This posting documents, warts and all, my ride on my Surly Long Haul Trucker whilst pulling my BOB Ibex trailer from Geraldton to Perth via the Brand Highway, Indian Ocean Drive and then Two Rocks, Yanchep and the coast back to Churchlands in Perth, Western Australia. This ride was undertaken in July 2009 and was my first foray into road touring.
One thing I did on this ride is to take an idea from journal I read sometime ago and that is the idea of photographing what was ahead of me each hour on the bike. Often this was just more bitumen stretching ahead. Maybe not the greatest photos in the world, but I hope it portrays the stark reality of what touring in lower part of Western Australia can be like. That said, it is really amazing what little things and changes you note in your surroundings as you ride along, so the ride is not as boring as the photos may suggest at times. The full photo album can be found in my tour gallery at Picasaweb.
Day 1: Wednesday July 8, 2009 – Perth to Geraldton
I was all packed and ready to go or so I thought. I headed out the door, attached the BOB Ibex to my Surly Long Haul Trucker, Garmin Edge 305 on, hmmm no heart rate display. Whoops, no heart rate monitor strap on me! Back inside to pick that up. Okay off I go, cruising along heading to East Perth; reach down for a drink of water, no water. Water bottle is there okay, I just forgot to fill it up! Short ride, I can survive without water. However, what is the third thing I have forgotten?
Cruised along nicely to East Perth; got passed a lot, but it was okay. I am slow and free for a week; they are fast and “chained to a desk.” Which is the better option?
The Surly Long Haul Trucker and the trailer went on the Transwa bus without dramas. They even provided a blanket to protect the frame on the drive to Geraldton. The cost of the bus ride with Transwa was $53.55 + $10.00 for the bike. I did have to book the bike in advance but.
On the way to Geraldton, sitting there on the bus, I remembered the third missing thing – my sleeping mat, my self-inflating sleeping mat!
Once I got to Geraldton, I got on the phone and after a few phone calls and yellow pages searching I found that the local BCF had mats. Okay not to far away, so go to connect BOB to the bike and found one the really important “spring clip” that holds the trailer to the bike has broken off and is probably on the bus, which you guessed it, was long gone on the way to Kalbarri. Okay, I should have spare right? Wrong! Another thing not packed! Out with a couple of cable ties as a temp fix and I head off to BCF which by chance was next door to Bunnings, so I was able to pick-up some tie-wire and a pair of cutters to create a more secure fix. In case you are wondering 1.25 mm dia. tire-wire will do the trick, but maybe slightly thicker wire would be better.
The BOB Ibex now secured I headed off in search of the Belair Gardens Caravan Park. Of course my map on the GPSr (City Navigator 7) and hard copy didn’t reflect the latest road changes! Boy this was not turning out to be my day.
I found the caravan park after a bit of tiki tour of Geraldton. Rain was threatening so I went upmarket in my accommodation choice and took an on-site van – $41.50 for the night. In hindsight, I found the camping area, had shelters and picnic tables so I could have camped quite happily. Oh well.
At least the caravan had a nice enclosed annex which meant that the bike was nice and dry for the night.
With all the dramas of the day, I was too late for a supermarket run, so ended up with a takeaway for dinner. So much for healthy eating.
As it turned out, it poured and poured all night and well into the next day, so maybe the caravan wasn’t such a bad thing after all.
Day 2: Thursday July 9, 2009 – Geraldton to Port Denison (Dongara) (~ 75 km)
My first objective this morning was to drop into Bike Force Geraldton to see about a replacement clip for trailer. On the phone yesterday, the lovely lady I spoke to sounded promising in that she indicated they would try and help me out. She said they would phone the eastern states in the morning to see if they could get one in; if yes, they would give me one from the trailer they had in stock.
This morning, I rode to the store in the rain; walked into the store and spoke to the dude sitting behind the counter at the computer (getting the picture?) Called the eastern states? Nope. Gave two hoots about the customer standing in front of him? Nope. Inter-personal skills? Nope. Really, why do people like this bother going into business? Regretfully Bike Force Geraldton just continues to reinforce my view that shopping overseas is the way to go most of the time.
