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Melbourne to Toowoomba via Hume/Pacific -Xmas 07-08

Discussion in 'Roads, Touring, Journeys, and Travel' started by lefty, Jan 3, 2008.

  1. Apologies for the spelling in this article. It's taken me all morning to write it and do some editing. :eek:

    Months of planning and spending went into this ride. I had quite a good time overall, despite some of the more painful moments. And of course having clocked up over 15,000 kms since I bought the bike and started riding, I'm now due for a major service and some new tyres. Well the bike is, although I could do with a chiropractor at the moment.

    Before I begin, I will ocasionally use the word 'we' in this post. By that I usually refer to me and the bike. I had company only for a stretch of about 300kms on the first day of the trip up.

    This article is quite long so I've introduced headings to break it up. I start with my reasons for going and an overview of the roads. There is a summary of each day's most interesting events. Finally a bunch of other interesting things about the ride, including some facts about the joke that is Australia's road route numbering.


    Why did I go? My initial reasoning was for family and it was certainly the strongest motivator. Having done the trip, I'm glad of the hours and the kilometres on the bike; in a mixture of conditions. It's all good experience without bingles and that has to count for something. It's also worth noting that I've never been licensed to drive a car, nor have I ever driven one any length, so this was my first long-distance road trip.


    Frankly the route I chose was intended to get me there with a minimum of fuss. I went straight up the Hume (probably one of the most boring roads I have ever encountered) and along the Pacific Highway up the coast of New South Wales. The entire ride is about 3700 kilometres round-trip.

    There was nothing particularly challenging about the route, other than the distance itself, road work hazards and the weather conditions occasionally. Since my Intermediate course with Stay Upright and a few weekend rides with mates, my cornering basically took care of itself. Most of these roads are designed for the idiot driver after all. Certainly that part of the trip lacked interest.

    From an asthetic point of view, there were some particularly nice stretches of road around the outskirts of Sydney, both the F3 and Hume Highway winding through the hills. Compared to some of the scenery around Healsville they pale by comparison, but there were still some pleasant stretches to break up the trip.

    Summary of Day's Interesting Events

    Day 1, 25/12/07
    Melbourne, Vic -> Goulburn, NSW

    • First 300 k up Hume Fwy to Wodonga, freezing since I set off around 6am; shivering violently at 110 kph for a couple of hours until the sun gently defrosts me
    • After crossing the border into NSW, a Suzuki busa rider approaches from behind, overtakes and then sits comfortably in front for 50 ks, motions to pull over so we stop. Advises to remove P plates in NSW (I couldn't be stuffed) because of stupid Red Ps restriction to max 90 kph and asks if I mind him tagging along - he's headed to Sydney. We continue ride.
    • Stop for fuel and have a longer chat with new riding budy
    • Stop for lunch in Gundagai BP. Large carpark mostly empty perhaps because it's xmas day. Also KFC and most of the other fastfood joints are closed, apparently because it's xmas day. We eat some shit and fill camel-baks with cold water.
    • Continue up Hwy playing cat & mouse in the 110 kph sections (there's barely any traffic today)
    • The Hume is a boring road.
    • Did I mention, the Hume is a boring road?
    • Stop for rest about 80ks prior to Goulburn; he consumes some caffine and sets off on his own; I continue to Goulburn for the night
      Nothing is open in Goulburn except one Chinese takeaway. Chinese for xmas dinner, delivered to room.
    • Stayed at Alpine Heritage Motel. They're friendly and very helpful. Room was cheap ($55) and pokey. Clean but shower was stupid layout - shower head was in nook beside wall which means you bash your elbow against the wall if you do anything other than stand with your arms rigid by your sides completely motionless. Larger people than I possibly can't reach the water at all.

