MICHAEL’S RIDE TO QUEENSLAND
Launceston in Tasmania to Stanthorpe in Queensland is a decent ride by any standards; but some might think it an even greater challenge when travelling by scooter. Michael, who owns an Aprilia Scarabeo (read his story of the bike here), thought it would be a good test as to how suitable it was for big-distance touring. The answer seems to be “very suitable’! Here is his story. Opportunities sometimes present themselves unexpectedly and I had the choice of going to my first Ulysses AGM, at Newcastle, or the Barrel of Apples Scooter Rally at Stanthorpe, South-West of Brisbane. I decided on the latter with the intention of pushing my 460cc scooter to see whether it was really suitable for "serious" touring. Apart from the trips to and from Devonport and the half day from Stanthorpe to Tamworth, I planned 600km days, around 7hrs riding time plus breaks. I predicted that the scooter would be up to it but that the weak point would be my bum and/or bladder. (I can relate to that! The bum bit anyway. Elwyn). According to weather forecasts, I would be riding in wet and overcast conditions for most of the way. Just as well I hail from Tassie and am used to rain. The ride to Devonport was accompanied by the usual westerlies blowing across the Midland plateaux, accompanied by intermittent rain. I had a late lunch in town before heading to the Melrose Beach area to await boarding time. With day and night sailings we didn't get to board till close to 7.00pm so there was quite a wet and disgruntled group of around 20 bikers querying the logic of waiting, in the rain, instead of being in the hold. “Tourism Tasmania, enjoy the experience” wasn't appropriate! The next morning, I headed out of Station Pier, close to 7.00am, but was soon caught up in bumper to bumper traffic crawling along the Western Ring Road, towards the Hume Highway. Although only 50km from Melbourne, I stopped at the Donnybrook Road Service Centre, Mickleham, for breakie and refuelled at Shepparton. The Newell Highway has had its speed limit reduced to 100kph and there are umpteen signs reminding drivers to check their speed. With the large number of trucks travelling this highway and the seemingly endless roadworks it was hard to get into a riding rhythm, but I was able to throttle around the traffic, especially on hill climbs, and head for “clear air”. There's nothing like following a B-Double cattle train to cleat your sinuses and coat the windscreen! Riding through intermittent rain I soon crossed the Victorian border at Tocumwall and had lunch at the Greenview Road House at Jeriderie. Though only 380km from Port Melbourne the air conditioned motel rooms, here, are good value at $40 and one can either eat at the roadhouse café or enjoy Asian cuisine at the golf clubhouse, across the road. I refuelled at Narrandera before stopping at the Globe Hotel, West Wyalong for the night. The Narrandera Hotel offers free accommodation for Ulysses members, in quite comfortable rooms while the Globe offers basic rooms, off the upstairs verandah, and relatively secure parking, for a mere $20. (“Free accommodation”? That is generous! As is the $20 at The Globe! Elwyn). The next day was relatively easy riding through the NSW wheat belt. There were flocks of birds feeding on the side of the road, mulga parrots, eastern rosellas and budgerigars. Unfortunately, one of the budgerigars decided to swoop into my path after take off, and collided with my windscreen. I stopped at the Parkes' BP roadhouse for breakie and shortly after came into steady rain which continued through Dubbo to Gilgandra. I stopped at the Caltex roadhouse to refuel, dry off and have a bite for lunch. My gloves were dripping wet, so I pulled on another pair before setting off for Coonabarabran where I had a drink and pit stop, at the Information Centre. It was then on to Narrabri where I stayed at the Tourist Hotel for the night. I was quite taken by the comparative luxury of my room, which opened onto the upstairs verandah. Air-con, sink, TV and one room away from the bathroom, all for $30. The $12 prawn risotto went down well, for dinner. (At these prices I can see I’ll have to get you to plan my next trip! Elwyn). I'd arranged to meet up with a fellow Tasmanian travelling on a classic Vespa PX200. Sharon had set off a day earlier and was “cruising” at around 80kph. I left the Newell Highway at Moree and started on the hilly and windy haul towards Glen Innes. Breakie was at Warialda with lunch and refuel at Tenterfield, while waiting for Sharon. No sooner had we started for the Queensland border, at Wallangarra, than the rain resumed, providing an interesting photo shoot. However, by the time we reached Stanthorpe, the sun revealed itself and we were soon removing layers of clothing. The dinner function was held at the local steak house and it was no surprise that the trophies for furthest distance travelled went to the two Tasmanians. (Congratulations! Well deserved. Elwyn). We caught up with many of our scooter friends and acquaintances, over the course of the weekend and spent hours pleasantly yarning about possible and likely modifications we'd love