Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Home now and working on updating the blog.

There are many folks to thank, especially my riding partner, Ian Johnson and the folks who made this happen: Steve Bailey of Vespa Motorsport, Allen Drysdale of Corazzo Gear and Murray Walters of Scooter Central.  My thanks and love to you all.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Another quick update (which is about all there's time for these days):

Good news - We're safely in Canberra and staying with friends of Ian.

Bad news -  The scooter gods are still messing with Ian's Gilera.  This time it was (and kind of still is) the water pump.  Repairs were made in Moe and we're hoping it holds until Sydney.  But the bearing noise is worse today.  There's been talk about sacrificing a goat.  Hope it doesn't come to that.  Will keep you posted.

The current plan it to head to Sydney on Thursday.  Will post again from there.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

It's Saturday, 15 September and time for another quick update.

Ian and I have been the guests of Gary and his family who live just outside Melbourne.  They are gracious, generous and all-around awesome hosts.  It's not just the home-cooked meals and comfortable beds.  They've really made us feel welcome.

The plan is to head toward Canberra and then on to Sydney.  If all goes well, the "Lap around Australia" should complete by Thursday or Friday.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

another quick update  -  Today is Sunday, 09 September 2012.

We arrived safely in Ceduna and expect to be in Adelaide by Tuesday.  The good news is the weather is much improved from the rain, hail and gale-force wind of a few days ago.  The bad news is the scooter gods are still picking on Ian.  A large piece of hail bounced onto his right rear-view mirror and broke it.  (He bought a replacement in Bunbury.)  His scooter tipped over in the sand/gravel at the campground, denting his exhaust and scratching up the same mirror housing.  One saddlebag, as well as the contents (small blanket, travel umbrella and silk glove liners) were melted beyond salvation by the hot exhaust pipe.  (We're feeling lucky that this did not start a fire!)  And then, just to add insult to injury, the replacement mirror fell off and broke.

As for me and the X7, we're getting along just fine (knock on wood!).

Internet connections have been spotty but I will post updates and photos.  (I know, I know.  I've said it before.  But I really will.  Eventually.)

Monday, September 3, 2012

Well, another day and no blog updates to speak of.  Sorry.

Just a quick note about today:
Both bikes were serviced today at the awesome Piaggio / Vespa dealer in Perth, Ace Scooters.  Steve, Rukhsana and Bill are all rock stars!!  BIG thanks to them all for getting us in for service, feeding us Timtams and coffee and tea, making us laugh and making us feel right at home.

Weather took a turn last night and it's been stormy pretty much all day.  We're going put in a few miles today, but taking it easy due to wet roads and my new rear tire.

I will post updates later.  Really.  (No, really!)

Friday, August 31, 2012

Today is Saturday, 01 Sept and everything is fine - just spotty or no connectivity.  Have an appt. for service at Ace Scooters in Perth Monday morning.  Will post blog updates then.  Thanks to all for messages of support!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Friday, 17 August 2012
No riding today (dammit!)

Ian was up early and nearly packed when I got up.  I’d packed the night before so, at last, I was pretty much ready when he was.  Except we had no place to go.  Coco said we could leave our things until we knew for sure if we were departing or staying another night.  Mail should arrive within a couple of hours.  If we’re very lucky, the belt can be installed quickly and we’ll be on our way by noon.  Feels like I’ve said that before.

Ian tracked the packages of belts sent by Allen to a truck in Katherine.  He’s off to the post office to get more specific information.  Meanwhile, Coco took the paintings I like out of the shed again.  He also gave me his card so I could give him all my money later (and he’d send them to me).

The fellows at the bike shop said the mail gets delivered by 11.  Ian went to see if the package arrived.  Nothing yet.  Nor at noon, nor 1:30, nor 2:30.  After several visits to the post office by Ian and the bike shop guys (It is here yet? How about now?) there were no belts.  And no real answers from the post office.  The “overnight mail” was in the hands of a private courier and they had no control over (or knowledge of) his schedule.  Frustrating!!  Finally, Ian’s phone rang at 3pm.  The shop has the belts. YAY!

