Who, Why and When

Hello and welcome to our mid life crisis. We are two thirty something blokes with a love of motorcycles and wide open spaces. This blog not only follows our four week trip into the unknown but also contains information and links on how we set up our bikes for the trip. Hopefully our story not only inspires you to get out of your comfort zone and do something mad and liberating but also gives you a bit of a laugh.

Cheers Mike and Rod

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The end of the Crisis, well sort of

Day 25 Geraldton to Perth

We got bugger all sleep that night. Backpackesr like to stomp to the toilet and do their laundry at 2am. Still all of gear (including the bikes!) were all accounted for so we packed up and headed off on the final stretch of our epic trip. The weather report said a strong front would cross the coast from that morning so we wanted to get home as quickly as we could. We were 35km south of Geraldton and I was following Rod when I saw his chain snap, I though the chain would flick off but it didn't, not good. We pulled up and Rod pulled tried to free the chain. It had jammed up around his front sprocket. After five minutes of unsuccessful tinkering Rod was about to loose it when the chain fell free. It had broken around the master link Rod had installed in Broome and he had a spare so we thought no dramas.

We then noticed a small oil leak where the chain had knocked a small hole in the engine block. My heart sank a bit but Rod reckoned he'd still be ok. He then laid out the chain to fit it back on and oh no it was bent, Rod was stranded with 370km to go. We got on the phone and called Rod's wife to be in Perth. She took off straight away to grab a trailer and come pick Rod and bike but she would be at least four hours away and we could see the weather rolling in. Luckily there was a roadhouse 500m up the road and Rod decided to wait it out there. I was torn, I didn't want to leave Rod, I wanted to ride in to Perth with him and finish the trip on a high. We both realised though that if I hung around I'd be riding home in the rain and the dark so I had to go. My last view of Rod was him pushing the CRF down the road while I took off in the opposite direction.
The last photo, love the bum fluff aye
So I took off for the Perth in a bit of down mood. I could travel a bit faster now but after three and a bit weeks it felt strange not riding beside Rod. The weather got progressively worse, I managed to dodge most of the rain but the wind was horrible. The traffic had built up as well which was a pain after being so long out of the rat race. I made it home around 2pm, tired, smelly but happy to see the wife and kids. I rang Rod straight away but he was still holed up in the Roadhouse. Thankfully they made it home safely but not until 11pm that night after driving through horrible weather and having a few car dramas.

So we're home safe and well. I'm sorry it took me a few days to finish the blog but there's been a lot of catching up to do as well as unpacking and cleaning all the gear. The bikes a both running a little worse for wear but hey they've just completed a marathon what do you expect. I need to service the KLR but I'll let it rest in the shed for a week or to, it's earned it.

All in all this trip has been awesome. It's tested both of us in many ways but I've personally loved the highs and the lows. That's why I planned this trip, I knew it would be a challenge and I'm proud of the way we meet it. Would I do it again, hell yes but not for a few years. I hope you've enjoyed the blog and I'm hoping to get Rod to update the posts from his perspective, should be fun.

Long road, wildflowers, crazy drivers and the BACKPAKERS

Day 24 Carnarvon to Geraldton

We took our time packing up and having breakfast. We had a 400km+ day but we knew we had plenty of time. Rod complained he had finally got used to sleeping on his mat on the last night, typical. We had a good ride south but the CRF was starting to have problems. Rod had noticed that his back sprocket had five worn teeth and he still couldn't keep tension on the chain. To compensate we had to travel at 90-95km/hr but that was cool, lots of time to check out the scenery. Rod found a great lookout about an hour out of Carnarvon where we meet a bloke travelling around Oz in an old bus. He also had two beaut motorcycles in a trailer on the back, nice big yamaha cruisers. He liked our bikes and we offered to swap ha ha.
Rods lookout
As we were going south we were noticing more and more wildflowers. The recent rains had done the region good as all of the fields were green as. Rod called a stop and we had to have a photo shoot with the bikes amongst the flowers. We also found an old Yama that's been there for years as part of a road safety campaign. The sign is gone but luckily the Yama is still there. Lots of fun.
"Bikes in Urban Wasteland"
Rod's Masterpiece
After a quick coffee and dodge the law stop in Northampton we rode into Geraldton. Rod had insisted we stay in a backpackers on our last night so we could sleep in a real bed. We pulled up and it was a typical modern day backpackers; dingy and dodgy. Rod was a bit taken aback, I think he had expected a beer garden and spa pool all full of nubile blonde 20 year olds partying all night. Reality was a let down! Rod was also stressed about his bike. The back sprocket was almost worn out. I asked him if he could make it to Perth and he was still positive so...after securing all of gear the best we could we headed into town for dinner. We were going to go the local pub in town but after having a quick beer there it looked a little dingy. We moved on and found a delightful little Italian Cafe with Bee Knees on tap and a wonderful chef in the kitchen. Great meal! We made it back to the backpackers early and watched a little TV. We meet a few young (18 year olds) German backpackers who had been the country 14 days and looked like roos in the headlights. Oz wasn't quite what they had expected. We gave them a few tips on where to stay along the coast and that seemed to set them right but we were blown away at how young and niave these kids were. Where they get money to travel like that I'll never know, they were straight out of high school.

