Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Sixtieth Birthday Ride

Birthday boy - Morawa campsite
What do you do the day you partner turns 60? You load the bikes with camping gear and go for a ride. Devil (F650GS) and Dwarf (R1200GS) were soon carving up the Brookton Highway and heading for the bakery at Toodyay. We stopped to check on the health of Perth's water supply at Mundaring Weir and then we were on the road again enjoying the cool morning air and the wildflowers. Full of smiles after devouring an award winning pastie, from Toodyay we rode northwards through the remote wheatbelt towns of Bolgart, Calingiri, Yerecoin, finding towns and names we had never even heard of. Although the wildflower season in this neck of the woods is officially over, pockets of wildflowers still lined the way and at times it seemed that all the colours of the rainbow were in bloom. Perenjori welcomed us later in the day, the pub offering T-Bone, chips and salad for $15 but with the sun still well up in the sky we road onwards and set up camp in the council caravan park in Morawa. We cooked our own steak for Steve's 60th birthday tea and shared it with a couple a dozen bush flies but that's the outback for you if you want to cook and clean up before dark. No outback town is complete without the outback barking dog, who will keep you awake long into the night, but Steve said his 60th was "memorable, and a bloody good ride."

Somewhere between Mullewa and Binnu
By 7:30am we were back on the road again. We were greeted with a "proceed with caution" warning when we turned onto the Mullewa-Wubin Rd. This mostly single lane, road train route, could present its challenges but we rode on alone and this road felt way more outback that riding east from Broken Hill. A very helpful attendant at the Mullewa Roadhouse explained the road to Kalbarri via the outback way and she said "follow the sign to Yuna, about 18km out of town, then Kalbarri should be signposted." Right on 18km we easily found the signpost to Yuna and then we were riding free again with not a care in the world. By midday we rode into Kalbarri township, and it felt good to be back in one of my favourite coastal towns.

A Western Dragon
We checked into the caravan park in the centre of town, and spent a couple of days tuned into Kalbarri time. One afternoon we had the pleasure of the company of a pair of Western Dragons while we sat peacefully on the banks of the Murchison River. They seemed oblivious to our presence, and were enjoying their late afternoon feed provided by a local ant colony. A couple of times we returned to the same place but they were nowhere to be seen.

Natures Window - Kalbarri National Park

This trip was all about the ride and after a couple of days in Kalbarri we were back on the road again, heading towards home. We took it easy in the early morning light and stopped for morning tea at Port Gregory. At the rest area we met lone adventure cyclist, Verena Trickst. Verena had been on the road for nineteen months, travelling overland through Asia. Cycling The Gibb River Road lured Verena to Australia and it was fascinating to listen to her stories. Verena said she "preferred to wild camp" at the end of each day. When we rode away from Port Gregory, I spent quite some time checking out the roadside verges and I didn't see anywhere suitable to pitch a tent; all I saw was long grass and fences.

HMAS Sydney II Memorial
We stopped for lunch in Geraldton and took some timeout to appreciate the peace and serenity of The HMAS Sydney II memorial. This memorial site is magical, you could imagine sitting there for hours in peaceful meditation.

Dongara provided us with the last campsite before home. We dined in the camp kitchen and drank good red wine. 

Steve's 60th birthday ride had been a great success ~ until next time......


Red Devil (BMW F650GS) & Red Dwarf (BMW R1200GS) at Port Gregory

Monday, 30 October 2017

Roman Tracker 3VD Tent – Review


First night in the Tracker 3VD - at Morawa
This is what Steve had to say:

You may ask what expertise we have to review a tent. No technical knowledge, but a huge amount of camping over the last ten years or so. We have completed a long trip of at least nine weeks (the longest being seven months) every second year, as well as many weekends and short trips (up to three weeks).

We have actually used seven different lightweight dome tents during this period. Four of these were three man tents and three were four man tents. We used the three man tents for single nights and when travelling on the bikes without the trailer. When I tow the trailer we take the four man tent for the additional comfort.

Outdoor Equipped 3EV - at Kiama
All the tents have been good in the wet, but with excessive use, have gradually deteriorated under the intense UV of the bright Australian sunlight. The biggest issue has been the tents collapsing in the wind.

During our ten week 2016 trip the Outdoor Equipped 3EV tent sprung a leak in the floor; the floor perforated along one of the fold lines. As it was during the New South Wales floods we had to purchase a new tent very quickly. The guy ropes on this tent were attached quite high up, and in wind the tent caved in below the guy attachments.

Outdoor Connection Escape 3 Plus - at Nagambie 
We were in Wangaratta, where there are a couple of camping stores, so we had a little bit of choice. We decided on the Outdoor Connection Escape 3 Plus since we have a four man Bedarra model from the same manufacturer. The Bedarra has been an excellent tent and has seen a lot of use, is great in all conditions and we have never had any issues with it.

The Escape 3 Plus was an issue immediately, when we arrived at the campsite on the afternoon of purchasing the tent we found no poles in the package (we thought it seemed light). Luckily we hadn’t gone far and the retailer had another tent in stock with poles. Our main issue with the tent was that the fly just never seemed to fit correctly. The guy ropes were attached lower than with the previous tent, but it then collapsed above the guys when windy.

In September 2017, while on a trip to Albany in South Western Australia we visited Trailblazers camping store (just to get out of the rain). They had the Roman Tracker 3VD Tent on display. It is a geodesic design and on careful inspection looked perfect for us. So back home, I did some internet research, and we decided that we should swap tents. We sold the Escape 3 Plus via the internet and then phoned our preferred local store, Compleat Angler and Camping World Rockingham, for a price. They didn’t stock this model tent but got back to us with a great price (matching internet retailers) so once again they got our custom.

