Saturday, January 23, 2016

23 January - Beemer Time

Bit cool and overcast today but OK for a ride and the Beemer hadn't been out for a while so I took off for Mirboo Nth for lunch at the InLine 4 cafe in Mirboo North today. Glad I did. Parked outside was a beautifully restored 350cc Ariel motorcycle.
Chatted with the owner for a while. He has owned it for over 25 years and restored it himself. He was also wearing a period helmet with brass goggles. He really looked the part.
Not sure how good it would be to ride, no suspension other than a sprung seat, and drum brakes, but it certainly looks like a classic motorcycle from years gone by.
After feasting my eyes on this beautiful machine and a tasty lunch I carried on to Meeniyan. One of my favourite stops there is the Chess Cafe owned by Gunner an elderly Norwegian gentleman who is alway good for a great coffee and a chat. Toward the end of last year I visited frequently only to find the place locked up and I became quite worried about Gunner's health. Today he was open and it was great to catch up. He had indeed been sick with pneumonia but has fortunately made a full recovery.

Total Distance 150km

Monday, January 18, 2016

15-17 January - Mt Hotham and Wandiligong

Over the past few years, January has usually been the best time for a ride across the Australian Alps to Bright and Wandiligong to visit family there. On the right day, the usually forbidding (for motorcycles anyway) Mt Hotham becomes a spectacular motorcycle ride providing lots of winding road and spectacular views. Luke and I set off from Traralgon at 09:00 with our first stop for coffee and fuel in Bruthen. The little village of Burthen marks the beginning of the great Alpine Road through Omeo and 'over the top'. At this stage the weather was fine and crisp. By Omeo though, the temperature had started to drop and looking up the mountain it seemed likely that a lot of our trip would be in fog. Time to don another layer of clothing and then we headed up the mountain. Although it got quite chilly on the way up we were pleased the find that we were still well below the cloud layer and we wouldn't have to ride in fog, which is never fun on a winding mountain road. By the time we reached the Mt Hotham ski resort the clouds had completely cleared and as we descended into the Ovens Valley on the other side the weather turned decidedly warm. We reached Wandiligong just before 3 pm and ready for a beer or two. Altogether a wonderful ride and a new experience for Luke.

The plan for the next day was to undertake some little rides in the area around Bright, and after getting into all our motorcycle gear, I found I couldn't move my bike. Looked down to find a flat front tyre. So, I sent Luke on his way to explore the local area so that I could deal with the flat tyre. By now it was 11:30 am on a Saturday morning with most businesses closing at noon, which could have meant an extended stay in Wandi. Contacted a local tyre dealer (and biker) Adrian Smith who said he would stay back to fix the tyre and yes he had a new tube - things were looking up. The road side assist truck showed up and we loaded the Honda and soon Adrian had the front wheel off the bike.
Up to this point I had assumed the tyre and the tube had been punctured but what we found astounded me. The issue was that the tyre valve had vibrated loose and let the air out. Adrian explained that it's a common issue and usually occurs when you check the tyre pressure. The best way to protect against that is to use only metal valve caps. These will seal the tyre even if the valve is loosened whereas the plastic ones won't. Too make doubly sure we immersed the tube in a water bath and checked the tyre for nails etc. but found nothing.
So, an hour later everything was back to normal and I was on the road again. I decided to kick back and take a rest day after all that. I am very grateful to Adrian Smith of Smith Tyre Service, Bright for giving up part of his Saturday afternoon to look after me. Great to see there are still people happy to help out and provide a great service.
Yesterday, after another great evening sitting around a campfire and catching up with family, it was time to take the non mountainous route home. We were on the road by 08:00 and the first stop was breakfast at the Millawa Bakery Cafe right in the middle of some Australia's best wine and cheese country. Continued down through the King Valley winery region around Whitfield and then a fuel stop at Mansfield at the foot of Mt Buller. It was almost perfect riding weather and it was a pure joy to travel through this marvellous scenery and then down to the Black Spur for afternoon coffee in Healesville. The Beechworth bakery in Healesville has become a Mecca for weekend warriors - there must have been 50 bikes parked in the car park. After a relaxing iced coffee it was time for the final leg home via Yarra Junction, Powelltown and Neerim. Even with the flat tyre incident a magnificent motorcycle outing.

Total Distance 860km

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

5 January - The Start of a New Year

The New Year has started with days that were too hot to ride followed by days which were wet. Still managed a few short rides here and there. My main focus of the past couple of days were to complete my photos of the old Cowarr house before the remains are demolished and gone forever. As I mentioned in my 22 December blog, I managed to catch up with Steve the owner of the land and received his permission to enter his property and take whatever shots I wanted. Because the house is in such a dilapidated state I checked it out this morning for hazards on a grim and drizzly day.
This actually provided a photo opportunity because everything looked so bleak.
As always there is a much better version of this photo located here.
While I was inside the old wreck I also took this image (Room with a View).
The Flickr version is located here.
As I suspected, all the flooring and support timbers are in an advanced state of decay and I didn't really fancy staggering around inside, in the dark with a lot of lighting equipment. The floor seemed unable to bear my weight so I planned the location of my lighting for the night shots by using some sheets of corrugated iron laying around.
Went back this evening just on dusk and placed three flashes inside the house with wireless triggers and finally managed to get this shot.
I was very happy with the outcome but not with the blog version of the image. Much better to check out the Flickr version is located here.  