So after wasting my time at Bike Force Geraldton I headed back to the caravan park to start my actual tour. By this time the rain was well and truly settled in and the wind was a blowing (see the palm tree in the photo).
From the caravan park I continued around Point Moore in the rain and with strong winds from the west north west. From here I followed local roads and bike paths for as long as possible before joining the Brand Highway.
Whilst on my wanderings to the to the Brand Highway I came across this friendly dog poo bin.
Once on the Brand Highway, I stayed with it until Dongara. The Brand Highway in this part has little shoulder, is fairly straight and a little up and down. This section of the ride is all farm land riding broken up by a couple of historical sites and interesting features.
One such interesting feature is the Leaning Tree(s). A pretty good example of why you shouldn’t ride south in the summer, unless you love headwinds!
I stopped at the Greenough Hamlet (historical site) in the second hour of my ride for coffee and a half decent carrot cake. But boy they know how to charge! $11.00 thank you very much.
When I arrived in Dongara it was still raining, so I moved on through to Port Denison as planned and looked for something a bit better than a tent site for the night’s accommodation. I had planned to stay at the Dongara Denison Tourist Park but they wanted $65.00 for a clapped out old on-site van (wouldn’t put a dog in it) and $135.00 for a cabin, but with no covered parking for the bike or much else for that matter.
I decided to pass on this park and went up the road and checked out the Dongara Denison Beach Holiday Park. They had a decent cabin with a veranda for the bike so I bit the bullet and paid out $120.00 for the night. Hopefully in the tent from now on as this trip has been too upmarket to date.
With the weather being less than ideal, I didn’t get to check out the town on this ride; maybe next time.
Day 3: Friday July 10, 2009 - Port Denison (Dongara) to Leeman (~ 91 km)
Just as I was pulling out of the Dongara Denison Beach Holiday Park it rained and then quickly stopped. That was it for the day, well until I got to Leeman and then it did it again; short sharp downfall. Was the rain gods telling me something? In Port Denison I did a quick bit of sightseeing, taking in a local viewing point before heading out of town via Kailis Drive.
I did have to stop but and take a photo of the gate at the airstrip. Is this an example of the local art talent? From the airstrip I continued heading out of town to get back on the Brand Highway, where I was reminded that Perth was 345 kilometres south.
After an hour on the bike I was still on Brand Highway. There was more traffic today, but all up it was behaving well, providing good clearance. At last I saw this sign, my time to turn off the Brand Highway and head back to the coast via the Indian Ocean Drive.
As I turned on to the Indian Ocean Drive I spotted a windmill, which you guessed it was spinning happily as it pointed into the wind; the same direction as I was about to ride! Some much for favourable winds at this time of the year. I was about to ride around 56 km into a head wind, one that would cost me around 3 km/h in my average speed. There was nothing more to do than get my head down, butt up and get on with it. This was one of my longer days in the saddle to day.
From the turn-off through to Cervantes the next day, I road the Indian Ocean Drive. While this road has no shoulder, it is quite quiet. It is also more up and down and round about than the Brand Highway, offering a bit more variety both in terms of the road itself and the scenery.
The first stage of the Drive passes through where I saw my first splash of colour in the form of wild flowers. It seems that the bees where also as excited by this as me.
After a couple of hours riding, I found myself at Freshwater Point where I took a little break from the riding to poke around what I assume is a lobster fishing shanty camp. I found an old incinerator here and a few shanties. There where other sites like this further south as well.
By my fourth hour on the bike I was starting to feel it today. I hadn’t carried any lunch instead relying on Be Natural muesli bars, Winners bars and PowerBar Ride bars. Lets just say I enjoyed lunch at Leeman!
Just to the north of Coolimba are a series of lakes; salt lakes I assume. With a bit of water in them, they provided a nice change in the scenery.
I was on the bike for another hour before coming into site of the little settlement of Leeman, my stop for the night.
I camped at the Leeman Caravan Park, basic but nice and friendly. Annette the manger even lent me a pot to boil some water in. Cheap also, only costing $10.00 to pitch the tent for night.
