Separate names with a comma.
Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by platypus121, Oct 8, 2012.
Brilliant writing style Bernard
This is the best RR i've read for a long time. Thanks
"Orroroo" I can't say that town's name without smiling, and thinking of your compliment on the clever guardianship of letters by the naming committee.
Well done , Birtles and crew. Waiting on tenterhooks for your next chapter.
Broken Hill to Melbourne
In which there are no Blue Frogs, the Wind changes, there are forty Candles and
thousands of Bats, Ghosts and Deja Vu … and … Birtles’ Wheels stop turning.
The sideshows were in BH last night, across the road from the campground.
Their fireworks display at about 11pm was just whizzes and bangs as I was
ensconced in the tent, resting up for the upcoming ride south. The entertainment
may have been missed at that time, but the showies were determined to give
me some fun … as they did at Coomba, halfway between BH and Wentworth.
Coomba Roadhouse is "June's Place" according to the sign, and June might at
first appear to have a dilemma when there is more than one customer - does
she go outside and unlock the petrol pump, or does she serve the customer in
the shop first? Birtles’ tanks are ready to be filled when four of the show folk
arrive for refreshments, and June’s dilemma turns out to be no dilemma at all -
coffee and a bar of chocolate are optional, but if you need fuel you are a
captive audience and can be relegated to the end of the queue without
endangering business turnover.
Which is fine as I’m not in a hurry and, as at the gallery,
people-watching can be interesting.
Showie #1 gets a can of drink and chips, then spots the loose sweets. “Jim,
Jim, they’ve got frogs!” She orders in the manner of a five-year-old: “I’ll
have ten frogs - five yellow ones and five green ones. How much is that?
Have you got blue frogs? Jim, there aren't any blue frogs, shall I get you
yellow ones instead? Ok, ten more yellow frogs - no, no, four yellow ones
and six green ones. You sure there aren’t any blue frogs? Ok, how much
is that? Jim, shall I get some frogs for Bill - what colour does he like - there
aren’t any blue ones. Green, ok, five more green ones, ta.”
Walking back to the lorry she shares her assortment with Jim who sympathises -
“It’s the same with M&M’s. Always hard to find the blue ones”. #3 comes
in for a can, and (good news spreads quickly out here) for frogs, which are
painstakingly ordered by number and colour. #4 is easy, he just wants a can
and some chips. “Anything else?” June asks, eyes swiveling hopefully towards
the sweet display. #4’s stands firm with just a can and chips - which when all
is said and done is fair enough, not everyone likes frogs. Or perhaps he only
likes blue ones.
The tanks are filled, I have one of June’s coffees and saddle up ready for the
next haul to Wentworth, all the time fighting an urge to ask June for five blue
amphibious sweets, and knowing that for ever after the Coomba Roadhouse
will remain in my memory as The Blue Frog Place.
As we howl south, the contrary wind howls north and 265 kilometers of frontal
buffeting makes Wentworth an inviting place to hole up. Shortly before the town
- just like that - the wind stops. There is a brief period of calm then it starts again,
this time from behind and just as forcefully. The rear wind is worth an extra three
or four horsepower, and the kilometers roll by easily, too easily to waste. Fuel at
Wentworth, then Yatpool, Carwarp, Nowingi, Hattah, Trinita and Kiamal all flash
by before I even have time to work out how to pronounce them. Birtles is on a
roll, stopping only as the light fades at Ouyen, tires hot, silencer ticking, and 404 km
older than he was this morning.
The Mallee Garden Sculptures in Manangatang are interesting and significant.
They are bizarre shapes with shells, keys, stones, mechanical parts and other
found items pressed into their surfaces to make mosaic-like finishes. They may
have some message, but just picking out all the bits is enough for me to appreciate
them. I’m sure Dahl could explain their symbolic meaning in detail.
