08 February 2013

FarRide East #22

This last couple of months has been very hot and a lot of personal stuff has been happening, so not much time for riding far.
However, February sees the start of the FarRiding year so our first for the year is to Nambucca Heads for FarRide East #22.

Our plan changed several times due to bad weather and threats of roads blocked by floods.  So we figured to take the high roads as much as possible.  This meant travelling down the New England highway, which mostly follows the top of the Great Dividing Range.
Looking at the flood warning maps, the only problem was near Warwick but most floods in that high country are over pretty quickly, although they can be fierce and do a lot of damage.

So we set out heading north.  Even though Nambucca Heads is to the south.  Trouble is it is only 480km away and we need to do 1000km to get there.  So north it was - for a while.
Odometer set to zero - away we go.

Six lanes one way over the Gateway Bridge

We turned off at Caboolture for the D'Aguilar Highway.  Strange name but it is taken from a local town through which the highway passes and the town was named after a British Army officer, George D'Aguilar.

Photographing Koalas
Another small town just before we climb up into the mountains is Moore and it was near here that Charleen spotted a wild koala sitting in a tree.  This is a rare occurrence, even for regular travellers so we were quite delighted.  Turned the bike around and went back for pictures. We discovered there were two.

Then it was the road up the range which is still under reconstruction after a bad storm more than three years ago that caused severe damage.

Blackbutt Range roadworks

Not long after is Yarraman.  For many years this was the terminus of the rail line and settlers heading west from here had to make their own arrangements. The town is also the northern terminus of the New England Highway, our route for the majority of our FarRide.
Yarraman - photo op - Start of the New England

So south we turned and headed for Toowoomba, the first major town ahead.  That was a bit of a mistake.  Long Distance riding requires managed time and distance and a good healthy moving average speed is needed.  Generally over 80kph.  However, we managed to hit the Toowoomba area at around 3pm.  All the small towns had schools on the highway with not only 40kph zones, but lots of parents in huge vehicles jostling to pick them up.
Then there was heaps of traffic in Toowoomba itself.  Toowoomba is a burgeoning city which will some day perhaps provide some kind of bypass for through travellers - but not yet.
Lesson one for today, if you want to keep up a good average speed, route yourself well clear of Toowoomba.

Weirdly enough, as we headed out to the south, the traffic suddenly disappeared and we found ourselves scooting along at 100kph practically alone.  It felt like being fired from a slingshot.  We covered in ten minutes the same distance it had taken the last forty.

Wide open spaces at last

There was one short stop for roadworks and a slowdown where we expected the flooding.  Sure enough it had been fast and furious, washing one poor farmer's entire ploughed field onto the road.  He'll need a backhoe and truck to get it all back.

Roadside topsoil after a flash flood
Through Warwick fairly quickly then the last bit of Queensland, known as the Granite Belt.  High and cool land and easy travelling on a summer afternoon.

Wallangarra marks the southern border of sunny Queensland and as is often the case, this brings you in to Dark and Stormy weather of the southern states.  Sure enough, the storm clouds were gathering in the west and soon the south in front of us.

Through Tenterfield we came across the local police operating a random breath testing setup.  No worries as I was clear and they were closing up anyway.  As we passed, one patrol car fell in close behind.  They had ample opportunity to overtake, but opted to follow.
So as soon at we hit the 100kph zone, I set the cruise at 99 and relaxed.  We were pretty sure they were using us as a "shield" whilst checking the speed of oncoming vehicles.  It took a while, but they eventually got one and fell right behind.  Good.
Approaching storm

About that time we noticed that the storm clouds were approaching faster than it had previously looked and before we could even find a place to pull over it hit.  We were caught in traffic with two trucks in front and one behind so not game to try anything fancy.  Just hunker down and ride it out.
There was driving rain, thunder and lightning, poor visibility and wet, wet,wet.
It was also scary to watch the B-double in front of us pull out to overtake a car.  In driving rain and very poor visibility.  I checked rear vision and the truck behind was hanging right back, as did I. Back right off and prepare for evasive moves.  The "offending" car was doing less than 80kph.  Good enough for most of us, but there's always one who hasn't yet learned the virtue of patience.

