20 June 2015

Cee Bee Goes North

The Little Bike is dwarfed by NT ant nests

I sadly missed out on North #1 due to having to visit a hospital every day for several weeks. Stoopid cancer of the stoopid prostate.
But all that was out of the way now and I also had clearance from Charleen to travel. Only trouble was on a club run the weekend before, the Wing developed an electrical fault which sent all the brakes and indicators crazy. The shop is still trying to sort it out.
Of well, only thing to do is use the little bike. The little old CB1300S. I’ve done a couple of FarRides on this bike so it wasn’t all bad but this was to be the longest run ever on it.
I attached the test TomTom and the SPOT to the handlebars, threw over some saddlebags, tied a 5 litre can-in-a-bucket to the back seat and filled up the topbox with stuff and was away on the Wednesday morning around 6am.
It already had a nearly full tank so first stop was Dalby for fuel and breakfast. First and last try of HJ’s “barista coffee” – BLEA.
Roma and Augathella were the next fuel-ups, then the few miles in to Barcaldine for 1073km by 5pm and still light. Good thing about travelling west is getting that extra few minutes of sunlight each day.

Barcaldine Knowledge Tree monument

Away early next morning and here was the converse problem. Still dark even after 6am. I knew this section from Barcaldine to Longreach is bad for kangaroos, so I was prepared for a slow ride for the first hour or so. Three roos on the road before leaving the town limits gave me an idea of what was ahead. And they were surely there. Everywhere. I travelled at under 80kph and with good lights could dodge most of them, but still had to stop completely a couple of times.
The sky lightened up before Ilfracombe and things got better as the numbers dwindled to almost zero.

The Sunrise Shot

I stopped at Longreach for a bit of Breakky and got chatting with another rider who had recently crashed his Royal Enfield in a bulldust patch out Mt Isa way. He was sporting a broken arm. Having had a great time exploring the local area for the last week he could not fathom I was just passing through and would be up near Darwin in two days. Whilst departing, I explained I was on a Ride, not a holiday, but I don’t think he got it.
Next the long dry sections through Winton and Cloncurry. Boy do they need some rain through here. I fuelled at Winton and decided to see how the CB went for distance. Having the spare 5 litres allows you to do these things. I set a brisk pace on the long straight roads and had a bit of a tail-wind. Could have taken on fuel at Kynuna or Mackinlay if necessary but it turned out not necessary. At Cloncurry, with 355km on the trip meter and the fuel gauge complaining, I put 20.5 litres in the 21 litre tank. Could have got another 8km at least.
Then it was the enjoyable run in to Mt Isa. Enjoyable because the road has a few curves and goes through a few rugged hills. A nice change from the wide open flats of the last thousand or so kays.
Another couple of hours up the road and I arrived at Camooweal at 4pm. Still in daylight and only 944km for the day but with the sun about to go down straight ahead and only needing to do 450km before the midday start at Three Ways tomorrow, I settled for the Camooweal Pub. This is the spot where a few years ago Tabledrain and I stayed for him to set out on his epic 3000/24 ride so good memories for me. Chris still runs the place but with the tourist season in full swing, he was too busy to have a chat.

Camooweal Digs

No hurry in the morning so I waited for the sun to get up and set out across the Barkly Tablelands at about 7:30. 11km of 110 limit then time to enjoy the 130 limit of NT. The CB loved it.
Got to the roadhouse in good time for a breakky break and then on to Three Ways with over half an hour to spare.
I parked by myself in the car park and went in for a snack and returned to find another bike or two, then even more appeared. Seems Three Ways was a popular place to begin this FarRide, being 1022km from Bark Hutt Inn. So seven bikes in all were gathered.

All awaiting midday

At midday there was a rush on the bowsers and ATM and the slow internet in this far-flung servo meant none of us had early dockets. Out the door and already several bikes were powering up the Stuart Highway.
I got under way and slotted in behind ColdComfort on his GTR and we held a good pace, again with a slight tail wind, and rounding up caravan after caravan all of which were travelling at well under our speed.
At Elliott, we refuelled and I found the CB with only half a fairing was not as economical as the fully-faired GTR. I used two more litres over the 230km. Still, I was probably using less than I would on the Goldwing, so there was that.
A good fast run up to Daly Waters and top up again with several riders all trying to get to one Premium pump was a bit of fun, so I elected for standard. It was only half a tank after all and the CB can handle it.
The plan was to stay at Pine Creek then decide which way to go around the “triangle” in the morning. Only trouble was at the increased speeds, the CB was never going to make the 375km to Pine Creek, so I stopped at Katherine while CC kept going. I promptly forgot the name of the preferred place to stay and so when I did arrive – after dark – I just found a hotel-motel and checked in. Nice room, but no one else in sight. Oh well. 1185km for day three.
Saturday morning and I decided to take the short route up the Stuart Hwy and would do the long way after lunch. This decision was mostly because the longer route would be in to the rising sun in the morning, but not in to the setting sun in the afternoon. Turned out a good decision but for a completely different reason.