to do given the time and/or money. One of the highlights of the weekend was the group ride through the hillsides to a berry farm called, “The Bramble Patch”. Those who have tasted the delightful offerings at Kate's Berry Farm, in Swansea, would have some idea of the yummy, gourmet pleasures enticing visitors to forego all thoughts of weight shedding diets or cholesterol concerns. After much deliberation I settled for an “ice burger”. This monumental concoction brought such a gleam to my eye, on delivery, that many a camera immortalised the moment for future reference. (He does look pleased with it, doesn’t he! Elwyn). People started drifting off from 8.00am the following morning and conscious of losing an hour at the border, Sharon and I got underway by 10.00am. We'd agreed to ride together to the border for more photos then continue on our own. This time the sun shone to produce brightly coloured photos and we both left in a positive frame of mind. I soon returned to highway riding mode having lunch and a refuel at Glen Innes. I stopped in Tamworth for the night, at Joe Maguires Pub, another typical establishment, with rooms off the upstairs verandah. After settling in my room I explored the town, partly in search for a place for dinner. Joe's Pub boasted the “best food in town”, but only served 6 days a week. I soon found this to be the local pattern, but managed to locate a Chinese Takeaway to purchase “combination long and short soup”. With a long haul the next day, I retired early. I left Tamworth before sun-up, in a light sprinkling of rain. Luckily enough a car soon overtook me and lit the way ahead until the sun revealed the terrain. The road between Gunnedah and Coonabarabran climbs and falls through tree plantations and the air was filled with a lovely mixture of eucalyptus and pine. I had planned to refuel and have breakie at Coonabarabran, but the petrol station I had selected from Google Maps no longer existed. Quickly doing the distance-volume-consumption calculations I decided I had sufficient fuel for the extra 68km. As you can imagine, I refuelled at the first servo I came to and stopped for breakie at “Kingy's Place”. His egg and bacon roll for $3.50 is a must. I returned to the Parkes BP Roadhouse for lunch and reacquainted myself with the Globe Hotel, at West Wyalong, for the night. One more day's riding and I'd be back on the ferry. During the trip I'd noticed cracks on my number plate, along the top edge, near the washers. All was still intact before I left, but by the time I'd reached Jerilderie for breakie only the top edge of the number plate remained. I stopped to refuel and have a bite for lunch at Shepparton. It was then on to the Craigieburn Service Centre to rest and regroup before tackling Melbourne. I reset my Tomtom's destination to include toll roads. I figured that without any means of ID I could take the risk. At the ferry, a rider from Victoria informed me that motorbikes can use tollways for free, except the South Eastern motorway. So much for my "daring"! At least I made use of free parking on the footpath when I stopped for late lunch, at St Kilda. It was pleasant taking munchies down to the jetty to relax and wait for boarding time. The ride back from Devonport was rather uneventful, apart from being nearly blinded by the rising sun, near Deloraine. The giant orb appeared right in my line of vision and made it hard to get a reference to ensure I was on the left side of the road and in the correct lane. I was happy to take a breakie brake at Perth (yes, there is a Perth in Tasmania, Elwyn), and to fill up for the final push to Kingston. As Murphy would have it, the sky darkened, the temperature dropped and rain began to fall once I hit Oatlands. At least it wasn't windy and I arrived home just after 11.00am. In all I travelled some 3,886km using nearly 132 litres of fuel, giving the fantastic figures of just under 29.5km/ltr or approx 3.4 ltr per 100km. I had developed a pattern of starting each day around 6.30am, then repeating two hours riding before stopping to eat and refuel to get to my day's destination around 2.30pm. Although my Aprilia Scarabeo doesn't have the deep sound of a v-twin, nor the futuristic looks of a Ducati Monster, it performed flawlessly, carrying me and my gear quickly but safely and relatively dry. I am comfortable with its 189kg dry weight and now plan to keep it as my main mode of transport as both a commuter and tourer. In closing, I cut a piece of marine ply and fixed this to the rear mudguard at four points with self tapping screws and stainless steel bolts. I then fixed a new number plate to this with four steel bolts going through rubber grommets and loc nuts. I think the whole mudguard will have to fall off before I lose the number plate again. Thanks for the great story, Michael. That was a big ride, and in less than ideal conditions at times too. Well done! Michael had been considering changing to “normal” bike, but as the Scarabeo does everything he wants, and does it so well, it seems a good decision to keep it. Goes to show just how capable good scooters are!
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