Tag Archives: #29in29

End of Empire State of Mind

Border crossingAdventureDog and I are on the move. We are migrating to Scotland, where the best roads are.

I try and keep out of politics on this blog but bad things are happening in the world. When I ride, I know that I ride as part of an international bikerhood, a family where no-one is judged on their religion, their sexuality or their country of origin. (Though we might judge you for your Power Ranger outfit, your inability to corner or your love of handlebar tassels. This is done out of love and affection and to tease you into acknowledging the error of your ways.)

I have chosen to live in a country that values its international outlook and its friends in other nations. And by happy coincidence, one which has fine whisky, music and rugby players. We move in two days time.

I’m sad to leave my house in England and the friends I have made here. It feels like the last 6 months have seen so many positive changes and new opportunities and I’m leaving before they really take root and thrive.

But I learnt a long time ago that state of mind is selective*.  I choose that all of the positivity and growth I have been blessed with will come with me to this new life.

This post is part of the February 2017 Brave, Bold Beautiful Blogger Challenge by desert-campingToadmama. Find out more here: Brave, Bold, Blogger Challenge.  I really enjoyed #29in29 and know that I need a kick up the arse to start posting again.



*Annoyingly I can no longer link you to the post, because the Telegraph has taken it down. But it was good. A great post, with all the best words.


Filed under Introspection

#29in29: Kangaroo!

This is a picture of the Stirling Range, taken from the Valley of the Giants Treetop Walk. When I was planning this trip, I wanted to camp in the Stirling Range national park, but that would have needed a bike I could take on gravel. And a tent. So I thought I would settle for making a loop through on the tourist route before having my overnight in Albany. The mountains did that mysterious mountain trick of never seeming to get any nearer, and the voice in my head that likes to undermine me kept telling me I had bitten off more than I could chew, and that I should give up this ambition and head straight for the Motel in preparation for the long haul back to Perth. It shut up when we rounded a corner to see a great big kangaroo, hopping away from the road. Just the one, but one was enough. I’d seen an emu crashing through the trees beside the Peter Brock memorial, though I’d failed to appeciate it fully because one of the Blue Knights was telling me all about the crash and the subsequent investigation while I was trying to figure out Telstra voicemail because I’d missed a call.

In possession of the full set of Australian heraldic beasts, but no longer in possession of my wash bag, I decided it would be no defeat to leave the mountains hanging in the distance and to come back for them another trip.

According to the website of Interesting Kangaroo Facts, kangaroos cannot move backwards. Nor can emus. They are animals dedicated to making progress, which is why they are on the coat of arms of a young nation. This fact also makes them perfect biker mascots.


Filed under Australia

I need affection, not protection

Muffy overstepped the mark with three little words in the car park of the Bunbury Youth Hostel: “That’s an order,” he said, telling me I needed to take someone with me on the Nannup-Balingup road.

Peter Thoeming says this about the road: “while it can be narrow and bumpy its corners are also pleasantly challenging.” He doesn’t suggest it’s beyond the competence of an average rider, and I am, unfortunately, very average. For someone like me it can be more dangerous riding with someone else than riding alone, because in upping my pace to keep up I am far more likely to make a mistake.

It was well-meant. The Blue Knights had been down here on a rideout recently and one of their number had made an unplanned departure from the tarmac. Someone had chalked “SLOW DOWN!” on one of the most technical bends and, far from being helpful, the message created its own hazard. Distracted by it, the rider fluffed the turn and exited stage right, damaging his pride but nothing else.

So, while I appreciated the concern for my wellbeing, I disliked the implication that I needed taking care of in the simple act of riding. This is me having my cake and eating it, because I was very happy to be taken care of when the GS proved to be rather poorly, but I am female and therefore under no obligation to be consistent.

Disobeying my orders and riding alone up to Collie, the first stop on my loop which would include the Nannup-Balingup road and the road to Bridgetown, I felt splendidly naughty. And following a tip from Biker Gran, who says that the best reason to ride by yourself is that you can detour whenever you like, I ducked off the Coalfields Road to look at the Wellington Dam, a decision which rewarded me with a beautifully twisty ride through the forest, kicking up leaves and making the birds erupt from the verges in clouds of black, white and green.

