A Capital idea

Rallying is a lot about tradition. Traditionally, the first rally after the New Year Gathering at Micalong Creek was the Capital Rally, traditionally held at Brindabella. Nature isn’t much on tradition. She will change the course of a river on a whim. She did so at Brindabella, and made the Capital Rally move to a succession of new sites. It became a bit much for the overworked organisers to manage, and the rally lapsed.

But this year, a traditional rallyist, Scarfey, took on the task of organising the Capital. He found a good site, the once home of the Wombat Rally, at Stewart’s Crossing. He arranged it as a back to basics rally to minimise the workload, though he did have a portable bog on site.

I left after lunch on the Saturday and flogged down the Hume. The forecast for the weekend had been very wet, but I rode in sunshine, hindered only by a fierce headwind.

I stopped at the servo at Sally’s Corner to fill up. The ATM in the servo was out of order, so I asked if I could get some cash out over the counter. Yes, that was possible, but I’d have to buy something. Now I had just bought a tankful of fuel, but that didn’t count. I smiled and bought a chocolate bar that I didn’t want, and got enough cash to pay my rally entry. I can see why the system worked that way, but it was annoying at the time.

Back on Lola, we rolled through the next 30 odd km to Marulan. Now my GPS wanted me to go out to Goulburn, down through Tarago to Doughboy and back to the outskirts of Braidwood to get me to the rally site. that was 50km further than going directly through Bungonia turning just south of Nerriga and heading straight to Stewart’s Crossing Road. So I ignored its pleading to turn west and kept on southward.

I like the Nerriga road. It has some great scenery and some excellent riding. I passed a group of push bike riders struggling into the wind at Windellama (which I call Windy Llama because it is always windy there, and there are several alpaca farms in the area), turn towards the site of the Winter Rally and go on.

The tarmac turns to dirt which is quite corrugated in places. Lola wisely slows, as she has cracked guard struts on roads like this. We make the turn onto Stewart’s Crossing Road and the GPS, thoroughly miffed by being ignored all this way, cracks its mount and dangles precariously on its cable. I drape it over the remains of its mount, and push on the last couple of kilometres to the rally site.

It was only as I came to the river crossing that I recognised it at the home of the old Wombat Rally. The Shoalhaven river is flowing across the concrete causeway  but only shallow, so I ease Lola across, raising a pair of waves about half a metre high from her front wheels.

There were many 4WD’s on the opposite side, and it took a while to spot the rally off to the right. The site is very different from my memory of it in the mid 80’s There is much more grass in the camp area, and a wire rope barrier separating the camp area from the bend in the river.

I set my tent up on a mound, preparing for the possibility of rain, and cooked my traditional tuna and noodles while the light lasted.

Then I took my traditional bottle of Stones over to the BMW camp to chat with some mates there. Paul, Tony and Cheryl, Anders, Dave, Scarfey of course and several others had stories of rides and roads and rallies that kept me entertained until the last of my Stones was gone and I slid happily into my sleeping bag.

I was woken about midnight by the sound of heavy rain on my tent. There were no trickles or splashes inside though, so I drifted back to sleep.

The next noise I heard was the sound of people packing. My watch said it was 6:30, but I know that only exists in fairy tales, so I lay and listened until my watch was prepared to behave more civilly.

While I had my traditional Vegemite toast and coffee for breakfast, the SCUM Tourers packed and left.

There was a stiff breeze and bright sunshine, and I decided to let them dry my tent before I packed it. I packed my gear inside and loaded it onto Lola, and talked with other rallyists taking a more leisurely approach to packing. I untangled the disgraced GPS from its broken mount and stowed it for later reproach.

By about 9 my tent was dry and, with no help at all from the breeze, I packed it  into its bag and onto Lola’s rack.

I decided to take the long way home, the way that my GPS had wanted to bring me in. The dirt road south was no better than the road in, but it eventually gave way to tar seal, and Lola and I agreed that the sunshine made up for the headwind.

As we turned right just before Braidwood, I calculated that we would have to stop for fuel at Bungendore. I had hoped to catch up with my mate Pete there, but missed him.

Fuelled up, we turned north towards Tarago. This is a great ride. It starts with views of the giant wind turbine farm that was built to power the Sydney water desalination plant. Farms and forest fly past. The headwind that we beat into leaving the rally was now a tailwind, and I was surprised how quiet the ride had become. The wind noise on my helmet had been greatly reduced.

I stopped at the Loaded Dog hotel at Tarago for lunch. This is a favourite spot. Good food and friendly hosts bring a constant stream of riders to the pub along some great roads. I had a very tasty steak sandwich and an average tasting mid-strength beer (a new one from Carlton, Iron Jack), and headed back to the road.

As I approached Goulburn, I thought that I would turn east, go back through Windy Llama and stay off the highway for a few more kilometres, but the road was closed, so back to the highway we went.

The Hume isn’t too horrible here. It has some great scenic parts, and if the traffic is light it is fun to ride. But by Marulan I wanted to return to the back roads. I turned for Bundanoon. The road roughly follows the railway through farms and forests, passing through the small towns of Penrose and Wingello.  I first spotted this road from the train on my way home after Connie, by lovely V1000 Guzzi, had failed to proceed. It has become a favourite when I am riding home from the south.

Bundanoon, Exeter, Sutton Forest then across the Hume to Berrima and up the old highway to Mittagong, all lovely scenic riding at an easy pace, but that easy pace was adding time to the ride and telling on my bony bum, so I returned to the Hume for a quicker run home.

Nothing apart from a fuel stop happened for a couple of hours, and I rolled Lola into the garage after a Capital start to the Rally year.

Advertisements

Return to the West (again)

Preramble

I’m not sure exactly when it dawned on me that the Ulysses Club AGM was on the week before the Numduc Rally, but once the idea had set in, I was going to do the Numduc.

It would be my first Numduc. I’ve done two Numbats previously. They are held in the even numbered years at Balkuling. The Numduc is held in odd numbered years at Dowerin.

When I did the Numbat last year with a couple of mates, I’d missed doing the Ruptured Budgie, and that was kinda special, so this year I lined the two up: Ruptured Budgie, then an easy ride across the northwest of NSW to Broken Hill, Port Augusta, Ceduna and on to the Nullarbor, on my own.

I like making plans. They seem so simple, so clear cut and obvious. I even add slack days to allow for mishaps on the way, and it all fits into one seamless flow. Tick, tick, tick.

Ramble

My run to the Ruptured was pretty straightforward. I had planned to choose when I got to Singleton up the back road (Mangrove Mountain, Wollombi, Broke, Singleton) whether to go up Thunderbolts Way or to take the New England to Uralla, my stop on the way.

Singleton was there because I had heard, and had no reason to doubt, that CSR, or some other heartless mining giant, had closed Wallaby Scrub road, so cutting off a nice back road run to Muswellbrook.

But as I left Broke and came to Charlton Road, there was no sign saying that the road to Warkworth was closed, so I turned. And when I got to Wallaby Scrub Road, there was no sign saying that the road was closed, so I turned, and had one more delightful run along Wallaby Scrub Road to Warkworth, on to Jerrys Plains and the Edderton Road to Muswellbrook.

From there it is a highway run to Uralla, improving as the coal mines slip away and the farms predominate.

A couple of years ago, I met a bloke on the way out of Tamworth who was going to the Ruptured. We became good mates on the ride. He helped me cope with Lola’s fractured rear guard strut, and I helped him find a bed in a full hotel.

On that trip, he bought a charger cable for his iPhone, and I charged his phone using Lola’s power socket while we rode. When we parted after the rally, I still had the charger cable in Lola’s tank bag. It was useless to me, but I hoped to catch up with him at a rally somewhere and return it to him. I thought about that as I rode up the New England into Uralla.

I paid for my room, at a good rate because I rode in, accepted the offer to move my bike inside the bottle-o later that evening and wondered who was riding the Lemans in the carpark.

In the bar, I met a friend from some years back, and was chatting with her when I heard someone call my name. It was Dave, the iPhone charger cable owner. We had a great time catching up, moved our bikes into the bottle-o when prompted, and retired, a little the worse for wear after a late night.

The morning was cool and very overcast. We had breakfast at “The Alternative Root” (yeah, I know, but they have good coffee) and returned to retrieve our bikes. I dressed for rain and gained some heat retention as a bonus. For added pleasure, a cold drizzle came and went. Not enough to rain, just enough to be wet and sticky and to slick the road.

Dave’s misadventure this time meant that he had come without a tent. Some searching with his phone found a tent at Armidale, so we set off to buy it. By pure luck, the store was not far off the road into town. We found it, made the trade, and returned to our ride with little fuss. Except that Dave had nowhere to tie the tent to on his bike, so we put into Tilly with my gear.

As we climbed Black Mountain, the temperature dropped two degrees. The rain dropped as before. We accepted humbly the “you must be brave to ride in this” comments and roundly denied being cold when asked at the now traditional servo stop in Glen Innes.

Lunch was at the Tenterfield Tavern, where a cheap steak and chips soaked up a beer for me, and we bought some supplies for the weekend. The run to the rally site was damp, but uneventful.

Huey must have been miffed by our bland acceptance of a wet ride, and turned up the drizzle to near rain while we set up out tents on wet grass. Dave gave me a hand to get started before putting his own tent up. Thanks mate.

We set to putting a dent in our stock of Coopers while chatting with our neighbours, then spread out to see who else was at the rally. I spotted a couple of other Spyders at the site. It turned out that I knew one rider and we spent some time discussing riding, modifying and servicing Spyders.

I tottered over to the Aigor camp, and chatted for a while with Tony and Mal while the sun set, and the drizzle continued. I was impressed by Tony’s Vango tent, and put one firmly on my next tent list. It is a two man, single pitch tent with a huge vestibule space which would be much more amenable than the huddle outside my three man tent for making coffee and stowing gear.

With the smell of Mal’s curry wafting around the camp, I set off to the food tent to buy something a bit more steak sandwich-ish. Thus fortified, and with the bar at hand, I settled into helping the club recoup its outlay while lounging in the lounges they had so thoughtfully moved under the cover at the bar.

I chatted with a mate from Brisbane about the non-appearance of some mutual friends about bikes and roads and riding in the rain. A bloke had arrived in a ute, his bike a mess after hitting a kangaroo about 30km from the rally.

On the way in, Lola’s left clearance light had popped up from the left front guard and surfed the breeze. At that time I remembered that it had done that on my way home from the Numduc last year. It was a little distracting, but I had simply popped it back into place. I thought that I would leave it loose, and (jokingly) claim the hard luck award for it at the rally. With the mangled bike and broken rider in mind, I decided not to.

The music was playing some classic rock and blues hits, well chosen as usual, and as darkness fell, I got up to dance. As usual, I was the only solo dancer. Women get up to dance together, men will sit and watch. While I was dancing, I met a woman who said that her name was Jolene. She was surprised when I told her that Jolene was the name that I gave to my beautiful red Kawasaki sidecar outfit.

Several beers and dances later, I wandered back to my tent and slept well until quite late.

Huey had given up. We were obviously not paying attention, and so he had turned off the drizzle. It was still cool, but with plenty of sunshine, I got the wet gear out from my tent and draped it on and about Lola to dry.

I went camp hopping, looking at the various ways that people provided shelter, and particularly the larger gazebo type structures. Some used these to provide shelter for the whole camp, putting a couple of tents under one with a dry space to keep bikes and gear. Others simply had an under cover outdoor space with chairs and a table under the cover. For a standing camp, these looked like a good option. Certainly easier that the traditional tarps on poles.

As I was heading back to the food stall for lunch, I was approached by a mate who asked if I would contribute to his wedding ceremony at the rally that afternoon by carrying the bride in from the front gate on Lola’s back seat so she could wear a wedding dress on a bike “with some dignity”. Of course I agreed.

I met up with Maughan and The Publican from the NSW Guzzi club, and talked for a while about where we had been since we last met at the rebooted Far Cairn Rally. I also caught up with Freddy Farkle from the same club, who I hadn’t seen in ages. It was good to see him still riding and enjoying it.

When the gymkhana started, I sat and talked with the long awaited Simon and Carol. They were heading to the Ulysses AGM at Wauchope. For some reason they had camped out near the gate instead of on the main campground. Anyway it was good to see them and talk with them.

After the gymkhana (funny, I don’t recall seeing the dunny roll race or the egg and spoon race), I went back to camp and unhitched Tilly from Lola. I couldn’t, in my haste, find the towball cover, and hoped that the bride would not get grease on her dress.

I took Lola out to the gate and waited for the bride, who was arriving fashionably late… While waiting, I made myself useful at the control tent and chatted with the blokes there. Sue finally arrived, and I worked out with her how she could sit side-saddle on Lola’s pillion seat and hold on for the ride. Photos were taken there, and on our arrival. They will probably appear on the MGCQ web site, and I will link them here.

With the bride safely delivered, Lola and I slunk away back to our camp. I grabbed a beer and went over to the aigor camp for some idle chat while waiting for the nuptials to complete. I caught up with Lawrence there, who was rather keen to have an aigor red run. There hasn’t been one for some time, though anyone could initiate one. The idea is quite simple. Find a nice pub on a nice road, ride there, drink their red wine shelf dry, sleep it off and then ride home. Maybe, if Princess Red reads this, she will be spurred into action and make one happen.

With the sun now set, I went to find dinner and a beer. After building my strength with a couple of steak sandwiches, I was seen dancing with a very interesting young woman who is studying some form of brain-ology (I’m sorry, but it has slipped away). We discussed at length the prospect of her taking on a Masters or even a PhD.

Facing a long ride tomorrow, I slipped away to bed and a very restful sleep.

The morning was low, grey and damp, and I feared that Huey had returned to trying to dampen my spirits. It failed to actually rain though.

A while back I was talking with a mate who owns a bike gear business about my Rossi riding boot. I had broken the spine of it when I ran over a kangaroo a long time ago. I’d truncated the toe standing on a hot iron fireplace surround some time before, and the sole was about worn out. Gee, it has only lasted 40 years…

He said that he had a sample, a white road boot with racing clips to close it. It had been on the shelf for ages. If I wanted it, I could have it. Free is a jolly good fellow, and I took him up on the deal.

But as I put my boot back on, I could feel that it was wet inside. And with a thick sock on, it was tight. Perhaps it would give while I rode.

I said goodbye to Dave who was going up to the Gold Coast, packed a wet tent into Tilly, reunited her with Lola, and rode out of camp.

I picked up fuel in Tenterfield and headed south to begin my run to the Numduc. The weather lifted as I rode, but my boot kept spoiling the ride. I couldn’t relax enjoy being on the road. I couldn’t put up with this all the way to Perth. I determined to stop in Armidale and have a look for a replacement. And so I did. But I didn’t know where the bike shops were, and it was after midday on Sunday, so most businesses were closed.

I looked up a mate who said that he had Monday off, and could show me where the shops were. We spent a quiet evening discussing riding and rallying, and rose at the crack of lunchtime to go boot shopping…

I found some very expensive boots that fit perfectly, but decided that I should look further. Many stores had limited sizes, though they were sure they could have a pair in my size in a week… I eventually found a pair of racing boots, you know with sliders on the toes, which I could buy for 25% off because I was only going to use one.

So back home for a proper quiet night so that I could get on my way one day late but in much more comfort.

Did I mention how much I like making plans? That last one drifted a bit, and I got away about 11, bound for Narrabri. Along the way I decided that it would be easier to head to Gunnedah. The weather was kind and I was making good time, but coming into Sunny Gunny, a surprise thunderstorm opened up.

I chose the Courthouse hotel rather than put up my tent in the rain. A good choice. I got a room for $40, the food was good and they offered to lock my bike in the shed overnight.

I actually made a good start in the morning, and located a cafe to start the day well with some Vegemite toast and coffee. Well fortified for the journey, I set off for Nyngan. The road flowed, the day practically sang. I stopped at Warren for lunch, which I ate in a park across from the servo on the way into town. Then a short hop to Nyngan and I was in plenty of time to christen my new pop up tent.

I chose a spot in the lee of some bushes so that if the breeze picked up overnight, I would be protected. A bloke came over as I was about to start. He was a rider, currently touring in a camper, though he often towed his and his wife’s BMWs behind it.

He warned me that there were burrs in the grass. He suggested that I look for a spot near the amenities block. That looked a bit too exposed, and so I took the risk and set up in my chosen spot. I only picked up two burrs in my hands…

Tuna and noodles for dinner and an early night to make an early start.

Perhaps I ought to stop saying that. I had a cold night. The inside of the tent was wet with condensation, and the outside wet with dew. I used my camp towel to dry it, and then spent half an hour drying the towel in the microwave. So away at 10:30 and finally some outback scenery.

This was what I had come for. Long straights that disappeared into a notch on the horizon. My first goosebumps for the ride. I made Cobar in regulation time, sitting behind a B double for protection from wildlife and a guide to the road ahead. With few hills, he barely slowed from 100 km/h.

I stopped for lunch and to pick up some fuel. I had intended to go to the BP, but the queue wasn’t moving…

Back on the road for the push to Wilcannia…

Wilcannia has always struck me as a desperately sad place. It seemed to me that the people that I met there were stuck there. So I had never stayed there. But for this trip I decided that I would stop there, and part of the
drive for doing 400km days was to see things that I had always ridden past. I was heading for Victory Point Caravan Park, on the east bank of the Darling and just out of town.

I was riding west into a setting sun. It would be a race to get there in time to get my tent up with some daylight. But riding faster wouldn’t help much, and would increase the risk of not getting there at all. At one point, this came to me:

There are diamonds on the highway
The sun is getting low
There are ‘roos beside the road
And I have 80 kays to go.

I like seeing diamonds on the highway. I first saw them on my first trip to Tasmania and was struck by the simple beauty. They don’t occur often. The road builders have to use the right type of gravel, and the sun has to strike it at the right angle, but the effect is amazing.

I spotted the turnoff to the caravan park just as I was approaching the bridge across the Darling. I stopped at the caretaker’s place and was greeted by two serious guard dogs. The caretaker was friendly and helpful, though. He suggested a good place for my tent with grass and close to the amenities.

His suggestion was perfect, and I got my tent up just before sunset. I wandered over to see the mighty Darling, and had a brief chat with a small group sitting at a fire who invited me to join them.

