31 October 2015

The Spark of a New Plan

The plan was for us to ride the last FarRide for 2015 on the Wing - Clint in the pilot's seat, Charleen in the princess pillion seat.

I had to work all Friday – well pay attention and look interested during a training session about advanced government decision making. Mix those words up as your humour sees fit.

Our plan started at 7pm Friday riding north up the Blackall Range to Yarraman as the turning point then down the New England Highway, through Toowoomba and home for a few hours of sleep.

Just as we’re about to back the Wing out of the shed, Clint turns on the ignition and I notice that both indicator lamps are lit. A quick check of the fuses. Nope not that. Can’t ride the Wing with no indicators, says Clint. Ok, what are our options?
1.       We can take the little bikes! I’m nervous and Clint’s a little concerned as I’m rather tired and overdue for some much needed rec leave.
2.       I can stay home and Clint will ride the loop by himself on the CeeBee. Yeah, but ….
3.       Both stay home. Not Likely!!!!!

We take option 1 and see how we go.  Quickly change the gear over to the two bikes and head out.
Start docket obtained at 7:07pm. Not bad timing considering all that’s transpired.

I’m wearing a summer flow-through mesh jacket with a microfleece jumper underneath and soon realise that it’s not enough. Time to pull up in Woodford to have an unscheduled stop to put on more clothing and set ourselves up for the rest of the run. That stop was not factored into our timing. Still not comfy warm, but not shivering to distraction.

Stop 1 – 10 minutes out of our sleeping time.

The traffic wasn’t a worry. The recent rains seemed to keep the skippies away from the road. The only hoppies we saw were frogs, toads and one hare.

We’re poking along at a steady, easy pace. It wasn’t long before we reached Yarraman and turned south. Still no traffic to complain about, just the occasional vehicle to dip our lights.

Before reaching the township of Cooyar, there’s a really sweet set of twisties to drop down the range. We passed a couple of vehicles after the twisties, didn’t think much of it really. Then on the approach into Cooyar, a vehicle had very quickly caught up behind me. I couldn’t make out any real detail other than it was a car, probably a 4WD. I let Clint know and moved to the left of the lane so that he could see how close the vehicle was. On approach to the town, the speed sign showed 80. As I was engine braking, I also tapped on the brakes to let the vehicle behind know that I was slowing. I did this again as we hit the 60 zone. I was a little concerned that this might have been a local who just wanted to keep going … through me and then Clint.

Just as I turned into Cooyar proper, the vehicle behind invited me to a party. He put his disco lights on, just to show me what he meant. I hear the local pub crowd cheer! Oh, be still my racing pulse! What did I do so wrong that it drew his attention??

So together we pulled up down the road a little away from the pub patrons. The police officer introduced himself as Steve and chatted with us for a while. Turns out he wanted to check out the bikes and the best way for him to do that was to breath test us. No problems unless there’s restrictions on caffeine. As it turns out Steve has ridden a Blackbird and was genuinely interested in the set-up of the bikes and why we were travelling. I told him that we were out giving me night riding practice as I normally only commute for work. Didn’t really want to give him the full FarRider story … this time. A handshake and a thank you from Steve to allow him a chance to talk to ordinary folk. His night had been all about domestics and taking people’s guns away.  We wished Steve well and we were on our way.

Stop 2 – around 20 minutes out of our sleeping time.

We pushed on along the New England Highway starting to look for fuel at Highfields.  Three outlets all closed for the night. Finally found one that had fuel for the bikes and coffee for us.

Stop 3 – our planned one. Stopped for around 30 minutes.

The final leg down the Toowoomba range was just determination to get home. Our plan had us back home around midnight-ish. With our two unexpected stops we rolled in and were tucked up in bed by 1:05am. Why is this significant? Because the alarm was set for 5am and this meant only 3 hours 55 minutes of sleep. I don’t usually function well on less than 5 hours sleep.

Stop 4 – our sleep stop. Stopped for almost 5 hours.

I woke from a rough night’s sleep, too many achey bits didn’t let me get quality sleep. I questioned myself if I could complete the FarRide. Checked with Clint that if we were underway by 6am there’d be plenty of opportunity for stops if need be.

In for a penny, in for a pound – we’re out the gate before 6am headed for Cunningham’s Gap and a fuel and breakfast stop at Warwick. The morning was still cool. A second layer under the flow through jackets was needed. Clouds covered the mountain tops as we approached Cunningham’s Gap. Vehicles travelling from the Gap were given a cursory glance to see if they were wet. No! Thank goodness.

Stop 5 – our planned stop. Stopped for almost an hour.

Through Warwick and headed towards Inglewood. We chose the smoother, straighter track to make sure there we would make it to Texas in plenty of time. The country around this road looked drier and for that we saw quite a few dead skippies along the roadway. Just before Inglewood, there’s a turn off to the south to Texas.  What a great little road. Clint speculated that it might have some gravel. I think he was teasing me, knowing my preference for tarmac. This was a new road for both of us.

Soon enough we rolled into Texas and there were a few FarRiders scattered throughout town. Our host, Helen of the Stockman Hotel and the ladies of the local kindergarten were busy setting up. The pub didn’t open until 11am. However, we were welcome to sit in the lounge area out of the sun. Steadily more and more bikes rolled into town. What a sight - the diversity of LD steeds filling the main street of Texas.

When making arrangements with Helen, it became clear that their kitchen wouldn’t cope with feeding the masses of FarRiders, especially those who were keen to check-in and be gone. Arrangements were made to include a fund-raiser grab and go BBQ through the local kindergarten. Somewhere along the way, Clint remembered the FarTin. The FarTin went round to collect some funds for the kindergarten. Thanks to Lynne (LTP) and her clever ways of engaging people, that was one heavy tin.

Check-in went smoothly. Clint and Michael (Fatman) worked their way through the line-up with everyone who was there checked-in with ten minutes to spare. No-one was caught out with the different time zone. Only one rider didn’t show. Jordan on his three-week old Wing met some misfortune in Mungindi. It was good to see him and his niece even if it was after check-in closed. Lynne herded the cats and we all lined up for a group photo with the FarRider flag.

Clint took the opportunity to welcome the new FarRiders, talk about the memorial service for Saaz and to thank Helen for making the destination so welcoming.

Stop 6 – the meet and greet. Stopped for 3 hours.

Time ticked by, riders left for their next destinations and the storm clouds were building. Back on the road for us. We still had to complete our 1,000 km. Even though I was tired, the Texas to Stanthorpe road had a lot of curves, climbs and tight corners to keep my energy up.

Our final stop for fuel and a coffee was Stanthorpe.

Stop 7 – our planned stop. Stopped for around 30 minutes.

The ride home back into the traffic beckoned. There was usual amount of traffic. However, we had the unusual experience of having the road over Cunningham’s Gap to ourselves. No slow going trucks, no-one. Closer to the city, the traffic made up for it though.  So much that I missed seeing my 1,000km tick over. It was a full 26km later that I had the opportunity to look down and take it in that another FarRide was complete.

We were parked up in our shed by 5:16pm with just under 2 hours of our 24 hours spare.

What did I learn from this?
That FarRides can be accomplished with unplanned stops and some sleep.
That it could be possible for me to attempt a SS1600 without falling asleep.
That policemen named Steve who ride Blackbirds are good people. I have a score of 2 for 2 on that basis.
That FarRiders are diverse, fun, generous people and
That there’s still a lot of riders who want to challenge themselves riding longer distances.