December 07, 2008 GMT
Back Home in California!
I made it back to Castlemaine, turned the bike in, and headed for the airport with very mixed emotions. Happy to be headed home, a bit sad that another great adventure was coming to an end. I was NOT looking forward to that 15 hour flight back to Los Angeles but I did catch a break when for some unknown reason the Qantas computer assigned me a seat in “business class”. SCORE!! It made the flight ALMOST bearable! :=) A big smile, hug and kiss from Julia as I exited the customs area at LAX was a fitting end to the Around Oz 2008 Adventure!
I would like to thank Mark at www.bikeroundoz.com for all the help in planning the trip and referring me to Bike Tours Australia which supplied the bike. Claudia, Heinz, and Norbert at www.biketours.com.au went above and beyond the call of duty to make sure that the bike was ready and in perfect shape for a long trip. They supplied extra tubes, cables and levers (which I was forced to use thanks to the Great Central Road on the way to Ayres Rock) :=) If you ever need to book a tour of Australia, I highly recommend both of these companies.
Since I had the GPS with me, it captured a “track” for the whole adventure. This is my route from Castlemaine up the east coast and across the top to meet Corey in Darwin. It is approximately 3200 miles.
This is the route Corey and I traveled together including the Tasmania Tour. It is approximately 9000 miles.
This is my route, after Corey left, up to Sydney and back to Castlemaine with two crossings of the Snowy Mountains. It is approximately 2300 miles.
Some statistics in case you are interested:
Total Distance.................................... 14,555 miles
Average Daily Mileage........................ 150
Longest Days Ride............................. 488
Shortest Days Ride ............................88
Rear Tires .........................................4
Front..................................................1 (the original, on the bike when I started)
Unplanned “get offs”............................4 (all in the sand)
Average Daily Beer Consumption..........I can’t seem to remember! :=)
I really enjoyed the tour especially the remote “outback” sections. Cape Crawford and the Heartbreak Hotel Pub in the Northern Territory would have to rank as one of my favorite stops although I enjoyed every area that I visited. Crossing the Kimberly Range on the Gibb River Road with stops at El Questro, Home Valley Station, and Mount Elizabeth Station was also a favorite and as “tough” as the Great Central Road was, seeing Ayres Rock at the end of it made it all worthwhile.
Thank You for following along with me. Stay tuned. Who knows, there may be another adventure in the future!
Posted by Rick McDermed at 09:58 PM
November 28, 2008 GMT
I very much enjoyed Sydney. Lots of history, nostalgia, and modern day mixing. The Rocks area was especially inviting and I spent most of my time there. But, it was time to move on and check out the Snowy Mountains. I planned to cross them twice, once North to Southeast on the Snowy Mountains Highway and then again from South to Northwest on the Great Alpine Road. There would be a little stop at the beach in between. :=) I headed out to see whether that snow had melted on the Snowy Mountains Highway.
As Julia said “they are called the Snowy Mountains for a reason”.
The roads were clear but it was COLD!!! I stumbled across this little town up there that had quite a claim to fame, “Highest Town in Australia“.
The math works out to about 4500 FEET above sea level. :=) I think my upstairs bedroom has more altitude than that. For you Aussies reading this, I WAS JOKING, for the rest of you …….. shrug! :=)
I finally made it down to the beach again and enjoyed a little “warm up” on a lake cruise.
Headed back up into the mountains via the Great Alpine Road to see if things had warmed up at all. The first part of the ride was excellent. Nice roads, great scenery, fairly sunny and the Tambo River to follow.
That was the first part. The second part was filled with RAIN and FOG so bad I was forced to follow the yellow line on the side of the road at times.
It was comforting to know that I wasn’t the ONLY fool up there! :=)
As I dropped down in altitude, the fog finally went away but the rain NEVER let up!
The Around Oz Adventure is coming to a close. :=( It is now back to Castlemaine, turn in the bike and see if I can get an earlier flight home! :=)
More pictures here starting on page 114
Posted by Rick McDermed at 06:37 AM
November 24, 2008 GMT
Up to Sydney via the back roads!
I got Corey and about a ton of gear (I have TWO tons to contend with later) on the airport bus and headed off for some back roads riding on the way to Sydney. I worked my way south and east of Melbourne on some really great two lane roads thru farming and ranching country and hit the coast again for some more beach riding. Stopped at the nice little town of San Remo for the night. San Remo is the “gateway” to Phillip Island. Since it was raining again I stayed on the mainland! Headed via more back roads toward Lakes Entrance. Several people had told me that this was very nice harbor area where several big lakes connect to the ocean (thus the name). I had time, so took some very minor roads that folks had told me about. They did NOT tell me about the bridges that were out and all the detours. These roads didn’t show on the map and the GPS said I hadn’t even been on a road for a long time :=) I would never say I was lost but I was “unable to confirm my position” for a couple of hours. :=)
I finally made it to Lakes Entrance and it really was as nice as they said.
Lots of seafood restaurants right on the water.
I wandered the back roads some more and found a wonderful one that followed the Snowy River
all the way to the Ocean for some more great beach riding.
Finally made it to Sydney. Decided to splurge a bit and got a very nice hotel where I could see “some” of the Sydney Harbor Bridge from my room. :=)
and within walking distance of the Opera House. It was in an area known as “The Rocks”. I booked a harbor and city tour and got a LOT of pictures of the Sydney icons
including Bondi Beach.
All the weather people on TV kept saying that we were having an “unseasonable” cold snap (it was very cold) and that it was snowing in the Snowy Mountains which was where I planned to go after Sydney. I thought it couldn’t be snowing much since it was only a week till summer (although Julia told me they were called the "Snowys" for a reason)! :=) I took these pictures off the TV weather cast.
They are exactly in the area I planned to visit. I hope it melts soon!! I’ll let you know.
More pictures here starting on page 107!
Posted by Rick McDermed at 05:19 AM
November 18, 2008 GMT
Tasmania and Back to the Mainland!
We finished our ride from Apollo Bay south along the Great Ocean Road on the way to Melbourne to catch the ferry for a 5 day tour of Tasmania.
We were a little concerned about the weather and seas in the Bass Straights, but it was a very nice uneventful crossing.
