Road Trip!

It’s time to test my repaired knee…

Tomorrow morning we’re setting off for a road trip with Miss Scarlett the motorbike and Rolling Thunder the trailer. It’s the first big trip I’ve done for ages, and more specifically since I had my knee arthroscopy. There’s only one way to find up if it’ll stand up to three days on the motorbike, and that’s to do it.

The trailer is mostly packed. We don’t actually need it since we’re not camping, but since the advent of the caravan we’ve become accustomed to travelling in a certain style, and with more of the comforts of home than before. So the trailer will carry the coffee machine and milk frother, and a much bigger than usual bag of gear, and food and tools, and a quilt… well, you get the idea. Plus, it’s a smart and good-looking setup, and Miss Scarlett doesn’t object to pulling a trailer at all.

Day 1, Friday, we’ll do about 560kms, and stay overnight at Monto. There’s not a whole lot there, so we’ll be staying at the Albert Hotel, a big old colonial style pub with accommodation upstairs along a wide veranda with wrought iron railings. It’s basic, but hopefully it’ll be comfortable.  Monto will be noticeably colder than it is at home, hence the quilt, just in case. Day 2 we’ll head 250kms south again, to catch up with fellow bike-club members at Goomeri, another little south-east Queensland town, but one with a fabulous bakery and café. They’re all coming up from Brisbane and other parts of south-east Queensland. It’s not what you’d call halfway, but it’s only us coming down from the north, so it makes sense not to make everyone else travel further, and they can get there in a few hours on Saturday morning. It’s what the club calls a Ride to Eat, where eating provides the excuse to climb on the bike for a ride! And after a cup of coffee and a pie or a cake, we’ll turn around and go back to Monto.

And then on Day 3, we’ll point ourselves north and head for home. You do stuff like that when you have a big, beautiful bike to ride, the weather is sunny but cool, there’s beautiful countryside to ride around and friends to catch up with. We’ll be tired at the end, but the Husband has one more day off before he has to go back to work, so we’ll take advantage of that to have a lie-in and then clear up.

Who knows how long we’ll both be physically up to these long distance trips? It makes sense to have maximum fun while we still can. 🙂  

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Miz Lizzie Adventures: missiles from the peanut gallery

Just a short one today.

I was putting some rubbish into one of the bins thoughtfully dotted all around the caravan park, when I was hit on the back of the head by some small object. At first, I though it was a child’s game, and that I’d got caught in the middle. And then it happened again, and before I started to get annoyed, I realised that no child would be able to hit me in the head twice with such accuracy.

I looked up, and there was a chorus of giggles of the avian variety. The palm tree under which the bins had been placed was in fruit, and a flock of mostly Spangled Drongos (Dicrurus bracteatus) was taking full advantage of the plenty. They were tugging the fruit off the stems, and not always successfully hanging onto their prize.

If you look at this close up of the main photo, you can see that one of the birds at the top has lost control of his berry, and it’s in mid-air, destined to land on the lid of the metal bin with a resounding ‘tonk’.

Many birds have their own designated collective nouns. Drongos don’t, and I feel they really deserve one. They’re beautiful, elegant, bold, acrobatic and have a varied and versatile song (just scroll down to the end of the link I’ve given above, and play some of the sound clips). They’re glossy black with a velvety cape and a spangled breast, and a brilliantly scarlet eye. Their tail curves outwards to a forked fishtail end, which fans out when they fly or display. They can be taught to swoop and dive for meat scraps (their diet is mixed, including fruit, seeds, insects and small reptiles) and will become amazingly tame. Can you tell I really love these distinctive and elegant birds?

I think it’s time they had their own ‘flock’ word. So I’m giving them their own collective noun: A Somersault of Drongos.

What do you think?

We’re on the road again

Miz Lizzie is packed, our schedule is planned and printed, and we’re off.

We’re heading north once again, into a fortnight of gastronomic indulgence, experimentation, and purchase. We’ll be staying at two caravan parks we haven’t tried before but which come highly recommended.

Part 1 of the trip is from Mackay to just north of Townsville, at Rollingstone, where the van park has absolute beach frontage. We’ll be there a couple of days. Part 2 is Rollingstone to Redlynch in the north of Cairns, right where the rainforest rolls down to touch the edge of the city. It’s not what we’d call a long trip. To put it in some context, it’s like driving from London to Inverness, or from the bottom of Florida to the top. It’s just far enough that we’re really on holiday, the scenery’s different and yet, it’s not an arduous journey when we have to turn for home. (And despite a recent news story from the US that left Australians giggling, yes, all that is definitely just one country, and by the way, only a bit smaller than yours… 🙂 )

I’ll be photographing, blogging, tasting, sampling, buying, eating, stitching, oohing and aahing. You’re welcome along for the ride. As always with our trips, there’ll be pictures and descriptions. We’re looking forward to it a lot as we’re both a bit tired and ready for a break. It’s been a while since we had a decent chunk of time off – May last year to be exact, when we went down to Nambucca Heads in northern NSW.

And because each road trip needs a sound track, here’s Miz Lizzie’s theme song:

Dizzy Miz Lizzie

(There’s a version with John Lennon and Eric Clapton performing this too, but I prefer the 1958 original)

The Debutante

We have a new member of the Garden Bird Social Scene.

Over the summer, the Bush Stone-Curlews retired to their country manor in the wilds of Chiconia. They’d tried raising a family in the hustle and bustle of bird society near the House, which revolved around the feeder, the water dish and the fruit, seeds and bugs so plentifully available in this vicinity. But it had all proved to be Too Much for Lady Evangeline Bush Stone-Curlew’s nerves, and she and Sir Horace decided to rusticate instead.