Created by the Manangatang Improvement Group Inc, these sculptures are a
dynamic new variation of stane-stook. In designing them, the group has broken
away from traditions of verticality and uni-directionality. Freed from these restrictions
their works soar upwards and outwards into bi- and even tri-dimensionality,
something that would astonish and perhaps confuse some unidirectionalists.
Despite complaints from traditional stookers who say multi-dimensional stane-stook
devalues the art form, the Group plans to create further sculptures for the garden.
It is hoped they will result in Manangatang becoming the recognised leader of
twenty-first century stane-stooking.
Below: 2010 picture of stookers working on the sculpture shown above.
To balance yesterday’s hectic ride, today we aim for a place a little over
100 kms away, a place previously known as Wold Wold. A strange name
that makes it easy to see why back in the 1930s locals fought long and
hard to change the name to something so much more meaningful - Wood Wood.
Somewhere between Manangatang and Piangil Birtles reaches a certain age.
I had been watching the odo for a while to capture the exact moment, but a
corner and a roadtrain in quick succession distract me at the crucial point
and we run up an extra tenth before stopping. Birtles is duck-walked in
reverse to see if the odo runs backwards - and it does! Almost get back to
the rounded zeros before I decide near enough is good enough :
Now that he is officially middle-aged, there are changes in Birtles. His joints
are a little stiffer, his tyres a little balder, and the former rebellious scamp is
starting to show a little responsibility. Take this rest area, for example. Birtles
is distressed - who would do an oil change here? Now, a mere litre from his
tiny crankcase, nothing against that, but this sump must have held at least
ten litres to leave such blot on the landscape. Disgraceful!
The willow plantation extends for hundreds of metres -
there’s an awful lot of bats in there.
No caravans check into the WW Caravan Park while I am there. The business
focuses on renting cabins to seasonal orchard workers, permanent temporaries
as the manager calls them. It's a nice little park, but the reason for the lack of
caravans is plain to see.
Across the road is the Murray River. Along its switchback banks, tracks lead
to dozens of perfect overnight spots: your own curve of the river, your own
patch of gums, no noise, no cost. Whoever thought the park, currently for sale,
could prosper against such competition?
I chose a spot right at the back, away from the cabins and have a very peaceful
night, something hard to get in many parks with their overcrowding and proximity
to main roads. No trucks air-braking just meters away from the tent here.
Wood Wood Scout Camp, looking like it has not been used for years. Health and
Safety requirements must play havoc with organizations like the Scouts. I cannot
imagine that they get up to the traditional activities any more. Camping, canoeing,
climbing, lighting fires, wood carving, sharpening a pocket knife, tying your own
shoelaces … all too risky now. Not for the scouts, but for the poor sods who will
be held responsible if an accident does happen.
Love the placement of the taps at the wash stands.
Exactly how did those wash basins get filled?
The home based venture across the road is wisely following Rule 13c for small
business: Choose a niche in the market that has few other suppliers.
Even on the last days of a trip, we should not overlook how important it is to
maintain good nutritional practices. Watties baked beans are a fine source of
protein as well as tasting just dandy. Quick, cheap, and no washing up if you
lick the spoon clean. A preview of the fine cuisine that awaits me at home.
My only disappointment at Wood Wood is that those Health and Safety chaps
were not satisfied with just bringing the Scouts to a standstill, they have also
been at work in the camp and diving is now banned in the water sports area.
Against all logic, I like Euroa. The last night on the road is a replay of the last
night of the 2010 CT trip. Birtles parks outside Cabin No.1 exactly as Albert
did two years ago.
The manager of the park is also the same, and so is his approach to cabin
rental. When he offered No.1 back then, it was “$35 - but let’s call it $30”.
This time it is “$55 - but let’s call it $50”.
A tour of the town shows it has altered little, if at all. When the pace of change
becomes too much to keep up with, it’s reassuring to know that such places exist.
What does change is the temperature. The heat of Queensland fades to a distant,
implausible notion, and the chill that sets in when Big Yellow goes down numbs
my memories of short sleeves and perspiring brows.
