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Ride of the Hard Men...

Winter Weekend Ride 16-18 June 2023

Day One

I’m running late, I’ve been held up at work but now have three days ahead of me and I try to focus on that rather than worry about my tardiness. I scoot along Illawarra Highway towards the meeting place at Sutton Forest in the cool but crisp winter air, the sky a watery blue without even a trace of a cloud. As I pull into the Shell I see them, six of the hardest of the hard, the sun glints off their helmets and their noble steeds with the bright reflections of a hard cut diamond. Assembled are Ducati Rob, Pointless Dave, Beemer Greg, Chatty Mick, Dad Joke Richard and finally the bringer of this fine weather, Tony Sunshine Moses. Greetings are exchanged and we set out upon the adventure of a lifetime.

A quick drone down the freeway brings us in to Goulburn, named from the aboriginal word for school zones, of which there are between two and three hundred that we pass through before being spat out on the Crookwell Road. The sun is blazing brighter and brighter as the temperature drops with our ascent to Crookwell, we pass the majestic giants of the wind farm and I marvel at man’s dominance of our environment in the quest for renewable energy to save the environment. Hmm. A quick stop for brunch and coffee reveals Chatty Mick’s appreciation for fine dining with the scoffing of a Chiko Roll.

We refuel and head north along the winding road to Tuena where we regroup. Mick hands to lead to me as he has noticed I have been chomping at the bit to increase our speed above a gentle cruise. My fine BMW scrabbles for traction as we take off, the road starts with a series of tight bends up and over the range and down to Abercrombie River and across a narrow bridge. I have a lucky break with passing an aged Toyota and soon leave the pack behind. The route is scenic, but I have eyes only for the road, the big BMW and I gel, the beat of it’s engine synchronises with the beat of my heart, we swing from bend to bend in a symphony of speed, soft g forces push me into the seat through bends and makes us as close as two lovers could ever possibly be. All too soon the village of Trunkey Creek comes up, I park up and lay back on the grassy verge, spent.

Having got that need out of my system I hand the lead back to Chatty Mick and we proceed to Millthorpe via the oddly named village of Barry (we bypassed Neville). Milthorpe is a well preserved heritage village, like Berrima on steroids. We enter a coffee shop, the owner looks aghast at the intrusion of the hard men, and horrified at our choice to sit outside, but the hard men do not fear the cold, they embrace it as we scoff our coffee and cupcakes.

A quick trip takes us into Bathurst and a lap around the holy grail of motor sport, Mt Panorama. The top offers panoramic views of the area as we speculate as to how the mountain got its name. We take one more lap of the track and head into town towards our accommodation. Sunshine Moses and I miss a traffic light and take a scenic trip around Bathurst while the rest settle into our hotel. Eventually I realise that the premises I thought was a strip club is actually our lodgings, and we too book in. We settle in for a few well deserved beverages and a fine meal, and stay up till the wee small hours of 8:30pm. We turn in with the understanding that we will set off again in the morning at first light, or nine o’clock, whichever comes latest.

Day Two

I sleep soundly and awake refreshed, I exit my room to find a thick fog and a grumpy bunch of hard men who have slept in their gear as I had the only room with a working heater while the night temperatures plummeted far below freezing. We delay our departure with breakfast in Bathurst and as the fog starts to lift we head off. After a few minutes we burst out of the fog into more glorious sunshine, we cruise through the quaint village of Sofala, cold and still, the only people moving a suspicious looking group of youths of middle eastern appearance who scramble for the safety of their lowered four wheel drives at the sight of the hard men. We ascend to the historic gold mining town of Hill End, a town now protected by NPWS for posterity.

We walk the quiet streets and I find it hard to imagine that the empty street studded with half a dozen preserved buildings is all that is left of a once bustling commercial district of two storied hotels and dozens of stores, an occasional stone sticking up all that remains of their foundations. One dwelling seems to still be inhabited and is generously decorated with gargoyles. Dad Joke Richard tells us it belonged to a dentist who used them to remind his customers to gargoyle after brushing. Groan. A stop for refreshments at the general store sees Beemer Greg playing his version of the shell game passing change back and forth with the shop attendant who finally thrusts his change at him and warmly tells him not to come back. So rattled is the store clerk that I get my snack half price and she goes off to have a Bex and a nice lie down.

We take a tour of an abandoned gold mine (the tour guide politely declines Mick’s offer to show his underwear) and take off to Mudgee, passing through the hamlet of Kundalini, I think I see a man in a red leather jacket looking for his hand but the moment is gone in an instant. We find our lodgings easily and check in. Beemer Greg uses the same charm on the inn keeper as he used earlier on the shop keeper and makes another firm friend.

After finding the chef for the pub next door is homeless and lives out of his car we decide to get dinner downtown where we are serenaded by a one man band, the depths of whose astonishing lack of talent is matched only by his self confidence and profound belief that volume is a substitute for rhythm and melody. Ducati Rob, Dad Joke Richard and I leave the others to it and have a night cap in Mudgee’s quietest pub as we plan future rides way into the night before turning in at almost 9pm.

Day 3

A glorious clear day with nary a breath of wind greets us the next morning and we get away earlier than planned (despite being dirty stop outs the night before), each of us eager to greet the day. We head towards Rylstone, to our left the sun has come up over the mountains to warm the road but there are still banks of fog nestled against the bosom of the foothills, they look fluffy and soft and I feel a man could sleep in their cool misty embrace forever. Majestic old gum trees cast long shadows in the paddocks, but the shadows are lighter than where the sun hits because of a blanket of crisp white frost. The road follows a creek, the sun sparkles on its surface like a million diamonds floating along, and just like the creek the hardmen flow onwards, hard and bright as diamonds.

We park up in Rylstone opposite Rylstone Rural Supplies and Gym and get a fine breakfast. A Mini car club is in town, their comical little cars smaller than most of our bikes. They have bought along a Leyland P76 and I can only surmise that a broken down mini would fit in it’s boot. As we prepare to leave, Pointless Dave discards his neck scarf, a show of confidence in the warming day. I can’t share his cavalier disregard of the weather and keep mine on. We take a quick tour of the back streets of Rylstone as we leave but soon find the main road out. Traffic increases as does the presence of the Highway Patrol as we head toward Lithgow, we dribble through town and out the other side, where we turn off toward Oberon.

The weather starts to deteriorate as strong winds buffet us as we motor along the ridges and low grey clouds roll in causing temperatures to plummet. We have basked for the last two and a half days in the reflected glory of Sunshine Moses, but even his powers are limited. We make a quick fuel stop in Oberon where Dave dons his scarf. A grizzled old man who has lost his grip on reality tells us it’s not cold, just a bit windy. The service station attendant treats the old man with kindness and sits him down while she calls the nice men in white coats to come and collect him.

We roll out of town, the wind howls, rain falls on and off, the sky gets darker and darker and the clouds descend so low it seems we could touch them. I am at the back of the pack, the cold numbs my hands and dulls my senses, my confidence in the road surface erodes and I have trouble keeping the hardmen in sight.

We pull into Taralga and waft past the friendly Highway Patrol car greeting visitors to the town and pull up at the hotel. Half the hardmen are stopping but I have had enough, I’m cold and just want to go home and have a hot shower and get into bed. I know if I stop now it will be impossible for me to face the weather once more. I tag along with Ducati Rob and Beemer Greg who have also elected to get home. The drone up the freeway, usually purgatory for me becomes an easy and convenient way to get home. I peel off in Moss Vale and pull up at home. I’m cold, I’m damp,I’m tired, I smell of exhaust fumes but it’s the best weekend I can remember, I’ll do it all again soon…

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