BMW R1200GSA vs Moto Guzzi Stelvio NTX

Monday, 17 November 2014

Are we there yet? The Balladonia express to my front door.

3/11/14

The sun was beaming in through the hotel room window at 4.45 am and I was wide awake. Rexy was up and making coffee, so I knew I had one co-rider for today. Uncle D and Uncle R stirred soon after, so the four Mild Hogs would finish this ride together as a team.


With a forecast high of thirty four degrees Celsius today I decided it was time to remove all the liners from my riding gear. I know I've raved about it before, but my Rev'it gear is probably the best investment I've ever made as far as motorcycle gear goes. It's kept me 100% dry riding in hours of down pouring rain, it's warm, but with the liners removed it's comfortable in the heat. I was ready. 

My standard rule is not to ride within an hour of sunrise or sunset, this way we avoid the kangaroos and other wild life that like to throw themselves at our bikes. With just under 1,000 kilometers to cover, our wheels were rolling westward again at a quarter to six. The light was quite harsh for this time of the morning, making the strong colours of the desert even more bright and vivid than usual.

More of the same.
Luckily we didn't get lost.

It was a really pleasant ride as we made our way toward Norseman and the crisp morning air made the bike run strongly.



After a quick breakfast and refuel in Norseman we turned north toward Coolgardie. On the way we rode past Lake Cowan, a huge salt lake that reminded me of Lake Lefroy. Lake Lefroy was home to WA's biggest and best desert race. It was a challenging race, but once you got to the end you felt an enormous sense of achievement. Unfortunately the race is no longer. I miss those days of racing.

We stopped in Coolgardie for fuel and a quick energy drink, then the other side of Coolgardie threw up some more road works for us. It was just a final little slap in the face for the boys who don't like dirt roads.



Check out that sky.

Our next refuel was in Southern Cross and while we were there we shared our lunch with the local flies, who were even more friendly than usual.

After another refuel at Tammin it was just a matter of continuing east until we crested Greenmount Hill, the gateway to the City of Perth.


Perth city from Greenmount Hill.
Nearly at my front door.

I experienced mixed emotions when I saw Perth. I was sort of glad to be home, but also sad because it meant our ride had come to an end. After quick farewells at a set of traffic lights I wheeled left toward home and parked the Guzzi in the driveway about forty minutes later. It was over.

So, how was the trip? I'd driven across Australia a few times before and didn't enjoy it at all, but I'd never ridden across so this was a first for me. I have to admit I wasn't looking forward to the long, straight, flat roads we had to cover, but I found I actually enjoyed it and I would happily do it again, so that's good. Maybe it was the company and laughs in the evenings that made the difference.

The Moto GP was fun, but Tasmania was a real highlight of the trip. If you enjoy riding a motorcycle, you must visit Tasmania. It's just fantastic.

The bikes ran faultlessly for the whole trip apart from my exhaust gasket issue, which was easily fixed, and the running on one cylinder problem that I have to look into. Surprisingly, for six blokes living in very close proximity for so long, there was only one little tiff, and that was my fault. Sorry Rexy.

We'd ridden a tad over 9,000 KM in 24 days. For my European friends, if you plot our ride in Europe it would be like riding from England, through The Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Serbia, Bulgaria, and Turkey into Lebanon, then back again. Yes, it's a long way.

What was the best part of the trip? That's easy, as always, the people. My riding mates are a great bunch of guys and made the trip all the more enjoyable. Thanks guys. Catching up with family and old friends who I never see often enough is always a good thing. Then there are the new friends we made along the way. People are the best part of any trip and they create memories that last forever.

Of course the dogs I met were great too. I still believe that dogs are better people than most people, so a big "Woof" to all my new canine friends.

What was our final conversation about at the last fuel stop? It was about planning our next ride, of course. We have a few ideas in the mix already. I don't know where we'll be going, or when, but hopefully I'll see you on the road somewhere soon.

So that's it...for now...

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

White line fever. Ceduna to Balladonia.

2/11/14

The dawn bought a perfect riding day. A bright blue sky with lot's of sunshine, but cool, and with no wind. Bloody fantastic.


About to roll down the road.



On the way out of Ceduna we rode past these huge wheat stockpiles which came from the area we rode through yesterday.


Ceduna jetty in daylight.

After a quick breakfast we were heading west. Once again it was a very long, straight road in front of us, but joy of joys, we actually had a tail wind. For some reason that rarely happens when riding. It was great, and felt like we were just cruising because the wind in our faces was reduced dramatically. It was also unusually quiet due to the lack of wind noise on the helmet. We made the most of it. 


