Getting back in the saddle

Well, after an absence of some six months from blogging, it seems that our handful of followers are looking for more.  We thank them for their dedication and positive comments.  Perhaps a short road trip to get the writing juices flowing again?

Anne has diligently packed the motorbike panniers over the last few days and we are ready for our first road trip in 2022. Little steps and with Easter approaching, we want to be back before the bulk of the holiday makers are out and about. Coffee at Boonah over Cunningham’s Gap and into the Granite Belt as the area is called, known for its fruit, national parks and wine.  Yes, we produce wine in Queensland.  It’s not all beaches and palm trees.

Boy that looks good. Suttons Juice Factory at Thulimbah.

As we approach Stanthorpe  I am struck by the golden colour of the leaves of the deciduous trees. For some reason I always think of April as the start of Autumn but it is in fact March I am reliably informed.   Without such trees around us in Manly, I am always about a month out on the seasons’ change each year.

Autumnal Tints near Stanthorpe.

Day 2: My iPhone’s weather app shows cloudy skies all morning but no rain. This is confirmed by the bureau of meteorology’s radar map but unfortunately this is in conflict with the sound of rain on the roof of the mostly waterproof tent. So much for relying on technology. I had used the weather forecasts before we left to determine what we brought with us, and rain gear was noticeably absent!   Jeans are not that waterproof but it is what we have.

Water has entered the tent overnight, puddles Anne calls them, but from my side of the tent just wet patches.  It is all in the perspective. Seems the waterproofing has not significantly improved since the last trip.  This is why from time to time, equipment needs replacing, but I, Anthony, do not like to throw anything out that has given good service which is why we still have tents going back to 1975!  I have been reliably informed on this trip that this tent will not be making the next motorcycle trip in Queensland. A replacement needs to be sought and this tent retired and donated as “dry weather only” tent for kids.

Camping near Storm King Dam near Stanthorpe.

Up and off to Stanthorpe in light rain heading for the Commercial Cafe, which we hear does great coffee, to meet up with a lovely couple we met the day before at a petrol/gas station where their young son got to sit on both our motorcycles. We really enjoy meeting locals and get their perspective on life and living. Breakfast at a non-gluten free establishment, in spite of their best efforts, does not treat me kindly later in the day. I will need to be more careful in future.

Stanthorpe Fire Station mural.
Another Stanthorpe Mural, go see them all.

A clearing sky tempts us to ride the 36 kilometres to Girraween National Park, a place we have loved to visit during our time in Queensland but have not been to for a dozen years or more. A brief rain shower tests our resolve and our jeans’ lack of waterproofing, but we push on and are able to hike partway up the Pyramid, a famous rock formation in the park. It is really good to be out in the country again.

On top of the world at Pyramid Rock, Giraween.
The water is flowing in Girraween National Park.

While having dinner, a cup of soup and a biscuit back at the campsite, we meet a group of families from Brisbane who were all originally from Kerala in India but only met when they moved to Australia. They invited us to join them for dinner with a range of mouthwatering curries on offer, but I realised I had to decline because of Coeliac Disease. What future culinary delights will I be denied?  Oh well, life goes on with nice dried biscuits. 

Our third day is still grey but with the promise of sunshine further west: we are headed for Texas, a small town of 900 people on the banks of the Dumaresq river which also forms the border between Queensland and New South Wales. Anne proposes we go via the Bruxner Highway so south we go, crossing a state border for the first time on our motorbikes in more than two years without fear of quarantine rules being suddenly changed.

The Bruxner highway from Tenterfield to Texas was a joy to ride: undulations, twists and turns great views and little traffic. Stopping at a river crossing, we enjoy a leisurely break on the banks of the Dumaresq river, which had been in flood only days earlier as evidenced by damage to trees and bushes along the riverbank.

On the banks of the Dumaresq River
Please hold onto the handrail while crossing the bridge.
Texas, a small part of Queensland.