We met some motorcyclists in Apollo Bay that gave us information and recommendations on a nice route that would take in the mountainous western shore and some nice beaches on the eastern side. We rode off the ferry to a little rain, some cold, and a lot of wind. Without giving it too much thought (yup, you KNOW what’s coming), we headed for the mountains on the way to Strahan. As the elevation rose the temperature descended and the wind increased (I told you we didn’t give it too much thought). :=) There were some great motorcycle roads but the clouds, rain, and cold made them less than enjoyable.
Not many pictures because my hands wouldn’t work the camera. We tried to make Cable Mountain Park but when it started SNOWING we “holed up” at a very posh resort (surprised they served us). When I entered the lobby, I was reminded of just how long I had been away from home (it was summer when I left). :=(
Made me a little homesick!
Strahan was another nice little beach town (but when it is on the verge of snowing …..)!
We made it to Hobart the next day via some more great roads and with just a little more warmth.
We did a little walking tour of Hobart then rode up to Mount Wellington above the town, the harbor and the Tasman Bridge for some great views (and a LOT of wind)!
We got another day of warmer weather so we rode out to Port Arthur, a very tough penal station in operation from 1833 until 1877. This place was for the very hardened types with a separate colony for boys (the first boy’s prison built in the British Empire). It was a very interesting tour.
Can’t go to Tasmania without getting a picture of a Tasmanian Devil!
We continued to enjoy some great motorcycle roads and scenery on the way from Hobart to Launceston.
Had to stop at Australia’s #1 Harley-Davidson Dealer for a t-shirt.
We headed for a little beach town named Stanley on the north coast for our last night in Tasmania. The Stanley brochures boast of its landmark called “The Nut”. It looked like the Tasmania aquatic version of Ayres Rock to me! :=)
Nice roads, nice scenery, nice town, bad RAIN and spitting SNOW!! :=) It was a miserable ride. Just how close to Antarctica are we anyway? :=)
Another easy ferry crossing of the Bass Straights and we were back in Melbourne on our way to Castlemaine (I picked up my bike there in Aug.) where Cory would turn in his bike and I would get another bike to finish my trip (the company asked if they could substitute another since they had a 7 month rental available for the one I was riding). Cory left for California and I was on my own again with this nice BMW for the last few weeks of my trip.
I am going ride up the southeast coast to Sydney, visit the Snowy Mountains, and return to Castlemaine to turn in the BMW and then it will be back to California for me also (if it hasn‘t burned down)!
It HAS been an adventure!!
More pictures here if interested starting on page 99.
Posted by Rick McDermed at 05:14 AM
November 08, 2008 GMT
Koalas at Apollo Bay!
It was a rainy Saturday afternoon and we were at church -- no wait, we were visiting the museum, well, I actually don’t remember but we ran into a local resident (bartender) who told us he heard that the rain had brought out some Koalas. There were several in the trees on the road out to the Cape Otway lighthouse. I REALLY wanted a picture of a Koala in the wild so I figured a ride in the rain might be worth it. Off we went, and we were NOT disappointed!! Several Koalas, and even a mother and baby.
This guy was my hero.
He was taking a nap in the afternoon (one of my favorite pastimes)! :=)
We climbed to the top of the lighthouse where we could see that the wind was blowing at 42 knots and the Bass Straights seas (which we will cross on the ferry tomorrow) looked wild and stormy.
The ride was well worth it for the pictures and we were able to get back to town BEFORE the drugstore closed (seasickness medication). :=)
More pictures here if interested starting on page 98.
Posted by Rick McDermed at 08:22 PM
South to the Great Ocean Road!
We did the 6 mile hike around Ayres Rock
and visited the Olgas for some more hiking.
We pretty well OD’d on red rocks and were starting to miss the ocean so we headed south. 150 miles east to the Stuart Highway then south to Coober Pedy. Coober turns out to be a very unique place. In addition to being the Opal Mining Capital of the World, most of the town and residences are built “underground” in old mines. Even the Catholic church is underground!
We stayed at a very interesting underground motel. The owners bought an old mining claim, opened it back up and started digging out the motel.
They struck it rich with more new veins of Opals. They financed the completion of the motel with the profits. Our room was very nice (once you got used to being in a cave) :=) I ask about the two umbrellas,
and was told that there were two air shafts to the surface and when the wind blew hard, small pebbles would come down the shafts. Another interesting thing about the room was that when you turned out the lights, your eyes NEVER adjusted because there was NO light from the outside. Nightlights were required.
We toured a working Opal mine next door.
and I was able to “snag” an Opal for Julia that came from the demo of the equipment.
Christmas shopping done!! :=)
From there it was further south toward Adelaide. The scenery changed remarkably. Vineyards and wineries all around.
Lots of chances to sample local wines.
Next up was “The Great Ocean Road“. This is billed as “One of the most scenic ocean drives in the world”. I agree with them. The road runs right along the ocean, sometimes next to beaches
and sometimes high up on bluffs that overlook the ocean.
The rock formations formed by the wave action on the different layers were gorgeous!
The ride WOULD have been even more enjoyable if it were not for the CLOUDS, RAIN, and GALE FORCE side winds. I am sure they escaped from the Patagonia! :=)
We are now heading toward Melbourne to catch a ferry over to Tasmania. Julia said it was totally appropriate for me since I was a little “devil”. :=)
More new pictures here starting about page 90!
Posted by Rick McDermed at 12:33 AM
November 01, 2008 GMT
Great Central Road! Laverton to Uluru
In Esperance we heard about a great scenic loop road that passed many of the beaches in the area. Even though it was raining the morning when we left, we still did the loop road and they were right. Some of the nicest beaches and prettiest water I had ever seen.
We made it to Kalgoorlie, a historic mining town. It is straight out of the Old West. Lots of classic hotels and buildings.
Kalgoorlie also has on of the worlds larger open pit gold mines. We drove up to a lookout point and took a few pictures. It was incredible. 3.5 Kilometers long and 1.5 wide, 330 deep (will be 550).
To really appreciate it, you would have to see it from the air. We checked Google Earth for the satellite picture. It was even more impressive. A fellow we met said they were starting another mine that was going to be three times as big (of course we were all on our 4th rum and coke by then). :=)
On to Laverton where the “fun” begins on the Great Central Road. Out of the three major dirt roads I was going to ride in Australia, this was the one that concerned me the least. After all, it was called the “Great” and it was a BIG red line on the map (even though it was “dashed”). How wrong I was. More than enough sand/bull dust to make riding treacherous. It was totally unpredictable as it constantly changed very quickly from fairly nice hard gravel to sandy corrugations, red dirt and bull dust holes.
