Drew Jackson and Rick Carbis rode all the way from Warwick (QLD) to attend the 2022 Rally in Bethanga.
Here’s Drew’s account of the long ride down and back.
The Year of the Floods 2022
La Niña tried its hardest to stop us getting to Bethanga for the rally this year. With the pandemic intervening in previous years, and advancing age, it was worth the risk to head south and hope for the best. There had been heavy rain and storms in Central Queensland leading up to our departure, so we changed plans and rather than ride all the way from Townsville, we decided to take the bikes in the ute as far as Warwick and then ride the 1,510 km to Bethanga. Rick’s SR500E was a recent rebuild and it had only been on the road for a few weeks, and it was using a lot more fuel than normal, so it wasn’t fully sorted. With just days to go before departure, Rick was still building racks so he could mount his BMW’s Krauser panniers to the bike. While re-jetting his carburettor to fix the economy problem, he created a starting problem. He sorted that out after some advice from a friend. My bike had done the trip twice before, so I used the same old throw-overs and gear. The bikes were loaded into the ute with some modifications so that they’d fit with the tailgate partly closed, and a replica number plate attached. It was fully loaded.
The first overnight stop was in Eidsvold. We stayed at the Star Hotel that is currently undergoing extensive renovations. Our club [Townsville Restored Motorcycle Club] uses the Star regularly. The owner is friendly, and the prices are fair. We arrived in Warwick the following afternoon, unloaded the bikes, and set them up. Rick’s SR was very heavily loaded, and the side stand was struggling to cope. Eventually he shifted the tools to the opposite pannier to prevent it toppling over.
We did a side trip to Brisbane in the ute on Tuesday before arriving back in Warwick on Wednesday and getting on the way, south, at midday. We headed off on the New England Highway and stopped in Stanthorpe to check our fuel economy. Rick’s economy problem seemed to be solved. The hot start button was doing its job, almost. It wasn’t shutting off so the idle was staying high. We turned off the New England at Uralla and headed for Walcha down Thunderbolt’s Way. A very enjoyable ride. We stayed in the Commercial Hotel in Walcha where we were able to keep the bikes in a locked shed for the night.
The following morning, we repaired Rick’s cruise control and headed further south, towards Bathurst. This took us to Gloucester, Dungog and Singleton and then onto Denman, where we stopped for lunch and asked about a shortcut to the Bylong Valley Road and whether the road was open. We were told by a council worker that it was open to light vehicles. This is where we further practised the art of pothole dodging. This used to be a great ride, but the state of the road has deteriorated to the stage where it is only a good ride now. The tight, windy bits are still good. 30 kph posted corners are fun on an SR500. We stopped briefly in Sofala before arriving in Bathurst, and naturally we did a couple of laps of the track before finding our accommodation for the night in an Irish Pub that is under new management. We locked our bikes in the beer garden overnight. The Guinness was great and so was the food.
Friday morning, we headed off on the last leg. We turned off the main western highway and headed towards Crookwell via Trunkey Creek. The first time I rode this way there was still a section of dirt. Now it’s all bitumen with lots of corners and very little traffic. The posted advisory signs range from 15 kph to 55 kph. This road is a great way to travel south. We refuelled in Crookwell and headed for Gunning. We needed to get to Bethanga before dark, so we did the unthinkable and took the Hume Highway to Albury. We stopped in Gundagai for lunch. The Hume was boring, but it saved a bit of time. I told Rick that we’d do the more interesting route on the way home – Jingellic, Tumbarumba, Batlow and Tumut.
We arrived at the sports grounds to be met by Marcos who had kindly packed a couple of chairs for us. My odometer showed 1,510 km.
The rally was great, and it was good to catch up with people after all the lockdowns and restrictions. We’ve all aged that bit more.
On Saturday we rode to Dartmouth dam, and that was spectacular. We had lunch at Eskdale before returning to the rally through some light rain. Saturday night was good, with plenty of red grape juice and Rick taking home the Long Distance Award. I’m glad the trophy was easy to pack, as I don’t think his bike had room for much else.
The rain on Saturday night had managed to soak everything in my tent – sleeping bag, clothes, everything. I woke once the grape juice wore off and shivered and shook until morning.
Getting ready to leave meant putting on the least wet clothing we had and putting on our wet weather gear over the top to stop the wind chill. After breakfast we headed off home. It was raining and it was cold, especially around Batlow. Rick had gone numb. Once we came down off the high country to Gundagai, things improved. We headed to Jugiong for coffee, and then Harden and Bathurst and Rylstone. We stayed at the Globe Hotel in Rylstone. Highly recommended. The following morning it was off to Mudgee, Gunnedah, and eventually to Tamworth. Once we were back on the New England, it was an easy ride back to Warwick. I caught up with family over a Chinese takeaway meal after reloading the bikes into the ute for the trip back to Townsville.
The drive back north was uneventful. We stopped overnight in Dingo at the Motel before heading home via Emerald, Belyando Crossing and Charters Towers. The Holden returned 8.8 L/100 km for the 3000+ km trip, which is pretty good considering the load it was carrying.
Next year, Rick is determined to ride all the way – a 6,300 km round trip, depending on how many windy roads he takes.