The town itself is pretty basic, with a general store/postal agency (does cash out which was handy), fish and chips/cafe (worth a visit) and roadhouse. Oh, no Optus phone coverage, but at least a phone booth at the caravan park. All up a nice stopping place.
The bike chain was sounding a little noisy today so gave it a bit of a lube. This was the only time I needed to do this on the ride.
Day 4: Saturday July 11, 2009 – Leeman to Cervantes (~ 78 km)
Today was an easy fairly flat stage, that passes through Green Head and Jurien Bay. Jurien Bay is the major town in the area and has a good sized supermarket suitable for re-supply. There is also good Optus phone coverage in both Jurien Bay and Cervantes, but not in Green Head.
From Leeman the riding is flat through to Green Head which is someway off the Indian Ocean Drive, but worth the diversion in my view, if for nothing other than a drink and break from the road. I took the opportunity to check out the “ducks” in a row at the Greenhead jetty
From Green Head I rejoined the Indian Ocean Road for the ride on through to Jurien Bay. As I pulled out back on to the Indian Ocean Drive I came across this sign. Maybe it needs to warn of rednecks with guns as well? What is it about shooting at signs that seems excite boys so much? Gee whiz, maybe they should get on a bike and get a life.
I stopped at Jurien Bay for lunch and a spot of shopping and a bit of sight seeing. Not that there was much to see here.
From Jurien Bay, the wind shifted to the south-west and hence slowed me down a bit. This combined with some climbing pulled my average speed back overall for the day.
The only other highlight on this section, well there where two. The first was seeing my first cyclist on the ride, a dude heading to Jurien Bay on a roadie – nice bloke gave me a thumbs-up as he flew past and the other highlight was Hill River which provided a brief stopping point.
I had hoped to make it out to the Pinnacles at Cervantes, but by the time I arrived, got my camp setup, the idea of another 40 km of riding did not appeal, so the Pinnacles will have to wait for another visit.
In Cervantes I stayed at the Pinnacles Caravan Park which cost $15.00 for a unpowered tent site. I found the park, very ordered and clean but just lacking personality. Not a great spot to stop for the night.
Day 5: Sunday July 12, 2009 – Cervantes to Regans Ford (~ 116 km)
I broke camp around 8:00 AM this morning. I was happy to be moving as this caravan park just didn’t do it for me. I much prefer the smaller and more friendly Leeman Caravan Park.
From Cervantes I headed north-east on Cervantes Road, with the wind coming from the south-east. Cervantes Road is an undulating climb of about 23 km. After an hour I had climbed 150 metres but with the wind it felt more. Oh, the highlight in this first hour was an Emu which crossed the road about 15 metres in front of me.
Turning south on Munbinea Road provided six kilometres of relief from the wind, before I had to again swing east on Bibby Road. At the two hour point I was just to the west of the Emu Downs Wind Farm and my climbing had gone over 200 metres. Funny thing is that just to the south of Bibby Road is an area called Nambung Flats, but of course the road has to climb doesn’t it. The photo is meant to show the windmills in the distance, but it does give a little taste of the road here.
The next hour of riding was by far the worst so far. I guess there is a reason why the windmill farm is here! The wind, combined with traffic – there is something about the end of the first week of the school holidays and four wheel drivers. They combine to create some really selfish drivers. All up this section was just plain unpleasant.
Oh, I did have one relief – what does this sculpture represent?
Overall I found the 52 kilometres from Cervantes to the Brand Highway demoralising. I never thought I would get excited about riding on the Brand Highway, but I did, well for kilometre or three anyway.
My fourth hour today found me back on the Brand Highway and south of Blackpaw Farm and pacing along, despite heading south, with a south-easterly blowing. On the downside this section of the Brand Highway has virtually no shoulder and today there was lots of traffic, heading both north and south.
An hour later I was just two kilometres south of Cataby and lunch! This would be one of my fastest hours of riding today, picking up my average by around 0.5 km/h – Tour de Perth here I come :). On the downside my enthusiasm for riding the Brand Highway has gone. The road condition is nothing to write home about.
