Fossils on the loose

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TOWNSVILLE Ulysses has around 300 names on the National Register, yet I’ve only ever seen 40 at our functions. Where the heck are they hiding? At the AGM, I’ve run into people I’ve not met before, who came from our town! What’s that about? It’s a mystery to me. It is possible that some are too busy, but there is still a fair number to account for.  We have been on many rides with the local members but the AGMs we’ve attended have been solitary riding events. It’s hard to coordinate a group ride with everyone needing a range of requirements for work and family commitments, so it was a bit of a surprise when one of our members arranged a seven-day ride.

Peter Lucas, our “Weekly Wrap” publisher, put the itinerary together and he was surprised when 19 of us were up for the adventure! He designed a logo and had patches made. We were all given a number and allocated to one of three groups that consisted of amicable riders who could accommodate any necessities along the way, such as puncture kits, Band-Aids, battery packs, Swiss army knives, etc. Riding in a big group does have limitations and can be a nuisance, especially on the outback roads and sharing with the B-doubles. We took a section of what is known locally as the Dinosaur Trail. The route went west to Hughenden, Winton and Longreach, then east to Emerald, on to Belyando Crossing, and finally home to Townsville. This was a 1784 kilometre round trip. Pete researched and prearranged our accommodation. All we had to do was book it, make sure our bikes were serviced, top up the credit card and pack a change of undies and our toothbrush.

TOWNSVILLE Ulysses has around 300 names on the National Register, yet I’ve only ever seen 40 at our functions. Where the heck are they hiding?

Let’s go

On our vast variety of bikes, two-wheeled and three, we congregated at Caltex Roseneath on the 18th June. Tim and I drew lucky last in the third group. Each group left ten minutes apart, with us at the rear to assist with any mishaps. I had volunteered to be Sergeant at Arms, with the power to impose fines for misdemeanours including: bike droppers, credit card losers, getting lost, wet, arrested, being too young or too old, losing luggage, or for the most outrageous pyjamas. We had a lot of laughs and, going by the amount of dobbing that went on, it was clear everyone got into the spirit of things, although I was demoted to “private” by the time the week was out! Rhonda Lynch organised a Poker Run that raised $300, we chose the Royal Flying Doctors as a worthy cause, thinking that in the event of a mishap we might need them!

The Townsville to Hughenden Caravan Park stretch was fairly uneventful, but for three riders dropping their bikes, and one unfortunate who lost luggage as well. The plan was to meet at the Northern Hotel for dinner. We wined, and dined and I fined my fellow companions. “I think I need to watch my back…Glad I’m last in the pack.” A passing thought!

The forecast was for rain and it wasn't wrong. We kept dry while riding, but got caught out walking back from the pub. Apart from that, it was a good start to the “Fossil Run”.

We received a right royal welcome when we arrived at North Gregory Hotel in Winton. Dinner had been sorted and a special spot set for us in the dining -room. “I should be able to ‘get ‘em all’ tonight for something”, I thought, as I checked in.

We were all packed up and getting ready to head off the next morning when a young constable was coming out of the pub. I winked at him and said, “Excuse me, Sir, we are having trouble here. I think you need to sort this bloke out before we get into real strife”. In a flash, he grabbed ‘Birdman’ by the wrists and had him spread-eagled across his bike. Out came the cameras. We needed proof to show his wife that someone at least could control him!

I had volunteered to be Sergeant at Arms, with the power to impose fines for misdemeanours including: bike droppers, credit card losers, getting lost, wet, arrested, being too young or too old, losing luggage, or for the most outrageous pyjamas.

Maurice Blackburn Lawyers

The roads have little to offer as far as bends go and I found myself thinking about flat spots on my tyres. I could probably do with a trip to Tassie to round them off! The horizon looks as though it goes on forever out there. Even on an overcast day you still get a mesmerising shimmer. I am in awe of the vastness. Everything seems BIG…except you on your bike, that is. If you happen to be last and the others are out of sight, there is an aloneness that leaves you feeling very small. You ride for ages before passing a vehicle.

Most of us took the time for a chat with some Grey Nomads at Corfield and Morella. They counted us all and wanted to know what we were up to. One of the ladies, Sheila Dunbar, happened to be a past Ulyssean from Glen Innes, NSW. She had great delight in telling us all about her last ride on their Goldwing, along the Great Ocean Road in 2000. She pulled me up for calling her a Grey Nomad. “Have you looked at yourself in the mirror lately?” she asked. Waving our new friends goodbye, we took off to catch up with our Fossil mates. It was overcast but not threatening; great conditions to ride in.

