Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Classic car

While not exactly news, I have been able to widen my 'stable' to include a classic car (well, classic in my eyes).

Bikes are still my big love, but they are a solitary pursuit. In Victoria, the regulations for owning 'hobby' vehicles has been modernised and vehicles 25 years and older can be registered for 45 or 90 days personal use without the need to gazette Car Club events or meetings.

I started looking around for a Saab 900 Turbo (pre-1988), but good examples with high kilometres were still fetching over $7,000. Good fortune smiled on me when I dropped a colleague home and spotted an unloved, gold Mercedes Benz parked in front of his house. Commenting that I was looking to buy a classic car, his lightning-quick comeback was that he was looking to get rid of one.

Day 1 - clean, just apply cash

The car, a W126 380SE saloon, had been his personal drive and then gradually dropped down the pecking order until I saw it with windows down and full of leaves on the street. On a handshake and an undertaking to see whether it was worth saving, I got the car running next day with jumper leads and drove it home. A specialist Mercedes Benz mechanic gave it the 'once over' and said that while it has good bones, it would take about $6,000 in repairs to get a good $3,000 car (his words exactly).

The Mercedes Benz W126 series was one of the Company's most successful and longest production runs. Between the W126's launch in 1979, and replacement by the W140 series in 1991, over 818,000 saloon in the standard and long wheel base 'L' variants. 58,000 of the first release 380SE's were produced between 1979 and 1985, before the 3.8 litre V8 engine was upsized to 4.2 litres (420SE) from 1985 to 1991.

My main reasons for buying the car and embarking on the preservation (not restoration) route were;
  • The car only had 160,000 kilometres on the odometer and a service history through its two Owners over 28 years.
  • The paint and body were in great condition, with clear coat intact no rust in the chassis.
  • The leather interior was perfect.
Before - rust in the drivers door
After - insert panel, primed and painted

Small jobs that I was able to do myself included cutting out a rust patch in the driver's door for the insertion (with some help) of a steel panel, replacement of the electric window mechanisms and new muffler. Big jobs that were preformed in the workshop were splitting the transmission for a seal replacement, refurbished brake discs and calipers and water pump. Subsequently, I have had the Climate Control system fully overhauled after it started random, menopausal hot and cold flushes. The wheels have also been refurbished and powder coated.

M116 3.8 litre V8 with 4 -Speed electronic shift auto

2016 Flemington Classic Showcase

A recent article press article explained (in part) the surge in interest in preserving 1970's and 80's-era cars, one of the main factors being they drive like a modern car. 1950's and 60's British cars drove like pigs (I used to own a 1964 Daimler 2.5 V8), were never designed to be maintained, had no power steering and few creature comforts. A decade and a half of design development, combined German engineering, is still delivering an affordable and enjoyable driving experience. The car gets driven every weekend and is now at 186,000 km (115,000 miles) after 32 years. Not an investment grade car but good for the soul.

The Antipodean Mariner
May 2017

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Road Trip in Review

In reviewing the road trip, what worked (or exceeded expectations) and what was a waste of space.

The Bikes
The bikes performed flawlessly and we had no mechanical issues with either the Triumph or BMW. To put the distance into some sort of internationally recongnised context, the transcontinental USA crossing - Los Angeles to New York via Chicago and back is 9,004 km. 

Bruce's Metzler tyres were in great condition at the end of the trip, and wear was hard to discern. The Triumph's Michelin Road Pilot 4 tyres are still legal but have heavily profiled, especially the front tyre. The first few days heading north, through South Australia and the North Territory, we experienced strong SE cross winds, and think that the combination of a heavier bike 'leaning' in to wind, fairing down force and road camber cut up the right side of the tyre. No scary moments though, and they have done their job.

We started to trip checking oil and tyre pressures, and ended just giving the tyres a cursory glance for any nicks or embedded objects. The Triumph was always able to 500 km+ range,  while the BMW, with a 16L tank, had about 370 km between drinks.

The Kit
We were pretty disciplined in having pack lists, and took a minimum of gear. The most useful cooking appliance was the Jetboil, which gave us breakfast and mid-day tea and coffee. One large cannister lasted the whole trip with 'change'. We had a second combination of two pans and gas ring, which was used to prepare additional dishes when we were stuck in Mt Isa with just our emergency rations.  The second cooker was useful for two, but the Jetboil was sufficient for one.

My Samsung S5 Galaxy phone and Galaxy S2 Tablet were perfect for recording the trip. The Canon G11, while a beautiful camera, rarely came out of its case as any shots were 'stranded' until they could be uploaded to a PC or laptop. The telephoto lens and tripod never saw action. Similar with the GoPro Hero 3 - high maintenance to setup and to get good results with.

