14 April 2012

Five Days on the Road

I covered quite a few kilometres on this ride and so didn't have much time for writing each day.  So here's the story in one go.

One of our FarRiders from Alice Springs is making a habit of organising a run to Glendambo, SA each Easter.  I know we should all stay off the roads for Easter, but at least this run isn't in the more popular areas frequented by maniacal drivers over the holiday weekend.

Glendambo is 2262km from home so it was obviously going to take a couple of days to get there.  Getting back? Well, I'd think about that.

I left home at 3am on Friday hoping to miss most of the traffic departing for the long weekend and managed that quite well.  Almost no one on the Logan Motorway.  It was a little cool.  So on with the grip and seat heaters.  Nothing.   Damn.   Hard to chase up electrical gremlins in the dark so nothing but grin and bear it.  I can just hear the tears of sympathy raining from the eyes of those who ride without such luxuries.  Not.

Sunup was the other side of Warwick with mist in the air and the odd small kangaroo sitting beside the road.  None came close though.
Misty morning sunrise

First fuel stop was Goondiwindi and a chance to find the problem.  Sure enough a fuse.  Easily fixed.  On the road again but by now it was 24C so no need for any form of heating.

Also there was now a lot of traffic on the roads as the holidaymakers got on the road.  On the 110kph roads south of Goondi I saw another red GoldWing and recognised Thommo and Val making their belated way home from the Ulysses meet in Mildura.  Huge wave and by the time I thought to switch on the CB we were well enough apart that we only had time for a "Gidday".

I'm not a big fan of the Newell Highway.  It can be rough in parts and carries way too many heavy transports.  So I generally leave it to them and take quieter roads.  But it is generally the quickest A to B road through these parts and I had a long way to go.

By the middle of the day, traffic was quite heavy with more 4WD vehicles and caravans than the usual semis.  All the servos were doing a roaring trade.  This was not a day to practice 4 minute fuel-ups.

I made it to Nyngan and waited in line at the Shell.  This would give me enough to get past the usually busy Cobar and top up at the small Emmdale servo which would let me breeze straight through Wilcannia and on to Broken Hill.

Cobar was indeed busy with lineups at all servos so I congratulated myself.  That was until I got to Emmdale. Closed.  Who does that on Good Friday?  Well. Them. Apparently.
Ah well, push on to Wilcannia  and hope they were open.  I was carrying 10 litres spare on the back seat but wasn't sure if that would get me the 200km from there to BH.

Darling River overflow
Approaching Wilcannia, which is on the Darling River, one crosses a huge flood plain.  I've never seen any water in it but today there was plenty.  The River was quite high as well.  It has been a wet summer.
I passed the W-5 sign and the bike coughed and conked out.  No warning with fuel injection.  It just stops.

Being this close I only put in a litre or so and it fired right up again and got me in to town where the servo was still open.  Hurray.

Then it was the last two hours riding in to the setting sun and a glorious sunset and Broken Hill.  Found a motel and all they had left was the 2 bedroom executive suite which I got at a small discount so long as I promised to use only one bed and not the spa.  Sounded good to me.  I was pretty tired anyway.

Rang Bazz and he had a gig with his band that night at a club and he also told me another couple of FarRiders were in town.  So I didn't make any promises, but after a long hot shower I felt better and a little hungry.  So down to the club I went.

Bazz was between brackets so we chatted while I scoffed a nice roast pork.  The other two, had gone away for a bit but soon returned.  Gateman and TonyK from Barraba.  We sat around and chatted while Bazz got back to work, surprisingly playing a Creedence song I had been playing on the road in to town.

Turns out Chris and Tony had no plans to stay anywhere special and the windy weather was making swagging it a little daunting.  So I offered my spare room with twin beds and they thought that was a good idea.

End of Day 1 - 1565km

Awoke in the dark just before the alarm and heard the other two stirring as well.  It didn't take us long to pack the bikes up and get under way.

We rode out of Broken Hill straight into a setting Moon.

With the other two leading the way, I held back a ways in the dark so I could use the lights.   Out past the border at Cockburn and follow the railway line.

