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Well our travel time was just short of 24hours from Australia to the UK with a couple of hours break in Kuala Lumper and then a strong tail wind landing us 25minutes early at 5.25am this morning at Heathrow. From there we took the Underground to Kings Cross St Pancras station passing through a number of Monopoly board stations along the way then on to Faversham where we met up with Gareth at the Bike Shop and after a lot of reorganising luggage and bike bits and changing into our bike gear we headed off to Marshside near Canterbury. It was a tonic to see my little bike looking a lot better than I left it after the accident in France last year except for some significant scrape marks on the exhaust where it slid down the motorway.

It’s been a nice balmy day here today and after we stowed our cases we headed off for a short ride to get a few groceries and do a little exploring. Back home now and are looking forward to a good tramp along the lanes before we head to the local pub for dinner then bed.

Not sure how often I will update the blog. It will depend on where I get WIFI service and how committed I am but even if it is loaded sporadically I will keep track of the days so if you want to check out particular legs of the trip it should be easy enough to do so. Can’t believe the adventure has begun!

At home at St Kilda

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Our accommodation and many side trips have again been capably arranged by the lovey Sue Ritter from Travel Plus Australia Pty Ltd in Mount Waverly who you can email at travel@travelplus.com.au with the exception of most of the UK when we will use our friends home (Phil and Jean) as our base except when we catch up with fellow members of the Women in Logistics UK Group (WIL UK) in London when we will also do a little more London exploring.

The rest of the trip we have made our decisions in consultation with our travelling companions Sharen and Ken who will travel with us once we get to France. We’ll give you our opinion of the accommodations the night following our stay.

Thursday 1st September 2011

Plane - Melbourne to Kuala Lumpur Malaysia
Plane - Leave Kuala Lumpur Heading for London

Friday 2nd September 2011
Arrive in London UK
Collect motorbikes from Faversham
Canterbury Kent

Thursday 8th September 2011

Friday 9th September 2011
Canterbury Kent

Monday 12th September 2011
EuroTunnel Folkestone to Calais
Paris France

Thursday 15th September 2011

Saturday 17th September 2011

Sunday 18th September 2011

Monday 19th September 2011

Wednesday 21st September 2011

Friday 23rd September 2011

Saturday 24th September 2011

Sunday 25th September 2011
Santander Spain

Tuesday 27th September 2011
San Sebastian

Thursday 29th September 2011
Arcachon France

Friday 30th September 2011

Sunday 2nd October 2011

Tuesday 4th October 2011
Mont St Michel

Wednesday 5th October 2011

Thursday 6th October 2011
Eurotunnel From Calais to Folkestone
Return bikes for storage
Faversham UK

Friday 7th October 2011
Train - Faversham to Ebbsfleet International
Train - Ebbsfleet International, to Brussels
Train - Brussels to Bruges
Brugge Belgium
From here by car with Sharen and Ken

Saturday 8th October 2011
Delft Holland

Monday 10th October 2011

Tuesday 11th October 2011
Cruise ship - APT – Amsterdam to Budapest Hungary

Tuesday 25th October 2011
Plane - Budapest to Rome Italy
Plane - Rome to Kuala Lumpur Malaysia

Wednesday 26th October 2011
Plane - Kuala Lumpur to Melbourne

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We have been progressively ticking off our lists in preparation for departure while trying not to go over the edge as each task completed seemed to lead to even more. BUT..we are finally getting ahead of all that and can see an end to it and a beginning to our break. Bring it on is all I can say.

The fact that we will be traveling on motorbikes and have limited luggage space means I've made my lists for what I will pack then culled them, and culled them and culled them again and will hopefully end up with enough clothes to give me enough choices / changes / combinations when I am off the bike to feel somewhat feminine as well as toiletries, traveling documents, notebook, camera, mobile phones, electrical leads and plugs (requiring a larger container than my toiletry bag would you believe) not to mention the replacements we need for our bike riding.

For me that is a helmet, waterproofs and gloves to replace what was damaged in my accident last year, and some more gloves and boots for Norm as the old ones he took barely lasted for the ride. Our UK contact (Gareth) has sorted some pannier bags for Norm's bike so we have some more options for what we can carry and access which will make for more comfortable travel when we are on the bikes and we will leave the bike gear in the UK for another year so will give us some more space when we move on.

Thankfully Norm is a much more succinct packer than me, you would almost think his life's work has been about maximizing what fits where and minimizing the space needed so there are some advantages in a background in logistics. An example of that was his comment when I suggested we should pack a change of clothes in our carry on bags in case our luggage disappears. His response? I'll pack a pair of jocks. A universal male response I suspect.

The cases have been on our billiard table for around a week now and been progressively packed, unpacked, reorganized and repacked. We will eventually say enough is enough and say we are done.