Through the Inversion

Day 23 Robe River to Carnarvon

While Robe River is a beautiful place to camp it can be a bit noisy because you're only 20 metres from the road. A big thanks to the dickhead road train driver who insisted on letting off his air horn at 3am over the bridge! Still, after a quick breakfast, well not so quick, I broke our stove but luckily our new mate Ross lent us his so I could cook up the quick oats. Anyway with handshakes all around and a few good lucks (you mad bugger) to Ross we were off. The wind was still blowing but not as intense as yesterday thankfully, so we made good time to Nanutarra Roadhouse. Somewhere along the way Rod finally lost half his number plate which had been threatening to self destruct since the Gunbarrel. We pulled in for fuel and a coffee milk and yes Nanutarra is still run by a Pirate. Expensive fuel and $5.25 for a coffee milk! We pushed on down the road and Rod found a cave, he was a happy boy.
Just south of Nanutarra Roadhouse
Rod in his cave
  As we were cruising down the road we were suddenly overtaken by a Queensland couple we had met on the Gibb. These two were a screech, they both hated camping and 4WD'ing but were on this across Aussie epic just so they could say they've done it. They got in front of us and pointed to a rest stop and caught up over a cup of tea and biscuits. Rod then tried fixing their camper trailer which had thrown a leaf spring by taking apart the rest stop's dunny door and park bench. I think I'll stop letting him near the KLR!

We had lunch at the Minilya roadhouse, much better value than the Pirate up the road and meet a (German) NZ couple who were roaring around Oz for 3-6 months on motorcycles. Great couple with just as many funny stories as we had. Rod also found a steam engine to ride on.

On ya Rod

Packing always packing

Ride that perfectly normal beast Gingerbeer
We then pushed for Carnarvon and half way along we hit an inversion layer in the weather. On moment we were riding along with a gentle hot easterly blowing then boom it felt like we hit a brick wall and we were riding in a strong cool westerly. We then set up camp for the last time (backpackers tomorrow) and stuffed ourselves on microwave meals, garlic bread and oranges. A strange combination it's true but at least it wasn't a pie or chicko roll. We then went for a walk and found and crashed a small bistro so we could have a beer on Fathe'rs day.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Sick of FIFO in the Pilbara

Day 22 Pardoo to Robe River

The next morning we were fighting the cross wind again but at least we had made it into the Pilbara where the scenery had kicked in again. I hadn't driven this stretch in a while and instantly noticed the new mine sites and gas plants springing up everywhere. We came across the dressed up termite mounds pretty early and they seem to be breeding!
Ha ha
We only stopped in Port Headland to fuel and grab a coffee milk but while I was there I rang my wife and found out about the Christchurch earthquake. While I have no family there I do have a few friends so I was bit worried. We cruised onto the Whim Creek pub which has now been fully rebuilt after being flattened during a cyclone in 2000. Unfortunately it now also doubles up as a fly in/fly out mining camp so a lot of the soul has gone out of the place.
Cheers Rod
We made it to Karratha for lunch and I demanded Macca's. I managed to ring my Mum for her 65th birthday which was cool as I thought I'd be out of phone range that day. Unfortunately for Rod his rear wheel kept moving in on it's mount causing the chain to go slack. He tried buying an adjustable spanner to tighten the wheel up but to no avail. We then continued south hoping to make the Fortescue River roadhouse. We made it ok but the caravan park had been converted to, you guessed it, a FIFO camp, so there was no place to stay. Instead we rode another 40km south to a free campsite we knew of beside the Robe River. We just found a space for the tents in amongst all the caravans and settled down for the night. We meet a mad bugger Ross (in his late 60's/early 70's) riding a push bike from Darwin to Perth. He had some mad stories to tell us around the camp fire that night. Hats off to him though, we couldn't do it!
Camping at Robe River

