“There and back again”
, a week off to ride to South Australia and back. by Geoff Le Raye – AUGUST 2014
I have always liked starting a long trip very early in the morning; before traffic, before sunlight. It just gets the trip off to a good start. Doing so in winter is not always such a good idea though. The first problem was heavy fog as I rolled along the M7 out of Sydney. Visibility got quite low in some places, so care and attention took precedence over just enjoying the road. Temperature was about 5 degrees, but that was OK. I was dressed for it and the electric gloves were keeping up with ease. Things went downhill as daylight approached and I neared Goulburn. The temperature plummeted to minus 3 and the fog just would not let up. Suddenly the fog on my visor just iced up and visibility dropped to zero. The only thing for it was to lift the visor and look for somewhere to pull over. Minus 3 air at 100 kph makes the face smart a bit. I had to stop to wash and dry the visor to get the ice off. I raised the windscreen a bit higher and was able to crouch behind it and stop any more fog collecting and freezing again. The temperature stayed below zero all the way to Wagga Wagga for my first fuel stop (the joys of a 32 litre tank). There I discovered that even though the electric gloves kept my fingers functioning, my arms cramped up whenever I tried to bend my elbows, so I still couldn’t get my helmet off for 10 minutes. The temperature finally started to go positive so I could function again. I stayed there for almost an hour thawing out.
Loaded for travel (at Deniliquin servo)
I was looking for roads slightly less travelled (by me anyway), so after Wagga I detoured via Lockhart, Jerilderie, Deniliquin, Moulamein, Ouyen and finally reached Pinnaroo in South Australia just on sunset. The Pinnaroo Motel is clean, tidy and a bit overpriced, but did the job. At least 10 hours sleep did me good and I was back on the road at sunrise, going through Loxton, Morgan, Crystal Brook, Port Augusta, Kimba and finally my destination Cleve. It’s amazing how much roadkill there is out there at the moment, which definitely had me concentrating on the sides of the road. The Stelvio was happy to keep plodding along all day, although every time the engine felt like it was really free flowing and happy I knew I must have crept well over the limit again. One advantage of taking mostly secondary roads, apart from the great scenery, no traffic and interesting roads, was I didn’t see any highway patrol the whole two days.
Now why would anyone deliberately set out for a place like Cleve? It’s a very small town in the middle of the Eyre Peninsula and isn’t known for any famous sportsmen, celebrities or mass murderers. However I did grow up there and every second year it hosts the Field Days, the biggest agricultural machinery expo in the state. Oh, and for many years my dad has been part of the group that runs the field days. He swears this is his last one, so it was a good excuse to go for a long ride and hang out with him. So we spent three days (complete with cold, biting wind) looking at things mechanical (there was one large farm implement we couldn’t figure out what it did), then going home each night for a chat over a beer or two, a red wine or two and a scotch (or two). We solved many of life’s problems that week.
Now that’s a tractor
Finally it was time to head off again, and this time I was taking the ferry. It runs from Lucky Bay to Wallaroo and takes off about five hours riding time. I was the only bike onboard and the tie-down facilities are fairly rudimentary. You nose up to a frame on the bulkhead, then get a couple of tiedown straps on the handlebars to hopefully hold things still. I cranked down on the suspension as much as I could and got it fairly secure. You do have to provide your own cushioning to prevent the straps rubbing on the paintwork. It’s a two hour cruise across the gulf and it was quite smooth, so the bike was still upright when I got back to it (I did the New Zealand inter-island ferry iin rough weather many years ago and my bike was the only one still standing. The locals had decided one strap would do. It didn’t).
Tie it down and hope for the best.
Once off the ferry, I started heading east, but it was soon getting dark and starting to rain, so Auburn was as far as I went. Time enough tomorrow to make some distance. A check of the weather map showed that I was in for a wet day tomorrow, and sure enough, it was. I was on the road at sunrise again, with a mission to push east. On the way I did see two roadkill-to-be. One crossed the road about 100m in front of me; the other was just sitting on the side of the road, picking its target. It rained, heavily at times, all the way to the other side of Mildura. I finally got ahead of it and managed a few hours of relatively pleasant weather. I met a couple in Hay who had taken two days to get there from Mount Gambier in South Australia. He was on a Harley, and she had a Virago 250. She’s only been riding a few months. Both bikes were loaded to the hilt, with a large pile of things strapped to the passenger seat. They had a vague plan of heading toward Cairns, then maybe get some work, then maybe just travelling around a bit. Half their luck! I however, was on a mission, so back on the road I went, while they went in search of a coffee shop and somewhere to stay the night. By the time I got to Yass it was dark, raining again and the wet weather gear was giving up. At least the Hume is easy to navigate in pouring rain and there wasn’t much traffic about, so I just put my head down and got on with it. Google maps says it is 1,377 km from Auburn to my front door and would take 15 hours, plus breaks. I did it in 15 1/2.
The trip both ways was a grand total of 3,388 km, but I felt surprisingly good at the end of it. The Stelvio with a sheepskin rug on the seat and a comfortable sitting position just lets you ride all day without any real aches or pains (the sheepskin did go into a pannier during the rainy bits). If you have ever considered electric gloves, get them, they are worth their weight in gold. Even though the weather was “challenging” in places (it is winter after all), it was a thoroughly enjoyable week away.