celebrating 40+ years of motorcycling

Longing for the freedom of the road.

I’ve always found that there is no substitute for motorcycle touring when it comes to giving you time to think about the things that really matter. Hours spent on a motorcycle, churning up the miles, are invaluable when it comes to head space. As an aside, the only activity I can think of that comes even close is fishing. Sitting on Tathra wharf for hours, watching the ocean and the sea go through their myriad of changes in a day is also a wonderfully theraputic activity.

However, it’s touring that is the subject here. Last weekend I took BBII on its first road trip. Hardly an epic journey, but a thoroughly enjoyable one anyway, and one that would enable me to search out the bike for its strengths and weaknesses. Paul and I left on Saturday morning, up the highway to Sydney and ground through the traffic across town to Hornsby and from there, onto the Old Road.

It didn’t take long for me to start to appreciate what a fine bike BBII is. Somehow it seems so much more “together” than the blue bike and the rest of the journey confirmed my initial diagnosis. It was stinking hot on Saturday, so a milk shake at the famous “Pie in the Sky” was in order, before we pushed on at reasonable speed up the old highway.

Incidentally, I have now decided upon PITS as my preferred stopping place rather than the Road Warriors Cafe. While both have their attractions, the food at PITS is better and much, much cheaper than RWC which has got very expensive of late. The outdoor tables under the pine trees and the general ambience of PITS seems a much more attractive way to break the journey than the grungy, dilapidated RWC.

And it must also be said that the RTA or whoever is responsible, has done a lot of work to improve the section of the Old Road from PITS down to Brooklyn. Much of it has been hotmixed and the diabolical section of tar snakes is now a thing of the past. Not before time, either.

Anyway, having worn my winter jacket and gloves (my summer jacket has a dead zipper), by the time we got to the end of the Old Road, I was cooking. So, it was a fast detour into Gosford in search of my old friend, Phil Mellis and his long-established Central Coast Motorcycles. And who should we meet as soon as we parked the bikes but the man himself? After exchanging pleasantries, we headed inside with the promise from Phil of a discount on purchased goods.

So, it was that, half an hour later, thanks to Mark Hastie, the Spares Manager, I walked out with a new summer jacket AND a pair of summer gloves, for under $200. Bargain. Definitely recommended. Oh, and, by the way, CCM has a huge stock of very nice looking 2nd hand bikes for sale if you’re in the market. There, how’s that for a shameless free plug?

Onwards up the old highway for as far as it would go, then onto the F3 for a short stint before cutting west into Morriset and around the western side of Lake Macquarie. A very pleasant visit with an old school friend then it was in through the city, admiring many of the landscapes that we got to know when we lived there over 40 years ago and north to Nelson Bay, our overnight destination. I was under strict orders not to make this, my first trip on the new bike, a marathon, as I am teaching full-time at the moment and needed to be bright and alert on Monday morning.

The area around the bay has gone ahead amazingly in recent years but it still retains its charm. And pub food. If you’re travelling, you can’t beat pub food. Cheap and cheerful and filling.

After a leisurely morning, we were on the road and across to Raymond Terrace where we hit the golden arches for some breakfast. While there, we met a rider from up the valley who was on the road on his new Harley. Returning rider and full of questions about touring, road bikes (dirt bike background) and whether he should do a Stay Upright course. The answers were hopefully helpful, and he’s going to sign up for a SU course soon. The fellowship of the road strikes again.

Maitland, Kurri (home of Casey Stoner and the Stauffer brothers) and winding through the picturesque little coal mining towns on the way to Cessnock. Wine country, and doesn’t it show? Heaps of multi-million dollar estates all designed to tempt the tourist trade. But, while passing by, I did notice a sign advertising 1 acre blocks of land for $59000; seems like a bargain to me. Through Broke and on to Bulga and the head of the 10 mile on the Putty Road.

First real chance to stretch BBII’s legs and wear off some of the chicken strips. I stayed behind and concentrated on getting my lines right and getting the feel for the bike and there’s no doubt at all, it’s a superior bike to the blue one. No traffic until right at the end of the 10 mile and then an overtaking lane opened up almost straight away. What a hoot.

Stop at the Halfway House and refresh. The new owners are trying really hard to restore the place’s reputation with a new outdoor eating area with chairs and tables and a sun sail to protect the patrons. New turf laid and generally a much more amenable surrounding than what it has been in the past. Unfortunately, while fuel is now available again at the HH, it is still hideously expensive, so plan your trip so you don’t have to buy fuel there. The owners of the 5×1098’s that were there while were were probably didn’t have any choice.

Long, boring transport stage to the bends at Colo Heights which were also fun and then into Windsor and down the Northern Road to the Castlereagh turnoff. Join up with the Mulgoa Road and south the fun way (no traffic either) through Mulgoa, Silverdale and The Oaks. We still had time up our sleeve so we cut south at Picton, through Tahmoor and Bargo, then Mittagong, the Range Road and on to TFRPS for a coffee before heading home.

Not a long ride, but a very enjoyable one and the milder weather on Sunday certainly helped. The freedom of the road? Nothing like it for headspace, in my opinion. School holidays at the end of this week…mmmm, the Oxley beckons.