The Road

You know what it's like, it happens almost from the start. When you put it into gear. But it's probably more like about two kilometers down the road until it finally sinks in. When you've actually been moving for a little while. It's more a combination of something sinking in and something lifting at the same time. You get this overwhelming feeling of joy as a burden lifts from your shoulders. You don't think about where it went, or if it might come back, you don't care. At the same time you realise that no matter what the world throws at you, if you've got a bike you can ride, you've got the abilty to clear your head. It doesn't matter how many times you do it, it's still just as effective. If you were feeling good before you started, your just going to feel better. It's a constant, it's always there, but sometimes things get so hectic you can forget about it temporarily and kick yourself for not doing it sooner, after your'e on the bike. It's the sort of thing that is implanted in some closely guarded recess of your mind. To be called upon when a shadowy day needs lifting. You've tried to explain this at times, until you realise that it's a waste of time. You've got to know it, you can't explain it. Everyone needs something wonderful in their life, that they can't explain.

All that matters is the next corner, will it be third or second. Is there any loose stuff on the surface, no, good. Down three and hit the brakes about here. Start feeding the power on now. A few mild bumps on the exit but the front end soaks them up pretty well. The lighter fork oil feels like an improvement. Then it occurs to you that you haven't even taken it for a ride since you changed the fork oil. Things have been hectic. You've ridden this road many times before. Not because of what's at the end of it, but because it's a good road. Is there any better reason? There's usually not much traffic on it, almost as many bikes as cars. Your'e not the only one who appreciates it. The corners are definately memorised, like most of the gear changes, but they will vary with the speed your travelling at. I clocked it once at 47 km one way, so it's not far.

It was early afternoon and the weather was good. There had been a bit of rain recently, but the road was dry and it had washed off the dirt that you sometimes find on some of the corners. And you can smell it, it's the best smell, especially in the spring. I try to avoid the early hours and also around dusk as the roos can be a bit of a problem. It's common to see a few dead ones most times along the road. You just hope that it was a truck that flattened them and not a rider.

Sometimes you want to push hard, just because you can. Take risks, not stupid ones, but that delicious balance that keeps us coming back for more. You do this because you want to live, not die. You don't really know why, but you seem to be living at your best when you push hard. And you have to ask why, because you should really feel at your best when doing some other things, things with a higher priority, but it's not the same. Out here, there's only one responsibility, to stay alive. So simple. Some people watch other people take risks on TV. Thats the closest they ever get. You've never wanted to live like that and it's never going to change. Other times it feels better to just relax and take in the scenery. Whatever was worrying you before is gone, it doesn't exist anymore. Maybe it's because you have to concentrate so much, theres no room for anything else. You know that concentration is the thing that keeps you alive on the road. It doesn't matter if your pushing hard or completely relaxed, you can never let go of your concentration.

That must be the key to it. No room for anything else. Living only for the moment like a Zen Monk, but without the meditation and chanting. Just complete silence in your head and the roar of the engine. The strobe effect from the tree shadows intersperst with bright sunlight, soothes the soul. Beside the road you can see weathered wooden cattle yards and some old wooden buildings in the distance, next to some new ones. There's something about old wooden buildings that makes me intently curious, especially farm buildings. There's a strong temptation to go inside, even though it's someone else's property. All you want to do is have a look. You never know what treasures they may hold. Probably not much more than a few old Massey-Fergusons, but that can be interesting too. The real reason is that you always entertain thoughts of finding a Vincent Black Shadow in good running order under a canvas tarp, covered with chook shit. The odds are not good these days, but you never know. You can really loose yourself out here, which I suppose was the plan all along.

It always seems to be green too. There's a kind of beckoning warmth to it. You feel like your'e meant to be here. The road winds through the hills with areas of dense blue-green eucalypts on the tighter sections and green paddocks filled with grazing herefords, where it's not so steep. These are the parts with long sweepers and good visibility for a few bends up the road. Some of them you can take near flat out in fourth, but I don't do it as much as I used to. The surface is mostly good but you have to watch for the occasional slow moving tractor and revenue collecters with radar guns.

About a third of the way along, you get into the best bits. On the left, on the side of a steep slope, there's a huge boulder covered in pale green lichen mixed with black. An ancient red gum sits above it like a majestic but twisted sentinel, guarding some rider's vision of how the world should be. This is your place. Others can use it, you don't mind. But when your putting the power on hard, coming out of a corner, there are no others. Only you and the thumping big v-twin.

A few corners after the rock is when it starts to open up a bit. What you would call medium speed. You can stay in third gear and hardly brake for the corners. You can notch it up to fourth in one section, if the momentums there. If you really push it here, the frame flexes a bit but it's nothing to worry about. There's one part of the fast section where the hills are close to the road and fairly steep. As you roll the throttle off in fifth for the right hander, the sound echos off the hills and the crevice between them. It's music with back up vocals.

It gets a bit steeper as you come up to the highest section. It's incredible how the temperature can drop in the space of a few hundred metres. I stop at the top for a few minutes to take in the view. There's a slight mist in the valley, not covering anything much. It usually hangs around for most of the day at this time of the year. The hills in the distance are blue here, not green like a lot of other places. It's the eucalyptus trees. And it doesn't change much. Very few of the trees are deciduous, but you do get some flashes of colour in the autumn which really brings the place alive.

You hear a familiar sound in the distance, it sounds like a Ducati as well as a four of some sort. They come into view and it's the guy on the old 916 that I've seen up here before, followed by a Kawasaki. There's a bit of a plateau at the top of the range and you can see the sweeping bends for miles until it starts to tighten up again. The two guys are not mucking around and the Ducati sounds glorious. I think he knows the road as well as I do. Watching someone else taking it all in is almost as good as doing it yourself.

There's a cafe that serves good coffee at the bottom of the hills. Coffee always tastes better after you step off a bike. I stop for a cup. It's only a small town, maybe two or three thousand people. A place to stop at when your'e going somewhere else, but I'll usually turn around and go back again. The bloke who owns the coffee shop is not a bike person, but he's always friendly. I think he worked out a long time ago that it was the road that brought all the bike riding customers to his shop. It's the sort of place that has a function and thats it. Not much imagination has gone into the decor. The usual framed black and white photos of the old town on the walls, that don't look much different to the new one. Red and white chequered plastic tablecloths with black wrought iron tables and chairs. In the warmer months most of the tables and chairs are outside where you can sip your coffee and watch the bikes go by. On weekends there can be quite a crowd, mostly sportsbikes and a few Harleys.

I walk inside to pay the bill. "Goin' back up the road". 'Yep'.

Written by Paul Harmon. 1-5-18

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