After an hour or so it lightened up and pretty soon it was sunup with the moon hanging barely visible in the west.  FarRiders usually take a photo at sunrise.  We have a thread called "Sunrise on the Never Ending Road" which is full of such pictures.  It is a special time of day.

Pretty soon we came upon Yunta for a fuel up and breakfast of bacon and eggs with coffee.  Way to start the day after the first tankful.

Seems I led for a while after that, through Peterborough, Ororroo and Wilmington.  We stopped for a breather at the top of Horrocks Pass before the enjoyable ride down through the twisty section and out onto the wide plain.

There's a place here called Winninowie.  Nothing there at all.  Just saltbush as far as the eye can see and the Flinders Range in the background.   But it is kinda special.  I've explained it all before.
We stopped at Davo's Plaque to pay our respect and take the obligatory photo of the bike with the range in the background.

At Davo's Plaque
Then it was in to Port Augusta for a last fuel up.  Glendambo was only 300km north.

An easy run up the Stuart highway with leisurely stops at the occasional lookout, saw us getting in to Glendambo at about 2:30pm to be greeted by half a dozen more FarRiders and ten thousand flies.

Beer sampling

Me and my friends

Riders come in all sizes

Lineup for food

Generous hoteliers

End of Day 2 - 697km

The remains of that day were spent in the company of FarRiders who had come from - well - far.  No one could be accused of coming from near.  Except the flies.

I slept in on Sunday morning.  Must have been a nice bed.

8:00am saw me under way.  I had two options.  Home the way I had come = 2 days.  Or continue through the Centre and down through Qld = 3 days.

I thought about it for a bit, but knew that really there was only one choice.  The long way.

So north it was, on my own now.  I like to travel with groups but it does have its setbacks.  Alone I was my own Boss.  My decision on whether or how long I wanted to stop.  My decision on what speed to travel (within limits of course).   If I can't have Charleen on the back or following on the CeeBee, I really do prefer riding alone.

The weather was excellent.  Nice and cool.  Clear skies.
By now most Easter holidaymakers were staying wherever they stayed and there was almost no traffic.  Maybe half a dozen vehicles an hour.   I only saw about a dozen trucks all day.

So North was the order of the day.   Stops were made only for fuel at Coober Pedy, Marla, Erldunda and then Alice Springs.  Oh and one short stop at the SA/NT border for a photo and loo.

From Alice it began to get dark, but as I was travelling so well, I continued on.  At Barrow Creek I was greeted by the publican.  He looked over the Wing whilst I was refueling and told me he had owned a couple.  A GL1000 and GL1200, but hadn't ridden one for years.
"Think it is nearly time to get another one" he said with that faraway look in his eyes.  Probably won't be the publican any more next time I go to Barrow Creek.

I left him dreaming and rode off in to the night.

Last fuel up was Tennant Creek.  It was getting quite late now and there were just a few locals hanging around the 24 hour BP servo.  As I was paying, a local rider came in on his Harley with the stereo up full blast.  I guess he needed that.

Not long after, my northwards run finished as I came up to the Three Ways and turned East back towards the Qld border.  I was starting to get a bit tired, but it was a lovely night - balmy and with a full moon - so a great time to camp out.

About 30-40km along the road I found a nice site. Up off the road near a repeater tower.  Flat ground made of small pebbles.   Time to set up camp.

End of Day 3 - 1508km  (in 14 hours - love those NT limits)

Turned out I didn't sleep so well.  Oh everything was set up nicely.  I had a nice mesh shelter so no insects, a blow up mattress and a good sleeping bag.  I was quite comfy.  Until the mattress went flat.
I rolled out and blew it up again and this continued every our or so through the night.
Blow it up, crawl in nice an comfy for an hour or so then be woken by hard ground.  Repeat.

By 6:00am I had enough and did a leisurely pack up to be back on the road at 7.  Still before sunrise but it was quite light.   An hour or so up the road and it was time to stop for the obligatory Sunrise Shot.

Then I had to ride straight in to it
At Barkley Homestead I managed to pay the most for fuel for the trip.  $2.04 per litre for premium.  The Wing has a taste for premium.

