It’s Saturday morning, December 22, and I’m sitting comfortably at my desk feeling sorry for the guys who are riding back from – I hope – somewhere west of the South Australian border.
For those of us with a more relaxed view of December 21, it was a really nice couple of days that included everything that’s brilliant about this type of riding.
Coffs Harbour’s leading exponent of the BMW X Challenge, Gav Gill, and myself and the mighty Dominator made a leisurely start on Thursday morning and headed out along the Longest Day route. The route was Longest Day, but the pace was definitely Short Attention Span. We lobbed from one coffee shop to the next, enjoying the scenery, wondering where the GPS thought we were going (we knew the route well, so it was no big deal), and generally enjoying the fabulous New England area. It was green as I’ve ever seen it.
As we headed west we stopped for a look at the Glacial Area near Mount Kaputar, then pulled in for a little wander out to see the sawn rocks at…um…Sawn Rocks.
The rocks are all very fascinating, but that’s a long 750m hike to get out to them. (The signs said “750m easy walk”. Those Park rangers must be fit bastards).
From there it was a cruise down into Narrabri and the $35-a-night Tourist Hotel. The rooms had airconditioning and the temperature had gone skyward as we descended from Mount Kaputar to the edge of the desert, so we felt the rooms were awesome.
The main street of Narrabri was closed for the annual mardi gras. This got Gav very excited. He bustled off to slip into his tightest jeans, muttering something about a ‘sausage sandwich’. We bolted out to have a look at the radio telescope on the edge of town first, and it’s a fairly incredible set-up of radar dishes on a railway line, with a well-kept visitor centre and heaps of information.
Friday dawned hot, and I’d received a text message at 3.30am to make sure we waiting at the BP, not the Caltex, and then another at 5.30am to say, “Wet here. Faark!”, so I hadn’t slept as well as I might’ve. The guys at Sawtell Headland – Mick Crutch, Dan Vaughan and Boris Everson – were clearly keyed up. I know from experience, if you’re going to have a crack at Longest Day, you need to be keyed-up and on edge come 5.38am, December 21. Still, keeping your fat, lazy mates at the refuel awake seems a little unnecessary. We had airconditioning, ferchrissake!
Breakfast at the bakery was huge and awesome, and at 9.00am we propped at the BP waiting for our guys to arrive. Gav donned his elf hat for the occasion, and I’m still not sure what that was about. Perhaps it had something to do with the ‘sausage sandwich’ (I didn’t see anyone selling barbecue treats) and the Men’s Health magazine he was eyeing off in the servo.
Maybe he thought it said Men’s Elf.
Whatever. The guys roared in, fuelled up and were on their way in good time, and we jumped back on the bikes and headed off, following the red line on the GPS.
Marty (Blake) has been working flat stick on the second and third discs – while I’m dribbling around the country with The Elf enjoying myself – and he’d mapped a section down through Armidale he wanted us to try.
What a rip-snorter that section is! Awesome!
The main part was a series of dirt roads and farm trails that centre around Spion Kop Road, and it’s a pearler. It was the highlight of the two days. I don’t know how Marty finds these backroads, but he has a gift for it.
The GPS needs a tune-up to get through the town of Barraba, but we had the Google Maps route sheet, so it sorted itself out fairly quickly, and before we knew it we were sitting at the Macca’s in Armidale, where we’d arranged to meet another rider, who, as it turned out, couldn’t get there.
Gav had a dirt-road run from Armidale to Wollomombi that was as green and beautiful as anywhere can be, and even a few very light spots of rain added to the joy of the ride.
So it wasn’t really a ‘Longest Day’ ride, but it sure was fun, low-stress, and, best of all, one of those rides that shows what dualsporting is all about.