Nev's trip north.

Friday 7th

Left home early and headed to the meeting point at Kalkallo via the hills through Diamond Creek, Hurstbridge and Yan Yean because I know it will be a while before I find more winding roads.   Myself, Mike OíConnor, Dave Milligan, Jim and Al on his CX500 set off towards Echuca at 9am.  Al departs shortly before Echuca as the poor bugger has to work later today.  We stop for coffee and wait in Echuca for Pisshead Pete but we get word from him that he is still 100km behind us.  If we wait for him weíll be arriving in Mildura in the dark so we decide to keep moving.  Another break for lunch in Swan Hill before heading to Robinvale and beyond to Mildura where we set up camp just before dark.  Many beers later itís bedtime.  Note for the future.  When throwing up in a tent make sure itís someone elseís tent, not your own.  Alternately you could just not bother with a tent do as Pisshead Pete does and just unroll the swag next to the campfire.

Campfire at Wintersun Run

Saturday 8th

We head out to Merbein to find the motorcycle museum but when we arrive where Mike says it used to be we do not find it.  Much time spent drinking beer and sitting around the fire.

Sunday 9th

An early morning tonight and a beer for breakfast goes down well and cures whatever ill I am suffering from last night.  A greasy cooked breakfast completes the hangover cure.  We ride out to the Psyche Bend Pumping Station where the local historical society has restored the giant Chaffey Pumping steam engine and are operating it.  Watch some of the speedway racing in the afternoon.  Some of those guys really are mad, not the least of which the guys on the sidecars who are racing in jeans and flannelette shirts.

Monday 10th

Up early and packed and on the road shortly after 8am. Join Mike, Goatey and Stuart for breakfast at the bakery before heading off in our separate directions.  I head straight over the river into NSW and head off along the Sturt Hwy.  I catch up to the rain clouds shortly before Balranald but the rain is not falling and I only have to contend with wet roads and the spray from oncoming traffic.  I follow the rain to Hay, where a shower falls while I eat my lunch.  The new Shearing Museum in Hay looks impressive and I am mildly interested until I reach the ticket office and see the $15 admission charge.  Iím not quite that interested in shearing.
Welcome to the aptly named Shire of Bland

Onward towards West Wyalong along the Mid Western Hwy and the Shire of Bland is indeed living up to its name.  The roads are straight, the corners sparse and the scenery quite monotonous consisting mainly of mid height dried grass and the odd tree.  Sims Gap marks the end of the straight roads for a while and the heat has a chance to spread to the edges of the tyres.  Iím surprised the centre of the BT020 on the rear is still showing tread as it looked like it only had 1000km left in it when I left Melbourne.  I guess it's roads like this where dual compound tyres really are a good idea.  After arriving at West Wyalong at 4pm I decide to keep moving along the Newell Hwy to Forbes without stopping for fuel.  By my estimations I should have enough fuel to reach Forbes.  As Murphyís Law predicts the fuel gauge soon starts to plummet.  70km to go and the reserve light is flashing.  The Honda manual states a 3 litre reserve capacity.  I know that in the past I have ridden 60km on reserve so I continue on while conserving fuel.  Of course the further I go the more paranoid I get.  By the time Iím 20km from Forbes It seems like the bike has been on reserve for ever and Iím slowing down 100 despite the 110kph limit.  I finally reach Forbes and fill the tank.  The 23 litre tank takes 20 litres of fuel.  So much for the 3 litre reserve.  I find a motel and take a walk around the town.  With a population of only 8500 there are 10 pubs servicing this town.  At least it guarantees prompt service in the two pubs I visit.