These big trucks were pretty common out on the road.
We gave them plenty of room.

Before long the vegetation got sparse and the terrain was very rugged. It's not pretty, but it still has it's own kind of beauty. I probably appreciate it more now after travelling in Europe. The closest I've come to this sort of terrain was riding from Estoril in Portugal to Barcelona Spain. That run was about 1,200 km (about the same as this road) but only part of it was like this, not every kilometre.


Our next stop for fuel was Yalata at the Nullabor roadhouse. Here we found Kondole...



Kondole is a whale that features in Australian Aboriginal mythology. The story goes that Kondole was a rude and mean man. One night the tribe needed to keep the fire going and Kondole was the only one with fire. He hid it from the others, an argument ensued, and one of the men threw a spear into Kondole's head. All the men then turned into animals like wombats, kangaroos, and possums, but Kondole turned into a whale, with the hole in his head turning into a blowhole.

There, a nice little bed time story for the kids.

In the shop at Yalata we met a German traveller who told us how much she loves being in the middle of nowhere. She's been working at the shop for six months, and "only" has another eighteen months to go before she can apply for Australian citizenship. Apparently if you agree to work on a remote area for two years, you can apply for citizenship. Wow, that's commitment. What surprised me was when this young girl said "There is nothing I like about Germany and I want to live in Australia". Ouch!

On the way out of Yalata there is this warning sign.




It's obvious that kangaroos and camels could be an issue on the road, but wombats? Oh yes! Wombats grow to about a meter long and weigh between 20 and 35 kg, and they're all muscle. You do not want to hit one on a motorcycle, although what a wombat would be doing on a motorcycle I have no idea.


You can catch up on the wombat gossip here: http://animals.nationalgeographic.com.au/animals/mammals/wombat/

We made the most of the tail wind and rode on, past the tourist lookouts on the cliffs, and into Border Village, where we found Rooey...



I know there are some big 'roos out there,
but this is ridiculous.

Lunch and fuel were consumed, and a waitress made to blush, and it was time to go again. We were making good time.


Back on the road we came across a motorcyclist's nightmare sign...


Motorcyclists nightmare.

Ninety miles in a straight line, at 110 kph. That's one and a half hours riding non stop in a straight line. Yeah right! Like that's going to happen. Apparently some motorcyclists and drivers exceed the sped limit on this stretch of road, not that we would ever do that of course.


We had been making good time. An early start, the tail wind, and short stops all combined to have us further down the road that we expected. We also picked up a couple of hours with the time change at the WA border so we cancelled our room at Caiguna and pushed on to Balladonia.

With just over 1,000 kilometres under our wheels we parked the bikes at our luxurious, five star accommodation in downtown Balladonia. Well, the room had a TV at least.


The average was up a tiny bit.
Must have been the tailwind.

We were now only 950 kilometers from home.

We enjoyed our meal at the bar, that was served by another traveler, a young lady from Sweeden. She must have been here for a while because she'd picked up an Aussie accent.

Over dinner I told the boys I was going to leave early in the morning. It gets light here at a quarter to five, so I'd like to be on the road by six at the latest. If they wanted to ride with me, that would be great. If they wanted a late start, that was fine too, but I'll be on the road.

We'll see what happens.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

It's time to start the long haul home. Adelaide to Ceduna.

1/11/14

The bonus leaving Adelaide this morning was the fact that being a weekend, there was no peak hour traffic. We only had eight hundred kilometers to cover today so we did the logical thing and took a detour through the Clare Valley, just to add a few more ks.


The Clare Valley is a part of South Australia's wonderful wine growing region, and riding through little towns along the way we saw lots of signs pointing out some well known wineries, such as Jim Barry, Knappstein, Taylor's, Leasingham, and a whole lot more. I reckon a taxi and a couple of days here could add up to a good time. Unfortunately riding and sampling wine don't make a good combination, and we had nowhere to carry any bottles we might buy, so we rode straight through. 

I love the old buildings found throughout these towns. Some are still in use and well maintained, while others need a little love to be bought back to their former glory.



Unfortunately once we were out of the Clare Valley the soothing green vegetation was gone. The trees and vines were replaced with huge, golden wheat fields.



And the flowing road that rolled up and down hills turned into looooooooooong, arrow straight roads disappearing into the distance. This would be our world for the next three days, riding under a very big sky with only sightings of the odd lizard or snake to break the monotony.



We had a bit of excitement when we arrived in Iron Knob. They were blasting and closed the road to traffic, so we had to detour through the actual mine site, down a dirt road. The boys were thrilled.

