Sunday, August 23, 2009

New Roads....

This week's ride - undertaken yesterday (Sat 22/08) - involved a few highlights where new roads were opened up for further exploration. I took the usual route north to King Lake and Yea. That was a very pleasant ride in itself. After lunch at Yea I wasn’t sure where I wanted to go, so I headed east out of town thinking to ride the dirt road that connects with Caveat. I didn’t find it (till later, accidently, from the other end) but after passing Killingworth road I came across it again further on and thought to follow where it lead. This road quickly turned to dirt, which I was expecting and furthermore happily anticipating. The road was the usual nice hardpacked clay, with only light sand or gravel here and there, but it had worn away in places to reveal stones embedded in the earth such that the surface was very corrugated. I made my greatest dirt riding break-through yet. Having looked at many photographs of late, of adventure riders, on this site (it is worth just watching the slideshow which loads automatically on the introduction page), it was clear to me that something seemed to be gained from riding by standing on the pegs. I tried this out…and my riding will never be the same again! This is the answer! The magic formula! Dirt-road riding suddenly became so easy, so controlled. I sat back down and immediately experienced my usual twitchiness, both real and merely perceived, but when standing I can very easily control the bike over a loose surface. I opened up the throttle, changed into third gear, and cruised along happily, including in the corners and over the washes of sand or gravel.

To my right, the roadside fell away as though a gentle cliff, and the valley below was a lush paradise. Up until the middle of the nineteenth century many people believed there was a great inland sea at the centre of Australia, surrounded by lush fertile plains. In their stubborn imposition of human values onto the world, adventurers died seeking this interior which ‘must’ be there, and as I looked onto this plain I thought of how it might resemble what they imagined.

The day was another perfect winter’s day – which, to draw some good out of this depressing drought, has become my new favourite riding season!

For a distance the green valley was replaced by a glorious river:

This roadlooped back to Yea, where I topped up my fuel and then headed in the other direction, north to Highlands. I cruised, leaning easily through the corners at 80 to 90kph, enjoying the force of a motorcycle tipped over in motion.  At Caveat I passed a dirt road whose pale sand and pines trees have always drawn me. So I doubled back and began down this road. I think it was called Molesworth-Dropmore Rd.  

Again I wound open the throttle and enjoyed a good pace. The road went on and on, changing landscape, through the stringy bark forest to spaces over-looking farmland, then snaking its way lower into valleys and paddocks.

At one point after almost making physical contact with a small kangaroo, I stopped and climbed a great boulder hanging in the air over a valley which sat below, as the land fell steeply away from the roadside.

Eventually I reached the Goulburn Valley Highway and rode north to Yarck, in a very good mood, having discovered two excellent new roads. At Yarck I sat with another motorcyclist at a cafĂ© and we shared opinions on bikes. I then road inland, east, past Gobur cemetry and through a landscape which, though the sun was now shaded by grey clouds, aroused a certain warmth in me. I turned down toward Caveat from the north and while I was tempted by another dirt road I continued on, and from Highlands headed toward Seymour. But I was tempted off track once again by a marvellous-looking sealed road which ribboned into a valley amidst pines. Cavet-Dropmore Road seemed to be frequented by patrons of a winery and, as such, is well-maintained – and again I opened up the throttle and enjoyed a smooth, lively pace through the twists and turns, all the while keeping an eye open for cattle, kangaroos or the cessation of the sealed road around a blind corner! Eventually the road became unsealed and I decided to turn back as the day was getting on and the cold was setting in. On the way once again to Highlands I was riding along at about 70kph when a number of rosellas flew up in front of me. A pair flew desperately at speed to escape me and I slowed somewhat to avoid hitting them, such that for a few wonderful moments they were in rapid flight at a consistent distance of only a metre or two in front of me.  I was able to look upon them as though we were all flying in tandem.  Another of those rare experiences which motorcycling affords. Past Highlands I found a friend by the roadside and, a mere few metres from him, we spent some minutes together:

By this time the sun was low in the sky (though very slowly receeding, as it does in winter), and it had become bitterly cold. My hands were immovable on the bars and the muscles were aching with the chill. I stopped to catch a photo of the winter sunset sky, an almost metaphysical image.

I rode back through Yea, down the Whittlesea-Yea Rd, then across to Glenburn (which was a new road for me, again) and south down the Melba and into Melbourne. I am longing to ride the roads again between Longwood and Murchison, but now I am excited about getting back next week and exploring some more of these dirt roads. So many wonderful options! Perhaps only one day a week set aside for riding is too little?

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