Sunday, December 30, 2012

Ruffy with Fee

Today I took Fee on the bike to show her, for the first time, some of my favourite roads in what I refer to as "the golden triangle".  We headed up via Highlands, stopping at the church at Caveat, then visited the cafe at Ruffy before exiting via Yarck.  I took no photos but Fee did and here they are, including some on the bike.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Swan Hill for Christmas

I rode to Nyah on Christmas day and then yesterday took a long route home, via Boort, Wedderburn, Maldon and Sutton Grange - a 1000km round trip.  I love doing a long ride on Christmas day as the weather is usually good and the roads are quiet and the traffic friendly.

On Tuesday, near Kerang.

I felt invigorated in my 'motorcycling spirit' by the ride back.  I passed through some of those places that seem like my two-wheeled home; empty roads that have given me so much joy over the years and are there waiting for me whenever I return.  As I cruise down them I sense all the various emotions I have experienced on them over the years, all bundled into one big memory.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Motorcycle accommodation, Bombala - a review

Last week Marlon and I rode north from Orbost and decided to spend the night in Bombala, which is situated on the Monaro Highway.  We were on a three day motorcycle ride.  I think our accommodation deserves a review.

Great things about the accommodation:

  • cheap
  • atmospheric 
  • motorcycle friendly 

We stayed in the Imperial Hotel.  The Imperial is owned and run by a couple who are very explicitly motorcycle friendly.  We were directed to park our bikes in a carport behind the pub, a place where we could have serviced them had we needed.

We then ordered dinner from the large, affordable menu.  I was given the choice of a side of salad...or a side of bacon (bacon lettuce, if you like).  The food was really good!

    As we ate we chatted with our hosts who were great company (Steve, the owner, to the left):

The beer flowed and it was a great evening.

Beds were $30 per night!  There were two beds per lockable room.

The next morning I took the opportunity to look around the place.  The accommodation is basic and functional - the sort of luxury you typically find at a backpackers - with the exception this was an old pub and there was a charm that came with that.  There was this art deco aesthetic hidden behind the functional old facilities: bakelite switches, a roof in the bathroom (literally bathroom - there was a room with a bath in it as an alternative to the shower cubicles) that almost suggested a dance hall, gold print on the door to the TV/reading room.

Photos courtesy of Marlon.  It could have been the set for a ghost movie.  Except that it was a warm and pleasant place at the same time.

I would very happily spend a few days at the Imperial Hotel, riding the nearby roads by day and sipping beer and chatting at night.  I recommend it as one of the best pieces of accommodation, in a great town in a great locality, that you could choose when passing through or when staying for a few days.

The Imperial Hotel: 99 Maybe Street, Bombala, phone (02) 6458 3211

Marlon's photos from the Bombala-Canberra ride

Thanks to Marlon for these shots.

Sunday, December 23, 2012


I spent the last three days on a ride with my friend Marlon.

Tuesday night Marlon messaged me to say he was looking forward to leaving the next morning.  I reminded him that we were leaving Thursday morning, not Wednesday, and so we did.

We headed east through functional little towns.  We lightened that experience with a run at one point along the coast, and a stop in Orbost before we headed north.

We were then on endless winding roads through mountainous bush.

Passing through Delegate we arrived at Bombala just on dusk and spent the night at the pub.  I will speak more of the pub in another post - I took few photos, so when Marlon sends me some of his I will post them up.  I will write a review of the pub because it is excellent accommodation for motorcyclists, with the patrons particularly welcoming of riders, providing them with excellent food, cheap beds, and undercover bike parking out the back.  

On the Friday we headed up the coast, from Pambula to Bateman's bay, and then across one of the best roads I have ever ridden - aptly named King's Highway (the twisting section up and down the mountain that separates the inland from the coast) - and on to Canberra.

From Canberra on Saturday Marlon and I split up - he to Sydney, me back to Melbourne, where I had to be by 6PM for a birthday dinner.  It was going to be 650km of the Hume.  That's 650km of heat - high 30s - high winds, and a road that would not change it's purely boring nature.  Being the Christmas weekend there were long lines of cars at every service station, and the lines of people waiting to pay at the counter wound out the door!  At the towns the shops were also crowded with lines on to the street.  I have never seen such a thing.  I could not buy lunch.  I did 450km of this but then could take it no longer - the crowds and busy-ness, the heat and boredom - and so at Benalla I dropped off the Hume and on to the Midland Highway.  Immediately I knew it was the right choice.  A two lane road, bush close by the edges, and winding, hilly ribbons of tar.

