Black Dog Ride 2011 – Day 11

Riding time

Up bright and early for our trip out of Mt Isa towards Winton. The first stop was Cloncurry, after a great run of easy twisties which was a welcome relief from the long, straight roads we’d experienced from all the way back at Port Augusta!

Zephyr & Paige

Zephyr & Paige.Whilst at the service station, we met a couple who were on a riding trip from Darwin to the Hunter Valley – they were riding a Tenere, and from the look of it, there wasn’t a spare spot on the bike to store anything! They had a huge aluminium box on the back, as well as custom-made panniers, and sleeping gear strapped to the crash bars. Once they were on the bike there wasn’t much space at all – Paige had only been on the back of the bike for no more than 1 hour prior to their trip, and we’re sure this will be the last ‘big’ trip she undertakes! During the next couple of days we bumped into them at various stops along the way. Best of luck to you both on your journey 🙂

McKinlay

Since Three Ways, I had been taking cold & flu tablets to try and overcome my cough & stuffy/runny nose, but they hadn’t really done the trick. In Cloncurry, I was made to purchase stronger cold & flu tablets, as well as Senega & Ammonia (which Sharon called ‘Synagogue of Ammonia’). I could not taste anything so the taste was lost on me, but I have been told it tastes quite bad. After we scoffed a meat pie (a sloppy, scalding-hot abomination) we headed off to McKinley. A sense of dejavu came over me as I’d ordered the same lunch at the McKinley roadhouse that I had ordered last year – a burger with the lot 🙂

Winton

We’d been leap-frogging some of the other riders on the same route all day so we’d see the same people at the same stops. Kim had a particular dislike for Kev ‘The Garden Gnome’ from WA, and it seemed that everywhere we went…there he was! Kim took great enjoyment from passing him along the road or getting out of a stop before he did. Another stop at the Kynuna Roadhouse before heading off for the final stint into Winton.

Winton is one of my favourite towns that we visited. I’d happily come back here again, and bring the family so we can check out the Dinosaur attractions that Winton’s famed for.

Birthday!

Almost all of the riders were staying in the same caravan park and we’d decided to head to the Tattersalls (Tatts) Hotel for dinner. We’d also been informed that two of the crew shared a birthday, so it was a pseudo birthday dinner for Mick & Sharon. The publican was a wonderful host bringing out the port for us all to share to celebrate the occasion after I’d arranged a piece of chocolate cake for each of them – everyone joined in with the birthday song 🙂

Black Dog Ride 2011 – Day 10

Here comes the sun...

Three Ways, NT to Mt Isa, QLD

This journey was to take us along the Barkly Highway, which from memory was one of the most boring parts of our journey last year. The road is fairly straight, it’s hot (36C in 2010, 32C in 2011), and windy – there are no trees, bushes, hills or anything to stop the wind, so you end up being battered around for a few hours. The last fuel stop before the NT/QLD border is tshe Barkly Homestead, which is a great little place out in the middle of the Barkly Highway. If I’m ever out this way again, I’ll probably choose to stay here rather than at the Three Ways!

Where to?

Once we filled up and headed towards the Queensland border, James pulled over and decided to fill up from the jerry can in the car rather than risk running out somewhere along the ride. It’s one thing to run out of fuel if you’re the only person on the bike, but since Sharon is a pillion, there’s an extra person to think about, too. My bike’s been even more brilliant this trip fuel economy wise, as it’s been using 5.5L per 100km (or about 17km per litre), good enough for approx 260km per tank. So far, the largest fill I’ve done is 18L, meaning I could still travel for another 50-odd km! The longest part of the trip with no fuel was between the Barkly Homestead and Camooweal, the first town across the QLD border.

Barkly

We had a quick stop in Camooweal as we were running later than we wanted, and had to be in Mt Isa by 6pm before the Caravan Park closed. We made it as far as the next rest stop before needing to pull over and stave off the waves of tiredness. There are many ways in which riders will try and stave off tiredness: some of these methods work well, some do not, but the results will depend on each individual. James has been scoffing jelly snakes (which Sharon has been hand delivering to him whilst riding), whereas I’ve required a VRedBullMonsterMother energy hit sometime in the afternoon to help me get through. Fatigue is something to be managed by whichever means possible. Starting earlier in the day is usually the best method for not having to ride so much in the late afternoon/early evening. Unfortunately we’ve had many late starts on this trip, necessitating resorting to other means for energy…

The moment we reachd the outskirts of Mt Isa our phones went crazy with SMS messages and missed calls. I finally linked my phone to the headset on my helmet and made a call to the Caravan Park, then to the family, and held the conversation whilst trundling through Mt Isa to our destination! I have yet to master the making/taking calls hands-free so not likely to try it anytime soon.

