2012 - Gold Coast to Perth (6,100km)
2012 MISSION: Raise funds for our chosen charity on dirt bikes, riding 6100km of the best and worst roads that can be found between the Gold Coast in Queensland and Perth in Western Australia. TARGET: $60,000. Mission accomplished, with Cannonballers raising over $85 000.
THE RIDE: With the El Nino effect in full swing and heavy rains putting a dampener on many parts of Australia in the few weeks prior to Cannonball 2012. The question on everyone’s mind was if it would be postponed, or if we could even make it through 6100kms of water damaged roads, sand, dust, mud, pea gravel, swollen creeks and bog holes. Hell yeah it’s the Cannonball!
It was pretty damp and slick on the bitumen with new nobbies on the freeway down to the Gold Coast for me, but 22 riders fronted for pre-start scrutineering as planned, Gary didn’t. His brand new 990 broke down on the highway and with much disappointment a late start was organised when he had to go and fetch his trusty old DR 650 and leave his 990 in the workshop to be fixed. Gary had already drowned a bike while surveying the route a few weeks earlier, so missing the first day wasn’t a big loss to him. But for the remainder of the field, which included a mixture of KTM 990’s and 950’s, KTM’s Single pot 640’s and 690’s, a 1200 GS and a couple of 800 GS’s, some DR, KLX and Suzuki 650s it would be a doozy!. The riders consisted of plenty of regular Cannonballers who had booked out months in advance to make sure they were on the trip and of course, some newbies who were wondering why they had booked at all, when the stories from the veterans seemed to get taller and taller!
With scrutineering and paperwork completed, the formal welcome dinner got under way with a briefing on what was to be expected, rules and who was who etc. For the regular riders this was all on par, and plenty of drinks were had to break the ice and make new riders feel welcome.
Monday morning started out pretty bleak and damp, but enthusiasm was high. After a hearty breakfast we were warned of the day ahead and how slippery the roads would be on our new tyres. Subsequently with enthusiasm running high, the first spill of the ride occurred only two roundabouts down the road, yep it was going to be a long ride! Using the corner man system to wind our way out through the Gold Coast and up into the hinterland, the road started to dry up the further west we pushed and the day warmed up. We rolled on through goat tracks on private properties, and merged onto a bit of bitumen here and there.
The Condamine river gorge was our next obstacle, the 19km section of 14 river crossings with slippery tracks thrown in, took us nearly 4 hours to complete. Usually a breeze, after the drenching Queensland has taken in recent years it was anything but. However it was a whole lot of fun, but many bikes were tipped over into the murky bolder lined creek, luckily none of the big Kato’s needed de-watering, but a couple of the smaller bikes got waterlogged and needed assistance. Nindigully was our planned stop for the night, so with 440k to do before setting up camp, an executive decision was made and we took the express route into Nindigully. The sound of a pack of V-twins on full song stretching their legs across the planes is pretty cool.
The next day was also full of challenges. Tracks on our intended route were impassable, so with some re-routing we thought we could make it through. Our planned overnight stop at Hungerford was abandoned and Noccundra was to be our new overnight camp. It meant we had some extra kilometers to do the next day to catch up, but everyone was ticking along well. Due to the recent flooding, the mosquitoes were in plague proportion at Noccundra, even biting people through their tents if they lay too close to the sides. The publican asked if we were camping across the road and when we said we were, his reply was “your all gonna need a blood transfusion in the morning“- he was right!
The groups demographic are from all walks of life, with all different skills. Sometimes it’s the diesel fitters required to fix something, or the skills of a chef to knock up a feed in an emergency. Ollie managed to crash heavily early in the ride and much to our surprise was a gourmet chef, so his skills were immediately utilised and appreciated.
The next morning we were on our way to Cameron’s Corner and due to the rains, there were massive washouts on the track, some muddy bog holes, damp sand and deep sand. One of the riders picked up a massive washout on the opposite side of the dune and took a spill there by knocking the stuffing out of himself. The same washout caught out one of our support vehicles as well, nearly sticking it up on its side.
The day was pretty challenging for a number of reasons, it was a long day on the bikes and the support truck buggered a wheel bearing on the trailer. So running late in the dark trying to make camp on time they managed to get the truck dry bogged in deep sand whilst skirting around a waterhole. This could have spelt a long cool night stuck out in the Strzelecki Desert, but for the riders a planned overnight stop at Station Property meant we were fed and lubricated. The truck crew had their own fun out on the Strzelecki track overnight, camping under the stars with all of the swags and alcohol supplies that we were missing!. Next morning they used a spare bike on the trailer to ride into the nearest settlement and muster some help, in the form of a couple of 4WD’s to pull themselves out.