We stayed two nights at Longreach to ensure we saw all the touristy things: Stockmen’s Hall of Fame, Qantas Museum and the Cruise on the Thomson River. The cruise was such good value for money, and the staff accommodated the group’s requirements for two birthdays! On our last night in Longreach, we had a BBQ in the park’s camp kitchen. We were having such a good time, we even had gatecrashers. We shared the birthday cake and they shared condiments and their stories! I had to cancel the Grumpiest Old Man (or Woman) award. I couldn't even get a nomination from a wife!

Following the Capricorn Highway we headed for Emerald with lots to stop and see on the way: Ilfracombe, Barcaldine, Jericho, Alpha and it’s along this road that the scenery changes. Instead of the flat, wide open spaces, hills appear. The smells change. Dense shadows form. Grass and shrubbery line the selvage of the tarmac. About 100 kms from Emerald there is a lookout at Drummond Range. A sharp turn left off the highway and up a kilometre of tarred track there is a splendid view. From there you can see the road ahead, winding through the range and crossing a rail track, which appears from the west. It too twists and turns its way through the hills and valleys. It's so quiet up there, but I can imagine in the deep of night under a velvet blanket of stars, a big ol’ coal train chugging its way east and shattering the peace.

Emerald sports one of the best accommodation packages I have come across in Queensland, providing value for money. At Discovery Parks, for $116 we got an ensuite room with two-for-one meal deals. It was State of Origin night, and a lounge room was set up for us pretty much to do as we pleased. Being the well-behaved Fossils we are, most of us hit the deck before the game was over.

With so many riders and so many kilometres, the odds are that something would go wrong somewhere, regardless of any well-made plans. One rider found a tyre developing lumps where it shouldn't. He would have replaced it, but none were to be found in Emerald, so he decided to ride conservatively and make it without incident and that’s exactly what he did!

It felt a bit like school camp. “It’s only one night,” I reassured my ‘fussy who he sleeps with’ husband!

After Emerald, our first stop for the day was Clermont for fuel and coffee, and a wander through the museum. A quick head count, just in case they mistook our mob as exhibits, and it was off to Belyando Crossing for the night.

Staying there was a first for most of us, as it's usually a lunch stop before the home run. The rooms were good enough but just not enough of them, so we supplemented beds with a couple of pump up mattresses pulled out of panniers. The girls bunked in one room while all the boys dispersed over the rest of the rooms. It felt a bit like school camp. “It’s only one night,” I reassured my ‘fussy who he sleeps with’ husband! After the bedding arrangements were settled, all the riders congregated around the fire place. Wood had been collected for the evening, and a few cans opened already.

Earlier that day, I saw at least 50 brolgas feeding in a freshly harvested paddock, and had a close encounter with a wedge-tailed eagle. I had slowed down so he'd have time to take off, but he waited till I was beside him, before he spread those wings and left his road kill. For a few seconds he flew alongside me before lifting up and away, I ducked to one side, as I imagined I could feel his mighty wings. They are such magnificent animals, riding beside one is as good as swimming with the dolphins, I reckon! After dinner, the fire lit, we settled into another round of yarn-spinning. Everyone said how great the week had been and the seeds were sown for the next trip.

Early next morning some of us made a two-hour dash to the Towers for breakfast and then the last leg home. It has been a while since our group has taken any big trips away. Things have changed. Not too many of them like the business of putting up a tent these days, but there have been a few newbies in the group lately, which has sparked a renewed interest in adventure.

Our president, Frank McQuirk, sadly could not join us in this first Fossil Run, but one of our riders kept him in touch and in the know. None of this ‘what happens on the ride stays on the ride’ stuff! Well, that’s what Frank’s been led to believe at least. Riding with 19 people takes commitment to what the Ulysses Club is all about.

I witnessed the camaraderie within our group of mates as well as with total strangers. I want to be the oldest nanna on a bike, and I might need a hand to achieve that! The thing that inspires me about our club’s members is, no matter what, they just keep riding! Cancer treatments, dicky knees, sore shoulders and a variety of ailments caused by ‘date of birth’ doesn't seem to stop them. They are an amazing bunch who never give in when it comes to having some fun and they watch out for each other as well.

If you are out there holding a membership and not riding, get yourself down to wherever your club meet and join in with the rest of us “‘Delinquent Fossils”.  It might only be for a chat and a coffee, or it may be the beginning of your next adventure!

Report and photographs by Kerry Parke # 62927

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