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Preparations for my longest ride ever

29th December 2009

Four months to go!

The boat is booked, I’ve acquired most of the camping gear I will need, itineraries have been put together, lots of research has been done... After exploring several options for the return trip (west coast of WA – too many kms and not enough time to do it justice; or return via Sydney and visit my son – still a possibility) I’m now fairly sure I will return via Alice Springs and Adelaide. My time frame (6 weeks) is a little longer than most, so finding travelling companions may prove difficult. While I’m happy enough to go it alone it’s always more fun with company. As usual I’m over-planning everything, but once I’m there I will just go with the flow. It’s looking like being an 11,000 km round trip!
Over summer I will do a practice run in Tassie camping off the bike – I’ve toured and I’ve camped but I’ve never combined the two. Usually when I go camping I fill the car to bursting point with all the stuff I think I’ll need. That’s not really an option on a motorcycle – space is severely limited!

28th February 2010

2 months to go.

I have done 2 short trips as part of my ride preparation. The first was an overnighter to Bicheno to meet riders from other parts of the state. The intention had been to discuss itineraries, but this didn’t happen as very few people had given it much serious thought.

I met up with 2 other riders in Hobart and we rode to Runnymede, to Oatlands via Levendale, and then took a dirt road through Interlaken (!) which came out on the Lake Highway just east of the turn off to Poatina.

This was probably the most challenging dirt road I had done so far – quite slippery in places for a road bike – but very scenic.

Lunch stop at Interlaken

The ride through Poatina to Campbell town was fast and great fun. Unfortunately in Campbell Town I discovered that I had left the pocket of my jacket unzipped and that I no longer had my mobile phone or my custom molded ear plugs... I had just filled up with fuel and I turned back in the vain hope that I had lost them at the servo when I took my jacket off. But no sign of them.

Bugger... It was another fast run across the Lake Leake road to the coast and up to Bicheno. By now we were running late to meet the other riders. The original plan had been to camp and try out our gear, but it seems few people are camping – and no other girls! – so we did the social thing and stayed in a cabin at the caravan park too. Dinner at the pub was somewhat average but it was good to meet the group.

I awoke the next morning to rain – well, drizzle... Now I was glad we hadn’t camped! We had a wonderful breakfast at SIP (which stands for Sit, Imbibe, P... (something)) and set off for home. As we left Bicheno the drizzle lifted and by the time we reached Swansea it was nearly 30 degrees. Time to try out my new jacket with its shallow pockets without its liners – fantastic. Just what I will need in Darwin. The guys stopped at Orford and started stripping off to go for a swim so I left them to it and rode the last leg home by myself.

Ride 2: On 5th February I took part in a FarRide. This involves riding 1000kms in 24 hours. There was no set route – one just had to check in at the end point (Miena) within a set half hour window (12-12:30pm on the 6th) having obtained a starting docket no earlier than 12:31pm the day before. The start location was Midway Point and the first stop St Marys. From the beginning this ride felt very different and I didn’t like it. There was a feeling of pressure to adhere to a time frame and be in a particular place by a certain time, and I found myself watching my km/h data knowing I needed to maintain an average of 80km/h to stay on track. This was so different from the way I usually ride and completely lacked the wonderful feeling of freedom enjoy when riding.

Elephant Pass was shrouded in fog! I was cold and needed a break and now my visor was fogging up too. A snack and hot drink at St Marys lifted my mood and I enjoyed the ride through the Fingal Valley. I have only ridden this road once before and it was in the other direction. My average km/h climbed to 100 so the pressure lifted a little. The next stop was in Devonport – I think – I can’t actually remember... The original plan had been to ride to Marrawah on the West Coast and then back to Stanley to stay overnight, thus covering the majority of kms on the first day. But this was not going to happen before nightfall and we went straight to Stanley, barely making our dinner booking.

I didn’t sleep very well. There was a cricket outside my window having a party. It sounded rather like an alarm clock and went ALL NIGHT. I was up at 5am and we were on the road just before 6, before it got light – something I hadn’t done before.

We rode out to Marrawah and then re-traced our route to Burnie for breakfast.

The wind farm in the distance at Marrawah

The view at Marrawah just after sunrise

I was so cold and tired, and the pressure was back on big time. I had worked out we needed to maintain 80 km/h average just to make Miena without breaks. This didn’t seem so bad as we headed down the Ridgley Hwy and the average climbed to 89. But then the road through to Mole Creek was windy and difficult and it dropped to 77... We reached Deloraine with an hour and 70kms to go. I had wanted to take a route that avoided the dirt over Great Lake but there was no choice if we were to make it in time. What a glorious road up to the Lakes! Then dirt. I slid around the first hairpin locking up the rear, trying to make myself relax and let the bike choose its course. Fortunately that was my only scare and I pulled in to the checkpoint having done 1009.3kms with 8 minutes to spare.