The Helinox stretcher and campfire chair were invaluable for relaxation and a good night's sleep. Lightweight and compact, both are highly recommended for the road. The collapsible fireplace was well used and a great way to end a night. LED lamps lasted for ages and gave good light for setting up. The water bladder was good for roadside stops, but two 1L water bottles would have just as good, and cheaper.

We carried UHT milk, porridge sachets, tea and coffee for breakfast and one 'reserve' meal of canned tuna and boiled rice. We could have ditched  (or eaten) the reserve meal as we could always get fast food at Roadhouses, towns or servos.

My Nolan N44 helmet, in open face configuration, provided great peripheral vision, wind protection and Scala Rider G9 nice sounds. Music is a great filler for the long road sections and gave good enough sound through foam ear defenders.

Safety Kit
Quite a lot of what we carried fitted into the 'just in case' category - wet weather gear, first aid, tool kit, puncture repair kit, CB radio and EPIRB. As we ended up staying on well traveled roads, the CB and EPIRB were overkill and I would skip these next time unless long, remote off-road sections were planned.

I wish I had taken...
A summer weight, vented jacket for the tropics - one 'three seasons' jacket was too hot for the NT and Queensland.

Junk that did a trip around Australia 
Apart from the camera kit, the AM/FM/SW radio wasn't used as we had either 3G/4G coverage or WiFi at the Roadhouses or camping grounds for the whole trip. Outback WiFi was expensive but an option. The fuel bladder was unused, and we were able to get fuel  (sometimes only 91 Regular) at about 200 km intervals. Both bikes adapted to the 91 RON with their knock sensors and 95 RON was usually available on the major highways. Topping up with the highest RON octane meant the bikes always had better than 91 in the tanks. There is a fuel app which lists grades available by location, but probably of use to the more serious off-roaders.

The bike has had a fresh change of oil and new filter. I managed to get the unloaded beast up on the workshop bench, stripped off the fairing panels and clean out the inaccessible road grime. The bikes is well within Triumph's 16,0000 km service intervals, but I have changed the synthetic oil more frequently. 10,000 km oil and filter intervals are inexpensive maintenance and satisfying to do in the workshop.

Loved up, ready for the next adventure
From here, the BMW F800ST is going to be serviced and list for sale, and I have to get a job. I'm working on a Snapfish book for us both, with the best of the photos. So much (good) to reflect on and use as a basis for 2019's South America tour (in planning) through Peru, Chile and Argentina.

The Antipodean Mariner

Friday, 28 April 2017

Familiar country

The final push to home from Yackandandah was all familiar country for  me and the Triumph. Beechworth, Oxley, Whitfield, Mansfield and Healesville rolled by through grey drizzle and rain until Eltham and home at 15:00 on Thursday 27th of April, 26 days after leaving and 337 km for the day.

Trip data was 9,940 km elapsed, and the bike consumed 463 litres of fuel. Average fuel consumption was 4.6 litres/100km, or 61 miles per gallon. Apart from a set of totally knackered tyres, the bike has survived the trip intact.

Bruce is on a plane back to New Zealand and the road trip has ended. Another post with an After Action Review of what worked well, and what we'd do differently next time, will follow. Over the bottle of red last night, its been decided that the next road trip will be South America in 2019.

The Antipodean Mariners

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Nearly home

Today's route was always going to be an 'on the day' decision, with Victoria enduring it's second cold snap and snow forecast. Taking a punt on clear sky, I headed south through Cooma, Jindabyne and Thredbo and had the road to myself. Fresh snow was visible on the tops, and the Ice Warning showed on the dash with 2C the lowest seen passing over the saddle at Dead Horse Gap.

On the descent I stopped at Leather Barrel Creek and cooked up lunch in the light drizzle. Entirely surrounded by bush and a raging stream, Ramen noodles and coffee never tasted so good.

The only other diversion was a stop at Scammell's Lookout, facing back up to Mt Kosciusko.

I had planned to spend this, the final night of the road trip, symbolically in my tent but with the temperature 10C and falling I have kipped down in a cabin in Yackandandah. The trip meter has stopped reading, but by adding up the last three days I'm at 9,593km tonight. Expect to see 10,000km roll past tomorrow before Eltham North hoves into view. Bruce has arrived in Melbourne and a last get-together tomorrow night before he returns to Auckland. Off to the pub for a final meal.

