Tasmania in a day

There is an Iron Butt Association (IBA) ride known as the "Four Seasons" ride. This entails riding a minimum of a Saddlesore 1000 miles or 1600km within 24 hours, on each of the four seasonal solstices or equinoxes. I'd ridden a SS1000 in Washington State back in September 2008. Saturday December 21 brought the next challenge. I was at home on the island of Tasmania. Would I be able to ride 1600km in Tasmania in one day, with all the twisties and the generally lower speed limits? Would I be able to do this ride on my new Suzuki DL650 Wee-Strom, barely run in, as it was? Could I bear sitting on a standard seat for all those hours? Only one way to find out the answers - go out and do it!

Tasmania is roughly a heart shape. A highway circles the island, although it cuts off some of the northwest corner and short cuts across from Queenstown on the west coast to Hobart in the south, avoiding the remote and rugged, inhospitable southwest area.

It was a bit tricky working out the time frames, although the abundance of wildlife and the areas in which it is prevalent made things a little easier. Being the summer solstice, daylight was from about 5am until 9.30pm or so. This meant it would be wise to avoid the whole west coast and the north east coast in the dark. I opted to start at 5.00am in Launceston, which is near my home town, going anti-clockwise around the whole island back to Launceston; from Launceston, northwest to Burnie and return to Launceston; then to Bridgewater (about 20km north of Hobart) and return to Launceston.

So a 5am start would have me in daylight through all the "danger"areas, arriving into the "hub"point in Launceston about 5pm or so, if not earlier. The Bass Highway from Burnie to Launceston to Bridgewater and returns is part of the national highway system, and is therefore of much better quality than the rest of the journey on the west and east coasts. And being the state's major road, there is far more traffic on it, therefore theoretically less wildlife, although there is always plenty of roadkill along it. I had no qualms about riding these sections in the dark for this reason, although care is always necessary, as I've even seen a roadkilled deer on the way south! [am I back in the USA again??] And the Wee-Strom has good lights, too, which helps.

Fuel wouldn't be a problem. My Launceston hub point is 24 hours, the remainder of refulleing would be within normal hours. OK, all set. Now to execute the plan.

Left home late, as too hyped up to sleep until about 4am, then slept in. No problem. Tootled into Launceston to the BP and wandered in to the cashier's desk to ask him to sign my witness form, which he kindly did, giving me a strange look, almost smirking, when I told him what I was about to do. I don't supposed he's confronted very often by weird old ladies riding bikes doing this sort of thing! Eventually, at 5.45am, with the paperwork organised, the bike was filled, the receipt stashed, and it was westward ho!

When planning the ride, entering the "shortest" route into Mapsource had always routed me along the Frankford Highway, closer to the north coast - a dark, 2 laned, wildlife prolific area at night, rather than the Bass Highway. So to "prove" my actual route, it was necessary to exit off the highway and go into the town of Deloraine to obtain an ATM receipt. Stashed, back on the highway. It was a beautiful morning, crisp and clear, little traffic, just perfect for riding, and I made good time, although barely exceeding the speed limit, quite often under it, surprisingly. Burnie came and went, then to somerset, where again it was necessary to get an ATM receipt as proof of route, as there is a "short cut" from Burnie down through Hampshire.

But a bike rider wouldn't want to go that way - and miss out on Hellyer Gorge, would they??? What a lovely little section of road this is. One of my favourites, on an island full of favourite twisties! Not overly long, only about 10km or so, but oh so twisty, swooping down over sharp cornered bridges, climbing all the way back up just to repeat it all over again, and again, and again! Exhilarating in the early morning, even though I did have to dodge a few hoppity critters.

Almost every time I've been down the west coast road it has been wet, or at least damp, hence its well known name, the "wet coast". But it wasn't too bad, mostly dry with just a few patches of damp through the tunnels of dense overhanging myrtle forests, with the carpet of leaf litter clinging tenaciously to the pavement. The smells of the forests and the vast plantations of both pines and eucalypts were wonderful, fresh and clean.

