Bonus Downs: Les Gardner’s Report

I had a great week riding on the Bonus Downs Get-Together ride. An absolute joy of good roads, great fellowship with a great bunch of mates. The plan was to ride to the Bonus Downs farm stay which is near Mitchell in central Queensland, taking 4 days (or 3 sleeps) to get there and 3 days (or 2 sleeps) on the way home.

Strangely, each day would start at a ‘Daddy Day (evenings) Care Centre’ sometimes referred to as the ‘pub’, preferably a different pub each morning. Eight riders met at the Kelso Hotel on Friday night, but not all could make the entire trip due to commitments. It is always good to catch up while you can. Trevor, Russell & Chief went their separate ways while six of us including; Al, Chris, Robbo, Sharpie, Wayne M and I went to Rylstone to meet up Graham. Then it was via Lee Creek Road (Bylong) to Merriwa for lunch. Then via Ardglen, Chilcotts Creek Road to Wallabadah, to Nundle. On the way to Nundle on the Old Wallabadah Road there was a sign saying “Road Closed”. I had no idea what that meant, so we continued until we got to the Middlebrook Creek (that sounds a lot like Middle Creek Creek), then it became a little clearer. The good workers in the Tamworth Regional Shire had removed the bridge on Friday and left a gaping big hole between bridge abutments, but they did leave a nice track for adventure riders to use. The drop into the creek and up the other side was a little steep, loose and rocky. Most made it, but Chris wanted to show off the Africa Twin CRF1000’s auto transmission and how it would climb steep hills. Unfortunately, gravity won the first two attempts and it goes a lot better if you turn traction control off in loose, rocky hills.

At Nundle we met up with the Sydney departure group of Hans, Scott, Steve & Wayne C. Now we had a 11 in the group. The little hill on Ingalba Flat Road between Webonga and Niangla surprised a few riders. It is steep for a gravel road. Pete from Newcastle was at the New England Hotel, Walcha on his CBR1000 to say g’day to all and enjoy the fellowship.

Next morning it was foggy. Pete, Steve and Robbo were to part ways and return home. Their headlights would latter create confusion in the fog. We had a riders meeting to fine tune the system. There was some discussion about whether we would form two groups or stay in one, who was sweeping, and so on. It all made perfect sense until the first corner. We lost four riders in the fog, but some realized they were on the wrong road and returned to the correct route. Unfortunately, we lost Wayne M as he was tricked by Pete’s headlight (remember Pete is from Newcastle and was returning home) so Wayne thought he was a slow rider and had the rest of the group behind in the fog. Then the fog cleared, and Wayne had no friends and he was all along on the wrong road. As it was foggy and we had lost Wayne, it was decided to abandon the back roads and go directly to Armidale to regroup. Text messages and phone calls were exchanged.

A consequence of the decision to regroup in Armidale, is the GPS route had many way points still active that were not neutralised. That encourages GPS Jane to instruct the ride leader to go back at every opportunity and ride through the missed way points as well as ride ahead and get the forward points and that leads to confusion. It doesn’t take much to confuse the ride leader. After Armidale we had the Cornerman system nailed until Wayne C wanted to try something different. He was left at a corner and I waited at the next corner about 70 m on to place another Cornerman there. He immediately started to waive his arms about something, so we left a corner man at my corner and I went back to find Wayne had fried the main starter fuse on his Triumph. How lucky was the timing It could have been many miles before the elastic would not stretch any further and we would know something was wrong. But it was a perfect morning in the perfect spot to hug posters of Barnaby Joyce and arrange the rescue flatbed truck for Wayne’s Triumph. (Remember, this is the day after the 2019 federal election). It was a perfect spot to break down as everyone had a little rest and the countryside got better immediately after we left Wayne to wait for his rescue truck.

Then it was off to Wards Mistake and the great gravel roads beyond. There must be something in the name of that place as I was troubled by GPS Jane still wanting to go in every direction to pick up the old way points that were still active. A few wrong turns were made, but Scott came to the rescue and could explain where we were. The ride from Red Range to Deepwater was perfect & incident free. At a turn point plan “B” was activated and we deviated to Deepwater for fuel and lunch and then slabbed it from Deepwater to Tenterfield to Drake to make up time. Sugarbag Road near Drake was a surprise to all. The road just stopped in a cul-de-sac, but a 4×4 track appeared to continue at the end. So we did also, the track was a little different and had a few riders wandering where in the F are we going now. I thought that too. But wait, there is more, a bitumen road instantaneously re-commenced again in the middle of nowhere. The road via Paddys Flat to Tooloom, Urbanville and Woodenbong, long and windy. My GPS mount broke at Tooloom and had to be held down by a hockey strap. The sunset on the huge volcanic plugs near Urbanville was spectacular. Wayne C was able to hire a quadacycle (Toyota RAV 4) from Armidale for the rest of the trip and made it to W’Bong at about 7pm. The Triumph was shipped to Tamworth Triumph, but the necessary part wasn’t available in the country in a short timeframe, so, eventually it got freighted to Wayne’s dealer in the big smoke.

