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Alpine Ride - Melbourne Cup weekend- long.

Discussion in 'Roads, Touring, Journeys, and Travel' started by Grey Gentry, Nov 9, 2006.

  1. My report of the
    Victorian GTR Riders Meet.
    at Mt Beauty Holiday Centre.
    Friday 3rd to Tuesday 7th November 2006

    After booking the 4 nights accommodation early in October, I had a couple of weeks of looking at maps, planning possible routes and rides, watching the weather forecasts and daily temperatures, mulling over what to clothing pack, and preparing the bikes for the ride.
    Marlene,my wife, rides a ZZR600, a new rear tyre was fitted and I upgraded the horn, with a pair of automotive units with relay. Now it will be heard. Adjusted and lubed the chain too.
    The 1000GTR received a set of brake pads, a change of fork oil, and a change to heavier oil (15wt) in the rear shocker. I had been using 10wt but the rear was a bit soft.

    With all the clothes spread over the the lounge room floor, the packing was completed, with panniers and top box fitted to the GTR and the throwover bags for the ZZR, on Thursday. Fuelling up and remembering to check the tyre pressures was the lasting needed to be done.

    Arising Friday morning, checked the forecast for the next 5 days being dry, this started the day well. The morning was cool 11C with an expected top of 25C later in the day, so some warmer clothing was needed. With an early breakfast, and a quick stop at a supermarket, and photos we left Mildura travelling into the morning sun.
    A short stop at Robinvale, after crossing the new bridge spanning the Murray River, replacing the old steel and wooden bridge that had been a traffic restriction for a number of years, after they made it into a single lane for safety reasons. I was surprised to see a 60kph restriction sign posted in the middle of the span.
    At Piangil, on the intersection of the Mallee and Murray Valley Highways, we stopped for a coffee break and a stretch. It was here daylight savings brought me undone as I discovered that I'd forgotten to change the clock on the GTR. I was thinking it was only 9.15am..but it was 10.15am. So the planned deviation via Tooleybuc and Koraleigh to rejoin the highway at Nyah was cancelled and our leisurely ride to our lunch appointment at 12pm was over.

    After our first fuel stop at Swan Hill, we rode down through Kerang, then onto Cohuna. At the roundabout on the highway in Cohuna, we took a left hand turn over the Gunbower Creek bridge, past the caravan park on the banks of the lagoon, and meandered our way along the road which runs along beside the creek until it crossed Burke's Bridge and rejoins the highway. The Southern turn-off, Cleave Road, is about 10km North of Gunbower. It is a welcome alternative ride which after the hours on the main highway is appreciated.

    The arrival at the Echuca lunch was later than planned. After initial greetings from our hosts, Bob and later Mary, the discussion turned to our bikes and plans for the following days. Our hosts were joining us in Mt Beauty Saturday evening for dinner, then for a lunch ride on Sunday, and they were returning home on Monday.
    Lunch was a served and consumed with much chatter. Marls informed me that her speedo had stopped working along the way. After a quick inspection I suspected a broken cable, a phone call was made to Gags and asked him the whereabouts of Kawasaki dealer in Shepparton and to make him aware that the preplanned 2pm meet time would now be a little later.
    Around 1.30pm, after thanks and 'byes, back on the Murray Valley Highway heading East until the turning off to Shepparton via Undera. Although Undera has a motorcycle speedway track we have never been, but we attend both solos and sidecars at Olympic Park in Mildura, so have put it a to do list for the future.
    Mooroopna was negotiated, and I found the Kawasaki dealer without any problems and was happy that Gags met us there. I had a drool over the red ZX-14 in the showroom too. Didn't seem any bigger than the ZZR600. And I grabbed the Cycle Torque magazine from the display.
    However, after checking that the upper joiner under the instrument panel was tight, we removed the speedo cable outer. The inner cable was found to be intact so it was all reassembled. It seems that something in the instrument panel is amiss. Put it in the too hard basket, and refuelled and rode on.

