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Wollongong -> Brisbane and back again

Discussion in 'Roads, Touring, Journeys, and Travel' started by thatdarnweasel, May 16, 2013.

  1. Day 1:



    Set out at 8am, futzed around with forgetting sunglasses and going back to a favourite fuel station and ended up leaving town proper closer to 9. I didn't consider the ride to start until the start of Putty Rd. so took all the quickest routes to there.

    It was lunchtime by the time I got to Grey Gum Cafe.


    Was already a bit numb by that point, I didn't take the airhawk I was kindly gifted on xmas - I was anticipating loads of twisty roads, and it just feels a bit disconnected in the corners. I know you're supposed to have it deflated to the point that you're sitting on the seat, but shifting your butt around on the seat is nearly impossible without pulling it out of position and getting it all tangled up and then you end up wrestling with it and it folds up on top of itself... <infomercial> THERE HAS TO BE A BETTER WAY. </infomercial>

    Chatted with some folks coming back from a Ullyses rally over lunch, and Bumped into Paul/ @hornet when leaving. Apparently, we're doing pretty much the same route. Noice!

    I had to take it easy along ten mile because there was deisel on some of the corners. The road between Singleton and gloucester is as rough as guts, especially as you approach Dungong. It's not a matter of dodging the potholes - that would be tolerable - it's a matter of seeking out the patches of smooth pavement in the long stretch of poorly filled potholes. It's one long pothole. Very little road in the pothole trail. I had to take a break - the extra weight on the tail of the measly VTR isn't helping it soak up the bumps. Too many times, I was standing on the pegs like on a BMX to deal with the bumps.

    Stopped at Dungong to rest my backside.


    Three guys on "proper" touring bikes instead of a little learner naked arrived while I was sprawled out on the grass. A fella on a tiger 1050 came over to chat and ask after the VTR and how it's treating me. "Well, I can't fault it, though it certainly doesn't like the bumps with all that weight on the tail."

    "Not a problem on the tiger!" He says.

    I'm sure it's not.

    As much as I love my little beastie, I would have traded in a second.

    I'm suspicious now that this stretch of road has blown a fork seal. The right fork is getting pretty dirty, and I suspect it's from slowly leaking oil and there are some anomalous handling oddities going on, but I'll go into that more later.

    Thunderbolt's way- I was really looking forwards to this because of it's reputation. It certainly is a pretty area, and a good ride, but it was as I've read, it sure is torn up and potholed. Still long patches of gravel where roadworks are going on. Lots of hill climbing and fast sweeping corners, but I just wasn't all that comfortable while keeping a sharp eye out for both wildlife as the sun lowered, and seeking potholes in the shadows - while wearing sunglasses to fend off the lowering sun, anything in the shadows might as well be invisible. It was a tense stretch of road for that reason and I didn't really have a good time. I stopped to take a picture, because It still is quite pretty.




    It was pretty close to sunset by the time I'd finished taking a beak at the lookout. As a result, the following road between there and Walcha was taken with a bit of haste.

    Stopped to get thermals on at this point, and took the time to take a snap.


    Fatigue was setting in and the temperature was dropping fast. For the record, I LOVE HEATED GRIPS. The last 40kms was pretty tough; winter gloves, thermals and all. I discovered later that it got below zero that evening.

    It wasn't long after taking that picture that I met a very agitated fox. He was trapped in a ditch between me and an embankment. I saw the movement, swerved, and saw a flailing of orange fur and teeth. I'm actually pretty sure it was trying to attack me as I flew by. Missed my boot by about a foot. Crazy!

    You just don't seem to get the same amount of bugs when cruising around locally.


    My stay in Walcha was at the Walcha motel. Top place, will stay again (and I did on the way home!)- the half rack of ribs delivered to my room as I iced my wrist (Yes, it still gives me pain a year later after it was in a cast, really easy to strain. Any good sports physio reccomendations?) helped reinforce my glowing opinion.

    I was so fatiuged by the time I got there that I couldn't form coherent sentences at the reception. Thats enough of the bumpy stuff for a while...