Cross winds and footy

Day 21 Broome to Pardoo

We took off from Broome quite early the next morning. Unfortunately there was a nasty SE cross wind blowing. We would be fighting this wind for the next couple of days. Unfortunately this stretch is pretty boring and just what Rod had been dreading on the CRF. Still we made good time and pulled into Pardoo roadhouse around 2pm. We then ummed and ah'ed about whether to stay or push on to Port Headland. In the end we stayed which was a good decision of Rod's because we had a nice relaxing setup, and hour or two reading in the sun and then a nice night in the bar watching the footy.
Pardoo Roadhouse Camp

Twos days off apparently

Days 19 and 20 Broome

Our first day off in Broome started off a bit misty. Rod had a sleep in but I was awake so I got up and started checking over the bike. We were going to do a quick service on each bike and then head into town. I was taking off all my fairing to check for loose bolts, etc when I saw the that self locking nut on the end of the main sub-frame bolt was missing and the bolt itself was half out of the frame. I had to take half the bike apart to get to it and then find a nut to fit it. By this time I had Rod and his brother Michael helping me and we managed to sort it out. Rod then got stuck into the CRF. The chain was very stretched and the rear sprocket very worn. Michael and his mate Mark then took us downtown to get some parts. Unfortunately Rod couldn't get a new sprocket and chain so in the end he had to break his chain, remove two links and insert a master link. We were hoping this would last to Perth! We then had to clean out the air filters before putting the bikes back together.

Through all of this the day swept past us. Every few hours we would think about eating. Breakfast, nah we'll have brunch. Oops lunchtime, missed that and still no food. In the end we didn't eat until 5pm that night when I just had to have subway! Rod held out for an awesome BBQ at Michael's, I should have!

The next day we got up to go for a swim on Cable Beach only to find the beach was closed due to a big croc being sited. Bugger! We had to settle for a walk down the beach followed by a swim in the pool. We then had breakfast and went into town. We ended up at the Matso brewery for an ale or two and some snacks.
Beer at Moonlight Bay
A good year
The bikes were thirsty!
The rest of the day was spent by the pool reading the paper, phew!

Simple day gets long

Day 18 Silent Grove to Broome

The next morning I woke up with a splitting headache and a bit of a fever, yeah. Our morning quick oats tasted a bit off and I thought it was because I was getting sick but actually it was because they had been stunk out by the fuel bladder which I kept in the same pannier. We packed up and set off. For the first half an hour my riding was as terrible as I was feeling, then all of sudden I came right....strange. Meanwhile Rod had taken off ahead and was riding up a storm. The road was really good, bitumen interspersed with (mostly graded) gravel. We passed through the King Leopold Ranges and then through onto Leonard River Bridge.
King Leopold Range
From here we took a quick 20km detour out to Windjana Gorge. I was really keen to check it out (nerdy Geologist) but Rod was a bit upset you couldn't swim there thanks to the resident crocs.
Walking into Windjana Gorge
Limestone Cliffs
View Inside the Gorge
The Locals
After a nice half hour walk up the gorge we remounted the trusty steeds and took off for Derby. This was the boring part of the Gibb, long straight roads with little scenery. With 50km left my main tank ran dry. Usually this isn't a problem but with the panniers on I didn't think I had the fuel to get to Derby. I slowed down to 80km/hr and plodded on. I made it to the roadhouse with 1 litre to spare...plenty aye. And that was the end of the Gibb River Road. At the end of the day it was a bit a let down. We didn't have the fuel range to go off to all of the gorges and while the road can be a struggle in a car on the bikes it was pretty easy.
Tick in the box!
We found a nice cafe/art gallery for lunch. We both had a coffee and a kebab, bliss! We were planning on spending the night in Derby but then we got a text from Rod's Sister in Law saying that half the Drown family  were in and around Broome for a couple a days so we mounted up again and rode 210km of bitumen. Along the way we visited the Derby Prison Boab Tree which has a very checkered past. Rod also wanted a photo of him and his bike under a big Boab by the roadside. The tree he picked had a big "The Lord's return is near" sign on it, classic!
PC Plod down the lockup
Rod on a mission from God
After 150km both of us had a serious case of "monkey butt". The last 60km couldn't go fast enough! We pulled into Broome and made for the caravan park only to receive a hero's welcome (well sort of with a lot of taking the piss) from the extended Drown family. We were then each given a beer (thanks Mark!) and told to get on with setting up camp. We then had a pleasant evening at the local cafe with the whole crowd.
Monkey butt!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Tea and Scones, No fuel and Rod can't stop laughing