There was a lot of birdlife along the road, some of it suicidal.  It is not always easy to see them dart out from the sides or be the last of a group scattering before the bike.  I heard a thump at the front and a small bird landed in my lap.  Quite dead.
Shortly after one flew in from the right and hit me in my right index finger.  That hurt.  Blood everywhere.  Fortunately (?) it was all his and none of mine, but I did pull the glove off to check.

Obligatory border shot

Fuel and the occasional food stops were made at Camooweal, Cloncurry and Winton.

This made me run and hide
Clouds building

I had been through a small rainstorm around Mackinlay and some rather large clouds were building up to my south west. Approaching Winton the sky was really dark as a large storm approached the town at the same time I did.  Fuelling up I chatted with a driver who had just come from Longreach and he said it was fierce out that way.  His 4WD had nearly been blown off the road by the winds and visibility was awful.
I checked the weather radar and sure enough a large dark mass was covering the Winton-Longreach stretch of the highway.  Time for a little discretion.

Back around to the North Gregory Hotel - that big brick one in the middle of town.  I've never stayed there and heard it was good so decided to give it a go.  The manager helped me get the bike undercover as the rain was now coming down and organised me a room.  It was disappointingly expensive.

End of Day 4 - 1077km

The Pub meal was OK and the room comfortable enough, so I got a good night's sleep.  I had set the alarm for 3:30 and awoke at 3:27.  I was on the road by 4:00am
The sky was clear with the moon still high and many stars.  I overtook a long road train leaving town and as I didn't want my speed to be too high in the morning, he kept up with my 100kph nearly all the way to Longreach.  I just managed to stay far enough ahead that his high beams didn't melt my helmet when he put them on several kays behind.

Sunrise near Barcaldine
Through Longreach in the dark and sunrise came just before I got to Barcaldine.  That was fortunate as I turned south here and would not be riding in to the sun.  As I approached, I got a nice phonecall from Charleen who was getting ready for work and had checked my location.  Seeing I was approaching a phone area, it was a good time to call.  Nice to hear her voice coming through the helmet speakers.

I had a leisurely breakfast in Barky then continued South.  By now, I am quite familiar with this route and was really glad to be going through the Augathella - Morven - Mitchell area in the middle of a warm day.  All the roos would be asleep under trees somewhere.

Only animals to annoy me were the birds, with a poor magpie mis-cueing his takeoff and getting blown back in to my path.  No damage - to me or the bike at least.  Hate to see that happen to a Maggie though.

Fuel stops for the day were Barcaldine, Augathella, Roma and a short topup at Dalby from where it was an easy run home, getting in at 6:45pm.

Absolutely great to have Charleen watching the SPOT and so had the gate and garage door open.

End of Day 5 - 1362km

All in all, a great way to spend an Easter (plus one day).  Although there was a fair amount of traffic on the Friday, an early departure saw me avoid most of it.  The rest of the weekend, traffic was very light.  I guess most people go to beachside resorts for this particular holiday and so the outback roads were definitely the place to be.

Total 6209km

05 April 2012

Glendambo for Easter

Starting a new road trip early tomorrow morning.  6 April 2012
Those who are interested can track me via the link at the right.

Got a new set of Bridgestones - given the bike a service.  Cameras packed.

Let's see what this one brings....

01 April 2012

Phillip Island Adventures cont'd

Thursday 23 Feb
We had a fairly lazy start to the day then went for a ride through the eastern side of the island.  We looked for beach access amongst the holiday homes.  There was no real view through to the beach, there was a thick scrub.  I guess the inclement weather doesn’t encourage open access.  We finally found our way to the township of Rhyll.
We posed the Wing beside the water, then worked our way to Cape Woolamai to have a look at the surf.

Time was creeping on so we headed back to the main road.  We stopped at Panny’s Chocolate shop.  Inside it was wall to wall varieties of chocolate.  We opted for a hot chocolate drink by the window to watch the passing parade of motorcycles.The fee for the tour of the chocolate factory was $12 each with some samples at the end.  We opted for spending less and buying a block or three of chocolate.
It was time to head back to the house to see if our housemates had arrived.  Andrew and Sheryl had settled in and doing what most people do after being on the road for a few days – washing clothes and bikes.  The evening temperature was very pleasant so we sat outside and swapped stories.

