April 09, 2002
It all started at a Christmas party barbecue held at Wooli with the Ulysses Club in early December 2001. It became obvious to me then that I would be missing out on a lot of fun and new experiences if I did not attend the next Ulysses A.G.M. (annual general meeting) to be held at Mount Gambier in South Australia in March 2002.
My new found friends and riding companions were quite excited about the forth coming event, most of them having attended previous A.G.M.'s. At first I was a bit apprehensive that perhaps it would be too far for me to travel in the saddle, for the farthest I had ridden a motorbike in the past was from Sydney to Rockhampton in Queensland about 48 years ago when I was much more agile.
I had been riding with the Ulysses Club since July 2001 and had been on 9 organized rides including one overnight stop at Port Macquarie and had all the confidence that my recently acquired B.M. W. cruiser would cope with the trip admirably, which indeed it did.
My application form was filled in and posted away with the necessary remittance and in due course I received all the necessary information through the mail in January 2002. I was still a bit concerned about the distance but it was too late now to turn back, and my family and friends gave me nothing but encouragement.
After numerous discussions as to what gear to take and how to pack it etc., it was suggested that to halve motel expenses I would share the same motel room with one of the girls whose husband did not ride with us, due to his other interests. Not wanting to cause any matrimonial disharmony between them I was fortunate enough to spend a weekend with them both and other Ulysses friends at which time we got to know each other really well and were all happy with the proposed arrangement.
Motel accommodation was pre-booked for the 5 nights it was to take to get to Mt. Gambier and the 3 nights there, and Judy, my traveling companion and I decided to take Camping gear with us to use on the trip home.
So, on the 16th. Of March, 16 bikes set off on our journey, after waiting for Judy to have a broken clutch cable replaced that had let her down that very morning. It was a glorious morning and we had a pleasant ride up the Gibraltar Range with our first stop at Glen Innes. The chap I had bought my B.M.W.from rode with us that far then reluctantly departed. By prior arrangement, at Armidale airport, we met up with a couple from the Coffs Harbour Ulysses Club and we all rode on to Tamworth where we stopped for a late lunch. Here we left the New England Highway and travelled through very scenic countryside on a back road via Werris Creek to Quirindi for our first overnight stop.
We arrived mid afternoon and refueled before settling in at the motel which was on the outskirts of town. After changing out of our riding gear into cooler clothes we gathered around to discuss the day's events. Des, one of our group who towed a trailer, rode into the nearest pub and brought back liquid refreshments, which we all enjoyed. As time progressed, hunger set in and it was by unanimous agreement that we order pizzas for tea. Shortly after the local Pizza Parlor delivered 20 huge pizzas. And we all got stuck into them. The motel proprietor was a pleasant chap and very cooperative so we asked he and his wife to join us. Later in the evening, much to our surprise he turned up with a complementary esky full of beer and a cask of wine for the ladies in appreciation of the business we gave him. We partied on till about 10.30 P.M.then turned in. What a great start to our holiday.
After a brisk early morning walk, we breakfasted, packed our bikes and left the motel at 8.45 A.M. and rode up to the local lookout to view some of the richest agricultural country in the state. Continuing on we travelled on fairly good surfaced back roads through Premer to Coolah where we stopped for morning coffee. Next stop was Mudgee for lunch, having passed through Dunedoo and Gulgong. I had never been on this road before and thoroughly enjoyed the ride. Most of the time I was riding towards the tail end of the group plodding along enjoying the scenery. At Mudgee we broke into groups for lunch, some of us eating in the pub , others in a cafe. After lunch and a little stroll around town, window-shopping, we met up with another couple from Coffs Harbour group towing a trailer as well as friends of theirs from Maitland also towing a trailer. The next 125 Kilometers into Bathurst were also very scenic, especially riding down into the little gold mining town of Sofala and climbing the mountain out again. Once again we experienced good bitumen roads, unlike my previous trip 40 years ago in my old Holden on shocking corrugated gravel roads. It was a hot day so after checking, in at the hotel /motel some of us took advantage of their swimming pool to cool off before enjoying pre-dinner drinks and a very nice bistro meal on the premises.
Later in the evening a group of us walked up the main street of the Bathurst seeking an A.T.M. after which we decided to stop off for a cup of coffee at a very posh coffee shop. It was a pleasant evening with good coffee and more importantly, good friends, even if we did upset some of the patrons with our somewhat unruly behavior. That's what growing old disgracefully is all about.
Having neglected to order our breakfast the previous night, Judy and I walked the short distance to the local "golden arches" fast food outlet and enjoyed a substantial breakfast there. It was still reasonably early and being in Bathurst a few of us decided we could not leave without a ride around the famous Mount Panorama racing circuit which is a public road when not used for motor sports and as the name suggests, offers a magnificent view of Bathurst and the surrounding area. It was quite an experience for me and I found it impossible to stick to the speed limit. My thoughts wandered back to the first time I traversed this racetrack in the early 1950's on my first bike a worn out 1940 Indian. It was a hair-raising experience; yes I had hair then, as I ran out of brakes descending the mountain down the "esses". I had the old bike held in first gear with the brakes on full and still careered down the mountain at break neck speed. Fortunately for me in those days there was a parking area at the bottom of the incline, and even more fortunately the gate had been left open for me to pass through till I eventually came to rest in a somewhat nervous state. Apart from the bottom of "conrod straight" being altered since the early days the track was not changed appreciably, to the layman, except that concrete walls have been built on both sides of most of the road, whereas in the old days it was all open with a wooden fence on some of the bends. There are some magnificent homes built inside the circuit as well as some vineyards compared to the 1950's when it mainly consisted of farmland with a few cows grazing around an old Homestead.
