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A Heavy Metal Odyssey!

Discussion in 'Roads, Touring, Journeys, and Travel' started by Kris, Nov 14, 2008.

  1. Back in February I went on a road trip from Melbourne to Sydney with my mate to see Iron Maiden playing Acer Arena. I thought I’d write a much-delayed road report...


    In 1986, when England was beating Australia in the cricket, ‘Neighbours’ was at its thought-provoking best and I was just a kid travelling around Queensland with my looking-for-work family, I distinctly remember hearing Iron Maiden for the first time. Sitting in the old Holden Premier in a rundown old caravan park in suburban Cairns, my brother and I were going through Dad's pirated cassette collection, bored out of our minds and desperately trying to keep our pasty flesh out of the stupidly hot sun. Amongst such bizarrely named bands as Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and Def Leppard we happened across Maiden's 'The Number of the Beast'… It became THE album for me for a long time.

    I mention all this in the hope of vindicating my decision to follow Iron Maiden around Australia on their 'Somewhere Back in Time' tour earlier in the year. I'd never seen them live before and I've been an avid fan since I was 6, and they're all so old now I didn't think I'd get the chance again. I joined the fan club just to get pre-sale tickets, and skipped work so I could spend the morning on the net organising tix for me and my buddies… I was perhaps a little over-excited. My best mate took advantage of my rabid enthusiasm and innocently proposed a road trip to Sydney to see the second show, and then I really lost the plot and got tickets for the Brisbane show three nights later too.

    The plan was to head off early the morning after the Melbourne show, scoot along the coast road to Sydney, watch the 2nd show and head back to Melb through the Snowies, then I'd jump on a plane for Brissy. Awesome!

    Day 1 – To Tame A Land

    Kiss the girlfriend and the cat goodbye and off we go, iPods fully charged and loaded with 80s metal.


    Despite the odds, it was a classic soft rock tune that shuffled on first, and I distinctly remember Boston’s “More Than a Feeling†serenading me out of Oakleigh and onto the Princes Highway. What should have been a pretty tedious, uninspiring slog through Pakenham, Warragul and Moe was actually an excited blur…. We’re finally doing it! I’d booked the tickets in September 2007 and here we were, five long months later; my first proper bike journey… and on a brand new bike too!

    The Hornet 900 was whirring underneath me, the modest stock pipes muting my enthusiasm somewhat and reminding me of essential mods to do on my return. Staintunes, Renthal Bars, change the sprockets perhaps. A quick wrench of the right hand and the exhausts let out a scream… that’s better…

    I’d ordered a screen for the Hornet two weeks prior but of course it hadn’t arrived in time. It didn’t seem to matter much; having the wind barrelling into me reminded me I was on a motorbike! I later found the screen was an irritation anyway, and just directed the wind neatly up into my helmet, buffeting my noggin and making a tremendous racket.

    I digress.
    We had a bite to eat in Moe (the first of many meat pies) and then stopped in Morwell to take some piccies of the power plant chimneys.


    By this point the wind had kicked up to gale force conditions and my mate, on his little zzr250 was getting blown all over the road! This kept me entertained all the way til Orbost. We scooted down to the coast where we could, taking more pics and watching the black clouds roll ineffectually on by. I’d pulled on my clownish wet-weather pants back in Bairnsdale, at which point it had abruptly stopped raining. Fearing that removing the billowing, blue leggings might open up the heavens I resolved to look like a wally for the rest of the day. It worked a treat.


    Between Marlo and Cape Conran is a lovely road. Long, straight, no traffic, tempting… new bike and unexplored potential… The Hornet proved itself more than quick enough for me; maybe even too quick for it’s own good as it shook loose a screw in the headlight bracket that careened into my tank and left a lovely chunk of bare metal where the deep, black paint used to be. I was a bit cranky about this but the lovely folk at Jeffrey Honda sorted me out with a replacement tank when I got home, Huzzah!


