On a beautiful, warm and sunny early morning, the southern Sydney suburb of Rockdale is bathed in soft light. The air is still, birds are chirping and all is well with the world. The clock strikes 7AM and suddenly a deafening roar pierces the calm of the morning. The WPN is raring to go !
I get out on the M5 heading west and smirk under my helmet looking across at the massive lines of people making their way towards the city, Suckers! Get out on the Putty road and all is well till the first couple of corners of 10Mile. I realize something's not right. Im taking it quite easy but I'm still going wide in corners and not taking the lines I want to. But I just did 10 mile a couple of weeks ago and was really happy with my lines and had a blast so whats happening here? I try to ride it out and push harder but almost immediately scare myself silly on a bit of gravel and decide to take a break and think this through...I munch on the sandwich i'd packed and just relax in the shade and i've got a hunch on whats happening, im taking it TOO EASY ! Last time I was here I was attacking the corners and was really keyed up. Today, being the start of a long ride, i've been consciously trying to take it easy but I realize that's fucking up my natural riding style..I take off again deciding to ride naturally and not be artificially slow and my lines improve dramatically and my confidence soars. WhatTheFuck just happened?! Conventional wisdom says go slower and its safer but the WPN has a mind of it's own and it doesnt take kindly to pansy riders so i better just HTFU and hang on! Now i'm not a fast rider but just like on the Snowies trip i found yet again that the R1 rewards me with perfect precision and oodles of confidence when I decide to trust it over my survival reactions. Getting on the gas instead of backing off it usually results in predictable handling and really smooth cornering, which always left me with the feeling that i had plenty in reserve. At times like these, I try to remember Dean's words of wisdom (1 of many!) - The bike can do a lot more than what you'd ever need to ask of it in a road situation, you just need to trust it!
So 10mile was a breeze after that and i carried on through Singleton onto the backroad to Dungog. The road between Gresford and Dungog is especially picturesque even though the road surface is a bit patchy and the corners are unmarked which adds to the sense of adventure and i really enjoyed this section. Watched some cricket on the telly with the locals at the Dungog pub and then pushed on through to Gloucester, where i met up with Pete and the blue devil! There was unusual cop activity on Bucketts Way down to Taree and at 1 point we saw 6-7 cop cars hanging around, there mustve been some incident. Anyway, we had nothing to worry about as we always only do the limit ! We turned off Bucketts to Wingham and desperate to avoid the slab to Port Macquarie, we decided to try the unsealed section to Comboyne. It was an adventurous journey to say the least. The road is 25km of loose gravel that has steep switchbacks up a mountain through virgin rainforest. It was intense but fun and at the end of it the bikes were so covered in dirt, it looked like we'd just completed the Dakar rally! So we came into PortMac and the first thing we did (Dan would be proud of us) was find a carwash and scrub off the bikes.
Checked into a motel right at the beach and decided to hit the swimming pool. Im glad i went in 5 mins before big Pete because after he jumped in, there wasnt much water left in the pool!
Day2 dawned humid and sunny and we hit the Oxley with gusto. It just is a magic piece of tarmac, this Oxley, never ceases to please. There was a rally at Long Flat pub and there were a few Harley types hanging around as we passed through there. We saw more than a few looking decidedly hungover, which seems to suggest that much fun had been had overnight! A rather tough looking lady, wearing a cut sleeve leather vest, with finely worked arm muscles showing, was riding a harley up ahead as I started up the mountain. Her partner riding another Harley behind her, a sensible fellow, waved me through but this lady seemed like she had a point to prove. She took off in the straights and braked in every corner and seemed to be scared to lean the bike. I wished her all the best and went past as soon as I could. Dont know what happened to them they never made it to Gingers! Speaking to Gary, the owner at Gingers later, he mentioned that the Harley riders dont like to ride up the mountain and some of them turn back from or before Gingers! I cant imagine anyone on 2 wheels not wanting to have a bash up the Oxley! Anyway, we carried on our merry way up the Oxley and then cut onto the waterfall way down to Dorrigo, pissing off plenty of sober car people and generally making a nuisance of ourselves in the countryside. The last 30 odd kms of the Waterfall way coming into Dorrigo is absolutely fantastic. The road sits high along the ridge lines, with lush green mountains all along and a thin ribbon of black twisting through some sublime scenery. We stopped at Juan's Cafe Del Fuego for a bite, which is an interesting joint as it doubles up as Dorrigo's motorcycling museum. Juan came up and had a chat with us and on finding out that im of Indian background, he surprised me with his knowledge of indian history and culture, interesting guy! He remembered Dan too from some time ago and asked us to say Hi, so Hi Dan from Juan! Down Dorrigo mountain we went and then through the beautiful bellinger valley. It was hot and humid down in the valley and the river looked tempting for a dip but i let it go in favour of our pool back at PortMac, still wish i'd taken the plunge! The slab between Urunga and PortMac dragged on and on and on....and the only thought that kept us going was the pool and the spa in our hotel! We sat extra long in the hot spa that evening and i saw more bubbles than usual in Pete's spa tub (there were 2) but may have just been my imagination...
Day3 was departure day and i chucked a left onto the Pac Hwy thinking we're gonna hav a nice and easy ride up Bucketts and be back home in time for lunch but Big Pete obviously had other ideas as no sooner had i got onto the Hwy, he came steaming past and started flailing his arms around wildly in the motion of a fish going through water. I thought, yeah great he wants to go fishing now! Anyway,i pulled over and he said "I thought we're going through the twisties". Oh! Thats what you meant with the fish motion! Turns out in all the drunken revelry of the night, we'd forgotten to confirm the route for the next day. Well, it took me all of 2 seconds to say yes to another bash of the Oxley so we chucked a Uee and away we went! I was taking it easy today, just enjoying the rhythms of the curves, concentrating on getting smooth lines rather than speed and it was such fun, the WPN is like a dear friend when you ride it right and i think it was rewarding me for coming back to the Oxley coz it was on its best behaviour! Fuelled up at Walcha and went thundering down Thunderbolts hwy, which is certainly enjoyable but the road surface is pretty patchy in parts, especially around the mountain where the lookout is. Coming down the mountain, around a particularly tricky bend, we saw a poor fellow had come off on his R1. Luckily he was OK and the bike was ridable. He was an older guy who'd been riding sportsbikes for ages and he said he had done some crazy stuff on his Kwakka ZZR before he got the R1 and he wouldnt have come off if he was still on his ZZR and that the R1 was a piece of shit! Needless to say, i took strong objection to his views and didnt feel the need to hang around such classless folk ! It was a quick run down from Gloucester to the highway, where the heat and humidity of the coast were shocking after the pleasant weather of the highlands. We slabbed it down till the Peats Ridge exit and copped a bit of rain as we coasted down Old Pac to finish off a fantastic trip.