THE OLD BLOKE'S CHARITY RIDE
It was something I’d been intending to do for a while. Like most people probably, I have a few groups of people I ride with. There are a couple of regular riding friends, and there are a few of my music pupils who have bikes, and then there are a couple of other groups I occasionally go riding with. But all separately, not together. So I thought it’d be good to organise a ride and get all these people together. Then I thought I’d make it a charity thing. I like combining my love of motorcycling with doing some good in the community; so I began thinking about arranging a combined charity-ride. Choosing a charity was easy. The Victorian bushfires had caused such tragic loss of life and property that it touched the hearts of everyone. And although most people would’ve donated already, the need was on-going; it was a very worthy cause. But I also felt sorry for victims of the Queensland floods. There may not have been the same loss of life, but damage to property and livelihood made this a most needy cause too. So I chose both; with donations to be split between the two. Next thing was to promote it. I didn’t want it to get too big though. As I said to one riding friend, “If I advertise it too widely I could end up with a hundred bikes; ninety of whom I don’t know!” That wasn’t what I wanted. So I started by just contacting all the people I knew who rode bikes. It did however, spread beyond the immediate circle of riding-friends. A couple of people promoted it through on-line forums of clubs they belonged to; and I did the same. And I produced a flyer which eventually took the form of a web-page, complete with links to Google maps of where we were going. So there would be people coming who I didn’t know, or perhaps knew only slightly. That was okay though, because I knew the groups they were coming from. The idea was to have each rider make a $10 donation. I then decided to try to get some businesses involved. Perhaps leave from a bike shop, who I’d get to make a donation, and then get other businesses involved for a lunch stop and coffee-stop etc, and have those businesses make donations too. The day is warm and sunny; perfect weather for riding! A group of bikes gather at a local bike shop for the start of a charity-ride. The route will take us up a favourite mountain pass, and through some beautiful country with great flowing roads. The start of a perfect day! Just after this photo was taken we all headed off on the ride - and some riders were never seen again! I mentioned that I had decided on the NSW Southern Highlands, so I chose a circuitous route that would take in a few of the local towns. Although we’d be returning to the same locale, the route would be mostly different for the return journey. After leaving the Illawarra, we’d ride up the famous Macquarie Pass and on through Robertson and Moss Vale, and the historic – and now very touristy – village of Berrima. A short run along the old Hume Highway would bring us to Mittagong. The return run would go through Bowral, then Glenquarry, and along back roads around Fitzroy Falls and back through Wildes Meadow to Robertson for our coffee-stop at the Pie Shop. For more detail you can click on the map on the left. Now for the actual ride. If you read my article on Riding In A Group, you’ll see that I don’t particularly like the “processional” type arrangement of having a lead rider, a tail-end rider, and everyone riding in procession in-between. Now, that is the best way to keep everyone together, but it's often not practical; for the reasons I outlined in that article. So I decided to give everyone detailed directions of where we’d be going well before the ride. I’d also hand out printed directions on the day. That way everyone would know where they were going and could ride there at their own pace. Sounds good in theory perhaps, but ….