This is a photo of a cast crocodile outside the sporting goods shop next to the repair shop.  It’s the pic of the day (mostly because it’s the only one).

Ian wanted to watch the mechanic do the installation but they would not permit it.  Well, that sure doesn’t engender confidence.  I tried to distract Ian by offering to buy lunch.  I hoped it would keep his mind off the scooter and get us a much needed meal.

We picked up a couple of sliced pork sandwiches at Bucking Bull.  They had actually closed but the ladies inside took pity on us and let us in.  We ate on the lawn adjacent to the shop.  Even though they completed the belt installation by 4, it was too late for us to ride north.  We agreed to spend one more night in Katherine and set out on Saturday morning.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Thursday, 16 August 2012
No riding today

Much to our disappointment, and as you all know by now, everybody who told us not to count on the belts arriving today was right.  Dammit.

Ian hoped his Roadside Assistance policy would cover these additional expenses but it’s still a little unclear.  They did approve the overnight stay in Elliot and the tow to Katherine.  Since costs were starting to become an issue, we relocated from the hotel to Coco’s House, a backpacker’s hostel just blocks away.

Ian went into town (really just a few blocks away) for a massage.  Originally, he planned to do that and get a haircut in Darwin.  Since were stuck in Katherine for a while, he decided to find someone here.  I stayed at the hostel for a while and talked with Coco about the many painted canvas and digerydoos he has in a small shed.  They’re all aboriginal art and many are very expensive.  There are two in particular that I really like.  But, as I said earlier, costs are becoming an issue and I’m not sure I can justify the expense.

I went back to McDonald’s to see if their internet connection was resolved.  Thankfully, it was and I was able to post some blog updates.

We decided to make the best of our time here by doing laundry, then walking to the market.  It’s a shame that we’re in such a nice area and not able to get around to see it.  There’s Katherine Gorge and the hot springs, not to mention Edith Falls, Cutta Cutta Caves and Nitmiluk National Park.  (I offered to let Ian ride cupcake on the X7 but he declined.  He wasn’t comfortable piloting and having me ride pillion, either.  I understand it.  But still…)

Tomorrow’s Friday and we’re really, really hopeful that the belts will arrive.  The fellows at the repair shop said the mail typically arrives at 11.  If things go our way, the belt will be installed by noon and we’ll be on our way.
Wednesday, 15 August 2012

No riding today

Ian set his alarm and we got up at 4:45am.  AM!  Ugh!  Bill called at 5:15 to say he was on his way to pick us up.

The only good thing about being awake and up at this hour is the night sky.  Spectacular!  So many stars and planets and other twinkly things I almost never get to see in the city.  And there were two shooting stars.  Hooray!

Bill’s flat bed truck had lots more stuff on it than just our two scooters.  I guess he figured he might as well take advantage of the opportunity to deliver an assortment of stuff while he was making the trip north.  One other thing about being on the road before dawn is you get to see the sunrise.  And I did.  Plus, I got to see live kangaroos, their joeys and (we think) a wallaby.  Ok, so I guess I have to admit there are some advantages to being an early riser.  I don’t think I’m a convert, though.

After three stops to complete Bill’s deliveries, we arrived at R & M Motorcycles in Katherine.  Ian got a text from Allen saying that his belts are on the way to Katherine, too.  Fingers crossed that we’ll be underway quickly.

We sat at McDonald’s with an intermittent internet connection for a couple of hours.  I feel like I need to eat some vegetables.

I also needed to call NT Motorcycles in Darwin to push back our service / tire change appointment to Friday.  I spoke to a very kind and patient woman named Tina.  She told me we shouldn’t count on the belts arriving tomorrow.  NT, she said, means Not Today, Not Tomorrow.  (Ian said it also means Not Tuesday, Not Thursday.)   She reset our service & tire changes for Monday.  I cannot imagine it’ll take longer than that for the belts to arrive (fingers crossed and prayers sent up to the scooter gods).

