Day 2 – St George

Another great day for riding, even though the morning was a little on the chilly side with only 10 degrees when we jumped on the bike.

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By the time we crossed the border into Queensland we started stripping off the thermal liners to fully embrace the balmy conditions.

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Jody pointed out that a historic pub established in 1864 at Nindigully was on our way, which is famous for their 5.5kg road train burger (apparently it feeds 1-6 people) – so needless to say we did a pit stop there to have lunch.

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When sitting in the warm shade of an old big tree, we remembered how much we enjoyed the balmy temperatures of the north…. Apparently, many caravan travellers get stuck at this place. It is indeed a piece of paradise, with a river just running behind the house – downside is that it regularly gets flooded, damaged or even destroyed (and then rebuilt).

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We arrived around 3pm at St George – good tome for a wee rest…

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Tonight there is a Rodeo in town! We love rural Australia already!

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Day 1 – Gunnedah

Team Berg had some minor technical problems in the morning to make it to the first meeting point at Wyong in time due to some early morning delays and an accident on Pacific highway, but then caught up with the group in Singleton.

Great to see so many familiar faces from previous rides again, and heaps of new ones.

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We had perfect weather all day long, and we arrived at Gunnedah around 2pm – but not without drama – the Beast almost ran out of fuel on the last stretch, with only fumes left in the tank.

CB has been a number of times in Gunnedah before for work, but never made it up to the lookout:

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At night we meet our friend Jody at the local RSL to catch up over a chilled beverage and yummy food.

Long Ride 2013 – Sydney to Cairns

Yes, it is this time of the year again: on 4 May, Team Berg will hit the road to participate in the Long Ride 2013, a fund-raising campaign to support the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia and raise awareness on prostate cancer which is the most common cancer diagnosed and the second greatest cause of cancer deaths in men in Australia.

Long Ride is a voluntary group of motorcyclists of various ages, backgrounds and abilities who come together from all over Australia to raise funds and awareness for prostate cancer. This year, hundreds of Long Ride motorcyclists will be supporting the Foundation by embarking on an incredible journey from all over Australia to Cairns.

Team Berg will be making the epic journey from Sydney to Cairns and as part of our Long Ride contribution to the Prostate Cancer Foundation; we have set up a fund-raising account. We would be most grateful for your generous support for this important men’s health issue. If you would like to make a donation, please visit our fund-raising page:

http://pcfafundraising.org.au/teamberg2013

We aim to post messages and pictures for you on a daily basis once we’re on the road. So check out our site regularly.

Thank you very much for your kind support!

Dilini and Chris

For more info:

* Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia website: http://www.prostate.org.au/articleLive

* Long Ride website: http://www.freewebs.com/longride2010/

 

Good-bye Canada

After nearly 20,000km we reached our final destination in Alberta, Canada… Our mate Jeff was already waiting for us and a bottle of champagne got ripped open as soon we entered the driveway, very much like a Formula 1 celebration – just without the podium. But the last few kilometers were not without drama…

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I don’t know what it is, but it seems there is always something going wrong on the last day or just like in South America – this time it was a gel battery (Made in China) that completely died without warning. Gel batteries have become pretty much the standard for long distance motorcycle travellers since they don’t leak, don’t need maintenance or slowly deteriorate. Just every morning the same powerful punch that kicks the mighty single cylinder into action. HOWEVER,  if they fail they do like in our case. We just stopped for lunch and when we were ready to embark on the last leg for the day there was – nothing. No cranking, no clicking – heck, not even the headlight came on. It didn’t take long and there was quite a crowd around us, all with great suggestions and ideas on how to start the bike. We even hooked up some jumper cords but with no luck. A mild panic broke out, since finding a battery that would fit a BMW F650GS in the middle of nowhere could be quite a challenge. I could already envision myself riding that bike with a car battery duct-taped to the handlebars if we cant find a suitable replacement. A fellow BMW rider on a K100RS immediately grabbed his  mobile phone and started ringing around to track down a match – but once again, it was the Garmin Zumo 550 that saved the day suggesting a Napa  automotive outlet literally 1 km down the road. In a frenzy, CB ripped apart the bike to get the dud out, strapped it to the Dakar and rode away in a big cloud of dust. 10 minutes later he was back with a big smile on his face and a brand spanking new power pack. Only problem was that the poles where reversed and it was time to think outside the box. Since the battery connectors of the stock GS are pretty short, we had to perform another swap – so the battery of the Dakar went into the GS and the new one into the Dakar since you can install batteries either way…

