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About Alice Springs and Beyond

Once a year The Black Dog Ride to the Red Centre is organised to raise public awareness of Depression and Suicide Prevention. All money raised goes to the Black Dog Institute to further research, educate GP's and minimise depression. Motorcyclists from all over Australia set off for the ride to Alice Springs.

This year was my second Black Dog Ride, last year it was on a Piaggio MP3 250 cc., this year my 400 cc.

I am hoping some scooter riders may take time out to read about my ride from Perth to Alice Springs before going on to Broken Hill, Bathurst, Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne and Adelaide before returning home to Perth and would like to take part in next years Black Dog Ride to the Red Centre.

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Alice Springs and Beyond

  • Black Dog Ride to the Red Centre and Beyond

    2012 Daily Blog

    Day 1.  18th. August 2012   Perth to Kalgoolie. 585 kilometres  Just before I hit the road, it's now a little after 5 a.m. and I've been up since 3. Tried desperately to get some more sleep before the long days ride but it was hopeless. The mind is going at a great rate of knots. I guess this will give me some time to make this unit look a little presentable. Just received word the riders from Victoria are congregating for the commencement of their ride with the Victorian winter weather giving them a soaking. Feel sorry for them as it would appear we will have a bright sunny day as we pull out of the Swan Valley.  Last year I started off the first days blog as we were pulling into Kalgoolie, so, why change that idea this year I asked myself. Well, will go one further this year with the get together the riders enjoyed at the Boulder and Kalgoolie Returned Servicemans Club rooms. Walking into the room tonight, I quickly scanned the room to see how many friendly faces I could recognise from last year. Now, there was a chap, a big chap named Harry who I found looking at me. With this recognition, I walked over to shake hands and to say G'day. Harry, a mate of his, and myself spent quite some time during last years ride having a go at one another, all done in very good humour. Mark, his mate, was a much younger bloke from the UK. Learnt he would not be riding this year as he had left Kalgoolie for a week with his wife to have his new Triumph motorcycle serviced in Perth. It turns out Harry, who is in the mining industry could not get away any longer this year .than this weekend so he would only be riding with us down to Norseman for the day. In last years blog I wrote of Mark saying he wasn't a woose and that meant he was not going to use the Air Hawk Harry had offered him to ride on.  The subject came up because I had mentioned how my saddle sore butt was feeling after the ride from Perth to Kalgoolie earlier in the day. After the following day's ride Mark approached me very meekly wanting to know if he could possibly have the Air Hawk for the rest of the ride to Alice Springs as he now realised what a mistake he had made by rejecting it the night before. Feeling so sore and sorry for himself, what could a decent bloke do but hand it back to him while I suggested to him he would become widely known as having the nickname "Woose"? Harry and I parted this evening after enjoying a beer together and a promise to catch up again in the morning. Now, back to the beginning of the day. It was great to see the club members from the Perth Sunset Coast Scooter Club, which I administer, who climbed out of their beds on a very cold winter's morning to be in the Swan Valley to see me off. Thanks to all who were there. Believe me, it was very much appreciated. A special thank you goes out to Greg for him riding out as far as Merridan with me before turning around and going back from whence he came. Also, his gift of the Guardian Bell for my scooter. For those who have no idea what a Guardian Bell is, you best Google it. All I can say, given the inconvenient problems I had on last year's Black Dog Ride, I hope it works. This wasn't all Greg was willing to part with. I was very surprised when he handed me his Kidney Belt he uses to save his back from aching while riding any distance. This, I was most grateful to accept as we had discussed the idea of me buying one but never got around to doing so. Last year, another mate of mine, Jim and two of his friends rode along from Perth to Norseman with me. It would be a repeat this year. Jim, always being the best of company.  Given last year's perfect day to start the Black Dog Ride, I couldn't imagine we would have a repeat performance, let alone, it being even better. The weather God's were really coming up trumps for us. The day began very cold however, as the sun rose the day became brighter and warmer although it did take a little time for the warmth  to be felt and warmer it became with us completing the days ride with plenty of sunshine and no wind to speak of. I thought conditions couldn't get better. With us all itching to hit the road, we left Koffee Works in the Swan Valley shortly before 9 a.m. with the open road ahead of us. It didn't take long for me to be separated from Jim and his two mates but Greg and I managed to be riding reasonably close together throughout  the morning. We arrived at Merriden to have some lunch before Greg was off, returning to Perth. Again, I guess Greg doesn't know how much I have appreciated riding on many of our club rides with him along. He is one member I feel I can rely on to be in attendance. After lunch I followed Jim along the highway for some time but then decided to open the throttle out a little to get some distance under my belt. Stopping on the side of the road for a cigarette every now and then, during anyone of these breaks I thought I may have missed seeing Jim ride past. I assumed this would have had to have been the case. On the road, I slowly caught up to, what I assumed to be, the leaders of the pack but had not found Jim to be among them. Arriving in Kalgoolie a bit after 4 p.m. , I was indeed with the 6 leading riders. I checked in at the caravan park, obtained the keys to the unit we had hired toghether, as Jim and his mates rode up. There was disappointment to be found. The two first to hit the shower found there was no hot water to have a shower with and I was quite frustrated at not being able to get an internet connection  to enable me to upload the days blog. By the time Jim and I had our showers, the water had heated up enough to be able to enjoy it. As with last year's evening in Kalgoolie, we were collected at the gate of the Caravan Park to be taken by coach to the Returned Serviceman's Club rooms. A good night was had by all helped by a very good meal and cold flowing beer.

    Day 2, 19th Aug 2012    Kalgoolie to Madura Pass   718 kilometres Up early, the 4 of us rode into town to find a decent breakfast, as opposed to the greasy meal we had where everyone was meant to gather, down at the BP servo. It didn't take us long to find a Deli which thankfully served us a plate of food being most enjoyable. My usual breakfast while being on the road, a toasted sandwich, proved to be too much in the one serving so wrapped half of it up to have later on. After Breakfast it was back to the servo before heading off south to Norseman, On my arrival there Harry, from the night before, walked over and indicated he wanted he wanted me to go to his bike. As I approached it he handed to me the same Air Hawk I used for that one day's ride last year. He said he had made up his mind last night he wanted me to have it, so, there it was, I'm now the proud owner of an Air Hawk. In Norseman, Having filled out tanks, Jim and his two mates parted way with me as they were riding down to Esperance on the coast and I was headed east. Again the day was brilliant for riding as the sun's rays were doing their job nice and early.  An hour out of Norseman I pulled into a rest area for a smoko where an elderly couple were parked with their caravan having morning tea. The husband was chatting with a cyclist whose bike towed a small trailer filled to the brim with cooking and camping equipment. The wife turned her attention to me asking where I was headed. Told her the story of the Black Dog Ride and how we had left Perth the day before on our way to Alice Springs. From her next question, I thought the husband must be doing the navigating or they were terribly lost. She asked me how far along the road was the turn off for New Norcia and if I had come through there this morning. I asked her if she was sure it was New Norcia she was enquiring about. She told me they intended having lunch there today before going into Perth through Northam.  It really makes you begin to think about her taking the adventure post dementia.  She was very keen to see the historical church and the museum in New Norcia. I explained where New Norcia and Northam were and there was no possible way they would be enjoying their lunch in either place there today. Back on the road, there was not much to occupy my mind as I had given up trying to listen to the music on my Ipod with the incredible noise of air rushing about my helmet. Thankfully Jim had given me some of his ear plugs and educated me on  the correct way to use them. From that point, riding became so much more enjoyable with just the muffled sounds filtering through to my inner ear. With no music to sing to, I began to contemplate a question which had me puzzled. We all know the question "Why did the chicken cross the road", well, that one may never be answered because I'm sure it wasn't just to get to the other side. Today I saw so many lizzards, large ones, about the size of the average blue tongue , in fact they may have been that variety, whose to know? Any way, these numerous lizards were crossing the road, hundreds of them I guess, but why? Surely one side of the road, having much the same scrub as the other, it just doesn't make sense why they would bother placing their lives at risk. I must have killed at least 20 of the poor innocent lizards whose parents may have taught them to be careful  of cars but never educated them about scooters. From reading all this, I guess you can see I never had too many problems at this stage of the ride. Being the first to arrive at the Madura Pass Road House where all the riders would be spending the night, I went straight to the reception to acquire the keys to the cabin I had earlier booked for the night. Very surprisingly, in fact, astonishingly, the woman at the desk greeted me by saying "I remember you from last year. You were riding a scooter and you were the first to arrive then and you're the first to arrive this year. You certainly are putting those big bikey blokes to shame."  As the other riders fronted up to reception, I heard later on, she had told them this and how they had let a moped beat them." I  also heard two Harley riders who were riding together were not at all happy with this. After a good meal it was off to bed for me as it had been a long and tiring day. Thankfully a shorter ride to Ceduna in South Australia tomorrow.

    Day 3,  20th. August 2012   Madura to Ceduna   686 kilometres It was on this day during last year's ride where everything went pear shaped for me with the drive belt on my scooter disintegrating just before I reached Border Village on the Border of WA and SA. Steve Andrews, the original Black Dog Rider, having made mention of this fact to me last night told me he had his fingers crossed for me this year. Out of bed and on the road just as the sun was peaking up over the eastern horizon with me planning on having my first coffee and breakfast some 150 clicks down the highway. I was first to leave several others not far behind. Following yesterday's leg of the ride, there is one motorcycle with mechanical problems. The rider of this bike is hopeful of being able to limp into Port Augusta, two long riding days away. I certainly hope he is successful as I know what a blow it is to no longer being able to take part to the finish of this ride in Alice Springs. The Scooter is running superbly, thanks to Greg's gift to me of the Gremlin bell, it seems to be working like a charm, which in fact, it is. An easy days ride today with the weather even better than the first two. The sun was very warm and we had a tail wind. At 10.30 this morning the temperature showing on my gauge was 29 degrees. Feeling the heat, it was time for me to pull over and strip off my windcheater and the inner lining of my riding gear, who would have guessed given we are still in Winter?  Having refueled  and taken a quick smoko, as the other riders behind me started queuing up for the available fuel pumps, I was on my way with only a dozen there to see me ride off.  Once at Border Village I had an extra long break and waited for one of the chaps to be ready to go on but he said he would be holding me back and I should go for it. As with the previous evening, I was well ahead of the other riders having obtained my key for the cabin in Ceduna and unpacked the scooter to go refuel where, by this time, some of the other riders were just hitting the town. When questioned as to me being out of my riding gear, one of the Harley riders wasn't so happy with me being so much ahead of them but I told him I had taken a short cut today making the distance I traveled less than all the others. He seemed to be happy with my reason, I couldn't understand his acceptance of this as all you have to do is look at any map to know there is only one road from west to east, from Madura to Ceduna. I am sure not all Harley riders are as gullible.  Anyway, it's off to the local for a counter meal  and another early night for the ride to Port Augusta tomorrow.  

    Day 4 21 August 2012       Ceduna to Port Augusta     768 kilometres A slow start today with the clouds  looking very threatening. Extremely cold compared to yesterday. Bones now feeling the time spent on the saddle but no point in complaining.  About 30 Kilometres down the road, an event made me think back to the problem I was having about that chicken crossing the road and the number of lizards I murdered yesterday. I'm sitting on 110 kph (well, that's just in case some one in law enforcement happens upon the blog) and spied, sitting just off  to the left side of the road, two kangaroos no doubt saying "It's okay, no worries, just a scooter" I let the throttle off and touched on the brakes while continuing to watch them chatting away to one another.  Now, this brings  me back to that chicken and the lizards. With what occurred next makes me wonder about the IQ of different animals. There must be billions of chickens on this earth but really,has anyone ever seen one cross the road? No, they have far too much grey matter. Lizards, now that's a different, but in my life time, I suppose I've seen quite a few on the road but, they don't seem to make a habit of it, they know better. Now, the animal that appears to have the lowest IQ of the three would have to be the kangaroo, Not only have I seen hundreds of them darting across an outback highway but thousands more dead, road kill for the wedge tailed eagles and crows to feast upon. Not only do they dart across, this two I came upon decided they both wanted to play chicken as they set off right in front of my front wheels. Braking frantically, I managed to veer to my left as they went right and was just a hair off catching both of their backsides, with their tails up in the air, on my front end. Don't  want to consider what could have happened if I had managed to hit them. After pulling to a halt, it was time for me to take in several big breaths to help me stop shaking before lighting a cigarette to relax me further. Back on the road, all the riders were to arrive in Kimba at the Big Gallah to meet up with a few riders from other parts of South Australia who were going to ride with us into Port Augusta where we were to spend the night after attending a function put on for us by the Port Augusta Lions Club. Arriving there before other riders, a couple of the ladies in a support vehicle saw I was the first to arrive and asked me to stand, with my scooter, below the big bird for a photo op..I later figured out they wanted a Gallah standing below another. The other riders arrived and after some delay due to media coverage, we set off as a group for Port Augusta. Much has been said about this section of the ride with it being evident a number of my fellow riders had thought my time on this earth was up but they have little faith, much less faith than I, in the capability of Lizzie. We were approaching Port Augusta when the group came up behind a road train travelling at, I guess, a touch over 100 kph. I was third in line behind the road train as two bikes went out to over take it. I saw another truck heading towards us but was sure I had enough left in the scooter to safely go out and pass the road train. I opened up the throttle and, without a problem, completed the overtaking maneuver with several hundreds of metres to spare before the oncoming truck passed me. There are those who say they closed their eyes in fear and others who claim, they thought, they had better watch as they maybe called upon to be witnesses at my inquest but, as I said before, such little faith do they have. It wasn't long after arriving at the caravan park  in Port Augusta that I had my tent set up. Then, off to the local football club rooms for a large three course meal and a few drinks. While there, Steve Andrews (the original black dog rider) asked if it would be okay if I could be interviewed by Channel Nine reporter, Simon, about why I was so determined to finish this year's ride. The interview took place with Simon taking a few notes to add to his blog about the ride and the need to spread the word needed for all to know about depression and how important it is to ask for help when needed. SEE http://news.ninemsn.com.au/national/8515559/ninemsn-blog-riding-to-the-red-centre . quite different from my interview words but ...... I have no control over that. Back to the caravan park a little after 9 p.m. where I spent the first night in a tent during this years ride.

    Day 5.   22nd. August 2012   Port Augusta to Coober Pedy        554 kilometres Before the end of the gathering last night, all riders were asked to attend the Channel 9 filming for the Morning show with Steve Jacobs reporting. This meant us having to be up and about at 4.00 a.m. giving us enough time to pack up our tents and, if we were lucky, find somewhere open we could get a heart starter by way of a coffee. Filming and waiting took a couple of hours and, to be honest, we all wanted to be on the  road. They filmed our departure as we set off for, what was supposed to be a very easy ride of only 500 odd Kilometres. Yes, a ride of this distance should have been the easiest ride of the entire Black Dog Ride but it turned out to be, by far, the hardest. Somebody got that Wind they call Mariah very upset today as all of the riders, at one stage or another feared being blown off the road. Many may well be sitting on the side of the highway having run out of fuel if not for the aid of the back up vehicles carrying spare fuel. I hope never having to ride in such conditions again and if it wasn't for us needing to be in Coober Pedy that night, I think most, me included, would have been very happy to get off the road and wait for things to become a lot less dangerous. About 30 kilometres short of Coober Pedy, I became concerned about my fuel or lack there of, so decided it was time I conserve as much as possible, riding the rest of the way doing no more than 70 kph. Pulled into the first servo in town to fill up. Ended up taking 11.94 litres for my 12 litre tank. Having no chance to relax and just enjoy the ride, I had to give 100% concentration on just keeping the scooter on the road. There was certainly no time to think any more about that chicken who crossed the road. Speed reduced well below the limit today, for safety reasons, meant I was absolutely spent at days end. Found a hotel room, ordered a meal to be delivered then found myself in bed much before 8 p.m. with another media call at 5 a.m. in the morning before we complete the last leg of this journey in Alice Springs.