Once we pitched the tents, it was time to head over to the Overlander Hotel for dinner – we came here last year and had a decent meal for $8 and gave it another go. None of our meals were good – the lamb roast looked less like ‘lamb roast’ and more like ‘chunks of old meat’ with some sad looking tinned/frozen veges. The crumbed barramundi looked like deep fried chicken, and the cannelloni was overcooked and had gone hard on the top. The dessert order took 6 goes to get it right, but at least they looked OK. A number of the other riders had gone to a pub for early birthday celebrations for Mick from Port Macquarie. We should have joined them, I think their meals were pretty good!

Black Dog Ride 2011 – Day 9

Sunrise

I departed Lasseters at 8am for an early start to the day, deciding to ride with Daryl & Dave as James had some personal business to do in Alice Springs. They eventually departed at 10am.

Although it was a long day, they always seem to go quickly when you get started early enough in the morning. We made our way to Ti-Tree for our first stop of the day where we caught up with Jim & Keith from WA (Jim’s leaving his bike in Brisbane to fly home, and Keith’s still on his trip and will continue all the way through to WA over the next couple of weeks).

Old boots

We stopped at Barrow Creek for a pit-stop and tried to find DazzaB’s $2 note stuck to the wall (with all manner of other memorabilia like student ID’s, licenses, currency, business cards and pictures). The place has a few relics hanging around such as a pair of old boots, an old driveway bell ringer and a PMG box.

Black Dog Aliens

The trip was fairly uneventful as there wasn’t much to see or stop for along the way. I didn’t stop at the same places as last year as I took enough pictures last year (see my Day 9 Pictures from the 2010 BlackDogRide). We then stopped at Wycliffe Well (the home of UFOs) for more pictures of funny aliens and interesting signs related to aliens 🙂 The caravan park was deserted, with various statues of characters around the park, including the Hulk (who had me in a headlock) as well as aliens, monsters and Elvis!

VFR800

We wandered up to Tennant Creek where we hung out and chatted in Daryl & Dave’s motel room until James, Sharon & Kim arrived after their delayed start from Alice Springs (2 hours behind). We then scooted up to Three Ways to camp for the night. We met up with a bunch of other riders from the Port Macquarie region who we’d gotten to know well after the Black Dog Ride had finished, although we all left Hills Motorcycles together 8 days previously!

Black Dog Ride 2011 – Day 8

Tents!

As the Black Dog Ride was officially over, a number of people had departed Glen Helen early, whilst others took their time waking up/packing up and getting the day underway. After breakfast, I joined Jim & Chris in climbing up the rocks of Glen Helen. I’m not exactly sure what to call them, so hopefully the pictures will help explain where we went!

We had a good chat about depression and how it’s affected each of us – I don’t have it, but through the Black Dog Ride, and great people like Jeff Marsh, Jim Seymour and James Pralija, I’ve come to understand it more, and also understand how it has (and still does) affect their lives. It’s the personal conversations that are the most powerful way to understand and reduce the stigma of depression.

Glen Helen Gorge

Once we returned to terra firma, Jim went for a chilly swim whilst Chris & I dipped a foot (or 2) into the water. I headed back to the resort to catch up with the others who had a big sleep-in after a night of frivolity, chatting and shenanigans with Ash, the lovely lady who made the Black Dog Ride event at Glen Helen a success!

Time seemed to slip away today, until Sharon came over and advised that she’d just bought a helicopter ride for James & I! We had to wait a while before getting on board, and the pilot managed to get me to measure  something I’ve not measured for more than 6 months: my weight (which is used to help calculate take-off weight and such). In case you want to know, I am 81Kg 🙂 There are some pics in the slideshow at the bottom of the post, and you can see a sneak preview video of the take-off and initial flight:

Brady Bunch

After that, time seemed to keep on slipping, to the point where we were packed and ready to go at 4pm! Still no swim for me in the Glen Helen water this time around, but another sunset ride (this time away from the sun) back to Alice to settle into Lasseters, grab a quick swim (I dived in, swam to the other end then got out quickly – the water was freezing!. We chose to eat at the Juicy Bar in the premises – it was a little chilly at night in the Juicy Bar, and we were well entertained by the wait staff and security trying to light the ‘Dalek’ heaters. In the end they managed to fire up 2 of the 7 heaters and left the rest in a huddle, forgotten and lonely (it does not do your customer service any good to tell patrons that no-one filled up the gas bottles).

