First Saddle Sore of 2020

Martin Little

Premier Member
IBR Finisher
#1
This is a text only ride report as my Photobucket account is down for some reason so no photos yet, I will add photos later when Photobucket is back up

Update: Photos added using Google Photos

My last Saddle Sore was in August 2019, and since then I’ve been recovering from a leg injury, that compounded into a sciatica nerve issue that just wouldn’t go away. Finally, I felt like I was back to about 90% fitness and ready for a longer ride.

With the new decade having just arrived I left Sydney early O’clock on Thursday 2nd January. The streets were eerily quiet as I collected my start docket from the local ATM and pointed the bike northwards towards the Lane Cove tunnel. Taking the Beecroft exit toward Pennant Hills Road I had some unexpected company, two Highway Patrol cars were happy to escort me through suburbs of Sydney as we made our way towards the M1. They peeled off before we got to the M1 on ramp.


Into the night

The M1 was quiet and I had the road largely to myself, with the occasional truck and car to break the darkness. There was a thick cloud cover, or was it bushfire smoke? There was no moon or stars to be seen. Newcastle came and passed into the rear-view mirrors, followed by Taree and Port Macquarie. I pulled into the Coffs Harbour Truckstop for coffee and brekkie just after 6:30am. Feet down and time to take a planned rest stop.


Sunrise on the M1 near Coffs

Twenty minutes later I was back on the M1 heading for Grafton, where I fuelled up before following the Clarence River inland towards the Bruxner Highway, my planned route was to follow the Clarence Way/Coaldale Road to Tabulam, but inadvertently ended up missing the Coaldale Road junction, and continued along the Clarence Way. Which was all very scenic with its rolling hills, valleys and views of the river except about 50kms in it turned to gravel. Not knowing the area and thinking I was still on the Coaldale Road, I assumed I had misread the Google Map info about the road and made the decision to turn around and head back to the Gwydir Highway.The ride back was just as scenic and before too long I was on the Gwydir Highway heading for Queensland as planned. This error on my part added about 100kms to the overall round trip.


Grafton Rail Bridge

I followed the Gwydir Highway as it snaked its way through the Gibraltar Ranges, more stunning scenery, although, sadly much of the rain forest is now heavily damaged from the recent bushfires. Still the riding through here is good and I enjoyed the climb up the Dividing Range into the New England area heading towards Tenterfield. Near Glen Innes I took a side road called Bald Knob Road, to get back on the New England Highway. In theory this saved me 50kms of riding, but I paid a heavy price in terms of the pounding to the bike and me. Imagine your worst rutted goat track you have ever driven or ridden, then imagine that same road sealed but the corrugations and potholes left intact and simply sealed over. It was appalling. 15kms later I gladly turned onto the New England Highway heading for Tenterfield. There was some road works that slowed progress on the Bolivia Hill but otherwise it was uneventful, traffic was moderately heavy, and the temperatures were in the low 30’s, a pleasant day to be out riding. I stopped briefly in Tenterfield to collect a receipt and continued my way to Texas on the Bruxner Highway.


Gwydir Highway and the damage from bushfires

I last rode this section of the Bruxner to Texas on a FarRide back in 2015. Then I followed the Bruxner all the way to Texas, this time I diverted off the Highway at Mingola and took the Glenlyon road north across the NSW/QLD border past Sundown National Park, before joining Highway 89 (Stanthorpe to Texas). Highway 89 was in poor shape, but it was still a good ride as the road twisted its way westwards past Silver Spur and into Texas.


Crossing the border near Sundown National Park

By now the temperatures were in the high 30’s, hot but I was feeling Ok, making sure I kept well hydrated. Stopped for a photo at the town sign and then rode into town to collect a receipt from the local General Store. The shop keeper couldn’t help asking “aren’t you hot under all that motorcycling gear”?


Welcome to Texas!


Stockman Hotel, Texas



And goodbye Queensland


After taking a few more photos I headed to the Bruxner Highway and turned left towards Bonshaw, aiming for Glen Innes. Cruise control on and I was content to just let the kilometers roll under the wheels as I watched the landscape shimmering the summer heat. For some unknown reason I took the first left hander off the highway towards Ashton and Inverell, this added more distance to my overall ride by diverting more southwest off route, but the riding was good and before I knew I had arrived in Inverell and turned eastwards on the Gwydir Highway back towards Glen Innes. A massive summer thunderstorm was brewing ahead of me, the closer I got to Glen Innes the blacker the clouds got with lightning strikes becoming more frequent.


The Gwydir Highway with a storm ahead


And more storm front

The temperature was hovering at 40 degrees and the thought of rain from the looming storm was now quite attractive. Sure enough, about 20 kilometers from Glen Innes I rode into the storm front and the heavens opened! Within a few minutes the temperature went from 40 to 18 degrees, the change was glorious, it was wonderful to be riding along in rain and cooler air after so many months of no rain. At Glen Innes I turned onto the New England Highway, southwards to Uralla. The rain continued, not so heavy now but persistent rain and I could see puddles starting to form out in the paddocks. I stopped to fuel up both tanks at Guyra, with the service station attendant looking quite perplexed when I went to pay, how many liters did that bike take?