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In the end all was good, and the fellow BMW rider waited with us patiently all the time until both our bikes were back into commission. Since we were heading all to Calgary we decided to ride together, but not without some local sightseeing on the way – so we passed a humongous rock slide that took out an entire village about 100 years ago: http://www.history.alberta.ca/frankslide/default.aspx and a massive glacier rock, that got dumped 10,000 years ago at the end of the last ice age: http://www.history.alberta.ca/historicsites/default.aspx

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The last few days were just great – we had plenty of time to catch up with Jeff and Cata, played with the bikes and other toys, even went boating with his family and a trip to Calgary included going down the Olympic bob-sled track from 1988 and checking out the fastest zip line in the world – yes: 140 km/h down the ski jump tower! Totally insane! Only Canadians come up with stuff like that… While the ride ride was not too bad, the breaking certainly was! You pretty much slam into a preloaded spring at the end of the zip line and depending on your body weight the impact force is accordingly… Considering that we have been putting on a few kgs over the last 3 month due to a very hearty diet the braking procedure was pretty uncomfortable and neither of us wish to repeat that any time soon. But needless to say, it was very sad to say good-bye to Jeff and Catalina but it is only another year until we meet again…

Overall, we believe that we had the most amazing honeymoon one can wish for. Surely, we could have flown to Paris or Antarctica, or stayed at the most expensive resort on a coconut island somewhere in the Pacific Ocean – but we doubt that we would have met all these amazing people, seen all this breathtaking landscapes or learnt so much about American history we did. Team Berg is all about adventure after all.

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In the end we knocked off about 29 States, a district and four Provinces in Canada. We missed/escaped hurricane Irene, countless violent thunderstorms on the east coast, encountered only two 10 minute rainy periods over three months, got toasted in the record breaking heatwave (pushing +40 degrees Celsius for about 30 days of our trip) and shivered at Yellowstone at -1 Celsius. We have met some amazing and generous people, heard fantastic stories and learnt so much about North American history and geography – things we would never learnt as kids in school or uni. We feel so privileged that we were allowed to embark on this journey, with getting time off work to do it and the health and resources to enjoy it.

The downside it, that this trip completely hooked us and we cant stop thinking about where to go next year…The West Coast beckons us…

Glacier National Park, Montana

They say: “Save the best for last” – in our case it was, unknowingly, a visit to the Glacier National Park near the Canadian border in Montana – http://www.nps.gov/glac/index.htm  While many people recommended this park to us (in particular thanks to David, who grew up right next to it), little did we know what to expect. For sure, we’ve seen some amazing scenery on our trip so far – like the red rocks of Utah, the Grand Canyon, the swamps in Louisiana and the endless prairies of South Dakota – but Glacier takes the cake. This is the heart of the Rocky Mountains! One of the “must-dos” of this park is taking the Going-to-the-Sun road. This road is closed for large parts of the year due to snow and ice, so we just hit the window of opportunity to explore this part of the country. A local at Browning, MT told us that snow can be expected from October onwards and snowfalls as late as July are not unheard of. Downside is that the park is only open for a few weeks in the year so there were many tourists to share the narrow winding roads with. Nevertheless, we consider ourselves privileged that we were able to see this park as it is quite difficult to get to without a vehicle.

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Unfortunately, visiting this park also marks the end of our US tour, with the border crossing into Canada being imminent. There is still so much to see, so many places to visit – it seems there is only one option: we need to come back next year and continue what we have started – aka Team Berg Honeymoon Part II. Travelling without prejudice and with an open mind certainly opened up many doors and let us experience an America that has little to do with the image portrayed in so many MTV music videos, Hollywood movies or news stories. Of course, there is a darker side to it all, fuelled by poverty, unemployment and socio-economic disadvantages – but every nation has this regardless. We were extremely fortunate (and we believe that all our guardian angels were working overtime in the past three months) that we had no major problems (nothing that money cant fix), no accidents (other than a few tipple overs – mostly CB tippling over) and we only got rained on twice for about 10 minutes each time. Just the heat wave this northern summer was causing some frustration, sweat and (minor) arguments at times – but compared to the freezing cold we were generally happy with a few extra degrees.

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Next Team Berg crosses the Canadian border for a short stay near Edmonton and Vancouver before flying to LA and back home to Sydney. Gosh Sydney we miss you and appreciate you so much more now. Can’t wait to see all our family, friends and work colleagues!!

 

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Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, Wyoming

Four years ago DB saw a 4-part BBC documentary about Yellowstone National Park and decided that she had to go there so when planning this trip last year. Yellowstone was decided as a “must-visit with no excuses” park. Currently in the US it is the height of summer and families are making the most of school holidays so all the national parks are chocka-block full of SUVs, RVs and Harleys with all sensible accommodation booked out months ago. It didn’t matter because since Yellowstone is one of those amazing places we decided early on that we would camp there – despite our camping history. The weather was predicted to be perfect, we were pretty well rested and had good camping gear so ambitiously booked a tent site for three nights – but more on the Team Berg camping adventures in Yellowstone later.