The Iron Knob mine was first established in the 1800s and is known as the birthplace of iron ore mining in Australia. The mine was closed for quite some time but has recently reopened and is pulling ore out of the original pit again, and developing two new pits.


Our next stop was Kimba, home of the "Big Galah". I'm not sure why, but here in Australia we have a "Big Something" in a lot of out of the way places. I don't mind the idea so much, but most of these "icons" look like they were made by the local pre school kids.

The Big Galah.

At Kimba we came across a guy travelling in the opposite direction on a Kawasaki KLR650. He was from Darwin and was just going for a ride for his holiday. He had ridden down the west coast, across the bottom, and was about to ride up through Melbourne and Sydney, through Queensland back to Darwin. That's about 14,000 kilometers, without any side trips for sightseeing, or factoring in Tasmania. Can you say "sore bum"?

With Kimba out of the way we had broken the back of the day's ride and only had three hundred kilometers to go.



You know you're getting bored when you take photos of your own shadow.

Just after Kimba the clouds started forming around us. It really looked like it was trying to rain, but we didn't get a drop. The clouds kept us company all the way to Ceduna.


We were welcomed into Ceduna by a Police road block. 


No, it wasn't just for us. They were checking the roadworthyness of vehicles and testing the drivers for drug and alcohol use. We obviously looked like reputable blokes and they just waved us through.

We'd made good progress today and  pulled up at the Ceduna Hotel in time to watch the sun set over the Ceduna Jetty.



A quick history lesson (it's not all fun on these trips you know.)

The Ceduna jetty stretches out 368 meters into the bay and was the main berth for Ceduna until 1920. It was then that a new jetty was opened in Thevenard about ten minutes down the road. This new jetty offered deeper water and more importantly a railway link. In the 1960s bulk grain handling facilities were also built in Thevenard, and that was the final nail in the Ceduna Jetty's coffin. The last vessel visited in 1966. 

The area is now a thriving oyster farming area, and the jetty makes a great fishing platform for anglers.

Here endeth the lesson.

Tomorrow another big run (840km) to Caiguna, back into our home state. Then it's only 1,100km to home.

Monday, 10 November 2014

A quick tour of Adelaide, and dinner with another moto traveler.

31/10/14

Luke was kind enough to lend us a car today so we saw the sights of Adelaide in luxury, air conditioning and all.


We parked and did a walk around the city centre. but to me all cities are all pretty much the same. Just full of shops trying to sell you stuff. We sat and had a coffee and indulged in a little people watching. That's always fun, and we were happy to provide our expertise on what people were wearing, or how they had their hair. It's so lucky we are all fashion and style gurus, just take a look at us and you'll see that.


 Adelaide Mall street art.

I like this one.
Why does he remind me of a politician?

Adelaide has a lot of military history and we took a stroll down the Pathway of Honour which featured memorials to a lot of Australian units.


The Pathway of Honour.

The SASR memorial.

Every time I see memorials like this, and the hundreds of war memorials in little towns across Australia, I wonder what our lost diggers could have achieved if this nonsense didn't go on. Could one of them have found a cure for cancer? Could one have prevented climate change? Could one have solved the world food shortage? How big would the population of Australia be today if these men hadn't died?

Yet we keep on doing it.

In the afternoon we did a quick run around Glenelg. It's a nice little place and reminded me a little bit of Fremantle back in WA. 

We'd planned a BBQ dinner tonight, and I had a special guest coming. Sherri Jo Wilkins, another moto traveler. I've been a big fan of Sherri Jo's for years, ever since I started reading her blog "Because I Can World Tour".

You can find it here: 
http://sherrijosbecauseicanworldtour.blogspot.com.au/


Sherri Jo.

I was in awe of Sherri Jo and once again forgot to take any photos, so I stole this one from her Facebook page. I hope you don't mind Sherri Jo.

Sherri Jo is a switched on and determined lady. She spent three and a half years riding her KTM motorcycle around the world...by herself...covering around 130,000 kilometers along the way. That in itself was enough to gain my admiration, then in 2012 during the trip she rode a bike up a Chilean volcano to 5,903 meters. That's higher that any other woman has ever ridden a motorcycle. I've been at 4,500 meters and struggled to suck in breath while walking, so it was a huge effort to wrestle a bike up a rocky volcano at that altitude.

Go Sherri Jo.

