Miz Lizzie rides again… Mackay to Townsville

…and we’re on the road north.

After the stresses and strains of organising the motorbike club annual national rally, we’ve treated ourselves to a week off and a road trip north. For the next seven days, this is going to be home:

Many of you will recognise those quilts and curtains. I still have a job to do there, covering the seat cushions and backs instead of that horrid pink and blue splodgy print. It’s absolutely the worst kind of 1980s commercial upholstery fabric. Miz Lizzie herself is feeling quite rejuvenated these days. She’s a lady of mature years, but we’ve given her a new lease of life with a reinforced under-frame, new heavier springs and new, larger wheels. She sits a lot higher these days, and can handle much rougher terrain; after the first day’s travel we opened the door to find not a thing had shifted. Formerly we could expect to find at least a couple of things had fallen off shelves or out of cupboards or off the bunks. She’s also a lot easier to level when we park up, which save loads of time.

We’re in Rollingstone, just north of Townsville, for two nights. It has enabled me to take the overlocker (serger) in to the mechanic here to get the motor bearings fixed; I’ll pick it up on the way back down. We’ve had a lovely lunch out, revisited the view from Castle Hill in Townsville, and got some errands done. We’ve also enjoyed the local produce: freshly caught tiger prawns for a stir-fry and a just-picked pineapple for dessert. Tomorrow, we’re packing up again and heading another 400km further north, to the Atherton Tablelands of Far North Queensland. More photos from there. Meanwhile, I’ll leave you with the afternoon view from the caravan window….

…and sunrise this morning, peeking over the edge of the mirror-smooth Coral Sea on an ebbing tide. High above, the day’s first flight from Cairns to Brisbane is just catching the light. Another day in paradise begins.

It’s hell, but someone has to do it.


Miss Scarlett stretches her legs

We’re safely home, in one piece and tidied away already.

I was looking back and trying to work out when we’d last done a big trip like this, and was horrified to discover that the last long ride we did was back in October 2016, when we went up to Far North Queensland. Since that time there’s been knee surgery and the purchase of our caravan, both of which have tended to reduce the long distance motorbike travel. We did go to last year’s national rally, a much longer journey, but towed Miss Scarlett on a trailer behind the car rather than riding down.

Neither of us is getting any younger, a fact underlined by our ambitious travel program. The 500+km trip down took longer than we’d hoped, and we started late (the Husband was on night shift and got home at 5.30am, so we didn’t start out till 10.30am). The last hour of the journey was done in the chilly dark, with both of us vigilantly scanning the roadside left and right for the guided missiles also known as kangaroos. It’s a bike rider’s worst nightmare, a large kangaroo appearing out of the darkness and deciding that this precise moment is the one when he wants to cross the road. We were spared, but cold, tired and a bit tense by the time we arrived!

Our accommodation was the nice old 1920s colonial-style Albert Hotel in Monto, with the pub downstairs and the rooms upstairs, off a deep, shady verandah. State of the art it was not, but it did have heaps of comfort, period features, a large bedroom next to the bathroom, and really good plain home cooking. Up briskly the next morning, and another 250km ride to catch up with our club friends.

I think the smiling faces say it all, really…

Out the front of the Goomeri Bakery (which richly deserves its outstanding reputation!), the bikes were all lined up, and once the cakes and pies were eaten, and the coffees were drunk, we gathered in the sunshine to admire, tell tales, commiserate and do a spot of gentle bike-bragging. It’s such fun to gather with a nice bunch of people with similar interests and absolutely no axe to grind. As you can see, the weather smiled on us – in fact, it smiled the whole trip.

We didn’t make the mistake of starting late on the journey home. We’d come back to the Albert for a second night, and this time, we set out 3 hours earlier. Despite taking a slightly longer (and possibly less roo-prone) route, we were home before dusk. The trick, I find, is to stop frequently for a short time. It wasn’t the back or the knees that were giving me trouble, but lack of blood flow to my backside!

Kms covered: 1700+. Satisfaction rating: 8/10 (we’ll get the timing right next time!)

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. 🙂  

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)

Harbour (high)Lights

Well, you can’t go to Sydney and cruise round the harbour without a few pictures, can you…?

