The 14th Melbourne Branch Autumn Ice Run May 2011
A fortnight before the scheduled start the top of the Victorian Alps were covered in snow, it was freezing and it was too dangerous to attempt the planned route. I was having anxiety attacks about what to do after booking accommodation for almost 30 people. I need not have worried as Mother Nature smiled on us again and we had a very mild week before setting off from Dandenong early on Saturday, 21 May in very mild and dry conditions.
Well, it was almost an early start! One of our most reliable members was missing! It turns out that he would have made it to Lilydale in plenty of time for the 0800 start before realising that the start point was Dandenong!
A total of 20 of us started from Dandenong with some very regular Ice Run faces including Skutr, John Larsen, Neville and his son in law Scott. There was also a good representation of regulars from Sunday rides including Andrew, Barry, Carlo, Doug, Gary, Holly, Ian, Max and Sheri. Samuel very kindly offered to do tail end duties and this was his first ever ice run. We finally got going about 8.20, onto the freeway and east to Longwarry where we turned off and followed the Old Sale Road through places such as Brandy Creek, Buln Buln, Shady Creek and Westbury. As we passed through Yallourn, a glance to the south over the power station showed the Latrobe Valley covered in fog while we were riding in sunny but cool conditions.
We continued through Tyers and Glengarry to Heyfield where we stopped for morning tea after about 175 kilometres with no traffic lights since leaving Hallam. We fuelled up first and adjourned to the bakery for some rest and refreshment, after I chased down a rider who was heading back towards Traralgon after missing the turn into the shopping centre.
At Heyfield we met my son and his friends including “Pop” McLeod. After a pleasant break, “Pop” provided a pilot service for us (does anyone remember when the RACV used to do that for visitors?) and we headed north past the Glenmaggie Weir via some very pleasant views and roads, past Briagalong and places unknown to me, across the Dargo Road and eventually crossed the northern outskirts of Bairnsdale and continued on to Bruthen for our lunch stop in the sun after doing about 300 clicks. At Bruthen we were met by Peter McMullen and Ian Timms who are both Ice Run regulars, Kate our website administrator out exercising her Triumph and Ivan the person who started this ride back in 1998 before moving up to the Mt Beauty area several years later.
We continued up the Omeo Highway along the beautiful Tambo Valley to Omeo for another rest break after about 400 kilometres. We were slowed down a bit here by fuel problems with one bike and a bag lost off another bike. Once we reassembled in Omeo, we actually split up. One group headed direct (via innumerable curves) and Anglers rest direct to Falls Creek along the relatively recently sealed road and experienced some ice along the way.
The main group continued to Mt Hotham on the open sweeping road.
Some stopped at Hotham Village to take in the spectacular view and some photos of the snow. Some of us stopped a few kilometres further along to take in the view of the road winding along the ridge with clouds scudding towards us from the valleys below.
It was quite spectacular with clouds whipping up the slopes past us. We regrouped and continued down the mountain to Harrietville in relatively mild and dry conditions (no ice). We passed passing through Smoko in the Ovens Valley, turned right and up the delightful Tawonga Pass. This road has some great bends with good visibility and was great for practising cornering lines. We then stopped at the lookout at Tawonga Gap to regroup, exchange more lies and take in the views over the Kiewa Valley.
The relatively short and winding descent to Tawonga was enjoyed by all and we stopped again at Mt Beauty for some last minute supplies and fuel. The last 30 odd kilometres up to Howmans Gap on the Falls Creek road definitely sated everybody’s appetite for curves and we all made it safely to our overnight stop jut before darkness settled in. The total distance for the day was about 565 kilometres.
Once rooms were sorted, we all adjourned to the main lounges and we had the lodge to ourselves, complete with a central log fire. We were made welcome by Mark, the manager and then settled down to enjoy the camaraderie, exchange some disgraceful lies about the events of the day and things in general and enjoy a drink while the bikes remained parked under cover.
Furniture was rearranged so that the whole group of 28 could sit around the table for the evening repast but one small group pretended not to notice and remained seated apart for dinner. This led to some spirited banter about who was good enough to sit with whom, but what happens on the ride stays on the ride!
After a hearty communal breakfast bikes were packed and we assembled for the trip home. Several popped the last few kilometres up the hill to check out Falls Creek. Andrew kindly offered to do tail end duties for the return trip and allow Samuel to relax a bit more.
As we left Howmans Gap and started back down the Falls Creek Road to Mount Beauty, the road surface looked very slippery and treacherous (it was not ice but I was not game to really test traction limits) so we made our way tentatively down the mountain and regrouped at Mt Beauty for fuel and a farewell to the group that had to go back over Hotham to Sale.
News then arrived that a bike had gone down shortly after leaving Howmans. The good news was that there were no serious injuries but the bike was mortally wounded. This naturally held things up. Arrangements were made to meet up at Oxley for morning tea. Just after Tawonga, wet weather gear was donned as a fairly heavy rain squall hit us. We then went along the beautiful Happy Valley Road to Rosewhite with views across to Mt Buffalo. After joining the Ovens Highway, we headed along the Snow Road through Milawa and stopped at the lovely King River Café in Oxley where we were made very welcome for morning tea.
After a pleasant break, Steve turned up with the downed rider as his pillion. Discussion on detail naturally ensued. Mark, the manager from the lodge had attended the scene and arranged transport of top box, luggage etc back to Melbourne so that was very kind and helpful. He apparently also added that over time, quite a few riders had come down on the particular corner on which our rider came down.
After a bit more of a rest, I assumed chauffer duties and acquired a pillion for the rest of the trip back to Melbourne. The ride to Mansfield via Whitfield and Tolmie was dry and uneventful but again provided some great views and roads as we crossed the mountains. Another pleasant break was had while we rested and ate in Mansfield. The skies started to darken dramatically so we decided to get going and head home. The forecast proved accurate and we did get afternoon rain for most of the ride home. We went straight through to Yea and then down the Whittlesea Rd before bidding farewell to those heading for the northern suburbs as we turned south and headed via Break O Day to Glenburn, joined the Melba and continued into Lilydale.
The corner marking system apparently fell down in Yea and we did lose some of our group but all knew their way home by then. I made a final stop in Lilydale and bid farewell to Doug and Steve. Steve then discovered that his rear tyre had reached its “use by date” and that a sharp stone had actually penetrated it and was causing a slow leak. That was the 3rd tyre incident in about a month!
I then continued on and delivered our “downed rider” home to his wife.
Despite that incident at the start of day 2, I did enjoy the ride and camaraderie and would like to thank all who participated.