The day arrived and greeted us with perfect autumn weather! Not a cloud in the sky, no wind, and temperatures around 20 degrees on the coast and in the high teens on the Highlands. Perfect! A small group of us met at the local Maccas, and then we headed off to David Fraser Motorcycles. When we arrived we found an impressive group of bikes lined up ready for the ride. And more came. All up we had over 25 bikes. Even more impressive was how far some of the riders had come, with some people clocking up well over 100km to get to the start. After a bit of general meet-and-greet, I handed out a raffle-ticket to each rider as they made their donation. Then one of the staff drew the winning ticket. The $100 gift-certificate went to one of the last people to arrive. (“The lucky last”?). Then it was time to leave. And that’s when it all went wrong! The plan was to exit the shop and turn right, which would take us to the start of our ride on the Illawarra H’way. But then a couple of the out-of-towners said they needed to fill up with fuel. There were servos nearby, but the road we were taking came out on the wrong side of them. So it was decided we would turn left, which would lead past the local servos. I went around and announced that we would go left, not right, so these people could get fuel. Everyone started up and as we headed out the driveway …. some went left and most went right! Aaah! What do I do? I went left and followed the guys going for fuel. But then they stopped because one of their group who needed fuel, a woman on a Triumph Speedmaster, had gone right. They waited for a few minutes to see if she turned around, but when there was no sign of her, one of the guys said he'd go and try to find her. The rest of us waited. Then one of them said to me, “You go with the others; we’ll catch up!” “Are you sure you’ll be okay?” I asked. “Yeah, yeah, we’ll find our way,” they assured me. Of course, I should’ve stayed with them. I knew that there were at least a couple of people in the group that had turned right who knew where to go, so I should’ve stayed with these guys and led them back. But I left. At the end of Albion Park, on the road towards Macquarie Pass, I saw the lost lady parked by the side of the road. So I pulled over. She said she’d gone right, turned back to the servos, filled up and headed off. Not seeing anyone, she decided to stop and wait. So I waited with her for 10 minutes or so. No sign of anyone. Strange; those guys should’ve caught up by now! By this time, of course the riders who’d turned right would be well ahead. I thought I should get going but she decided to wait a bit longer. I told her exactly where we were going, and also gave her a printed sheet of directions (there were really only three turn-offs to make), and suggested that if the others didn't turn up soon to carry on by herself. Then I left. So there I was, having organised this ride, with a whole bunch of bikes, and I was riding on my own with no idea where everyone was! As I passed the Pie Shop just outside Robertson, I found a couple of guys waiting on the side of the road. Apparently some people had pulled in to wait or get a coffee or something. One of them, a riding friend of mine on a Triumph Rocket, suggested I go on, leading the other rider, a guy on a Suzuki Bandit, while he went back to get the others. So I took off, leading the Bandit. I was feeling rather stressed by this time, the ride having turned into organised chaos! But the ride itself was good; and I tried to relax and enjoy it. The NSW Southern Highlands is beautiful at this time of year; the trees displaying a dazzling palette of autumn gold, yellow and green. The sun was warm, the air was still, and the traffic light. Just an aside here. You’re leading another bike and you come up behind a car. There’s room for you to overtake, but you’re not sure if the following rider is going to go with you. You don’t want to put a car in-between you, so what do you do? I’ve often been in this situation, and once had the following rider almost run into me because he assumed I’d go, but I didn't. On this occasion I looked in the mirrors and saw the Bandit, maintaining position, but with its blinker on. So I opened the throttle and we both flew past. Good riding, Mr. Bandit! (A good tip for others in this situation). Anyway, we had a very pleasant ride through Moss Vale and Berrima and into Mittagong. And then we pulled into the RSL Club. Eventually most of the group got there. Some didn't. One of my riding friends knew where to go and had led the group he was with along the right route. My friend on the Rocket took his group the short way through Bowral, and so got there before Bandit and I did. But there was no sign of Ms Speedmaster and the guys who’d gone for fuel. There were phone calls and text messages being sent back and forth between the people there and their missing friends, and eventually we accounted for everyone. The guys who had fueled up turned the wrong way out of the servo, heading south instead of north. By the time they realised they'd gone the wrong way it was too late to turn around, so they carried on to Kangaroo Valley. Apparently they had an enjoyable ride – just not with us! Ms. Speedmaster eventually gave up waiting. She got to the Pie Shop and no-one was there. (Well, there wasn't supposed to be – that was our stop on the way back!). Anyway, understandably confused, she went home. Apparently she has a reputation for getting lost, but she can at least take some consolation from the fact that, out of all those who had to get fuel, she was the only one that ended up on the right road! Back at the club, we all went in and enjoyed a good meal and a chat. Everyone on the ride was friendly – they were a good bunch of people! I pulled out the raffle-tickets for the dozen bottles of wine, and went close to selling the whole book! One of the staff drew out the winning ticket, and I exchanged address and phone details with the winner. (I’d driven to Mittagong the week before to collect the wine – a bit hard to carry a box of wine home on a bike!). By the time we were ready to leave it was getting a bit late, and the general consensus was that we wouldn't do the intended trip around Fitzroy Falls, rather taking the direct route back to Robertson for our coffee-stop at the Pie Shop. I was leaving just behind the others and ended up riding with one of my pupils who was on a Ducati 1098S. He needed to top up on fuel, so we went to a servo. That put us quite a bit behind the others, but it was another pleasant run back to Robertson. As I mentioned, the autumn colours were quite spectacular, and I thought I should get a photo or two for this article. As we went through Robertson, with autumn-toned trees lining the road, I pulled up, explaining to Mr. Ducati that I wanted to get a couple of photos. He gave me a kind of strange look, and said he’d carry on to our coffee-stop. At the Pie Shop, the others saw a lone Ducati pull in. Knowing that I had been riding with him, they asked, "Where's Elwyn?" "He's taking pictures of trees!" he replied. So now they'll think I’m a hopeless leader, and a bit weird as well!