I had been carefully planning my fuel stops and I reached down about 10km before I was due to go to reserve, and discovered that I had left the fuel tap on reserve since the last fuel up.  This meant that I could not gauge exactly when I had gone to reserve, and had to assume my fuel consumption was normal - a 15L tank giving 200km to reserve, and then 100km of reserve.  I passed a small bush petrol station but, wary of no-brand fuels, decided to keep pushing on for the BP some 60km down the road.  I then passed another small station, 40km later, and decided again to keep going.  It was a very hot day and I mused on how annoyed I would be if I was to run out of fuel after not stopping.  And then I ran out of fuel.

And so I turned the bike around and push it back in the direction of the last petrol station.  As I walked, sweaty and thirsty, I watched all those caravans which I had worked so hard to overtake, passing me.

It is clear that my tank only provides 14L of useable range (I did not think to lean the bike over and possibly gain enough to ride to the servo).  This is scary given that on that low-fuel ride over the snowy mountains in November which I blogged, I had only 20km left of range before I ran out of fuel, not 40km.  I also found on the present occassion that 14L only got me 230km, which means I was burning a lot on the Hume (Curse you, Hume Highway, in every way!  You are not for motorcycling!).

I got my fuel and was back on the bike.  I was very sore - the Hume had taken it out of me in a way which no busy, demanding, active day of interesting roads ever does - but the road for the next 200km was a joy by comparison.  Despite my hurting muscles, it lifted my spirit which had hitherto sagged.  The contrast was a glimpse into what is refreshing about motorcycling.  And into how the act of refreshing one's spirit leads to a refreshed body.

More to come when I receive some photos from Marlon.

Monday, December 3, 2012

The serpent

"Now the serpent was more subtle than any of the beasts of the earth which the Lord God made."
-Genesis 3:1

Yesterday I rode through Paradise.  Those golden roads, flanked by rivers and forests, that is the route from Yea, via Highlands, to Ruffy.  I lost myself in the place and forget my toil.  

Beyond Ruffy I explored a dirt road in the sun, that light which is the colour of joy, and when a fork appeared I pulled over to photograph the bike.  

As I came slowly to a stop I was going to let the bike roll forward a few feet and put my foot down.  Here, in this sunny paradise, I was all at ease. Then I saw where I was about to put my foot...on a snake!  

I don't find snakes subtle.  But I do find them devilish.  Having grown up in the Mallee I have encountered my fair share and experienced some close calls.  The cretins make me shiver.  I have no sense that these are God's creatures, great or small.  They are monsters.  One of my pet fears is being bitten by a snake while separated from civilisation by a motorcycle and a long twisty road.  Imagine the catch-twenty-two: you only have so much time before your balance and vision goes; you want to ride as quickly as possible to a hospital, or at least town; but the faster you ride, the more you arouse your adrenalin and raise your heartbeat.  Damn you, serpents!   

But my foot did not land on the snake.  And so I sat there, engine running in case it was aggressive, and we watched each other.  I do not believe for a moment that it was more frightened of me than I was of it.  Slowly it slithered off toward some cows, and I rode on, shivering, to the place where I took the above photo.  

The experience was a good reminder that summer is here and dangers lie in many places when out motorcycling.    

Monday, November 26, 2012

Royal Enfield on the Acheron Way

Yesterday I spent the afternoon on my Royal Enfield Bullet.  I travelled some of the best roads local to Melbourne.  This included the Kinglake National Park Road, Chum Creek Road, The Black Spur, and The Acheron Way.  These are superb paths for this motor cycle, places where I could easily choose my own (slow) pace, pleasuring  in the bass-drum beat of the single cylinder beneath me.  

The Acheron Way was a highlight.  Known to few, it was completely devoid of people, a single lane winding through a forest of giant ferns alongside a bubbling brook.  The gentle sun fell through the trees to bless me as I passed.

The Bullet was as faithful as ever.  Although it is more work to ride a vintage motorcycle than a modern one, yet paradoxically it is a relaxing pleasure that no other bike can provide.

Monday, November 5, 2012

SR500 Club Rally 2012

This weekend was the annual Rally for the SR500 Club of Australia.  That club is dedicated to the model of motorcycle that I used to passionatley own.  It is a good rally: friendly people, free accommodation (camp ground with showers), cheap catering, interesting bikes, and best of all it is situated in riverina country just at the edge of the Victorian and NSW high country. 

I rode up on Friday.  The route there makes for a fabulous ride: heading north from Mansfield via Whitfield, Milawa, Beechworth, and into Wodonga.  Four hundred kilometres of increasingly blue skies and mountainous roads.  

It was the beginning of a long weekend and there was a lot of bad driving on the roads, but my W650 took all challenges with ease.  It offered a relaxing yet nimble ride through the twisties.

