Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Ride Bright to Perth

Last of the twisties, Germein Gorge
We weren't trying to break any records on our ride home to Perth and we rode away from Bright in search of the English custard tart. On previous rides in South Australia we had found many bakeries making custard tarts the English way (4 eggs, 1pt milk, 1tbsp sugar, nutmeg). This year, as we peered in the bakery window of every town we passed through, and sampled a custard tart or two, it seemed that the English custard tart was now extinct.

When you are travelling you need to pay attention, and adjust your provisioning, when crossing the strict state boarder quarantine stations. We nearly got caught out at Pinnaroo but were cheerful to find out that washed potatoes, carrots and corn (without the husk) are no worries (different quarantine ports have different restrictions).

Rest stop at Streaky Bay, on the way to Ceduna.
We overnighted at Swan Hill, then Strathalbyn, lunched in Harndorf and made camp at Kapunda. We wandered into the local hotel at Kapunda and leaned on an old wine barrel in The Kidman Room, enjoying $6 pints and listening to the local banter. We always have one eye on the weather and a forecast of 39deg at Port Augusta had us dialling the caravan park and booking a cabin for our single night at the head of Spencer Gulf

The cops were there to meet us as we rode into Ceduna and no matter how hard I tried I couldn't manage the breathalyser without taking my helmet off. Steve was asked to present his licence too but I was excused from that ritual. Fisheries and load checkers were also in attendance at the road block, which is manned 24/7, for two weeks, so no one can sneak through.

Nullabor Roadhouse
We rode west from Ceduna with the wind on our shoulders and the sun lighting the way, making the 300km ride to Nullarbor Roadhouse easily by mid morning. We remembered the whales as we passed the turn off to The Head of the Bight and I noticed that the sign read "open all year round." In November it can get very hot on The Nullarbor Plain, but we enjoyed a cool day in the desert and kept warm inside our winter gloves with a little assistance from the heated grips.

Great view and great lunch
We prepared ourselves a delicious lunch of cheese, dried fruit, nuts and biltong, overlooking The Great Australian Bight and rode into Eucla early afternoon. The attendant at the quarantine check point at Eucla just asked "tell us what's in each pannier" and did not request to see inside. However we were talking to a fellow traveller later in the afternoon and they recalled a time when they had to completely empty every cupboard in their caravan to prove they were not carrying any banned agricultural products.

Heading West from Eucla
We were away at first light for the 700km ride from Eucla to Norseman. At the first rest stop the winter gloves and fleeces were stowed away as the desert sun made her presence felt. We holed up at Cocklebiddy for awhile, drinking iced coffee on the veranda, and learning about the two wedge-tailed eagles that were being rehabilitated at the roadhouse after being injured in road accidents. Cocklebiddy is the home of the Wedgetail Inn, and behind the desk at reception is the acronym YCWCYATDDFTRFDTY. My curiosity got the better of me and it cost me $2 (for charity) to find out what it meant; if you want to know what it means you'll have to take a ride out to Cocklebiddy Roadhouse.

The caravan park at Norseman is comfortable and clean and it didn't take long to make camp and walk into town to The Norseman Hotel for a couple of pints and a good square meal of lamb chops, mashed potato and veg. Three German backpackers were dining at the pub too, they were on their way to six weeks work at Madura Station in exchange for full board and a little bit of money; I just hoped that the station manager was kind to them.

The persistent south easterly wind made the 780km ride from Norseman to home in Safety Bay an easy one and we were on the outskirts of the big smoke by 3pm. All of a sudden our journey of seventy days and 13,000 kilometers was coming to an end. Someone asked me was I "happy or sad?" to be going home. I pondered this question for many a mile while I was riding across The Nullarbor and I concluded that I was both happy and sad. Happy to enjoy some of the comforts of home, but sad to leave behind the freedom of life on the open road.
Payback for the Crests, Dips and Curves

Monday, 14 November 2016

BMW Clubs Australia Motorrad Rally 2016

Snow on Mt Hotham
We arrived one day early and were the first bikers to check into the Bright Holiday Park for the start of the BMW Clubs Australia Motorrad Rally.  On Friday we took advantage of the fine weather to lay a ghost to rest and rode up to Mt Hotham and beyond to Dinner Plain. Way back in 2007 we’d been caught out on the mountain in fog and thunder squalls and 40 knot winds. We tried again in 2008 but we turned back when we encountered cloud at 1000m. But on that Friday, in November 2016, we hit the jackpot, with clear skies, moderate winds and still a smattering of snow on the peaks.

Danny's  lookout, Mt Hotham
We were back in Bright by 1pm and hanging out at rally headquarters, enjoying a sausage sizzle and registering for the rally which was hosted by BMW Motorcycle Club Victoria (BMWMCCVIC).  I wasted no time attaching the rally pin to “The Next 100 Years” BMW cap and I wore that cap all weekend long. Back at our camp, on the banks of Morses Creek, you could hear the purr of the beamers as they rode into town and we knew we were in the right place.

Waiting for the ride start
On Saturday we were all at the meeting place ready for the selection of group rides on offer. The weather was starting to wobble, with mist on the hills, and I said to Steve, “Any whiff of rain and we should do our own thing.” We joined the Red Plod Ride (for red platers (historics), and those who feel like taking it easy). Our tail end Charlie gave a great ride briefing before we set off, with pointers like “don’t ride up the next bike’s exhaust pipe, as if they have a problem it will quickly become your problem.” Wise words, and this would have been well worth a mention at the start of The Barry Sheene Tribute Ride. By the time we made it to the top of Tawonga Gap a light drizzle misted our visors and then it rained, leaving no one in any doubt about the value of their wet weather gear.

