Last week I did a trip to Canberra and back. Here is my report. Preparation Bags packed with the bare minimum- a four season tent, hiking sleeping bag rated to -5C, one piece rain suit, self-inflating sleeping mat, another foam sleeping mat and a fluro lantern. I gave up on building my own luggage rack when I found a 140L duffle bag for $30 at Anaconda and two 100kg tie down straps for $10. I installed a generic USB port to charge my phone and el-cheapo Go-pro camera. In my tank bag I had the tyre puncture repair kit, video camera, allen keys, pliers, two screw drivers, a novel, and my latest infringement notice! The Pilot Road 2s were still roadworthy but definitely on the way out. This was going to be their last trip. To maximize tyre life I set cold pressures to 36psi on the front and 40psi on the back. With the extra luggage weight it didn't harden the ride by much. Ready to go! Day 1 Got up early all ready to go, only to realize that I didn't lube the chain after cleaning it last night. With all gear loaded on I went to warm up the chain. The added weight was easily noticeable but not in a drastic way. The rear suspension felt like it sat well. I still smile that it only cost me $40.. I finally took off after being delayed an hour only to be further delayed by morning peak hour traffic. Getting to Whittlesea was a pain, and of course it didn't help that I tried to beat traffic which only made it worse. Once at Whittlesea, looking north, I see nasty black clouds lurking over Kinglake. Time to get the rain suit on. Always a good idea to put it on before you enter the storm. I made my way up Kinglake West, Flowerdale and Yea, all of which was wet and foggy. Heading into Mansfield the snow traffic became obvious as cars passed with large chunks of snow hitching a ride on their roofs. It wouldn't be a party without the pigs, would it? So yes, they turned up pointing lasers at cars hoping someone would do 5km over as they rolled down the hill. I looked one straight in the eye as I passed and shook my head. ****in' dirty.. Filling up at Mansfield, I ask the servo attendant if she knew the condition to Whitfield. The icy road into Yea had me slightly concerned about conditions at higher altitudes. She gives me the motherly look and says, "Don't go up there. Even if you take it easy some other idiot will take you out. Sorry, that's my motherly advice". I felt she was just playing it safe, so I went up to the Mansfield donut shop, and pulled in front of a Highway Patrol car that was just leaving. I ask him the same thing and he strongly suggests I don't go that way. Again I feel they're just playing it safe. He then goes on to say that I should take the road to Benalla instead, and that I could 'open her up' there. He even jokingly adds, "I'm a policeman, you didn't hear that from me, OK?". Ha! Either he was trying to tell me that his friends weren't waiting for me on that road today or he was trying to bait me. I'm a big ass cynic aye. Turns out he was being honest. I was blasting through that road at $X until my neck started to ache from the wind blast. It didn't help that there was a strong head wind and it had been pissing down since I left Whittlesea. The roads I had taken so far were all boring. My 'wet/muddy' chicken strips (the ones you get when riding in the wet) were almost two fingers wide. Boring and shameful. I witness a huge bird of prey scoop down on the road shoulder and catch something. I don't know, was it an eagle or hawk? It was pretty big and totally unphased as I flew past. Fast forward to Woodonga. Heading towards Tallangata on the Murray Valley Hwy, I become increasingly excited about the rest of the road. Beautifully twisty, open and fairly dry. I've heard this road is usually policed but I took my chances and was fanging it. Nice road. Later looking at the map, I realize that you could make a great loop taking in Granya, along the murray river and returning via the B400. Of course, the dry roads didn't last long. It got wet and cold fast as I approached Mount Lawson. By then, a tiny front end slip on the soft edge of a road patch had turned my pace down. Stopping at almost every corner to check my phone's GPS, I finally found my camp site at Burrowa-Pine Mountain with an hour of daylight to spare. The road to the camp site was either tarmac covered in cow shit or plain mud. The bike, particularly the exhaust headers, were covered in mud. I quickly setup the tent, and then proceed to stare mindlessly at the trees making wood crackling noises in sync with the wind. The warnings upon entering were clear- Danger: Trees may fall. With little day light left, I took my chances and left the tent where it was. Hmm.. Sitting inside the tent, listening to the wind pick up pace and rain suddenly surge like an old mans prostate, I had nothing to do... I tried to sleep, only to wake up and realize that ten minutes had passed. I tried fiddling with my phone but there was no reception or music loaded. Nothing. Ah- I'll read the book I carried all this way! By this time it was pitch dark. Using my phone's light I scuffle through my bags looking for the book. I stop for a minute thinking- if I were a wombat outside and I saw shadows in a tent making all this noise.. What would I think? I've come all this way to be immersed in nature and here I am disturbing the wildlife like a large stone dropped into a lake. I drop the book and lay there breathing quietly while listening to the forest. Eyes open or closed made no difference- it was pitch dark. I can hear the momentarily depressed grass beneath the canvas slowly rise. I remained still, no rustling of the sleeping bag, nothing. The sound of the flowing nearby river seemed to intensify the further I focussed on listening. Heck, it was loud. The creaks of- unknown to me- bugs were still audible if only interrupted by the sudden crackling of the tree. I hope that thing doesn't fall on my head. Ah so be it. If it does, it does. The stillness although physically undemanding was becoming mentally challenging to sustain. Suddenly I become anxious and wanted out. I want to go home now. I get up, reach for the zip, and pause. Where do you think you're going stupid? There was no way out. Defiantly, I even consider riding in the dark. Nope. No where to go. I look at my phone. It was 7:45pm. An hour had passed. Cabin fever already? I vividly recalled that episode of Mythbusters where they tested