Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Dangers of Misguided Enthusiasm

ODO >80000

Well, finally I am pushing out into the unknown world - the world North of Maroochydore. Which was, of course, my previous most Northerly experience.

I got out of Brisbane relatively unscathed, although it seemed like my time evaporated from in front of my eyes.

And when I say 'relatively', come to think of it I don't mean entirely.

On the Thursday, my final day in Brisbane, I decided - as many good bikers do - that the best way to enjoy a city is to ride outside it. So I got up bright and early (surprised that the sun had beat me to it by some margin), and headed West. Around Mt Coot-tha, and along the back roads towards Ipswich, I figured I may as well drop in on good old [Mick at Goodna]. We had a good yarn about - tyres, as one might expect - and I came away yet more impressed with Mick's expansive knowledge (and enthusiasm for waffling on with it), and happy that I've put faces and smiles to Mick and Rowena's names. Next time you're up for some rubber do yourself a favour - do what I do - and call Mick.

Anyway, not much further on from there, trying to find the track that gets to the edge of some reservoir I found myself looking at a service track and thinking "... perhaps, not a good idea - but the worst that could happen is that I can't get up it, and I just have to turn around and come back". Fair enough, isn't it? I should know well enough by now that that's a load of shit. Getting up is the easy part. Getting down is the hard part. As for turning around? You don't want to go there.

So the worst that could happen is that you get halfway up before discovering that it's too difficult - and you can't get up any further. And when your rear starts spinning and you put on the front brake, that only means you're sliding backwards with two useless wheels - until of course you stall it trying to use the rear without straight spinning it. And then you drop it.


And then you pick it back up again, and think "bugger, getting down is going to be hard." And then you realise that that is the least of your problems, because it's impossible to turn around.


So you stick it somewhere relatively stable and think it over, and conclude, perhaps absurdly: the only way down is to go backwards, using the throttle (without stalling it, or spinning it up too much). Absurd, but true!


I had the unexpected problem initially, that it wasn't possible to even get the bike to go backwards. To get the rear down the hill I'd hold the front brake and spin it up - the rear would slide down hill, but the front, in a slippery rut of its own, would follow suit as if in sympathy. Three or four metres were in fact traversed sideways, an experience definitely new to me. In the end I managed to find enough grip to get the bike rearranged to actually back down. While the throttle work was a bit strange at first, once used to it it didn't actually prove that dangerous heading backwards - not that the irregular, unplanned spinning and sliding didn't bring out any sweat that the sun and the excertion didn't.

I pulled into one of those 'side alley' runoff things you find bulldozed off steep dirt tracks, and used that to get the bike pointed in the right direction - after a good few minutes for each of us to cool down. From there, the gradient was much milder, and the final section was easier - though no less relieving for it.

Pulling up at the road to double check everything revealed the only damage to be a curved shifting rod (hand straightenable), and that in fact none of the fairings, nor the mirror, appear to have hit the deck at all So Good Times, eh?

A lot has happened since Brisbane though, and especially recently it's been really good - I'll put up a few words about that soon. (And there are heaps of photos too.)


Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Temptation of the Lights

from 17/8/2009

ODO 80243

All the bright lights, those city sounds - all tempting me to blow my budget, on coffee, frivolity and beverages.

Another early rise - does 6:30 sound ridiculous to you too? - but a relatively relaxed departure, due largely to unforseen cloud cover shadowing my dewy tent. I took some Northern Rivers back roads through Alstonville - pleasant going, a bit of fun stuff, but largely tame and too much traffic. I ended up on the coastal road. I had figured that after yesterday's dustfest I was due for a shower. I was tossing up between finding somewhere along the road to have a quickie and staying somewhere civilised. Having stopped by the beach for a late lunch, I decided to do the unthinkable: a mid-August dip in the Pacific. Much to my surprise, the water was nearly as balmy as the weather, which was getting quite temparate by that stage.

Having traded red dust for sand and salt I ventured further North, passing briefly through Byron (a town I wouldn't mind spending more time in; Midday Monday in mid-August and the place was more alive than I would expect anywhere outside a proper city. And a good atmosphere - young and pedestrian. Reminded me of Glebe - but happier.) With some menacing hot-weather cloud developing I took a new route over the mountains at the border. If anything, this route towards Currumbin is even better than the more famed road to Nerang, though ultimately very similar in character.

Although most of the cloud seemed behind me, I decided that the threat was real enough to justify heading to Brisbane where I could ride out (by, literally, not riding out) any wet weather.