By the time the truck was recovered and repairs were organised for the trailer, the riders had pushed on. We rode through the Flinders Ranges which has to be some of the most fantastic riding in this country and overnighted again at another private station. The owners of this property kindly offered to guide us through, but when they rode up on KTM 450’s the boys on the bigger bikes began to worry. This track was only 40km, with an estimated two and a half hours riding time. This track was deep red sand, across salt lakes, rocky washed out hill climbs, covered in saltbush and weaving through mallee scrub. It was hard work on the big KTM’s, but the smaller singles had a ball. My bike had an electrical short from the speedo cable and kept popping fuses, usually at the most inopportune moments.
Talking of having a ball, these station guys also laid on a feed fit for kings. Roast lamb (well it was a sheep station) with all the trimmings. Massive local oysters and prawns, salads and lots of beers. The truck was still playing catch-up so the station organised bunks for us all, and even gave us wool bags to use as temporary bivvy bags. This was gold, you would have to pay a fortune with some ‘outback’ tour companies for an experience such as this, and we got it off the cuff. Another similar track out of the station in the morning through the Gawler Ranges National park was also fantastic and difficult. Thanks to Rob and the crew for leading, giving permission to cross his property and putting up with us for the night. We stopped at another private station for smoko in a shearing shed, and a local progress association put on a superb lunch at yet another station.
Next day the camp was at Ceduna, for a well-earned ‘Motel’ night. The support truck finally made it to ’camp’ with an impromptu banner on the side of the truck with ’Touring Equipment Suppliers’ Tents, swags, jox, sox, beer, clothes SALE 20% OFF Some items never used It was great to see the truck again and our gear, at least the support crew had a sense of humor after a lot of time stuck in the desert by themselves. They may even had more fun then us, as they couldn’t explain how half the run rations had disappeared, whilst under their supervision!
Next day we were off across the Nullarbor, using as minimal bitumen as possible. We stopped at the Great Australian Bight to take some pics. Front rims on bikes were taking a beating. Mostly dented, but the standard KTM Rims were looking like 50 cent pieces and even some quality aftermarket ones had huge cracks in them. Dingoes and Emus reigned supreme here and I nearly collected two dingoes in the saltbush two track. The track was so narrow at times the scrub was knocking off indicators and brushing past your knees. We also had to do the ‘ninety mile’, The Worlds’ longest straight stretch of bitumen. It’s as boring as bat shite, but at least we can say we have done it.
Camping at Balladonia at the western end of the Nullarbor, the night turned into a bit of a novelty when the support truck arrived before dark AND on the same day. Drizzle overnight had all the camping gear wet, but the track through the scrub and clay the next morning had had a good shower too. Riders briefing that morning mentioned this, but within a few K’s I had thrown the big girl down the track and stunned myself and bit a hole in my lip. This seemed to be the order of the day for a lot of the other riders too. Parts of the track were so slippery you couldn’t even stand up to pick your bike up. By now it’s about day 10, the days are starting to roll into one another, but the brother hood of being on adventure like this with complete strangers is starting to show. The roads and tracks keep changing rapidly so that keeps you on your toes (and sometimes on your head). We camped at Victoria Rocks that night also with the truck, and the last section of track was like marbles. Everyone commented how they thought they had a flat, some even stopped to check. Others even checked out the scrub on corners to see if the surface was any different out amongst the trees, some of this was intentional but a lot of it wasn’t.
The next day turned out longer and more eventful than anyone could have thought. Riding the 150 odd km from Victoria rocks to Wave Rock via the Holland track saw three riders crash their bikes all 10km from each other in slow technical stuff and all required medical attention. Just the normal bike injuries like collarbones and ribs, but this is when it makes sense to have backup vehicles when you’re a long way from medical help. The Ambos from Southern Cross finally got the last of the riders to hospital at 2am. Thanks guys! It was a big job recovering the bikes from probably one of the remotest sections of the trip, but to Jumby and Rob in one of the support utes it was no problem to retrieve the 3 broken bikes. All the riders were at the finish recovering and in good spirits.
