After much convincing, my lovely Wife signed up as a pillion for her first Iron Butt Association approved ride — the SS1600k. Essentially, this ride consists of 1600 kilometres in under 24hrs, with signed witnesses at the start, the finish, and fuel receipts along the way to prove the route. All documentation must be submitted to the Iron Butt Association for approval and certification.
The plan was to meet up at BP Beresfield at 4:00am for a 4:30am start. We set our alarm for 3:00am and after a couple pieces of toast and two shots of coffee each, we were suiting up with all the wet weather gear we could find. On mornings like this, you often ask yourself the question, "what the bloody hell am I doing, going ridding on a day like this..."
We pulled into BP Beresfield about 4:10am and proceeded to fill up the bike, grab our first starting docket and fill out the ridding log. It wasn't too long before Wom and Davo had pulled up and were doing the same. We met up inside where it was dry, got our witness forms sorted, gave each other a quick 'good luck' hand shake and we were on our way to our first stop, BP Marulan, approximately 300k's away.
It didn't take long to get to the end of the F3, then shortly, once onto the M7, it became apparent the rain wasn't going anywhere, any time soon. By this stage, only a couple hours in, my boots were completely filled with water and the rain had made its way through my wet weather gear and into my crutch. For anyone who enjoys these kinds of rides, you will know this situation is part–and–parcel of the experience — cold, uncomfortable, but nothing to really worry about. My concern at this point was, My lovely wife would be wanting to kill me and head for home as soon as we refuelled.
Around one hour later we arrived at rainy Marulan, looking like a pack of drowned rats! At this point, I was rather concerned about how my lovely Wife would be feeling. As feared, she was cold, soggy, and to quote, "never doing this again." After a little bit of encouragement and the promise of sunshine, my lovely Wife was back on track and keen to push on to our next destination, Wagga Wagga, approximately 290k's away.
It wasn't too far down the road before the skyline started to change and things started to brighten. The sun was peaking out, the birds were singing, and most importantly the mood was starting to lift.
We pulled in a Wagga Wagga around 10:40am for a quick stop and refuel. Soon after we were pressing on toward Finley in complete sunshine. It's interesting ridding around this part of NSW as all you can see for miles is vast expanses of farm land and a few gangly looking emus, which are always amusing.
The temperature was really starting to warm up as we arrived at Finely. It was around 1:30pm and the sun had been up for a few hours and really dried us out. This was my second time ridding through Finely and just like last time, I had the feeling it was a lovely quaint little town. I'm not entirely sure why, it just has a good old fashioned feel about it. As we were getting organised to head off, I had a quick chat with my lovely Wife and it seemed she was in a far better mood now and really starting to enjoy the ride. I think at this point we had passed the 800k halfway mark.
Heading off from Finely with a short ride to Albury, we were back on the Hume Highway in no time. Setting out from Albury we had a couple long legs around the 300k mark. First stop was Yass, then onto Thornleigh and a short trip to our finish point, McDonald's on the F3 Freeway Northbound. We still had plenty of sunshine between Albury and Yass, although you could see we were ridding back into the eye of the storm.
We arrived at Yass around 6:30pm, fuelled up, and had our first coffee or should I say coffees for the day. It was now apparent, our run of sunshine was over and the last 300-400k's of our trip would be back in the storm again. We took the opportunity to take a few photos and have a bit of a laugh about the k's already behind us. By this point I was really enjoying myself, simply because my lovely Wife was truly having a great time and laughing about the storm we were willingly ridding back into. Soon enough, we all had donned on our wet weather gear and battened down the hatches ready for the stormy onslaught that was surely to come — resistance at this point was futile.
Heading north on the Hume again, we were watching the light of the day slowly fading away and giving way to twilight (absolutely no reference to the twihard movies). Approximately 50k's after leaving Yass, we were in the middle of the storm again. Wom was out the front, with myself closely in tow. There was still a reasonable amount of visibility and we were making pretty good progress. Closer to Sydney, the rain really started to fall and with it visibility. This may be strange, by I've always been a fan of the M7 at night. I always find the lights a warm greeting after being on the Hume Hwy for so long.
The last 100 or so kilometres coming into Sydney were really tough work — huge kudos to Wom for leading us through. In the back of my mind was a persistent thought wondering how my lovely Wife was holding up... This was by far, the worst conditions she's ever been ridding in and on top of that, the furthest she's ever been ridding pillion.
Stepping of the bike at BP Thornleigh, I took a quick look at Wom while removing my helmet and it was clear we were thinking the same thing — how the bloody hell was everyone holding up... In all honesty, I was waiting for the onslaught of profanity and "never doing this again" comments from my lovely Wife, although to my surprise, she removed her helmet, with a smile beaming ear–to–ear! Wom came running over with his best turtle man impersonation, which at that point in time, we'd certainly ridden through a proverbial snapping turtle! There was high 5's all round and a euphoric feeling of achievement that the longest leg was over. We now only had 70 odd kilometres to go and we were done.
Back on the bike again for the final leg north, the rain and wind really picked up. Heading north up the F3 freeway around a left hand bend, we were literally pushed across the width of an entire lane, which for the first time ever, truly scared me. It wasn't until the following week that we realised we had ridden through record rain fall for Sydney.
Pushing on up the F3 and onto our final destination, things didn't really improve. The wind was pushing us all over the road, even after slowing to 80k and less. The rain was so hard, I had to lift the visor on my helmet and lower my glasses to see. Given we had already ridden over 1500k's this was quite an effort.
Soon enough we arrived at our final destination, Mc Donalds F3 Northbound. We all stepped off our bikes, soaked to the bone, and headed inside for a dirty Macas feed, another coffee and finalise our documentation. I always love getting to the end of these rides as it's such a great sense of achievement.
Talking with my Wife the next day, she said, "I wouldn't hesitate to do another IBA ride, it was such a great day." And to her credit, her first IBA ride was a baptism of fire (aka water) so if she enjoyed that, she will definitely enjoy anything else the road can throw at her — almost!