See also Tim Moran's photos from the trip.
The Cold Frog Netride -- 06 to 08 June 1998
Standing under a scalding shower for a half hour, and drinking lots of hot tea finally got the blood circulating to my toes and fingers - black from leaking dye and wrinkled like a wet frog. I was probably mildly hypothermic too - as I could hardly recall the last hour of travel into Sydney. I wondered absently if everyone had made it home safely as I crawled into a warm bed and drifted off - thinking of the chain of events starting 2 days prior...
Friday morning, as I'm about to leave to rendezvous with other Frogs, got a call from Tony Fussell (K1100LTSE) - the scuba diving at Jervis Bay was cancelled due to wild seas, so he was grabbing the next best opportunity - a Netride adventure.
So Tony, Hiroshi Tim (R1100RS), Geoff (ZX-6R), Jim (VFR750) and I meet up at Beverley Hills around midday, and soon motor off down the M5. The boring commute to get out of town is worth it though, as we're soon peeling off at Mittagong to take the unfortunately named Sheepwash Road across the pretty Sthn Highlands farms to the Barrengarry escarpment and the plunge to the Kangaroo Valley. Sadly - the twisties were damp despite mostly sunny weather, so scratching was out for now. We were soon enjoying a hot lunch at the Friendly Inn, and watching the mist crawl over Cambewarra Mtn, separating us from the coast. The road stays damp as we motor over the last twisties toward the Princes Hwy. At least now we're back in sunshine and mild temperatures.
We're on a commuting exercise now down to Narooma on the NSW south coast. The sweepers and forest around Batemans Bay are a lovely bit of riding. Passing through Moruya just after sunset, we're pulled over by plod doing an RBT. I refrain from blipping the gearbox down, as the Staintune is a not-exactly-legal 96decibels. The coppers are unbelievably friendly - one of them says he's been riding for 40 years, and drills me on the K12, saying he seriously wants one if he can convinve the trouble and strife. The others pull away as I chat for another minute or two. The copper then looks furtive, and whispers to me that there are only 2 highway patrol cars doing the stretch Moruya to Narooma, and that both were presently in Moruya - wink wink, nudge nudge. I took this inside knowledge on face value, and proceeded to speed like an idiot down the remaining 45 kms to Narooma. Funny how the feeling of impunity makes you act like a silly bastard. Enjoyed the fang greatly though.
We're soon settled into Lynch's Hotel - beers in hand - bikes securely locked into a gated 'yard' - and State of Origin on the teev. Dinner at the bistro is actually impressively good. We're having a real party. Three more of the group arrive at 9:45pm - Jim on a spanking new sexy R1 (proving that sports bikes can tour), Neil (Pinko sans Rick) on the ZZR 600, and Jeff on the VFR750 (thank God he stacked the RZ350 at EC). Pretty soon we're having a racous party, getting very pissed, and being even more obnoxious than the rough-as-guts locals. Once the bar closes, Jim (R1), Tony and Neil party on in the upstairs guest lounge with some of the staff.
Next morning dawns windless and sunny - but I can hear the pounding surf down at the infamous Narooma 'bar'. A day later 2 people would drown in a stupid boating mis-adventure off this same Narooma channel entrance.
Sore heads emerge and a very subdued bunch of Frogs enjoy a hot breakfast at a neighbouring cafe. We're off at around 8:40am, and the ride down to Bega is one of the prettiest in NSW. Glorious sunshine, empty roads, rolling farmland, mist in the valleys, and dramatic granite outcrops.
The group re-gathers at the Snowy Mtns Hwy turn-off, and soon we're blasting up through Bemboka to Brown Mtn. The climb is dry, and the K12 and Geoff's ZX-6R hunt at the front. The 6 is the better bike for the conditions, and Geoff is punting it hard, but I rely on the brute torque of the K12 to smoke the exits and keep the green machine just behind. The top of brown mtn has a terrible road surface, and succeeds in tying my rear suspension in knots - resulting in some tramping and skipping that shows up the K12's only major weakness.
We're soon back on the Monaro Hwy and motoring down to Bombala. Cruising speeds reach up to 210 km/h in places. At Bombala Jeff observes that the BT57s are peeling at the abuse like a sunburnt pommie. Hmmm.