Next morning was a bit of a late start, as everyone was just stuffed. We took time out to visit Wave Rock and have a bit of a look around before heading to Albany. Albany was our scheduled lay day, so we could repair bikes. We took a trip up into the National Park and checked out Whale World, an old whaling station. Albany is a beautiful part of the world but was really windy while we were there. With a wind farm just around the corner I presume that it’s pretty windy there most of the time. We then continued on relatively short days with only two to go, so for me it was self-preservation mode, so close and yet so far. We motored on through old logging tracks that went from the aforementioned marbles, to sandy tracks through to pindan dirt, and dusty sections as well a change to the sea of mud that we had originally encountered on our first day in Queensland.
We made our way to the Valley of the Giants an area of massive trees and camped at a beautiful spot on the beach called Contos National Park. It was the final night, so preparations were being made for the last couple of hundred kilometers. Everyone was excited, partly because the adventure was nearly over and partly because there was a few shenanigans and pay backs to be had. Last year’s lead rider Craig was off on a two year round the world trip on his 950, and the boys had threatened at a minimum to tear a page out of his passport as payback for his shenanigans, so he was sleeping with one eye open most of the time. Craig may or may not have been the instigator for many of the shenanigans and tampering of motorcycles during the trip, but he was certainly present when most of it was going on! As this article goes to print he is somewhere in Mongolia on his bike and still looking over his shoulder!
Next morning as we were all getting ready to roll, I fired up the big girl and fed it to her to try and pop it off the center stand. In soft sand my Kato bogged down deep and threw a truckload of sand at an unsuspecting BMW rider directly behind, sorry Wade it was purely an accident, but gold just the same! I thought I’d be safe from retaliation, until the very last stop of the day when I let my guard down. I had pulled up behind Wade and when I realised, hoped he didn’t check his mirrors before leaving, he did.
All in all we had a great time, but there were some challenges. We rode 6100km in 13 days, broke 5 riders, damaged 3 bikes, cracked 3 front rims, had countless crashes and broke a swing arm on a BMW 1200 GS. We had thousands of laughs and most importantly raised $85 000 for our the charity.
Our final destination was Dave’s, the lead rider and his wife Jenny’s Drakesbrook Tavern at Waroona WA. They laid on another feed fit for kings and made it a family day with a car and bike show, jumping castle and lots of beers. The party then continued into our final presentation dinner and long into the night. After a few weeks the bruises, blisters and aches and pains have gone and memories will are of the trip and the funds raised..
Congratulations Cannonballers! Thank you Katie for organising the event, and Thank you the Volunteers and Officials who give your time to support the charity.
For some, adventure is more than just an amusement park ride and holidays are just as much about the journey as the destination. Most importantly, whether it’s adventure or holidays, it’s about going by dirt bike, feet up and sidewards! To achieve all these goals, there is no better way to go than by Cannonball Charity Ride, adventure holidays on an off-road motorcycle, while raising vital funds for a charity. Cannonball Charity Rides are fully catered and organisers carry all fuel, service, camping and cooking gear. The cost of each ride depends on the location and accommodation. The 2013 ride will run from Warwick to the Hunter Valley via the Snowy River Country, taking in the sights of Bathurst, Dubbo, Whistlestop, Central NSW to name a few. In November 2013 we will be raising money for Heartkids so check out our website for this great charity. If you’re keen, and you should be, more info can be found by calling Katie on 0402 750 900 or email or check out the website at www.cannonballride.com.au. Either way, just get out there and do it! Rides are limited to 20 participants
Sponsors: As this is a charity ride, we would like to thank our sponsors for their great assistance. We can say their gear is great because, even though we are grateful for any support given, you can’t take chances when you are responsible for the lives and well-being of lots of people in remote places. For this reason, we only use the best gear and from the following companies.Fourby’s 4WD Superstore, MJF Projects, MGL Communitications.
Cannonball 2010 Dalby to Darwin - Journey to the Lost City
At last, the 2010 Cannonball Charity Ride in the name of Endeavour Foundation had arrived and preparation was in full swing in Dalby, Queensland. This 4th running of the event was heading to Darwin some 11 days and 4500km later. Previous rides had included Mt Isa to the Gulf, Cairns to Broome and Toowoomba to Tassie. The riders, many repeat offenders, again armed themselves with a full array of weapons. The obligatory enduro bikes were there for the masochists, so too the big BMWs and KTMs equipped with everything bar an espresso machine. All of the bikes would be loved or hated and that position would change as the terrain did! I was about to christen my new 990 having never actually ridden it, but having ridden a similar bike, I thought it couldn't be that different.
The Cannonballers started to arrive with riders registering, fixing last minute issues, packing and repacking support vehicles. S ome slipped downtown to visit legendary adventure rider and all round good bloke Craig Hartley and the Dalby Moto team for last minute tyre changes, parts and a few of those 'oh crap I forgot to bring' items. Others sought out balaclavas and thermals as the day had started at 3 degrees and sent a strong message about being prepared for all conditions.