And before you ask, “Yes”. We each had a “get off” and HUNDREDS of skivvie soiling near misses! :=)
We did have some interesting company on this road every now and then!
Occasionally there was a stretch of road with a good surface and even a little scenery!
We even camped out one night at one of the several Road Houses along the way (figured we would make it a REAL adventure). See, Julia, all that time shopping with me for the perfect tent and sleeping pad wasn’t wasted after all! :=)
And again, before you ask, “yes” the flies were BAD!
4 days and 700 miles of fun and torture (mostly torture) all at the same time but the BIGGEST torture for the entire 700 miles was …… NO BEER AT ALL! It is illegal in the aboriginal areas along the entire road. :=(
We finally made it to Uluru/Ayres Rock
and tarmac, which we both really appreciated! :=)
Then straight to the BAR for a few beers that we really deserved!
I rode a bit over 10,000 miles to take a picture of Ayres Rock.
Yes, there are a LOT of pictures of "The Rock" but I DID ride a long way. Everyone (employees of the area hotels) kept telling us how fortunate I was to get pictures with it raining on "The Rock" since it NEVER rains around here! I didn't quite see it that way. :=)
More pictures here if interested! The new ones start on Page 81.
Posted by Rick McDermed at 12:34 AM
October 24, 2008 GMT
Down to the Southwest Peninsula
We made that visit to Monkey Mia where the dolphins come into the bay for a free handout. The tourists come in big buses so that the dolphins can eat right from their hands.
We, of course, didn’t feed them because we are “too cool”! :=) Instead we watched the tourists while we sipped cappuccinos.
We then made a beeline for Perth since we needed some serious motorcycle service and tires. Ended up in Rockingham where they could take us without having to wait a week. We also made a visit to Fremantle. A very quaint place with lots of sidewalk cafes.
We were also able to spend 4 hours with my friend Ben Wright. The Harley Group will remember him since I took him to a meeting with me. Ben cut his “Americas” trip short and returned to Oz so was able to get over to the Suzuki dealer in Rockingham. It was great talking with him about motorcycle touring both in the Americas and Australia. Ben has big plans for an Around the World Trip in a couple of years.
As we continued south toward Cape Leeuwin the landscape, roads, and weather all changed. The landscape, scenery and roads for the better, the weather for the worse.
It was cloudy, overcast, and raining lightly but that didn’t stop us. The rain was good for the wildflowers though.
The roads passed thru large Karri tree groves and looked much like riding the Big Trees road north of San Francisco.
I was looking forward to Cape Leeuwin since I was sure I was going to win a bet. When I met Corey in Darwin he pulled out a map he brought with him and asked about my route plans. I told him I wanted to go to Cape Leeuwin because that is where two Oceans meet. He looked at his map and said “nope, Indian Ocean all around, look at my map“. I said his map was wrong. A $10 bet was made then, and it was the topic of a LOT of conversations. I loved taking this picture of Corey still trying to convince me it was one ocean, in the face of a LOT of evidence to the contrary. :=)
After the picture, I asked about my $10. He said his plan was to write the map company when he got home and tell them that THEY owe me $10. :=)
On down and around the peninsula we ran across a 200 foot tall Karri tree that was a fire lookout. It had spike steps all the way to the top.
They allow athletic young folks (and two old bikers) to climb up if they want. Couldn’t let the kids show up the old guys!
As we climbed, and puffed, I was about to change my mind when I saw a little sign that said “halfway”, so it was just as far to go back down as on up so I continued. I took this picture at halfway to remind me that I might NOT be as young as I used to be. :=)
Back down on the ground, it was fortunate the bikes were close to the base of the tree because I couldn’t have walked across the parking lot! :=)
Headed on around the peninsula to Albany, and Esperance. We turn north again here to Kalgoorlie and Laverton where we will again be back on a dirt road to Ayres Rock/Alice Springs.
Many more pictures here if interested.
The new ones start about page 76, I think.
Posted by Rick McDermed at 10:49 AM
October 18, 2008 GMT
Broome, South toward Perth!
Broome was an EXCELLENT stop where we could ride our motorcycles on the beach.
Eat at great restaurants on the beach,
And enjoy some excellent beach sunsets!
But it was time to move on south toward Perth. There was NOT a whole lot to see on the road from Broome to Port Hedland and the temperature and humidity made it tough going. I took this picture at a roadhouse since I thought it was totally appropriate because it was hot enough for ANYTHING to be on fire.
At the next roadhouse we got a weather update!
We made it to Exmouth and picked up another “big” before visiting Cape Range National Park!
If those other two red dirt roads had the views this one did, I don’t think they would have been quite so stressful! :=)
Next stop was Coral Bay where we took an “underwater” reef tour.
The next day we booked a snorkel tour that let us swim for about and hour with some HUGE Manta Rays. One of them that led us around the bay was about 5 meters across. It was fantastic seeing them in their own environment and then allowing us to intrude to as close as 2 meters. Unfortunately, no pictures since my camera is not waterproof but got these pictures of whales and turtles after the manta ray dive.
We left Coral Bay and continued south.
I got this picture in Carnarvon of the very antenna that on July 20, 1969, picked up Neil Armstrong’s words “one small step for man …” from the moon and then retransmitted it to the world. Cool!
Next stop was Shark Bay. Julia said that she read it was an “excellent” place for me to go swimming! :=)
A little side trip to see some Stromatolites. These are the oldest living organisms on earth. 3.5 BILLION YEARS OLD.
I ask Corey to take this picture of me to prove to Julia that I am NOT the oldest living thing on earth! :=)
Another stop at “Shell Beach”. This beach is NOT sand but millions and millions of tiny coquina shells, where at low tide you can walk a hundred meters into the bay on an endless surface of shells. Cool again!
We made it to Denham and will make a quick visit to Monkey Mia before heading on south toward Perth!
Many more pictures here if interested!
More later from "down the road"!
Posted by Rick McDermed at 02:28 PM
October 12, 2008 GMT
Gibb River Road to the Beach!
