Drew Jackson, Rick Carbis and Andy Carmichael rode all the way from Townsville (QLD) to attend the 2023 Rally in Bethanga!
Here’s Drew’s account of the long ride down and back.
Then There Were Two.
Alternatively: Three SR500s to Bethanga 2023.
The idea of riding our SRs all the way from Townsville to Bethanga on the Hume Weir was first floated by Rick after riding to the annual SR500 Club Rally from Warwick in 2022. “Why don’t we ride all the way next year?”, asked Rick. My silence should have been sufficient response. Then Andy, who had an SR with a very worn engine, said he’d like to do it if he didn’t have to camp. The stories we told about getting soaked in 2022 and then riding home via Tumbarumba and Batlow in the cold discouraged the camping option. I had intended to do my usual thing and carry [trailer] the SR to Warwick and ride from there.
Bike preparations were still under way at Andy’s place two days before departure. My bike received a new set of sprockets and chain, tyres, valve check and oil and filter change. I added Slime to my tyres to prevent sudden deflation and to seal any small punctures. I added some zip ties, chain lube, a litre of 20W-50, and a roll of Gorilla tape. The others packed enough tools to do an engine rebuild on the side of the road.
We departed on Sunday morning from the BP service station at Cluden after a coffee. Our first stop for fuel was at Charters Towers. My bike had used 6.6 L to cover 140 km. The next fuel available was at Belyando Crossing, the only fuel available between Charters Towers and Clermont – a distance of about 370 km. The fuel here is expensive. Clermont was next where we refuelled and had lunch at the Commercial Hotel. Rick’s SR refused to start after lunch and needed a new plug to get it going. Our destination for the day was Emerald and the trip meter ticked over 639 km – 10% of the journey done.
Day two, we were headed for Eidsvold. We stopped for breakfast after an early start at Duaringa, another place with expensive fuel. Rick need some Loctite to secure his throttle lock. After arriving in Eidsvold we had a go at fixing my indicators. There was a blown fuse and they worked with the engine off. Later, we actually fixed them by wiring in a new indicator can. The Star Hotel has increased its prices for the rooms and is no longer on my recommended list.
Day three, we headed towards Warwick, Durong and Dalby. We had a good breakfast in Mundubbera at the bakery. The roads in the Burnett are varied with some narrow bitumen and some that could throw you out of your seat. The roadhouse at Darr’s Creek has good food and coffee; their bacon and egg burgers are among the best I’ve had. We stopped at a friend’s place to admire his collection of classic cars and bikes. We were running ahead of time so I took the scenic route through Toowoomba, called ‘the bypass’. It was then on to Nobby, Steele Rudd country and the home of Sister Kenny who revolutionised the treatment of polio victims. From here we went to the Irish Pub in Clifton for a Guinness before I took them through the backroads to Allora and Warwick. We stayed with my sister in Warwick who has been very generous in hosting small groups of my riding friends over the years. We did a few running repairs to the bikes after visiting the local Repco store. My indicators were fixed (thanks, Andy) and the oil leaking from Andy’s tacho drive was ‘sort of’ sorted. My bike needed some oil – about 150 mL. Total distance so far: 1,639 km.
The next morning, we were off to Gloucester and the very good Roundabout Hotel. They provide a lock-up garage for the bikes and rooms at reasonable rates. We headed down the New England Hwy and had breakfast in Stanthorpe, before tackling Bolivia Hill, before heading to Glen Innes. Here we had a disaster of Biblical proportions – Rick dropped a full bottle of Chivas Regal on the driveway of the servo. It smelt great, intoxicating even, but undrinkable. From this point on I was given the task of transporting the vital supplies as I had plenty of space in my panniers as they weren’t bulging with tools and spares. The ride from Uralla to Walcha is fine, but the ride from Walcha to Gloucester is finer. The long hills required a run up and a downshift on my bike as I had raised the gearing to 17/42. There were lots of big adventure bikes headed for Walcha as there was a big rally on there in the coming days. There were plenty of BMW GSs, as well and a couple of Husqvarna 701s. The last few kilometres into Gloucester were good fun. We had now completed 2,120 km – so one third of the ride completed.
The ride from Gloucester, the next morning, to Singleton was over a road that was just a series of patched patches, but the corners were fun. We got separated in Singleton by the heavy traffic before being reunited at the Ampol on top of the hill. We headed to Denman where we had some more coffee. We took the shortcut out to the Bylong Valley Way. This is a great road with a couple of good twisty sections to enjoy. Our lunch stop was at the Rylstone Hotel, a place with good rooms and lock-up accommodation for bikes, but we were off to Bathurst where Andy insisted on doing a lap of The Mountain.
We indulged him by doing two. It was then to our motel for the night and the Irish pub for dinner and another Guinness. Luckily there was a Dan Murphy’s opposite the motel and a replacement bottle of Chivas was liberated from the shelves. It rained that night and the forecast for the next day was bleak.