The Edge of the World (Toowoomba to Tassie), March 2009
The beads of sweat were forming now, his concentration absolute and all around him time seemed to slow. Sounds were absent from his consciousness except for the big V-twin that was alive, like a wild beast, looking to bite the very hand that fed it. A tight right-hand turn across the face of the hill, leading into an immediate climb. Get it right and he would sleep well tonight. Get it wrong and he would experience immediate pain and suffering, until the cartwheeling 950, which would inevitably follow, came swiftly to provide a merciful knockout blow. The decision was made. With a slight, ever so slight, twist of the grip, man and machine inched forward. A sense of euphoria washed over his mind and soul at the thought that he would indeed survive the gauntlet, but just then, his world imploded! The Pirelli squirmed, breaking free of its precarious bite on mother earth. The big beast spun up and forward motion halted. Then slowly, ever so slowly, gravity took hold and doomed our man to a downward trajectory. He scrambled for ground and finding none, fell, fell with a crushing blow that knocked what seemed like all life and being from his worthless (and overweight) body. Was that the fabled light he now saw? Should he go towards it? Should he have had paid more homage at the altar of the orange god? No....Craig, as the Cannonball Charity's lead rider, this is a pink tutu and it's what you get for crashing your bike in the driveway before even starting what will become an epic 3,500km ride from Toowoomba to Tassie!!
Yep, this year's ride, like those before it, would become a journey of self-discovery, not just a dirt bike ride to the edge of the world (literally), but a journey of the mind. Just how far and fast can a 950 be jumped at the beckoning of the little evil one known as Dave, before it would end in tears? Or, in fact, how many tears would Ryan shed, while his WR250 seat was removed from his butt after he completed the first day's 10hr, 650km leg? Or, indeed, after finding no red wine in Queenstown with a vintage of more than 12mths, how would Allan make do in such primitive surroundings? Everyone would have a story to tell - this is mine.
Back in 2006, on the return from a ride to Cape York, a decision was made to go into running long distance adventure rides for those that craved adventure but were time poor and needed someone else to scour the maps to sort an interesting route, provide backup support, great catering and first class medics. All this, of course, without removing any of the excit ement of riding a dirt bike (big or small) over long distances with lots of challenges. Katie Warfield decided she would take on this task and raise some much needed coin for the Endeavour Foundation in the process. Since then, an ever-growing group of 'Cannonballers' have done some amazing rides including, 'Up the Middle' (Mt Isa to Normanton and back) in '07, 'Across The Top' (Cairns to Bro ome) in '08 and now this one, to the Edge of the World in '09. But this, like other rides, was no cappuccino sucking affair, with all riders expected to get in and get their hands dirty to keep the whole train moving when bikes broke, riders disagreed with table drains or luggage trailers needed packing. Yep, this is the Cannonball
Charity Ride 2009 - Toowoomba to Tasmania!
Starting at about 8am, WIN TV in Toowoomba turned up to support Endeavour and do the official wave-off for our brave group from the workshops. The sun was shining as the 130 or so guys and gals of the Endeavour workshops lined the street, waving and cheering the tutu-clad Craig as he led 21 riders out onto the street and into the first corner...then back again...to take the marked corner. Ah yes, this navigation thing was going to take some getting used to if we were to make Tassie in nine days time. Some time, and many, many corners later, with dark approaching, riders pulled into Baradine, 650kms of dust, corrugations and thousands of flies later. At the riders, briefing the previous night, Katie had been right, the first day was gonna be a doozie. Those who had played up at the bar during the welcome dinner the night before had a quick feed and slinked off to their rooms to be up at 4.30am (thanks, daylight saving) to do air filters and chains before the next day's assault.
The group moved out early to meet up again for lunch at the Rabbit Trap Hotel, after spreading out to let the dust settle between riders. The day's riding was again to be fast sweeping gravel roads, where there was plenty of time to practice feet-up slides into and out of the 90 degree bends around paddock corners. For Mark (the sweep), much amusement was had by looking at the skid marks coming out of the corners as he knew those up front were have a whale of a time. Even more entertaining were the skid marks going into the corners where it was evident that, for some, perhaps speed was overtaking ability! Wherever you looked, the land looked baked and the drought was certainly biting hard on our country cousins. However, country hospitality still remains top notch and every little town that we stopped in continued to welcome us with open arms. Having Endeavour branded over everything certainly helps, given that some of the party were not the most attractive to the eye. The overnight stop for today was Lake Cargelligo which, to my mind, was just bizarre. In the midst of all this desolate country was a huge natural lake. Apparently, I‚Äôm not the only explorer to think this as, in 1817, John Oxley (a real explorer), who found the place said, "We were most agreeably surprised with the sight of a very fine lake ... the noble lake before me gave a character to the scenery highly picturesque and pleasing." See, just like I said... bizarre.
