We finally caught up with friends, family and neighbours at the Blackheath Golf Club on 14th July. About 50 people got together to welcome Bob, Bill, Michael and Sallee back home, all safe and well.
For Bob and Bill it was seven weeks away, long enough.
We put on a presentation of the ride, depicted in photos and story, reflected on the achievement, and shared the little incidents that happened on the way. We also talked about the fundraising and we were joined by Graham Opie from Motor Neurone NSW and Robyn Kapp and Pauline Keyvar from Huntingtons NSW. They presented Bob and the team with a treasured momento, which we were all chuffed to receive. We might add also that Bob was appointed a Paul Harris Fellow by his Rotary Club the previous weekend. So it is good to see Bob get the recognition that he deserves.
The presentation is shown on the images below. Photos courtesy Bill Pixton
Whilst the night was not about fundraising per se, special thanks to Rozi Starkey who kindly donated the proceeds of the Bonville Golf package to the Darwin2Perth cause, raising some $520.
Overall fundraising currently stands at about $52,500, which is a great effort.
Just picked up the local paper as we left Geraldton.
Let me tell you once we left Geraldton it really was the home straight…although we had over 400kms to go. We had a tight schedule and had to plan our trip to arrive in Perth Sunday afternoon.
We had been told there was plenty to see before Perth. Places like Dongara, Leeman, Jurien Bay, Pinnacles, Cervantes and Ledge Point. Also we were advised to take the Indian Ocean Coastal road rather than the Brand Highway. More picturesque and fewer trucks.
Our first stop only 64km away was Dongara. We stayed at one of the most delightful places Seaspray Beach Holiday Park, located right on the beach, coffee shop and restaurant, grassed sites each with an ensuite! There was a wild windswept beach all to ourselves. From Dongara we headed south and took the Coast road, leaving the heavy traffic behind. Bob is a connoiseur of bitumen roads and he assures us this was the best. There were some great spots for sight seeing on the way and we made the effort to video Bob with the Indian Ocean in the background. Jurien Bay was about 150kms away so Bob had an early start. As we headed into Jurien Bay Bob was pulled over by the police to breathalysed. What a hoot. Jurien Bay didn’t disappoint. Another great spot. This whole stretch of coast is quite touristy and developed given its proximity to Perth. Ledge Point was our last stop before Perth. Another grassy caravan park and they even gave us a freebie. How good was that. Ledge Point has rugged beaches and has its own golf course and country club, where we dined that night – our last night on the road. As we were getting close to Perth the attitude of other road users seemed to change. Plenty of cranky drivers not wanting to share the road. It was stressful riding for Bob and for us in the van. Bob was getting trip tired and it seemed wise to get him off the road before we had a bingle.
And so to Perth on the Sunday afternoon. We decided not to take the van too far in and stayed at Kingsway Caravan Park about 25kms out of town. We had a lot of things to do in Perth with media and getting the van cleaned and the signage removed. We had some media commitments and the main thing was to organise our official finish in Perth at noon on Tuesday. This involved liaising with various Rotary clubs and with the local MND and HD organisations.
On the Monday afternoon we had a radio interview with Curtin Radio and renowned journalist Jenny Seaton. We had about 15 minutes on air and spoke about the ride and the fundraising. Certainly were able to shed some light on MND and HD. It was somewhat a recurring theme in Perth how difficult it was to get mainstream media interest. We approached all three TV stations and two radio stations. Generally not interested, charity bike rides not newsworthy and they are so parochial. We were even asked if Bob was a Western Australian! Rotary also,with some exceptions, were all preoccupied with their own projects and really did not get behind it. This is in stark contrast to the wonderful support we had from Rotary in Darwin, Broome and Geraldton.
Jenny Montgomery arrived the previous afternoon and Bob had abandoned us to move into a city hotel. Can’t say I blame him. In the morning, we took some photos at the Kings Park. This is a beautiful spot covering botannical gardens and national park, overlooking the Swan River and Perth CBD. A few stills and video of Bob riding through the Park. The four of us had a nice brekkie there.
We had speculated where to have the formal finish. On one hand we thought about Elizabeth Quay, a very public and tourist location, on the Swan River and near the CBD. Too many permits required and staff from the MND and HD organisations would not be able to attend. It seemed the right thing to do to focus on those we are seeking to help and we changed the location to the Centre for Neurological Support attached to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital. The local chapters for MND and HD are also located there. So at noon on Tuesday Bob put his lycra on for the last time and cycled a km into the finish. Staff from both organisations, together with some Rotarians and other friends, were there. Whilst it was a low key finish, we were surrounded by people who were friendly and supportive, and cared about what we were doing. A few short speeches, a cuppa and it was over. Particular thanks to Diane and Ken Collins from Rotary Club of Freshwater Bay, for their unwavering support and assistance.
From there we packed up, cleaned the van, gave away our excess food to needy people, dropped Michael at airport in the morning, returned Ivan to Britz, and got our bond refunded. I took a day off on Rottnest Island, planning to fly out at midnight. Jetstar had other ideas and cancelled my flight. I was forced to spend the night slumped at the airport for ten hours, waiting to find another flight. Bob and Jenny went down to Margaret River for a couple of days. We all needed some space.