An early start had us on the road through Perthville to Trunkey Creek. It was cold so we donned our wet weather gear to keep out the chill. The road from Trunkey Creek to Crookwell is another good ride on a bike – not a lot of traffic and plenty of corners. We had an encounter with wildlife when a kangaroo decided to hop down the road directly in front of me. It stayed on the centre line for some time. Doing a steady 40 kph, this ‘roo was not giving up his spot on the highway. From Crookwell, we went to Gunning, before joining the Hume Hwy to Gundagai. We sat behind a B Double that was doing a great job of punching a hole in the wind which allowed the bikes to cruise along easily. We left the highway at Gundagai and refuelled before looking for lunch. Andy and Rick joined a long line of coffee drinkers at the café. I decided to head off to Granya and Bethanga via Tumut, Batlow and Jingellic. The ride along the Murray Valley Hwy is always enjoyable with the Murray River on the right and good farmland surrounding it. I ran onto reserve just out of Bethanga. Andy and Rick continued on the Hume to Wodonga before turning up at the Rally site.
We eventually went to our accommodation at the Hume Resort to freshen up before riding back for dinner. The food at the Rally was very good as usual, and the desserts were brilliant. It was good to catch up with so many of the regulars. The ride back to the resort was pretty slow.
We woke early the next morning and arrived well before breakfast. We had a coffee and chatted with other early risers. Breakfast was excellent and we waited for the group to assemble for the ride to Tallangatta. This year there seemed to be a larger number of SR500s on the ride. After a coffee and curry pie, we headed back to the Rally for the Show ‘n’ Shine and the cricket. We arranged a taxi to get us to and from the Saturday night dinner. Again, excellent catering was on offer.
Andy was awarded the Long Distance Award this year. We were only half-way through the ride at just over 3,000 km. The taxi picked us up early so we didn’t get a chance to kill more redundant brain cells.
The return journey was via a different route. Our first stop was at Temora to look at the Aviation Museum. We used our seniors cards to get a discount on admission. Unfortunately, a large part of the collection was in Newcastle. We now had to choose which path to take. I thought heading to Gulgong would be the go, but in the end we headed for Dubbo, Parkes and Coonabaraban. We made good progress until the rain caught up with us just on dusk. We found a motel with a room for three and parked our bikes undercover. There was a Chinese restaurant across the road so that’s where we went. A good bottle of red and a banquet went down very well. The best Chinese food I’ve had in years.
Our goal the next day was Warwick again, but the rain was all around us. We dodged the rain to Gilgandra and only got light rain as we went through Manilla, Bingara and Warialda. I told the other two that the pub at Yetman was a good place for lunch. Wrong! It was closed! So we headed for Texas on the border. Texas used to have the cheapest fuel in Queensland – it wasn’t this time, but it was a lot cheaper than in NSW. We had lunch after refilling the bikes at a takeaway place in the main street. The food and coffee was excellent and the prices very reasonable. Rick went to the op shop to see if he could get a set of rain pants. The lady who ran the shop told him that her husband had a rain suit that he wanted to get rid of, so we waited for it to arrive. Free! It was a good fit. Friendly people, those Texans. We took the road through Green Up. Emus and kangaroos added to the flowing flood-ways. The Sena [intercom] came in handy to warn the others of hazards ahead. I used this road many times when I lived in the area. Then the heavens opened and visibility was terrible. Rick’s SR started to backfire and eventually stopped. WD40 got it running again. We pulled into the Karara Hotel and applied more WD40. We arrived in Warwick tired and wet. We spread out our gear to dry. We had a great meal and hit the hay early.
We were within striking distance of home now and we just wanted to get there as quickly as possible. We went to Dalby, back through Darr Creek for breakfast, and then to Munduberra. Here we refuelled before heading to Eidsvold. We intended to get to Rockhampton, the half-way point. From Eidsvold we took the Abercorn Road past the Bunyip Hole. This is where Rick went off the road and ended up in Rockhampton by helicopter and his bike back in Eidsvold on the back of a tow truck. His new rain suit was cut off in the hospital, as was his new SR Club t-shirt and his TRMCC jumper. He has six cracked vertebrae in his upper back and will require weeks of rest.
Meanwhile, Andy and I stayed in Monto for the night. If you’re going to fall off your bike, then Monto is the place to do it. The locals who came to our assistance were fantastic. The emergency workers were very professional and did a great job.
After all the drama we still had to go to Rocky and we dropped into the ED to see Rick in his birthday suit – all his clothes were in Eidsvold. Luckily, his wife had flown up from Brisbane and she’d been shopping for the essentials. After telling Rick that his bike was in good hands, it was time to push on.
Andy’s bike was starting to go downhill. The engine was struggling. It was amazing that it had made it this far. We headed north to Mackay. I have family in Mackay, so I spent the night with my grandkids and Andy pushed on to Townsville. He made it at about 8:30pm, his bike smoking and leaking oil from many places. I took my time and arrived home in Townsville just after midday. Total distance: 6,272 km.
My bike is still running well; the only casualties being the horn, the neutral light and a hairline crack in the muffler. I have fixed the horn. The bike was filthy, so I spent an hour cleaning it up. It still isn’t pretty, but it is half decent.
Would I ride to Bethanga again from Townsville on a Yamaha SR500? No, I would not! I’ve done it now. Next year, I might ride my R90S all the way.