Best weekend ever This past weekend I headed down to Morwell for the Apex Victoria State Convention and a quick look at the map convinced me that this would be an ideal opportunity to put some clicks on the odometer of the Monster. My original plan was to avoid the freeways, riding from Albury to Mansfield, Healesville, Noojee and Moe. http://tinyurl.com/22jyh2 I set off Thursday at lunchtime with the threat of showers ahead, the additional weight of my luggage on the pillion seat actually seemed to help the handling of the bike as I covered some of the familiar roads close to home. Beechworth and Whitfield zipped past quickly and I found myself getting ready to head over the hills to Mansfield. This road was everything I'd been warned about, uneven, random scatters of gravel and plenty of bark and leaf litter. I loved every bit of it. The Monster handled everything with aplomb, confidently carrying me through the twisty stuff and remaining unnerved no matter what. Mansfield marked 190km off the journey, I was feeling great in the saddle and with only around 65km to Alexandra and no fuel light on the dash I figured that I might as well keep going as filling up at Alexandra would hopefully get me all the way to Moe without needing to stop again. This was my first mistake. Around 45km from Alexandra I came across a stopped bike at the side of the road, the rider was fine, he'd just been phoning ahead to see what the weather was like. He had a report that it was wet so he turned around and I pulled on my rain suit. 5km later, with 220 on the trip meter, my fuel light came on and some quick maths told me that I'd get to Alexandra with 20km worth of fuel to spare. 1.4 kilometres and one great big hill before Alexandra my bike decided she could go no further. Cursing my 14 litre tank, a fuel light that obviously doesn't mean the bike has 3 litres left and the fact that I hadn't stopped at Bonnie Doon I walked to a nearby house hoping to find a way to get some fuel. I called the servo and the attendant apologetically told me that he was alone, so couldn't ferry some fuel out. My hosts wished me well on my walk as I wandered out their front door and I started the hike to the servo, still dressed in my rain suit. This was my second mistake. Luckily for me a lady passing by pulled over to give me a lift into town, she told me her son was a rider and she hoped that someone would pick him up if he was in strife. We got to the servo and organised a jerry can and some fuel, paying for it was a bit of a pain as I had to find my wallet in the pocket of my pants deep inside the rain suit, quite a fiddley exercise. The lady drove me back to my bike, held the funnel as I refuelled it and then generously took the jerry can back to the servo. I let out a sigh of relief as the bike kicked straight over and I rode back into town to finish filling up the bike, by this stage I had worked up quite a sweat as the rain suit didn't breathe at all. I wandered in to pay for the last few litres of petrol only to find that my wallet was not in my pants. A shock of adrenalin hit me, my wallet was either by the roadside where I'd filled up the bike or I'd dropped it in the lady's car, I hoped that it was the former, explained my situation to the understanding attendant and headed out again to my breakdown site. A few minutes looking and I found the wallet, completely intact right near where I'd been parked. Visit number three to the servo and I was finally ready to go. On the way to Healesville it became apparent that whatever rain had been here had moved on and I was getting tired of the extra buffeting from the rain suit so I pulled over and put it back in my bag. Exposed to some fresh air again the sweat inside my gear started to give me an incredibly uncomfortable chill which I had no choice but to wait out. By the time I reached the Black Spur I had mostly dried out, but was met with a very wet stretch of road meaning that my first trip on this iconic stretch of road was spent carefully looking for dry spots. Even in the wet, riding the Spur was a heap of fun and it was certainly a road where I found I could easily get a good rhythm. I filled up again at Healesville, perhaps a bit over cautiously, and discussed my route to Moe with the lovely lass behind the counter. She recommended heading down through Cockatoo to Packenham and as the weather still looked a bit suspect I followed her advice. This stretch of road was another gem, but unfortunately left me with about 90km of freeway to get to Morwell. I had previously thought that the F3 from Hornsby lent itself to the worst driving in Australia, but the Princes Highway certainly gave it a big challenge for the crown. I arrived in Morwell tired and ready for a few cold beverages, a quick shower at the motel and I joined my friends for Chinese at a local restaurant. The meal was nice enough, despite some awful screw-ups by the waitresses and some overly grumpy reactions by a few people in our party, but I was ready to get some rest and headed to my room while my cohorts continued on. Friday morning found me with a nasty case of food poisoning and awake hours before the chemists opened. Not a good start to the weekend. I looked like death warmed up and felt worse. Thankfully I improved by Friday night and was able to properly enjoy the weekend. Sunday morning I prepared to head home and after some local knowledge about the back roads to Healesville I prepared to take my originally planned route home. The roads to Noojee were a mixture of really tight windy stuff, often narrow and without any lane markings, and more open sweepers where visibility was good. My only worry on this leg was the signage as I wasn't familiar with all of the towns I'd be passing through and the signs didn't list the bigger centres further on. Thus, I found myself in Noojee with not much clue as to which road to follow. I grabbed my map for guidance and followed the sign that pointed to Powelltown as it was the only name on my map before Woori Yallock. Things seemed to be going OK until I came to an intersection where my two options were Warragul or Drouin.... WTF?? At this point I lost my temper, found my way to the Freeway and headed back to Pakenham for fuel. My misdirection had added around 80km to my trip and left me wondering how to get home without wasting any more time. A quick consult of the map and I figured that heading back to Mansfield would still be much quicker than going all the way into Melbourne to get on the Hume. By the time I'd reached Healesville my mood had improved, the weather was good and I was ready to take another look at the Spur. I can see why this piece of road is so highly rated by so many people, it seems to flow so beautifully. The Spur is a real contrast to my regular benchmark, the Oxley Highway, as instead of corners interspersed by short straights the bends seem to go forever. I was really enjoying the Spur, although regularly checking my mirrors worried that I'd hold up someone more proficient than myself, when I caught up with a line of cars who I followed to the top. The rest of the trip was pretty uneventful. I fuelled up at Mansfield and then headed towards Benalla and up the Hume to get to Albury a little quicker, as duty called at home. All up I covered over 1000km in two days of riding, learnt the real fuel capacity of my bike, rode on some wonderful roads and saw a part of Australia that I'd never been to before. Most importantly though I really got the touring bug, I said to my wife on my return that we're lucky I didn't have a bike at uni or I'd likely never have been around long enough to meet her. Planning starts tomorrow for the next opportunity to put some clicks on the odometer.