When we mentioned to our friends from Townsville Tandems, that we were looking to ride to Charters Towers for an overnight trip, it caught their interest, and before we knew it the date had been set and we were off! The day before we left, Paul and Sarah cancelled due to an unexpected turn of events; and our friend Bec decided that riding to Charters Towers would be a great thing to do after working until midnight that night!
Rather than carry the tent and associated paraphernalia (sleeping mat, pillow…), we decided to live the high (and light) life and book into a pub for the evening. We still carried two panniers. One carried our mega heavy chain lock as well as a D-lock (just in case we had to lock up somewhere unsavoury), and the other had a change of clothes, toiletries and of course, our crocs! It is always nice to get out of the shoes you rode in at the end of the day.
Bec just had a camelbak, which gave her extra water storage and allowed her to bring a slight change of clothes with bits and pieces protruding out amongst the straps.
It was a rather sombre start to the morning, with Bec’s late night and our own doubt about whether we would actually enjoy doing 135km and then doing the same thing tomorrow. The last time we rode more than about 90km was in January when we took the Brompton folding bikes to Tasmania for a cycle tour! We stopped at Woodstock, a popular turn around point for many cycling bunches, nearly 40km out of Townsville along the Flinders Highway. The shopkeeper is infamous for his dislike of cyclists, so we stayed well away under the shade of the trees.
A few minutes rest at Woodstock and the enthusiasm started kicking in. It was only ten (ish) kilometres later that we reached the Calcium Roadhouse, a rest stop we have used a number of times on trips out this way. It’s a great place to get food and drinks and fill up your water bottles. The tap outside the roadhouse is labelled as ‘un-potable’, but we checked, and this is just because it is bore water. People get fussy about things like this and so, the label. One of the staff filled our water bottles up in the kitchen when we asked. It probably helped that we had bought drinks and lollies first.
Once we left Calcium, we were enjoying ourselves! The traffic was fantastic and gave us heaps of room, there was a good shoulder on the road for us to ride in, and the weather was beautiful!
We turned on our Goal Zero speaker, which hadn’t been used on a ride since an unsuccessful attempt last year (probably a bit of user error involved there). This time we mounted the speaker on the front handlebars so the sound could drift backwards to me on the back of the tandem, as well as to Bec, who was riding behind us and could still hear and enjoy it!. It was BRILLIANT! Who knew what a difference having some music could make to long bicycle journeys? We had a couple of tense discussions on the tandem about not ‘skipping’ songs and how to decide what playlist constitutes a good one, but it was worth the tenseness (suggestions on music to pedal to are definitely welcome!).
Mingela is at the top of the Mingela Range, which consists of about 3-4kms of slow climbing. The very small township is only 1km off the highway and can be worth stopping at for both the public toilets and the pub (not always open, but great sandwiches when it is), and…the occasional helicopter that may be parked out the front!
We liked the helicopter, but would have preferred to stop just a bit past Mingela at a rest stop we noticed once we left the town. There are toilets and sheltered picnic tables which look lovely and shady (and not full of happily rowdy people hanging out all weekend at the Mingela pub for a birthday party).
The other place we recommend stopping at is the service station, just past Macrossan Park on the right, which I knew about from my trip last September, but forgot until we rode past it again. Macrossan park was dry, fairly barren and…well…generally horrible with rubbish blowing around. The riverbank looks nice from the top of the road bridge that you cross to continue onto Charters Towers, but it is too much trouble to get your bike down to the river when you are just stopping for a rest.
Park Motel came up as the cheapest pub accommodation when we were looking a couple of weeks ago on one of the internet booking sites. It turned out to be not just a pub, but had a whole bunch of basic, but very clean accommodation options. When we asked the owner about locking our bikes up, the owner offered to move us to a family room, which was much more spacious, so we could bring our bikes inside and she didn’t charge us any extra. Thank you!
Steak and chips went down well for dinner and filled us up, as did the cheap beers and the friendly conversation from the owners and other guests who gradually rolled up as the afternoon turned into evening. There wasn’t that much conversation once we had eaten though, and we were in bed by 8pm!
Breakfast at the PUMA roadhouse the next morning at 6am was MASSIVE and well worth the $6.50 we paid for an egg and bacon roll that kept us going pretty much the whole way home as our bellies slowly digested what felt like a truckload food.
We were on the road by 7am and headed back to Townsville. The weather was cool, the wind was blowing…into our faces, so that wasn’t so good, but at least we had a few more descents than the day before, so we felt like we were getting somewhere even with a headwind.
We stopped at the rest stop just out of Mingela this time, and then again at the entrance to Reid River, before heading to the Calcium roadhouse once again. We were still so full from breakfast, even after riding nearly 80km, that we didn’t bother with food, but bought some fizzy drink (cycle touring decadence!).
When we reached Woodstock we were greeted by the happy sight of Paul and Sarah from Townsville Tandems, who had ridden out to meet us that morning.
Even Bec was managing to smile by this time today, as she realised she could indeed make it home without sticking her thumb out or hailing a passing bus.
We reached home by about 2pm, joyfully exhausted and (as usual) already talking about future trip ideas….what if we left Townsville at 2pm…? How about Charters Towers return without stopping overnight…? There’s something about riding a bike that always gets you going…