Sunday, June 24, 2012

Bite my shiny metal ass!

I haven't been out on the bike for a month and when I got an email this week from Wayne asking if anyone wanted to go for a ride this Sunday to have lunch at the Grey Gums cafe on the Putty Rd, I was like donkey in Shrek "Oh pick me, pick me!". It was just to be the 3 of us today with Bushpig coming along as well.

It was cold this morning when I got up the thermostat on the wall said it was 5°C(41°F) so I got the neck warmer out ready to go. After oiling up the chain and getting ready to go it was off to the servo for some air in the tyres. On the way I thought "crap I forgot the neck warmer" but it turned out it wasn't that bad out and I didn't really need it thank god. The pressure must not have been to bad because the bike feel like it handled ok, when I checked it was only down by 5 psi front and back. Bushpig and I were to meet Wayne at the servo Wilberforce at 10am which we got in a couple of minutes early. I was expecting to see Wayne there waiting but he wasn't there which was unusual.

Waiting for the crew to show up
Bushpig checks his phone and finds he has 2 messages, one from Wayne saying the Duck won't start because of a flat battery and no jumper leads so he won't be coming. Bummer for him. The other message was from York saying he'd be there at 10:30. That was unexpected that he was coming so it was good we would still have a crew of 3. Whilst waiting for the Aprilla to turn up I had a pie for breaky and an iced coffee. A red VFR with 2 people on board pulled up in front of us and we kept on chatting. The guy took his helmet off and I immediately recognised York. Well that was a big surprise, I didn't know he was going to rock up on a VFR. He had his lovely wife with him for the ride today.

After greetings we headed off up the Putty Rd towards to our first stop the old half way house. It was very cold when riding in the shadows of the mountains and the road was still very wet so caution was the order of the day here. We arived at the half way house and stopped to warm up. Carbon fibre exhaust pipes are great hand warmers as long as you don't touch any of the metal end parts.

Bikes at the half way house.
Whilst warming up in the beautiful winter morning sunshine we decided to have a bit of a look around. The guy that owns the place is a bit of artist/sculpturist. He makes all these weird sculptures out of metal like the big wo-man statue out the front of the place. Out the side of the place in the paddock is a bunch of different metal scultures. The first two I saw immediately got my attention as they were of one of my all time favourite cartoon characters. It was Bender from Futurama. They were made out of old gas bottles and cylinders. The guy had done a fantastic job of them even right down to the cigar in one hand and a beer in the other. I could almost hear him in my head saying "Bite my shiny metal ass"

For those people who have been living under a rock for the last 10 years and don't know who bender is check out some of his famous quotes in the following video.

There were also some other funny looking objects and sculptures around the place. I quite liked the mail box it looked like Ned Kelly with a gun in each hand. To those non Aussie readers Ned Kelly was a famous Australian Bushranger from the 1800's. Carved into the chest it said "Such is Life"
Cest La Vie
There were quite a few bikes out today considering how cold it was, although I guess our weather is really year round riding weather when you think about it as it topped out at about 15°C(59F). We headed back down to the Grey Gums for some lunch. There were lots of bikes at the cafe, and why not its a great place to stop for a break have a drink or food and watch all the bikes coming and going. I had a hamburger there today and it was fantastic it came on a damper bun. I'll have to get a pic of the burgers here next trip to show you how good they look.

Here is the ride back from the halfway house to the grey gums, I've shortened it by about 5 minutes. York I could see your suspension bottoming out and rebounding at 1:45 making you run a bit wide. I guess you are not used to that soft VFR suspension and a passenger.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Touring Tassie Part 4 of 4

We started out this morning in Burnie with the boys in blue turning up to have a chat with us. What have we done you might ask? Well nothing really, turns out the hotel owner was mates with a local copper who also happens to love motorcycles. He was on his ZX-12 and gave us some great advise on riding the local roads. And even more handy the location of the one and only radar patrol car in Burnie which was nowhere near where we are going. He seemed to be a really nice bloke for a copper.

With that in every ones minds we headed out back down through Hellyer Gorge. The gorge is filled with 45 and 55kmh bends and certainly is sportsbike nirvana. I remember pushing as hard as possible to go as fast as I could through here after yesterdays sighting run. It always helps to go faster if you've already been through and seen the road conditions. What a rush this place is. We stopped at the end to let everyone catch up and ponder the race, er... ride. Yes that's right, the road is not a race track.

