Canberra to Coffs and beyond

By now it’s likely general knowledge to all you readers out there that Kiwi and I made it from Canberra to Dalby on Saturday morning, covering 1600km (1000 miles) in less than the requisite 24 hours – thereby completing a SS1600 (my first) and (subject to final confirmation from the powers that be) earning me an Iron Butt Association number. Yay!!

What is not general knowledge are the madcap adventures we had getting there, in Dalby, and coming home. As they say on Law & Order ‘these are those stories’! I’m going to break it up into the three days and keep you all in suspense.

But first things first – I have to say huge thanks to Kiwi for being my pilot and for all his love, support and encouragement! I couldn’t have done it without him. It’s been a daunting journey but sharing it with him has made it loads of fun. He’s my Iron Butt Man! I’m also incredibly grateful for all the words of encouragement and support I’ve received from friends, acquaintances, family, and people I’ve never met! I’ve been sent tips and tricks to help make life on the bike more comfortable, old rally packs to help me prepare, and even special bonus locations for us to collect around Canberra. All that support has made the journey much easier. Thank you! It means the world to me.

Friday – Canberra to Coffs Harbour – midday to midnight…

Friday dawned bright and sunny in Canberra – for those of you who know Kiwi, you know he’s an early riser – so even though we skipped our usual Friday morning personal training session at the gym in light of the physical exertion to come, Kiwi was up soon after 5 taking the dog for a walk. I surfaced some time after 6 feeling entirely unprepared but managed to check my packing again, get dressed and score a lift to work with a visiting parental unit.

Unfortunately Friday morning was not a chilled out morning in the office. All hell broke loose pretty much as soon as I arrived and it took the combined efforts of 3 different alarms and reminders on my phone and sheer willpower to change from work gear into riding kit at 11.40am, fire hurried instructions at the team at 11.45 and then shut down my computer at 11.50. I headed down to the cafe to get our official start receipt and some sandwiches to throw in the tank bag and things started to fall apart.

First, the ATM in the cafe spat out a receipt, but one that said ‘coffers cafe’ as the location, not a suburb or locality. And the queue for sandwiches was making me think that if I waited we were going to be 5 minutes behind schedule even before we started. The adrenaline from the crazy morning at work was still pumping through me and added to the nerves about starting and worry that I was going to mess things up for the team, I was almost shaking by the time I left the building. Kiwi confirmed that we needed a receipt with a location on it and we figured the nearest place for that was Deakin, a couple of kms away. I wasn’t keen on doing the service station because it meant I’d have to take my helmet off, costing precious time so we headed for the ATM. Which was out of order. The cafe? They gave me two receipts – one that said Deakin but 12.59pm (they hadn’t adjusted the till for daylight savings) and the one from the credit card transaction that said Narrabunah (presumably the business admin address for the cafe) for 12.08pm… Seriously? This is how this works? Really? Is the whole ride going to be like this? Am I going to fail even before I start?!

Anyway, Kiwi assured me we were fine and we got moving. As we’re heading out of town I’m still thinking ‘will our receipt be ok? Maybe they won’t accept it. What then?

By the time we hit Goulburn Kiwi suggested a break for some food which was just what we both needed. I raised the issue of the receipt again but Kiwi confirmed that we had the Spot going and also the GPS calibration to confirm time and distance and so we had other ways to prove we were where we said we were at the time we said we were there. After a sandwich and some chocolate milk things all started to look and feel better. And we’d already collected our first requisite ‘big thing’ that makes a road trip in Australia legit: the big Merino

But it was Lesson 1 for the weekend: patience is everything. If I’d just taken the extra 5 or 10 minutes at the cafe at work to get sandwiches we’d have had a start receipt and some food to keep us going and it would have saved time and stress compared with what we did instead.

So onward and upward. Goulburn to Oberon was pretty cruisy riding. A few nice corners, some new roads for me, and pretty scenery to look at.