More reflections on the trip, learnings and plans for the future to come in subsequent blogs. For now let me say it was a great experience that provides support to those who really need it. It was personally rewarding and I feel priviledged to have been part of it. Bob’s efforts, by any measure, are truly remarkable.
Photos:Courtesy: Bill Pixton
Leaving Carnarvon on the way to Geraldton 475kms and then another 430kms to Perth. We are almost on the home straight but first we had a few days to get to Geraldton where Rotary had organised two events and media.
We started early as were unsure how Ivan would perform and escorted Bob to the outskirts of Carnarvon with Woomarel Roadhouse our target. We caught the sunrise that morning. Woomarel provided a campsite on the red dirt and not much more but I remember the little shop there was clean and tidy and the owners very friendly. We noticed quite a few feral goats around and were informed that there was a market for them. .Billabong Roadhouse promised more as it had a tavern attached and Bob looks forward to a beer after his ride. Another dusty campsite. We met a couple of ladies travelling around, who kindly made a donation and posed with Bob as he set off that next morning. Next stop was Northampton which we were told was a proper town rather than a basic roadhouse. It was a nice little town and the site of the first government railway line in 1879 from Perth. Funny little caravan park though. Whilst Bob rested after his 180km ride, Michael and I had a quick look around town. Lot of history. They were also in the middle of a drought and a few drops of rain got them very excited. In the afternoon we made a video seeking donations.
As it was my birthday tomorrow we dined out that night in the Northampton Hotel and reminisced about growing up in Sydney and the wild things we did as teenagers. The hotel had new owners and had just relaunched their new restaurant. It was very good food and Bob andMichael made me forget being 70 tomorrow.
It was only a relatively short ride into Geraldton where Di Gilleland from Rotary Club of Geraldton, had gone to some trouble organising things for us in Geraldton. We parked the van at her place and we stayed in her home. She even had balloons and a birthday gift. Wow. So thoughtful. That day we were interviewed by the local paper and ABC radio station. That night we had a combined Rotary function to attend with Geraldton, Batavia Coast and Geraldton-Greenough Clubs attending. They had previously arranged for a local not for profit community organisation Shine to talk about their youth program for disadvantaged teenage girls. It was a very uplifting presentation and something we will pursue ourselves. Bob made a brief talk about our ride and what we were doing and Rotary Geraldton made a generous donation on the night. They even had a birthday cake for me. It was very special.
On the way back to Di’s place we had a tour around Geraldton at night, particularly the wonderful monument to the HMAS Sydney II and the work Rotary did to get this project up and running. It is now a popular tourist attraction that brings people to Geraldton and informs them about Australia’s greatest naval tragedy. Next morning Di had arranged breakfast at a sthe Dome Cafe on the esplanade. We were due to meet the TV media people but they called out to a cat stuck up a tree story. So after breakfast Bob was back in the saddle heading south to Perth. We all had fond memories of Geraldton.
Photos: Courtesy Bill Pixton
And so we left Minilya Bridge to get the 140kms into Carnarvon completed as soon as possible. We were seduced by a the promise of a cabin and comfortable bed and a day off. But before that we had a play with a drone.
Michael had purchased a shiny drone and had been haranguing Bob for the chance to use his new toy. There were promises of some spectacular photos from up high of Bob in the rugged Gascoyne hills. Now Bob is a sort A to B person, that is, get the job done without fuss or too many diversions. Michael despite having his training wheels on, approached the task with boyish enthusiasm. I was not optimistic about a quick result. Anyhow he got the drone up and hovering over the van. Only problem was it was not transmitting any photos. He pressed buttons, consulted instruction books and made frantic phone calls but all to no avail. Sadly the drone did not resurface on the trip.
Carnarvon was a great town and quite different from the mining towns like Port Hedland and Karratha. The unique location on the coast where the Gascoyne River meets the Indian Ocean. It is recognised for its market gardens, banana plantations, tropical fruits and seafood. The brochure said “a vibrant and diverse community which offers exciting culinary delights”, so we thought a pleasant Friday night was ahead of us. So after checking in at Wintersun Caravan Park, where we were given the A1 cabin. Self contained, two bedrooms, tv etc. Very comfortable. We were afforded these “luxuries” because the owners were friends of Bob’s son in law. It was really appreciated. We moved all our food inside as we no longer had power into the van. We did ten days worth of washing and generally got ourselves organised. Now for the pub and those culinary delights! The Carnarvon Hotel, right on the water, beckoned. A great pub with a top restaurant on a busy Friday night.
Next morning it was food shopping, and finding the best coffee shop. I managed to grab a haircut from an entrepreneurial lady at the Caravan Park doing haircuts for $20. When I told her about our ride she handed me back the $20 I had just given her. So chuffed. The day flew and after collecting our washing we were having a pre dinner drink. Ivan was parked outside our cabin and we thought we would get some diesel rather than in the morning to save time.