    Day 2, 26/12/07
    Goulburn, NSW -> Port Macquarie, NSW

    • Repeat yesterday's mistake by leaving before the sun was really up; freeze on freeway heading towards Sydney
    • Pull off after 100 ks into a rest area to pee and defrost for about 10 minutes
    • Reach outskirts of Sydney and road turns into >5< which is affectionately known as the M5 by Sydney-siders (see my rant on Australian route numbering)
    • Turn off into Cambeltown for a break. Servo doesn't have fuel I want and I'm up to about 190 ks and wanting to refuel. Seek advice on getting through Sydney from 7/11 person who is reasonably helpful I believe, saying take M5 to M7 to M2 to F3. Get back on M5.
    • Spot ramp to M7 which is actually labeled 'M7' unlike the other motorways. I believe this is the recently completed Toll road around Sydney's west - like Melbourne's ring road. As always, none of these roads are actually rings around anything, quite apart from the fact they're not even slightly ring shapped.
    • Travel through some electronic Toll gates at 100 kph and make mental note to sort out Tolls at end of day. See sign with phone number and try to memorize number. No good. Too many different digits.
      About 50ks up the road and past the <4> (M4) turn-off I'm in Sydney's north-west. Needing to stop for fuel and breakfast I randomly take an exit - Sunnyholt Road, Blacktown.
    • Cruise down Sunnyholt Road for a couple of blocks. All looks like Suburbia and not a petrol station or McDonalds in sight.
    • Pull up in a right-turn lane and ask the driver beside me if there's a McDonalds near-by. He doesn't know. Apparently he's a tourist too.
    • Continue up road and turn right, spotting a BP on the right. Turn into the BP only to find they have run out of fuel. All 15 pumps are empty apparently. Ask the servo person and he says keep going up the road and you'll find another one.
    • Continues up road and finds another BP on the left and a McDonalds. This time I'm in luck, they have fuel and bacon n' egg rolls, thankfully.
    • After breakfast, sets off from McDonalds back the way I came hoping to find the M7. We find the M7 and rejoin headed north.
    • The fun begins. I know from my earlier study of maps I need to get from the M7 to the F3 somehow. I come up to pass signs indicating the next exit to Newcastle and that the road I am on is now turning into M2. I hastily take an exit, confused as to whether I should head towards Newcastle or take the M2 like the servo man said back in Campbelltown. For some reason I change my mind and turn right (opposite to direction to the sign pointing to Newcastle).
    • I do a U-turn in a lane marked No U-turns, Buses and Taxis accepted. I know, I should have been riding a Hyabusa to do this legally.
    • I get back on the M2. From that point all the green signs say alarming things like Lane Cove and Sydney. Oops. :LOL:
    • More Tolls, this time a different company to call. 13 ROAM. I can remember that I think. Thankfully 13 ROAM also later direct me to the M7 people, who are apparently also called ROAM although they're different.
    • I enter a Lane Cove tunnel and am guessing I'm heading straight for the CBD
    • In the tunnel I spot an exit marked 'Pacitic Highway \1/. I take the exit. I proceed up the windy, narrow, multi-lane road for the next 20 minutes through about 250 sets of traffic lights in traffic.
    • Finally I get to the F3 and just as I'm passing the 110 kph signs, all 3 lanes slow to 5 kph. Facing down a hill I can see the entire motorway is crawling. Boats and caravans everywhere.
    • I sit crawling along the motorway for about 10 minutes before I get pissed off and take the right-hand emergency lane at about 25 kph, following close behind another more experienced Sydney-sider. As I'm whizing along I note the NSW cop standing on the left shoulder with lights flashing, waving a notebook around. :shock: I hope he didn't see me. At least he's stuck on the other side of 3 lanes of grid-locked traffic.
    • Skillfully I avoid broken glass and other shit in my dedicated motorcycle lane. Eventually for no reason (as is always the case) the traffic begins to move at the signed limit and I rejoin the flow.
    • I wind on the throttle as we charge up the hills and around the bends in 5th, doing about 9.2 grand (redline at 10). She struggles but the extra fuel seems to pull us through. Thankfully there's no wind.
    • Eventually the F3 comes to an end with an array of warning signs and 100s of white stripes across the road. I turn at the round-about and go through Hexham, bypassing Newcastle and going over a single lane bridge to continue my journey up the north-coast.
    • We arrive at the Motel and it has a gravel parking area. I'm tired and don't park well and I hate gravel. I decide to try and move the bike so I start by dragging her backwards. It's hard work so I get on and decide to move her the easy way. Push the starter. Nothing happens. Shit! Check the side-stand. Push the starter about 10 times in frustration. Nothing. The side-stand switch neutral switch must be it. Flick stand about and push starter another 20 or so times. Reasoning is flawed and I give up for a short while and go unpack my crap in the room. I return to the bike and finally notice the obvious. I've bumped the kill switch while I've been dragging her around. Strangely enough, my still relatively new bike starts first time!
    • The room isn't a shoebox this time. I stayed at the Hastings Valley Motel. The room is clean and they have biscuits for me to eat immediately. For $100 a night it's a bit more than I'd like but I live with it. The guy at reception is friendly.