A great night was had at the Woodenbong Hotel. Chris’s mixed grill, the seafood laksa and the MotoGP kept many entertained for hours. The meals at the Bong are still good. Next morning I had to dismantle the front of the 990 to reattached the GPS mount with cable tires (sounds like a permanent fix). Graham H left for home so the group got smaller again. Then the rain started, and the first two roads were blocked. So it was off to Killarney via the very rough bitumen on the Mount Lindsay Highway and back to the planned route. All went almost perfect until lunch. The entertainment started with a little challenge on Luna Road. It has lacked maintenance for some time, but it did not stop the mighty RAV 4. After lunch, the first road was closed (by the forestry) and Hans found his fork leg was leaking oil. Hans & Wayne C went to a Toowoomba bike shop for counsel and were advised to continue riding. They arrived at Tara just after dark, being gifted with a perfect sunset. Meanwhile the rest of the group enjoyed the back roads near Captains Mountain. A locked gate caused a 30km detour and added time and suffering as we knew it was going to be a long day. That only made it longer. We arrived at the Commercial Hotel at Tara just before dark.

Next morning all was good. The corner man system worked a treat for the first 80km. It was a straight bitumen road. The back roads after Glenmorgan provided a perfect variety of roads, scenery and farming to enjoy. Every few kms the view would change completely. We arrived at Mitchell at about 12 and had a fantastic lunch at the Café. There were already a few bikes in town, and we knew most of the riders, go figure. Then it was fuel time and off to Bonus Downs.

Bonus Downs looked after us very well. The food was great, probably the best yet. Some went for a guided bike ride to see the Ooline Tree, while others walked the 6.5km (each way). The lay day was quiet and very enjoyable with everyone having time to catch up with old friends or meet new friends. Just perfect.

Then it was off home. Some chose different routes, most were heading south via Bollon. That road gave the Kangaroo Terminating Machines (or otherwise know as KTM’s) a chance to survive. Pete Maguire on the 690 was able to reshape his break leaver on impact with a roo. The roo did not recover. I hit a roo square across the bow of the 990 and it flexed the front fender cracking paint and the fender rubbed the forks, causing more paint scratched. The roo did not look well and I had to use a big stick. Both KTM’s were not shaken or stirred – the riders were. A DR would still be in Queensland. The rest of the trip was uneventful. Pete left our group at Hebel bound for Condo and a new rear tyre. He made it all the way to Lightning Ridge before finding the calls of a warm bed. Meanwhile, we went on to the Tattersall Hotel at Collarenebri. The rooms are older style motel rooms, but the price is very modern and no breakfast.

Our last full riding days was a pearler. The road from Colli to Belata has a bitumen transport section for 50km at the start, then 80km of gravel through some good agricultural land. We fueled at Belata, got a packed lunch as we were planning back roads. This is where we met Stewart from Portland in Vic, on his return ride from Cape York on his Africa Twin. It was his lucky day. The route from Belata to Gunnedah around the eastern side of Mount Kaputar via Trevalyn & Spion Kop roads is first class. The roads around Barraba are made of the best gravel in the universe. They are smooth as felt, no potholes, no corrugations and they wind up & down and left to right. Perfect. The night was spent at the house next door to the Royal Hotel at Spring Ridge (it is part of the pub). A great night and the Royal Hotel is highly recommended.

The last day was over Pandora Pass to Coolah and back roads to Mudgee. Morning tea at the Mudgee Bakery. Al & Gareth left to slab it to the south coast. Scott, Wayne Mc & I went via Lue & Tongbong Road to get the last of the dirt on our bikes. That is also a good little shortcut road. We all parted at Ilford, Scott & Wayne headed for Sydney and I went to Bathurst via Razorback and Red Hill roads. I thought my front tyre was getting flat on the way home. The next day it was absolutely flat. Now that is a sign of a good weekend when your tyre goes flat in the garage and not on the road.

I must thank all riders. It was a great ride with many unknowns to solve and/or experience. When we had our challenges, we endured without running out of fire truck words. The fellowship was supreme. Thank you to all.

Les Gardner