Ian walked around town while I reconsidered our current circumstances and poured over the maps (again).  I’ve been worried about the time to complete the big lap around this lovely continent.  It’s about the same size as the USA, so the big lap is similar to doing a “four corners” ride.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012
Day 16 riding

We got on the road by 8:30 which was pretty good considering we had some very nice neighbors to chat with.  We say our good-buys and rode to Renner Springs.  There I had my first meat pie.  Fresh out of the oven.  Minced meat and gravy in a flaky pastry shell.  YUM!!   (Sorry, I forgot to take a picture.  Not even one crumb left after I was done.)

Ian called to activate his phone and I called to make an appointment for service in Darwin.  We both needed an oil change and tires (Ian’s back and my front tire).  We were tooling down the road, about 65k north of our last stop when there was a puff of black from the back of Ian’s scooter.  I hoped it was just the result of running over a pebble that gets shot / sprayed out of the tread.  Or a dirt clod that kind of exploded.  No such luck.  It was his belt.  Again.  Just 12 days ago he had the same issue.  What is going on and why is his scooter eating his belts?!?

First things first – we pulled the scooter onto the soft shoulder and took off most of the luggage.  We dug the tools and my spare belt out and worked at removing the transmission cover.  Something wasn’t cooperating.

Meanwhile, a police officer pulled over to check on us.  He called for the Roadside Assistance tow truck and we decided to take a break from the heat and have a drink and a nosh.  I started putting everything back on to my scooter, knowing that I’d be following the truck.  I wasn’t quite done when the tow truck arrived.  Ian’s Gillera was quickly loaded up and strapped down by the driver, Bill.  In no time, were were on our way to Elliot.

Bill’s shop had an amazing collection of license plates displayed on nearly every vertical surface.  I especially liked the “Cannonball” ones.

Kevlar fluff and other belt fragments

Three guys deciding what’s next

Ian had been working the phones.  He talked with the Roadside Assistance folks (more than once), he called other repair shops and his mechanic back in Brisbane and he called our trusted friend and Road Angel, Allen Drysdale.

The end result was a motorcycle shop in Katherine would take the scooter in for service, Allen will send belts (yes, plural.  We don’t need this happening again) to the shop via overnight mail and we’d load both scooters on the truck and be towed to the repair shop.  Now that’s a sorry sight: two scooters on a tow truck.

Bill said he would tow us to Katherine (at an exorbitant rate of $1,600+ to be paid by the roadside insurance).  That would take place tomorrow.  Early tomorrow.  In the mean time, we would stay in a “hotel” in Elliot, also paid for by insurance.  I thought it would be a relief to have an air-conditioned room and clean sheets.  Ummmm, no.  The only place to saty (literally the only place in Elliot) was an even sorrier sight than two scooters on a tow truck.  Honestly, my tent is way, way more comfortable than this:  sweltering hot, lumpy bunk beds, peeling paint, spider infested (not really, but there were at least 6 of them), scary shower, water-stained sinks, the list goes on.  You get the picture.  To add insult to injury, there was no place for dinner.  At least we had the trusty black bag.  There was the road food we bought yesterday and the left-over Chinese.  It wasn’t great but it was enough.  I felt so bad for Ian.  Not the end to the day he’d hoped for.  At least we’ll be out early.

Monday, 13 August 2012
Day 15 riding

We got a bit of a late start this morning – too much chatting with our friendly neighbors.)  Ian filled the 10 liter fuel container and brought a breakfast sandwich back for me while I finished packing the scooter.

Even with the kind of late start, we still took time to document exiting Queensland and entering Northern Territory.

