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Episode 7 ( The final )

We've made it back - into the grind of reality (home maintenance etc), but good to be home after a very satisfying and rewarding trip that ended up covering a good deal of Queensland (see route map attached).

Our last update was from Brightlands Station near Cloncurry (seems eons ago). From there we headed for Dajarra - red dust most of the way and lots of corrugations, but the bikes handled it pretty well.  After a good degrease of the BSA (Ian decided that the red dirt on the Norton was character building) we headed across the wide open spaces to Boulia. This part of the trip made us realise we must have had rocks in our head to have originally planned to go to Darwin and the Centre - miles and miles of dead straight roads at 70 km/hr.

From Boulia we headed east through lots of rugged, red mesas (Selwyn Ranges) making for magnificent views. We stopped in Middleton for our most expensive fuel of the trip ($1.87/l) then a roadside camp, which was becoming our favoured option as we were sick to death of noisy caravan parks, cabins and pubs. Much nicer to be camped under the stars consuming a few glasses of red wine and taking pot luck with what comes out of a tin or bottle for dinner.

We arrived in Longreach just in time for the RM Williams outback spectacular, then onto Barcaldine (the tree old knowledge is a pretty weird
site - must ring some people's bells) and Emerald (and Fairbairn Dam of course). We then reviewed our plans (those long roads south though Roma and Miles would be pretty tiresome at 70k/hr) and headed east to Blackland Tablelands. Something we weren't warned about was the steepness of the road into the park, and the poor old bikes got a real workout - lots of first gear, and copious smoke coming off the engines. Thankfully they survived and we had a pleasant night of solitude in the park then walked out to the see the spectacular cliffs in the morning.

We then headed towards Dingo and down via Woorabinda to Bauhinia Downs. This turned out to be a shocker of a road - lots of deep ruts and bull dust, and lots of trucks throwing up thick clouds of dust, forcing us to pull over until it cleared. Onto Moura and had a great night with rellies (Heather and Jarred, Alistair and Kirsten), and another spring clean for the BSA to get rid of that awful dust that the Norton thrives on). Then Theodore, across to Cracow (more dirt road), Eidsvold and a night at Wuruma Dam. At 1.5% full there was not a lot of water, but a lot of fisher folk taking advantage of the fish concentrations. It was a nice spot, and one more dam for the count!!!

We then rode onto Kingaroy to catch up with Dennis and Jan Seng. We had a great night with them - including drooling over Dennis's bikes and magnificently equipped workshop.

One thing that was becoming increasingly obvious was that the further south we traveled, the rougher the roads. Even the dirt roads in the north are better than the bitumen in the south-east. We were constantly being jarred and bucked around. Any road maintenance comprised patching, with the patches often worse than the original surface. You really notice this stuff on a rigid bike.

The last stage was a pleasant ride through Esk, some back roads along Somerset Dam, over Mt Mee and back to our departure point (Dayboro) to meet up with the welcome home committee (Jill, Jeannene, Alexander and Linz).

What a trip - almost no problems with the bikes, great company, perfect weather, met up with lots of like-minded people and a few challenges thrown in. The bikes can only be described as having been spectacular. It goes to show that these old things can be made reliable enough to do some fairly serious traveling, albeit as long as you're patient. We reckoned that both the BSA (1928) and the Norton (1933) were running better at the end on the trip than when they started over six weeks earlier and 7000 km younger.

Thanks to those of you who helped make the trip possible. Others of you no doubt think we're totally mad for doing something like this. Whatever turns you on I guess - just lucky we don't all want to do the same things. We'll certainly be looking forward to the next big bike challenge - whatever it might turn out to be.
Bill and Ian

Episode 6 ( loaded 10/9/09 )

Many more miles under the belt since our last update - although not without some unforeseen events. We've headed into some pretty hot weather - not quite what the poor old bikes were expecting (let alone the poor old riders!). Here's a bit of a rundown and some photos to give you a snapshot of some of the places and experiences.

We left Atherton for Laura (Cape York). Almost made it but darkness won - had to tackle our first major dirt road under candlelight (LEDs), and ended up camped under the stars by the roadside - a nice experience of solitude after caravan parks. Next morning we checked out some pretty amazing aboriginal rock art at Split Rock, then onto Laura - our northern-most point for the trip. We then backtracked to Lakeland Downs, then across to Cooktown for the night. Next morning we met Jacqui, Keith and the kids in their 4WD, and relieved ourselves of baggage for the big trip down the Bloomfield Track and the Daintree to Cairns. As you'll see from the photos, much excitement at the water crossings, but the photos don't show the steep rough bits that really were a challenge. We couldn't have done it loaded up (thanks Jac and Keith). Then back to Atherton for some much needed maintenance (and removal of grime).