So that's it. The next time I ride past here it will be a pile of ashes and all that history will be gone.

Monday, December 28, 2015

28 December - Mt Baw Baw

Mt Baw Baw is part of Australia's Great Dividing Range and is the nearest ski resort to my home in Traralgon. As you would expect the access road is a winding black ribbon which climbs up the mountain through farmland in the lower stretches and then through forests of eucalypts and giant tree ferns. The mountain is part of a plateau about 1,500m above sea level and visible from just about anywhere in the Latrobe Valley. The forecast today was for a fine hot day and so a ride up to a ski resort seemed the ideal choice and it was. Riding a seemingly endless succession of horseshoe and hairpin bends on the BMW was a sheer pleasure. Temperatures started in the mid 20's at the bottom dropping to 13ºC by the time I reached the top.
There were plenty of cyclists on the road tackling the steep climbs of around 12% and even reaching 20% for short stretches. I'll stick with motorcycling. Adding to the sheer pleasure of this ride in summer are the abundant wild flowers growing on the roadside, and the endless flocks of crimson rosellas darting across the road at times passing within inches of my visor. The alpine village at Baw Baw was quite busy with day trippers and the local cafe was serving great coffee and doing steady business. Quite a few motorcycles around too.
On the return trip I stopped off at the little village of Tanjil Bren, which started life as a gold prospector's camp site more than a century ago. There isn't much to look at here but I did spot a wigwam which is not a common sight in Australia, or maybe it's a teepee - not sure. 
I was hoping to see a sign explaining its presence but no such luck. It was nice to get to the bottom of the mountain again and to return to summer temperatures.

Total Distance 245km 

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

22 December - Paynesville

After a four day heatwave today promised to be a milder day and I decided to ride the cruiser to Paynesville on the Gippsland Lakes and home of our close friends John and Sandra. Despite a fairly strong wind, the ride was enjoyable and it was great to catch up over lunch. On the way back I called in to St Mary's church in Bairnsdale, not for any devotional purpose but to get some exposure bracketed photos to try out new HDR software called Aurora HD by Macphun. I chose this building because it promised high dynamic range of light but also because the church is famous for its frescoes, painted in 1931-4 by Italian artist Francesco Floreani who was out of work and commissioned by the parish priest. The church now receives up to 80,000 visitors per year which is a lot in a regional town some 300km from Melbourne.

The technique here is to combine three photos (over, under and correctly exposed) which are then merged and tone mapped to capture the full dynamic range. The compressed version here in blogger doesn't do it justice of course but the original can be viewed by clicking here.

The return ride from Bairnsdale was very pleasant with temperatures around 20ºC.  My route often takes me past an old abandoned farm house and last year I photographed it.
I've noticed lately that it is starting to fall apart rather rapidly and I have been hoping to catch up with the owner to gain permission to take some night photos. The idea is to photograph it at dusk with lighting inside the actual building. As luck would have it I caught up with the elderly farmer Steve, showed him this photo and asked his permission to take the night shots. He was delighted with my interest and very impressed that I actually spoke to him first. Anyway he told me to do whatever I wanted - so that's a project immediately after Christmas. I found out the house was abandoned in 1957! I will catch up with Steve again to give him prints of my work and to chat some more about the history of this area. 

Total Distance 280 km

Thursday, December 17, 2015

16 December - Photography

During my motorcycle outings I try to incorporate my interest in photography in these activities and mostly try to include images to illustrate the description of my rides. Photography is an all absorbing hobby of mine and through the blog, over the years I have corresponded with visitors interested more in the images than the actual motorcycling. I always enjoy this kind of feedback and that has led me to develop a photographic presence on Flickr where I post my dabbling with the camera which are mostly non motorcycle related.

For anyone reading this who would like to see some of my photographic output I have included a link called My Flickr Images on the sidebar of this page, and I regularly update this collections with new material.

Here is an additional link to My Flickr Images.

Monday, December 7, 2015

4 December - Wilsons Prom

Rode to Wilsons Prom today. A fine still day and not too hot so I was able to wear my mesh jacket without the liner. Discovered an new cafe in Fish Creek called Nine Acres and had an early lunch there. Fantastic place, excellent coffee and great food. Then, on to the prom to take a few photos and the first was at Whiskey Bay.
A bit of a walk from the car park (especially in motorbike gear) but well worth it. Quite a few people enjoying themselves sun baking and frolicking the blue waters.
Felt like an ice-cream by then so on to Tidal River before starting the trip home. On the way back I wanted to take some photos on Squeaky Beach but the tide was out and the shots I wanted will have to wait for another day. Quite a serious beach cricket match going on though and sat and watched that for a while.
Returned home around 4:30 after a very enjoyable ride of 320 km on the Beemer.

It's that time of the year again and I thought I would include a picture of our Christmas tree as I wish everyone a great Christmas and a Happy 2016.