Day 17 El Questro to Silent Grove

Another day another early wake up. We were getting a bit sick and tired of setting up camp then breaking it down again the next morning. Still we got on the road early again and took off down the Gibb. Forgot to do two things though 1) ring Mt Barnett Roadhouse to check if they had fuel, 2) fill the fuel bladders just in case. We rode for about 20 minutes before we hit the Pentecost River. We were a bit nervous about this crossing because it can be very deep, rocky and full of crocs. Luckily though it's a tidal river and we hit it at low tide. The deepest point was only about a foot deep. We cruised across with only a few bumps.
Mick Crosses the Pentecost
We then rode on and the road was bit surreal. It was in good condition at this point but as soon as you came to a hill the bitumen kicked in. Not what we were expecting at all.
Rest stop
We rode until about 10am when Rod spotted a fresh scone with jam and cream sign. Perplexed we turned into Ellenbre Station and sure enough we were served "The best Scones on the Gibb" by a group of elderly but very nice people. It was all a little surreal!
We pushed on and and the road got a lot worse. This was what we had been expecting all along. Deep rutts and a lot of washouts. It only lasted 100km though until we hit Mt Barnett Roadhouse. We pulled up to the bowser and my heart sank, no unleaded. Rod just started laughing so hard he was almost crying. I stomped into the roadhouse to find out what the go is. "Truck maybe here Wednesday (it was Monday), or next week even". Rod came in still laughing and managed to contain himself enough to convince the manager to turn the pump on and let us see what we could get out of the pumps. We managed to fill the bikes but that's it. I now only just had enough fuel to get to Derby without and side trips. And that was the drama, a lot of the gorges we 20-50km off the main road so we just couldn't make it out to them which was a bummer. Rod was still laughing, almost hysterically and I asked him why. Apparently just before the roadhouse he had just about had a huge off and was still a bit shaken, combine that with the "no fuel" and he just lost it.
We decided to push on 80km down the road to the Silent grove campsite by Bell Gorge. 60km down the road I came across Rod laughing again. This time he'd flown past a big REDUCE SPEED sign, ignored it and then found a flowing creek in front of him. Apparently his skipped the CRF right across it.

We made the silent grove campsite at 3:30pm only to find the gorge was another 10km ride followed by a 1-2hours walk up to the gorge. We were pretty pissed as we didn't have the fuel or time to get up there. We made camp and started a fire instead.

Not do the Gibb, Yeah Right

Day 16 Kununurra to El Questro

You didn't really think we would come all of this way and not do the Gibb! We woke up really early Sunday morning and got on the road quickly. We rode out to the start of the Gibb River Road and expected to be on a badly corrugated dirt straight up. The dirt lasted two kilometers before the bitumen started again. Apparently El Questro have slowly been bitumising the road out to the resort.

