Brian Hale’s ride to Robe

By Bob Allen

“Ripper Robe, Ripper Ride”; that was the heading of the flyer I received, then the usual contents dates, times, accommodation and towards the bottom it said “Experience the joys of planning and preparing your “beast” for touring, just as the maker intended!

Having always toured with just a spare pair of jocks hanging from the rear-view mirror and a toothbrush in with my tool bag I thought I may go a little civilized for this trip.
Having (much) earlier purchased a second-hand rack with an ancient pair of Craven Golden Arrows and the world’s ugliest top box, I ordered 2 new Craven Comet panniers and a 25 litre Craven top box which duly arrived and I started to “experience the joys of planning and preparing”. Well needless to say everything had to be fitted, removed refitted, then fitted again – still not perfect, removed – you get the drift! Parts had to be made, bolts, washers and screws sourced and finally there it was, the Touring Black Shadow from the flyer.
The next afternoon Vince Rogers arrived with another mate of mine, a person who thinks motorcycles are only ridden by patch holders and imbeciles but we forgave him because he drinks beer. Well he had not looked at the bike for more than a few minutes when he asks to sit on it? Certainty, help yourself I replied. CRASH!!
Vince and I picked up the bike and surveyed the damage – just a few scratches, not too bad. So we had a few more beers to celebrate that and to forgive the non-believer in our midst.
Friday 9am, 2 Vincent’s leave Frankston heading towards Sorrento to the Ferry,the sun was out and it was 23oC as we pulled into the ferry terminal, paid our $30 and road aboard – it was a perfect crossing, like a millpond. We stayed with the bikes just in case and drank a very good coffee. Disembarking at Queenscliff we headed straight off for Colac where we were to meet up with Brian Hale, Burger Drake, Wally Walsh, Chris Weir, and Martyn Goodwin.
As we rolled into the service station at Colac the boys were finishing off their fuel fills – they had met early problems with Martyn’s Comet in Ballarat, thanks go to Eric Foster and Bruce Armfield for their assistance in trailering Martyn’s dead Comet to the safety of Burger’s shed for storage, Burger then lent Martyn his Triumph Tiger 650 twin which performed flawlessly during the weekend’s event.
After a chat and fuel we saddled up and headed towards Lavers Hill on some of the best roads I have ridden on. After lunch at Lavers Hill, where we had difficulty extracting Vince from the café as he raved about the quality of the food, we followed the Great Ocean Road to Port Campbell for a break, have on-route passed the Apostles where at least 100 people were lined up to visit the site – they were Asian tourists armed with erectile lensed cameras and were photographing anything in sight including sheep, cows and alpacas! At Port Campbell we shot some Vincent pictures ourselves before heading back along the road and on to our overnight accommodation in Warrnambool.
It had been a 252 mile day. Dinner was at Maceys Bistro where we met up with Burgers son and daughter-in-law, Michael and Jennie. The meals were excellent and we returned to our motel for post-dinner drinks on the balcony till the owner turned the lights off at midnight and then quickly apologised for the inconvenience – but we got the message and headed off to bed.
Breakfast the next morning was at McDonalds then we fired up the bikes and headed towards Portland. The countryside was very green for the time of the year and as you rode along there were amazing ocean views everywhere – just being enjoyed by the cows grazing in the paddocks –those views would be worth squillions in Melbourne! We continued on to Nelson for coffee where, as we drank it, a young lass about 12 YO started to climb 70 foot Norfolk Pine tree – within 5 minutes she was at the very top and all this in her best skirt – we gave her a round of applause then remounted our bikes and headed via Mount Gambier to Millicent for a very nice lunch in their local community centre.