Jamie and Adam in an isolated cabin. Jamie had shown fewer symptoms of cabin fever than Adam. Why was that so? What makes someone more likely to get cabin fever? For a moment I picture what camping would be like if I had gone with a friend. Probably a fire, maybe a shot of whisky or two and noisy chit chat. Why, at this point, I was reluctant to read the book I had, I will not know. I pickup my elcheapo Go-pro camera and press play, watching scenes from earlier that day with the Highway Patrol car. It was very soothing. I think I began to understand why. I was use to being 'plugged in'. I wanted to be plugged back into the digital world. The lack of human contact, mobile phone coverage, visual media, BLAB's latest posts on NR (ha!), had been making me anxious. I had to let go. Relinquish control to nature. Become a floating leaf in a stormy ocean. I did. I had too. It was good and bad. Bad because I had time to think about how things were going in life. Good because I made peace with some of it. You know... the kind of peace we make with war torn third world countries lacking useful natural resources- Block it out and ignore. Sounds cliche, I know. I pick up my phone again and look at the time. Wow. 11:30PM. Time flies, when you're having fun? I had a good night sleep. Day 2 I wake up to the sound of two kookaburras laughing at my stupidity. The time is 6:15am. I unzip the sleeping bag- Oh it's damn cold, get back in! After some lazing minutes I start with the packing. My hands are soon numb and frozen. I had parked the bike on a flat piece of stone to prevent it sinking into the mud. To reposition the bike, I push the gear lever into neutral. Clutch in, roll it back and forward, and only after an unusual amount of force does it kick into neutral. Weird. Praying the rain hadn't played havoc with the electrics, I start her up. A huge puff of vapour escapes the exhaust. I briefly notice the smell of burning oil which later becomes the smell of burning mud. The bike clearly didn't appreciate the temperatures last night. As I approach Corryong I see a sign: Khancoban to Cabramurra is Closed. Road to Thredbo is Icy. Not unexpected. I had already planned a detour through the western snowy mountain foothills. Most of the roads there are in poor condition. The "Rough Surface" and "Traffic Hazard Ahead" signs were all too common, but they weren't there to warn you of a small bump on the road- oh definitely not. We're talking big ass pot holes along the entire width of the road with sometimes only one or two tyre width tracks to cross it safely. You quickly take those signs serious. As I continued towards Batlow, climbing higher and higher, I was greeted by some mushy snow on the road shoulder. Oh, that can't be good. Further ahead I see my third "Ice on Road" sign followed by a big ass 4WD mangled into a tree. He must've hit the ice and spun out. Motorcyclist's worst nightmare. I slow down. The truck I passed ages ago overtakes me. Don't fancy a date with the trees. No thank you. Meanwhile, I wonder if each "Ice on Road" sign I had seen earlier was put up after someone had crashed. Probably. I continued slowly until I had descended enough into Batlow that the temperature increase was noticeable. That pesky truck ate my dust once again. I was thinking about taking Wee Jasper Rd into either Yass or Canberra. That road has a 30-40 km section of dirt. I gave up on this idea and went a different way, which in hindsight I regretted. Arriving at Canberra, I saw my first motorcyclist since Victoria. All this time I hadn't seen one and I was getting use to hearing the same reaction from all servo attendants- "You're keen. Must be frozen stiff". Yeah I am keen, thanks. Day 3 The journey back was certainly quicker. The weather was sunny. At 7:30AM in Canberra, after a night of -4C, I was greeted by a beautiful layer of ice on the tank and seat. It was unforgetably cold all the way to Bombala. Dry road, sunny skies, but a very dry, frosty cold wind. I thought my heated grips were broken. My lips were cracking. The roads on the east of the Snowy mountain were beautiful. I don't recall seeing one pot hole. The landscape is a grassy hillside with no trees and barely any colour other than a dry drought yellow. This did mean, however, the roads were fast and curvy. But, they ruined that with average speed cameras. They calculate your average speed over a large section of the road. If you averaged a speed higher than X, bingo. This means you sit behind a dopey driver, cry and ride mindlessly upright for that length of road. Arriving at Bombala, I was pumped up and ready to hit the Bonang Highway which runs all the way down to Orbost. I had read there was a sizeable gravel section up the top, but still many people recommended it. It was either this or the Monaro Hwy which likely had traffic and perhaps pigs. After regretting not taking Wee Jasper last time, I convinced myself the gravel wouldn't be that bad. The first bit of dirt was 7km. Fairly easy to ride on, but you certainly can't carry much corner speed. There was a great little section after that until I reached the awesome sign- 105km of Twisty Road. Soon enough I hit the big gravel section. This wasn't the easy, hard packed dirt as before. A bone jarring ride. The bike made all kinds of noises. Snailing it wasn't an option- I'd be there all day! So I pushed on. All up it was 18 minutes of gravel riding but it felt much longer. I was cursing at everyone who said it wasn't too bad. Liars. I was so glad to see the end of the gravel. The high tyre pressures didn't help either. Being back on sealed roads felt refined, modern, civilized. The rest of the road was epic. Endless number of corners. As you get closer to Orbost the road quality improves. There were bits that were just as good as the Blackspur. I had to pull over and rest for a good 15-20 minutes at Orbost. Every part of me was aching. My 'wet/muddy' chicken strips were long gone. Check my video summary of this road. I later found two front fender bolts missing that I suspect came loose on the gravel section. The rest of my ride was through comparatively bland backroads and eventually the freeway after Moe. Checking the Pilot Road 2s, they still have some more to go. These tyres have been amazing. Overall, I'm quite happy and calm. Also, I don't check my phone as much as I use too. I'm definitely heading out for 2-3 day trips more often. a few pics..