    Staying at Walcha puts you in a top location to start the new day...
  2. Day 2:


    Breakfast served in the room and an early, icy start to the day. All the thermals on and heated grips turned up full kept me pretty happy, though I was wishing for a neck warmer. Winter is on the way!

    The day warmed up quickly, and so does the road...

    It starts off from Walcha with a high speed stretch of 110k road, perfect to warm up the tyres - even if you do have to hit the anchors to negotiate your way around a stray cow running back and forth from lane to lane across a bridge. A kind local alerted me with flashing lights. We both herded the herd member back to a safe place with a wave goodbye.

    The Oxley highway is probably one of my favourite roads that I've ridden so far. It's definately up there with some of the roads around the snowies. It's a mix of all kinds of scenery, road surfaces and just seems to go on.. and on... and on! Every motorcycle rider should have their very own Oxley.

    Corners gradually begin to intensify as you enter the forest proper. It's like it eases you into it.


    As the forest thickens, so does the density of corners, all paved beautifully, tightening more and more until you are surrounded by ferns and dense canopy. I fly by a speed sign - 100. Are you kidding me? That's a challenge I cannot accept - I was still waking up as the corners began, still readjusting to a ‘normal person’s’ sleeping schedule to make the distances during daylight hours, and I wasn’t feeling loose or relaxed... But still, that just brings a tear of joy to my eye!

    The best thing about it was that there’s such a loooong stretch of great road. By the time the forest had turned to rainforest, I was feeling much more relaxed, hunkering down over the tank and letting the bike feel nimble and light, giving my pushes on the bars more leverage. All the gripping was done with my knees, and not my hands... Sometimes, I forget these thing I’ve learned before, especially when tired or a little anxious about what unexpected things a new road might hold... But the apexes kept on flowing. I kept feeling looser and more relaxed. Things were getting good!

    It's a shame that there's still so much roadworks happening on the Oxley, but really, it's a boon for some... who might just get suck behind the odd campervan... (whistle) .. And maybe be riding on a 250 without much overtaking ability! The areas where the roadworks are has some pretty patchy corners, and newly sealed surface.


    After the roadworks, it opens out into a glorious valley. The road follows the contours of the hills that surround, and the road surface is pristine. Goodbye chicken strips, and hello giggles of euphoria. I just had to shake my head at that road when it opens up to faster straights again. Man, I have to return. I HAVE to. All of my discomforts are forgotten as I plod along the Pacific Highway up to my next destination...

    Waterfall Way is beautiful. After being all warmed up by the Oxley, I was intent on the pristinely paved corners and chasing a ute driver that was having some fun up it. I saw glimpses of waterfalls in view of the road, and oulooks towards Coffs Harbor. I would like to take my time up or down it again sometime, really take it in.


    Stopped at the top to take a break and go through the rainforest along the walkways. I was going to hike to the waterfall, but it was a lot warmer up there than it was earlier in the morning, and steep hills in leather... Naah. Next time.




    apparently, this was a chicken and avocado 'sandwich' at the cafe there.


    It was a bit of a snap decision to head to Grafton along Armidale Road instead of staying in Armidale or Glen Innes. It seemed like a good idea to get there and make a short skip to Mt Lindsay the next day.

    This was probably the most challenging road of the whole trip.

    Long sections had just been repaved: Lovely on-camber corners sweeping up and down around forested hills and cliff sides without fences. Confidence inspring vision and tacky surface on the majority of bends...



    ...Until it wasn’t. Potholes marred some corners without warning. Apparently the quick fix solution was to fill them in with loose gravel. I had a hairy moment along this road after committing to an downward sweeping left-hander, and since the sun was once again getting lower, the shadows concealed the mass of potholes on the exit with the light in my eyes. A butt-clench, and grabbing-for-the-front-brake later, wound up almost running straight off into the ditch on the opposite side of the road. I almost didn’t stand the bike up in time. Definately skipped sidewards into the oncoming lane and finished with a tail-wiggle as traction regained.