After a couple more very pleasant days in Atherton we headed west. First stop was the Undarra lava tubes, then across to Normanton via Georgetown. About 40 km before Normanton the poor old Norton suffered some heat exhaustion and clattered to a halt. It looked bad - no compression and very hot. Ian was convinced it was the exhaust valve so off with the head. The valve was badly burnt, but what really worried us was that its convex top had become concave. The valve head had stretched and distorted. We did a quick valve grind with emery paper, and put it back together not really expecting it to go, but hey presto - it fired up beautifully. By now it was getting dark and lots of dead 'roos on the road, so a slow trip by candlelight for 25 km to the next van park.

Next day we rode onto Normanton, where Ian got some valve grinding paste and spent a couple of hours grinding away. Amazingly, considering the amount of valve distortion, he managed to do a pretty good job and recreated lots of compression. He also richened the fuel mixture to reduce running temperature and fixed a turning camshaft bush. We then did a test run up to Karumba and all seemed good. We took the obligatory photos, did a boat trip (saw a croc in the wild) and watched the sunset over the ocean. We also met Frank Wheeler who rode around Australia on a 125 in the '70s, walked across the Simpson desert a couple of years ago, and has just finished riding a postie bike across Australia along the tropic of Capricorn - and he's 72 years old (made us feel very small).
Funny - he was after ideas from us as to what he could do next - as long as no-one had ever done it before !!!

We then headed back south through Normanton and spent a very long, hot day getting to the Bourke and Wills Roadhouse (about half way to Cloncurry) which turned out to be the worst place in the world (foul food, filthy, noisy trucks all night and music 'til 3.30 am - so don't go there). In spite of the heat the Norton stood up to the trip very well so we're hopeful the valve problem has been fixed. We then road onto Cloncurry and are now staying at Brightlands Station  ( Bill's relatives ,Bob and Susan McDonald's property). Today we went to Kuradela (an old copper mining town) and had a drive around part of the property, which looks fantastic - plenty of grass and water and very picturesque. Tomorrow we're heading up into the air for some real sightseeing.

The bikes have been really fantastic. We can hardly get off them at stops before people come up to us wanting to know what we're doing, where we've come from, how old they are, how they used to have one just like it but it had two cylinders, or rear suspension, or was from the '50s !!! The old BSA has been thumping along beautifully (touch wood). It's getting 90 mpg (over 30 km/litre) and is a dream to ride - even overloaded as it is. The Norton is also doing an admirable job. They both start first kick most times, and sound brilliant. We're asking a huge amount of the old girls and they've both done a fabulous job to date. We're both very pleased that we've made the decision to stay in Queensland as the bikes just couldn't have handled the length and difficulty of the long hauls through the Northern Territory and the very difficult dirt tracks. We've really become attached to the bikes and want to get them home in good condition. They're just too nice to abuse.
We're now planning the next leg of the trip. Plans are to head out to Boulia, then to Longreach. From there our current thinking is to head through Springsure and down to Carnarvon Gorge. Will let you know where we end up in the next exciting installment of Bill and Ian's Amazing Adventure !!!  Cheers Bill and Ian

Episode 5 ( loaded 7/9/09 )

Hello One and All
Bill and Ian have been featured in the 'Tully Times' 27/8/09 - see attached and also 'The Historic Motorcycle' Sept 09 issue (QLD Historic Motorcycle Club's mag) which published Bill's first travelogue and photo at Cania Gorge (which you've already received). They're presently in Karumba at the gulf and will head down to Burke and Wills roadhouse tomorrow and onto Cloncurry and family at nearby
'Brightlands' on Tuesday. All is going well except the heat has caused Ian a little valve trouble
which they've had to work on. They're riding in the mornings and have a siesta stop in the heat of the day
Next report from Bill will come from 'Brightlands' in a few days






Episode 4 ( loaded 28/8/09 )

Contrary to


Episode 4

Contrary to popular predictions we're still upright and mobile. The bikes have been performing faultlessly since the mods in Rocky, and we continue to cruise along at our nice leisurely pace of 70 km/hr. We've hit the Atherton Tablelands, which has turned out to be a cross-roads in terms of our future planning - will get to that.

We had a great ride up the coast - visiting a show and shine and classic motocross meeting (with our new Mackay friends) near Peter Faust Dam, Proserpine. We stayed at a Lions camp which is the old construction camp for PFD. Note the photo at PFD - the TA claim's getting up there!