    We decided to make for Mallacoota as the afternoon light was fading. About 530km done in a day and I felt great! Although a hasty decision, I was very happy about replacing my old sv650s just a few weeks prior to this trip. The Spanish Inquisition would be happy with the ergonomics of that bike.

    ...to be continued...
  2. Waiting for next installment :grin: I love your pics, very entertaining.
  3. Day 2 – Stranger in a Strange Land

    After a brief stop at the pretty Gypsy Point Landing, we made the border crossing. “Welcome to New South Wales†said the first sign, quickly followed by “Speeding Will Not Be Toleratedâ€. Another kilometre into foreign territory and; “If We Catch You Speeding, We’re Going To Hurt Youâ€, then, “And We Will Catch You.†The road surface seemed to agree heartily with the signage and similarly threatened us with potholes and ruts. The sky didn’t look as bleak as yesterday though, and I was excited about where we’d get to today.

    The day got prettier and prettier as we got closer to the halfway point between Mallacoota and Sydney, then it got uglier and uglier. Somewhere around Narooma we stopped for lunch-pie. The sun was beaming, the perfectly blue sea was thundering against the rugged coastline, butterflies were stopping just long enough to have photos taken and I was feeling a kind of light-hearted excitement that people in the 50s might have described as ‘gay’.

    We continued along the Princes for the rest of the day, making only a few little detours to break up the trip. At one point we were carving through a slowly winding section when a strange clearing caught my attention to the right of the road. We doubled-back and found a short trail that lead to a cemetery in the middle of the forest. With the surrounding trees breaking the winds, the graveyard had such a strange stillness to it. Almost an hour evaporated while we were there, reading tombstones and lost in the atmosphere.


    As the afternoon crept into evening we found the town’s getting bigger and more industrial. Without wanting to get too close to Sydney we decided to find somewhere coastal around Nowra to stay the night. We did a great job of getting lost amongst flooded fields, smelly cows and run-down farmhouses before emerging in Greenwell Point.
  4. Day 3 – Rainmaker

    Day 3 started off quite innocently, and had no indications of the suckage that would ensue. We only made it to Kiama before the rain was unleashed. Great torrents of thick rain, like I haven’t seen since I lived in Queensland. Kiama seemed like it would be a lovely place, but the roads were thick with moronic day-tripping cagers making the wet conditions that extra bit challenging. We had a great breakfast though, with nice coffee and some lovely people saying lovely things like, “Nice day for a ride.â€

    Undeterred by the downpour we had the adventurous idea to go on an excursion into some national park along the coast. We made it along some pretty sketchy roads only to get to a deserted carpark in the woods feeling fairly unfulfilled. Stupid adventurous idea!

    The rain got heavier (somehow) as we got into Wollongong. Neither of us really wanted to be riding through heavy traffic when we couldn’t see, but we had to keep moving as we had to find accommodation in Sydney and get to the concert. A little brown street sign marked ‘Tourist Route’ inspired me and we set off to see if we could get around Wollongong and maybe take in what sights the city might have on offer.
    It was all just a devious trap set up by the evil locals to plunge us into the depths of Wollongong’s industrial dystopia. What a sh*thole! The tourist route took us through stinking refineries and junkyards! Hilarious!

    We spotted a sign that pointed to Sydney and went for it. All of a sudden we’re on a tight, twisting forest road which might’ve been quite fun if not for the lunatic, impatient SUVs which had surrounded us and the fact that I couldn’t see more than 10ft in front of me for the rain. At the top of the hill we saw the Southern Freeway open up before us and quickly pulled over beneath an underpass for a break. In the midst of all this bitching and moaning I’ve forgotten to whinge about how amazingly cold it had become. When we peeled ourselves off the bikes under that dark and dingy bridge we were both shaking with cold! We shivered, then scowled at each other and then laughed hysterically for a bit before making the final push into Sydney.