It was time for some more dirt riding along the Gibb River Road from Kununara to Derby and Broome,
clear over to some beaches on Australia’s left coast. First a little side trip up to Wyndham for another “big” plus some lunch.
This croc IS just a statue unlike Krys (remember him/her?) in Normanton. We had not planned a very long first day since someone told me about a very nice place to stay only about 60 miles along the road. El Questro is a very isolated cattle station that has a very good bar/restaurant and rooms available. Getting there posed some challenges. This was the “cool” entrance to the station.
We washed down some of the dirt with a few beers and then went for a swim in the Pentecost River.
Crocs, what Crocs?
Up and away early for a long day in the dirt to another cattle station about 210 miles on down the road.
Again, the road gave us many challenges but it did NOT beat us as it did this guy!
Some very smooth gravel, some mud holes, lots of corrugations, and occasionally sheer terror were the order of the day. The terror came in when the smooth red dirt we were riding on at higher speeds turned instantly to a section of “bull dust” (think red talcum powder). If the section was short we usually blasted through quickly enough that no real harm was done. If the section was longer, well, the dirt riding technique book says “move as far back on the seat as possible and whack the throttle wide open” BUT your mind says many DIFFERENT things, NONE of which can be printed here! :=) Corey, who has ridden some very bad Baja Roads said that on a Baja scale of 1 to 5 this was about a 3.5 for difficulty but a 6 for treachery! :=)
We did make it to Mount Elizabeth Station without doing any serious damage to the bikes or ourselves.
Again, had to wash down the dirt with a few beers. They fixed us a very nice dinner and it was off to bed because we had another day of dirt “fun?” ahead of us. More challenges met and overcome! :=)
An overnight stop in Derby allowed us to get a picture of an unusual Boab Prison Tree (read the informational sign in the picture gallery),
and then on to Broome finally. Another place “with the worlds best beach” according to the book put out by the Chamber of commerce! It actually was a VERY nice beach that we were allowed to drive on and we did.
Afterward we washed down some red dirt and beach sand with a HUGE beer! Cooler weather, Beaches, Great restaurants. :=) We will be here for awhile before we head south toward Perth! More later.
Many more pictures here if interested!
Posted by Rick McDermed at 11:21 AM
October 08, 2008 GMT
Corey and Rick together in Oz!
Corey made it to Darwin Saturday afternoon and his bike was delivered Sunday morning. After partying hard for two days (actually, it was lights out and in bed by 9:00 PM both nights. Corey‘s fault. Jet Lag) :=) it was time to hit the road.
We left Monday and headed to Kakadu National Park. Examples of Aborigine Rock Art are found at a site called Ubirr within the Park. The road out to Ubirr was another GREAT motorcycle road, again with excellent scenery. The ride was worth it even with the 90 degree temperature and the 90% HUMIDITY!!
I had read that it was some of the best examples but I had NO idea how extensive they were. We climbed to the top of an overlook and could immediately see why people would choose this place to live.
I took MANY pictures of the art and signs. I won’t try to tell you all about it here as it would take a long time and a lot of typing. Please look over the additional pictures of the art and informational signs. As I said, it was most impressive.
Next up was a 6:25 AM cruise on the Alligator River (misnamed because a guy didn’t know the difference between Alligators and Crocs (I don’t either. I DO know they BOTH want you for lunch). We were told that if you were ever going to see Crocs and such “in the wild”, then you couldn’t miss on this river, early in the morning. It wasn’t hard to get up at 5:30 (remember, average bedtime for us has been 8:30 PM) :=) for the tour and we were NOT disappointed. The scenery was spectacular,
and the crocs were cooperative (for pictures, not for lunch).
Many, many birds species including a couple that were very rare (tiny kingfisher),
and very seldom seen according to the tour operator. In sighting them he actually used the term “magical”. There were several “birders” on the boat that “swooned“! :=)
After the “wildlife” tour, it was on the Katherine (again, for me since this is where I turned north to Darwin to meet Corey). Then on west to Kununara which is the decision point for another 350 mile dirt road or not). We have asked anyone and everyone about the road and the consensus is “it is OK”. We then ask, can you define “OK“, and the answer is ALWAYS “NO”. I am having a new tire installed and then we are going out to see what OK means on the Gibb River Road. Hopefully you will hear from us again when/if we reach Derby and Broome!. More later (I hope)!
Many more pictures here if interested!
Posted by Rick McDermed at 09:59 AM
October 02, 2008 GMT
Darwin, Top End!
Let’s see where was I. Oh yes the “Road from Hell” was done and I was back on tarmac, sweet tarmac. :=) Actually the road wasn’t as bad as I have made it sound (except for that sand/bull dust part), it was mostly the stress of being out there alone, especially after seeing so many signs that said “don’t travel this road alone“. I KNOW what you are thinking and I am guilty! :=) I reached the Stuart Highway where I turned north once again. Daly Waters was right there. It is a VERY historic town. I know this because the sign said so.
It actually was a very “cool” little place with the Outback’s first traffic light.
I ask the “mayor” what triggered it to turn green. He said “when I remove the lens and put the bulb down at the bottom, but I don’t do that often because we like folks to stop.” I saw a bit on TV about Daly Waters and they were bowling, right in the middle of the road. The reporter asked him what happened if a car came along. He said “they have to wait till the game is over”! I liked the place but moved on north to Katherine. Stayed there a couple of days. Headed north again toward Darwin with a little side trip into Litchfield National Park.
Some great roads, nice swimming holes, (even the "designated" areas made me nervous! :=)
and very different termite mounds.
These termite mounds were different than I had been seeing (and you of course).
They were very thin and all ORIENTED TO MAGNETIC NORTH!
Hey, I am only telling you what they told me! :=) See if you can read the sign.
On to Darwin. I usually like the smaller towns but I had been in the “outback” so long that I was looking forward to Darwin. :=)
Oriented myself (to magnetic north) :=) and booked a sunset cruise of Darwin Harbor. It was very nice and I needed the relaxation.
Again for my friends in the Ventura H.O.G. Chapter, I saw this place down the street from the hotel in Darwin.
My question is “do you go there to get rid of Helmet Hair or to get the Helmet Hair look?" :=)
I have a couple of days to “wind down” then Corey will be here and we will start the “second half” heading a bit farther west and south toward Perth (but first another 500 mile dirt road (Gibb River Road) and some great beaches again around Broome). More later. Many more pictures here if interested.