Starting out with an hour or so of dark ahead, I fired up the bike, rode out of town on low beam then hit high beams on the highway. All good for ten minutes until a truck came along and I dutifully hit the dipswitch – and was plunged in to blackness. EEEK!
Pulled over as much as I dared and found the side by the lights of the oncoming truck. Once he was gone hit high and everything came back. OK so low beam was gone. Bugger.
So I continued on with the headlight on high beam and just turned off the LEDs for oncoming. It was never much of a headlight anyway and the cage drivers could suffer.
Of course the very next oncoming vehicle was a bike. Pretty sure it was Fatman and Lynne doing the anti-clockwise run around the triangle. Sorry Mick.
After a while it all lightened up and I switched off and ran with no headlight all the rest of the way up the highway. Stopped at Victoria River for fuel and met up with Kevy who was doing a south run to get his miles up. I pulled the bulb and sure enough no low filament.
Wouldn’t you know the only bulb the servo didn’t have was an H4. Aaagh.
Off again, I stopped at Humpty Doo, bought a bulb and spent a frustrating hour trying to change the damned thing. Just no room for my moderately-sized hand to get inside and actually do things in there.
Finally under way again and it was only a few kays to Bark Hut Inn where I arrived in plenty of time but with most of the riders already there.
We all had a great time over checking in and lunch and group photographing and all too soon it was time to get back under way.

The Group Shot

Reason for ride accomplished, now I was heading home.
I headed east towards Jabiru, only stopping to refuel at West Alligator. It was probably amusing for some local riders – who had also lunched at Bark Hut – to see the noisy CB pull in, fuel, pay and gone in three minutes, powering off down the road while they sat under their shady tree beside the obligatory ute-with-trailer. We all ride, just some of us do it differently.
A right turn just before Jabiru and on to the nicest piece of road of the trip. 200km of good sweeping corners – none of it too tight. Just made for a lone rider on a good sized semi-sport bike. I also practically had the road to myself that Saturday afternoon, only overtaking about three vehicles and passing half a dozen or so. All the way to Pine Creek was posted 110km and would have been a nice ride at that speed. With the FarRide over and the near-empty road it was a great ride. Nuff said.
I made Pine Creek still in the light and after refuelling and a coffee milk decided to do a few more kays. I made it to Mataranka a bit after dark and settled for a cabin there at the roadhouse. Only 821km for the day, but a great day nonetheless.

130 on the dial and chasing the shadow on the long road. This is FarRiding.

Away at 6am on Sunday and thought I had better make up some distance so it was just a solid day of riding, re-tracing the Stuart Highway back to Three Ways, the Barkly to Mt Isa and a late arrival at Cloncurry well after dark. Exactly 1300km in just under 13 hours. And that was a few hundred on Qld roads of 110 and 100 limits. The NT is sure good for a decent overall average.
One tip for staying at Cloncurry. The Discovery Holiday Park caters for travellers with cabins etc, but also has several hundred rooms for FIFO miners. They are nicely appointed with single beds, en-suite and fully black-out windows – for shift workers – and only $74 per single per night. Add to that a $25 all-you-can-eat buffet in the huge dining area and it is a great place for an overnight stop for a rider.

Pre-dawn with rising crescent moon.

Away in the dark in the morning, it was another relatively slow ride until it got light. Even then I had a precision performance with a pair of smallish wallabies dashing across together, one going in front and one behind me. Probably would not have caused any grief if I had hit one, but it sure gives an adrenaline boost.
On through Mackinlay and in to the desolate drought-stricken lands towards Winton. Just before Kynuna, the CB turned up 100,000km on the odometer so that was worth a stop and a few photos.

The 100,000 shot...

...and where it was

Then breakky and a fuel top-up. I started to put in premium but almost immediately the pump stopped. The lady came out and we worked out it was due to the tank being dry. So I backed up to the standard and put that in. She made sure to charge me the extra fifty cents for the little bit of premium I did get though. Talk about opportunistic. While I was eating, a B-Double loaded with V8 Supercars pulled in. The driver ordered breakfast and they were trying to hit him up for free merchandise. I considered asking if he had any free Mercedes on board, but he’s probably heard it all before.

Then the rest of the day was the long slog through Longreach, Barcaldine (nice to do in daylight with no hoppies) and Augathella then found a motel at Morven as it got dark. 1065km for the day and only 600 or so from home. I did need to put on the wets between Augathella and Morven with storms moving through. I willed them to go north and they obeyed, with the Winton area getting a nice little drenching behind me. That was good. Not so good to hear the Matilda Centre burned down the next day. Poor buggers out there can’t take a break.
Tuesday I slept in until well after sunrise so I wouldn’t be riding in to it. Needn’t have bothered as it was very overcast with those clouds heading up north and dropping a sprinkle or two on me. Nothing to worry about though and before I knew it I was re-joining the traffic madness of the big city and making it home.

Seven days, just over 7000 kays. Apart from the headlight issue, the bike performed flawlessly and did a great job as a long distance semi-tourer.

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