Sunday, 19 October 2014

2014 Australian MotoGP - Race Day

The Royal Box, viewed from Pit Lane.

On Gardner Strait, directly opposite the start finish line, is the Royal Box. Don't be fooled by the tacky livery on this room built for four. Inside you will find large, comfortable chairs, air conditioning, two TV screens, a bar fridge filled to the brim and your own personal host who will allegedly get you "anything you want." I won the exclusive use of this fully catered facility on race day; it doesn't get better than that.

Royal Box luxury.
We were making ourselves feel right at home by 10am and Jordan, our host for the day, wasted no time in serving bacon and egg muffins, two each if you could fit them in. When the MotoGP bikes rode onto the track for their twenty minute warm-up we swapped coffee for champagne and beer and kicked back in our leisure chairs smiling all the while.

We went hands-on for the start of each race and ventured outside to our own private viewing area. General admission punters tried to sneak into our space but they were quickly removed by security. Australian Moto3 rider, Jack Miller, had us all on the edge of our seats as he took the lead and then lost it again from one lap to another. "Come on Jack" was the cry coming from inside the Royal Box every time the Moto3 dudes flashed passed our picture window. Jordan served more man food half way through the Moto3 race but we soon wolfed it down and were standing again ready to cheer Jack across the finish line - Jack won the race.

I have been a Rossi fan for years.
The MotoGP race didn't disappoint with team mates Lorenzo and Rossi having a good clean fight until Lorenzo's tyre choice haunted him and Rossi pulled out a convincing lead. Marquez looked like he was going to run away with it until he binned it ten laps before the end, leaving crowd favourite, Valentino Rossi, to pick up the spoils and bring home the race win. Ducati maestro, Cal Crutchlow, should have finished second but he lost the front end on the last lap and failed to finish. Lorenzo was second and Bradley Smith third.

250 starts, 7 championships, 108 wins & 194 podiums in MotoGP/500cc 

Rossi's pit board.
The crowd poured onto the track as soon as the safety car declared it "safe for human consumption" and we left the sanctuary of the Royal Box and joined the scrum beneath the podium. It seemed unbelievable that Rossi was celebrating a race win on his 250th MotoGP start. "250 Not Out" banners were waved by thousands of fans as the winners sprayed champagne into the wind. It was great to see Bradley Smith on the podium for the first time in 2014. I remember Bradley from the 2006 Sepang MotoGP, they called him the Smith Kid back then, he was only 16 years old.

That night we walked into Cowes for the last time, savouring the last moment of the MotoGP weekend. After all, attending the Australian MotoGP was on our bucket list and we sure did it in style.

The Royal Box was part of an Australian Motorcycle News competition where we were asked to define, in twenty five words or less "How MotoGP riders defy the rules of nature." I wrote:

Lightening Speed, Quick Wit,
Sixth Sense, Ultra Fit.
No Fear, Electronic Control,
Tyre Grip, Insatiable Soul.

Australian Motorcycle News stand at the GPexpo. Thanks AMCN!

Saturday, 18 October 2014

2014 Australian MotoGP - Pit Wall

Pit Lane Access
No one was more surprised than me when I received a phone call from Australian Motorcycle News (AMCN) to say I was the winner of the $12,000 MotoGP prize. The prize was a no expense spared trip for four to the 2014 Australian MotoGP and it didn't take long to find a couple of mates to join us for the trip of a lifetime to Phillip Island.

The Australian Grand Prix Corporation cleverly provide some prizes that money can't buy and part of our prize package was a session on the pit wall for the MotoGP practice on Saturday morning.

The Ducati girls were like statues.
It seemed too good to be true when we were escorted to our canopy on the pit wall, next to Ducati, just as Lorenzo and Marquez were leaving their garages.

Pretty girls adorned each side of the pit garages, all dressed differently, all with the same effect. 

The riders returned to the pits several times during the 45 minute session and we enjoyed every moment as they coasted past us on their way to another lap of the track. 

Valentino Rossi, a winner on his 250th MotoGP Start.
Rossi didn't disappoint with the ritual adjustment of his leathers and we scored Valentino's tear off shortly after it was discarded onto pit lane. Pedrosa, who was having a bad session, allowed us to see the frustration in his eyes before slamming his visor tight shut.

To get so close and personal with these riders and their bikes was without doubt a once in a life time magic motor racing moment; even the dudes looking down from the corporate facility checked us out with envy.

When our time was up we walked away, fully aware of what had been and what would never be again; sometimes you just gotta pinch yourself.