There was a bushfire smell and smoke all over Alice Springs from controlled burning – I even snapped a pic or 2 – it looked spectacular but the smoke made for difficult breathing for most of the night.

Black Dog Ride 2011 – Day 7

Heavitree sunrise

We pottered around in the morning and ran some errands (purchasing a throttle lock for James and an audio adapter for me to be able to listen to music through the headset on my helmet). We wandered towards Lasseters Hotel and Casino to catch up with the others who had amassed at the Heavitree Gap Resort. As we approached the roundabout, the riders had just begun streaming around, so we waited, and saw almost every bike on the Black Dog Ride to make their way through.

BD Riders

It was another fabulous day weather-wise in Alice Springs, with many bikes on display out the front of Lasseters, in readiness for a lunch (more sausages!) put on by the Lions Club. Steve Andrews, Michael Sluis and Damien Ryan (the Mayor of Alice Springs) gave a short talk before the ride out to Glen Helen. A couple of the statistics:

  • 1 in 5 people will suffer from depression in their lifetime
  • More people commit suicide each year than die on the roads
  • Personal conversations with people you know and people you meet are more powerful in understanding and destigmatising depression than large billboard advertisements.
Sunset shadows

We stuck around at Lasseters having a great chat about various topics, and before too long it was 3:30pm (if you’re ever wondering what to eat, the calamari is absolutely fabulous). We got going somewhere after 4pm, again knowing that we’d be riding into the sunset. We stopped by the side of the road for a few pictures in the afternoon light. One of those pictures will become my new Profile picture (James took the picture with his sisters’ SLR camera). I shot some on-the-bike video of the sunset just to show the beautiful colours in the sunset sky, as well as document yet another stunning late afternoon ride into the sun.

Guess where?

We were the last to arrive at Glen Helen Resort. The place was already buzzing! We’re staying in a permanent tent with a real bed for the night, rather than having to grapple with our own tents in the dark. Many stories were shared amongst the riders, before, during and after the official festivities. The down-side of arriving so late was that we did not get to experience the waterhole, nor go for a walk up to the gorge. We’ll have to do that tomorrow instead!

Steve

It was a short day riding-wise, but it was filled with discussions, great people, great stories and tales of woe from the ride. A number of riders from the East coast seem to be heading home the same way as we’d planned, so our little group may expand to over 10 for the return journey – we’ll see who’s left in the morning to know what the next part of the adventure looks like!

 

Black Dog Ride 2011 – Day 6

Radeka Sunrise

We had an early (7:30am) start from Coober Pedy as we had a long day ahead of us – it wasn’t a tough day as there were plenty of well-timed/spaced rest stops along the way, just long. I set out with Kim (in the support vehicle) leaving James/Sharon to play catch-up. James says we had an approx. 30 second head-start on them, but it still took them 140km before they caught us!

Stealth Fighter

A quick stop at the Cadney Roadhouse to fill up (not for me, my bike’s range is pretty fabulous compared to some others) before setting off for Marla Roadhouse, where almost everyone fills up. Whilst relaxing amongst the bikes, Daryl asked how my Airhawk was going (it’s designed to prevent soreness, pressure pain or numb-bum on long motorcycle trips). I admitted that my testicles were not used to it, and he informed me that it was because my Airhawk had too much air, and rather than being conforming to my butt, I was practically sitting on a cushion of air – this isn’t what it’s for.

Marryat

I’ve done some bone-headed things on the road in the distant past, but did not appreciate almost being taken out by one of my ‘fellow’ riders. I had indicated to turn right into a rest area about 60km out of Marla. I’d tapped the brakes twice (to indicate to James and ‘Mum’ that I was slowing down), and waved them through on my left (to say ‘go on ahead, I’ll catch up – we’ve become a good little group, keeping together and sticking to a great system that ensures no-one gets left behind). I started to tip in (to turn the bike) when I noticed something in my right-hand mirror – another bike! It seems another rider was overtaking everyone at the same time – over double lines and almost cleaned me up trying to turn right!