After finding the only traffic jam in town - I spent twenty minutes coasting with the engine off - then haplessly looping the city trying to find bike parking, I was more than pleased to be able to jump off and declothe. I had removed my thermal that afternoon, but the waterproof liner was stifling in unexpected heat and humidity. I know Queensland is renowned for it, but for this time of year it is ridiculous! Having sourced a few leads for hostels on the West Side (Brisbane seems not to follow the West>bogan trend), that rain hit just as I got back to the bike. Fortunately, while the showers kept returning they were mild and little concern.

The evening passed hastily, but with little filling - showered, ate and shopped (three days of food plus sunscreen for $16 - take that capitalism, and the temptations you send to woo me!), all generally mild-mannered and urbane.

It has now just passed midnight,
and is hence an appropriate time to say



First words from the Frontier

from 16/8/2009

ODO 79 893

I'm lying in my tent, at some outrageously young hour, absolutely buggered and contented. I can't yet claim to have heart-rending stories to relate, but it still feels like the end of a very big week.

My first impression has been that being on the road is hard. Gruelling even - simply being without a support net, needing to scrape by in a manner entirely novel. And I'm only three nights in! Already, though, rather than getting tired of the simplicity of this life, I am getting used to it. I think over the next week or two things will get much easier, as I get used to it all.

You're probably wanting some specifics.

Thursday afternoon - quite late - I left Sydney to stay at my Nan's place on the Central Coast. It was really good to catch up with her again - with my move it might be the last time for a fair while. The trip up was relatively uneventful, largely because it was getting too dark to try anything adventurous. The SV, though, seemed to handle quite well all geared up.

Friday I set out on the first real leg of the journey. I had meant to take the freeway up the coast, but when the road I was on headed towards Maitland instead I offered no objection. And as many a traveller would know, if you're heading North from Maitland, Dungog should be your next destination. From there onto Buckett's; I was eventually tempted by a detour with 'tops' written on it twice. I didn't end up doing much climbing, but I found enough dirt to rechristen the bike (and cake my chain).

Passing through Wingham (opting the more direct route towards Port Mac) I figured I may as well take the back road to Wauchope. And once on it, I felt inclined to take a side-track or two - and by 'side' I mean 'goat'. I can happily report that all my luggage holds firm through all terrain, and that the SV is once again as dirty as it has been for the last three years.

For others http://tiny.cc/dpHTO

Continuing the 'holiday' theme, I opted to head straight to Port instead of up the Golden Road itself. I needed to source both internet and a place to pitch - as well, preferably, as actually pitching the tent while light remained. I ended up in a caravan park, so all quite civilised (I showered and all!), and have newly elected Maccas my favourite haunt for free wifi when the MotoGP is on.

Yesterday - Saturday - I actually did the unthinkeable, and opted to leave the Oxley Highway to keep its own company. I had intended instead to push on and make it to Byron for Saturday night. Since I'm on holiday... the backroads loop from Kempsey got the nod, and I was rewarded with some good riding and stunning countryside. I then took a detour through Bellingen, and had lunch in the park with the local high school band performing for the jazz festival that weekend - unfortunately about the only gig that was free, and at any rate I needed to get going. Up Waterfall way (with a surprisingly clear run considering all the traffic in town), onto Tyringham and North to Grafton - this would have to be one of my favourite sections of Australia to ride through. Very engaging, beautiful, challenging (and tiring).

Mainly photos from out the back of Kempsey http://tiny.cc/zKsCq

As I got to Grafton it was getting on, and the first line of questioning turned up good results - is there a Maccas? With wireless? Open late? The second saw me heading back south, to find a clearing in the state forrest to set up camp - it is perfectly legal, at appears, to camp anywhere anytime in state forests. National Parks are typically paid, and in designated areas (often well equipped on the flipside). And as many of you will have discovered, caravan parks are the only remaining legal option, and the price one pays for a small square of grass makes it usually a last resort.

A backroad into the nearest SF saw me at the gates of the Grafton Motorcycle Club dirt track, and lo and behold there was a gathering. It seemed a tad strange at first, so I naturally enquired. It turned out that they were preparing the track for the next day's racing. One thing led to another, and next thing I knew my tent was up in the paddock and my name was on the officials' list.

It pays, it seems to ask questions.

Today was spent doing little beyond watching bikes (from the best vantage point on the track - crash corner), fostering my August tan, generally helping out and being fed for my troubles. This is an order of magnitude more than simple 'win-win'. Flagging, it turns out, is more tiring than you would expect, and by sundown I had little enthusiasm for venturing out to find a screening of the GP. Or, for that matter, doing anything to upset the leftovers I had the pleasure of scoffing.