We rode back to the motel to let the others know of our ride and after all the others had packed their bikes we all rode back to the track in convoy for yet another ride around this famous circuit, stopping on several occasions for a photo session. It was 9.30 A.M. before we left Bathurst traveling on the Great Western Highway through Blayney and stopping just out of Carcoar to inspect, from a distance," a wind farm " comprising 15 huge wind generators on the crest of a hill. They are enormous structures with 3 blades, each blade the length of a cricket pitch, and produce a phenomenal amount of electricity.
We arrived at Cowra for morning tea / coffee and a browse through the Information Centre which also houses a small museum. Some of us, about 5 bikers, decided to inspect the Japanese gardens just out of town and the site of the World War 2 P.O.W. camp. This was a very moving experience indeed, and we were fortunate to meet up with a member of the public who had been a guard in the Australian Army at that time and was back for a reunion with some of his old mates. I could have stayed on for ages listening to him but it was a very hot day and we had a fair way to travel before dark. We left Cowra about 12.30 traveling on the Olympic Way and the riding conditions for the remainder of the day were to say the least, most unpleasant, due to the extreme heat and the amount of protective clothing we wore. Passing on through Young we next stopped at Cootamundra for lunch and invaded a beaut air-conditioned cafe for an hour or so to cool off before setting off again in the heat to arrive at Wagga Wagga at 4.30 P.M. I have vivid recollections of hanging my jacket over my top pack on the bike while we booked in at the motel and watching the perspiration pouring out of the sleeves. As the jacket manufacturers said in their sales pitch "this garment is 100% waterproof. They were right. The air conditioning in the motel room that night got a fair workout. It was decided that for our evening meal that night we would leave the bikes at the motel and walk through a park to the nearest pub where once again we all enjoyed a few drinks and a nice bistro meal before turning in after a very exhausting day.
We had a 7.30 start, the idea being to get to our destination earlier to avoid riding in the heat like yesterday. By this time the kangaroos had all gone to bed, or wherever they go in the daytime, and it was nice riding in the early morning light. We passed through Lockhart and just out of Urana we were unfortunate enough to strike a section of road that was being rebuilt and just after it had been watered down. Apart from being just a tad slippery, the bikes became covered in mud. Soon after this we stopped at a roadhouse just out of Jerilderie for morning tea and waited for the rest of the bikes to catch up. Unfortunately Phil had collected a puncture on the back wheel of his Goldwing [presumably from a stone at the roadwork's] and had to plug it up on the side of the road. When he and his helpers caught up with us he decided to ride on into Jerilderie to get it patched properly from the inside of the tyre, at a tyre shop. This delayed us some time but we were all concerned for him and in any case we had no trouble filling in the time talking amongst ourselves and with the many other motorcyclists also on their way to Mt. Gambier. At this point we split up into 2 groups, some riding on to the motel at Moama and others, including myself, following Phil to Deniliquin where he had a fairly good second hand tyre fitted at a Honda agency, and guess what?, no charge. While this was happening a few of us rode on to Moama arriving early afternoon where by prior arrangement we met up with yet another of our Ulysses group also towing a trailer. After unpacking the bikes and settling in to our motel rooms we took off in different directions sightseeing. It was quite exciting to cross the mighty Murray River into Victoria at Echuca. The first thing I noticed was the unusual police vehicle. They were panel vans and not a bit like the N.S.W. Police cars or paddy wagons. Echuca is a very pretty place and simply reeks of history and is abundant with memorabilia of the old river trading days. I had no trouble walking around for a couple of hours admiring the place and sampling the various types of food and drink on offer. Next, back to the motel where some of the others had located a garden hose and had started to give their bikes a good tub. Very soon all the bikes were spick and span again and after a few minor adjustments were all ready to roll again next morning.
Our overnight stop in Echuca was a very memorable one .We caught a mini bus to the river and boarded a "paddle steamer" which was a floating restaurant. We cruised downstream a few kilometers and the light was such that we were able to take photos of the many old paddle steamers in various stages of repair. There were also quite a few houseboats moored to the bank, some of which were quite luxurious even to the extent of having a swimming pool on the top deck. The evening progressed in a very relaxed manner. The food was excellent with a good menu and there were ample liquid refreshments. What's even better, no one fell overboard. A taxi or 2 back to the motel completed a very enjoyable and full day.
Two other bikes and myself left Moama at 7.15 A.M. expecting another hot day, but in fact it was much cooler and quite cold when we reached Bendigo. We took refuge in the old post office building which is now the Tourist information centre which is quite a good cultural centre with plenty of old gold mining artifacts on display. The rest of our group rode by just as we were leaving the Post office but we had no trouble catching up with them remembering of course to watch out for the dreaded tram lines of which I have an eternal fear, having come to grief too many times I care to remember many years ago in Sydney when I was a novice. We stopped at Castlemaine for morning tea and took the opportunity of putting on more warm clothes as by now the weather was quite bleak.
