The trip to Phillip Island commenced under grey skies and the threat of rain. While I had envisaged a leisurely departure my travelling companions wanted to be on the road by 7am, so that is when I found them, bikes mounted and engines started, ready to hit the road. As everyone else in the party was from Queensland I was informed that it would be my job to find our way to Phillip Island, so eschewing the freeway and the boredom of its long straights we headed for the back roads and the hills that they traversed.
It’d been over twelve months since I’d covered any serious distance on the bike, which, along with the damp roads we were riding on, led to a little bit of trepidation on my part. However, as we covered the familiar road to Beechworth, then Miliwa and Whitfield, my confidence returned, cornering felt more natural and I began to relax and enjoy myself. We stopped in Whitfield for breakfast and what had been drizzle turned into rain, so we broke out the wet weather gear and headed off for Mansfield.
The road between Whitfield and Mansfield is a wonderful mix of tight and fast corners through some beautiful scenery. We weren’t lucky enough to see that scenery because in addition to the rain, we had to contend with fog, or low cloud, that meant visibility rarely stretched to the next corner. There is something especially unnerving about seeing high voltage power lines appear right in front of you, at what appears to be head height, with no armco barrier between you, just a significant drop.
At Mansfield we stopped briefly for fuel, then headed to Alexandra and Healesville through country that had been hit hard by the bushfires last February. Riding through Taggerty and Buxton it was incredible to note how the smell of charcoal still lingered in the air, while behind the regrowth, the blackened tree trunks provided a stark reminder of just how much of this area had been affected.
As we approached the Black Spur the rain became heavier again, not letting up until we reached Healesville for another fuel stop. It was at this point that I realised how drenched I really was. My gloves and glove liners were completely sodden, as were my boots and socks. I wrung the excess water out of the gloves, tossed the liners in my bag and we hit the road again, hoping that the rain would hold off.
The rain held off until the exact moment that we turned off the Bass Highway and onto Phillip Island Road. This was rain like I’d never experienced while riding before, accompanied by gusts of wind that pushed the bikes around in their lane. At the bridge to the island at San Remo the rain was so heavy we couldn’t see across it, but just as we entered Cowes we were bathed in sunlight which remained just long enough for us to get to our house in Ventnor, put the bikes in the garage and drag our gear inside.
We’d covered four hundred and fifty kilometres through appalling weather, without a single patch of dry road the entire time, we were wet and so was a lot of our gear, but the day was intensely satisfying. Hot showers and cold beer fixed most of the niggles, while our wet gear ended up near the heater. I wouldn’t have swapped the day for anything.