After dinner and a shower, I took up their invitation. They were a couple of mates from Victoria, touring with their wives in caravans. One owned a Boom trike and we talked at length about differences in handling and performance, about roads ridden and yet to be tried. It emerged that he felt the same drive as I do to ride distance. Not racing, not setting records, just riding as far as possible for the pleasure of it. I had met a soul mate.

Reasonably early to bed after one last look at a near perfect black sky studded with stars.

It was a cold night, and I spent many hours lying still waiting for sleep to overcome me.

In the morning I woke to a beautiful sunrise. I packed as quickly as I could, I waved off my friends and returned to the highway. There was no premium fuel, but I had enough 98 in the tank to lift the 91 to about 94, I calculated, and that would do.

The supermarket across the road still struggled to display its window posters through the bars on the windows, but I felt better about the town than I had.

On the run into Broken Hill, I saw the first goats of the ride. Goats are ok, they usually walk away from the road, unlike their dumb cousins who will take it into their tiny mind to cross the road just as a vehicle is approaching.

I filled with premium at Broken Hill and pushed west. I had passed through Cockburn a number of times, and this time I determined that I would stop there for lunch.

The Border Gate truck stop actually straddles the border between NSW and SA. Inside, you can have a drink in NSW, and relieve yourself of it in SA.

When I passed this way (in the other direction) last year, I was smitten by the display of green foliage against red soil. It had been raining, and the colours glowed. I saw little patches that raised the same feeling, but for the most part it was goats, sheep and the occasional kangaroo that attracted my attention.

As Olary came up, I slowed to look at the camp ground across the road from the pub. It was green and fairly empty. Recalling the words of the publican at Yunta, I thought that I could stay there one time, but I should bring food and drink in case the pub was closed.

There are several ranges of interesting looking hills in this area. Interesting looking hills have interesting geology, and that eventually brings miners. They must have left disappointed though, because between the interesting hills are wide paddocks, not open cuts.

Yunta was my next stop, for fuel. It seemed to be the same as last year, a pub, a servo and not much else.

The road south has many signs advertising the attractions of Peterborough, but the distance signs point to Terowie. I had the nagging thought that I had missed the turn, or misremembered the route.

I found the turn ok. The signs advertising the motorcycle museum, the railway museum, and several hotels increased in density.

When I reached the town, I went looking for the free camp that my new friends at Wilcannia had told me about. I found it on the way out of town. Half full of campervans and caravans, and not that inviting for a tent site.

I turned back into town and followed the signs to the caravan park. What a gem! A grassed tent site with a light and a tap nearby, good amenities and a pleasant view across a wide field.

There was rain forecast for the night, so I added a tarp over my tent to keep it dry, and hoped that it would make it warmer. That half worked. The tent got very wet on the inside from condensation, but the outside was mostly dry.

The morning began with a golden sunrise. Huey was playing his distraction game. On the other side of the sky, dark clouds loomed. I got Lola and Tilly packed dry, but discovered that there had been water in the boot that had soaked the piece of carpet that I use as a boot mat. With no way to dry it, I wiped the boot dry and left the soggy carpet in the bin.

It was cold and showery as I headed out through Orroroo and Horrocks Pass to Port Augusta. I like Orroroo, and had wanted to stay there, but holding to short days for this ride made it just 40km too far. Next time…

I like the ride north out of Orroroo. After some nice bends, there are some amazing long straights with wide views across fertile fields to distant hills before the road gets to Wilmington.

A few years back, I was riding through Wilmington on Jolene on my way back from the 30th Anniversary Worlds End Rally at Quorn. About 10km south of the town, Jolene cut out and would not start. The AAA picked me up and took us to see a bike mechanic in Wilmington. He agreed to try to fix the problem (on a Sunday) and did so in a couple of hours for a small sum. So despite the servo not having any premium fuel, I like Wilmington.

I also like it because just out of town is Horrocks Pass.The road has history, some lovely stonework, a lookout and monument to John Horrocks, some great bends and some great views.

On this day, it also had a rather slow four wheel drive which nonetheless caught up with an even slower campervan, and so I sat back and enjoyed the scenery in the pass rather than any challenge in the ride.

Coming out of the pass, you see the Spencer Gulf laid out in front of you. Even with the crass industrial hardware splashed across it, it is a great view.

I turned for Port Augusta, a town which seems to exist only because whatever industry remains here requires people. I picked up fuel and headed out the other side of town. In little time, the road is dwarfed by the scenery, apart from a few intrusions such as a huge ramp to cross the railway, and some artistically graffiti-ed concrete tanks.

The start of the Eyre is easily missed if you are still thinking about the tanks, but once taken, a pseudo-Nullarbor begins. The road heads west past Iron Knob, a town at the base of massive mountain of iron that is still being mined.

It was nearly a ghost town when the mine closed a few years back, but the mine has reopened and continues to export high quality iron ore.

After the harshness around Iron Knob, the fields begin to roll and Kimba, the town half way across Australia is the next major stop.

I stopped in Kimba for lunch. It was closed.

I got a pie at the Big Galah (which is for sale) and pushed on towards Wudinna.

Wudinna, specifically the Gawler Ranges Caravan Park, had been a stop on each of my crossings. Sometimes, as on the first crossing because the weather was horrible, sometimes, as in several subsequent crossings, because I like the lamb pot pie they serve in the restaurant, but also because it is at a point where a break is needed.

This day the weather could not make up its mind.There was sunshine, showers of rain and gusty wind in various combinations. I had hoped to save a dollar by camping, but Huey turned on a downpour and I took a cabin.

The ownership has changed, and this night the restaurant was having an ‘all you can eat’ smorgasbord for $25. I would eat about $2.50 from that, so I spread my gear to dry inside the cabin, put my washing on, and had tuna and noodles while Huey kept up his mix and match weather.

Next morning, Huey continued to help me justify the money I had spent on the cabin by raining while I packed Lola and Tilly. I put my mostly dry riding gear on and headed west with Nullarbor on my mind.

With the price of a cabin for the night on my mind, I detoured into the Wudinna town centre and noted that the pub offered accommodation.

The road was wet, but not as wet as on my return from the west last year. This time there were no kilometre long puddles in the wheel ruts. I rode past the various granite outcrops and promised myself that I would come back to see them properly one day.

Huey eventually tired of his game, perhaps the effort of turning the weather on and off became too much. He left the wind on, and that cleared the clouds and dried the road, so that by the time I reached Ceduna it was a fine sunny (if windy) day.

At Ceduna, you turn right, it feels like turning west, but in fact the initial turn is north, and the position of the sun seems odd.

Last year I stopped at Penong to have a pie at the famous Penong Pie Shop, only to find that it had closed, and so I had a pie at the servo, which was a bit second rate. This year I found that the servo had been remodelled, the food was good and well presented. Not quite the panache of the Penong Pie Shop, but not such a come-down.

Some way out of town, I saw a Subaru ute pulled over to the side of the road, with a bloke under the front of it. I didn’t know what I could do to help, but I stopped to ask anyway.

The bloke said that it had begun wobbling. I suggested wheel bearings or a tie rod end, but, with the car on a gravel slope, it could not be lifted to check. I suggested that he drive on (carefully) to Nundroo roadhouse, where he could at least park on a concrete slab to lift the front.

He arrived at Nundroo just as I had finished filling Lola (with 91, they don’t have premium). While we talked, it emerged that he had recently replaced one of the CV joints, and that the boot that held the lubricant was torn. I said that I thought that he had identified the fault and its cause and suggested that he turn back to Ceduna to have the CV joint and boot replaced.

He was however determined to make Eucla, about 300km on.

I passed him on the side of the road short of Nullarbor, talking with another driver. I could smell hot oil, and thought that he would be stranded, but he said that he would wait for it to cool and then continue.

If it had seized, it would have thrown the car across the road, perhaps into an oncoming vehicle, but he would not stop.

I stopped at Nullarbor Roadhouse. I set up my tent in its traditional place behind the dongas out of the wind. I beat the four minute timer on the shower and came out clean, and got back to my tent in time to catch a beautiful Nullarbor sunset.

I was lying in my tent after dinner when I heard dingoes howling in the distance. It’s an eerie sound. Some time later, I heard one howling, quite close to the camp, and then I am sure that it was in the camp on the other side of the dongas.

In the morning I rose to a beautiful Nullarbor sunrise. While I was making breakfast, I got chatting with Jan who had an interesting looking camper trailer.

She had heard the dingoes too, and was excited that they had been so close.

Later we were talking with a couple who were playing the Nullarbor Links, an 18 hole golf course with a hole at different roadhouses and towns across the Nullarbor.

It turned out that Kath had been on the organising committee several years ago, and that this was her first opportunity to see what she had been part of.

My plan called for me to stop at Cocklebiddy that night. I had had a brief encounter with an unhelpful attendant there back in 2010, and wasn’t sure how it would be this time. I consoled myself that if it was actually unpleasant there, I could push on to Caiguna, just 70km further.

I got away a bit late, the penalty for being sociable, and headed for Eucla. It would be about lunch time according to my stomach when I arrived, though I would lose an hour and a half when I crossed the border.

The locals have for some time had a convention of using Central West Time, three quarters of an hour behind South Australia, and three quarters of an hour ahead of Western Standard Time. It kind of works, and I’m sure that it is good for them, but it is fiddly to change a digital clock by that amount, and it leads to there being four time zone changes when travelling across the country.

It seems to be sensible to me to move the time zone borders to the north-south (mainland) state borders, to have South Australia and the Northern Territory an hour behind the eastern states, and Western Australia a further hour behind that. Put a fiddle zone in around the borders for towns that do most of their business across the border, and have just three time zones.

I like the run west from Nullarbor. It is tantalisingly close to the ocean. Sometimes there are hints of cliff tops, and there are several signs pointing to scenic lookouts. The ‘edge of Australia’ feeling is inspiring. 70 metres down to the Great Australian Bight, and 3000km to the cliffs on the opposite side of the country. But this time I rode past.

About 30km short of Eucla are a couple of parking areas with great views. I swung into one and remembered it from my first crossing. There were several piles of stones marking nothing obvious. The cliffs here give way to steep slopes down to the ocean. The white sand on the bottom makes the water look tropical.

I was expecting to see the bloke with the Subaru at the garage in Eucla, but he wasn’t there when I rolled in. I parked Lola and went to the cafe for lunch, and sat enjoying the warm sunshine outside. I recalled that it was quite cool when I stopped here last year, and that I had to caution my companions on that ride to not take the “extra” two hours to mean that they should ride for two more hours.

I stopped at the start of the Eucla pass to take a photo showing the colour of the ocean beyond the plain below, and pushed on to the straight.

This is an amazing place. I like the feel of riding along the ocean floor from 30000 years ago with the cliffs to the north being the shore.

As I passed Mundrabilla, I saw something unexpected. An eagle on a carcass beside the road. I had thought when I first saw it that it was a kangaroo carcass with one leg in the air. I knew that there was no point trying to get a photo. By the time that I had stopped, turned back, stopped again and got my camera out, the eagle would be a single black pixel among the blue.

It is unusual in my experience to see an eagle that far east, and I wondered if conditions further west had changed to force them east, or if they had just spread. That thought deepened when I saw a further two eagles in the next ten kilometres.

I filled Lola’s tank at Madura station, the most expensive fill so far and braced myself for the ordeal of Cocklebiddy.

There are some great views from the top of the hill above Madura, and the scenery changes dramatically. Up here the wind dominates, vegetation is low. Down in the pass it is sheltered and tall (for the region) trees grow.

At one point an oncoming car flashed his lights and waved me to slow. I did so, and just around the next bend saw two sheep grazing on the other side of the road. I passed the warning on the the next few vehicles that I saw.

I found myself racing the sun, wanting there to be enough light for me to go on to Caiguna. As I arrived at Cocklebiddy, I could see that the end of that mad dash would be after sunset.

My greeting there was warm and friendly. They had a grassed tent site (most unexpected) and I was given two shower tokens in case I took a little longer than the norm.

I just got my tent up before a beautiful sunset.

The attendant was right about the shower. I used about a minute of the second token, and was glad that I had it to use.

Back at my tent, I was a bit puzzled as to where my torch was. I carry a dynamo torch so that I can always have light and never have to replace batteries. I hadn’t put it in its usual place inside my tent, and I couldn’t see it in Lola’s tank bag. It was getting late, I would look in my clothes bag when I packed in the morning.

I had eaten the last of my tuna and noodles at Nullarbor, so tonight I would eat in the restaurant at Cocklebiddy. The prices were reasonable, considering the location, and while not Haute Cuisine, the menu was varied and appetising. I chose the budget conscious bangers and mash, and was served a huge plateful. Not wanting to waste food that had been trucked in, I ate and ate and ate.

A couple at the next table invited me to join them. We talked first about a friend of theirs who had lost a leg in a pushbike accident, then about our trips and things to see on the road.

I walked back to my tent under a velvet black sky strewn with stars.

The sunrise next morning  wasn’t as good as some, and so I let it pass unphotographed. A woman who was camped with her partner nearby came to help me fold the tarp that I had over my tent, and that sped the packing  process a little, but it was well after nine when I handed in my amenities key and mounted up to head to Caiguna for fuel.

As I was late, I let the idea of visiting the Caiguna blowhole pass, but put it on my list for the return ride. I checked the time as I started onto the Ninety Mile Straight, and was surprised to find myself destination driven, working out how long it would take to get to Balladonia. That kinda rankled for the rest of that ride. I wasn’t as involved as I had been, or wanted to be, in the slow dance of the scenery and found myself counting down the distance to the end of the  straight at each milepost.

At Balladonia I was interested to see a desert racer from Bruce Rock on a trailer when I arrived, it was gone when I came back after lunch, but I learned that the Finke Desert Race was on the coming weekend and it was likely that it was heading there.

While the Ninety Mile Straight is quite long, it is surprising that the road continues in long straights with a single bend between them for quite some distance after it. I wondered while I was riding why the roadmaker didn’t simply continue, making the 150 Mile straight.

Eventually the road begins to sway through some low hills as it approaches Norseman. The low desert plants are slowly replaced by trees, and the trees are taller where the hills get more rain.

I reached Norseman reasonably early in the afternoon so that I could do some shopping, for tuna and noodles at least. I had stayed in the caravan park here on my first crossing, but was unsure of its location, so I walked up to the tourist information centre to ask.

As I passed several children in the skate park, I was pleasantly surprised that they said hello instead of ignoring me.

I got directions to the park and found it easily, The directions that I got from the office at the park to the camping area were a little vague, but I saw a couple setting up a camper in a cleared (but very sandy) area and set up my tent beside them.

As I walked across to check out the camp kitchen, I saw on the other side of the camper a cleared area with patches of shadecloth on the ground, and recalled that that was where I had set up my tent previously. Oh well. It could stay where it was for one night.

My first task in camp that night was to get my washing done. While I was digging in my clothes bag, I looked again for my torch, again without result, and began to be concerned that I might have left it back at Nullarbor roadhouse.

While I was waiting for my load to finish, a woman came in to the laundry to retrieve her load from the dryer. She helpfully told me that the dryer she had used was much faster that the other. I appreciated the tip.

A couple of people stopped to chat on my way back to my tent, saying that they had seen me on the road, asking where I was heading and commenting that we had been leapfrogging each other on the way. I liked having that connection with other travellers.

At the servo the next morning, I had a weird conversation with an attendant who had obviously mistaken me for someone else. She asked about where I had been to and how I had overcome some minor failure, and my answers just seemed weirdly out of place. In the end she wished me a safe journey without further mishap, and I wondered how I could have fallen into the conversation in the first place.

I had picked my next overnight stop, Merredin, from the map on the basis that it was about 400km from Norseman, and that I hadn’t stopped there before. I headed north for Coolgardie where I would get fuel.

It is a pleasantly forested ride through some interesting scenery, beginning with a causeway across Lake Cowan, a large red mud lake just to the north of town.

On my last crossing, we were heading to Coolgardie to camp for the night, and got to the outskirts of town just on sunset. Today I arrived mid-morning and rolled down the wide main street between some beautiful 19th century buildings to the servo across the road from the caravan park where we had stayed.

From here the highway runs westward following the water pipeline that supplies Kalgoorlie as well as the other towns along the way. I had a line “westward, ever westward, till the ocean meets the sky” in my head for some time.  The westward bit is from Henry Wells, a founder of Wells Fargo, I don’t know where the ocean bit came from, though there is a book with a similar title, and the thought seemed appropriate.

I caught up with a (very) wide load. It tool up half of the oncoming lane, and all of the shoulder on my side. At first, it looked to me that the pilot vehicle was being hard towed behind the load, it was that close. I’m sure that the driver could see nothing ahead of the load, and that the truck driver could not see his pilot. I guess that they communicated by radio, but it seems odd to follow so close. In any case, I had to wait for an opportunity to pass.

I remembered seeing a couple of similar loads approaching us on my last crossing. I pulled over when I saw how big the load was, but for a while I thought that my companions would try to ride past it.

This time I waited for quite a while until the road widened to three lanes, and I could see well ahead past the load, and passed easily, but we did spend some time on the wrong side of the road travelling well above the speed limit.

Now in front of the load, I was surprised that there was no lead pilot vehicle. I got about a kilometre ahead of the load before I caught up with the pilot. I saw some large trucks pulling to the side, and figured that they might need that much distance to find a suitable place to stop.

I was beginning to feel hungry and thought about where to stop. Yellowdine came up, but was little more than a servo. I remembered stopping in a cafe a few years before, but couldn’t recall the name of the town. The next one signposted was Southern Cross, and I would have to stop there for fuel, so I thought I would have a look around there.

When I saw the Caltex servo, I remembered stopping there last year. George had taken a photo of the bikes to send to some friends. This time I filled up across the road, and left myself an awkward turn around a road island to get into town.

However, once I found the main street, I recognised the cafe that I had had in mind, and stopped there. The owner of the cafe was interested in Lola. He knew of a couple of people who had ridden them, and one disabled person who was interested in buying one, and wanted to know how easy they were to modify, so I showed him Lola’s hand brake, and we talked about the differences between different models and which might be best for his disabled mate. It was a nice connection.

As I rode out of town, I remembered that we had stopped in Merredin last year for lunch. We had by luck stopped outside a Jaycar reseller, and George was able to buy a cable there to charge his phone.

