2017 trip to PI (return) – we’re back jack

Back at work. Miss my bike and the road.

Last time I wrote we were somewhere north of the snowy mountains after a long day of carving. The following run is always a bit of a relaxing long cruise. When you spend the previous day going up and down the mountains in tight twisty tarmac, the fast flowing roads that connect the alps to the blue mountains feel like a long boring slog.

We arrived at our motel in Katoomba late in the afternoon and managed to find the perfect greasy Chinese bbq spot on the main street. We obviously proceeded to destroy a duck with a side of pork and tea. We then raced to the toilet. I won.

A very early start to the next day was greeted with thick fog and wet roads. The plan was to get to Bilpin for apple pie part two but since they only opened at eight (bastards) we kept going down the bells and into the putty. At the bottom the fog was gone and the sun was forcing its way through the clouds. A race for brekkie at the gum cafe ensued. Ron had a meat fest.

With improved traction (weight) we destroyed the twisty section of this legendary piece of bitumen and headed to Singleton to refuel and find our way through the range towards Dungog and finally Gloucester. Another quick pitstop and east through the Bucketts. Ron asked to make a detour to Nabiac to drool over the bikes at the museum. I had lunch instead as I had been there twice and I like eating. With the threat of a storm looming, we endured the final stretch to Wauchope on the highway and Ron got lost.

A group of friends from the Queensland Italian Bike Addicts group came down from the sunshine state to meet us here and spend the next two days carving the lovely roads that cross the great dividing range between here and home. Not before some enormous meals at the local tavern (that apparently does not own a cork opener).

Everyone (except Andrew obviously) was up early with the excitement of the Oxley run. It didn’t disappoint. It never does. That first climb from Long Flat to the cafe is one of the best roads in this country and that is why we keep coming back for it. We spent a few hours based on the cafe with everyone going for some random runs. On one of these Andrew managed to get a stick shoved on his rear tire and even though it was patched it required a replacement. Our friend Rosenthal happens to be based in Port and kindly offered to open up his shop and give him a used tire.

While they we’re going through this process the rest of us headed towards Walcha for refuelling. Most of us made it. Except Dan’s duke that got thirsty and drank all its fluid 15 kms out of town. Nothing that a rescue mission with a fuel can couldn’t solve. We also required fuel and the top pub at Uralla never disappoints.

The next run is pretty relaxing as we make our way through Armidale and along the first part of Waterfall Way until the turn off for the Grafton – Armidale road. Then there was a race. There is always a race on this road. Apparently old fat BMW baggers are quick. Honda engines are durable. Sticky tires like throwing rocks. I guess we knew all that.

Night was spent at the Grafton pub. It was a warm night, so it clearly required liquids and the boys made sure they would not be dehydrated. Some of them were in no condition for early morning runs, so the rest of us headed up the river valley to the Lawrence ferry crossing and into MacLean for an awesome hipster breakfast at the local coffee roastery. From here another stretch of highway was endured until we could turn into the hills towards Alstonville and then through the back of Byron Bay and to Mooball where we would wait for Ron to catch up, having come up the Summerland Way and over the mountain from Kyogle with two local legends.

The last run was over Tweed Valley raceway where mister redmist met mister redline while the orange puta laughed to tears at the sights. The road had ended for me but the boys would still enjoy a run over Tomewin as a good sendoff before the highway home.

All in, five and a half thousand kays, two weeks on the road, rain and sun, cold and heat. Kangaroos, brumbies, wombats and a bloody guana. Mountains, valleys, plains and forests. Lots of pubs. Lots of cofee. All bikes came home with battle scars as did most riders. But all well worth it. Can’t wait to go again.

PS: Thanks to all that shared the ride. Wouldn’t be the same without you gents.

2017 trip to PI (return) – Day 2 – Rutherglen to Tumut

Disclaimer: I am writing this on my phone and half drunk so give me a break…

Was cold in Rutherglen this morning. Dan was up since 4 am cause his old and weird. I meet him up just after 7 for coffee and off course the entire town just lost power and i can’t have one. At least I had a hot shower before I left the room. How was your shower Ron?