2014 MotoGP Champion, Marc Marquez, Repsol Honda Team.

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Ride to Busselton Odyssey 2014

Loaded to capacity, Red Devil (my BMW F650GS) and Red Dwarf (Steve’s BMW R1200GS) pulled out of our driveway early on a glorious spring morning. Before the first roundabout I had a bee splatter across the face of my visor to remind us that it was the time of year when bees and bugs are on the move. Steve chose a red light on the freeway entrance to adjust the suspension setting on the big GS. When the light turned green Dwarf wasn't ready to go and I sighed loudly inside my helmet.

Frankland River, Muir Highway.
We were soon free from the bustle of freeway traffic and as we cruised up the hill to Dwellingup I felt a gentle calm begin to settle the senses. There were a dozen bikers enjoying breakfast at the town cafe but I didn't look up to see who noticed my over revving engine as I struggled with a hill start under the weight of Devils pay load.

The Lower Hotham Road beckoned and we rode onwards through the fields and the lanes. At one point I was delighted with a fragrance so sweet I looked for the "cellar door sales" but there was none.
The strong northerly breeze had fetched small branches from the trees and we kept a good lookout as we rode along. We stopped for tea in Darkan and then we rode on, finding our way along these quiet country roads until we were spat out onto the highway about five kilometres north of Kojonup town bakery.

After devouring a chocolate ├ęclair the size of a riding boot, we took a moment to clean the bugs from our visors before saddling up once more. The highway ride south to Mt Barker gave me a chance to check on Devil's fuel economy and sure enough she was enjoying the strong northerly wind. By midafternoon the bikes were taking a well earned rest and we were drinking tea at our weekender at Porongurup.

Kombana Bay Caravan Park, Bunbury.
We spent three relaxing days hiding from the rain by day and enjoying the warmth of the pot belly stove by night. With the weather closing in it was hard to leave the comfort of the cabin for life on the road with just the bikes and our little tent. We hoped to spend a couple of nights at Margaret River before heading to Busselton for the 2014 Odyssey but by the time we rode into Manjimup a grey mist had settled on the town and showed no sign of clearing. We walked out of the town bakery wearing full wet weather gear and started riding north. Riding in the rain isn't a problem once you're fully kitted up, it's the indecision of whether to wear the wet weather gear that's tiring. Camping in the rain is more of a challenge, especially in a small tent, so we decided to ride on until we found some fairer weather. There are dry town and wet towns, sometimes only a few kilometres apart. The rain was still with us as we rode into Bridgetown, so we kept riding northwards until we reached Bunbury. We made camp at Koombana Bay Caravan Park and wined and dined our way along the cafe strip until it was time to head to Busselton for the Odyssey.

I seem to make a habit of attracting police cars when I'm riding my motorcycle and one hopped onto my back wheel as we rode out of Bunbury. This guy followed me from one speed limit change to another on the road to Donnybrook. Devil and I were meticulous with the speed we were making because we both knew that one false move and we'd be slapped with double demerit points and a whopping fine as it was the start of a long weekend. We didn't shake off this dude until we settled on 100km/h in a 110km zone; that got rid of him.

All apple pie lovers should stop at the Apple Pie bakery in Donnybrook and treat themselves to a high-top apple pie made with fresh apples. These pies are so big that even Steve couldn't manage to eat two. Donnybrook was our last stop before making our way to Busselton for the Odyssey. We are home now, the Odyssey weekend was great and we are looking for an excuse to ride to Donnybrook again.
Canal Rocks, 2014 Ulysses Odyssey, group ride.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

York Motorcycle Festival

Red Dwarf & Red Devil.
We were on the road early for our Sunday ride to the York Motorcycle Festival. As we made our way through the suburbs we wished the townsfolk had slept in a little longer and willed the sun to rise out of our eyes. The Brookton Highway soon cleared the way and we smelt the breath of the open road, beckoning us onward and eastward. For a moment I felt like I would be on the road again for a long time.

We drank black tea in a road side lay-by and waved to other bikers as they rode by, all of us on our way to the same destination. We peeled off the highway onto West Dale Road and enjoyed the curves and the quiet of this great bikers lane. I saw a tin-top hooting along one of the ridges and felt certain he wasn't going to make the next bend, so I backed off a little, and sure enough he took up all of my lane before gaining control again. As we passed through Beverley we caught up with another biker and enjoyed riding together for a while, like caring companions, but we would never meet.

Bikes everywhere.
York was a picture as we rode into town. We were marshalled to a parking spot outside the town hall and then we settled in at Bella Cucina Cafe and watched the bike world ride in. We walked the main street, eyeing the bikes and enjoying the entertainment. I was disappointed not to see any "bikies" as it always feels good to dance with the devil, sometimes.

