Tag Archives: Motorcycle touring

Motorcycle camping long weekend

Mum and Dad on their bikes

Mum and Dad on their bikes

We had a long weekend here in Queensland, so after half a day at the high ropes course, I met up with my parents for a few days motorbike camping. Mum and Dad recently bought new motorbikes, and this was their first time taking them out touring. It was nice to introduce them to one of my favourite activities and to have an excuse to go motorbike touring for the first time in almost a year.

My wheels

My wheels

We met at the Bearded Dragon down in Tamborine Village for a late lunch on Saturday afternoon. After huge meals we set off into the cold afternoon air for the short ride down country roads to Rathdowney and then onto Flanagan’s Reserve, near Mt Barney. With clouds rolling in ominously, we were expecting a wet camp but, fortunately, the rain never eventuated.

Camp at Flanagan's Reserve

Camp at Flanagan’s Reserve

Flanagan’s Reserve is 28 acres of bush camping. There are hot showers (20c/min) and toilets. The campsite is located along the upper reaches of the Logan River under the watchful eyes of Mt Barney and Mt Maroon. With plenty of trees for shade and steel drums to use as fire places, this site is beautiful all year round. You can just hang out at camp or drive up to nearby Yellow Pinch day use area to do some hiking around Mt Barney.

Morning walk near Mt Barney

Morning walk near Mt Barney

After a pleasant night around the campfire, I slept like a log. On Sunday morning I walked up the road for an hour, enjoying the country scenery. I thought about going for a run but decided to rest my body because I was sore after my 11km jog earlier in the week and a month off won’t do my body any harm.

Logan River at Flanagan's Reserve

Logan River at Flanagan’s Reserve

At the end of my walk I wandered through the campground to look at all the other campers’ set ups. While my parents and I had tiny little hiking tents, most other campers had huge arrangements: massive canvas tents, dome tents the size of small mansions and caravans that might make a Mac truck look small. I wonder whether the person who invented tents realised there would be such an array by the year 2013.

Riding up Mt Lindsay

Riding up Mt Lindsay

We started our ride on Sunday by heading south-west over Mt Lindsay. The roads were quiet and winding. As we crossed the mountain and state border at 1,195m we could see rain in all directions. The temperature plummeted and the roads got wet (though fortunately from rain that had already fallen earlier). Having only ridden less than 2,000km in total including their lessons and licence tests, the combination of wet and winding roads was a bit of a challenge for my parents. But they made it down into Woodenbong safely for a Tim Tam break.

Lunch at Killarney

Lunch at Killarney

From Woodenbong we rode north west back across the state border to Killarney. The Mount Lindsay Highway was a rough and rugged ride that took all our concentration to travel safely. I think we were all happy to see Shirl & Sandy’s takeaway shop in Killarney where we could escape the cold drizzle and buy some food. Shirl & Sandy’s is an unassuming little place but it was doing a roaring trade when we arrived. Six or seven car loads of men and their young sons were placing orders and eating. They were on “Secret Men’s Business”; a boy’s camping weekend. The food was honest and tasty, the service was friendly and the dining room was warm.

Back of the range

Back of the range

At Killarney we decided to head over to Goomburra and take our chances at one of the commercial camping grounds there rather than staying at the National Park. We are usually National Park people but with the cold weather and threatening skies, my parents decided that hot showers would be a lovely thing to have at the end of the day.

The only blue sky we saw all weekend

The only blue sky we saw all weekend

So we drove north behind the Great Dividing Range along quiet roads that gave us plenty of time to enjoy the views: mountains to our right and farmlands to our left.

Goomburra Valley Campground

Goomburra Valley Campground

None of us had ever been to Goomburra before. I don’t know why because we camp quite a bit and Goomburra is only 175km (110 miles) from home. After looking at the three commercial campgrounds in the Goomburra Valley, we decided to try our luck at the Goomburra Valley Campground. It was a long shot because all the campgrounds seemed to be quite full this long weekend. But they had a no-show, leaving space for us in a prime spot right next to the river.

Cute little fellow

Cute little fellow

There’s a shop about 500m from the campground so I went for a walk to buy cold drinks and chocolate to enjoy while we kicked back for the afternoon. Along the way, I came across a very cute little pony who couldn’t decide whether he was friendly or coy. He’d come up to let me pat him and then back off shyly. We played this game for a  little while before I continued on my way.