Tuesday 11th

Not the great sleep Iíd imagined Iíd get in a real bed after 3 nights of camping out.  Iím showered and on the road by 8am.  A detour to the local cemetery to see the grave where the bushranger Ben Hall is buried before I leave town.  It is the best kept grave in the cemetery.  I canít pass Parkes without a visit to the Radio Telescope Visitors Centre to see first hand the receiver in the sheep farm made famous in ďThe DishĒ.
The Parkes radio telescope
Despite itís 64 metre diameter it is quite well hidden among the trees on the road approaching.  Dubbo is one hour further down the road and I have to stop here to collect a new credit card from the bank which I hope has arrived.  I see a bike shop on the main road leading into town and stop to check out the road tyre situation.  They donít have a replacement BT020 and offer directions to another dealer in town.  The local Honda dealer has just the tyre I want so I wander into town while they fit the new tyre.  Thank you to MATHEWS MOTORCYCLES for putting other work aside to get me on my way quickly.  Fortunately my new card has arrived so I am able to pay for the tyre when I return to collect the bike.  Just over 60 minutes after arriving in this town Iím on my way out again with fresh rubber and credit to burn.
After discussions with an old timer in the pub in Forbes last night and the bike shop owner today I decide to leave the highway at Dubbo and head out to Tamworth via Dunedoo, Coolah, Premer and Werris Creek.  The run to Dunedoo has just enough corners to keep it interesting.  Scrambled eggs on toast for lunch at a café in Dunedoo are far better than the service in the cafe.
Between here and Tamworth Iíd estimate approximately 50% of the road is under repair with some road crews working and other lower speed limits but mostly itís freshly sealed roads with no lines marked.  They are flat, smooth, empty and fast.  It is difficult to keep cruising speeds down to 145kph.  No traffic, no corners, no cops, flat countryside on plains with hills in the distance.
The plains near Spring Ridge
That changes when I reach ďGap RoadĒ not far before Werris Creek.  It 5-10km of tight winding roads, nicely cambered and mostly smooth.  Itís my first chance to test the grip on the edges of the new rear tyre.  It is too short but the first chance Iíve had to tip the bike into tight corners for over 1,500km.  I arrive in Tamworth just on dusk and check the map again.  I recalculate the distance to Brisbane and decide that if I am to navigate to find my relatives in the daylight Iím going to need a closer launching place so I press on up the New England Hwy to Armidale.  The headlight on the Budgie is a real treat on the highway which was well populated with cat's eye reflectors.  High beam on corners where possible to light the way and good speeds are possible.  Only a single corner with gravel causes me a scare.  Actually itís the way the bike slides across the lane through the left hander towards the oncoming truck which causes the scare.  After stopping once to change into warmer gloves, by the time I reach Uralla Iím cold enough to search for a bed for the night.  The Thunderbolt Inn provides cheap hotel accommodation, good tucker in the dining room and a warm fire in the public bar.

Wednesday 12th

Uralla is buried thick in fog and freezing cold when I leave early in the morning.  A few kilometres out of town the fog clears, fortunately, but not the cold.  Fuel up in Armidale and head out towards Ebor.  The road is a pleasant combination of curves and straights.  The Wollomombi Gorge not far out of Armidale is worth the short detour off the main road.  A massive gorge with a 260 metre waterfall.

Spectacular view at the Wollomombi Gorge
The rest of the road to Ebor is a great high speed run.  A few tight corners which are good quality and predictable.  For the most part the surface is good with fresh bitumen and a consistent surface.  In Ebor there is a ďbiker friendlyĒ pub with accommodation available according to their advertisement in the local tourist magazine.  Past Ebor and the fun really begins.  Road works mark the first stretch on my map which is shown to be gravel (that is if your idea of gravel road is large pointy rocks embedded in hard compacted clay).  Approaching Tyringham I slow to admire the scenery and as I start moving again I spy a bike in my mirrors.  Itís the first bike Iíve seen on the road since Monday morning.  A red Guzzi I think, maybe a beemer.  Two up.  It stops in a town before I get the chance at a closer look.

Tyringham marks the beginning of more fun.  Probably the first advisory signs marking corners with numbers less than 85kph Iíve seen since Friday.  This particular road reminds me of roads around Emerald and parts of the run up Mt Baw Baw.
In the forest near Tyringham
8 or 9 km more gravel and then more good winding roads lead into Grafton.  Grafton to Casino is 100km of road suited to those who like to cruise in the region of 150kph.  Long, long straights, few towns and changing scenery if you get the chance to take your eyes off the road.  Casino is as good a place for lunch as any and I find an internet cafe where I can eat and browse my inbox.  The Buxnor Hwy to Lismore is boring.  Lismore to Nimbin on the other hand, signposted as 80kph zone but it tempts the throttle to be twisted harder and is equal to the best of the roads winding through the Gippsland dairy farms, though with a slightly better surface.  Past Nimbin the sign below the old ďDelimited ZoneĒ sign says ďDrive to suit conditionsĒ.
Drive to suit conditions sign

The conditions were perfect!!!