Next stop Ballarat, where once again we split up into 2 groups, some of us wanting to do a bit of sight seeing in this historical old city. We visited the Eurika Stockade site for an hour or so where a modern museum houses a lot of displays related to the famous event years ago when the gold miners revolted. We bought souvenirs from the gift shop and took more photos and headed off again, not before saying g'day to more Ulysses members from Redlands who Judy had met on a previous occasion some years ago.
We left the Midlands Highway at Ballarat heading west on the Glenelg Highway, stopping at Skipton for refreshments then rode into a headwind all the way to Hamilton to our next overnight stop. Judy had a problem with her pannier bags flapping around in the strong wind at about Lake Bolac but it was nothing a few spare "occy" straps couldn't fix and we were on our way again arriving at Hamilton at 5P.M. As a point of interest I calculated later that the strong headwind we had been riding into had caused me to use 10% more fuel than usual. I rode into Hamilton and visited a supermarket for a few grocery items for tea and breakfast, as did some of the others, and we had a sausage sizzle on the barbecue provided by the motel, a few drinks before turning in after yet another exciting day.
It was a very dismal morning weather wise but we were all in good spirits as today was the day we arrived at our destination, Mt.Gambier. We all donned our wet weather gear of assorted styles and colours and stuck to the Glenelg Highway which was a shorter distance to ride in the rain than our planned route via Heywood on the Henty and Princes Highways. Judy and I stopped for fuel, having ignored the golden rule of re-fueling the night before, and we lost the rest of the group, but not to worry, we only had a relatively short distance to travel, about 124 K., to get to Mt.Gambier. It rained the entire way, sometimes quite heavily, and I was pleased to notice that my wet weather gear worked admirably and in spite of the weather it was a very enjoyable and scenic ride. We encountered plenty of other bikes on the way including a step-through Honda posties bike making heavy weather of some of the hills .1 don't know how far he had traveled, but I give him full marks for participating.
The weather did the right thing as we approached Mt. Gambier and we had no trouble with directions, as it was simply a matter of following the signs and the hundreds of other bikes to the registration point, which was the Tourist Information Centre, where a replica of the grand old sailing boat "The Lady Nelson" was moored outside. It was a very exciting time for me to see all these bikes from all over the place and witness the genuine camaraderie that this club of ours has to offer. We found very willing staff to assist us in registering and while in a queue waiting my turn, I chatted to a high school girl, about my grand-daughter's age, who was handing out free newspapers with a full front page promoting the Ulysses invasion of their city. She was delighted because it meant a day off school.
Having been to A.G.M.'s before, Judy knew the ropes and steered me in the right direction. She picked up her meal and excursion vouchers she had previously paid for and she was clever enough to talk me into buying a ticket for a coach excursion the next day. Luck was definitely on my side as it was the last available ticket.
At this point, standing in the queue was a very elderly gentleman with a bad stoop and a kindly smile all dressed up in his leathers. I did not realize it at the time but shortly after, outside in the car park, it transpired that he was Stephen Dearnley ,or "old No. 1 "as he is affectionately called. We all have him to thank for this great organization he started 19 years ago.
We rode to the motel which was quite easy to find, where we met up with the rest of our friends who had arrived at various times. After booking in, unpacking, and having a snack we set off to the show ground on our bikes to join the festivities, inspect the numerous stalls, and pick up our bag of goodies which included a free students back pack with the green triangle logo of the A.G. M. printed on it. Later in my holiday this pack proved to come in very handy to carry all the souvenirs I collected on the way.
The security was first class with each bike having a registration sticker displayed on the front, which corresponded with the same No. On the rider's wristband. These numbers were checked every time we rode in and out of the show ground thus making it impossible for any bike to be stolen.
There were numerous displays of motorcycles and accessories as well as souvenir stalls, refreshment stalls and above all hundreds of bikes to look at and admire and in some cases reminisce over. My camera had a good workout that afternoon. A lot of old acquaintances were met by many of our group who had done all this before and I was most impressed with the friendly atmosphere and orderly manner in which everybody conducted themselves and I came to the conclusion that that it must have had something to do with the age of most of the people in attendance, in conjunction with them all being there with a common interest.
We had a reasonably quiet night that night, some of our group dining in a nearby restaurant and others of us at one of the many take away or fast food outlets at our disposal, where once again we had no problem striking up a conversation with other Ulysses members and many of the “friendly natives” who seemed delighted with the whole idea of all the bikes in town.
After what had now become our usual light breakfast in our motel room, Judy and I rode with most of our group to the Show Ground where we parked our bikes for the day. We left our jackets and helmets there and caught a coach right outside the gates. This was the start of what turned out to be a most enjoyable day.
Our first stop was the "Tantanoona" private gardens and tearooms where we enjoyed fresh scones with lashings of whipped cream and jam as well as a leisurely walk around the beautiful gardens, and a friendly chat with other passengers outside our group, who were mostly Ulysses members.
We then walked a short distance to the entrance to the limestone caves where an experienced guide took us into the caves and showed us the beautiful limestone formations that nature has provided. The caves were not as extensive as other caves I have visited but I do believe they had some of the nicest formations I have ever seen, including a most unusual pool with many reflections.
We boarded the coach again and drove through thick pine forests and undulating countryside to the coast and we stopped at Carpenter Bay where an old disused
lighthouse stands alongside a memorial plaque which indicated that no less than 12 ships had met their demise on this rugged coast line over the years. I believe the area derived its name from the rock formations projecting out of the sea somewhat resembling the teeth of a carpenter's saw.