    Day 6. 23rd. August 2012      Coober Pedy to Alice Springs      689 kilometres Up well before daylight this morning to attend the channel 9 crossings to Steve Jacobs in Coober Pedy before heading of for Alice Springs. During this ride there has been a few who have spoken about my scooter in a poor light but it was this morning when the worst criticism was made and it was by no other than Steve Jacobs himself. As he was passing me, sitting there, he turned to me and said "fancy riding 3,000 kilometres on that thing". Not long after 7 a.m. we learnt of a rider who had taken part in the last two Black Dog Rides and who managed one of the motels in Coober Pedy, had just recently undergone a heart operation and was in a very bad way with little chance of him surviving the ordeal. The organisers requested all of us to ride up in front of the motel making the biggest noise we could, revving motorcycle engines to let him know we were thinking of him. With this done we headed out of town with the wind, while blowing quite hard, wasn't anywhere near as bad as yesterday. The days forecast was for the winds to swing round to the south west which would be favourable to us riding north. Happily, this occurred about mid morning and, with the sun shining brightly, we once again, had perfect riding conditions. Pulled into yet another road house for lunch where I was once again, given a hard time by a Harley motorcylcist saying how he had out ridden me today arriving a quarter of an hour before I did. I just don't get it. Thinking Harley owners must own one because of them being in the need for a bigger brain or bigger _ _ _ _. What ever the case, they have a problem with anything other than a Harley coming ahead of them or is it because they come to soon???? Funny really, it wasn't the same bloke I told a couple of days before about a short cut I had taken. I think that says something. Not much further up the road, I crossed the SA/NT Border and was able to opened up lizzie's throttle and after, checked my  Tom Tom, to find I topped out at 142 kilometres per hour. Believe me, she's running like a dream. The rest of the ride today was superb, with more bends in the road and the landscape becoming less like that of the moon to rocky outcrops and more undulating terrain. It was with a great deal of happiness I rode into "the Alice" mid afternoon and rode straight to the Heavitree Gap Outback Lodge where I had booked a room for the coming three nights. After a shower a few of us sat around having a beer while enjoying the sunshine and pleasant breeze with us all feeling very pleased with out selves having made journey's end. Later we all attended a ride function which was a party with quite a number getting into a few more beers than I. I said my goodnights and headed for my room not long after 9 p.m. with yet another early morning to come with the last of Channel 9's broadcast with the members of the ride.

    Day 7, 24 August 2011        Alice Springs. Yet again, up with the birds for the last televising of the ride with Steve Jacobs before all the riders once again congregating for the penultimate function being a ride from the Resort into the heart of Alice Springs where we were greeted by the mayor and local media. To date we have raised in excess of $225,000 with all funds going toward the Black Dog Institute. Tonight, the last function is to be held, a more formal sit down dinner with presentations to be made and a few more beers to be had. Back to my room early. A chap spoke about losing his son to suicide only a few months back, far too emotional for me so thought it best I leave. Losing Meredith as I did was very hard but I just couldn't imagine being a parent having such a loss to deal with. Everybody and anybody out there reading this, please talk about depression so it becomes less likely someone will try to get through it alone. Any discussion which may be had may save the life of a friend or loved one. For too long now, people have believed it is something we just don't talk about. It's an illness which needs treatment.

    Day 8,  25 Aug 2012      Alice Springs. A very, very lazy day, so lazy, that's all I'm going to say about it.

    Day 9    26 Aug 2012     Alice Springs to Uluru Arranged to ride down the highway today with Peter and Diane. They will be turning off the highway to visit Kings Canyon while I go along to Uluru with all being well, will climb that rock before heading south once again. I couldn't sleep any later than 5 a.m. so began my packing then into the shower and took the opportunity to have my first shave since leaving home. I was looking like a scruff but, unfortunately, it would take a great deal more than a shave to please any camera.  My first problem for the day was detected and it certainly won't prove to be the only one. Placing my riding trousers on, I then went looking everywhere for my riding coat. Couldn't find it anywhere no matter how hard or long I looked. Last remembered using it on Friday when all the Black Dog Riders rode into town for the parade. Remember taking it off so I could get about a bit to take some more photographs of all the bikes present. Cannot, for the life of me, recall seeing it after that. Oh well, another few hundred dollars down the drain. The jacket can be replaced but I dare say, the badges I have placed on it won't be.  Rode into town to visit the local Police to inquire if a riding jacket had been handed in, of course not, how silly of me to think it would have, but, I had to give it a try. As usual, Alice Springs has cold nights until things warm up about mid morning. Arrived back at the park to find Peter and Diane about ready to go so all that was needed was a quick trip to the servo to fill  up with fuel before hitting the highway once again. Lizzie required a total of $1.98 to satisfy her. With the riding coat inner liner on covered with the wind cheater (what a joke, calling it a wind cheater, didn't do much good when travelling at 120 kph) I nearly froze to death and was very happy when we pulled over for our next refueling giving me the opportunity to get a hot cup of coffee into me.  The next fuel stop allowed for me to say happy  riding to Peter and Diane as, though they would be riding a further 100 klm's or so with me, they would be turning off for Kings Canyon. The rest of my ride to Uluru was uneventful with me arriving there in the early afternoon. Paid for my non powered site for two days and then set about putting up the tent. The second problem now raised its ugly head as I pulled out the camping gear. I distinctly recall how I packed the tent, poles and pegs into the one bag which was still tightly closed by the pull cord. I found the fly of the tent not to be there. Again, searching through everything, it was not to be found. Somebody has opened the bag since I last used it in Port Augusta, taking out the fly. I wasn't looking forward having nothing covering me from any dew which may be about in the morning so I decided I would need to go buy another tent. You've got to be joking! The reception at the caravan park would, as a rule, have them in stock but it wasn't to be, I saw where they should have been but, when I asked at the desk, they apologised saying they had sold out. They then suggested I try a further two businesses which may stock them. You've got to be joking yet again.  Returning to the park with the thought I would be able to see the numerous stars tonight did not enthuse me at all. One of the caravan park workers offered to go home and return with his two man tent which I could borrow for the rest of my stay here. Believe me, this act of kindness was extremely well appreciated. With the borrowed tent set up I thought it was time I deserved a beer so made my way down to the local where I chatted with a few other Black Dog riders for an hour or so. I know I shouldn't but I just can't help asking "when will my string of outs stop?" By this time it was time to think about tonights meal and I now needed to replace the ear plugs I had purchased in Alice Springs which I had left in my riding coat. With no chemist to be found any where near Uluru, I went searching the supermarket shelves for something which may do much the same job as the ear plugs. Tis funny how the mind works when one thinks of the size and shape of an ear hole, I spied a packet of tampons but really, I considered it wouldn't be a good look when I pulled off my helmet so, cotton balls was the only alternative. May be my ear hole isn't that big anyway. With cotton balls in hand with a frozen meal of spagget bol. and a packet of 50 plastic forks and spoons (why couldn't I find smaller packs?) Wearing a Black Dog Tee shirt, I was at the check out counter when a young bloke asked if we were still collecting donations for the Black Dog Institute. I told him we were so he asked for me to wait outside where he would give me a donation. Shortly after he came out and handed me a $50 note telling me he had a family member who had committed suicide and wanted to help with our campaign. On my return to the camp, I processed the payment using my debit card to the Perth Sunset Coast Every Day Hero Account. It's now 7.33 and, as yet, I haven't eaten. I was going to attend a camp fire sing-along in the caravan park which began at 7.30 but have now decided against it. Don't worry for those who have heard my very poor ability to find a note, let alone the right one, when trying to sing. I wouldn't put strangers through that pain. I guess another early night for me and up bright and early for me to tick another thing, climbing Uluru, off my wish list.

    Day 10,   27 August 2012    Uluru Well, to start up today's blog I have to announce I am deeply, hopelessly in love, but, more about that later. Oh what a night last night was! No, it has nothing to do with me being in love but everything to do with how cold it gets at Uluru during the dry season. Cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey (it's okay to say that in mixed company as the balls being mentioned were cannon balls. Google that to find the origins of that saying.) I awoke with every organ in my body feeling as it should have gone into shut down mode, such was the cold. Scrambled out of my sleeping bag as fast as being in a two man tent would allow, then searched in the dark for my torch, which I couldn't find because it was dark, (derrr), managed to find the windcheater and the inner liner of the missing riding coat and pulled on a pear of jeans and my riding pants. Add two pairs of socks and back into the sleeping bag as quick as possible. After I get out of bed at sun up, here are three individuals wearing shorts and thongs, I guessed they had to be Victorians and yes, I was right. Here they were, almost half naked and not at all concerned about getting frost bite. it's beyond me. Decided my first thing I should be doing this morning is relocating the tent to a powered camp site. Why didn't I do that before hand? I just don't know, after all, there was only a $2.50 difference in the site rental. geeze, I can be silly at times. Having been to reception, paid the $2.50, I made the move knowing tonight I will be kept very cosy with the ceramic heater I've bought along for this purpose. Then it was off to the local servo to get my fill of coffee to get me going for the day. Prior to leaving the camp site I checked to see if Uluru was open for climbing but was disappointed to find winds were up forcing it to remain closed. Decided to take a ride around the rock anyway and, by the time I arrived at where climbers begin that horrendously steep climb, the gates to give access to these insane people, who were keen to defy the odds of getting back down in one piece,  were being let in. You can now forget what I had to say about these people as I became one of them.  I'm now paying for it with aching muscles one never knows they have until you are stupid, given my age and lack of the wanting to walk anywhere routine I have successfully managed to maintain over a number of years now. For those among the readers who have always wanted to climb Uluru I say think twice and if you still want to climb it, best you think again and keep thinking until you come up with the correct answer being DON'T DO IT! It doesn't look too forbidding but as you make that climb you realise there are those areas which are just mildly steep then there are those areas where, not even a mountain goat would be stupid enough to climb.   Taking my time, it wasn't long before I worked out the best way to get over this mountain of a rock. The thing to do is take 20 steps, sit down for 20 minutes then, take another 20 and so on. Well for the steeper gradients, that was the way I approached it, not because I wanted to but, it was forced upon me by my lungs calling out "Give me oxygen you idiot".   Way below me I noticed a very elderly gentleman taking 5 steps then stopping, a minute would go and he would take another 5, never letting go of the chain for fear of falling down, way down, way way down. He became to be of concern to me as he was really struggling and he must have been in his 70's. "What was he thinking" i kept saying to myself. Time went on as my 20 minutes of rest became 21, 22, then 23 minutes and yet my lungs were still crying out for mercy then it was my head which seemed to be going around in circles at a great rate of knots. I did the right thing before starting the climb, I had been to the shop and bought myself two litres of water but things came unstuck for me. Requiring two free hands to pull myself along by using the chain, I tucked the water bottle down my shirt which, if everything had gone to plan, would have been okay but, of course, the shirt came out of my jeans allowing those who were there to see water falling from Uluru during the dry season which, with my knowledge of Australia's climate, must come under the category of an extremely rare occurrence. My being giddy was of concern to me as I sat with my head almost between my knees which did not allow for me to see the 70 odd year old man, I was feeling concerned about, stride right past me. My thoughts were that someone surely must have felt sorry for him and hoisted him upon their back to help him up some of the way.  Being within 50 metres of the summit, I took a look at my situation and eagerly thought that is it, I've done it! I've, well almost, stood atop the largest rock on this earth. My thoughts turned to my loved ones and felt for my phone. My idea was to call a few special people to in my life to let them know they have received a phone call from me, nearly atop of Uluru. But alas, I had left my phone in my riding pants which were with my scooter, I don't know how many hundreds of metres below me. While climbing I thought how much easier it would be doing the return trip down but, that was not to be the case either. It would be so easy to misplace one foot and the only thing which would stop you falling was the red soil at the base of the rock. A terrifying thought, particularly when I saw so many Japanese, mainly young women, with their Iphones, stuck in front of their faces, recording their descent.  A young lad, may be 16 or there a bouts came past me. With my eyes glued to the ground, making sure every step I took was solid, I happened to see one of his shoelaces had come undone. If he had stood on this lace and tripped, I just don't like to think of what could happen. I asked him to stop and to do his lace up but to him, this was an inconvenience. He replied "they're always coming undone, it'll be okay." I like to think I never felt I was that bullet proof.  Back down at ground level, having not reached the summit, having not achieved what I set out to do, I'm satisfied and very happy to tick this item off my wish list. The temperature must have been over the 30 degrees mark easily so my next stop was for a quick beer while typing out today's blog.  Now, for some shocking news for a few of the members of the Perth Sunset Coast Scooter Club. For lunch  today, I purchased a vegetarian roll, believe it or not and, what's more, I managed to eat it all. For the rest of the afternoon, I wanted to find some nice shady spot I can settle in and take 40 winks but, that sort of situation is easily found in or around Uluru. Tomorrow morning will see me packing up my camping gear and heading back south. Where will I end up? I Just don't know, will cross that bridge when I get to it. As for the new love in my life, well, that will have to keep until tomorrow.