It’s amazing how much better life is with food in your tummy! At Oberon it was time for me to put lesson 1 learnt into practice. We found an ATM to get a receipt but the lady at the front of the queue was trying to deposit a cheque and the ATM was having none of it. After a few minutes I hear Kiwi through my headset saying ‘there’s a queue? Nope, let’s try somewhere else’. Nope. Not this time. I’m waiting here until I get my receipt. It will take less time than riding around trying to find another ATM in town (I checked from the back of the bike and I know there aren’t very many). In the end it was only another couple of minutes and we had our first corner receipt! Woo hoo!

The ride from Oberon to Richmond through the Blue Mountains was incredible. And this is where being pillion shits all over being the pilot. I was turning around every which way taking in the incredible views, while Kiwi had to watch the road. I suspect I made life harder for him but to be honest I was having a ball…

To be honest the photos don’t do it justice – we were moving too fast for me to really capture things well. But it was a great hour’s ride and I was feeling pretty good about life. I checked a few work emails and things had all happened swimmingly in my absence. I was starting to relax!

Richmond to Windsor was a bit slow with a fair amount of traffic and we stopped on the outside of Windsor for a banana and a leg stretch. We were doing pretty well for time still – 6 hours up our sleeves according to the GPS – and with only a couple of hours to go in the fading light before we hit the highway again things were going according to plan.

The Putty Road is renowned as a good motorcycling road and it didn’t disappoint on the way to Bulga. It’s a familiar road for me (in the car) as Dad had a property along here for a while and I used to stay at Grandpa’s place in Bulga during school holidays. There was the slightly disturbing incident that involved a stray white horse grazing on the verge! But otherwise it was pretty good riding. The sunset was lovely and the stars were coming out. Another short stop at Bulga for some photos at what used to be the Cockfighter Creek Tavern and we headed for the Hunter Expressway.

Next stop was Beresfield for fuel. For the bike and for us. I was pretty happy to get off the bike for an extended period. We hadn’t even done 600kms but 8 hours on the bike is a long time, even with occasional pauses. We agreed 30 minutes for this stop and I jumped off and headed into the servo to pay for the fuel. Kiwi finished filling the tanks, I handed over the cash and then found a table in the attached truck stop. 5 minutes later I was starting to wonder where Kiwi was… Surely it doesn’t take that long to park the bike? Dude, I need to pee and I need you to look after my helmet while I do!!! Where are you?????????

Turns out he was being very responsible and cleaning the headlights. Personally, I was less concerned about this than I was about the fact that I hadn’t had a bathroom break since Goulburn at 1pm, it was now 8pm and to repeat an earlier post I cannot pee on the side of the road!! Thankfully he did appear and I made my dash to the ladies room, we got some dinner (some fairly average sandwiches but food is food) and we were back on the bike in about 27 minutes!

In short order we were on the Pacific Highway and heading north. We were in the dark, on a motorway and there was very little I can tell you that is in any way interesting from this part of the trip. My ass was starting to hurt and I was starting to feel the beginnings of some fatigue, but otherwise things weren’t too bad. I listened to an episode of my favourite podcast: No Such Thing As A Fish and giggled away inside my helmet. We stopped at a rest area that could have qualified as one of the darkest places on earth – I’m still unsure whether the guys in hi-vis vests had disabled the lights so they could deal drugs on the side of the road or if the local council is just too hard up to provide electricity there – but the chance to stretch in the dark was welcome nonetheless.

The only other thing of note from this part of the trip was the funky smells. From Newcastle all the way to Coffs there was this weird swampy rotting smell, but all this paled when we rocked up at Coffs alongside the local tip. Thankfully our hotel was suitably distant from that delightful attraction.

Arriving at midnight, I was very pleased that the key to our room was in the drop box as promised, we found our room and I had a shower and collapsed into bed. I don’t recall being that happy to be horizontal for a long time. No bedtime stories were required and I was dead to the world soon after 12.15am. Unfortunately there was an alarm set for 3.15am but that story is for the next instalment.

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