Next stop Wadonga for a hipster brekkie in the sun. And coffee. Did I mention coffee? Ben shows us boobies picks. He’s good like that.

From there back to Murray Valley road in glorious sunshine. Fast flowing sweepers with the river on the left and the hills on right. Bliss returns.

We fuel up (us and the bikes) at Walwa before heading up to the mountains. Can’t wait for twisties galore. Temperature drops drastically as we climb and the scenery is breathtaking. Somewhere mid-climb Ben runs wide and his front rim hits a concrete gutter slashing his tire and bending the rim. Me and Dan don’t see it and keep going for another 20 kms before stopping and finally heading back. We find him and Ron banging on the wheel trying to get it half straight. Not gonna happen.

I head out with Dan to Cabramurra so we can get phone reception and ask for a tow truck. We have a coffee while we wait gor the phone. We’re good like that. After organising the rescue we head back the 30 odd kms of twisties to the stranded boys. We give the goid news. Tow truck shall be arriving in another half an hour. And it does.

With Ben headed backnto Corryong on the truck, we have to get a move on as the sun is coming down and nobody likes the alpine way in the dark with kangaroos ans brumbies playing chicken. A few kays up the road Ron stops and thinks he lost his headset again. I go back once more to try and find it. Dan arrives a few minutes later and says Ron found his headset. I have a tantrum.

So (for the 7th time) we smash the twisties to Cabramurra, fill up and finallly go down hill to the turn off to the highway to Tumut. The rest is a blur of beautiful scenery, stopping for wild horses on the road and Ron missing the turn to the motel. We have dinner and drink a lot. We deserved it tonight.

2017 trip to PI (return) – Day 1 – Melbourne to Rutherglen

Time to kiss wife goodbye. See ya in a week honey. It’s cold in Melbourne. It’s always cold in Melbourne. Except when it’s hot. Then it’s really hot in Melbourne.

Ron is up early this morning. I’m worried. Ben’s still sleeping. Less worried. We finally head out of the city towards the eastern suburbs. Ron needs to replace his jacket because its torn. ┬áThe distributor is a cool guy and arranges to have it swapped at a shop on the way out of town.

After an hour of shopping we finally get on our way towards the Yarra ranges. C511 is our initial playground for the day. The delay has the beneficial effect of allowing the clouds to start clearing. The climb still has some wet patches but we have a blast. There are a lot of bikes on the road. PI travellers like us avoiding the cold, wet roads around the alps this morning. There were news of ice on the roads around the area.

We loop around Lake Eildon, through Alexandra to Mansfield were we stop for lunch. We decide to get something from the supermarket and Ron buys butter in a can. He then proceeds to pry it open with his hunting knife. Life in the woods with our teddy bear.

From here we take the pass to King Valley. Last time I’ve done this it was pissing down and it was great. In the dry it’s fabulous. We ride around a lot of moving chicanes and get a wiggly finger from the local constabulary. They were kind enough to be parked in the bush facing us and just being scary. Not all of them are pricks. We stop at the bottom and all have smiles across our face. Except Ben. Ben is probably peeing. He likes peeing in the bush.

From here it’s straights galore. Boys drag race. Ben decides to pee again 2 kms out of Wangaratta. He doesn’t understand the concept of toilets apparently. Arrow straight to Rutherglen. Sun is shinning. twenty degrees celsius. Cold beer at the pub. Mystery chinese food. Life is good.

2017 PI trip – Day 7 – to Melbournistan

All riding gear is still wet. Not surprised. Coffee will make it better. Town is deserted. The closure of the coal power plant that was the heart and soul of this place is taking its toll.

Plan today is to get Dan’s duc to a mech somewhere on the southern suburbs early. An hour stint on the highway. Should be easy.

Ben decides to put his backpack on top of his touring bag held by a cargo net. I tell him I won’t go behind him since i don’t want to eat it. I shouldn’t have been worried. His rear tire did. Laptop and ithing are kaput. Beers ate intact. Tuff things bottles apparently.