Things were now starting to get a bit more serious as we headed to a place noted in the route sheet simply as Whistle Stop. However, today also proved not so good for me, as for the first time in 30 years of riding dirt bikes, the chain snapped and on the way out, despite a case saver, took my hydraulic clutch master cylinder with it. It was on to Jumby's backup ute within about 10 minutes of the incident happening. Jumby is a pretty keen rally driver in his spare time and always seemed to appear on the spot just when an incident occurred. With my bike now on the ute and probably going faster than when I was riding it, I was relegated to Vanessa's sweep vehicle, which being the latest top of the range Landcruiser Sahara with leather seats and air-conditioning, was kinda nice if you gotta go by tin top. The group itself pressed on. Matt, who was in from India for the ride and who would go on to win the title of 'King Cornerman', cranked his DR650 to warp speed and roared through the pack to have the pleasure of sitting on the next corner, where he would simply repeat the process like clockwork. Jeromy (Qld) on his Kato 450 mixed it up with Matt (SA) on his XR 400 and Ryan (WA) lurked in the undergrowth on his WR250 with helmet camera on, just waiting for the next unsuspecting rider to overshoot the corner and think, wrongly, that they had got away with it unseen. With tanks fuelled up in Wagga Wagga, the ride entered the hills out the back of Humula and Tumbarumba with the best riding to date. Steep inclines and triple cautions on the route sheet meant the small bikes were back and punching hard - not the place you want to be in a sweep vehicle. Emerging into some wide-open paddocks, a strange sight was beholden, that of a train very much off its tracks but looking as though it belonged. This was indeed Whistlestop and the accommodation was superb...a campfire was lit and beverages handed out liberally from the much-applauded, tough-as-nails OZexplorer fridge. Once again the party came alive.
With 431km to cover today and the route now getting progressively tighter, the day was still lining up to be a big one. With my bike on the ute, I came to realise two important things. One was the level of detail that Katie goes to, to make these rides a success. I was handed a route book (perhaps some 3 inches thick) and told I was going to have to navigate in the support truck that followed the field, collecting the ribbon that led to the corners. Katie is very particular that, once we have passed through a section, there would be no sign left that we had been there. What blew me away was that there would have been a route instruction no more than 200m apart - a washout here, a corner there, a caution here, a gate there. When you think Katie had done this for over 3,500km, it really drives home how much work goes into making an event like this work like a well-oiled machine. The second thing that I realised is that the support crew (all volunteers covering their own costs) are there for a good time and nothing is too much trouble. Ron and Jen drove a good 4-hour round trip to Wodonga to grab my much needed slave cylinder so my ride could continue. On arriving at camp, they wouldn‚Äôt even hear of me giving them anything more then a beer, saying it was a good drive and they enjoyed the diversion. How cool is that? Thanks heaps guys - my ride could have ended there if it wasn't for your extremely generous efforts!
We arrived in Alexandra and everyone hit the tools to do some much-needed maintenance on their bikes. Alexandra Motorcycles offered a tyre changing machine in support of the rally and then helped out by staying open till after 10pm so tubes, oils and other bits and pieces could be bought as needed, to ensure we would all make the finish line. However, the biggest effort of the ride goes to Dave Oliver from Tyres for Bikes (Brisbane). Dave was primarily there on holidays, but he fired up the tyre changer and set to work on what must have been 30 or 40 tyres, so all the riders could make the pub in time for dinner and a beer. On ya Dave! Incidentally, Motoz, who were keen to support the ride, did an AWSOME deal whereby everyone who bought a rear hoop for 50% off, also got given a free front hoop! (Think about that, two tyres for half the cost of one rear!) I thought the fast open dirt roads of the first few days would have seriously screwed what looked look like very aggressive full-on enduro knobbies. But they stayed so strong, a few of the crew threw them on the back of their 950s where they again put up a huge fight. (Not sure this is their intended use, so consult your Motoz dealer.) What some of the lads were paying for tyres for the big bikes, the Motoz appear to get the same life for half the cost.