BITS ‘N’ PIECES ‘N’ RUMOURS!
The Ducati drew quite a bit of attention. As it rode away one rider proclaimed, “I’ve got to have one!” Another rider was more pragmatic. When the Duke pulled in at the RSL, he asked the rider, “How’s your arse?” I heard a rumour that one Triumph Rocket was taking its name too literally, and while coming up the mountain, started pointing its nose to the sky! Bike details withheld to protect the guilty, but I was told about one bike, let’s call it Bike T, giving another bike, let’s call it Bike S, a run on a long straight section. Bike T, the smaller capacity of the two by a fair margin, thought he was doing pretty well, getting up around 170kph, then Bike S opened the throttle and flew past! Another rider got involved in a brief spot of high-speed shenanigans. He’d chosen an open-face helmet, thinking the ride would be a fairly gentle cruise in the country, which mostly it was. But then he ended up being drawn along with a couple of bikes that were engaging in a bit of a high-speed blast. The rider reckoned he felt like his face was going to blow away! If you’re around 6’4” and 17 stone, how do you disappear? One rider managed it. After arriving at the club he wasn’t seen again. Eventually I went around the whole club and finally found him – in the betting bar, “watching the dogs!” In one of the photos below you’ll see a helmet sitting beside a bike. The rider put it there when he arrived and it was still there when we all left. Country folk really must be honest!
Anyway, everyone enjoyed the day. Even the guys who got lost still had a good day, and thanked me for organising it. It was also a success financially; with over $500 being raised for our two charities. As for me, well, next time I’ll do it better! I should’ve stayed with the out-of-towners when they went to get fuel. I should’ve planned some catch-up points along the way. I should’ve known that motorcyclists do not memorise directions. Relying on route details being put on a web-page is a bit like sending a poodle to muster sheep! And just like sheep, many motorcyclists just follow each other, assuming the one in front must know where they’re going! One of the lost re-fuelers said, “Next time we solemnly swear to turn up with full tanks!” Yes, that’s probably a good idea on these sort of rides! Another voice from the lost summed up the day pretty well. He said, “Everyone enjoyed what was a glorious day! Everyone enjoyed the ride, and everyone supported a worthy cause. It is always a pleasure to share such time with like-minded people!” Indeed it is! My thanks to David Fraser Motorcycles, Mittagong RSL Club and Robertson Pie Shop for your generous support. Many thanks too, to all the riders who came along and supported the ride. Especially those who traveled a long way just to get there! Most of these, by the way, were members of Ratbags; a kind of spin-off from RAT, the official Triumph owner’s club. But it’s not just for Triumph owners; anyone can join. I am a member, and proud to be associated with such a great bunch of people! I can’t end without a thanks to my good friend Steve, who was going to do a 500km round-trip to get to the ride! (Well he was going to stay with me overnight, but still, a long way to come!). He only pulled out due to a death in the family. Thanks for your support anyway, mate! And now some pics of some of the bikes that were on the ride. (And some more trees!).
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