Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Tales of Adventure.. in search of Dinosaurs and Boeings.

Funny things go through your head when you are sliding down a dirt road on your back at 25 km/h with a 265kg motorcycle on top of you. How long before my protective suit wears through, or my helmet for that matter? Will I survive this? Will I walk again? Will my bike still be rideable? What the bloody hell just happened????

You see, this wasn't part of the plan for a grand adventure....

So a few years ago Debra and I went to Longreach for a post breast cancer surgery workshop. And seeing as how we had traveled so far, we decided to head to Winton and from there out to Lark Quarry to see the dinosaur stampede footprints.

Some 9 years later, I am looking to do some marketing for Deb's Boutique and for some adventure at the same time. So I grab marketing material for Spirit of Life and con good mate Gregor into coming for a ride. Apart from dropping into rural hospitals, we will visit Lark Quarry again and also the QANTAS founders museum at Longreach. They have a new Boeing there you see. A 707 and when I was but a small boy of 6 or so, my old time mate Stephen Hart and I were taken to Eagle Farm by his aunty to see this same 707 arrive. So time for a catch up with an old classic. But first to pack the bike. Marketing stuff, first aid kit, SPOT satellite tracker etc and a camera or two as well. And of course good tyres are needed. So Tyres 4 Bikes fit a set of Avon Trail Rider radials for me.. and boy are they brilliant. We're all set.

Eventually after weeks of planning.. there is nothing left to the going but for the leaving itself. Gregor fronts up on his brilliant KTM and we're off.... after an obligatory official picture!

The Adventure is about to begin!

For a while there Deb thought she was going instead of me!

Our first stop is Kilcoy for morning coffee and then it's along the Kilcoy - Murgon road. Starts out nice bitumen and then turns to dirt. Just as well our bikes are all road tourers.. a shame my ageing body isn't. The corrugations and dust are just incredible.... 

At least we have the road mostly to ourselves.

Finally we come out to the bitumen again and run into fresh air.

So our first night is spent at a motel at Mundubbera where mine host suggest the Chinese restaurant for dinner. Turns out the Chinese is in the local pub.. and the guy has a 1 hour delay in getting your meals. This actually turns into a 1.5 hour delay... but at least the meal was terrible. The Jim Beams and Coke were good though.

Day 2 dawns foggy and we wonder what the day shall bring...

Started foggy.. but the day improved!

After breakfast up the road at Eidsvold, we set course for Fred Brophy's Cracow Pub. This would be the 4th time I have been to this pub, and nothing ever changes. The most incredibly non PC jokes scrawled on a black board in the toilet wall and lots of cold drinks. Make mine a Diet Coke please!

A Diet Coke please!

Parking never a problem.

Gregor channeling his inner Ewen McGregor!

From here we head to Rolleston, a place I have never been to before and if I live a hundred lifetimes, I would never visit again. On the way there my GoPro camera breaks off its mount and bounces down the road destroying itself. The first thing it spat out was the film card.. so at least I have the data! We stayed at the motel at the back of the Rolleston hotel. The block we were in is slowly being eaten by white ants. You can see the damage everywhere and as you lay in bed at night, you can hear them eating the place. Lucky my late dad wasn't here or they would have eaten his wooden leg. The local roos are friendly and one lies down under the clothes line out the back for the night. 

Gregor's key didn't work... lucky he could break in through the window.

So the next day we headed off to Emerald and beyond... dodging a lot of kangaroo and emu on some of the roughest dirt roads I have ever ridden on. I am amazed that motorcycles can take this treatment and not fall apart. The constant pounding of the corrugations makes my new LED lights come loose every day. Each night I am out with my hex key and tightening them up.

But first through Springsure.. a nice town and onwards to Emerald!

And then all day breakfast at this Emerald cafe Gregor knew about!

After a fabulous breakfast and another tank of motion lotion, I head to Emerald Hospital to drop in some brochures and explain Deb's business to the lady at the counter. She seems thankful so I head up the road to Super Cheap Auto to buy some Locktite ... I'll fix those lights tonight.. and I did!

Go West (not so) Young Man and away we went to Alpha. Used to know a bird from here.. Mary something her name was, back in the 70s. More fuel and into Barcaldine we roll lateish in the day. Time to have another look at the Tree of Knowledge, or rather what's left of it. Not looking good the poor old thing.

But first... a picture of our bikes outside the hotel!

Bikes look good.. as usual!

Local once told me that Russ Hinze pissed on it and killed it!

Gregor educating himself on the history of said tree!

Of course, now we need a place to stay for the night. Local motel is booked out (so they say) so we head up the road a bit to the Iron Bark Motel and find ourselves a couple of rooms with good undercover bike parking. This place has a great outback steakhouse, so it's steak for dinner with salad and a few JBs to ease away the day.