On my return, Mum, Dad and I sat around the campfire sharing cold soft drinks, chocolate and then, later, soup, dinner and French cheese.

The creek at Goomburra Valley Campground

The creek at Goomburra Valley Campground

I got up in the morning and took another one hour walk to explore the area. The creek next to the campground was pretty and would be a fun place for kids to play in summer.

Check out the horns on him

Check out the horns on him

Further up the road, I came across a herd of cattle, including a big bull with impressive horns. I couldn’t help but stay well away from him and keep an eye on him as I walked past. Sure, I know he won’t do anything. But those horns still demand respect.

Loving life

Loving life

After my walk, we had breakfast, packed our gear and hit the road for the ride home. In fine weather conditions, we would have stopped heaps to take photos but it didn’t take long before the rain started to fall. And it only grew heavier the closer to Brisbane we got. The first half of the ride was still nice though. We took the northern route back to Brisbane along the New England Highway and then the shortcut through to Gatton. Along the way we stopped at the Thies Memorial Park to make coffee and eat some simple snacks.

The ride home from Gatton got a bit miserable. The only highlight was the burgers we ate at the Ozie Fuels diner on the highway. They were not bad at all.

It was fantastic to play tour guide for my parents and I enjoyed their company for the weekend. I hope we have another chance to go motorbike touring.

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Lamington weekend

Mountain views from Beechmont

After the Past Pupils’ Mass I rode my motorbike up to to Binna Burra in the Gold Coast Hinterland to support my friends at the Lamington Classic (and to hang out drinking cider). On my way up the mountain I stopped at Beechmont to find a geocache and enjoy the view of the mountains.

The Lamington Classic is an annual two-day trail running event that is as much race as mega social. On Saturday, runners run from O’Reilly’s to Binna Burra along the Border Track. It’s 21.8km of twisting single track through the rain forest. After spending the night at Binna Burra, they then run back to O’Reilly’s on Sunday morning.

My running friends were running the event so I went up to Binna Burra on Saturday night to hang out with them. We spent the night drinking and talking. I’m not a big drinker, having been a tea-totaller until two years ago. But I enjoyed my three ciders (4.0% alcohol so very light and sweet) while my friends probably drank more beer and wine than was sensible preparation for the second day of running. While I was disappointed not to be joining them out on the course, I had a blast making memories away from running with a group of people who are quickly becoming friends; not just running buddies.

From the Binna Burra Caves Track

I woke at 4:40am this morning and didn’t want to wake my friends, who weren’t due to get up until 6:30am. Instead of hanging around, I made the most of the early morning sun by setting off on the Binna Burra Caves Track. Unfortunately, it was too dark in the rainforest for my mobile phone camera to get good pictures so you’ll have to trust me that I had a great time enjoying mountain views, rainforest scenery and the sound of rainforest birds. The caves themselves were huge and imposing holes in the cliffs and made me feel slightly dizzy.

For the second time this week, I did some light running. I walked a 10 minute warm up then did a 1 minute run / 4 minute walk ratio for 6 repeats. My foot and leg felt good during the running phases but I’m not ready to do anything more strenuous yet.

It was still about 5:50am when I completed the Caves Circuit so I also walked the 1.2km Binna Burra Rainforest Walk. I chose that walk because there is a geocache along it (there was also one on the Caves Circuit). I enjoyed the peace and simplicity of the Rainforest Walk; a short stroll through the bush with nothing to carry and no navigation required. There was no one else out on the tracks except me, the pademellons (an Australian marsupial that is like a tiny kangaroo that gets around on all fours), and the birds.

Jacarandas on the way to O’Reilly’s

After my walk I had breakfast with my friends, helped them carry their gear down to the ute that was taking it all back to O’Reilly’s and saw them off on their run. I then rode my motorbike down the range, across and back up the other range to O’Reilly’s, which took over 1.5 hours. The scenery along the way was amazing and included farmland, mountains and rain forest roads.

Motorcycling through the trees

My friends all ran well today, backing up after yesterday’s epic with a quick run. After a few hours lazing around O’Reilly’s eating and chatting we all set off back down the mountain towards home. The roads up here in the mountains are fantastic for motorcycling (though they are narrow). For the first 10km of the descent I could almost reach out and touch the trees along the road. Then the road opened out and the views of the valleys were superb.

My wonderful weekend was topped off with a 2km walk with my partner after I got home.