Michael started the van…well actually he didn’t because it would not start, and we mucked around for half an hourv before it started. Then when we engaged the gears it shuddered violently (as if the transmission was not engaging. It was very disconcerting and we wondered whether we would get away in the morning. We had a tight schedulev and had media and Rotary commitments in Geraldton. So we called up Britz looking for some guidance.. Now its Saturday night and their service calls are all handled from their HO in NZ, with a 4 hour time difference.. We explained the problem and flagged a replacement vehicle was needed urgently. Well that wasn’t happening they said. They had no vehicle in Carnarvon, spare or otherwise and Geraldton was a bettter bet. We gave them twenty minutes to come up with a solution and after being on the end of a spray from myself and then Bob ratchetted it up another level. The end result was still no result although Bob’s threat to talk to Channel 9 had them jumping! We had to solve the problem ourselves. After another flurry of calls we found a local RACWA mechanic who took the call from the local RSL He seemed to understand the problem (flywheels, sensors etc) was helpful but there was no diagnostic equipment he could access until Monday. He doubted whether any local mechanic could address the problem. So we had to make a decision. We went back to Ivan, started him up, and he grunted and groaned, like the gearbox was objecting. We soldiered on and took it out on the highway to realise it was only at low revs it shuddered the way it did. So we had to chance it and leave first thing in the morning as planned. Waiting for Britz to find another van was not going to happen. We all went to bed feeling some angst and trepidation about tomorrow.
In the morning we said a prayer that firstly, Ivan would start, and secondlyEach to his own, it would be driveable. It was a standing joke that at prayer time I would pray to Jonathan Thurston and Michael and Bob would pray to their gods. Each to his own and either way, they all delivered! A call to Britz to sanction our decision so that it was their liability not ours and we were on our way and saying goodbye to Carnarvon. As you know 900kms later Ivan rolled triumphantly into Perth without a shudder. Go figure.
Photos: courtesy of Bill Pixton
We left Broome refreshed on Day 18. We lost Sallee and gained Michael. Cooking skills vs photography skills. You can’t eat a photo is what I am thinking. Different dynamics in the team and we all had to make adjustments. Sleeping arrangements were different and a bit more cramped. This stretch into Carnarvon would be ten days without a break so this would be taxing to Bob and our team. A great lookout just off the highway south of Broome.
Our first day after Broome turned out to be eventful. Bob had his first puncture, actually a worn that had to be replaced. Our first night was at Port Smith Caravan Park. We turned off the main highway taking a dusty and corrugated road into the campsite. This place is notorious for its midgies and it did not disappoint. There is a very pretty tidal lagoon with pristine water and plenty of fish. I took the opportunity for a cautious swim although the water was very shallow and racing out to the sea. That night was State of Origin night, and someone fellow camper had to be watching. Sure enough we invited ourselves to their party and cheered for the Blues win. Lovely people gave us a glass of wine and donated to our cause.
Our next day we stayed at the popular Eighty Mile Beach Caravan Park. Another dirt track in and the campground was right on the beach. More facilities and amenities here. The main attraction here is the beach, only fifty metres away. It seems to go on forever and is covered in shells. It attracts the beach fishermen, but they say you rarely land anything as the sharks get there first. The sunsets are fabulous and is definitely a place I would come back to.
Next day we set off the 120 kms to Pardoo Station, having being advised not to stay at the Roadhouse. This place was a bit different in that it is still a working station running beef cattle. Quite a large bush style campsite and it still requires a 4wd trip to get to the beach. If you get bogged they charge you $750 to get pulled out. Pardoo Creek runs down into the ocean. This place attracts the fishermen, and the camp is decorated with photos and brag boards. It attracts families and grey nomads and is different to your average campsite. They even have a lumpy bowling green.
Off to Port Hedland which was a total contrast to the more touristy campsites of the last week. We are now in the Pilbara and the centre of our iron ore industry. Port Hedland is the main export site for the iron ore from Mt Newman. It a big industrial complex with 4 bogie road trains to worry about. We were glad to leave after a contractor told us to move Ivan from his building site entrance. He was about as friendly as a hand grenade and with Bob about to deck him, we scurried away towards Whim Creek.
Now this was more our style. An old pub with a rich history, it attracts tourists and local workers. Through a Rotary contact we were told to look up manager Bob Bongiorno who would look after us. We did and he did. A free room for the night and a meal in their staff canteen. Whim Creek Hotel is now owned by an indigenous organisation NYFL who seem to be doing good things in the community. We also met Rotarian Phil Smith from Rotary Club of Crows Nest in our District. He is riding his BMW bike around Australia. He wont fall to off off as he reckons it is too heavy for one person to get it upright.Anyway we had a good chat over a beer.
Onto Fortesque Roadhouse. When we hear Fortesque we all think of Twiggy Forrest and FMG. The Roadhouse was a typical mining type place with extensive short term accommodation for contractors. They had a wet canteen open limited hours to suit the shifts. Shared a few beers with these guys and heard about their lives. We were intrigued they sell boutique beers rather than your VB and Emu Bitter, but at a subsidised price of $5, it was a good deal. We made a video here running up to my 70th birthday, appealing for donations to our MND and HD fundraising. Twiggy even got a mention.