We turn off the highway into the suburban traffic. The orange beast cuts out ignition. Wtf? I start it again and ride another k or so before it does it again in the middle of a roundabout. Great timing. I limp it up the sidewalk and into a petrol station to investigate. Possible culprits are the gear or sidestand sensors. I decide it’s the later and try to bypass it by grouding some wires. Wrong wires. Effing google. My gear sensor is now dead. The boys go ahead to the workshop and our teddy bear comes to the rescue on a merc van borrowed from Lee the northern Irish mech. He was done for dd two years ago so Ron has to blow up to an alcohol level measuring unit connected to the van’s ignition to keep it going. We stop for diesel and keeps the engine running. He’s afraid it won’t start again. Ron also attempts engage reverse while moving forward. I inform him it doesn’t work like that.
We confirm the diagnosis of a dead sensor and attempt to bypass it. I called Peter Steven’s in Dandenong earlier today and told them our story asking if they could sort it. They are too busy today apparently. So is the other PS in town as they tell me they will call me back at 11 am and finally do so at 5.15 pm. I remember that there is a bypass dongle on the ktm poweports catalogue and Ben and Dan manage to trace the only one available in aus in one of the PS shops. The bear goes for the rescue again. We install the part and the katoom works again. Time for seeing the mrs again as she landed in melb and is waiting at the hotel.

Ben wants tepanyaki. We endulge him. He needs some clothes. T-shirt in cold Melbourne is… cold. We go shopping. Dan’s “hangry”. Ron’s a dick. Wife is about to commit murder. We finnaly get food thrown at us. We made it! And this is only half way…

PS: note to motorcycle manufacturers. The sidestand sensor is a safety feature. I get it and appreciate it. In case of sensor failure it should default to allow the bike to run. Between not being able to ride it and crashing due to leaving the thing down #2 is better. Don’t agree? If this had happened the day before at the top of the mountain I would be dead now. No hyperbole here. I would have been stuck in blizzard conditions with zero visibility and no phone reception on a road with a rock wall on one side and a drop to the clouds on the other. That is not safety. Is stupidity.

2017 PI trip – Day 6 – Corryong to Morwell

Not sure where the warm weather went. Or the sun. Menacing clouds are rolling in from the west. Weatherzone has some bad words on the prognostic. Maybe they’re wrong. Hope they’re wrong.

Dan is up early as usual and we go for coffee. The other two are still sleeping as usual. We leave late. As usual.

We head north through some back roads towards the Murray. This should allow us to avoid the police on the main road and follow our beemer friend’s tip on a little hidden gem. Rain arrives just before we hit it but it was still fun. Maybe we’ll come back on the way up for further exploration. We stop in some little town for some breakfast and ron asks for a bowl of chips with a fried egg on top. The lady looks at him strangely.

From there we head towards Mt. Beauty. The road runs through a valley surrounded by mountains playing hide and seek though clouds and mist. By the time we get to the town is time for lunch and the rain has intensified. We are soaked by now and drip dry on the information centre’s floor while the nice lady informs us of the local road’s conditions. Only one road remain open from here to Omeo. We have to through Bright and the climb to Mt. Hotham. Sounds lovely.

As we get higher we hit the cloud base and visibility diminishes drastically. At some point the only way to tell where the road goes is to follow the orange lines that flank the road. Pace has dropped to a crawl and I have to ride with the visor open as there is not enough air flow to prevent fogging even with the pinlock internal visor. 

Temperature has dropped to single digits but I am still surprised at the first sight of ice. We finally reach the plateau at the top of the mountain and are greeted with a strong blizzard sweeping across the road. This was not on the menu. Can’t believe that 24h ago we were at Thredbo with temperature in the mid 20s and blue sky all around us. We reach the ski village and start the descent. The conditions improve quickly on the south side of the mountain. Still raining but compared to what we just passed this feels easy.