I reached Bethanga just before dusk, the sun drenching the landscape just as it had for most of the day.

Friday at the rally is always quiet, and I spent the evening standing around fires chatting to old and new friends.

Saturday morning I awoke at a hunter-gatherer hour, and thought I would ride to Corryong or even Thredboe.  My friend Rosy was to arrive that evening and I wanted to be back prior to her arrival because she did not know anybody.  

I started off at the Hume Bridge and followed the coastline east.  It is an uncanny thing, a beautifully refreshing thing, to ride along a 'coast road' while smelling fresh water.  Such a scent, combined with the warm morning air, makes the world shine.   

85km on I pulled left into NSW at Jingellic.  I had been on route to Corryong, however I have been there several times and really wanted to experience something new.  The trouble, as I discovered while exploring my map by the roadside at Jingellic, was that my map ended at the border of Victoria. What lay beyond was a perfect mystery.  

So I decided to head north and simply discover what was there.  Because several motorcycles preceded me I assumed the country north would be worth the effort.  And I was right.  What fantastic land. I wound on a ribbon of tar through hills and valleys, making for the mountains that gradually introduced themselves into the landscape.

After a time I came to Tumbarumba.  At the petrol station I was given another map and some advice about which roads to take.  I also chatted to some riders who pulled up on Indians and British bikes.  

From Tumbarumba I wound up and down mountains at speed, arriving at Tumut for lunch.  It was pleasant to see how civilised these places are and how large the towns.  At Tumut I found a botanical gardens and, as the sun glittered through the elms, slept for an hour among the inquisitive ducks.

From Tumut I decided to ride the Snowy Mountain Highway.  This again was a fantastic road, which got better the further I went.

Winding through fast corners, the landscape took on increasingly gargantuan proportions.  You know that feeling, that landscape in an alpine region, where the proportions overwhelm you.  It is like Kant's concept of the sublime, where you cannot take in everything at once, where the natural world overwhelms your senses.

Eventually I found myself on a road above the snowline, above the world, winding and wending through absolute glory, a valley above the heavens.

There had been no petrol stations since Tumut, but according to my new map I could get petrol at Cabrumurra.  I had travelled 165km already and knew my tank would hit reserve by the time I reached that town.  So it was with dismay that I turned off the Snowy River Highway at The Link Road, to see a sign stating that there was no fuel at Cabrummura.  Behind me lay 110km to Tumut, the highway could take me to Cooma but it too was 110km away would put me a very long way from Bethanga.  So I decided to merely hope that the 'no fuel' sign was wrong.  

The roads here were fantastic but I was distracted by my concerns.  On the way I came across a group of Ducati riders surrounding one of their members who had just put his bike in a ditch, but who appeared to be unscathed.

I rode into Cabrumurra and sure enough there was no petrol.

My calculation of distances was a little rough - I was using a very basic map, and do not have any of the electronic devices (smart phones, GPS) that people use these days as maps.  So I could not accurately calculate distances.  I was seriously concerned about my ability to make it to a town with petrol. And even if I did, would the store be open by the time I arrived.  What if I got stuck here in the alpines?  While the valleys had been sunny and warm, up here a storm brewed and the air was cold even in the middle of the day.  I dreaded to contemplate a night exposed to the air with nothing more than a light motorcycle jacket to warm me. It could be dangerous if my luck went awry.  And so what to do?  My phone had no reception.  If I left my bike and hitched a left into a town would my motorcycle still be there when I returned?  I was not willing to risk that.  So I rode through an incredibly beautiful country, half aware of its splendour, while fighting the distraction of my concerns.      

I sought to preserve petrol by riding gently up the mountains, and rolling (sometimes slowly) down the other side with the engine off.  Another crashed bike - this one alone against a tree, cold, with the rider nowhere to be seen, reminded me to keep my wits about me.

It was a varied and fascinating place.

I rode on and on.  I hit reserve and kept going.  A sign said the next town was 50km away.  My mood lit up - I can get 100km on reserve...usually - there was still some doubt, still some fear.

Eventually I made it to Khancoban with 2 litres of my 15 litre tank remaining.  Filling up my tank rarely felt so good.  

I was still, however, over 130km from Bethanga, and Rosy would surely have arrived.  I had no reception on my phone so I could only guess that she had.  I was uncomfortable in knowing that she would be standing around, feeling uncomfortable, when I had promised to meet her.  So I pushed on, riding hard into the blinding sun of the dying day.     

An hour in and I found a short cut to Bethanga that looked sealed.  This road rang alongside the water.  I had to take a slower pace but it was pleasant and would save time, rolling along a narrow, winding ribbon, passing through green fields, my big twin lapping it up.

And then it turned to dirt.

