Monday, July 26, 2010

A Simple Matter of Lunch

Here is Marlon on our ride two days ago...

We rode via King Lake to Yea for lunch. Marlon bought me beer and calamari and whispered passionate thoughts of motorcycling in my ear. During the week he had appeared on the TV soapie Neighbours as a bikie. Two years ago he appeared on the Einstein Factor: "Marlon is an insurance salesman from Richmond in Victoria, who plays double bass and the banjo much, much worse. Martin also enjoys riding his motorbike, however admits that he spends more time underneath it fixing it than he does actually riding."

His topic was Military Small Arms of WWII, and he lost to a large man in suspenders whose topic was The Princess Diaries.

From Yea we took a simple route to Strath Creek.

From there we headed to Broadford and home down the Hume Freeway.

Riding is a wonderful activity for composing thoughts.  Which is what I did, and so spent the evening afterwards writing for another blog here.

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Cold Acre

Today I danced with cold acres of wet and twisting turns. At Toolangi I worshipped the sun by C.J.Dennis' garden.

This weekend I felt strong anxiety, but when I connected with things more real everything felt very different. There is no post-modern dismissal of experience atop King Lake National Park in winter at dusk. The world is cold, hard, but true and beautiful.

Thank the elusive god for motorcycling!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Balliang, Steiglitz, Meredith

"Later, when she was in Sydney being notorious, Phoebe went around telling people that she had "foreknowledge" of the event. She had known she would see my aeroplane suspended in the sky above Vogelnest's paddocks at Balliang East. She convinced many people, and I won't say it can't be true. In any case, it is a pretty story, so I will leave it hovering there, like an aeroplane, alone in the sky, gliding towards her with a dead engine."

This is Balliang East, one hundred years later.

This is the sky one week ago.

This is the sky today.

Like a repressed memory I have been ignoring the western country, to the point where its presence has become like a pressure on me rising up from the unconscious. Today I rode out there on my first excursion, and discovered that my superficial assumptions - of endless flat windblown paddocks and straight roads - were false.

I left the city on the Western Ring Road and the Ballarat Highway, exiting at the road to Werribee where I turned off onto Gliebes Road and found my way to Balliang on back paths. At Anakie I crossed the Brisbane Ranges to Steiglitz then Meredith. From there to Ballan, Daylesford, Woodend and down the Calder Freeway to home.

For the most part I took no photos. But here are some from my crossing the Brisbane Ranges.

As when you look at an ambiguous drawing which contains two images - you are looking at a duck, suddenly you see it is also rabbit - just so, as I looked upon the river I was suddenly struck by the - in another sense of the word - watercolour impressionist artworks nature offered me.

The words at the beginning of this post are from Peter Carey's fictional novel Illywhacker. One of the many things I love about local literature is the way that it 'stories' the landscape. It is something our indigenous predecessors knew the value of. It's a wonderful thing to ride through a narrated place and feel the ghosts of other things.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Mornington Peninsula

Unable to make up my mind as to where I wanted to ride, at the last moment I decided to take the opposite direction to usual and head south down the Mornington Peninsula.

I rarely ride down there for several reasons. It's a long trip through endless suburbs - I like heading north because it means a quick exit out of the city. Also, it is a peninsula and so there is not much land down there - I cannot shoot off into a different region at whim. Further, my suspicions were confirmed today: it is one endless suburb as far as the bayside of the peninsula goes - unending traffic and speeds at 60kph. To a person who is used to real country, there are no lonely places on the peninsula.

The place is however pretty. It has that seaside carnival feeling even in winter.

And there are some fabulous old limestone buildings - churches, pubs, cottages - the further along you get to Sorrento. I did not look about, but would happily come down by car and spend an afternoon exploring in comfortable clothes and walking shoes.

On the ocean side of the peninsula the water is wild, the landscape less populated - there are national parks along the coast, with sand dunes and salty windblown scrub which drop away from high cliffs.

I stopped at Cape Schanck Lighthouse.

Despite the warnings against swimming in the dangerous currents, and despite the freezing temperatures, boys in their early teens took to the water. Watching those teenagers distinguish themselves from each other according to 'bravado versus fear/common sense' - as first one, then another, pushed himself far out into the surf while his mates gave in and watched from the shallows - I was reminded of Tim Winton's recent novel Breath:

"As young kids they would dive into the river and and hang on tight to tree roots until they saw spots. As adolescents they graduate from the river to the surf along the wild Western Australian coast and discover a new kind of danger. Out in the ocean they feel truly free, even immortal, as they take greater and greater risks in the water.

This is a story about the damage you do to yourself when you're young and think you're immortal.

Along the shore the older men, who have survived those years, fished and watched.

Not only the lighthouse and the cottages, but the paddocks themselves have a 19th century glow about them, as though the salty spray is warm with sheep and scones.

I rode thence to Flinders, Shoreham, then up Arthur's Seat, a popular road for motorcycling because of it's twistie descent. Apparently there used to be a private but well-known challenge among riders, to see who who make the fastest time down the mountain - an endless squirming of hair-pin bends - with engine off and without once touching the brakes.

From atop the lookout I viewed Rosebud, before heading home.

This week saw the one year anniversary of this blog. My first post was June 29th, 2009. I have had a couple of different hit counters in that time, recording upwards of 5000 hits so far. I do not know who many of you are, but thank you for reading it. The writing gives me a lot of pleasure. And I get to look back and relive my rides - the best days of my life over the last year.