The first leg today is the first long stretch where fuel was going to be tight.  Actually, I think we would have made it.  But Ian was right to err on the side of caution.  We put in the spare fuel at a rest stop in at a rest stop in Wonara Borr.  I like that everyone / everything is friendly here, even the road signs.

I’ve been seeing these mounds all over.  I thought they some kind of rock showing wind or rain erosion.  Most of them remind me of the “mittens” in Monument Valley.  Turns out they’re termite mounds.  And they get pretty big.  I still like to see them as mittens.  This one looks more like bunny though.

We refueled in Barkly Homestead and again at Three Ways.  We decided not to press on to Renner Springs (which was probably a saving grace).  We set up camp in the caravan park behind the roadhouse at Three Ways then rode south to Tennant Creek.  Ian got a SIM card for his phone from another service provider with better coverage in these outlaying areas.  While he did that, I took photos of the trash receptacles.  They were decorated with aboriginal art and some were quite striking.

Next stop was the market.  We bought laundry soap and some “road food”: trail mix, apple, juice.  Nothing here for dinner, as the camp site didn’t have a public kitchen.  We got a referral to Woks Up!  Their clever sign caught my eye on the way in.  I thought it would be so-so Chinese take-out.  Boy, was I wrong!  The restaurant and staff was charming!  The owner gave us a tour while our food was being prepared.  She’d worked hard on the d├ęcor and had just opened recently.  Good job!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Sunday, 12 August 2012
Day 14 riding

We finally got a (relatively early start): on the road by 7:45.  Two days in a row - we’re on a roll now!  I’m motivated by the distances we’re traveling each day.  I have no idea what Ian’s motivation is.  No matter what time I wake up and finally get out of my sleeping bag, he’s already ½ packed and drinking a cup of coffee.  One of these days I’ll be up (or at least ready) before him.

I was warned that the scenery here was a little dull.  I don’t agree.  (At least not yet.  Maybe after a couple of more weeks…)  I like the way the roadside grasses shimmy in the wind.  We’ve passed several mowers cutting back all the vegetation (probably because of the coming fire season).  Anyway, I love the smell of newly cut grass.  Between the smells and the sights, I’m loving this part of the country.

Something about the sign at Julia Creek butcher shop caught my eye.  Maybe it was the “country killed” part.  The working is more direct that I usually see.

This wanted sign struck me as funny.  Now I’ve got that Men At Work song stuck in my head “Traveling in a fried out combi…”

Ooooo, now THIS is no fried out combi

Ian kept wanting to race him.  We did finally pass about 15 minutes out of town.  I’m pretty sure he just let us by.

We stopped in Split Rock to take a break.  I didn't see a split rock, just the sign.

At least it gave me a chance to take a quick photo of the road we’d been on

And the road ahead

Here’s Ian checking his messages.  I just love the rich, rust colored earth.

The folks in Richmond told us about the rodeo in Mt. Isa.  It’s a pretty big deal and most of the population of the surrounding towns attend.  That made lodging seem unlikely (or at least very expensive).   So we pushed on to Camooweal.  It ended up being our long day riding so far (just over 525k / about 325 miles.  I 'm proud of Ian.  It's his first long trip and this was his first long day in the saddle.  I'm glad we both still had energy at the end of the day. 

There was a truck parked along the side of the road.  At last, I could take a picture of one of the many Road Trains we’ve passed (and been passed by!).  Some of them have more than three trailers, so they sure seem longer than 53.5 meters.

We walked to dinner at the local pub.  It was delicious!  Roast pork, gravy, oven roasted vegetables – YUM! 