It was then on across the road to Cradle Mountain. There are big open sweepers all along here that we saw the double ton figures along this section, with the bikes in front laying down black lines around the bends and over the crest of the hills here. You could see for miles infront with the road rising up hill and down dale.

After we left Cradle Mountain we headed up to a little place called Shefield. What a lovely little town this is with all the murals painted on the walls of the building in the town centre. From here we headed back south out around Mt Roland. This was a very narrow but twisty road that we had an immense amount of fun on. It was one of those narrow winding country roads that you needed to have a full awareness of everything around you, as you could come round a blind bend and there would be a farmer on his tractor doing 15kmh taking up the whole road type of thing, big potholes or dips in the road in the shadows that needed careful attention to avoid. The ride out around the foothills of Mt Roland was fantastic though.

Mt Roland from the main street of Shefield
Here's an picture of one of the cafes in town. There were many buildings that had been painted with murals like these all over town it made for quite a pleasant place to visit.

Then it was on over to Launceston via Deloraine which was a bit on the boring side. It was only 50km or so but seemed like it took for ever. Most of the roads we have been on have been very winding and enjoyable so when you get to some straights in Tassie you get bored very quickly.

We had to catch the ship back to the main land today so some short rides were planned for today. We headed out east of Launceston to the lookout at Scottsdale for a few photos and then wound our way through some back roads and across the Batman bridge. Some of these roads were a bit on the rough side but then all of a sudden there would be a super sweet section that was really smooth and winding. We figured this was sections where they run the targa tasmania rally, well our guess anyway.

Guys at lookout

Scottsdale Lookout

We stopped for a quick break on Dairymple Rd to discuss the mornings riding then continued on over batman bridge and along to Devonport. It was along here that I witnessed one of the most dangerous overtaking maneuvers I have ever seen. One of the guys overtook a car going up a steep hill he was sitting out in the oncoming lane overtaking, over the crest of the hill with no way of getting back into the left lane if needed. He was lucky that there was no one coming the other way or he would have been toast. A shocking display of riding if I'd ever seen one.

Wee Break

We arrived in Devonport in the early afternoon and stopped outside one of the pubs just across from where the ferry terminal is. Everyone was pretty well shagged from the last 8 days riding which was more like 11 for us. We all got fish and chips and sat in the park overlooking the harbour and just relaxed until the Ferry came in.

Tassie was a superb place to go motorcycle riding and we were especially lucky with great weather. I would highly recommend riding there if any one is contemplating it, just about anywhere you go in Tassie you can't really go wrong. One of the best motorcycle holidays I've ever had.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Touring Tassie Part 3 of 4

In Hobart we stayed in the Shipwright Arms hotel, the owner was pretty motorcycle friendly letting us put the bikes around in the lock up garage. The meals were great as well. I remember sitting at the bar having a few beers with my bro and watching tanks on tv rolling into Iraq for the second time .

Shipwright Arms Hotel
The Cascade brewery one of Australia's and Tasmania's oldest brewery's was calling. I had always wanted to go on a brewery tour as I am also an avid home brewer myself. So this tour was interesting on a number of levels, not to mention the free beer at the end. We finished the tour at about 2:00pm and then decided we would head off on the Lyell Hwy to Queenstown on the West Coast.

Cascade Brewery with Mt Wellington in background

Sweet Beer

The Lyell Hwy was one of the best rides in all of Tassie. It is one of the longer rides and through some of the most remote areas of Tassie which winds its way through forests, Hills and mountains and past some large lakes with beautiful scenery. We stopped at a lookout in the mountains that had great views over a power station.

Power Station Look out

Lake Burbury

 It was getting late in the after noon and we wanted to get to Queenstown before nightfall so some spirited riding was called for. We were on the perfect road for this sort of thing as it actually encouraged it. We had stopped several times to look at some of the  spectacular scenery. All along the way here we kept overtaking and also being overtaken whilst at stops by the guys from Melbourne we had met a couple of days ago on the ship. Sadly I did not take many photos along here. Having to much of a blast riding I guess.

