Monday, March 22, 2021

The Great Northern Pub Tour of 2021 Part 4

 DAY 4

We found a local cafe for a nice breakfast whilst we planned the day. A truck pulled up out the front and slammed into the overhead awning. The owner was straight out taking photos. What a welcome to Monday to start off your working week by crashing into a building. I bet that guy wished he called in sick.

Troy and Mick stopped in Casino for a new tyre, they will catch up later. So Doug had been thinking of taking the Clarence Way down to Grafton which is about 130kms as he saw something online about them finishing tar sealing it. We stopped at the turn off below to be told by a passing truck driver that there was about 10 kms of dirt still. We had rain overnight and this morning and there was rain on the way we could see it on the radar. Doug said that we will continue up the Bruxner, however Stu said he was going to go down the Clarence way.

No one else said they would go. I said I will go because you can't let him go alone. Neither of the guys on adventure bikes were going to go with him so I thought someone needs to go, 2 people together is safer than one.

Dave pondering which way to go

So decision made I followed Stu down the Clarence way. Indeed there was new tar seal along for a fair way maybe the first 20kms. He pulled over after a while and said lets put on our wets, there is rain coming. Looking ahead where we are headed across the range you could see dark clouds rolling in with rain pouring down. Scotty appeared on the V-Strom, he followed us after all. 

Riding off in our wets I watched the rain roll in a few minutes later. Then the road turned to dirt or should I say a mix of dirt/mud/clay. 500m into this I had a big rear end slide. I should have turned around and headed back then. Scotty was here, he could ride with Stu on the adventure bike. However as soon as we hit the wet dirt section Scotty disappeared into the distance, whilst I crawled along on the R1.

The first dirt section was only 1 km long before hitting tar again, my spirits rose but this was soon dashed again when we hit more dirt, seemingly never ending dirt, up and down hills and winding road. And it was mud/clay. I did my best to follow the 2 previous tyre tracks through the quagmire slipping my way along, when it looked bad where they went I would take to a more solid looking part of the road even sometimes riding completely on the wrong side around blind corners.

After what seemed like half an hour the road turned to tar again and there was a sense of relief. Coming round the corner Stu was stopped on the road. He was having a well earned beer. The bastard only bought one with him. He's lucky he wasn't buried in that forest.

I pulled up and he was laughing at me. I looked at his bike covered in mud and I started to laugh too. I got off and looked at my bike and laughed even harder and then a few swear words. Looked like we were riding on adventure bikes. We must have looked a sight standing there on the road covered in mud in the rain in the middle of butt f*ck nowhere.

The tar was short lived and turned to dirt for a third time but luckily it wasn't for long maybe only another 1 or 2 kms and this bit was probably the best of the dirt section. All up there would have been over 10 kms of dirt but less than 15 kms. I was too busy trying to keep it upright than look at how many kms there actually were.

This road reminded me of the Forgotten World Highway in New Zealand. It's real banjo country out here, the only thing missing is a volcano at one end. We went past a road on the left that was tarred and then the road turned to dirt again and started climbing/descending. I had a big moment where both feet went out to push the bike back upright. My heart was in my mouth now. Stu started honking me. 

I stopped and he said "I think we need to go back to that turn off back there"
How sure are you" I replied, I don't want to do any extra mud riding than I have to. He wasn't 100% sure.
I said I'm going to wait until we see a car and ask. Luckily 2 came along within the minute, and we are miles from anywhere. The first car confirmed the road back a bit was tarred all the way into Grafton. The second car pulled over and looked at our bikes and said " Mate your not going to get through on this road on those bikes better turn around"

Turn around we did and made our way back to the tar sealed road, without further incident. The road was narrow and tree lined all the way, with leaves and branches on the road. Not many people come along here looking at that. Stu if you ever do something like that again, you are on you own pal.

Finally we made it into Grafton for fuel around 1pm. There was a car wash across the road so we rode in there and washed both bikes down. My radiator was caked in mud and engine was running over 100°C. Afterwards it was back into the 70/80's. Scotty finally rang. He went straight ahead and did another 30kms of mud/clay road. He also said it was heart in the mouth stuff and it got worse than the first few dirt bits.

When he rolled into the car wash, mud fell out of his bike onto the ground underneath. It looked like he'd been to a rally somewhere in the sticks. We met a group in the petrol station that were about to head up the Clarence way. We told them to avoid it at all costs in the wet. They were all on road bikes except 1 guy. We did those guys a favour. Also Troy and Mick caught up to us here and waited under a tree till we had finished a pie from the bakery.

