The Big North: Day 3

Today was all about north.  The weather was windy and unpredictably stormy everywhere so I decided just to hit the highway & get  north of Brisbane to get it over & done with. 450km or so of highway got me to Caboolture just before the hailstorm hit.

I still managed 2 big things & lunch with kiddo in Surfers Paradise where she’s having a well-deserved holiday.

Big thing # 9: The big banana

Big thing #10: The big knight (at the macadamia castle)

Funniest thing that happened today – my hands and arms are super- sore so I’ve been riding one-handed & stretching the other. All of a sudden I realised that I was stretching both arms at once – that’s a big difference to the girl who used to wonder how to take a hand off the handlebars to open her visor…

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The Big North: Day 2

Singleton started the day warm and humid. I started the day with a run (yes, really) along a really great path

Yes, running

towards #4 big thing:

Singleton sundial, from 12:00

and from the side

Then I found a bakery with gluten-free bacon and egg rolls, and was on the road by 7.

The morning was spent riding through the Hunter Valley, with 3 big things to find:

Big thing #5: Wine bottle at Pokolbin

Big thing #6: Big kookaburra at Kurri Kurri

Big thing #6: Big kookaburra at Kurri Kurri

Big thing #7: Big ugg boots at Thornton

That was the end of the big thing plan for the morning – next was to hit some motorbike roads. And to do that I had to jump on the New England Highway for a short distance. So I rode up the ramp, joined the highway, noticed a 90km/hr sign, noticed the police car opposite, noticed the police car pull out after me. After a polite discussion about how it is very hard to tell that a highway is 90 when it is a big, new, 2-lane with wide shoulders, I was on my way (oh, they got me at 17 over – which is a lot. But not a lot given it looked like every other highway that is 110).

Next up was Bucketts Way, which runs between Raymond Terrace and Gloucester. It’s a very pretty country road, with an unfortunate number of potholes.

At Gloucester I stopped briefly before joining Thunderbolts Way, which is about 150km long from there to Walcha. This is a super-pretty road through great scenery. It’s a weird combination of stunning sweepers on great pavement and nasty, tight, patched corners. It’s very unpredictable, and I bet more than one rider has been a victim to it. But, pretty:

On the Thunderbolt Way

On the Thunderbolt Way

Lunch in Walcha, where there isn’t a big thing, but they do have a nice sculpture:

Sculture in Walcha

The next road was the Oxley Highway, which, from the map looked like a nice, curvy highway. I thought it would be a pretty, but relaxing stretch after the Thunderbolt.

The Oxley Highway, map version

Haha. LOL. After an initial straight stretch, the bulk of this road is about 60km continuous 25-45km/hr curves. And it’s in perfect condition. With little traffic. OMG. My favourite motorbike road in Australia. I need to re-do this not tired and when it is not drizzling the entire way.

The Oxley Highway

After all that excitement, it was time for one last big thing before  calling it a day. The poor fellas at the bowling club were laughing at me as much as I was laughing at their ball.

Big thing #8: The Big bowl, Lake Cathie

Then from there up the highway to Nambucca Heads, where I found a hotel next to an RSL, which is perfect.

All up, not much Northward progress today, but 5 big things, 3 motorbike roads and 630km is still a pretty good day.

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The Big North: Day 1

Ooh, what a big, wet day. I knew today was going to rain but that didn’t mean I had to like it.

I woke up early and was out of the driveway by 7.

Motorbike, all packed and ready to go

Packed and on the road by 7

This is what the radar looked like as I left – definitely rain all over the place:

Rain radar showing rain in the area, but mostly passed

Rain, but mostly on the way to the coast

I went to Goulburn (in light rain), got a photo of this handsome dude:

The big merino

# 1 big thing: The Big Merino

and went to mum’s for a cup of tea. Nothing leaking yet!

Then I went to Robertson (mostly drizzle), got a photo of what has been apparently rated the worst big thing in Australia:

The big potato

# 2 big thing: The big potato

and had a coffee (where a local asked me why I riding as far as I can in 4 days…).

I rode from there to Pheasants Nest (no rain until the last 10 minutes, when it started bucketing down), got fuel and checked the radar. I could see a storm coming just north, so sat in a shelter for about an hour, where I had a nice chat with another rider and was offered a lovely cup of tea from some Canberra folks heading North too.

When I left, this is what the radar looked like (I’m the purple dot just beneath the mass of rain) but I wasn’t goin to stay there all day:

Rain radar, with a big storm just north of where I was

Yes, I’m riding North (at least I was going North-West, not North-East)

The next hour and a half was about the most unpleasant riding I’ve ever done. The freeway wasn’t too bad, but sitting in traffic on Pennant Hills Road in heavy heavy rain was just awful. I was starting to feel cold in the crotch but told myself that me gear wasn’t leaking, it was just cold because water was pooling on my seat.