At this point perhaps I should mention that Judy was on a mission this holiday. She and her sister in law are nominated "nurse in a million "entrants and Judy took this opportunity of raising money for the Cancer Research Foundation.
She passed the hat around on the coach and the lady coach captain came to the party by fining the passengers a gold coin if they called her coach a "bus". This created quite a lot of amusement and at the same time raised money for a very worthy cause.
Our lunch stop was not very far from Carpenter Bay at a quaint little Cray fishing village where we were treated to a very enjoyable crayfish salad at the local inn, washed down with a complimentary glass of the local wine. We were fortunate to have the coach captain and driver both sitting at our table and struck up a pleasant conversation with them learning a lot about the Mt.Gambier area and in turn filling them in on the background to the origin of the Ulysses Club.
Next stop after lunch, and yet another pleasant drive, even if I did dose off for a while, was a private garden called "Aberfoyle " where afternoon tea was provided. Some of the gardens contained rose bushes with beautiful blossoms together with many other flowers and shrubs. The display of old farming equipment and tools of many different trades was fascinating and it was quite easy to spend the hour or so there before boarding the coach for our next destination. We stopped at a 'sink hole" not far out of Mt. Gambier which appeared to be a local swimming spot and then on to the famous Blue Lake from which the city obtains it's water supply. A guided tour through the city then back to the Show Ground to pick up our bikes put us in the right mood to get freshened up to enjoy the evenings festivities.
About 6P.M. we were picked up from the motel by a courtesy bus and driven to the Show Ground .The crowd was enormous but by a little bit of planning by some of our members who were camping on site we were all able to be seated at the same table. The staff coped admirably under the largest tent I have ever seen. We queued up for our meal one table at a time with very little fuss and in no time they had us all enjoying a very substantial 2-course meal. Needless to say the bar tent was frequented often since none of us had to ride back to the motel. There was a dance floor and a live band playing for those who wanted to dance and plenty of opportunity to mingle with the crowd and in some cases renew old acquaintances. I was able to introduce myself to No. 1 and thank him for starting this whole organization and his answer was as he patted me on the back "that's O.K. sonny", what a great chap he is. We partied on well into the night and then caught one of the many courtesy busses back to the motel after a "Cook's Tour "of the Mt.Gambier suburbs.
After breakfast we rode to the Blue Lakes Sports Park marshalling area near the Show Ground to assemble in rows in readiness for the street parade through Mt. Gambier City. Once again it was great to watch all the bikes arriving, some of which were decorated for the occassion. The parade was led by the local motorcycle police and was quite orderly, as we passed thousands of spectators lining both sides of Commercial Street, all the way to Malseed Park, where we assembled after the parade.
The weather was excellent and it was a delight to see the smiles on the faces of the spectators, especially the kids, as their parents pointed out different bikes to them. I daresay some of the parents had ridden bikes earlier in life. There were in the vicinity of 4500 bikes in the parade including a big contingent of trikes, some of which were quite ingenious. To raise money for The Arthritis Foundation, the Ulysses main charity, a raffle had been held with the prize being a new motorbike kindly donated by Honda Australia. The winning ticket was drawn that day after a welcoming speech by the city mayor, the retiring committee and Stephen Dearnley. After a snack and a good look at the many bikes assembled there, we made our departure. It was quite an effort getting out of the park with all those bikes and only a few exits. It reminded me of the old days trying to leave the drive-in movies.
We finally found our way out and back to the motel to fill in the time before readying ourselves for another nights activities at the Show Ground. The local Laundromat was a popular spot that afternoon. I had a bit of a snooze and then caught up on my reading and writing before changing into my old Air force uniform from my National Service days, since the theme for the night was World War 2.
Once again at a designated time our courtesy bus arrived and much to my surprise I was the only one in fancy dress. I felt a bit embarrassed but soon got over it when all the girls started taking photos of me.
It's fair to say that Saturday night's festivities was the highlight of the A.G.M.for many people attending but I think I enjoyed every night equally. We had another nice meal with a minimum of fuss again followed by dancing to the police brass band playing Glen Miller music typical of World War 2 era. I met up with a few more blokes in fancy dress, one being an English army officer marching around an Italian enemy soldier and I joined ranks with them and assisted in playing out the part. Later in the evening I was even congratulated by one of the officials for adding to the theme of the night. The journey home that night was a repeat of the previous night with the exception that on disembarking the buss some of us kissed Shirley the buss driver a happy birthday. I really don't know if it was her birthday but it seemed like a good idea at the time. I had no trouble getting to sleep that night having partaken of a fair amount of "anaesthetic".
At about 8.30 A.M. we were at it again after I had to have a dance in the car park with a couple of the girls I had missed out with the night before. I put a Glen Miller tape in the cassette player on my bike and we danced away to some of my favorite music. After breakfast we set off for The Blue Lake Sports Park again an assembled for the mass ride to Portland about 120K's away. This ride was also conducted in a very orderly manner, again with a police motorcycle escort and all traffic controlled by police at intersections. I think the police enjoyed it as much as we did, because talking to some of them later in the day I learned that a lot of them had been involved with bikes at some time or other in their career and were pleased to see us conducting ourselves properly and not misbehaving as some other bike clubs are inclined to do. The streets and small villages we passed through were all lined with spectators cheering us on which made it a most exciting ride. Once we arrived in Portland it was a matter of parking wherever possible and mingling with the crowd. It was impossible to keep together in a group as the crowd was so thick and I managed to stay with 2 others of our group for a while, and, after battling the crowd and walking around for a short while, 2 of us decided to head for home. We had a good ride back, arriving at the motel mid afternoon.
