Saturday, September 29, 2018

Exploring New Roads And Remembering The Fallen

Again, I had some days off during the week and with crackingly great weather, thought it would be criminal to waste it by doing nothing (or staying at home if you like). Following on from the aviation theme of my last motorcycling post I had read of a roadside memorial to two RAAF pilots who had lost their lives in an F111 training accident near Tenterfield back in 1987. I decided that I wanted to pay my respects and designed a route around that location. The route would also be largely new-to-me roads too, making it an interesting prospect.

The route

I got away to an early start as soon as the kids were off to school. The standard route out via Beaudesert and Boonah is getting a bit old so I need to find a new route to get down to the Scenic Rim if possible. Once out the other side of Boonah the traffic evaporated and I was able to enjoy the quiet backroads with the amazing vista of the Border Ranges looming up to meet me.

Despite what the map above shows, I diverted through Mt Alford for a look. The little Scenic Rim Brewery wasn't open yet but that was ok as it was too early for morning tea/coffee and waay too early for a beer. I had a few miles to cover yet.

Mt Alford was jumping as it was a big sports day for the local school. There were laterally hundreds of cars parked up every street in Mt Alford with kids and parents wandering everywhere, so I had to be careful as I weaved my way through.

Surviving the masses, I headed for Carney's Creek road and "The Head". I've ridden up The Head road plenty of times before on my mountain bike but surprisingly, this would be the first time on a motorcycle. The Head road itself isn't that much fun, being narrow, bumpy, with unsighted corners....and did I mention narrow? The chance of meeting an oncoming car sucks all the fun out of it but once you gain the top of the range the road opens out to stunning vistas as well as winding through lush rainforest and dry sclerophyll forest.

I have ridden Condamine Gorge and it's 14 creek crossing several times on the mountain bikes over the years as well but thought I might check it out today on the F800 as with so little rainfall this year the crossings might be relatively dry.
 I know a couple of the crossings are usually quite deep (knee deep) but most are just a few inches. The issue was that I didn't have tools to un-drown my bike if I happened to drop it, plus I was on my own so picking up 230 odd kilograms (metric pounds) of BMW from underwater wasn't a pleasant thought.
But lets have a look. It can't hurt to look, right?

Entering Condamine Gorge is always a spectacular sight.

The first creek crossing was a doddle, being only about 10-15 centimetres deep.

The second crossing looked dark and deep though. I seem to recall that there is one deep crossing at the Eastern end (perhaps this second one) then one near the middle and the second last one before Killarney is also quite deep. The thought of getting through 10-12 crossings, only to bin it on one of the last just wasn't worth the risk today. I need to get to know my bike a little better too, so around I spun and headed up the safe way to Carr's lookout.

Turning tail and, living to fight another day.

As I have mentioned before, I want to own this block and Nissin hut one day! The outlook is simply stunning!

Looking back down toward The Head.

Carr's lookout at the top of the second climb (and just around the corner from the photo above)  is always worth a stop, especially on cracking days like today.

Carr's lookout

Sad history on the peak to the left in above pic.

The next 10km or so of road is very pleasant riding as well.

Before long you find yourself at the Queen Mary Fall caravan park. This is important as there is a very nice coffee shop located in the office. I took it upon myself to test a chicken salad sandwich and a coffee this morning.

The deck of the coffee shop is undergoing works so I had to locate myself on a bench out the front, under the shade of a big old tree. Doing so put me at ground zero for the bird feeding. While there was nobody actually there, feeding the birds, I was quickly bombarded by a variety of different parrots, hoping for lunch, while I awaited my lunch.

Crimson Rosellas, King Parrots and the odd Galah descended on me....litteraly! A quick shoo saw them retreat to a safe 30cm(1ft) buffer distance.

Keeping her eye on me.

It was a rather pleasant morning to be alive and get back to nature. I even got to do my best pirate impersonation!

"Keelhaul the scurvy dargs, me 'arties....."

After thirty minutes or so of playing with birds I saddled up and pointed the bike southwest toward Tenterfield. I had never ridden down the Border Road/Kilarney Road toward Legume before and was keen to see what the countryside looked like. A quick stop at the border crossing for the obligatory photos.....

I was soon passing through Legume which is your typical Aussie "dot-on-the-map" towns. These places can be like time warps back into the 1930s or 40s though with their community halls and sporting hall etc. I stopped for a quick look at the Legume Community Hall which was in very good knick.

It looked like about an hours worth of riding to get to Tenterfield from here but I would easily turn that into two hours with all of my stops....

