Club Ride 1 0 th February 201 3 By Peter Hubach
The average maximum daily temperature for Perth in January is 31 ºC. The forecast for the day of this ride was for a high of 41 ºC. It would be hotter in the wheat belt, where we were heading. Welcome to an Australian summer, where motorcycling promises blasts of hot wind with the occasional and therefore much appreciated, cooler zephyrs. Smells are accentuated in these conditions, there would be the eucalypt leaf and bark aromas in the forest and the wheetbix-like goodness of the dried stubble, out in the paddocks. The inviting though relative coolth of shade would be exploited and the relief of walking into an air-conditioned pub from a sunbleached car-park would be welcome. The departure point at the Dead Rooster side of the Caltex garage in Midvale proved a popular spot. It was a perfect summer’s morning, blue and clear with the promise of heat to come. Geoff was there sporting a new haircut and his old Bandit. He appeared to be attracting Harley Davidsons. Surely not all of these pirates wanted to join our ride? It turned out that they were assembling for a ride to “Bless the Bikes”, similar to the blessing of the fleet. Quite appropriate really considering their reputation for handling like boats, those riders need all the help they can get. Nick K arrived on his brand new Kawasaki Z1 000. It will never be that clean again. Nick, not known for his right wrist restraint, was worried that country riding and the break in procedure of the new bike would be an unhappy marriage. Fred and Robin dropped by to give us the new club banner that hadn’t seen the light of day for over a year. They declined to join the run, shyly mumbling something about marital duties or horrible booties, I didn’t quite hear them because of the rumbling from the pirates’ machines who had now separated from us and were sensibly gathered in the shade whilst we stood out in the full sun without a bandanna between us. Nine bikes headed north along the base of the Darling Scarp. The group included Anne as pillion on Steve’s ZZR 11 00, Russell’s son James as pillion on his Ninja 650 and visitor Sataesh on his Triumph Street Triple. Craig D also joined us for a sealed road ride on his latest KLR 650, this one mercifully sporting some kind of baffle in the exhaust.
We climbed the scarp up through Brigadoon and on to the gloriously dippy route that connects to Obrien Road. It was getting warmer though the breeze of riding kept us refreshed as did the G forces compacting rider, bike and suspension as we plunged down the vanishing slopes that hid behind the road horizon and careered up the other sides.
It was not too warm for a morning coffee and cake at the Toodyay bakery. There were quite a few motorcycles doing mainies here before escaping back to Perth to avoid the full blast of the forecast heat. You could tell that rain wasn’t predicted by the number of glittering cruisers on the road. The probability of rain is inversely proportional to the square of the cubic capacity of the cruisers encountered in any kilometre of road within 1 50km of Perth. Most don’t get further out than that. Beyond this boundary, the normal laws of meteorology apply, you look for black cockatoos.
Nick K decided that prudence was called for considering his well known lack of carpus control. The prospect of wide open country roads with sweeping corners would prove too much temptation and he risked over-stretching his new bike’s motor. So Nick separated from the group and made his way home alone. Having tested his new haircut on chatting up the young lady at the bakery, Geoff led us up the Goomalling road, across the stagnant Avon River and into the last hilly terrain before the wheat belt flops across the landscape like an over-baked soufflé. This area has an abundance of signs pointing towards Bolgart. In another life, EJ and Nick W had been bemused by so much signage. Surely Bolgart would turn out to be a major local attraction? Sadly, when they finally arrived at Bolgart for the first time they were reminded of Sir Bob Geldof’s remark when he first clapped eyes on a similarly remote town, “Is that it?”, he is recorded saying of Timbuktu.
Now EJ was re-living the Bolgart Sign Scenario and subconsciously avoiding any turn in a Bolgart direction. She over-took Geoff, the ride leader, later claiming that she didn’t recognise him because of his new haircut, and powered off towards Goomalling, ignoring the prescribed left turn to Bolgart.
I was the Tail End Charlie and when I arrived at the turn off with it’s collection of motorcycle riders I was told of EJ’s decampment. I set off on the Burgman in hot pursuit. I never seriously thought that I would catch her, she had quite a head start. I did think that soon, EJ would realise there were no motorcycles in front or behind her and pull over to wait for the others to catch up. It’s amazing how many black tree stumps can look like EJ standing next to a parked BMW from some distance away. Stumps that when you get nearer, look nothing like a BMW. “Goomalling” means In local dialect, “Place of the silver-grey possum”, and that is where I found EJ, cruising slowly through the back streets. “Where is everyone?”, she asked. “They are all back at the Bolgart turn off wondering where you are.”, I replied. “There was no corner marker!”, EJ affirmed in her club secretary voice. “That’s probably because you over took the ride leader.”, I suggested. “Oh!”, was her reply as the realisation that a fine and a turkey award was looming. Thanks to the marvel of cell phones and two yearly locked in account payments, EJ was able to communicate with Geoff. We arranged to meet the group at the BP Goomalling, which Geoff estimated they would reach in about an hour travelling the correct route through Bolgart, north almost to Calingiri and then turning east to Goomalling. After staying a few minutes at the BP Goomalling and noting what effect a prolonged stay had on their pizza sign, we decided to ride down the Calingiri road and meet them. This is a beautiful road. It has a mixture of long straight stretches that touch the horizon, gently sweeping corners during which you can feel the planet dip below your wheels and tighter bends demanding some body language when negotiated at speed, which is the way we negotiated them. It also has marvellous patches of salmon gums whose orange stained bark colonnades framed the duck egg blue sky. It was too hot for ducks though. EJ and I were in no hurry, we knew the group would be along soon enough. We had time for EJ to photograph all the Bolgart signs and for me to dash off a water colour of a ruined farm house. We arrived at the junction with the Bolgart – Bindi Bindi Road before them. It now being about 40ºC, we decided not to stand out in the sun and took shelter in some shade a little way down the road. When the group arrived, they were not expecting us to be there and they stopped near the junction in the full sun. EJ and I waved and shouted, but they didn’t see us. We had to walk out of the shade and do an interpretative dance in the middle of the road before they spotted us and rode over.