As the riders came back in dribs and drabs we congregated in the motel parking area to discuss the days events and to learn that the girls had organized a birthday party for that night for Brian who turned 50 that day. After a short session at the pub, we headed back to the motel and set up the barbecue and tables the motel proprietor had loaned us for the occassion. The girls had done a splendid job of catering and this being our last night together as a group we made the most of it, so much so that by the time we finished cooking, we were using our torches to see what we were doing.
The grand finale came when the birthday cake was presented by one of our girls scantily clad in a bikini, jumping out of a beer carton, to the delight of the spectators and the embarrassment of the birthday boy who was prompted to make a speech thanking us for the party. It was a very happy occassion but at the same time sad, because in the morning we were to depart in small groups travelling in different directions after having been together for the past 9 days.
Horror of horrors!! I slept in,!! to be woken up by some of the bikes warming up .1 quickly dressed and rushed out to say goodbye. Some of the riders were anxious to get back to Grafton before the following Friday it being Easter and a bad time to be traveling, what with heavy traffic and. double demerit points, etc. Some of us, like Judy and myself were in no hurry as this was our holiday for the year and we planned to take a leisurely ride around the Great OceanRoad, then on to Melbourne for a brief visit ,part company over Easter, then meet up again in Griffith, ride to Sydney together, separate again over the weekend, then meet up again to ride home together.
We left the motel at 9A.M. with the weather quite overcast, first stop being the Lady Nelson at the Tourist Information Centre, where we had registered only 4 days earlier. We then shopped at Woolies, did the banking for the Cancer foundation fund raising, and after chatting to some Graftonians we met, who Judy knew, we took a leisurely ride around the three lakes of Mt.Gambier before riding on to Port Mc.Donnel, then Nelson, finally stopping for lunch at a beaut little cafe in Portland where we enjoyed a sumptuous seafood open sandwich. Portland was once again a sleepy little seaside port, having recovered from the invasion the day before when about 4000 bikes descended on it. Although by now the sun had come out, it was quite windy and since we had both developed a cold, we decided to give the camping idea a miss and ended the day at a nice motel at Warrnambool, having enjoyed a very scenic, enjoyable day's ride.
Rain overnight and a damp overcast morning convinced us to wear our wet weather gear in readiness for the next stage of our Great Ocean Road ride. We firstly stopped at The Bay Of Islands to take in the magnificent view, and then rode on through beautiful dairying country where enormous agricultural travelling sprays had turned the otherwise barren land into perfect green grazing pastures. By now it was quite wet, and although it isn't much fun riding in the rain, this was compensated by the scenery and the friendly people we met at different viewing points along the way. The Super Bikes had been racing at Phillip Island the previous weekend, which meant there were bikes travelling the Great Ocean Rd. in both directions. We even met a German traveler for Metzeler tyres who had been to The Super Bikes on business, and was doing a quick tour to take in some of this unusual scenery before his next stop in South Africa. He was delighted to see us both using this brand of tyre on our bikes and gave us each a small blue toy elephant as a memento, this being the logo for the company he represented. After a lunch stop at Lavers Hill we were off again to inspect a lighthouse at Point Otway National Park, then on to Apollo Bay before stopping overnight in an apartment at Lome since there was no motel accommodation available and the weather was a bit too wild for camping. We both agreed that the ride from Apollo Bay to Lome was fantastic, and Judy said she thought she had died and gone to Heaven. I had not forgotten the magnificent scenery having driven around the G.O.Rd. 40 years ago in my old Holden bouncing from one corrugation to the next, for in those days the road was all gravel.
We left the apartment at 9.15 A.M. in search of The Erskine Falls which we eventually located about 10 k inland from Lome. It was quite a climb up to the falls where we parked our bikes and walked down the steps to witness some of the nicest waterfalls I have ever seen. We met up with an elderly English couple touring in a campervan with their charming daughter who was in Ausiland on a working holiday. They were most interested in where we had been and the whole concept of the Ulysses Club. Continuing on riding in the light showers we stopped at Anglesea for lunch where we ate with a lone Ulysses girl, Barbara by name, who was on her way back from Mt.Gambier to her home at Broken hill .She was quite a character and apart from discussing what we all had in common, i.e. love of motorcycling, she told us that when riding in the cold damp weather she sewed women's shoulder pads inside her jeans to protect her knees from the cold. A pretty nifty idea, I thought.
We somewhat reluctantly said farewell to our newfound friend Barbara and travelled on to Torquay, leaving the coast, then to Geelong where after taking a few wrong turns and asking for directions, we eventually got onto the Ml. Highway and travelled at high speed, to keep up with the traffic, all the way to Melbourne, crossing the Westgate bridge, and travelling in the tunnel under the Yarra River and The Domain. We had good directions from Judy's son, and had no trouble taking the correct exit off the Ml. and locating his house. When Judy's son knocked off work and came home it was great to meet him and spend a pleasant evening with him and some of his flat mates .1 went to bed that night reflecting on the traffic I had been riding in that day and decided it would probably be best if I waited till the peak hour traffic was over in the morning before I departed in the fast traffic on my ride to Griffith alone since Judy was staying in Melbourne with her son over Easter.