I continued slowing the bike, missing the entrance to the rest area and wound up slowing in the gravel. Once I’d come to a top did I realise how lucky I was and the seriousness of what just happened. I toddled into the rest stop for a breather! My buddy David Lee was in the rest stop and asked ‘what happened’ when he saw me in the gravel. He (and I) were astounded that anyone would be stupid enough to overtake anyone close to the entrance of a rest stop (or any other road/driveway for that matter!).

Erldunda

I caught up with James/Sharon and Kim at the NT border and we posed for the obligatory pictures with the ‘Welcome to the Northern Territory’ sign (see slideshow, below). This time last year, a whole bunch of us from Sydney had posed for a picture with our bikes, however the riders were quite spread out over vast distances. So I took a pic of James and his mum, Kim.

A quick blast up to Kulgera (rest/drink) and Erldunda for fuel & food, before departing for a great run to Stuarts Well, another rest stop and ice-cream. Earlier in the day, Ric Raftis had a visit from Dick Smith! No such luck for us. On the way into Alice, the sides of the roads were burned, with a lot of controlled burning in recent days. Some of the trees were still smouldering, and there was the smell of bushfire in the air. It made breathing a little difficult.

Heavitree sunset

Once at Heavitree Gap Lodge, there was the usual kerfuffle as many bikers were trying to check-in at the same time. The staff didn’t seem to be too interested in customer ‘service’, as they were quite inflexible with room bookings, and many people did not get the rooms they’d specifically requested! We were given a single room with 1 bed for 3 people, where one of the other riders (who’ll be undergoing a knee operation soon) was given a room with 6 bunks on the second floor! We eventually traded our rooms so he got the ground floor unit. There were other stories like this so it’s hoped that the situation improves next year.

One thing I am disappointed about? I missed seeing the ‘Rhino on a stick’ that I saw last year!

Black Dog Ride 2011 – Day 5

Pimba

We’d all agreed to meet at 7am for an 8am departure, and had decided to ride with Daryl & Dave for the day. Considering our tardy start to the previous day, we were all packed and ready to go by 7:30am. That’s when our buddy Dazza dropped a bombshell that he would not be continuing his Black Dog Ride for a number of reasons. We wished him well on his return journey and promised to keep in touch to see how we has.

The rest of the Brady Bunch left at 8:30am for a casual ride up to Pimba. It was some time out of Port Augusta that an iphone decided to test it’s ability to escape the tank bag at 120km/h. It succeeded at escaping, but did not survive the impact or slide along the road. I went back to retrieve it in the faint hope that there’s some way to retrieve the data. We heard that one of the WA crowd had a camera ‘in his lap’ that decided to hit the road, only to be run over by the support vehicle!

After a fuel and pit stop at Pimba, we headed towards Woomera to look around. I got an eerie vibe last year, and got another eerie vibe this year. So much so, I did a short video about it here:

 

Glendambo

Glendambo was the next stop – there’s not much to do except fuel up both you and the bike. There’s not much shade around and it is quite warm – the bike showing 29c. You often need to stretch out here more than usual as the next fuel stop is quite a lot further away (254km with no fuel stops) – many people break up this journey and use the rest stops provided to recharge/refresh for the next leg.

Cat on leash

One of the last rest stops (known as Ingovar), I saw an odd sight, of a cat on a leash. In case you don’t believe me, have a look at the pic! The sun was setting to our left as we rolled into Coober Pedy, which made for great, long shadows in pictures. As you can see in the slideshow, the area around Ingovar is quite flat, and stunningly beautiful.

Once in Coober Pedy, we settled into the Radeka Downunder Hotel before heading off for official duties at the Opal Inn, with dinner again put on by the local Lions Club. Ken Williams was able to have the proceeds of the evening’s drink sales donated to the Black Dog Institute as part of the Black Dog Ride. Everywhere we went, people wanted to help, from generous donations such as what Ken arranged, to $5 donations from locals in towns.

The Lucky Dog award went to Jim Williams who rolled into Coober Pedy at 10:3pm after having to replace his tyre in Pimba – it shredded itself just before he got into Spuds roadhouse! After waiting 4 hours for a tyre to arrive from Port Augusta, he was on his way again.

Black Dog Ride 2011 – Day 4

This was our shortest day distance-wise (230km to Port Augusta), and we seemed to be quite tardy in the morning. Dazza had wandered through the town already having arrived quite early the day before. James, Sharon, Kim & I went for a walk and took a few pics of the place whilst mega-huge coffees were ordered. Sharon visited a local shop and bought a coffee plunger to be able to have ‘real’ coffee on the ride!

