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Ride of the Rylstone Cowboys

Day One: Sign of the Apocalypse.

Some say that a the sun being eclipsed or the ocean turning to blood are signs of impending doom, that a broken mirror or black cat will bring misfortune, but as I turn up at the Sutton Forest Shell under a grey sky of low cloud I am met with a sign that trumps all.


Tony “Sunshine” Moses is in wet weather gear...


I am struck speechless, the hard men greet me but there is a ringing in my ears, the world feels like it has been knocked off its axis, all that I have held dear has gone. I am in a daze as we take off for the drone down the freeway.


There is a light drizzle that dogs us to Goulburn where we fill up, at least it’s warm so while I’m a little damp I’m not cold and I’m starting to enjoy the ride. Drizzle and wet roads follow up to Taralga where we stop at the general store for coffee and a rest before the next leg of our journey to Oberon.

The sky is still grey but the drizzle abates as speeds rise and I am in the vanguard with Dapper Rod and chatty Mick, my trusty R1100RS nipping at their heels despite a thirty year deficit in handling and suspension. On one bend Rod points out over the cliff face that the road clings to-a wedge tail eagle glides just off the road, soaring in the updraft, he eyes us as if we can challenge his majesty, as well we may. My eyes return to the road and the other two are gone-was this a ploy by Dapper Rod to pull ahead? The weather continues to improve as we come to our lunch stop in O’Conner between Oberon and Bathurst and I lose the wet weather gear. After a pause that refreshes we take the back road through Tuena and the tiny hamlet of Rydal, a neat little railway station and pub being about the totality of the place. 


We pop out onto the Great Western Highway and then on to the Castlereagh Highway where a highway patrol car passes going the other way, low and sleek and sinister as a shark. Being good law abiding citizens he pays us no attention. Being good law abiding citizens the second highway patrol car that passes no more than two minutes later also ignores us. We regroup at the Rylstone turn off and Scooter John tries to out GS the GS brigade with some serious off roading. After we pull him out of the ditch we proceed to our day’s destination.


The Rylstone hotel offers us cold beer and shade and we sit and discuss the day’s ride, I feel a bit out of place as we appear to be the only patrons of the hotel who aren’t local, or at least the only patrons with parents that aren’t siblings. Beemer Greg comments on how similar everyone looks, and I can’t help but agree, but I suppose the toothless smiles and pointy heads of the locals makes them all look alike. After dinner we sit on the hotel’s verandah and Rod announces he has organised a treat for us-a fireworks display that he has allowed the annual Rylestone Show to share. We drift off to bed one by one and dream of the day to come.


Day 2: Pointless Dave and the Causeway of Doom


Sunday dawns fine and after a morning shower in the bathrooms nearly sparkling following their recent annual clean we again sit on the verandah, we take advantage of both the bowls provided with cereal and milk by our hosts and look forward to the day ahead.


Our moods have lifted with the better weather provided by Sunshine Moses just as he departs for destinations west and we are soon on the road. We take a little travelled road towards Sofala and our speed creeps up, Dapper Rod and the GS boys are in fine form, I’m struggling to keep up and Trumpy Dave is doing it easy as he shows us how it’s done. We stop in Sofala to regroup and stretch our legs. As we do so a pair of motorcycle Highway Patrolmen pull up, the lead one lifts his helmet faceplate while the second regards us from behind mirrored shades. He seems nice enough, asks where we have come from and where we are going and wishes us a nice day. He smiles and his pointy yellow teeth spoil the effect, I can’t help but think of Red Riding Hood’s grandma. 


We allow the boys in blue some time to get ahead of us by exploring Sofala, an 1850’s gold rush town. It is a shadow of it’s former self and seems frozen in time, the streets and buildings once resplendent are now neglected and worn. I look up to see Rod still in the lead.


We head towards Bathurst and no more than a kilometre up the road we catch up with our friends the highway patrolmen, it seems that they have been waiting for us to catch up. In Wattle Flat we stop for what is either coffee or dishwater and entertainment from a pair of minstrels raising money for the local fire brigade, who are likely to be using their 1950’s equipment for quite some time to come. The RT boys Brian and Bill make a break for it rather that stay and enjoy the show but the rest of us listen politely before cruising into Bathurst.


Rod leads us out of town along a beautiful wide sealed road with an 80kph speed limit that passes Chifley Dam, after which it deteriorates into a narrow potholed but still sealed minor road, but with a 100kph limit. Huh. We round a bend and the road turns to gravel, round the next bend and we can see the gravel road drop into a valley and away on the horizon climb out again. The surface is good and it doesn’t prove much of an obstacle until we come to The Causeway of Doom. This innocuous looking causeway looks innocent enough, Dapper Rod cruises through and I follow, keeping the power on while maintaining a straight line. For no apparent reason the back of the bike slews sideways threatening to drop quarter of a ton of black BMW into  the lap of Trumpy Dave who is just behind me before  reaching the other bank and straightening out with a mild bar shake. I thank the road gods that I put on brown underwear that morning. So does Dave. The gravel road ends soon after and we wait  for the ride to regroup, We wait. We wait and wait for Scooter John and Pointless Dave. Eventually someone calls Pointless Dave, he and John have come to the start of the gravel and decided that the hard men were too soft for the gravel and turned back. Hearing that we aren’t a bunch of pansies he vows to turn around and catch up, as he hangs up we are all crying warnings over the Causeway of Death. We arrange to meet at the Rockley Hotel for lunch.


After a while Pointless Dave and John arrive, Dave seems chipper but he is soaking wet from several drops of water and his bike is a near write off from three scratches on one crash bar. It seems that he came upon the Causeway of Doom and heeding our words carefully proceeded across it unlike the rest of us who hit it at speed and the slippery surface and lack of momentum defeated his Teutonic  steed. 


Lunch done with we head out of town, Rod picks a route guaranteed not to contain a a causeway and leads us north west till we get to the outskirts of Darwin before turning south towards Trunkey Creek. After a while we come to a crossroads, to the left it is 25km back to Rockley, our route is to the right. We pass the road sign advertising 20km to Rockley and soon come to the road to Rockley, some 15km distant. We pass both, as well as the turn off to Rockley (10km) and Rockley Road (5km).  


As we pass through Trunkey Creek Ton Up Andrew takes the lead, as the road tightens and becomes twistier he gets faster and faster, he is riding like a man possessed and one by one the riders drop off unable to maintain the pace, I too drop out and let the rest of the ride past before bringing up the rear into Binda and then Crookwell. 


At Crookwell the ride starts to lose cohesion, some passing through and some stopping for fuel. The last blow happens at the fuel station: There, in the forecourt, painted khaki with a brush and wearing a Kawasaki Z1R bikini fairing like a Groucho Marx disguise, is a Laverda. The ride disintegrates as we wish each other well in the face of this setback and one by one we leave for the drone home, we see each other here and there on the way home but the weekend is done, but what a glorious weekend, full of adventure and camaraderie, and hopefully to be soon repeated.

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