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.