In Balingup, since I was about to enter the valley of death, I thought I should stop and have a coffee (and a processed cheese roll-up). If i was going to spend time lying in the forest waiting to be found, at least I could avoid a caffeine withdrawal headache or hunger pangs. The Taste of Balingup managed to provide excellent coffee and absolution in the form of this card, by a local artist. Geoff Selvidge pointed out, via Twitter, that you could make one almost the same that said “A bike is safe in the garage, but that’s not what bikes are for.”

Fed, watered and guilt-free, I rode 40km of bends through the forest, and it was the best rollercoaster I’ve ever been on. It is a beautiful, complex and technical road and it deserves respect, but I’m very glad I rode it by and for myself.

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#29in29: If not you, then who?

Having missed out at Swings and Roundabouts, I made like a squashed grape on Facebook and let out a little whine. My friends delivered support, ego-rubs and arse-kickings in equal measure and it finally dawned on me that the only person who was going to make sure I had a good time was me: “If not you, then who?” as it’s written in that important book of moral reference, Only You Can Save Mankind by Terry Pratchett.

So in the morning I implemented Plan Happy Traveller. That was the first important change, as recommended by Andy Myles. Being on holiday alone may feel sad and pointless. Travelling alone is exciting and challenging. I returned to the Augusta Bakery, purveyor of excellent pizza, and almost fell at the first hurdle. My accent was, apparently, impenetrable to the lady behind the counter. I tried a few times but got worse rather than better, because when I get stressed I start to stutter. After a bit of pointing I achieved my goal, which was a big black coffee with an extra shot and a vanilla slice, because what finer pastry could there be for a traveller’s breakfast?

Back at the Youth Hostel with my spoils, I found a the kitchen was full of interesting people, and best of all, for the cash-strapped lady biker, free bread. One of the girls staying in the hostel worked in the bakery and was allowed to bring home the unsold loaves in the evening. The tomato bread was particularly good. To maintain good karmic balance I put my bananas on the pile. I’d bought them in Collie and they had not travelled well. I am a banana fascist, there is a narrow window of opportunity when they are at their best but if they get brown and bruised I can’t bear them. But because we live in a universe of infinite diversity, my reject banana is another person’s bliss.

“Battered and free,” said Margaret, later. “The perfect banana!”

Margaret was travelling with her daughter Gill and was enjoying being the oldest backpacker in Western Australia. Her husband was at home with three weeks worth of meals in the freezer and a barn full of vintage bikes. I told her about riding with the Blue Knights and my RBR adventures. She laughed at my rubber scrambled eggs. We compared flight notes and I told her the story of my accidental oxygen tank. Sometimes I think I enjoy my disasters, because if my life went smoothly, what stories would I have to tell?


Filed under Australia

To arrive is sometimes better than to travel.

My day started literally and figuratively under a cloud. I decided that maybe I felt weird and dislocated because my I’d eaten nothing the previous day except espresso, iced coffee and bar snacks. I have been trying not to turn to food as a mood-enhancer but I felt this merited an exception, so I had Eggs Benedict in Samovar in Busselton. Which came with avocados. I love avocados. And a white Magnum before climbing the lighthouse.

But my brain refused to be consoled. It was enjoying a good wallow.

These things were wrong:-

– I was the only person at the lighthouse on my own. Everyone else was a couple or a family group.

– I was going to have to share a room with someone I didn’t know. Because I was on my own. I didn’t want to share a room. But I had booked a double.

– I stopped to try a Cellar Door. @sharemyoyster had told me about these. I fancied a coffee and maybe a pizza. Or a cheese platter. That looked nice on the menu. I waited while the group of 15 placed their orders. Then the girl behind the counter took orders from four women who’d come in after me. As she headed past me again I said “Could I have a Long Black…” and before I could say “and a pizza” she said “Would you mind coming back when I’ve got everyone else’s orders taken?” Because single people’s money is apparently not as important as the money spent by people who have arrived with their families in tow. The Winery was called Swings and Roundabouts. I was going to sit with my coffee and my cheese plate and maybe even a small glass of something sparkly and write a witty post about how the day had been up and down but now it was improving. But it wasn’t. Part of me understands the economics. Part of me was just having salt rubbed into a wound that was particularly sore that day. So I got back on my bike and carried on south and had a little blub inside my lid.