A day with SGMCC

Which leads me back to the beginning- typing in my tent. In a second I will get up to brush my teeth - maybe boil the billy for good measure - and knap out for a good night's kip, ready to continue my adventure to wherever tomorrow takes me.


Friday, August 7, 2009

Work update: 'Expression of Interest'

I have news!

Firstly, I will be leaving Sydney next Thursday - it has gotten to the point where I may as well hang around in Sydney till my sister gets back from overseas.

I have also been offered a job with the Victorian Auditor General's Office (VAGO), as a Performance Audit officer/analyst. Their GRAD Scheme starts in February next year, in Melbourne of course. I haven't said yes, but I will, so as long as my second reference doesn't stab me in the back I will have a job to start in the new year. Huzzah for that!

So this trip, really is a departure - my return home won't be to the home I am departing. And it really is a holiday! Not just an extension of an uncertain future.

Curl Curl - there are upsides to the home I am departing, like the location I am writing this entry from...

The blog, I might add, I am thinking will change a little bit (but who knows exactly what the future will hold). I will present here many more stories of the motorcycling aspect of the journey - an aspect which previously had been largely removed from other activities, but on the road with just the bike will be integral, rather than additional. So, you'll be missing out on much less by not following the motoblog, and have a much more exciting and complete picture here.

I love being the bearer of good news!

Over and out.


Sunday, August 2, 2009

Another buoy on the waves of time

Hello there fellow travellers on the changing seas of the wide wild world,

I am here to report that nothing has changed - or in other words, that everything is changing (as usual). And as yet, no epiphany.

A few small insights, though. I had considered quite seriously looking at using my free time in the last half of the year to take up distance education. I thought long and hard about this proposterous possibility before realising that my desire to ruin my holiday with 'productivity' was just Sydney seeping back into my pores - or perhaps my relationship with her, rather than the town itself. Thinking about it, the misguided productivity urge is doing a lot of bad even now... but that's a long story in time and motivation management that I won't bore you with.

The employment situation is coming along a bit. Final round interviews with Willis weren't enough to get me past the hurdle of my relative inexperience. It was a touch sad that an initial-screening aspect to my candidature lost out over otherwise exemplary feedback on my application.

But that's okay. I've just had four final-round interviews with employers all more appealing. Quantium in Sydney want immediate start analysts (insurance and marketing). I was a little intimidated by the backgrounds and experience of the actuaries (statistical and financial mathematics postgrad students too) in my group interview on Friday - and surprised by the strength of the people and talking skills they all showed. But that's okay - I was there for a reason, and I am not one to judge my relative value. It would be a very positive endorsement for me to be offered a position.

A few Victorian Government departments also wanted to speak to me earlier in the week. There was room for improvement in all the interviews (I think I addressed a point or two on Friday), but nevertheless they went well, and every position sounds like a good opportunity so far.

Looking forward, I expect that securing one of the latter three would mean travelling this year, VPS GRAD Scheme next year, then (probably) postgrad study in a technical discipline (e.g. applied or financial stats) and on-the-job training in stats work (SPSS or SAS) for a couple more years. That would mean a strong background to provide a broad range of options and a good timeframe after which be able to make a change and pursue one of those.

There are still many questions to answer, but proceedings are positive.

It was good to need to pop down to Melbourne for a few days for the interviews. Be reaquainted with the old town and a friend or two. It is perhaps a little odd that I never get homesick - but that I do feel a touch of away-from-homesick for Melbourne. There may be extenuating factors... but it still seems strange.

In other timespans of future orientation, I'm on the cusp of departing Sydney for the final leg of my Australian travels. I should have told you at least the basics - which is all there is yet to know. Depart here soon, with the bike, and whatever seems necessary. Head North for QLD and the NT - pickup some work if it presents, like fruitpicking. Travel the top end (detour to Alice), continue to Perth. Visit relatives in WA, and return via the long stretch to Adelaide. If permitted, Tasmania over summer.

2009-motorcyclist.blogspot.com has a few details about the paintwork I've been doing - both bikes are now an affective shade of green (http://tiny.cc/GreJes http://tiny.cc/GreJill). As earlier, the motoblog will host some of the more motorcycle-oriented aspects of the trip (though I am considering condensing).

Right now I'm planning a going-away for Tuesday. You should come along.

Til then.