By now I was convinced that I had left my torch back at Nullarbor, and thought that I would try to buy a replacement at the Jaycar in Merredin. I found the store fairly easily, and spent some time deciding between two torches with different features for the same price.

With that problem solved, I next went to the IGA to buy some needle and thread to make some repairs. One loop on my Airhawk seat was torn, so that it could not be used to secure it to Lola’s seat. On Lola’s tank bag, a strip of Velcro that held the bag to the frame was separating from its strap and would not allow the strap to be properly secured.

So with needle and thread (and needle threader and thimble), I sat in the sunshine in a park in Merriden and made my repairs. I probably won’t win any awards for my petit point, but both repairs held when I put them to the test, and I was pleased to have solved two problems in one day.

I rode into the caravan park and enquired about a tent site. It was (quite) a bit more expensive than I had become used to paying, but I didn’t have an alternative. The site was, like the site at Norseman, sand with shadecloth patches. I got my tent up and headed to the amenities for a shower before dinner.

I don’t know why there isn’t a seat in most shower stalls. While I have a disability that makes this lack particularly inconvenient (having one leg missing means that I have to sit on a wet floor to put my pants on), I’m sure that every user would find it more convenient to be able to sit while undressing and dressing. But it rankled even more having paid much more than I had expected for the campsite that the showers here had this deficiency.

I headed to the camp kitchen to cook my dinner and was surprised to find six or so people inside. It felt like I had intruded on a local dinner party. I returned to my tent and cooked my tuna and noodles there. Half an hour later the kitchen was in darkness and I was able to sit warmth and comfort to update my blog.

I had deliberately planned for the next day to short so that I could get my washing done and buy some supplies before heading to the rally. We did a similar thing when we stopped at Northam last year. It is a pleasant park, lots of grass and trees, and I recalled having several friendly conversations with people staying in the park then.

I very nearly missed the turnoff. It is signposted as though it is separate from the exit to a road train assembly area, but they are in fact the same turn.

I paid too much again, I thought, for a tent site but again I hadn’t planned an alternative, and at least the site here was grassed. The park was surprisingly empty though. I didn’t see anyone walking around, and when it came time to cook dinner, I had the camp kitchen to myself.

Back in my tent after dinner, I was experimenting with my new torch. I found it surprisingly hard to use the dynamo, I guessed because the battery was so flat that it drew a lot of current to charge. I figured out how to tune the radio, and then tried the torch itself.

I went looking for the sewing gear that I had bought the day before, and had dropped into my tank bag. I wanted to move it to a pouch on my clothes bag. There it would still be accessible, but not in the way of finding the things that I use frequently.

Looking for a reel of black cotton inside a black bag by torchlight  takes a bit of effort, and while moving things aside to find the reel of cotton, I found my original dynamo torch, way down deep inside the tank bag…

When we were packing up to leave here last year, my tent was very wet from dew. I had used my towel to dry my tent, and then used the microwave oven in the camp kitchen to dry my towel.

When I woke and looked outside, the park was shrouded in mist. I like the effect. It softens edges and colours and it seems quieter. It hadn’t wet my tent as much as I expected and I was able to pack up fairly dry.

I had intended to use the laundry at the park to wash my clothes so I would have a clean set to start the rally. I thought that the price to use the machines was too high though, and used my phone to locate a laundrette in Northam.

I rode into town looking carefully for the laundrette. I also needed to find an ATM to get some cash, and to buy some beer to take with me, on the premise that the pub in a small country town where the rally was being held would be likely to run out of beer early.

I found it very hard to see the street numbers, and so I parked Lola and walked. I discovered two things: Northam seems to have a ‘no street numbers’ policy, or at least to not encourage businesses to display a street number, and the ad for the laundrette that I had found had the wrong address for it.

So I rode back up town to the laundrette and took my washing bag inside. The attendant was friendly and helpful and I loaded a machine, then found that these were even more expensive than those back at the caravan park. Well, I had made my bed, I would have to lie in it. I paid the price and got my washing clean and dry in a little over an hour, and resolved to try to be less hasty over matters involving a dollar or two.

As I left, the manager saw t

Lola and commented on her. I told him that I owned her, and we had an interested discussion on what she was like to ride, how much she cost whether she was reliable and easy to service. He was so keen that I thought he was on the verge of making me an offer for her.

I located an ATM and filled my wallet, then found a bottle shop just up the road from where I was parked and rode there to buy my supplies.

I checked my map and it seemed to me that I could simply ride back out of town the way that I had come in, cross the highway and continue to Dowerin. When I got to the highway however, there was no road on the opposite side. I turned one way where it seemed that road might once have come out, but found nothing. I turned back and rode a kilometre or so to the other side of the intersection and did not find a road, and so I turned on my GPS and got it to plot a route for me.

It took me back into Northam and then out through the houses. I was beginning to think that I had entered the wrong town when I saw that the road I was on passed under the highway. I had probably passed over it without seeing.

This is wheat country. The crops have long been harvested, so the fields are broad and brown and roll over the hills in every direction. Beautiful riding. I had just 70km to go to Dowerin, and almost regretted arriving.

It was by now lunch time, so I turned into the main street to look for lunch. The hotel seemed most likely. While I had my fish and chips, I talked with the barman who told me that quite a few riders had already been through and picked up their supplies on the way,  so that I felt that I had been wise to buy mine when I did. He also told me that the rally was just a few kilometres down the road, and so I was pleased that I had chosen to come to this end.

In just a few minutes I located the entry to the rally and rolled down the farm road to the check-in tent which was not manned. The site was large, divided into two by a wall of tyres, and those two halves were further divided by hedges so that it was difficult to see how many people were already here.

I noted where the Moto Guzzi Club had set up, and then found a sheltered area to put up my tent, not far from what appeared to be a pizza oven. That was different.

After putting up my pop-up tent for the past ten days, it took me a surprisingly long time to put up my usual rally tent. It was much more comfortable inside though.

I had noted at the past two Numbat rallies that several people had spud guns, and so I had made one to bring to this rally. Now that I had set up camp, I pulled it out to fire. I loaded a tennis ball into the barrel, charged the chamber with butane, aimed the barrel high over an open area and pushed the firing button. Click… Click… Clickclickclickclickclick… Damn.

I cleared the chamber and recharged it. Foom! The ball was launched a good hundred metres. That was very rewarding.

I was to meet two people at this rally. My good friend Vikki, who had put me up on the two occasions previously when I cad crossed to attend the Numbat Rally, and Mick Harris, whose wife Debra had said that she would put me up this time.

Now Debra is a Guzzi rider whom I knew from the aigor list, and so I expected to meet Mick at the Moto Guzzi camp, but we had never met, and I had no idea what he looked like. I went to the Guzzi camp, and found Simon, who I know from the aigor list. We talked for some time about my ride across and other things, but I never thought to ask if Mick was there.

I’d had a message from Vikki saying that she would be at the rally about 4, and with that time approaching, I took a beer for a walk to the gate to wait for her. Along the way, I started to see that there were indeed quite a few people already there, perhaps a hundred. By half past four, Vikki had updated her arrival time to about five thirty.

I walked back to my camp and launched a tennis ball out into the paddock, then spent some time talking with a bloke who had a metal spud gun (mine is plastic), that he fuelled from an LPG cylinder. There were clearly many ways to solve the same problem.

When Vikki arrived we spent a long time walking and talking. The sun set and getting dinner became important. The thing that looked like a pizza oven was indeed a pizza oven, but there were no pizzas being made in it. The food at the Blackwattle Catering stand was tasty and filling.

After dinner we went fire-walking and followed the sound of a guitar and some spirited singing. The guitar player was Hagrid, not the Harry Potter one, and the singing was produced by a group of enthusiastic amateurs. We caught their enthusiasm for a few songs then continued our lap.

We became separated during the evening, and I wandered back to Hagrid’s fire where I sat and drank my bottle of Stones and talked until the east began to glow. I slipped into my tent and slept soundly until about 10.

I started my day with a coffee as the campground began to fill. I saw Mon setting up with the WA Z Owners. We had had a great talk at the Numbat a few years ago about her PhD and research in general.

I wandered over to the Guzzi camp and was introduced to Mick, who I would be staying with after the rally.

There were lots more tents in lots more places, and so I began another lap. I spotted  the three wheeled bike that I had seen last year. It had lost a wheel to become a rear wheel steered bike. I was told that it was tricky to ride.

There was also a two engined bike that relied on the CVT in each drive to keep the wheels in sync. Some people just can’t help turning silly ideas into real things.

I followed the wall of tyres, trying to figure out how many tyres it contained. I gave up.  At occasional gaps, where usually a road would cross the wall, an old vehicle had been placed to close the gap. It was an ingenious reuse of an otherwise wasted resource.

The day ended with a beautiful sunset. I spent some time watching it slowly deepen then fade away.

Fire walking that evening, I found a hollow log, standing on end and blazing spectacularly.

I was drawn to the fire in the middle of a banked circular track where some bikes  had been lapping earlier in the day. Someone had a blue LED pointer and was pointing out something in the fire. The something was hissing and flaring like a Stones bomb, but was much bigger.

I stood to watch, camera at the ready. A Stones bomb went off at the camp of the silly ideas.

I was talking with the director of the pointer when the object of its direction went off with a massive boom and a tower of flame. I missed the shot…

Sunday is gymkhana day. I rose at a civilised hour and was surprised at the number of extra camps that had sprung up. As the site is quite large, my previous laps had skipped the more distant regions, but with more to see, I took up the challenge.

The two sides of the great wall of tyres had been labelled Zone 1 and Zone 2, but these had grown appendices…

I found a camp with a pneumatic spud gun. It was pressurised by a 12V compressor and fired by a solenoid valve. Its range was impressive and it was very reliable: never a misfire.

The source of the wrecked vehicles that had been used to fill the gaps in the wall was a quite surprising line of wrecks. At the top of the hill, waiting the deluge, was a boat which had been appropriated as a billboard for one of the clubs attending.

Over near the far fence I found a motorised platform, like a Segway but not self balancing, being demonstrated to a small audience. After hearing that most test riders went over the handlebars and face-planted when stopping quickly, I declined a test ride.

I’ve been interested in a camper trailer for a while, and looked at many variations on the theme. This one tickled my sense of the inventive. A ute canopy mounted on a box trailer.

These two lovely bikes show what works of art were daily rides thirty or more years ago.

As the gymkhana got under way, I returned to the main arena. This oversized helmet was apparently made from concrete and weighed “a ton”.

The pink jump suit did little to help the poor postie bike underneath it in the slalom.

I was called out to receive my award for riding the longest distance to the rally, 4381km.

I had heard that there was another rider who had ridden from Coffs Harbour, and I wanted to find him and compare notes, but he had not been seen since checking in.

The afternoon drifted into quiet celebration. This hat is typical of the spirit

as is this T shirt.

I wondered if this bed was left behind after a rally, or provided as a rest stop for a disoriented rallyist.

Way too late in the evening, over near the pizza oven, a Stones bomb fizzled in the fire, while its audience fizzled on a nearby lounge.

Return to the west

Saturday May 21

Back in 2012, I did my first ever Numbat Rally. Two years later I held back due to lack of funds after replacing Lola’s engine. In November last year I was in the west at Miss Vikki’s birthday, and decided that, with a bit of care, I could do the Numbat again this year.

I began talking about this with my mate Shannon who is about to retire, and he said that he would like to come with me. I don’t usually ride in a group, but I thought that it would be good to show Shannon some of what I enjoy about distance riding, and two isn’t really a group, is it?

Shannon had a bit of catching up to do. He had to register his bike and fit new tyres, and, as he hadn’t done any great distance since picking up his bike some years ago, we had a practise rally, attending the Autumn Leaf with Miss Vikki and Dave.

Sharing his experience with his mate Jorge, convinced Jorge that he would like to join us. Now three is getting a bit groupish…

My intended departure on Monday moved back to Tuesday to accommodate the group, and that bumped the daily distance up from 400km to 500km.

To suit the group, I laid out a rough itinerary, about 500km a day, giving us nine stops with some spare time for sightseeing or washing days, and a spare day at the end for maintenance. Lola would be up for an oil and filter change, and Jorge’s bike would need new tyres. We’d cross the Hay Plain to Mildura, then Orroroo (because it is pretty), Ceduna and across the Nullarbor.

We plan to camp rather than stay in a motel every night to keep the cost down and to add something to the adventure.

To step around the problem that I had publishing my last Nullarbor Odyssey, I will update this blog as we go, then tidy up the rough bits when we have returned.

Sunday May 24

I started packing Tilly the trailer today. I recall that she was fairly well packed on her last trip west, and this time I had some extra stuff to carry, books for Miss Vikki, so getting the load sorted early seemed sensible.

It took a few hours. The books went in and came out a few times, and, planning ahead, anything water sensitive got repacked inside a garbage bag. The spare fuel got moved into Lola’s boot, and my wet weather gear from the boot into a pannier.

Lola got a shakedown run late in the afternoon and came home with her left rear indicator not working properly, and the indicator switch sticking.

The indicator probably had a loose connector after I had fitted a replacement reversing light switch a few days back. I tweaked all the connectors and hoped. You can never fix an intermittent fault, it just doesn’t recur for a while.

The switch took a bit of surgery. I tried simply lubricating the inside, but that didn’t fix the fault. I pulled the switch out of the block and could then see that the steel cam had worn, and that the skerf from the wear was catching in the plastic guides. I cleaned up the cam, removing the skerf with a needle file, then lubricated the face with some moly grease. Once it was back together it worked smoothly. One annoyance removed from a long ride.

Monday May 23

The end of the day that I had intended to leave. I am amazed at how many things I still had to do, having already got everything ready to go, and how long it takes to get them done.

I repacked Tilly the trailer, putting the books that I am carrying for Miss Vikki on the bottom so I can get to the things I need more easily. I packed a few extra tools, a jack and some spanners, some ratchet straps and zip ties. I packed some food for my evening meals (we’ll buy breakfast and lunch to get rolling and keep rolling) and my spare kevlar jeans.

Still to go in are my camera and charger cable, my netbook and portable drive (so I can keep this blog going), and my civilised shoe for walking around town.

I bought a spare 10 litres of fuel and increased Lola’s tyre pressures while I was at the servo, but forgot to buy a double adaptor for the charger socket because I was having a great chat with the bloke behind the counter about Lola and about the trip. I won’t need the GPS until we are close to Wagga, so my phone can charge on the way, and I’ll pick up a double adaptor at a servo somewhere.

I lifted Lola’s rear suspension a little to carry the extra weight of the trailer and hitched Tilly up behind Lola in the garage tonight so I can ride straight out tomorrow morning.

I’ve checked the weather ahead. Tomorrow will be fine but cool in Wagga, and we will ride into rain on our way to Mildura on Wednesday. Putting up a tent in the rain is a chore. Packing up a wet tent is horrible, and it stays wet all day, sweating and stinking, until it is put up again the next night, and then you get to sleep in it… So tents tomorrow night (how adventurous), but probably a cabin on Wednesday. Money spent on a cabin on a rainy night is money well spent.

Tuesday May 24

I woke early enough and got my last minute packing done without hassle in a cool 11 degrees. By 8:10 Lola was in the drive and ready to roll.

My Spyder in my drive before leaving

Lola ready to roll

We met as intended at Maccas, had a disjointed kind of briefing on the route and on group protocol, and paused for a group photo as we left.

Jorge, Shannon and Pogo at their bikes in Macdonalds carpark

The Three Amigos ready to ride.

Getting out of town was the usual trawl down Pennant Hills Road and onto the M’s. I had the lead for no good reason. Everyone knew the way out of town. The traffic thinned as expected as we passed Campbelltown, and we settled to our agreed 100km/h and waited for Goulburn to appear.

The temperature rose slowly as we proceeded, and I began to hope for a warm ride. I may have hoped out loud enough for Huey to hear me though. He turned up the wind and turned down the thermostat. When we stopped for fuel and an early lunch (I had thought it would be Yass), we all put on extra layers to keep the wind out and the warm in.

I turned on my heated grips for the first time as we passed Mittagong with Lola’s thermometer showing a rosy 14 degrees. My hearty congratulations to the industrious workers in China. Those things were worth every penny of the little that I paid for them.

Coffee and pies duly disposed of and with two full tanks (apparently Jorge’s BMW doesn’t need petrol), I put Jorge in the lead for the next stretch to Gundagai, we turned our wheels into the wind once more.

About 40km out, Jorge went back to the back of the group, I guess to take some video, I don’t know, and stayed there for some time before resuming point.

At Gundagai, after fuel, Jorge and Shannon had a coffee from a flask of hot water that Jorge carries. I fired up the GPS and set it to our camp for the night, and we rolled on.

I have mentioned the scenery on this part of the Hume before. It isn’t stunning, though it has its highlights, but the rolling green under a wide blue sky is very restoring. Shannon mentioned this when we arrived at camp.

We were a bit strung out as we came to the exit from the Hume to the Sturt, but all managed to make the turn into the sun for the last 40 odd kilometres. Some way along, Jorge disappeared off the tail. A short time later, Shannon’s headlight disappeared from Lola’s mirrors. I wheeled around and found Shannon waiting patiently on the side of the road. I wheeled again and stopped with him to wait…

After several minutes, I took off my gloves and helmet so I could talk with Shannon. At this time, my GPS turned itself off, and Jorge appeared in the distance. There was a bit of a panic getting started again, and in that my GPS now refused to show the big helpful arrow that would get me through Wagga to our camp. I was divining a much smaller one through sunglasses in the setting sun, and only just made the last turn to get to the site. I did apologise to Shannon and Jorge who had to panic brake to follow me.

The camp managers were friendly and helpful, and we got our several tents set up before the sun had completely gone.

Shannon's tent, my Spyder and my tent at the first camp.

Chez Shannon (the Taj on the left) Lola and Chez Pogo.

All three bikes and tents at our first camp.

A wide view of our camp

We decided after some discussion to cook rather than walk to one of the nearby pubs for dinner. I took a walk into town, a few hundred metres, to buy some greens to cook with my dinner and a bottle of Stones to keep me warm while I write this.

Shannon is nursing a cold and went to bed early to shiver. Jorge went before him since there was ‘nothing to do’.

