Each year long distance riders from around Australia congregate at Wilmington in South Australia to remember riders (friends) who we have lost. This year was especially poignant for me, with the loss of Pat, the life of the party, the clown, our friend.
I have always wanted to do the run between Ivanhoe and Wilcannia – 150km of dirt, so that was our plan. Well it was up to a few days before we left. With the amount of rain over the last week the road would be 15okm of mud. Now I don’t generally shy away from a bit of a challenge, but 150km of clay based mud in the middle of a 1,600km day, on a big road bike, even I thought that was a bit too much so we opted for the Silver City highway instead.
So in the end the plan was leave leave Canberra at 3:30am on Friday and then head to Mildura, north to Broken Hill, across to Whyalla, and then retrace our steps back to Wilmington. That’s a shade under 1,700km. A nice days ride.
We rolled out of Canberra right on time, always aware that for both us the run to Wagga Wagga is the highest risk as we always find this first leg the hardest. I think it is a combination of being early, the start of a big day and 200km of boring freeway which just makes it so hard to engage with the ride. Today no was different. Added to that I just couldn’t get work out of my head, with so much going on I wanted to push it aside and let the sub-conscience do it’s thing and just mull stuff over in the background, but the conscience brain was just not prepared to let it go. In the end I put on an audio book just to drown it out.
Heading west from Wagga Wagga I was surprised by the amount of water laying in the paddocks and table drains. We skirted around a storm cell that was south of us, but it wasn’t long and the clouds started to look more threatening and ready to dump on us. With that Russell was keen to pull over and don his plastic rainsuit.
This was to be the pattern for the day. Rain gear on. Rain gear off. Rain gear on… In total that happened four times throughout the day. Well that was the pattern for Russell. I really like my Goretex riding gear. Just sayin’.
The ride was just fighting us. I know for me the high winds along the hay plains took its toll and by the time we pulled into Mildura the first 800km was just hard. After something light to eat and a hot drink we headed north to Broken Hill on the Silver City Highway.
As the sun started to go down, the clouds rolled away and the sense of the days struggle started to lift. Replaced with a sense of anticipation of completing the ride and catching up with friends I hadn’t seen for a while.
And after 1,690km we rolled into the Wilmington hotel, ready to enjoy a beer with other riders who had rolled in from other locations around Australia.
The next morning we planned a ride out to the Peterborough motorcycle museum but after enjoying a very relaxing breakfast at the cafe across the road it was good to just sit and chat. Or wander around the thriving metropolis of Wilmington taking in all the sights and sounds, while talking about bikes and life.
From here the crew rode down Horrocks Pass, to a place that is special to many long distance riders. This represented the formal part of our gathering, we spoke of lost friends and took the obligatory photo.
Then we dispersed.
Did someone say coffee….! Apparently there is a nice little coffee shop in Quorn only 50km away, so a number of us headed that way to enjoy the sun, the road, and the chance to hang out and chat.
And yes the coffee was pretty good as well.
And then because no road trip is complete without a bit of silliness – we went exploring and found a great lookout.
The Trip Home
I rolled out of Wilmington before 6:30 in the morning and pointed the bike home to be greeted with a sunrise that was truly amazing.
By the time I got to Peterborough the fuel light flashing. However, the servo didn’t open for another hour. So I wandered around the empty streets, looking in shop windows at things that are of zero interest to me. There wasn’t even a cafe open where I could get breakfast to while away the time. In the end I sat on the gutter watching the trucks rumble through town.
I have seen many photos of the sculptures out of Broken Hill and on this trip I really wanted to go out and have a look at the Living Desert and Sculptures. Like with many of these places you can spend quite a lot of time looking around but time wasn’t something that I had a lot of. However it was nice to visit even briefly.Later in spring with more wildflowers out it should be beautiful.
I’ve been on the Barrier Highway when landscape is very brown. But not at the moment. The paddocks are green, there is water laying around and the roads are lined with wild flowers. The countryside just looks fantastic.
And with the sun starting to disappear I turn off the highway at Nyngan and head south towards Tottenham (the centre of NSW).
Ever had that nagging voice in your head. Well it was screaming at me. The rivers were up. Way up! The water was lapping at the edges of the roads, the bug were so think that at one stage I had to scrape them off 2 times in 20 minutes just so that I could see through the visor.
This is a bad idea. But riding down between the flooded paddocks provided a beautiful sunset.
And then the water was getting up close and personal with the council nicely providing warning signs of ‘water on the road’. It didn’t say flooding, just water. How bad could it be?! After about 200 meters of water on one section (about 10 -20cm deep flowing across the road) and with no end in sight that little voice was not a happy camper. Silence.
In the end this section was probably at least 500 meters. And there were many more crossings, although not as long.
The other sign that became a familiar sight for the next couple of hours was “Road Closed”. After a number of turn arounds the question started to be less about where would I come out but would I have enough fuel to get back to the main road and find fuel.
I said silence damn you little voice, it’ll be fine.
And finally I popped out onto the Hume highway near Yass for my last fuel stop of the trip and to survey the carnage.
I rolled into home at 1:30am with a shade over 3,400km for the weekend.
It was a great weekend, with a bit of everything.