    Day 3, 27/12/07
    Port Macquarie, NSW -> Gold Coast, QLD

    • As always I start out rediculously early. I refuel at the BP on the highway. It's before 6am and the cashier asks me to prepay (which I've never done before.) I ask him what he wants and he says cash or a card. So I throw $20 at him and he looks puzzled for a few moments as I walk out to fill up. He no longer looks puzzled when I return and pay $8.50 for the fuel.
    • Later after freezing for an hour I stop at McDonalds for the bacon n' egg roll.
    • The weather is nice up til this point. As I reach the northern tip of NSW, just outside of Ballana, the low that is building off the coast of QLD starts to come into effect. It begins to rain. I pull off at a servo before I get soaked and pull on the overpants. We continue and its begins to bucket down. Then we reach a traffic jam on the two-lane Pacific Highway just south of Ballana. The round-abouts in town are clogged and the traffic crawls slowly for about 3 ks, in the pouring rain.
    • NSW is the speed-camera state. To be fair, they place about 5 warning signs prior to the permanently fixed cameras on the highway. Perhaps less fairly they often seem to place these things pointing down hills. I must have counted at least 15 along the Pacific and Hume Highways.
    • Several electronic signboards were telling me to wear a seat-belt or face double-demerit points during the holiday period. That's just unfair!
    • Large sections of the Pacific Highway and some sections of the western NSW bit of the Hume are being upgraded to dual carrigeway, so the road quality is constantly changing. Along the north coast, they had slowed some sections of the highway to as low as 60 kph in some areas. In addition, some good dual carrigeway sections at 110 would be followed by exactly the same surface at 100 or 80 for no obvious reason. All the speed limit changes gave me the shits.
    • To top it all off, the north-bound overtaking lanes were blocked off while the south-bound lanes were open. Yellow signs posted before the blockades said something about 'Holiday Traffic Management' or some equally stupid idea. As you can imagine, that went down well when a queue of people was following a caravan moving at 80 in a 100 zone.
    • Finally I get through Balana and the rain turns into light hail as I head through twisty, hilly roads, overtaking the odd truck with most of the road to myself. (for the record, I was using the overtaking lanes, not overtaking around blind corners in the rain)
    • I nod at several riders going the other way and get a wave or a nod in reply most times. Its hard not to feel some kind of a bond with your fellow riders in those conditions.
    • The last section of northern NSW is dual carrige-way to the border. At tweed-heads it goes all wiggly and ridiculous and does a 360 degree loop before turning into the M1 and passing signs informing you that you've reached Queensland.
    • Again I got stuck in heavy traffic around Tweed Heads. It was slightly nerve racking, particularly when I was stopped at lights and the 4WD in the lane beside me accelerated to 80 before noticing the queue meters in front of him and slamming on the breaks. He pulled up, this time.
    • The cruise up the M1 was refreshing after the traffic jams and good because I finally recognized the road and knew where I was going.
      I stopped at the Limassol Motel on the coast for the night. At $144 a night for a basic room this was very expensive and not worth the bucks. I didn't get a good feeling from the land-lady and she made an unnecessary fuss about the credit card used for payment.
    • Looking for food, I got inaccurate directions from the land-lady and wandered down the beach front. The first place I came across was an upmarket seafood restaurant. I wondered how I would be received walking in with bug-splattered dragins and jacket, smelling of something bad. There were two guys inside - both of them worked there. No customers - too early I guess. One was seated and one behind the counter. I mentioned that I had just got off the road and was walking around looking for a meal. I asked if they did take-away. The first guy (behind the counter) immediately replied, "Yes, but the prices are just the same as if you eat in" with a sarcastic undertone. For the record, this place is on Marine Pde near the KFC and I recommend you don't go there on principal. So anyway, I looked around thinking I would probably leave now and the guy who was seated got up and in a friendly way offered me the menu to inspect. It was more expensive than KFC but hardly going to break the bank. Still, it wasn't what I wanted. Ironically, had the first guy done what the second had when I'd walked in, I probably would have parted with $25 or $30 for the food. Instead he made assumptions about who I was and had no idea my wallet was filled with cash and I was extremely hungry. What an idiot.
    • I ended up stumbling into a KFC and getting a sweet-chilli twister, chips and a can of solo. Mmmm.