Nearly packed and ready to go!

We plan to leave here the night before we fly out so we can relax for a few hours and spend some time with Sharen and Ken who we will meet up with in Paris September 12th. We will compare notes and toast the start of the adventure before heading for the airport September 1st.

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Since 1972 we have travelled all over our great country in trucks carrying freight and helping keep the wheels of industry turning but since 2007 we have started using every chance we can get to explore our great country on motorbikes.

The exercise started out as a bit of a stress buster and was very effective but by accident we found it was a great way to catch up with customers, find lots of routes which are not truck friendly allowing us to cross them off the work list and also to keep track of the development we contribute to and to learn and anticipate of more to come. So there you go we have found another way to make work time fun time.

2009 saw our great Darwin bike ride when we retraced the route of our 1971 working holiday up the east coast of Australia across to Darwin through Mt Isa, then down through the centre and home travelling some 11,300kms in all. An interesting reflection on the passage of time and how road transport (freight) has changed so much of what Australians take for granted, also to note the numbers of regional and national projects our company has been part of. Needless to say it was also a thrill to catch up with some of our trucks in our travels. (I will eventually transfer the travelogue onto the website so it is here for viewing).

Continuing on from there we have decided to undertake a series of study tours of the UK and some of Europe (the first in 2010 travelling 5,560kms - and I will eventually transfer the travelogue onto the website for viewing also) and possibly the USA over the next several years and will do so on motorbikes again. Some of the stress busting may well be a little lost and there will no doubt be inherent stress's involved with different road rules and languages but we are up for the challenge and are looking forward to exploring transport routes and developments throughout and discovering where the industrial revolution began and compare things with what we have here in Australia.

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Hello and welcome to the Official Travel Blog of Norm & Nola Bransgrove, check back often to see what these two Aussie travelers get up to as they travel across the UK and into France and the North of Spain.

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Worked out the cost of our big ride today. Without the bike repairs it averaged just over $150 a day. If we take out the 10 days we stayed with family and friends and average it out again it still comes in at only $200 a day so pretty stoked about that......perhaps you should get yourselves a bike or a couple of bikes or one Spyder..... check them out on the web, a 3 wheel bike. Couldn't' tip it over if you tried! Come on have a go!

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Home again, home again, jiggedy jig (no idea where that memory comes from!) We slept in yesterday then started making lists both hard copy and in the head of things to do when we get home. It was good to catch up briefly with my cousin and her husband. We dabbled in a bit of holiday planning for next year which was good. She and I are 'clayton sisters' as in the sister you have when you don't have a sister and we plan to grow disgracefully old together and try to practice when we can. While they worked yesterday we languished over breakfast, wandered around Maling Road and had a yummy lunch and returned to the warmth to kick back before we headed off for dinner. A nice way to draw a close to our holiday.

Maling Road streetscape near my cousins home. A streetscape she had a hand in preserving in a previous town planning position.

We headed off on our final leg home this morning from Canterbury and the Victorian reality of an icy fog set in. We stopped on the Pakenham bypass to add the waterproof jacket for an extra layer against the cold. After fuelling up and a hot coffee at Longwarry we headed out through Jindivick to Neerim South to catch up with Norm Snr. It was good to see so much green evident through the previously blackened area through Jindivick though areas where the greatest heat was generated remain starkly black. In other areas the grass and ferns are recovering and the trees are taking on fluffy green wrap as the leaves sprout from burnt trunks. While the fog was cold, it had lifted somewhat by the Jindivick area and gave the appearance of a protective veil (cold but attractive).
We caught up with Charlie and Peggy also. Lovely to have people so pleased to see us!

Return of green to the Jindivick area.

Finally home to our own patch and hugs from Rosey before she left work. Nice to be in our own patch again.....but also somewhat unreal. Does this really mean we won't be riding hundreds of kilometres tomorrow...and the next day, and the next? A bit sad about that.

When we holidayed in Spain, Portugal and Morocco last year we got ourselves sorted with texting family and sending pics but with the continued development of technology the 'travelogue' has now arrived and through it and your feedback we have been conscious of 'bringing a lot of you along for the ride' which we really enjoyed, in fact it felt quite a privilege to do so. Thanks for your feedback. When we head off again we'll copy you in and as always, just a reply to come off the list will put an end to it.

Talk to you all next time.

Home to my own little bed!

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We woke to sunshine and magpies warbling after nearly12 hours in bed. Man we sleep well when we're riding!

Been a picturesque day. Breakfast at Castlemaine (way too many beautiful buildings to start taking photos). Coffee at Maldon (got a couple there).

A little cottage between Castlemaine and Maldon.