I woke up to yet another misty overcast morning; breakfasted and waited till the traffic thinned out a little, then gave Judy a hug, wished her a happy Easter and set off on my way. I had no problems getting on to the Ml .highway and intended to take the Hume Highway and head north, but was in the wrong lane to take the exit with safety and ended up travelling all the way back to Geelong. I then took the Midland Highway heading towards Ballarat and the weather fined up and I had a very relaxing ride listening to my cassette player for the first time this trip while traveling. I stopped for morning tea and fuel at Ballarat then pressed on to Bendigo and Elmore, where I headed East to Shepparton. Although I was retracing my steps, for on the way down to Mt Gambier, we had travelled from Elmore to Ballarat, I found the scenery very pleasant and probably took in a lot more travelling a bit slower than with the group. The adrenalin rush was not so great and I was more relaxed now being quite accustomed to travelling day after day without any discomfort whatsoever. I was searching for an old pub to doss down for the night but ended up staying at a comfortable motel on the Murray River at Tocumwal.
Having gone to bed earlier than usual the previous night, I awoke quite early and after a complementary breakfast provided by the motel, I set off for Griffith at 6.45 A.M. riding in the dark for half an hour or so, which was a first for me on this big bike which has a headlight like a train. It was a brisk morning but stimulating riding into the sunrise. I was looking forward to meeting up with old friends in Griffith and had a good ride through Finley, Jerilderie, then joined up with the Kidman Highway to arrive in Griffith at 9.30 A.M.. On the last 10 K. run into Griffith an old very noisy Harley overtook me and I followed him closely into Griffith where we waved goodbye to each other as though we knew each other. That's what I like about Motorcycling, comradery comes easily.
I had no trouble finding the house where I would be staying over Easter and was introduced to my old friend Dawn's recent husband Stan, Dawn's younger son and his girlfriend who had both recently returned from a working holiday in Japan. We all set off for Quandong Park, a property near Barellen, to spend the day with Dawn's elder son David, his wife and their three lovely children. We had a good time and I took great pleasure in presenting David with a copy of the short story I had recently written of my motorcycling memoirs in which his late father featured prominently. He was equally pleased to receive it and had found old photos of Geoff, his dad, on the old A.J.S. that I had ridden many a time years ago in our early motorcycling days in the 1950's.
David is a member of the Griffith vintage M.C.C. and has restored a 1952 A.J.S. of his father's, the same bike I had ridden on at their farm when David was just a lad. Needles to say I had a ride on it around the farm and he had it tuned to perfection and running like clockwork. I had forgotten the sound of a 500 c.c. Single, not having ridden one for years. I managed not to stuff up any of the gear changes, being on the opposite side to what I am now accustomed to, and had a very pleasant and somewhat nostalgic ride. David showed me trophies he has won with this bike at "Jam-pot" rallies in recent years, and the last thing I wanted to do was damage his bike in any way.
After a very nice barbecue fish lunch, for it was Good Friday, we went for a drive around the property hand feeding the sheep and cattle and checking the water troughs before returning to Griffith. A light tea and a glass or two of some of the local red's ensured a good nights sleep with plenty of pleasant memories and new experiences to ponder over.
It was a glorious morning, so after breakfast, Dawn and Stan took me for a drive around Griffith, past the new housing estates to the lookout then to a quaint little restaurant where we all enjoyed a light meal and a coffee and admired the art forms on display.
Griffith is a very nice city, extremely prosperous from the many vineyards and orchards in the area, not to mention the sheep, grain and cattle production, with all the spin-offs in the way of agricultural machinery manufacture and maintenance. It is on oasis of green in the middle of an otherwise dry area and has one of the lowest unemployment figures in the state.
In the afternoon they took me to the local Woolies supermarket where I was to see salamis hanging up in the delicatessen section, a reminder of all the Italians living in the area, a race of which Griffith can be very proud. We spent a quiet relaxing afternoon at home chatting and looking at Stan's World War 2 photos and books, as he was an R.A.A.F. pilot in the early 1940's. As a point of interest, the very plane he flew in then, a Beaufort bomber, is being restored and on completion will be displayed in The Australian War Museum in Canberra soon. I was very interested in looking at the logbook of this aircraft that he managed to keep all these years.
My hobby is motorcycling. Stan's is collecting wine. I was privileged to be shown his wine cellar under the house where he has hundreds of bottles of various vintage wines and assorted memorabilia. We sampled some of the wines with our meal that night, followed by a nightcap of "nocchidino", an Italian liquor made on fermented walnut juice with grappa and cloves added. It was very strong, but had a very pleasant taste and I sipped on one small glass for some time whilst looking at more old photos of Dawn's from the old days when she and Geoff and Robin and I were in our prime.
Sunday passed pleasantly with more sight seeing and a visit including wine tasting at one of the many wineries, a visit to a local gallery and an afternoon nap after which, while they rested, I took myself off for a walk around one of the many parks in the town, taking in the beautiful gardens on the way, as Griffith is most definitely a garden city.
Dawn's son Wally and his girlfriend came home for dinner that night over which we were told of some of their recent experiences teaching English in Japan and of their holiday in China.
The customs and culture are so different over there and I listened with great interest never having been there myself. This was the way we wound up yet another pleasant day.
