Bushrangers and Underpants
By Robyn – Ballabio
Well, I’m sure all of you have heard of the fabulous bushrangers’ way – the Oxley Highway to the highlands in NSW and Thunderbolts way to Armidale. It is notorious for clandestine activities of yesteryear and bloody good rides in the current ones! This little story happened in the middle of winter to two devout Guzzisti who decided to travel the fabled way.
Ross had been on the lookout for one of those (getting rarer) 1000S machines – one of Guzzi’s finest. Devil Rider Dougie put him onto a find at Kew in NSW so on the spur of the moment it was decided to hightail it down there on Saturday and if all good, ride the beast home on Sunday. Simple eh? Well, work-wise and socially very busy, not much thought was thrown into the equation and Ross and Robyn sort of just jumped in the 4WD and headed off (after a darned good Friday night!!!) out of warm and sunny Queensland … to the depths of NSW.
After due inspection, beautiful 1000S went roaring off down the road towards Port Macquarie motel in the cold, dark night. For the next day we had a map – sort of – which showed the way but not the k’s, so warm and cosy that night we decided to do the ride back to BrisVegas in shifts, up “the Oxley” and through the mountainous centre of the state. Morning loomed dark and threatening rain. Then the intrepid guzzisti realized that (1) they didn’t really pack any warm gear and (2) they didn’t pack any wet weather gear either! However, the sky promised a break up over the mountains so up the Oxley it was. Ross headed off, the 1000S looking to break into a gallop at any time. Robyn followed in the 4WD to heated cab and good music.
The Oxley was a fantastic ride – long straights where you could give it all it had, big sweepers and tight curly ones (Not to mention the hairy curly ones). The panoramas were spectacular. And best of all, almost nil traffic. However … it was freezing. Ross stopped for a walk around about an hour into the trip and squeezed frozen hands into my cotton mittens to try and get some warmth and feeling back. Feet were frozen and I tell you, the icy wind was fair up the jumper all the way. I think riding in icy conditions is akin to torture – when you are in Sunday morning brekky ride gear! He charged off again up through the mountains and I next met up with him at Walcha, the end of the Oxley. He was literally shaking in his boots … it was cold!
That last fifteen k’s took forever. We did a very big breakfast with even bigger hot drinks then it was my turn – brave the elements, had to keep going. I headed for Armidale in the palpable chill but I thought Ross would end up with hypothermia if he took it on again so soon.
It started to sleet and I was literally “fogged in with visor and glasses”. I missed a gear up top and I think the S stalled midflight as next thing we were fishtailing down the highway. I pulled the clutch in and headed for the verge. Ross checked it. She growled into life again, I found the gears and off I went. Ross had offered to take over but I said no, it was my go. Got to Armidale outskirts, pulled into a servo and did a girl thing (ie. chucked a “nervie”) – said to Ross to take the wheels off and put the whole damned thing in the car! (He did actually measure it you know!!) Anyway, he donned the sparse, wet, cold gear and hopped on for the leg across to Grafton, again through the mountains which turned out to be a great ride. That is a nice piece of road.
I regained my composure and hailed him in for a changeover about 160ks along. It was still freezing wet – and slippery (Particularly through the mud sections called road repairs) and we got to Grafton a bit slower than would have liked. By Ballina we both looked about 80, frozen in hues of mottled blue and purple, stiff hair, given up complaining and not a miss from the 1000S.
Ross took the long highway haul back in the constant rain and we finally got in from our wild, crazy, endurance haul from the south. Parked the beast at about 7.30pm and had been on the road for twelve hours and had done over 800ks crisscrossing all over NSW Great Divide – summer gear in winter! Ross’s mobile phone drowned in the pocket of his leather jacket and refuses to be resurrected.
… and the best bit – Ross riding with his underpants on his head to keep out the chill!! Ever inventive, we Devil Riders!