Waiting for my flight home on the people rocket back to Adelaide, I reflect on the epic 8-day 2018 Bridge to Bridge Adventure Ride I just completed. Only having committed to the ride a month before, I’d quickly arranged for my WR250R motorcycle to be transported to Brisbane, ready for me to fly in for Saturday’s rider sign-in at Tyres For Bikes.
On Your Marks, Get Set… 2018 rideADV Bridge to Bridge – Here We Come!
Assisting with the rider sign-in, familiar and not so familiar faces started rolling up chomping at the bit, eager for what lay ahead. A good opportunity for some to shop for last minute items at Adventure Moto and get fresh tyres fitted, too. TB (Greg Yager of rideADV) welcomed old and new faces at the mandatory rider briefing where he announced the ride format, logistics and support crew line-up. This also included the introduction of international guests along for the ride, Harold Olaf Cecil from Giant Loop, Kevin Muggleton of Redverz Tents & local Aussie Yamaha legend Mr. Stephen Gall. The message was clear to all: keep left! Along for the ride was “Wally” the wombat, a rider dunce award to carry all day should you give TB good reason to become a nominee—don’t be a Wally!
Go! Day 1: Gateway Bridge, Brisbane to Stanthorpe, 340 km
We grouped together at the Gateway Bridge where a big KTM dropped a good amount of coolant; probably just nerves. We were led out of the city limits by police escort, which was quite cool. Though heavily warned the previous day about the Condamine River, it didn’t disappoint, throwing up a few challenges, catching out even the most experienced of riders. A few tricky crossings (14 in total) kept the group honest, and a handful needing to drain drowned bikes. I was keen to draw on my few years of Trials experience, which quickly evaded me at the second crossing, at which point I came extremely close to swimming. Cautiously entering with an audience watching on and never one to disappoint, I managed to find the really deep section with the biggest boulders (the exact ones we were warned about!). Thrown off my line, I was grateful for my long legs, acting like an RHS side stand. My riding buddy, Greg, on his new AJP cleverly managed to find my same line, so I did what all good teammates do and walked on in the knee-deep water to assist. We pushed on to the lunch stop at Killarney where soon all the tales of treachery let fly as the Condamine River leached from our squelchy boots.
Day 2: Stanthorpe to Tenterfield, 330 km
A sticky situation nearly arose early in the day riding a track with whoops through Girraween National Park as a rogue branch kicked up, wedging itself between my brake lever and footpeg. I decided to stop as something didn’t feel right, and lucky I did as I’m certain I’d have been catapulted by it on the next woo-boy. Lunch at the Lunatic Hotel in Drake—may as well have been run by lunatics—according to some—was a fair case of kitchen chaos, leaving a very hungry pair of Kiwis. Late lunch, hey bro? Some late rain kept the dust down on the picturesque Rocky River Road. A rider down on a deceptively tricky hairpin and too late to a special section meant we missed out on what sounded like an adventurous muddy piece of track. Next time, Mez.
Day 3: Tenterfield to Coffs Harbour, 307 km
Some early morning showers frustrated riders gambling on conditions, who had to pull off the track to remove waterproof layers. Typically, this is an opportunity for us to gain some ground on the quicker field, only to cop a dusty showering. All over again, I still wouldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else! The arms and shoulders didn’t seem to ache as much and with the sweeps on our tail playing games with me, I found some rhythm and a better speed on the Old Grafton Road, after the iconic tunnel.
Day 4: Coffs Harbour to Nambucca Heads, 240 km
We started the day with a more than satisfying brekky and fantastic coffee, followed by a late getaway after a radiator problem on Greg’s AJP. However, riding up through the New England National Park and Killiekrankie is best explained as the most fun you can have with your KLIM pants on! I got my riding mojo back and loved the WR even more. A great bike and a popular pick for the ride and super reliable. After rider sign-in, the magnificent rideADV crew set about cleaning air filters by the bank of the Nambucca River. The $460 raised for the cleaning service was all donated to buyabale.com.au by rideADV (23 bales for Aussie farmers). Great work!
Day 5: Nambucca Heads to Walcha, 404 km
We had another lovely brekky overlooking the water at sunrise with clear skies—salubrious. Superb never-ending trails took us through Oxley Wild Rivers National Park, and the sweeping orange coloured dirt track was the pick of the day by all. It got a bit chilly in the arvo as we rode 1300 meters above sea level high up on to Panhandle Fire Trail. It was a big day and unfortunately, there was another rider down, which resulted in a trip to the hospital with a shoulder injury. Dinner at the commercial hotel was great, and the walk up the hill was well worth it. A long day, so the raspberry cheesecake dessert hit the mark.
Day 6: Walcha to Gloucester, 330 km
This was the coldest morning start we had at -3 degrees with fog and frost. My hands were toasty warm as the heated grips and handlebar mit combo worked a treat. With my AJP guy still following me in the dusty conditions, we meandered through Barry Station and finished high up in the scenic Barrington Tops National Park with choice views a-plenty. A cheeky mud section thrown in at the end to keep a weary lot of adventures paying attention was a superb end to the day, lucky for me. Dave Darcy joined us and we kicked up our heels at the local pub for a bit.
Day 7: Gloucester to Cessnock, 307 km
Rutty, dirty, rocky, gnarly, slippery, dusty GOOD TIMES! A great day with some tricky bits for all to tackle and conquer. I veered left too far and copped a forward facing branch jousting me in my side. A bit winded and a nice bruise, luckily it snapped; a timely reminder of the risks and importance of good riding gear. With the help of Chris Watson safely storing our bikes overnight at his workshop, everybody gathered at Pedens Hotel for dinner and a final briefing. I had a steak and beer.
The WR is my favourite bike ever. One more leg to go, and Sydney Harbour Bridge, here we come!
Day 8: Cessnock to Sydney Harbour Bridge, 258 km
Chris Watson further extended his generosity by offering a minibus rider motel round-up in the morning—he’s a diamond geezer!
We began with a dusty run up through the Watagan Ranges then a fuel-up and regroup in Wisemans Ferry for pie and coffee. Tackling the busy Sydney traffic and staying bunched up, most agreed was the most challenging day. TB and the crew did a stand-out job piloting the group in under the Sydney Harbour Bridge. It was a fantastic ride and a complete pleasure meeting lots of new adventurers who I’m certain to share trails with again someday.
It was the best ride I’ve ever done. TB and the rideADV crew sure delivered the goods. Time to breathe out and rest bike and rider and face up to the realities of the other side of life.
Cheers and gears,
Maryann ‘Mez’ Eime
The Bridge to Bridge will be back in 2020.
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