Posted by Rick McDermed at 10:26 AM
September 28, 2008 GMT
Heading West on the Savannah Way
I headed west from Cairns on one of the best motorcycle roads I have ever ridden. Cairns to Mareeba, to Atherton, to Ravenshoe was “perfect” riding. Warm, sunny, great road, excellent scenery, and no traffic.
I saw a sign on a side road that said “Queenslands highest road to the highest city“. Had to see what that was about!
Since I had the GPS, it was easy to see that “the highest road“ went all the way up to 3500 ft and the highest city was a breathtaking 3000 ft.
Queensland must be fairly flat! :=) The next sign I saw was for the Undara Lava Tubes National Park.
It said something about sleeping in a rail car. Had to see that. The Lava tube tour was “cool”
but sleeping in that restored rail car was the real excitement! :=) The entire Lodge was made up of restored rail cars including reception, dining rooms, and the “coolest” bar yet!!
Left there after the tour and made it to Normanton on the Gulf of Carpentaria. I had been told that I HAD to see the Purple Pub while here. Apparently at one time this place had a questionable reputation and was THE place for anything and everything. Well everyone (including a family with two little girls) was there, so I guess it is now just a pub (but a colorful one).
That Croc is NOT just a sculpture, read the sign! :=)
Normanton is a decision point for road types going west. If you stay up by the Gulf, you have about 450 miles of not so great gravel and red dirt road to Borroloola before hitting tarmac again toward Daly Waters on the Stuart Hwy. You can also go south about 250 miles to Cloncurry then turn west to the Stuart then north again to Daly Waters and on to Darwin, all on tarmac. I wrestled with the decision for quite awhile. I was traveling alone and felt a bit uncomfortable taking to the dirt which has MUCH LESS traffic (in case of emergency). I called Julia and told her what I was about to do (so she would know where to look for the body) :=) let some air out of the tires and hit the dirt (little did I know how literal that would be). Kilometer after kilometer, mile after mile, DAY after DAY (actually just three) :=) nothing but savannah,
and red dirt
with a few live things thrown in to break the monotony.
I made it to Burketown which has “The Outback’s Greatest Hotel”, so the sign says.
That is ALL it has. The road from Normanton to Burketown wasn’t all that bad, just a lot of red dust but fairly decent. The same can’t be said for the road from Burketown to Borrolula. 310 miles of all the above plus, just when you think you’ve got it mastered, THIS.
This is the first of three (I was in NO mood to take pictures of the next two. :=) . There were also 4 water crossings with signs that said “do not walk it, Crocs”. I am sure it was for higher water times but still incentive to NOT fall over in the water (I was remembering Krys). :=)
10 hours (and a LOT of swear words) later Borrolula, which isn’t saying a lot but there was beer (sold ONLY between 2:30 and 5:30 PM. Thank god for that half hour time change at the boarder of NT. After Borrolula, I made it to Cape Crawford (no cape here) and got a helicopter flight /tour of the Lost City that I had read about in my travel books.
It was VERY impressive especially since there were NO people other than the pilot and me. There are NO roads to it (cuts down on tourists. :=) Climbed to the top of one spire for pictures.
Left CapeCrawford and made a stop at Daly Waters, a very historic outpost. Now in Katherine "resting" and will do the 200 miles to Darwin in a couple of days.
Sorry for the delay in updating, internet in the outback is a bit tough. More Later!!
Many more pictures here if interested!
Posted by Rick McDermed at 09:05 AM
September 24, 2008 GMT
Cairns and Turning West!!
I dragged myself away from Airlie Beach and the Whitsunday Islands. I like Airlie very much (remember, it had moved to the top of my favorite beach places) UNTIL I got to Mission Beach (recommended by the skipper of the sail boat that I cruised on). Mission Beach is about 60 miles south of Cairns and has everything Airlie Beach does EXCEPT the traffic and tourists. It is a sleepy little place
with excellent restaurants (right on the beach),
very nice motels, extremely friendly locals, and almost NO traffic and tourists.
Yup, moved to the top of the list (hey, so I’m fickle). It was time to get the bike serviced and I needed to do it at a dealer since it is still under warrantee. Since it was Sunday and the dealer wasn’t open, I thought I would find the dealer and get a fix for the gps, then continue north toward Port Douglas (if Byron Bay is the home of the rich, Douglas is the home of the obnoxiously rich) :=) , Daintree, and Cape Tribulation since they were only about 75 miles north. The ride north was very much like the Big Sur road in California (my home),
and since it was Sunday, it even had the traffic!! :=) There was a ferry ride involved in getting to Cape Tribulation
(missed it by that much, in my best Get Smart voice) :=)
I got back to Cairns late Sunday evening and was at the Suzuki Dealer bright and early on Monday morning. This part is just for my “friends” in the Ventura H.O.G. Chapter back home that give me a hard time about riding around Oz on a Suzuki vice Harley.
The Suzuki dealer in Cairns is also the Harley Dealer.!!!!!!! Got the Suzuki serviced and bought the Harley shirt in one stop! :=) I can’t say enough good things about Wayne Leonard and his dealership. EVERYONE was helpful and friendly. Wayne and his wife Rhonda, service manager Warren, and tire guy Stephen went WAY out of their way to take care of me. While I was waiting, I found a Hog Tales that had a picture from the H.O.G. 2002 Lewis and Clark Ride that included me. They circled my picture and put it (and my Chapter business Card) on the wall with the Cape York Chapter Information. I felt honored (and a little bit like a celebrity).
So much for beaches for awhile. I turned west and will be “inland” for a week or so getting to Darwin to meet Cory. Lots of “outback” lonely roads in my near future!! :=)
I check my regular email every chance I get so let me know what you think about the pictures and the adventure!!
Rick (in the 'Outback")
Posted by Rick McDermed at 03:51 AM
September 19, 2008 GMT
Airlie Beach and the Whitsundays
I finally tore myself away from Hervey Bay and Fraser Island. I had already changed my vote for “favorite place” from Byron Bay to Hervey Bay so it was very hard to leave but the guide book said that Airlie Beach (500 miles north) had a lot to offer so I rode north a bit reluctantly (you know how wrong guide books can be). There wasn’t a lot to see on the main road except sugar cane harvesting
or maybe a bird hitching a ride
or another “big“.
