Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Emu Flat

I spent this afternoon in a sweeping arc north of Melbourne: north to Yea via King Lake, to Seymour, Pyalong, Emu Flat, Kyneton, Trentham, Myrniong, and home via the Western Highway. I focussed on cutting graceful lines through the corners rather than slow-riding for scenery. I was struck by how much of riding is done by the hands. You turn corners by counter-steering: pressing on the handlebar in the direction you want to go. This turns the wheel in the opposite direction to the line of travel, which is counter-intuitive, but the sensation is very intuitive: you move your hands in your intended direction. My Honda is so quiet and smooth, and powerful. When I accelerate hard it sings a high "hummmmm" and hurtles into warp speed. I press forward now with one hand, now the other, and my motorcycle leans over, confident as I maintain the speed limit through corner after corner.

A brilliant sky and sun. Perfect!

The Honda's curves express the fluidity with which it slides through the curves of the road.

I explored a dirt road. The surface corrugations were a nightmare with my destructed steering bearings. But the bike took to the dirt well.

I stopped to look at abandoned homes, schools, and churches. Cool summer light was my company.

Taking the highway home from the West was an education in contrast: the landscape between Melbourne and Ballarat is a windswept vacancy of soullessness. Housing estates eat like cancer into the ugly hills and plains, where nothing grows because of the relentless high winds. Paddocks are not refreshing acres of nature, but sub-lots of grass of the sort you find in industrial places: fading ice-cream wrappers tangled in weeds. The grass looks poisonous in its odd green and the land seems in waiting to turn dark under a factory or parking lot. The aggressive almost psychopathic behaviour of a driver I encountered seemed of a piece with this blind ugly place.

But the city, as highway became freeway rising in looped super-structure, was beautiful in a concrete and metal way which the grassed hills previous to this lacked. Sound barriers hissed at me then shot upwards and away; tar curved in huge empty sweeps which I surfed with ease, even while feeling dwarfed. Massiveness became sublimity. Sublimity is beauty. This post-modern functional art has a eucharistic value for those who must drive in out of the western wastelands.

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