But I finally cleared the traffic, and cleared the rain for a while and went and visited these handsome folks at the Australian reptile park:

Big frilled-neck lizard

Big thing #3:Big frilled-neck lizard

Another big frilled-neck lizard

Big thing #3.1:Big frilled-neck lizard

A while up the road I fueled up, emptied out and discovered that yes, my waterproof pants were leaking (I have never met a pair of waterproof pants that didn’t leak in the crotch). But my jacket and shoes were OK, and my gloves had held out until I put my hands down and all the water ran down my arms.

Then a good, though rainy, run to Singleton until my GPS couldn’t find the hotel and I drove around town (in driving rain) looking for it. But I did spot my target big thing for tomorrow. Finally found the hotel, and a pub for dinner:

Pub in Singleton

Beer!

Now just to see what I can get dry for tomorrow. My soft luggage is a bit damp inside, my tank bag is drenched, my pants are soaked, my jacket is soaked on the outside layer and both pairs of gloves are dripping wet. But my boots and socks are fine, and everything in the hard panniers is fine.

Tomorrow, more North, more big things. Less rain.

 

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The Big North: Day -2

Today I pack, which means tomorrow I can go and buy anything I still need. (I wrote this post as I packed, so it is a bit of a running commentary…)

Riding gear and clothes

The challenge for this trip is going to be the climatic range – in the first couple of days it could be cool overnight, and it then it will get hot (mid-30s C) and humid. But at least I know it is definitely going to rain, so there is no decision about what wet weather gear I take (my full Klim suit, as daggy as it may be).

This means I need, for riding:

  • full waterproof suit (which has really good vents for hot days) (with cycling shorts under to pad my butt)
  • t-shirts (I have tons of old conference t-shirts)
  • kevlar jeans for hot days (and shorts for under as the kevlar in mine is really uncomfortable)
  • waterproof boots & bamboo socks
  • regular gloves & waterproof gloves
  • camelback
  • my SPOT
  • a thermal top, neck warmer & glove liners for cold mornings

I know it sounds like I really wouldn’t need cold weather gear but I got caught last weekend in jeans, t-shirt & jacket at 11C and was *really* cold.

None of that is hard – I always travel with at least one spare layer & have everything I need.

Off the bike, I just need some basics – t-shirts, shorts, dresses, sandals, thongs & something to sleep in. Plus a light cardigan. Plus running gear (ugh!). Washing powder so I can wash & re-wear t-shirts.

Sunscreen. Of course. And deodorant, which I always forget.

Electronics

Phone, kindle & 2 tablets. I crossed out that sentence a bunch of times. I was thinking of bringing the laptop so I can write every night. But it’s heavy, and expensive if something happens to it.

My ipad has an external keyboard, which is good for writing. And my samsung tablet has connection to the internet and is good for maps (and games).

TODO: test the process of taking a photo and easily getting it into a post.

DONE:I can upload photos straight from the phone, and my external keyboard connects to the little tablet. So that means I don’t have to bring the (relatively heavy) ipad.

Chargers, cables and headphones. Maybe a small bluetooth speaker (I don’t watch TV, and my phone is rather tinny for listening to music).

Food

I have a bunch of crazy food intolerances (including wheat), so need to prepare for not being able to find something I can eat, or leaving town earlier than anything opens. Muesli bars to the rescue. I also need chocolate, which I don’t usually eat but I know is handy if I’ve been riding too long and might not be likely to get food soon. Energy drink for the same reason. And I have nut muesli, yoghurt, ice bricks and a pink cooler to keep them all in.

Nearly forgot booze. Gin in a small bottle.

Camping bits

I’m not camping, but I have handy things in case I end up in not great accommodation – a sleeping bag liner and camping pillow. And a folding cup, because, tea (or gin).

I wonder if I can fit my knitting…

All the things

Here it all is before packing:

Everything I need to pack, all spread out on the bed

But, rain

And then I had to think about how I was going to pack it, when I know it will rain for at least some of the first 3 days. I have dry-bags, but they are really bulky & hard to pack.

Packing

I separated out the things that must stay dry, or that I might need during the day. These will go into the hard panniers. Everything else can go into the soft bags. I have one flat (extender) bag that my sandals, thongs, riding jeans and t-shirts went into. The big bag has everything else, in stuff sacks. I think that will be OK in the rain, but I’ve thrown drybags on top in case I need them.

Everything in bags

This is all fairly light. The heavy things, like the toolkit and electronics, are in the panniers. There is plenty of room if I need to store my riding pants, or to buy some things as I go.

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The Big North: Day -3

I made a map of many big things in NSW & Qld. It took me 2 nights. I’m sure I don’t have them all. I am also sure I won’t see all of them 🙂

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