Thursday, November 12, 2009

Long Journey Down a Short Road

ODO 100 000! Woo hoo!

Last writing was in Carnarvon, and in the scheme of things I'm just down the road. To get here, though, required an arduous journey, some serious problem solving and a return to 'civilisation' as I know it.

I'm in Geraldton at the moment, and it feels like I've popped back into civilisatiom from an extended soujourn in the wilderness. It's not the town itself as much as the area. My road atlas has stopped showing bowser symbols to indicate where fuel is available. Roads go up, over and around hills (yes, hills!), not just through them or past them. I haven't found any twisty roads yet, but I can tell they're here somewhere. I got to Northampton 50km to the north and realised I hadn't been in anything which felt like a 'country town' since leaving the East Coast. The place was hauntingly familiar. And the roads network all over the place - not just along straight lines built to get roadtrains between mines or cattle stations. So I can go touring again

Getting here involved leaving Carnarvon - easy enough, except my battery was dead. I knew why - I'd left the lap top on to charge too long. It was a hard thing to push start, and when I got there, I discovered a much bigger problem. The faint fuel aroma I'd been sensing wasn't my imagination, or fuel soacked into the paint of the tank. That aroma, moreover, had developed into a fountain of flammable liquid pouring out of gashes in my fuel hoses.

As it turns out then, Plan A (camp out back of town) fell through, in favour of Plan B (hostel). Carnarvon Backpackers - you can see what you mean when the visinfo centre says they "can't recommend it." But I have to say I liked the place. Not instantly, but it grew on me. It was small, and it really was like a family there - albeit a disgrunted and disfunctional one. More expensive than illegal camping, but it had its charms.

It also meant late Friday night a work opportunity popped up - for first thing Saturday. It meant I couldn't track down fuel hose, but bugger it - I might not get the chance to do any picking anywhere else, and it would pay for the extra time needed in town.

Just so you know, picking pumpkins with a bad back is a bad idea. Doing so without gloves is masochistic. The day wasn't actually that hard, thanks to an unexpectedly cool day (20-25! perfect!). My hands and body are still recovering, though.

The next day disappeared like a flash, due partly to residual tiredness and apathy and partly to a bit of noise polution (three snorers out of four roomates - what a ratio!). Which is probably all the better - Dani Pedrosa winning the Valencia GP didn't do my wallet any favours. A day, therefore, I'm glad to forget.

It somehow took most of Monday to pack up, prepare and fit some newly sourced fuel hoses (with a bit of re-routing ingenuity!), only to discover the 'real' problem wasn't the worst of it! The battery was dead, drop dead. Push starting failed dismally (the guy who offered to help had a burning desire to push it to the right... I was happy he offered to jump start it instead before we dropped it), and I thought the jump had done the trick. The battery might have been dead flat, but once running I was away. One little click, though... - the front brake lever turns on the brake lights, and the brake lights alone were too much for the battery.

By a long process (having discovered my multimeter was dead), I concluded the battery was cactus. The local bike shop couldn't replace it - not for two days, and at an absurd cost (dangerous goods express delivery... and of course, country pricing), but he suggested I rock up and he'd see what he could do. I think he was very optimistic in thinking the second hand battery could get me out of trouble (I didn't even know a 12V battery could be stable with such little juice!), but with my original on charge overnight there was hope yet. It charged fine, and in the end started the bike without much of an issue - that of course was the easy part. I still had at least 1 fuel stop until Geraldton. I did sit down to do what I really should have checked already (not that I had much chance), only to confirm that No, it was NOT charging properly!

So off I went, cactus battery, not charging properly - but dammit I was over Carnarvon. It was Gero or Bust.

Three kilometres down the road yet another problem raised its ugly head. The thing just wouldn't run right around cruising revs. Pulled over to check the obvious (a dodgy job meant brand new leaking fuel hoses), but no, we were dry. Just coughing and spluttering. 100m down the road though... problem solved! Perhaps.

At least, I thought to myself, the road between Carnarvon and Geraldton is straight - if there's a serious throttle problem I won't notice it (unless the bike stops running). And I sure as hell wasn't busted yet (please at least get out of Carnarvon!). So, off I went, again.

I didn't notice much, thankfully, for the 200 odd kms to the roadhouse. Neither trees, nor animals, nor flowers, nor bike issues. No news, was good news - and I was well on the way.

I did notice though, that the bike's engine breaking was reduced... and idle speed was 500rpm higher? But she was charging - like a one legged bull - and would have enough to keep going.

So what did I do? Took a detour to Denham!

Too much straight stuff here, and after all I was here to look around.

Through a stroke of genius, from Denham I managed to get a second hand regulator posted from Perth, to Geraldton. Now I really had no excuse not to take my time - it would be in tomorrow.

The next day I was still going (and still starting - just!), when I talked myself into the turnoff to Kalbarri - it was only one more stop, after all! And well worth the detour - some absolutely fantastic flowers, though past their peak, beautiful scenery, and a fabulous little seaside tourist town down by the ocean - and you know what, they actually have surf here! Big turqoise waves rolling in off the Indian Ocean and crashing onto the shore! I really can't remember when I last saw those - I think it might even be NSW.

A bit of a coastal meander (a pleasantly chilly sea breeze too!), and all of a sudden I was in Northampton, wondering how I'd gotten back to NSW without seeing the SA border. I didn't dare stop, and rolled into Geraldton not too long after that. Mail was in - and soon enough so was my new regulator, with a bit of creatively dodgy rewiring.

And you knwo what? The bike wouldn't start : )

Hell of a lot of pushing later and we had a purring engine once more - and, it seemed, one that was charging the battery as well!

May the rest be history.


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