Omeo finally comes into view and we stop for petrol and to gather ourselves. That we will all remember forever. The day is nowhere near the end though. Next leg is the remaining descent to Bairnsdale through the valley along the river. Somewhere along this stretch the road is under repairs and the torrential rain has transformed the dirt into mud. Ron gives Ben a sprayed beauty treatment. Ben’s visor was open…

The rain relents as get to Bairnsdale and the highway patrol vehicles are all parked in front of the police station. It seems that our luck has finally turned today. A few kms out of town something very dark greets us in the horizon. A massive storm cloud is rolling towards us and we have nowhere to go. We quickly stop for a photo and as soon as we get on the bikes again we are hit head on. For ten minutes we are pelted with rain and shown around the road by strong winds. Luckily the road here is straight as an arrow so all we have to do is hang on and break through on the other side of the storm.
Final stop for petrol in Sale and we ask Ron to enter direction on his g maps. We’re stupid like that. Doesn’t take long for him to take a wrong turn that may or may not be preceded by a u-turn in the middle of a four lane divided highway. We ignore him and keep going. Ben decides do stop and wait for him. He’s good like that. Ron catches up and thunders down the road. As we get to Morwell he takes the wrong turn again. Me and Dan ignore him again. We’re learning. He then finds the wrong motel. What can I say…

We arrive 11 hours after we left. The hot shower is one of the best I’ve ever had. Beers taste great too. We made it! I can envision some snoring tonight…

2017 PI trip – Day 5 – Corang to Corryong

Can’t remember the last time I was woken up by a rooster. The sun is out but I struggle to get up. Is day 5 and the miles are starting to take their toll on the body. Well irrigated evenings don’t help I suppose. Long day ahead so I better move my butt.

Day starts with another blast through the dirt access road to the property where we stayed at Corang. Bikes are looking filthy and we promise them some love and care later in the day. First blast takes us to Tarago. Another great flowing road with barely any traffic. Engines enjoy the fresh morning air. We merge with the last stretch of the King’s Highway towards Queanbeyan where we stop to de-dirt the bikes and do some maintenance.

The day is warming up when we make our way south towards Cooma on the boredom of the Monaro Highway. One hundred kilometres of straight road. At least the scenery is beautiful. Lunch stop at a coffee shop in Cooma. We are starting to see more bikes on the road now. First news of heavy police enforcement on the area come via the locals.

From here we make our way up to Jindabyne where we fill up and get ready for the excitement of the great alpine way. The first part of ascent presents a nice warm-up for the tire-shredding fest of the descent on the other side. There is still snow on the peaks, even though it’s 25 degrees C up here. The views are mesmerizing. We stop shortly at Thredbo for some photos and quickly get back on the bikes to start the descent.

There are no words to describe this kind of ride. Perfect conditions, good tarmac, amazing scenery, endless kilometres of corners. We swap the lead a few times and enjoy chasing each other down the mountain while listening to the amazing soundtrack of four thoroughbreds stretching their legs on the mountain air. One to remember…

Somehow we make it down the bottom with seeing any highway patrol cars and make our way to the Mountain View motel (aptly named) and the pub for some well deserved beers and meat. The boys like meat.

Strange notes for the day: Ben didn’t get us lost and Ron didn’t hold us up to take a shit. Weird…

2017 PI trip – day 4 – Bathurst to Corang

Morning light at the Mountain is something special. That place has soul. It belongs to the pinnacle of world class racetracks. Tv cameras do not do it justice. Not even close. In its honour we do some laps and act like typical tourists taking photos at every corner. Dan drinks coffee instead. He’s old. Meanwhile we meet a rider with some sort of ugly vehicle he tries to tell us is a motorcycle. We disagree. He tags along for the day.

We head down to town and the boys have some breakfast at a local bakery before we head south staying away from the road to Oberon, opting for a road that runs parallel just to the west. We hit the first jackpot of the day. After a fast flowing initial section the twisty hills make an appearance and it’s a cracker. No traffic, great weather, good tarmac and corners. Bliss. Our new friend’s titanic is bottoming out on the corners and sparks are flying from his centre stand.  It’s quite entertaining to watch. To his credit that doesn’t slow him down much.

