August 28th, 2003


Meetings, Web services, ROAD TRIP!

Since the trip to Sydney was going to take at least 4.5 hours each way, I decided to make it interesting by going via Bathurst, Lithgow and Katoomba, and returning via Windsor, Lithgow and Mudgee.

Left Dubbo at 8am, before the frost had melted in the yard, and headed for the Mitchell Highway. Dubbo to Wellington is a nice run now that all the roadworks have finished. It's 110kph all the way except for the brief slow-down for Guerie. After Wello it's a dreary 100kph all the way to Bathurst. There's nothing to look at apart from the few cows and sheep the drought hasn't killed, the dreadful sculpture at the Wellington Caves turnoff, and Molong. And Molong isn't a lot to look at.

I remembered as soon as I hit Wellington that Dubbo is one of the few towns in the state that still has a 60kph suburban speed limit. Everywhere else is 50kph. Why? Well, back when 50kph was first mooted, Dubbo was the Test Town. At the end of the trial period we were allowed to vote on whether we would like to keep it or not. There was a resounding NOT so we reverted to the old 60 limit. No other town had the vote option, and the trial was deemed a success despite the fact that everyone hated it.

At 10am I had a Maccas Breaky at Orange (hotcakes, white coffee, and a hash brown to killed the sickeningly sweet taste of the hotcakes), and, loaded up with caffeine and carbs, hit the road again. My plan was to make a detour at Bathurst and do a circuit of the Mount Panorama race track, but they were working on the grid and were forcing traffic to go the wrong way around. You don't go up Conrod Straight. That's the "go downhill fast" part of the track! Not that you can actually go fast since it's a suburban street with a 50kph limit and the Highway Patrol wait on the other side of the hump at the bottom.

There's a heap of roadworks on the Blue Mountains. It looks like they're making the road from Blackheath to Katoomba a dual carriageway. It took a bloody age to drive that 30km stretch: 60kph max limit IF you could do it, heavy traffic and lollipop men waving their STOP/SLOW signs all over the place, mostly with the STOP side showing.

Coming down the mountains was a breeze. A light Westerly was blowing the pollution out to sea and I could see the skyscrapers in central Sydney, a good 80km away. I didn't have to go that far into town, and turned off the M4 at Parramatta.

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I headed for Windsor at 7.30am, and loaded up on more Maccas Breaky. I saw an Outback Steakhouse at Park Lea! How weird is that? The Americans has exported an Australian-theme steak house to Sydney! That's like sending an English Pub-theme pub to London, or a Ranch-theme steak house to Austin TX. And the really sad part is that the place was packed even at that time of day. Darn them Capitalist Yanks all to heck.

The traffic was awful and got worse, but since I was going against the flow it was only rather bad going out. It began to thin at Windsor and had evapourated by the time I hit RAAF Richmond (*thinks to self* Hmm. looks like the entire Hercules fleet AND the PM's plane are here. *unthinks*) I had the run up Kurrajong Hill into the Blue Mountains all to myself, and only saw one other car until the Zig Zag Steam Railway.

There were a few cars at Clarence Station, and I could see by the smoke in the air around the tunnel that I'd just missed the steam train. I made it over the hill in time to see the train leave the tunnel. I "raced" it along the 3km stretch where the track and road are separated by an Armco fence. He blew the whistle, I blew my horn, he blew the whistle, I flashed my lights, everyone in the carriages waved and vanished into the bush.

Never to be seen again.

(Yes they were. I just added that to be dramatic.)

Once through the hole that is Lithgow and on the minor road to Mudgee, I let the car stretch its legs a bit and sat on 120kph. 2km/minute is a nice speed, and Mudgee is only an hour away. I stopped briefly to take a photo of the Wollemi Valley, disturbing a pair of German tourists in their Maui van. They were having morning tea and looking at the view. They asked me how many people lived down there, because they couldn't see any houses or roads.

"Well, rougly, no one lives there," I said. I pointed out a peak about 10km away and told them of the abandoned shale-mining town called Glen Davis, and indicated the valley that wound into the cliffs in the distance. "That's where the Wollemai Pine is found." The pair became rather excited. They'd seen the tree at the Royal Botanic Gardens.

Lithgow to Dubbo via Mudgee is 300ish km, and the only towns in the way are Cullen Buller, Capertee, Mudgee and Goolma. Only Mudgee has more than 1000 people (18,000. Goolma has 8 houses, a pub, and a shop.)

It was a nice run and blew the cobwebs off the Camry. The trouble is Sydney and back (900km) the next day isn't a proper road trip. Now I feel the need to do a long one.
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