    Gags lead the way almost to Benalla, then onto the Hume to Wangaratta, and off onto the B500. Breaking at Myrteford, the bakery on the left has some nice looking wares, but we weren't tempted. Intaking some fluid as it had warmed nicely in the afternoon. As we would be riding the Tawonga Gap road later in the weekend, we turned left at Ovens, onto the Happy Valley/Running Creek Road C534, a good road which gently climbs over a range, and joins the Kiewa Valley Highway south of Dederang. This was the first taste of the roads we came to ride.

    On arrival I was pleasantly surprised by the cabin and it's facilities, and nature of the park, with the stream running close by. Our cabin neighbours (cyclists) introduced themselves with “I have a GTR in the shed at home”, so we had a chat about the bikes, even before we unpacked. We did chat again a number of times, giving them the update on our day rides.
    We had planned for an altogether meal the Saturday night at The Tavern, so it was pizza (and a bottle of red from the Tavern) for tea that night topped of with a port.
    Had a chat with Michael on a BMW chookchaser riding some trails in the area.
    Must admit, after the 650km ride for us, all beds were occupied by 9.30pm.

    We had a Saturday morning walk to breakfast, down the hill across the suspension bridge into town, about 2km. Noted that the fuel station at the roundabout was cheaper than the one opposite the Tavern, and remained that way for the 4 days we were there. Bacon and eggs in the cafe, with coffee was a good start to the day. Whilst Gags and Marls were doing the breakfast shopping for the following days, I browsed the bottle shop, which had a much better range of reds and an excellent range of ports, than the pub near the park.

    Our ride to Darmouth and Granya Gap was planned to begin at 9am, however it was 9.30 before we got under way. Up the C531 to Kiewa, then to Tangambalanga C533 for morning smoko. After the break it was onto Lockharts Gap Road C 537 with its nice range of corners and then the Omeo Highway B543 through Eskdale to Mitta Mitta. Normally at this time the valleys would be lush green, however with the current lack of rainfall, even these mountain areas are showing they are in need of water. However it was still green as we wound our way into the town where fuel, food and accommodation are available. A walk by the creek to stretch the legs, then to the B544 to Dartmouth. This road is relatively new, being put in for the building of the dam, has lots of good sweeping corners with good vision, but there are a few slower ones particularly those on the way to the top of the dam wall. Car parking information, a picnic area and amenities are available after the ride across the wall. Back down the the road into the village for lunch, where we enjoyed a light beer with our meal on the deck in the shade.
    While discussing what next, Marls mentioned she was getting tired, so we dropped Granya Gap off the return route and headed back. Refuelling at Eskdale, we turned onto the C 537 again, which all us enjoyed on the way down. At Red Bluff turned and followed the Gundowering Rd which becomes Mullagong Rd then Redbank Rd, rejoining the C531 some 7km north of Tawonga.

    Back at the park over afternoon smoko, Gags and I decided to have a run up Falls Creek, just a 68km round trip from Mt Beauty. I can only say I was blown away by this road. The Oxley Hwy in NSW is a great road to ride, but this the road “up the Creek” is wider with good camber, better surface, well marked, with more variety of corners. Gags followed me up, and after seeing he was doing ok with his lines, I turned my attention fully to the road ahead, checking entry speeds against the advisory speed signs, trying not to get it too wrong. After a break and a chat with Gags at the top, we returned down, I followed behind for a while just watching his technique, with wide entry and late exit was very good. Yep downhill is different, more braking, but if you run a lower gear, you can just use the throttle some of the time.

    On return to the park, Bob and Mary (pillion) had arrived we chatted and caught up with their ride over, as we walked to dinner. We also invited Michael as we had a spare chair, after booking a table for 6 Friday, expecting Terry from Wodonga to arrive for the meal. I'm sure he was disappointed at not being able to make it.