Time to relax for the bikes too!

Now part of the trip was to catch up with my niece Sue who lives on a property near Aramc, just up the road a few country miles. But unfortunately she had to take her daughter to Townsville so we missed out on seeing her.  Still, I wondered what Aramac looked like so Gregor suggested we take the long way round to Longreach via Aramac and Muttaburra. So after visiting the Barcaldine Hospital with Deb's brochures, we get some more go go juice in the bikes and away we go.

So very dry... it's heartbreaking.

Once we left Barcaldine, the total dryness of the land really hit me. The odd sheep looking for green shoots at the side of the roads, kangaroos and emus doing likewise. This place needs rain badly.

Ah.. here come's Gregor.

Just dry as far as the eye can see.

Eventually we arrive in Aramac to find one petrol station with a broken Premium pump and only 1 diesel and 1 unleaded pump working. Oh well.. the bikes need fuel so a gentle ride from us both will be the order of the day until we can get premium again. Onwards we head to Muttaburra.

There's a dinosaur there you know!

I give you Muttaburrasauras.. made of barbed wire.

One dinosaur with another!

So up the road is a fuel stop/hardware store/cafe etc so we head in for some cold liquids. Did I mention it is hot out here? Bloody hot and I am dehydrating all the time. Also across the road is another dinosaur. He wasn't looking at me until I went over with my camera and he quickly turned around. I think he's a doyouthinkhesaurus?


Cold drinks and Picnic bars a house speciality!

We now have a choice of roads to take us to Longreach. A quick stop at the local Cop Shop and we get the good oil from an Acting Senior Constable. We choose the crook road for a short time as it leads to a nice creek with a nice view. A good place to camp.. if we were camping. The road in was very rocky and sandy and certainly tested one's skills at piloting large bikes and staying upright at the same time. But the view was good!

Obligatory bike shot!

Obligatory bikes shot!

Lovely place to camp. Others do as the camp fire remains show.

From here we head back into town to try the route suggested by the local cop. On the way out of town we see roos just chilling out under a sprinkler.


Now the next part of the trip is miles and miles of dusty corrugated roads. Again I am amazed that we manage to dodge the emus and roos and at the same time our bikes stay together, just laughing off the endless corrugations. It really is flat out here too.

Flat as.. and did I mention dusty?

Eventually we join the highway and turn left to Longreach. There we check into a motel for two nights and shower and wash all the dust off. That night finds us at the local RSL for a steak (yes I know.. but this is beef country) and some booze to numb the sore backs. The staff here are so very friendly, which is the way we find it in most places we visit. They need tourist $$$ and are glad to see us.. and our Visa cards!

The plan for the next day is to go and talk to the good people at the Longreach Hospital on behalf of Deb's shop and visit the QANTAS Founders Museum. Since I was here last they have added the Boeing 707 and also an old DC3. Now this was an eye opener as it used to belong to Bush Pilots Airways and my good friend the late Dr Ken Brand and I have flown in this very same aeroplane. What a great surprise to be able to say hello to it again and remember that trip with Ken back in 1979. Lots of things here.. so I will let the pix do the talking.

You cannot miss that tail!

This way in... we walked there!

The first QANTAS hanger. Amazing vibe out here.

Only airline in the world that used to build its own planes!

Fancy a Rolls Royce?

PBY Catalina built by Boeing.

Although QANTAS flew these, this one was from Spain.

Imagine the sights that have been viewed through this port.

Love the two colours.

Men's loo in the tail!

Inside the hanger.

Almost cartoon like in its shape.

What a beast.


CVR etc

747 flight deck

Rear galley 707

Luxury seating 707

Main saloon 707

Lalique lamp 707

Main bedroom 707. Truly!


Flight deck 707

I have always liked the style of these aeroplanes. Magic!

This old girl has seen better days. No longer in flying condition.

Eventually the tours were over so we headed in to buy some souvenirs and then walked back to our motel. I grabbed a bag of Spirit of Life brochures and newsletters and headed off to Longreach Hospital. The staff were happy to see me and welcomed the information. Dinner that night was Chinese and then back to the motel to pack up for the trip to Winton the next day.

So Winton is around 165km from Longreach and from there another 110 km or so to Lark Quarry. Gregor thought it might be sagacious to book our accommodation at Winton on the way through, as we would be returning there late in the day and it would be good to know we would have rooms waiting. We found the newest motel in town and then pointed the bikes at Lark Quarry. Now this is a place where they have found foot prints of different sized dinosaurs at what once would have been a waterhole in a lush part of Australia. They have hypothesised that a large dinosaur has come along looking for dinner while the smaller ones were drinking and so they have all stampeded out of the way. Flight or fight I guess. In the middle of seemingly nowhere after more dirt roads, corrugations and everything you can imagine is this little oasis that is Lark Quarry. A purpose built building covers the now exposed tracks and staff show you a small film follwed by a viewing of the track and some explanations.. all followed a by a Q&A session.

