Broken Bay Writers – Stories of NSW Central Coast and beyond

Scribbles on life, the universe and everything… Woy Woy, Ettalong, Umina and teh Central Coast that is!

Tag Archives: motorbikes

Hunter Valley Shiraz and two wheels – there is a god!!!

Sunday June 14 dawned a little grey, perhaps a chance of showers and a cool breeze was blowing the Ettalong Beach palms about. Undeterred Al and Judy cranked up the Triumph and headed north with great friends, Virginia and Tim. Muffled like burglars, with more layers than ‘Black Forest Cake’, we rode up the F3 and veered off to Freemans Waterhole. Once upon a time, when the world was simpler, and I was still

Nice bikes!

Nice bikes!

young, we used to stop a the giant Oak milk bar for the best milkshakes in New South Wales here. It is a little run down now but still good for a quick coffee and chat.

From Freemans the road wanders lazily over the mountain and into the beautiful Hunter Valley (http://www.winecountry.com.au/). Motorcycles buzz by in both directions, this is the last hurrah for the ‘fair weather’ riders, winter is well on the way. We ride through Cessnock and on to Pokolbin. I am looking for a winery described to me by a mate. I had a great Shiraz from there and was eager to find more. After all, the big bold Hunter Shiraz is legendary and I love em! Also, Judy and I have orders to fulfill from friends in Canada next month.

After some very friendly assistance from the guys at a petrol station in Cessnock, we venture to the back of the valley. The road turns to an unsealed number, dusting up the Triumph and Tim’s beautiful Harley Road King. After a small search – eureka! Audrey Wilkinson’s Vineyard (http://www.audreywilkinson.com.au/), resplendent with Shiraz vines planted in 1866.

The vineyard is gorgeous and, as we are now high on the hill, the view across the Hunter is stunning. A couple of wine tour buses are in so we don’t expect to get much attention. Happily, we were wrong. Ross was very helpful and even got our the private bin tasting stock. As it happens, I was hooked on an first class Shiraz at $20 a bottle. It was not long before a dozen had been organized for shipment home for the princely sum of $6 – BARGAIN!!! Shame I will have to share it with my buddy Marty (I promised him good Shiraz and he is putting us up after all). Curiously, Ross from the winery shares my birthday which had just passed. He was very helpful and lots of fun.

The ride home was a little cool to say the least. When we arrived home the road was wet and it turns out we had unwittingly been dodging rain all day! A great ride with great friends and a dozen very bold, peppery reds into the bargain!!! Life is good!

Into the Valley of Death..

Day 6 – Western USA Trip

Death Valley, California

Death Valley - At 7,500 feet - The Beemer is ready for action!

Death Valley - At 7,500 feet - The Beemer is ready for action!

I’m riding into “Death Valley”! One wonders if the name is significant. I am on a motorcycle with no shade and no friends! How bad could Death Valley be? Lets find out!

I cannot help but recall the words of Lord Tennyson referring to the Battle of Balaclava… “Into the valley of death rode Big Al”…

I’m up early in Lone Pine, California. I had checked the Beemer the night before and it was ready for the task… well, except for the leaking seal on the drive shaft that was lubricating the back brake disk quite nicely. No chance of a replacement seal in a small town high in the Eastern Sierras on I-395! I will have to go without rear brakes. Who needs em anyway!

My anticipation is maxed out!!! Death Valley is famously hot, dry and lonely. The names of places in and around Death Valley inspire wild images. Names such as Dante’s View, Devil’s Cornfield, Furnace Creek and Salt Creek. There is also the more prosaic Cottonwood Canyon, Mosaic Canyon and Grotto Canyon. The mind boggles!

The record temperature for this area is 134°F (56.7°C). Right now it is cool, high in the Panamint Ranges at 7,5000 ft above sea level so I have my trusty old black “brando” leather jacket on.

Death Valley - this strange black rock appeared as outcrops.

Death Valley - these glossy black outcrops appeared at the top.

The trip to the edge of Death Valley is essentially barren slopes and highly eroded rock. There is a strange black rock, looks like oil. It may be some sort of volcanic rock, it is very shiny and black. It comes and goes in outcrops. The land is dotted with the strange Joshua Trees (Yucca brevifolia)

I reach the edge of the main decent and stop for a quick photo op. There is nothing moving, just heat haze coming off the valley in the distance.

Fire up the Beemer and let it loose! The road is windy and often there is not much between you and eternity. The dodgy rear brake requires some adjustment in braking style into the corners. Occasionally I come into the corner a bit hot, I control the motorcycle and notice the sheer drop from the corner of my eye. My sphincter tightens! Adrenalin flows like vodka at a Polish wedding. I love it!

