck into a now unused part of the old highway and rushing to erect my tent and throw my tarp overtop in preparation for the oncoming storm.Once all the hatches had been battened down,so to speak,there was nothing left to do but duck inside and wait it out.With only 60k in the bank for the day I was pretty dissappointed but hoped that I'd be able to ride to the town of Blayney a mere 12k away before nightfall.I didn't fancy spending to much time roadside if there were severe thunderstorms about.About fifteen minutes after steeling into my tent the storm hit and stayed for a couple of hours with the rain pounding pouw on my tarp and the wind howling in the trees above.By the time it had eased it was around 4pm and there was no point moving that day.I fired up my stove,cooked some food and prepare my tent for the night.
The next eighteen hours or so were spent either asleep in my tent while the rain poured down or ducking outside during lulls in the storm to check to see if it was all over.All through the night the storms came and went and I was really preparing myself for a whole day stuck in the same spot but at around 11am the skies cleared a little and I decided to pack up and make a move.It took me about an hour to pack everything and get going again and once everthing was ready I made the quick dash into the town of Blayney about a 12k windblasted ride from my camp.I stopped briefly to fill all my water bottles and then was out on the highway again trying to get as close to Cowra as possible.About 10k out of town as I was climbing a little hill when I noticed a rattling sound coming from my rear wheel.I looked down and saw that the spoke protector(designed to stop my chain from shifting into my spokes)was loose and I though I'd better find somehwere to pull off the road and fix it.Halfway down the next hill I saw a sign signalling a rest area ahead and I pulled in to find that it was also a viewpoint for the local windfarm.I could clearly see about a dozen huge wind turbines slowly rotating on the nearby hillside.Behind the giant fans I could see the darkening sky which told me that the bad weather was not over quite yet.I had only ridden 22k that day and was already making a mad dash to set up a shelter for the next round of storms.Bugger it!!!
For another 10 hours or so I was trapped inside my tent as a fresh round of storms battered the rest area.Thankfully I had found a spot hidden by some think low shrubs and about eight feet below the crest fo the hill which meant that most of the wind just blew straight over me.The tent would be out of the wind and secure,I would just have to hope that it would continue to hold out the rain.Thnkfully it did keep me dry and even more thankfully the tarp managed to retain a lot of heat as the temperature dropped into the low single digits for the night.Inside my tent it was seven degrees celcius and it was a couple of degrees colder outside,geanerally a miserable night to be camping but I was warm,dry and well fed.This was not the nice start to the second leg of my trip that I had hoped for.I guess it couldn't get too much worse though and tried to stay positive as I went to sleep that night cozily warm in my sleeping bag.Hopefully the next day would bring better weather,better luck and a few more miles under my wheels.