23 February 2012

Relaxing on the Island

Monday evening 20 Feb
Once we had settled into the house, shopping done, washed the bikes, washed the clothes, a couple of very weary riders hit the sack. One thing about being this far south and daylight saving time, I wondered why when I was preparing dinner just after sunset, that I felt incredibly tired. It might have been something to do with it being 8:30pm and we'd been awake from 4:30am.

Tuesday 21 Feb
I had noticed that the bracket for one of my spotlights had broken at the weld for the cross brace. Clint sourced a local welder to fix it, but it wouldn't be until this afternoon when he got home from his regular job.

When I packed, I made sure that I had a good jumper in case the Island turned cold as it can do. What I didn't pack was a long sleeve shirt to give me some sun protection should the days be bright and sunny. Clint and I met up at the local Coles where I was returning some Brie that was too old. We decided to go for coffee at one of the establishments on the main street while it's still quiet. From here it was off for a walk down the main street in search of a suitable shirt. While paying, the lady behind the counter was saying how respectful the motorcycle community were in comparison to the V8 crowd or even the holiday crowd. It's common knowledge among the rental property owners that the motorcycle folk invariably leave the houses better than what they found them. That was really good to hear.

Clint had bought some chain lube and degreaser to use on my bike and bike cover. The night before when we covered up the bikes, chain lube junk found its way onto my bike cover. Not a good thing as lube junk would spread over the cover and my bike each time it was used.

While I was writing up our ride for the blog and FarRiders, Clint cleaned the chain lube junk off my bike and cover.

We lazed around for the afternoon, between Clint working on the rider registrations from the last FarRide and arguing with the iPad over how to put photos into our story, we waited for the welder guy to let us know he was available.

Around 6pm Clint suggested we go for a ride to the end of the island to photograph the sunset. When we worked out the sunset time was 8:11pm, we decided to have dinner first. Hard to adjust to daylight saving.

We rode out to Grossard Point. It provided a good vantage point for us to set up our cameras to record the sunset.

Riding back in the dark, we could see rabbits scurrying around. Coming from Queensland where rabbits are considered a pest and illegal to have, seeing these little critters out loose was an oddity.

A lot of FarRiders stories were being posted. I spent a few hours reading while Clint worked away on the various web duties he has.

Wednesday 22 Feb
Our son Adam was coming for a visit today. While we were waiting for his arrival, the welder guy phoned. He was available all day today. Clint took the bracket to be fixed. Meanwhile, I decided that I would clean up with outdoor setting. It was covered in dust and cobwebs. The evenings are so mild that it would be good to make use of this and the BBQ later in the week.

Adam arrived on his Honda Revere. It's a rough little bike but it's reliable. It was close to lunch time, so we wandered down to the waterfront to have lunch at Harry's. Our table was on the verandah overlooking the pier and water. The meals weren't large, but they were satisfying for a light lunch.

We wandered down to the pier for a look. We saw that there were inter-island cruises available. Next one was to Seal Rocks departing at 4:30pm. We booked our passage and wandered back to the house. We stopped off at a local coffee shop to indulge our coffee addiction. There were some really tempting sweets, too. We each ordered our favourite and they were good. Much to our surprise, the lady who served us was concerned that the piece of pie that Adam had was not up to standard. She offered Adam another piece to check the quality. Adam had it wrapped to take back to the house. In reality, it was late in the day and this piece was a bit on the small side. This was just her way of clearing stock in readiness for the next days trade. We wandered back to the house to relax and chat while waiting for our tour.

Back to the pier, there's a seal that likes to hang out here. It looks like he tries to take the bait from the fishing lines. We boarded the boat Kasey Lee and watched the seal seemingly performing cute acts in the attempt to get fed. No one was weakening.

The ride out to Seal Rocks took us past Grossard Point, where we had been the previous evening for sunset. We were running into the swell and the trip was a little rough but nothing to unsettle us.

Soon enough, we knew we were closing on Seal Rocks. The acrid smell of seal was drifting in on the breeze. The captain of the boat brought the boat close to the rocks to give us all good look. Cameras were clicking, there was a bit of polite jostling to find the best vantage point.
All too soon, we were headed back to Cowes. We said our farewells, time for Adam to ride back to Melbourne. After dinner, we moved into the lounge and watched a couple of our favourite television shows.

It's been wonderful to have time to visit the island and have a look around at its other features other than the race track.

21 February 2012

FarRide East18 and Beyond

Friday rolled around soon enough. It was time to start our FarRide to Nambucca Heads. We had nominated riding 1,200 kilometres in 24 hours. Normally we would ride out to somewhere within a few hundred kms of Nambucca. Due to the flooding that had been through towns like Moree, NSW we decided that for the first time we would complete a loop and sleep in our own bed.

