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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

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