We were lucky with our timing, a bus was leaving and only one couple were there with us.. although another bus was coming soon.

Here are the pix....

Look hard and see the footprint!

The walkway above the tracks.

Gregor examining it all in detail.

Hey Mark.. I can see your place from here!

The reception/cafe area.

The walkway in from the car park.

Tour over we headed back in to Winton. Same dirty dusty and very rough road. Now I am used to riding Fat Max on these roads. Sit on around 80 km/h or so and let the bike have its head. Yes he does move around a lot under you but the combination of speed and inertia means he just goes where you point him and takes it all in his stride.

Until... there were some roadworks we passed on the way in. The road was closed and the workers had set up a side track around it. Speed was limited to 40 km/h and all was fine. But on the way back, the road was still closed, side track still there and no sign of the workers. I slowed right down to around 25 km/h or so in case a worker suddenly appeared in front of me. What I didn't know was that they had hosed the side track to keep down dust and the clay had turned the road into a skating ring.

Now this is where you came in at the start of the story... without any warning I felt incredible rotational forces acting on the bike as the rear tried to overtake the front. Before I knew it I was sliding down the road with my right leg trapped under the crash bars for part of the way. My right foot was at 90 degrees to the left and because my boots were strong.. the force was transferred to my knee and thigh. Talk about pain. Eventually my foot came free and I came to a halt.

I couldn't stand up and actually felt like I was being sucked onto the ground. Eventually this passed and with some difficulty I got to my feet. Poor old Fat Max... his right hand pannier had taken the big hit and had torn from its mount and was about 5 metres from the bike. While the adrenalin was pumping I quickly removed the other pannier and tried to lift the bike. That was when I heard this incredible screaming noise. Like somebody in immense pain. I realised it was coming from me! My right knee was killing me and I could't put any weight on it.

Soon Gregor came along and we both got Max back on his feet. Apart from the pannier, the rest of the damage was cosmetic really. My new ADV jacket with its inbuilt armour, my boots, kevlar jeans and helmet had protected me. Once I settled down to realise what had happened I was so mad with myself. If the council had of erected a "slippery" sign then I may well have avoided this. In fact I rang the shire engineer today and told him this. He said he would suggest this in future to his road crews. Good one mate.

As I wasn't  thinking really clearly, Gregor took charge and we managed to load some of my crap onto his bike and then tie the now stuffed pannier onto my second luggage rack. And then? Well a slow trip into town...

Fat Max down for the count!

Back in Winton I rang Dalby Moto to see if they had any panniers in stock and also my insurance company.  I removed the locking mechanism from the pannier (it is keyed the same as the bike) and then the pannier met the rubbish bin. I hobbled up the street and bought a large duffle bag to transfer my clothes into for the long trip back.

That night at Tatt's Hotel I ordered the biggest steak and with chips this time followed by desert for a change. Comfort food for me. Yes Sir Bob!

Just outside of Winton is another dinosaur tourist spot... a place where they have bones etc and you can see them being extracted in their workshop. Well worth a visit. So we did.

Looks like they could film Star Wars here.

Nice boy!

Real bones and fake bones. Can you tell?

This building is amazing out here on a jump up!

Gregor checking to see if he dug my grave deep enough?

Fossil processing centre.

Views are amazing.

You too can go on a dig. All you need is time and money!

People extracting bones!

You can join them for $55 a day!

Love this bloke Would look good at Hendra!

So from this point on we headed back via Longreach to Barcaldine for the night. The next day the destination was Roma and along the way I met James at Mitchell

Although a set up shot... it cost me cash as I lost my glasses.

We overnighted at Roma, then stopped in at Dalby Moto to get a quote for parts to bring Fat Max back to his peak condition. The crew there are fantastic and I can highly recommend the place.

All in all a great trip with a great mate and it was a lot of fun. Still very sore from my slide up the road, but it was supposed to be an adventure after all. In a few weeks Max will look resplendent again with some new scratch free parts and my bruises will have healed.

Well Gregor... thanks for the company mate. I was going to say, that's another one we walked away from... I guess we did.

Now to plan the 2017 ADV ride of destiny.....

But in the meantime.. some pix of the damage to poor old MAX!

All in all I got out lightly as the Alt Rider Crash bars did their job. Well designed and made are they!