Our ride was to start at our local service station and then head out along the Logan Motorway. We rolled up to the start location only to find it closed for repairs. Dilemma! Where do we start from now? This place provided us with just the right amount of kilometres. Well we'll have to start from the other service station down the road a bit and then the 'extra' kms will be a bonus.

We fueled up both bikes, the Goldwing and the CB1300S. Checked the time on the docket, their clock is two minutes behind ours and we still had about 20 minutes to wait for our official start docket. At 11:25am we walked in, thought long and hard about what purchases to make and presented ourselves at the check out. Clint's purchase was timed at 11:29am, mine was 11:30am. Phew!! At least we would have one good docket between us. Time to ride!

The freeway running was easy going. We stopped for a splash of fuel at Aratula to make sure the next fuel up would be Dalby. We had heard that Cunningham's Gap had reopened to two way traffic. Not so today. The line markers were very busy making their mark. Further up the range, there was some sort of resurfacing action going on and reduced the flow to one way traffic.
 We pulled up, turned off the engines and waited and watched the ETA stretch out, five minutes, ten minutes, 23 minutes. It was hot being in the full sun and wearing all the protective gear. I took the opportunity to take off my helmet and have a drink of water all the while eyeing off the solid shadow cast by the truck in front. After a while another bike pulled in with us. He had been sneaking his way up to the front of the queue and saw us. A fellow FarRider out completing his loop. Greg stopped with us for a chat and not long we could hear the approach of traffic. Time to get back on the bikes ready to continue. Finally at the top of the Gap much welcome coolness.

Our loop took us to the turn off to Warwick, we headed towards Toowoomba. The plan was to avoid riding through Toowoomba by using some back roads through places like Aubigny. We connected with the Gore Highway and the Warrego passing the place where we had our crash in May 2010. Clint pointed out the spot where SPOT was found after having been thrown from the bike.

We pushed on to Dalby for our next refuel. I was feeling hungry. Clint was on his usual ride diet of coffee milks. I eventually opted for a nut bar. A couple of bites and we were on our way again. It had been tough watching Clint having sips of water while riding along. It's not so easy to have a drink from a bottle when wearing a full face helmet and having to hold the throttle.

This time we headed generally north to Goomeri. As we rode through Nanango, I noticed something small and black roll away from under Clint's bike. I thought it looked like a mid-sized black plastic pot planter. It played on my mind that Clint had a small inflatable pillow on his back seat that was just tucked in there. Maybe it wasn't a planter?! Here we turned east for Gympie. By now the sun was starting its descent to the horizon and we were riding away from it. This is good riding conditions as whatever is in front is well lit by the sunlight.

We pulled in to Gympie for our next fuel stop. Yes, it was the little pillow that rolled away. If you're near the Council chambers in Nanango .... It was just on sunset and we had made up ten minutes on our ETA. Seems the calculations used 80kph for the run around the back of Toowoomba. We were thinking of having something to eat at Gympie but when Clint found out there would be at least a 20 minute wait, we soon changed our plans. We could get something to eat at the BP at Caboolture. This would work in well with having virtually full fuel loads for the morning.

The run south was on the Bruce Highway. To our advantage most of the traffic would be heading north from Brisbane. It meant that we could not use our HID lights. I think there was one spot where we turned them on long enough for them to come to full brightness once and that was it.

The run down the highway was mostly uneventful. There was one Suzuki Swift that was an annoyance. He hadn't been travelling at the speed limit when Clint passed him. When I went to pass him, he sped up to match my speed. This was about to become compromising as there was a slower vehicle in his lane. Ok, dropped back a little and let him have the lane to pass the slower car. Clint moved over to let Swift past which he did. Then the Swift pulled into the lane in front of Clint and slowed. Clint passed him, so did I. Then he wanted to run fast again! Not fast enough to go around us, just enough to sit either in my blind spot or with his headlights shining in my mirror. Grrrr!! I was just saying some unlady-like words in my helmet about him moving on, when he started to accelerate quickly. But just at that moment, caught in the headlights was a highway patrol car parked ready for pursuit. Well you'd think the Swift had been yanked on his chain the way he went backwards out of my vision. For once I was happy to see the candy striped car.

We pulled in to home much earlier than I had anticipated. Seems the planning allowed for a lot of travel on "B" roads at a much slower speed than was sign posted. This meant that we could get a good five hours of sleep before heading off in the morning. Of course, once at home there was administrative work to be done catching up on emails, especially those advising of riders' changed plans.