    Day 4, 28/12/07
    Gold Coast, QLD -> Toowoomba, QLD

    • I took off far to early as usual, arriving in Toowoomba at around 7.30 if memory serves, which it probably doesn't
    • I rode up the M1 in pouring rain. By the time I reached the Logan Mwy turn-off the rain stopped which was nice.
    • The trip was uneventful, short by comparison and boring as ever along the A2 to Toowoomba.
    • The bike even made it up the range without much complaint, despite my ~20 kg of luggage, 3 kg of water and 20 g of extra body weight obtained from eating all those egg n' bacon rolls for brekky. Actually I would swear I've actually lost weight on this trip. Not bad for a little single. I love my bike :grin:


    I did family things, such as saying hello to my father after a year away and to the family dog, Fran, a black belgian shepard. The highlight of my trip might have been turning Mum's cookies into funny shapes, like the Titanic, a male and female couple whose anatomy was severely damaged by the oven and an airplane whose tail went flat during cooking.



    The stay wasn't as long as I had intended (barely 3 days) however events transpired and I made a decision to move on. Needless to say, it was a long way to go for three days.

    Return Day 1, 31/1/08
    Toowoomba, QLD -> Grafton, NSW

    • Left Toowoomba at about 4am local time (5am NSW time). It was dark. I decended the range in the dark which was something a little different (very steep, winding decent down side of mountain.)
    • Fortunately I didn't meet any of the local wildlife for the first hour
    • Toowoomba was fine, however on the coast the same tropical low that had been brewing for some days had intensified and it was soon bucketing down. As I crossed into NSW on the freeway it started to hail and the rain got heavier; so I couldn't see much and the wind was gusting from the side making the water flow in waves across the road and blowing me and bike around a fair bit. It was very enjoyable. :p
    • There was no traffic jam in Balina on the way back through this time
    • The rain subsided a lot by the time I got to Grafton but everytime I went
      outside my room or to the McDonalds that afternoon it would start spitting at me :mad:
    • I stayed at the Glenwood Motel in Grafton. The room was pretty old and had no way to block out the sun (no door or curtains on bathroom/windows). For $89 a night I felt ripped off.
    • It was still spitting at me when I left in the morning

