The Snowy Ride 2009

Every year for the past few years I have participated in the Snowy Ride, a ride which supports the Children’s Cancer Institute Australia through the Steven Walter Foundation. This year’s ride started on Thursday 5th November for me!

3 VFRs at Batemans Bay
A trio of VFRs

Thursday 5th November
At 7am, the ride started out overcast, and by the time I’d reached Sutherland, it was a wet one. The rain did not let up until I reached Nowra, approx 2 hours away. Riding in the rain is not that much fun, especially when visibility is little to none (as it was when going over Mt Keira). From Nowra, the rain stopped but the cool weather + clouds stuck around. I met up with AB & Trev/Sandra in Batemans Bay for a top up (fuel + lunch). From Batemans Bay we went via the Princes Hwy to the Bermagui turn-off for a lovely saunter down to Tathra.

Day 01 route
Day 1 Route

From Tathra we made our way through Bega to Bemboka, for PIES! (Pies on motorcycling trips seem to go hand-in-hand, no matter where you go, there always seem to be a pie shop involved – up the Old Pacific highway [Pie in The Sky], Robertson [Robbo Pie Shop], Bemboka [Bemboka Pie Shop] – Too many to list…back to the story). We met Greg in Bemboka who’d ridden there some way from Melbourne! Up Brown Mountain through tight, twisty roads great when you have the road to yourself and don’t get caught behind slower vehicles struggling up the mountain. The sun was low in the sky by now and we were feeling a little weary, so a quick stop in Cooma to refuel then onto Jindabyne in readiness for Day 2!

Day 1 Start time: 7am; Distance: 593km;  Finish time: 6:15pm. Day 1 route map is here

Friday 6th November

Kiandra view
Kiandra

Friday’s weather was glorious! Forecast was for 23C day with lots of sunshine, and that’s precisely what we were delivered. There were now 7 of us (3 more had arrived from Canberra on Thursday night – Gary, Paul, RAB) and decided to do the Alpine Loop from Jindabyne -> Berridale -> Adaminaby -> Kiandra through to  Tumbarumba for a stop for lunch. I was riding pretty well today, consciously thinking about the task at hand and not letting my mind wander onto other thoughts unrelated to keeping the motorcycle on the road. At every stop I try and eat something, the biggest fave is the muesli bars my wife makes – I pack 6-8 of these before I leave and love munching on them throughout the day. Apples and water are also consumed in vast quantities!

At Tumbarumba I had a Lamb & vegetable pie (oh come on now, you *knew* there’d be a pie for lunch didn’t you?) from the Bakery where we’ve eaten the past few years. It’s great to know small businesses like this are still around when we come to visit! The weather was warming up (27C indicated on the bike). During the ride back to Cabramurra, the bike started ‘squirming’ around, meaning the bike was not responding properly to inputs, didn’t want to turn in, felt unstable through/coming out of the corners – I backed it off and trundled along slowly until I stopped with the others, thinking/fearing tyre dramas (every ride through the Snowy mountains I seem to have a drama of some description – in 2008 I needed a new front tyre). It seems my tyres are fine, but leading into Cabramurra, the road surface coming was melting (hence the reason the bike was not handling well)!

The Snowy river at Tom Groggin
Tom Groggin

After downing a lemon Calippo (YUM!) it was off down the mountain to the next stop, Khancoban. There’s a mix of downhill, tight, twisty, blind bends & corners through the National Park, into a long, flat section that runs alongside the power lines. Khancoban is a regular stop for a lot of the Snowy Ride participants and once we turned up, there were approx 35 other bikes there, a far cry from the lack of bikes we’d seen on the road up until then! Lollies, an apple and water were the refuelling items of choice.

The ride from Khancoban to Jindabyne is always  a tough one later in the day – it’s easy to let weariness into the mix so it’s important to stay alert and refreshed with plenty of stops. This day was probably the one where we spent the most time during rest breaks (7 riders was a good number to ride with and everyone was easy going and relaxed enough to not cause chaos – something that often happens on these trips!) We regrouped at the Tom Groggin rest stop, somewhere I’d only ever ridden past previously!