    Dinner at the Tavern was good and the red drinkable. Over the meal we discussed our Sunday lunch ride. It was decided to ring Brenambra Hotel and check before we left Omeo, as the second option was the Blue Duck Inn at Anglers Rest. The reason for the easier ride to Benambra was for Marls who is riding safe, and still learning, and Bob and pillion, as I was unsure how Bob coped with the twisties. A 9am start was envisaged. Gags and I discussed an early morning ride “up the Creek” if we could fit it in. After coffee and port back at the cabin everyone put their head down.

    Sunday out of bed at 5.30am, weather fine, the Falls Creek morning run was on. I “stole” the ZZR since Marls was happy to stay at the park. What a blast. With the motor running spinning freely, and the sharper steering, the lighter bike was a pleasure to ride, riding safe lines keeping within my lane I had no trouble, but I still didn't feel as confident on this jigger, compared to the GTR. The GTR's stability over some minor rough stuff is magic, while the little 600 skips a little. I stopped a couple of times and waited for Gags, then continued to the top. For a while I was checking the advisory signs, as they could only tell me that one corner was slower or faster than the previous one, but I also stopped thinking about how (not) fast I was going, (remember, no speedo) and just concentrated on the road and the lines, ignoring the signs. Like, if you can't see around it then slow down, if it looks tight at the beginning it probably is. I realised still needed to use the same lines, it didn't matter what speed. Gags arrived and we had a break and a chat. He was happily getting in the groove.
    On the downhill run I was very analytical about the why I ran wide on RH hairpins twice. (I would have ended in the cliff not over the edge.) It is simple this, instead of following the LH shoulder until the corner opens up, you apex too early, and then instinctively look where the bike is going, not towards your exit point. We all know what happens when you look where the bike is going don't we? That's where it it goes. I've been taught this before, but to realise it's happening, continues the learning process. I had a dream run after that keeping the head and body well away from the other lane. Chatting to Gags while refuelling, he mentioned he had to slow as he lost concentration, but picked it up again on the way. I found I had to “have a rest” for a few corners as keeping concentration for the full 45 minutes or so not on. Perhaps this is why on ride days sessions are kept to about 20 minutes. Back to the cabin for a quick coffee, and back onto the GTR for our lunch ride.

    The group of 3 GTRs and the ZZR600 left via the Tawonga Gap C536 to the Great Alpine Road B500. Myself leading Bob and Mary, Marls finally Gags. The ride over Tawonga was wide good surface, tighter on the way up, with a variety of corners and sweepers on the way down. After Harrietteville the true climb begins, Bob with pillion was handling it well, so I made my own way ahead. Once again I slackened off about halfway, as the first section of road is demanding. I was being caught by a couple of bikes, which I put my head down and steadily drew away, and rested again. But I was blown away by a silver sports bike, using both sides of the road. I followed until I caught a couple of caravans which I past, then just meandered after a bit of a blast on the open road above the tree line, to Hotham car park to wait for the others.

    We all arrived safely, found the loos in the Transit building open. After a stretch and photos, we wandered down to Dinner Plain for a coffee.
    When I rang Brenambra Hotel I was told bar snacks were the go. Everybody was happy with that, so the Blue Duck will have to wait until next time. Down we went through rolling hills and the numerous sweepers to Omeo, stopping for fuel, north onto the Omeo Highway C543 and then right onto C545 to Benambra. This road is climbs up over a range to McMillans Lookout then down to the plain, with a good straight section of road just prior to the town. Lake Omeo at was dry, reflecting the current state of the country.

