Tuesday, April 23, 2013

22 April - Trip to Queensland - Summary

Total Distance Covered ~ 4,500 km

The trip up the coast took 3 full days and a short ride on the 4th day.
The return trip (inland) took 4 full days.

In hindsight in future I would avoid the coast road because it forces you to travel many kilometers on extremely busy and fast moving freeways such as:

 - the Hume Highway from Mittagong to the M7
 - the M7
 - the Pacific Highway north of Sydney
 - the Gold Coast Highway from Tweed Heads to Brisbane
 - the Gateway Freeway around Brisbane
 - the Bruce Highway north of Brisbane.

The logistics of my trip were such that I hit each of these at very busy times.

The inland route via the Newell Highway is much more relaxing despite an occasional concentration of road trains.

Overall I found 4 days continuous riding, alone, to be pretty challenging. It would be a much better experience with a free day or the opportunity for sightseeing.

Another golden rule from this trip: riding at night on busy freeways is not advisable, and when it starts raining quickly becomes impossible. On a bike the vision required to change lanes safely in busy traffic is not there.

Overall, the experience was something like my experience of parachuting out of a plane - really glad I did it but not in a hurry to do it again.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

21 April - Home Sweet Home

Left Wandi this morning at 09:30 after a hearty breakfast of bacon and eggs prepared by JT.
A bright clear day but the temperature was a brisk 6ºC. The alpine road over Hotham and Dinner Plain is currently closed as a result of recent bushfires and rain so the route home was via Whitfield, Mansfield, Alexandra and Healesville. Stopped only in Whitfield (for number 1's) and Healesville for fuel. Got home at 4 pm.

Total Distance today 474 km
Total Distance for trip 4500 km

Saturday, April 20, 2013

20 April - Wandiligong

Left Forbes this morning just after 7 am. The temperature was 7ºC, so it was time to rug up and switch the grip heaters to high. The first stop was Grenfell (Henry Lawson's birthplace) for fuel and as there was no sign of breakfast being served anywhere I continued on to Young which fortunately, featured a McDonalds. Time to thaw out and enjoy a hot breakfast. From here the route was through Cootamundra and Gundagai, at which point I hit the Hume Highway. Fortunately the traffic was light, probably because it is a Saturday. Next stop Holbrook for a photo of the submarine, a toilet stop and an icecream for lunch. Rang JT to see if he was home and in the mood for a visitor and then completed the last 180 km to Wandiligong via Wodonga, Beechworth, Myrtleford and Bright where I topped up the fuel tank ready for tomorrow. Reached Wandi at 3pm, and John and I are heading down to the Alpine Hotel for a few beers and a meal. Tomorrow, weather permitting I'll head for home via Mansfield, Alexandra and Healesville.

Total Distance 541 km.

Friday, April 19, 2013

19 April - Forbes, NSW

Left Goondiwindi at 07:30 this morning after a solid night's sleep. The temperature was 13 ºC, quite brisk, but the sky was blue and it warmed quickly. Within minutes I had crossed the border into NSW.
First stop was for breakfast and fuel in Moree - coffee and banana bread in the local MacDonalds. My route was straight down the Newell Highway which takes you through hundreds of kilometers of the flattest countryside imaginable. The wind is continually pushing the bike in all directions, and at times you're also contending with road trains which invariably travel much quicker than I'm prepared to so when they pass it's like a two story block of flats going by. Generally though the Newell Highway allows you to cover a lot of km's quickly. Stopped in Dubbo for lunch and then pushed on through Parkes - saw The Dish to the left in the distance and then on to Forbes. Forbes is one of the most beautiful country towns in Australia - it has spectacular public buildings everywhere. Got a room in the Lamplighter Motel and had dinner in the NSW Services Club just across the road. I ordered an eye fillet steak and was absolutely amazed when they brought out two large eye fillet steaks on one plate. Apparently that's a normal serve out here, and I felt distressed leaving one of them. Anyway, I hope to get away early again tomorrow and if the weather cooperates I should end up close to home by tomorrow night leaving a shorter ride on the last day - we'll see.