    Now what happened in Sydney is our own fault. We should’ve made plans, perhaps set-up a place to sleep in advance and definitely had some better maps with us. We ended up lost in suburban Sydney for hours, then unable to find a place to stay! The plan of going straight to Acer Arena and then working our way out for accommodation didn’t work that well and as we were heading along Paramatta Rd, feeling every damn seam in the concrete and with the rain unrelenting, I was starting to get a wee bit flustered!! Never have I been happier to see a Best Western in my life! We had just enough time to change into some dry clothes and get a taxi to the concert.


    And, as miserable as the day had been, all was instantly forgotten when the lights went down and Iron Maiden burst into Aces High! I was a bit worried that my expectations were too high, but I don’t think that’s possible regarding these gods of metal. What a frikkin AMAZING show! These guys are in their 50s, running around for two hours every night like madmen and putting on the best rock shows ever.

  5. Day 4 – Run to the Hills

    We abandoned Sydney early the next morning and made for Picton. The setlist of the night before was still playing over in my head and I was already looking forward to the Brisbane gig. What I really wanted to do was call-in sick for the next week and just ride up to Queensland, but unfortunately I'm a complete company-biatch with a spine like a wet noodle… it was never going to happen. The sun had clambered out again and yesterday's rain was a distant memory. Bacon and Eggs for breakfast in a town seemingly full of riders also made for an encouraging start to a long day. Picton was so delightful it had made me reconsider pissing on the next “Welcome to NSW†sign we came across.

    We jumped on the Hume, then the Federal Highway, and chewed through the miles to Canberra. Here we encountered a peculiarity in the space-time continuum and managed to lose four hours without getting much of anything done. Whether this is a product or cause of Parliament House I can't say. I can say that the meat pie I had here was crap. Right, I've lingered on Canberra far too long…

    South to Cooma then up into the Snowies. We rode into beautiful Jindabyne in the late afternoon with a strange sense of DejaVu. Fifteen years ago, when both of us were just 13, we'd come down here from Far North Queensland on a school band trip. I hadn't registered until my mate pointed it out, then all these vague memories were trying to swim up to the surface of my junkyard of a brain. He was happy to stay the night in Jindabyne but I was keen to do the Alpine Way while there was no traffic. With a little convincing we were on our way, onto one of the best bits of riding I've ever done.


    Along the entire stretch between Jindabyne and Khancoban we would have encountered no more than five cars, and never did one impede our twisty shenanigans! What a phenomenal stretch of road. It was so picturesque as the shadows blanketed the mountains and the forests came alive. The local wildlife was making itself known as dusk fell, with rabbits, then kangaroos, darting and bounding along and sometimes across the single-lane road. My neutered Hornet exhausts, coupled with the sewing-machine buzz of the ZZR probably invoked more curiosity than fear in the little buggers, but thankfully all escaped without incident… though I'm sure a bunny managed to sprint between my wheels at one point!

    (Here's another little critter of the Alpine Way, burrowed away in one of the gazillion little crannies along the road side!)

    It was well and truly dark by the time we got into Khancoban. We pulled up at the pub just in time to see the chef leaving and made do with four packets of chips and lots of Guinness for dinner. Judging by the look on the bar-woman's face and the dust on the bottles, I don't think imported beers are the popular choice out that way, but it's the closest thing to a meal we could find and it got us drunk in no time. Sleep has never come so easily!
  6. Day 5 – The Longest Day

    Well, maybe not literally the longest day, but I think it felt like it! We took it quite easy and spent the whole day covering just under 600kms. Along the way we crossed the border about 6 times, taking pics at Bellbridge and around the dam (I made do with giving the finger to the "NSW" sign, but felt strangely empty afterwards).


    We dropped in at Beechworth for the most expensive pie of the trip, and did a bit of dirt track riding around Ned Kelly's neck of the woods before experiencing the Whitfield to Mansfield road. I'd heard this was a great stretch but I was still surprised at how fun it was (aside from the bit where I nearly went over a cliff)!