By now I am getting a bit restless, not having ridden the Beemer for 2 days, so I took myself off for the day cruising around the area. I visited a pioneer museum on the outskirts of town and I strongly recommend it to any tourist. It depicts Griffith in the early days, and I was quite surprised to learn that it was developed as recently as 1913 when the first irrigation water arrived to start the growth of what some people refer to as the wine and food centre of Australia. The museum had old buildings transported from outlying areas to form a village where all the old methods of farming and pioneer living were depicted with plenty of displays and exhibits. It was truly a walk back in time and I spent a couple of hours there strolling around from one building to the next, taking it all in and listening to the younger folk commenting on the old fashioned methods of farming and merchandising.
In the afternoon I rode out of town to another famous winery, and being on the bike I thought better of tasting their wares, but had an interesting chat with a charming lady who had been involved in the wine industry for many years. She told me of some of the changes she had experienced in her time. It was fascinating to learn that the watering and fertilizing of the grape vines are now controlled by computer depending on what the normal rainfall provides. The miracles of modern technology!!
The day was rounded off by spending another quiet night with Dawn and Stan enjoying a nice meal and a few glasses of red while reminiscing.
By prior arrangement with David I rode the Beemer out to Quandong Park, managing to take the wrong turning and ending up at a farmhouse were an old bloke headed me in the right direction. Everyone knows their neighbors in the country, even though they are miles apart. I spent an interesting day with David just following him around the farm and helping him where I could with his chores. He had just slashed the wheat stubble recently and in order to burn it to introduce potash to the soil, he set alight then towed a special rake along the ground behind his 4W.D. Ute and spread the fire by zigzagging across the entire paddock. There was no chance of the fire getting out of control because it was so dry at the edges of the paddock it was just dirt without any grass whatsoever.
He was experiencing loss of sheep by fox attacks, so I also helped him lay baits for the wretched animals. We counted about 6 dead foxes from baits he had previously laid. While we were driving around in the Ute doing all this, we were talking motorbikes and I was able to tell him about some of the experiences Geoff and I had shared.
It was soon time to say goodbye to David and whilst riding back to Griffith it was almost as though my old mate Geoff was riding along with me on his beloved A.J.S.
It happened to be Stan's 79th. Birthday the next day, so we walked to a nearby Chinese restaurant where we celebrated the occassion. We had a lovely meal in pleasant surroundings and Stan even scored a birthday kiss from the charming waitress.
All good things come to an end. I had a great time in Griffith having been looking forward to my visit there for months, so after saying goodbye to my old friend and my new friend and thanking them for their hospitality, I rode to another house in Griffith where Judy had spent the night with her brother and his family. She had ridden up from Melbourne the previous day to meet up with me again as planned, so we could ride the rest of the way home together. We were given directions to the factory where Judy's brother worked, eventually found it and were given a brief run -down on the products they manufactured for the agricultural industry in the area. I found it most interesting and could have easily spent more time there, but we had a long way to travel and more of Judy's relo's to visit in Yenda, just out of Griffith. We stopped in Yenda about half an hour for a brief visit then set off for Ardlethan where we fueled up and had morning tea.
Strolling around the local park there smelling the roses, I noticed a monument dedicated to the Australian Kelpie sheep dog as it was in this area this famous breed was originally developed.
It was great to be on the road again, and we experienced good straight roads over flat terrain almost as far as Temora, which was where we stopped for lunch. As we were munching on a nice steak sandwich we noticed that the headlight on Judy's Yamaha was broken. There are no motorbike shops in Temora but we were directed to an engineering workshop, which was run by a group of motorbike enthusiasts. They had some good quality clear packaging tape with which they carried out a roadside repair on the broken glass while they listened with interest of our recent visit to Mt Gambier and subsequent trip home thus far.
We thanked them and set off once more riding through undulating picturesque countryside in contrast to the flat countryside mentioned earlier. We stopped at a Motor car museum at Binnalong that David had told me about and saw some very strange old cars including a 1908 Mab of French origin with an enormous exposed chain drive to the rear wheels. It is one of the rarest cars we had seen. The museum was well worth stopping for, although there were only a few bikes on display.
We continued on our way until we got to Yass were we decided to stop for the night and booked in at a very comfortable motel. After unpacking we rode into town to have a look around and for Judy to buy another card for her mobile phone. We then went for a stroll around a park to exercise our legs before returning to the motel to enjoy a very nice meal in the motel dining room, before turning in to watch T. V. until I could no longer keep my eyes open.
We left the motel at 8 A.M. after a substantial hot breakfast. The weather was a bit cooler than usual but as the day progressed it warmed up. We were travelling on the Hume Highway now and the traffic was fast and furious and the riding required a lot of concentration and no gaping around admiring the scenery. That was all behind us now. We refueled at Goulburn at The Big Ram tourist centre and stayed there for a while to look at the souvenirs and stretch our legs.
Back into the thick of it again, mostly travelling in excess of the speed limit, so as not to be overtaken by trucks. I guess this is what they mean by life in the fast lane, with one eye on the road looking ahead for radar traps, and one eye on the speedo.
We stopped again for fuel at Bargo, where we met a fellow Ulyssian from Port Macquarie riding a big 9 year old Yamaha and struck up a conversation with him, what with us practically being neighbours, living only a few hundred Km's away, and Judy having a similar bike. He told us he regularly rode from Canberra to Port Mac. in one day, carrying live exotic fish in his backpack. We sure met some interesting people on this trip.