    Return Day 2, 1/1/08
    Grafton, NSW -> Gosford, NSW

    • The rain that had been plaguing me finally subsided after about two hours into this journey
    • Later in the afternoon I reached the F3 and started hunting for the turn-off for my motel. The map I had printed for myself had a street name, but none of the Grafton exits actually were signed with that name. In fact when I finally found the right road none of the signs told me it's name - just that it was the Central Coast Highway and a couple of different route numbers. I only found the Motel after phoning them twice to ask for directions (speaking to someone who was new there and wasn't good with directions), and with sheer dumb luck.
    • The motel, Villa Sorgenti Somersby (about 5 minutes from Gosford) was located in the hills near the freeway, down a couple of very patchy, barely sealed roads running through bush land with minimal signage and lots of hills. The room and environment was definately worth the $90 I paid. Almost complete silence and the place had some character. Complete with it's own Italian restaurant this was a nice change from the previous night. Parking was on a gentle slope but was sealed so not too difficult. The room was air-conditioned and clean. It had biscuits, which I promptly ate.
    • The motel was about 50 kms north of Sydney

    Day 3, 2/1/08
    Gosford, NSW -> Melbourne, Vic

    • Originally this was over two days, stopping in Albury for the night. I did stop in Albury but only for a couple of hours to rest, lube the chain and cool down. Albury was about 40 degrees that day when I arrived about 2.30 pm.
    • On the way south I passed the same Gundagai BP eatery and thankfully the KFC was open this time. There were also a lot more people in the carpark and a queue to pay for fuel. Which I suppose explains the idiot trying to start a fight in the line to the register because someone else had parked their car 20 centimeters in the wrong place.
    • I stopped for breakfast at the same McDonalds in Blacktown that I'd stopped on the way up. This time I knew where I was going which was useful
    • A BMW rider and pillion passed me on the way. Didn't nod. Bloody BMW riders.
    • The last 200 kms were very tiring.
    • On approach to Melbourne after nearly boiling for about three hours, a cool breeze started gusting at me front and side. After an hour I gave up trying to maintain a constant speed and let it vary between 80 and 130 depending on the wind. :p As I was nearing the Metropolitan Ring Road M80 I was shivering and stiff from cold. I think my neck has gone out from the wind strength as I got closer to home. Melbourne has always been a windy place. Just need a bigger bike to cut through it more easily!

    Australian Road Route Numbering

    I would like to suggest that route numbering of Australian roads is a joke.

    Some interesting facts:

    • The road between Toowoomba and Brisbane, the Warrago Highway used to be national route 54 or some other number I can't remember now
    • A while ago they changed all the signs along the Warrago Highway to be A2 in a national route symbol (rectangle with triangle at bottom).
    • A little while later they changed some of the signs to just a yellow A2 without the national route symbol, and renumbered the New England the A3. Meanwhile some still have the national route symbol.
    • The M1 in Brisbane and the Gold Coast is numbered using a yellow M1.
    • The M1 in Melbourne is in a national route symbol, as is the M8 and the M80
    • Melbourne roads use a blue round-edged symbol to denote local main roads, like 43 I think for the Tullamarine freeway, which interestingly doesn't have an M at all
    • Sydney and Brisbane roads use a hexagonal symbol to denote local main roads
    • Brisbane motorways have names (like the Western Freeway, Gateway Motorway, etc.) and are never called the M such and such, except the M1, but they have route numbers in hexagonal symbols, except of course the M1
    • Sydney motorways are generally numbered using hexagonal symbols but referred to as the M such and such
    • The Sydney M7 is numbered using a yellow M7 in a yellow rectangle, as is the M2
    • There's a road in Sydney with a hexagonal 2 that isn't the M2
    • In Victoria the Hume Highway is called the Hume Freeway and numbered M31 in a national route symbol
    • Just north of Victoria, the Hume Highway is just that but is called the A31.
    • Further north through most of country New South Wales the Hume is just national route 31.
    • In Sydney the Hume is the M5, written of course using a hexagonal symbol 5 and the word Motorway.
    • The F3 from Sydney to Newcastle is never labelled as such, only ever as a yellow 1 in a yellow national route symbol, meanwhile further up the coast it's a black 1 in a white and black national route symbol. And it's always labelled as the Pacific Highway. In fact, the only place where F3 appears is on the emergency vehicle crossing signs in the middle of the road after few kms. There it appears without fail.


