The Big North: Wrap-up

Some statistics:

  • Total km: 3562.5
  • Average km/day: 509km
  • Furthest day: 746km
  • Longest day: 10h 15min

Here’s the final map:

And just because they are beautiful, here are some photos of pubs (not well shot, and mostly in terrible light):

McKechnies Royal Hotel, Mendooran

Lawson Park Hotel, Mudgee

Royal Hotel, Dunedoo

Caledonian Hotel, Singleton

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The Big North: Day 7 (home!)

I made it home. Today I rode a lot of my favourite roads. New to me was the highway from Mudgee to Lithgow, but from there I took the Jenolan Caves Rd, Duckmaloi Rd, Shooters Hill, and Abercrombie. Stopped in Goulburn for a cup of tea with mum, then slabbed straight up the highway. I took some photos of the stunning views on the way, but I just can’t get any depth of field on my phone, and they all look like I’ve taken photos of grass next to the road.

I did get this last big thing near Oberon:

Big thing #17: The big trout

And here I am at home:

Arrived!

Tomorrow I’ll do some statistics and add daily maps to all the posts. For now I am doing nothing – my hands are still super-sore and even typing is hurting… But all these new muscles mean I can probably open jars 🙂

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The Big North: Day 6

Tamworth woke up beautiful this morning!

I want to be a kid in Tamworth!

So beautiful that I went for a run to a Google-recommended cafe where I had a fabulous breakfast

Yum!

Then went to the bike shop and had my loose chain tightened.

Next job of the day was to go to Tamworth’s major big thing:

Big thing #15: The big golden guitar

And then to the motorcycle museum,  which is tiny and looks closed, but is packed with old bikes in amazing condition. I was so busy juggling my free coffee & talking to the guide that I only took one photo:

All the shiny things

I got on the road around 11 & headed towards Gilgandra (I abandoned my Cobar plan as the logistics got too hard – I think an outback trip needs to be done separately and not in summer).  Most of the day looked like this:

Look – blue skies

I stopped in Coonabarabran for lunch & took a photo of the sky:

You can’t tell but this is me going OMG the sky is amazing

The run to Gilgandra got hotter the further west I went so I was glad to get there,  turn around & head back  east,  where it was only 32 in Mudgee. On the way I found another big thing in Dunedoo:

Big thing #16: The big swan

I’m close enough now that I could get home tomorrow.  Though I think there is a motorcycle museum at one of the wineries here so I’ll play it by ear & sort it out in the morning.

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The Big North: Day 5

Planning the trip home is hard.  I have to avoid my natural inclination just to head home, and instead keep exploring. It’s also hard as I want to go inland and the distances between towns are huge – it’s harder to make adjustments than on the coast where things are close together.  I’m also a bit sore & don’t want to over-commit & have to ride long distances while tired.

So I did some calculations & made a conservative plan – the things I know I want to do are to ride up the ridge to Toowoomba, go to Tamworth, stop in Gilgandra and probably come home via Oberon (my real goal was to get to Cobar, but the distances are just too risky).

My conservative route

I set off super-early, being on NSW time in Qld:

Off at 6am

And headed towards Toowoomba. After a GPS fail that landed me in the Brisbane CBD, I got on the right highway and spotted a big thing that I had forgotten I would pass, where I had a coffee:

Big thing #12: The big orange

Up the ridge into Toowoomba, with all the trucks, going super slow (but that’s what I expected) and I headed down the New England Highway, where I did this for many hours (and learned that if you stop for a quick photo, hold your bike between your legs and a truck gusts past…):

It’s so straight

It’s still straight

Actually, I’m being silly… I’m not like most bike riders. I love this kind of road. I am completely happy to potter along inland, single lane highways for days on end. As long as there are a couple of curves somewhere to break the monotony. I think this countryside is gorgeous. The small and medium towns are also gorgeous. I was happier today pottering around farmland, seeing all the beautiful golds of the fields, greens of gum trees and blues of distant hills than I was on motorbiking roads in the mountains yesterday.

I picked up two more big things as well:

Big thing #13: The big apple

Big thing #14: The big dinosaur

I made it to Glen Innes by about 2:00 and had a decision to make. I could head west to Inverell (which according to a lady I met at lunch, who offered me ‘something to read’, is really pretty) or keep going South and see if I could get to Tamworth. I’d already ridden 60km through the forecasted storm, the radar was clear, and my hands were feeling OK (nothing else was sore today, just my hands) so I decided to try for Tamworth. I booked a hotel and my estimated arrival was 5:00, which is about the latest I want to get in to somewhere.

Then this happened:

Car park on the New England Highway

We waited for about half an hour, in which time my GPS headset ran out of battery, and were diverted onto what looked to be a very old version of the highway. Turns out it was because a young bloke in a 4WD and a concrete truck had an altercation on a very narrow part of the road and closed the highway, which is sad, though apparently everyone is as OK as it is possible to be when that happens.

Anyway, I finally got to Tamworth to find my very pretty hotel:

The Ashby Motor Inn, where I am on the balcony writing

though I wish I’d have booked this one instead:

because…art deco

I’d made such good time today that I thought I might be able to still achieve my real goal of getting out to Cobar. Then I lubed my chain and found it very loose. “No worries” I said, and got out my trusty toolkit, only to not find a big enough socket. “Damn” I said and decided that I would have to abandon the Cobar plan, find a mechanic, fix the chain, and make a different plan. Then on the way to dinner I discovered there is a bike shop right next door to the hotel. So I think I can *sleep in*, get my chain fixed, get the MAJOR BIG THING, go to the motorcycle museum and then head out. I need to go and do some distance calculations, but I think it might be possible, especially with a packet of band-aids I just bought for my sore hands. And even if I can’t make the Cobar plan, there are still plenty of super-pretty places to visit between here and home.

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The Big Wet: Day 4

Today, instead of heading a lot further North, I did a loop ride, coming back to Caboolture. My motorcycle atlas listed 3 good rides, so I programmed the GPS to do them all 🙂

All the curvy roads!

I first went up the one marked #11 on the map. The second part of this runs along a ridge and apparently has one of the best views in this area. Well, you know, when it rains along a ridge, the valleys are just mist. So no views for me and no photos either.

That brought me out near one of the classic Australian big things:

Big thing #11: The big pineapple

I then went up the road to pop into the ginger factory and muse on the strange things Australians do as tourist activities (and get a gift for mum). I really should have taken a photo just because it’s crazy to build a whole tourist activity around ginger…

Then off to road #5. This started with drizzle, but after a couple of excellent corners to get across the mountain cleared up and was fine. I stopped for lunch, which involved sharing my salad with these fellas:

Is this a baby kookaburra, or a relation? (sorry, terrible photo)

A nosy magpie lark

Then some more riding through pretty farmland:

Farmland near Kenilworth

Then, unsurprisingly as I crossed the ridgeline again, it rained. I was almost going to abandon the last part of the loop, but it was clear by the time I started it. I’m glad I did because, although it was rainy in parts, going up the ridge and down were dry with fantastic corners.

Then back to Caboolture early enough to do some chores (like buy new motorcycle gloves and wash my clothes). Tomorrow I turn around and come home, inland this time. There are a few big things to pick up, though not as many as on the coast. But I love inland NSW towns much more than coastal towns, so am looking forward to staying some places I haven’t stayed before.

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