    The beer was cold and the lunch served with a friendly smile. A group of trail bike riders and support vehicles rocked up just as we were about to leave, and by their manner and look on their faces were having a ball.
    As it was warming up, I stashed my DriMesh in a pannier just leaving a Kshirt on. I had not ridden with just the kevlar T before. Wow..it was great to feel the cooling breeze behind the protective fairing of the GTR.
    We returned back to Mt Beauty enjoying a break at Hotham, with a coffee and fuel at Harrietteville. The ride over the Tawonga Gap now seemed tame after the ride on the B500, but nonetheless still practised using the safe lines, following a couple of vehicles.
    We all enjoyed the walk to dinner at the Country Club in town just behind the servo, and found it was a just as good and a little less expensive than the pub of the previous night. Gags, Marls and I returned here for our meal on Monday night too. On the way back the suspension bridge got the staggers and was extremely difficult walk a straight line on, well that's Marls' story.
    Bob and Mary were leaving Monday morning with a 9am start planned, a route was chosen, back the way we came in via the C534 as Bob and Mary had not ridden it, to Beechworth for morning coffee. After our farewells, Gags Marls and I, rode out a pleasant country road to the village of Stanley through some plantations with logging taking place. I was hopeful of riding up Mt Stanley but asking, and found it was gravel, I declined.
    It was back to Beechworth, and down the B500 to Porepunkah to refuel, and up to the beautiful Mt Buffalo Chalet for lunch. The narrow winding road had a slight dusting of gravel, which had been moved to the edges and the centre by the traffic. This meant that we could only use either the left or right wheel track safely. Here I must mention the lack of consideration for all traffic by the number of 4x4s that would have wheels encroaching over the wrong side of the double whites, even around blind corners. I only saw one car to this for the entire weekend. Don't they realise just that they need to slow down, as the 4x4 doesn't handle anywhere near as well as a sedan, and takes up a damn side more road space. I think they just don't care. Perhaps they need too pass an advanced driver training course before they can buy one? And the number of sedans that actually pulled over (if they pulled over for me, I waved a thank you) and allowed you to pass was amazing, but not the 4x4, they just kept weaving, using both sides of the road, even blocking some overtaking opportunities, when I was behind them. I'm sure their drivers have no road manners, let alone road sense.

    There was a petition at the chalet to be signed as it seem the Victorian government wants to build a hydroelectric power on the site. A light lunch was enjoyed and after a brief walk, we rode onto The Horn. On the way back I saw a few bikes across the valley, so with a gaining confidence on the loose gravel I punted the bike down the hill. I came across a couple of bikes that pulled over and allowed me through, thanked them with a wave, and proceeded on. After passing a couple of cars I came across a black GTR and (I think) a FJR1300 travelling together, stuck behind a vehicle. We all passed it on a little straight, and had a clean run to the bottom. The leading GTR was doing nice lines, and I was surprised when he (?) ran wide through a LH hairpin, the FJR rider also went wide and pointed down at the road. I was to late to change my line for the small black snake crossing the road. I believe I missed it as I wasn't cutting the apex, but I didn't look back to check either. I don't think I would have caught these two, as we all riding the same pace..

    At the bottom, I chatting to a cyclist, and when Marls and Gags turned up a few minutes later, we returned to Mt Beauty via Tawonga Gap with Marls leading. She has improved her skills with the riding we have done over the last few days, as she was please to just catch some cars, instead of them catching her for once. Giving the GTR a bit of a rest, I followed over the gap staying in top gear all the way, for something different.

    Gags an I stole another ride “up the Creek”. In hindsight, I felt that I was becoming too cocky on the GTR coming down Mt Buffalo with the gravel, so I took the ZZR again, which I am (still) more cautious on. On the way up I tried to run it in the torque band, but found I was more fluent running it between 6000 and 9000 rpm, than between 10000 and 14000 rpm. It was on this run I thanked StayUpright. As I was about to tip the bike into a blind RH corner from the wide line, a 4x4 came around towards me with more of the Nissan on my side of line than the left The attitude of the vehicle, with tyres scrubbing madly, left no doubt that he had over cooked the corner. The corner for him, was a “never ending” downhill left hander and he'd just run out of road. If I was an inexperienced rider hugging the centre line staying away from the drop, a truck or coach, or even a group of cyclists like the ones I passed on the way up, or even a tree across the road, the outcome would have been different. And if I'd been in the corner it may have been a different outcome too.
    The rest of the run was taken with a little more caution. And I was glad I'd chosen the ZZR to ride that afternoon.
    After chatting with Gags, he had this big grin on his face, I offered a photo shoot with his camera. So we meandered down the hill together and both rode this slow open hairpin a few times, while the photos were taken. On the way down I did not look at one Advisory sign, even with no speedo, was judging the corners better, and did not overcook any corner. The blind ones slowed down, for the open ones, I just using all of my lane.
    On return to the camp we discussed an early morning ride up the Creek again, but as we were doing the 650km back to Mildura on Tuesday, we felt the extra 2 hours would make it a long day.