Saturday, 11 August 2012
Day 13 riding

There was lots of road kill this early morning.  Well, it was early for us - on the road by 8.  That’s pretty good considering we had to break camp.  Anyway, there not as much road kill as a few days back when it was every quarter to half mile.  But these are way messier.  Ick!   Not pretty.  Plus, it’s a serious reminder that we need to finish our riding day well before dusk.  As our new pal, Al, warned, “The first kangaroo may startle you.  The second one may kill you!”  We’re going to have to keep getting up and on the road if we’re going to make up some time / miles.  As it stands, it looks like we have only 1 day leeway.  That means all the service stops will need to have needed spare parts & supplies on hand.  We can’t afford to wait a day to ship something in.  Fingers crossed all goes without a hitch.  (By now you all know this didn’t quite work out.  Good thing our calculations were off a bit.)

We stopped for breakfast in Charters Towers.  It’s a quaint small town with a bustling main street.

These boys were having a bake sale to raise funds for an upcoming trip to Canberra.  Also in the photo are their teacher and her assistant.

We’ve begun to encounter the dreaded “road train.”  It’s a tractor / trailer combination similar to what I’ve seen in the US but there are 3 or more trailers.  Road signs say they are 53.5 meters (a little over 175 feet) long.  They seem a lot longer than that to me.  At least they’re clearly marked (sort of).

We stopped at Robert Gray Memorial Park for a picnic lunch.  It’s a nice little park along the Flinders River.  The stones have plaques engraved with names of locals who are remembered by family members or by the community in general.

There were several stops for road construction.  Ian and Bunny walked around and met some of our fellow travelers.

We decided to spend the night at a caravan park because all the hotels were very expensive.  One last stop before that was the Kronosaurus Korner.  It was closed ;(  There were some good photo opportunities outside, though.

Scooters being stalked

Can you spot Bunny?

The woman at the registration desk in the caravan park in Richmond said it was supposed to get cold overnight.  A budget bunk room (instead of a tent site) was a splurge by Ian.  I, with my heated jacket, would have been ok with a tent site. :?  .  It was clean and tidy and I had a blanket with a Tasmanian devil – the Warner Brothers cartoon character, not the poisonous kind.

There were two options for dinner and we opted for the Federal Palace Hotel.  I have to say, it was the worst dinner out I’ve had in a long, long time.  Ah, well…at least the company was good.

It’s 10 and I’d better get some sleep.  It’ll be another early day tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Posting from the library at Halls Creek

Everything on track and running well.  Should be in Broome in 2 days.  (That's probably the next available internet connection.)

Love and hugs to all back home.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Today is Monday, 20 August 2012

Here's the latest news:
The X7 has been running like a champ but Ian's Gilera Runner has not.  We waited for belts to arrive in Katherine.  (Thanks, again, Allen!!)  Now Ian's waiting for replacement shocks off a wrecked bike in Sydney.  He's also going to need a new air filter, and +/- 3" diameter plastic roller that looks like it's been damaged by a metal burr or chip.  It might have been by the kevlar from the belt.  It's still kind of unclear.  Anyway, he's in Darwin and will be for probably a week or so.  Then he'll probably head south through "The Red Center."

The only good part of that is, he used to be stationed in Darwin and knows it well.  He'll relocate from the campsite we had yesterday to a backpackers (hostel).  That'll save a little money and give him a bed and secure room.

I'm fine and back in Katherine tonight.  I'll be pressing on toward Broome and Perth.  I hope to meet up with Ian again in Adelaide.

I'll keep updating the blog as WiFi and time allows.

Friday, 10 August 2012
Day 12 riding

We had a plan to east to Mareeba then down to Ravenshoe and east to Normanton.  The Australia Motorcycle Atlas shows that as #103 & 104 (and a bit of #101) of the top 200 rides on the continent.  It’s good to have a plan.  But this trip has been all about flexibility.

Our (as yet unseen) pal, Gary, sent throttle locks all the way from his home near Melbourne to a colleague in Cairns.  She received the notice from the postal service that the package had arrived but she didn’t yet pick it up.  So Ian arranged to meet her in Townsville tonight.  I’m still uneasy about our time getting tight and the new ride plan has us back-tracking today and adds about 133kms to our ride tomorrow.  Another look at the maps.  Ok, let’s do it.  (Or as Ian says in a Spanish accent “You can do eeeet.”