Why? Because I’m stupid and I get myself worked up anticipating dramas that don’t deserve it.

When I got to Augusta the Youth Hostel was beautiful. It had a balcony with a white staircase leading to the upper floor, and a garden with a barbecue. Who am I sharing with, I asked the manager. Nobody, she said, looking at me like I was a bit dim. You’ve got a double bed, we don’t make you share with someone you don’t know.

So I took my bags upstairs to my room and it was a beautiful calm room, full of light with great big windows and vintage furniture.

I had a little walk around town. The Augusta Bakery was doing pizza night, so I ordered ham and pineapple. The Augusta Hotel Motel was doing excellent beer. The bottle shop had tins of VB and luxury crisps. I watched the sun go down. Tomorrow would be better. This was a good place.


Filed under Australia

To the Lighthouse

My luck held as I rode round the bottom of Geographe Bay and took the Caves Road up to Cape Naturaliste lighthouse. Ahead of me the sky was heavy grey, split by the occasional flash of lighting, and underneath me the roads were soaking wet, but above my head the sky was blue. A good reason to meander along and enjoy the scenery. The earth is pink, and as the road gets nearer the coast the trees shrink into low green brush.

As an RBR rider I’m conditioned to take photos of my bike outside lighthouses, but I fancied climbing these as well, as practice for the Gloucester Tree at Pemberton. Cape Naturaliste, the northern lighthouse, is quite stumpy. Cape Leeuwin, at the bottom of the cape, and from which you can see the meeting point of the Indian and the Southern Oceans, is tall and slender.

As we walk up the path to the lighthouse, Liz, our guide talks about the isolation, and how hard it was for the lighthouse keepers and their families to live here. But it’s only taken me a few minutes to ride the 8 miles from Dunsborough, I say. Liz looks at me with well-deserved contempt. When the lighthouse was first built Dunsborough didn’t exist, she explains, carefully. Lighthousekeepers in need of medical help, company or supplies had to take a horse to Busselton. I think about this for a while. To me, lighthouse keepers are isolated because they work on tiny rocks surrounded by turbulent seas. These men, and their families, were isolated by the land itself. I think their houses look beautiful, with verandas to shade from the heat, and gardens to provide veggies and a few chooks, but they are a very long way from Waitrose.

The light and the mechanisms came from Birmingham. Travelling the other way, Australia sent trees chopped up to be used as cobbles in the streets of London. This seems an undignified way for trees to end their lives, though it is apparently kinder to horses’ hooves and quieter for sensitive Victorian ears.

“People with breathing or heart problems are warned against attempting to climb steep stairway leading to light,” it says at the foot of the stairs. I think this may be a metaphor. It is always a difficult climb to the light.

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#29in29 Bad Day, Part I

I have been escorted, supported and assisted, and now it is time to move on and face the world solo. The day starts abruptly, with a massive electrical storm. The lightning is impressive and slightly scary. A kind-hearted person had made sure I didn’t miss it by making their breakfast in the kitchen, which is on the other side of my bedroom wall, at 5.30am. Even with determination to be stealthy, which they had, it is difficult to microwave quietly. But pretty soon the sound of the rain beating on the tin roof of the Dolphin Retreat drowns out everything else. The storm sits overhead for around thirty minutes. There isn’t time to count any elephants between the lightning crack and the thunder roll. The rain is coming down so hard I worry that the sand under the bike will wash away. It doesn’t, but it does leave immense puddles all over the car park. This is Australia. It is not supposed to rain. I have not come prepared to be wet and cold. I read my book and drink instant coffee, because I forgot to pack my coffee filter and now I am doomed to start my mornings with Nescafe, scavenged from the Premier Inn and tucked into my wash bag next to the mascara.