Next day was another roadhouse called Nanutarra. Here we finally caught up with Jack Totino a young man on a mission. He is riding unsupported around Australia raising money for MND and doing a great job and has the support of Neale Daniher and his MND Foundation. We all met with Jack and Bob gave him encouragement (and some vaseline) for his journey over the next twelve months or so. What a great young guy.
Then it was onto Minilya Bridge Roadhouse. A reasonably austere facility bit located on the Minilya River which would be a treat when flowing. There were plenty of birds in the gums lining thevriver bed; galahs, corellas, red capped parrots and of course crows. A clear starry night followed and then the sprint into Carnarvon the following day. We had been promised a free cabin there so it was all go to arrive early.
We are all feeling pretty good and have many discussions about people we meet on the way. So often someone has a story about MND and sometimes Huntingtons. We get encouragement from these people.
All photos courtesy Bill Pixton
We were all looking forward to Broome. We had been on the road now for thirteen days and some rest and a bit of a look around were called for. Chief cook and all round helper was leaving us after Broome and Michael Small joining us. Also Jan Southern was coming over to see her son and cheer us on. So in many ways four days in Broome was special. On advice we checked into the Roebuck Bay Caravan Park, ideally located on the shores of the bay and not too far from the town centre but further from the expanding Cable Beach sector. Probably not a good decision to stay there, will explain later. We found a coffee shop at Town Beach and started our time there looking at the view and having our first real coffee for a while. After that we looked around the old part of town, mango trees, corrugated iron shops, red rocks and learnt about its romantic history with the pearling industry and mixed ethnicity. Plenty of tourists around this resort town, mango trees, red rocks and interesting characters.
From there we took a taxi to popular Cable Beach and Zanders, where we sampled a few brews and watched the dramatic sunset with a camel backdrop. Another taxi back to our caravan park and some chit chat with our neighbours. We befriended a few people and told them about our bike ride, and they mostly made small donations.
We were all a bit intrigued about our neighbours (they were all friendly) and the life they live with their swish caravans. Some are away for months at a time, and they mostly get settled in a big park like this one and basically set up another home with all the mod cons they are trying to escape from. They slumber a lot, don’t over exert themselves and retire early. Its like a big retirement home. To each his own I guess.
On the Saturday afternoon Sal and Bob escaped to the mall for a foot pedicure. They they were luxuriating in getting their toes and feet scrubbed, making chit chat with the locals. Well, after a lot of cajoling I joined them and the poor lady was aghast when she saw my battle scarred feet. Searching for the biggest industrial scissors she could find she went to work much to the amusement of the other customers.
More socialising with the neighbours and hearing how tired they were from their busy day.
Now Sunday was a special day for Sallee and I. We had the chance for a day off and booked a trip to Cape Leveque, some 200kms north on the rich red dirt road on the Dampier Peninsula. We were sad to leave Bob to his own devices for the day (sob, sob). The whole Peninsula is either government owned, or owned by various indigenous clans. There is little commercial development and it retains its rugged beauty and ancient history. We were driven along with another couple, in a new Landcruiser in a degree of comfort to Beagle Bay, the original pearl farm at Cygnet Bay and then to Cape Leveque itself. Here there is a very good restaurant with an innovative menu using local ingredients and bushtucker. Locals in Broome will do the 400km return trip to dine there, and wander the beaches with their stunning red cliffs.
We returned to our camp to find Bob in good form entertaining the neighbours.
Next day we did a radio interview with Spirit FM. Ivan needed some TLC at the Britz depot, so that was next. Then it was back to Cable Beach to meet Jan Southern who arrived that afternoon. This time we met at the Cable Beach Resort, which is a huge resort hotel and the favoured spot to view the Cable Beach sunset. Jan’s son XX and partner Beccie completed our group and it was a very convivial night. Lots of laughs and good vibes.
At that moment we all seemed remote to the rigours of the ride. That was about to change.
Back at that camp we had some more laughs with our neighbours. We were only ten metres from Ivan with screen door shut but not locked. Sal had dumped her bag and purse on top on the lounge inside but on view. When we came back the door was open and purse gone. Sal was pretty shaken and we looked and searched everywhere. Sal was adamant she had not misplaced and it must have been stolen right under our noses. It was a sad note to end the night and we all felt let down. Others in the camp had complained about pilfering.
In the morning we accepted reality, informed the camp managers (they shrugged) and Sallee cancelled her credit cards. There was no cash in the purse to speak of. She still had a few days in Broome, after we departed, and with no cash, licence or ID she was not happy. Then later that day something remarkable happened. She got a call from the recycling centre in Broome to say they had her purse. It was part of recycled rubbish collected that day that was hand sorted. She had a phone number inside and got the call. Apart from being a bit dirty it was all there less the $20. The thief was very responsible and considerate in discarding the purse in the recycle bin. If it had been general waste it would not have been found. Anyhow the honesty of the lady in the transfer station outweighs the dishonesty of the thief. Broome does have it share of social issues and these need to be understood before we get too judgemental.