The run from Murwillumbah to Brisbane doesnít even warrant a mention.  Slightly more interesting than the Sturt Hwy.  But only slightly.

Thursday 13th

Rest day.
Thanks to the guys at Shogun Honda in Springwood who checked out the head stem bearings for me to try to determine the cause of the front end wobbles.

Friday 14th

After breakfast with my cousin I load up the bike and am on the road by 8:30am, fuelled up and ready to battle the ďpeak hourĒ Brisbane traffic.  I head back to NSW via the Mt Lindsay Hwy.  It is a fairly sedate ride with a moderate amount of traffic.  Finally just north of the border the road climbs into the hills and the tight twisties begin.  The surface isnít the best but the budgie sticks like glue.  Almost every corner is preceded by a sign warning to be on the lookout for oncoming trucks.  I finally meet one as I exit a tight right hand hairpin and find myself staring at a large Mack badge on the grill.  I grab the brakes and the bird stands up and the truck driver swings his rig a little tighter into the corner and we both skip a few heartbeats then continue on our way.  Over the border (gee that checkpoint looked pretty officialÖ maybe I was supposed to stop thereÖ not at the speed I was going) the twisties continue but the road surface improves.  More roadworks!  It seems just about every road in northern NSW is currently getting a facelift.  I take the turnoff to Grevillia and the forest turns into rolling pastures and the road meanders through the hills and valleys.  Kyogle to Casino is quick and smooth.  More of the same through Coraki to Woodburn where the road meets the Pacific Hwy.  The bike is becoming accustomed to cruising at 150kph but I diligently watch my speedo on the highway.  I take the Pacific Hwy down to Grafton and along the way see my first NSW fixed speed camera.  I couldn't resist the opportunity to get my own back...
fixed speed camera near Grafton
... who do I send the infringement notice to?

Surely they donít actually put film in these things.  The warning signs approaching the cameras are so huge itís hard to imagine that anyone would be able to speed.  Youíd be too busy slowing down to read the signs.  I am convinced that the real camera is a little further down the road, in a less obvious position, waiting to nab the drivers who will speed up immediately past the signposted camera.   From Grafton I head back inland to Glen Innes along the Gwydir Hwy.  Wow!  Iím glad I chose this route.  Itís fast, mostly smooth and tempts the wrist to twist more and more, but at the same time itís tempting to slow right down to admire the scenery.  A compromise is found at about 140.
Through the Gibraltar Range National Park the climb up the hill reminds me of a smooth version of the Maroondah Hwy through the Black Spur, except this version has lookouts with spectacular views which I find myself slowing down for.  After refuelling in Glen Innes the remainder of the day is spent cruising down the New England Hwy to Ularra where I spend another night at the pub I know.  Unfortunately since my last visit 3 nights prior the chef has resigned or been sacked and the kitchen is closed.  Damn.  I was looking forward to another serve of their steak in mushroom sauce.

Saturday 15th

Out on the road early and straight to Walcha where I stop for breakfast.  The Oxley Hwy starts as a mostly straight road through the grazing paddocks with just enough bends to keep it interesting though not as interesting as the cows which cross the road to feed on the other side and Iím sure not as interesting as this strange black clad human on the black bike is to them.  They invariably lift their heads to watch me pass.
Cows grazing on the Oxley Hwy
Apsley Falls are definitely worth the effort it takes to detour a short distance.  A short distance further along I pass a group of 6 bikes heading to Walcha.  I havenít found what attracts the bikes to this road yet but this is a sign that it is ahead.  Past Yarrowitch I find the answer.  Corner after corner of tight twisties as the road winds itís way down the mountains.  The toes of my newly soled boots will surely need resoling again soon as I tip the budgie into the turns.  I slow occasionally to admire the views but the endless winding corners keep my attention for the majority of the trip.  I came here to ride, after all.
one of the bends on the Oxley Hwy