    A group 6 bikes, riders and pillions (?) lobbed into the 2 cabins next door. I recognised one who had attended the Wintersun Run in 2005. All I could remember he was on a blue bike..ok I'm getting old. He told the storey to his group that I slipped underneath him on the GTR, when he slowed and ran wide on a gravelly corner, and the blue bike was a Blackbird. I just pleaded local knowledge, as it was on our home “twisty”.

    After packing the bikes for the trip home, we ambled down the hill again to the club for tea. We again all walked across the bridge, with it getting a bounce up and moving from side to side. Marls now blamed Gags and I for bouncing it. But it was on the way back we let her cross by herself, and she discovered that it was all her own doing. With a couple of ports under the belt before bed, the next thing I new it was just breaking day.

    Breakfast, the final pack, and we were on the road at 7am. The ride over the Tawonga Gap for the last time, was as good as the first. Our first stop was Shepparton, where we refuelled and Gags' Better Half, Heather, provided us with refreshments.
    A quick adjustment and lube of the chain of the ZZR was taken also, before Gags, continued to escort us to Echuca, as he and Heather had decided to visit Bob and Mary.
    We waved goodbyes, and proceeded to Gunbower Hotel for lunch. The wind had picked up and was blowing fairly hard 25kph with gusts to 40+kph along the highway, so continual concentration was needed even at a 90kph was needed.

    We had a filling lunch and refreshments, our table overlooking our bikes in the car park and the highway, with the usual country hospitality at the” Gunny Pub”, which is undergoing a face lift and internal renovations. With the wind still blowing from the south offer of accommodation was considered but being about 4 hours from Mildura, home beckoned.
    Northwest until turning onto the Leitchville Road C257, but continuing on past the Cohuna turn off to rejoin the Murray Valley Highway 13km from Kerang. This road is partially sheltered by trees on it's southern side. After a refuel at Swan Hill it was then left at Nyah, to Chinkapook, a mainly sheltered rural road, with a few sweepers, then right onto the C251 through Manangatang to Robinvale, over the speed restricted bridge and into Euston for a drink and stretch. It was an easy run home as the wind was abating and traffic light. The total trip was 2225km with a moving average of 78.5 kph.

    Thing's I'd do differently. Pack only one set of thermals, they can be dried overnight, if they need washing or get wet, and pack a short sleeved shirt for afternoon/evening wear. It was that warm. Reconsider packing locks and chains, as the bike covers needed to keep dew, rain or dust off, tend to hide the bikes and stop inquisitive minds, but I guess if travelling to more populated areas, then still needed. Pack enough tools to adjust the ZZR's chain as I had to borrow a shifter for the rear axle.

    Next year ...maybe Corryong as a base, as there are plenty of good rides around that region too.

    Gags has most of the photos I'll get them soon I hope.

    I had a look at the free DVD on riding the Great Ocean Road safely before leaving... and took my leathers. Also a mentioned before I needed little rests while riding 'the Creek", as the GOR is over 100km long I would take their suggestions at stopping from time to time and resting. I cannot maintan concentration for over an hour and not make one mistake. To bloody hard for me.
    And to push the ZZR600 harder on the road would be foolish of me. I need to take it to Cornering and Braking course, and a few track days to learn to ride it to it's limits, in a safer environment than on the road.

    Enjoy and stay safe.
  2. Good report. Nice to relive some of those roads.