Tracker 3VD - showing the guy ropes - at Kalbarri
After the first trip of five nights we are extremely happy with the Tracker 3VD. We put it up three times over the five nights, getting a little quicker each time. Since there are five poles (reinforced durawrap) it takes longer to put up and take down. We also thought the poles were stiffer than on the other three man tents. There are also eight guy ropes, one on each corner, two for the vestibule and one at the centre of each side. We didn’t deploy the side guys every night.

Although we had no severe weather to fully test the tent, we had showers one night and moderate wind (approximately 15 knots on the tent). The tent was very rigid and of course water tight (with 3000mm waterproofing, which is better than most dome tents).

There is only a vestibule at one end, but this is large for a three man tent. In fact it is quite a stretch to close the vestibule zips from within the inner tent. The shoulders of the inner tent are generous which creates good internal volume and thus feels larger than the other three man domes we have owned. The advertising for the tracker 3VD talks about “Roman's unique CROSSFLOW ventilation” but this probably just means it has fly windows on both sides, just like most dome tents. The side and rear windows on the inner tent don’t have material covers, so there is a lot of ventilation. Maybe too much if it gets very cold.

We also liked the colour and thought it was a good looking tent. Travelling on motorcycles we thought that, at 6.5kg, it may be a little heavy, but we found the weight was not an issue.



Roman Tracker 3VD Tent - Features
•             Flysheet: 210T Waterproofed 3000mm, PU coated
•             Flysheet with tape sealed seams
•             Inner: Breathable Polyester
•             Floor: Heavy Duty 12x12 PE with welded seams
•             Reinforced Durawrap tent frame poles
•             No-See-Um mesh to provide a Bug Proof Zone
•             Geodesic frame system for maximum stability
•             Extra large “D” door with door-in-door zips
•             Side covered / mesh windows
•             Roman's unique CROSSFLOW ventilation
•             Reinforced guy rope points with fitted ropes
•             Roof vents to expel hot air
•             UV protection on fly
•             Features durable carry bag
•             Pegs and rope included
•             Weight: 6.5kg
•             Dimensions: 215 x 195 x 125cm

Roman Diamantina 4VD - at Jindabyne, Another Geodesic tent
Geodesic Tents
The term geodesic is a mathematical one. A ‘geodesic’ line is the shortest route between two points on earth. It’s used to describe a tent where the poles criss-cross over the surface, intersecting to form triangles. This distributes the stress across the structure, making it the most stable type of tent for extreme weather conditions. If you climb Everest, chances are that you will want to take a geodesic tent with you.




Outdoor Connection Bedarra - at Katoomba
Our Tents
2006 - Oz Trail 3P
2007 - Kathmandu Basecamp Retreat 100
2008 - Roman Diamantina 4VD
2012 - Outdoor Connection Bedarra (family tent)
2012 - Outdoor Equipped 3EV
2016 - Outdoor Connection Escape 3 Plus Dome Tent
2017 - Roman Tracker 3VD Tent by Companion Brands

Kathmandu Basecamp Retreat 100 - at Lake St Clair
Oz Trail 3P - at Wagin




Friday, 8 September 2017

Margaret River Ride

The first sign of a three day break in the weather and Devil (F650GS) and Dwarf (R1200GS) were loaded with our camping gear and we were off on a ride to Margaret River in the south-west of Western Australia; the long way round. By 8am we were making our way up the hill to Dwellingup, our heated grips protecting us from a chilly 9 C. We stopped in the rest area in town to drink tea and chew on an apple, and then we were on the road again, enjoying the Lower Hotham Road on our way to Collie. A cup-a-soup and a ham sandwich, was all we needed for lunch as an apple pie from the Big Apple Bakery in Donnybrook was part of our itinerary.

First time in the tent for 2017.
From Donnybrook we cruised a few kilometers along the South Western Highway and then we took Dwarfies favourite road, the one that twists and turns with the Blackwood River all the way from Balingup to Nannup. Nannup looked simply beautiful when we rode into town, everywhere so green, the trees in flower and the air so still. By now it was 3pm and it was time to ride the final 70km to Margaret River before the kangaroos start waking up at 4pm.

$54 later we had taken an unpowered site, for two nights, at the Margaret River Tourist Park, the tent was up and we were as happy as can be, sitting in our camp chairs and drinking a cold beer. The guys at Kappadokia Kebab fed us late in the evening and then we settled into our little tent, our head lights guiding the way, and for a moment life seemed so simple and easy; we were enjoying life on the road again.

Water Wheel @ Cape Leeuwin
Caves Road is a delight on a day ride from Margaret River. The following morning we road south to Augusta, free as a bird gliding amongst the tall timbers that line the road side and forever wary of the tin-tops, pulling out of side roads and hard braking when nearly missing their destination. Locally caught "bronzy" (bronze whaler shark) and chips is a must in Augusta and we ate ours amongst the seagulls on the banks of the Hardy Inlet. For the love of riding Caves Road we retraced our steps to the legendary chocolate factory for a generous sample of chocolate buttons and a cappuccino and a truffle. On our second night in Margaret River we dined in the popular Chang Thai Kitchen on Station Road; the food was good, the wine was good; life was good.

Back in my studio writing this blog.
On the third day we packed up our little tent and rode the long way home via Nannup, Bridgetown and Collie. The Brockman Highway, which runs between Nannup and Bridgetown, is simply magic. We rode along all day, enjoying the spiritual freedom of our own thoughts and dreams, until we were spat out on the South Western Highway for the last hour towards home.


After a thousand kilometres, we arrived home just as we had left, living by our wits amongst the tin-tops busily going about their day; until next time....