It was around 2:30 or later by the time we got out of Grafton so we went straight down the Ebor-Armidale road, with very little in the way of stopping. We did stop for a quick break at the sign below. We could also see big black clouds rolling in. The BOM indicated heavy thunderstorms in this area from 4pm onwards. So we got moving and bumped up the pace as it got darker.

The sky was black and lightning was flashing as we hit the 80km signs into Armidale the heavens opened up and the rain was so heavy you couldn't see more than 30m in front. It seemed to take forever to make it into the nearest petrol station to take shelter from the wind, rain and lightning. I was totally soaked by the time we got there.

It was out with the wets as we were to ride the last 20kms to Uralla and we are staying at the Top Pub again. So back out into the wind, rain and lightning we went. It was hammering down all the way into Uralla. I'd messaged the other guys when we were waiting and they were already at the bar. Bastards...

Besides Uralla being in the middle of nowhere, the Top Pub is great $50 rooms with self contained toilets/showers and the restaurant is one of the best pub restaurant's ever. I had the spiced Africa Lamb backstrap. It was so succulent and delicious. Only managed to squeeze one pub into todays tour. Mmmm Geoff wasn't riding with us this afternoon. Could be something to that.

Day 4 Map Reference


Today was just going to be a commute home day. After a hearty breakfast of chocolate pancakes I was almost ready to ride. Gee these leathers are getting tight, I thought. Must have shrunk in the rain, haha.

We took the back way into Walcha via Kentucky and Geoff's culvert of doom. We were soon in Walcha and the guys wanted to ride the Oxley. The last couple of trips up here I had failed to ride it, so today I thought why not. It really the reason for coming on this trip was to do the Oxley highway. Geoff & Scotty turned down thunderbolts way for home as they'd had enough adventure.

Riding down into the twisties was a lot of fun. However we needed to be careful because after the storms last night you would sometimes come around a bend and there would be sticks scattered across the road. Hitting them mid corner at speed was not going to be pretty, so the pace was fast but conservative enough to be able to change lines mid corner if needed and we did need to several times.

We had a brief rest stop here on the Oxley so that everyone could catch up and take a quick break. It's quite demanding riding this road but oh so much fun. There were not going to be to many more stops on the way home as it was going to be a big day. So not many photos from today.

Next stop was for fuel in Wauchope before heading south. Bago road had just been resurfaced with hot mix and it was one super smooth twisty piece of road. But that was over to soon and then we were on the freeway.

We took back roads out around Landsdowne to Wingham and into Gloucester were we had a quick lunch at the bakery before getting fuel and riding out again. Much discussion occurred for freeway or Putty Road. Putty Road won out, although I would have preferred to ride down the freeway at this point. I was over it and didn't need to ride down the Putty at dusk when wild life would be rife

5.40pm with about 2 hours to go

I rolled into home about 7.40pm and was pretty well exhausted. I checked google maps when I got home and it says 710kms for the day. Yeah and I am feeling every bit of it.

Another fantastic ride done and dusted lads. 

Cheers and thanks for the ride.

Day 5 Map Reference


  1. And great fun was had by all eh? Nice!

    Looks like you found a cool road too - not sure why you were so girly about a little bit of dirt...

  2. Always wanted to ride that part of Clarence way, and the old Glen Innes way - but not on road bias tyres haha.

    1. It would be ok in the dry, just don't try it in the wet is my recomendation.

  3. Thoroughly enjoyed the report and photos Steve. Ignore Andrew - mud also frightens the bejesus out of me on sport tyres too! Hope you're ok with all the flooding in your region.

    1. Yeah me too. I must say the PR5 handled exceptionally well. I wonder if they helped with all the siping and big grooves in them.

  4. great trip....stu leaves his helmet on during the photos to hide his guilt

  5. Top write-up as always. Last day was over 900km for the Callala crew taking in both the Oxley and the Putty on the same day at pace. Notice you didn't mention your sampling of the Tuono - trying to shut out the memory of the booming Italian masterpiece?

    1. Hi Dave. I'd forgotten about that and thanks for the ride its a fantastic bike by the way. Handles sweet and that v4 engine sound is marvelous. Reminded me of my crossplane R1 without the pain

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