While we were chatting Sherri Jo dropped a bombshell that made me even more of a fan. She had ridden bikes before the trip, but obviously she hadn't had a lot of off road experience because she told me she was so scared riding across the Nullabor that she wouldn't go faster than 70 kph! She was scared she'd run onto the dirt on the edge of the road. A few weeks later she was riding hundreds of kilometers of dirt in Siberia. Obviously you learned quickly Sherri Jo.

If today's girls need a role model, I've got one right here.

Luke provided comedy entertainment for the evening, ably assisted by his wife Heather, who apparently snored a lot during pregnancy. The line of the night came from Uncle D though. None of the boys knew anything about Sherri Jo so Uncle D politely asked Sheri Jo if she rides. To with Sherri Jo understatedly replied "Yes, I've got a KTM690". I explained what Sherri Jo had done to the team and they were suitably impressed. I did have to give them a little bit of grief about chickening out on the gravel road in Tasmania though.

Something I found interesting is that Sherri Jo is quite contented being back in Adelaide and enjoying her work. This is the polar opposite to me, as I'm struggling and just want to load up my bike and get out on the road again. When I asked Sherri Jo if that was it and she was all done, her instant reply was "Oh no, I'm saving for the next trip. I've only been to about half the countries in the world." Fantastic!

All to soon the evening came to an end. It was a real pleasure to meet you Sheri Jo. I'm sorry if I talked your ear of, but I reckon I could ask you questions for a week non stop if I had the opportunity. Hopefully we'll catch up again one day soon.

Now, who can arrange a lunch with Malcolm Smith for me? That would really be one to tick off the bucket list.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Homeward bound, first stop, Adelaide.

30/10/14

After last night's get together (read extended party) we were all a bit slow getting going this morning. We planned an early get away because our next overnight stop was Adelaide, 750 kilometers away. By the time we battled the Melbourne peak hour traffic, and a broken down truck blocking two lanes on the West Gate Bridge, I think it was about ten o'clock before we actually got out onto the open road.


Another selfie. How good is the weather?
(Especially for Melbourne)

It wasn't a very exciting ride so it was just a matter of covering some distance as quick as possible.


Sheep Art. 


Painted sheep decorated the main street of Kavinia near the Victoria South Australia border. I liked them. Why are there painted sheep in Kavinia. You can find out here: http://www.kaniva.info/sheep-art.

Is putting sheep art in the streets a case of "ram"ming art down people's throats?

As luck would have it we rode straight into Adelaide peak hour traffic. We were pretty tired, but that wasn't going to stop us from having a good time after we checked in at the caravan park. Uncle R had a mate, Luke, who was staying there with his family, and Luke was all to happy to give us a cold beer as soon as we took our helmets off. I didn't know him, but I can tell a good bloke when I see one, or when he hands me a cold beer. The first beer didn't touch the sides, nor did the second.

After cleaning up we made our way to The Thai Orchid, a restaurant in Henley Beach that Luke had recommended. Here we were to meet up with my friends Annie and Kevin. I met Annie and Kev while travelling in Europe the year before last, and we hit it off immediately. Kevin is actually the undefeated Hula Hoop Champion of the Mediterranean.

Once again I didn't have my camera, so the only photo from the night is a grainy phone photo.

Kev and Annie had a head start.
That wine bottle was empty when we arrived.

The restaurant turned out to be a great recommendation as the food was superb, and the beer and wine was cold. We had a lot of laughs and Annie harassed me as she does. No, really, it's true. Unfortunately Kev and Annie are working tomorrow night so it was a one night stand for us.

All to soon the night was over and we parted ways, after Kev bought us a beer at the pub across the road of course. Thanks Kev. I promise I'll bring Suzanne next time...maybe.

If you live around Adelaide and want to do something different for that special someone, or need to arrange a staff outing, these guys run Viking Yacht Charters. I haven't been out on their cat, but I do know Kev and Annie, and I can guarantee you'll have a good time. Take a look at...

http://www.vikingyachtcharters.com.au/



See you next trip guys.

Friday, 7 November 2014

Man Cave heaven, and more friend catch up time.

29/10/14

OK, Uncle R, Uncle D, and I went to visit Antique Motorcycles today while Rex went shopping. I think he's looking to buy a new jacket (inside joke☺). I rode there and the boys caught the train out. All I can say is wow. It was man cave heaven.

I asked the owner if it was OK to take photos, and he said no. I was a little disappointed, but then he explained why. Apparently some unscrupulous bastards have taken photos of bikes, then listed them on eBay, and sold them. The poor old buyer rolls up to pick up his bike, and finds out he's been ripped off, big time. After I explained I was writing a blog about our trip he gave me the OK to take photos, and boy did I take some photos.