The first glance of the long straight roads appears. This is an awesome sight, the classical long road shot of many films. The road looks flat from a distance but it is a long series of “Whoop-d-doos”. YeeHaaaaaaa!!!!!!!

Death Valley - check those Whoop-d-doos!

Death Valley - check those Whoop-d-doos!

It is getting warmer by the minute, it was 127°F here last week. I need it hot for the bragging rights 🙂 It is the vulnerability when riding that makes it special. Out here, you really start to feel vulnerable. The smells, heat, dust, and huge alien expanse… riding, sensing and risking… it feels orgasmic!

Death Valley

Death Valley - near the bottom.

At the bottom is a small town called Stovepipe Wells. There is not a lot there… a Ranger station, gas, general store, bar and motel (don’t need much else I guess). The motel has a pool. A Dutch couple I chatted with over the western side of the valley had stayed here. At night they floated in the pool and watch the stars. It was pitch black and the stars went to the horizon – wish I had stayed there!

I fueled up at the gas station here and bought a Tee Shirt (“Got Water”). There was not many cars or people about. The temperature here was 112°F (44.4°C). I was hoping for hotter, Sydney gets hotter (but not by much – record for inland Sydney is 113.5 (45.3°C)).

Stovepipe Wells, Death Valley

Stovepipe Wells, Death Valley

Death Valley is home to the Timbisha tribe of Native Americans, they have lived in this place for about 1,000 years. You have to admire their hardiness, it gets real cold here in winter so they have both extremes to deal with.

I pick up a permit from the local ranger, he seems rather gruff. Perhaps concerned at a lone motorcyclist heading into the valley of death!

There are sandy dunes blowing across the road. It is barren and lifeless to the casual eye. I see no living creature but I know they are here somewhere. They are smart, they stay out of the heat.

I hit the lowest point on the road, 242 feet below sea level!

Here there is some dunes but mostly salt pans. There is little living here I feel.

Death Valley - 262 feet below sea level.

Death Valley - 242 feet below sea level.

The vastness of the valley started to dawn on me. I was on a 4,500 mile (7,000 km) ride with 2 weeks time. I had to move but wished I could explore this mesmerizing place. My brief flirtation with Death Valley took me over the Amargosa Mountains and on to Nevada.  I stopped at the Amargosa Opera House for a drink, it was a dry and dusty ranch.

By late afternoon I was in Vegas, looking for the BMW dealer who agreed to fix my Beemer overnight. I found a hotel with a view to the strip. I have been to Vegas many times and on this trip, I just wanted to relax and reflect on the great days ride. I found a great steak house, had a feast on a big lump of cow washed down with many cleansing ales… it was June 12, my birthday!

Amargosa Opera House

Amargosa Opera House

Death Valley

Death Valley - heading East out of Death Valley towards Beatty

The Old Pacific Highway!

Kit Kat and I lay in bed on Sunday morning, gazing out the window. The weather looked cloudy but dry across Broken Bay and my sudden urge to fire up the Triumph broke our reverie. Half an hour later, we were cruising past the Easter Sunday crowds at the local Churches. I could not help a wry smile at the number of devoted devil dodgers who ardently flock to places of worship  for two events of the year… I guess people are just too busy for god the rest of the time.

We headed straight for the Old Pacific Highway. Until the opening of the F3 in the 80’s, this two lane, twisty scenic drive was the main arterial heading north of Sydney. My childhood memories include the “bumper to bumper” snake of cars slowly writhing along the beautiful strip adjacent to the mighty Hawkesbury River.

Since the opening of the F3 freeway, the Old Pacific Highway is a mecca for motorcyclists. Fifty kilometers of windy road with a reasonable surface and very few four wheeled cages to dodge makes this the promised land. Relics of the “old days” litter the route, abandoned service stations and old stores.

The Aussie scenery is beautiful here. The road winds through grand sandstone bluffs and crags resplendent in grey, orange, red and yellow. The tortured trunks of Eucalypts with leathery green leaves hanging lazily above the road. Exultant stands of Gymea Lily raise their scarlet beacons as an offering to the heavens. The shrub layer bursting with Wattle, Ti Tree, Banksia and a carpet of native grasses and sedges.

The Triumph performs faultlessly. The occasional thump in the back, reminds me not to let the Bonnie go too hard. The road is damp in patches in the mornings, catching the occasional flashy sports rider off guard. We cross the first bridge over the F3, the traffic is light on the northern route. A couple of sports bikes slip by going the other way. This bridge is a favourite for wheel standing – nothing like grandstanding for the bored F3 crowd.

The sparkling Hawkesbury materializes through the early morning mist and the lush coastal forest. The air is pungent with the smell of salt water. One last bust of acceleration through the twisties and we lunge over the old bridge across the river. Kit Kat has gone from assaulting my back to massaging it… I relax back onto her caressing palms. The sun is warm on my face and I savor the salt air in my lungs.