We meet up with Neil (superbudgie) at the town servo. We now have a full party of 9 riders, including three Jims, two Neils, two Jeffs, a Tim and a Tony. We're getting pretty excited now - as the famous Wyndham twisties lie in wait just ahead. Before long we're hooting into it. Neil's superbudgie gets a wave-past as he's unstoppable when he has a new D207 on the back. I hang on Neil's tail, whilst Geoff on the Kwaka drops behind a little as he accustoms himself to the conditions. Half way down the 20kms or so of endless corners, Neil tires and waves me by - and I finish the hard work off in Wyndham with Ninja Kermit again hard on my tail. In summary it was a little disappointing as the road was very damp from rain two days previous, and slides were common and unnerving. 8 riders enjoyed it however, and Jim on the R1 certainly rubbed the tits off his D207s - although exercising right-wrist restraint with the tight donk must have been agonising and frustrating. The ninth rider, Neil (ZZR 600), thinking we was on his hang-glider, froze in a corner with a particularly wet patch, and recovered too late as the tyres met the gravel verge, low-siding it into a post. The kwaka won this contest - snapping the post & coming off with relatively light damage to the fairing, headlight and mudguard. Jim's 'thousand-mile-an-hour' tape was judiciously deployed and the trussed up Z was soon gettin' along like new. Neil wasn't even bruised, but was thankful for his leathers which now sported some war grazes. All credit to him for getting over the incident quickly and enjoying the rest of the trip to the max.
We stopped in Eden for lunch, which ended up being eaten on the roadside by a greasy take-away - the Eden pubs being unappealing. Jim (VFR750) maintained the tradition of the Alpine Netride by magically producing fruit from his gearsack, and eating it frequently. This no doubt assisted his speed - as he was almost always in the top 3 bikes to arrive at a given destination.
27kms down the road we took the big exploration experiment of the trip - the Mt Imlay Road that runs 55kms west, up to the Monaro (Cann Valley) Hwy just north of the Mexican border. This road reminds me so much of the hydroelectric infrastructure roads in Tassie - built in the middle of nowhere, of high quality, and graded so as to permit trucks to maintain high corner speeds. In the case of the Mt Imlay road - it was built to serve the timber industry - as there are large pine plantations at the west end, and lots of new growth natural forest at the bottom (east) end. In the middle is some magic temperate rainforest as the road skirts the border of the Mt Imlay National Park. The surface is mostly that harsh blue metal - tough on tyres but provides prodigious wet weather grip. There's a tiny amount of dirt at the top end, (enough to dissuade tourists who poke their noses into the turnoff).
Otherwise the road is mostly free of potholes and undulations - and is made of motorcycle friendly sweepers, (would be posted 75-95km/h if it were posted), connected by short straights. No flick-flack twisties in here - but the most impressive racetrack nonetheless. In fact - ideal territory for heavy sport tourers like the superbudgie and the K12 - which we hammered to the limits of our skills. Fully cranked on one 170km/h left hander, Staintune wailing, rolling to full throttle, bum fully off, knee near deck, constant radius curve unwinding before my eyes like an arcade game complete with european forest surrounds, I reached nirvana - the perfect corner for this bike and rider. Pure bliss. Magic even. And just when I thought if the corner never ended I'd disappear up my own date, the exit revealed itself just as the overheated Battlax rear let go in a casual slide. All the trip planning and effort was worth it for this brief few seconds.
Pulling up at the intersection with the Cann Valley (Monaro) Hwy - the bikes are hot 'n' stinkin' and the tyres are ragged from serious intent of use. We all have broad grins that would stay with us all weekend. Adrenalin rushes like this are the best hangover cure.
Motoring into Mexico, the Cann Valley Hwy is a series of very nice sweepers carving through the pretty Gippsland forests. Unfortunately the road has become quite wet by now - but those with good wet-work tyres continue to play at unprintable speeds. Nearing Cann River itself, we slow as we expect the likely presence of plod. We never sight him though, although Jeff (VFR750) saw one on the Princes Hwy, having missed the Mt Imlay road in order to visit rels near Eden. The Mobil at Cann River is very friendly (are Mexicans really much friendlier than new Welsh persons - or is it just my imagination?) - and soon has us refueled for the 75 km commute down to Orbost. More pretty east Gippland countryside unfolds, as the skies grow heavier with the promise of rain. We're safely secure at the Club Hotel in Orbost, getting into the hair of the dog, as the front really passes through and the rain becomes very steady. All but two bikes squeeze into the limited garage space 'round back. Plenty of semi-secure open weather parking is available though. The pub is like a rabbit-warren of tacked-on extensions, wings, narrow corridors and rooms. I'm sure a building inspector would never give it a fire safety certificate. Neverthless, the beds were comfy, the electric blankets toasty, and the showers steaming - so we were happy. We forgave them that they only had Carlton Draught (pitooey!) on tap.
Dinner was another case of hmmm - reasonably impressive for a small town. Geoff (ZX6) managed to get us all laughing by referring to every town we'd been through by the wrong name. "Geoffspeak" became a real feature of the weekend. We had another good evening, although much quieter than the party in Narooma the night before. We analysed Neil's accident, and he decided the critical error was object fixation (wet road in front), when he should have looked through the corner to help steer the bike 'round.