I resisted the urge to take some of the side roads
down to the beach since I had set my sights on Airlie Beach. I was NOT disappointed. This was my first view of Airlie Beach.
This town is the jumping off point to the Whitsunday Islands off the coast and it is said to be some of the very best “cruising” waters in the world. From the number of boats that were set up and cruising the area, it must be true.
I checked in to my first backpacker hostel (I am DEFINITELY the oldest dude here) and booked a 2 day 1 night sail around some of the islands on an ex-maxi ocean racer (70 feet). It turned out that there weren’t enough people signed up for the cruise so I was “upgraded” to a 3 day 2 night cruise that would have cost more than twice as much. SCORE!!! This is the boat I originally booked,
this is the one I finally sailed on,
and THIS is the one I really wanted to cruise on. :=)
Lots of islands, sailing, snorkeling, relaxing, swimming, and “yes” there were adult beverages available. :=) One of the best places we stopped was Whitehaven Beach.
The claim is that it is one of the best beaches in the world. The sand was fine and white, and the water warm and inviting.
I took advantage.
And just to show Julia that I was thinking of her (even while “frolicking” on the best beach in the world),
I immortalized her name forever in the sand (or until high tide, whichever comes first). :=) The sunsets at the nightly anchorages were spectacular
but then the sunrises were just as good.
This is our course for the three days,
and this is the crew on 1 foot reef (yup, only 1 foot is above water at high tide).
So my vote for favorite place has once again changed, to Airlie Beach. Too bad I have to leave and keep heading north. Townsville and Cairns are next then I turn east toward Darwin (only about another 2000 miles to meet Cory). Many more pictures here if interested. http://www.smugmug.com/gallery/4659871_pddif/1/375563987_ZLahU
Posted by Rick McDermed at 08:20 AM
September 16, 2008 GMT
Leaving Byron Bay
Byron Bay is a GREAT place to spend some time. A bit "touristy" but still a GREAT place to just "kick back". What place that is well worth a visit doesn't have a some tourists? I have already mentioned the Lighthouse and the Easterly most point on mainland Australia but there is more than that. Excellent beaches (only half a block from town center),
nice little shops, excellent restaurants,
free wi fi access, maybe the "coolest" bar I have visited in a long time (and I have visited a LOT of them) :=) .
Score. BUT, I still needed to head north (had to meet Cory in Darwin on Oct 4th, remember?) and there was just too much to see and do. Going north along the Gold Coast, I stopped at a LOT of beaches and nice beach towns.
I even was able to get a little exercise on one of them.
I DID pass up this beach though since I wasn't sure how it got it's name.
Thought this might be a clue!
Ran into a place called Surfers Paradise. I looked for the sign I had seen in an ad but the only one I could find was this one which I think is MOST appropriate
because if I was stuck here this is where I would be, trying to make an escape. ;=} I think they just "named" it Surfers Paradise because I am sure all the surfers went south to the Byron Bay area. It was more like Miami Beach with all the high rises and traffic. Couldn't wait to see it in the mirrors. I have been taking the well signed "tourist drives" as they leave the main road and pass thru some very quaint little townships. Just past Brisbane, I saw a tourist drive named Steve Irwin Way.
Had to see what that was about. Ran across the Australian Zoo made famous by The Crocodile Hunter.
Didn't go in as the admission was $52. Julia said "did you see if they had a senior discount? You are OLD in Australia too you know." Still , I didn't want to put the beer money in jeopardy! :=) I was already starting to miss the beach when, as luck would have it, just on the other side of Brisbane, 200 or so miles from Byron, I ran across Mooloolaba.
Another GREAT place that would give Byron Bay a run for it's money for "coolness". Here I discovered "The Surf Club" which had great food, great patrons, cold beer, and yes,
it was right on the beach. :=) I met four guys on motorcycles that checked into the same motel at which I was staying (they are responsible for introducing me to the Surf Club which we closed up one evening). They gave me a lot of local information on things to see and places to stop on my way north. I overcame the urge to stay here longer and moved on north to Hervey Bay (another EXCELLENT beach town) where I booked a two day tour of Fraser Island.
Fraser Island is the largest sand island in the world and it has a rain forest interior. I hiked thru some of the interior (actually I was "forced" to by the tour guide).
The island is about 100 miles long and averages 15 miles wide AND
you can drive on the beach for almost 90 percent of the circumference.
There are some SERIOUS four wheel drive roads in the interior
as well as some spots on the beach. Just crossing the beach to get on the ferry (they call it a barge here) was an adventure itself.
Entertainment for lunch on the second day was watching the less experienced "off roaders" try to negotiate a steep sand bypass road around Indian Head rocks.
I was VERY glad we were in the appropriate vehicle with a very capable driver. Got to swim in one of the many fresh water lakes on the island and "float" about a quarter mile down one of the largest fresh water creeks. There are several "must see" spots on Fraser Island such as Stonewood Sand Dune, (a huge dune actually moving across the island), Eli Creek (the one I floated),
Central Station, Indian Head Rocks, (the views from here are nothing less than SPECTACULAR),
the Wreck of the Maheno just to name a few.
I can't write about all of them but you can look some more up on the internet. :=) Lots of critters
and even a dingo
We saw a lot of terns on the beach.
The guide said you couldn't tell what kind they were until they took to flight. If they flew north, they were left terns, if they flew south, they were right terns, and if they came right back to the beach, they were re terns. (rim shot). :=)
It was an excellent two days BUT as I said earlier, I needed to be moving north and east toward Darwin. A couple more days riding should put me in Arlie Beach where I will look for a tour out to the Great Barrier Reef. Arlie is only a couple of days from Cairns where I will turn West toward Normanton and eventually Darwin. Hard to judge the "schedule" with so much to see and do. More later.
Many more pictures starting here. http://www.smugmug.com/gallery/4659871_pddif/1/369631740_ooVf2
Posted by Rick McDermed at 03:47 AM
September 10, 2008 GMT
Telescopes and Tall Tales!!
