Billy’s Road house – Meeniyan Sunday 20th December

ZXR750 Ben Warden (leader) YZF750 Craig Morley

TRX850 Jeff Servaas (1st ride) XTZ660 Les Leahy (rear rider)

TRX850 Ken (1st ride) VFR750 Paul Burns

Camry Wayne Grant VTR1000 Darren Hosking

Only Les Leahy standing patiently and forlornly under the bridge greeted me as I arrived at the 9.30 am KBCP scheduled start. Alas, it was pouring rain again, the forecast for rain followed by showers. This Melbourne weather (on Sunday’s particularly) is either stinking hot or pouring rain. Ho-hum.

Off we tootled down the freeway to Hallam to meet a surprising large contingent of riders sheltering from the latest downpour under the service station canopy. Even more eyebrow raising was the appearance of two first timers, Jeff who I knew from a work environment, and his mate Ken. Wayne Grant was there in the company vehicle, figuring as Club Captain he had better at least get to one ride for the month, even if it was in the car. It turned out to be a very fortuitous decision for some. Rhys Williams had made the trek from home but only laughed at the suggestion of continuing with the ride. He had been riding in the wet with me before, memories of 500 km and 5 inches (125 mm for you youngsters) on the Orbost weekend came flooding back.

First stop Drouin via the normal back roads parallel to the Princes Highway. Wayne was keeping up. True to form Criag’s rear tyre was cactus and I suggested he continue on in the warmth and comfort of the car with Wayne. He wasn’t adverse to the idea, leaving his bike parked at the servo for collection later in the day. Paul decided he was wet enough and left for warmer climes.

Southwards to Poowong, the rain continuing unabated, the roads bumpy as ever. At least the roads were eerily empty of vehicles, the light soft and diffused. It wasn’t particularly cold, just wet.

Around the fast sweepers to Ranceby picking up the Arawata Rd. The three km of sandy dirt at the end of the twisties had deteriorated marginally, much to my surprise, when I found the front end light on more than one occasion. Still, a steady 60 km/h was safe and comfortable. All of a sudden the front wheel washed out right, then left and then right. We were heading for the gutter and deep gravel, heart pounding. No brakes, slow reactions and good luck saved the day. Not so for Darren who slid off at less than walking speed, sustaining significant cosmetic damage including the fairing and tank. Patches of slippery clay had been exposed by the heavy rains, and even attempts to walk on them proved challenging. Attempts to straighten the gear change lever failed when it snapped off. Darren was escorted to Leongatha by Wayne and Craig from where he limped home via the freeway.

The ride pressed on to Dumbalk and Meeniyan for lunch of fish and chips, or pies depending on preference. Billy’s highly sort after fried shark belly flaps weren’t on the menu. At least it was warm and dry! At about 1.30 pm it stopped raining and would remain dry for the rest of the day.

We refuelled, squeezed out our gloves, emptied our boots, and headed north to Dumbalk, Mirboo North, Thorpdale and Trafalgar, along the highway for 6 kms, then down through Lardner and back to Drouin. Everyone now had a smile on their faces and tyre wear again became the topic of conversation. Situation normal! Craig collected his bike.

We broke up at Packenham, Jeff and Ken looking for more twisties amongst the Dandenongs. Home to home about 450 km. Thanks to Les for rear riding and Wayne for putting in the effort of driving and generally helping. Good luck to Darren with the bike repairs. Unluckily his bike insurance is a few days past the 1 year replacement cut off date. Ho-hum.

Ben Warden (ZXR750)