The Antipodean Mariner

Tuesday, 25 April 2017


With time on my hands yesterday, the bike got a clean out the back of the motel. Beautiful. 

I had the opportunity to walk around Gunning and enjoy the autumn sun before the rain set in. Colours at their most vivid in the main street.

Bruce got in from Sydney at 7pm, and we had dinner and a bottle of wine at the Telegraph Hotel. Good to reconnect with fresh experiences of our four days on different roads.

The Dawn Service in Gunning looked to be attended by most of the town, and was a unique experience as visitors. The Cenotaph listed a lot of the same family names and, like most of the rural towns, the impact of those who didn't come back would have been profound. We reflected on the mateship that has brought Bruce and I together, and the friendship that started in 1995.

Alex was persuaded to ride up to Gunning on the promise of a free breakfast. The rain really set in on the 85km to Canberra, and today has been an 'inside' day at the Australian War Memorial. 

Overnight in Canberra and then planning to go through the Snowy Mountains tomorrow weather permitting.

The Antipodean Mariner

Monday, 24 April 2017


Woke at 4am this morning to watch the MotoGP of the Americas and another skillful win by Marc Marquez on the Honda. My boots were very worse for wear after the stream crossing and needed some duct tape support the complete the road trip. Should be less than 1,000km now till home, and I still have plenty of duct tape.

Today's route loosely followed one of the rides recommended in my Bike Atlas. Leaving Kandos, I had heavy fog for the first 20km before breaking out into bright sunshine at Hill End. A tiny remnant of the gold rush (the diggings are still visible), I'm guessing it's a dormitory town for Bathurst. 

Bathurst was in full swing, and I headed for the bike route through Oberon to Goulburn. The route has been fully sealed, and alternated between cropping, pine forestry and native bush. Different from yesterday but still surprisingly beautiful. I stopped in Taralga at a very hip cafe for a country town - must be the Grey Nomads lifting the culinary standards. So many restored or preserved buildings from the 1800's.

With a small distance target, I spent the day tooling along on country roads at 80 to 90 km/h, letting the local traffic pass me. The last run to Gunning took in a bit of the Hume Highway, where I was able to get off and parallel run. Some nice cloud porn of the towering afternoon cumulus.

Waiting for a reunion with Bruce, riding down from Gosford. Alex will join us from Canberra in the morning (says he's going to 'woose out' and bring his car if the forecast rain comes). Motel again for convenience and a dry start at least. Washed the bike - no sign now of last 9,000km. Trip meter seems to have called it a day, +330km today.

The Antipodean Mariner

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Bylong Valley

Quite a bit to post today. The target was Kandos in the Bylong Valley, a town I had stopped in in 2011 riding back from Maroochydore on the K1100LT. Staying on the New England Highway to Tamworth, the Powerhouse Motorcycle Collection was a must- stop and I had the run of the place for an hour with the Duty Curator. 100% bike heaven.

The next bit went west a bit due to poor navigation skills. I picked a road different to the recommended route, and which changed from seal to gravel half way up a mountain range. It was the classic 'investment' decision - turn back and waste 50km or press on. I pressed on at 25 km/h, passed by locals in 4WDs. A glimmer of hope as the road reverted to back to seal was dashed by gravel again. A warning sign of water over the road (it was blazing sunshine) turned out to be an actual creek washout over the road with about 10m of muddy water of indeterminate depth.

There is nothing less suitable for a stream crossing than a Triumph Trophy, and with my heart in my mouth I sized up the problem. Some 4WDs had made a single track to the side of the waterhole and remembering the saying 'Look where you want to go and the bike will follow', I headed for the single track paddling like a duck. I bucked and wove through to other side and thought I was going to throw up. Captain Obvious later observed that I should have stripped the bike and carried the luggage over first.

When I got to seal proper, I almost cried. There was the double indignity of finding out that I came out 30km  past where in needed to enter the Bylong Valley anyway.

Bylong to Kandos didn't disappoint and I stopped at the Anglican Church. The Church Is still consecrated and they had had a service that day. Two cousins were cleaning up the grave sites of long lost relatives and had a key and I got a tour inside the tiny chapel.

The stained glass windows commemorated both the Gospel and young men of the Parish who had died in WWI and WWII. 

The valley will soon be opened up to open cut coal mining - it will be interesting to come back again in fives years time. I made Kandos and splurged on motel. Washing is done, pub is next door and the MotoGP is on TV at 5am tomorrow. Riding to Gunning tomorrow to meet Alex and a night in Canberra.

The Antipodean Mariner