Total Distance 660 km.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

18 April - Goondiwindi

Said goodbye to Saskia and Lexi this morning and by 8:40 I was on the Bruce Highway headed for home. I'm travelling the inland route on the return trip, which will hopefully be much more relaxed. The destination for today was Goondiwindi which is located right on the Qld/NSW border and just under 500km distance. First stop was Nanango for a quick comfort stop and an excellent coffee and jam donut at the local bakery. It was endless blue sky all day and hardly any traffic. Stopped for fuel at Dalby and from there to Moonee and Goondiwindi. I've just got back to my motel after a couple of beers at the Victoria Hotel and an excellent Schezuan Beef at the local Chinese restaurant.  Hopefully the weather will hold out for the next three days.

Total Distance 480 km.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

17 April - Ulysses AGM Maryborough

Rode to the AGM in Maryborough today to check out the bikes. The test rides were solidly booked until Friday, so I had to content myself with looking at and sitting on bikes. Also watched some great demonstrations of the value of ABS to deal with tricky surfaces such as oil slicks and gravel. Against all odds I ran into a couple of Ulysses members from our own branch and had a good chat. Managed to ride back to Gympie in time to beat the mother of all rain and thunderstorms.

At this stage I've done all I wanted to do at the AGM, spent some quality time with family, so the plan is to start my trip home tomorrow morning. I'll be taking the inland route this time through Dalby, Goondiwindi, Dubbo and Wagga Wagga.

Total Distance 180 km.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

16 April - Caloundra - Bike Service

Up early this morning to ride 80km to Caloundra for the 20,000 km service and a tire change. Very impressed with the service at Motolife and by lunch time the bike was ready to go. Despite the weather forecast (rain and possible storms) the weather was great. Had a text invitation to join Saskia and Kate (Peter's daughter) at the Burger Bar in Tewantin. After a pleasant ride up the Sunshine Motorway I arrived just in time and had a very relaxed and pleasant lunch. It was good to see Kate again, she lives on the Sunshine Coast now. By the time lunch was over the sky had started to look a bit dark and by the time I'd got 10km up the road it was looking very grim and a storm was obviously imminent. Quickly stopped at a service station to put on my wet weather gear. This usually ensures that it won't rain, but not this time. By the time I was halfway to Gympie the sky opened and it bucketed down. The wet weather gear worked a treat and got home without further incident.

Monday, April 15, 2013

15 April, Maryborough, Ulysses AGM

Travelled the 86km to Marybourough to attend the annual Ulysses motorcycle fest. When I arrived at about 10:00 am at the Maryborough Show Ground Complex, the sight was amazing. Motorcycles of every shape and size as well as lots of cars everywhere. As I had registered for the event on line, the night before I left Traralgon, I needed to pick up my tickets, wristband and name card as well as a bag of goodies. The administration, carried out entirely by volunteers was amazing, and pretty soon I was off looking for the German Sausage man to acquire a knackwurst and sauerkraut for breakfast, accompanied by a very good coffee. The facilities which have been provided for the thousands of attendees has to be seen to be believed. Apart from the huge camping areas which have been established, there are dining and entertainment areas, a radio station, and an IGA supermarket. After breakfast it was time to check out the various merchants and once again the variety of goods and services available was extensive. The bike manufacturer's areas and test rides will not be open until Wednesday, so I'll head back for that. The only bikes on display today were some spectacular trikes. Close up they look massive. This monster here is longer than my Pajero and at around $48,000 nearly as expensive. I wonder if it would tow the caravan?