Bikes at lookout - Queenstown
A short stop at the lookout on the outskirts of Queenstown was a refreshing stop after the hard riding we had just done. We didn't  get here till about 6:00pm so the sun was starting to get low in the sky. Their were lots of bikes here as well and they just started to move off into Queenstown not long after we arrived. Time to hit the pub for the night.
Road to Queenstown
Below is the view from our hotel window in the centre of town. We had stayed in the Empire Hotel in the centre of town. That night we had a fantastic time chatting with the guys from Melbourne over a few beers about our different travels and experiences on the isle. It was decided that the next day we would hook up with them and ride with them as they were pretty much going to the same places we were.
Mt Lyell

Today we road from Queenstown down to Strahan. This is another piece of motorcycling heaven. We rode this section as a group with the Melbourne guys. From Strahan we turned off and headed up towards Zeehan. Then we turned again back towards Queenstown for a little until we could turn off at Anthony Main Rd which runs up past Lake Plimsoll and the mountain passes. Here we took a few action shots.
Flyboy doing what he does best


Me - Cruising

Rest break near Rosebury
We fueled up in Rosebury then continued up to Hellyer Gorge. This is a great piece of motorcycling road and I'd have to say one of the best winding mountain roads that tassie has to offer. We were also coming back this way tomorrow so we get to ride it again, that put big smiles on all of our faces. We stayed in Burnie that night.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Touring Tassie Part 2 of 4

We left our accommodation at Eagle Hawk Neck and went down to a small place called Port Arthur.
To those non Australian readers, Port Arthur was one of Australia's toughest prisons back in the convict days from 1833, up until its last prisoner was shipped out in 1877. There are still many of the prison buildings including the asylum and some of the original Chapel's built at the time still standing. You can still walk through all of these old buildings and look at the cells. It would have been hell to be locked up here.  These days Port Arthur is a must see tourist attraction and I'd highly recommend it to anyone in the area to visit and see the rich history of this place.

Flyboy in front of Prison
Us at Port Arthur Overlooking the back of the Prison

Above is looking across the field at the old prison complex. The prison used to house the most hardened criminals that were shipped out from England. There were only 2 ways into Port Arthur which was by boat or the 30m wide peninsula at Eagle Hawk Neck connecting the mainland which was fenced and guarded by soldiers, man traps and half-starved dogs. Back then most of the convicts couldn't swim either making this really hard to escape from,  a real hell hole.

Chapel on hilltop
View back up towards the entrance

It wasn't exactly easy or pleasant walking around most of the day in full motorcycle leathers and gear, carrying helmets etc not to mention getting a few queer looks from other tourists, but it was all good and I was very happy to have that comfortable R1 seat to rest on for the trip into Hobart.

Just off the shore line in the harbour is a very small island called the Isle of the Dead. Some 1200+ people including prisoners are said to be buried on this island. Very surprising that they could fit that many people on such a small island really.
View of Carnarvon Bay at Port Arthur Bay

Australia's Darkest Hour
Unfortunately Port Arthur was also the scene of one of the worst mass murders of our time known as the Port Arthur Massacre. On Sunday 28th April 1996 a lone gunman Martin Bryant walked into the Broad Arrow Cafe, and opened fire killing 20 and wounding 12 others within. He went outside shooting at others in the area before holing up in a nearby house where the police finally captured him. The final toll of that fateful day was 35 dead and 21 wounded.

The Broad Arrow cafe has since been pulled down and is now just an outer shell with a reflection pool at the back and lush gardens surrounding it.

Broad Arrow Cafe Remains

Cafe remains and reflection pond

I did not know how I would feel visiting this place after what had happened 7 years earlier. It was very quiet and somber. There were several other people here to. Nobody said a word. You could hear the birds in the tree's and the the wind blowing it was that quiet. Looking into the reflection pool and seeing the wreath for the victims was a very sad moment. Even 2 years ago when I was here again with the family I'd felt exactly the same.

Memorial wreath in the reflection pond
From Port Arthur we headed into Hobart the capital city of Tasmania for our accommodation for the night and to look around at the city's sights. Hobart is a very picturesque place and is the second oldest city in Australia. Hobart sits on the mouth of the Derwent River which see's the finish of the Sydney to Hobart Yacht race every year which starts on boxing day. Hobart is also over shadowed by Mt Wellington that towers over the city and is visible for miles around. It is 1,271 metres (4,170 ft) high and it can even snow up here in summer.

DAY 4 
We spent most of the next day riding around the City and outer suburbs of Hobart. We took a ride up to Mount Wellington which over looks the city of Hobart. As we got to the top we found that it was covered in cloud and you couldn't see very far at all. So to get a good photo we had to come back down. We came back up here the next day but forgot to bring the camera. The views were a lot clearer then. D'oh.