    Day 11    28 August 2012        Uluru to Marla, S.A. Not being able to find a shady spot where I could catch 40 winks, which came as no surprise, I struggled to stay awake until the sun was inching its way toward the western horizon. Back to the tent at 6.30, where tonight, I was to live in real comfort, having now the use of my electric ceramic heater. I set the thermostat very low so it wouldn't come on until the night became quite cooler. With that done, my head hit the pillow until I was awakened by the first chirping of birds the sun not quite up. I felt so much better after yesterday's herculean effort (don't laugh, it was for me), it's a wonder of modern medicine that my muscles had stopped feeling as if they were on fire. I had a little soreness but not as much as I would have expected. From the minute I awoke, I couldn't get my new love off my mind but thought I had not think too much of it for now as I had to pack up in the little light I had and return the tent to reception before I could go to the servo to top up. It was in such a place I first came face to face with the current love in my life and the experience was again going to be mine. I pulled into the servo, straight to the cashier and paid the sum of $3 for the most expensive paper cup  I have ever known. Then to the coffee machine being my new love interest. I haven't come across this type of coffee maker anywhere else bar for the Northern Territory and it makes me wonder why every garage in Australia doesn't have one exactly the same. You push a button for your preferred variety of coffee you want, The coffee beans begin to be ground then a very rich cappuccino is poured into the cup, topped off with a very frothy cap. I couldn't imagine having such a nice coffee being made by a fully automated machine. It was superb. I guess the machine costs thousands of dollars but boy,. DO I WANT ONE! Back on the road once again, the sun now shining brightly into my face. Could not hit top speed for about half an hour as the power of the sun was limiting my range of vision. The slight tail wind I had at my back at first, soon swung round to be a more stronger wind coming at me side on but no where near as bad as the ride between Port Augusta and Coober Pedy I had a number of days back. The distance I had to travel today was an easy 501 Kilometres, half that being on the Lasseter Highway before turning south at Eridunda, on to the Stuart Highway, affectionately called "The Track". Stopping there for Lunch, I came across a bloke who seemed very interested in Lizzy, so much so, he asked if he could take it for a spin, making me an offer of $200 for me to give him the keys. Now, after having a shower yesterday, I combed my hair in front of a mirror. It seems to me as I didn't look that much of an idiot but then, I could be wrong. I might look stupid but sometimes, I know I'm not that mad but others may have a different point of view. After saying no in so many ways, he eventually gave up. As the early afternoon wore on and with me approaching today's destination, the wind picked up its tempo and by the time I reached Marla it became even more so. Last year, in my blog, I made mention of the Marla Road House as being the best I have ever seen during my many journeys in to the outback. The motel rooms are not new but extremely well maintained and clean. If memory serves me correctly, I will enjoy a very good meal tonight cooked by a Chef who certainly knows his way around the kitchen. The only complaint about this Road House is that the bar doesn't open up until 3.30, don't know why but it's now getting close to that time and I can almost feel a 4X coming on. Back from my evening meal and  shopping in this outback Road House's Supermarket which is open 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year, how silly does that make Perth's restrictive shopping compare? I've been able to buy a new tent, a torch and ear buds, you bloody beauty. Might jump on the scooter when it gets dark to take a few photographs of the countless number of stars visible, away from all the normal light pollution.  No plans for tomorrow other than to be back on the highway nice and early and will then see where it leads me. 

    Day 12   29 August 2012      Marla to Port Augusta It's most unusual for the first word to come out of my mouth at the start of any day is "Ouch" but, that's what happened this morning. Forget the little twinges I had yesterday following my climbing of Uluru, this is no twinge this morning. Every single bone in my body ached but, thankfully, after I got over the initial shock, things started to limber up and I was again ready for another day on the saddle. It turned me off Marla slightly when the chef, up at 5.30 a.m. (he must have slept in as I was waiting for my first coffee) said I couldn't have a coffee until the dining area opened at 7.00, bloody rude of him I thought. By that time I had every intention to be at least 100 kilometres down the road, so it came to me having an Iced coffee instead. It was Wednesday of last week I tackled this part of the road, and in particular the stretch between Glendambo and Coober Pedy, with ENE winds blowing. Today was just the opposite in every sense of the word. I was travelling south with winds gusting from SSW with me just managing to make it to the Road House in Glendambo before running out of fuel. I'm now seriously considering buying another plastic container enabling me to carry an extra 5 litres on top  of the 5 litres I already have. I haven't spoken, as yet. of the animal hazard signs so frequently seen when getting on highways which traverse the outback. Warning signs are showing camels, kangaroos, cattle and in some places, wombats, all of which, I have seen as road kill, waiting for the Wedge Tailed Eagles to dine on. There are certainly enough of them about soaring above looking for their next meal. From my other travels, I've also seen signs warning against dingoes and snakes but never have I seen a warning about the chickens, lizards or wild Australian Brumby. it was just the other day I noticed two brumbys grazing very close to the road but did mention any thing about it till now as nothing came of it. It appears they have much the same intelligence as that chicken but, within 10 minutes of me hopping on my scooter, there was a dead brumby which obviously had been hit by a truck as I didn't see any mangled car parts on the road where it must have happened.  I did come across a black snake, today, which must have measured two metres in length, sun baking on the road mid afternoon. Then there was the time for one of my smokos, when I viewed a happless rabbit being chased by two dingoes. One dingo being, obviously, quicker than his or her mate but the rabbit zigged when he should have zagged and the slower dingo caught the helpless rabbit.  As I pulled into the road house at Pimba, this afternoon, there was a family of 6 emu which you don't get an opportunity to see that often. They were there, just off the Stuart Highway grazing as emus do.  Tonight, I'm  in a two story, very old, yet attractive private hotel, having ridden 773 Kilometres today which included a by-pass to go into the town of Woomera to get a few photographs of a plane and a space rocket or two. It's the first time I've spent a night in a multi storied (if you can call a two story building, a "multi storied building") hotel which does not have a lift. Ahhh! it just brings back the soreness of my muscles, climbing the old wooden staircase. To be honest, it's the cheapest room I could get as Port Augusta is full of electricians working on the local Power House, the same reason I had so much trouble getting a bed this time last year. I thought of pitching my newly purchased tent but, I don't think I could bend down that far to get into it tonight. All being well tomorrow, I should be pitching a tent in Broken Hill, NSW

    Day 13       30 August 2012    Port Augusta to Broken Hill NSW Having had a reasonable nights sleep, I was up and showered well before day light. Packed my belongings and headed off to the local Maccas for a heart starter. Hit the road just before the sun rose but was very cautious of kangaroos and more emus I spotted very close to the road. Emus, I consider to be similar to cats in nature, as long as they are happy, nothing else matters. They wont move and don't appear to take any notice at all of passing cars. Just content in grazing where ever they may be and to them, there's very little point on being on the road as not much of their food grows on it. I have never seen an Emu as road kill so that may explain everything. When at Uluru, a few of the Black Dog Riders still hanging about suggested I meet up with them in Coober Pedy and I ride with them down to Adelaide, across to Berri and onto Mildura. From there, it was stated, I could ride north up to Broken Hill. As I have already been on that road more times than I care to mention, I thanked them for the offer but told them I had never been across to Broken Hill from Port Augusta and part of this ride would take me over the Flinders Ranges which should offer some excellent roads on which to ride. I picked the right way as the road up over then down the Flinders Ranges was a bikers/scooterists (no such word I guess but you know what I mean) dream ride although, too short. I found I would be coming out of one corner and going into another on the opposite lean. It was very cold but it didn't seem to matter such was the enjoyment I had while riding in this area. Once up and over the Ranges I found, stretching before me, a very wide valley covered in green. The road, all though not as winding as earlier, was still fun to ride on. I thought this was a part of South Australia unlike any other I have seen. No mallee scrub, just a very vast plain on which the many sheep were grazing. I wondered if it was also  a wheat belt similar to that we have in WA.  I rode through a very historical town named Orroroo (yes, I have spelt that correctly) and could not believe my eyes with the amount of late 19th century buildings along the main street, most in excellent shape. Never done this before but, I just had to go back to the entrance to the town and travel down the main street once again to see what I may have missed. This town needs to be looked at more closely so, I will, one day return to maybe even, walk it. Further down the road I was now feeling the cold morning air more so than before and thought if I could wrap my hands around a nice paper cup filled with hot coffee would bring back some life into my hands. Shortly after, I pulled into yet another very historic town called Peterborough. Very beautiful towns I haven't ever heard of before. I walked into the old world looking building, obviously not always a cafe, and was welcomed by a heater throwing out plenty of hot air. I didn't mind it took the sole lady there, over twenty minutes to take my order, she was kept busy making breakfasts for a few others seated in the shop when I arrived. While still leaning over the heater I was having a conversation with two other patrons about the scooter, their lives as long distance truckies and what made Orroroo and Peterborough the towns they were. It turns out they were both railway towns with them being in line from Sydney to Port Augusta. The Indian Pacific still stops at Peterborough upon request and as for wheat growing in this area, they have had a very wet winter and that's the reason for all the green I saw along the way. The main industry is cattle and sheep. The average rain fall is very low so, wheat cultivation would be out of the question. Being fully warmed up, I was back on the saddle with a constant cold breeze at my back which certainly makes a pleasant change, not that it was cold, but it was not a side or head wind. The road was still enjoyable to ride on with a few long bends and the going was easy, may be just a little too easy. I had been sitting on or about the 120 kph mark and being followed closely by a Toyota, the driver, who must have liked the speed at which I was travelling as he never tried to overtake me. Just before going up a rise, I turned my indicator on to show I was pulling up, It was time for a smoko. The driver of the Toyota blew his horn and waved as he went past me as is the case when in the Australian outback (will talk about this a little later). Having finished my cigarette I was back on the road going up the hill I had pulled up just short of.  Going up over the crest, I spotted the flashing lights of a police car sitting just off the road behind that white Toyota. I guess he may have been booked for doing about 120 kph in a 110 zone. Oh! it has been my lucky day. Now, about this giving someone you don't know a wave and a toot of the horn. I call the wave the second, least known, Great Aussie Salute. The first Great Aussie Salute has been handed down through generations of Australians. This salute is most commonly used when attending a BBQ or trying to breath in when in the outback due to the unusual number of flies hanging about trying to get into any one of your facial orifices or trying to land on the snag or piece of steak you are about to place in your mouth. While this salute takes quite a bit of upper body physical action, the second Great Aussie Salute, when given can be a simple wave of the hand or just he lifting of one or two fingers off the steering wheel. It becomes habit forming and is seen by those who have been given this salute some pleasure about being on an outback road. I consider those who don't return such a salute as being stuck up and not one who you could rely on for assistance if you are stuck on the side of the road. This type of salute can also be of some comfort to any passengers you may have in the car. I recall a time, when driving south from Broome, my ex noticed I had let two cars go by without making any attempt at lifting a finger off the wheel. She was right to inquire as to why because it dawned on her that I was almost asleep at the wheel having towed the caravan a long distance that day. Approaching Broken Hill at a little past noon, the terrain became more hilly while the road narrowed and not in as good as condition as the road was before I crossed the border from South Australia. The first thing I noticed when I entered Broken Hill was the overuse of the 50 kph speed limit which appears to apply to all streets and roads within the city. Also, when ever you are driving/riding near a school precinct, the speed limit is 40 kph regardless of the time of day or night. Thinks this idea would be a good fund raising source by the local police. I've set up my tent,  at least for the next two nights, in a Caravan Park just out of town. Tomorrow I will be riding  out to Silverton where many a movie, including Mad Max, have been shot.

    Day 14,  31 August 2012    Broken Hill That's it, Day 13, it all makes sense now given I laid the scooter horizontal today but more of that later. Awake at my customary hour of 5 a.m. this morning, tried getting back to sleep but that was hopeless so, thank heavens for my IPod which enabled me to entertain myself playing Sudoku  for a couple of hours until the battery ran flat. The heater working a treat with me feeling very warm until it was time to poke my head out of the tent. Geeeze, it gets cold in these parts! Into the CBD of Broken Hill then finding my way, eventually to Macdonalds for a breakfast which I very rarely eat but it killed a bit more time before riding out to Silverton, the, almost, ghost mining town. With a name like Silverton, I feel there is very little need for me to state what they were mining for in the 1800's. What I didn't realise before today was, Silverton was the town which made Broken Hill, with Silver being mined in the area, someone (I haven't bothered to go into the full history, so you will just have to accept what I'm saying) struck it rich where Broken Hill now stands. I took numerous photographs of the very old buildings, some houses still being lived in today, then made my way to the cafe where I enjoyed, even though it was freezing, an icecream made of a natural fruit found in the area. Okay, I know a natural fruit really doesn't say what the name of the fruit was, enough to say it started with a Q and given that, I guess the second letter would have been a "u". Enough to say, it tasted very nice thank you very much. The cafe was one of the many pre 1900's homes, made of stone, in the town but had been fully restored to give the impression, who ever lived there, would have been quite comfortable. It was a very attractive, little cottage. On my ride returning to Broken Hill I  noticed a sign pointing down a dusty red road which told passers by of a working mine tour and the first tour of the day was to begin within the next 30 minutes. I considered giving it a miss as I would never take Lizzie on an unsealed road but, I thought I might give it a go. The sign advising of the mine tour didn't say this road was extremely corrugated, had to go through three separate gates, all of which had to be opened and closed and journeys end would be 15 kilometres away. It is the longest 15 kilometres I think I have ever ridden. Eventually arrived at the site and, with about 20 others, made our way around the mine above ground being led by a woman who had care taken, with her husband, the site for 19 years. Over this time she had built up a large knowledge base to enable her to answer most questions asked of her. Time came for us to collect our hard hats, fit them to miners lights and go underground. What a hard life these miners, mainly from Cornwall in England, must have had working with candle power for lighting alone. The guide was asked by one of our number the amount of hours these poorly paid miners worked underground. She responded by saying they worked 12 hour days, 6 days a week with Christmas day off as their only holiday. This got me to thinking they wouldn't work underground for longer each day as, at night time, it would be far too dark to work. With the tour finished I set off to find myself a motorcycle shop to purchase a balaclava and thermal gloves to wear under my riding gloves so I could at least feel my fingers during the cold mornings I'm going to have for the rest of my ride. Doing a right hand turn, a gust of wind had me laying horizontal in the centre of the Barrier Highway. Thankfully the only thing hurt was my pride however some damage was suffered by Lizzie. A number of people came and helped me put Lizzie back on to her three wheels and push it to the side of the road. I tried to start her up but the starter wouldn't turn the motor over. With my phone out of power, a chap rang the RAA to send out a mechanic to see if they could get her running again. Forty five minutes later, an RAA mechanic showed up and asked me what sort of a vehicle it was having never seen one before. This chap may well not have ever worked on a scooter, let alone an MP3 motor, he quickly resolved the problem being, when it fell over, the oil was pushed into the cylinder and this would not enable firing to take place. He withdrew the spark plug then turned the motor over several times while catching a large amount of oil coming from the cylinder. In no time at all, with Lizzie's motor running, having blown out a heap of blue smoke, she began to idle correctly. After all that, I  found the motorcycle dealer who couldn't help me with either the balaclava nor the gloves but I did get the oil topped up. Then, off to the camping retailer in Broken Hill where the items were purchased. Thinking I deserved a nice cold one, pulled into one of the hundreds (I exaggerate just a little) of hotels on my way to the caravan park and enjoyed a VB Stubby. It's now a little after 4.30 and I'm feeling hungry again (don't know what's wrong with me) so I will be off shortly to hunt out a good, healthy meal for the evening. I think a vegetarian pizza would go down quite nicely. As for tomorrow, I'll be saying goodbye to the Lake View Caravan Park (there's a little pond some 500 metres behind the caravan park I take it being the lake they are referring to) on my way further east with the destination likely to be Dubbo, some 750 kilometres down the Barrier Highway.

