The message was sent out – Going to Towrang Saturday Morning. Leaving my place at 9:15 am. The replies came:-
It might rain……..It might not It might be cold…….. It might not It might be windy……… It might not It might have nothing interesting down there……. Maybe there is.
You have probably heard the same words countless times while organising a ride regardless of whether it is for a day, a weekend or longer. The bike sits in the garage covered in a plastic sheet, protecting it from dust, rain, sunlight. It sits silently waiting for the right time to roll down the drive and follow the dotted lines of the highway.
Due to COVID-19, many of us are working from home, which is good. However, a sense of isolation does arise from the mere fact of waking up, go to work in the home office, lunch in the home staff kitchen, walk to the letterbox to see if there is any junk mail, walk back to the home office with or without junk mail, see other staff on zoom meetings, log out at the end of day and walk into the home staff kitchen to wash your coffee cup. Then stroll into the lounge room and put the feet up after a long day in the office.
Once every month or two you need to venture past the letter box and supermarket to keep your mind active, keep sane basically. There is no better way than to get friends together and ride to a place no one has been to – just to see what's there.
Open curtains are greeted by a steely sky on the Saturday morning; the BOM website gives the possibility of rain as 40%. This really means there is a 60% chance of no rain at all. I still prefer to rely on my weather rock to tell me what the weather is doing.
After the success of an earlier weekend away to Nabiac, most of the guys had gone out and bought road bikes, but I can't hold that against them. 2x St's and an NT, they will eventually see the light. At least Greg still has his KLR. One still has his car. Unfortunately due to COVID, the bikes were stuck in isolation for a while. It was good to see the lads turn up on time and all are eager to head out.
Journeying south along the expressway, the temperature rises and falls with the change in altitude. The traffic is light, water has pooled on the shoulders of the road from a recent passing shower and it's relaxing to cruise along the bitumen while taking turns leading the way. Spotting one of the bikes on the side of the, we ride past knowing the cold temperature has gotten to him and we will see him catch up shortly. Not seeing his headlight for a while, we pull up at Paddy's River to wait for him to either ride past or for us to turn around in case it was engine or tyre problems he was having. It's not long before he waves as he flies past.
Stopping at Marulan for something hot to eat and drink, coffee and steaming scones do wonders. We are very fortunate that even though we are living through COVID-19, with a few precautions in place, like social distancing, washing hands, signing in when entering a cafe, we are still able to support family-run businesses in country towns and enjoy their scones, burgers, coffee, beer or whatever else is on offer, while also enjoying the freedom the motorcycle gives us.
Marulan, with its old-styled shopfronts, wide street, easy-going feel to the place is also a fantastic backdrop to take photos of your bike, mates' bikes, or other people bikes and cars as they roll through town.
A little further south is the destination for the day. I originally stumbled across the Towrang Stockade while doing some groundwork for another ride I was planning. There are no road signs pointing to it, which probably isn't a bad thing.
Pulling into the VC Derrick rest stop, the sun has come out, warming the day and proving my prediction of 60% chance of no rain. Some smart person had had the foresight to plant some picnic tables here which allowed us to catch the sun and make lunch before exploring the ruins. Being a memorial to the fallen but not forgotten, it was also an apt place with present company to share a shot of bourbon for a friend who should have been on the ride with us but had passed away a year earlier.
Behind the picnic tables lays the Towrang Bridge, a handcrafted sandstone bridge and weir, possibly designed by David Lennox, famous for his bridge at Glenbrook. Seven stone culverts follow the original Great South Road that runs beside the Hume Highway. For those interested in the history of roads, this site is also an example of three generations of road building. The site exhibits remnants of the original Great South Road, parts of the Old Hume Highway as well as the New Hume motorway.
On the other side of the highway, on the banks of the Wollondilly River are the ruins of Towrang Stockade that operated from 1836 to 1842. The site housed chain gangs used in the construction of the Great South Road. They would have lived in very brutal conditions both by the environment, extreme temperatures during summer and winter and the prison guards. One of the floggers was found murdered near Run-o-water Creek.
All that's left of the stockade is remnants of the site of the stockade, the powder magazine that is cut into the riverbank. Dark and dank, the walls have etchings, but it's hard to decipher names or dates. Not far, across the Towrang creek, lays three graves in an enclosure with possibly more hidden nearby. For such a brutal place, it is a very picturesque location overlooking the river and surrounding valley.
As we walk back to the rest stop, the last of the party finally arrives – Craig and his wife nurse their ST to the carpark. A piece of shale punctured the rear tyre he picked up along Carrick Road. This would not happen if he had an adventure bike. Fortunately, Craig packed the repair kit with the rest of his tools and a short while later he and his wife were ready to continue their trip to Braidwood.
The ST and VT are in their element as they glide over the asphalt of the Highland Way as we head back into the reality of the new normal. Rolling into the bends, the bikes seem to enjoy the ride as much as the riders, and lead us into Bundanoon for a last drink stop before everyone heads home.
Which leads to… I might get a flat tyre…….. Bring a repair kit.
As an experiment, set aside a day to change your tyre, the spark plug, the light globes etc and determine the minimum tools you require to carry to complete the repairs. Once you have decided what you need, set those aside in a tool bag for your trips away.
As with dealing with COVID-19, with calmness, the correct mental attitude, precautions, and planning, you can still get out and enjoy a ride without it turning into a disaster.