The summit - Mt Wellington
View from Pinnacle Road overlooking Hobart
The above photo is also one of my all time favourite pics of me, my bike and Hobart in the background. I didn't even know Flyboy was taking one but I am glad he did. Thanks Bro and no still no royalty cheques. We also took a ride out Huon Hwy to Geeverston. From here we rode down to the Tahune Air walk which is a tree top walk about 30m above the ground that runs through the forest. The road down to here was pretty good winding almost all of the 30km's. Best of all it was a dead end road so we had to come back the same way. 60km's of motorcycle bliss.

Tahune Airwalk visible in the tree tops

View from bridge downstream
All in all another couple of excellent days riding and sight seeing that finished up back in the pub to try out some of tasmania's finest beers. It was interesting to note that on the north side of the Island all you could buy was Boags beer which was made at the Boags brewery in Launceston. And as you travelled further south to the bottom end of the island all you could get was Cascade Beer made at the Cascade brewery in Hobart. Tasmanians are very loyal to the beers they drink depending on where they live.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Touring Tassie Part 1 of 4

I thought I'd share an old trip to Tassie that my brother and I went on in conjunction with the 2003 World Super Bike round at Phillip Island. We spent about 8 days in Tassie and another week riding to and from the Victorian alps and the NSW Snowy Mountains region. This was one of favourite road trips of all the one's I have been on. It was one of the few times that I had packed the camera for a bike trip as I usually didn't bother to stop and take photos whilst travelling. If someone is thinking of heading down that way soon then it may assist them with route ideas.

Tassie is an excellent place for riding bikes as there is so much variety in where you can go and what you can do there. Just about any road you go on is motorcycling paradise with about the only exception the main road from Hobart to Launceston so we stayed clear of that one. Most of the roads are very winding and some of them have sections with freshly hot mixed tar for the Targa Tasmania rally. Those sections when you get to them are very sweet.

We first boarded the Spirit of Tasmania at Melbourne for the overnight journey to the apple Isle. The cabins were very cosy so we settled in at the bar for a few drinks and plan the next days events before hitting the sack. Incidentally we meet a group of bikers from Melbourne who are travelling around tassie as well and they are travelling roughly the same direction as us. I'm sure we will meet them again before trips end.

Flyboy waiting to get on the Spirit of Tasmania

Squeezy Cabins
 DAY 1
After disembarking our ship it was on into the unknown as we headed east out of Devonport we headed down towards exeter then up over the Batman bridge for a short stop. It was then on to Launceston where we stopped at the beautiful Cataract Gorge. As you can see from the picture it was an absolute cracker of a day weather wise and the scenery was stunning.
Batman Bridge

Cataract Gorge
 Leaving the city of Launceston we headed out east on the Tasman Hwy towards Scottsdale and Derby. This is a fantastic road with winding corners for most of the way along here. It is a heavily forested area and not much traffic from memory. We came out upon a lookout about 15kms before Scottsdale with fantastic views. We also met another group of bikers there enjoying the views.

After Scottsdale the road winds its way through the forested hillsides where we found this little pub by itself in the middle of nowhere. Not sure why it was called 'the worst pub' we only stopped for a pic and a break, we did not try it out. From here it was on into St Helen's for our first overnight stop.


After leaving St Helen's we then headed down the east coast of Tassie where we came to a fork in the road. We wanted to do both roads so Dave said lets ride around the coast road then come back up Mt Elephant Pass into St Marys. What a fantastic ride this was. We stopped at the Mt  Elephant Pancake shop and had some morning tea. The pancakes were delicious. Then headed back down the St Marys Pass twisties. Fantastic sports bike riding here!

 We continued on down through Bicheno(not much there) and down to Swansea(not much here either). Just out of Swansea we stopped to take some pics of the weather moving in over the Freycinet Peninsula. It was pretty windy and cold along here. We continued south down to Orford and onto Buckland. Some very nice scenery along the way here.

As we were passing through a little town called Buckland we noticed this big old pub standing out amonst the houses from the main highway. You couldn't miss it. We stopped in at Ye Olde Buckland Inn but could not find any hobbits to drink with so after a quick beer it was onto Eagle Hawk Neck for our second night.