I just met a bloke named Christoph from Bavaria (Nuernberg). He has been travelling in Australia, basically down the east coast from Cairns and is heading to Melbourne before New Zealand (for the skiing) and back home.

And that is about as much fun as I can have. A day on the road, a good night in camp, and up to do it again tomorrow.

Wednesday May 25

I woke early. I was cold. It was cold. I hung on for as long as I could, then looked at my watch. It was 5:44. Too early. I checked the temperature online. it was 1.5 degrees. Too cold. I snuggled down into my sleeping bag and waited to hear the sounds of movement in our camp.

When I heard them it was still cold, but there was a promising glow of sunshine on the tent, so I made myself get up, put on some clothes and go to the shower.

I had noted last night that he amenities were pretty good here (Wagga Beach caravan park), and that was fully verified in this visit. The showers have a separate, totally separate, not just apart from the shower, dressing area. Your clothes stay dry, and there is adequate seat space to sit, dry and dress. The hot water is hot and plentiful. There is a hot air hand dryer beside deep basins with plugs. I emerged warm dry and clean, though my hair would take a while to dry.

I met Shannon and Jorge for breakfast at the camp kitchen (also well equipped and looked after) and made my proper coffee while they ate what they brung.

Packing up a wet tent is horrible, as I have said. It hadn’t rained, but the dew was heavy and everything was cold to touch. My fingers burned with the cold, and were useless for small tasks such as toggles and zippers, but eventually my tent and its contents were back inside Tilly the trailer, and we rolled out of the campground.

Having familiarised myself with the roads in my shopping expedition last night, I led our group back to the Sturt Highway without incident, and turned west. The wester we went, the warmer it got. I sang a little song when the temperature crossed 10 degrees. Can I just say that heated grips are awesome?

We picked up fuel at Narranderra and headed to Hay for lunch. Both Shannon and Jorge had had restless nights. Jorge with the cold, and Shannon with a cold, and both slowed to remain safe. We made a couple of stops just to wake up.

Jorge's bike beside the Hay Plain looking west

At a rest stop looking west. Not much to engage the mind

Shannon's bike beside the Hay Plain looking east.

At the same rest stop looking east

I was interested to see the size of the cotton bales on the trucks that passed us and in the paddocks. Clearly too big to be handled by people. Cotton is planted, harvested and now handled by machines. People are redundant.

The sky was low and threatening, and we wore out the BOM radar looking to see when we should put on our wet weather gear. We suited up at the servo in Hay (except Shannon, who has a religious exemption) and pushed west. We had discussed stopping short should the weather deteriorate, and it obligingly did so.

While we experienced a gusty nor-west wind and occasional heavy showers, it had apparently flogged down sometime previous to our inspection.  There were long stretches of water in the wheel ruts pressed into the tarmac by too many trucks. We slowed to 90-95 to have some safety margin. On one stretch, Lola began aquaplaning. Nanny woke up and saved me from becoming a messy decoration on the roadside, and we continued at the same pace with increased vigilance.

At this reduced pace, Balranald came up just on kangaroo o’clock. Euston was too far, and Mildura had become a serving suggestion. We had a quick confab on the side of the road as we turned into Balranald, and decided to seek a motel. The first that came up was the Shamrock, and the price of a family room came to less than a pub room each, so we set up camp there for the night.

Our three bikes in the carpark at Balranald.

Three bikes in camp at Balranald

Our motel room

Our camp for the night

While Jorge had a shower and a catch up nap, Shannon and I had a quiet beer and discussed the day’s ride. We are a third of a day behind. We might catch up, but with poor weather likely to continue, we will likely slip back and eat into our slack days.

After dinner (roast beef and veggies) and a further restorative ale, Shannon and Jorge went to our room, and I sat poking at maps on my phone in the bar looking for the next best stops. 500km per day seems unlikely in the present weather conditions, but 500km tomorrow would get us to Burra, a lovely stop. 400km tomorrow would get us to Morgan, also an interesting place, where I first learned that a pint in a South Australian pub was only 15 ounces, not even a full old pint.

We will see how and where our day ends when it does.

Thursday May 26

The day started wet, but we didn’t have to pack wet tents, just dress in wet weather gear and get onto wet bikes and head out onto wet roads. I set up my GPS to be certain to take the right turns through Euston and Mildura.

The roads out here are often straight and flat. It is irrigation country.  With few hills around, the occasional small rise gives a long view. Away to the south, over Euston or beyond, the cloud was purpley grey, but beyond it was clear blue.

About 10km north of Euston, my GPS wobbled out of its mount and rolled down the side of my bike onto the road at about 100km/h. I pulled over as quickly as I could turned back and found it in pieces on the side of the road. I would have to navigate the old fashioned way from here on.

We stopped for fuel in Euston, at the servo at the roundabout where I have always stopped. Shannon and Jorge got away before me and headed towards Mildura. When I left, I began a familiar calculation. If I am stationary for three minutes while they are riding at 100km/h, then they will be 5km ahead of me when I start. If I ride at 110km/h to catch up, I am gaining on them at 10km/h. It will take me half an hour to catch them, and in that time I will travel 55km.

I found them waiting in Mildura and led them through town and out towards Renmark. It was interesting to see the places that had become familiar when I was in Mildura at the Ulysses Club AGM. To recall which streets were short cuts, where certain shops were and so on.

While the day had begun cold and wet, it was quite warm as we came to Renmark. So warm that my heated grips were becoming uncomfortable. We would stop for fuel there, the heated grips would turn off and the problem would end.

We stopped at the quarantine station outside Renmark. The officer there enquired if I was carrying any fruit or vegetables. I told her that I had some broccoli in the trailer, and she said that was not a problem. Two problems solved.

Other problems arose though. While we were stopped for fuel, I briefly lost my phone. I wanted to check the weather ahead and was getting annoyed with myself for not being able to find it. I had left it on the counter in the servo.

I had been looking forward to lunch on the river bank with a proper coffee. Jorge was concerned to make distance and wanted to stop at a picnic area to eat what we were carrying.

So we left in something of a rush to make up time. Soon after we left, I felt my sticks loose on the seat behind me. Shannon and Jorge disappeared while I stopped and tied my sticks down properly. More hassle. I got back on the road behind a truck. I couldn’t see ahead and missed the turn towards Morgan. By the time I realised this, and pulled over to check my map to see where I was, I was further behind them. More hassle. I took the next turn towards Morgan and pushed on a bit, hoping to catch up along the way.

I got to Morgan and hadn’t seen them, and hadn’t had lunch, so I stopped at the bakery, got a pie and a coffee and called them to say where I was and find out where they were. With lunch gone and a good long wait had, I was about to check in to the caravan park rather than ride into the setting sun towards Burra at kangaroo o’clock, when my phone rang. They were at Burra. In a café on the right just into town. I would see the bikes when I got there. So I rode into the setting sun towards Burra at kangaroo o’clock.

I didn’t see any live kangaroos. I saw some emus, and some sheep, lots of saltbush and the sun getting lower.

As I came into Burra, I looked towards the café where they were not to be seen. Nor their bikes. I toured the main streets and did not spot them. So I called again, and learned that they were in the pub, and their bikes parked in the back yard…

Our bikes in the back yard of the Burra Hotel

Our bikes in the back yard of the Burra Hotel

I needed a walk and set out to see some of my favourite spots in this lovely town. I was saddened to see that the creek was dry.

A dry creek bed

Burra Creek dry downstream

A dry creek bed

Burra Creek dry upstream

There was water behind the weir on the creek though for the ducks to swim on.

Water under a bridge

Water under the footbridge behind the weir

As the sun set, a helicopter came out to check that I was ok.

Sunset with a stone church and a helicopter

Sunset behind the church

I recognised a couple at a table inside the pub as the couple who were unpacking into a room near ours, so I sat down to talk with them. They had been travelling, camping for the most part, for nine weeks. Across to the west, up and over the top and down the centre. It sounded like a great adventure. They had run into bad weather coming down from Coober Pedy, the same weather we had had the night before, and decided to take a hard bed.

Dinner was fairly jovial. It appears that Jorge has a vision defect that prevents him from seeing emus, even a flock of them in an otherwise empty paddock.

I sat up late in the bar talking with the waitress and the barman who had looked after us. She was heading towards a career in the navy, though getting there from here looked tricky, and he aspired to own his own hotel, perhaps in a larger town.

So I let the hassle and that dreadful calculation slip away, and hoped for a better ride tomorrow.

Friday May 27

I made a good start, got showered and dressed, then faffed around looking for my phone. Jorge solved the puzzle by ringing me. Shannon said that they had bought breakfast for me, and presented me with an apple.

The weather was grey and drizzly, but I could see from the radar that it would clear as we rode north. I was looking forward to seeing Orroroo again, and riding down Horrocks pass to get to Port Augusta.

When I started Lola, I could see that I needed to get some fuel. I had seen the servo on the way in to town, and headed there, but they had no premium fuel. The servo further up the main street did have premium, so Shannon and I went there for fuel. Jorge, whose bike does not need premium, fueled up at the first servo.

I expected to pick Jorge up as we headed out of town, but did not see him there. I expected that we would see him at the intersection on the highway, but we did not see him there. I turned west and headed towards Hallet wondering if he had taken the back road out of Burra and was waiting for us there somewhere when I saw him stopped off the road.

We rode past and he joined the tail of our group. I’m not very familiar with the road, but I had a bunch of town names in my mind, and followed the signs that suggested them. The wind was horrible, blowing strongly from the west. I pushed ahead, Lola being fairly stable in a strong wind, but Shannon and Jorge dropped behind. I would wait for them at the Peterborough turn.

I was surprised when Jorge drew up beside me and pointed back. Had I missed a turn? I was fairly certain that I had not, and pulling over in the cold wind for a map check would not be pleasant, but it had to be done.

I was on track. Jorge said that it wasn’t the best road, he wanted to go via Crystal Brook, a town well to the west of my route. I said I would see him in Ceduna and pushed ahead. With some time to think, it occurred to me that Jorge did not want to ride down Horrocks Pass. I could see that he was following, some way back, so decided to take a middle road and turned for Jamestown. It was a great road, with beautiful scenery. I swallowed hard to not resent not taking my roads and to enjoy finding this one.

We were riding beside a range of hills that had wind turbines on top taking advantage of the wind that was knocking us around. At one point, the cloud was so low that the turbines disappeared into it.

Wind turbines disappearing into low cloud

Wind turbines disappearing into low cloud

We reached the highway well south of Port Pirie and had a long ride up the other side of that range of hills with cloud perched on top.

Lola needed fuel as we approached Port Augusta. While we were stopped, we decided to go into town and find a bike shop so that Shannon could replace his damaged riding boots. Jorge had some knowledge of the town and led us in. There was much mucking around in back streets, but we eventually found the bike shop and boots. It was by then near lunch time, and my apple had worn off, so I suggested going back into town to get lunch with proper coffee at a café.

Parking was difficult, and we walked a few hundred metres (Shannon complaining about his new boots) to a café. We ordered and waited for what Jorge took to be an unreasonable length of time. I reminded him that he had the option of leaving at any time, and that we had about four hours to cover about 250km.

While we were stopped the rain caught up with us. We left town and headed into very strong winds and patchy rain. Jorge had taken the lead, but was travelling very slowly, at times only 80km/h on the highway with a 110km/h limit. A long line of cars and trucks was building up behind us. I went to the lead and held a steady 100km/h into the wind.

Approaching Iron Knob, the distance signs say “IK 60”, “IK 55” and so on, on the other side of Iron Knob, Approaching Kimba, the distance signs say “KI 90”, “KI 85” and so on. I wonder if there is a subtle joke here.

Kimba came up and we stopped for the obligatory photographs.

Our bikes in front of the "Half Way" sign at Kimba

Our bikes at the Kimba “Half way” sign

We got fuel here. 150km beating into that wind had made the bikes thirsty (not Jorge’s BMW, of course).

Another 100km and we reached Wudinna. That’s roughly 500km for the day. The motel at Wudinna has a laundry with a dryer, so we were able to get some washing done before hitting the Nullarbor proper.

Dinner in the restaurant (lamb pot pie) was good and the conversation jovial. There was a slide show of images of local sights. I had told Shannon about the huge granite rocks that had been used to capture water. Each time the image of one of these came up, Shannon had his back turned and mised it. We finished with a good coffee and then went back to a warm bed.

I hope that the rain will pass tonight and that we will get to camp across the Nullarbor starting tomorrow.

Saturday May 28

I’m getting good at waking early. I was showered, dressed and packed ready to leave by 8. Then there was faffing about time getting breakfast and fuel, but we were on the road in a fine sunny morning by 9.

The rain wasn’t quite gone. We passed through several patches of fine drizzle, but they became rare as the morning passed under our wheels.

We stopped in Ceduna for fuel and a leg stretch. Shannon and I went for a walk along the jetty.

Shannon on the jetty at Ceduna

Shannon on the jetty at Ceduna

Back on the road, we headed to Penong to have lunch at the famous Penong pie shop. Fame wasn’t enough to sustain the shop though and we found it closed and up for sale. I got a pie and a coffee at the servo across the road.

Lola parked in front of the famous (closed) Penong Pie Shop

The famous (closed) Penong Pie Shop

Shannon and Jorge struck up a conversation with Sandy, a bloke from Tasmania, who was riding the Nullarbor on a push-bike. He apparently makes about 70km in a day. He invited us to come and stay at his place in St. Marys whenever we are in Tas.

He had quite a head start before we left, and we tooted and waved when we passed him a kilometre down the road.

We stopped at Nundroo for fuel. They only had 91, but on the Nullarbor you fill up at every stop because there may be no fuel at the next one.

Our next stop was to be the Nullarbor Roadhouse. I love that stretch of the Nullarbor, particularly the way that the scenery changes so abruptly as you get to the actual treeless plain.

About 15km before the roadhouse is the turn off to Head of Bight. We turned and rode the 12km to have a look, but baulked at the $15 entry fee and rode back to the highway. When we turned to leave, Huey turned on a consolation view.

Dramatic clouds

The sky at Head of Bight

At the roadhouse we paid our camping fee and set up camp. Last time I was here there was a howling southerly blowing, and I set up my tent in the lee of the old dongas. This time it was still and a beautiful sunset glowed to reward us at the end of a great day on the road.

My camp behind the old dongas at Nullarbor Roadhouse.

My camp behind the old dongas at Nullarbor Roadhouse.

The ground here is very hard, and I needed a hammer to get my tent pegs in. Someone had been clearing up and had left a pile of old pieces of ironware. Among these was a last for making child sized shoes, and this was perfect for driving the pegs in.

The sunsets in that area are spectacular. A wide vista close to the ocean so there are often clouds to catch the light. Tonight was a perfect example.

The sunset at Nullarbor Roadhouse

The sunset at Nullarbor Roadhouse

We cooked our own dinner, had coffee and washed up, then came up to the bar for some entertainment. At $8.50 for a beer, we were fairly restrained and retired to our respective tents in good condition.

Sunday May 29

Another early start. I think that I may be still on home time, and therefore half an hour early. I hear Shannon banging around in his camp, and look out to see a beautiful sunrise commencing.

Sunrise over Lola at Nullarbor Roadhouse

Sunrise over Lola at Nullarbor Roadhouse

I recall the gorgeous sunrise that captivated me here four years ago. We have to push on though, so I make myself go to the shower while the sunrise unfolds.

On my way back, I look to the other side and see a beautiful partial double rainbow. Huey has been tricky. While we have been oohing and aahing at the sunrise, he has been sneaking rain up behind us.

A beautiful partial double rainbow at Nullarbor Roadhouse

A beautiful partial double rainbow at Nullarbor Roadhouse

I rush to pack up my tent instead of joining Shannon and Jorge for breakfast. When I am just about finished, Shannon asks if I am going to join them. I tell him about the coming rain, and help him pack up his tent.

When it comes it is only a brief shower, but it could have been much heavier, and we have avoided packing up wet tents.

We did not get the customary photo under the triple yellow warning signs. I note that the mile signs are labelled “WA 180”, “WA 175”, and so on rather than pointing to Border Village or to Eucla. On the right there are different markers, one every kilometre, and about one kilometre out of sync.

To break the monotony, there is no “WA 100” marker. Instead, after “WA 105” comes “WA 99”. I appreciate the joke.

About 80km down the road is a viewing platform at the edge of the Bunda Cliffs, and I lead Shannon and Jorge down the few hundred metres of dirt to see the view. It is quite spectacular and certainly makes up for our disappointment at Head of Bight yesterday.

View of the Bunda clffs

Looking east along the cliffs that mark the southern edge of Australia

We return to the highway. Westward, always westward. We are heading for Eucla. About 20km out I see a view that makes the “edge of Australia” very real.

The sea quite close to the highway

A view of the highway along the edge of Australia

We stop at the quarantine post and I declare the remnants of my head of broccoli, expecting to be waved through, but this time I have to hand it over.

We head across the border, and are flagged down about 100 metres further on by a policeman. Licence, registration, breath and drug check. Welcome to WA.

Having crossed the border at midday Sydney time, and thinking of lunch, we are swept back to 10 am western time. We stop at Eucla for fuel and then for coffee. It is important to use the time. If we simply push ahead and arrive at our evening camp “two hours early” there will be the temptation to push on until “proper stopping time”, and so ride well beyond our safe limit.

After our break, we return to the highway. Just out of the township is this view.

The view down Eucla pass to the plain below.

The view down Eucla pass to the plain below

The road swings to the right and runs along a wide plain between a long line of hills to the north, and cliffs and the Southern Ocean to the south. This is the ancient seabed. The hills were once the cliffs now many kilometres away.

We arrive in good time and good weather at Caiguna. I set up my tent under the same tree as it has been on the previous three stops here.

My tent under a tree in the campground at Caiguna.

Familiar ground. Lola and my tent under its tree in the campground at Caiguna

Turning to the west, I catch a view of another great sunset.

Sunset at Caiguna Roadhouse

Sunset at Caiguna Roadhouse

And just when I was thinking that we were being spoilt, Shannon calls out that there is a very bright light in the sky. He asks if it is a plane. As we rush to look, the light breaks up and spreads across the sky like a satellite breaking up on re-entry. I grab a couple of quick shots. Too quick as both are very blurry.

