Originally published January, 2014.
Saturday finally came and it was time again. Time to do the Dargo dance. Time to repeat that magnificent ride which I first did with this group last year. Heading out to the meet point I espy a yellow bike closely tailed by a black one. I know who this is. Gradually they approach and I proffer a big “HELLO” left handed wave and slip in behind them as surrogate Rear Rider. We arrive, there’s a good turnout already. Smiling faces, ready to tango. Benjamin deals with the formalities and I put my hand up to be scribe for today. Sadly we’re told that an S1K won’t be with us having succumbed to gravity via a lack of front lever pressure; the ensuing result of being reshod the night before. Pump up those brakes when changing tyres! Nods of understanding and commiseration sweep through the assembled group. There are many ways to bin a bike – we’re reminded.
Dance cards sorted, we take off. Strangely I find myself behind our erstwhile leader, unusual for me as I’m less dexterous and slower at kitting up than most. As we head out along the familiar grey ribbon the clouds beckon us forward – beautiful shapes branching their pure white fluffiness into tendrils – and below, the edge of the horizon, an impossible green. It’s going to be a great weekend.
First pit stop at the dodgy purveyor in Tyers with that awful sugar fuel (they don’t even have super!) followed seemingly too closely by a second pit stop at Briagolong (yay for super!). It’s getting warmer and I remark to a fellow enthusiast how this is the “best” part of the trip: we’re at the start of the “fun” bit and it only gets better from here. He retorts that “It’s all good”. I’m unconvinced. A short repartee and I’m re-educated: so long as we’re on bikes it’s all good. I understand. He’s right. It is ALL good. Sure beats the view from my hot desk at work.
From Briagolong we wend our way via the sensational back roads across to Bruthen. Flowing left, right, up, down, back again, we’re conveyed ever closer to the next pit stop. Last year at Bruthen it was as hot as hell, this year it’s perfect riding weather: mid 20s fine and not too windy. We dance our way across the flats to the township to fill our stomachs and tanks, on the way some breaking new records, others holding it in check. For now. I glimpse some fellow enthusiasts who’ve been out dirt biking and we catch up. It’s been a long time between drinks. There’s discussion about the reduction to 80 along sections of the Alpine Way, and an undercover ute seen in the area. Sobering. Focus. Be ready for the assault.
We head out towards Omeo along the Great Alpine Way and at Swift’s Creek via the “back way” and then again up the Great Alpine Way to the lookout. Love that “back way”. Deserted and this year not covered in someone’s supplies as it was last time around. There are stranger things to find on the road, but someone’s plastic trousers must be up there. At the lookout it’s getting hotter, we’re shade whores and clump together under the trees. I’m towards the front of the pack so I’ve been here a while. Damn if it isn’t taking a long time for the Rear Rider to join us. An ominous sign. Waiting for them. We finally head out for Omeo, without the RR. Scouts are sent out to try to track him down. No joy. We fill up at the iconic fuel depot in Omeo, our regular haunt closed. Strange sight for today: the cashier at the depot has a pet bird on her shoulder and damn if it hasn’t relieved itself all over her, several times and in at least two different ways. Urgh. It’s wild out here. LOL. I try to sneak in a coffee to be told that we’re heading off again. These breaks are short if you’re not at the front of the pack. I head inside the coffee shop where our group is assembled and lament my lack of caffeine. The proprietor takes pity on me and proffers a quick one. I take her up on her offer but decry that it must be lukewarm and guzzleable. She’s horrified but turns one out in double time and refuses payment. I cheekily knock it back; our Leader will never know, our Secret, gentle reader.
Heading back to Bruthen there’s a pace afoot. We’ve got a long way still to go and we’re missing one of our contingent. Part way back we pick up one of the scouts. No joy, again, he’s on his own. The tricky thing is that there are only two turnoffs and we know for sure that he made it through the first. I fall back as the pace quickens. We’re really on a mission. I’d like to think that my injuries are playing up, which they are, and that’s why I’m not staying with the pack; I’m not really sure why but sometimes you’re just not in the “groove”. That’s OK. The roads aren’t going anywhere and I’m not in a race. My pace is good and I’m happy, where’s that Rear Rider though?
Streaking along from Ensay to Bruthen along some of our “best” roads. Love those sections where you’re adjacent to the river and ahead you see ridiculously well. Squeeze. Open that throttle. Focus. Dance the dance. Breath. Magical. Sometimes I love being in the pack, and other times I love the solitude of the open road with nothing in front or behind. Pick my pace. Not be influenced by specs in front or behind. Dance my own dance. Ride my own ride.
I make it back to Bruthen and espy Tim. Damn if it isn’t good to see him again – we’ve spent a lot of time together in rehab since Tassie and many a Misho fed coffee too. Our RR is finally located too! Turns out he took a turn off on the “back way” thinking it was the main route only to end up on gravel then another sealed section. Lucky he retraced his steps as my maps show a very long trek otherwise. More complete, we set off for the main adventure: Dargo awaits. Joined by Tim in his Red Rocketship we make short work of the flatlands and arrive at the start of the Dargo Road. Some stop for a wipe and a polish, others head straight on eager to take the main prize.
The trip into Dargo has to be another one of our best dances. A dead end for most vehicular traffic. Tight and twisty, fast and fun. Meandering then tightening. Little traffic. It’s heaven. As I round a series of familiar corners I encounter another rider, no, two. Damn if I didn’t come up on them at a serious pace. They’re not with us and from their stance they’re not familiar with this road. I await a judicious opportunity to safely pass without causing undue surprise, I’m convinced the one at the front has no idea that I’m here despite the bark of my pipes and the crackle under decel. I glide past. Left, right, left, left, left, right, right, left, onwards to Dargo we go. I remember sections of the road. Like old friends we are comfortable together, we’ve been a long time apart but I remember them. I know what to expect. I know which way they go. I begin to know ones which will surprise you and take your virginity and your bike too if you’re not alert. I recognise favourite bits. I see old friends. I love this road!
The final trip into Dargo is punctuated with many more twosomes, many sporting matching leathers to their bikes extolling the virtue of an Italian brand. There’s a lot of them. Maybe thirty or more? They’ll be loving the strafing they’ll have received from us, I chuckle to myself. Poor Tim though, it’ll be hard work for him being several bikes wide. I’ll get him a drink when we make it to the pub tonight. Finally I arrive and in short succession the rest of our group appears too having successfully negotiated the obstacle course. Day one draws to a close over dinner, many beers, stories and friendships revisited. Until next time, for tomorrow we have to do it all again.