    So far in my riding career, that’s probably the worst survival reaction I’ve had. It’s part of the mantra which I mentally go over when I’m riding and encounter something that makes me nervous - just don’t grab at the front brake. Don’t stiffen up and clench at the bars. Gentle touches are all it takes and gradual transitions, gradual squeeze of the brakes. But, mantra or not, the brown-pant moment is the real deal, and its moments like that are where the real learning happens.

    I pulled over for a minute to take a breather. It was then that I realised that I had zero phone reception. Not the greatest place to take a spill. I did have my CB radio with me, and an emergency torch, but both of those things are a last resort.

    I took it very easy after that, hawk-eye on the road surface. It was just as well, since it was a dance of avoiding all the holes filled with gravel on the corners.

    And you know, despite all of that, I still really enjoyed this road. It was winding, meandering, following a rocky, white river in a deep valley, rickety wooden bridges, free-roaming cows, and the smell of pine needles. All of these roads were UNRESTRICTED. I regret not getting a picture next to one of those speed signs with a black cross through a circle. Outlandish!

    Overall, very worthwhile. I just had to stay on my toes.

    Stayed in a humble place in Grafton. Not as cheap as finding somewhere more westwards.
  3. Day 3:


    Today I intended to make my way up to Mt Lindsay after hearing good things about it.

    My GPS conspired against me though, and ended up diverting me along another interesting single-lane road that goes through the middle of the Border Ranges national park called Grady’s Creek road, and changes into Lions’ road. Funnily enough, a work collegue mentioned Lions road for it’s roller-coaster style roads going up and down hills with incredibly steep grades. Was a pretty happy accident, felt like I was crossing the countryside in rwanda or someplace exotic as it passes under an aged railway several times, rickety wooden overpasses and narrow bridges across the stream it follows most of the way back to Lindsay Highway.

    There was an influx of people along this road as we got closer to the border, cars full of familes as well as tons of bikes (everyone was on a beemer GS of some kind of another... I felt pretty out of place.)


    There’s a nice little lookout at the border, covered in holiday makers.


    I only realised at this point that it was Anzac day. Oh yeeeaaah...


    What a quaint little road this is. It goes through the middle of the national park and out into some farmlands without fences. Once again there are loads of cows crossing the road and single-lane wooden bridges. Very interesting and worth a look, though i’m pretty annoyed that I missed out on Mt Lindsay headding northward.

    I was at Beaudesert in no time. Practically in Brisbane. It was just past midday, and I felt like I’d done hardly any riding at all this day. I twiddled my thumbs for a while, then went out seeking some more twisty roads before the day was done :)

    I went up over Mt Tamborine - the lookout was closed due to landslides - and downwards back towards the NSW border.

    Nerang Murwilluimbah road was crawling with motorcyclists headding in the opposite direction, and it was well worth the detour. The corners are fast, with a near perfect surface. Not that much visibility around the bends, but you could fly through them at a much, much greater rate than the posted 80 if you were so inclined. It follows the edge of a lake and opens back up into farmland on the other side, cane fields and open expanses on the other side of the hills. Good stuff.

    Somewhere near the NSW border.

    I was getting tired by the end, and was actually glad for the 4 lane freeway all the way back up past the gold coast into Brisbane. After so many days on nearly empty roads, the traffic came as a bit of a shock.
    I made it to my host's home, and they were ready to take me out to a lookout which maybe I would like to ride to... Nah mate. Pretty spent by that time :)

    The stay, and way home:
    I went up there to spend a couple of days on the gold coast with a few friends. It's an annual thing we do, tourist-ing around and theme parks and good food, good times.



    The best pies ... Not cheating on you TFRPS, I swear!


    The trip home wasn't as exciting as the way up - I intended to go along Mt Lindsay on the way out, and AGAIN my gps sent me somewhere else... So I just sat on the New England Highway all the way down to Walcha for another stay at the Walcha Motel, then back down along the Oxley before Pacific Highway all the ay home.