I woke to Clint giving me a pat on the shoulder, the 3:30am alarm was about to go off. We'd agreed that it was get up and get going. No time for coffee, that could come later.

We rolled out the gate at 4:03am. We made our way down the Pacific Highway avoiding much of the traffic that would later clog this road. The Ballina bypass was open. Clint noticed that it took 13 minutes off our ETA. Great stuff!! Making our way through the little town of Broadwater, Clint pulled over and suggested that we fuel up and have something to eat. Suited me as I was getting hungry. If you're looking for a great bacon and egg burger - a proper one with the beef pattie and all the salad, try the Broadwater BP.

Next stop Nambucca!! We were making good time. We were trying to arrive at Nambucca for 11am. That's our little bit of an extra challenge. As we have some setting up to do, we try to be at the check-in point an hour in front. We arrived at Nambucca around 10am to see a number of bikes already parked up.

We had a chat with folk, Cuddles and Enterprise had offered to help with check-in so we set up the new FarRider flag at a shaded picnic table in the park. This year as the weather was just so fine, we decided to hold the check-in out in the open. It meant that people weren't corralled up the walkway to the hotel, and in that not getting in the way of other patrons.

Soon enough, 12noon arrived and riders and pillions presented their dockets. For the most everyone was well organised with having the start time circled and even to the point of having the docket facing the right way and their thumb pointing to the time.

I had decided that as the check-in point was different this year and we had so many offers of help that I would walk around amongst the bikes and riders, offering a pen if needed and pointing them in the right direction of the check-in table. This seemed to work well enough, the word was being spread.

As per our previous experience, most of the check-ins were handled in the first twenty minutes.

I watched as the ancient 1942 Harley-Davidson WLA pulled up to the front of the hotel. The rider Als gave his mount a little pat of congratulations. It was great to see as previously Als was one of the riders we've had to say sorry, but you're too late.

There were a couple of riders who rolled in with about two minutes to spare, I waved them up to near the check-in table rather than them spend time looking for parking at the far end of the access road.

I was carrying my phone with its alarm set for 12:30pm. It was going off just as a group of bikes were riding up to the hotel. The crowd around them were telling them, get your docket, don't worry about parking the bike, don't bother with taking off the helmet, run! Run!! RUN!!! What an exciting finish to a FarRide!

Now it was time to relax, catch up with familiar faces and tell our individual stories to whoever would listen.

When Lionel heard that we were continuing our ride south to Phillip Island, he very kindly offered us a bed at his place in Canberra on our way through. It was arranged that we'd meet up with Lionel at 8am at the hotel car park. For us this meant a bit of a sleep in and a leisurely start. Fuelled up on coffee, we chatted to the various riders who were making their way to breakfast and eventually home. Lionel arrived a few minutes early and his arrangements with Saaz were changed.

We needed fuel so Lionel led us to a service station in Macksville. From here, Clint led the way down the highway. I'd resigned myself to this being a transport day. We were making a bee line for Phillip Island to the house we had rented for the week leading up to World Superbikes.

Next fuel stop was Raymond Terrace. We'd had a bite to eat and saw Glen pull up for fuel. He joined us for the run to Canberra. Through Sydney we were making our way to the M7 when Clint made it through on a yellow light. Uh-oh, I'm not familiar with where we were going. I knew I could follow signs to Canberra, but were they leading to the same roads that Clint was using? Lionel and Glen were not directly behind me. A quick scan and I saw they were next to me two lanes over. Lights changed and I dropped in behind them.

I was escorted to the M7 turnoff. Soon we were all back together and travelling with the traffic. Finally with nearly 300k on the clock, we pulled into Sutton Forest for our last fuel stop. It was here that we were chatting and I told Glen that because of all this highway travel, that Clint reckons I will be happy to ride the Bongang tomorrow. Glen took the cue and suggested an alternative route into Canberra, something other than the Hume. Glen led the way to the turnoff and we were in riding heaven. The tree lined road wound its way past farms. There were corners, dips and bridges aplenty. This type of road awakens the rider. The mechanical highway riding faded away. It's time to concentrate on line and technique.

Off in the distance the clouds were building up, there was rain falling somewhere in the general direction of where we were meant to be. Maybe if we had stayed on the highway, we would have been drenched. We seemed to be circling our way around the weather front. Glen and his Kawasaki were very patient with me, I don't get much practice riding this kind of road. No doubt Clint and Lionel would have rode differently if I wasn't there. Every now and then, I would hear Glen's bike bark. Next thing we're into some fabulous corners, Glen is leaning the bike over and looked to be having way too much fun cranked over.