Nail in the tyre
Nail in the tyre

I led the gang home on the stretch from Thredbo to Jindabyne, part of the oft-named ‘yellow brick road’ due to the yellow painted lines (which IMHO are better for visibility in all weather conditions rather than white). I refuelled before heading back to Mad Mooses to be able to leave first thing in the morning. However, there was a ‘nail’ in this plan. Once stopped at Mooses, John noticed something reflecting off my tyre, and upon closer inspection, there was a nail in it (see pic). Big thanks to Terry and Greg for plugging the hole with a tyre repair kit. As you can see it’s on the side of the tyre that’s only used when going around right-hand bends. The tyre held up well for the next 700km!

Day 2 Start time: 9am; Distance: 480km;  Finish time: 5:40pm. No route map as some roads are missing!


Saturday 7th November

Saturday Morning View
Saturday Morning View

This was the day I went it alone – I was headed for Melbourne whilst the rest of the gang rode around and did the checkpoint thing. I put some more air in the rear tyre to ensure there was enough before my trip. Headed out to Khancoban nice and early and passed many bikes coming the opposite direction (into Thredbo). For most of the day I was travelling against the flow of traffic. I was accompanied by a rider for most of the ride between Thredbo & Khancoban. I took my first stop at Scammell’s Lookout (yet another place I’ve never stopped before!) for an apple and a stretch. My next stop was to be Corryong, across the border in Victoria.

Tallangatta Park
Tallangatta Park

Once I reached Corryong, I still felt good so pushed onto Tallangatta for my first big break. The park in the centre of town is absolutely awesome…big shady trees, a great playground for the kids, plenty of grass for a picnic (or you can use the seats and tables). This post has been devoid of ‘bike’ pictures, so here’s one of the bike next to the park. After a pie (yes, yes, you knew THAT one was coming, too) and a stretch in the park, I plotted the path to the next destination. The ‘locality’ known as Gundowring is on the road labelled Not the Kiewa Valley Highway (#55) by Peter Thoeming in his ‘Top 100 Rides’ section of the Australian Motorcycle Atlas. It’s a tricky road to find as it’s not easily labelled, but once I zigged and zagged the correct way, I was on it! 🙂 The road is awesome – flat, mostly straight with a few nice, open wide sweepers. This road is well deserved to be on the Top 100 rides list. (This was actually the 4th Top 100 ride I was on in this trip alone!)

I wanted to find a small slip road that joined up to the Kiewa Valley Highway so I could cross over to the Great Alpine Road up to Myrtleford. I did find the one I wanted but went right instead of left, and was left wondering if I made the right decision. I decided to stop and ask for help (yes, see, we can do it, and it’s all about being proactive!) The fellow I asked was only too happy to help and began chatting about the bike, how ‘she’ goes and other general chat – A thought here for those that rely on technology (such as a GPS): You can easily miss these opportunities to engage  with other people, so stop and speak to others once in a while!

Pit-stop at Oxley
Pit-stop at Oxley

Once I found the glorious road (that took me through Rosewhite + Happy Valley), I was in heaven. This is a great little road and I’m glad to have found it! There’s a great view of the plains/farms in between 2 mountains (hills) that’s worth the ride. The road popped out at Ovens, and I trundled up to Myrtleford behind a ’57 Chevy and another ‘classic car – They were also coming in from the other direction so assume there was a show of sort happening. I did not stop as I was headed for Oxley for a quick pit-stop. After the top-up of fluids and a few lollies, I was on the way again. By now the bike was reading 29C and I was feeling it – the first 5-10 mins after your stop feels the best as the air dries the sweat which has built up whilst not riding – After this time the breeze just feels warm as the sweat dries up!