The road along here was quite interesting as it twisted and turned it's way across the low rolling hills of northern NSW. There were even a couple of unsealed sections which while being deco granite were in good knick and I only really slowed so that I could get used to the F800 on dirt.

The new Hidenau K60 Scout tyre that I put on the front the day before was a pure pleasure both on the tar and the dirt after the horrible Motoz Tractionator MkI that the bike had been purchased with. I was gaining confidence in it's off highway ability by the minute.

The next whistle stop town was Liston. It was a little more substantial than Legume, but not by much. They did have a pretty interesting Cenotaph commemorating the districts contribution to the three main conflicts that most Aussie towns recognise to date (the Boer War, WWI and WWII).

The church was also quite picturesque and would be even more so once the trees have regained their leaves.

St John The Baptist Church, Liston.

Pressing on the road was rather fun as it wound it's way along again. Two more sections of dirt worked to isolate a fun sealed section of road from the rest of the Tenterfield road. The dirt would be eminently do-able on a sports bike so if you want to see some sweet, quiet country roads, don't let the dirt put you off.
There was some strange shit out here though. first, these pushies up a tree.....

Then I came across this sign....


It turns out these features were part of the much denied The Brisbane Line.

I stopped to wander in the bush for 15 minutes, checking out these rotting stumps sticking out of the ground. Apparently, these were to stop tanks from getting through here. I can only assume there was a road of sorts where the current road is and in the 1940s, at the height of invasion hysteria......

........ someone thought that they had better turn this little pinch point in the hills into a road block for any invading army pushing south......

It would seem to me to be an easy thing to just go a bit to the west and have no such impediments to one's advancement but I guess maps and international intel were probably a bit thin on the ground for Australia back then. Shit, our air forces had to use road maps out of school atlas to navigate outback Oz and they were on our side! God help any invaders in the '40s!

Just a little further along the road I came to the reason for today's ride. The memorial to Mark Fallon and Bill Pike.

Their F-111 had a CFIT (controlled flight into terrain) incident here back in 1987. I remember it well as a kid growing up in the bush, as I had a keen interest in aviation. It seemed such a loss at the time and it is touching to see that so many people still remember and care.

Standing at the site, one thing that is not evident from the aerial crash site photo is that they impacted a ridge line that the road runs along. If this ~100ft ridge hadn't been there, these guys might have still been with us today. This of course, is true of many aviation accident sites. But for the want of a few feet of air......

I stood, looking out to the east and contemplated life for a few minutes.

Yeah, life has been pretty good lately.

And it was nice to see that the site has been well tended by the residents of the house that the F111 almost took out that April night.

I quietly mounted up and motored the short distance into Tenterfield. I didn't need fuel but I filled up anyway, taking $22 worth of the cheap stuff. I wandered around town for 30 minutes or so, stopping to look at another church, this time St Mary's Parish church. Note: I just have a passing interest in the architecture of some of these old buildings. The churches in particular can say a lot about the times during which they were built.

The Tenterfield returned services memorial also got an inspection.

Every Aussie town has one of these, no matter how small or large the population. Especially in these small towns, WWI and to a slightly lesser extent WWII had a massive impact on life for everyone. Many towns lost much of their menfolk for the duration of the war, with significant numbers never to return. Great War trophies like the one below would have been very poor recompense indeed.....

In a bit of a melancholy mood I rolled out of town, down the range along the Bruxner Highway toward Drake and Tabulum. The road here winds it's way down the Great Dividing Range and of course that means lots of twists and turns. It isn't the best surface but this time I wasn't in for the total arse kicking that I got the last few times aboard the R1. The F800 soaked up the worst of the pock marked mess that passes for a highway and with the new front tyre the bike even handled quite well!

Through Drake in the blink of an eye, then it was on to Tabulum. There is a massive new bridge going in at Tabulum which looks like it will take a year or three to complete. The historic old single lane timber version will soon be a thing of the past.

The old Tabulum bridge (or part of it) with it's replacement growing from the river beside it.

Turning north from Tabulum I was onto new-to-me roads again as I headed for Bonalbo and tonight's destination, Urbenville.

There was some crappy road and some cracking road in this area plus the scenery made it hard to concentrate. Bonalbo turned out to be a nice looking little town that will make a good overnighter destination on a future ride. Got to check out those old small town pubs!

I was a lot of years too late for fuel at this old garage. Bonalbo, like many rural towns across Australia, speaks of a time where travel was a luxury, everything was labour intensive and these little towns were alive with a hustle and bustle that is long gone and frankly, will not come again for most.

