After 20 years as a Ulysses Club member, I was finally able to actually make it to an AGM event. An added bonus was the prospect of an extended ride through the Great Divide to get there. Sam Bateman and I met in Lilydale on Wednesday 10 April and set off on two very different Hondas in cool conditions up the Melba Highway.
We had a combination of mist and smoke (from fuel reduction fires) to Mansfield for our first break. We then continued over the lovely Tolmie Road and stopped at Powers Lookout for the view over the King Valley
before descending through Whitfield and on to Oxley for lunch. After some increasingly urgent searching (after bypassing major towns) we found fuel at the old historic town of Chiltern where Sam gratefully fuelled up before running out. We then went through Howlong and continued north to Walbundrie & Lockhart at a brisk pace on the straighter roads before turning east and joining the Olympic Way at Wagga Wagga, where my ST finally demanded some fuel after about 500 km. We then continued into Junee and found rustic accommodation at the old hotel by the roundabout. Sam parked at the rear of the hotel and I noticed the concrete around his bike was rather soiled with bird droppings. As I had the sheepskin on the bike, I moved my bike under the roof of a nearby shed mainly to keep the seat dry. We then walked around town and examined the many old buildings including former hotels and the very impressive old railway station. We then enjoyed a leisurely meal at the pub and a relaxing drink on the balcony overlooking the very busy railway sidings before retiring fairly early. In the morning Sam discovered that he had parked unwisely and it took quite a bit of effort to clean off all the pigeon excrement which had cemented itself to his VFR. We then breakfasted at a café in an old building across from the station.
Sam had arranged to meet his brother (Alan) north of Sydney relatively early so we decided to cut across to the Hume Highway and then stopped at the lovely old Paragon Café in Goulburn for an early lunch and then continued up the freeway to Liverpool, where we parted for the night and I went off to spend the night visiting a friend.
Next morning (Friday) I met up with Sam plus Alan and Danny (who are both members of the North Shore Ulysses Branch riding two very different BMWs) at Berowra. Alan then led us north along the Old Pacific Highway across the Hawkesbury River and followed the old road through some quite twisty sections which were unfortunately damp from earlier rain. With the combination of poor visibility (mist) and silly speed limits, I took it rather easy, but the road was still worth doing. We then continued north via Central Mangrove and Wollombi to Broke where we had morning tea.
There was some great riding and scenery along here.
We continued west along the Golden Highway past Merriwa to Coonabarabran, where we stopped the night. The highlight here was visiting the privately run Warrumbungle Observatory, which has a new 20” telescope for some “stargazing”. The owner was very informative and we saw some fantastic things including Jupiter with its 4 moons clearly visible. As a coup de grace Saturn with its rings was clearly visible, I was kind of gobsmacked to actually see that. Sam managed to attach his camera to the telescope and took a fantastic photo of the Orion Nebula which is much more colourful than apparent to the human eye.
The observatory is a short distance out of town on the road out to Siding Springs and at $20 is well worth visiting if you’re out that way of an evening.
The following morning we headed out past Siding Springs and saw all the damage from the recent bushfires
and then continued north along the Newell for a while before heading west to St George on the Balonne River for our overnight stop.
On the Sunday we continued further north into Queensland and via Meandarra made our way to Chinchilla, where we joined Alan and Sam’s sister for lunch before dining at an Indian restaurant for our final evening. Accommodation at St George and Chinchilla were quite expensive due to mining exploration / development going on in the area.
On the Monday morning we continued northeast through Murgon and then followed the Bruce Highway into Maryborough. Alan had his GPS set for Maryborough and missed the signs to the AGM registry area and headed into towards town and we had a few issues rounding him up twice before getting to the showgrounds and joining the multitude of bikes at the registration area. We all registered and then went off our separate ways.
Above is definitely one of the more colourful bikes in the registration area
I found my way to tent city, set myself up, introduced myself to some immediate neighbours and tripped over Perry and Derek who were also staying in tent city as were Bob Munro and Maria.
I then located the Melbourne branch campsite and more greetings were exchanged before we all adjourned to the huge piazza where alcohol was being served by the Rotary Club at very reasonable prices.
