It’s been a long time, months, in fact, since I’ve been able to do a big tour. Not that I don’t appreciate short runs and local exploration, but I really do enjoy spending some days on the road and seeing country that I haven’t seen before.
Well, the opportunity presented itself when one of my mates said a month or so ago that he was planning a Snowy Ride and was I interested? I have been starting to feel better and so I said, yes. Eventually it worked out that there would be three of us, Wayne and my brother, Paul.
As usual, the planning took some time, organising routes and accommodation. Thankfully, Wayne did all of that and presented us with a final draft that looked eminently suitable so the date was set for last Monday, 4 days down to the Snowies, explore and back again.
I packed VERY lightly, just enough to fit in my big GIVI top box and my little RJays tank bag. Since this was to be a shake-down ride for TWK I didn’t want to overload it.
As time got closer I became more excited as it’s been a couple of years (possibly) longer, since I’ve done a big tour and it’s been MANY years since I’ve ridden the Snowies and my memories of how much fun it was on previous occasions made the anticipation grow.
So, come Monday morning and we were set to meet at the set-out point at 0700.
But, as Clarkson often says, there was a problem. Doing my last pre-flight check, I noticed that there was no oil showing on the glass. Odd. I stood the bike up off the sidestand and still no oil. Mmm. I rolled the bike outside, started it up and was greeted by smoke issuing from under the engine, the smell of burnt oil and drops of oil dripping onto the driveway. I shut down quickly and went inside.
It was going to be an hour and a half before the shop opened and so I rang the boys and told them to start without me. In true “Top Gear” fashion, they scarpered and left me to it. When the shop opened I rang and the mechanic agreed that something was wrong. As soon as the work van was available, he would come over, pick up the bike and investigate.
Some time later he did so and I sat down to wait for his call, which took nearly an hour. It seems that the problem was a not-fully filled sump combined with the filter not having been tightened fully at the 1000km service a few days before. I must admit that this didn’t fill me with confidence but, if I wanted to do the ride, I had to trust the manager that the problem had been fixed. I did and it was.
Plainly I wasn’t going to catch the boys when I finally set out at 1130. They were planning a convoluted route that would bring them to Walwa in Victoria for our first night’s stopover. So it was clear that, with the hours remaining and the distance to cover, slabbing it down the Hume was going to be my only real alternative.
Now I have no problem with the Hume, the speed limit is 110 from the time you turn onto it, there are no traffic lights, no towns for which you have to slow down and it’s double lane all the way. All of these are “pluses”. The downside is that it is unutterably boring. Traffic was light, middle of the day on Monday and even the semis were pretty well behaved with the exception of the one doing 111km/h trying to pass another one doing 110km/h Grr.
A stop for a drink and a muesli bar before Goulburn and I was on the road again. There was no timetable, it is Daylight Saving so I knew I had plenty of time to reach my destination before dark.
The blandness of the Hume becomes apparent when it seems to take forever to get to the next waypoint. That was Gundagai. A sandwich and a coffee and stretch the legs. Speaking of which, my early concerns about the seat and the apparent inability to move around on it seemed to be unfounded. I could alternate between feet flat on the footpegs and the balls of my feet on them gave me plenty of space to shift around and I was to find out on Tuesday that the riding position was even better than I had hoped it would be.
At Gundagai, of course, you take a picture of the Dog on the Tuckerbox (that is, assuming that the tourists get out of the way and give you a clear shot.) Just as I was about to leave a guy turned up on a big, black, Triumph Rocket 3. We had a quick chat and he said that he was from far north Queensland and was riding through to do a tour of Tasmania! Some people are tough.
It was a Spring afternoon so a couple of more stops to clean off the bugs..
I cut west off the Hume at Holbrook, took the left at the old Holden dealer in the middle of town and started to follow the signs to Jingellic. I had checked with the guy at the servo at Gundagai and he had assured me that the road was sealed all the way through and was a fun road. It was and it was.
That was until I came to a three-way intersection where I saw my first sign to Walwa, pointing right. As I don’t know the local area, I did what I was told and headed right. It was about 15 minutes later that I realised that I probably should have GOT to Walwa by now and that the sign had probably been ambiguous. Quick U-turn and retrace my steps to the intersection to see that the sign on THIS road pointed to Walwa straight ahead about 6kms from there. I must have wasted quite a bit of time and fuel and generated quite a bit of aggravation from road signs that aren’t accurate.
Nevertheless, I pulled in to the hotel well before dark having travelled 519kms for the first day. I climbed off the bike feeling surprisingly fresh but looking forward to a cold drink and dinner at the hotel bistro. Oh, FYI. I bought a box of muesli bars to chew along the way. Great idea and nourishing, but bad choice. Trying to work all the little bits out of your teeth for a couple of hours after you’d eaten one just wasn’t fun.
The boys were surprised at how good a time I had made, around 8 hours and also surprised that I looked still pretty fresh in spite of the day. Frankly, so was I. The 650 was proving to be a far better touring mount than what I had anticipated.
And, economical, too. I did a fuel consumption check. 74mpg!! Yes. I later noticed that there is an Instant Fuel Consumption graph on the dash and a check of it indicates that, in top gear at 100km/h the fuel consumption is 4l per 100kms. That means I could easily get 400kms out of a tankful! Amazing.
OK, that takes care of Day 1, tune in tomorrow for the next exciting episode.