Opera House from Circular QuayToday was my niece’s 30th birthday, and to celebrate, we booked ourselves onto a cruise around Sydney Harbour. Not one of the ones where you troop on and off to briefly inspect places that need a lot more time than you have, but one where you stay on the boat, sip a nice glass of something, and simply appreciate the view of one of the world’s most beautiful natural harbours and its highlights. My niece, her sister and their friend, the Husband and I established a spot at the front of the top deck, set up camp and hauled out cameras, ready for the Harbour to bring on the photo opportunities. It didn’t disappoint…

The weather was outstanding, so long as you had a hat, sunglasses and plenty of sunscreen. I also took my UV-block umbrella for a sunshade, as I like my face the way it is and prefer not to have skin cancers dug out of it! The Husband likes my hat, mainly because it means he can spot me from quite a distance (it’s bright pink). I like it because it’s shady and means I don’t have to squint in Australia’s brilliant and searing sunshine. I have been told it makes me look like a bright pink mushroom. So be it. I will always wear hats…

We start for home tomorrow. Back in Coffs Harbour tomorrow evening, a motorbike day on Saturday, joining friends in our bike club for a get-together, a family day with my sister and BIL on Sunday. Monday we’ll drop in to see a friend (hi Nanette!) on the way to our next stop in Brisbane, where we’ll see more motorbike friends, collect some new tyres for the bike, and have dinner with the Husband’s brother. After that, we’ll see how much energy we have left. Do we make the long dash all the way to Rockhampton, or do we break the trip earlier? Either way, it’s another two days on the road. A full program, and we need to pace ourselves a bit. We’ll be home on the 17th.

I’ll leave you with a few photos….

Sydney Harbour Collage

Oh, marvellous…

That is an example of gratuitous sarcasm.

Screen Shot 2016-02-05 at 3.25.44 pmWe have been waiting for good rain for months. Now that we have a road trip planned, a 4,000km round trip…. now, we are getting rain. Lots and lots of it. Just what we needed to make things really interesting…

Substantial sections of our route south are already subject to flood warnings. Water storage dams along the way have already had to do controlled releases into the surrounding waterways for fear of damage, leading to further flooding.

Screen Shot 2016-02-05 at 2.52.43 pm Screen Shot 2016-02-05 at 2.52.26 pmThis is the view from the front and side of the house. That looks like an uneventful trip, doesn’t it? (That was more gratuitous sarcasm, by the way).

Oh, and in case you were thinking it looked a bit chilly and miserable, think again. It’s hot and miserable. 32°C/90°F, and the humidity is due to reach 88% in the next hour as that wet front crosses the coast. Think hot bathroom filled with steam and you have an inkling of what it feels like to step outside.

We’re not taking any stupid chances. Roads are closed and cars have been swept away already. If it gets too bad, we’ll have defer, even if it means rearranging everything on the trip. Boo. 😦

Welcome to the tropics, baby.

Travel rations

We’re off on our travels again on Saturday.

It’s one of our long trips south to visit friends and family in mid north coast New South Wales, a distance of about 1320kms (820 miles) one way. But this time, we’re doing it on the bike. We’re taking in a bike rally in Toowoomba on the way home; there’ll be hundreds of ST1300 and 1100 owners and their bikes, talking, bragging, riding, eating, drinking and generally catching up over 3 days. It’s going to be a loooooong trip; it’s already a long way, but Toowoomba adds several hundred extra kms. But you know, I’m really looking forward to it! Firstly, because I’m going to be spending time with people I love, secondly because the whole motorbike thing is heaps of fun (think hundreds of middle-aged people reliving their youth), and thirdly because we’re going south, into cooler weather.  We’ve also had the bike seat reupholstered with more padding, so hopefully the numb-bum syndrome we experienced on the last long trip will be kept at bay.

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Packing space for two people for 10 days, plus spares and tools…

Packing is always tricky when you’re away for a while and you’re travelling by bike. There are 4 containers: 2 panniers, a top box and a tank pack, which sits in front of the driver on top of the fuel tank. We’re away for 10 days. We need clothes, washkit, wet weather gear, laptops, camera, toolkit, spares – and in my case, travel rations.

Most of the time, I can accommodate my gluten (and now lactose) free diet with a little creative thinking, but there are always going to be those remote country pubs or small towns where a request for gluten free food produces the ‘duh?’ response, and I need to be able to carry something for those times. It’s got to be something that doesn’t need to be kept cold, won’t melt, get stale quickly or fall apart if you look at it. It’s got to be small, nutritionally dense, portionable, and last but by no means least, tasty. Quite an ask. Good job I’ve got something that fits the bill.

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Pepitas, almond meal, coconut, peanut butter, honey, dates, prunes, pecans and flaked almonds… Looks dull, tastes anything but!

You’ve seen this before, only last time it had chocolate on it. That’s a no-no for this purpose (think melted chocolate all over your clean clothes, or worse still, the camera…), but the basic bar is still completely yummy, and I’ve added a few extras to the mix, including prunes, pecans and flaked almonds. Wrapped tightly in foil, the portions will take very little space, last well and fill the gap when there’s nothing else around that I can eat. Which sadly happens with monotonous regularity…

Right, I’m off to work out how few pairs of socks I can get away with and where I can squeeze in my hexie sewing kit…