Rolf’s (Non-Dandenongs) Doodles ride
This ride report was originally published in the March 2011 issue of the Motorcycle Tourers club magazine, ‘Chain Lube’.
Sunday dawned clear and sunny. Inspired by the long-awaited generosity of the weather god(s), I leapt on the trusty GSX-R and headed to the South Yarra rendezvous fully half an hour early. Three others had beaten me to it, including Steve, coming along for his first-ever club ride. We were soon joined by Michael, another first-timer, with coffee and chat being the order of business while we watched others roll up. A few of us were also distracted by some eye-candy perched on the park bench opposite who was fiddling with his phone and trying not to look too obvious. His date eventually showed up, there was a joyful reunion in the middle of Domain Road and the two of them headed to a nearby cafe, followed by mutterings of “whoever said there was no such thing as human cloning” from our assembled ranks.
A short rider briefing included a comment on how great the weather was looking. O Fool! Even as I spoke, the sky clouded over and the temperature dropped 5 degrees. How is that even thermodynamically possible? Despite that, our numbers continued to climb with the just-in-time arrival of Darren B, and the even later just-in-time-to tag-onto-tail-rider-Brett arrival of Fab and Aaron. Especially good too, to see the return of Hosko after an extended dog-possum-and-shoulder-related absence from club rides (ask Hosko for details!).
Lilydale saw a few more waiting for the South Yarra group, bringing the numbers up to an even 20. An equally short rider briefing was held under a parakeet-infested tree which was positively snowing blossom, seed-pods, and bird-poo. A change of ride plan driven by the VicRoads website meant a shorter loop through the Dandenongs than originally intended, so before heading off we all had time to inspect the 4WD-inflicted damage to Tim’s Harley. Fortunately, both bike and rider seem none the worse for the encounter, other than perhaps the addition of some further street cred (if that was even possible).
A semi-coherent late-night Facebook post from a few hours before suggested Juz the birthday boy wasn’t going to make it at all for his big day, so off we headed . .
A quick right turn at Lilydale saw us leave the urban hustle behind almost instantly, cruising through bucolic hills countryside before turning left and heading to Wandin then Seville on a pleasant rural back-road I, err, hadn’t actually ridden before. This truncated southern foray was due to mudslides, one-lane sections and long delays between Cockatoo and Yellingbo on the intended route up the C411. So in fact, not much of the Dandenongs were doodled at all! Ah well, another day maybe.
Right at Yarra Junction to a latte stop at Powelltown which provided the opportunity for more social interaction and the checking out of other passing motorcyclists. A light drizzle began to fall so it was obviously time to tackle the twisties lying in wait for us – challenging in a different way, so just as much fun as in the dry, I chanted to myself as I slithered along one of the last 100km/h zoned twisty hills roads in Victoria. Never mind, the road dried out and some sun even appeared before Noojee, highlighting the beautiful old-growth forest as we passed through the Fumina valley. The road here is narrow and relatively recently sealed, giving access through what appears to be an almost forgotten corner of forested hills country close to Melbourne. Worth stopping at and going for a walk one day . .
Emerging onto ridgetop roads through more open country, my anticipation of delightful undulating sweeping corners and rural vistas was met instead by scudding clouds, intermittent heavy rain, cold gusty wind and the odd falling eucalypt branch. The pessimistic ones stopped to don wet weather gear, the rest of us pressed on. “Ah well” observed Darren B “my leathers needed a wash anyway”. Conditions didn’t prevent some good riding, after all, dealing with varying conditions is all part of the fun!
The rain developed from intermittent to constant, and by the time Rawson appeared through the spray we were all well ready for lunch. Unfortunately, and despite heroic corner-marking efforts, a group of riders panicked on seeing the 40 metres of gravel leading to the pub car park, did a U-turn and spent 10 minutes congesting Rawson’s two roundabouts, before a phone call from Fab resulted in the splinter group finally finding their way to the Stockyard Bar and Grill. We huddled down on our two tables in the corner amidst the hubbub and attempted to get warm and fed.
On the pre-ride a few weeks before, this place had been almost empty. I noted the large kitchen and country barn ambiance and decided to give it a go, abandoning the ever-popular (and busy) Erica Pub. My parma was fine (apart from the tinny beetroot), but other dining experiences were not so positive. Coupled with a 1-hour delay on some meals, I’d give them a B minus at best.
Emerging from lunch at 3pm we found the drizzle and wind continuing, but the temperature had plunged further to the point where even non-smokers appeared to be breathing fog. A rush to Rawson’s single operating petrol pump ensued – everybody seemed keen to head for warmer and dryer climes (Perth?). So southward and downward we headed, rain easing as we turned west in Tyers, then actual dry road appearing through the delightful roller-coaster hills above Moe.
We joined the Princes Highway for a while west to Warragul, and it was here the group started to drop more booster stages than a Saturn V rocket. Several riders elected to head straight on to Melbourne, some possibly deliberately, as we peeled off to Warragul and Drouin. An enjoyable ride under a sunny blue sky on quiet back roads followed through Longwarry, Bunyip and Nar Nar Goon for the rest of us. At least, the roads were quiet until we arrived. Rumours abound that even scooters were seen exploring performance envelopes.
A quick right in Pakenham saw a few more drop-offs after Moff’s pointed “here we are at ten to five and still 100 kilometres from home” comment in Longwarry. Like as if he had something better to be doing on a Sunday afternoon than sharing group ride time with the MMT elite! Regardless, it was just the hard-core command module crew of 10 who finally rode the Dandenongs through Mount Burnett and Cockatoo to arrive in Ferntree Gully at a very timely 5:55. Helped by an unexpected but much appreciated lack of traffic over the last 60 kilometres it has to be said.
All in all, another varied but enjoyable ride through some great Victorian countryside and ever-challenging Victorian weather!