We did stick to the first part of the plan, the riding to Mareeba part.  And I am very glad we did!  It’s a beautiful road with sweeping curves.  As we got deeper into the rainforest, the mist / low clouds clung to the trees in an eerily elegant way.  Even crossing the bridge was creepy and cool at the same time.  A brief stop at one of few road construction sites gave me just enough time to snap this picture of the rolling green hills”

Then we got to the coffee / chocolate shop.  I knew Ian would like it.  But I went a little crazy in there, too.  Guess what you all are getting for Christmas?  Yep, fancy-schmancy coffee and chocolate.  I sampled a little (just to make sure it was ok, you know) and spent way too much.  The good news is I didn’t have to carry it with me – they ship – hooray!  Here’s bunny among the coffee beans they import:

We continued down through Atherton and Innisfail, then on to Townsville.  The woman we were to meet missed her plane so we set up camp at a nice Holiday Park.

There was a tranquil, palm lined walk to the showers.

At last, at 8pm we rode to the hotel, picked up the throttle locks left at the front desk.  Thanks, Gary!  I don’t usually use the lock but I’m told it will come in very handy as we head west. 

Friday, August 17, 2012

Today is Friday, 17 August 2012

Two bits of good news:

(A) The belts (4 of them!) Allen sent arrived at 3:30pm.  Better late than never!  The shop was ready and installed the belt in about an hour.  YAY!!!  Ian thinks it sounds a little different - a new growl that wasn't there before.  We'll take it easy as we ride north tomorrow.  We have an appointment for service in Darwin on Monday.  Fingers crossed everything holds until then.


(2) I'm only a week behind in the blog postings.  That's nearly up-to-date (for me, anyway).  Don't know what our connectivity will be like in the coming days, so please be patient and rest assured that all is ok.

Love and hugs to you all for your help (especially Allen) and messages of support / encouragement!

Thursday, 09 August 2012
Day 10 ½ riding  (round it up to 11, I guess)

Linc called to let us know all the service was complete.  He'd worked late to make sure both scooters were ready today.  (Thanks, Linc!!)  We walked to his shop and ended up talking even longer than we did the day before.  I loved listening to his stories of racing with his mates and riding with his family.  He’s got lots of great stories.  And there’s usually a gem of a riding tip, too.  Entertainment and education is a great combination.

Here’s Linc helping another customer.  He’s a busy guy in his orange and black shop shirt.  Didn’t even have time to face the camera and pose for a photo.

At Linc’s suggestion, we headed out toward Port Douglas.  It was already after noon, so there wasn’t time to do the whole scenic loop to Cooktown then inland to Mt. Molloy and Mareeba then back to Cairns.  We satisfied ourselves with a small portion of that – just 150 km up and down the coast.  Fun, leisurely riding and world-class beaches and overlooks along the way.

We were lucky to find “3 nineteen,” a restaurant on the beach near the pier.  They had a sign out front that made me laugh.

By now it was about 2pm and the lunch crowd was thinning.  We were seated right away.  I had crab and prawn linguini and Ian had a steak sandwich.  We both ate every bite.  And then I remembered that most blogs show the food before it’s described.  Sorry.

I’d been warned I’d better enjoy all this scenic beauty while I can.  As we head east, there will be no more rolling hills, lush rainforests, sugar cane and banana plantations, farm lands and ranch lands and dairy lands all would be replaced with lots and lots of nothing.  It doesn’t seem possible but I have to believe they’re telling the truth.  In the interest of enjoying it all, we stopped at Rex Lookout on the way back.

Very good food.  Outstanding scenery.  Spectacular riding.  And pretty great company, too.  Could not ask for anything better.  It was only half a day riding but what a day it was!  Add to that, there was none of the gear we’d been hauling.  Made the scooters light and FUN, especially in the corners.  Wheee!