    Day 15    1st September 2012    Broken Hill to Cobar So tired last night with everything catching up to me, couldn't resist hitting the sack much earlier than usual and, as a consequence, awoke this  morning a little before 4 a.m. and was unable to get back to sleep. The ceramic heater certainly doing its job keeping me warm throughout the night but didn't realise how well it was doing until I crawled out of the tent when nature called. It wasn't cold, it was freezing. Back to the tent and as snug as a bug in a rug, I played more Sudoku until 5 a.m. when I thought I could start packing up before heading off to find somewhere open for a coffee. With that done, it took me a good ten minutes to find my ear plugs, put on another layer of clothing including the balaclava and silk gloves I bought yesterday. On the road, I found the gloves and balaclava a great investment as I wasn't feeling the cold at all. Today was the best riding conditions I've had since leaving Perth, it warmed up to 25 degrees or there a bouts by lunch time with no wind at all. I found the highway in all conditions of repair. Some lengths were very good but the bad lengths, very bad. More animals spotted today with a number of emu families as well as dozens of wild goats close to the roads edge forcing me to slow right down on a number of occasions in case they wanted to try flirting with a scooter travelling at high speed. I've had enough for one days riding as it is now just gone 2.00 p.m. but this being because being safe is far more important than running off the road somewhere. I had set out for Cobar a town, my GPS told me was 230 kilometres further down the highway and before even realising it, I was less than 100 kilometres closer than I thought I should have been. This was a little scary as I have learnt, when that sort of thing happens, you aren't paying enough attention to the road and the mind is wandering where it shouldn't. So, I rode on to Cobar, a fairly large outback town, a place I had never heard of before today. Straight to the local Visitor Information Centre to find suitable accomodation. There are a number of pubs in town as well as motels so, the third one I tried had one room vacant. It seems the mining boom is spreading with miners and contractors taking up every bed in the area throughout the week. Thankfully some do vacate over the weekend only to return for the new working week on Mondays. I felt I had to have a very good nights sleep tonight and then ride on to Bathurst tomorrow. Cobar and it's surrounds are being mined for copper, lead, zinc and gold and will continue to do so while the mining boom is on. I'm just a little concerned about Lizzie at this time. She is running beautifully at normal riding speed but when it is idling, the motor will come to a halt. This, I experienced a few times today but never before. On the ride today the speedometer ticked over 30,000 kilometres.

    Day 16  2nd Sep 2012   Cobar to Bathurst What the hell was I thinking, getting out of a beautiful warm bed and hopping on my scooter just as the sun had peaked up over the horizon. Travelling very slow to begin with as the sun's rays were looking at me straight in the face. It was so very cold, the coldest I think I have ever been, I must have been off my rocker.  I hit the button on my scooter to show me what the ambient temperature was after being able to open up the throttle as I had changed direction to make visibility much better. Speeding up, of course, brings the cold winds much closer to home and it was digging into the core of my body like a surgeon's knife. The thermometer showed it was -2 degrees, no wonder I was feeling it. A few clicks further down the highway, I pulled over, left the motor running while I lit up a cigarette and held my hands so the heat of the exhaust would warm them up until I could sense some feeling in them.  Back on the scooter, having rode 85 kilometres, there was a sign pointing to a town called Hermidale, being one kilometer down a side road and I gave some consideration to the idea of going in to the town to see if there was some sort of cafe open to get a warming cup of coffee. I gave this no further thought and just as well. About a kilometre  further, I spied the Hermidale pub but that pub had a fuel pump outside so thought I should try my luck there. As it turned out, the pumps were no longer used so, wishfully thinking, I tried the door and low and behold it opened. Who would have believed a pub, in the middle of no where would be open before 8.00 a.m. on a Sunday morning? It turns out this one was but was about to be closed. The publican had received special permission to open up at 6.00 a.m but must be closed by no later than 8 a.m. so the miners, working on a mine site a few kilometres off the highway could have a cooked breakfast. The workers had left the pub only 5 minutes before I arrived. The lady seemed a little surprised someone else would come a knocking but said she would be happy to make me a coffee and offered me a warming tray with bacon, sausages and a few eggs cooked and still quite warm. She said I could have these because they would be thrown out anyway. So, not only did I get a coffee but breakfast thrown in for good measure. A further 45 kilometres down the highway, I pulled into Nyngan for a refueling stop. This town, at least the river which flows through it called the Bogan River, has, some claim to fame. In the poem titled City of Dreadful Thirst by Banjo Paterson. He wrote "Bogan shower" as a term meaning "three raindrops and some dust" which is referenced to the dry region around the Bogan River in Central Western New South Wales.  While seeking out a further coffee, I noticed a couple of scooter riders on the other side of the railroad line, obviously there having enjoyed a breakfast and coffee in the now warming sunshine. Thought I might go and say g'day to these two while getting myself another cup and to warm up a bit. As it happens, these two were touring. One, living on the Central Coast of New South Wales, his cousin, having had his Vespa shipped over from England to go on the Once Around Australia Scooter Ride which was in the planning stage for over a year with riders coming from all around the world to take on this adventure. These two were none too happy with the fact this ride was cancelled only two weeks from when it was to leave Sydney early in August. Like many others, I suggested to them, including myself as, it was my intention to join in on this ride from the South Australian / Victorian Border, after the Black Dog Ride had been completed, finishing the ride with them in Sydney. I can't imagine the expense so many other riders from overseas had incurred to find it was all for nothing. These two I met this morning had decided to make the best of things by touring around New South Wales and Victoria. We wished each other good luck as they were leaving and I was to enjoy the coffee and sunshine. Feeling a little warmer, I set off once again along the highway dodging pot holes and other uneven road surfaces. For a major highway, it really is a disgrace with warning signs having been erected warning users of bad road conditions but it seems as nothing else is being done about it as there were no signs of road works except for one stretch of about one kilometre in length having resurfacing work done. By noon, the temperature gauge showed it was 17 degrees, I was feeling quite comfortable with that, thanks to the silk gloves I purchased while in Broken Hill. At Nyngan, I turned right on to the Mitchell Highway which had a much better surface than the Barrier Highway but, in all their wisdom, the authorities had decided they should reduce the speed limit on this superior surface from 110  which was the limit on the Barrier, to 100 k.p.h. SIMPLY UNBELIEVABLE. What is even more frustrating is, while riding in NSW, I have found, no matter what size of town you come into, the speed limit is reduced to 50 kph no matter if there are no houses, just a servo and may be a pub on the road running through it.  SIMPLY MORE UNBELIEVABLE! i was surprised they had constructed a by pass for the city of Orange. This, to me makes a lot of common sense but thinking those taking that by pass route would still be able to sit on highway speeds proved me wrong. They have decided the limit on the by pass should be set at 70 kph. I just don't understand, at all. If you, the reader, believe I think they have it all wrong, you're right. NSW roads are absolutely maddening.  Anyway, it happened I came to be in Bathurst.  I can now tick off yet another of my bucket list having done the Mount Panorama circuit twice, the second time was due to the fact you can't post a best time from a standing start, now can you? Having had this experience has placed me in awe of those race car drivers who place their lives in danger at each corner and bend. I could never have imagined, having watched the race, many times in my life, how difficult it must be for them to do this at such a high speed.  Back in town, I refueled the scooter and over heard someone saying the expected overnight low for tonight is minus 4 degrees. Hearing that, I decided it will not be another camping night out for me, a motel is the go. Tomorrow, I have a very short ride up into the Blue Mountains which promises, due to the additional height above sea level, to be even colder. Will not be so impatient to be out on the scooter early for the coming few days.

    Day 17     3rd September 2012.     Bathurst to Katoomba Who said you can't teach an old dog new tricks? I'm a living example proving that old adage wrong. Unlike yesterday, I waited around until the last minute before I had to check out of the motel room giving the sun to heat up the minus 3 degree morning. From then on, today was one out of the box. Before leaving Bathurst I had to go back to Mount Panorama as the video I supposedly took yesterday afternoon failed, a price one must pay.... Giving me just the easiest of days, with only 100 kilometres to travel to my destination for today, being Katoomba. There were numerous flashing signs along the Highway warning of icy conditions and every one should reduce their speed. It seemed I was the only one nervous about this and dropped my speed down to a point I was beginning to be a traffic hazard myself. I decided to get off the highway and headed off in the general direction, being east, and didn't worry too much about what road I took. Just taking any road and seeing where that would lead me. I happened upon many fine views along these roads making me more upset about my camera giving up the ghost. The first chance I get, I must buy a new one for this part of New South Wales is just crying out for photographs to be taken. The first sizable town, Lithgow, I pulled up in front of the Harvey Norman store and purchased a new camera. I, shortly afterwards, saw a sign post for the Zig Zag Railway which I had once wanted to ride on but alas, due to financial problems and lack of state government funding, they had to close it down a couple of years back. The question then raises it's head as to why the signs haven't been pulled down seeing I traveled  20 kilometres to check it out. Chatted to a couple of bikies who had also found the same problem, I headed off to find something for lunch. My intent was to eat something healthy but I couldn't go past the steak and mushroom pie sitting in a cafe. Back on the scooter, I again found the Great Western Highway which would take me into Katoomba. This part of the ride was something else. Incredibly steep terrain with everyone, appearing not to take any notice of the road works restricted speed limits as the passed me at a much higher speed than was legal. Arrived in town shortly after 1.00 p.m. and found the motel I had booked yesterday. Here, I will spend the next two nights which will give me a very good opportunity to see the sights. Having arrived at the room, I set about opening the camera box up thinking I would have to wait for the battery to be charged but was pleased to see it used AA Batteries so, once loaded, she was right to go. The Manager of the motel advised me to get down to the viewing point of the Three Sisters, only 150 metres further down the same road as the motel, at about mid afternoon to view the sun rays hitting upon the canyon. This I did. This iconic scene has been placed on so many calendars throughout the years and there is very little wonder why this is so. It is breathtaking, beautiful, rugged and awe inspiring. I knew it would be a wondrous site to behold but, still, I didn't realise how incredible it was till I stepped on to the viewing platform. If for no other reason for travelling this far, it made the trip I am now on, all worthwhile. I will be eating at the local RSL club tonight before going back to the same spot as it is all flood lit and the manager of the motel unit said it's something one should never miss. No doubt, this will test the camera, or, more to the point, my ability to use it correctly. Tomorrow, I will be doing a ride which will take me along the scenic Cliff Road which, I have been informed, will take my breath away if I take the time to do a little walking. For me to say I am looking forward to it will, I am sure, shock some of my closest friends who know I believe any walk is not only a long walk but too long a walk. As I said in the opening paragraph of today's blog, it has been one out of the box.

    Day 18    4th September 2012      Katoomba After enjoyiing a breakfast for the very reasonable price of $6, I was out and about exploring the many lookouts overlooking the magnificent Blue Mountains with my cameras working overtime although, I don't think any of the photographs nor the videos I took will do the scenery justice. One cannot see a photograph and realise how enormous the scale of the cliff faces are. About mid morning I headed for Scenic World looking forward to riding on the Railway, Cableway and Skyway. For someone who is adverse to walking too far (and isn't most walks - too far) I took the return trip on each ride while others did some heavy duty hiking before returning to the Scenic World Centre. Back in Katoomba by mid afternoon, I made my way to the heart of town to do some grocery shopping buying a frozen meal for tonight and a different type of ear plug which appears so much easier to use. I don't have to actually shape this prior to inserting them into my ear canal. Instead, the are shaped to cover the opening. I just couldn't fit the other type I was using without a great deal of messing around. Tomorrow I will be heading for Sydney. A member of the Sydney Scooter Community has offered to meet me in Camperdown to ensure I don't get into any trouble finding myself to Manly. There, I will be staying for the coming week. The  lady has promised not to lead me down the garden path and will keep me on the straight and narrow as I follow her through the busiest streets of anywhere in Australia. While in Sydney I will need to have the scooter serviced, hopefully to get heated grips fitted and climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge being another item on my bucket list.

    Day 19     5th September 2012       Katoomba to Sydney Woke up this morning to the news major parts of NSW will be hit by wild winds today with gusts reaching 125 kph. I had planned to stick around until after breakfast was served at the motel at about 8.00 a.m. but thought better of it. I decided to leave as soon as I could get all my belongings loaded up on the scooter, so by 6.30 a.m. I was on the road.  It became obvious to me many living 100 kilometres west of Sydney commute daily to and from work into the city, so, right from the get go, with road works done over a considerable distance, it was down to 30 kph for the first 20 to 30 kilometres. Then the highway opened up to three lanes each way and it was like Perth peak hour traffic although travelling at 100 to 110 kph. Well before expected the night before, I reached the point at which Jax said she would meet, so she would be able to lead me into the city then to the northern suburbs while showing me quite a deal of the most beautiful harbour in the world. I asked Jax if she knew the distance of the Sydney Harbour Shoreline as it is remarkable with the number of points and bays it contains. Jax suggested I Google it as she didn't know so, I am here to tell you, having Googled it, my homework is done. The shoreline of Sydney Harbour is said to be 240 kilometres in length, give or take a kilometre or so. With my new camera's batteries losing any life they had in them, it was time for us to find my lodgings for the coming week and to give the scooter's suspension a rest, by off loading all my camping and other gear. We arrived at the apartment to find I had to carry all my gear up three levels of stairs before getting to my room.   Back on the scooter, we took off, further north for Jax to show me where the scooter was to be serviced this coming Friday. Murray Walters, the owner of Scooter Central, appeared to be most interested in my trip from Perth and how the scooter had traveled over that distance. We then discussed the work to be done on Friday. The Drive Belt and Rollers are to be replaced, a new rear tyre and heated hand grips are to be fitted and all other ordinary servicing requirements will be attended to such as changing of oil, etc., etc., etc.  Shortly after having served us the best coffee I've had all day, it was time to be off and back to my unit with Jax leading the way. I've not been able to obtain secure parking for my scooter at the apartment tonight but have it locked away securely a block away. Tomorrow I will be able to place it in the underground garage of the building I'm staying in until I leave Sydney. There is one advantage and disadvantage with this accommodation which is, every time I have a cigarette I need to climb up and down three flights of stairs. Now, who said I can't be fit and smoke at the same time? If the cigarettes don't kill me, the stairs certainly will.  It has been a most enjoyable day, thanks mainly to Jax who went out of her way to show me around the crazy maze of streets and roads in Sydney. I have found every hour in Sydney is similar, if not worse, than peak hour in Perth.

    Day 20    6th September 2012        Sydney I have often wondered why, when someone has a very sound sleep throughout the night, they say "I slept like a baby"? Never known a baby to sleep as well as I did last night. My head hit the pillow at 9.30 last night and that's all folks. It wasn't until just after 6.30 this morning I was awake ready to organise a few items I had to attend to. The first on my list was to fix up to register to pay for the road tolls I would incur, both in Sydney and Melbourne. With that done, next was to organise my Sydney Harbour Bridge climb which I registered for on this coming Monday morning, yet another thing I will have ticked off my bucket list. I am very excited about this as I have wanted to do this ever since I first heard about it some years ago. The Climb commences at 10.20 a.m. and I have to be there at least 15 minutes before hand, meaning I have to be in The Rocks, right underneath the bridge at 10.05. To ensure I would be on time, I waited for 9.00 a.m. this morning to set off to go to The Rocks to time when I would need to leave here, in Manly, on Monday morning. it took me 45 minutes so, leaving here on Monday by 8.30 with time to spare. The best part of Sydney I have found (other than the Harbour of course) is they allow Motor cycles and scooters to park just about everywhere for no fee and, whats more, they have a huge number of motorcycle parking areas just about everywhere. The Rocks, not 20 Metres from where I have to be for the Bridge Climb, is one of these parking areas. With that all worked out, I caught a ferry to Manly and return with the sun shimmering on the water, the weather could not have been better. I went a little crazy with the camera trying to get every picturesque site captured, but in Sydney, there are just too many such sites. After the return ferry ride I had a bite to eat then found my way to Kings Cross where there is a fountain I wanted to take a photo of. In Sydney, if you own a house on the Harbour, you are talking big, big money because it all has to do with location, location, location. Rode across the bridge to the northern suburbs and took any street which looked like it could give me another view of the harbour. I have never know there to be so many tight bends and on streets which were very rough, mostly made of concrete but not all. Obviously, when Sydney was being developed, no one had the title of Town Planner, so roads and streets go in every which direction at every which angle to another. With it being so hilly also must have made things difficult. There was one street I went up which, I thought, I had better put all the weight I could up on the front wheels or the scooter may decided to lay on its back. Time for another coffee then back to the apartment, have laundry duties to get done before I can get to relax a little this arvo. Tomorrow morning Lizzie gets her 30,000 kilometre service. SHE DESERVES IT.