After getting the cabin’s blown circuits sorted, there is a pleasant evening eating
Tim Tams in front of roaring gas rings, looking back on where we have been,
and forward to where we will be going tomorrow.
The Strathbogies - through beautiful countryside in beautiful riding weather.
Despite his age, and developing responsibility, Birtles can’t resist one last illegal
sortie along part of a rail trail.
Yarra Glen …
Then, we are back where we started.
How should I judge this trip?
… distance travelled?
… time on the road?
… activities done and the people met?
… comfort and discomfort?
… help received and help given?
… what was learned about the world?
… what I learned about myself?
… what others learned about me?
… changes in my attitudes and beliefs?
And, when does a trip end, anyway?
... does it ever end?
In which we arrive Home, tote up the Numbers, muse on Road Trips,
and imitate Oscar Awards Night.
(Or, In praise of Homeland Security)
The NZ Department of Agriculture screens all passengers, hoping to prevent
naughty plants and animals from sneaking into the country. No customs officer
is ever as zealous as the Ag guys at the international airports, and rightly so.
It would only take a pair of rogue Koalas to slip through their net and there goes
the entire dairy and wool producing industries.
Acned Agriculture and Wildlife Inspector James is bored with his routine but,
just for me, he puts on his inscrutable, I’m-a-vigilant-tough-guy-and-not-to-be-
messed-with face. He has been told it's really, really important stuff this protecting
of the borders and he has to double as customs inspector as well.
"Did you pack your own bags? Are you carrying any wood, feathers, or foodstuffs?
Camping equipment or tramping boots? Stuffed toys? More than your personal
allowance of 200 grams of heroin, crack, P, crystal meth, marijuhana or Mrs Mac's
Famous animal-related products?"
Now, stuffed toys is unexpected. Maybe it has been selected from a “surprise check
of the day” list to keep passengers on their toes and prevent contempt-through-familiarity
with the system. Or, maybe Inspector James is simply spicing up the process by throwing
a curve ball every so often. Whatever the reason, conscience demands the prevention
of economic ruin, so I declare Grimpeur who is in some corner of the pack and stuffed
with Soichiro-knows what.
“You’ve got a stuffed bear? Could be carrying diseases in the stuffing - we’ll
have to rip its guts out, disinfect it, and return the sad, tattered remains to you”.
"But, he came from NZ, so any diseases he's carrying are already here".
“That’s true, but we’ll still rip its guts out and destroy any value it may have,
sentimental or otherwise, for no reason other than that’s the way we operate.
Rules is rules.”
My mighty defeater of bull koalas is about to be laid low by the worst type of rules -
rules that are rules. But there is a glimmer of hope. On the other side of the counter,
Inspector James’s eyes have lit up and his acne is glowing a brighter shade of red.
He draws nearer - I get a close-up of Mt Vesuvius erupting on his right cheek -
he uses his special Pandy voice….
"In Australia, did you actually take this stuffed bear (that might be carrying
highly communicable agricultural diseases that could wipe out whole industries
overnight and bankrupt the entire Australian ecomomy, bringing the country to
its knees and having god-knows-what effect on its performance in international
cricket, netball and rugby matches) into areas of citrus orchards, sheep farming,
grape growing, and/or beef production?"
"Thank you, sir, thank you! Pass through. See you and your bear again soon?"
(Or, how much and how many)
Distance................12,178 kilometers / 7567 miles
Fuel..................... 303.25 litres
Fuel economy.........2.49 L/100km 113.44 MPG (Imperial)
Tire wear...............x2 rear worn to 20% tread remaining
............................x1 front worn to 30% tread remaining
Parts replaced........XR tank, Sparkplug, Battery
Repairs..................Broken ignition switch cable in wiring harness
Maintenance...........Daily - Oil level, Tyre pressure, Chain lube, Visual check
............................Oil changed at 1000 km intervals
Offs......................5 All in sand on the Oodnadatta Track
Mrs Macs Pies..........0
(Or, a really important thought that I can’t express, but I’ll give it a go in one long
sentence anyway - you work it out)
After chugging around on Birtles into areas and over distances that seem
improbable for a CT, all without having occasion to use either of the words
insoluble or insurmountable, I reviewed my beliefs regarding “danger” and
“bad situations” and found that I had been regarding them as more important,
and giving them more credence, than they deserve.
