NSW Trip: Day 2: Getting to Dubbo

26 10 2009

Monday 26 October was a wild, wet, and cold day. Some parts of Sydney had 110 mm of rain that day (some 5+ inches)…

It was time to test out the GPS! We had to get from the airport, out of Sydney, and on our way to Dubbo, and we expected to take much of the day getting there. My work colleague is called Susan, so my husband decided to call the Garmin GPS ‘Susan’. I fired her up, entered Dubbo as our destination, and sat back to let her guide us through Sydney and up and over the Blue Mountains. Sounds easy, right?

Not so much. Here are some problems I found with my first-ever GPS user experience:

  • GPS units want you to know where you’re going. They REALLY want an address. A specific address. Not just a city like ‘Dubbo’. I learned later that you can enter a highway number and it’s happier. But when you don’t know the highway numbers either, that’s a problem!
  • GPS units want to take you onto toll roads. Which is not a problem if there are cash booths for people like us from out of state in rental cars and without fancy electronic passes. But when there’s no cash booth (as announced prior to the M7 Motorway), we tend to freak out. What will happen? Will we be fined lots of money? How can we avoid the toll roads? Will some barrier come down and crush us if we go through a tool booth without an E pass? (we don’t have toll roads in Western Australia…) We exited the M5 before the M7, but Susan kept wanting to take us back on to the M7. I was trying hard to figure out where we were using a street directory; we were in some industrial area… Fortunately, I spotted a service station and the lady there very helpfully gave me the toll road phone number and told us that we could go on the toll roads as long as we called the number within 48 hours and paid via credit card over the phone. That was a relief! So Susan got us back on to the M7. I later found out that there’s a ‘Detour’ button on the GPS and pressing that means that the GPS recalculates the route based on the direction you’re currently going in.
  • GPS units take you in directions you don’t expect. I had a mud-map of the area (a single page map that encompassed much of NSW), and I expected that Susan would direct us off the M7 on to the M4/Highway 32, which goes up over the Blue Mountains via Katoomba. A nice, wide, dual carriage highway that I’ve seen from the train to Katoomba. Nope. Susan decided that we should go past the M4 exit and on towards Richmond, where she then took us on a circuitous route via Kurrajong over the Blue Mountains on a weirdly named road called ‘Bells Line of Road’. I’m sure it was very scenic had the clouds not been covering much of the road and had it not been raining buckets! It was a narrow, winding, tree-lined, single-lane road, with no shoulders for the most part. We eventually got to Lithgow, bypassing Katoomba altogether… Another thing I found later — I could have changed Susan’s settings to avoid toll roads and to take the most direct route.

Once we got to Lithgow, we were out of the heavy rains and only encountered patchy showers. It was still cold though. We were also on the right road from Lithgow onwards (Highway 32), and so we drove on through Bathurst, Orange, and Wellington, before finally reaching Dubbo late in the afternoon. It’s pretty countryside — more undulating than I expected. I guess I expected flat plains, not rolling ones!

We booked in to the Cattleman’s Inn in Dubbo for two nights ($115/night), then had a lovely — but HUGE! — meal in their restaurant. We both had the steak — a 600g ribeye on the bone, with peppercorn sauce, mashed potatoes, and a side salad (for only $2.50 extra, not $7 like some places charge) — along with a 2008 PepperJack Cabernet Sauvignon. Yummy!

Next stop: Dubbo’s Western Plains Zoo (the reason for going to Dubbo!)