    Day 21    7th September 2012        Sydney Another fine day in Sydney with the morning air a little cooler than the very mild weather which has been the case for the last couple of days. Running early for the arranged time I would be at Scooter Central for Lizzie to have her service, I stopped off for a heart starter being a large cup of coffee, not knowing I would be drinking another 4 cups before lunch time. The coffee they serve up at Scooter Central is top shelf. There was a team of two mechanics who set to work on doing the service, changing the rear wheel and attaching the heated grips. The atmosphere at Scooter Central is one that anyone would feel comfortable with. Friendly staff who appear very happy to be doing their job, serving customers. I feel very lucky to have come across two scooter shops, Ace Scooters of Joondalup and Scooter Central in Sydney, both of which, give first class service in a very friendly and social manner. It was requested for a photograph be taken of the scooter but I suggested I call back with the scooter all packed up with my camping and other gear this coming week as I'm about to ride out of Sydney, Canberra bound. With any luck at all, this might just get me another coffee. The ten minute ride north would be well worth it. I was intending to purchase another riding jacket tomorrow but, while at Scooter Central, I found water and wind proof coveralls. With these on and the heated grips working, I shouldn't have any problems as I head south leaving for Canberra, no doubt the coldest capital city in Australia, and Melbourne, not quite as cold but wetter. Just before leaving Scooter Central, the clouds were looking very threatening and the wind became very strong and gusting a good deal. Arrived back at the apartment with any thought of rain disappearing with blue skies again over head. Have done very little today but feeling quite tired so it looks like an early night for me tonight. As for tomorrow, fine weather is forecast so I am thinking I may head north to take in the views of the Hawkesbury River and Sydney Harbour's North Head.

    Day 22    8th September 2012        Sydney I was blessed today as I couldn't have asked for a better day. The weather and scenery was perfect but there has to be something done about the Sydney roads. Well, two out of three ain't bad so they tell me. It was a chilly start to the day but, with riding gear on and the scooter fired up, I headed out to refuel Lizzie and grab myself a coffee before deciding where I was off to. Best doing it this way because, without that first cup of coffee, the mind isn't capable of thinking about much else. It isn't as if I'm addicted or anything like that, it's just that I NEED TO HAVE THAT FIRST COFFEE. With the caffeine hit out of the way, I decide to ride up to the Hawkesbury River and in particular to a place called Palm Beach. In my much young years as an adult, I have very fond memories of visiting this outer northern suburb of Sydney enjoying a BBQ with a great uncle of mine and his family. Uncle Jack owned a property on the other side of the Hawkesbury River which can only be reached by boat as there are no roads due to the high cliffs surrounding the area. I recall stepping out of the water taxi and walking up a well trodden path through a thick forest of tall gums and every now and then, catching sight of a fleeting bandicoot or two. If ever I was to win lotto and decided to move over to Sydney (which is most doubtful on all counts) Palm Beach is where I would spend the rest of my days. On one side of Palm Beach you have the magnificent beaches on the South Pacific Ocean and on the other, my preferred side, the sheltered waters of the Hawkesbury River. The most famous resident of this area, known to most Australians, would be the author of my favourite poem "My Country" by Dorothea MacKellar, it goes "The love of field and coppice,

    Of green and shaded lanes,
    Of ordered woods and gardens
    Is running in your veins,
    Strong love of grey-blue distance
    Brown streams and soft dim skies
    I know but cannot share it,
    My love is otherwise. I love a sunburnt country,
    A land of sweeping plains,
    Of ragged mountain ranges,
    Of droughts and flooding rains.
    I love her far horizons,
    I love her jewel-sea,
    Her beauty and her terror -
    The wide brown land for me! A stark white ring-barked forest
    All tragic to the moon,
    the sapphire-misted mountains,
    the hot gold hush of noon.
    Green tangle of the brushes,
    Where lithe lianas coil,
    And orchids deck the tree-tops
    and ferns the warm dark soil. Care of my heart, my country!
    Her pitiless blue sky,
    when sick at heart, around us,
    We see the cattle die-
    But then the grey clouds gather,
    And we can bless again
    The drumming of an army,
    The steady, soaking rain. Core of my heart, my country!|
    Land of the Rainbow Gold,
    For flood and fire and famine,
    She pays us back threefold-
    Over the thirsty paddocks,
    Watch, after many days,
    The filmy veil of greeness
    That thickens as we gaze. An opal-hearted country,
    A wilful, lavish land-
    All you who have not loved her,
    You will not understand-
    Though earth holds many splendours,
    Wherever I may die,
    I know to what brown country
    My homing thoughts would fly. Now, where was I? Ah yes, The Hawkesbury River. This area must do wonders for Authors as there is another author, Kate Grenville, whose fictional book titled "The Secret River" I enjoyed reading and can recommend it highly to fiction and non fiction readers. It tells the story of a convict family who settled upon the banks of the Hawkesbury and came to know the Australian Aboriginal. I'm waffling, get back to the day Leigh. It is in areas like this, I know, my photographic skills will not do the scenery justice but that didn't stop me from taking many photos. Like so many landscapes, you have to be there to be able to take it all in and I was thankful to be lucky enough to have enjoyed it all. Yes, the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House are magnificent structures but the natural beauty of Australia is breath taking at times. Having enjoyed the morning, it was time for lunch, no, more like afternoon tea time. I'm thinking "what happened to the time?" How it flies when you're having fun. Skipped Breakfast, Skipped lunch, skip afternoon tea, where do I get my next cup of coffee?  Back down to Manly, find the hospital, up past there I was told I would find the northern section of the Sydney Heads and find it, I did. As I approached the first tourist information board, I was approached by a gentleman wishing to talk to me about Lizzie and how I have come to be in Sydney from Perth.  Told him about the Black Dog ride and why it meant so much to me with Meredith committing suicide and my depression.  Having satisfied his questions he then asked me to follow him as he had something he would like to show me. I followed him through a few heavily secured, padlocked and chained doors into a garage. I was stunned at what I saw. This Carriage has been hand crafted and will soon be shipped off to England for use by the Queen when ever a carriage is called for. He told me very few eyes have ever seen it and very few know of its existance (I guess that's about to change). He then took me to his office in which he presented me with an autographed book he has written about the the construction of the carriage. I was stunned . More photographs taken after finding a cafe at the Heads lookout area, and deciding upon having an Iced Coffee  and custard doughnut (I'm allowed, I missed breakfast, morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea) more photographs were taken. By now, it was time to end a perfect day on the road and back to the apartment it was but not before dropping in at the supermarket for groceries.  Tomorrow, Peter Gailey has arranged a ride for me to take part in, up the old Pacific Highway. Should be another great day.

    Day 23    9th September 2012        Sydney Being from Perth, I dream of roads I have ridden on today. Our idea of a good bend to lean into is a large roundabout  but not here as you leave Sydney heading for the Old Pacific Highway. I know how the Piaggio MP3 can out corner any other motorcycle or scooter on the road but, try as I might, there was no way I was going to keep up with a canary yellow Vespa 250 cc ridden by Pete, a local scooter rider who said he would show me some great roads on which to ride and magnificent scenery. He was true to his word. I have a great deal of confidence about my MP3 and its ability to handle anything any other bike or scooter may have trouble with when it comes to handling. I guess it is a lack of belief in my own capability, or, I am very aware of my limitations. What ever it is, there was just no way I was going to push too hard for fear of coming to the point where I had over extended. Peter was very generous in saying I didn't know the road and being from Perth, I could not be expected to be able to keep up with him, regardless of my scooter having the much larger engine size. There were signs warning motorcycle riders of the police keeping a very close eye on the speeds they are doing and they will be caught and yet, not one police car did I see. While I was sitting on the legal limit, motorcycles were passing me as if I was going backward.  Anyway, that was today, having left the apartment at 8,45 this morning, I arrived back just prior to 4.30, exhausted. I thank Peter for him coming forward, making available his time to show me a great time today. It is greatly appreciated and, to Tony and Merrily, thanks for meeting us at the coffee shop and the time spent. Loved your dogs. Tomorrow, I'm off to climb a mountain. No, sorry, Sydney Harbour Bridge.

    Day 24    10th September 2012        Sydney Tomorrow will see me having a very lazy day, my body is telling me "Leigh, give me a break, I need a rest" so, a rest day it is going to be. I'm thankful to Jax and Pete for helping me with the sight seeing while I've been in Sydney BUT I WANT OUT! I'm tired of having to deal with so much traffic and the worst part about it is, every car, truck and bus is driven by people who have forgotten what it is to be courteous drivers, it they ever were. If a gap opens up on any of Sydney's roads, it is swallowed up by these people who don't care about their fellow motorist let alone a scooter, after all, what damage can they cause if you happen to run into one? Their aggression is something to be experienced to believe how bad it is. Today I sat at a corner for five set of traffic light changes before anyone would even consider, stopping just those 2 metres short of the car in front of them to give me the room I needed to get out of the minor street.  At last, on the major road, it was my turn to wait for a green light so, I turned around and  waved to acknowledge the elderly male who let me out. He waved back and, it was then, I noticed he was driving a car with Queensland number plates on it. That figures. Then there is the case of the blue tooth speakers in my helmet continually going off with a siren sound when approaching, just about, every second intersection or a school, warning me there are speed and red light cameras controlling the area. That's my whinging done for the day, but then again, having had time to think about it, no, there's more to come. This morning, I arrived with plenty of  time to spare for another item to be ticked off my bucket list being the Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb. Upon my arrival I learnt climbers were not allowed to take with them, their own cameras nor mobile phones as they, among other things, may be dropped from a great height. Call me a little cynical if you will but when you are charged $26 for one, yes, 1 photo of yourself perched atop of the bridge or, better still, you can purchase your very own CD with no less than 4 photographs for the small cost of $64, one must think how much they would lose if climbers were allowed to take their own photos or have someone take a pic of them. Back to the climb. To be honest, I struggled at times and looked forward to each time the guide had us come to a halt to enable him to talk to the group. There were two women, visiting Sydney from Scotland, who really did it hard as the steps seem to be never ending. We were able to stay at the summit for a good 10 minutes or so, taking in the beautiful harbour and Sydney's skyline. Thankfully, the weather was ideal with the breeze up top, not blowing too hard.  There wasn't any among us who showed any sign of fear of the height we were at and there was no one clinging tight to the railing which was surprising to me. I guess, if you have a fear of heights, you just wouldn't consider doing the climb. Also, when people turn up to climb the Bridge, there must be quite a few who are unfortunately barred from even attempting it. This is due to how tight certain parts of the walk is. There were sections when there may have been only a few centimetres to spare at my hips and waist and there isn't any need to say, but I will anyway, I don't carry any excess weight around with me. Having spent $250 to do the climb and a further $85 on a Tea Shirt and windcheater, my judgement is, I wouldn't do it again but to do it once, it is definitely worth it.   After the climb, I had a quick bite to eat and a coffee then went to see where I needed to go to go up on one of the bridge's pylons. This is one place you are able to get some height under you to take some additional photographs of Sydney. I found, not being able to find a place to park the scooter for any more than two hours, I would have to give this idea up as a bad joke. To get to the pylon would require me walking across the bridge some 1,800 metres I was told, by a security guard at the foot of the pylon. He said he could go up from where we were but that was because he worked there. Tourists couldn't possibly use the staff entrance.  What I was unaware of before doing the climb this morning, was, the Pylons are there just to make the bridge more attractive. They have no other purpose than that. Leaving the city, I was as dry as a bone and spotted a bar so popped in and had a quick one before returning to the apartment, totally spent. Tomorrow, I have one small thing to do. I need to purchase a couple of fresh straps to keep my luggage and camping gear from falling off the scooter as it seems a couple have had their useful days and are looking a little worse for wear. I also have to figure out how I'm going to find space to store my additional clothing I purchased today, for Wednesday, I leave Sydney behind, Canberra bound.

    Day 25    11th September 2012        Sydney A very lazy day with me having a sleep mid afternoon. Went out this morning and purchased a new ratchet strap which enables me to pack the camping equipment up higher, under the top box bracket, giving greater visibility of my indicator and tail lights to traffic following me. Returning to the apartment, I packed all the gear on to the scooter with the exemption of my top box. Decided to go to a local cafe for a meal any vegetarian would be happy to eat but not me. Every thing on the plate could have been dug up in the local cow paddock, other than the garlic and cheese. I cannot understand how they charge $18 for a couple of field mushrooms and weeds you would happily mow. I have had a serious look at my plans to ride up over the Great Dividing Range and down to Cann River in Victoria after I leave Canberra in a few days. At the present time, I feel I shouldn't risk the likelihood of ice on the road given the expected below zero temperatures in the area over the coming days. Will now consider departing Canberra to return back to the coast at Batemans Bay. Need to check the forecast on the day before making a final decision. 

    Day 26    12th September 2012        Sydney To Canberra Packed the remaineder of my items on to the scooter and after a quick shower and a coffee, I cleaned the apartment up a little and was on my way up to Scooter Central. The scooter's steering bearings are to be tightened up to stabilise the steering at low speeds. Also, they wanted to take a photo of the scooter with it all packed up and there was that incentive for me with another coffee or two to come my way. Dave, the mechanic, did work on my scooter for some time getting some benefit from his labor with the steering a little improved however, once I'm in Melbourne, new bearings will need to be fitted. I guess, after 30,000 kilometres and the very badly corrugated road, if you could call it that, I traveled on when up near Silverton, it is time they were replaced. Shortly after 10.00 a.m. I was on the road south bound, not looking forward to mixing it with Sydney's traffic mess but I was very pleasantly surprised by the amount of road works which have been done since I was last in the southern suburbs, fighting my way northward towards the bridge towing a caravan 15 years ago. Once I was in the northern tunnel going under the harbour, the highway was a breeze. Two more tunnels and I was on a very well made and maintained toll way. The condition of the road was excellent all the way down to Canberra. With lunch at one of the few service centres on the highway, I continued down till the turnoff point at Goulburn, to see a little of Australia's first inland city which has a current population of about 30,000. Besides, I was in need of some cigarettes which, my brand, the service centres didn't carry. Arrived in Canberra well before 3 p.m. and booked in at the hotel (which is a pub with no beer). I found I had left my ATM card at Scooter Central, so off to the local bank branch to obtain some cash and organise for a new card to be issued and forwarded to my daughters address in Melbourne. Tomorrow, my first move will be to find the tourist information centre. Check out Parliament House, both old and new then to the War Museum and, if I have enough time, visit the National Library to do some family tree research.

