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BHR Papalia Director Hugh McDonnell recently set off from Bunbury on a Ducati Multistrada 1200 twin with four other committed Western Australian motorcyclists on a 5000 kilometre trip to Canberra, where they helped to commemorate police officers killed in the line of duty.
Read on for an account of Hugh’s epic adventure.
Wall to Wall 2017
Riders & Motorbikes
1. Hugh Cunningham Moto Guzzi California
2. Hugh McDonnell Ducati Multistrada
3. Alan Morton BMW R 1200GS
4. Luke Eliot Harley Davidson XL1200C
5. Glen Miller Harley Davidson Dyna Street Bob
6. Bob Stewart (South Australia) Yamaha Royal Star V4
Support vehicle & trailer
Saturday 9th September 2017
Perth to Norseman
Depart from Auto Classic, Burswood at 8am
The first day is the longest leg by distance of the trip but it was relatively easy otherwise. Out through Great Eastern Highway after a breakfast hosted by Auto Classic in Burswood, then after several stops throughout the day, we turned right at Coolgardie to go to Norseman. About nine hours travelling.
Sunday 10th September 2017
Norseman to Border Village
Another long day of straight roads highlighted by the longest straight section of road in Australia and one of the longest in the world; the ’90 Mile Straight’ (or 146.6 km) between Balladonia and Caiguna. A highlight is stopping at the top of Madura Pass with a glorious view looking east towards Eucla and the seemingly endless plains. We arrive at the Border Village roadhouse – about 100 metres inside South Australia – and one of the first things that strike you are the poker machines at the roadhouse! Another nine or so hours travelling.
Monday 11th September 2017
Border Village to Wudinna
The last of the first three big days, a similar distance to the first two and we’re at just over 2,100 km covered by the time we get to Wudinna.
Before that and about 70km after leaving from Border Village we stop for a viewing of the Great Australian Bight from the cliff tops. Really spectacular. Along the way we stopped at the Nullarbor Roadhouse where the temperature hit 34 degrees!
While we are there, tragically an SA police officer was attending the sudden death of a ‘grey nomad’ gentleman who after refuelling his vehicle, hopped back in his car and then simply died. Terrible for his wife; for us it was an incredible déjà vu experience. This is because at the exact same stop we made last year, the local police were attending the sudden death of a middle-aged truck driver who had stopped and died suddenly in the bathroom. Just a dreadful coincidence.
Upon our arrival in Wudinna, for the last few years we have been hosted by the Wudinna Senior Citizens Club members, particularly Gerald and Mary Boylan (President and Secretary respectively). Wonderful bunch of people who always hand over several hundred dollars they have raised for the charity every time we come through.
Tuesday 12th September 2017
Wudinna to Murray Bridge
We go from Wudinna to Murray Bridge via Port Augusta, then over Horrocks Pass into a little place called Wilmington. From there it’s down to Murray Bridge going behind Adelaide through a lot of small beautiful South Australian towns including Nuriootpa, Angaston and Clare where we meet up with Bob Stewart, who’s an old mate of Alan Morton’s. Then onto Mt Pleasant and Palmer before coming down off the hills into Murray Bridge.
We’ve had four days of great weather till now but that was about to change.
Wednesday 13th September 2017
Murray Bridge to Warrnambool
This is the day we go through the Grampians in Western Victoria, so we first head to Horsham via Bordertown, which was where the wet weather gear comes out and stays on for the rest of the day. Stopped at a pub for lunch in Horsham and the temperature is plummeting. The rain is pretty steady but manageable, so it’s off to the Grampians after lunch with the narrow roads along sheer cliff tops and no roadside crash barriers – on a very wet road - and into Halls Gap, a small resort town.
After that we make our way down to Warrnambool where it hailed along the way and the roads turned diabolically slippery, so very steady riding through there. We stop at a small pub in a tiny hamlet (forgot the name) and it has a roaring fire; ripper! Quick light beer then off to Warrnambool.
Thursday 14th September 2017
Warrnambool to Sale
Travel Great Ocean Road via Queenscliffe Sorrento Ferry
We leave Warrnambool and about 12km out of town turn right onto the Great Ocean Road. Everyone’s excited as it’s a great ride, but again some wet weather and plenty of road works slow it down a lot. Still a great ride but one has to concentrate pretty well. We stop at Port Campbell, Apollo Bay and Lorne before heading to Queenscliff to catch the ferry across the entrance to Port Phillip Bay to Sorrento.
The ferry is a chance to relax for half an hour, then it’s off again. From here things went awry a bit as yours truly was the designated ride leader for the day and the others couldn’t keep up! Before we knew it, after half an hour my GPS had managed to detach me from the group and they probably weren’t happy. Luckily they still had two GPS units between them so they were okay. I ended up getting lost too, then found my way onto the Princess Highway to Sale at Pakenham. Then it poured – literally out a bucket, for another 160 km. To add insult to injury the others arrived about 15 minutes before I got there too, so serves me right! The gear needed a fair bit of drying out that night.
Friday 15th September 2017
Sale to Cooma
Distance 405km (Ride via Monaro Hwy)
This was the day that we were supposed to go from Sale to Holbrook via Mt Hotham and the Great Alpine Road, but several weeks of snow plus black ice and perhaps most obviously, the requirement for two wheel drive cars to use chains, meant we weren’t going anywhere near there on motorbikes.
So the contingency plan was activated and we rode east to Lakes Entrance for a brunch, then onto Cann River before turning left to go onto the Monaro Highway through to Bombala in NSW. That was a great ride, cracking good road, tight turns and a lot of fun.
A quick beer at the Bombala RSL then onto our last overnight destination at Cooma. The support car struck a bit of problem at this time but was all sorted after about an hour.
Saturday 16th September 2017
Cooma to Canberra (EPIC)
After a big and cold night, we woke up to 1 degree and it’s snowing. Wet weather gear was quickly back on then off down the hill into Canberra. After skirting around to the east and north of the city, we arrive at the hotel we are staying at, being the Aria in Dickson, which is only about 25 minutes walk from the Canberra city centre. Great hotel.
Then we were off to the Exhibition Park in Canberra (EPIC) to assemble with all the other interstate riders. There’s us five from WA, about 1,100 from NSW, some 350 from Victoria and another 250 from SA (including Bob), about 250 from Queensland and a dozen or so from the NT, and finally just under 100 from Tasmania. About 2,000 all up.
EPIC to National Police Memorial
Wall to Wall Ceremony
As with each past year, we head down Northbourne Avenue from EPIC across Lake Burley-Griffin and up to the Australian Parliament, do a lap around that and back across the lake to finish at the National Police Memorial. Here the names of 776 fallen members from the last 200 years are displayed on brass plaques. This year unfortunately another name was added, that of Snr Cons. Brett Forte who was shot dead by a gunman in the Lockyer Valley near Toowoomba in Queensland in May this year.