Next day Michael flew in and we made some attempt to integrate him into our daily procedures. A bit of a shock to him no doubt. That night we were entertained by Lyn and Bill Willis from Broome Rotary Club. They invited a dozen members of their Club to their house and cooked up a bbq feast of beef, lamb and turkey and a range of salads. Their home is something special and geared up for outdoor entertaining. We had a wonderful night, their hospitality and camaraderie was genuine. They made a sizeable donation from the Club and also some individuals gave something extra. They also gave us a necklace with a pearl setting that we can use at a fundraiser auction in the future. Bob gave a brief talk about our ride and we departed in high spirits.
Lovely stroll into Broome’s Chinatown this morning. There is so much history here…indigenous community, pearling, bombing during WW2, beaut architecture and landscapes.
Next morning we were up at 4am to escort Bob out of town to commence his ride again. So ended our time in Broome and fond memories for this beautiful and rustic place. And goodbye to Sal for a month (xx).
Photos:Courtesy Bill Pixton
We enjoyed our couple of days in Kununurra. Trying to get used to the 2 hours time difference.
We stayed in a super busy caravan park all squashed in like sardines. Big rigs, big vans, big sat dishes. Grey nomads, mostly with assets, living the dream.
When we packed up Ivan and were ready to depart about 4:00am, we had a little misadventure. The last thing to do in the dead of night was to disconnect the water tap hose. But the valve failed and water burst everywhere. It would only stop if Bill kept holding the valve down. Only by holding the valve down could the torrents of water be tamed. Bob was ready to go, Sallee was losing it and Bill was like the Dutch boy with his finger in the dyke. A long weekend, no maintenance staff around, and all the other wankers in their fancy vans, no one came out to help. They could all hear the commotion but it was not their problem. Bob went looking for help and finally found a man in his pjs to come out with a wrench. If it wasn’t so serious it would be funny.
Anyhow about 60kms north of Warmun we clocked over our first 1000 kms. Long way to go but we are up for it. Warmun RH was uninspiring but Halls Creek promised a different experience. It has high numbers of indigenous folk and tightly manages its alcohol access. We came across this butcher, you got to laugh, very Aussie.
That night ate at the Kimberley Hotel, a modern and busy hotel and restaurant with great food. A real surprise.
Then a 150km ride to Larrawa Station, a few kms of the highway. Whilst it was unpowered they had good showers and toilets. This was a real find, a working cattle station dabbling in tourism. Ate with the family (Wendy and Kevin), farm hands and some travelling geologists, under the stars. And they had beer which made it a hit with Bob. We chatted and enjoyed their company and solved all the worlds problems. Had to be careful with the geologists though and avoid any criticism of the mining industry.
Bob up early and did the 140kms into Fitzroy Crossing. We had heard a lot about Fitzroy Crossing. It was one of those places associated with the wild NW and the majestic Fitzroy River. When in flood it is one of the biggest rivers in the world. Stayed in a great caravan park where Sal and I had a swim while Bob caught up with his sleep. Interesting clientele in the bar and Bob witnesses an altercation. Police and security people in attendance. We got the impression it happens regularly and no one seemed too concerned.
When Bob left early the next morning Sal and I had a rare opportunity to check out the river and the famous old low level Crossing. It is hard to imagine how much water goes down there in the wet season. Worth seeing.
As we had a few concerns where we could stay Bob pulled out his biggest ride so far 232 kms and 10 and a half hours on the bike all the way to Willare RH. He is a really determined person when he sets his mind to something. Not much there though but it was Ok. All pretty tired by then anyhow.
We have met so many people along the journey, in caravan parks, restaurants, pubs everywhere who come up for chat. So often they have a story to tell about someone they know and their personal experience with MND. It is truly moving.
Our next stop is Broome (next post) and we are all excited as it marks a point in the trip and a few days RnR,
Photos:Courtesy Bill Pixton
We are now in Kununurra Western Australia, after ten days in the Territory. Time for some reflections on the experience so far. Somehow it feels different already.
Firstly our time in Darwin was centred around getting the van organised, buying provisions, setting up Bob’s bike, and planning the next week. The Rotary clubs of Darwin, Darwin Sunrise and Darwin North were all very welcoming and generous with their support. The boys (yes this is a mens only club) in the floral shirts made us laugh (how could we forget Fingers, Scruffy and others). Darwin Sunrise more like our own Club, smaller and a shorter agenda for the morning meeting, were entertaining and friendly. Whilst we didn’t attend a formal dinner, Jim Trobbiani and President Tony Allan shouted us out to dinner in a fine restaurant in the Casino. You couldn’t meet nicer people, one of whom had been touched by MND. The three Darwin clubs we met all made generous donations.
Now Bob does like his barramundi. So we ventured out on Saturday night to the swanky Char Restaurant. We wanted an early and quick meal before hitting the bitumen the next morning. Now it was Darwin so we thought casual was fine and rocked up in stubbies and tshirt. The maitre’ d was not impressed and after suggesting we find a more suitable eaterie, relented and ushered us outside to a high bar bench remote from his more treasured clientele. Anyhow the food was excellent and we skulked away both embarrassed and satiated.