Walchope to Nabiac is an uneventful trip once again on the Pacific Hwy.  The further south I get the more black clouds I see gathering.  I stop at the National Motorcycle Museum in Nabiac.  There are over 500 bikes on display (Even a CX500 Turbo).  One section of wall space is a ďtributeĒ to Dale Buggins an Australian motorcycle stuntman (a Queenslander from memory) back in the late Ď70s.
Dale Buggins display at National Motorcycle Museum

I think it was my 12th birthday which fell during the Melbourne Show and my parents asked if there was anything special I wanted to do.  Sure, I wanted to go to the show to see Dale Buggins performing motorcycle stunts in the main arena.  So my birthday came round and we all packed in the car to go to the Showgrounds for the day.  The news comes on the radio as we drive across the city.  "Dale Buggins fatally shot himself in the head with a shotgun overnight in his room at the Marco Polo Hotel in North Melbourne".  Thanks mate.  He ruined my birthday.  I still havenít forgiven him.

I had previously decided to take the long route from Nabiac to Newcastle (via Gloucester) but as I return to my bike the rain starts to fall.  I put on all my wet weather gear because the sky looks like this weather might set in.  I decide that in the wet Iíd be better off avoiding the back roads and just cruising down the Pacific Hwy.  As I turn onto the Hwy I spot the Gloucester turn off sign and make the decision to take that route regardless of the weather.  After a few minutes the rain eases and Iím heading towards blue skies.  It appears that the weather to the north and west is still fine.  The roads are damp but there is little other traffic to kick up a spray, and cruising speed is a comfortable 110 for the most part despite the 90kph limit.  The route I have chosen has circled around the rain which I can still see to my left as I loop through Glocester and back towards Newcastle.  Soon the roads are again dry and when I rejoin the Pacific Hwy the wet weather gear goes back in the pack.  I stop at Raymond Terrace to refuel and thereís a message on my phone from Pisshead Pete.  Heís still hours away and I still have a couple of hours of daylight left.  I decide to skip the planned meeting with Pete and to continue along to the next destination on my map, the Putty Road.  A police car in front of me sees a steady pace held on the New England Hwy through Maitland and onto Singleton where I find a hotel room at the Central Hotel after visiting 5 different pubs which are all fully booked.  Through the window of the room I have a view of the local bike shop which is directly across the street.  This must be the good room.  The barman even directs me into the beer garden where I am able to park my bike in the locked yard overnight and itís undercover to boot.
Unloading my gear I make the discovery that my new Ventura rack is hanging on by a mere thread.  Faaarrrk.  It looks like a welding repair job will be required but itís almost 5pm on Saturday now.  The publican introduces me to Woz, the resident welder who drinks at the bar every evening at this time.  We take his car to his workshop where he performs a quick repair with a MIG and a grinder.  Before long weíre back at the pub, the rack is back on the bike and we're back in the public bar.

I had planed to head for Katoomba and then Wollongong and then follow the Princes Hwy around the SE coast and back to Melbourne, even catch my father who is holidaying in Bairnsdale along the way.  In light of the problem with the rack I make the decision to cut the trip short and head straight for the Hume Hwy.  In the event of further problems with the rack itíll be a lot easier to get my gear transported back to Melbourne on a passing truck on the Hume.

Sunday 16th

Having decided to try to make it home today I make an early start.  Iíve been to the local bakery and bought something for breakfast and am on my way out of Singleton by 7:30am, after a quick visit to see the largest sundial in the world.
Largest sundial in the world

A police car I saw leaving town while I was at the bakery has stopped someone on the road just outside of town.  On the law of averages I shouldnít spot any more at this end of the Putty Rd, and especially at this early hour.  Past a few turnoffs and the road signs confuse me a bit and I stop to check my map.  Iím still on the right path but unfortunately the cop passes me while Iím stopped.  A few turns down the road and Iíve lost sight of him.  I donít know whether heís continued on to police the highway to Denman or whether heís gone down the Putty Rd and is choosing a nice hiding spot to check my speed.  I take it easy for a while.  As it turns out there is no need because just as soon as I hit the winding roads it is obvious that the rain has been falling here overnight.  The road is quite wet though it still has ample grip but Iím not likely to be exceeding the limit too much.