Brekky is at a cafe near the Hawkesbury River train station. We eat eggs, bacon, mushrooms and toast. Kitty sips on her Chai Tea Latte and I down a strong Cap. A guy on a Harley “sportie” has wandered over to chat about the Bonnie. Nice bloke. One of the great things about being a rider is the connection you have with other riders. There has always been a great bond between two wheel enthusiasts. It gets tarnished occasionally by the bad guys but it still is there.

I am reminded of my former life riding a Beemer in British Columbia, Canada. Bikes go to the front of the line up for the vehicle ferries there. Riders, waiting for the ferry to load, circle each others bikes, checking them out and making comments to each other. It is a great ice breaker. I always think it reminds me of dogs and their ritual of greeting. Thankfully, this is less personal.

Kit Kat and I have a look around Brooklyn, not much is open on Easter Sunday. We head home back up the Old Pacific Highway and via Peats Ridge. We pass motorbikes and fruit stalls as we wind our way back to the coast. It is half way through the day and we are feeling very fine. Brekky and a lazy 120 kilometer round trip have made the day.

The Triumph is wet behind the ears… now!

The rain pelts down hard, leaving sheets of water across the F3 freeway north. Peering through the droplet distorted visor into the gloom ahead, I can see blurry shapes… mysterious red orbs warning me of the traffic surrounding us. I can’t see far, I lean forward… watchful as the lights flash about and we surf the puddles, resplendent in rooster tails of passing cars and trucks.

After riding about 240 kilometers we had stopped at Hornsby to “tog up”, put our rain gear on. Judy was concerned. This was the longest ride she had experienced on a road bike, she was starting to ache a bit but was in great spirits. Judy is an excellent passenger. It must be the early years when she rode dirt bikes. Judy is concerned about the heavy rain we are about to experience.

The 60 kilometers home in heavy rain goes well. The Triumph is very well behaved in the wet. I personally love riding in the rain. The blast of motorcycling comes from exhilaration and risk. The wet increases the risk and you ride accordingly. The F3 is boring under dry conditions. Add heavy rain and the equation changes. Your senses are heightened, alert and aware of the increased danger.

When you ride, you get many experiences that make it addictive… your senses are treated to smells, temperatures, risks, adrenaline and euphoria. To me, the danger reminds me of what I have and offers me a challenge. Although the danger is not always that high when riding, it is always there. When we face serious danger, death even, then we are most aware that we are alive!

On the road again!

The pain is over, no longer shall I roam the streets, desperate and bikeless. I finally took delivery of a brand spanking new Triumph Bonneville America. It is beautiful in black and chrome! The simplicity of this bike is wonderful. It is comfortable for passengers so Kitty will not be thumping me in the back all the time and we can lay down the miles.

The deal was good although the service was, well, non-existent. Luckily the whole process only took about 20 phone calls to arrange (note the sarcasm dripping off the screen). I am over that, now I have the bike all is forgotten.

I am not the same person without a motorbike. I just get such a thrill while riding, it is hard to explain. Yeaaaahhhh!!!!

Live to ride, ride to live!

Picking up the Triumph Bonneville America.

Picking up the Triumph Bonneville America.

Motorcycle Dreaming!

As the long hot summer of 2008/2009 continues the pain increases. I have been desperate and bikeless for six months now! This syndrome is akin to the feelings of anxiety that are stirred up with other situations that affect your natural balance. Listlessness, mood swings and feelings of being lost are prevalent right now. My partner tries to soothe my frayed nerves every time my head cocks sideways to the sound of a motorcycle.

I console myself with mental images of my next bike, perhaps a full tourer, perhaps a sports tourer or anything really. I like the new Triumph Bonnies, they take me back to a time of my life when things were very simple… a beer, a bike and the occasional girlfriend… and all the boxes were ticked. Now I suffer from Motorcycle Envy!

I am now in the process of looking for my next ride. Anticipation pumps through my veins. My imagination runs wild with possibilities. I am like a kid in a candy store as I look at lots of different bikes, always coming back to the Bonnie. It is not the tourer I thought I would be looking for. I just had a K1200GT Beemer in Canada for four years. I rode through nine western states of the USA and lots of western Canada… brilliant!

For now, the simplicity of the Bonnie and the memories of a simple time in my life are calling to me. The Bonnie will get me back “on the road” and that is critical. I want to tour to the MotoGP at Phillip Island later in the year, the Bonnie will be fine I’m sure. I have not been in the country for the past five years so I have missed my annual odyssey to the Island.

I continue my search for “the” bike. Now that I am “in the market” the anxiety subsides marginally but does not vanish completely… there is only one antidote for a full recovery… I hope it is administered soon!!!