Start of the Gibb River Road
We mad Emma Gorge around 8:30am and ditched the riding gear for bathers and headed up the track to the gorge. It was a nice half hour walk but quite a challenging track. Well worth it though as the swimming hole at the top of the gorge is bliss. We had a nice swim and got out just as three bus loads of back packers turned up. One chick was asking where the cafe was, idiot! We then made a well timed departure.
Emma Gorge
We then got back on the bikes for a quick ride to El Questro. Absolutely stunning. We also had to make our first couple of creek crossing into the homestead, luckily the bikes just cruised through. We set up camp, had lunch, a swim, a snooze and then headed out for a cruise up the Chamberlain Gorge (including champers and fresh chilled fruit)
Chamberlain Gorge

Once we got back we hit the happy hour at the bar before a romantic dinner for two at the restaurant. Rod was really worried we looked like a gay couple rather than two ruggered desert adventurers (hahahah)

Friday, August 27, 2010

A long 220km and Bryson and Pete JOIN THE CRISIS

Day 14 Timber Creek to Kununurra

We had a bit of a lie in this morning as we only had 223km to travel to Kununurra. The first 100km went well but we were crossing the plains and it was a bit boring. We hit the hills and pulled up in a nice rest stop for a break but we were really tired.
Last rest stop in the Northern Territory
We got back on the bikes but the last 110km seem to go on forever. The scenery was spectacular but this was our 14th day on the road and we felt it. Got to the border and went through the quarantine drill. They were mostly worried about cane toads but apparently they are now already over the border. We had seen a couple of the little buggers at Timber Creek the night before. Two little old ladies in a ute next to us got busted for bringing plants over the boarder. Crikey it was like an episode of border patrol!
Made it to the border
We then cruised into Kununurra and headed straight to a cafe for a well earned coffee and muffin before arriving at the campground to do a wash, have a swim and try and set up camp. You can tell by the photo below how out of it we were.
An engineer and his tent, the geologist didn't do much better
After a break we headed down town and caught up with our workmate Bryson and his brother in law Pete. What was supposed to be a quiet coffee turned into 5 pints before dinner (we forgot lunch......). Great pub grub here! We got kicked out the pub for wearing thongs and instead of doing the smart thing and going home we kicked on to a resort bar to watch the footy and drink more. Poor Bryson and Pete are now in the dog box for leaving their respective partners home alone with the baby! Love your work boys!
RMG monthly meeting
Bryson getting ready for the racing cup
Pete trying to come up with an excuse for the missus
 We stumbled into a taxi about 10pm and just made it home (never swear at the taxi driver in Kununurra aye Rod!).

Day 15 Kununurra

So as you can imagine this morning has been a bit slow. We headed into to town for bacon and eggs and to do a bit shopping. We still haven't heard from the two boys yet. We were going to go out and watch the Kununurra Cup but Rod's currently asleep by the pool and I'm not far off.

Tomorrow we head out to El Questro to check out the gorges and camp for the night. After that we are supposed to tackle the Gibb but we are reserving judgement until tomorrow. Apart from being really tired my right side is still crook. I rode the Buchannan ok but I was in a bit of pain by the end of the road and the Gibb will be worse. We've also heard there may not be fuel half way down the track so we have to check that out as well. Sounds like a lot of excuses I know but I suppose we're coming to the final stage of the trip and we just want it to go off without a hitch. At the moment we're still doing the track but if not, we're hitting the bitumen and riding the long way around. We'll keep you posted.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

All's forgiven, lets hit the dirt

Day 13 Daly Waters to Timber Creek via the Bucannan

Poor Rod didn't sleep well that night. I was worried because we had 460km that day, 390km off-road. I'd got over my hissy fit and was keen to get going. We rode 40km back down the highway then turned off onto the Bucannan. We didn't know much about this road, just that is was "not to bad except for the last 100km".
Start of the Bucannan
In fact the first 180km of the road was boring. Straight, dusty, full of cattle but a good dirt road. We stopped for fuel at Top Springs where we outnumbered by the staff 3:1. They said the next stretch was really rocky but there would no water in the Victoria River. Well the road wasn't bad for the next 150km, just a few savage dips and THERE WAS water in the Victoria River but only a foot.
Victoria River Crossing
We then hit Jasper Gorge which is beautiful. The road got worse though but not horrible. Rod had been leading for the past 100km. He can fly down these road but I'm carrying too much and don't have the suspension travel so I happily just plodded along enjoying the view and taking some pics.
Heading into Jasper Gorge
The road through Jasper Gorge
The bikes at the end of the off-road, very dusty
Once we hit the bitumen again we had a quick 30km to Timber Creek. We found a great caravan park behind the roadhouse, in fact the prettiest we'd seen so far. We set up camp and relaxed having dinner in the bistro.
Camp at Timber Creek
Beef strogg and beer overlooking the roadhouse, ah the serenity!