In my sixth hour on the road, I arrived at Cataby and pulled into the Liberty roadhouse (northern roadhouse) which is much better in my view than the Caltex roadhouse. It is fresh and clean and reasonably priced.
After lunch and the filling of my water bottles I continued south towards Regans Ford. My seventh hour on the road found me off the Brand Highway for a moment exploring a lake on the western side. Unfortunately it is on private property so we can’t get to close to it.
Just as I got to eight hours on the bike, I pulled into Regans Ford. Regans Ford Caravan Park (phone 08 9655 0007) is a great little park and quite reasonably priced at $20.00 for a tent site. It is located just behind the roadhouse which has a little restaurant and also does takeaways.
During this last hour on the bike today I had my first serious incident where a truck “driver” on a decent straight section of road decided to have some fun. From some distance back the driver started hitting his air horn. Hearing the horn, I checked behind and saw the truck bearing down on me with its orange warning lights flashing. I assumed from this that the truck was pulling a wide load and hence the driver was warning me. Given this assumption I dived off the road, just before the blue semi, pulling a empty low loader flew past.
There was plenty of opportunity for the driver to steer his truck safely pass me with adequate clearance as had 98% of the professional truck drivers done on the previous days. Not for this driver, he had to to be a smart arse, sadly however he lack the smarts.
So ends today’s ride and it is decision time: packet pasta and tuna or takeaway.
Day 6: Monday July 13, 2009 - Regans Ford to Perth (Churchlands) (~ 151 km)
I slept through my alarm this morning (at some point I had managed to turn down the alarm volume on my iPhone it seems), so broke camp later than intended at around 9:00 AM. I was feeling good as I pulled out of Regans Ford, crossed the Moore River and turned west on Orange Springs Road. My intention at this point was for a short ride over to Guilderton and then on Tuesday ride home, but as I was feeling good, I decided to give some thought to pushing on straight home and decided to make the decision once I got to Gingin Brook Road.
The ride along Orange Springs Road was great, pretty flat, little traffic and good scenery. When I arrived at the intersection with Cowalla Road I spotted a fruit stand and some mailboxes across the road so I took the opportunity to investigate. The fruit and vegetable stand had avocado and mandarins for sale. $2.00 for a bag of mandarins. I couldn’t resist so grabbed a bag. They where really juicy and went down a treat and fast. I think I was a little fruit deprived.
From the roadside stand I continued south on Cowalla Road until the intersection of Gingin Brook Road, which was my decision point. Head for Guilderton or for home? I decided to push on for home, so swung east to pick up Military Road for the ride through to Wanneroo Road. Taking the Military Road option reduced my time on Wanneroo Road and also took me pass the Gravity Discovery Center (well worth a visit, particularly with kids). From Military Road, I quickly turned again for the coast and head off to Two Rocks for lunch, From Two Rocks I continued along the coast to Yanchep where I planned to pick up the Marmion Avenue extension. Of course I missed the turn-off and headed east for about 5 km before realising my error. Back I went to pick-up Marmion Avenue and of-course now straight into a south-westerly wind.
The Marmion Avenue extension is a nice surface to ride on, however, once you get Butler, I would have to say I then encountered some of the biggest morons on the road that I have ever come across in Perth.
Thankfully once I got to Hodges Drive and familiar riding territory I headed to the coast again and then south to ride in relatively safety. Maybe not the shortest way home, but with the exception of the Butler and surrounding suburbs area a nice ride.
So there ends my little ride from Geraldton.
- Make sure you pack all your camping gear -¦ how many years of bushwalking have I had and I forget fundamentals!
- Camp kitchen does not mean cooking gear. If you are lucky it means a hot plate, kettle, microwave and sink, remember the cooking kit.
- If using a BOB trailer bring spare clips.
- Tie-wire and cutters are probably something worth carrying in the bike repair kit.
- My Surly Long Haul Trucker really needs a kick stand.
- A single pannier is handy for carrying things that you want easy access to and for quick shopping trips.
- Geraldton drivers are much better behaved than Perth drivers.
- Found the traffic overall out of Perth pretty well behaved with most cars and trucks providing reasonable clearance.