Joe Barker » Motorcycle travel story

Motorcycle travel story by Joe Barker

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A long weekend with a boxer


Things didn't look too promising for a motorcycle ride. It was the upcoming Australia Day long weekend. Chance of a few thundershowers the experts had predicted. Come Friday they amended the forecast to fine weather with temperatures in the low to mid thirtys. That was all I needed to hear, within minutes I was out in the workshop taking the Beemers panniers down off the shelf and emptying out contents.

They'd been sitting there since before Christmas, fully loaded with every conceivable tool, piece of equipment, including a week's supply of food, all ready for my planned trip up the remote Holland Track. I was all set to go before the summer temperatures got too high, but unfortunately it rained out there and with one thing after another coming up, I had to postpone the trip for a while. Not to worry, I can reload them and try again at the end of February.

With the panniers emptied, I slotted them onto the bike and stepped away to get a cleaning rag. When I looked back I realized the GS had taken on the appearance of a small hippo, transformed from its usual caricature bulldog look with a broad front tapering back to a slimmer, almost out of proportion rear end. Wow, that's a lot of load space I thought to myself. With the top box and tank bag on, this thing will carry almost as much as my truck. I reckon it'll take all of the 1150cc to haul this lot. Fortunatly, unlike the (supposedly) leather saddlebags I had on the Kawasaki Vulcan, the BMW hard bags are well constructed. The leather ones bounced around like a dairy cow's udder and broke the straps or stitching whenever I carried more than a small water bottle or a can of beans in them. The first time was on a long ride up through the wheat belt. All they had in were a pair of light plastic rain outfits, a small water bottle and a map. But even then, one of the securing straps broke. I guess I should have taken them back to the shop, but that's another story.

After packing my newly acquired compact, high tech sleeping bag, towel and tent into one of the Beamers panniers, it looked as if I could still squeeze in the kitchen sink if I needed to. Better take some light clothes instead I thought, it could be pretty hot and smelly getting about for three days with only heavy riding gear to wear. So, in went a T-shirt, shorts and my trusty thongs, and that was it. I was just about ready to go. All I had to do now was get my better half (BH) to pack her stuff. I pondered for a while. Would there be enough room in the other pannier for all her gear, or would she have to follow with the car and trailer?

There was no need for concern. Twenty minutes later she called out, "Joe I'm fully packed!" I walked over to check and was amazed to find the top box was almost empty.

"Should we take some food seeing as we've got the extra room," she asked?

"No;" I replied firmly, "lets keep things light and easy."

"What about some tea bags, bread and a few light items?"

" Na! We can always buy food when we get there," I insisted. I was getting antsy and wanted to get moving. Stupid mistake, I'd forgotten about the $3.50 cups of tea or coffee, $10 hamburgers and $20 serves of fish and chips, plus the limited grocery supplies in small tourist towns. Not to mention this was a public holiday, and the trip was supposed to be a cheap getaway; that's why we were camping. Still, I suppose paying inflated prices is better than starving or trying to live off the land or ocean .I couldn't even catch a fish, I'd forgotten where I put my favorite old fishing line.

Finally we locked the house and set off up the Great Northern Highway for Guilderton at the mouth of Moore River. We didn't want a long trip this time, just somewhere far enough away to clear our minds and forget about the daily grind. Guilderton, on the picturesque coast north of Perth, was a perfect location to do it.

Joining a light, but steady stream of vehicles traveling north through Midland, I figured most people heading for Moore River or Lancelin would go via Wanneroo Road, the main artery from the city. To avoid the traffic I decided to ride north to Gingin, then west towards Moore River .It was a bit longer that way, but a quieter more scenic route, and there was a chance we'd be riding west into a cooling sea breeze.

As we reached Upper Swan the Beemers fuel light came on, so I pulled into Gingers Roadhouse half a kilometer on and pumped 19.5 liters into the tank. From there on we had a fantastic ride with only one wake up call. A road train hauling three 40 foot trailers passed us from the other direction on a narrow stretch of highway. It felt like we'd struck an invisible obstacle and something was trying to suck up the Beemer and rip my arms from their sockets, all at the same time. Like a couple of scarecrows, we buffeted about in the turbulence and fine dust. The passing only lasted for a few seconds, but it seemed like eternity. I glanced in the mirror to see that BH was still perched on the back as the juggernaut swept on like a giant vacuum cleaner. Wide-awake with the adrenalin pumping, we rode onward and saw no more than 50 other vehicles until we reached Guilderton.

These spur of the moment trips are great, but arriving at the destination without accommodation can sometimes be a problem, more so on a long weekend in summer. Things didn't look promising, the only caravan park in town was teeming with happy campers, mainly families with lots of kids and every campsite seemed to be overflowing with tables, chairs and bikes. "Doesn't look like we've got a hope in hell," I said despondently. "We'll probably have to ride up to Lancilin and try there."

"Lets sit down for a few minutes and get a coffee at the cafe; we're in no rush. When the office isn't so busy I'll see if they can squeeze us in." BH suggested. "Ok, sounds like a good Idea."

The woman behind the desk frowned, as if to say, "you've got Buckley's chance mate." But after studying the computer screen intensely, almost as if she was trying to make contact with someone in another galaxy, she pressed a few keys then turned to us with a smile. "You're in luck; we have one non-powered site up at the back, number 11. That'll do fine,"I said quickly, before the woman could finish her last word.

I was worried someone else might have overheard the conversation and tried to jump the queue. A few minutes later BH stuck a little round electronic gizmo on the key ring, into an indentation on a pole and we rode under the red boom gate.

Following the woman's instructions, we went through the center of the camp ground, then took a right and proceeded until the sandy track veered left up a steep incline. At the top we found site 11, the small piece of dirt that would be our home for the next couple of days. It was a bit steep and sandy, but as I sat on the Beemer, daydreaming beneath a shady tree, I thought. "Hey, where else could we lay under a blanket of stars looking out over the Indian Ocean for just $16 a night?" Even if we didn't have lights, cooking utensils or food, and we had to crawl on all fours to get inside the miniscule tent, it still seemed like a bargain to me.

Meanwhile, the temperature was about 35 C and BH was sweating profusely as she hurriedly prepared a spot for the tent, picking up numerous sticks and stones while leveling the loose sand with her right boot. We unpacked and after about ten minutes figuring out the clips, rings and pegs, we finally had the new tent standing. Quickly putting everything else in its place, we then made a beeline for the showers and changed into cooler clothes before perusing the campgrounds. Ours was the last site in the row, preceded by a multitude of tents and caravans set up in almost wagon train formations, and accommodating some extended families who'd been staying over the school holidays.

   Story by Joe Barker