I had to forgo another of my favourite roads - the Anthony Road, or Lake Plimsoll Road, as it's also known - just south of Tullah, as it cuts off quite a few km, and there is no availability of proof receipts, there being nothing along this road! So on through Rosebery to Queenstown, the first fuel stop. A quick stop, then out to climb the "99 hills". Well, in the olden days, before the road was de-curved ( I can't say "straightened, as it isn't straight) a little, there were 99 curves to get to the top of these stark barren hills, the result of pollution from longterm mining in the area, firstly gold and then copper. Mining has now ceased because of the destruction of the natural habitat by the pollution, and it was heartening to see considerable greenish cover becoming evident.

Through another sweet little section of twisties with snow on the mountains framing the road (in the middle of summer!), past Derwent Bridge with its murals carved from huge slabs of Huon pine, flying along with such exuberance on this glorious morning. Through the apple and stone fruit orchards and hop farms of the rich Derwent Valley, past historic New Norfolk, riding along beside the glistening Derwent River to civilisation, and surburbia. Along the Brooker Highway, exit off onto the A3 at Hobart and across the Tasman Bridge, which was severly damaged when struck by a bulk ore carrier, the Lake Illawarra, in January 1975. Two pylons and three sections of concrete fell far below to crash onto the ship, sinking it. It remains on the river bed to this day.

Sorell, out to the east, was the next refuel stop, and a quick snack - a meat pie, as there was nothing else available. Oh well, it was OK, and filled a hole. Now heading north through Orford to Bicheno, whose mayor, Bertrand "Le Frog" Cadart, has a "different" mayoral vehicle - his GL1000 Goldwing! The whole of the Glamorgan/Spring Bay Council area has been publicly declared "Biker friendly", thanks to Bertrand. Go, Le Frog! Nice playground along these roads too. Hehe! Further north to the next fuel stop at St Helens, then it was a swing to the west through yet more of my favourite roads - the various several sections of the Weldborough Pass, past the famous Weldborough Hotel, once a favourite hangout (until changes of ownership) for the myriads of bikers who test their skills along these northeastern twisties.

Prime dairying country through this area, together with forestry and cropping leads into Scottsdale and up to The Sidling, yet another of Tasmania's wonderful twisty sections. Care must be taken through here, though, as the many log trucks plying this road each day kick up large quantities of gravel into each corner, making it a bit dicey for the unwary.

But soon I was back at the BP in Launceston, at 5.41pm, a little later than planned, but nothing to worry about. Refuelled, I set off west again for the second leg to Burnie and return, going into Deloraine on each pass to get ATM receipts. The turnaround in Burnie needed a receipt, so I hopped into McDonalds, "knowing" that they always have "perfect" receipts for LD riders. Damn shame I didn't check it before leaving, coz it didn't have the address on it, did it? However, this was solved by printing out the location address from the internet for submission with my documentation to the IBA.

Refuelled again at the BP in Launceston, and headed south in the falling darkness, right past my house with nary a thought of stopping, although my derriere was not as comfortable on the Wee as when riding the BMW R1200GS with it's custom sculpted seat. Heaven! Doing calculations in my head all the way down the highway, I realised that I needn't go all the way into Hobart itself, as I'd have enough kilometres by turning around at Bridgewater, about 20km short of the city. This would give me a GPS total of roughly 1640kms for the day, more than enough leeway for verification purposes, as I'd "proved" my route as required.

Fortunately, the McDonalds was still open when I arrived and grabbed a quick coffee and snack to get the precious turnaround receipt . They were closing just after 11pm as I pulled out to head back north to Launceston. Another uneventful ride in really pleasant riding conditions saw me go past home yet again, before arriving back at the BP for the final time, getting the last receipt at 12.47am. The same night shift cashier was on duty again, so I asked him to sign off on my witness form. He looked a bit stunned, to say the least, when I told him I'd ridden 1640km that day!

It was over. I'd done it, 1638.7 GPS kilometres on a stock standard Wee-Strom, in 19hours and 02 minutes over some of the reputedly best twisties in the world, here in biker heaven - Tasmania. The Wee had started with only 1630km on the odo, it now had 3300km. It was well and truly run in, I reckon.

 

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