Bit of a short day today - we left our hotel in Alexandra and made the very cold ride through the Victorian high country to meet at a motel in Healesville, where the bikes would be loaded onto massive trailers built by Katie‚Äôs Dad to be taken to Tassie on¬†the ferry, while we took the plane and grabbed some much needed sleep. The ride was an eye opener for me, as it was my first look at the de vastation the bush fires have caused. While I may never comprehend the fear and destruction which occurred on Black Saturday, I felt for those affected. It reminded me that, regardless of the silly way Victorians play footy, we are all Aussies and we need to stick together when times are tough. Upon loading the bikes on our lunch break, we bussed it to the airport where Russell, who was wearing the tutu for the day, proceeded to run foul of airport security.... but in a good way. The officials, Vanessa, Glen, Ron and Jen, had to take the overnight ferry to have our bikes ready to go by breakfast the next day in Davenport. No riding time lost crossing Bass Straight - how cool was that ‚Äì on ya guys! In fact, the only thing lost was Glen's Apple iPhone. When he got so excited at the ferry arriving, he dropped his new toy into the drink at the end of the jetty. Fancy all that flash technology and they can't make the buggers float!
Today was a 336km leg from Davenport to Smithton via the Milkshakes Hills Forest Reserve and over the Campbell Range on some tracks identified by the locals as a 'hoot'. A quick pre-breakfast (6am Queensland time) blast down the highway (very cold) got us to our breakfast stop at Gunns Plains Caves, where the locals had bacon and egg burgers with fresh coffee ready for us. Then, because we were with Endeavour, we got a special sneak peak into the caves themselves. Discovered in 1906, the immediate 54 steps leading down to the cave floor were steep and provide their own level of excitement when negotiated in a set of wet dirt bike boots, as does the ladder! Impressive as the natural assets were, the thought of volunteers taking all the concrete in by hand to build the stairs and viewing areas was even more impressive. The rest of the day consisted of dirt roads and forestry service tracks through Hellyer Gorge State Reserve and the Savage River National Park, constantly winding up and down through the green, very green, countryside. This is the Tasmania you don't see in the normal tourist brochures. For us Queenslanders, the best part of all was no dust.
As had become the norm, I was up at daybreak with bags packed and in the trailer by 6am. A hot breakfast followed. This, of course, was after Dave's mate....who we never met...let off a few firecrackers, just to make sure everyone was up and at 'em. The lead bikes fired up and were off and running about 8.15am, which was about the norm for the trip. I was particularly looking forward to the ride today as it would take us right down the western s ide of the island - in fact, it would take us right to the Edge of the World. Here, just after crossing the Arthur River on the far northwest coast of Tassie, is where the longest expanse of ocean in the world hits the beach. Yes, the air does feel genuinely cleaner than anywhere else.
From Arthur River, a very quick, in fact, a very, very quick ride down the Western Explorer route was had to the small town of Corinna, where the bikes were loaded on to a small car ferry to be taken to the other side of the Pieman River. This didn't seem too hard, but I understand that, a couple of days earlier, one of the BMW Safari blokes decided to ride right off the end of the ferry and see how deep the river actually is. Apparently, like Apple iPhones, all the technology in a BMW doesn‚Äôt help them float either. We continued on but couldn't see how to access the beach at Henty Dunes so, after a few failed attempts to get over the dunes on the bigger bikes, we went a bit further south and got onto the flat wide speedway...er um I mean beach. While trying to power slide the 950, Dave went down. Within the blink of an eye, bikes seemed to appear from everywhere, like a pack of hyenas in for the kill. So much sand was moved in such a short space of time, it was like one of those National Geographic documentaries where a new island emerges from the sea. We rode the beach south until emerging just a few kilometres up the road from Strahan. We had to haul down the last kilometres of the day on the black stuff until we hit Queenstown. But, in Tassie, even the black stuff is fun, as no road seems to go in a straight line for more than 10m, with plenty of 35km/h corners which, of course, is the recommended speed (ie. not the maximum speed) at which such corners can be taken. Let's face it - when the logging trucks slow down to 35, so will I. After a group photo in front of some amazing scenery, we got to our accommodation and gave the bikes a wash down with some handy hoses. Katie had thought of everything for this ride!