(Or, those without whom the trip would have been less enjoyable, harder to
organise, or maybe not even a starter at all).
Peter and Gudrun
For getting me to and from the airport; housing and feeding me before and after
the ride; sorting out SIM cards and other telecommunications stuff that I’m too
dumb to do for myself; putting up with my silly jokes, bad hair and malodorous
sneakers; always being just a phone call or email away when I needed parts,
advice or someone to boost my courage; trying to get me to use less salt; and
never, ever, using the words “crazy”, “impossible” or “dangerous”. On top of all this,
Pete procured Birtles on my behalf and upgraded him to an as-good-as-new
standard even before I got off the plane. And these are just the things I know about.
For your enthusiasm about my plans and for your inspiring stories of travel in the
outback. They were just what I needed to drive out the negative thoughts that
were filling my mind in the days before we set out.
For designing such a great bike.
Readers of the Road Report
For your generous comments on the report.
Sue, my partner and best friend
For holding the fort while I was traipsing around Australia meeting charming young
ladies like Pandy, and for bringing home the bacon that made it all possible.
ANOTHER BIG CT TRIP?
For now, Soichiro’s little red rockets will just be going down to the shops or on weekend jaunts.
But, at night when all is quiet, if I go into the garage and listen carefully I can hear soft voices.
They are getting louder and more insistent every day …
"Ride till die!"
"Le CT une fois de plus? Merde!"
Great Read...Thank you !
Best I have read for a while.
I wasn't sure about your writing style at the beginning but it grew on me steadily and I have to say I came to enjoy it thoroughly. Excellent RR, now I need to have my own adventure on my little Postie.
Great ride - well done.. We had a fleet of CT90/110 ag bikes on the farm and they were indestructible - your trip proves again just how bullet proof they are.
Thanks very much to Birtles and his impressive crew; I enjoyed your saga body and soul. A bit misty eyed when it all came to an end, but I'll get a grip and wait 'til his next adventure.
I was alarmed enough with Birtles encounters with the Bull Koalas, and thankful that Grimpeur was there to guard. In your last chapter there was talk of a "rouge" koala, and now I'm worried that there are giant pink koalas dropping from trees throughout the downunder.
Keep well Birtles, and in the immortal words of Neil Young "Long may you run"
Thanks for your interest. There is the possibility of another (smaller) Birtles adventure in Australia
next year - everyone says Tasmania is unmissable ... and who am I to argue with them?
Before that, maybe a tour on home ground, New Zealand.
Good spot - the "rouge koala" was meant to be a "rogue koala" (the worst kind,especially when
hungry or deprived of television) but the old dyslexia interfered with the letter order. Have corrected
the spelling to avoid misleading anyone as, of course, there are no rouge koalas left after the last
epidemic of koala influenza - the pink ones seemed to have no resistance to that dreadful disease.
"Long May You Run" - sad song, but always like Neil Young, takes me back. It's good advice for Birtles.
And for me, I'll be trying to live up to this one from Bob - "may you stay forever young".
Attention all CT and Birtles fans ....
I tried to stop him, but Birtles was determined to continue his Aussie touring by crossing Bass Strait and
going around Tasmania. He talked Grimpeur, Peggie and even Ringie into going along, so I was truly outnumbered.
Sure, they are quite capable, but I thought it best to tag along with them - round Tassie at the start of winter.
Now, four weeks and four thousand kms later, Birtles insists that I write up his story.
Episodes of his trip are being posted at
Hope you can take a look at what Birtles got up to in Tasmania - I'm sure it would make an old postiebike happy.