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We crossed the State border into Montana with a heavy heart. Our time in the US is nearly over, Montana is the last state before we cross the border into Canada and fly back home. Don’t get us wrong, we can’t wait to go back home, sleep on our bed and even get back into work…but leaving the US is hard. We have become so used to living day to day with an open mind, a sense of adventure, not sure what may come and who we will meet. As mentioned before one of the best parts of this trip is all the lovely people we meet. We both love having a chat to who ever comes up to us young or old, at a petrol station or a cafe – Americans just warm our hearts and inspire us each and every day as does the amazing landscape we travel through.

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While we were heading towards Yellowstone and started looking closer into the details of the park (http://www.nps.gov/yell/index.htm), we realised that the park is actually in Wyoming (not Montana) and there is also Grand Teton right next door (http://www.nps.gov/grte/index.htm) and couldn’t be missed. Our first stop was Grand Teton. Sadly due to heavy haze the Rocky Mountains that frame this national park were obscured, a couple of days later we learnt that the haze is caused by heavy industry in the state of Montana and according to the EPA would take hundreds of years to clear. http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/regulators-sign-rule-to-cut-haze-in-big-sky-country-montana-plant-faces-83m-in-capital-costs/2012/08/16/4e009d98-e7d3-11e1-9739-eef99c5fb285_story.html. CB was suffering a cold and didn’t have the energy to do much walking so we decided to hire a motorboat and explore the main lake of the park since there were reports of bears, otters and other wildlife. So off we went in our wee boat exploring the lake – sadly we only saw two deer and loads of humans kayaking. Nevertheless it provided us a closer look at the mountains through the haze.

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Next we packed up and headed into Yellowstone for three nights of camping. We managed to get a site close to the showers and thought we were really lucky until we rode up to our site…the site was located on the side of a hill. Well, it could be worse – at least there was no rain predicted – so we pitched our tent and went looking for some food. We returned to our camp to find the neighbour to our left had started a smoky fire and the neighbour to our right had cranked up his diesel generator to charge his mobile phone and laptop! CB was fast developing a headache…After commenting on the noise, the neighbour quickly quoted the camp rules that allow generators until 8pm… (and we thought camping is is all about the serenity and all). On top of that, as the sun set more and more campers started their fires giving DB a headache. By 10pm the temperature dropped dramatically so we snuggled into our sleeping bags and then the nightmare started. Since we were sleeping on the slope of a hill DB kept sliding down and off her Thermarest the whole night. She kept wiggling up the hill cocooned in her sleeping bag only to slide down a few minutes later. Next morning we woke up to more smokey fires and people frying up breakfast. Needless to say DB was a very cranky camper.

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We rode to the famous cone geyser Old Faithful considered the most predictable geological feature in the world erupting every 90 minutes (+/- 10) ejecting thousands of litres of water and lasting about 5 minutes. We didn’t expect Old Faithful to be as spectacular as it was and ended up waiting to see a second eruption. We then continued around the geothermal fields in the area which was much bigger and more dramatic than we expected. (We also learned that about half of the worlds active geysers are here in Yellowstone). Unenthusiastically we returned to our campsite that evening but to our pleasant surprise we had new neighbours – a father and his three gorgeous kids on a road trip. After sharing the American staple campsite snack of s’mores (toasted marshmallows with chocolate sandwiched between two graham crackers) with our new neighbours and trading life stories we went to bed hoping that the new strategy of putting a towel under our sleeping blankets will reduce sliding down the hill. It worked! But the night got colder this time dropping to about 0 degrees Celsius. Around 5am CB had enough:

 

CB “Dilu…Dilu…are you awake?”
DB “hmmm…mmmm…mama”
CB “I am so cold…are you cold?”
DB – no answer. CB grabs his motorbike jacket and raincoat to cover up more, “I think I am over camping…”
DB “what, say that again?”
CB “This sucks, I’m over it, let’s go…check into a hotel…i need to sleep in a bed…watch some TV…be warm…sniff, sniff…my hips hurt”

 

And there you have it – after sharing breakfast with our kind new neighbours we packed up our tent and within the hour left vowing never to camp again. By 6pm that evening Team Berg checked into the Wingate Hotel in Helena, MT enjoying a soft fluffy towels, a comfy king bed, WIFI and cable TV…

 

On the next Team Berg adventure we head over to our last stop in the USA, Glacier National Park (and no more camping… for a while at least).

 

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