A fireball breaking up in the sky

First shot. Zoom to see the trail.

A fireball breaking up in the sky

Second shot, a bit clearer. Zoom to see the trail.

We went into the roadhouse to see if there was any mention of the fireball on the news. Nope. Football, politics, crime,…

We talked for a while with a couple on their way home to Victoria, then go our separate ways.

Monday May 30

My morning begins with sounds of activity in the camp. Other users packing and leaving, Shannon and Jorge up and making their breakfast. I peep out and see that the sun isn’t even up.

My watch says that it is 5:44, but it does say crazy things like that sometimes. Secure in the knowledge that there is no such time, I snuggle back into my sleeping bag and wait for sensible o’clock.

At sensible o’clock, the sun bathes the side of my tent with a cheery yellow glow, raising the temperature inside to ok to get up degrees, so I get up, cheered and warm(ish), and head to the shower.

The amenities at Caiguna are pretty good, the showers are free and hot, though some sort of seat in there would be helpful.

Showered and changed, I gather my cooking gear and head to the picnic table nearby to make my coffee while Shannon and Jorge pack up their tents and load their bikes.

While I wash my cup and pack my tent and gear, Shannon and Jorge ride out to fill their tanks and wait. When I get to the pumps, another camper says, somewhat surprised, “They left without you”. I assure him that they have not and point to Shannon and Jorge standing and chatting near their bikes. I guess that they have been waiting some 15 or 20 minutes, and wonder why the rush? It’s not as though their allotted kangaroo will be miffed if they don’t hit him…

I had talked with Jorge yesterday about getting a group photo at the start of the Ninety Mile Straight, but they were not waiting there when I got there…

Lola parked under the sign at the start of the Ninety Mile Straight

Lola at the Caiguna end of the Ninety Mile Straight

I catch up with them some time later, and get to an open section where I think it would be good to get a photo of their bikes on the straight. I stop, get my camera out, take the shot, put my camera away and restart.

An image of a section of the Ninety Mile Straight.

Shannon and Jorge occupy the two dark pixels just below the centre of the image

When I first rode to WA, there was not an eagle to be seen. One famous image from that ride has three dark pixels in the upper left of a clear blue sky that might be an eagle.

On my next crossing, I found some eagles on some roadkill and pulled off the road to take a photo as they took off. As I got off Lola, a road train came past, and the draught from his passing lifted the lid off my trailer (Tilly) and smashed it against Lola’s tail. I missed the shot.

On this crossing, my first attempt returned some more three pixel images. But the second attempt found this young eagle waiting for me to get away from his roadkill.

An eagle in flight

A young Wedgetail in flight close to the road

A little further on , two young wedgetails were picking at a carcass on the side of the road. One flew off into the scrub as I approached, but the other stood nearby, and I got this image.

An eagle beside the road

A young wedgetail eagle beside the road

I love riding the Nullarbor, and I love this straight. It is long, but it isn’t flat or smooth, and the variations in scenery, and the wildlife around make it anything but boring. Talking with a couple at Balladonia Roadhouse a little later, I learned that they had seen a bustard in the saltbush. It looked just like a saltbush, but its head moved.

All good things come to an end, and the Ninety Mile Straight ends with a corner.

A road sign indicating a corner ahead

The corner at the western end of the Ninety Mile straight

We stopped for coffee and fuel at Balladonia, and headed on to Norseman. On the way a long load came up behind us. I was at the back, and could see that we made a long obstacle to pass, so I rolled slowly back to open up a gap, and indicated to the truck that he could pass, which he subsequently did. Then the leading pair decided it was time to press ahead. I was now stuck behind the long load. I could have pushed past, but that seemed silly. I would get to Norseman pretty much on time anyway, so I sat and enjoyed the ride.

Fuel and a bite to eat at Norseman, and then the last push to Coolgardie. The sun was getting low, the shadows beginning to lengthen, and the road surface became glary. While this stretch was only 160km, it was more difficult than the previous 190km push to Norseman.

We arrived at the turn into town to find roadworks in progress. The person managing traffic control held up a stop sign, so I stopped. I was looking straight into the sun and asked jokingly if they could hold the sign a little higher to block the sun for me, and they did!

Shannon had drifted back a little and got caught in the same place. With the sun in his eyes, he had difficulty reading the sign pointing into town, and said that he nearly turned towards Kalgoorlie.

We set up camp at the Coolgardie caravan park. I had stayed here before (in a donga), and found the manager friendly and helpful. He did not recall my last stay, but directed us to a grassed area to put up our tents (luxury after Nullarbor and Caiguna), and said that we could get a good meal at the pub. I doubted that, having declined a $22 schnitzel there on my last visit.

Three bikes parked near our camp.

Our bikes in the executive carpark at Coolgardie caravan park.

Three tents set up on a grassed area.

Our tents on the grassed area (with rock hard soil underneath) at Coolgardie caravan park

On the ride through town, I had spotted a Can Am Spyder parked in the street. While we were putting our tents up, I heard the unmistakable sound of a Spyder exhaust and looked up to see the same Spyder ride into the caravan park and stop outside the donga where I had parked Lola four years ago.

I walked up to talk with the rider, and was very surprised to find that he was also a right leg above knee amputee. We spent some time discussing modifications, then I returned to putting my tent up.

A disabled rider beside his Spyder

Unbelievable. A right leg above knee amputee riding a can Am Spyder

On the voices we decided to give dinner in the pub a go. A walk after the long ride would do us good. The meals were large and filling, the beer cold and refreshing and the conversation lively and interesting.

I took this image of the old Mines building across the road.

Old buildings in Coolgardie

The office of mines (or some such thing) at Coolgardie, and the lovely row of shops beside it

Inside the pub, I happened to look up and saw this lovely ceiling rose.

A ceiling rose

A ceiling rose in the Denver City Hotel in Coolgardie

I had a long and interesting talk with a bloke who had made a lot of money in the telecommunications boom in the ’80’s and then lost it all. He was now living in his van and travelling the country.

After dinner we returned to camp. I got my washing (and blogging) done, and had an interesting talk with the park manager about the ‘joys’ of owning a motorcycle.

Tuesday May 31

They do call it Coolgardie and not Warmgardie, and it was cool last night. After a good hot shower and a good hot coffee I felt much better. We discussed our route today and our plan for the next few days. We will get to Northam tonight, only 450km away, but close to Perth so that we can have a short day tomorrow for catching up with friends and arranging bike servicing.

The last time that I rode through here it was blowing a gale. I remember taking some photos of the trees beside the road being blown inside out. Today was overcast and cool. I experimented with the temperature control on my heated grips and found that I could make them way too hot, then settled on the Goldilocks temperature.

Our first stop was for fuel and coffee at Southern Cross. Jorge took some photos of the bikes to send to friends back home, and we got back on the road. Some way down the road we saw flashing lights ahead. I pulled over when I saw that it was a wide load approaching.

A view down a hill of a wide load approaching

A wide load escort at the bottom of the hill

Slowly, but unstoppably one wide load,

A large truck on the back of a truck

One of two wide loads being escorted north

and then the other came up the hill.

A large truck on the back of another truck

The second wide load being escorted north

We could have ridden past on the bikes, but it would have been iffy.

At our lunch stop in Merredin, we stopped by chance outside Jaycar, and Jorge was able to buy a charger for his GoPro. Lunch in the Rubra Café across the road was tasty and washed down with good coffee.

Back on the road, following the goldfields pipeline, we came across another wide load, this time going in the same direction as us. The escort vehicles blocked traffic coming the other way and waved us around it. It was scary being on the wrong side of double centre lines on the outside of a bend with a huge truck blocking the view ahead.

We finally came to Northam, and easily found the caravan park where we will stay tonight.

Our bikes and tents in the caravan park

Our camp at Northam caravan park. We are on grass again. Luxury!

The bikes attracted a fair bit of attention, and we talked for some time while the sun slid away. Good thing that we had the tents up early. One interested local wore a Ducati Club logo on his shirt. He wasn’t going to the rally, but had attended several, and now toured by campervan.

Shannon ducked into town to do some shopping and bought me some greens to have with my dinner.

We had dinner in the camp kitchen and discussed our ride into the city tomorrow then off to bed.

Wednesday June 1

It had been a cold night and starting was slow. After breakfast and a shower I packed my tent and had to wipe it dry. I then had a very wet towel to get dry.

Shannon had found that he could dry his full sized towel by slipping it under some ocky straps on his bike. The wind during the ride dried it well enough. I have a microfibre camping towel which I usually get dry by spreading over my gear in the trailer. This time it was much wetter and, being thinner and lighter, might disappear on the ride if ocky strapped to the bike, so I looked for an alternative.

The camp kitchen boasted a microwave oven. I cooked my towel for about 10 minutes, stopping every minute to release the steam. It felt warm and slightly damp after this, but would dry spread over my gear in the trailer as usual.

We rode into town for fuel, then back onto the highway into Perth. The plan was pretty simple, we would follow this highway, turn onto Highway One at a major intersection and follow that to the bike shop where Jorge had booked a tyre. Since I no longer had a GPS, it needed to be a simple route.

We missed the first turn when we were trapped behind a truck. We turned into a carpark, had a map reading and got back on track. The route we were to take crosses a river, but the road turned off before then. Another back street map reading session got us back onto the right road and over the river. There was no bike shop at the location we had. A slow tour and a check of phone numbers found that it was the car tyre shop on the corner. They had just assumed that a 1600 BMW was a car…

We located a bike tyre shop across town in Victoria Park who could get a tyre, and rode there to check them out. The tyre would be in at 4 this afternoon. I wanted to stop at the pub next door for a steak sandwich lunch and wait around for the tyre. Jorge baulked at the cost of the steak sandwich (though he would happily pay several hundred dollars for a tyre), and we decided to ride on to Shannon’s mate’s place for the night and ride back into town tomorrow to get the tyre fitted.

The ride out of the city was pretty straightforward, and the turn off the freeway was well marked, but the turn into the suburb slipped by. I checked the map on my phone and we zigzagged through narrow streets to the house.

We settled in well. Friends of friends are friends too. Dinner was a great opportunity to talk about our ride so far.

Jorge located a local motorcycle shop who could supply and fit a rear tyre for his bike. This would be much better than riding into the city in the morning.

Thursday June 2

With a night to think about it, Jorge had decided that he would not need a replacement for his rear tyre until we passed through Adelaide on the way home. I wasn’t actually planning on passing through Adelaide on the way home, but plans are made to be changed…

Lola needed an oil and filter change. We went out early to buy some oil, degreaser and gloves, then I set to work. I had carried the tools that I needed, and the carpeted garage was a great place to work. The clever sump plug that Shannon had made for me worked a treat. There had been no oil leaks on the ride so far, and draining Lola’s gearbox worked perfectly. The rest of the oil and filter change was by the book, and the job was finished in less than two hours. That was much better than the two days that had previously been required. Thanks for a great job, Shannon.

In the afternoon we went for a sightseeing tour with our hosts, seeing some dolphins at Safety Bay,

Dolphins swimming close to shore

Dolphins close to shore at Safety Beach

some great sights from Point Peron,

A view of a limestone fomation

A view to the south over a limestone formation from Point Peron

We saw a WW2 gun emplacement built to protect the nearby naval base.

An image of a WW2 gun emplacement

A WW2 Gun emplacement

and  had fish and chips for lunch at Rockingham, followed by a walk in the park beside the beach.

A view of the path beside the beach

The beach side walk at Rockingham

We ended the day with a great roast dinner and much talk about the similarities and differences between motorcycle rallies and motorhome rallies. I am pleased that we were able to make a connection between the two cultures. We have a lot in common.

Friday June 3

As has become customary on this ride, we were packed and on the road by 9 o’clock. I wanted to take the coast road rather than the boring highway, and so led Shannon and Jorge west to Highway 1. It was much more suburban than I had expected, but we had no time pressure. We would arrive at my mate Vikki’s place before lunch, ride out to catch up with Marg, and then head out to the rally, arriving before sunset.

Somewhere south from Mandurah, Jorge rode up beside me and said that he had only 80km of fuel left. I told him to take the lead, and to stop at the first servo he saw. We would stop with him. When we had passed three servos, I began to suspect that the vision defect that prevented Jorge from seeing emus also affected his ability to see servos.

By the time that we had joined the Forrest Highway, Lola needed fuel too. We came to a servo that I knew and Jorge rode past it! I turned in, leading Shannon who was getting about the same fuel mileage as me, and Jorge rode in some minutes after us, having presumably turned around when he saw that I was not behind him. Goodness knows how far he would have ridden afterwards.

After filling up and turning around in the convoluted car park, we pushed on to Binningup to catch up with Miss Vikki and the boys and head out to the rally.

A certain amount of faffing about ensued, introductions, small talk about the ride, gearing up and grouping up. Toad and Wedge were out picking up Miss Vikki’s leather vest which was having some badges sewn onto it. It was supposed to be ready at midday… The general plan was to follow Vikki’s car to Marg’s place, then to go on to the rally.

Now Vikki and the boys weren’t quite used to travelling at 100km/h on the highway, but even that speed seemed to stretch our tail out, and we had to stop to regroup a couple of times on the way. Vikki and the boys wanted to stop to buy some camping gear, and we took the opportunity to get fuel, and the sum of the stops and delays made us quite late.

When we arrived at Marg’s place, she was just going out, so a quick hug  and a turn around on the footpath saw us back on the road, now getting on for an hour behind.

We rode back up the highway, retracing much of the route that we had taken a couple of days beforehand, and then turned for York. The ride was scenic and the road enjoyable, but the sun was getting low.

There were several sections of roadworks along the way, a couple with traffic lights to control one way sections of road. Somewhere out of York, Shannon and Jorge disappeared from the tail of our group. We waited for some time at the intersection where the road to the rally left the road to Quairading and were just about to give up and ride on when the two strays arrived.

Now in semi-darkness, we rode the last few kilometres to the property where the rally is held. The road narrows along this stretch to a single lane of bitumen, but there was no oncoming traffic.

We turned off the bitumen onto the farm access track. The surface was loose in places, and about a kilometre short of the rally site, Jorge pulled over. He said that he could not go any further, and would rather ride on to Quairading for the night. After a brief discussion, Shannon decided to ride with Jorge. After over 4000km, they had turned back in the last kilometre! It was their call, of course, and while I suggested alternatives such as walking their bikes in, or leaving them until morning and getting a lift in, they were determined to turn back.

I wished them well and rode on to the rally site. On my last visit, I had camped on flat(ish) ground near the control tent, and with very little light available to help to make a better choice, we set up camp there.

An image of my tent and my bike

My camp at Balkuling on Friday night

We got a fire going and sat around it, discussing the ride, and particularly Shannon and Jorge turning back.

The cheery glow of a rally camp fire

The cheery glow of a rally camp fire and friendly conversation

A generator and lights fired up, a catering van arrived and set up, and in little time there was hot food to warm us.

A catering van

The catering van at the rally

The evening slid away while we sat at our fire, and I slid into my tent tired and happy and slept very well.

Saturday June 4

During the morning many more bikes rode in and the site began to fill

A view of the rally site

The view from my tent on Saturday morning

while we sat around our fire having breakfast and talking.

Four people sitting near a camp fire

Wedge, Ronnie, Miss Vikki and Toad at our fire

This rally has some amazing bikes in attendance. In particular, the sidecars show much creativity. This outfit had unusual decorations at the front,

A sidecar outfit with unusual colouring

Purple handguards and bumper, and gold thongs…?

and the rear.

A pair of plastic breasts at the rear of the sidecar

An unusual enough decoration, but at the rear…?

And this thing. It is intended to be in a permanent wheelstand. The rear wheel steers by a cable link from the handlebars. Don’t ask me why…

A three wheeled motorcycle

Someone’s weird idea made real

There are three ways to get around the rally site. You can walk, you can ride your bike, or you can get a lift with someone. Charlie has a sidecar taxi to get you around. The fare is that you laugh out loud and scream with excitement as he slides the outfit in a three wheel drift or lofts the chair with you in it.

Miss Vikki going for a ride in Charlie's sidecar.

Miss Vikki going for a ride in Charlie’s sidecar

Rallying is about being an individual. You can be anything you want to be. Even a unicorn.

A T shirt with an amusing message

Always a unicorn

A very different form of entertainment is firing so called spud guns. These are built from plumbing fittings, fueled with an aerosol can and used to propel a suitably sized potato, orange, tennis ball or pair of socks up to a hundred metres with much cheering from the crowd.

A spud gun resting against a chair

A spud gun at rest

The main chamber

The main chamber

Fuel is sprayed into the chamber

Fuel is sprayed into the chamber

A mashed potato found in the middle of the field having been fired from a spud gun.

A mashed potato found in the middle of the field having been fired from a spud gun

If you run out of spuds…

...You can launch a pair of socks.

…You can launch a pair of socks.

Now I have two spare socks.

Sunday June 5

My day began with a crisis. Sitting in the vestibule of my tent, making my morning coffee, my coffee maker slid off my stove just as it was filling the cup.

My coffee maker and cup fallen over

My morning coffee hopes dashed

Everything was too hot to catch, so I had to watch it fall and then wait for it to cool before I could recover.

The main event of the rally is the gymkgana. There are many events, some of which, such as the slow race, are held in most gymkhanas at rallies that still have a gymkhana. Others, such as sidecar jousting, I have only seen at this rally. In this event, a passenger in a sidecar has to spear a small cone that has been taped to a post. It takes skill from both the rider and the passenger. The winner is the team that collects the greatest number of cones in the shortest time.

Sidecar jousting

Sidecar jousting

There were slalom events for solos, sidecars and quad bikes. There were many events held for kids. There was a hammer toss and a ridiculously bawdy game involving spearing a toilet roll held between one participant’s thighs with the handle of a plunger held between the other participant’s thighs.

After the gymkhana the raffle was drawn and the rally awards were presented.

The crowd assembled for the raffle draw and awards presentation.

The crowd assembled for the raffle draw and awards presentation

During our ride to the rally, I had joked that Shannon would have beaten me for the award for the longest distance by a male rider because he lives two kilometres further away, and that Jorge would beat him because he lived a further kilometre away. Since they had turned back before getting to the rally, I picked up that award with a total of 4777.7km.

Lola's trip meter showing the total distance from home to the rally.