The ride itself was wonderful! As we had a small group (aka ‘The Brady Bunch’), we were free to take whichever route we wished to Port Augusta. Our journey took us through Mt Bryan, Hallett, Jamestown, Stone Hut and onto Melrose for our lunch stop.  We stopped at the North Star Hotel, and had the most wonderful pizza – they were so good we wanted to take them away for dinner! We met with three Black Dog Riders from Adelaide who had stopped in for a drink and had a quick chat with.

A quick blast through the countryside to Wilmington for a fill and a chat with the owners of the local service station before making our way through the twisties close to Port Augusta. These twisties were so much fun for others that they dumped their gear at Port Augusta and rode back to do them again!

James decided to revisit the scene of the infamous gaffe from the 2010 Black Dog Ride by posing for pictures (see the slideshow below, or visit my Black Dog Ride Day 4 Picture album.

At Port Augusta we pitched the tents (away from the noisy buggers) and wandered out to Westies Football Club for the presentation and dinner. As one of the longest legs of the ride was upcoming, we did get to bed early in readiness for an 8am departure.

Black Dog Ride 2011 – Day 3

Balranald, NSW to Burra, SA

A big day’s ride today from the sleepy mining town of Balranald, in the Riverina District of NSW. Dinner the night before was at the local Golf Club put on by the Balranald Lions, but no locals were in attendance. As mentioned in my Day 3 check-in video, Michael Field spoke about his family’s battle with his brother who does not acknowledge/recognise his depressive symptoms. It’s stories like this that help us understand a little more about the people we know/ride with and how they’re linked to Depression and the Black Dog Ride.

Today’s ride took us through Euston, where one of the service station operators donated $100 to Michael Field for the Black Dog Ride – many of the riders have similar stories (including the $10 from 2 of the locals in Burra to help the cause). We arrived in Mildura for the next round of chaos – Being at the back with the L & P-plater, we did not know where the meet point was until a friendly local advised us where to go and we soon found the rest of the mob down by the river. I scooted off to find a few stragglers, and when I got back there I barely had a chance to say ‘Thanks’ to the Mildura Lions and grab a pic:

The mob started to move off and left Peter behind with a bike that would not start. James’ to the rescue! James, Sharon, Kim & I stayed to help him out, eventually failing to push-start the bike down the hill. Emptying half of the car to let more people in (it’s quite packed to the rafters), they eventually found a battery at the local bike shop. A short while later, we had the bike going again, packed the car and set off at 12:30pm – the rest of the pack had a lunch date in Renmark, 150km away!

The 5 of us had a great day’s ride from then on, winding our way through Renmark & Waikerie to Morgan. A quick pit-stop, some piccies and a lemon calippo later, we set off for the final stretch into Burra – into the sunset! I say that in all the riding I have done, this was the most spectacular, serene and spiritual ride I have been on. The setting sun, the blazing rainbow colours of the sunset and twilight made it a truly magical experience. Keeping an eye out for natives (I saw 1 kangaroo, 2 possums and a mouse), we cruised along at 80km/h, well below the speed limit but allowing us to see more and be ‘more’ prepared (well, as prepared as you can be for native wildlife crossing your path).

* We were attired for the lovely spring weather and sunshine we experienced.
* But it got cold.
* And we froze our little tushies off!

We rolled into Burra at 7pm, found a local pub and tucked into dinner. We sat up chatting until way too late, but with a late start on Wednesday, it didn’t turn out too badly. I really really enjoyed the ride today and we bonded very well as a little group. More stories to come tomorrow!

Black Dog Ride 2011 – Day 2

Young, NSW to Balranald, NSW

I pitched a tent.
In sub-zero temperatures.
Without enough to keep me warm
= I had frozen sleep most of the night – A light covering of frost the next day told me just how cold it was without checking the temperature gauge on the bike!

We waved goodbye to Nathan & Roger who returned home to Sydney. The rest of us faced gloriously blue skies on our way through  and the riders were on the way to Balranald. Once again we had great support from the local Lions Clubs in putting on the Tea/Lunch stops, but there seemed to be little support from the local community to hear the presentations about the great work done by the Black Dog Institute. Steve also commented:

We all need to do more to spread the message that it’s OK to speak about depression!

Pics: