Thursday, December 15, 2011

Melbourne Cup - Annual Bright Pilgrimage

It feels like a long time ago since Melbourne Cup - it's taken me ages to write an update. I got started, then stopped, started again several times & at last I'm finishing it. Life's been hectic lately - work hours just seem to creep up & leave no time left to do the things we enjoy!
As usual, I was as keen as ever to get back up to Bright on the cup day week-end last year & my mate Mark was as keen as I was to get on to those beautiful mountain roads on his new Street Triple R.
We found a great place to stay in a hotel right on the river that turned out to be perfect and the weather was good, though there were some warnings of heavy rain on the Sunday.
We set off on Saturday morning with a plan to meet on the Plenty Road, just before Whittlesea.
All went well & we both reached our meeting point in the Bunnings carpark a few minutes apart. The ride along the Western Ring Road was a bit crazy with roadworks everywhere & rutted bitumen that sometimes felt like I was riding in an ice rink!
Our first stop was going to be Yea for breakfast. It was a beautiful start to the week-end ride taking those roads out past Flowerdale into Yea - the area is just starting to come back to life after the bush fires but it is still daunting when you witness the extend of the burnt forest around you & think about the people that once lived there.
It didn't take long getting into Yea where a hearty breakfast went down well and it was then on to Mansfield.
The big surprise came at Bonnie Doon - there's now a lake right up to the Bonnie Doon pub replacing the dry scrubby valley that was there a year ago. It was so unreal we had to stop at the pub for a second look! It was beautiful - ski boats were tied up at the waters edge, their owners in having a few ales at the bar. Ahhh the serenity...
A few old vintage cars passed us on the way and we found out there was a rally scheduled along the Whitfield Road the following week - lucky it wasn't this week-end as the road was going to be closed - couldn't get that far without having fun on the Whitfield Road!
It's always great on that road & I always have a laugh when I think of a ride a few years ago when Stefan had a falcon fly into him & then cling to him with its talons sticking into his jacket - it isn't so much the event that makes me laugh but the animated way he described his dilemma and trying to get this bird of prey off his jacket as he continued tramping along on his bonnie!
As usual a stop at the Mountain View pub was a must - it was getting warm & there was still a fair way to go so it was hard leaving the shaded beer garden to continue the journey.
But we got going and eventually pulled into Bright & into the Riverside Hotel. It's a great spot & we had rooms with sliding doors out onto a lawn overlooking the River Ovens - beautiful.
A quick freshen up & it was almost a jog to the brewery.
However, on the way to the brewery we got distracted - there was a German Beer Festival on in town with a huge Marquee, Umpa Umpa band, bars, German beer and girls in Bavarian outfits - this was like a dream!!
But even this couldn't stop us from our target destination - the Bright Brewery for a pint of Fainters! After a few Fainters we staggered back & became very sophisticated with wine, cheese & biscuits on the terrace...
The next day we started early for the loop around Mt Hotham, Omeo, Anglers Rest, Mt Beauty and back via the Tawonga Gap.
The ride up through Harrietville was beautiful, the river flowing along on the left with the mountainous backdrop - how good can it get!
Then is was up over Hotham on an adrenaline ride after I had a close encounter with an R1 coming in the opposite direction. It was so close I could smell his aftershave :-)
As usual a quick stop in Dinner Plain is always good for a coffee & gave us the chance to share tales of our bikes , the road & the views.
It was all looking good until we approached Omeo & the skies started looking black - then the rain started. We reached Omeo just in time - the skies opened up and it poured.
We met a bunch of guys on Trumpies from Albury - most of them were on new Tigers & talked very highly of them - might have to try a ride one day!
We quickly set off for the Blue Duck pub at Anglers Rest while there was a break in the weather.
It was still very wet on the roads so we were a bit careful on the winding road along the side of the mountain that leads to Anglers Rest. There's some great spots to camp along the river and do some fishing - a thought for a future trip!
From Anglers Rest the riding was tough in torrential rain & we had to stop & run into the trees to take shelter & get the waterproofs on for some serious wet weather riding up over the back road to Falls Creek.
This road was sealed a couple of years ago and has now settled to make it a beautiful riding road - also makes a great circuit ride from Bright through Falls Creek and into Mount Beauty.
Everything except snow hit us as we road over the mountain - rain & thick fog with freezing temperatures made it feel like an endurance ride. Finally we got to Falls Creek & kept going to the glorious sunshine in Mt Beauty.
A quick fuel stop and a stretch - then it was onto one of my favorite roads - the Tawonga Gap Road - it just gets better every time!
So, we finally got back to Bright - my mates new Street 3 had been fully tried & tested. It certainly had a bit of everything thrown at it throughout the day.
The next day it was back to Melbourne with a stop at the Myrtleford Butter Factory for breakfast (highly recommended) and then back the way we came via Whitfield and the King Valley.
Now that I've finished writing this it's got me thinking that I need another trip back up there again...

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