    Day 27    13th September 2012        Canberra Last night I had tea at the local Tradies Club, a plate of mashed potatoes and a few thick snags. It tasted home cooked, so enjoyed it thoroughly. I asked for the small plate which cost me $14 but still couldn't get it all down. As an interstate guest, you pay $2 to get you into the club and that also pays for a beer or wine. It's very rare I will go for more than one glass, so, it was a great deal. Woke up this morning to a very bleak sky with thick cloud cover and quite cold. I'm only going to have one day for site seeing in Canberra, so, with my dry coveralls on, I was out and about very early. My first touristy thing to do was to ride up to Black Mountain where Telstra has constructed a tower for all of Canberra's communication needs. This tower stands  195 metres above the summit of Black Mountain and, given fine weather conditions, gives the viewer a great 360 degree overview of Canberra and it's surrounds. Today, unfortunately, wasn't the best but, when in Canberra, how could I not go pay my entry fee to enjoy a coffee in the cafe very near the top? But all that would need to wait as I could not get my camera out from under the saddle. Try as I may, and with all my camping gear still stacked on the boot lid, it just wouldn't open. I then hopped back on the saddle and made my way back into Canberra to the local Tourist Information Centre to see if there was a Piaggio dealer in town. The lady looking after me there did a quick search on the internet to find one 16 kilometres out the other side of the city. She kindly called them and handed the phone over to me. The owner of Motorini Canberra advised if I could bring the scooter in, they would certainly look at it to see if they could fix the problem. With that, it was back on the scooter and off to Motorini Scooter. Arrived there just as it was about to start raining. I pulled into their service department to be greeted by yet another Scooter dealer only to ready to be of assistance.  Taking my keys, he simply popped the saddle open, boy, did I feel like an idiot! He then asked about my trip then questioned me as to why I never had cruise control. I advised him that I had asked about having one but no body knew how to fit one. With this, he marched into his showroom and reached for a cruise control which was then fitted to my scooter, thank you very much. It works like a charm but I will only use it on straight open highway cruising. With the saddle now working as it should, I headed back to the summit of Black Mountain pulling into the carpark and hitting the button once again to find the saddle would not unlock. In frustration, it was time, in the rain, to light up a cigarette. This timeout gives me a chance to think, to consider what can possibly be going wrong, then it happened. I looked around and saw a sign, see the photo I found a security guard who suggested I find a lump of concrete I could get the scooter behind to shelter it from the radio waves. I then moved the scooter to be underneath a concrete walk way and sure enough, saddle unlocked. With camera now in hand, I took the lift up to the top of the tower and enjoyed a coffee after taking a few photographs. With such poor weather, I couldn't have expect much. Heading back into Canberra, I then pulled into the Parliament House car park and did a self guided tour after undergoing quite a rigourous security check imposed upon me by the security guards even after passing through the metal detector. Prior to going through the detector I was informed I would have to remove the braces attached to my riding trousers. Two guards pulled me a side and went through all of my pockets. I must have been looking suspect but they told me to drop the trouser part of the coveralls then my riding trousers giving them access to my jeans pockets. The search then centred on my riding trousers pockets and my helmet. The helmet, I thought would see its padding removed but it didn't get to this stage as it appeared as they were, at last, satisfied I wasn't an aging terrorist. I had not taken advantage, when last in Canberra, to view the interior of the new Parliament House but am very pleased I did this time. It is a building, as Australians, we can be very proud of. Feeling a little out of place, I didn't stay long in this very impressive building and decided to head off to the Australian War Memorial. On the way to the carpark, with the weather on the improve, there was a number of people, obviously Africans, dressed is very good suits and their native dress with a couple getting the crowd together for a photo opportunity. I stepped forward to offer to take a photograph or two of the group then all of the 8 of those present rushed me with their own cameras. Here I was, standing in front of Parliament House juggling all these cameras, some of, were hanging around my neck and a few, I placed inside my helmet. I have never, prior to then, taken photos using an IPad, a few IPhones. They were very happy as I left them with a number bowing with gratitude. I suppose it didn't do Australian International Relations any harm. A short time later I was at the Australian War Memorial. Any one visiting Canberra who don't take the opportunity to visit this memorial is certainly missing out. I took a number of photographs of the miniature displays on show and wandered around looking at  many historical details of battles fought in both the first and second world wars. Checking on records to do with my grandfather and his role during the First World War, I bought to the attention of a staff member at the enquiries counter my grandfather's stecond name was "Little" not William as shown in some records. These details were taken down and double checked and found there had been an error made and this will be corrected in coming weeks. I was advised they do received such information from time to time and it was important, where these errors were found, they are very keen to correct them. Leaving the War Memorial, I guessed it must have been about lunch time and headed for the Tradies Club where I had eaten last night. While there, I noticed they put on a lunch of Spagget Bol for only $6 a plate, what a bargain! When I arrived there I was informed it was 3.15 and lunch had well and truly finished. Quite understandable but where did the time go? Anyway, I paid my $2 Guest Membership as I did last night, received my complimentary glass of beer and ordered a plate of potato wedges, half of which I left uneaten.  By the time I arrived back at the hotel, the rain had again set in, apparently for the night so, will have to wait and see what the weather will be like before deciding where I go from here, that is, if I go anywhere because I would rather sit still rather than ride any long distance, along winding roads across the Great Divide if it is going to be wet.

    Day 28    14th September 2012        Canberra to Mallacoota Quite chilly if not frigid this morning with a minus 4 degrees. With the scooter running 5 minutes before leaving the hotel giving enough time for the heated grips to warm up, by windproof coveralls on and my balaclava on my head, I was warm right throughout the morning. I decided, happily, to head for the coast where I would meet the Princes Highway  in Batemans Bay. It was there that I stripped off the top layer as the sun was shining brightly in a cloudless sky. Other than the first 15 minutes where I was riding in thick fog, the day, up to the point where a kangaroo jumped out on me causing some damage to the scooter, it couldn't have been a better day. I cannot recall a time when I last felt so good as I did today. No negative thinking, Both roads were superb to ride on. The first stint, between Canberra and Batemans Bay, the Kings Highway, was very windy and hilly which meant speeds were quite a bit lower than the rest of the ride with a number of hair pin bends. Climbing up and over Clyde Mountain was absolutely beautiful. I was very surprised of the length of the very steep eastern side down to where the highway crosses over the Clyde River just prior to reaching Batemans Bay. I refueled at Batemans Bay as well as having breakfast at Maccas before turning south for the ride down to the New South Wales / Victorian Border. The Princes Highway from Batemans Bay to Melbourne, being 755 kilometres in length, I know quite well having had driven on it many times before. What I am very pleased about is the road works having had taken place without them changing the actual lay of the road. It is very much underrated as a road on which to ride a bike or scooter. Most of the trip is limited to 100 kilometres per hour but the bends are well suited for riding as there are very few straight lengths so, just like the more highly rated roads, you are still coming out of one bend into another but at high speeds. Those bends requiring you to lower the speed are well sign posted. I pulled off the highway a couple of times today doing a slight detour for particular reasons. The first was to go in, just off the highway, to the village of Tilba, one of a very few towns in Australia with all buildings classified by the National Trust. I first viewed this very pretty town on the trip around Australia in 1997 and thought it well worthwhile getting a few photographs. Hmmm, here I am, sitting here, forgetting I had bought some Licorice Allsorts and black jelly beans which are to be eaten sometime, so why not now? Be right back. This area of south east New South Wales is dotted with holiday destination towns for those from both Melbourne and Sydney. One of these seaside towns is Merimbula which I also did a slight detour off the highway to see. It is in Merimbula where I have one of my earliest memories. My father loved oysters and to him, there was nothing better than getting the oysters fresh off the rocks, opening the shells, at the risk of cutting himstelf and swallowing them. This is where, at the age of 4, my father introduced me to the taste of fresh oysters. From that point on he couldn't shell them fast enough for me. In the end, having my stomach full, I left him to them himself. Refueling once again, I continued further south, pulling up at the New South Wales / Victoria border for a photo opportunity. Then, within a kilometre, I pulled into the driveway of cousins of mine who I haven't seen for many years. It was about mid afternoon and from there, the next couple of hours was lost, have no idea where they went but, by the time I had my last 40 kilometres to Mallacoota to travel today, it was fast growing dark. The Genoa to Mallacoota Road is narrow and hedged in by typical Australian forest. Riding well within the speed limit of 70 kph, I saw a kangaroo bounding out on to the road, bloody low IQ, stupid, dumb animals, they are (have I compared them with the Chicken and lizards?). I braked hard but it was too late she cried as she waved her wooden leg, bang! That bloody low IQ, stupid, dumb animal hit me, not me hitting him.  With the weight of this bloody low IQ, stupid, dumb animal hitting the scooter, the rear wheel began to slide out but the two front wheels, all they wanted to do was keep going straight on, so they, very quickly pulled the rear wheel out of its slide. I have no doubt, if I had been on any other scooter or motorcycle, I would have found myself horizontal feeling very sore. Needless to say, the remaining 10 kilometres of the ride tonight, was taken at a greatly reduced speed just in case another bloody low IQ, stupid, dumb animal should happen to play chicken with me and lose. (From now on, the term "play chicken" should no longer be used, in its stead we should use the term "play kangaroo". On reaching Mallacoota, I booked into the local hotel and, under the available lights, checked the damage, if any, on my scooter. Sure enough, some damage, nothing, I hope, that can't wait till I get back to Perth. Tomorrow, I will be returning to the cousin's place as another family member will be there to catch up with me. After that, I may, depending on the weather, travel further west towards Melbourne.

    Day 29    15th September 2012        Mallacoota to Lakes Entrance Rain was forecast overnight and so it did. Slept in this morning, waking up at 6.00 a.m. Spent the first half hour checking on my email and updating my family tree from info I had received yesterday from my 2nd cousins. Ordered breakfast of poached eggs and bacon which makes me wonder what's up with me. First I sleep in with my habitual waking up at 5 a.m. being missed then feeling hungry enough to eat a cooked breakfast. The Gods must be crazy. Then it was out to the scooter as I noticed late yesterday the camping gear had slipped down stopping anyone behind me seeing my tail, brake and indicator lights. With that situation corrected, I slowly trawled the streets of Mallacoota, a place I have always loved but hadn't been there for quite some years. The town, like so many in this area, has grown with more holiday homes being built. Every one being most friendly. This was a difference I found with those living in Sydney, not just in Mallacoota but in Perth as well. During my week stay in Sydney, many people took a second look at the scooter where ever it was parked but not one person bothered to ask about it. In Perth and suburbs, no matter where I am or where I park it, I always have people come up wanting to know what it's like to ride, but not in Sydney. People seem to be in too much of a hurry or, is it because they are just not comfortable talking to others in the streets? I took a number of photographs of the lake and the entrance to the ocean then went in search of a cup of coffee. Pulled up at one cafe and noticed it was open with no customers where, another cafe was full with people waiting to be served. No doubt there was a reason for this so, I thought, when in Rome .......  As most chairs were taken, I sat down at a table where a chap was enjoying his coffee and the sun now peaking through clouds. We got chatting about Mallacoota, the scooter and my travels. An hour later, it was time to head back to my cousins place, about 30 kilometres back toward the border to reacquaint myself with a few other members of the family. Arrived there just on noon and the talk of times past and family connections went well past 3 p.m., again, much later than I had planned as I hoped to be in Bairnsdale before the setting sun was staring me in my face. Just prior to saying our goodbyes, I was handed a $50 note to be donated to the Black Dog Institute. I forgot to mention having received a $5 cash donation yesterday, from a woman who didn't wish to give me any personal details. These cash payments I will need to pay online once I've received the replacement debit card to be posted to my daughter's address within the coming week. If I was to make it to Bairnsdale tonight, I would have had to ride 211 kilometres and, after last night's fight with the bloody low IQ, stupid, dumb animal, I didn't feel like risking another dusk ride so, with that in mind, I set my target for Lakes Entrance, 179 Kilometres east along the Princes Highway which I reached a little after 5 this evening. Tomorrow night, all being well, I will be sleeping at my daughter's place having seen my 18 month old grand daughter, Isabella, for the first time. Needless to say, I'm very much looking forward to this.

    Day 30    16th September 2012        Lakes Entrance to Hampton Park There's no doubt, I'm in Victoria with clouds stopping any chance of the sun shining through. Not a particularly cold night but the day never seemed to warm up at all. After a breakfast at Maccas, I set off for my last day of some serious riding for a short time at least. I was going to take my time getting into the south eastern suburbs of Melbourne, where my eldest daughter, Sonia, her husband Gary and their precious little Isabella live. It was my intention to get off the highway on today's ride to visit a few different towns along the way, or should I say, where towns once stood.  My first school days were spent in the little town of Morwell Bridge. It was here where I was a student, with about 15 others in a one room, divided into two, made up the entire school. From memory there was only the one teacher come head master with an assistant. Morwell Bridge was situated about 4 miles west of the much larger town, now a city, Morwell. At its peak, there were about 60 houses but the disastrous bush fires of 1944 struck the area. With Brown coal being mined throughout this area of Gippsland, known as the Latrobe Valley, the State Electricity Commission of Victoria bought the town and all of its residents were forced to move. My parents packed up our belongings and moved to Hearnes Oak, only a few miles down the road. This too, had a very small student population. When annual school photographs were taken, all the classes were shown in the one frame. It is here, where I broke my two arms and split my head open, on my first attempt to ride a bicycle. In the end, we had to move yet again due to the encroaching open cut mine powering almost all of Victoria's generators producing electricity. Having filled you in on all of this, I didn't end up getting off the highway as I was expected to be at my daughter's place before lunch so we could then go to the hospital to visit daughter number two. Tammy has been in hospital for the past 5 weeks and expect to be there for a similar time or, until the twins, which she is expecting, are born. It is feared, if she wasn't in Hospital at this time, she may miscarry. Having spent a couple of hours chatting with Tammy, we left the hospital to the smell of home cooked Spaghetti Bol. Is there any better?  Most would have seen the photographs of my one and only, at this time, grandchild, Isabella. She is like no other I have ever known. Sonia, my daughter, has been told by others, they have never known a baby/toddler to have a smile on his or her face so much as does little Isabella and, having spent all the afternoon and evening with her, I agree with this. Over the coming weeks I have so many people to catch up with in Victoria and so many places to go but the weather doesn't seem to be co-operating as the forecast is quite dismal. First thing I need to do is to get down to the local Piaggio dealer to have them replace the steering bearings on Lizzie. 