    NSW: Sydney motorways are mostly Toll ways. Different companies handle different roads. I setup an account with the M7 and M2 in the evening after my ride. They allow you up to 48 hours to do this. My account was for 30 days, so the trip home was taken care of. They don't charge the 70c vehicle matching fee for motorcyclists, probably because the e-tag system doesn't work very well.

    QLD: Motorways are the most poorly designed in the country. Still have manual coin booths as well as the electronic option. Unlike in NSW you're not permitted to just cruise through and pay later - $105 fine if you do - apparently. I take my gloves off too quickly at the first booth and it's wet. Pay the Toll and can't get gloves back on. Push bike to side so queue of trucks and cars can get through while I fumble for about 5 minutes to re-glove myself. Note to self: need new gloves. On the way back I am organized and put coins in my jacket pocket. No de-gloving required!

    VIC: The CityLink is free! Alas I hear the same will not be so for the EastLink. Fortunately I do not live over that side of town.


    • I didn't split at all, although sometimes I would have liked to; the extra width and weight of my bag and the prospect of double-demerit points on my Ps were enough combined to stop that almost entirely
    • I was good and travelled at or below the signed limit for the entire trip, on all but one occasion when I got fed up with a idiot who wouldn't let me pass and so I got to about 130 getting away from him :p


    Yes, I had one of these. I purchased a puncture repair kit before I left. I read the instructions and inspected the tools. I'm confident I could make any puncture much worse very quickly with these tools.

    I found an old, small cardboard box to store most things in.

    • Puncture kit
    • Assorted sockets and ratchet
    • Screw drivers
    • Pliers
    • Cloth
    • Newspaper
    • Chain lube
    • 1.5 L engine oil (which leaked on the way home leaving me a nice oil slick to clean up amongst my bag and some of my things) :(
    • Multimeter
    • Scissors

    The only thing I really felt I was missing was tape.


    • BP Ultimate or Mobil 8000 or Caltex Vortex 98, as usual. Bike runs shit on normal unleaded. Wont touch Shell.
    • Stopped on average every 100 ks, mostly for safety on public holidays and odd hours; bike will in theory do at least 300 ks before reserve at highway speed; ass also benefitted from frequent 5-minute stops
    • Occasionally the attendant looks surprised or even shocked when they ask for $4.20. I still get surprised sometimes when after 150 ks it takes about 2 seconds to top up my tank. Sometimes I worry that my bike is on a hunger strike.


    • Lube chain approx every 500k - effectively every end of day stop; spray, push bike, spray, push bike some more, spray, push bike some more again
    • Added maybe 250 ml of engine oil over entire trip; once half way up and again half way back down; the first time I borrowed a funnel from a servo, the second time I ripped up a tear-resistant, water-proof NSW map and turned it into a funnel
    • Clean bugs and shit off forks at end of each day with newspaper
      Inspect tyres for damage and tred depth. Press on tyres with fingers to get a rough idea of pressure. :p Occasionally use digital gauge actually designed for this purpose and adjust air, although I did this rarely because my pressures never change much and trying to do it when the tyres are cold can sometimes prove difficult. Note to self: get a hand/foot pump.


    I only came close to dropping the bike once over the entire trip (and even that was relatively minor), despite all the unfamiliar drive ways and gravel parking areas
  2. Good to see you're back alive after your adventure to 'the other side'.
  3. :applause: :applause:
    top post :grin:
  4. That's very generous of you. Who said I was alive? :p
  5. Well done Josh...thanks for sharing.