Friday, November 28, 2014

28 November - The (Down Under) Adventures of ScooterBob

My regular readers may remember that my blog of 27 October noted the passing of fellow motorcycle blogger Bob (BobSkoot) Leong in August Riding the Wet Coast (British Columbia, Canada). I never had the opportunity to meet Bob, but we followed each other's blogs and exchanged the occasional email. The outpouring of sympathy and comment from the blogosphere confirmed that Bob, through his blog and through personal contact, which he always welcomed, had touched many people and we will all miss his sharing his almost daily record of his experiences, good and bad, and on and off the motorcycle. Bob had lots of plans for future motorcycle trips and some of his fellow enthusiasts came up with the brilliant idea of ScooterBob. ScooterBob is a small wooden carving of a Vespa motor scooter which at one time belonged to Bob. The brilliant idea is that Scooter Bob would travel the world and be taken on motorcycle adventures, that Bob would have enjoyed,  by Bob's blogging friends and that the ongoing record of Scooter Bob through various blogs would perpetuate the spirit of this enthusiastic and charismatic man.

I expressed an interest in hosting ScooterBob down under in Australia, and last week my post lady delivered him to the front door. Today, on a brilliant sunny Australian spring day I took Scooter Bob on his first Australian adventure to the old gold mining town of Walhalla. This 'ghost' town is located in the mountains to the north of my house and has been a frequent motorcycle destination for me and any visitors who ride with me. Our first stop was the Tyers lookout which provides a good overview of the Latrobe Valley where I live.

This spot provides a great view of the rural landscape dotted with the occasional large power stations.

Walhalla was a major gold producer over a period spanning the 1870's to around 1910. This photo shows the vault where all the gold was stored prior to transport to Melbourne.

The value of gold stored in this vault, in today's money is about $1.4 billion dollars. Today, this town which once had a population exceeding 4,000 now has a mere handful of inhabitants who maintain a small but vibrant range of tourist activities including visits to one of the old gold mines.

One of the few intact reminders of the glory days is Windsor House, once owned by a rich merchant which is now restored and is operated as a B&B.

While much is gone, much remains and a number of dedicated residents have, over the past few years restored some of the key buildings. There are reminders of 'the old days' wherever you look.

My adventures with Scooter Bob will continue for a few more weeks until is time to pass him onto the next of Bob Leong's friends. My rides will go the places I think Bob would have enjoyed. Although I never met him, I think I got to know him a little through his blogs and I know for certain I would have like him a lot.

Total distance 130 km.

Monday, November 24, 2014

22-24 November - SRA Weekend in Halls Gap

Shadow Riders Australia (SRA see link above) is an owners group for Honda Shadow Owners with hundreds of members around Australia.
A couple of our members based in Horsham arranged a weekend event to take place in the Grampians, a mountainous and spectacular part of Victoria located some 250 km West of Melbourne.
I joined up with a couple of Melbourne members early on Saturday afternoon and we then assembled with a larger group on the Western Highway and after a brief catchup and chat the group roared down the freeway headed for Halls Gap in the Grampians. Took a coffee stop in Beaufort and a necessary fuel stop in Ararat where we left the highway and headed for the hills. When we reached the Grampians Motel (picture above was the view from my room) we were joined by other members from as far afield as Albury - a six hour ride away. The afternoon was spent putting a serious dent into a cooler full of ice-cold drinks and this was followed by a really good dinner at the motel restaurant. The menu, service and the food was excellent and if the volume of the conversation was anything to go by a good time was had by all. As the end of dinner approached the motel proprietor lit a huge bonfire on the front lawn and the festivities continued around this huge fire.

At 9:30 the next morning, after a great breakfast it was time to head off on a scenic ride of the Grampians, led by our local members Mutley and Corky. What a ride it was - the Grampians feature a number of spectacular lookouts which provide fantastic views of the surrounding countryside.

Despite ample evidence of destruction caused by fairly recent bushfires our ride was spectacular and over all too soon as we rolled into a local hotel for lunch. After lunch our hosts led us on another spectacular ride to Dunkeld a small town south of Halls Gap. Here we enjoyed afternoon tea/coffee in an outstanding bakery/cafe, for a bit of a top up before the long ride home.