The Texas Railway Museum is our third night’s camping spot. Located just  outside Texas Queensland, not the US TX, a band of intrepid volunteers are working to restore part of what was a 54km branch line to  sleeper by sleeper.

We get to meet Dave, a railway museum volunteer, who comes to check on us  after a concerned resident seeing a couple of dangerous looking bikers just ride up to the station and setup camp calls him! We explain that we are expecting Robert and Kelvin to turn up for the week end.  Dave shows us around the facilities and it is impressive what they have achieved. Worth a visit if you are in the area.

Looking West in Texas on the rail line to Inglewood.
Station Camping in Texas
Intrepid Volunteers Robert and Kelvin, not me, at the Texas Railway museum.
The name says it all.

At Millmerran, we stop for coffee and I am finding that most Gluten free pastries I have eaten so far seem to be a combination of concrete for strength and cardboard for taste. I need to loose my taste memory of tasty flakey pastry.  I am starting to think that gluten free pastry will not form part of my ongoing food consumption. Anyone found an edible version?

Our direct route to our overnight destination of Dalby is closed due to the effects of the recent flooding locals inform us. The damage to bridges and other infrastructure will take some time to repair. 

The Bunya Mountains is the last stop on this little adventure. The mountains rise from the surrounding plain and are visible from Dalby some 50km away.  Crossing the farmland and floodplain crossings as we travel north, the mountains always seem far away. We enjoy seeing deep blue skies finally.  As we start to climb, farmland gives way to scattered temperate forest, then, suddenly it seems, we are enveloped by massive bunya and hoop pines touching above our heads as we enter the real forest. The area was heavily logged.  We are just too late for the Bunya nut season and can only see the remnants on the forest floor, however not a bad thing since the nuts are the size of small pineapples – being hit by one could be very painful.  

While we are still camping, there is a fine restaurant and even finer whiskey/whisky bar with a large section of Scottish and other work. The hearty meal and accompanying drinks are balanced by a couple of brisk walks exploring parts of this unique landscape. 

Last night in the leaky tent in the Bunya Mountains campsite
Fungi in Bunya Mountains National Park.
Bunya pines standing tall
Local wildlife in Bunya Mountains National Park.
Anne sampling the Whisky from the wrong side of the bar.

Back via the Exchange Hotel in Kilkoy, a favourite stop of ours on northern motorcycle loops from Brisbane, for a steak lunch and then after six days and 1158km, we are safely back in Manly.

The only dirt section on the entire trip

While many of our blog entries are from far flung places, for us anyway, there is much to be seen locally everywhere, So while we are all looking at testing our travel wings, why not start with a local trip first?

– Anthony

PS. Storm has a new front (fully round) wheel and has passed the MOT. Ready for the road later this year.


Six months have elapsed since the last blog entry and my fingers feel a little rusty as a type away back home in Australia. While I was drafting this blog, Anne had a friend on Facebook ask what were were doing as they had not heard from us for months. So this is timely.

New York seems a distant memory as all our adventures do with the passage of time. So what have we been doing you may ask, planning the next trip, writing our book, sadly not, but our time has been filled with other activities.

My first act upon returning was to seek an eye examination. It had become apparent to me that towards the end of our travels in 2017 my eyesight was deteriorating, especially in low light conditions. Tests revealed that cataracts were the cause and while we all get them gradually, in some cases like mine, the change can come on more quickly. With each eye needing about four weeks’ recovery time after surgery, the whole process would take over three months. We also had our niece, Deanna, coming to visit in July from the UK. The decision was then made that it would be nice to spend the rest of 2018 at home here in Brisbane.

Anthony making friends with the nurse before his op!

Right eye first

Anthony’s cousin Inger and niece Deanna meet for the first time

One must remember that it has been five years since we set off for Europe in September 2013 for what we thought was a nine month stay in Europe, to spend more time visiting our families. We calculated that in those five years we spent 38 months overseas in Europe and travelling on Streak and Storm and only 22 months in Australia, hence the title of this blog.

