13 November 2011

A Shakedown Run

As many know, the GoldWing has been in the repairers for three months since my ride to Border Run 2011 in August was cut short by a kangaroo.
It was all down to parts being difficult to obtain due to the recent problems in Japan, although I suspect they weren't really trying hard.  The final week's delay consisted of them attempting to locate a replacement HID driving light.  If they had bothered to pick up the phone I could have told them not only where to get them, but that I already had picked up a replacement pair.
That sorted, it was time to do a decent ride.  So I opted to have a go at a 1600km in one day run.  Just for the exercise and not as an Ironbutt Association ride.  So I set out a route on  MapSource which started in Dululu, Qld and went via Emerald, then south through Roma and St George and into New South Wales to Collarenebri, then return home via Moree and Goondiwindi.
The idea was to pick up a photo of the bike in Collarenebri for the FarRider's FarTag game.  The tag had been there for a couple of weeks and I knew a few FarRiders would be heading that way soon for a meetup in Nindigully.  That would be too easy for them so my goal was to move it a little further away.  Which is why I went to Emerald.

I had a lot of loose ends to tie up at home and so did not get away until 11:30am.  It is said by riders that it takes two tankfuls of fuel before you begin to think straight and so it was on this trip.  I needed to get back into "riding rhythm".  So my two tankfulls took me up the Bruce Highway to Rockhampton then west to Dululu where there is a 24 hour servo.  I don't use The Bruce too often, usually preferring the lesser used roads, but this time it was just "get away" without having to think too much.   It seems they are doing quite a lot of upgrades and I was stopped five times at roadworks.  That doesn't do wonders for overall average speeds.  West from Rockhampton it was by now dark, but with lots of oncoming traffic I rarely got the chance to use high beam between Rocky and Dululu.

Dululu is a small town which is quite busy with mining.  The only motel is constantly full and so no accommodation was available.  But they do have a nice big park with toilets and showers and free camping for two nights.  So it was time to roll out the swag and get some shuteye ready for the big ride early next morning.  The weather was fine and warm with a full moon overhead.  I had just inflated my mattress (manually as the blower refused to work) when two trucks pulled in.  They shut down and all was quiet again, apart from the many passing vehicles, mostly semis, loaded with mining equipment.  I made a phonecall to Charleen and then climbed into the swag just as two more trucks pulled in.  Both refrigerator vans with those motors that drone all night.  My pet hate.

So by 11:30 I was still wide awake listening to all the noises and not able to sleep.  Not good for an early start.  I finally nodded off and awoke just before three when an exceptionally noisy semi sounded like he was coming through my camp.  He wasn't, but I was awake now.  I figured this was not going to go well for later in the day finishing off a 1600km journey, but there was nothing I could do about it now.  I packed up and headed over to the servo where they made me a very nice B&E burger and huge coffee.
3:30am sharp, I was under way, wide awake after my nice breakfast and ready to put in a big day.  Traffic was light at this time of day and the new HID driving lights could now be used to full effectiveness, lighting up not only the roadway, but the sides as well.  Essential for night driving on Australian country roads.  That being said, of the four kangaroos I've hit with bikes over the years, three were in broad daylight and the fourth, at night, was just outside Brisbane suburbia.  But it is certainly reassuring to have proper vision when riding at night.
The full moon was now settling in the west and as I rode towards it, it slowly sunk in the haze and turned a pale pink, rather than the expected orange.  It seemed to just fade away, rather than setting.  All around in the dark were lit up areas where mines were busy extracting the precious minerals needed to make motorcycles and go riding them.
The new FarTag
By the time the moon was gone and the fresh glow of morning sky was showing in my mirrors, I was at Emerald where I topped up the fuel, getting a corner docket if needed, and turned south.  I found the airport and pulled in for the first photograph of this run.  This was my "Tag" photo that someone else will need to emulate to keep the FarRider Tag game going - so long as I get the tag awaiting me in the distant south.
The sun then peeked over the horizon and so it was another stop for a photo.  FarRiders see a lot of sunrises and we like to record them.
Sunrise on the Never Ending Road