Lola’s trip meter showing the total distance from home to the rally

The rest of the day slid by quietly. I went for a walk around the rally site talking with people. Some I knew, some I had met for the first time. It is one of the attractions of rallying for me.

Genuine, honest open people make rallying totally enjoyable for me.

Genuine, honest open people make rallying totally enjoyable for me

Just sitting and chatting by the fire.

Silky from Collie Community Radio

I spoke for some time with Lyn, one of the organisers, about the rally and about motorcycle politics.

Lyn from MRAWA

Lyn from MRAWA

Simon from the WA Guzi Owners with his recovered stolen Lemans.

Me with Simon from the WA Guzi Owners with his recovered stolen Lemans, Loose Bruce and a photo-bomber

One way to save weight on a bike is to remove unnecessary items, such as the sidestand,

No stand? No problem.

No stand? No problem

I watched a hot air balloon being prepared,

A hot air balloon made with a garbage bag, a loop of wire and a firelighter.

A hot air balloon made with a garbage bag, a loop of wire and a firelighter

launched,

The garbage bag hot air balloon immediately after being launched

The garbage bag hot air balloon immediately after being launched

and float away.

The hot air balloon high in the sky over the rally site.

The hot air balloon high in the sky over the rally site

Fergie from the WA Z Owners has a classic solution to having a loose sole on his boots.

Fergie's boot repair. Insulation tape *and* a zip tie.

Fergie’s boot repair. Insulation tape *and* a zip tie

If walking to and from your Esky is too much exercise for you, then this is a great solution.

A motorised, steerable Esky.

A motorised, steerable Esky

I have often thought of putting a heater into Jolene’s or Connie’s sidecar, but couldn’t figure out how to supply the air without letting in rain.

Hot air is piped from behind the rear cylinder into the sidecar. Clever.

Hot air is piped from behind the rear cylinder into the sidecar. Clever.

Monday June 6

Monday morning started soft and misty

The view from my tent on Monday morning.

The view from my tent on Monday morning

and remained so for several hours while we had breakfast and packed up camp.

I had time for a walk around and found this fungus near our camp.

A fungus growing near our camp. It was a bit larger than a golf ball and felt rubbery.

A fungus growing near our camp. It was a bit larger than a golf ball and felt rubbery

After sufficient faffing around, we had all packed up and were heading back to Miss Vikki’s. I rode with Toad and Wedge. Toad wanted to show me some of his roads, and the places where he had lived and worked.

We stopped on the way into Beverley to look at a jet fighter on display there.

My bike parked in front of a jet plane

Lola parked in front of the Vampire jet fighter outside Beverley

We then rode into town and did battle with the pre-pay petrol pump at the Beverley Dome. After riding  through Brookton to Narrogin, we stopped for lunch. The riding had been easy through wheat and sheep country. At one point Toad waved us to slow down and pointed to a lamb running down the left side of the road. It was very skittish and could have jumped in front of any of us which would have been messy.

The café we stopped at in Narrogin had a good choice of fresh food and great coffee, but no seating. We ate sitting on the bench outside the Post Office across the road.

With a warm meal inside us to fend off the cold, we rode on through Williams and Darkan to Collie where Toad had lived and worked. The local RSL had a tank and a troop carrier on display in front of their building.

A tank on display outside Collie RSL

A tank on display outside Collie RSL

A troop carrier on display outside Collie RSL

A troop carrier on display outside Collie RSL

It would have been good to spend some time there finding out about them, but time began to press.

With the sun starting to dip, we followed the Coalfields Highway west to Roelands, then onto a great back road, Raymond Road, that brought us out on the Forrest Highway.

Along the way, Wedge pointed out a group of kangaroos in a paddock some way off. I am sorry that I didn’t get a photo. The image was classic.

Here Toad turned south to his home in Bunbury, and Wedge and I turned north to Miss Vikki’s place in Binningup.

Lola and Wedge's bikes in Miss Vikkis garage

Lola and Wedge’s bikes in Miss Vikki’s garage

We were surprised to have arrived before Miss Vikki and Ronnie, who we thought had taken the more direct route home. We heard over dinner of their adventurous trip home. They had seen us in Narrogin, but had lost sight of us when we turned to find parking.

I stayed on here for a few days. I did some sightseeing,

Black swans on the bay near Australind

Black swans on the bay near Australind

I rode up to Kalamunda to have lunch with a friend from aigor, Debra from the West,

Debra from the West

Debra from the West

We went out to Bunbury to drink beer and not play pool (and were incidentally entertained by the local 50’s dance club), and we had a dinner to celebrate Wedge’s birthday.

Tuesday June 14

I’d been watching the weather, planning to ride east in a bubble of dry weather between cold fronts. I like knowing how the weather works. The morning is fine and sunny. The rain has passed. It’s time to ride.

I am mostly packed. I say goodbye to Miss Vikki who has to go to work, shower and dress, upload some photos, say goodbye to Ronnie who has an appointment and carry the last of my gear out and load Tilly.

I am surprised that it has happened so quickly. I shake Wedge’s hand and say goodbye, back Lola down the drive and ride away.

I have a plan to ride back through Collie the way that Toad brought us after the rally, then continue east, seeing some new roads and new country.

The ride out of town goes smoothly, I find the turn east to Collie and settle into enjoying the view, mostly open country with some forested areas. I ride past where Wedge pointed out some Kangaroos in a field a few hundred metres off the road a few days before. It looks like a classic country landscape, this time without kangaroos. I ride into Collie, past the servo where we filled up, past the RSL, and into new territory.

Collie is a coal mining town. The road I was following is the Coalfields Highway. I was not surprised then to see occasional mounds of overburden or deep holes not far from the road. What was surprising though was the few trucks or other mine vehicles on the road. My guess is that, as in the Hunter Valley of old, most of the coal goes by conveyor directly to the power stations. For most of the ride it was just me and the scenery and the road going steadily eastward.

By the time that I reached Darkan, the clouds on the horizon were beginning to look “dark an” threatening. While I had expected to be able to ride east behind the wet weather, it looked like this bit of weather had settled in, and I was going to get wet.

I stopped by the side of the road and put my wet weather gear on. A few kilometres up the road, the surface was wet, and a few kilometres beyond that it began sprinkling. I was pleased that I had outsmarted Huey. Approaching Lake Grace, however, the skies cleared and I began to feel uncomfortably warm.

I stopped at the Lake Grace lookout, about 10km before the town to take some photos and used the opportunity to pack my wets away.

The land around here is pretty flat. To get the lookout high enough to look out from, they had to build it up on the top of a nearby hill.

Lola at the Lake Grace lookout

Lola at the Lake Grace lookout

I stopped for lunch in the township and then hid for half an hour while an approaching shower passed. The sky looked low and grey beyond it, so I had a quick meeting and decided on the voices to put my wets back on. That turned out to be a very good move.

The road east from Lake Grace disappearing into rain

The road east from Lake Grace disappearing into rain

The easter I rode, the wetter it got. Light showers by Newdegate and full on rain east from there. The rain itself isn’t a problem. I have good wet weather gear and Lola gives me good protection. But it had apparently been raining very heavily in the area. There were long puddles in the wheel ruts, just as there were north from Balranald, except that the road here was almost dead straight. And just as it was north of Balranald, Lola’s rear tyre floated on these puddles and she drifted alarmingly. So I slowed way down so I could manoeuvre around the puddles.

My plan had been to get to Ravensthorpe, set up my tent in the caravan park and get my washing done there. With the light failing it was going to be difficult to spot the puddles in the road. And with the rain holding steady, the puddles were remaining full and often flowing.

Lola would need fuel before Ravensthorpe, and Lake King seemed like the place to aim for. If it was large enough, I would stop there.

It was indeed large enough, just. There was a tavern with accommodation advertised on a billboard and I decided that would be far enough for the day. When I pulled into the drive, there was one more challenge. The grounds were covered in several inches of slimy red mud. I found a gravel parking area at the back and parked gratefully on it.

Inside, a barmaid with a soft Northern Irish accent said that there was a single room available, for $99. I gulped, considered my options and paid up. My room was in a set of dongas across the red mud that surrounded the tavern like a moat. I would be eating in the tavern, and there was an open fire in the lounge area, so I decided to stay, get my gear dry in front of the fire, eat dinner then retire to my donga, crossing the mud only once.

The place was fairly empty, so I could monopolise the fire. I bought a pint to console myself and stood for about an hour, rotisserating in front of the fire and rearranging my jacket to keep the wetter parts in front of the fire.

Dinner was available from 6. I ordered a beef stir fry rather than a steak to try to hold on to a dollar. I ate at the bar, discussing the weather, the state of the roads and the poor television reception with a couple of locals. It had apparently been very wet in the area over the past couple of days. The shire had closed all unsealed roads to minimise damage. The mud in the yard around the tavern was due to one truck who turned around the tavern rather than risk a tighter turn to leave, and churned the mud. Every vehicle that came after that just made it worse.

I wandered over to the fire to pick up my jacket, and struck up a conversation with a bloke who was sitting by the fire with his young son. He had done quite a bit of distance riding in his younger days, and was now missing it. We talked at length about roads and bikes, about rallies and rides, and I was much later than I intended when I rode Lola gingerly over about 20 metres of red slime to my donga. I was pleased to find a concrete pad outside the donga, so that I would not be walking in mud.

Wednesday June 15

I woke later than I intended. I noted that the blackout curtains on the donga worked very well. I still needed to wash, so I had to get to Ravensthorpe. After that I would make as much distance as I could to try to get back on track.

The red mud was the first obstacle. Lola did very well getting to the bowser at the tavern with only a few drifty moments. There was a concrete pad there too. But the pumps were prepay, like those at Beverley.

At Beverley, the problem was that the time allowed to get from the payment booth to the bowser was too short. We got around that by teamwork. One of us would stand by the pump and lift the nozzle when the other had waved his magic plastic card and been approved.

At Lake King there was an additional obstacle. The payment booth was at the other side of about 30 metres of sticky red mud. My team members had left the team some days before, and there was no way that I could cover the distance in the time allowed, even without the mud.

After a couple of failed attempts, I hit upon the idea of press ganging someone into helping me. I would occupy the pad until someone came along who needed fuel, and get them to do the footwork so I could fill Lola’s tank.

But this isn’t Main Street. Most people here drive fourby’s, and fill up with diesel. The diesel pump was much closer to the payment booth, and they had sufficient legs (shod with gum boots) to cover the distance in the time allocated, so I didn’t get the chance to ambush them.

Plan B came up, wave and ask for help. That worked on the first attempt. A bloke came straight over and stood by the pump while I slipped and slid to the booth, waved my plastic and then gave him the nod. He lifted the nozzle and waited patiently while I slipped and slid back, then went back to fill his own vehicle. He even stopped on his way out while I was reassembling myself to check that I was ok.

I did not get a pic of the mud. I did get a pic of my helmet which fell into it, fortunately missing the visor.

Sticky red mud stuck to my helmet

Sticky red mud stuck to my helmet

The ride to Ravensthorpe was rain free, but cool. On the way I passed a turnoff to a lithium mine. I guess I should have known that it was mined. I was kinda pleased to know that it was mined in Australia.

I stopped at the visitor information display on the way into town and searched in vain for a laundrette. I could have tried the caravan park nearby, or the one on the way out of town where I had stayed once before, but I got a dose of the “gotta keep moving” bug and rode on towards Esperance, where I was sure there would be one.

Moving felt good, and as I rode east, the weather improved, and that felt good too. I got into a bit of a rhythm passing trucks on the uphill grades and getting well ahead of them on the downhill grades.

I saw a bloke with a push bike stopped for a break on the side of the road about 90km out from Esperance. We exchanged waves. It occurred to me that I would be in Esperance in less than an hour, and that he would not get there today. We all travel the same road, but on different machines and at different speeds, each taking something different from the ride. Closer in I waved to an approaching cyclist, and was rewarded with a wave and a big bright smile from a woman clearly enjoying her journey.

As the low rent and industrial area of Esperance grew around me, I was scanning the signs and the building fronts for a laundrette. Unsuccessfully. I found myself on the main road, and there spotted a tourist information place that was more than a billboard. The woman inside gave me a map and clear directions to the laundrette a few blocks away.

Having located the facility, I needed some supplies. Some washing powder and some dollar coins. I headed back into town to a supermarket. I bought some washing powder and a few apples, one for lunch, and some for breakfast over the next couple of days, and then found that I was cash poor, so  paid by card and asked to get an extra $10. Could I have that in $1 coins? Nearly. I got six, which would at least wash my gear.

Across the road from the laundrette was a MacDougles Ristorante, and so I went there and bought a coffee and got some change in $1 coins, enough to dry my wash.

In the carpark I got into a discussion with a bloke about my bike and riding distance. He had done a couple of laps back in the 80’s and now missed being able to do so because of work commitments. I did my best to assure him that I was spending his tax contributions to gain the maximum pleasure.

By the time my washing was dry, it was getting too late to push on to Norseman, which had become my fallback destination, so I returned to the helpful woman in the Tourist Information Centre and asked about cheap accommodation in the area. The word “cheap” apparently was unheard of, and after I had declined a couple of $100+ suggestions, she said disappointedly that I might try the YHA up the road, but that she couldn’t book it for me.

So I tried the YHA and found it cheap ($31 for a dorm room) and friendly and with one of the best locations on the Esplanade.

Lola parked at the Esperance YHA

Lola parked at the Esperance YHA

The view across the road from the YHA

The view across the road from the YHA

Looking east along the bay

Looking east along the bay

Looking straight out across the bay

Looking straight out across the bay

Looking west along the bay

Looking west along the bay

Violet, one of the managers, was very helpful getting me settled in, explaining the rules and the local customs.

Once I had unloaded my gear, I went for a walk to see if I could find a shop to buy some greens to have with my dinner (fail) and to try to get a clear photo of the sunset (fail again), but I did get a good walk around the block.

After dinner and some time blogging (I was the only one not watching the TV), I slipped into bed and slept soundly while the rain rained on the roof and not on my tent.

Thursday June 16

It was with mixed feelings that I watched water running down the drain outside the dorm window in the morning. I did not have to pack up a wet tent, but I would be riding in rain.

By the time that I had showered and had breakfast, the rain had moved on. I was able to pack Lola in sort of sunshine and head towards Norseman on wet roads.

I had been talking with a bloke at the YHA about his plans. He said that he would leave at about 10:30 and aim for Eucla that evening, a 900km trip. I said that I thought it was a long haul, warned him to watch out for wildlife as he would be travelling well after dark, and wished him luck. He said that he would wave as he went past.

On the ride north I began the calculation. If I was travelling at 100km/h and he left an hour and a half later travelling at 110km/h it would take him 15 hours to catch me. At 120km/h it would take 7 1/2 hours. I would not have to look to see him wave.

I had thought that I would stop to see Pink Lake on the way out of Esperance. I had misread my map, however, and Lake Warden was neither pink nor within view of the highway as I left town.

As I rode, the road was wet and the cloud low and threatening, but the rain held off.

Coming in to  Salmon Gums, I saw a Spyder and a solo bike stop at the servo. I didn’t need fuel, but thought that I would stop and say G’day.

I had a great talk with Alan (who was on a Victory) and Trish (on the Spyder). They had ridden from Norseman that morning. They said that there was low cloud but no rain all the way. We talked a lot about Spyder mods and servicing. They were heading to Esperance and planned to have Trish’s Spyder serviced there. I passed on some tips on Spyders, Trish said that I had given her a lot of confidence in her bike and her ability to ride it, and we parted.

I clung to their words as the cloud got lower and the road got wetter, and I arrived dry in Norseman.

There was a group of about half a dozen Harley riders at the only working premium pump. While I sat and waited my turn, one came and talked with me about the Spyder and about my ride. He said that if I was able to hang around for the weekend, there was a charity ride to (or maybe from) Fraser Range station. It was nice to be invited.

After I had paid for my fuel, a bloke asked about the Spyder. He owned a 1930’s Triumph, but his partner would not ride with him. She had said she might ride with him on a Spyder though, so what were they like? He was most interested to hear that they had power steering, and said that he might take one for a test ride.

I rode out of the servo, avoiding the road train that was turning in, and turned east down the Eyre Highway. The weather had remained clear so far, but Huey wanted to show me he was still the boss, and dropped just enough rain from a single black cloud to make Lola’s windscreen smeary and my helmet visor spotty.

Coming up to Fraser Range Station, I spotted a large red mud lake on my right. It occurred to me that there were lots of these on my route so far. They were a part of this part of Australia. And having missed out on seeing Pink Lake, I stopped to take some photos.

A red mud lake typical of this part of Western Australia

A red mud lake typical of this part of Western Australia

On the same lake, I saw some wheel tracks! Some people live on the edge…

Wheel tracks across the mud around the lake

Wheel tracks across the mud around the lake

I began to hope as I rode east that the rain was well to the south of the highway. It was very cool though, down to 13 degrees at times, and Lola’s heated grips were being heavily used.

About 80km short of Balladonia, I passed a truck, and then saw a beautiful golden coloured eagle on some roadkill on the other side of the road. I couldn’t slow where I was, and up ahead I could see a road train approaching that would surely frighten the bird off, so I kept riding.

When  I stopped at Balladonia, I had a good talk with a bloke towing a caravan about places he had been. Again, another once rider now doing it in a caravan. They had seen the same eagle, but they can’t easily stop the caravan.

I decided to put my wet weather pants on when I left. I wasn’t concerned about any rain, but I thought they would keep me warmer. And so I was smug when Huey dropped another heavy shower.

I stopped at the western end of the Ninety Mile Straight to take Lola’s photo just as a small sports car pulled out.

Lola and Tilly at the western end of the Ninety Mile Straight

Lola and Tilly at the western end of the Ninety Mile Straight

While talking over lunch at Balladonia, I had mentioned the beauty of the ride. On this straight, the vegetation changes, often quite abruptly, sometime there are wide views across saltbush plains, sometimes groves of mallee close to the road. Some places are scattered with large white quartz rocks, others are expanses of red mud. Up ahead the road disappears in a gap between dark verges, perhaps 15km away. And all in a long slow ballet that I find endlessly engaging.

The length of the straight means that I can judge fairly accurately which of the rain cells that are clustering closer now I will avoid. And when one appears to be hanging directly over the vanishing point, I can watch it drift slowly away to one side.