After being in Australia for a week and a half, I had become accustomed to hearing the “accent” wherever I was. On this particular evening I was in a Pub (yes, I have been known to frequent them. Surprised?) taste testing the local brews. I became aware of a group of guys that had obviously arrived at the Pub well ahead of me. They were having a great time telling stories about their adventures with each one “topping” the other (kind of like bikers). :=) The unusual part was they, had USA “accents”. I decided to introduce myself (after all, I had some stories as well) :=). Turns out it was a group of guys who worked for a company out of Tucson, Arizona USA. Their company, EOS Technologies, Inc, manufactures, assembles, and installs, huge telescopes. They had stories about installations all over the world, India, the Himalayas, Hawaii, Australia, and Albuquerque. :=) The group was headed up by Vince and Mark and they had 5 other young, studly guys (probably to do the “heavy” work). :=) They DID say that most of the installations were on the top of some godforsaken, windy, cold mountain top. I took some pictures of all of us but they came out blurry. I think the pictures were OK and the subjects were blurry! :=) I was very interested in THEIR stories and they seemed genuinely interested in MINE. They have a LOT of different beers here in Oz, and we tried MOST of them (Vince tried some, more than once). :=) They were a GREAT group of guys and I THINK we had a good time. It was a bit harder to get on the road the next morning!!!!!
Posted by Rick McDermed at 06:28 AM
September 08, 2008 GMT
Byron Bay and Beaches!
There I was, holed up in a very nice motel room for a couple of days because it was raining and COLD (40 degrees). I was OK but when Julia said “are you going to spend your whole vacation in that motel", I decided to “man up” and hit the road. The next morning it was 36 degrees and raining but I HAD to go (must show Julia). Rain gear and electric clothing on with thermostat up to 10, and away I went (crying like a little girl). After about and hour and actually turning the thermostat down to 5, I was beginning to think that it would be OK, THEN, here comes the altitude. 3000 feet and the thermostat was back up to 10 and I was looking for 15. :=) Fortunately, I was at altitude for only a little while. The Oxley Highway is a great motorcycle road.
It is number 30 in Peter Thoeming’s book I have on 100 top rides in Australia. The cold was overridden by the perfect motorcycle road. I passed thru a town called Gunnedah. It billed itself as “The Koala Capital of Australia”.
At lunch, a fellow told me about a little dirt road and a grove of eucalyptus trees that I should check out for Koalas.
I rode down there and parked the bike, sat quietly (as the fellow had told me to do) searching the tree tops for 30 minutes and sure enough, NO KOALAS! :=) I did catch these two watching me though.
Rode on disappointed (I‘ll look for a zoo). The next larger town was Tamworth which bills itself as the “Country Music Capital of Australia”. It also boasts of the “Largest Playable Guitar in the World“. I didn’t play it cause I was looking for beaches and warm weather. Made it to the coast at Port Macquarie. Warm weather, sunshine and beaches at last. I am a HAPPY BOY!!.
Actually had to stop and put away some clothing cause I was TOO WARM! :=) It actually got a little “tropical”. Lots of bananas, fruit, and sugar cane. Riding up the coast north was like riding thru the giant redwoods north of San Francisco but with eucalyptus trees closing in on the road. If you are a surfer (and I know my friend Jason at work is) then this is the place to be. I am sure he would recognize names like Lighthouse, Shelly, and Angels Beaches. The riding was excellent. I followed a great road along a river for many miles and also rode beside the ocean for many miles OD’ing on scenery.
I passed thru Ballina on the way north. Australia has some outstanding “bigs” and Ballina has the Big Prawn.
A couple of days riding north has me at Byron Bay, about 100 miles south of Brisbane. In the 1970’s Byron Bay was a hippie retreat (many of which are still here but drawing a pension) :=) but now it is a surfer and backpacker “hang out” (I may very well be the oldest “dude” in town) although Paul Hogan and Olivia Newton John used to live here. Byron Bay also has a GREAT Lighthouse.
It is 22 meters high, 113 meters above sea level and can be seen for 42 miles out at sea. It is also within walking (climbing) distance of the Easterly most point on the Australia mainland. The views are spectacular (except for that one the old guy jumped into). :=)
I have a couple of weeks to go north to Cairns and then a couple of weeks to go east to Darwin to meet Cory. Looking forward to some leisurely riding, sight seeing, and taste testing!! :=)
Many more pictures here if interested.
Posted by Rick McDermed at 12:33 AM
September 04, 2008 GMT
Movin North from Castlemaine!
I made my way to Castlemaine about 75 miles Northeast of Melbourne via a very nice and fast train. Norbert, from the motorcycle rental company met me at the station. I swear I saw him try to sneak away unnoticed when he saw the two big “Dry Bags” and the even bigger suitcase that I had, but I didn’t let him get away. While I did the paperwork, Norbert installed the Corbin seat I brought along (my bony butt will NOT accept those regular dirt bike seats) and then installed the two wiring harnesses (one for the GPS and one for the heated clothing/compressor). Now it was my turn at trying to pack all my stuff. Finally got it all tied down and went to a very nice B & B that was included in the rental.
The name of the place seemed quite appropriate. The bike doesn’t really look overloaded does it?
Got up in the morning to a steady rain. Went back to bed! :=) A couple of hours later after several cups of coffee and breakfast it had stopped, so “The Ride” officially began. Getting used to riding on the “other” side of the road took a bit of doing BUT a HUGE road train grill coming straight at you is a reminder NOT soon forgotten! :=)
Decided to head north and bypass Sydney looking for some warmer weather. I can visit there when I come back in the summer (sounds like a long time huh?). So far I have traveled some very nice roads (with a "few" curves)
and some interesting signs that we rarely see in the states! :=)
Lots of nice little towns with VERY unusual names. Riding down the road enjoying the scenery when I saw this.
Had to go have a look. Found Parks Observatory. Interesting.
Sign in parking lot in capital letters said to turn off motor quickly and ALL electronic equipment. Off went the engine, the GPS, and the locator beacon. I did a little tour and when I came back to the bike both the GPS and the locator beacon were ON. I KNOW they were TALKING to the Dish!!!!:=)
A couple of more days should put me in Byron Bay (the Eastern most point in Australia) and Brisbane. Right now I am holed up in a very nice motel with free wi fi, and breakfast in the town of Coonabarabran waiting out a heavy rain, which normally wouldn’t pose a problem except the temperature is 45 DEGREES and since I am in NO hurry! :=)
More pictures here if interested. http://www.smugmug.com/gallery/4659871_pddif/1/364726301_wtRJd
Posted by Rick McDermed at 01:01 AM
September 03, 2008 GMT
We are not in Kansas any more Toto! Actually I wasn’t sure where we were when we landed. I figured it must be another PLANET after 15 HOURS of flying. :=) I slept 5 hours, watched 3 movies and still had time to kill . It DID turn out to be Melbourne though which is a good thing since that was where I was headed. I planned a couple days here to recover from the jet lag and it was definitely needed. I did manage a walking tour and a river cruise though. I told Julia that I went to the Queen Victoria Market.
