Monday and Tuesday were the ony free days in the second week of school hols, and RC and myself had been planning/promising/hanging out for, a ride a bit longer than up to the Pie Shop for a coffee. Basic planning was to head to Port Macquarie (from Oak Flats, south of Wollongong) on Monday, ride up and down the Oxley on Tuesday, and then head south, stay a second night somewhere and ride Thunderbolts and the Putty on the way home. As always, it didn't quite work out that way. I was the spoiler to begin with; Sunday night saw a case of Delhi-belly and much sweating and stuff, so an early start (or any start, actually) couldn't be guaranteed. Monday morning was grey, as was my general pallor, but I decided I'd give it a go. Then mum rang; she's got limited mobility these days, and she needed me to take her to the bank to get some money. So I did. It did me a favour, because by the time that was all over the internal combustions had settled down, and we ended up leaving RC's place somewhere after 11:00 am; rotten timing for a long day's ride. Our usual solution to the permanent parking lot that is Sydney between Heathcote and Hornsby 'most any time of the day or night is to do Heathcote rode, New Illawarra Road, Alford's Point Bridge, Greenacre, Auburn, St Hellier's Road, (once owned by my great-great-great grandfather and named by him), Silverwater Road, Pennant Hills Road and Hornsby. Not too many dramas there and it wasn't long before we were enjoying a late lunch at Pie in the Sky on the Old Road. Apart from which, as any Sydney rider will tell you, after you've ridden the rest of the old road, there's no choice to get to the eastern side of Newcastle and onto the Hexham Bridge than brave the lunacy that is the F3. Now I'm no shrinking violet on the road let me tell you. In the car or on the bike, I'll compete for my share of the road with the best of 'em. And on the bike, always be able to win, too. But this road (I've been travelling it since it was built, and driving it since 196, is just manic!!! All the trucks do 120 (speed limited? not likely :roll, and that's UP-HILL. Little old ladies in Corollas tailgate you at 130, and well-dressed pillars of society draft past at 140 plus in Honda soft-roaders and disappear within less than a minute! And apart from a couple of static cameras, law enforcement is utterly non-existent. The NSW Police Force would make up half its total year of fines by patrolling the F3 and pinching just about everyone. Hexham couldn't come soon enough; I don't have enough eyes to be looking for the threats from EVERY direction. And then, north of Raymond Terrace, where for kilometre after kilometre, the road is four lanes but the limit is 100, it's on again. AND, when the limit finally DOES go up to 110, they just add 10 the the speed they're already doing. Unbelievable. South of Bulladelah we found the turn-off to the old highway, and the amazing bit of road that used to be known as O'Sullivan's Gap. Here it is. http://snipurl.com/si4ov They bypassed it years ago when the freeway went through, and it's a ghost-town sort of road now, poorly maintained and rough, but you can see why it was a killer road back in the 60s and 70s! If you haven't ridden it, do so, if only to say that you've ridden it and survived. I was treated to a huge shower of sparks as RC's VFR encountered a mid-corner bump while cranked right over! Wonderful stuff. Back to boredom as we droned along with the rest of the dodgem-cars on the main road. Until 50 kays south of Port Macquarie, where the road is being upgraded to four lanes too. Wisdom would have said, start at one end, finish a bit, open it up and start some more. But this is a government project and wisdom crieth without. The entire section is closed down to two narrow lanes for over 35 kilometres, with double-unbroken line and not one single overtaking spot, and an 80kph speed limit. Could you get stuck behind someone going even slower than the limit? You can make book on that. Can you do anything about it? Of course not. Eventually there's an end to this madness, and the chance to stretch the legs for just a few kays before hitting Port Macquarie. Port Macquarie Hotel, next to the massive Ridge's, right on the waterfront in the middle of town, is a bike-friendly place, $85 for a double room with its own bathroom, and secure parking for the bikes. The Thai resturant right next door was packed, and with good reason; the food was superb, and good old-fashioned country service made the whole experience a pleasure. (If you're not into Thai, there's an equally yummy Pancake place right next door to that.) Unfortunately, after literally only three spots of rain in the whole trip, we woke around 1:00 am to the sound of rain. A peep outside confirmed it. Water, water everywhere. Not a good omen with the Oxley beckoning in a couple of hours. But at 6:30 am as we headed out, there wasn't a cloud to be had! yay. I've only ridden the Oxley once, west-east and in the rain and cold, so I was glad the Boss resisted the temptation to rain on my parade yet again . How does one describe riding the Oxley, following someone who knows his bike intimately, and trusts it implicity, and knows the road like a rally pace navigator? I was determined not to get left behind, so as he went faster, so did I. It was only when we arrived at the top, with my (ominously) worn Bridgestones starting to slide, front and back, that he said that he'd been trying to build up a bit of a gap so I could ride my own lines and not be sucked into following his. I've never ridden the Hornet that hard, or spent so long above 9,000 rpm for the whole time I've had it; I doubt it's ever been ridden that hard for its whole life. I was brought up to have mechanical sympathy, and dad always said not to labour a motor, change up and let the revs drop, etc. Not likely yesterday, I was too busy spotting apexes to change gear; I THINK I was in second or third for the whole 45 kays up, and back down to the bottom. I was literally out of breath, and shaking, when we stopped, as if I had run 20 minutes on a treadmill. I dips me lid to sportsbike riders who can keep that sort of stuff up for hours at a time!!! The next time I ride Macquarie Pass (all 6 kilometres of it) I promise I won't tell anyone . So, what did we do? We turned around and rode back down again!!! I think riding fast downhill is a more precise discipline than riding fast on any other sort of road. But we made it to the Fluffy Duck cafe in Wauchope for breakfast, having turned in 208 kms between 6:30 am and 9:15 am, and having scared the daylights out of me for most of them. Would I do it again? You bet . We were out of choices for the trip home, more droning and hoping to make it back to Wollongong in the day (estimated mileage, over 800 kms) we avoided the Gap and turned off at Nabiac. If you haven't visited Brian and Margaret Kelleher at the Motorcycle Museum, you're not a fair-dinkum motorcyclist. I could have spent hours there, but the road beckoned and after eyeballing a few classics (a bronze 1974 Yamaha RD-250, EXACTLY the same as my first bike!!) it was time to go. Gloucester, Stroud, petrol. Travelling on the Hornet, you never get a chance to be complacent or settle in, because you're always stopping for petrol. As it happened I pulled up to the one boswer first, and when I had filled up, I rolled the bike forward a couple of metres, to hear RC say, "Mate, your back tyre is down to the metal belt!" 'Twas too, so we limped into Newcastle at 80kmh (now EVERYBODY passed us on the freeway ), and thanks to Graeme Morris and his great crew at Broadmeadow, left some dollars lighter and a new BT-021 fitted, and scarpered for home. Well, we got to ride the full length of the old Pacific Highway, then retrace our steps through the post-peak-hour Sydney traffic and arrived safely home at about 9:30 pm. RC's got pictures so he can post them. It was a good ride, probably around 1,300 kms in two days, and again re-inforcing for me the utterly amazing all-round capabilities of the Hornet. At 110 in top on the freeway, you can open that taps and just go. The engine is hovering on the bottom edge of where it like to boogie, and from there to 9,000 and more, ir howls. On the twisties you can destroy a back tyre with ease (it WAS due for replacement in the next month or so, but that's life ), and you can tour with ease.