Friday 24 Feb

I decided to ride my bike to the track, one to say that I had taken the CeeBee, and also to get some practice of riding on gravel road.  We picked up our pre-purchased tickets (saved $23.50 on gate prices) and made our way to the parking area near the corporate tents and Gardner Straight.   

From here we walked back to the traders' area.  Some of the manufacturers were there including a couple of the more exotic makes - Bimoto and Benelli.


We headed over to the historic bike pits for a look.
Love the air intake caps.

Nice Paintwork
One of the great things about World Superbikes is that we get to see up close everyone’s bikes and there are some special ones out there.

Saturday 25 Feb
We woke to the news that a friend who had been riding in Western Australia had hit a roo and was OK but in hospital.  A few phone calls later we were reassured that he was in good spirits and receiving the necessary care.  The news about his bike wasn't so good.

Out at the track we parked in our favourite morning spot.

Not too much later a red Rocket pulled up nearby.

This one's for you, Ian.

We settled in to watch the practice and qualifying.  The wind was blowing down Gardner Straight causing some very high speeds by the time the bikes reached Turn 1.  The wind effect was catching out a few riders, one didn't make the corner.  He rode through the kitty litter and across the paddock managing to wash off a lot of speed.  Because it was during qualifying the bikes were well spaced and he was able to feed the bike back onto the track without any real disruption.
The preliminary races started.  There was some good racing particularly down the pack.  As the sun moved around, so did we.  Facing into the sun isn't great for photography. We moved to a grassy knoll near the Hay Shed.  It from here that we saw the start of one of the support races.  The commentators announcement was one of amazement that all of the riders had made it through the hairpin at turn 4.  Being the first lap the riders were formed into a long snake with a few exchanging places.

Clint was working the camera.  I looked across the field to where I could see the end of the main straight.  The head of the motorcycle snake was making its way through Turn 2 Southern Loop when there was a motorcycle travelling a speed across the kitty litter and the grassy paddock.  Oh No he's missed the turn!  In the split second of processing this there was a niggling thought in the back of my brain "This isn't going to be good."  The rider was travelling too fast to safely rejoin the snake.  Next scene was a couple of green motorcycles cartwheeling down the track, dust and chaos.

Oh NO he's collided essentially 90 degrees to the snaking train of motorcycles.  As this all unfolded, we knew something was seriously wrong because the marshalls weren't picking up the downed motorcycles.  Not too much later it was obvious that it was almost certain that a rider had died.  The police were there taking measurements and photographs.  The sun was beating down.  We realised that the racing wouldn't be resuming too soon so we found a shady spot to wait for announcements.  Other folk were already leaving, perhaps they had been closer to the action and had better knowledge that there wouldn't be any more events.  The announcements weren't forthcoming with any news either of the riders or the remaining events.  Eventually, we got word that there wouldn't be any more events for the day.  We took our leave and headed back to the house a sad with the knowledge that someone wasn't going home to his family.

Sunday 26 Feb

We didn't worry too much about being out at the track first up.  The previous day's series of events had taken the shine off the weekend.  We worked our way around to one of our favourite photo spots and saw a couple of FarRider friends go by.  We followed them to the same grass knoll from the day before and spent the day cheering the riders and generally having a long overdue chat.

Our last full day at the Island saw the great weather finally give way to some rain during the night.  We started our packing in preparation for our departure.

Monday 27 Feb

The rain stayed around.  The last of the packing was done and the bikes moved under the outside shelter to be loaded.  In the midst of all our preparations, we cleaned and tidied the house.  It's a good feeling to leave the place as clean if not cleaner than it was when we arrived.  We really appreciate the opportunity of having a comfortable place to stay.