Tomorrow the bike is booked in for its 20,000 km service and a rear tire replacement.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

12 April, Day 4, Gympie

Woke up in the Anchorage Motel, Caloundra to the sound of road making outside my window, but no sound of rain, so it was time to hit the road. Breakfast was a slice of yesterday's  left over pizza and a cup of tea. Pizza never tastes as good the next day. A quick run up the Bruce Highway got me to Saskia and Peter's place by 9:15. My black furry friend Lexi was there to greet me - she didn't recognise me at first but a few pats and a belly rub reminded her quickly and we were buddies once again.  I used Saskia's car to go into town and get a few things and to have some lunch. Peter got home from work around 6pm sporting a huge piece of eye fillet steak. As Saskia is in Sydney attending an Anthony Robbins three day love-in, it was just us guys, eye fillet steak, a bottle of red and Lexi waiting for the scraps.

So no more bike for a few days. I'll resume the blog on Monday when I ride to Maryborough to the Ulysses event.

Total distance 90 km.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

11 April, Day 3, Caloundra, Sunshine Coast

Left Bulahdelah at 07:00 this morning. A brilliant day but at that time the temperature was only 11ºC. The grip heaters on the BMW saved the day. The route for today was straight up the Pacific Highway and with some long stretches of good road I was hopeful of reaching Queensland today. Made a short stop to take a picure of the bike in front of the big banana in Coffs Harbour. After a good run with the usual stops for nourishment, fuel, and toilet, I found myself at the Queensland border at 3 pm. As I still felt pretty alert I thought I'd carry on to Gympie, which was reachable before or shortly after nightfall. So up the Gold Coast Highway, and then on to the Gateway Freeway. A big thrill was riding over the spectacular Gateway Bridge. Looking good so far, only 4 pm and only one more fuel stop required. That's when things went pear shaped. Just as I was approaching a service center near the Brisbane Entertainment Centre, traffic started to slow and just at the exit, came to a stop. So into the service center and wait. The bad news from the locals was that these jams here are a daily occurrence and can last a couple of hours. So, time for a coffee and a moment of relaxation. At this stage I was approached by Mike and Pam who had seen me arrive on the Beemer. This interesting 72 year old couple have both been riding all their married life and have many a trip across Europe and USA under their belt. In fact they were driving a utility with two BMW 1200 GS's on the back. They were on their way back from a couple of weeks of riding around Bathurst. Mike has rigged the back of his ute with a couple of electric bike loaders. You simply secure the bikes into individual cradles and the press a button. Individual electric winches load each bike on to the ute. Very impressive.

At this stage it was decision time. The traffic jam was starting to clear and it looked like being a nice evening. I hadn't planned to ride at night, but after drinking coffee and chatting with Mike and Pam I felt quite relaxed and alert and thought Gympie was well within reach. At this stage Mike and Pam suggested I follow them to their home in Caboolture and spend the night. What a kind offer, I wish I had accepted it, but at this stage I thought a night ride on a balmy evening would be great. We said our goodbyes and off we went. Thirty km later events turned shitty - it started to pour and a strong wind sprang up. Suddenly being on the bike in the dark became quite scary. The combination of decreasing visibility and sheets of water laying on the road while surrounded by cars wanting to travel fast convinced me to get off the road. As the turnoff to Caloundra appeared I took it and found a motel. Right now sitting in the motel it is raining so hard that water is coming in through the door of the motel room. Any way the bike is under cover and I'm out of the weather, which leaves less than a 1 hour ride tomorrow to reach Gympie. The forecast is for showers clearing.

My longest day on the bike ever at 723 km.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

10 April, Day 2, Bulahdelah

I left Batemans Bay this morning at 08:00 after walking about in vain looking for breakfast. At least I was able to fill up the bike otherwise we would not have got far. Eventually, some miles down the road I found the Milton Heritage Bakery (1870) which served a good coffee and a bacon and egg sandwich. The planned route continued north to Nowra and then left up to Kangaroo Valley. This turned out to be the highlight of the day. This road winds its way up through the mountains, and then plunges into the most incredibly beautiful valley. The township of Kangaroo Valley is equipped to handle visitors with lots of interesting shops, cafes and restaurants. I checked out the caravan park and it looks impressive too with lots of shaded grassy sites. The whole road which eventually brings you out on to the Southern Tablelands and Moss Vale is probably the most beautiful road I have ever travelled on. Sheer joy on a motorbike.