Bonalbo's cenotaph was more utilitarian but certainly still hits the right sentiment. The park was getting some TLC around the perimeter too.

Bonalbo Community Hall.

It was starting to get late so unfortunately I had to make tracks for Urbenville as the skippys would be coming out to play soon and I didn't need to have a close encounter with one of those. The ride through Yabbra State Forest was a cracker but of course, the GoPro overwrote that bit of footage! Oh well, I'll just have to go back again.....

Rolling into Urbenville it didn't take me long to find the pub. Actually, nothing is hard to Find in Urbenville!

Tonight's digs.

The Crown Hotel is a classic Aussie pub with refreshing drinks, great food and convenient accomodation for the weary traveller. I stepped into the bar and as it was 5pm, ordered a Tooheys New - being in NSW and all(despite the XXXX signs hanging from the awning!) - which barely touched the sides on the way down.

It went down so fast that I thought I had better take a quick walk around town before dark and before I had six more!

There was some cool old buildings in town, like every small Aussie town most were derelict and the few that were still in business would look derelict within a month or two if the business shut down.....

Now that motorcycle on the awning would be a dead giveaway that the pub is biker friendly but I had spotted a few YouTube videos that gave that away in the week before this ride. Suffice to say, I had a great night at the Crown Hotel Urbenville. The locals were friendly, the publican Darryl, his missus Sylvia and the staff were great. The home made pizza was AWESOME. The bed must have been good because I didn't move all night....but that could have been the copious amount of beer topped off with a few bourbon chasers that helped there......we may never know!
I will definitely be back.

I was up and at-em around 8am. There was no sign of anyone else as I packed up and rode out. My route today was to nearby Woodenbong for a bite to eat then a slightly convoluted route home via the Summerland Way down to The Risk , then via The Lions Road to Rathdowny, Canungra and then home.
It had rained overnight and it was a cool, cloudy morning. Perfect weather for when you are a bit under the weather and Lynda's Pitstop cafe' in Woodenbong was a godsend this morning serving a jug of coffee and a huge greasy bacon and egg roll.

I watched the Woodenbong world go by for half an hour before mounting up again. I had forgotten how good the road was from Woodenbong to the Summerland Way turnoff but then again, I hadn't been along here in 13 or 14 years so it could have been resurfaced since my last visit.
Anyway, down the Summerland, which is a great motorcycling road with a mix of well graded sweepers, tight corners over crests and vaulting volcanic plugs either side of the road.

Turning left into Grady's Creek Road saw me finally pointed in the direction of home, albeit with thousands of corners to go yet!

As I made my way along I noted how many new concrete bridges were in place. There are a lot of creek crossings along here and I think that many were damaged in the floods in the wake of cyclone Debbie. There was only one of the old wooden paling bridges left. I had to ride over it twice to enjoy the sound of the boards bouncing under my tyres.

I was still taking a leisurely look around, stopping lots and just generally rubbernecking. The cool, damp morning certainly helped with the comfort factor.

The Lions Road does demand attention though. It will jump up and bite you very quickly as it is very narrow and has quite steep grades. Of course, that is what makes it fun on a motorcycle.
I stopped at the Border Loop for a photo. Each time I stop here I notice that you can see less and less of the rail line as the trees are getting taller. Maybe it is more noticeable as i only visit here every 5 years or so.

Border Loop lookout.

What is a Border Loop I hear you ask? Well, check it out below.....

Just past the Border loop is ..... the border! Welcome home!
I can't recall any roads like this where I grew up in Central NSW. By that I mean these volunteer funded and built roads seem to be along the QLD/NSW border with The Lions Rd being one and Duck Creek Road being the other I am aware of. Though, Duck Ck Rd has been closed since cyclone Debbie last year as the damage is beyond the volunteers capabilities apparently.
 Debbie certainly was a bitch!

I gave a small donation because we need to support the "doers" in this world.

Just after crossing the border and dropping down the hill a long line of bikes came from the other direction. There must have been 15 or 20 riders heading south. Unusual for a Thursday morning, I wondered who was working in this great land of ours.... ;)

After a quick hydration stop at Rathdowny where I chatted to a guy from Mittagong who was headed back south on his R1200, I basically just pointed the bike non-stop for Canungra, then over the range to Nerang, where I rejoined the Rat Races on the M1 and droned my way home for the last 30 minutes.