Northwards again - through Ayr where we unfortunately missed the SunWater office - thought Giddy Road would be the main street and went too far before we realised it was out in the boonies. We next came across the Inkermann Lookout and thought it worth checking out - out first failure! The road up
the hill got gradually steeper and before long we were both in first gear. The last very steep section saw the Norton stopped and looking for a way to turn around. The BSA might have made it but for a short stint in second gear and a slow change from second to first, losing momentum (I see now why they
moved away from hand-change gearboxes!). We convinced ourselves that the bikes would have made it without being so loaded up, then proceeded to enjoy the downhill run in angel gear.

Then onto Bowen for some reminiscing (Bill's Mum's hometown). It's easy to see why Bowen was chosen for "Australia", and evidence of the movie is everywhere. We had another good insight into Bowen when we visited a "Convenience" store to get some ingredients for a home cooked dinner in the
caravan park. "Do you have any meat or rice?" "No - All people buy in this town is cigarettes and coke." "So why don't you sell cigarettes?" "Used to, but got broken into all the time so don't sell them anymore." We took directions to a supermarket in town.

Townsville was an easy day ride from Bowen, except for our first roadside repairs (a flat tyre - not too serious). While fixing this, a group of three young bikers stopped (see photo of one on a KTM Adventure). They were going around Australia in five weeks (average 600 km/day). The bike in the photo has a 45 litre fuel tank !! We couldn't help thinking that our very casual trip on old bikes was shaping up to be more enjoyable than an epic dash such as these blokes were doing.

Townsville saw us heading up past the Strand to Pallarenda where Keith, Tania and little Jim are very nicely set up in a beautiful beach location. Some great catching up and sightseeing around Townsville, then over to Magnetic Island for a day. We caught up with a local restoring a nice looking tornado catamaran (pictured) which on closer inspection was missing a fair bit of one float bow. The guy was sanding the undamaged stern. When asked if he had a plan for fixing the bow he responded "Why do you think I'm working on the stern?" Pretty slow pace on Magnetic !!

Keith and Tania have a rambutan farm near Mission Beach - our next stop. This was an easy ride from Townsville (in company with Keith) - nice wide road with verges built specially for us. This didn't stop the occasional truck trying to wipe us out. Some truckies have an amazing attitude. They really believe they own the road and nothing will slow them down. The endless procession of grey nomads with their 4WDs and caravans are thankfully in no such hurry.

We easily filled a few days around Mission Beach - checking out the farm, visiting neighbours and Keith's work projects (an interesting one is a methane digester fuelled by banana waste), a night on Wheeler Island - a really beautiful area.

Next - to the Tablelands with Keith on his Norton, and first stop was Stink and Helen's place near Hertberton (up here everyone has to have a nickname). The photos don't do justice to their place - this is real colonial living. However, the thing that really blew us away was being taken to the planned house site on the hill and being confronted by a beautifully kept in-ground swimming pool - fully fenced to current regulations - in the middle of a horse paddock!!

We said goodbye to Keith over a coffee in Herberton, then headed for Jac and Keith's place in Atherton. We're now making plans for the rest of the trip.

We've become a bit more realistic about what we can achieve on our trusty old steeds. At 70 km/hr, heading up to Darwin and then down to the centre and back through western Queensland will be nothing more than a marathon. We're enjoying the leisurely pace that we're taking at the moment, with the bikes needing no more than a bit of tinkering to keep them purring. So we've reviewed our plans as follows.

First we'll head up to Laura on the Cape (some very spectacular scenery and Aboriginal art), then across to Cooktown, down the Daintree road and back to Atherton (Jac and Keith will meet us near Cooktown and we'll have the weekend together). Then we plan to head out to Chillagoe caves for a couple of days. We'll then head across to Normanton, down to Cloncurry, and south through western Queensland, visiting such places as Winton and Longreach. The actual route we'll plan as we go after gleaning some local knowledge.

So all's going well and we're enjoying ourselves immensely. Meeting the three bikers going around Australia in 5 weeks has helped us to shape our future plans. Enjoying what we are doing within the limitations of our machinery is what we've now recognised as being most important. It's a bit
of a relief not having to think about those long stretches of nothing and heavily corrugated outback tracks, which realistically we never would have coped with on rigid-framed vintage motorcycles.

So until the next installment, that's it from the vintage wanderers. Cheers, Bill and Ian

Episode 3 ( loaded 28/2/09 )

Believe it or not we've covered our first 1000 k's. We spent the first three nights at a vintage and veteran rally in Biggenden, then onto Cania Gorge and now Rockhampton. The poor old bikes have had to endure lots of pretty rough dirt tracks, and some worse bitumen. Both bikes have run pretty faultlessly aside from some settling in adjustments and lots af unknown rattles from deep within (currently being ignored).