By 1pm we were back on the road again retracing our steps. I found myself smiling all the while as I called out the names of the creeks and the rivers and the banks and the bridges as they passed beneath the wheels of my trusted friend.

Burn Bagpipes Burn!
We took our pit stop at Karragullen Roadhouse and hung-out for a while with some bikers we know. I caught "Mr Speedster" eyeing Devil (F650GS Twin) and I said "can't lend her to you 'cos you'll break it." Riding home in the hot afternoon sun reminded me about the merits of buying a white helmet next time.

We were safely home by 4pm. The day had been full of the magic of motorcycling and the York Motorcycle Festival will certainly be in our calendar next year.

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Test Ride Trangia 25/8

The arrival of our new camping stove was the only excuse we needed to load up the bikes and go for a ride to Pemberton. The simplicity and safety of these stoves had caught my eye many years ago when we were camping with another biker. We bought the Trangia 25/8, the set with the big pots, all hard anodised, and a kettle.

We couldn't manage to ride past the Waroona bakery without stopping and we left the bikes in the shade while we sat on the veranda eating pies and drinking coffee. Then we were on the road again enjoying the curves through the Ferguson Valley.
Great to be back in the tent.
The little town of Balingup provided our next pit stop. This is a great place with a great vibe and there are eateries everywhere. Then the Blackwood River Road led the way to Nannup. Unlike Balingup, Nannup is so laid back that nearly all the coffee and souvenir shops displayed "closed" signs in their windows.

The road south to Pemberton was open and honest and as we rode through pockets of tall timbers it was like magic, the trees towering above as we glided along. The caravan park at Pemberton was welcoming and by 4pm we were sitting at our camp, smiling all the while, with a beer in one hand and a fly swat in the other.

Curry Cook.
Even though there was a camp kitchen not far away we were determined to cook our curry and rice on our new, single burner, methylated spirit stove. This how we went about it:
·         Boil water for rice and place in thermos.
·         Cook curry and set aside.
·         Boil rice and set aside.
·         Reheat curry.
·         Serve dinner.

The wind protection on these stoves is second to none and our meal was cooked without any fuss. The pots were easy to move around with the clip on handle and they all cleaned up with the use of a soft cloth; I was impressed.

Steve and I are big tea drinkers and at breakfast Steve took on the role of "hot water manager." The little 900ml kettle worked hard to keep up with our daily requirements but by the time breakfast was over we had boiled over four litres of water; I never thought boiling water could be so much fun.

Now know why it's named Windy Harbour!
After breakfast we took the bikes on a local run to Northcliffe and Windy Harbour. It was blowing a full gale as we looked out over the southern ocean and our tea cooled quickly in the howling breeze. When we arrived back at Northcliffe I opened my top box, grabbed my bum bag, closed it again and then exclaimed "what's that smell?" I quickly opened it again to find that the bottle of red wine had broken free and amongst the broken glass lay a red dyed mess of hessian bags, magazines and Steve's towel. We weren't meant to suffer too much for this incident as only 10 meters away was town water. As we rinsed I could hear Steve mumbling, after all it was my fault, but I didn't take any notice. The worst thing was that some of the fragments of green glass were the size of small gemstones and were reluctant to be washed out of the top box.

Salmon Beach.
That night we treated ourselves and dined at the pub in Pemberton. Sitting on that veranda with a good brew of beer and eating the best lamb shanks ever will make me smile for a long time.
We were on the road early for the ride home. The south easterly was still blowing hard and as we rode through the tall timbers once more some of the big karri's were dropping bark big enough to wrap a motorcycle helmet. The shadows were long and we backed off a little. Sure enough we came around one bend to find two large kangaroos in the middle of the road; we backed off a little more after that.
We stopped for tea on the waterfront in Busselton and then dined on bronze whaler and chips overlooking the harbour in Bunbury. It was hot by the time we got back on the bikes and we were planning to ride home to Safety Bay without stopping. Little did we know that only 20 kilometres north of Bunbury there had been an accident and the police were preparing to divert the traffic. It was about then, while we tried to communicate with each other in the searing heat with our ear plugs in, Steve asked me "could you please learn to speak louder without raising your voice."

Steve spotted a road he recognised and the cops let us go so we took off east towards the South West Highway. The highway was packed with detourers heading in both directions and we desperately needed to stop for a drink of water. We missed our opportunities at Waroona and Pinjarra and when we found some shade the road verge was too steep to get the side stands down. So we rode on in the 37degree heat and arrived home a little frustrated and dehydrated. Two litres of cold water later and we were all smiles again and talking about the magic of motorcycling; we wouldn't miss a run on the bikes for anything.

Cape D'Entercasteaux.