On the road in the morning for Bob’s first ride of the fundraiser and we headed to Adelaide River Roadhouse. No problems with the 117kms. Dined at the tavern there made famous in the Crocodile Dundee movie. Next day we left early for Emerald Springs. It was here we met Grant Rawlinson, an adventure rowing and cycling 12,000kms from Singapore to Darwin, then to Coffs Harbour and then to New Zealand. You can see his story here.
Then it was 122kms onto Katherine. Interesting place dealing with some difficult indigenous issues. More of that later.
Stayed at the sprawling caravan park, met a few kind folk who made donations. Getting more into a routine with the riding, the food, rest and support. And looking after Ivan. Sal’s cooking has been a hit with Bob.
Victoria Roadhouse was our next stop 192 kms away. His biggest leg so far. Beautiful and scenic landscapes, the campsite on the Victoria River. Next morning away early for the relatively short trip to Timber Creek. Different style of place, plenty of shade and their own resident crocodile.
Day 6 Bob was away before 5:00am heading to Kununurra. We were unsure whether we could push through but Bob carried on over 230kms to arrive in the dark at Kununurra just over the border in WA. That completed our first week of riding and ten days in the Territory.
We have all got on pretty well without too many dramas. Often not having an internet or even phone connection has been frustrating. Whilst Bob finished the week pretty strong we are looking forward to a rest day.
Photos: Courtesy Bill Pixton
Hi everyone, today I’m telling you guys how riding 4000km is making a difference. My grandfather has done two huge rides over the past 4 years for Motor Neurone Disease. In 2013 he rode from Katoomba to Port Douglas, which was 3086 km, and in 2015 he rode from Perth to Sydney which was 3800km. this one is going to be about 4000km which means he’s going to be riding 200+ km a day. This time he’s also raising money for Huntington’s disease, which does a lot of the same things as MND. He set off yesterday and is hoping to arrive in late June.
So what actually is MND and Huntington’s disease? MND and HD. Well, they’re both diseases that affect the way your brain sends messages to the rest of your body. They both affect the way you can walk, talk and behave. Here are some videos on what HD and MND are. (Play clip.) Even though the video said you would survive with MND for about 3-5 years Stephen Hawking has survived for more than 40.
As I said before he has done two other rides so here’s a video where he was on the news after he finished riding on the Nullarbor. (Play video).
Now after all the money he has raised and all the kms he has ridden he is riding again and it’s going to be longer and hotter than ever. This time he’s going to ride from hot humid Darwin to boiling hot Perth, and he’s got to ride 200+ km every day in 1 month. He’s riding 4000km, in boiling weather, and a caravan to live in. Easy right? He’s doing all of that and all we have to do is walk the huge distance from the couch to computers and do the devastating, difficult talk of getting on to his website and give a couple of dollars for people who can’t walk talk and can barely breather. Wow, what a difficult task. You seriously have to go to his website in your lovely air conditioned homes and give a couple of dollars to a great cause. By the way you can spend as much or as little as you want. I’ve already donated $800 by buying this John Eales Memorabilia, which is the jersey he wore in his last game when we won the Bledisloe cup.
Overall please donate as much as you can, every cent counts, let’s smash our goal of $100,000 because it’s a great cause and too many people are affected by these two horrible diseases. We need to raise awareness, money and support for everyone affected. Thank you for listening and let’s beat MND and HD.
This video shows some of Bob’s last ride from Perth to Sydney 2016.
We moved to the Blue Mountains only two years ago. Previously we had been in Brisbane for 8 years and before that in Sydney.
I first met Bob Montgomery a bit after that when he came to one of our Rotary meetings. He was thinking about his Perth to Sydney ride which was commencing in September 2015. Our Club got right behind him, and I personally got very involved with Bob and Jenny and all the activities associated with that ride. Moreover I was attracted to Bob’s motivation, determination and enthusiasm for this ride and raising money for Motor Neurone Disease(MND). Bob has had experience with MND in his family and with other friends.
It is fair to say we became good friends.
This time though I will be in the field with Bob, going all the way from Darwin to Perth. Doing all sorts of things, promoting, organising the Rotary connections, taking photos and driving. You will see the little “Bilby” signature on many of them. Bob is of course doing the hard yards on the bike and at 73 yo remains an inspiration to our team, family and friends and to the wider community.
What else that has changed is that this time we are raising money jointly, and equally, for MND and Huntingtons Disease (HD). For those who don’t know I have a very much loved, adult daughter with HD. She was diagnosed about three years ago and has to deal with this every day of her life. She has already lost an aunt and has two uncles in advanced care. There maybe others in the extended family that also have HD but they have chosen not to be tested at this time. I have also got involved with Huntingtons NSW and know of the wonderful work they do to support those with HD and their families. All money raised goes direct to the two organisations and they distribute the funds to support their particular programs.