Leaving Queenstown, we were greeted with another brilliant bit of blacktop as the road climbed out of the valley, past the huge environmental disaster that earlier mining practices caused and over the ridgeline. This bit of road is actually one of the stages in the famous Targa Tasmania Rally. Some light rain, knobby tyres and very cold weather slowed us down a bit, but it was still a hoot and scrubbed the Motoz tyres again in ways they probably weren‚Äôt designed for. The same tyre abuse was dished out as we crossed the Victoria Pass, close on 1000m and very cold in a typical Tassie drizzle. Nonetheless, the majority of the day was again back into the forest for a trip that saw us virtually cross the entire island west to east via the lakes region and the very historic town of Ross. Ross is Tasmania in my mind - a small hamlet set in green fields where all the buildings seem to be hand-made from convict labour. If you look at the stonework closely, you can actually see the individual pick marks made from convicts where they cut the blocks from the quarry. After lunch and somewhere deep in the Mt Puzzler forest, we came across a Beemer. Given that I have never won anything, to find a pretty good BMW (except for where it was bent, and it was bent in a lot of places) in the middle of the bush seemed pretty good to me. But Katie just had to go and get on the Sat Phone to find out that it was part of the BMW Safari and, while the owner had to go to hospital, the recovery vehicle was still to get the bike. We offered to throw it on the ute but the Safari guys said it was well in hand and they would be there soon. The day wound up with another famous Targa stage as we blasted through St Mary's Pass, dropping down to St Helens and to our night's accommodation overlooking the local fishing fleet moored in Georges Bay. A very nice place for a beer.
It had to come; no one wanted it to, the last day of the ride. By ride standards, the 261km on the route sheet looked like an easy cruise and, in some respects, it was, after the last 3,300 odd kilometres. However, Katie had worked in a number of sightseeing venues, so those that had not been to Tassie before could sample some of the Apple Island's delights, other than moist tacky forestry tracks. First stop was the Pub in the Paddock. The jury is out as to whether the pub is more famous for being in the middle of a paddock or for Priscilla, the beer-drinking pig. My money is on Priscilla. This was followed by lunch at Targa, which seemed rather appropriate given that we had conducted some of our own ‚Äúspecial‚Äù stages. But the last stop-off for the day was Ben Lomond Ski Field and the famous Jacob‚Äôs Ladder. The switchback road starts about 1,000m up and leads to the top of a very impressive cliff, close on 1,200 meters above sea level. Riders left the bottom car park at 30-second intervals with the intention to enjoy the impressive scenery, which soon translated to seeing if you could catch the bike in front. Naturally, road rules were obeyed, not sure which ones though. For the tourists already at the top, you could not buy this sort of entertainment. A 950 with twin akrapovics in full song climbing the road below is indeed the ultimate addition to such a magnificent landscape, well, in my mind anyway.
The pack rolled in (some on reserve) to the final night's accommodation after the author made a navigation error on the last corner of a 3,500km journey. Oops. Katie and Sherry from Endeavour had organised a welcoming party and the whole support crew were there, including Katie's husband Daniel and brother Michael. These guys, who no one had met until now, were travelling a consistent two days ahead of the pack with her father Paul, laying ribbon, marking cautions and putting up corner arrows so that, by the time we arrived, usually at some considerable speed, it was all smooth sailing. A final dinner was had, awards handed out and a few glasses of rum drunk for what was the end of another amazing event. Even though it might be a year or more before we all meet up again on the next Cannonball Adventure, I am sure just like this year, we will once again be back on our bikes, riding each day into new adventures and it will seem like nothing has changed between mates. When friends are made through the common interest of adventure riding, time may pass but the friendships stay strong. This is what it means to be part of the club of dirt bikers that call themselves 'Cannonballers' riding for Endeavour. Come on, join the club!
This year's ride took in the sights of western Queensland and NSW, the high country of Victoria (limited due to the bushfires), Melbourne Airport (entertaining in itself when you are wearing a pink tutu) and wilderness of Tasmania. Twenty-one riders started and, more impressively, 21 riders finis hed! The ride caters for all bikes, with ample time provided for oil changes on some of the hi-tech enduro weapons. Husband and wife teams are also encouraged.
Cannonball Charity Rides are fully catered and organisers carry all fuel, service, camping and cooking gear. The cost of each ride depends on the location and accommodation. The 2010 ride will run from Dalby to Darwin, taking in the sights of Tambo, Jundah, Barkley Homestead, Daly Waters and Litchfield National Park to name a few. If you‚Äôre keen, and you should be, more info can be found at http://cannonball.endeavour.com.au. Alternatively, call Katie on 0402 750 900 or email email@example.com. Either way, just get out there and do it!
As this is a charity ride, we would like to thank our suppoters for their great assistance. We can say their gear is great because, even though we are grateful for any support given, you can‚Äôt take chances when you are responsible for the lives and well being of lots of people in remote places. For this reason, we only use the best gear and from the following companies.
