Tag Archives: Motorcycling

Camping for the weekend

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See you all in a few days. It’s a long weekend here in Queensland so making the most of it with my parents.

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Growing in confidence

Today was a big day for me: I successfully replaced my motorcycle chain and sprockets. This is the third motorcycle maintenance task I’ve completed in the past fortnight and I’m proud of myself for having the courage to try.

The task required me to remove the casing on the engine that holds the front sprocket. To do this, I also had to remove the gear shifting lever. Once upon a time that would have been too scary for me because I wouldn’t have trusted myself to get it back on right. But not anymore. I have gained so much confidence this past 18 months that I was able to remove the gear shifter knowing that I would be able to replace it.

I also had to remove the whole rear wheel from the bike. If you had told me a year ago that I’d be able to do that, I’d have laughed at you. But I pulled out the axle, used a breaker bar to remove the rear sprocket, cleaned everything with degreaser and installed the new rear sprocket without incident. I then ran the new chain, measured it, removed the necessary extra links, and pressed the master link and clip into place.

A few days ago I was ready to give in. Today I have successfully achieved a major personal milestone. I am glad I hung on and fought back. Last time I got that low it took months to claw my way back. My recovery skills are improving significantly because this time I only crashed for a few weeks and then have been able to take positive steps in my life.

If anyone reading my blog feels down, insignificant or lost: fight back. Take one positive step every day no matter how small. And then celebrate your achievements; no matter how seemingly small. My next mechanical challenge is to install a fuel filter in my motorbike and to replace the brakes on my mountain bike.

Scrub bashing and getting blokey

Swamp country

Swamp country

Swamp country

Swamp country

I started my day with a bush bash. I’ve been working on the Post Code Hunt 4165 multicache (a multi-stage geocache). I started it after work one day this week but wasn’t able to finish it, so I went out this morning to give it another go. The geocache contains six way points, each containing a clue to the next waypoint. After finding all six clues, the final cache coordinates will be revealed. I’ve now found five waypoints and know where the sixth waypoint location is but I was unable to find the clue hidden there so need to go back.

A clue at a waypoint

A clue at a waypoint

A clue at a waypoint

A clue at a waypoint

Cicada shell

Cicada shell

The trail to the various waypoints took me way off the marked trails. Much of the search took place in swamp country. Fortunately, it hasn’t really rained here in months so the creeks and swamps are fairly dry. I walked through head-high reeds and waist-high grass with sharp blades. My legs are all cut up but it doesn’t matter because being out in the swamp country was too much fun to miss. Sure, I should have worn my gaiters, given that I have a pair. But I forgot and didn’t want to miss out on valuable time in the bush to ride the 15km back home to collect them.

My tool kit

My tool kit

After failing to find the final clue at waypoint 6, I went shopping for motorcycle mechanic tools. I haven’t owned any real tools since I finished my electronics trade apprenticeship in late 2002. I was so bad at my trade that I got rid of all my tools after my time and never really did anything practical again; until now. Completing the marathon in August made me realise I can do anything, including motorcycle mechanics. So today I bought a socket set, break bar, pliers, ratcheting thumb socket and something else related to repairing my motorbike. I just bought budget tools for now because I needed so many.

 

Removing the oil filter

Removing the oil filter

Disgusting mess in the front sprocket case

Disgusting mess in the front sprocket case (I cleaned it out)

Ratcheting thumb tool

Ratcheting thumb tool

At home I watched some YouTube clips about how to do each element of the 24,000km service for my Suzuki GS500. I have now changed the oil, oil filter and air filter. Tomorrow I will replace the chain and sprockets (I couldn’t do it today because I need a pair of needle nose pliers and a pair of bolt cutters), install an inline fuel filter and replace the brake fluid (I need some tubing to do it). I have also learned how to clean the carburator jets but don’t need to do that just yet.

It’s funny, I never felt quite man enough before but now that I’ve spent the day playing with my motorbike engine, I feel positively blokey. And that’s a good feeling.

I ended the day with a 2.75km walk with my partner.

Total: 7.25km walk.

A day on my motorbike

Kingsford Smith Memorial

Kingsford Smith Memorial

I’d organised to meet a friend for lunch on Brisbane’s northside so went out motorcycling for the morning, taking a large circuitous route to her place. I selected a route based on the location of geocaches to add to my ever-increasing tally and left home.

I started with a visit to the Kingsford Smith Memorial near the Brisbane International Airport. Sir Charles Kingsford Smith was a pioneering Australian aviator who was the first person to fly across the Pacific from the US to Australia. I had to learn about his exploits when I was in primary school and haven’t visited the memorial since.

Timber Mill

Timber Mill

Car graveyard

Car graveyard

From the airport I followed the highway north to a point where I could turn around and take a parallel road back south past some geocaches. The road wasn’t pretty or exciting. Mostly, it traveled through industrial areas past factories, a timber mill and car wrecking yards. I used to live on this side of Brisbane; north of the river. So riding here was like a blast from the past. It brought back memories of times long gone and felt familiar in a dream-like way.

Typical cache hide

Typical cache hide

Uncovering the cache

Uncovering the cache

See the cache?

See the cache?

In case anyone is not certain about what I mean by ‘going geocaching’, here are some photos that will hopefully make it clearer. There are different types of geocache containers and hides. Some are plastic lunch boxes hidden under sticks or rocks along the road or in the bush. Others are small painted metal mint containers that are magnetised to signs and other metal objects. You use a GPS (or mobile phone app) to locate the coordinates at which the cache is hidden and then conduct a search to find the cache. Inside the cache you will find a log book and items to swap, which are usually items children might like to swap like marbles or plastic toys. Occasionally you will find ‘trackables’, which are items that have unique codes and goals. You take these from the cache, log that you collected them online and then place them in another cache, loging the placement too.

Forgan Cove in storm

Forgan Cove in storm

I got caught in a huge storm while I was out riding. I was not far from Forgan Cove on the Lake Samsonvale Dam when the rain and wind whipped down off the nearby mountains and across the valley towards me. I was saturated within the few hundred metres it took to ride to a safe parking area at Forgan Cove where I waited out the storm. Five years ago when I lived near Lake Samsonvale the dam was only at 35% capacity. Islands were popping up across the lake and trees started to grow further and further down the lake shore. Today the dam is at 100% capacity and has been for almost three years.

Red flag to a bull

Red flag to a bull

The storm only took about half an hour to pass and then the sun came back out, creating a hot humid afternoon. Not far from Forgan Cove my geocaching took me to Old School road. There was a sign warning that the road was only suitable for 4WDs. Talk about waving a red flag in front of a bull: of course I had to take this road on my road motorbike.

Clear Mountain Road

Clear Mountain Road

Views from Clear Mountain

Views from Clear Mountain

Old School Road led to Clear Mountain Road, a narrow winding road with amazing views through the trees. I rode carefully due to the slippery surfaces, which allowed me more time to enjoy the views.

I had a wonderful morning out and it did my back a world of good to be active riding a bit and walking a bit to find geocaches. Lunch and the afternoon talking with my friend were a fantastic complement to my morning ride.

Total geocaches found: 11.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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