It was a warm sunny day in early Spring, with a forecast top temperature of 27 degrees; a perfect day to be out on the bike! I’d arranged a day-ride with a riding mate, and it felt great to be out on the bikes as we took off for a ride through some great riding country.
The ride ended up being quite memorable, for a couple of reasons. It was very enjoyable, but the ride also brought some reminders that it can be a scary place out there on the road!
Now, I suppose most times we go out on the road we witness some driving, or riding, standards that leave a bit to be desired from a safety point of view. But this particular ride brought a few incidents that served as reminders of just how dangerous it can be out there.
Any one of the incidents, on it’s own, mightn’t have been particularly memorable, but the fact that they all happened on the one ride brought the point home a little more emphatically. No, there were no close-calls or near-misses for us, but we did witness some of the dangers the road can offer up; and the aftermath of some that left us pondering the possible consequences of just being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Yep, the road can indeed be a scary place! Let me tell you what we saw.
We were riding south, the road a major two-lane, winding and undulating. We came to a right-hand corner on the crest of a hill. As we rounded the corner we saw a car on the roadside to our left that had been north-bound, and obviously gone straight ahead and crashed head-on into the end of the road-side armco barrier. Nasty! I couldn’t help thinking of the possible consequences of riding along when that happened! Imagine cresting the hill to have an out-of-control car coming straight at you! The fact that the only damage the car had sustained was where the armco railing had smashed it’s way into the front of the car was some reassurance that no-one else had been in that unfortunate situation I was imagining.
Not too much further along we found ourselves in a fairly slow-moving line of traffic. The line of cars (and us) snaked it’s way up and down hills and around blind corners. All the way there were double-lines indicating (as if any sensible person would need telling!) that it was unsafe to overtake. Then suddenly a woman (yes, it was a woman!), a couple of cars ahead of us pulled out, crossing the afore-mentioned double lines, and with very limited forward visibility, overtook a couple of cars in the queue. My mate and I both shook our heads in amazement. Only sheer luck that no-one was coming the other way; otherwise it would’ve been a sure head-on!
A red Falcon was the next car to catch our attention. We were riding through the outskirts of a major town; the road now a double-lane each way, speed-limit 60 kph. I was cruising along at around that speed (or maybe a tad over) in the right-hand lane, slowly overtaking some slower traffic, when I noticed the said red Falcon come speeding up behind in my mirrors. He (yes, this time it was a bloke!), came roaring up behind and then held station a few metres behind me; obviously anxious for the opportunity to get past. I kept a close eye on him until there was a break in the traffic in the left-hand lane. Then I pulled over and let him go. He flew past, continuing on at a speed that would’ve been at least 20kph over the limit. I’d seen him coming, knew he was fairly close behind me, and got out of his way as soon as I could. No real danger, especially as the road ahead of me was fairly clear. But if the situation had changed, and I’d had to brake suddenly, then there could’ve been a squashed old bloke underneath the front of a red Ford, with it’s rev-head young driver saying something like, “Sorry mate, I couldn’t stop in time!”
We had lunch and reflected on the dangerous driving (the incidents described, plus a couple of other more minor ones) that we’d witnessed. Hmm, yep, the road can be a scary place, and you’ve got to be careful. And lucky.
After that the ride continued in fairly uneventful fashion; for a while anyway. We rode along a favourite biker’s road that involves climbing from the NSW coast up over mountains that comprise part of the Great Dividing Range that runs down the eastern seaboard. Our next stop was for a coffee at a favourite hang-out for bikers, the Robertson Pie Shop. This is at the end of another favourite biker’s road, the famous (and at times infamous!) Macquarie Pass. I’ve written about this particular piece of road in a previous article. We pulled in and parked amongst the other assembled bikes. And we soon got talking to a rider standing at his bike beside us. “Another two went down today”, he said, rather matter-of-factly. He was referring to crashes on Macquarie Pass. “Ambos just finished picking one bloke up when they got a call for another one. Came down on some oil, apparently”. Hmm, nasty! You never like to hear of a fellow rider coming down; whatever the cause. Then he told us about the truck crash!
We couldn’t see it from where we were standing, but there was a large truck lying on it’s side just down the road. The shop is located on a sweeping corner. Apparently the truck, a heavily-laden semi-trailer, had been coming down the road at high speed and failed to take the bend. Witnesses estimated it’s speed as being at least 100kph. As it veered onto the wrong side of the road, it over-turned and slid on it’s side for around 50 or 60 metres before coming to rest wedged up against the grassy bank beside the road.
We quickly walked around the shop to see the mess. And there it was, lying on it’s side, it’s load spilled onto the ground beside it, and with police all around.
The photo on the left, which I took a couple of weeks later, was taken from the spot where the truck ended up. And you can see some of the scrape-marks and debris it left.
Now that really was scary! Imagine riding along that road, being in about the position from where I took the photo, and suddenly being confronted with a semi-trailer sliding on it’s side towards you at 100kph!
What could you do? Where could you go to avoid it; not knowing where it was going to end up? I’ve ridden around that corner countless times; been in that exact position where the truck had come sliding across the road. Just good luck that I (and, thankfully, no-one else!) wasn’t there when it came hurtling around the bend, tipping onto it’s side and sliding across the road! But if we’d been there just 30 minutes before, and been heading in the other direction (we were going north, as the truck had been) …… well, it just doesn’t bear thinking about! Like probably all of the incidents described, it’s a “there but for the grace of God…” type thing!
We watched for oil as we rode down the mountain. We saw some stains on the road, but nothing that presented any current danger. But a final point was to be made; this time by the weather.
Our beautiful sunny day had long before turned overcast and quite cool. As we’d drunk our coffee at the shop, thick black clouds had rolled in. By the time we got to the bottom of the mountain there were flashes of lightening; vertical flashes that scorched from the clouds to the ground beneath. Then the rain started! We pulled over and got out the wet-weather gear. The final leg of our ride home was in rain with lightening still flashing in the background. No immediate danger; apart from the increased danger of riding on wet roads, but we rode accordingly. But, with the day’s witnessed incidents fresh in our minds, it seemed as if the weather was saying, “If the idiot drivers don’t get you, the weather can present you with it’s own dangers!”
As I said at the beginning, we didn’t have any close-calls, and at no stage did I feel particularly in danger; but the day had presented us with a string of reminders of how dangerous it can be out there on the roads. A scary place? Yeah, it sure can be!
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