So it is fair to say both Bob and I have a personal commitment to this ride. We have “skin in the game” as they say. I am also very appreciative of Bob’s generosity by including HD in this fundraiser. The two diseases are similar in that they both neurologically based, both fatal and despite extensive global research there is no cure at this time. They have about the same prevalence rates. HD though is genetic in that the gene is passed on by the parents with the offspring having a 50/50 chance of inheriting the disease.
Now about that Bilby. My grandchildren call me Bilby and my bushwalking mates call me Bilby. Never sure why. Timid, cautious and endangered really don’t fit but the name stuck. I’m still a youngster compared to Bob and will turn 70 on the ride. I do a lot of community work with Rotary and am a board member with a not for profit organisation called Mountain Youth Services Team (MYST). A keen bushwalker, who enjoy outdoor adventures and an aspiring photographer with a lot to learn. You will find me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
The time is fast approaching for me to leave on my third solo endurance ride in 3 years – the previous two being Katoomba (Blue Mountains) to Port Douglas in Far North Queensland a distance of 3,100kms then Perth to Leura (Blue Mountains) a distance of 4,200 kms. Now we are getting ready to leave Darwin on Monday 15 May on a journey of 4,200 kms to Perth. The amount of organising for these rides is enormous – from the mobile home to social media to all the small stops for fuel etc etc etc. Because of the vast distances we need to plan food, water and fuel very carefully as it is not easy to find these essentials on the way. Communication is also vital and we need a satellite phone to ensure we can always communicate effectively wherever we are.
As well as all of the above I have had to do the necessary training for such a journey. I started my serious training in January and since then I have been doing 300k per week, building up to the end of March. I am now doing 500k per week with rides to Jenolan Caves, Lithgow and Windsor. Also I have travelled north and ridden around Coffs Harbour, Sawtell and Bonville. In Sydney I have been training in Centennial Park and my old stomping ground Oatley Park where I used to race for St. George Cycling Club many years ago.
The next two week will see me doing 500k per week then I will ease back to 200k per week until we leave Leura on Thursday 11 May for what will be the toughest ride so far. People often ask me how and why I do such rides the immediate answer I give is ‘I can’ and I get amazing satisfaction raising funds for these two dreadful diseases MND and HD. Judith O’Brien (my cousin) passed away 2 years ago from MND and she was so brave and strong right to the end – her beautiful love for her family gave her the strength to carry on. Knowing there is no cure and knowing the pain sufferers go through helps me when I am going through tough times on my ride.
A mate of mine from Leura Golf Club, Mal Grant, contracted MND 2 1/2 years ago and with his wife Eileen moved from Hornsby to Sawtell when he was diagnosed. They had no idea what MND was and like HD it is a death sentence. Mal has lived 6 months longer than expected and he is just so positive – once again like Judith – just so brave. Eileen and Mal have 20 grandchildren between them. Mal was a fine sportsman playing off a 4 handicap in golf and a State tennis player.
These people and all other sufferers of Huntington’s and Motor Neurone Disease are my motivation. When I am riding through mountain ranges and heat and rain suffering my own pain – this pain goes out the door when I think of these people and their families.
As CEO of MND NSW our organisation is delighted to work with Bob and his team again. Bob has now ridden 2 massive rides for Motor Neurone Disease (MND) and now with more time on his hands he plans to ride from Darwin to Perth in support of people with MND and Huntington’s Disease.
Anyhow we are excited to continue supporting his fundraising endeavours. This time it is great to work alongside our friends from Huntington’s NSW. Two charity organisations working together….who would have thought?
As a fellow cyclist I think Bob’s more than a little crazy!
MND is a progressive neurological disease. People with a diagnosis of MND will become increasingly disabled. This is because the motor nerves gradually die causing the voluntary muscles to weaken and people progressively lose the ability to move their arms and legs, to speak and swallow and eventually, – to even breathe.
Approximately 90% of people with MND have no known cause or history in their family. 10% are familial.
MND is a complex disease. The site of onset and patterns of weakness in MND vary from person to person. The rate of progression and survival time after diagnosis also varies significantly. The average life expectancy is two to three years from diagnosis. For the person who has MND death is typically due to respiratory failure as a result of weakened muscles. There is no cure for MND, yet! Current research shows some promising results but it is extremely slow going.
The Motor Neurone Disease Association of NSW (MND NSW)
MND NSW receives approximately 85% of funding from donations, events and appeals. We could not survive and help MND sufferers without people like Bob. His efforts not only raise funds for people with MND they also raise awareness as he travels through some of the remotest areas of Australia. MND NSW provides equipment to all people with MND in NSW and the ACT – 5742 items were loaned over the past 2½ years. If people were to buy each item of equipment the cost would be over $6.2million.
Our Regional Advisors travel across NSW, the ACT and the Gold Coast helping people navigate the health, disability and community sectors, acting as a conduit drawing services in as neededMND NSW advocates for people with MND and for the MND community as a whole. We fund research – over $300,000 in the last 3 years and provide education and resources to families dealing with MND, health, community and disability professionals
All of our services and equipment are provided at no cost to people with MND their families and carers within NSW, ACT, the Gold Coast & the NT.
To become part of Bob’s Darwin2Perth ride and to stay up to date with his “adventures” visit bobmontgomery.com.au.