Can't avoid it anymore.  Onto the bikes and into the rain.  We found ourselves on the highway heading for Dandenong when both lanes of traffic were just crawling.  There was at least another 20kms of this before the assigned turnoff.  We would hardly move a bikes' length at a time.  This is not good.  Feeling very vulnerable and getting wetter by the minute, the Narre Warren turn off beckoned.  Ok, this isn't so bad, we should be able to keep the kilometres rolling.  This track took us through Healesville and Black Spur country.  The rain was persistent - it was either raining or raining harder. There wasn't a chance to dry out.  We tippy-toed our way through the twisting roads, streams of water flushing a mud slurry from the unsealed driveways onto the road.  Water was starting to pool at the roadside threatening to flood the road.  Have I said thank you for the new tyres?  I'm pretty sure Clint was wishing he had new tyres on the Wing, too.

Our AD-1 ride strides that we bought from Aerostich were working a treat our lower halves were dry.  Clint was protected from most of the rain by the screen on the Wing.  For me, I had to have the visor popped open just slightly to manage the fog.  This let rain in.  It was raining inside my helmet, flowing past the chin, down my neck and wetting my t-shirt.  This with the loose neck of my jackets allowing the rain in too, I was getting rather wet.  My feet were squelching inside favourite old motorcycle boots.

Once we were out of the twisty sections the road straightens up and in other circumstances would be a temptation to let the bike have its head.  We passed a guy in a bus shelter, his Multstrada nearby and a Subaru Forester with red and blue party lights.  Oh dear!  Next little town along was a fuel stop and pit stop for me, too much water everywhere lol.  By the time we were ready to get going, the fellow on the Multistrada had pulled up and had a chat.  Seems he gave into the temptation to give the bike its head and was caught.  I knew I was wet, but this guy took the cake.  He was wringing out his gloves with water pouring out.  He squatted down and the water poured out of his riding suit.  Hope he didn't have too much further to go.

Eventually we found our way to the Hume Highway to take us north.  We finally rode through the rain and were able to put down some dry highway kms.  We pulled in to the Glenrowan McDonalds for a break and a bite to eat.   I was getting tired due to the Frogg Toggs jacket billowing up and parachute-like dragging at me.  Decision made, remove the Frogg Toggs and put on the plastic jacket liner I carried under the seat.  Although I was still wet, it would act as a wind break rather than a wind sock.  Refreshed and more comfortable, we pushed on to Cootamundra for our night's rest.

We spread out our gear in our tiny room and dried it as best we could hopeful that tomorrow would be a dry ride.

Tuesday 28 Feb

Gear stowed, bikes unwrapped and packed and we were away under dry skies.  Yay!!  Our track took us through Young, Cowra and Blaney to Bathurst.  This would be my first time to ride around the famous mountain track.  We took the first turn off that runs up the back of the mountain to Reid Park.  We poked around the viewing areas for a bit and realised the track was shut to tourists due to an event.

Oh well this is as close as I got to riding around the race track.

We pulled up in town at a neat cafe for brunch.  The sign said Tuesdays 2 for 1 breakfast.  Our selection was poached eggs with grilled haloumi and asparagus with coffee.  Yummm!

One more stop in town this time to fill our bikes' tummies and we were away.  Time to follow Clint's favourite route between the highways.  As we rode, towns were ticked off the list, Mudgee, Coolah, Gunnedah, Warialda, Texas.  By the time we were at Texas, it was getting on to late afternoon - great for travelling the Texas-Stanthorpe road.  This is great riding, corners, hills, causeways, great views lit from the setting sun.  Too soon we rejoined the highway into Stanthorpe.  Another fuel stop for the bikes and us.  We had a chat about the temptation of being so close to home and pushing on when tired.  We agreed that we would pull up and stop for the night if we were too tired.  Remember! Rule No. 1!

Another run down Cunningham's Gap.  We were taking it easy behind a truck when the road presented an overtaking lane - very interesting relying on reflective markers and no line marking to show lane positions.

I've felt it before and we've talked about it, the last hour of the ride, tiredness starts to seep in and gnaw away.  Now more than ever, dig deep and focus.  Alert again for the traffic of inner Brisbane and home.  My first 1,200km in 16 hours - very satisfying and very tired.