Iíd prefer to be hooking into the corners but I find a comfortable speed and cruise through the hills.  Iíd expected the Putty Rd would be 171km of corner after corner which would earn it the reputation as the 2nd best road in the land, but Iím a bit disappointed to find that itís a series of several lengths of twisties separated by some rather mundane straights with the odd sweeping corner thrown in for good measure.

Itís mostly damp till I reach Colo Heights where the roads are once again dry and Iím able to give my best effort to the series of tight corners as the road winds its way down the mountain.  A brief stop in Colo to stretch my legs and give the news of the wet roads ahead to the dozen or so riders who are assembling for their Sunday morning fang before I head off once again, taking the Braxley Ridge Rd to meet Bells Line of Road just short of Currajong.  I am again a bit disappointed in this road which Iíd read about as being one of the best near Sydney.  There are too many low speed zones through towns for my liking, not to mention all the Sunday drivers on the roads this morning.  Eventually I reach Bells Mountain where Iím able to open the throttle a bit through the sweepers and enjoy the views as the road winds down to Lithgow.

From Lithgow to Bathurst is an uneventful run along the highway.  A lap of the track at Mt Panorama on the Blackbird requires far less effort than the memories of doing the same trip in the back of my fatherís Kingswood station wagon as we towed the caravan on a lap of the mountain about 25 years ago, mostly in first gear on the uphill stretch.  I continue along the highway to Cowra where I stop for lunch before diverting from the main road to head south to Boorowa, Binalong and finally meet up with the Hume Hwy at Bookham.  Fortunately my memories of this town are not revisited.  The last time I was here back in 1996 I left $300 and 4 demerit points poorer.

Rain clouds in the distance donít seem as much as a threat as they are.  Although I head straight into falling rain I hope it wonít be too bad and I can continue through to Albury without stopping to don my wet weather gear.  About 30km short of Albury I realise the folly of my ways as the rain comes bucketing down.  Fortunately Iím about 1km from a small town where I stop under the cover of a closed petrol station to put on my wet weather gear and cover my luggage.  The rain becomes showers and they continue to fall occasionally between Wodonga and Wangaratta.  By the time I reach the Glenrowan Service Centre the skies are clear and the only water comes in the form of spray from the tyres of other road users.  The wet roads are replaced by thick fog just south of Broadford which continues all the way till I reach my home in suburban Melbourne.  1150km for the day and Iíd go straight to sleep if I wasnít going to stay up and watch the MotoGP.

Trip Summary

 4952  km travelled according to the trip meter which rolled over twice along the way when it reached 1999.9km.
298.3  litres of fuel consumed.
 16.6  kilometres per litre average.
6.024  litres per hundred kilometres average.
From To km litres l/100km
Home Kalkallo 65 4.3 6.615
Kalkallo Echuca 180 10.8 6.000
Echuca Swan Hill 157 9 5.732
Swan Hill Mildura 231 13.9 6.017
Mildura Mildura 85 6 7.058
Mildura Balranald 161 8.8 5.465
Balranald Hay 138 7.7 5.579
Hay Forbes 369 20 5.420
Forbes Dunedoo 289 17.4 6.020
Dunedoo Tamworth 223 13.9 6.233
Tamworth Armidale 127 8.3 6.535
Armidale Grafton 204 12.6 6.176
Grafton SE QLD 272 16.2 5.955
SE QLD Brisbane 126 9 7.142
Brisbane Grafton 360 21.5 5.972
Grafton Glen Innes 165 11.5 6.969
Glen Innes Armidale 100 5.5 5.500
Armidale Wauchope 236 15.8 6.694
Wauchope Raymond Tce 258 15.2 5.891
Raymond Tce Howes Valley 144 8.8 6.111
Howes Valley Lithgow 178 10.6 5.955
Lithgow Cowra 181 10.5 5.801
Cowra Albury 375 21.8 5.813
Albury Home 328 19.2 5.853