    Day 31    17th September 2012        Hampton Park Since June of this year, I've had my email account password with Bigpond altered a number of times with the password used by who ever has been doing this, being changed using very foul language. This has occurred twice now in the last two days. Every effort to find out who has been doing this has been impossible by Telstra and Bigpond unable to release to me any details. Not only, has this been happening, but prior to my leaving home I was receiving ugly and upsetting snail mail, of course anonymously. Phone calls to my mobile have often been received with who ever was making the calls staying online but silent until I hang up. I will need to find out if there is anything which I can do to identify this very sick person. A visit to the local police here in Dandenong today came to nothing with the suggestion being made I wait till I get home to pursue it further. Next, I visited the local Piaggio Dealership, also in Dandenong, who never had the steering bearings I need to have to replace the ones on my scooter. The bearings, after 32,000 kilometres, have had their share of work with this making riding slow on the scooter difficult to stay on the straight and narrow. I was advised they will not cause me any other problems for the rest of my trip back home. The rest of the day was spent being very lazy indeed. Tomorrow, I will be going to Fountain Gate Shopping Centre (no, not in an effort to drop in and surprise Cath and Kim) but to buy tap washes for Sonia's bath taps and a new front door lock for her door. Then, on Wednesday, I will be riding 93 kilometres to spend a night or two with family members.

    Day 32    18th September 2012        Hampton Park to Wonthaggi The day was dark and grey, just the way I've been feeling for the last couple of days, particularly yesterday, as I'm under the influence of Victorian weather and have my first cold since I don't know when. No matter, have made arrangements to stay with Rod and Anne at Wonthaggi in South Gippsland for a couple of nights. While there, will be visiting the local cemetery for family tree research. With Sonia and her husband, Gary, both leaving for work, I set about making my self ready, for what looked like, a very wet ride but the rain held off for the most part with just a light shower or two. On the Highway, I pulled into a servo to refuel where a couple of motorcyclists approached me with them never seeing an MP3 before. They got talking about today's ride to Wonthaggi and suggested I take a detour to take in a great riding road with superb scenery. They certainly weren't wrong. The country I rode through this morning was far less likely to be in a sun burnt Country than Ireland. The rolling green hills stretched on as if for ever. This area of Victoria is arguably the best dairy country in Australia and every bend in the road opened up a new vista. As I was running late, I decided I would be riding back this same way making sure I stopped allowing me to take photographs of this most beautiful country. Arrived at Rod and Anne's place in time for a late morning tea. My first meeting with Rod and Anne is a story in its self. Last year, with the Black Dog Ride over, I visited Uluru and while watching the sunset over this big rock, I noticed a couple who had pulled up with Victorian number plates on their 4WD. I asked them where they were from in Victoria and received the reply "Wonthaggi". Knowing I had a strong family connection with this town in Gippsland, Anne said her husband was a blow in but her family have lived in Wonthaggi since Adam was a boy. I then asked her what her maiden name was, she replied "Birt". Now, this may seem a little far fetched, as I later found out they thought the same thing to, but I went on to telll them I have Birt family members in my tree and told them I have a number of families who have, at one time or another, lived in Wonthaggi. When we parted we made arrangements to meet at the Uluru resort the following evening. At this meeting I bought a long my laptop with all my family tree to show Anne. I opened up the program and showed the Birt family members on my tree and asked her to tell me which one she was closest related to. She pointed to one name saying "that's my father". It turns out Anne's Aunty had married my Grandfather after his divorce from my Grandmother. Having found this relationship, we dug a little further and found there was yet another connection further down the line. Since that time, we have kept in contact and it was only last month, a week before the Black Dog Ride started in Perth, Rod and Anne were visiting their daughter who lives in Greenwood, when they contacted me and we met for a coffee and a catch up. It was then that we agreed I would, when in Victoria, visit them spending a couple of nights and taking this advantage to visit the local cemetery. Tomorrow they are taking me underground to visit the local black coal mine, should be interesting.

    Day 33    19th September 2012        Wonthaggi This morning, having enjoyed a cooked breakfast, Anne  and I had a further look at my family tree which enabled us to find yet another link between the two of us. I am certain there will be a number more however, this is yet to be confirmed. Will get more involved in this when I return home. At a little after 11.00, Rod, Anne and myself left to go to the coal mine for the tour to begin at 11.30. This tour took us over 60 metres underground. The surprising thing is, as we got lower into the ground the colder it got which was the opposite to the experience in the Day Dream Mine tour near Silverton, NSW. This tour ended after a couple of hours with us viewing the old miners museum and a cottage set up as if it would have been in the late 19th. century. From the mine, we then had lunch in a bakery in the centre of town before I was taken on a tour of the local towns along the coast. These towns included Kilcunda, where, as a child, my parents would take us to bathe in the rock pools which, after a hot day, would be very warm. Other towns visited today were Cape Patterson and Inverloch.  The State Government has been building a desalination plant in this area following the drought Australia has been suffering from over a number of years. Since it is now near completion and all the reservoirs feeding Victorian homes almost at capacity, it is said they will not need any water from this plant for many years to come, if ever. On our arrival back at Rod and Anne's house we awaited on the technician who arrived to work on their computer as they haven't had any internet access since they arrived home about a week ago from their trip over west. In the evening we went out to the Wothaggi Club for a meal. Given reasonable weather todmorrow, I will be returning to my daughter's place in Hampton Park, having received the best hospitality one could imagine, very kindly given to me by my hosts Rod and Anne. 

    Day 34    20th September 2012        Wonthaggi  Scratch that idea of me riding off today. With the weather having closed right in on Wonthaggi, my hosts suggested I stick around for one more day as the rain and storms expected would make riding unsafe around the hills of the Strzelecki Ranges, so it was a very quiet day with very little action on my part.  Went down, with Anne, to the shopping centre for a few must have items then back to her place with, both Anne and Rod, very keen, one eyed, Collingwood supporters, looking forward to tonight's game against Sydney. In the meantime, Anne asked if I could do some historical research on her direct family members. This I did with me now about to go to bed with Sydney doing it easy at this time and I, having gone a little further into her close relations, believing there may be a very close relationship to Anne with our ex Prime Minister, Harold Holt who, some would have you believe, instead of drowning, hitch hiked a ride on a Chinese submarine. With better weather expected tomorrow, Lizzie will be on the tarmac once again.

    Day 35    21st September 2012        Wonthaggi to Hampton Park I was really slack yesterday having not updated my daily blog, so, here it is a day late. Arose after spending last night working on my family tree for Anne, obtaining the details she was wishing to have, then soaking in a hot bath for the best part of an hour then watching the last quarter of the final between Collingwood and Sydney. Much to the annoyance of my hosts, Collingwood really was too tired and seemed to be always too late to the ball. The weather was looking a good deal brighter so, after breakfast, I packed up my gear and said farewell to Anne and Rod. One would not wish to meet a friendlier, generous and caring couple as these two. The time I spent with them all went far to fast and I feel blessed to be able to call them my friends. I thoroughly enjoyed these last few days as they took time out ensuring my time was a pleasant one. While still cold, the chance of rain seemed very slight but I still put on a two layers of clothing, including my riding gear, and the coveralls I purchased in Sydney at Scooter Central. With this gear on and my heated grips, polar bear weather wouldn't stop me from enjoying the ride west along the top of the Strzelecki Ranges, stopping to take a few photographs of the beautiful rolling hills of south west Gippsland. I arrived back at Sonia's place just after lunch. While Sonia was out buying up big at a Mattell Toy warehouse, Gary, with Isabella, had just arrived home after he had been searching, to no avail, around the local shopping centres for a swing and slide set for Isabella.  Sonia arrived home in time for a quick bite to eat before heading out once again to see "Motherhood, the musical". With Isabella having her afternoon nap, Gary took full advantage of this and did the same while I laid down and dozed while watching TV.  It was an early night for me as the warmth of the afternoon seemed to tire me out.

    Day 36    22nd September 2012  (oops, missed a day somewhere) make that 23rd  Hampton Park Had the worst night's sleep since leaving Perth last night. While at Sonia and Gary's, I have slept in their camper trailer which has been great as it gives us all some privacy. Last night the next door neighbours thought it was a great time to throw a party which seemed, to me, as if it never ended. Then, sometime in the dark hours, with the party noise stopped, the wind decided it would try rocking me to sleep but made me almost feel sea sick. At first, waking up, I thought it may have been another earth tremor hitting Victoria as it did a few months back, but no such luck as any earth tremor would have been over in seconds but not the wind. It blew consistently for the best part of sometime, seemed hours before, at long last, I dropped off once again. Shortly after breakfast, Sonia and Isabella went off for a couple of hours to a Child and Mother group meeting they have maintained since Isabella's birth. With Gary, out and about doing some grocery shopping, I worked on the family tree having now some detail as to his family members. His father, growing up in the same area of Victoria as many of my own family, I knew there was every chance I would find some sort of family connection. Gary's parents, Neil and Wendy, were coming for lunch and we knew his father would be most interested to learn more about his family. With Sonia back home, lunch was being organised as her in-laws arrived, Neil, bringing with him some details he had which would further help us. Sure enough, it only took a few minutes to find the first connection and by the time they had left there were another 3 connections.  This sort of connection is hardly surprising as I have found this time and time again. For those who are not into genealogy, it wasn't long ago when people were far limited as to the availability of transport we enjoy today and many families, particularly those on farms, which many were in that part of Victoria, had cattle which needed to be milked, twice a day, seven days a week. This meant they were working everyday of the week and rarely went outside their immediate area and meet new people. This is why, it was far more common for cousin to marry cousin, or, if there was a girl living next door to a single male of about the same age, well, they may have been just as well suited as any other in that area. In the afternoon, after the visitors had left, Sonia and I went to the hospital in Clayton to, once again, visit my other daughter, Tammy who is getting more impatient as the days go on, waiting for the birth of her twins.  Back home, Gary had a meal cooked ready for us to sit down and enjoy. Not often I eat too much but tonight, I did. Sonia has a gem of a husband who leaves for work every morning at a little after five after making a pot of coffee for me, leaving a mug and sugar (which neither he nor Sonia uses) for me to have throughout the day. He returns home with Isabella from her day care, cooks the evening meal before Sonia gets home. He is ready and willing to help about the home with nothing seeming to be too much of a trouble to him.  Anyway, not much else for tonight, so it's off to bed for me.

    Day 35    24th September 2012    Hampton Park Fine weather forecast today so I thought I would take advantage of it by taking a trip down memory lane with me visiting Emerald in the Dandenong Ranges where I spent most of my life, from the age of about 7 to 20 years of age. Living in this part of Victoria, it is little wonder I miss the hills and the greenery and in particular fern trees which grow abundantly in the area. It is the fact that fern trees grow so abundantly which makes me think I don't miss Victoria due to them requiring plenty of water (which would normally indicate even more rain) and cool conditions. Give me the Perth climate any day. Riding up from Ferntree Gully to Emerald brought back many memories of my first car, a 360 cc (I'm not joking) canary yellow Honda Scamp. How I thrashed that little car, over taking other cars on those narrow winding roads, always when the nose was pointing down hill, never up. It was a need to over take others to ensure I had a good run up towards the next hill as it is quite a climb up from Ferntree Gully, at the foothills of the Dandenong Ranges, where I first joined the National Australia Bank as a 17 year old. Pulled into Emerald where I found very little had changed since I lived there over 39 years ago. Yes, there is a Safeway Supermarket which has placed the old corner grocery store, a few cafes have been built or taken up residences in old shops I knew as our local butcher and green grocer. The Country Fire Authority, of which I was a member, has built a  newer and larger firehouse but, really, it seemed to be the same old country town where everyone knows everyone. I then turned off to take a look at a great swimming hole my parents had a great amount of trouble keeping me out of as a kid, the Emerald Lake. So many great memories of days spent in the water with long since forgotten friends. It was here where I gained my Scouts Red Dolphin Badge which meant I had to swim a mile non stop which I remember being able to do quite comfortably. Just the thought of that makes me realise how long ago it really was. It was also here where my younger sister gave me the biggest black eye the doctor, at the Eye and Ear Hospital in Melbourne, had apparently ever seen, so he told my mother at the time. I say my sister gave me the black eye but really, she was underwater, the water being unfiltered and just a little dirty, while I was diving in causing us to hit heads with me coming off second best. Having recounted these memories, it was time for a coffee then I was off to see my sister in-law who lives in Lilydale. Lynn has always been a special member of our family and I try to visit her when ever I'm in Victoria. Spent a couple of hours with her before riding back to Sonia and Gary's to enjoy our last night together before I leave on my long ride back to Perth in the morning. I have been giving some thought about doing the Great Ocean Ride once again but have decided against it this year. It is School Holiday time in Victoria and the entire coast of Victoria is very popular with tourists at any time of year. Given this, I feel accommodation may, for the next two nights, be as rare as hens teeth so, I will head straight for Adelaide or there abouts tomorrow.

    Day 36    25th September 2012    Hampton Park to Adelaide There's a town called Bakers Swamp on the Mitchell Highway in New South Wales. When riding at 100 kilometres an hour and then be knocked down to 70 kilometres and then down to 50 Kilometres an hour before the first house then back up to 70 and then, once again, to 100 kph after the last house, one would say there's nothing unusual about that EXCEPT for one minor detail being, the first house was the last house. Not a one horse town but a one house town. How, for Pete's sake, could this happen? Why am I talking about such things given I'm now across the Victorian / South Australian border getting ever closer to Adelaide I hear you ask. I'll explain a little later in today's blog but back to this morning first. Gary, as requested, awoke me at 5.30 so I could get on the scooter and through Melbourne before peak hour traffic. Hopping out of bed was a bit of a shock given the morning temperature. I just managed to get my socks on before my toes dropped off with frost bite. That first cup of coffee certainly helped warm me up as I wrapped my fingers around the warm cup, which, I'm sure, saved them from turning purple with to my blood knowing they had to save my vital organs due to the cold rather than a few small digits. Okay, I exaggerate but just a little. With the scooter packed and ready to go, it was time for me to get back into the house to apply my 4 layers of clothing which Sonia thought was something to laugh at. She cannot possibly know how bad it is to be riding on minus 20 (give or take a few) degree mornings with next to nothing on to protect you from the elements. Saying our good byes was difficult for me particularly with little Isabella being a big part of my heart having only seen her for the first time those few short days ago. Sonia and Gary have been truly blessed as parents and they know it. At no time at all, I was out of Sonia's street and on to the freeway with the traffic, though quite busy, travelling at a very steady 80 kilometres per hour right through the the south eastern suburbs, under the tunnel and up and over the West Gate Bridge. By the time I merged into the traffic on the Western Highway, all traffic was travelling at the legal limit of 110 kph. The Roads Department in WA have announced they are going to trial placing traffic lights to limit the number of cars coming on to the  freeways in Perth at the one time. They have got this idea from Melbourne and from my experience this morning, IT WORKS and WORKS WELL. Now, back to story about that one house town in New South Wales called Bakers Swamp. I bought this matter up due to the great number of speed restrictions South Australia has placed on to the busiest highway in that state, the Western Highway which runs between Melbourne and Adelaide. I don't mind road works, after all, they make for safer roads but, when on numerous occasions you are forced by restriction signs to drop down to 40 kilometres over and over again is beyond me. Fair enough, if a road worker is at risk of being hit by a passing car or truck, I can understand but, where there is no one to be seen on many of these stretches and the road could quite easily be driven/ridden at 70 kph safely, WHY? Then, we had a restriction to slow down to 25 kilometres an hour on a long straight stretch. Up in the distance I could see a truck with flashing lights on the side of the road which appeared not to be moving. As I SLOWLY approached this truck, it was moving at walking speed behind two blokes on the side of the road walking along with small machines breaking up the road edge as they walked on west. Passing this, I checked my TomTom to see how much further we were restricted by that 25 kph sign. It wasn't until 2.4 kilometres further along this main highway, we could again go to the state legal limit of 100 k.p.h.. I ask again, WHY? For those who have never entered Adelaide from the east on the highway, let me tell you, South Australia has really done themselves proud with the freeway into the Eastern suburbs of Adelaide. The South Eastern Freeway climbs steadily with every kilometre traveled over very hilly terrain. As you approach the peak of this climb you see signs indicating there is a very long and very steep road ahead of you. As you begin to descend down into Adelaide, trucks and buses are enforced to travel in low gear, staying in the left hand lane of the three lane freeway. while the rest of the traffic are able to travel at 100 kph. Any idiot would know, given the many trucks on this section of the freeway, there are going to be many travelling much slower than other vehicles, all in the left hand lane. Further, those idiots would know if you approach a truck travelling at 30 kilometres per hour, while you are doing 100 kph, something has to give. I have driven and ridden on this section of freeway a number of times and each time, it's as big of a thrill as the first time. To be able to do that sort of speed with the bends and the scale of descent, it's just something you don't often have the opportunity to do. Today, that thrill turned into a moment of horror as a car which was ahead of me was travelling in the truck lane forcing him to brake very hard then, without any thought of anyone's safety, he pulled out, right in front of me. I was aware of another car, just behind me in the lane to my right but, just had to breathe in and hope. My life didn't flash before my eyes but the adrenalin started flowing very fast while the entire world around me appeared in slow motion. I gave that idiot as much room as I could manage by straddling the line between my lane and that of the driver of the car over my right shoulder. While I was braking like mad going down a steep gradient, I just managed to miss the idiot in the car which had pulled out from behind the truck, as the car, over my right shoulder, sped passed me. In the past, when I've had a near miss, I would find somewhere safe, pullover and light up a cigarette to calm down but not today, there was a couple of kilometres of this steep freeway to ride down, through the tunnell then down into the streets of suburban Adelaide. I sit here tonight, counting my lucky stars. Tomorrow, I have a very short 150+ klm ride to go to Wallaroo before spending the night there ready for the Ferry trip from there, across Spencer Golf landing in Lucky Bay on Thursday.

