Saturday, 13 April 2013

Ride Canberra to the Ulysses AGM in Maryborough

As much as I enjoyed the National Folk Festival, after six days living at Canberra’s EPIC centre, I was happy to be on the road again. Unfortunately my reverie was short lived. When we pulled into a local fuel station there was a problem with the payment mechanism; no one was moving. Steve stood with his arms folded while we waited fifteen minutes for the driver of the car in front to appear. When it was my turn to hand over the money, some dude was trying to pay with a debit card that didn’t have enough money on it. By now Steve was gesticulating to me through the window. His arms seemed to be waving all over the place so I said to the attendant “is the pump working?” “Yep, that’s $32, thanks.” I paid up and marched out to see what was wrong. “Where is the water?” he demanded. Water provides some moveable ballast for Devil’s (F650GS) panniers and I held the key. When we pulled out of the fuel station we were both a little agitated and I forgot to put my sunglasses on. Five hundred meters later we were stopped on the side of the road; take two.

Steve quickly redeemed himself by finding some back roads and took us on a wonderful ride all the way to Goulburn. A wrong turn somewhere on the approach to town and we found ourselves at the Goulburn bakery, eating custard tarts and asking “how do we get out of here?” In between making cups of coffee, the manager drew us a mud map on a paper pie bag and our passage was made easy.

As we approached Oberon we came across a nasty piece of road works. They had just laid thick gravel all over the road and then proceeded to escort us to the other side before the dirt had been compacted. I tried to ride in the thin tyre track made by the escort ute. I felt myself tensing up every time Devil crept into some of the thick stuff. I managed to keep going but the escort vehicle was going too slow for Dwarfie (R1200GS) and he had to stop, ankle deep in mud. I haven’t been so pleased to make it through a stretch of road words for a long time.

The towns high up in the mountains are beautiful and Oberon was no exception. We made tea, and watched the world go by while we sat on a park bench right in the middle of town. Unfortunately we couldn’t stop for long as we were heading to Katoomba and there was still some riding to do.

As we rode on, the views of the Blue Mountains in the east were simply stunning. I kept saying “wow,” and when I considered how close we were to Sydney I said “wow” again.

Katoomba, misty one day, raining the next.
What we didn’t know, when we paid for three nights accommodation at the caravan park at Katoomba, was by the following morning the fog would roll in and we weren’t going to see anything of The Three Sisters, or any of the spectacular scenery. After two days stuck in the tent, with the wet towels and jackets, I couldn’t wait to get out of the place. Steve didn’t dare suggest we stay another day. We made do with a quick glimpse of the mountains as we rode the scenic route back out onto the highway.

Lithgow was soon just a dot in our rear view mirrors and we were on the road to Mudgee. We turned off towards Rylstone and the quiet back road was a delight to cruise along. At one stage we came across a horseman mustering a herd of cattle. Devil slowed to a crawl and I felt a swell of importance when the cows seemed to think I was part of the muster team and they moved obligingly to the side of the road. The run through the Goulburn River National Park was slow but rewarding and it was 3pm before we arrived in Muswellbrook. A quick pit stop and we were back on the road again for the nonstop ride to Tamworth. Half an hour before sunset the tent was up, the weather was dry and we were happy.

The mandatory stop at the Golden Guitar.
Unfortunately the caravan park we chose was a construction site by day. On Saturday night the barbeque area was taken over by a group participating in a Variety Bash. Thankfully Sunday arrived, Variety left town and the caravan park fell quiet again.

While we were looking for things to do in the Tamworth Visitors Centre, Steve spotted a poster for our favourite comedian. Ross Noble was performing at the Town Hall on Sunday night. We bought tickets ten rows from the front; amazing. Why Ross plays in such small venues could be something to do with the DVD market. I’m sure the Tamworth Show will be available in store soon.

The Tenterfield Saddler.
From Tamworth we took the New England Highway in search of the Tenterfield Saddler. We found Tenterfield but the saddlery was closed for renovations. I still took a moment to sit on the veranda and remember Peter Allen’s grandfather, George Woolnough, who was made famous in the song.

By now daylight saving seemed to be a distant memory and we missed the longer evenings immensely. Living in a tent we prefer to have the daylight at the end of the day rather than the beginning. The beauty of the high country had brought with it bouts of mist and showers and the summer weather we had enjoyed so much seemed to be gone forever.

We like to avoid rain on ride days and we left Tenterfield with a smile on our faces and a clear forecast up our sleeve. All the Australian states seem to have quite distinctive architectural styles and nothing is quite as striking as the beautiful Queenslander houses. As I ride on by I like to dream about a romantic life on the land.

Bald Rock National Park.
Because of the incredible damage caused by the floods, there were road works everywhere as we headed northwards towards Kingaroy. At one stage we were stopped in the Lockyer Valley waiting for our turn to traverse. I looked up to my left and I was shocked to see the most unstable looking cliff face I have ever encountered. It was the type of thing you might find in a third world country but not Australia.

When the clouds gathered and a few spots of rain appeared on our visors, Steve pulled over and said “what do you reckon?” We chose not to put on our wet weather gear and five minutes later a short, tropical shower made us realise we had made an error of judgement. Steve stopped again and we both agreed that our gear would blow dry in no time at 100km hour. The only trouble was we kept riding in and out of the same rain cloud as the road twisted and turned. By the time we reached the day’s final set of road works we were soaked through. Once again the tent was full of wet clothes trying to dry out; next time we’ll be wearing the wet weather gear.

On Monday 15th April we will leave Kingaroy, the peanut capital of Australia, and ride to Maryborough for the Ulysses AGM; motorbikes and friendship – we are looking forward to that.

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