Corky joined us on her recent acquisition - a bright red CanAm Spyder.

Then, it was time for goodbyes and soon a group consisting of those of us based in Melbourne and beyond commenced the long trek home. Luckily I had been invited to spend the night in Ringwood at the home of a fellow rider and when we pulled into his garage at 7 pm it was nice to get off the bike and enjoy a few beers and a BBQ'd T bone steak. No trouble getting to sleep last night but this morning I was woken by a loud thunder clap. Looked at the weather radar and the whole world seemed to be about to be over run by patches of dark blue. Forecast said rain and storms so after a hasty coffee it was back on the bike to see if I could outrun the approaching storm. I think I managed to just stay ahead of the worst of it and only experienced a few drops here and there.
A great weekend and home just in time.

Total distance 1080 km.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

12 November - Foster, South Gippsland

Today was another one of those days when the road beckons. It was sunny, warm and almost no wind so I took the Shadow for a ride with the original intention of going to Tidal River on Wilsons Prom. However by the time I reached Meeniyan I changed my mind and decided to have lunch at Bromleys in Foster instead. As I left fairly late, the return trip form Tidal River would have been a bit late. I never tire of this particular trip, over the Strzelecki's and then a lazy cruise along the South Gippsland Highway with hardly any traffic - an advantage of riding during the week. With a bit of time up my sleeve I decided to make the return trip via the Tara Valley/Bulga Park road and with the good weather linger this was a really enjoyable ride until I got to the Grand Ridge Road. That's when I hit long patches of recently repaired and unsealed road with quite a soft surface. OK, no real problem even on the cruiser, just maintain a steady (and slow) speed and watch out for the soft bits. All was going well until I came around a corner and was faced with this.

Yep, a road crew had just dumped tons of dirt and were in the process of grading and compacting it. The guy with the Stop sign thought it might be 10 to 15 minutes, so I parked the bike, switched off and got comfortable. Soon I was joined by other traffic including a huge timber jinker.
Just as well I was not in a great hurry because for the next 40 minutes or so a collection of rollers, graders and watering truck proceed to turn the piles of dirt into a road - well sort of.
Eventually we were able to continue on our way on the wrong side of the road with the assurance that nothing would be coming the other way. The rest of the ride was uneventful and enjoyable.

Total Distance 230 km.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

8 November - Olinda, Dandenong Ranges.

The last few weeks here in Gippsland have featured some unseasonably warm and even hot days.
This has provided lots of opportunities for quick rides. Nothing to blog about particularly but very enjoyable just the same. A few days ago after initially deciding not to ride the weather just steadily got better to the point where, at about 3 pm the urge became irresistible and I took the BMW up to Licola. This is one of those typical mountain villages which were once thriving due to gold mining of timber industries, but these days are just sleepy reminders of those times. The ride to Licola is through spectacular mountain country overlooking the Macalister River. Really enjoying the BMW (as well as the Shadow) at the moment and have, at this stage changed my mind about selling it.

Today the forecast was for 35ÂșC and so I decided to wear my mesh jacket to try and keep cool. Not sure how effective mesh jackets are. Below a certain temperature I think they help keep you cool but at some point the hot air reaching your skin actually heats the body. When you think about it, dessert dwellers go to great lengths to keep fully covered. In any case the jacket did enough most of the time to provide a really pleasant ride through the forests around Noojee and Powelltown and then through the Dandenong ranges too Olinda. Lunch and coffee at Pie in the Sky was sensational, and by this stage the weather was so pleasant I decided to ride back through the hills and the forests again. Very enjoyable and very memorable.

Interestingly between Noojee and Powelltown I was stopped for a breath test and a chat with the friendly policeman administering it. My zero blood alcohol reading ensured he stayed friendly.

There were also a lot of other bikes on the road, singles and groups. Quite a few acknowledgments from other riders - nothing showy, just a nod of the head or a lifted finger - just a recognition that those of us who ride know something non riders don't. I like it.

Couple of longer rides coming up, one is a weekend trip to Halls Gap in the Grampians with a group of Shadow Riders, and I'm also in the planning stages for a ride to Maroochydore Qld in March for the national AGM of the Shadow Riders. Looking forward to that.