The 16th Melbourne Branch Autumn Ice Run May 2013
The extended pleasant autumn weather finally ended on the Sunday before the Ice Run. By mid-week the top of the Victorian Alps were covered in snow, it was freezing and several roads were closed.
It was too dangerous to attempt either or my planned routes via Gippsland and I was having anxiety attacks about what to do after booking accommodation for over 20 people. I decided to change the route entirely and basically stay north of the “Divide” rather than try and cross it above the snow line, but it was too late to change the start point.
I met up with half our group at the original start point in Dandenong and our quartermaster, Greg kindly volunteered to perform “Tail End Charlie” duties. We then “commuted” in stop / start traffic back past Lilydale in moderate rain and rather miserable conditions experiencing vision and fogging visor issues. My brand new rear tyre also ensured I did that leg conservatively. We met up the rest of the group at Yarra Glen and then got under way with a group of about 20 people.
Some decent airflow cleared our visors and we saw the last of the rain before we reached Glenburn and from then on we experienced fine and pleasant riding conditions.
The route, now shorter than originally planned, allowed us time for regular leisurely breaks combined with some brisk riding. We rode up the Melba through Yea and then stopped at Bonnie Doon for a refreshment break and met a considerable size “HOG” group who were on their way to Wodonga. This allowed for a pleasant chat as we waited for the long coffee queue. We then continued straight through Mansfield past Tolmie where I could finally ensure that my new tyre was seated in properly and then had a very pleasant second break and chat at the café at Whitfield.
We then continued north before turning east at Oxley and then wended our past Everton (where Barry rescued me from a navigational moment) and continued through Beechworth (which was extremely busy with a festival) and on to the picturesque Yackandandah, where we stopped for lunch and fuel. In view of the crowds which had invaded Beechworth, I was glad I had chosen “Yack” as the lunch stop. It also added a new dimension to the Ice Run. The scenery and autumnal colours through here were beautiful.
We then headed south and joined the Kiewa Valley Highway near Dederang and then turned off it and followed a minor road up the east side of the Kiewa River with some lovely views to mountains disappearing into clouds and past some lush pads of very thick reeds before rejoining the highway at Mullindolingong.
We then trundled, at the speed limit, through Tawonga, where the local member of the constabulary waved to us before we stopped at Mt Beauty for fuel for the bikes and last minute drinks and snacks for ourselves. As we pulled into the servo, we met the rest of our group namely Lyn, “Hilly”, Marshall and “Pop” who had actually ridden their adventure bikes over Mt Hotham from Sale and assured us that the snow had been cleared off the road at the time they crossed and that they did not encounter black ice.
We finally headed up the winding mountain road past signs warning us that the High Plains Road was closed due to snow beyond Falls Creek. The road surface looked very black, shiny and potentially slippery for the last few kilometres so caution was exercised and we all arrived safely at Howmans Gap YMCA lodge, where we were warmly met by our host Mark.
Rick and I then continued on up to Falls Creek and there was certainly plenty of snow around by the time we got there.
After doing some sightseeing and photography, we returned and found the majority of the group seated around the fire and enjoying some drinks and camaraderie. The content of all conversations on such trips properly remains there.
We then adjourned to the dining room and watched a short DVD movie of a past motorbike trip around the north of Vietnam before watching an array of music DVDs and enjoyed the meal prepared and served by Di who really was a very friendly and helpful hostess. The dynamic of the group was such that we had a great night.
After a hearty communal breakfast bikes were packed and we assembled for the trip home.
We set off very tentatively (in view of advice and past experience) down the mountain with an ambient air temperature of 2 degrees. By the time we reached Mt Beauty the temperature had tripled and we could start riding more briskly again.
We went up the Tawonga Gap
where we stopped for a rest and refreshment before stopping again at one of my favourites, the King Rive Café in Oxley. After some discussion we then returned to Mansfield
via Whitfield so that we could have another run over that delightful road. Several broke off then and returned home via a variety of routes. After lunch, we continued on to Yea where we met the “Sunday Ride” and had a brief chat with them before returning to Lilydale via Break O Day.
I had a great weekend and the weather was quite OK for riding once we left Melbourne. I would really like to thank all those who came along and made it such a successful and enjoyable event plus Mark and Di for the great value accommodation and food combined with friendly hospitality.
Many thanks to John "Pop" McLeod, Peter McMullen and Rick Rycken who all contributed photos to this blog