Ballina 2020

Ballina 2020

DUBBUG Ride Report Ballina 2020 August

Report by Dave Spears (ED). 

Disclaimer: Please note that some of the facts in this report may not be facts, just like some of the people may not be real either.  To appreciate this report you needed to have been part of the trip.

Access the photographs by clicking here

Day 1 – Ballina arrive (Tuesday 18th August)

Rayner drove Peter & ED, in her new car, to meet up with Mike & Phil for lunch at Botero’s in Maclean.  What was really cool about this place was that it manufactures coffee and you sat inside the factory floor surrounded by sound proof glass to watch the goings on.  If the glass was to keep out the noise, we wondered why the black coffee factory also included a white lego play area in the noisy area – perhaps this was for the staff.  The whole factory is dominated by fairy lights and a “floating” LED chandelier.  All the right ingredients to compliment the food experience.

Arriving in Ballina, we discovered Rick & Penny had missed the turnoff from the freeway – were stopped at the border, and after finally navigating their way back, registered into a different caravan park having convinced the poor receptionist that this was where they had booked in.  Penny’s excuse for poor navigation was she was asleep at the wheel and Rick was spaced out on a podcast as the navigator.

They couldn’t drown their sorrows as they both decided to follow Phil’s lead and give up drinking for this trip.

Ballina 2020

Mike & Peter fell in love with the accommodation that Rayner had organised and started moving their food, bikes and things across from their moonlight tent site in the corner of the caravan park.  Pete thought it was handy to have a light bollard outside the flaps to assist with reading at night.  Mike was not so sure.

Rayner whipped together a curry & bolognaise affair for dinner.  Bev & Al joined us bringing ‘horses douveors‘ and we all comfortably rearranged the accommodation into one long mess hall, that served us well for the next 3 nights. It was decided that each night, in rotation, key members would own the responsibility of creating the most enjoyable evening feast at minimal cost – then there would be a ritual “trading of monies” ceremony.  My guess is this ceremony satisfies the unwritten rule of ensuring a financial adjustment to ensure equal contributions between all members of the group.

We introduced Pete to cards, something he had religiously avoided since high school gambling days.

Day 2 – Ballina to Lennox Head via the coast

By consensus, our ride departure was 9:00am and this became the standard.  The argument was that this would avoid the peak hour traffic.  In reality we were on cycle paths and preferred the no rush start each morning.

It took a little while for Pete to get orientated, however cycling to the end of the north wall, left little doubt as to the direction we were heading up the coast to Lennox Head.  Frequently stopping to admire the view, take photos, & listen to ED’s dulcit tones droning on about some trivia point that we have all since forgotten, we made our way through some of the most enjoyable coastal cycle paths in NSW.  Sadly, at Sharpe’s Beach, the path comes to an abrupt halt – though the Council has been promising for years to have it continue on.  We know that it is true because Stan was on hand with multiple trucks and movie stars to film the Council as they madly continued to create the path towards the lookout.  Mike tried to lead us on this new section (which had weeds growing through it) however was stopped at a serious looking fence across a creek.  We had no choice than to take our lives in our hands and brave the main road to a spectacular lookout dominating Lennox Head.  From there it was a downhill race to coffee at William’s Road – a place that Al & Bev recommended as an excuse to see Karen without actually inviting us into her beautiful home.  Phil became best friends with the postman before we moved onto Lake Ainsworth to admire the surf club on wheels.

We did a circuitous route back to Ballina which involved something DUBBUGGer’s are famous for – hills!  Ballina Council designed this route, including installation of monitoring cameras on the water tower and other peaks so they can laugh themselves sick (from the safety of their marine rescue office).  We crossed a couple of bridges and made our way down the main street of Ballina.  Pete was still confused as to where we actually were.  Luckily, the river cycle path guided us back to the caravan park.

Penny was amazed with her ability to complete the ride, and Al could not believe he had climbed to the water tower after saying all year he would never do it again.  Whilst it might have been a short trip, it was filled with lots of challenges, stops & starts, and a whole lot of navigation.

Tonight’s $14 BBQ was proudly organised by Mike & Pete.  True to form, the men stood round the outside BBQ and the women made salads in the kitchen.

Day 3 – Ballina to Newrybar

Today’s forecasted strong winds & cooler weather came to fruition as we navigated west towards Ballina Heights.  Penny thought the uphill would be good & Al thought the downhill would be even better so they did a “cycle share” for the trip.  Our first hill taste was near the end of the cycleway, which being short & sharp had us all gasping for breath and removing our overcoats.  I suspect the Council had a hidden camera on this one as well.  And then we did it again on the original Pacific Highway up to Tintenbar.  I see why truckies love the M1.

This time Rick showed us why they got lost coming to Ballina by insisting we turn back onto the Motorway & Penny got to do something with the Knight at the Macadamia Castle which is too rude to write here.  With a last minute dash by those with too light bikes (Phil, Mike & Pete) we enjoyed well earned coffee at Newrybar at the Harvest deli, which specialised in burnt sandwiches.  Renee’ (Rayner) dwelled in her new name and Penny found a cheap wooden swing which Mike proudly proclaimed he could make for a fraction of the price.

Rick was getting used to working only 4 days a week, however after purchasing a small can of sardines for $58 announced his return to a ‘come back tour’ at work.