There is no point starting the day under a cloud, so I lie reading and not really sleeping for another two hours.

I feel unusual. Tired and unfocused. The trees in the Tuart forest smell of mint. Can that be right or am I hallucinating?

In Busselton I want to see the Big Pier. It is grey and damp and I struggle to find a place to park. I think, maybe breakfast would help. In my fantasy I thought I would have breakfast in a beach-side cafe looking at the pier. In reality I have a small thimble of lukewarm gritty mud in a cafe on the main shopping run. I read the local paper. It seems that people getting married, crashing cars, suffering break-ins and writing long letters make news anywhere in the world. In a few days time there will be a big festival here, but today is just a weary working day.


Filed under Australia

Going Postal

My copy of “Going Postal” has arrived, except that in the UK it’s called “The Long Ride Home.” I sent Nathan an email before I went to Australia because I really wanted to do my exploring on a postie bike – that’s why my overnight stops were so close together – and he was really helpful and generous with his advice.

Here’s Nathan’s intro:

“This is the story of my motorbike trip across the world. It took place from January to September 2009, on a little Honda called Dorothy. She’s a brilliant bike, painted red, the colour of speed, though she herself is not very fast. One time we hit eighty-five kilometres per hour and almost crashed with excitement.”

In the end I decided to take what ought to have been an easier route, and rent a GS. Didn’t quite work as planned! And I nearly got a go on a postie thanks to the Postie Bike Club of Western Australia, but I ran out of time. I still think they look brilliant fun. So I’ll just have to go back.

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Riding with the 99%

Cool people say things like “I’m not much of a one for joining things.” I used to try that line. I pretended that I aspired to be Rudyard Kipling’s Cat that Walks by Itself, self-sufficient and above wordly things like small talk and The Price Of Cheese. The truth was that I was a peculiar child with limited social skills. Joining in happened to other people.

But now I ride a motorcycle and the best thing about that is all the people it brings me to meet.

I loved my day with the Knights. Everyone I spoke to about it thought it was very funny that the Australians felt the need to organise me a police escort for my first ride in the country. Rolling up the freeway in a column of chrome and rubber, I thanked the gods of random life opportunities and laughed like a crazy woman.

Riding back down from the lookout point, Zeke, Muffy and I parked up and caught up with Mel and the rest of the club. They hadn’t persuaded the Castle Hotel to open up, and were a little further down the main drag on a shady verandah. Over a long black, Mel said a few words of welcome and awarded me a Blue Knights patch – a proper one, not a “Knight’s Lady” which is what the pillion partners wore – and a 99% diamond, and a badge. I don’t have powers of arrest so they are honorary. But I do feel honoured. So many people took a day out of their holidays to ride with me and show me their fine roads. But then I remember that they are bikers, and this is what we do.


Filed under Australia

"Every attraction that a country in a state of nature can possess."

Today being Valentine’s Day it is wholly appropriate that I bring you the story of a pair of Star (Southern) Crossed Lovers.

While President Mel tries to persuade the waitress in the hotel to wind up the coffee machine, Zeke (pictured, with Large Honda) takes me and Muffy to the Mount Brown lookout over York and the Avon Valley.

The mountains have a sad story attached. In the Dreamtime the Hill People and the Valley People used to meet in the Avon Valley for sports and games. A young Valley Woman and a young Hill Man fell in love; but their people did not allow them to be together. Their relationship was taboo. As is traditional in such situations, they ran away so that they could be together.

The Valley People asked for her to be sent home. The Hill People said they did not know where the two young lovers had gone.

As is also traditional in such situations, the Valley People sent an army to bring her back.

The Hill People, having the advantage of the high ground, were handing out a pasting to their Valley brothers. So the Valley People called on their medicine man, who turned the Hill warriors to trees where they stood.

The warriors having been well and truly rooted, the medicine man then cursed Wunding and Wilura. Their bodies were found, but their spirits are tied to the mountains. He is stuck on Mount Bakewell, and she is stuck on Mount Barker, until the mountains turn to dust.

It would be a better story if she, being such a tart, were stuck on Mount Bakewell.


Filed under Australia