From Moss Vale it was straight on to the Hume Highway at Mittagong. What a change of pace after idyllic windy country roads. Suddenly you're travelling at 110 km/hr alongside two other lanes of huge truck travelling even faster. The turbulence you experience on a bike when a huge slab sided truck passes you at 120 certainly tests your nerves and riding skill. By now it was time to add some fuel to the Beamer and to sort out the aching bum muscles, which was accomplished at a huge road side service centre a few km short of the M7 motorway. As we know from our caravan trips, in order to get from the M7 to the Pacific Highway you need to traverse about 10km of sheer chaos called Pennant Hills Road. It is usually quite stressful towing the van, but on a motorbike with lots of stops and slow moving traffic it is quite a test. Then, from the frying pan into the fire, the first 50 km of the Pacific Highway out of Sydney also requires your full attention. Finally about 50 km north of Sydney sanity returns and you can afford to relax a little. Once you've crossed the Hexham Bridge just outside Newcastle all traffic quickly dissipates and thoughts turn to where to get the next fuel and accommodation. By around 4 pm, even though there was plenty of daylight left the arms were getting a bit cramped and the tank was getting low once again.

At Buladelah which is about 240km north of Sydney I hit the jackpot - a service station, next to a motel which has a licenced restaurant. Time for a shower and a beer.

Total Distance today 505 km.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

9 April, Day 1, Traralgon to Batemans Bay

Woke up at 08:00 this morning and suddenly remembered, it's Day 1 of the big ride. Got away at 08:40 on a mild but overcast day. First stop was coffee at Stratford and a chance to check that everything on the bike was OK. The day warmed from 17ºC to 20.5ºC as I travelled through Bairnsdale and Lakes Entrance. The sun tried to break through but the air was very smokey, not sure if it was from backburns or from actual bush fires. Reached Cann River at 12:45 and stopped for a sweet chilli vegetable pastie and an OJ at Shortty's Little Pie Shop. Also filled the BMW with fuel. Just on a whim I asked the service station proprietor which of his fuels were 'enhanced' with ethanol - only the 91 octane wasn't - lucky I asked.

A half hour later with my backside and concentration back to pristine conditions we headed north once again. The aim was to get to Batemans Bay which I reached at 4:45 pm after another leg stretch and ice-cream in Bega. Reluctantly had dinner at the Hog's Breath Cafe next door and found the beer to be great. The steak has not improved since my last visit 6 years ago.

The right hand has been fine, no hindrance at all, and on balance today's 600km stretch was accomplished with no drama. The infamous BMW seat proved to be much better than I expected, partly because of some extra padding in the cordura pants I'm wearing. A few minutes off the bike every couple of hours and a little stand up on the pegs going through towns also makes a huge difference.

The aim tomorrow is to get as far north of Sydney as possible so that I can reach the Gold Coast on Thursday.

Total Distance 590 km.

8 April - Day 0 - Ride to Queensland

Well, the bike's been checked, the bags are packed and there is one sleep to go. Tomorrow I will start my ride to the Ulysses AGM celebration in Maryborough in Queensland. I am as prepared as I can be and now, on the eve of departure I am experiencing a mixture of excitement and trepidation. I've never undertaken a really long ride, this one is 2000 km each way, and I have no real idea how I will go. I want to get to Gympie in no more than 4 days and I will soon find out if I have the physical and mental resources. A couple of days ago I sprained my right hand, the throttle hand, pulling the Beemer on to its center stand. I hope it holds out OK for the trip. Anyway time to get some sleep for the big day tomorrow.