Since we were to stay in Brisbane for an extended period, we cast an eye over our home and found that a refresh was in order. We had not undertaken any such activity in the 20 years we have owned the place. My pathetic attempts at painting made the decision to bring in the professionals that much easier. Electricians, painters, carpet layers and window shutter fitters have transformed our home and we are very happy with the outcome and completed in a very short timeframe allowing us to enjoy the results so much sooner. Another reason to bring in the professionals.

Renovating called for more decluttering!

I guess by this time you are falling asleep, not a motorcycle or travel adventure in sight – have the 2slowspeeds become domesticated and settling into their couch and hanging up their helmets and leathers? Well, no not quite. As we do not ride pillion with each other and only have one motorcycle, the 2010 Triumph Thunderbird, riding options for both of us were limited. Anne had also found that while riding the Thunderbird was fine, the weight of the motorcycle while parking and manoeuvring a 350 kg/770 lb motorcycle on gravel less than enjoyable. A second motorcycle was needed. With Anne looking for an upright riding position similar to ‘Streak’s’ and after much due diligence, Anne whittled it down to a few interesting choices to test ride. With the BMW F700GS in runout and not available in Australia ahead of the introduction of its replacement early in 2019, the shortlist consisted of the:

– Royal Enfield Himalayan,

– BMWR1200R,

– Honda CB500X and the

– Moto Guzzi V7.

Quite a mixture. We both test rode the Royal Enfield Himalayan and while the bike was fun, the buzz at highway speeds and service intervals concerned us. With my first eye operation taking place, my test riding days were over. Anne found the Moto Guzzi V7 was too front heavy thus eliminating it. Anne enjoyed the BMWR1200R with all the high tech features that she tried but at three times the price of the Honda CB500X, so the decision was made. Anne describes the CB500X as a “Sweet Ride”, and nicknamed it “The Bee” due to the grey and yellow paint scheme. Over a couple of thousand kilometres have been ridden since purchase and the smile on Anne’s face is barely contained in her new Shoei Neotec1 helmet.

Anne riding off with her new Bee

The Bird and The Bee in northern NSW

Carr’s Lookout

Lesson: don’t ride behind a sugar cane truck!

Had a great ride to Tyalgum

Celebrating our anniversary outside Ballandean – it is cold donw there in the middle of winter

Our little cottage for our anniversary – decided it was too cold to camp

Girraween National Park

Girraween National Park

So are we off across Australia next week? Well, no, not quite, Anne has returned to full time employment! Well that was a surprise to both of us. After looking for a little part time work at the local hardware chain “Bunnings”, Anne saw an opportunity to apply for a Project Management role at Queensland Health for a eight month contract. Anne had to dust off her CV which had lain unused for 18 years and undertake a gruelling series of interviews and personality tests over a six week period. The result of which was a job offer as a Project Manager at Queensland health. The end of August saw a boost in business clothing sales in Brisbane as Anne realised the her previous business outfits purchased in the last century were a little dated. With her fashion adviser, me, alongside, we have Anne looking professional and business like.

Anne started work in mid September and will finish the contract in April 2019. She is very brave after being retired for five years and working for herself for the 12 years prior to that with the art business. I do not think that I could go back and work full time with all that it entails, I am very proud of her. I have my own list of tasks that seems to hover in the mid 20’s regardless of how many I complete. Hopefully the list will be finished before the end of Anne’s contract and I can just relax with my feet up.

Had a trip to Alice Springs before Anne started work

Enjoying being home in Manly

Sun going down in Manly

Same time looking the other way in Manly

Our focus for travel has now moved on to 2019. Streak and Storm are sitting in the UK waiting for us. They will need a little work after the exertions of 2017, new tyres are probably just the start. We have a number of ideas but nothing that has coalesced into a trip we want to undertake yet. For now we will just enjoy being in our refurbished home catching up with friends and refilling the coffers with Anne’s hard work for the rest of the year. Let’s see what 2019 will bring, the call of the road for both of us is still out there and will likely only grow stronger with the passage of time.

– Anthony