The run down through Springsure and Rolleston was very pleasant in the fresh morning air.  The countryside looking in excellent condition with long grasses after exceptional seasons.  Here and there were smoky sections though.  Reminders that this country is always on the brink of disaster.  If it isn't drought, it is flood followed by fire, which often leads to more drought.  The short spells between can be quite exceptional though and right now is one of those exceptional times when the countryside is looking its best.
Mt Zamia overlooks Springsure
Rolleston to Roma through Injune is a long road. 170km without services.  Without towns.  Without even any visible farms.  Nothing but green countryside with the only break coming when the highway winds its way through the Carnarvon Range.  The countryside changes from wide open plains to stands of tall gums with a backdrop of sandstone cliffs as the road follows up a creek bed then over a ridge.  Shortly after it is back to those never ending plains.
Another fuel top up in Injune where I had a casual conversation with a pilot vehicle driver for a wide load.  I had seen a few of these on the road.  Sure enough they were huge drilling rigs.  On their way south for more exploration.
Roma was next.  Talk about a mining town.  Just try to get accommodation here on a week night when all the miners are working.  There's lots of motels but always full.  Today was a kinda special day, calendar wise.  November 11 in 2011, resulted in an unusual arrangement of numbers.  It was also more importantly Australia's Remembrance Day when we remember and honour all our fallen Diggers.  It was a little early, but I stopped outside the local RSL hall for a photo.  I might use that for another FarTag one day soon, but for now it just serves as a reminder.
Heading south towards St George I rode through the time we remember, 11:00am, and had my own quiet thoughts and thank you to all who have served and specially those who gave their all for our country.
The countryside itself was still green and seemingly getting greener as I headed south.   I was now heading for Hebel and the Qld/NSW border and the usual description "Wide Brown Land" seemed far from this reality.  Green grass and trees as far as the eye can see.  Let's hope someone is making the most of it while it lasts.
Sky, Trees, Road, Bike.
Stopping at the border to get a photo I really felt the pull of gravity as the bike leaned over on to the stand.  Getting it back up to move on was quite difficult and I realised I was wearing out.  I had been on the road for 10 and a half hours with only three short stops for fuel and a couple for photos.  The lack of sleep at Dululu was starting to tell and although I was wide awake, I was aching in all the parts that suffer from motorcycle riding, bum, knees and shoulders. 
I still had a ways to go to get to my first goal, Collarenebri, so it was concentrate on riding and exercising those bits which needed it.  Leg stretches on the highway pegs, rolling the shoulders and shifting seat position to keep the circulation going in the gluteus maximus.   This kept me occupied until I finally arrived at the little town. 
The old FarTag
First things first. I located the park where Mel had photographed her Kawasaki and took one of the Wing in the same position.  Then I found a nice shade park table and pulled out the iPad.  Full 3G service here so I emailed the two photographs to my home computer.  Then logged on to that computer with the pad and resized and uploaded the photos from there to the site.  Then put in a post on the FarRider Tag topic and the main goal was complete.  The new FarTag location was Emerald Airport.  I wonder how long it will last.  No matter.  This was FarTag No.101 and the game goes on.
Next was fuel and take stock of myself.  I was definitely not 100% but figured I still had a few kays left in me, but now it was check and double check myself at each stopping opportunity, watching for signs that fatigue was setting in.  The road from Collarenebri to Moree was 110kph so I got some good distance in without too much trouble, only being startled once by a low-flying crop-duster as it came up from behind.  I even managed to whip out the camera for a photo-on-the-fly.
At Moree I was still OK and knew I could easily do the next hundred or so to Goondiwindi and usually once I get there, the "smell" of home gives me a new lease of life.  It usually only takes four hours.   Riding up the Newell I watched storm clouds gathering ahead and figured I was in for a little wetness before getting home.
Storms gathering over Goondiwindi
I pulled in to Goondi and could barely get off the bike.  Time for a meal and stocktake.  I checked the weather ahead and sure enough, a few wandering storms lay before me, whichever way I went, via Toowoomba or Warwick.  Stormy night time travel is no fun at the best of times.  I called home and had a chat with Charleen, who could hear the tiredness in my voice, and so, much to her relief, I decided to pull the pin and forgo the 1600km run.  I had covered 1346km since 3:30am, fifteen and a half hours ago but had serious doubts about lasting another 250 or so to make the 1600, let alone the 350km needed to get home.
Luckily, the good folks at the Goondiwindi Motel had a room and I staggered in for the nicest shower and softest bed I had experienced in a long time.  They were probably no better than normal but boy they felt good.  I was snoring by 9:30, with no truck noises to disturb me.
Next morning was quite the leisurely ride home.  The weather was fine and warm, no hint of rain, though wet patches showed where it had rained overnight.  Saturday traffic was mild on the run in to Brissy and I was home by 10am, even with taking time out for a nice breakky at Warwick.
The Wing sure did need cleaning.