    By mid-afternoon we were back on familiar territory, having a coffee at the Black Spur Roadhouse and a chat with Ray. He convinced us to next time take a slightly different route through the Snowies. I can't believe there's an even better road than the Alpine Way but I'll find out for myself soon enough. The Black Spur run seemed like an old friend I hadn't seen in years as I reacquainted myself with the perfect surface and gently cambered corners. It remains the best quality road I've ridden, but the traffic (especially the radar-equipped variety) makes it a little less appealing for me.

    From Healesville to Oakleigh I just wanted to be home already. The last 40kms felt like 400, and when we finally rolled up the driveway of my place we promptly collapsed on the lawn for dramatic effect! Hug the girlfriend and the cat. Awesome ride!


    The Hornet 900 has proved itself my ideal bike, taking the touring in its stride, always keen for a bit of high-jinks and remaining comfortable all day long. I prefer the feel of a naked bike too. Rather than being cocooned in my own little air-pocket, I like being in the face of the elements and feeling the rush of going fast without having to go stupid-fast. Now equipped with Staintunes, the Hornet's sounding pretty healthy too!

    As for Iron Maiden, they remain my favourite band, probably til the end of my days! They rocked out again in Brisbane where I was part of a seething mosh-pit right up the front, and with rumours of another tour out here next year I'll be doing all this again hopefully! And if you think I'm a bit fanatical, I met a guy in a pub in Brisbane who'd followed Iron Maiden from Bristol in England, to Mumbai, India then gone around Australia, and he was heading out to Japan the day after. What a f*cking nutter!!!
  7. hmmm..... methinks my notebook screen has it's colours all out of wack! Are these photos way too vivid and dark or is this monitor crap?
  8. Great read! - thank you - We had an afternoon riding and I came on to check the next installments while eating dinner :grin:
  9. Haha yep, they look very vivid, I reckon the photos look awesome :grin:
  10. Great RR, I went to the Melbourne gig. I hadn't seen Maiden since the Fear of the Dark tour and really thought they weren't going to come back.
  11. Yup, the melbourne gig (I went to the first night) was amazing. Because I'd been frothing at the mouth for so long around all my non-Maiden friends I'd managed to get them all caught up in the excitement, and they ended up coming along too.. and they all LOVED it!

    The Sydney gig was pretty special though. After Powerslave the massive crowd just went mental for literally 5 minutes of non-stop screaming. I think we managed to impress the band with our enthusiasm!

    Hope they come back... [-o<
  12. Great read there Kris, and fantastic pics of the Hornet. I haven't had a chance to tour as yet but am looking forward to it during the christmas/new year break.

    On a seperate note, you had mentioned in a while back that you had it repaired recently by Jeffrey Honda, was that for a rear wheel perchance?
  13. Sure was! My housemate ran up the back of me on his r6... I think his front brake disc hit my rear wheel rim. That was pretty much the only damage to the Hornet; the r6 was written off! My bike was stuck at Jeffrey's for about 4 weeks... I take it you saw it there?

    Have fun with your Summer tour! I'm leaving on Saturday for a biiiig ride up to Far North Queensland. Be about 8000kms more on the odometer! 24,000kms since I bought it in January; this bike's gonna be worth nothing in resale :( But I've got no plans on selling, it's a top bike yeah?!
  14. Yeah I saw it there. About a week out from the GP I think it was. I was hoping I'd have mine back in time for the GP, as it was the Spada did a great job getting my missus and myself there. The guys at Jeffrey had mentioned how your mishap occured and that you were desperate to have her back for the GP too.

    Cheers mate, I've nothing planned as yet, got to get a move on regarding it. Have yourself a brilliant and safe trip too. Damn I wish I was heading off right now. As for the Hornet, I tend to agree with ya, fantastic fun to be had. Seems to do all I need it to.
  15. Just some local advice: There's a place called the Beechworth Brewery located around the corner from the Bakery, which serves up reasonable food and very nice beer. If you have the time and inclination, it is well worth the ride to the main street of Rutherglen (45km) via Chiltern (twisty road at the start) where the best and most expensive pies and sausage rolls can be found at Parker's pies.