May 2007 - The Isa to the Gulf
Dual Sporting is a funny (read U.S.A) way of saying recreational trail bike riding on registered bikes, but however you say it, Dual Sporting/Trail Bike riding, the news is all good. More and more organisations are recognising the growing demand for non-competitive trail bike riding and are entering the market. This has come at a time when bikes are flying off dealers‚Äô floors as the average Aussie is using up some of that fat equity in their recently inflated property value and getting back into the sport and wanting more adventure in their holidays than any theme park could provide!
2007 saw the inaugural ride for the newest entrant in the long distance recreational trail bike market, the very adventure driven 'Cannonball Charity Ride' crew. A down-to-earth group, who set out to do two things - run the best ever holiday adventure ride for the average punter and raise a bit of coin for the Endeavour Foundation in the process. In my mind, both are very worthy causes however you look at it and, by all accounts, these guys were right on the money for their first attempt. The ride was a huge success - a not-so-easy task when you're organising a ride not just around the block, but from Mt Isa to the Gulf and back - a total of 2200km of largely unsupported remote back country roads, station tracks and cow trails.
Trail boss, Katie Beeby, has been around long distance recreational rallies for quite a bit, as both an entrant in various car rallies (where she still drives a '76 HX Holden) and co-organiser for some other long distance bike rides that have been held in recent years. I had to ask Katie why long distance trail rides and why Mt Isa to the Gulf. 'I think there is a huge demand for these long distance rides but, until now, they have been limited to the big Cape York run or the Victorian High Country', says Katie.
While both are great rides and everyone should do them at least once in their lives, what do you do when you have ticked these off your 'must do' sheet? We decided we would run rides that haven't been done before and build up a key group of clients who want big adventure, big variety and a professional outfit to do it with. Most of our clients have done the Cape or the High Country and are now seeking the next big adventure, therefore our motto is 'Been there, done that!' and we reckon it sums up what we are all about. Let's see this big country by dirt bike and let's see all of it!
This year, we took a group of adventure seekers from Mt Isa to Karumba in the Gulf and certainly ticked off a few 'must do's'. We rode some awesome outback tracks, sand, creek crossings, swam with the crocs (done it....but not intentional nor recommended!), went fishing for barra, did mine tours, flew over the top end, and had great meals and lots of beverages to sustain our group of hearty adventurers. In fact, we were very pleased to have a group of ladies on our first trip with the Dirt Bike Chix clothing crew out of Victoria coming along and putting some of their specialised accessories through some long distance torture testing. I think they can honestly say now, not only does it look good, but it works when you really need it to!
But we have done that and, next year, we are alr eady planing to go from Cairns to Broome the long way, approximately a lazy 4500km! The supported trail riding gig has boomed in recent years as people become time poor and are now happy to pay to ensure that, on their one or two weekends they have free, they get an awesome ride with heaps of trails and all the logistics taken care of. We have taken this philosophy and believe the same runs true for people's annual leave - again they want to go remote and have some adventure but don't have the time to pore over the maps and logistics for months in advance to work out their holiday.
We pride ourselves on the fact that, once you pay your ride fee, that is the last time you put your hand in your pocket except for beers and souvenirs certainly helps with your holiday planning, depending on how much beer you drink! The best part is, because we are doing these rides for the first time ourselves, the adventure is still there and everyone digs into help when required. We believe that, each year, we will grow our band of hearty adventurers until we get to the point that, when you come on the ride, it will be like just catching up with long lost friends who come from right around Australia and like to ride, talk and tinker with dirt bikes just as much as you do. Now that's a holiday.
This year's ride took in the sites of the Isa, Gregory Downs, Lawn Hill National Park, Elliot Falls, Normanton, Karumba, 10 riders started of which 40% were ladies. The ride caters for all bikes, however, if you reckon your enduro weapon is not up to it, the biggest bike that went on the ride this year was a Kato 525, with a lot of 250s and 400s being riders‚Äô preferred weapons. Husband and wife teams are also encouraged.Cannonball Charity Rides are fully catered and organisers carry all fuel, service, camping and cooking gear. The cost of the rides depends on the locations. The 2008 ride will run from Cairns to Broome, taking in the sights of China Wall, Barkly Stock Route, the Gibb River Road and Cape Laveque. If you're keen, and you should be, more info can be found at under 'Fundraising and Events'. Alternatively, call Katie on 0402 750 900 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Either way, just get out there and do it.