We took the Campbelltown exit off the Hume Highway intending to follow our map to Rouse where Judy's brother in law lives, but got completely bamboozled and could not relate the road system to the map, so had to resort to using the mobile phone to contact him for further directions. He came to our aid, met us then piloted us back to his house that Judy was to use as a "base camp" for the next 3 days.
Judy and her sister in law from Grafton were to attend a seminar at Kings Cross in connection with the" Nurse in a million " competition they had entered in and would meet up with me again on Monday so we could ride home together.
Judy's brother in law was kind enough to escort me through the back roads to Holdsworthy Military camp and on to Wattle Grove where by prior arrangement I stayed with old friends for the 3 days. I might add at this point that although I lived in Sydney for 55 years, this area had always been unfamiliar to me, and even if I had carried a street directory with me, it would have been an impossible task, and very dangerous, to try to read it while riding solo. I would have had to stop at just about every street corner to check my route and in the heavy Sydney traffic and this would have been too dangerous.
Having been "Nurse maided " this close to my destination I had no trouble finding the house at Wattle Grove, meeting my old friends and parking the Beemer on their side porch under wraps for the next 3 days, while I was being driven around, meeting up with mutual friends and catching up on the latest news.
I enjoyed a leisurely walk around the lake in the Wattle Grove housing estate with Gordie, my friend, before breakfast, then a drive to Cronulla for lunch in the new pub with old friends, followed by a walk along the promenade, just like old times. Gordie then drove us back to Wattle grove to their comfortable house where he showed me the work he has done on family tree research by using the Internet. I was totally amazed with the comparative ease in the procedure he used to achieve this. All one needs is a Surname, country of origin, and an approximate date, then log on to the Mormon's records for all the relevant information. He has gone one-step further and obtained copies of birth, marriage and death certificates to compile his and some of his friend's family tree.
Now that I am a "bushy" instead of a "towny".,Gordie thought it might be a good idea if he drove me to the place where I was to meet up with Judy on Monday for our ride home. The area has grown so much in the past 14 years I did not even recognize old landmarks, and was therefore greatful for his offer. We filled in the day just pottering around the house, watering the garden, looking at old photos and at maps of my recent trip and trying to get his new fangled telephone answering machine to work, with little success. Late afternoon he drove us to Caringbah, where we had a lovely evening with 3 of our old friends over a yummy meal and as always, plenty of stimulating conversation, all comparing our travels since we last met (rather like we do in the Ulysses Club gatherings).
Early in the morning we drove to Wollongong via Stanwell Park and Coledale, where the road hugs the coastline, not unlike The Great Ocean Road. On arrival we met up with Gordie's son, daughter in law and granddaughter. They were competing in a fun run for charity and Gordie and I baby-sat their daughter and her puppy while they ran. Gordie played along with the proud Grandfather bit, as I can well appreciate, having grandchildren of my own and after the run we all had "brunch" together at an open air café, before making our way home again to spend a relaxing afternoon. Watching all that running must have made us tired, so after tea and ringing Judy to confirm our meeting time and place for the ride home to Grafton, I went to bed early for a good nights sleep, in readiness for the long day to follow.
I enjoyed a light breakfast, took the wraps off the Beemer, packed the pannier bags and reluctantly said my goodbyes. There was a slight hitch in meeting Judy as she arrived at the designated meeting place before me and rode on a bit further but could not find a safe spot to park so she rode on to a factory parking area, parked the bike and walked back. We eventually left the Campbelltown area at about 8.30 A.M. and by 9.30 A.M. having battled with the traffic and road works we reached the Wahringa Expressway and were soon enjoying our ride home.
We stopped at a service station and cafe near the Tuggerah exit for fuel for the bikes and us and whilst resting, had the opportunity to catch up on each other's weekend activities before riding on to Port Macquarie which was our next fuel stop. It was a perfect day with not too much traffic and we both enjoyed the ride .1 guess after being 3 days off the bikes we were suffering from withdrawal symptoms. We met up with an old Bushfire Brigade colleague of mine at Port Macquarie who was quite surprised to see me riding the big cruiser, having only seen me on my old C.B.400 Honda in the past. By now I was able to tell him I could handle it with confidence and that I was sorry the holiday was coming to an end.
We decided to have a bite to eat at Coffs Harbour, as it was fast approaching dark and a bad time to be riding. It was quite dark by the time we had eaten but in spite of this we enjoyed the ride home. Once again I was very impressed with the searchlight on the Beemer and Judy's headlight glass had held together after the roadside repairs that had been carried out on it a few days ago at Temora. Somewhere near the Red Rock turnoff I was just about to overtake a car when all of a sudden his rear number plate fell off and bounced up off the road and flew past me at head height. I was able to dodge it thus avoiding any damage to the bike or myself.
We finally arrived at South Grafton at 6.30P,M. at the same spot we set off from 24 days earlier, having had a wonderful time, experiencing all types of weather (except snow), meeting up with old friends and making new ones, and traveling 5258 trouble free kilometers.
We gave each other a big hug and decided that if Judy did not have to return to work the next day, we could willingly do the whole trip over again. One thing is for sure, I have all my Ulysses friends to thank for talking me into going and I am already looking forward to my next annual holidays attending the 2003 Ulysses A.G.M. at Mudgee, although I think it may be a hard act to follow.