We were all really pleased with the recent Golf Day. In fact we hope to make it an annual event.
It was successful and now that is out of the way, we can get back to the planning for the campaign and ride..
Over the next two and a half months, our energies are now focussed on fundraising, marketing, media and the logistics of the trip. Plenty to do but all good. We will keep you informed .
For more info on MND and HD Who We Are Helping
Charity Golf Day
Well the big day has arrived. We woke up to light drizzle and thought…please do not rain.
About 70 golfers turned out for the 4ball Ambrose at Blackheath Golf Club. The day started with a breakfast courtesy of Upper Blue Mountains Rotary. Frittata, bacon, sausages…pretty good really. It hit the spot after last nights festivities. New Club Pro Darrin Waldin briefed the players before they headed off to their allocated tee for a shotgun start. The Gods were smiling as the weather cleared and it finished up being a lovely fine day in Blackheath.
We had a hole-in-one competition at the 13th to win a Mazda2, courtesy of Blue Mountains Mazda. No one even came close and our “spotter” figured out the safest place to sit was next to the pin! As usual a million stories of what could have been. There were also nearest the pin and longest drives competitions.
We returned to the Clubhouse mid afternoon to the mesmerising sounds of Terry Rae and the Big Swing Band. After a few raffles, silent auctions we moved to the presentations to the golfers. The overall winning team was headed up by Dave Williams.
Bob and Jenny Montgomery made the presentations for the top 3 places, a Bradman for the highest score and the best dressed team. Graham Opie and Pauline Keyvar representing MND NSW and Huntingtons NSW respectively, spoke about the plight of those who suffer from these two diseases. They explained how this fundraising helps, where the money goes and the importance of getting the message out into the community. Some more music and drinks and a good day was had by all.
The Fundraising Result
With the revenue from the golf fees, the silent auctions, hole-in-one fees, raffles for meat trays, etc the total for the day was over $5,000.This meant that for the weekend we raised more than $10,000 for MND and Huntingtons. This was, by any measure, an outstanding result.
We thank all those who participated in our “Come Out Swinging” Golf Day and the previous nights dinner. All the feedback has been really positive. Blackheath Golf Club has been so helpful and we would like to make the Golf Day and the Dinner an annual event. Watch this space.
Well after weeks of planning our big Charity Golf weekend at Blackheath Golf Club was approaching. We were anxious about the weather after heat, storms and hail in the preceding few days. Anyhow more of that later.
The Blackheath Golf Club were putting on a Sportsman’s Dinner and Bob Montgomery was invited along to talk about his upcoming Darwin to Perth charity bike ride.
With over 100 people in attendance, sharing a glass of wine and good food, comedian Rob McHugh got us started. The night was going to be entertaining and it it did not disappoint.
Bob Montgomery then spoke about his previous charity rides, his experiences and commitment. He has already raised over $80,000 for MND after his Sydney to Port Douglas and Perth to Sydney rides. He then spoke about the Darwin to Perth ride leaving in mid May, some 40 days, and 4000km. Not bad for a guy in his seventies. This time we have a challenging target of $100,000 with funds being shared equally between MND and Huntingtons Disease. This golf weekend is an important part of the fundraising. Bob thanked his key supporter and partner in all these endeavours who is, of course, wife Jenny. He also thanked Upper Blue Mountains Rotary for their continued support and friends Bill Pixton and Michael Small will be on the road, driving the van from Darwin to Perth.
- Royce Simmons, former Penrith, State of Origin and Australian Rugby League player
- Ed Fernon, former modern pentathlon athlete, 2012 Olympian London
- Monty Panesar, former English Test cricketer and spin bowler
The guys were skilfully interviewed in a panel setting by Rodney Tubbs from Blackheath Golf Club, encouraged to tell a few stories and answer some tricky questions. They were all quite different types of people with various sporting backgrounds.
Royce, humble in his achievements, and in his slow talking, laconic style had us in stitches over old football stories. I will never forget jackhammers and Mal Meninga. Royce is now working with the Penrith Panthers to build up their corporate support base.
Ed was a sharp, thoughtful and motivated person. Taking on a technically complex event in the modern pentathlon was always going to be challenging. In virtually 3 1/2 years from scratch he made the Olympic team and finished a remarkable 27/111 in the field. He is now a budding property developer and in his spare time will be riding wild horses in Mongolia next year.
Monty was Monty. Not bound to follow any expectations, he artfully avoided the difficult questions. He was original and refreshing, with a unique delivery style. He is now playing club cricket in Sydney and recovering from a chronic shoulder injury. I’m sure he still harbours dreams of playing cricket again for England. You never know.
After the sports panel, everyone was in a great mood and really enjoying themselves. A perfect time for our auctions . We had some wonderful prizes courtesy of our sponsors Wolgan Valley Resort, Bonville Golf package, a fishing charter with Andrew Ettingshausen (aka ET of course) and a signed 2017 Penrith Panthers jersey. With an enthusiastic bidding response from our audience and, after passing the bucket around (it was actually a wine cooler), we raised over $5000.