Total:

  • 5km rainforest trail walk / run
  • 1.2km rainforest walk
  • 2km walk around my neighbourhood
  • 7 geocaches found.

 

Washpool motorcycle tour

A hot dry day on the open road

In Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert PM Pirsig writes:

You see things vacationing on a motorcycle in a way that is completely different from any other. In a car you’re always in a compartment, and because you’re used to it you don’t realise that through the car window everything you see is just more TV. You’re a passive observer and it is all moving by you boringly in a frame.

On a cycle the frame is gone. You’re completely in contact with it all. You’re in the scene, not just watching it anymore, and the sense of presence is overwhelming. That concrete whizzing by five inches below your foot is the real thing, the same stuff you walk on, it’s right there, so blurred you can’t focus on it, yet you can put your foot down and touch it anytime, and the whole thing, the whole experience, is never removed from immediate consciousness.

I couldn’t explain my love for motorcycle riding in words that capture it better than Pirsig’s. That’s probably why his book is one of my favourites.

Crossing the range around Mt Lindsay

This weekend I had to travel to Washpool National Park, 450km from my home. I was going there to volunteer as an aid station attendant at the Washpool World Heritage Trail run. But rather than just make the trip about transport, I decided to enjoy the journey.

Check out the horns on that cow

Horse country

Sheep country

Instead of racing down the Cunningham / New England Highway ‘inland route’ or the Pacific Highway ‘coastal route’, I took the less-traveled Mt Lindsay Highway to Washpool. It took me eight hours to cover the 450km because I kept stopping to find geocaches and take photos. Taking the scenic route made me slow down and focus on the journey, rather than the destination. It’s a good reminder to slow down in a world that is spinning too quickly.

Rest stop on the gravel

Sections of the Mt Lindsay Hwy are like riding on beach sand

Whoops!

The scenic route also led to a spot of adventure. The Mt Lindsay Highway still has about 30km of unsealed road. Goodness only knows why but for some reason no-one’s connected the northern and southern ends of the highway yet. While the northern end of the highway was perfect for road riding, the unsealed sections on the southern end were hard going because the sand was as deep as beach sand.

My GS500 doesn’t handle anywhere near as well on sand as my old CBF250 did. It’s got a higher centre of gravity and is heavier to hold up once it starts to flip on its side. I tried desperately to stay upright but lost concentration for a micro-second and lost control of the bike in the sand. I wasn’t hurt and the bike was fine, other than a few scratches. Fortunately, a farmer was driving by so he could help me lift my bike, rather than me having to unload it before I lifted it.

The Bluff on the New England Hwy

Late afternoon on the New England Hwy

Coming to the Gwydr Hwy

Lengthening shadows

It was late afternoon by the time I joined the New England Highway in Tenterfield. With 140km left to ride and the sun starting to sink into the western sky, I set my speedometre to 100kph and zoomed down the highway to Dundee where I took the shortcut south-east to join the Gwydr Highway back east into the mountains.

There’s something foolhardy about riding in the late afternoon and evening in Australia. Kangaroos and wallabies graze along the road at this time of day, posing a huge risk to a motorcyclist’s safety. While they might seem like cute animals, kangaroos and wallabies aren’t very bright. They will jump out on the road in front of passing vehicles rather than turning to hop away. They’re muscular animals and even a small wallaby can take a motorcycle out if it hits. But I find this time of day magical for riding because the colours are brighter and vibrant.

Washpool World Heritage Area from Raspberry Lookout

Washpool National Park is a World Heritage listed area. It’s a stunning series of mountains ranging averaging about 1,000m high. They include areas of rain forest, dry granite fields, clear flowing creeks and hanging swamps. It’s worth the long ride to travel there for a few days.

After the trail run event I rode home on Sunday night. I rode straight back up the Gwydr and New England Highways before turning east on the Cunningham Highway back to Brisbane. It was dark for much of my ride home and I had to contend with unlit highways (the word ‘highway’ in Australia does not mean the road is well-maintained, lit or signed), rain and a scary lightning storm. But it was worth it because the hardships are all part of motorcycle touring.

Map of trip

Map of trip

Evans Head weekend (incl. Northern Rivers 100km cycle)

Packed to tour

This year, for the first time, we Queenslanders had an October public holiday. And boy did many of us make the most of it. The highways to the southern beaches were packed with a steady stream of cars and 4WDs towing camper trailers and kids’ pushbikes. Campgrounds were full to capacity and fisherman lined beaches and rivers. At the invitation of my sister, I swung a leg over my motorbike and joined the mass southern pilgrimage.

