Leading into the ride all looked positive. I was alive. I was on holiday. It was sunny. In fact, the weather was bloody fantastic. Just as Brisbane winter weather should be with a big high pressure system dominating the country.
Yes, it was going to be clear and cool with no prospect of rain. Excellent time for a ride.
The plan was this...
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The ride started badly when I went to test start the bike the night before for a refuel run. It didn't. Bugger! I had an inkling the battery might not be up to the task so I put it on the charger for a top up as this had worked last month. I also popped the camera on charge so it would be ready for the pounding it would cop.
With my gear on and ready to go I thumbed the starter to be greeted with ever decreasing starter revolutions.......bl#&dy......so it was off to the friendly bike shop, still in my leathers, for a new battery. So new in fact, that I had to put the acid into it and wait 30 minutes for it to do it's thing. Dropped into the bike it really did it's thing and had the bike ticking over nicely. The down side is that it was now two hours later and I knew I would be pushing to make my overnight destination of Glenn Innes, 450km(282mi) away up on the Great Dividing Range.
I was quite excited to be heading down the Lions Road as I had heard much about it over the years from many riders, including the Motorcycle Paradise blog. I guess I would describe it as an adventure tourer road and certainly not sportsbike territory. Narrow, rough, very rough and plain nasty in places but with stunning scenery to make it worthwhile.
Now, taking this photo with the point and shoot camera, not the recently charged digital SLR that wouldn't fit into my backpack, I noticed a little red light flashing at me which indicated that the battery was about to go flat! Not again!! What is with me and batteries lately?
I managed to get two more photos before the camera turned up it's toes. One is of me at the lookout where the rail line makes a 360 degree turn to gain height to get over the border ranges from New South Wales into Queensland. You can't see the rail line though..........
So everything else was going to be from the GoPro or my phone. Great! Not that this ride was about blogging it to the world. I enjoy getting great shots of life in general, a sort of pictorial diary I guess. Maybe the kids will appreciate it one day?
This really is a pretty part of the world and I saw several campgrounds that will need further exploration on a MTB in the future.
From here I headed down to Kyogle, then Casino where I turned west and up the range toward Tenterfield. This is a very nice section of road only spoiled by the condition of the actual road surface.
It is basically a patchwork of tar with many thousands of repair jobs done and hundreds yet to be done.
The scenery was magic, unfortunately my eyes were glued to the road so that I didn't hit a huge pimple of tar that had been pushed up and get lauched into low-orbit. This was made all the more trying as the wintery sun was getting low in the west now and my tinted visor, covered in bugs, made spotting hazards almost impossible. The only option was to back the speed right down.
Hmmmm...Adventure Bikes.....perfect for this area.
Into Tenterfield for a refuell and a stretch, then it was time for the boring run down the New England highway to Glenn Innes. Boring because this section of road seems to be Highway Patrol central. In all of my travels in Oz, I have never seen such vigilant police as I have seen in this area.
Anyway, I managed to keep it down to a sedate Warp 1 and all was well apart from the creeping cold that was infiltrating my leathers and summer, ventilated gloves.
Rolling into Glenn Innes, in true Forrest Gump style, I decided to fuel up right away as that was one less thing to worry about in the morning. At the servo (service station) I met a local on a Suzuki V-Strom and we chatted about various bike related things for 15 mintues or so. I had forgotten about the brotherhood and the friendliness of fellow motorcyclists when on the road. This was a nice little rediscovery.
Checking into a local motel I noticed a bike parked outside the unit next to mine. The owner popped out to say hi. After a few words I mumbled that I was going to warm up before seeking out a steak somewhere.
That somewhere turned out to be the Great Central Hotel. A friendly place that I had eaten at before, I knew that a great feed was in store. Entering the double fireplace equipped dining room(did I mention it gets cold here?) I spied my next door neighbour from the motel. He invited me to join him and we enjoyed a hearty meal, much chat about motorcyclin' all washed down with several glasses of red wine.
We then adjourned to the bar to watch some Olympic coverage on TV and chat with the Publican. He turned out to be a top bloke and we chatted the night away solving all manner of ills. Before I knew it I was the last person in the place and said my farewells. If you happen to be in the area, they cater to motorcyclists with great food, cheap, clean rooms, a lock up motorcycle storage shed and a warm atmosphere.
My plan was not to be overly eager with an early departure. Being the last out of the pub certainly helped with that mandate.
A good thing too, as my bike was still covered in frost at 9am and the overnight low was -5C/23F. Brrr....
I calculated that with the 5 1/2 hours available to me to cover 450km(282mi) I wasn't going to make school pick up in time and decided to just head down the Gwydir Highway to Grafton. This road drops down the Great Dividing Range and has some sweet sections of twisty road. The down side would be that on even a clear winter morning like this, the road surface would be wet in the shadows. Oh well. Take it easy was the motto of the day.
My dinner partner from the previous night had warned me about the wildlife along the road and I wasn't to be...erm....disappointed today! I found myself using the force to root several 'roos to the spot as I buzzed past!
Apart from the wildlife this is a pretty piece of road. Just a bit wet in the shadows.
Some 180 degree bends, located in the sun were an absolute pleasure to take in.
Though, a combination of a slightly fuzzy head and wet patches had me being overly cautious. This saw a lower than expected enjoyment factor.
As the road opened out at the bottom of the range it deteriorated rapidly into a bumpy, nasty goat track. I found that I was getting kicked in the bum so hard on the bumps that my head was being driven into my helmet. This was actually hurting the top of my head . Much like these things work.
Add to this the odd huge bump that was basically a kick in the goolies and I was wondering what the heck I was doing subjecting myself to this punishment? Sure, I hurt when I go mountain bike riding but at least it keeps me fit and I get to enjoy the bush. Applying Brandy's "what did I learn" to todays ride, I learned how bad NSW roads were(but I sort of already knew that). When I asked myself "how is this making me smarter?" I could only answer "It isn't". In fact, I think it was actually making me dumber!! These roads were seriously rough and I was over it. Add to the bumps, my knees were killing me. In fact I think my knees wanted to lure me out into a cow pasture on the premise of taking in the view, then POW, I would be kneed into a bloody pulp. I am not sure how they planned to get away with it, but rational thought was out of the window by this stage. Strangely enough, my backside was fine.....
So as I filled up with fuel at Grafton I cut my plans to shreds again. I decided to head home up the boring, over policed, over trafficked Pacific Highway!?!
This road proved to be literally falling apart as well with multiple large road work projects underway. New South Wales really has let it's roads implode. Previous governments do have some questions to answer on this matter.
A couple of hours of mind numbingly boring highway which produced a flat spot in the centre of my rear tyre and another near revolt by my knees and I was home. And I was just in time for school pick up.
So. What did I learn on this trip?
I leant that I will never again tour on a sports bike. I cannot figure out how I used to do 1000km(625mi) days back to back on a sports bike. Oh, yes, wait. I was in my twenties!
While I love my bike and it's awesomeness, I will be confining myself to day rides around Brisbane where the roads are in MUCH better condition and I can hop off every hour or so for a coffee or a pie or a photo or to get my knees back on side.......
What I found myself craving as I rode was an adventure tourer. A BMW F800GS or a Triumph Tiger 800 would be the prefect weapon for touring this country. All of those dirt roads that were off bounds to me and my sports bike need exploring.
So, to my motorcycle followers I hope you will continue to check in here despite my less than positive self assessment as I will still be riding and blogging about it. They will most likely be day exploratory rides around South East Queensland with an emphasis on good photography...........now where did I put that bloody camera charger?