Onwards to Armidale and now the rain had stopped, and the warmer temperatures returned. Not unpleasant, just a warm humid summers afternoon. At Uralla, I turned onto one of my favourite riding roads, Thunderbolts Way. Late afternoon and not much traffic around, it was bliss just enjoying the wide-open spaces between Uralla and Walcha, with the only blot on this being the odd farm animal that was grazing on the roadside, oblivious to the passing traffic.


A moment of clear blue sky on my one of my fav roads, Thunderbolts Way between Uralla and Walcha

Passing through Walcha the bushfire smoke was very heavy in the air and it stayed that way as I made way towards Gloucester. About 45 minutes outside of Gloucester there as was an active fire, that had reignited beside the road. There was no phone signal and I was hoping the RFS had been alerted, sure enough 20 minutes later the RFS trucks passed me heading towards the fire.


No more blue sky as the smoke closed in

The Roundabout Inn at Gloucester looked busy, but otherwise the main street of town was dead. Nearly every shop was closed with no one around. I stopped briefly to have a snack and hydrate and then got going again, down Bucketts Way heading for the M1. It was early evening; with the sun setting the air was cooling and there was no traffic around at all. The riding was glorious, I left the bike on cruise control and just rolled from corner to corner enjoying a summers evening. All too soon, I arrived at the M1 and turned towards Newcastle. Welcome back to motorway hell! Summer holiday traffic and everyone looked like they had been on the road too long and just wanted to get home.


Taking a moment on The Bucketts Way

I was starting to feel fatigued now, with just over 1,600kms on the clock, and 180kms to home. With plenty of time in hand, I stopped at BP Heatherbrae to have a bite to eat and rest. The tradie meat pie, washed down with lemon tea went down a treat. 15 minutes later I was back on the M1 threading my way through the outskirts of Newcastle towards Beresfield and the final section of motorway to Sydney. Settling into the final leg home, the holiday traffic was super heavy, flowing but very heavy as the sun set. Having music playing away helped pass the time but staying alert in the heavy traffic was draining.


The route as ridden

Generally, everyone was pretty well behaved, apart from one section of roadworks where it was 80kms, with the road down to 2 narrow lanes. There were two cars that insisted on travelling side by side at 75km /hr, with the car in the fast lane refusing to pull over for the banked-up traffic behind. I ended up behind this car with no opportunity to pass, so we just had to roll along at a steady 70-75km/hr, as the traffic compressed closer and closer behind us. I felt very uncomfortable with the surrounding traffic being so close, literally bumper to bumper and my rear wheel in the gathering darkness, no doubt everyone tired. Suddenly the roadworks finished and the two lanes opened out to 4 lanes and it was like someone had fired a starters gun behind me, the traffic previously banked up behind me all took off like a raging torrent of metal around myself and the two rolling road blocks in front of me. Not a great situation to be in. I managed to finally thread my way through this mess and got out there pronto.

Up and over Mt White and across the Hawkesbury River Bridge, the traffic was back to “normal” and it was simple cruise back to the Pacific Highway towards North Sydney. I rolled into the Caltex service station near home to collect my finish receipt and stop the clock at 1,788kms in a tad over 19 hours. Administration complete, I rode down the hill and into the garage, shut the bike down and went upstairs to find Bec and Hettie waiting patiently for me.


Job done! 1788kms for a SS1600

All in all a good first ride for the decade. After nearly 5 months off from injury I felt elated at being back in the saddle, sure I had a few aches and pains but nothing compared to when we had attempted to ride to Wilcannia, back in October.
 
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HACKLE

Well-Known Member
#3
Amazing what you can achieve when you've nothing planned. Great ride through some very good country. Taking in the sights is always energising, better when it's from the seat of your bike. Cheers.
 
#6
The ride, the report and the scenery ... all impressed one who hasn't been motivated lately to go get on the Shrink. Guess I'll have to do something about it, hey.
Even the young grandies were impressed by the wee soft toy "hugging" the auxiliary fuel tank.
 

Gatey

Premier Member
#7
Awh this iss good with the photos Martin.
Great day trip... cos a day is 24.. That pic of the road between Uralla and Walcha in just so pleasant..
You picked the best of the smoke days by tones.
 

Grey Gentry

Premier Member
#14
For Glen and I it turns out that about 19 hrs is a relaxed but still reasonably focused saddlesore. Great choice of roads Martin, one of these days I'd like to do a saddlesore with thunderbolts, Oxley, Bruxner and Gwydir included.
Hmmm. That sounds better than The Oxley from the coast, adding a bit to Cobar, and back to the coast.
However I'd suspect I'd be too slow on all those twisty roads now I'm aged?
 
#15
Thanks for the report Martin, these reports are instrumental in assisting us in safe long distance riding..
Glad you returned unscathed.
I have heard of and seen on Google earth and Bestbikingroads.com "Thunderbolts way", one day I will ride that road!
all the best & ride safe, regards Pete