Views from Byron Bay lookout

The 250km ride south was long and hot. I always struggle on the first day of a bike tour. My body takes a day to get used to being in a riding position. Especially when I have a heavy load on the back. To break up the ride, I stopped at the Byron Bay lookout to collect a geocache. The view was stunning. While I’d seen the view while riding down the highway, I’d never stopped before. I could see all the way to the lighthouse.

Broadwater National Park

After finding the geocache I continued down the highway to Broadwater National Park, just north of Evans Head. Here I took a short but hot walk up to the lookout where another geocache was hidden. Again, I’m glad I made my way to the cache because the views over the flatlands towards Evans Head, where I was heading for camp.

Silver Sands camping ground, Evans Head

When I arrived at the Silver Sands Caravan Park in Evans Head I was pleasantly surprised to find that I had a huge family-sized campsite all to myself. I usually get squished into a tiny space when campground managers realise I just have a single-person tent and motorbike. So I made the most of the space. I spent the rest of Saturday hanging out with my sister and her husband, their kids, and their friends. We didn’t do much; just hung out, ate and drank.

Cycling through the cane fields

Loving life

On Sunday morning I woke early to hit the roads on my bicycle. My sister had carried it to Evans Head for me. I downloaded a route map from Bikely.com so had a plan for the day. I started by riding into Woodburn where I crossed the Evans River and rode into sugarcane country. The roads were flat, narrow and quiet. It was typical of sugarcane roads, which often turn at right angles around the farms. I find these sugarcane farm roads comforting because I grew up training in the Jacobs Well cane fields with their strange right-angled turns.

The Evans River

The road north of Woodburn followed the Evans River. So I had expansive cane fields to my left and the big wide river to my right as I rode. The Pacific Highway runs along the other bank of the river and I’ve driven it countless times. Many of those times, the river has conjured daydreams in my mind. So to ride along it was lovely.

The opening bridge over the Richmond River

The road left the Evans River and crossed a small range before dropping down to the Richmond River Valley at Wardell. The small climbs were a nice change from the flat country. At Wardell I had to cross the Pacific Highway again and follow it for a short distance. Fortunately, there is a cycle / pedestrian path across the bridge, which is too narrow to cycle across safely. I then turned left along River Road, which I followed all the way to South Ballina.

Richmond River, South Balina

Cane fields in flower

The ride out to South Balina was fast because I had a strong tailwind. I enjoyed the sight of fisherman out in their boats and teenage boys fishing from jetties, hoping for a bite. I always wonder whether these men realise they are engaged in meditation and whether they would roll their eyes with disgust if you suggested it to them. Their quiet vigil looks as peaceful as that of meditating monks. At South Balina I stopped on the river for a snack and rest. I’d ridden 55km in just over 2 hours, including photo stops.

Riding through Broadwater National Park

A hot ride into a strong headwind

The ride back south to Evans Head was tougher than the ride out because I had a headwind for much of the trip and the sun had started to come out. That’s not to say it wasn’t enjoyable. I cruised back along the Richmond River to Wardell at a slow average speed of 21kph. I practiced patience and not getting frustrated with the headwind. I just kept spinning into the wind; something I never used to do. I used to try to stand and push into the wind but now I am trying to learn to go with the flow.

I rode the first half of the return ride the way I had come but then turned back towards the coast at Broadwater to ride down Broadwater Road through the National Park instead of riding back through the cane fields. The sun came out and reflected off the white beach sand along the road, creating hot conditions. I just kept cruising along enjoying the experience, stopping occasionally to take photos.

I completed the 107km ride in 5 hours including breaks and photo stops. That means I’m right on track for the Audax Australia time limits, which are 6:30 for 100km and 13:30 for 200km.

Riding home

Blue Pool, Evans Head

I spent Sunday afternoon relaxing at camp with my sister and her family. We pumped some yabbies and threw a few fishing lines into the river in a vain attempt to catch some fish. The kids enjoyed their time at the beach and then we hung out at camp. On Monday morning we packed up our campsites, played a bit of football and went our own ways home. I took the scenic routes through the northern NSW hinterland, stopping to find some geocaches along the way. What would have been a 2 hour ride up the highway turned into a 6 hour scenic ride through the hinterland.