We get to Goulburn and try a local Indian restaurant. Namaste. That shall sort Ron’s intestinal incontinence. From there we endure a few kms of the Hume heading east to the turnoff to Kangaroo Valley. Just at the top of the mountain the road is closed for repairs. It will reopen in 15 minutes. We shall wait then…

We filter to the front of the queue so we can have the road to ourselves. They finally start removing the cones and Dan goes. Ben is putting his make-up on and I’m stuck and have to wait for him. A mountain of cars goes through and we endure dozens of tight corners on a steep descent behind traffic. The boys get restless and attempt a few overtakes of doubtful quality. Ben shits his pants again. I wonder if he has enough underwear.

I finally manage to overtake the pile of vehicles and enjoy the second half of the descent. The boys are waiting for me at the bottom of the hill but I’m not stopping. I know there is the climb at the other side of the valley and there is no way I’m letting the cars pass again. The climb is all to myself. Bliss again.

We get to Nowra and Ben tries to find the supermarket. He does… and manages to not see it.  He’s good like that. We buy some supplies for our night at Corang and try to pack them on the bikes. We head off and Ben gets lost listening to the G maps lady. I spot a trend here. A few kms out of town the road opens up and sweepers galore ensues. We can’t believe what we found: no cars, perfect tarmac and fast flowing sweepers one after the other. We make them justice.

We turn off to the b & b on a little dirt road that turns into 2 kms of full 4×4 challenge. The duc complaints that it broke a finger nail. And asks for coffee. The guest house is nothing short of amazing and so are our hosts. They even offer to drive us back to Corang, 15 kms up the road, so we can buy some booze from the local. They wash Ben’s underwear. And our plates as well, after chef Ron cooks a large bbq with the lot. Ron snores now. Nothing new.

2017 PI Trip – Day 3 – Maitland to Bathurst

Woke up to the sound of thunder… no, wait… is just Ron “hibernating bear” snoring. I decide to record proof. I have to move the phone away from the source as it complaints about volume levels. Should have brought noise cancelling headphones…

Dan is up. I meet him for some morning fuel (coffee) across the road while we wait for the sleeping beauties to wake up. Morning is perfect. Warm and no signs of rain. Ron finally wakes up and has cold steak for breakfast and then takes a shit. It stinks.

We meet a local rider on a german steed. He kindly offers to lead us down to the putty. We wait for Ron again as he takes another shit. Head south through the Hunter vineyards and meet up with another local. And we putty. We putty a lot. We love puttying.

Stop for a coffee where everyone does. Flies greet us. They love us. Our new friends need to go back and it’s time for us to grab some apple pie. I’ve been craving Belpin apple pie for months! After a few corners uphill we stop for some warm pie and cream. As good as I remember. I’m coming back for more.

We head towards Lithgow on Bells with Ben leading the way with a map loaded into G maps that I gave him. He obviously decides to change it immediately because he saw a squiggly line. We end up in a dirt road at the bottom of a valley and immediately decide to tell him his an idiot and turn around. I look at the map and find a way back to the original route through an amazing scenery of mountains and a man made lake. Ben decides he’s Marquez but quickly realizes that he’s not. We tell him he’s an idiot again. We make our way towards Oberon on perfect sweeping bends that make our steeds sing and our souls heal. More petrol for the duc and we head to Mount Panorama for the mandatory lap of the road of the gods. Check-in at the hotel overlooking the track and Ron takes a shit.

End the day with a few drinks at the bar and a walk through the track before heading back to the hotel for dinner. It took a while to order because we had to wait for Ron to take a shit. But the food was great and the company even better. Time to go to bed now. I need to go to the toilet but have to wait ’cause Ron is taking a shit.

2017 PI Trip – Day 2 – Glen Innes to Maitland

It’s 6 am. Still dark outside. Looks miserable. I can hear the wind on the old hotel roofing. A shower will make me feel better. A shower always makes me feel better. And tea… tea helps. Dan is up. He also gets up early. Good. Someone to chat to until the coffee shop is open.

It is cold outside. Ten degrees (C) and windy. The town is deserted. Getting close to 8 am and the first coffee shop is finally opening. Coffeeeeee. Ron is late… nothing new. I guess a bear needs longer sleep.