I spotted another eagle, a beautiful black one, and was able to slow and turn to get closer, but the noise of Lola’s exhaust made it take flight before I could get my camera out. So I turned again and continued watching my eastbound ballet.

The sun was setting with splashes of pink in Lola’s mirrors as the distance markers (they aren’t mile posts any more), counted down to my stop for the night, Caiguna.

I could see some rain to the south, and knew that it had been drifting north, so I was debating whether to put up my tent when I arrived or to take a room.

The forecourt of the servo at Caiguna had several large puddles, and Huey turned on a subtle demonstration by sprinkling into them, covering the surface of each with circular ripples that sparkled on the lights from the servo.

I took a room.

Lola and Tilly outside my budget room (no TV) at Caiguna

Lola and Tilly outside my budget room (no TV) at Caiguna

Once unpacked, I bought a steak sandwich and a beer for dinner. While I was finishing my beer, one more conversation began with another once-rider-now-towing-a-caravan about places ridden and about weather patterns. The guy is a surfer and talked about how the seasons have changed, about how the once reliable sequence of surf carnivals had been broken by unreliable weather. And he bought me another beer. Good bloke.

Friday June 17

I woke and packed in a drizzly sunrise. There was some hope that the rain would clear, but I put my wet gear on before riding to the pumps to fill Lola and start the day.

One of the things that I like about riding the Nullarbor is the regular tick, tick, tick, punctuated by the unusual or unexpected. It’s a kind of inverted syncopation. The roadhouses turn up in order, at the expected time and in the expected places, but what happens on the ride between them varies. Sometimes it is almost sad to have to stop just for fuel.

So today looked like being a lesson on riding in rain. I started by learning to put my jacket sleeve over my rain glove. It is difficult and tedious, but it keeps the trickle out. On a short ride it won’t matter. You won’t get enough water on your jacket to trickle into your glove. But if you ride for two hours in rain…

I started slow, getting the feel of Lola in the wet on the very wet highway. There was no rush. Nobody was waiting behind me, and Nullarbor Roadhouse would be where it always was whenever I got there.

I learned to keep Lola’s rear wheel on the ridge in the centre of the lane. Normally this is a no-no. The centre of the lane gets all the oil dropped on it, and loose screws and stones get swept there. But the tracks either side fill with water, and Lola’s rear wheel gets floaty and twitchy. So I developed a feel for riding the ridge.

I learned to back right off when the spray from an approaching truck obscures the road ahead. Beyond that spray, hidden from view, a puddle or even a stream lies in wait.

I learned that the spray from one of Lola’s front wheels can reach as high as the windshield when the wheel drops into a deep puddle. A long puddle drags the bike across, trying to get the back wheel… But correcting should be gentle  because the puddle can end quickly, and over-correcting is not a good thing.

The soft grey and the wetness made the foliage stand out. The leaves are greener, the trunks more varied, and the soil richer. It may be hard riding, but the view is better to compensate. I tried as hard as I could to enjoy the good bits, but I kept thinking that if the bad bits got much worse, I’d pull up short and wait a day.

My next stop was Madura station. I remember Madura for a couple of things. One was that I paid the most I have ever paid for fuel there on my last crossing, $2.30 a litre. The other was from the first crossing. I was riding ahead of a massive storm. I had stopped at Cocklebiddy and asked about a room, but they were way over my budget, and I wasn’t going to put my tent up, knowing what was behind me, so I pushed on to Madura. Talking with the staff there, they assured me that the storm would not come to Madura. They never did. They got rain if it was widespread, but storms passed them by. I put my tent up there under a tree for protection, and the storm did not come.

With this in mind, I hoped that the weather would improve as I approached Madura. I clung to every small change as a sign. The rain did ease to an annoying windblown drizzle, but it didn’t stop.

As I was filling Lola’s tank, a truck driver walked up to me and asked if I was going “that way” pointing east. I said that I was, and he said the rain was flogging down. He waved his arms and repeated “flogging, flogging, flogging”, “and there are huge puddles…” I thanked him for the warning.

I spoke with a couple there towing a caravan. She was interested in riding a Spyder, as was he, the auto, having lost most of the fingers on his left hand.

Having sat talking in the drizzle, I put my helmet on my wet head, struggled to get my gloves onto my wet hands and rode up the hill looking for where the rain was flogging, flogging flogging into huge puddles so I could enjoy it fully.

I didn’t seen any floggings, not even a light scourging, and the puddles were no huger than previously noted. By Mundrabilla, the rain had stopped, and the sun began poking through. When I stopped for lunch at Eucla, I sat in sunshine at a table outside the café.

The attendant at the Eucla servo remembered the Three Amigos pulling in a couple of weeks previously, and asked where my companions were. I told her that I had killed them and buried their bodies in the desert. Then, despite the sunshine, I put my wets back on and headed east.

The drizzle came back shortly after I passed through Border Village. It was cold and sticky and windblown. There was a beautiful double rainbow to my right, sunshine on my left, and cold sticky drizzle in the middle.

At one point, the road turned so that it appeared to pass between the first and second bows, but the thought of the tedium of stopping, taking my gloves off, getting the camera out and reversing the process in the drizzle prevented me from taking the photo I now wish I had taken.

I learned that when conditions turn bad, I don’t do the fun things, I just keep riding.

Past the border, there are distance markers every kilometre on the left side, and every five kilometres on the right side. Those on the right back markers counting the distance to the border, and so they have odd numberings 4’s and 9’s or 8’s and 3’s. In this way, the SA Government has saved an absolute fortune in not putting up an extra post every five kilometres.

As Nullarbor came closer, the weather cleared for long periods, then there was a brief shower, then clear, and I was vacillating over putting up my tent. Huey forced the decision by dumping a shower of rain on me as I turned into the drive at Nullarbor.

I paid $115 for a bed in a cabin. This was a motel room without a bathroom, so I would have to use the public toilets and showers. The second bit was ok, but the price, like the price of everything on the Nullarbor, took some swallowing.

I swallowed hard and parked Lola and Tilly outside Cabin A.

Lola and Tilly outside my room for the night.

Lola and Tilly outside my room for the night

The cabin had a double bed, two double bunks, fridge, and television, a single bar radiator and a fan. Tea, coffee, sugar and kettle, but no water. I debated whether to buy water to make ersatz, or to buy coffee in the morning. Paying so much for a room makes you think like that.

To dry my gear, I turned on the radiator and hung my gear on a collection of chairs and placed the fan so that it would blow (slightly) warmed air over the gear.

I ordered a steak sandwich (low price) for dinner. It had a great piece of meat in it. Had I been able to afford to order a steak, I’m sure that I would have enjoyed it. I ordered a beer at the bar (just one at $8.50), to console myself. There was a football game on the television, two teams who thought that they were playing in a square ring… I finished my beer and braved the cold to get back to my cabin, and slept the sleep of the dead.

Saturday June 18

I couldn’t tell, when I woke, whether the rushing sound I could hear was the fan still running or rain outside. I was so pleased when I looked out the window to see rain splashing in puddles. I thought Huey might have forgotten me.

He is a complex one though. The rain had a golden tint, and when I looked to the east, I saw this.

The sunrise at Nullarbor Roadhouse.

The sunrise at Nullarbor Roadhouse. They specialise in them

Thus cheered, I reassembled my now dry riding gear, packed, breakfasted and went to the pumps to fill Lola. While there I heard a Harley pull in. I talked with the rider for a while. He was heading west. The rain behind him wasn’t heavy, but persistent. Oh good. I hate inconsistency. He said that this was his first crossing in winter, and that he was taken by how vivid the colours were in the wet. I agreed, there are consolations.

I turned to ride away and saw the triple warning sign at the end of the yard. Remembering that we had passed up an opportunity to get a photo under it on the forward part of the ride, I took the opportunity to park Lola in front of it.

Lola and Tilly in front of the triple warning sign at Nullarbor Roadhouse

Lola and Tilly in front of the triple warning sign at Nullarbor Roadhouse

Taking the photo took seconds. Taking my helmet and gloves off and putting them back on took all up over five minutes in the drizzle. Maybe I was justified in missing the shot of the rainbow yesterday.

Then back onto the highway. Slowly up to speed, feeling the road and watching for puddles.

Today became a transit stage. While I would deny being destination driven, my mind was set on the next stop, Nundroo. The slowly increasing tree height as I travelled marked my progress. We passed Yalata, where there is no longer a roadhouse because the existing one is full of asbestos, and nobody will pay to have it safely demolished the build a new one.

There is no premium fuel at Nundroo, but I would pick up half a tank of standard because that’s what you do on the Nullarbor. Nundroo roadhouse has seen better days. The tavern there closed before I first visited it, the showers are salty bore water, the restaurant and bar struggle. It seems to be there only because it would leave too big a gap were it to close.

Just as I got my gear back on, a bloke came up to ask me about the bike. I apologised that I had ear plugs in and could not hear him (a shorthand; I could hear him, but I could barely make out words), he waved thumbs up and I rode back into the drizzle.

At some stage the road surface has been repaired by having the hump in the middle removed, and a new surface put down near, but not exactly at the level of the rest of the road. It looks cool having a stripe of red gravelled tarmac down the middle of the gold, but the edge of the join is either under Lola’s rear wheel or under one or other of Tilly’s wheels, and that makes them wander.

The view widens through here. Slow rolling green hills dotted with sheep and eventually glimpses of the sea tantalise.

Again the weather cleared as we progressed. It was almost fine by the time we stopped at the quarantine station at Ceduna to declare that we had not so much as a fruit tingle on board.

Every time I have stopped in Ceduna for lunch, I have eaten at the same place. I decided to try to find somewhere different, if not better. Ceduna is a fair sized town, there must be more than one café…

After lapping several blocks I parked Lola outside the same place. The thought of a piece of grilled fish and some salad had been in me for some time. But fish and chips was cheaper. At least the coffee was good.

A young boy came in all excited to ask me what kind of bike that was out there. I told him it was a Can Am Spyder, and he repeated it to be sure he had it, then ran outside to tell his mates.

As I was preparing to leave, a bloke came in to say that he had takes some photos of my bike and asked if that was ok. It turned out that he and his partner had been stranded in Ceduna for a week when his Harley had blown a head gasket. Nobody in town could repair it, apparently, so it was to be shipped to Melbourne. Gee, I thought that finding someone to repair a Spyder was difficult.

We talked for a while about Spyders and Harleys and trikes. He was obviously in need of somebody to talk bike with. Eventually that destination drive kicked in and, despite the sunshine, I put my wet gear back on and rode to the servo. The attendant in the servo remembered me and asked about my ride. Where had I been? Where was I going? How long would it take?…

I put my wet weather gear back on as it began to drizzle and turned for the highway. The forecast over the past couple of days had said that Wudinna would be fine tonight and tomorrow. The rain had mostly cleared, the road was mostly dry, the sky was low and overcast…

I decided to go for hard accommodation again. Standing in the queue at the counter, I heard the person in front of me say that they were from Cookernup in Western Australia. That was (relatively) near where I had been staying with Miss Vikki. It seemed so close for a while.

I got a single room and began unpacking. Huey backed my decision by raining while I ferried my gear in. I’m becoming something of a Wudinna frequent flyer. I have stayed here both ways on each of three Nullarbor crossings. I have a favourite dish on the menu (lamb pot pie), and I know the manager by name…

I got my washing done and went to dinner. I thought that I recognised the man at the table near me. He was the bloke who had approached me at Nundroo. We talked for a while about my bike, about our travels, and about their lives. They are grain farmers from the South West. I was close to Miss Vikki and the boys again.

Tomorrow they will head to Peterborough, I will head to Broken Hill. In fine weather, I am assured. We’ll see…

Sunday June 19

In an act of faith that, in another jurisdiction, would have earned me a sainthood, I put my wet weather boot and overgloves away when I packed. The forecast was for a fine (met talk for not actually raining) day, there were patches of blue among the clouds, and I *so* wanted it to be fine.

I pulled out onto the Eyre heading east and hoped. It had rained overnight, there were still puddles and wet patches, but I could see an edge to the cloud, and what seemed to be, to my vague recall, to be sunlight on distant hills. I rode towards them with growing anticipation.

Around Kimba, the road climbs over some small hills. The wide views of green stretching to distant hills had several sunny patched among them. In a short while, I could feel sunshine on me and see the sparkle where it struck wet leaves. It might actually happen.

Filled with optimism, I decided to not fill Lola’s tank. I calculated that I had enough fuel to reach Port Augusta, and I could use my emergency 10 litres if I ran short. The sunshine came and went, but always seemed to be increasing. The rain began to be a thing that had happened before.

I watched the bars on the fuel gauge disappear as I approached Port Augusta. I checked the trip meter several times, and planned a stop by the side of the road when Lola coughed and died. And the sunshine kept appearing.

The last bar disappeared just a I came to the PA 19 distance marker. I was pretty sure that I had 30km in the tank after that, but I was pleased to have a tailwind…

I stopped at the first servo I saw, and put 21.40 litres into Lola’s 25 litre tank. At our current average of around 12km/l, I could still have gone a further 42km, but I would have been a nervous wreck. Nice to know though, that there is a 60km buffer.

It was just 12 o’clock. I decided to push on to Wilmington or to Orroroo for lunch. I don’t know why, but I don’t find Port Augusta a good place to stop. I’ve had a couple of good meals there, but it felt that I had lucked upon a good spot rather than chosen from a range.

So over the new bridge, looking at the old bridge as I pass, over the causeway and down the highway. I got into a queue behind a caravan and passed it in my turn. A couple of kilometres further on was the turn for Wilmington.

I turned, and was immediately struck by the view of the low cloud on the hills, so I pulled over to take some photos,

Low cloud on the hills at the Wilmington turnoff

Low cloud on the hills at the Wilmington turnoff

and the caravan passed me. Oh well…

The road starts out straight with some sweeping bends, but soon tightens up and begins to climb. This is Horrocks Pass, the road that Jorge didn’t want to ride down. It is a great road. It has scenery, history and is a scratcher’s delight. Unless you are following a caravan.

After a while, the caravan pulled into a lay by to let me and the car behind him pass. I expected said car to pick up the pace, but he seemed happy to toddle along at 50 to 60, and with few passing options, I sat behind him and enjoyed the scenery and the history.

At the crest of the range, he must have discovered the other five gears, and took off down the hill. I made myself hang back. It’s not a race, and enjoyed the road at a comfortable pace.

The cloud that had sat on the hill covered the sky on this side of the hills. It wasn’t raining though…

Wilmington didn’t have much on offer when I arrived, so I rolled through and took the turn to Orroroo just out of town.

I don’t know why, but I like Orroroo a lot. Maybe its history, maybe the style of the town, the number of great old buildings still standing, or maybe the people. I did a lap of the block and settled on Maggie’s Rendezvous Café. I had eaten here before, and found the food good and the staff friendly. It was nice and busy, always a sign of a good café. A roo burger and a long black filled the gap, and I returned to Lola ready to push on to our stop for the night.

At the Peterborough turn, a cold drizzle appeared from low cloud. Without hesitation I pulled over and put my overboot and overgloves on. The rain might only last a few minutes, but being cold and wet will last for hours.

I added up the hours since I had last ridden in rain, and did not get to 24. I recalled a character in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy who was a rain god. He didn’t know it, of course, but the clouds loved him and followed him everywhere, raining their devotion on him. I wondered if I had somehow assumed that mantle.

The rain eased as I rode south to Peterborough, then resumed as I turned north up the Barrier Highway towards Olary, my planned stop for the night.

I had been intent on reaching Broken Hill, but a check of the distance for the day made Olary seem more sensible.

I recall Olary from my first Nullarbor crossing. There was a pub, a street beside it, and a railway siding. According to Wikicamps, the free camp across the road from the pub was a good stop, and I had intended to put up my tent there. In the forecast dry weather.

I passed several oversize loads on the way south. The army, presumably our army, was moving some tanks along this road on low loaders. They were quite wide, a lane and a half at least, and I wondered how they would get around on their own through narrow cuttings in the ranges

My next stop was Yunta for fuel. It was drizzling lightly when I arrived at the servo. In the Road train area next to the servo, several more tanks on low loaders waited for their escort vehicles. I filled Lola’s tank, and watched the rain making ripples in the puddles.

I noted that I had passed a pub as I came into town, and decided to avoid possible difficulties 77km up the road by stopping there for the night.

I mentioned this to the bar attendant and she asked if the Olary pub was open. I felt my luck had improved, even if the weather hadn’t, and moved my gear into my room for the night.

My room in the Yunta hotel.

My room in the Yunta hotel.

Several people came in to the bar and spoke of closed roads in the area. They were dirt roads, but it raised doubt in my mind about my proposed route through Broken Hill. Unfortunately, the Live Traffic website which showed a flood alert along my intended route hadn’t been updated since Friday. “Live” means in business hours, of course, nobody travels at other times.

Tomorrow will be a deciding day. To go on, to wait a day or two, or to backtrack, depending on the update to the flood alert.

Monday June 20

All was quiet when I woke. I showered, packed Lola and headed out onto the highway to start another day on the road.

Just out of town I saw these interesting hills.

An interesting range of hills to the north of Yunta.

An interesting range of hills to the north of Yunta

And while I was stopped, I saw that Huey was sending encouraging signs to me.

Clear sky beyond the base of the cloud. A hopeful sign as I left Yunta.

Clear sky beyond the base of the cloud. A hopeful sign as I left Yunta

Then I reminded myself that taking photos was not going, and going was what I was supposed to be doing. I was starting 77km behind, not that there was a schedule, but…

One of the people in the pub last night was a local sheep farmer. I noticed a flock of sheep and briefly worried that they would become a problem. Then I saw the fence and relaxed. Then I saw a couple of sheep cross the road in front of me. Maybe sheep can jump fences.

I was interested to see where I was supposed to have camped the night before at Olary. I recall the town as I approach, and look across the road from the pub at the rest area. It was still fairly full of campervans and caravans. I would have had a lot of company.

I roll through town and into wide open country. I began to notice goats on the side of the road. I notice that as I approach, they move away. Sheep will stay on the side (or in the middle) of the road and get hit. Kangaroos will jump out despite an oncoming threat. Goats seemed pretty safe.