Mike took off never to be seen again until hitting the beautifully patchworked artificial cobblestones at the junction to Byron Bay.  The rest of us took a cautionary approach but sadly missed the view due to the high dust content from the westerly winds.  The winds however nearly blew Rayner sideways on her helium bike.  It was a steady grind on the main road to see that Stan was still filming the Council works (a series called Eden), so we slipped back onto the coastal cycle trail to make our way home.

Was an epic trip because of the hills & high wind.  That night Penny excelled with pasta and cheesecake for $7 “trading of monies” ceremony.  We sucked Pete in for another game of cards.

Day 4 – Ballina to Evans Head

Bev & Al offered to follow us in a couple of vehicles to Evans Head thus allowing the remaining members to cycle one way and for drivers to return later.

It was a stunning river crossing via the South Ballina ferry before coming across an apparition from Dr Who, complete with COVID-19 instructions, for entering the Tardis.  The police box was looking a bit tattered for all its time travel but contained a selection of books dating back to 2019.  Only one dared enter, Phil, who after returning back to the same moment declared he was impressed with the “novel” experience.

Crossing the river bridge at Wardell, we discovered it is never too early for coffee, encouraged by a bushwalking/rappelling/canoeing/cycling group with the same idea.  Phil found an affiliation for magpies whilst sneaking a quick trip to the water’s edge so, armed with this information we sent Penny up front with her “bling” helmet to keep terrorists at bay.  Maggie though was no fool & targeted Rayner instead.  Sadly, we didn’t have Rick’s “people eater” lycra from yesterday as a weapon.

From Wardell, it’s a very pretty, though a little hilly, way to Broadwater – a town that seems to be no longer interested in supporting tourist cafes as both the infamous Melba’s high tea & Church café were closed.  Perhaps this was related to the imminent opening of the highway bypass, a pity.  This left us to savour something from a run-down BP instead.  After stopping at the local book exchange boxes in the park (these boxes are so great & appear in random places, just like the tardis – see we were pleased to race down the road to Evans Head looking for some decent tucker.

Evans Head Caravan park is huge, so Rayner asked to have all our accommodation as close as possible to each other.  Mike & Pete kicked Rayner, Phil & ED out of their top end spacious river frontage accommodation declaring they needed to experience the “budget” style instead and kindly let them back in to sleep on the floor at nights.

Tonight was fish & chips, appropriately purchased through the local co-operative.  No need for a ceremony.

Day 5 – Evans Head to Woodburn

Penny found a new recruit, Carolan, to join us for our cycle today.  The idea being it was flat & easy for a perfect beginner’s cycle around the river’s edge.  No one counted on the wind though!  Once we started along the river a massive gust from SW sprang up such that we crawled head-on into Woodburn desperate to get out of this blast.  Poor Carolan’s introduction to finding the “draft spot” behind ED & Rick has no doubt scarred her for life.    That same cold blast powered the B team back to home in record time without even stopping at Evans to Betsy’s café, though a number of members tried to commit suicide cycling into some of the potholes.

ED later found refuge from the wind by swimming at the surf beach, amazingly protected from the westerlies; Pete & Rayner sheltered in the F111 air museum; & Penny, Rick & Carolan went to the pub.

By dinner time, Penny texts “potatoes are still in the supermarket” so a night search party (Phil, Alan & ED) brave the moonless & cold night to finalise purchase and save souls.  With honour restored & the introduction of alcohol all is forgiven and a $7.50 final ceremony is held.

Day 6 – Maclean & Chatswood Island

If yesterday was any indication of the wind ferocity, we knew today might be tougher so armed ourselves with coffee once again at Botero’s in Maclean.  There were still second thoughts! Al & Bev fell in lust and stayed at Evans Head for another honeymoon adventure.  Rayner opted to see her father and avoid the challenge.  Carolan simply refused to get out of her car. 

So, it was a motley lot of Phil, Mike, Pete, Penny, Rick & ED that thought they could “out challenge” mother nature and enjoy a final cycle to Brushgrove Pub for lunch. 

We decided to go in a clockwise fashion thinking that the hills in the middle of the island would somehow shelter us from the 50km/h plus westerly winds.  That was fine for the first few kilometres, until we turned due west!  And that was even acceptable whilst we were in the lee of the hill climb to the halfway point. 

Mike thought he would continue across to the other side of the island and fly back to his car, reportedly at an average of over 41 km/hr.  The rest of us had to cycle downhill by actually turning our pedals to stop from being blown backwards.  The group separated leaving behind ED & Rick who realised they may have needed more than one Berocca or coffee shots or both.  ED was amazed to see a barn shed roof rattling loose and flags indicating the gale was directly in our face.  At the last minute a white knight appeared, and they managed to increase their speed dramatically from 13 km/h to 23 km/h by drafting behind the shelter of Rayner’s car. 

Lunch was worthy of a drink & place near a warm fire.  Phil declared, “if it had rained it would have been the worse ride he ever did”.

Conclusion & Observations

Looking back, it was a great trip.  Some lessons for future ones:

  • Ignore anyone who says they want to do it cheap, they only bludge off everyone else
  • Much more enjoyable to plan each ride in detail than just turn up & hope for the best
  • Central meals are ideal however recommend a better ceremonial swapping of finances procedure – perhaps a kitty approach or a notebook of adjustments.  Real money sucks.
  • Don’t buy inner tubes over ebay.  ED had two massive splits in his new tubes
  • 9:00 am is an excellent time to start cycling.