Next morning dawned like midnight - so heavy was the cloud and rain. Morning amusement was provided by Geoff who paraded around in his flanny jim-jams. We tried hunting down a café without any luck, and the weather-affected mood was to skip the adventurous plan of motoring nor-west to Bonang and Delegate River (with 40kms of dirt), and proceed back to Cann River instead. As this meant hot food - it seemed to get everyone's vote. So back at the Mobil 40 minutes later we scoffed a hearty feed. Getting back to Cann River was a hoot as the road was streaming and controlled slides could be had on demand. Tony took off for home up the Princes Hwy - as he was due to trade the K for an R1100RT - and was concerned about the bike getting too much of a battering before concluding the deal. The rest of us voted on an itinerary modification that would see us do the Cann Valley Hwy, Mt Imlay road (again - but reverse direction) - Eden, Wyndham, Candelo and Bemboka for lunch.
Motoring down the Mt Imlay road in mist and freezing rain was an adventure. Cold air seemed to flow over the bike like molasses. The engine loved the oxygen-rich cool and felt incredibly powerful. The blue metal surface provided excellent drainage - hence aquaplaning could easily be avoided. The K12 and the Ninja hunted through these almost as fast as they had in the dry - it was that much fun. The only problem was wildlife - especially in the old-growth section in the middle. Wallabies and lyre birds scuttled away seemingly every 200m or so. This road is so good (and enjoys no tourist traffic and no plod) - that I would rate it the best fast-sweeper road I have ever ridden in Australia. Better even than the Lake Leake and Plimsoll Dam roads in Tasmania. Seriously - it's that awesome. Be warned however - to get the best from it you have to trust it and go ballistic. The best rush is had when you tear it up at 170km/h-240km/h.
Soon we were back in Eden. Jim had unwisely lent Geoff his R1 for a ride on the Princes Hwy. Geoff proceeded to do monos, stoppies, burnouts, and hit the red-line in all the bottom gears. His comment at the end of the brief ride was "it felt like a tractor". Jim just raised a disgusted eyebrow at this comment. Guess Yammie and Kwaka enthusiasts don't see eye-to-eye on some matters.
We enjoyed pots of coffee at the Caltex roadhouse at Eden. By now we were all quite wet - and getting cold. Tim (R1100RS) - who had been punting the Beemer at a very respectable clip - only had jeans on for chrissakes! Understandably his enjoyment meter had peaked and was rapidly falling, so he and Jim (who was eating another apple), decided to motor home straight up the Princes Hwy.
Whilst they did this, the remaining 6 hardy souls took the turn-off to Wyndham and Candelo. The road to Candelo is a blast, although a bit narrow and lumpy. Neil (ZZR) copped a puncture in Candelo, whilst the rest pressed on to Bemboka for those famous pies. Jeff (VFR750) generously doubled back to check on Neil, whilst the rest munch our pies and wonder if Neil is ok. Eventually they show up, Neil happily having used a puncture repair kit with success.
Time is getting thin. The rain increases as we contemplate taking the most direct route to Tumut via Cooma. There is some mumur in the ranks about heading home. I accuse the dissenters of being wusses and sheilas blouses to get them to harden their resolve. With that we tackle Brown Mtn for the 2nd time in as many days. Once topped out onto the high Monaro plains - we realise the local cockies must be delighted as the drought-breaking rains saturate the brown farmland. Sadly for us though - even those with the best quality gear are wet through - and fingers and toes now lose all feeling. The temperature is around 5 degrees. Seriously freezing. We were now officially ccccolddd fffrogggs.
At Cooma we thawed out as best we could. Some tried putting on dry socks and plastic bags before donning wet boots again. Some even went into the neighbouring ski shop to buy ski gloves - they were that desperate to reduce the discomfort. The fun was now over. Only Jeff, Geoff and myself were vaguely interested in pushing on to Tumut. Reports of ice and snow on the SMH made the decision easy - we turned for home. A long, boring, cold commute was now endured by all - up the Monaro and Hume Hwys. Riders peeled off one-by-one as they neared their home towns. Jeff elected to grab a motel in Canberra for the night - he was that cold - riding for 3 more hours just wasn't possible.
I followed the lime green Ninja up the highway - his engine causing concern as it missed and surged - no doubt the heavy rain had penetrated some electrics somewhere. Finally, about 10 minutes from home, a traffic light turns red in front - but my fingers won't obey the message to reach out for the brake lever. So I gas it instead and run through on the orange. Needless to say, this is witnessed by plod, who screams off after me. They're decent though, and accept my plea of being frozen to the core. They're more interested in seeing if I'm drunk - and quickly lose interest when they realise the slurred speech is due to the cold, and not to alcohol.
The last of my energy reserves are spent putting the 'bahnburner on the centrestand at home, kissing it thank you and good night, and retiring for the longest hot shower in history.
Frogs indeed - but very satisfied frogs. Satisfied at the awesome riding we had discovered around Mt Imlay, and satisfied at the great times enjoyed by being around fellow riders. Thanks to all the group - and next time we might listen closer to Lozza's forecasts!
Oo-roo... - Finners the Frog