Left to right: Sir Horace, Lady Evangeline and the Honourable Henrietta Bush Stone-Curlew, setting out for an evening’s festivities

Imagine our surprise, then when the Bush Stone-Curlews emerged from their pastoral seclusion with a young companion. They are clearly intent on launching their elegant daughter, the Honourable Henrietta Bush Stone-Curlew, into polite bird society, and she made her début yesterday, at the evening assembly that follows the Watering. It is widely acknowledge that this time of day is the prime feeding and territorial displaying moment, so wise bird mamas proudly show off their shy, delicate and sleekly-plumed offspring for the approval of Society. We wish the Honourable Henrietta a successful season and a suitably advantageous match at the end of it.

With apologies to Miss Jane Austen…

Still, at last

We’re home. It’s both much too soon and at the same time not a moment too soon!

We’ve unpacked the car, put away the trailer, and restored 90% of what we took with us to its proper home. There are still a few random things sitting around the place, but I have no more energy today to do anything more than make some supper, and just possibly put a load in the washing machine.

This is the view from Clairview, where the tide was out. It’s a tiny beachside community about 120km/75 miles from where we live. It’s a mixture of tiny shabby beach shacks and elegant cyclone-proof modern beach houses. We stopped there on the last leg of our journey, at the beach, to eat some lunch, chill out, stretch our legs and take in the heat and light that said we were home, back in the tropics.

We’ve travelled about 3,500km/2,175 miles. We’ve stayed with friends old and new, in some lovely places and some real shockers. We’ve lain in our new tent wrapped in quilts and quaked as a howling gale and lashing wind buffeted our new tent. It held up just fine, and we’ll have more faith next time! We dived headfirst into the airbnb experience, and can thoroughly recommend it, so long as you do your homework. We used three. One was magnificent and we made good friends there. One was quirky, pleasant and friendly, but we probably wouldn’t go out of our way to stay there again. And one was just dreadful, and our experience there has become our new best travel horror story! We’ve eaten some memorable meals, seen some gorgeous scenery, had some wonderful days out on Miss Scarlett, and slept in 9 different beds in 14 days. It was all great fun, and a great change from routine.

But I’m glad to be sleeping in my own bed tonight…

Homeward bound

Our holiday is almost over, and we’re on the way home.

It has been a wet old trip, and no mistake. We thought we’d struck it lucky this morning, but by mid afternoon, the skies turned black and we got our overnight kit out of the car and into our accommodation just before the heavens opened.

Map © Bureau of Meteorology. Brisbane radar loop.

This storm cell was moving at a tremendous rate, and as you can see, was fairly violent. We’re staying exactly where that dark red spot is, halfway up on the left. We were lashed not only with heavy rain which burst out of the gutters, but pea-hail, coming down with a density and violence that made us tremble for the car and the bike. Fortunately they’re both fine – the hailstones were fairly soft and melted quickly.

There was a second pulse of hail an hour later, and then we were treated to the sight of blue sky and sunshine emerging.

 

Take a look at the photo below. Don’t you love what the camera’s done with the bright glow of the late afternoon sun. Zoom in and look at those radiating lines!

Two more days of travelling, and then we’ll be home and I can tackle a mountain of laundry, a frenzy of fridge and pantry restocking, an orgy of mail opening and an unholy early start on Monday morning, when the Husband goes back to work.

I think I might need a holiday to recover from my holiday…

Fun on two wheels…

It’s not over yet, but I wanted to share a few photos from our trip.

The main purpose of the trip was to go down to northern New South Wales to the annual rally of our motorbike touring club, OzSTOC (Australian ST Owner’s Club).  Along the way, we’ve stayed in airbnbs good and bad, eaten great food, caught up with friends and family, endured lashing rain and howling winds in a tent and days glittering with warm, bright sunshine on the road. When I get home I’ll probably post in more detail, but for now, I’d like to leave you with a whole group of happy, smiling motorbike riders, Aussie style, and some fabulous scenery.

This is the club rally photo, and everyone who made the trip is here, although there are also many members who couldn’t make the long journey, spare the annual leave or afford the cost of the fuel and accommodation if they were coming from thousands of kilometres away. A quarter of those shown here are women, so it’s not like many other motorbike clubs with almost exclusively male members

Today, Monday, the Husband and I and the friends we are currently staying with rode our bikes an hour and a half down the coast to South West Rocks, which has been a popular NSW holiday destination for generations. We visited the Smoky Cape Lighthouse, which overlooks the migration routes of Humpback and Southern Right Whales, and from the top of the cliff saw them spouting and breaching. Sadly, despite numerous attempts I didn’t manage to capture a single example, but I promise you, they were there! The scenery is breath-taking, the view is magnificent and the colours are extraordinary. We followed it up with a ride into town for a lavish lunch overlooking the beach and the extraordinary turquoise of the ocean under a bright blue spring sky.

Smoky Cape Lighthouse

The lighthouse keeper’s cottage, available as a holiday let. What a view!

Looking southwards down the coast. Yes, the sea really is that colour…

The beach at South West Rocks. Nice view for our lunch, eh?

Tonight, we’re getting freshly caught snapper for dinner, sitting outside on the verandah in the scent of jasmine with the cicadas and tree frogs providing the entertainment.

It’s a hard life, but someone has to do it.