Total: 107km bicycle ride on Sunday

 

 

 

 

 

Julia Creek Trip Day 13: Home

Today’s 485km ride home can best be summed up in just a few phrases:

  • 6.5 long and often scary hours
  • potholes so large they could swallow a small truck
  • puddles so deep I needed scuba diving gear to ride through them
  • visibility so low I often couldn’t see the cars in front of me or the lines on the road
  • rain so heavy it managed to penetrate my raincoat, winter jacket, fleece vest and t-shirt.

Yes, some will say I should have stopped but that’s not my style. The downpour continued through last night and sometimes here in  Queensland downpours like that continue for days. I’ve learned to ride through heavy rain and to manage my risks so that’s what I did. And besides, a bit of fear is good sometimes.

I made it home safely and am ready to get back into training.

Julia Creek Trip Day 12: Capricorn Caves to Deepwater

 

It’s our final day on the road as a trio. Tonight I will be staying with a friend in Deepwater, and my mum and grandmother will be staying with their friends at Hervey Bay. We’ll all be home by tomorrow night. It now feels like we’re homeward bound after a fabulous trip.

There’s not much to tell about today’s travel. We drove through Rockhampton to Gladstone where we stopped for morning tea on the harbour. The road into Gladstone is lined with heavy industry. There’s a huge new development being built to house the workers who will live here to keep the coal, electricity and aluminium industries growing. It feels oppressive driving through this type of landscape. Intellectually I know that we need it because our society (including me) has high electricity demands and uses a lot of aluminium products. But emotionally it feels horrible to know this type of industry is destroying our planet; especially after spending time in wilder areas.

From Gladstone we follow the increasingly busy Bruce Hwy south to Miriam Vale. There’s a lot of road work taking place as this section of the highway is upgraded. The road works make travel painfully slow as we have to stop frequently for the stop-slow controllers. Fortunately we can turn off the road in Miriam Vale to turn off the highway to take the back roads south rather than continue to battle the road works. I needed to turn off there anyway to get to Deepwater but Mum would ordinarily have taken the highway all the way south to the Hervey Bay exit, south of Childers.

We stop at the Lowmead Road exit where Mum has to turn left and I need to continue onwards. We stop here on the side of the road for lunch. It’s quiet here and there’s nowhere else to stop so we just set up our chairs right beside the road. Here we eat left over dinner for lunch before Mum and my grandmother leave me to continue our own separate ways. Our last meal together was lovely and as I rode off I reflected on the wonderful trip we had together.

Julia Creek Trip Day 11: Airlie Beach to Capricorn Caves

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We’re on our way home now, starting with today’s long drive down the notoriously long and boring stretch of Bruce Hwy from Mackay to Rockhampton.

We start out early and make our way through the cane fields to Proserpine and then Mackay, where we have breakfast in a pretty park dedicated to the South Sea Islanders who helped develop the sugar industry in the Mackay district.

From Mackay we drive about 100km to Flaggy Rock. It’s a tiny town and from the highway all we see is the ice cream shop. You have to stop here if you are in the area because the home made ice cream is delicious! I had two scoops: lychee and ginger, and banana and cinnamon. Yummo.

After Flaggy Rock we drive  120km to Marlborough. Despite the large road signs indicating the town’s existence, Marlborough is also tiny. We stop at the Lions Park for lunch and a short sleep. It is clean and relatively quiet. I really needed the sleep.

On the road between Flaggy Rock and Marlborough there were a series of official road signs with trivia questions on them. It’s one of the fatigue management techniques being used to reduce the road toll on the road. Most people drive the 311km from Mackay to Rocky in one hit so it’s a dangerous road. The lack of variety in the scenery makes it boring, increasing fatigue. I wish I had been able to safely stop to take photos of the signs. The current question is ‘What is the tallest mountain in Queensland?’ The answer is Mt Bartle Frere.

We had planned to drive to Yeppoon, 35km east of Rockhampton but see camping signs just 25km before Rocky at the Capricorn Caves.

The campground at Capricorn Caves is wonderful. It is a bush camp with powered sites and amenities. We spend our last night as a trio playing cards ( I won my first game this trip) and sitting around a campfire. Mum also makes my favourite dish for tea: a Dutch dish called ‘cold dish’. It was super lovely of her.