I have worked out that, apart from ridiculously cheap insurance premiums, the only benefit of being old is that more stuff has happened to you, and you've (probably) been more places. Week days are very full with work, these days, thankfully, so weekends are for riding, if other things don't intervene. I decided to retrace my steps through the Hunter Valley and north, to places of my roots. I didn't go back as far as my family's long history in the area, dating back to 1820; just to places I have lived and been. 5:30 I hit the road, and for no other reason that the fact that I didn't need an excuse, I decided to attack the Hunter Valley from the Putty Road end . It WAS a cold morning, Saturday morning, and it wasn't till I got to Wilberforce to fuel up at a bit after 7:00am that I remembered that I had heated hand-grips: d'oh . A black BMW and another bike I couldn't ID were lurking just north of the bridge at Windsor, so I gave them a toot and a wave, then thought perhaps if one or both were policemen, a sedate ride through to Wilberforce would be in order. While I was fueling up they rushed past, so my caution was unnecessary, but I expected not to see them again. Leaving early gives you more time on the road, but sometimes early works against you; the road down into and the lovely switchback back up out of Colo River were fogged in to the max :evil:. Mental note that whatver happens, must take the Putty on the way home to make up for it . First stop was the halfway house at Garland Valley, which, as I have reported elsewhere, is now in new management, and has fuel available. Plus the lady serves up a mean bacon and egg roll. The BMW and his travelling companion, now seen as a TDM900, were there, just taking off their helmets. They must have been travelling at a more leisurely pace than I was, but then again, they were heading for Armidale, so they were obviously pacing themselves. Pleasantries exchanged and the inner man nourished, I headed out. Despite having owned the Hornet for nearly three years now, I must admit that I have never revved it past 10,000, despite the red-line being at 13,000. But I gave it a big fist-full in second heading down the hill from the road-house, and changed up to third as the needle hit 11,500! Even with a stock exhaust, the old girl makes a very satisfying howl! I've probably ridden the famous Ten Mile as many times as any 2 or 3 riders put together, but I don't ride it often enough, (or bravely enough) ever to be satisfied that I can ride it as well as Macquarie Pass, for example. It was fun, but in a qualifed sense. Turning off at Broke, I headed across the winery country to Cessnock, and then on to Toronto, on the beautiful Lake Macquarie. Second stop wasn't a place, but a person. Since we left the Hunter to come to Wollongong in 1966, both my brother and I have kept in touch with his old girlfriend, who went on to marry, produce some lovely daughters, and who always has a cuppa ready when we call. Her present place of abode is just south of Toronto. Hunter Valley people often spend their whole lives in the valley and never leave it; Susie is one such person. From Arcadia Vale it was a short hop to my old school, now called Lake Macquarie High School, but in 1962 known as Booragul High School. To my surprise the gate was open, there were a couple of cars in the carpark and the doors were open, despite it being Saturday. Inside I found some members of the present staff, and my old woodwork teacher, preparing for the school's 50th anniversary celebrations, on the 15th of March! Over a coffee I was able to share many anecdotes about the school and the staff of the days I was there, and needless to say, I was invited to the celebrations in a couple of week's time; (another GOOD excuse for a ride up to the Hunter ). From '62 - '66 I lived over the other side of the lake, at Boolaroo, in this house, in Sixth Street....... It's changed a lot in 46 years, but just down the driveway to the right of the house was where I was standing one bright morning when the girl across the road came rushing over shouting, "Have you heard the news; they've shot President Kennedy...?" Next stop was well north of Boolaroo; just north of Karuah, on the old Pacific Highway, in fact. In 1969 - 1970 I was live-in student at Tahlee Bible College, on the edge of Port Stephens. The two main buildings of the Tahlee complex were built by the AA Company, in 1829 and 1870 respectively, and are heritage listed, though still in daily use. Pictures do not do their gracious old style justice. We single blokes lived in army-style barracks, two to a room. The second door along is my old room. There's two ways to get to my next destination; the dull boring way, (down the boring Pacific Freeway to Beresfield and then up the boring New England Highway to Singleton), or across the fabulous back-country of the upper Hunter. Have a guess which I chose? A few kays south of Karuah, (where I had fuelled up, had coffee and some raisin toast and left my mobile on the top box and ridden off not knowing it was still there :evil, I turned off onto the appropriately-named Buckets Way (the potholes are as deep as....) and headed towards Stroud, Dungog and Gresford. If you have only ever seen the Hunter Valley in its drab, grey, sullen suit of drought, you MUST go and see it in the next month and see it at its best! Watching the road is a must, especially in the two rough, unpredictable mountain passes you must negotiate, but watching the scenery comes a close second; the Valley at the moment is glorious, in a riot of every shade of green imaginable. I can't remember seeing it better. From Gresford it was on to Singleton, fuel (again, small tank, big throttle ) and on to my next stop. In 1973, like the proverbial bad penny, I returned to the Hunter Valley, this time in the Australian Army, and as a married man. For the first couple of years we lived in Denman, and I worked at the Singleton Army Base, then I was transferred to the Army Base in the hills behind the town, and while my wife taught kindergarten at the local school, we lived in this tiny house in Hunter (what else??) Street. Astonishingly, the man living it now remembered me straight away: I was his boss at the Army Base, nearly 30 years ago!!! (See, Hunter Valley people STAY Hunter Valley people. ) And this is the hospital in which my darling daughter was born, in June 1979. I couldn't wait to phone Mrs Hornet and tell her about the old house, , but, of course, my much-loved Samsung was already in someone else's pocket somewhere around Karuah . So I found out. . What to do? I rode through to Muswellbrook, tried to get in contact with the roadhouse via home, found out that no-one had handed it in and booked into a motel to stay the night, 700 kilometres of enjoyment on a picture-perfect day soured by the loss of the phone, and the hundreds of numbers stored on it. Even watching Top Gear didn't cheer me up. The trip home today was uneventful, except for meeting a group of riders just near the Putty Turnoff, and finding out that one of them had successfully dodged a kangaroo which had jumped the armco (!) but then had crashed trying to recover from the avoidance. The rider was OK but the bike was going home on a trailer . There was no fog on Colo . 1,000 kms almost to the exact in two days.