Geoff was so pleased to see us that he waved both arms over his head as he rode by, well thatâ€™s my understanding of his gesture.
So EJ and I followed the group back down that glorious road to Goomalling. This was the only fuel stop of the trip and both riders and machines required fuel. Lunch was not far away at the Jennacubbine Pub. But first Craig had to adjust something on his KLR. He had an ORATS tradition to uphold, something always rattles loose and requires tightening on these bikes, itâ€™s part of the fun.
It was a sweaty bunch of thirsty and hungry riders that parked under the ancient pepper tree at Jenna. Blinded by the sun-bleached car park, we found our way into the cool, tastefully restored interior and the promise of cold drink and hot animal protein. A young lady took orders for the slabs of flesh to be cooked to your required level of doneness, on the inside bar-b-q, mercifully some distance from our reserved table. Geoff took the trouble to inform this young lady all about our club and our rides, noting how she shot admiring glances at his new haircut. An extensive salad selection with hot potato bake and battered wedges could be heaped beside the charred carcass of your choice to complete this rapacious repast.
After such a feast, nobody seemed to want to ride far in the afternoon heat. It was a group decision to shorten the ride.
We headed south, across the Goomalling Northam Road towards Grass Valley. On the way we stopped at a wire horse standing amid farm clutter in a barren paddock. There was symbolism here, but I donâ€™t know what it symbolised, Manâ€™s transparently futile attempts to farm this landscape?
At Grass Valley we rode under the highway and around the town. Then we rode around the town again and back under the highway. Now Grass Valley is an OK sort of place, especially the pub, but I don’t think it warranted such a grand tour on such a hot afternoon. Spinning Compass award for Geoff? Though to be fair, we were now not adhering to the ride plan, so no pre-ride had been down for these roads. Anyway, Geoff led us down a very nice route that eventually joined the highway. Some riders chose to ride straight to Perth, Steve took pillion Anne directly home via the Great Eastern Highway. Russell stopped at the old servo in Bakers Hill. Pillion James was feeling the heat. Kim and I stopped to see if we could help. All that was required was a working tap. One was found on the west wall, the side in full sun. The copper pipe ran the length of the wall, an ideal solar heater for the water. We sluiced James down with the tepid water which brought almost immediate relief. Well, James said he felt better, maybe he just wanted us to stop pouring water over him. Russell then took James home and let us know later that everything was OK with James, who said he enjoyed the run and looked forward to the next one. So it was a diminished group that turned their headlights towards Wundowie. This is home turf for Geoff. We almost passed his front door as we meandered through Wundowie city centre and out into the forest. Bailup Road is very pretty in the section leading to Wooroloo. There are small paddocks leading down to a water course. The verge is lined with black boys and white barked Wandoo. It’s also one of the bumpiest roads I know as it approaches Wooroloo suburbs. Geoff took us the back way via Mayo Road, through some lovely forest glens, to Toodyay Road and a short hop to the Noble Falls Tavern. This was the designated end of the ride. Craig still had a fair way to go to get home to the affluent western suburbs. EJ had a bar-b-q to get to, so it was just Geoff, Kim, Sataesh and I that climbed the concrete steps up to the pub. In the main bar was an over-amplified septuagenarian belting out some seventies classic. The only other occupants of the bar was a gaggle of the singer’s family or friends distributed in a semi-circle around his electronics. They must have been either deaf or drugged, probably both. Everyone else had retreated to the beer garden, which was more beer than garden and appeared to use cigarette butts as mulch. Our fearless four escaped the cacophony, taking refuge in the deserted dining room. Here we used lounge chairs and tables as sound baffles and cringed for a group photograph in a remote corner. It had been a hot day’s ride that had seen expansive countryside, interesting roads, good food, a wayward rider, fines, an excuse to divert down a great road, and the company of people for which motorcycling is more of an experience than riding to a local coffee shop when the weather is not too warm, not too cold and not at all wet.