And then emus. The whole menagerie is out today! The road climbs over several ridges, and the scenery changes slowly, I love that.

In South Australia they take water conservation seriously. Most of the creeks are red ditches with gravel or sand in the bottom, and dams are used for keeping mud. But occasionally, a creek had water in it. Red water, of course, and it was so rare at to be noticeable.

I am taken by the contrast dark green of recently watered plants against the brilliant red soil. I find myself looking for green so that I can see that contrast again.

As the road heads more eastward, the strong crosswind becomes a strong tailwind. The grey lifts from the sky, and I begin to hope for a dry ride, perhaps even a dry night so I can put up my tent.

I come into Cockburn, which I am sure that they pronounce differently, and slow to see what little there is in the town. On my way out I get a cheery wave from a woman at the Border Gate cafe. I didn’t see any sign of a gate.

The road climbs a low hill and dips onto a large plain. My last long look at green on red. I soak it in while watching a line of hills looming. When they arrive, it is like finding the corner at the end of the Ninety Mile straight (though it has only been six). I feel sure that I will run wide and collect the ute coming the other way.

But thankfully my cornering skills haven’t deserted me, and I enjoy swinging through the bends until I notice the goats clustered in the green hollows beside the road. Some skip and jump, but none comes out onto the road. Down the other side of the hills I see more ridges ahead. I am approaching Broken Hill.

I am very surprised to see the large solar power installation beside the highway. I recall some dispute that resulted in a solar plant here being closed down in favour of a diesel generator. My inner geek wants to turn off for a look, but I am still behind my lack of schedule, and put that on my next time list.

Into town and past a few familiar looking buildings and monuments. Pit heads stand incongruously in parks surrounded by suburbia. I am clinging to the road that has infrequent signs pointing to Wilcannia, Cobar, or, very occasionally,Sydney.

I’ve ridden through here a few times and stayed here twice, the last time was on my first run to the Numbat. The town sprawls, though it is mostly laid out on a grid, and it is easy to be heading the right direction a block or two away from the right road, and not find out until the road you are on ends unexpextedly.

Lola needs fuel, and I stop at the first servo I see. There is a short queue of 4WDs and camper trailers, all covered in red mud. After filling up, I get a coffee and an apple then check the weather map. It looks fine here, but I will be riding into rain. I put my wet weather gear back on and head east.

The town dwindles rapidly, the soil is more yellow than red, and the plants more grey than green, the hills that were broken subside and the road meanders across a wide plain. The Darling river is not far to the south, but there is no sign of it, and no signs to it.

I have been quite warm, almost sweating, for the past hour or so, but I feel the cold creeping in at around the time that I see the low dark clouds ahead. When the road turns north, I am heartened that I might ride around the rain. Then it turns back and I am heading straight for it.

Little Topar lives up to its name and passes as quickly as it came. I don’t see any signs of Big Topar. Wilcannia is my next stop, fuel and lunch and a good look at the weather map.

As I approach Wilcannia there are puddles around but the road is dry. I can’t tell if it was a shower or if it has rained all night. I find the servo and ask at the counter while I am paying for my fuel. It had rained a few hours before, but it was expected to stay clear. Over lunch I look again at the weather map, and see rain ahead. I know that weather travels east at about 50 km/h, and I am travelling east at about 100 km/h. I resign myself to riding into it somewhere, and will just enjoy the fine weather while it lasts.

I find Wilcannia a sad place. Once prosperous with many grand buildings and laid out on a well refined grid, it now seems like the people who live here are stuck here. Most public buildings and many houses have bars on the windows. The supermarket across the road struggles to display its posters through the metal grid covering the windows.

My very good steak sandwich and coffee have done their bit and I have to resume my ride. While I am dressing, a crowd of excited boys ask how fast my bike goes, is it loud, where I am going, where have I been… They have their fantasies of leaving.

I very soon ride into drizzle. Considering how much rain I have seen, and how little this is, I am surprised how fast my mood sinks. I fix my thoughts on getting to Cobar. If it is wet then I will stay in a pub, if not, then I will camp. It could go either way.

This is a long stretch, and even with a tailwind, lola will need fuel when we get to Cobar. I consider stopping at Emmdale on the way for a top up, but talk myself out of it. I have to trust Lola and my knowledge. We will get into Cobar on the last bar on the fuel gauge.

The low scrub beside the road grows taller and more lush almost without me noticing. There are fenced paddocks now with sheep and cattle in them grazing on impossibly green grass. I am gaining slowly on a car, a small 4WD. As we approach a forested area, and I am planning my passing move, several kangaroos cross the road ahead. While I want to get to Cobar before nightfall, I want to ride there on Lola, not in an ambulance, and I decide to stay behind the car for a while.

I take the oportunity of riding at a reduced pace to look around more. Low rolling hills are covered in grass or trees. It looks like prime grazing land. Several grand gates to properties stand out from the land. The house belonging to each is not in sight.

A larger 4WD towing a trailer comes up behind, sits for a while and then pulls out to pass. I decide to pull out behind him and get a faster shielded ride into town. When we are safely past my cast off friend, I look down at the speedo and am shocked to see 140 km/h. That is way too fast to be towing a trailer, and way to fast for me to avoid anything furry that might appear from underneath my fearless leader, not to mention what it will consume in fuel. I roll off the throttle and settle back to 100 km/h.

I have passed through several showers of rain, some heavy but brief. It is concerning that the temperature drops suddenly as each one comes, and that the wind swings around. On each rise I look ahead and see low dark cloud on the horizon. I begin to read the billboards for motels and hotels in town. Most claim to have low rates, but my experience in Cobar is that a donga in the pub cost $120, and a motel will cost more. There is a sign for a caravan park. I will try to find it, and see if they have a cabin at a reasonable rate.

Up ahead I see a puddle on the road. It looks like I can ride around it. Almost too late I see that it covers the road. My intended path around was a reflection of dark trees, not dry road. I brake hard but release before Lola’s front wheels enter the water. We are still doing about 80 km/h. Water leaps up, drenches me and washes the inside of the windscreen. We slow so violently that I have to push back on the handlebars to stop sliding forward. I change down three gears and we roll through about a foot of water for about 30 metres. Yow!

As we accelerate on the road beyond the lake, I try the brakes and they respond fine. Lola is running ok, no hint of wet ignition. All is well. I now see that the last bar has disappeared from the fuel gauge. We should be only about 10 km out of town, but shaken, I am happy to ride slowly. A few kilometres further on we cross another minor river. This one not so deep and in plain sight. It sure must have been wet around here.

The van park that I saw the ad for was on the edge of town. I decided to try there first. There was a bit of a queue outside the office, including the 4WD that had flown past us. While I was standing in line inside, I saw the news of the flooding around Dubbo, and decided to take a cabin for the night. It was $110, but I had ridden all day to get there, and stood for half an hour to find that out, so I paid for it, took my complimentary bottle of milk and went in search of my cabin.

It was getting dark by now. The cabins were not lit, and I couldn’t see the numbers. I stopped outside one and tried my key. No good. I was heading to the next one to try when a rather frazzled dad pulled into the drive behind Lola and let me know that I was at his cabin. Now I had to get him to back out so that I could back Lola out to ride the ten metres to the next cabin. Of course Tilly swung around going over the kerb, so I had to straighten up and have another attempt Couldn’t we have just swapped keys?

My key unlocked the second cabin, but the sliding door was stuck. After tugging uselessly at it for a while, I tried pushing it closed. It clicked and then slid roughly open. Inside, one chair at the table had screws hanging out of its back, clearly unable to support any weight. I had paid $110 for this. As I unloaded Lola, I thought about where I might eat in town and decided that I had tuna and noodles with me, and a gas stove, saucepans and plates in the cabin, so I would eat here,save a dollar and watch the news to find out about the flooding.

I learned that roads were closed to the east and south, that there was wild weather on the coast, and that snow was forecast for the ranges. I thought hard about staying a day or two while the weather eased. My failure at this when I had been at Miss Vikki’s loomed, and the thought of spending another couple of hundred dollars while I waited put me off the idea completely. I would see what I could find out about the road north tomorrow and decide then what to do.

Tuesday June 21

Morning was grey and unpromising. I found the Cobar police station and asked there about the road north. They had no reports of closures, and the officer I spoke with said that he had driven in from 20 km up that road and seen water in low spots off the road, but the road was open. The weather map showed more rain to the south and east, so I decided to head north. I’d go to Bourke, Brewarrina, Walgett and on to Moree. From Moree I could follow the border to the coast and ride behind the bad weather.

Hats off to the Wobbly Boots!

I like the Hat Rally. I do it most years. It is special to me for a couple of reasons; my good mates Brian and the late Philbert have their birthday in the same week, and the rally is usually a party for them.

This year it was special for a different reason. I joined the Wobbly Boot Tourers a while back as they seemed to have the right stuff, and this year they showed that they did by taking on the organisation of the Hat Rally.

I rode there this year on the Friday from a mate’s place in Bega. It is a beautiful ride up the Princes Highway to Batemans Bay, and then up the Kings Highway to Braidwood. There were some roadworks on the Kings. Quite a bit has been done following the landslides that closed it a while back, and more is being done now to straighten out some of the more dangerous bends.

I met a couple of Wobbly’s in Braidwood when I stopped for supplies (Stones). They were chatting with a couple who were setting up the local Op-Shop.

The run down to Araluen from Braidwood is magic. It has two distinct parts. The run out of town is fast and open over rolling hills in grazing country. There are a couple of tricky bends, like the two at the three bridges, but many riders test their bike’s throttle stop on this part. Then abruptly the road becomes narrow, steep and tight. The Ducati riders love it. I take the opportunity to look into steep green gullies and the occasional wide vista as the road switches back at the end of a ridge.

I arrived at the Araluen Hotel just in time to miss lunch. Oh well, a couple of pies would hold a couple of beers while I chatted with some more Woobly Booters on the verandah in the afternoon sun.

There were already about 50 riders at the site when I arrived. The control tent had been moved from its previous usual location beside the road to a grassy area. I found a place among the Wobbly tents and set mine up, while chatting with some Spyder riding friends.

My bike and tent set up at the rally site.

Lola and chez pogo


Another change from the previous arrangements at the rally was the welcoming Margarita. Not your usual rally tipple, but made with home made tequila to a variable recipe, it certainly had the desired effect.
Makings for a margarita

The margarita factory


By Saturday afternoon, the crowd had grown somewhat.
Saturday
And the Wobblies had got into party mode.
Wobblyboot members sitting at the fire

Wobblies to the left of me

Wobblyboot members sitting at the fire

Wobblies to the right


Wood was gathered for the fire,
A tree root beside the fire

This tree root burned all night


And some campcraft skills were displayed
A seat built on a log.

A camp stool built on a log

I had dinner at the pub that night and missed the camp antics. By the time I was ready to leave on Sunday morning after rising at gentleman’s hours, the camp was nearly empty.

Next year the Wobblies will do it again. Some things will change, some will stay, but it will be a rally and I will be there.

Mambo number five (six)

One, two, three, four, five… Lou Bega’s song captures the flow as well as the fun, though rallying isn’t the same as cruising to a party with a car full of lovelies.

My year started well with the New Year Rally at Wee Jasper, then after a pause for breath, the Karuah River, the Cold Flame, the Autumn Leaf and the Loaded Dog.

Outrunning Lou and stretching my budget a bit, I added the Ruptured Budgie last weekend.

The Karuah River is a more back-to-basics rally, though the NSW BMW Club provides catering. I took a friend from long ago with me and, as a bonus, The Pudding was there, so she was able to hold a piece of motorcycling history.

The Cold Flame is seriously back-to-basics. Held at the junction of the Pinch River and the Snowy River about 40 km south from Jindabyne, you bring everything you need and you take it out again. The scenery is stunning and the road has great history.

On the way out I discovered that the bolts holding Lola’s number plate had shaken loose on the dirt road and so I spent an hour or so in Jindabyne making repairs.

The Autumn Leaf is a party rally, and Nature came to the party with a spectacular hailstorm. We were treated to a brilliant lightning show while pea sized hail covered the ground. It had melted away by the time that the planned party got under way, and the gymkhana went ahead with full frivolity.

Tarago is an ancient Aboriginal word for howling gale. I guyed my tent to a tree when I put it up. When I was sheltering in it on Sunday morning, trying to get my toast and coffee made, Huey turned up the knob. My tent collapsed around me breaking all three poles and ripping the fly in several places, most of them Tarago.

The Saturday night had been wonderful. I danced to a great band with some brilliant partners including the beautiful and talented http:// www.onherbike.com Kinga Tanajewska .

Riding out on Sunday morning we were shocked to find that a mate had been blown off the road by the wind! Both he and his bike were ok though and after some effort the bike was brought back onto the road and he could continue.

A couple of weeks back an aigor member died, and several members planned to attend the Ruptured Budgie Rally to farewell him. Alongside this, my brother contacted me asking if I was going to attend the Ruptured. I wasn’t, it was outside my budget, but budgets are made to be broken and so I planned a run up to the Budgie.

On the road north of Tamworth I met Dave who had ridden from Bathurst and was aiming to stay at Uralla. Dave was great company and fitted well into our group at the rally.

With a bottle of Stones in my pocket and some classic rock on the PA, I danced until very silly o’clock on Friday night, and even sillier o’clock with the lovely Emma on Saturday.

Huey turned on a mix of weather for our ride out on Sunday, but couldn’t dampen our spirits. Lunch at Aratula was fun filled, and the gradual decline into suburbia made tolerable by good memories.

Thanks to Lou Bega for the script. I can hardly wait for the next verse to begin.

Allez-oop!

Yep. Last year was pretty quiet. I covered just over 15000 km and attended only 7 rallies, pretty poor compared to when I was a wage slave, and averaged 25 to 30 thousand and 20 to 25 rallies, let alone the year I was set free and covered 50000 km including my first Numbat.

A distinct lack of rally tokens, leading to a distinct lack of motivation probably caused a downward spiral. Every time I thought that I could get away, something bit me in the wallet and I stayed home for another weekend.

But I set out to make a change this year, starting with the New Year Rally at Micalong Creek.

It is an almost perfect way to start the year. Riding in the area is beautiful. Great roads in stunning scenery. The site was nice and green this year, and the creek as always was perfect for sitting in while drinking beer.

SwimmingHole

I rode down the Yoom to Yass, after a later than planned start. I found lunch at the Royal Hotel (a very good steak sandwich) and picked up some supplies for the evening at their bottle-o.

I had planned to stay until the weekend, making a daily pilgrimage to The Stables Tavern in Wee Jasper for ice and one good meal a day, but the pub is closed “for renovations”, so my stay was curtailed.

I found plenty of shade to erect chez Pogo. I had passed up the chance to buy 5 kg of ice in Yass, thinking it a waste when I needed so little. Now I went on the scrounge, but couldn’t get even a handful. Davo kindly offered to put my champagne in his esky, and I hoped that my beer would stay cool enough in the shade.

ChezPogo

I chatted with Al and Shirley while sitting in the creek and drinking my beer. Al practised skipping stones, and I learned that Shirley had grown up in my area.

I wandered back to camp and joined Tony, Dave, Bruce, RobL, Al and Shirley for bees and chickies while the evening cooled, then the group broke up to cook their meals.

Evening2 Evening1

It was good too to catch up with Tamo, starting the year well and looking well for it.

The evening slid by agreeably until a chorus of countdowns alerted us to the approach of midnight. Corks popped and champagne flowed, sealing best wishes and resolutions all round.

I had a very pleasant chat with a backpacker from York who told me about the hoops that she had to jump through to be able to stay in Australia. There followed a certain amount of sitting in a group on the road and talking shite until it was very late.

I woke about 9, none the worse for wear, had my traditional rally breakfast of Vegemite toast and coffee and packed slowly for the ride home.

I had attempted to record the ride in over the Murrumbidgee, but my camera had stopped after just a few seconds. So I set it up carefully to try to capture the ride out. The video isn’t great, but it was good to be able to relive part of the ride when I eventually got home.

I rode back to Yass, and took the Yass Valley Way east to stay off the freeway for a while longer. I turned off again at Gunning, and followed the old highway through to Breadalbane where joining the Yoom is compulsory.

I got fuel at Goulburn, and spent a few minutes looking for why Lola had dropped coolant on the drive when we had stopped. The coolant tank cap was loose, but the amount lost seemed small, so I tightened the cap and continued  up through Taralga to Oberon, stopping for a break at Black Springs.

Oberon to O’Connell, Tarana, Sodwalls, around Lake Lyell to South Bowenfells (fuel stop), into Lithgow and along Bells Line finished the ride in style. Just over 900 km for the weekend, with a lot of great roads, beautiful scenery and good friends met along the way.

All I have to do is keep going. I plan to do one rally a month for the year. Not up to my fighting best, but hopefully better than 2014.

Allez-oop!

Murphy and Markov

Murphy’s law says that if something can go wrong it will, and usually at the worst possible moment.
We like it because it doesn’t place blame, it says that things go wrong just because.
Markov is less popular. He says that when things go wrong there is a cause. If you look back you can see a chain of events that led to the failure.
These two gentlemen were in my thoughts as I sat on Lola in the driveway of the servo at Walcha wondering why she would not start.
She was in gear, and will not start unless the brake was applied. I had applied the brake. She still would not start.
I found that she had no brake lights. If the brake light does not come on, Nanny does not think that the brakes are applied and will not let the engine start.
I found that the fuse for the brake lights (and other things) had blown, and replaced it with my spare, which blew… I stepped around the problem. I used a spanner to change into neutral so I could start the engine and rode home without brake lights (and other things).
At home I found that the wiring for the trailer had fallen onto Lola’s drive belt, and the drive belt had cut through it, shorting the wiring and blowing the fuse (s).
If I had used a wiring isolator then the isolator fuse would have blown, protecting the bike fuses.
I had bypassed the isolator when I fitted the trailer because I found that it was faulty, the tail lights would not come on…
I disconnected the trailer wiring and replaced the fuse, and Lola’s brake lights (and other things) worked.
I found that the tail light wire from the isolator was broken. When I repaired it and fitted it to Lola, it worked fine.
We like Murphy because he doesn’t apply blame. But if  we looked ahead through Markov’s eyes, Murphy wouldn’t get a mention.