From the Blog

Shorter but longer

It’s a truism of motorcycle touring that, the more carefully you plan a ride, the more chance there is of the plan not coming to fruition (actually, that’s probably just true of life in general). Such, however, was the case with last weekend.

Having barely ridden the bike in the last couple of months with the exception of some trips to town for coffee on a Tuesday night (I should be a Ducati rider!) I decided that it was time to do a mini tour. Paul was amenable to the idea so a short blat up to Port Macquarie, a gallop on the Oxley for a day then home via a different route the next day seemed like the duck’s guts. All was planned and we were going to head off on Friday morning. Come departure time and I am sitting here, all dressed up, bike packed and I get a phone call from Paul. “I’ve lost my wallet.” Damn. Friday passed with no resolution so I unpacked on Friday night and put everything away. In the mean time Paul is tearing the house apart but he finally decided that he had left it a shop at the Square.

Since the shop didn’t open till 0900 on Saturday we were forced to wait till then. Alas, the lady in the shop hadn’t seen the wallet anyway so at lunch time I took him around to the rego office where he applied for and got a temporary licence (he put a temporary stop on his credit cars as soon as he realised that the wallet was missing.) By now it was much too late to leave so we collapsed the three day ride into a two day one, planning to head out early in Sunday morning and come home on Monday (Paul has work on Tuesday and I have a nursing home gig so extending the ride to Tuesday wasn’t an option).

Not long after I got up and started getting ready, having repacked the bike the night before, I get a text from Paul “I’ve found the wallet.” Apparently, even though it had been searched several times already, it was in his tank bag, stuck between the outer lining and the inner, waterproof one. So, a little later, we hit the road. Rather than do the usual route, I decided that we would do Wiseman’s Ferry, Wollombi and on to Cessnock, stay the night at Cessnock and come home via the Putty (well, that was the plan – see above)

All good up to Windsor, turn right instead of the usual left and head east to McGrath’s Hill. At the lights, turn left and follow the signs to the ferry. The road is a delight, mostly climbing through little market gardening properties, a great mixture of corners and, surprisingly for a Sunday morning, almost bereft of traffic. When we arrived at the ferry we found a long line of cars and bikes waiting but, worryingly, both the ferries were moored on our side of the river. I idled down to the head of the queue to see a sign that said, “Ferry Closed” In (much) smaller print it informed us that the famous Bridge to Bridge ski boat race was taking place and that the ferry would be out of operation until it was finished. It was 1100 in the morning and, on enquiring further, I found that the ferry would not be commencing operations until 1330, another two and a half hours.

So, a U turn and back to Windsor, a total loop of 84kms purely because the organisers or the local council couldn’t arrange a sign at Windsor to say the ferry would be closed because of the boat race. Not happy, Jan. I consoled myself with the fact that we had had a great 84km loop over some wonderful roads and that it was still early. “Keep looking on the bright side,” I kept saying.

By now (especially by now) I needed a coffee so we battled the tourist traffic in the main street of Windsor and found a spot to park the bikes that was excellent for a number of reasons. The first was that it was right outside the coffee shop with chairs and tables on the footpath, secondly that the coffee shop was actually a coffee and crepes shop, and thirdly that we parked right next door to an immaculate Honda CBX1000 AND 4 immaculate Honda 750/4’s. Sitting there watching the passing parade was a very pleasant way of calming the nerves. A group of 4 Harley riders emerged from the pub next door and got ready to leave. We exchanged pleasantries as you do and one of them told us that there were a lot of cops on the Putty today, 3 bikes and one Highway Patrol car, so we needed to be careful. We thanked him but noted that the warning was pretty much lost on us since we, being members of the MRA, the Mediocre Riders Association, had nothing to fear from cops on any road at any time.

After internalising our coffee and a crepe each (very nice they were, too), we headed off. As I have noted on many occasions before, Paul and I have a very good understanding out on the road, regularly swapping positions front to back so that we don’t get bored and so each of us can keep an eye on the back of each other’s bike and check for potential problems. Just out of Wilberforce on the big dipper going down to Currency Creek we started getting lots of cars going the other way flashing their lights at us and, as expected, just after the crest of the hill we saw the HWP officer booking a guy in a Honda Civic. That’s one ticked off the list.

The road was almost deserted here also, amazing for a Sunday and we made good time. A nice man on a fully-loaded adventure bike saw us coming on the run up out of Colo River and allowed us past so that we could thoroughly enjoy one of the best part of the road, I love the section between the river and Colo Heights. Just after the Heights, two cop bikes blasted past heading east so that ticked off three out of the four. Oh, and we were treated to the highly amusing sight of a poor guy having his uber-expensive Porsche Panamera being loaded onto a tilt tray, the road can be so rewarding.

We didn’t stop at Grey Gum having not long had coffee. We had a great run through the Ten Mile till the last couple of kilometres where we caught up with a group of four arrogant and ignorant Harley riders who slowed us up but were determined that, if they couldn’t enjoy the road, then, dammit, we weren’t’ going to be able either. In the end it didn’t matter, of course, because we pulled over for a break at the big tree and admired out (very) warm tyres and rapidly reducing chicken strips. It is no surprise that the VFR has long been regarded as the king of sports touring bikes. My new PR5’s inspire a lot of confidence as well.

Not long after we stopped, we ticked off the last item the list as a police BMW blasted past heading north. We waved, as we always do and, amazingly, the rider gave us a wave back. I had to sit down, such was the shock.  The shock had barely worn off then the rider returned from up the road, pulled in, took off his helmet and said hi. A young man, in his early 20’s I am guessing, he was charming and friendly and gave our bikes the once-over while we were chatting. He stayed for twenty minutes or more while we talked about the road, how it had changed in the last 40 or so years since we started riding it and motorcycles in general. It was great, and, as he geared up to leave, I said, “So, are you heading home now or are you still on duty?” “I’m still working,” he replied, “Running up and down and checking out old blokes feathering the edges of their tyres on the Ten Mile,” he said, with another knowing glance at our bikes. We parted the best of friends. If there were more traffic policeman like him, the force wouldn’t have the bad rep that it does.

The rest of the run into Cessnock was uneventful and, after a very enjoyable dinner at the Indian restaurant in the main street, we hit the sack for a good snooze in preparation for what was going to be a big day on Monday.

That will do for today, I’ll tell the rest of the story tomorrow.