Rally dinner
At the rally dinner, we narrowly missed out on the “longest distance travelled to the rally” prize with a biker from Darwin beating us by a couple of hundred kilometers and taking home a voucher for a set of continental tyres valued at $600.

Only the hardiest of souls turned out for Sunday’s group rides in the persistent rain. Most of us preferred to keep warm in the local coffee shops and bars, telling motorcycle war stories from the past and dreaming of great rides in the future.  Compass Expeditions entertained us on Sunday night with a movie length promo on one of their top shelf motorcycle journeys, Cairo to Cape Town. Sometimes you just have to accept things about yourself, and I would not be willing to spend the time to learn the skills, or suffer the hardship to be able to participate in this incredible motorcycle ride.

Great camp site on the Morses Creek
By Monday at 10am the motorbikes were gone and the caravan parks were empty. Weekends like this are a labour of love for the organising committee; Thanks to BMW Motorcycle Club Victoria for making it happen.


Friday, 11 November 2016

Melbourne to Bright

Sovereign Hill, Ballarat 
We knew Devil and Dwarf would be due new front tyres before we could make the run home to Perth and Steve diligently found a dealer and made a booking for the day we left Melbourne. We hustled with the morning city traffic and the bikes were parked at the service centre by  8:45am. Unfortunately they’d ordered the wrong size tyres and there was no quick fix. We’d missed the last call for Friday’s courier and Devil and Dwarf rode away from Melbourne, with their worn out tyres, in search of a more competent dealer.

Red Coats, Sovereign Hill 
This was an unsettling experience which we took with us all the way to Ballarat. The locals say “you don’t come to Ballarat for the weather,” and even though it was now late spring, we still found ourselves huddled in the camp kitchen, with maximum temperatures reaching only 15deg.

Stage coach, Sovereign Hill 
While in Ballarat, we took the opportunity to visit Sovereign Hill, a themed village set in the gold rush days of the 1850’s. Steve and I are not big on paid tourist attractions but this one was well worth the $45 entry fee.  The village is a working village, with shop keepers, blacksmiths, gold merchants, theatres, and tea houses, all plying their trade and dressed in period costume.  At times through out the day, you might notice a couple of children, with their mother, busily making their way to the bakery, basket in hand, dressed for the era,  and at that moment,  it seemed like you were transported back to a time long ago and it was a magical experience. Apparently there are 250 people employed at Sovereign Hill, and 250 volunteers.  Back in the day it cost £2 for a coach trip to Geelong; the price of one ounce of gold.

Four nights were way too long for us in Ballarat, and when we pulled out of the caravan park I noticed I was smiling, just happy to be on the road again.  Steve found us some quiet backroads and we trundled along, through the historic town of Clunes, Victoria’s first  gold  mining town, and then Castlemaine, Heathcote and onto our camp site nestled on the Nagambie Lake.  We were up with the birds the following morning and on the road again by 8am. The cops were swarming the place when we arrived in Rutherglen at noon but that didn’t stop us from enjoying a late breakfast at the local pub. Then it was onwards, across The Murray into NSW, to the  boarder town of  Albury.

Lake Nagambie 
This time Steve found us a no fuss dealer to give Devil and Dwarf their new  front tyres. As promised, the   tyres were fitted within 45 minutes and then we were on our way again, to Bright, for the BMW Clubs Australia Rally. The rally will be our last port of call before heading home to Perth for summer.

Mt Bogong lookout, Kiewa Valley

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

2016 Melbourne Cup

No doubt, we are in the right place
The race that stops the nation, The Melbourne Cup, drew us to Melbourne on the 1st of November 2016 to see what all the fuss was about. Although horse racing isn’t our thing, this iconic event does not go unnoticed in our household.

A support race
Our preprinted general admission tickets successfully operated the electronic turnstiles and we were in and heading to The Park for a coffee and a packet of BYO shortbread. It was only 9:30am but the place was already alive with fashionistas, flaunting high heels and hats and the loveliest cocktail dresses. Our attire, of jeans and outdoor sandals, was not popular amongst race goers and we felt like we’d sneaked in against the dress code and would be kicked out at a moments notice.

Parade Ring and Stables
We watched a couple of support races and then proceeded to the stables. By midday, all the Race 7 horses, The Melbourne Cup, were in residence and I was surprised to find how close we could get to the horses that were about to race for a $6 000 000 prize pool, with 1st place taking $3 600 000. I decided to pick my three possible winners based on their behavior three hours before the race. I accurately wrote down the barrier number of Beautiful Romance, Secret Number and Qewy.  As horse racing first timers, I hadn’t realised that the horse number and the barrier number are different and I ended up betting on three completely different horses (Big Orange, Gallante and Excess Knowledge), even though I asked the  betting agent if I had placed my bet correctly.

The odds
We found ourselves in a plumb spot when the horses were led into the mounting yard for the start of Race 7.  By now I was fully committed to my new set of three horses and when the race started, and number 15, Excess Knowledge, was leading, I jumped on the band wagon and shouted out “come on number 15, come on.”  By race finish none of the six horses that I’d had an interest in won the race with Almandin taking 1st, Heartbreak City 2nd, and Hartnell 3rd.

The Mounting Yard, the race is getting closer
We had never been to a horse race before and we started at the top with Melbourne Cup Day, the race that’s been running since 1861. It obviously made an impression on me as I’m still wearing my Melbourne Cup badge on my jacket.

2016 Melbourne Cup Jockeys