Whilst I’m glad I did this ride I won’t be doing another FarRide. And though there are some very long days on the Long Ride I will be able to start early, have all day and take lots of breaks.

Three weeks to go.

Not long to go now and most of the organising has been done. Accommodation has been finalised for the trip up to, and in Darwin, and there have been discussions about the return route through the centre to Adelaide. My bike has been serviced and has new tyres, and I have acquired nearly all the gear I will need. It's getting down to packing now - and the biggest challenge of all: How To Fit Everything On The Bike. Stay tuned for that photo! Everything is mini, from camping gear to my Netbook. But there still seems to be a lot of it...

I have completely failed to test out camping off the bike - all my attempts have been thwarted and there are no more opportunities left. I shall have to wing it. I have set up my tent in my lounge room (minus the pegging!) and timed it at less than 5 minutes. I also discovered I can set it up from the outside in, so that the inside can stay dry if I have to set up in the rain.

Six days to go.

The enormity of this trip has hit me today. This will be by far the biggest trip I’ve done. I’ve never been away from my kids for so long before, nor left behind a partner. And my poor old cat, Chester, is ailing and there is a very real possibility that he won’t still be here when I get back. I sat and played my piano for a while today and even the thought of not being able to do that made me feel sad…
Anyway, enough of that. On the other hand I am getting quite excited about the adventure that lies before me. All the preparations are under control, and my packing is at least half done! I tried charging my laptop from my bike last weekend (it being my most power-hungry device.) It worked well – until I tried to start my bike… I shall have to be careful with that, or be prepared to ask for a push! I would like not to be too much of a ‘girl.’

Posted by Jo vanEmmerik 18:50 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Day 1: Hobart – Devonport. Thursday 29th April 2010

And we're off!!

I got away on time despite my washing machine refusing to spin out that last load of washing...
I am pleased with how well all my gear has packed on to the bike. There’s just enough room for me! The bike felt quite different with all the extra weight – mostly at slow speed. I wobbled to a stop a couple of times. The tank bag, while made specifically for my bike, is a close fit and if I turn the handle bars fully, like when doing a U turn, the bag just comes into contact with the high beam switch on the left side – which is ok – or the engine kill switch on the right side – which is definitely not ok!

My bike all packed to go

I met up with Doug and Scott, who will be my travelling companions for much of the next 4 weeks. I was pleased to see that they had even more gear loaded onto their bikes than I did.

Meeting Doug and Scott

It was a cold and windy trip up to the ferry – an extra layer of clothing was necessary at St Peter’s Pass, and I was thankful for my heated grips. We had coffee in Campbell Town and warmed up. Blinding sun straight ahead on the Bass Highway gave way to a pretty sunset as we approached Devonport. It was close to dark when we arrived at the ferry. There were 13 bikes waiting to load, about half the Tasmanian contingent doing the Long Ride.
Today’s distance: 290km

Posted by Jo vanEmmerik 13:26 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Day 2: Melbourne – Hillston. Friday 30th April 2010

overcast 17 °C

I slept quite well. I woke to feel the boat rocking a few times, but it was a fairly calm crossing. Melbourne was grey and rather cool. There were half a dozen hot air balloons floating low over the city as we rode onto the Citylink tollway – a beautiful sight.

A group of Victorian riders were meeting up at the start of the Hume Highway and we joined them – there are about 60 riders from Victoria meeting up at various places and about 20 of them were here.

Some of the other bikes at the meeting point

About 100kms out of Melbourne the sun finally broke through the clouds and the day started to warm up.

A visit to Seymour Special School had been organised. It was wonderful to see the delight on the faces of the children as they donned our helmets and sat on our bikes and had their photos taken.



Next stop was Tocumwal where we had an early lunch – we were in NSW before midday!

Lunch spot at Tocumwal

NSW is having a locust plague, and just after Jerilderie this became quite apparent. I was marvelling at their ability (well, most of them) to swerve at the last moment to avoid colliding with me, when Scott overtook me and I realised he had lost some of his gear. I caught his attention and we pulled over. The bag containing his tent and sleeping mat was gone. He turned back to look for it and I sped off to catch up with Doug. Almost immediately the car coming towards me started flashing its lights. I realised it was a cop car and glanced down at my speedo – 123km/h – Bugger! He passed me and I watched in my rear vision mirror, faintly hoping he was flashing his lights for some other reason, but he slowed and did a U-turn and I knew I was being pulled over. He asked to see my licence and asked where I was going. When I said “Darwin” I think he nearly fell over! We chatted for a while and then, much to my surprise, he let me off with a warning. I rode away feeling suitably chastised and vowing to be more careful.
I had the road to myself now and it was a good feeling.
The swarms of locusts became thicker and I could see clouds of them approaching. I found myself bracing for impact and hoping I would still be able to see on the other side. It felt like I was being bombarded by tiny missiles and it HURT. It was so bizarre it was funny and I couldn’t help laughing. But the splatter on my visor was gross and it was getting hard to see, and I could see them getting stuck in the crevices on my bike. Suddenly it wasn’t funny anymore.
I caught up with Doug and we rode into Griffith together. Our bikes stunk of cooking insects, and it looked like someone had thrown up all over the front of my bike.