By the time we got to Glen Innes we were thoroughly soaked in the top half (waterproof pants on).  We refuelled at a servo and completely missed two fellow riders, Streak and Diesel, cowering resting in the truckies lounge.
We had planned to travel a bit further, but changed that to staying the night in town and were shortly after also cowering  resting in a nice dry room hanging out our jackets and shirts and having nice warm showers.

This meant we needed a very early start in the morning so set the alarm for 4am to be on the road by 4:30.  Turned out I awoke at 3:15am and was sure there was no more sleep left in me.  So a more leisurely pack up with coffee and bikkies and we were on the road right on time.

The sky was mostly clear with the occasional low cloud, a bit like fog.  To be safe, we were wearing our wet jackets under our still damp ride jackets, but it was still pretty cool.
Into the morning sun

At Uralla it was just getting light and we left the New England Hwy and headed down to Walcha and the famous Oxley Highway.  Named after explorer John Oxley, this wonderful highway fully explores every nook and cranny on its winding way to the east coast.  The result is one of the best riding roads in the country.
This morning it was still wet and with lots of bark and leaves having blown from the trees overnight, we tippy-toed our way through the twists and turns.  Lotsa fun, but again our moving average was less than desirable and we were thanking ourselves for making the decision to only do 1000km in 24hrs for this FarRide when the opportunity for 1200 was available.
Taking it easy

Oxley in the Morning light

Just one stop/go
Finally at the Pacific Highway it was a short 100km or so in the traffic, including a stop in Kempsey for breakfast.

We arrived at Nambucca with probably two hours to spare.  If we had needed to do another 200km we may have suffered a DNF.  But then we also may have planned a better route than battling traffic in large provincial cities or facing tight twisting wet and slippery mountain roads.  Things that do absolutely nothing for a decent moving average speed.

The meetup with all our FarRiding mates, old and new, was great.  The checking in of all the riders is good fun, especially seeing all the first-timers happy to be part of the scene.
FarRiders are a divers bunch, all using many different types of motorcycles and riding their plans in many different ways, but with one common goal.  Self testing to see if you can do it.
Plenty of Wings

Riding groups meetup

Our cabin is fourth from the right

Completing a 1000km in 24hrs FarRide is considered an easy Long Distance ride. A beginners distance.  But occasionally Australia will throw out challenges that make it a difficult ride and so it is quite satisfying to sit back with other similarly crazy FarRiders and know that despite what the world throws at us, "we did it".

And we give ourselves and each other little pats on the back because we know what we've achieved.
From our cabin across the lake, the Southern Cross blazes in the dark sky.

So after a great night we slept in nicely on Sunday morning, coming out for a late coffee with other breakfasting FarRiders.  A leisurely packup - again - and we only had 480km up the Pacific highway to home.  So we said out goodbyes to the few stragglers and joined the procession.

For a short while.

Approaching the Waterfall Way turnoff, Charleen and I had a very short conversation and quickly changed plan.  Away from the dull Pacific, we headed west through Bellingen and tackled the twists and turns back up the range to Dorrigo.  Had a great run and almost made it to the top before being slowed by a car towing a boat.  Good fun until then though.
Waterfall Way - we flash past a waterfall

From Dorrigo we rode the ridgetops of some spectacular country in perfect weather.  We stopped for a proper breakfast at the lovely Fusspots Cafe in Ebor,  then climbed further up to cool Guyra and back on the New England Highway once again.  Much less traffic, much cooler, much nicer scenery than the popular coastal highway.

Back north to Sunny Queensland and we were home by 5pm.

An excellent start to the 2013 FarRiding season.

More flash flood results around Warwick

From Cunninghams Gap looking towards home

Farm damage near Aratula