    Day 37    26th September 2012    Adelaide to Wallaroo I was out of bed just as the sun was brightening up the morning sky. Stepping outside to have my first cigarette, I was very surprised to find how mild the temperature was, so much so, I thought there would be no need to don my coveralls, the first time since they were purchased in Sydney. Looking up at the sky, there were quite a few very dark, threatening clouds but the forecast was for a day of 29 degrees with no likelihood of rain. I showered and dressed and headed off to find a coffee before I had any kilometres under my belt after all, it was going to be a very easy and comfortable ride of just 157 klms. WRONG! Before getting to Two Wells, I noticed the wind getting up with it coming in from a westerly direction hitting me at an angle of about 45 degrees. As I traveled further it came much more intense and I was having a great amount of trouble keeping the scooter upright and on my side of the road. It was gusting terribly and my impression was that it was worse than the wind I all of the Black Dog Riders suffered with on the leg from Port Augusta to Coober Pedy. Riding on very flat country, I slowed down to be traveling at 65 to 70 kph in an effort for me to have more control of the scooter in these conditions. My arms, neck and even my jaw began to ache with the tensing of muscles due to the amount of continued pressure I was under to ensure I remained upright. I was finding it necessary for me to pull over and relax after every 15 minutes or so. On one of these occassions, with my back to the wind, it pushed so strong, it  forced me to take a few steps to keep my footing.  As I turned off the main highway onto the road to take me to Wallaroo, the countryside became more undulating as I neared the coast. At the first rise, with me now heading straight into the wind and traveling a touch over 60 kph I tried to open the throttle but found Lizzie was already doing the best it could with no more throttle to give. This, I know, shows how strong the wind was Lizzie and I were battling. After 4 hours of difficult riding, I arrived in Wallaroo and went to the wharf where I will be loading Lizzie on to the Ferry tomorrow morning for the 60 kilometre crossing of the Spencer Gulf. This will leave me with a 474 Kilometre ride to Ceduna. On checking I know where the wharf was, I headed for the largest building in town where I am staying the night. The Wallaroo Marina Apartments room, I booked on line last night, costing $99. On top of that, I paid a further $20 to place lizzie in secure parking for overnight. When I worked out the security for the elevator and opened the door to my room I was very pleasantly surprised. A private balcony on the 3rd floor overlooking the town, a bath and a very well stocked fridge and coffee making facilities. How could a bloke gone wrong with that price? Unforgettable value, particularly when you consider it is school holidays here in South Australia. As I hopped into the piping hot bath this afternoon, I hoped all the windows surrounding it were tinted to ensure those outside couldn't see in, oh well, bad luck to those if they aren't. Will be enjoying a meal downstairs tonight followed by another bath before hitting the sack.

    Day 38    27th September 2012    Wallaroo to Ceduna Set the alarm clock allowing plenty of time to have a bite to eat before getting down to the wharf to take the Car Ferry from Wallaroo to Lucky Bay. With me being the first to arrive, I was guided to the area in which I was to park Lizzie for the crossing. The crew member was a little concerned about Lizzie being able to sit there undisturbed while we were crossing Spencer Gulf but, with the water being like a mill pond, I reassured him the scooter would be fine. Made my way to the passenger seating area in side and ordered a coffee which I would have enjoyed a great deal more if only I was able to light up a cigarette but this wasn't to be of course. Right on 8 o'clock the ferry pulled away from the Wallaroo wharf. I would have enjoyed the trip if it was a little more choppy but that wasn't going to happen this morning as the crossing was very gentle. The entire voyage took 2 hours and it was just prior to us reaching Lucky Bay, when I was at the pointy end of the vessel, I noticed a dolphin jump out of the water and quickly turned my camera on but the only shot I could get was when it was almost directly under me a few feet under the water. By the time we arrived at Lucky Bay, with  414 Kilometres to ride till I reached Ceduna, it was quite warm so I pulled off my windcheater before setting off. The conditions early on couldn't be better with none of the wind which was forecast last night. There was a strong wind warning issued for today over the entire west coast of South Australia but, at this time, Mariah wasn't showing her presence. These calm conditions unfortunately didn't last for long though. Not as bad as yesterday but still, it was quite concerning causing me to think I shouldn't push all the way on to Ceduna but find accommodation along the road somewhere short  of my planned destination.  Still 210 Kilometres short of Ceduna, I pulled into Wudinna to refuel, have a coffee and ask about any accommodation which may be available when, while sitting there enjoying the smoko, I noticed the wind had swung around to a direction coming from over my left shoulder so this was enough for me to decide to ride on to Ceduna. At that time it was 36 degrees. On my arrival in Ceduna I made my way to the Foreshore Caravan Park and hired a cabin for tonight. Tomorrow, the forecast is for showers and WIND, not good at all as Ceduna will be packed out with this weekend, being a long one, the  Oyster Festival is taking place and there is no accommodation to be found anywhere. I would have preferred to stay here until Saturday when the forecast is much more favourable but, with no other option, I'll have to ride on to Penong at least, 90 Kilometres up the highway and, hopefully, find accommodation there for the one night.

    Day 39    28th September 2012    Ceduna to Nullabor Road House The last few days, with riding conditions being so difficult, it has had a bad effect on my state of mind. It isn't easy being out on the open highway when you are constantly fighting the wind to keep you from either, being pushed off the road or down onto it. Now that I am homeward bound, the sooner I get there, the better. But, I must also take the necessary precautions to be safe and that is why I pulled in to the Nullabor Road House at 9 a.m. this morning, deciding this will do me for the day as the winds were gale force. Shortly after paying for my room I heard winds gusts were up to 150 kph from west of south west. I did manage to travel the 295 kilometres this morning, leaving Ceduna a little after 6.00 pushing Lizzie well over the speed limit to try to get as far down the highway as I could before riding became too dangerous to continue about 25 kilometres back. The outlook for tomorrow appears to be much brighter with the wind expected to decrease in strength to a more rider friendly speed. The caravan parking area here began to fill up shortly before noon as those towing a caravan and traveling west thought a short day is far better than throwing away many dollars in excessive amounts of fuel which would be wasted fighting the wind. Meanwhile, those traveling east would be loving it. I have left my phone battery charger cord somewhere so am unable to recharge it for now and the battery is dead.

    Day 40    29th September 2012    Nullabor Road House to Balladonia No phone, no lights, not a single luxury, I might as well be on Gilligans Island. Well, not quite, we do have lights here in Balladoia but no TV coverage in the rooms for some odd reason as the TV in the road house is working fine. My phone battery is dead but even if they weren't, no one has mobile coverage. I will, once doing today's blog on MS Word, will cut and paste it to the web as I have been informed I can pay $10 for the use of the Roadhouse internet connection. Back to the day that was. On the road at 6.30 with it raining cows and horses (certainly too heavy for it to be just cats and dogs) but no wind to speak of which is a very welcome change. With my coveralls on and the heated grips beautifully warm, I set off with a few more downpours before the morning was over but still no wind, so I'm not complaining. Yes the rain slowed me down a little but there wasn't a time I feared for my life. Given the last few days of wind, I thought I would be happy if I made it only to Border Village in one piece but I did much better than that. Traveling time today was a touch over 6 hours and 30 minutes with the total distance being 710 kilometres, I certainly can't complain about that. I am now 731 Kilometres from home but won't do that all tomorrow but will find somewhere to stay tomorrow night along the highway before arriving home on Monday, all being well. The rain passed by and by the time I was into WA, the skies were blue with the sun shining brilliantly with not a suggestion of rain from this time on. Conditions were ideal for riding and the kilometres seemed to disappear until leaving Caiguna at which point the longest straight stretch of road in Australia, of 90 miles without a single hint of a bend, is upon you. I've said it before and I'll say it again, this stretch of road gives me the ..... It was in Caiguna I stopped for lunch and a longer break than normal to relax before the last stage of today's ride. While there, two police officers were enjoying their midday meal as well. Having had their lunch they then set up their radar to catch speeding motorists coming from the west. I pulled out just as they had begun watching out for any driver doing the wrong thing. I was only a couple of kilometres down the highway  when a convoy of 18 police cars (I counted them) and a mini bus full of Police officers passed by escorting about 50 motorcyclists who were meeting up with fellow members of the Bandido Motorcycle club at their national run in Queensland. Shortly after arriving at the Balladonia Road House, 12 bicycle (the pedal type) riders pulled in for the night. These cyclists are from all over Australia and they met up in Esperance a few days back and will continue on to Ceduna where they will then disperse to all points of the compass. To my amazement, a number were riding those small wheeled bikes which, I reckon, must be much harder than the normal 28 inch (don't know if they use the metric measurement for such things) wheeled bikes but it seemed as though, most of the older individuals were riding these smaller framed bikes. Not long after, a car, towing a van, had two pushbikes being carried on the drawbar. I made the suggestion that this is the best way to get a bike from point A to point B. Needless to say, this suggestion of mine didn't go down well with those who were, I think, as mad as hatters to take on such a ride. Since I began this adventure, I haven't paid much attention to changing the time shown on the scooter, my IPod nor my Tom Tom. I just amended the time on each when I gave thought to it, which wasn't very often, so, each device could well have been showing a different time zone than the others. I have now corrected this situation as I am now back in the Perth time zone. I don't need to know the time to know it's been a long and tiring day with too few many coffees, so it's now time to hunt one down.  

    Day 41    30th September 2012    Balladonia to Home In yesterday's blog I mentioned I wouldn't be doing the trip from Balladonia to Home, being 903 kilometres, but, it was such a good day for riding compared to so many I've had in recent days, I thought I should make hay while the sun shines. So, here I am, home safe and sound after spending eight and a half hours in the saddle. A bit sore and very tired which is understandable but happy as there were a few times over the last 41 days I never thought I would make it but more of that later in the trip summary. Having no TV nor radio to listen to at the Balladonia Road House, I retired very early and was awake at 4.30 this morning. As I had yesterday moved into a new time zone, the clocks were altered back by 45 minutes meaning the sun would arise a lot earlier than normal. Sure enough, at 5 a.m. it was almost light enough to hit the road but the Road House wouldn't open until 6 a.m. Had myself a long shower before getting ready and it was a few minutes before 6 that I was at the shop at the road house waiting for my first cup of coffee for the day. A young chap who was also travelling to Perth who I had spoken to yesterday said he wouldn't wait. I, having been charged a $10 deposit on the room key, said to him he may as well wait those few minutes more to obtain his deposit. He said he didn't think he was charged a deposit which turned out to be correct. When I asked the manager as to why I was made to pay a deposit but the young chap wasn't, he stated he could not answer me for risk of causing an embarrassment. I'm now thinking, was it because I look untrustworthy or is it the age bracket i'm in?  Did they think I have gone senile and suffering for Alzheimers or another form of dementia? This, I'm afraid, remains unanswered.  Anyway, it was a chilly 4 degrees by the time I was on the scooter but, thanks to the heated grips and coveralls, it never worried me in the slightest. The only problem this morning was putting up with the rough surface of the road. The stretch between Norseman and Coolgardie is known widely as being the roughest part of the Eyre Highway in Western Australia. Lizzie took it all in her stride and ran brilliantly as she has done throughout the entire trip. I had planned to stop for the day and spend tonight in Southern Cross which would have left me with a little under 500 kilometres to travel tomorrow but, as I said, it was such a beautiful day for riding. Arrived home a little after 4 this afternoon. I have a few more photographs to add to the blog photos and a summary of the trip to write but that can wait till after I've had a good nights sleep in my own comfortable bed.

    Now that I'm home we have the trip Summary

    Low Points There were a number of times I thought my life was about to end, the most serious was the seconds I thought I would be hit by that idiot of a driver coming down from the Adelaide Hills when he decided he would have my lane to get away from being behind that truck. Then there was the wind and the problems it caused. The ride from Port Augusta to Coober Pedy was bad, very bad but there were far worse days which I had to fight the wind to stay upright and on the road. The theft of my riding Jacket while I was in Alice Springs. The theft of my tent fly.

    High Points of which there were so many. Being involved with the Black Dog Ride. Publicising the need to reach out for help when suffering from depression. Day One of the ride back on the 18th of August, it now seems such a long time ago. The fellowship, laughs and yarns given and received by all on the ride. Arriving in Alice Springs under my own steam with Lizzie performing exceptionally well throughout the trip. Ticking items off my bucket list such as Climbing Uluru (well, almost), doing a lap of Bathurst, climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge and touring the Blue Mountains. Catching up with my daughters in Victoria, visiting cousins and the warmth I received from Ann and Rod while staying with them. To finish off this list of high points, the number one high point, with out a shadow of a doubt, was being able to hold and get to know my darling grand daughter, Isabella Grace, what a joy she is.

    ROLL ON THE BLACK DOG RIDE TO THE RED CENTRE 2013            

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