We finally head off. First leg leads us south on the New England Highway. One hundred kms in the cold with not much to entertain us. Scenery is beautiful though and feels a lot like a scene from Ireland or Scotland. Plus sheep. Lots and lots of sheep.

First stop at Armidale for petrol. Dan and his sexy steed are harassed by a sexual predator. He menages to fight her off bravely. Lucky ducati.

Twenty more kilometres get us to Uralla and the start of Thunderbolts Way. Fast open road takes to Walcha and the temptation to turn left to the Oxley. We shall resist this time (only since we are doing it on the way back). More sheep and we finally get to the start of the climb that will take us to the lookout at the top of the mountain. By the blessing of the road Gods the view is clear and we are presented with bliss.

The boys have fun on the way down and then we ride one of the best pieces of tarmac in the country. Someone made a rollercoaster of sticky bitumen and placed it in the middle of picture perfect grassy hills with a lovely creek to top it up. Thank you Captain Thunderbolts. We salute you.

Lunch at a cafe in Gloucester in gorgeous sunshine. Last lamb curry was good Ben. Sorry it was the last one. Wanted some? We toss around different choices for the last leg. The lovely old ladies at the tourist information centre provide the solution: “Why would you take the highway? There is a nice mountain road here. Take a look.” Lovely ladies.

We go through Dungong. Ben’s duc is playing up. Cutting fuelling on hard acceleration. He decides it’s a good idea to overtake a car just before a corner. Bike cuts out a few times. We shake our heads. He shits his pants.

We ask Ron to listen to the nice google maps lady. They are not good together. Ron gets lost. Repeatedly. We tell Ron he sucks. We find the hotel without him. Perfect location. In a 20m radius we have a petrol station, a pub, fast food joints and a bottle-o.

Duc is fixed (not sure if this is the correct word to use) by disabling the quick-shifter. Problem solved. It took one guy fixing it, one watching and 2 guys drinking booze while on social media. It’s called productivity.

2017 PI Trip – Day 1 – Gold Coast to Glen Innes

Can’t sleep! The excitement built up over weeks of planning and preparation prevents me from relaxing. Every time the eyes close, images of winding roads, warm weather and elicit speeds form on my mind. Is it time to go yet?

Daylight. Finally. Final preparations, stuff a couple more useless things into the bulging bags attached to the rear of the bike, kick the tires one last time and kiss the wife goodbye. Time to meet the boys and… bliss.

Ron is late again. What else is new. Got confused with daylight savings he says. Blame QLD. Weather is closing in from the ocean and the radar pictures are not pretty. I decide to escape and wait for him in Murwillambah that looks to have a nice patch of blue skye overhead. The hairy one finally decides to grace us with his presence and we decide to continue west, escaping the big bad boo-boo clouds as much as possible.

We head through Uki, over Mt Burrel, where we finally get our first bit of rain of the journey. Tires are making our lives much easier on the tricky conditions. The amount of confidence transmitted by the Metzler Roadtec 01s fitted to our bikes, allow us to cover pace at a rate that wouldn’t shame any rider on the dry, much less in bumpy, unkept surface of the roads around this area. We drop down the mountain to Kyogle just in time to meet our other two companions, Dan and Ben for the trip. A quick check of the radar highlighted that our choices were to go south and drown in golf sized balls of icy water or keep heading west and avoid as much of it as possible. No problem, the Bruxner Hwy is not exactly a terrible place to be on two wheels.

After a stop in Casino for some fuel (both for the bikes and our stomachs), we started the 120 odd kms of fun in the run to Tenterfield. Drenched by rain during the first third of it, a miracle allowed for most of the remaining kms to be made on semi-dry conditions and for our steeds to stretch their legs. Not much traffic, beautiful countryside, a few mates and a great twisty road. Did I mention bliss?

Quick refill in Tenterfield and the final leg of the journey for the day started with a final belting of icy water that apparently hurt Ron’s nipples. Or so he says. Final stop at the Great Central Hotel where our host Tony made us feel extremely welcome and provided with a regiment sized meat feast that will keep us going for days. Props for the two country girls that walked 42kms of one of the amazing local walking trails in terrible weather and we’re in great spirits. You’ll make it next time girls!