It is said to be the biggest open air market in the Southern Hemisphere. You can get ANYTHING! She thought it was great that I may be picking up her “shopping gene”. Didn’t have the heart to tell her I just stumbled on it while walking around and got out fast since it was VERY crowded. :=)
I also found an observation deck that was 88 stories high. The elevator only took 38 seconds to get up there. Very fast. It made a noise like a jet taking off as it rose. The view of Melbourne was excellent.
Later I took a Yarra River cruise that also had some great sites.
I am already picking up on the new language. I have used new words several times already. “No worries”, “Good on ya Mate”, “Yeahr”, and the two new ones I use most often, “Victoria Bitter Please” and “Carleton Draught Please”. :=)
I do have a HUGE problem though. I am going to DIE here I am sure. I continually step off curbs crossing streets LOOKING THE WRONG WAY!!! :=) Screeching brakes and blaring horns are a heart stopping reminder. Maybe I’ll get used to it BEFORE I die. Pray for me!!
Now it is off to Castlemaine to pick up the bike and start the “real” ride.
Many more pictures starting here if you like.
It was a very cloudy day so they didn’t come out too well. Sorry.
More Later. Rick
Posted by Rick McDermed at 07:52 AM
August 25, 2008 GMT
Getting REAL Close Now
Yup, Aug 28th is fast approaching and I still have all kinds of things to do before I leave. SOME even having to do with the trip. ;=} Visas, plane tickets, reservations (for when I arrive), suitcases, and motorcycle bags, are just a few of the additional things I have to be concerned with this time unlike last when I just threw everything in the boxes on the bike and rode away. Rounding up all the things I will (or might) need on the ride in Australia is becoming a big job. I didn’t take any camping gear to Alaska or South America but I will on this trip so that is a whole new area of “things” I need, plus it adds to the overall size of the load. I really hope those DR650’s are sturdy because the pile just keeps expanding. I am going to work on the problem “part time” since I will be working at the Ventura Harley Dealer until the day before I leave (a good thing because I DO need the money). :=)
You may be thinking “what about the Good News/Bad News bit (then again, maybe not). The bad news first. Julia has realized that her busy schedule will not let her come over at the end of the trip for some “together touring”. That means I will have to suffer two more weeks before I see her when I get home. I’ll try to occupy myself doing a little more bike touring and a LOT more taste testing of the local beer and wine! :=) Now the Good News! My friend, Cory Larsen (that I rode with to Panama City on my Prudhoe Bay to Tierra Del Fuego trip) has decided to join me for the last half of the trip.
Cory and I on a tour of Panama City with the guys from the "Primer EnCuentro Motociclista De America". Yeah, I know, what's with the car? :=)
We will meet in Darwin on the 6th of October and finish the west coast, southwest peninsula, Ayres Rock/Uluru, Alice Springs and back down to Melbourne together. Cory should make MY trip much more comfortable since he knows all about camping out, cooking over an open fire, washing dishes with sand, working on motorcycles, AND he is a doctor. :=) Seriously, I am looking forward to riding with Cory again because we had a great time riding through Mexico and Central America (plus he is into taste testing adult beverages as much as me).
The next installment should be from Australia (unless I wind up on that "Lost" island or something). I hope you enjoy tagging along!
Posted by Rick McDermed at 09:50 PM
April 07, 2008 GMT
Planning for Oz 2008
Another place I have heard about since I was a kid (yes, a LONG time ago) is Ayres Rock (now called Uluru) in Central Australia. Unlike the Nazca lines and Machu Picchu, Uluru is not "on the way to anywhere" :=) There seems to be several thousand miles of ocean involved just to get to Australia then a thousand miles of "outback". Oh well, that's what makes it an adventure ride. I thought that since I am going to cross that entire ocean I might as well see a bit more of Oz than just Uluru. I figure a circumnavigation and then a little (2000 mile) detour to the center for the "rock" would be about right. The route looks like this on my GPS.
With a few "alternate" routes to be determined and some "side" trips, that's 10 to 12 thousand miles. That's about the same distance from home to Tierra Del Fuego and back up to Buenos Aires on the last big trip so 4 months should do it. Since I promised Julia I would at least "try" not to be away from home on all the holidays again, I figure if I start riding on the first of Sept. and return just before Christmas maybe she will forgive me for not being there on Thanksgiving. :=)
After checking into shipping my bike to Oz and all that would be involved, I decided to rent a motorcycle over there. I looked at several places and decided on a company called Bike Round Oz www.bikeroundoz.com . I have talked with a fellow there named Mark who has gone way out of his way to answer all my questions. I am going to rent a Suzuki DR650 with an oversize gas tank and large panniers. It is very similar to the KLR I rode to SA.
Here is the plan so far. Fly from Los Angeles to Melbourne on Aug 28th. Rest and recover a couple of days and start riding on Sept 1st. It will still be winter/early spring in the south so I will head north and east toward Brisbane and Cairns then west to Darwin and Broome. The rainy season starts up north in mid to late October so I need to be in Broome before then. Down to Perth and the southwest corner in early November and up to Uluru/Alice Springs in mid to late November, then back down to Melbourne to turn the bike in and hopefully meet Julia for a bit of "real tourist" stuff via plane around some more of Australia.
I am going to start with the same email list I had on the last adventure so I hope you want to tag along. If NOT, send me an email at email@example.com and I will remove you from the list. Remember: The entries in the blog are "last in, first up" (behind the intro page). If you want to start from the beginning of the North/South America trip click the "full index" button on the right and start from the bottom. If you previously toured with me and have read it already (and you should have) :=) and just want to keep up with this Australia trip part, click on the "archives category" and select the "Around Oz 2008" entries. More to come as the planning progresses
Posted by rickmcd at 02:24 AM