Because I was running so ridiculously late, after 550km, I pushed along at 60kph on my road bike. As I came to a sharp corner I was suddenly, completely blinded by the low summer sun.  I could feel myself running off the road, could feel the sand becoming thick under my wheels.  Somehow, I managed to stay upright and on the road.  So thereafter I slowed my pace to 30kph in the twisting sections, figuring it was better to arrive without incident that attempt a speedy but flawed entrance.

It was a shame I had to push through this road.  It was a stunning evening and the surface though corrugated was good in places, and running level with the beautiful water.  After a time it returned to a sealed surface and I bounded over the hills into the back end of Bethanga.

Rosy and I arrived at the same time.

The Rally site:

That night was spent with Rosy and I lying in the grass by one bonfire or another, getting progressively more drunk.  

And in the early hours we went to sleep.

Oh what a mistake!  I should not have had those beers, and I should not have held a full bottle of wine in my hand and drunk, and dunk, and drunk from it till it was drained.  And so it was that I sat in the early morning sun with my head in my hands feeling ill.  The plan had been that Rosy, who is Catholic, would go to an 8AM Mass nearby while I packed up the camping gear. When she returned we would hit the road and take on a very long day through more alpine roads, through Omeo to Bairnsdale and back into Melbourne.

I sat with my head in my hands, I drank much water and coke, I meditated to take in more oxygen, but nothing could undo what had been done - I had poisoned myself.  I was hopeful of improved health as we said our goodbyes to my friend Mike and his wife Penny, and I felt confident again.  But on the road - at a late 10AM - I quickly discovered that I was deeply poisoned by my excess, as with each bump my stomach hurt and I felt sick.  

The road south that we needed to take was closed, so we rode into Albury-Wodonga.  It is a place which I have seen more than once in a hung-over state, astride a motorcycle.  

From Wodonga we pushed south for quite some time through the wonderful valley that takes one to Mount Beauty.  That would be the start of our climb into the alps, including the stunning Falls Creek which I had so been looking forward to.

At Mount Beauty we sat eating lunch.  As the hour ticked 1 to 2PM, I surveyed in my mind the map of our impending joruney and remembered my previous day's lesson: that one has to respect these alpine places, that one cannot be cockey in the way that the city makes one cockey.  I shared my concerns with Rosy. She had suffered inadequate sleep (as had I for two nights) and felt the same way: we decided abandon the great ride ahead of us, and to cut back over to Bright and the populated side of the mountains, where we could wander home among civilisation and in much less time.

This was a disappointment and a relief.  I was not in a state to properly enjoy the Alpine Highway, but I have wanted to do it for a long time now.  It remains unconquered.

But the ride to Bright was great:

We rode from Bright for Wangarratta (which, ridiculously, would place us 45 minute's from where we had been five hours earlier).  We both began to fall asleep as we droned on, so we napped in the grass on the roadside at 5PM, but otherwise pushed and pushed, aiming for the Hume Highway which would take us to the Midland Highway then Mansfield and south into Melbourne.  Once on the Hume - which I normally hate, considering its straightness a waste of a motorcycle ride - we were bathed in evening light as warm air rushed over us.  It felt great.  This, combined with the fact that we just wanted to get home, meant we decided to ride the Hume all the way into Melbourne.  It was an uneventful and meditative ride that was actually quite nice.  

Once more the Alpine Highway is untrodden by me.  

Once more I was hung over at Bethanga.  

Once again it was a fun little adventure.  That was my SR500 Club Rally experience for 2012.    

Friday, October 19, 2012

First hot ride of the new season: Eildon-Jamieson Road

Today was forecast for 27 degrees and sunny.  It was the first 'hot' riding day of the new season so how could I miss it?  Well, quite easily, perhaps, when I woke up to thunder and rain.  I lay my head back down, but ten minutes later sunshine streamed in through the window, my multiple alarms (yes, I need them) went off, and I stepped forward into a full day of blessed motorcycling.  

I rode via Yarra Glen and the Black Spur to Eildon, where I sat burning myself in the sun and eating some delicious abomination called a 'pig dog' (a hot dog with many things).  Then it was over to the main event of the day, a run on the Eidlon-Jamieson Road.  60km of endless twisties.  

I have done this road in the past, before it was sealed:

But now it is sealed and flowing.  On a road of constant turns, left, right, left, bespeckled by shafts of sun yellow or green depending on whether the trees mediated its light, I felt like a baby rocked in a cradle.  I picked up an easy rhythm, averaging a lazy 60kph.  At the heights I looked over valleys and water. 

And in the low places I sat by that glittering water and green light.

It was another wonderful journey, a day of unfurling speed and pleasure.