After Oxley I turned left down road C521 headed for Whitfield, and the start of the Whitfield-to-Mansfield road (Top 100 Ride #49, my 5th ride Top 100 this trip). I stopped for more water and a yarn with the local shopkeeper and both noticed a large contingent of bikers were all headed out of Whitfield in the direction I had come. Not one motorcycle had come past going my direction whilst I was chatting. In fact, I had not seen another rider going my way since the Thredbo-Khancoban section. Anyway, the road to Mansfield was a combination of tight, blind, twisty corners with no safety barriers (bar the trees and a long drop) which opened out to long, fast flowing corners with great visibility. Some of the corners had a lot of gravel and stones on them (especially left handers) which made things a little tricky. I was only cruising through here anyway as it was the danger time of the day!

Mansfield
Mansfield

I rolled into Mansfield to refuel and top-up on liquids. Chocolate milk always goes down well! I found another shady tree in the park in the middle of the main street of Mansfield and rested and watched and listened to the world go by. There’s something refreshing about a main street that has a park in it (Tallangatta and now Mansfield, and I am sure there are other towns around the country just like this). To be able to rest in the shade is a great luxury in warm weather!

From Mansfield, I was headed for Yea (pronounced Yay or Yeah I have no idea) when I decided to take a punt on going a different way. Bring on my 6th Top 100 Ride for the trip, from Merton to Euroa. The pros of choosing this way: Merton to Seymour (via Euroa) was shorter than Euroa Merton to Seymour (via Yea)! The cons of this decision – Euroa to Seymour would be on the Hume [freeway]. The Merton to Euroa road was yet another awesome road…hardly used, great wide open sweepers and long straights. Scary-Crap-Myself moment happened when I looked in my mirror and saw a red Commodore who was not there a few seconds before, and by the time I focused ahead again, he was passing me. He must have had no change from $2.00 and soon was out of my sight. It would have lasted no more than 10 seconds from when I first saw him in the mirror to when he disappeared – It’s that sort of road!

There’s nothing good about the Hume from a riding perspective. It’s flat, straight and mind-numbing (as are most freeways). To give you some small idea of what it’s like (for the non-riders amongst my readers), when you’re on a great, engaging road where you have to focus on the next corner, your line, your balance on the bike, what gear you’re in, the road condition, time disappears – 10-15-20 mins disappear along with many corners. The only recollection is the grin on your face by the end of it.

Seymour
Seymour

On the freeway there’s little to engage your brain – time slows and things seem to take forever. I believe this ‘mind numbing’ behaviour leads to more incidents and crashes. When your mind is engaged, good things happen. Somewhere along here I picked up a riding buddy on an orange Hayabusa with ‘QIKAS’ numberplate. We rode together for a long time, and that in itself helped break the mind-numbingness. Thanks for the companionship, Mr QIKAS! 🙂

At Seymour, there was a detour off the freeway for some reason so I took this as a sign to stop for a stretch and top-up of water and lollies. I also took the chance to take another pic of the bike, this time with not much shade!

Back onto the Hume for the last stretch of riding. Nothing to report here except how boring it was (for those that wondered why I didn’t go down through Healesville, Kinglake or any other method into Melbourne is that all I need to do when near my destination is turn left off Sydney Rd (which the Hume becomes).  I really didn’t want to battle with Melbourne streets/traffic at the end of my trip, so opted for the ‘simplest’ method. Even then, I zigged when I should have zagged and ended up following the freeway down to Cooper St Epping, a small 10 min. detour saw me back on track.

Day 03 route
Day 03 route

I arrived at my destination just after 6pm. The summary is that this was one of the best days of riding I have ever done! I was determined to not let any of my past demons rear their ugly head (more on that in a future post). Riding with a few good friends is awesome – riding with a large pack of riders isn’t as good as it introduces confusion and conflict, plus with differing skill levels, the group can become very splintered. During Day 1 (2-3 riders I have ridden with many times) and Day 2 (with 3 extra riders whom I’ve ridden with a couple of times before) we actually had a great group of people to ride with. No-one scooted too far ahead, I rode at my own pace (something I have not always done) and it turned out to be extremely pleasant for everyone concerned.

Day 3 Start time: 8am; Distance: 678km;  Finish time: 6:10pm. Day 3 Route Map!

A big THANK YOU to my riding buddies on this trip; AB, Trev, Greg, Gary, Paul 7 RAB. You know who you are 🙂