All up it was a great two day ride.
The F800 is proving to be a very comfortable tourer and is definitely willing to head up dirt roads "for a look". Just the style of bike I was looking for. The only thing I would change is to add another 20hp and to lower the seat height by about 30-40mm, or conversely lower the weight by 30-40kg and the tall saddle wouldn't be such an issue on sloping ground. I haven't dropped the bike yet while parking but I feel it is only a matter of time.
Perhaps my search isn't quite over but in the mean time, the F800 will do.


EDIT: Hey!! This was my 400th post!!
Who would have thought back on the 29th of May 2010 that I could dribble on for 400 loooong posts? I hope you have enjoyed the ride and here's to 400 more!


  1. Nice one. Great to see the Beemer getting some exercise. Water crossings, yeah, tricky and worth treating with a bit of respect.

    Must get away for a few days myself...

    1. Almost 3k in 3 months! My R1 has done about 6k in 6 years! As for water crossings, yes, I drowned my Husky years ago in the middle of nowhere and that wasn’t a fun experience at all so I’m pretty wary.

  2. Now that's what you call a great adventure - fabulous photos. Why is it that OEM tyres on new bikes are often shite? Mine were on the GSX-S.

    As a side note, we witnessed an F-111 crash in the 70's in the UK. It was at Cranfield University which was originally a WW2 bomber base. The USAF 111 suffered a mechanical malfunction on its way back to base at Upper Heyford and they put it down in the corner of our airfield. Crew ejected in their capsule and were fine.

    1. Hey Geoff! I hadn’t heard from you or seen any evidence of you on the net for over a month and was beginning to worry. Hope all is ok after the Tart’s Handbag affair? ;)
      I think the OEMs on the F800 are Conti TKCs. The original owner put the Motoz on the front and when I bought the bike he said he was going to change it out if he had kept the bike. It actually might be an ok tyre in a full off road situation as it has large knobs, it’s just that on the road it would “tram track” any lines in the road surface which was a little disconcerting.
      Punching out of an F111 is a very serious business. I think it buggers your back because you are still strapped into a seat for landing and can”t take the shock with your legs. It must have been pretty spectacular to see?!
      This happened here in Brisbane about a year before they finally retired them.

    2. All good thanks Dave - been frantically busy! Got another post coming up if I ever get the time to finish it!

      The guys who put in at Cranfield were fine and the landing/crash wasn't all that spectacular from around 1 km away. It must have been quite an impact though as I still remember feeling the thump through the ground.

    3. Good to hear mate! I was beginning to worry! ;)
      Those "thumps" that you can feel (or the heat from a BIG fire) are a reminder of how much energy is involved in accident/impacts. We(I) tend to forget that after years of tv and YouTube desensitisation.

  3. What a great post bro. I didn't remember about that F-111 crash, thanks for the link to the report, it was very interesting reading.

    Great photos by the way, that little hut on the hill overlooking the surrounding mountains would be a fantastic spot to live, I can see why you like it.

    It looks like your really starting to gel with the Beemer and are getting into some serious riding again as it suits what you want to do with it. Your comments on it were similar to mine after the NZ trip, underpowered and you need to be careful where you park it otherwise you can't get it back upright from being on too great a slope. Excellent blog post.

    1. Yep, the F800 is fun. You don't need 200hp to have fun. The BMW was still spinning the rear wheel on the dirt at 80km/h, so all is good!
      The video of the bridge crossing had dropped out of the post but I have put it back in there if you want to check it out again. (It is just a few paragraphs up from the bottom.

    2. Hey, I just realised that this is my 400th post!!

    3. You don't need alcohol to have fun either, but it sure fucken helps......

  4. Fantastic report. I never stopped at the some of those memorials despite riding those roads often. Perhaps it was when riding with my mate from Alstonville who always encouraged more spirited riding.

    Makes me home sick actually. Well I may end up returning next year since work in Japan for foreigners is rarer than hens teeth.

    PS. if you feel the F800 could do with another 20hp what about dropping the gearing down a couple of teeth?

    1. Thanks Warren. I probably never would have stopped in my previous riding life either but I can see now that there is more to life than “spirited riding”. I am really enjoying this “smell the roses” type of riding.
      Funny that you should mention the gearing. I put a new chain and sprockets on the bike in the last few days (23 000km) and I have dropped the front from 16 to a 15. I will see how that goes but I also have a cheap Chinese Akrapovic knock off slip-on that has been sitting in my shed while I procrastinate about putting it on the bike. I like the bike being 100% legal.


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