On Tuesday, I went to the onsite restaurant and ran into Henry (who was the founding president of Melbourne Branch 1984) and we enjoyed a chat and a hearty and great value breakfast. A group of us then rode across to Tin Can Bay and Rainbow Beach, then continued on to Inskip Point, where the vehicle ferries cross to nearby Fraser Island.
At the end of another great day we again adjourned to the Piazza and joined the crowd for drinks and food.
The days disappeared in a blur (no not alcohol induced!) with Wednesday involving meeting up with Kris, who had flown up, and enjoying Maryborough itself where the locals really made us feel most welcome. Thursday and Friday rapidly disappeared in a blur of socialising and attending several meetings before a great night at the Friday night formal dinner.
On Saturday Kris and I participated in the Grand Parade and thoroughly enjoyed it. To be frank, I wasn’t initially that keen in riding in such a large group at such a slow pace but the atmosphere really made it a great thing to participate in.
I then attended the formal AGM while Kris and others enjoyed the hospitality of the locals who went out of their way to express appreciation of the visit by Ulysses members.
We rounded off with going to the formal dinner on Saturday night as well and thoroughly enjoyed the camaraderie. I was sceptical about the nature of the food that would be served to such a large group in such a short space of time. Happily , I was wrong, in short the food was very good, the organisation was fantastic and again drinks were served at very reasonable prices. The fact that we were staying on site made it that much more relaxing.
Kris and I thoroughly enjoyed the whole AGM event including the camaraderie with so many people, the hospitality of the locals, banter with traders such as coffee merchants and we were both very impressed with the food and service at the on site restaurant which was located very conveniently to tent city. I got much more out of it than I expected and frankly I had too little time to even visit the numerous traders’ stands but they weren’t why I attended. Others apparently loved them.
On the Sunday, we left very early and did a 12 hour ride (two up) past hundreds of kilometres of road works to Airlie Beach. We then parked the bike for a week and went sailing around the Whitsundays on a yacht we had chartered. I won’t go into detail but it was a great diversion and one highlight was seeing a dugong surface beside the boat when we were anchored one night just north of Whitehaven Beach.
We left again the following Saturday, a bit after midday in drizzle and after a rough ferry crossing back from Hamilton Island with plans to make to Rockhampton. Dusk set in early and after braking heavily to avoid two kangaroos we called it a day and stayed the night at a very rustic but friendly hotel in Marlborough. We enjoyed a pizza there and a chat with the locals before Kris made acquaintance with a couple of assorted amphibians in the shower.
On Sunday we went through Rockhampton and on to Mt Morgan for morning tea, but the diversion was of no help in avoiding road works. We continued south along the Burnett Hwy before turning back towards the coast past Kilcoy and we then visited some friends for a few days.
After several days rest, we headed out to Warwick and then down to Glen Innes for lunch before turning off at Uralla to follow Thunderbolts Way to our overnight stop at Nowendoc where we again visited friends.
We then continued south along Thunderbolts Way to Gloucester.
Photo by Raymond Herd from Carsons Lookout on Thunderbolt Way.
The scenery along here was great but the road surface really was substandard and quite challenging. We turned west off Buckets Way at Stroud Road through some lovely rolling hill country resplendent in autumn colours via Dungog and East Gresford
to Singleton before heading down the famed Putty Road to Windsor. Fatigue hit me along here and I had to take more rest stops than usual to complete that leg safely before arriving in Sydney for another break with friends.
After several days rest, we continued south via Jugiong
with overnight stops at Corowa and Wodonga before Euroa
and finally Yarck
before arriving home in Melbourne on Saturday, 11 May.
I rode a total of about 7500 km on the bike in a bit over 4 weeks. It was one of the longer trips we had done on the bike in the past few years and we thoroughly enjoyed it. The AGM event was an obvious highlight, but the meandering nature of touring on the bike through some of the great countryside we are blessed with in Australia confirmed that touring by motorbike is still a great way to holiday.
I must especially thank Sam and Alan for organising the ride to Maryborough and Kris for being the "pillion in a million" once again.