Ride Report – Big southern tablelands loop via Taralga-Oberon - 11 Jan 2015. What better way to round out some annual leave AND celebrate my long-awaited unrestricted licence status but to hit the highways (and preferably) byways of this great country of ours. A quick Google maps search cemented an idea, and soon after it was on to Netrider calling for those with a similar hankering to take advantage of some great roads and forecast weather. Sneo and Andrew West were quick to take up the call to arms (to steer those handlebars). The plan was solidified, a 600km round trip through the high country to the south and west of Sydney, with a bit of beach to serve as an entrée to the bush. Kirrawee Macca’s at 6 am was a rapid departure from my annual leave daily program of getting up around 9 or 10 am – if I felt like it. But the rewards were there for the taking. Excitedly, with a plan and some friends to enjoy it with me, I thoroughly went over Homer - my Honda Deaville tourer to make sure he was up to the task. All good, but I really wanted to get serious about this touring business, so worked on my comms and entertainment solutions, as well as the little things like sourcing proper earplugs that make touring much more enjoyable. In all my excitement to upgrade my licence, I forgot to upgrade my bike. Unlike Mr West who beat me to the unrestricted licence table by a few weeks – but had used those weeks most wisely obtaining, and even enjoying a long interstate trip on his new Versys. Nevertheless, Homer went on to acquit himself very well on the day – despite still having LA conditions stamped on his rego papers. As it turned out I didn’t need the 2 alarms I set to wake me from my annual leave sleep-ins, nor did it seem Sneo or Andrew West needed much encouragement to get to the start point either. Excitement was enough to get it all started. All on time and ready to go, I set up my new GoPro for the Royal National Park entrée. The camera lost its angle after the first corner (despite testing the day before), but all three of us seemed to have our angles all sorted – especially the cornering kind. A great, traffic-free run through the “Nasho” was enjoyed in a very mild morning. Very pleasant indeed. Off to a great start. A quick stop at Bald Hill to take in that sublime early-morning view and it was off to enjoy the Seacliff bridge, and the equally enjoyable Lawrence Hargrave Drive through Wollongong’s most northern suburbs, before encountering our one bit of traffic of the ride in the “’gong’s” early morning peak. But alas not even the most feeble of merging attempts by a little hatchback bringing surrounding traffic to panic stations could upset the early morning riding reverie. Onwards, and upwards, literally to Macquarie Pass. Again, the traffic-free, perfect weather run was a delight, so was catching the only car in our direction at the START of the overtaking lane, and we all put it to great use. Next level winning! Now is there a better way to refuel after an entrée with a brekky pie and cappuccino at the Robbo Pie shop? – there may be, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. A good deal of chat about all things bikes and other random topics sorted, a quick check of Google maps suggested a good way to get to Goulburn reasonably directly was via the Illawarra Highway, and then onto Exeter Road (which becomes other names) through its namesake, and then onto Bundanoon and Wingello. Winding though the empty, tree-lined (and shaded) roads was bliss, marked with a subtle soundtrack from my new Bluetooth comms unit that put me in the mood to have a bit of a sing along. Not usually one for singing – but that’s the kind of morning it was turning out to be. A quick slab along the Hume reiterated the pleasures of back road travel, although nothing untoward occurred - given we were onto the highway patrol car and camera car further on Fuelling (and watering ourselves) up at Goulburn, and it was getting warm. Back to the good stuff. We missed the shade of the previous stretch on the Goulburn to Taralga leg, open range B road with a few sweepers. Too warm too for the highway patrol on the outskirts just packing up their RBT site. Well timed to avoid a gearing off and then back on again. Greeting us in Taralga were seemingly a few more bikes than cars as we rolled on through, all carrying friendly waves. We must be on the right track. From Taralga we seemed to climb up. And up. Farmland became scarcer as we crossed the Great Dividing Range. There were certainly some spectacular vistas along there, a few more tighter sweeping bends now, and a bit of a cooling crosswind. And then all of a sudden we were dropping down into a very seriously steep gorge – Abercrombie River gorge. Gone was the relatively wide country B road, and in its place a steep, winding series of twisties heading down, with no road markings and very limited signage… and no guardrails. EEEEKKKK. All good fun though. No REAL heart in throat moments though. We all kept it tidy. I think this stretch was sealed in 2008. Across a low, one lane bridge to CLIMB, CLIMB, CLIMB up the other side. The VERY STEEP ASCENT sign certainly didn’t protest too much! Homer managed it well enough, but the boys on their litre-plus machines might have been working slightly less than Homer was. Almost got a crick in my neck looking so far up to see where the next 50 metres of road went. Just as quickly we were back up on the tablelands again, and the pine forests around Oberon with an accompanying, and invigorating whiff of pine needles. It was getting warm, and we had been on our game for a while now so were counting down the kilometres to Oberon, and a counter lunch! ‘Whoa, there is a big lake on the left there!’ Just outside of Oberon is the rather aptly named Lake Oberon. Never knew it was there. Better go and check it out – after some fuel (we started with three different fuel levels so this staggered our stops – but they doubles as quick rest/water stops in any event). Back out to the lake for my first trip on dirt, and cattle grids on the access road. All good – no front brake, 2nd gear, slipped clutch and no slip ups. Nice. But that dust does get everywhere hey. Where to eat? We cruised the main street looking for other bikes to indicate that’s where the riders eat, but we had the place to ourselves. A small cheap lunch at the Tourist Hotel was chosen and a bit of air-con aided rest and recovery. The new bar person passed the test making her first lemon lime and bitters for me. The home stretch – some decent climbs, descents and sweepers through Duckmaloi down to Hartley where the much warmer, lower air was ready to envelope us. Urrrgggh – let’s get high again –back up the mountains into the slightly cooler air. A semi aided our progress by pulling over and letting us pass, but all for nought as the entire Hartley to Mount Victoria sections was being completely rebuilt, replete with 60 and 40 km/h zones the entire way. Even up the pass is now a 60 km/h zone with a massive gantry camera to punish any transgressors. I remember, fondly, when it was an 80 zone. Meh. Last stop at Mount Victoria before run down the Darling Causeway to the Bells Line of Road. A lone highway patrol car was the only other vehicle on that stretch. We were thankfully of no interest. The run down Bells was nice and cruisy, and relatively cool. Even cooler was the dude in the rental car who pulled over for us. Thank you good sir, 100 road karma points for you. Not so the 55 km/h tourist shortly ahead – but like an oasis in the desert, an opportune overtaking lane soon saw the end of them. Down Bluebird Hill we said goodbye to Sneo, and hello to the hot air again. Hot enough to scramble my navigation enough for us to pay a visit to Windsor after trying to get onto Richmond Road, its namesake we had passed through kilometres earlier. No mind, for it was then into the Sydney afternoon commuter fray – never a welcome sight, and the reality of the awesome roads now left in the bug splattered rear view mirrors. Can’t wait till next time.