It was great starting off with the rally group, where lots of advice and expertise were at hand. We've got some work to do strengthening pannier supports (crazy amount of gear being carried) and improving improvised sidestands. We've given up on the rear stands as hernia inducing.

The country we've travelled through has been spectacular and the weather perfect. Lots of SunWater sites to visit out here (will have to try for some TA). We've visited Paradise and Cania dams and the Biloela office.

We've cooked up some meals, but to date have been fairly spoilt with rally food and home cooking in Rocky. Getting aquainted with our inch thick mattresses and tiny pillows has been the trip's biggest challenge so far.

From here it's the old Marlborough/Sarina Road to Mackay (via Connors River Damsite of course) then onto Townsville and Atherton before we head west into the great unknown !!! (gulp)

Hopefully you'll here from us again.  Cheers, Bill and Ian

Episode 2 ( loaded 20/8/09 )

Just a short update to let you know where we're at.  Left Rocky Friday morning and headed for Mackay. It was a day that was meant to be and gave us confidence that we would achieve what we have set out to do.


About 50 k's out of Rocky I had a feeling that I'd left my tow rope behind. My first thought was that, as I didn't have it, we'd probably need it. About a minute later there was a piece of appropriate-length Telecom rope by the side of the road.


About an hour later my bum was really starting to feel the distance. Why didn't I bring a sheepskin cover was the top thought in my mind. About a minute later, there was a nice, clean, appropriately shaped piece of sheepskin by the road, which now luxuriously adorns the seat.


We arrived in Sarina thinking this might be a good place to set up camp, and were met by one of the Biggenden rally participants who was also tripping around (on modern bikes). He reported that all of the motels and caravan parks were booked out. So we decided to travel on for a bit. The traffic became pretty bad between Sarina and Mackay. We arrived in Mackay and pulled over to check maps for an alternative (quiet) route north. Next thing a man pulled up behind us and came over for a chat. He was keen on old bikes. We asked his opinion of the best route. His response was direct to his place about three blocks away.


We followed Tim Lucy home, met Sue, had a shower and went off to the Aero Club for a meal with the local bike club members. It turned out that Tim is an active member of the club and has a collection of Ariels and a modern Guzzi, so lots in common. We had a great night with a great group of people, some of whom we had met before at various rallies.


Bob put forward the idea that we might like to accompany some of the group to a classic motocross meeting near Proserpine happening on Sunday, so that's what we're up to next - riding with some club members up to what they reckon will be one of the biggest meetings of its type in Queensland.


We woke up this morning to a beautiful bacon and eggs meal cooked by Sue, and are now waiting to be picked up by Andy to meet up with the others heading north.


So how could you have a better day? The bikes are still running faultlessly, with just enough tinkering required to keep things interesting.

Episode 1 ( loaded 13/8/09 )
Bill and Ian headed off as planned!! yesterday morning from their meeting point at Dayboro.
We had a send-off here on Wednesday night during which Baden presented some very thoughtful gifts including a vegemite sandwich - all the food they needed because they'd be back that night or at the latest the next day!, a hazard light for break-downs, coins tied in the corner of a hanky for emergency expenses, a large syringe of local anaesthetic for sore bums, 3-way undies so can be worn 3 days without washing and toilet paper.

Bill, and no doubt Ian, have been very busy during the last week before setting off on their 2-3month vintage motorcycle adventure around NE & central Australia. He managed to pack and stow all his gear, including tools, camping gear and a few spare parts onto his 1928 BSA Sloper. Tim produced an authentic-looking tank sticker for Bill's home-made fibreglass petrol tank, to make the whole outfit look complete. Yesterday morning, three bikers (Linz, Lachie and Baden) and Mike and I in our car, escorted
Bill for an hour north of Brisbane to Dayboro where we met Ian, riding a 1933 Norton, and Jeannene. After our last coffee together for months, they set off with a deep rumble and (a light) cloud of smoke. Last night they made it to their destination, Biggenden, about 300kms north, in good time. There's a historic motorcycle rally there this weekend, so it was a good event to mark the start of their adventure. So far so  good!!

Now I'm feeling a little at a loss without my man (and the kids are both out) so I'm hatching lots of plans to keep busy - movies, lunches, walking the dog in the local forestry, even a spring clean for the house??? - so all will be well.

Will forward future communiqués from Bill as they come in, Cheers Jill Stephens