Lunch at Daylesford after travelling through Newstead and Hepburn Springs then wandered down through Trentham and hit the freeway a bit before the Bacchus Marsh area then on into the city where we had more coffee at the TDT offices in West Melbourne.

After the assault to the senses yesterday of all the green it was a shock to see how dry it was through the Midlands, particularly around the hills surrounding Bendigo and beyond. Much land had been totally dry and had recently gained a thin dusting of green and in other areas it was a darker green, but only colour, little substance to it. Dams empty or very low levels. So, gold is not the only element which has left the area but water has as well.

It's been a beautiful ride with winding roads through beautiful trees, farmland, historic old settlements and unexpected vistas. Clearly an area which needs to be explored further in the future. Many of the roads in heavily treed areas we're very bumpy, I wonder if that's because of the extended dry and the ground shrinking away with the roots left to form the bumps. Not an engineer but sounds a reasonable hypothesis until someone who knows better shoots it down in flames.

Streetscape in Maldon.

Had to crank up the hand grip warmers on the way to Trentham and left them on until we were down around the level of Bacchus Marsh Brrrrrr! The countryside around Trentham was reminiscent of the Thorpdale area not far from home. The soil looked the same chocolaty red, the trees were tall with massive trunks and the rolling paddocks were often surrounded by cypress plantations. Obviously a lot higher rainfall than surrounding areas with the level of growth through the area. We had visited Trentham around 4 years ago with my cousin and husband before we headed off on our Scandinavian holiday and we passed through Trentham the day after the hotel there burnt down. At the time I made the comment that the hotel must have been due a re-build. It was still boarded up today so it must have been a 'genuine' burn rather than a 're-build' one. (See I haven't just recently gotten cynical, I already was 4 years ago).

From Trentham we gradually wound our way down from Trentham through dense wooded areas and it somehow seemed out of character to smell the fragrance of damp fermented wood in some of the gullies after seeing so much water deprived land since Bendigo. Once down to the freeway and on to the city the vast plains looked equally as bare and dry as a lot we had seen in the interior. Bare earth with no sign of green other than the weeds along the fringe of the highway. Pretty chilling stuff at this point in the year with the weather as cold as it is even if generous rains fall through the rest of the winter there will be little growth until the spring when the soil starts to warm up again. (That's a throw back to my days growing up on the farm....must have been paying attention after all!)

View of the Town Hall from our lunch spot in Daylesford

We survived our return to full on city traffic even with stop start traffic over the Westgate bridge and then later out to Canterbury to what we call our Canterbury B&B (my cousins home) for another holiday first. We got stuck in the lift (until it re-set itself). Being 'can do' people we looked for the ceiling hatch which is in all stuck lifts in the movies but alas, none there and had to resort to the emergency phone. Ah well, you get that on the big jobs.

So we have a couple of nights here for a brief bit of R&R (so no update tomorrow) before we head home to catch up with parents, children and grandchildren. That's the easy stuff, after that it's back to work......that's the hard stuff though not all bad news since it's what will fund the next excellent adventure!

Talk to you day after tomorrow for the holiday wrap up.

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Rain overnight and wet roads this morning but the days riding was largely comfortable with hand grip warmers only on low for the majority of the day.I didn't even have the polar fleece top on which just proves it didn't need to be surgically removed!

We had sunshine for near enough to the entire day with only a few patches of cloud to ride through though the view in the rear view mirror was often dark grey and threatening. (Best place for a view like that!) We started the day surrounded by hundreds of acres of grapes and some citrus trees and then moved into intensive sheep, wheat and cropping land. Great open plains with rich red soil and vibrant green new shoots in some areas and vigorous growth in others. The eucalyptus beside the road were prolific in number with slender limbs and dense foliage.

The view gradually changed to more rolling hills than flat paddocks and the intensity of the cropping became less so. In fact the closer we got to Bendigo it was obvious that a lot of areas where there were crops last year now had grass growing up through the stubble, possibly a reflection on how late the rains have come in the season. Also nice to see the increase in stature of the gums and a few more hills, I'm just more used to that I guess. Overall the whole day has been an experience of green, green and more green and it was easy to track how much rain had fallen and over what period of time from the first flush of almost fluro green of new growth to the darker and more dense growth where there has been more sustained availability of water for longer periods. We definitely experienced returning to the south eastern green edge of our great brown / red land.

The hotel at Sea Lake. All locked up. A bit sad really.

We've both enjoyed the sights of lots of little communities also today. Some apparently doing pretty well and much pride evident in their towns and others clearly struggling. The huge number of old (both dilapidated and beautifully preserved) buildings on our approach to Bendigo was almost too much to take in after our enjoyment of the vast emptiness of the interior. Part of this for me also was a sense of almost depression or at least reluctance as we head back to our version of the 'real world'. Do I really want to take it all on again?