Here are just a few...

Antique Motorcycles

http://www.antiquemotorcycle.com.au/#




Very, very, tasty tracker. Look closely...



My first road bike.
500cc two stroke, triple cylinder, with a frame made of licorice and brakes that didn't work. I loved it.
First bike I did 100mph on.

Inside. Yay!

More inside. More Yay!

VR 750 Honda. I've never seen one in the flesh before.

More Bimotas that you could poke a stick at.

Antique Motorcycles are Indian specialists.

Nice Vincent!

My personal favourite, a Triumph Hurricane.

Notice anything different about this Katana?

Talk about a kid in a lolly shop, it was almost a religious experience. Walking through here gave me a feeling of true happiness. It really did make me physically feel good to be among these fantastic bikes. I obviously need to get a life.

With the dreaming and drooling over and done with we decided it was time for lunch. The owner suggested the RSL Club (Returned Services League) down the road and then drove Uncle R and Uncle D there, while I followed on the bike. How nice was he to do that? Motorcyclists really are good people.

Now, I do have one, big problem with Antique Motorcycles. If I won Lotto tomorrow, I'd be broke again by the weekend. There were so many bikes in there that I would just love to own, and ride. Some I've owned in the past, some I've always lusted after, and some I've never seen before.

Back at the hotel I did a little blogging and a little snoozing while waiting for the others to get back. It turns out that Uncle D and Uncle R had found a gentleman's cultural and enrichment club, and decided to partake of a few refreshments whilst being entertained. They could have given me a call to join them.   

No sooner had they arrived back at the hotel and it was time for dinner and another catch up with old friends we don't see often enough.

Tonight's venue was Gasolina Garage. Gasolina build custom bikes, and have a restaurant / bar adjoining their work shop. It's a pretty cool set up. Here we caught up with my friends Dave and Bronwyn, a couple of my favourite peoples who I used to work with at Suzuki.

Me, Bronny, and Dave.
Let's not leave it so long between drinks this time eh Dave?

We also caught up with Mal again, with his lovely wife Shauna, and a mate of Uncle R's who was another very secretive type.

Dave, Rex, Bronwyn, Secret Squirrel, Uncle R, Uncle D, Shauna, me, and Mal.

It was a really nice dinner get together, it's just a shame I live so far away from so many great people. Maybe we should move to Melbourne?

We earned more beer credits with a wobbly walk back to the hotel. Tomorrow we start the long ride home across this bloody big country.

I must admit, I'm not looking forward to it.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Another sunrise. This time over Melbourne.

28/10/14

It was a rough old ferry trip across the straight last night. The seas were pretty exciting and I was woken up more that once by the sound of people throwing up, very loudly. I was actually rolled from side to side in my seat quite a lot and this was followed by a thunderous boom a couple of times. Maybe a wave hitting the boat? I don't know, but it was bloody loud.

Unbelievably, at four am, I was woken up by the same four bloody women talking again. Really? At four in the morning? I got up, put my riding gear on, and went to find somewhere quiet to spend the next three hours. On the way out I "may" have suggested "all so subtly" that they should be quiet while the other hundred or so people in the lounge were trying to sleep. I hope the got the message as I was soooo polite. I did hear a few "Well said mate" remarks on the way out.

The bonus from being up so early was a had the opportunity to enjoy the sunrise over Melbourne.



The disembarkation signal was given at around seven so off we went. I was happy to see all of our bikes upright when we entered the garage deck. After last night's seas I was a little concerned.

Unfortunately we had to part ways with Mark this morning. As we rode off the ferry Mark pointed his bike west for the long, solo, ride home and back to work. He will be missed, and I have to take on the responsibility of chief snorer. I'll do my best Mark.

We remaining Four Mototeers braved Melbourne's peak hour traffic and weaved our way to the hotel. After a week on Tassie roads is was bloody awful being back in traffic.

Once we had settled in we did a quick look at a few Melbourne bike shops then the boys went sight seeing while I took off to another in-law get together. It was really good to catch up with everyone and get all the family news updates since we last saw each other, and to see how much all the kids have grown. I reckon I'll be the shortest one in the family soon. Unfortunately, as I have a habit of doing, once I get chatting with friends I forget all about taking photos. I didn't take one photo all night. Bad Simon!

I finished the night off by getting totally disoriented back in the city and riding around for about an hour trying to find the hotel. After a bit of cursing and swearing, I was happy to park the bike on the footpath outside the front door.

It had been a long, but fun day.