19 miles on we detoured to Beachport on Cape Martin where we stopped and had ice creams while the locals scrutinised our bikes – of course one local knew ‘someone’ that had a heap of bikes stashed away in a shed, but Robe was only a further 30 miles further on so with no further ado we were back on the road winding along watching the water until Robe came into view. It had been a 236 mile day. We fuelled up the bikes and proceeded down the mail street to see Ken Phelps and Jerry’s bikes in front of a café but no sign of them so we proceeded on to our Beachfront quarters – the Robe Hotel and the Malelucla Motel. We had a private bike park at the rear of the hotel and after checking in everyone did some basic maintenance on their bikes, but all gravitated towards Vince Rogers Norvin which was having Open Carburetor Surgery being performed on it for Stick Slide Syndrome by Doctor Rogers himself. The beers were flowing by now and Vince certainly received heaps of advice on how to do what he was doing.
Then it was time to shower and dress for the formal dinner. I had forgotten to pack my Tuxedo but a black t-shirt sufficed; Phelps and Jerry had arrived in the dining room and it was soon a very social affair; some lovely Coonawarra Reds graced the table and the meals were fabulous with platters of prawn skewers with spicy chorizo, grilled octopus, buffalo mozzarella, meats, dips and sourdough breads, another late night!
We woke around 7am, showered and headed out on the bikes for bacon and eggs on Main Street; Phelpsie and Jerry rode past shaking their heads – they were already heading off on their way home to Traralgon, non-stop – it would be a 700 mile day for those two – you just can’t keep those blokes out of the saddle!
So here we are – Day 3 and no problems, great roads, 23o to 25oC, clear skies and sunshine. Heading out of Robe toward Penola in Coonawarra we stopped to ask directions from a local in his front yard when Burger says “I know you!” and the bloke replied he was Burgers mail man in Warrnambool for years, but has now retired. After that we rode on to Casterton, the “Home of the Kelpie”, through Coleraine and on to Cavendish where we stop for lunch and some more photos at the Bunyip Hotel where we are made very welcome – Great feed, great folks.
From Cavendish we headed off towards Halls Gap , stopping short of Horsham at the turn to  Halls Gap and have a short stop and regroup rest, when this car pulls up and a lady asks if we are OK. Burger saunters over and assures here that all is well, but notice’s that her voice sounds familiar; he then remembers her name is Helen, her maiden and married name as well, though he had not seen her for 45+ years. I just walked away, can’t even remember my own name some days, especially after a beer or two! That Burger is amazing.
Between there and Halls Gap in the Grampians we encountered 2 mobs of Emus, a snake, a turtle and a 6 foot long goanna which just got off the road in time not to become road kill.
Once in the Grampians National Park the roads were amazing and we were swinging through corners way faster than I would have expected with very little traffic so you could use up the road. We pulled into our accommodation at Halls gap with all 3 Black Shadows all able to see the bottoms of their fuel tanks. A 225 mile day! Chris and I made it to the local service station on fumes – Wally’s bike ran completely out as he hit the servo driveway – talk about cutting it fine! It was very warm by the time we got back to the accommodation, so Vince, Wally and Martyn hit the pool while the rest of us walked over the road to the air conditioned pub. That’s the way I like my Grampians view – cold beer and air conditioning – looking at the view through a hotels panoramic window. It was an early night and after dinner at the pub we retired for the night.
Up at 7 am we headed off to Ararat, some 28 miles away, for breakfast. The ride was great and the countryside was now all farms and hay. Fantastic breakfast in Ararat then off down the Western Highway where Burger and Martyn took the slip road into Ballarat. We continued on and had a final fuel up at Bacchus Marsh where Chris Weir left us. As we entered the outskirts of Melbourne Brian and Wally took the Western Ring Road to visit Bob Satterly and Vince and I split up at the Bolte Bridge.

I was home in Frankston by 2pm. A 220 mile day. Changed the oil and filter, cleaned the bike and that was it for another year.
Everyone agreed that it was the most fun you could have with your clothes on and all said they will be back for next year. Massive thanks to Brian Hale for arranging this, the second Vincent Riders Dinner – long may they continue.
Four Days; 933 Miles; the Diners;
Wally Walsh, Martyn Goodwin, Brian Hale, Bob Allen, Burger Drake, Ken Phelps, Chris Weir, Vince Rogers.