It was over all too soon, and we said our goodbyes to Glen. Lionel took the lead taking us through the Parliamentary zone snaking our way through the suburbs towards his home.

We were welcomed into Lionel and Alice's home. We were made feel very comfortable. After much story telling it was time for bed as next morning we were heading out early.


Lionel very kindly made us a cooked breakfast and saw us on our way. I had one little "oh-no" moment when I thought my bike key had been taken by a bird. Luckily Clint and I carry each others spare bike key. With the spare key in place, we made our way out of Canberra and on to the Monaro Highway. We pulled up so that I could put on an exta layer of clothing, I was cold. It was here we found the key. It had fallen in to the folds of my jacket and then somehow lodged under my shirt. Lucky.
From here, we made reasonable time until we hit fog. I couldn't see. My helmet was fogging up and so were my glasses. I lost sight of Clint's tail lights - that's something if you've ever followed Clint's GoldWing.

I had to pull over, clean my visor and change my glasses. Clint realised that I wasn't behind him and turned back to find me. He suggested that I go in front for a while, we weren't too far from Cooma where we would be refuelling. The fog was so annoying. I wasn't able to travel at the speed limit, in fact I was about 20kph under the limit. I felt very unsafe as there were some big trucks also using this road and they didn't seem to be bothered by the fog. Finally the sun was high enough to clear the fog. We fuelled up and agreed our next stop would be for Bombala for coffee. I needed to thaw out.

Thawed out and coffeed up, Clint checked that I was ok to travel the Bonang. It's got a section of dirt road, but it's good dirt road. Ok, let's do it.

After the township of Delegate there was a sign that showed 7km of gravel road. Trouble was, it was also under construction and the very first part of it was being graded. Thankfully there had been a vehicle through and we were able to follow the wheel tracks to give us a somewhat firm base. After that patch of soft, the rest of the road was firm. Hurray! I see bitumen! That's where the fun started. Clint had said that there was only one section of dirt, that's it out of the way, so bring on the corners! The Bonang road is fabulous. We pulled up at an advisory sign that showed 105km (yes 105!!!) of twisty road. It's here that Clint tells me that there's another dirt section. Grrrr! I've been had!

Lots more good road surface, lots more corners and I was pretty much keeping up with the Wing. Pop, the bubble has broken, we'd reached the dirt section and it's been raining. Well there's no way round it, we're going through. I put CeeBee into third gear and let the bike do its thing, I just steered. There was some steering to do around some of the corners. Rocks could be big enough to push back through the handlebars, mud was waiting in wheel tracks. Oh! and logging trucks use this road too. Well that's what the signs were telling me. My adventursome spirit was starting to talk back, something about nuts??

Eventually the bitumen was there waiting. I'm not sure if we were officially in a rainforest, but it was a rain forest. The rain was light and misty but enough to make the moss shine green and the roadway slippery. But the corners!!!! One good thing Clint did for me before we left home - he put a new set of Michelin PR3 tyres on my bike. It gave Clint some reassurance that I was a safe as I could be. It gave me some reassurance that the bike would have grip.

Through the corners the count down to Orbost began. Soon we would be back of familiar road.

In Orbost, I saw some people sitting at a cafe, one of them gave a hearty wave. I waved back but didn't realise it was one of our FarRiders. Clint and I became separated. Clint was in front, he didn't see my indicator or hand gesturing. After all the cold and wet, I needed a comfort stop. Not knowing when Clint would be stopping, I just had to turn off to the public toilets. Clint realised I wasn't behind him, so turned back and did a couple of laps of the town looking for me. I had parked in a side street. I expected to see Clint parked with me, but he wasn't. I rode on through town and saw the Wing pulled up in another park with public toilets. Our little convoy reconnected, we refuelled just out of town.

It was around midday and we had 357km to do before the real estate shop closed at 4pm. It wasn't looking good. While we were riding, Clint made a phone call and found out that the real estate office was open to 5:30pm. That took the pressure off. We had time for one more stop for a drink and some fuel.

Finally we were at our home (for this week) 700+km later. We've hired a house in Cowes to share with another couple. It's a big place with 3 double rooms and a room with a double and three single beds. It's all ours until the other couple arrive some time on Thursday.

We shopped for groceries. Our evening "Island" meal consisted of King Island steak with garden salad from local produce, with a glass of white wine from the Shaky Isles all enjoyed on Phillip Island.

One minor problem with an iPad is a dificulty in adding photos to a blog.
We'll work on it and try to get some photos up later.