We have had a number of discussions over our trip of family, friends and colleagues who have had health scares and totally changed what they do with their lives as a result. Norm's response to that was to say he needs to have a think about what he would do differently if he had a health scare and just forget about having one and get on with doing what he would do if he did. (Practical as always). I wonder how different that would be to what he is already doing. Obviously there would be much motorbike riding involved......but I wonder how different otherwise!!! Not really game to think too hard about that one for me yet. Quite apart from the work side of things I've enjoyed being out from under the immediate responsibility of oversight of the care for my frail aged parents and their progressive deterioration. Thankfully Norm's Dad has been much more able though he is currently in hospital also. I'm getting better at not wearing the burden so personally but obviously need to work more on that. Tomorrow (as in from here on) is another day. Mate, mate, m a t e!! Have I ever got the poor me's something chronic! The holiday aint over yet and I hereby commit myself to making the most of whatever is left!

The Bendigo city hall in the distance with the approaching grey clouds. This was the end product of my lets get the joints moving again walk while Norm cleaned the helmets and bikes. I'm so spoilt !

Oh yeah, we were talking to a couple of police officers today and no it wasn't on the side of the road or at least not in an official capacity. They unfortunately confirmed that when their cycle cops talk on their radio's they sound like they have their heads in a bucket and its pretty useless. Ah well.

Talk to you tomorrow.

Lakeview Hotel our home for the night $40. (Can't see the lake!)

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Well after a sometimes noisy night, at times from the odd blue or two in the bar below (no breaking glass) to wheel spins, shouting and noisy motors outside we headed off for an early start and didn't feel too bad about warming the bikes up for a while before we headed off. Ha ha.

We breakfasted briefly with two old timers from Adelaide who had been holidaying in Broken Hill for the week. The older of the two, also the fitter of the two, would have had to have been in his late 80's having served in the navy from1940 to 1946 and who had entertained me by the fireplace last night. He had spent the day on a local mail run most of it on dirt roads. travelling over 500 kilometres with 40 stops for pickups and drops. He was one of 5 paying passengers at $125 a piece. They took their own lunch and had a cuppa made for them by the postie. Seriously having a go. What an inspiration!

A service bell with a difference from the Coomella fuel stop. (The key for the toilets was attached to a mouse trap).

The day started sunny and cold and went to bloody cold and back to moderately cold. Hand grip warmers most of the day back and forth from high to low then once we hit Mildura we got a sprinkle of rain and it warmed up and the warmers stayed on low. The light shower lasted until we got through Irymple and it stopped and returned to sunshine again. We enjoyed our ride and were near enough to the only traffic on the road until we got to Wentworth. The roads were largely straight with big sweeping corners and very nice to ride. Our butts appreciated the movement from one side to another. We also saw the greatest concentration of road kill (all kangaroos) mainly up until Coomella since the Longreach Winton area. Shame to see so many beautiful animals meet their demise. From large to small and colours ranging from a light sandy grey to red and every shade in between.

We also saw a fair few sheep in stretches from Broken Hill and Wentworth and some cattle near Broken Hill. No camels today but a couple of big kangaroos first thing this morning and some emus about 20 kilometres out of Wentworth and large numbers of wild goats throughout the day. These last were largely more road savvy than the kangaroos as we didn't see any of their number amongst the road kill. We also saw a couple of small packs of Major Mitchell Cockatoos lifting off as a group with magnificent white back and top of wings changing in an instant to a soft coral pink under the wings. Beautiful.

The sign outside the loos at the same road house as the shot above.

I was aware as we gradually made our way south that our great adventure is drawing to a close and found myself really soaking up the variable landscape. The red sandy soil with silver grey salt bush. The rolling plains of grasslands with dark green mounds of trees around watercourses and homesteads and then the red sand drifts with little grass and small covering of trees. It all looked and felt great and it somehow seemed fitting that we we're left largely to ourselves to enjoy it. It was also a distraction to the dark grey clouds we were continually approaching then steering away from throughout the trip.

The purpose of our destination today was to catch up with 4 of my cousins and their partners which was a treat. They are the children of the marriage of one of my Mum's cousins to one of my Dad's cousins and literally gave my Dad the dilemma (so he said) 'that a man couldn't even complain about his wife's bloody relations!'. I'm confident that didn't ever stop him if he thought he needed to. We shared lunch together and had a great time catching up. So nice to feel so comfortable amongst them when we have gotten to spend such a short amount of time together over the years. What lovely people they are and what a privilege to share the time with them.

Talk to you tomorrow.

A collective cousin and outlaws shot (Normie being the photographer).

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