    On the way home, Newcastle pie shop... also amazingly good. :oops:

    Wrapping up, and introspection:

    I realised that I’d become acclimatised to being in the saddle pretty quickly, and felt like if I kept on going for a few more days, I’d be an Ironbutt contender in no time. Having said that, I’d not gone much more than 550ks in a day.
    The VTR is definitely not the perfect touring bike. Lots of wind and not much suspension travel. This might have been made worse by the weight right on the tail, and a glaring reason that stuck with me for most of this trip...
    I was really tense on the bars a lot of the time.
    I think part of it was because I was trying to arch my head up over the air-stream coming off the little flyscreen, which straightened my arms out a good deal and left me jolted by every bump - the wind off it hits me right about mid-face. I could have taken it off for a much cleaner air flow, but I didn't have a good place to stash it on the bike once I set out.

    That's a bit of an excuse, but really, I came to realise it was something else. It dawned on me by the time I got to the Oxley on the way home that I was so tense from... not expecting it, but anxious about the possibility of a spill, especially after sliding around in the gravel along Armidale road. I was on my own, and a good few times out of mobile reception. I still had a long way to ride, and some sporty riding still to come; more than taking it easy to get there, I was tense on the bars and stiff in the saddle. I would over-react to the littlest wriggle of a tyre or skip over a stick. All of the roads I was riding on were completely new to me, I had no idea whether the next corner would be blind and the one that caused me to lose it. There was an overarching sense of dread of it, and it affected the ride I had with my buddy from Brisbane when we went out to Mt Glorious - I just could not relax. I also had some anxiety with me for riding out on pretty fresh tyres, which had massive chicken strips for most of the ride for this very reason. I have an unreasonable fear of new tyre. :x

    The Oxley is long enough and enjoyable enough that it loosened me up after the first few Kilometers on the way home. I was headding back along a more familiar road, and really letting myself hunker down, elbows loose, body moving easier. It was like an epiphany as everything clicked back into place and corners strung together smoothly, things seemed less urgent and more silky - how did I get to that stiff and uncomfortable state of riding? ...

    It's a shame it took me so long to realise that's what was going on a lot of this trip. If anything, it concretes in my mind that if I want to sports-tour like this, I should really get myself to some more training. Eyeballing CSS: Would certainly help me with cornering and body position, or maybe one of the Stay Upright courses. I'm not sure.

    Thanks for reading! I really did have a great time. Would like to do it again someday, hopefully with someone else, as good as it was to fly solo for a while.

    edit: There's some Contour video from Mt Glorious and surrounds, and some very WET video of me starting off wobbling along the Oxley on the way home and gradually getting more comfortable! ...yet to come :)
  4. Well done. Sounds like a great adventure.
  5. Great work, weasel! It was great to have you come visit, and hopefully you enjoyed the little tour around some of Brisbane's northern roads. If we'd had more time at our disposal I'd have taken you around Mt. Mee and so forth - You'll just have to come back again. ;)
  6. #6 scottjosnic, May 29, 2013
    Last edited: May 29, 2013
    Read your diary and loved it. I posted my first trip review yesterday but had problems inserting the photoes. The parts i liked about your review which made me think back to my trips when you are alone is that you are alone. I did the Bonang and loved it , but when i got back home and told my mates about the ride their comments was about how isolated that road is and if something went wrong how would you let someone know if no phone reception. And more scary if you went of the road and down the cliff theres next to no chance to find you. Unfortunately my wife overheard so she is reluctant for me to travel those types of roads. However when you do them and come out the other side safely with a grin on your face from ear to ear you feel so good that you want to turn around and do it again. Bike riding is like a drug, i refer to some sports as drug sports because the more you do them the more you want them, my drug sports are snow sking ,surfing and now the most addictive is bike riding.
    The second thing you mentioned abou concentration and anxiety. Concentrating on the correct techniques to ride your bike as the road changes. On long trips with a huge variety of road conditions it does become exhausting. I find that at the end of my trip i reflect on my riding and what i would do next time. And sometimes you learn something new about your technique or become better at it. These thoughts need to be practiced and remembered for your next trip to make you a better rider. Sometimes i get disappointed that i did not learn or understand these new thoughts earlier in the trip to practice them.

  7. Love the write up. Thanks for sharing the photos.
  8. Excellent write-up, great photos, A+++ would read ride reports from thatdarnweasel again.