We continued on to Hillston. Scott turned up over an hour later having had no luck finding his gear... So the boys will be sharing a tent tonight! The local pub put on a dinner for us. Food tastes so good after a day on the road. As we walked back to the campsite there was already a heavy dew settling on everything and it was very cold.
Today’s distance: 576km

Posted by Jo vanEmmerik 17:18 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Day 3: Hillston – Bourke. Saturday 1st May 2010

Up before dark, it was so cold my fingers and toes quickly went numb – a stark contrast from the warmth of my sleeping bag. Breakfast and a hot cup of tea helped. Packing up is a bit tricky in the dark and everything was wet with dew. Both setting up and packing away went smoothly and I took about the same time as the others.

Campsite at Hillston

The roads are very straight! And they go on for as far as you can see into the distance. After a while coming across even a slight curve becomes exciting and I lean the bike over to make the most of it.

Endless, endless road…

We stopped at Mount Hope, an old mining town, for a quick break and to listen to the silence.

Old hotel at Mount Hope

It had heated up now so layers were removed. Then it was straight through to Cobar for lunch.


Me on my bike

We set off to do the last 160km to Bourke. We stopped at a rest area with about 60km to go, for a drink, and soon there were about 20 bikes there. While chatting about my bike I noticed one of my pannier brackets had lost a bolt and had come away from the frame. It was fine to get me to Bourke but didn’t bode well for all the weight I was carrying... One of the nice things about being a female rider is that when something goes wrong you end up surrounded by guys who all want to help. Actually, it’s the same for the guys, too, when there’s a problem with a bike. In this case it was Jeff, who rides a Moto Guzzi California EV. Once we got to Bourke he took the bolt from the other pannier and disappeared to find a matching one. I went to the shop to get food for dinner and by the time I got back it was fixed!

The rest stop before Bourke

Bourke, after 5, goes into lock down. Roller doors are pulled down on all the shops in town and we were warned not to leave anything unattended, even for a short time. There is a Liquor Accord in place that restricts access to alcohol, with the intent of reducing crime and domestic violence. When we went to the bottle shop we found that you could not walk inside, but were served from a window.

Our campsite was well out of town so it was a bit more relaxed. We prepared and cooked in the camp kitchen and had a wonderful time chatting with other riders. The oldest rider, Alf, is 78 and also rides a Moto Guzzi. We sat around listening to his stories.
Today’s distance: 426km

Posted by Jo vanEmmerik 17:40 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Day 4: Bourke – Charleville. Sunday 2nd May 2010

Today started out cold but nowhere near as cold as yesterday. From Bourke there is no fuel for 250km until Cunnamulla, so we filled up and set off. More long, straight roads. There was hardly any traffic.
We crossed the Queensland border at Barringun and, after a brief stop, continued on to Cunnamulla. It was hot now and I was finally down to the minimum layers – T-shirt, jacket with the liners removed allowing air to flow through the mesh, and summer gloves.

Crossing the Queensland border

Cunnamulla is not a very happening place... There was hardly anyone around other than tourists, but I did have a great burger at the local takeaway.

Own chair provided!

The Cunnamulla Man

The last leg to Charleville was 200km. The scenery was very pretty. Everything is very green and lush after recent rain – apparently I’m not seeing the Outback as it usually is – dry and bare.

After only 50km I was really struggling to stay awake. As pretty as it is the view is all the same, and because it’s so straight you tend to just focus on a point ahead. Between the heat, and the vibration of the bike it was hard to fight off and it becomes quite hypnotic. There was nowhere to stop – the road had no shoulder and the edges fell away quickly. So I started playing around. I cranked my iPod up (I have a remote control on my handlebars) and sang loudly inside my helmet. I tried riding on the white lines in the centre of the road, and then weaving in and out of them, even riding on the wrong side of the road (which feels really weird!) Moving around and wriggling on the bike helped too, but it was really difficult.

I arrived safely in Charleville and set up in the camp grounds. Now the Sydney and Brisbane riders have joined and there was a huge group camping.


The camp kitchen, Charleville

There was a fundraiser event organised. They had a camp oven dinner, which was delicious, and then yabbie races after auctioning off 20 yabbies to the highest bidder.

Yabbie racing teams

The yabbies

They invited people to tell stories from the ride so far and then awarded “prizes” for the dumbest thing anyone had done. The recipient had to wear bunny ears for the next 24 hrs.

The first bunny award

At this point $160,000 has been raised by the Long Ride.
Today’s distance: 462km

Posted by Jo vanEmmerik 21:10 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

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